and Updates (as of 12/22/96)

SEPTEMBER 2, 2014:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Could Pennsylvania botch an execution?

Northampton mass murderer Michael Ballard has a death wish. Are Pennsylvania prison executioners ready to grant it?.

In the wake of three highly publicized botched executions this year in other parts of the country, as well as a shortage of the drugs used to kill those on death row, it's a question worth asking.

State prison officials say they're ready to give Ballard, or any other condemned prisoner, his final sentence. But a lack of transparency, especially about the drugs used in lethal injections, has raised concerns.

"Pennsylvania could be facing some of the same questions that these other states are now faced with," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group that maintains statistics on capital punishment.

"No state wants to have to defend a 2-hour, botched spectacle."

The scenes Dieter speaks of occurred in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona, and garnered national press attention.

--Jan. 16: Condemned murderer Dennis McGuire gasped for air for more than 25 minutes after he was injected with an untried mixture of drugs. Witnesses said McGuire, 55, on death row for the 1989 murder of a pregnant 22-year-old, was in obvious pain during the procedure.

--April 29: Oklahoma inmate Clayton D. Lockett died of a heart attack 45 minutes after his execution began. Problems arose when a phlebotomist could not find a usable vein and tried injecting the drugs into Lockett's "groin area," news reports say. 20 minutes after the execution began, Ohio officials halted the procedure and issued a 2-week stay.

Lockett, 38, who was sentenced to death for raping and murdering a 19-year-old woman in 1999, died of cardiac arrest while still in the execution chamber.

--July 23: Joseph R. Wood, 55, of Arizona was executed for the 1989 slaying of his ex-girlfriend and her father. A newspaper reporter observing the execution said Wood gasped 640 times after he was injected. The execution took 1 hour and 40 minutes.

In the weeks leading up to his execution, Wood's lawyers were fighting to force the state to reveal the source of the drugs used in the procedure. He was the 1st person to be executed in Arizona under a new 2-drug protocol, announced in March in response to a shortage of execution drugs.

That same shortage is what has prompted Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections this year to start buying its execution drugs from a compounding pharmacy, a private lab that mixes made-to-order medications for clients. Compounding pharmacies are regulated by state law, but are free of FDA quality assurance rules.

Critics say compounding pharmacies are not reliable. They point to headline-grabbing instances in recent years in which medications made in compounding pharmacies were tainted or mixed improperly. More than 50 people died and close to 700 were sickened with fungal meningitis in 2012 after receiving contaminated steroid injections made by a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy.

The event prompted a lawsuit, which was settled last year for $100 million.

Which compounding pharmacy will Pennsylvania order its execution drugs from? Citing privacy and safety concerns, officials won't say. State law does not require the Department of Corrections to reveal the source of those chemicals.

"The people of Pennsylvania have every right to be concerned in that regard," said Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. "Ideally, you would want these experimental drugs tested by an independent pharmacist. That would require complete disclosure."

In Pennsylvania, death penalties are delivered in 3 syringes, administered in sequence. This process is mandated by legislation, said Susan Bensinger, Pennsylvania Department of Correction's deputy press secretary.

First, there's an anesthetic barbiturate, designed to quickly render the condemned unconscious.

Next comes a paralytic, a medication that paralyzes human muscles, including those that pump oxygen through the body.

Finally, a death row inmate is given a potassium solution, to stop the heart.

Drugs commonly used in the first step are sodium pentobarbital and sodium thiopental. The latter has been hard to find in recent years because U.S. makers stopped producing it, and death penalty-averse European firms have refuse to sell it to American prisons.

In Pennsylvania, the list of drugs used in execution is public record.

"Our current protocol is sodium pentobarbital or sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride," Bensinger said.

When asked if the department has the drugs needed to carry out an execution on hand, Bensinger said: "The DOC is preparing to carry out the order of the governor."

Bensinger declined to elaborate. She acknowledged that the drugs have an expiration date, reiterating that the DOC is "preparing."

Pennsylvania hasn't executed anyone since 1999, when Gary Heidnik was put to death for raping and murdering the 6 prostitutes he kept chained in his Philadelphia "House of Horrors" basement. Experts point to the numerous appeals allowed on capital cases in this state.

Still, Gov. Tom Corbett continues to order executions. On Aug. 18, he signed a warrant for Joseph Michael Parrish, a Monroe County man sentenced to death in May for the 2009 shooting death of his girlfriend and their 19-month-old son.

The most likely candidate for the next execution in Pennsylvania is Hubert L. Michael Jr., a York County man condemned for the 1993 kidnap and murder of 16-year-old Trista Eng.

Michael pleaded guilty to abducting Eng as she walked to her part-time job at a Hardee's restaurant, then driving her to a remote area and shooting her twice. He had been scheduled to be executed on Sept 22. A federal judge on Aug. 18 stayed the procedure so that an appellate court can rule on Michael's request to have a larger judicial panel consider his appeal.

Experts say that kind of appeal is likely to be decided quickly, so the execution might be rescheduled within months.

Michael, like Ballard, said he did not want to appeal. But in 2004, shortly before his 1st scheduled execution date, he filed a federal appeal, effectively stopping the process for nearly a decade.

In 2012, he made it all the way to the execution chamber, and even ordered his last meal of French toast, coffee and orange juice, before a U.S. District Court judge issued a stay.

That stay was lifted in June, and Gov. Tom Corbett in July issued an execution warrant.

Michael, and dozens of other death row inmates, have pointed to a pending class action lawsuit which states that Pennsylvania's method of lethal injection violates prisoners' constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

The suit, filed by Bucks County killer Frank Chester in 2007, was created on behalf of all the state's death row inmates, as well as anyone who might end up on death row while it's pending. Chester, of Tullytown, was sentenced to death along with Levittown resident Michael Laird for the 1987 torture-slaying of Levittown artist Anthony Milano.

Chester's lawyers argue in the suit that the state's current execution methods carry an unnecessary risk that prisoners will suffer pain, and therefore violate prisoners' constitutional right. They take issue both with the drugs used in executions, and the way they're administered.

There's no black-hooded executioner on staff at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. According to department literature, the department employs a lethal injection "team," consisting of "a sufficient number of individuals qualified to administer the lethal injection," so that there will be at least 2 people on hand at every execution.

Ballard, who was sent to death row in 2011 for murdering his girlfriend and three others in a stabbing frenzy, said in an exclusive interview with the Morning Call in July that he's not afraid to die, and has told attorneys to stop filing appeals on his behalf.

Northampton District Attorney John Morganelli is trying to help Ballard get his death wish by asking a judge to bar federal defenders from the case. A judge last week ordered Ballard to undergo more psychological tests before a decision is made.

(source: Morning Call)

OHIO:

Death penalty upheld for Cleveland man in Cuyahoga/Lorain/Sandusky spree

The Ohio Supreme Court today affirmed the convictions and death sentence imposed on Jeremiah Jackson, the Cleveland man who murdered Tracy Pickryl in 2009 during the course of 6 robberies and other crimes in Cleveland, Sandusky, and Lorain.

The court's opinion, written by Justice Terrence O'Donnell, upholds the decision of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

On June 2, 2009, Jackson went to the house of a friend, Stanley Bentley, to retrieve a bag with a gun inside that he thought he had left there. The men argued, and Jackson shot Bentley in the abdomen and fled.

Then on June 15, Jackson and an accomplice robbed the Super Wash Laundry in Cleveland. Later that night, Jackson participated in the robbery of a Cleveland bar. And during the early morning hours of June 17, Jackson and others robbed another Cleveland bar, a Sandusky hotel, and a Lorain drugstore.

Jackson arrived early the next morning at the Soap Opera Laundry in Cleveland where Pickryl and Christy Diaz were working. Jackson pulled a gun and demanded money. He grabbed Pickryl's necklace, then her bracelet. Pickryl pulled back, and when she turned toward Jackson, he shot her. He then shot at Diaz and left.

Police located and arrested Jackson on June 20. The charges against him included aggravated murder for Pickryl's death with multiple death-penalty specifications, aggravated robberies, the attempted murders of Bentley and Diaz, felonious assault, and kidnapping. He pled not guilty.

Jackson waived his right to a trial by jury. A 3-judge panel found him guilty of nearly all of the charges and sentenced him to death.

In today's opinion, the court considered whether the grand jury in Cuyahoga County had the power to indict Jackson for the robbery of the hotel in Erie County or the robbery of the drugstore in Lorain County.

Justice O'Donnell explained that Ohio law allows a grand jury to indict a person for offenses that take place outside the county in which the offender is being indicted as long as the offenses are part of the same course of criminal conduct that happened in the county of the indictment. The evidence showed that the 6 robberies committed between June 15 and 18 were part of a course of criminal conduct in 3 neighboring counties, so the grand jury was permitted to indict Jackson for the Erie County and Lorain County crimes along with the Cuyahoga County offenses, he wrote.

However, Justice O'Donnell determined that the indictment itself did not properly specify which counts in the 42-count indictment occurred in Erie and Lorain counties. While the preamble to Count 1 mentions Erie and Lorain counties, he noted, the counts specifically related to the crimes in those counties do not state where the offenses took place.

Nonetheless, Jackson had not objected to the indictment during his trial, and because the state presented a detailed "bill of particulars" that included the location of the offenses, Justice O'Donnell explained that the error had not affected the outcome of the trial.

The court rejected claims that the presiding judge exhibited judicial bias against Jackson and interfered with defense counsel by conducting a hearing to evaluate whether the defense was justified in not raising a claim that Jackson was mentally retarded and therefore could not be executed pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Atkins v. Virginia (2002).

"Based upon Jackson's IQ scores ..., the trial court was justified in inquiring into whether an evaluation of Jackson's mental abilities was appropriate," Justice O'Donnell wrote. "The trial court's decision to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the Atkins issue did not prejudice Jackson and could have been favorable to his defense. No evidence was presented showing that Jackson was mentally retarded. Thus, even assuming that the trial court overstepped its bounds in conducting this abbreviated hearing, no prejudice occurred."

The court also addressed parts of the prosecutor's closing argument during the penalty phase of the trial. The prosecutor argued that Jackson had tried to murder Diaz to eliminate her as a witness to Pickryl's murder. But although the prosecutor could comment on Jackson's motive for trying to kill Diaz, the prosecutor did more than that in this case, Justice O'Donnell wrote. By speculating that Jackson would have been charged with a witness-murder specification if he had killed Diaz, the prosecutor shifted the focus from conduct that had been charged and proven at Jackson's trial to factors that Jackson was never charged with, Justice O'Donnell concluded.

"The prosecutor's argument in this case was ... improper," he wrote. "Nevertheless, the 3-judge panel was not misled by the prosecutor's argument and understood that they were not also considering the witness-murder specification in imposing sentence. Moreover, there is no showing that the panel considered anything other than the relevant, material, and competent evidence in arriving at its decision."

Justice O'Donnell pointed out that in the 3-judge panel's review of the mitigating circumstances, it considered evidence that Jackson had been physically and sexually abused but chose to give these factors no weight in its sentencing. However, Justice O'Donnell concluded that the panel had misstated in its sentencing opinion that the only evidence of abuse was Jackson's own claims, because Jackson's parents admitted they beat and whipped him as a child. The justice explained that the error would be cured by the Supreme Court's independent review of Jackson's sentence.

The court rejected Jackson's other claims of error by the trial court.

Independently reviewing Jackson's death sentence for appropriateness and proportionality as required by statute, the court gave considerable weight to his "cognitive impairments and his borderline range of intellectual functioning" and some weight to his history of drug and alcohol dependence and other evidence. However, in upholding Jackson's death sentence, Justice O'Donnell wrote, "Jackson's murder of Pickryl during an aggravated robbery and his course of conduct in murdering Pickryl and attempting to murder Diaz are egregious aggravating circumstances. Jackson's mitigating evidence has little significance in comparison."

Justice O'Donnell's opinion was joined by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer and Sharon L. Kennedy. Justices Judith Ann Lanzinger and Judith L. French concurred in judgment only. Justice William M. O'Neill dissented.

In his dissent, Justice O'Neill reiterated his view that the death penalty is constitutionally prohibited because it is cruel and unusual punishment. He noted that he does not expect the court to adopt this view in the near future, but he thinks the court soon will be forced "to recognize that Ohio's death penalty reaches too far, to too many crimes and to too many criminals."

In this case, the trial court held a hearing to establish why Jackson's lawyers chose not to pursue an Atkins hearing to determine whether he was intellectually disabled. Had Jackson been found to have a significant intellectual disability, he could not have received the death penalty because the U.S. Supreme Court prohibits the execution of mentally retarded individuals.

"In short, the trial court chose to sit second chair for the defense," Justice O'Neill wrote. "Admittedly, trial courts have great latitude in managing the cases over which they preside. But this hearing had one justification only: to protect a yet-to-be-imposed death sentence from reversal in a subsequent appeal. There is simply no other reason to even contemplate such a hearing, and that should give pause to any reviewing court that is concerned about the potential prejudgment of a case and the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship."

"[W]hile prejudice to Jackson may not be obvious from the record, the trial court's action calls its impartiality into question," he added.

Justice O'Neill also noted the mitigating factors in this case, such as Jackson's low intelligence, difficult background, and serious substance dependence, are significant. He contended that the court refuses to "truly engage in an independent reweighing of death sentences" and that this case, while terrible, should not be a death-penalty case.

(source: WKYC news)

MISSISSIPPI:

Manning death penalty case back before Mississippi Supreme Court

A Mississippi death row inmate is back before the state's high court to challenge the evidence and his lawyer's performance during his trial in the slayings of 2 elderly women.

Willie Jerome Manning is appealing an Oktibbeha County judge's denial of his post-conviction challenges related to evidence in his trial and his lawyer's performance. The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Oct. 27 in Jackson.

In 1996, Manning was convicted and sentenced to death in the slayings of Emmoline Jimmerson, 90, and her daughter, Alberta Jordan, 60, during a robbery attempt at their Starkville apartment in 1993. The women were beaten and their throats were slashed.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Manning's conviction and two death sentences in 2000. But four years later, the high court granted Manning approval to pursue three post-conviction claims: that prosecutors withheld evidence; that they presented false evidence; and that Manning was denied effective counsel at trial and on appeal.

Circuit Judge Lee Howard ruled against Manning on all three issues in 2013. But Manning's attorneys appealed, claiming Howard's ruling denied Manning "an opportunity to develop a number of claims challenging the reliability of his conviction."

During the initial trial, one of Manning's friends, Kevin Lucious, testified that he spoke to Manning at the Brooksville Gardens apartments on the evening of the slayings and then saw Manning force his way into the women's apartment. Other witnesses also testified they saw Manning at the apartments. Manning denied he had been there.

Manning argued Lucious later recanted. Lucious said he was coerced by prosecutors into implicating Manning, according to court documents.

Howard, the Oktibbeha County judge, said he found no reliable proof that Lucious was threatened by law enforcement officials. Howard said law enforcement officials testified Lucious was never threatened or pressured for testimony in the case.

Howard said he could not find that Manning's lawyer was ineffective for failing to attack Lucious testimony.

Special Assistant Attorney General Melanie Thomas said in court documents that Lucious gave several statements to authorities about the slayings. She said it was only 6 years after the trial that Lucious argued he was coerced by prosecutors and the story changed each time Lucious was asked to describe how he was coerced.

"The only time his story ever made sense ... was when Lucious testified at Manning's trial," Thomas said.

Emily Maw, an attorney for the New Orleans-based Innocence Project, argued in a friend of the court brief that it was clear Lucious lied while testifying at Manning's trial. She said the very least the Supreme Court should do is reverse Manning's conviction so the case may be reinvestigated.

In May 2013, Manning had been set for lethal injection in a separate case -- the December 1992 slayings of Mississippi State University students Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller. The state Supreme Court blocked the execution hours before it was scheduled. Justices didn't explain their action, but Manning had argued that DNA tests would prove him innocent. That case was sent back to Oktibbeha County.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIANA:

Coed killer seeks to block execution, judge will hear testimony this week

When Connie Sutton exited a Johnson County courtroom in 2000 she called someone on the phone to say a judge had passed sentence on her daughter's killer.

"Hello. Hey," she said into her cell phone. "Death penalty. We got it. She probably won't overturn it. We'll probably be okay."

That was 14 years ago, 3 years after Kelly Eckart's body was found in a wooded area of Brown County, 3 days after she disappeared after leaving work at the Franklin Walmart.

At trial, Michael Dean Overstreet's own brother testified against him and the Franklin man was sentenced to death.

Michael Overstreet

He still lives on Indiana's death row in Michigan City and his attorneys argue Overstreet's mental condition has deteriorated to the point where he understands he is going to die but he doesn't know what it means. In the interest of justice, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a condemned man must comprehend capital punishment before the sentence can be carried out.

A judge in South Bend will hear 4 days of testimony this week about whether Overstreet deserves protection under the Supreme Court ruling.

"They're gonna talk about whether he's competent enough to be put to death," said Sutton. "He knows what he did. He just won't admit it. He's just a better liar than others. I honestly believe he does know what he did no matter how many times he says he doesn't."

Sutton sat down with Fox 59 News the day before the hearing begins.

"Does he understand what put to death is really going to do?" Sutton asked. "What it really means as far as, 'You're gonna die, you're gonna be no more. Not on this earth anywhere.'? He's gotta understand that. I still believe he does."

Overstreet's attorneys will present psychiatrists who will testify that the teenager's killer is a paranoid schizophrenic, delusional and hearing voices no one else can hear, seeing things no one else can see.

Sutton doesn't buy it.

"I still believe it was a punishment he was given by a group of his peers. That jury gave it to him. Not only a judge but a jury gave it to him.

"He still deserves to die. I still see that. That hasn't changed."

On Sutton's mantle above her fireplace is a picture of Kelly and her cat, the last taken before the accounting major disappeared on September 26, 1997.

"A lot of things in me have changed in the past years," said Sutton who finds herself still committed to the death penalty. "The reasoning is still the same. He took my daughter from me. He took her life and didn't think 2 things about it. Didn't think 2 seconds over it. He did it. He just tried to cover it up.

"He needs to die. He needs to make it be done. 17 years is entirely too long to make it like this. This is ridiculous when another state can do it in 4? What's wrong with this picture?"

Sutton is resigned that no matter what St. Joseph County Superior Jane Woodward Miller decides in December, either the Attorney General or Overstreet's attorneys are likely to appeal and her wait for justice will continue.

"I still walk down the street and people will ask me if I'm Kelly's mom," she said. "And I can stand up tall and say, 'Yes,' because I am so proud of what she did in 18 years.

"If they do remember Kelly, they do remember the story and hopefully it will keep somebody safe.

"Kelly was an awesome kid. She didn't deserve any of this. She didn't ask for any of this. There's a lot of people out there you can't trust but there's a lot of people out there you can trust."

There's a tree on the Franklin College campus dedicated to Kelly Eckart who was kidnapped and killed 3 weeks into her freshman year.

Connie said her daughter was a smalltown girl from Boggstown who fretted about making friends at college. Taking her mother's advice, she invited a couple classmates to lunch before going to work that day. Lunch with the girls was several hours before Overstreet walked into Kelly's store, spotted his prey and hatched a plan to follow the coed off after work, bumping her car in the dark at a country road intersection and committing murder.

"I'm not the same person. You're not the same person after you lose a child," said Sutton who lost a husband and a daughter but gained a handful of grandchildren ever since that day. "Now I don't think about it all the time. I don't think about what he did to Kelly and how he did it.

"I can't walk away from the death penalty yet."

(source: Fox 59 News)

ARIZONA:

Jodi Arias Trial: Investigator Going Back to Murder Scene?

Jodi Arias, who is due to be sentenced for the murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, reportedly wants to send an investigator back to the scene of the crime.

According to a Maricopa County Superior Court minute order, Arias wants the investigator to go back to the crime scene at Alexander's home in Mesa, Az. Alexander was murdered in 2008, and Arias was convicted in May 2013.

The retrial in the death penalty phase is slated to start Sept. 29.

HLN-TV, which has been covering the Arias case, wrote on Saturday: "Arias asked that her investigator be permitted to observe the Mesa, Arizona, home where Alexander was killed."

The court order then stipulates that the prosecutor was to allow Arias' investigator to head back to Alexander’s former home no later than this week.

According to The Associated Press and other reports, Judge Sherry Stephens granted Arias the right to represent herself in the death penalty phase.

Recently, several experts weighed in on her decision to represent herself.

"It's actually probably a good idea to represent herself," San Francisco-area defense attorney Daniel Horowitz told CBS.

"She looks like a vicious psychopath with a ridiculous defense. If she can get just 1 juror to bond with her on some level, even if they hate her, they're getting to know her, and it's harder to kill someone you know."

He added that the jury might find "her pathetic."

Mel McDonald, a former Maricopa County judge, added: "I think generally that anybody that represents themselves has a fool for a client, but it also gives her a way, if she's out there making a fool of herself, to maybe invoke some sympathy from a juror."

(source: The Epoch Times)

UTAH:

Utah inmate's capital murder trial to be set soon

A trial will be scheduled soon for a Utah prison inmate who faces a possible death penalty in the killing of his cellmate.

The Deseret News reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1rJFggE) that 33-year-old Steven Crutcher will be in court Sept. 17.

Crutcher's trial on one charge of aggravated murder is expected to be scheduled that day.

Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel filed notice in July that he's seeking the death penalty.

Prosecutors say Crutcher killed 62-year-old cellmate Rolando Cardona-Gueton at the Gunnison prison in 2013.

The older man was found as if he had hanged himself. Authorities initially thought it was a suicide.

Crutcher already is serving a sentence of up to life in prison for an aggravated kidnapping charge in June 2009.

Crutcher's attorney Edward Brass did not return messages.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Suspect in Mission Valley mall triple-killing in court Tuesday

A preliminary hearing is set to begin Tuesday for a man accused in the shooting deaths of 2 brothers and a woman who was engaged to 1 of them - a crime that came to light when 2 of the victims were found mortally wounded in a parked car at a Mission Valley mall last Christmas Eve.

Carlo Gallopa Mercado, 29, could face the death penalty if convicted of 3 counts of murder and a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders. A decision on what penalty Mercado could face will be made later.

Mercado's arrest in late June came nearly 6 months after Ilona Flint and Salvatore Belvedere, both 22, were found fatally shot shortly before 1:30 a.m. Dec. 24 at Westfield Mission Valley, which was open late for last-minute holiday shopping.

Flint managed to call 911 shortly before she died at the scene. Belvedere died at a hospital 2 days later.

Gianni Belvedere, 24, was missing for several weeks following the shootings of his fiancee and brother. In mid-January, his body was found in the trunk of a car outside a fast-foot restaurant in Riverside. He also had been shot in the head.

Investigators found "substantial probable cause" linking Mercado to the slayings, homicide Lt. Mike Hastings said, but he declined to elaborate. The lieutenant said he wasn't sure there was any relation between the defendant and the victims.

A motive was not known.

Mercado was found with two pistols and an assault rifle in his car on Jan. 18 after target practice and pleaded guilty to possession of silencer, said attorney Michael Berg.

After the preliminary hearing, which is expected to last several days, a judge will decide whether enough evidence was presented for Mercado to stand trial.

(source: ABC news)

USA:

Marathon bombing suspect: Delay trial until 2015

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked Friday to delay his trial until at least September 2015.

"We recognize that the government and many members of the public, especially in the Boston area, may want the trial to begin quickly," the lawyers said in a court filing, but it is critically important that both sides have time "to uncover and present all relevant evidence."

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty in the April 2013 attack that killed 3 people and wounded more than 260. He could face the death penalty.

Tsarnaev's attorneys said his Nov. 3 trial gives them about 1/2 the median preparation time allowed other defendants facing a federal death sentence over the past decade.

The lawyers said they need more time to evaluate the "massive amount" of evidence, which they say prosecutors have been slow and disorganized in producing, and to explore mitigating factors that could lessen his sentence if convicted. The attorneys said at a hearing earlier this month they likely could not be ready for a November trial.

Authorities say Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, set off the 2 pressure cooker bombs at the marathon's finish line. Tamerlan was killed during a shootout with police days later.

Dzhokhar, 21, is a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the Boston area from Russia with his family more than a decade ago. His lawyers theorize that Tamerlan, who allegedly became radicalized during a visit to his native Chechnya, was the attacks' instigator.

The lawyers said their investigation faces "barriers of distance, language, and culture," and the fears of witnesses aware of arrests, prosecutions and deportations of some of the Tsarnaevs' friends. The defense cited an FBI agent's killing of a friend of Tamerlan during an interrogation in Florida, which authorities have said was self-defense, and the recent convictions of two of Dzhokhar's friends on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges.

Separately, the defense responded to prosecutors' opposition to their change of venue request, saying Tsarnaev's trial should be moved, or a hearing at least should be held.

(source: Associated Press)

JAPAN:

Supreme Court upholds death penalty handed down by lay judges for 1st time

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence handed down by lay judges for the 1st time since the citizen judge system came into being 5 years ago.

The top court rejected an appeal by 43-year-old Tomohiro Matsubara against the ruling that sentenced him to death for killing a family of 3 and stealing 4.1 yen million along with 3 other men in Nagano Prefecture in March 2010.

Lay judges have so far handed down 21 death sentences, including four that became final without any decision by the Supreme Court.

The ruling for Matsubara is the 1st death sentence handed down by lay judges to become final through a Supreme Court decision.

(source: Japan Times)

CHINA:

Chinese Death Row Cons Don Guard Jackets To Walk Out Of Jail

Chinese police are hunting a martial arts and 2 fellow cons after they killed a prison guard and escaped by dressing up in the officer's uniform during a dramatic escape from a prison in Yanshou county, in the city of Harbin, in north-eastern China's Heilongjiang province.

Chinese officials who confirmed the breakout also said that earlier reports that 2 of the 3 had been recaptured were false, and issued pictures of the men in a bid to get help in tracking them down.

Super fit Li Haiwei, 29, who was jailed after using his martial arts skills to kill a man, escaped with Wang Damin, 35, who was arrested for violent assault and Gao Yulun, 50, who had been arrested for murder and was awaiting execution after getting the death penalty for his crimes.

The 3 had managed to overpower the guard and killed him with his own gun, then undressed him and replaced the prison uniform of 1 of them before announcing that a prisoner had been shot trying to escape. They then simply walked out of the jail amid the confusion according to reports on local media.

Police said that by the time they walked out through the gates, all 3 had managed to acquire prison guard uniforms, and an enquiry was underway as to where they managed to get them from.

Chinese jails and prisons are run along strict lines, and escapes are extremely rare.

China prisons just 118 of every 100,000 people compared to America's 737 per 100,000. However, punishments are often harsh and China is believed to execute more people for crimes each year than the rest of the world combined.

(source: Austrian Times)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Arabia Beheads 4 Drug Traffickers

3 Syrians and an Iranian convicted of drug trafficking were executed by the sword in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the interior ministry announced.

Syrians Hamud Hassoun, Hassan Musalamani and Yussef al-Halqi were all arrested with a "large amount of banned amphetamine pills", said 3 separate statements on the official SPA news agency.

The agency did not state if the 3, beheaded in the northern Jawf region, were part of the same drug-trafficking ring.

An Iranian, Reda Idrisawi, was put to death in Eastern Province after he was convicted of trafficking "a large amount of narcotic hashish by sea", another SPA statement said.

The beheadings increased to 45 the number of executions carried out in the desert kingdom this year, according to an AFP tally.

Human Rights Watch last month expressed alarm at the surge in the number of executions in the country, where some 19 people were beheaded between August 4 and 20 alone.

HRW said 8 of those executed had been convicted of non-violent offenses such as drug trafficking and "sorcery", and described the use of the death penalty in their cases as "particularly egregious".

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.

(source: neharnet.com)

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

Man held for killing wife, child----Murderer tried to hide crimes by setting home ablaze

Police in Saudi Arabia have arrested an Indian for the murder of his wife and son in the capital Riyadh.

The police said that they were able to identify the killer 9 hours after he committed his double crime and tried to camouflage it by setting their house in the Shumaisi neighbourhood on fire.

The man reportedly admitted to the police that he killed his wife after she discovered that he was having affair with one of his relatives who was living with them.

Riyadh police spokesperson Fawaz Al Miman said that the criminal investigation team found the bodies of the mother and her son and concluded that they had been killed, local daily Okaz reported on Tuesday.

In his confessions, the man said that he killed them after his wife became aware of the affair he was having with the relative.

He added that he then set the house ablaze to conceal the murders and mislead the investigation teams.

Indians are believed to constitute the largest Asian expatriate community in the kingdom where 9 million foreigners live, out of a total population of 27 million.

Under Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system, the death penalty can be imposed for murder.

(source: Gulf News)

SOUTH KOREA:

S. Korea soldiers charged with homicide over death

Military prosecutors have charged 4 soldiers with homicide over the hazing death of a young army conscript in April, South Korea's Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

The soldiers were previously charged with manslaughter, but prosecutors decided on a more serious homicide charge after concluding that the 4 likely knew the 21-year-old victim, private first-class Yoon Seung-ju, could die. If convicted, the accused face a minimum of 5 years in prison and potentially life imprisonment or the death penalty, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

According to prosecutors, the suspects regularly bullied the victim for about a month. They allegedly struck him in the chest and forced him to swallow a chunk of food that clogged his airway before he collapsed.

Bullying and hazing are serious problems in South Korea's military. Service is mandatory for all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35.

In June, 5 died after a shooting rampage at an army unit close to the North Korean border. The sergeant charged with the shooting spree said he opened fire on his colleagues after being bullied for an extended period.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIA:

Ministry to seek Cabinet nod to amendments to Anti-Hijacking Bill; Changed act will empower judiciary to award death sentence to hijackers and to penalise individuals collaborating with anti-national forces

The ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) will soon send for cabinet approval the much delayed Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill which will give rights to the judiciary to award death sentences to hijackers and to penalize individuals acting in concert with such anti-national forces.

A senior ministry official informed, "The Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill is in the final stage and will be soon sent for cabinet approval. The definition of hijacking has been widened in the draft to include in its purview individuals acting in concert with hijackers. Stringent penalties have been specified and hijackers can be awarded death sentences once the new legislation comes into force."

Under the present norms, penalty for the offence of hijacking includes life imprisonment and fine.

The changes have been engineered in line with the Beijing Protocol of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to update Indian laws in accordance with international resolutions.

"Under the current legislation in event human bombs are used and the individuals involved are killed in the incident, others involved in planning the act cannot be proceeded against. The new legislation would allow for penalizing these people and also allow for confiscation of property of hijacker", added the official.

The proposed law will also give security forces the right to immobilise an aircraft or prevent its take-off. It will further allow the Indian Air Force to send its fighters to intercept a hijacked aircraft and force it to land. Additionally, it will empower security forces to shoot down an aircraft which may be used as a missile to bring down a vital installation.

The Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 to replace the 1982 Act. The cabinet headed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had cleared the Bill in March 2010. It was subsequently referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on transport, tourism and culture which gave its recommendations in October that year.

In its report, the Standing Committee had endorsed awarding capital punishment to abettors and conspirators committing any act defined as hijacking. However, the Standing Committee had said that if death penalty was ensured for all hijacking offences, then the opportunity for negotiation or settlement to save the lives of passengers would be closed. It had also asked whether death penalty would help in deterring hijackers on suicide missions.

A group of ministers (GoM) headed by then Home Minister P Chidambaram had approved the bill to include death sentence and life imprisonment for hijacking before the Cabinet gave its nod to the measure at the time. But the Bill went on the backburner after that.

The Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill was brought after the hijack of Indian Airlines flight in Kandahar in 1999 and the 11 Sep 2001 terror strikes in the United States. In both instances civilian aircraft were hijacked and used for perpetrating acts of terror.

(source: Business Standard)

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

SC frames new rules for hearing review petitions of death row convicts

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that review plea of a death convict against the sentence will be heard in open court with lawyers allowed to advance arguments.

The top court held that review petition filed by a death convict should be heard by a 3-judge bench.

The apex court allowed death convicts, whose review pleas have already been dismissed by it, to file fresh pleas for reopening of their cases within a month.

This means condemned prisoners will get an additional opportunity to question verdict against them.

In case a death convict's curative petition has been decided, he should not file plea for reopening of his review petition, the court ruled.

A 5-judge bench ruled with a 4-1 majority in favour of carving out an exception for condemned prisoners since their right to life was on the verge of being extinguished.

This order will provide an opportunity to condemned prisoners like Lal Quila terror attack death row convict Mohd Asfaq, Mumbai serial blast convict Yakub Memon, Sonu Sardar and many others to argue against death penalty.

(source: The Times of India)

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

Death penalty no deterrent despite two being awarded daily, says NGO

2 people are sentenced to death every day in India, but it has not proved to be a deterrent to crime, says the latest report by NGO Asian Centre for Human Rights.

Analysing government data for 12 years from 2000, the report, "India: Death Penalty Has No Deterrence", said the key grounds for retention of death penalty is the perception that it acts as a deterrent against gruesome and diabolical crimes.

"From 2001 to 2012, the death sentences of 1,552 convicts were confirmed while the death sentences for 4,382 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment. This implies that a total of 5,934 convicts were given death sentence in the last 12 years in India, ie, about 2 convicts being given death sentence every working day of the judiciary," said the report.

The report also noted that President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 97 per cent of the mercy petitions he received since assuming office on July 25, 2012. Mukherjee has considered 23 mercy pleas involving 31 death-row convicts, out of which only 1 convict, Atbir, was granted mercy.

The report said despite executions of an average of 128 death-row convicts per year from 1953 to 1963 as per the 35th Report of the Law Commission, the decade-wise increase in murder cases during the same period was about 17 %, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). "Obviously, executions did not act as a deterrent," said the NGO's report.

Rather, it noted, drastic reduction in award of death penalty and executions post the Supreme Court verdict on rarest-of-rare cases drastically brought down murder cases.

As per the NCRB, the decade-wise decrease of murder cases between 1992 and 2002 was 12.43 % in actual terms, despite India's population growing by 21.34 per cent in the same period.

Quoting Home Ministry data, the report said though no convict under anti-terror laws from Jammu and Kashmir was executed since 1990 until the execution of Afzal Guru in 2013, the state recorded a "significant decline" in terror incidents, with 5,247 such reports in 1993 to 220 in 2012.

(source: Deccan Herald)

UGANDA:

Kigula escaped death with a law degree

Susan Kigula was taken into her jail cell whilst she was sobbing. When she finally opened her eyes and looked around, there was nowhere to run or hide.

A disconsolate Kigula felt worthless. She had been accused of killing her husband.

In 2002, court found her guilty and sentenced her to death. She could not see any way up or out.

Apprehensive and oblivious of what lay ahead; Kigula gave in to frequent cycles of depression.

For years, she waited for the hangman to say, "let's go," but this did not happen.

She petitioned against the sentence. "Hanging a person is not a deterrent since everyone deserves a 2nd chance to live. That is why I petitioned against the death penalty," says Kigula.

Whereas court did not abolish the death sentence, in 2011, it ruled that the State cannot torture condemned prisoners by keeping them on death row for years; therefore, if a death penalty cannot be executed within 3 years, it is automatically turned into life imprisonment.

New beginnings

Thus, Kigula, who had spent nine years in prison, escaped the hangman's noose and started a new life. In 2011, her sentence was reduced to 20 years starting 2002, meaning she will be out of jail in 2022 and will be a different person.

About 2 years ago, Kigula started studying law in a distance education programme and on August 19, she was among the 3 inmates, 2 males and 1 female, who graduated with a diploma in Law of the University of London.

Kigula could not find the words to express her joy when she was called upon by Prof. Jenny Hamilton, the director undergraduate Laws at the University of London, to receive her most coveted document during a ceremony at Luzira Prison.

"I can't believe I am receiving such a prestigious accolade. People out there think prisoners do not have the brains to study law, but I have made it. I am now an alumni of the University of London," Kigula proudly noted.

Her father, Can. Godfrey Njagala and her mother, Gertrude Kigula Njagala, attended the ceremony.

Committed to the letter

Kigula becomes one of the first prisoners in the history of Uganda to receive a diploma in Common Law. She hopes to get a degree in law from the same university. Kigula has been the Katikkiro (head of prisoners) in the women's wing.

Despite her criminal record, she is remorseful about her actions. When she was jailed, she had a limited education, but enrolled for O'level and scored aggregate 29. She then proceeded to A'level and scored 18 points.

Kigula says she intends to set up a law firm upon discharge. She took up law because she wants to advocate for the rights of the less privileged having realised that the poor face ‘miscarriage of justice’ in the judicial system.

"Many innocent people end up behind bars because they lack legal representation. I am determined to leave prison a learned woman so that I fight for the rights of the underprivileged," says Kigula.

With the knowledge acquired so far, Kigula has been providing legal advice to fellow prisoners.

The commissioner general of prisons, Johnson Byabashaija, explains that prison is not simply a punishment centre. "I want to transform prisons from punitive centre to correctional facilities," he notes.

Hope for the hopeless

The rationale is that prisoners should receive counselling, religious guidance, ideological re-orientation and skills to enable them become more useful and less troublesome members of society.

It also enables them to become self-reliant after release. In the long run, according to prisons sources, the phrase "prisons service" is likely to be changed to "correctional services".

The head teacher of the Upper Prison inmates' school, Anatoli Biryomumaisho, says the school's enrolment stands at 1,050 students.

A total of 615 are in primary, 324 in secondary, while 111 enrolled for certificate and diploma courses.

"The ex-inmates often turn out to be better people in society. Some of them come back to give motivational talks to those still in prison," he notes.

(source: New Vision)

NIGERIA----ACTION ITEM

Save Moses from execution

[see: http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/action/35450/utm_source=allsup&utm_medium=email&utm_content=breakout_box&utm_campaign=torture_548]

In 2005 Moses Akatugba was just another 16-year-old student in Nigeria anxiously awaiting his exam results, when his life was changed forever.

On 27 November, Moses was arrested by the Nigerian army, who allegedly shot him in the hand and beat him during the arrest. Moses was charged with stealing three mobile phones.

Moses says that police officers beat him and hung him upside down. They pulled out his fingernails and toenails, before forcing him to sign "confessions" written by the police.

Now, after 8 years in prison, Moses, a promising student who planned to study medicine at uni, has been sentenced to death by hanging.

Join the worldwide movement to save Moses from execution.

Let's get this straight: the death penalty is never the solution. But to hang someone for an alleged petty crime, committed when they were just 16, is horrifying.

It's even worse when Moses, who maintains his innocence, recounts his arrest: "The pain I went through in the hands of the officers was unimaginable. I have never been subjected to such inhuman treatment."

But there is hope.

The Governor of the Delta State - where Moses is imprisoned - has the power to overturn Moses' death sentence. The Governor has also stated that he is against the death penalty.

And now is our best chance to get the Governor to act in line with his conscience: 1 October is Nigeria's Independence Day, when death sentences are often overturned.

This is Moses' window of opportunity. Ask the local Governor to save this student's life now and investigate his claims of torture.

Petition text

To: Emmanuel Uduaghan, Governor of Delta State

We call on His Excellency to:

commute Moses Akatugba's sentence of death

institute an independent investigation into Moses Akatugba's allegations of torture by the police in Delta State.

Yours Sincerely,

(source: Amnesty International)

KIRIBATI:

Kiribati proposes death penalty

The Kiribati parliament has passed the first reading of the amendment to the penal code to adopt the death penalty.

President Anote Tong says his country will have the opportunity to comment on the amendment during the consultation.

Mr Tong says the bill is a deterrent for deliberate killings in the country.

His comment comes after 5 women recently lost their lives at the hands of their husbands or former partners.

However, the opposition leader, Dr Tetaua Taitai, warns the government to be mindful of the implications of the death penalty because sometimes the courts may be wrong in their judgments.

(source: Radio New Zealand)

SEPTEMBER 1, 2014:

ALABAMA:

Alabama death row inmate Jason Sharp seeks new trial in 1999 rape-murder

The long-running case of Jason Sharp, who is on Alabama's death row in the 1999 killing of a Huntsville nurse, has taken another turn, with Sharp arguing his conviction and sentence should be overturned.

Attorneys for the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative submitted the Rule 32 petition on Sharp's behalf last month, arguing his trial attorneys failure to adequately represent him violated his rights and led to his 2006 conviction and death sentence.

The case has taken multiple turns from the time of Sharp's 1999 arrest in the stabbing death of Tracy Morris. Due to a series of procedural issues the case didn't go to trial for 7 years. When it did, Sharp was convicted of murder during a rape and sentenced to die.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that it appeared prosecutors had improperly struck 11 of 13 African American jurors in the jury pool. Sharp is white, Tracy Morris was also white.

A hearing was held in 2010 before Madison County Circuit Judge Laura Hamilton, who later ruled prosecutors did not discriminate during jury selection. But the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 2011 that it appeared jurors were improperly struck from the jury and ordered a new trial for Sharp.

The Alabama Attorney General's office asked the court to reconsider the opinion and in 2012, the court reversed itself, finding no discrimination by prosecutors

The Alabama Supreme Court later upheld that ruling.

The victim's brother, Brian Morris, also worked with the Alabama Legislature to pass "Tracy's Law" in 2012, which increases penalties for stalking.

Tracy's Law is aimed at stopping many of the upsetting and disruptive behaviors stalkers use, but those same behaviors had not been previously criminalized, he said. Morris said Sharp "bothered his sister for about 18 months" before she was killed.

The law establishes a misdemeanor charge for behaviors that under different circumstances might be considered ordinary.

The law targets a person "acting with an improper purpose who intentionally follows, harasses, telephones or initiates communication" with another person, any member of the person's immediate family, or any third party "with whom the person is acquainted."

The behavior becomes criminal if the person is asked to stop and does not.

The Rule 32 filing, which is aimed at constitutional issues argues Sharp's trial attorney did not adequately represent him and did not do enough to establish mitigating factors that might have led a jury to recommend a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

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

Huntsville man facing death penalty in killing of 91-year-old neighbor says indictment should be dismissed

A Huntsville man charged with capital murder and facing a possible death sentence in the killing of his 91-year-old neighbor is arguing his indictment should be thrown out.

In a court filing late last week attorneys for John Clayton Owens, 30, contend the indictment does not spell out the "aggravators" the state plans to use in arguing that Owens, if convicted, should get the death penalty.

That failure left uncorrected will result in Owens being deprived of a fair trial, according to the motion filed by defense attorneys Brian Clark and Ron Smith.

The capital murder charge is based on the allegation that 91-year-old Doris Richardson was killed by Owens, who lived next door, during a burglary at her home. The killing was committed during another crime and that makes it a capital offense, prosecutors contend.

Her body was found in her bedroom on Aug. 26, 2011. Owens told police he burglarized the home, but denied killing Richardson.

Under Alabama law in the sentencing phase of a trial the jury is asked to consider a number of aggravating and mitigating factors that on balance should lead them to decide whether the death penalty is appropriate.

The defense argues the Owens indictment only lists one aggravator - that the killing occurred during a burglary - but state law has many more other possible aggravating factors and the prosecution is likely to cite more than one of those aggravators in seeking the death penalty.

Aggravators listed under Alabama Code section 13A-5-49, include, the murder was: especially cruel; committed by someone for financial gain; created a risk of death to more than one person; one in a series of killings; done to disrupt enforcement of the law; committed to effect an escape or avoid arrest; committed by a person already under a sentence for a different offense. Madison County Assistant District Attorney Bill Starnes has argued in a court filing that prior court rulings have found the defendant has no right to advance notice of the state's plans regarding which of the aggravating circumstances it will rely on during the trial.

Starnes cited an earlier appeals court ruling that noted since the facts of a given case are known to both sides, the aggravators selected to be argued should come as no surprise.

Alabama law also includes mitigating factors in section 13A-5-51 that can be cited during the sentencing phase and used to argue against the death penalty.

Those mitigating factors include: no significant history of criminal activity, the defendant was under extreme mental or emotional duress, the victim was a participant in the defendant's conduct, the defendant was an accomplice, the defendant was dominated by another person or the defendant's ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions was substantially impaired.

The defendant's age can also be considered as a possible mitigating factor, under the law.

The defense has asked Madison County Circuit Judge to continue the case beyond the scheduled Nov. 3, trial date, arguing it needs more time to examine evidence provided in the past 2 months by the prosecution and to prepare for the sentencing phase in the case, if Owens is convicted.

Bell, who continued the trial once, has left the current trial date in place, but said he would listen to additional defense concerns as the date moves closer.

(source for both: al.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Analysis: Mississippi officials unclear when next execution might be

Mississippi hasn't had an execution in 2 years, and state Atty. Gen. Jim Hood says he can't predict when another might occur.

No Mississippi death row appeals are presently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.

"We usually make predictions on timing based on cases pending before that court," Hood told The Associated Press last week.

"There is no way to really know an exact time line on any of these type cases," he said. "They are all making their way through the system at various paces. We have some nearing the end of their normal track of appeals, but there is just no way to know when we might have a case that would warrant the filing of a motion to set an execution date."

The U.S. Supreme Court often is the last stop for inmates seeking a last-minute reprieve from execution. They rarely succeed, a function of the need for 5 votes on the 9-justice court and the reluctance of appellate judges to disturb lower court rulings unless they are demonstrably wrong.

The most recent execution in Mississippi was June 20, 2012. Gary Carl Simmons Jr., a former grocery store butcher, was executed for dismembering a man during a 1996 attack in which he also raped the man's female friend.

Before that, Jan Michael Brawner was executed on June 12, 2012, for fatally shooting his 3-year-old daughter, his ex-wife and her parents in a crime in which authorities say he also stole his slain mother-in-law's wedding ring and used it to propose to his girlfriend.

The Mississippi Supreme Court blocked executions in 2013 and 2014.

It appears Mississippi is headed for another execution hiatus, but one that may not last as long as in the 1990s.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 in a Mississippi death penalty case that described a capital crime to juries as "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel" without further definition was unconstitutionally vague. The ruling resulted in nearly two dozen Mississippi death sentences being overturned.

For the rest of the 1990s, no executions took place in the state. The July 2002 execution of Tracy Allen Hansen was Mississippi's 1st since 1989. Hansen was executed for gunning down a policeman in 1987.

From 1955 to 1964, Mississippi executed 31 men. Another 4 were put to death in the 1980s. Since 2002, including Hansen, 17 executions have taken place.

Mississippi had 60 inmates on death row as of Friday.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down existing death penalty laws across the country but did not declare capital punishment unconstitutional. 4 years later, the justices approved several rewritten state laws, and executions soon resumed.

Since then, 1,385 inmates have been executed in 34 states through August. More than 1/3 of those were in Texas alone, and in recent years, only a handful of other states have carried out executions on a somewhat regular basis, among them Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma.

The number of death penalty prosecutions has been dropping, in large part because of the availability of lifetime prison sentences without parole.

Mississippi's longest-serving inmates still have appeals moving through state and federal courts, as Hood noted.

Richard Gerald Jordan, 68, has been on death row the longest - 37 years calculated from his date of conviction, according to Department of Corrections' records. Jordan was convicted of capital murder committed in the course of a kidnapping.

James Billiot, 53, has been on death row 31 years. He was convicted of using a sledgehammer to kill his mother, stepfather and 14-year-old stepsister.

Roger Thorson, 56, has been on death row 25 years. He was sentenced to die for killing a former girlfriend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

(source: Commercial Appeal)

UTAH:

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in cellmate killing

Prosecutors have filed notice that they intend to seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing his cellmate in prison.

Steven Crutcher, 33, is facing a single count of aggravated murder, a capital offense, in the death of Rolando Cardona-Gueton, 62, who was found dead in his cell at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison on April 20, 2013. Crutcher was ordered to stand trial on the charge by 6th District Judge Wallace Lee following a preliminary hearing in May and Crutcher pleaded not guilty to the count.

Prosecutors filed notice of their intent to seek the ultimate punishment in the case in July.

Initially, officials weren't sure if Cardona-Guetan's death was a homicide or suicide, as the man had been strangled with a bed sheet, but the murder charge was filed after several months of investigation.

Prosecutors indicated at the time that race may have been a factor in the slaying. Cardona-Gueton, a native Cuban sentenced for drug possession, had not been Crutcher's cellmate for long before he was strangled to death.

Crutcher was serving a 10-years-to-life sentence for kidnapping an Iron County Jail officer. On July 1, 2009, Crutcher had just finished talking to someone in the jail's visiting area and was walking back to his cell when he grabbed a female corrections officer and pulled her into a port area between the main facility and a secondary lobby. As he grabbed the officer, he pulled a device out from under his shirt that appeared to be a pipe bomb and ordered the officer to open the door.

The escape attempt failed and the realistic-looking bomb turned out to be fake.

Crutcher, from Michigan, was in jail for stealing a car when he kidnapped the officer.

Crutcher's next appearance in court is scheduled for Sept. 17. It is anticipated a trial will be set at that time.

(source: Deseret News)

PHILIPPINES:

805 Pinoys facing drug-trafficking cases abroad

A total of 805 Filipinos are currently detained abroad for drug-related offenses, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said 341 are detained in Asia and the Pacific, 244 in Middle East and Africa, 116 in the United States and the Americas, and 104 in Europe.

Of this figure, 45 are on death row, but Jose explained that their death sentences are not yet final as the cases are on various stages of appeal.

The number of Filipino death convicts also include those who were sentenced to death with 2-year reprieve, meaning the penalty can be commuted if they will show good behavior while in detention.

In many countries, such as China, smuggling of large quantities of prohibited drugs is punishable by death.

5 Filipinos - all drug couriers - had been put to death in China since 2011.

Unfazed by the executions, many Filipinos continue to engage in drug trafficking, refocusing attention to the government's futile efforts to deal with criminal syndicates exploiting vulnerable Filipino workers, who are used to ferry drugs for money or by trickery.

Vietnam

Last week, a local court in Vietnam sentenced 2 Filipinos to death for drug smuggling.

Jose said the Philippine government, through its embassy in Hanoi, has been extending assistance to the Filipinos since the time of their arrests and that jail visits have been conducted.

Private lawyers were also hired to help in their legal defense, Jose added.

"We would like to assure the families of the 2 Filipinos that we continue to closely monitor the cases and provide updates on the appeal proceedings. We will cotinine to extend the necessary and appropriate assistance to the 2 Filipino nationals," Jose said.

(source: gmanetwork.com)

ZIMBABWE:

Death Warrants: Is Mnangagwa playing God?

News that Zanu-PF Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said he will not sign any death warrants because he was once sentenced to death appears to suggest he is now playing God.

Of the 97 people on death row in Zimbabwe, 1 of them is a woman, who, according to the new constitution, is exempt from execution.

"Fortunately, my signature as justice minister is required for them to be hanged and I am not giving it. That is why execution has not been done," Mnangagwa said officially opening the SADC Lawyers Association's 15th Annual General Meeting and Conference on 22 August 2014 at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa, who, then a teenager, was sentenced to death in 1965 by the Ian Smith regime for bombing a train during the liberation struggle was only spared from hanging for being under the age of 18.

In his own words while addressing delegates to the World Death Penalty Day in Harare on Wednesday 10th October 2013, Mnangagwa said:

"The death penalty brings utter hopelessness and I remember the mental torture I experienced upon receiving the sentence in 1965. I was fortunate that I was saved by the age technicality (since the law prohibited capital punishment for persons below 18).

For me, it does not matter where I am, I will always speak against the death penalty" (See Sofia Mapuranga, 'Mnangagwa against death sentence,' The Zimbabwean, 11/10/13).

What makes Mnangagwa's position on the death penalty intriguing and unconvincing are the numerous inconsistences in what he says and what he does.

For instance, he could have accepted the finance portfolio after the disputed 2013 polls which he reportedly declined saying the job needed someone younger. Officially he was 67 (see Herbert Moyo, 'Mnangagwa declines finance portfolio, The Zimbabwe Independent, 13/09/13).

Mnangagwa's reasons for rejecting the finance post are therefore far from convincing, in view of the fact that he twice served as acting finance minister - when Bernard Chidzero resigned in 1994 and when Ariston Chambati died in 1996, but could not be confirmed allegedly because the Bretton Woods institutions did not trust him (see Daniel Compagnon (2011) A Predictable Tragedy: Robert Mugabe and the Collapse of Zimbabwe, University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania, p.167).

If Mnangagwa was seriously opposed to the death penalty, surely, he would have had it removed from the statute book by now given the power and influence he purportedly wields in Zanu-PF. It is incredible that he has served as justice minister twice, when there are other options during which the death penalty has remained on statute books.

Despite his populist rhetoric, by 2002 as justice minister, he had only reduced 9 offences which attracted capital punishment soon after independence to 3 - murder, treason and mutiny (Nomsa Nkala, 'Should Capital Punishment Be Abolished?' The Herald, 27 September 2002).

The possible reason for him accepting the justice portfolio which he supposedly loathes could be linked to Mugabe's fear of retributive justice over the Matabeleland Gukurahundi massacres amid rumours Mugabe is grooming him as his successor who would ensure he avoids potential trial for human rights abuses.

It is alleged as the head of CIO at the time, Mnangagwa masterminded the slaughter of more than 25,000 civilians opposed to Mugabe in Matabeleland in the mid-1980s and was also responsible for the controversial land reform programme that resulted in attacks on white farmers by war veterans who seized their property (see The Scotsman, 'Mugabe grooms ruthless successor,' 20/07/03).

There are also unconfirmed reports suggesting he finally signed the death warrants last week (See Bulawayo 24, 'Mnangagwa signs death warrants,' 23/08/14). According to the online news organisation, "the editor of the Chronicle, Mduduzi Mathuthu, today (23/08/14) said the minister has finally signed. In a Facebook comment on Saturday, Mathuthu said 'Justice Minister signs death warrants after clemency appeals with President exhausted."

If it is true that Mnangagwa finally signed the death warrants, why has he not resigned as he threatened he would do last year?

In October 2013, Mnangagwa was quoted as saying he would rather resign from his ministerial post than sign execution certificates for the 89 people then on death row (See Sofia Mapuranga, 'Mnangagwa against death sentence,' The Zimbabwean, 11/10/13).

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Mnangagwa opposed a court application by 2 women on death row who were seeking the commutation of their death penalty in February. Mnangagwa said the appeal was unnecessary because work was being done to align the laws to the Constitution adopted in March 2013 (see Margaret Chinowaita, 'Death row inmates appeal unnecessary,' The Daily News, 05/02/14). In spite of that, Amnesty International has accused Mugabe's regime of denying millions of Zimbabweans their basic human rights by failing to align the country's laws with the new constitution (see The Zimbabwean, 'Amnesty says Mugabe denying millions their rights,' 22/08/14).

Mnangagwa's utterances are seen as grandstanding and a charm offensive as his predecessors had not signed warrants too but did not write home about it. Also as the "Son of God" (Mugabe being "God") he would be foolish to ignore an opportunity to spruce-up his persona.

The SADC lawyers meeting was also a good place to spin Zimbabwe's soiled image to the region's legal brains in light of the graphic news headline in Malawi's Nyasa Times in February last year entitled: "Malawi hangman hired to kill 76 Zimbabweans on death row." That way the appointment was announced raised a lot of fears.

In what some saw as the regime's attempt to intimidate the opposition ahead of the disputed July 2013 elections, Prison Service Commissioner Paradzai Zimondi revealed in February 2013 that the position of hangman had been filled in mid-2012 while showing journalists around Harare Remand Prison.

"Indeed, we now have a hangman but these people are still to be executed. In fact, no-one has been executed in the past 12 years," the Herald quoted him as telling journalists. On the contrary, Amnesty International said Zimbabwe hasn't conducted any executions since 2005, the same year that the country's last hangman retired.

It is not clear if executions have resumed in Zimbabwe given the inconsistencies of justice minister Mnangagwa statements and actions. However, people are asking: 'Is Mnangagwa playing God?' by appearing to be the giver and taker of life.

(source: Clifford Mashiri is a Social Sciences doctoral researcher at London South Bank University----nehandaradio.com)

EUROPEAN UNION/JAPAN:

EU regrets with death penalties in Japan

The spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) announced on 29 August EU's regret regarding the execution of 2 death row inmates in Japan. EEAS spokesperson said:

"We deeply regret the execution in Japan of two death row inmates, Mitsuhiro Kobayashi and Tsutomu Takamizawa, today. Since the end of a de facto moratorium of 20 months in March 2012, eighteen persons have been executed in Japan.

While recognising the serious nature of the crimes involved, the EU is opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under any circumstances, based on the conviction that the death penalty is cruel and inhumane and its abolition essential to protect human dignity.

We welcome the announcement that a parliamentary group for the abolition of the death penalty that had suspended its activities following the December 2012 Lower House elections will resume its deliberations in the autumn.

In the meantime, we reiterate our call on the Japanese authorities to consider seriously a moratorium on executions. Taking into account the voices of those who, in Japan and abroad, call for a thorough review of capital punishment, we invite the Government to promote a sincere public debate on moving away from capital punishment, in line with the worldwide trend."

(source: neurope.eu)

IRAN----executions

8 inmates hanged in Bandar-abbas prison

The Iranian regime's authorities in a prison in southern Iran hanged a group of 8 prisoners on Thursday, August 28, State-run Mehr News Agency reported.

The victims who were identified by their initials mostly had been arrested for drug smuggling.

The report said all the inmates were hanged in the city's main prison.

The number of executions has been on the rise since Hassan Rouhani assumed office as the president of the Iranian regime August 2013.

New wave of executions take place at a time when, hundreds have been subjected to degrading and inhumane punishments such as flogging in public and being paraded in streets. Some very brutally before being hanged.

(source: NCR-Iran)

INDIA:

President Mukherjee rejects 97% of mercy pleas as India gives two death sentences each day

Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, "India: Death Penalty Has No Deterrence", stated that President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 97% of the mercy petitions since assuming the office of the President of India on 25 July 2012 despite no deterrent effect of death penalty. President Mukherjee has considered 23 mercy pleas involving 31 death-row convicts out of which only one convict, Atbir was granted mercy as on August 2014.

Analysing the data of the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), Asian Centre for Human Rights stated, "From 2001 to 2012, death sentence of 1,552 convicts were confirmed while the death sentences for 4,382 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment. This implies that a total of 5,934 convicts were given death sentence in the last 12 years in India i.e. about 2 convicts being given death sentence every working day of the judiciary'.

"The empirical evidence of the Government of India, however, establishes that death penalty does not act as deterrent," stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

Death penalty is awarded mostly in cases of murder. Despite executions of an average of 128 death row convicts per year from 1953 to 1963 as per the 35th Report of the Law Commission, the decadal increase of murder cases during the same period as per the NCRB was about 17%. Obviously, executions had not acted as a deterrent. Rather, drastic reduction in executions in the post Bachan Singh judgement period drastically brought down murder cases. As per the NCRB which started collecting statistics on death penalty from 1995, the decadal decrease of murder cases during 1992 to 2002 was 12.43% in actual term despite decadal growth rate of India's population by 21.34% from 846.3 million in 1991 to 1.028 billion in 2001. Similarly, the decadal decrease of murder cases during 2002-2012 was 1.99% in actual term despite increase of India's population from 1.028 billion in 2001 to 1.21 billion in 2011.

Though no convict under anti-terror laws from Jammu and Kashmir has been executed from 1990 till the hanging of Afzal Guru in 2013, Jammu and Kashmir had recorded decadal reduction of 70% incidents of terrorist violence and 61.66% reduction in killings during the period 2003-2012 as against the period 1993-2002. Terror incidents declined from 5,247 incidents in 1993 to 220 incidents in 2012. The number of persons killed also declined from 2,255 persons in 1993 to 102 persons in 2012. Further, decadal terror incidents of about 43,085 incidents with 26,285 deaths in Jammu and Kashmir during 1993 to 2002 were reduced to 12,970 incidents with 10,076 deaths during 2003-2012.

Even inclusion of death penalty for repeat offenders of rape under Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code following the Nirbhaya gang rape incident in Delhi has not reduced non-homicidal offences such as rape. On 4 April 2014, a Sessions Court in Mumbai, Maharashtra became the first in the country to impose death penalty to 3 repeat offenders of rape under the new Section 376E of the IPC in the infamous Shakti Mill rape case. However, the statistics provided by Mumbai Police showed that 135 rape cases were reported from April to 15 June 2014 i.e. about 2 rape cases daily. Similarly, the award of death penalty to four adult accused found guilty of rape and murder of Nirbhaya by a fast track court in September 2013 failed to act as a deterrent. According to data released by the Delhi Police, 616 rape cases were registered in Delhi from 1 January 2014 to 30 April 2014 i.e. 6 cases were reported every day. This is an increase of 36% compared to around 450 cases registered in the same period in 2013.

With the exception of the Central Reserve Police Force Act, death penalty is provided in all the legislations establishing the Army, Air Force, Navy and the central para-military forces for a number of military offences such as in relation to the enemy or terrorist, mutiny, desertion and aiding desertion and other offences such as murder including fratricide. The Ministry of Defence stated that 83 cases of fratricide were reported from the armed forces from 2000 to 2012. Though the CRPF Act does not provide death penalty, maximum number of fratricide killings among the para-military forces of 18 incidents, were reported from the CPRF.

"Though death penalty does not act as a deterrent, the Government of India continues to mislead the people about its effectiveness. Death penalty can never be a substitute to prevention, effective and prompt investigation and speedy justice delivery system against crimes on which the Government of India has failed," further stated Mr Chakma.

Asian Centre for Human Rights called upon the Government of India to amend all the laws that provide death penalty and replace the same with punishment for life imprisonment i.e. imprisonment for the whole of the remaining period of the convicted person's natural life.

(source: Asian Center for Human Rights)

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Rights watchdog slams large number of death sentences, says they have failed to curb crime

President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected 97% of the mercy petitions since assuming the top office in 2012, a human rights watch group has said, stressing that death penalty has failed to act as a deterrent in the country.

Mukherjee, who assumed office on July 25, 2012, considered 23 mercy pleas involving 31 death-row convicts out of which only one was granted mercy as on August 31, 2014, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said in its report titled 'India: Death penalty has no deterrence'.

The Delhi-based ACHR is a non-governmental organisation engaged in protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Asian region.

Mukherjee's decisions are in sharp contrast to those of his predecessor Pratibha Patil, who granted a record 30 pardons, over 90 % of India's total death sentences pardoned ever. She rejected only two mercy pleas during her tenure.

Mostly awarded in murder cases, death penalty is now also given to repeat offenders in rape cases.

ACHR Director Suhas Chakma, however, said that high number of death penalty has not brought down crime rate.

"The empirical evidence of the government of India, however, establishes that death penalty does not act as deterrent," said Chakma, who is also coordinator of the national campaign for abolition of death penalty in India.

The ACHR said the government should "amend all the laws that provide death penalty" and replace the same with life imprisonment.

Citing National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the ACHR report stated that from 2001 to 2012, death sentence of 1,552 convicts were confirmed while the death sentences for 4,382 convicts were commuted to life imprisonment.

"Death penalty can never be a substitute to prevention, effective and prompt investigation and speedy justice delivery system against crimes on which the government of India has failed," Chakma said.

On the contrary, the report said, there was a drastic fall in murder cases following a considerable reduction in executions since 1982 when the Supreme Court propounded the "rarest of the rare doctrine" for awarding death penalty.

Even inclusion of death penalty for repeat offenders of rape has not reduced non-homicidal offences such as rape, the report added.

On April 4, 2014, a sessions court in Mumbai became the first in the country to impose death penalty on three repeat offenders of rape under the new Section 376E of the IPC in the infamous Shakti Mill rape case.

However, statistics provided by Mumbai police showed that 135 rape cases were reported from April to 15 June 2014 i.e., about 2 rape cases daily, the report said.

Similarly, the award of death penalty to 4 adult accused found guilty of rape and murder in the Delhi gang-rape and murder too failed to act as a deterrent.

According to Delhi police data, 616 rape cases were registered in Delhi from January 1, 2014 to April 30, 2014, an average of 6 cases per day.

(source: Hindustan Times)

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Execution by Elephant: Ancient Capital Punishment in India

The death penalty is one of the oldest methods of criminal sentencing. Although different countries have had equally gruesome methods of inflicting the highest form of punishment, India had one of the most brutal methods of criminal torture: execution by elephant.

Designed to demonstrate to the people that even the awe-inspiring power of nature was under the iron grip of the emperor, execution by elephant - or gunga rao, as it's called in India - became a choice method for capital punishment during the Middle Ages and continued well into the 19th century. Although the execution method was thought to have originated in ancient Rome, the practice of stomping the punished via elephant became popular in both western and Southeast Asia and in India. However, this method of execution declined as the British Empire grew in power.

Sources say that Hindu and Muslim leaders executed citizens for tax evasion, rebellion, and being enemy soldiers alike. Thieves and Mongol prisoners were also punished by death.

As for the elephants, they were often trained to "instantly crush [the offender] to atoms ... but if it was desired to torture him, the elephant would break his limbs successively, as men are broken on the wheel," observed Robert Kerr, a writer from the 19th century.

Crushing the victim, however, was not the only method of elephant-inflicted torture. According to François Bernier, a French traveler who witnessed such executions in the Mughal sultanate of Delhi, the elephants were also capable of slicing the prisoners to pieces "with pointed blades fitted to their tusks."

Another traveler who visited Delhi in the year 1330, Ibn Mattuta, witnessed and recorded his account of the event, stating: "If the order was to cut him to pieces, the elephant would do so with his irons, and then throw the pieces among the assembled multitude. But if the order was to leave him, he would be left lying before the emperor, until the skin should be taken off, and stuffed with hay, and the flesh given to the dogs."

(source: weirdasianews.com)

BAHRAIN:

Death penalty affirmed

Chief Prosecutor, Muhanna Al-Shaeji, has stated that the Supreme Court of Appeal has affirmed the death penalty sentence issued against an accused in the murder of policeman Mohammed Asif, in Sihla neighborhood. The same court rejected appeals filed by 2 suspects, and sentenced the rest of suspects to 10 years imprisonment.

The case dates back to last February when nine defendants had perpetrated a campaign targeting all policemen within reach with murderous intentions. The 1st defendant requested from the 9th defendant - both brothers - to provide him with a flare gun used on ships by his employers, a maritime company, specifically for use against policemen.

After providing the crime weapon, defendants staged a riot and some sabotage acts to lure in policemen in Al-Khamis area on February 14, 2013, where a number of officers were targeted with Molotov cocktails and stones. Amidst the staged clashes, the 1st defendant targeted the victim, Khan, with a flare dart shot straight to the gut, where it exploded, causing him an instant death.

(source: Bahrain News Agency)

AUGUST 31, 2014:

NORTH CAROLINA:

On death row, tormented by watching friends march to their executions

Henry McCollum has made many friends since he entered death row in 1984. The worst has been watching his friends being led to execution: North Carolina has executed 42 inmates since McCollum was sentenced in 1984.

"I lost my 1st friend, John Rook," McCollum said in a recent interview. "I didn't look at him like a killer. People do change in prison. That man was like a brother to me."

Here is a glimpse at McCollum's life on death row in the words of Central Prison psychologists and psychiatrists who treated him:

-- Nov. 3, 1986: "Having insomnia again. He states that he is still reacting to the execution of (John Rook) in September. He is anticipating another execution and is very anxious ... he cannot tolerate seeing people killed. He is still defending a plea of innocence ... he has never seriously considered (suicide) but wonders if you would under enough pressure."

-- June 30, 1992: "The patient reports continued depressed mood. He has occasional suicidal ideas, particularly when he realizes the likelihood that he will be executed. ... He denies that he is storing up his medication."

-- July 23, 1993: "'I've got a lot of pressure on me. Nobody understands what I'm going through.' He frequently dreams about going to his own execution. He states that he does not recognize anyone in particular except for the District Attorney at his trial."

-- March 19, 1997: "He reports some symptoms of anxiety today associated with a friend of his who had dropped his appeal. ... He has become extremely depressed and has inflicted some self-injuries wounds during his previous executions."

-- May 31, 1997: "Henry reports that he gets along with staff and other inmates, but does not try to form strong friendships. He said that he had a good friend executed in 1986, and had a hard time dealing with his loss. ... He tried to commit suicide in 1986."

-- Aug. 7, 1998: "States the inmate soon to be executed (Zane Hill) was 'like a father to me. I tell him everything.' Appears less anxious about the upcoming execution than previous."

-- March 23, 1999: "He requested to see this psychiatrist due to impending execution this week and '2 of my friends 5 days apart next month.'"

-- July 28, 1999: "McCollum stated that he had a dream that he himself was executed. He stated the dream frightened him."

-- Feb. 13, 2001: "McCollum stated 'this will be a rough year because if the death sentences are not stayed then 22 of us will be given execution dates this year.'"

-- Dec. 2, 2002: "McCollum wanted to see this psychologist because he was upset over the 2 executions in the next week."

-- Jan. 24, 2007: "Inmate is troubled over the 3 approaching scheduled executions ... there is nothing he can do for inmates with scheduled execution dates. ... He continues to profess his innocence and claims that there was no evidence to directly link him to the crime."

(source: News & Observer)

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New DNA evidence could free 2 men in notorious Robeson County case

At 9:10 p.m. on Sept. 28, 1983, a sheriff's detective knocked on the door of Henry McCollum's home and invited the 19-year-old to the Red Springs Police Department for questioning. An hour and a half later, his brother, Leon Brown, and their mother went to the station to see what was taking so long.

Within a few hours, agents had in hand a 5-page murder confession from McCollum detailing how he and three other teenagers had gang-raped an 11-year-old girl in a Robeson County bean field and then jammed her panties down her throat with a stick.

By dawn, agents had in hand a similar confession from Brown, 15. Police wrote the confessions in longhand; Brown and McCollum signed each page.

Those 2 confessions, the only evidence against the brothers, have kept them locked up for the past 30 years, 11 months and two days. Both men are mentally disabled; McCollum with an IQ in the 60s, Brown scoring as low as 49. McCollum and Brown have said they were bullied and tricked into confessing. They have maintained their innocence of the rape and murder of Sabrina Buie.

No one in authority believed them: police, prosecutors, jurors, judges. Even McCollum's lawyers at his 2nd trial browbeat him to admit guilt.

Brown and McCollum finally have the evidence strong enough to refute their 1983 confessions. The N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission has unearthed DNA evidence showing the killer was a sexual predator with a lengthy criminal history, including a similar rape and murder in Red Springs one month after the arrest of Brown and McCollum.

The brothers are scheduled to appear Tuesday in the Robeson County courthouse, where defense lawyers will ask a judge to free them both. District Attorney Johnson Britt is not opposing the request.

"The whole case rests on the confessions," Britt said, "and the DNA evidence threw those confessions under the bus."

The saga of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown has been one of the most notorious criminal cases in North Carolina history. U.S. Supreme Court justices, while deciding not to hear McCollum's case, traded barbs about wild teen killers. The Republican Party used McCollum in scary campaign mailings.

And despite a number of criminal justice reforms in recent years, the case raises many questions: How common are false confessions? How many inmates have boxes of evidence hidden from them for decades? How does the justice system treat the mentally disabled? Were the brothers put on death row because of police and prosecutorial tunnel vision, or something worse? How many innocent inmates languish in the state's penal system?

The story of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown is well-documented in court files, police records and evidence recently uncovered by the Innocence Inquiry Commission. It is a stark tale of a prosecution gone wrong.

Fingerprint on a can

The brothers were born in Jersey City, N.J., where their mother, Mamie Brown, had migrated from Robeson County. The boys were reared by their grandmother in the Montgomery Garden housing project in Jersey City. Schools identified each boy as mentally challenged early on; both went to special education classes.

McCollum was reading at a 2nd-grade level when he dropped out of school. Brown could barely read or write. By 1983, the brothers had moved back to Robeson County with their mother.

On Sept. 25, Ronnie Buie, a textile worker, filled a missing persons report for his 11-year-old daughter, Sabrina. A family friend found her body in a soybean field, nude except for a bra pushed up on her neck. Bruises and scrapes on the girl's back showed she had been dragged into the field. Police found evidence in a nearby field: bloodstained sticks and a plywood board, a cigarette butt and 3 beer cans. One can had Sabrina Buie's fingerprint.

Another had a fingerprint that did not match McCollum or Brown.

Police canvassed Red Springs. On the evening of Sept. 28, State Bureau of Investigation agent Ken Snead and Robeson County Sheriff's detective Ken Sealey interviewed a 17-year-old girl who said she heard at school that Henry McCollum was the killer, and that 2 other men may have been involved. The girl said she heard that McCollum had robbed a pimp in Jersey City and had tried to rape a local girl a year ago.

Within hours, 3 officers were interrogating McCollum: Snead, Sealey and Leroy Allen of the SBI . Snead wrote out the confession in longhand, and McCollum signed it.

The written confession was horrifying. 4 young men - Darrell Suber, Chris Brown, Leon Brown and McCollum - took the girl into the woods, it said. The confession said they stripped off her shoes, pants and panties, held her down and took turns raping her vaginally and anally. Worried that she would tell police, Suber said, "We've got to kill her to keep her from telling the cops on us."

Chris Brown took a stick and shoved Buie's panties down her throat with a stick until she suffocated, according to the confession, which was replete with details known only to someone familiar with the crime scene. They left 3 empty 16-ounce Schlitz Bull Malt Liquor cans in the field. Buie wore a white shirt with a flower on it. Chris Brown smoked Newports in the field.

When the interrogation ended at 2:30 a.m., McCollum started to walk out of the police station. Asked where he was going, McCollum said police told him he could leave when the interview was over.

Around 7 a.m., Leon Brown signed all 7 pages of a similar confession in a labored block print.

'Yelling and screaming at me'

For the past t3 decades, McCollum and Brown have maintained their innocence. Both say they didn't know what they were signing.

"I'd never been under such pressure, people yelling and screaming at me," McCollum said in a recent interview at Central Prison. "I was scared, and was just trying to get out of that police station and go home."

Snead, the lead investigator who interrogated McCollum, is now retired. He said he believes that the confessions are true.

"We didn't have a cause of death, and McCollum and Brown both told me they took a stick and juked the panties up and down her throat," Snead said in an interview Thursday. "Only someone who committed the crime would know that."

Allen, one of the SBI agents present during McCollum's interview, had led the investigation of the crime scene and had attended the autopsy the day before.

4 days after the confessions, the 17-year-old who provided the original tip told police she had no personal knowledge that McCollum was the killer; she only suspected it because McCollum didn't act right, riding a bicycle around staring at people, mostly women.

'God got your judgment'

At trial, McCollum and Brown faced District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt, a dogged, flamboyant courtroom showman keen on quoting the Bible and flaunting the bloody clothes of murder victims before jurors.

Guinness World Records listed Britt as the world's deadliest prosecutor, responsible for more death sentences than any other. (He is not related to current District Attorney Johnson Britt.)

When McCollum took the stand, Joe Freeman Britt steamrolled him. The older brother was a confusing and bumbling witness, often contradicting himself or failing to understand basic questions.

But McCollum is proud of one thing about the 1984 trial: He never wavered under the red-hot cross examination of the world's deadliest prosecutor.

McCollum denied guilt and recanted the confession 226 times as Britt worked through the confession word by word.

"Did you tell him, 'Sabrina started hollering, 'Mommy, Mommy'? " Britt asked. "Did you tell him that?"

"No," McCollum said.

"Didn't that touch your soul at all when that little girl was down on the ground hollering?"

"It didn't touch my soul because I didn't kill nobody."

"It doesn't touch your soul now, does it?"

"Because I ain't killed nobody. I want to tell you something, Joe Freeman, God got your judgment right in hell waiting for you."

When the judge admonished him for wanting to the leave the witness stand, McCollum was quick with a response: "Do you feel how I feel, to get hanged in the courtroom for something I didn't do?"

Britt later described his closing argument on CBS' "60 Minutes" in a segment dubbed "The Deadliest DA."

"I asked (the jury) to time with me 5 minutes, and I just sat down. I asked them, if they wanted to, to try to hold their breath as long as they could and to think about, to do - to do the things that the law required them to do - that is, reflect upon and analyze and think about the facts of the case, to think about the little girl in the woods and, what horrible experiences she had there, how they sodomized her and raped her and kicked her and beat her and cursed her, all the time her begging for mommy.

"It was a long 5 minutes."

Many coerced confessions

A confession is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence a prosecutor can put before a jury. After all, who in their right mind would give a detailed confession to a crime he did not commit?

Quite a few, it turns out.

Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor, has analyzed all 317 cases of people proven innocent by DNA in the U.S. 63 cases - 18 % - involved false confessions. Trial transcripts, police files and court records show that in almost all the false confessions, the accused gave rich detailed evidence about the crime, not just flat proclamations of "I did it." In most cases, investigating officers - knowingly or inadvertently - provide details to the suspects. There are 3 big risk factors for false confessions, Garrett said. The cases of Brown and McCollum have all 3.

The brothers are mentally disabled. Many studies have shown how the mentally disabled are susceptible to pressure and stress and tend to be submissive and eager to please those in authority. Youth is a similar risk factor; juveniles are similarly vulnerable to pressure or coercion from authority figures.

And there is no video or audio recording of the interrogation.

"It's extremely troubling that nothing is documented as to what exactly these men said to police," Garrett said. "They should be able to describe what they did."

The confessions had a glaring weakness baked into them: Prosecutors never brought charges against the 2 alleged ringleaders, Darrell Suber and Chris Brown. Police had no evidence to bring charges.

A death row friend

Brown and McCollum were the youngest people on death row, both physically and mentally, according to Sonny Craig, a death row inmate who acted as a mentor and minister. Craig took the brothers under his wing and told other inmates that he was their protector. At 16, Leon Brown was the youngest person on death row.

"They both have a child's mind," Craig said in a recent interview. "They are both very, very slow."

Craig said he suspected that another death row inmate, Roscoe Artis, was the guilty party. Artis was convicted of the rape and murder of 16-year-old Joann Brockmann, whose naked, beaten body was found in Red Springs one month after Brown and McCollum were arrested.

Artis was convicted in Robeson County one month before McCollum and Brown went to trial. Joe Freeman Britt was the prosecutor, and Artis was represented by the same lawyer who would represent McCollum, Earl Strickland.

Artis often spoke about the murder of Sabrina Buie, Craig said, on death row and later at Warren Correctional Institution.

"He had to talk with somebody he could trust, to get it off his chest," Craig said. "He kept telling me, 'I know those boys aren't guilty.' I told him, 'If they aren't guilty, why don't you come forth?' He didn't say nothing but, 'I've got to go. I've got somewhere to go,' and he'd leave my cell."

Convicted again In 1988, the state Supreme Court ordered new trials for McCollum and Brown.

McCollum was appointed 2 experienced death-penalty lawyers, Jim Fuller and Marshall Dayan. The lawyers, believing the jury would want to blame someone for the vicious murder, decided McCollum should admit guilt in hopes of getting a 2nd-degree murder conviction.

McCollum insisted he was innocent. In a 1995 affidavit, Dayan said he met with McCollum 10 times before trial, trying to get him to admit guilt. McCollum refused each time.

On the day before trial, Dayan and Fuller ratcheted up the pressure, telling McCollum his confession could be the difference between life and death, and that he needed to confess to Faye Sultan, their expert psychologist.

"I have used the word 'coerced' to describe how we pressured Henry into adopting our view of the trial," Dayan said. "It is an accurate one."

In an affidavit, Sultan said McCollum was "particularly susceptible to approval seeking and persuasion when interacting with authority figures," but he had always insisted on his innocence. She was perplexed when, on the eve of his 1991 trial, he gave her disjointed, confused and inconsistent "confessions." He was under extreme stress and showed signs of deepening depression.

The jury found McCollum guilty and returned him to death row.

At Brown's 1992 retrial, a judge threw out the murder charge and gave him a life sentence for rape. After the state Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1995, Brown had effectively exhausted his appeals.

Little happened in their cases for the next 15 years.

Brown said he has spent the years in a half-dozen state prisons, walking, learning to read and watching news and sports on television. For years he was able to make an annual visit to Central Prison to see his brother through steel bars, but that ended 2 years ago. They have written to each other monthly.

For McCollum, death row has meant watching friends led off to execution - 42 since he entered Central Prison in 1984.

"I'm tired," McCollum said. "I don't know when they are going to kill me."

Delivering a bombshell

In 2010, a fellow inmate told Brown about the Innocence Inquiry Commission, which in February 2010 had declared Greg Taylor innocent of a 1993 murder - the country's 1st exoneration by an independent commission. Brown wrote the commission and received a form in the mail.

The same inmate filled out the form and mailed it. In a recent interview, Brown said he did not know the name of the inmate who helped him.

The application prompted the commission to begin an investigation.

Commission staffers declined to discuss the case. But the commission staff has conducted an exhaustive investigation, according to Johnson Britt and defense lawyers.

In July, commission staffers delivered a bombshell: The DNA on the Newport cigarette butt at the crime scene matched Roscoe Artis. They also compiled Artis' lengthy record as a sexual predator.

Artis, with previous convictions for attempted rape, moved to his sister's house in Red Springs in 1983. At the time, there was a warrant out for his arrest for the 1980 rape and murder of Bernice Moss in Gastonia. Moss' killing resembled those of both Sabrina and Brockmann; nude except for a shirt and bra, Moss had been beaten with a stick, and something was lodged in her throat. After Artis was on death row, charges in the Moss murder were dropped.

Given the murder of Brockmann in Red Springs, Artis' criminal history, and that he lived with his sister next to the soybean field where Sabrina's body was found, why wasn't he a suspect in Sabrina's murder?

"That's a good question, and it's a question I don't have an answer for," said Johnson Britt, the current district attorney.

Joe Freeman Britt, now retired, said Friday he has no doubts the confessions are genuine and the men are guilty: "None. None."

Britt said he doesn't put much stock in DNA exonerations.

"You find a cigarette, you say it has Roscoe Artis' DNA on it, but so what?" Britt said. "It's just a cigarette, and absent some direct connection to the actual killing, what have you got? Do you have exoneration? I don't think so."

The Innocence Inquiry Commission investigation also turned up hidden evidence. 3 days before McCollum and Brown went on trial in 1984, the Red Springs police requested that the SBI examine the unidentified fingerprint on the beer can to see if it matched Roscoe Artis. The SBI never did the work.

The police request was evidence that Artis was a suspect in the case. Britt said it was a "bad violation" of Supreme Court rulings that require prosecutors to hand over all helpful evidence to defendants.

Earlier this month, a commission investigator found a box of evidence in the Red Springs Police Department, despite repeated claims by the department in 2010 that it had none. The box contained fingernail clippings from Sabrina, a beer can, hair samples, swabs and other potential sources of DNA evidence.

McCollum, now 50, said he was devastated to learn about Artis. They had become close during their time in the Robeson jail and on death row.

"He was like a father to me," McCollum said.

Brown, 46, struggled to explain his feelings about Artis or the possibility of freedom after 30 years.

But on Monday, he engaged in what may have been his first optimistic act in decades: He threw out all the letters from his brother.

"To keep from having a lot of mail toting with me when I leave."

(source: The State)

FLORIDA:

Conservatives should not support death penalty

Today, support for the death penalty is at a 40-year low and distrust for the government is near an all-time high.

Many conservatives, including Oliver North, Ron Paul, Michael Steele, Jay Sekulow, and myself, find the death penalty to be a violation of the deepest-rooted conservative principles - protecting innocent life, fiscal responsibility, and limited government. In a time when conservatives across the nation are reconsidering their support for capital punishment, Florida lawmakers are moving in the wrong direction.

Florida's broken death penalty system is just as flawed, if not more, than the other 31 states, that still have capital punishment on their books. Nationally, more than 140 individuals have been wrongly convicted, sentenced to die, and later released. Florida has more wrongful capital convictions than any other state, which is a disturbing distinction.

The cost of the death penalty is repugnant. It costs millions more dollars to execute someone than to sentence someone to life-without-parole. It has been estimated that Florida could save more than $50 million a year by replacing the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole. This is a taxpayer-funded program with a terrible return on investment. The death penalty, as many studies have shown, doesn't reduce murder rates, and the long, drawn-out system retraumatizes murder victims' friends and family members.

Lawmakers in Florida know that the death penalty is a massive drain on the state's coffers. That's why the Timely Justice Act was passed. Its intent was to speed up the process and make the death penalty cheaper by limiting the appeals process. Unfortunately, when you limit appeals, you virtually guarantee that an innocent person will be executed. If this law had been implemented earlier, many men would likely have been wrongly executed by the state.

The most recent case is that of Paul Hildwin who has spent nearly 3 decades on Florida's death row. The state's highest court recently overturned his death sentence because of new DNA evidence implicating another person. Had the Timely Justice Act been on the books 30 years ago, Mr. Hildwin would likely have been killed by the state. This is the type of thing that makes conservatives shudder.

Floridians are smart to be skeptical of this kind of immense government authority because the power to take a life is the greatest of all. Taxpayers understand that faith in the government is not absolute, and the government makes mistakes. Except when a gaffe is committed with the death penalty system, an innocent person is killed by the state.

Florida can do better and must do better, but state laws aid in the failure of the death penalty. Florida is 1 of only 2 states that accept a simple majority jury consent to sentence someone to die. Most states require unanimous jury consent. This only increases the odds of executing someone who shouldn't be.

Florida is a leader in many ways, but its death penalty system is one of the worst in the nation. It is horribly inefficient, wrongly convicts more people than any other state, fails to keep Floridians safe, and harms murder victims' family members. It's time to discuss whether we, as conservatives, can justify the human and fiscal cost of the death penalty especially when it violates our central principles.

(source: Viewpoint; Marc Hyden is the National Advocacy Coordinator with Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, a Project of EJUSA----Pensacola News Journal)

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Do Floridians have the stomach for coming 'Timely Justice' execution spree?

The list of Florida inmates living on death row is 393 names long.

It's about to grow shorter. Much shorter.

Florida's Supreme Court this summer found constitutional the state's Timely Justice Act, signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013.

Soon, the state could be poised for a killing season unlike any other. Do Floridians have the stomach for this? Or even the crude capability?

The act gives a governor 30 days to sign a death warrant once the Clerk of the Court certifies that appeals have been exhausted. After that, the state has 180 days to carry out the execution.

A point of debate has been whether the governor can manipulate this schedule by requiring the cases go through the formality of a clemency hearing before the clock starts ticking. That's the Scott administration's position, and the executions are stalled. Neither the governor's press office, the Office of Executive Clemency or the Department of Corrections responded to questions about the source of the delay.

But make no mistake, the executions are coming.

As of July 7, more than 130 inmates were certified by the clerk as ready to execute, meaning Florida's Department of Corrections could conceivably be putting to death an average of 5 people a week for 26 weeks, an unprecedented state death conveyor belt.

Duane Owen

Those on the list include Duane Owen, 53, who was first sentenced to death in Palm Beach County in 1986. 30 years ago, he brutally killed and raped 2 strangers inside homes, a Boca Raton mother and a teenage girl baby sitting in Delray Beach. A confession, bloody footprints, a fingerprint and semen all linked Owen to the killings. He had his appeals, many of them, and they are exhausted.

But not all 130 cases are so black and white. A 2006 study of Florida's death penalty system by the American Bar Association found the state was exceptional, in a bad way. It was the only state in the nation to allow a simple majority of jurors to recommend capital punishment rather than a unanimous vote. And Florida led the nation in exonerations, the ABA panel found. For every 3 prisoners executed, 1 was found to be wrongfully convicted.

Florida State Prison, in Starke, is where lethal injections are carried out.

Beyond the issue of errors, there is the practical matter of how to do the killing.

The state allows 2 methods of execution, both with disturbing histories.

There is the electric chair, which has failed gruesomely on multiple occasions.

Then there is lethal injection. Florida's 11-step protocol calls first for a sedative known by the brand name Versed to be administered at 50 times the typical therapeutic dose. Next, the executioner delivers about 12 times the therapeutic dose of vecuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, stopping breathing. Finally, the executioner delivers a lethal dose of potassium chloride, stopping the heart.

"The process will not involve unnecessary lingering or the unnecessary or wanton infliction of pain and suffering," wrote Corrections Secretary Michael Crews in September.

It's been suggested that Florida's protocol is so over-the-top that it's unlikely the state will ever see the disturbing botched lethal injections that have recently occurred in Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio.

But if the pressure is on to clear death row quickly, during a time of drug shortages, will the protocols change? Will mistakes be made?

Floridians need to understand that they are on the cusp of something historic, something that will cause much of the civilized world to recoil.

Are you comfortable with the impending execution spree? Or do you think Florida should slow down and re-think how, why and whether it should kill its killers?

(source: Opinion Zone, Palm Beach Post)

INDIANA:

Hearing will determine if man competent for death penalty

The man sentenced to death for murdering a Franklin College student 17 years ago understands why he's on death row, but his attorneys say he doesn't comprehend that his execution will mean the end of his life.

Now a South Bend judge will hear 4 days of testimony from doctors discussing whether Michael Dean Overstreet understands his punishment.

If she determines he isn;t competent, the decision would put an immediate halt to his death sentence. He would continue living in prison until a time when the state could prove he is competent.

(source: Associated Press)

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

What do recent botched executions mean for death penalty?----Will recent prolonged executions result in the end of the death penalty?

Is the death penalty on its last leg?

The question is being discussed this summer after 3 high-profile, prolonged executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and most recently Arizona. It's also a timely question as Indiana inches closer to its 1st execution in 5 years.

The problematic executions highlight a number of questions concerning the nation's ultimate punishment - the willingness of trained medical professionals to participate in executions and the availability of proven execution drugs, among others.

The executions of Dennis McGuire, Clayton Lockett and Joseph Wood have brought a difficult subject into the limelight.

"As a result of this focus, some minds may change," said Richard Garnett, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame and an expert on capital punishment. "I think it's still too soon to say if this will be the catalyst for a new abolition movement."

Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, there have been 1,386 executions in the United States, according to information from the Death Penalty Information Center.

There have been 27 executions so far in 2014, most recently Aug. 6 in Missouri. There were 39 last year. The average over the last 38 years is more than 36 a year. 3 years - 1976, 1978 and 1980 - there were no executions. The highest mark was 1999 with 98.

In Indiana, there are currently 13 inmates - all men - on death row at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, according to Doug Garrison, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Correction. One woman also faces a death sentence in Indiana, however, she is currently serving a life sentence in Ohio, Garrison said.

Since 1977, 97 people have been sentenced to death in Indiana with 20 executions, according to information from the Indiana Public Defender Council. Matthew Eric Wrinkles, 49, was the last Hoosier to face execution. He was executed in December 2009 for a 1994 triple murder near Evansville.

The next inmate likely to face execution in the state is Michael Dean Overstreet, according to Garrison. Overstreet was convicted of the September 1997 rape and murder of a college student in Johnson County. An attorney for Overstreet is challenging his competency to face execution, arguing he doesn’t understand what the state intends to do to him. The argument is set to be heard beginning Tuesday in South Bend.

Indiana's protocol

Indiana's current execution protocol calls for a 3-drug lethal injection, Garrison said.

The 1st drug, Brevital, is adminstered to cause a "deep, painless unconsciousness," according to Garrison. The 2nd drug, pancurionium bromide, is then injected to paralyze the condemned inmate. The 3rd drug, potassium chloride, is then administered to stop the inmate's heart, he said.

"It is a very serious and solemn process. This is not easy on staff," Garrison said. "They practice this frequently, at least quarterly, and more frequently as an execution date approaches."

Execution team members are trained to interact with the condemned inmate in a compassionate manner, Garrison said.

"It's a very solemn thing," he said. "Support is provided to the offender, talking to them, telling them what's going to happen."

Contrary to what some people believe, the Department of Correction does not advocate or oppose capital punishment.

"We are an instrument of the state," Garrison said. "It's our obligation under state law to uphold the will of the people. Our personal opinion is not relevant."

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said the same applies for the attorney general's office.

"When convicted offenders appeal their convictions or sentences in appellate court, the attorney general's office, as the state's lawyer, represents the prosecution in the appeal," Corbin said. "Regardless of personal views on the death penalty, the attorney general has an obligation to uphold the current laws of the State of Indiana that the legislature passed; and it is the attorney general's legal duty to urge the appellate courts to leave intact the convictions or sentences previously determined by the lower courts and not overturn them."

Despite numerous requests seeking comment, Governor Mike Pence's office refused to issue a statement regarding his position on the issue.

Though Indiana is relatively inactive on the capital punishment front, it hasn't deterred some opponents from working to shut it down permanently.

"While the Indiana death penalty is falling into disuse - only 1 new case was filed statewide in 2013, and only 7 in the last 5 years - 2013 saw 3 new death sentences," said Doris Parlette, a Bloomington resident and president of the Indiana Abolition Coalition. "As long as it's on the books, Indiana's death penalty stands to drain away taxpayer dollars, clog up courts, traumatize jurors, begin a seemingly endless ordeal for survivors, and create a serious risk of executing someone who is innocent. All without any real public safety benefit."

A troublesome year

By all accounts, 2014 has been a troublesome year when it comes to the administration of capital punishment.

In January, it took Dennis McGuire more than 26 minutes of snorting and gasping to die in Ohio.

In April, Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after Oklahoma officials began his execution. They unsuccessfully tried to stop the procedure after it was evident the drugs were not working.

Then came the July 23 execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona.

For nearly 2 hours, Wood lay gasping for air on a gurney in the Arizona death chamber.

"I was there with the thought if something happens I want to be there," Michael Kiefer, a courts and legal writer for the Arizona Republic, said. "Sure enough, it did."

Kiefer made a hash mark on a piece of paper each time he witnessed Wood’s chest heave. By the time it was done there were more than 640 marks. There were more heaves, Kiefer said, but his view was obstructed periodically by state officials tending to the condemned inmate.

"I was thinking maybe he'll wake up, maybe they'll stop the execution, maybe they'll push in more drugs, which eventually they did," Kiefer said. "It went on like this for almost 2 hours. That's a long time to watch something like this, especially when it usually takes 10 or 11 minutes."

Kiefer said that whenever a state official went to check on Wood and report that he was "sedated" the microphone picked up Wood's struggles to breathe.

"You would hear this very loud gasping, snoring sound," he said. "It was extremely loud. After an hour and a half he finally stopped breathing."

For death penalty opponents like Kelsey Kauffman, a retired teacher from Greencastle, Ind., executions like Wood's demonstrate why the practice needs to be stopped for good.

"Everything now is an experiment. Nobody knows ahead of time if it's going to work," Kauffman said. "Departments of Correction have all this bravado but no one really knows. They're not going to come up with a good solution.

"What's been going on this year is clearly cruel and unusual. To have someone gasping for breath for 2 hours like a fish out of water clearly violates the cruel and unusual provision of the Eighth Amendment."

Kauffman said it's a combination of factors that has led to the current predicament - the lack of medically trained professionals administering the procedures, along with the pharmaceutical companies forbidding their products to be used.

"It's clear states are experimenting out of necessity," she said. "It's not working. It's not going to work."

Will the courts intervene?

Waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the subject? Don't hold your breath, some death penalty experts say.

Experts like Garnett at Notre Dame said, from a legal perspective, the Constitution permits capital punishment.

"Americans sometimes have this habit of thinking these questions will be settled by the Supreme Court. It's pretty clear the Constitution allows it," Garnett said. "If the death penalty is going to go away, it's not going to be because of a court but because we the people want it to go away."

Joseph Hoffmann, a professor of law at Indiana University in Bloomington and a death penalty expert, agreed.

"I don't see changes leading to a dramatic end-game for the death penalty," Hoffmann said. "I think we're going to see a gradual whittling away in that there will be additional states that stop using the death penalty."

Hoffmann said he also doesn't think the Supreme Court is likely to wade into the dialogue on methods of execution.

"As a strictly legal matter, my best guess is this controversy is not going to lead to a judicial decision from the Supreme Court," Hoffmann said. "The court has not been particularly concerned or anxious to be involved in methods of execution. What I think will happen is states will look for other methods."

Hoffmann said he thinks more states will return to methods like the firing squad.

It's an approach that has already drawn some support in the judicial ranks. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, issued a dissenting opinion as part of the legal wrangling leading up to Wood's execution in Arizona essentially saying the nation should be willing to accept the brutality of a firing squad or stop executions altogether.

"Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful - like something anyone of us might experience in our final moments," Kozinski wrote. "But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf."

Indiana's death penalty future

Any movement on abolishing Indiana's death penalty will have to come through the Indiana General Assembly, experts said.

While this year's high-profile cases are likely to jump-start conversations on the topic, action remains unlikely.

Even after the Oklahoma execution, a national poll released in May by Gallup showed 61 % of Americans view the death penalty as morally acceptable.

It's a view held by both Democrats and Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly.

"Capital punishment is a penalty that should be available for heinous crimes as an expression of society's right to self defense. It is used pretty rarely," state Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, said. "The method used should not be intended to cause suffering. Those cases should be reviewed as to effectiveness.

"Capital punishment can be a costly process, but that reflects the serious nature of the crime and what it takes for society to defend itself."

It's a reality acknowledged by House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D- Michigan City.

"When you have people commit terrible crimes against humanity is capital punishment worse than life without the possibility of parole?" Pelath said. "I think those are the types of questions not only lawmakers but citizens at large are increasingly contemplating."

Rep. David Niezgodski, D- South Bend, said life and death situations should never be dealt with lightly.

"There needs to be some deterrent that shows that kind of strength behind it," Niezgodski said. "There are just some things in this world that are just so horrible that warrant such a response."

Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, agreed.

"I support Indiana's current law, which allows for the death penalty," Wesco said in a written statement. "I believe that, when carried out, capital punishment should be swift and effective. I support the Indiana Department of Correction in their dutiful performance of administering justice."

(source: South Bend Tribune)

MISSOURI:

Governor should stop Ringo execution

Empathy and equity. They're noble conditions, sorely lacking in racially biased actions by Missouri officials, most recently in Ferguson and as they plan to execute yet another prisoner, Earl Ringo, on Sept. 10. Gov. Jay Nixon would signal a new civil rights era by compassionately halting the execution, commuting his sentence, then instituting a moratorium on executions with a death penalty study.

The killing of Michael Brown followed by the militarized response of law-enforcement to protests in Ferguson and the cloistered grand jury investigation have prompted a strenuous public debate on state violence and systemic racism. It would be prudent to also extend that review to death-sentencing patterns.

For an empathetic sense of the racial inequity in Ringo's case, I encourage Euro-Americans to envision entering a courtroom during the trial of a suspect charged with murdering an African-American, tried by a black prosecutor before an all-black jury and judge. That, in reverse, was the scene for Ringo. An all-white jury sentenced him to death for his role in the 1998 killings of 1 white people during a robbery at the Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Columbia. He and his co-defendant, Quinton Jones, are both black.

About 40 % of the 77 men executed in Missouri were black, with at least 6 of them sentenced to death by an all-white jury. Nearly 3/4 of those executed were convicted of killing whites.

Ringo did kill Dennis Poyser, a crime for which he has expressed great remorse. Jones admitted murdering JoAnna Baysinger. He made a deal with then-Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane and testified against Ringo. He never faced the death penalty and was sentenced instead to life in prison.

We condemn the crimes yet recognize that, despite the wrongdoings, all humans retain an internationally recognized, inherent right to life. We mourn the deaths of both people and Brown, plus all victims of violence, and extend condolences to all the grieving loved ones. We recall, as well, Ringo's relatives experiencing the psychological trauma of facing the planned state murder of their loved one.

Officials commonly decline to recognize the suffering incurred by those suspected or convicted of crimes or even, more general, of nonwhite citizens. During Ringo's 1999 trial, for instance, Crane told jurors nothing Ringo experienced "can compare to what the families have gone through." The Poyser and Baysinger families no doubt have suffered profoundly and still do. Crane, however, essentially conveyed callous indifference to the hellishness of Ringo's formative years, which though not excusing his crimes helps explain what shaped him.

Ringo's father, on his deathbed, urged his son Earl Jr., then just 8, to "be the man of the house" where they lived in Detroit and to protect his mother, Carletta, and 3 siblings. The boy withdrew into silence for more than a week after his father's passing. Soon after, his mother met William Vaughn, a pimp and heavy drug user who became her abusive boyfriend over the next 4 years, according to a 2001 habeas petition.

Vaughn routinely beat her children and locked them in a closet, sometimes "for a day at a time." He forced the eldest daughter to prostitute herself at age 13 and for Ringo to shoplift, steal or sell drugs for money to support his drug habit. When he was 10 and didn't make his $100 quota, Vaughn struck him several times with a baseball bat. His "head was swollen to almost twice its normal size and he could not go to school for 2 weeks because of the bruises," the petition said. Vaughn refused to allow the boy to get medical attention.

"Eventually, they sold the house and moved from apartments to motels, abandoned homes and even to brothels. No one laundered clothes or provided adequate food, the petition said. "The children did not see their mother for days on end and constantly were exposed to strange people." On 1 occasion, Vaughn "forced Mr. Ringo and his sister to feed a naked woman, who was bound in a chair and beaten severely, because she owed Vaughn money for drugs." She later disappeared.

"Mr. Ringo felt helpless and hopeless during this period," psychologists reported in the document. "He tried to protect his mother, whom he saw beaten and raped, but could not." Finally, the mother called family for help. Her brothers, "armed with guns," rescued and relocated them to their home state of Indiana.

Jurors during the sentencing phase of the trial, the 2001 document contended, "heard a sanitized version of Earl's youth" from 4 relatives but didn't hear from psychological experts who interviewed Ringo and his family members and researched his case. They could have informed the jury that Ringo "suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and a learning disability, and reacted, based on past abuse and recurring trauma, in an impulsive way when he shot Mr. Poyser" during the stress of a robbery. "The evidence would have supported counsel's defense that Mr. Ringo did not deliberate and was" instead "guilty of 2nd-degree murder."

Ringo would be the 10th person executed in Missouri since November, a rate of state killings matched only by Texas - if Lone Star officials execute a prisoner as planned the same day. Since Missouri reinstated the death penalty in 1977, Boone County prosecutors obtained death sentences against 6 men, every one of them black. 4 were convicted of killing whites. Little wonder our area is part of the region known as "Little Dixie."

Please contact Gov. Jay Nixon's office. Urge him to stay the execution, commute the death sentence and institute an execution moratorium with a death penalty study. Call 573-751-3222, write by email at www.governor.mo.gov or tweet @GovJayNixon. Attend a Vigil for Life, remembering all murder victims and urging no more state murders, from noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 9 outside the Governor's Office on the 2nd floor of the Capitol in Jefferson City and from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in front of the Boone County Courthouse on Walnut Street in Columbia, where Ringo was sentenced to be killed. For more information, call 573-449-4585.

(source: Opinion; Jeff Stack is coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)----Columbia Daily Tribune)

NEBRASKA:

Help victims instead

Thank you for your recent article about the death penalty in Nebraska ("Bruning confident state can restore death penalty," Aug. 25). I think it's noteworthy that Attorney General Jon Bruning says the state has been too busy with other issues to keep forging ahead with trying to find a means to execute. This makes perfect sense.

We've got many more pressing issues than continuing the seemingly never-ending struggle to resume executions. Personally, I believe our state will be better off when we acknowledge the death penalty is more trouble than it's worth and accept the alternative of life without the possibility of parole. The death penalty takes too much time, energy and resources when we should be focusing on more important issues: the services we provide to victims, for example.

Nebraska was recently ranked last in the nation for victims' services. This is shameful. Yet we spend millions of dollars (and countless years) on the death penalty. This will never make sense to me. We should get our priorities straight and reinvest all the money wasted on a handful of capital cases into services that could benefit all victims.

Silvia Betta Cole, Lincoln

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

COLORADO:

Colorado's pro-death penalty voters could make Hickenlooper pay

Nathan Dunlap was granted a reprieve on his death sentence for the 1993 Chuck E. Cheese murders by D Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013, a move that is playing out in the 2014 elections.

The cold-blooded murders of 3 teenagers and a manager late one night in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora two decades ago has taken center stage in the political theater of this year's race for governor.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has weathered political blows from the right since May 2013,when he granted the killer, Nathan Dunlap, a reprieve on his death sentence.

Hickenlooper's actions then reignited the hot topic over the weekend after Todd Shepherd of The Complete Colorado presented audio of Hickenlooper suggesting to a CNN film crew, in an interview for a segment of a documentary series set to air the evening of Sept. 7, that he could grant Dunlap clemency if he were to lose his re-election bid in November.

Besides reintroducing a wedge issue - capital punishment - that has a perception of marshaling Republican voters, the incumbent Democrat gave fresh life to Republicans' campaign narrative that Hickenloooper doesn't make forceful decisions.

Republican nominee Bob Beauprez has repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail to execute Dunlap - an applause line for GOP voters.

"I believe we need this option on the table for the most heinous crimes where a jury believes it is necessary," Beauprez told The Denver Post last week.

Polling last April indicated Colorado voters support the death penalty 2-to-1.

"This is a big issue," Owen Loftus, spokesman for the Colorado Republican Committee, said of the death penalty. "He's making it a bigger issue. The question of whether Gov. Hickenlooper is going to enforce justice or not - that gives people pause."

Rick Palacio, chairman of the state Democratic Party, counters: "I don't think it's an issue that's on the top of anybody's mind. People in Colorado are concerned about the economy, about jobs, about their well-being going forward.

"John has done a tremendous job of not only leading the state out of the recession, but putting Colorado at the top of the list nationally for job creation. That's an issue people will vote on."

Shifting position

Hickenlooper's spokesman, Eddie Stern, also points to Hickenlooper's performance on the economy, saying the governor's choices on business issues reflect the way he's evolved on the Dunlap issue.

"Before he makes important decisions, he gives them intense due diligence, and his process on this issue is no exception," Stern said.

When he ran for governor 4 years ago, Hickenlooper was vocal about being pro-capital punishment. His decision-making around the issue in 2013 has left some in his own party, and nearly everyone who opposes him, questioning his rationale.

The governor explained in his Dunlap decision that he believed Colorado's capital punishment system was "imperfect and inherently inequitable."

The arguments began anew last weekend when news surfaced that Hickenlooper raised the possibility of clemency - which no Colorado governor has ever granted in a death penalty case.

The governor reiterated his evolution on the issue this month when he told a television news reporter he opposes the death penalty.

The governor's position is likely to get more emotionally charged in Colorado the closer James Holmes is to being tried on charges he murdered 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater in 2012.

Holmes, who faces the death penalty, was originally set to stand trial in October, weeks before the Nov. 4 election. However the case is now set for trial in December.

"This was made political by John Hickenlooper," said George Brauchler, the Republican district attorney whose office is trying Holmes and who supports capital punishment.

"Remember what he did. He said to the state of Colorado: I'm not going to act on the order from a jury, from a court. I'm going to let another governor do that."

Paul Teske, dean of the school of public affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, questioned whether Hickenlooper would lose any voters he might have had otherwise.

"It could have a small influence, but the voters who are likely to be motivated by this issue probably weren't going to vote for Hickenlooper anyway," he said.

But it could fit into a larger narrative.

"I think Republicans will pair this with the gun issue to say that Hickenlooper is soft on public safety."

Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said Hickenlooper can only blame himself for repeatedly reviving an issue that repeatedly hurts him.

The issue was part of Hickenlooper's tipping point in 2013, Ciruli said, when he granted Dunlap the reprieve, helping drive down his approval ratings from results above and just below 60 % to the low 40s.

"It was the 1st issue that clearly put him on the wrong side of the public," Ciruli said. "He had been a pretty popular governor up to that point in his 1st term, and it handed a very good issue to the Republicans to hammer him with.

"But it had kind of gone away. But now (since the CNN interview) he's reopened it."

By saying he might grant clemency if he loses, Hickenlooper didn't portray himself as a thoughtful leader, the pollster said.

"Speaking in a hypothetical about what if he loses, what he might do, that comes across as politically manipulative," Ciruli said.

Slipping support

The Economist magazine - a favorite read of conservatives - looked at the issue in a piece in April titled, "The Slow Death of the Death Penalty," noting that the 33 people scheduled to die across the country in 2014 is the fewest since 1994, down from 98 in 1999.

Last year, the 80 people sentenced to death row represented the lowest number in 4 decades, the magazine noted, stating, "America is falling out of love with the needle."

The Economist said some of the reasons include those cited before by Hickenlooper: the cost of legal appeals and the lack of evidence to show the penalty deters crime.

However, the death penalty issue appear to be the ally of Hickenlooper's opponents.

A Quinnipiac University poll in February indicated Coloradans by a 36 % to 28 % margin disapproved of Hickenlooper's handling of the Dunlap case. Meanwhile, 63 % favored keeping the death penalty while 28 % supported abolishing it.

"There has been strong, unwavering support for the death penalty and a sense that the governor's 'not on my watch' position on the issue could hurt him on Election Day," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac's polling operation.

32 states, the federal justice system and the U.S. military have the death penalty, but 6 states in the last 6 years have abolished capital punishment - Maryland, Connecticut, New Mexico, Illinois, New York and New Jersey.

All have a lot in common with Colorado, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that is a clearinghouse of studies, polls and expertise on both sides of the issue.

Each state had rarely used capital punishment and had a very small number of people on death row. Colorado has 3.

Colorado has executed only 1 person in the last 47 years, kidnapper, rapist and murderer Gary Lee Davis, who was put to death in 1997.

"Red, blue, purple, as far as politics go, people aren't wedded to the death penalty as an issue," Dieter said. "Elections aren't usually won or lost on a candidate's position on the death penalty; rather, many other issues - the economy and jobs, immigration, many things."

Even those who support the death penalty, as a group, don't agree it's the best option in every case, and they've proved more willing to abolish capital punishment when it's rarely used.

Dieter, however, said governors and attorneys general, including Eric Holder, have opposed the death penalty but maintained their roles as a representative of the people's will. But governors also have the authority to substitute their judgment and moral convictions on putting another person to death.

"An election is when the people can choose," Dieter said of a vote on abolishing the death penalty.

(source: Denver Post)

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Death row reprieve riles juror----Guv's decision on Dunlap had far-reaching impacts

For nearly 2 months, Steve Cohen was known only as Juror Number 39.

A member of a jury in the 1996 murder trial of Nathan Dunlap, Cohen was one of only a handful of people in Colorado to weigh the merits of a man's life. In the 38 years since Colorado reinstituted the death penalty, only 1 person has been executed, which occurred in 1997.

There are only 3 people currently on death row. One of those is Dunlap, who was set to be executed in August 2013. His fate rested in the hands of Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat whose position on the death penalty has "evolved" since 2010 when he last ran for governor.

Hickenlooper is now an opponent of capital punishment. But his position was unclear as the days quickly turned into nights leading to Dunlap's execution. The governor could have signed the execution order and ended nearly 20 years of uncertainty. He also could have granted clemency and commuted the sentence to life in prison without parole.

But instead, Hickenlooper signed an unusual executive order in May 2013 granting a "temporary reprieve," meaning he can change his decision, or a future governor can also change the order. The governor is facing re-election this fall, and the issue promises to loom large as the campaign heats up. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger for governor, has vowed to sign Dunlap's execution order, if elected.

Enter Cohen, who said the moral and judicial components of weighing a man's life have rested heavily on his soul for 18 years. When he heard the governor was going to possibly grant a reprieve, or even clemency, Cohen wrote to Hickenlooper, pleading with him to bring closure by signing the order for death by lethal injection.

In a recent interview with The Durango Herald, Cohen said he is still enraged and perplexed by what he calls an "inaction" by Hickenlooper.

"This guy has single-handedly ruined the judicial system as far as I'm concerned, and I don't think he has the right," Cohen said of Hickenlooper. "He wasn't there to begin with."

Dunlap, 19 years old at the time, had repeatedly admitted to killing Sylvia Crowell, Colleen O'Connor, Ben Grant and Margaret Kohlberg on Dec. 14, 1993, at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant. Dunlap was also found guilty of attempting to kill Bobby Stephens.

The high-profile case was viewed as one of the 1st senseless mass-murder gun crimes to be watched closely by all of America.

Jurors were followed by armed guards to keep the public and media away. They weren't allowed to discuss the merits of the case with anyone.

The deliberation was considered to be so important and soul-draining that jurors were allowed to seek guidance from religious leaders as well as psychologists.

Cohen said burdens were placed on the families of jurors and victims, some of which caused wounds that still have not healed.

He added that Dunlap's guilt was never in question. It was the capital punishment sentencing phase that really was the difficult part.

"It was satisfying, it was gratifying that I could do something, and now it's all going down the crapper," said Cohen, who added that he has asked to attend Dunlap’s execution if it ever happens.

"I don't have a mentality that I want to see death; I just want this guy to get what he deserves," said Cohen.

While many of the victims' families were angry with the governor's decision, one family has stood by Hickenlooper. Gillian McNally, whose cousin was O'Connor, said executing Dunlap would not bring her justice or closure.

When Hickenlooper announced the reprieve, he called the decision personal, moral and thoughtful.

"Obviously this has weighed heavily on me. ... Part of the question was around this case, but also around the death penalty. ... Is it just and moral?" Hickenlooper asked at the time.

McNally agreed, saying, "I just don't seek a justice system that looks for revenge.

"There is no justice for what he did," added McNally, now a University of Northern Colorado professor. "I can't have my cousin back. ... It really hurts my soul, but there is no justice for what he did."

She believes the governor showed strength in issuing the reprieve.

"I could not believe he had the courage to listen to his heart and say, 'I can't do this on my watch,' and honestly, if I were in his shoes, I would have made the same decision," she said.

But attorney Eva Wilson, who prosecuted Dunlap and is now a senior chief deputy district attorney in the 1st Judicial District, said Hickenlooper has ignored the cries of the majority of victims’ families and diminished the exhausting work by jurors and prosecutors.

"It's not a case of innocence. It's not a case of anything else other than absolute guilt, and yet he decided to throw his hands up in the air and say, 'Gee, I just don't know,'" Wilson said. "I don't think anyone gets to do that."

(source: Durango Herald)

ARIZONA:

Jodi Arias Trial and Verdict Update : Arias Granted Access to Home Where She Killed Travis Alexander

Convicted boyfriend killer Jodi Arias has been granted permission to revisit the home where she murdered her former lover in 2008.

Back in May 2013, Arias was found guilty of the 1st-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, who was killed in his suburban Phoenix home in June 2008.

According to medical examiners, the 34-year-old waitress stabbed the 30-year-old California salesman 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart. She also slit his throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him, and shot him in the face before she dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower where she left him crumpled over. In total, the killing was done in a little less than 2 minutes.

Because jurors failed to reach an unanimous decision on her sentencing, Arias' will go back on trial on Sept. 29 and a jury will determine whether or not she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years.

Arias, who has decided to act as her own attorney in the upcoming penalty phase trial, apparently petitioned the court for access inside the East Queensborough home where she killed Alexander. Her request was recently granted by a judge, reports AZ Family.

Last week, Arias also recieved her request to delay her retrial. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens pushed the start date back 3 weeks from Sept. 8 to Sept. 29, said a court spokeswoman, according to Reuters.

Arias petitioned the court to postpone the retrial because she said she ran into obstacles while trying to interview an expert witness from her prison cell.

Judge Stephens, however, denied Arias' defense attorney, Kirk Nurmi, his request to resign from her death penalty trial.

Nurmi, who has made several motions to drop Arias due to their ongoing tension, filed a recent motion asking the judge to let him resign from the case since Arias will be her own legal rep, while he was assigned to be her legal adviser. He also cited his original attempt to withdraw and Arias' repeated efforts to have him fired.

(source: Latin Post)

CALIFORNIA:

Karl Karlsen charged with murdering 1st wife in 1991 California fire

Karl Karlsen, the Seneca County man who pleaded guilty in November to killing his son by dropping a truck onto his chest, could face the death penalty in California after being charged today with murdering his 1st wife there 23 years ago.

Karlsen has been charged with killing Christina Karlsen on New Year's Day 1991 in a fire "for financial gain."

Murder for financial gain is considered a "special circumstance" under California law that would qualify Karlsen for the death penalty if he is convicted.

Karlsen collected $200,000 of life insurance money on a policy he had bought just weeks before Christina died, huddled on the bathroom floor of the tiny house in the Sierra foothills, according to court records filed in Seneca County. The couple's 3 young children were in the house at the time of the fire; Karl Karlsen told investigators then he rescued them from the flames but could not save his wife.

Karlsen pleaded guilty last year to killing his and Christina's son, Levi, in 2008 by knocking a truck off a jack while Levi worked under it in Karlsen's Seneca County garage. Karlsen was sentenced in December to 15 years to life in state prison. Levi was 23 and had 2 young children.

Karl Karlsen bought a $700,000 life insurance policy on Levi just 17 days before Levi died, and collected the money a few months later.

Christina Karlsen was 30 when she died. Her death was officially listed as an accident, but her family members always suspected Karl Karlsen had killed her. After Karlsen was charged in 2012 with his son's murder, California investigators re-opened the case.

Karlsen told investigators in 1991 that his wife had gone to take a bath in the tiny bathroom on the afternoon of New Year's Day, and he later heard her screaming for help as the fire raged in the hallway just outside the bathroom. Christina died of smoke inhalation in a small bathroom in which. Karl Karlsen had just days before boarded up the only escape route, a small window.

Karlsen's version of events, however, was convoluted and changed in subsequent interviews. Some investigators with the California Department of Forestry kept files on Karlsen, hoping the case would someday be re-opened. One of them was retired investigator Carl Kent, who said he always hoped Karlsen would "do something stupid" that would re-open the case.

Karlsen said in a jailhouse interview with Syracuse.com in 2012 that he did not kill Christina. He said the couple had also taken out life insurance policies on their 3 children, ages 6, 5, and 4 at the time.

"If I was in it for the money," Karlsen said in 2012, "I could have just walked away and let my kids die."

Karlsen's case was featured in the past year on ABC's "20/20" and on NBC's "Dateline."

(source: syracuse.com)

WASHINGTON:

Westley Allan Dodd killings: A gruesome anniversary----25 years after he murdered 3 boys, his execution frames discussion of the death penalty's future in Washington

Jeff "Mac" McEllrath has never regretted his decision to help send Westley Allan Dodd to the gallows.

25 years ago on Labor Day, Dodd stabbed to death 2 brothers, William, 10, and Cole Neer, 11, in David Douglas Park in Vancouver. Later, the killer abducted 4-year-old Lee Iseli in Portland, murdered him and left his body near Vancouver Lake.

The murders haunted the community and gripped the nation. Memories from the grisly cases linger. McEllrath, a juror in Dodd's trial, remembers Dodd's detailed diary, the gruesome photos the child killer snapped of his victims, and the plans Dodd outlined for future targets.

"Like it was yesterday," McEllrath said.

Without trying, McEllrath can conjure "the pure evil" in the killer's eyes, the lack of remorse Dodd displayed during the trial and Jan. 5, 1993, the day the trap door opened and the 31-year-old Vancouver man was executed by hanging. It was the state's 1st execution since 1963. Since then, 4 other men have followed Dodd to Washington's death chamber.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on the death penalty, thrusting Washington into a position to reconsider how it punishes those responsible for the most unthinkable crimes. Inslee’s move comes at a time when the nation is experiencing the lowest public support for capital punishment in 40 years. But lawmakers on both sides of the death penalty issue are bracing for an emotional fight in Olympia this legislative session.

Closer to home, some linked to the Dodd case find the governor's decision unnerving.

Angus Lee is a prosecutor in Grant County. His father, Darrell Lee, served as Dodd's attorney and was instrumental in ensuring Dodd was executed per his wishes.

Lee said the governor "should have studied the Westley Allan Dodd case" before making his decision. "It's a prime example of when the death penalty is clearly appropriate. It's troubling that if the Dodd case were going on today that Dodd would be left alive to do what he said he would, which is kill prison guards until he could escape and then go on to kill small boys."

Dodd, who said he wanted to die by hanging, was widely quoted saying he would escape and continue to kill and rape boys if his sentence were commuted to life in prison.

Inslee's decision was not based on sympathy for the criminals, noting "they get no mercy from me."

But, referring to the 9 men currently on the state's death row, the governor said he doesn't believe their horrendous crimes "override the problems that exist in our capital punishment system."

'I knew he had to die'

For those involved in the Dodd trial - from jurors to law enforcement to family members - the pain has softened with time, but the memories refuse to fade.

"There are still a lot of people carrying around the weight of the trial," McEllrath said.

At the time, McEllrath had children the same age as the Neer boys. "It's hard to explain. It plays with your psyche, especially when you have kids the same age. I would sleep on the floor in their bedroom, making sure they are safe. You think you're OK, but you're in a mental state of shock," he said.

For Steve Seymour, another juror and an elementary school teacher with the Ridgefield School District at the time of the trial, there are still details - the story of one of the Neer brothers trying to shield the other, hoping to save him, and pleading with the child killer to "take me instead" - that will never leave him.

"It was a hurting time," Seymour said.

Dodd asked to be executed by hanging, the same way he killed 4-year-old Lee Iseli. Both McEllrath and Seymour said they were convinced it was right to oblige.

"There came a turning point, I knew he had to die," Seymour said.

Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas was a sergeant in charge of the investigation at the time.

There are cases that occur in every officer's career that "get you," Lucas said.

"That's certainly one of them," he said.

Questioning 'the entire system'

It's one thing to stand in the nation's Capitol, thousands of miles from home, and oppose replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment, which Inslee did while serving in Congress. It's another to be the one ultimately responsible for executing someone.

"As governor he had the responsibility to look at the issue more in-depth than he had in a long time," said Nick Brown, the governor's general counsel.

Not long after being voted into office, Brown told the governor he would likely have to preside over an execution early in his term. Jonathan Gentry, who in 1991 was convicted of killing 12-year-old Cassie Holden in Kitsap County, had nearly exhausted his appeals.

"It doesn't come up often, but it's obviously an important decision and process for any governor to go through," Brown said.

Before making his announcement about the moratorium in February, both Inslee and Brown toured death row at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. They spoke to victims' families and current and former correctional officers.

Not long ago, it would have tapped a politician's entire reserve of political capital to tackle the death penalty. Today, 18 states have abolished capital punishment and several others, including Oregon, have declared a moratorium on executions.

In 1994, according to a Gallup poll, nearly 80 % of those surveyed supported the death penalty. That percentage has dropped to 60 %, the lowest in decades.

Inslee noted that since 1981, the year the state's current capital punishment laws took effect, 32 people have been sentenced to death. Of those 60 % saw their sentences overturned. Many had their sentences commuted to life in prison due to procedural errors, Inslee said in a news conference.

In Clark County the death penalty has been sought three times since 1981. Dodd was executed after declining appeals. Clark Hazen, condemned to die for the murder of 2 Fargher Lake residents, committed suicide in prison while his case was on appeal. James Brett had his death sentence reversed; he is now serving a life sentence at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.

When the bulk of death penalty cases are overturned, the governor maintained "the entire system must be called into question."

Inslee said the economics of capital punishment also figured heavily into his decision.

County governments spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, getting a death penalty case to trial. Hundreds of thousands more are spent on appeals. The Brett case cost Clark County more than $500,000 to appeal.

"The death penalty from start to finish is more expensive than keeping someone in prison for the rest of their lives, even if the convicted lives to 100," the governor said while explaining his decision earlier this year.

Mark Larranaga, a Seattle-based defense attorney and former director of the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center, confirmed costs for capital punishment cases soar beyond other murder cases from the start.

"The reality is, the death penalty is being sought in an extremely small amount of counties in the state," Larranaga said. "It's a well-educated guess that cost is a big factor."

Death penalty cases are more complex, and extra precaution is taken at each step, from hiring extra investigators and lawyers to picking jurors.

Larranaga said there is a procedure called the "extraordinary criminal justice act," enacted by the Legislature, allowing counties to seek reimbursement from the state, with the idea being it would help some of the smaller counties afford the costs.

"They submit a petition to the state to get reimbursed for the costs, but I can tell you they get pennies on the dollar," he said.

A widely cited 2006 report by the Washington State Bar Association estimates that death penalty cases cost $470,000 more than trying the same case without the death penalty, plus an average $100,000 more in appeal costs and anywhere from $47,000 to $70,000 for court personnel.

'Never the same'

These days, the Neer family lets Labor Day silently pass by. There are no picnics; rarely does the family gather like they do on other holidays.

Last spring, Clair Neer, father to Cole and Billy, died. His ashes were buried, as requested, between the 2 boys in North Dakota.

Neer avoided most of the Dodd trial in 1993, but the hanging offered him a sense of "finality," said his widow, Vicki Gourley-Neer.

"He was never the same" after the murders, said Gourley-Neer, who was not the mother of the boys.

To this day, the boys' aunt, Kay Neer Lohnes, who lives in Hillsboro, Ore., cannot understand why anyone would hurt 2 little boys.

For her family, "it was important that (Dodd) be executed."

"To terrorize my nephews like he did and that little Iseli boy," she said.

Robert Iseli, Lee's father, was a single dad at the time, raising Lee and his older brother, Justin. The 2 boys were at a park in Portland when Dodd abducted the younger boy.

Robert Iseli recalled the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to do anything but hope with every fiber that his boy returned unharmed.

Lee's body was found in the brush near Vancouver Lake.

Dodd was arrested in November 1989 after he tried to abduct another young boy from Camas' New Liberty Theater during a screening of "Honey I Shrunk the Kids." Outside the theater, Dodd's dilapidated Ford Pinto stalled, allowing the boyfriend of the victim's mother to catch him.

The killer’s capture heightened the frenzy around the cases and it became clear Dodd had an insatiable appetite for the attention. Robert Iseli was an introvert, but suddenly his coping mechanism became giving a voice to the murdered children. Iseli fought back the only way he knew how: He granted interviews, too, trying to overshadow Dodd's spotlight. He went on national TV several times, even going head-to-head with Dodd in an episode of "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show."

Iseli declined to attend the execution.

"I'm not a violent person; watching someone die is not what I want to be part of," he said.

25 years later, Iseli said he's an overall happy person.

"One way it changed me, if my wife walked out on me tomorrow, if she wanted to get a divorce and just said goodbye, I would say 'OK, she's still breathing, she's still alive ... This is not the worst thing that has happened to me.'"

Today, Lee Iseli would have been 29 years old.

Cole Neer would be 36; his brother, Billy, would be 35.

'Revisiting capital punishment'

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, has regularly introduced a measure to abolish capital punishment since he was first elected in 2008. "Fundamentally, I believe the death penalty doesn't work. I think it is ridiculously expensive. It does not accomplish the goal of deterrent, it fails to elevate us as a society," he said.

This legislative session, Carlyle is hoping his bill will benefit from the momentum created by the governor's announcement.

Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, the assistant deputy ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said, "It's fair to state most Republicans would be against removing the death penalty.

"Our focus is really justice for the victims and we certainly consider and think of them," Nealey said.

Nealey suspects some of his colleagues will resurrect legislation to prevent the governor from using his powers of clemency until receiving a recommendation from the state Clemency and Pardons Board.

Brown, the governor's general counsel, points out that Inslee's moratorium on executions will affect only 2 to 3 cases in the state.

"The governor has not changed the law at all; he doesn't have the authority. If a new crime happens in any county, the county prosecutor is free to pursue the death penalty and by the time the case goes to trial and through the appellate process, this governor would be long gone," Brown said.

What the governor has done, Brown said, is advance the conversation on a policy that hasn't been changed in 30 years.

"We'll see what happens in this legislative session," Brown said. "(Inslee) is going to leave it up to the Legislature to change the law, if they want to do that. We're revisiting capital punishment in a way we haven't in a long time."

(source: The Columbian)

BRITAIN:

Tragedy of the last man hanged in Britain - as discovered by his son----Mark Price had always avoided finding out the full story of how his father Peter Allen came to be stood on the gallows in August, 1964

The son of the man hanged at - Britain's last execution froze in horror as the dark secret kept from him for half a century was finally revealed.

Mark Price had always avoided finding out the full story of how his father Peter Allen came to be stood on the gallows in August, 1964.

All he knew was that Peter, a thief, had taken part in an attack with an accomplice which led to a man being stabbed to deathin a row over a loan.

And that his beloved mother Mary had always done her best to protect him from the truth about the crime, teaching her son never to resort to violence.

Yet now, on the 50th anniversary of the historic final execution, Mark, 53, has decided to face the past with the help of the Sunday Mirror.

When we told him the chilling secret his mother kept from him it shook him to the core.

Because she was at the scene of the murder that fateful night, waiting outside in the getaway car.

And so was he.

"I was there? I was in the car?" gasped Mark, who was only a toddler at the time.

"It's such a shock. I've thought about my father a lot over the years, but I've never looked into what happened.

"I was so afraid of what I might discover."

But as tears filled his eyes he defiantly defended his devoted mother.

"I'll never believe she knew what they were going to do in that house," he snapped.

"She would never have been there if she had known. My mother was the gentlest, kindest woman."

Mary's world collapsed in April 1964, 3 days after her husband's 21st birthday.

Desperate for cash, he and his pal Gwynne Evans stole a Ford Prefect car and drove from Liverpool to Seaton, Cumbria, to ask an old acquaintance of Evans, 53-year-old John West, for money.

For some unknown reason, Allen decided to take Mary, Mark and his little brother Richard along for the 146-mile ride.

When West refused to hand over any cash, the 2 men attacked him in his home, bludgeoning him with an iron bar.

He was then stabbed him in the chest.

Leaving him at the foot of the stairs in a pool of blood, the pair sped off into the night. They were quickly arrested.

Mary was a key witness at her husband's trial. She claimed she knew nothing of the men's plot to rob and kill West.

The jury could not decide which one of the men had carried out the fatal stabbing Both were found guilty of murder.

The campaign to abolish hangingwas gathering pace and in 1964 most death sentences were being reprieved.

The families of the 2 men expected theirs to be commuted to life behind bars.

But despite both their mothers pleading for clemency to the Home Secretary, the executions went ahead.

Allen and Evans were hanged at 8am on August 13 1964 - Allen in Liverpool and Evans in Manchester.

A year later the death penalty was abolished.

Afterwards Mary sought comfort with Allen's best friend Billy Price. They eventually married and, until his teens, Mark assumed Billy was his dad.

"My mother brought me up to know that violence is never the answer," he says.

"She taught me that the real loser is the man who throws the first punch.

"I know that by not telling me about my dad when I was young she was just trying to protect me. I'm glad in a way she hid it."

Mark was 13 when a pal who had heard his own mother gossiping asked him if it was true that his real father had been hanged.

"I was shocked. I confronted my mum and she said it was true," recalled Mark.

"She didn’t lie about it but she wouldn't tell me anything else either.

"She said I was born Mark Hannett - her maiden name - just before she and my dad got married.

"She told me Billy was my stepfather and she promised to sit down and tell me the whole story when I was old enough.

"Sadly that never happened."

Mary died in 1980 aged 37 when Mark was 19.

His brother Richard, severely disabled from an early age, was already in full-time residential care.

Mark's life moved on but now, married with 4 children and 2 grandchildren of his own, he finally has all the truth about his past.

He says is relieved, but also sad.

"When I see my father's picture now I see a lot of missing years," he said.

"Finding out exactly what happened to him has addled my brain so much."

He also knows now about his father's final days.

Protestors had lined the street outside Walton Prison in Liverpool calling for mercy. None came.

On the night before his execution, Allen saw Mary for the last time.

He hurled himself furiously at the glass partition that separated them, breaking both the glass and his hand.

When he was led to the scaffold the next morning, it was still in a bandage.

Mark said: "I struggle to imagine what must have been going through his head when he realised he was going to be executed.

"I'm a father too and knowing you're going to be leaving your kids behind with that stigma, and no chance to ever make amends...

"I've tried to imagine it but it's too horrific. I know what he did was wrong but I think what happened to him was wrong too.

"If I could talk to him now I would let him know that I think it was an injustice.

"He should never have been executed. The cases were pushed through for political reasons.

"I'd tell him I wish he could have had more time to plead his case, to appeal, because he if he had I'm sure his sentence would have been commuted."

Despite his firm belief that his father was wronged, Mark does not oppose the death sentence.

He says he would happily see it brought back.

"I do believe in capital punishment but only in cut and dried murder cases," he explained.

"Ian Huntley, Dennis Nilsen, The Yorkshire Ripper - those are people with the sole intent to kill and I do think that they should have their lives taken in return.

"But what my dad was involved in was a robbery gone wrong. Yes, he beat the man but I don't believe he intended to kill him.

"My father should never have been hanged. Likewise Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to face the death penalty, should not have been hanged.

"She killed a man who had been abusing her for years and the court should have taken that into account."

After decades of denial, it's a relief for Mark to face the facts at last and discover the truthbehind his father's brutal crime and equally brutal punishment.

And he says he will never again shy away from his family history.

"Peter Allen is my father," he said firmly. "Yes, he did something wrong and he was punished for it. But he's still my father."

(source: Daily Mirror)

BAHRAIN:

Death penalty affirmed

Chief Prosecutor, Muhanna Al-Shaeji, has stated that the Supreme Court of Appeal has affirmed the death penalty sentence issued against an accused in the murder of policeman Mohammed Asif, in Sihla neighborhood. The same court rejected appeals filed by 2 suspects, and sentenced the rest of suspects to 10 years imprisonment.

The case dates back to last February when 9 defendants had perpetrated a campaign targeting all policemen within reach with murderous intentions. The 1st defendant requested from the 9th defendant - both brothers - to provide him with a flare gun used on ships by his employers, a maritime company, specifically for use against policemen.

After providing the crime weapon, defendants staged a riot and some sabotage acts to lure in policemen in Al-Khamis area on February 14, 2013, where a number of officers were targeted with Molotov cocktails and stones. Amidst the staged clashes, the 1st defendant targeted the victim, Khan, with a flare dart shot straight to the gut, where it exploded, causing him an instant death.

(source: Bahrain News Agency)

INDIA:

Man sentenced to death for raping, killing minor girl

A man was sentenced to gallows by a local court for raping and killing a 12-year-old girl last year.

Additional Sessions Judge Satyaprakash Naik awarded death penalty to Abhay Yadav alias Ubhan Yadav yesterday. The naked body of the girl was found under a tree in Isarhana village of Kotwali Deva area on March 30, 2013, prosecution said.

Father of the girl had lodged a case against unidentified persons. Later, during investigation, the name of Abhay surfaced and his role was confirmed through his medical examination, the lawyer said. The convict had told the police that he had strangulated the victim after the rape as she was threatening to reveal the incident to her mother.

(source: One India)

OMAN:

Badie's death sentence commuted to life in prison

Cairo An Egyptian court on Saturday commuted a death sentence against the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader to life in prison, in one of many trials of Islamists since their removal from power.

Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, still faces the gallows, however, after another court in southern Egypt passed a separate death sentence over deadly riots in August 2013, almost a month after the army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.

In Saturday's ruling, a Cairo court that had initially sentenced him to death for violent protests in the capital reduced the ruling to life in prison, on the recommendation of the mufti, the government's Islamic law expert.

The Cairo court on Saturday sentenced 7 other Brotherhood leaders to life in prison, and 6 who were tried in absentia to death.

Those sentenced to death in absentia have the right to retrial if they surrender themselves.

Badie and 182 Muslim brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death in a mass trial last June over violence that erupted in Minya governorate which led to the killing of a police officer.

Then-armed forces chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi toppled president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July of 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

Sisi went on to become Egypt's elected president, while Brotherhood leaders and thousands of their supporters were jailed or driven underground.

Mursi, who was freely elected in 2012, is on trial on a variety of charges including inciting violence and conspiring with a foreign power, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The government that took over after Mursi's overthrow cracked down on Islamists, with at least 700 pro-Mursi protesters killed in clashes with police in a single day in August 2013.

Thousands have been imprisoned, including Mursi himself, and placed on trials that resulted in death sentences for more than 200 people.

With much of its leadership behind bars or in exile, the Muslim Brotherhood has persisted in organising small and sometimes violent protests across the country.

(source: Oman Tribune)

SOUTH AFRCIA:

We Don't Need the Death Penalty

Every now and again I come across some shrill demands for the reinstatement of the death penalty in South Africa.

I used to believe in it, when I was in high school, but we have to grow up and face some harsh realities that the constant focus on capital punishment distracts us from.

Among these realities are that the state should not have the power to kill, there is no evidence that the death penalty reduces violent crime, and that crime wave requires more prosaic and long term measures than the rapid reintroduction of a single punishment.

The 1st point is to question whether or not a state should have the right to kill its own citizens. The state should, in theory, exist only to protect those that give it the power to govern, and advance their interests.

Surely, the state is entitled to kill armed, foreign combatants should they launch an attack on its borders and citizens. The state must also protect citizens from each other, so that their life, liberty, and property are secured.

If the state is allowed to kill its own citizens, it is then undermining one of its own core functions. Another question that should worry people is whether it is a good idea to give the people who set the rules the power to kill those who break them.

The separation of powers is of key importance in a democracy. However, if a situation exists where judicial independence has been seriously compromised, allowing the executive to interfere in cases, we could see 'dissident' and 'undesirable' elements of society tried and executed.

The prospect of false conviction should also drive fear into the hearts of those baying for the death penalty to be reinstated. Is anyone confident that the South African state has invested enough money into forensic labs and police training to completely eliminate this threat? People should consider these factors before blindly calling for the death penalty to be reinstated.

Secondly, is there really any evidence that the death penalty reduces crime, even violent crime? Most of the arguments we have heard are fallacious in that they claim that because the crime rate was lower before the death penalty was removed, it therefore follows that a reinstatement of the death penalty would lower the crime rate once more.

South Africa has never been free of violent crime, yet that did not stop thousands of blacks from killing each other over political differences. How many of those IFP and ANC terrorists were killed? A handful at most, but even specifically targeting that section of the population for execution, should they break the law, did not dissuade others from following in their footsteps.

Did the protesters of 1976, facing off against the apartheid police force with a 'death sentence' staring them right in the face back down and go home? Nelson Mandela was handed a death sentence in 1963, later commuted to life. Did this even put a dent in the struggle? If anything, the threat of death made people more rebellious and ungovernable.

When a state places primacy on violence as a means of social control, social resistance can only reply in kind. There is also an aspect of denying the consequences of one's actions.

People engage in life endangering activities all the time. When they die as a result of their actions, we are left to wonder what was on their minds. I can say with confidence that immediately before their moment of realization of their own mortality, they were thinking, 'It'll never happen to me!’ And so it is with the murderer, the rapist, and the drug smuggler; they also believe, and with good reason, that they have a very low chance of dying as a result of their crimes.

If they are not even going to be caught, how can they concern themselves with the eventual punishment? The chance of being caught, prosecuted and eventually executed are indeed so negligible that the perpetrators are very unlikely change their actions.

South Africans are even committing crimes in countries that do carry the death penalty; look at how many drug mules from South Africa sit on death row because they also thought, 'It can't happen to me!' Until these thought patterns are reversed, implementation of the death penalty will remain a meaningless and empty gesture. There is no evidence that the presence of the death penalty reduces crime.

I'd like to offer my own theory on why South Africa is beset with callous, violent crime of the highest order. It has to do with the relationship between the state and certain population groups. This is not a racist idea, but takes in the general relationship of the South African state back to at least the middle of the 19th century.

We have a narrative of the 'victor' and the 'vanquished' that permeates through the core of all major population groups.

When the Boers established their republics at the expense of the Zulus and other tribes, they felt entitled to the spoils of their conquest. Later the British crushed these republics and helped themselves to the plunder of gold and diamonds.

English speakers oppressed the Afrikaans, ridiculed them as poor and lazy white trash, banned their language and did all manner of nasty things in a flagrant display of power. The Afrikaners regrouped and took back the land, 'vanquished' the British and brazenly displayed their 'conquest' from 1948 by changing English names to Afrikaans, expelling English speakers from the civil service as much as possible, replacing the Queen as the head of state with their own Afrikaans president, changing the anthem and even the measurement system just to break ties with Britain.

It is now the blacks' turn to be the victor, and revel in the defeat of the 'vanquished' apartheid forces. We have seen exactly the same pattern of behavior; triumphalist displays of pettiness such as renaming streets, elevation of one section of the population above the others, name calling and crime.

How many Afrikaans criminals got away with killing black farm workers because they knew 'their people' were in the police, the government and in the army? How many Afrikaners raped their female workers knowing they could do so with impunity despite the harsh apartheid laws that supposedly prevented such acts because they knew the Afrikaner was 'top dog' of South Africa at the time?

Probably a very small percentage of the Afrikaans population behaved this way. To put it bluntly the South African state has a fundamental and systemic problem in that it has been used to further the interests of particular races at particular times, and has created amongst the population the idea that 'it's our time.'

Even if only a small percentage of the population responds to this ethic, a small percentage of forty five million is still a significant number of criminals that feel entitled to do as they please on the ground. The violent criminals could be seen as the 'foot soldiers' of the race entrenched at the time.

This in no way accounts for all crime in the country, and I am not making the claim that it does; only that it is a major contributing factor. There has never been a crime free society, but when a criminal corps that behaves with impunity exists, it only serves to excite other criminals to action. Like a tumor, the cluster of powerful 'entitled' criminals, some even in the highest offices in the land, spread their corrupting influence over the whole society.

With such a malignant presence of crime operating from the commanding heights of society, the death of a few peripheral criminals will make no difference whatsoever. The reintroduction of the death penalty will not stem the tide of centuries' old trends.

In conclusion, the death penalty could probably be reinstated next week, if a referendum were held today. However it would be wrong and, in addition, have a very limited effect on the level of violent crime in South Africa.

No state has the right or the capacity to decide which of its citizens lives or dies, the idea that the death penalty reduces crime is fallacious and unproven, and historical trends regarding the relationship between the state and certain population groups in the context of a specific narrative limit the effectiveness of any proposed laws. We don't need to reinstate the death penalty; we need to change ourselves and our society.

(source: Mark Schulz, news24.com)

AUGUST 30, 2014:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Fayette DA's office will remain on death penalty case

Fayette County President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. on Friday denied the public defender's request to remove the district attorney's office from a death penalty case.

But Public Defender Jeffrey Whiteko said the judge's order makes it clear that one of the assistant district attorneys who is prosecuting the case should be removed from it.

"I received Judge Wagner's order and it appears from my interpretation that removing Michelle Kelley from this particular case will avoid the appearance of impropriety, and I agree," Whiteko said.

Whiteko on Thursday argued District Attorney Jack Heneks' decision to seek the death penalty against Henry Clay Crawford in the Jan. 28, 2013, stabbing death of Lisa Tupta was based partially on the fact Kelley was a high school classmate 26 years ago with one of Tupta's sisters, Justine Davis.

In addition, Whiteko alleged Kelley's friendship was a factor in prosecutors' alleged failure to respond to his requests for an update on the status of the case.

Wagner on Friday issued an order denying Whiteko's request. He said that under the Rules of Professional Conduct, there is no conflict of interest when "the alleged conflict is based merely on a personal interest of the conflicted attorney."

In his order, Wagner said he would leave it to Heneks to follow the findings of a 1980 Superior Court case. That case, the judge wrote, left it to "the integrity of the district attorneys of this commonwealth not to participate in prosecution of cases when such participation would generate the appearance of impropriety."

Heneks on Friday said Kelley is still assigned to the case.

"If we stopped my assistant district attorneys from prosecuting defendants because the sister of the victim went to high school together, I would have nobody to prosecute cases," Heneks said. "It's an absurd argument."

Kelley, who told Wagner she lost contact with Davis after high school and met with her once afterward on a professional basis, on Friday said the Pennsylvania Bar Association has advised her she has no conflict in the case.

Crawford, 57, is accused of homicide, burglary and aggravated assault. Police said Crawford forced his way into Tupta's home in the Holiday Mobile Home Park and stabbed her.

Tupta, 49, had a protection-from-abuse order against Crawford, but family members said the two were not in a relationship.

Police found Crawford, with a knife, hiding in the home. He underwent surgery at UPMC Presbyterian for stab wounds.

In seeking the death penalty, prosecutors cited the aggravating factors as: the abuse order, torture, Crawford's criminal record and the allegation that the killing was committed during the course of another felony.

Crawford is in the Fayette County jail without bond.

(source: triblivenews.com)

VIRGINIA:

Trial Dates Set for Trio Accused in Alleged JCC Murder-For-Hire Scheme

Trial dates are now set for all 3 people facing charges for allegedly participating in a murder-for-hire scheme investigators believe led to the death of a 42-year-old James City County woman last summer.

Dana Patterson Mackay was found dead in her Seasons Trace home in July 2013. Police have arrested her husband, 42-year-old John Wayne Mackay, along with his girlfriend, 35-year-old Nicole Michelle Houchin and her husband, 33-year-old Nace Eugene Houchin in connection to her death. All 3 face capital murder charges, which result in either life in prison or the death penalty with a conviction.

Nicole Houchin was scheduled in a July hearing for a 3-day trial in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court starting Nov. 5. Nace Houchin was scheduled Friday to face a jury for a 3-day trial starting Dec. 9, while John Mackay will face a jury for a 3-day trial starting Jan. 13.

To build their case, investigators used thousands of electronic communications they allege show a conspiracy between the Houchins and John Mackay to kill Dana Mackay. Nicole Houchin was scheduled to go to trial in May, however that was postponed after her attorneys requested additional time to analyze those communications.

All 3 suspects have pleaded not guilty to the alleged killing. Nace Houchin and John Mackay have also had trial dates postponed, with both originally set to face juries in September.

John Mackay and Nicole Houchin were arrested 2 days after Dana Mackay's body was found. The 2 admitted to investigators they were having an affair with each other in the months leading up to Dana Mackay's death, according to court records.

Investigators assigned to the case testified in a November hearing for John Mackay, a member of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Eustis, that he maintains he was in New York visiting his mother and sister when Dana Mackay was allegedly killed. They testified that John Mackay went to the Law Enforcement Center in James City County on the day of his arrest and spoke with them, discussing the lengthy record of electronic communications. He also allegedly told investigators that Nicole Houchin called him the day after the alleged killing and said "it's done" and "there was a lot of screaming."

At that hearing, an investigator said the emails included such lines as getting Dana Mackay "out of the picture." 3 days before Dana Mackay's body was found, investigators believe John Mackay and Nicole Houchin emailed back and forth discussing a plan.

"Will she be gone before I get back?" "I'll be forever in debt to you and will show you every day," John Mackay is said to have written. "Trying to make it happen asap," Nicole Houchin replied, according to court records.

During discussions with the two about the affair, investigators said the two had discussed fantasies with each other involving Dana Mackay's death. Among the things they discussed was making Dana Mackay's death look like a robbery and potentially causing her to fall down the stairs, as she was prone to dizziness, according to investigators.

Nace Houchin, also a U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Eustis, is alleged to have accepted $20,000 for the killing, according to investigators. Police say they found a handwritten note in his abandoned vehicle confessing to the killing.

Both Houchins and John Mackay each face 1 felony count of capital murder, 1 felony count of conspiracy to commit capital murder and 1 felony count of accessory to a capital murder.

(source: Williamsburg Yorktown Daily)

MISSISSIPPI:

Details Emerge in Death of 5-Year-Old Girl

The man suspected in the death of a little 5-year-old girl in Gulfport went before a judge Friday.

Alberto Garcia has been charged with murder after Janaya Thompson was found dead in an abandoned trailer in July.

A police detective took the stand Friday during Garcia's preliminary hearing and provided details about the moment the victim was found.

"We found Janaya Thompson and her back was against the wall," said Detective Samuel Jewell. "She was hung with what we know now were 2 pairs of socks, and that was attached to a metal bar in a small window."

Garcia was arrested after police say he confessed to the crime. DNA evidence recovered from Thompson's body matched Garcia.

The prosecution says they will seek the death penalty in the case.

Another person of interest is still police custody. They believe he was an accomplice but Julian Gray has not been charged in the murder. Detectives say they are still gathering evidence against him.

(source: WKRG news)

OHIO:

Prosecution to rest in Stargell's death penalty case

Prosecutors likely will rest their case Tuesday in the Anthony Stargell Jr. death penalty murder trial.

Testimony wrapped up before 11 a.m. Friday and Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Gregory Singer released the jury for the holiday weekend.

Stargell, 23, of Dayton, is facing death-penalty eligible murder counts for allegedly killing Tommy Nickles at his business, Quality One Electric, 838 S. Main St., on April 2, 2012. In all, Stargell is facing 22 charges that include attempting to set fire to Nickles' business, grand theft auto and taking surveillance equipment.

The prosecution's last witness Friday was Dr. Robert Shott of the Montgomery County Coroner's Office. Shott testified about the angle and manner that the two bullets entered Nickle's body. Nickles, 54, died early in the morning April 3, 2012. The unpacking of Nickles' shirt from evidence packages caused an odor in the courtroom leading to an extended break.

The morning session ended with both sides discussing exhibits to be presented to the jury. Singer had not ruled on some defense motions as of early Friday afternoon.

A prosecution witness earlier this week talked with both Stargell and Nickles the day of the killing.

"I kill people for a living. That's what I do. I'm a killer. For $100, I will kill anybody. For $125, I will put a bullet between your eyes," the witness said Stargell said hours before Nickles died.

The witness, who is not being identified for her protection, also testified that Stargell introduced himself to her as "Sam" hours before the killing, and told her he went to Nickles' business because somebody had robbed Nickles earlier.

On Wednesday, jurors saw surveillance video of what prosecutors said was Stargell shooting 2 shots into Nickles' head at close range and also shooting Nickles' dog, Rusty. Defense attorneys have admitted Stargell pulled the trigger but contend he did so in self-defense.

The trial is expected to last up to a month. If Stargell is found guilty of aggravated murder specifications, there will be a penalty phase for jurors to determine whether he should be put to death.

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

Death row inmate Larry Gapen trying for new trial

Larry Gapen, on death row for killing 3 people in 2000, wants a new trial based on several claims that include allegations of juror misconduct.

A hearing on his request, which began Friday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, is to continue Oct. 10, Sharon Hicks, an assistant federal public defender and lead counsel for Gapen, said.

Gapen, 66, was convicted in 2001 of using an ax to fatally beat his former wife, Martha Madewell, her companion Nathan Marshall and her 13-year old daughter Jesica Young in September 2000.The slayings occurred in their Pleasant Hill Drive home.

The jury recommended death for Gapen in Young's killing and life without parole in the other slayings.

Hicks, in a prepared statement, said, "We're disturbed by evidence this court was unaware of and we're here to bring it to the court's attention." According to the court filing asking for a new trial, Gapen's defense team claims:

--A juror emailed the trial judge prior to sentencing that was never disclosed to defense counsel.

--Another juror revealed during an interview with Gapen's lawyers in December 2011 that "an extremely violent crime had taken place on his property prior to his service as a juror, and the crime was similar in many respects to the charges Gapen faced at trial." Gapen's original post-conviction lawyer interviewed that juror, but the juror "apparently failed to divulge the information at that time" or during the selection of the jury in the guilt/innocence phase of trial.

--That 2nd juror claimed the jury, during its deliberations, was in possession of evidence that had not been admitted at trial and that it influenced the verdict. One of the jurors "was biased against anything other than a death sentence before the penalty phase" of trial.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office continues to oppose the hearing, arguing in its filings that there was no indication Gapen did anything to discover the information his counsel said they obtained from the jurors in question before December 2011.

(source for both: WHIO news)

MISSOURI:

Callaway County boy died from 2 gunshot wounds

Callaway County Sheriff Dennis Crane tells KRCG 13 Dayne Hathman, 6, died from 2 gunshot wounds.

A 3-hour autopsy was performed Friday morning on Hathman. Scottie Willet, 27, faces a 1st degree murder charge for the Thursday morning shooting death. A probable cause statement indicates Willet admitted shooting him. Willet was living with the boy's family and was babysitting Hathman at the time of the murder. Deputies found the boy's body hidden in Willet's bedroom. Crane and Prosecutor Chris Wilson met Friday afternoon to discuss whether Willet will face the death penalty.

Crane said, "At this time it is too early for him to make a decision without knowing all of the lab results and everything. As far as the death penalty, there has to be extenuating circumstances."

Macey Sing works with Dayne Hathman's mother Ladaynea Simpson at Fulton's Post Office Bar and Grill. She organized a memorial fund on the internet to help the family. Dayne was Simpson's only child.

Sing said, "I know it will probably help with funeral expenses since Ladaynea will be out of work for a while."

Dayne's Memorial Fund has a goal of $10,000. Fund organizers were nearly half way toward that goal in less than 24 hours.

Investigators plan to send evidence to the Missouri Highway Patrol Crime Laboratory including a 40-caliber handgun, shell casings and clothing. Deputies are also checking a stolen car that Willet was driving shortly after the murder.

Investigators are not saying anything about the motive.

(source: connectmidmissouri.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Governor's spokesman says review of Oklahoma's execution protocols could come next week

Oklahoma could release a report next week that details an investigation into the state's execution protocols after the botched lethal injection of an inmate four months ago, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said Friday.

Alex Weintz said state officials expect the report will take "a comprehensive look at what did and didn't go right" during the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett, who took about 43 minutes to die after his lethal injection began.

An autopsy released Thursday concluded Lockett was killed by the lethal drugs - instead of a heart attack, as officials had previously said. But it didn't explain why he writhed, moaned and clenched his teeth before he was pronounced dead.

After Lockett's execution, Fallin put executions on hold and ordered public safety officials to conduct the investigation.

In Lockett's execution, Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam for the first time. The drug was also used in lengthy attempts to execute an Ohio inmate in January and an Arizona prisoner last month. Each time, witnesses said the inmates appeared to gasp after their executions began and continued to labor for air before being pronounced dead.

Midazolam is part of a 3-drug and a 2-drug protocol in Oklahoma. Lockett's execution used a 3-drug protocol - midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The state also has a protocol that would use midazolam with hydromorphone, the same combination used in the problematic executions in Ohio and Arizona this year.

A spokesman for the Corrections Department, Jerry Massie, has said prison officials will have no comment until after the report is released.

Weintz's statement Friday comes amid calls by some defense attorneys and civil rights groups to make the documents public for the sake of transparency.

"The autopsy report didn't answer a critical question of what went wrong during Mr. Lockett's execution, said assistant federal public defender Dale Baich, who represents death row prisoners.

Virginia Sloan, president of The Constitution Project, a Washington-based bipartisan nonprofit that studies the death penalty, among other issues, said plenty of questions remain surrounding Lockett's execution, such as if the drugs worked the way they were supposed to, where the drugs came from and who administered them.

"If we are going to have lethal injection, we have to have transparency and accountability," Sloan said.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Mike Christian plans a hearing in September to study alternatives to Oklahoma's current method of executing death row inmates.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Reports: Inmate says he heard voices before attack

An inmate accused of fatally beating and stabbing his cellmate in a Phoenix-area jail told investigators that he heard voices just before the attack telling him "it's either him or me," according to police reports.

The reports quote Andrew Ward, who was in jail on charges of killing his 12-year-old half brother. According to the reports, Ward said cellmate Douglas Walker had challenged him to a fight and he heard a voice saying, "It's a death warrant; it's either him or me."

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against the 27-year-old in the April 2 death of Walker and the March 12 fatal stabbing of his half brother, Austin Tapio.

Ward is accused of stabbing Walker's eyes with pencils, trying to cut his throat with a hard plastic card and blocking his breathing passages by jamming a plastic bag containing a peanut butter sandwich down his throat. Investigators said Ward confessed to the killing.

Ward has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the deaths of Walker and his young relative. He is undergoing mental health examinations to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Ward's attorney, Marci Kratter, declined to comment on the reports, which were released this week in response to a public records request.

Investigators say Ward explained his motive in his half brother's death by saying, "Honestly, I just felt like killing."

A review by The Associated Press of more than 700 pages of police reports shows that a few inmates believed Ward had some sort of mental health issue and Walker had been trying to move to another cell. The inmates also believed jailers were putting patients with psychological issues together with patients who didn't have mental health problems.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that health privacy laws prevent it from publicly discussing Ward's mental health but the office has a policy of putting in isolation inmates who are determined to be a danger to themselves or others. The agency said Ward gave no such indications of immediate danger.

"If he was not actively making statements or physically showing signs of being a danger to himself or others, he would not be placed in isolation as there is no reason to justify it," the agency said in statement.

A day after Walker's death, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said that despite Ward's alleged indifference in the killing of his half brother, psychiatric experts had evaluated him when he was brought to jail and cleared him.

"We have about 400 alleged murderers in our jails," the sheriff had said. "Do you think I have room to give every alleged murderer a private room? No."

Joel Robbins, an attorney representing Walker's family, said the sheriff's office had no business giving Ward a cellmate, considering his recent history of violence.

"That's a guy who gets his own cell," Robbins said. "You could grouse about him getting special treatment, but that is a guy who needs special treatment."

Walker, 33, had been in custody since November and was awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty to armed robbery.

In mid-January, an inmate at the same jail was fatally beaten and stabbed with a small pencil.

(source: Bellingham Herald)

UTAH:

Father of murdered baby speaks about his child, man accused in her death

His baby girl was murdered, police say, by the mother's boyfriend. Now, the biological father is speaking out.

James Labuy said 14-month-old Kensie Rose changed his life. He said he went from drifting to being a responsible adult. Labuy was fighting to get custody of his daughter when he learned she was killed in a brutal assault Monday at an Ogden motel where the mother lived with her boyfriend, Adam Barney, and 2 sons from another relationship.

"To have that little girl in my life gave me so much purpose," Labuy said.

Months before his daughter's death, in February, Labuy, his girlfriend, and 3 children, including the couple's daughter, moved from Washington state to Utah for the mother's new job.

"Everything was, we were supposed to become a stronger family, things didn't quite work out that way," Labuy said.

Labuy said the child's mother, Kaci Rupert, abruptly left him, concerned about his parenting and took Kensie Rose with her.

In July, Rupert met 23-year-old Adam Barney. They lived at Western Colony Inn, an Ogden motel.

Labuy said he never spoke to Barney but saw him at this LDS Church at Jefferson and 21st St. in Ogden, where the couple attended services. While the dad was told Barney was trustworthy, he said he had an uneasy feeling.

"I'm not gonna lie," he said. "You get a gut feeling, and I was concerned."

He never acted on the concern. On Monday, Ogden police informed Labuy his daughter was dead, allegedly beaten to death after Adam Barney became frustrated due to dirty living conditions, the baby crying, and Rupert's 2 sons misbehaving.

"A lot of it has been such a shock to my system to think that someone could do this to a child," Labuy said. "As far as Mr. Barney is concerned, I feel he needs to pay but part of me feels sorry for him because it takes a certain type of person to commit what he did."

Barney is now charged with aggravated murder, which opens the possibility for the death penalty. Labuy is torn between wanting the harshest punishment and forgiveness.

"I won't lie, there's part of me that wants to see the law go through the process and him be punished to the best of mankind's ability, but ultimately the lord is who he has to answer to," he said.

Barney is due back in court September 3 for a bail hearing. Labuy and his family plan on being there. Meanwhile, the father is working with the medical examiner's office, hoping to take his daughter's remains back to Washington state - where the girl was born. Labuy says Kensie Rose deserves a proper burial and memorial.

(source: Fox news)

CALIFORNIA:

Talks underway to resolve 10-year-old California prison death

In life-or-death trials, as in real estate, a lot comes down to location, location, location.

As federal prosecutors and defense attorneys prepare for the long-awaited trial of a former U.S. Penitentiary Atwater inmate, they’re disputing over whether it should be held in Fresno or Sacramento.

The maneuvering over venue precedes the trial against Samuel Richard Stone, charged in the 2003 killing of fellow Atwater inmate Michael Anita. But along with their tussles, defense attorneys and prosecutors could also be nearing common ground on a potential plea deal.

"The parties believe that if the government withdraws death as a penalty option the case could resolve without need for (a scheduled) evidentiary hearing," prosecutors and defense attorneys wrote in a rare joint court filing dated July 10.

A revised death penalty decision, and potential plea agreement, could arrive as early as September, according to court documents.

"A lot of cases result in plea bargains," Richard Dieter, executive director of the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, said in an interview Friday. "Certainly, that can happen."

Defense attorneys could not be reached to comment publicly Friday.

Stone, who was then 24 years old, was already serving a life sentence in 2003 when Atwater authorities placed him in Cell 121 of the prison's Secure Housing Unit. The cell was designed to hold 2. Instead, Stone was 1 of 3 convicted murderers sharing the space.

Early on the morning of July 30, 2003, according to court documents, correctional officers responded to an alarm and found Anita on the floor, braided strips of a bed sheet wrapped around his neck. He had been stabbed in the chest. The improvised weapons still embedded in him included a pen and a pencil.

"Prison staff and the FBI recount that Mr. Stone immediately said that he had killed Mr. Anita," defense attorneys noted in an April 2013 legal filing.

Stone is Native American, as was Anita and the third inmate present in the overcrowded cell, and factional prison politics were at the root of the killing, defense attorneys have asserted. Defense attorneys have collected considerable information on the Warrior Society, a Native American prison gang, as well as on incidents of Native American inmate violence.

Though it has largely flown under the radar, the case against Stone has a national cast. Attorney General Eric Holder, advised by a national Justice Department committee, initially authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty. 1 of the 2 trial prosecutors, former Army Judge Advocate General Corps officer Richard Burns, works out of Washington, D.C.

Stone's lead defense attorney, Donald R. Knight, is based in Littleton, Colo. Stone is currently incarcerated at U.S. Penitentiary Victorville in the Southern California desert.

In Washington, the Review Committee on Capital Cases has been quietly considering a lengthy defense request to reconsider the death penalty. The 70-page defense submission includes some 64 exhibits, including videos, and according to a legal filing is "comprised of information that was not available to the parties at the time death was authorized as a penalty in this case."

Trial-level prosecutors have reviewed the material and made their own recommendations. The prosecutors' recommendations remain secret, as do the full review committee's deliberations, but public legal filings suggest some cooperation among prosecutors and defense attorneys.

"The parties have been constantly communicating and acting in good faith with respect to this process," the July 10 joint filing noted. "The parties believe that this effort is important and that it is possible that it will lead to a resolution of the death penalty portion of this case, if not the entire case."

Earlier this year, former Atwater inmate, James Ninete Leon Guerrero, pled guilty to killing correctional officer Jose Rivera in 2008, in exchange for a life sentence. Another inmate charged in Rivera's murder, Joseph Sablan, still faces the potential death penalty if convicted.

If Stone's trial proceeds, prosecutors declared Aug. 20 that they want the trial held in Fresno, noting that Burns' fellow prosecutor Michael Frye, as well as a key FBI special agent work there. Defense attorneys want the trial held in Sacramento, where defense attorney Tivon Schardl and other defense staff work.

(source: mcclatchydc.com)

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

Pair face possible capital trial in robbery accomplice's death

The 2 murder suspects in a botched 2013 San Mateo home invasion robbery that ended up getting their friend killed will stand trial on charges that could potentially send them to prison for life or even death row.

Bunn Vo, 23, of San Jose, and Edwin Lee, 22, of Daly City, have each pleaded not guilty to charges in the Sept. 4, 2013, robbery that left Bryant Ma mortally wounded. On Friday, after a multi-day preliminary hearing, both were held to answer for 1st degree murder with special circumstances, robbery, burglary and kidnapping to commit robbery. Vo was also held on 1 count of attempted murder, said Assistant District Attorney Al Serrato.

They return court Oct. 1 to enter pleas in Superior Court and potentially set a trial date.

Although Vo and Lee are charged in Ma's death, neither shot him. Instead, a 24-year-old occupant of the Lodi Avenue home, who was shot himself, fired the fatal bullet. Under California law, the 2 defendants are held responsible because they were allegedly participating in a felonious crime that led to the 23-year-old man's death.

Around 11:30 p.m. that night, 3 men later identified as Vo, Lee and Ma entered the home on near South Norfolk Street east of Highway 101 and encountered 4 others which set off a gun fight.

Prosecutors allege the suspects entered the home to rob the residents of drugs and money and demanded one victim to open his safe. Prosecutors say he instead got out a gun and opened fire on the suspects.

Vo and Lee fled with Ma in a dark SUV to Regional Medical Center of San Jose where Lee was treated for a gunshot that was not life threatening and Ma was declared dead on arrival. Hospital personnel alerted police who connected them to the San Mateo shooting. A dark blue SUV was located in the hospital parking lot and the men arrested.

Prosecutors have not yet publicly announced whether they will seek the death penalty in the case.

Both men remain in custody without bail.

(source: San Mateo Daily Journal)

USA:

NEW RESOURCES: Podcasts on Individual States

DPIC is beginning a new series of podcasts based on the history of the death penalty in each state. The series will first present the states that have ended the death penalty. Three podcasts, featuring Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maine, are now available. These short audio clips summarize the history surrounding the repeal of the death penalty in those states, including famous cases, issues that spurred legislators to take action, and subsequent attempts at reinstatement of the death penalty. We hope this new series will be an excellent resource for students researching their state's history, and for anyone curious about how historical events shaped our present-day capital punishment system. Our earlier series of podcasts dealt with the many issues surrounding the death penalty. You can listen to these and all of our podcasts on our Podcasts page or by subscribing on iTunes.

see: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/5872 (source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Tsarnaev attorneys seek trial delay

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are seeking a 10-month delay to his highly anticipated trial.

In a court filing on Friday in federal court in Boston, the attorneys requested that the start date of the trial, which is currently scheduled to begin in November, be pushed back to September 2015. The lawyers cited the "massive amount" of evidence that they must evaluate, among other concerns.

Tsarnaev, 21, faces several charges that could bring the death penalty for his alleged role in the April 15, 2013 bombings, which killed 3 people and wounded more than 260.

(sourcer: Boston Globe)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Why the death penalty won't be reintroduced

Loammi Wolf replies to Chelsea Lotz's article on the capital punishment question

On the reintroduction of capital punishment: a reply to Chelsey Lotz

Chelsey Lotz's plea for the reintroduction of capital punishment is controversial to say the very least.

In S v Mkwanyana - one of the first seminal judgments of the Constitutional Court after the new constitutional system was introduced in 1994 - the court ruled that the death penalty infringed upon the right to life and went beyond the limits of valid limitation.

This was one of the first great breakthroughs of a constitutional system based on law and justice instead of might.

Even if parliament would like to reintroduce capital punishment, this would not be possible - not even with a constitutional amendment attempting to abolish the right to life. The rule of law and justice based on human rights have been enshrined by section 1 of the Constitution and is there to remain, until this Constitution is abolished. To repeal section 1, a 75% majority of the members of parliament must first agree to it in terms of section 74(1) of the Constitution.

Thank God, one might say. Such hasty and simplistic solutions envisaged by Ms Lotz are tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathing water.

I agree with her, however, that the problem is that criminals often don't fear prison. The problem, however, will not be solved unless the parole system is reformed and poverty has been overcome. If people have nothing, they can hardly lose anything.

Both these issues can be tackled with the political will to do that. More than 50% of South Africa's population lives in poverty. To create opportunities for them to improve their living standard is a long-term project, which will probably take another 1 or 2 generations with a social democracy that functions properly and where BEE does not only benefit a select few.

Yet, poverty need not be an excuse for criminality. There are many countries were a large segment of the population is as poor and yet their societies do not bungle under such a crime rate. It is also a matter of what ethical norms parents instill in their offspring with child rearing. Both parents and society at large have a responsibility in this regard.

In the short term, a reform of the parole system can bring more immediate results. The parole system is one of the fields where the old Westminster system had been retained although it is no longer in conformity with the current constitutional system.

Under the Westminster system, 2 aspects of criminal justice were different from state organization in a constitutional state: first, the prosecutors formed part of the executive branch and were only functionally independent from the justice ministry, and second, judicial sentences were executed by the justice ministry, including the granting of parole. The executing of both of these functions as executive powers is not compatible with state organization in a constitutional state.

In a constitutional state, the prosecuting authority is structurally independent from the executive and is not controlled by the justice minister. The latter only facilitates co-operation between prosecutors and the criminal police, who assist prosecutors in criminal investigations. Unless the prosecuting authority is free from executive interference, they cannot perform their functions ‘without fear, favour or prejudice' as envisaged by section 179(4) of the Constitution.

In a constitutional state, the prosecuting authority is a state organ in its own right next to the judiciary in the third branch of state power. This is also the way it has been envisaged by Chapter 8 of the Constitution. The function of these two state organs is to enforce the law: prosecutors investigate and prosecute crime, whereas the judiciary adjudicates in all matters brought before it.

This transition from the Westminster system, however, was incomplete.

The way in which the National Prosecuting Authority Act of 1998 has been conceived is in many respects not in conformity with the Constitution. The Act provides for extensive control powers by the executive, which are not mandated by the Constitution.

Although, the Act at least tries to establish some functional independence, the executive believes that it may control the NPA like ministers control executive state departments.

This has not only politicised the prosecuting authority, but leaves much room for executive manipulation of criminal prosecutions to protect politicians and executive officers from prosecution. This seriously hampers effective prosecution of crime.

Yet, even if crimes are successfully prosecuted and criminals brought to bay, the way the legislature has regulated the granting of parole leaves much to desire.

First, the minimum period of an incarceration sentence that must be served before parole could be granted in terms of section 73 of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 could be as low as a quarter of the sentence. (It is different with regard to life sentences (i.e. 25 years) where parole could be considered only after 15 years of the sentence was served or other serious crimes where parole can only be granted once at least 4/5 of the term of imprisonment was served.)

In the majority of cases, a convicted person therefore serves only a fraction of the real sentence meted out by the judiciary. Obviously criminals know that and thus severe sentences with which the legislature brags to establish its hard stance on crime, have absolutely no deterrent effect.

Second, the Westminster system's practice that there is no clear separation of functions when it comes to the alteration of sentences meted out by the judiciary when part of an incarceration sentence is transformed into parole or correctional supervision has been perpetuated. The alteration of sentences was rarely referred back to the courts and often parole boards or the minister (who are both part of the executive) decided on that.

Under the 1996 Constitution, such a blurring of judicial functions with powers exercised by executive state organs is no longer possible. Section 165(5) of the Constitution explicitly proscribes a delegation of judicial power and emphasizes the binding of judicial sentences in no unclear terms:

"An order or decision issued by a court binds all persons to whom and organs of state to which it applies."

In other words, it is a judicial power to mete out sentences and the amending of such sentences by granting parole is also a judicial function.

The legislature seems oblivious of the fact that section 73 of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 infringes upon judicial power.

It doubtful whether Shaik or Selebi would have qualified for medical parole if the alteration of their sentences were subjected to judicial scrutiny. Tony Yengeni certainly would have served more of his 4 years' incarceration sentence than the 4 months before the minister of correctional services let him out.

(source: Dr Loammi Wolf specializes in constitutional law and has a special interest in state organization. She has published widely on these topics; politicsweb)

JAPAN:

Secret execution as authorities ignore calls for reform

The execution of 2 men in Japan on Friday flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged early on Friday morning. Kobayashi was executed at Sendai detention centre and Takamizawa at Tokyo detention centre. Both had been convicted of murder.

"It is chilling that the Japanese authorities continue to send people to the gallows despite serious questions over the use of the death penalty in the country," said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

A lack of adequate legal safeguards for people facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized. This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel from the time of arrest, a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases and detention in prolonged solitary confinement.

Several prisoners suffering from mental illness are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

"This state-sanctioned killing is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment. The government should halt all future executions as a 1st step towards abolition," said Hiroka Shoji.

The latest executions bring the total executed in Japan in 2014 to 3. Since Prime Minister Abe's government took office in December 2012 11 people have now been hanged, whilst a total of 127 people remain on death row.

"Human rights are being side-lined under Prime Minister Abe's government. The past 2 years has been marked by a series of regressive steps, including the refusal to act on UN bodies' calls to address human rights violations," said Hiroka Shoji.

Serious flaws over the use of the death penalty in Japan were underlined in March, when a court ordered the temporary release of Hakamada Iwao, who spent more than 4 decades on death row after an unfair trial.

Prosecutors have appealed the decision to grant Hakamada a retrial, despite the court stating that the police were likely to have fabricated evidence.

Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours' notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

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 and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: indybay.org)

PAKISTAN:

SC commutes Rangers official's death penalty in Sarfraz Shah murder case

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday commuted the death penalty awarded to a Rangers official in the murder case of Sarfraz Shah, a young man who was shot dead by paramilitary troops and left to die inside a park in Clifton in June 2011, into life imprisonment.

A 3-judge bench comprising Justices Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Gulzar Ahmed and Athar Saeed upheld the sentence and also ordered the release of the watchman of the Benazir Bhutto Park after omitting certain sections of the law in the case against him. The bench, however, rejected the appeals of the remaining convicts against their respective convictions.

The fatal shooting was filmed by a cameraman and telecast on various TV channels, sparking a public backlash over the brutality of trained paramilitary troops.

Also read: SHC verdict brings relief for Sarfraz's brother

An anti-terrorism court headed by Judge Bashir Ahmed Khoso had sentenced Rangers constable Shahid Zafar to death and jailed Sub-Inspector Bahaur Rehman, Lance Naik Liaquat Ali and Constables Muhammad Tariq, Manthar Ali and Afzal Khan for life on Aug 12, 2011. The park's watchman, Afsar Khan, was also jailed for life in the case.

The victim's brother appears in court to 'pardon' convicts

Later, the convicts filed appeals in the Sindh High Court against their conviction, requesting the court to set aside the ATC judgement.

However, the appellant bench of the SHC on Jan 21, 2104 rejected the appeals and retained the ATC ruling of sentencing Shahid Zafar to death after finding him guilty of pulling the trigger. 1 of the convicts, Lance Naik Liaquat Ali, was acquitted by the SHC, which had also rejected the application of the victim's brother, Salik Shah, seeking to enter into a compromise with the 7 convicts, 6 of whom were Rangers personnel.

On Friday, the victim’s brother, who was a complainant in the case against the paramilitary troops, appeared before the judges to tell them that he and his family members had forgiven the convicts on the advice of his father and requested the court to pardon them.

The court observed that since a compromise had taken place in the murder case, it was a mitigating circumstance to reduce the death penalty to life imprisonment.

It may be recalled that Constable Shahid Zafar was awarded the death penalty and his colleagues were jailed for life for the murder under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. The sentences given for the offence under Section 302 of the PPC were pardoned after the compromise between the convicts and the victim's family.

The court retained their conviction and sentences given under Section 7 of the ATA.

However, the apex court observed that the convicts could not be pardoned without an amendment to the Constitution as the case involved sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

APCs import case

The same bench restrained the provincial government from importing controversial armoured personnel cars (APCs) and weapons from Serbia.

The direction came on an application filed by a civil rights campaigner, Mahmood Akhtar Naqvi, who alleged that huge kickbacks were involved in the purchase of 20 APCs and arms and ammunition for the Sindh police.

He said the APCs and other articles were being purchased at a cost of Rs8 billion while the provincial government had already paid Rs650 million as a commission to the person behind the deal.

The applicant said the decision to purchase the APCs from Serbia was taken at a meeting headed by the then acting inspector general of police, Ghulam Shabbir Shaikh.

He said the APCs being bought were used and reconditioned, while vehicles of that quality were manufactured at the Taxila Heavy Mechanical Complex.

Assistant Advocate General Ghulam Qadir informed the court that the THMC-manufactured APCs had failed during a police operation in mafia-infested Lyari and use of the vehicle amounted to endangering the lives of police personnel.

Justice Osmany remarked that the army also purchased vehicles from the THMC.

The bench directed the managing director of the THMC to file a detailed report on the quality and standards of the vehicles manufactured by it, and put off the hearing to a date to be later announced by the court's office.

(source: Dawn)

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To the gallows: Murder convict awarded death penalty

An additional district and sessions judge on Thursday awarded death penalty to a man convicted of murder. The judge awarded death sentence to Kashif Arshad who on January 21, had gunned down Muhammad Ashraf over a monetary issue, prosecution said. The judge awarded death penalty and Rs200,000 fine to the convict.

(source: Pakistan Tribune)

PHILIPPINES/VIETNAM:

VP makes plea for 2 Pinoys on death row

Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to extend full assistance to 2 Filipinos sentenced to die in Vietnam for trafficking in illegal drugs.

Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers' Concerns said that Emmanuel Sillo Camacho, 39, was found guilty by a Hanoi Court for carrying 18 packets of cocaine which weighed 3.4 kilograms.

Another Filipino, Donna Buenagua Mazon, 39, was earlier sentenced to die in Ho Chi Minh City after being caught with 1.5 kilograms of Cocaine in December 2013.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose assured the Vice President that his department will extend all necessary consular and legal assistance to the 2 Filipino nationals.

"Our Embassy in Hanoi will extend to them all necessary and appropriate assistance - consular and legal," Jose told the reporters on Saturday.

However, Jose admitted that they have yet to receive such incident from our Consular Affairs office.

Jose stressed that the Philippine embassy in Hanoi is duty-bound and ready to assist Camacho and Mazon.

Jose said that the government respects the Judicial process of Vietnam and assured the public that the department will provide legal counsel for the 2 to represent them in court.

"Part of our consular assistance is to make sure that they will be entitled due process and their rights would not be violated," Jose said. "Of course we don't meddle in Vietnam's judicial process."

Binay said the 2 Filipinos can appeal their case.

"From my understanding, their convictions are not yet final and executory and they can still file for appeal," the Vice President said.

Jose agreed with the Vice President and assured that they will exert all possible ways to help the Filipinos file a petition.

The Vice President reiterated his warning to Filipinos, especially those going abroad, that it was not worth taking the risk to traffic illegal drugs into foreign countries.

"Lives are at stake here and no amount of money can compensate for a lost life," he said.

"Modern and sophisticated equipment can now easily detect drugs. Do not take the chance," he added.

If the execution of the 2 pushes through, it would be Vietnam's 1st execution of foreign nationals in decades.

Vietnam maintains some of the world's toughest anti-drug laws and anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600 grams of heroin, or more than 20 kilograms of opium, draws the death penalty.

(source: Manila Standard Today)

AUGUST 29, 2014:

TEXAS:

ETX man facing death penalty for capital murder charge

A Gregg County grand jury indicted a Tyler man for capital murder which now makes him eligible for the death penalty.

Carl Dorrough, Gregg County District Attorney, tells KETK Isaiah Roberts, 30, has been indicted for his alleged role in a Sunday, June 15, 2014, double-homicide that took place in the 300 block of Thelma Street in Longview.

Roberts is accused of shooting and killing 2 people, his ex-wife Chanda Martin, as well as Kim Rayson. Police say Roberts then led officers and deputies on a chase through Gregg and Smith County. After avoiding several spike strips during the pursuit, he sped through several intersections, causing a major accident involving 4 vehicles. 2 people were injured.

Roberts was eventually stopped at the intersection of Glenwood Boulevard and Hill Avenue and was taken into custody. When police searched his vehicle they found he was in possession of 2 firearms.

According to Tyler PIO Don Martin, upon further investigation of the crash, it was later determined that the crash occurred prior to the police pursuit entering the crash scene. Tyler Police Department requested the Smith County District Attorney's office to dismiss the 5 counts of accident causing injury against Roberts.

A capital murder indictment carries a conviction penalty of life in prison or death.

He remains in the Gregg County Jail on $2-million bond.

(source: KETK news)

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'The Wrong Carlos': Was an innocent man executed?----Law professor James Liebman says a Texas case reveals the injustice of the death penalty.

When a Texas defendant named Carlos DeLuna faced a murder charge, he insisted that another man named Carlos Hernandez was actually responsible. Two words flashed across the minds of those who heard this claim: Likely story.

In the courtroom, eyes rolled amid muttered jibes. Couldn't he come up with a more believable name than a Latino equivalent of "John Smith"?

Nobody found the other Carlos, not the cops nor the prosecution and/or the defense nor the journalists covering the case. DeLuna went to death row and was killed via execution in 1989.

Now, a Columbia University law professor and a team of law students say DeLuna didn't do it. They point their fingers at the late Carlos Hernandez, an invisible man in plain sight, in their new book The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution.

By design, this book is not a masterpiece of storytelling. It won't keep readers up past their bedtimes or give them chills through thought-provoking prose.

Instead, "The Wrong Carlos" carefully lays out the basic facts of a botched murder investigation and prosecution. Many more details of the case are available on the book's website, providing perhaps the most extensive accessible record of an American death penalty case.

In an interview, lead author and law professor James Liebman talks about what went wrong, how his team uncovered the truth, and what this case means for the debate over the death penalty.

Q: What convinced you to investigate a specific death penalty case?

In 2000 and 2002, we published a big study which showed there was a huge amount of adjudicated errors found in capital cases in the United States by state and federal courts. Essentially, 2/3 of all death verdicts reviewed over a quarter century had been overturned based on serious error.

Proponents say the system is working, and we don't have to worry about the ultimate error of someone being innocent. There's another interpretation. If an airline company or a car company had this level of error, nobody would want to go near them. If there's this much smoke, there's got to be fire.

So we wanted to examine a particular case to see if we could determine the risk of executing the innocent. We went from a statistical study where we were just counting outcomes to making a judgement call about which cases would be interesting to look at.

Q: How did you find this case in particular?

We started by looking at Texas cases. If you want money, you rob banks. If you want to study executions, you go to Texas.

We started looking at eyewitness identification cases because of the long-standing evidence that these cases can be faulty. The witness in this case was one person who happened to be pumping gas outside a store where a clerk was attacked and killed.

He saw the assailant come out of the store and run away. After a 45-minute manhunt, he identified Carlos de Luna.

This case fit what we were looking for.

Q: How did your team realize that this Corpus Christi case was deeply flawed?

A judge said that Carlos Hernandez probably did not exist. But we'd identified another Corpus Christi case, and we told our investigator that if you have an extra hour, see if you can find something about a Carlos Hernandez. In an hour, the investigator did exactly that.

That's when the case turned around.

We found out what a terrible person Carlos Hernandez was and the kinds of crimes he committed. He had a very long criminal record of armed robberies, and he was the same height and weight as Carlos DeLuna. We dropped everything and just pursued this case.

Q: It sounds like every institution failed in this case – the police, the prosecutors, the defense, the judge, the press. Who was most at fault?

What really surprised us in this case - and honestly changed my mind about how we think about error in criminal cases - is that it wasn't any 1 thing. It was a combination of everything failing, a perfect storm, a collection of different errors.

Why was it this case where everything would fail instead of some other case? We came to the conclusion that it wasn't just the defendant who was a person of no status, privilege, or interest to anybody to spend time protecting. The same was true of the victim, a poor, single high-school dropout from the Hispanic community. Nobody cared enough about her to want to get to the bottom of things. Everybody's prone to cut corners and not do a very good job.

Another thing is that Corpus Christi as a community has overused the death penalty. It's one of the top 15 per-capita execution communities in the United States.

Q: The book has an unusual just-the-facts approach. How did you choose to tell the story in that way?

We struggled a lot with this.

Anything about the death penalty is incredibly controversial, and nobody trusts anybody who takes a position. They feel like their attitude toward facts will be based on their view toward the death penalty. Our real struggle was how to tell the story and get the reader to put aside the question about whose side you're on and just engage with the facts.

We realized that the best we could do was be as simple as possible, and use the smallest, most straightforward and most descriptive words we could use. We'd present the facts and let them speak for themselves.

We present all of the footnotes online. You don't even have to trust the simple words if you don't want to. You can go read the full text of what we were relying upon. It's part of a series of strategies to try to convey to the reader that he or she is really in charge.

Q: In 2006, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared that opponents of the death penalty hadn't found a case of an innocent person being executed: "If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby." Now you have just such a case, and it's gotten plenty of attention. But will it matter?

It's having an effect, and there's a conversation taking place about that case. It becomes much harder for people like Justice Scalia to say the execution of an innocent person never happened because no one's talking about it, it's never been documented.

There is a clear process in which the public is taking the death penalty issue back from the courts and asserting its right to decide on this issue. Little by little, individual counties are no longer using the death penalty, and six states recently have abolished it.

Through their prosecutors, jurors, and judges, communities are quietly deciding the risks and costs of the death penalty aren't worth it anymore. That's ultimately how this issue may be decided, by individuals across the country.

(source: Randy Dotinga, a Monitor contributor, is president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors----Christian Science Monitor)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Defense: Friendship led to death penalty pursuit in Fayette case

An assistant district attorney told a Fayette County judge that the fact she was high school classmates with the sister of a homicide victim had no bearing on her boss's decision to seek the death penalty against the accused killer.

"This motion is the most disingenuous attempt to prejudice the commonwealth's case I've ever seen," said Michelle Kelley, assistant district attorney, during an impromptu hearing on a defense motion to remove her office from the case.

In the motion, Public Defender Jeffrey Whiteko asked that the district attorney's office be barred from prosecuting the death-penalty case against Henry Clay Crawford.

Crawford is accused of homicide, burglary and aggravated assault in the Jan. 28, 2013, stabbing of Lisa Faye Tupta, 48. Police said Crawford forced his way into Tupta's home in the Holiday Mobile Home Park and stabbed her.

Tupta, 49, had a protection-from-abuse order against Crawford, but family members said the 2 were not in a relationship.

Police found Crawford, with a knife, hiding in the home. He underwent surgery at UPMC Presbyterian for stab wounds.

Whiteko on Thursday told President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. he believes that District Attorney Jack Heneks' decision to seek the death penalty was "clouded" by Kelley's former relationship with 1 of Tupta's sisters.

Kelley said she knew Tupta's sister, who was not identified during the hearing, in high school about 30 years ago. The 2 lost touch after graduation, she said.

"I have never been to her house. She has never been to my house," Kelley said.

Whiteko said the decades-old relationship could still have played a factor in the death penalty decision and his alleged inability to get prosecutors to respond to his inquiries regarding the status of the case.

He said the alleged lack of communication prompted him to delay, for 4 months, having an expert examine Crawford to prepare mitigating circumstances to be presented, if needed, to a jury.

Should jurors convict him of first-degree murder, they will enter the penalty phase of the trial to hear evidence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances before deliberating on a death sentence or life imprisonment.

"I don't care if you haven't seen someone in 20 years," Whiteko said. "When they come in, that makes it more difficult to say 'no.'"

Kelley pointed out Heneks' decision to seek the death penalty is based on four issues - the abuse order, torture, Crawford's criminal record and the allegation that the killing was allegedly committed during the course of another felony.

Wagner did not issue a verbal order on Whiteko's motion but said he will likely grant a continuance in the case to allow Whiteko time to have the mitigation expert examine Crawford.

The case was scheduled to go to trial this month. Crawford is in the Fayette County Prison without bond.

(source: triblice.com)

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

Mass murderer to accept fate at hearing?

Is he ready to die or will Michael Ballard try to have his death sentenced overturned?

The admitted mass murderer will be back in court Friday to tell a judge if he wants to appeal or accept his fate.

The last death row inmate executed in Pennsylvania was Gary Heidnik in 1999.

He gave up the right to appeal but attorneys against capitol punishment filed appeals on his behalf.

Michael Ballard has also said that he does not want to appeal and now the Northampton County DA wants to be sure that's Ballard's decision.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli knows the petition hearing against Michael Ballard will be interesting.

"You never know what to expect," said Morganelli.

Morganelli asked the court for the hearing after Ballard wrote a letter to the United States Supreme Court in June saying he didn't want to appeal his conviction anymore and he wanted to die.

"Mr. Ballard has to now inform the judge tomorrow of what he wants to do. And obviously this is a death penalty case, so judge Giordano has to first inquire as to whether Mr. Ballard is still competent to make those decisions," said Morganelli.

Ballard was sentenced to death after the 2010 murders of 4 people in Northampton Borough.

Ballard pleaded guilty to the crimes but since then a law firm out of Philadelphia assigned themselves as Ballard's legal counsel. That act is something Ballard denies giving them permission to do.

"We still have to battle lawyers who are fighting causes rather than representing clients,” said Morganelli.

All of Michael Ballard's appeals have been ruled on in the Commonwealth and U.S. Supreme Courts.

He can still file a post conviction relief act petition and DA Morganelli wants to hear if Michael Ballard plans to do that sooner rather than later.

"I haven't waited for him to decide a year from now. I forced the issue, forced his hand to come into the court and say what he wants to do," said Morganelli. Legally Ballard has until June 2015 to file his final appeal so as long as his execution date is before then he could appeal up to the last minute.

Governor Corbett hasn't signed Ballard's death warrant yet but he's expected to do so in the next 60 days.

(source: WFMZ news)

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Judge orders further psychiatric evaluation of Michael Ballard

Mass murderer Michael Eric Ballard's hearing Friday rejecting any appeals of his death sentence began with Ballard objecting to an evaluation by a psychiatrist..

Ballard was brought before Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano in a wheelchair, cuffed, with a large legal folder in his lap.

Giordano said he wanted a psychiatrist to again evaluate Ballard to make sure he was competent to waive any appeals, but Ballard objected. Ballard said during his trial, he had been evaluated by a number of mental health experts and said another evaluation was not necessary.

"At this stage, I think it's a waste," Ballard said.

As Giordano asked Ballard if he wanted any attorneys to file appeals on his behalf, Ballard's answers were emphatic - "absolutely not."

Despite a series of questions, Giordano said he wanted Ballard again evaluated to determine his competency. The judge appointed Dr. Frank Dattilio, a forensic psychologist from Salisbury, to evaluate Ballard's competency, despite his objections.

Giordano also appointed Ballard's trial attorneys, Michael Corriere and James Connell, to continue to represent him, and issued an order barring the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia and other anti-death penalty lawyers from entering their appearances without permission of the court.

The hearing was an extraordinary one, considering that in the modern era of the death penalty Pennsylvania has only executed inmates when they volunteered for it by abandoning their appeals.

But a very ordinary legal question was at the center of the proceeding: whether Ballard wanted a lawyer appointed to pursue his post-conviction legal challenges, which would be the next stop for him in the appeals process. The hearing was scheduled at the request of Morganelli, who wanted Ballard to state his intentions on the record to a judge, one way or the other. Morganelli called his effort a "preemptive strike" that he pursued after Ballard accused anti-capital punishment lawyers of interjecting themselves into his case without his permission.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a petition filed in Ballard's name by Marc Bookman of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Atlantic Center for Capital Representation - after Ballard wrote the justices that it was done behind his back. The court has since sent Ballard's complaint to the state Disciplinary Board, which oversees attorney ethics, for "any investigation or action it finds appropriate."

Also in June, Billy Nolas, an attorney for the Federal Community Defender Office, informed Morganelli of plans to represent Ballard at appeal - though Ballard says he has barred the federal defenders from even visiting him on death row.

By Ballard's own admission, he savagely knifed to death his former girlfriend, Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and Steven Zernhelt, 53, a neighbor who heard screams and tried to help.

At the time of the June 26, 2010, rampage, Ballard had recently been paroled from prison, where he served 17 years for murdering an Allentown man nearly 2 decades earlier. The state Supreme Court upheld Ballard's death sentence in November, citing overwhelming evidence in support of it.

In an exclusive death-row interview with The Morning Call last month, Ballard said that given the options before him - to accept his own execution or appeal his sentence for years from the "dehumanizing" walls of solitary confinement - he chooses death.

"The jury made their decision, and I'm not about to spend the next 20 years begging the state of Pennsylvania for a mercy they're not going to give," Ballard said July 10.

"There's no emotionality. There's no apprehension," said Ballard, 40. "I'm not afraid to die."

(source: Morning Call)

NORTH CAROLINA:

DA's office to pursue death penalty against Maggie Daniels' accused killer

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Sept. 8, in which alleged murderer, Sharman Howard Odom, will learn whether or not he will face the death penalty.

Odom is accused of murdering former Discovery High School guidance counselor Maggie Daniels in her Newton apartment June 27. He was arrested Aug. 2 after a 5-week investigation, and Aug. 19, the District Attorney's office filed a motion for a Rule 24 conference.

The motion was unsealed at the Catawba County Courthouse on Thursday morning. Odom appeared in court Aug. 4, and is being held without bond. He was indicted by Catawba County's grand jury Aug. 18 and faces charges of murder, 1st-degree sexual offense and 1st-degree kidnapping.

3 search warrants executed in Odom's apartment July 26 also were unsealed.

The probable cause section of the 1st search warrant gives a detailed description of what might have occurred in Daniels' apartment when she was killed.

"Daniels was found on the floor of her bedroom, clothed only in a pair of shorts," the 1st search warrant said. The damage and movement of some pieces of furniture in her bedroom suggest a struggle took place, the document said. Ligature marks were found on Daniels' neck as well, leading investigators to the idea she was strangled to death.

The medical examiner also completed a sexual assault evidence collection kit from Daniels. "Testing done by the N.C. State Crime Lab of this kit indicates the presence of ... semen in the oral and rectal swabs," was handwritten on the search warrant.

Investigators found "curly hairs, inconsistent with the victim's hair," on Daniels and through the apartment, the document said. DNA swabs showed the hair contained DNA of an unknown male.

Remarks made to investigators from three witnesses were also outlined in the probable cause section. Just after noon on the day Daniels was killed, investigators say one witness, Dainan Cline, saw Odom walking east between Daniels' apartment and the neighboring building. The witness thought this was unusual and asked Odom what he was doing, the document said.

Odom told Cline he "... was returning from an auto repair shop after checking to make sure the mechanics were working on his van," the document said. Cline said Odom told him there was a path behind the apartments he used as a short cut.

On June 30, investigators reportedly spent hours surveying a path through the woods.

At 5:10 p.m. June 27, Lori Sifford told investigators a male matching Odom's description was walking from behind Daniels' apartment toward the front of the complex. She had never seen the man behind the apartments, the document said.

Sifford walked with her children and thought it was strange the man was not sweating, she said. Weather.com shows the observed high in Newton that day was 87 degrees. The warrant said the estimated walking time between the repair shop, Speed Latino, and the apartment complex is 20 minutes.

On June 27 - the day Daniels was reportedly killed - Humberto Guerrero Mejua, of Speed Latino, said Odom's vehicle was towed to the automotive shop. Odom picked up the vehicle June 28. Mejua said "with certainty" that Odom wasn't at the shop June 27, the document said.

Adam Stone and Mejua, both of whom work at Speed Latino, confirmed Odom was at Speed Latino on June 28, waiting about 4 hours while his van was repaired.

The search warrants also said that during active surveillance, patrol and electronic monitoring in the area since July 5, officers had "noted Odom to stay in his apartment for what appears to be lengthy periods or to leave the area for days at a time."

Cline, who was Odom's neighbor, told investigators the accused murderer "made mention of the victim numerous times in the past," and said Odom stated, "... the victim was attractive and made a statement wanting to 'get with' the victim."

Cline also told investigators Odom showed him a photograph of Daniels from a social media account about 1 to 1 1/2 months prior to the murder. Odom also told Cline "the victim had a boyfriend that came in on weekends."

Investigators were also told Cline and Odom would talk about 3 times a week for 10 to 15 minutes, and that Odom would bring up females. Odom made statements to Cline such as, "that girl lives by herself."

Tevin James, another neighbor of Odom, told investigators Odom inquired about Daniels and whether she dated black men. James also said Odom asked him if Daniels had a boyfriend, and when told she did, Odom said, "It didn't matter." James described Odom as "creepy" to investigators and said the alleged murderer would sit in his vehicle with the ignition off between 2-5 a.m. looking at an electronic device. Odom did not appear to be smoking or charging his device and his windows were rolled up during these incidents that occurred during summer months, James told investigators.

Addie Sifford, the mother of Daniels' boyfriend, told investigators she called Odom out on frequent occasions for staring at Daniels while she sunbathed. Addie Sifford said her and Daniels would go on walks together in the evening and Odom would "routinely be outside his apartment when they would walk by," making "both she and the victim uneasy due to Odom's actions," the document said.

The document cites Odom's past charges in Mecklenburg County as probable cause as well. Odom was charged with 2nd-degree kidnapping, 1st-degree burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon in October 2010. He was also charged with 1st-degree rape, assault by strangulation and common law robbery in October 2010 stemming from a separate incident. In August 2012, Odom was charged with 2nd-degree rape, assault by strangulation and common law robbery. The cases, 2 involving prostitutes, were dismissed.

Investigators interviewed Odom twice about Daniels' death, and he denied any association with her, the document said. Odom said he had never been in Daniels' apartment and when asked if any of his belongings or DNA would be in her apartment he replied, "Shouldn't be."

Odom failed to mention his charges for assault by strangulation and rape when asked about his past charges, the document said.

During 1 interview, Newton Police Lt. David Sigmon noticed a patch of hair missing from the front of Odom's head. At the crime scene, investigators seized several dark colored curly hairs from the victim's fingernails, which did not match the victim's head or body hair, the document said.

The document also said Odom was the only individual who refused to have his DNA taken throughout the investigation, stating he didn't trust law enforcement.

A bottle of "Scrubbing Bubbles" with bleach was located at the scene, and an alternate light source utilized by investigators showed an unknown stain on the victim's back, the document said. Odom has worked as a car detailer and admitted to investigators he had cleaning chemicals in his work vehicle.

Odom is a person of interest in a rape case from December 2012, where the victim "stated that a black male held a rag over her face which had a chemical smell," the document said. Odom lived in the same complex as the victim in the December 2012 case, the document said.

The final detail that establishes probable cause said investigators have eliminated numerous leads, the document said. Daniels' boyfriend was identified as being in South Carolina at the time of the murder, the document said.

Results from evidence submitted to the State Crime Lab, including DNA swabs from seven individuals, excluded 6 of those individuals from evidence found at the scene. Daniels' boyfriend matched a sperm fraction from the evidence. The other evidence either failed to match her boyfriend's DNA profile, or no conclusion could be rendered.

The 3rd search warrant adds in its probable cause section that what appeared to be white hairs from approximately 2 to 4 inches in length were found on Daniels during the autopsy. While executing a search warrant, investigators found white hairs that "were immediately recognized as hairs" that were similar to hairs found during the autopsy, the document said.

In a trash bag on Odom's back porch, investigators found a Papa John's cardboard box containing partially eaten chicken wings. "These discarded wings are consistent with the order placed by Sharman Odom on 6/27/2014 to Papa John's," the document said.

The 1st search warrant was executed at 12:25 a.m. July 26, the document said. The 2nd search warrant was executed at 1:37 a.m. A 3rd search warrant obtained at 7:04 a.m. on July 26 was executed 30 minutes later.

(source: The News Herald)

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Death penalty sought in killing of former Teacher of Year in NC

The Catawba County district attorney has filed a motion seeking the death penalty in the case of a man accused in the death of a high school counselor.

Assistant District Attorney Kyle Smith said his office filed a Rule 24 notice on Aug. 19 in the case of 34-year-old Sharman Howard Odom.

Area news media outlets report the district attorney's motion for a Rule 24 hearing, which determines whether the state can seek the death penalty, was unsealed at the Catawba County courthouse Thursday.

Odom was indicted 2 weeks ago in the death of Newton-Conover teacher Margaret "Maggie" Daniels, whose body was found inside her Newton apartment on June 28.

Daniels was hired as a high school English teacher in 2006 and became a guidance counselor at Discovery High School last year after completing her master's degree.

Daniels, who was originally from Cleveland, Ohio, was the school system's teacher of the year in 2011 and had served as a coach at the school.

Odom, who was arrested on Aug. 2 in Winston-Salem, is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree sexual offense and 1st-degree kidnapping.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA:

Racist Revelation Will not Lead to Habeas Relief

A former juror's comment that the death sentence he handed down 8 years ago was "what that nigger deserved" does not justify habeas relief, the 11th Circuit ruled.

Kenneth Fults has been on death row in Georgia since 1997 after he pleaded guilty to the 1996 murder and kidnapping of his next-door neighbor, Cathy Bounds.

Fulton invaded Bounds' home, wrapped electrical tape around her head, put a pillow over her and shot her in the back of the head 5 times.

Jurors found it an aggravating circumstance that the murder took place during a kidnapping and that it was outrageous.

It was not until April 2005, eight years after sentencing, that Fults claimed in an amended state habeas corpus petition that the "improper biases of jurors ... infected their deliberations," causing them to "improperly prejudg[e]" his case.

In support of that claim, Fults provided a handwritten, signed and notarized affidavit from one of the sentencing jurors, Thomas Buffington, dated 2 days before the petition was filed.

"I don't know if he ever killed anybody, but that nigger got just what should have happened," Buffington wrote. "Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that's what that nigger deserved."

Both the state court and a federal judge found the claim procedurally defaulted, and the 11th Circuit affirmed Tuesday that the claim is barred.

In a footnote to the 22-page decision, the 3-judge appellate panel noted that "Buffington denied having any racial prejudices" during voir dire questioning before the trial.

Buffington had told the court back in 1997 "that it did not matter that Mr. Fults was black and that Ms. Bounds was white," the footnote states.

In addition to not providing this information to the state habeas court, however, Fults also did not explain how he came to learn of Buffington's prejudices in 2005.

Though Fults said that failure to address the juror prejudice claim on the merits will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice, the appellate panel noted that Fults "has never even tried to make the necessary showing of actual innocence required in this context, i.e., that 'but for [this] constitutional error, no reasonable juror would have found [him] eligible for the death penalty under applicable ... law.'"

"Mr. Fults, in sum, has failed to provide any specifics to the state or federal courts as to why the claim of racial prejudice relating to Mr. Buffington was not raised until 2005," Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote for the court in Atlanta. "Without such information, the District Court did not err in ruling that this claim was procedurally barred."

The ruling also affirms habeas denial to Fults on the basis of his supposed mental retardation.

"In sum, Mr. Fults has not overcome the presumption of correctness afforded to the state habeas court's factual finding that he did not suffer from 'significantly subaverage intellectual functioning,'" Jordan wrote.

(source: Courthouse News)

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New challenge for Ga. death penalty provision

A lawyer for a Georgia death row inmate has filed a new challenge to the state's requirement for defendants to prove intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt to be spared execution on those grounds.

Brian Kammer, a lawyer for Warren Lee Hill, filed the lawsuit Friday in Butts County Superior Court. Georgia's "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard is the nation's toughest.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May ruled in a Florida case that states cannot rely solely on an IQ score above 70 to bar an inmate from claiming intellectual disability.

Kammer argues the decision shows that an earlier Supreme Court ruling requires states to look to medical professionals and use their methods to determine intellectual disability. Kammer says all doctors who have examined Hill now agree he's intellectually disabled.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

Suspect indicted in murder of Santa Rosa couple

Derrick Ray Thompson now officially faces 3 counts of 1st degree murder.

A Santa Rosa County grand jury indicted Thompson Thursday for the killings of Steven and Debra Zackowski. He is scheduled for arraignment Oct. 10.

He had previously been charged in Bay County for fatally shooting Allen Johnson.

Now prosecutors must decide whether to seek the death penalty in either or both of the judicial circuits in which Thompson, who has already confessed to the crimes, faces trial.

"We will have a committee review the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in our case and expect in the next 2 or 3 weeks to make a decision on whether to seek the death penalty," said First Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Eddins.

The Zackowski deaths fall under Eddins' jurisdiction.

The Johnson case is under the purview of the 14th Judicial Circuit headed by State Attorney Glenn Hess. No decision on the death penalty has been reached in that circuit either, said Hess spokesman David Angier.

"We're not there yet," he said.

Thompson is accused of shooting the Zackowskis on June 19 at their home in Milton. The killings came after they reportedly turned Thompson in for stealing prescription drugs and other items from them.

Santa Rosa County deputies discovered the bodies on the 20th. They quickly labeled Thompson a person of interest in their murder investigation and put out the word that he might be headed to Bay County.

Johnson family members discovered the body of the controversial nightclub owner June 21 at his Panama City-area home. Johnson, who was a friend of Thompson's, had been robbed and his truck stolen.

Investigators determined Thompson bought drugs with money he'd taken from Thompson.

Eddins said with indictments in place, the First and 14th judicial circuits will proceed separately toward trying Thompson, and work together as the cases move through the judicial system.

Though the 2 State Attorneys Offices' may jointly decide which of the 2 cases comes to trial first, officials in both circuits said the death penalty decision will be made independently.

"If we determine the death penalty is appropriate we will seek it here regardless of what the decision is in the Panama City case," Eddins said.

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

Bailey Remains on Death Row

The man who murdered Panama City Beach police officer Kevin Kight will stay on death row.

Thursday morning the Florida Supreme Court refused to vacate the 1st degree murder conviction and the death penalty imposed on Robert Bailey.

Bailey, a Milwaukee area gang member, had come to Panama City Beach during spring break 2005, looking for girls. Kight made a traffic stop on Baileys vehicle because it was holding up traffic on jam-packed Front Beach Road.

Bailey vowed he would not go back to prison for parole violation, and shot Kight as the officer approached his vehicle with handcuffs in hand. The justices Thursday said no to Bailey's 3 claims that his trial attorney was ineffective.

(source: WJHG news)

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

Fruitless 30-year wait for Jacksonville killer's execution ends with no closure for victim's daughter----Why so long, asks daughter of victim after learning killer died prison

Shawn Felder spent nearly 30 years waiting for the Jacksonville man who mutilated and killed her mother and a housemate to be executed before she decided to confront him in person.

Felder arranged for her siblings, their children and other family members to sit this week for a picture she planned to deliver to William Thaddeus Turner on death row next month, whether he agreed to meet her or not. Intent on reminding Turner what he'd stolen, Felder designed the picture to include the face of her mother, Joyce Brown.

But on July 30, Felder learned that Turner, 69, died hours earlier in prison of natural causes - just a few weeks after the anniversary of her mother's death. During his death row time, Turner survived 1 death warrant and at least 15 appeals as Felder's bitterness grew.

"It had been 30 years, 27 days and 20 hours to the exact day," Felder said, linking Turner's death to the July 3, 1984, killings.

30 years of holidays and birthdays without her mother. 30 years of raising and burying family. 30 years of angrily counting the pennies from her taxes used to keep Turner alive.

Felder said she hopes to find closure by visiting Turner's grave at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford one day since his family denied her request to attend the funeral. It's a trip she never imagined having to make.

"Why so long?" asked Felder, 50. "Why so long?"

THE MURDERS

Joyce Brown was rushing from one job to another when she found a battered, hungry Shirley Turner weeping on a bench with her 7-year-old daughter in Hemming Plaza in late 1983.

Brown took the 2 strangers into her home for protection from Turner's violently abusive husband and the women became fast friends.

Turner learned his wife was living near downtown with Brown and threatened to kill the women, who were both 37. But the slightly built Brown didn’t fear the 6-foot, 5-inch, 290-pound part-time electrician and Vietnam veteran.

"My mom never was afraid," Felder said. "Shirley feared him with every bone in her body."

Turner, 39, broke into Brown's home on July 3, 1984, and repeatedly stabbed his wife with a Rambo-style knife in front of their young daughter. Brown's 14-year-old daughter, Irene, tried to stop Turner with a gun owned by her mother, but the gun jammed.

Brown bolted out the front door, ran to a nearby phone booth and called police. A witness said Turner opened the phone booth door, began stabbing Brown and continued as he dragged her outside.

"You're the one," Turner repeatedly shouted, apparently referring to his unproven belief that the women were in a relationship and that Brown had stolen his wife away.

Brown's pleas into the phone faded into an eerie silence as she died from more than 50 stab wounds.

"No, no, no..." she cried.

Jacksonville police officer J.T. "Bubba" Venosh found Brown's bloodied body as bystanders pointed toward the fleeing Turner, whom one neighbor tried to stone. Turner surrendered to Venosh at gunpoint moments later.

Turner's attorneys, including Hank Coxe, told a judge Turner was a "time bomb" suffering post traumatic stress syndrome from his tour in Vietnam. They failed to have him found incompetent to stand trial. A jury convicted him the next year.

Felder watched the trial and applauded the verdict.

"I watched him sitting there as if he thought he was the victim," Felder said. "Just no remorse."

Turner's family could not be reached for this story.

In November 1985, the judge sentenced Turner to life for killing his wife and death in Brown's slaying. Felder's wait to see Turner dead was then already into its 16th month.

THE APPEALS

Turner's appellate attorneys were denied their 1st argument that he wasn't present for crucial pre-trial hearings, including when prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases.

A 2nd appeal that the jury was biased by graphic photos of the victims and tapes of Brown's dying screams was also denied, as was a 3rd appeal.

Gov. Bob Martinez signed a death warrant in March 1990, nearly 6 years after the murders. But the Florida Supreme Court granted a stay of execution while considering arguments that Turner's trial attorneys were ineffective, among other issues. Those appeals were also denied.

Felder said the state should have executed Turner by then.

"It was like kicking dirt back in my face, me being forced to live this thing over and over and over and over and over again," she said. "In my heart it felt like, why is he still getting another chance to live when my momma didn't have that chance?"

Turner's attorneys filed other actions through the years. Those included multiple writs of habeas corpus, when federal judges are asked to review the legality of a state defendant's arrest, imprisonment, or detention. All were denied, but there were no more death warrants.

Jacksonville attorney Clyde Collins, one of Turner's appellate attorneys, said he sympathized with Felder. But Collins said ongoing legislative changes impacting the death penalty and other issues required that the cases be thoroughly aired.

"Why does it take so long? Because it's the ultimate penalty and you want to make sure that the legal process is done correctly," Collins said.

Felder, a personal health aide, said she was home last month when she learned from a family member that Turner's prisoner status had somehow changed. She said she called prison authorities, who told her he died hours earlier.

She called the news bittersweet.

"Bitter to the point that I didn't get the opportunity to look him in his eyes again," she said. "Sweet to the point of knowing that my taxpayer dollars won't take care of him no more."

STILL SEEKING CLOSURE

Felder said people sometimes question why she can't let go of her grief after so long. She extends this invitation:

"Until you put my shoe on, I didn't say walk in it, put it on and try to stand up ... If you can stand up in it for 30 seconds, then you can talk to me about 30 years, because it's not an easy shoe to walk in."

She said she doesn't know if her unscheduled visit to Turner's grave will do any good, but she is hopeful.

"I'm really praying hard that once I ride that road ... God will give me some peace and some closure," she said. "If I have to stand there for an hour and cry, let me do this knowing he's there."

Tears fell from Felder's eyes this week when she took a reporter to a Northside cemetery to see her mother's grave. She'd recalled being unable to say goodbye at the funeral when, seven months pregnant and hemorrhaging, she was whisked from the procession to the hospital.

Felder gave birth that day to a daughter. She named her Joyce, after her mother.

"It took 30 years," she whispered, looking at the bronze grave marker and tapping it with her right hand. "It was like yesterday."

(source: Florida Times-Union)

ALABAMA:

Huntsville cop killer remains on death row

It's been 9 years since Huntsville Police Officer Daniel Golden was gunned down while on duty and his killer remains on death row.

Golden was killed on Aug. 29, 2005.

Benito Albarran was convicted of capital murder and a jury recommended the death penalty over life without parole. State Representative Mike Hall said Alabama is especially slow when it comes to carrying out the death penalty.

"The process, it will always be slow," Hall said. "But some of these cases are ridiculous at how slow it is and how long it's delayed."

Hall said the process could be sped up by running multiple paths of the appellate process at the same time. He said doing that would not eliminate any of the checks and balances in the system. That would take a bill and Hall said anything that has to do with the death penalty is controversial.

Alabama's last execution was Andrew Lackey in 2013. Lackey asked to be executed. Currently there are 193 inmates on death row in Alabama. Of those inmates, 89 have been on death row for more than 15 years.

(source: WAFF news)

LOUISIANA:

3rd suspect in the death of the Minden teen has been arrested

Another suspect, believed to be the triggerman in the shooting death of a Minden teen whose body was discovered Wednesday, has been arrested.

Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton tells KTBS 3 that Murphy Lee Robertson, 18, of Minden was arrested early Thursday morning and has been fingered as the shooter in death of Omar Lott, 18, of Minden.

A source close to the case says Robertson was taken into custody at his home in Minden by authorities executing a no-knock search warrant for 1st degree murder around 1 a.m. today.

Robertson has been booked on charges of 1st degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Robertson is accused of shooting Lott multiple times resulting in his death. Lott's body was discovered near wooded property on Walter Lyons Rd in Minden Wednesday.

As of this morning Sexton said the alleged murder weapon had not been recovered.

According to reports, Lott had not been seen by relatives since Sunday and was days later found by a family member. However, authorities say there is no record of the teen being reported missing.

Shreveport resident Jason Glenn Turk, 18, of College Street along with a 16-year-old have also been arrested for their alleged involvement of what police are calling a "drug and money robbery."

Both are charged with principle to 1st degree murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. The teen's name is being withheld due to his age.

Tango Frazier, 17 of the 300 block of Walter Lyons Rd was also arrested. She is charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of CDS Sch I marijuana.

Lott's body has been taken to Little Rock, AR for autopsy.

Robertson's bond has been set at $500,000. Bond has not been set for Turk or the juvenile. All parties remain in custody. At this time no mugshots are available as paperwork on the suspects is still being processed by the Webster Parish Sheriff's Office.

Minden Police also assisted with the case and apprehension of Robertson.

If convicted of 1st degree murder, Robertson could face the death penalty.

(source: KTBS news)

OHIO:

Warren homicide suspect could face death penalty

The man accused in Warren's most recent homicide could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Greg Brewer, 49, appeared in Trumbull County Common Please Court Friday morning. He is charged with aggravated murder with death penalty specifications in the stabbing death of Dominic Bufano, 55, last week.

An autopsy revealed the victim had been stabbed repeatedly inside his Bingham Avenue N.W. home.

Brewer is being held at the Trumbull County Jail on a $1 million bond. He is due back in court again late next month.

(source: WKBN news)

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

Brunswick man accused of killing mother has arraignment continued

A Brunswick man who is accused of killing his mother saw his arraignment continued Thursday to give the court time to appoint defense attorneys.

James D. Tench, 28, faces the death penalty in a case that charges him with 3 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

His Thursday arraignment at Medina County Common Pleas Court was continued to 8:30 a.m. Sept. 4.

Judge James Kimbler appointed Kerry M. O'Brien to be Tench's lead defense attorney. A 2nd attorney will be appointed next week.

Kimbler said after the hearing that appointing 2 defense attorneys is a requirement for capital cases.

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.

Each aggravated murder count carries the potential sentences of death, life in prison without parole, or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 or 25 years. If Tench is convicted on all counts, prosecutors will decide which aggravated murder or murder charge he will be sentenced on, Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman said Wednesday.

Tench pleaded guilty in March to robbing a Strongsville restaurant and is currently serving a 6-year prison sentence at the Richland Correctional Institution, according to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court records.

(source: cleveland.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma investigation: Inmate in troubled execution died from lethal drugs, not heart attack

An Oklahoma death row inmate who writhed, moaned and clenched his teeth before he was pronounced dead about 43 minutes after his execution began succumbed to the lethal drugs he was administered, not a heart attack, after the state's prisons chief halted efforts to kill him, an autopsy report released Thursday says.

Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton had said inmate Clayton Lockett died from a heart attack about 10 minutes after he ordered the execution stopped. It hadn’t been clear whether all 3 execution drugs administered to Lockett had actually made it into his system, but the independent autopsy performed for the state determined they did.

Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, which performed the autopsy, concluded that the cause of death was "judicial execution by lethal injection." But the report does not answer why the execution took so long and why Lockett writhed on the gurney.

Lockett's attorney, David Autry, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. But Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Phoenix, who represents a group of Oklahoma death row prisoners who commissioned an independent autopsy of Lockett, said more information is needed.

"What this initial autopsy report does not appear to answer is what went wrong during Mr. Lockett's execution," Baich said in a statement.

Oklahoma and other death penalty states have encountered problems in recent years obtaining lethal injection chemicals after major drugmakers stopped selling them for use in executions. That has forced states to find alternative drugs, purchased mostly from loosely regulated pharmacies that custom-make medications. Many states refuse to name suppliers and offer no details about how the drugs are tested or how executioners are trained.

Oklahoma put executions on hold after Lockett's April 29 execution.

Officials at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester have said Lockett's vein collapsed during the lethal injection process. The autopsy does not say whether that's the case, though it does confirm that medical technicians poked him about 12 times as they tried to find a vein before settling on using one in his groin.

Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered public safety officials to review the events surrounding Lockett's execution, including state execution protocols that had been changed in the weeks ahead of it. The state Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to not schedule executions for 6 months. Three are set for November and December.

A spokesman for Fallin, Alex Weintz, said the autopsy report will be part of the full review. "We suspect they are in the final stages of that process," Weintz said.

He said Fallin still supports use of the death penalty. "But we want our executions to be successful," Weintz said, adding that Fallin asked the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to recommend possible changes to the execution procedures.

The autopsy report does not include any recommendations about the protocols.

A spokesman for the Corrections Department, Jerry Massie, said prison officials will have no comment until after public safety officials release their findings and recommendations.

In Lockett's execution, Oklahoma used the sedative midazolam for the first time. The drug was also used in lengthy attempts to execute an Ohio inmate in January and an Arizona prisoner last month. Each time, witnesses said the inmates appeared to gasp after their executions began and continued to labour for air before being pronounced dead.

Patton, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, called for a complete "review/revision" to Oklahoma's execution procedures following the Lockett execution, and said he was willing to adopt other states' protocols.

Among his concerns were that the state's current protocol puts all responsibility and decision-making in the hands of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary warden. Patton, who came to Oklahoma from the Arizona Department of Corrections, didn't specifically mention the drug midazolam or any other formula approved for use in the Oklahoma death chamber.

Midazolam is part of a 3-drug and a 2-drug protocol in Oklahoma. Lockett's execution used a 3-drug protocol - midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The state also has a protocol that would use midazolam with hydromorphone, the same combination used in the problematic executions in Ohio and Arizona this year.

Toxicology reports said all 3 lethal drugs were found in Lockett's system - the sedative in brain tissue and elsewhere and the other drugs in his blood.

A June lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on behalf of 21 Oklahoma prisoners alleged that prison officials are experimenting on death row inmates and violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment by tinkering with the state's lethal injection procedures. The state says those claims are false.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Autopsy: Oklahoma inmate died from lethal injection, not heart attack

An Oklahoma inmate who writhed and gasped for 43 minutes until his death in an apparent botched execution in April died from lethal-injection drugs and not a heart attack, according to autopsy results released Thursday..

The difficult death of Clayton Lockett, 38, convicted of the 1999 kidnapping and murder of Stephanie Neiman in Perry, Okla., brought a public outcry from execution opponents and resulted in the state's governor ordering a review of execution procedures.

The autopsy was conducted by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Texas, the Dallas County crime lab, 2 days after Lockett's execution. The results were released by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety - which has been handling the governor's review - along with other documents involving the execution, including internal department communications.

The finding that Lockett died of a lethal injection was notable because state officials had initially said after the procedure that Lockett died of a heart attack.

A separate, private preliminary autopsy had said that execution officials had been unable to find a vein in which to inject the drugs. Officials then attempted to inject them through a femoral vein in Lockett's groin, but the IV was placed improperly, according to that autopsy by Dr. Joseph I. Cohen, a pathologist retained by the state's death row prisoners.

The new autopsy results released Thursday indicate that officials struggled to find a vein in which to deliver the lethal dose. There were at least 15 needle puncture marks on Lockett's body, including 2 at the top of his right foot, 3 or 4 in the right jugular region, and 1 on his left wrist, according to the report.

It also noted abrasions and contusions across his body but did not explain how they got there. Some were noted in the same areas as the needle punctures.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

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

Texas to withhold certain Lockett autopsy details after Oklahoma intervenes----The World sought results after the Lockett execution.

Texas officials have agreed to keep secret certain records pertaining to the autopsy of convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, who died following Oklahoma's botched execution attempt April 29.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion Friday siding with Oklahoma officials' contention that the release of certain information, such as records identifying the supplier of lethal-injection drugs, is confidential under Oklahoma law.

However, he overruled a request by Oklahoma officials that other details of the autopsy report be kept secret.

Oklahoma officials intervened in a records request made by the Tulsa World and others after Texas officials appeared ready to release certain information that officials here argued should be kept private.

Oklahoma's request for confidentiality contrasts with a statement Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson made in late June that the Lockett autopsy report would be made public along with the agency's findings.

Oklahoma officials asked the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office to conduct the autopsy following the April 29 execution of Lockett, 38.

In June, the World requested a copy of Lockett's autopsy report from Dallas County officials.

The request included any reports, photographs, preliminary and final autopsy reports, and any communications with Oklahoma officials concerning the Lockett autopsy.

The World did not plan to publish any photographs of Lockett but rather sought any information they might divulge.

Dallas County officials asked the Texas attorney general to rule on the World's information request.

The Texas Attorney General's Office issued an opinion Aug. 4 that appears to respond to concerns voiced by Oklahoma officials about the World's request. In its response, Texas Attorney General's Office sided with Oklahoma's contention that the county must withhold information made confidential pursuant to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

However, Texas officials said any information created by Dallas County officials is not subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act and may not be withheld from the public.

On Friday, a DPS attorney sent Texas officials another letter seeking clarification. The letter refers to the possible release of 7 exhibits included in the pending autopsy report that officials here claim are confidential under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

"These exhibits contain information that (1) falls within Texas's public safety exception and (2) is specifically confidential under Oklahoma law," wrote Kim Rytter, Oklahoma Department of Public Safety assistant general counsel, in a letter to Abbott.

At issue are photographs taken by the Dallas County medical examiner. The photos include information that identifies the pharmacist associated with the lethal-injection drugs, the attending physician and DOC personnel, according to the letter from Rytter.

A letter dated the same day from Abbott's office agreed with Oklahoma officials that records revealing identities of the pharmacy and pharmacist who supplied the drugs, the attending physician and DOC personnel who participated in the execution process are confidential under Oklahoma law and must be withheld by Dallas County officials.

Abbott declined a request by Oklahoma officials to shield other unidentified records contained in the autopsy report, stating that the autopsy information created by the county in the remaining exhibits is not subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

"Therefore, no portion of the remaining submitted information, that is, information created by the county, may be withheld on the basis of Oklahoma's confidentiality provision," according to the Texas Attorney General's Office.

An Oklahoma DPS spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

(source: Tulsa World)

COLORADO:

Colorado judge denies special probe in James Holmes' notebook leak

A Colorado judge overseeing the murder case against accused theater gunman James Holmes said on Thursday that police may have lied when they denied leaking details of the case to Fox News, but declined to appoint a special prosecutor.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour denied a motion by public defenders seeking independent investigation into the source of the story, saying public defenders can "cast doubt on the credibility" of the officers during trial.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to opening fire inside a theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012.

The shooting rampage killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 70 others.

Days after the massacre, an online article published by Fox News' New York-based reporter Jana Winter cited 2 law enforcement officials who said Holmes sent his psychiatrist a notebook outlining his plans to commit mass murder.

Public defenders argued the leak was in violation of a gag order imposed by the judge presiding over the case at the time, and wanted Winter to reveal her sources.

The New York Court of Appeals ultimately sided with Winter, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Samour said he cannot sanction prosecutors when the source of the leak is unknown, adding that "if the record before the Court is complete, it reflects that at least 1 law enforcement agent was untruthful at one of the hearings."

Samour will hold a hearing next month on whether to allow TV and still cameras in the courtroom at Holmes' trial, which is set to begin with jury selection in December.

Holmes' lawyers have conceded that he was the lone gunman, but have said the onetime neuroscience graduate student was "in the throes of a psychotic episode" at the time.

Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for the 26-year-old California native if he is convicted.

(source: Reuters)

ARIZONA----new death sentence

Jury sentences cop killer Bryan Hulsey to death

A Phoenix-area man who killed a Valley police officer was sentenced to death on Thursday.

Bryan Hulsey was found guilty July 28 in the 2007 murder of a Glendale police officer during a routine traffic stop.

"The jury's decision to impose the death penalty against Bryan Hulsey is a just punishment for the senseless slaughter of a public servant," Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a release.

Hulsey, 40, was convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Officer Anthony Holly, 24. Hulsey also was found guilty of attempted 1st-degree murder of another officer.

Hulsey was a passenger in the vehicle that had been pulled over for speeding and not having a license plate. Holly was there to serve as backup to another officer who made the traffic stop.

Hulsey exited the vehicle, said, "I've got something for you," and fired 2 shots, 1 of which hit Holly, prosecutors said.

"The defendant's aim was true," Prosecutor Juan Martinez said. "1 bullet was all it took to the face of Anthony Holly to kill him - Officer Anthony Holly, who was just doing his job."

Hulsey's lawyers denied he killed Holly and instead alleged that another officer who had pulled over the vehicle had panicked and unintentionally shot him.

"He cannot be convicted of murder because of that accident," Hulsey's attorney, Michael Reeves, said.

Prosecutors said there was no credible evidence that Holly was shot by the other officer and that the exhumation request was "wishful thinking" by defense lawyers who hope they may turn up something from the body.

Prosecutors said Hulsey was upset during the stop and complained that they were being pulled over for having a cracked windshield. Martinez said the 3 people in the vehicle, including Hulsey, had smoked methamphetamine the night before and the morning of the traffic stop and that Hulsey gave his methamphetamine to a backseat passenger once the vehicle was pulled over.

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Jury decides on death sentence in officer's death

Jurors have decided on a death sentence for a man convicted of 1st-degree murder in the 2007 shooting of a Glendale police officer.

The jury reported its sentencing decision Thursday, the 4th day of deliberations in the penalty phase of Bryan Wayne Hulsey's trial in Maricopa County Superior Court.

He also was sentenced to an additional 9 years in prison for attempted 1st-degree murder.

The 40-year-old Hulsey was convicted last month in the killing of 24-year-old Anthony Holly.

Hulsey was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over for speeding and not having a license plate. Holly was serving as backup to another officer who made the stop.

Prosecutors say Hulsey got out and fired 2 shots, 1 of which hit Holly.

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Trial starts for Arizona caregiver accused of killing 2

Jurors are hearing testimony in the trial of a man charged with murder in the fatal stabbings of 2 other men who had hired him as their caregiver and whose bodies were found decomposing in their residence.

John Parson, 51, and Robert E. Days, 71, hired Roosevelt Arthur Williams before Parson and Days died to work as their caregiver because both men had health problems.

The victims were found stabbed to death and covered with blankets and tarps in a bedroom in their home in October 2010.

"After the defendant committed this brutal crime, he put them in the bedroom, closed the door, turned the air conditioner down to freezing and periodically sprayed air freshener," Deputy Pima County Attorney Mark Diebolt told jurors on Wednesday during opening arguments in the 1st-degree murder trial of the 40-year-old defendant.

The prosecutor also told jurors that Williams had been using the victims' debit cards for days after their 2010 deaths.

The defense plans to present evidence Williams has low intellectual function, suffers from impulsivity, and has brain damage from neglect and abuse in childhood, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

A judge ruled previously that Williams didn't meet the legal definition of "intellectually disabled" and remained eligible for the death penalty.

Defense attorney Dawn Priestman told jurors there was no evidence that Williams killed the men. "Nobody is going to come here and testify that Roosevelt's fingerprints or DNA are on the knives," Priestman said.

The victims' bodies were found by a man who was temporarily living in a van on the victims' property.

Geoffrey Thurston testified that he and a friend went to the home to use the computer when they noticed a terrible stench inside.

Upon checking the house further, "I saw a foot sticking out of a tarp," Thurston said.

The knives used to kill the pair were found next to their bodies, authorities said.

(source for both: Associated Press)

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Arias sends investigator back to murder scene?

Jodi Arias, 34, wants her investigator to revisit the crime scene where she brutally murdered her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander, according to a Maricopa County Superior Court minute order.

Arias was convicted of 1st degree murder in May 2013, making her eligible for the death penalty. However, the jury deadlocked on whether to enforce it.

A retrial on the death penalty phase is set to begin September 27.

Judge Sherry Stephens granted Arias permission to represent herself for the sentencing phase retrial.

During a recent hearing, Arias asked that her investigator be permitted to observe the blood spattered Mesa home where she stabbed to death and shot her former boyfriend.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner concluded Travis had been stabbed 29 times in his torso, back and head. His throat was slit and he was shot in the face.

Friends discovered Travis' body June 9, 2008, 5 days after his murder.

According to the minute order, the prosecutor was to permit Arias' investigator access to the victim's home no later than this week.

(source: hlntv.com)

UTAH:

Ogden man charged with murder in infant's death

The 23-year-old live-in boyfriend of an Ogden woman has been charged in the death of a baby girl who was left in his care along with the mother's 2 other young children.

Barney was charged Thursday with aggravated murder, a 1st-degree felony, which carries the potential for the death penalty.

At his initial appearance in 2nd District Court, Judge W. Brent West appointed an attorney for Barney and set bail at $100,000. A status hearing is set for Sept. 3.

Barney himself called 911 to report that the girl was not breathing, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in court.

Police brought Barney to the Ogden Police Station, where he allegedly told police he lashed out at the victim because he was frustrated that the room was dirty, the other 2 children were misbehaving, and the victim was crying.

"Out of frustration, he punched her in the face twice," according to the affidavit. "After punching [the victim] in the face, he punched her in the stomach and squeezed really hard."

Barney allegedly told police that after attacking the girl, he left the room with the three children. While they were out, the girl was "lethargic and acting as if she was short of breath," according to the affidavit. The girl died in her stroller after they returned to the room.

Barney allegedly called the girl's mother, Kaci Rupert, who told him to call 911.

An autopsy performed at the Utah State Medical Examiner's office revealed that girl died of internal hemorrhaging caused by blunt force trauma to her abdomen.

(source: Salt Lake Tribune)

NEVADA:

Vegas lawyers: Toss machete murder verdict for DA's 'systematic wrongdoing'

The Clark County public defender's office has asked a judge to toss a 2012 murder conviction because prosecutors didn't reveal they'd paid rent for key witnesses.

The case is one of many uncovered by a Review-Journal investigation, which showed the district attorney's office has been helping out witnesses - in some instances to the tune of more than $1,000 - for nearly a decade.

The Clark County district attorney's office paid $500 to cover rent for 2 victims in a high profile, high risk case, public records show.

In court papers filed Thursday, public defenders argue the case is "evidence of a systematic practice by the district attorney's office to violate a defendant's right to due process by hiding the payments even if a case goes to trial."

The attorneys want Judge David Barker to throw out the case or at least grant a new trial.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson's office said Thursday no one was available for comment.

CHANGING TESTIMONY

Victor Cruz-Garcia faced the death penalty for hacking a woman to death with a machete and slicing up her 27-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter in 2007. His attorneys agreed he had done the crime, but said he was mentally ill.

Jurors didn't buy the insanity defense and found him guilty of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Cruz-Garcia's trial centered not around whether the crime had happened - but what Cruz-Garcia's state of mind had been at the time.

In 2007, Beatrice Alvarez, 46, let Cruz-Garcia and his girlfriend, Maria Erlinda Ulloa, move in with her. She knew the couple from church.

Weeks later, chaos erupted at the apartment.

Cruz-Garcia cut down the woman in front of her children. Her adult son, Sergio Casterjon, tried to save his mother, stepping between her and the killer. His arm and a finger were chopped off, and his younger sister was also cut.

Prosecutors described Cruz-Garcia as a "mean, violent drunk and nothing more."

Casterjon, whose arm and finger were reattached, and his sister testified at trial and bolstered the assertion, according to the defense motion. Cruz-Garcia flew into a rage, they said, because their mother had asked him for rent money.

But prior to trial, the motion says, the 2 hadn't mentioned an argument over rent. Both had said Cruz-Garcia acted "crazy" and that the fight stemmed from his coming home in a drunken stupor.

Defense attorneys knew the siblings had changed their accounts, but they couldn't figure out why, the new motion argues.

"Because the defense was missing a material piece of the evidence ($500 rent payment), the defense was at a loss in providing motivation for their changed testimony," the motion says.

Cruz-Garcia's girlfriend, meanwhile, testified there was no argument over rent the night of the attack. Closing arguments zeroed in on her motivation to protect her boyfriend.

Prosecutors painted Ulloa as a liar, asking 8 times if she had told police the truth and 8 times if she'd told a doctor the truth, the motion argues.

"In reality, it was Sylvia and Sergio who told a different story at trial, a story different from what they told police the night of the incident, a story that surfaced after the $500 payment," the motion says.

At trial, a doctor testified that in his opinion Cruz-Garcia was faking insanity.

While rejecting concerns about Cruz-Garcia's mental state, jurors did take into account his limited education and frontal lobe dysfunction, and that he drank alcohol at a young age and saw the atrocities of El Salvador's civil war, according to the motion.

Jurors could have given Cruz-Garcia a more lenient sentence, but decided only that he shouldn't die for his crimes.

'ABHORRED BY THE COURTS'

Cruz-Garcia's public defenders filed a motion in 2011 asking for disclosure of any benefits to witnesses. At a hearing, Chief Deputy District Attorney Giancarlo Pesci said he would turn over any benefits. A month later, the court ordered prosecutors to comply.

Yet the $500 rent - which happened 3 years prior - stayed secret.

In August 2008, district attorney victim advocates asked Pesci to approve rental assistance for Alvarez's children, emails show.

"If we lose touch with these victims I am afraid they [will] return to their native country and we will not have them for trial. So rental assistance sounds good to me," Pesci wrote back.

Not alerting the defense about the payment when they had an ethical obligation as well as a court order to disclose it violates prosecutors' "duty of candor, honesty, and fairness," the motion contends.

The motion to overturn the conviction is based on "systematic prosecutorial misconduct," shown by the Review-Journal and the public defender's office's own analysis of cases the paper identified.

The Review-Journal found that since December 2004 the DA's office authorized 68 payments from a checking account maintained by its Victim/Witness Assistance Center, which coordinates witness travel, updates victims on case statuses and refers victims to outside help. Most were for help with rent, but they included a cellphone bill, a passport fee and high school computer class costs.

It's unclear how many cases are involved or if payments were limited to victims and those related to their well-being. The district attorney's office redacted cases numbers and other information from records obtained by the newspaper.

The DA's office said it made 56 payments to victims or witness payments since 2004, with 49 for rent relocation assistance. The rest were classified as "other."

The district attorney's office count does not include voided payments. The Review-Journal's analysis does.

The newspaper has identified only one instance where a payment was disclosed at trial.

The Public Defender's office court filings argue the payments go beyond what's allowed by state law.

Nevada law authorizes a $25 witness fee for court appearances and, in some cases, a per diem for expenses.

Wolfson has said the law allows money collected for restitution to go into a fund for "victims of crime created by the office of the district attorney of the county in which the court is located."

Wolfson contends his office doesn't have to disclose the payments until a case goes to trial; the ACLU of Nevada and the public defender's office disagree.

"Systematic practices violating a defendant's constitutional rights are abhorred by the courts," the motion says.

Tod Story, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, has called on Wolfson to halt the practice, and for the state attorney general to investigate.

Wolfson in a statement said the practice continues, but is under review.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto's office has said questions about a county fund should be addressed in a county audit.

The payments are rare in Clark County considering the district attorney handles an average 65,000 cases a year.

Still, the practice and number of payments were shocking to several private defense attorneys and the public defender's office, which handles about 40 % of the county's criminal cases.

Wolfson was appointed district attorney in February 2012, replacing David Roger, who was district attorney from 2003 until 2012. Roger did not return multiple calls seeking comment on the issue.

The motions in the Cruz-Garcia case are scheduled to be heard Sept. 15.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Judge's ruling means Joshua Packer still faces death penalty in murder case

A judge Friday rejected a defense motion asking that a Ventura man accused of fatally stabbing a Faria Beach couple be allowed to plead guilty in return for a life sentence instead of facing the death penalty.

The Ventura County Public Defender's Office had filed the motion on behalf of Joshua Packer, 24, who is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Packer, 19 at the time, stabbed Brock and Davina Husted on May 20, 2009, in their Faria Beach home. Davina Husted was pregnant with the couple's 3rd child, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The defense motion was filed after a federal court found California's death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Packer, dressed in blue and orange county jail garb with handcuffs and chains around his waist, appeared Friday before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy.

Murphy said the court could not intervene in the prosecution's decision to seek the death penalty.

"The People have a right and have the sole authority and responsibility to pursue the death penalty," Murphy said. "The court has no right to interfere with the exercise of that authority."

In the 36-page motion, Senior Deputy Public Defender Benjamin W. Maserang said Packer continues to offer a guilty plea in return for a life sentence - a deal Packer has sought since 2010 but rejected by the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.

After the U.S. District Court's order declaring the state's death penalty system unconstitutional, Maserang said, pursuing it for Packer would be "wasteful" of the court's time and resources.

The July 16 federal ruling applies only to the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to death in 1995, but could have sweeping effects if upheld on appeal.

(source: Ventura County Star)

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NY Man, Already in Prison for Murdering Son, Now Charged in Wife's Death

A New York man who is already in prison for murdering his son is now facing new murder charges in California for the death of his 1st wife.

Karl Karlsen, 54, who is currently serving 15 years to life at a prison in upstate New York for killing his son Levi Karlsen, was charged today with 1st-degree murder in the 1991 death of his wife, Christina Karlsen, who is also Levi's mother. She died on Jan. 1, 1991 in a fire at their family home in California. Her death had been initially ruled an accident.

Barbara Yook, the district attorney for Calaveras County, charged Karl Karlsen with 1 count of murder during the commission of arson. Yook declined to comment on the case when reached by ABC News today.

Unlike his case in New York state, if convicted in this new case in California, Karlsen could face the death penalty. A court date has yet to be announced.

Levi Karlsen, 23, was crushed to death in 2008 when the truck he was working on slipped off a jack and landed on top of him. His death was initially ruled an accident, but prosecutors later claimed Karl Karlsen killed him so he could collect a $700,000 life insurance payout.

During his trial last year, Karlsen admitted he rigged the jack so the truck would fall on Levi, and pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder in November 2013.

New York authorities started investigating Karlsen after his second wife, Cindy Karlsen, came forward last year and told police of her suspicions of Karlsen's involvement with Levi's death. Authorities in California then opened an investigation into Christina Karlsen's death. That investigation was concluded this week.

Karl Karlsen collected a $200,000 life insurance payout after his 1st wife died, but hadn't been charged in anything related to her death until now.

Christina and Karl Karlsen's daughter Erin told ABC News' "20/20" in a 2013 exclusive interview that she was always suspicious of her father.

"We knew what he had done to our mother, and I knew what he did to my brother," Erin said at the time.

Erin was 6 years old when she, Levi and their sister Katie escaped from the house fire that killed their mother. According to Erin, their father helped his children get outside safely, and then they stood and watched the house burn.

"I didn't understand that my mother was behind that wall dying," Erin told "20/20" at the time, adding that her father "didn't make an effort to save her. He just stood there."

A week after the fire, Karl Karlsen and his three children left California for upstate New York to be near his family, and he eventually remarried.

As they got older, Erin said she and Levi started to wonder if their father had been responsible for their mother's death. However, when they confronted him about it, Erin said, "his biggest concern was that he wondered what the community would think of his own children accusing him of murdering their mother."

(source: ABC news)

USA:

Talks underway to resolve 10-year-old California prison death

In life-or-death trials, as in real estate, a lot comes down to location, location, location.

As federal prosecutors and defense attorneys prepare for the long-awaited trial of a former U.S. Penitentiary Atwater inmate, they're disputing over whether it should be held in Fresno or Sacramento.

The maneuvering over venue precedes the trial against Samuel Richard Stone, charged in the 2003 killing of fellow Atwater inmate Michael Anita. But along with their tussles, defense attorneys and prosecutors could also be nearing common ground on a potential plea deal.

"The parties believe that if the government withdraws death as a penalty option the case could resolve without need for (a scheduled) evidentiary hearing," prosecutors and defense attorneys wrote in a rare joint court filing dated July 10.

A revised death penalty decision, and potential plea agreement, could arrive as early as September, according to court documents.

"A lot of cases result in plea bargains," Richard Dieter, executive director of the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, said in an interview Friday. "Certainly, that can happen."

Defense attorneys could not be reached to comment publicly Friday.

Stone, who was then 24 years old, was already serving a life sentence in 2003 when Atwater authorities placed him in Cell 121 of the prison's Secure Housing Unit. The cell was designed to hold two. Instead, Stone was 1 of 3 convicted murderers sharing the space.

Early on the morning of July 30, 2003, according to court documents, correctional officers responded to an alarm and found Anita on the floor, braided strips of a bed sheet wrapped around his neck. He had been stabbed in the chest. The improvised weapons still embedded in him included a pen and a pencil.

"Prison staff and the FBI recount that Mr. Stone immediately said that he had killed Mr. Anita," defense attorneys noted in an April 2013 legal filing.

Stone is Native American, as was Anita and the 3rd inmate present in the overcrowded cell, and factional prison politics were at the root of the killing, defense attorneys have asserted. Defense attorneys have collected considerable information on the Warrior Society, a Native American prison gang, as well as on incidents of Native American inmate violence.

Though it has largely flown under the radar, the case against Stone has a national cast. Attorney General Eric Holder, advised by a national Justice Department committee, initially authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty. One of the two trial prosecutors, former Army Judge Advocate General Corps officer Richard Burns, works out of Washington, D.C.

Stone’s lead defense attorney, Donald R. Knight, is based in Littleton, Colo. Stone is currently incarcerated at U.S. Penitentiary Victorville in the Southern California desert.

In Washington, the Review Committee on Capital Cases has been quietly considering a lengthy defense request to reconsider the death penalty. The 70-page defense submission includes some 64 exhibits, including videos, and according to a legal filing is "comprised of information that was not available to the parties at the time death was authorized as a penalty in this case."

Trial-level prosecutors have reviewed the material and made their own recommendations. The prosecutors' recommendations remain secret, as do the full review committee's deliberations, but public legal filings suggest some cooperation among prosecutors and defense attorneys.

"The parties have been constantly communicating and acting in good faith with respect to this process," the July 10 joint filing noted. "The parties believe that this effort is important and that it is possible that it will lead to a resolution of the death penalty portion of this case, if not the entire case."

Earlier this year, former Atwater inmate, James Ninete Leon Guerrero, pled guilty to killing correctional officer Jose Rivera in 2008, in exchange for a life sentence. Another inmate charged in Rivera's murder, Joseph Sablan, still faces the potential death penalty if convicted.

If Stone's trial proceeds, prosecutors declared Aug. 20 that they want the trial held in Fresno, noting that Burns' fellow prosecutor Michael Frye, as well as a key FBI special agent work there. Defense attorneys want the trial held in Sacramento, where defense attorney Tivon Schardl and other defense staff work.

(source: Sacramento Bee)

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Violinist's slaying could be a death penalty case ---- U.S. evaluates charges in 'gruesome' crime

There are no murder charges at this point - a Chautauqua County grand jury will decide that later - but the 2 men accused of killing concert violinist Mary E. Whitaker already find themselves facing life in prison and maybe the death penalty.

Jonathan M. Conklin and Charles Sanford are charged with 3 federal crimes at this point, and at least 2 of them carry a maximum penalty of death. The final decision on whether the Whitaker killing becomes a capital case rests with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

"They're charged with a crime of violence," Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch told the court Thursday. And "the crime, the murder, of Miss Whitaker, is quite gruesome."

Lynch outlined the federal charges, including carjacking and use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime, during a bail hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder.

He told Schroeder that Conklin and Sanford have criminal records and are a risk to flee if released from jail. Conklin has four prior felony convictions, he said, and Sanford has a single felony conviction for statutory sexual assault.

"Both of these defendants are homeless," Lynch said. "They have no resources for bail."

Lynch also provided a graphic account of Whitaker's slaying in the Town of Westfield last week, and at one point described the musician as "gurgling in her own blood" when she was allegedly stabbed in the neck by Sanford.

He also told the judge that authorities have videotaped confessions from both men.

The defense attorneys in the case, Mark J. Mahoney and Assistant Federal Public Defender Kimberly A. Schechter, did not oppose the government's request for continued incarceration. "At this point, we are not requesting release," Schechter said.

Schroeder ordered the 2 men held without bail.

Conklin, 43, and Sanford, 30, are accused of killing Whitaker, 61, at her summer home in Westfield.

Whitaker, a concert violinist who performed with the Westchester Philharmonic and on Broadway, spent her summers in Westfield while performing with the Chautauqua Institution Symphony Orchestra.

(source: The Buffalo News)

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Prisoner exonerations are at an all-time high, and it's not because of DNA testing

Early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2006, Joseph Awe was awakened at his home in central Wisconsin by a phone call from a man who told Awe his pub was on fire.

Awe, who lived more than 30 miles away, rushed over to find his business - J.J.'s Pub in Harrisville - gutted by flames. Before firefighters and police officially determined the cause, they decided that Awe, then 36, was the primary suspect. He was charged in April 2007 after investigators concluded arson was the cause of the fire.

A disabled Gulf War veteran, Awe figured this was all a big mistake and would soon be straightened out. After all, he had nothing to hide.

But, according to prosecutors, a $200,000 insurance policy and the fact that the business was losing money were pretty strong motives for charging Awe with arson. Even after Awe was arrested, he was confident the truth would eventually come out in court.

And even when he was convicted and sentenced to 3 years in prison, Awe continued to hold out hope that someone would get to the bottom of this mess.

"I suffered from the delusion that innocent people get to go home," says Awe, who served nearly all three years before being exonerated. "I thought at some point someone would do an investigation. I never gave up hope even after being convicted."

Awe's case was among the 87 exonerations documented in 2013, the highest yearly number ever, according to a February report (PDF) from the National Registry of Exonerations. The registry, the 1st of its kind in the nation, is a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. As of early August, the 2-year-old registry had documented 1,408 cases dating back to 1989.

Since the registry's start, the majority of cases on the list have involved murder and rape. But that's been shifting. The proportion of exonerations in 2013 that did not involve rape or murder was 33 %, up from 18 % in 1989.

Awe's case represents a significant trend that accounts for some of that shift - convictions for which no crimes actually occurred. It turned out that the fire at his pub was electrical, not intentionally set as the original investigators concluded. Of the 87 known exonerations in 2013, 27 were cases in which no crimes had taken place. Almost half of the no-crime exonerations were for nonviolent-crime charges, mostly drug convictions.

Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, editor and co-founder of the registry, says the exonerations listed in the registry represent just a fraction of the real number because most go unreported and do not garner media attention. Gross and his colleagues rely heavily on news articles to find out about exonerations, but have often been limited to finding only high-profile cases such as murder and rape. "What we don't know," he says, "far exceeds what we do know."

The use of DNA to both clear and implicate suspects prompted much of the early media attention on wrongful convictions. But exonerations due to DNA evidence have been on the decline for much of the past decade. According to the registry, the number of exonerations in which DNA played any role dropped from 23 in 2005 to 20 in 2012 and 18 in 2013.

One of the reasons for the decline is that many of the cases in which DNA testing was available to clear the wrongfully convicted have played out. DNA testing is now routine, and it often clears suspects long before trial.

Many of the defendants convicted when DNA testing was either not routine or nonexistent are losing hope for exoneration through DNA evidence because the evidence collected in their cases may no longer be available for testing.

"You have a certain number of cases in which DNA testing was never done or was not available, and a lot of those have been worked through - they've been sized up by an innocence project or someone who has requested DNA testing," says Nick Vilbas, executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas.

The downward trend in DNA cases holds true for Texas and many other states that have innocence projects. "Once word got around that DNA was exonerating people, a lot of people started asking for DNA testing and a lot of those cases have been worked through," Vilbas says. "That doesn't mean it's the end of DNA exonerations. We still have several DNA cases in the process right now. But they are not the bulk of our work anymore right now."

It's the same thing in California. "Most of our cases are non-DNA," says Justin Brooks, a professor at California Western School of Law and project director of the California Innocence Project. "There have not been many in California in the past 15 years."

Brooks describes the early DNA cases as "low-hanging fruit," many involving cases in which rape kits could provide evidence to help exonerate those convicted when DNA testing became more prevalent.

The bulk of the work for innocence projects like the one in California is on cases involving false confessions, discredited scientific evidence and unreliable witnesses, along with other factors, including prosecutorial misconduct. One of the benefits of the registry is that it offers insights into how people were wrongfully convicted and where the system failed, which can be useful in bringing about legislative and judicial reforms.

"It shines the light on the entire criminal justice system," Brooks says. "If we're making mistakes in the biggest kinds of cases, such as death penalty cases, what does that say about lower-level crimes?"

Awe's case, for example, brought to light the use of questionable expert witnesses who reached scientific conclusions later found to be unreliable. In addition, it turned out that the arson experts who testified for the prosecution were hired by the insurance company, which had a stake in the outcome. The experts claimed there was no other possible cause for the fire, so it must have been intentionally set. Awe testified in his own defense and explained that the 130-year-old building had extensive electrical problems.

After he was convicted, Awe came to realize he was going to prison. "I was as prepared as I could be," he says. "You have to keep to yourself. I kept my mouth shut and didn't say nothing to no one."

In 2011, the Wisconsin State Journal published articles questioning the neutrality of the hired experts and presented opinions of independent fire experts who concluded that electrical problems caused the fire. Awe filed a motion for a new trial, which was granted in March 2013, and prosecutors dismissed the charge in April.

The judge who overturned the conviction cited the misuse of "negative corpus" - the idea that because investigators could not determine whether the fire was accidental or natural, it must have been intentional. After Awe's conviction, the National Fire Protection Association updated its guide to say negative corpus should not be used to conclude a fire was intentionally set.

Stephen J. Meyer of Madison, Wisconsin, who represented Awe during his appeal, says the case raised red flags all around. "I knew about this case and I knew he had been screwed," Meyer says. "Joe was as patient as could be. I knew I was looking at a guy who was innocent."

Meyer consulted his own experts, including a former fire marshal. He learned that the insurance investigators were allowed to walk through the property at the same time as local fire investigators. "They're never supposed to let insurance investigators in there until they're done," Meyer says.

Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, says by documenting such cases, the registry can help support reforms to prevent similar problems in the future. "We need to quantify the data to support the reform movement," he says.

For example, in an attempt to curb psychologically coerced confessions, the center advocated for laws requiring police to record interrogations as well as confessions. By shedding light on what happens before a person confesses, the veracity of such confessions can be scrutinized.

In 2003, Illinois began requiring police to record more homicide interrogations, and last year it expanded the law to include other felonies to help prevent false confessions and wrongful convictions.

While confessions by torture receive widespread publicity, mostly because of the cases involving former Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge, they are the exception. "Most people are shocked at the number of confessions that are psychologically coerced," Warden says.

Other reform measures address police lineup procedures to prevent wrongful identifications by recording those sessions as well. "One phenomenon we've seen is that a victim or a witness might make a tentative ID of someone and police record that they made a positive ID. We've seen a lot of instances where the police officer comes to court and says this person made an ID and it was very positive."

Like his colleagues, Warden doesn't believe police intend to frame people or convict the innocent. When they believe someone is guilty, they simply "tweak" the evidence in their favor, thinking they are doing good.

Police may have thought they were doing good when they arrested Nicole Harris of Chicago on charges she killed her 4-year-old son, Jaquari, in 2005.

Harris' boyfriend found Jaquari in a bedroom asphyxiated by an elastic band from a fitted bedsheet wrapped around his neck. Police were suspicious and questioned Harris over a period of 27 hours. She later said that the officers threatened her, pushed her, called her names, and denied her food, water and use of the bathroom.

Worn out and afraid, Harris gave a videotaped confession saying she strangled the boy with the elastic band because he would not stop crying after she disciplined him for leaving the apartment. She was charged with first-degree murder and tried in October 2005.

Police questioned Jaquari's 6-year-old brother, Diante, about what happened. The boy said that his brother liked to pretend he was Spiderman by wrapping the sheet's elastic band around his neck and jumping off the bed. The jury never heard this story because the judge found that Diante was incompetent to testify. The jury convicted Harris and she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

She wrote a letter to the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions. Thanks to help from Northwestern lawyers and the law firm of Jenner & Block, which offered pro bono services, Harris was exonerated 8 years later when it came to light that police coerced her into confessing and Diante saw his little brother wrap the band around his neck while playing.

How can the registry help someone like Harris? "That's a question we ask ourselves all the time," says Alison Flaum, one of her lawyers from Northwestern. "We are always thinking about systemic reform and how these cases can be prevented from happening again."

Police had already made up their minds, Flaum says. "This was a case of investigator tunnel vision. They interrogated her with the goal of getting a confession," she says. "They extracted a confession from a grieving mother."

And that worked in their favor. She was vulnerable and not herself. She had collapsed in the hospital upon hearing her son had died. Another factor that worked against her was that the medical examiner's office, which initially concluded Jaquari's death was accidental, changed the ruling to homicide after learning of the confession. "A lot of people might not realize this, but the medical examiner is part of the investigation. They are not objective scientists in a white coat," Flaum says. "They are part of the prosecution package."

Once again, it was a case in which people might think: If she confessed, she must have done it. Why would anyone confess to a crime they didn't commit? "Sometimes they confess because they think because they're innocent that it will all get straightened out later," Flaum says. "Innocence can work against an innocent person that way. People trust you are telling the truth if you confess."

The truth finally came out in pub owner Awe's case, and he was released just 2 months before his 3-year sentence was to expire. While he felt joy in his exoneration, there are scars and aftereffects. Awe has trouble sleeping and says he has psychological problems. "It's not easy getting out," he says. "I'm probably not the same person I was."

Prison left him edgy, nervous, on the defensive. "I can't sleep next to my wife," he says. "When you're in prison, you're terrified that someone will get you when you're asleep."

He spends his time fishing, hunting and visiting with his grandchildren. "I have 3 years to make up for," he says. "I would hate for anyone to go through what I have gone through."

Yet the numbers show that others are indeed going through it, as lawyers find more innocent people behind bars. For the first 3 months of 2014, exonerations were already occurring at a faster rate than the previous year, and the registry added 24 cases. "It's a strikingly fast rate," Gross says.

(source: ABA Journal)

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

Men Charged in Musician's Death Appear in Federal Court

Jonathan Conklin and Charles Sanford appeared in federal court in Buffalo this morning, wearing black and gray stripped prisoner jumpsuits.

The 2 men face the possibility of the death penalty in this federal case, although the ultimate decision is with a federal grand jury and the U.S. Attorney General.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Shroeder, Jr. ordered both held without bail.

The 2 men face a number of charges, 2 of which are directly related to the murder of Mary Whitaker.

Whitaker, a violinist, was shot to death at her Westfield, Chautauqua County home on August 20th during a robbery attempt.

The criminal complaint charges Conklin and Sanford with carjacking Whitaker's car and using a firearm to allegedly commit that crime.

Both charges carry a maximum of life behind bars, but the federal death penalty is possible.

Whitaker answered the door, according to prosecutors, and Sanford asked to use her telephone saying he was having car trouble.

Conklin then allegedly ambushed her, shooting her twice.

Sanford then stabbed Whitaker in the throat, prosecutors said.

Both defense lawyers asked for a preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for September 9 at 10 a.m.

State murder charges are being pursued in Chautauqua County where a grand jury is already hearing evidence.

(source: WKBW news)

ZIMBABWE:

Let's revisit death penalty now

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa's declaration that he will never sign death warrants for 97 murder convicts on death row stirred controversy and mixed feelings among Zimbabweans.

The new national constitution upholds that men, excluding women, can be subjected to the hangman's noose when found guilty of committing murder. Cde Mnangagwa argues that it is unfair and obviously inhuman as it amounts to gross human rights abuse. Humanity is ruled supreme by inviolability and sanctity of human life.

The minister's position clearly suggests that the latest constitution should be amended to scrap-off the clause on capital punishment. The death penalty is a type of capital punishment in which the accused is put to death as punishment for the crime he/she committed. The death sentence is a judicial decree in which the accused is sentenced to death. The capital punishment is awarded for those crimes that are considered capital crimes such as murder, terrorism, and other severe crimes.

The capital punishment or death penalty was practiced more often in the societies in the past, but due to changing times, most of nations have abolished this form of punishment. Contemporary human rights activists are against this type of punishment. Death penalty is a controversial matter and arguments are available in support and against this type of capital punishment.

Advocates for this punishment fell that it shows that the justice system has no sympathy for the criminals, and they should be wiped out to ensure that they do not exist to commit similar crimes again in society. It is the only way to ensure 100% that the offender will not commit more crimes. There is likelihood that when criminals escape from the capital punishment, they repeat their crimes and take more innocent lives.

The death penalty can address the problem of overpopulation in the prisons as well as saving millions of dollars which are used for up-keeping criminals. Such funds will be deployed for other critical national developments like infrastructural development.

When a perpetrator of murder is executed, it gives closure to the families of the victims who have already suffered a lot. There is a feeling of compensation which may appeal to their tormented souls.

The most regrettable disadvantages of capital punishment is that there is no way to rescind the sentence if the offender is later found innocent. Despite that there are scientific methods available to investigate crimes, nothing is guaranteed. You cannot remove the chances of punishing innocents completely.

The cost involved on the death penalty prosecution can be greater than the expenses occurred in the life imprisonment of the accused. The appeals against such capital punishments take too long to decide, and often it takes years to decide the fate of the death penalty. All these things make the death penalty an expensive option for the governments that spend millions of the dollars of the taxpayer's money on death penalty prosecutions.

Some sections of society have argued that some of the jury / judiciary members are not completely impartial as they decide the penalty on racial or religious basis thereby, prejudicing the founding values of justice.

At times some of the accused are mentally ill, and it is ethically wrong to put mentally ill patients to death.

In most cases people who can afford to hire the most competent lawyers, who are in most cases very expensive often survive from such kind of capital punishment. On the contrary, people who are poor, and cannot afford to get quality legal assistance become victims of this penalty. Therefore, the poor will perish while the rich go scot-free.

Imposition of death penalty can cause emotional distress for family members of the offenders. It erodes the moral high ground on which greater society is claimed to sit.

(source: Suitable Kajau, bulawayo24.com)

IRAN----executions

The Execution Wave Continues In Iran: 25 Executions in the Last 5 Days

According to the official Iranian sources 9 people have been executed in different Iranian prisons during the last few days. These executions are in addition to the 2 public executions which were reported on Sunday.

The official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Hamedan (Western Iran) reported about the execution of 4 prisoners in the prison of Hamedan. 3 of the prisoners, who were not identified by name, were charged with drug trafficking, while 1 prisoner identified as "M.S." was convicted of murder, said the report. The executions were reported on Monday August 25.

1 prisoner identified as "M. Ganji" was hanged in the prison of Qazvin (west of Tehran) on Monday August 25, reported the Judiciary of Qazvin province. The prisoner was convicted of a murder in 1995 said the report.

The website of the Judiciary in Gilan province (Northern Iran) reported about the execution of 2 prisoners on Saturday August 23. The prisoners who both were convicted of murder, were identified as "M.P." (42) and "M.H." (38). The executions took place inside the prison of Rasht, said the report.

The daily newspaper Khorasan reported on Tuesday August 26. about execution of one prisoner in the prison of Mashhad (North-Eastern Iran). The prisoner who was not identified by name was convicted of murder according to the report.

A prisoner was hanged in the prison of Sarab (Northwestern Iran) reported Dana news agency. He was identified as "Dariush" and was convicted of a murder he allegedly committed 8 years ago, said the report.

In addition to the above mentioned executions, which have been reported by the official Iranian sources, at least 16 other prisoners have been executed during the last 4 days according to unofficial sources. These executions have taken place in the prisons of Kerman, Kermanshah, Bandar Abbas, Saqez and Zahedan.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

EGYPT----2 new death sentences

Egypt hands out death sentences to 2 more Morsi supporters

An Egyptian court has sentenced 2 supporters of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to death after they were found guilty in several cases relating to violence that erupted after the former President's removal last year.

The upper Egypt Minya court also handed down sentences of 1 year to life term to 43 others, including a minor yesterday while acquitting 28 Muslim Brotherhood supporters, state-news agency MENA reported.

The same court previously sentenced 529 to death, later upholding the penalty for 37 defendants, and sentenced 492 others to life in prison. One month later, it handed down death penalty to 683 defendants, later confirming 183 of them, Al Ahram online reported.

Since Islamist ex-president Morsi's ouster last year, the Egyptian government had been cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. Many Muslim Brotherhood supporters including party's top brass are facing trials .

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected President who was ousted by the army in July 2013 amid nationwide protests against his year-long rule, is currently in prison over charges of killing peaceful protesters, espionage, escaping from prison during the January 25 Revolution in 2011, and insulting the jurisdiction.

Recently, Morsi was detained for smuggling top secret documents to Qatar via Al-Jazeera TV Channel during his rule.

So far, he has not been sentenced in any case.

(source: firstpost.com)

PAKISTAN----new death sentence

Man gets death

An additional district and sessions judge awarded death penalty to a convict involved in a murder case.

The judge awarded death sentence to convict Kashif Arshad, who on January 21, 2014 had gunned down Muhammad Ashraf over a monetary issue.

The judge also imposed fine of Rs 200,000 and in case of non-payment, the convict will undergo for 6 months imprisonment.

Gawalmandi police registered a case against the convict under section 302 and submitted challan before the court declaring him guilty.

(source: The News)

CHINA:

3 admit to murder of prominent Tibetan religious leader in China: lawyer

Tibetans in China have pleaded guilty to involvement in the death of a prominent religious leader and 2 other people, a lawyer representing the victims' families said on Friday, in Tibet's most closely watched murder case in decades.

Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche was among the first religious leaders to teach Tibetan Buddhism to followers in the West. He was killed in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu with his nephew and another Tibetan last October.

They were stabbed to death by three Tibetan men over a financial dispute, Chengdu police said.

"They have admitted to the basic facts of the court's allegations," lawyer Xiang Chaoyang said of the 3 defendants.

Xiang, who is representing the families of the 3 victims, said the 3 defendants had disagreed with the court on the nature of the crime.

"They mainly wanted to say it wasn't intentional," he said.

The defendants' lawyer was not available for comment and telephone calls to the Chengdu court went unanswered.

Akong Rinpoche, who lived in exile in Scotland and became a British citizen, was one of the few Tibetan religious leaders who succeeded at balancing the interests of the Chinese government and Tibetans.

He was especially revered by Tibetans in China for his work with charities and in promoting education at the grassroots level, said Robbie Barnett, director of modern Tibet studies at Columbia University.

"Among exiles and many others, this is a major case because of the widespread assumption that there must have been a religious or political plot of some kind behind the murders," Barnett said.

"So people will be watching carefully to see if there's been a thorough investigation and a reasonably open trial."

DISTRUST

The questions surrounding Akong Rinpoche's death underscore the distrust that many Tibetans have of the Chinese government.

Many Tibetans have protested against Chinese rule in their homeland, which has been ruled by Beijing since 1950, when Communist troops marched in and announced its "peaceful liberation".

Xiang said that the two-day trial, which ended on Thursday, was public and the defendants' lawyer did not dispute the written testimony that was provided during the trial. He said the verdict would come later.

Xiang said the three defendants had argued that the stabbing occurred in a clash with Akong Rinpoche because they had demanded payment for work they had done.

2 of the defendants were changed with intentional homicide and they had admitted to stabbing Akong Rinpoche, Xiang said. The 3rd pleaded guilty to a charge of "shielding and covering up", he said.

If convicted, the first 2 could both face the death penalty, Xiang said. The 3rd faces up to 3 years in prison.

After Akong Rinpoche's death, Chinese authorities had warned people in regions where Tibetans live not to discuss the case, said Tsering Woeser, a prominent Tibetan writer.

"Perhaps it is the fear that this could spark something else," Woeser said. "But now we don't know anything and we would very much like to know the truth."

The British embassy in Beijing said a consular official attended the trial.

(source: Reuters)

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

Former N China deputy mayor given death penalty with reprieve

A former deputy mayor of Hohhot, capital of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, was sentenced to death with a 2-year reprieve over charges of malpractice and corruption on Friday.

The Baotou Municipal Intermediate People's Court on Friday heard the case of Bo Liangen, who was accused of taking bribes of 38.97 million yuan (6.34 million U.S. dollars), 90,000 U.S. dollars and 5,000 euros, as well as taking advantage of his positions in multiple cities in the autonomous region.

He was also deprived of political rights for life with all property confiscated, according to the court.

Bo caused huge losses of more than 84.17 million yuan to the country due to his crimes, the court said.

Bo appealed in court.

(source: Xinhua)

VIETNAM:

Philippine Man Sentenced to Death in Vietnam

State media say a court in Hanoi has sentenced a Philippine man to death for cocaine trafficking.

The Law and Society newspaper says that Emmanuel Sillo Camacho, 39, was convicted of trafficking 3.4 kilograms (7.5 pounds) of cocaine from Brazil to Vietnam at a 1-day trial Thursday.

Camacho was arrested in December last year when officials at Hanoi's Noi Bai international airport found the drugs in his luggage.

The newspaper quoted Camacho as telling the court that he transported the drug for a Philippine woman living in Brazil after she promised to find him a job with monthly salary of up to $1,500 in the South American country.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws, where trafficking 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of heroin is punishable by death.

(source: Associated Press)

JAPAN----executions

Japan hangs 2 death-row inmates, 10th, 11th executions under Abe gov't

Japan hanged 2 death-row inmates Friday, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said, the 10th and 11th executions since the December 2012 launch of the government headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The 2 were Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, who was convicted of killing 5 people in a 2001 attack on an office of moneylender Takefuji Corp., and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, a former gangster convicted of killing 3.

Tanigaki told a press conference that a justice minister needs to abide by the law, and Japan maintains the death penalty, in answer to a question about the U.N. Commission on Human Rights which urged Japan in July to review its capital punishment system.

Asked why he issued the execution order only a few days before a Cabinet reshuffle scheduled for next Wednesday, Tanigaki said he is required to perform his duties as justice minister.

He has previously stated that the public supports capital punishment and there is no need to review the death penalty system.

The number of death-row inmates executed under Tanigaki is now the 2nd most under the orders of a single justice minister since 1993 when Japan resumed executions. 13 were hanged under orders from Kunio Hatoyama, the justice minister from 2007 to 2008.

Kobayashi, a former taxi driver executed at the Sendai detention house in northeastern Japan, was sentenced to death for robbery and murder after setting fire to a Takefuji office in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, in May 2001 when his demand for a loan was rejected.

Takefuji later went under in 2010 and its moneylending business was taken over by Nihon Hoshou Co.

The Aomori District Court sentenced Kobayashi to death in February 2003, a ruling upheld by the Sendai High Court in February 2004 and by the Supreme Court in March 2007.

Kobayashi, who denied any intention to kill, filed pleas for a retrial 3 times seeking the application of robbery resulting in death, not murder, but his pleas were rejected. His conviction stood as of Aug. 6 this year.

Takamizawa, who was executed at the Tokyo detention house, was sentenced to death for murdering the head of a rival gang in Annaka, Gunma Prefecture, and two others between 2001 and 2005.

In October 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Takamizawa, who was head of a gang affiliated with Japan's biggest yakuza group, the Yamaguchi-gumi.

Anti-death penalty organizations, such as Amnesty International Japan, criticized the executions, saying the Justice Ministry hanged the 2 death-row inmates ahead of the planned Cabinet reshuffle next week.

Hideki Wakabayashi, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan, told a news conference the timing could indicate the ministry was motivated to execute the 2 men ahead of the possible replacement of Tanigaki as justice minister next week.

Another group which seeks Japan's ratification of an international pact on the abolition of the death penalty, said the 2 executed men were considering seeking retrials and the Justice Ministry deprived them of their right to seek a retrial.

(source: Kyodo News International)

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

Japanese mobster, killer arsonist hung

Japan executed a mobster and a killer arsonist today, bringing to 11 the total number of death sentences carried out since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012.

The executions came days before Abe is expected to reshuffle his cabinet amid speculation that he will appoint a new justice minister, whose approval is needed for any sentence to be carried out.

"I ordered the executions after prudent consideration," Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters.

The executed men were both multiple killers.

Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59, a gang boss in the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest yakuza grouping, was convicted of shooting 3 people dead between 2001 and 2005, the justice ministry said.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, a 56-year-old former taxi driver, was convicted of killing 5 people and seriously injuring 4 others in 2001 by setting fire to a consumer loan office, in Aomori, northern Japan.

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major industrialised democracy to use capital punishment.

Surveys have shown the death penalty has overwhelming public support, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

Tokyo did not execute anyone in 2011, the 1st full year in nearly 2 decades without an execution amid muted debate on the rights and wrongs of the practice.

But in March 2012 it abruptly resumed its use of capital punishment, dispatching 3 multiple murderers.

International advocacy groups say Japan's system is cruel because inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.

There have been a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice exposed in recent years, including the case of Iwao Hakamada, who was released from jail in March, aged 78, after decades on death row for a multiple murder he did not commit.

Hakamada, who was believed to be the world's longest-serving death row inmate, was the victim of a flawed investigation in which evidence was fabricated.

Japan now has 125 inmates on death row, according to local media.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

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

Secret execution as authorities ignore calls for reform----Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged in Japan early on Friday morning

The execution of 2 men in Japan on Friday flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.

Mitsuhiro Kobayashi, 56, and Tsutomu Takamizawa, 59 were hanged early on Friday morning. Kobayashi was executed at Sendai detention centre and Takamizawa at Tokyo detention centre. Both had been convicted of murder.

"It is chilling that the Japanese authorities continue to send people to the gallows despite serious questions over the use of the death penalty in the country," said Hiroka Shoji, East Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

A lack of adequate legal safeguards for people facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized. This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel from the time of arrest, a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases and detention in prolonged solitary confinement.

Several prisoners suffering from mental illness are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

"This state-sanctioned killing is the ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment. The government should halt all future executions as a 1st step towards abolition," said Hiroka Shoji.

The latest executions bring the total executed in Japan in 2014 to 3. Since Prime Minister Abe's government took office in December 2012 11 people have now been hanged, whilst a total of 127 people remain on death row.

"Human rights are being side-lined under Prime Minister Abe's government. The past 2 years has been marked by a series of regressive steps, including the refusal to act on UN bodies' calls to address human rights violations," said Hiroka Shoji.

Serious flaws over the use of the death penalty in Japan were underlined in March, when a court ordered the temporary release of Hakamada Iwao, who spent more than four decades on death row after an unfair trial.

Prosecutors have appealed the decision to grant Hakamada a retrial, despite the court stating that the police were likely to have fabricated evidence.

Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours' notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

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 and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty International)

AFRICA:

What Is The Future Of The Death Penalty In Africa?

"Everyone, including the most abominable of human beings, has a right to life, and capital punishment is therefore unconstitutional.... Retribution cannot be accorded the same weight under our Constitution as the right to life and dignity. It has not been shown that the death sentence would be materially more effective to deter or prevent murder than the alternative sentence of life imprisonment would be," so reads the Makwanyane judgment, one of the first delivered by the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1995.

This decision was widely heralded, as the death penalty held a special place in the apartheid justice system, its racial misuse and overtones a sharp reminder of racial minority rule.

Thanks to Zimbabwean Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, the death penalty debate has been reignited amongst SADC countries. At the opening of the SADC Lawyers Annual Meeting in Zimbabwe, the Minister stated that while the constitution allows for the death penalty, he personally finds it unfair.

If this were merely the opinion of any government minister it would, perhaps, not have made much news. However, legally, all executions in the country require his personal signature. As such, Mnangagwa has refused to sign the "death warrants" of 97 individuals who were sentenced to death by Zimbabwean courts.

The Minister's comments come at an important time for the death penalty debate in Zimbabwe, with many of the lawyers who were present at the conference playing leading roles lobbying for change in the law.

According to former Law Society of Zimbabwe President Josphat Tsuma, under the new constitution the death penalty "...can only be imposed under aggravating circumstances, but there is no provision that explains what the aggravating circumstances are." This ambiguity is ripe for exploitation at the hands of the government and court system.

As Zimbabwean lawyers look to change their death penalty regime and may have found an ally in Mnangagwa, the trend across the continent is difficult to discern. While some countries are moving towards full abolition, others are embracing the penalty at greater numbers than ever before.

According to Amnesty International 19 African countries handed out a total of 423 death sentences during 2013, a small reduction from the 449 in 2012 but a major increase from the 254 in 2011. Of these 19 countries only 5 actually carried out executions, 64 in total. Despite the reduction in death sentences from 2012, there was an increase by more than half from 2012 when 41 were carried out.

Amnesty further identified Benin, Comoros, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone as domestically taking concrete steps and legislative review processes that could result in permanent abolition. Additionally, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo all moved towards accepting international legal regimes that ban the death penalty.

While concrete steps were not present in Tanzania, joining Zimbabwe's Justice Minister in decrying the practice was the country's Minister of Justice and Constitution Affairs. Minister Mathias Chikawe told an Ethiopian television program that "A punishment is meant to reform a criminal. The death penalty does not reform anyone let alone deter crime as those convicted to die do not get time to contemplate."

While several countries took steps towards abolition of the death penalty, the continent's executions were largely due to 2 countries.

According to Amnesty, Sudan and Somalia were collectively responsible for 86%, or 55, of the continent's 64 total executions. Somalia is more than single handedly responsible for the continental increase from a year ago, carrying out 6 in 2012 compared to 34 in 2013. Sudan made less of a jump, up to 21 in 2013 from 19 in 2012.

The other 3 countries that executed individuals in 2012 were South Sudan and Nigeria with 4 executions each and Botswana with 1.

While Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia have not given abolitionists much to grasp onto, Nigeria and Botswana have made some steps forward.

Nigeria terrified advocates by resuming executions for the first time in 7 years in 2013. However, the country's capital punishment was challenged in the Economic Community of West Africa's Regional Court.

The Court determined that capital punishment was prohibited in ECOWAS states and ordered against any further executions. Nigerian Attorney General Mohammed Bello Adoke stated that the country will respect the order but "will take a position as to whether to remove it or not from our statute books after due consultations with the broad spectrum of Nigerian populace."

Botswana took a less comprehensive step, rejecting calls to end the death penalty but opening up broad citizen consultations on the practice, a significant move for a country whose death penalty practices are notorious for their secrecy.

Since the landmark case in South Africa, use of the death penalty worldwide has sharply declined, going from 37 countries carrying out executions in 1994 to 22 in 2013. This trend across the African continent is less linear.

In 2013, of the 54 member states of the African Union, only 19 still hand out death penalties and, of those, only 5 conducted executions, 1 of which has since ceased the practice.

A significant debate about the practice has erupted across the continent and prominent politicos have called for its abolition. Only time will tell where this debate leads, but already the practice is isolated to a few states and greater abolition will only further the isolation.

(source: Andrew Friedman is a human rights attorney and freelance consultant who works and writes on legal reform and constitutional law with an emphasis on Africa; afkinsider.com)

AUGUST 28, 2014:

COLORADO:

Hickenlooper should do the right thing in death penalty flap after making the right call on Dunlap execution ---- Hickenlooper should draw on the courage he needed to make this decision last year to fight the good fight against capital punishment during the current election battle, even if being on the right side of this issue just may not be the right thing to do to win a 2nd term

You don't have to be a political consultant to see where Gov. John Hickenlooper's controversial death penalty decision last year was going to resurface.

It's back, and it's important to the election and Colorado's future.

This week, news leaked out that CNN is going to release an interview with Hickenlooper. Part of that interview covers his decision on May 2013 to set aside the imminent death sentence of convicted Aurora Chuck E. Cheeses murderer Nathan Dunlap. Since Hickenlooper's now running for re-election to his 2nd term, his political foes have jumped at the chance to try and gain ground from the issue. It's been a ticking political bomb since he took the high road on Colorado's flailing death penalty, explaining, albeit clumsily, what most of the rest of the world already knows:

-- The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. This has been substantiated in numerous studies numerous times. Murder is almost always the result of severe psychological illness, drugs, alcohol or passion. None of those causes are affected by executions or any other laws.

-- The death penalty is not equally or fairly applied in Colorado, or anywhere in the country. Murder for murder, it is a far greater percentage of poor minorities who are handed the death penalty than richer, whiter murderers. And in Colorado, every person on death row got there from an Arapahoe County court, even though murder cases arise across the state. Had Dunlap committed his sadistic crime anywhere but in Aurora, he would have been given life without parole.

-- The death penalty is obscenely expensive. A recent study of the death penalty in Maryland shows that it costs about $3 million to bring a death penalty convict to the death chamber. The same capital case without the threat of death penalty costs about $1 million, according to the study. Death penalty states have spent billions of dollars on capital punishment systems since they were re-authorized in 1978.

-- Even for those who have no qualms about killing people back for their crimes, the death penalty is ineffective because it simply takes so long to invoke. Not long ago, the average death sentence was 28 years, now down to about 18 years. A full 25 % of capital punishment cases still die of natural causes before they make it to the death chamber. Dunlap killed 4 employees of the Aurora Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1993. It took 20 years to pull a date for his execution last year.

These are just some of the arguments that have prompted 18 states to end death sentences, and many others have stopped the practice defacto by using postponements.

Hickenlooper took a gamble last year that state lawmakers or others might strike Colorado's death penalty, making his "temporary" reprieve for Dunlap a moot case. That didn't happen, and now Hickenlooper is ripe for a political flogging because he's on the right side of doing the right thing. Of course the governor would grant Dunlap clemency on his way out if he's not re-elected, or he would do it in 4 years at the end of a 2nd term, if Colorado doesn't end the death penalty first.

His only mistake was to not force the issue into the political arena so voters can learn that the emotional decision to keep Colorado's death penalty fails under the weight of the logical and practical arguments to end it. It is indisputable that the death penalty is nothing more than revenge killing, something beneath 18 states and almost all of the civilized nations. Hickenlooper should draw on the courage he needed to make this decision last year to fight the good fight against capital punishment during the current election battle, even if being on the right side of this issue just may not be the right thing to do to win a 2nd term.

(source: Editorial, Aurora Sentinel)

BAHAMAS:

'Mother' Pratt Calls For Draconian Measures To Curb Violence

Urban Renewal Co-chair Cynthia "Mother" Pratt said yesterday that the government needs to pass "draconian laws" in order to effectively combat the incidents of violent crime and murder that plague the country.

Mrs Pratt, who served as minister of national security in the first Christie administration, said that with the number of murders steadily mounting the government has no choice but to introduce harsher laws to curb the violence.

However, Mrs Pratt also rejected assertions that Urban Renewal, the government's highly touted social intervention plan, has failed. She said crime would be much worse if the programme was not around.

"Some things take Draconian measures," she told The Tribune on the sidelines of an Urban Renewal Commission Back to School event. "Your people will cry out. They'll cry out when the murders increase. When you take Draconian measures they'll cry out again, but you have to do what you have to do if it's to bring safety to all of us."

However, Mrs Pratt did not elaborate on the stiff measures that she thinks needs to be introduced.

(Draco was the 1st legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece in the 7th century BC. He replaced the prevailing system of oral law and blood feud by a written code to be enforced only by a court. His laws demanded a very strict code of conduct and unusually severe or cruel forms of punishment - death included - for both trivial and serious crimes. Since then, the term "Draconian" has been used to describe repressive legal measures).

"Capital punishment is still an applicable punishment for murder in the Bahamas, however, no one has been executed since January 6, 2000 when David Mitchell was hanged.

"The London-based Privy Council declared in 2006 that the country's mandatory death penalty upon a murder conviction was unconstitutional, prompting the government to specify in 2011 which categories of murders are "the worst of the worst" and therefore warrant the sentence of death.

"Crown prosecutors last year sought the death penalty for 6 men in 4 separate murder cases.

"Last year, Kofhe Goodman was sentenced to death for the murder of 11-year-old Marco Archer.

"I know the prime minister wants to do a number of things, but his hands are tied," Mrs Pratt added. "I don't want to discuss the political side in it because he has to go through many things to get some things changed, but I know he would like very much to put down some Draconian measures."

"Mrs Pratt also said that Urban Renewal is still an effective way to combat crime going forward, and dismissed the notion that the organisation's efforts are "dwarfed" or "counterproductive".

"The question is: 'What if Urban Renewal wasn't here?'" she asked. "If we don't do this, stop and think how much more crime we would have. The thousand that are in the band, those that we are helping off the streets right now, what would happen to them? Where would they be? So we have to look at what we are doing to prevent them from becoming criminals, because if we had these things before, we might not have been to this point.

"Many of those men who are criminals today were little boys. Now today, we're talking about preventing these ones from becoming worse, because they are coming up. If they live in a house with a criminally-minded big brother, he's going to feed it into them, and you'll have another generation. So that's what we need to talk about."

Up to press time, the country had recorded 84 murders for the year, according to The Tribune's records.

(source: The Tribune)

CHINA:

Chinese prosecutors call for death penalty in Aichi politician's drug trial

Prosecutors in the trial of a 70-year-old Japanese politician accused of attempting to smuggle illegal drugs out of China called for the death penalty to be considered as an option for sentencing if he is convicted.

Takuma Sakuragi, a member of the Inazawa Municipal Assembly in Aichi Prefecture, could also receive life imprisonment or a 15-year prison term. He has been on trial at the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court in Guangzhou since Tuesday.

Sakuragi was taken into custody on Oct. 31 last year after about 3.3 kg of methamphetamine were found in his suitcase during a baggage check at Guangzhou's Baiyun airport on his way back to Japan via Shanghai.

His lawyer told reporters Wednesday there is "not even one objective piece of evidence" to suggest that the politician knew about the stimulant drugs in his suitcase that led to his arrest.

He had traveled to Guangzhou, the capital and the largest city in Guangdong Province, on business for a trading company he owns.

(source: Japan Times)

NORWAY:

1948: Ragnar Skancke, the last executed in Norway

On this date in 1948 at stately Akershus Fortress, a firing squad carried out the last execution in Norwegian history - that of Ragnar Skancke.

Skancke was an electrical engineer in academia, and the very first posts he held in his political life were the ministries that Vidkun Quisling named him to in the wartime Third Reich client government. That doesn't exactly mean the man was apolitical; he had joined Quisling's Nasjonal Samling fascist movement in 1933.

As Minister for Church and Educational Affairs for most of the war years, Skancke got to do things like purge books in service of a fascist-friendly curriculum, and maneuver Norway's reluctant Lutheran clergy into better compliance with the new order.

Since he was just an academic, and in matters of state an administrator outside the security apparatus - not a guy ordering executions or deploying the paramilitaries - Skancke wasn't really expected to draw the severest punishment at the postwar trials of collaborators. Skancke himself shared this view, and mounted a slight and indifferent defense that he would come to regret when he heard the shock sentence.

A 2-year appeals process would explore in numbing (literally so, for Skancke) detail the precise legal stature of Norway's 1940 capitulation to the invading Germans, and whether or not that document cast the pall of treason over further collaboration with the Nazis. In fine, the government and the king fled the country and delegated a general to make the knuckling-under arrangements recognizing German victory, but simultaneously averred that Norway as a state - meaning its exiled remnants - remained at war with Germany. All well and good for the so-called "London Cabinet" strolling gardens in Buckingham Palace, but what's that supposed to mean for the Norwegians still in Norway? As a minister, Skancke's collaboration was considerable in degree; the question remained, was it treasonable in kind? The reader may discern the answer given by courts, but the conduct of the purge trials as a whole has remained a going controversy long after the last gavel fell.

As public distaste for the death penalty in general was also mounting, and the entire legal apparatus by which Norway conducted its postwar purges came under some scrutiny - among other things, Norway's "capitulated" government had specifically reintroduced the already-abolished death penalty from exile with a view to these proceedings - Skancke's increasingly frantic appeals were mirrored by a public campaign for clemency among the clergy that he had so recently pushed around.

Norway fully abolished the death penalty in 1979 and today registers consistently overwhelming public opposition to its reintroduction.

(source: executedtoday.com)

EGYPT:

2 Morsi supporters get death penalty, 43 others life in jail----Sentences from Minya court relate to violence that broke out last August, as part of nationwide unrest after Mohamed Morsi's ouster

An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced two supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi to death and 43 others - including a minor - to jail terms from 1 year to life, in several cases relating to violence after Morsi's removal last summer, state-run news agency MENA said.

The Minya court - in Upper Egypt - also acquitted 28 others.

The sessions included a retrial for 23 defendants who were tried in absentia and sentenced to death and life in jail. Defendants in the case in Matay, Minya governorate, faced charges of attacking policemen and torching a police station.

The court also issued verdicts in 6 other cases, all in connection to retribution violence that broke out after the forceful dispersal of two main sit-ins held by Morsi supporters in Cairo and which left hundreds dead.

The same court previously sentenced 529 to death - later upholding the penalty for 37 defendants - and sentenced 492 others to life in prison. One month later, it sentenced 683 defendants to death, later confirming 183 of them.

Since Morsi's ouster, a security crackdown on his supporters has left hundreds killed and tens of thousands detained or facing trials, including the Muslim Brotherhood's top leadership.

The mass trials were criticised by local and international rights groups for hasty procedures.

(source: Ahram Online)

TEXAS:

Jury indicts suspect in police chief's death

A Bell County grand jury indicted David Gene Risner, 57, of Little River-Academy, on Wednesday on 1 count of capital murder of a peace officer or firefighter.

A capital felony is a crime that warrants the death penalty and includes intentionally or knowingly causing the death of a public safety officer or firefighter in the line of duty, as well as other categories of murder, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Risner allegedly shot Little River-Academy Police Chief Lee Dixon to death on June 19. Dixon, who previously served as Little River-Academy's police chief from 2004 to 2005, had been on the job again for a little over a month when Risner allegedly gunned him down.

On the day of the shooting, there had been an earlier disturbance in the area involving Risner.

During the dispute, Risner allegedly pulled a gun on a man, who filed a complaint with Dixon, according to the affidavit.

After taking his complaint, Dixon went out to talk to Risner.

As Dixon was heading to Risner's residence, he reported by radio that he did not need assistance.

The man later told authorities he saw Dixon on Risner's front porch before the shooting. At a little after 5:10 p.m., Risner allegedly opened fire, striking Dixon with 2 blasts from a shotgun.

Dixon radioed in he was in need of assistance. After Dixon's call, the 911 switchboard lit up with calls reporting the shooting, including 1 allegedly from Risner.

Risner called 911 and reported he shot a police officer, according to court records.

Bell County Constable Thomas Prado arrived at the scene and arrested Risner, who surrendered without further incident.

Before moving to Little River-Academy, Risner had served in law enforcement for almost 19 years.

His most recent law enforcement position was with the Grand Saline Police Department in Grand Saline, a town of 3,300 people located about an hour east of Dallas on State Highway 80.

Risner's tenure with the Grand Saline Police Department ended in 2005.

After leaving law enforcement, Risner began to have run-ins with the law. His 1st arrest for deadly conduct came after he discharged a firearm in December 2008.

In May 2012, Risner allegedly resisted arrest after he used profanity in a public place.

The case is ongoing.

In October, Risner allegedly resisted arrest again after he was found sleeping in a chair at the Bell County Courthouse and refused to remove his feet from the wall, give a Bell County sheriff's deputy his name or leave the premises.

While being escorted from the building, Risner allegedly pushed back against the deputy.

Both resisting arrest cases, as well the failure to identify case, are ongoing.

(source: KDH news)

PENNSYLVANIA----possible volunteer for execution

Will Michael Ballard go ahead with wish to be executed?

To Northampton County's top prosecutor, mass murderer Michael Eric Ballard is a "mad dog" and a "poster boy" for the death penalty.

To Ballard, District Attorney John Morganelli is a "little Napoleon" who has used his crime to score political points.

Yet on Friday in a county courtroom in Easton, Morganelli and the killer he sent to death row could sit as unlikely allies.

That's because they now share a common goal: the execution of Ballard, who has said he does not want any further appeals of his sentence for massacring 4 people in a Northampton home in 2010.

That could produce strange bedfellows as Morganelli asks Ballard to repeat in court what he has already told his lawyers, the U.S. Supreme Court and a Morning Call reporter - that he is willing to be put to death, and does not want any more legal efforts on his behalf.

Friday's hearing is an extraordinary one, considering that in the modern era of the death penalty Pennsylvania has only executed inmates when they volunteered for it by abandoning their appeals.

But a very ordinary legal question will be at the center of the proceeding: whether Ballard wants an attorney appointed to pursue his post-conviction legal challenges, which would be the next stop for him in the appeals process.

In an exclusive death-row interview with The Morning Call in July, Ballard said that given the options before him - to accept his own execution or appeal his sentence for years from the "dehumanizing" walls of solitary confinement - he chooses death.

In the interview, Ballard bristled over the suggestion that he and Morganelli were now on the same side, though he acknowledged their shared aims. As Ballard has before, he continued to call Morganelli a Napoleon, a dig at the prosecutor's physical stature.

But, Ballard said, "when faced with my own enemy, he's going to be an asset." Later Ballard added: "In that sense, Morganelli is my best [expletive] weapon."

Morganelli also disputed whether he and Ballard are now, in effect, allies in seeking identical ends.

"Is it ironic? Well, I don't give much thought to it," Morganelli said Monday. "I don't take any particular delight in knowing that Mr. Ballard is on my side in this. I think his motivations are different."

By Ballard's own admission, he savagely knifed to death his former girlfriend, Denise Merhi, 39; her father, Dennis Marsh, 62; her grandfather, Alvin Marsh Jr., 87; and Steven Zernhelt, 53, a neighbor who tried to help.

At the time of the June 26, 2010, rampage, Ballard had recently been paroled from prison, where he served 17 years for murdering an Allentown man nearly two decades earlier. The state Supreme Court upheld Ballard's death sentence in November, citing overwhelming evidence in support of it.

Friday's hearing was scheduled at the request of Morganelli, who hopes Ballard will state his intentions on the record to a judge, one way or the other. Morganelli calls his effort a "preemptive strike" that he pursued after Ballard charged that anti-penalty lawyers were interjecting themselves into his case without his permission.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a petition filed in Ballard's name by the Philadelphia-based Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, after Ballard wrote the justices that it was done behind his back.

Earlier that same month, Billy Nolas, an attorney for the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia, informed Morganelli of plans to represent Ballard at appeal - though Ballard says he has barred the federal defenders from even visiting him on death row.

"It forced my hand to a degree, that I felt I should be ahead of the curve here," Morganelli said, calling his filing for Ballard potentially unprecedented. "Let's hear from him and let the trial judge make a decision."

It is unclear whether Nolas or Marc Bookman, the executive director of the Atlantic Center, will attend Friday's hearing. Nolas has not responded to phone calls and emails. Bookman declined comment this week.

Judge Emil Giordano will be newly presiding over the case, after the judge at Ballard's 2011 death-penalty trial, Edward Smith, was appointed to the federal bench. Morganelli said he expects Giordano will question Ballard about his right to an attorney, and could order a psychological evaluation of him to determine whether he is mentally competent to make his own decisions.

Before Ballard's May 2011 trial, three doctors hired by the defense concluded that he was competent. Morganelli said he believes nothing has changed in the past three years; to The Morning Call last month, Ballard said his competency shouldn't be in question, and "no lay person is going to argue against that."

In the interview, Ballard cast his decision to forgo his appeals as a reasoned choice considering the life he lives on death row.

"The jury made their decision, and I'm not about to spend the next 20 years begging the state of Pennsylvania for a mercy they're not going to give," Ballard said July 10.

"There's no emotionality. There's no apprehension," said Ballard, 40. "I'm not afraid to die."

Even if Ballard sticks to his intention and tells Giordano that he does not wish to appeal, he could still change his mind later on.

Gov. Tom Corbett has yet to schedule a date for Ballard's execution, though under state law he will do so by Oct. 9, according to the governor's office of general counsel. Also, the deadline for Ballard to file a post-conviction appeal doesn't run out until June 2015.

It is not unheard of for death-row inmates to request their own execution, then reverse themselves as the reality of death nears, said John Waldron, an Allentown attorney who defended many capital cases in his 32-year career. While he called Friday's hearing a good tactical move by Morganelli, Waldron said he doubted it would prevent Ballard from later changing courses, if he chose to do so.

Waldron also doubted whether the federal defenders will stay away from the case, even if Ballard repeats Friday that he doesn't want their assistance. The defenders have managed to reverse scores of death sentences in Pennsylvania, and Waldron said they've proven they are unlikely to shy from a battle.

"They're not going to say, 'Oh, that's fine. We're going to walk away,' because that's not their style," Waldron said. "They live and breathe fighting the death penalty, and they will find a way to get involved."

Morganelli is asking Giordano to issue an order barring the federal defenders and Bookman from representing Ballard without his permission. But Morganelli said he accepts that even during Friday's hearing, Ballard could surprise everyone and say he now wants to appeal.

He could even request that the federal defenders be appointed to represent him, Morganelli said.

"If he decides that a month ago he didn't want to fight this and now he does, that's fine," Morganelli said. "I just want to hear it from him."

(source: Allentown Morning Call)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Warrants reveal new details in Maggie Daniels' murder----Sharman Howard Odom is a suspect in connection to the homicide of 31-year-old Maggie Daniels.

The Catawba County District Attorney has filed a motion to seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing a popular Newton teacher.

Sharman Howard Odom was indicted 2 weeks ago in the death of 31-year-old Maggie Daniels.

Daniels' body was found inside her apartment on June 28.

Warrants unsealed by a judge Thursday revealed that there were marks around Daniels' neck suggesting she was strangled in her bedroom and that several dark colored curly hairs were found between her fingers - which not appear to be consistent with any of her head or body hair.

DNA swabs were taken from numerous parties except Odom, who refused, saying he "did not trust law enforcement."

A bottle of "scrubbing bubbles" with bleach was located at the crime scene, which the warrant states was possibly used to clean the victim. Odom is a known car detailer and has cleaning chemicals in his work vehicle by his own admission.

WSOC reported that Odom is also a person of interest in a rape case fom December 2012, where the victim stated that a black male held a rag over her face which had a chemical smell. Odom lived in the same complex as the victim at the time of the event, the warrant states.

Prior to the warrants, investigators revealed some of what was discovered in Odom's apartment, including a lock of his hair in a shoebox in his closet and 'selfies' on his iPhone showing scratches on his face the day Daniels' body was found.

Odom has been charged with 1st degree murder, 1st degree sexual offense and 1st degree kidnapping.

The motion for a Rule 24 hearing was unsealed at the Catawba County courthouse early Thursday morning.

The motion stated, "the State submits there is evidence to support the existence of one or more aggravating circumstances. The State is seeking the death penalty in the event the defendant is convicted of First Degree Murder."

An official date has not been set for the hearing.

(source: Fox news)

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

Suspect may face the death penalty for teacher's murder

After 31-year-old Maggie Daniels, a Lakewood native, was found strangled to death inside her Newton, North Carolina apartment on June 27, police arrested Sharman Howard Odom as their primary suspect.

Howard was indicted by a Catawba County Grand Jury and on August 19, the District Attorney (DA) filed a motion to seek the death penalty if the case results in a guilty verdict.

Although no court date has been established to decide on the motion, the DA requests to have the matter heard within 45 days of the filing date, which would be by October 2.

Odom was charged with 1st degree murder, 1st degree sexual offense and 1st degree kidnapping.

2 years ago Odom was arrested for violent crimes against 3 women. He was accused of raping and strangling a victim, but each case was dismissed or dropped.

Daniels graduated from Notre Dame College and moved to NC to work as a high school teacher and counselor.

Odom lived in the same apartment complex as Daniels.

(source: WOIO news)

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

Voters Will Decide Whether Defendants Can Waive Jury Trial----North Carolina voters will decide if defendants can waive their right to a trial jury.

In our criminal justice system, a defendant has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. In November, voters will choose if defendants also have the right to decide who makes the judgment call - a jury or a judge.

A constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in November which if passed, would give a defendant the option to waive a jury trial. Defendants facing the death penalty could not opt out a jury trial. North Carolina is the only state that does not currently give defendants this choice however, it is allowed in federal court.

Supporters say this move could save the courts money but former Guilford County District Attorney Jim Kimel who asks, "How?"

"We typically try 2-to-3 % of our cases, at least in Guilford County," said Kimel.

"Considering the small amount of jury trials there are anyway, and I just don't think it would save that much money."

Kimel said he can see this choice saving time because selecting a jury is usually 20-to-25-percent of a trial. He said, "There's no question that a bench trial would cut down on the time it took to try a case."

"It would be more efficient from the standpoint of time used in court. The judge could go through the evidence a lot more efficiently than a jury could," said Locke Clifford, defense attorney.

Clifford believes complicated white-collar crimes like bank fraud, or highly emotional cases like sexual assault, might be better for a judge to decide.

Both attorneys considered the impact this change might have on judges - mainly because most are elected officials. They argued that any and all verdicts judges render could be examined under a microscope by those looking to unseat them.

Clifford said, "If a judge finds my client not guilty, does he have to wonder if his new opponent coming out of the woodwork is going to say that the judge is SOC – soft on crime? Uh oh, no, you don't want to have to worry about that."

"There's always people watching what a judge does and their decisions or verdicts are fair game," said Kimel.

(source: wfmynews.com)

GEORGIA:

Parents accused of starving daughter to death appear in Gwinnett court

The parents accused of starving their 10-year-old daughter to death testified in a custody battle Wednesday.

The mother of Emani Moss is trying to keep custody of her 2 other children as prosecutors want to send her to death row.

Channel 2's Tony Thomas was the only reporter in the juvenile court hearing as attorneys mapped out the case.

The state is trying to officially terminate the rights of Moss' mother, Tiffany Moss, to care for her other 2 living children.

Moss has kept a stoic face throughout the past few months, as attorneys for the Department of Children and Family Services pushed to terminate her rights to care for her 2 living children.

On Wednesday, she broke down and even sobbed at times during testimony while lawyers peppered her with questions as she took the stand for the 1st time.

Questions included, "The last time you saw Emani, she was emaciated and very thin with her bones sticking out of her body, right?"

Moss began sobbing when attorney Kristin Jahn showed her a graphic picture of her deceased stepdaughter's body and asked, "And it's true that Emani's feet were protruding from the bag and with her head down?"

Moss repeatedly pleaded the Fifth, under the advice of counsel.

"I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right," she said.

Prosecutors are requesting the death penalty against Moss and her husband Eman Moss.

Investigators said their daughter weighed 32 pounds when they found her burned body stuffed in a trash can last November.

Both Tiffany and Eman Moss maintain their innocence and are fighting the criminal charges against them.

(source: WSB TV news)

ALABAMA:

Alleged stalker pleads innocent to capital murder charges in death of couple who were shot, stabbed and burned

An accused stalker and murderer has pleaded not guilty to killing a couple and setting their home on fire over the summer. And he allegedly threatened to kill one of the victim's sisters, as well.

Gigada Pearson, 52, is charged with 2 charges of capital murder and aggravated stalking. He is accused of killing 43-year-old Erica Lankford and her 57-year-old husband Steven Lankford on June 21.

According to previous reports, authorities arrived to a gruesome scene at 6797 Kings Branch Dr. S. in Semmes. The Lankfords suffered from multiple stab wounds and gunshot wounds before their bodies were discovered, police said.

The fire had 2 points of ignition, according to investigators. The bed in the master bedroom, where Steven Lankford's body was found, had been set on fire along with a couch in the living room, where authorities found Erica Lankford's body, they said.

The defendant, Pearson, is married to Erica Lankford's 47-year-old sister, who filed an order of protection from abuse less than a month after the victims were killed.

In it, she claimed he forced her to have oral sex and threatened her. "He has told me that he will kill me," Pearson's wife wrote in her request.

Court records show Pearson is accused of killing the Lankfords just two days before he and his estranged wife would have spent 30 years married to each other.

He was indicted by a grand jury in August, and is currently being held without bail. Pearson is scheduled to face trial in April 2015 and faces the death penalty if convicted.

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

Testimony continues Thursday in capital murder trial of man charged with stabbing woman in front of her sons

A woman who was attacked in front of her sons in 2011 died from a stab wound to the chest after surgeons tried in vain to resuscitate her, a forensic pathologist testified Wednesday.

Gregory Smith, 36, is on trial for capital murder in the death of Gerronda Hill, 30, who was attacked at her Ensley home May 4, 2011. A jury was selected Tuesday and opening statements were delivered Wednesday morning in the trial before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bill Cole.

Smith could face the death penalty if convicted.

Assistant Jefferson County District Attorneys Joe Hicks and Julie McMakin are prosecuting the case. Wendell Sheffield and Mike Shores are representing Smith.

Smith and Hill were involved in an on-again, off-again relationship. Sheffield told jurors that they had an "extremely dysfunctional" relationship, but he expects the evidence to show that they lived together at the time of the stabbing.

Hill's sons, ages 10 and 13 at the time, witnessed her death.

McMakin told jurors in opening statements that, at the time of her death, Hill was trying to separate herself from Smith and had moved into a new home.

When she and her children arrived home May 4, Hill immediately knew that someone else was inside. She told her sons to stay where they were and she began to search the house. When she got to one of the boys' rooms, they heard Smith's voice and an argument, McMakin said.

The argument spilled out into the living room, and Hill went out the front door, followed by Smith.

Hill squirted Smith with pepper spray then ran toward the house, but Smith caught up, threw her to the ground and stabbed her.

Hill and her sons got into her car, but she lost consciousness. As the 10-year-old boy used his phone to call for help, Smith smashed the car window, grabbed the phone and fled.

Gary Simmons, a forensic pathologist who works for the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, testified Wednesday afternoon that Hill was stabbed twice – once in the chest and once in the thigh.

While the blow to the leg did not hit any vital organs, the blow to the chest hit an artery and several blood vessels, causing severe internal bleeding, Simmons testified.

Sheffield argued during opening statements that neither of the two stab wounds shows that Smith intended to kill Hill.

Investigators found blood droplets on the kitchen floor, on the doorstep outside the front door and pooled in the driver's seat of Hill's car, according to testimony.

Blood found on Smith's T-shirt and blue jeans was matched to Hill. The shirt also tested positive for pepper spray.

Testimony will resume Thursday morning.

(source for both: al.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

AG gets more time to file brief in rape case----Crawford appeals 1994 rape conviction

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood now has until Sept. 26 to file a response to Charles Ray Crawford's appeal of his 1994 rape conviction.

Crawford, now 48, is currently on Mississippi's death row for the 1992 slaying of Kristy Ray in the Chalybeate community in Tippah County.

In his appeal, Crawford claims he received ineffective counsel to defend himself against the rape charges, which were used by prosecutors to seek in the death penalty in Ray's death.

If the Mississippi Supreme Court upholds Crawford's conviction in the earlier case, Hood could again petition the court to set an execution date. Crawford's lawyers argue that the death sentence would be negated if the conviction is reversed.

Hood's response had been due Monday but the time was extended.

(source: WAPT news)

OHIO:

Witness: Stargell referred to himself as 'a killer'

A witness who was with Anthony Stargell Jr. and Tommy Nickles the day Stargell allegedly shot Nickles twice in the head at close range testified during the death penalty trial Wednesday that Stargell referred to himself as "a killer."

"I kill people for a living. That's what I do. I'm a killer. For $100, I will kill anybody. For $125, I will put a bullet between your eyes," the witness said Stargell told her before Nickles died.

The witness, who is not being identified for her protection, also testified that Stargell introduced himself to her as "Sam" hours before the killing, and told her he went to Nickles' business because somebody had robbed Nickles earlier.

Stargell, 23, of Dayton, is facing death-penalty eligible murder counts for reportedly killing Nickles at his business, Quality One Electric, 838 S. Main St., on April 2, 2012. In all, he's facing 22 charges that includes attempting to set fire to Nickles' business, grand theft auto and taking surveillance equipment.

The trial, being held in the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, is in its 2nd week, and is expected to last up to a month. If Stargell is found guilty of aggravated murder specifications, there will be a penalty phase for jurors to determine whether he should be put to death.

Prior to witness testimonies on Wednesday, prosecutors showed jurors a surveillance video of Nickles being shot in the head by someone they say is Stargell. Several jurors gasped or covered their mouths as they watched the video. Nickles' relatives cried in the gallery as prosecutors showed footage of Stargell also shooting the man's dog Rusty and taking cash, guns and a television from Nickles' business as his body is slumped in a chair behind his desk.

The courtroom was mostly silent as the 12 jurors and four alternates watched hours of video-only surveillance footage from 8 cameras showing Stargell and Nickles drinking, doing what witnesses said was smoking methamphetamine, shaking hands and looking at guns.

Video from earlier in the evening the night of the killing shows 2 women and a man with Nickles and Stargell in the office. Later, a different man comes into the office and throws some money on Nickles' desktop as all shake hands, smile and talk.

Stargell's cousin, Gerald Pendergrass, testified that the night Nickles was shot, Stargell called Pendergrass on his sister's phone asking for help.

Pendergrass, who is incarcerated on unrelated charges, met him at his own residence where Stargell had driven Nickles' van to, and they went back to the dead man's business.

When asked what Stargell's demeanor was when Stargell told him to go into Nickles' office to see his body, Pendergrass said, "laughing, smiling."

Pendergrass, who said he ran away from the scene that night, also testified that Stargell later threatened him by saying if he tells anyone else about the dead man that "he'd kill me and my family."

During opening statements Monday in Judge Gregory Singer's courtroom, Stargell's attorneys said their client acted in self-defense during the alleged robbery attempt.

"Just moments before Anthony shoots Tommy Nickles in an office that you can see is full of guns, that Tommy Nickles is reaching for something in the desk," defense attorney Marshall Lachman said. "It is precisely at the moment that Tommy Nickles is reaching for something on the desk, Anthony shoots Tommy Nickles."

The video showed Nickles did reach for something on the desk, as he did numerous other times during the video. Nickles picked up money, cigarettes, his mobile phone and paperwork at different times during hours of footage.

After the shooting, surveillance video shows Stargell removing cash from Nickles' desk, something from Nickles' pocket, at least two long guns and the TV. Footage also showed Stargell and Pendergrass wearing rubber gloves and carrying towels in the office and business' garage.

Singer hasn't ruled on a defense motion to dismiss the jury due to its racial makeup, which includes two African-American women and no African-American men among the 12 jurors and four alternates.

The trial is expected to resume this morning.

(source: WHIO news)

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

Brunswick man accused of killing mother, could face death penalty if convicted

A Brunswick man faces the death penalty in a case that accuses him of killing his mother.

A grand jury indicted James D. Tench, 28, on 3 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Tench is accused in the Nov. 12, 2013 death of his mother, Mary Tench, 55, of Brunswick.

"This is a serious case that involves a human tragedy and a loss of life," Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman said. "We're taking this case really seriously."

Tench is currently in custody at the Richland Correctional Institution but is scheduled to appear at a hearing at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Medina County Common Pleas Court.

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.

Each aggravated murder count carries the potential sentences of death, life in prison without parole, or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 or 25 years. If Tench is convicted on all counts, prosecutors will decide which aggravated murder or murder charge he will be sentenced on, Holman said.

Holman said investigators from the Brunswick Police Department helped his office build a strong case.

"We took a deliberative, thorough approach to this case, as we do in all cases," he said.

Tench pleaded guilty in March to robbing a Strongsville restaurant and is currently serving a 6-year prison sentence, according to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court records.

(source: cleveland.com)

INDIANA:

Indiana inmate asks judge to have him executed

A northern Indiana judge has turned down the request of a murder convict that he be executed even though he wasn't sentenced to death.

LaPorte Circuit Judge Thomas Alevizos ruled Monday that Walter Leach hadn't exhausted his administrative remedies and there's no legal precedent that allows him to grant the request.

The 63-year-old Leach didn't make it clear why he was requesting lethal injection in the petition he filed Aug. 20 in LaPorte Circuit Court. Leach is serving a 95-year sentence for a 1995 fatal shooting outside an Elkhart County bar.

Leach doesn't have an attorney.

Indiana death penalty expert Steve Stewart says most people who request execution change their minds.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI:

Supreme Court rejects death penalty appeal

The Missouri Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Christopher Collings, upholding a death penalty conviction in the 2007 rape and murder of a 9-year-old Stella Girl.

Collings, 39, was convicted for the crimes against Rowan Ford, and he appealed his death penalty sentence on the grounds that confessing to a police officer he knew, photographs of Rowan shown in court and some physical evidence was not relevant to the case.

"Collings only accepted full responsibility for the murder after he disposed of [Ford's] body, destroyed incriminating evidence, and spent a week lying and misdirecting law enforcement's efforts to locate Rowan," said Judge George W. Draper III in his ruling.

The physical evidence collected in the case supported Collings' story of what happened on the night of Nov. 2, 2007, when he took Rowan from her home in Stella, drove her to his trailer in Wheaton and raped and murdered her before dumping her body in a cave near Powell.

Ford's stepfather, David Spears, 31, of Stella, was originally charged with murder and rape as well, but later pleaded guilty to reduced charges of child endangerment and hindering prosecution after Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox said physical evidence in the case, analyzed by the FBI and Missouri State Highway Patrol crime labs, did not support his confession that he participated in the rape and murder of the girl.

(source: Cassville Democrat)

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

Out-of-town jury to hear Craig Wood case

Court officials haven't yet decided when the man accused of killing Hailey Owens might go to trial, but it is slated to include a jury from outside Greene County and will probably last a month.

Prosecutors and the defense team for Craig Michael Wood, 46, have argued about whether the case should remain in Greene County, but Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson presented a plan in court Tuesday to keep the trial local and bring in a jury from another county. Attorneys for both sides will now negotiate to determine which county will be used.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Wood, who is charged with murder, kidnapping, rape, sodomy and armed criminal action.

Patterson also asked Judge Dan Conklin to set a jury trial date for April, but Wood's attorney, Patrick Berrigan, objected, saying he's still waiting for evidence from prosecutors.

A previous piece of information the defense had requested was a copy of the transcript from a preliminary hearing. The transcript had come into question when the court reporter on the hearing died before the transcript was completed. Prosecutors said in a reply that another court reporter was able to finish the transcript, apparently resolving the issue.

Conklin expressed interest in getting a trial date blocked off, because both sides estimated the month time period for a jury trial.

Officials say Hailey, 10, was taken from her neighborhood on Feb. 18. Her body was found hours later wrapped in garbage bags in Wood's basement. A medical examiner said she died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head. The examiner also said there was evidence of sexual assault.

Employment status

Craig Michael Wood is no longer a Springfield Public Schools employee.

A personnel update provided to the school board as part of Tuesday's regular meeting notes Wood has been "separated" - a term used for interchangeably for resignation or termination.

Wood had been on unpaid administrative leave following the arrest and charges earlier this year. The entry notes Wood, a coach and teaching assistant who supervised in-school suspension at Pleasant View Elementary and Middle School, has worked for the district since 1998.

It notes the "separation" was effective May 28.

(source: KSDK news)

ARIZONA:

Lengthy execution of Arizona inmate under review

Members of an independent team that will review the Arizona Department of Corrections investigation of the nearly two-hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood are no strangers to controversy surrounding correctional facilities.

Ron Angelone and Kenneth McGinnis, members of the Carter Goble Lee team selected to review an investigation by the department's Inspector General, are both former correctional department directors who have faced criticism for their handling of prisoners.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has come under fire since the lengthy execution of Wood on July 23. It took Wood nearly two hours to die, during which he gasped for air repeatedly.

His attorney, Dale Baich, has said the execution was botched, a claim state officials deny. The execution brought renewed attention to the death penalty debate in the U.S. as opponents said it was proof that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

Angelone is the former director of the Virginia and Nevada corrections departments, having overseen 85 executions. In Virginia, he was known for his hard-line punitive philosophy, which made him a target for human rights activists, but a hero for conservatives, according to news reports from his departure in 2002.

Angelone helped design super-maximum security prisons known for their severe restrictions on inmates.

"I was always fair," Angelone said Wednesday. "You have to be tough if you're going to run corrections. I was as fair as I was tough."

McGinnis, the former head of the Michigan Department of Corrections, also was criticized after an investigation by the federal Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

The department alleged that female inmates in two state prisons were raped and forced to live in unsanitary conditions without good medical care, according to news reports. The federal government threatened to sue Michigan if it did not make improvements to its prisons.

McGinnis, then director, denied allegations, calling them "simply absurd, with no basis in fact," according to a news report.

McGinnis could not be reached for comment.

Arizona Corrections Department spokesman Doug Nick has said the department is not commenting while the review is ongoing.

The department's internal probe into the Wood execution will be handed to the Carter Goble Lee team once completed. The company specializes in in assisting correctional facilities in planning and facility development.

"Generally, the corrections community is a tight-knit community, and, by and large, are not subject to effective oversight," Baich said.

"In order for this to truly be independent, the Department of Corrections should not be doing any investigation at all," the lawyer added. "The outside group should come in and the folks that are running the independent investigation should be the ones who are doing all of the interviews. But, again, because folks who are heading this up are insiders, I question their independence."

Angelone said his experience overseeing dozens of executions makes him a good candidate to evaluate the state's protocols.

"Were going to try to provide a fair an honest evaluation, and we're going to provide to the director as to what we as three professionals see. That's the best we can do," he said.

(source: Associated Press)

UTAH:

Smith murder case settles contract issues

The defense in a St. George double murder case is expected to file a response to arguments over its motion to eliminate the death penalty as a possible outcome of the case during the coming month.

Defense attorney Gary Pendleton filed the motion in November and is asking 5th District Court Judge G. Michael Westfall to reverse retired Judge James Shumate's ruling that allowed the possibility of executing Brandon Perry Smith if Smith is found guilty of aggravated murder in the death of Jerrica Christensen, 20, Dec. 11, 2010.

Deputy County Attorney Brian Filter has filed the prosecution's reply to Pendleton's motion, and a final rebuttal from Pendleton is pending before an anticipated court hearing for oral arguments over the issue, but progress in the case stalled while Westfall took care of some housekeeping matters related to the case.

"I just didn't want to get in a position where we get to trial, complete a trial, and then somebody says, 'Wait a minute, my attorney is not ... qualified (to defend a capital murder case),'" Westfall said during a hearing Wednesday.

Smith and his friend Paul Clifford Ashton were arrested following the discovery of Christensen's body at Ashton's home along with the body of Brandie Sue Dawn Jerden, 27. Ashton was convicted of killing Jerden last year and is serving a life sentence in prison.

Pendleton said his representation of Smith has taken some twists since he was first hired by Smith's family. Although he is not a public defender appointed by the court to represent an indigent suspect, Pendleton has won authorization to use state tax-based funds to cover the costs of a defense investigator's examination of the evidence as well as a medical expert's analysis, and now to hire a 2nd attorney to assist him.

Shumate and Filter agreed to the requests after determining that if Pendleton were being appointed under Indigent Defense Fund guidelines as a public defender, he would be considered qualified to represent a suspect in a case that could produce the most severe of all possible punishments - execution.

"I'm anxious to get a 2nd set of eyes on this case. I'm literally by myself in this and really am not at liberty to discuss this case with any other attorney," Pendleton said when he asked for funding to hire a 2nd attorney. Salt Lake City Attorney Mary Corporan has since joined him as his co-counsel and is anticipating signing a contract with the Indigent Defense Fund to finalize the partnership.

Westfall said part of the purpose of Wednesday's hearing was to allow a representative of the defense fund to personally provide the court with its perspective on the contract, but no defense fund representative appeared in court.

Westfall asked Smith if he is happy with Pendleton's work as his attorney.

"Yes, I am," Smith said.

Westfall said the court will allow Pendleton and Corporan 10 days to finalize the contract and another 20 to file their final response on the motion to overturn the death penalty.

Ellen Hensley, Christensen's mother, said she is planning a candlelight vigil at the courthouse in her daughter's honor on the 4th anniversary of the slayings.

Christensen said she was frustrated by the friendly demeanor of Wednesday's hearing.

"This whole thing is absolutely no laughing matter," Hensley said. "To have (them) laughing. ... It's infuriating. This isn't some small issue."

(source: The Spectrum)

CALIFORNIA:

Officials: 'Serial killer' behind 4 deaths

A man in custody is a serial killer who is suspected of randomly shooting 7 people, leaving 4 dead, over 5 days in the Los Angeles area, authorities said Tuesday.

Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said at a news conference that the 3 other victims were critically injured and 2 dogs were also shot and killed before the arrest of 34-year-old Alexander Hernandez of Sylmar.

Los Angeles police SWAT officers took Hernandez into custody Sunday evening with a pistol-grip shotgun in his possession that they believe was used in the attacks.

Prosecutors have charged Hernandez with 1 count of capital murder, 2 counts of attempted murder and 3 counts of animal cruelty. He's scheduled to be arraigned today and remains held on $1 million bail.

Prosecutors didn't know if he had retained an attorney. Albanese said Hernandez was being uncooperative with police.

The shootings began on early Aug. 20 when a woman was shot and wounded by a lone man in an SUV as she exited a freeway. The other shootings occurred over 4 straight days leading to the killing of 3 people on Sunday.

Hernandez has only been charged in 1 of the killings. Still, Los Angeles County sheriff's Chief of Detectives Bill McSweeney said he "is and was a serial killer."

The charges against Hernandez carry a potential death penalty, and prosecutors will ask that he be held without bail.

Authorities said the shootings appeared random and there was no known link between the victims or motives. Authorities requested the public's help in filling in details on the shootings.

Police believe Hernandez worked alone and is the sole suspect in Sunday's shootings. Detectives pieced together the incidents because of the timing, weapon used and descriptions of the vehicle, McSweeney said. Investigators will be reviewing unsolved shootings dating back several years, that involve similar descriptions of a tan or gold SUV and shotgun.

The Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department created a 70-person taskforce along with San Fernando police to investigate the shootings, examining surveillance video among other measures.

Hernandez was charged with murder in the shooting of 48-year-old Gildardo Morales as he drove his pickup truck to work on Aug. 21 in Pacoima. He's accused of firing at a couple in their vehicle in West Hollywood on Aug. 20, and shooting 3 dogs, killing 2, on Aug. 20. Police said Hernandez killed 3 people within an hour on Sunday. He has not been charged in those deaths, but Albanese said investigators are confident they have the man who did it in custody and the public is no longer at risk.

Hernandez has served prison time and has 4 prior convictions, including possession for sale of methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance with a firearm, and possession of a firearm by a felon, authorities said.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Bad news for violent Hobo gang as member flips for feds

They made their name robbing NBA stars and slaying federal informants, authorities say.

But the Hobos, an ultra violent Chicago "supergang," suffered a heavy blow Wednesday when a middle-ranking member confessed to his role in 5 murders - and vowed to help the government convict his former bosses.

Byron "B-Rupt" Brown agreed to the plea deal in a bid to avoid the death penalty.

"Yes, sir," Brown, 29, calmly replied when U.S. District Judge John Tharp asked him, "Did you agree to murder people?"

Wearing a drab green Livingston County jail jumpsuit, he repeated the phrase several times as Tharp then asked him in turn about the 2007 and 2008 murders of Larry Tucker, Kenneth Mosby, Daniel Dupree, Tommye Freeman and Eddie Moss.

And he repeated it again when asked if he understood that if he fails to follow through on his offer to cooperate, prosecutors could tear up their agreement to ask for a sentence of 35 to 40 years.

"Yes, sir," he said when told the death penalty would then be back on the table.

It was a low key but potentially pivotal breakthrough in law enforcements' long battle with the Hobos, which got its "supergang" tag because it was formed by leading members of previously rival factions.

Formed in the Robert Taylor Homes on the South Side, the Hobos dealt drugs, robbed rival dealers and were suspected in a rash of holdups of NBA players, including the robbery from then-NBA star Antoine Walker of a $55,000 watch outside of a near West Side restaurant in 2000.

Though the NBA robberies are not part of the case against Brown and 8 other Hobos indicted last year, Brown on Wednesday confessed to murdering semi-pro basketball player Eddie Moss in 2007 in a case of mistaken identity.

Several other crimes he confessed to had chilling details, including the 2008 murder of drug dealer Daniel Dupree, who woke up as Brown removed jewelry from his sleeping body, and was then gunned down.

Brown's guilty plea and deal is likely bad news for alleged Hobos leaders Paris Poe and Arnold Council, who allegedly killed Wilbert Moore in 2006 because he was cooperating with law enforcement authorities.

Poe, 34, also is suspected of killing FBI informant Keith Daniels outside his south suburban home last year.

Daniels - murdered in front of his young son and girlfriend - had been unmasked as an informant just 4 days earlier.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)

SINGAPORE:

Pandan Loop death: Indian national charged with murder

A 26-year-old Indian national was yesterday charged with the murder of a 26-year-old foreign worker who was found dead at Pandan Loop last Saturday.

Thiruppathi Veerapperumal (picture) is alleged to have caused the death of Murugaiya Suresh Kumar on the evening of Aug 23 near 72 Pandan Loop, along the exit road leading to West Coast Highway.

The police said they received a call about the case at around 10.30pm. Investigations are ongoing. The Singapore Civil Defence Force said previously that Kumar had sustained physical trauma on his head and neck, with deformities found on his left hand. He was pronounced dead on-site at around 10.50pm.

In a brief hearing yesterday, Veerapperumal, dressed in a grey collared shirt, appeared calm as the charge was read out to him. Speaking via a Tamil interpreter, he told the court: "Sir, I did not commit this offence."

The district judge has ordered that the police be given more time to complete investigations. Veerapperumal will be remanded at the Central Police Division before being taken to the alleged crime scene.

He will return to court on Sept 3. If convicted, Veerapperumal faces the death penalty.

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

80-year-old murder suspect to be remanded for psychiatric assessment

One of the oldest homicide suspects in the Republic, who allegedly murdered his daughter-in-law last week, will be remanded for psychiatric assessment.

Char Chin Fah, 80, is alleged to have caused the death of 54-year-old Ong Guat Leng on the morning of Aug 21, between 9am and 10.04am, at the Tampines Street 43 flat they shared.

Ong was discovered lying in a pool of blood by 1 of her 2 daughters.

Char was arrested when he turned himself in at Bedok North Neighbourhood Police Centre, shortly after the police received a call about the case.

Among the items seized by the police were a metal rod with multiple dents and a bloodstained T-shirt thrown down the rubbish chute.

He was represented by defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary yesterday during a brief hearing at the State Courts. The court ordered that Char be remanded at the Changi Medical Complex for psychiatric assessment.

A few attendees, believed to be his relatives, were seen walking out of the courtroom after his case was mentioned.

Mr Tiwary later told the media when approached that he had been appointed by the family a few days ago after Char was charged.

Char will return to court on Sept 17. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

(source for both: themalaymailonline.com)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Arabia executes 3 more men by beheading

3 men previously convicted of murder were decapitated by sword in western Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, the government said, disregarding concerns raised by human rights organizations and raising the number of people executed this month alone to 26.

The latest executions took place on Wednesday in different parts of southwestern and western regions of the kingdom, according to statements issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry. It warned that the government will continue to carry out punishments according to Sharia law against anyone who commits crimes.

One of the executions took place in the port city of Jizan, where Moussa bin Muqliz Zafri was beheaded for the stabbing death of Yehya bin Nashib Hamdi. The Interior Minister said Zafri had confessed to killing Hamdi over a dispute between them, after which the court convicted him and sentenced him to death.

The 2nd execution took place in the city of Najran, where Naji Al Mutlaq was beheaded for the murder of fellow tribesman Abdulhadi Al Mutlaq. The ministry said Naji Al Mutlaq had also confessed to investigators and that he killed his victim by shooting him with a machine gun. A motive was not given.

The 3rd execution took place in Medina, where Nawaf al-Mutairi was beheaded for murdering Adel al-Harbi with a machine gun.

"The Ministry of Interior affirms that the Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is keen on the preservation of security, the establishment of justice and the implementation of the orders of Allah Almighty against anyone who attacks the secured people and sheds their blood," the ministry said. "It warns anyone who tries to commit such actions that he or she will be punished according to Sharia."

Wednesday's beheadings raise the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia so far this month to 26, leading to condemnation from human rights organizations as some have been killed for non-lethal crimes. "Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International also expressed its concern earlier this month after four family members were executed on the same day for merely possessing hashish. "The recent increase in executions in Saudi Arabia is a deeply disturbing deterioration. The authorities must act immediately to halt this cruel practice," said Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International.

At least 41 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year, following 79 executions last year. The kingdom applies the death penalty for a large number of crimes, including drug offenses, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft. Both witchcraft and sorcery are not defined as crimes in Saudi Arabia, but human rights organizations say such charges have previously been used to prosecute people for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion.

(source: Wireupdate.com)

CHINA:

Japanese lawmaker, 71, pleads not guilty to meth charges in China

A Japanese lawmaker facing drug charges punishable by death has pleaded not guilty in a Chinese court, Chinese state media reports.

Takuma Sakuragi, a 71-year-old member of the Inazawa municipal assembly in Japan's Aichi prefecture, was taken into custody on October 31 when staff at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport found more than 3kg of methamphetamine in his suitcase, Xinhua reported.

Sakuragi was preparing to board a flight to Shanghai en route back to Japan when he was stopped, the state-run China Daily reported.

After his arrest, he denied trafficking drugs, saying he was taking the luggage to Shanghai for a friend, the report continued. 2 others - Aly Yattabare, from Mali, and Guinea citizen Mohamed Soumah - were arrested in relation to the case and are also standing trial.

On Tuesday, Sakuragi pleaded not guilty in the Guangzhou City Intermediate People's Court to charges of transporting illegal drugs.

The indictment against him claimed the politician flew from Nagoya to Guangzhou two days before he was detained last year, checking into a hotel with the help of a Nigerian named as Gemadi Hassan, the South China Morning Post reported.

He testified that he made the trip after extensive email communication with Hassan, who promised to help Sakuragi recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses in Nigerian investments if he signed a document in Guangzhou, the newspaper reported.

The indictment continued that Yattabare gave Sakuragi a suitcase containing women's platform shoes to give to a third party in Japan. Airport security staff subsequently found 28 bags of methamphetamine inside the soles of the shoes and in the suitcase's handle, weighing 3.28kg in total, the South China Morning Post reported.

If found guilty, Sakuragi could face the death penalty, which can be applied under Chinese law in cases involving seizures of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine or heroin. An unidentified 50-year-old Japanese drug trafficker was executed on July 26 in the northern Chinese city of Dalian, China Daily reported.

While Japan has the death penalty on its books, it is not applicable for drug crimes.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, told reporters in a press conference in July that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would provide whatever support was needed by Sakuragi, as it would to all Japanese citizens.

But he added that drug crimes were punished severely not only in China but in the wider international community.

(source: 12newsnow.com)

EGYPT:

Egypt Investigating Morsi for Handing Over Documents to Qatar----Egypt opens an investigation into deposed president for handing over to Qatar "documents relevant to national security."

Egypt has opened an investigation into deposed president Mohammed Morsi for allegedly handing over to Qatar "documents relevant to national security," AFP reported on Wednesday, citing Egypt's state news agency MENA.

Morsi is already facing the death penalty in several trials and his supporters have been the target of a bloody crackdown by the authorities that has left more than 1,400 dead since he was ousted by the military in July last year.

The former leader is suspected of providing "documents relevant to national security to Qatar via the Qatari Al-Jazeera chain when he was president of the republic (...), damaging the country's national security", said MENA.

Morsi is currently on trial in several cases. In 1 trial he is being accused of inciting the killings of opposition protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012.

In another trial, Morsi and 35 others, including leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, are accused of conspiring with foreign powers, the Hamas terror group and Iran to destabilize Egypt.

Another of Morsi's trials, which began in January, cites his role in a 2011 jailbreak which saw the deaths of several police officers. A 4th trial will be held over charges of insulting the judiciary.

In March, Egypt's interior minister accused Morsi's secretary Amin El-Serafi of having delivered documents regarding the army, its armaments and the deployment of its troops to a chief editor of Al-Jazeera and member of the Islamist president's Muslim Brotherhood. The movement was listed as a terrorist group after Morsi's overthrow.

Al Jazeera, which is owned by the government of Qatar, has been called "the Muslim Brotherhood channel" and has been blamed for stirring up much of the violence that has rocked the Middle East in recent years and is often referred to as the "Arab Spring."

The governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates recently withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, in protest over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in Egypt.

There have been several high-profile calls to stop Qatar from hosting the World Cup in 2022 until it ceases its funding of terrorism, including by Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

(source: Israel National News)

AUGUST 27, 2014:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Tough start to homicide probe ends with success for prosecution

For as long as city Cpl. Jamie Quinn can remember, every murder investigation she's been involved with has included a suspect from the start.

Every investigation, that is, with the exception of the murder of Troy LaFerrara.

LaFerrara, 42, of Port Trevorton, was found Nov. 12 dumped near a garage to the rear of 240 Catawissa Ave. He had been strangled and stabbed the day before. His wallet was missing and his vehicle was found 5 miles away in the parking lot of the Susquehanna Valley Mall.

The crime was brutal, there were few clues left behind and, aside from passing through Sunbury, Quinn said, the principals involved had no connection to the city.

"This was the only 'who done it?'" Quinn, a 20-year veteran of the Sunbury Police Department, said Tuesday outside the Northumberland County Courthouse. Minutes earlier, Miranda and Elytte Barbour, newlyweds at the time of the killing, had pleaded guilty to murdering LaFerrara in a deal with the prosecution that spared them from facing the death penalty at trial.

There are 184 inmates on death row in Pennsylvania, three of whom are female. The last execution took place in 1999, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

"Putting all the little details together, it's why we became investigators," Quinn said.

Tracking Miranda

3 weeks passed between the day LaFerrara's body was found and the Dec. 3 confession and arrest of Miranda Barbour. In between Sunbury police pieced together clues toward building their case.

Quinn thought they had Miranda Barbour on Thanksgiving Eve. Officers worked with state police to track calls that had been placed to and from LaFerrara's cell phone. Quinn said they got a hit for an "Amanda Barbour" in Selinsgrove.

She wanted to ditch the holiday, instead hoping to knock on doors in search of the killer. Speaking of Patrolman Travis Bremigen, "He said, 'If we can't get a chance to eat turkey, why should she?'"

They held off, though, bringing Miranda Barbour in for questioning on Dec. 2. She denied any wrongdoing. In the early morning of Dec. 3, she returned to the Selinsgrove station of the state police and confessed, never implicating her husband. 3 days later, he did that himself through a confession of his own.

Case goes worldwide

Bremigen said he had little doubt in the Barbours' confessions, adding that Elytte Barbour's words bolstered the police investigation.

What followed was another confession no one expected. Miranda Barbour spoke with Francis Scarcella of The Daily Item twice, confessing to the murder of LaFerrara and making claims of being a serial killer herself. She said she was led into murder by the leader of a satanic cult when she was just 13 years old. Before her arrest 8 months ago, she claimed to have killed so many people that she stopped counting at 22 victims.

Worldwide attention followed, with major television networks, national and international newspapers and prominent websites all seeking information on Miranda Barbour. "The Dr. Phil Show" dedicated an episode to the case, and TMZ even questioned Jonathan Davis, the lead singer of the band Korn, about Barbour's satanic beliefs.

"It was an international case, which is not what we expected to happen," Bremigen said Tuesday.

'Absurd' challenge

Defense attorneys for Miranda Barbour tried in vain to have a search warrant tossed, thereby tossing the murder weapon with it, along with her confession. But Bremigen said he never doubted the case against the couple, or his fellow officers' work in putting it together.

Northumberland County District Attorney Ann Targonski agreed with the patrolman. Moments after the Barbours' hearings ended Tuesday, she credited Bremigen, Quinn, Sgt. Christopher Blase and all law enforcement involved.

Police sought the knife inside 101 N. Water St., Selinsgrove, the Barbours' home, on Dec. 9. That address was listed on the warrant, but so was 101 N. Market St. Defense attorneys hoped to capitalize on the typo, but the judge sided with the prosecution in upholding admissibility of the knife as evidence.

"The law does not hold us to absurd results when it was clear officers searched the correct home," Targonski said.

Psychiatric evaluations concluded both Miranda and Elytte Barbour were competent to stand trial. About 2 weeks ago, conversations between the prosecution and defense began regarding a plea deal.

Family spared

The Barbours would plead guilty to 2nd-degree murder, aggravated assault, robbery and possessing an instrument of a crime. They also agreed to serve life sentences without parole, avoiding the possibility of the death penalty.

Targonski said the family of LaFerrara was satisfied with the plea deal, adding she is happy they'll be spared the experience of going through a murder trial.

Tuesday's proceedings were covered only by local media outlets. The hearings weren't on the court schedule until Monday. It remains to be seen if the attention that followed Miranda Barbour's satanic serial killing claims will result in an increased media presence when the couple are sentenced together on Sept. 18.

A telephone message left for a relative of LaFerrara was not returned.

(source: News Item)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Still think we should be executing people? NC to free another wrongfully convicted person after 20 years

In case you missed it, North Carolina is about to release yet another person who spent 2 decades in state prison for crimes he did not commit - thus further highlighting the absurdity of the death penalty in the 21st Century. This is from a post on the N.C. Innocence Project blog:

On Monday, a Superior Court judge in North Carolina dismissed all charges and vacated the convictions of Michael Parker who was convicted of multiple sex crimes against his 3 children. Parker spent more than 20 years behind bars and is expected to be released from Craggy Correctional Center today.

In January 1994, Parker was convicted of 8 counts of 1st-degree sex offense and 4 counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor. He was sentenced to 8 consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the 1st-degree sex offenses and an additional 40 years on the indecent liberties convictions.

Asheville attorney Sean Devereux brought the case to the Duke Law School Wrongful Conviction Clinic in 2011, about a decade after he was approached by Parker. Devereux told the Citizen-Times that Parker was convicted during the satanic ritual abuse frenzy of the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to the Citizen-Times, Devereux said that not a single one of those satanic ritual sexual abuse accusations has proven to be true. He said that all of the defendants have seen their convictions overturned.

According to the judge's ruling, advances in child medical examinations and forensic interviewing techniques warranted granting Parker's petition for relief and that most of the evidence presented at trial was unreliable. The motion also listed ineffective assistance of trial counsel and recantation of one of the children's testimony, among other vital factors to grant relief.

Devereux said that last year Parker was offered a deal to plead guilty, which would have vacated his convictions and allowed him to leave prison based on time served, but Parker refused to take the deal.

(source: ncpolicywatch.org)

FLORIDA----female to face death penalty

Death penalty sought in infant death

Authorities announced Tuesday that they will seek the death penalty in the case of a woman who left her newborn outside in a garbage bag.

The 29-year-old Fort Walton Beach woman was indicted on Aug. 11 in the February 2014 death of her newborn infant.

Tonisha Lache Crowell was indicted by a grand jury on charges of 1st degree premeditated murder and/or 1st degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse.

Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore said Tuesday afternoon that the decision had been made by committee based on the facts of the case.

"You do your best to figure out what is legally and morally appropriate," Elmore said.

Crowell was taken to the emergency room on Feb. 26 with heavy vaginal bleeding, according to the arrest report.

After several denials, she finally admitted that she'd given birth in the toilet, according to the arrest report.

She said she believed the infant was dead and had placed the girl's body in a trash bag outside the house. When rescuers found the baby, they believed they saw the girl's chest rise and began CPR. The infant died later at the hospital, the report said.

(source: NW Florida Daily News)

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

State Seeks Death Penalty in Newborn Death

State Attorney Bill Eddins announced today that the State intends to seek the death penalty against Tonisha Crowell regarding the death of her newborn female infant, Ricki Patterson.

Crowell is charged with 1st Degree Premeditated and/or Felony Murder and Aggravated Child abuse. The charges arose from Crowell giving birth to the infant at her residence on February 26, 2014. She then placed the infant in a bag of garbage and put the bag outside the residence with temperatures in the mid 40s.

The autopsy examination revealed that the infant died from combined effects of hypothermia and asphyxiation.

(source: WMBB news)

CALIFORNIA:

Ex-Marine pleads not guilty to killing alleged lover

A former Marine has pleaded not guilty to killing the pregnant wife of another Marine.

CBS affiliate KFMB reports 24-year-old Christopher Lee entered the plea Tuesday to 1st-degree murder with a special allegation of lying in wait. The San Bernardino County District Attorney will reportedly decide at a future date whether to seek the death penalty against Lee.

Lee was arrested in Alaska on Aug. 17 after the body of 19-year-old Erin Corwin was found down a 100-foot mine shaft near Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert. Corwin, a Tennessee native, went missing June 28.

Prosecutors say that Corwin and the married Lee were lovers. Her husband, Cpl. Jonathan Corwin, and Lee were both stationed at the Twentynine Palms Marine base.

Authorities say bullet casings and rebar found near Corwin link Lee to the killing. According to KFMB, prosecutors have said Lee's 23-year-old wife, Nichole, is a person of interest in the investigation.

Court documents indicate Corwin was in the early stages of pregnancy when she went missing. The San Bernardino County Coroner has not confirmed whether she was pregnant or how far along she was and the office will not release her cause of death until the criminal case is adjudicated.

Christopher Lee is currently being held without bail. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Lee's defense attorney, David Kaloyanides, told reporters Tuesday that the case could take some time to go to trial.

"Right now, we don't have any of the discovery. It's going to take a while in a case of this magnitude to get any information from the district attorney's office so we can evaluate what the evidence is," Kaloyanides said outside court, according to the station.

Corwin's husband was also present for the arraignment Tuesday but he did not comment to reporters. On Monday, he made an appearance at a vigil held for Erin in Twentynine Palms.

(source: CBS news)

USA:

Firing Squads and Lethal Injections: Is Today's Death Penalty Cruel and Unusual?

The Eighth Amendment protects people from cruel and unusual punishments in the United States but what does that mean? In the last 38 years, Americans used hangings, gas chambers, lethal injections, electrocutions, and firing squads to execute convicted murderers. Given the recent reports of botched lethal injections, some experts are calling for the return of the firing squad as the most humane form of capital punishment. On this episode of Lawyer 2 Lawyer, host J. Craig Williams interviews Judge Alex Kozinski from the United States Court of Appeals for The Ninth Circuit, exonerated death row survivor Ronald Keine from Witness to Innocence, and M*A*S*H actor Mike Farrell from Death Penalty Focus. Together they discuss the merits of firing squads vs. lethal injections, corruption in the judicial system, and the morality of western society. Tune in to hear about the 144 exonerated death row survivors as well as Ronald Keine's near miss with the gas chamber.

Judge Alex Kozinski sits on the bench of the United States Court of Appeals for The Ninth Circuit where he's served since his appointment on November 7th 1985. Prior to his appointment Judge Kozinski occupied other prestigious positions including Chief Judge of the US Claims Court and Office of Counsel to the President. He is married with 3 children plus 3 grandchildren.

Ronald Keine is an exonerated death row inmate who was just 9 days from his execution in the gas chamber when the actual murderer confessed to the crime. Today, he an Assistant Director of Membership and Training for Witness to Innocence an anti-death penalty organization whose leading voice is that of exonerated death row survivors.

Mike Farrell played Captain BJ Hunnicut for 8 years on the hit television show M*A*S*H as well other roles like Jim Hansen in another series called Providence. In the 90s, he served for 3 years as a member of the State of California's Commission on Judicial Performance. Mr. Farrell is a life-long opponent of the death penalty and has been the President of Death Penalty Focus since 1994.

(source: Legal Talk Network)

SAUDI ARABIA/INDONESIA:

AI calls on Yudhoyono to save RI national from death row

Global rights organization Amnesty International (AI) is urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to postpone the execution of Siti Zainab binti Duhri Rupa, an Indonesian migrant worker on death row.

AI said it had sent a letter to Yudhoyono to convey its response to information that Siti Zainab would be executed. Siti Zainab was sentenced to death for allegedly killing her employer in Saudi Arabia in 1999.

The organization said in its statement that it did not aim to ask for clemency for Siti Zainab's alleged crime. "However, we also want to convey that we oppose death punishment regardless of the situation," it said as quoted by kompas.com.

In its letter to President Yudhoyono, AI said it was the right and responsibility of a government in a country to bring an alleged criminal perpetrator to justice.

AI further said, however, that it opposed the death penalty, which it considered the most extreme form of torture. The death sentence also violated the right to live, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 2 international conventions that Indonesia had ratified, AI said.

"We hope that Mr President can call on the Saudi Arabian Kingdom authorities to change the sentence that has been imposed on her," said the letter.

Siti Zainal is a migrant worker from Jl. Pasarean KH.M.Cholil in Martajasah village, Bangkalan, Madura, East Java. She departed for Saudi Arabia in 1997.

(source: Jakarta Post)

TEXAS----female may face death penalty

Lubbock prosecutors pursuing capital charges against woman in ex-husband's shooting death ---- Court records show Patricia Dennis reportedly shot Tracy Don Dennis 4 times before shooting herself

Lubbock County prosecutors are pursuing a capital murder charge against a 51-year-old woman accused in the February shooting death of her ex-husband at his home south of Lubbock.

A Lubbock County grand jury indicted Patricia Dennis of capital murder Tuesday.

Dennis is being held at the Lubbock County Detention Center. Her bond is set at $1 million.

She was initially indicted in May for 1st-degree felony murder, according to court records.

However, prosecutors are adding a charge of burglary, which escalates the murder charge to a capital offense.

Capital crimes are offenses done in the commission of another offense. In this case Dennis is accused of killing Tracy Don Dennis while committing burglary, since she was at his residence

Punishments for capital offenses include the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Lubbock County Sheriff's Office investigators believe Dennis, armed with a Ruger LCP model .380 caliber pistol, shot her ex-husband 4 times before turning the gun on herself.

Deputies responded to a shots fired call at about 10:20 p.m. Feb. 27 to a house in the 3200 block of County Road 7630 and found Patricia Dennis and Tracy Dennis on the front lawn suffering from gunshot wounds, according to a Lubbock County Sheriff's Office news release.

Eric Chadis, a deputy who arrived at the scene 1st, reported Tracy Dennis was lying facedown, struggling to breathe. He said Patricia Dennis, wearing hospital scrubs, was sitting up almost Indian-style, moaning and crying. According to court records, Patricia Dennis worked as a registered nurse at Covenant Medical Center.

"I could see she had sustained an injury to the right side of her head because there was blood all over the right side of her face," Chadis reported.

While checking on Patricia Dennis, Chadis said, he found a small black handgun under her legs.

Patricia Dennis reportedly grabbed his hands when he reached for the weapon.

A sheriff's report stated the couple's teenage daughter was at home at the time of the shooting.

The couple was married for about 30 years before divorcing in 2012, according to court records.

Tracy Dennis owned Sunset Racecraft, which builds race cars and engines.

Deputies found footage caught by home surveillance video cameras Tracy Dennis installed in his house. A witness deputies interviewed at the scene said Dennis installed the security cameras because of his ex-wife.

Wesley Shields, a sheriff's investigator who reviewed the footage, reported seeing Patricia Dennis waving her hands around while arguing with Tracy Dennis at his garage before the shooting.

Moments later, Shields reported seeing Patricia Dennis walk away but then return and continues arguing.

Shields said Dennis disappears from the camera view except for her shadow, which appeared to bend down at the waist and stand back up.

He said an arm of a female holding a gun reportedly rises up in the shadows and shoots Tracy Dennis.

Shields' description of the footage shows Patricia Dennis reportedly chasing her ex-husband on his property as she shoots him.

Shields said the video showed Dennis reportedly shooting her ex-husband 3 times before he fell to the ground, then she aimed the handgun at his head and fired a final round before turning the gun on herself.

Tracy Dennis was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS despite life-saving efforts by deputies who arrived on scene. He suffered 4 gunshots in his head, back, arm and knee, according to court documents. An autopsy revealed the gunshot in his back severely injured his liver, kidney and diaphragm.

According to a sheriff's office report, investigators collected 3 spent shell casings.

Medical examiners concluded his death was a homicide from multiple gunshot wounds.

Patricia Dennis was airlifted to University Medical Center where she was treated for her injuries.

Sheriff's officials have not released a motive for the shooting.

However, witnesses, including the couple's son, said their relationship was hostile, according to court records.

The couple's son, Jason Dennis, said his parents' divorce was a constant source of arguments between the 2. He said his mother also didn't approve of Tracy Dennis' girlfriend.

On the night of the shooting, he said his father called him saying his Patricia Dennis was at his house "acting crazy."

Jason Dennis told deputies during the call his father told him: "If I end up dead, you know who did it."

Robert Jolly, who worked for Tracy Dennis, said his boss removed his ex-wife from his will so she wouldn't get his business.

Patricia Dennis was released on a personal recognizance bond in March. However, a warrant for her arrest was issued Aug. 20, court records show. She was booked into the jail on Aug. 25.

Court records show an attorney has been appointed to Patricia Dennis.

(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

NORTH CAROLINA:

No margin for error with the death penalty

There are a lot of reasons to oppose the death penalty.

In no particular order, here are ours:

-- If there is any societal value in the death penalty, it would be as a deterrent. But there is no study that has ever shown that the death penalty acts as a deterrent. That would happen only if it were administered swiftly, but that will never again be the case in our litigious society.

-- It's barbaric, and an abolition of the death penalty in this country would provide greater separation between us and those who cut off the head off James Foley. Life in prison without the possibility of parole, it could be effectively argued, is a far worse punishment than death, even if state executions aren't always swift and occasionally are clumsily done.

-- It's expensive. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it costs the state a lot more to execute someone than it does to feed, cloth and house them for the balance of their lives. But a lot of lawyers do make money on the slow walk to death by the condemned that includes a lot of detours through the courthouse.

-- It is arbitrarily administered, with the poor and people of color more likely to receive the death penalty.

-- The death penalty returns to the front pages of the newspapers the condemned as they take on celebrity status when advocates rush to their defense, proclaiming their innocence and giving a final finger to the long-forgotten victims. We would prefer that the guilty suffer in silence.

-- And the most obvious, which we are reminded of as new evidence surfaces that suggests Henry Lee McCollom is not guilty of the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983, and that Leon Brown did not rape the child. The Robesonian broke this news story, which we think will continue to grow, on Tuesday and more details are in today's newspaper. We are content to follow the facts in this case, but it seems now there is reasonable doubt to the guilt of both men.

But both McCollom and Brown in 1984 were sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Buie. The murder conviction against Brown was later overturned as a 2nd trial determined he did not help murder Buie, and he is now in Central Prison serving life; McCollom remains on death row, spared now by a 7-year-old moratorium on executions in North Carolina that was put into effect because of concerns about how it was administered.

But it took 30 years after the initial conviction of McCollom for evidence to surface that suggests there might be reasonable doubt that he was involved in her murder. Even when the wheels of justice turn as slowly as they do in death penalty cases, that is plenty of time to carry out an execution.

It is good that has not happened and that McCollom is with us as the courts will try to determine once again what his involvement was - or if there was any at all - in Buie's death. If he is eventually exonerated, then he would have paid an incredible price - 3 decades in prison - for an act that he did not participate in.

At least, however, he would not have paid with his life.

(source: Editorial, The Robesonian)

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

Man charged in Cary murder accused of assault Wake inmate

Daniel Remington, who is charged with killing a woman in Cary Friday night, is now charged with assaulting another inmate, the Wake County Sheriff's Department confirmed Tuesday.

Remington is being held in the Wake County jail for the murder of Wendy Jean Johnson, 58, of Sanford.

Remington was arrested Saturday in Fayetteville.

Remington appeared in court Monday. His next court date is Sept. 15 for probable cause. He faces life in prison charges or the death penalty.

An online fundraiser to help with Johnson's final expenses had raised $3,975 as of Tuesday afternoon.

(source: WNCN news)

GEORGIA:

Hood claims he heard dead brother's voice before shooting Athens police officers

Jamie Hood claims in recently filed court documents that he heard his dead brother's voice just before he shot 2 Athens-Clarke County police officers more than 3 years ago.

"Don't let them do you like they done me," Hood claims he heard his brother tell him just prior to shooting Senior Police Officer Tony Howard and SPO Elmer "Buddy" Christian" on March 22, 2011.

Howard was shot multiple times and survived his injuries. Authorities said Christian was killed instantly.

Timothy Hood was shot and killed 10 years earlier during a struggle with an Athens-Clarke County police officer.

Last week, Jamie Hood filed a motion in Clarke County Superior Court that requests funds to hire experts, including a psychiatrist, to perform an evaluation.

The indigent defendant is representing himself in his own death penalty case.

Prior to acting as his own attorney, Hood repeatedly sparred with his attorneys as they attempted to have him declared mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Now, Hood claims that his sanity at the time he shot the officers is an issue.

"(My) mental state at the time of the offense is a significant factor to be considered by (the) trial jury in the guilt innocence phase and to develop mitigating evidence," Hood states in the motion.

Hood suggests in his motion that his shooting the police officers was influenced by the 2001 shooting death of his brother by police.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)

FLORIDA----female to face death penalty

Martha White indicted by grand jury for murder of grandson

Prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty against a Tallahassee grandmother accused of murdering her 6 year old grandson.

Martha White, 63, was formally indicted by a grand jury August 26 on charges of 1st degree murder and child abuse.

White is charged in the August 5, 2014 stabbing death of her 6-year-old grandson Mason Rhinehart. Investigators with the Leon County Sheriff's Office say White was babysitting Rhinehart and his brother at their home on Bass Ridge Trail when White pulled the younger Rhinehart boy into the bathroom, telling him she "had a surprise for him".

That is when investigators say White locked the door and began repeatedly stabbing Mason. He would later die at a local hospital from his injuries.

White was reportedly found after the incident down the road from the home, wandering around a playground.

A Leon County judge had previously ordered White undergo several mental evaluations. She remains in the Leon County Jail where she is being held without bond.

(source: WTXL news)

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Another delay in James Rhodes' death penalty case

There has been another delay in the trial of a man accused of killing a Metro PCS employee last year.

At a hearing Tuesday, 22-year-old James Rhodes, the defendant, appeared in front of a judge for a pre-trial hearing.

Defense attorneys revealed they are still waiting for a doctor's report to determine if Rhodes is intellectually disabled, which would make him not eligible for the death penalty.

A doctor evaluated Rhodes several weeks ago, however, the findings from the evaluation are not done, attorneys said.

Rhodes faces several charges, including first degree murder, in the shooting death of 20-year-old Shelby Farah.

Investigators said Rhodes shot Farah execution-style during a robbery at the Metro PCS store where she worked in 2013. July 20 marked 1 year since her death.

Darlene Farah, the victim's mom, said the process has been extremely hard on her 2 children who miss their sister.

"I just want to see joy back in their life. It's really hard on them," she said.

The judge scheduled another pre-trial hearing September 15. Attorneys said they hope to have the doctor's mental evaluation report by then.

(source: firstcoastnews.com)

ALABAMA:

Trial of accused Auburn mass killer Desmonte Leonard set to start Sept. 22

Accused Auburn mass killer Desmonte Leonard is set to stand trial in Lee County the week of Sept. 22.

A status hearing on the case, focusing on the preparation of a questionnaire for potential jurors was held Monday, the Opelika-Auburn News reported.

Leonard is accused of fatally shooting DeMario Pitts, of Opelika and former Auburn University football players Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian during a party at the University Heights apartments on June 9, 2012.

Former AU football player Eric Mack and Roanoke natives Xavier Moss and John Q. Robertson were injured.

Leonard turned himself in to Montgomery authorities following a 3-day manhunt.

The jury pool for the trial is more than 200 people, according to the report.

Due to the size of the jury pool and the media attention brought to the case, defense attorney Susan James said asking the right questions of jurors is critical.

But, the defense team still plans to ask for a change of venue.

District Attorney Robbie Treese said he would be seeking the death penalty against Leonard.

A Montgomery County Detention Facility corrections officer is accused of having sex with Leonard in the jail in June.

Shemarra Montgomery resigned from her job on July 21 and was charged with custodial misconduct the next day.

Leonard, who is being held in Montgomery for his safety, doesn't face any additional charges.

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

Trial underway for Birmingham man charged in 2011 stabbing death of ex-girlfriend in front of her 2 young children

Jury selection will continue today in the capital murder trial of a Birmingham man charged with stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death in front of her 2 young children in 2011.

Gregory Smith, 36, could face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying of Gerronda Hill, 30, who was attacked when she entered her home May 4, 2011 at 2125 47th Street Ensley. Her children, ages 10 and 13, witnessed her death, police said at the time.

Hill tried to flee and, along with her children, made it to her vehicle where they got inside and locked the doors, according to police. One child called 911 from a cell phone.

The couple had a history of domestic violence, police said at the time and Hill had obtained a stalking warrant against Smith less than 2 months before her death.

Smith had declined a plea deal with prosecutors that would have called for a life without the possibility of parole sentence, it was revealed in court Monday.

Jurors on Monday filled out questionnaires that attorneys and prosecutors will use in the jury selection process. The potential jurors will be questioned beginning this morning about their responses to certain questions.

Smith also faces a 1st degree robbery charge. During a Monday hearing, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bill Cole dismissed a three-count burglary charge at the request of prosecutors.

Deputy Jefferson County District Attorneys Joe Hicks and Julie McMakin are prosecuting the case. Attorneys Wendell Sheffield and Mike Shores are defending Smith.

(source for both: al.com)

LOUISIANA:

Louisiana Public Defender Board pulled funds for local death penalty cases after unsuccessful trials

Tensions ran high Tuesday afternoon as the Caddo District Attorney's Office, local defense attorneys, and a state regulator argued over funds for death penalty cases.

The Louisiana Public Defender Board says it doesn't have the money to pay for expert witnesses ahead of Kenneth Willis' October 13 trial, so defense attorneys want proceedings pushed back until they can find the funds.

To make matters worse, the state board stopped funding Shreveport-based Capital Assistance Project of Louisiana, or CAPOLA. LPDB Capital Case Coordinator Jean Faria says, the decision was the result of 2 death penalty verdicts back-to-back.

Faria says the agency reviewed CAPOLA work after jurors returned the death penalty against Marcus Reed in October 2013 and Rodricus Crawford just one month later.

Prosecutors say LPDB could fund CAPOLA but won't in order to deliberately slow down death penalty cases.

"I think the real issue here is that the Louisiana Public Defender Board has identified Caddo Parish as being a place where the death penalty is sought and gained," Assistant District Attorney Dale Cox said. "Because of their philosophy, that's where the attention needs to be."

Willis is charged with killing his 1-month-old son, Zamian, in 2007.

Nearly 1 in 4 of Louisiana's death row inmates was convicted in Caddo Parish.

Judge Brady O'Callaghan will hear more testimony Wednesday morning on several motions.

(source: KTBS news)

MISSOURI:

Judge Hears Change of Venue Request in Craig Wood Case

Lawyers for Craig Michael Wood discussed with Circuit Judge Dan Conklin and prosecutors which jury would hear Wood's murder trial during a hearing Tuesday.

Next month, a hearing will consider where that trial will be held.

At a pre-trial conference Tuesday morning, Conklin heard but did not rule on defense attorney's requests that Wood's case not be heard by a Greene County jury. A motion seeking to move the trial out of the county will be heard at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 4.

Woods' lawyers contend he cannot get a fair hearing in Greene County because of extensive media coverage of the kidnap, assault and murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens in February.

Earlier this year, Owens was grabbed off the street near her Springfield home. Several hours later, her body was found in the basement of a house on East Stanford where Wood lived.

Prosecutors filed notice in July saying they intend to seek the death penalty against Wood.

Wood is charged with murder, armed criminal action, child kidnapping, rape or attempted rape, and sodomy or attempted sodomy.

He is being held in the Greene County Jail without bond.

(source: ozarksfirst.com)

COLORADO:

Dialogue still lacking on Colorado death penalty

We're not surprised that Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a yet-to-be-aired TV interview that he could grant clemency to convicted killer Nathan Dunlap if somehow he did not win re-election in November.

We would expect no less from someone who has deep-seated concerns about the death penalty.

As opponents of the death penalty, we believe clemency would be the right call.

The disappointing aspect of the situation, in our view, lies not with Hickenlooper's stance on sparing the life of Dunlap, but that the governor hasn't fulfilled what we see as his obligation to lead a broader conversation about the death penalty.

After Hickenlooper last year granted a temporary reprieve to Dunlap, who was facing a looming execution date, we hoped he would follow up the decision with an effort to engage Coloradans in conversation about whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent and a moral punishment.

To be sure, it would be an uncomfortable topic with a populace that polls show overwhelmingly favors the death penalty. And Dunlap, who killed four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993, is far from a sympathetic individual.

Shortly after granting Dunlap a temporary reprieve, a move that could be undone by a future governor, Hickenlooper said:

"I felt centered - that this was respectful of the people of Colorado and their right to come to their own - once you get new facts - come to their own conclusions and be part of that process."

The governor's opposition to a bill in the legislature last year that would have repealed the death penalty only reinforced his obligation to have a public death penalty discussion. As it turns out, the issue has really only played out in political circles as his opponents have tried to portray Hickenlooper as wishy-washy.

Hickenlooper's recent comments on his options if he were to lose the governor's mansion came in a CNN interview, obtained and reported by blogger Todd Shepherd, have only fueled that fire.

And while Hickenlooper's death penalty views are fair game in politics, it's disappointing that the governor hasn't pushed for a fuller exploration of whether Colorado should continue to have such a punishment.

(source: Denver Post Editorial Board)

ARIZONA:

Jury still deliberating in Hulsey penalty phase

A jury still hasn't decided on a sentence for a man convicted of murder in the 2007 shooting of a Glendale police officer.

Jurors deliberated for a 2nd day Tuesday before leaving for the evening. They're scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Bryan Wayne Hulsey was convicted last month of 1st-degree murder in the killing of 24-year-old Anthony Holly.

Jurors now are considering whether to sentence Hulsey to death or life in prison.

The 40-year-old Hulsey was a passenger in the vehicle pulled over for speeding and not having a license plate. He was serving as backup to another officer who made the stop.

Prosecutors say Hulsey got out and fired 2 shots, 1 of which hit Holly.

Defense attorneys argued Holly was unintentionally shot by the officer who made the stop.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Justice delayed - Speedy trials are guaranteed in the Constitution, but they don't always happen

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial..." - U.S. Constitution, 6th amendment

When it comes to "speedy" trials, the legal system often founders.

In Arizona, the term is defined by Rule 8 of Criminal Procedure. If a defendant is in custody, the justice system has 150 days from arraignment to hold a trial; out of custody, 180 days. So-called "complex" cases are allowed 270 days. Capital cases, involving the death penalty, have 18 months.

But in practice, those deadlines are almost never met.

Some high-profile examples:

Steven C. DeMocker's murder case, at one time a capital case, took 5 years from arrest to conviction;

Cesar Garcia-Soto is slated to begin his death penalty trial, on charges that he murdered his son, 8 years from the arrest date in 2008;

Jeffrey Balys, arrested on charges of luring a minor for sexual exploitation in January 2011, is set for trial in November, nearly 4 years after his arrest.

The reason is that the defense - never the prosecution - is allowed to "waive" Rule 8 time if it so chooses. At every appearance in which a defendant's actions are delayed, the judge asks if he is willing to waive time, and he routinely does.

That's because the attorneys advise their clients that the time is needed for preparation to take place to ensure their defense is ready, Yavapai County Public Defender John Napper said.

"A lot of cases take longer than expected because criminal prosecutions and defenses have become more complicated across time," he said, noting that scientific evidence has become a major factor in trials.

"Usually, you have a conversation with your client about waiving Rule 8 prior to appearing in the courtroom," he added, and "9 times out of 10" they agree.

There are times, Napper said, when a lawyer is simply overloaded with cases, and he can't go to trial within the Rule 8 time, and needs to have an extension.

Sometimes, a defendant decides to refuse to waive Rule 8 time. The judge can order that time be waived if it's simply impractical to set a trial date by the deadline, although, Napper said, this happens infrequently.

After nearly a year-and-a-half of plea negotiation, Jacob Cota no longer wanted to wait for his trial.

"I've been in custody for 16 months now and I'm ready to go to trial. I don't want to waive any more time," he told Superior Court Judge Jennifer Campbell. He said he would not accept a "plea for something I did not do."

Cota had been indicted on 14 counts, including armed robbery and weapons charges, along with an accomplice, in January 2013.

Deputy County Attorney Jeff Paupore said in court that "(The case) has got some factual issues," among them the fact that "(the alleged accomplice) has since recanted" his statement that Cota was the second robber.

That was at the end of April, and, Campbell calculated, Rule 8 required Cota's trial begin by June 11.

On May 5, the prosecution asked Campbell to dismiss the charges without prejudice, meaning they could be reinstated later. She granted the motion.

"There's a reference to Rule 8 time in the motion (to dismiss)," Chief Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane said. "That's just part of our standard boilerplate. It really had nothing to do with Rule 8."

(source: The Daily Courier)

CALIFORNIA:

Sacramento judge takes murderer off of death row

A federal judge on Tuesday threw out the death penalty of a transient who fatally stabbed a man 33 years ago on a bank of the American River in Sacramento and fled in the victim's car.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton adopted the recommendation of a magistrate judge that a lesser sentence be imposed on Larry Junior Webster, unless the Sacramento County District Attorney's office initiates a retrial of the penalty phase within 90 days.

"We're glad the guilt phase was not overturned," Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi said. "We will take a hard look at the penalty phase and decide whether we want to retry it."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd had found that Webster, the recipient of a Bronze Star for combat bravery in the Vietnam War, was denied a fair trial in the penalty phase because his counsel was incompetent. Karlton agreed with Drozd that Webster was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to "effective assistance of counsel" due to his lawyer's "failure to investigate and present a mitigation case ... to the jury."

Karlton also adopted Drozd's recommendation that numerous other claims made by Webster to challenge his conviction and sentence be denied.

Now 65, Webster has been on death row since 1983, when he was found guilty by a jury of lying in wait and murdering 36-year-old William Burke so he and some companions could steal Burke’s car. The lying-in-wait and robbery elements of the case qualified Webster for the death penalty.

According to the prosecution, Webster and others lured Burke to a camp near Discovery Park, killed him and buried him in a shallow grave. He was stabbed 25 times.

The group then used Burke's 1967 Chrysler to flee to Southern California, where they were arrested after robbing a convenience store.

Webster's defense was in shambles at the penalty phase of the trial.

Drozd found the paltry defense presented by Webster's lawyer, compared to the information that was available had there been a thorough investigation, undermines confidence in the jury's penalty verdict.

Attorney William Owen was put in an untenable position when, at the request of defense lawyer Vincent O'Brien, he entered the case to defend Webster at the penalty phase, only to learn that O'Brien, who had bowed out because of a heart condition, had done nothing to prepare for the penalty phase.

In a court declaration, Owen said he agreed to take over based on O'Brien's assurances "that he had been taking reasonable steps in preparation for the penalty phase.... When I received the files and reviewed them ... I discovered that virtually nothing had been done .... Mr. Webster's family had not been contacted. His military file had not been obtained. ... The case was simply not ready to be tried."

In the end, Owen, aided by an investigator, cobbled together a penalty phase mitigation presentation in the 1 month allotted to him by Superior Court Judge Sheldon H. Grossfeld.

Owen later testified in a deposition that, even as he presented his evidence to the jury, he felt it was inadequate representation.

The entire transcript of Owen's presentation is 22 pages. The testimony of Webster's mother consists of four questions and answers. She identified herself and confirmed that she was there to ask the jury to spare her son's life.

Then Owen asked, "Larry went to Vietnam. Did you see any change in his personality after Vietnam?"

She replied, "There was a complete change in him when he come back."

"In what way?" Owen asked.

"He wasn't the same boy he was when he went in there."

Contacted Tuesday, Owen's only comment was, "I'm glad the death penalty was vacated."

(source: Sacramento Bee)

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S.C. Upholds Death Sentences in Drug-Related Valley Murders ---- Justices Reject Claim District Attorney's Office Should Have Been Recused

The state Supreme Court yesterday unanimously upheld the death sentences imposed on 3 members of a Pacoima-based drug gang, convicted in the murders of 4 people at a Lake View Terrace "rock house" in 1988.

The so-called "Bryant Family" had a reported multimillion dollar business. The case took 6 years to get to trial, and cost taxpayers a reported $3 million, and involved protracted pretrial motions, including 2 attempts to disqualify the entire Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles Horan sentenced Stanley Bryant, Donald Franklin Smith, and Leroy Wheeler in 1995, in accordance with a jury verdict. Prosecutors said the defendants ambushed 2 men who had allegedly threatened to steal business from the gang, and that Wheeler then went outside and killed a woman and her 2-year-old child, who were waiting for the 2 men in a parked car.

Long Trial

More than 120 witnesses testified in the guilt phase of the trial, which lasted more than 2 months. Another 40 took the stand during 7 days of penalty phase testimony.

A 4th defendant, Jon Preston Settle, avoided the death sentence when a single juror held out in the guilt phase. A mistrial was declared, and prosecutors, rather than retry the case, agreed to a negotiated plea of guilty to manslaughter charges.

Settle was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison.

A number of witnesses had worked for the "family" and testified about its operations. They said that Stanley Bryant was largely responsible for the gang's operations, although they were still overseen by his older brother.

Jeff Bryant was in prison on drug charges at the time of the killings.

Witnesses said 1 of the victims, Andre Armstrong, had served 6 years in prison for manslaughter after being paid to kill a man who vandalized a car belonging to another Bryant brother. The manslaughter conviction was a result of a plea bargain after a murder conviction was thrown out on appeal.

Drug Business

Armstrong was said to have been upset at the Bryants for not adequately taking care of his family while he was in prison. His friend James Brown had established a Monterey drug business with the Bryants' backing, but Armstrong decided he and Brown should establish their own business in Los Angeles and informed the "family" they were moving.

The "family" provided them with an apartment, but Armstrong complained it was dirty and that the organization should pay for the cleaning.

It was in response to a page from "Stan," according to testimony, that Armstrong and Brown went to the Lake View Terrace house to pick up $500.

The house had fortifications similar to a prison. One could not move, or see into, one part of the house from another without moving through locked gates surrounded by metal bars.

Police said Brown and Armstrong were shot dead from close range after entering the house. Each was shot multiple times, with both a handgun and a shotgun.

Loretha Anderson was shot to death in her car, along with her daughter Chemise English. Her 18-month-old son, Carlos English, was found in the car, which had been driven from the scene.

The boy had been injured by flying glass, but was not shot. His mother and sister were dead, and the bodies of Brown and Armstrong were found in roadside brush 4 days later, about 5 miles from the house.

Takeover Plan

Prosecutors said Bryant had several reasons for wanting Armstrong eliminated. The victim had told a number of individuals, including police officers who interviewed him in prison, that he considered the Bryant organization "weak" and held it responsible for his being in prison, and said he planned to "squeeze" the Bryants for money and part of their business.

The other reason, prosecutors said, was that Armstrong was intimately involved with Stanley Bryant's ex-wife.

Stanley Bryant testified that he had been trying to get out of the business after his brother went to prison. He admitted being at the house the day of the murders, but said he had nothing to do with the killings, and that William Settle, the brother of his codefendant - who had an antagonistic relationship with the others by the time of the trial - was running the operation at the time.

William Settle pled guilty to a drug conspiracy charge growing out of the case.

Wheeler also admitted his involvement with the drug operation, but denied involvement in the murders. Smith did not testify.

On appeal, the defendants argued that the entire Los Angeles District Attorney's Office should have been disqualified from the case based on pretrial comments by the then-lead prosecutor, Jan Maurizi, that the drug organization had writ proceeding, the lead prosecutor asserted that Bryant Family employees had "infiltrated" the district attorney's office. The defense had not been provided with discovery on that subject.

The defense also complained that the prosecution delayed disclosing unredacted interview notes of a deputy district attorney, who concluded that Maurizi and a police investigator had badgered a witness, affecting her testimony at the preliminary hearing. The witness did not testify at trial.

Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for the high court, said the denial of disqualification was not grounds for reversal.

Noting that the prosecution team was replaced before trial, Corrigan wrote:

"Recusal is not a mechanism to punish past prosecutorial misconduct. Instead, it is employed if necessary to ensure that future proceedings will be fair....Defendants have failed to demonstrate a likelihood that [the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office] could not prosecute the case fairly. Nor do they show that, in fact, the ensuing proceedings were unfair."

The court also rejected the claim that Horan committed prejudicial constitutional error by ordering the defendants to be restrained while seated at counsel table. The judge gave them the option of wearing shackles or stun belts, also known as REACT belts, and they chose the belts.

Corrigan acknowledged that the defendants had attended many court proceedings, and had never been disruptive or attempted escape. But there were still valid reasons for the restraints, she said, including the fact that many Bryant Family employees were at large and in a position to affect courthouse security, as well as the ongoing antagonism between Settle and the other defendants, who had to be kept apart at all times outside the courtroom.

The justice was joined in the opinion by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Kathryn M. Werdegar, Marvin Baxter, and Ming Chin, along with First District Court of Appeal Justice Terence Bruiniers, sitting on assignment.

Justice Goodwin Liu concurred separately. He argued that there was no "manifest need" to order the defendants to wear stun belts, based on the record before the trial court, but said the error was harmless.

"[D]efendants point to nothing in the record showing that the stun belts adversely affected their demeanor or ability to assist counsel, or otherwise impaired their participation in the trial," Liu wrote.

Deputy Attorney General Victoria B. Wilson argued the case for the prosecution. Court-appointed lawyers for the defendants were Assistant State Public Defender Kathleen M. Scheidel for Bryant, David H. Goodwin of Los Angeles for Smith, and Conrad Petermann of Ojai for Wheeler.

The case is People v. Bryant, 14 S.O.S. 3723.

(source: Metropolitan News Company)

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

Murder defendant to face mental competency trial

A Riverside County man charged in 3 stabbing deaths of pedestrians who were strolling in their neighborhoods will be evaluated by doctors before a judge decides whether he can be tried for murder.

The Press-Enterprise reports (http://bit.ly/1p7g8s8 ) a mental competency trial is set for Sept. 22 for David Rey Contreras of Perris.

Criminal proceedings against the 26-year-old were suspended in March over questions about his mental health.

Contreras has pleaded not guilty.

He allegedly attacked and stabbed to death 53-year-old Jose Apreza while Apreza was walking his dog in 2012.

Contreras is also charged with murder in the deaths of 51-year-old Maria Gonzalez and her 25-year-old daughter, Consuelo Gonzalez. They were both found lying in the street, bleeding from multiple stab wounds.

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty.

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

Suspect in 3 L.A. area shootings charged with capital murder

Prosecutors on Tuesday charged a suspect in 3 Los Angeles-area weekend killings with murder in an earlier shooting.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said 34-year-old Alexander Hernandez of Sylmar was charged with capital murder for killing 48-year-old Gildardo Morales as he drove his pickup truck to work on Aug. 21 in Pacoima.

Hernandez was also charged with attempted murder and animal cruelty in other random shootings over the past 5 days, authorities said.

On Aug. 22, police say Hernandez fired at a couple in their vehicle in West Hollywood. They weren't injured. The following day he drove by a Pacoima house and shot 3 dogs, killing 2, authorities said.

Then on Sunday, police say, he killed 3 people within an hour. He has not been charged in those deaths.

Hernandez was charged with one count of murder with a special circumstance of shooting at an occupied vehicle, 2 counts of attempted murder, 3 counts of animal cruelty, 2 counts of discharge of a firearm with gross negligence and 1 count of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of ammunition.

The district attorney's office said Hernandez has 4 prior convictions, including possession for sale of methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance with a firearm, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Hernandez is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday and remains held on $1 million bail. The charges carry a potential death penalty, and prosecutors will ask that he be held without bail.

Prosecutors called the shootings random and police said there was no indication of a link among the victims. Police believe Hernandez worked alone and is the sole suspect in Sunday's shootings.

Detectives for the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are continuing to investigate.

Hernandez is also being looked at as a potential suspect in several other unsolved cases that may have also involved a tan- or gold-colored SUV and the use of a shotgun.

(source for both: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Death row inmate Woods receives another look at case

A man sentenced to death for his role in the brutal slaying of 2 women in a Spokane Valley trailer in 1996 has won another look at his case from a federal appeals court, though at least one judge said it's unlikely that review will change his fate.

Dwayne Anthony Woods is being held at a medium-security facility in Wisconsin following his 1997 conviction on 2 counts of 1st-degree aggravated murder in the bludgeoning deaths of Telisha Shaver and Jade Moore, along with raping Moore. A jury, made up of 9 women and 3 men, sentenced Woods to death after 2 days of deliberations.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Woods told his attorneys not to offer evidence of mitigating circumstances that could have prevented him from receiving a capital sentence. After prosecutors made their case, Woods told the jury he did not object to his own execution, according to court documents.

"So I ask that each of you go back and return a vote to impose the death penalty," Woods said in court, according to transcripts. "Thank you."

Since then, multiple appeals have been filed by Woods to overturn his conviction and sentence, citing evidentiary errors performed at the Washington State Patrol crime lab - including a leaking blood sample and potential contamination - and his counsel's ineffectiveness to impeach that evidence or witnesses at his jury trial. In a decision handed down Monday, 3 judges for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out many of Woods's most recent claims, saying his objections were filed improperly or at the wrong time. However, they did order the U.S. District Court to take another look at his claim defense attorneys ignored their duty when they did not attempt to discredit Venus Shaver, an eyewitness to the beatings who said she was flitted in and out of consciousness as Woods allegedly bludgeoned her sister and Moore.

Woods says his post-conviction defense should have challenged the "recovered" memory of Shaver in the moments after he'd struck her with a bat. The District Court declined to consider the assertion, ruling that it hadn't been brought up in previous court cases, including Woods's appearance for the Washington state Supreme Court. But the appellate judges said the District Court must be briefed on the issue before rendering a decision.

In dissent, Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote the majority opinion amounts to "an unnecessary delay" in the case.

"Because none of Woods's new claims would lead a reasonable juror to conclude that Woods did not murder Jade Moore and Telisha Shaver, or attempt to murder Venus Shaver, no court can provide Woods the relief he seeks," Tallman wrote. He called the evidence against Woods "overwhelming."

Woods' execution was delayed pending the outcome of this appeal in February 2009. Since the filing of that appeal, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a moratorium on the death penalty while he is in office.

(source: Spokesman-Review)

USA:

The myth of a kinder, gentler execution.

Did Joseph Wood suffer when he was executed in Arizona last month?

Some witnesses reported that Wood gasped over 600 times during his July 23 execution by lethal injection, which took nearly 2 hours. But 1 official said that Wood "appeared to be snoring," while another stated flatly that the inmate "did not endure pain." We'll never know.

But here's what we do know: the quest for a pain-free mechanism of capital punishment is a fool's errand. As Amherst professor Austin Sarat shows in a terrific new book, we have spent 2 centuries trying to put people to death without putting them in discomfort. And it hasn't worked.

Start with hanging, which Englishmen brought to our shores during the colonial era. But they did not import professional hangmen, so executions fell to sheriffs and other local officials.

Too often, they had no idea what they were doing. Poorly tied ropes snapped, earning the condemned a return trip to the gallows. Or sometimes the rope wasn't taut enough, so executioners had to pull on the prisoner's legs until he expired.

The big problem was that hanging usually choked people to death - a slow and grueling process - instead of breaking their necks. So communities erected higher gallows, in the hopes that a so-called "long drop" would insure a quick and painless demise. They also devised pulley systems to jerk the prisoner's head upwards, instead of relying on gravity alone.

But many inmates still gurgled and choked for long stretches of time; others were decapitated, generating lurid newspaper headlines. So Americans turned to the new technology of electricity, which promised to execute prisoners "in a less barbarous manner," as New York's governor declared in 1885.

5 years later, Philadelphia-born William Kemmler would become the first American to die in an electric chair. Kemmler had killed his wife when she admitted to an affair with one of his co-workers in Buffalo. After he was sentenced to die "by the application of electricity," Kemmler's lawyers tried to block the execution on the grounds that it violated the 8th Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The appeal generated its own fireworks, pitting Thomas Edison - the father of modern electricity - against his chief competitor, George Westinghouse. Although Edison personally opposed the death penalty, he was eager to demonstrate the superiority of direct current - the system he devised - and the dangers of alternating current, which Westinghouse had patented.

So Edison took the stand and testified that alternating current was much more lethal than the direct kind - and that it would likely kill a prisoner with speed and without pain. But William Kemmler discovered otherwise. It took the state over 8 minutes - and shocks of 2,000 volts - to kill Kemmler, after his sentence was upheld. White smoke wafted from his body, which heaved and convulsed before he finally died.

Other states reported that electrocuted inmates actually caught on fire, which led to the development of yet another death-penalty technology: the gas chamber. Its first use came in Nevada, which executed a convicted murderer in 1924 with a poison used to fumigate citrus trees. When railroads refused to transport the substance from its manufacturer in Los Angeles, a warden's aide was dispatched to pick it up in his own truck.

Over the next 2 decades, 10 other states authorized executions by lethal gas. But prisoners retched and convulsed in the presence cyanide and other poisons, whose chemical properties were poorly understood; and by the late 1940s, widespread reports of Nazi gas chambers further discredited this method.

So most states used electrocutions until 1977, when Oklahoma adopted lethal injection as an alternative to the "inhumanity, visceral brutality, and cost" of the electric chair, as one advocate proclaimed. Today, 32 states allow the death penalty by lethal injection. But the inhumanity and brutality of the death penalty haven't gone away; they just assume different forms.

Sometimes prison officials can't find a vein, so they prod inmates repeatedly or scrape off their top layers of skin. And once the drugs enter their systems, inmates exhibit many of the same behaviors that earlier methods spawned: choking, convulsing, spitting, and more.

Indeed, we really have no idea what effects different drugs will have. States used to inject a 3-drug "cocktail," which they discontinued after manufacturers refused to continue selling it to them. So Joseph Wood received an opioid painkiller and a sedative, which would allegedly produce a timely and pain-free death.

Of course, that's impossible. Wood murdered his ex-girlfriend and her father, so perhaps he deserved to suffer. But in that case, we'll have to abandon the myth of a kindler, gentler death penalty. Killing is a barbarous act, period. And there is no humane way to do it.

(source: Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University; newsworks.org)

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

Scope of death penalty retrial expanded

The death penalty retrial for an Iowa woman convicted of helping kill 5 people in 1993 will be broader than the trial judge wanted, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Jurors will first decide whether Angela Johnson is eligible for the death penalty, and, if so, whether that punishment should be imposed in each death, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The retrial is scheduled for March.

The 2-1 ruling is a victory for federal prosecutors because it allows them to present evidence that would have been excluded in the narrower retrial previously ordered by U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett.

Johnson was sentenced to death in 2005 for her role in the slayings of 3 adults and 2 children in northern Iowa in 1993, becoming the 1st woman to land on federal death row in decades. Prosecutors say she helped her boyfriend, methamphetamine kingpin Dustin Honken, carry out the killings to thwart a federal investigation into their drug enterprise. Honken was convicted separately and is on death row.

The 5 bodies were found in shallow graves near Mason City.

Johnson remains convicted and imprisoned. But Bennett ordered her a new sentencing hearing in 2012, saying that her defense was inadequate during that phase of the trial. In particular, the judge said her attorneys failed to present evidence about Johnson's mental state that may have persuaded jurors to spare her life.

Bennett had ruled that the original finding that Johnson was eligible for the death penalty would stand, and the new jury would only need to consider whether that was the appropriate punishment for each count.

(source: Associated Press)

SUDAN:

Trial of Detained Opposition Leader Transferred to New Venue

The defence team of the jailed leader of the Sudanese Congress Party (ScoP), Ibrahim al-Sheikh, announced that the case has been referred from the West Kordofan capital city of al-Foula to a court in the town of al-Nuhood.

According to a statement by the legal team, Judge Abdel-Wahab Ismail Moussa ruled that the events in the complaint occurred in al-Nuhood and that the plaintiff is the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in the same town.

The judge also noted that all witnesses are present in al-Nuhood and as such sent the case to the chief justice in the state who concurred with the ruling and moved the case back to al-Nuhood.

Al-Sheikh has been held by Sudanese authorities since last June after speaking at a symposium in al-Nuhood in which he denounced the government militia known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and accused its fighters of committing abuses against civilians in conflict zones. He faces charges that could hand him the death penalty if convicted.

He was kept in al-Nuhood jail but transferred to the Police Hospital in Khartoum this month following a significant deterioration in his health.

Sudanese officials said that physicians decided to perform surgery on al-Sheikh but that the latter refused.

The opposition leader has reportedly insisted on picking his medical team stating his concern for his safety if he was to allow doctors selected by authorities to perform surgery on him. He was moved to al-Foula jail afterwards.

The SCoP rejected all the bargains proposed by authorities in North and West Kordofan and refused to make any written apology before to release its leader.

(source: All Africa News)

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

Court in El Fula, West Kordofan rejects case against El Sheikh

The defence team of the Chairman of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) announced that the case against Ibrahim El Sheikh has been rejected by the court of El Fula, West Kordofan, on Sunday.

According to a statement issued by the defence team on Monday, the public prosecutor submitted the case file to judge Abdel Wahab Ismail Musa of El Fula court on Sunday, in the presence of defence lawyers Yagoub Abulgasem, El Taher Makki, and Mohamed Hassan Arabi.

"The judge, however, rejected the case, stating that the events that led to the detention of El Sheikh took place in En Nahud, the plaintiff is En Nahud branch director of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and all witnesses are also based in En Nahud."

The SCP chairman was detained on 8 June by security forces in his hometown En Nahud in West Kordofan, on charges of "undermining the Constitution" after he had publicly denounced the widespread attacks by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, under the command of the NISS, on civilians in Darfur and Kordofan.

A first hearing of the case against El Sheikh was scheduled for 12 June in the court of En Nahud. The prosecutor, however, said that the file against their client had been taken by the security apparatus, "in order to add new details".

The charges filed against El Sheikh are punishable by the death penalty, and do not allow for the release of the accused on bail. He and the party have been pressured more than once to officially offer their apologies for their criticism of the militias, in return for his release.

(source: Radio Dabanga)

SINGAPORE:

Indian national charged for murder of compatriot

A 26-year-old Indian national was on Wednesday charged by a court here for the murder of a compatriot at an industrial estate in the west coast of Singapore.

Thiruppathi Veerapperumal allegedly murdered 26-year-old Murugaiya Suresh Kumar last week near 72 Pandan Loop along the exit road leading to west coast highway.

In a brief hearing today, Thiruppathi dressed in a gray- coloured collared top, appeared calm as the charge was read out to him. Speaking through a Tamil interpreter he told the court, "Sir, I did not commit this offence."

The district judge has ordered to give the police time to complete its investigations. Thiruppathi will be remanded at Central Police Division for investigations and brought back to the alleged crime scene.

He will return to court on September 3, according to media reports. If convicted, Thiruppathi will face death penalty.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force, responding to a help call, arrived at the scene where Murugaiya was attacked.

He had sustained trauma injuries on his head and neck, and had deformities on his left hand.

The paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

(source: news.oneindia.in)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

UAE ruler OKs lengthy law against terror

The ruler of the United Arab Emirates approved a new counter-terrorism law that strengthens existing laws against money laundering, while also expanding penalties to include the death penalty, life imprisonment and fines of up to $27 million, state media reported.

The law, according to the state-backed The National newspaper, calls for establishing counseling and rehabilitation centers for people found "to be terrorism prone." Impersonating a public figure could lead to life imprisonment, the paper said.

The official Emirates News Agency reported that Abu Dhabi ruler and UAE President Khalifa Bin Zayed endorsed the law, but provided no further details. A draft of the law was approved in July by the country's Federal National Council, which acts largely as an advisory body.

The draft law was not released to the wider public to discuss, though parts of the law have been publicized in local media. Dubai-based Gulf News also obtained a copy, which identified potential death-penalty cases as attempts to attack any royal family members or members of the Cabinet's Supreme Council, and acts that lead to the death of a person such as recruiting people to join or joining a terrorist organization and attacking security forces.

The newspaper said the law defines a terrorist offense as "any action or inaction made a crime by this law and every action or inaction made a crime by any other law if they are carried out for a terrorist cause."

(source: Associated Press)

VIETNAM:

Trial of Vietnam cop who shot boss dead suspended

Ngo Van Vinh, 39, former officer of the Suoi Tre Unit of the Dong Nai Traffic Police Division, stands trial for shooting his boss dead on August 26, 2014.

A court in the southern province of Dong Nai on Tuesday ordered additional investigations into a case in which a police officer shot his boss to death at work following a drunken karaoke fight.

Ngo Van Vinh, 39, formerly a captain of the Suoi Tre Unit of the Dong Nai Traffic Police Division, was initially charged with "murder under provocation," which attracts jail terms of between 6 months and 3 years.

The trial opened in the morning, but at the end of the day, the jury decided that the trial will be suspended and further investigations must be carried out.

The judges said Vinh may face charge of "murder," with jail terms ranging from 7 years to death penalty.

According to the indictment, Vinh and his co-workers were drinking at a karaoke parlor in Long Khanh Town in the afternoon of September 22, 2013, when they encountered Major Tran Ngoc Son, 39, deputy head of the Suoi Tre Unit, and his friend Truong Thanh Chi in a nearby room.

After the 2 groups met, Chi and Vinh got into an argument.

Chi reportedly hit Vinh in the face with a beer glass, bleeding his nose.

After the fight, Vinh grew angry with Son for failing to intervene in Chi's attack.

Vinh and Son quarreled. Vinh knocked on Son's neck and was stopped by other people.

Vinh then went back to his office, grabbed a pistol and waited for Son at the office.

At around 5 p.m. that day, Son went back to the office and challenged Vinh to a fight. He allegedly punched Vinh in the face 3 times, drawing blood.

Vinh then reportedly drew the pistol out. Son rushed to attack Vinh to grab the pistol. The 2 struggled.

Senior-lieutenant Doan Thanh Phu, who was standing nearby, rushed to stop Vinh, the pistol on Vinh's hands fired 2 shots, 1 of which came through Phu's hip.

Phu was injured and crawled out of the room to call for help. Son and Vinh continued to struggle for the pistol.

Vinh allegedly fired 4 shots - 2 into the ceiling and 2 into Son. Son collapsed.

Truong Hoc Lam, who worked as a guard at the Suoi Tre unit's parking lot, rushed in to grab the pistol from Vinh's hands.

2 more shots went out, but did not hit anyone.

As Lam saw that the pistol had no bullets left, he let go of Vinh and called other people to take Son, Phu and Vinh to hospital.

Son died at Long Khanh General Hospital at 7:40 p.m. of an aortic rupture. Doctors said he was shot in the torso.

Phu and Vinh were transferred to Dong Nai General Hospital for further treatment.

Vinh had sustained a laceration to this head. Authorities say he may have been grazed by an errant bullet.

Vinh's body was addled with other beating-related injuries.

After treatment, Phu was declared 15 % disabled and Vinh 40 %.

Vinh was arrested shortly after he was discharged from hospital. Before his arrest, the Dong Nai Police Department suspended Vinh from his post and stripped him of his military rank.

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

Vietnam man gets death for killing ex-girlfriend, sharing on Facebook

A Ho Chi Minh City court on Tuesday handed down the death penalty to a man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in an eatery near a police station and shared statuses about the murder on his Facebook page last year.

Dang Van Khuyen, 29, was found guilty of killing Le Thi Thuy Hang, 24, and he admitted to his crime in the trial held by the Binh Thanh District People's Court.

According to the indictment, Khuyen from Thua Thien-Hue Province and Hang from Quang Ngai Province had a relationship in 2007.

Around 2 years later, Hang broke up with him as Khuyen was frequently jealous and they usually fought.

After the breakup, Khuyen repeatedly threatened to beat, kill or throw acid into Hang if she loved someone else.

Hang moved her places several times but Khuyen managed to find her and came to threaten her and damage her personal belongings.

In February 2011, Hang moved to a hired apartment in Binh Thanh District. Khuyen came to her place and broke her property and threaten to set the apartment on fire.

Hang reported the acts to police in Binh Thanh District's Ward 12.

Things got better until March 2013, when Khuyen sent messages and got on Hang's way home from work to threaten her.

Hang sent a complaint against the acts to the Binh Thanh District prosecutors' office.

At around 2 p.m. on April 13, 2013, when Hang was walking to a police station near her place after the police summoned her to work on her complaint, Khuyen followed her secretly.

He sat on a cafe nearby to watch her.

2 1/2 hours later, Hang got out of the police station. Khuyen drove his motorbike behind her.

Upon seeing him, Hang ran into an eatery on Ngo Tat To Street to hide.

Khuyen stopped his bike in front of the eatery, pulled out a knife and repeatedly stabbed Hang.

Things happened so quickly that no one in the eatery could stop him.

Khuyen fled the scene. He then threw the knife into the Saigon River.

Hang was rushed to Gia Dinh People's Hospital but succumbed to her injuries soon afterwards.

That night, Khuyen wrote some statuses on his Facebook page, saying he had punished Hang as she was guilty, and that he will be punished by the law.

"My last free night. Tomorrow I'll go to jail..." he wrote.

He also retold his love story and said Hang had betrayed him.

The following morning, Khuyen turned himself in to police.

Khuyen told the court he was jealous after Hang had a new boyfriend, so he killed her.

(source for both: Thanh Nien News)

SOUTH KOREA:

S. Korea parliament in a deadlock over legislation on inquiry of ferry tragedy

South Korea's main opposition party launched a sit-in at parliament, as a long dispute over April's ferry disaster paralysed lawmaking.

The sit-in by the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) comes amid deadlock in parliament over plans to set up an independent inquiry into the April 16 sinking, which claimed some 300 lives.

The ruling Saenuri Party has rejected a call for a consultative body allowing victims' families a role in discussing legislation needed for such an inquiry, saying this would amount to allowing crime victims to take the law into their own hands in breach of the constitution.

NPAD lawmakers, who support the families' call for a role in the consultative body, brought camp beds and wicker mats into a conference room at the parliament as they settled down for the indefinite sit-in.

"There can be no state if people's lives are neglected," NPAD parliamentary floor leader Park Young-Sun told a rally outside parliament as the sit-in got underway.

"We will fight on with the victims' families... until the Saenuri Party and President Park Geun-hye accept the demand" for an independent inquiry, he said.

The row over the inquiry has paralysed all parliamentary work, including bills aimed at boosting the nation's sluggish economy.

Some of the victims' relatives have been camped out in Seoul for weeks to push parliament to pass legislation setting up a full, independent inquiry.

The father of one victim was hospitalised on Friday after a 40-day hunger strike.

The tragedy, blamed by many on regulatory failings and official incompetence, plunged South Korea into deep mourning and soul-searching. Most of the dead were students at the same high school.

15 of the boat's crew members are currently on trial, including the captain and 3 senior officers who are accused of "homicide through wilful negligence" - a charge that can carry the death penalty.

The bulk of the charges arise from the fact that they chose to abandon the ferry while hundreds of people were still trapped inside.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

MALAYSIA:

3 Mexicans Facing Death Penalty Prepare for Last Appeal in Malaysia

3 Mexican brothers sentenced to death in Malaysia are preparing to file their last appeal before the Federal Court in Malaysia, which could hold the hearing before the end of the year, the defense said.

"The hearing will most probably take place before the end of the year, the Federal Court judges have to review a lot of documents pertaining to the case," Kitson Foong, the lawyer of Mexicans Luis Alfonso, Simon and Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, told Efe.

According to Foong, the brothers are being held in jail in the state of Pahang, some 185 km northwest of Kuala Lumpur.

The Mexicans were arrested on March 4, 2008 in a police raid in the southern city of Johor along with a Malaysian and a Singaporean citizen who have also been given the death penalty.

All 5 were found in the vicinity of a ship where police agents seized 29 kilograms of methamphetamine valued at $15 million, 1/3 of which disappeared in police custody.

The Gonzalez Villarreal brothers, natives of the state of Sinaloa, claim that they were only employed to clean the place and that they were not aware of the consignment.

The Malaysian prosecutor, however, says that traces of drugs were found on their clothes and their hands.

In May 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court sentenced the Mexicans to death by hanging, a ruling that was upheld by the Court of Appeal a year later.

The Federal Court is the only court where those convicted can appeal.

Although Sinaloa is known to be home to one of the largest drug cartels, the Gonzalez Villarreal brothers have no criminal records and belong to a humble family of 7 siblings, the youngest of whom died in a robbery.

Mexico's government, which opposes the death penalty, has said that "it will use all the means at its disposal" to revoke the death sentence handed to the 3 Mexicans.

(source: Latin American Herald Tribune)

IRAN----executions

5 prisoners hanged including a citizen of Pakistan

5 men were hanged on Tuesday (August 26) in the main prison in city of Bandar-Abbas, southern Iran. 1 of the prisoners is a Pakistani citizen who had been arrested in Iran for drug related offence.

On Monday, the authorities in Bandar Abbas prison had transferred the 5 men to solitary confinement to await their execution.

The prisoners were identified as: Edris Hassan Zadeh,35, Sajad Rezapour, 25, Mansour Hetdari, 33, Mohammad Balouch, 55, and Mehdi Hashemi.

Since Hassan Rouhani has assumed office as the president of the Iranian regime, there has been a rise in human rights violations in Iran. Some 800 have been executed in Iran during the past year in Iran, including many in public.

(source: NCR-Iran)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Beheading Happens Twice Everyday - Report Reveals

A total of 22 people were beheaded from Aug. 4-22, 2014 and another that is scheduled on Aug. 25.

"That people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom's state-sanctioned brutality", Boumedouha said, a Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said in a statement.

The advocate group said that people were beheaded because of petty crimes. Hence, it condemns the beheading as a form of punishment as it violates the right to life, inhuman and degrading.

Last Aug. 18, 2 sets of brothers were beheaded after being beaten and deprived of sleep for them to confess their crimes. Their families were told not to contact any human rights organizations. Lawyers for the brothers told Amnesty that authorities prefer to shut the families up rather than stop its grotesque execution. Last Aug. 25, a man was charged of drug-trafficking and became the 23rd person beheaded in this month of August.

The death penalty in Saudi Arabia does not follow legal parameters to the extent that it is almost hard to believe, Amnesty International said. In 2013, they also beheaded 3 teenagers under the age of 18. Those who have mental disabilities are not excluded from death penalty.

As most death penalty constitutes beheading, executions are done in public. In some cases, severed head and bodies were left to decompose in public squares to warn others from committing crimes.

Even foreign nationals are not excuse from death penalty. In fact 50 % of the 2,000 people executed from 1985 to 2013 were foreign nationals.

The Australian Government advised Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Saudi Arabia as Saudi authorities detain and prosecute people at the mere suspicion of being terrorists.

Also, Saudi roads were extremely dangerous as death tolls at an average of 19 people every day. The country has the highest road accidents in the world. Piracy is also rampant in the Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

"We strongly advise Australians to maintain a high level of vigilance and to exercise extreme caution when anywhere near these waters", the government said in a statement.

(source: ibtimes.com)

INDIA:

HC confirms death for 3 in Haryana gang rape, murder

The Delhi High Court Tuesday confirmed the death sentence awarded to 3 youths in a gang rape and murder in Haryana in 2012, saying they were "predators" moving on streets and "were looking for a prey".

A division bench of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Mukta Gupta upheld the trial court's February order sentencing the trio to death for abducting, raping and killing a 19-year-old girl, whose mutilated and decomposed body was found in Haryana in 2012.

The bench held that after raping the girl, the convicts battered her to death and they then "defiled her body".

"It was as if the 3 saw a lonely woman on street and the evil in them overtook the good in them. It is not that they acted upon a sudden impulse. They were predators moving on streets and were looking for a prey. The 3 snatched Anamica (name changed) from the society," said the bench in its 97-page judgment.

"Their hunter's mind was hard and unyielding. The predominant idea of finding a victim to rape and then kill her had taken such complete possession of their mind that there was no room for any emotion. Satisfying their lust and executing their design to kill helpless Anamica, the record which they left upon her dead body was a sign: this is not a common rape followed by murder," it said.

The girl was kidnapped by Rahul (27), Ravi (23) and Vinod (23) in a car near her house in Qutub Vihar, Chhawla (Delhi) on the night of Feb 9, 2012, when she, with three colleagues, was returning from her Gurgaon office.

Her mutilated body was found 3 days later from a field in Rewari. There were multiple injuries on the body and she had been assaulted with objects ranging from car tools to earthen pots. Police said Ravi led in committing the crime as the woman had spurned his proposal for a relationship.

The bench, denying any leniency to the three youths, said: "Society has to be protected. It cannot be forgotten that punishment is a moral sanction by the society, not merely a penalty such as a parking fine, which may be imposed without the moral weight of a finding of criminal responsibility."

In India, taking cognizance that sexual offenders believe that every woman on the street belongs to their league and hence was available to satisfy their lust, the Criminal Law Act, has been amended Feb 3, 2013, for deterrent punishment, the court said.

After the Dec 16 Delhi gang rape incident, the government had amended the Criminal Law Act 2013 according to which offenders in rape-cum-murder cases may get death penalty but in the rarest of rare cases.

The court said that from the injuries caused to the victim which led to her death, it is apparent that the duration of her physical suffering was "prolonged".

It is apparent that the accused "intended to traumatise the victim emotionally, maximizing terror through humiliation, all for experiencing pleasure from the criminal action, pain and suffering of the victim (Anamica)", said the bench.

It said that, though amended, the Criminal Law Act, 2013 cannot be applied in this case because the crime was committed prior to the law being amended, but in a rarest of rare case where the crime and the criminal test are satisfied, sentence of death can be inflicted for a violent rape followed by murder.

"...specially when the accused have acted as predators, have snatched a member of the society from the society to commit the crime," it added confirming death for the 3 under murder charges.

(source: Zee News)

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

HC terms rapist-killers 'sadistic predators', confirms death penalty

Observing that the society has to be protected from such sexually violent, dangerous predator sexual offenders, the Delhi high court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence of 3 men for abducting, gang-raping and killing a 17-year-old girl in the capital.

While holding that the present case fell within the realms of the "rarest of rare" category, a bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Mukta Gupta said, "The sordid facts of the present case reveal that the victim, after having been abducted in public gaze and consequently removed from society, was ravished and murdered. The tale of malignity was far from its conclusion as thereafter the sadistic perpetrators grotesquely stamped the breast and the umbilical region of the deceased by using the heated spanner."

Terming the convicts as "trained blood hounds" and "feral beasts", the bench dismissed the appeals filed by the youths - Rahul (27), Ravi (23) and Vinod (23) - against the death sentence awarded to them by a trial court and allowed the plea of the state seeking confirmation of the death penalty.

The girl, who was working in Gurgaon's Cyber City, was abducted in a car from near her house in Qutub Vihar and was gang-raped and murdered by them on February 9, 2012, 11 months before the Nirbhaya gang rape happened in the capital.

In its 97-page verdict, the high court dealt with the evidence in this case and the sentencing patterns of various countries, including the US, in sexual offences cases. "It is a whimsical and bizarre crime, conceits of which kind are not common in the annals of crime. After raping unfortunate Anamica (name given by court), they battered her to death. They then defiled her body. Their acts revealed the intention to carry out a crime for the excitement of a criminal act," it said.

"From the injuries caused to Anamica which led to her death, it is apparent that the duration of Anamica's physical suffering was prolonged."

While observing that the convicts cannot be punished under the new amended rape law as the amendments were carried out after the commission of the crime, the court, however, said the death penalty can be awarded as the offence did fall under the rarest of rare category.

"We cannot ignore that in a rarest of rare case where the crime and the criminal test are satisfied, sentence of death can be inflicted for a violent rape followed by murder and especially when the accused have acted as predators, have snatched a member of the society from the society to commit the crime," the court said.

Rejecting the submission of defence lawyers that the prosecution failed to prove the motive, HC described the brutality with which the crime was committed. "The facts would bring out that as feral beasts the three accused were on the prowl looking for a prey. They spotted one in Anamica. The plucked her out of the company of her friends. They had to feed their sexual desire. After satisfying the sexual desire they brutally murdered Anamica....," it said.

Dealing with the forensic evidence, the bench said, the 3 accused were conscious of the fact that DNA analysis was linking them to the crime in the form of DNA profile of the "semen sample from the vagina of Anamica..."

In its judgment, the bench referred to various psychopathic personality disorders and said the psychopaths "lie at the intersection between the so-called 'mad' and 'bad', that is, between those who clearly warrant treatment (the seriously mentally ill) and those who should properly receive punishment...".

(source: The Times of India)

CHINA:

2 go on trial for murder of Buddhist monastery's founder

A dispute over fees for sculpting religious statues in Scotland led to the murder of a prominent Buddhist monk, a trial in China is expected to hear today.

Choje Akong Rinpoche, 73, a co-founder of Kagyu Samye Ling centre in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway, was stabbed to death at his home in Chengdu in southwest China in October last year, along with his nephew Loga and his assistant Lama Chime Wangyal.

In a trial for intentional homicide, due to begin today, prosecutors will say that defendant Tudeng Gusha claimed he was owed money for sculpting work he carried out at Kagyu Samye Ling and another Buddhist centre in London, and that immediately before the murder, he had demanded money from Akong Rinpoche.

The prosecution will claim that Gusha, when working in Scotland and London, had agreed he would be paid only expenses for the sculpting work.

Gusha's nephew, Ciren Banyue, will also be tried for intentional homicide while another family member, Geni Jiangcuo, is to be tried for harbouring a criminal.

It is understood that Gusha and Banyue could face the death penalty if convicted. A delegation from Kagyu Samye Ling, the 1st Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West, is expected to attend the trial.

It is believed that Gusha had lived in the UK for 5 years before returning to China around 3 years ago, and had made religious statues for the centres in Eskdalemuir and London.

Following the murder, Akong Rinpoche's brother, Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, abbot of the Kagyu Samye Ling monastery, claimed that Gusha had always been treated "with kindness".

"When he was with us in the UK we supported his living expenses as agreed in writing, and there was never any dispute about that," he said last year.

"We are therefore very shocked that two years later he came demanding money, knowing that Akong Rinpoche was about to send funds to the Rokpa charitable projects in the Tibetan areas of China."

(source: Herald Scotland)

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

Japanese Lawmaker On Trial In China For Drug Trafficking, Faces Death Penalty

Takuma Sakuragi, a 70-year-old Japanese politician, today went on trial for trafficking 3.3 kg of the drug methamphetamine. Sakuragi was arrested last year in the city of Guangzhou en route to Shanghai when local authorities found 28 bags of the narcotic in his luggage.

At the time of his October arrest, Sukuragi, said to be a city councilor in Aichi, Japan, told police the luggage in question came from a Nigerian business associate he met while in China. According to the arrest report, the African had given the Japanese lawmaker the suitcase where the drugs were concealed inside women's platform boots.

Local outlets report Sakuragi is standing trial with 2 other defendants, also from Africa. They were named as Aly Yattabare and Mohamed Soumah. Drug trafficking carries the death penalty per Chinese law. 4 Japanese citizens were executed in 2010 for possessing drugs, and China has recently instigated a harsh and well-publicized crackdown in its entertainment community for drug possession and usage.

Curiously, Sakuragi's Chinese lawyer, does not seem to be helping his client's case, or indeed, even be positive about it.

"[We are] attempting the impossible," Chen Weixiong is reported as saying. "The biggest challenge now is the fact that he did carry 3,200 grams of [drugs] in his bag.

"We are going to argue he was not aware of the existence of drugs," he continued. "We will try our best. The best outcome would be [an acquittal]."

Chen said defending the elderly politician made him feel like "Don Quixote", the eponymous protagonist of created by Spaniard novelist Miguel de Cervantes given to fantastical stories and tall tales.

Sakuragi does not have a sympathetic public in the Middle Kingdom. He is well-known as one of the most ardent supporters of Japan's claim to a set of small islets also that China considers part of its territory that has sent relations between Asia's biggest economies into a tailspin.

The trial is on-going.

(source: chinatopix.com)

AUGUST 26, 2014:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Attorneys say they don't have enough information on plea deal for client

Attorneys representing a man facing the death penalty in the shooting death of an Ardmore woman say they don't have enough information from prosecutors to advise their client on whether he should take a plea offer, according to court documents.

Anthony Vinh Nguyen, 22, is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree burglary, 1st-degree kidnapping and armed robbery in the death of Shelia Pace Gooden, 43, on Oct. 11, 2013. Authorities say Nguyen and 1 other men - Daniel Aaron Benson, 23, and Steve George Assimos, 22 - broke into Gooden's house at 700 Magnolia St., held her against her will and stole a flat-screen television valued at $200. Prosecutors allege that Nguyen shot Gooden in the head. All 3 men are facing the charge of 1st-degree murder, but prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty against Nguyen.

In June, Judge John O. Craig of Forsyth Superior Court granted the prosecutors' request to seek the death penalty against Nguyen.

David Botchin, 1 of Nguyen's attorneys, filed a letter Aug. 18 in Forsyth Superior Court, saying that he and John Bryson, Nguyen's other attorney, could not properly advise their client of a plea offer because they had not received certain information about evidence in the case.

"Please understand, we will not be in a position to advise our client one way or the other regarding the State's offer; to do so would be to commit legal malpractice and constitute 'ineffective assistance of counsel,'..." Botchin writes, noting that he is legally required to take the plea offer to Nguyen. "This case is ten (10) months old and at the present time we, defense counsel, have not been able to complete our investigation into the matter."

Botchin declined to comment on the case.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Martin had sent a letter Aug. 12, offering to allow Nguyen to plead guilty to 1st-degree murder in exchange for prosecutors not pursuing the death penalty. If Nguyen agreed to plead guilty, he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the only other sentence available for 1st-degree murder.

The offer expires at noon Sept. 15, according to the letter. Prosecutors are not required to offer a plea. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Martin said Monday in an email that she could not comment publicly about any plea negotiations because they are confidential.

"However I can say, there are statutes that govern deadlines for the completion of the discovery process," she said. "These deadlines vary based on what the procedural posture is for the case. There are very specific rules in place if a defendant elects to exercise their right to a trial by jury. We are in compliance with what the law mandates based on the Nguyen case's current procedural posture."

Assistant District Attorney Ben White, who is prosecuting the case with Martin, wrote in a notice of additional discovery that he heard Nguyen say near the end of the June hearing that he wanted to plead guilty.

Botchin said that Bryson had been appointed about two months ago, after the June hearing. In death penalty cases, a defendant has to have 2 attorneys represent him. Botchin said in the letter that prosecutors did not turn over the full police report, which is more than 1,500 pages, until Feb. 26 and that "substantial" physical evidence in the case has not been sent to the N.C. Crime Lab for examination and testing.

He said he and Bryson asked to examine all the evidence that police had seized, and prosecutors told them that they wouldn't do that until the case is close to trial and that there would only be one viewing with attorneys for the co-defendants present.

Botchin said he and Bryson sent a letter July 28 providing dates where their digital expert could examine cellphones, computers and pagers that had been seized. He said he did not hear back from prosecutors.

Botchin writes that he had sent letters on July 2, July 7 and July 14 listing problems or missing items in discovery that he said still have not been resolved.

"Given the lack of information related to the physical evidence we would be unable to answer any questions from our clients," he said.

No trial date has been set.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)

FLORIDA:

Jury to recommend life or death for convicted Lakeland cop killer----Trial underway for man accused of killing Lakeland police officer

Jurors in the Kyle Williams sentencing hearing went home Monday afternoon, and will return first thing Tuesday morning.

Last week, that same jury found Williams guilty of 1st degree murder in connection with the death of Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin in December of 2011. Now, during the penalty phase, jurors will have to make a recommendation of life in prison or the death penalty.

Ultimately, Judge Donald Jacobsen will issue the final sentence.

The jury first heard testimony from Crispin's family members who prepared statements about their loss. "It breaks my heart to watch my son stare at his photo. We keep his memory close as it hurts not to have him here with us. We miss Arnulfo. His hugs, his love and smiles and laughs." Said Brenda Crispin, who recently graduated from police academy, says she plans to follow in her big brother's footsteps.

"I graduated from police academy last month, I have been hired as an officer." Said Brenda Crispin. "I will wear my badge and wear my bullet proof vest, strap my duty belt on, and hold on to his love to shield me against any harm and will continue to live his dreams."

Crispin's Father, Tomas, also prepared a statement, but instead of reading from that paper, he addressed the jurors. "That man shouldn't have taken my son's life." Said the elder Crispin. At which point, Judge Jacobsen ordered that the jury be removed, citing the testimony was far too emotional.

The final witness for the prosecution, was Earl Bullet, an inmate in the Polk County jail, who testified Williams was a fellow gang member.

Shortly before noon, the defense began calling its witnesses. Several teachers testified that Williams was a sub par, but pleasant student.

(source: WFLA news)

ALABAMA:

Trial underway for Birmingham man charged in 2011 stabbing death of ex-girlfriend in front of her 2 young children

Jury selection will continue today in the capital murder trial of a Birmingham man charged with stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death in front of her 2 young children in 2011.

Gregory Smith, 36, could face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying of Gerronda Hill, 30, who was attacked when she entered her home May 4, 2011 at 2125 47th Street Ensley. Her children, ages 10 and 13, witnessed her death, police said at the time.

Hill tried to flee and, along with her children, made it to her vehicle where they got inside and locked the doors, according to police. One child called 911 from a cell phone.

The couple had a history of domestic violence, police said at the time and Hill had obtained a stalking warrant against Smith less than 2 months before her death.

Smith had declined a plea deal with prosecutors that would have called for a life without the possibility of parole sentence, it was revealed in court Monday.

Jurors on Monday filled out questionnaires that attorneys and prosecutors will use in the jury selection process. The potential jurors will be questioned beginning this morning about their responses to certain questions.

Smith also faces a 1st degree robbery charge. During a Monday hearing, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Bill Cole dismissed a 3-count burglary charge at the request of prosecutors.

Deputy Jefferson County District Attorneys Joe Hicks and Julie McMakin are prosecuting the case. Attorneys Wendell Sheffield and Mike Shores are defending Smith.

(source: al.com)

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

Trial for accused Auburn shooter Desmonte Leonard still set for Sept. 22

With a trial date set for next month, the attorneys involved in the case against Desmonte Leonard are in the process of preparation, specifically with sending questionnaires to potential jurors.

On Monday, the defense team for Leonard, 24, and prosecutors met to discuss possible juror candidates to be questioned at the start of the trial, which is slated to begin the week of Sept. 22. Leonard is charged with various counts of capital murder and attempted murder involving a shooting that occurred at an Auburn apartment complex in 2012.

During the hearing, Leonard's attorney Susan James asked the court if she could get a better idea of what prosecutors were seeking in the case so that she and co-attorney Jeffery Duffey could send their own questionnaire to potential jurors. Specifically, James wanted to know if the state would seek the death penalty in the case.

"Normally, if they tell you that they're not going to seek the death penalty, that's normally sufficient," James said following the hearing. "It would be nice if they could tell us now."

District Attorney Robbie Treese responded to James' request by saying the state's position had been stated multiple times and that they would be seeking the death penalty against Leonard. Questionnaires will be sent out this week.

On June 9, 2012, officers were called out to Tiger Lodge, formerly known as University Heights apartments, where they received a report about a shooting that occurred during a party that night. DeMario Pitts of Opelika and former Auburn University football players Ladarious Phillips and Ed Christian were killed in the shooting, while former AU football player Eric Mack and Roanoke natives Xavier Moss and John Q. Robertson were injured. After a lengthy search, Leonard turned himself over to police on June 14.

Following the hearing, James said that due to the size of the jury pool, which is currently tallied at over 200, asking the right questions was important. Types of questions James asked as examples were opinions on law enforcement and Auburn University. James said she has hired a jury consultant to assist her in the case.

"It's an opportunity to find out what jurors really think," James said.

In addition, James said she and Duffey would still seek to have the trial venue moved somewhere else due to the media coverage of the case.

"The courts generally want to see if you can get enough jurors that don't know about a case to try the case here, but some of those things just can't be answered until we get there," James said.

James also addressed her Leonard's state of mind in the midst of the case, a lawsuit against him by the families of Phillips, Christian and Moss, as well as a case where a Montgomery County corrections officer was arrested for allegedly having sexual relations with him while he was an inmate.

"He's just a pretty even-keeled sort of guy," James said. "(He's) always pretty positive every time we've seen and talked with him."

Duffey said jury selection could take a few days or a week.

(source: Opelika-Auburn News)

OHIO:

Lawyer: Death penalty murder defendant acted in self-defense

Anthony Stargell Jr.'s attorneys said Stargell did shoot and kill Tommy Nickles, but that Stargell did so in self-defense.

A Montgomery County Common Pleas Court jury heard opening arguments Monday in the death penalty-eligible murder case against Stargell, 23, of Dayton. Stargell's been indicted of killing Nickles and Nickles' dog Rusty during an apparent robbery attempt on April 2, 2012, at Quality One Electric, 838 S. Main St. in Dayton. Stargell also is accused of setting fire to the business, grand theft auto and taking surveillance equipment, among 22 total counts.

"What is very much in dispute are the circumstances that led to the shooting and whether Anthony is guilty of aggravated murder and the other charges brought against him as a result of those circumstances," defense attorney Marshall Lachman told 12 jurors and four alternates during opening statements.

"What this case ultimately comes down to, the evidence will establish, at the time, just moments before Anthony shoots Tommy Nickles in an office that you can see is full of guns, that Tommy Nickles is reaching for something in the desk. It is precisely at the moment that Tommy Nickles is reaching for something on the desk, Anthony shoots Tommy Nickles."

Prosecutor Daniel Brandt told jurors that Stargell fired 2 shots into Nickles' head and then fired once at Nickles' dog and tried to fire again but that the gun jammed.

Brandt said Stargell lied repeatedly to police about knowing Nickles, having been to the business or shooting or killing anyone. Brandt said Stargell tried to pull out wires connected to surveillance equipment, called a cousin to help him wipe down fingerprints with towels and that the .40-caliber handgun and other guns from Nickles' business were found at Stargell's uncle's residence. Stargell's uncle is serving a federal prison sentence for arms dealing.

"Ladies and gentlemen, at the conclusion of this trial, once you've heard the evidence and heard the testimony," Brandt said. "We'll ask you to find this defendant guilty on all charges and specifications."

In order to consider whether Stargell could face the death penalty, the jury must find Stargell guilty of aggravated murder - meaning they must find that Stargell killed Nickles while committing or attempting to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary or aggravated arson. (source: Dayton Daily News)

INDIANA:

Man charged in IMPD officer's death faces death penalty

The man charged in the death of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Perry Renn now officially faces the death penalty.

Earlier this month, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said he would seek the death penalty in Major Davis Jr.'s murder case. Davis is charged with murder, accusing of shooting and killing Officer Renn in July at 34th Street and Forest Manor Avenue.

Davis had an appearance in a Marion County courtroom Tuesday morning where afterward officials confirmed to 24-Hour News 8 he now faces the death penalty.

"It is clear that there are those in our city who believe that our police officers are fair game," Curry said earlier in August. "Make no mistake, we will prosecute you to the maximum extent possible under the law."

Curry said there were 2 aggravating circumstances that support a death penalty case: that Davis killed Renn while Renn was on duty as a police officer, and that the murder was motivated by an act Renn performed while acting in the course of his duty as an officer.

A jury trial in Davis' case is scheduled for Dec. 1.

This is the 2nd death penalty case Curry has announced this summer. In July, he announced Kenneth Rackemann would face the death penalty if convicted in a quadruple murder.

(source: WISH)

TENNESSEE:

Attorneys say convicted killer of Hamilton County deputy was set up

The attorneys for convicted cop killer Marlon Duane Kiser are pointing fingers at the other guy.

Testimony began Monday in Kiser's appeal to his 2003 death penalty conviction for the shooting of Hamilton County Deputy Donald Bond. His appeal, being heard in Criminal Court Judge Don Poole's courtroom, claims his conviction should be overturned because of ineffective attorneys.

In September 2001, police say, Kiser shot Bond with an assault rifle after the deputy had stopped him from setting fire to an East Brainerd fruit stand. Kiser's roommate, James Michael Chattin, testified that Kiser woke him up that morning and bragged about killing a cop. Chattin said Kiser showed him an assault rifle, a police weapon and a part of a bulletproof vest.

But Kiser's attorneys on Monday started putting the blame on Chattin, who has since died. At his original trial, Kiser had claimed that he was set up by his roommate, whom he claimed killed Bond because he believed the deputy was seeing his estranged wife.

On Monday, Mack Heard testified that Chattin as much as admitted to the murder.

"He said he would gut me like he did the cop if I was there to set him up," Heard said.

The witness said he worked under cover with law enforcement to bust drug dealers and Chattin was one of his targets. Of all the cases he's helped prosecute, Chattin was the only one to get away, he said.

"Were you afraid of Mike Chattin?" asked Kiser's attorney, Paul Bruno.

"Absolutely," he said.

Heard, who testified he had no connection to Kiser, said he believed "without a shadow of a doubt" that Chattin was the killer. He said he tried to notify both the district attorney's office and the public defender assigned to Kiser's case. But both "blew him off," he said.

"Nobody was interested in my side of the story," Heard said. "They said it was my opinion. And it was my opinion because I had just talked to the killer."

Lawyers also called to the stand the owner of the fruit stand where Bond died, followed by a gas station clerk who worked for Chattin's girlfriend.

Pamela Treadway, a former neighbor of Kiser and Chattin, took the stand last.

She said Chattin had brought a 9mm gun into her home. He told her about how his wife was seeing a cop, how he was having friends follow her.

"He said he was going to shoot the cop," she testified. "That's what he said."

Treadway said Kiser was at home asleep on his couch during the time of Bond's shooting, though prosecutor Neal Pinkston noted that a crime scene video showed no couch in the home.

She said Chattin had threatened to burn her house down. And a few days later, the back of her house caught fire.

"He told me if I talked to the cops that he would burn me up in my house," she said.

Pinkston noted that Treadway had previously told the police a different version of that night's events. But she said she only changed her story for fear of Chattin.

"You lied to the police?" Pinkston asked.

"Yes I did," she said.

Kiser previously requested a new trial, but a higher court denied that appeal in 2005. In May 2009, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld his sentence. Kiser was scheduled for execution in May 2010 but was granted a stay, pending the resolution of his post-conviction appeals.

Lawyers sought more time to prepare their appeal, so his hearing will continue on Oct. 20. Until then, Kiser will head back to death row at Riverbend prison in Nashville.

(source: Times Free Press)

OKLAHOMA:

Lawsuit Filed To Allow Media To Witness Entire Executions

Oklahoma Corrections officials are being sued for violating the constitution in the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

2 newspapers, the Oklahoma Observer and The Guardian U.S., filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court today, naming the DOC Director Robert Patton and the warden of the state penitentiary, Anita Trammell, as defendants.

The suit alleges, in the execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014, the plaintiffs - and the news media as a whole - were prevented from witnessing the entire process, as is provided for in both the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.

Specifically, the suit points to the fact that the shade between the viewing room and the execution chamber was not opened until 6:23 p.m., more than an hour after Lockett had been brought into the chamber. According to the post-incident report provided by the Department of Corrections, it was during that period that a phlebotomist struggled to insert the IV that would deliver the lethal drugs to Lockett.

"By preventing witnesses from gaining access to the lethal injection proceeding until after the condemned has been fully prepared for the provision of lethal drugs," the plaintiffs stated in the filing, "Defendants obstructed Plaintiffs' access to the execution and prohibited them from meaningfully reporting on the entire execution."

Further, the lawsuit notes that the shade was then drawn at 6:39, minutes after Lockett began showing signs of distress, without any public explanation. It was only later, at a news briefing, that DOC officials announced that Lockett had died at 7:06.

"[T]he state foreclosed access at the most critical juncture of the execution proceeding," attorneys stated in the lawsuit, "when it became apparent that the lethal injection proceeding diverged from the standard protocol."

An official with the ACLU of Oklahoma, which filed the lawsuit, says this violation goes to the heart of our belief that government is by the people and for the people.

"Regardless of where Oklahomans stand on the death penalty," said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of ACLU Oklahoma, "I think we can all agree when the government is exercising its ultimate power - which is the intentional taking of a life - that that should not be done in secret."

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration requiring the state make it clear in its execution protocol that the shade is to be opened as soon as the condemned is brought into the execution chamber, and not closed until there is either a declaration of death, or the execution is stayed.

And they want to get this before the next execution, which is scheduled for November 13.

The state has 20 days to respond.

(source: news9.com)

ARIZONA:

Jury begins deliberations in Bryan Hulsey penalty phase

A jury has begun deliberating on a sentence for a man convicted of murder in the 2007 shooting of a Glendale police officer.

Jurors deliberated for a short time Monday before leaving for the day. They're scheduled to resume Tuesday.

The jury will begin deciding whether to sentence Bryan Hulsey to death or life in prison.

On July 31, a jury found aggravating circumstances existed in the trial, making him eligible for the death penalty, court officials said.

The jury found 2 aggravating factors, according to Maricopa County Superior Court officials.

On July 28, the same jury found 40-year-old Hulsey guilty of 1st-degree murder in the shooting death of 24-year-old Glendale police Officer Anthony "Tony" Holly during a 2007 traffic stop.

Hulsey was also convicted of attempted 1st-degree murder.

Glendale Police Chief Debora Black issued the following statement in the wake of the verdict:

"7 years, 5 months and 9 days ago Glendale Police Officer Tony Holly was killed in the line of duty. Today, a jury has confirmed that Brian Wayne Hulsey is guilty of murdering Tony as well as the attempted murder of Officer David Goitia.

"While the decision today cannot relieve the pain of losing Tony, we are hopeful that it provides some comfort for his family, our department and our community. We continue to remain steadfast in our assertion that justice for Tony and his family will prevail as we enter the penalty phase of the trial."

Hulsey was a passenger in a vehicle that had been pulled over for speeding and not having a license plate.

Holly was there to serve as backup to another officer who made the stop.

His attorneys have denied he killed Holly and instead suggested that Holly was unintentionally shot by the officer who pulled over the vehicle.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

PERRIS: Man suspected in slayings to undergo mental evaluation----Judge orders assessment for David Rey Contreras before criminal proceedings can continue.

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against a Perris man authorities have described as a serial killer, but it's unclear whether the man will be able to stand trial.

Criminal proceedings against David Rey Contreras, 26, were suspended in March over questions about his mental competency. A judge has ordered that doctors evaluate him. A mental competency trial is now set for Sept. 22 at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.

Contreras, who is being held with no bail amount set, has pleaded not guilty to 3 counts of murder.

Contreras is accused of fatally stabbing 3 people - a mother and daughter in Nuevo and a man walking his dog in Perris. DNA evidence found on items at his home, including a dog leash taken from one of the victims, linked him to the crimes, court records show.

In a trial brief, defense attorneys Andrea Rathburn and Brian Cosgrove wrote that Contreras has refused to speak with them or any members of the defense team since his initial court appearance in August 2013.

Riverside County jail deputies, on at least 1 occasion, had to forcibly remove Contreras from his cell for a scheduled court appearance, the brief says.

Contreras also has refused jail visits from his defense team and failed to cooperate with doctors hired to conduct psychological evaluations on him, the attorneys wrote.

Contreras has refused his mail and all contact with his family, and he doesn't buy anything from the commissary, interact with others in the jail or make any phone calls, according to the brief.

Prosecutor Burke Strunsky said he will be contesting the allegation by the defense that Contreras is not competent to stand trial.

"We believe he is," Strunsky said.

Sheriff's officials have said Contreras had no connection to the 3 people he is accused of killing and that the attacks were unprovoked.

The 1st victim, Jose Apreza, 53, of Perris, was reported missing by his wife Dec. 29, 2012 after he took his pit bull out for a walk that morning and did not return. He was found dead, with more than 20 stab wounds, in a field near his home.

Maria Gonzalez, 51, and her 25-year-old daughter, Consuelo Gonzalez, also were on a walk near their home when they were slain Feb. 4, 2013 on Central Avenue near Ramona Avenue in Nuevo. An autopsy showed Maria Gonzalez was stabbed 24 times and her daughter 11 times.

(source: Press-Enterprise)

WASHINGTON:

Habeas for Convicted Killer Divides 9th Circuit

On remand from the Supreme Court, a divided 9th Circuit gave a convicted murderer another chance Monday to show that his lawyers neglected to challenge DNA evidence.

Some 17 years ago, a Washington jury found Dwayne Woods guilty and sentenced him to death for the 1996 murders of Telisha Shaver and Jade Moore, and the attempted murder of Venus Shaver, his former girlfriend. Shaver survived the attack and testified against Woods.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Woods prohibited his defense team from presenting mitigating evidence, and told the jury himself that it should vote to kill him, which it did after deliberating for 2 days.

Woods later lost his appeal to the Washington Supreme Court, and a Spokane federal judge denied him habeas relief over claims that included ineffective assistance by counsel.

A 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the habeas denial in 2011, but the U.S. Supreme Court later vacated that ruling and sent the case back to the appellate court for another look in light of Martinez v. Ryan.

That precedent, from 2012, established that federal courts can hear certain ineffective-assistance claims (IAC) if an inmate establishes cause to excuse a procedural default. Four of Woods's ineffective-assistance claims, all of them relating to his attorneys' alleged failure to interpret and challenge DNA evidence in case, were procedurally defaulted by the U.S. District Court in Spokane.

After ordering additional briefing on the issue, the same 3-judge panel ruled 2-1 on Monday to send the ineffective-assistance claims back to Spokane for further proceedings in light of Martinez.

"Here, evaluating the substantiality of the new IAC claims requires consideration of the state's DNA evidence and the reliability and propriety of the inferences the state's expert drew from it, as well as the likelihood that the DNA evidence was contaminated," Judge Richard Paez wrote for the majority. "Moreover, Woods argues that, on remand, he should be afforded an evidentiary hearing and an opportunity to expand the record. With an appropriate showing, he may pursue such remedies in the district court. Allowing the district court to consider these issues in the first instance and to potentially conduct an evidentiary hearing will greatly aid this court's review." The panel otherwise affirmed the lower court on all of Woods' other claims.

Judge Richard Tallman wrote in a dissent that remand only prolongs a case in which all of the evidence points to Woods' guilt.

"The Supreme Court gave Dwayne Woods an inch," Tallman wrote. "The majority gives him a mile."

"When the court remanded this case to the same panel that affirmed Woods's sentence in 2011, it gave Woods the opportunity to argue that his four procedurally defaulted claims deserved a federal audience," Tallman added. "But none of these new claims cast any doubt on Woods's manifest guilt for the brutal murders of Jade Moore and Telisha Shaver on April 27, 1996. Fortunately, the third victim of his senseless violence, Venus Shaver, survived to testify against him at trial. And even Woods himself invited his death sentence when, at the penalty phase of the trial, he told the jury that he had 'no objection' to a death sentence, and asked them to "go back and return a vote to impose the death penalty.'"

Tallman concluded that, "Because none of Woods's new claims would lead a reasonable juror to conclude that Woods did not murder Jade Moore and Telisha Shaver, or attempt to murder Venus Shaver, no court can provide Woods the relief he seeks."

(source: Courthouse News)

USA:

Court broadens scope of Iowa death penalty retrial

An appeals court says the death penalty retrial for an Iowa woman convicted of helping kill 5 people in 1993 will be broader than the trial judge wanted.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that jurors must first decide whether Johnson is eligible for the death penalty, and then whether that should be imposed on each count.

The ruling is a victory for prosecutors because it will allows them to present more evidence against Johnson, who remains convicted of 5 counts of aiding and abetting murder.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett has ordered her a new sentencing trial, finding flaws with her defense. But he had limited the scope to determine solely whether Johnson should receive life in prison or the death penalty for each count.

(source: Associated Press)

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Prosecutors slam research findings in Tsarnaev case ---- Data 'flawed' in bid to move trial

Federal prosecutors on Monday criticized the findings of a defense specialist in the case against accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, arguing that the analyst used "flawed and misleading" data to support a defense request to move the trial out of Massachusetts.

In a legal filing in federal court in Boston, prosecutors took aim at a sworn affidavit submitted earlier this month by Edward J. Bronson, a professor emeritus at California State University Chico, who studied coverage of the case in The Boston Globe and determined the newspaper's coverage was highly inflammatory.

The reporting was one of the factors that Bronson, who conducted his research for Tsarnaev's lawyers, cited in support of their pending motion to move the trial from Boston to Washington, D.C.

But on Monday prosecutors questioned his analysis of the coverage.

They wrote that Bronson cited more than 2,400 Globe articles published between April 2013 and July 2014 that he said referred to the bombings.

Edward J. Bronson studied coverage of the case in The Boston Globe and determined the coverage was inflammatory.

However, prosecutors wrote, among those articles were any that contained the phrases "Boston Marathon" or "Boylston Street."

The government said that of the first 50 articles that appear in the Globe archives during the relevant time period that contain either of those terms, 30 have little or nothing to do with the case.

"Mr. Bronson's time [and the Court's money] would have been better spent on a more thorough vetting of the news articles themselves than on the drafting of his lengthy affidavit," the filing said.

Bronson had said in his affidavit that many of the cited articles were not about the bombings but only referred to them, adding that "a passing reference . . . does show the pervasive impact of the case."

Tsarnaev, 21, has pleaded not guilty to several charges that could bring the death penalty for his alleged role in the April 15, 2013, bombings, which killed 3 people and wounded more than 260.

In Monday's filing, prosecutors raised several other issues in questioning the validity of Bronson's research, including his public opposition to the death penalty. They also said his polling data showing an overwhelming presumption of Tsarnaev's guilt among Boston residents is unreliable.

But even if the poll results are taken at face value, they do "not mean the jurors cannot set aside their beliefs and apply the presumption of innocence," prosecutors wrote.

(source: Boston Globe)

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Who Watches America's Executions?----A lawsuit seeks to force Oklahoma to record every death sentence it carries out and to allow witnesses present to observe.

After Joseph Wood's botched execution in July, journalists and other observers gave us grisly details about the convicted murderer's final moments. One of the reporters even counted the number of Wood's gasps - around 660 in total - as he lay on the gurney before finally dying after nearly 2 hours. The New York Times printed the number on its front page the next morning. During its next opportunity to rule on a lethal-injection-drug case earlier this month, all 4 of the Supreme Court's liberal justices voted to hear it - just 1 vote short of success. Now only the whims of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has written both to save and to constrain the death penalty during his tenure, stand between the states and a review of the country's universally preferred, and increasingly troubled, execution method.

But in the botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma earlier in April, valuable observations like those in Arizona weren't independently available because of state interference. The ACLU filed a lawsuit Monday morning on behalf of the Oklahoma Observer, its editor and co-owner Arnold Hamilton, The Guardian, and freelance reporter Katie Fretland, who covered the April execution for them. When Lockett began showing clear signs of discomfort midway through the procedure, Oklahoma officials closed the blinds to the chamber and left witnesses unable to see his final moments.

"For almost 20 minutes while Clayton Lockett was dying, the assembled press and other witnesses were deprived of the right to observe the proceedings," the lawsuit alleges. "The press was also deprived of the opportunity to verify the nature and source of sounds emanating from the execution chamber, which indicated pain and suffering." This, the plaintiffs argue, violates the First Amendment's guarantee of a free press.

The suit asks the court to make 2 major changes to Oklahoma's execution protocol: first, to declare that the state cannot deprive witnesses of their visual or auditory access to the execution at any point once it begins, and 2nd, to force the state to film and record all executions it performs from start to finish. In their filing, the plaintiffs discussed the importance of a media presence in the death chamber at length:

As independent witnesses to government proceedings, members of the news media provide public scrutiny, which enhances the quality and safeguards the integrity of the death penalty process. Reporting by press not associated with the condemned, the victim, or the state of Oklahoma is critical to assuring the public that they have thorough and objective facts about the execution process. Unbiased reporting is therefore necessary to the perceived and actual legitimacy of the execution process.

Public scrutiny of executions was perhaps the earliest check on the process. "In the medieval era, public executions were meant to accomplish 2 goals: 1st, to shock spectators and, second, to reaffirm divine and temporal authority," Joel F. Harrington wrote in his history of medieval executions. "A steady and reliable executioner played the pivotal role in achieving this delicate balance through his ritualized and regulated application of violence on the state's behalf." For the executioner, this balance meant beheading the condemned in a single stroke after he or she made a religiously framed journey of penance. Poorly performed executions could lead the community to lose trust in, or even retaliate against, the man who swung the axe.

"The government shouldn't be allowed to effectively blindfold us when things go wrong."

In modern America, the constitutional has replaced the spiritual. Only after a laborious appeals process and a flurry of last-minute pleas for clemency can the condemned die, and even then, it must be swiftly and without pain or suffering. What defines "public" has also changed over time. Each state now has different protocols for who can observe an execution behind the prison walls. The families of both the victims and the condemned are often present. Virginia keeps a list of 20 to 30 volunteer witnesses, some of whom attend multiple times. Citizens can even participate in some states: In lieu of a full-time position, Florida pays members of the public $150 to anonymously execute one another.

But an informed reporter is often the most impartial witness present - and therefore one of the most vital. The Associated Press attends every execution in the United States by policy; Michael Graczyk, its Texas correspondent, has witnessed hundreds. (He lost precise count long ago.) "At an execution, the press serves as the public's eyes and ears," said freelance journalist Katie Fretland, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and a witness to Lockett's botched execution. "The government shouldn't be allowed to effectively blindfold us when things go wrong. The public has a right to the whole story, not a version edited by government officials."

The lawsuit comes at a time of shrinking transparency in the American capital-punishment system. Many states have enacted shield laws to protect the identities of lethal-injection drug manufacturers, including unregulated compound pharmacies, to prevent boycotts and other forms of public pressure. When Oklahoma's secrecy laws came before the state supreme court in April during Clayton Lockett's appeal, state legislators triggered a constitutional crisis by threatening to impeach the justices if they did not allow the execution to proceed. The justices complied, and less than 24 hours later, Lockett died an agonizing death. The secrecy laws remain on the books.

What remains is a system in which prisoners in many states are killed with drugs of uncertain provenance and administered by executioners of unknown credentials with unpredictable results. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes - and it is only one vote shy of doing so - another botched execution is inevitable. What isn't clear is who will be there to witness it.

(source: The Atlantic)

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Botched executions & evolving standards of decency: What can we learn from Wood's death?

JURIST Guest Columnist Sacha Baniel-Stark, New York University School of Law Class of 2016, discusses the botched execution of Joseph Wood and analyzes the dissenting opinion from the denial of Wood's motion to stay his execution, which argued that capital punishment by lethal injection is fundamentally flawed...

On July 23, 2014 a man lay, strapped to a table, unable to move, as for nearly 2 hours men injected him with 15 doses of drugs meant to kill him. It sounds like the opening scene from a gruesome episode of Law & Order, but in fact the description above is of the state-sanctioned execution of Joseph Wood.

Capital punishment has not always been permitted in this country. In Furman v. Georgia, the US Supreme Court effectively ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, stating that because of untrammelled discretion in the system, being sentenced to death was essentially random and therefore was "cruel and unusual" under the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. Many states were quick to change their death penalty statutes in light of the Court's decision, and in Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court re-allowed capital punishment under new, modern regimes.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, methods of execution have evolved, perhaps in part driven by Eighth Amendment considerations: The Eighth Amendment, according to the Supreme Court, is meant to "embody the evolving standards of decency of a maturing society," and "broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency against which we must evaluate penal measures." Wood, who was sentenced to death for a crime he committed in 1989, was executed with a mix of drugs that was used in a botched execution in Ohio earlier this year. Despite controversy over the drug, the Supreme Court permitted Wood's execution to go forth.

The botched execution of Wood joined the botched execution in Ohio and 2 botched executions in Oklahoma to become at least the 4th botched execution so far this calendar year. All four have raised questions about the efficacy of lethal injection protocols; the manner of execution is often kept confidential and approved drugs are quickly expiring, raising significant concerns about what drugs are being used and how states are getting them. (For a recap of some of these issues, see Kimberly Newberry's June 2014 JURIST piece.)

Wood's case, however, has created some unique waves, even in this fraught area of law. Before his execution, Wood moved to stay the execution, arguing that he and others had a First Amendment right to know the protocol that would be used to kill him. The motion was ultimately denied, but along the way Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, had occasion to weigh in on the issues (PDF) that are plaguing the system today.

Judge Kozinski's opinion, a dissent from the denial of en banc review of Wood's motion to stay his execution, argued that capital punishment by lethal injection is fundamentally flawed and that we as a society ought to return to execution by firing squad. Judge Kozinski's argument has three main reasons for this: First, "attacks" to executions will continue so long as lethal injection is used because of the secrecy surrounding drugs and execution protocols. Second, lethal injections are less effective than other, more seemingly primitive methods; Judge Kozinski favors the guillotine and death by firing squad, ultimately concluding the latter is favored because it is 'foolproof' but would still be relatively socially acceptable. Third, Judge Kozinski argued that if we are to put people to death - and it is a "we," for criminal prosecutions are done in the name of the people and criminal punishments are authorized on our behalf - we should do so without allowing ourselves to fall victim to the charade that executions are calm and dignified events. As he stated, "if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood."

Certainly, if execution protocols remain secret, defendants - and their lawyers and advocates - will likely continue to seek release of the information. To the extent that such moves have been successful in the past, they will likely continue and, as Judge Kozinski states, such litigation bogs down the legal system.

Judge Kozinski's other contentions seem partially right, but partially off-base. It is the case that lethal injections are "botched" at a rate higher than some other, more 'primitive' forms of execution. On the whole, executions are botched at a rate of approximately 3 %, with lethal injections botched at a rate closer to 7 %. But earlier methods of execution, including the firing squad, are not foolproof. There are records of at least 2 executions by firing squad that were botched in Utah, one of last states to allow the firing squad (which interestingly, at the time, led contemporary critics to suggest that a reversion to the guillotine might be called for). To the extent that Judge Kozinski turns away from "the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber [because they] are each subject to occasional mishaps", firing squads fall to the same concern.

Judge Kozinski's other contention - that if we are to carry out executions we ought not shield ourselves from the fact we are shedding human blood, and from their brutality - is more nuanced and, at some level, leads to more trouble.

The backlash from Wood's execution shows an interesting psychological phenomenon that is not unknown to those who advocate on behalf of convicted and otherwise disadvantaged populations. There are people who truly revel in the horror that was wrought upon Wood and take value from the gruesome nature of executions. A quick read of comments on the news coverage of Wood's botched execution reveals it.

Certainly, there are people from whom callous disregard, or even revelry in suffering, is expected and understandable. This certainly can include the survivors of the deceased victims of the crimes, as it did in this case. It may even include average members of the American population who comment or post about executions, as in the article provided above. But it also includes individuals like Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who stated that in comparison to his victims, Wood didn't suffer.

The problem with this is that there is no space in Eighth Amendment analysis for a comparative amount of suffering. States are not permitted to torture people, even if the people those people tortured their victims. When the governor of a state putting people to death feels comfortable making such comparisons, the system is suffering from more than illusion about the peacefulness of death - it is suffering from a fundamental misunderstanding of how, and why, executions are permitted to occur. The condemned are to be free from "cruel and unusual punishment" - regardless of how cruel and unusual their crime.

To the extent that people simply refuse to believe that a condemned person suffers during the act of execution, it's not clear that a shift from injection to firing squad will be of much assistance. Similar sentiments - that the death is fast and relatively painless, for instance -can be lodged against death-by-firing-squad.

There's an interesting flipside to Judge Kozinski's argument, as well: There is perhaps nothing that illustrates the brutality of execution more clearly than botched executions. Perversely, if botched executions occur as frequently as they have over the past year with lethal injections, this may do a better job of raising awareness of the messiness of execution than any alternative method of execution could. This, of course, lays aside the point that we shouldn't use a system that is easily botched - which is certainly the case under the Eighth Amendment.

This leaves us with the question of what system of execution can, or should, be adopted. If the goal is to have a "foolproof" system, as Judge Kozinski suggests firing squads would be, we're probably just out of luck: mishaps have always marred our system of capital punishment including in the modern, post-Furman era. So in a system that will likely always suffer from mistakes, where the legal standard is supposed to be one that disallows torture and evolves with a "maturing society," what is the best way to proceed? As Chief Judge Kozinski stated, and as has been underscored by commentators, pretending executions are peaceful and easy when they are not is detrimental. But opting for a method that shines the light on the violent nature of execution will not, in and of itself, suffice. States may not carry out torture; if the best alternative we have is honest torture that in any event is not foolproof, then it's not immediately clear that that alternative - firing squads - passes constitutional muster. And if we take seriously legal tenets against retribution, torture and cruel and unusual punishment - as well as the Supreme Court's exhortation that the Eighth Amendment embodies ideals beyond just outlawing outright barbaric punishment - the road forward becomes much less clear and our problems cannot be solved simply by a return to the methods of the past.

(source: Sacha Baniel-Stark earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Reed College. Sacha served as a law clerk for the US Department of Justice and the Capital Appeals Project and Promise of Justice Initiative. Sacha currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Legislation and Public Policy----The Jurist)

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Telly Hankton gang death penalty decision due in January

Federal prosecutors have until January to decide whether they will seek the death penalty for notorious New Orleans crime boss Telly Hankton and members of his gang.

Following a brief meeting in chambers with attorneys in the case Monday, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman gave prosecutors a Jan. 12 deadline to notify the court and defense attorneys whether they will seek to put Hankton and 4 others indicted last year in a sweeping racketeering case that alleges Hankton ran a violent drug trafficking ring that murdered rivals, and witnesses who testified against them.

Hankton and 13 co-defendants had been set for trial in September. Feldman late Monday had yet to issue an order changing the start date.

Death penalty cases are fairly rare in the federal courts compared to state courts, and prosecutors must seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to seek even seek to bring the death penalty at trial, Tulane University Law School professor Herbert Larson said. "The entire process is longer and much more deliberate than in state courts," said Larson, who defended Paul Hardy, one of three people to face the death penalty in the New Orleans-based Eastern District of Louisiana since 1996.

Hankton, who already is serving a prison sentence on state charges in the murder of Darnell Stewart in 2008. 4 of his co-defendants, including cousins Thomas "Squirt" Hankton and Andre Hankton, accused gang hitman Walter "Urkel" Porter and Kevin Jackson also are charged with counts that could carry a death sentence.

Attorneys for the 5 declined comment as the exited Feldman's chambers Monday. The judge previously had issued a gag order, barring attorneys from talking about the case with reporters.

If the case proceeds to trial, Hankton or the others eligible for the death penalty would have first be found guilty, and then jurors would have to whether to impose the death penalty during a separate, second phase that Larson compared to a "mini trial."

An appeal of any death sentence is almost certain, said Larson. Larson's client Hardy was convicted of murdering Kim Groves in 1994 on the orders of corrupt cop Len Davis, who wanted Groves silenced after she filed a brutality complaint against him.

Hardy escaped the death penalty after a judge he was found he was not eligible for execution because he was mentally retarded. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2011, 15 years after his trial.

(source: New Orleans Times-Picayune)

CHINA:

Japanese Politician Caught With Crystal Meth in China Begins Trial

A Chinese court in Guangzhou on Tuesday began the trial of a 70-year-old Japanese politician accused of trafficking illegal drugs, which is punishable by death in China. His lawyers argue that the man was unaware of the presence of more than 7 pounds of crystal methamphetamine in his bag.

Takuma Sakuragi, a member of the Inazawa municipal assembly in Aichi prefecture in southern Japan, has pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking illegal drugs at the Guangzhou City Intermediate People's Court, the South China Morning Post reported. Sakuragi reportedly flew into Guangzhou from Nagoya, Japan, on Oct. 29 and checked into a hotel in the city's Sanyuanli suburb with the assistance of an African man identified as Gemadi Hassan.

According to the court's indictment, Sakuragi, who also ran a private trading business and had travelled to China before, was reportedly given a piece of luggage by Hassan containing women’s platform shoes filled with crystal methamphetamine, and was instructed to smuggle it back to Japan and pass it on to a 3rd party.

Sakuragi was stopped by airport security on Oct. 31 at Guangzhou's Baiyuan International Airport before he could board a flight to Japan via Shanghai. Security seized the shoes and cases inside his luggage that contained 28 bags of methamphetamine, weighing 3,289 grams (7.25 pounds), the SCMP report said, citing the indictment.

2 other persons arrested in the drug trafficking case - Aly Yattabare, 35, from Mali, and Mohamed Soumah, 39, from Guinea - will also stand trial with Sakuragi, the report said.

Chen Weixiong, a Japanese-speaking Guangzhou-based lawyer who is defending Sakuragi reportedly said on Tuesday that fighting the case made him feel like Don Quixote, a legendary character in Spanish folklore.

"[It's because we are] attempting the impossible," Chen said. "The biggest challenge now is the fact that he did carry 3,200 grams of [drugs] in his bag.

"We are going to argue he was not aware of the existence of drugs," he said. "We will try our best. The best outcome would be [an acquittal]."

Requests by many media organizations to cover the scheduled 3-day hearing - submitted weeks earlier - were rejected at the last minute.

"Priorities are given to consulate staff, representatives of the People's Congress, and political advisory bodies and legal staff," court staff said, SCMP reported.

Sakuragi's Finnish wife and their son arrived with Chen Tuesday morning to attend the hearing. Sakuragi, who was reportedly dressed in a black suit with no tie and shackles around his ankles, pleaded not guilty just after 10:30 a.m. local time (10:30 p.m. EDT), a Japanese journalist who attended the hearing said.

The 2 other defendants in the case were arrested in Guangzhou on Nov. 9. On the night of the arrest, Chinese police reportedly seized about 10 grams of methamphetamine in Yattabare's apartment and also confiscated 8 grams of the illegal narcotic, women's platform shoes and drug-packing material from Soumah's apartment.

"There is one accomplice believed to be a Nigerian who is still at large at the moment," Chen told reporters outside the court.

China's drug law states that people found guilty of possessing more than 50 grams of illegal drugs could face the death penalty. In 2010, 4 Japanese nationals were executed by China on drug-trafficking charges.

(source: IBTimes.com)

INDIA:

Guragaon gangrape, murder: Delhi HC upholds death penalty for convicts

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday confirmed the death sentence awarded to 3 youths in Chhawla gang-rape and murder, saying they were "predators" moving on the streets and "were looking for a prey".

A division bench of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Mukta Gupta upheld the trial court's February order sentencing the trio to death for abducting, raping and killing a 19-year-old girl, whose mutilated and decomposed body was found in Haryana in 2012.

The bench held that after raping the girl, the convicts battered her to death and they then "defiled her body".

"It was as if the three saw a lonely woman on street and the evil in them overtook the good in them. It is not that they acted upon a sudden impulse. They were predators moving on streets and were looking for a prey. The three snatched Anamica (name changed) from the society," said the bench in its 97-page judgment.

"Their hunter's mind was hard and unyielding. The predominant idea of finding a victim to rape and then kill her had taken such complete possession of their mind that there was no room for any emotion. Satisfying their lust and executing their design to kill helpless Anamica, the record which they left upon her dead body was a sign: this is not a common rape followed by murder," it said.

The girl was kidnapped by Rahul (27), Ravi (23) and Vinod (23) in a car near her house in Qutub Vihar, Delhi on the night of Feb 9, 2012, when she with 3 colleagues was returning from her Gurgaon office.

Her mutilated body was found 3 days later from a field in Rewari. There were multiple injuries on the body and she had been assaulted with objects ranging from car tools to earthen pots. Police said Ravi led in committing the crime as the woman had spurned his proposal for a relationship.

(source:firstpost.com)

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HC Upholds Death Penalty of 3 Youths for Rape, Murder of Girl

The Delhi High Court today upheld the death sentence of 3 youths for abducting, gangraping and killing a 19-year-old girl here, saying the case fell within the realms of the "rarest of rare" category and the convicts acted as "predators" who defiled the victim's body.

A division bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Mukta Gupta, dismissed the appeal filed by 3 youths - Rahul (27), Ravi (23) and Vinod (23) against the death sentence awarded to the by a trial court, saying the crime and the criminal test are satisfied in the case and death sentence can be awarded.

"We cannot ignore that in a rarest of rare case where the crime and the criminal test are satisfied, sentence of death can be inflicted for a violent rape followed by murder and specially when the accused have acted as predators, have snatched a member of the society from the society to commit the crime.

"Having committed the crime the predators have defiled the body of the victim. Society has to be protected. It cannot be forgotten that punishment is a moral sanction by the society, not merely a penalty such as a parking fine, which may be imposed without the moral weight of a finding of criminal responsibility," the bench said.

The court also said that the convicts cannot be punished under the new amended rape law as the amendments were carried out after the commission of the crime.

"The legislative response to such kind of crime with effect from February 3, 2013 cannot be applied in the case because the crime was committed prior to the law being amended," it said.

The trial court had on February 19 awarded death sentence to the three youths while observing that life imprisonment would be "highly inadequate" as they are "menace to the society".

According to the prosecution, the girl, who was working in Gurgaon's Cyber City, was abducted by the 3 youths in a car near her house in Qutub Vihar here and was gangraped and murdered by them on February 9, 2012.

Prosecution had sought death penalty for them, saying the crime committed by them was immensely brutal and aroused feeling of extreme indignation, as the victim's mutilated body was found 3 days after the incident from a field in Rodhai village in Haryana's Rewari district.

The 3 youths had poured acid into the victim's eyes and had inserted a broken liquor bottle into her private parts, it said.

(source: New Indian Express)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Beheadings at 'record levels': Saudi Arabia executes dozens in deadly August

According to Amnesty, there has been a surge in executions in Saudi Arabia since the end of Ramadan on July 28, with 22 executions taking place between August 4 and August 22, compared to 17 executions between January and July this year.

Amnesty International said called on the Kingdom to halt all executions after 4 members of the same family were beheaded for "receiving drugs".

Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, said the execution of people accused of petty crimes and on the basis of confessions extracted through torture had become shamefully common in Saudi Arabia.

"The use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is so far removed from any kind of legal parameters that it is almost hard to believe" Mr Boumedouha said.

Hajras al-Qurey, 53, was sentenced to death on 16 January last year in the south-eastern city of Najran on drug-trafficking charges.

He was arrested, together with his son Muhammad, on 7 January 2012 at the al-Khadra border crossing with Yemen, when customs officers suspected they were carrying drugs in their car.

His son was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 1000 lashes.

But according to Amnesty, both men claim they were tortured during their interrogation and were denied access to their lawyers.

Their families were also told to stop appealing to human rights organisations to save them from execution.

"That people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom's state-sanctioned brutality," Mr Boumedouha said.

"It is clear that the authorities are more interested in threatening victims' families to shut them up rather than putting an end to this grotesque phenomenon."

A deadly August is just the tip of the iceberg for Saudi Arabia which executed more than 2000 people between 1985 and 2013, figures provided by the human rights group reveal.

According to them, trials in capital cases are often held in secret and defendants are given no or insufficient access to lawyers.

And people in Saudi can be executed for a range of crimes including adultery, armed robbery, apostasy, drug-related offences, rape, witchcraft and sorcery.

Most executions are done by beheading and many take place in public.

In some cases decapitated bodies are left lying on the ground in public squares as a "deterrent".

(source: news.au.com)

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Saudi Arabia Remains on U.N. Human Rights Council despite 19 Beheadings, including One for "Sorcery"

Ask any human rights organization where they stand on chopping off people's heads and they'll probably say such actions constitute a violation of human rights.

And yet, one nation that does a lot of beheadings is on the United Nations' Human Rights Council. Lately, in fact, Saudi Arabia can't seem to get enough beheadings. Its government has executed at least 19 people using this method since August 4, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Of the 19, 8 were found guilty of non-violent offenses; 7 for drug smuggling and one for committing sorcery.

"Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's executive director of Middle East and North Africa division, told the International Business Times. "There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia's continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes."

The Saudi government executed more than 2,000 people between 1985 and 2013, about 1/2 of them foreign nationals. By comparison, the state of Texas executed 504 prisoners, none via beheading, over the same period.

Amnesty International reports that many people are executed after "confessing" to crimes during interrogations involving torture and no legal representation. "That people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom's state-sanctioned brutality," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.

The Saudi government is scheduled to keep a spot on the Human Rights Council for 2 more years.

(source: allgov.com)

SOMALIA:

Summary executions in Somalia

Somalia's military court sentenced 3 men to death on July 30 for alleged membership in the armed Islamist group Al-Shaabab and involvement in attacks in Mogadishu, the capital. 4 days later, the Somali media posted to Twitter photographs of their limp, hooded bodies tied to poles.

Such rapid executions once again call into question the quality of justice in Somalia's military courts. The government should try civilians before civilian courts, respect the presumption of innocence, ensure that confessions are not extracted under duress, and allow defendants adequate time for appeals. Sadly, Somalia's new military court chairman, Col Abdirahman Mohamed Turyare, has boasted of flagrant violations of these requirements under international law. He recently told the media that his court was waging a "new war against terrorists." Under international law, the death penalty is permitted only after a rigorous judicial process - a fair trial in which the defendant has adequate time to prepare a defence and appeal the sentence, among other requirements.

In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing how Somalia's military court proceedings "fall short of international fair trial standards". Relatives of defendants and independent observers have very limited access to the hearings, allowing the court to operate without oversight. A central concern was the speed at which death sentences have been carried out. HRW opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and irreversible punishment. That concern is even greater given the due process concerns we identified with the military court.

Unfortunately, these practises appear to have been getting worse in recent months.

13 executions have taken place in Mogadishu in 2014, nine been carried out just since July. 11 of those executed were not members of the Somali armed forces; the majority accused of being Al-Shabaab members or fighters. A man accused of carrying out an attack on Maka al-Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu in November 2013 was sentenced and executed within just over 2 weeks in July.

Carrying out death sentences so rapidly prevents defendants from filing an appeal. It also makes it less likely that the president will be able to review the case for a possible pardon or commutation.

The military court has tried defendants for a broad range of crimes not within its jurisdiction, notably common crimes against civilians.

Turyare told the media that parents of Al-Shabaab suspects will be arrested and he claimed some were already in detention. "It is failure to exercise responsibility of parent-ship. It is your responsibility as father or mother to report to the police that your children are missing or went to terrorist group," he said. Arresting families of suspects is a form of collective punishment that is contrary to fundamental principles of justice.

In its recent decisions, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has called on countries to prohibit trials of civilians before military courts and to restrict the cases appearing before these courts to military offences committed by military personnel. Somalia should comply with these decisions by transferring civilian cases to civilian courts, rather than cementing an abusive practise.

Even the outdated Somali military law doesn't grant the court such powers. Turyare claimed that trying Al-Shabaab suspects under the military penal code is justified, but HRW's assessment of the code found the legal basis for the trial of civilians in the military court, including Al-Shabaab members not taking part in hostilities, to be doubtful.

Defendants are also often held in facilities run by Somalia's national intelligence agency, notorious for mistreatment during interrogations. Turyare told the media that those recently executed had "confessed". International human rights law and Somalia's provisional constitution state that no one can be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt. This basic standard helps to protect defendants from being coerced or tortured into confessing.

The state-run Somali National Television has contributed to undermining the defendants' chances of a fair trial by broadcasting interviews with them during their detention and trial, describing their alleged involvement in attacks. This shows governmental disregard for the presumption of innocence.

Amid these swift executions, Somalia has called on Kenya to extradite to Mogadishu an alleged Al-Shabaab journalist who is reportedly under arrest in Kenya. While Kenya still has the death penalty on its books, it has not executed anyone in decades, and should not return anyone to Somalia who surely will not receive a fair trial.

The Somali government should reform its courts before making requests for extradition. The president should impose a moratorium on the death penalty, and his government should work to ensure that all national courts, civilian and military, respect fair trial standards. Without serious improvements in the quality of trials, the injustices of the past will continue.

As one Somali defence lawyer told me: "I believe that all human beings, including Al-Shabaab suspects, have the right to fair trial." Wise words that the head of the military court and the Somali authorities should hear if they hope to rebuild people's trust in their justice system.

(source: Laetitia Bader is an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.)

BRITAIN:

Lawyer marks end of death penalty

A lawyer has marked 50 years since the end of the death penalty in the UK.

Umar Khan, criminal defence specialist, from Swain & Co solicitors in Havant, said: 'There has always been a very real chance of an innocent person being killed but essentially I oppose the killing of a fellow human being in what is a degrading and brutal way.

'In my experience, crimes are frequently committed by people with huge personal and emotional issues and I do not think that execution can have a significant deterrent effect.' The last executions were held on August 13, 1964.

(source: portsmouth.co.uk)

ZIMBABWE:

Death warrants: Is Mnangagwa playing God

News that Zanu-PF Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said he will not sign any death warrants because he was once sentenced to death appears to suggest he is now playing God.

Of the 97 people on death row in Zimbabwe, one of them is a woman, who, according to the new constitution, is exempt from execution. "Fortunately, my signature as justice minister is required for them to be hanged and I am not giving it.

That is why execution has not been done," Mnangagwa said officially opening the SADC Lawyers Association's 15th Annual General Meeting and Conference on 22 August 2014 at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa, who, then a teenager, was sentenced to death in 1965 by the Ian Smith regime for bombing a train during the liberation struggle was only spared from hanging for being under the age of 18.

In his own words while addressing delegates to the World Death Penalty Day in Harare on Wednesday 10th October 2013, Mnangagwa said:

"The death penalty brings utter hopelessness and I remember the mental torture I experienced upon receiving the sentence in 1965. I was fortunate that I was saved by the age technicality (since the law prohibited capital punishment for persons below 18).

For me, it does not matter where I am, I will always speak against the death penalty" (See Sofia Mapuranga, 'Mnangagwa against death sentence,' The Zimbabwean, 11/10/13).

What makes Mnangagwa's position on the death penalty intriguing and unconvincing are the numerous inconsistences in what he says and what he does.

For instance, he could have accepted the finance portfolio after the disputed 2013 polls which he reportedly declined saying the job needed someone younger. Officially he was 67 (see Herbert Moyo, 'Mnangagwa declines finance portfolio, The Zimbabwe Independent, 13/09/13).

Mnangagwa's reasons for rejecting the finance post are therefore far from convincing, in view of the fact that he twice served as acting finance minister - when Bernard Chidzero resigned in 1994 and when Ariston Chambati died in 1996, but could not be confirmed allegedly because the Bretton Woods institutions did not trust him (see Daniel Compagnon (2011) A Predictable Tragedy: Robert Mugabe and the Collapse of Zimbabwe, University of Pennsylvania Press, Pennsylvania, p.167).

If Mnangagwa was seriously opposed to the death penalty, surely, he would have had it removed from the statute book by now given the power and influence he purportedly wields in Zanu-PF. It is incredible that he has served as justice minister twice, when there are other options during which the death penalty has remained on statute books.

Despite his populist rhetoric, by 2002 as justice minister, he had only reduced 9 offences which attracted capital punishment soon after independence to 3 - murder, treason and mutiny (Nomsa Nkala, 'Should Capital Punishment Be Abolished?' The Herald, 27 September 2002).

The possible reason for him accepting the justice portfolio which he supposedly loathes could be linked to Mugabe's fear of retributive justice over the Matabeleland Gukurahundi massacres amid rumours Mugabe is grooming him as his successor who would ensure he avoids potential trial for human rights abuses.

It is alleged as the head of CIO at the time, Mnangagwa masterminded the slaughter of more than 25,000 civilians opposed to Mugabe in Matabeleland in the mid-1980s and was also responsible for the controversial land reform programme that resulted in attacks on white farmers by war veterans who seized their property (see The Scotsman, 'Mugabe grooms ruthless successor,' 20/07/03).

There are also unconfirmed reports suggesting he finally signed the death warrants last week (See Bulawayo 24, 'Mnangagwa signs death warrants,' 23/08/14). According to the online news organisation, "the editor of the Chronicle, Mduduzi Mathuthu, today (23/08/14) said the minister has finally signed. In a Facebook comment on Saturday, Mathuthu said 'Justice Minister signs death warrants after clemency appeals with President exhausted."

If it is true that Mnangagwa finally signed the death warrants, why has he not resigned as he threatened he would do last year?

In October 2013, Mnangagwa was quoted as saying he would rather resign from his ministerial post than sign execution certificates for the 89 people then on death row (See Sofia Mapuranga, 'Mnangagwa against death sentence,' The Zimbabwean, 11/10/13).

Furthermore, it is worth noting that Mnangagwa opposed a court application by 2 women on death row who were seeking the commutation of their death penalty in February. Mnangagwa said the appeal was unnecessary because work was being done to align the laws to the Constitution adopted in March 2013 (see Margaret Chinowaita, 'Death row inmates appeal unnecessary,' The Daily News, 05/02/14).

In spite of that, Amnesty International has accused Mugabe's regime of denying millions of Zimbabweans their basic human rights by failing to align the country's laws with the new constitution (see The Zimbabwean, 'Amnesty says Mugabe denying millions their rights,' 22/08/14).

Mnangagwa's utterances are seen as grandstanding and a charm offensive as his predecessors had not signed warrants too but did not write home about it. Also as the "Son of God" (Mugabe being "God") he would be foolish to ignore an opportunity to spruce-up his persona.

The SADC lawyers meeting was also a good place to spin Zimbabwe's soiled image to the region's legal brains in light of the graphic news headline in Malawi's Nyasa Times in February last year entitled: "Malawi hangman hired to kill 76 Zimbabweans on death row." That way the appointment was announced raised a lot of fears.

In what some saw as the regime's attempt to intimidate the opposition ahead of the disputed July 2013 elections, Prison Service Commissioner Paradzai Zimondi revealed in February 2013 that the position of hangman had been filled in mid-2012 while showing journalists around Harare Remand Prison.

"Indeed, we now have a hangman but these people are still to be executed. In fact, no-one has been executed in the past 12 years," the Herald quoted him as telling journalists. On the contrary, Amnesty International said Zimbabwe hasn't conducted any executions since 2005, the same year that the country's last hangman retired.

(source: bulawayo24.com)

AUGUST 25, 2014:

TEXAS:

Texas no longer Death Penalty Central for the United States?

Texas has earned the reputation for being Death Penalty Central. It has executed far more inmates than any other state.

In fact, even if the Oklahoma, Virginia, Florida or any other state were to execute an inmate every single day for a year, they would still lag behind Texas in terms of the number of persons put to death in the past 30 years or so.

But here are a few facts you might not know:

Texas courts punish defendants with the death penalty less often than Florida and California. This state does not have the most populated death row in the nation, and this year it is in a 3-way tie with Florida and Missouri for the number of people put to death.

We took a deeper look at the possible trend in today's Houston Chronicle.

Here is a taste of the piece in which former Texas Gov. Mark White is quoted, as well as former death row inmate Anthony Graves and a retired prison warden Jim Willett, among others:

Perhaps nothing symbolizes this state's swagger over being tough on crime like "Old Sparky," an electric chair that was used to execute 361 inmates and is now the centerpiece of a prison museum.

It sits just minutes from the Texas penitentiary where it was forever unplugged 50 years ago this summer following the execution of Houston's Joseph Johnson Jr. for murdering a grocer.

While the oak chair is now a capital punishment relic photographed daily by visitors, this state's death row is undergoing what looks to be a historic shift.

White maintains that Texas isn't getting soft on crime, but getting smarter about when it carries out the death penalty.

Graves says that he is no liberal death penalty activist, and that his goal is to encourage people to have open, honest conversations about whether the death penalty works - are the right people being executed and is such a penalty deterring crime.

He had 2 execution dates come and go before he was finally found to be an innocent man and released from prison.

Willett and Ron Rozelle recently wrote a book, "Warden, Prison Life and Death from the Inside Out." It is a great read - plenty of insight and amazing first-hand accounts, such as when he presided over the execution of Gary Graham, who resisted to the end.

Willett recalls in the book how Graham's paper clothing ripped apart while he was to be taken to the death chamber, so he had him wrapped in a white sheet - a practice that continues to this day. You can click on the book name to order a copy online or you can swing by the Texas Prison Museum, where Willett now works from time to time and ask him to sign a copy.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

OHIO:

Daniel Davis: Man charged in 2012 East Price Hill homicide could face death penalty

A man charged in the 2012 death of a 79-year-old East Price Hill man could face the death penalty if convicted and opening statements are slated to begin Monday during his trial in a Hamilton County courtroom.

Daniel Davis, 49, is charged with multiple counts of murder and aggravated robbery after John "Jack" Lauck was found dead on August 19 at his home located on Purcell Avenue.

Lauck's death was ruled a homicide after officials said he was repeatedly beaten, stabbed and stomped.

The Hamilton County Coroner said Lauck sustained stab wounds to the neck and chest and was also strangled.

Lauck had hired Davis to do odd jobs around his East Price Hill home, according to investigators. Officials say Davis went to Lauck's home to rob him of money to support his heroin addiction.

Investigators recovered some of Lauck's DNA from blood spatter on Davis' shoes, which led to his arrest.

"How sad is it when someone kind like Mr. Lauck tries to help someone like Davis and then ends up brutally murdered," said Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters. "Davis' own brother is quoted as saying that Davis is a 'piece of human garbage.' I could not agree more."

Davis is expected in court at 10 a.m.

(source: WCPO news)

TENNESSEE----2, including female, face death penalty

State to seek death penalty in strangulation of 79-year-old man

Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark announced Monday the state will seek the execution of a man alleged to have choked his elderly uncle to death and the execution of the man's girlfriend, who is accused of watching the slaying.

Clark said the advanced age of victim Sammie J. Adams, who was 79, "was an aggravating factor leading to the request for the death penalty" against Norman Lee Follis, 50, and Tammy Sue Chapman, 46.

A warrant alleges Follis wrapped a "ligature around Adams' neck" and tightened it, and the murder occurred sometime between Dec. 5, 2011, and Jan. 24, 2012.

Adams' decomposing body was found stuffed under a staircase in his apartment.

Adams' pacemaker left an electronic trail of clues, and downloaded data from it was used by authorities to help determine the date of death.

In a confession, Chapman wrote that Adams had boasted of his sexual prowess and had grabbed her about the same time Follis came into Adams' apartment's living room.

Chapman in her confession said she left the room and returned to find Follis with a "red and black cord wrapped around Sam's throat."

Follis' confession alleges Adams attacked him when he tried to pull Adams off his girlfriend. According to his confession, "I grabbed the 1st thing I could get hold of and it was the cord of the heater. I put it around his neck until he let go of me...."

Follis and Chapman were Adams' neighbors on Patt Lane in the Anderson County portion of the Powell community. Another neighbor saw Follis driving Adams' 1979 Mercury Marquis during the time Adams was initially missing. Authorities later determined the vehicle was sold to a Knoxville resident.

Both defendants at first told investigators Adams had been ailing and Follis had driven him to a Knoxville hospital.

Follis and Chapman remain in the Anderson County Jail, each under $1 million bonds. No trial date has been set.

Prosecutors in Anderson County have announced their intention to seek the death penalty only one other time in the last 8 years.

Valerie Stenson, 50, of Oak Ridge is accused in the slaying of her 21-month-old granddaughter, Manhattan Inman, found dead in Stenson's apartment on April 17, 2011. She remains in the Anderson County Jail in lieu of $1,075,000 bond.

(source: knoxnews.com)

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

DA: State seeks death penalty against pair accused of murder

State officials will seek the death penalty against a pair accused in the murder of a 79-year-old man whose body was found hidden underneath an apartment staircase on Patt Lane in Claxton 2 years ago, authorities said.

Norman Lee Follis Jr., 50, and Tammy Sue Chapman, 46, are accused of killing Sammie J. Adams sometime between December 5, 2011, and January 24, 2012, Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark said in a Monday announcement. Adams' body was found under a stairwell in his home after friends and neighbors reported that they hadn't seen him in a while, Clark said.

Adams' age - he was over 70 - was an aggravating factor leading to the death penalty request, Clark said.

"State law indicates that the murder of an elderly person may justify imposition of the death penalty," the DA said.

Clark said the state has requested the death penalty only 1 other time in Anderson County (the Seventh District) in recent memory, and that case is still pending trial.

Follis and Chapman were both previously charged with 1st-degree murder. Adams was Follis' uncle.

In February, grand jury indictments alleged that Follis and Chapman "unlawfully, intentionally, and with premeditation" killed Adams between December 5, 2011, and January 24, 2012.

WATE-TV reported that Follis told a judge in 2012 that he was acting in self-defense and defending his live-in girlfriend from a sexual attack by Adams.

The February indictments also alleged the couple the couple obtained a 1997 Mercury Marquis owned by Adams, as well as the keys to his home, without his permission.

Patt Lane is off Raccoon Valley Road across Clinton Highway from Edgemoor Road.

In the other death penalty case, Valerie Stenson, 50, is facing the death penalty in the death of her toddler granddaughter, Manhattan Inman.

The 18-month-old child was found dead in a home on Teller Village Lane in Oak Ridge on April 17, 2011, and an Anderson County grand jury indicted Stenson for 1st-degree murder and 4 counts of aggravated child abuse and neglect in 2012. Since then, Stenson has been indicted on 9 new counts of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child endangerment in cases involving 3 other children.

Clark earlier said that aggravating circumstances in that murder case included:

-- It was committed against someone younger than 12 by someone older than 18.

-- It was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel "in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse beyond that necessary to produce death."

(source: Oak Ridge Today)

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

Marlon Kiser returns to court for post conviction hearing

A post conviction hearing is underway for a death row inmate convicted of murdering a Hamilton County deputy. Marlon Kiser was convicted of shooting deputy Donald Bond in 2001. The deputy was trying to stop Kiser from setting fire to an East Brainerd fruit stand, when Kiser shot him with an assault rifle. He was sentenced to death in 2003, but was granted a stay of execution in 2010, pending the resolution of his appeal.

(source: WRCB news)

OKLAHOMA:

An Execution, Censored

On April 29, 2014, Clayton Lockett was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the hands of the State of Oklahoma. Under a state law that requires public witnesses to all executions, 12 journalists gathered to observe his death.

They never saw it.

Before the scheduled execution, the reporters were ushered into a media room where a glass partition, covered by a "viewing blind," separated them from the execution chamber. When the blind opened, Clayton Lockett lay before them strapped to a gurney. He had already been in there for almost an hour, getting poked with needles until a member of the execution team - of unknown training and background - finally set an IV line in Lockett's femoral vein, near his groin. Preliminary findings suggest this femoral IV played a role in Lockett's prolonged and torturous execution. Since there were no witnesses, we have only the state's account of how properly these IV procedures were carried out.

But that's certainly not all that journalists were barred from seeing. Right after the blind was raised, the warden announced that the injection process was to begin: First came the drug intended to render Lockett unconscious. 7 minutes later, at 6:30 p.m., a doctor in the room checked Lockett for consciousness; he was awake. At 6:33 p.m., he checked again; the state's account claims the "offender was unconscious." So Oklahoma began the process of injecting Lockett with the 2nd drug (a paralytic), and the 3rd drug, intended to induce cardiac arrest.

But Lockett most certainly didn't remain unconscious while the execution team administered these drugs. Multiple media reports document that Lockett began to moan and writhe on the gurney in clear distress. And how did state officials respond? They lowered the blind. At 6:42 p.m., at the very most critical moment of the execution proceeding, the state opted for secrecy. Once there was unavoidable evidence - visual and audible - that the lethal injection was cruel and unusual, the media was locked out. The journalists were left staring at a blank blind, able to hear - but not verify - sounds of struggle and suffering coming from inside the death chamber.

They never saw anything else.

We now know that Lockett died at 7:06 p.m., long after the media's access was shut down by the state. As to what happened in those fateful 25 minutes, we have only the words of state officials, and those words themselves beg some questions. The governor said the state "lawfully carried out the sentence of death," while the head of the state Department of Corrections - who runs executions in the state - said the execution was formally called off 10 minutes before Lockett was "pronounced...deceased." Once the state is no longer "executing" someone, their duty shifts to one of providing medical care, but there are certainly no reports that they attempted to resuscitate Lockett. Assuming they didn't, the process was, and remained, an attempt to kill him. A process the press had every right to witness.

Because the press and public were literally and figuratively shut out of witnessing the process, we may never get a reliable answer. But here's where there's no question: For over 20 minutes, Clayton Lockett lay there dying in the dark. The assembled reporters were deprived of the right to observe a critical government proceeding, and by extension the public was denied the right to receive a full account of how Oklahoma administers capital punishment, warts and all.

Both death penalty supporters and opponents should be able to agree that the most extreme use of state power should absolutely not occur in the shadows. As the Supreme Court has said, "The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people."

As citizens, we can't complete that duty if the government only offers us selective information, editing out all the ugly parts. That why we brought a lawsuit today asking the court to stop the state of Oklahoma from using the execution shade like a Photoshop tool.

It isn't transparency when the government shines a light only on the things it wants us to see.

(source: ACLU)

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

ACLU Sues Over Closed Blinds in Botched Clayton Lockett Execution

The ACLU and two news organizations filed a federal lawsuit Monday to force Oklahoma prison officials to let witnesses watch executions from beginning to end. The litigation is a response to the botched April 29 lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, in which the execution team closed the blinds when the inmate began appeared to regain consciousness and struggle 20 minutes after the drugs were administered. The suit asks the court to order that all witnesses, including the media, be able to view the proceedings from the moment the prisoner enters the execution chamber until he or she is taken out.

"The state of Oklahoma violated the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of the press to witness executions so the public can be informed about the government's actions and hold it accountable," Lee Rowland, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "The death penalty represents the most powerful exercise of government authority. The need for public oversight is as critical at the execution stage as it is during trial."

Lockett, a rapist and murderer, died of an apparent heart attack after the execution was halted. Oklahoma has put lethal injections on hold while it investigates the bungled procedure, which prompted the White House to order a federal review of state execution protocols.

(source: NBC news)

NEBRASKA:

Neb. too busy to focus on death penalty----Corrections department has been busy with other issues, including questions over the early release of some inmates

Nebraska's attorney general says the state's corrections department has been too busy dealing with other problems to focus on resolving drug shortages that have halted executions in the state, which hasn't carried out the death penalty in 17 years.

Attorney General Jon Bruning told The Associated Press he's confident Nebraska will resume executions but it could be years before officials can work out a new approach using different drugs or a new supplier.

He notes the corrections department has been busy with other issues, including questions over the early release of some inmates.

Nebraska lost its only approved method to carry out executions when its supply of one drug used in the process expired in December.

(source: Associated Press)

COLORADO:

Gov's CNN death penalty interview draws fire

If Colorado death row inmate Nathan Dunlap's case becomes too political for Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D-Colo.) taste, the governor says he could decide to grant "full clemency" before he leaves office.

That's the upshot of an interview given by Hickenlooper to CNN earlier this year. Opponents characterize the governor's comments as a political threat, but the Hickenlooper campaign points out that the governor was asked to comment on a hypothetical scenario in which he faced an opponent who campaigned aggressively on a promise of executing Dunlap.

The governor's re-election campaigns adds that he has no current plans to revisit his decision to grant a temporary reprieveto the death row inmate.

An audio recording of CNN's interview, made by the governor's office, was obtained in a public information request from conservative group Complete Colorado.

As 9NEWS has explored before, the governor's decision to grant a temporary reprieve to murderer Nathan Dunlap comes with an odd political wrinkle: it essentially puts a man's life up for a vote because the governor's challenger, Republican Bob Beauprez, says he would carry out the execution.

The CNN interview took place before Bob Beauprez even won the GOP primary. The interviewer was particularly interested in this political aspect, referencing (unsuccessful primary candidate) Tom Tancredo's hard line on the death penalty.

The governor was asked how he'd respond to a campaign that ran on a platform of "elect me, I'm going to kill this guy."

"If that becomes a political issue within that context in the campaign," Hickenlooper replied. "Obviously there's a period of time between the election and the end of the year where individuals can make decisions such as the governor can."

Later, the governor was asked to elaborate on what he meant by this and explained that he could envision commuting the death sentence for Dunlap if it became overly politicized.

"You don't want to go into too much detail in these things, but the issue that a political campaign would make a human life into, you know, a political football is unsettling. And I think would backfire on them tremendously on any candidate who did that. And if they did do that and somehow it won, there are obviously remedies that the governor can do. I could do a full clemency between election day and the end of the year. I mean there are a number of different opportunities to make sure that doesn't happen. Again, human life should not be a political football."

The governor's re-election campaign says this should not be interpreted as a change in Hickenlooper's feelings on the case or how he plans to handle it.

"In this interview and in response to that specific line of hypothetical questioning, he is discussing the legal options that are provided in the state's constitution," said Eddie Stern, a spokesperson for the Hickenlooper campaign.

When he announced the decision in 2013, the governor said his temporary reprieve will remain in place to allow a future governor the ability to decide whether to carry out the execution.

CNN was speaking with Hickenlooper earlier this year for a special series on death penalty cases that has not been aired yet. The series is set to be televised on Friday.

(source: KUSA news)

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

Fingerprint evidence mulled in James Holmes case

Attorneys in the Colorado theater massacre returned to court for a hearing on whether testimony on fingerprint comparison should be allowed at the trial.

2 FBI agents testified at Monday's hearing, which is one of the last scheduled before James Holmes goes on trial in December on multiple charges of murder and attempted murder. Schedule changes have been common, however.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2012 shootings, which left 12 dead and 70 injured. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Before the hearing, the judge rejected a defense effort to gain unspecified University of Colorado records for a potential trial witness. The nature of the records and the identity of the witness haven't been released.

Argument had been scheduled on that matter.

During the pretrial hearing, FBI agents weren't asked about evidence found at the theater. Agent Stacy Furman used a fingerprint on a firearms manual in James Holmes' apartment to illustrate how fingerprints are matched.

Defense lawyers questioned the reliability of fingerprint comparison and repeatedly asked about the lack of mandatory nationwide standards for training and positive identification.

Furman testified she matched Holmes' fingerprints 121 times on evidence from his apartment, but it wasn't clear how many separate objects were involved or what they were.

Prosecutors used a TV screen to show 2 fingerprint images from Furman's report. She said one was from Holmes' right index finger and the other from the manual.

She said she found 6 key features in each print that matched.

"I am confident with my report," Furman said.

Testimony was set to continue Monday afternoon.

(source: Associated Press)

IDAHO:

Prosecutor mum on death penalty decision

A 60-day deadline to for prosecutors to choose whether to pursue the death penalty in a Boise double murder case expired Monday, but Prosecutor Grant Loebs declined to say what decision he had reached.

Samari Winn, 34, is charged with 2 counts of murder and 1 count of attempted murder in the shooting of 2 men and a woman inside a Boise Bench home in May. Travontae Calloway and Elliot Bailey died from their wounds, but Calloway's girlfriend survived, and is expected to testify at Winn's November jury trial.

Winn, a friend of the slain men, is not accused of firing the shots that killed them. Rather, prosecutors allege he led the shooter to Calloway's door and another man, John C. Douglas of Pennsylvania, pumped bullets into the home after the door opened.

If prosecutors decide not to push for the death penalty, Winn could still face up to life in prison if convicted. But Loebs said Monday morning he would not reveal the choice he made until a court hearing later this week.

"We have not formally announced what our decision is on that," he said. Loebs says he expects to announce whether or not Winn could be eligible for capital punishment at a pretrial status conference scheduled for Thursday.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are still working to extradite the other man charged in the killings.

"That's proceeding: We're following the parameters on how to do the extradition process in Idaho," Loebs said. "Then we send the paperwork to Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania does what they do and that's moving along."

Loebs said he could not give any specific dates or a general timeline of when Douglas might be brought to Idaho.

Calloway's girlfriend testified that she recognized Douglas from a stint working on a marijuana farm in California. Winn's defense attorney Randall Barnum asserts the killings were done in retribution after Calloway and Bailey stole 30 pounds of marijuana.

Barnum was in court Monday morning, and was not immediately available for comment.

Winn's jury trial is set to begin Nov. 17.

(source: KTVB news)

PUERTO RICO:

Puerto Rico Needs the Death Penalty, Not Superficial Moralism

Time and time again I hear the same response to my proposals for Puerto Rico: "you have many good ideas, but the death penalty is unacceptable."

I understand the natural fear and rational distrust of government abuse. I seek limited government and maximum personal freedom, while maintaining a working society.

I cannot accept, however - in the face of more than 5,000 murders in the last 6 years in Puerto Rico - that somehow the government should be unable to put to death those who deserve to die. It is the moral thing to go with those who murder others or who commit insurrection against the independent country, once it is established.

All other options to curb violent crime on the island, except three, have been tried in the last 20 years. And all three are in my proposal: the right to keep and bear arms, an end to the drug war, and a short-cycle death penalty.

The war on drugs is the main driver of violence, with drug gangs constantly fighting each other, killing potential witnesses, and imposing a terror regime upon the people. The difficulty in obtaining personal weapons and the right to use them in self defense is another. However, equally important is that those violent criminals have absolutely no fear of government authority. None.

To do nothing is to be complicit in the deaths of hundreds of people each year. To repeat old mistakes and refuse to take action because of an alleged moral disagreement is equally wrong. Let us take a moment to analyze the moral question (government should have no right to kill its citizens) and the question of whether or not we should allow the death penalty, because there might be a mistake.

First, let me point out (at the risk of sounding heartless) that I do not believe in Pareto efficiency. It does not exist within the human experience. There will always be losses; there will always be mistakes.

We do not and cannot cease to live; nor can we refuse to allow any government of any kind just because a "mistake may happen." If that is the measure of what is allowed or not, we might as well lie down and die, since we can be killed by an accident in a car, in our bathtub, in our workplace, or in a myriad of other scenarios.

There is also inconsistency in the logic against the death penalty. Do you believe in having an armed police force, whether government or private? Do you believe in having a standing army or reserves for national defense? Do you believe in the right to keep and bear arms and the right of self-defense?

Why is it appropriate for government to have the power to kill on the streets in a gun fight between police and a criminal - who, if killed, will have no trial and no appeal - but wrong to hold a trial and execution within one year of conviction?

If you believe in having a military and the right of a nation to defend itself, are you not aware that civilians die in war? "Mistakes will be made" on the battlefield, and these can only be avoided by not having an army and not defending the country in the first place. Those mistakes, may be investigated after the fact, but dead enemy soldiers have no trial and no appeal.

A private homeowner with a gun is in the same situation. A person may break into his home at night to harm the family, and the homeowner may shoot him, but what if there is a mistake and the person only wanted to use the phone? Should we prohibit the right to keep and bear arms simply because a mistake might be made: a homeowner, soldier, or police officer might misuse his weapon?

Instead, let us punish those who abuse their power or who commit criminal offenses.

To say that it is immoral for government to exercise the death penalty, because it is murder, is like saying it is immoral for government to imprison anyone. Kidnapping and holding someone captive on a private basis is a crime too. Yet, if a man kidnaps a child, do we not kidnap him and hold him against his will?

If you believe that the death penalty is too much power for the state to have, then you must also consider support for armed police, the presence of a military of any kind, the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to self-defense. In the violent climate of Puerto Rico and Latin America, is it not immoral to lay down your responsibility to defend your children and your community, and allow them to die and your nation to be overrun by those who have no compunction about using violence?

Would we not also be complicit if we do nothing in the face of such a threat?

If you support the changes I am proposing, but you hesitate or withdraw your support for all, because of your disagreement with one, things will remain the same. The blood you fear will continue to flow in the streets of Puerto Rico.

In a perfect world, we would need no government, no weapons, no police, no armies, and certainly no death penalty. That is not the world I live in ... do you?

(source: Frank Worley-Lopez, The Canal)

SOMALIA:

Somalia court sentences terror suspects to death amid int'l outcry

Mogadishu-based military court on Sunday sentenced 2 Al Shabaab suspects to death as international outcry continues to put court justice into question, Garowe Online reports.

5 Al Shabaab defendants-Dahir Osman Ali, Asad Mohamud Ali, Mohamed Mahdi Ali, Ahmed Abdirahman Mohamed and Osman Ali Malin-were arraigned in the military court on charges of terrorism. Dahir, Asad and Mohamed were convicted of killing traffic police officer Yusuf Hassan Adow during the holy month of Ramadan, judges declared.

Addressing reporters in the court building, prosecutor handed out death penalty to Dahir and absentee Asad while Mohamed was sentenced to life in prison. The court also freed Mohamed after military body found him not guilty of the criminal charges while Maalin was sentenced to 6 months in jail.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern over the mass executions being carried out by Federal Government of Somalia’s military court, saying it has been short of International fair trail standards.

In 2014 alone, 13 executions are said to have taken place in Mogadishu.

(source: Garowe Online)

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Summary executions in Somalia

Recent executions in Somalia put the quality of justice delivered by military courts into question.

Somalia's military court sentenced 3 men to death on July 30 for alleged membership in the armed Islamist group Al-Shaabab and involvement in attacks in Mogadishu, the capital. 4 days later, the Somali media posted to Twitter photographs of their limp, hooded bodies tied to poles.

Such rapid executions once again call into question the quality of justice in Somalia's military courts. The government should try civilians before civilian courts, respect the presumption of innocence, ensure that confessions are not extracted under duress, and allow defendants adequate time for appeals. Sadly, Somalia's new military court chairman, Col Abdirahman Mohamed Turyare, has boasted of flagrant violations of these requirements under international law. He recently told the media that his court was waging a "new war against terrorists." Under international law, the death penalty is permitted only after a rigorous judicial process - a fair trial in which the defendant has adequate time to prepare a defence and appeal the sentence, among other requirements.

In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing how Somalia's military court proceedings "fall short of international fair trial standards". Relatives of defendants and independent observers have very limited access to the hearings, allowing the court to operate without oversight. A central concern was the speed at which death sentences have been carried out. HRW opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and irreversible punishment. That concern is even greater given the due process concerns we identified with the military court.

Unfortunately, these practises appear to have been getting worse in recent months.

13 executions have taken place in Mogadishu in 2014, 9 been carried out just since July. 11 of those executed were not members of the Somali armed forces; the majority accused of being Al-Shabaab members or fighters. A man accused of carrying out an attack on Maka al-Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu in November 2013 was sentenced and executed within just over 2 weeks in July.

Carrying out death sentences so rapidly prevents defendants from filing an appeal. It also makes it less likely that the president will be able to review the case for a possible pardon or commutation.

The military court has tried defendants for a broad range of crimes not within its jurisdiction, notably common crimes against civilians.

Turyare told the media that parents of Al-Shabaab suspects will be arrested and he claimed some were already in detention. "It is failure to exercise responsibility of parent-ship. It is your responsibility as father or mother to report to the police that your children are missing or went to terrorist group," he said. Arresting families of suspects is a form of collective punishment that is contrary to fundamental principles of justice.

In its recent decisions, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has called on countries to prohibit trials of civilians before military courts and to restrict the cases appearing before these courts to military offences committed by military personnel. Somalia should comply with these decisions by transferring civilian cases to civilian courts, rather than cementing an abusive practise.

Even the outdated Somali military law doesn't grant the court such powers. Turyare claimed that trying Al-Shabaab suspects under the military penal code is justified, but HRW's assessment of the code found the legal basis for the trial of civilians in the military court, including Al-Shabaab members not taking part in hostilities, to be doubtful.

Defendants are also often held in facilities run by Somalia's national intelligence agency, notorious for mistreatment during interrogations. Turyare told the media that those recently executed had "confessed". International human rights law and Somalia's provisional constitution state that no one can be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt. This basic standard helps to protect defendants from being coerced or tortured into confessing.

The state-run Somali National Television has contributed to undermining the defendants' chances of a fair trial by broadcasting interviews with them during their detention and trial, describing their alleged involvement in attacks. This shows governmental disregard for the presumption of innocence.

Amid these swift executions, Somalia has called on Kenya to extradite to Mogadishu an alleged Al-Shabaab journalist who is reportedly under arrest in Kenya. While Kenya still has the death penalty on its books, it has not executed anyone in decades, and should not return anyone to Somalia who surely will not receive a fair trial.

The Somali government should reform its courts before making requests for extradition. The president should impose a moratorium on the death penalty, and his government should work to ensure that all national courts, civilian and military, respect fair trial standards. Without serious improvements in the quality of trials, the injustices of the past will continue.

As one Somali defence lawyer told me: "I believe that all human beings, including Al-Shabaab suspects, have the right to fair trial." Wise words that the head of the military court and the Somali authorities should hear if they hope to rebuild people's trust in their justice system.

(source: Laetitia Bader is an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch----Midnimo.com)

IRAN----executions

More prisoners hanged in public

The Iranian regime henchman continued hanging in public of prisoners in cities across the country to further intensify climate of fear among the public.

On Sunday morning a man was hanged in public in city of Sari (northern Iran) and another man was also hanged in public in city of Borazjan.

Meanwhile on Monday, the authorities in the main prison in city of Bandar Abbas (southern Iran) transferred a group of 5 men were transferred to solitary confinement to await their execution.

The prisoners Edris Hassan Zadeh,35, Sajad Rezapour, 25, Mansour Hetdari, 33, Mohammad Balouch, 55, and Mehdi Hashemi, 26, are expected to be executed as early as Tuesday.

Mohammad Balouch is a Pakistani citizen. Mehdi Hashemi has been in prison since 10 years ago.

Since Hassan Rouhani has assumed office as the president of the Iranian regime, there has been a rise in human rights violations in Iran. Some 800 have been executed in Iran during the past year in Iran, including many in public.

(source: NCR-Iran)

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Death Row prisoners family seeking help from Human Rights Organisation

Afshari family is seeking help from Human Rights Organisations to save their children. They have 2 sons on the death row and the 3rd one sentenced to imprisonment for political activities.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Afshari Family sent a letter to HRANA seeking help and attention of all Human Rights Organisations for their sons Habibolah Afshari, Ali Afshari and Jafar Afshari. They are specially worried about their sons' death sentence to be executed.

Habibolah Afshari and Ali Afshari- who are brothers- were sentenced to death in January 2012 by Islamic Revolutionary Court, while they were kept at Oromiyeh Prison. They are accused of being member of Anti-Islamic Regime party and "War against God and state". In addition, Jafar Afshari – the 3rd brother- was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in exile on similar charges. All 3 brothers are in exile at Oromiyeh Prison at the moment.

(source: Human Rights Activists News Agency)

GAZA----executions

Gaza crisis: Hamas executes 4 suspected Israeli spies

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, continued with its executions of "collaborators", killing 4 more Palestinians suspected of spying for Israel.

Masked Hamas militants fatally shot the Palestinians in the courtyard of a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp on charges of spying for the enemy yesterday. Hamas-affiliated Al-Majd website quoted security sources as saying that the 4 were executed in a "revolutionary" way after "legal measures were completed".

The website has warned that future collaborators would be dealt with in the field to create deterrence. The Islamist faction declined to release the names or pictures of the executed for the sake of social stability, fearing backlash against their families. The executions raise the total number of Palestinian "suspects" paraded to their deaths to 25; 18 of them were executed on Friday and 3 on Thursday.

Hamas has warned that Israel will "pay the price" for killing 3 top leaders of its military wing - the Qassam Brigades. Earlier, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, denounced the executions of alleged collaborators, calling them "extrajudicial".

The PA President's office condemned Hamas for failing to abide by existing legal procedures for dealing with the cases. Although collaboration with Israel is punishable by death in the Palestinian legal code, President Mahmoud Abbas has maintained a moratorium on the death penalty since 2005.

Amnesty International called on Hamas to halt the campaign of summary executions of suspected collaborators. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has now reached 2,102, including about 500 children, with more than 10,550 injured during the 47-day conflict. In Israel, 68 people have died.

UN agencies have said that 70 % of those killed in Gaza are civilians, including women and children.

(source: Firstpost.com)

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B'Tselem Condemns Hamas Execution of 'Collaborators'----Condemnations of Hamas executions spans political spectrum as leftist group adds its voice, says death penalty always 'immoral'.

Left-wing NGO B'Tselem released a statement condemning the execution of more than 20 people in Gaza by Hamas in a matter of days.

The men were publicly executed for being "collaborators", a term used to describe anyone thought to have cooperated with Israel.

The killings followed the assassination of three senior Hamas leaders on Thursday in an Israeli Air Force strike, which is said to have seriously shaken the Islamist terror group and triggered something of a witch hunt to discover how Israel had obtained precise information on their whereabouts at a time of war.

B'Tselem claimed that according to the data available to them, since last Thursday (21 August) - the same day the Hamas leaders were killed - 25 people had been executed by Hamas, seven of whom were shot publicly in Gaza City's central square.

It is unclear what kind of a trial, if any, the accused received.

In a statement released Sunday, B'Tselem said the "current circumstances prevailing in the Gaza Strip" prevented it from carrying out a full investigation, including the precise number of victims or their identities.

In any event, the statement continued, "International humanitarian law totally forbids any state or organization from executing people without a trial... Acts like these are a severe violation of international law."

The statement went on to condemn the death penalty as "immoral" under any circumstances, and called on Hamas to use other methods to punish wrongdoers.

B'Tselem's statement follows calls by a right-wing NGO for the US to take action over the spate of killings.

The Legal Forum for Israel submitted a letter to Washington's Ambassador to Israel, requesting "that your government act to put an end to the wave of executions in Gaza."

(source: Israel National News)

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Gaza: Halt Executions ---- 25 Alleged Collaborators Summarily Executed in 72 Hours

Amid all the carnage in Gaza, it's abhorrent that Hamas officials are adding to it by permitting, if not ordering, the summary execution of Palestinians deemed to be collaborators. Hamas authorities need to stop these extrajudicial killings.

Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip should urgently act to stop executions of Palestinians accused of providing information to the Israeli military and appropriately punish those behind the executions, Human Rights Watch said today. News reports said unidentified gunmen believed to be acting on instructions from Hamas executed 3 people on August 21, 2014, 18 people on August 22, and 4 people on August 23.

Hamas officials told journalists that local courts had tried and sentenced some of the men to death for "collaborating with the enemy" but gave no details and did not release their names, ostensibly to protect their families. Gunmen carried out executions in an empty park and in a public square in Gaza City, and near a mosque in Jabalya, not at the Interior Ministry location where local regulations authorize carrying out judicial executions.

"Amid all the carnage in Gaza, it's abhorrent that Hamas officials are adding to it by permitting, if not ordering, the summary execution of Palestinians deemed to be collaborators," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Hamas authorities need to stop these extrajudicial killings."

Hamas and its armed wing, the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have not officially taken responsibility for the killings. However, a statement on a Hamas-affiliated website, Al Rai, said that, "The current circumstances forced us to take such decisions." The statement did not elaborate. Earlier on August 21, Israeli airstrikes killed three senior members of the Qassam Brigades, and targeted the home of Mohammed Deif, the leader of the armed group, whom Israel has unsuccessfully targeted in multiple attacks over the years."

Another Hamas-affiliated website, Al Majd, reported that the "resistance" had killed 3 alleged collaborators and arrested 7 others on August 21. Citing a "security source," the website claimed the victims had been tried by "revolutionary procedures," but did not provide further information.

On June 2, Hamas had formally withdrawn from its role governing Gaza with the creation of a "technocratic" unity Palestinian government, consisting largely of officials from the rival Fatah political faction. However, Hamas continues to exercise de facto authority in Gaza. Hamas's failure to investigate or prosecute anyone for public executions in the past, including executions for which its armed wing claimed responsibility in 2012, has, at the least, created an enabling environment for such gross abuses.

On the morning of August 22, 11 people whom Hamas officials later described as alleged collaborators were executed in al-Katiba Park, near al-Azhar University in Gaza City, according to news reports. A Gaza-based journalist told Human Rights Watch that the park was empty of other people at the time. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that 2 of those executed were women. Unnamed security officials in Gaza told journalists that local courts had convicted some of the 11 people, news reports said.

Several hours later, hooded gunmen in black clothing without identifiable markings executed another seven men whom the gunmen had lined up against a wall outside the Omari mosque in Gaza City, before a large crowd, a local journalist and news reports said. Accounts from witnesses reported in the media said that the names of the men executed were not given. Photographs published in the media show the victims with their heads covered and their hands tied.

Human Rights Watch viewed a printed notice stating that the "ruling of revolutionary justice was handed down" against the men killed outside the mosque. It was signed by "the Palestinian Resistance," not by any official body, suggesting that Hamas may not have carried out these executions. However, Al Majd website said that "revolutionary military trials" had convicted the 7 men. The website also stated: "The resistance has begun an operation called 'Strangling the Necks,' targeting collaborators who aid the [Israeli] occupation" and "kill our people."

On August 23, hooded gunmen shot to death 4 men near the wall of a mosque in Jabalya refugee camp, north of Gaza City, according to Palestinian news reports.

Under the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, conveying information to the enemy to aid its military forces is punishable by death. In past cases, Gaza military courts have convicted defendants of collaboration and sentenced them to death after unfair trials, including cases based almost entirely on confessions that lawyers and family members said were coerced. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and irreversible punishment. Death sentences imposed under processes, if any, that are so compromised are particularly outrageous.

Human Rights Watch is aware of reports that gunmen have executed or shot and maimed other alleged collaborators in Rafah and in Gaza City since July 7, when Israeli forces began a military offensive in Gaza.

Hamas authorities have never brought anyone to justice for killing alleged collaborators. In November 2012, gunmen from the Qassam Brigades killed 7 men in a Gaza City street, claiming the men were informants. Hamas officials falsely claimed that 6 of the men had been caught "red handed" during hostilities that month. In fact all 7 men had been in prison for months or years before the hostilities. During and after the last major ground offensive by Israeli forces into Gaza, from December 2008 to January 2009, gunmen killed 32 people in Gaza, and maimed others by shooting them in the legs, including men whom Hamas officials described as collaborators.

"Hamas authorities should immediately investigate and take appropriate action against all those responsible for these killings and prevent future killings from taking place," Whitson said. "Spying and treason are serious crimes in any jurisdiction, but Hamas leaders should make it clear that death sentences are not the answer, let alone these summary executions."

(source: Human Rights Watch)

INDONESIA:

College Students Face Possible Death Penalty for Selling Drugs

2 college students are facing a maximum penalty of death for allegedly distributing illegal drugs in a West Jakarta night club, the anti-drug body said on Monday.

The National Narcotics Agency (BNN) arrested Cye, 26, and Angelo, 27, for allegedly selling drugs at the nightclub where they both work. Cye is a waiter while Angelo does public relations for the club.

BNN spokesman Sumirat Dwiyanto, said the pair started to sell drugs after meeting a Malaysian customer who suggested the scheme.

"Their involvement started with an offer by Cye's guest, who is a Malaysian. They agreed to split the profit: 65 % for the guest as a distributor and 35 % for Cye [as a reseller]," Sumirat said.

The BNN spokesman said Cye and the Malaysian, identified as A.G. planned to distribute 515 ecstasy pills in several clubs in Jakarta. Sumirat said the drugs were in a package sent from the Netherlands.

"On Thursday officers arrested Angelo, who came to pick up the package at a post office in West Jakarta, the investigation then led to Cye," he said.

"BNN is still tracing down where exactly the drugs came from. We will work with the Dutch police ... We will also cooperate with Malaysian police to arrest the Malaysian who offered the drugs to Cye,” Sumirat said.

The spokesman said both Indonesian suspects were registered as students; Cye in Jakarta and Angelo in Bandung. Police have conducted tests and concluded that both were drug users.

Sumirat said Cye and Angelo would be charged with violating articles 112, 113 and 114 of the 2009 narcotics law.

"The maximum sentence is life in prison, or death," he said.

(source: The Jakarta Globe)

INDIA:

Should death penalty go? Law panel begins review

Almost half a century after it said the time was not right to abolish the death penalty, the Law Commission of India has embarked on an exercise to take a relook at the issue. The Law Commission has issued a public consultation paper on capital punishment with a detailed questionnaire open to the public to send in their views on the issue.

The move comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court commuting the death sentence of 19 persons after their mercy pleas were rejected since January this year. In one of the cases, the apex court referred to the conundrum and observed that "perhaps the Law Commission of India can resolve the issue by examining whether death penalty is a deterrent punishment or is retributive justice or serves an incapitative goal".

Interestingly, the Bombay high court is hearing a last-ditch attempt by 2 Kolhapur women to save themselves from the noose after their mercy pleas were rejected by the President - they will be the 1st women to be hanged in independent India. Renuka Shinde and her sister, Seema Gavit, were sentenced to death for kidnapping 13 children and killing nine of them in the 1990s.

Besides inviting the views of the public, the commission said it was also planning to collect data related to the death penalty from various trial courts, high courts and the apex court. It will also engage law schools to conduct research on the issue. "People have begun to speculate about the end goal of keeping a penalty such as death sentence on the statute book," said the commission, adding, "In recent years, the Supreme Court has admitted that the question of death penalty is not free from the subjective element and is sometimes unduly influenced by public opinion. In this context it is imperative that a deeper study be conducted to highlight whether the process of awarding capital sentence is fraught with subjectivity and caprice."

For almost eight years between 2004 and 2012, no executions were carried out till the moratorium was broken with the hangings of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kazab and Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. Critics of the death penalty have pointed to the falling crime rates during this period to tackle the argument that capital punishment acts as a deterrent.

According to the government only 54 persons have been executed since Independence. The National Crime Records Bureau's report reveals that between 2001 and 2011, an average of 132 death sentences were handed down each year by trial courts across the country. The Supreme Court during the same period, however, confirmed only 3-4 death sentences each year.

Under the Indian Penal Code, crimes that are punishable with a death sentence include treason, abetment of mutiny, perjury resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person, murder, kidnapping for ransom and dacoity with murder. Following the Nirbhaya case, Parliament changed the law to make a second charge of rape punishable with the death penalty. The Criminal Procedure Code requires special reasons to be given for awarding capital punishment and in 1980 the apex court had set the "rarest of rare" criteria in such cases.

According to law experts, each legal challenge to the death penalty has failed, with the SC quoting the 1967 report of the Law Commission which had said: "Having regard, however, to the conditions in India, to the variety of social upbringing of its inhabitants, to the disparity in the level of morality and education in the country, to the vastness of its area, to the diversity of its population and to the paramount need for maintaining law and order in the country at the present juncture, India cannot risk the experiment of abolition of capital punishment."

Advocate Yug Chaudhry said that the Law Commission's report commands great respect both in Parliament and in courts. "Convicts are being executed in our names, and if one is opposed to this there will be few more opportune moments to do so than the commission's public consultation," he said. Chaudhry is representing the two Kolhapur women convicts before the high court.

(source: The Times of India)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Arrest made in death of Sanford woman found in Cary apartment

In Cary, a local man was arrested late Saturday night and charged with murder in the death of Wendy Jean Johnson.

Daniel Scott Remington, 36, was taken into custody in Fayetteville and was being held without bond in the Wake County Detention Center.

He was arrested several hours after the Cary Police Department named him as the suspect in Johnson's death. Fayetteville police reportedly found Remington's vehicle and tracked him down with a dog when he attempted to flee.

"We hope this arrest brings some measure of closure to Ms. Johnson's family, and we appreciate the efforts of all those involved in bringing the suspect into custody so quickly," Cary Police Capt. Randall Rhyne said in a written statement.

Johnson, a 58-year-old Sanford woman, was found mortally wounded at the Hyde Park apartment complex around 11 p.m. Friday. She was taken to Duke University Medical Center but died of her injuries.

Remington, who lives on Gooseneck Drive, could face the death penalty if convicted of murder. He has a history of brushes with the law in Wake, Durham, Chatham, Lee and Cumberland counties, including convictions for felony breaking and entering, felony larceny and felony possession of cocaine.

(source: News & Observer)

ALABAMA:

Capital murder trial of Dothan man begins Monday

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the capital murder trial of a Dothan man who police believe killed another man 8 years ago for money and drugs.

Marcus Dantrell Rivers, 27, is charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Patrick Dixon, who police say was shot in the course of a robbery April 19, 2006.

The shooting happened near the intersection of Hamilton Street and Third Avenue in Dothan. It also left a second man wounded from the gunfire. Rivers faces other felony charges related to the incident.

Rivers' case has lingered for several years and has been the subject of several court actions.

2 other men were charged in connection with the shooting death of Dixon.

Everett Morton was convicted of capital murder and initially sentenced to death, but an appeals court reversed the sentence after determining the judge should have given the jury a charge for the lesser included offense of felony murder. Morton received life in prison without parole. Michael James pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years.

Earlier this year, Circuit Judge Michael Conaway ruled Rivers is ineligible for the death penalty because he is mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that a mentally retarded person can't be subject to the death penalty because it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Rivers can only receive a sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder.

Police believe Rivers was the trigger man in the shooting. Rivers gave a statement to police the day after the shooting. Rivers' attorneys filed a motion to suppress the statement, claiming he did not have the mental capacity to waive his Miranda rights. The motion was denied.

Rivers is represented by Dothan attorneys Derek Yarbrough and Shaun McGhee. Yarbrough applied for youthful offender status on behalf of Rivers, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, but Conaway denied the application.

(source: Dothan Eagle)

OKLAHOMA:

ACLU challenges Oklahoma over first amendment violation in execution----The Guardian and the Oklahoma Observer join ACLU in arguing the state acted unconstitutionally by drawing a screen during Clayton Lockett execution

The secrecy imposed by the state of Oklahoma over the botched execution of Clayton Lockett is being challenged in a federal court as a violation of first amendment press freedoms.

In a lawsuit lodged with the US district court for the western district of Oklahoma on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues the state acted unconstitutionally by drawing a screen between the death chamber and the observation room before he was declared dead.

The ACLU is joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit by the Guardian, the Oklahoma Observer and journalist Katie Fretland, who was one of the reporters in the observation room for the Lockett execution and filed for both outlets. The lawsuit calls on the court to ban Oklahoma from denying reporters "meaningful, uninterrupted and unedited access to the entire execution procedure".

"The state of Oklahoma violated the first amendment, which guarantees the right of the press to witness executions so the public can be informed about the government's actions and hold it accountable. The death penalty represents the most powerful exercise of government authority – the need for public oversight is as critical at the execution stage as it is during trial," said the ACLU's staff attorney Lee Rowland.

The lawsuit argues that observers should have been granted an unimpeded view of the process until Lockett was declared dead, or until the execution was called off and the state began the process of resuscitating Lockett.

It is the latest in a raft of legal challenges that have been brought against the spread of secrecy across the death penalty states. The Guardian and other news organisations have brought a lawsuit in Missouri that seeks to force the state to disclose the source of its lethal injection drugs, arguing that the public's first amendment rights have similarly been violated.

Lockett's execution on 29 April was one of a series of recent botched procedures that have provoked renewed debate about the moral and legal justification of the death penalty in America. It took the state 43 minutes to declare the convicted murderer and rapist dead, during which he was observed writhing and groaning on the gurney.

The director of the Oklahoma department of corrections, Robert Patton, officially called off the execution after 33 minutes because it was not working, but 10 minutes after that Lockett was pronounced dead. In the aftermath, the execution was widely condemned around the world and across the US where President Obama called it "deeply disturbing".

For 27 of the 43 minutes of the execution, reporters present in the death chamber were prevented from witnessing what was happening by a blind that had been lowered across the window that separated the gurney from the viewing area. A state official said at the time that the curtain would be lowered only "temporarily" but it remained down throughout the rest of the proceeding until Lockett was declared dead.

In her report, Fretland, recorded that "in a gesture that seemed to echo Oklahoma's fierce commitment to secrecy in the way it carries out lethal injections, the curtains were drawn over the execution chamber, obscuring the gruesome spectacle from public view."

The ACLU and its co-plaintiffs want to see legal injunctions in place that would prevent Oklahoma filtering the news about its execution procedures by the time the next scheduled lethal injection takes place on 13 November. The prisoner set to die on that date is Charles Warner, who was sentenced to death in 2003 for raping and murdering a baby.

Warner had been scheduled to die on the same night as Lockett, but his death was put on hold as the disastrous Lockett events unfolded.

Were the ACLU lawsuit to succeed, Oklahoma would be obliged to allow reporters to witness the entire execution process beginning with the entry of the condemned prisoner into the death chamber and including the insertion of intravenous lines into his veins. Officials would also be prohibited from preventing witnesses from seeing the prisoner at any stage up to the moment when the prisoner is declared dead or the execution stopped.

(source: The Guardian)

PHILIPPINES:

Anria Espiritu's rape-slay revives calls for death penalty

Advocates once again called for the revival of death penalty in the country, as the remains of 26-year-old rape-slay victim Anria Espiritu were interred over the weekend.

According to a report on 24 Oras aired Saturday, civil society groups are pushing for the reinstatement of death penalty for punishment of crimes like in the case of Espiritu, who was found half-naked and with multiple stab wounds in Calumpit, Bulacan last August 14.

Espiritu's remains were buried last Saturday.

3 suspects were tagged in the case, including jeepney driver Elmer Joson, who was arrested at Espiritu's wake after her family grew suspicious of wounds and scratches on his body.

2 other suspects - Ramil de Arca and Melvin Ulam - were positively identified by an unnamed witness during inquest proceedings last week.

In a separate account of his coverage on Subselfie.com, GMA News reporter Bam Alegre said a civil society group he interviewed on the day of the burial were campaigning for this because "criminals are not afraid of the law anymore."

The law abolishing death penalty was signed by former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006.

In January, Sen. Vicente Sotto III filed Senate Bill 2080, seeking the reimposition of death penalty in the Philippines.

In his proposal, Sotto said the reinstatement of the punishment should be done over the "influx of henious crimes... in the country nowadays," as well as the "indiscriminate and horrendous brutality happening everywhere."

President Benigno Aquino III said that the proposal needed to be given more thought, adding that it is was more important to first fix the country's justice system. (source: GMA News)

CHINA:

Family calls for wrongful conviction probe after man spends 6 years on death row----The Fujian defendant, first found guilty of double murder in 2008, went through suffering until he was finally freed on Friday

A relative and the lawyer of a man acquitted of murdering 2 children after previous trials found him guilty are urging authorities to investigate the wrongful convictions.

Nian Bin, a 38-year-old hawker, was arrested for the murder of 2 children with rat poison in 2006 in Fujian province. He supposedly pleaded guilty, but after he was convicted in 2008 by the Fuzhou Intermediate Court, he appealed, claiming police had tortured him into confessing.

He spent more than 6 years on death row while appeals were considered. Finally on Friday, the Fuzhou High Court released him, saying there wasn't enough evidence to convict.

"There was a lot of evidence to show that my brother was innocent," said Nian's sister, Jianlan, who led the petitioning campaign. "But we didn't know what the final appeal would rule until the last minute. We were not sure if the authorities were willing to be confronted with their mistake."

Despite his freedom, Nian went into hiding immediately after being released, as the family of the children who died are still looking for him for revenge.

"They still believe my brother killed their dear children, and I can feel their pain," said Jianlan. "Both that family and ours are the victims of wrongful convictions. I hope the authorities will open an investigation to give us the truth we deserve."

Nian Bin's father died while his son was in jail. His mother was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Nian's son, who was 4 at the time of the arrest, is 12 now and barely recognised his father's face.

Nian Jianlan said her brother broke into tears when he recalled “the dark days he spent in jail after the original conviction. He constantly lived in despair," she said.

"For more than 6 years, he had to wear heavy handcuffs and leg irons, leading to muscle atrophy and deformation of his hand joints. Even walking is difficult for him right now ...

"He felt his life was even worse than a dog's. A dog can at least run away if it's being tortured, but he couldn't."

From a legal perspective, executing an innocent is not uncommon on the mainland. Last year, Supreme People's Court executive vice-president Shen Deyong urged an end to wrongful convictions after high-profile cases were overturned in high courts in Henan, Zhejiang and Fujian.

Zhang Yansheng, Nian Bin's leading defence lawyer, said it's time authorities began to correct the flaws in China's justice system. He said defence lawyers must be given equal status with prosecutors, and the court system must become independent.

"I heard people say the victory in this case is hard to repeat in other cases, as it takes a lot of effort from the relatives, lawyers, media as well as the public to finally overturn a death sentence. But I don't agree.

"Not all cases are as complicated as this one, but it is equally important for authorities to confess and correct their mistakes. If they have the courage to correct a case that issued the death penalty 4 times before, they should be able to correct the others."

(source: South China Morning Post)

INDIA:

Law Commission calls for review of death penalty: Is it need of an hour?

The Law Commission has called for a reassessment of the need for the death penalty. And for this, the Commission has began an exercise to know whether it should be abolished or not. The Commission has, in fact, issued a public consultation paper on the capital punishment with a detailed questionnaire and has formally invited citizens to express their views on the issue.

What is death penalty?

Capital punishment or death penalty is a legal process by which a person is put to death as a punishment for a crime.

Death penalty is seen as an inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment throughout the world.

Under the Indian Penal Code, crimes like treason, abetment of mutiny, perjury resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person, murder, kidnapping for ransom and dacoity with murder led to death sentence.

Soon after Nirbhaya's case, Parliament changed the law to make a 2nd charge of rape punishable with the death penalty.

The Criminal Procedure Code requires special reasons to be given for awarding capital punishment.

In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment should be imposed only in the "rarest of rare cases".

What data say?

India is one of the 59 nations that retain the death penalty.

According to the Government, only 54 persons have been executed since Independence.The National Crime Records Bureau's report reveals that between 2001 and 2011, an average of 132 death sentences were handed down each year by trial courts across the country.

NCRB data say that the Supreme Court, during the same period, have confirmed only 3-4 death sentences each year.

For almost 8 years between 2004 and 2012, no executions were carried out in India.

26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab and Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru were the last to be executed. Over 140 countries have abolished the death penalty and over 20 others who retained it, have not executed capital sentences in last 10 years.

What led to a re-look?

The Supreme Court has directed the Commission to study whether the death penalty needs to be completely abolished or retained in some cases.

The apex court has been sceptical about the application of capital punishment, and has commuted the death sentences of at least 19 convicts to life imprisonment.

At several occassions, Court has admitted that there have been cases where death penalty has been carried out arbitrarily, inconsistently or incorrectly.

This is the 2nd time since Independence that Commission is studying capital punishment.In 1967, the Commission's report said that given the diversity of India's population and the need to maintain law and order, "at the present juncture, India cannot risk the experiment of the abolition of capital punishment".

(source: One India)

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

Should death penalty go? Law panel begins review

Almost half a century after it said the time was not right to abolish the death penalty, the Law Commission of India has embarked on an exercise to take a relook at the issue. The Law Commission has issued a public consultation paper on capital punishment with a detailed questionnaire open to the public to send in their views on the issue.

The move comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court commuting the death sentence of 19 persons after their mercy pleas were rejected since January this year. In one of the cases, the apex court referred to the conundrum and observed that "perhaps the Law Commission of India can resolve the issue by examining whether death penalty is a deterrent punishment or is retributive justice or serves an incapitative goal".

Interestingly, the Bombay high court is hearing a last-ditch attempt by two Kolhapur women to save themselves from the noose after their mercy pleas were rejected by the President - they will be the 1st women to be hanged in independent India. Renuka Shinde and her sister, Seema Gavit, were sentenced to death for kidnapping 13 children and killing nine of them in the 1990s.

Besides inviting the views of the public, the commission said it was also planning to collect data related to the death penalty from various trial courts, high courts and the apex court. It will also engage law schools to conduct research on the issue. "People have begun to speculate about the end goal of keeping a penalty such as death sentence on the statute book," said the commission, adding, "In recent years, the Supreme Court has admitted that the question of death penalty is not free from the subjective element and is sometimes unduly influenced by public opinion. In this context it is imperative that a deeper study be conducted to highlight whether the process of awarding capital sentence is fraught with subjectivity and caprice." For almost 8 years between 2004 and 2012, no executions were carried out till the moratorium was broken with the hangings of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kazab and Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru. Critics of the death penalty have pointed to the falling crime rates during this period to tackle the argument that capital punishment acts as a deterrent.

According to the government only 54 persons have been executed since Independence. The National Crime Records Bureau's report reveals that between 2001 and 2011, an average of 132 death sentences were handed down each year by trial courts across the country. The Supreme Court during the same period, however, confirmed only 3-4 death sentences each year.

Under the Indian Penal Code, crimes that are punishable with a death sentence include treason, abetment of mutiny, perjury resulting in the conviction and death of an innocent person, murder, kidnapping for ransom and dacoity with murder. Following the Nirbhaya case, Parliament changed the law to make a second charge of rape punishable with the death penalty. The Criminal Procedure Code requires special reasons to be given for awarding capital punishment and in 1980 the apex court had set the "rarest of rare" criteria in such cases.

According to law experts, each legal challenge to the death penalty has failed, with the SC quoting the 1967 report of the Law Commission which had said: "Having regard, however, to the conditions in India, to the variety of social upbringing of its inhabitants, to the disparity in the level of morality and education in the country, to the vastness of its area, to the diversity of its population and to the paramount need for maintaining law and order in the country at the present juncture, India cannot risk the experiment of abolition of capital punishment."

Advocate Yug Chaudhry said that the Law Commission's report commands great respect both in Parliament and in courts. "Convicts are being executed in our names, and if one is opposed to this there will be few more opportune moments to do so than the commission's public consultation," he said. Chaudhry is representing the 2 Kolhapur women convicts before the high court.

(source: The Times of India)

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

Plea to PM on executions

Dear Editor,

I would like to bring to your urgent attention my concerns about 7 persons, who are at risk of imminent execution after their mercy pleas were rejected: Surendra Koli was convicted and sentenced to death in 5 cases involving the abduction, rape and murder of girls in Nithari, Uttar Pradesh in 2005 and 2006. His death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2011. Renukabai and Seema were convicted of abducting and killing 5 children in Maharashtra between 1990 and 1996 and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty in 2006. In India, it is rare for women to be sentenced to death. Rajendra Wasnik was convicted and given the death penalty for the rape and murder in Maharashtra in March 2007. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence in 2012. The President also rejected the mercy plea of Jagdish, who was convicted of murdering his wife and 5 children in 2005 and sentenced to death. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2009. Holiram Bordoloi was sentenced to death for killing three men in Assam in 1996. The death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2005. Holiram Bordoloi's mercy petition to the President was reportedly misplaced by authorities in Assam and not considered by the authorities for 9 years. In March 2014, the National Human Rights Commission directed federal authorities to report on the status of the mercy petition. In January 2014, India's Supreme Court commuted the sentences of 15 death row convicts on grounds of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the President ranging between 5 and 12 years. The court ruled that "undue, inordinate and unreasonable delay in execution of death sentence [amounts to] torture".

Over the past 10 years, Asia-Pacific countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes: Bhutan, Samoa, Philippines and the Cook Islands. UN bodies and mechanisms have repeatedly called upon member states to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, incl. through the adoption of 4 UN General Assembly resolutions in December 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. India voted against all four resolutions. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, regardless of the nature of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the person facing execution; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

I urge you to not execute the 6 prisoners and commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment. I urge you to establish an official moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. May I remind you that India's decision to carry out executions sets the country against regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty.

Annegret Reistetter,

Im Sonnenhohl 2

57439 Attendorn Germany

(source: Letter to the Editor, Kashmir Times)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Construction worker sentenced to death

A construction worker has been sentenced to death after admitting to friends he pushed his supervisor from the top of a building site after police closed the case as an accident according to a report in 7Days.

The Bangladeshi man was found guilty of murdering the Arab architect and sentenced at Abu Dhabi Criminal Court.

Police had filed the case as an accident after their investigation concluded the architect fell from a building in the capital last year and died.

However, months later the court heard, the man revealed to workmates that he killed his boss because he was harassing him - and said that they should do the same to their foreman if he mistreated them too.

Prosecutors said the workers thought their colleague was joking but he then revealed the details of how he murdered the Arab man.

The worker told friends he pushed the architect, who was standing at the top of the under-construction building, and the man fell to the ground and died.

The worker said no-one saw him when he committed the crime.

Prosecutors said that the killer's workmates listened to him in disbelief and decided to report him to the authorities. Police immediately arrested the Bangladeshi man.

The worker confessed to prosecutors that he killed his boss. He claimed that his boss was mistreating him at work.

The victim's relatives refused to pardon the killer in return for blood money and insisted that the worker be given the death penalty.

(source: constructionweekonline.com)

AUGUST 24, 2014:

NEBRASKA:

Bruning confident state can restore death penalty

Nebraska's attorney general says the state's corrections department has been too busy dealing with other problems to focus on resolving drug shortages that have halted executions in the state, which hasn't carried out the death penalty in 17 years.

Attorney General Jon Bruning told The Associated Press he's confident Nebraska will resume executions but it could be years before officials can work out a new approach using different drugs or a new supplier.

He notes the corrections department has been busy with other issues, including questions over the early release of some inmates.

Nebraska lost its only approved method to carry out executions when its supply of one drug used in the process expired in December.

Bruning says the state can manufacture the missing drug or change its execution protocol

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Erin Corwin Murder: Suspected Killer Admits He Searched for 'How to Dispose' of Body

Christopher Lee, the former Marine accused of murdering Erin Corwin, told investigators that he searched the Internet for "how to dispose of a human body," arrest records reveal.

The revelation is just part of the evidence that San Bernardino County prosecutors have amassed against Lee, 24, who police contend was having an affair with Corwin and killed her out of fear his wife would learn of the relationship.

Several days before her disappearance, Corwin, 19, told a friend that she and Lee were planning on taking a "special" trip together, according to court documents.

An additional murder charge might be filed against Lee pending the outcome of Corwin's autopsy, which won't be finalized for the next 4 to 6 weeks.

"There's still an ongoing investigation to determine if she was pregnant at the time of the murder," San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos tells PEOPLE. "If we find that to be true and the fetus was far enough along, there could be another kind of murder charge filed."

Corwin's body was located at the bottom of a 125-foot gold-mine shaft on Sunday, seven weeks after her husband, Marine Cpl. Jon Corwin, reported her missing. Detectives also discovered .22-caliber casings and pieces of rebar at the mine shaft that matched those found in Lee's Jeep.

Lee, who is awaiting extradition from Alaska, where he recently moved with his wife and daughter, told police he was "collecting tires" on the morning Corwin disappeared. Detectives found a tire at the mine shaft. A witness also informed investigators that Lee asked him "the best way to dispose of a human body," according to court documents.

The authorities are also curious to learn whether Lee's wife, Nichole, may have played a role in the murder.

"Investigators would like to interview her at some point," says Cynthia Bachman with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, "to determine her involvement, if any."

Prosecutors are still "a couple months" away from deciding whether or not they'll ask for the death penalty for Lee, added Ramos.

"I was only able to speak with him briefly the day before he waived extradition," Lee's lawyer David Kaloyanides told The Desert Sun. "He's not pleased that the case has gone in this direction, but seems to be doing okay."

USA:

Government's ultimate power: Executing Americans, with atrocities

I have been reporting for years on the kinds of executions that led Justice Harry Blackmun to declare in a Feb.22, 1994, dissent (Callins v. Collins) that he would no longer vote for the death penalty.

"The problem is that the inevitability of factual, legal and moral error gives us a system that we know must wrongly kill some defendants, a system that fails to deliver the fair, consistent and reliable sentences of death required by the Constitution."

And Justice William Brennan told me more than once: "I can't believe that the leader of the free world is going to keep on executing people. I still believe that eventually we become more civilized. It would be horrible if we didn't."

In addition to the increasing revelations that some prisoners on death row are innocent, there is the increasing shock - and I mean "shock" - of how some states carry out executions with the approval of the courts, including our highest court.

I knew Justice Brennan well, and I have no doubt how he would react to this July 24 press release from the always-carefully documented Washington, D.C.-based Constitution Project:

"Yesterday, Joseph R. Wood III was pronounced dead after a nearly two-hour long execution by the state of Arizona. Media witnesses, some of whom have observed previous executions, reported that Wood gasped for air more than 600 times during the execution.

"The process was so prolonged that Wood's attorneys filed for a stay of execution in the midst of it, which was then rendered moot once Wood was pronounced dead" ("Transparency Needed Before Executions Continue," The Constitution Project, July 24).

I asked if Wood's 600 gasps was a typo and was assured it was not.

Quoted in the release is the former governor of Texas, Mark White, co-chair of The Constitution Project's Death Penalty Committee:

"This was the 4th reported botched execution of the year. And in each one of these cases, the government has concealed vital information concerning the source, safety, and efficacy of the drugs to be used in the execution, refused to reveal information concerning the training and skill of the personnel involved in carrying out the execution, while also using drugs never before used to kill humans. Meanwhile, the courts continue to look the other way."

Keep in mind: "Using drugs never before used to kill humans."

But an execution in Kentucky that I'd previously reported on used a way of killing that many states have adopted: lethal injection.

In "Sanitizing The Death Penalty" (May 7, 2008), I wrote: "The U.S. Supreme Court - by a walloping 7-to-2 majority in Baze v. Rees - declared constitutional Kentucky's method of death penalty by lethal injection - a combination of three toxic chemicals used as a method of execution in 35 states."

And dig this:

"As Justice John Paul Stevens noted disquietly, 1 of the 3 terminating chemicals paralyzes the unsedated prisoner, who is conscious but unable to move, breathe or utter his last cry."

I described Chief Justice John Roberts' main opinion as written "with language as bland as if he were ruling on an intellectual property case." In it, he wrote:

"Some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution - no matter how humane."

Humane? "Unable to move, breathe or utter his last cry"?

Furthermore, Roberts argued: "Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' that qualifies as cruel and unusual (under the Eighth Amendment)."

Coming to a conclusion directly opposite that of the chief justice, Justice Stevens, citing Justice Byron White, said that after 33 years on the court, "I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents 'the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.

"'A penalty with such negligible returns to the state (is) patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment.'"

Nonetheless, Justice Stevens agreed with the chief justice and voted with the majority.

Yet so long as this nation continues to execute human beings, there is a small but growing movement across party lines to at least bring the Eighth Amendment back to life in these cases.

The Constitution Project has published a well-bound, 165-page, deeply documented report, "Irreversible Error: Recommended Reforms for Preventing and Correcting Errors in the Administration of Capital Punishment." (To obtain a free copy of "Irreversible Error," go to constitutionproject.org.)

I have a copy and am continually learning from it, ranging from such chapters as "Ensuring Effective Counsel" to "State-by-State Execution Procedures."

I expect that across the nation, reporters, assignment editors and other participants in print and digital media will be interested in this report - along with concerned citizens.

Maybe even one or two 2016 presidential candidates will be interested - or am I being overly optimistic?

Defendants in death penalty cases certainly will be profoundly interested.

(source: Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow----Digital Journal)

CHINA----executions

China executes 8 for 'terrorist' attacks in Xinjiang

China has executed eight people for "terrorist" attacks in its restive far western region of Xinjiang, including 3 who "masterminded" a dramatic car crash in the capital's Tiananmen Square in 2013, state media said.

Xinjiang is the traditional home of Muslim Uighurs who speak a Turkic language, and China has attributed attacks there to Islamist separatists it says seek to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's own repressive policies in Xinjiang have provoked unrest, an accusation Beijing denies.

3 of the executed group "masterminded" the October 2013 attack in the heart of the Chinese capital, official news agency Xinhua said late on Saturday.

5 people were killed and 40 injured in the incident, when a car plowed into a crowd in the square and burst into flames. The other executions, carried out in recent days, were punishment for crimes ranging from setting up a terrorist outfit and illegally making explosives to attacking police officers and killing government officials, Xinhua said.

The World Uyghur Congress, the largest group of exiled Uighurs, said the executed individuals had paid a heavy price but the root causes of the issues was being overlooked.

"The lawyers, to accomplish political ends, led them to accept China's charges, and skirted the causes of the issue," spokesman Dilxat Raxit told Reuters in an email on Sunday. "It's a typical case of the law serving political ends."

A report by China Central Television (CCTV) showed images of police leading into court, and questioning, the individuals who have been executed. It also showed footage of the Tiananmen attack, with a car being driven into the square.

Some of the people executed were blamed for attacks in Xinjiang's prefecture of Aksu, the city of Kashgar and the town of Hotan, Xinhua added.

China has been cracking down on violent crime after a string of deadly attacks in Xinjiang, executing 13 people in June.

Hundreds of people have died in violence in the region over the last 2 years, with dozens jailed in the last month, some at mass public sentencings reminiscent of China's revolutionary-era rallies.

This month, a court in Xinjiang sentenced 25 people to jail for terror-related offences. In the clampdown on violence, authorities have also tightened security on public transport, demanding that bus passengers show identification to travel.

A suicide bombing in May killed 39 people at a market in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi. In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.

(source: Yahoo news)

AUGUST 23, 2014:

TEXAS:

Former Governor and FBI Director Support Clemency for Texas Death Row Inmate

Former Texas Governor Mark White and former FBI Director William Sessions have petitioned the State of Texas to grant clemency to death row inmate Max Soffar because of the likelihood his federal appeal will not be decided before he succumbs to aggressive liver cancer.

1 of Texas' longest-serving death row prisoners, Max Soffar has been on death row for more than 33 years for a 1980 robbery at a Houston bowling alley where 3 people were shot and killed and a 4th badly injured.

Prosecutors had no forensic evidence or eyewitness to tie Mr. Soffar to the crime, so they relied on confessions obtained from Mr. Soffar, a mentally impaired, drug-addicted 24-year-old, after three days of questioning with no lawyer present. He later recanted.

On appeal, a federal judge criticized the state's case as thin on evidence and dependent on Mr. Soffar's unreliable confession. His conviction and sentence were overturned, but the state obtained a second guilty verdict and death sentence in 2006 after jurors were not allowed to hear evidence about an alternative suspect or about how police can extract false confessions.

He currently has another appeal pending in federal court but his lawyers said "[t]he reality is that the federal court process will likely not be completed before Mr. Soffar dies."

Now 58 years old, Mr. Soffar is suffering from inoperable liver cancer. Doctors discovered the tumor in June and told him it could be fatal within months. The Constitution Project has filed a clemency petition to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, in which Governor White and Mr. Sessions ask for compassionate relief so Mr. Soffar can die at home.

The Dallas Morning News editorial board wrote that the clemency request, though not likely to be granted, "serves a righteous purpose" because it exposes another Texas capital case where "the facts consist of many hazy shades of gray."

(source: Equal Justice Initiative)

MASSACHUSETTS:

How The Sacco And Vanzetti Trial Sparked Worldwide Protest

Today, we go back to 1927, and the final moments for 2 Boston suspected criminals-turned-cause celebre whose lives were immortalized by Woody Guthrie and whose story shaped the public policy of one of the Bay State's most renowned politicians.

By the time the 1st switch was thrown on the electric chair, shortly after midnight on Aug. 23, 1927, an enormous crowd had assembled outside the Charlestown prison, which was surrounded by 800 police. By 12:30, word was spreading through the crowd. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were dead.

"They were both Italian immigrants, they were both laborers and they were both followers of an anarchist in the United States named Luigi Galliani," said Susan Tejada, author of "In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti."

The men had been convicted of robbing, shooting and killing 2 guards who were delivering $16,000 in payroll to a shoe factory in South Braintree, Mass.

"The entire crime, from the 1st bullet to the getaway, took less than a minute," Tejada said.

The men were convicted despite scant, questionable physical evidence and multiple eyewitnesses who placed them both elsewhere at the time of the crime. Tejada says it's because the narrative of the trial was not dominated by the facts of the case, but rather by four other factors: "Their anarchist beliefs, their labor activism, their Italian ethnicity and their draft dodging during World War I."

They languished in prison for years, as a dedicated defense committee sought publicity and fought for a new trial. Motion after motion was denied, despite the fact that witnesses recanted testimonies, another man admitted to the crime and that evidence came to light that the judge in the case, Webster Thayer, was less than impartial.

"Over the course of time he made astonishing prejudicial comments off the bench about Sacco and Vanzetti being reds and Bolsheviks and how we had to protect ourselves against them; about Sacco and Vanzetti being 'anarchist bastards,'" Tejada said.

Initially bashed in the press for everything for their draft dodging to their radical politics, public opinion slowly shifted - dramatically - in Sacco and Vanzetti's favor - as people across the globe increasingly saw in their case a justice system that was blind to justice.

"It was astonishing," Tejada said. "Protests and demonstrations and strikes all over the United States, in Germany, England Australia, Switzerland, Paraguay, Mexico, on every continent except Antarctica."

In the end, it was that overwhelming support that sunk their last best chance. In the days before their execution Massachusetts Gov Alvan T. Fuller was urged to issue a pardon. He said that he might have issued a pardon but ...

"He felt that worldwide interest in the case proved that there was a conspiracy against the United States," Tejada said. "That's what he said."

And so on August 23, shortly after midnight, Sacco and Vanzetti were silenced, forever. But the story doesn't end there. 50 years after their death, another Massachusetts governor once again took up their case.

"I think today there's a very bright consensus about this," said former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. "A terrible injustice was done."

And so on the 50th anniversary of their execution, Dukakis issued an official proclamation, clearing their name.

"I couldn't pardon them, posthumously," he said. "I mean, I couldn't to that legally, but at least it seemed to me it was well worth issuing a proclamation that a grave injustice had been done."

The decree was not without its controversy. A state senator even threatened to impeach Dukakis over it. But looking back, Dukakis says it was worth it.

"I thought it was an important thing to do," he said. "It was the right thing to do and I'm glad I did it. I've been a lifelong opponent of the death penalty and the Sacco and Vanzetti case is one of the reasons for that. It doesn't make any difference how innocent those folks might have been they're gone. It had a very powerful influence on me."

And he points out the issues that surrounded the case, from immigration to class to racial profiling, make Sacco and Vanzetti strikingly relevant today.

"We're looking at a suburb of St. Louis these days and most of us, I think, are appalled at what's going on out there, so the idea that somehow these problems don't continue is one that I don't think you can seriously accept when you look at what's happening out there," Dukakis said.

Tejeda agrees, and points out that, in the end, Sacco himself realized as much.

"At his trial he said that life in the U.S. is good for people with money but it's not good for the working and the laboring class, and at his sentencing, he said, 'I know this sentencing will be between 2 classes, the rich class and the working class, and there will always be collision between one and the other.'"

Sacco and Vanzetti were tried and convicted of a crime that most people today conclude they never committed. And they were executed for it, right here in Massachusetts, 87 years ago this week.

(source: WGBH news)

NEW YORK:

Revered local attorney who died was compassionate, intelligent

Local defense attorney William M. Tendy Jr. will be remembered as a compassionate friend, an intelligent mind and an eloquent speaker, who once persuaded a jury to spare a man's life in a capital murder trial.

Tendy died early Friday at his home in the Town of Hyde Park after a nearly 2-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 60.

"He embodies the finest in the profession, as a skilled lawyer of the highest ability and dedication," retired New York Court of Appeals Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt said in an email to the Journal.

"He was supremely dedicated to his wife and family, who saw him through a most most difficult time," Rosenblatt said. "He battled his ailment as he managed everything else in his life: with courage, conviction, and understanding."

Tendy started his career as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in 1979. After he moved to Dutchess County in 1983, Tendy joined a local firm, before opening his own practice in the Town of Poughkeepsie, Tendy & Cantor, his close friend and local tax attorney James P. Constantino said.

"Bill was a great, great man," Constantino said. "He had such a compassion for the failings of human beings."

Tendy was well-known for convincing a jury to spare Dalkeith McIntosh from the death penalty in 1998 and instead sentence him to life in prison without parole. McIntosh was found guilty of 1st-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her stepdaughter in the Town of Poughkeepsie on Aug. 12, 1996.

Tendy was a mentor to many young local attorneys, said Senior Assistant District Attorney Angela Lopane, who met Tendy when she first started at the Dutchess District Attorney's Office in 1998.

"I was immediately struck by his eloquence and his knowledge of the criminal justice system," Lopane said. "He truly believed in searching for truth and justice in each and every case. ... It's just such a devastating loss for the community."

A memorial service for Tendy will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Locust Grove on South Road in the Town of Poughkeepsie.

(source: Poughkeepsie Journal)

FLORIDA:

Case worker arrested in toddler's death

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents say 2-year-old Tariji Gordon suffered great bodily harm, in part to her former Children's Home Society case manager, who was was arrested on Friday.

Agents say 27-year-old Jonathan Irizarry did not do his job via welfare checks on the child.

Gordon's mother, Rachel Fryer, is charged in her daughter's murder, and FDLE agents say photos recovered from her phone show swelling of her right eye and other "defects" on her face.

They say Irizarry filed multiple reports, including the morning of her Feb. 6 death that the child was "free" of any bruises.

Reports indicate that had Irizarry done the required visual inspection of the child's body, he would have seen multiple cigarette burns, bite marks on the child's shoulder and patches on the girl's scalp from forceful pulling of the child's hair.

Irizarry was booked in to the Seminole County, FL jail on 2 counts of falsifying official records resulting in great bodily harm. The 2nd-degree felonies have him facing a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Fryer.

(source: WESH news)

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Putnam double murderer charged in Florida slaying

Serge Motti spent more than 3 decades in prison for executing a renowned breeder of Great Danes and her assistant at a rural kennel in Kent.

9 times he came up for parole and was denied. Parole commissioners told Motti the slayings were just too horrible - and he was too much of a risk to reoffend - to set him free.

3 years ago, he told them for the 1st time what he thought they wanted to hear: When he brought his father's pistol to Dinro Kennels decades earlier, he probably did intend to use it.

"I don't know what a human life is worth but I'm very sorry for what I did," he told them as the interview concluded. "And I'm asking for a 2nd chance, and if I get that second chance I won't make you sorry."

It did the trick.

But just weeks after his parole supervision ended in June, the 58-year-old was accused of shooting a man to death and trying to kill a woman during a drug deal in Florida. Motti finds himself back behind bars, charged with 1st-degree murder and facing the death penalty. "It doesn't surprise me," said Putnam County Legislator Kevin Wright, the former district attorney who called the 1978 slayings among the county's most gruesome. "He was a bad guy."

The Florida case

According to an arrest affidavit by a Palm Beach sheriff's detective, Motti arranged to buy drugs from Jernard Frederick on July 5 in the parking lot of a Boynton Beach shopping center. Frederick, 22, and his girlfriend, Imanni Walker, 19, waited for Motti, and when he got in their car, Motti fatally shot Frederick in the back of the head and then fired at Walker. Motti then got into his own car and ran over Walker 3 times as she tried to crawl away, it is alleged.

Detectives soon got tips identifying Motti as the suspect. They learned he lived near the crime scene and drove a Kia Optima similar to the one seen driving over Walker.

Walker was seriously injured but survived. The next day, from her hospital bed, she picked out Motti from a photo array and identified him as the shooter. Motti was arrested and has pleaded not guilty. He is being held without bail. His lawyer did not return phone calls.

He has tried repeatedly to reach his father, Sergio, with whom he had lived since being paroled. But Sergio Motti told The Journal News he isn't interested. One trip through the criminal justice system with his son was enough.

"I don't respond," Sergio Motti said in a brief interview. "It's too hard. It cost me a lot of money and a lot of heartache the first time around, and I just don't want to go through that again."

The 'kennel killings'

In 1978, Serge Motti was a 21-year-old from Fort Lee, New Jersey, who drove a tow truck and studied business at Fairleigh Dickinson University. On March 21, while his unsuspecting girlfriend sat in the truck outside, he walked into Dinro Kennels on Richardsville Road and shot breeder Rose Marie Robert, 66, and her assistant, Rosalie Ramos, 24, execution-style. He then took a champion Great Dane worth $20,000.

Motti reportedly was dissatisfied with a dog he'd bought from Robert and wanted another one. Authorities arrested him a few days later at the apartment where the show dog, nicknamed "Louie," was recovered.

The double murders rocked Kent. After mental competency hearings found him fit to proceed, Motti agreed to plead guilty. But he tried to back out and plead not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge rejected that and sentenced Motti to concurrent minimum sentences of 15 years to life.

He first was denied parole in 1993, then again every 2 years until 2011. At least twice, he sued the parole board unsuccessfully in bids to overturn its rejections. He tried at least once to cut himself with a razor blade and had other drug and disciplinary mishaps in his early years in prison. But by the last hearing, he had stayed out of trouble for a dozen or so years and he'd gotten a master's degree and a doctorate in psychology.

As late as 2009, three commissioners ruled against him with the statutory "your release at this time is incompatible with the welfare and safety of the community, and will so deprecate the seriousness of this crime as to undermine respect for law."

"This crime shows complete disregard for human life as well as your willingness to put your own desires above those of others," they wrote in their decision, according to a transcript obtained by The Journal News.

Florida bound

2 different commissioners did not specify why they approved his bid in April 2011 - including 1, James Ferguson, who had opposed Motti's release in 2007. Ferguson did say in the interview that the absence of any letter from the Putnam District Attorney's Office opposing parole was a point in Motti's favor, according to a transcript of the 2011 hearing.

"It's definitely very chilling that he would be able to get out and murder in the same manner that he did in 1978," said Robert Layne, 64, of Grafton, Massachusetts, who, along with his partner, Louis Bond, 67, became close friends with Robert after buying a Great Dane from her in 1970.

Robert was raised in Kent where her mother also bred dogs, though her specialties were Irish setters and St. Bernards, Layne and Bond said. Robert, known as the "queen of Dane-dom" for her breeding skill, drew customers worldwide, Layne and Bond said, as well as workers seeking to learn from her, including Ramos, a kennel assistant originally from Ohio.

Bond said friends went before the parole board early on to protest Motti's release but, as the years passed, many of them died. Officials also told them that Motti likely would be released for good behavior before the end of his sentence. Concerned for their safety, Layne and Bond said they and others in the dog community asked to be notified of Motti's release, worried he might confront them one day.

"I thought he was insane," Bond said. "We fully expected one day he would show up."

Motti got out that June and moved to Boynton Beach. His community supervision also was transferred there; it ended exactly 3 years later when he was discharged from parole June 16.

He had told the parole board a sanitation job was waiting for him when he got out, just until he could get something in psychology. But by the time he was released, the man who'd promised him work had died and the job was no longer available. Eventually he worked in sales and seemed to be doing well, his father said.

Sergio Motti knew his son needed painkillers after undergoing back surgery in prison. But he didn't realize he had relapsed and was using cocaine again after getting out.

"He got back on drugs and went the wrong way. What more can I say," the father said. "This is all very painful."

No letter on file

Wright, whose brother lives in Boynton Beach, said he's been at the shopping center where the killing occurred 5 or 6 times.

36 years ago he was a young prosecutor when he responded to Robert's home after the killings. He didn't end up handling the case but knew it well enough to feel certain Motti didn't deserve parole.

"There were no mitigating factors. He was obsessed with getting that Great Dane, and he just went up there and executed them," Wright said. "He made a plan, and he brought the tool to make his plan work."

But Wright's office never formally opposed parole. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Linda Foglia, said a review of Motti's file found no letters from the defense attorney, the district attorney or the judge.

Foglia declined to discuss Motti's release or the allegations of new violence and said the department would not make Ferguson available for an interview. She did offer the results of the department's most recent recidivism study: Of 211 murderers released in 2009, only one returned to state custody on a new felony conviction over the next 3 years.

Former chief incredulous

The call summoning police to Robert's house had come from a woman who often would get the dog breeder's mail and walk it up the long driveway. The friend was doing that when she walked into the house and found Robert on the floor, retired Kent police Chief Donald L. Smith recalled.

After a police officer arrived and reported finding two bodies, Smith, then a sergeant, went to the home with Chief William Balzano.

Putnam County Sheriff's investigators also responded and while the cops were there, her phone rang. It was Motti.

"He wanted to speak to Rose about a dog. The detective took a message, then saw Motti's number in her address book," Smith said.

A few days later, a New Jersey couple called in a tip that the killer might be in their neighbor's apartment. The neighbor was the girlfriend, and when police went to speak with her, Motti answered the door. A Great Dane was there with him.

"Louie" had a scar on his back, and Motti had used shoe polish to hide it. Balzano, though, called the dog by its name and it responded. Motti was taken into custody.

Smith, interviewed this past week, couldn't believe Motti was free after committing 2 murders.

"How could you let a guy like him out of prison?" he said.

Serge Motti timeline

March 21, 1978: Serge Motti, 21, fatally shoots Rose Marie Robert, 66, and her assistant, Rosalee Ramos, 24, at Dinro Kennels in Kent Cliffs.

May 1, 1979: After pleading guilty, Motti is sentenced to the minimum - concurrent prison sentences of 15 years to life.

July 20, 1993: Motti is rejected in his 1st bid for parole.

April 5, 2011: In his 10th parole bid, Motti is approved. He is released two months later, and parole is transferred to Florida, where he moves in with his father.

June 16, 2014: Motti's parole supervision ends.

July 5: Jernard Frederick is killed and his girlfriend, Imanni Walker, is seriously wounded when they are shot in their car at a Boynton Beach shopping center during a drug deal.

July 6: Motti is arrested at his father's home just blocks from the crime scene and charged with 1st-degree murder and other felonies.

July 28: Following indictment, prosecutors file notice they plan to seek the death penalty.

July 31: Motti pleads not guilty.

(source: The Journal News)

MISSISSIPPI:

Justices raising questions on Shaken Baby Syndrome

If the state Supreme Court orders a hearing in the case involving death row inmate Jeffrey Havard, it will be the 2nd in a row involving Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Others could follow. At least 11 people are behind bars in Mississippi - and 2 on death row - because of testimony involving that syndrome.

The syndrome has long been used to convict thousands of parents, caregivers and others, but now questions are being raised about the science behind it.

* * *

Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Norman Guthkelch had wondered about a medical mystery reported for decades - some babies bleeding atop their brains, despite little outside evidence of head trauma.

When a colleague suffered similar bleeding after riding a roller coaster, Guthkelch suggested whiplash-type injuries were to blame. He published a paper in 1971, warning parents about the dangers of shaking their children.

In the years that followed, shaken baby syndrome became widely accepted in the medical community, diagnosed through a triad of symptoms: subdural bleeding (blood collecting between the brain and the skull), retinal bleeding (bleeding in the back of the eye) and brain swelling.

Courts recognized the syndrome, and the triad became proof of fatal abuse - "a medical diagnosis for murder," said Deborah Tuerkheimer, author of the new book, "Flawed Convictions: 'Shaken Baby Syndrome' and the Inertia of Injustice."

In 1987, public questions began to arise when biochemical engineers from Penn State University tested the hypothesis. They found shaking alone failed to cause the blood vessels in the brain to rupture. It was only when the head made impact that researchers observed bleeding in the brain.

Despite the findings, Shaken Baby Syndrome continued to be diagnosed and used to prosecute.

In 1995, prosecutors in Wisconsin charged caregiver Audrey Edmunds with murder, concluding she had shaken 7-month-old Natalie Beard to death - despite no witnesses and no outside evidence of trauma.

She told authorities the child was fussy and so she left her with a bottle. When she returned from helping other children, Edmunds found Natalie unresponsive.

At trial, medical experts for the prosecution told the jury that only shaking could explain the injuries, comparing them to a speeding car hitting the baby.

The jury convicted Edmunds, who insisted on her innocence but had no explanation for the injuries. The judge sentenced her to 18 years in prison.

In the years since, medical belief that the shaken baby syndrome's triad of symptoms provided ironclad proof of homicide has begun to crumble with several studies raising doubts.

Some biomechanical studies suggest shaking a baby to death would be impossible without also injuring the child's neck or spine.

In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the diagnosis of the syndrome be discarded and replaced with "abusive head trauma."

That decision came a year after the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted Edmunds a new trial, with justices saying that a "significant dispute within the medical community as to the cause of those injuries ... constitutes newly discovered evidence."

After the ruling, prosecutors dismissed the charges against Edmunds, and the mother of 3 girls walked free from prison, reuniting with her now grown children after 11 years in prison.

"It never, ever got easier, and I never got used to it," she told Madison Magazine in Wisconsin. "But hope became my religion. Without hope, you're crushed."

As for Guthkelch, the pioneer of the shaken baby syndrome, he now has grave doubts about the way his theory is being used.

He told the Medill Justice Center that he now regrets writing his 1971 paper "because people are in jail on the basis of what they claim is my paper, when in fact it is nothing like it."

* * *

Last week, justices ordered a hearing in the case involving Christopher Brandon.

Pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne attributed the death in Brandon's case to Shaken Baby Syndrome, and he did the same with Jeffrey Havard, now on death row.

Hayne acknowledged to The Clarion-Ledger there is "growing evidence" such a diagnosis "is probably not correct."

Studies show shaking isn't able to generate enough force to cause these kinds of injuries to a child, he said.

At the same time, he said, studies are showing that the short falls of children can generate tremendous force when they hit a very hard surface.

In Havard's case, sexual assault was the underlying felony charge that enabled authorities to pursue the death penalty against him in the 2002 death of 6-month-old Chloe Britt, whom Havard said he accidentally dropped.

"I didn't think there was a sexual assault," Hayne told The Clarion-Ledger. "I didn't see any evidence of sexual assault."

Former state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. said he believes the high court will order a hearing for Havard "given the strength of the new evidence, which I think is extremely strong."

(source: Clarion-Ledger)

OHIO:

Jury in death penalty case seated

The jury that could decide whether Anthony Stargell Jr. is guilty and whether he faces the death penalty was selected Friday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

Court officials said opening statements in the capital murder case are to begin Monday after the jury views locations that will be discussed during the trial. The trial may last 3 more weeks if Stargell is found guilty and the trial enters a 2nd phase to determine if capital punishment is appropriate.

Judge Gregory Singer, at about 6:30 p.m. Friday, seated the 12-member jury and 4 alternates for the trial of Stargell, who is accused of aggravated murder in the slaying of Dayton businessman Tommy Nickles and his dog in 2012.

The jury of 7 men and 5 women includes 2 black women, according to court officials. Of the 4 alternates, there are 2 men and 2 women.

Prosecutors say the evidence will show that Stargell, 23, of Dayton, shot and killed Nickles and his golden retriever Rusty during an apparent robbery attempt on April 2, 2012, at Quality One Electric, 838 S. Main St. in Dayton. Stargell also is accused of setting fire to the business, grand theft auto and taking surveillance equipment, among 22 total counts.

1 of 3 of defense attorneys, Dennis Lieberman, has said his client should not be facing the death penalty. Prosecutors are using Rusty's death during the alleged crimes to unduly prejudice jurors, Lieberman said before Singer issued a gag order in the case.

Stargell is just the 4th defendant since 2001 to face a capital murder trial jury in Montgomery County, according to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

The rare death-penalty jury selection process began Monday with four panels of nearly 60 people per group being questioned by Singer. The field was narrowed after prospective jurors' views on the the death penalty were discussed before attorneys asked questions.

Before the docket was removed from public view, defense attorneys renewed several motions. 2 sought to move the trial from Montgomery County because of excessive pretrial publicity and to remove the cruelty to animals count. Singer denied both motions.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

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Judge denies mistrial request for East Price Hill fatal stabbing case----Suspect facing death penalty for robbery, stabbing

In Cincinnati, the judge has denied the request for a mistrial for the Tri-State man facing the death penalty in the East Price Hill fatal stabbing case.

It's been almost 2 years since a 79-year-old man was killed in East Price Hill. On Monday, the family of John Lauck will take the next steps to justice.

Daniel Davis is accused of stabbing John Lauck, 79, to death inside his East Price Hill home 2 years ago.

Lauck's relatives said Davis was hired by Lauck to paint his home. Davis tried to rob Lauck and wound up stabbing him to death when the robbery went bad, according to authorities.

Court officials said opening statements were expected to being Friday morning, but the judge postponed the case until Monday.

(source: WLWT news)

COLORADO:

Mass Murder Defense Wants Fingerprint Experts Excluded

Attorneys for accused mass murderer James Holmes asked that testimony from fingerprint experts be excluded at trial because their data could be unreliable.

Holmes, 26, is accused of killing 12 people and injuring dozens during a midnight showing of a Batman movie in an Aurora theater.

Prosecutors indicated they will seek the death penalty.

His attorneys filed a motion to exclude fingerprinting testimony in June 2013. They claim that fingerprint evidence is unreliable because "there are no known error rates for either the techniques used in performing fingerprint analysis or the labs and techniques conducting the testing."

They also claim in the motion that "there are documented instances of erroneous fingerprint identification."

Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour granted a hearing on the matter, which is set for Monday.

This is not the 1st time the court has held hearings on excluding expert testimony from Holmes' trial.

2 hearings in July centered on whether to exclude testimony from ballistics and chemical experts.

Samour denied both motions.

The trial is expected to start Dec. 6.

(source: Courthouse News)

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Tonight: Diann Kissell, Daughter of Executed Killer, on Trauma and Healing

Growing up in northwest Denver, Diann Kissell carried a terrible secret inside for more than 1/2 of her first 13 years. Her father, an insurance salesman and the patriarch of a proud Latino family, had singled her out among his 10 children for furtive and persistent sexual abuse. His demands became increasingly incessant and unbearable, until one day in 1963, when one of Diann's sisters intervened and threatened to call the police.

That night Kissell's father tried to cover his crime by obliterating his entire family. He beat his pregnant wife to death with a poker. He stabbed his 11-month-old baby daughter, strangled a 4-year-old son, bludgeoned a 6-year-old son. Then, apparently consumed with remorse, he stopped and called the police.

Kissell's self-published memoir, A Turquoise Life: One Woman's Triumphant Journey, written with the aid of psychotherapist Kathy Bird, doesn't mention her father's last name; some of her siblings weren't pleased that she was writing about the family's tragic past at all. But to anyone who's lived in Colorado a few decades, the story is instantly recognizable as a case that made grim headlines and led to the state's final use of the gas chamber that now stands in Canon City's prison museum. Kissell's father, Luis Monge, went into that chamber in 1967 - the last person in the country to be executed before a U.S. Supreme Court decision suspended all death sentences, a hiatus that didn't end until Gary Gilmore faced a firing squad in Utah a decade later.

Kissell's book isn't primarily a true-crime story. It's the tale of someone who went from being a confused and guilt-ridden abuse victim to an out-of-control teen and angry young woman involved in destructive relationships before finding ways to confront her past and heal. "My father is part of the story, but the main focus is to let people know you can survive anything and still have a good life," Kissell says. "I'm getting letters every day from people saying it's helped them."

Kissell's own journey included a wildly dysfunctional marriage (she's now happily married to someone else), an appearance on "Oprah," and gradually coming to terms with her long-suppressed rage over what her father did to her, her mother and her siblings. It was while speaking out on trauma that she came to know Bird, and a partnership was forged that would lead to the book.

Before Monge's execution, his surviving children visited him several times in prison - a turn of events that struck some observers as bizarre. But Kissell says that was part of her upbringing in a strongly Catholic family. It was Monge, not his kids, who kept pressing for his own execution, even requesting to be hanged at high noon on the steps of Denver's City and County Building.

"For him, it was the chicken's way out," Kissell says now. "He never had to deal with the anger of his children. He died with the love of his children intact."

She admits to having mixed feelings about the death penalty to this day. "I never wanted my father to die, but I never wanted him to be around my children," she says. "It's made my life easier that he isn't around."

Her book has a powerful message for social workers, police and others about the long-term consequences for abuse victims, she adds: "You think if you take them out of the house, everything's okay. But if you've been given a message that you're worthless your whole life, you're going to keep on self-destructing until you get some real help...I have an incredibly wonderful life these days."

Kissell and Bird will discuss A Turquoise Life at a launch party at 6 p.m. this evening at Heartfire Books of Evergreen, in the Bergen Village Shopping Center, 1254 Bergen Parkway. Call 303-670-4549 for more information.

(source: westword.com)

ARIZONA:

Judge Grants Arias' Request to Delay Upcoming Death Penalty Trial

The penalty phase to determine whether convicted killer Jodi Arias will face life in prison or the death has been postponed.

Back in May 2013, Arias was found guilty of the 1st-degree murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, who was killed in his Phoenix home in 2008. According to medical examiners, Arias stabbed him 27 times, primarily in the back, torso and heart. She also slit Alexander's throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating him, and shot him in the face before she dragged his bloodied corpse to the shower.

Although Arias was convicted of murder, the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on her sentencing. As a result, her retrial will begin next month to determine whether or not she should be sentenced to death, life in prison or life with a chance of release after serving 25 years, Reuters reported.

Arias' retrial was originally set for Sept. 8, however on Wednesday Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens granted Arias her request to delay it, pushing back the start of jury selection to Sept. 29, said a court spokeswoman, according to Reuters.

Arias, who has decided to act as her own attorney in the upcoming trial, petitioned the court to postpone the retrial because she said she ran into obstacles while trying to interview an expert witness from her prison cell.

Earlier this week, Judge Stephens denied Arias' defense attorney, Kirk Nurmi, his request to resign from her death penalty trial.

Nurmi, who has made several motions to drop Arias due to their ongoing tension, filed a recent motion asking the judge to let him resign from the case since Arias will be her own legal rep, while he was assigned to be her legal advisor. He also cited his original attempt to withdraw and Arias' repeated efforts to have him fired.

However, on Monday, Judge Stephen decided not to let Nurmi withdraw from the case.

According to the Associated Press, a hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 4.

(source: latinpost.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Throat-Slashing Killer----Limitations on Evidence Implicating Original Suspect Not Prejudicial, Justices Rule

The California Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of three murders in a case in which it took 5 months to seat a jury, 56 days of testimony before the jury got to deliberate, and seven days of deliberation to reach a partial verdict.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura Palmer Hammes sentenced David Allen Lucas of Spring Valley to death in 1989 for the murders of Suzanne Jacobs, her 3-year-old son Collin, and Anne Catherine Swanke. Jurors acquitted him of one murder, deadlocked 11-1 for conviction on two others, and convicted him of one count of attempted murder.

All of the victims had their throats cut, but Jody Santiago Robertson survived and identified Lucas as her attacker. The crimes occurred between 1979 and 1984.

Impaired Memory Claimed

Defense attorneys challenged Robertson, saying her memory was impaired by trauma. They attacked the prosecution’s use of serological evidence and sought to convince jurors that another man was responsible for the crimes.

That man, a Kentucky drifter named John Massingale, was arrested for the 1979 Jacobs murders and was still in custody when Lucas was arrested in 1984 and charged with the later crimes. Massingale confessed, but later recanted, saying that he said what the police wanted him to in order to avoid the death penalty and that his confession only matched the physical details of the murders because the police showed him many photos of the interior of the victims' house.

Police and prosecutors ultimately became persuaded, based on physical evidence, that it was Lucas and not Massingale who committed the Jacobs murders. Massingale was released after several years in custody, received a declaration of factual innocence, filed suit for wrongful arrest, and was called as a witness at Lucas' trial to bolster the claim that he had been mistakenly charged and that Lucas had committed all of the murders.

The Jacobs killings occurred in 1979 in the Normal Heights section. Evidence used to tie Lucas to the crimes included a bloodstained note, containing the name and phone number of a local insurance brokerage from which Lucas obtained a policy around the time of the murders.

Massingale testified that he was essentially illiterate.

Lucas was acquitted in the death of Gayle Roberta Garcia, a realtor who was found with her throat slashed in a vacant Spring Valley house in 1981.

The Robertson attack occurred in June 1984 in El Cajon. Rhonda Strang, 24, and Amber Fisher, 3, were killed in October 1984, a month before the body of the last victim, Swanke, was found on a Spring Valley hillside.

Strang, whose brother was a friend and employee of Lucas, was baby-sitting the child when the crimes occurred. Strang's husband was a drug dealer - there was evidence Lucas was a customer - and the defense suggested he may have killed his wife and Amber after learning that she was cooperating with a police investigation of his activities.

Conflict of Interest

On appeal, the defense argued that Hammes should have disqualified the District Attorney's Office due to conflict of interest.

It was unfair, the defense contended, to allow the same agency that had prosecuted Massingale to prosecute Lucas, in part on the basis of Massingale's testimony that he was innocent. The District Attorney's Office, counsel claimed, was arguing in the criminal case that Massingale's confession was involuntary, while claiming in defense of his civil suit that he was cooperative and the police did nothing improper.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, writing for a unanimous court, said that even if the asserted conflict existed, it did not require the extraordinary remedy sought by the defense.

"[The defendant] does not explain how the conflict may have altered any trial testimony to his detriment," the chief justice wrote "If anything, the prosecutor's assertion in the civil case that Massingale's confession was voluntary would have encouraged those who interrogated him to describe Massingale's confession as uncoerced, and this circumstance would have assisted defendant in his 3rd-party culpability defense."

Cantil-Sakauye also said there was no prejudice to the defendant as a result of limitations Hammes placed on defense cross-examination regarding Massingale's civil suit.

The ruling was erroneous, the chief justice acknowledged, because it rested "on the false assumption that Massingale's finding of factual innocence could be admitted into evidence in his civil trial," when in reality it was inadmissible by statute.

But the error was not of constitutional magnitude, Cantil-Sakauye explained, and would only be grounds for reversal if it was more probable not that jurors would have reached a verdict more favorable to the defense if they had heard the testimony.

Jurors knew that Massingale had confessed to the Jacobs murders, spent years in custody as a result, recanted, and had been found factually innocent, the chief justice pointed out. He had been examined and cross-examined at length, she said, and "jurors were fully aware that Massingale had a significant incentive, albeit not necessarily financial, to testify against defendant - an interest in avoiding prosecution and the death penalty."

Given all of that, the additional knowledge that he had a civil suit pending would not have changed jurors' perception of his credibility, Cantil-Sakauye said.

The case is People v. Lucas, 14 S.O.S. 3637.

(source: Metropolitan News Company)

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California to Fight Ruling Against Death Penalty

California is appealing last month's federal court ruling that declared the state's enforcement of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday that she would appeal the ruling by Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. Central District of California, who said that the state's death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Last month, Carney, a Republican-appointed judge in Orange County, vacated the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who was convicted in the 1995 rape and murder of his girlfriend's mother but is still on death row. In a lengthy decision, Carney ruled that uncertainties and delays over executions in the state violated inmates' constitutional rights.

"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 their actual execution," Carney wrote. "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 and will be arbitrary."

The case will now move to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"I am appealing the court's decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants," Harris said in a statement. "This flawed ruling requires appellate review."

Only 13 people have been executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, and no inmate has been executed since 2006. More than 900 are currently on death row in the state.

(source: TIME)

GHANA:

No death penalty in Constitution - Avoka

Cletus Avoka, former Majority Leader and Member of Parliament (MP) for Zebilla, says the death penalty clause must be expunged from the constitution and rather put in the Acts of Parliament for easy amendment when it becomes necessary.

According to him, putting the death penalty clause in the Acts of Parliament would make it easy to be amended in the near future when the need arises.

Speaking at a dialogue meeting on the constitution review process organized by the Catholic Secretariat in Accra, Mr. Avoka said, "Instead of putting the death penalty in the constitution, we must try and put it in the Acts of Parliament to make it easy when we want to change.

"Trying to put the death penalty in the constitution might be met with some resistance, which could affect the whole constitution amendment process."

He said the constitution review process is a very critical matter and urged Members of Parliament (MP) to consider it with all the seriousness it deserves.

Mr. Avoka said the review of the constitution involves 2 processes, amendment of normal provisions in the constitution and also an amendment of the entrenched position in the constitution, entreating Ghanaians to approach the whole process with sobriety, circumspection, dedication and commitment.

He said, "It is not easy to amend a constitution which is the heartbeat of the life of the people of this country. So if there is a need to amend the constitution, then all Ghanaians must be stakeholders and get involved in order to get good laws at the end of the day."

Mr. Avoka said the MPs must consider the mood of the country and think of the welfare of the people of Ghana when passing laws.

He was of the view that Ghanaians would turn up to vote in the referendum, stating that "40 % of registered voters must turn out to vote with regards to the entrenched position.

"Out of the 40 % turnout voters, 75 % must vote in favor of the amendment. Otherwise, we can't amend the constitution."

This, he said, calls for a lot of public education and understanding of the issues involved.

"That is why the media and all stakeholders must get involved to ensure a smooth process of the amendment," Mr. Avoka said.

He urged the MPs to look at the whole process devoid of partisanship, adding "otherwise we can't have a successful amendment.

He commended the Catholic Secretariat and the Catholic Bishop Conference for making the constitutional amendment process successful.

(source: GhanaWeb)

THAILAND:

Thailand military indicts 26 suspects over alleged plot to attack city

A Thai military court has indicted 26 people accused of plotting an attack in north eastern Thailand, on several charges including weapon possession and conspiring to commit terrorism.

The group, named the Khon Kaen Model by the army, was arrested a day after the May 22 coup which saw the military seize power from then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

At the time of their arrest, the army said the suspects had planned a "large-scale attack" in Khon Kaen, one of the largest north eastern cities.

Their lawyer Winyat Chatmontree says most of the suspects were seized in an apartment the day after the military came to power.

"The army arrested them and found guns, hand grenades, knives - things you're not allowed to have without permission," Mr Chatmontree said.

"But they said other people asked them to keep them."

The group is comprised of 24 men and 2 women, including farmers, a school director, business owners and a bank security guard, some of whom are affiliated with the Red Shirt protest movement.

Mr Chatmontree says the group could face the death penalty if convicted.

The suspects are being held at a civilian prison in Khon Kaen.

(source: Australia News Network)

EGYPT:

Court hands 5 preliminary death sentences

The Giza Criminal Court handed preliminary death penalties to 5 defendants on Saturday in the "October Cell" case, according to state-run Al-Ahram.

The court referred the files of the 5 defendants to the Grand Mufti of the Republic for approval as per Egyptian law, and scheduled the final rulings of the case for 20 September. The defendants are facing charges of "forming a terrorist cell, assaulting security forces guarding a church in the October 6 suburb, killing 1 officer and attempting to attack army and police personnel".

Scores of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and suspected "terrorists" have been handed preliminary death sentences by Egyptian courts.

Last May the Minya Criminal Court handed down the death penalty to more than 500 people accused of "attacking a police station and murdering one police officer", in the sectarian violence that took place after the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins on 14 August.

Acts of violence spread across Egypt after Morsi's ouster last year, resulting in the death of hundreds of protesters, civilians and security personnel.

(source: Daily News Egypt)

CHINA:

School deputy head death sentence upheld

A court in north China's Hebei Province on Friday upheld the death sentence of a deputy principal of a primary school for kidnapping and killing a 6-year-old girl then molesting her body.

The Higher People's Court of Hebei Province rejected Yang Haijun's appeal and upheld the death penalty for crimes of kidnapping and insulting a corpse by the the Baoding Municipal Intermediate People's Court.

He will be executed if the Supreme People's Court examines and approves the ruling.

Yang, 47, former deputy principal of Wang'an Township Central Primary School of Laiyuan County, was convicted of kidnapping the girl on July 27, 2013 to demand ransom from her parents, the courts found.

Yang suffocated the girl after she shouted. After killing her, Yang abused her body and buried her near the border between Laiyuan and Yuxian counties on the same day.

Police detained him on Aug. 2, 2013 on suspicion of intentional homicide.

(source: Xinhua News Agency)

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

After 8 Years on Death Row, Chinese Man Found Not Guilty of Murder

A court in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian on Friday overturned a death penalty handed down to a man who spent the last 8 years on death row, though he has always maintained he was forced to confess to the murder of 2 children through torture.

The case against Nian Bin was finally overturned by the Fujian Provincial High People's Court on Friday, which found Nian not guilty of all charges before releasing him unconditionally to his joyful relatives.

"The accused Nian Bin is innocent, and bears no responsibility for costs," the court said in a terse statement.

Nian's brother Nian Xiaobin said the family was overjoyed at the result, which came after 8 years of legal battles, including a trip to Hong Kong to find expert witnesses.

"After a long 8 years, Nian Bin has finally returned home, having cleared his name," Nian Xiaobin told RFA on Friday.

"We are very happy after having waited so long for justice - such belated justice," he said.

He said Nian's relatives had been warned to remain silent in court while the decision was read out.

"They told us not to say anything after the hearing began, for fear of a slanging match breaking out," Nian Xiaobin said. "[They] were very angry."

A long wait

Meanwhile, Nian's defense lawyer Zhang Yansheng said the decision was the result of "long years of labor" on the part of his family and lawyers.

But she said media reporting of the case had likely played a decisive role.

"Nian Bin is the son of a farmer, and his family has no powerful connections or privilege," Zhang said.

"If the media hadn't brought his case to public attention, it's unlikely we would have arrived at today's result," she told RFA after the decision was announced.

"The role the media played was crucial."

Nian was initially detained by authorities in Fujian's island county of Pingtan on July 27, 2007 in connection with the poisoning of a family in Aoqian village which led to the deaths of 2 children the previous year.

Police said at the time that they found traces of rat poison on the door handle of Nian's apartment next door to the family's home, and that Nian confessed to the murders.

Nian was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by the Intermediate People's Court in the provincial capital, Fuzhou, in 2008.

He later appealed that sentence, saying he had confessed under torture.

Nian spent a total of 8 years on death row, while successive courts dismissed his appeals. He was sentenced to death 4 times altogether, Zhang said.

'Such cases are common'

Zhang hailed the decision as a landmark for Chinese justice.

"Such cases are really common, so a lot of people feel that this is a landmark," she said. "I think it's a landmark."

"This case will have a huge impact on our justice system."

She said it had taken years to overturn the case, because there was little evidence to point to the actual killer of the children.

"We should learn a lot of lessons from this case, including about judicial independence and about how to end [political] interference," Zhang added.

She laid the blame for interference at the door of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's network of law enforcement committees at every level of government.

"The people who really interfere with cases are the political and legal affairs committees," Zhang told RFA.

Call to abolish

Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said that a number of miscarriages of justice in Fujian remain to be overturned, however.

He cited the cases of Fuqing bombing suspect Wu Changlong, Olympics protester Ji Sizun, and the 2010 jailing of the "Fujian Three" netizens, who questioned an official verdict on the death of a woman believed to have been gang-raped.

"I have a different view on this [from Zhang]," Liu said. "This case went on for years before they finally decided there wasn't enough evidence."

"Justice in a court system should be based on the facts, and cases should be prosecuted according to law," he said.

In an Aug. 22 statement, rights group Amnesty International welcomed Nian's release, calling his case a reminder of the need to end executions in China.

"This rare acquittal is yet another vivid example of why the death penalty should be abolished, and the ever present risk of executing innocent people is just one of many compelling arguments against the death penalty," Amnesty International China Researcher Anu Kultalahti said.

(source: Radio Free Asia)

SAUDI ARABIA----impending execution

Scheduled beheading reflects authorities' callous disregard to human rights----The execution of Hajras al-Qurey is scheduled for 25 August.

The current surge in executions in Saudi Arabia is continuing unabated with another beheading scheduled for Monday 25 August, said Amnesty International today.

The planned beheading of Hajras al-Qurey will be the 23rd execution in the last 3 weeks - although more could take place on Saturday and Sunday. Earlier this week the organisation called on the Kingdom to halt all executions after 4 members of the same family were beheaded for "receiving drugs".

"The execution of people accused of petty crimes and on the basis of 'confessions' extracted through torture has become shamefully common in Saudi Arabia. It is absolutely shocking to witness the Kingdom's authorities callous disregard to fundamental human rights," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"The use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is so far removed from any kind of legal parameters that it is almost hard to believe."

Hajras al-Qurey, 53, was sentenced to death on 16 January 2013 in the south-eastern city of Najran on drug-trafficking charges. He was arrested, together with his son Muhammad, on 7 January 2012 at the al-Khadra border crossing with Yemen, when customs officers suspected they were carrying drugs in their car. Muhammad was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

Both men claim they were tortured during their interrogation and were denied access to legal representation until their trial. Hajras al-Qurey's lawyer complained that the only evidence used by the prosecution to sentence his client was the coerced 'confessions', but the court dismissed his complaint.

"That people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom's state-sanctioned brutality," said Said Boumedouha.

There has been a surge in executions in Saudi Arabia since the end of Ramadan on 28 July, with 22 executions between 4 August and 22 August, compared to 17 announced executions between January and July 2014.

On Monday 19 August, 4 men - 2 sets of brothers Hadi bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq and Awad bin Saleh Abdullah al-Mutlaq along with Mufrih bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami and Ali bin Jaber Zayd al-Yami - were beheaded.

They were reportedly tortured during interrogation, including with beatings and sleep deprivation, in order to extract false confessions. They were sentenced to death largely on the basis of these 'confessions'.

Their families were told to stop appealing to human rights organizations to save their children from execution.

"It is clear that the authorities are more interested in threatening victims' families to shut them up rather than putting an end to this grotesque phenomenon."

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia in 10 Shocking Facts

--More than 2,000 people were executed in Saudi Arabia between 1985 and 2013.

--At least 22 people were put to death between 4 and 22 August 2014 alone - more than 1 every day.

--The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is used in violation of international human rights law and standards. Trials in capital cases are often held in secret and defendants rarely have access to lawyers.

--People may be convicted solely on the basis of "confessions" obtained under torture, other ill-treatment or deception.

--Non-lethal crimes including "adultery", armed robbery, "apostasy", drug-related offences, rape, "witchcraft" and "sorcery" are punishable by death.

--3 people under 18 were executed in 2013, and so far in 2014 one has been sentenced to death, in blatant violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

--In some cases, the relatives of those on death row are not notified of the executions in advance.

--Foreign nationals represent a disproportionate number of those executed, largely because of inadequate legal representation and translation support. Almost 1/2 of the 2,000 people executed between 1985 and 2013 were foreign nationals.

--People with mental disabilities are not spared the death sentence.

--Most executions are by beheading. Many take place in public. In some cases, decapitated bodies are left hanging in public squares as a "deterrent."

(source: Amnesty International)

IRAN----executions

3 prisoners including a woman hanged

The Iranian regime's henchmen hanged at least 3 prisoners including a woman in the main prison in city of Zahedan in south-eastern Iran. The 3 prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on Thursday. 2 men were identified as Ali Reza Shahbakhsh and Noroallah Berahoui. The 3rd prisoner, a woman, is said to be a relative of Shahbakhsh.

On Tuesday (August 19), a man was hanged in public in the main square in city of Khoy. A local news website published a photo showing a man being hanged by a crane early morning but no further information was provided.

On the same day another prisoner was hanged in a prison in southern city of Kerman.

Further reports received from Iran indicate that a group of 3 prisoners were hanged on August 13 in Rajaie-shahr prison in city of Karaj.

(source: NCR-Iran)

INDONESIA:

Woman accused of Bali suitcase murder had troubled family life in Chicago

While browsing through items at an estate sale in Oak Park, an upscale suburb west of Chicago, freelance musician Heather Neaveill-Kramer came upon a treasure trove: hundreds of handwritten musical scores, all original, and from the hand of James Mack, a man whose pioneering work helped create breakthroughs for black musicians in Chicago in the civil rights era and whose original compositions and orchestral and horn arrangements were used by soul and jazz luminaries like Ramsey Lewis, Tyrone Davis and Nancy Wilson, among many others.

"I was astounded. They were all over this basement. I thought at the time it was kind of odd to have all this music open to the public for sale, especially stuff he wrote," Neaveill-Kramer said. "I would have bought more scores but there was so much there I couldn't choose."

That they were for sale in a basement, and not professionally archived in a university or private collection, illustrates, to some, the fractured dynamic of the family James Mack left behind when he died in 2006 at the age of 76: his widow Sheila von Wiese-Mack, and their daughter Heather, who was 10.

Heather, now 18, is in jail in Bali after being arrested with her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21, in connection with the killing of her mother, whose body was found stuffed into a suitcase outside a luxury resort. She is not speaking to police, said her Chicago attorney Michael Elkin, because he has not yet been able to secure her an Indonesian counsel.

"It's not easy to find a trusted, well-versed and knowledgeable individual," he said. Elkin said Mack did not have counsel at the last time he spoke to her, which was early on Tuesday morning.

While Mack waits to hear whether she will be charged, her family's life in Chicago is coming under scrutiny.

Located in Oak Park's historic district, where tourists arrive daily to tour notable homes by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Mack home was more likely to be visited by police. The Oak Park police say that they made 86 calls to the Mack home between January 2004 and June 2013 for a combination of domestic violence, theft, missing person, and 911 hangups. All were related to incidents between the mother and daughter, said David Powers, communications director for Oak Park.

Cook County juvenile records obtained by the Chicago Tribune showed that Heather Mack was arrested in December 2011 on domestic battery, aggravated battery and battery charges involving violence against her mother. She was found guilty of battery and ordered to attend mandatory counselling, with a focus on anger management. Many of the calls before and since that arrest involved alleged physical violence against Von Wiese-Mack from her daughter, such as biting, punching and hitting; reports say one incident caused her mother to break her arm. Repeatedly, Von Wiese-Mack told police she believed Heather needed counselling because she suffered from mental health issues.

Elkin does not deny the reports, but suggests that they reflect a troubled girl who found it difficult to cope with the death of her father. "You don't know if [her behaviour shows] the growing pains of being that daughter," he said.

He described the relationship between Mack and her mother as "more of a friendship" that made "the role between friend and mother probably difficult to maintain". He also suggested that some of the earliest reports involved individuals related to James Mack from outside the household.

"It was not a relationship that was all acrimonious; I don't believe that at all. Yes, there were physical altercations ... That still does not mean a child commits murder against her own mother," he said.

All the incidents date from the period after James Mack died. Before then, his new family represented a late chapter in his life as father and husband. By the time he met Von Wiese in the early 1990s, he was already well established as an educator, composer and arranger, a career that originated when he taught jazz studies at Crane junior college, Chicago’s oldest city college. Mack, who moved to Chicago with his family from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when he was 5, is credited with teaching a new generation of up-and-coming musicians on the city's South Side who would later become internationally famous: some the founding members of Earth, Wind and Fire, and others who were long-time session players for The Chi-Lites, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Terry Callier, BB King, Genesis and Phil Collins, and others.

Mack moonlighted as an arranger and producer for labels including Chess, Capitol and Columbia, and later served as a guest conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Before that, he was deeply involved in attempts in the 1960s to merge the segregated labour unions that represented musicians in the city.

He already had a son and 4 daughters by 2 previous marriages when he married Von Wiese. By that time, Mack was in the twilight of his career and was suffering health problems. Many of his friends were confused by the marriage - his new bride was 22 years his junior - no less his decision to have a new child at the age of 66.

"Nobody could figure out how he ended up with her. He was definitely in a situation where he didn't want to be alone and needed somebody. But in many ways, he was alone in that house," said the veteran Chicago trumpeter Melvin Williams, who studied under Mack starting in 1963. Williams said Von Wiese-Mack discouraged her husband from socialising with her adult children and their families.

Mack used a wheelchair in the last three years of his life. He died in 2006 in Athens, Greece, after suffering a pulmonary embolism. Williams said the fire sale of his works following his death went against the advice of Ramsey Lewis, and it showed that Von Wiese-Mack did not fully comprehend her husband's legacy.

"She respected Ramsey but I guess she didn't understand about publishing. She should have hung on to all that music until she understood what it was," Williams said.

Before his death, the family's Oak Park home was a centre of activity related to the arts, particularly music and literature.

Von Wiese-Mack was "a lovely, charming woman" said neighbour and friend Georgia Parchem who said Von Wiese-Mack encouraged her to enrol in literature courses at the University of Chicago where she received her doctorate. The Macks routinely held parties involving "artists and friends from all over the city", said Parchem. "They were always lovely events."

But once Mack died, problems emerged.

Heather Mack dropped out of high school 2 years early and lived in 2 different facilities for minors in the county's juvenile court system who suffer from mental health problems.

Neighbours said that Von Wiese-Mack appeared overwhelmed by her troubled daughter and often turned to them for help. Pat Leavy described her friend as "very cultured and talented" and said she volunteered on separate music and art committees at the Nineteenth Century Club of Oak Park, a civic organisation where Leavy served as president.

"She shared a lot of different things with me about her daughter because I had raised four daughters and she would wonder what the dynamics were between mother and daughter," say Leavy. "I said, 'Everyone's life is different.' I couldn't possibly relate, but she did have difficulties forever with her daughter."

An autopsy released on Monday shows von Wiese-Mack, 62, died of asphyxiation due to severe trauma to her face and she also had a broken neck. Heather Mack and Schaefer, who is also from Oak Park, are currently in custody. No charges have been brought as yet, although police have indicated the pair could be charged with premeditated murder, for which the maximum penalty is death.

Elkin said that Heather reports being sexually assaulted while in custody "on at least 3 occasions" and found "needle marks on various areas of her body, without knowledge" of their origin.

Media reports say that Mack said she was two months pregnant. Elkin would not comment on that.

Williams said if he was alive, James Mack would "do whatever he could do" to get his daughter home.

"I'm never glad Jim is dead, but I'm glad he's not alive to go through what has just happened with his daughter," he said.

(source: The Guardian)

GAZA:

Amnesty International: Hamas must end summary executions as 'informers' face firing squad

Hamas must halt its campaign of summary executions of suspected collaborators, Amnesty International today said after at least 18 more Palestinians were put to death by firing squad for allegedly providing information to Israel.

It brings the number of alleged informants executed in the past 2 days to 21, including several people arrested yesterday in relation to the killing of 3 senior Hamas commanders by Israeli forces.

"This flurry of executions by Hamas is made even more shocking by the fact that the victims were sentenced to death after trials which, if they happened at all, were summary and grossly unfair," said Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International's Director of Research and Crisis Response.

"Hamas must immediately and totally cease its use of the death penalty."

At least 11 people, including 2 women, were executed by firing squad today in al-Katiba prison yard in the west of Gaza City.

7 others were executed after Friday prayers outside the main mosque in Gaza City.

A piece of paper nailed to the wall of the mosque said they provided the enemy with information about tunnels, houses and locations where rockets were held, which were then bombed causing the death of many Hamas fighters.

"As a result the judgment of the revolutionary court was implemented", the note read.

The identities of those executed is not yet known as the victims had their heads covered. Their executioners in the firing squad were also masked.

The Hamas-run website Al Rai warned that "the same punishment will be imposed soon on others". Treason is a capital offence under Palestinian law.

Under Palestinian law, all death sentences must be ratified by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but the Hamas administration carries out executions without obtaining the president's approval.

"To put people to death following summary and grossly unfair proceedings is clearly cruel and inhumane. Hamas must also remember that the right to a fair trial before a competent court remains in force during times of armed conflict," said Anne FitzGerald.

Israel killed 3 Hamas military commanders in an airstrike on a house in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, an attack which also left 7 of the men's family members and neighbours dead.

(source: Palestine News Network)

SINGAPORE----80-year-old man could face death penalty

80-year-old man charged with murder

An 80-year-old man was charged on Friday morning (Aug 22) with the murder of a woman, 54, whose bloodied body was found in a Tampines flat on Thursday.

Char Chin Fah is alleged to have committed murder by causing the death of Madam Ong Guat Leng. The murder is alleged to have been committed between 9am and 10.04am at Block 440, Tampines Street 43.

Char, who was dressed in a red polo tee-shirt, was seen glancing through the courtroom as the charge was read out to him in Mandarin. It is unclear if any of his relatives were present in the courtroom at the time.

Char will be remanded in the A Division of the Central Police Division for further investigations and brought to the crime scene.

On Thursday morning, the bloodied body of Madam Ong, understood to be his daughter-in-law, was found in the bedroom of her 3rd-floor corner unit.

Char will return to court next Friday for the next mention of his case. If convicted of murder, he faces the death penalty.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

ZIMBABWE:

Mnangagwa says won't sign death warrants

Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed he will not sign death warrants for the country's 97 death row prisoners saying he is opposed to the death sentence.

The country's new constitution provides for the death penalty but Mnangagwa said he believed the punishment was unfair.

"As we speak, we have 97 inmates who were sentenced to death by the court, but are still awaiting execution," Mnangagwa told a SADC lawyers conference in Victoria Falls on Friday.

"1 of them is female, while 96 others are males. Fortunately, my signature as Justice Minister is required for them to be hanged and I am not giving it. That is why execution has not been done."

Mnangagwa backs a lobby that has been pushing for the abolition of the death penalty.

"It (death penalty) should have been abolished a long time ago," the minister said last year.

"I know there are a lot of people ... who believe in death penalty; I don't! The difference between you and me is you have not been sentenced to death I have been sentenced to death so I know what I am talking about."

Mnangagwa was sentenced to death by the Smith regime after he was arrested for involvement in the liberation struggle.

He was spared execution after his defence attorneys successfully pleaded that, at 21, he was under-age and could not be executed.

Under the country's new constitution, women are no longer being sentenced to death and the only woman featuring on the death row would automatically be saved.

"The same Constitution saves offenders below 21 years and those above 70-years-old. This is a giant step in the fight against the death penalty," Mnangagwa said Friday.

However, Law Society of Zimbabwe president Josphat Tshuma said the death penalty provision in the constitution was vague adding judges were having challenges sentencing murder convicts.

"Death penalty in terms of the new Constitution can only be imposed under aggravating circumstances, but there is no provision that explains what the aggravating circumstances are," he said.

"The Constitution left it to the judges and the legislators to define the aggravating circumstances.

"We are requesting the minister to take the matter up so that Government speedily comes up with an Act of Parliament explaining the aggravating circumstances warranting death penalty."

(source: newzimbabwe.com)

AUGUST 22, 2014:

TENNESSEE:

Death row inmates sue to stop electric chair 'torture'

A group of 10 death row inmates suing over lethal injection in Tennessee argued on Friday that the state's backup plan - the electric chair - is an unconstitutional "torture device."

The inmates are locked in a battle with the state over whether they have a right to know how they will be killed and who will do the killing. Their lawsuit stems from a 2013 law that makes nearly all information about lethal injection secret. Friday's amended lawsuit targets a 2014 law Gov. Bill Haslam signed that makes the electric chair the state's official backup if lethal injection is declared unconstitutional or if the necessary drugs are unavailable.

Attorneys for the inmates say that no other state - or any government in the world - imposes electrocution on the condemned.

"The state of Tennessee stands alone as the only jurisdiction in the world to involuntarily impose the electric chair on its condemned citizens," said Kelley Henry, a federal public defender involved in the lawsuit. "Today, on behalf of our clients who face imminent execution, we have asked the Chancery Court to allow us to challenge the electric chair as a method of execution because even when the chair works exactly as it is intended, it is a torture device."

The lawsuit says the electric chair amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment," which is outlawed by the U.S. Constitution. It points to the last man killed in Tennessee by the electric chair, Daryl Holton.

The Tennessee Attorney General's Office, which is defending the state in the lawsuit, had only just received the amended lawsuit and was reviewing it, said spokeswoman Sharon Curtis-Flair.

The death penalty has been under intense scrutiny in recent months over a series of botched lethal injection executions in which inmates lingered far longer than expected - in some cases writhing and gasping as they slowly died. The botched executions have drawn accusations that even lethal injection, once thought to be a humane method of execution, may be cruel and unusual punishment.

Tennessee last executed Cecil Johnson in 2009, by lethal injection. The last time someone was executed by electric chair was in in 2007. That year, Daryl Holton was electrocuted for murdering his 3 sons and a stepdaughter in 1997 in Shelbyville. Under the prior law, Holton was given the choice of lethal injection or electrocution.

Friday's lawsuit describes how Holton died, according to those who witnessed it.

"A loud bang sounded, Holton's body jerked violently upward and remained there. The black shroud fluttered and witnesses may have heard Holton sigh. Holton's hands gripped the electric chair's arms tightly and turned red. After approximately 20 seconds, Holton's body slumped over," the lawsuit said. "Approximately 15 seconds later, a loud bang sounded, and Holton's body jerked higher than it jerked the 1st time. Holton's hands continued to grip the electric chair, and they turned bright red. After approximately 15 seconds, Holton's body slumped."

The suit said an autopsy found extensive burning on Holton's body.

Attorneys for the condemned argue that the electric chair doesn't render inmates like Holton unconscious, meaning they feel the effects of the electrocution. They say the electric chair "cooks" an inmate's internal organs and that they may catch fire while fully conscious.

The man who created Tennessee's electric chair in 1989, Fred Leuchter, was a Holocaust denier with no electrical engineering experience or license. Leuchter in 2006 told The Tennessean that the device he created was torture "tantamount to somebody being burned at the stake."

The inmates are waiting for an appeals court to decide whether the state must turn over the names of the execution team.

At least 11 inmates are currently scheduled to die through 2016, though the lawsuit is likely to delay those executions. Billy Ray Irick, who raped and murdered a 7-year-old Knoxville girl in 1985, is scheduled to be executed 1st, on Oct. 7 of this year.

(source: The Tennessean)

CALIFORNIA:

Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Throat-Slashing Killer----Limitations on Evidence Implicating Original Suspect Not Prejudicial, Justices Rule

The California Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of 3 murders in a case in which it took 5 months to seat a jury, 56 days of testimony before the jury got to deliberate, and 7 days of deliberation to reach a partial verdict.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura Palmer Hammes sentenced David Allen Lucas of Spring Valley to death in 1989 for the murders of Suzanne Jacobs, her 3-year-old son Collin, and Anne Catherine Swanke. Jurors acquitted him of one murder, deadlocked 11-1 for conviction on 2 others, and convicted him of one count of attempted murder.

All of the victims had their throats cut, but Jody Santiago Robertson survived and identified Lucas as her attacker. The crimes occurred between 1979 and 1984.

Impaired Memory Claimed

Defense attorneys challenged Robertson, saying her memory was impaired by trauma. They attacked the prosecution's use of serological evidence and sought to convince jurors that another man was responsible for the crimes.

That man, a Kentucky drifter named John Massingale, was arrested for the 1979 Jacobs murders and was still in custody when Lucas was arrested in 1984 and charged with the later crimes. Massingale confessed, but later recanted, saying that he said what the police wanted him to in order to avoid the death penalty and that his confession only matched the physical details of the murders because the police showed him many photos of the interior of the victims' house.

Police and prosecutors ultimately became persuaded, based on physical evidence, that it was Lucas and not Massingale who committed the Jacobs murders. Massingale was released after several years in custody, received a declaration of factual innocence, filed suit for wrongful arrest, and was called as a witness at Lucas' trial to bolster the claim that he had been mistakenly charged and that Lucas had committed all of the murders.

The Jacobs killings occurred in 1979 in the Normal Heights section. Evidence used to tie Lucas to the crimes included a bloodstained note, containing the name and phone number of a local insurance brokerage from which Lucas obtained a policy around the time of the murders.

Massingale testified that he was essentially illiterate.

Lucas was acquitted in the death of Gayle Roberta Garcia, a realtor who was found with her throat slashed in a vacant Spring Valley house in 1981.

The Robertson attack occurred in June 1984 in El Cajon. Rhonda Strang, 24, and Amber Fisher, 3, were killed in October 1984, a month before the body of the last victim, Swanke, was found on a Spring Valley hillside.

Strang, whose brother was a friend and employee of Lucas, was baby-sitting the child when the crimes occurred. Strang's husband was a drug dealer - there was evidence Lucas was a customer - and the defense suggested he may have killed his wife and Amber after learning that she was cooperating with a police investigation of his activities.

Conflict of Interest

On appeal, the defense argued that Hammes should have disqualified the District Attorney's Office due to conflict of interest.

It was unfair, the defense contended, to allow the same agency that had prosecuted Massingale to prosecute Lucas, in part on the basis of Massingale's testimony that he was innocent. The District Attorney's Office, counsel claimed, was arguing in the criminal case that Massingale's confession was involuntary, while claiming in defense of his civil suit that he was cooperative and the police did nothing improper.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, writing for a unanimous court, said that even if the asserted conflict existed, it did not require the extraordinary remedy sought by the defense.

"[The defendant] does not explain how the conflict may have altered any trial testimony to his detriment," the chief justice wrote "If anything, the prosecutor's assertion in the civil case that Massingale's confession was voluntary would have encouraged those who interrogated him to describe Massingale's confession as uncoerced, and this circumstance would have assisted defendant in his 3rd-party culpability defense."

Cantil-Sakauye also said there was no prejudice to the defendant as a result of limitations Hammes placed on defense cross-examination regarding Massingale's civil suit.

The ruling was erroneous, the chief justice acknowledged, because it rested "on the false assumption that Massingale's finding of factual innocence could be admitted into evidence in his civil trial," when in reality it was inadmissible by statute.

But the error was not of constitutional magnitude, Cantil-Sakauye explained, and would only be grounds for reversal if it was more probable not that jurors would have reached a verdict more favorable to the defense if they had heard the testimony.

Jurors knew that Massingale had confessed to the Jacobs murders, spent years in custody as a result, recanted, and had been found factually innocent, the chief justice pointed out. He had been examined and cross-examined at length, she said, and "jurors were fully aware that Massingale had a significant incentive, albeit not necessarily financial, to testify against defendant - an interest in avoiding prosecution and the death penalty."

Given all of that, the additional knowledge that he had a civil suit pending would not have changed jurors’ perception of his credibility, Cantil-Sakauye said.

The case is People v. Lucas, 14 S.O.S. 3637.

(source: Metropolitan News Company)

USA:

US executions face more uncertainty as expert refuses to defend drug protocols-- Dr Mark Dershwitz will no longer act as courtroom expert-- Doctor was Montana's only witness in death penalty case

The decision of America's leading expert on lethal injection drugs to stop offering court testimony has left at least 1 state without a single witness to defend its execution procedures from legal challenges.

The New Republic reported this week that Dr Mark Dershwitz, citing potential impacts to his profession as a board-certified anesthesiologist, would no longer act as an expert witness on behalf of lethal injection protocols. Dershwitz, also a doctor of pharmacology and professor at the University of Massachusetts medical school, has testified as an expert witness in more than 20 states and for the federal government. In June, he withdrew himself as a witness in a case challenging the execution of Montana’s two death-row inmates - convicted murderers Ronald Smith and William Jay Gollehon.

Smith, a Canadian, was sentenced to die for the 1982 murders of 2 men who picked him up while hitchhiking, and Gollehon for the 1992 murder of an inmate while incarcerated on two other counts of homicide.

The doctor was Montana’s only witness in a case brought against the state by the Montana American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Smith and Gollehon challenging the state's execution procedures.

"At this point in time, we do not have another expert witness to replace him," said Anastasia Burton, deputy communications director for the Montana attorney general. The case is now scheduled to move forward next summer. Previously, it was meant to be heard in September.

The US states that have the death penalty have been scrambling since a 2011 European-led ban stopped the import of the drugs most commonly used to carry out executions. Since then, states seeking to carry out executions have relied on various compounded cocktails - including the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone in various dosages - or with pentobarbital purchased through secret suppliers.

Several botched executions have followed, leading critics to accuse corrections departments of carrying out "failed experiments" as they seek to replace pentobarbital in the process.

Dershwitz "has been, for over a decade, probably the most important state's expert in this particular area", said Deborah W Denno, an execution expert at Fordham law school.

"I think states are going to be scrambling for lethal injection experts in the same way they've been scrambling for drugs," said Denno, referring to states' lack of pentobarbital, a barbiturate used to treat epilepsy that is deadly in certain doses. "They don't have any people testifying on their behalf."

One of the cases on which Dershwitz worked was that of Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire, who was executed in January for the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart, a pregnant newlywed.

A witness described the execution, which lasted 26 minutes, for the Guardian:

At about 10.31am, his stomach swelled up in an unusual way, as though he had a hernia or something like that. Between 10.33am and 10.44am - I could see a clock on the wall of the death house - he struggled and gasped audibly for air.

I was aghast. Over those 11 minutes or more he was fighting for breath, and I could see both of his fists were clenched the entire time. His gasps could be heard through the glass wall that separated us. Towards the end, the gasping faded into small puffs of his mouth. It was much like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air that would allow it to breathe. Time dragged on and I was helpless to do anything, sitting helplessly by as he struggled for breath. I desperately wanted out of that room.

The state later released a post-execution inquiry, concluding that "McGuire did not experience any pain or distress," and that it had "discussed the events and observations of the McGuire execution with its expert witness, Dr Mark Dershwitz".

The New Republic published emails showing Dershwitz's later objections to the state's characterisation: he said there had been no discussion and that attorneys for the state only told him what happened during McGuire's execution. Medical ethics prohibit anesthesiologists from participating in the creation of an execution system.

"Although it is still too early to determine if there will be any permanent actions taken against me, the mistakes made by Ohio in the April press release could apparently happen again because of the lack of necessary review processes," Dershwitz said in an announcement he sent to several states on 18 June and revealed in the New Republic.

"I cannot take that chance and will therefore terminate my role as an expert witness on behalf of Ohio and all other states and the federal government," the email says. The state later acknowledged that Dershwitz did not play a role in the decision to increase the dosage of the drugs given to McGuire.

It is unclear how Dershwitz's withdrawal could affect upcoming executions in Texas and Missouri. Each state has an execution scheduled for 10 September, and both have been using secret compounders to obtain a supply of pentobarbital. Missouri uses a "secret anesthesiologist" during executions, according to Anthony Rothert, legal director at the ACLU of Missouri, but it is not known if that is Dershwitz.

"If it's [Dershwitz] that will affect it, but we have no way of knowing who the secret anesthesiologist is," said Rothert. "There are few anesthesiologists willing to participate. Those that do tend to keep their participation secret." The ACLU of Missouri is suing the state for court and state records, including records showing where the state obtains pentobarbital. The Guardian is also involved in a lawsuit challenging Missouri's execution secrecy.

Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School, believes states will find a new expert.

"This is just a blip - this lethal injection controversy," said Blecker. "It will be resolved. We'll adopt a different method," he said. Blecker believes executions should "appear as painful as possible and actually be experienced as painlessly as possible".

This controversy, Blecker says, is "part of a much deeper role and controversy [which] is the role of punishment, if any, in our culture, and our shame at doing it".

(source: The Guardian)

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

3 Women Working Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment

As the nation was horrified by another botched execution this summer, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.

There were only 3 people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the referendum failed to pass, Woodford is still hard at work in the movement to abolish capital punishment in California.

Meanwhile, across the continent, in the gentility of Fordham University's school of law, Arthur A. McGivney Professor Deborah W. Denno writes scholarly articles about "working the chemicals" that are published in the nation's leading law journals and quoted at death penalty hearings before the United States Supreme Court.

Until lately, the chemicals Denno wrote about were sodium thiopental, an ultra-short acting barbiturate that, given intravenously, is supposed to deliver almost instantaneous sleep so that the condemned person will be impervious to the rest of the evening's proceedings; pancuronium bromide, next on the menu, which is related to curare, plant extract poisons from Central and South America traditionally used on arrows which paralyze the body's skeletal muscles (including the muscles of breathing); and for the coup de grace, a jolt of potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This deadly mixture was known as Carson's Cocktail, so named after the Oklahoma pathologist, A. Jay Carson, MD, who concocted it as a "humane" alternative to the electric chair.

Since the early 1980s, the Carson Cocktail was the gold standard for dispatching society's sinners (and the innocent too, if recent exonerations are factored in). But since thiopental supplies have dried up because of the EU's resistance to the death penalty states embracing the death penalty have been forced by the courts to seek other drugs with results like this summer's botched execution in Arizona. Now Professor Denno must address the ghoulish new and often secretive lethal chemicals in use even as states calls for bringing back the electric chair or firing squad.

In Texas, attorney Kathryn Kase despaired as the Lone Star State executed its 500th person since the resumption of the death penalty. Kase wears 3 hats. She is Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a staff of ten lawyers. She is herself a courtroom lawyer specializing in death penalty cases. And she and her staff mentor Texas lawyers in need of capital litigation tactics.

Kase's organization was founded as a public-defender body with a focus on the death penalty, but not specifically an abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. When she puts on her administrative hat, Kase must play hardball as a politico, convincing fellow politicians of the importance of the Texas Defender Service and wringing money out of the state government and foundations.

Woodford, Denno and Kase could not be more different in personality and background, yet all have thrust themselves into the battle against capital punishment. There was a time when working in capital punishment was considered men's work that was too gruesome for women. Not anymore.

Jeanne Woodford, whose manner is crisp and to-the-point, took a BA degree in criminology and worked her way up to the highest rank of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Woodford told us that she chose criminology because there were few women in the field and because she wanted to bring a more even-handed standard of justice to criminology as practiced in California.

Woodford is dismayed that, since the 1950s, penology has been dominated by a punitive rather than rehabilitative philosophy; people want their pound of flesh, even though punishment deepens sociopathic behavior, she says. Mere confinement accomplishes nothing and rehabilitation is essential whenever possible, says Woodford.

An unabashed abolitionist, Woodford says she is not "soft on crime" but as a "policy person" she finds no respectable evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. By the time the legalities are done, it also costs more to execute a person than to incarcerate him or her for life she says. There is, she adds, a small element of the criminal population that it is so dangerous that it requires lifelong incarceration.

Woodford's demeanor is so crisp that we felt a little trepidation about asking her how she felt about overseeing the execution of four men when she was warden of San Quentin in light of her views on the death penalty. "That," Woodford replied, "Was a policy issue."

We asked Woodford what, specifically, changed her mind about capital punishment and she told us she has always opposed it on moral and practical grounds and that nothing has changed her opinion. Woodford says she sees hope that behavioral science is beginning to change peoples' minds about the issue.

One could not imagine a woman more different from Jeanne Woodford than Kathryn Kase. Funny, streetwise and a gifted lawyer, Kase started out as a journalist in San Antonio, Texas, got bored covering police court, and craved the action on the other side of the bar. Kase went to law school and moved to New York, where she worked for brief periods for private law firms. She then returned to Texas, where she says she found her calling in the Texas Defender Service, of which a more thankless labor could not be imagined.

By most accounts, Texas really needs Kase. By 2011, Texas governor Rick Perry had presided over more executions than any governor in modern history - 234. The numbers continues to grow.

Speaking to Randi Hensley of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in an internal memorandum, a Texas lawyer agreed. "Once guys get on death row in Texas, there's about a 90% chance they will die," said the lawyer: "There are no public defenders, no money, no experienced death penalty lawyers."

While the lawyer's observations are somewhat exaggerated, not by very much: organizations like the Texas Defender Service and the death penalty "clinic" at the University of Texas are so short staffed that they find themselves desperately filing appeals moments before the chemicals began to flow. Press reports of Texas executions have been chilling.

As Kathryn Kase dukes it out in the rough and tumble of Texas courthouses and the statehouse, Deborah Denno continues to highlight the cruelty of lethal injections in her academic work. Soft-spoken and poised, Denno says her turning point was the electrocution of Willie Francis, who walked the long road twice because the first execution was bungled.

When lethal injections supplanted the "hot squat" (the electric chair) as a more "humane" means of extinguishing human life, Deborah Denno made the cruelty of lethal injections her academic focus. Denno's work is invaluable in helping to paint for the public a complete picture of executions, from electrocution to the death gurney says Steve Hall, executive director of the Texas abolitionist group StandDown.

In a field once dominated by men, Kase, Denno and Woodford are bringing new passion to the fight against the death penalty along with a small pool of capital defenders like Judy Clarke and Maurie Levin. This summer's shocking botched execution may bring more Americans to their side of the issue.

(source: Robert Wilbur is a psychopharmacologist who also writes semi-popular articles on capital punishment, prison reform, and animal rights. Martha Rosenberg is a regular Dissident Voice contributor----dissidentvoice.org)

GAZA:

Hamas executes 18 suspected Israeli informers in Gaza

Hamas has executed 18 Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel after 3 of its own military commanders were killed Thursday in an Israeli airstrike that may have been conducted on the basis of intelligence given by informants.

11 of the suspected informers were killed Friday at an abandoned Gaza police station following a hastily arranged trial and sentencing. Photos on the internet showed bodies lying in pools of blood.The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said that 2 of the dead were women.

Later Friday 7 men were killed outside the al-Omari Mosque in Gaza City after noon prayers. The victims had their heads covered and their hands tied and were shot dead by masked gunmen in front of a crowd of worshipers, the al-Majd pro-Hamas website said, citing witnesses.

Men from Hamas left a note at the scene of the execution to serve as a warning for future collaborators.

"They provided the enemy with information about the whereabouts of fighters, tunnels of resistance, bombs, houses of fighters and places of rockets, and the occupation bombarded these areas killing a number of fighters... Therefore, the ruling of revolutionary justice was handed upon him," it read.

The Hamas-controlled Al Rai website ran a warning that said, "The same punishment will be imposed soon on others." It added that "the current circumstances forced us to take such decisions," suggesting a link between the executions and Israeli's bombing of top Hamas leaders.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has denounced the killings.

"We demand the Palestinian National Authority and the resistance [Palestinian armed factions] to intervene to stop these extrajudicial executions, no matter what the reasons and the motives are," Raji al-Surani, the chairman of the organization, said in a statement.

Israeli intelligence is widely believed to rely on informers in both Gaza and the West Bank. Collaborators are sometimes lured by money and sometimes coerced or blackmailed.If they are discovered, they are killed and their families, regardless of if they knew or not, are ostracized.

It is unclear how much of an effect Israel's targeted killings of Hamas leaders will have. Normally senior political and military figures in Hamas stay hidden in networks of tunnels, and avoid using mobile phones.

The population of Gaza have been bombed for almost 6 weeks and suffered huge causalities. Similar campaigns by Israel in the past have done nothing to weaken support for the militant group, which has de facto control of Gaza.

Hamas's senior leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in statement that "despite the pain" of the loss of military commanders "the history of the Hamas movement has proven more than once that it is stronger after every targeted killing of one of its senior members."

The fate of Mohammad Dief, the chief of the Qassam Brigades - the military wing of Hamas - is still uncertain after an airstrike on his house Tuesday killed his wife and 2 children. Israeli officials said they were confident that he was killed in the bombing.

Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire from Gaza continued Friday as diplomatic efforts to try and find an end to the crisis moved from Cairo to New York with hopes resting on a UN Security Council resolution drafted by the UK, France and Germany.

The text calls for an immediate ceasefire, the opening of crossings in and out of Gaza, international monitors to prevent weapons smuggling and the construction of secret tunnels and the Palestinian Authority to take over as the governing body of Gaza. However, no date has been set for when the proposal will be debated.

In a separate incident, a mortar bomb fired from the Gaza Strip has killed a 4-year-old boy in Israel. The attacks happened on Friday evening in the southern Israeli village of Sdot Negev, close to the border with Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hamas will pay a heavy price for the boy's death.

(source: rt.com)

INDIA:

Death penalty is not a solution, say activists

A year after the Shakti Mills gang rape, as the 3 convicts' appeals against the death penalty are being heard in the Bombay High Court, women activists, lawyers and organisations feel capital punishment can never be the solution to stop atrocities against women.

"Death penalty won't solve the problem. Apart from being barbaric and inhuman, there is absolutely no evidence to prove that it lowers the rate of crimes against women," said Persis Sidhwa of the Majlis, a forum for women's rights discourse and legal initiatives.

While awareness of rape cases had increased, stereotypes painting the victim in a negative light still existed. "We need to sensitise society to a great extent. It's just the beginning," she said.

Lawyer and rights activist Manisha Tulpule too argued that rather than the gravity of the sentence, certainty of the sentence was important. "A survivor needs an assurance that the guilty will definitely be punished," she said.

Sonya Gill of All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) said society believed quick and strong justice meant hanging the convict, which was of no use.

On August 22, 2013, a photojournalist who had gone to the deserted Shakti Mills compound on an assignment, was gang-raped by 5 youths, including a minor.

(source: The Hindu)

TEXAS:

Michael Morton: Prosecutors are not above the law

3 years ago, I sat in a Texas prison cell despite DNA evidence that proved my innocence. The prosecutor who had the power to set me free initially refused to acknowledge that miscarriages of justice occur.

In 1987, the murder case against me consisted solely of junk science, with a heavy dose of prosecutorial misconduct. Thank God it was not a capital case. If I had faced the death penalty, I would have been executed years ago.

Cameron Todd Willingham was not so fortunate. Although efforts were made to stop his execution, Willingham - who I believe was innocent - was executed Feb. 17, 2004.

Willingham, a victim who initially suffered the unspeakable loss of his children, Amber, Karmon and Kameron, ultimately died a victim of what appears to be the most egregious deprivation of federal constitutional rights. He cannot be brought back from the grave, but the prosecutor who violated his federal civil rights can and should be federally prosecuted and held accountable.

Recently, the Innocence Project filed a grievance with the State Bar of Texas chief disciplinary counsel's office alleging that Willingham's prosecutor made a "secret deal" with a jailhouse snitch, then intentionally presented false testimony and has aggressively tried to cover up these actions for over 2 decades. Of course, if the allegations are proved to be true, the prosecutor, like the prosecutor in my case, should be stripped of his law license. However, given the gravity of what has occurred, professional discipline alone is wholly inadequate.

Whether as a citizen you oppose or support capital punishment, Willingham's case proves to me that the risk of executing an innocent person has become a reality. Our nation is now faced with an important moral challenge. How we handle that challenge is critical. If our civil rights are meaningful to all classes of citizens, we must demand accountability from those who deprive us of those rights.

I personally lived the nightmare of being wrongfully convicted of murdering my wife, the mother of my son. It is unimaginable to me to consider the horror of being wrongfully convicted and executed for killing one's own children. A prosecutor who was entrusted to protect civil rights should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law for causing the deprivation of those rights.

(source: Michael Morton is the author of the recently released book "Getting Life: An Innocent Man's 25-Year Journey From Prison to Peace," about his experience of having been wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and eventually exonerated by DNA evidence. His website is michael-morton.com.----Dallas Morning News)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Hearing postponed for man accused of killing Greensboro teacher

The man accused of killing Bianca Tanner will have to wait a while longer to find out if he'll face the death penalty.

Angelo Grayson Smith Jr., 30, of Charlotte, is scheduled to appear in Mecklenburg County District Court on Oct. 16 to find out if the Mecklenburg County district attorney will seek the death penalty.

Smith, Tanner's former boyfriend is charged with 1st-degree murder. He did not appear in court today, said Mecklenburg County Spokeswoman Meghan Cooke.

Kenneth Snow, Smith's attorney, did not immediately return a phone call Thursday.

"Mr. Smith was scheduled for a Rule 24 hearing where the district attorney will say if they will seek the death penalty," Cooke said. "The district attorney asked for a continuance which will be in October."

Cooke said she could not discuss the details of the case.

Smith is accused of killing Tanner, 31, a former teacher at Reedy Fork Elementary School in Greensboro. Tanner was reported missing by Smith on June 8 in Charlotte and her remains were found on July 3 on Calico Crossing Lane in Charlotte.

Smith is being held without bond at the Mecklenburg County Jail, according to jail records.

On Thursday, Carol Cormier with the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office, said Tanner's autopsy results have not returned. She said it could take months before they know how Tanner died.

(source: News & Record)

FLORIDA:

'Salerno Strangler' back in Martin jail, awaiting new trial

Eugene McWatters is at the Martin County Jail after being returned from Florida's death row to await a new trial for 3 counts of 1st-degree murder related to the killing of three women in 2004.

The transfer Aug. 11 was ordered once prosecutors said they were not appealing Circuit Judge Larry Schack's order in July that threw out 3 murder convictions and death sentences he imposed against McWatters following a 2006 jury trial.

McWatters, 36, has spent 8 years on death row for the strangulation murders of Jacqueline Bradley, 43; Christal Wiggins, 29; and Carrie Caughey, 18, all of the Port Salerno area.

For the grisly serial killings, he'd earned the nickname the Salerno Strangler. He's expected to remain jailed until his trial, which prosecutors say could be a year or more away.

The state filed papers indicating they will seek the death penalty against McWatters, which a jury in 2006 recommended by a vote of 9-3 after less than 3 hours of deliberations.

Assistant State Attorney Ryan Butler said the state decided not to appeal Schack's ruling that roundly criticized the court-appointed legal representation McWatters received throughout his murder trial.

He noted the Florida Supreme Court gives judges a great deal of discretion in capital murder cases. So the question on appeal, Butler said, is not whether the trial court exercised discretion soundly, but whether it abused that discretion.

"That's a very difficult standard to meet on appeal," he said.

Another factor in deciding to seek a new trial is the potential 3 or 4 years it could take for the high court to rule on appeal.

"We believe the victims' families have suffered enough from this order, and we did not want to prolong that suffering when the result may be the same 4 years from now," Butler said. "The defendant can be tried, convicted, and sent where he belongs in less time than the appeal would take."

At McWatters' new trial, he'll be prosecuted by Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl and Assistant State Attorneys Steve Gosnell and Erin Kirkwood. Records show McWatters is represented by Thomas Burns, with the office of Regional Conflict Counsel in Fort Pierce. Burns couldn't be reached for comment.

McWatters' has a status conference scheduled before Circuit Judge Elizabeth Metzger Sept. 19.

Schack, who retires in January, stunned authorities last month with his ruling that railed on McWatters’ defense lawyers' "deficient" performance and noted new pathology testimony not offered in 2006 that questions findings of medical examiners who told a jury the slain women were sexually assaulted and strangled.

(source: TCPalm.com)

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

No decision yet on whether triple homicide suspect will face death penalty

State Attorney's Offices in 2 judicial circuits continue to review evidence gathered against triple-homicide suspect Derrick Thompson.

Neither has ruled out seeking the death penalty against him.

A decision in Bay County's 14th Judicial Circuit, where Thompson is accused of the July 21 killing of 66-year-old businessman Allen Johnson, is expected "very soon," spokesman David Angier said.

In the 1st Judicial Circuit, where Thompson faces charges of fatally shooting Milton residents Steven and Debra Zackowski - 60 and 59, respectively - on July 19, the decision won't come until after State Attorney Bill Eddins secures 1st-degree murder indictments.

Eddins said a grand jury will be convened to consider the indictments in about 2 weeks.

"Several weeks after that we will have a committee sit down to determine whether we'll seek the death penalty," Eddins said.

Thompson, 41, was considered a person of interest in the Zackowski slayings when Johnson's body was found July 21 inside his home in Lynn Haven. The truck Thompson was believed to be driving following the 1st killings was found at the scene.

The suspect, a successful salesman with an apparently serious drug problem, was caught July 22 at a hunting camp near Troy, Ala.

Eddins said Thompson told him shortly after the arrest that he had killed the Zackowskis and Johnson.

Even as decisions are made concerning the death penalty, the 2 judicial circuits with jurisdiction in Thompson's case are working out the best strategy for prosecution, Eddins said, including deciding where Thompson will face trial 1st.

In any scenario, Eddins said, "the evidence in this case is intertwined in such a way that significant issues will have to be litigated before the court over which evidence is admissible in each case."

Thompson is being held without bond in the Bay County Jail.

(source: The News Herald)

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

Kyle Williams Found Guilty of Murdering Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin----Circuit court jury deliberated for nearly 16 hours

A jury convicted 21-year-old Kyle Williams on Thursday of the murder of Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin, and several jurors sobbed as their verdict was announced.

After 15 hours and 50 minutes of deliberations that began Wednesday just before noon, the jury of 5 men and 7 women convicted Williams in the December 2011 shooting death of Crispin in a park on Crystal Grove Lane. Crispin, 25, was shot in the top of the head while attempting to perform a pat-down search on Williams and 4 other young men.

Jurors will reconvene Monday morning to hear arguments from the prosecution and the defense on whether Williams should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

As jurors filed into the courtroom after they reached their verdict, several were sniffling, taking deep breaths and wiping away tears. One woman buried her face in a tissue and struggled to breathe between sobs.

After the verdict was read, Williams showed little emotion, closing his eyes and shaking his head. In the few minutes it took for a clerk to read through the verdict, Williams, who was 19 at the time of the shooting, looked over at his mother several times.

The Williams family declined to comment and quickly left the courtroom after the verdict was handed down.

Members of the Williams and Crispin families attended every day of the 3-week-long trial, along with members of the Lakeland Police Department.

"We've been waiting for this to come to some kind of conclusion over the last 3 years," Assistant Chief Mike Link told reporters. "As you can see, justice has been done in this instance."

Frankie Crispin, the officer's brother, said there was "irrefutable evidence that (Williams) was the person that committed this crime."

"We're very pleased with the results," he said, "and I think the state did an extraordinary job presenting a strong case to the jury."

Frankie Crispin translated for his Spanish-speaking mother, Margarita Crispin.

"I'm very thankful that justice has been done," she said through her son. "My son was a good boy, and he did not deserve this."

With his conviction for the 1st-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, Williams faces either life in prison or the death penalty.

At the penalty-phase hearing that begins Monday, prosecutors will present evidence to show aggravating circumstances of the crime to support a death penalty recommendation.

The defense will present evidence and testimony that shows mitigating circumstances that will support life imprisonment. Jurors will recommend a sentence but it will be Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen who makes the decision.

Frankie Crispin said his family agrees with the State Attorney's Office that Williams should get the death penalty.

"The 1st day that I made contact with the defendant we looked at each other and I was expecting to maybe see some type of remorse," Frankie Crispin said, "but actually what I got was a smirk on his face and a smile, as if like he was taunting, 'I'm going to get away with this.'?"

Defense lawyer Byron Hileman said he trusts the jury system and it was "obvious" that jurors took time to carefully review the evidence.

During the trial, 4 young men testified they were with Williams the night Crispin was shot and it was Williams who fired the pistol.

The defense tried to poke holes in the case against Williams by discrediting the 4 young men and questioning the forensic evidence that tied Williams to the gun that killed Crispin.

Interim Police Chief Larry Giddens said Thursday night he was pleased with the verdict.

"From the moment that this tragic event occurred, we have seen a professional, collaborative effort from the initial responding agencies to the successful prosecution by the State Attorney's Office," Giddens said.

(source: Lakeland Ledger)

MISSISSIPPI:

Justices raising questions on Shaken Baby Syndrome

If the state Supreme Court orders a hearing in the case involving death row inmate Jeffrey Havard, it will be the 2nd in a row involving Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Others could follow. At least 11 people are behind bars in Mississippi - and 2 on death row - because of testimony involving that syndrome.

The syndrome has long been used to convict thousands of parents, caregivers and others, but now questions are being raised about the science behind it.

* * *

Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Norman Guthkelch had wondered about a medical mystery reported for decades - some babies bleeding atop their brains, despite little outside evidence of head trauma.

When a colleague suffered similar bleeding after riding a roller coaster, Guthkelch suggested whiplash-type injuries were to blame. He published a paper in 1971, warning parents about the dangers of shaking their children.

In the years that followed, shaken baby syndrome became widely accepted in the medical community, diagnosed through a triad of symptoms: subdural bleeding (blood collecting between the brain and the skull), retinal bleeding (bleeding in the back of the eye) and brain swelling.

Courts recognized the syndrome, and the triad became proof of fatal abuse - "a medical diagnosis for murder," said Deborah Tuerkheimer, author of the new book, "Flawed Convictions: 'Shaken Baby Syndrome' and the Inertia of Injustice."

In 1987, public questions began to arise when biochemical engineers from Penn State University tested the hypothesis. They found shaking alone failed to cause the blood vessels in the brain to rupture. It was only when the head made impact that researchers observed bleeding in the brain.

Despite the findings, Shaken Baby Syndrome continued to be diagnosed and used to prosecute.

In 1995, prosecutors in Wisconsin charged caregiver Audrey Edmunds with murder, concluding she had shaken 7-month-old Natalie Beard to death - despite no witnesses and no outside evidence of trauma.

She told authorities the child was fussy and so she left her with a bottle. When she returned from helping other children, Edmunds found Natalie unresponsive.

At trial, medical experts for the prosecution told the jury that only shaking could explain the injuries, comparing them to a speeding car hitting the baby.

The jury convicted Edmunds, who insisted on her innocence but had no explanation for the injuries. The judge sentenced her to 18 years in prison.

In the years since, medical belief that the shaken baby syndrome's triad of symptoms provided ironclad proof of homicide has begun to crumble with several studies raising doubts.

Some biomechanical studies suggest shaking a baby to death would be impossible without also injuring the child's neck or spine.

In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the diagnosis of the syndrome be discarded and replaced with "abusive head trauma."

That decision came a year after the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted Edmunds a new trial, with justices saying that a "significant dispute within the medical community as to the cause of those injuries ... constitutes newly discovered evidence."

After the ruling, prosecutors dismissed the charges against Edmunds, and the mother of 3 girls walked free from prison, reuniting with her now grown children after 11 years in prison.

"It never, ever got easier, and I never got used to it," she told Madison Magazine in Wisconsin. "But hope became my religion. Without hope, you're crushed."

As for Guthkelch, the pioneer of the shaken baby syndrome, he now has grave doubts about the way his theory is being used.

He told the Medill Justice Center that he now regrets writing his 1971 paper "because people are in jail on the basis of what they claim is my paper, when in fact it is nothing like it."

* * *

Last week, justices ordered a hearing in the case involving Christopher Brandon.

Pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne attributed the death in Brandon's case to Shaken Baby Syndrome, and he did the same with Jeffrey Havard, now on death row.

Hayne acknowledged to The Clarion-Ledger there is "growing evidence" such a diagnosis "is probably not correct."

Studies show shaking isn't able to generate enough force to cause these kinds of injuries to a child, he said.

At the same time, he said, studies are showing that the short falls of children can generate tremendous force when they hit a very hard surface.

In Havard's case, sexual assault was the underlying felony charge that enabled authorities to pursue the death penalty against him in the 2002 death of 6-month-old Chloe Britt, whom Havard said he accidentally dropped.

"I didn't think there was a sexual assault," Hayne told The Clarion-Ledger. "I didn't see any evidence of sexual assault."

Former state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. said he believes the high court will order a hearing for Havard "given the strength of the new evidence, which I think is extremely strong."

(source: Clarion-Ledger)

INDIANA:

Death Penalty Case Squeezes Prosecutor's Budget

Late Tuesday afternoon, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced that he will seek the death penalty against Major Davis Jr., and it is likely to be an expensive case.

Davis Jr. is accused of shooting and killing Indianapolis police officer Perry Renn. Death penalty cases come at a steep price in Indiana. According to a 2010 Statehouse study, the average death penalty trial costs $450,000.

One of the reasons death penalty cases are so expensive is that they require a long, complex judicial process. It takes a death penalty review team sometimes months to determine if prosecutors should pursue the death penalty.

In 2012, Curry pursued the death penalty against Thomas Hardy. Prosecutors charged Hardy for shooting and killing IMPD Officer David Moore. Later that year, Hardy accepted a deal to plead guilty, and in exchange prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty. A judge later sentenced Hardy to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Last month Curry announced he would pursue the death penalty again - this time against 24-year-old Kenneth Rackemann, who is a suspect in a quadruple homicide on South Parker Avenue on Feb. 20.

Curry is scheduled to present his budget to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday evening.

(source: WBIW news)

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Prosecutor's office to seek death penalty against Major Davis II for murder of IMPD Officer Perry Renn

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced that his office has filed a request with the court to seek the death penalty against Major Davis II for the shooting death of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Perry Wayne Renn. Officer Renn was killed on July 5 in the area of East 34th Street and Forest Manor Avenue.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the defendant is believed to have fired rounds from an assault rifle at Officer Renn, who was responding to a 911 call that shots had been fired in the area. Davis has been charged with one count of Murder.

In the request for the death sentence, it is alleged the following aggravating circumstances existed at the time of Davis' offense:

-- Aggravating Circumstance Number 1:

That Major Davis II did kill Perry Wayne Renn, a law enforcement officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, while Perry Wayne Renn was acting in the course of duty, in violation of I.C. 35-50-2-9 (b) (6) (A).

-- Aggravating Circumstance Number 2:

That Major Davis II did kill Perry Wayne Renn, a law enforcement officer with the

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and, further, the murder was motivated by an act Officer Perry Wayne Renn performed while acting in the course of duty, in violation of I.C. 35-50-2-9 (b) (6) (B).

Established under Prosecutor Curry in 2011, a review committee within the Marion County Prosecutor's Office considers death penalty eligible cases to evaluate the circumstances.

This is the 3rd time the Marion County Prosecutor's Office has filed a death penalty request with the court, the most recent against Kenneth Rackemann for the February murders of Walter Burnell, Jacob Rodemich, Kristy Sanchez, and Hayley Navarro. In 2011, the death penalty was sought against Thomas Hardy for the murder of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer David S. Moore. Hardy pleaded guilty in 2012 and, pursuant to the plea agreement, is serving a sentence of life without parole.

The next court appearance for Major Davis II is scheduled for September 3 at 9 a.m.

A charge of a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

(source: Indianapolis Recorder)

KENTUCKY:

Death sentence of 6-time killer upheld in Kentucky

A 6-time convicted killer condemned to death for a 1991 slaying in Kentucky has lost a bid for a new trial and sentencing after the state's high court on Thursday found that a large amount of evidence and testimony warranted the verdict.

The decision by a unanimous court turned away 57-year-old Michael Dale St. Clair's bid for a fourth sentencing hearing in Bullitt County in the death of distillery worker Frances "Frank" Brady of Bardstown. St. Clair had won new trials or sentencing in Brady's death 3 times.

The high court is still weighing a conviction and death sentence in Brady's kidnapping in Hardin County.

St. Clair and another inmate, 53-year-old Dennis Gene Reese, escaped from an Oklahoma prison and went on a cross-country crime spree that ended shortly after Brady's death. Reese pleaded guilty to his role in Brady's killing and testified against St. Clair. Reese is serving life in prison in Oklahoma.

St. Clair has also been convicted of kidnapping 22-year-old Timothy Keeling from the Denver area and killing him in the New Mexico desert.

The 101-page opinion takes on 32 claims brought by St. Clair, including challenges to the admission of testimony from the wife of a victim, even though he had not been convicted in that case at the time and the use of what is now considered junk science by prosecutors.

Justice Mary Noble, writing for the court, found that allowing Keeling's widow to testify at St. Clair's sentencing, even though no one had been convicted of Keeling's slaying, was a mistake. But, Noble wrote, the error proved harmless. Keeling's widow, Lisa Hill, who now lives in Texas, testified about Keeling's personality and work with a youth ministry.

"Though Hill's testimony was not relevant to whether St. Clair should receive the death penalty for murdering Frank Brady, it paled in comparison to the other evidence, both in length and nature," Noble wrote.

Reese implicated St. Clair in Brady's slaying, telling jurors that St. Clair talked about how killing people was like killing dogs, an act that got easier after the 1st time. St. Clair also testified, telling jurors about 4 slayings he committed in Oklahoma, saying the victims were drug dealers and deserved to be killed. St. Clair also told jurors he bribed jailers in Oklahoma for special treatment that eventually allowed him to escape.

St. Clair also attacked the use of comparative bullet lead analysis, which the FBI has abandoned as unreliable evidence in dozens of cases across the country. The analysis was based on the idea that bullets made as part of the same batch had identical trace elements throughout that could be matched later. The FBI concluded that bullets cannot be matched to the same batch or box based on trace elements, and now such evidence is inadmissible in court.

An FBI agent testified at St. Clair's 1st trial that bullets used to kill Keeling were very close in composition to the bullets used to kill Brady.

Noble said the bullet analysis was only a small part of the evidence used against St. Clair and that the testimony of his former co-defendant, Dennis Gene Reese, and other evidence and testimony were more valuable to prosecutors.

"In light of the other evidence in this case, there is little chance, much less a reasonable certainty, that St. Clair would have received a different verdict given what we now know about the limits of (bullet analysis), nor is it probable that the result would change if a new trial was granted," Noble wrote.

(source: kentucky.com)

KANSAS:

Bi-Partisan Support for Death Penalty Repeal Growing in Kansas

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Kansas has officially announced its opposition to the death penalty. The Caucus chair, Dave Thomas, said, "Any time you give the government a power that can be abused, it will or may be abused in the future. And taking a citizen's life is kind of the ultimate power the government can have." The Caucus joined several Republcan legislators, such as Sen. Carolyn McGinn and Rep. Steve Becker, in supporting repeal of capital punishment. The Kansas Republican Party chose to omit a death-penalty stance from of its platform this year, leaving it as "a matter of individual conscience." The Kansas Libertarian Party opposes the death penalty. In 2013, a repeal bill sponsored by 2 Republicans and 1 Democrat received hearings, but was not passed. Kansas has 10 people on death row but has not had an execution since capital punishment was reinstated in 1994.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

ARIZONA:

Does Jodi Arias deserve the death penalty?

A judge sided with Jodi Arias and agreed to delay the start of her death penalty trial, this Wednesday news report shares. That means there's still going to be a little bit more of a wait before a trial actually begins to determine whether or not the convicted killer will be put to death or be given life behind bars without parole. After it's been said and done, do people even believe that she deserves the death penalty anymore? She murdered Travis Alexander in 2008, and here it is 6 years later and she's still alive and barely convicted of his murder.

When this trial actually does begin, which is supposedly going to be on Sept. 29, it's all in the hands of the jury. They couldn't decide on what to do with her in the initial trial when she was convicted of Travis's murder, so if they can't reach a unanimous decision to put her to death this time around, the death penalty will be automatically removed from the table. She would either serve life without parole, or face possible parole in 25 years. It's hard to imagine that Jodi Arias could walk free from prison in just 25 years after brutally murdering Travis Alexander.

Does Jodi Arias deserve the death penalty? Or does she deserve 1 of the other 2 options (life behind bars, or possible parole in 25 years)? It's hard to gauge what the jury may decide, and it's certainly hard to determine what the public as a whole would want. The Arias/Alexander case has long been a hot button topic, and will probably remain so for as long as people remember who she is and what she did.

(source: Chelsea Hoffman, Las Vegas Crime Examiner)

NEVADA:

A look inside Nevada's death row with a federal defense attorney

For decades, Michael Pescetta has sought to help dozens of defendants facing Nevada's often imposed yet seldom used death penalty.

And in a state with a per capita death penalty rate that ranks 4th in the country - topping states like Texas and California, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center - he keeps busy.

Pescetta, an assistant federal public defender in Las Vegas who specializes in capital punishment cases, is often a final resort for inmates who have exhausted their options at the state level to appeal a death penalty conviction. Today, his office represents more than 1/2 of the 83 men sitting on death row.

Capital punishment has faced scrutiny nationwide in recent months after drug experimentation apparently led to a series of botched executions in 3 states. The topic should gain even more traction in the Silver State as officials scramble to assemble a mandated legislative audit of the state death penalty by Jan. 31, 2015.

Pescetta chatted with the Sun this week about the death penalty. His answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q. How many inmates has Nevada executed since it began carrying out the death penalty in 1976?

A. 1 person was involuntarily executed in 1996. His name was Richard Moran - he was a client of mine. He had multiple murders during a period in which he was heavily under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and his case went very quickly through the system.

Another 11 were all volunteers - that is, people who gave up any further appeals and asked to be executed.

The 1st person executed in Nevada was Jesse Bishop - he was executed in 1979, and he was a volunteer. He committed the offenses in 1977, and he was executed in under 2 years from the date of the offenses.

Why do people volunteer for the death penalty?

People often start out suicidal. They ask the police to shoot them. It's like a slow version of suicide by cop.

And most people on death row have mental health issues.

What does death row in Nevada physically look like? How does it differ from a normal prison setting in the state?

Nevada's death row is at Ely State Prison, a maximum security facility.

In the general population at Ely, there are 2 to a cell, at most, unless someone is being disciplined.

Capital punishment inmates are all put into single cells.

In these maximum security institutions, contact with other inmates is limited. Most people in there spend 23 hours a day in a cell. This is not like being out in the yard with other inmates.

It's much more controlled, regimented.

Nevada hasn't executed anyone since 2006, and the issue of botched executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona in recent months could lead to more scrutiny about the process locally. How prepared is the state to execute someone again?

The execution protocol in effect in 2006 was what they call a 3-drug "cocktail."

It's sodium thiopental, which is an anaesthetic; pancuronium bromide, which is a paralytic; and potassium chloride, which is what stops the heart.

All of those drugs, if the state has them at the time, have a shelf life that we would be past now. And as I understand, the execution protocol in effect at the time was that the state got the drugs for the execution when the execution was pending. They did not keep those drugs on hand.

Sodium thiopental is no longer readily available for executions. And that's why in the recent executions in Arizona and Ohio and Oklahoma, they have been using different drugs - sometimes 1 drug, sometimes 2 drugs - but they're essentially experimenting.

The number of drugs available for this purpose and the willingness of manufacturers and suppliers to supply them is very different now than it used to be.

So, at this point the question of what kind of execution protocol the Nevada Department of Corrections would use if an execution were scheduled is unknown.

The old protocol specified these three drugs that had traditionally been used.

Where do most death penalty cases originate in Nevada? Is it significant that the state's per capita ratio is relatively high compared with other places?

No other county in the state has as many death penalty cases as Clark County. There probably aren't more than 3 or 4 in the entire rest of the state.

The ratio of death row inmates to lawyers is significantly high. We have such a small bar compared to bigger states - there's less legal talent available to do criminal work. ?

(source: Las Vegas Sun)

CALIFORNIA----new death sentence

French Valley: Jurors choose death penalty for Marine in double murder

Jurors have recommended the death penalty for the last of four Camp Pendleton Marines convicted of murdering a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant and his wife in their French Valley home in 2008.

The mothers of the victims clasped hands and exhaled deeply as the death verdicts were read Thursday afternoon in a Riverside courtroom.

Kesaun Kedron Sykes, 27, was found guilty earlier this month of murder and allegations of robbery and sexual assault. Sykes had faced the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole for what prosecutor Daniel DeLimon called "a prolonged and sadistic murder."

Sykes' sentencing is set for Nov. 7.

"To me, the 4 of them are a waste of humanity," said Henryka Varga, mother of Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24. "They get what they deserve."

Glenda Faye Jenkins, mother of Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, said she was glad the trial is finally over, but with her only child gone she said she has no life to return to.

"For 6 years, this is all I did," she said, dabbing tears from her eyes.

During his closing argument Wednesday, DeLimon described Sykes and his cohorts as "predators and monsters" who took pleasure in the suffering of others. He said they threw away their careers as Marines for a life of crime "to have a rush, to have a thrill."

He showed jurors a slide show of photos from the victims' lives and video of the couple proclaiming their love for each other at their wedding just a couple of months before their deaths. It brought their mothers in the courtroom audience and several jurors to tears.

Defense attorney Douglas Myers had urged jurors to consider Sykes' relatively young age at the time, abuse he suffered as a young child and the fact that he didn't fire the fatal shots. He declined to comment after the verdict Thursday.

Last year, Kevin Cox, 26, Emrys John, 24, and Tyrone Miller, 26, were found guilty of murder in the deaths of the couple. John and Miller were sentenced to death. Cox received life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jan Pietrzak and Jenkins-Pietrzak were newlyweds and had been living in their house on Bermuda Street in French Valley for only a few months when 4 Marines armed with guns came to their door early on Oct. 15, 2008, prosecutors have said.

Several hours later, the couple's bodies were found in their ransacked home with gunshot wounds to their heads. Jenkins-Pietrzak was naked, bound and had been sexually assaulted. There was duct tape wrapped around her head and spray paint on her body. Her husband had been beaten, hog-tied and gagged with a sock.

They had been shot through couch cushions to muffle the sound. Small fires had been set in an apparent attempt to burn down the house.

There were racial slurs spray painted around the home, which one of the defendants later said were intended to mislead investigators.

(source: Press-Enterprise)

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

California AG Kamala Harris to appeal ruling against death penalty

A federal judge's "flawed" decision declaring California's enforcement of the death penalty unconstitutional will be appealed, state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris announced Thursday.

Harris will ask the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn last month’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who said decades-long delays and uncertainty about whether inmates will be executed violated the Constitution's ban on cruel or unusual punishment.

Harris personally opposes the death penalty but promised voters she would enforce it.

Carney's ruling sparked national attention. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

"For the rest, 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 their actual execution," Carney wrote. "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 and will be arbitrary."

Opponents of the death penalty had urged Harris to let the ruling stand, although it affected only the case before Carney. A decision by the 9th Circuit would affect all of California and other western states.

Carney's ruling overturned the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, a Los Angeles man sentenced to die for the 1992 rape and murder of Julia Miller, his girlfriend's mother.

No one in California has been executed since 2006, when a federal judge ruled that the state's 3-drug lethal injection procedure risked the possibility that inmates would suffer excruciating pain. The judge ordered the state to come up with a new protocol.

The Brown administration has been working on a single-drug method of execution but has yet to unveil it. Other states have had trouble getting supplies of lethal drugs because manufacturers don't want their products used in executions.

Carney's ruling raised points that had already been made by several studies. For every inmate executed, seven on death row have died from natural causes, he wrote. To deplete death row, the state would have to execute more than one inmate a week for the next 14 years, he said.

"No rational person," Carney said, "can question that the execution of an individual carries with it the solemn obligation of the government to ensure that the punishment is not arbitrarily imposed and that it furthers the interests of society."

Critics of the ruling said the U.S. Supreme Court had rejected similar arguments against the death penalty.

"I am appealing the court's decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants," Harris said.

The fate of the ruling may depend on which 3-judge panel gets the case.

(source: Los Angeles Times)

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

After 25 years of appeals, death penalty stands

He was a serial killer that sent shock waves throughout San Diego County back in the late 70s and early 80s.

Now, after 25 years of appeals, the state supreme court has ruled that David Allen Lucas is not entitled to a reversal of his death sentence.

The state hasn't carried out an execution in more than 8 years and experts 10News talked with don't think Lucas, who was sentenced to death in 1989, will be executed either, even though the State Supreme Court found his death sentence to be entirely appropriate.

Lucas was sentenced to death in September of 1989 for killing 2 San Diego women and a 3-year-old child. He walked for 3 other horrific killings he was suspected of carrying out.

10News was in court on the days the serial killer, who was known for slashing the throats of his unsuspecting victims, was convicted and sentenced.

"The families were devastated and it is so difficult putting yourself in their shoes," said 10News reporter Steve Fiorina, who sat through the entire trial and had extensive contact with the victims’ families.

He even interviewed Lucas before he was ever a suspect, just hours after he had committed one of the heinous acts.

"His attitude - he just was so calm. Was a day at the park for him and it was 10 or 12 hours after he cut the throat of a woman and left her to die," said Fiorina.

Now, 25 years after Lucas' death sentence was handed down, an appeals process to get it reversed has failed.

Thursday, the State Supreme Court finalized a lengthy 231-page ruling, stating in part, "...defendant is not entitled to reversal of his judgment."

"The judgment is affirmed."

"I don't think it means very much. I think it means the defendant is in limbo like everyone else on death row," said Thomas Jefferson School Law Professor, David Steinberg.

Lucas' attorneys, Steven Feldman and Alex Landon, declined an on-camera interview Thursday night, but issued 10News a statement that read:

"It took the Supreme Court 25 years to make its decision today. The Supreme Court did not even address numerous issues that are yet pending and will be addressed in further ongoing litigation. Once again, the death penalty will cause more suffering as the press brings forth the terrible memories of the families involved. As Judge Carney in Orange County indicated, the California death penalty is unconstitutional in its application, and this outcome further underscores and supports his position."

Reporter's Log

10News Reporter Steve Fiorina was a budding journalist when the case went to trial. Here, he recalls the story that he and another 10News veteran, Senior Investigative Producer J.W. August, covered decades ago:

"That summer, J.W. was on the assignment desk and I was the Sunday reporter. He sent me to interview a paramedic/firefighter about rescuing a woman with her throat cut on an East County hillside. I went to an address and could hear a guitar strumming inside the house. A shirtless dude came to the door. This obviously wasn't a firehouse but I told him who I was and for whom I was looking. He said he didn't know anything and we left."

"About 6 months later, David Allen Lucas was arrested and charged with several murders and the attempted murder on the woman left on the hillside. I saw that he was from Casa de Oro and drove past the house where I'd gone months before. Same one... and yes, it was Lucas who'd opened the door."

"J.W. couldn't remember why he'd put Lucas' address on the paper. So we had him hypnotized. Videotaped it and did a news story on the sequence of events."

"Under hypnosis, J.W. recounted that he had received a call that morning from a woman who whispered, "There's a killer at this address." He jotted it down, called the police or the sheriff and asked if they had anything working at that address. They replied no and he forgot about it. But the address was on the top of the piece of paper he'd given me."

"2 later victims were Rhonda Strang and Amber Fisher, a woman and little girl she was babysitting. Lucas knew Strang - our supposition was that she was the one who called the assignment desk. Lucas figured it out and the little girl was collateral damage."

"So my door knock put me face-to-face with the killer 6 months before his arrest. After the trial, his attorney told me that Lucas was "flabbergasted" that a reporter was at his door, asking about the Jodie Santiago throat-slashing. That sealed the deal for me... guilty as sin."

"Regarding the defense attorneys... we both were called to testify and both invoked the California shield law but were found in contempt, anyway, and ordered to return to court the next day and surrender for incarceration in the downtown jail. The judge called us in individually and decided that we were honorable men and that nothing would be gained by jailing us. Thank you, Judge Orfield!"

(source: 10news.com)

CHINA:

School deputy head death sentence upheld

A court in north China's Hebei Province on Friday upheld the death sentence of a deputy principal of a primary school for kidnapping and killing a 6-year-old girl then molesting her body.

The Higher People's Court of Hebei Province rejected Yang Haijun's appeal and upheld the death penalty for crimes of kidnapping and insulting a corpse by the the Baoding Municipal Intermediate People's Court.

He will be executed if the Supreme People's Court examines and approves the ruling.

Yang, 47, former deputy principal of Wang'an Township Central Primary School of Laiyuan County, was convicted of kidnapping the girl on July 27, 2013 to demand ransom from her parents, the courts found.

Yang suffocated the girl after she shouted. After killing her, Yang abused her body and buried her near the border between Laiyuan and Yuxian counties on the same day.

Police detained him on Aug. 2, 2013 on suspicion of intentional homicide.

(source: Shanghai Daily)

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

China court frees man after 6 years on death row

A Chinese court on Friday declared innocent a man sentenced to death 6 years ago for a double killing, in a case which highlighted flaws in the country's legal system.

Nian Bin, a former food-stall owner, was convicted of poisoning 2 children and condemned to die in 2008, and had been held in custody ever since.

His case went through multiple appeals, with lawyers arguing that the evidence against him was insufficient and police had tortured him into confessing, until the high court of Fujian province quashed his conviction Friday and freed him.

Acquittals in China's Communist-controlled court system are extremely rare - 99.93 % of defendants were found guilty last year, according to official statistics.

Beijing does not say how many people it executes each year. But independent estimates put the total around 3,000 in 2012, a figure higher than all other countries combined.

The use of force to extract confessions remains widespread in the country, leading to a number of miscarriages of justice.

"None of the evidence presented in the case can be properly verified," the Fujian court said in a microblog post announcing Nian's innocence.

His lawyer Si Weijiang wrote in an online post: "We hope that the reversal of the verdict in this case can allow other unjust verdicts to be overturned.

"His family home has been subject to revenge attacks, his daughter's mental health has suffered, while his wife has waited in pain for 6 years," he added.

Nian, now 38, told a previous court hearing that police had hung him from a hook and beaten him until he confessed, reports said.

He was first detained by police in 2006, after 2 children died and 4 other people in a family fell ill near his home, apparently from consuming rat poison.

The UK-based rights group Amnesty International said in a statement that the quashing of Nian's conviction was "another reminder of the need to immediately end all executions and abolish the death penalty in the country".

"The ever present risk of executing innocent people is just one of many compelling arguments against the death penalty," it added.

China has occasionally exonerated wrongfully executed convicts after others came forward to confess their crimes, or in some cases because the supposed murder victim was later found alive.

(source: Agence France-Presse)

INDIA:

Delhi Police Wants Death Sentence For Nitish Katara's Killers

The city police today told the Delhi High Court that Vikas Yadav and two others, convicted for killing Nitish Katara in 2002, deserve death penalty as the offence was "pre-meditated" and committed in a "cold- blooded" manner.

"The convicts (Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan), in furtherance of their common intention, murdered the victim Nitish Katara in a cold-blooded, planned and pre-meditated manner, without any provocation," the counsel for Delhi police told a bench of justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha.

Rajesh Mahajan, appearing for the police, said "the brutality of the crime not only lies in the manner of its execution but also in its conception".

"The burning of the body after killing the deceased and leaving it without any clothes demonstrated a depraved state of mind and lack of remorse as the accused displayed no respect even for the human body," he said.

Delhi Police and the victim Nitish's mother Neelam Katara are seeking capital punishment or an enhanced life sentence for Vikas, Vishal Yadav and Sukhdev Pehalwan.

While seeking the gallows for the 3 convicts, the police further said the age of the convicts should not be considered as a mitigating factor for not awarding the death penalty.

The standing counsel for police also cited various apex court judgements, including the verdict against convict Amir Ajmal Kasab in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack case to drive home the point that age alone is not a factor for not awarding death penalty as Kasab was only 19 year-old.

The convicts are a "serious threat" to the society if they are released and may harm the society at large, he said.

"The trial court as well as this court have already held that this is a case of honour killing. I want to add 1 more thing that the honour killing falls under the rarest of rare category of cases warranting imposition of death penalty," he said.

Vikas, Vishal and Sukhdev Pehalwan are serving life term for abducting and killing Nitish Katara, a business executive and son of an IAS officer, on the intervening night of February 16-17, 2002. They did not approve of the victim's affair with Bharti, sister of Vikas.

The High Court had on April 2 upheld the verdict of the lower court in the case by describing the offence as "honour killing" stemming from a "deeply-entrenched belief" in caste system.

Katara was abducted and killed by Vikas, his cousin Vishal and Pehalwan as they did not approve of the victim's affair with Bharti because they belong to different castes, the court had said.

During the arguments, the Delhi Police counsel said "all the accused were earlier involved in criminal cases, which shows their propensity towards the crime.

"Sukhdev was an absconder for over three and half years, so there is no chance of his reformation and rehabilitation."

Earlier, the counsel for Neelam Katara had demanded death for the three terming their offence as the "rarest of rare".

The advancing of arguments remained inconclusive and would resume on August 29.

Meanwhile, the court today also issued a notice to Delhi Police on Vikas' plea seeking parole to visit his ailing 93-year-old grandfather who has undergone angioplasty.

Vikas, son of politician D P Yadav, has sought 3 months' parole for visiting his grandfather.

He said he has been in jail for last 12 1/2 years and his conduct has been "good".

The plea said he has approached the court as Delhi government has so far not taken any decision on his plea for grant of parole.

The high court had dismissed the appeals of the convicts and kept pending two separate pleas of the state and Neelam Katara seeking death penalty for them.

(source: Outlook India)

VIETNAM:

Police seize huge drug haul smuggled from Laos to Vietnam

Police in the north-central province of Nghe An have arrested 3 people for allegedly smuggling more than seven kilograms of heroin from Laos into Vietnam.

Police said they spent four months tracking the trio before sweeping in to make the arrest on Tuesday.

At around 10 p.m. on that day, police arrested Cu Minh Tuan, 29, in a vehicle containing the drugs on National Highway 1A in Nghe An's Dien Chau District.

On the same day, police arrested Nguyen Quoc Khanh, 54, and his girlfriend, Nguyen Thi Luat, 29, at the Beijing Hotel in Vinh, the provincial capital. Khanh, Tuan's senior in the ring, reportedly pointed a gun at police before being taken into custody.

A subsequent raid of his house in town led to the seizure of 300 grams of methamphetamine, VND297 million (US$14,025) and 3 cars.

Police said Khanh, a drug user, oversees a smuggling ring that moves the drugs from Laos to Vietnam to sell in northern provinces.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine 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)

SCOTLAND:

Body of last man hanged in Scotland exhumed at Aberdeen prison

The body of the last man to be hanged in Scotland has been exhumed.

Henry John Burnett, 21, was executed at Aberdeen's Craiginches prison in 1963 after being found guilty of murdering his lover's husband.

Craiginches closed its doors to make way for the HMP Grampian "superjail" in January, and the site was earmarked for redevelopment.

But plans stalled when the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) were unable to locate Burnett's body, which was believed to have been buried in an unmarked grave within the jail.

Burnett's remains have now been exhumed, allowing plans for the redevelopment of the site to continue.

An SPS spokesman said: "A number of agencies have been involved in dealing with the remains of Mr Burnett.

"The remains were recovered from the prison grounds and a private ceremony was held at Aberdeen Crematorium on August 7."

Health secretary Alex Neil has announced a proposal to turn the prison into homes for public sector workers.

The SPS plans to sell the former jail to Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association, who will turn it into housing.

Mr Neil said: "There are record levels of staff working in our NHS with more nurses and doctors than ever before.

"We know that some local areas like the North East have experienced difficulties attracting staff and we need to think creatively and flexibly about helping where we can.

"Finding affordable housing in Aberdeen in particular has been noted as an issue that is causing difficulties in the recruitment and retention of staff.

"We hope these new homes will help NHS staff and other key workers find a place to live, so they can make a vital contribution to our public services.

"We will now take forward the plans with partners and draw up a key workers policy to ensure these homes are targeted at the public service workers who really need them.

"This will go alongside our substantial affordable housing programme, which is providing new homes for people not just in Aberdeen, but across Scotland."

Burnett was given the death penalty after shooting and killing Margaret Guyan's husband Thomas on May 31, 1963.

He had been having an affair with Margaret and killed Thomas in front of her by shooting him in the head with a gun he stole from his brother.

Burnett proposed to Margaret after the murder. She accepted, but Burnett was arrested minutes after. He told police: "I gave him both barrels, he must be dead."

He claimed insanity during a 2-day trial in July 1963, but the jury found him guilty.

Burnett was led to the gallows at Craiginches at 8am on August 15, 1963. He was met by hangman Harry Allen, who sent him to his death in front of 300 onlookers.

(source: stv.tv)

IRAN----executions

2 Public Hangings in Iran----57 prisoners have been executed since August 3 (in less than 3 weeks) in Iran. 13 of the executions have been carried out in public.

1 man was hanged in public in the city of Qazvin today. The prisoner who was identified as "A.N." was convicted of murdering his 9 year old stepchild, reported the state run Iranian news agency Mehr.

Another prisoner was hanged in the Motaheri Square of Khoi (Northwestern Iran) reported the news website Uromnews. The prisoner who was identified by name what charged with rape, said the report. The execution was carried out on Tuesday August 19.

(soure: Iran Human Rights)

GAZA:

Hamas executes 3 for 'collaboration' with Israel

The Majd website quoted a senior security official in the enclave as saying 7 people had been arrested on suspicion of scoping out targets for Israel and that three others had been shot dead.

No date was given for the executions or the arrests.

The same website reported on August 6 that "a number" of Palestinian collaborators had been killed, again without giving a date.

On July 13, witnesses in the southern city of Rafah reported seeing gunmen kill a man in the middle of the street in another incident which appeared to be the execution of a suspected collaborator.

Israel and Hamas have been at war since July 8 in a conflict that has killed 2,075 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side.

Under Palestinian law, collaborating with Israel, murder and drug trafficking are punishable by death.

In May, Hamas announced the execution of 2 men accused of being collaborators, saying they had been executed in accordance with the law.

In principle, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who heads the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, is supposed to approve all executions.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since winning elections in the enclave in 2007. Although it handed the reins of power to a Ramallah-based administration in early June, it remains the de facto power in Gaza.

Abbas is based in Ramallah in the West Bank.

(source: Yahoo News)

LIBYA:

'Public execution' in football stadium shows Libya's descent into lawlessness

The video appears to show an execution-style killing organized by an armed group.

A shocking video showing an execution-style killing by an armed group at a football stadium in eastern Libya highlights the authorities' failure to prevent parts of the country from descending into violence and lawlessness, Amnesty International said today.

An amateur video published on social media sites shows the purported execution of an Egyptian man apparently organized by an armed group called the Shura Council of Islamic Youth in the eastern city of Derna.

"This unlawful killing realizes the greatest fears of ordinary Libyans, who in parts of the country find themselves caught between ruthless armed groups and a failed state," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

"Such acts can only lead to further human rights abuses in Derna, where residents have no recourse to state institutions and therefore no means to seek justice or effective protection from abuses.

"The Libyan authorities, with the support of the international community, must urgently address the breakdown of law and order that has persisted in Derna and elsewhere following the end of Colonel al-Gaddafi's rule."

The video posted online shows the Egyptian victim, Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, being brought blindfolded into the football ground in a pick-up truck. Masked men armed with rifles then force him to kneel on a stretcher.

A statement read out prior to the killing accuses him of stabbing to death a Libyan man, Khalid al-Dirsi. It is stated that he admitted to murder and theft during interrogation by the Legitimate Committee for Dispute Resolution, a body apparently operating under the authority of the Shura Council of Islamic Youth.

It is stated that the Committee ruled he is to be "executed" unless pardoned by the family of the victim. It appears from the video that the family refuses to grant pardon.

An unmasked man wearing plain clothes, believed to be the brother of Khalid al-Dirsi, is then given a handgun. He is seen shooting Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed from behind, possibly in the head or neck.

Amnesty International has also reviewed photographs of the incident posted on social media that show a large crowd of people watching the killing from the stadium's benches.

Amnesty International has confirmed with sources in Derna that the killing did take place on 19 August on the outskirts of the city.

"This was an unlawful act of brutal revenge, not justice," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

"The Libyan authorities must do everything in their power to restore state institutions and the rule of law in Derna and elsewhere in the country."

The state has failed to assert its control of Derna since the end of Libya's 2011 conflict.

There has been no police or army presence since then, while the Derna Court of Appeals has been suspended since June 2013 following the assassination of a senior judge, amid repeated threats to judges by armed groups.

Members of the judiciary have refused to report to work unless the state provides the necessary protection and security, which it has continuously failed to do.

The security vacuum was exploited by various armed groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, which effectively controls the city.

Over the past 2 years security officials, politicians, religious figures and judges have been victims of targeted killings in Derna. These crimes have yet to be fully investigated.

Numerous Islamist armed groups operating in the city appear to have taken advantage of the breakdown of the rule of law to assert their control in an apparent attempt to enforce their own interpretation of Islamic law (shari'a).

Execution-style killings, such as the one depicted in the video, contravene the fundamental principles of humanity enshrined in international humanitarian law.

(source: Amnesty International)

BRITAIN:

The Death Penalty Should Stay Dead

One of the more arduous, repetitive and indeed controversial political debates currently is that of the death penalty's restoration. Having not seen an execution for 50 years, recent high-profile crimes such as the murder of Lee Rigby have sparked some support for reintroduction of capital punishment. In fact, Ukip MEP Louise Bours stoked the discussions last week by hinting that Ukip may be in support of the re-introduction.

With an issue like this, there are always strong feelings on either side. Those in favour of reintroduction say it will mean the worst of criminals pay the ultimate price, the families of the victims will get 'closure' and it will stop tax-payers funding criminals' prison life.

However, it isn't that simple. How are we supposed to teach lessons to criminals if we kill them for their crimes? They won't suffer, they're dead. Is it not the ultimate hypocrisy of the justice system to punish killing by killing? Should we not deter society from killing by never using it to solve problems? It's also short-sighted to assume that victims' families want the death penalty reintroduced too, with many speaking out against the penalty.

The death penalty is not even a sufficient deterrent of crime. The UK's homicide rate is 18 times lower than the United States, where they do utilise execution. It's not even cost-effective to kill violent criminals either, a common misconception is that the death penalty is cheaper than keeping criminals in prison for life - but it isn't. In the United States, those sentenced to death can end up costing the tax-payer four times as much as those given lifetime incarceration. Those on death row often appeal and can end up waiting for execution for up to 20 years, which hardly solves the prison overpopulation problem either.

And just what are we to do if a jury reaches an incorrect verdict and innocent man or woman is charged with murder and subsequently put to death? Do we then send the executioner to death for what would be the killing of an innocent person? Do we kill the jury too? These cases, although rare do happen - it only takes one instance for this potential law to be thrown in to disrepute.

As far as Ukip goes, Louise Bours support for this motion's reintroduction reeks of right-wing populism. She's probably just testing the waters to see if they can ram this in to their manifesto for later this year. Either that, or they hate the EU that much that they simply cannot stand that the organisation opposes the death penalty too. In reality, the death penalty is expensive, labourious, hypocritical and barbaric. Journeying back to a bygone era where brutality was an acceptable resolution is not the answer, as is shown by the USA's higher crime rate. I don't think it's wrong to feel vengeful in situations like these. Of course, those supporting the death penalty have a point - these people don't deserve to live whilst their victims don't. Financially, the death penalty isn't beneficial - let the criminals suffer in prison, their life can still be taken away from them without death.

(source: Chris Whiting, Huffington Post)

AUGUST 21, 2014:

TEXAS:

The Witness----For more than a decade, it was Michelle Lyons's job to observe the final moments of death row inmates - but watching 278 executions did not come without a cost.

I.

Ms. Lyons,

Hi, if you are reading this then they killed me. I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed talking to you, you seem like a really great lady. I'm sorry we didn't meet under different circumstances. . . . Thank you for your kindness. Have a wonderful day.

- Letter from death row inmate Robert Coulson, June 25, 2002

Early one morning in April, Michelle Lyons pulled up outside her daughter's elementary school in Huntsville, 70 miles north of Houston. Set deep in the Piney Woods, Huntsville - which is home to no fewer than 5 prisons - is a company town whose primary industry is confinement. Many parents who were dropping their children off at school that day worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Huntsville's largest employer. Michelle, who sat behind the wheel of her blue Chevy sedan nursing a travel mug of coffee, had worked for TDCJ herself for more than a decade. She had been the public face of the agency, a disarmingly friendly, upbeat spokesperson for the biggest prison system in the nation. Though she had left the position 2 years earlier, she was still well-known around town, and several mothers waved as her car idled in the drop-off line. "Have a beautiful day," she murmured when her 9-year-old leaned in to kiss her goodbye.

When Michelle first went to work for TDCJ, in 2001, she had begun each weekday morning by driving into town, past the picturesque courthouse square and toward the Walls Unit, the 165-year-old penitentiary that is Huntsville's most iconic landmark. The prison, whose ramparts measure more than 30 feet high, is a colossal, foreboding structure crowned by razor wire - a 2-block-long, red-brick fortress that houses the most active death chamber in the country. Michelle’s office occupied a corner of an administrative building directly across the street from the Walls, and one of the requirements of her job as a public information officer had been to attend every execution the state carried out. She had also attended executions for her previous job, as a reporter covering prisons for the hometown newspaper, the Huntsville Item. Michelle spent many evenings - hundreds, in fact - standing shoulder-to-shoulder with witnesses in a cramped room that afforded a view of the death chamber, where she watched as men, and 2 women, were injected with a 3-drug cocktail that stopped their hearts. All told, she had seen 278 inmates put to death.

As Michelle pulled away from the school, she headed out of Huntsville, toward Interstate 45 and her new job more than an hour's drive away, in downtown Houston. She cracked her window, grateful for the cool air on her face. Mornings, when her commute offered time to think back on everything she had seen at the Walls, were the hardest. She was flooded with memories from her time inside the Death House: of the conversations she had shared with particular inmates in the hours before they were strapped to the gurney; of the mothers, dressed in their Sunday best, who had turned out to attend their sons' executions; of the victims' families, their faces hardened with grief; of the sudden stillness that came over the prisoners soon after the lethal drugs entered their bloodstreams. She could still see some of these men - their chests expanding, their chins stiffening as they took their last breaths.

These memories intruded with such frequency that Michelle no longer tried to push them out of her mind. Instead, she had started recording voice memos, letting her thoughts unspool as she drove alone in the car. She kept one eye on the road that morning as she rummaged through her purse for her iPhone, finally fishing it out and holding the microphone up to her mouth. "I support the death penalty," she began. "I believe that there are some crimes that are so heinous that the only way you can truly pay your debt to society is with your life." She spoke with the same deliberation she had used when addressing reporters outside the Walls after high-profile executions. "But in other cases, I feel very conflicted," she added. "There are men I watched die that I don't think should have." A piece of folk art she had picked up on a trip to Austin - an evil-eye charm to ward off bad spirits - bobbed from her rearview mirror. "I thought being away from the prison system would make me think about it less, but it's been quite the opposite," she continued. "I think about it all the time."

As she approached Houston's outer suburbs, the East Texas pines receded, replaced by roadside billboards hawking vasectomy reversals and personal injury lawyers and Chick-fil-A. Michelle thought back to a few months earlier, when she had called her former boss, Larry Fitzgerald, on the way to work, as she did every now and then to check in on him. The authoritative sound of his voice - Larry had been a radio news reporter back in the 60s - had always reassured her. It was Larry who had recruited her to TDCJ, and their friendship had continued after he retired and Michelle succeeded him as the agency's director of public information. Though Larry was 38 years her senior, they had remained close because of the peculiar history they shared. Wardens, guards, and prison administrators had come and gone, but she and Larry had each been a constant presence, attending virtually every execution during the period when George W. Bush's bid for the presidency had thrust Texas into the international spotlight.

Despite all the time the 2 had spent together - the workday lunches, the happy hours, the long evenings waiting to hear if the appellate courts would grant a reprieve - Michelle had never asked Larry how he felt about watching inmates die, and he had never offered his opinion. So when she had phoned him from the road the previous fall and he had casually mentioned that he was having nightmares - which he downplayed by calling them dreams - about his time inside the Walls, his words had sent a jolt through her. She could still picture the exact moment he made this admission: she had been making a turn onto the Hardy Toll Road, and the morning sun had been unbearably bright. That Larry too was struggling had unnerved her. He had always been the less serious one, the one who could shrug off the solemnity of the moment with a dry aside. Often after they exited the Death House, he would suggest they go drink margaritas. Michelle had forgotten where she had left off with her dictation. She was thinking about Larry, wondering which executions he relived in his dreams. Her own hard moments came when she was awake. She could still picture Ricky McGinn's mother, an elderly woman who had arrived at her son's execution in a floral dress and pearls. Michelle would never forget watching her try to rise from her wheelchair so she could see through the large pane of glass that separated her from the death chamber. On the other side lay her son, who had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a twelve-year-old girl. McGinn was flat on his back, each limb restrained with leather straps, an IV line stuck in each arm. The old woman, her wrinkled hands pressed to the glass, had watched intently as her son's body went slack. Michelle thought about her as she drove to work that morning. When the Houston skyline rose up in front of her, she realized her face was wet with tears.

II.

This was my 1st execution and I was completely fine with it, although many, many people asked me about if I really was okay. I really was. In fact, I felt bad, like, "Am I supposed to be upset about this? Do people think I'm bad or evil or something because I'm not?"

- Michelle's journal, October 1, 1998

Before the responsibilityof watching an inmate die fell to a handful of state employees, executions in Texas were conspicuously public affairs. Few events in the 19th and early 20th century could rival the spectacle of a hanging on the courthouse square, and Texans often marked years in relation to not just major fires and floods but also these sensational dispensations of justice. That changed in 1923, after an epidemic of lynchings began to erode the distinction between legal hangings - conducted only after a defendant was found guilty, by a jury, of a capital crime - and vigilantism, which prompted the Legislature to outlaw all public executions. From then on, defendants sentenced to death were sent to Huntsville, away from the emotionally charged settings of their crimes. Executions took place in the south wing of the Walls and were attended by a small group of prison employees and reporters. Electrocution, which was considered more state-of-the-art than the gallows, was adopted as the official means of execution.

For the next 40 years, witnesses were subjected to a gruesome sight. Though the electric chair did its work more efficiently than the noose, it still proved to be a crude way to kill someone. In his memoir, Have a Seat, Please, the late Huntsville Item editor Don Reid described in unsettling detail the 1938 electrocution of "a tall, powerfully built Negro" named Albert Lee Hemphill, who had been convicted of the robbery and murder of a Dallas man. Reid recounted watching as Hemphill was led into the death chamber, where, just feet from the assembled witnesses, he "sank to his knees and sang 'Just a Closer Walk With Thee' in a deep, rich, and unfaltering baritone." (Until 1989, nothing but a metal rail divided onlookers from the person slated to die.) When the 23-year-old finished, he was strapped to the chair, where a guard laid a Bible in his lap. Then the signal was given. "The room exploded with the mounting whine of the generators," Reid wrote. "Hemphill's body slammed forward against the restraining leather straps, and the Bible came sliding down his lap to the floor. I shrank back as the 2nd jolt brought an odd red glow to Hemphill's skin and steam drifted from his head and chest. A dreadful odor of burning flesh enveloped us all."

361 men were put to death by electrocution before Old Sparky was decommissioned, in 1977. The Legislature decided to retire the sturdy, high-backed, solid oak chair after a Dallas TV reporter named Tony Garrett filed a lawsuit along with the American Civil Liberties Union seeking permission to film executions and broadcast them to the public. When a federal judge in Dallas ruled in January 1977 that executions could indeed be televised, Texas lawmakers quickly moved to approve a new method that would be less offensive than electrocution. Their deliberations came on the heels of a four-year moratorium on the death penalty; the U.S. Supreme Court had only just reinstated capital punishment the previous July after a long legal battle over whether or not it violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Texas lawmakers settled on lethal injection, a method developed by the Oklahoma state medical examiner that was yet untested but promised a "gentle, humane" death, as 1 prison chaplain told a reporter, "just like . . . laying down and going to sleep." James Estelle, the director of the Texas Department of Corrections (as TDCJ was then known), heralded it as "a more civilized way of carrying out our responsibilities."

Because of appeals and legal challenges, this new procedure would not be put into practice until 5 years later, when a Fort Worth man named Charlie Brooks became the 1st person in the United States to be executed using lethal injection. (A Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling had by this time barred executions from being televised.) Just before midnight on December 6, 1982, witnesses were led into the Death House, a small structure inside the Walls prison complex where Old Sparky had been housed since the fifties. There, they saw Brooks strapped to a gurney, "stiff with fright," as Dick Reavis wrote for this magazine ("Charlie Brooks' Last Words," February 1983). An IV line led from Brooks's arm through a small opening in the wall to an adjacent room, where the executioner was concealed behind a 1-way mirror. Sentenced to death for the murder of a Fort Worth mechanic, Brooks met a far less violent end than his victim, who had been shoved into the trunk of a car, bound with coat hanger wire, gagged with tape, and shot in the head. When the lethal drugs began flowing, "a look of absolute, unmitigated terror took over his face," wrote Reavis. "His agony of anticipation [lasted . . .] perhaps a minute, perhaps 2 minutes, before he felt death creeping in." Brooks gasped and wheezed, then fell silent. At 12:16 a.m., 7 minutes after the injection had begun, he was pronounced dead.

In the years that followed, prison officials from more than a dozen other states visited Huntsville after their legislatures adopted lethal injection as the method of execution. They toured the Walls, learning the precise protocol that TDCJ had developed for putting inmates to death. The process began with the warden asking the condemned to walk from his holding cell, where he had eaten his last meal, to the death chamber, 15 feet away. There, 5 guards who constituted the "tie-down team" quickly strapped him to a gurney, buckling thick leather belts across his arms, legs, and torso, and a 2-person "drug team" inserted IVs into his arms. Only 3 people remained in the chamber after that: the inmate, who gave a final statement; the prison chaplain, who had spent the day with the condemned and now stood at his side; and the warden, who motioned to the executioner when it was time to begin. Then the 3-drug cocktail was injected into the IV lines. First came sodium thiopental, an anesthetic; followed by pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant; and finally potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest. For the witnesses who looked on, the experience was not unlike watching someone drift off to sleep.

By the time Michelle arrived in Huntsville, in the late nineties, executions had become routine, even banal, affairs, many of which merited only a brief mention in the local news. Because of the protracted appeals process for death row inmates, their sentences were often not carried out until more than a decade after their crimes, when many of them were more temperate, acquiescent versions of the men they had once been. Michelle was struck by the decorum inside the Walls, where men who had committed acts of extraordinary violence freely walked to the death chamber without any hesitation or need for force. She noted in particular the small courtesies that the prison staff extended to the condemned, as when the warden ensured that a pillow be placed at the head of the gurney so the inmate would be more comfortable, or when the chaplain placed his hand on the right leg of the restrained prisoner, just below the knee, to reassure him during his final moments. Later, as Michelle went about her job as TDCJ's spokesperson, the incongruous civility of these gestures would never be far from her mind.

III.

Earl Carl Heiselbetz Jr., 48, was the 1st person to be executed in the new millennium, and the 200th in Texas since Dec. 1982, when executions resumed. . . . He was incredibly nervous before the execution. . . . You could hear him making these uncomfortable breathing noises, the same kinds I think I would make if it were me strapped to the gurney. Last words: "Love y'all - see you on the other side." He was still wearing his glasses.

- Michelle's journal, January 12, 2000

For as far back as Michelle could remember, she had wanted to be a reporter. As a kid, she had loved how her father's suits always smelled like ink when he returned home from the Galveston County Daily News, where he was a reporter before switching over to the advertising department once he had a family to support. On her annual pilgrimages to her father's office to sell Girl Scout cookies, Michelle had marveled at the place, gaping at the busy newsroom where he had once worked the police beat; the enormous, clattering printing presses; the darkroom where photographs slowly materialized in the otherworldly red light.

A proud BOI - Galveston shorthand for someone "Born on the Island" - Michelle was, from an early age, relentlessly social and curious about the world. She was active in the Methodist church, where her mother taught Sunday school, and in high school, she was a member of both the drill team and the student council. When her family moved to southern Illinois for her junior and senior years, she became the editor of her high school newspaper. (Eager to make an impression, she also served as class treasurer and president of the foreign language club and was voted "Best Dressed.") On nights and weekends, she worked as a photographer at the hometown paper, the Benton Evening News, where her father was the publisher. There were ribbon cuttings and high school football games to shoot, but it was the local tragedies she documented - house fires, car wrecks, and the like - that would help inure her to the later shock of witnessing executions. In 1994 she went to Texas A&M to earn a degree in journalism, but she spent most of her time at the Bryan - College Station Eagle, where she managed to hold down a job as a full-time reporter. More often than not, she missed her sorority's chapter meetings because she was busy covering the police beat.

Though Huntsville was less than an hour's drive from College Station, Michelle had glimpsed the town only once, in the movies, when she had watched John Travolta and Debra Winger cozy up to each other at the prison rodeo in Urban Cowboy. She visited for the 1st time in 1996, when she was a junior at A&M, after her father - keen to leave the Midwest behind - accepted an offer to be the Huntsville Item's publisher. She followed her parents to Huntsville 2 years later and went to work at the Item, where she initially covered city council meetings and local stories. As 1 of only 3 news reporters at the paper, she was easily recognizable. Locals stopped by the Item's office, a few blocks from the courthouse, to give her tips and air their grievances, and more than one resident routinely brought by a marked-up copy of the paper with each typo circled in red ink. Michelle smiled at these informalities. For a town of 35,000 people, Huntsville still felt comfortably small.

Everywhere Michelle went, there were reminders of the town's primary industry. Trustees in their telltale white jumpsuits mowed grass and picked up trash by the side of the road; gray-uniformed guards gassed up their trucks, stood in line at the bank, and ate the blue plate special at the Cafe Texan; TDCJ buses idled at red lights, their shackled passengers gawking at the world just beyond their reach; men with buzz cuts, newly released from prison, dragged on cigarettes before heading to the bus depot to catch the next Greyhound out of town. As an outsider looking in, Michelle was fascinated. When the reporter who had been covering prisons for the Item left in late 1999, Michelle decided to take her place. Executions were by no means the focus of the job; she would cover TDCJ's budget woes and staffing shortages as well as more-enthralling subjects, like the occasional prison escape and the ensuing manhunt. But the prospect of watching inmates die did not scare her off. "I think covering executions is incredibly important work," Michelle told me. "It can be difficult work too. But everything that is said and done in that chamber, and in the witness rooms, needs to be public record." She started her new beat on January 3, 2000.

Michelle already had a sense of what to expect. 15 months earlier, while covering for an absent colleague, she had entered the Death House for the first time to witness the execution of a convicted murderer named Javier Cruz. Years later, she would remember very little about it - only that she had dressed more formally than usual and that she had been unsure, at the outset, how she would feel when it was all over. The facts of Cruz's case did not engender much sympathy: he had murdered two San Antonio men, one of whom he had gagged and bound, beaten with a hammer, and then strangled with the belt of a bathrobe. Michelle had found that watching Cruz slip into unconsciousness did not evoke any powerful emotions; she had scribbled in her yellow legal pad, typed up her story, and gone home. Covering executions was certainly no worse, she decided, than being a war correspondent or any other journalist who sees suffering up close; in fact, the cold efficiency of lethal injection made hers the easier job. When her father called her into his office the next day to check on her, she told him she was fine. As she saw it, her duty as a journalist was to be dispassionate.

In the 1st year that Michelle served as the Item's prison reporter, Texas executed 40 inmates - the most people put to death in a single year, by 1 state, in American history. Governor Bush also happened to be making a run for the White House. This confluence of events caused hundreds of journalists to descend on Huntsville in the months leading up to the 2000 presidential election, mostly to issue withering assessments. On the night that Billy George Hughes, a man who had fatally shot a state trooper, was put to death, a TV show hosted by filmmaker-provocateur Michael Moore arranged for a pom-pom-waving cheerleading squad to stand outside the Walls and chant, "Texas, Texas, you're so great, you kill more than any state!" beside an illuminated execution scoreboard that read "George 117, Jeb 2." Rolling Stone published a blistering takedown of Huntsville in a piece called "5 Executions and a Barbecue." The media glare was relentless, transforming one execution that June - of an obscure Houston street criminal named Gary Graham, whose murder conviction had turned on the word of a single eyewitness - into an international cause celebre. Riot police armed with tear gas stood outside the Walls on the night of his death while hooded Klansmen and rifle-toting members of the New Black Panther Party played to the cameras. At Graham's invitation, the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Bianca Jagger served as witnesses.

During this time, Michelle kept a journal in which she recorded her own personal observations of the executions she witnessed, which had no place in the straightforward accounts she wrote for the Item. Rarely did she mention the media spectacle outside. Instead she cataloged the disquieting details that she noticed as she watched a succession of inmates be put to death. There was Betty Lou Beets, the 2nd woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War, who had shot not one but 2 of her husbands and buried them in her yard. ("I couldn't help but notice her tiny little feet," Michelle wrote. "She looked like somebody's grandma - she was somebody's grandma.") There was Ponchai Wilkerson, who had once nearly managed to break out of death row, who stunned onlookers when he spit out a handcuff key as he lay on the gurney. ("I felt sick," Michelle wrote the next day. "For a few seconds I had the crazy thought, 'He's going to get off that table and kill us.'") And there was Robert Earl Carter, who had murdered 6 people, including his 4-year-old son, and falsely implicated his friend Anthony Graves in the crime. ("His last words were, 'It was me and me alone. Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it,'" Michelle wrote.) Carter's admission on the gurney would later help exonerate his co-defendant, who was, at the time, awaiting his own execution date.

Throughout her journal, she made mention of the anguish felt by both the inmates' and victims' families, who stood in witness rooms adjacent to each other, looking into the death chamber. (TDCJ officials' careful choreography ensured that the 2 groups never crossed paths.) Which side Michelle watched from often depended on how many of the five media slots were filled and how many other witnesses were present. When she stood with the sister of a Waco man named John Albert Burks, who had shot and killed a tortilla chip factory owner during an armed robbery, she saw the scene through her eyes. "As he was gasping his last breath," she wrote, "[his sister] went pretty hysterical, screaming and moaning and sobbing uncontrollably. She was flailing around and it caused her to thump her head up against the glass and the wall. She started screaming, 'John! John!,' like she was imploring him to wake up. I tried to imagine what it would be like to watch my brother be executed and for some reason, I understood why of all those witnessing she would be the one who was most hysterical."

But more often, she chronicled the view from the other side, as she did one evening when she stood with the family of a slain Abilene schoolteacher named Lori Barrett. 13 years earlier, a neighbor of Barrett's, James Edward Clayton, had broken into her house, kidnapped her, shot her, and dumped her body by the side of a country road. Michelle wrote that while Clayton lay on the gurney, he "looked and smiled at his own family, but never acknowledged that we were there."

She continued, "Following the execution, Lori Barrett's brother, David Barrett, who was a witness, spoke at a short press conference. He said that he did not forgive Clayton for what he did, and that he agreed with the death penalty. . . . 'As far as I'm concerned, it's not painful enough,' he said. When asked how he remembered his sister, he began to cry and walked away. Lori's stepfather, Joe Insall, who witnessed, stepped forward and said, 'I think he lived too long and died too easy.' We all thought the press conference was over but all of a sudden, Lori's mom, Myrna Insall, who did not witness, came forward. She was very emotional, sobbing, and she blurted out, 'She was a wonderful person and this shouldn't have happened to her.' Then the family walked away."

Throughout Michelle's journal, she insisted that she was not troubled by what she saw. "We're not letting it get to us or disturb us," she wrote of herself and the Associated Press's Mike Graczyk, who was also present for nearly every execution. "We're just doing our job." She was incensed by those members of the media - all of them women, she lamented - who seemed to feel a perverse sense of sympathy for the convicted murderers on the gurney. (She was particularly appalled by 1 small-town newspaper reporter who pressed her palm against the glass of the witness room to say goodbye to an inmate she had interviewed.) After a Houston TV correspondent nearly hyperventilated and a Tyler newspaper reporter visibly trembled during the execution of one East Texas man, Michelle vented in the pages of her journal. "Here's the deal: If you're going to do this job, you better be at least a little tough," she wrote. "Obviously, I'm not a mean or cold person. . . . It's just that this is my job - our job as reporters - and therefore, that kind of thing is inappropriate. If you want to go cry in your car or something, do it. Just, for the love of God, don't show it to everyone!"

In March 2001, for reasons she no longer remembers, Michelle abruptly stopped writing in her journal. By then, she had seen 42 inmates strapped to the gurney. She had also been interviewed numerous times on national television because of the media's ongoing interest in Bush, who had recently taken up residence in the White House. Larry Fitzgerald, then the 2nd-in-charge of TDCJ's public information office, was impressed by the 25-year-old's poise in front of the cameras, and when a spokesperson position came open in the fall of 2001, he reached out to her.

"Working at a small daily newspaper, writing 3 and 4 stories a day, had really worn me out," Michelle told me. "The idea that I would still get to do all the exciting media stuff - deal with breaking news, go out to the different prison units, meet reporters from all over the world - and not have a daily deadline was really appealing. I knew I would have to attend executions and didn't think that would be a problem." That November, she cleaned out her desk at the Item and went to work seven blocks away, in the squat office building across the street from the Walls.

IV.

[John] Satterwhite had a big cross tattoo on his right forearm. He began slowly opening and closing his eyes and then took a number of breaths before finally letting out one last gasp. I got the impression he was trying to fight it and I was reminded of a conversation I once had with [prison chaplain Jim Brazzil, who] tells the inmates to look at it like they are in the ocean and they are either going to fight the tide or go with the current. It's easier to go with it, he tells them.

- Michelle's journal, August 16, 2000

One of the first places Larry took Michelle when she became a spokesperson for TDCJ was to death row itself. For decades, its male inhabitants had been confined to the Ellis Unit, 13 miles north of the Walls, but in 1998 7 death row inmates staged an audacious escape, in which a Corpus Christi killer named Martin Gurule made it past the prison's perimeter before drowning in a nearby creek. The following year, all death row inmates - some 450 men - were moved to the more modern and secure Polunsky Unit, 43 miles east of Huntsville. (The 8 women who were then on death row remained at the Mountain View Unit, in Gatesville.) Michelle had visited the new facility once before the transfer, when the cells lacked any occupants, but it was not until she returned with Larry that she fully grasped the crushing isolation of the place. As she and Larry were escorted down the wing's austere white corridors, men in 6-by-10-foot cells stared back at them through narrow slits of glass. Each was held in solitary confinement, sealed off by concrete walls. Many of them knew Larry from his work coordinating interviews between them and the media, and they brightened when they saw him, calling out from behind their steel doors, "Hey, Mr. Fitzgerald!"

At 64, Larry was a larger-than-life personality, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking public relations man with a flair for the dramatic. (After the Ellis prison break, when Gurule's body was found, Larry had ripped the fugitive's "Wanted" poster to pieces in front of the assembled TV cameras and declared, "Gurule is no more!") The Austin native had been a flack since the late 70s, when he left radio news broadcasting behind to work for the State Bar of Texas; he joined TDCJ in 1995. In his hand-tooled boots, fashioned for him by an inmate who worked in the Walls craft shop, he regaled visiting reporters with prison lore. He liked to tell the story of Lawrence Brewer, convicted in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr., in Jasper, and how Brewer had balked when he learned that he would have to receive some vaccinations after arriving on death row. ("I was standing there in the infirmary when Brewer exclaimed, 'I hate needles!'" Larry would say. "And one of the officers replied, 'Well, partner, you've come to the wrong place.'") Despite his good-ol'-boy bravado, Larry had sympathy for the men who awaited their death. He was known for bending the rules on execution day, when he would bring a pack of cigarettes to whoever was waiting inside the Death House for his appointed hour. Every now and then, if the prisoner was someone he had grown to like, Larry would pull up a chair outside his cell and keep him company.

The job that he and Michelle were tasked with required an encyclopedic knowledge of the prison system, which Larry believed was best learned by going into the penitentiaries themselves. At the Byrd Unit, Larry - who enjoyed any opportunity for black humor - wryly led Michelle past dozens of newly shorn arrivals who had been divested of not just their hair but all their clothes. He brought her to the administrative segregation wing of the Estelle Unit, where he showed her TDCJ's most uncooperative and violent offenders, among them an inmate who was busy smearing feces around his cell. Back in the office, Larry taught her the day-to-day duties of representing the agency, which ranged from fielding inquiries from the public to mollifying state officials if TDCJ became the subject of negative press coverage. Any number of unexpected events might force TDCJ, and by extension Larry and Michelle, into the limelight, whether it was something as mundane as a court ruling or as attention-grabbing as a riot or a hostage standoff. (One media flare-up concerned the fact that death row inmate Angel Maturino Resendiz, the infamous Railroad Killer, had, through an intermediary, been auctioning off his fingernail clippings on eBay.) "When the phone rang, it was like Russian roulette," said Larry, who became the public information director shortly after hiring Michelle. "You never knew what you were going to get."

On days when an execution was scheduled to take place, Michelle was responsible for putting together press materials for the media, including a description of the condemned's crime, his last meal request, and a meticulous report, which was culled from guards' logs, of his final 36 hours ("12:32 a.m.: Inmate sleeping. 4:30 a.m.: Inmate drinking milk. 8:55 a.m.: Inmate escorted to visitation"). During the execution itself, Michelle would carefully copy down each word of the inmate's final statement on a yellow legal pad. Afterward, she would provide the media with a record of the execution, which detailed the exact moment when the lethal drugs began flowing and the official time of death. If European journalists were on hand, she would try to remain patient as they grilled her about the legality of "state-sanctioned murder." Almost universally, foreign reporters viewed her professional detachment with a mix of incredulity and disgust. So, too, did the protesters who gathered outside. Though their numbers had fallen precipitously after the presidential election, the handful who still appeared were no less shrill. Whenever she and Larry filed into the Walls with other prison officials before an execution, they cried, "Murderers!"

Every Wednesday, Michelle drove down a winding, 2-lane country road to Polunsky, where over months and then years, she came to know some of the men who were scheduled to die. Reporters were permitted to interview death row inmates in the prison's visitation room on Wednesdays, and it was up to Michelle to supervise. It was there that she overheard bits and pieces of their life stories. The inmates would often strike up conversations with her afterward, as they waited to be taken back to their cells. She tried to keep these exchanges short and breezy, but she eventually became well acquainted with the inmates who had high-profile cases and sat for interviews again and again. "I came to believe that there were 2 kinds of people on death row," Michelle told me. "You had guys who were true sociopaths. A lot of them fell into that category. And then you had guys who'd gotten themselves into a bad situation - running with a rough crowd, abusing alcohol, doing drugs. Maybe they robbed a store to get money for drugs and something went wrong and they shot the clerk. They'd had a choice to make, and they'd made the wrong one, but they hadn't set out with the intention of killing someone."

One inmate who Michelle believed fell in the latter group was Napoleon Beazley, a once promising high school athlete from the East Texas town of Grapeland who had shot and killed a Tyler oilman during a botched 1994 carjacking. His case had garnered tremendous media attention because he was 17 at the time of the crime and because his personal narrative did not square with the notion that he should be counted among the worst of the worst. The son of Grapeland's 1st black city councilman, Beazley was the president of his senior class and had no prior arrests. His death sentence was opposed by the Smith County judge who had presided over his trial, the district attorney in his native Houston County, and 7 members of the notoriously unmerciful Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Michelle had interviewed him as a reporter at the Item, and she had been struck by his willingness to own up to his crime, which set him apart from most of the men around him. He was a regular presence on Wednesdays at Polunsky because of the intense media interest in his case, and he and Michelle, who was only a year older than him, soon developed an easy rapport. One afternoon he asked her if it was true that she witnessed executions. "You watch that?" Beazley asked her in disbelief. "That's sick."

By the time his own date came up, on May 28, 2002, Michelle had observed 69 executions with the same cool objectivity, but that day, she struggled not to lose hold of her emotions. "I felt very conflicted, because he was one of the few inmates who I think could have redeemed himself if he had been given the chance," she told me. Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final appeal that afternoon, she and Larry went to the holding cell inside the Death House, where Beazley would remain until he was summoned to the death chamber at 6 o'clock. Michelle noted that he looked as if he had not slept in a long time. He was shorter than she remembered, and he seemed diminished, his usual composure undone by apprehension and fear. Larry asked whether he planned to make a final statement, and Beazley said he wished to do so in writing. When Larry remarked that he appeared calm, the 25-year-old replied in a strained voice, "Look again." Before turning to go, Larry broke protocol to reach through the bars of the cell to shake his hand. Michelle's eyes watered as she nodded goodbye. Hours later, having dutifully taken notes as Beazley exhaled for the last time, she stood outside the Walls and announced to a large crowd of reporters, "He was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m."

Michelle did not speak to Larry about the cascade of emotions she felt in the wake of Beazley's execution, though she sensed that he too was deeply affected. Had she been less concerned about putting up a tough front, she could have sought the counsel of Pastor Jim Brazzil. An affable, apple-cheeked prison chaplain with a benevolent smile, Brazzil was employed by TDCJ to minister to inmates in their final hours. He had perhaps the most difficult job of all; during his 6-year tenure, it was he who stood in the death chamber with the warden, one hand resting on the condemned's leg, and it was he who closed prisoners' eyes once they lost all sign of life. Brazzil - whom Larry affectionately referred to as "Sinister Minister," or "Sinister" for short - often joined Larry and Michelle when they repaired to a local Mexican restaurant to drink afterward. Sipping sweet tea, Brazzil would smile at Larry's unrelenting gallows humor, understanding that he was in pain. "I knew from speaking privately with Larry that he was struggling," Brazzil told me. "When he went out and talked to the media, he had to represent the agency, but personally, he was torn about whether the death penalty was right or wrong." Though Larry never betrayed any uncertainty in front of Michelle, he sometimes called Brazzil at home to unburden himself. "I'd let him talk, and we'd laugh, and we'd cry, and we'd process it together," Brazzil said.

Michelle trusted Brazzil, but she also believed she should approach her job with the same neutrality she had as a reporter, and as one of the few women in a high-ranking position inside TDCJ, she did not want to be perceived as weak. Still, she found herself moved by certain cases, like that of Rodolfo Hernandez, who had been on death row for 17 years by the time his execution date arrived, in 2002. As a result of diabetes, his left leg had been amputated below the knee. His request for an artificial leg - so he could "walk like a man" to his own execution - was denied after a staph infection made the prosthesis inadvisable, and he was rolled to the gurney in a wheelchair instead. When Michelle visited him beforehand, he anxiously jiggled the stump of his leg up and down, as if the entire limb were still there. "At one time, he was this powerful hitman and now he is an old man waiting for his death," Michelle reflected less than an hour before his execution, as she jotted notes in her office. "I don't debate whether there should be a death penalty because if someone killed one of my loved ones, I would want them to die. But I still feel sympathy for this man, who nervously kicked a leg he doesn't even have anymore."

Hernandez was not the only death row inmate for whom she felt sudden, inexplicable compassion. Another was Hilton Crawford, who came up for execution in the summer of 2003. A former Beaumont policeman, Crawford had committed a singularly horrific crime: in 1995 he had abducted and killed a 12-year-old boy in a failed attempt to extort half a million dollars from his parents, who considered Crawford to be a close friend. 8 years later, when he was transferred to the Walls for his execution, he was a devoted Christian and a balding, stoop-shouldered 64-year-old who was known on death row as simply "Old Man." When Michelle learned that his last meal request - catfish - had been denied because the kitchen had none on hand, she went out and purchased some catfish filets for the prison cooks to prepare. "His crime was so horrendous," she told me. "But this was the last thing he wanted, and I felt compelled to do it. It's very hard to explain."

Later, when she caught sight of the victim's mother at Crawford's execution, she felt a twinge of panic. What if he acknowledged her gesture from the gurney? "May God pass me over to the kingdom's shore softly and gently," Crawford said after he asked the victim's family for forgiveness. He nodded as the lethal injection began flowing and then gasped before falling quiet. As Michelle looked on, contemplating how easily she had shown kindness to a man who had murdered a child, she was filled with shame.

V.

You can't acknowledge any conflicts within yourself and continue to walk into the [witness room]. No matter what, I had a job to do and I was not willing to let anything interfere with that. Now that I'm gone, it's like I've taken the lid off Pandora's box and I can't put it back on. - Michelle's voice memo, April 14, 2014

Before Michelle ever stepped foot in the IV room, she had seen only the carefully arranged tableaux presented to witnesses, in which the inmate lay already restrained on the gurney. But in an effort to accurately describe the process to reporters, on a few occasions she decided to stand with the executioner behind the one-way mirror, where she could witness everything that led up to the scene in the death chamber. From there, she heard the warden walk to the holding cell, where he would say, simply, "It's time." She heard the inmate, flanked by the 5 members of the tie-down team, make his way down the hall, with no handcuffs or leg irons to encumber him. And finally she saw him enter the chamber, where he would slide onto the gurney and lie back, stretching out his arms so the tie-down team could do its work. Though Michelle could count on one hand the number of times an inmate had resisted, she had to believe that, were she in the same situation, she would fight like an animal. That these men surrendered so easily haunted her.

With each passing year, the act of witnessing executions weighed on Michelle more and more heavily. Larry retired in 2003, and she felt his absence, wishing for the much-needed levity he had always brought to their work. She got married that same year and in 2005 gave birth to her daughter. "I started thinking about it all in very personal terms after I had a child, and that was my downfall," Michelle told me. "I had trouble maintaining a sense of neutrality, because I began to empathize with everyone. If I saw the mother of an inmate in the witness room, I would think, 'I can't imagine if I were standing here, completely helpless, watching my child die in front of me, knowing I couldn't do anything to save him.' And then I would see the mother of the crime victim at the press conference afterward, talking about how her child had suffered in some horrendous way at the hands of whoever had just been executed, and I would think, 'If I were her, I would've wanted him put to death too.'" Those around her noticed that she had grown more subdued, and a nurse once pointedly asked her during a routine doctor's appointment if her job was taking a toll. "One of the hardest things for me to see was how often the victim's family was let down by the experience, by how quick and easy it was," Michelle said. "They didn't walk away feeling like they had in any way been made whole."

Her empathy began to extend to more than a few of the inmates at Polunsky. On her visits to the Death House, when she conferred with each prisoner about his final statement, she saw all pretense fall away; the fearless, don't-give-a-damn swagger that many of them had cultivated behind bars quickly waned as they waited for the warden to call for them. She often thought back to the 2002 execution of William Kendrick Burns, a Texarkana man who had shot and killed an 18-year-old boy over a grudge. Burns had taken to heart some advice from Brazzil; to spare him from additional discomfort, the chaplain had suggested that once the lethal injection began flowing he not hold his breath but inhale. Yet the inmate's terror in the death chamber was evident. "Burns got anxious that he was doing something wrong, and he kept looking up at Brazzil from the gurney," Michelle told me. "He was saying, 'Will you tell me when to breathe? Just tell me when,' like a child learning how to go underwater for the 1st time."

Though she had grown to dread the days inside the Walls, she never considered leaving TDCJ. Just as Larry, despite his unspoken doubts, had remained a company man, Michelle felt fiercely loyal to an institution she still found fascinating. In 2006, when she was thirty, she was promoted to the top job, becoming the first woman to helm the agency's public information office as well as the youngest member of TDCJ’s senior staff. There were practical reasons to stay - her pay was generous by small-town standards - but in truth, she loved being a public information officer. Rarely was there upbeat news for her to peddle, but she managed to get more than a few feel-good stories into the paper; before Christmas one year, she took a contingent of reporters to see a prison work program that had inmates making children's toys. She did not discourage the media from reporting tough stories either, once donning a knife-proof "thrust vest" so she could venture into a maximum-security prison with an Austin American-Statesman reporter who wanted to write about the agency's controversial practice of placing gang members in solitary confinement. In 2009 the Houston Press named her the year's "Best Flack," noting that while "some flacks live to circle the wagons and block the free flow of public information," Michelle worked to "help reporters get to the truth and heart of a story."

Nevertheless, TDCJ itself was changing. Under the leadership of a new executive director, Brad Livingston, who was appointed in 2005, the agency had grown more skittish about media attention, and Michelle's attempts to grant access to journalists or be proactive about press coverage were increasingly discouraged. In 2011 TDCJ brass questioned whether the weekly media days at Polunsky were really necessary. Michelle chafed under these strictures, and in 2012 - though she had never had a single disciplinary infraction in more than 10 years of service and consistently received glowing reviews - she was demoted over accusations that she kept inaccurate time sheets. She felt blindsided. "Had this been any other office, and had I actually done something wrong, I would have been given a warning and an opportunity to improve," she told me. "But no one ever sat me down and said, 'We think you're doing your time sheets incorrectly. You need to fix this.' They just wanted me out." (TDCJ disputes this. "Her characterization is inaccurate," spokesman Robert Hurst wrote to me. "She was counseled and disciplined consistent with TDCJ policy.") After her demotion, she was abruptly transferred to another division and relegated to a cubicle in the windowless metal Classifications and Records Building north of town.

Her fall from favor came so fast that when she attended the March 7, 2012, execution of Keith Thurmond, an East Texas man who had shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend to death, she did not realize it would be her last. In the time she had worked for TDCJ, she had missed only 3 executions: 1 when she got married, 1 when she went on maternity leave, and 1 when she was managing the media during a prison escape. That May, after being told she would be terminated, Michelle resigned instead. Consumed with grief and rage over her ouster, she filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the agency. (The suit was dismissed last year after a federal district judge determined that her case met only 3 of the 4 legal requirements that are needed to establish gender discrimination. It is currently on appeal before the Fifth Circuit.) "I still miss my job, or what my job used to be," she told me. "I don't miss having to attend executions and all the emotions that went with that. But I miss the people I worked with every day: the officers, the wardens, the reporters."

These days, when Michelle learns from reading a headline or hearing a snippet on the local news that Texas has put another man to death, she is both relieved and disconcerted to gather such information secondhand. The current debate swirling around lethal injection - European manufacturers of the drugs have refused in recent years to export them to the U.S. for that purpose, prompting states to concoct new formulas with drugs obtained from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies - has meant that she and Larry are in constant contact, frequently emailing and texting each other. This year, three states have seen botched executions as a result of new drug formulas, most recently Arizona, where convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood took nearly 2 hours to die this past July as he "gulped like a fish on land," according to one reporter who was present. Meanwhile, TDCJ has restricted the number of journalists allowed to witness executions, a fact that has left both Michelle and Larry dismayed. "Without media at these executions, who would have known what happened?" Larry told me. "Would prison officials have been forthcoming if there had not been reporters there?"

Now comfortably retired in Austin, Larry has made an abrupt about-face since the days when he trumpeted TDCJ's law-and-order message; he serves as an expert witness in capital cases, in which he testifies for the defense. During the punishment phase, when jurors must decide whether to sentence the defendant to life without parole or death, Larry takes the stand to speak about the harsh conditions behind bars, suggesting that life without parole is a severe enough punishment even for men who have committed monstrous crimes. His efforts have helped spare a few men from death row - and earned him the scorn of some former colleagues, including a warden Larry was friends with, who has openly called him a traitor. "I don't argue that these guys are innocent," Larry said. "But some of the folks I worked with in Huntsville can't get past the idea that I testify for the defense."

None of his critics, though, have seen as many executions as he has - 219, to be exact, whose particulars continue to revisit him in his sleep. He is circumspect in what he says about this unwelcome legacy, but he told me that he frequently dreams of Karla Faye Tucker, the notorious pickax murderer turned born-again Christian, whom he got to know well before she was executed, in 1998. "I had no reason to disbelieve the sincerity of her conversion," he told me. "She seemed like a truly changed person. I would not have had a problem with her moving next door to me, that's how close I got to Karla Faye." He also often dreams of Gary Graham, the Houston man whose death provoked such a media circus back in 2000. He was one of the few inmates who refused to walk to the death chamber and had to be forcibly extracted from his cell. "I don't remember him saying a word," Larry said. "5 or 6 officers went in to get him, and he fought like crazy. I just remember hearing grunts, breathing, the sounds of a struggle." What troubles him the most is not those nights in the Walls that he can still recall in vivid detail. "What bothers me is that I can't remember them all," he said. "There are names I have forgotten."

Michelle has every reason to look forward now. Last year, she landed a public relations job at a prominent, privately held company in Houston. Her home life is happy; after her first marriage ended in divorce, she remarried in 2011, to a fellow Galveston native, and her daughter, a voluble, bespectacled fourth grader, is flourishing in school. But every weekday morning, her thoughts continue to drift back to the Walls. "I honestly don't think therapy would help me," she said when I asked if she had sought professional help. "There are only a few people who truly understand what I'm going through - people like Larry and Brazzil, who have seen the same things I have." (Brazzil, now retired, pastors a Baptist church in the East Texas town of Weldon.) Of greater concern to her is how she will tell her daughter, when she is old enough to understand, that she witnessed 278 executions. "I don't want her to think badly of me for having been there," Michelle told me. "Not because I was doing something wrong. It's just that when you look at that number, it's a lot of death. I hate that someday she'll have to know that about me."

During one of her recent meditative morning drives, she was reminded of a poem by Dorothy Parker, a work she had read years earlier but whose words she could not entirely remember. She looked it up when she returned home that night, nodding in recognition as she read some of its lines:

When I was young and bold and strong,

Oh, right was right, and wrong was wrong!

My plume on high, my flag unfurled,

I rode away to right the world.

'Come out, you dogs, and fight!' said I,

And wept there was but once to die.

But I am old; and good and bad

Are woven in a crazy plaid.

The poem resonated with her deeply. "It's called 'The Veteran,'" she told me one afternoon this summer in her sun-filled living room. "And that's how I felt - like a veteran." She shifted in her seat, searching for the right words. "There is a difference between supporting the death penalty as a concept and being the person who actually watches its application. Being human, I knew there were bound to be cracks in the veneer. I just thought somehow it wouldn't happen to me."

(source: Texas Tribune)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Inevitable flaws should bring an end to Pa.'s death penalty: Editorial----Justice in death penalty cases requires a standard of perfection that no human institution can deliver

Patrick Jason Stollar was supposed to die Wednesday.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania planned to kill him, because he had killed an elderly woman during a robbery in Allegheny County.

Primitive justice - an eye for an eye - is still imposed in our supposedly enlightened state, the one that gave the country the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution more than 2 centuries ago.

Stollar was going to receive a mixture of lethal chemicals that may or may not have promptly rendered him unconscious and immobile and then stopped his heart from beating.

Like every other inmate who has continued to challenge a death sentence in Pennsylvania in the past 19 years, though, Stollar is still alive. A court issued a stay of his execution on July 1.

While the death penalty in Pennsylvania remains an option in theory, in reality, it is a cruel chimera.

So Stollar remains 1 of 184 inmates facing a sentence of death in Pennsylvania.

Since 1995, the state has killed only 3 convicts, all of whom waived further appeals. The last of Pennsylvania's state-conducted killings was in 1999, 15 years ago.

Those years, sometimes decades, of appeals are allowed because the most egregious miscarriage of justice is to execute an innocent person.

And given that the criminal justice system is a human institution run by fallible human beings, it sometimes makes mistakes.

The Innocence Project reports that "18 people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row."

Exoneration in Pa.

One of those cases came from Pennsylvania. Nicholas Yarris was convicted in 1982 of kidnapping, raping and murdering a young store clerk. Though hardly an upstanding citizen, Yarris was not the person who committed that crime. Thanks to sophisticated DNA testing that was not available earlier, he was finally exonerated in 2003.

Those lengthy appeals help reveal instances where those accused of serious crimes encountered a prosecution team willing to manipulate the process to produce a guilty verdict or a death sentence.

That's what happened to James Dennis. The Pennsylvanian got his conviction overturned after he spent 20 years on death row. A federal judge concluded that his case was a "grave miscarriage of justice... Improper police work characterized the entirety of the investigation." Among other things, prosecutors had lost evidence corroborating his alibi.

Terrance Williams is another Pennsylvanian facing death in part because of questionable prosecutorial conduct. He won a reprieve of his execution in 2012 because the prosecution had suppressed mitigating evidence that might have spared him the death penalty - the man he killed had sexually abused him for years.

As recently as 2012, a person facing the death penalty in Pennsylvania's largest city might have to put his life in the hands of cut-rate legal help. Philadelphia paid less for indigent-defense lawyers in a capital punishment case than any other county in the state.

When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a study of Philadelphia's pay in death penalty cases, it found that the amount was "grossly inadequate" and "unacceptably increases the risk of ineffective assistance of counsel."

Death warrants still issued

Despite the years and years that each death penalty case spends in legal limbo, as it undergoes the detailed review intended to ensure justice is done - despite the 19 years that have passed since Pennsylvania last executed a convicted criminal - Pennsylvania still has the death penalty, and Gov. Corbett is still signing death warrants.

This week, he signed his 36th one, for Michael John Parrish. He stands convicted of killing his girlfriend and their 19-month old child.

In July, Corbett signed a death warrant in a case from York County. Hubert L. Michael, Jr. has been sentenced to die for kidnapping and killing Trista Eng.

While the death penalty in Pennsylvania remains an option in theory, in reality, it is a cruel chimera. We simply do not have the stomach to send convicted criminals to the speedy death that survivors of the victims may want.

The extensive legal appeals are essential in a system too easily subject to human error. The long, drawn-out process reflects the ambivalence a civilized society feels about the calculated, premeditating killing of another person in retribution for a crime.

It is time for Pennsylvania to join the other states that have recognized that the death penalty is impossible to administer with the absolute perfection that justice requires.

(source: Editorial Board, PennLive)

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Michael Parrish scheduled to die on Oct. 14 for killing girlfriend, own son----Gov. Corbett signs warrant for his execution

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed a warrant for Michael Parrish - the Effort man convicted of fatally shooting his girlfriend and 19-month-old son in 2009 - to be executed Oct. 14 by lethal injection.

Parrish, 28, was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death in 2012 for the murders of Victoria Adams, 21, and their son, Sidney Parrish, who had undergone a heart transplant months before his death.

While declining to discuss specifics about Parrish's or any other particular case, the Federal Public Defender's Office in Harrisburg, which represents death row inmates during the federal court appeal process after the state Supreme Court has upheld convictions against those inmates, said Pennsylvania executions almost never take place on their initially scheduled dates.

Once the state Supreme Court upholds a conviction against a death row inmate, the inmate has the right to file a federal Post-Conviction Relief Act motion challenging how his/her case was handled in the lower courts, according to the Federal Public Defender's Office. The inmate can also file a federal habeas corpus motion after the federal PCRA motion, challenging the state Supreme Court decision.

There have been 414 stays of execution out of the 420 execution warrants signed by Pennsylvania governors since the state's death penalty was reinstated in 1978, according to state Department of Corrections records. This is due to most of the execution warrants being signed prematurely, before death row inmates have even gotten to file federal PCRA motions, said the Federal Public Defender's Office.

On the morning of July 6, 2009, Adams left Sidney with Parrish and spent the day with family. She told her family that evening that Parrish was abusive and controlling.

Planning to tell Parrish she was going to leave him and fearing how he would react, Adams asked relatives and a friend to accompany her back to the couple's Effort apartment, planning to take Sidney and then spend the night at her family's home.

Adams entered the apartment, shortly after which Parrish came out without her and pointed a gun at her family and friend. Parrish then went back into the apartment and gunshots were heard.

When Adams' family tried to enter the apartment, Parrish shot at them, forcing them to flee in their car. Police were called and found Adams and Sidney both dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

Parrish, meanwhile, had fled the state with a friend's help, but was apprehended the next day in New Hampshire.

Parrish pleaded guilty in April 2010 to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, but later withdrew his guilty pleas and went to trial.

His defense attorneys said at trial that Parrish had been stressed out by fatherhood and his relationship with Adams. They said he suspected Adams had been cheating on him and, when he saw her return home with several strange men that evening, snapped and killed her and their son.

He was convicted in March 2012 and sentenced in May of that year. Parrish's execution warrant is the 36th of such warrants Corbett has signed since taking office in 2004, according to the Governor's Office.

State Department of Corrections records show no one from Monroe County has actually been executed under the state's current death penalty.

The last Monroe County resident sentenced to death prior to Parrish was Manuel Sepulveda, who was sentenced in 2004 for murdering 2 men with a shotgun, ax and rope in Polk Township in 2001. Sepulveda was still on death row as of Tuesday.

2 other Monroe County residents prior to Sepulveda were sentenced to death, but the penalty in their cases was vacated when the convictions against them were overturned in the higher courts, according to state records.

The last death row inmate executed in Pennsylvania was Gary Heidnik, 56, in 1999. Heidnik in the 1980s kidnapped, raped and tortured 5 women, killing 2 of them, in his Philadelphia basement.

(source: Pocono Record)

FLORIDA:

Triple homicide suspect may face death penalty

State Attorneys Offices in 2 Florida judicial circuits continue to review evidence gathered against triple-homicide suspect Derrick Thompson.

Neither has ruled out seeking the death penalty against him.

A decision in Bay County's 14th Judicial Circuit, where Thompson is accused of the July 21 killing of businessman Allen Johnson, is expected "very soon," said spokesman David Angier.

In the 1st Judicial Circuit, where Thompson faces charges of fatally shooting Milton residents Steven and Debra Zackowski July 19, the decision won't come until after State Attorney Bill Eddins secures 1st degree murder indictments.

Eddins said a grand jury will be convened to consider the indictments in about 2 weeks.

"Several weeks after that we will have a committee sit down to determine whether we'll seek the death penalty," Eddins said.

Thompson was considered a person of interest in the Zackowski slayings when Johnson's body was found July 21 inside his Panama City-area home. The truck Thompson was believed to be driving following the first killings was located at the scene of the 2nd.

The suspect, a successful salesman with an apparently serious drug problem, was taken into custody July 22 at a hunting camp near Troy, Ala.

Eddins said Thompson told him shortly after the arrest that he’d killed the Zackowskis and Johnson.

On Tuesday Thompson was arraigned in Panama City, where he has been officially charged with first degree murder and armed robbery. He entered a plea of not guilty.

Even as decisions are made concerning the death penalty, the two judicial circuits with jurisdiction in the Thompson case are working out the best strategy for prosecution, Eddins said, including deciding where Thompson will face trial 1st.

In any scenario, Eddins said, "the evidence in this case is intertwined in such a way that significant issues will have to be litigated before the court over which evidence is admissible in each case."

(source: nwfdailynews.com)

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Jury sequestered in Williams murder trial

Jurors in the Kyle Williams murder trial had a long day on Wednesday. They deliberated for 8 hours, then were sequestered for the night. They will take up deliberations again on Thursday morning.

Williams is charged with shooting Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin while he was doing a patdown 3 years ago. Williams is charged with 1st degree murder. The state is asking for the death penalty if he is convicted.

Before they began deliberations, jurors heard closing arguments in which both the state and the defense made their final points.

Assistant State Attorney Paul Wallace told jurors that Crispin's murder was premeditated, that he had time to consider his actions, and shot the officer anyway.

"He pulled the trigger without hesitation," Wallace said.

The defense told jurors the state has the wrong man. Defense attorney Chris Boldt said four young men who were at the murder scene were all gang members and friends who concocted a story about Williams to protect one of their own.

In an unusual move the defendant, Williams, asked the judge if he could testify on his own behalf. The judge said no at this point in the proceedings, and reminded Williams that the day before he told the court he did not want to take the stand.

(source: myfoxtampabay.com)

MISSISSIPPI:

Pathologist: No evidence death row inmate abused child----Jeffrey Havard has spent more than a decade on death row for a crime the state's pathologist doesn't believe took place.

Jeffrey Havard has spent more than a decade on death row for a crime the state's pathologist doesn't believe took place.

His lawyers told the state Supreme Court that Havard deserves a court hearing because pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne made statements, first to The Clarion-Ledger and then to the defense, that he told prosecutors before Havard's 2002 trial he found no evidence of sexual abuse of 6-month-old Chloe Britt. The alleged sexual abuse, the underlying felony, qualified the case for the death penalty.

"I didn't think there was a sexual assault," Hayne told The Clarion-Ledger. "I didn't see any evidence of sexual assault."

But jurors never heard that, and they convicted Havard of capital murder, sentencing him to death.

"The prosecution hid this exculpatory evidence," wrote his lawyer, Graham Carner of Jackson. "Whether (defense) trial counsel sought it or not is of no consequence."

District Attorney Ronnie Harper told The Clarion-Ledger that Hayne was probably the weakest witness the prosecution had with regard to the sexual assault allegation.

But that didn't stop prosecutors from telling jurors in 2002 that Hayne would "come and testify for you about his findings and about how he confirmed the nurses' and doctors' worst fears this child had been abused and the child had been penetrated."

Several emergency room nurses and doctors testified there was unquestionable evidence of sexual assault, saying they saw tears and rips in the child's anus.

Hayne said these statements are contradicted by the autopsy he performed and that the anal contusion he did find could have been consistent with the child passing a harder stool.

"This disagreement would be powerful testimony for a jury to hear and could very likely have led to a different result," Carner wrote.

In 2007, defense pathologist Dr. James Lauridson examined Hayne's tissue slides and also found no evidence of injury or abuse.

At the time, Havard told authorities that he didn't abuse the baby and that he dropped her accidentally after getting her out of the bathtub.

The district attorney disputed Havard's claim, saying it was impossible for the injuries to have taken place as Havard described.

At trial, Hayne testified the child died of "shaken baby syndrome."

For decades, shaken baby syndrome was widely accepted, diagnosed through a triad of symptoms: subdural bleeding (blood collecting between the brain and the skull), retinal bleeding (bleeding in the back of the eye) and brain swelling.

In the years since, medical belief that these symptoms provided ironclad proof of homicide has begun to crumble with several studies raising doubts.

In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the syndrome diagnosis be discarded and replaced with "abusive head trauma."

At the request of The Clarion-Ledger, New York pathologist Dr. Michael Baden studied the autopsy report and other materials in the 2002 death of Chloe Britt.

He found no evidence for sexual abuse or support for the shaken baby conclusion, pointing to a lack of neck or chest injuries or spine or rib fractures that suggest such abusive shaking.

Hayne told The Clarion-Ledger there was "growing evidence" his shaken baby diagnosis was "probably not correct" because shaking alone isn't able to generate enough force to cause such injuries.

The state denied hiding anything.

Havard's claims are too late, wrote lawyers for the attorney general's office.

They pointed to the fact the defense had Hayne's autopsy report before the 2002 trial and could have questioned him then about his findings.

"Havard's claims are unsupported by facts," they wrote. "Havard is entitled to no relief."

Carner responded that time doesn't bar this claim because this is new evidence. "The state cannot fail to disclose evidence and then claim Havard is barred from presenting the claim because he was not aware of the information the state concealed," he wrote.

He is seeking an evidentiary hearing - something a 3-judge panel for the state Supreme Court granted last week to Christopher Brandon, convicted in 2009 under shaken baby testimony.

(source: Clarion-Ledger)

TENNESSEE:

The Death Penalty's Hidden Damage to the Family of the Executed

It was April 19 of 2000 when Tennessee executed Robert Glen Coe. That date stands out for me the way a birthday or holiday does. Robert's family had been driving over to see him as often as they could manage. Each time they came a small group of friends would meet them at a local restaurant allowing them to debrief. This family, Billie Jean, Bonnie, Jimmy, and Frances, would stand by Robert until the drugs that snuffed out his life were administered. And when Robert was gone they would be left behind to grieve and maintain a picture of him as a beloved brother who was set up from childhood to walk a dark path.

It was 40 years since the state had executed anyone and they chose a man who was so mentally ill he was given several medications to keep him as close to sane as drugs could do. Robert was different every time someone saw him. He could be thoughtful, terribly funny at times, and then turn on a dime into an angry, difficult being. His affect said there was something not quite right with him. His sisters had seen him horrifically abused by their father. When their father would rape one of the sisters Robert would try to stop it, but he was too small. The father would turn on Robert body slamming his head into walls and throwing him into a fast flowing creek near their house before he knew how to swim. At school he was called names and bullied. When the legal team requested mercy, the poverty, abuse, and lack of local resources and intervention for this family would not be enough for the governor of Tennessee to question the insanity of Robert being strapped with a death sentence.

In 1999 the sabers began to rattle loud enough to get the machinery of death cranked up. Robert had been locked up since 1979 and for some reason the DA's office needed Robert to die 20 years later. Robert was accused of killing an 8 year old girl. Philip Workman's name, right alongside Robert's, was accused of killing a police officer in 1982. The deaths of a child and a police officer would reignite the anger of a public who knew little about the facts of either case. It became a media event.

Something happened in the minds and heart of people prior to Robert's execution. They began to ask questions. Local activists, musicians, and videographers donated their time and expertise to get a message out that something wasn't quite right. When Robert's family came to town a core group of people began to hear their story that had not been mined when Robert went to trial. At a gathering of mental health experts one psychologist who had worked on the case said to me, "It's really too bad he didn't have a family." How, I wondered, did a legal team manage to completely overlook a family? Clearly his trial attorneys had been entirely incompetent in their representation of Robert.

Once dates for an execution were set Robert's family began to come over more often and spend weekends attempting to sort out what was about to happen. A growing number of locals would show up to wish them well. At a house on Acklen Avenue near Hillsboro Village it was not uncommon for there to be a living room full of people singing and eating together with the Coes. They were from a little backwoods town in west Tennessee and quite unused to this sort of attention. We all grew on one another.

One day the family was waiting on a call from Robert while Ann Charvat and I were working on funeral arrangements. Robert called me to the phone. He wanted to know, "What's the cheapest way to bury me?" I'm aware I'm talking to a man who is in reasonably good physical health about his planned death. I tell him that it looks like cremation is the least costly. "Okay," he said. "That's what I want. I'm real worried that my family is gonna have a big price to pay and I want it to be as little as possible." His concern turned to him being pleased when he learned that several local churches were covering the cost and his family would not have to carry any of the debt. A local funeral home contributed the entire service at their cost with no profit to anyone. It was an odd victory on the way to killing a man.

In spite of the intent by the state to heap up a hateful end to Robert's life it was the kindness of friends and a few strangers who allowed him to die in relative peace. That the family would be the ones left to suffer fell on very deaf political ears. The forgiveness they have shown makes them all the more remarkable.

Robert's family continues to reach out to family members of those facing state execution in Tennessee.

Susan Hudson McBride first considered the death penalty as an issue at eight years old when her mother took her on a field trip to see Alabama's "Yellow Mama," the state's legendary electric chair. Since time she has been involved with prisons as an activist for 36 years and as part of death penalty legal teams for 12 of those years. In 1998 she began work with murder victims' family members including the loved ones of those who had been executed. Presently she is a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

(source: tnsocialjustice.worldpress.com)

OHIO:

Attorneys argue over DNA testing in the slaying of restaurant owner Jim Brennan

Attorneys on Wednesday argued over the DNA testing of 9 pieces of evidence linked to the death of Cleveland Heights restaurant owner Jim Brennan.

The DNA, brought up during a pretrial hearing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, appears to be one of the key issues in the case of the 4 men charged in Brennan's death earlier this summer. Another significant issue is whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

2 sets of brothers - Darien and Brandon Jones, as well as Devonne and Paul Turner - have pleaded not guilty to charges related to the slaying of Brennan in his restaurant. A trial date has not been set.

Defense attorney John Luskin, who represents Brandon Jones, asked Judge Maureen Clancy to allow an independent analyst to observe as state officials test the 9 DNA items. Luskin said independent observation is necessary because the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation will examine the samples in their entirety, leaving nothing for defense experts to study.

The items include 3 swabs taken from shell casings, as well as swabs taken from various door handles of a car, court records show.

Blaise Thomas, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said in court documents that each item, in its entirety, is needed for the tests. He also said the state lab has a policy that prohibits observers to be present during DNA analysis.

On Wednesday, Mahmoud Awadallah, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said his office would share the results of the testing. He said they are conducting the investigation, not defense attorneys.

Clancy said she will take the issue under consideration and rule later.

Prosecutors are expected to consider in a matter weeks whether they will seek the death penalty in the case. Clancy told Awadallah to notify her office when an internal committee of the prosecutor's office will consider the issue.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty would make the decision of whether the office would take death-penalty charges to a grand jury.

Brennan owned Brennan's Colony, a popular Cleveland Heights pub. He was shot June 30 during a robbery attempt at the restaurant. Each of the Jones brothers, as well as Devonne Turner, are charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felonious assault.

Devonne Turner also is accused of receiving stolen property and illegally possessing a weapon while a convicted felon. His brother, Paul, is charged with obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and illegally possessing a weapon while a convicted felon.

The Jones brothers are from Garfield Heights, while the Turners are from Cleveland.

Court records show that at the time of Brennan's slaying, the Turners were wanted on warrants for failing to appear for a June 4 hearing in a robbery case. In that indictment, the brothers are accused of robbing and attacking 2 people in April, records show.

On June 30, Brennan's restaurant was closed, but the owner was there prepping for the week. A woman walking by the restaurant called 9-1-1 when she heard 3 gunshots and saw 2 men running from the bar.

(source: The Plain Dealer)

INDIANA:

Victims' families on the death penalty

The Marion County Prosecutor was emotional as he announced the man accused of killing Ofc. Perry Renn would face the death penalty if convicted.

Major Davis, Jr., is accused of opening fire on Ofc. Renn with an assault rifle on July 5 after Renn responded to a 911 call. The shootout also left Davis badly wounded.

There are a lot of factors in the decision to go for capital punishment, even in a case where the victim is a police officer. While the death penalty can bring closure for some victims' families, it can also mean a decade or longer court battle, dragging out the pain of losing their loved one.

"As any parent knows, they they want their child's life to mean something," said Spencer Moore, the father of Ofc. David Moore, who was killed in the line of duty 3 years ago by 60-year-old Thomas Hardy.

At the time, Spencer and Jo Ann Moore decided prosecutors should seek the death penalty. Hate, he said, was never a factor in their decision.

"You have to avoid the hate if at all possible, because hate eats you up inside then there is no answer to hate....Being a law enforcement family, we felt it was necessary to send a message to anyone who would to want to do harm to anyone: there is the ultimate consequence," explained Moore.

But when Hardy wrote the Moores a letter asking for forgiveness, mercy and life in prison without parole, the family trusted their faith and agreed - a decision Moore said he has never regretted.

"It wasn't a relief in the sense that 'I'm not going to be killing somebody, I'm not going to be involved in it.' It was a relief in the sense that 'I'm not going to put my family through all of this'."

"This" being a trial and years of court hearings - a judicial ordeal Molly Winters did go through; an ordeal that lasted almost 17 years.

She was a young mother in 1990 when her husband, Muncie police officer Greg Winters, was murdered in the front seat of his patrol car.

Back then, life without parole was not an option. If not sentenced to death, killer Michael Lambert could have been free in 30 years.

"Citizens of Indiana need to know if they make that decision, then I have to be willing to give up my life," said Winters.

Winters gave up much of her life attending the trial, then more than a decade of appeals and hearings.

"It wasn't about officer Greg Winters killed in the line of duty," Winters said. "It's what this perpetrator deserves, what can we do to make life easier for this perpetrator while he's on death row."

Lambert was put to death 16 years after the killing. Winters and family members were inside the prison during the execution and she said it was a relief.

"No more court dates. Finally, Gregg can rest in pease because justice was served. My children and I can have peace about us."

The Moores and the Winters found themselves in similar, tragic circumstances. Despite taking different roads, both appear to have found peace, and both said the death penalty decision was among the most difficult of their lives.

(source: WTHR news)

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Death penalty sought for accused cop killer in Indianapolis

A prosecutor will seek the death penalty against a 25-year-old Indiana man accused of fatally shooting a police officer, reports CBS affiliate WISH.

Major Davis Jr. is charged with murder in the death of Officer Perry Renn on July 5 in Indianapolis, according to the station. Renn was a 22-year veteran of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Davis has pleaded not guilty in the case.

According to the probable cause affidavit, police arrived at the scene on the city's east side to find the suspect armed with an AK-47-style weapon. Officers said he initially refused to show his hands and then began firing at them. Police returned fire. An autopsy revealed that Renn was struck by 3 rounds during the shootout and died after one of the bullets pierced his right lung and heart.

Davis was critically injured in the firefight, the affidavit states. The gun he used was reportedly purchased by his mother.

"It is clear that there are those in our city who believe that our police officers are fair game," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. "Make no mistake, we will prosecute you to the maximum extent possible under the law."

WISH reports Curry said that 2 aggravating circumstances support a death penalty case: that Davis allegedly killed Renn while the victim was on-duty and that the murder was motivated by an act the officer carried out in the course of his responsibility as a policeman.

"I want to thank Prosecutor Terry Curry and his office for their careful consideration of all the facts before making this difficult decision," Renn's wife, Lynn, said in a statement.

Davis is due back in court Sept. 3 for a pre-trial hearing, according to the station.

(source: CBS news)

ARIZONA:

Would a jury find state of Arizona guilty of murder?

There are 14 aggravating factors the state of Arizona can use to convince a jury to impose a death sentence.

One of the most popular - if that is the right word - is No. 6, which reads: "The defendant committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner."

(It's what the Jodi Arias sentencing trial will focus on.)

If a jury believes that the manner in which a defendant killed someone fits No. 6's rather broad description then the state of Arizona can kill him. Or her.

It's a huge decision, which is why we make sure it is made by an impartial, independent group of citizens.

But what happens if the way we killed a killer also fits the description of aggravating factor No. 6?

It seemed possible in the case of convicted murderer Joseph Wood.

According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed Wood's execution, the condemned man started gasping a few minutes after intravenous lines were run into his arms and the deadly chemicals introduced.

"I counted about 640 times he gasped," Kiefer said. "That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49. ... I just know it was not efficient. It took a long time."

Reporter Troy Hayden of Fox 10 News, another of the witnesses, said it was "very disturbing to watch ... like a fish on shore gulping for air. At a certain point, you wondered whether he was ever going to die."

This is not about trying to make anyone feel sorry for Wood.

The man was a murderer. In 1989 he hunted down and shot to death his former girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz. He was convicted of the crime. The citizens of the state of Arizona decided to execute him.

We executed him.

But the manner in which we execute killers shouldn't fit the same "heinous, cruel or depraved" criteria we used to condemn him.

Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered an investigation of what went wrong, but she's allowing the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to conduct it and then to present its findings to an outside expert for review.

Not exactly an "independent" inquiry.

Once the bid for that contract went out Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, issued a statement that reads in part: "Arizona must do what it promised: conduct a truly independent review of Joseph Wood's execution...

"Arizona's review must be conducted openly and must allow for public scrutiny. But as outlined by ADC, the scope of the work apparently will be conducted in secret and rushed to completion within 30 days. This will not result in a full and transparent investigation promised by ADC."

Should we care? It is not like Jeanne Brown, a relative of the victims said after witnessing Wood's execution? She said, "Everybody here said it was excruciating. You don't know what excruciating is. Seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood, that's excruciating."

She's right. And it's true as well that a jury decided Wood's crime was heinous, cruel and depraved.

It's just that an independent investigator - truly independent - could make sure that the way we punish killers like Wood doesn't also meet the specifications of aggravating factor No. 6.

(source: Column, EJ Montini, Arizona Republic)

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Jury selection for Jodi Arias penalty phase retrial set for Sept. 29

An Arizona judge on Wednesday granted Jodi Arias' motion to delay the start of her planned Sept. 8 penalty phase retrial.

Arias briefly addressed the judge Wednesday morning before the courtroom was closed to the media and public. The judge then granted Arias' request, setting a new retrial date for Sept. 29.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors declined to comment.

Arias, who is now serving as her own attorney, argued that she needed more time to interview an expert witness she plans to call during the retrial.

The 34-year-old former waitress was convicted of murder last year in the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on her sentence. Under Arizona law, prosecutors have the option of putting on a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure a death sentence.

If the new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed as an option. The judge would then sentence Arias to spend her entire life behind bars or be eligible for release after 25 years.

Arias has acknowledged killing Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home, but she said it was self-defense. He was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the head.

Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.

Judge Sherry Stephens previously granted Arias' motion to serve as her own attorney after conflicts arose with 1 of her 2 court-appointed lawyers over trial strategy. Attorney Kirk Nurmi then sought to quit the case, noting in a motion that "a completely fractured relationship between counsel (and client) now exists."

Stephens denied his request. Both lawyers will remains on as advisers.

A hearing in the case is set for Sept. 4.

(source: KTAR news)

CALIFORNIA:

Suspect in Marine wife's slaying may have feared she was pregnant

Authorities revealed graphic details in the case of a former Marine arrested on suspicion of killing the wife of a fellow Marine and throwing her body down an abandoned mine shaft.

The former Marine, Christopher Lee, 24, was arrested Sunday in Anchorage in the disappearance and death of Erin Corwin, 19, the wife of a fellow Marine at the base at Twentynine Palms.

Lee and Corwin were having an affair and Lee may have been worried that Corwin was pregnant and would tell his wife, according to investigators.

Corwin's body was found Saturday in an abandoned mine shaft in a rugged, desolate part of the desert southeast of the Marine base. It is unclear what led investigators to the mine shaft.

In a July search warrant, investigators alleged that Lee's wife, Nicole, told a friend that her husband told her that Corwin's body would not be found and that without a body, no criminal case could be made.

According to the arrest warrant, Lee had searched the Internet and had asked an unidentified friend "the best way to dispose of a human body."

Lee remains in jail in Anchorage awaiting extradition proceedings.

San Bernardino County prosecutors filed charges against Lee of murder and murder by lying in wait. The latter could carry the death penalty if Lee is convicted.

According to the arrest warrant, posted on the district attorney's website, .22-caliber cartridge casings found near Corwin's body match cartridge casings found in Lee's Jeep and his apartment on base.

Also, pieces of rebar recovered near the body match rebar found in Lee's Jeep, according to the arrest warrant.

Corwin disappeared June 28. During the 7-week search for her, Lee received a discharge from the Marine Corps and moved with his wife and daughter to his home state of Alaska.

He quickly came under suspicion. After investigators had searched his home, he was charged with possession of an explosive device but posted bail and left for Alaska.

Christopher and Nicole Lee lived in the same on-base family housing complex for enlisted personnel as Erin Corwin and her husband, Cpl. Jonathan Corwin.

Christopher Lee and Erin Corwin loved horses and volunteered at the White Rock Horse Rescue ranch in nearby Yucca Valley.

According to the search warrant, tire tracks matching Lee's Jeep were found near where Corwin's car was discovered 2 days after her disappearance.

Also, Lee promised Corwin that the two would be taking a "special" trip together after meeting June 28, the arrest warrant said.

"It is believed Lee picked Corwin up from the location where her vehicle was located," according to the arrest warrant. "Such evidence tends to lead detectives to believe Lee was the last person to have contact with Corwin, at the time of her disappearance."

(source: Los Angeles Times)

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

Jurors get death-penalty case----Jurors consider death for ex-Marine, 1 of 4 who murdered couple

Jurors began deliberating Wednesday whether the last of 4 men who murdered a Marine Corps sergeant and his wife in their French Valley home in 2008 should receive the death penalty.

Kesaun Kedron Sykes, 27, 1 of 4 former Camp Pendleton Marines convicted in the case, was found guilty this month of murder, robbery and sexual assault.

Sykes faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole for what prosecutor Daniel DeLimon called "a prolonged and sadistic murder."

During his closing argument in a Riverside courtroom, DeLimon described Sykes and his cohorts as "predators and monsters" who took pleasure in the suffering of others. He said they threw away their careers as Marines for a life of crime "to have a rush, to have a thrill."

He showed jurors a slide show of photos from the victims' lives and video of the couple proclaiming their love for each other at their wedding just a couple of months before their deaths. It brought their mothers in the courtroom audience and several jurors to tears.

DeLimon asked jurors to choose the death penalty.

"Because it's the right thing to do," he said. "Because it's the punishment that fits the crime."

Defense attorney Douglas Myers urged jurors to consider Sykes' relatively young age at the time, abuse he suffered as a young child and his lesser role in the murders.

"He didn't kill anyone," Myers said. "He didn't pull the trigger."

"Is life without parole not an adequate punishment for Kesaun?" he asked.

Last year, Kevin Cox, 26, Emrys John, 24, and Tyrone Miller, 26, were found guilty of murder in the deaths of the couple. John and Miller were sentenced to death. Cox received life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24, and Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, were newlyweds and had been living in their house on Bermuda Street in French Valley for only a few months when four Marines armed with guns came to their door early on Oct. 15, 2008, prosecutors have said.

Several hours later, the couple's bodies were found in their ransacked home with gunshot wounds to their heads. Jenkins-Pietrzak was naked, bound and had been sexually assaulted. There was duct tape wrapped around her head and spray paint on her body. Her husband had been beaten, hogtied and gagged with a sock.

They had been shot through couch cushions to muffle the sound. Small fires had been set in an apparent attempt to burn down the house. There were racial slurs spray-painted around the home, which one of the defendants later said were intended to mislead investigators.

Cox, John and Miller all worked with Pietrzak - a helicopter mechanic - at one time while stationed at Camp Pendleton.

DeLimon asked jurors to imagine what went through the victims' minds during their ordeal. How did Pietrzak feel realizing he had made the "horrible mistake" of opening the door to the murderers, he said.

"What was it like for her to feel a cushion and know that she was next?" DeLimon said.

"They tortured them in the worst way."

(source: Associated Press)

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Gene McCurdy death sentence upheld

The death penalty verdict against Gene McCurdy was affirmed last week by the California Supreme Court. McCurdy was sentenced to death row in 1997 after a jury convicted him of kidnapping and murdering 8-year-old Maria Piceno.

Maria disappeared on March 27, 1995 after her mother sent her to buy groceries at a store, just blocks away from their Lemoore apartment.

She never returned home and was instead found dead 2 weeks later floating in a creek near Bakersfield. Autopsy reports concluded that she had died from suffocation.

McCurdy, who was a Navy Petty Officer 1st class stationed in Lemoore, was ultimately arrested in connection with her death. He was taken into custody while on deployment in Japan and transported back to Kings County.

At trial, McCurdy admitted to being at the shopping center where Maria disappeared, but denied having any involvement in her murder.

Evidence and court testimonies presented by the prosecution proved otherwise and a jury subsequently convicted McCurdy of 1st degree murder, kidnapping and kidnapping with the purpose to commit a lewd act on a child under the age of 14. The jury found true the special allegation of kidnapping murder and sentenced him to death.

For over a decade, 54-year-old McCurdy has waited on death row at San Quentin State Prison for an appeal decision from the state. Kings County Chief Deputy District Attorney Larry Crouch believes his future legal proceedings will take just as long.

"While this is a major step in the legal process, the fact that it took roughly 18 years to get here is a clear demonstration of the problems with the system," Crouch said in an emailed statement.

(source: Hanford Sentinel)

WASHINGTON:

Fugitive sex offender could face death penalty in killing of 2 Pierce County men

A fugitive sex offender from California faces a possible death sentence in Washington after being charged with the state's highest crime in the beating deaths of his two Pierce County roommates over the weekend.

Not guilty pleas were entered Wednesday on behalf of Richard Earl Atkisson, 40, to 2 counts of aggravated 1st-degree murder in the deaths of Joseph Moisa, 66, and Michael Henderson, 20.

Superior Court Judge Phil Sorensen ordered Atkisson held without bail.

Deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer notified Atkisson and his attorneys that Prosecutor Mark Lindquist is considering whether to seek the death penalty for Atkisson if he is convicted as charged.

Under state law, the prosecutor has 30 days to make such a decision, unless, as is usually the case, a judge extends the deadline to allow defense attorneys more time to compile a mitigation package arguing for life in prison instead.

Atkisson was arrested Sunday after a Pierce County sheriff's deputy verifying the addresses of local sex offenders found Moisa and Henderson dead inside a home in the 7700 block of 200th Street East, which is in the Frederickson area.

Deputies later found Atkisson in another part of the county standing near Moisa's car, court records show. Atkisson had Moisa's ID card in his pocket, the records state.

Atkisson, who was being sought on a warrant for failing to register as a sex offender in California, allegedly admitted to detectives that he killed the men.

"He said that he thought about it and planned it for about a day, and then he killed them the following day," Ausserer wrote in a declaration of probable cause. "The defendant told the detectives he saw Mr. Moisa developing sexual relationships with young men, and he could not handle it."

Sheriff's officials have said authorities have no information that Moisa or Henderson were grooming boys for sex.

Moisa had a conviction for a sex offense, also from California, but detectives had no information he was committing sex crimes in Pierce County. It was his address the original deputy was verifying Sunday.

Atkisson told detectives he attacked Moisa while the he slept and then attacked Henderson when he heard the commotion and entered Moisa's bedroom to see what was going on, court records show.

(source: News-Tribune)

USA:

An Interview with Capital Punishment Scholar Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College, is one of the preeminent capital punishment scholars in the nation. His most recent book, Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty, examines botched executions throughout American history. We spoke with him to discuss the recent botched execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona, the history capital punishment in America, and the future of the abolition movement.

After researching botched executions throughout history, what can you tell us about the recent botched execution of Joseph Wood? Was it exceptional or more commonplace than we might expect?

If you look over the course of the 20th century and into the early 21st century, 3% of all American executions have been botched. That includes executions by hanging, firing squad, lethal gas, electrocution and lethal injection. The mere fact of a botched execution is not a surprise; botched executions are part of the American story of capital punishment. In the period from 1977 and early 1980s forward, where lethal injection has become the predominant mode of execution, 7% of all lethal injections have been botched. So, one shouldn't be surprised when executions go wrong. Now, how they go wrong is quite varied. The botched execution, as I define it, is an execution that departs from legal protocol or from customary or standard operating procedure. The Wood execution and the other recent botched executions need to be seen as a part of this broader picture.

What about in terms of time? It took about an hour and 57 minutes.

It took a long time for him to die. There have been other executions, even in recent time, that went on for a very long period of time too. And there was the failed execution of Romell Broom in Ohio. So, I don't think what makes it exceptional is just the length of time - I'll explain what I mean by that. Throughout the 20th century, botched executions have not played a large role in the national conversation about whether we should retain the death penalty. They have played a role in moving us from one technology to another. If you look at what was happening in the late 19th century with hanging - that was part of a story that fueled the movement towards electricity as the method of execution. And if you look at the early 1920s, part of the story about why we used lethal gas had to do with the gruesome failures of hanging. And if we fast forward to the late 1970s and early 1980s, the failures and fact that people being executed caught on fire was part of the reason why lethal injection was adopted. But what makes the recent spate of botched executions different, is the context in which they're happening now. In the past, botched execution would be written off as mere accidents, having nothing to do with the rest of the death penalty system. Today, botched executions fit a rather coherent narrative of systemic failure in the death penalty system as a whole. They fit a story. They fit the story of the risk of convicting and executing the innocent. They fit a story of the risk of arbitrariness and racial discrimination in the penalty phase. They fit a story of the excruciating and systemic delays, which have plagued places like California. So, I don't want to focus on the length of time it took him to die, and say that's what made it exceptional. The exceptional quality of these executions is that they're exceptionally important now in the national conversation about whether we should have the death penalty at all.

Do you worry that the national dialogue surrounding these botched executions might be pushing us towards a different execution method instead of pushing us towards full abolition of capital punishment? Or is the kind of media attention we're seeing really that distinct enough that it could be considered a really different dialogue than what we've had in the past?

I think it's different in a lot of ways. There isn't a new technology over the horizon to replace lethal injection. And the idea of going back to electrocution or the firing squad is a sign of the difficulties that proponents of the death penalty find themselves in today. I think that proponents of the death penalty are, in a broad way, on the defensive because the conversation has changed. In the past, the conversation about the death penalty was often about the people we were seeking to execute and their crimes, the conversation today is as much about those who punish, about the society that seeks to punish, and about who we want to be. Do we want to be a society that risks executing the innocent? Do we want to be a society that risks executing people because of the race of their victim? Do we want to be a society that keeps people on death row endlessly? Do we want to be a society in which 3%-7% is an acceptable error rate?

Predictions are just predictions; they're not worth a whole lot. So, I'm not in a position where I can say I can predict where and how the death penalty will end in the United States, but the trends are pretty clear. We seem to be on the road toward abolition. And that process is not going to be quick, and it's not going to be smooth. It will be a little bit of a two steps forward one step backward process. But as I was saying, botched executions now fit a story, and that's the story of a broken machine. I think the conversation about capital punishment in the United States is about trying to come to terms with this broken machine.

How would you describe this broken machine as a professor who studies law? Are there real constitutional violations that we're talking about here or is this more of a moral shift among the public?

I would say it's neither legal nor moral in the first instance. What's shifting, I would say, is the politics of the death penalty. You don't have to have high moral commitments to say, favor the death penalty but not want to risk executing the innocent, or favor the death penalty but not want to risk executing people on the basis on the race of their victim, or favor the death penalty but not want to live in a society in which the way we put people to death seems to be unreliable and gruesome. I would say the political landscape has changed in that way. In fact, part of what's moved the conversation is that we've moved away from a high moralism about these questions and towards a more realistic, practical, and political look at the way the death penalty system works. I, of course, think there are substantial legal issues that are associated with the death penalty in the United States. The United States Supreme Court got it wrong in McCleskey vs. Kemp in my view. The United States Supreme Court got it wrong in Baze vs. Reese in my view. The litigation going on all around the country today governing drug protocols have substantial legal issues. But what's moving the conversation is that we're talking about the death penalty that we have, not the death penalty that we hope we have. We're now focused on the practical realities of what happens when we try to live with a system in which we put people to death.

As the abolition movement progresses, do you think other framings of this issue - such as conviction error, the possibility of innocence, and mental illness - are going to start to take prominence. Or are botched execution a unique event that draws a lot of national media attention to this issue?

In a way, executions in the early 20th century are not supposed to make headlines. They're supposed to be back page stories. So whatever brings executions to the front pages, that's a kind of breach of the routinization of capital punishment in the United States. These botched executions help to break that routinization. But I believe it's because the narrative all fits together. It's not just about innocence, it's not just about race, it's not just about mental disability, it's not just about the delays, it's not just about botched executions. I studied newspaper reports of botched executions over the course of the 20th century, and generally botched executions were treated as isolated events and as misfortunes rather than injustices. They'd say "oh the executioner was drunk" or "the electrode wasn't screwed on tight enough." So there's been a tendency to say it's just an accident. But my work shows that the frequency of the accident is 3% over the course of the 20th century and 7% for lethal injections. If you look at it state by state over the period from 1980 to 2010, I estimate that in a state like Ohio or North Carolina, 18% of their executions were botched in some way. It's the coherence of the story, rather than the individual elements that I think changed the climate in the United States.

(source: NCADP)

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Killer instincts: capital punishment in America

50 years ago, on 13 August in 1964, Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans were hanged at Walton Prison in Liverpool and Strangeways Prison, Manchester, respectively, for the murder of John West. Those were the last executions in Britain, and attempts to reinstate capital punishment have never come close to success. Over the years, British students looking at theories of punishment have become increasingly surprised that it took so long to abolish; American students are another matter.

In fact, British governments never liked the finality that the European Convention on Human Rights brought in 1998. Successive acts of parliament left a steadily diminishing number of capital crimes. The great sweeps were in the 19th century, when more than 200 capital crimes - ranging from poaching, forgery and theft of goods worth more than 5 shillings, all the way up to treason and piracy on the high seas - were reduced by stages to the handful we take for granted: varieties of murder, desertion and treason. Treason included attempting to alter the succession to the throne; therefore, adultery with the wife of the heir to the throne (although not with the heir himself) was a capital crime until 1998 and the introduction of the Human Rights Act. That act abolished the death penalty except in time of war.

Popularity of the death penalty drops when the dead are proved innocent and rises when a horrific crime occurs

The spectacular aspects of capital punishment were abolished. Pirates were not hanged in chains at London's Execution Dock after 1834; public hangings went in 1868, as did beheading for treason, although no one had been executed by beheading since the 18th century. 19th-century arguments over the death penalty were surprisingly similar to those that preceded the Homicide Act of 1957 and the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965. They are not much like those you still hear in the US.

Parliamentary discussion in the 1860s usually boiled down to deterrence. "Usually" because some distinguished judges emphasised the moral aspect of punishment; when society punishes an offence, it does not set a price on misconduct, but engages in what Fitzjames Stephen in the 19th century and Lord Denning in the 20th called "emphatic denunciation". Some actions are beyond the pale, and punishment says so. How that justifies hanging poachers is another question; so is the question of why we don't leave denunciation to the occupants of the pulpit rather than the bench, and lock up malefactors for the sake of the public peace.

But the discussion of deterrence elicited some curious arguments. John Stuart Mill defended the death penalty on the grounds that criminals thought - irrationally - that it was the worst of punishments, and were deterred; executing them was justified because it was more humane than leaving them to rot in jail. It was a very odd argument from the author of On Liberty. In the run-up to the abolition of the death penalty in 1965, writers to The Times would sometimes insist that they were deterred by the death penalty, unlikely as it seemed that the 7.36 from Tunbridge Wells was full of bowler-hatted would-be murderers, held in check by fear of the rope.

It is not clear even now whether the death penalty has more or less deterrent effect than other penalties. In any case, the death penalty was abolished in most countries without majority support; its popularity drops when the dead are proved innocent and rises when a horrific crime occurs. When it has gone, people get used to its absence. So why are some US states attached to it to the point of addiction? Think of July's botched execution in Arizona. Joseph Wood was executed for a crime committed 25 years ago. Quite aside from the hour and 57 minutes it took to kill him - it took 15 doses of the lethal cocktail - he had already served the life sentence that Mill thought worse than death before being killed. Arizonans were unmoved; he was a nasty piece of work and the world was better off without him.

My guess - which suggests that the Human Rights Act would not get far in the US - is that the combination of race, religion and an obsession with rights is the obstacle to change. The right to life does not exclude capital punishment; like all rights, it can be forfeited; execution is not "cruel and unusual" and therefore doesn’t fall foul of the Constitution; all American churches are against the death penalty, but believers think God commands it (although they are more selective than He was); and, of course, black Americans are much more likely to be executed than whites.

Long ago, I taught a week-long seminar on the topic in Oklahoma, a state that recently came close to impeaching its own Supreme Court when it granted a stay of execution to a prisoner scheduled to die. I hid my abolitionist prejudices; and I'm not sure that we have a human right not to be executed, so I didn't wheel out the European Convention. The class was quiet and thoughtful, but committed to the view that some crimes just deserved death, that families had a right to "finality" - not having to share the world with someone who had killed a relative - and that dead people cannot reoffend.

They retreated only in the face of the expense involved. What makes defenders of capital punishment support it - the view that "death is different" - means that trials cost more, appeals are more elaborate, and keeping prisoners on death row costs about 50,000 pounds a year more than simply imprisoning them. The Wild West illusion that a man can be convicted on Monday and hanged on Tuesday persists; when it is dispelled, people think of the other things the state might do with the money. Then they begin to change their minds. Sometimes it's good to see money eroding moral conviction.

(source: Alan Ryan is emeritus professor of political theory at the University of Oxford and visiting professor of philosophy at Stanford University; timeshighereducation.co.uk)

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Guilty Plea Expected by Marathon Suspect's Friend

A college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev plans to plead guilty to impeding the investigation into the deadly attack.

Dias Kadyrbayev, 20, is accused of removing a backpack containing emptied-out fireworks from Tsarnaev's dorm room after realizing he was suspected of carrying out the 2013 attack with his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Prosecutors said Kadyrbayev and another friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, decided to take the items from Tsarnaev's room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth several days after 2 bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon, killing 3 people and injuring more than 260. The items, along with Tsarnaev's laptop computer, were removed hours after the FBI publicly released photographs of Tsarnaev and his brother as suspects in the bombing.

Kadyrbayev was scheduled to go on trial next month on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges.

An electronic notice filed Wednesday said Kadyrbayev is expected to be in court Thursday for a change-of-plea hearing. His lawyer, Robert Stahl, confirmed that he intends to plead guilty, but wouldn't say whether he would admit to one or both charges. Stahl also declined to say whether he and prosecutors have agreed on a joint sentencing recommendation.

Tazhayakov was convicted last month of agreeing with the plan to remove the items.

The charges against both Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

During Tazhayakov's trial, witnesses said Kadyrbayev took the backpack and threw it in the trash.

Prosecutors said the items were removed from Tsarnaev's room hours after Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev saying he could go to his dorm room and "take what's there."

The backpack and fireworks were recovered later in a New Bedford landfill. Prosecutors said the fireworks had been emptied of explosive powder that can be used to make bombs.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police several days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. His trial is scheduled to begin in November.

A 3rd college friend, Robel Phillipos, of Cambridge, is charged with lying to federal investigators. He is scheduled to go on trial next month.

(source: Associated Press)

INDIA:

Death for hijack on the cards

A draft bill providing for death penalty to hijackers and empowering security forces to shoot down aircraft that could be used as a missile to hit vital installations may be brought in Parliament's next session.

"The civil aviation and law ministries are taking a fresh look at the much-delayed anti-hijacking (amendment) bill to amend the 1982 act and bring it in tune with international legislation and resolutions," civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said today.

"There is a bill already introduced in the Rajya Sabha (in 2010). But since then, the definition of hijack has changed globally. So, in line with those changes and practices world-wide, a fresh draft is being prepared."

Government officials said the draft bill would be introduced in Parliament after it was cleared by the cabinet. "In the next session, we will be in a position to take it through," said Raju.

The Centre's efforts to incorporate elements from global anti-hijack legislation and update the Indian law are, however, gathering pace almost 15 years after the 1999 hijack of Air India Flight IC-814 to Kandahar. The September 11, 2001, terror strikes in the US, in which hijacked airliners were used as missiles to crash into the Twin Towers, are also being kept in mind.

The draft bill proposes to enhance the scope of the Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, by including death penalty for hijackers, sources said. At present, hijacking is punishable with imprisonment for life and a fine.

The bill would give teeth to agencies or security forces to immobilise a hostile aircraft and empower the Indian Air Force to intercept a hijacked aircraft and force it to land. A hostile plane could also be shot down if there was evidence that it could be used as a missile to hit a vital installation, the sources said.

The legislation would ensure that anyone, alone or in concert with others, who committed acts like seizure or control of an aircraft by force or any form of intimidation would be deemed to have committed the offence of hijacking.

It would also empower agencies and security forces to take stern action against those making hoax threat calls.

The bill, pending in the Rajya Sabha since August 2010 after a standing committee on transport gave its recommendations, was cleared by the cabinet headed by Manmohan Singh in March 2010.

In its report, the standing committee endorsed the provision to award capital punishment to abettors and conspirators committing any act defined as hijacking. A group of ministers headed by then home minister P. Chidambaram had pushed the measure.

(source: Calcutta Telegraph)

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India court puts on hold sisters' execution ---- The sisters had lodged an appeal against the execution in the Mumbai High Court

A court in India has put on hold the execution of 2 sisters convicted of murdering children they kidnapped and forced to beg and steal, a lawyer said.

Renuka Shinde, 45, and her step-sister Seema Gavit, 39, were convicted of carrying out the crimes in the state of Maharashtra between 1994 and 1996.

They kidnapped 13 children from train stations, temples, fairs and gardens and killed at least 5 of them.

Few women have been given the death penalty, which is rarely carried out.

In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentences, saying it did not find "any mitigating circumstances in favour of these women except for the fact they are women".

The court said the nature of the crime and the systematic way in which each child was kidnapped and killed "demonstrated the depravity of mind" of those accused.

Police recovered the bodies of 5 murdered children - all aged between 1 and 5 years old.

The sisters had lodged an appeal in the Mumbai High Court on Tuesday on the grounds that the 13-year delay in carrying out the death sentence was excessive.

"The high court has admitted their petition questioning the inordinate delay in carrying out the sentence," Sudeep Jaiswal, the women's lawyer, told the AFP news agency.

In a landmark ruling this year, the Supreme Court said "inordinate and inexplicable" delays in carrying out executions were grounds for commuting death sentences

The high court has now fixed 9 September for the next hearing.

In the last 2 years there have been 2 hangings in India.

Mohammed Ajmal Qasab, the sole surviving attacker from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was executed in November 2012 in a prison in the western city of Pune.

In February 2013, a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, was hanged in Delhi's Tihar jail for the 2001 attack on India's parliament.

(source: BBC news)

MALAYSIA:

2 face death penalty for trafficking drugs in Sabah

2 men aged 24 and 40, are facing face the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.

Separately arrested recently, the duo, had apparently been renting a unit at the Grace Court Apartment in Sembulan, here for the past 6 months and turned it into a drug packaging factory for distribution in and around the city.

Sabah Narcotics Department chief Supt Rahim Dolmat, in describing this as one of the biggest busts this year, today disclosed that they seized about 1.01kg of methamphetamine from one of the suspects and at the apartment during a raid on Tuesday.

"The 1st suspect, a 24-year-old local, was picked at the parking lot area on Tuesday at around 3pm, and we found 100g of the crystal like substance, or syabu, packed in two packets, in his pocket.

"He later led us to their unit, where we found another 18 packets of syabu, weighing 910g. The methamphetamines are worth about RM180,000 in the market," he said.

Apart from the drugs, police also seized several other paraphernalia, including electronic weighing scales, packaging machines and plastic bags at the apartment.

Rahim said the 2nd suspect might had seen police arresting his accomplice and fled the area, only to be arrested later upon his arrival at the KLIA2 in Sepang yesterday.

"We are waiting for the 2nd accomplice to be sent here to probe into the case further. We want to catch the mastermind behind the syndicate," he told reporters at a press conference at the state police headquarters in Kepayan, today.

Initial investigations revealed that the duo had been getting their supplies from Peninsular Malaysia, and was linked to a syndicate there.

"We are investigating their modus operandi and how they managed to sneak in the drugs into Sabah," he said, adding the case is investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952 for trafficking, which carries the mandatory death by hanging, if found guilty.

Rahim added that drug cases have seen an increase in the first eight months this year compared to the same period in 2013.

"We have arrested a total of 11 drug traffickers this year. 1,581 have been detained for possession and 7,303 tested positive for drugs between Jan 1 to Aug 20 this year, which is an increase compared to the same period last year," he said, without providing last year's statistics.

He said the police had been working extra hard to curb drug trafficking and abuse in the state and called on the public to notify them if they know of such activities in their area.

(source: The Rakyat Post)

SOMALIA:

7 al Shabaab members receive death penalty

The military court convicted 13 more people yesterday. 7 were sentences to death as they were accused of jointly killing a prison inmate who was called Abdiaziz Muhidin Hiraabe.

The military court convicted 13 more people yesterday. 7 were sentences to death as they were accused of jointly killing a prison inmate who was called Abdiaziz Muhidin Hiraabe.

The others were sentenced to life time imprisonment. The names of those sentenced to death are Hassan Farah Jiinow, Faarah Mohamed Osman, Abdikaafi Sheikh Mohamud, Mohamed Adan Hassan, Abdirahman Dahir Farah, Abdiqadir Aweys Omar and Farah Adan Dhore.

The spokesman said that the individuals sentenced to life in prison can take appeal within three weeks starting from the date their verdict was reached.

(source: mareeg.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Surge in Executions----19 Beheaded in 17 Days; 8 for Nonviolent Offenses

Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious. There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia's continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes.

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 19 people since August 4, 2014. Local news reports indicate that eight of those executed were convicted of nonviolent offenses, 7 for drug smuggling and 1 for sorcery.

Family members of another man, Hajras bin Saleh al-Qurey, told Human Rights Watch on August 17 that they fear his execution is imminent. The Public Court of Najran, in southern Saudi Arabia, sentenced al-Qurey to death by beheading on January 16, 2013 for allegedly smuggling drugs and attacking a police officer during his arrest.

"Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. "There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia's continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes."

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Saudi government news agency, on August 18, authorities executed 4 Saudi men in Najran province. A court had previously convicted the men - identified as Hadi al-Mutlaq, Awadh al-Mutlaq, Mufreh al-Yami, and Ali al-Yami - of attempting to smuggle hashish into the country.

Between August 4 and August 14, the press agency and local news outlets reported that authorities beheaded three other men across the country for drug smuggling, including 1 Saudi, 1 Syrian, and 1 Pakistani. Authorities publicly beheaded another Saudi man, Mohammed bin Bakr al-Alawi, on August 5 in al-Jawf Province for allegedly practicing sorcery, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Al-Qurey's family members told Human Rights Watch that they fear he will face public beheading amid the recent surge of executions. According to his trial judgment, which Human Rights Watch has reviewed, police arrested al-Qurey and his son Mohammed on January 7, 2012, at the al-Khadra border crossing with Yemen, after customs officers tried to stop them on suspicion of drug smuggling. Prosecutors alleged that al-Qurey struck police and civilian vehicles with his car as he sought to flee and violently resisted arrest, including assaulting a police officer with a knife.

According to the trial judgment, al-Qurey's son confessed to smuggling drugs, but said his father was unaware that drugs were in the car. He also told the court that investigators had placed him in solitary confinement to pressure him to confess. Al-Qurey also claimed investigators abused him in pretrial detention, beating him and insulting him to pressure him to confess to the crime, although he has insisted throughout that he is innocent.

Al-Qurey also claimed in court that he could not recall the details of his arrest because he suffered from a mental disability. The court commissioned a medical examination to determine if al-Qurey could be held criminally responsible for his actions. The examining doctors found that al-Qurey had symptoms of mental illness, including auditory hallucinations, but concluded that he should be held criminally liable, the trial judgment stated. In January 2013, the court sentenced al-Qurey to death and his son to 20 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. A Saudi appeals court and the kingdom's Supreme Court later upheld al-Qurey's death sentence, family members said.

International standards require countries that retain the death penalty to use it only for the "most serious crimes," and in exceptional circumstances. In all cases, those sentenced to death should have the right to seek pardon or commutation of their sentence. In 1996, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions stated explicitly that the death penalty should be eliminated for drug-related offenses.

The Death Penalty Worldwide Database, which collects information on executions across the globe, shows that Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, and applies the death penalty to a range of offenses that do not constitute "most serious crimes," including drug offenses, adultery, sorcery, and apostasy. According to media reports, Saudi Arabia has executed at least 34 people in 2014, including the 19 between August 4 and August 20. According to Agence France-Presse, Saudi Arabia executed at least 78 people in 2013.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

In 2013, following similar resolutions in 2007, 2008, and 2010, the UN General Assembly called on countries to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, progressively restrict the practice, and reduce the offenses for which it might be imposed, all with the view toward its eventual abolition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has also called on countries to abolish the death penalty.

"The current surge in executions in Saudi Arabia is yet another dark stain on the kingdom's human rights record," Whitson said.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

GERMANY/CHINA:

Germany seeks to overturn China death penalty

Germany said it would fight a death sentence against one of its citizens convicted for murder in China, reports said Wednesday. The convicted man, who wasn't named in the reports, was found to have killed his former girlfriend from Venezuela and her new boyfriend on a street in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen in 2010, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur. The crime was committed with a hammer and knife, and the killer later tried but failed to commit suicide, the DPA report said. German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said his country would seek to have the sentence withdrawn, according to Agence France-Presse. "The German government categorically opposes all forms of capital punishment... and this of course applies all the more so when German nationals are threatened with the death penalty abroad," AFP quoted Schaefer as saying.

(source: MarketWatch)

AUGUST 20, 2014:

ARIZONA:

Judge Delays Start of Arias Penalty-Phase Retrial

An Arizona judge on Wednesday granted Jodi Arias' motion to delay the start of her planned Sept. 8 penalty phase retrial.

Arias briefly addressed the judge Wednesday morning before the courtroom was closed to the media and public. The judge then granted Arias' request, setting a new retrial date for Sept. 29.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors declined comment.

Arias, who is now serving as her own attorney, argued that she needed more time to interview an expert witness she plans to call during the retrial.

The 34-year-old former waitress was convicted of murder last year in the 2008 killing of her ex-boyfriend, but jurors couldn't reach a decision on her sentence. Under Arizona law, prosecutors have the option of putting on a second penalty phase with a new jury in an effort to secure a death sentence.

If the new jury fails to reach a unanimous decision, the death penalty will be removed as an option. The judge would then sentence Arias to spend her entire life behind bars or be eligible for release after 25 years.

Arias has acknowledged killing Travis Alexander at his suburban Phoenix home, but she said it was self-defense. He was stabbed nearly 30 times, had his throat slit and was shot in the head.

Prosecutors argued it was premeditated murder carried out in a jealous rage when Alexander wanted to end their affair.

Judge Sherry Stephens previously granted Arias' motion to serve as her own attorney after conflicts arose with one of her two court-appointed lawyers over trial strategy. Attorney Kirk Nurmi then sought to quit the case, noting in a motion that "a completely fractured relationship between counsel (and client) now exists."

Stephens denied his request. Both lawyers will remains on as advisers.

A hearing in the case is set for Sept. 4.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

Death penalty does not deter criminals

After reading Mr. O'Dowd's recent letter where he would like to see the death penalty reinstated using the guillotine, I think he should look at a few facts regarding the death penalty.

First, the few states that still regard it as a deterrent to murder have no lower murder rates, showing that it doesn't stop people from killing people, plus convicted murderers spend fifteen years or more on death row, costing the taxpayers in legal fees and tying up the court system.

Second, with recent advances in DNA testing, many convicted "murderers" have been proven innocent, others before them haven't been so lucky.

I think most people will agree that murder is a horrible crime and must be punished appropriately, but to suggest the guillotine as a means to reduce the murder rate is something out of the Dark Ages.

As for Mr. O'Dowd wanting to be the man in the black mask pulling the rope, I suggest he should not quit his day job!

James Randall----Battle Creek

(source: Letter to the Editor, Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

UAE ruler approves anti-terrorism law with penalties ranging from execution to counseling

The ruler of the United Arab Emirates approved a new counter-terrorism law that strengthens existing laws against money laundering, while also expanding penalties to include the death penalty, life imprisonment and fines of up to $27 million, state media reported Wednesday.

The law, according to the state-backed The National newspaper, calls for establishing Saudi-style counseling and rehabilitation centers for people found "to be terrorism prone." Impersonating a public figure could lead to life imprisonment, the paper said.

The official Emirates News Agency reported that Abu Dhabi ruler and UAE President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan endorsed the law, but provided no further details. A draft of the law was approved in July by the country's Federal National Council, which acts largely as an advisory body.

The draft law was not released to the wider public to discuss, though parts of the law have been publicized in local media. Dubai-based Gulf News also obtained a copy, which identified potential death-penalty cases as attempts to attack any royal family members or members of the Cabinet's Supreme Council, and acts that lead to the death of a person such as recruiting people to join or joining a terrorist organization and attacking security forces.

The newspaper said the law defines a terrorist offense as "any action or inaction made a crime by this law and every action or inaction made a crime by any other law if they are carried out for a terrorist cause."

The Emirates, a Western-allied federation of seven sheikdoms that includes Dubai, is concerned about the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State group that's surging in Syria and Iraq, as well as al-Qaida.

More immediately, though, UAE rulers have been concerned about the possible threat to their rule from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Al-Islah group in the wake of Arab Spring uprisings. Rights groups say the UAE has locked up more than 130 people for charges related to their political activism. Political parties are banned in the UAE.

The UAE supports Egypt and Saudi Arabia's decisions to label the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The group's candidate became Egypt's first democratically elected president in 2012, but was ousted a year later by the military amid mass protests. As Cairo's new leaders moved to crush the Brotherhood, the UAE and other Gulf countries rushed to boost Egypt with billions of dollars in aid.

Amnesty International's Gulf researcher Nicholas McGeehan said he is concerned about the climate in which the counter-terrorism law was approved.

"It would be better if people could see these provisions before jumping straight to a law that could affect people aversely," he told The Associated Press. "We have to study the law very carefully and hope that none of its provisions are vaguely worded in such a way that would criminalize peaceful dissent. We've seen that elsewhere in the region."

There are also concerns about the independence of the judiciary. A United Nations special rapporteur said earlier this year that the UAE's judiciary is under the "de facto control" of the executive branch and that there are credible claims of detainees being abused in prison - often before extracting confessions.

(source: Star Tribune)

PENNSYLVANIA:

15 years without an execution: the death penalty in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Corbett has issued his 36th execution warrant.

Michael Parrish, from Monroe County, is scheduled for execution in October after being convicted of killing his girlfriend and baby.

But according to experts, if the current trend continues, it could be decades before that ever happens.

"Anyone who fights the death penalty today can go on for 15 to 25 years on death row," said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.

Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the United States for the most people on death row.

Close to 200 people currently have a death sentence, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

But the state has executed just 3 people in the last 35 years.

Morganelli said lengthy appeals are a factor, but not the sole, or biggest influence.

"We have federal judges who constantly block these executions...It has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the defendant. It is because the federal judges are philosophically opposed to the death penalty," Morganelli said.

Other experts said overturned death sentences are also a reason.

While Morganelli said the delays are interrupting justice, he also said spending decades on death row isn't an enjoyable way to live.

"If you are on death row, you will have about 23 hours in a cell, out of a 24 hour day, in a cell, a very small cell. Be let out for like an hour. So, life is much harder on death row than people who have a life-sentence," Morganelli said.

According to a recent report by the NAACP, nearly 1,400 people have been executed in the United States since 1976.

(source: WFMZ news)

LOUISIANA:

Gretna attorney named to national criminal defense group board

Robert Toale, a lawyer whose practice is based in Gretna, has been appointed to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' board of directors, the association announced Monday. Toale was sworn into office Aug. 2, during the association's annual meeting in Philadelphia.

A former Jefferson Parish public defender, Toale now practices exclusively on criminal defense in state, federal and juvenile cases in southeast Louisiana. He has served as parliamentarian for the Alliance for Good Government and is on the Louisiana Justice political action committee's board.

"I am honored and thrilled to be able to serve as a board member of the NACDL and look forward to being on the cutting edge of working to improve our system of justice," Toale said.

A graduate of Loyola University's School of Law, he has served as president of the group's state arm, the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In that role, he sought to abolish the death penalty in the state and to increase funding for indigent defense programs. He is certified by the Louisiana Public Defender Board to be lead capital trial counsel and touts having tried the 1st 12-person jury trial in New Orleans' Criminal District Court after Hurricane Katrina.

(source: Nola.com)

KENTCUKY:

Defense wants death penalty out in '94 double-homicide

A motion hearing was delayed Tuesday in Christian Circuit Court for 3 men accused of murder after a defense attorney asked that the death penalty be removed from consideration.

Defense attorney Brandi Jones said the prosecution failed to notify her within the 60 days allotted under Kentucky statute that her client, Ed Carter, a former Oak Grove police officer, could face the death penalty if convicted. Jones also has another pending motion for a bill of particulars, which is basically asking for more specific evidence against her client other than what is contained in the indictment and what was obtained through discovery.

(source: Kentucky New Era)

KANSAS:

Cheatham defense: police report suggests defendant outside Topeka when victims shot----Cheatham to be retried on Feb. 16

The Topeka police lead detective investigating the 2003 shooting deaths of 2 women and wounding of a 3rd woman wrote a document suggesting defendant Phillip D. Cheatham Jr. was outside Topeka when the women were shot here, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.

That statement was made as defense and prosecution attorneys were talking about Cheatham's alibi defense during his retrial now scheduled to start on Feb. 16.

Then, defense attorney Paul Oller mentioned a report written by Detective Lou Randall, the lead investigator in the 2003 slayings.

Randall suggested in a report that Cheatham was in Chicago at the time of the shootings, Oller told Shawnee County District Court Judge Richard Anderson.

Randall made the remarks in a report to then-District Attorney Robert Hecht, Oller said. The Randall report wasn't available to Dennis Hawver, Cheatham's defense attorney, during his first jury trial in 2005, Oller said.

Randall, a police sergeant and 25-year police veteran, retired in 2010 due to health problems and died on Sept. 26, 2012.

Oller said witnesses expected to testify in the alibi defense are Hawver; the defendant's mother, Linda Perry-Grigsby; and Treble Abrahm and Samuel Oatis, associates of Cheatham.

Another would-be alibi witness, Raquita Abrahm, the mother of Treble Abrahm, also has died, Oller said.

The Randall letter to Hecht surfaced during the 1st hearing conducted by Anderson since he was assigned the case after District Court Judge Mark Braun recused himself on July 25.

Braun recused himself after Cheatham filed a judicial complaint against him.

Anderson mapped out three daylong hearings in a 27-day span in September to handle all outstanding motions in three "bites."

They will be on Sept. 3, Sept. 24 and Sept. 30.

Anderson told prosecutors and defense attorneys they would argue their points on the motions, and the judge would rule on as many from the bench as he could.

A new trial was ordered for Cheatham in 2013 after the Kansas Supreme Court overturned his capital murder conviction and death penalty sentence for the Dec. 13, 2003, killings of Annette Roberson and Gloria Jones, who were shot to death in a southeast Topeka home.

Cheatham is charged with capital murder in the killings of Roberson and Jones.

Cheatham also faces charges in connection with the attempted 1st-degree murder of Annetta D. Thomas, who survived after she was shot 19 times in the attack.

Cheatham also faces 2 alternative premeditated 1st-degree murder counts in their killings, as well as attempted 1st-degree murder and aggravated battery in the shooting of Thomas. Cheatham also is charged with criminal possession of a firearm.

After his conviction in his 1st trial, Cheatham was sentenced on Oct. 28, 2005, to the "Hard 50" prison term for the killing of Jones, and the death penalty for the slaying of Roberson.

Those convictions and sentences were overturned when the Supreme Court ruled Cheatham received ineffective assistance of counsel by Hawver.

Cheatham filed a judicial complaint against Braun.

In what he labeled "Affidavit of Truth in Support of Judicial Complaint Against Presiding Judge," Cheatham contended Braun had "total disregard" for "his oath, duty, the Constitution and Cheatham's rights throughout the course of the 3 years it took to be ordered a new trial after demonstrating the prejudice that led to the convictions."

"2 or more crucial key and integral parts of the theory of the defense of the accused are no longer available due to the fact that they (2 prosecution witnesses, 1 of whom was key) both died during the unjustified delay wholly caused by the state's disregard for due process," Cheatham wrote.

(source: Topeka Capital Journal)

MISSOURI:

Collings Death Penalty Sentence Upheld

Today the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death penalty conviction for Christopher Collings.

The Supreme Court determined the trial court was not wrong for using Collings confession, which judges determined was given voluntarily after being advised of his Miranda Rights. The judges also determined the court was right in admitting certain physical evidence or abuse and showing certain crime scene and autopsy photographs.

They determined the evidence clearly showed Collings killed Rowan Ford back in 2007. They also ruled that statements made during the sentencing phase should not prevent Collings from receiving the death penalty and that sentencing Collings to death was a fair decision. A jury convicted Collings of 9 year old Rowan Ford's disappearance, rape and murder back in 2012.

(source: fourstateshomepage.com)

COLORADO:

Lawyers For Colorado Theater Gunman: Police Lied About Media Leaks

Lawyers for accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes said on Tuesday 2 homicide detectives may have perjured themselves when they denied leaking to Fox News details of his plan for the massacre, court documents show.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted of the July 2012 rampage in Aurora, which killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 70 others during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Holmes' lawyers concede he was the sole gunman, but say that the 26-year-old graduate student from the University of Colorado was in the throes of a psychotic episode at the time. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The defense team wants the judge to order a probe to trace the source of the Fox News story, which ran 5 days after the shooting. Citing 2 unnamed law enforcement officials, it said Holmes sent a psychiatrist a notebook detailing his plans.

Holmes' lawyers said in Tuesday's motion that since the few officers who knew of the notebook had all denied under oath being responsible for the leak, those who may have committed perjury included "2 homicide detectives who played significant roles in the investigation of this case."

"The fact that a law enforcement official lied under oath in a death penalty case about a key piece of evidence is an incredibly serious matter," the defense lawyers wrote.

They noted that Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour described the notebook as a "critical" piece of evidence.

The public defenders had previously sought a court order to compel Fox News reporter Jana Winter to reveal her sources, but the New York Court of Appeals ultimately sided with the journalist, and the U.S Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Prosecutors have denounced the allegations of a leak by law enforcement officials as "baseless," and have opposed the appeals by the defense for a special prosecutor to investigate.

Jury selection in the trial is set to begin in December.

(source: Reuters)

ARIZONA:

Murderer appeals conviction

A death row inmate from Lake Havasu City who murdered an elderly Kingman couple in 1999 was back in court this week appealing his conviction.

Charles David Ellison, 49, was sentenced to death in February 2004 for the February 1999 murders of Joseph and Lillian Boucher at their Kingman home. A jury convicted Ellison in January 2002 of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder and 2 counts of 1st-degree burglary. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld Ellison's death penalty in November 2007.

Ellison's attorneys appealed his conviction in Mohave County Superior Court before former Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Jones, citing ineffective counsel. Ellison's attorney also called an expert to the stand Tuesday testifying to the excessive drinking by Ellison's mother when she was pregnant with the defendant as well as his harsh upbringing. The evidentiary hearing, which started Monday, is expected to last 4 days.

Ellison's codefendant Richard Finch, 42, was also convicted of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of 1st-degree burglary and sentenced to life in prison.

On the night of Feb. 24, 1999, Ellison and Finch entered Boucher's Kingman home through a screen window, tied up the couple and burglarized the home. Ellison smothered Joseph Boucher, 79, with a pillow while Finch suffocated Lillian Boucher, 73. Stolen from the house were a handgun, cash and jewelry. Finch was arrested 2 days later. Ellison was arrested several days later.

(source: Mohave Daily news)

CALIFORNIA:

Supreme Court upholds death penalty in Lemoore girl's murder

The California Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty verdict against Gene Estel McCurdy, 54, who was found guilty 17 years ago of murdering 8-year-old Maria Piceno of Lemoore.

In an opinion last week, the state high court unanimously rejected the automatic appeal.

Piceno disappeared in March 1995 after leaving her mother's apartment to go to the store. Her body was found 2 weeks later in a Kern County creek.

McCurdy, who grew up in Wasco, was a 1st class petty officer based at Lemoore Naval Air Station and was on an aircraft carrier when he was arrested about 6 weeks after the girl disappeared.

In 1997, a Kings County jury found him guilty of murder with the special circumstance of kidnapping, and kidnapping to commit a lewd act on a child under 14.

The appeal claimed McCurdy should have had a change of venue, statements to detectives should have been suppressed, testimony by his sister should have been rejected, and jury instructions were faulty.

Larry Crouch, chief trial attorney for the Kings County District Attorney's Office, said he expects more appeals will be filed in the case.

(source: The Fresno Bee)

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

Prosecutors Plan to Seek Death Penalty on Santa Rosa County Man

Prosecutors say they're going after the death penalty against a Santa Rosa County man accused of murdering a local businessman.

41 year old Derrick Ray Thompson was back in court Tuesday for his arraignment on 1st degree murder charges.

Prosecutors told the judge they plan to seek the death penalty if Thompson is convicted of killing 66 year old former Bay County Sheriff's Deputy and local businessman Allen Johnson.

Thompson's public defender entered a not guilty plea and waived his right to a speedy trial.

Investigators believe Thompson showed-up at Johnson's Lynn Haven home on Sunday July 20th, the day after he shot and killed a Santa Rosa County couple and stole their vehicle.

They say Johnson was unaware of those crimes when he allowed Thompson to stay Sunday night.

The next morning Thompson allegedly killed Johnson then stolen his pick-up truck.

Members of the US Marshal's Fugitive Task Force arrested Thompson on Tuesday morning July 22nd, at a park in Troy, Alabama.

It's still unclear if Thompson will be tried in Bay County 1st, or Santa Rosa County.

For now he's being held in the Bay County Jail without bond.

(source: WJHG news)

USA:

Police charge 3 men in the death of Livery Cab Driver

3 men were arrested and charged with murdering livery cab driver Aboubacar Bah, 62, the New York Times reported.

Takiem Ewing, Tyrone Felder, and Kareem Martin were accused of shooting Bah early morning on Tuesday and dumping his body at Hunts Point before stealing his car, according to police.

Conviction could result in life imprisonment or the death penalty according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

(source: bronxinc.org)

INDIA:

Anti-hijack Bill in next session of Parliament: Govt----The Bill seeks to award death penalty to hijackers and give the right to security forces to shoot down an aircraft which may be used as a missile

A Bill to award death penalty to hijackers and give the right to security forces to shoot down an aircraft which may be used as a missile is likely to be brought in Parliament in the next session.

The civil aviation and law ministries are taking a fresh look at the much-delayed Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill to amend the 1982 Act to bring the law in tune with the latest international legislations and resolutions, civil aviation minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju told PTI on Wednesday.

"There is a Bill already introduced in Rajya Sabha (in 2010). But since then, the definition of hijack has changed globally. So, in line with those changes and practices worldwide, a draft has been prepared and the process is going on," he said.

"We will take this (fresh) legislation to the Union Cabinet. And once it is adopted by the Cabinet, we will introduce the new Bill and withdraw the old one," Raju said.

"In the next session, we will be in a position to take it through," he said in response to questions.

Almost 15 years after Kandahar hijack, the government is now working on issues like incorporating the latest global anti-hijack laws and bring the Indian law in line with the Beijing Protocol of the UN body International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The Bill, pending in the Rajya Sabha since August 2010 after the Standing Committee on transport, tourism and culture gave its recommendations, was cleared by the Cabinet headed by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March 2010.

The measure, introduced by then civil aviation minister Praful Patel, was referred to the Standing Committee that gave its report within a few months, but it did not see the light of the day thereafter.

The Bill was brought after incidents like the hijack of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999 and the 11 September 2001 terror strikes in the United States, reflecting major threats like civilian aircraft being hijacked and used as missiles to cause mass destruction.

(source: livemint.com)

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

Sisters on death row move High Court

2 Kolhapur sisters, who are on death row after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected their mercy petition, approached the Bombay high court on Tuesday, praying that their death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. The court is likely to hear this matter at length on Wednesday.

A division bench of Justices V.M. Kanade and P.D. Kode accepted the petition for hearing. However, the judges made it clear that they did not want to grant any stay on the execution as it continues for a long time. The judges directed the government pleader to make a phone call to Yerawada jail superintendent and ask him if they were going to execute the petitioners Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit on Wednesday. The jail superintendent said that they were still corresponding with the district magistrate over the completion of formalities for the execution, so they would not hang them on Wednesday. The judges then kept the matter for hearing on Wednesday without granting any stay on the execution.

The judges also made it clear to the petitioners' lawyer Sandeep Jaiswal that he would have to convince the court that it has jurisdiction to hear such a petition even after the mercy petition has been rejected by the President of India.

Justice Kanade said, "After pronouncement of the death sentence, if the mercy petition is rejected, then why should the law not take its course?" He said, "The death sentence was confirmed by the high court and then by the Supreme Court. Later the President also rejected the mercy plea, so the procedure is over. Otherwise what is the use of death penalty? Either remove it or implement it without delay."

However, advocate Jaiswal argued that the President, in his order, has not given any reason for rejecting the mercy plea and he has also written, "The convicts can avail any judicial remedy." And this shows that even after rejection of mercy plea, the high court could hear the matter.

Both convicts have prayed in their petition that their death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment on the grounds that the President had taken more than 8 years to decide their mercy plea though it should have been disposed of within 3 months.

Both the sisters were sentenced to death in 2001 for kidnapping 13 children and killing 9 of them between 1990 and October 1996. They were assisted in the crime by their mother Anjana Gavit and Renuka's husband Kiran Shinde. Anjana died in custody, while Kiran turned approver.

(source: The Asi