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

FEBRUARY 22, 2019:

TEXAS:

Texas man confesses to beating daughter, 2, to death with hammer

An office’s body camera recorded the confession Tuesday from Yovahnis Roque, 26, in the death of the girl in a home in Orange, the affidavit says.

Police say the toddler’s body was found in a closet.

In court Wednesday, a judge was explaining the capital murder charge against Roque when the suspect blurted out: "The government made me do it." "I did not kill my daughter. I'm moving without control," Roque said.

"I've been out of my control for a very long time," he said.

Roque and the baby lived with Roque's mother, who found the body.

Roque previously lived in Florida.

WTVJ-TV in Miami-Dade County reported the child was weeks old when her mother was struck and killed by an impaired driver.

Roque is charged with capital murder

If convicted he could face the death penalty or a life sentence without parole.

(source: KWTX news)

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After Texas’ 2nd Supreme Court Loss In A Death Penalty Case, Reform Bill Lands Key GOP Support----The chairs of 2 House committees signed on as joint authors of a bill that would set the method of determining if a capital murder defendant is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution.

One day after the U.S. Supreme Court once again invalidated a Texas death sentence and bashed the state’s highest criminal court for its method of determining intellectual disability in death penalty cases, 2 key Republican lawmakers have signed on to a Democrat’s bill that would create a uniform process.

On Wednesday, state Reps. James White and Jeff Leach became joint authors to Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s House Bill 1139, which would establish a pretrial procedure to determine if a capital murder defendant is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. White chairs the House Corrections Committee, and Leach leads the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

“We’ve got to get to work here,” White, from Hillister, told The Texas Tribune after adding his name to the bill. “The Supreme Court — not once, but twice — stated that what we’re doing is not constitutional.”

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities was unconstitutional, but states were left to come up with their own methods of defining the condition. The Texas Legislature hasn’t taken action, instead putting the issue on individual courts, which have implemented varied methods for deciding the crucial question of whether a person should be spared from execution.

Often, prosecutors simply don’t seek the death penalty when there is a credible claim of intellectual disability. Other times, juries are told to weigh the issue after convicting someone of capital murder — when they’re deciding during a trial’s punishment phase between life in prison or death.

As filed, Thompson’s bill, which already had joint authors in Democratic Reps. Joe Moody of El Paso and Armando Walle of Houston and matches a bill by state Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, would allow a capital murder defendant to request a hearing to determine intellectual disability before trial. If a judge determined the defendant was intellectually disabled — defined as having a low IQ with deficits in practical and social skills since youth — the death penalty would be taken off the table and the defendant would receive an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Advocates and the bipartisan group of lawmakers argue that a legislative change is necessary after recent rulings put Texas at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court.

For years, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the top criminal court in the state, has begged lawmakers to set up a uniform process. But without movement from the Capitol, the Texas court established its process of determining intellectual disability in late appeals of those set for execution. The test relied on decades-old medical standards and a controversial set of questions the judges imposed, including how well an inmate could lie.

The Supreme Court ruled the test unconstitutional in 2017 in the case of Bobby Moore, a man sentenced to death nearly 40 years ago in a Houston robbery and murder. A majority of the justices said the Texas court’s questions advanced stereotypes. Moore’s case was sent back to Texas, where the Court of Criminal Appeals said it would use current medical standards in its decision but again ruled Moore was not disabled, despite briefings from the prosecutor in his case agreeing Moore had a disability.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court knocked the Court of Criminal Appeals again without a hearing, saying the lower court’s decision-making process included many of the same flaws as before. This time, the justices said plainly that Moore had shown he was intellectually disabled — making him ineligible for execution.

Leach, from Plano, said Tuesday’s ruling added fuel to his already-pending decision to sign on to Thompson’s bill. Leach has become a rare Republican critic of Texas death penalty practices — fighting to stop multiple executions and saying he would consider a moratorium on the death penalty. On Wednesday, he told the Tribune that the intellectual disability bill as filed may not be perfect, but it needs a legislative discussion.

“This is a crucial issue for our state,” he said. “And conservatives, Republicans, should not be afraid to engage in this discussion on the front lines.”

(source: houstonpublicmedia.org)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

NH Death Penalty Repeal Bill Likely to Pass in House

New Hampshire is the last state in the Northeast to have a death penalty. But on Wednesday, a bill to abolish capital punishment in the Granite State moved one step closer.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held an executive session about House Bill 455, which would repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire.

The committee voted 11 to 6 to recommend passage by the House. Committee chair Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Rockingham, who is lead sponsor of the legislation, predicts the House is likely to pass it.

“It’s been pretty clear for the past couple of years that the House has been pretty strongly in favor of repealing the death penalty,” Cushing said.

Last year, a death penalty repeal bill passed both the Republican-controlled New Hampshire House and Senate. But Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed it, and the Senate was two votes shy of overriding that veto.

Sununu said he opposed the bill because he stood with crime victims.

Hannah Cox is the national manager of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, a nonprofit group that supports the repeal bill. She says her own views about capital punishment changed over time.

“I became opposed to the death penalty a number of years ago, when I first became aware of how ridiculously high the costs were for operating the system, and what that meant for the clearance rate for other crimes, and the burden that these cases placed on the solvency rate for other crimes,” explains Cox.

The issue hits especially close to home for Rep. Cushing, whose father was murdered. He similarly argues that resources spent on the death penalty could be better used solving homicides.

“We have 128 unsolved murder cases in the state of New Hampshire,” Cushing says, “and yet, we seem to be willing to spend millions of dollars to pursue one death penalty case – at a time when, for the family members of the victims of those 128 unsolved murders, they’re waiting for justice and wondering, ‘Where is the prioritization of that?'”

Only 1 person is on death row in the Granite State, which carried out its last execution in 1939.

While Democrats currently control both the state House and Senate, House Bill 455 has bipartisan support. The House will likely vote on it in March.

(source: desertlocalnews.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Seaga Gillard found guilty in Wake County double murder case

A jury found Seaga Gillard guilty of 1st-degree murder Wednesday in a Wake County double-murder case.

The jury deliberated for less than 24 hours before they decided on the verdict.

The jurors now move on to the death penalty phase of the trial.

This could become the 1st time in more than a decade that Wake County prosecutors are successful in getting a jury to agree to the death penalty.

Gillard was charged, along with Xavier Hill, with 1st-degree murder in the deaths of April Lynn Holland, who was pregnant, and Dwayne Garvey.

Police said the pair was gunned down in a room at the Best Value Inn in Raleigh's Crabtree Valley in December 2016.

The crime was caught on a surveillance camera.

On Feb. 11, Prosecutor David Saacks told jurors Holland was a prostitute and was at the hotel turning tricks. He said Garvey was her partner in selling sex.

The prosecutor laid out his case against Seaga Gillard in opening statements Monday, Feb. 11, 2019.

The defense argued that the surveillance video was blurry and the jurors couldn't be sure Gillard was the person in the video. They also argued that the people shown in the video that day didn't intend on killing anyone.

"At the end of the day, it was chaotic, it was random, I submit it was tragic, but it was not first-degree murder," Gillard's attorney Edd Roberts said.

The prosecutors, on the other hand, told the jurors, "to tell you it wasn't him insults your intelligence."

"What I have to show to you is that at some point in the second, the millisecond before he pulls that trigger he thought about it, he intended it and he followed through with it. That's what I have to prove," Prosecutor Katy Pomeroy said.

The Center for Death Penalty Litigation has criticized Wake County for continuing to seek the death penalty even though juries in the county repeatedly reject it.

Attorney Elizabeth Hambourger, with the center, said Gillard's case is the tenth death penalty case in Wake County since 2008.

In each of those cases, the juries rejected the death penalty.

Hambourger represented murderer Nathan Holden in 2017 in a Wake County capital case.

While death penalty cases seem rare in Wake County, Hambourger said they are common with the county -- roughly 1 capital case tried per year.

However, she said most of the state is abandoning the death penalty.

"If you compare the rate of capital trials in Wake County to what other counties are doing, it's way outsized," Hambourger said. "They are doing capital trials at a much higher rate than other counties. And that's not because they're bigger. I mean if you compare it to Mecklenburg, which of course is a larger county and I would guess has more murders, certainly not less murders, than Wake County. Mecklenburg hasn't had a capital trial in years. But Wake County is still insisting on having capital trials on a regular basis."

District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she can't comment because the Gillard trial is ongoing.

(source: ABC News)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

The future of capital punishment in South Carolina

South Carolina law makers are talking about where the state stands on the death penalty.

The state has not executed anyone since 2011, in part, because its supply of lethal injection has expired, and prison officials have been unable to buy more.

There are 4 people sitting on death row from Horry and Georgetown counties.

Some law makers are talking about ways to continue carrying out executions, and some want to end it all together, but as of right now no one is dying on death row.

Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said Horry County was the last to try a death penalty case in the state, and was set to try the next one. That's until Mckinley Daniels accepted a guilty plea last month for the 2015 Sunhouse robberies and murders. Richardson said they're not like most circuits who've done away with carrying it out.

"It's not a quick turn around and a lot can happen in 14 years, so we didn't know what that would be but figured there would be a change in legislation," said Richardson.

Representative Eddie Tallon proposed a "shield law" that will give pharmaceutical companies anonymity to sell the state the drugs necessary for lethal injection.

The state senate recently passed a bill switching the main way executions are preformed from lethal injection to electrocution. The proposed bill allows inmates to choose lethal injection if the drugs are available. It also allows for the firing squad.

Richardson has personally worked 2 death penalty cases, Stephen Stanko and Luzenski Cottrell. Both men still sit on death row.

"My conscience is clear. I wouldn't go that route unless I thought it was the worst of the worst and everything else has been tried and we can't turn the likes of you back loose on society," said Richardson.

Senator Gerald Malloy, of Darlington, proposed abolishing the death penalty. He said he filed that to start a discussion.

"There were times that I was totally against it because I think it's disproportionate against minorities and poor people, and I've seen some heinous cases that are just repulsive," said Sen. Malloy.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections didn't allow News 13 inside death row or talk to inmates, but we found someone who was allowed inside. Steve Schonveld was a volunteer on death row in 2017.

"I found the people behind the bars are not what you see on tv," said Schonveld.

He said they're human beings craving human interaction, in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

Schonveld said they would have normal conversations, "talking about sports, talking about family, talking about what I do for a living."

"Should we be killing them? It's a struggle with my moral compass and actually going back there and talking to them made it even more of a struggle," said Schonveld.

One inmate he spent time talking to was Stephen Stanko. In 2005, Stanko killed his girlfriend Laura Ling and raped her teenage daughter in Murrells Inlet. He then went to Conway and killed his friend and business partner Henry Turner.

"He would let me ask him pretty much anything I wanted to I felt like he was being honest with me. He showed some remorse which I'd like to see," said Schonveld.

News 13 asked if Stanko believed in the death penalty.

"He said he was for it in some situations, and against it in some situations," said Schonveld.

News 13 also asked how Stanko felt about his situation.

"He wouldn't give me an answer. He wouldn't give me an answer," said Schonveld.

Schonveld said he doesn't believe the death penalty deters crime, but the McGarry's do. Their son Joe McGarry was a police officer killed in the line of duty in 2002.

"I've gone through unfathomable pain, emotional pain, depression. My life was really over December 29th," said Anita McGarry, Joe McGarry's wife.

McGarry and other officers were investigating a suspicious person when McGarry was shot in the head. Luzenski Cottrell was convicted of his murder, and sits on death row.

"I just want to stay alive long enough to see him take his last breath," said Joe McGarry, Sr.

News 13 asked, "Do you think that will help bring you closure?"

Joe McGarry Sr. said, "For me it will."

"The only thing that's going to bring me closure is when I die and go to heaven and see Joey," said Anita McGarry.

(source: WBTW news)

GEORGIA:

The Stench of Prejudice in Keith Tharpe’s Death Sentence----A juror in Mr. Tharpe’s case signed an affidavit stating that he was a “nigger,” wondering “if black people even have souls.”

Several years after Keith Tharpe was sentenced to death for murder in 1991, a juror in his case signed an affidavit stating that there are 2 types of black people: good ones and “niggers.” The juror, who was white, put the defendant in the latter category and said that he wondered “if black people even have souls.”

Mr. Tharpe sits on death row in Georgia. Although his lawyers assert that his punishment was tainted by juror racism, a state court ruled against Mr. Tharpe on that issue 2 decades ago.

Since then, state and federal courts have put procedural obstacles in front of his efforts to appeal that ruling. Mr. Tharpe seemed to be doomed when the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rebuffed him. He was set to be executed in September 2017.

But the Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay, shaken by the juror’s disturbing affidavit which, in the court’s words, presented “a strong factual basis that Tharpe’s race affected [the juror’s] vote for a death verdict.”

When the Supreme Court returned the case to the 11th Circuit, it again refused to examine the racial bias claim, offering new procedural impediments. As soon as March 1, the Supreme Court may decide whether it will review Mr. Tharpe’s case.

What is going on here?

The struggle over Mr. Tharpe’s fate has to do, in part, with a continuing dispute over whether the legal system should allow jury verdicts to be impeached by the post-verdict testimony of jurors.

For a long time, federal and state courts almost always prohibited jurors from testifying about deliberations. In 2015, for example, after a sex crime conviction, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to consider testimony from 2 jurors who came forward to report that a fellow juror had expressed anti-Latino bias against the defendant and his alibi witnesses.

In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court reversed the Colorado court, ruling that, amid serious allegations of racial juror bias, a reviewing court must be able to consider evidence from jurors, even if doing so opens jury deliberations to more scrutiny than otherwise allowed.

The court acknowledged the importance of supporting the finality of verdicts, protecting candor and confidentiality within the jury room and discouraging efforts to flip jurors beset by regrets. But it rightly concluded that even more imperative is eradicating racial discrimination from the criminal justice system. Racial bias, the court declared, “implicates unique historical, constitutional and institutional concerns” — a sentiment suggesting that even among some conservative jurists there exists a newly energized desire to rectify the racism that remains all too evident in our administration of criminal justice.

More generally, the struggle over Mr. Tharpe’s case has to do with the circumstances, if any, under which a government ought to be allowed to execute someone.

One camp is relatively tolerant of contaminations, like racism, that might have affected sentencing. In an unpublished memorandum to his colleagues, Justice Antonin Scalia rebuffed a challenge to capital punishment, despite acknowledging that “the unconscious operation of irrational sympathies and antipathies, including racial, upon jury decisions and (hence) prosecutorial decisions is real … and ineradicable.” The other camp is more demanding, recognizing the need for exacting scrutiny when it comes to assessing the validity of the most extreme form of governmental power: imposition of capital punishment.

Some people in this camp oppose capital punishment altogether. They believe that we cannot trust the criminal justice system to impose a penalty as irrevocable as death. The Supreme Court of Washington State recently invalidated capital punishment because the death penalty there “is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.” Others in this camp tolerate the death penalty, but only if there is no substantial whiff of prejudice.

The impending execution of Keith Tharpe cannot pass that test. There is the stench of prejudice, not just a whiff. In this case, remember, 1 of the 12 people who voted for death voluntarily admitted that he thought of Mr. Tharpe as a “nigger” and “wondered if black people have souls.” Under these circumstances an execution would certainly be a miscarriage of justice. The Supreme Court must intervene out of an elemental embrace of due process.

(source: Randall Kennedy is a law professor at Harvard and the author of “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”----New York Times

ALABAMA:

https://action.aclu.org/petition/save-rocky-myers (source: ACLU)

OHIO:

Lawson pleads guilty; could be sentenced to death

A man admitted in a Lawrence County court Thursday to aggressively murdering 4 family members in 2017 and is now fighting to avoid being sentenced to the death penalty.

Arron L. Lawson, 25, pleaded guilty to Thursday morning in Lawrence County Common Pleas court to murdering four people and injuring a fifth, who ranged in age from 8 to 50, in October 2017 at their Pedro, Ohio, home.

With the plea, Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson will still have to prove the offenses were pre-planned and aggravated and that Lawson deserves the death penalty.

Anderson is set to begin presenting evidence at 12:45 p.m. Thursday to prove the aggravated factors after Lawson’s plea.

Last week, after the completion of 2 weeks of jury selection, Lawson waived his right to jury trial and instead opted to have his case heard by a panel of 3 Ohio judges. The waiver was against the advice of his attorney, Kirk McVay.

The trial resumed Thursday, Feb. 21, after the Ohio state Supreme Court assigned former judges Alan Corbin, Clermont County, and Janet Burnside, Cuyahoga County, to join Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Andy Ballard on the panel.

Lawson’s alleged victims — Stacey Holston, 24; her son, Devin Holston, 8; Stacey's mother and Lawson’s aunt, Tammie L. McGuire, 43; and McGuire's husband, Donald McGuire, 50 — were shot to death Oct. 11, 2017, at the Holstons' home.

Todd Holston, Stacey Holston's husband, also was stabbed with a pocketknife inside the family's trailer during the attack, but survived his injuries.

Other charges to which Lawson admitted his guilt include aggravated burglary, attempted murder and felonious assault of Todd Holston, the rape of Stacey Holston, abuse of a corpse, kidnapping of Devin Holston, tampering with evidence, theft of a motor vehicle and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer.

(source: herald-dispatch.com)

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5 men from Montgomery County are on Ohio’s Death Row. Here’s what they did

Ohio’s Death Row consists of 137 people sentenced to die and includes 5 men from Montgomery County.

On Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state will not execute anyone until it creates a lethal injection protocol that can withstand court challenges.

“Ohio is not going to execute someone under my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment,” DeWine said, referencing Dayton District Court Magistrate Michael Merz.

There are no current death penalty cases pending in Montgomery County, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The last inmate from Montgomery County to be executed was Marvallous Keene, who was convicted of killing 6 people from Dec. 24-26 1992. Keene was executed July 21, 2009.

These men were convicted and sentenced to death in Montgomery County:

Samuel Moreland

In 1985, Samuel Moreland killed 5 people — Glenna Green, 46; her daughter Lana Green, 23; and 3 grandchildren, Daytrin Talbott, 7; Datwan Talbott, 6; and Voilana Green, 6.

Per an 11-year-old’s testimony, Moreland had shot his grandmother as she threw a bottle at Moreland.

Moreland, who has always said he was innocent, last year won the right for additional DNA testing, which has been held up.

Davel V. “Tony” Chinn

Davel V. “Tony” Chinn was found guilty of the 1989 shooting death of Brian Jones, 21.

Chinn and a co-defendant robbed 2 men of their money and stole Jones’ car from a downtown parking garage.

The co-defendant said Chinn shot Jones in Jefferson Twp. because Jones could have identified him and didn’t have much money, court documents said.

Antonio S. Franklin

Antonio S. Franklin was convicted for the 1997 killings of his uncle and grandparents.

Prosecutors said that Anthony Franklin, 38, Ivory Franklin, 76, and Ophelia Franklin, 71, were each bludgeoned with a baseball bat and that Mrs. Franklin also was shot in the head.

Investigators said items were taken from the grandparents and their home and then set on fire.

Larry Gapen

Larry Gapen was convicted of using a wood-splitting maul to fatally beat his ex-wife Martha Madewell, her companion Nathan Marshall and her 13-year-old daughter Jesica Young to death in 2000.

In 2014, Gapen tried to get a new trial based on several claims, including juror misconduct.

His attorney at the time said: “We’re disturbed by evidence this court was unaware of and we’re here to bring it to the court’s attention.”

Duane A. Short

Duane A. Short was convicted of using a shotgun to kill his estranged wife, Rhonda Short, 31, and Donnie Ray Sweeney, 32, in 2004.

The Trenton man admitted at trial that after searching for his wife for many days, he bought a shotgun and sawed off its barrel.

He said he then took the weapon to his wife’s residence in Huber Heights, where he shot and killed her and Sweeney.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

INDIANA:

Judge grants death penalty trial postponement

An Allen County judge today granted a request by lawyers for a man facing the death penalty to postpone his trial.

Marcus Dansby, 23, had been scheduled to stand trial in April, but defense attorneys Michelle Kraus and Robert Gevers pushed for more time to prepare.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull set an Oct. 1 trial date, and the trial is expected to last a month.

Dansby is charged with 4 counts of murder in the Sept. 11, 2016, slayings of Traeven Harris, 18, Consuela Arrington, 37, Dajahiona Arrington, 18, and the fetus she was carrying. The child was later determined to be Dansby's.

A 5th person was shot and stabbed but survived, and Dansby is charged with attempted murder in that alleged attack.

(source: The Journal Gazette)

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Man accused in 4 killings loses fight to avoid death penalty

A northeastern Indiana judge has rejected efforts by a man awaiting trial in 4 slayings to avoid a possible death penalty in the case.

An Allen County judge ruled Monday against 23-year-old Marcus Dansby’s bids to have the death penalty thrown out as an option and to have Indiana’s capital punishment statute declared unconstitutional.

Dansby’s attorneys argued that the Fort Wayne man was too young to get a possible death penalty if he’s convicted because he was 20 years old at the time of the killings.

The Journal Gazette reported that Dansby is charged in the fatal September 2016 shootings and stabbings of 3 people in Fort Wayne, including his ex-girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant.

Dansby’s trial is scheduled for April, but his lawyers are seeking a postponement.

(source: theindianalawyer.com)

COLORADO:

Armstrong: Colorado Republicans should let the death penalty go

Last fall, a man broke into a family’s home in Wisconsin, murdered both parents and kidnapped their 13-year-old girl. After suffering three months in captivity, the girl escaped, thank goodness, and authorities arrested the suspect.

When I read about this story, my immediate reaction was that “they” should kill the perpetrator, after due process, of course. He richly deserves it. (This won’t happen because Wisconsin was one of the first states to outlaw the death penalty.)

As human beings, we often seem to have a visceral desire to hurt those who perpetrate such horrific crimes. For good reason, we’ve outlawed torture and other cruel punishments. But we still have the death penalty for the worst crimes. So long as the criminal dies a relatively painless death, is there anything wrong with that?

I used to think the case for the death penalty was a slam dunk. Now I think we should stop using it.

It looks like I’ll get my way, as far as the state goes. The Democratic legislature appears ready to abolish the death penalty in Colorado, and Gov. Jared Polis has indicated that he’ll support the move and even commute existing sentences.

The political question, strategically, is whether Democrats should spend their political capital repealing the death penalty and whether Republicans should spend theirs trying to salvage it. My sense is that many Republicans are ready to let this one go, but some will oppose the move.

Why should Republicans be skeptical of the death penalty? David Williams, a long-time Libertarian activist and a Colorado lawyer who once worked on a death penalty case in North Carolina, summarizes:

“Conservatives are supposed to believe in limited government. Yet there is no greater power to give to the state than the authority to decide whom to execute.

“Conservatives are also supposed to recognize the incompetence of government. Far too many are willing to overlook the government’s incompetence when it comes to putting innocent people on death row.

“Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court, 164 people on death row have been exonerated. How many more are there wrongfully?”

The argument that government often screws things up strikes me as a compelling one. If the state executes an innocent person, there is no going back. On the other hand, if the state sentences an innocent person to life in prison, at least there is a chance to correct the mistake and let the person go free (hopefully with compensation).

The death penalty also raises troubling constitutional issues. The Eighth Amendment explicitly bars “cruel and unusual punishments.”

Yet there is a nontrivial risk of the executioners botching the job. For example, just last year, Alabama did such a bad job of trying to kill someone via lethal injection that the prisoner survived to sue over the matter.

It’s hard to think of a punishment crueler than the horrific agony of a botched execution. But merely sentencing a person to death, knowing that the killing might be botched, is cruel.

Cruel, too, is the psychological torture of being sentenced to death, knowing that the legal process likely will take many years, and never knowing if you’re actually going to be killed on any given scheduled date.

Many will think, “The cruelty of the death penalty cannot match the cruelty of the suffering that the criminal inflicted on his victims.” I agree, but that is not a good reason to ignore the Eighth Amendment or to violate our principles of human decency.

Another constitutional problem is that the death penalty undermines the Sixth Amendment right to trial. John Herrick’s article for the Independent perfectly summarizes the problem: “District attorneys can use the threat of the death penalty to prompt a confession.”

DAs in such cases say, in effect, “If you don’t plead guilty without a trial, we’re going to try our hardest to kill you through legally established procedures.”

If there is no death penalty, will more criminals who are guilty as sin and who are caught red-handed go to trial? Probably. But jury trials don’t exist for our convenience.

Republicans take seriously the Constitution’s principles about the free exercise of religion and the right to keep and bear arms; they should take equally seriously the principles about punishments and jury trials.

What about deterrence? Doesn’t the death penalty deter other would-be criminals? As Herrick points out, Colorado has killed only one person since 1976. Not even the Aurora theater shooting gunman, one of the worst mass-murderers in state history, got the death penalty. Practically speaking, if the death penalty as used today has any deterrent effect, it is minuscule.

Government prosecutors sometimes get things wrong, sometimes through incompetence or malice. Government can guarantee neither that it will kill the right person nor that it will properly conduct the killing. Government is largely capricious in whom it executes and when it executes them.

If we are skeptical of government power and mindful of constitutional principles, abolishing the death penalty seems the logical conclusion.

(source: Colorado Sun)

IDAHO:

Man arrested in decades-old cold case; girl was fatally stabbed 24 years ago

A Southeast Idaho man could be facing the death penalty after he was arrested for the 1995 murder of a 14-year-old girl.

The Cassia County Sheriff’s Office said Gilberto Flores Rodriguez, 56, of Burley, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon and charged with 1st-degree murder for killing Regina Krieger.

Krieger’s death is a well-known Idaho cold case that has long baffled authorities.

She disappeared from the basement of her father’s Burley home on Feb. 28, 1995, just days before her 15th birthday. A large amount of blood was found in the basement, but Krieger couldn’t be located.

That changed on April 15 of that same year when horseback riders found Krieger’s decomposed body in a portion of the Snake River where the water had receded near the Montgomery Bridge east of Rupert.

Krieger’s throat had been slashed and she had been stabbed in the heart. An autopsy showed her body had been in the river for at least 30 days.

She is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery in Burley.

Police made mistakes in their handling of the case, former Cassia County Sheriff Randy Kidd said in 2015. Investigators initially did not consider Krieger’s death a murder, but thought she ran away or committed suicide.Growing up in Burley, Regina’s younger brother Cliff heard talk about what may have happened to his sister.

“Everyone talks in a small town,” he said.

The people Regina had become involved with were drug dealers who were using children to deliver drugs, Cliff said.

The night she went missing she had a conversation with their father telling him she wanted to move back to Twin Falls to live with her mother because she was uncomfortable with a situation she had gotten into and wanted out of it, Cliff said.

“What she didn’t know was there wasn’t any way out,” Cliff added.The Krieger case went cold until 2017 when Boise-based FBI Special Agent Chris Sheehan said he and another investigator had been assigned to the case.

“There is new evidence that has come out,” Sheehan said in 2017, declining to give details.Rodriguez was taken into custody without incident in Minidoka County on Wednesday afternoon and was transported to the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center in Burley, where he is being held on a no-bond warrant issued by Cassia County Magistrate Court.If convicted of 1st-degree murder Rodriguez could face the death penalty. Prosecutors haven’t yet commented on whether they’re going to pursue capital punishment in the case. If they don’t, Rodriguez will face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

In an attempt to draw attention to Regina’s death, East Idaho Cold Cases has continuously posted information about her murder in recent years.

Crystal Douglas is the founder of East Idaho Cold Cases, a non-profit group aimed at finding missing people and raising public awareness of unsolved murders.

In response to Rodriguez’s arrest, Douglas said, “I’m very happy for the (Krieger) family. They waited 24 years for this.”

Regina’s murder was one of the cases featured in a deck of playing cards issued by East Idaho Cold Cases. Every card included in the deck includes the face of an Idaho missing person or unsolved murder victim along with a description of their case.

Douglas said Rodriguez’s arrest will help the families of other cold case murder victims feel that closure is possible.

“It gives other families hope,” Douglas said.

(source: idahostatejournal.com)

ARIZONA:

GOP bill scales back death penalty eligibility

A GOP bill with unanimous support would remove 3 reasons for justifying an execution and combine 2 others, marking the 1st time since 1973 – if passed – the Legislature has diminished the death penalty law.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is behind the proposal to get rid of some of the “aggravating factors,” or circumstances that make a murder more heinous, listed in Arizona’s death penalty law.

“The courts have expressed concerns about constitutionality for all aggravators that exist in death penalty sentencing,” Farnsworth said. “The county attorney said they would look at some of the aggravating factors … and take some of them away that haven’t been used for some time.”

Rebecca Baker, a lobbyist with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 7 “the death penalties [Arizona has] in place are constitutionally sound,” but in response to ongoing litigation over the death penalty, she said the factors used and how the statute can best be enhanced to ensure they are sustainable for the future was discussed internally.

Baker said the county attorney wants to remove the factors they deem are not the most persuasive or the strongest in death penalty cases.

Arizona has 14 aggravating circumstances to the death penalty and in order for it to be imposed when a defendant is found guilty of 1st degree murder, the aggravating circumstance must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Legislature has more than doubled the number of aggravators since 1973, a year after the United States Supreme Court ruled death penalty laws in 32 states, including Arizona, were unconstitutional.

Criminal defense attorneys have argued for years there are too many aggravating factors, and in a 2017 Arizona case in which the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, a minority of the court issued a statement raising that same concern.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the minority, said the Arizona case asks an important question about the Eighth Amendment.

“Whether Arizona’s capital sentencing scheme, which includes so many aggravating circumstances that virtually every defendant convicted of 1st-degree murder is eligible for death, violates the Eighth Amendment,” the statement read.

Farnsworth’s SB 1314 would eliminate three of those circumstances: If the defendant created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the person murdered; if the offense was committed in a cold, calculated manner without pretense of moral or legal justification; and if the defendant used a remote stun gun in the commission of the offense as defined in statute.

Dale Baich, who heads the capital habeas unit of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Arizona, said the latter two aggravators are used very infrequently, which is why the bill would eliminate them; the first is used more often.

The bill, which has already passed through both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate unanimously and now awaits assignment to a House committee, also combines aggravators related to murder-for-hire.

Ellie Hoecker, also with the Federal Public Defender’s Office, said combining those 2 aggravators “would apply to both people in a murder-for-hire situation – the person who solicits someone to kill someone else, and the actual killer.”

Hoecker found that in cases before the Arizona Supreme Court since 2006, 20 instances involved the aggravator in which someone was paid for a murder.

Baich said this bill is “a good start, but there is more that can be done to further narrow the statute.”

He said the aggravator that involves an offense committed in a heinous, cruel or depraved manner used to be determined by a judge, someone who knows when to use it, but as of 2002 is now determined by a jury, which could lead to the aggravator being used more often.

The last time Arizona executed somebody was in 2014 in what became a national story. Joseph Wood murdered his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection 2 years later.

His execution took nearly 2 hours to complete and people in attendance reported hearing Wood gasp several times throughout. Wood was injected with an experimental drug mixture 15 times, even though only 1 dose should have been sufficient to kill him. Prior to his execution, that specific mixture of drugs was only used 1 other time.

Baich said that in 2014, there was also an attempt to add an aggravator to Arizona’s capital punishment, which then-Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed after it passed through both chambers of the Legislature.

HB 2313 would have included a substantial likelihood that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that constitute a continuing threat to society; it would also expand the list of serious offenses. Brewer vetoed the bill saying in a written statement the changes would potentially make the death penalty unconstitutional.

If Farnsworth’s bill gets approved, the death penalty would decrease from 14 to 10 aggravators, but there’s no telling if Arizona would ever repeal capital punishment entirely.

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales said he thinks that is possible given that the number of executions nationally have declined over the past decade. Bales said he thinks there’s at least a growing sense for it to be limited.

“People can reasonably question whether the death penalty in the United States serves its goals,” he said.

Bales also mentioned how Arizona at one time did suspend capital punishment, but after a notorious murder the abolition was repealed.

“Looking at what the trends are around the [country], I think it’s possible in Arizona [to repeal the death penalty,]” Bales said.

(source: Arizona Capitol Times)

CALIFORNIA:

Despite defense move, judge says death penalty trial will stay in Fresno

A Fresno County judge on Thursday denied a request to move the death penalty trial of Kori Ali Muhammad, who is accused of killing 3 people in a crime spree 2 years ago as well as another homicide.

Judge Jonathan Conklin said defense attorneys who filed the change of venue motion did not present enough valid reasons to move the trial.<>P> For instance, a survey of 100 people showed only one or two recognized the defendant’s name, so with a county the size of Fresno there shouldn’t be a problem finding an impartial jury, the judge said.

Muhammad’s trial starts May 13.

He faces the death penalty because the Fresno County District Attorney filed 2 special circumstance allegations of multiple murder and that the homicides were based on race.

Muhammad, 41, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He has a documented history of schizophrenia, delusions and hearing voices. Police say Muhammad has confessed to several shootings, saying they were fueled by his hatred for white people.

He has been charged with 3 counts of murder in the shooting deaths of Mark Gassett, David Jackson and Zackary Randalls on April 18, 2017. He is also charged with the attempted murders of Stephen Walter, Michael Flores and Mark Greer.

In addition, he is charged with the murder of Motel 6 security guard Carl Allen Williams III, who was shot while working 5 days earlier, and the attempted murder of security guard Oscar Menjivar.

Under state law, a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea applies when the defendant is unable to know right from wrong at the time of the crime. If found innocent by reason of insanity, a defendant would be locked up in a state hospital and treated with the goal of returning to sanity so trial proceedings could resume.

In January 2018, Conklin ruled that Muhammad was competent to stand trial.

(source: fresnobee.com)

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California prosecutors will hit legal roadblock in seeking death penalty against suspect in 1973 murder

California prosecutors have said they're weighing capital punishment for the man accused of strangling an 11-year-old girl in 1973 — but legal experts insisted Thursday that's not possible.

James Alan Neal, 72, was charged Wednesday with murder for the slaying of elementary school student Linda O’Keefe in Newport Beach and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at news conference that seeking the death penalty is an option.

But when O'Keefe vanished while walking home from summer school on July 6, 1973, and was found dead a day later, there was no capital punishment on the books in California.

"I'm certain that you can’t impose a higher penalty for a crime than that which existed at the time of the crime," veteran Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer Steve Cron said. "That’s what the prohibition against ex post facto laws is all about."

California's Supreme Court, in February 1972, ruled that capital punishment amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. State lawmakers re-enacted the death penalty statute in 1977 before voters reaffirmed capital punishment at the ballot box in 1978.

California resumed executions in 1992. The state now executes prisoners by lethal injection.

"If the crime had been committed 5 years later, I have no doubt DA Spitzer would seek the death penalty," said Leif Dautch, vice chairman of the Criminal Law Executive Committee of the California Lawyers Association.

"Under settled law from the California Supreme Court, District Attorney Spitzer is barred from seeking the death penalty for a crime that was committed at a time when California did not have a valid death penalty." he said.

Still, at the press conference Wednesday announcing Neal's arrest, Spitzer insisted the death penalty is possible.

"And death may be a consideration in this case. As a district attorney, we have a process in place by which we would consider death and I will follow that process," he said. "I will make a decision about whether death is appropriate in this case."

Neal, arrested Tuesday morning in Colorado, made a brief appearance in an El Paso County courthouse Thursday. He is being held without bond and was ordered to return to court Feb. 28 to determine if he will be extradited to California.

1 of O'Keefe's 2 surviving sisters said she's long ago forgiven the suspected killer.

“This is the additional closure for me that’s there’s a person they’ve arrested, but I forgave the individual a long time ago because unforgiving to me is like taking poison and wanting the other person to die,” Cindy Borgeson told NBC Tucson affiliate KVOA on Wednesday.

“He’s not a monster to me. He’s a man who made a bad decision that affected my family, and I believe in justice and that’s not up to me to decide what that looks like,” she said.

(source: NBC News)

USA:

Guilty Plea Denied While Death Penalty Considered in NY Case

A man's guilty plea in the deaths of two former co-workers is on hold as federal prosecutors decide whether to pursue the death penalty.

Syracuse.com reports William Wood of Syracuse was prepared to plead guilty to a state charge of first-degree murder Wednesday and serve a life sentence for the September shooting inside a Chili's restaurant where he used to work.

But Chief Assistant District Attorney Melinda McGunnigle blocked the plea under a law that requires prosecutor consent for a guilty plea to first-degree murder.

The move gives federal prosecutors, who are pursuing separate charges, more time to consider a capital case.

Wood's lawyer objects, calling the law unconstitutional.

The judge gave prosecutors a week to put in writing why the plea should not be allowed.

(source: US News & World Report)

PAKISTAN:

India fails to answer critical questions in Jadhav case: Pakistan

Thursday was the last day of the Kulbhushan Jadhav case hearing at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Khawar Qureshi, representing Pakistan, began his final rebuttal before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by an unapologetic explanation of why Pakistan had to resort to “trenchant observations” in its rejoinder regarding India. Articulate and not one to mince his words, Qureshi once again chastised India for living in “wonderland” and persisting to the very end in seeking to “distract and deflect attention from its failure to answer critical questions by levelling accusations against Pakistan”.

India claims this case is only about denial of consular access whereas “it’s far from it”, claimed an uncharacteristically unrushed Qureshi. He found it absurd how India was reduced to equating the words of the Lahore High Court Bar Association secretary to the official position taken by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He addressed what he termed as India’s “Kidnap Fiction” by highlighting Dr Mittal’s failure to identify any attempt by India to engage with Iranian authorities regarding Kulbhushan Jadhav’s alleged kidnapping. “Providing explanation will expose the fiction,” claimed Qureshi.

The Queen’s Counsel spoke of yet another attempt by India to mislead the court with the mention of “photographs” of its officials. There was only one photograph shown by Pakistan in the court, that of Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval. It was “illuminating” how India never denied the contents of his February 2014 speech at any point. India’s confusion with regards to whether there were 18 or 40 MLA requests was another example of its deflection. Another instance of “playing fast and loose with words”, according to Qureshi, was India referring to words such as “clinching and convincing and unimpeachable” for Indian journalists; words never used by Qureshi at any point.

“Have we come to so what?” inquired a bewildered Qureshi with reference to India’s consistent disregard of the passport issue and claiming it has no legal consequences. According to Khawar Qureshi, “submissions were based on clear, compelling, un-contradicted evidence”. It was in fact, rhetoric that has been used by India “by way of pure and hollow response on this issue”. It’s a “catch me if you can” mindset, said Qureshi, whereby “India seeks to twist the facts and break the law to suit its purpose, brazenly trampling on red lines”.

Qureshi clarified that Pakistan in no way wants what India contends it wants, a reading down of VCCR to exclude espionage. “Unless India contends that Article 5(a) (compliance of international law) of VCCR and Article 55 (non interference in the internal affairs of a state) have no meaning” which would be consistent with India’s core stance of “behaviour of state is irrelevant,” added Qureshi.

Rebutting all of Indian counsel Harish Salve’s arguments from Wednesday, Qureshi sought to make it clear the preamble to the VCCR makes it clear that the position as at Customary International Law was unaffected in the absence of express provisions to the contrary in the VCCR. “Affirming that the rules of customary international law continue to govern matters not expressly regulated by the provisions of the present Convention”.

Throughout his hour-long rebuttal, Qureshi mocked Harish Salve’s use of the nonsensical word “studied moderation”. Pakistan has “maintained dignity and not allowed itself to be provoked” in the face of “linguistic gymnastics” of India, claimed Qureshi.

India had claimed on Wednesday that Pakistan had sought to mislead the court by hiding the fact that the Supreme Court had a pending appeal against the Peshawar High Court judgement against military court executions. An exasperated Qureshi wondered how a judgement becomes irrelevant or loses value by being the subject of an appeal, “in all legal systems a court’s decision is valid until declared otherwise by a superior court”.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan took exception to the “very strong and uncalled for criticism” made on the judicial system of Pakistan, in an “attempt to show that it has no review or reconsideration process”. In expanding on the “very robust system”, Khan continued to clarify that “the entire courts, whether regular civil/criminal courts, special courts, specialised tribunals or the military courts are created through the various Acts of Parliament, as prescribed by the Constitution”. With regards to India’s scathing criticism of secret proceedings held in Pakistan, he pointed out that “for reasons of state security, confidentiality and state secrets, some of the trials cannot be made public. This is true in almost all jurisdictions, including India”.

Khan went on to defend Pakistan’s military courts as being “governed by the Constitution and by all the statutes, including the laws of evidence, the Criminal Procedure Code and all similar laws. Thus, saying that the military courts are for some reasons incompetent or above the law is an incorrect assertion”.

While pointing out that the relief sought by India was outside the jurisdiction of this court, the AG did, however, shed some light on India’s demand for a retrial in civilian courts. “I surely want to bring forth the fact that there is an existing FIR against him in the civilian domain and that, in addition to the conviction so given, the case of terrorism is to commence against him.”

Pakistan’s attorney general on Thursday replied to India’s allegations by first reminding it how unclean its own hands were. Afzal Guru, who was refused a lawyer and even after being absolved of the charge of being from a terrorist organisation, handed down a death sentence to “satisfy the collective conscience of the society”, was a case in point. “I ask them, is that a ground for conviction under the law or Constitution. Is this fair trial in judicial review in India?” asked Khan.

He went on to recall the Samjhota Express terrorist attack in which more than 42 Pakistanis were burnt alive and “Pakistan has requested that the perpetrators be brought to justice, but no action has since been taken. Indian has embarked on the process of exonerating the accused, who have confessed to carrying out this heinous act. Families of thousands of Muslims of Gujarat, who were massacred in 2002 with full state connivance, await justice”.

He was quick to point out how India has “become the judge, executioner and ‘victim’, without any evidence to show or any inquiry held” in the Pulwama terror attack. However, most aptly bought up by Pakistan’s attorney general was the reference to Kashmir, “the atrocities committed by India, without any recourse for the victims. The Indian human rights have been a target all over the world. May I mention the use of pellet guns by the Indians on the innocent citizens of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, where more than 200 innocent civilians have lost their lives, more than 15,000 have been injured, more than 15,000 are missing and more than 2,000 innocent men, women and children have been blinded for life by use of pellet guns. This includes 18-month-old Hiba, who would never be able to see, in her life.”

The court with the trans-national jurisdiction has reserved its verdict which is expected sometime in the next 6 months.

(source: dawn.com)

INDIA:

State of MP has not even cared to file Counter, Supreme Court commutes Death Penalty of Murder Accused

The Supreme Court today commuted the death penalty of a murder accused to life imprisonment. The Court also had some strong words for the State of Madhya Pradesh for the delay in deciding mercy petition and for failure to file counter-affidavit in the writ petition.

The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Deepak Gupta and Indira Banerjee.

By way of background, the petitioner Jagdish was tried for the murder of his wife and 5 children. He was convicted by the trial court in 2006 and sentenced to death. He filed an appeal which was dismissed by the High Court and the death sentence was confirmed. Thereafter, he filed Criminal Appeal in Supreme Court which was dismissed in 2009.

The petitioner filed mercy petition before the jail authorities in 2009. The same came to be rejected by the President of India in 2014.

The petitioner then filed a Writ petition in Supreme Court in 2014 challenging the rejection of his mercy petition. The main ground taken by him was that there was a delay of almost 5 years in deciding the mercy petition and this itself is a ground to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment.

Thereafter, the petitioner also filed a Review Petition in which review of the 2009 judgment of Supreme Court was sought both on merits and sentence.

Both the writ and review petitions were heard together by the Supreme Court.

The Court at the outset declined the review petition on merits. It held that 3 courts have come to a concurrent finding of fact that it was the petitioner who murdered his wife and 5 children. From the written submissions of the parties, it could not find any reason to take a different view. The Court, therefore, made it clear that it will restrict itself to the sentencing aspect.

The Court noted the history of the case. The occurrence took place in 2005. The trial court completed the trial swiftly and delivered its judgment on April 24, 2006. The High Court confirmed the sentence within 2 months on June 27, 2006. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on September 18, 2009.

The petitioner filed a mercy petition addressed to the President of India and the Governor of Madhya Pradesh through the jail authorities on October 13, 2009. It was rejected only after five years on July 16, 2014.

The delay was from the side of Madhya Pradesh government and not the Government of India or Secretariat of Madhya Pradesh. The Madhya Pradesh government took more than four years to forward the mercy petition to Union government, the Court noted.

“As far as the Government of India or the Secretariat of the President of India is concerned, there is no delay in dealing with the mercy petition and the same has been dealt with expeditiously. However, the State of Madhya Pradesh has given no explanation for the delay of more than 4 years in forwarding the mercy petition”

The delay in forwarding the petition is totally un­explained and the Court cannot countenance an un­explained delay of more than 4 years. The Court expressed its objection in strong words noting that mercy petition is the last hope of a person on death row.

“We are dealing here with the case of a person who has been sentenced to death. The mercy petition is the last hope of a person on death row. Every dawn will give rise to a new hope that his mercy petition may be accepted. By night fall this hope also dies.”

The Court also said that it has held on numerous occasions that in cases where a death penalty has to be executed, the same should be done as early as possible.

Further, the Court also observed that the Madhya Pradesh government did not even care to file any counter affidavit in the Writ Petition even though notice was issued 4 years back on November 18, 2014.

“We are constrained to observe that not only was there a long, inordinate and un­explained delay on the part of the State of Madhya Pradesh but to make matters worse, the State of Madhya Pradesh has not even cared to file any counter affidavit in the Writ Petition even though notice was issued 4 years back on 18.11.2014 and service was effected within a month of issuance of notice.”

Besides the delay in deciding mercy petition, the court also adverted to the fact that the petitioner has been behind the bars for 14 years.

“We are not only dealing with the issue of delay in disposal of the mercy petition. The petitioner has now been behind bars for almost about 14 years. This is also a factor which will have to be taken into consideration”

The Court, therefore, commuted the death penalty awarded to the petitioner to life imprisonment.

The Court, however, also made it clear that life imprisonment would mean imprisonment for the rest of the life and the petitioner shall not be released from prison till his death.

(source: barandbench.com)

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Death penalty in Shakti Mills gang-rape case 'savage sentence': Convicts tell Bombay HC

The 3 men convicted in the Shakti Mills gangrape case told the Bombay High Court Thursday that the death penalty awarded to them by the sessions court in 2014 was a "savage sentence" and violated their right to life.

The trio, through their lawyer, told the high court the death sentence violated their fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The convicts, Vijay Jadhav, Kasim Bengali and Salim Ansari, represented by senior counsel Yug Chaudhry, argued that the death sentence awarded to them was wrong in law since there existed an "enormous difference between the harm caused" by them and "the punishment" mated out to them.

Chaudhry made the arguments before a bench of Justices B P Dharamadhikari and Revati Mohite-Dere that began the final hearing Thursday on the writ petitions filed by the convicts challenging the death sentence awarded to them under section 376 (E) of the IPC.

In April 2014, a sessions court here held 5 persons guilty in the August 2013 gang-rape case in Mumbai, which had caused a national outrage.

One of them, Siraj Khan, was sentenced to life imprisonment, while a second accused, a minor, was sent to a correctional facility.

Jadhav, Bengali, and Ansari were sentenced to death under the then newly introduced section 376 (E) of the IPC since the three had also been convicted in a previous case of gang-rape.

The 3, however, moved the HC soon after their conviction, challenging the constitutional validity of the law under which they were sentenced to death for a repeat offence.

The petitioners challenged the sessions court order allowing the prosecution to invoke section 376 (E) of the IPC when the trial was already underway.

They also challenged the constitutional validity of this section, brought in by the Union government after the infamous 2012 Delhi gang-rape case.

In March 2013, the Centre amended the rape laws in the country, introducing several stringent provisions, including section 376 (E).

This section says if a person, who has been previously convicted for rape under the IPC section 376, is subsequently found guilty in a similar offence, the courts can sentence him to imprisonment for the rest of his life, or, even award the death penalty.

On March 20, 2014, the 3 petitioners were convicted for raping a city-based photo-journalist in the premises of defunct Shakti Mills here.

The next day, while the sessions court was scheduled to begin arguments on their sentence, the state government moved an application, seeking framing of an additional charge under section 376 (E) since they had been convicted of raping another woman earlier.

The sessions court found merit in the prosecutions submissions and in April 2014, awarded the maximum punishment of death to the three petitioners, noting they were repeat offenders.

Advocate Chaudhry, however, questioned Thursday the state's move to frame additional charges when the trial in the case was "almost complete".

He also argued that section 376 (E) was arbitrary and that it entailed disproportionate punishment.

"Section 302 under the IPC entails a minimum punishment of life and a maximum of death for an offence of murder. Section 376 (E), however, entails a minimum punishment of imprisonment for one's full life without any possibility of remission," he said.

"Therefore, is our legislation saying that the offence of repeat rape that doesn't cause homicide is harsher than the offence of murder?" Chaudhry asked.

"How can one prescribe death in a case where another life has not been taken?" he argued.

He cited several judgements of the Indian and American Supreme Courts mandating that the death sentence was an unfair punishment in cases of non-homicidal offences.

Such punishment, he said, had been termed by the US Supreme Court as a "savage sentence", he argued.

The arguments are likely to continue on Friday.

(source: business-standard.com)

SOUTH SUDAN:

South Sudan and the Inhumanity of the Death Penalty

I am deeply appalled by the continuous use of death penalty as the best form of punishment in our fractured society. In a span of one week, South Sudan has carried out 6 executions on inmates, some of who have not exhaust all their legal options, including the right to appeal for clemency to His Excellency the President of the Republic. REST IN PEACE!

This is a worrisome development in a country that is preaching forgiveness, tolerance and peace. It’s very painful that the government can embark on this undertaking when it has other weighty state responsibilities.

As concerned citizen of our nascent Republic, we are call to duty when the responsibility knocks on our doors. The duty to protect, preserve and defend the constitution does not only liewith the government, it’s a collective responsibility of every citizen. Our national heroes including our President gave their lives to liberate millions of us from the bondage of slavery.

I am not writing for the sake of making noise, my writing on the subject is a deep-seated belief in the application of fair justice. I am writing to correct what is fundamental wrong in our justice system that I beared witness.

The course of justice that led to the execution of these citizens is a distinctive process which seem not to have been entirely observed. It starts with a police officer responding to a crime and conduct an investigation. Once the suspect is fully interrogated, he/she is presented before a court of law. Upon conviction, he/she will be sentence and convict to the degree of his/her crime.

The convict has the right to appeal his conviction to higher courts including the Appeal and the Supreme courts. After exhausting all legal options, the convict has the right to apply for pardon to his Excellency the President of the Republic. If clemency plea is rejected by the President, it would be automatically presumed that the President has confirm the conviction and sign the execution order.

In three of the 6 cases executed, these standards seem not to have been followed. One guy whom I will not name for the sake of grieving family was tried in absentia even though he was in prison as a remand prisoner for more than 10 years. 3 other individuals were still waiting for their appeal judgement, eightyears since their conviction and subsequent appeal after 14 days as the law requires. The appeal court, the second highestcourt did not pronounce any judgement prior to their executions. Have we now abandoned the rule of law, the cornerstone of justice?

These oversights amount to culpability and the weaknesses of the justice system in the Country. And the very reason why death penalty should not be carried out at all time. Fast it backward, 2 under age brothers were executed in 2017 in complete violation of their rights under article 21 of the South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution as amended. This article restricts the use of death penalty on any person under the age of 18.

These excesses affirm the UN General Assembly’s resolution 62/149 which stated that “Death Penalty undermine human dignity”. It further expounds that “any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty’s implementation is irreversible and irreparable”.

When it comes to our laws, South Sudan Transitional Constitution has those safe guards. The right to life is the foundation of all human rights. The constitution grantee it under article 11, Life and Human Dignity, “Every person has the inherent right to life, dignity and the integrity of his or her person which shall be protected by law; no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life”. but still state officers are not ready to do the right thing.

What is puzzling, from time to time and despite the glaring facts, there is a concert denial from the government about the use of death penalty as a form of punishment in the country. There is this narrative that South Sudan has never executed anyone since its inception in 2011. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

The secrecy surrounding all these executions indicated that the state is guilty of the practice. It’s inhumaneand cruel to take out human life of which all other rights depend on. If you are not alive, you cannot claim any right. Anything that takes away human life from God gifted existence is tantamount to murder, the very thing that need to be corrected with that form of punishment.

Death penalty retentionist deterrent hypothesis is discarded long time ago. Countries that are still carrying out the death penalty on some of the most gruesome crime are still experiencing those crimes. It’s not the number of people that you hanged through state sanction killing that deter others from committing thosesame crimes. Human impulses determined action that lead to murder.

Resolution 62/149 of the UN General Assembly categorically declared that “there is no conclusive evidence that death penalty deterrent argument by many countries that retain capital punishment reduces crimes of murder from being committed in those countries”.

We are a progressive society. To be held in the bondage of historical form of justice as the best practices annihilate our best values as a society. Do we love to see human being struggling like a chicken, pleading for his/her dear life during the execution? With all the state power, his life is exterminated without his wish.

It is time to rethink as a country on the use of death penalty. I urge our leadership, Religious and Political leaders, our Parliamentarians who are the makers of our laws, the Executive headed by our President as the implementing authority of those laws to look at the logic of the use of death penalty. At the end of the day, you have 2 broken families and communities who have lost their dear one. One as a result of crime committed in what every form and the other one, a state sanctioned killing. We have been taught in school that 2 wrong don’t make a right.

We must, as a country revisited and revise those laws like the penal code and the code of criminal procedures 2008. The discretion given by law to nearest family member in section 206 (b) of the penal code 2008 has been repeatedly misuse and has putted so many innocent people at risk. Section 48 of the same penal code, “Acts Committed by Several Persons in Furtherance of Common Intention” is no exception.

This section is being use without clearly demarcating the element of action and intention of each accuse in the crime. As long as the prosecution and the complainant have bundled you together, be sure you will be convicted together. Criminal actions that constitute a join act must clearly be outline in the text of the laws. Leaving it to individual judicial officers to interpret has resulted into too many miscarriages of justice.

We all belief as a country that laws are made to govern society, not to be use against the people. Immediate corrective measures need to be undertaken to arrest the situation, to stop further executions.

I personally appeal to our President’s usual human conscience to envoke his moratorium commitment under the UN charter to stay further execution. South Sudan as member state of the United Nations have obligation under international law to subscribe to best practices that are moving human dignityforward. We should strive to uproot those gallows at our midstto the museums, not to be seen ever again. It must never touch human born.

In the absent of the constitutional court, I appeal to His Excellency the President to consider setting up clemency review committee in his office to advise him on existing cases of death sentences with the view to commute them to life imprisonment.

(source: The author, Kur Ayuen Kou, is a South Sudanese Australian who lives in Melbourne, Australia ---- paanluelwel.com)

EGYPT:

Egyptian executions follow flawed trials, torture -UN rights office

The U.N. human rights office voiced concern on Friday that trials that led to the executions of 15 people in Egypt this month may have been unfair amid allegations that torture was used to obtain confessions.

Egypt executed 9 men on Wednesday convicted over the 2015 killing with a car bomb of the its chief prosecutor on Wednesday, adding to a surge in death sentences carried out in February, according to lawyers, activists and officials. 6 convicted people were executed in other cases.

"There is significant cause for concern that due process and fair trial guarantees may not have been followed in some or all of these cases, and that the very serious allegations concerning the use of torture were not properly investigated," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a briefing in Geneva.

All were murder cases, for which the death penalty is permissible under international law, Colville said, although the United Nations advocates its abolition. "The issue here is fair trial, the use of torture, forced confessions," he said.

Torture has been shown to be "well-established and endemic" in Egypt, Colville added, citing a U.N. investigation concluded in June 2017. "A confession obtained under torture should not be admissible," he said.

Egypt blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and Gaza-based Hamas militants for the operation to kill public prosecutor Hisham Barakat in a car bomb attack on his convoy in Cairo. Both groups denied having any role in the attack.

Colville said that other defendants convicted in similar circumstances, after trials marked by "disturbing reports of a lack of due legal process", are currently on death row and at "imminent risk of execution".

The U.N. human rights office urged Egyptian authorities to halt executions, review pending cases involving the death penalty, and conduct independent investigations into all allegations of torture, he said.

Since 2013, when the military under then-army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, Egyptian courts have issued hundreds of death sentences. Only a small proportion have been carried out, though the rate of executions has risen since 2015, rights activists say.

(source: Reuters)

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Former Egyptian VP calls for abolition of death penalty----Appeal comes day after Egyptian authorities execute 9 for alleged involvement in 2015 assassination

Former Egyptian Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei has decried Egypt’s frequent resort to capital punishment and has called for the abolition of the practice.

He made the assertion a day after the Egyptian authorities executed 9 people for alleged involvement in the 2015 assassination of Attorney-General Hisham Barakat.

“The death penalty is irreversible,” ElBaradei tweeted, going on to assert that the practice had been “universally rejected”.

“More than 170 countries have abolished capital punishment, either legislatively or in practice,” he said. “Less than 40 countries still use it.”

ElBaradei briefly served as vice-president following Egypt’s 2013 military coup, which led to the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader.

The 9 men executed on Wednesday had been among 28 people sentenced to death in 2017 for alleged involvement in Barakat's murder.

Earlier this month, the Egyptian authorities put 6 people to death in 2 different cases for the murder of a senior police officer and the son of a prominent judge.

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Germany to call out Egypt on executions: diplomat----Berlin in talks with Cairo following execution of 9 men in Egypt, says senior diplomat

Germany will call on Egypt to suspend death penalty and stop executions, a senior diplomat said Thursday.

“We are very concerned about the increase in death sentences and executions in Egypt,” the senior diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Anadolu Agency.

“We call on Egypt to immediately suspend the death penalty and stop the executions,” he stressed.

He underlined that the government will continue talks with Egyptian authorities and convey Berlin’s expectations for suspending death penalty and putting an end to executions.

“The German government will continue to raise this issue in talks with the Egyptian government. We are also in permanent contact with international human rights organizations,” he said.

The execution of 9 young people in Egypt on Wednesday caused an international uproar, with Amnesty International saying that these men were convicted after “grossly unfair trials” marred by torture allegations.

They were accused of assassinating Egypt’s Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in 2015.

The diplomat underlined that Germany rejects death penalty under all circumstances and works actively with other European Union members to campaign for its worldwide abolition.

(source for both: aa.com.tr)

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MENA Death Penalty Opponents Stand Against Egypt

As the Egyptian authorities execute 9 people over charges of involvement in the murder of former Prosecutor General, discussions on the death penalty and the fact that it is still widely carried out in the Middle East are on the rise.

On Wednesday, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior announced executing 9 people who were unfairly charged with death sentences over assassinating former Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in June 2015. This comes following the Grand Mufti’s approval of the sentence that was issued in November 2018.

During the trial, some of the defendants said they were forcibly disappeared or tortured to confess to a crime.

A day before authorities carry out the executions, Amnesty International released a statement urging authorities to halt executions because the nine prisoners were charged based on confessions extracted through torture.

Translation: “The executions are the government’s revenge from the opposition in a despicable way.”

Considering the Egyptian government’s history of carrying out death sentences after unfair trials, human rights organizations and activists have condemned death sentences as a cruel and inhuman punishment, especially if carried out during an unfair trial.

For the past couple of years only, Egypt has seen hundreds were sentenced to death after being presented in unfair trials.

On hashtags # [Stop Death Sentences] and # [No for Executions], Twitter users have got also a say on this.

Translation: “Today, 9 young men accused of killing the prosecutor general were executed in Egypt. 9 young men!!!”

The death penalty in the Middle East has long divided opinion, and opposition voices have been notably growing for the past few years.

Translation: “The right of life is an integral part of human rights, you can never be human rights defender who supports death sentences.”

Several opinions believe in abolishing the death penalty, as it had no place in the 21st century.

Translation: “In today’s morning, nine young men were executed in the prosecutor general assassination case with without fair trial or a system that protects [people’s] rights and in a semi-country. God, no refuge for us except for you.”

(source: Al Bawaba)

IRAN:

Stop imminent execution of three prisoners arrested as teenagers

The Iranian authorities must immediately halt plans to execute 3 young men who are on death row for crimes that took place while they were under the age of 18, said Amnesty International.

The organization has learned that Mohammad Kalhori, Barzan Nasrollahzadeh and Shayan Saeedpour, who were all convicted for separate crimes that took place while they were minors, are at risk of imminent execution.

“The Iranian authorities must act quickly to save these young men’s lives. Failing to stop their execution would be another abhorrent assault on children’s rights by Iran. International human rights law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 when the crime was committed,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Its use is horrendous in all circumstances but is even more appalling when it is used as punishment against people who were under 18 when the crimes took place and within a judicial system that is blatantly unfair.”

Iran is one of a handful of countries that continue to execute juvenile offenders in flagrant violation of international law. Over the past three years the Iranian authorities have stepped up such executions.

The organization is aware of more than 90 cases of people in Iran currently on death row for crimes that took place while they were under 18, though the real number is likely to be far higher.

“The Iranian authorities have a horrific track record of putting juvenile offenders to death in flagrant violation of international law and their own human rights obligations,” said Saleh Higazi.

“Instead of sending more juvenile offenders to the gallows the authorities must commute all death sentences and immediately reform Iran’s Penal Code to abolish the use of the death penalty against all those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. This should be a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely.”

As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child Iran is legally obliged to treat everyone under the age of 18 as a child and ensure that they are never subject to the death penalty.

Amnesty International has also noted an alarming pattern of the Iranian authorities scheduling executions of juvenile offenders at short notice to minimize the chances of public or private interventions to save people’s lives.

Mohammad Kalhori was 15 years old when he was arrested in December 2014 over the fatal stabbing of one of his schoolteachers. Branch One of the Provincial Criminal Court of Lorestan Province found him guilty of murder in March 2016. He was initially sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay “blood money” (diyah) to the victim’s family. In its verdict, the court relied on a state medical opinion which concluded that he did not have “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime.

However, the verdict was overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court and in January 2017, Branch Two of the Provincial Criminal Court of Lorestan Province dismissed any arguments about Mohammad Kalhori’s “mental growth and maturity” and convicted him of murder sentencing him to death. At least two judicial reviews of his case since then have been rejected and his family have now been told by the prosecutor’s office that his death sentence will be implemented soon.

Under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code judges have the discretion to replace the death penalty with an alternative punishment if they determine that the juvenile offender did not understand the nature of the crime or its consequences, or that there were doubts about his or her “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime.

Barzan Nasrollahzadeh was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials at the age of 17 in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province in May 2010. He was held for several months in a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Sanandaj without access to his family or a lawyer. He has said that during this period he was tortured, including with an electric-shock device, by being suspended upside down, and beaten. After his trial in August 2013, he was sentenced to death after being convicted of “enmity against God.” He is currently held in Raja’i Shahr prison, Karaj. His request for judicial review of his case has been rejected, which means that his sentence may be sent for implementation soon.

Shayan Saeedpour was arrested at 17 after surrendering himself at a police station for the murder of another person during a fight in August 2015. In October 2018 branch One of Kurdistan’s criminal court sentenced him to death for 1st degree murder and to 80 lashes for drinking alcohol.

Amnesty International is calling on Iran’s parliament to urgently amend Article 91 of the 2013 Islamic Penal Code to abolish the death penalty for crimes committed by people under 18 in line with Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The organization is also calling on doctors affiliated with Iran’s Legal Medicine Organization, an organization which provides courts with medical opinions on the “maturity” of persons convicted of crimes committed when they were still children, not to give medical legitimacy to judicial processes that lead to executions of people who were under 18 at the time of the crime.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to execute the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life.

(source: Amnesty International)

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UN rights experts urge Iran to halt execution of childhood offender

A group of UN human rights experts on Thursday urged Iran to halt the execution of a man who committed a crime when he was 15 years old.

Mohammad Kalhori, “was sentenced to death for killing his teacher when he was 15 years old.” Recently, it has been reported that his family was told to visit him for the last time, which has been “taken as a strong indication that his execution is imminent.”

UN human rights experts have urged Iran to both halt this execution and to annul the death sentence. The experts stressed that Iran has ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. By making these ratifications, Iran “has committed itself to prohibiting the use of the death penalty” for anybody under eighteen who has committed a crime. The experts also noted that this case goes against an amendment that Iran made to its Penal Code. This amendment allowed “judges to provide alternative sentences for child offenders if there was uncertainty about their ‘mental development’ at the time of the crime or if they had not realised the nature of the crime.” A forensic report on Kalhori “found he was not mentally mature at the time of the crime.”

Previously, the UN experts have communicated these concerns to the government of Iran.

(source: jurist.org)

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

Juvenile Offender at Imminent Danger of Execution Despite Being Mentally Unfit

Juvenile offender Mohammad Kalhor who is sentenced to death for murdering his teacher at the age of 15, is at imminent danger of execution. His death sentence can be carried out in the coming days despite several reports by medical experts testifying that Mohammad was mentally unfit and suffered from depression at the time of the crime. IHR calls on the international community to make all the effort they can to save Mohammad's life. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "International reactions can still save Mohammad's life. We especially call on Iran's European dialogue partners to put pressure on the Iranian authorities to stop Mohammad Kalhor's execution".

According to the Iranian daily newspaper Shargh Daily, Mohammad’s lawyer Hassan Aghakhani declared that his client’s family members have been told to visit the juvenile death row prisoner for the last time.

Mohammad Kalhor was a 15-year-old schoolboy from Boroujerd (western Iran) when he stabbed his 43-year-old physics teacher, Mohsen Khashkhashi, on November 22, 2014. Despite several reports by the state medical experts testifying that Mohammad was mentally unfit and suffered from depression at the time of the crime, the criminal court of Lorestan Province sentenced him to death and the verdict was ultimately upheld by Iranian Supreme Court.

Under Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code which was added to the law 5 years ago, judges are allowed to issue alternative verdicts for the minors. The juvenile offenders whom a judge considers not mature enough to realize the nature of the crime committed can face imprisonment instead of qisas (retribution) death sentence. However, it is up to the presiding judge’s discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense. Otherwise, the Islamic Penal Code puts the age of criminal responsibility 15 lunar years for boys and 9 lunar years for girls. In Mohammad’s case, Article 91 was not considered at all.

Lawyer Aghakhani emphasised that his client was immature at the time of the crime and according to official testimonies by medical experts and forensics, should not be executed. His last request for a review of the case under Article 91 was rejected. “Several efforts to win the plaintiffs’ consent has failed. A few days ago, Mohammad’s family members have been told to do their last efforts, otherwise, he will be executed soon,” the lawyer said.

According to the Iranian Islamic Penal Code (IPC) murder is punishable by qisas which means “retribution in kind” or retaliation. In qisas cases, the plaintiff has the possibility to forgive or demand Diya (blood money). Therefore, if the murdered teacher’s family members do not forgive Mohammad, he will be hanged to death soon.

It is worth mentioning that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has ratified, clearly bans execution and life imprisonment of juveniles. According to IHR statistic department, at least 6 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran in 2018.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

MALAWI:

‘The hangman was too tired to hang me – 3 times’

On death row in Malawi, Byson Kaula was nearly executed three times - but on each occasion the hangman stopped work before hanging all the prisoners on his list. So he survived… until the country stopped executing people altogether.

Byson Kaula says jealous neighbours were responsible for him being found guilty of murder. It was 1992 and murder in those days carried a mandatory death sentence.

Brought up in a small village in southern Malawi, Byson had made enough money working in the gas industry in Johannesburg, South Africa, to return home and buy land. He employed five people and grew fruit, wheat, maize, and cassava. "That is when my sad times began," he says.

Neighbours attacked one of his employees, Byson says, leaving him badly injured. The man couldn't walk without assistance, and while helping him get to the toilet - navigating steps that were slippery after heavy rain - Byson fell and dropped him. The man died later in hospital, and Byson - then in his 40s - was charged with murder.

In court, Byson's neighbours testified against him.

His mother, Lucy, sitting at the back of the courtroom, couldn't hear the sentence being read out and had to ask what was happening. When she was told he had been sentenced to death, "tears rolled from my eyes down my chest," she says.

This was towards the end of the totalitarian government of Hastings Banda, which had controlled the country since 1964. Byson vividly remembers the horror of waiting for his turn at what he calls "the killing machine".

"When I was told: 'You can go now to the condemned section waiting for your time to be hanged' - oh, I felt as if I was already dead."

At that time, there was just one executioner - a South African who travelled between several countries in the region, carrying out hangings. When he arrived in Malawi, once every couple of months, the prisoners on death row knew that time, for some of them, had run out.

One day Byson remembers being told that his name was on the list of 21 people to be hanged within hours. A guard told him that executions would begin at 1300 and that he should "just start praying".

They continued until 1500, when the executioner stopped work. But he had not reached the end of the list. Three people, including Byson, would have to wait until he returned.

"He was the only one operating that machine. And on that day, I understand he said: 'No it's too much, I'll come again next month,'" Byson says.

The same thing happened twice more, Byson says. The list was drawn up, but the hangman didn't finish it - and each time, by chance, Byson was among those left alive at the end of the day. On the third occasion, all the prisoners on the list were executed except him, he says.

In a way he was lucky, but the experience took its toll on him and he attempted suicide twice - only to survive this too.

After the establishment of multi-party democracy in Malawi in 1994, all executions came to a halt. The death sentence is still given out, even today, but no president has signed a death warrant for 25 years. Prisoners either languish on death row for years or have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

In time, Byson was moved from death row to the main part of Zomba Central Prison, and it looked as though he would spend the rest of his life there. He became heavily involved in the prison education programme, both studying and teaching. But he had no hope of ever being released.

Then, in 2007, roughly a quarter of a century after Byson was jailed, a historic case changed everything.

A drug user who admitted killing his stepson, but argued that he had been temporarily insane, went to court to challenge the mandatory death sentence for murder. He argued that this breached the right to a fair trial, and the right to protection from "inhuman and degrading treatment" - both guaranteed by Malawi's constitution - and the court agreed. In some cases of murder the perpetrator was more culpable than others, it ruled, and there should therefore be different levels of punishment.

This meant that all mandatory death sentences had to be reviewed.

Of nearly 170 prisoners eligible for resentencing, 139 have so far been released. According to the legal charity Reprieve, many had mental health problems or were intellectually disabled. More than 1/2 of those entitled to a new hearing turned out to have no court record at all - it was unclear why they were even in prison.

When lawyers said that they wanted to take Byson back to court he initially resisted, as he had been so terrified by his first experience. But he gave in, and when the judge told him he was free to leave immediately, he was stunned.

"The prison warders said can you get out of the accused box. But I couldn't stand up. I was just shivering, all my body was so weak… It was just as if I was dreaming. I could not believe what the judge had said."

Byson wasn't the only person whose life had been changed by his sentence.

His mother Lucy had visited every year during his incarceration. She would save her earnings from a year's work farming cotton to make the journey to the prison in Zomba, bringing Byson as many provisions as she could carry.

On the day of Byson's resentencing, she wasn't there, but her younger son was. When he rang to tell her the news, she took a while to believe what he was saying. Then, she says, she "jumped around like a lamb - a young lamb… my heart was filled with joy".

Byson was taken to a halfway house to help him learn new skills and make the transition back to normal life. Already in his 60s, he was the oldest person they'd ever had there.

He now goes back as a volunteer at weekends, to advise other ex-prisoners who are going through the same experience..

The land Byson used to farm is now overgrown. His wife died during the long years he was in prison and his 6 children have grown up and moved away. He lives alone, but takes good care of his mother, now in her 80s.

"During my imprisonment, all I was worrying about was my mother… Being her first-born, I would do everything possible for her. Now that I'm back, I don't let her go farming or do hard jobs. I have got other people to do the jobs for her. She doesn't go to the field. I do it myself."

His next project is to build her a new brick house.

(source: BBC News)

FEBRUARY 21, 2019:

TEXAS----impending execution

Death Watch: Flawed Testimony Cited to Challenge Death Sentence----Billie Coble challenges 2nd death sentence

Billie Coble, 70, has already evaded death once. In 2007, the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals granted him a punishment-phase retrial, but he once again was sentenced to death for killing his father-in-law, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law (Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha) in 1989 – an extreme response to his failing marriage. Now, unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles approves Coble's clemency request or the U.S. Supreme Court grants his not-yet-filed final appeal, Coble will face execution on Thursday, Feb. 28.

His death date was set soon after SCOTUS denied his last appeal in October 2018. Earlier this month, Coble, a Vietnam veteran, filed both an appeal and a stay request in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that his counsel "improperly overrode his Sixth Amendment right to determine the objective of his defense" and that his death sentence is based on the false testimony of state's witness A.P. Merillat – a claim Coble made in prior appeals after the 2008 retrial, which the CCA dismissed then. On Feb. 14, the state's highest criminal court again denied both pleas, claiming Coble failed to show how a recent Louisiana case applied to his situation and calling his appeal an "abuse of writ."

Coble, who's received several stays during almost 30 years on death row, was granted his retrial after the 5CA ruled that the special instructions given to the jury during the punishment phase of his original trial were likely to have "precluded the jury from giving meaningful consideration and effect to Coble's mitigating evidence." Coble's appeals of his 2nd death sentence cited testimony from 2 unreliable witnesses – Merillat and Dr. Richard Coons, who testified that Coble would be a future danger using the "same unscientific off-the-cuff, ad hoc 'junk science'" as during his 1st trial. Coble alleges Merillat has no credentials and "essentially a high-school education," and based his "'methodology' on a hearsay anecdote of prison violence, presented demonstrably false testimony, and harbored extreme bias against the defense." Though Coble also kidnapped his estranged wife Karen Vicha after killing her family and threatened to rape her before he was caught, he had no prison disciplinary record for the 18 years before his retrial – which, the appeal argues, showed that he would not be a future danger. Additionally, the 600-page 2013 appeal claimed Merillat's "unreliable testimony has led to at least 2 reversals in death penalty cases for false testimony," and he has since been "forced to remove himself from the prosecutorial expert roster." SCOTUS denied this appeal in October.

On Monday, Feb. 18, Coble's lawyer A. Richard Ellis told the Chronicle a final appeal will be filed in the Supreme Court later this week. Without a last-minute stay, Coble will be the 2nd Texas death row inmate executed in 2019.

(soruce: Austin Chronicle)

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After Texas' 2nd Supreme Court loss in a death penalty case, reform bill lands key GOP support

The chairs of 2 House committees signed on as joint authors of a bill that would set the method of determining if a capital murder defendant is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution.

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

One day after the U.S. Supreme Court once again invalidated a Texas death sentence and bashed the state’s highest criminal court for its method of determining intellectual disability in death penalty cases, 2 key Republican lawmakers have signed on to a Democrat’s bill that would create a uniform process.

On Wednesday, state Reps. James White and Jeff Leach became joint authors to Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s House Bill 1139, which would establish a pretrial procedure to determine if a capital murder defendant is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. White chairs the House Corrections Committee, and Leach leads the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

“We’ve got to get to work here,” White, from Hillister, told The Texas Tribune after adding his name to the bill. “The Supreme Court — not once, but twice — stated that what we’re doing is not constitutional.”

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities was unconstitutional, but states were left to come up with their own methods of defining the condition. The Texas Legislature hasn’t taken action, instead putting the issue on individual courts, which have implemented varied methods for deciding the crucial question of whether a person should be spared from execution.

Often, prosecutors simply don’t seek the death penalty when there is a credible claim of intellectual disability. Other times, juries are told to weigh the issue after convicting someone of capital murder — when they’re deciding during a trial’s punishment phase between life in prison or death.

As filed, Thompson’s bill, which already had joint authors in Democratic Reps. Joe Moody of El Paso and Armando Walle of Houston and matches a bill by state Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, would allow a capital murder defendant to request a hearing to determine intellectual disability before trial. If a judge determined the defendant was intellectually disabled — defined as having a low IQ with deficits in practical and social skills since youth — the death penalty would be taken off the table and the defendant would receive an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Advocates and the bipartisan group of lawmakers argue that a legislative change is necessary after recent rulings put Texas at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court.

For years, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the top criminal court in the state, has begged lawmakers to set up a uniform process. But without movement from the Capitol, the Texas court established its process of determining intellectual disability in late appeals of those set for execution. The test relied on decades-old medical standards and a controversial set of questions the judges imposed, including how well an inmate could lie.

The Supreme Court ruled the test unconstitutional in 2017 in the case of Bobby Moore, a man sentenced to death nearly 40 years ago in a Houston robbery and murder. A majority of the justices said the Texas court's questions advanced stereotypes. Moore’s case was sent back to Texas, where the Court of Criminal Appeals said it would use current medical standards in its decision but again ruled Moore was not disabled, despite briefings from the prosecutor in his case agreeing Moore had a disability.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court knocked the Court of Criminal Appeals again without a hearing, saying the lower court’s decision-making process included many of the same flaws as before. This time, the justices said plainly that Moore had shown he was intellectually disabled — making him ineligible for execution.

Leach, from Plano, said Tuesday’s ruling added fuel to his already-pending decision to sign on to Thompson’s bill. Leach has become a rare Republican critic of Texas death penalty practices — fighting to stop multiple executions and saying he would consider a moratorium on the death penalty. On Wednesday, he told the Tribune that the intellectual disability bill as filed may not be perfect, but it needs a legislative discussion.

“This is a crucial issue for our state," he said. “And conservatives, Republicans, should not be afraid to engage in this discussion on the front lines.”

(soruce: The Texas Tribune)

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Roberts Sides With Liberals in Death Penalty Case

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the 4 liberal justices on the Supreme Court in rebuking a lower court for failing to follow their instructions when a case involving whether a man sentenced to death was mentally incompetent or not when the high court remanded it back for new proceedings.

For the 2nd time in as many weeks, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has sided with liberal Supreme Court justices to disagree with how lower courts have interpreted Supreme Court precedent.

On Tuesday, Roberts was pointed in saying the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has “misapplied” a 2017 ruling that instructed that court to reconsider its analysis of whether death row inmate Bobby James Moore was intellectually disabled, and thus ineligible for execution.

“On remand, the court repeated the same errors that this court previously condemned,” Roberts wrote, concurring in the majority’s finding Tuesday that Moore “is a person with intellectual disability.”…

The Texas court’s review of Moore “did not pass muster under this court’s analysis last time,” Roberts wrote in a separate opinion. “It still doesn’t.”

Interestingly, when the case first went up to the Supreme Court, Roberts was in the minority in ruling against the defendant. So did he change his mind? No. He just believes, as he should, that the decision he disagreed with is the controlling precedent and the lower courts are bound to abide by it whether he agrees with it or not. That’s a chief justice taking a position that is not driven by ideology but by a proper understanding of the role of precedent and the job of the lower courts to apply it properly.

(source: patheos.com)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Death penalty repeal clears committee in 11-6 vote

The latest attempt to repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire cleared its 1st hurdle on Wednesday, as the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 11-6 to recommend the bill, HB 455, to the full House.

The issue has never broken along party lines, and the committee vote was no exception, as Democrat Andrew O’Hearne of Claremont voted with five Republicans, while Republicans David Welch of Kingston and Scott Wallace of Danville voted with the Democrats.

Much of the debate echoed the hours of testimony heard in a well-attended public hearing on Tuesday, as some representatives on the committee attempted to reconcile their position on abortion with their position on the death penalty.

“Now I’ve resolved my positions,” said Welch, who chaired Criminal Justice under Republican majorities. “I’m consistently pro-life and will not vote for the death penalty.”

Republicans Jody McNally, Dennis Green and Dave Testerman all accused the Democrats who support abortion rights as being hypocritical in their opposition to the death penalty.

“Children being born are innocent. Criminals on death row are not innocent,” said Green. “To me they are no different than a rattle snake, and you can never change a rattle snake. I have no problem with putting someone to death. Yes, they can prove years ago that someone was on death row and found evidence it was not him, but today, they can find it much faster.”

Testerman framed the issue in a similar way.

“What bothers me is a lot of people who are for repeal of the death penalty are pro-abortion advocates. I don’t understand how they can be pro-abortion and vote against the death penalty. For me it’s the same thing. As a father, I would want retribution if someone killed one of my children.”

Supporters of the repeal effort cited many of the same arguments heard at Tuesday’s public hearing on the bill, which Rep. Linda Harriott-Gathright, D-Nashua, described as “pretty profound.”

“This is the only law we have in New Hampshire that is 100 percent about retribution,” said Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth.

“It’s about revenge; it’s about the state essentially condoning the murder of one individual for the murder of another, and I don’t believe our state or federal government should be in the business of murdering its citizens, no matter what they’ve done.”

Gov. Chris Sununu said on Wednesday that he plans to veto any repeal measure if it lands on his desk, just as he did last year.

“I stand with police and I stand with victims,” he said.

The House vote on the bill could come as early as Feb. 27, after which it will move over to the Senate if it passes.

(source: Union Leader)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Another flawed case: Pa’s death penalty is broken and lawmakers need to abolish it

Why does Pennsylvania even bother having a death penalty anymore?

There’s another reason to ask that question this week with news that, because of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective counsel, a Philadelphia judge has vacated the death sentence of Orlando Maisonet, who was convicted in the murder of a pizza shop owner and a reported snitch decades ago, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Maisonet, who was once featured on ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ had his conviction in the death of pizza shop owner Ignacio Slafman overturned in 2005. And last week, after 28 years on death row, Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott vacated the conviction in the death of that snitch, Jorge Figueroa. This means Maisonet will either have to be retried or released, the newspaper reported.

And in the wake of the decision, a Boston College law professor says there might have to be a review of all the cases handled by the late Roger King, who, under the tenure of former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, was famed for obtaining more capital convictions than any other prosecutor, the Inquirer also reported.

The decision in Maisonet’s case comes just about 2 months after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the death sentence of Terrance Williams, of Philadelphia, on the grounds that prosecutors had withheld key evidence that Williams had been sexually assaulted by his victim, a church deacon named Amos Norwood, as a youth.

Williams was re-sentenced to life without parole and continues to appeal his 1st-degree murder conviction, according to The York Daily Record.

And that decision came after a capital inmate from Schuylkill County named Ronald Champney was resentenced last August to 10 to 20 years in prison under the terms of plea deal where he pleaded no contest to lesser charges, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

All told, Pennsylvania’s death row population has fallen, largely because of reversals and resentencings, by 100 people over the last 16 years, going from 247 inmates in April 2002 to 142 inmates with these most recent instances.

In all, 170 Pennsylvania death-row prisoners have overturned their convictions or death sentences in state or federal post-conviction proceedings and Pennsylvania’s state courts have reversed an additional 100 death sentences on direct appeal, according to Death Penalty Information Center data. More than 97 % of the state’s death row inmates have been resentenced to life or less or acquitted, according to the DPIC data.

At the same time, however, prosecutors across Pennsylvania have continued to pursue the death penalty and the state Corrections Department has continued to sign execution warrants for convicted inmates, most recently for a York County man, who has a scheduled execution date of March 8, The York Dispatch reported.

Both the sentences and warrants, however, are symbolic and effectively meaningless. Pennsylvania has executed just 3 people in the last 6 decades. The last one came in 1999 with the execution of Philadelphia torture-killer Gary Heidnik at Rockview State Prison in Centre County.

In 2015, shortly after taking office, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium on executions that remains in place 4 years later.

Last year, a death penalty study panel, authorized under a 2011 state Senate resolution, released its long-awaited report on the state of capital punishment in Pennsylvania.

It reinforced what most already know: That the death penalty is unnecessarily expensive, unevenly applied, and unfairly influenced by such factors as geography.

The sprawling and deeply troubling 280-page document also noted, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer “the high number of people with intellectual disability and mental illness on death row — populations that are constitutionally protected from capital punishment. And it found the punishment had been unevenly applied, affected by factors like the race of the victim and the county where the crime occurred.”

The report’s authors concluded that “neither judicial economy nor fairness is served when the more than 97 5 of cases in which death sentences are converted to life sentences or less leave death row only after post-conviction review.”

So, again, why – apart from the optics of appearing tough on crime – does Pennsylvania even have a death penalty on its books?

30 of 50 states currently have a death penalty statute on the books. Most of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states, with the exception of Ohio, have abolished the death penalty.

With the new “Clean Slate” law and other reforms over the last few years, Pennsylvania has emerged as a national model for criminal justice reform That push has united both progressives, who make the traditional social justice arguments about needlessly punitive sentences, and fiscal conservatives, such as Americans for Prosperity, who have come at it from the economic side of the ledger. There is a similar push waiting to be made on capital punishment.

Yet in the face of mounting evidence that Pennsylvania’s death penalty is irretrievably broken, state lawmakers, who fix or repeal ineffective laws all the time, have remained content to let the machinery of death rumble pointlessly and ineffectively on its way.

If they’re really serious about criminal justice reform, this year should be the year that Pennsylvania lawmakers give society’s ultimate sanction the serious rethink it deserves.

Even better, they should just repeal it, and get it over with.

(source: John Micek, Capital-Star)

DELAWARE:

Judge holds hearing in case overturning death penalty

A murder suspect whose case led to Delaware's death penalty being overturned by the state Supreme Court is facing sentencing after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

29-year-old Benjamin Rauf of Westerlo, New York, was to be sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty earlier this month to manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He faces between 5 and 50 years in prison.

Rauf was charged in the 2015 drug-related killing of Shazim Uppal of Hockessin, a fellow Temple University law school graduate.

Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Rauf. A judge put the case on hold and sought a state Supreme Court opinion on Delaware's death penalty after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding Florida's death penalty statute, which was similar to Delaware's.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Jury finds man guilty of Raleigh double murder, setting up potential death penalty

A jury found Seaga Gillard guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder Wednesday, setting up a decision on whether he will be executed for the killings.

The Wake Forest man had been charged in the 2016 slaying of April Holland and Dwayne Garvey at the former America’s Best Value Inn near Crabtree Valley Mall. The punishment phase of the trial is expected to begin next week.

North Carolina has not executed an inmate since 2006, and no death sentence has been imposed statewide for more than 2 years.

Evidence against Gillard, 31, spooled out over a week’s testimony, much of which centered on hotel surveillance video.

Jurors watched two men, who prosecutors identified as Gillard and co-defendant Brandon Hill, in the hallway outside room 202, where Holland had advertised her services as a prostitute. It was also where her lover Garvey banged on the door after the two men arrived, obviously agitated.

Police witnesses said the video clip showed Gillard firing 7 shots at Garvey outside the door, matching the number of shell casings found on the floor. Shortly after, a detective pointed out to jurors, Gillard appeared from inside room 202 and raised his arm twice with the gun recoil. Holland was discovered with 2 bullet wounds to the chest and head, along with 2 shell casings, an unwrapped condom and $140 cash found in the room.

2 other women testified they were sexually assaulted by Gillard and Hill on separate occasions, and a police detective said the woman were both working as prostitutes who advertised online.

Images from the hotel video were circulated through the media, which led to identifications for Gillard and an associate named “B.” Police later interviewed Kara Lambe, who told them she was working as a prostitute when a man who called himself Carlos picked her up at home in Randolph County and drove her to Wake Forest.

Lambe said Gillard forced her into prostitution in a Raleigh hotel and collected the money, though jurors did not hear this due to a legal order that limited her testimony. But they did hear her testify that she learned Carlos’ real name, Gillard, when she saw his ID on a table, and that he carried a gun he called “Lemon Squeeze.” Lambe said Gillard put the gun to her mouth, ordered her to show her teeth and threatened that her blood would be all over the walls.

Gillard’s attorneys did not present any evidence in the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial. Much of the case’s attention has centered on whether Gillard will receive the death penalty sought by prosecutors, an increasing rarity statewide.

(source: newsobserver.com)

FLORIDA:

Florida man faces execution for killing 2 women in 2015

A Florida man faces the death penalty for fatally stabbing 2 women.

The Ledger reports that a Polk County jury unanimously recommended execution Monday for 39-year-old Michael Gordon. A judge will make the final decision.

Gordon was convicted of 1st-degree murder last week.

Authorities say Gordon, Terrell Williams, Devonere McCune and Jovan Lamb robbed an Auburndale pawn shop in January 2015. McCune was arrested after a shootout with police.

Responding deputies went to a nearby home and found the bodies of 72-year-old Patricia Moran and her 51-year-old daughter Deborah Royal. Authorities say Williams, Gordon and Lamb were arrested after trying to flee in the victims' car.

Williams was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Lamb and McCune are awaiting trial.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Anti-Death Penalty Group Pleased But Still Concerned About Upcoming Executions

Advocates against capital punishment say they’re pleased with comments from Gov. Mike DeWine, who says executions won’t proceed until the prisons department comes up with a new lethal injection process.

DeWine says until the lethal injection mixture can stand up to federal court scrutiny, the nearly two dozen executions scheduled between this May and 2022 won’t go forward.

Kevin Werner with Ohioans to Stop Executions said that’s the right decision, but there needs to be an examination of the overall system and those who are on death row.

“They are people who are poor, who killed white victims, and who have some underlying substance abuse or abuse as children or have a mental illness – I mean, that’s who we’re talking about here," Werner said.

Werner said lawmakers haven’t acted on recommendations they’ve had to improve the system.

DeWine, a former prosecutor and attorney general, told reporters the death penalty is the law, but with DNA and other advances there’s more known today than when he voted to pass the law in 1981.

(source: WVXU news)

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

7 men from Butler County are on Ohio’s Death Row. Here’s what they did.

Of the 137 Ohio prison inmates sentenced to death for convictions of aggravated murder, 7 are connected to Butler County.

On Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he is halting executions until the state devises a new lethal injection protocol that overcomes any court challenges.

He did not issue a formal stay of all executions but said “Ohio is not going to execute someone under my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment.”

There are no death penalty cases pending in Butler County, according to court records.

The last Butler County person to be executed by lethal injection was Michael Benge, 49, of Hamilton. In 2010, Benge was executed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville for the beating death of his estranged girlfriend Judy Gabbard in June 1993.

Benge’s execution was Ohio’s 8th lethal injection in 2010 — the most in a year since the state resumed capital punishment in 1999. The previous high was 7 in 2004. The most executions occurred in 1949, when 15 men died by electric chair.

Here is a look at the 7 inmates from Butler County on death row:

Von Clark Davis

In September 2009, it took a 3-judge panel less than 60 minutes to affirm that twice-convicted killer Von Clark Davis, who was first sentenced to die 35 years earlier, should return to Ohio’s death row.

Davis, 72, who twice had his death penalty overturned in appeals, has admitted to killing his former girlfriend, Suzette Butler, in December 1983 in Hamilton.

When he shot Butler multiple times in the head, he was on parole for the 1970 stabbing death of his wife, Ernestine, 20, at her Hamilton home.

Donald Ketterer

Donald Ketterer, 68, of Butler County, pleaded guilty in a 2004 trial for the murder and robbery of 85-year-old Lawrence Sanders. A 3-judge panel sentenced Ketterer to death with an additional 22 years for other charges.

He stabbed to death Lawrence Sanders, 83, and struck him in the head with a cast-iron skillet.

Jose Loza

Jose Loza, 45, of Middletown, was sentenced in 1991 for shooting and killing 4 members of his girlfriend’s Middletown family. The victims were shot in the head at close range while they slept in their home.

Calvin McKelton

In 2010, convicted killer Calvin McKelton was sentenced to death for the execution-style shooting of a witness who saw him strangle his girlfriend and Fairfield attorney Margaret “Missy” Allen.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Sage also sentenced the then-33-year-old Cincinnati man to 15 years to life in prison for Allen’s murder and an additional 14 years for a string of other felony charges related to dumping her body and trying to cover up evidence in her home.

McKelton showed no emotion when the judge imposed the death penalty that a jury recommend, but maintained his innocence during a brief statement before the sentence.

“I would like to say, I am innocent of these charges, I was wrongfully indicted, wrongfully convicted… but I believe the same system that failed me will be the same system that sets me free,” McKelton said, adding he will appeal.

McKelton was convicted of killing Allen in July 2008 and for the February 2009 shooting death of Germaine Evans Sr. in a Cincinnati park. Evans’ murder carried the possibility of a death penalty because he was killed so that he could not implicate McKelton in Allen’s death, which is an aggravating factor, according to Ohio law.

Gregory Osie

5 years ago, the Ohio Supreme Court stayed the execution of a former West Chester Twp. man who was convicted in 2009 for murdering his girlfriend’s boss to cover up the woman’s alleged theft.

Gregory Osie, 53, was scheduled to die on June 15, 2016, but in 2014 the state’s highest court granted this motion to stay that date until all state appeals are exhausted.

Osie was convicted by a 3-judge panel in April 2010 of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence. He was sentenced to death for the killing of David Williams at his Liberty Twp. home.

Kenneth Smith

Kenneth Smith and his brother, Randy, were convicted of robbing and killing Ruth and Lewis Ray in their Hamilton home in May of 1995.

The 6th District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has heard the appeals Kenneth Smith has made to stave-off his death sentence.

Both Smiths were convicted of murder with death penalty specifications, but only 1 brother was sentenced to death row and that was Kenneth.

Randy Smith received a life sentence with parole eligibility after 30 years.

Clifford Williams

Clifford Williams, then 18, was convicted of shooting and killing a taxi driver in Hamilton on Aug. 3, 1990. He hailed the taxi, shot the driver in the head and stole his money.

He was convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, and breaking and entering.

Williams was admitted to the Chillicothe Correctional Institution in February 1991. He’s been there ever since, awaiting an execution date.

(source: Hamilton Journal-News)

INDIANA:

Man accused in 4 killings loses fight to avoid death penalty

A northeastern Indiana judge has rejected efforts by a man awaiting trial in 4 slayings to avoid a possible death penalty in the case.

An Allen County judge ruled Monday against 23-year-old Marcus Dansby's bids to have the death penalty thrown out as an option and to have Indiana's capital punishment statute declared unconstitutional.

Dansby's attorneys argued that the Fort Wayne man was too young to get a possible death penalty if he's convicted because he was 20 years old at the time of the killings.

The Journal Gazette reports that Dansby is charged in the fatal September 2016 shootings and stabbings of 3 people in Fort Wayne, including his ex-girlfriend, who was 8 months pregnant.

Dansby's trial is scheduled for April, but his lawyers are seeking a postponement.

(source: Associated Press)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas Bill Would Put Limits On Last Meals For Condemned

An Arkansas lawmaker is proposing that the last meal for death row inmates be limited to the same food choices that are available to other prisoners on the day of the execution.

Republican Rep. Rebecca Petty on Wednesday filed legislation to place limits on death row inmate’s final meals. Under Petty’s proposal, the inmate’s final meal on the day of the execution should be limited to existing food available at the facility when the inmate is executed.

Arkansas hasn’t executed an inmate since April 2017, when it put 4 inmates to death over an 8-day period. The state doesn’t have any more executions scheduled, and its supply of 3 lethal injection drugs has expired.

(source: Associated Press)

MONTANA:

After 2 years, Mueller's Russia probe may be near its end. CNN says DOJ preparing for report as early as next week topical----Committee rejects bills to limit, overturn death penalty in Montana

A legislative committee has rejected bills that sought to limit or overturn the death penalty in Montana.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 Wednesday against abolishing capital punishment.

Members also rejected, 15-4, a bill to require indisputable DNA or video proof of a person's guilt in a capital crime before the defendant could be sentenced to death.

Republican Rep. Alan Doane said he opposed the DNA bill because it required evidence to be presented at trial and would rule out the death penalty if a defendant confessed and pleaded guilty.

Democratic Rep. Jasmine Krotkov said that while the DNA bill was imperfect she supported it because the death penalty isn't implemented fairly, is costly and does not deter homicide.

A bill to abolish the death penalty in Wyoming recently passed the House but failed in the Senate.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Abolish Montana's death penalty

The only 2 people on Montana's death row have been there for decades. Ronald A. Smith was convicted of killing two men in 1982 near Glacier National Park. William Jay Gollehon was sentenced to die for murdering 5 other inmates during a 1991 riot at Montana State Prison.

The most recent execution carried out by the state of Montana was in 2006, when David Dawson was put to death for kidnapping and murdering the Rodstein family in Billings in 1986. Dawson spent the last 2 years of his life arguing for his own execution. After 18 years of incarceration, Dawson preferred death and demanded an end to appeals.

Montana's experience with death sentences makes a strong case against capital punishment. Montana has virtually abolished it because no one has been executed in a dozen years. The state presently has no legal method for execution because in December 2017, a Helena District judge ruled that the state's mandated execution drug failed to meet the state's requirement for a fast-acting lethal injection.

Yet the rarely used and unenforceable law remains in state code. There are good reasons for abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with life in prison without possibility of parole:

To avoid fatal errors. Inmates on death row in other states have been exonerated. In Montana, more than a dozen convicts have been proven innocent with DNA evidence long after they went to prison. A person wrongly imprisoned can be set free; there's no possibility of justice for a wrongly executed person.

The enormous cost of prosecuting a death penalty case, starting at the county trial level where, over the years, some county attorneys have chosen to pursue life sentences rather than death because of the expense to their community. Appeals continue for decades with taxpayers funding both prosecution and defense costs.

Taxpayers bear the costs of lifetime incarceration, but they have already paid to keep Montana's 2 death row inmates locked up for more than 30 years each pending execution. The Montana Office of Public Defender presently has 2 death penalty cases, 1 of which had costs of $530,000 in fiscal 2018, and $351,933 in the first 6 months of fiscal 2019, according to the fiscal note for HB350 prepared by the state budget office. Those legal expenses dwarf the $40,000 a year it costs to keep an inmate in Montana State Prison.

Family and friends of victims are reminded of the crimes again and again as appeals wind through the court systems. Some may wish to see the convict executed, but others are opposed.

Capital punishment doesn't deter crime. If executions deterred criminals, Texas should have the lowest murder rate in the nation because it carries out by far the most executions, but it doesn't. States that have abolished the death penalty, on average, have lower murder rates than states with capital punishment laws, according to FBI statistics.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee tabled the latest proposal to abolish capital punishment on vote of 11-8. Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, sponsored House Bill 350 to strike the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without possibility of parole. This change would assure that justice is done in sentencing the worst criminals and that victims' families would no longer wait for 30 years or more to see the sentence carried out.

2 days before the committee rejected HB350, the panel held a hearing where Montanans who favored abolition outnumbered those who wanted to keep capital punishment on the books. David Andersen, of the Montana Association of Christians, said "the death penalty is inconsistent in our view with Christian values and biblical witness."

"In using it, we continue to model the taking of life to settle scores," Susan DeBree, the mother of a murder victim and proponent of HB350, told the House committee. "We kill people to teach people they shouldn't kill."

With HB350 tabled and the bill transmittal deadline just over 2 weeks away, chances for reviving it are slim, but the reasons to abolish capital punishment still matter. Replacing it with life in prison would be more just, more certain and more fiscally responsible. And for some convicts, like David Dawson, living behind bars is the greater punishment.

A legislative committee has rejected bills that sought to limit or overturn the death penalty in Montana.

(source: Opinion; Billings Gazette)

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

Republicans on House panel deep-six bill to abolish death penalty

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to kill the bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana.

Without discussion, the panel voted 11-8 to kill House Bill 350, which was heard before the committee on Monday. All Republicans on the panel voted to table the measure; all 8 Democrats voted to keep it alive.

Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, the sponsor of the bill, told MTN News he has no plans to try to revive the measure.

“It was important to have the discussion (on the issue),” he said.

In testimony before the committee Monday, Hopkins said it’s time to abolish the death penalty because Montana is still spending money on current cases even though the state has been barred by a court ruling since 2015 from executing anyone.

Only 2 convicts are on death row in Montana. One of them, Ronald Smith, was first sentenced in 1983.

Death-penalty opponents have tried for several legislative sessions to pass a bill to abolish the penalty in Montana. A bill last made it to the House floor in 2015, but died on a 50-50 vote.

(source: KRTV news)

NEVADA:

Bill to End Nevada’s Death Penalty Proposed

A bill to end the rarely used death penalty in Nevada, is circulating around the legislature. State senator James Ohrehshall and assemblyman Ozzie Fumo have introduced AB149. Similar measures died in the last legislative session. Ohrenschall says the death penalty is not a deterrent, but is a burden on taxpayers. It rarely proceeds smoothly to an execution, even when the killer requests it. Nevada’s last execution was in 2006. Fumo is a Las Vegas defense attorney who estimates the average cost of mandatory appeals for death row inmates at $500,000, and said the state spends a billion “warehousing” people in jails and prisons before, during and after death penalty trials.

(source: KKOH news)

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

Nevada lawmakers call to end death penalty; cite costs, stalls

2 Democratic state lawmakers say costly appeals and the inability to carry out a lethal injection mean that Nevada should give up the death penalty.

State Sen. James Ohrenschall and Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo have introduced a bill (AB149) to add Nevada to the list of 20 states and the District of Columbia that ban capital punishment.

The 2 lawmakers separately backed a similar measure that died in the 2017 Legislature.

Ohrenschall calls the death penalty a burden on taxpayers, and says killers don't consider it a deterrent.

Nevada hasn't executed anyone since 2006, and the 2 lawmakers cite court challenges that twice stopped scheduled executions of Scott Raymond Dozier.

Fumo says money spent on mandatory appeals for death row inmates could go instead to schools and education.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Man Faces Death Penalty in Kidnapping, Killing of 11-Year-Old Inglewood Boy in 1990

A man faces the death penalty for the kidnapping and killing of an 11-year-old Inglewood boy nearly 30 years ago, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

Edward Donell Thomas, 50, was arrested on Feb. 14 in connection with the disappearance of William Tillett.

Thomas faces a murder charge, along with a special allegation of kidnapping and lying in wait. The charges make him eligible for the death penalty. Thomas was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

William was walking home from Kew Elementary School in Inglewood on May 24, 1990 when he was kidnapped. His body was found hours later in a Hawthorne carport, officials said.

It is unclear what led to Thomas’ arrest nearly 30 years later.

He faces death or life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged.

Inglewood police continue to investigate the crime, and anyone with information can call homicide detectives at 310-412-5246. (source: KTLA news)

WASHINGTON:

Senators vote to end state death penalty

The Senate passed a bill Friday to remove the death penalty from Washington state statute and replacing it with life in prison without parole.

Senate Bill 5339 passed with 28 in favor, 19 opposed, with senators Phil Fortunado, R-Auburn and Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, excused.

Republican senators Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake and Brad Hawkins R-Wenatchee, and sponsor Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla voted in support of the typically democratic bill. Democratic senators Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, Dean Takko, D-Longview, and Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequium voted against the bill.

The Senate passed a similar bill last year prior to the state Supreme Court declaring the death penalty as applied was racist and arbitrary. The bill was never brought to a vote in the House.

House Bill 1488 is the companion to the bill passed in the Senate and has yet to hear public testimony.

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, believes it is possible to create a death penalty that the Supreme Court would approve, saying the Senate has a “lack of will” to find a solution.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, spoke in support of the bill citing the testimony that took place in the Law and Justice Committee which he chairs.

Former state Secretary of the Department of Corrections Dick Morgan testified in support of the bill in committee on Feb. 5, speaking on behalf of several other previous DOC secretaries. Morgan said hundreds of prisoners have committed similar crimes and were sentenced to life without parole yet from a management viewpoint they pose no greater risk than those on death row.

“There is punishment that exceeds normal imprisonment and that is placement in the highest security level … ,” said Morgan. “That basically results in no physical human contact with another person while that punishment is in place. It’s profound, it’s desocialization of an inmate if they’re violent enough, if the misconduct warrants it.”

During the floor debate Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley read a statement from the killer of Jayme Biendl, a correctional officer murdered in 2011 by an inmate already serving life in prison. Wagoner argued that if the death penalty is taken off the table there is no further punishment for inmates who commit crimes while serving life in prison.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, ranking member on the Law and Justice Committee, acknowledged pursuing the death penalty is difficult and expensive.

“I’m not a zealot for the death penalty,” said Padden. “I’m somewhat of a reluctant supporter.”

Since 1904, 78 people have been executed in Washington state, according to the Department of Corrections. The last execution took place in 2010.

(source: waheagle.com)

USA:

At Last, a Bipartisan Argument Against the Death Penalty----Western state lawmakers from both parties are making a pragmatic case for abolishing capital punishment.

When the Wyoming Senate rejected a bill last week that would abolish the state’s death penalty, most of the national attention focused on comments by a single lawmaker. “The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and for me,” Lynn Hutchings, a Republican state senator, reportedly said. “Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.” Her unusual rationale for opposing the bill quickly went viral.

What’s more remarkable is that Wyoming legislators came so close to scrapping capital punishment at all. The state House of Representatives passed the bill in a 36-21 vote earlier this month. Though similar measures had been introduced in recent years, none of them advanced past their initial vote on the house floor. Almost all of those votes came from Republican lawmakers, who hold a supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature, and with the blessing of some party leaders.

Opponents of the death penalty often make a moral case for abolition. In Wyoming, fiscal considerations also held sway. The state hasn’t executed anyone since 1992, and the last death-row prisoner had his sentence overturned in 2014. Nonetheless, the state still spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on the system each year. “It’s worthless,” Jared Olsen, the bill’s sponsor and a Republican, told Wyoming Public Radio. “All we do is spend [millions] of taxpayer dollars on it, and I think that’s a burden that the taxpayers have shouldered for too long.”

Wyoming isn’t the only state in the American West that’s moving toward abolition. Lawmakers in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington—including many Republicans—are also considering bills that would abolish or effectively end capital punishment in their respective states, and at least some appear likely to succeed. The same ethical issues raised elsewhere in the country—wrongful convictions, racial disparities, the morality of the state taking a human life—still carry weight in the West. But there also seems to be a simple pragmatism to it: Capital punishment is expensive, increasingly complicated, and already moribund, so why not finish it off?

To say these states currently have the death penalty is somewhat misleading. The death penalty is illegal in 20 states, either because the legislature abolished it or the courts forbid it, and most of the other 30 states no longer practice it. Fewer than a dozen states regularly carry out executions, and even in those states, juries are sentencing fewer people to death. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement last year all but guaranteed that the Supreme Court won’t abolish capital punishment for at least a generation, and yet the system seems less stable than ever.

There are myriad causes for the death penalty’s decline since the late 1990s, when executions peaked. Violent crime dropped precipitously over the past 25 years, reducing the number of defendants charged with offenses that might qualify for it. The Supreme Court shrank that pool even further in 2002 by forbidding the execution of people with intellectual disabilities and those who committed crimes as juveniles in 2005. In 2008, the court explicitly limited capital punishment only to crimes “in which the life of the victim was taken.”

External factors also played a role. Prosecutors sought fewer death sentences than they did in the tough-on-crime era of the 1980s and 1990s, and juries handed them down less frequently. Defendants who are sentenced to death go through a complex appellate process in both the state and federal courts, which can last years or even decades. Executions have become harder to perform as well. Under pressure by activists, U.S. and European drug manufacturers stopped selling lethal-injection drugs to the states over the last decade. While some states have found willing providers of those drugs, others have begun exploring alternative execution methods or simply given up. (In the latest example, the South Carolina Senate approved a bill last month to bring back the electric chair and allow firing squads, too.)

In some Western states, lawmakers would be finishing what the other branches of government started. Washington’s state Senate voted to repeal its capital punishment statute last week after the state Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 2018. The judges had pointed to evidence that it was being imposed in a racially discriminatory manner. Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, had already imposed a moratorium on executions in 2014, citing concerns about “too many flaws in the system.” One of those flaws was the geographic disparity in how local officials wielded it. “The use of the death penalty in this state is unequally applied, sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred,” he said.

Lawmakers in some states have been vocal about their frustrations with the current state of affairs. Almost 80 prisoners await execution on Nevada’s death row, though none have been put to death since 2006. “We waste so much money pretending to be harsh on crime and putting people into custody and telling them we’re going to kill them, and it never ever happens,” Ozzie Fumo, a Democratic state assemblyman who introduced the bill, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This bill will just codify what the will of the people is, and it’s to stop this absurdity.” With Democrats in control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion for the first time since the 1990s, the bill has a reasonable chance of becoming law.

Nevada, like many states, has struggled to carry out executions in recent years. To circumvent the pharmaceutical industry’s ban on supplying drugs for lethal injections, state officials last year proposed the use of fentanyl to kill prisoners instead. The powerful opioid is responsible for thousands of accidental deaths by overdose every year in America; Nevada hoped to intentionally use it toward the same end. The first inmate to face the procedure was going to be Scott Dozier, a convicted murderer who intentionally waived his appeals in 2017 so the state could put him to death. Legal challenges from the ACLU and a pharmaceutical company effectively halted the state’s plan last year. In January, Dozier committed suicide in his cell.

Some state lawmakers have argued that abolition merely would codify the status quo. The Montana state public defender’s office told state lawmakers at a hearing last week that the state spent almost $1 million every legislative biennium on legal costs for the two capital cases it was currently taking part in. The state hasn’t executed a prisoner since 2006. “It is another form of life in prison that just so happens to cost the state of Montana a lot more money than regular life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Mike Hopkins, a Republican state representative who introduced the abolition bill, told his colleagues at the hearing.

Pragmatic opposition to the death penalty is also bringing pragmatic solutions to end it. Oregon voters entrenched capital punishment in the state constitution in 1984, thereby preventing the legislature from abolishing it entirely. To circumvent that, state lawmakers are mulling a plan to effectively scrap the death penalty by sharply restricting the crimes for which it can be sought. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported in October that one proposal would only authorize the death penalty for homicide as a result of domestic or international terrorism. While this wouldn’t count as outright abolition, it would effectively end the practice until state voters get an opportunity to finish the job.

This isn’t strictly a Western trend. While abolition seems far from imminent in most Midwestern and Southern states, which continue to carry out executions at a steady pace, Republican lawmakers in Kansas and Kentucky have begun making the fiscal case against capital punishment. There are also Western states that have bucked the trend: California voters backed a ballot initiative in 2016 that would accelerate executions rather than end them; the state has more than 700 prisoners on death row, but hasn’t performed an execution since 2006. But after decades of moral opposition to the death penalty, and growing outrage over its racially disproportionate application, a more succinct rationale seems to be resonating beyond the political left: It’s just not worth the hassle.

(source: The New Republic)

TRINIDAD:

Why bother with death sentence?

THE EDITOR: Our justice system is such an a-- with the implementation of one law for the rich and another for the poor, which is used here on a daily basis.

It is at times difficult to believe we have a justice system at all. For instance, what is the point of sentencing a murderer to death here when there is no likelihood of that murderer ever being executed.

This is now a certainty as, despite all the murders, which keep rising, the Government obviously has no intention of restoring the death penalty.

It is hell-bent on obeying the ruling of the Privy Council and keeping in the good books of the human rights organisations at the expense of the innocent lives of many of our citizens who are now living in daily fear of their lives.

GA MARQUES via e-mail

(source: Letter to the Editor, trinidad.co.tt)

CAMEROON:

Opposition leader and more than 100 supporters face the death penalty

Opposition leader Maurice Kamto is today due to be summoned by a military court on charges which carry the death penalty, as the Cameroonian authorities intensify their post-election crackdown on critics.

Kamto, the president of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (Mouvement pour la Renaissance du Cameroun-MRC) is the first of a group of 131 people arrested last month and charged by the military court with rebellion, hostility against the homeland, incitement to insurrection, offence against the president of the republic, and destruction of public buildings and goods, to be summoned by an investigating judge. They all face the death penalty.

Amnesty International considers the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life.

Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty’s West and Central Africa regional director, said:

“It is horrifying that the Cameroonian authorities are considering sentencing Maurice Kamto to death simply for daring to participate in a peaceful protest. He is one of many people who have been caught up in a wave of mass arrests as authorities attempt to silence their critics.

“As well as having their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly crushed, many of Cameroon's opposition members are now facing unfair trials by military courts. We are calling on authorities to end this ruthless assault on dissenting voices. Civilians should not be tried by military courts and should not face the death penalty for exercising their human rights.”

International and regional human rights bodies including the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights consider that military courts should not, in any circumstances whatsoever, have jurisdiction over civilians.

Following his arrest on 28 January, Maurice Kamto, who was also a presidential candidate, spent two weeks in detention, during which time his lawyers and family saw him only once. He is detained at Yaoundé Principale Prison along with 6 MRC supporters and officials. The rest of the 131 are detained in a different prison. Amnesty believes that they should have never been arrested in the first place.

On 19 February, 12 of another group of 15 opposition members arrested on 26 January in Yaoundé appeared before an ordinary court. According to the prosecutor they had been arrested for attempting to participate in a banned demonstration. The hearing was postponed until 25 February.

(source: amnesty.org.uk)

SRI LANKA:

Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo writes to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena

OPEN LETTER BY KUMI NAIDOO ON THE DEATH PENALTY

Your Excellency

I am writing to plead for the lives of prisoners who may soon be put to death if executions resume in Sri Lanka.

More than four decades ago, your country stopped the implementation of this ultimate, cruel, in human and degrading punishment, becoming one of the few South Asian countries to do so. The death penalty is now only applied by a shrinking minority of countries around the world. In December 2018, Sri Lanka was among the 121 states that voted in favour of a resolution on the “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty” at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. Only 35 states voted against the resolution.

Implementing the death penalty for drug-related offences is unlawful. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sri Lanka is a state party, restricts the use of the death penalty – in countries that have not yet abolished it – to the “most serious crimes”, or intentional killing.

Executions are never the solution. As criminologists have extensively demonstrated, including in studies for the United Nations, the death penalty has no unique deterrent effect. If we look around the world, there are many examples that bear this out. Consider the contrast between Hong Kong and Singapore, 2 similar-sized cities. Hong Kong stopped executing people more than half a century ago, while Singapore continues to implement the death penalty. The murder rate in the 2 cities has stayed remarkably similar over the decades.

Even in countries that retain the death penalty, there is a growing recognition that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent for drug-related crimes. The Islamic Republic of Iran has long been one of the world’s most prolific executioners. It has put to death thousands of people after convicting them of drug trafficking in grossly unfair trials. But drug trafficking and distribution remains rife, according to the Iranian government. “The truth is, the execution of drug smugglers has had no deterrent effect,” as Mohammad Baqer Olfat, Iran’s deputy head of judiciary for social affairs, conceded in 2016. Iran has now relaxed its drug laws and commuted hundreds of death sentences for people convicted of drug-related offences.

In October 2018, the Malaysian Government announced that it would be abolishing the death penalty – a country that also relied on executions to combat drug use.

Mr. President, you have favourably cited the example of the Philippines, but it abolished the death penalty in 1987. Under President Rodrigo Duterte, what the country has seen instead is a horrific wave of extrajudicial executions of suspected drug offenders over the past three years. As Amnesty International has documented, far from ridding the streets of crime, this murderous campaign has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people – including dozens of children – in what may amount to crimes against humanity. The killings, which overwhelmingly targeted people living in impoverished neighbourhoods, are currently the subject of a preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

Putting your own people to death is an irreversible act. There is no coming back from a flawed judicial process. The punishment is absolute. The mistakes are irredeemable. When it comes to the death penalty, a coerced ‘confession’, the bias of a judge, the failure to collect evidence, or an inadequate legal defence can lead to someone innocent paying the ultimate price. When it comes to extrajudicial executions, there is not even a pretence of due process.

Lastly, but most importantly, the death penalty is immoral. For those of us who believe that human life must hold the highest value, taking it away is the lowliest act. We understand this clearly when a person commits murder, but we choose to forget it when the state puts someone to death, inflicting the same pain and loss. Executions, Mr. President, are not a show of strength but an admission of weakness. They represent the failure to create a society where the protection of the right to life triumphs over the temptations of vengeance.

Amnesty International urges you to:

Immediately halt plans to execute 18 people, and review all cases of people under sentence of death with a view to commuting their sentences to terms of imprisonment;

Establish an official moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in line with seven resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly since 2007, including most recently resolution 73/175 which Sri Lanka supported;

We hope that you will consider these recommendations.

Yours sincerely

Kumi Naidoo

Secretary General

Amnesty International

(source: Amnesty International)

INDIA:

Top Executioner

A scheme that gives incentives based on convictions secured has seen 23 convicts getting capital punishment in the last year and a half from courts for raping and killing minors

Mahendra Singh Gond of Satna district, the convict who raped a 4-year-old girl, was close to becoming the 1st man to be hanged under the new law providing for death penalty to child rapists. He was to be executed on March 2 in Jabalpur central jail. The Satna district and sessions court had issued a death warrant for the convict. Later, the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the sentence. However, a 3-judge bench of the Sup­reme Court headed by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, stayed the death sentence on February 15.

Gond, a 25-year-old schoolteacher, is among the 23 convicts awarded death sentence by various courts in the state for raping and murdering minors in the last 1 1/2 years.

The London-based World Book of Records has already recognised and awarded the state’s prosecution directorate for maximum capital punishments. The prosecution officers have earned PM Modi’s praise several times for securing death sentences from courts for such “Pishach(s)” (devils) in “5-5 days or a week” of the crimes being committed.

However, barring one, none of the capital punishment cases has reached the High Court level. Execution is still a far cry. The cases have to move several legal ladders, not to mention the President’s clemency power, and this process will take years. How many of these cases will be upheld or quashed or changed into life imprisonment is in the realm of conjecture.

The High Court order upholding the death sentence of Gond was passed by a division bench, which went along with the order of the trial court at Uchehara town in Satna district that had awarded the capital punishment on January 25, this year. Earlier, a Sessions Court in Nagod had sentenced Gond to capital punishment on September 19, last year. The survivor’s statement which was recorded through video conferencing was crucial in proving the school teacher guilty.

According to the prosecution, the convict had raped the minor girl after kidnapping her from her house in a village in Satna district on July 1, 2018 in an inebriated condition. He later dumped her in the bushes. Gond was arrested within a few hours.

After the girl’s family found her, she was rushed to a hospital. The girl was violated so brutally that the state government decided to airlift her to Delhi so that she could be treated at AIIMS. The minor underwent several injuries in a month to get her intestines realigned.

Even as trial courts’ death sentence verdicts are awaiting hearing in the High Court, the prosecution directorate of Madhya Pradesh is eyeing 4 “world records” it believes it created in 2018—maximum number of death sentences secured in 1 calendar year (21), fastest trial that resulted in capital punishment (5 working days in a case in Katni), fastest trial that led to life imprisonment (3 days, in Datia) and the fastest trial in juvenile court (one day, in Ujjain).

Rajendra Kumar, director, public prosecution, Madhya Pradesh, says that these records will be difficult for any country to achieve. He gives credit to better teamwork, focused approach and proper strategy of the state prosecution department.

Talking to India Legal, he also mentioned that another world record has also come to the directorate for launching e-Prosecution mobile App he had introduced a year ago. The award was given to Kumar at a function in the presence of World Book of Records, London, president Santosh Shukla in Indore, last month. The App is a work evaluation system of the prosecution staff. Marks are given to every prosecution staff based on app-based evaluation and awards are announced at the end of the month. The App tracks the daily activities of the 1,000-odd government prosecutors across the state.

The reward system provides for 1,000 points for a death sentence, 500 for lifer and 100-200 for maximum punishment in lower courts. The directorate also honours “best prosecutors” and “pride of prosecution” every month to those who have collected over 2,000 points. Those who fail to get more than 500 points per month are strictly warned to improve their performance. Prosecutors keep a daily log in the e-Prosecution App for each activity—from filing new case to examining witnesses.

“The application has reduced pen work. Officers across the state update their daily work schedule, which helps in keeping tabs on their work record,” says Kumar. The 1984-batch IPS officer said that he thought of launching the App in the wake of alarming rise in incidents of child rape and murders. Rattled over the massive uproar following the rise in heinous crimes, the then chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced to bring a bill providing death sentence to child rapists.

In December 2017, Madhya Pradesh became the first state in India to pass a Bill providing death penalty for rapists of girls aged 12 or below. The government passed the Bill after the latest National Crime Records Bureau report showed that the state had witnessed the highest number of rape cases in the country in 2016.

Even as MPs bill was pending with the president, in April 2018, the centre issued an ordinance providing death for the rape of minors. In July, the Lok Sabha passed the Bill, which also puts a 2-month deadline on the trial of rape cases, and a 6-month time limit for disposal of appeals. The law also precluded provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl less than 16 years. Since the Bill was adopted, MP’s trial courts began to award capital punishment with amazing rapidity.

In some cases, the district bar associations officially passed resolutions not to plead cases of an accused in child rape.

Senior advocate Avinash Sirpurkar, amicus curiae in the High Court, says, “I don’t think this has ever happened in the history of MP”. While citing a case of Naveen alias Ajay Gadke of Indore, he says that the accused did not get a fair chance. Gadke, 26, was arrested for raping and killing a three-month-old girl on April 20 and given death on May 12, 2018.

Since June last year, nearly 1,000 public prosecutors in the state have been competing with one another to secure maximum punishment in criminal cases they plead in courts. The competition is frenzied because the more convictions they secure, the more marks they get and it is marks that have come to matter most for the furtherance of their career prospects.

“They are competing with each other to score maximum points. With the reward system in place, prosecutors now go the extra mile to log more points,” says Kumar. He is confident that the higher courts will acknowledge and uphold “due diligence” his prosecutors exhibited in securing death sentences in trial courts.

Competition for earning more marks has indeed improved conviction rate from 20-25 percent till 2017 to over 60 %, claims Kumar. “Conviction rate has gone up to as high as 61 % in IPC cases and even higher in criminal cases under CrPC and other acts,” he further claims.

Anupam Pathak, assistant public prosecutor posted in Jabalpur, says before the system was introduced, prosecutors sorely lacked motivation to pursue cases in hands. “Now they are conscious about the price they might have to pay if they don’t work diligently”. However, some prosecutors say the system is unjustly frightening as they feel tremendous pressure to secure convictions, regardless of how strong or weak the cases have been made out at the police investigation level.

A district prosecution officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, laments that the system is fraught with the risk of prosecutors making false submissions even at the cost of fairness of the trial. It is the police’s investigation and evidence-gathering mechanism that ensure convictions, he says.

Senior High Court lawyer Aseem Dixit, who has been a government advocate, feels it is inherent in the tracking system that prosecutors compromise with their independence from police but they seldom, if ever, exercise that independence any way.

Another flaw in evaluating prosecutors based on convictions is that many of their “successes” could just be reversed in higher courts. Government lawyers at appellate stages—in High Courts and Supreme Court— change and the prosecutor who secured a conviction initially will reap benefits even if the ruling is subsequently thrashed.

Kumar seeks to dismiss such apprehensions. “In the case of reversal of verdicts, prosecutors’ marks could be deducted and benefit snatched but that will happen only when the higher courts set aside the verdicts with passing strictures”.

Senior advocate and renowned criminal lawyer Rebecca John has been quoted by a news portal as saying, “This scheme is a serious abnegation of all constitutional principles settled over decades by courts of law, and poses a direct threat to the fundamental right to life and liberty.”

The spate of capital punishments, however, has not helped abate rapes in the state. It still continues to bear the egregious tag of being top in rape cases in India.

(source: indialegallive.com)

PAKISTAN:

India seeks Jadhav’s retrial in civilian court or annulment of death sentence

The Indian legal team sought annulment of self-confessed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence or a retrial in a Pakistan civilian court with full consular access on Wednesday.

Deepak Mittal, the joint secretary of India’s Ministry of External Affairs made the concluding remarks by reading out the relief sought by India with regards to Jadhav after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) adjourned the hearing of the high-profile case till Thursday.

He asked the court to annul Jadhav’s death sentence by a Pakistani military court, arrange his release and send him back to India. “If not so, then annual his sentence and refer his case to a civilian court awarding India right to appoint lawyer for his defence,” he remarked.

Earlier during the hearing, the Indian side reiterated its demand of granting consular access to Jadhav after the top United Nations court resumed hearing of the case.

The ICJ is conducting a four-day hearing, which begun on Monday, of the case of self-confessed Indian spy Commander Jadhav, who was convicted of espionage by a Pakistani military court and sentenced to death in April 2017.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, the Pakistani team ripped apart India’s contradictory claims in the case and accused the South Asian arch rival of using the top UN court for ‘political theatre’.

Pakistan rips apart India’s contradictory claims in Jadhav case at ICJ

As the Indian side begun presenting its arguments today, Harish Salve, the Indian counsel criticised the language used by his Pakistani counterpart was not in line with ‘dignity of this court’.

“This language was never used in this court earlier. Perhaps this court should draw a line now on use of [such] language,” salve remarked.

“India never denies nationality of its citizens like Pakistan has been doing in the past. On March 25 when Pakistan issued demarche to India on arrest of RAW agent it did so because it knew Jadhav is Indian citizen.”

Salve said that carrying a passport of another country did not warrant death penalty even under the Pakistani laws. “Pakistan had no other evidence to prove Jadhav was involved in espionage and sabotage activities other than his confession taken in custody,” he added.

“Article 36 of Vienna Convention covers people arrested on espionage charges. Bilateral agreement on consular access cannot override Article 36 of the convention.”

Salve, while talking about the military courts in Pakistan trying civilians, said domestic law should never be considered a defense against a violation of international law or obligation.

“In Pakistan, judicial review of Pakistan courts has narrow ambit, they have not interfered with military court decisions many times,” he claimed.

Responding to Pakistan’s legal adviser Khawar Qureshi’s scathing criticism of the Indian government during yesterday’s hearing, Salve said, “I would say that there was a time when the world respected Pakistan, but today the world doesn’t have the same respect in its present incarnation.”

He said while Jadhav’s trial was completed in 4 months, the trial of Mumbai attack was still pending.

Deepak Mittal, the joint secretary of India’s Ministry of External Affairs made the concluding remarks by reading out the relief sought by India with regards to Jadhav.

He asked the court to annul death sentence of Jadhev by the Pakistani military court, arrange his release and send him back to India.

“If not so, then annual his sentence and refer his case to a civilian court awarding India right to appoint lawyer for his defence.”

The sitting was later adjourned for the day as the court will convene again tomorrow to hear Pakistan’s 2nd round of submissions.

Earlier in the day, the ICJ had refused to entertain Pakistan’s request to adjourn the hearing to appoint a new ad-hoc judge, citing the illness of Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

Jadhav was captured in Balochistan in March 2016. He confessed to his association with the Indian intelligence agency – Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) — and his involvement in espionage and fomenting terrorism in Pakistan. Subsequently, the 48-year-old was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of spying and terrorism in April 2017. In May 2017, India moved the ICJ against the verdict.

A delegation led by Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan and comprising Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, Director Foreign Affairs Fareha Bugti, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Netherlands Shujjat Ali Rathore and others, is in The Hague to represent Pakistan’s case.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs officials Deepak Mittal, VD Sharma, S Senthil Kumar and Sandeep Kumar, and India’s Ambassador to the Netherlands Venu Rajamony comprise India’s delegation at the ICJ.

(source: Express Tribune)

TAIWAN:

Court upholds death penalty for arsonist----NO REMORSE:Weng Jen-hsien bought 20 liters of gasoline and waited until his family was celebrating Lunar New Year’s Eve together before he burst in and set them on fire.

The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld convicted arsonist Weng Jen-hsien’s death sentence.

Weng, 53, had twice previously been found guilty of killing 6 people, including his parents and 3 relatives.

Weng had shown no remorse for his crime and there was no likelihood of rehabilitation, the court said.

Weng was convicted of killing direct family members and relatives, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment under the Criminal Code.

Weng purchased 20 liters of gasoline, which he placed into bottles and plastic containers, and deliberately waited for a day until Lunar New Year’s Eve on Feb. 7, 2016, when the victims had scheduled a family gathering, an investigation found.

Weng ran into the house, doused his family members with gasoline and set them alight, it found.

Weng killed his parents, 2 cousins, a cousin’s wife and his parents’ caregiver. 5 other relatives sustained burns.

The High Court ruling reaffirmed the previous 2 rulings, which said that Weng had planned the murder — an extremely vicious crime — had no regard for human life and was devoid of any moral values.

Throughout the investigation and court proceedings, Weng did not show any remorse and his crime had affected family members and relatives, the court said, adding that he remains a danger to his family.

Weng had said that he intended to kill all of his family, because he believed that, being the youngest of the seven siblings, his parents had neglected him, and that since childhood he had to do most of the work on the farm the family owned in Taoyuan’s Longtan District . However, according to other testimony, Weng had a malicious nature and his siblings had their share of farm labor.

When Weng’s elder brother was called as a witness, Weng said: “My family members deserve no respect, they are worse than animals … If I could reincarnate 10 times, I would kill you 10 more times.”

(source: Taipei Times)

SOUTH SUDAN:

South Sudan and the inhumanity of the death penalty----By Kur Ayuen Kou

I am deeply appalled by the continuous use of the death penalty as the best form of punishment in our fractured society. In a span of one week, South Sudan has carried out six executions on inmates, some of who have not exhausted all their legal options, including the right to appeal for clemency to His Excellency the President of the Republic. REST IN PEACE!

This is a worrisome development in a country that is preaching forgiveness, tolerance and peace. It’s very painful that the government can embark on this undertaking when it has other weighty state responsibilities.

As a concerned citizen of our nascent Republic, we are a call to duty when the responsibility knocks on our doors. The duty to protect, preserve and defend the constitution does not only lie with the government, it’s a collective responsibility of every citizen. Our national heroes including our President gave their lives to liberate millions of us from the bondage of slavery.

I am not writing for the sake of making noise, my writing on the subject is a deep-seated belief in the application of fair justice. I am writing to correct what is fundamentally wrong in our justice system that I bore witness.

The course of justice that led to the execution of these citizens is a distinctive process which seems not to have been entirely observed. It starts with a police officer responding to a crime and conducts an investigation. Once the suspect is fully interrogated, he/she is presented before a court of law. Upon conviction, he/she will be sentenced and convicted to the degree of his/her crime. The convict has the right to appeal his conviction to higher courts including the Appeal and the Supreme courts. After exhausting all legal options, the convict has the right to apply for a pardon to his Excellency the President of the Republic. If clemency plea is rejected by the President, it would be automatically presumed that the President has confirmed the conviction and sign the execution order.

In three of the 6 cases executed, these standards seem not to have been followed. One guy whom I will not name for the sake of the grieving family was tried in absentia even though he was in prison as a remand prisoner for more than ten years. Three other individuals were still waiting for their appeal judgement, 8 years since their conviction and subsequent appeal after fourteen days as the law requires. The appeal court, the second highest court did not pronounce any judgement prior to their executions. Have we now abandoned the rule of law, the cornerstone of justice?

These oversights amount to culpability and the weaknesses of the justice system in the Country. And the very reason why the death penalty should not be carried out at all time. Fast it backwards, 2 underage brothers were executed in 2017 in complete violation of their rights under article 21 of South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution as amended. This article restricts the use of the death penalty on any person under the age of 18.

These excesses affirm the UN General Assembly’s resolution 62/149 which stated that “Death Penalty undermine human dignity”. It further expounds that“any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty’s implementation is irreversible and irreparable”.

When it comes to our laws, the South Sudan Transitional Constitution has those safeguards. The right to life is the foundation of all human rights. The constitution grantee it under article 11, Life and Human Dignity, “Every person has the inherent right to life, dignity and the integrity of his or her person which shall be protected by law; no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life”.but still state officers are not ready to do the right thing.

What is puzzling, from time to time and despite the glaring facts, there is a concerted denial from the government about the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment in the country. There is this narrative that South Sudan has never executed anyone since its inception in 2011. You can’t fool all the people all the time. The secrecy surrounding all these executions indicated that the state is guilty of the practice. It’s inhumane and cruel to take out human life of which all other rights depend on. If you are not alive, you cannot claim any right. Anything that takes away human life from God gifted existence is tantamount to murder, the very thing that needs to be corrected with that form of punishment.

Death penalty retentionist deterrent hypothesis is discarded a long time ago. Countries that are still carrying out the death penalty on some of the most gruesome crime are still experiencing those crimes. It’s not the number of people that you hanged through state sanction killing that deter others from committing those same crimes. Human impulses determined the action that leads to murder.

Resolution 62/149 of the UN General Assembly categorically declared that “there is no conclusive evidence that death penalty deterrent argument by many countries that retain capital punishment reduces crimes of murder from being committed in those countries”.

We are a progressive society. To be held in the bondage of historical form of justice as the best practices annihilate our best values as a society. Do we love to see human being struggling like a chicken, pleading for his/her dear life during the execution? With all the state power, his life is exterminated without his wish.

It is time to rethink as a country on the use of the death penalty. I urge our leadership, Religious and Political leaders, our Parliamentarians who are the makers of our laws, the Executive headed by our President as the implementing authority of those laws to look at the logic of the use of death penalty. At the end of the day, you have 2 broken families and communities who have lost their dear one. One as a result of a crime committed to what every form and the other one, a state-sanctioned killing. We have been taught in school that 2 wrong don’t make a right.

We must, as a country revisited and revise those laws like the penal code and the code of criminal procedures 2008. The discretion given by law to the nearest family member in section 206 (b) of the penal code 2008 has been repeatedly misused and has put so many innocent people at risk. Section 48 of the same penal code,“Acts Committed by Several Persons in Furtherance of Common Intention” is no exception. This section is being used without clearly demarcating the element of action and intention of each accused in the crime. As long as the prosecution and the complainant have bundled you together, be sure you will be convicted together. Criminal actions that constitute a join act must clearly outline in the text of the laws. Leaving it to individual judicial officers to interpret has resulted in too many miscarriages of justice.

We all believe as a country that laws are made to govern society, not to be used against the people. Immediate corrective measures need to be undertaken to arrest the situation, to stop further executions.

I personally appeal to our President’s usual human conscience to envoke his moratorium commitment under the UN charter to stay further execution. South Sudan as a member state of the United Nations has obligation under international law to subscribe to best practices that are moving human dignity forward. We should strive to uproot those gallows at our midst to the museums, not to be seen ever again. It must never touch a human born.

In the absence of the constitutional court, I appeal to His Excellency the President to consider setting up clemency review committee in his office to advise him on existing cases of death sentences with the view to commute them to life imprisonment.

(source: Commentary, Sudan Tribune)

IRAQ:

Kidnapped while picking truffles: Abductors execute 6, release 5

In separate cases of abduction in rural areas in Iraq's western Anbar province, unknown gunmen have recently kidnapped 20 Iraqis while harvesting truffles. On Tuesday, six were reportedly executed, while 5 others were said to have been released.

The incidents appear to only be connected by the activity the civilians were engaged in when the gunmen had picked them up, collecting the highly-valued subterranean mushrooms which start to appear in the countryside and arid tracts of land in Iraq around springtime.

Anbar is a Sunni-majority province and a number of the abductees are reportedly from neighboring Shia-majority provinces, where local officials claimed that Islamic State militants were behind the incidents. The terrorist organization, however, has yet to publicly claim responsibility for the acts.

The latest kidnapping, seemingly the fourth such incident around the area since early February, occurred in al-Nukhayb sub-district, south of Anbar, where 12 men were captured. 2 of the abductees were later released while six of them were executed later in the day, Alsumaria reported, quoting local officials.

“Da’esh [ISIS] executed 6 of the abductees who are from al-Hira of Najaf province and were kidnapped in al-Nukhayb,” said Ali al-Mayali, deputy Governor of Karbala Province, where the bodies were first taken while en route to where the victims' hometown of Najaf.

Four others were from Karbala, Mayali had previously said, while confirming without giving specific details that two of them had been released. The father of one of the men asserted they were freed because they were not carrying IDs.

Following the release of the 2, the deputy governor handed Baghdad an ultimatum of 24 hours “to rescue our sons,” or “the local government would mobilize” to do so, stating “known entities are behind their kidnapping.”

It is unclear exactly what the official was referencing by “known entities,” but he has previously claimed Islamic State fighters were behind the abduction of the 12 men.

On the same day, 5 other men were released. These were a group that was taken in the northern part of Anbar, in Rawah District. One of the abductees, Salah Falih, retold his story in an interview with Alsumaria and said they had been held “on ransom.” He did not state whether their captors had released them after payments had been made.

According to Falih, they had been abducted by a number of gunmen in 3 pickup trucks. They were tied up, had their eyes covered, and taken to an unspecified location “west” from their initial location.

After their blindfolds were removed, he added, he had seen “Da’esh banners.” The group was then put in a compact room underground and kept there for 5 days. They were later returned to their cars where they had been taken while busy scouring for truffles.

Concurrent with the kidnapping of the 5 men, 3 more people just east of Rawah in Haditha District were abducted who were also digging through rural areas for the mushrooms, a security source told Kurdistan 24. The fate of these 3 individuals is unknown.

On Feb 08, this time in Salahuddin Province, the bodies of 3 other men were found. They were alleged to have been killed by Islamic State fighters after abducting them on Makhoul Mountain.

Locals in the provinces of Salahuddin, Diyala, Kirkuk, Anbar, and Nineveh have repeatedly warned Iraqi military officials of growing activity by Islamic State militants in the area. The group’s fighters often use mountainous areas or other rural regions as bases or hiding spots, making it challenging for security forces and the US-led coalition to find or track them.

Over the past year, they have carried out various insurgent attacks, including explosions, kidnappings, and ambushes in multiple parts of the country despite Iraq declaring victory against the Islamic State in December 2017.

(source: kurdistan24.net)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Scholar: My Father Faces the Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia for Supporting Human Rights

Guests----Abdullah Alaoudh, senior fellow at Georgetown University in the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. His father has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since 2017.

While the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October sparked international outrage, far less attention has been paid to the ongoing Saudi repression at home. We speak with Abdullah Alaoudh, whose father has been locked up in solitary confinement in Saudi Arabia for his political activism since September 2017. Prior to his arrest, prominent Islamic scholar Salman Alodah had been a vocal critic of the Saudi monarchy who had called for elections with 14 million Twitter followers. But for the past 17 months, Salman Alodah has been silenced. He was one of dozens of religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and civic activists arrested as part of a crackdown on dissent in 2017 overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We speak with Alodah’s son Abdullah Alaoudh. He is a senior fellow at Georgetown University in the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to look at Saudi Arabia’s ongoing crackdown on dissent. While the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October sparked international outrage, far less attention has been paid to the ongoing Saudi repression at home.

Our next guest’s father has been locked up in solitary confinement in Saudi Arabia for his political activism since September of 2017. Prior to his arrest, prominent Islamic scholar Salman Alodah had been a vocal critic of the Saudi monarchy who had called for elections. And his voice was widely heard. On Twitter alone, he had 14 million followers. But for the past 17 months, Salman Alodah has been silenced.

AMY GOODMAN: Salman’s son Abdullah Alaoudh is now speaking out about his father’s imprisonment. In a recent New York Times op-ed headlined “My Father Faces the Death Penalty. This Is Justice in Saudi Arabia,” he writes, “He was chained and handcuffed for months inside his cell, deprived of sleep and medical help and repeatedly interrogated throughout the day and night. His deteriorating health—high blood pressure and cholesterol that he developed in prison—was ignored until he had to be hospitalized. Until the trial, about a year after his arrest, he was denied access to lawyers.”

Salman Alodah was one of the dozens of religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and civic activists arrested as part of a crackdown on dissent in 2017 overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

We turn now to Salman Alodah’s son Abdullah, who joins us from Chicago. Abdullah Alaoudh is a senior fellow at Georgetown University in the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about why your father was first arrested, his condition now?

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: Thank you for hosting me.

He was actually part of a movement demanding and asking a constitutional monarchy in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, he, along with other colleagues, signed a petition and called the Saudi public to sign a petition asking and demanding a civil and more democratic change in Saudi Arabia. But after the Arab Spring, the Saudi regime did not seem to tolerate such discourse, so they—I mean, the relationship between my father and the state deteriorated. However, when the crown prince came to power, he actually started to crack down on the reformist figures, like my father and others, and while at the same time taking their ideas, like moderate Islam, representing it to the West as his own, but at the same time cracking down on the very moderate voices of the kingdom that have been historically spearheading the campaign against terrorism and extremism in Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, when the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia started, he tweeted seeking reconciliation between the two rulers, of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but the crown prince took this to be a confrontation. And in a few hours, just after his tweet, he was arrested by the state security forces and was locked up in solitary confinement until today. Now the attorney general is seeking death penalty against him on 37 charges, including “corrupting” the Earth and “disagreeing with the ruler” and, you know, vague and very general charges like this, and even having books that are banned by the kingdom.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But now, your father, before his arrest, was extremely popular. Not only did he have millions of Twitter followers, he also had a TV show. Could you talk about what his TV show addressed? And was the government’s attempt to—well, the jailing of him a clear attempt to silence his voice?

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: Very true. He had a TV show on the state-sponsored TV channel in Saudi Arabia called MBC. He, you know, presented a civil discourse seeking a social change. He supported, you know, political rights and basic liberties in Saudi Arabia. At that time, it was tolerated, until he condemned corruption in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The governor then of Riyadh, the prince then, then-Prince Salman, who is king now, asked somebody in his office to call my father, live, and, you know, disagreed with him and said, “You should not talk about corruption in Saudi Arabia.” And after that episode, the show was canceled. And then the Arab Spring erupted, and my father joined the calls for a civil and peaceful transformation in Saudi Arabia toward a more open and inclusive approach in politics in Saudi Arabia.

AMY GOODMAN: Abdullah, I’d like to turn to an excerpt from a video of your father, Salman Alodah, produced in 2013. The video has more than 3 million views on YouTube.

SALMAN ALODAH: [translated] Gandhi had a dream to feed all the dark tummies rather than the racist colonizers. Mandela had a dream to hear the voice of Africans chanting their national anthem. Martin Luther expressed his dream in his speech “I Have a Dream,” that his four children should not be treated based on their color. Let’s have our own dream, to have our light shining from within, not from without, and combine our varying colors into a beautiful painting. Like you, I long for the place where I played as a child and cherished as a man. Like you, full of ambition and expectation and the desire to be remembered when I’m gone. Like you, stung by words that judge me, in a country I don’t recognize and in a place I don’t belong to.

AMY GOODMAN: Abdullah, that is your father’s voice, of course translated. Can you talk about this video and the message your father wanted to convey? And what kind of response did he receive to it?

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: The message was to condemn the discrimination, the social discrimination, political discrimination, racial and religious discrimination, in Saudi Arabia. He wanted to spread awareness in Saudi Arabia to the Saudi public. This discourse is the very discourse that crown prince is fighting against. The same rogue operatives who actually attacked Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate are actually seeking the same death, death penalty, against my father for similar reasons: political and civil activism. In videos, in other videos, my father chanted for political change, for social change. So, it was a pattern in the past one year and a half that the Saudi crown prince—since the Saudi crown prince ascended to power, that the reformist voices are attacked, while at the same time the same discourse that these reformists presented will be presented to the West like if it’s the crown prince’s ideas, just for PR campaigns, without any real reforms or even real change in Saudi Arabia.

I’ll give you just a few examples. The crown prince, for example, talked about empowering women, while at the same time he locked up in jail very prominent activists, like Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan. And there are reports now, credible reports, about sexual harassment and other human rights violations inside prison. So, at the same time when the crown prince tried to promulgate to the West that he is supporting moderate Islam, he locked up the very moderate voices of the kingdom, while embracing extremist voices like Saleh al-Fawzan, who called for killing any dissident, Saleh al-Fawzan who said anyone who disagrees with the Wahhabi doctrine is an infidel, and he called for excluding those voices who are not within the same sect of Islam, let alone Islam itself, or religion. Now, while—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, let me ask—

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: While also the crown prince—just to add one more, while the crown prince also tried to present the economic transformation like it’s his own, he locked up in jail the very economists who presented to him and others for the past—you know, for the past 10 years, a plan to transform and diversify the Saudi economy. So, he used all that. He did various superficial reforms to do a PR campaign to the West, while locking up the very voices that actually wanted to change the kingdom toward a more civil and civilized society.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, let me ask you. Your father has been held in solitary confinement in prison in Saudi Arabia. Have you been able to communicate with him at all, or other members of your family? What’s his condition like there?

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: Yeah, a few members of my family have communicated with him. He has several, you know, health issues. Now he developed spinal issues because of the way that they transferred him from one room to another, one cell to another. They did not even care about his health, his age. He’s a 61- or 62-year-old. They did not care about his background, his popularity, his family, his beloved ones. They just did not care about anything. He was handcuffed. Chains were put on his feet. He was interrogated more than 24 hours continuously, like for a few days. They wanted him to hallucinate at some point, so he would just sign anything that they wanted him to. They just treated him like hell.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to ask you—Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was killed, was a friend of yours.

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: Right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about the impact of his death? And also, are you worried, speaking out this way, given how the Saudi government treats dissidents, even those abroad?

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: Right. Actually, the case of Jamal Khashoggi is a demonstration of how the pattern, you know, would do, how the pattern would practice the authoritarian practices in Saudi Arabia, how the crown prince—I mean, how far will the crown prince go. He reached someone in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. And they did not care about the outcry of the West. They did not care about the uproar. They just cared about how to consolidate power, how to put all the power in one single hand.

The incident of Jamal Khashoggi should alarm the West that we tolerated such—if we tolerated such practices. We are witnessing a Saddam Hussein that—I mean, with the same conditions. We tolerated Saddam Hussein because we thought we could support him to fight Iran. Now we are doing the same exact mistake with the crown prince. We’re tolerating every catastrophe that he has done during the past year and a half. He launched strikes against civilians in Yemen. He put a prime minister of Lebanon under house arrest in 2018—in 2017, November. He actually killed Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran journalist, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. And we tolerated all these atrocities. He cut ties with Canada over its wheat, for God’s sake, and we tolerated all that. And we thought, “Well, we could be an ally with this crown prince in order to fight Iran.” Well, guess what. That’s the same exact ground that we had supported Saddam Hussein for, and look what we did and what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Abdullah, are you afraid of speaking out, as we wrap up right now? I mean, Jamal Khashoggi was murdered outside of Saudi Arabia, albeit in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey. You’re speaking out here, on behalf of your father and for reform in Saudi Arabia, in the United States. Can you go home? Do you feel safe in the United States?

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH: I feel safe here. And I don’t know, though—and we witnessed how far that the—how far the Saudi crown prince went. They reached outside. And there are intercepted calls and reports of his calling the Saudi intelligence to bring—to lure dissidents and figures who disagree with him from outside to Saudi Arabia. They have no limits. So, yeah, but, I mean, I know I’m taking a high risk, but it’s worth taking, because we have no choice. We have to speak out. My father’s life is at stake. And not just my father. The feminist activists are actually right now sexually harassed, abused, and human rights violations are practiced inside prison. And hundreds of activists, intellectuals, public figures, economists, their health and freedom is at stake. So, it’s a risk worth taking to speak for all these people.

AMY GOODMAN: Abdullah, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Abdullah Alaoudh is a senior fellow at Georgetown University in the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. We’ll link to your piece in The New York Times headlined “My Father Faces the Death Penalty. This Is Justice in Saudi Arabia.”

(source: Democracy Now!)

EGYPT:

Execution of 9 men after an unfair trial a monumental disgrace

Responding to the news that Egyptian authorities have today executed 9 men convicted after a grossly unfair trial for the 2015 killing of the country’s former Public Prosecutor, Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director said:

“By carrying out the executions of these 9 men today Egypt has demonstrated an absolute disregard for the right to life.

“Those responsible for the attack that killed Egypt’s former public prosecutor deserve to be punished but executing men who were convicted in trials marred by torture allegations is not justice but a testament to the magnitude of injustice in the country.

“These executions are a stark demonstration of the government’s increasing use of the death penalty, bringing the total number of death sentences implemented in the past 3 weeks to 15. Egyptian authorities must urgently halt this bloody execution spree which has seen them repeatedly putting people to death after grossly unfair trials in recent weeks.

“The international community must not stay silent over this surge in executions. Egypt’s allies must take a clear stand by publicly condemning the authorities’ use of the death penalty, the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

Background:

The 9 were among 28 men sentenced to death for the killing of the former public prosecutor in an attack in Cairo that took place in June 2015. Several of the men said they were forcibly disappeared and tortured in order to confess to the killing.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life.

(source: Amnesty International)

FEBRUARY 20, 2019:

TEXAS----death sentence overturned

Supreme Court reverses death sentence for Texas inmate

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a man on death row in Texas is intellectually disabled and therefore cannot receive the death penalty.

The justices ruled 6-3 in favor of Bobby James Moore, who was convicted in 1980 for murdering a store clerk in Houston.

Moore was sentenced to death, but his lawyers argued it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to proceed with the execution of an inmate who is intellectually disabled.

A trial court found in 2014 that Moore was ineligible for the death penalty due to his intellectual disability, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals twice rejected that decision and upheld his death sentence.

The Supreme Court first ruled in Moore’s case in 2017 and tossed out the first ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals after finding the lower court used the wrong standard when deciding he could be executed. The justices sent the case back to the lower court to adopt the leading contemporary clinical standards for assessing intellectual disability.

But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals again concluded that Moore was not intellectually disabled, and the Supreme Court on Tuesday again disagreed with that latest ruling.

“We consequently agree with Moore and the prosecutor that, on the basis of the trial court record, Moore has shown he is a person with intellectual disability,” the court said in an unsigned opinion.

Chief Justice John Roberts concurred in finding Moore is intellectually disabled. However, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

(source: Washington Examiner)

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Texas bill would exempt those with severe mental illness from death penalty----If the bill passes, each exemption would occur on a case-by-case basis.

A new bill filed Tuesday would exempt people suffering from severe mental illness from the death penalty.

Representative Toni Rose from Dallas said the death penalty is to punish the criminal for the act, but severe mental illness can keep the person from understanding that their actions are morally wrong.

"Only after the State of Texas has paid for a death penalty trial, the incarceration of the defendant on death row, and years of appeals do we determine mental competence," said Representative Rose. "Under this bill, Texas will determine competency first, saving taxpayers an estimated $2.5 million per case."

If passed, the exemption would happen on a case-by-case basis. Those convicted would still be held accountable for their actions and face life without parole.

According to Rep. Rose's office, The National Alliance on Mental Health, Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health have all issued wide support of the bill, which advanced further in the Texas Legislature than any severe mental illness bill in the country last biennium.

(source: KVUE news)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Lawmakers again consider death penalty repeal

New Hampshire lawmakers are once again considering a bill to repeal the death penalty, less than 6 months after failing to override Republican Gov. Chris Sununu's veto of an identical measure.

The state hasn't executed anyone since 1939, and the repeal bill would not apply retroactively to Michael Addison, who killed Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006 and is the state's only death row inmate. But supporters of capital punishment argue that courts will see it differently.

"If you repeal the death penalty, I want you to understand that Michael Addison's sentence will be commuted to life without parole, which would not be just and would send the wrong message to criminals when it comes to killing police officers in the state of New Hampshire," former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

Ayotte, a former attorney general, was the lead prosecutor in the Addison case. She reminded lawmakers that the shooting happened after a crime spree that would have already been enough to put Addison in prison for life.

"What are we saying if you're a career criminal who's been on a crime spree and are already facing a life sentence and there's no death penalty, no other punishment to impose? Why not, in that circumstance, unfortunately, kill the police officer? Because that's what happened that night. That is why the jury imposed the death penalty," she said.

"There should be a penalty for what happened to Officer Michael Briggs," she said. "Our law enforcement officers deserve this protection and they deserve this deterrent."

The president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police also spoke against the repeal bill, but nearly all the other speakers favored repeal, including 2 other former attorneys general, a retired judge, and a man who spent nearly a decade on death row in Maryland before DNA evidence cleared him of the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl. Several relatives of murder victims also testified, including Andrea LeBlanc, of Barrington, who lost her husband in the 2nd plane to hit the World Trade Center on 9/11.

"State sponsored killing is an act of violence," she said. "I refuse to give permission to the government to kill in my name."

New Hampshire's death penalty applies in only seven scenarios: the killing of an on-duty law enforcement officer or judge, murder for hire, murder during a rape, certain drug offenses or home invasion and murder by someone already serving a life sentence without parole. Lawmakers have considered bills to repeal it every session for the last two decades. Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill in 2000. In September, the Senate fell 2 votes short of the 16 needed to override Sununu's veto, but after the November election, it appears to have a veto-proof majority in favor of repeal.

It's less clear what will happen in the 400-member House, but at least one former capital punishment supporter has changed his mind since the last vote. Rep. David Welch, has supported the death penalty for 34 years as a lawmaker and former chairman of the Criminal Justice committee. But his wife's death 2 years ago changed that, he said.

"My grief has been really hard to deal with," he said, pausing to steady his voice. "I always supported the death penalty because of police officers... but everyone who goes into prison and jail has a family. Regardless of what crimes they committed, they still have a family. When that person is executed by the state, it just goes against my grain to have the state put that family into grief."

(source: The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Lawmakers hear emotional testimony on death penalty repeal

Kelly Ayotte’s view of the death penalty is informed by the brutal and senseless murder of a Manchester police officer in the line of duty.

Phil McLaughlin’s perspective on capital punishment evolved after he nearly prosecuted an innocent man for a capital crime.

The two former attorneys general offered opposing views on capital punishment as both testified at the State House on the latest effort to repeal the death penalty in the Granite State.

Ayotte, who served as the state’s chief law enforcement officer from 2004 to 2009, urged lawmakers to keep the death penalty on the books, while McLaughlin, who served from 1997-2002, said his experience as a prosecutor convinced him to endorse the repeal measure, HB 455.

New Hampshire currently has 1 person on death row — Michael Addison, who in 2008 was found guilty of murdering Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs, and sentenced to death in a case prosecuted by Ayotte.

She warned that revocation of the state’s capital punishment statute will mean Addison escapes the death penalty, even though supporters of repeal say it will only be applied moving forward.

Ayotte described Addison as a career criminal with nothing left to lose when he shot Officer Briggs as the officer was responding to a domestic violence complaint.

“I ask you not to repeal the death penalty because that is an appropriate penalty for what happened to Officer Briggs,” she said. “Our law enforcement officers deserve this protection; they deserve this deterrent.”

She pointed out no one has been executed in New Hampshire since 1939. “It’s a narrow statute and we have been very judicious in administering it.”

Different experience

McLaughlin cited his own experience as driving his point of view, as he described the circumstances surrounding the investigation into the 1997 rape and murder of 6-year-old Elizabeth Knapp in Contoocook.

Authorities at first arrested and charged the mother’s boyfriend, Richard Buchanan, who was later exonerated by DNA evidence that sent another man to jail for life.

“One senior senator, a Republican conservative, insisted on the death penalty for Richard Buchanan,” said McLaughlin. “Except that the evidence suggested he did not commit the murder. For years, I kept a photo of Elizabeth Knapp on my desk to remind me that I was in the position of Attorney General who was absolutely certain about something, but was dead wrong.”

Many of those who testified at Tuesday’s public hearing were familiar faces in what has become an annual ritual at the State House.

State Rep. Jeanine Notter, R-Merrimack, recounted in gruesome detail the murder of Kim Cates and the viscous assault on her daughter in a 2009 Mont Vernon home invasion, and asked, “How is life in prison justice for a heinous crime such as this.”

Notter sponsored the last bill to expand the state’s capital punishment statute, a 2011 measure that added murders committed during a home invasion.

Some from law enforcement also testified in opposition to the repeal, but most of those speaking had come in support of the bill, including surviving family members of murder victims.

‘No benefit’

Anne Lyczak, whose husband was killed in a drive-by shooting in Portsmouth in 1994, said the death penalty would “serve absolutely no benefit to me or my family.”

“We are bound by the ethical principle: do not kill,” she said. “We must build a society where killing by anyone cannot be tolerated, and that includes the government.”

State Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston, choked back tears as he told of how his wife’s death 2 years ago changed his view of capital punishment.

“The grief has been really hard to deal with,” he said. “I always supported the death penalty because of police officers, and I supported it 100 %. But everyone who goes into prison has a family. Regardless of what crimes they committed, they still have a family, and it just goes against my grain to have the state put that family into grief mode.”

Lawmakers have filed death penalty repeal bills almost every other year for the past decade. A Death Penalty Study Commission in 2010 voted by a narrow majority to retain but not expand the death penalty.

In 2014, the House voted to repeal, but the Senate deadlocked 12-12. In 2016, the repeal bill originated in the Senate, and lost there in another 12-12 vote. In 2018, a death penalty repeal bill passed both House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

This year could be different, with 16 senators already on record as opposed to the death penalty. The prospects for a veto override in the House are less certain, but stronger than ever given the Democratic majority.

HB 455 would replace the sentence of death with life in prison without parole.

Tuesday’s hearing was the main event in a legislative full-court press by death penalty opponents. The committee hearing was followed by a 3 p.m. reception in Executive Council Chambers with former death row prisoners who were later exonerated. A legislative luncheon on Wednesday is scheduled just after the committee vote.

(source: unionleader.com)

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The bipartisan case for death penalty repeal

In these divisive times, there is an issue that Granite State Democrats and Republicans agree on: The time is now to repeal the death penalty. Abolishing this archaic practice is not a partisan issue – it is a personal one. The death penalty defies New Hampshire values. In our “Live free or die” state, it is time to state loudly that New Hampshire can live without the death penalty.

As a New Hampshire representative and senator, we have heard from a wide variety of stakeholders about repealing the death penalty, including countless hours of testimony and floor debates in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Both of us have come to oppose the death penalty only in the past few years, in large part in response to the compelling testimony from Granite Staters. Speaking for ourselves, here is why we are working together to make 2019 the year of repeal in New Hampshire.

The death penalty is discriminatory: Research shows that the decision between life and death turns too often not on the crime committed but on race, geography and the quality of counsel. In court, the quality of counsel is one of the most decisive factors, meaning those who cannot afford a high-quality lawyer are more likely to be sentenced to death. We cannot support a system wherein being poor could cost a person their life.

The death penalty is unjustly carried out: This has been demonstrated time and again by an array of botched executions across the country. Lethal injection and the electric chair – the two most used methods of execution in the United States – have both resulted in the torture of executed individuals. This unjust and inhumane treatment extends to those charged with carrying out executions, who have reported experiencing PTSD as a result.

The government makes mistakes: The criminal justice system is not infallible. As a society, we tolerate certain mistakes because we cannot function without government and a justice system. With the death penalty, the reverse is true. As a civilized society, we cannot allow a system where a mistake could mean that we wrongfully sentence a person to death and/or execute an innocent person. In New Hampshire, we are particularly mindful of the limitations of government, and believe the government should not be in the business of executing its citizens.

So far, 168 people have been exonerated from death row across the United States, and the number is growing. It is naïve to believe that innocent people have not been wrongfully executed in this country. The only way to guarantee we do not make the ultimate mistake in New Hampshire and take an innocent life is to repeal the death penalty.

We have listened to those who argue that the death penalty is a deterrent, but the facts do not support their argument. States with the death penalty have higher crime rates than states without it, and there is no research that finds the death penalty to be an effective deterrent. Capital crimes are crimes of passion, often carried out under the influence of alcohol or drugs – meaning one does not stop to weigh the potential consequences.

It is also worth noting that the death penalty is exorbitantly expensive. New Hampshire’s one current death penalty case has cost over $2 million so far, and that number is climbing as the appeals process continues. Sentencing someone to death is significantly more expensive than incarcerating someone for their natural life. We would much prefer that taxpayers’ money go toward supporting our law enforcement, providing services to crime victims and to advancing public safety rather than to the legal costs of a few death penalty cases.

Lastly, but most importantly, the death penalty fails to achieve the one thing that family members of murder victims want: their loved one back. As someone who has lost members of their own family to murder, one of us speaks from experience in saying that the death penalty does not bring closure. Instead, the death penalty keeps reminding family of their loved one’s murder as the appeal process is dragged out for years.

If we let murderers turn us into murderers, we give them too much power. They succeed in bringing us to their way of thinking and acting, and we become what we say we abhor. New Hampshire is the only remaining state in New England to retain this archaic practice. This is the year that we prove New Hampshire can live without the death penalty.

(Sen. John Reagan, a Republican, represents District 17 in the N.H. Senate. Rep. Laura Pantelakos, a Democrat, represents Rockingham District 25 in the N.H. House.)

(source: Commentary, Concord Monitor)

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New Hampshire Again Considers Death Penalty Repeal

New Hampshire lawmakers are once again considering a bill to repeal the death penalty, less than 6 months after failing to override Gov. Chris Sununu's veto of an identical measure.

The state hasn't executed anyone since 1939, and the repeal bill would not apply retroactively to Michael Addison, who killed Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs in 2006 and is the state's only death row inmate. But supporters of capital punishment argue that courts may see it differently.

2 former attorneys general testified at a public hearing Tuesday. Kelly Ayotte, who went on to serve as U.S. senator, was the lead prosecutor in the Addison case and spoke against the bill. Former Attorney General Philip McLaughlin spoke against it, describing the wrongful arrest in the 1997 murder of a Hopkinton girl.

(source: Associated Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Criminal justice experts say US death penalty is broken and cannot be fixed

A group of former prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officials are asking the North Carolina Supreme Court to find the death penalty unconstitutional. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the group argues the death penalty is now used so rarely that it serves no purpose and should be considered “cruel or unusual” under the state constitution.

The brief was filed late on Friday 15 February 2019 by the Promise of Justice Initiative, with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, Henderson Hill, and the 8th Amendment Project as counsel.

The brief comes as other state supreme courts — including Washington and Delaware — have recently declared their states’ death penalty laws unconstitutional. The North Carolina brief was signed by 12 people, including former Superior Court Judge Leon Stanback, former District Attorney Rob Corbett, and former Wake County Chief Homicide Detective Steve Hale.

“The time has come to consider whether the system of capital punishment that currently operates in North Carolina violates the evolving standards of decency,” the group wrote. They noted that supreme courts and judges across the country “have recognised that the penalty is corrupted by arbitrariness, plagued by error and discrimination, and unsupported by evidence that it deters [crime].”

The group filed their brief in the case of Rayford Burke, a North Carolina death row prisoner who is challenging his death sentence under the state’s Racial Justice Act (RJA). Burke is asking the court to allow him to present evidence that prosecutors illegally excluded African-Americans from his jury, leading Burke to be sentenced by an all-white jury at a trial where prosecutors referred to Burke as a “big black bull.”

“We believe the court needs to take a broad perspective on the RJA litigation and troubling practices that have developed around the exclusion of jurors based on race to acknowledge that racial bias is one of many systemic and irreparable problems with our state’s death penalty”, said Rob Corbett, former assistant district attorney in Mecklenburg County. “Given the national and state trends away from the death penalty, it is hard to argue that it fulfills an indispensable role in our criminal justice system. As a former prosecutor, I am confident that it does not deter crime, make our state safer, or our justice system more effective. At this stage, the most reasonable action is to abolish its use in North Carolina.”

The brief points to statistics showing North Carolina has largely abandoned the death penalty. No one has been executed since 2006, and in the past 7 years, the state has averaged less than 1 new death sentence per year. It also cites studies showing that the death penalty does not deter murder, that it is imposed arbitrarily, and that a significant number of people sentenced to death are innocent. Lastly, they argue that the death penalty is part of a “sordid history” of lynching and racial terror.

(source: ekklesia.co.uk)

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

NC group asks state Supreme Court to find death penalty unconstitutional, calling it 'cruel or unusual'

A former Superior Court judge is among those asking the North Carolina Supreme Court to find the death penalty unconstitutional because its rare use means it serves no purpose.

In a friend-of-the-court brief , the group also argues that the death penalty is "cruel or unusual" under the state constitution. The Promise of Justice Initiative filed the brief Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a news release that former Superior Court Judge Leon Stanback signed the brief, as did former District Attorney Rob Corbett and former Wake County Chief Homicide Detective Steve Hale.

The group filed its brief in the case of Rayford Burke, a North Carolina death row prisoner who's challenging his sentence under the state's Racial Justice Act. Legislators repealed the act in 2013.

(source: Associated Press)

FLORIDA:

Death row inmate Enoch Hall’s appeal rejected by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to take up an appeal by death row inmate Enoch Hall who in 2008 killed a prison guard at Tomoka Correctional Institution near Daytona Beach.

Justices, as is common, did not explain their reasons for declining to hear the appeal by Hall. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Hall, now 50, was convicted of murdering corrections officer Donna Fitzgerald. At the time of the murder, Hall worked as a welder in a Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, or PRIDE, program at Tomoka Correctional. Fitzgerald was found stabbed to death in a PRIDE facility, and Hall admitted he killed her, according to court documents.

Hall appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court last year after the Florida Supreme Court rejected his arguments. The appeal was rooted in a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries.

A subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty. Hall’s attorneys pointed to an alleged error in how the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, was carried out.

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

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty For Florida Man Who Killed His Father, Mother and Brother

Prosecutors announced they intend to seek the death penalty for 29-year-old Grant Tiernan Amato after he is accused of killing his father, mother and older brother.

The case qualified for capital punishment after the Seminole County Grand Jury indicted Amato for the 1st Degree Premeditated Murders of his father Chad Amato, 59; mother, Margaret Ann Amato, 61; and brother Cody Amato, 31.

The decision by prosecutors to seek the death penalty came after careful consideration of the evidence that proves Amato acted in a “cold, calculated and premeditated manner, without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”

A second aggravating factor is listed as a prior conviction for a felony offense that involved the threat or use of violence toward the victim(s).

The decision by prosecutors to seek the death penalty came after careful consideration of the evidence that proves Amato acted in a “cold, calculated and premeditated manner, without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”

A conviction for any of the murders charged in this case, qualifies as a prior conviction and can be used as an aggravating factor in a subsequent death penalty sentencing phase, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

The deaths occurred on Jan. 25 inside the Amato’s family home on Sultan Circle in Seminole County, where Amato allegedly gunned down his family in what police say was an “execution style” shooting.

In the arrest warrant, it alleges Grant Amato killed his parents and brother after getting into a fight with his family over an online relationship with a Bulgarian call girl.

Investigators say Grant Amato sent more than $200,000 of his family’s money to the ‘cam girl’.

The warrant says Grant Amato’s family tried to get help for the 29-year-old and sent him to a Fort Lauderdale rehab facility on a voluntary basis for internet and sex addiction in December and early January.

When Grant Amato returned home in January, the parents asked him not to contact the woman, according to the warrant.

The arrest warrant says Grant Amato told investigators that his family had been blaming him for “ruining their lives” after he stole from them and disobeyed their rules, so he “might as well be blamed for this, too.”

According to a report from the Washington Post, Amato lifted around $150,000 from his parents, Chad and Margaret. His brother Cody lost $60,000; when that was gone, Amato allegedly stole his brother’s guns and sold them. Amato even allegedly took out a $65,000 loan on the house.

(source: spacecoastdaily.com)

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Florida man convicted in murder of trooper wants off death row because of dementia diagnosis----Daniel Burns Jr., 73, was convicted in 1988 for the 1st-degree murder of an FHP trooper and trafficking in cocaine.

In 1988, Daniel Burns Jr. was convicted of st-degree murder of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.

He was sentenced to death for the 1987 fatal shooting of Trooper Jeffrey Young and was given 30 years for trafficking in cocaine.

Now 73, Burns has been on death row for more than 30 years.

His attorneys are asking for his death sentence to be revoked because of a 2018 evaluation by a doctor who says Burns suffers from dementia.

His attorneys will argue at a court hearing this afternoon for a PET scan and an MRI of Burns' brain "to complete a diagnosis related to his deteriorating mental and physical condition."

This isn't the first time Burns has asked to have his sentence vacated. Between 1988 and 1994, there were multiple motions filed for him to be resentenced to life in prison, including one saying the death penalty is racist.

In 2004, the state of Florida sent the case back to the circuit court for 180 days to determine Burns' mental capacity. In 2005, the court determined Burns did not have mental disabilities.

Then in 2007, 2009 and 2017, Burns filed successive Motions to Vacate Judgement of Sentence because of newly-discovered evidence and a change in Florida law. All 3 orders were denied.

The doctor who evaluated Burns in 2018 recommends a PET scan and MRI to complete a diagnosis.

Burns was evaluated by another doctor in 2014, who said he suffers from dementia with declining cognitive ability. This doctor also recommended the scans.

Burns' attorneys argue that failure to allow him to have these scans violates Burns' rights under the 5th, 8th and 14th amendments.

Prosecutors say the request to vacate the death sentence because of mental capacity is premature because the governor has not yet signed a warrant for Burns' execution. The state also says a PET scan and MRI are not relevant for consideration on Burns' sanity.

Prosecutors are also requesting reports and raw data from doctors' evaluations.

A hearing is expected to be held at 3 p.m. today in Bradenton.

(source: WTSP news)

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Death row inmate should have leniency due to dementia diagnosis, his attorneys say

Can a convicted killer escape death row because he can’t remember his crime? That’s a question a Manatee County judge will have to consider.

Daniel Burns has been on death row in Florida for more than 20 years. Now, his attorneys say the 73-year-old has dementia and can’t remember the crime he committed, or why he’s being punished.

His lawyers are petitioning to have MRI and PET scans performed in order to determine the extent of deterioration in his brain. They’ve also included the testimony of 2 psychiatrists who said -- based on cognitive testing -- that Burns is suffering from dementia and declining cognitive ability. Under those circumstances, his attorneys argue, execution would be considered cruel and unusual punishment, and a violation of his fifth amendment rights.

The case dates back more than 30 years to the summer of 1987.

Trooper Jeffrey Young, a member of the narcotics squad with the Florida Highway Patrol, pulled Burns over in Manatee County and found drugs in his car. When he tried to arrest the man things went awry. Burns was able to get Young’s service handgun away from him and then turned it on the officer.

Young, a 28-year-old husband and father, ended up on his knees, begging for his life. Burns then shot him in the face.

Burns was sentenced to death for the slaying, but, since then, his attorneys have fought to try to get his death sentence overturned. Time and again, Burns’ appeals have been denied, but he hasn’t exhausted all appeals.

A similar case is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. According to the Associated Press, justices in October seemed willing to extend protection from capital punishment to prisoners with dementia.

(source: Fox News)

ALABAMA:

Man convicted killing Auburn student in 2008 seeking appeal of death sentence

A hearing to overturn a death sentence was held Tuesday for a man convicted of killing an Auburn University student.

In 2010,Courtney Lockhart was convicted of capital murder in the 2008 death of Lauren Burk.

A jury recommended life without parole, but Judge Jacob Walker used judicial override to sentence Lockhart to death.

Alabama judges are no longer allowed to override jury suggested sentencing with the death sentence.

Burk’s father said he hopes the judge does not change his original sentencing.

“We maintain our desire for the death penalty,” said Jim Burk, father of Lauren Burk. “Lauren did get the death penalty without a hearing, and we will do anything it takes to continue this process. Even if it goes to the Supreme Court, the Burk family will never give up.”

The prosecution and defense both rested their cases, but defense attorney, Aaron Katz, said a final decision won’t come until at least August.

(source: WTVM news)

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Alabama Is Going to Execute Rocky Myers. He Might Be Innocent.----The case of an intellectually disabled prisoner on death row is a window into the many flaws in the death penalty in America.

On the night of October 4, 1991, Mamie Dutton was asleep in a bedroom at her cousin’s house in Decatur, Alabama. The cousin, Ludie Mae Tucker, lived a few blocks west of the city’s shopping district, in a run-down neighborhood that struggled with crime and had been dubbed “crack town” by locals. Around midnight, the doorbell rang.

When Dutton peered out of her room, she could see Ludie Mae talking through the window blinds with a man on the porch. He was agitated, and said he’d been in a car crash and needed to use the telephone to call his family. “I’m bleeding to death,” he pleaded. Ludie Mae offered to dial the number for him. Dutton could hear that he’d come inside the house. “[He] was just a jabbering and his voice was a quivering,” Dutton said later in a statement. She heard Ludie Mae say that her husband was in the other room—a strange comment, given that she wasn’t married.

Suddenly, Ludie Mae cried out. Dutton was too scared to leave the room. “I just froze. I couldn’t move,” Dutton later told police. “I knowed he was doing something to her.

The man then ran into Dutton’s darkened room and stabbed her in the side before running out of the house. She didn’t manage to get a clear look at him—except to see that he was wearing a “light looking shirt.” When Dutton came out of her room, holding the wound on her side, Ludie Mae was lying on the couch bleeding with the phone in her hand. She’d been stabbed 4 times, including once in the left side of her chest, but she’d managed to dial 911 and was on the phone with Decatur police.

An officer who’d been patrolling the neighborhood arrived on the scene minutes after Ludie Mae’s call. Ludie Mae was near-hysterical, but conscious enough to describe her attacker to the officers who arrived moments later as a black male, stocky and short, with a “light colored shirt that looked like it had blood on it.” An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late. The stab wound to her chest had pierced her heart, and not long after arrival, she was pronounced dead.

More than 2 years later, a man named Robin “Rocky” Myers was convicted of Ludie Mae Tucker’s murder. At the time of Ludie Mae’s death, Rocky was living across the street from her with his wife and children on 1 side of a converted duplex. Today, he’s 1 of 175 prisoners on death row in Alabama, in the same prison where Dominique Ray was recently executed.

According to his lawyers, the state may be preparing to kill an innocent man. Convicted on the basis of scant evidence by a nearly all-white jury in a trial that lasted only a week, Rocky has intellectual disability, scoring at or below the crucial 75-point threshold for a formal diagnosis in four out of five IQ tests. His death sentence was imposed by a judge who overrode the jury’s recommendation for life without parole through a procedural option that is no longer legal. And because of egregious conduct by an attorney working on his case, Rocky lost his chance for a post-conviction appeal—which meant that he was unable to present new evidence in federal court, including testimony revealing that police interfered with a key witness.

To Kacey Keeton, a federal defender who picked up Rocky’s appeal in 2007, the case is a checklist for everything that’s wrong with the death penalty in America. “I think there was an elderly white lady that was dead in Decatur, Alabama, and the prosecution was telling [the jury], ‘Hey, we have this black guy who did it,’” she said. “And I think that’s it.”

Rocky wasn’t the first suspect to come under the spotlight during the investigation. After Ludie Mae’s murder, detectives searched her house for forensic evidence. They lifted a number of fingerprints, including one partial palm print, and determined that a VCR—a valuable consumer good in 1991—was missing. Then the day after the murder, a local man handed over to the Decatur police department a VCR matching the description of the one stolen from Ludie Mae’s house. He said he’d found it at his sister’s house, which was just a few blocks up the road from Ludie Mae’s.

The house wasn’t an average family home. His sister was running the property as a “shot house,” where people could buy whiskey and beer, and a local drug dealer named Leon “Butch” Madden sold crack cocaine from the porch. Butch’s operation was no secret to law enforcement, with one witness in the case later saying that he had a “well-known relationship with the Decatur police.” There were rumors that he’d been given a de facto license to sell drugs in exchange for information and other favors.

“I think there was an elderly white lady that was dead in Decatur, Alabama, and the prosecution was telling the jury, ‘Hey, we have this black guy who did it. And I think that’s it.”—attorney Kacey Keeton

When police called Butch in, he complied, along with one of his lieutenants, Willie “Roadrunner” Raybon. After questioning, the two men signed statements saying that a regular customer of the shot house, Anthony “Cool Breeze” Ballentine, had traded the VCR for crack on the night of Ludie Mae’s murder. Butch’s statement described Cool Breeze as showing up with the VCR, “sweating and shaking, acting paranoid as hell.”

Cool Breeze was well-known in the neighborhood. Although he was a heavy crack user, his family was respected, with deep roots in Decatur. Soon police got another tip that pointed toward his involvement in the murder. A woman who lived in the neighborhood called in and said she’d seen him run into an alley near Ludie Mae’s house on the night of the murder, wearing a white shirt stained with blood. Armed with the statements, detectives put out a warrant for Cool Breeze’s arrest, picking him up at the aluminum plant where he worked.

With Cool Breeze in custody, the governor’s office issued a reward for further information about the murder to see if they could strengthen their case. A few weeks later, a local man who’d known Cool Breeze for nearly 30 years came forward to claim it, saying that he’d seen someone else cross the road near Ludie Mae’s house with a VCR tucked under his arm on the night of the murder. He’d been tracked down by an investigator working for Cool Breeze’s defense team, who found him working at the same country club where Cool Breeze’s father served as head waiter. He offered detectives an affidavit saying that the man he’d seen cross the road was short and stocky, certainly not Cool Breeze, who was nearly 6-foot tall.

Detectives called Butch and Roadrunner back into the station for another interview, where both men recanted their earlier statements. Roadrunner claimed he’d implicated Cool Breeze because he was angry over an argument they’d had the night of the murder, and Butch said he’d backed up Roadrunner’s statement because “I just figured that’s what everybody wanted to hear.” They said the story they’d originally told was still mostly true: A man had come to the shot house asking for crack on credit the night of Ludie Mae’s murder, returning later with a VCR to trade.

But there was one major change. Instead of Cool Breeze, they now fingered Rocky Myers as the man who’d come to the shot house with the VCR.

Rocky Myers grew up in New Jersey, one of 10 children in what relatives describe as a “hard life.” His father was an alcoholic, and his mother battled depression after having her first child at 14. From early on it was apparent that Rocky had a hard time keeping up with other kids his age, and at 11 he was diagnosed with intellectual disability (termed “mental retardation” at the time). “Rocky was a misunderstood, gentle person,” remembered a neighbor. “He didn’t excel like his brothers did.” He struggled at school, never learning how to read above a third-grade level, and at 16 years old he couldn’t tell time.

Rocky eventually married and had four children, moving to the west side of Decatur, a small port city just south of the Tennessee border where his wife’s family lived. His children remember him as a loving father who, despite his struggles with drug abuse, never left their lives or abused them. “He was there for us. We never had to beg for anything to eat. I mean we didn’t have everything in the world but we had him and my Moms. I mean, we had us,” said Deon Myers, his nd-youngest son. “I just don’t have any memory of him being any type of violent person.”

Rocky and his family eventually settled into a home across the street from Ludie Mae. He did odd jobs, scraping together cash from friends and family while his wife worked as a cook at a nearby restaurant. At the time of Ludie Mae’s murder Rocky was a regular user of crack, and while he’d been arrested for theft, he’d never been charged with a crime involving violence. When he had the money, he’d walk up a narrow alley that ran three blocks up from his home to Butch’s shot house and buy $10 or $20 worth of crack.

After Butch and Roadrunner changed their statements, homicide detectives turned their focus toward Rocky, who was on probation for receiving stolen property. Detectives called him for a urine test, which he failed—a violation of his probation. Rocky was sent to jail, where he was interrogated. The interrogation wasn’t filmed or recorded, but the two detectives gave an account of it during Rocky’s trial. According to Detective Sergeant Dwight Hale, Rocky admitted to using crack but denied knowing anything about the murder and said he’d never met Roadrunner or Butch before. But then Hale asked Rocky if he knew a man named Marzell Ewing. Rocky said he did.

Marzell was an associate of Butch’s who, in his own words, “sold drugs, watched houses, and did basically anything he needed at the time.” He and Rocky knew each other well from around the neighborhood. So when Hale said that Marzell had made a statement saying that he’d seen Rocky give a VCR to Butch the night Ludie Mae was killed, Rocky hung his head. In the following hours, he admitted knowing Butch and Roadrunner and said that he had indeed traded a VCR for crack at the shot house on the night of Ludie Mae’s murder.

But Rocky denied that he’d been at Ludie Mae’s house that night; he claimed he’d found the VCR stashed in the alley that runs between his house and the shot house. When detectives pressed him on the timing of his story about finding the VCR and taking it to Butch, he faltered—first, it was 40 minutes before police arrived at Ludie Mae’s house, then 10 minutes, and finally, he said he couldn’t remember clearly. When Hale told him that he was facing the electric chair, he started crying and asked to speak with his mother.

Keeton, Rocky’s current attorney, says that his inability to provide a clear time line during the interrogation has everything to do with his intellectual disability, which she’s observed in more than a decade of working with him on his case. For years when she’d visit him in prison, for example, she found it strange that he would refuse her offer to eat while they talked about his case—until she realized that he didn’t know how to operate a vending machine.

“He was under extreme stress and anxiety and not understanding a lot of the communication,” she said. “Asking him a month-plus out, ‘What were you doing on October 4?’—there’s no way he can provide a good memory. So you have someone who’s intellectually disabled fumbling it, and sounding like somebody fumbling it.”

But for the detectives, Rocky’s admission that he’d initially lied, along with his erratic account of the time line and the statements they had from Butch, Roadrunner, and Marzell saying that they saw Rocky with the VCR, was all they needed. Cool Breeze was released, and Rocky was charged with the capital murder of Ludie Mae Tucker.

Rocky’s trial began 2 years later. The prosecutor told the jury a straightforward story: Rocky’s drug addiction had overwhelmed his judgment, and after Butch refused to give him crack on credit he broke into Ludie Mae’s house and killed her for her VCR. But there were parts of the prosecution’s story that didn’t add up.

To start, multiple witnesses described Rocky’s attire the night they saw him at the shot house as black or dark brown rather than the light-colored shirt that Ludie Mae and her cousin said their assailant was wearing. And Roadrunner testified that Cool Breeze had also been at the shot house on multiple occasions that night, at one point “sweating real hard” and wearing a white sweatshirt with blood on it. Rocky had terrible eczema—even the detectives who interrogated him noted his flaky, scaly skin—yet despite the prosecution’s contention that he’d been in a violent struggle with Ludie Mae, no skin flakes were found at the scene. None of the prints that investigators found at the crime scene matched Rocky’s.

Roadrunner also testified that the alley leading to the shot house was a well-known stash spot, saying that he himself had frequently found and hidden stolen goods and drugs there. Police arrived at Ludie Mae’s house just minutes after her frantic 911 call, making it plausible that the assailant had stashed the VCR in the nearby alley once he heard sirens approaching the area. In fact, there was no evidence at all that Rocky had been at the scene of the crime aside from his possession of a VCR.

“They had all these people, witnesses coming up, and they would have a given name and a nickname, and then a street nickname,” said Mae Puckett, a juror who served on the case. “But with every nickname came a different version of the story.”

Finally, Rocky took the stand. He testified that on the afternoon of Ludie Mae’s murder he’d bought crack from Butch and smoked it back at his house. He’d planned to go to a club with his in-laws but when he arrived at their house, they’d already left. On his way back home he said he spotted the VCR hidden under a bush in the alley, took it to the shot house that night, and traded it to Butch for a $20 rock of crack. But he was adamant in stating that he had nothing to do with Ludie Mae’s murder.

Rocky’s testimony raised critical questions. Why would Ludie Mae have believed that her neighbor needed to use her phone to call his family after a car crash, and why didn’t she identify him to police as her attacker before she died? Years later, Mamie Dutton, her cousin, told a lawyer working on Rocky’s appeal that she and Ludie Mae had seen Rocky across the street earlier that day, and Ludie Mae had mentioned that she knew him from the times he’d knocked on her door to ask for ice. And Rocky surely knew that Ludie Mae lived alone—yet on the night of the murder, Dutton said she’d heard her cousin tell her attacker that her husband was in the other room.

Puckett, the juror, noticed these holes in the prosecutors’ case. “It was the state’s place to prove that Rocky Myers was in the home and committed that crime. In my mind it never happened,” she said. “I kept waiting for that word that was going to tell me what happened and there was never one. There was never that ‘aha’ moment.”

“It was the state’s place to prove that Rocky Myers was in the home and committed that crime. In my mind it never happened”—juror Mae Puckett

But Puckett says the deck felt stacked against Rocky from the beginning. During jury selection, one juror said that if a suspect made it through a grand jury he was “automatically guilty.” And she remembers that another juror kept referring to the VCR as “rabbit tracks” that proved his guilt. A decade after the trial, when Keeton took over Rocky’s appeal she and Sara Romano—an investigator assigned to the case—interviewed another juror who openly used a vicious racial slur to refer to Rocky and called him a “thug.”

Puckett recalls that at least 3 other jurors didn’t believe there was enough evidence to convict Rocky. But as hard as they tried, Puckett and the others who shared her uncertainty couldn’t get the rest to budge. 11 of the 12 jurors were white, and most were set on voting guilty.

According to Puckett, the group of unconvinced jurors feared that if they didn’t find a compromise, the outcome of the trial would be a hung jury. In that case, Rocky would be retried in front of a new jury that could have even fewer sympathetic members, and increasing the chances that he would be sentenced to death. So they reached an agreement: They would vote for a guilty verdict along with the rest in exchange for a recommendation of life without parole. “We were dealing with ourselves trying to come up with a way to save his life,” Puckett said. “That’s what it boiled down to.”

Rocky was thus convicted of capital murder, and by a margin of 9-3 the jury provided their agreed-upon recommendation of life without parole to the judge. The verdict came as a stunning blow to Rocky, who’d been convinced that the trial would end with his acquittal. “I was very surprised,” he said in a phone interview. “I thought I was going to go back to New Jersey.”

A few months later, Puckett was at her home outside of Decatur when she got a call from one of the other jurors. The judge who’d presided over the case had exercised his option of “judicial override,” discarding the jury’s recommendation of life without parole and sentencing Rocky to die instead. From the bench, he said the jury had been too “emotional” in choosing not to recommend the death penalty on its own and described Rocky as a “threat to society.”

“I never thought for a moment that he did it,” said Puckett, her voice cracking. “We struggled over [our decision] for good reason. And if we were emotional, it was valid. How could someone do that without emotion? Would you want someone like that on a jury?”

Since 1976, when the US Supreme Court ruled in Gregg v. Georgia that capital punishment was constitutional, only 3 states have ever allowed the practice of “judicial override” in death-penalty cases: Florida, Delaware, and Alabama. In 2016, the US Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s judicial-override statute was unconstitutional. That same year, Delaware’s Supreme Court banned the practice in that state.

Alabama’s use of judicial override was the most notorious. Before the practice was banned by the state legislature in 2017, an Alabama-based legal-advocacy organization called the Equal Justice Initiative calculated that 20 % of inmates on death row in Alabama had their sentences imposed through judicial override. 3/4 of such cases involved a white victim, though only 35 % of homicide victims in the state are white.

In Alabama, state judges are elected by popular vote, and they often emphasize their “tough-on-crime” record while campaigning. According to another Equal Justice Initiative study, the use of judicial overrides to dole out death sentences in Alabama often spiked during election years. In 2013 the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Alabama’s judicial-override statute, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent that judges in the state “appear to have succumbed to electoral pressures.” In Rocky’s case, the judge who imposed his sentence was facing reelection the next year.

An Alabama-based legal advocacy organization calculated that 20 percent of inmates on death row in Alabama had their sentences imposed through judicial override.

Although the practice is now no longer permitted in Alabama, the law passed by the Legislature wasn’t retroactive—which means that anyone put on death row by judicial override stayed there despite the Legislature’s tacit acknowledgement that the practice was unjust.

After his conviction Rocky was transferred to Holman Correctional Facility, where Alabama carries out its death sentences. His trial lawyers filed an appeal, which was unsuccessful. Once the appeal of a death-row inmate’s initial conviction is denied, there is a lengthy, byzantine post-conviction process that can last for decades. The habeas corpus process offers inmates the chance to present new evidence in their cases and dispute the underlying rationale that led to their conviction. This is the stage in the death-penalty process where many sentences have been overturned on the basis of poor representation by counsel at trial, procedural errors, the recanting of witness testimonies, or new evidence of misconduct by prosecution, police, or juries.

In 1998, a young Tennessee-based lawyer named Earle J. Schwarz agreed to represent Rocky in his post-conviction appeals. Until 2017 Alabama did not automatically provide counsel to death-row inmates during this stage of their appeal, so the American Bar Association and other legal-advocacy groups sought out lawyers like Schwarz to work pro bono on death-penalty appeals in the state.

Schwarz worked on Rocky’s case for over five years, as it made its way through the state appeals process. In 2003, he received notice that Rocky’s petition for a post-conviction appeal had been denied by the state. The next step was to prepare to file a federal habeas petition. “Federal habeas corpus review is a critical stage in a death-penalty case, because it allows death row prisoners to bring federal constitutional claims that were heard in state court but were not successful,” said Anna Arceneaux, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. (Disclosure: The author is a staff reporter at the ACLU.) “And federal court—where judges are appointed and not elected—is a very different atmosphere for a prisoner.”

But by then, Schwarz had begun working at a new law firm, and inexplicably, he didn’t tell Rocky that his state appeal had been denied. This was a devastating moment, though Rocky wouldn’t know it for another year. “Mr. Schwarz decided that he could no longer represent Rocky, but unfortunately he just sat in a room and said that quietly to himself,” said Keeton. “He didn’t tell Rocky, he didn’t call the courts and let them know, he didn’t tell the prosecutors, he just quit doing anything.” (In an e-mail, Schwarz said that when he joined the new firm, he lost a 4-person team working on Rocky’s case. “I should have returned the file to the Equal Justice Initiative at that time; I did not; that’s on me,” he wrote.)

A year later, Rocky received a letter from the state attorney general’s office saying that he’d missed the deadline to file any further habeas corpus petitions and notifying him that Alabama would be moving to set an execution date. Rocky, who could only read at a 3rd-grade level, had to ask another prisoner to read the letter aloud to him.

In a recent interview, Rocky said when he realized what the letter meant, “It scared the hell out of me. I mean literally, I didn’t know what to do. I was shaking and I couldn’t breathe. A couple of guys calmed me down and told me what to do.”

The prisoner who’d read the letter to Rocky was represented by the Equal Justice Initiative, and he reached out to the organization to ask for help. Frantically, attorneys working there called the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defender Office for the Middle District of Alabama, asking if defenders assigned to the unit could take up Rocky’s case. They filed a habeas petition, but it was too late. The state of Alabama argued that Schwarz’s failings were irrelevant, contending that the burden had been on Rocky to stay on top of his case. The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed.

The state of Alabama argued that Schwarz’s failings were irrelevant, contending that the burden had been on Rocky to stay on top of his case.

“[They] said, yes, we showed that Schwarz’s failures were a problem, but that Rocky even with his intellectual disability had to show some level of diligence on his part,” said Keeton. “We had affidavits that showed [habeas corpus] language is above college level in terms of reading and understanding, and that Rocky reads at approximately a third- or fourth-grade level, so that will never make sense to me.”

“A lot of people think that people on death row know the law, they know this or that, but I don’t,” said Rocky. “I give all my trust to my attorneys and stuff. If I could read the law in the books and learn and study, I would. But I’m not able to do that. I’m not a learnable type of person.”

While fighting for a deadline extension in court, lawyers working on Rocky’s case heard a shocking story from Marzell Ewing, Rocky’s acquaintance who had testified to having seen him trade the VCR in the shot house. Around the time homicide detectives shifted their focus away from Cool Breeze, Marzell was arrested while driving a stolen car in Decatur. Marzell told the attorneys that one detective had offered to make the arrest disappear if he would say that he’d seen Rocky bring the VCR to Butch at the shot house.

In a declaration that Marzell signed in late 2004, he said his testimony during Rocky’s trial was “not truthful. I did not see who brought the VCR to the shot house that night.” He further stated that “Detective Boyd told me that he would take the stolen car that I had been driving and leave it by the side of the road.” Police reports from the time support his story: 2 suspects were indeed arrested in a stolen vehicle matching the one described by Marzell on October 28, 1991, the same day Boyd’s notes indicate he first interviewed Marzell.

With the door to judicial review shut, the only avenue for relief is intervention by Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey.

The evidence that police in Decatur tampered with at least one witness was a bombshell. It didn’t entirely contradict the prosecution’s narrative—Rocky had, after all, already admitted to trading the VCR to Butch—but it raised powerful questions about the conduct of Decatur police during the investigation. In federal court, Marzell’s declaration along with Puckett’s account of the jury’s compromise verdict might at a minimum have called his death sentence into question, if not the conviction itself. But it still wasn’t enough. A federal judge ruled that Marzell’s new statement didn’t override Rocky’s failure to meet the habeas corpus deadline; even with the new evidence, the case was effectively closed. With the door to judicial review shut, the only remaining relief was—and still is—intervention by Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey.

Schwarz later signed a declaration admitting that he “did not tell Mr. Myers I was no longer representing him,” and that he “did not inform Mr. Myers that I would not pursue relief on his behalf in federal court.” The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee issued a public censure to him in 2005, saying that he “willfully neglected his representation of his client.”

In 2018, Schwarz was elected president of the Memphis Bar Association, which states that one of its purposes is to “encourage and assist lawyers in maintaining and improving their competence so that they can better serve their clients and the public.” Rocky Myers remains on death row.

Rocky lives under near-constant lockdown at Holman, sometimes going days without yard time because of staff shortages in the Alabama Department of Corrections. In a phone interview in early February, he described a somber atmosphere on the prison’s death row, where a friend of his named Dominique Ray was scheduled to be executed the week we spoke. “At times like this is when everybody’s mostly quiet,” he said. “TV is down real low, you could kinda hear a pin drop.” Days later, Ray was executed after the US Supreme Court denied his request to have an imam present in the lethal-injection chamber.

“When I’m praying, I tell the Lord I’m terrified,” Rocky said. “I just don’t show it because it don’t do any good to other people. But inside in my mind and heart and stomach, I’m scared.”

“When I’m praying, I tell the Lord I’m terrified. I just don’t show it because it don’t do any good to other people."—Rocky Myers

A former church drummer, Rocky attends services regularly, singing in a choir that meets once a week. His children are now grown, with children of their own, some of whom he met during a visit for the first time last year. Rocky says that being separated from his family has taken a toll: “It’s one of the worst things that I’m going through. I have grandkids that are growing up without me.”

Rocky’s legal team checks in on him regularly with in-person visits or by phone. “Getting him to understand what’s happening in his case at any given moment is definitely a challenge,” Keeton said. “We have clients who send us written communications, but Rocky can’t write anything to us.”

In 2012, an execution date was set for Rocky, but Keeton managed to add his name to litigation challenging Alabama’s lethal injection protocol. That litigation was dropped last year after the state agreed to offer asphyxiation by nitrogen gas as an execution option. Now, Alabama is working on a protocol for the new method, after which Rocky will be given a new execution date.

The only chance for Rocky to avoid execution now is a grant of clemency from Governor Kay Ivey. Both he and Keeton know it’s a long shot, and initially he told her not to pursue it. “I didn’t want to be over here begging for my life and stuff like that,” he said. But Keeton persisted. “The fact that we are potentially executing a man who did not have his day in court because an attorney screwed up should give everybody pause,” Keeton said.

Rocky says it’s been frustrating to watch other prisoners get breaks in their cases and be released while he’s been effectively shut out of court. “There’s a lot of people who support the death penalty,” he said, “But to know that there are people on death row that is or could be innocent—how can you support that, you know?”

[Ashoka MukpoAshoka Mukpo is a journalist and writer who reports on human rights and current affairs. He's presently a staff reporter with the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.]

(source: thenation.com)

LOUISIANA:

Caddo DA: No decision yet on whether to pursue death penalty for Watkins

The Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart says he has not decided whether to pursue the death penalty in the case against a man accused of kidnapping and killing a Shreveport couple who gave him a ride back in November.

Dewayne Willie Watkins, 34, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Caddo District Court to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the deaths of 43-year-old Kelly Jose 32-year-old and Heather Jose. The charges are punishable upon conviction by life in prison or the death penalty.

Watkins was indicted on the charges last week by a Caddo Parish Grand Jury.

The Joses were found inside a burned car in Shreveport's Queensborough neighborhood on November 8, 2018.

Watkins was later arrested in the 2600 block of Penick Street, two blocks from the burned car, after a nearly 6-hour standoff with law-enforcement officers.

In court Tuesday, Watkins was appointed a public defender to represent him.

He is due back in court March 11.

(source: arklatexhomepage.com)

OHIO:

Gov. Mike DeWine freezes all Ohio executions while new method developed

Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that there will be no more executions in Ohio until a new method of carrying them out can be developed and deemed constitutional by the courts.

“As long as the status quo remains, where we don’t have a protocol that has been found to be OK, we certainly cannot have any executions in Ohio,” DeWine told reporters at an Associated Press forum in Columbus. “That would not be right, at least in my opinion.”

Pressed on whether he personally supports the death penalty, DeWine paused. Seeming to choose his words carefully, he then said he was a sponsor of Ohio’s current capital punishment law, which took effect in 1981.

“It is the law of the state of Ohio. And I’ll let it go [not comment further] at this point. We are seeing clearly some challenges that you have all reported on in regard to carrying out the death penalty. But I’m not going to go further down that path any more today,” he said.

DeWine, a Republican, ordered a review of Ohio’s death penalty protocols last month after a federal magistrate judge wrote that Ohio’s method of carrying out executions would subject a condemned Ohio prisoner to “severe pain and needless suffering.” Judge Michael Merz wrote Ohio could proceed with the execution, since the inmate, Warren Henness, did not produce an alternative that is ”available,” “feasible,” and can be “readily implemented,” required under a 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling that upheld lethal injection.

DeWine delayed Henness’ execution from Feb. 13 to Sept. 12 while the review was underway. But on Tuesday, he declined to place a timetable on how long it might take for a new execution method to be developed, for it to be legally challenged and then found constitutional by the courts.

“I’ve dealt with the court system a long time, and I think it’s whenever you think you can figure out how fast or slow something’s going to take, you’re wrong,” he said.

Henness was convicted of murdering his drug-abuse counselor, Richard Myers, in 1992, but he maintains his innocence. Ohio’s next inmate scheduled to be executed is Lima’s Cleveland R. Jackson, with a scheduled execution date of May 29. He was convicted of murdering a teenager during a drug-related robbery in 2002. Gregory Lott, convicted in the 1986 murder of an elderly East Cleveland man, is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 14.

Ohio’s method of execution is to inject the condemned with a combination of three drugs: midazolam (as a sedative), a paralytic drug, and potassium chloride to stop their heart. Death penalty opponents have challenged similar methods in other states, saying they are unconstitutional because they cause cruel and unusual punishment.

In his January opinion, Mertz, the federal magistrate judge, agreed with arguments made by Henness’s lawyers, writing that “it is certain or very likely” that the state’s prescribed dose of midazolam “cannot reduce consciousness to the level at which a condemned inmate will not experience the severe pain associated with injection of the paralytic drug or potassium chloride” or the “severe pain and needless suffering that is certain or very likely to be caused by the pulmonary edema which is very likely to be caused directly by the midazolam.”

DeWine’s review marks the 2nd time in 5 years Ohio has searched for a new method of execution. The state changed the drugs it uses for lethal injection after the January 2014 execution of Dennis B. McGuire took more than 25 minutes.

(source: cleveland.com)

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

Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that he is halting all executions until the state devises a new lethal injection protocol that overcomes any court challenges. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine stops executions, wants new protocol

Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that he is halting executions until the state devises a new lethal injection protocol that overcomes any court challenges.

He did not issue a formal stay of all executions but said “Ohio is not going to execute someone under my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment.”

He directed prison officials to come up with a new protocol, which will likely face legal challenge in federal court, he said.

“We certainly could have no executions during that period of time. I don’t want to predict dates, but we have to have the protocol, then it will be challenged, then we have a judge make a decision. So we have to through all that process before we could certainly move down the path toward an execution,” he said.

The next scheduled execution is May 29. DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the governor will decide whether to go ahead or delay that execution based on the facts at the time, including whether the federal judge’s ruling has been overturned.

When asked if he now has personal reservations about capital punishment, DeWine said, “It is the law of the state of Ohio. I’m going to let it go at that at this point. We are seeing, clearly, some challenges that you all have reported in regard to carrying out the death penalty. I’m not going to go down that path any more today.”

DeWine voted for the capital punishment law as a state senator nearly 40 years ago, long before DNA analysis of crime scene evidence led to exonerations from death rows across the country.

When asked if those exonerations have changed his view of the capital punishment, DeWine responded, “I think there is a lot of things we know today that we have the benefit of seeing how it has played out since 1981. We know more today.”

Related: Anger over effort to free convicted killer: ‘He beat my sons to death’

Last month, DeWine delayed the scheduled execution of Warren Keith Hanness after U.S. District Court Judge Michael Merz ruled that Ohio’s current execution protocol could cause the inmate “severe pain and needless suffering.”

It took Ohio more than 3 years to establish its current 3-drug lethal injection protocol, in part because of the difficulty many states have had finding drugs. The state carried out the 1st execution under the current system in 2017.

Because of Ohio’s use of midazolam, Merz called the constitutionality of the state’s system into question in a Jan. 14 ruling and said inmates could suffer an experience similar to water boarding.

However, Merz did not stop the execution. Instead, he said that under a test created by a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Henness couldn’t demonstrate that a feasible execution alternative exists, and thus the execution could proceed.

Ohio has a long history with capital punishment, beginning in 1803 when it carried out executions by public hanging. The electric chair was used from 1897 to 1963 and lethal injection has been the method since executions resumed in 1999.

There are 137 inmates on Ohio Death Row, including Samuel Moreland of Dayton, who was found guilty of murdering 2 women and 3 children in November 1985. Moreland, who insists he is innocent, won the right for additional DNA testing, which has been delayed because of bureaucratic red tape.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said Tuesday he is working with Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck and Moreland’s attorneys to have the state crime lab conduct the tests within 30 days.

----

Timeline of capital punishment in Ohio

A brief look at the history of capital punishment in Ohio:

1803-1885: Executions are carried out as public hangings in the counties where the crimes were committed.

1885: Executions are moved to the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.

1897: Electric chair replaces the gallows and a 17-year-old boy is the 1st prisoner to be electrocuted.

March 15, 1963: The electric chair is used for the last time when Donald Reinbolt, 29, is put to death. The electric chair was used to put 315 people to death.

1972: U.S. Supreme Court declares the death penalty is unconstitutional, reducing the death sentences for 65 inmates to life in prison. Death row is moved to Lucasville.

1974: Ohio lawmakers revise the state death penalty law but it is rejected four years later by the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, 120 condemned prisoners’ sentences are commuted to life in prison.

Oct. 19, 1981: Current death penalty statute takes effect

January 1991: Days before leaving office, Gov. Richard Celeste commutes the death sentences for 8 inmates to life in prison

1993: Gov. George Voinovich signs a bill into law giving condemned prisoners a choice between electrocution and lethal injection, with the default method being lethal injection.

Feb. 19, 1999: inmate Wilford Berry becomes the 1st inmate to be executed in Ohio since 1963. He voluntarily waived all of his appeals and opted for lethal injection.

Nov. 15, 2001: Gov. Bob Taft signs a law that eliminated the electric chair as a form of execution.

Feb. 26, 2002: Ohio’s electric chair – “Old Sparky” – is retired and later donated to the Ohio Historical Society.

June 26, 2003: Taft commutes the sentence of Jerome Campbell to life in prison without parole.

October 2005: Death row is moved from Mansfield to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.

Jan 9, 2008: Gov. Ted Strickland commutes John Spirko’s death sentence to life in prison without parole.

Feb. 12, 2009: Strickland commutes the sentence of inmate Jeffrey Hill to life with parole eligibility after 25 years.

Nov. 30, 2009: Ohio becomes the 1st state to adopt a 1-drug protocol for lethal injections.

June 4, 2010: Ted Strickland commutes Richard Nields’ sentence to life without parole.

Sept. 2, 2010: Strickland commutes Kevin Keith’s sentence to life without parole.

Nov. 15, 2010: Strickland commutes Sidney Cornwell’s sentence to life without parole.

May 2011: Gov. John Kasich commutes Shawn Hawkins’ sentence to life without parole.

Sept. 26, 2011: Kasich commutes Joseph Murphy’s sentence to life without parole.

January 2012: Death row is moved to Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

June 10, 2012: Kasich commutes John Eley’s sentence to life without parole.

Dec. 17, 2012: Kasich commutes Ron Post’s sentence to life without parole.

To date, Ohio has executed a total of 391 convicted murderers.

[source: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction]

(source: Dayton Daily News)

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

Oral arguments: Juror with 'extreme bias' served in death penalty case

Attorneys representing a Cincinnati man now on death row for killing his young daughter told the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday that he was convicted by a jury that had been contaminated by racial bias.

A key issue is an answer one juror gave on a sworn questionnaire before jury selection began in the 2016 trial of Glen Bates, who is black. Question 72 asked jurors to indicate if they believed some racial or ethnic groups are more violent than others.

The juror, a white woman, checked "Strongly Agree." Asked to explain further, she wrote, "Blacks."

"She entered the jury room with her thumb on the scale for guilt," Alexis Hoag, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told justices during oral arguments.

The juror's answer, Hoag added, represented "extreme bias," and allowing her to serve in a death penalty case "undermines the integrity of our courts."

Bates, 36, was convicted in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court of aggravated murder and child endangering in the beating and starvation death of his 2-year-old daughter, Glenara. His girlfriend, Andrea Bradley, pleaded guilty and is serving 15 years to life in prison.

Hoag said Bates' attorneys had been deficient by not seeking to remove the woman during jury selection for her apparent racial bias.

"Defense counsel, if operating competently, would have removed her," Hoag said. She added that there could not have been a strategic reason to allow the woman on the jury.

Justice Melody Stewart asked Hoag if one juror's beliefs could truly prejudice the entire panel.

Support local journalism: President's Day sale continues for new subscribers.

Hoag responded that 1 juror "does make all the difference," and that she believed the entire jury panel "struggled" with their verdict during approximately 3 hours of deliberations.

(source: Cincinnati Enquirer)

INDIANA:

Judge rejects argument for sparing Dansby execution

A judge has rejected efforts by a man charged with 4 murders – 1 of his unborn child – to avoid the death penalty as part of the sentencing phase of his upcoming trial.

Lawyers for Marcus Dansby, 23, asked the judge in separate motions filed in Allen Superior Court last year to declare Indiana's capital punishment statute unconstitutional and throw out the death penalty as an option because of his age – 20 – at the time of the killings.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull ruled against both arguments in an order issued Monday.

“On the defendant's claim that Indiana's sentencing statute is unconstitutional, the law is clearly against (Dansby) and for the State of Indiana,” she wrote.

Dansby is charged in the Sept.11, 2016, slayings of Traeven Harris, 18, Consuela Arrington, 37, Dajahiona Arrington, 18, and the fetus she was carrying. Trinity Hairston was shot and stabbed but survived, and Dansby is charged with attempted murder in that attack.

Prosecutors filed documents to seek the death penalty in 2017.

The state's death penalty law violates several portions of the U.S. and state constitutions and should be thrown out, defense attorneys Michelle Kraus and Robert Gevers wrote in a nearly 100-page filing in October. Capital punishment is “disproportionate and vindictive” and “has no deterrent effect,” their motion to set aside the death penalty states.

Kraus said at the time it was unlikely that Gull would grant the request, but she and Gevers followed it with a motion to exclude the death penalty. Executing someone younger than 21 when crimes were committed violates a constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, they argued.

They cite shifting opinions on the age at which offenders can be put to death; recent court decisions invalidating death sentences for young defendants; and increasing research on the maturity of young people's brains as reasons to reconsider executing prisoners.

It's an argument that has been successful in at least 1 state – Kentucky in 2017 – and a Temple University psychologist testified in court here in December that human brains continue to mature until at least age 22, meaning younger people have trouble controlling their actions and considering the consequences of those actions.

Gull wasn't sold on the claims, calling them “interesting” but not convincing.

“(Dansby) has not shown any judicial or legislative inclination to exclude (his) age group from death penalty eligibility,” her order states.

Dansby's trial is scheduled to start in April and last more than a month, but his lawyers have asked for it to be postponed. They need more time to prepare, according to court documents. A hearing on that request is set for Thursday.

(source: The Journal Gazette)

KENTUCKY:

Prosecutor: Shemwell could still face death penalty in Audubon Avenue triple slaying

Daviess County Commonwealth's Attorney Bruce Kuegel said Tuesday that Cylar L. Shemwell could still face the death penalty for his role in a January shooting on Audubon Avenue that resulted in the deaths of three people.

Shemwell, 31, and Arnett B. Baines, 30, were indicted on three counts of murder and one count of first-degree assault in the Jan. 17 incident, where Jay Michael Sowders, 43, Robert D Smith, 35, and Christopher Carie, 18, all of Owensboro, were each fatally shot in the heard at Sowders' home in the 900 block of Audubon Avenue. A fourth victim, Carmen Vanegas, 35, was also shot in the head and has been hospitalized since the incident.

Prosecutors have already announced their intention to seek the death penalty against Baines. Surveillance video from inside the home shows Baines shooting the victims in the head while Shemwell sits and watches, Owensboro Police Department Detective Todd Wilkerson testified previously.

Shemwell was in Daviess Circuit Court on Tuesday morning on a defense motion to reduce his bond. On Feb. 12, Circuit Court Judge Jay Wethington set Baines' bond at $265,000 full cash on the charges.

Leigh Jackson, head of the county public defender's office, argued Shemwell's bond should be reduced to either a low-cash or unsecured bond so he could be placed on house arrest. Jackson said a risk assessment conducted by pretrial services found Shemwell was considered a low-risk of not returning to court for hearings if he was released.

"Mr. Shemwell has a very low (risk) score, even in light of the charges against him," Jackson told Wethington. Jackson also asked that Shemwell be placed on house arrest in Jeffersonville, Indiana, at his mother's home. She said Shemwell doesn't have a "serious criminal record."

Kuegel, in turn, listed 6 misdemeanor cases where Shemwell failed to show up for hearings.

Jackson, in her argument, said prosecutors have only filed notice to seek the death penalty against Baines.

Kuegel told Wethington his office could still decide to seek the death penalty against Shemwell.

"There is new evidence coming in almost every day from the Owensboro Police Department," Kuegel said. "I'm not going to say we are going to file (for the death penalty), but right now there is overwhelming evidence that there is more going on with Mr. Shemwell" and his role in the incident, he said.

Jackson's motion to reduce Shemwell's bond said the evidence defense attorneys have seen shows "Shemwell was present at the time of the offenses alleged, and arguably ... did not act to prevent the crime, but nothing more."

Jackson repeated that argument in court. "Sitting is not a crime," she said.

Wethington set Shemwell's bond at $250,000 full-cash, rejecting the request for a low-cash or unsecured bond.

"I certainly disagree with the pretrial assessment in this case," Wethington said of the pretrial services' determination that Shemwell was a low-risk of not returning to court.

There is a possibility Shemwell will need a new defense team because some potential witnesses have pending charges in cases unrelated to the shooting and are already being represented by the public defender's office.

Jackson said her office would try to find a way to avoid conflicts so she and public defender Heather Blackburn can continue to represent Shemwell.

(source: messenger-inquirer.com)

MISSOURI:

Son on Death Row: Father of Craig Wood shares son's experience in prison

We heard from the family of Hailey Owens Monday night, on the 5 year anniversary of her tragic death.

The man convicted of killing her, Craig Michael Wood, is in on death row.

Tonight his family sat down with us to talk about their great loss as well.

"She had 45 minutes of terror that she endured-- things a little girl should never experience," said Greene County prosecutor Dan Patterson on the last day of the trial.

"His 49 years is not measured by the worst 50 minutes that he lived," said Craig Wood's defense attorney.

And the sentence handed down was death.

"This court assesses and declares the punishment to be death for the murder of Hailey Owens."

The case gripped our community and beyond. An innocent 10-year-old girl fell victim to Craig Michael Wood's pure evil act. Hailey was kidnapped off the sidewalk, brutally raped and murdered.

Hailey's family learned of the news first.

"It was really different when we got that phone call... when we got that phone call that said Hailey's been taken," said grandma Anita Barfield.

They were so hopeful she'd be found, but she was never to be seen alive again.

The man responsible was found to be Wood. He was 49 years old at the time, a paraprofessional teacher and coach.

"Five years later it's still unbelievable!" said Jim Wood, Craig's dad. "I talked to Craig the night of the event and that was a difficult encounter. But as we have worked through these over the years Craig has come to me like the son in the parable and asked for forgiveness and sought reconciliation and I like the father in that story, I forgave and responded."

Jim says he had no idea how far gone his son was.

"He just went down this terrible dark path, which he recognizes. And I don't want to get into our personal conversations, but he was telling me last night that today was the 18th and how he ever got into this place," Jim said.

Jim and his wife talk to Craig regularly, and see him twice a month on death row. They sit across a table from him face to face and talk for about 2 hours.

How do they go on?

"I have a deep faith and I think in all things there are good, and that's how we approach those. The measure of our character is based on how we can respond to these awful, traumatic events."

Jim says Craig is remorseful and has sought reconciliation.

"We all have to seek these forgivenesses from all of these offenses that we've done all our life, and he's no different than you or I, we're no different," Jim Wood said.

He has fought with the Owens family to get Hailey's law passed-- a measure that would speed up the Amber Alert system. Jim wishes he could've intervened before the unimaginable.

"I feel bad about that-- that I didn't recognize that somehow. I don't know how I could have, but trying to get a grasp around this.... Craig is not some terrible, violent person. He did an awful, terrible, violent thing, but that doesn't match up with the guy that I used to know. Still know frankly," he said. "I sat there last Saturday talking to Craig at the Potosi center and I'm sitting across the table listening to this man and we had this profound discussion about-- and knowing he's sitting in prison for this horrible crime he committed is just difficult to grasp to understand.

Now dealing with it is another matter. I'm going to deal with it in a positive manner."

The death penalty portion of the sentence will be appealed.

The average time from sentencing to execution is around 16 years.

(source: ky3.com)

ARKANSAS:

Bill would exempt mentally ill from death penalty

A state representative has revived a measure that would make it more difficult for a criminal with a serious mental illness to be sentenced to death.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, would require a diagnosis of a serious mental illness before and after a death row inmate's conviction. If the court determines the criminal has such an illness, he or she would instead serve life without parole.

Mental illness claims can tie up death penalty cases in court for years. Flowers said having this legislation in place at the start of the trial process would cut down on that.

"I believe it really helps families of victims because it helps prevent years and years and years of appeals," she said.

Flowers calls her bill bipartisan, noting she modeled it off one passed in Indiana that was sponsored by a Republican. However, one of her colleagues, St. Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers plans to fight it.

Petty's daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered when she was 12 years old. Her killer confessed to the crime and has been on death row for nearly 20 years.

"Today the Arkansas Democrat's filed and ALL sponsored a bill to abolish the death penalty," Petty wrote in a post on Facebook. "I don't know about you but this makes me want to throw up. I am tired of my tax dollars paying for BABY KILLERS and COP KILLERS to sit on death row for many years. I am tired of legislators filing and sponsoring bills that go against the will of Arkansans. SICK AND TIRED!!!"

Flowers argues her legislation would not be retroactive.

According to the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC), there are currently 30 men on death row in Arkansas.

An ADC spokesperson did not have a comment about the bill.

(source: KARK news)

KANSAS:

Legislators propose doing away with death penalty

A group of 32 bipartisan representatives came together to make sure the state doesn't have the chance to use the death penalty anymore.

Kansas hasn't had a person put to death in 54 years, but legislators proposed a bill that would make sure it wouldn't happen in the future.

On Tuesday, lawmakers on the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee heard personal stories from those for and against the death penalty.

"Violence is not a solution to violence," said Therese Bangert, a sister of Charity of Leavenworth.

Others disagreed.

"Every single time that it comes up if you're one of those homicide survivors if you're a family member that survived your loved ones' homicide, today's just like that day all over again," said Greg Smith, who is for keeping the death penalty.

Kansas currently has 10 people on death row.

Greg Smith's daughter Kelsey was murdered in 2007. Her killer didn't get a death sentence.

"I believe in proportionality in the crime," said Smith. "Nobody asked Kelsey if it was okay to be murdered, nobody asked Kelsey if it was okay to be raped, nobody asked Kelsey if it was okay to be kidnapped, yet we worry about this other person that committed all these acts."

Sister Bangert said she has heard from many other murder victim's families about their positive healing process.

"The most powerful people who taught me about the need for forgiveness and accepting the abundance of God's mercy are the murder victim's families who say we are not for the death penalty."

Kansas would be the 21st state to abolish the death penalty.

If passed the bill would go into effect July 1, and no one in Kansas would be sentenced to death for committing a crime after that day. The 10 people on death row would not be affected.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the bill should not be passed.

Abolishing the death penalty bills have been raised during many past legislative sessions and have failed to gain the necessary votes.

(source: KSNT news)

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

Kansas bill repealing death penalty evokes moral, religious, justice arguments

Sister Therese Bangert’s career as a volunteer police and fire chaplain in Kansas City, Kan., took her into the heart of darkness.

She witnessed fallout of life’s most painful moments -- murder, suicide and natural death. She was called to duty in 2016 when a gunman killed Kansas City, Kan., police Detective Brad Lancaster. The defendant was sentenced to life in prison, despite the judge’s belief many people thought the crime warranted death.

“My community, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, have a 30-year-old stance against the death penalty,” Bangert said. “I am even more convinced that the path to healing and wholeness and the grace God provides in abundance to all of us is not reflected in the death penalty.”

Bangert was among people offering insight Tuesday on a House bill repealing the capital punishment statute in Kansas. On July 1, it would be replaced with a new crime of aggravated murder punishable by life in prison without possibility of parole. Under House Bill 2282, death sentences already handed down in Kansas wouldn’t be rescinded.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt objected to the repeal bill, arguing the state’s death penalty was narrowly tailored, applied only in the most horrific cases and had withstood repeated constitutional challenge. He said eight years as attorney general, including arguing of two death penalty cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, strengthened his conviction that Kansas ought to retain capital punishment in state law.

“Whatever your views,” Schmidt said, “I urge you to resolve this matter based on those fundamental concepts that underlie the death penalty -- notions of justice, of life, of morality, of religious beliefs.”

He said the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee shouldn’t allow complaints about cost of death penalty cases to render debate into “a dollars-and-cents calculation, a cold mathematical approach that, in my view, obscures the very real dynamics at work.”

The state adopted the death penalty in 1994, but no one has been put to death in Kansas since 1965. 20 states have ended use of capital punishment. Repeal activity in the Kansas Legislature has been modest since the Senate rejected a bill in 2010.

During the committee hearing, a pair of former Republican legislators reached opposite conclusions on repeal. Former Johnson County Sen. Greg Smith outlined in detail why preservation of capital punishment was in the public’s interest, while former Rep. Steven Becker, of Buhler, said the potential for error was too high.

Smith offered comment as an employee of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. His belief repeal would be a miscarriage of justice was shaped by the murder of his daughter, Kelsey.

“I am not here to cast judgment on the validity of another homicide survivor’s feelings,” he said. “Yet, every time the Legislature decides to bring this issue up, you force every homicide survivor to relive their worst day. The pain, the grief, the shock and the horror all comes back as fresh as the day our loved one was murdered.”

Becker, who served 26 years as a district court judge, said application of an absolute penalty -- death -- was too risky because the criminal justice system was imperfect. In the United States, 164 people on death row have been exonerated, he said.

“How can we impose the absolute certainty of death when we do not require the absolute certainty of guilt?” he said.

(source: Dodge City Daily Globe)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

South Dakota Death Penalty Exemption Fails Twice

Most of the bills which have been introduced this year are now starting to see action in the committees and on the floor. Several of the bills which I prepared and introduced have now been resolved one way or the other.

As I told you last week, SB71, which prohibited using the death penalty for individuals who were severely mentally ill, failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 4 to 3 vote. However, we were able to get enough votes on the floor of the Senate to “smoke out” the bill which forces the committee to report the bill to the floor. However, on the floor, the bill failed again by a vote of 21 to 12.

(source: Sen. ART RUSCH R-District 17 (Vermillion) ---- Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan)

WYOMING:

Wyoming death penalty kept alive after Senate rejects repeal effort

An effort to end the death penalty in Wyoming was shot down in the Legislature on Thursday.

After making it through the House by a relatively comfortable margin, House Bill 145 was defeated on its 1st reading in the state Senate on a 12-18 vote.

Park County’s senators split on the bill, with Sen. R.J. Kost, R-Powell, voting to repeal the death penalty and Sens. Hank Coe, R-Cody, and Wyatt Agar, R-Thermopolis, voting to keep it on the books.

Prosecutors opposed the repeal, with Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric urging Coe to vote against the “bad bill.”

“Wyoming has had cases that warrant the death penalty, and Wyoming will have cases in the future that warrant the death penalty,” Skoric said in an email. “That is why the law should remain.”

While the death penalty is rarely imposed in Wyoming, prosecutors more often use it as leverage when attempting to negotiate plea deals in murder cases.

Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, laid out the arguments for HB 145 during a floor debate Thursday, focusing on the financial cost for the state, the moral issues with giving government that much power over its citizens and the real possibility of executing an innocent person.

“This is something we have to get right each and every time,” Boner said. While saying the U.S. has an excellent legal system, he noted that 164 people on death row have been exonerated since 1973.

“... If that number was one, that would be enough to give me pause. But it’s not — it’s 164 people who were falsely convicted and sentenced to death,” Boner said.

Other senators who supported the bill tried to focus the debate on both the financial cost of keeping the death penalty bill on the books and the mental cost placed on juries who have to make that life-or-death decision.

Even without anyone currently on the state’s death row, bill sponsor Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, said local and state government would be saving by not having to staff attorneys and other experts for the potential of a death penalty case. The fiscal note for HB 145 estimated the state would save $756,035 in 2020.

Since 1976, Wyoming has only executed one person: Mark Hopkinson, who was put to death in 1992. One inmate, Dale Wayne Eaton, had his death sentence overturned in 2014. Boner said if prosecutors try to pursue death for Eaton again, the Wyoming public defender’s office expects it will need to spend around $2.1 million to defend the man.

However, Skoric argues that having the death penalty on the books actually saves the government money — and he said the fact that death penalty cases “get unnecessarily stalled in the federal courts for decades is no reason to throw in the towel on appropriate justice.”

“Hopefully next year, some legislators will actually do their homework on this subject and not just hide behind the usual flavor of the day, which is ... it will save [money] to get rid of it,” Skoric added. “Deterrence should not be lessened and community safety and justice should not be cheapened.”

Many opponents of the bill argued that the death penalty helps ensure justice for victims and their families. But some arguments centered around the religious impact of the death penalty.

“The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and for me. I’m grateful for him for a future hope because of this,” said Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, who voted to keep capital punishment. “Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”

In contrast, Sen. Stephen Pappas, R-Cheyenne, cited his Christian faith in arguing for a repeal; he said that, when someone is put to death, they lose their chance to change and repent.

Boner described his support for ending the death penalty as stemming from his pro-life beliefs, but one of his anti-abortion colleagues had a different take.

“I find it disheartening in America that, on the one hand, we’re saying it’s OK to sentence innocent children to death up to the day of birth for being an inconvenience and yet all the while we’re seeing a push across this country to spare the lives of convicted rapists, murderers and pedophiles,” said Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester. “I find it backwards and I would much rather we abort the murderers, rapists and pedophiles. We need to get our priorities straight in this country.”

Under Wyoming law, only 1st-degree murder can be punished by execution — and only if at least 1 “aggravating circumstance” is present.

Another opponent of the bill, Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, said the death penalty remains a strong deterrent for crime and something that can provide closure for victims. He also argued that some of the push to end the death penalty comes from the “prison industry” wanting to grow the prison population and make more money.

Boner said he was disappointed with the result, but noted the bill had gotten farther than any previous attempt to repeal capital punishment in Wyoming.

Skoric said he was surprised by how much traction the effort gained this year, adding that he thinks the “vast majority of people in Park County still support the death penalty.”

Sabrina King, policy director for the ACLU of Wyoming, said the organization was “immensely disappointed” with the Senate’s decision to keep the death penalty.

“We will continue fighting and look forward to the day we end this disgrace of a practice in our state,” King said.

In a Thursday night Facebook post, Sen. Kost said his decision to vote for an end to the death penalty was not easy, noting the Senate’s lengthy debate.

“... I don’t think anyone felt great about the final decision,” he wrote, “because we value and respect the thoughts and decisions of each side.”

(source: The Powell Tribune)

MONTANA:

Montana lawmakers hear bill abolishing death penalty

A bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana got its 1st hearing Monday.

House Bill 350, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, seeks to replace Montana’s death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

At the hearing, Hopkins said a court order out of Lewis and Clark County barred Montana from executing inmates on death row, citing the barbiturate the state used was not fast acting. Because of that, Hopkins said, inmates on death row cost the state more money to keep them there.

“It is another form of life in prison that just so happens to cost the state of Montana a lot more money than regular life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Hopkins said.

There are two inmates on death row at the Montana State Prison, according to the bill’s fiscal note. The last execution in the state happened in 2006, and was estimated to cost the state $49,500.

The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

Supporters of the bill included human rights advocates, religious groups and the public defender’s office. They argued the death penalty was unjust and fiscally irresponsible.

Peter Ohman, lobbyist for the Office of the Public Defender, said he supported the bill for two reasons: money and resources.

Ohman said finding attorneys to represent people accused of a crime that could carry the death penalty is difficult, especially in rural parts of the state. He said 2 cases the office is working on now cost the state more than $1 million over a biennium.

“Removal of the death penalty would save our office quite a bit of money,” Ohman said.

SK Rossi, lobbyist for American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, said the death penalty is a “monstrous version of government overreach in theory, and is unreliable and unfair in practice.” Rossi said a person’s chance of being executed increases if they’re not white, not wealthy or not mentally sound.

“The only way to guarantee a fair system that does not put innocent people to death is to abolish capital punishment completely,” Rossi said.

(source: The Fairfield Sun Times)

ARIZONA:

Prosecutors to seek death penalty in Murillo case----Defendant is accused of the 1st-degree murder of NPD Officer Jesus Cordova

County prosecutors have formally declared their intent to pursue the death penalty against David Ernesto Murillo, the man accused of the 1st-degree murder of Nogales Police Officer Jesus Cordova.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Liliana Ortega filed the notice at Santa Cruz County Superior Court on Feb. 14, 5 days prior to a deadline that had already been extended from last Dec. 21.

County Attorney George Silva declined to comment on why his office ultimately decided to seek to punish Murillo with death.

“I cannot discuss any aspect of this case until the matter has concluded,” Silva told the NI on Tuesday afternoon.

Cordova’s wife, Alyssa, also declined to comment on the decision.

Murillo, 28, is charged with 30 felony counts stemming from a crime spree on April 27, 2018 that began with the attempted armed robbery of a taxi driver, followed by at least 5 carjackings or attempted carjackings. He reportedly killed 44-year-old Cordova by opening fire with an AR-15 rifle after the officer tried to pull him over near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Mesa Verde Drive.

Arizona law requires that when a state prosecutor files a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, he or she must also provide the defendant with a list of aggravating circumstances that the state intends to prove during the aggravation phase of the trial. In accordance with that requirement, the notice filed by Ortega states that by that point in the proceedings, Murillo will have been convicted of a number of serious crimes.

In addition, she wrote, Cordova was killed while performing his official duties, and “the defendant knew or should have known that the murdered person was a peace officer.”

This is the 1st time the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office has sought the death penalty in a murder case since Silva took office in 2005.

It wasn’t immediately clear when county prosecutors last noticed a death penalty case, but in 1983, Ramon Martinez Villarreal, a Mexican national, was sentenced to death in Santa Cruz County for murdering two men at the Salero Ranch near Tubac. Questions about his mental health, however, kept him from being executed.

Death penalty cases are time consuming and cost intensive, which can be a deterrent for prosecutors in small counties with limited staffs and budgets, like Santa Cruz. Such cases also bring additional costs for the court system, which must supply indigent defendants with two death penalty-certified lawyers, as well as an investigator.

A hearing in the Murillo case is set for Monday, Feb. 25 with Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink.

(source: nogalesinternational.com)

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

Prosecutors to seek death penalty for David Ernesto Murillo

Prosecutors in Santa Cruz County filed a notice to seek the death penalty for David Ernesto Murillo on Thursday, Feb. 14.

Murillo is accused of killing Nogales Police Officer, Jesus Cordova in April 2018.

His charges include 1st degree murder, attempted 1st degree murder, multiple charges of aggravated assault, armed robbery, kidnapping, burglary, criminal damage, fleeing law enforcement, and illegally firing a weapon.

David Ernest Murillo is scheduled to appear in court for a status conference on Feb. 25, 2019.

(source: KOLD news)

USA:

Death-Penalty Repeal Efforts Across U.S. Spurred by Growing Conservative Support

Bills to repeal and replace the death penalty with non-capital punishments have gained new traction across the United States in 2019 as a result of opposition to the death penalty among ideologically conservative legislators. That movement – buoyed by fiscal and pro-life conservatives, conservative law-reform advocates, and the deepening involvement of the Catholic Church in death-penalty abolition – has led to unprecedented successes in numerous houses of state legislatures and moved repeal efforts closer to fruition in a number of deeply Republican states. In 2019, conservative legislators are leading the call for death-penalty abolition in conservative-leaning states such as Wyoming, Montana, and Kentucky, and playing a critical role in bipartisan efforts to repeal or reform capital punishment in Virginia and New Hampshire.

The surprise strength of a death-penalty repeal bill in Wyoming is emblematic of the growing Republican abolition movement. There, in an overwhelmingly Republican legislature, a bill to replace the death penalty with life without parole garnered significant support from both parties and passed the state house and a senate committee before falling short in the full senate. In Kentucky and Montana, Republican legislators have introduced abolition legislation and are attempting to build coalition support, and in Virginia, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill to ban the death penalty for people with severe mental illness. Conservatives have said they oppose capital punishment because of pro-life beliefs, a desire to reduce government spending, and the lack of deterrent effect. In New Hampshire, a bill to abolish the death penalty passed the legislature with bipartisan support, but was vetoed in 2018. The legislature has renewed bipartisan repeal efforts in 2019.

The Wyoming House of Representatives voted (36-21) on February 1 to pass HB 145, a bill to abolish the death penalty. The bill garnered the support of a majority of House Republicans, all the house Democrats who voted, and the chamber’s lone Independent. It then unanimously passed the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee on February 13, before being defeated in the full Senate by a vote of 12-18. In the Senate, nine Republicans and all three Democrats voted in favor of abolition. The bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Jared Olsen of Cheyenne with Republican and Democratic co-sponsors in both houses. Senate co-sponsor Brian Boner (R – Converse) said, “We have an obligation to have a justice system that is blind and based on facts, and not based on what we wished it was or what it used to be.” Olsen said he was concerned about the number of exonerations from death row. “It is way too much authority to vest in our government, and we get it wrong,” he said. Concerns about costs convinced Sen. Bill Landen (R – Casper) to vote for abolition. "I finally decided that I can't go home and feel good about explaining to people all of those myriad of cuts we've made to the state budget and then defend expenditures like this, which have gone on for years and years and years," he said. Wyoming spends an estimated $750,000 per year on legal costs associated with the death penalty, but has not executed anyone since 1992 nor imposed a death sentence since 2004.

Kentucky House Majority Whip Chad McCoy (R – Nelson) said he hopes to get support for his abolition bill from Catholic legislators who have a moral opposition to the death penalty, as well as fiscal conservatives who see it as a costly, ineffective government program. “When you talk about death penalty, a lot of people immediately want to have a criminal justice angle on it or a morality angle. And mine is purely economics,” he said. Kentucky also rarely uses the death penalty. Its last execution was in 2008 and its last death sentence was in 2014. State Representative Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula, the sponsor of Montana’s bill to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, told a House committee on February 18 that the state’s death penalty was simply ineffective. The t2 people sentenced to death in the state have been on death row for thirty years, he said, and “there is no logical measurement that 30 years equals a death sentence. … Regardless of how you feel because of capital punishment, nobody is dying from it.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Wife of Pittsburgh rabbi: No death penalty for antisemitic shooter----The evil of the shooter who took their lives is beyond human reckoning. And yet, I hope the prosecutors do not pursue the death penalty.

3 congregants from our New Light Congregation — Dan Stein, Mel Wax and Rich Gottfried — were among the slain. My husband, Rabbi Jonathan Perlman, was in the room where they were killed, hiding alongside 2 others.

Dan, Mel and Rich were all past presidents of the synagogue; all regularly read the haftarah and led prayers. They were all incredibly generous with their time and were pillars of the synagogue.

Dan, 71, had wanted to be a translator for the United Nations when he was young and had spent time in South America. Rich, 65, not only volunteered for the synagogue but gave his professional services as a dentist to patients who could not pay. Mel, a retired accountant, did some people’s taxes for free and had helped many residents of his apartment building register to vote.

The synagogue feels emptier these days without their presence and commitment.

The evil of the shooter who took their lives is beyond human reckoning. And yet, I hope the prosecutors do not pursue the death penalty.

When Jews are killed just for being Jewish, we commemorate them with the words “Hashem yikom damam,” may God avenge their blood. This formulation absents us from the equation since it expresses that it is God’s responsibility, not ours, to seek ultimate justice. As humans, we are incapable of meting out true justice when a monstrous crime has been committed.

Although there are many Torah prohibitions that call for a death sentence, our tradition does not interpret them literally. According to the Mishnah, a Jewish court is considered bloodthirsty if it allows the death penalty to be carried out once every 70 years, with some of the rabbinic sages balking at ever approving the sentence (Makkot 1:10).

(source: The Jerusalem Post)

EGYPT----executions

Egypt hangs 9 for 2015 murder of top prosecutor

Egypt hanged 9 men on Wednesday for the 2015 assassination of the prosecutor general, judicial sources said, bringing to 15 the number of executions it has carried out this month.

Hisham Barakat was killed in June 2015 when a car bomb struck his convoy in Cairo following jihadist calls for attacks on the judiciary to avenge a crackdown on Islamists.

The 9 men hanged on Wednesday were among 28 people sentenced to death in 2017 for involvement in his murder.

Their death sentences were upheld in November by the Court of Cassation, which commuted the sentences of 6 others to life imprisonment.

The sentences of the other defendants were not considered because they had been sentenced in absentia.

The hangings came despite an 11th-hour plea by human rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday for a stay of execution.

"There is no doubt that those involved in deadly attacks must be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions but executing prisoners or convicting people based on confessions extracted through torture is not justice," said Amnesty's North Africa campaigns director, Najia Bounaim.

"At least 6 men have already been executed earlier this month after unfair trials. Instead of stepping up executions the Egyptian authorities should take steps to abolish the death penalty once and for all."

Last week, Egypt hanged 3 people convicted of the 2013 murder of senior police officer Nabil Farag.

The previous week, it hanged three young "political detainees" convicted of the September 2013 murder of the son of a judge, Human Rights Watch reported.

No one claimed the 2015 attack against Barakat but the authorities pointed the finger at members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Since Morsi's overthrow by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013, Egypt has struggled to quell a jihadist insurgency and cracked down on Islamists who backed him.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been sentenced to death, while the former president and top Brotherhood figures have also faced trial.

The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed and branded a terrorist organisation in December 2013, just months after Morsi's ouster.

Many of the death sentences have been handed down at mass trials involving hundreds of defendants and lasting just days.

(source: france24.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Jinggoy Estrada wants plunder to be punishable by death penalty

Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is accused of amassing 183 million in connection to the multibillion "pork barrel scam," wants plunder to be among the heinous crimes punishable by death penalty.

Estrada—who is running for senator in the May elections—said he is for the reimposition of capital punishment, but only for heinous crimes, including plunder.

"Kung magnanakaw ka sa kaban ng bayan, eh di isama na sa heinous crimes 'yan," he said on CNN Philippines' Politics As Usual.

[Translation: If you steal money from the country's funds, might as well include it in the heinous crimes]

"When I was still a senator nagbotohan kami dyan sa (we voted on) death penalty during the time of President Gloria (Arroyo). I abstained from the votation to abolish the death penalty because I still had an existing plunder case which was punishable by death," he said.

Estrada is currently out on bail for a plunder charge and 15 counts of graft. The same charges were filed against former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.

The 3, who are all running for the Senate, allegedly diverted portions of their Priority Development Assistance Fund to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks. Revilla had been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan, but was ordered to return 124.5 million. The plunder trial of Enrile, meanwhile, was canceled and indefinitely put on hold.

Estrada maintained his innocence over the charges, saying he "has nothing to hide."

He said he is confident that he will be acquitted of the charges.

"I'm quite confident that I will follow suit. Actually my case is still on trial but it is already on the later stage. We already filed a formal offer of evidence and we have already commented to it, and the court will still have to rule on it," he said, adding that he hopes the ruling on his plunder case will come before the elections.

Estrada said his acquittal "will not lessen the campaign against corruption by this administration," and will only show that the 3 of them were just "handpicked" by the previous administration.

"There were a lot of congressmen or legislators, so to speak, who also endorsed the same thing we did. Bakit hindi nila kinasuhan 'yung mga nag-endorse din sa mga NGO? Bakit tatlo lang kami?" he said.

[Translation: Why didn't they file charges against those who also endorsed the non-government organizations? Why only the three of us?]

(source: CNN)

INDIA:

Chhattisgarh man gets death penalty for raping, killing minor

A court in Balod district of Chhattisgarh has sentenced a 50-year-old man to death for raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl in 2017.

Balod District and Session Judge Rajendra Pradhan gave Jhaggar Yadav the death penalty after finding him guilty under relevant sections of the IPC and provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, District Prosecution Officer (DPO) M R Qureshi told on Tuesday.

Yadav, a resident of Dallirajhra, had kidnapped the girl on June 5, 2017, raped her at a nearby mine, bludgeoned her to death and dumped her body in the bushes, Qureshi said.

He was arrested on June 7 and charged under Sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape), 363 (kidnapping) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of the IPC and provisions of the POCSO Act, the officer said.

On Monday, Judge Pradhan observed that the case fell in the "rarest of rare" category and handed down the capital punishment to Yadav, the DPO said.

(source: outlookindia.com)

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

Death penalty to man who raped 3-year-old girl in India----The girl had been playing outside her home.

A court on Wednesday awarded death sentence to a person who was found guilty of raping and killing a 3-year-old girl in Jharkhand's Gumla district.

According to a lawyer, Additional District Judge (ADJ-1) L. Dubey of Gumla district awarded the death sentence to Bandhan Oraon and slapped a fine of Rs 10,000.

The incident took place on September 23, 2018, when the girl was playing outside her home. Oraon, the girl's uncle, took her to his home and raped her after which she bled to death.

After the girl's parents enquired the accused, he admitted to his crime and was arrested by the police the next day.

(source: Khaleej Times)

PAKISTAN:

Perjury in death penalty case punishable with life term, says Justice Khosa

A man found to give false testimony before a trial court in a murder case, was produced before the Supreme Court under perjury charges, ARY News reported on Wednesday.

Muhammad Arshad, a Sahiwal resident, who was found to give allegedly false statement in murder case of ASI Police Mazhar Hussain, was produced before a bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Chief Justice Khosa remarked that under the law, perjury in death penalty cases is punishable with life imprisonment.

The top judge addressing accused Arshad said, “You are a national volunteer so also become a witness voluntarily!!!.” “Why your medical test conducted after 3 days of the incident?”

“I had to suffer a knife blow, and it was removed after 3 days,” the accused replied.

“Don’t use your tongue in excess,” the chief justice said. “He says he received a knife wound, the medical report calls it a wound of sharp-edged instrument”.

“Other witnesses said it was dark, you are saying you saw the accused in a torchlight,” Chief Justice Khosa remarked.

“If someone had condemned to death on your false testimony,” the court asked. You are a national volunteer and also became a witness voluntarily!!!,” Justice Khosa remarked.

He would have accompanied with the policeman in some matter. The policeman killed and he gave false testimony to save the honour of police, the chief justice further said.

“What could the court do on the matter,” the chief justice asked from the prosecutor general of Punjab present in the case.

“The trial court will conduct an inquiry over the request of the state,” the government prosecutor said. His witness account and medical report will be scrutinized, the prosecutor added.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan had summoned Muhammad Arshad over alleged false testimony in a murder case, and acquitted the accused after seven years of imprisonment.

The court remarked that Arshad gave false account of the event before the trial court and questioned why the court should not initiate perjury proceedings against the false witness?

The Chief Justice said, "We are initiating the action against false witnesses with this volunteer.”

The court had acquitted the accused of murder giving him benefit of doubt.

(source: arynews.tv)

AUSTRALIA/MALAYSIA:

Australia could allow Sirul’s extradition on condition death penalty is not imposed

Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, can be extradited back to Malaysia on the condition that an undertaking is provided that the death penalty will not be carried out.

A spokesperson from the Australian Attorney General’s Department said today that the Attorney General must be satisfied that on return to the requesting country, there is no real risk that the death penalty will be carried out upon the person in relation to the offence.

“Australia’s Extradition Act does not allow for extradition from Australia where the offence is subject to the death penalty, unless an undertaking is provided that the death penalty will not be imposed or, if imposed, not carried out,” the spokesperson told Bernama International News Service through an email reply.

Bernama made the query on Sirul Azhar’s fate after it was reported by Australia’s news portal today that his political asylum bid was rejected by an Australian court on Monday.

The spokesperson also added that as a matter of longstanding practice, the Australian Government does not comment publicly on extradition matters, including whether it has received an extradition request, until the person is arrested or brought before a court pursuant to the request.

Bernama reported in August last year that the then Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, said that Australia has yet to receive any application from Malaysia seeking the extradition of the convicted policeman who sought refuge in that country.

Sirul Azhar and Azilah Hadri were convicted by the High Court in 2009 of killing Altantuya in 2006.

They succeeded in overturning their conviction at the Court of Appeal in 2013 but the Federal Court in 2015 restored their conviction and sentenced them to death.

Sirul Azhar fled to Australia before the final verdict. The Federal Court later issued a warrant of arrest for him.

Sirul Azhar, who was sentenced to death for the murder, is being held in an immigration detention centre in Australia.

Meanwhile, in October last year, the Malaysian Cabinet has decided to abolish the mandatory death penalty for all offences.

Following the decision, all death sentences have been stayed until the abolition of the death penalty comes into effect.

The Cabinet had also considered the proposed imposition of a 30-year minimum jail sentence if the mandatory death penalty is abolished, and will make a decision on the tabling in Parliament of the proposal to abolish the death penalty before the Dewan Rakyat convenes next month.

(source: malaymail.com)

FEBRUARY 19, 2019:

TEXAS----impending execution

Local man convicted of killing 3 scheduled to die

Billy Wayne Coble, 70, who was convicted of the 1989 slayings of his brother-in-law Bobby Vicha, a Waco police sergeant, and Vicha’s parents in Axtell, is set to die on Feb. 28, having exhausted all of his avenues to appeal.

Coble, 70, learned last week the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had rejected his latest request for a stay of execution, citing it as a, abuse of the appeals writ process, which cleared the way for imposition of his sentence.

The execution would be the 2nd of the year in Texas.

Coble was convicted of the killings of Bobby Vicha and his father and mother Robert and Zelda Vicha, then of tying up 4 children who were at the scene, restraining and kidnapping his estranged wife Karen Vicha Coble, whom he’d threatened to rape and kill.

He led authorities on a high speed chase into Bosque County but was caught and arrested after he wrecked his car.

He has been granted several stays of execution over the years after filing a number of appeals on several different grounds.

Coble has a federal appeal pending but it, too, likely will not be successful.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Coble’s latest appeal in that court last October, soon after which 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson set the execution date.

Coble has a list of appeals.

The only successful one was filed in 2007 with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

It resulted in the dismissal of the death sentence and an order for re-trial on punishment after the court’s opinion stated Coble’s jury faced 2 questions that were unconstitutional.

The punishment re-trial ended with the same result, a death sentence.

Truman Simons, a former police officer, sheriff’s deputy and now a private investigator, worked on the Coble case back in 1989.

“He killed his (father-in-law) first and wrapped him up in a rug,” Simons said.

“Then he tied up the 2 kids and shot Bobby Vicha.

“Then he ...waited in the garage where he killed Zelda (Vicha) and kidnapped (his estranged wife) Karen,” Simons said.

Former McLennan County Assistant District Attorney J.R. Vicha, one of the children Coble tied up that day, was only 11-years-old at the time his family was murdered.

The boy, along with 2 of his cousins, were tied up inside the home while the killings took place.

During the 2008 punishment re-trial trial, prosecuted by retired Assistant District Attorney Crawford Long, Long told the jury that Coble “has a heart filled with scorpions.”

(source: KWTX news)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Urge NH lawmakers to repeal death penalty

Have you heard the name Huwe Burton? He was convicted of murdering his mother in 1991. He was exonerated a few weeks ago. He had been proven innocent. Fortunately, he had not been put to death. We have a way to prevent future Huwe Burton’s from being executed: repeal the death penalty.

Our Constitution demands proof beyond a reasonable doubt for a criminal conviction, sometimes described as “proof to a moral certainty.” But hundreds of convicts found guilty to a moral certainty have been exonerated through the work of Innocence Projects around the country.

What about confessions? Aren’t they morally certain enough for you? Well, no. Police are experts at extracting them, whether they’re true or not. People who are easily influenced, who aren’t too bright, who feel guilt about something are easy game. Huwe Burton confessed. He was 16 at the time. One out of every four Innocence Project exonerations involved a confession that was eventually proven false.

Fingerprints? The 2009 National Academy of Sciences report showed that they’re only slightly more accurate than chance.

Ah, but DNA: the Gold Standard!

DNA is an important tool. But it is no better than the people who analyze it.

DNA can be transported from one place to another. A handshake can lead to your DNA being found at a crime scene 500 miles away. The results can be hard to read and hard to interpret. A claim of a 1 in 4 trillion chance of error is ridiculous if, say, there’s a 1 in 30 chance that the DNA analyst got it wrong. And there was a DNA analyst in Texas some years ago who never analyzed DNA. She just declared that everything was a match, leading to dozens of false convictions. Who else might be cheating?

The strongest argument against the death penalty, to my mind, isn’t whether we have a moral right to take the life of a criminal, or whether the Code of Hammurabi (you know: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”) is appropriate for use in 21st Century America. It’s humility.

“Moral certainty” is a mirage. Our talent for discerning truth isn’t good enough to allow us to say “we know he’s a murderer. Kill him.”

Some people dismiss the execution of innocents as collateral damage, an unfortunate but necessary by-product of eliminating murderers from our midst.

Who’s the murderer then?

Our State legislature will consider a repealing the death penalty this week. Please tell your legislators: it’s time to drop the pretense of certainty. It’s time for repeal.

David Hirsch

Portsmouth

(source: Letter to the Editor, seacoastonline.com)

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

Let officials know you oppose executions, by Joe Schapiro

Once again the New Hampshire Legislature will be taking up a bill to abolish the death penalty.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 10 a.m., the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on House Bill 455 for people on both sides of the issue to testify.

There are many reasons to oppose the use of state sanctioned executions and many of them have been elaborated on in letters to the editor in this paper over the years. They include, but are not limited to financial considerations, racial and socioeconomic disparities, wrongful/mistaken convictions, the lack of evidence of deterrence, and the traumatic effects on those involved in executions.

For me, however, there is one over-arching reason to abolish the death penalty. There is no moral, religious or legal justification for taking the life of a person who is currently harmless by virtue of his or her incarceration. This is a lesson ingrained in our parenting, schools and religious institutions. Do not hurt others who are not an immediate threat to you. Capital punishment is not needed to protect others because a person guilty of such a heinous crime would otherwise be in prison for the rest of their life without parole.

It is time for New Hampshire to abolish the death penalty and join all of the other New England states and the great majority of western democracies throughout the world. Last year the House and Senate voted for repeal of the death penalty only to have it vetoed by Gov. Sununu, who cited his responsibility to law enforcement and family members of violent crime. Meanwhile, the governor refused to meet with law enforcement personnel and family members of murder victims opposed to the death penalty.

Please call your representatives, senator and governor and tell them that New Hampshire can live without the death penalty. Better yet come to the Statehouse Tuesday and tell them directly. It’s democracy in action.

JOE SCHAPIR

288 Church St.

Keene

(source: Opinion; This writer, a Democrat, represents Cheshire District 16 in the N.H. House----Keene Sentinel)

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Death penalty repeal from a medical and psychiatric perspective

Once again, New Hampshire is considering repeal of the death penalty. I have been involved with the effort to repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire for the last nine years as the physician member of the Board of the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NHCADP). In representing medicine in this effort for repeal I have written and lectured on this issue on numerous occasions.

The repeal bill HB 455 in the legislature this year replaces capital punishment with imprisonment without the possibility of parole. There are many arguments for repeal from both sides of the aisle. Repeal is not a partisan issue; it cuts across so many different perspectives: religious, moral, pragmatic, legal, financial, racial, economic, medical and psychiatric/psychological. I will offer arguments for repeal here primarily from a medical and psychiatric/psychological perspective.

Organized medicine (the American Medical Association) has opposed physicians participating in the process of administering the death penalty since July 1980. The reason for this prohibition of physicians participating in process of killing a prisoner is that it is a violation of Section 1 of the AMA’s Principles of Medical Ethics which states that “a physician shall be dedicated to providing competent medical care, with compassion and respect for human rights.” It is unfortunate that other less qualified medical personnel have been employed in the procedures of administering lethal injections, often inadequately and always inhumanely, in violation of these important ethical principles.

Governor Sununu has offered two reasons for his opposition to repeal of the death penalty. He expressed his interest in supporting crime victims and supporting the death penalty for the most heinous crimes. I think we can all agree that there is no more heinous crime than murder, yet we had more than 14,000 murders in the United States last year. Would we as a society want to murder 14,000 more if we found their murderers and were able to prosecute them successfully? What about the mistakes, as there have been well over 160 exonerations already? Or are some murders more heinous than others? With all due respect, and I mean this sincerely, is a school teacher’s death by murder, or a brother’s or sister’s death by murder, or a child’s death by murder, less heinous than a policeman’s death by murder?

As a psychiatrist I have been concerned about violence throughout my career. There is certainly too much violence in our world and in our country. As a society we need to focus on reducing violence, not condoning it. Violence of course comes in many forms, from bullying in our schools to sexual, physical and emotional abuse in our homes and workplaces, and of course murder in our homes and streets. We certainly don’t punish bullies by bullying them, nor should we punish abusers by abusing them, nor should we punish murderers by murdering them. Elective murder by the state is not the best we can do as a civilized society. We can do better, and we should. It is not a good example to murder to show that murder is wrong.

Let me discuss healing, as healing from wounds is what we as physicians try our best to do in our practice of medicine. Psychiatrists focus of course on emotional wounds, which we know can be just as traumatic and long lasting as physical wounds, if not more so, likely more so. Emotional wounds can actually last a lifetime, if not even longer, as we have seen from stories of children of holocaust survivors. Murder of a loved one is such a trauma, such a deep emotional wound, that healing is at best a long and tortuous road, requiring as much support and love a family and community can provide. Do we honestly think that putting a convicted murderer to death by taking 10 to 20 or more years of trials and appeals helps the process of healing for victims (family members, colleagues and friends) of the crime of murder? Many years of publicity and personal appearances by family and others just perpetuates the pain and re-opens the wounds of such a violent death of a loved one. Administering the death penalty thus interferes with healing, with the emotional attempts at “closure” for the victims of murder, rather than “strengthening the laws for crime victims.”

In thinking about wounds related to the death penalty there is another important factor to consider, namely the emotional wounds inflicted on those individuals who are involved in the procedures and administration of the death penalty. As a member of the Board of the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty I have heard and read about the effects on those individuals who participate in the process of administering the death penalty, the actual process of killing of those on death rows around the country. Judges, wardens, prison workers, prosecutors and defense attorneys have all experienced depression, anxiety and PTSD as a result of participating in the death penalty process. Since we all know that killing is really only reasonable if we have no other choice to defend ourselves or others, do we want to continue to subject so many individuals and state workers to this “heinous” process of killing when life without parole is available as an alternative?

I have discussed above only some of the many sound and compelling reasons why the death penalty is unreasonable for our state and society to maintain. I am reminded often of the final lines of John Donne’s 17th century poem “No Man is an Island” as a potent argument for ending the death penalty:

“Any man’s death diminishes me,

because I’m involved in mankind,

and therefore never send to know

for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.”

Once again I implore the NH House and Senate and then Governor Sununu consider an end to the death penalty in New Hampshire. The state of New Hampshire should appropriately join all the other New England states and end the random, arbitrary and racial/economic inequity of the death penalty and allow healing from the wounds of killing to take place. Hopefully New Hampshire will approve HB 455 and allow New Hampshire to no longer “kill (convicted murderers) to show that killing is wrong.”

Dr. Leonard Korn of Portsmouth is the Immediate Past President of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

(source: Opinion, Letter to the Editor; fosters.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Jury selection to begin anew in death penalty case

More than 6 years after Matthew Mathias, 37, a resident of Washington’s West End neighborhood, died of gunshot wounds, a lengthy jury-selection process is scheduled to begin this morning in the case of Brandon Wolowski, against whom prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Jurors who are opposed to capital punishment are prohibited from serving on such a case, so the court administrator casts a broad net to find those who would be able to impose the penalty if they decide the facts warrant it.

Opening statements and testimony are now pegged to begin March 11.

Judge John DiSalle previously set aside several days in September and October for the defense and assistant district attorney to interview and choose a dozen jurors, plus alternates, to sit in judgment on the case.

Testimony did not begin as anticipated last fall because Wolowski’s emergency petition for reconsideration by the state Supreme Court was still pending.

When the state’s highest court ruled Dec. 5, it denied Wolowski’s request for a new judge to be assigned to preside over his case.

In Pennsylvania, a unanimous jury verdict is the only way a death sentence can be imposed.

Wolowski was 18 at the time of the killing, Jan. 8, 2013. In addition to Mathias’ slaying, Wolowski is charged with the attempted homicide of the man’s girlfriend, Michelle Powell, who identified the shooter as a man named “Brandon” and gave police a general description.

Police have said attempted robbery of guns kept in a safe led to the killings. Mathias’ obituary said he was an avid gun collector who had worked as a mechanic. Wolowski also is charged with attempted robbery and aggravated assault.

His court-appointed attorney, Noah Geary, argued unsuccessfully last year before DiSalle that because of Wolowski’s age, and claims of suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome and a learning disability, the defendant should have had a parent or adult present when police questioned him the night Mathias was slain.

“The defense has failed to point the trial court toward any case law or other authority which supports the theory that the defendant should have been treated as a juvenile,” DiSalle wrote as part of a 19-page opinion and order.

City police Lt. Daniel Stanek testified at a hearing last year under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Leslie Ridge that he could not detect any learning disability in Wolowski during his interrogation.

Geary, in seeking to have all charges against Wolowski dismissed, also questioned the legality of Wolowski’s arrest, but DiSalle, as part of the document filed Sept. 14, found that police had “the requisite probable cause.”

The last death penalty case heard in Washington County Court was that of Jordan A. Clemons, now 29, who was convicted in 2015 of murdering Karissa Kunco, 21, of Baldwin Borough, Allegheny County.

Her throat had been slashed and her body was found in January 2012 in a Mt. Pleasant Township woods.

An automatic review of Clemons’ conviction and penalty by the state Supreme Court recently upheld Clemons’ conviction.

Clemons is being held in the State Correctional Institution at Greene County.

(source: observer-reporter.com)

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

Jury refuses to impose death penalty for American Legion murder

Robert “Rocky” Anderson Jr. showed no emotion Monday as a Cumberland County jury decided he shouldn’t be executed for a June 2016 murder inside the Haines-Stackfield American Legion post in Carlisle.

Instead, the jurors decided Anderson, 41, should spend the rest of his life in prison with no possibility for parole for the slaying of Daniel “DJ” Harris.

The jury deliberated about 90 minutes before opting for a life sentence. The same panel deliberated more than 13 hours over three days last week before convicting Anderson on Friday of 1st-degree murder for Harris’ killing.

Defense attorney Heidi Eakin said the murder verdict will be appealed.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Metzger argued during the 2-week trial that Anderson killed Harris amid a violent feud between their families. Harris was shot 8 times as he sat in a booth in the legion on West Penn Street.

On Monday morning, Metzger argued that 2 aggravating factors justified a death sentence.

First, she said, Anderson committed another felony during the murder by having a firearm. A prior conviction barred him from having a gun, she said.

Secondly, Metzger said, Anderson placed others in the legion in the “grave risk of death.”

Michael Palermo, another of Anderson’s lawyers, countered that mitigating factors, including Anderson’s “horrid childhood,” weighed against a death sentence.

Questioned by President Judge Edward E. Guido, the jury foreman said the panel found 1 aggravating factor - Anderson’s illegal possession of a gun - was outweighed by several mitigating factors Palermo cited.

Those mitigators, the foreman said, were Anderson’s life experience, his apparent desire to protect his family, his strong work ethic and mentorship.

Guido is to sentence Anderson to life in prison in March.

(source: pennlive.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Group asks NC Supreme Court to find death penalty unconstitutional

A group including former law enforcement officials, judges and prosecutors are asking the North Carolina Supreme Court to find the death penalty unconstitutional and do away with the practice in the state, according to a release from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The brief - which is signed by 12 people including a former Superior Court judge, District Attorney and homicide detective - was filed Friday by the Promise of Justice Initiative, the ACLU’s Capitol Punishment Project, Henderson Hill, and the 8th Amendment Project as council.

According to the ACLU, the group filing the brief argues that the death penalty is “used so rarely that it serves no purpose and should be considered ‘cruel or unusual’ under the state constitution.”

“The time has come to consider whether the system of capital punishment that currently operates in North Carolina violates the evolving standards of decency,” the group wrote.

“The brief points to statistics showing North Carolina has largely abandoned the death penalty. No one has been executed since 2006, and in the past 7 years, the state has averaged less than 1 new death sentence per year,” the ACLU’s release states. “It also cites studies showing that the death penalty does not deter murder, that it is imposed arbitrarily, and that a significant number of people sentenced to death are innocent. Lastly, they argue that the death penalty is part of a ‘sordid history’ of lynching and racial terror.”

(source: WBTV news)

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

Group takes on death penalty in court brief

A former Superior Court judge is among those asking the North Carolina Supreme Court to find the death penalty unconstitutional because its rare use means it serves no purpose.

In a friend-of-the-court brief , the group also argues that the death penalty is "cruel or unusual" under the state constitution. The Promise of Justice Initiative filed the brief Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a news release that former Superior Court Judge Leon Stanback signed the brief, as did former District Attorney Rob Corbett and former Wake County Chief Homicide Detective Steve Hale.

The group filed its brief in the case of Rayford Burke, a North Carolina death row prisoner who's challenging his sentence under the state's Racial Justice Act. Legislators repealed the act in 2013.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA:

Bishops ask Supreme Court to hear case on racism in death sentencing

3 U.S. bishops have called on the Supreme Court to take up the case of a death row inmate in Georgia whose sentence may have been prejudiced by the racism of a juror.

“There is no toxin more pernicious than hatred based on racial stereotypes,” the bishops warned in a Feb. 17 opinion piece in The Atlantic.

They said that despite some progress in overcoming racism, it still exists in America today.

“Whenever personal prejudices surface in a trial, society relies on appellate courts and especially the Supreme Court to rectify these biases.”

The opinion piece in The Atlantic was written by Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.

The bishops pointed to the case of Keith Tharpe, who was convicted in 1990 of two counts of kidnapping and the murder of his sister-in-law, Jacquelyn Freeman.

Tharpe was scheduled to be executed in September 2017. The Supreme Court intervened with a temporary stay of execution just hours before the inmate was set to be put to death. The Supreme Court ordered a federal appeals court in Atlanta to re-examine the claim that one juror’s racist views had prejudiced the case. In an affidavit after the trial, the juror had used racial slurs and said he “wondered if black people even have souls.”

The appeals court barred Tharpe’s appeal on procedural grounds and ruled that the Supreme Court’s 2017 opinion allowing courts to consider evidence of jurors’ racial prejudice could not be retroactively applied to Tharpe’s case.

Now, Tharpe has asked the Supreme Court to consider the merits of his case - to examine whether the inmate was unconstitutionally sentenced to death based on the racism of a juror. The Supreme Court has yet to announce whether it will take up the case.

Since there is clear evidence that racism may have played a part in Tharpe’s sentence, the bishops said, the Supreme Court should take up the case and “correct the clear, documented racism in the case by granting him a new sentencing hearing.”

Last November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a pastoral letter recognizing the stain of racism on the history of the United States and reaffirming the importance of fighting the sin of racism today.

The letter, entitled “Open Wide Our Hearts – The Enduring Call to Love,” stressed that racism is a failure to recognize human dignity.

“In our pastoral letter, we explain that racism comes in many forms—and one of them is the sin of omission,” the bishops said in the opinion piece for The Atlantic.

“This occurs when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered. To do justice requires an honest acknowledgment of our failures and the restoring of right relationships among us. That’s why we are speaking out about Tharpe’s case.”

Archbishop Gregory, Bishop Dewane, and Bishop Fabre offered prayers for Freeman – Tharpe’s victim – and her family.

They also noted that the Catechism teaches that the death penalty is as inadmissible violation of human dignity, even for those who have committed violent crimes.

“As bishops, we take very seriously Jesus’s call to visit those in prison,” they said. “We have visited prisoners, including those on death row. In most parishes with prisons or jails, a priest or deacon visits every week to offer religious services.”

“We have been blessed to witness true rehabilitation and meet prisoners who earnestly seek redemption through God’s grace.”

The bishops emphasized their duty as religious leader to insist that racism be challenged on the grounds that “we are all brothers and sisters, equally made in the image of God.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court must intervene in his case to ensure that fairness is protected and justice is defended—before it’s too late,” they said. “To do nothing would be tragic not only for Tharpe, but for our collective dignity.”

(source: Catholic News Agency)

FLORIDA:

Jury recommends death in Haines City murders

By unanimous vote, jurors agreed Monday to recommend that convicted murderer Michael Anthony Gordon be executed for the brutal home-invasion killings of 2 Haines City women in 2015.

Gordon, 39, wearing a light blue Oxford shirt, a gray cable-knit sweater vest, black slacks and shackles on his ankles, showed no emotion as Circuit Judge Jalal Harb read the jury’s decision. But as Harb was thanking the 12 jurors for their service, Gordon smiled and waved to a reporter videotaping the proceedings.

The jury deliberated about 5 hours Monday to reach its verdict, which is solely a recommendation. The final decision on sentencing rests with Harb, who must, however, give the recommendation great weight in making his decision.

No sentencing date was set Monday, but Harb scheduled a status hearing for April 26.

Last week, the same 12 jurors deliberated about 6 hours before convicting Gordon of 1st-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of Patricia Moran, 72, and her 51-year-old daughter, Deborah Royal, on Jan. 15, 2015. Jurors also found him guilty of robbing the Cash America Pawn Shop in Auburndale with 3 other assailants earlier that day, and firing on law enforcement during a pursuit that ended in the Chanler Ridge subdivision in Haines City.

The 1st to be caught was Devonere McCune, 26, who was taken into custody moments after the assailants’ car crashed near the entrance to the subdivision and the four ran from the car.

Gordon would be captured next after murdering the women and crashing Moran’s car through the garage door of her home in an attempt to escape, according to court testimony. He drove across an open field, amid gunfire from officers, before slamming into an embankment along Lake Confusion.

He was shot 4 times, but recovered.

On Monday, in his closing argument to jurors, Assistant State Attorney Paul Wallace argued 4 reasons for recommending the death penalty, including Gordon’s violent past and the cruelty of the murders.

Prosecutors are limited to 16 statutory reasons for seeking the death penalty, while defense lawyers are unlimited in presenting arguments for mandatory life imprisonment.

Wallace stepped through previous convictions against Gordon involving violent crimes, including a Lakeland shooting that left a man injured and a 2005 prison stabbing, in which Gordon was charged with using a blade carved from a toothbrush.

Wallace also recounted the vicious nature of the killings, and Gordon’s efforts to avoid capture after the pawn shop robbery.

“The only reason he took a life was because he was bound and determined that he was going to avoid being arrested for the crimes that he had already committed on that particular day,” Wallace told jurors. “Patricia did not pose a threat to him other than being able to scream out and alert the officers who were coming by then, by the dozens, to flood the whole neighborhood. That is why he cut her throat, to prevent her from being able to cry out, and that is why he continued to stab her even though she valiantly fought for her life.”

In his closing statement Monday, Clearwater defense lawyer Bjorn Brunvand reminded jurors that Gordon has been diagnosed with brain damage, likely dating to infancy and exacerbated by his father’s physical abuse, according to defense testimony.

He said the damage to Gordon’s brain is concentrated in an area that causes him to react violently when angry.

“His brain doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to function,” he told jurors.

The problems, Brunvand said, began surfacing as early as grade school.

“He was constantly getting in trouble, constantly doing things he wasn’t supposed to be doing,” he said. “That corroborates that something was going on with him at the time that basically caused him not to be able to act in the manner and the way that we’re supposed to.”

Upon his release from prison in April 2014 after serving 9 years for an aggravated battery conviction, Gordon failed to take his prescription medication regularly and began self-medicating with street drugs, including synthetic marijuana, Brunvand told jurors Monday.

“Not only do we have brain damage, but we have someone whose brain is clouded by this behavior and by the use of these drugs and the actions of the psychotropic drugs,” he said. “So you say, well, he can make decisions. He should have made better decisions. The problem with that is he can’t make better decisions.”

After Harb announced the jury’s decision Monday, Mary Feiock expressed relief that the jury recommended death for the killer of her mother and her sister, but said the memories of the trial will continue to haunt her.

“I’m glad it’s over, but to have sat there and have heard what he did to them, and to know that my sister came out and saw my mother like that, and how much pain they were in — it’s going to take a long time to get past that,” she said after court.

Gordon is the 2nd of 4 co-defendants to face a jury in the 2015 rampage. In October, Terrell Williams was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of 1st-degree murder, armed robbery and attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, among other charges. He and co-defendant Jovan Lamb were arrested within hours of Gordon’s capture.

Williams, 33, was convicted under the state’s felony murder law, which holds all co-defendants legally responsible when someone is killed during the commission of a violent crime, including armed robbery.

Jovan Lamb, 33, is scheduled for trial in September, but no trial date has been set for McCune. They are both being held without bail in the Polk County Jail pending trial.

(source: theledger.com)

TENNESSEE:

Sgt. Daniel Baker Act: Plan to fast track death penalty cases up for review

The Senate Judiciary Committee will review a plan that would fast track death penalty cases.

Legislation named for fallen Dickson County Sheriff's Sgt. Daniel Baker would provide automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews, skipping Tennessee's Court of Criminal Appeals.

Baker was a Dickson County Sheriff's Deputy when he was killed in the line of duty in 2018.

Prosecutors have said they're seeking death sentences for 2 people awaiting trial in Baker's fatal shooting. His cruiser was set on fire with his body inside.

Under current law, death penalty cases are eventually reviewed by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Before that, it's appealed to a lower court.

This bill would get rid of the Court of Appeals review altogether, speeding the process along.

The bill's supporters include House Speaker Glen Casada and Senate Speaker Randy McNally, who said justice delayed 20 and 30 years isn't justice at all. (source: WTVF news)

ARKANSAS:

High Court won't hear anti-death penalty Arkansas judge suit

The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by a judge in Arkansas who was barred from overseeing execution-related cases after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration.

The justices said Tuesday that they wouldn't get involved in the lawsuit filed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration outside the governor's mansion in 2017 during which he was photographed laying on a cot wearing an anti-death penalty button. Earlier that day, Griffen blocked Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug over the claims that the state misled a medical supply company.

Arkansas' highest court removed Griffen from that case and prohibited him from hearing death penalty cases. Griffen sued but a federal appeals court dismissed the case.

(source: Associated Press)

WYOMING:

Despite new support, death penalty repeal fails in Senate

A proposal to repeal the death penalty failed in the Wyoming Legislature on Thursday after drawing far more support from state lawmakers than ever before.

The 18-12 vote in the state Senate ended a fairly long run for a bill that failed early each of the past 5 legislative sessions. This year, concern about the death penalty’s costs amid tight state budgets won over new repeal supporters.

“I finally decided that I can’t go home and feel good about explaining to people all of those myriad of cuts we’ve made to the state budget and then defend expenditures like this, which have gone on for years and years and years,” argued Sen. Bill Landen (Casper).

Ultimately, concern about going too easy on those who commit the worst crimes kept the bill from passing after it passed the House 36-21. The trend in parts of the U.S. is leniency toward criminals including murderers, argued Sen. Eli Bebout (Riverton), in floor debate.

“As things progress, and pretty soon people get more and more lenient in those cases, then these people may walk. I’m just not in favor of this,” Bebout said.

Wyoming faces a tight fiscal outlook because of a drop in revenue from the state’s coal, oil and natural gas industries. Repeal advocates pointed to the high cost of death-penalty cases for the state Public Defender’s Office, which according to the bill’s fiscal note would save about $750,000 a year by not having to take additional required measures to defend people facing the death penalty.

Repeal proponents also tried to appeal to conservative reluctance about placing too much trust in government. Death-row convicts have been exonerated 164 times since the penalty’s reinstatement in the U.S. in 1976, argued bill co-sponsor Sen. Brian Boner (Douglas).

“This is far too much authority to rest in government. Sometimes we wonder if whether our government can deliver the mail correctly,” Boner told the Senate. “This is something that we have to get right each and every time.”

Death-penalty advocates countered it can help bring closure for victims and is appropriate for the most heinous crimes.

“I don’t think we’re thinking about these people that see these heinous crimes being committed and the pain that they go through. I don’t think we see the closure in it, with what we’re talking about,” said Sen. Anthony Bouchard (Cheyenne).

Wyoming currently has no convicts facing the death penalty since a federal judge in 2014 threw out a death sentence for murderer Dale Wayne Eaton, who spent 10 years on death row. Wyoming’s only execution since the U.S. reinstated capital punishment was in 1992.

(source Associated Press)

MONTANA:

Montana lawmakers consider bill to abolish death penalty

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state.

House Bill 350, sponsored by Republican Mike Hopkins of Missoula, would replace the death penalty with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Groups like the Montana Innocence Project and ACLU of Montana support the bill.

Those groups worry about the potential for innocent people to end up on death row.

ACLU Advocacy and Policy Director SK Rossi said during the hearing that the death penalty unfairly affects people from certain ethnic and economic backgrounds.

“A person’s chance of being executed goes up if they are not white, not wealthy or not mentally sound. As I’ve said before in this committee, the only way to guarantee a fair system that does not put innocent people to death is to abolish capital punishment completely,” Rossi said.

Opponents of the bill testified Monday the state already has the ability to sentence murderers to life in prison without parole. Some also testified the only way to keep murderers from continuing to kill, even while they are in prison, is through the death penalty.

The last person to be killed under Montana’s death penalty was in 2006 by lethal injection.

(source: KTVQ news)

ARIZONA:

Death penalty decision will be made tomorrow in connection with murder of Nogales officer

Tomorrow, the prosecutors will decide on the death penalty in connection with the death of a Nogales officer.

Last year in April, officer Jesus Cordova was shot and killed while investigating a carjacking.

Police arrested David Ernesto Murillo.

He is facing 1st degree murder.

(source: KGUN news)

WASHINGTON:

Senate passes bill to remove the death penalty

The Senate passed a bill on Friday to remove the death penalty from Washington state statute and replace it with life in prison without parole.

Senate Bill 5339 passed with 28 in favor and 19 opposed, with senators Phil Fortunado, R-Auburn and Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, excused.

Republican senators Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, and Brad Hawkins R-Wenatchee, and sponsor Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, voted in support of the bill. Democratic senators Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, Dean Takko, D-Longview, and Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, voted against the bill.

The Senate passed a similar bill last year prior to the state Supreme Court declaring the death penalty as applied was racist and arbitrary. The bill was never brought to a vote in the House. House Bill 1488 is the companion to the bill passed in the Senate and has yet to hear public testimony.

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, believes it is possible to create a death penalty that the Supreme Court would approve, saying the Senate has a “lack of will” to find a solution.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, spoke in support of the bill, citing the testimony that took place in the Law and Justice Committee, which he chairs.

Former state Secretary of the Department of Corrections Dick Morgan testified in support of the bill in committee on Feb. 5, speaking on behalf of several other previous DOC secretaries. Morgan said hundreds of prisoners have committed similar crimes and were sentenced to life without parole, yet from a management viewpoint they pose no greater risk than those on death row.

“There is punishment that exceeds normal imprisonment and that is placement in the highest security level,” said Morgan. “That basically results in no physical human contact with another person while that punishment is in place. It’s profound, it’s desocialization of an inmate if they’re violent enough, if the misconduct warrants it.”

During the floor debate Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, read a statement from the killer of Jayme Biendl, a correctional officer murdered in 2011 by an inmate already serving life in prison. Wagoner argued that if the death penalty is taken off the table there is no further punishment for inmates who commit crimes while serving life in prison.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, ranking member on the Law and Justice Committee, acknowledged pursuing the death penalty is difficult and expensive.

“I’m not a zealot for the death penalty,” said Padden. “I’m somewhat of a reluctant supporter.”

Since 1904, 78 people have been executed in Washington state, according to the Department of Corrections. The last execution took place in 2010.

(source: Columbia Basin Herald)

USA:

Republicans Leading New Charge to End the Death Penalty----In solidly red states, GOP-controlled legislatures are debating whether capital punishment is fiscally sensible and just; 30 states still have the death penalty, but the number of executions has fallen in recent years.

Republican lawmakers in at least 6 states are pushing to eliminate the death penalty, signaling a broader reversal by many conservatives on an issue that has long been a bedrock for their party.

In Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming, Republicans in legislatures controlled by their party have sponsored bills this year to end capital punishment, citing fiscal and moral concerns. Some Republicans in New Hampshire, where Democrats dominate the statehouse, are backing a similar proposal. And a GOP lawmaker in Louisiana’s Republican legislature said he plans to introduce a repeal bill in the coming months.

27 Republican state legislators around the country sponsored anti-death penalty bills last year, compared with just 4 in 2000, according to the advocacy group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

The about-face on an issue that has long been key to the GOP’s tough-on-crime credo is the latest sign of a nationwide, bipartisan shift on criminal justice reform.

“Conservatives pride themselves in limiting government, having fiscally responsible policies and believing in the sanctity of life,” said Hannah Cox, national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “When you look at the death penalty and say ‘Does it meet any of these qualifications?’ The answer is, ‘It does not.’ ”

Ms. Cox’s group has been trying to sway Republicans to change their views on capital punishment. She said she herself had switched sides, convinced by fiscal and moral arguments along with concerns about potentially killing an innocent person.

30 states still have the death penalty, but executions have dipped in recent years due to a host of factors, including shortages of lethal-injection drugs and growing controversy around whether they cause undue pain.

Last year, 8 states carried out 25 executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In 1999, by comparison, there were 98 executions, the highest number since the death penalty was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional in 1976.

Legal cases involving the death penalty are significantly longer and more expensive, research shows. A study found that in Kansas they typically cost about $400,000, compared with $100,000 for noncapital cases.

In the state that has executed the most people since 1977, Texas, there have been no proposals this year from GOP lawmakers to repeal the death penalty in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Chad McCoy, a Republican state representative in Kentucky, said he shifted his views on the death penalty three years ago after examining the economics of capital punishment at the urging of his predecessor in the legislature, an outspoken opponent. A Catholic, Mr. McCoy also said he had been swayed by discussions with a local priest.

Now Mr. McCoy, a criminal defense lawyer who is the state House Majority Whip, said he believes that, “If you’re going to be pro-life, it means all lives.”

Mr. McCoy introduced a death-penalty repeal bill last legislative session that failed, but he has revived it this year and believes it has more support.

Jared Olsen, a Republican state representative in Wyoming and lead sponsor of the anti-death-penalty bill there, said he was moved to change his position by a mixture of financial logic and lack of evidence that the practice is effective.

“When I looked at the cost—when it doesn’t even deter homicides—we’re essentially spending all this money for nothing in Wyoming,” said Mr. Olsen.

Wyoming has only executed one person since 1977 and currently doesn’t have anyone on death row. But Wyoming spends $750,000 a year for the state public defender’s office to handle capital cases, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Bill Pownall, a Republican state representative from Wyoming, opposed the death-penalty repeal there. A retired sheriff, he said he felt strongly that certain crimes warrant capital punishment and that DNA technology could ensure innocent people weren’t wrongly convicted.

“I look at this as justice. It has been on the books here since statehood,” he said.

Earlier efforts in red states to overturn the death penalty haven’t been successful.

Last year, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, vetoed a death-penalty repeal bill passed by the then GOP-controlled legislature.

After Nebraska lawmakers in the Republican-dominated statehouse voted to abolish the death penalty in 2015, GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the legislation, saying the legislature was “out of touch with Nebraskans.”

When lawmakers overrode his veto, Gov. Ricketts threw his weight behind a ballot measure to reinstate the death penalty that was passed by voters in 2016.

Most proposals this year to end capital punishment in Republican-led states have yet to be voted on.

But in Wyoming, after passing the state house 36-21, the death penalty repeal was defeated in the state senate last week by a vote of 12-18. 10 Republicans backed the measure.

Mr. Olsen said he plans to reintroduce the bill in future sessions.

(source: Wall Street Journal)

***************** The death penalty, an American tradition on the decline Capital punishment has been practiced on American soil for more than 400 years. Historians have documented nearly 16,000 executions, accomplished by burning, hanging, firing squad, electrocution, lethal gas and lethal injection. An untold number of others have doubtlessly occurred yet escaped recognition.

We helped create the University at Albany’s National Death Penalty Archive, a rich repository of primary source material encompassing the long and growing history of the death penalty.

Capital punishment has long been and continues to be controversial, but there is no disputing its historical and contemporary significance. More than 2,700 men and women are currently under sentence of death throughout the U.S., although they are distributed in wildly uneven fashion. California’s death row, by far the nation’s largest, tops out at well over 700, while 3 or fewer inmates await execution in 7 states.

Executions similarly vary markedly by jurisdiction. Texas has been far and away the leader over the last half century, with 5 times as many executions as the next leading state.

We established the National Death Penalty Archive to help preserve a record of the country’s past and current capital punishment policies and practices, and to ensure that scholars and the general public can gain access to this critical information.

The archive currently holds numerous collections from diverse sources, including academics, activists, litigators and researchers. We remain open to new donations of materials relating to capital punishment. The materials are stored in a climate-controlled environment and are accessible to the public.

One of our prized collections is the voluminous set of execution records compiled by M. Watt Espy Jr. Espy spent more than 3 decades, encompassing the 1960s into the 1990s, traversing the countryside, collaborating with others to uncover primary and secondary sources documenting more than 15,000 executions carried out in the U.S. between the 1600s and the late 20th century. Espy’s data set has since been updated to include information on executions through 2002.

The National Death Penalty Archive houses the court records, newspaper articles, magazine stories, bulletins, photographs and index cards created for each execution that Espy and his assistants painstakingly collected. These items vividly capture this unparalleled history of executions within the American colonies and the U.S.

Among those documented is the 1944 electrocution in South Carolina of George Stinney Jr., who at age 14 was the youngest person punished by death during the 20th century. Seventy years later, a South Carolina judge vacated Stinney’s conviction, ruling that he did not receive a fair trial.

In July, after the documents are fully digitized, the National Death Penalty Archive will make all of Espy’s materials available online. Other papers

Another prized holding consists of nearly 150 boxes of materials from Eugene Wanger. As a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention, Wanger drafted the provision prohibiting capital punishment that was incorporated into the state constitution in 1961.

For more than 50 years, Wanger compiled a treasure trove of items spanning the 18th through 21st centuries relating to the death penalty, including numerous rare documents and paraphernalia. Among the thousands of items in the extensive bibliography are copies of anti-capital-punishment essays written by Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Rush shortly after the nation’s founding.

We also have collected the work of notable scholars. For example, the National Death Penalty Archive houses research completed by the late David Baldus, known primarily for his analysis of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty; the writings of the late Hugo Adam Bedau, perhaps the country’s leading philosopher on issues of capital punishment; and the papers of the late Ernest van den Haag, a prolific academic proponent of capital punishment.

The National Death Penalty Archive additionally contains more than 150 clemency petitions filed on behalf of condemned prisoners, as well as materials relating to notable U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Ford v. Wainwright, prohibiting execution of the insane, and Herrera v. Collins, in which the justices were asked to rule that the Constitution forbids executing an innocent person wrongfully sentenced to death.

On the decline

The recent history of capital punishment in the U.S. has been marked by declining popularity and usage. Within the past 15 years, eight states have abandoned the death penalty through legislative repeal or judicial invalidation.

The number of new death sentences imposed annually nationwide has plummeted from more than 300 in the mid-1990s to a fraction of that – just 42 – in 2018. Last year, there were 25 executions in the U.S., down from the modern-era high of 98 in 1999.

Meanwhile, public support for capital punishment as measured by the Gallup Poll registered at 56 % in 2018, compared to its peak of 80 % in 1995. Only a few counties, primarily within California and a few southern states, are responsible for sending vastly disproportionate numbers of offenders to death row.

What these trends bode for the future of the death penalty in the U.S. remains to be seen. When later generations reflect on the nation’s long and complicated history with the death penalty, we hope that the National Death Penalty Archive will offer important insights into the currents that have helped shape it.

(source: theconversation.com)

YEMEN:

Yemen Urges UN Intervention to Save Detainee from Houthi Execution

The legitimate Yemeni government called on the United Nations and its envoy Martin Griffiths to intervene and halt the execution of a female detainee held by the Iran-backed Houthi militias.

The Yemeni Human Rights Ministry condemned the sentence against Asmaa al-Amaisy, who is being held in a Houthi jail.

It deemed as a “farce” the sentence against her, explaining that it was issued by a judiciary that had lost its legitimacy and that has been transformed into a tool to be abused by the militia to violate the rights of the people.

It said that the execution violates all red lines and local and international laws, treaties and agreements.

It added that Amaisy was kidnapped by the Houthis and held in complete isolation from the world. Along with other prisoners, she was held in appalling conditions for several months before being put on trial.

The prisoners, revealed the ministry, were subject to extortion and repeated degradation by the militias. They were deprived of their basic rights, including contacting an attorney and enjoying family visits.

It stressed that Amaisy’s execution would be considered a war crime according to international laws and it will deal a blow to an anticipated prisoner exchange between the government and Houthis.

It therefore, called on the international community to exert pressure on the Houthis to make them commit to the swap deal that was reached during consultations in Sweden in December.

For four years, the Houthis have issued death sentences against dozens of their opponents, including activists. Many have been falsely accused of treason, backing the legitimate government or belonging to terrorist organizations.

The death sentence against Amaisy is the 1st against a woman.

She is being held on fabricated charges of belonging to terrorist groups in Sanaa.

(source: aawsat.com)

IRAN:

2 Juvenile Offenders at Risk of Imminent Execution in Iran

1 young Iranian prisoner, who was sentenced to death at just 15, is set to be executed soon, according to what his family was told by prison officials.

Mohammad Kalhori was sentenced to death even though the medical examiner’s report says that he was not mentally mature at the time that he allegedly committed murder, due to a mental disorder, and was suffering from depression.

His attorney, Hassan Aghakhani, said: “Unfortunately, Mohammad’s family were informed that the verdict will be carried out soon.”

The Criminal Court initially sentenced Kalhori to seven years in prison and ordered him to pay blood money to the victim’s family, but this was overturned by the Supreme Court after an appeal and letters from a Government official and a Member of Parliament.

So, in September 2016, shortly after he turned 18, Kalhori was sentenced to death for the murder of his teacher in 2014.

Back in June 2018, two UN human rights experts urged Iranian authorities to halt the execution.

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, and Renate Winter, who heads the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, wrote: “Iran has committed itself to prohibiting the use of the death penalty for all those under 18 by its ratification of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such, this execution is unlawful and arbitrary.”

Another juvenile offender Shayan Saeedpour, who was sentenced to death, has been transferred to a different prison in Kurdistan Province and the fear is that he will soon be executed as well.

Saeedpour was convicted of murder at the age of 15 or 16 and has been in jail since 2015. He has also been under psychiatric care whilst in prison and has attempted suicide on numerous occasions.

At the time of the murder, Saeedpour was under the influence of alcohol, for which he was additionally sentenced to 80 lashes, according to his family. He turned himself in to police 2 days later.

Iran is one of a small number of countries that continues to execute juvenile offenders. It is illegal to execute someone for crimes committed under the age of 18, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention on the Rights of the Child, both treaties that Iran is party to, but the Regime has shown no sign of stopping.

In February 2018, the UN human rights chief called on Iran to halt executions of juveniles.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “The execution of juvenile offenders is unequivocally prohibited under international law, regardless of the circumstances and nature of the crime committed.”

There are believed to be at least 80 juvenile offenders on death row.

(source: ncr-iran.org)

CANADA:

Sentenced to hang in '75, cop killer looking for love

The cop killer says he doesn’t remember a thing.

Really.

So don’t bother asking.

And now, the notorious Richard Ambrose — who has changed his surname to Bergeron — is looking for love.

On his profile, the 70-year-old double killer boasts: “I survived the death penalty in Canada.”

But he writes on Prisoner Connect that because of a brain injury he suffered in an industrial accident, he’s in the dark about those tragic events.

Richard Ambrose in 1974. He and his partner in crime were sentenced to hang in 1975.

“Many women may be curious about my original crime in 1974 but because of my brain injury [damage] I don’t and can’t remember my crime,” he said.

On Dec. 13, 1974, Ambrose and his partner in crime, James Hutchison, kidnapped a 14-year-old Moncton boy whose father was a wealthy restaurateur.

The distressed dad paid a $15,000 ransom and his son was released unharmed.

Moncton cops Aurele Bourgeois and Michael O’Leary weren’t so lucky.

The last anyone heard from the pair, they were following a suspicious Cadillac.

Their bodies were found in a woods outside the Maritime city 2 days later.

They had been buried in shallow graves — which the officers had been forced to dig — and both men were shot in the head.

6 children were left fatherless.

And on April Fool’s Day, 1975 Ambrose and Hutchison were sentenced to hang. Only 4 more men were sentenced to die in Canada.

None of them swung.

Their sentences were commuted when capital punishment was abolished in 1976.

Hutchison remained unrepentant and died in prison in 2011.

Ambrose was released on parole in 2000, but 5 years later, was back in the joint doing his life sentence on the installment plan.

Ambrose murdered Charlie Bourgeois’ dad back in 1974. He has never forgotten it.

“I don’t support him receiving parole any time,” Bourgeois told the Moncton Times & Transcript in 2017. “I lived many years in the U.S. where a life sentence is actually a life sentence.”

The former defenceman for the Calgary Flames, Hartford Whalers and St. Louis Blues doesn’t consider 25 years a life sentence.

“My mom [Genevieve] lost her husband and 4 children lost their father,” he said. “She never remarried and raised 4 children without a dad. She displayed great courage.”

Ambrose — who now goes by Bergeron — claims he is “spiritual” now.

Bourgeois added: “I still carry a photo of him in my wallet.”

But never mind that ladies.

Ambrose — now Bergeron — describes himself as an “Acadian, Metis, wood sculptor, pipe carrier, seat lodge conductor and a Sundancer.”

He adds that while he’s spiritual, he doesn’t preach.

“I would like to correspond with any healthy Canadian women, any race, between 25 and 45 years old.”

Now imprisoned at Matsqui Penitentiary in Abbotsford, B.C., Ambrose said he wants to settle down on the west coast.

In the intervening years since being sent back to prison, Ambrose’s attempts at freedom have been torpedoed.

Partner in crime Jimmy Hutchison died in prison in 2011.

The Parole Board noted the “’serious spiritualist’s’ “capacity for extreme violence” last October.

In short, Ambrose thinks he’s ready to be sprung back among the public.

His case management team? Not so much.

In October, the panel heard the man who escaped the noose wanted to set up a bank account, attend a community residential facility on Vancouver Island and go to a storage rental facility to have his belongings moved from Alberta to B.C.

Ambrose got lucky in 1976.

Not this time.

(source: Toronto Sun)

JAPAN:

Death row miscarriage case puts spotlight on Japanese justice----A Japanese man freed after 48 years on death row lives in fear he will be sent back

Iwao Hakamada (82) spends a lot of time in the neat apartment he shares with his sister gazing out the window. After 48 years in jail, most of it in solitary confinement waiting for the hangman, he lives mostly in his own head. He gives no clue that he has entered the history books as the world’s longest-serving death row prisoner. Or that he is still under a death sentence.

Hakamada was arrested in 1966 on suspicion of murdering a family of four. After decades of appeals, a district court in Shizuoka Prefecture freed him, saying in 2014 that police evidence against him was probably fabricated. The prosecution disagrees, so he awaits retrial and the possibility he will be returned to his 5sq m cell.

Last year the Tokyo high court overturned the Shizuoka decision to grant a retrial, bouncing Japan’s highest-profile legal miscarriage back to the supreme court. Prosecutors have written to the court demanding that it reject Hakamada’s appeal.

His sister, Hideko, fears that he will have to serve out his original sentence, despite his age and fragile mental health. “It’s really unforgivable,” she says.

Hideko, still a steely presence at 85, has fought for her brother’s innocence for more than half her life. Last month she helped launch a manga (comic) series about his life. The title, Split Decision, nods to Hakamada’s old life as a professional boxer and to his original conviction by 3 judges, 1 of whom, racked with guilt, later said the conviction was flawed.

Hakamada was questioned for three weeks without a lawyer, says Amnesty International says. He later retracted his confession, claiming the police had beaten and threatened him unless he admitted stabbing to death his boss, his boss’s wife and their 2 teenage children. Yet Shizuoka district court sentenced him to death in September 1968. The sentence was confirmed in 1980.

The arrest of Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s former chairman who has been held in a detention cell for three months, suggests little has changed since. Police and prosecutors have enormous discretionary powers over criminal suspects, who are nearly always convicted once indicted. Bias can affect police procedure: Hakamada was poor and his boxer’s face and lack of formal education made him appear thuggish.

Japan puts far fewer people in prison than most developed countries: 41 per 100,000 people, compared with 80 in Ireland, 139 in the United Kingdom and 655 in the United States. But the entire system would collapse without confessions, said David Johnson, a judicial expert on Japan at the University of Hawaii. Confessions underpin 89 % of criminal cases.

“The police believe that expression of remorse is a key part of the system,” says Kana Sasakura, a professor of law at Konan University. Nobody knows how many innocent people are in Japanese prisons, but many of the more than 100 people on death row are challenging their convictions.

The heavy use of confessions made under duress has been widely condemned by lawyers and campaigners inside Japan, which is the only G7 developed country apart from the US that executes its citizens. The ministry of justice says the death penalty is popular with the public. In practice, the gallows are usually reserved for multiple murderers.

Opposed to debate

Hanging has survived the tenure of conscience-stricken justice ministers, such as the devoutly Buddhist Seiken Sugiura, who declined to sign execution orders throughout 2006. Judicial officials always reimpose the status quo, says Yoshihiro Yasuda, a lawyer who opposes the death penalty. “The prosecution and judges have not accepted they did anything wrong [in the Hakamada case],” he says. They are “absolutely opposed to starting a debate on the death penalty.”

In prison Hakamada initially kept up the training regime that carried him through 29 professional featherweight bouts. Fellow inmates used to watch him shadow-box and punch the walls of his cell until his knuckles turned bloody. He gradually became uncommunicative, at one point refusing all visits from his closest relatives, including his sister, for well over a decade.

Now, he just wants to be left alone to live out his remaining time, says his sister. “He has finally found some peace here.”

(source: irishtimes.com)

PAKISTAN:

SC acquits murder suspect on ‘benefit of doubt’

The Supreme Court on Monday acquitted a man who was awarded capital punishment for allegedly murdering a citizen in Rawalpindi back in 2011, ARY News reported.

A 3-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa overturned the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict that had upheld the death sentence handed to Muhammad Zaman.

It exonerated the accused from murder charges on the benefit of doubt.

Zaman along with 2 other suspects, Muhammad Azad and Muhammad Shehzad were handed death penalty for murdering a citizen and injuring his son in a Rawalpindi neighbourhood in 2011.

However, the high court acquitted Shehzad while upheld the conviction of the 2 other accused. Subsequently, they approached the apex court requesting it to set aside their conviction.

It is important to mention here that accused Muhammad Azad had died inside prison.

Earlier, on Feb 13, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa upheld death sentence awarded to the killer of 5 people in Peshawar.

The court heard a plea of the man, convicted for killing a woman and 4 children in Peshawar, seeking his acquittal or commuting death sentence into life term.

The bench turned down the plea of murder convict Faisal.

Chief Justice Khosa remarked that the woman and 4 children were murdered to steal gold ornaments. The children were killed only to avoid them to become witnesses, the top judge remarked. The house was set on fire to hide the murder crime.

(source: arynews.tv)

INDIA:

Gujarat High Court spares 2 child killers the gallows

The Gujarat High Court on Monday saved 2 persons—Akshay Patel and Kuldip Panchal—who had brutally murdered a four-and-a-half-year-old kid for ransom, from the gallows, and converted the death sentence awarded to them by a Visnagar court to 30 years of life imprisonment without remission.

The court, while setting aside the death sentence, remarked that the duo had committed a heinous crime of murdering an innocent, helpless, and a defenceless boy aged four-years-and-five-months, and they are liable to be punished severely. However, it clarified that it is not a case which falls within the category of the rarest of the rare cases.

As per the case details, the duo had abducted the child on March 17, 2012, while he was playing outside his house in Visnagar town of Mehsana district and demanded a ransom of Rs 50 lakh from his father. The father, a businessman, told them that he can't arrange the amount at such short notice, and can provide them Rs 12 lakh at the earliest. However, the duo refused to accept the same and threatened to kill the child, if the entire amount is not paid. They had also threatened the man to refrain from involving the police.

Worried about his son's safety, the man informed the police about the abduction and ransom threat. The duo somehow came to know about the same and told the father that now they do not want any money and he will have to pay the price for informing the police. On the next day, they purchased blades, took the child underneath a bridge near Rakhav village, and slit his throat to kill him. Thereafter, they buried the blood-soaked body while the child was still alive.

The duo got arrested by the police and the Visnagar sessions court after a thorough trial awarded them a death sentence in March 2016. While the state government moved the high court for confirmation of the death sentence, the duo appealed against the verdict. The high court on Monday rejected the appeals while commuting the death sentence awarded by the lower court to minimum 30 years of imprisonment.

WHAT COURT SAID

HC SAID that it is not the rarest of the rare cases

Why the death sentence was commuted?

The accused were aged 20 years, respectively, while committing the crime and had just attained majority.

Panchal has no criminal antecedent and hails from a poor strata of the society.

No evidence on record to indicate that the duo cannot be reformed.

The child was abducted for money and the duo had no intention to kill him until the situation went out of control.

Criminals are not born, but made

Quoting Justice VR Krishna Iyer, the court said: "Criminals are not born but made. The human potential in everyone is good and so, never write off any criminal as beyond redemption. Indeed, every saint has a past and every sinner a future".

Death penalty should remain on the statute book

While adjudicating the case, the court opined that death penalty should remain in the statute books and should not be wholly abolished. It held that the presence of death penalty act as a deterrent for criminals. The court also held that if people get away after committing serious crimes by being awarded nominal punishments, it may induce people to resort to personal vengeance, which will affect peace and order in the society.

(source: dnaindia.com)

SRI LANKA:

13 inmates definitely in line for the death penalty

The Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms claims that the death penalty will definitely be carried out on 13 inmates who are on death row and convicted of drug-related offences. A senior official of the Ministry noted that of the total 17 inmates who are on death row that 4 are foreign nationals. Thereby the death penalty can only be carried out definitely on the rest of the inmates. This matter has been notified to the Presidential Secretariat as well. The 4 foreign inmates on death row in Sri Lanka are Pakistani nationals and it is reported that the Pakistan government had made several requests for the release of these inmates.

The senior official further claimed that a total of 48 persons convicted of drug-related offences are currently on death row, however, 30 of them have filed appeals against their verdicts and thus death penalty cannot be imposed on them as of yet.

The list comprising the names of the 17 individuals, whom the death penalty can be imposed upon was handed over to the President recently with the recommendation of the Attorney General. All inmates on this list are said to be below the age of 50.

(source: newsfirst.lk)

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

The Death Penalty – Hanging and its alternatives

Killing enemies of the State (the Sentence of Death) is a hallowed tradition and its moral standing has been mostly ignored by both priests and politicians. Nevertheless, in this age of compassion – when even the slaughter of domestic animals for food and sustenance is viewed by some as a moral outrage – the suggestion that inveterate criminals should be painfully and publicly asphixiated (by hanging) not only to remove a social danger but also to fill terror in would-be wrongdoers seems a gross anachronism in a so-called civilized state. Suppose it is argued that the end justifies the means – that a greater good results from the spectacular use of violence by rulers and governors in exceptional circumstances.

The contentious issue is this – can the same taming or eradication of the pathologically unfit be attained by other – and more humane – methods? There is an alternative based on our scientific knowledge of the roots of violence not only in our species but in our animal kin as well. With hardly an exception, all vicious and specular crime is committed by males in their prime. The hormone Testosterone – secreted by the male generative organs is the culprit and this ‘truth’ was known to rulers down the ages. Not only political elites but also common animal breeders and pet owners knew that by ‘castrating’ a ferocious male there ia a wondrous transformation – the fighting bull becomes the placid ox .

Let us refocus on the the issue of male criminal behaviour. Is not radical emasculation by removing the hormone producing testicles (castration) a more humane and cost-effective way of dealing with male criminality and violence? A serial killer, a child molester or a dangerous drug-dealer can be very effectively ‘removed’ from circulation’ by a trifling operation – emasculation. If it is argued that such ‘punishment’ does not have the horrors and spectacle of a public hanging , let it be noted that a ‘macho male’ values his masculinity above all else and its ‘removal’ is a devastating blow to his identity and power-base. He is a much diminished male and his glory days are over. It is true that the ‘joy in punishing’ and the delight in seeing a public enemy tortured are lost – but these are base passions that have little to do with social justice.

(source: R Chandrasoma, lankaweb.com)

FEBRUARY 18, 2019:

CALIFORNIA:

DA: Gang Member Charged With Triple Murder At Torrance Bowling Alley

A 47-year-old man has been charged with killing 3 men at a bowling alley in Torrance last month.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Chang said Reginald Leander Wallace, of Los Angeles, is charged with opening fire at Gable House Bowl, located in the 22000 block of Hawthorne Blvd., on Jan. 4.

Victims Michael Radford, 20, Astin Edwards, 28, and Robert Meekins, 28, were killed.

Reginald Leander Wallace, of Los Angeles, is charged with opening fire at Gable House Bowl, located in the 22000 block of Hawthorne Blvd., on Jan. 4.

Wallace faces 3 counts of murder, 4 counts of attempted murder and 1 count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

The charges announced by the D.A.’s office Friday include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and killing to further the activities of a criminal street gang as well as allegations of using a handgun which caused great bodily injury and death.

The criminal complaint alleges Wallace was convicted as a juvenile in 1989 of 1st-degree murder and that he was convicted as an adult of bringing or possessing a gun within a school zone in 1997 and assault with a firearm in 1998.

Wallace’s arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

He is being held without bail. If convicted as charged, Wallace faces death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will be made a later date.

The case remains under investigation by the Torrance Police Department.

(source: CBS news)

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

Brothers charged with killing missing teen could face death penalty

2 brothers could be facing the death penalty after being charged in connection with the murder of a 16-year-old girl who has been missing in Southern California since last month.

Owen Shover, 18, and his brother, Gary Shover, 21, were returned to custody last Friday after being formally refused bail.

Authorities allege the brothers killed Aranda Briones after she was last seen alive on January 13.

Prosecutors have filed a special circumstance allegation of “lying in wait” against both defendants - the act of hiding and waiting for an individual with the intent to kill that person - making them eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

The sheriff’s office said the brothers became early suspects in the investigation after the victim’s family painted them as potential people of interest to law enforcement.

The victim and Owen Shover were high school friends who had recently reconnected.

Owen was the last person to be seen with Briones.

He told sheriffs he had not seen Briones since he dropped her at a park where he saw her get into another vehicle the day she disappeared.

However, a police review of surveillance in the area didn’t corroborate Shover’s story.

“We destroyed the timeline of events that he gave us and replaced it with what we knew to be true based on video surveillance footage,” he told ABC News.

Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Vasquez said the homicide squad and FBI joined the investigation on January 20.

Gary and Owen Shover were arrested after a raid of their home on February 11.

The sheriff’s office said it had collected evidence indicating Briones was killed, but did not give specifics of what had been located.

Investigations continue with the sheriff’s office calling for the public’s help in locating her remains.

“We still don’t have a body,” said Vasquez. “We still don’t know where she is.”

The brothers will appear before the courts on March 1.

(source: 9news.com.au)

INDIA:

In 2:1 verdict, SC upholds constitutional validity of death penalty----Has death penalty in the statute served as a deterrent for heinous crime?

A 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court in a verdict on Wednesday expressed different opinions on this with one saying that the provision of capital punishment has failed to become a deterrent and the other 2 holding that a larger bench had already decided its continuance in the rarest of rare cases.

A 3-judge bench comprising justices Kurian Joseph, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta commuted the death sentence of a man and awarded him life term for murdering 3 persons including 2 women.

Though the 3 judges differed on the applicability of death penalty, they were unanimous in commuting the death sentence of Chhannu Lal Verma.

Justice Joseph, who is to superannuate on Thursday, while pronouncing the verdict, read his views on the applicability of death sentence.

Referring to the 262nd report of the Law Commission, Justice Joseph said, “The constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab in 1980 has failed to prevent death sentences from being ‘arbitrarily and freakishly imposed‘ and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals, we are of the view that a time has come where we view the need for death penalty as a punishment, especially its purpose and practice.”

He also said that till the time death penalty exists in the statute books, the burden to be satisfied by the judge in awarding this punishment must be high.

According to Justice Joseph, the irrevocable nature of the sentence and the fact that the death row convicts are, for that period, hanging between life and death are to be duly considered.

“Every death penalty case before the court deals with a human life that enjoys certain constitutional protection and if life is to be taken away, then the process must adhere to the strictest and highest constitutional standards. Our conscience as judges, which is guided by constitutional principles, cannot allow anything less than that,” Justice Joseph, who wrote judgement for the bench, said.

Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta gave divergent opinion on the views expressed by Justice Joseph on applicability of death sentence and said a 5-judge constitution bench in Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab in 1980 had already held the constitutional validity of death penalty provided in Indian Penal Code.

“In our view, since the Constitution Bench in Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab, has upheld capital punishment, there is no need to re-­examine the same at this stage,” justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta said.

Justice Joseph, who wrote the verdict for the bench, also voiced his “anguishing concern” with regard to public discourse on crimes which have an impact on the trial, conviction and sentence in a case.

“The court‘s duty to be constitutionally correct even when its view is counter-majoritarian is also a factor which should weigh with the court when it deals with the collective conscience of the people or public opinion. After all, the society‘s perspective is generally formed by the emotionally charged narratives. Such narratives need not necessarily be legally correct, properly informed or procedurally proper,” he said.

Justice Joseph, while referring to the law commission report said that the court plays a counter-majoritarian role in protecting individual rights against majoritarian impulses.

“In this context, we may also express our concern on the legality and propriety of the people engaging in a ‘trial‘ prior to the process of trial by the court,” he said.

Justice Joseph said that it has almost become a “trend” for the investigating agency to present their version and create a cloud in the collective conscience of the society regarding the crime and the criminal.

“This undoubtedly puts mounting pressure on the courts at all the stages of the trial and certainly they have a tendency to interfere with the due course of justice,” he said.

The three judges were unanimous on their view that the Chhattisgarh high court in the case at hand has erroneously confirmed death penalty on the man without correctly applying the law laid down in Bachan Singh and other cases.

“The decision to impose the highest punishment of death sentence in this case does not fulfil the test of rarest of rare case where the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed,” the bench said.

It said that no evidence as to the uncommon nature of the offence or the improbability of reformation or rehabilitation of the appellant has been adduced.

It noted that the superintendent of the jail has given a certificate that his conduct in jail has been good during the pendency of his appeal in apex court for past 4 years.

“Thus, there is a clear indication that despite having lost all hope, yet no frustration has set on the appellant. On the contrary, there was a conscious effort on his part to lead a good life for the remaining period. A convict is sent to jail with the hope and expectation that he would make amends and get reformed,” it said.

(source: herdongazette.com)

MYANMAR:

Lawyer seeks sentence revision in U Ko Ni slaying conviction

A prosecution lawyer in the 2017 murder of prominent National League for Democracy lawyer U Ko Ni says he will file an appeal against the sentence of one of the four people convicted of the crime.

U Nay La said on Friday that the sentence of U Zeya Phyo was not in line with the law, and called for its revision. U Zeya Phyo was sentenced to five years in prison with hard labour for falsifying evidence.

Yangon Northern District Court on Friday sentenced to death U Kyi Lin and his accomplice U Aung Win Zaw for killing U Ko Ni.

The court also sentenced U Kyi Lin to 20 years in prison for killing a taxi driver who tried to stop U Ko Ni’s assassination and to 3 years for possession of illegal arms.

U Aung Win Tun received 3 years in prison for harbouring a criminal.

“We will appeal for a revision because Zeya Phyo was not sentenced for the crime he was charged with but instead for falsifying evidence,” said U Nay La.

U Kyi Lin and U Aung Win Zaw can appeal their death sentences within seven days of the verdict. They can appeal their death sentences to the Regional High Court and apply for a revision from the Union Supreme Court. If they are unsuccessful, they can appeal to the president.

U Zeya Phyo and U Aung Win Tun will have their time served in jail deducted from their prison terms.

U Robert San Aung, another lawyer for the prosecution, said police are continuing their search for U Aung Win Khaing, who is believed to have orchestrated the assassination.

The trial in the case, which began March 12, 2017, questioned some 200 witnesses in 104 hearings at the North District Court.

Many people believe that U Ko Ni was murdered for spotting loopholes in the 2008 Constitution and creating the position of state counsellor for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Although the death penalty has not been withdrawn in Myanmar, it has not been used since March 1988. Criminals on death row in Myanmar typically have their sentences commuted to an indefinite prison term.

(source: Myanmar Times)

FEBRUARY 17, 2019:

TEXAS:

Wilkins-Dember, champion of racial justice, dies at 89

Jean Wilkins-Dember, a fierce champion for racial justice and passionate Third Ward community organizer, died last week at the age of 89.

Wilkins-Dember served a founding member of the National Black United Front, a grassroots organization advocating for people of African descent, and passionately pushed back against racial inequality, police brutality and the death penalty. Commonly known as “Mother Dember,” the New York native often donned her signature hat festooned with buttons signifying her chosen causes, which centered on African-American advancement following centuries of discrimination.

Wilkins-Dember began her advocacy in the 1950s following the killing of a teenage boy in New York City’s Long Island, pursing justice through “confrontational therapy” that forced the public to acknowledge the rights and plight of black Americans. Wilkins-Dember held several positions tailed toward multiculturalism, mental health and racial equity in the New York City, including a brief stint as an adjunct professor at Nassau Community College. She also raised 5 daughters and 1 son with her husband, Clarence, who died in 2011.

After moving to Houston in the 1990s, Wilkins-Dember became deeply involved in S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, a Third Ward nonprofit dedicated to improving lives of individuals of African descent, and founded the grassroots group Afrikans United For Sanity Now. Wilkins-Dember has been a frequent presence during many of Houston’s most tense chapters of racial divide, standing alongside many of the city’s most prominent black activists.

“People have said this to me: Get over it. How can you get over it when so many people don’t acknowledge that anything is going on?” Wilkins-Dember said during a 2016 interview published by the Texas Christian University Mary Couts Burnett Library. “The inequity is there, and is there every day. And you don’t want to analyze it so it can be expunged? You want it to be ignored?”

During the 2016 interview, Wilkins-Dember recalled how her persistent reinforcement of workplace and policing discrimination during her upbringing in the Brooklyn area prompted her advocacy. Decades later, Wilkins-Dember said, she continues to raise her voice in the face of institutional inequality — even when others are afraid to join her.

“It’s too much (for some) to cope with, and so they just don’t look at me at all,” Wilkins-Dember said. “And that’s OK, because I’m not invisible. They will remember somebody was doing something.”

(source: Houston Chronicle)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Carlisle American Legion Murder Trial: Arguments begin to determine death penalty or life in prison for Robert Anderson

Jurors in the murder trial of Robert “Rocky” Anderson heard sentencing arguments Saturday that will determine whether Anderson receives the death penalty.

The jury found Anderson, 41, guilty of 1st-degree murder on Friday after a week-long trial regarding the fatal shooting of Daniel “D.J.” Harris on June 11, 2016, at the Haines Stackfield American Legion in Carlisle.

Under Pennsylvania law, jurors then determine the sentencing penalty in such a case, with a first-degree murder verdict presenting a choice between life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

The prosecution is allowed to argue certain aggravating circumstances that would call for a harsher sentence, while the defense may argue mitigating circumstances in support of a lighter one.

Given the jury’s binary choice, Michael Palermo, one of Anderson’s defense attorneys, said in his opening argument that the jury had already decided on an effective death penalty by finding Anderson guilty — he will either be put to death, or die in prison.

“It’s a question of how soon,” Palermo said, framing the jury’s decision.

Prosecutors from the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office had submitted 2 aggravating factors, the jury was told, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The first of these was that the murder was done “in commission of felony,” that felony being the possession of a firearm by Anderson. Given that the jury believes Anderson committed murder, he must then also have committed the firearm felony, as it is undisputed that Harris was shot 7 times.

Similarly, the 2nd aggravating factor was that the crime committed “put another person in grave danger.”

Prosecutors called only one witness during the Saturday sentencing hearing, that being Harris’ mother, who testified to the adverse effect her son’s death had on his two children and his father, as well as herself.

She also disputed the characterization of Harris, who during the trial was depicted as having a long-running street feud with Anderson prior to his death.

“I don’t know the D.J. you guys are talking about,” Harris’ mother said.

Mitigating circumstances, Judge Edward Guido noted to the jury, are argued with a different standard, that being a “preponderance of evidence” regarding factors that would make a lighter sentence the more just option.

Palermo called a number of witnesses during the hearing who attested to Anderson’s affable and supportive nature at work and in his family life.

“He’d give the shirt off his back to help anybody in this courtroom,” one of Anderson’s cousins testified.

“He was the guy that did everything for us,” said another cousin, recounting how Anderson had supported her after she became pregnant.

Anderson’s girlfriend, who testified that Anderson has been with her since October of 2012, described him as a “great man” who sought out a role as a stepfather to the children she had before meeting him.

Palermo also presented extensive expert testimony from Louise Luck, a mitigation specialist who researches and assesses convicts’ backgrounds for attorneys and parole and probation boards.

Luck detailed what she described as an extremely adverse childhood; circumstances outside of Anderson’s control that may have nevertheless led him down a path of criminal behavior.

Anderson exhibited “one of” the highest ratings Luck has ever seen, she said, on assessments used by state and federal agencies to predict violent or criminal behavior later in life based on upbringing.

Anderson’s father left the family when Anderson was 3 years old, but stayed in and out of the lives of Anderson and his two sisters — typically to negative effect, with Anderson witnessing and taking part in violent altercations from young age between his father and mother, Luck testified.

After his mother left to join the military, Anderson and his siblings lived at their grandmothers’ house, which was packed with up to 15 unsupervised children from their extended family, according from testimony from Luck and other witnesses.

Anderson’s grandmother, aunts, and uncles administered frequent beatings to Anderson, and an uncle sexually abused his sister; crack cocaine use was also commonplace, Luck testified.

“There is a constant escalation and normalization of violence that the children experience on a regular basis,” Luck said. “The beatings were regular, and not for issues we would normally discipline a child for.”

Anderson was diagnosed with depression and hyperactivity disorders by school counselors in Carlisle, Luck found, but could not be administered medication because of his chaotic household. He was prone to violent reactions to other children, and to fantasizing about a father figure that he did not have.

“He had nowhere to go, nothing to dissuade all the problems,” Luck said, noting that “people in the home were so traumatized themselves” that they were unable to provide any guidance to Anderson.

Saturday’s hearing was stopped prior to the prosecution and defense giving their closing arguments.

Once that happens, Guido noted, the jury must be sequestered until a sentencing decision is reached, and Guido said he wanted to avoid having the jury confined to a hotel over the weekend if the deliberation period is lengthy.

The court will reconvene Monday morning for closing arguments, after which the jury will begin deliberation on the sentence.

However, the practical outcome will likely be the same regardless of the option the jury chooses.

Pennsylvania has only executed 3 of its death row inmates since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 – 2 in 1995, and the last in 1999. All 3 had waived appeals that could have prevented execution.

(source: cumberlink.com)

GEORGIA:

3 Bishops Stand Against an Execution in Georgia-----It’s clear that racism played a part in Keith Tharpe’s death sentence.

There is no toxin more pernicious than hatred based on racial stereotypes. Despite progress in overcoming the sin of racism in recent years, racism still exists in American society—causing pain and hurt, and even leading to death. As a case in point, Keith Tharpe sits on death row in Jackson, Georgia, convicted of a gruesome murder 28 years ago. While we cannot speak to the legal issues of this case, it is apparent that racism may have played a part in Tharpe’s death sentence. After the trial, one of the jurors displayed shocking racial prejudice in an affidavit, liberally using racial slurs as he “wondered if black people even have souls.”

Lower courts have been unwilling to reconsider the verdict, but the case is now before the United States Supreme Court, which could grant a writ of certiorari to consider the merits of Tharpe’s contention of racial bias. The failure to thoroughly consider the effect of racism in jury deliberations could lead to Tharpe’s execution. We therefore join with many others in asking the Supreme Court to consider this case and the effects of an admittedly racist juror.

Progress against racism in society cannot obscure the fundamental problems with our system of justice if racism infests the application of criminal laws. The Catholic bishops of the United States recently issued a pastoral letter against racism titled “Open Wide Our Hearts—The Enduring Call to Love,” which acknowledged the history of racism in the United States and reaffirmed our commitment to its eradication. We believe that part of our work as religious leaders is to challenge racism by reminding the public that we are all brothers and sisters, equally made in the image of God. As we noted in our letter, racism is a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of all people.

Whenever personal prejudices surface in a trial, society relies on appellate courts and especially the Supreme Court to rectify these biases. We thus exhort the Supreme Court to take up Tharpe’s case and correct the clear, documented racism in the case by granting him a new sentencing hearing.

As bishops, we take very seriously Jesus’s call to visit those in prison. We have visited prisoners, including those on death row. In most parishes with prisons or jails, a priest or deacon visits every week to offer religious services. We have been blessed to witness true rehabilitation and meet prisoners who earnestly seek redemption through God’s grace.

It’s not just the stain of racism that leads us to oppose Tharpe’s execution. The Catholic Church teaches that in the light of the Gospel, “the death penalty is inadmissible,” a teaching that has been reinforced most recently by Pope Francis. Indeed, the death penalty violates human dignity even if the convicted individual has committed a terrible crime.

Jesus called his followers to console those who mourn. While seeking consideration and mercy for Tharpe, we also pray for the family of Jacquelyn Freeman, who died at Tharpe’s hand.

In our pastoral letter, we explain that racism comes in many forms—and one of them is the sin of omission. This occurs when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered. To do justice requires an honest acknowledgment of our failures and the restoring of right relationships among us. That’s why we are speaking out about Tharpe’s case. The U.S. Supreme Court must intervene in his case to ensure that fairness is protected and justice is defended—before it’s too late. To do nothing would be tragic not only for Tharpe, but for our collective dignity.

(source: theatlantic.com)

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

A Juror Who Questioned if Black Men have Souls Sentenced One to Death. SCOTUS Must Step In

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider a Georgia death penalty case that deeply concerns me as a conservative Republican. As a conservative, I strongly believe that the laws that govern us must be followed and applied in a fair and consistent manner to all citizens. As such, it is obvious to me that jurors who hold racially biased beliefs can never be allowed to judge a case in which their views might influence their verdict.

And yet, Georgia seeks to execute a black man, Keith Tharpe, whose 1991 Jones County jury included a member with extremely prejudiced views against African-Americans. We know about his racism because that juror, Barney Gattie, later shared his views in a sworn affidavit.

Mr. Gattie said under oath: “In my experience, I have observed that there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. N*****s…. I felt Tharpe, who wasn’t in the ‘good’ black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did. Some of the jurors voted for death because they felt that Tharpe should be an example to other blacks who kill blacks, but that wasn’t my reason…After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls.”

Mr. Gattie’s words come from a statement he gave to attorneys several years after the trial. To ensure its accuracy and reliability, Mr. Gattie’s statement was read back to him before he signed it in front of a witness. He even inserted a handwritten edit to the typed statement in order to make sure the final version was correct. Based on his own statement, there is no doubt that this juror harbored deep racial animus when he judged Mr. Tharpe’s case and decided on death. And yet, despite all this evidence of racial bias, Mr. Tharpe’s death sentence still stands. That’s wrong.

When I was a young lawyer just out of law school, it was my honor to clerk for one of the judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. As the only clerk in the judge’s chambers that year who supported the use of the death penalty to punish the most serious crimes, I was the one assigned to handle death penalty cases.

What I learned as a clerk convinced me that there is far too much error in the death penalty system. If the government can’t do something right, it should not do it at all, especially when it comes to matters of life and death. The clear problems with Mr. Tharpe’s case powerfully remind me that the system is not foolproof. When we know there is error, it is incumbent on the courts to intervene and make it right. In Mr. Tharpe’s case, fortunately, there is still an opportunity to get it right.

In 2017, attorneys for Mr. Tharpe asked my old court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, to allow an appeal of the death sentence in light of the juror’s clear racial bias. The Eleventh Circuit said no, even in the shadow of a looming execution date. Then the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, staying the execution and instructing the Eleventh Circuit to take another look at the case—signaling that the Eleventh Circuit’s decision not to allow an appeal was suspect.

It is important to make one thing clear – no court has actually considered the impact of the juror’s racial bias on Mr. Tharpe’s death sentence. Mr. Tharpe is only asking for the right to have this claim heard and decided by a court. Where there is documented proof of racial bias on a jury, as there is here, basic fairness demands that a court consider the impact of the juror’s bias on the final verdict.

In Georgia, a jury cannot hand down a death sentence unless there is a unanimous vote to impose it. Because each juror is critical in the decision to impose death, it is especially important that each juror hears the case free of prejudice. The integrity of the entire process is predicated on the assumption that all jurors evaluate the case through an unbiased lens.

Racial bias can be difficult to prove. Mr. Tharpe’s case is a rare instance in which the racial bias is both obvious and well documented – which is likely why the U.S. Supreme Court stopped Georgia from executing Mr. Tharpe back in the fall of 2017. Shockingly, even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s intervention, the Eleventh Circuit again denied Mr. Tharpe the right to appeal.

Now, Mr. Tharpe’s attorneys have taken his case back to the U.S. Supreme Court. They are asking the Court to hear the case itself or order the Eleventh Circuit to grant the right to appeal. If the Court wants to maintain confidence in our country’s judicial system, it must take steps to correct the obvious injustice in this case.

It is easy to talk about the many complex problems in the criminal justice system, but much harder to find workable solutions. This is one error that is very easy to remedy. Do not allow the State of Georgia to execute a black man whose death sentence was influenced by a juror’s racial animus. Or, at the very least, do not allow the case to proceed to execution before Mr. Tharpe has had his day in court. It’s not too much to ask.

(source: Opinion; David Burge is an attorney based in Atlanta. He previously served as Chairman of the Georgia 5th Congressional District Republican Party----newsweek.com)

LOUISIANA:

3rd murder trial tentatively set in Waskom teen's death

A 3rd murder trial has been tentatively set in the 2017 fatal shootings of Shayla Carson and Dalton Berry.

Panola County officials are planning to have Cordarius D’Shun Thompson’s trial on charges of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on Oct. 14. The date was set Friday morning during a status hearing.

Carson, 18, of Waskom and Berry, 21, of Panola were killed and a third person was shot at a mobile home on a private road near DeBerry in July 2017. Police have arrested four Bossier City men in the case: Thompson, Mose Dandrew Smith, Marlon Kelly and Cartrell Oshae Dewayne Williamson.

2 of the suspects in the case, Smith and Kelly, face capital murder charges in the case and could get a death sentence if prosecutors decide to pursue it and they are convicted. Thompson and Williamson’s murder charges mean they do not face the death penalty if convicted.

District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson told District Judge LeAnn Rafferty his office is still waiting on DNA evidence and a final report to come back to his office. They expect that in March.

Davidson and Thompson’s attorney Kevin Settle told Rafferty they expect Thompson’s trial to take up to 10 days, with a few days for jury selection. That’s far less a time period than the 2 capital murder trials set in the case. Officials estimated jury selection would take a month and trials would take 2 to 3 weeks because they could involve the death penalty.

Officials said during Friday’s hearing that the outcome of Kelly’s September trial may have an effect on all the others.

“I would say the state would like to try Mr. Kelly first and after that, I think everything else will fall into place pretty quick,” Davidson said.

(source: KTBS news)

CALIFORNIA:

Fugitive Suspect in Torture, Killing of Estranged Wife Returned to L.A. From El Salvador

A fugitive who has eluded authorities for nearly 9 years arrived in Los Angeles from El Salvador Thursday to face trial for the alleged torture and murder of his estranged wife in Pacoima, officials said.

Napoleon Eduardo Castro, 43, was brought back to Los Angeles County via LAX about 7 a.m., FBI Special Agent Scott Garriola said.

He faces charges of torture and murder for the May 1, 2010, stabbing death of his estranged wife, 33-year-old Olga Martinez, at her home in Pacoima, according to the FBI and Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.

“The victim’s body was found lying in a pool of blood at the entrance to her garage,” the FBI said in a wanted flier issued prior to his capture. “She had been stabbed multiple times.”

In addition to a state warrant for murder and torture, federal officials charged Castro with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and issued a federal arrest warrant about three weeks after the killing. He was believed to have travelled to Massachusetts before ultimately fleeing to El Salvador.

Castro used numerous names, including Luis Sanchez, Juan Flores, “Napo,” and “Trouble.”

He worked in the construction industry before becoming a fugitive, officials said.

He has multiple tattoos, including the name of his alleged victim, “Olga,” on his chest, according to the FBI.

Help from a tipster helped lead to Castro’s capture, Garriola said. A $20,000 reward offered for information in the case has been paid.

While the extradition process can be a long one, the U.S. has good working relationships with many Central American countries, including El Salvador, according to Garriola. The governments of some other nations, such as Honduras and Belize, are far less cooperative with respect to extradition requests, he said.

Information regarding Castro’s initial court appearance was not available Friday. He potentially faces the death penalty if convicted as charged.

(source: KTLA news)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan submits reply before ICJ in Kulbhushan Jadhav case

Pakistan on Saturday submitted its reply in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) before the Monday’s hearing where India will contest the convicted spy’s death row.

Kulbhushan, who India says was kidnapped from Iran, has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court. Kulbhushan, 46, was charged convicted of espionage and sentenced to death in April 2017, following which India moved The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ).

A 10-member bench of the ICJ had in May 2017, restrained Pakistan from executing Kulbhushan till adjudication of the case.

Pakistan claims its security forces arrested Kulbhushan from Balochistan on March 3, 2016, after he allegedly “entered Pakistan from Iran”. India, however, maintains that Kulbhushan was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Indian Navy.

India’s lawyers will present their arguments on Monday to the top UN court, which was set up after World War II to resolve international disputes. This will be followed by Pakistan’s lawyers presenting their case on Tuesday.

Islamabad reacted to the ICJ’s urgent order to stay Kulbhushan Jadhav’s execution at the time, but said it “has not changed the status” of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case “in any manner”.

The case comes at a time when the already-strained ties between India and Pakistan took a further plunge following the terror attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama.

More than 44 paramilitary troops were killed as explosives (RDX) packed in a car ripped through a convoy bringing 2,500 soldiers back from leave. The terror attack happened less than 25 kilometres from Srinagar.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that the public hearing of Kulbhushan Jadhav will commence from Monday. However, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar declined to go into the details of it.

WHAT INDIA NEEDS TO ANSWER:

According to sources, Pakistan has submitted 6 key points which India will need to answer. These include:

India says Commander Jadhav was an innocent Indian national who was kidnapped from Iran to make him confess to being an Indian RAW agent. Why has India failed to make good this allegation despite repeated requests for evidence that he was kidnapped?

India says Commander Jadhav retired from the Indian Navy. Why has India failed to explain when/why he retired as he was only 47 years old when arrested?

India refuses to explain how Commander Jadhav was in possession of an authentic Indian passport issued in a false ‘cover’ Muslim name ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’ which he had used at least 17 times to enter/exit India. India has been asked this question many times (even by highly respected Indian senior journalists such as Praveen Swami and Karan Thapar) but simply says this is “irrelevant” or “mischievous propaganda”. India eventually said the passport was “clearly a forgery” but refuses to explain this statement, or why a highly credible independent UK expert is wrong when he says it is an authentic Indian passport issued by the Indian authorities. Why not?

India demands that the ICJ orders the “return” of Commander Jadhav to India. However, the ICJ has repeatedly stated it is not a criminal court of appeal. It has always so far made it clear in all its decisions that, even if consular access was denied, the proper order is for there to be effective review and reconsideration by the local Courts. Commander Jadhav and his family have been able to seek this at any time since 10th April 2017 in accordance with Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Instead, India launched proceedings in the ICJ 14 months after he was arrested and a month after he was convicted to seek a ‘stay’ order without a hearing. Why is India asking for an order for “return” in the face of the ICJ’s decision and the independent expert evidence confirming Pakistan has effective review and reconsideration before the high court and Supreme Court?

India has failed to explain why the Agreement on Consular Access between India and Pakistan dated 21 May 2008 (which India drafted), and which provides (at Article (vi)) for either State to be entitled to consider a request for consular access “on its merits” where it involves a person implicated in national security matters, does not apply in this case?

India fails to explain why highly respected UK-based military law experts are wrong when they say that Pakistan’s high court and Supreme Court provide an effective review and reconsideration of the military court process.

BACKGROUND:

The salient aspects of the case are:

On 3rd March 2016, Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, having illegally and clandestinely entered Pakistan from Iranian territory. India has said that Commander Jadhav was “kidnapped” from Iran – but has provided no substantive evidence underpinning such an allegation. Commander Jadhav was carrying an Indian passport in the name of ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’.

On 25th March 2016, Pakistan shared with the world at large Commander Jadhav’s confession (confirmed before a Magistrate) as a serving officer of the Indian Navy, who was operating for India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), to having been involved in crimes of espionage and terrorism directed toward the infrastructure and people of Pakistan, including the Gwadar port and various facilities involved in the prominent China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). India says that Commander Jadhav retired from the Indian Navy (but has not said when or provided any further detail). From 25th March 2016, India sought consular access to Commander Jadhav, which India says was denied. Pakistan says that an express agreement between India and Pakistan (drafted by India) headed Agreement on Consular Access entered into in 2008, at Article (vi), entitles either State to consider a request for Consular Access upon the merits where it involves a person implicated in National Security matters.

Pakistan sent a letter making specific requests of India to assist in the investigation of Commander Jadhav on 23 January 2017 attaching copies of the authentic Indian Passport Commander Jadhav was using in the name of ‘Hussein Mubarak Patel’, as well as the FIR and other material relating to the investigation into Commander Jadhav’s activities. India did not provide any assistance at all nor any evidence (either inculpatory or exculpatory) of Commander Jadhav.

Commander Jadhav was provided with legal representation, and after several hearings, he was tried and convicted by a Military Court in Pakistan, which passed the death sentence on 10th April 2017. Pakistan’s legal system, including its Constitution, provides for the availability of clemency petitions as of right to the Chief of Army Staff and then to the President of Pakistan. In addition, judicial review by Pakistan’s High Court and Supreme Court of the Military Court process and judgment is available pursuant to Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Courts have frequently stayed sentences imposed by the Military Court at the request of the convict or his family, often within hours of the sentence being passed. No application of this nature has ever been made to the Pakistani Courts by Commander Jadhav or his family.

Both India and Pakistan have previously signed and become parties to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 (VCCR 1963). Furthermore, both India and Pakistan signed and became parties to a separate agreement (called the Optional Protocol) that gives the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes arising out of the interpretation or application of the VCCR 1963.

PREVIOUS ICJ PROCEEDINGS:

On 8th May 2017, India commenced these proceedings before the ICJ alleging that Pakistan had committed a breach of the VCCR 1963 by failing to grant immediate consular access in respect of Commander Jadhav, and alleging that the Military Court procedure was flagrantly unfair. Centrally, the relief India sought was “at least” the acquittal/release/transfer to India of Commander Jadhav. India also demanded by way of Provisional Measures that the ICJ should immediately make an order (without even having a hearing) that Pakistan should be restrained from executing Commander Jadhav pending the full hearing of India’s claims.

As mentioned above, Pakistan’s civilian courts can and do routinely order a stay of execution pending the full hearing of legal challenges to decisions emanating from Pakistan’s Military Courts – they do so in order to preserve the status quo without making any decision as to the facts or merits. The Pakistani courts have shown themselves capable of acting very quickly (within hours) in this manner in response to an application for a stay of execution. It was therefore not unusual that the ICJ directed a stay of execution on 18th May 2017 pending a full hearing.

Pakistan raised the following arguments on 15th May 2017:

Pakistan raises important arguments of international law that have never been raised or considered before, such as the existence in Customary International Law (as evidenced by the practices of States) of an ‘espionage exception’ to consular access (given the obvious dangers of allowing a state-sponsored spy/terrorist untrammelled communication with the authorities of his sending State that despatched him to commit unlawful acts);

Furthermore, Pakistan has drawn attention to a bilateral agreement concerning consular access as between India and Pakistan entered into in 2008 that clearly qualifies consular access in matters of national security;

Significantly, Pakistan has asked the ICJ to consider whether India has acted illegally (with the consequence that it should not be granted relief) in facilitating Commander Jadhav’s espionage/terrorism by providing him with the passport referred to above;

The passport was carefully examined by a UK-based highly regarded independent expert whose detailed report concludes it is an authentic passport issued by the competent Indian authorities in a false identity (“the Passport Issue”). India refuses to explain the Passport Issue and, instead, describes this as “irrelevant” or “mischievous propaganda”;

Also, 2 eminent independent experts (formerly senior officers of the British Army) carried out a review of the Military Court jurisdictions of several major countries around the world (including the USA, UK, India and Pakistan), and found that Pakistan’s own Military Court jurisdiction was sound in law and contained no manifest unfairness. They concluded that the High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan provided an effective review process for the Military Court system.

On the previous occasions when the ICJ has considered the issue of death penalty / consular access, the ICJ has never ordered relief of “acquittal, release and return” such as that sought by India. The ICJ has repeatedly stated that it is not a Criminal Court of Appeal. Effective review of a conviction is available before the domestic Courts.

Despite having been on notice of Pakistan’s key arguments since the Provisional Measures phase, India insisted on a further round of pleadings. The ICJ granted permission, and India filed its Reply on 17th April 2018, to which Pakistan filed a detailed Rejoinder in response on 17th July 2018.

TIMETABLE:

The conduct modalities of the hearing are as under:

The ICJ has set a timetable for public hearings to be held on February 18-21 2019 in The Hague (which will be live-streamed, including on the UN TV website).

India will go first, on 18th Feb 2019 (10:00-13:00 local time), then Pakistan will make submissions on 19th Feb 2019 (10:00-13:00 local time). India will reply on 20th Feb 2019 (15:00-16:30 local time). Pakistan will make its closing submissions on 21st Feb 2019 (16:30-18:00 local time).

It is expected that the ICJ decision may be held by the summer of 2019.

In accordance with the Rules of Court, all pleadings should be made available after the commencement of the hearing at 18 Feb 2019 (10:00 local time) on ICJ’s website.

Pakistan’s arguments are summarised in its Counter-Memorial (at paragraphs 6-21) and its Rejoinder (at paragraphs 1-10). The experts’ reports referred to above are at Annexes 141 and 142 to the Counter-Memorial.

The legal arguments for the Government of Pakistan will be presented by English Queen’s Counsel Khawar Qureshi QC who also drafted the written pleadings. The delegation will be led by the attorney general of Pakistan. It is understood that India’s arguments will be presented by Mr Harish Salve.

(source: pakistantoday.com.pk)

BANGLADLESH:

Over 100 drug dealers surrender in Bangladesh crackdown----In 2018, Bangladesh launched a 'war on drugs' after the proliferation of illegal substances, mostly pills called 'yaba'.

Over 100 Bangladeshi drug dealers have surrendered to the authorities at a pre-scheduled ceremony in a coastal town seeking clemency and vowing to go back to a normal life.

The unprecedented event on Saturday was prompted by a Philippines-style massive anti-narcotic crackdown, which led to the killing of nearly 300 people and arrests of about 25,000 others since May of last year.

Bangladesh last year launched a "war" on drugs following a proliferation of illegal substances in the South Asian nation of 165 million people, mostly of cheap methamphetamine pills known as "yaba".

'I carry yaba to survive': Rohingya and Bangladesh's meth trade

Those who surrendered before the country's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan at Teknaf town in the coastal Cox's Bazar district included drug traders, traffickers and several "godfathers".

They surrendered a total of 350,000 vanilla-scented, pink-coloured pills of "yaba" - which derives its name from a Thai word that means a "crazy medicine" - and dozens of illegal firearms.

"I was leading my life towards a wrong path. I regret my past activities," said Sirajul Islam, one of the drug traffickers who surrendered.

"I want your blessings so that I would be able to live a better life and work for building a drug-free society."

Islam hails from Teknaf, a southeastern coastal town bordering Myanmar, which is known as a hub of "yaba" smuggling and trading.

He was named in the list of 1,151 "yaba" traders prepared by the country's Ministry of Home Affairs after the proliferation of the pills in the past few years.

Of those traders, 73 were named the "yaba godfathers". On Saturday, a total of 24 such godfathers surrendered, police sources said.

Data from the country's Department of Narcotics Control said some 7 million people use drugs, with "yaba" the most popular substance.

Law enforcerment officials seized a record 53 million yaba pills in 2018.

Are Bangladesh activists being killed amid the war on drugs?

In May of last year, Bangladesh started a Philippines-style war on drugs after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared a zero-tolerance policy against illegal drugs.

In October, Bangladeshi authorities made "yaba" a class-A banned substance and the country’s parliament passed a law allowing the death penalty for those dealing in the drug.

A 2nd chance

"This formal surrender is a part of the government's ongoing war against drugs," said Home Minister Khan at the programme. "Those who surrendered would be given a second chance to live a normal life."

"Those who haven't surrendered yet would face dire consequences," he warned.

Inspector General of Bangladesh Police Javed Patwary said the government will "sincerely try to ensure a better life to those who surrendered today, and if needed they will be rehabilitated".

"The police will also advocate for lesser sentences for them," said Patwary.

Cox's Bazar police superintendent ABM Masud Hossain told Al Jazeera that the surrender of drug dealers was conditional and their ill-gotten wealth would be investigated by the authorities.

"They will not receive any general amnesty but will have to face legal action as per the law," said Hossain, adding that two separate cases (for drugs and arms) will be filed against those who surrendered and they will be jailed.

When asked whether there would be any more public surrenders like this, Hossain said, "There might be. Our war against drugs hasn't ended with these surrenders. There are still a lot of traders out there."

Talking to Al Jazeera, human rights activist Nur Khan Liton said a number of drug dealers were killed "extra-judicially" last year.

"I believe those killings instilled fear among the drug dealers, thus this public surrender has happened."

Bangladesh: Extrajudicial killing fears in drug crackdown

Like the Philippines, Liton said, the current Bangladesh regime wanted to create a public spectacle out of this "war on drugs".

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's highly controversial anti-drug crackdown has killed thousands of alleged users and pushers since 2016.

"What we need to monitor is whether this war would really reduce the proliferation of drugs in Bangladesh," said Liton.

(source: aljazeera.com)

MALAYSIA:

2 key reasons why death penalty must go, says Ambiga

Former chairperson of Malaysian Bar Council S Ambiga is looking forward to the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty, a punishment she deems as oppressive.

Ambiga outlined 2 key reasons why the death penalty should be repealed namely the ineffectiveness of the punishment in deterring crime and the possibility of executing the innocent.

(source: malaysiakini.com)

TAIWAN:

Death row inmate’s request for inflatable love doll rejected

A man who has been awaiting execution since he was sentenced to death in 2010 applied to purchase an inflatable love doll at his own expense, but had his request rejected by prison authorities.

Hsiao Renchun made his request in writing to prison authorities late last year, asking that prison administrators provide a place to store the love doll, and promising that he would clean the device after using it.

Hsiao, a baptized Christian, and model prisoner, also requested that he be allowed to grow his hair long so that he could donate his hair to make wigs for child cancer patients. However, both requests were denied by prison authorities. The Taipei Detention center currently holds 21 death row inmates.

In considering the application, the prison authorities looked to prison practices in other countries, including the USA, the European Union, and Japan, and decided that inflatable love dolls were not a life necessity.

As for Hsiao’s request to grow his hair for cancer patients, authorities decided that it would breach prison hygiene regulations limiting death row inmates hair to a length of no more than three centimeters.

After his requests were rejected, Hsiao sought the help of the Judicial Reform Foundation who have assisted Hsiao file a 1st and 2nd appeal regarding his requests to grow his hair for compassionate purposes.

Although the results of the appeal have not been released, the JRF expects that they are likely to be dismissed again, and have appointed a lawyer to help Hsiao file an administrative lawsuit.

Hsiao has been in detention for 23 years. After serving time for robbery with force and kidnapping for ransom, Hsiao was released on parole in 1995.

However, Hsiao continued his life of crime, committing a spate of robberies at medical clinics in Keelung, Taipei, and Chiayi County, until he was arrested for the robbery and brutal murder of a lawyer in Taipei City in 1996.

After a long series of litigation, trials, and appeals, Hsiao was eventually handed the death penalty in 2010.

(source: Taiwan English News)

INDIA:

On pretext of playing, neighbour allegedly rapes 18-month-old baby in open field----The police arrested the accused and booked him under IPC section 376AB and also relevant provisions of POCSO Act.

In a shocking incident, an 18-month-old girl was allegedly raped by a man in Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa, police said. The accused, who was known to the victim's family, has been arrested, they said. The 20-year-old man took the minor girl from her parents on the pretext of playing with her, police inspector Jaipal Inwasi. He then allegedly raped her at an agriculture farm in Harsud area, some 50km from the district headquarters, he said. When the man did not return with the toddler till night, the girl's mother lodged a police complaint, Inwasi said. The police launched a search and found that the girl has been sexually assaulted, he said.

The police arrested the accused and booked him under IPC section 376AB and also relevant provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the inspector said.

Meanwhile, in a unrelated incident, a school teacher convicted for raping a 4-year-old-girl has filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against his death penalty, a prison official said. Mahendra Singh Gond (28) filed the SLP in the Supreme Court on February 11, challenging his death sentence in the rape case, Jabalpur Central Jail's law officer Ashok Singh said.

A trial court in Satna had earlier this month issued a 'death warrant' against Gond after the Madhya Pradesh High Court confirmed his death sentence on January 25, he said. The trial court had sent the death warrant, fixing his execution for March 2, 2019, through an e-mail to the Central Jail earlier this month.

The convict has other remedies also as he can file a mercy petition before the President, Singh said, adding the death warrant will be executed only after all the available legal remedies are exhausted.

The trial court had sentenced Gond to death under the recently-introduced Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 376(a)(b) (raping a minor under 12 years of age). Gond was also found guilty under IPC Section 363 (kidnapping), for which he was awarded seven years' rigorous imprisonment, besides being fined Rs 5,000, Singh said.

According to the prosecution, the convict had raped the minor girl after kidnapping her from her house on July 1, 2018 and later dumped her in the bushes. The girl received severe injuries in the incident and was admitted to a Delhi-based hospital. Gond was later arrested by the police and a charge sheet was filed against him.

Madhya Pradesh was the 1st state to enact a law in December 2017, providing for death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years of age. The Centre had brought an amendment in the IPC to punish the rapists of girls below 12 years of age with death last year.

(source: newsnation.in)

PHILIPPINES:

'No to death penalty, not even for terrorists' – Senate candidate Gutoc

Opposition senatorial bets reiterated their stance against the death penalty, with Mindanaoan candidate Samira Gutoc saying it shouldn’t be imposed even on terrorists.

“No to death penalty,” Gutoc answered when asked if “death penalty should be imposed on terrorists” during ABS-CBN’s "Harapan 2019" senatorial forum on Sunday, February 17.

Gutoc hails from Marawi City, which was ravaged in 2017 after a 5-month-long battle to flush out local armed groups whose leaders pledged allegiance to the international terrorist network Islamic State.

Because of the conflict in Marawi, the entire island of Mindanao remains under martial law.

Longtime human rights lawyer Chel Diokno was asked if he would favor the death penalty against a person who would rape or kill his child.

“I am strongly against death penalty because it is anti-poor. It is not the severity of the punishment but the certainty [of it] that stops crime,” Diokno said.

Diokno and Gutoc are part of the opposition Otso Diretso slate.

Physician Willie Ong, a candidate under Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, said he favors the return of death penalty “if it’s for heinous crimes.”

In past senatorial forums, administration bets said they favored the death penalty, especially for drug-related crimes.

Former police chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, and reelectionist Senator JV Ejercito voted "yes" when asked if they favored the death penalty for drug offenders during CNN Philippines' senatorial forum last December.

Dela Rosa, Tolentino, and Ejercito are among the 11 candidates endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In the same CNN forum, former senators Serge Osmeña and Juan Ponce Enrile said they are not in favor of the death penalty. Other opposition bets Gary Alejano and Bam Aquino also said they are not in favor.

The House of Representatives has passed the bill reimposing the death penalty, but the proposal faces a bleak future in the current Senate.

The House version of the bill seeks to reimpose the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

(source: rappler.com)

SRI LANKA:

Priest: Sirisena, as a Buddhist, should be against the death penalty----Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando: "It is useless to reintroduce capital punishment, hate generates hatred". The government has canceled a moratorium in force for 43 years. The provision after a meeting with his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte. A nun proposes alternative penalties to hanging.

The President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, "claims to be a fervent Buddhist, but does not seem to have understood the message of the Buddha": Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, well-known human rights activist and expert on socio-political phenomena.

The priest, formerly chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Movement, comments with AsiaNews about the head of state's decision to resume capital executions.

Last January 31, Sirisena announced that his government has canceled a moratorium in force for 43 years. While officials are already engaged in the search for 2 executioners, the 1st to risk death by hanging are drug dealers and drug traffickers held in prisons on the island.

The president's choice, by his own admission, matured after a meeting with his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte. He is the promoter of a fierce war on drugs, which in the Philippines has so far caused over 5,000 official deaths (but for the activists the victims are more than 12,000).

"Hatred generates hatred and the reintroduction of the death penalty will not stop the drug trade", says Fr. Fernando. "In this way a just society will not be created. It is sad to note that the leaders of many religious denominations seem to support its provision. Perhaps, these are not up to their founders in solving this crisis ".

Sr. Jesmin Fernando, provincial superior of the Holy Family Association, also expressed her disappointment at the announced resumption of the death penalty. "I disagree," says the nun. "Every life has value in itself, there is always the possibility to go back and start a new life. There must be a way to punish those involved in trafficking and drug dealing. In my opinion, this could be the detention in an isolation regime and under strict surveillance for a certain period of time. Furthermore, the properties or money earned by inmates in their illicit activities could be used for their rehabilitation. Finally, they should publicly admit that their wrong actions and the people behind them".

(source: asianews.it)

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

200 kilo stone to test new hangman’s noose

The strength of the hangman’s noose which is slated to be imported will be tested with a 200 kilogramme stone, Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) Director General Dr. Siddhika Senaratne told the Sunday Times.

“The existing noose was found to be damaged and unusable,” she said. It is 12 years old and had been imported from Pakistan.

There are no Sri Lankan regulatory standards that an imported noose should comply with.

“The SLSI will have to carry out a standards test based on the regulatory standards that are followed in the country from which the noose is being imported,” Dr Senaratne said.

This week, the Prisons Department advertised for two individuals of stable mental health and between 18 and 45 years, with “an excellent moral character” to be recruited as hangmen.

They would be paid a monthly salary of Rs 36,410 based on the Public Administration Circular 03/2016.

Amnesty International’s South Asia director Biraj Patnaik condemned the advert saying it should never have been published.

“There is no place for the death penalty in a civilised society,”

Mr. Patnaik said on his official Twitter account.

The last death penalty carried out in Sri Lanka is recorded to have taken place in 1976 with the execution of J.D. Siripala, a.k.a. ‘Maru Sira’, a murder convict.

Human rights activists have now turned towards religious leaders and questioned their silence.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference opposes the death penalty and called for “stringent security measures” to prevent drug dealings in prisons.

A statement said the death penalty was impermissible according to the Gospel.

This is because it is “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” who is subject to the death penalty.

This week, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called for the withdrawal of the death penalty.

President Maithripala Sirisena resurrected the idea in the context of the narcotics menace.

“The ICJ opposes the death penalty in all circumstances – as it constitutes a violation of the right to life and its imposition constitutes per se cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment,” the statement said.

It also called on the government to uphold its vote in favour of a moratorium on the use of death penalty during last year’s UN General Assembly.

The ICJ also urged Sri Lanka to sign the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obligates state parties to take measures to abolish the death penalty.

In the backdrop of condemnation, the Justice Ministry this week had sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting that a noose be imported.

The letter had emphasised that the noose must be imported from a country which has implemented the death penalty.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Singapore were some of the countries listed in the letter.

(source: sundaytimes.lk)

FEBRUARY 16, 2019:

TEXAS----impending execution

Coble execution on for Feb. 28 after Texas high court denies stay----Billie Wayne Coble was sentenced to death in the 1989 killings of his wife’s parents and brother in Axtell.

Triple murderer Billie Wayne Coble is likely headed for the execution chamber at month’s end after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week rejected his request for a stay of execution.

In a 3-page order issued Thursday, Texas’ highest criminal court found that Coble’s application was an abuse of the writ process and declined to halt his scheduled Feb. 28 execution.

Coble, 70, was convicted of capital murder and twice was sentenced to die in the 1989 slayings of his brother-in-law, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, and Vicha’s parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, at their homes in Axtell. He has had several stays of execution over the years.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Coble in October, which paved the way for 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson to set his execution date. Court officials say they expect a similar outcome should Coble file an 11th-hour request for a stay of execution through the federal court system.

Coble refused to leave the courtroom holding cell at a hearing in October at which Johnson set his death date, telling deputies he had a right not to leave his cell.

Upset at the failure of his 3rd marriage, Coble killed the Vichas, tied up four children and kidnapped his estranged wife, Karen Vicha Coble. He drove her to Bosque County, where he said he was going to rape and kill her, but before he could carry out the threat, he had a wreck during a high-speed chase with authorities.

J.R. Vicha, a Waco attorney and former prosecutor who was 11 at the time, was one of the children Coble tied up, along with three of Karen Vicha’s children. Vicha, Bobby Vicha’s son, and other family members have said they have grown impatient waiting almost 30 years for Coble’s execution.

“The Court of Criminal Appeals did the right thing denying the claims and not issuing a stay,” J.R. Vicha said. “These are the same issues that have already been ruled on many times. Hopefully, the federal courts will make the same determination and (Gov.) Greg Abbott will turn down his request for judicial clemency and we can get this done on the 28th.”

Coble spent 17 years on death row before his death sentence was overturned and he was awarded a new punishment trial because of changes in the special issues posed to jurors trying to determine whether the death penalty or a life sentence is more appropriate.

(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)

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

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----41

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----559

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

42---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------560

43---------Mar. 28----------------Patrick Murphy----------561

44---------Apr. 11----------------Mark Robertson----------562

45---------Apr. 24----------------John King---------------563

46---------May 2------------------Dexter Johnson----------564

47---------Sept. 4-----------------Billy Crutsinger----------565

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

USA----countdown to nation's 1500th execution

With the execution of Dominique Ray in Alabama on February 7, the USA has now executed 1,492 condemned individuals since the death penalty was relegalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision. Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of scheduled executions as the nation approaches a terrible milestone of 1500 executions in the modern era.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1493-------Feb. 28------------Billy Coble----------------Texas

1494-------Mar. 28------------Patrick Murphy------------Texas

1495-------Apr. 11------------Mark Robertson------------Texas

1496-------Apr. 24------------John King------------------Texas

1497-------May 2--------------Dexter Johnson------------Texas

1498-------May 16-------------Donnie Johnson-----------Tennessee

1499-------May 29-------------Cleveland Jackson--------Ohio

1500-------July 10--------------Kareem Jackson----------Ohio

1501-------Aug. 14-------------Gregory Lott---------------Ohio

(source: Rick Halperin)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Judge appoints Philadelphia attorney to represent Tharp in death penalty case

In her quest to avoid the death penalty for the starvation death of her 7-year-old daughter, Michelle Tharp will now be represented by a Philadelphia lawyer.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of “Philadelphia lawyer” says the term “dates back to the colonial period, when our legal system was in its infancy and lawyers had to be especially astute.”

Washington County Judge John DiSalle appointed Michael Wiseman of Philadelphia, former member of the federal community defender office, capital habeas corpus unit to handle Tharp’s case.

Taxpayers will be responsible for a $150-per-hour fee to represent Tharp in the death penalty phase that the state Supreme Court ordered5 years ago.

In a conference call Friday afternoon in open court, Wiseman accepted the appointment and hourly fee, but balked at a $7,500 cap.

DiSalle said there are exceptions to the rule regarding the cap.

To give Wiseman the ability to familiarize himself with the case, DiSalle told him and Assistant District Attorney John Friedmann he expects to convene a status conference in May.

Tharp, 50, an inmate at SCI-Muncy, Lycoming County, was not present in Washington County Court Friday.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Tharp’s 1st-degree murder conviction obtained in 2000, but ordered a new penalty phase because it found her public defender was ineffective.

James J. McHugh Jr., first assistant defender in the Defender Association of Philadelphia appealed a ruling last year in which President Judge Katherine B. Emery refused to unilaterally reduce Tharp’s death sentence to life imprisonment and ordered a jury to be empaneled to decide Tharp’s fate.

Tharp’s daughter, Tausha Lanham, lived for 7 years in Burgettstown and weighed less than 12 pounds when she died. Tharp and her boyfriend at the time, Douglas Bittinger, reported her missing April 18, 1998, at a Steubenville mall, but police said they dumped her body along a road in Follansbee, W.Va.

Tharp claimed to have fed Tausha the day before she died. A medical examiner testified the girl had not eaten for several days, suffered from malnutrition and her teeth were worn from grinding, common in juvenile starvation cases.

In argument before the president judge, Tharp’s lawyers pegged their client’s intelligence quotient of 71 on a scale where 100 is considered normal, as well as outlining the abuse and abandonment she had suffered. They said Tharp sought medical attention for the prematurely born Tausha, whose condition mystified doctors.

Bittinger, 46, the father of Tharp’s fourth child, was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and abuse of a corpse. Prosecutors said Bittinger’s crime was failing to prevent Tharp’s abuse of Tausha, and he testified against Tharp at her trial.

Bittinger is no longer listed among Pennsylvania’s prison population and the last entry in a court database was the forwarding of a docket sheet July 9 by Washington County Clerk of Courts Frank Scandale at the request to the state Board of Probation and Parole.

(source: Observer-Reporter)

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

Jury convicts Carlisle man of American Legion murder, death penalty now on the table

After deliberating more than 13 hours Cumberland County jury Friday afternoon convicted Robert “Rocky” Anderson Jr. of 1st-degree murder for a fatal June 2016 shooting inside the Haines-Stackfield American Legion post in Carlisle.

Starting Saturday morning, that same jury will hear arguments on whether Anderson, 41, should receive a death sentence for that crime.

Anderson’s murder conviction came despite defense attorney Heidi Eakin’s argument that Carlisle police didn’t prove Anderson killed Daniel “DJ” Harris.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Metzger argued that Anderson killed Harris during a long-running and violent feud between their families.

The jurors, who looked drawn and tired after weighing Anderson’s guilt or innocence over a three-day span, also convicted him of illegally possessing a firearm and reckless endangerment.

The lead investigators in the case Detective Sergeant Daniel Freedman and Officer Jeffrey Kurtz, contended that Anderson walked into the legion on West Penn Street early on June 11, 2016 and shot Harris 8 times as Harris sat in a booth.

Witnesses were uncooperative, police said. The murder weapon was recovered 3 month after the killing in the trunk of a car driven by a Philadelphia man. That gun had been stolen in Carlisle in 2015 by a cousin and nephew of Anderson, investigators said.

Eakin argued, unsuccessfully, that police focused on Anderson and ignored other possible suspects, including the Philly man.

Anderson smiled as sheriff’s deputies removed his handcuffs before the jury entered the courtroom to render its decision. He did the same after the verdicts were announced.

President Judge Edward E. Guido said the death penalty phase of the trial will commence Saturday morning. That phase, where the jury will determine only whether a death sentence should be applied, will be argued by Metzger and another of Anderson’s attorneys, Michael Palermo.

Metzger will argue regarding aggravating factors in support of executing Anderson. Palermo will argue for mitigating factors against putting his client to death.

(source: pennlive.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Poll: Death penalty less popular in North Carolina----Majority believe capital punishment flawed

A majority of North Carolinians would prefer a replacement for capital punishment, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling.

Attitudes about the death penalty are changing in North Carolina.

According to a poll by Public Policy Polling – the 1st large-scale survey on capital punishment in the state – a majority of residents believe the death penalty is prone to mistakes and should be replaced.

The poll of 501 voters across the state, conducted last week by Public Policy Polling, comes as a capital trial begins in Wake County. It is the 1st comprehensive statewide survey of death penalty views in North Carolina.

Death penalty sentences are becoming rare in North Carolina as juries have sent just one defendant to death row since 2014. Of those polled, 47 % voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 and 45 % for Hillary Clinton.

“I was stunned when I saw these numbers,” said David Weiss, a capital defense attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham. “70 % of people believe an innocent person has likely been executed in North Carolina. Almost 60 % believe that racial bias affects who is sentenced to death in our state. With these kinds of serious concerns about the death penalty, it’s inconceivable that North Carolina could execute anyone or even continue to sentence people to death.”

The poll results revealed:

• 57 % of respondents believe racial bias likely influences who is sentenced to death.

• More than 70 % said defendants should have the right to bring forward evidence of racial discrimination in capital trials and jury selection, the core premise of the Racial Justice Act, which allows defendants to use evidence of racial discrimination in capital cases to earn reduced sentences.

• 70 % believe it is likely that an innocent person has been executed in North Carolina.

• 61 % said they believe the courts should reexamine the death sentences of prisoners who were tried before a series of legal reforms were enacted to protect defendants’ rights and ensure fair trials. More than 3/4 of death row prisoners were sentenced before the reforms.

• When given a choice between the death penalty and a maximum sentence of life without parole, more than 50 % of voters said they favor life without parole, while 44 % favor the death penalty.

No one has been executed in North Carolina since 2006. Since then, 5 death row inmates have been exonerated, more than 2 dozen were removed from death row after the courts found serious errors in their cases, and a statewide study found that black jurors are systematically removed from capital juries, violating defendants’ right to be judged by a fair cross section of the community.

“The capital punishment system has so many problems that the public has lost faith in it,” said Weiss, who is among several attorneys spearheading statewide litigation about racial bias and the lethal injection process. “And after 12 years without executions, North Carolinians have seen that we can maintain public safety without the death penalty.”

A 2018 report revealed that more than3/4 of the state’s 140 death row inmates were sentenced before a series of reforms that are now considered essential to fair trials, including qualified capital defense lawyers, defendants’ access to all evidence in the prosecution’s files and the creation of protocols to prevent false confessions and mistaken identification.

(source: Charlotte Post)

FLORIDA:

Walton County Death Row inmates.

DC Number: 135997

Name: COZZIE, STEVEN A

Race: WHITE

Sex: MALE

Birth Date: 06/26/1989

Initial Receipt Date: 10/18/2013

Current Facility: FLORIDA STATE PRISON

Current Custody: MAXIMUM

Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE

Courtney Wilkes was a bright, happy high schooler in June 2011 when she arrived in Seagrove Beach to spend a week vacationing with her parents, sister and brother.

On June 16, Steven Cozzie, who the Wilkeses had seen hanging around Beachcrest condominium where they were staying, asked Courtney Wilkes to take a walk with him. Seeing the enthusiasm on Courtneyís face, her mother allowed her to go.<

At the secluded Cassine Gardens nature trail nearby, Cozzie turned on Wilkes, throwing his shirt around her neck and choking her. He then dragged her limp body 75 feet into the dry cypress swamp, where he raped her and then beat her to death with a heavy piece of lumber.

A Walton County jury decided on June 20, 2013, Cozzie should die for the murder of Wilkes.

----

DC Number: P29305

Name: DAVIS, BARRY T JR

Race: BLACK

Sex: MALE

Birth Date: 12/29/1985

Initial Receipt Date: 08/31/2015

Current Facility: FLORIDA STATE PRISON

Current Custody: MAXIMUM

Current Release Date: PENDING

Barry Davis never flinched when Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Wells sentenced him to die on Aug. 25, 2015 for the murders of John Gregory Hughes and Hiedi Rhodes.

He even smirked a little at the 40 or so who had come to see the sentencing as he left the courtroom. The crowd included Hughes and Rhodes family members, friends, law enforcement officers and even some of the jurors who had convicted Davis and recommended he be put to death.

Rhodes family members said they were ìvery satisfiedî with the judgeís decision.

"Even though that man is going to lose his life, it's not going to make up for everything he's done," said Cesaire Rhodes, Hiedi's mother. "He's ruined our family, he's ruined Gregís family, he's ruined his own family and it's all going to come to naught. Itís never going to be over for us."

Jurors found Davis guilty of the May 7, 2012, killing of Hughes and Rhodes on May 18 following a 3 week trial.

Prosecutor Bobby Elmore, who had no bodies with which to try his case for murder, relied on bank account records, cellphone records and lack of contact with friends and family to argue the fact that the very social Hughes and Rhodes had not simply run off. His case was bolstered by the sometimes spotty testimony of Tiffani Steward, Davisí girlfriend and the only witness to the killings.

After lying on a couple of occasions, Steward admitted she had returned from a trip to the store with Rhodes to find Hughes beaten and unconscious. She would testify in court that she saw Davis attack Rhodes and strangle her, then watched as he tied both Hughesí and Rhodesí hands and submerged their heads in a bathtub full of water.

At the death penalty phase of the trial, the 7 women and 5 men of the jury recommended by a 9-3 vote that Davis die.

----

DC Number: 324342

Name: GUARDADO, JESSE

Race: WHITE

Sex: MALE

Birth Date: 06/05/1962

Initial Receipt Date: 02/15/1991

Current Facility: UNION C.I.

Current Custody: MAXIMUM

Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE

From the Supreme Court of Florida:

Jesse Guardado was indicted on charges of murder in the first degree and robbery with a weapon based on events occurring on or about September 13, 2004, in Walton County, Florida.

Guardado had known the victim of the present crimes, 75-year-old Jackie Malone, since 2003, and had rented places to live from her. Guardado had been a guest in her home, including a few overnight stays when he was between rentals. He received assistance from Ms. Malone on numerous occasions including financial assistance, and she had assisted him in getting the job with the local water treatment plant which he held at the time of the crime. Guardado knew certain things about Ms. Malone, including the fact that she kept some money on hand in her wallet.

On the day in question, September 13, 2004, Guardado wanted to get high and continue his recent crack cocaine binge. Desperate for money to fix his truck and obtain drugs, Guardado decided to rob a local grocery store. His attempted robbery with a knife was thwarted by one of the employees. Still desperate for money, Guardado decided to rob and murder Ms. Malone that night because she lived in a secluded area and because she would open her home to him based on their prior trusting relationship.

Guardado arranged to drive his girlfriend’s vehicle to work for the night shift. He generally maintained a change of clothes in his girlfriend’s car because of the nature of his work at the treatment plant. On this occasion he made sure there were clothes in the car because a hurricane was due to make landfall in a few days. In addition to leaving clothes in the car, Guardado armed himself with a metal "breaker bar."

----

DC Number: D40377

Name: MCCOY, THOMAS F

Race: WHITE

Sex: MALE

Birth Date: 09/01/1966

Initial Receipt Date: 11/19/2010

Current Facility: OUT OF DEPT. CUSTODY BY COURT ORDER

Current Custody: MAXIMUM

Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE

On April 10, 2009, Thomas Ford McCoy, bitter that he could not get his job back at the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Valparaiso, called in a report of a malfunctioning vending machine at Northwest Florida State College's Chautauqua Center in DeFuniak Springs. When repairman Curtis Brown arrived to fix the machine, he was gunned down by McCoy, who then went on the run and was arrested more than a week later in Tampa after a shootout with police at a hotel.

McCoy pleaded guilty to premeditated murder. He was sentenced to death.

"The human life at stake was considered in this decision, but based on the cruel, calculated manner of the premeditated murder of Curtis Brown, the defendant is sentenced to death," Walton County Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Wells said.

----

DC Number: 220267

Name: SUGGS, ERNEST D

Race: WHITE

Sex: MALE

Birth Date: 08/08/1955

Initial Receipt Date: 07/15/1992

Current Facility: UNION C.I.

Current Custody: MAXIMUM

Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE

Ernest Suggs was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Pauline Casey.

Pauline Casey worked at the Teddy Bear Bar in Walton County. On 08/06/90, the bar was found unlocked and cash was missing. Furthermore, Caseyís purse, keys, and car were found at the bar, but the victim was not.

Ray Hamilton, a neighbor of Casey's, reported to police that Casey and a customer, who he did not recognize, were playing pool when he left. The police were put on alert looking for the man and the manís car that matched Hamilton's description.

Ernest Suggs was pulled over based on the description of the car. Suggs permitted police to search his home and car. They found $170 in small bills, hand and fingerprints belonging to Casey in Suggs' car, and blood that matched the victimís blood on a shirt belonging to Suggs.

In the bay behind Suggsí residence, the police also found a key to the bar and a beer mug similar to the beer mugs at the Teddy Bear Bar. The police matched Suggsí tire tracks from his automobile to tracks found on a local dirt road. In a search of this area, police found Caseyís body a short distance from the road on which the tire tracks were found. She was stabbed twice in the neck and once in the back. Suggs was arrested after the discovery of Casey's body. Ernest Suggs asserted that he had been framed for the murder of Casey.

----

DC Number: 936283

Name: WHITTON, GARY R

Race: WHITE

Sex: MALE

Birth Date: 02/04/1959

Initial Receipt Date: 09/10/1992

Current Facility: UNION C.I.

Current Custody: MAXIMUM

Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE

Gary Whitton met his victim, James Mauldin, through an alcohol treatment program in Pensacola. After they were released they would sometimes bump into one another at AA meetings.

On Oct. 7, 1990 Mauldin spent the night at Whitton’s home after drinking. The next day they drove to a Destin bank so Mauldin withdraw money, but he needed his passbook, which he didn’t have. They returned the next day and Whitton helped Mauldin fill out a form to close his account and collect the money, as Mauldin was too druink to do it himself.

They checked into a hotel. A clerk noticed discrepancies in the information. The clerk also noticed Whitton’s car arriving at the hotel later that night, then leaving. The next day, Mauldin’s body was found.

He had numerous injuries, including a fractured skull and stab wounds to the shoulder, neck, cheek, scalp, back and heart.

Police were alerted to Whitton by the hotel clerk. While he was being questioned, lawmen searched his home and found incriminating evidence like bloody boots that matched Mauldin’t blood type. Bloodstains were also found in Whitton’s car.

2 inmates testified at Whitton’s trial that he confessed to killing Mauldin for his money and was afraid the other man would testify against him if he was arrested and put on trial.

(source: Northwest Florida Daily News)

NEVADA:

Nevada lawmakers introduce bill to end death penalty

Nevada lawmakers introduced legislation Friday that would abolish the death penalty in the state.

20 states have abolished or overturned the death penalty, while Colorado, Pennsylvania and Oregon have a gubernatorial moratorium on capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Where the death penalty has been abolished or overturned:

Alaska

Connecticut

Delaware

Hawaii

Illinois

Iowa

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Dakota

Rhode Island

Vermont

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Brothers Charged With Murder, Possibly Face Death Penalty in Killing of Missing Teen Aranda Briones: DA

An arraignment for two brothers accused of killing a missing Moreno Valley teenager was postponed on Friday.

Owen Skyler Shover, 18, and Gary Anthony Shover, 21, have been charged with murder in the slaying of 16-year-old Aranda Briones, whose body still has not been found, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said.

The two young men allegedly "killed the victim while lying in wait," according to the charging document.

The special circumstance allegation makes the defendants eligible for the death penalty, although a decision whether to seek a death sentence will be decided later by DA Mike Hestrin, prosecutors said.

Their arraignments have been continued to March 1.

Owen Shover was apparently the last person to see Briones before she disappeared on Jan. 13, according to authorities. Shover told police he dropped her off at a park in Moreno Valley that evening and saw her get into another vehicle before he left.

However, after reviewing surveillance cameras in the area, investigators were unable to find any video corroborating the 18-year-old's account, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's officials said there is evidence indicating Briones was killed.

The brothers were interviewed numerous times before being arrested at their home in Hesperia on Monday night, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Both are being held without bail, inmate records showed.

Authorities are still searching for the missing teen's body, and anyone with information is encouraged to call Riverside County Central Homicide Investigator Dickey at 951-955-2777 or Moreno Valley police Investigator Drexler at 951-486-6700.

(source: KTLA news)

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He’s on California’s Death Row, But Demetrius Howard Never Killed Anyone

A February 4, 2019 article in the criminal justice newsletter, The Appeal, features the case of Demetrius Howard, a California prisoner sentenced to death for a crime in which he didn’t kill anyone. Howard was sentenced to death in 1995 for his participation in a robbery in which another man, Mitchell Funches, shot and killed Sherry Collins. Howard was never accused of firing a shot and he has consistently maintained that he neither expected nor intended that anyone would be killed. But under California’s felony murder law, he was eligible for the death penalty because he participated in the robbery. In a letter to The Appeal, Howard wrote, “I am no saint or some angel. I’ve made my share of wrongs, but I haven’t killed no one [or] told anyone to kill someone.”

California is one of 20 states that allow the execution of defendants who neither killed nor intended that a killing take place. The controversial practice has attracted the most attention in the state of Texas, where at least six prisoners have been executed despite undisputed evidence that they were not involved in the killing itself. In Howard’s case, the man who actually shot Collins, Mitchell Funches, received a sentence of life without parole when the jury in his trial could not reach a unanimous decision on whether to sentence him to life or death. In 2018, California passed a law that narrowed the scope of the felony murder law, making defendants liable for murder only if they were the killer, solicited the killer, or acted with reckless indifference to human life. The change is retroactive, but does not apply to Howard because the jury found that he had “acted with reckless indifference to human life” before it sentenced him to death.

Howard’s death sentence is also a by-product of outlier death-penalty practices in San Bernardino County. San Bernardino is 1 of 5 Southern California counties that imposed more death sentences between 2010 and 2015 than 99.5% of U.S. counties, earning the region the nickname “the new death belt.” In 1993, shortly before Howard was sentenced to death, there were 10 active capital trials in the county, and then-District Attorney Dennis Kottmeier said he was considering seeking it in 2 other cases. At the time, Kottmeier told the San Bernardino County Sun, “That’s higher than I’ve ever seen it. At any given time in the past the number pending seemed to be about 6.” He attributed the high number of capital cases to a high rate of violent crime, as well as state laws passed in 1990 and 1993 that expanded the list of death-eligible crimes. The California Attorney General’s 2017 report, Homicide in California, shows that despite its disproportionate pursuit of capital punishment, San Bernardino’s higher-than-average murder rate has remained the same from 1997 to 2017, while murder rates have declined statewide and in many of California counties during that period.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

WASHINGTON:

Washington Senate passes death penalty repeal bill

The Washington Senate on Friday approved a measure that would repeal the death penalty, just months after the state’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down capital punishment as arbitrary and racially biased.

The measure passed on a 28-19 vote, and would make that court ruling permanent by removing capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder and mandating instead a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. The bill now heads to the House for consideration, and Gov. Jay Inslee has said he will sign it if it makes it to his desk.

Execution was already extremely rare in Washington, and a governor-imposed moratorium has blocked its use since 2014. But the court’s October ruling eliminated it entirely, converting the sentences for the state’s 8 death row inmates to life in prison without release.

The court did not rule out the possibility that the Legislature could come up with another manner of imposing death sentences that would be constitutional, which led Attorney General Bob Ferguson to request legislation to change state law.

Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, the bill’s sponsor, said that the governor and court had already taken a position on the death penalty and that it was time for the Legislature to do the same.

“It is time to close the chapter on this particular policy in a way that is respectful of the judicial process that has embarked for so many years and it’s also respectful of the civil dialogue that the American people have embraced,” he said.

With last year’s court ruling, the death penalty has been overturned or abolished in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and several states are considering measures this year. An additional 3 states — Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania — currently have moratoriums.

The concerns cited in those states have ranged from procedural matters, such as the information provided to sentencing jurors in New York, to worries about executing an innocent person or racial and other disparities in who is sentenced to death, as was the case in Washington. A statistical analysis by University of Washington sociologists showed that although prosecutors were not more likely to seek the execution of black defendants, juries were about 4 times more likely to sentence black defendants to death.

Senators opposed to the measure argued that the death penalty should be retained for the most heinous cases, and as a tool for prosecutors to use to gain information about other victims.

“As a society, if we value innocent human life, we need to preserve the ultimate message to those who have taken it or might take it,” said Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban of University Place.

There have been 78 inmates, all men, put to death in Washington state since 1904. The most recent execution in the state came in 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown died by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman. (source: Seattle Times)

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

State Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional----None of Washington’s death row inmates are from Clark County. The last Clark County inmate to be executed was child killer Westley Allan Dodd, who was hanged on Jan. 5, 1993.

The state Senate on Friday approved a measure that would repeal the death penalty, just months after the state’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down capital punishment as arbitrary and racially biased.

The measure passed on a 28-19 vote, and would make that court ruling permanent by removing capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder and mandating instead a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. The bill now heads to the House for consideration, and Gov. Jay Inslee has said he will sign it if it makes it to his desk.

Execution was already extremely rare in Washington, and a governor-imposed moratorium has blocked its use since 2014. But the court’s October ruling eliminated it entirely, converting the sentences for the state’s eight death row inmates to life in prison without release.

The court did not rule out the possibility that the Legislature could come up with another manner of imposing death sentences that would be constitutional, which led Attorney General Bob Ferguson to request legislation to change state law.

Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle, the bill’s sponsor, said that the governor and court had already taken a position on the death penalty and that it was time for the Legislature to do the same.

“It is time to close the chapter on this particular policy in a way that is respectful of the judicial process that has embarked for so many years and it’s also respectful of the civil dialogue that the American people have embraced,” he said.

With last year’s court ruling, the death penalty has been overturned or abolished in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and several states are considering measures this year. An additional three states — Oregon, Colorado and Pennsylvania — currently have moratoriums.

The concerns cited in those states have ranged from procedural matters, such as the information provided to sentencing jurors in New York, to worries about executing an innocent person or racial and other disparities in who is sentenced to death, as was the case in Washington. A statistical analysis by University of Washington sociologists showed that although prosecutors were not more likely to seek the execution of black defendants, juries were about four times more likely to sentence black defendants to death.

Senators opposed to the measure argued that the death penalty should be retained for the most heinous cases, and as a tool for prosecutors to use to gain information about other victims.

“As a society, if we value innocent human life, we need to preserve the ultimate message to those who have taken it or might take it,” said Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban of University Place.

There have been 78 inmates, all men, put to death in Washington since 1904. The most recent execution in the state came in 2010, when Cal Coburn Brown died by lethal injection for the 1991 murder of a Seattle-area woman.

(source: The Columbian)

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

WA’s death penalty may be unconstitutional, but it’s not dead — yet----Capital punishment has been struck down before, but has always returned. This time could be different.

Back in October, Washington state made international headlines when the state Supreme Court declared the state’s application of the death penalty was unconstitutional. Everyone from The New York Times to the BBC said the death penalty was effectively over in Washington state, which would make it the 20th state to abolish it.

Yet the Washington state Legislature is in the midst of considering new legislation intended to eliminate the death penalty. On Friday, state senators passed Senate Bill 5339 by a 28-19 vote. The bill will head to the House next. Gov. Jay Inslee has already indicated he will sign the bill when and if it makes it to his desk.

But given the state Supreme Court’s decision, one might wonder why additional legislation is even necessary.

In January, at the request of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, introduced legislation that would remove the death penalty statute entirely. This is the third time Ferguson has proposed such legislation. The proposed bill specifies a particular punishment for aggravated first degree murder: life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole.

Ferguson and other advocates of doing away with government-sponsored executions say new legislation is required because the state Supreme Court never ruled that the death penalty was inherently unconstitutional. It instead found that the way the death penalty was applied in the state was unconstitutional. Specifically, judges concluded it was “imposed in an arbitrary and racially based manner.”

Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst added, however: “We leave open the possibility that the Legislature may enact a ‘carefully drafted’ statute to impose capital punishment in this state, but it cannot create a system that offends constitutional rights.”

Joe Sprague is executive director of the Washington State Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in the state, which advocates for the “sanctity of human life.” He acknowledges that what the state Supreme Court did “was very powerful and nothing should take away from their action.” But, he says, “the underlying law that was found to be unconstitutional is still there.”

Sprague says he and many of the other approximately 800,000 Catholics in the state don’t want to leave open the possibility that the death penalty law could be amended somehow to conform to the court’s demands.

Hugh Spitzer, a law professor at the University of Washington, says although it’s difficult to imagine how the death penalty could be applied in a racially unbiased way in today’s world, “the court’s decision was not absolute.”

“They probably just want to clean things up and put the nail in the coffin, so to speak,” Spitzer says.

If the state leaves the law on the books, there is a chance that those who believe in the death penalty could put an initiative on the ballot in an attempt to revive executions in the state. Or the practice could be revived through legislation, as was stated in the court’s decision.

A bill attempting to do just that had been introduced by Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley. That bill specifies that a prisoner charged with aggravated first-degree murder could be sentenced to the death penalty. The bill is named after Jayme Biendl, a prison guard at the Monroe Correctional Complex, who was strangled in 2011 by an inmate serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release or parole. The bill, however, is no longer under consideration.

There is at least 1 other way the death penalty could come back to life.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg calls statutes that stay on the books after they’ve been found unconstitutional “Zombie Laws.” In a letter to the Senate earlier this month, Satterberg cited the example of state statutes that ban abortions, which still exist in 10 states, despite Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

So-called Zombie Laws, Statterberg notes, “could come back to life in the event that a later court reverses itself and finds the law constitutional.”

Significantly, advocates point out that this is the fourth time the court has found Washington’s death penalty law unconstitutional. Each time, the Legislature has revived the death penalty by attempting to address its problems.

The court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972 in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found it was arbitrarily imposed, in 1979 after an initiative had reinstated the death penalty, and again in 1981, when the court pointed out defendants could escape the punishment simply by pleading guilty, violating “a defendant’s constitutional rights to plead not guilty and demand a jury trial.”

Death-penalty opponents say now is the time to vote for a “clean repeal” and end the “unproductive cycle.”

The study that killed the death penalty in Washington

Washington state Supreme Court rules death penalty is "arbitrary" and "racially biased." An initiative should restore the death penalty — no exceptions allowed — for those who murder children in particularly cruel manner.

In addition to the Supreme Court’s actions, public support for the death penalty in Washington state has typically been weak. The last execution in Washington state was carried out in 2010. A lethal injection was used to kill Cal Coburn Brown for the 1991 murder of a Seattle woman. Four years later, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on capital punishment.

Last year, the Northwest Progressive Institute unveiled a poll that showed a majority of Washingtonians would rather send convicted murderers to prison for life than execute them. In the survey, 69 % of respondents surveyed said they preferred 1 of 3 life-in-prison alternatives to just 24 % who said they preferred the death penalty. 8 % said they were not sure.

"Washingtonians don’t need to be convinced that replacing the death penalty with life-in-prison alternatives makes sense,” said Andrew Villeneuve, executive director of Northwest Progressive Institute. “It’s what they already believe."

Villeneuve also argues that getting rid of unenforceable laws is a habit legislators should embrace.

Although the path to abolishing the death penalty in Washington state might seem clumsy to some, other states have followed the same pattern. North Dakota and Rhode Island both passed legislation to repeal the death penalty after a court declared it unconstitutional.

“Now that the law is unenforceable, it serves no purpose other than to confuse Washingtonians about the state of the law,” Ferguson said. “Removing unconstitutional laws from the books shows proper respect for the judiciary and the rule of law. Letting unenforceable laws linger, especially on matters of such importance, will only serve to confuse the public.”

“I’m hopeful and optimistic that they'll be able to move it forward,” Sen. Carlyle says of the bill. “It is absolutely essential that we close this chapter.”

(source: crosscut.com)

USA:

Barbaric and Excessive: 2 Books on Punishment in the United States

ON OCTOBER 11, 2018, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the state’s use of the death penalty due to overwhelming evidence of racial bias. Key players, including the state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee, praised this move as a distinction of humaneness. Ferguson went so far as to assure us, “We should act quickly to remove the death penalty from state law once and for all. Next session, I will again propose legislation repealing the death penalty, replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

Washington is now the 20th state to overturn the death penalty, a trend no doubt tied to the difficulty of obtaining pharmaceuticals necessary for lethal injection. Whether it’s pharmaceutical companies’ noncompliance or the awakened humanity of the courts, the death penalty is increasingly unpopular today. This, however, does not mean that the United States’s penchant for severe punishment is any less strong or in force right now.

Bob Ferguson’s proclamation for a reformed criminal justice system, where life in prison without parole replaces the death penalty, only proves how far the imagination will stretch for some. 1 in 7 people in prison today are serving a life sentence, which is a total of more than 200,000. Some of these prisoners are from the 3 strikes law that nailed many nonviolent drug offenders. In any other developed nation, this would be considered inhumane and absurd. 2 new books echo this sentiment. Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis, authors of The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences, and Alisa Roth, author of Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, argue that the US criminal justice system metes out excessive punishment at the expense of public safety and the humanity of those caught within its web. The Meaning of Life focuses on the problem of life sentences bloating the prison system and violating human rights, while Insane addresses mental illness and why jails and prisons have become the de facto institution for those suffering from severe mental illness. Both books expose grave injustices in a broken system and advance the discussion by adding new insights addressing reform, not just for nonviolent drug offenders, but for all prisoners.

Mauer — executive director of The Sentencing Project — and his co-author Nellis — a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project —would reject Bob Ferguson’s quick response to replace the death penalty with life without parole in Washington state. They cite racism as a prevailing factor in how we punish, which will not simply go away when we exchange one severe punishment for another. According to Mauer and Ellis, two-thirds of the 200,000 prisoners serving life sentences are people of color. Public perceptions — not always based in reality — are well known to influence political platforms that determine policy, which has historically resulted in the 1973 Rockefeller drug laws and Bill Clinton’s 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that mandated life sentences after “three strikes,” overwhelmingly tipping the scale toward locking up young black men and women. Mauer and Ellis find that “whites hold more punitive beliefs than other racial groups. To the extent that whites view certain crimes as ‘black crimes,’ their support for harsh punishment increases.” Whites also overestimate the proportion of crime committed by people of color up to 20 to 30 percent. As a result of this biased overestimation and an overzealous commitment to punishment, demands for public safety are entrenched in retributive, vengeful gains over restorative, forgiving measures that may have better overall outcomes for society.

Mauer and Nellis’s central argument, based on research and case studies, rests on the overuse and excessiveness of the life sentence, which they claim is racially targeted and does not result in public safety returns. Their conclusion follows the logic that if the overall goal of the prison system is to prevent crime and to rehabilitate prisoners then the widespread use of life sentencing is a step away from this goal. Some of Mauer and Nellis’s most compelling evidence comes from their research on the diminishing returns of life sentencing. They find that prisoners age out of crime, noting that prisoners are “much less of a public safety risk at the age of forty than they were at twenty.” This decrease even holds for “individuals who are frequent offenders.” The peak age for robbery is 19 and the peak age for murder is 20, with these rates more than halved by the time an individual reaches their early 30s. One explanation for this is maturity. People grow up and develop responsibilities that can change the course of their lives. Another explanation, unsurprisingly, is stable employment. With this information, we can assume that prisoners doing over 20 years for crimes they are not likely to ever commit again is a waste of resources and a waste of a life.

Another important takeaway from Mauer and Nellis’s book is that there are more effective methods for deterring crime than long-term imprisonment. So why not implement these other methods? For one, cultural attitudes toward punishment need to move beyond a racial mythos that supports more severe consequences for black and Latinx people. Attitudes shift policy. According to Mauer and Ellis “significant policy change” has occurred at the state level since 2000 because of outside pressure to reform. They note, “twenty-nine states have enacted some type of reform to their mandatory sentencing policies, and 10 states have reduced their prison population by at least 15 percent.” These gains may not be enough to overhaul a system premised on social control, but they are indeed a sign that punishment in the 21st century is under scrutiny.

Mauer and Ellis ask in earnest, “At what point does punishment become barbaric?” This question is the premise for Alisa Roth’s findings in Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, an engrossing, unsettling account of how the US criminal justice system deals with mental illness. Her book is the culmination of meticulous research into the trenches of the criminal justice system, where those most in need of mental health services are also those most likely to end up incarcerated in jails and prisons. Most poignant and telling of the criminal justice system’s failures to mitigate mental illness are the several profiles that Roth includes of people caught within the harmful cycle of the system. Take Bryan Sanderson, a former firefighter, who suffers from manic depression and psychosis, which led him to make impromptu road trips across the country with little to no money. His illness cost him his home, his wife, and his mind. His first arrest over a misdemeanor for streaking in an elevator and ostensibly resisting his arrest spiraled into an unmitigated horror that has ended in his self-inflicted blindness. As Roth documents, Sanderson’s level of delusion and disorientation only escalated during his first interaction with the police, which led to countless other interactions with the criminal justice system. Roth writes about Sanderson’s first arrest:

When the deputies handcuffed him, he got terrified and angry. He tried to fight back, which made him seem unruly and dangerous. […] In both cases the offensive took his behavior as reason enough to treat him more harshly, treatment that in turn aggravated his response. […] For a person with symptoms of mental illness, it can be nearly impossible to obey the rules. To corrections officers trying to maintain order, though, that may come across as insubordination, not a response to fear or confusion: as the officers escalate their own response, the prisoner is simply less likely to do what he is told.

This scenario is familiar and the backstory to many police shootings.

To be mentally ill and without access to meaningful and consistent services for help — lacking in this nation — overwhelmingly means you will wind up in jail or dead, which was the case for 18-year-old Keith Vidal: shot dead by the police when all his mother wanted was for the police to help calm down her erratic and scared son. Most often when police come into contact with someone suffering bouts of psychosis, the situation gets worse, as Roth demonstrates with ample evidence. Edgar Coleman, a Minneapolis resident who once had a future as an NFL player and a career as a teacher, is one example among many. He was arrested 200 times between 1996 and 2012 and was often picked up for “marginal offenses.” Rather than helping, his stints of incarceration have made his “illness much worse.”

We as a society must develop alternatives that prevent the interaction between police and a severely mentally ill person that often leads to their imprisonment. This vicious cycle of incarceration and even death has everything to do with society’s disdain for and neglect of those with severe mental illness. With regards to the number of mentally ill people on death row, Roth concludes that this is “visceral proof of our ambivalence, or worse, our antipathy toward people with severe mental illness […] and it speaks to our culture’s collective fear we have of people with mental illness: they will somehow attack us personally.”

Rather than develop more effective and sustainable methods of treating the severely mentally ill, we have fallen toward severity and even barbarity. Roth writes extensively about her time observing mental health units in the Los Angeles County Jail, which has become a de facto psych ward with 25 % of male prisoners needing mental health care and 40 percent of female prisoners. Roth rightly notes that “[j]ails and prisons are dehumanizing places.” This, after all her finely attuned research, seems an understatement.

Roth attempts to uncover a bit of hope, though, in an otherwise bleak system where effective mental health services are circumvented by the conditions of incarceration that lead to more violence, harmful conditions of solitary confinement, and overmedication. She writes about High Observation Units in jails that specifically separate and house prisoners dealing with severe mental illness, community mental health centers that try to intercept jail time, and diversion courts, which all attempt to recognize the challenges and differences posed by mental illness. This still is not enough to sustain the blow caused by a bloated, powerful, and violent prison system.

Roth, Mauer, and Ellis expose the excessive nature of punishment in the criminal justice system and how this cripples the most vulnerable in the United States. Even more significant, these books open a dialogue for including violent offenders in prison reform efforts. After all, it’s violent offenders who are languishing in prison for life. It’s violent offenders who are wiping feces on the walls in prisons, rejecting their meds, and are being locked up in solitary because of an untreated mental illness. This is an uncomfortable truth that prison reformers must account for in their attempts to improve a broken system where, more likely than not, a person is locked up for a violent offense. There will be no effective prison reform unless we confront and challenge a system that locks up violent offenders for far too long at an unseemly rate.

Notably, the current administration under Trump pushed for sentencing reform with the First Step Act, which reduces mandatory minimums and lowers sentencing (to 25 years) for nonviolent 3 strike offenders in federal prisons, a direct yet feeble backhand at former president Bill Clinton. This “first step” still does not address the issues at the core of Mauer, Ellis, and Roth’s pleas for reform, never mind the other harmful surveillance “reforms” the act proposes.

The prisoner accounts that Mauer, Ellis, and Roth tell lay bare the consequences of a system that illogically sees value and futurity in locking up generations of people for life. Both books propose compelling policy and alternatives to prison, and both move an important discourse on prison reform forward in a time when both sides of the political aisle are poised to act. Mauer and Ellis’s proposal for a 20-year sentence cap, thoroughly outlined and argued, and Roth’s impassioned plea to find new ways of treating people with mental illness do not fall on deaf ears as much as they remain suspended in an echo chamber. A system premised on the social control of poor people will not simply get better for those it targets, as time has proven.

But these books do add to a discourse of prison reform that we should not be ready to forfeit. As they demonstrate, for those of us who want meaningful change, it’s a matter of not capitulating to tired narratives that barter nonviolent offenses for a sliver of humanity in an inhumane system. For AG Bob Ferguson, a greater good might be “prison for life without the possibility of parole” over capital punishment, but this will continue to sink us further into the hell that we have made of prison. The perspective that capital punishment is inhumane whereas 200,000 prisoners in for life is a viable improvement is just as absurd as believing prison provides adequate mental health services. If anything, these books at least stridently remind us that change won’t come until we see all prisoners as humans.

(source: Sabrina Alli is a writer, activist, and educator living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been published in The New Inquiry and Guernica----lareviewofbooks.org)

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Trump hails China’s use of death penalty for drug dealers

President Donald Trump on Friday praised China’s use of capital punishment for drug dealers, suggesting that the United States would deal better with narcotics trafficking if it put offenders to death.

In China, drug dealers get “a thing called the death penalty. Our criminal drug dealer gets a thing called ‘how about a fine?'” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“So if we want to get smart, we can get smart. You can end the drug problem. You can end it a lot faster than you think.”

It is not the first time that Trump has advocated capital punishment for drug related crimes.

Last March, he suggested the United States could bring in the death penalty for drug dealers.

Officials indicated there would be no attempt to change the law to make the death penalty mandatory for trafficking alone, a move that would could well run afoul of Supreme Court rulings on proportional punishment.

In those rulings, the high court suggested that nothing other than murder can be considered a capital offense.

(source: journalducameroun.com)

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DeWitt Chili's double homicide suspect now eligible for the death penalty----Prosecutors pursuing death penalty for DeWitt Chili's homicide suspect

The man accused of shooting and killing 2 inside a DeWitt Chili's back in September is now facing the death penalty after being charged in federal court on Friday.

William Wood Jr is accused of fatally shooting 2 employees inside the restaurant over what police say was a robbery.

Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says Wood meant to shoot others inside the restaurant, but his gun appeared to have jammed.

He has been charged federally with interference with commerce by robbery, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and murder.

Wood was already facing life in prison without parole if convicted.

The federal indictment brings him one step closer to possibly being sentenced with the death penalty.

The death penalty is not allowed in New York State and can not be set as a sentence by county or state judges, which is why federal prosecutors would be involved.

The U.S. Attorney's Office now decides if they want to pursue the death penalty.

If the U.S. Attorney's Office approves it, the case would go forward for review.

The death penalty was last considered in New York in the case of David Renz in 2013, who was convicted of murdering a Liverpool school librarian and raping a 10-year-old girl after abducting them in the parking lot of Great Northern Mall.

4 others have been charged for their involvement in the crime.

(source: WSYR TV news)

ZIMBABWE:

Granny killer sentenced to death

A BEITBRIDGE man, who waylaid a 65-year-old flea market trader in the driveway of her house in the border town before fatally stabbing the woman and robbing her of 2 cellphones, was yesterday sentenced to death by hanging.

Maxwell Chadiwa (25) of Dulivhadzimu suburb pounced on Ms Muchaziva Gonorashe while she was about to leave her house in Dulivhadzimu suburb for Musina, South Africa, in the early hours and stabbed her with an okapi knife.

He was arrested after police tracked the victim’s stolen mobile phone to another person who subsequently led detectives to the accused person.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva convicted Chadiwa of murder with actual intent.

In his judgment, Justice Takuva ruled that the murder was committed in aggravating circumstances.

“It is clear that the accused person acted with an actual intent. Looking at the depth of the wound it is evident that excessive force was used. We are satisfied that the murder was committed in aggravating circumstances,” said the judge.

Justice Takuva said the courts have a duty to protect the sanctity of human life.

“Serious crimes call for the courts to be retributive in passing sentences as opposed to taking a rehabilitative approach. Lenience in such circumstances would not reflect the core principles of sentencing as the courts have a duty to uphold the sanctity of human life,” he said.

In passing a sentence, Justice Takuva said Chadiwa’s conduct was motivated by greed.

“What is aggravating is that you stabbed an innocent and helpless 65 year-old woman who intended to go to South Africa to buy wares for resale back home.

“If such an old woman can wake up in the early hours to work what would prevent you, a 24-year-old person, from doing that? Instead you chose to waylay the woman and rob her of her cellphones after refusing to disclose where she kept her money. It shows you are a cruel and wicked person who allowed greed to overpower you,” he said.

Justice Takuva said those who disregard other people’s lives deserve to be permanently removed from society.

“The court is in agreement with the State that death is the most appropriate sentence for you. We would have betrayed society if we are swayed into passing a sentence other than a death penalty. Those who don’t respect other people’s lives should also have their lives terminated and the sentence of this court is that you be returned to custody and that the sentence of death executed upon you according to the law,” ruled the judge.

On being asked why a death penalty should not be imposed on him, Chadiwa who appeared unfazed said: “There is nothing that I can say since I have already been convicted of a charge of murder, which I did not commit. However, I wish to tell this court that it is only God who knows that I am being sacrificed for the sins that I did not commit because my hands are not dripping with blood.”

Justice Takuva reminded Chadiwa of his automatic right of appeal against both conviction and sentence at the Supreme Court. Prosecuting, Mr Nqobizitha Ndlovu said on January 11 this year, the deceased woke up at around 3.30AM intending to travel to South Africa for shopping using her car, a Toyota Aphard.

She drove out of the yard, left the engine running and went back to close the gate.

“The deceased, who intended to go to Musina drove her car out of the yard and stopped at the driveway to close the gate behind her when the accused person, who was armed with a knife, pounced on her,” said Mr Ndlovu. Chadiwa pulled out an Okapi knife and stabbed Ms Gonorashe on the left collarbone and she collapsed and died. Chadiwa went to the car, searched it and took a handbag containing 2 cellphones, a Samsung Galaxy S4 and a Blackberry. He emptied the bag before he threw it away. The woman’s body was discovered by 2 other tenants who heard dogs barking in the yard.

They reported the matter to the police who recovered an empty handbag and a blood stained knife near the woman’s body. The body was later taken to Beitbridge District Hospital mortuary. Shortly after committing the murder, Chadiwa sold the woman’s cellphone to another resident.

The cellphone was tracked and it was recovered from a person who had bought it and he led detectives to Chadiwa’s place leading to his arrest.

Chadiwa, in his defence, through his lawyer, Mr Arnold Ncube of R Ndlovu and Company, said he bought the cellphones from a suspected border jumper who was desperately in need of money to pay people to assist him illegally cross the border to South Africa.

(source: chronicle.co.zw)

BOTSWANA:

4 CONVICTED MURDERERS TO HANG

The Court of Appeal on 8 February 2019 confirmed the death sentences of four men convicted of killing a cab driver in Gaborone and a Gantsi farm owner respectively.

The killers, Matshidiso Tshidi Boikanyo and Moabi Seabelo Mabiletsa were convicted in 2017 for the brutal murder of cab driver, Vincent Mopipi, stabbing him 44 times with a knife.

Tshiamo Kgalalelo and Mmika Mpe, the former Gantsi farm workers, were also convicted in 2017 for brutally killing and burning their employer, Reinette Vorster.

Kgalalelo, 33, and Mpe, 29, were convicted of attacking their employer stealing her Toyota Hilux valued at P300, 000, 2 cellphones and cash amounting to P11, 000.

(source: Hands off Cain is an international league of citizens and parliamentarians for the abolition of the death penalty in the world. It is a non-profit, non-violent, transnational and trans-national Partito Radicale founded in Brussels in 1993 and recognized in 2005 by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a development co-operation NGO)

PAKISTAN:

PHC sets aside death sentence to woman, uncle in murder case

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has set aside death sentence awarded to a woman and her uncle in a murder case of her husband about 4 years ago.

A division bench comprising Justice Ghazanfar Khan and Justice Arshad Ali allowed the appeals of the convicts Palwasha and her uncle Ghazi Akbar. The bench observed that it was not a valid ground for the trial court to award capital punishment mere on the assumption that the accused Ghazi Akbar remained till last time with the deceased Gulab Sher.

Sahibzada Asadullah, counsel for the convicts, submitted before the bench that on October 10, 2014, Izzat Sher had charged his sister-in-law Palwasha and her uncle Ghazi Akbar at Khwazakhela Police Station in Swat district with the murder of his brother Gulab Sher.

In the first information report, the lawyer argued, the complainant claimed that his sister-in-law and her uncle had axed his brother to death for some gains and the trial court then awarded them the death sentence.

He submitted that the relationship between the convicts was so close, which cannot be blamed for killing the man for having some relations as mentioned by the complainant in the report. The lawyer told the bench that the police did not properly investigate the case. However, counsel for the complainant and state lawyer failed to clarify the questions and legal points raised by the lawyer of the convicts during arguments.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

SRI LANKA:

Sri Lanka Seeks Executioner With ‘Excellent Moral Character’

Sri Lanka, intent on reviving the death penalty after a 42-year moratorium, first has to find a hangman.

To that end, the government has placed advertisements in local newspapers, seeking male candidates between 18 and 45 years old with “excellent moral character” and “a very good mind and mental strength.”

The recently intensified search comes as President Maithripala Sirisena has vowed to re-establish hangings for drug traffickers as part of a broader antidrug push. Mr. Sirisena, who is seeking re-election this year, told Parliament recently that the hangings would resume within months.

The president’s antidrug overtures have proved popular, but critics have expressed concern about what could come next. During a state visit to the Philippines in January, Mr. Sirisena hailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs there, which has left thousands dead at the hands of the police and vigilantes, calling it an “example to the world.”

Historically in Sri Lanka, the job of executioner has been difficult to fill.

Since 1976, when the government placed its moratorium on executions, the government has regularly advertised the hangman job, hoping to have a candidate trained and ready in case executions resumed. Before then, the post of hangman passed from father to son.

But since the moratorium, just 3 men have held the post, and all of them abandoned it before carrying out a single execution.

The last one, P.S.U. Premasinghe, 45, landed the job 5 years ago but resigned in shock at the first sight of the gallows at the main prison in the capital, Colombo, days after he began training. The prison authorities gave him a month to reconsider; he did not. The position has remained open since.

After Mr. Sirisena’s announcement this month that hangings would resume, prison officials began compiling lists of drug offenders on death row. And the Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms decided this week to import a new noose; the one at the gallows now was brought in from Pakistan 12 years ago and has never been used in an execution.

Despite the 1976 moratorium, judges in this majority-Buddhist country have continued to hand down death sentences, none of which have been carried out. About 1,300 people are on death row, 48 of whom were convicted of drug crimes.

Under Sri Lankan law, murder and drug trafficking carry possible death sentences. Possession of more than 2 grams of pure heroin, known as diacetylmorphine, is punishable by death.

A few days after Mr. Sirisena’s visit, the Philippine government pledged to send a team of “specialists” to provide technical expertise for Sri Lanka’s battle against drugs.

Death penalty opponents saw the recent advertisements for an executioner as a distressing development.

“This is one job advert that should never have been put out,” Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s regional director for South Asia, who lives in Colombo, said in a Twitter post. “There is no place for the death penalty in a civilized society.”

C.T. Jansz, a commissioner general of prisons in the 1950s, oversaw some executions during his tenure. He said even prison officials found them gory and gut-wrenching, and the environment inside the prison would become oppressive afterward.

“The whole prison mourns,” he said.

(source: New York Times)

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Catholic Bishop's Conference in Sri Lanka condemns implementation of the death penalty

The members of the Catholic Bishop's Conference in Sri Lanka have issued a statement has condemned the implementation of the death penalty.

The statement said that "consequent to the churches teachings in light of the teachings in the light of the Gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissable because it is an attack on the inviolability and the diginity of the person and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide."

Further, the Catholic Bishop's Conference called on civiol society groups, the judicary, legislative and the executive to take preventive measures and design effective rehabilitation of victims with a supportive social system.

(source: sundaytimes.lk)

FEBRUARY 15, 2019:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Erica Parsons' Parents To Face Death Penalty In Murder Trial----Casey and Sandy Parsons are accused of abusing, killing and dismembering their adopted daughter, Erica, in 2011.

Casey and Sandy Parsons are facing the death penalty and will go on trial for murder in the spring of 2020, they learned Thursday. The news comes one year after the Rowan County couple were charged with the brutal abuse, murder and dismembering of Erica Parsons, the young disabled girl they adopted.

Casey Parsons' murder trial will begin in April 2020, while no date has been finalized for Sandy Parsons trial, according to WSOC.

In February 2018, the couple was charged with first-degree murder, felony concealment of death and obstruction of justice when they lied to state investigators about their adopted daughter, Erica, who was homeschooled.

Investigators believe Erica was 12 or 13 when she died of "homicidal violence" after an autopsy concluded she "suffered terribly" before she died, the Charlotte Observer reported. Prosecutors say the girl, who was born deaf, was routinely abused and beaten by her adoptive parents, punished with starvation and locked in closets. An autopsy report said her death could have been from strangulation or the result of blunt force injuries suffered over the years, the newspaper said.

(source: patch.com)

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It’s time to put an end to the death penalty

The death penalty should be abolished and replaced with a life sentence without parole. Even if you don’t believe that “Thou shalt not kill” applies to convicts, it is a fact that a number of those sentenced to death have later been proved to be innocent. Also, objective analysis has shown that the death penalty has not been applied equally.

Finally, applying the death penalty has been proven to be much more expensive than life without parole.

Tom Sandin

Greensboro

(source: Letter to the Editor, News & Record)

FLORIDA:

Convicted killer Michael Gordon breaks down in tears during death penalty phase of trial for murders of Polk mother Patricia Moran

After weeks remaining stoic during his 1st-degree murder trial, Michael Anthony Gordon lost control Wednesday, breaking down in tears as his lawyer addressed the jury and shouting at a witness who was testifying about a jailhouse stabbing.

His outbursts came during the 1st day in the penalty phase of his trial. The 12-member jury convicted him Tuesday of brutally stabbing 2 Haines City women to death in a January 2015 home invasion. And because prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, the same jurors began hearing additional testimony Wednesday. Based on the trial and penalty evidence, the jury will recommend whether Gordon should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment for the murders.

Among the reasons prosecutors are arguing he should be sentenced to death is Gordon’s history of violence, including his conviction for an attack on another inmate while in custody. From the witness stand, Rasmes Simeon was telling the jury Wednesday that Gordon had stabbed him with a shank made from a prison-issued toothbrush.

Gordon, who will be 39 Friday, began shouting at Simeon.

“You had a knife on you,” he said. “Tell them the truth. You had a knife, that’s why. You was a bully. You was bullying everybody. Big bad Haitian Jack. Haitian Jack, the drug dealer that run Winter Haven.”

As Gordon continued to shout, Circuit Judge Jalal Harb had court bailiffs escort the jury from the courtroom.

“Everybody scared of you,” Gordon said, “coming in here with all your diamonds and your jewels on.”

At one point, outside the jury’s presence, a court bailiff told Gordon he needed to shut up.

“I shut up when I want to,” Gordon responded.

Earlier in the day, when Clearwater lawyer Bjorn Brunvand addressed the jury, he discussed Gordon’s difficult upbringing, with an alcoholic father who abused him and his sister. He told them his sister had left home when she was 12, and will testify that she still regrets having left her brother in that situation.

“To this day, she regrets that she left Michael Gordon behind — that she left him with a father who she knew was abusive,” he said, “and a mother who was unable and not capable of taking care of him and protecting him.”

At that moment, Gordon fell into tears, his shoulders heaving as he wiped his eyes.

“We’re not expecting that you will necessarily see God in Michael Gordon,” Brunvand said. “But we hope ... that you will see that Michael Gordon, despite the conviction, despite the horrific acts that he has participated in, is a fellow human being, a fellow man, a scared little boy inside that big man’s body of his.”

He said Gordon appears to have experienced an injury as a child that affected the frontal lobe of his brain. “It’s the part of the brain that helps you respond appropriately when you are faced with fear,” Brunvand said. “It’s not working for Michael Gordon.”

Medication enables Gordon to maintain control, he said, and for the decade he was in prison from 2005 until April 2014, the medication enabled him to live with others. But he wasn’t taking the medication after his release, and he started self-medicating with street drugs.

“You will hear from a doctor, a pharmacologist, who will explain how that impacted him and how that may have affected what happened in this case,” he said.

But Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme told jurors the viciousness of the killings can’t be ignored.

“They are fighting for their lives,” she said, “all the while feeling what is going on.”

Patricia Moran, 72, and her daughter, Deborah Royal, 51, each was stabbed more than 50 times, and their throats were slashed so deeply, Royal was almost decapitated.

Testimony is scheduled to continue today in the penalty phase, and jurors are expected to deliberate a recommendation by the end of the week. The final decision on sentencing will rest with Harb.

(source: The Ledger)

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Prosecutors to seek death penalty for Chuluota man accused of killing parents, brother

A Chuluota man killed his parents and brother after he was kicked out of his home and accused of stealing more than $200,000 from his family to send to a woman he had met on a porn website, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office on Thursday signaled its intention to seek the death penalty against Grant Amato, the Chuluota man accused of killing his parents and brother last month.

Amato faces 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the Jan. 25 shooting deaths of his father, Chad Amato, 59; mother, Margaret Amato, 61; and brother, Cody Amato, 31.

In a court filing, State Attorney Phil Archer and Assistant State Attorney Stewart Stone say Amato killed his family “in a cold, calculated and premeditated murder without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”

Authorities say Amato killed his parents and brother after he was kicked out of his home and accused of stealing $200,000 from his family to send to a woman he had met on a porn website.

Jeff Dowdy, Amato’s lawyer, said that, while he anticipated the state seeking the death penalty, he still hasn’t been presented with any forensic evidence tying Amato to the killings. For that reason, Dowdy is asking a judge to grant Amato pre-trial release from the Seminole County Jail, where he is currently being held without bond.

A hearing on bond is slated for March 21.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

LOUISIANA:

Activists Push for Death Penalty Reform

Community members, organization leaders, and former Angola inmates gathered to discuss issues regarding the death penalty in New Orleans at Café Istanbul in the Healing Center on Jan. 28, 2019. There are currently 67 people on Louisiana’s Death Row; 73 % of which are African-American or Hispanic.

“If there was ever an example of why you shouldn’t have the death penalty, Willy Frances the famous Louisiana Case, would be the perfect example,” said Michael Cahoon, the organizer for the Promise of Justice Initiative. “A 16-year-old boy was convicted, had to be executed twice because he was so small, he could not fit in the electric chair. That should be enough right there, but it still persists.”

Cahoon joined Laverne Thompson, the wife of former inmate, John Thompson, and Jerome Morgan, who was placed in solitary confinement in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola to advocate for repealing the death penalty.

Justice & Beyond, a New Orleans-based association of community leaders and organizations that come together to discuss challenging problems hosted this event to educate the public on injustices facing the incarcerated and prisoners facing the death penalty. Racial disparities also exist when examining who received the death penalty, the advocates said.

“Conditions in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison produce a death rate of 300 percent higher than the national average, mostly due to inadequate Mental Health Care and inhumane treatment of the prisoners that are held there,” Cahoon said.

It is also an expensive burden on the state. “The death penalty takes an immense amount of resources for such a small number of people. Since 2000, we have spent $155 million on our death penalty, which has yielded two executions,” Cahoon added.

Executions cost millions of dollars to perform, experts said. Studies show that executions also do not result in a drop in the crime rate.

“The first study done in Louisiana on whether or not the death penalty prevents violent crime was done in 1833,” Cahoon said. “States that have gotten rid of the death penalty; crime has actually gone down,” Cahoon added. This shows that there is no relation between the death penalty and crime.

“John Thompson was the 6th Louisiana death row exoneree in 2003,” said Laverne Thompson, his wife. On May 8, 1985, John Thompson was sentenced to death row on 2 separate crimes: murder and carjacking. An investigator found evidence that had never been disclosed 30 days before his execution – the bloodstain of one of the carjacking victims. The blood was found not to be Thompson’s. A prosecutor admitted to intentionally suppressing evidence. In 2002, he had a retrial based on deliberate government misconduct and was sent home in 2003. Unfortunately, in October 2017 he died of a heart attack.

Most of the people on death row are wrongfully convicted and serve time based on a crime they never committed, activists said. Since Thompson’s exoneration in 2003, 5 other men have had their innocence discovered.

“I was incarcerated during the time John was released and I remember hearing the news and being encouraged and motivated; I felt like John was a hero,” Morgan said. Not many people are released from death row and hearing the news of someone being released brought a sense of hope to Morgan. Morgan was wrongfully arrested at the age of 17 and sentenced to die in Angola for the rest of his natural life for the 2nd-degree murder of Clarence Landry III.

After Morgan’s release he wrote a book with 2 other inmates titled, “Unbreakable Resolve,” and he is now working on another book, “Go to Jail: Confronting the System of Oppression,” which discusses his experiences in solitary confinement.

Residents who attended the public forum shared personal experiences fighting for loved ones caught up in the Criminal Justice System.

“Numerous members of my family have been slaughtered in the City of New Orleans; my spirit is broken. Our justice system is a big racist killer,” said Eloise Williams, a member of Mark Louis Williams and Victims of Homicide. “I haven’t been behind any bars, but I am incarcerated,” Williams added.

(soruce: blackpressusa.com)

KENTUCKY:

Death penalty sentence means more than execution

Capital punishment has been a long-contested debate across the U.S., and Kentucky is 1 of 31 states which currently authorizes the death penalty, while 19 states and the District of Columbia do not. The term “death penalty” is often, and understandably, interpreted in a literal sense, but a death penalty sentence is complex.

Of the 31 states that still impose death penalty sentences as a form of capital punishment, it’s very rare for a subject to actually be put to the death. The Pew Research Center (PRC) says a considerably small number of states use the death penalty regularly. The PRC shows Kentucky hasn’t authorized an execution in at least 5 years.

Daviess County Commonwealth Attorney Bruce Kuegel said the death penalty sentence is normally sought against a suspect in a homicide case because the sentence carries a longer and, likely, a life sentence, without the possibility for parole.

“The penalty for murder is not less than 20, 50, to life,” Kuegel said. “If a person receives life on a murder charge, and they are sentenced to 24 years or more, their parole eligibility will be at 20 years, and they will be credited with any other jail time they may get.”

In Kuegel’s hypothetical case, and without prosecution seeking the death penalty, a person convicted of murder could potentially be released from prison after 20 years, if the parole board granted early release.

“A death penalty notification sparks 3 additional enhancements — death, life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) and life without the possibility of parole for 25 years,” Kuegel said.

A person who is convicted of murder and, therefore, sentenced to the death penalty will pick up the other two notifications even if they aren’t sentenced to execution, Kuegel explained.

Kuegel said the parole board doesn’t go easy on those who’ve committed acts of murder, but it’s possible a murderer could be released from prison. By seeking the death penalty, Kuegel said the possibility of parole is either impossible for these criminals, or they will, at the least, be issued a longer sentence before going before the parole board.

“The parole board does let people out who’ve committed horrific crimes,” Kuegel said.

Even though the act of execution is rare in Kentucky, there are organizations across the state who continue to fight to abolish the death penalty. Pat Delahanty, chairperson for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (KCADP) says there are moral and logical reasons as to why this capital punishment should be eliminated within the state.

“In terms of a policy of trying to use the death penalty to meet out justice, that’s a totally failed approach to how you resolve violent crime,” Delahanty said. “It’s about the behavior of the people of Kentucky — both the behavior of someone who’s killed other people. Should Kentucky be in the business of killing others?”

Seeking the death penalty costs more money, according to Delahanty, who says taxpayers spend more on a death sentence than a life sentence.

“There’s a limited amount of resources and tax dollars — the death penalty is far more expensive than life without parole. The minute they decide they’re going to go death, that’s when the money starts to be spent,” Delahanty said.

However, Delahanty said he does understand why prosecutors seek the death penalty, especially in cases that contain multiple victims, or in especially heinous cases that involve high emotions from the public.

“I can understand it, but I don’t accept it,” Delahanty said. “I don’t accept it on a moral basis or a logical basis. I don’t know one of them [sentenced to death penalty] who’s seen the parole board. All we need to do is put that person in prison for life and forget about him. I do know that if we abolish the death penalty, life without parole will still be there. It can still be used as a bargaining chip.”

(source: The Ownesboro Times)

TENNESSEE:

Death-Row Inmate Forced to Self-Lawyer Asks Justices to Step In

It’s been said that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. But what if the judge leaves the man no choice?

The U.S. Supreme Court can answer that question by taking up an unusual appeal from a Tennessee death-row prisoner whose petition will be considered for the first time at the justices’ private conference on Friday.

The local judge’s decision to make Tony Von Carruthers represent himself at his triple-murder trial raises vital questions about when the Sixth Amendment right to counsel can be snatched away. If the justices don’t intervene, Carruthers could be the first person in a century to be executed after being forced to represent himself at trial.

“We think this is a critical issue and necessary to correct a serious injustice in a capital case,” his lawyer at the Supreme Court, Eric Citron, told Bloomberg Law.

After the defendant ran through a series of lawyers and threatened some of them in the lead up to his 1996 trial, the judge presiding over his Shelby County death penalty case said Carruthers had to go it on his own.

His actions were “part of an overall ploy on his part to delay the case forever until something happens that prevents it from being tried,” Judge Joseph Dailey said.

Carruthers, a non-lawyer, was convicted and sentenced to death for the drug-related 1994 murders of Marcellos “Cello” Anderson, Delois Anderson, and Frederick Tucker. He and an accomplice buried them alive “inside a freshly dug grave” in Memphis, prosecutors said.

The accomplice, his co-defendant James Montgomery, was sentenced to death as well. But that was reversed by the state’s top court, which found that Montgomery was so prejudiced in front of the jury by the way Carruthers represented himself that he should have gotten his own trial.

Citron says that underscores the prejudicial nature of Carruthers’ self-representation to Carruthers, too.

Montgomery got a new sentencing at which he avoided the death penalty.

Carruthers says there’s a split among the nation’s courts on whether a judge can take away a defendant’s lawyer as a sanction for misconduct.

Different judicial approaches have led to “inconsistent and unpredictable results incompatible with the orderly administration of justice,” he says in the filing from Citron and other lawyers at Supreme Court litigation firm Goldstein & Russell, P.C. and a public defender.

“Courts are all over the map in how they resolve these issues,” said Marc McAllister, a professor at Texas State University whose scholarship is cited in Carruthers’ petition. He said the case pits two Sixth Amendment rights against one another: the right to representation by counsel and the right to self-representation.

The Supreme Court could take the case to “clarify the precise interplay between the competing Sixth Amendment rights,” McAllister said.

The high court has set out strict rules for judges to warn defendants about waiving the right to counsel, and that didn’t happen here, Carruthers’ petition points out.

At the very least, he argues, the judge should have had to issue the formal warnings required for defendants who voluntarily waive the right to counsel, given that it was involuntary in his case.

The state counters in its opposition brief—it won’t comment on the case beyond the filing—that procedural limitations of habeas corpus review are enough for the justices to reject the appeal.

Under that rubric, federal courts can deny prisoners relief from state court judgments when those state decisions don’t clearly contravene Supreme Court precedent. So the procedural posture of Carruthers’ case—the fact that he’s appealing the denial of a federal habeas petition rather than directly appealing his state case—makes it a worse vehicle for resolving the Sixth Amendment issue, McAllister said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit also noted the procedural obstacle when it condoned the habeas denial, though one of the judges who signed onto the unanimous opinion, Jane B. Stranch, criticized the state court’s denial of a lawyer as a sanction. “I cannot agree that a criminal defendant may be denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel as a form of punishment,” she wrote.

The case is Carruthers v. Mays, U.S., 18-697, petition pending.

(source: bloomberglaw.com)

WYOMING:

Wyoming Senate defeats death penalty repeal bill

The Wyoming Senate defeated a bill Thursday that would have repealed the state's death penalty, ending the most successful legislative attempt to do away with capital punishment in recent memory.

Having passed the House by a safe margin, the bill was swiftly voted down by the Wyoming Senate on its first reading. The final vote was 12-18.

"The vote was different than I expected to see from talking with people beforehand," said the bill's sponsor in the Senate, Brian Boner, R-Converse. "There's a lot of different factors and, at the end of the day, everyone has to make their best determination based on the information they have."

The death penalty repeal passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Proponents of the bill argued that it would save the state money and create a more humane justice system, an argument that had gained substantial traffic in the House of Representatives. Sponsors of the bill noted that since the death penalty had been reinstated federally in 1973, approximately 165 death row inmates had been exonerated around the country and, according to research cited by the bill's sponsor and in anecdotal testimony from members of law enforcement, the threat of death was deemed to be an ineffective deterrent to committing crime.

In the Senate -- which has trended more conservative than the House this session -- the bill had garnered several unlikely allies. Sen. Bill Landen, a reluctant sponsor of the bill, said that after years of budget cuts and eliminating line item after line item, said he could no longer go home and feel good explaining the myriad cuts he's made to the state budget while defending retaining annual expenses like the death penalty, which costs the state roughly $1 million a year.

"Regardless of my personal thoughts -- my religion doesn't believe in the right to kill people -- that's not enough for me," he said.

Opponents of the bill, meanwhile, argued retaining the death penalty would allow the justice system to offer closure to victims of the most heinous crimes, and could be used as a tool to coerce confessions from the state's worst perpetrators. Others, simply voted by feeling, Boner said.

"A lot of (the no votes) had a deep conviction that someone can do something so heinous that they have to die," Boner said. "There's no amount of reason or facts that you can give them that will change that. I also think there's a generational gap, that folks who were from a time where the death penalty were used more often are more accustomed to it. It might have worked 30, 40 or 50 years ago, but that's just not the case anymore."

Several senators had other reasons for voting against the bill. Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, said that while the death penalty could be used as an effective tool, it was also a means to keep the state's justice system from turning into the type seen in other states. He then noted that states like California -- in some cases -- have allowed inmates to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

"I think we're becoming a lot like other states, and we have something to defend," he said.

Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, argued that without the death penalty, Jesus Christ would not have been able to die to absolve the sins of mankind, and therefore capitol punishment should be maintained.

"The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me," she said. "I'm grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn't for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope."

Wyoming has not executed a prisoner since 1992.

(source: Casper Star-Tribune)

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Death-penalty repeal fails in Wyoming despite new support

A proposal to repeal the death penalty has failed in Wyoming after getting more support from state lawmakers than ever before.

The Wyoming Senate voted against the proposal 18-12 on Thursday.

This is the 6th year in a row that death penalty repeal has failed in the Wyoming Legislature but this year the idea got far more support than previously. The bill passed the House and 2 legislative committees before failing in the Senate.

Proponents of repeal pointed to the high cost of death-penalty cases for the state Public Defender's Office. Wyoming faces a tight fiscal outlook due to a drop in revenue from the state's coal, oil and natural gas industries.

Death-penalty advocates argued it can help bring closure for victims and is appropriate for the most heinous crimes.

(source: Associated Press)

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Wyoming State Senator Invokes Jesus Dying to Defend Death Penalty----There's so much wrong with her argument.

A Wyoming state senator used some curious logic to explain why she opposed a bill that would have abolished the death penalty. If not for capital punishment, Lynn Hutchings (R–Cheyenne) argued from the Wyoming Senate floor yesterday, then Jesus Christ would not have been able to save humanity from its sins.

"The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and for me," said Hutchings. "Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn't for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope."

From a Christian point of view, her statement is factually correct but logically absurd. Christians believe Jesus was crucified by the authorities, died, and later rose from the dead, thus atoning for the world's wrongs. But this did not make killing him OK. In the Bible, the people who called for Jesus' death were motivated by jealousy, not justice. They knew Jesus has not done anything worthy of the death penalty, but they wanted to kill him anyway because he threatened the status quo.

Equating Jesus' death at the hands of selfish people in power to the modern death penalty as it's used currently—mainly to execute murderers—makes absolutely no sense.

Hutchings' pro–death penalty argument would still be flawed even if she had not invoked Jesus. As I've argued in the past, the government should not be in the business of killing its own citizens, even mass murderers. "The death penalty is uncivilized in theory and unfair and inequitable in practice," the ACLU rightly says. "Well-publicized problems with the death penalty process—wrongful convictions, arbitrary application, and high costs—have convinced many libertarians that capital punishment is just one more failed government program that should be scrapped," Ben Jones adds at Libertarianism.org.

Add to that the numerous questions over the death penalty drugs administered to death row inmates, as well as the fact that states often operate in the shadows when it comes to procuring these drugs. Meanwhile, studies from various states suggest it's more expensive for the government to put someone to death than it is to keep them behind bars for life, according to Amnesty International. In Wyoming, incarcerating the average death row inmate costs 30 percent more than keeping general population prisoners locked up, Wyoming Department of Corrections Director Bob Lampert tells the Casper Star-Tribune.

Reason's Nick Gillespie may have put it best in arguing against the death penalty back in 2014:

The state's first role—and arguably its only one—is protecting the lives and property of its citizens. In everything it does—from collecting taxes to seizing property for public works to incentivizing "good" behaviors and habits—it should use the least violence or coercion possible.

No matter how despicable murderers can be, the state can make sure we're safe by locking them up behind bars for the rest of their—and our—lives. That's not only a cheaper answer than state-sanctioned murder, it's a more moral one, too.

The proposed bill to eliminate the death penalty in Wyoming ended up failing in the state Senate by an 18–12 vote.

(source: reason.com)

NEVADA:

Mina murderer the 1st to be executed by deadly fumes 95 years ago this week

95 years ago on Feb. 8, a Mineral County murder would put Nevada on the forefront of science when a Chinese gang member would be the 1st put to death by the use of deadly fumes at the state prison.

The story actually began on the evening of Aug. 27, 1921 when Tom Quong Kee, a Chinese laundryman living in Mina, was woke up by the sound of someone knocking on his back door of the little cabin where he lived. Kee, a member of the Bing Kung Tong gang, made his way to the door clad in nothing but pajamas and a jacket, holding a candle for his only source of light. When he opened the door, he found two other Chinese men on in front of the other outside his home. The man in the back pulled out a .38 caliber Colt revolver and fired 2 shots into Kee. The bullets hit the laundryman in his heart.

The senseless killing in the town of Mina was an act of tong gang warfare that had been spreading from the Chinese-American communities of California and had now trickled down into neighboring Nevada.

These feuds, started by a member of the Hop Sing Tong stole a Chinese slave girl which had belonged to the Suey Sing Tong gang. To avenge the injustice – the Suey Sing council took an ally with the Bing Kung Tong gang and declared war on the Hop Sings.

On the morning of Aug. 28, 1921, a Chinese vegetable peddler went looking for Kee. Peering through the windows of Kee’s cabin, the peddler saw the old laundryman on the floor. The peddler notified Mina Justice of Peace L.E. Cornelius, who turned the death over to Mineral County Sheriff Deputy W.J. Hammill.

Deputy Hammill examined the body and the scene and traced two sets of footprints from Kee’s cabin to a spot where an automobile had been parked and some empty beer bottles had been disposed.

Unknown to the two men who had shot Kee, Deputy Hammill had observed these strangers at the Palace Café in Mina over a week earlier. They had been asking for work in the area. The deputy had been warned that the 2 men were neither unemployed nor innocent, instead were tong members sent to kill Kee. Deputy Hammill contacted Reno Police Chief John M. Kirkley to be on the lookout for a car bearing two Chinese male suspects.

The two men captured would be 29-year-old Gee Jon and 19-year-old Hughie Sing. Both slight in stature, neither were physically intimidating. China-born Jon stood 5 foot, 5 ¼ inches and weighed 129 pounds. Sing, born in Carson City, measured only 5 foot, 2 ½ inches tall and tipped the scale at only 105 pounds. Gee had emigrated from Canton, China around 1907 and had lived most of his life while in the United States in San Francisco’s Chinatown except for a few months when he lived in the Stockton Chinatown. Kee had difficulty understanding and speaking English but Sing, could read, speak and write both English and Chinese, having attended grammar school in the place of his birth. Sing had only been a member of the Hop Sing Tong for 2 months prior to enlisting the help of Jon.

After their arrest, both Jon and Sing were interrogated by the Reno police. Sing was advised that anything he said could be used against him in court. Hoping to be set free, he confessed to his role in the crime of killing Kee in Mina and implicated Jon.

Both were taken back to Mina where they were held without bail until their preliminary hearing was held on Sept. 8, 1921. W.H. Chang, an attorney from San Francisco and most likely to be a Hop Sing Tong member would represent Jon and Sing in court along with James M. Frame.

Sing withdrew his confession given to the Reno police and both waived the right to make a statement at the hearing. Their attorney entered pleas of “not guilty” for each man.

The trial of Kee and Sing would be held in the Mineral County courthouse in Hawthorne from Nov. 28 to Dec. 3, 1921 before the Seventh Judicial District Court. Both men denied being members of the Hop Sing Tong gang, shooting Kee or even going to Mina with intentions to kill the old laundryman. Their defense was they had “been to Tonopah where they wanted to be employed at a restaurant.” Sing explained that his confession to the Reno police was in belief that he would be freed immediately.

After testimony of witnesses and law enforcement, the court wasn’t convinced. It was brought to the attention of the court that Sing had previously lived with Kee in Mina for two years. Sing’s knowledge of Kee, the town of Mina and his ability to speak English made him the best guide for Jon to commit murder.

Both men were found guilty of first degree murder of Kee. District Judge J. Emmett Walsh handed down death sentences to the 2 Chinese men in 1922.

A law had been passed in 1921 by the 30th session of the Nevada State Legislature and signed by Governor Emmett D. Boyle that all criminals sentenced to deal were to be executed by means of lethal gas. Jon and Sing were the first to be affected by the passing of this new law. It was thought that gas was to be a more humane way to end life of those convicted to death.

After Judge Walsh handed down his sentence to Jon and Sing, their attorney Frame moved for a new trial. Walsh denied the motion and Frame was ready to appeal to the state supreme court.

Under the custody of Sheriff Frederick B. Balzar, Jon and Sing were taken to the Nevada State Prison in Carson City where they were incarcerated until their sentence was to be carried out. Sing had confidence in his attorney, but also was prepared for the worse stating, “I don’t think there’s no hope, unless maybe the supreme court does something. Our lawyer said he’d file something in the supreme court within thirty days, but if the court doesn’t act I guess we’ll have to die.”

Frame did file with the Nevada Supreme Court in the later part of February 1922, expressing that execution by lethal gas constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

A stay of execution for the two men, who had been ordered to be executed between April 16-22, 1922, was granted. A long legal battle would begin.

In January of 1923, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that lethal gas execution was neither cruel nor unusual punishment. Attorney Frame motioned for a new trial. It was denied.

Frame would again file another appeal with the state supreme court for a rehearing of the Kee and Sing case. The higher court would again render a negative verdict. Not one to give up, Frame and his partner, Fiore Raffetto, applied for a writ of certiorari in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The attorney’s stressed that the Nevada Supreme Court did not grant Kee or Sing separate trials, the use of lethal gas execution and the wording of the title of Nevada’s 1921 capital punishment statute.

Nothing happened as a result of the writ of certiorari, however, the Nevada Supreme Court refused to give its assent to be sued on the writ. The attorneys for the Chinese again petitioned the supreme court for a rehearing and were once again denied.

By September 1923, the United States Supreme Court seemed to be the last resort. The attorneys applied to the Nevada State Supreme Court for a writ of error, so that Kee and Sing’s case could be carried out in the nation’s highest court. Nevada State Chief Justice Edward A. Ducker denied the application for a writ. If one of the justices on the United States Supreme Court was willing to hear the petition for a writ of error, then he and his fellow justices could hear the case, even with the prejudice of the Nevada Supreme Court’s refusal grant a writ of error.

The writ of error was first presented to Associate Justice Joseph McKenna and then to Chief Justice William Howard Taft. Both members of the highest court refused to permit the petition be filed. Thereafter, Frame and Raffetto could only direct their efforts of their clients to state officials.

The attorneys began to petition the public in hopes to sway opinions. Their petition read, “The undersigned respectfully petition your honorable body to commute the sentence of Gee Jon and Hughie Sing, Chinese, from death to life imprisonment. We are informed that Hughie Sing is a mere boy, being only nineteen years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, and that Gee Jon was at the time of the commission of the crime an illiterate Chinese unacquainted with American customs and not likely to fully know and appreciate the enormity of the act. We feel that the extreme penalty should not be exacted and think that commutation of the sentence to life imprisonment would fully vindicate the law and subserve public good and avoid the horror of taking human life by administration of lethal gas, and new and untried method.”

Over 400 letters were sent to prominent Nevadans. Students on the Reno campus of the University of Nevada, the League of Women Voters I Reno and citizens of Reno and Carson wrote in behalf of the Chinese.

Mineral County District Attorney Jay H. White called the murder of Kee: “Purely a clean-cut premeditated murder without any extenuating circumstances. The crime was one of the most atrocious and cold-blooded in the history of the state. Testimony of the trial will show that applications for commutation of the sentence are illogical in view of the facts of the case.”

After reviewing all evidence, Sing was released from death row and put to work in the Nevada State Prison laundry. Firecrackers in Carson City’s Chinatown would be shot off in honor of Sing.

Jon was left to face death alone. To be gassed to death for the death of Kee in 1921 with the use of hydrocyanic gas (HCN).

The morning of Gee’s execution would be cloudy, humid and cold, only 49°F. Jon had fasted for ten days prior to this morning and ate his last meal of ham, eggs, toast and coffee. At 9:35 a.m. two guards escorted him forty yards from his cell to the gas chamber. He was strapped into the execution chair where he began to weep. At 9:40 a.m. four pounds of HCN acid was introduced into the chamber.

The use of the HCN malfunctioned due to the cold temperatures of the chamber. It began to pool on the floor in a liquid state but was also in the air as a gas.

Within five seconds of exposure, Gee appeared unconscious though his eyes remained open and his head moved for six minutes. He stopped moving after 9:46 and at 10 a.m. the ventilator gate was opened and a suction fact was turned on. The chamber door was not opened until noon.

Jon was pronounced dead at 12:25 p.m. by prison physician, Dr. Anthony Huffaker. He was placed in a plain pine box without services and buried in the prison cemetery on the hill overlooking the prison.

It is unknown how long Sing stayed in prison. A call to the Nevada Department of Corrections filed to offer any further information.

As for the victim, Tom Quong Kee, the elderly laundryman, he was buried in the Mina Ceremony shortly after his death in August of 1921.

(source: Mineral County Independent-News)

USA:

Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States

As execution drugs have become more difficult for states to lawfully obtain and problematic executions have become more frequent, states have expanded their efforts to shield their execution-related activities from public scrutiny. In the latest episode of Discussions with DPIC, Robin Konrad, former DPIC Director of Research and Special Projects, joins Executive Director Robert Dunham and current Director of Research and Special Projects Ngozi Ndulue to discuss DPIC’s November 2018 report, Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States. Konrad, the lead author of the report, is now an Assistant Professor of Lawyering Skills at Howard University School of Law. The discussion covers the recent expansion of secrecy in the use of the death penalty, the reasons for the unavailability of lethal-injection drugs, and the problems that have resulted from execution secrecy.

Secrecy policies are ubiquitous in the states that are currently attempting to carry out executions, Konrad explains. “Everybody has some type of secrecy provision” related to the sources of execution drugs or the way executions are carried out, Konrad says. Secrecy provisions conceal the sources of the drugs states obtain and the identities and qualifications of the execution team, and restrict the portions of the execution witnesses are permitted to see and hear. The podcast discusses these issues and questionable measures states have taken to hide potential problems, including Florida and Oklahoma taping down prisoners’ hands so witness cannot see them clench their fists in reaction to the drugs, and Virginia and Nebraska closing curtains to conceal how long the IV insertion process takes or the moments just before and after the prisoners’ death.

The episode also includes a discussion of the consequences of secrecy, including illegal actions that have been discovered only by accident or through investigative journalism. “We’ve seen states acting in a way that is often illegal, where we’ve seen states purchasing drugs overseas in an illegal manner from companies or individuals that are less than reputable. We've seen the prison officials driving money in the middle of the night across state lines to exchange money for drugs and drugs for money. We have seen the states using pharmacies that have had numerous violations. One pharmacy that was used by Missouri had … 1800 violations of state and federal law,” Konrad says. The podcast concludes with a discussion of the ways in which secrecy undermines democratic principles of open government and hides problematic state practices. “When we’re looking at [a] government ... for the people, by the people, the people should know what is going on and states shouldn't be hiding information about the most serious punishment that they carry out against their citizens,” Konrad says. “I don’t see how in any principled system of justice, you can sustain a system that basically is grounded in secrecy, grounded in hiding what’s going on from the public. You have to be open, you have to be honest, you have to be transparent, you have to be trustworthy,” adds Dunham.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Trump comments won't spare alleged Hudson bike path killer from death penalty, says judge

The government can seek the death penalty against an ISIS sympathizer accused of killing eight people in a truck attack on the Hudson River bike path despite President Trump's calls for his execution, a judge ruled Thursday.

Lawyers for Sayfullo Saipov, 31, had argued that Trump’s tweets about the Oct. 31, 2017 terrorist attack tainted the process by which then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions chose to pursue the death penalty at trial.

“He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!” Trump tweeted the morning after the attack.

But Manhattan Federal Judge Vernon Broderick wrote that Saipov had no evidence that Trump’s comments affected the Department of Justice’s procedures for deciding whether to seek the death penalty. The judge did note, however, that Trump’s statements “were perhaps ill-advised given the pendency of this case.”

Saipov, who has ranted in court about ISIS, is charged with driving a rented pickup truck down the popular bike path, leaving a 14-block trail of destruction.

It wasn’t the 1st time an accused terrorist argued he shouldn’t get the death penalty due to a President’s comments in the aftermath of an attack. Terry Nichols argued President Bill Clinton’s comments had improperly influenced then-Attorney General Janet Reno’s decision to seek the death penalty for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“If this is not a crime for which capital punishment is called, I don’t know what is,” Clinton said then.

Nichols was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted of 1st-degree murder. After his jury deadlocked on imposing the death penatly, a judge sentenced him to life without parole.

“While (Trump’s) comments are arguably more inflammatory than President Clinton’s statements relating to Nichols, Saipov has offered no evidence that the President’s remarks impacted the Attorney General’s decision-making process in any way,” Broderick wrote.

Saipov’s trial is currently scheduled for October.

(source: New York Daily News)

GLOBAL:

Executions for gay sex: 13 nations threaten it, 4 do it.

How many countries execute people for being gay? This blog’s best estimate: The laws of 13 nations call for the death penalty for gay sex, but only 4 countries go through with it.

This blog’s updated list of 13 nations with such harsh anti-gay laws is a decrease from the previous tally, which had included Daesh/the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL. At its height, ISIS repeatedly executed men accused of homosexuality. (For example, from 2015: ‘Islamic State’ has reported 15 LGBTI executions.)

Now that violent extremist Islamist enterprise, thank God, has been eradicated as a government controlling territory and administering laws. So now it’s off the list.

Here’s a summary of the complete list, which is more fully discussed in the article “13 nations have death penalty for gay sex; 4 carry it out.”

Nations with such laws on the books; executions have been carried out in the recent past:

1. Iran

Iran is No. 2 in the world for frequency of executions of any kind, behind China. Those include executions for homosexual activity, although the facts are often unclear or misrepresented in media reports. (See, for example, “Bogus hanging in Iran, bogus tweets in Egypt” and “Series of public hangings in Iran, including 2 for sodomy.”)

When a man in Iran is hanged after being convicted of rape and sodomy, media coverage often wrongly describes the punishment as execution for homosexuality. The most recent example of such mislabeling appears in the Jerusalem Post, Gay Star News and Jihad Watch. Each states that an unidentified man was executed on Jan. 10, 2019, on “homosexuality charges,” which sounds like consensual same-sex activity. But the articles make clear that the man was actually convicted of kidnapping and rape.

2. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is No. 3 among the world’s most avid executioners, with 90+ in 2014. At least in the past, beheadings were imposed for homosexual behavior, including 3 men in 2002. Imprisonment and lashings are a more common punishment for same-sex activity.

Nations with no such law on the books; executions are carried out by militias and others:

3. Iraq

The ILGA report of 2015 noted that “Iraq, although [the death penalty is] not in the civil code, clearly has judges and militias throughout the country that issue the death sentence for same-sex sexual behaviours.” For example: Iraq has become a death trap for gay men (September 2012)

4. Somalia

The Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, which controls large areas of Somalia, reportedly killed two individuals in 2017 because of their sexual orientation. The deaths were described as murders, but they might better be labeled as executions since they were done by the governing power of that region.

Nations with such laws on the books; no recent executions reported:

1. Sudan

2. Yemen

3. Nigeria (Muslim northern part of the country only)

Nations with such laws on the books; no executions reported:

1. Afghanistan

2. Mauritania

3. Pakistan

4. Qatar

5. United Arab Emirates (Some interpretations of existing law would provide for the death penalty; no executions have been reported.)

6. Brunei Darussalam The country has had a de facto moratorium on executions since 1957. According to news reports, it has not yet implemented a harsh new Syariah Penal Code Order, which includes the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual behavior, at least on paper.

(source: 76crimes.com)

IRAN----executions

3 inmates executed in Raja’i Shahr and Ardebil Prisons

At least 3 prisoners were executed on Wednesday, February 13, in Raja’i Shahr and Ardebil Prisons.

Ali Shakouri, 34, father of 3, was hanged in Ardebil prison, northwest Iran.

2 other prisoners identified as Behrouz Bayat and Mohammad Hedayati were also executed on the same day in Raja’i Shahr Prison. All the 3 inmates had been found guilty of murder.

Absence of classification of undeliberate murders in Iran lead to capital punishment for everyone committed murder, intentional or un intentional.

On January 29, a prisoner identified as Omran was executed in Maragheh Prison, also in northwest Iran.

He had been on death row since 2015 and had denied intentional murder charges saying it was a case of self defense. Omran argued that he reacted to the irate man who began beating him with an iron rod.

Iran is 1 of the 23 countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty.

Executions in Iran are mostly the result of grossly unfair trials which are usually held behind closed doors without the presence of a defence lawyer. Activists believe that many of those on death row were convicted on the basis of “forced confessions”, a method believed to be commonly used in the country at the moment. Moreover, when a death sentence is handed down, families are often not given prior notice of the execution.

At least 285 people were executed in 2018 in Iran. The officials acknowledged the execution of only 85 people last year, but it is believed that this figure grossly underestimates the true number in Iran because the regime had embarked on a campaign of secret and mass hangings of prisoners, especially in faraway provinces.

According to London-based international human rights watchdog Amnesty International, “more than half (51%) of all recorded executions in 2017 were carried out in Iran.”

Iran ranks second in the world after China in terms of executions and has “carried out 84% of the global total number of executions with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.”

The country’s judicial system has also been criticised for handing down death sentences against juveniles. Dozens of child offenders are on death row in Iranian prisons, waiting to go to the gallows when they reach 18.

(source: Iran Human Rights Monitor)

MALAYSIA:

Unemployed man charged with murder

An unemployed man was charged in the Magistrate’s Court here today with the death of M. Serentharan in Buntong, 3 years ago.

No plea was recorded from Muhammad Firdaus Naim Thikayarajan, 24, after the charge was read out before magistrate Nurul Hafizah Mohammad Fauzi.

He was charged with murdering Serentharan, who was also unemployed, behind a futsal field near Jalan Kantan Buntong here between 9pm and 10pm on Sept 5.

He was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which provides the death penalty upon conviction.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nurul Qistini Qamarul Abrar prosecuted while the accused was represented by a lawyer, Charan Singh. The court set March 29 for mention.

(source: nst.com.my)

BANGLADESH:

Remembering Ko Ni, Myanmar's slain lawyer----Prominent lawyer working on plans to amend Myanmar's army-drafted constitution was shot dead at Yangon airport in 2017.

When she was about 7 or 8-years-old, Yin Nwe Khine accidentally stepped on her father's eyeglasses, snapping them in 2.

Other parents she knew of might have scolded their children for such carelessness.

But Ko Ni, a lawyer who would later become renowned for his opposition to the Myanmar military's grip on power, was different.

Instead of getting angry, he invited his daughter to survey the damage, explaining that he could not read without his glasses. "Do you see? This is the consequence of negligence," she recalls him saying.

"He always tried to show people what their rights were and what were their responsibilities," Yin Nwe Khine, who is now in her mid-30s, told Al Jazeera at the family apartment in central Yangon.

"He taught us like he taught the people of this country."

On Friday, a court in Yangon decided the fate of 3 men, including 2 former military officers, accused of conspiring to assassinate Ko Ni, and a 4th man accused of harbouring 1 of the defendants.

The lawyer, a close confidant of Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was working on plans to amend or replace the military-drafted constitution when a gunman shot him in the back of the head at Yangon's airport in January 2017.

The assassination of Ko Ni was a major blow to Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which took office in 2016, promising to amend a charter that entrenches the generals' power even as they take a back seat in the wake of decades of military rule.

Kyi Lin, the gunman, and Aung Win Zaw, the man who recruited him to carry out the murder, were sentenced to death on Friday. In practice, this is likely to mean life in prison as Myanmar has not executed a death-row inmate since the late 1980s.

A 3rd man, Zeyar Phyo, received a 5-year sentence for his role in the conspiracy. The prosecution accused him of providing roughly $80,000 for the plot.

Aung Win Tun, a 4th defendant, received 3 years for harbouring Aung Win Zaw, his brother.

Prominent lawyer

In a country under fragile civilian rule and struggling with resurgent Buddhist nationalism, Ko Ni knew it was dangerous - especially for a prominent member of Myanmar's Muslim minority - to face off with the military; in the months leading up to his killing, he received several death threats, according to his family.

But he did not let fear override his sense of duty. "He took his responsibilities very seriously. He always thought if you do something, small or big, you have to take responsibility," said Yin Nwe Khine.

Once, when she told him she wanted to become a doctor, he cautioned her. There were two professions that required taking on other people's problems, he warned. One was the law, the other medicine.

"So you'll have none of your own time, you won't have time to relax," she recalls him saying. "If you are ready for the consequences, you can do it."

Ko Ni kept his family and work life separate. He even stopped taking on criminal cases because he thought it was too distressing for his wife, mother and children when clients who had suffered a terrible tragedy came to his home office.

But the family still caught glimpses of his life among Myanmar's rising political elite, a cohort of former dissidents and political prisoners who were getting to grips with parliamentary democracy as the country underwent a dizzying transformation.

Hanging on the living room wall in their colonial-era apartment is a photograph of Ko Ni and his wife, Tin Tin Aye, posing with Aung San Suu Kyi.

"That day was the first time ever I met Daw Suu," said Tin Tin Aye, using the honorific used to address older women.

The photo is from 2012 when Ko Ni was helping educate people about how to vote in an historic by-election that propelled Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament less than 2 years after she had been released from years of house arrest.

Tin Tin Aye was at first afraid to approach the woman who had become an icon, "but she welcomed me very warmly like a sister and she hugged me".

While Aung San Suu Kyi has disappointed many supporters who say she has failed to stand up for Myanmar's minority Muslims and kowtowed to hardliners, Ko Ni continued to believe in his political idol.

Still, when the NLD failed to field a single Muslim candidate for the 2015 general election, the lawyer broke ranks to speak to the press about his concerns, even as he defended the decision as a political necessity.

Just days after Ko Ni was shot, infamous anti-Muslim monk Wirathu took to Facebook to publicly thank the killers.

"I feel relief for the future of Buddhism in my country," the monk wrote, according to the Irrawaddy news website. "Anyone who wants to scrap the constitution should be mindful," he added.

Political will

When police raided the office of a company owned by Zeyar Phyo, they found a recording of Wirathu's teachings.

In court, Zeyar Phyo, a former military intelligence captain, denied being a religious "extremist" and said police found the disc outside his personal workspace, according to Reuters news agency.

No evidence has come to light of any current military officers being involved in the killing, but there are signs of active links between the defendants and Myanmar's powerful military establishment.

Myanmar's police chief and home affairs minister told a press conference in 2017 that when the three men met in a teashop and plotted to kill Ko Ni, they were joined by a former assistant to Min Aung Hlaing, the military's commander-in-chief.

The assistant, Lin Zaw Tun, made a donation of about $15,000 to Wirathu in 2015, according to local media.

One of the men in the teashop was the suspected mastermind, a retired lieutenant colonel named Aung Win Khine. He has so far evaded arrest.

His absence from criminal proceedings represents a "failure of rule of law", said Zar Li Aye, a legal expert and criminal defence lawyer.

"To me, this is a lack of political will," she added, pointing to the authorities' failure to catch him.

For Yin Nwe Khine, Friday’s verdict changes little; her father is never coming back.

Her thoughts are of what the case will mean for Myanmar.

"For our family nothing changes, whatever the punishment is," she said before the verdict. "But it will change the future of the country."

(source: aljazeera.com)

INDIA:

2012 gangrape: Govt seeks fast tracking of death penalty----The government’s move came after the victim’s parents moved a petition before the Additional Sessions Judge Anu Grover Baliga to fast-track the procedure to hang the convicts.

The Delhi government has approached a Delhi court, seeking directions for immediate execution of 4 adult convicts awarded the death penalty for the December 2012 gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus.

The government’s move came after the victim’s parents moved a petition before the Additional Sessions Judge Anu Grover Baliga to fast-track the procedure to hang the convicts. The judge has sought stand of the convicts, out of which three of them told the court they are preferring a curative petition before the SC. One is yet to file a review petition against the apex court’s 2017 decision.

The court listed the matter for hearing on March 2.

(source: indianexpress.com)

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

Supreme Court stays death sentence of teacher who raped 4-year-old student

The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the execution of a rape convict school teacher from Madhya Pradesh who was given death sentence for brutalising his 4-year-old student who died of severe injuries.

The death sentence to the criminal, Mahendra Singh Gond, was given by a district court in Madhya Pradesh as his ghastly crime was seen as a ‘rarest of rare’ instance, earning him the gallows as the first man to be executed under the new law of death penalty for child rapists.

Gond is slated to be hanged till death on March 2 and he had moved the apex court seeking a respite in the sentence. The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the execution order of the rapist and would not be hanged for the time being.

Gond was to be executed in Jabalpur jail on March 2 for the crime of kidnaping and raping the victim on June 30, 2018. The brutality of the crime had shocked the entire country and police had arrested the criminal soon after the incident was reported.

The perpetrator of the crime had dumped the child after raping and brutalising her in a jungle after he thought that she was dead. The braveheart survived the ordeal and was found by her family who admitted her to a hospital. Such violent was the nature of her rape that she had to be airlifted to AIIMS for an operation to align her intestines.

The district court had awarded death sentence to the rapist after the survivor's statement which was recorded through video conferencing.

(source: timesnownews.com)

SRI LANKA:

EU agrees to work with Sri Lanka closely on human rights, reconciliation, reiterates opposition to death penalty

The European Union (EU) and Sri Lanka at their Joint Commission on Thursday in Brussels have agreed on the importance to continue working closely together on human rights and reconciliation while committed to work jointly during next 2 years to foster rural development, democratic governance, investments and economic growth.

The European Union and Sri Lanka held their 22nd meeting of the Joint Commission on Thursday, 14 February 2019, in Brussels. The meeting was held in an open and constructive spirit and developments in both the EU and in Sri Lanka were discussed, the EU said in a statement.

The meeting was co-chaired by Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service, and Ravinatha Aryasinha, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.

The EU also reiterated its opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and encouraged Sri Lanka to maintain its moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

The 2 sides agreed on a series of actions for follow-up before the next Joint Commission meeting in Colombo in 2020.

Following is the joint press release issued by the European Union on the joint meeting:

The European Union (EU) and Sri Lanka held their 22nd meeting of the Joint Commission on Thursday, 14 February 2019, in Brussels. The meeting was held in an open and constructive spirit. Developments in both the EU and in Sri Lanka were discussed.

Bearing in mind the resilience of the democratic institutions which had prevailed during the political events in Sri Lanka late 2018, the EU reiterated its full support for the Government's efforts to improve governance, human rights and reconciliation, fight against corruption, and strengthen economic growth. The EU and Sri Lanka agreed on the importance to continue working closely together on human rights and reconciliation, issues which figured prominently on the agenda of the meeting.

Preferential access to the EU market granted to Sri Lanka under the GSP+ scheme has clearly benefitted Sri Lanka since the reintroduction in May 2017, with over ?2.2 billion of exports under GSP+ during the period June 2017?May 2018. Both sides acknowledged that there was room to make even better use of the concessions granted.

Sri Lanka reaffirmed the commitments made to implement 27 conventions on human and labour rights, environment and good governance in order to benefit from the GSP+ scheme. In this context, while acknowledging that the new draft legislation was now being considered by Parliament, the EU reiterated the need to repeal and replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in order to bring counterterrorism legislation in line with international standards.

The EU also reiterated its opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and encouraged Sri Lanka to maintain its moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

The meeting provided an opportunity to exchange views on the implementation of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution of 1 October 2015, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka. The important steps taken by Sri Lanka with regard to establishing an Office on Missing Persons and passing legislation to set up an Office for Reparations were welcomed. Sri Lanka's continued commitment to the implementation of the resolution was acknowledged and the EU stressed the need for further progress in the advancement of national reconciliation. The EU expressed its continued readiness to support Sri Lanka in these efforts.

The Joint Commission was informed about the proceedings of the third EU-Sri Lanka Working Group on Development Cooperation held in Brussels on 13 February 2019. The EU and Sri Lanka committed to work jointly during 2019-2020 on the preparation of new actions aiming at fostering integrated rural development, democratic governance, investments and economic growth.

The EU and Sri Lanka discussed the EU strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia, which aims to better connect Europe and Asia through transport links, energy networks, digital networks and people-to-people connections, and agreed to deepen their contacts in this field, including in view of the Indian Ocean Ministerial conference to be held in Colombo this year.

In this context, the Joint Commission noted that the European Investment Bank agrees to enhance its lending activities in Sri Lanka in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly in support of renewable energy, energy efficiency, urban transport, and other investments which reduce CO2 emissions and/or strengthen resilience to climate change. The support extended to develop the SME sector was welcomed.

Discussions also focused on issues related to mobility and migration. Ways to enhance cooperation on higher education, with a particular reference to the Horizon 2020, the EU framework programme for research and innovation, were also discussed.

Ways to engage on security issues were also explored, and the EU referred to areas for deeper security engagement in and with Asia as listed in the Conclusions of the May 2018 Foreign Affairs Council, notably maritime security, cyber security, counter terrorism, hybrid threats, conflict prevention, the proliferation of Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear weapons, and the development of regional cooperative orders.

Cooperation in the framework of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and towards the common goals of preservation of healthy oceans, conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources was discussed.

The EU and Sri Lanka agreed on a series of actions for follow-up before the next Joint Commission meeting in Colombo in 2020.

The meeting was co-chaired by Ms Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service, and Mr. Ravinatha Aryasinha, Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.

The Joint Commission, which oversees the 1995 EU-Sri Lanka Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development, deals with a broad range of bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual interest. Its tasks are to: ensure the proper functioning and implementation of the Agreement; set priorities; and make recommendations.

All 3 Working Groups established under the terms of the Joint Commission reported back from their respective meetings held in June 2018 (the Working Group on Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights) and in July 2018 (the Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation Issues, and on 13 February 2019 (the Working Group on Development Cooperation).

(source: colombopage.com)

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UK, EU urge Sri Lanka against death penalty

The United Kingdom and European Union this week reiterated their opposition to Sri Lanka's proposed implementation of the death penalty.

“The Sri Lankan Government is well aware of the UK and EU position on the death penalty and we hope the moratorium will be sustained,” the UK Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field said in parliament when asked by an MP regarding what action had been taken on the issue.

“Earlier, the British High Commission in Colombo joined the EU delegation in lobbying the Sri Lankan Foreign Affairs Ministry to maintain this position in the December 2018 UN vote, supporting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty."

"In January 2019, after further reporting of the intention to restart the death penalty, our High Commission raised the issue with senior officials in the Sri Lankan Government," he added.

(source: Tamil Guardian)

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Sri Lankan president denounces opponents of the death penalty

Addressing parliament on February 6, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reiterated his commitment to ending the country’s 43-year moratorium on the death penalty. He warned the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) and other human rights groups not to hinder his efforts.

Sirisena told parliament that although death row prisoners had filed appeals against their convictions since he began calling for the reinstatement of executions, “we would be able to implement the death penalty in one to two months. Whatever opposition would be raised against it, I have taken a firm decision to implement it.”

Citing the death penalty in India, the US and Singapore, he cynically declared: “We need stringent laws to make a law abiding and spiritual society.”

During his visit last month to the Philippines, Sirisena hailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs”—the extrajudicial killing of thousands of alleged drug dealers—as an “example to the whole world” and vowed to reinstitute the death penalty in Sri Lanka.

Sirisena’s campaign for executions and his praise of Duterte drew immediate criticism from human rights groups in Sri Lanka and internationally.

Sirisena responded by telling parliament that any invocation of human rights in relationship to the drug trafficking underworld was “wrong” and demanded human rights organisations “not object” to his death penalty campaign.

Sirisena singled out the toothless, government-appointed HRCSL for attack and referred to the brutal beating of prisoners in Angunakolapelessa jail last November by Special Task Force (STF) officers and prison staff. A secretly recorded video of the incident drew wide criticism of the government.

Sirisena criticised the HRCSL chief for daring to ask the STF commandant who had given the order to send in the STF.

“The human rights commission, which was appointed by us, should have defended us,” the president told parliament. “Instead, it is questioning the STF chief.” He also condemned the HRCSL for vetting Sri Lankan military officers for human rights violations before they were sent abroad on so-called UN peace keeping assignments.

HRCSL chairperson Dr. Deepika Udagama responded in writing to Sirisena’s allegations, saying these actions were “in accordance with human rights law” and not “an attempt by the Commission to protect criminals.”

Sirisena’s broadside in parliament has only one meaning. He will not tolerate any opposition to the reinstitution of the death penalty or any government violation of basic democratic rights. Sirisena is sending a clear message to the police, and its notorious STF, and the military, that he will back them in all circumstances.

Sirisena’s defence of the military is indicative. Between 1983 and 2009, it conducted a vicious communal war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The bloody conflict was a culmination of the communalist policies pursued by the ruling elite since 1948 to suppress and divide the working class along ethnic and religious lines.

Sirisena, like his predecessors, is committed to shielding the political leaders of successive governments and the military hierarchy responsible for all the war crimes committed since 1983.

While officially there have been no official executions since 1976, the Sri Lankan state has a horrifying record of eliminating its political opponents, workers and young people through extra-judicial killings.

Military and associated paramilitary death squads abducted and executed, without trial, tens of thousands of people during the war against the LTTE and in crushing the youth insurgencies of 1987–89 in Sri Lanka’s south.

The Constitutional Council (CC) was another target of Sirisena’s speech to parliament.

Established by the 19th amendment to the constitution in 2015 under the Sirisena presidency, the CC is supposed to ensure the “independence” of the judiciary and the government service. Consisting of representatives of the president and the parliamentary parties, and headed by the parliamentary speaker, it is not independent in any sense.

Sirisena complained that the CC had not approved his nominees for judges and the chief justice. “They are yet to inform me the reasons for turning down those names,” he declared.

The president is not alone in his provocative and authoritarian outbursts. His views are endorsed by the entire political establishment, including Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s ruling United National Party (UNP), which is working hand in glove to tighten up the instruments of state repression. Last week, Justice Minister Thalatha Athukorala announced that the “administrative procedures for the execution of 5 drug convicts had been completed.”

Every faction of the ruling elite is turning toward police-state forms of rule. For about two months last year, these factions were engaged in open political warfare. Sirisena unconstitutionally sacked Wickremesinghe, replacing him with his arch-rival, former President Mahinda Rajapakse, and then dissolved the parliament after Rajapakse was unable to gain a parliamentary majority.

The plot failed because the US was hostile to Rajapakse, whom Washington considers sympathetic to Beijing, and the Supreme Court overruled Sirisena, compelling him to reinstate Wickremesinghe.

Behind the ongoing infighting within the political elite is the eruption of plantation and other workers’ struggles as part of an international working-class upsurge.

Two days before Sirisena’s death penalty address to parliament, he made an unprecedented Independence Day speech in which he hailed the military and declared that governments had failed to resolve the country’s democratic and social questions.

The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment, with most of its victims around world coming from the most oppressed layers of society. Sirisena’s call for the speedy restoration of this barbaric practice, endorsed by all the major parliamentary parties, is a clear indication that the capitalist class is lurching toward dictatorial forms of rule.

In a signal that the Sirisena government is pushing ahead with its reactionary agenda, the government-owned Daily News newspaper ran a grotesque advertisement on February 11 for people to apply to become the official hangmen. The 2 people who will be employed to carry out state killings must be males aged between 18 and 45 and possess “mental strength.” They will reportedly be paid 36,410 rupees, or $203, a month to hang other human beings.

(source: World Socialist Web Site)

SOUTH KOREA:

South Korean bishops call for an end to the death penalty

The South Korean bishops’ conference has called for an end to the death penalty, and asked the nation’s Constitutional Court to consider whether capital punishment violates South Korea’s constitution.

“The capital punishment system treats criminals not as human beings capable of moral reflection and improvement, but simply as a means of defending society. If the aim were to permanently segregate criminals to protect society, that could certainly be achieved through life imprisonment or penal servitude without the possibility of parole, which represent less of a restriction on basic rights,” the bishops said in their constitutional appeal, filed Feb. 12.

“All individuals’ lives possess the same value, and that life is of absolute significance to each individual,” a spokesman for the bishops’ campaign told the Hankyoreh newspaper.

“It is no different even for criminals who have committed atrocious acts that violate and harm the life and human rights of others.”

The South Korean bishops have collected the signatures of 102,517 South Koreans requesting that capital punishment be replaced by life imprisonment, Hankyoreh reported.

The nation’s Constitutional Court has ruled previously, both in 1996 and in 2010, that the death penalty does not violate the South Korean constitution.

61 people await execution on South Korea’s death row, according to death penalty abolition groups, but no one has been executed in the country since 1997.

Pope Francis has been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, revising the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 to call execution “inadmissible.”

There are nearly 6 million Catholics in South Korea, comprising more than 10 % of the country’s population.

(source: Catholic News Agency)

FEBRUARY 14, 2019:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Adoptive parents of Erica Parsons, facing death penalty, due in court

The adoptive parents of Erica Parsons, accused of killing the girl in 2011, are due in court Thursday morning.

Thursday’s hearing could bring us one step closer to the trial for Casey and Sandy Parsons, who have been charged with 1st-degree murder. The couple is facing the death penalty in the high-profile case.

An autopsy found that 14-year-old Erica was abused, killed and her body hidden. Her remains were eventually recovered in 2016 in South Carolina -- more than 80 miles from where she lived in Salisbury.

Thursday’s hearing is expected to focus on discovery and pre-trial motions. The prosecutor is expected to ask for a trial date to be set as well.

The judge overseeing the case previously granted defense attorneys more time to review evidence. Casey and Sandy Parsons are being represented by special public defenders experienced with death penalty cases.

The trial date would likely be set to begin early next year.

(source: WSOC news)

OHIO:

Ohio Man Pleads Not Guilty to Deputy Slaying Charges

A man who could face the death penalty if convicted pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he fatally shot an Ohio sheriff's deputy and tried to kill others during a standoff.

Wade Edward Winn, 23, was indicted this week on 2 counts of aggravated murder and 12 counts of attempted aggravated murder in Clermont County, just east of Cincinnati. Prosecutors have said Winn faked killing himself during a 12-hour standoff that began Feb. 2 at an apartment, then shot through a wall at deputies.

Clermont County deputy Bill Brewer died . Another officer was wounded in the leg.

Asked for his plea during Wednesday afternoon's arraignment, Winn replied: "Not guilty, your honor." Common Pleas Judge Anthony Brock ordered Winn held without bond and scheduled a Feb. 28 pretrial conference.

Brock said he would impose a gag order to limit pretrial publicity. He asked both sides to submit proposed wording for the order.

"Obviously, this is a very serious case, and this is a case that has great public interest," Brock said. Saying he wanted to disclose any facts that might raise questions about the court's impartiality, Brock cited a range of items including that he had contributed $20 to a fund to benefit the slain deputy's family and that he formerly regularly played basketball with one of the deputies who was shot at.

Earlier, he appointed Greg Meyers of the state public defender's office to lead Winn's defense after Clermont County public defenders cited possible conflicts of interest.

Winn spoke clearly as he answered the judge's questions about his rights, the charges against him and the potential penalties. The judge read each count of Tuesday's indictment to him along with death penalty specifications.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Bill named for slain Tennessee cop would speed-up death sentence reviews

As Tennessee ramps up executions, the Republican-led Legislature is considering eliminating 1 state court's death sentence reviews.

Legislation named for fallen Dickson County Sheriff's Sgt. Daniel Baker would provide automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews, skipping Tennessee's Court of Criminal Appeals.

Prosecutors have said they're seeking death sentences for 2 people awaiting trial in Baker's May fatal shooting. His cruiser was set on fire with his body inside.

The bill's supporters include House Speaker Glen Casada and Senate Speaker Randy McNally, who said justice delayed 20 and 30 years isn't justice at all.

In 2017, a public defenders group estimated saving less than a year under the change.

Jeff Cherry of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which opposes the bill, said it's better to get the right result than a fast result.

(source: Associated Press)

MINNESOTA:

Attorneys of the Year: Douglas Tyrone Armstrong Death penalty Team

A team from Maslon LLP has earned a group Lawyer of the Year award for a 12-year effort that has succeeded in removing a Texas prison inmate from death row.

The inmate, Douglas Tyrone Armstrong, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2007, whereupon Maslon took up the case and began serving as Armstrong’s habeas counsel. Since then, the firm has committed thousands of attorney hours in an effort to provide the kind of legal assistance the man had not received previously.

Julian Zebot, a partner in the firm’s commercial-litigation group, said that the team quickly discovered that the Armstrong defense prior to the initial capital trial had been marked by serious deficiencies on the part of the court-appointed lawyer. In addition, the team uncovered new forensic evidence to support Armstrong’s claim of innocence.

The Maslon team thus filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and in late 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated the death sentence and ordered a new trial. In March 2018, a trial court sentenced Armstrong to life imprisonment, but the Maslon team is continuing its fight for exoneration, appealing the conviction to the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas.

“I think I can speak for the team in saying that for a lot of us, it reinforced many of the reasons we decided to become lawyers in the first place—the opportunity to make a fundamental difference in our clients’ lives,” Zebot said. “This truly has been a team effort, and I couldn’t be more proud of my colleagues and partners here at Maslon for their dedication to this matter.”

(source: minnlawyer.com)

COLORADO:

Jared Polis Speaks With Colorado Matters

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday if lawmakers pass a proposal to end the state’s death penalty he’ll commute the sentence of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap to life in prison.

“If the state, Republicans and Democrats, were to say, and I were to sign, a bill that said we no longer have the death penalty in Colorado … I would certainly take that as a strong indication that those who are currently on death row should have their sentences commuted to life in prison,” Polis said.

Dunlap was sentenced to death for murdering 4 people in Aurora in 1993. Polis’ predecessor, John Hickenlooper, favored the death penalty when he entered office but later changed his mind. As a result, he delayed Dunlap’s execution, but stopped short of commuting his sentence.

Because Democrats control both houses of the legislature, they could revoke the death penalty without Republican votes. However, Polis predicted the measure would win support from both sides of the aisle.

A death penalty bill is expected but hasn’t been introduced yet.

RW: Let's focus on criminal justice for a bit. A man who is sitting on death row, Nathan Dunlap, killed 4 people at an Aurora restaurant in 1993. Your predecessor, a fellow Democrat, John Hickenlooper, moved from favoring the death penalty to opposing it. And so he made sure Dunlap wasn't executed on his watch. But he did not go so far as to commute his sentence, saying he didn't want to foreclose on that possibility for a future governor. So the decision now rests on you. What will you do about Nathan Dunlap? JP: Well, what I have certainly said, during the campaign, is that if the legislature sends us a bill to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado, I would sign that bill. I think it's not cost effective, I think it's not an effective deterrent. And if the legislature were to abolish the death penalty, then I would strongly consider making sure that penalty that is no longer on the books in Colorado is not carried out for anybody who's in that process.

RW: That is to say, it's not just for those who might get serious sentences going forward, but you would apply that to those who had gotten capital sentences prior.

JP: Well, again, I don't know what exactly will be in the bill, but I would certainly view them together. If the State Republicans and Democrats were to say, and I were to sign a bill that said we no longer have the death penalty in Colorado, whether it's formally in the bill or not, I would certainly take that as a strong indication that those who are currently on death row should have their sentences commuted to life in prison.

RW: Though you wouldn't even need Republicans necessarily, because Democrats control both chambers.

JP: Well, it's always been a bipartisan issue. Obviously among the most outspoken opponents of the death penalty are the Catholic Church and many in the faith community.MO< RW: Do you think a bill like that will land on your desk this session? Or [crosstalk] ...

JP: Well you're asking me to prognosticate here?

RW: Or to tell me about conversations you've had.

JP: You know, I don't know Ryan. I'm not pundit. My job, it's clear to say where I stand. Please don't ask me to predict what the wonderful, thoughtful legislators on both sides on the aisle will get across the finish line.

RW: I only ask, thinking you might have been a part of conversations. I certainly don't expect you to have a crystal ball.

JP: And again, we're very clear about what we'll sign, and we try to, for bills that we don't like, we're also clear about those, and bills will be working their way through the process.

RW: More than 99 % of the state's prison beds are currently full. Projections call for thousands more prisoners to enter the system in coming years, but your budget doesn't call for construction of any new beds. Is that safe for the public?

JP: So we proposed a bed-neutral proposal with corrections, and we are very interested in this discussion of criminal justice reform. Meaning, right now, we have things that are dumped on our criminal justice system, that are often substance abuse issues, mental health issues, that are more costly for tax-payers to deal with on the criminal justice side. And also, frankly, less effective in keeping people safe and preventing recidivism. So we are proposing that we maintain a neutral number of beds, as we look at alternative treatment for folks that don't necessarily benefit from incarceration, and the public isn't made any safer.

RW: But that, too, sounds costly. Proper treatment, which often has to be long term and people fail and have to try again.

JP: There's the good news though, it absolutely costs money, but it still costs less than the cost of incarceration, which is about the highest cost form of intervention that the state can do. You know, it's $110, $120, $130 a day per inmate, very expensive.

RW: But can that be reflected in a year to year budget?

JP: We can begin to reflect those values in our budget, which we are, but it's certainly much more than a one year discussion.

(source: Colorado Public Radio)

WYOMING:

Death penalty repeal bill continues to move forward

A bill to repeal the death penalty in Wyoming cleared another important hurdle Wednesday, passing the Senate Judiciary Committee by a unanimous vote.

Sponsored by Cheyenne Republican Rep. Jared Olsen, House Bill 145 has gone further than the past six legislative attempts to repeal the death penalty, spurred along not only by fiscal conservatives and members of the religious community, but advocates for criminal justice reform.

“We have an obligation to have a justice system that is blind and based on facts, and not based on what we wished it was or what it used to be,” said Sen. Brian Boner, R-Converse, a co-sponsor on the bill and a member of the committee.

Wednesday’s vote comes after the bill moved swiftly through the House of Representatives, a surprising development after years of failures. It will now be considered by the entire Senate.

Wyoming, which has not performed an execution since the early 1990s, is one of 31 states where the death penalty is legal. Though no inmates currently sit on the state’s death row, nearly $1 million in public funding is set aside for a death penalty legal defense fund, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill. Typically, that money goes untouched.

But the state’s death penalty statutes create additional burdens on state government, law enforcement officials testified. Because a death penalty provision is still on the books, the state public defender’s office is required to train its attorneys every two years to handle death penalty cases, said State Public Defender Diane M. Lozano. She has to assign her 2 best attorneys to the case – as well as a fact investigator – every time a capital case arises in order to completely explore the potential that the death penalty could be considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, she said.

Because of the resources involved in trying death penalty cases, public costs can often be steep, both fiscally and in time lost. Lozano, who has been involved in 11 death penalty cases since 1994, told the committee that a resentencing for a death penalty case once cost her office $2.1 million and – as long as the law remains on the books – there is always a fear that more than one case could completely deplete their budget.

The average death row inmate costs the Wyoming Department of Corrections 30 percent more to incarcerate than a general population inmate, with an average stay of 17 years, said corrections department director Bob Lampert. And the length of time an inmate is on death row has steadily increased over the last 40 years even in states like Texas, which is considered a “fast track” state for death sentences.

If the bill doesn’t pass, Lampert said his department would be asking for an update to the law anyway, as the chemicals needed for lethal injection executions outlined in statute are no longer carried by pharmacists, and local jurisdictions don’t have the numbers in their police forces needed to furnish staff for those executions.

Several people in attendance – including Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne and former San Diego police officer Vincent Krolikowski – argued that the death penalty can be used as a deterrent, or as another tool to use in order to coerce a plea or additional evidence out of an accused individual potentially facing death – something Lozano noted presents an “ethical quandary” for prosecutors.

Lampert previously spent seven years working as a prison warden in Texas, with involvement in 37 executions. Asked if, at any point in that time, he thought the death penalty was enough of a deterrent to prevent crime, Lampert said no – the people put to death, he said, were not thinking of the consequences when they were committing their crimes.

“None of them ever told me whether they ever thought about what they were about to do would have been something that would have resulted them in getting the death penalty,” said Lampert. “Obviously, that did not deter them. But they won’t have the opportunity to commit any more crimes, because those 37 individuals are now dead.”

Rabbi Larry Moldo, one of several members of the religious community to testify Wednesday, had a simpler take.

“If God can’t create a deterrent for these heinous crimes,” he said, “why would we think man can do any better?”

(source: Casper Star-Tribune)

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Death penalty repeal getting 1st serious debate in Wyoming

Repealing the death penalty is getting a serious look in Wyoming for the 1st time amid concern the sentencing option is expensive and may not deter crime.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the proposal Wednesday before voting 4-0 to send the bill to the full Senate.

Proponents of repeal include Republican Sen. Brian Boner, who says Wyoming in effect has no functioning death penalty. Boner points out that Wyoming has put to death only 1 person in recent decades.

Republican Sen. Anthony Bouchard says that's a good argument for the death penalty. Bouchard says the threat of death can encourage criminals to divulge details of their crimes in hope of a lesser sentence.

Wyoming hasn't had an inmate on death row since 2014.

(source: Associated Press)

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Legislators split on death penalty repeal

Sen. Hank Coe (Cody) doesn’t intend to help a death penalty repeal bill, which recently passed the House, do the same in the Senate.

“I am not in favor of repealing the death penalty,” he said.

Coe said Park County Prosecutor Bryan Skoric had called him to express similar feelings against the bill.

The House passed HB 145 on third reading 36-21. Rep. Sandy Newsome (Cody) voted in support of the bill while Rep. David Northrup (Powell) was absent.

The main argument in favor of the bill is that the death penalty is rarely used. There are no inmates in the state on death row and the last Wyoming execution took place in 1992.

That’s the argument Newsome agreed with.

“We haven’t used it since 1992 and we don’t have anyone on death row,” Newsome said. “When we do it’s very expensive because of litigation.”

A note attached to the bill says it would cost Wyoming approximately $750,000 to sufficiently fund capital punishment activities in 2020.

The bill was brought to the House by Rep. Jared Olsen (Cheyenne).

It’s the same bill that fell 6 votes short of passing in 2018.

This year could be different, as it is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill would remove the death penalty from state law and make life without possibility of parole the stiffest punishment available.

(source: The Cody Enterprise)

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Simpson letter: LWV supports death penalty repeal

Dear Editor:

The Wyoming League of Women Voters supports House Bill 145, “Death Penalty Repeal-2,” now in the Senate Judiciary Committee for these 5 reasons:

1. The Innocence Project has led to the exoneration of 364 prisoners nationwide, using DNA evidence. The state should not execute innocent people.

2. Death penalty trials and convictions are far more expensive than other cases. They take more attorneys, more research, more time, and have more appeals. In the end many people sentenced to death are not executed. The expense does not produce the promised goal.

3. At one time, people believed the death penalty was a deterrent to crime. Currently, experts disagree.

4. The death penalty is more commonly given to people of color than it is to whites, and they are more commonly executed. It is not equal justice.

5. The methods used are not consistently effective—people have been strangled, decapitated, incinerated, suffocated, or have bled to death. The state should not be torturing people.

Luckily Wyoming has avoided many of the problems of more populated states with death row inmates--Texas, Florida, or Illinois. We should ensure that we continue to do so.

For more information on the death penalty, visit Opposing Viewpoints at gowyld.net, accessible with your library card. A particularly striking argument is made in Rizer, Arthur, and Marc Hyden. “A Dying Shame: The state is not God, and the death penalty is not infallible.” The American Conservative, Nov.-Dec. 2018, p. 47+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A559832460/OVIC?u=wylrc_wyomingst&sid=OVIC&xid=7875838b. Accessed 8 Feb. 2019. Note how current the article is.

Contact your senator (www.wyoleg.gov) and urge them to support HB 145.

(source: Laramie Boomerang)

MALAYSIA:

Group says death penalty in the way of seeking truth behind Altantuya’s murder

A group campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty says doing away with the punishment would help bring to justice those responsible in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) was referring to Australia’s refusal to release Sirul Azhar Umar, one of two men sentenced to death for the murder of the Mongolian citizen in 2006.

Sirul has since sought refuge in an immigration centre in Sydney, with Canberra saying it is not allowed by Australian laws to deport him due to the death sentence awaiting him in Malaysia.

Australian laws prohibit the extradition of anyone to face the death penalty in his home country.

Madpet said cancelling Sirul’s death sentence would allow him to be returned to Malaysian authorities to assist investigators in shedding light on the brutal murder of Altantuya.

“The abolition of the death penalty will make those who ordered or paid others to do the crime be identified, as those caught or convicted will more likely help make this happen if their assistance can reduce the sentences imposed,” Madpet spokesman Charles Hector said in a statement today.

He also questioned the delay in amending the laws to do away with the death sentence despite Putrajaya’s promise.

Madpet said supporters of the death penalty appeared unaware of the “just reasons” for its abolition, or could be furthering a political strategy.

“They may also be people who fail to appreciate the suffering of the children and families, simply because a parent or sibling is executed.

“They fail to appreciate that even the mandatory death penalty has failed to reduce murder or drug trafficking in Malaysia,” Hector said.

(source: Free Malaysia Today)

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Death penalty repeal could reach Parliament in March, says minister

The proposed repeal of the death penalty could be tabled in Parliament next month if the Cabinet agrees to it, said Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

The legal affairs minister said the government has taken everything into consideration for the Cabinet to decide on the matter.

“If the Cabinet agrees to it, then it will be brought to the Parliament in March,” he said after visiting the proposed site of the new Johor Baru Court Complex in Kota Iskandar here today.

The next Parliamentary sitting will take place from March 11 to April 11.

The abolition involves 33 offences provided for under 8 Acts including Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder.

At present, there are some 1,200 people on death row for crimes including murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking in Malaysia.

On a separate matter, Liew said the government has no intention to introduce lese majeste laws, similar to Thailand’s to protect the Malay rulers here.

He said that Malaysia has adequate laws to protect the Malay rulers and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or King, who is also the supreme head of the country.

However, Liew did not rule out the possibility that the government may amend or introduce new laws to further protect the rulers.

“We practise a constitutional monarchy system here where we have a Parliament and the King is the supreme authority based on the constitution.

“People are free to voice out their views but there must be a limitation and not go against the law by making allegations or defaming our rulers,” said Liew.

Earlier this month, a trader was arrested in Kuantan, Pahang for allegedly insulting Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Facebook. The 45-year-old man is being investigated under the Sedition Act of 1948.

Aside from that, 3 social media account owners have also been arrested under the same Act after posting comments insulting Sultan Muhammad V in relation to his decision to step down from the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Despite Malaysia only having a constitutional monarchy system since 1957, several of Malaysia's 9 royal families have their roots in centuries-old Malay kingdoms that were until they were brought together by the former British colonials.

Although largely seen as a ceremonial post, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong still signs off on most laws and appointments, including that of the country’s prime minister.

(source: malaymail.com)

PAKISTAN:

Man awarded death for honour killing

A court on Wednesday awarded death penalty to a person for killing his wife for honour.

Additional Sessions Judge, Nowshera, Zahid Mehmood awarded death penalty to Raza Ali Khan of Kheshgi Payan and freed his brother, Amroz Ali Khan, giving him benefit of lack of evidence against him.

According to the FIR, Raza with support of his brother had killed his wife after exchange of hot words with her on suspicion that she had illicit relation with another person.

However, the killer had stated that his wife had committed suicide. But his younger daughter narrated the actual story to her maternal uncle.

Nowshera Kalan police had registered a case on the complaint of Minhajuddin, brother of the deceased, and started investigation.

The judge also slapped Rs500,000 fine and 6-month jail to the convict.

The killer was shifted to Central Jail Haripur from the Nowshera judicial lockup.

Meanwhile, the Nowshera police have failed to control increasing robberies in the district.

JUI-F local leader Qari Riazullah was robbed of cash by unknown armed men at gunpoint in the bright daylight.

In another incident, armed robbers injured a man, Mir Aman Shah, when he showed resistance to them on Nowshera- Nizampur Road.

The injured man was rushed to Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, in critical condition.

The villagers complained that Nowshera-Nizampur Road had become a safe haven for robbers, but the police were not taking action against the highwaymen.

(source: Dawn)

VIETNAM:

Vietnamese drug trafficker arrested

Police of Vietnam's central Nghe An province have detained a local man for transporting 2 kg crystal methamphetamine, Vietnam News agency reported on Thursday.

Le Huu Ha, residing in central highlands Kon Tum city, on Wednesday was caught red-handed attempting to transport the drug from Nghe An to southern Ho Chi Minh City for distribution.

According to Vietnamese law, those convicted of smuggling over 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine are punishable by death. Making or trading 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal drugs also faces death penalty.

(source: xinhuanet.com)

INDONESIA:

West Kalimantan prosecutor demands death penalty for kingpin

The Indonesian Public Prosecution demanded death penalty for kingpin M. Effendi, or bin Phan Cin Kian, on charges of possession of 7.2 kilograms (kg) of crystal methamphetamine and 21,727 ecstasy pills.

Iman Khilman, a public prosecutor at the Sanggau prosecutor office, confirmed to Antara, here, Thursday, that he had demanded maximum penalty for the kingpin.

The public prosecutor demanded the death penalty during a court trial at the Sanggau District Court, West Kalimantan, led by judge I Ketut Somansa.

The next trial will be held on February 19, 2019, with reading of the defense note as the main agenda.

Earlier, the Sanggau court had already issued verdicts to Effendi`s network members, Suprayogi alias Yoyok, who was awarded death penalty, and Andi Alfen, who was announced imprisonment of 15 years and imposed a fine of Rp1.5 billion.

Yoyok and Alfen were arrested on March 26, 2018, by personnel of the National Narcotic Agency (BNN) for carrying 72 kg methamphetamine and 21,727 ecstasy pills in Simpang Tanjung in Tayang Hulu Sub-district in Sanggau District.

Yoyok had thrice smuggled illicit drugs from Malaysia into Indonesia.

Another suspect, with the initials CU, a member of the same network, is still at large.

(source: Antara News)

SRI LANKA:

Resuming executions in Sri Lanka a violation of international law - ICJ

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has called on Sri Lanka’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, to retract his recent pronouncement that executions would resume in the country notwithstanding a moratorium on capital punishment that has lasted 43 years.

The last execution was carried out in Sri Lanka in 1976.

“Resuming executions would be an egregious violation of Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law, a serious threat to human rights in the country, and it would be inconsistent with the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia-Pacific Director.

Speaking in Parliament last week, President Sirisena vowed to resume executions of those convicted of “drug offences” as early as within the next two months.

The ICJ says it considers any resumption of executions in Sri Lanka as constituting a violation of international law and an appalling disregard for the international human rights system as a whole.

“At least 150 countries have now either abolished the death penalty or instituted an official or unofficial moratorium. There is a growing understanding around the world that the death penalty is an unacceptable assault on rights and dignity,” Fredrick Rawski added.

The ICJ said it opposes the death penalty in all circumstances – as it constitutes a violation of the right to life and its imposition constitutes per se cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.

The Human Rights Committee, the Treaty Body supervising the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), by which Sri Lanka is bound, has recently made clear in its General Comment 36 on Right to life that, “it is contrary to the object and purpose of Article 6 [of the ICCPR, which enshrines the right to life] for States parties to take steps to increase de facto the rate and extent in which they resort to the death penalty”, and that, “States parties that are not yet totally abolitionist should be on an irrevocable path towards complete eradication of the death penalty, de facto and de jure, in the foreseeable future. The death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life, and abolition of the death penalty is both desirable and necessary for the enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights.”

Moreover, the UN Human Rights Committee has made it clear that the imposition of the death penalty for “drug offenses” is incompatible with the Covenant, the ICJ statement said.

The UN General Assembly has adopted repeated resolutions, most recently in December 2018, by overwhelming majority in calling for all retentionist States to observe a an immediate moratorium with a view to abolition.

“It must be noted that Sri Lanka voted in favor of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in the 2018 UN GA Resolution.” This commitment should not be reversed, but upheld in practice instead, the ICJ says.

The ICJ called on the Government of Sri Lanka to reject the resumption of executions and to do away with the death penalty once and for all.

Instead of planning on resuming executions, the Sri Lankan authorities should focus on effective, evidence-based approaches to crime prevention in manners that conform to international human rights law and standards, such as formulating policies and legislation that address the underlying social and economic causes of criminality, which are also vital to ensuring stability and the rule of law, it said.

The ICJ also urged Sri Lanka to immediately ratify the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obligates State Parties to take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty.

Meanwhile the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has also condemned the President’s resolve to resume executions in Sri Lanka.

“In the latest move showing regression from democratic and human rights ideals, President Sirisena has also proposed that within 3 months, a 43-year moratorium on the death sentence will end, and those found guilty of drug related offences will be hung.”

The President has been inspired by his recent visit to the Philippines, where he highly praised the manner in which social control is exercised, the AHRC said.

“President Sirisena’s views are quite contrary to those of the civilised world, which has largely condemned Philippines’ policy of extrajudicially killing drug traffickers,” the statement said.

(source: adaderana.lk)

INDIA:

Sentenced to death for raping minor, Madhya Pradesh school teacher challenges penalty in Supreme Court

A school teacher convicted for raping a 4-year-old-girl has filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against his death penalty, a prison official said on Thursday.

Mahendra Singh Gond (28) filed the SLP in the Supreme Court on 11 February, challenging his death sentence in the rape case, Jabalpur Central Jail's law officer Ashok Singh said.

A trial court in Satna had earlier this month issued a 'death warrant' against Gond after the Madhya Pradesh High Court confirmed his death sentence on 25 January, he said.

The trial court had sent the death warrant, fixing his execution for 2 March, 2019, through an e-mail to the Central Jail earlier this month.

The convict has other remedies also as he can file a mercy petition before the President, Singh said, adding the death warrant will be executed only after all the available legal remedies are exhausted.

The trial court had sentenced Gond to death under the recently-introduced Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 376(a)(b) (raping a minor under 12 years of age).

Gond was also found guilty under IPC Section 363 (kidnapping), for which he was awarded seven years' rigorous imprisonment, besides being fined Rs 5,000, Singh said.

According to the prosecution, the convict had raped the minor girl after kidnapping her from her house on 1 July, 2018 and later dumped her in the bushes.

The girl received severe injuries in the incident and was admitted to a Delhi-based hospital.

Gond was later arrested by the police and a charge sheet was filed against him. Madhya Pradesh was the 1st state to enact a law in December 2017, providing for death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years of age. The Centre had brought an amendment in the IPC to punish the rapists of girls below 12 years of age with death in 2018.

(source: firstpost.com)

EGYPT----executions

Egypt steps up executions as 6 people put to death within 2 weeks

Egyptian authorities today hanged 3 prisoners convicted of killing a police officer during clashes that erupted in the weeks following the deadly Rabaa massacre. The executions brought the total number of executions in Egypt to 6 within a span of 2 weeks.

Responding to the news, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director Najia Bounaim said:

“These executions, which come just days after 3 other people were put to death in separate cases, mark an alarming escalation in executions so far this year.

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and its use is appalling under any circumstances, but it is even more so given that all 6 execution victims were sentenced based on confessions they said were extracted under torture. The shocking flaws in Egypt’s justice system have seen hundreds sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials in recent years.

“The Egyptian authorities should stop all further executions and immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty completely.”

Background:

On 13 February Egyptian authorities put to death 3 people who were convicted of killing a police officer in Kerdasa, Giza on 19 September 2013. One of the 3 men convicted was forcibly disappeared for 3 days before appearing before a prosecutor and being charged. The lawyers of all the defendants claimed that the men were tortured into confessing to the murder.

On 7 February Egyptian authorities executed 3 men who had been sentenced to death for the killing of a judge’s son in the town of Mansoura in 2014. The men said they had been tortured into confessing to the crime.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception - regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, or method of execution.

(source: Amnesty International)

KENYA:

Death Penalty for Ex-police chief Nahashon Mutua Accused of Killing Inmate

Nahashon Mutua, a former police chief has been found guilty of killing an inmate, Martin Koome, 6 years ago, by the High Court.

“The Prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the police caused the deceased suffering while in cells which caused his death,” Judge Stella Mutuku delivered the landmark ruling that can be viewed as a win against police brutality.

Martin Koome was arrested on the night of 19th October 2013, at Baba Dogo Estate after his neighbors reported him for domestic abuse.

Koome was reported to have tried to strangle his child after a domestic fight with his wife who escaped.

The neighbors alerted Ruaraka Police station officers who booked Koome at the station for attempting to kill.

When Koome’s wife visited the station the following day, she was informed that he had fallen ill and was rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

On reaching KNH, the woman found her husband unattended on a bench ad badly wounded. Mrs. Koome narrated that the husband was unresponsive with his clothes drenching in blood, a swollen head and blood was oozing from his ears.

Mrs. Koome reports that her husband seemed to have been in a lot of pain as he groaned.

Mr.Koome died hours later while receiving treatment at the KNH facility.

In the previous court proceeding, it was revealed that that the Chief Inspector Nahashon Mutua killed Koome by clobbering him with a metal bar in the cell and immersing his head in the water.

KNH doctors confirmed that Koome had deep wounds on the head, brain hemorrhage, cuts on the lower lip, eight fractured ribs and extreme bleeding from the neck leading to his death.

Cover-up

It was detailed during the court proceedings that suspects arrested on the material day revealed and confirmed Mr.Koome was beaten for over 30 minutes and his head immersed in water by the Police chief.

The suspects revealed that not even efforts by Koome to come out of the water stopped the OCS from brutalizing him.

The Chief Inspector Nahashon Mutua had previously stated that there was a fight between Koome and an inmate which led to the injuries, in what was seen as a cover-up story as the judge ruled that all the witnesses stated contrary.

“Why wasn’t the fight heard by police officers who were on duty or recorded in the Occurrence Book? It goes to show that he was in a cover-up mission,” Judge Stella Mutuku questioned.

The police chief Inspector further implicated Kelvin Odhiambo, an inmate, in the murder, and wrongfully charged him.

Kelvin Odhiambo, however, sought help from the Independent Policing Oversight Authority where he confessed and narrated the occurrence that led to Koome’s death. The charges set against Odhiambo were since withdrawn and he became a witness against Chief Inspector Nahashon Mutua.

The judge revealed that Mutua’s plan to cover up the truth and escape justice had gone as far as faking medical report, footing medical fees for one of the suspects to testify against Odhiambo and illegally setting free suspects held at the Baba Dogo station.

(source: sokodirectory.com)

FEBRUARY 13, 2019:

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Now is our chance to end the death penalty

This year can be the culmination of many years of effort to end the death penalty in New Hampshire if those who are convinced that the practice is wrongheaded will contact legislators and let them know how and why you hold your views.

Wrongheaded for so many reasons.

Wrongheaded because it is not a civilized response to heinous crimes. Wrongheaded because it is a “remedy” that cannot be undone when (not if) mistakes are made. Wrongheaded because it costs so much to prosecute that funds are stolen from other important cases or support for victims’ families. Wrongheaded because our religions all teach that redemption is possible for even the worst. “Only one eye for an eye” is a quotation truly misunderstood and misused. Wrongheaded because the penalty falls unequally upon people who are not white. The list goes on.

Please. This is the year. Write your legislators. You know it makes a difference. You know you care that this wrong must be corrected. What can hold you back? Will we take this moment to become a more civilized society?

GREGORY HEATH

(source: Letter to the Editor, Concord Monitor)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Poll: Death Penalty Supporters are the New Minority

North Carolina has long been considered a pro-death penalty state, but a first-of-its-kind poll found voters overwhelmingly believe the death penalty is error-prone and racially biased. And a majority say it should be replaced with alternative punishments.

David Weiss is a capital defense attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. He said the poll findings reflect a trend of public concern over sentencing people to death.

"And so we're seeing on the ground that the death penalty is just not really being used anymore, and I think this poll tells us why,” Weiss said. “It's because the people of North Carolina don't support it anymore."

Public Policy Polling interviewed more than 500 voters across the state, and 70 % believe it is likely that an innocent person has been executed in North Carolina. North Carolina juries have sent 1 person to death row since 2014.

Weiss said lawmakers and the court system should seriously consider this poll since 61 % of respondents said they believed the courts should re-examine the death sentences of prisoners who were tried before a series of legal reforms were enacted. That’s more than 131 individuals.

Weiss said cases filed under the state's Racial Justice Act, which uncovered evidence of statewide race discrimination in capital cases, are expected to be argued later this year.

5 people who were sentenced to death in North Carolina have been exonerated in recent years. And, Weiss said more than two dozen others have been removed from death row after the courts found serious errors in their cases, and that black jurors often were removed from the pool in capital cases.

"It's evidence that we need to face as a state and it's evidence we need to face in the courts,” he said. “And I think this poll, in part, tells policymakers, tells the courts, that this is a matter of real public concern in North Carolina."

The poll also showed that when voters considered a range of alternatives to the death penalty, including restitution to victims' families, only 25 percent of those interviewed favored the death penalty.

(source: Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC)

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

Man charged in Raleigh double killing researched punishments for murder, prosecutors say

Jurors in Wake County capital murder trial learned the defendant researched potential punishments for killing a pregnant woman in the hours after a deadly shooting.

Seaga Gillard, 30, is charged with the murders of 22-year-old April Lynn Holland and 28-year-old Dwayne Garvey. Investigators found the victims' bodies on Dec. 2, 2016, at America's Best Value Inn on Arrow Drive. Holland was about 12 weeks pregnant. She and Garvey had 3 other children.

During opening statements, Wake County Assistant District Attorney David Saacks told jurors about evidence found on Gillard's cell phone.

"Right after this murder happened, the defendant's phone was used to search a lot of various news outlets about this murder, looking for homicides in Raleigh," Saacks said.

"When the news broke, (he read pages about) the story on the phone. When the victims were identified, searching about the victims. 'Two men are wanted in this murder.' Searching about the search for the 2 men. On this phone, all kinds of searches about this murder," he said.

"And then at the very end, there are 2 very peculiar searches. "One is a search for 'what can you get for a double homicide in North Carolina?' And then after that, there's a search about, and some research about, 'what states have fetal homicide laws?'"

Saacks said investigators also found messages about a sex-for-hire transaction for $140.

The other participants in that text conversation were Holland and Garvey. Prosecutors said Holland turned to prostitution to make some money, and Garvey was her partner and protector. Attorneys said Holland posted advertisements on a "notorious" website.

"She found a customer, and unfortunately it was the last customer she would ever see. That customer turned out to be this defendant," Saacks said as he pointed to Gillard.

"The big question is do (Holland and Garvey) matter? Do they matter? Because of who they are, who they were, what they were doing? Do they matter? All of you, all of you told us in jury selection that yes, a prostitute could be the victim of a crime," he said.

"Even if you happen to disagree, or start to rethink that answer, how could anyone think that murder would be an appropriate and deserving consequence of what they were doing?"

Raleigh Police who responded to the initial 911 call testified that they found Holland naked in the motel room, shot twice. One officer said there were seven $20 bills on a table and an unused condom on the floor, with its wrapper discarded.

Prosecutors said Gillard shot and killed Holland less than 10 seconds after Xavier Brandon Hill shot Garvey 7 times.

Surveillance cameras at the motel recorded both shootings. Saacks said Hill came to the motel with Gillard but went to a different area of the building while Gillard and Holland were alone in the room. Garvey went to a vending machine, which attorneys said was the routine while Holland was with a customer.

At some point, Garvey and Hill crossed paths. Saacks said there were text messages between Garvey and Holland about something being wrong. The video shows Garvey runs to the room and bang on the door. Then Hill comes around the corner with his gun drawn and fires seven shots which all strike Garvey.

"What kind of gets lost in some of that melee that's going on between Hill and Dwayne Garvey, is what happened to April Holland with this defendant (Gillard)," Saacks said.

"Shortly after Hill is done firing all those seven shots, you see this defendant come back out of the door of 220 where he was with April, and as you can clearly see he looks and sees what's going on, all of a sudden he faces back, puts up his hand, for a couple of moments, and then runs out with Mr. Hill down that side hallway back towards the front where the parking lot is," the assistant district attorney said.

Gillard's defense attorneys said he is on trial for a murder he did not commit. Edd Roberts said Hill killed Garvey, so Gillard should not be charged with that homicide.

"Both subjects in this case have been charged with both killings," Roberts said.

"You have to not only weigh within your mind is Mr. Gillard guilty of the killing that the state is saying he's responsible for (April Holland), but also is he guilty of the killing that they say Brandon Hill is responsible for (Dwayne Garvey), because there's 2 counts of murder that you have to consider," he said.

"When you see the evidence and the evidence comes out, these killings did not happen after some kind of discussion between the two people. There's no 'hey we're going to do this when the things go bad.'"

Roberts said neither shooting was premeditated or planned.

When discussing the camera that shows the hallway outside Holland's motel room, the defense did not name Gillard, but said instead that "somebody" came out of the room. Roberts said the video shows an arm raise while the hand and a gun are out of view. He acknowledged investigators found two shell casings. An autopsy confirmed Holland was shot twice.

Roberts said what happened between the man and Holland was likely in response to hearing the seven shots that killed Garvey.

"Think about the john that's inside that room. Think about his mindset and what he's processed. He doesn't know who's out there with a gun. He doesn't know whether April Holland's protector has a gun," Roberts said.

"He's likely at the door trying to frantically assess the situation. 'Am I going to walk out there into gunfire?' He likely has, that john, likely has his gun out."

Testimony continued Tuesday morning in the trial. Jurors heard from 5 witnesses on Monday. One is a motel employee, two were other customers who stayed there the night of the shootings, and 2 are Raleigh officers who responded to the shots fired call.

Death penalty cases are uncommon in Wake County. District Attorney Lorrin Freeman's office averages one a year. Death sentences are even rarer. The last time a Wake County jury backed capital punishment in a case was in 2007.

After a jury recommended a life sentence in a 2018 capital case, Freeman said she will continue to seek the death penalty in the worst of the worst cases.

(source: WNCN news)

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

Our View: Death penalty loses support

Nobody on North Carolina’s death row has been executed since 2006. Nobody’s likely to be executed this year either. That’s mostly about all the court challenges to this state’s execution policies, and also a natural reticence by prosecutors and juries to impose death sentences on people who turn out to be innocent. 5 inmates have gone free since 2006 after they were found to be wrongly convicted.

Until recently, though, North Carolina residents strongly supported the imposition of the death penalty for capital crimes. As recently as 2015, polls found nearly 3/4 of respondents supported executions. But that may be changing, and dramatically so. A poll released this month by Public Policy Polling showed that 51 % of North Carolina voters want to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.

While it’s a sudden change, it’s in tune with the way people are changing their thinking about capital punishment across the country. Many states have eliminated the death penalty altogether. We expect North Carolina will be one of the last states to take that step, but the reality is that in practice, we’ve already done just that. We’ll be surprised if this state ever gets back into conducting executions.

(source: Editorial, Fayetteville Observer)

FLORIDA:

Gordon guilty in brutal 2015 Haines City stabbing murders

Mary Feiock quietly wept in a Polk County courtroom Tuesday as Circuit Judge Jalal Harb read the verdict in Michael Anthony Gordon’s murder trial.

Guilty for the murder of her mother, Patricia Moran.

Guilty for the murder of her only sister, Deborah Royal.

The women were stabbed in a brutal home-invasion double-murder in January 2015. After three weeks of testimony, jurors deliberated nearly 6 hours Tuesday before convicting Gordon of the murders and the attempted murders of law enforcement officers who were fired upon while pursuing Gordon’s car. They also found him guilty of robbing an Auburndale pawn shop, which initiated the crime rampage that led to the killings.

Gordon, 38, sat motionless and without expression, his eyes fixed on Harb, as the guilty verdict in each of the 14 counts against him was announced. Behind the defense table, his ankles were shackled.

Wednesday, the same jurors will return to hear testimony regarding Gordon’s punishment. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him, and the jury of eight men and four women will recommend either mandatory life in prison or death by lethal injection. The final decision will rest with Harb.

Prosecutors intend to argue 4 statutory reasons for imposing the death penalty, including that Gordon murdered the women to avoid capture and that the murders were particularly vicious.

During the trial, jurors heard that Moran, 72, was stabbed 57 times, and her daughter, 51-year-old Royal, 54 times. Their throats were slit, and the wound on Royal’s neck cut down to her spine, according to court testimony.

Gordon is the 2nd of 4 co-defendants to be convicted of robbery and the women’s murders. Terrell Williams, 33, was sentenced to life imprisonment in October after a jury found him guilty. The other two defendants — Devonere McCune, 26, and Jovan Lamb, 33 — remain in the Polk County Jail without bail awaiting trial.

The rampage began in the late afternoon of Jan. 15, 2015, when three armed men wearing masks robbed the Cash America Pawn Shop in Auburndale while Lamb, alleged to be the getaway driver, waited outside. When scooping jewelry from a shattered display case, they unknowingly grabbed a GPS tracker that enabled law enforcement to pursue them as they sped toward Haines City.

The chase ended when the 4 assailants crashed their car near the entrance to the Chanler Ridge subdivision in Haines City. McCune was the 1st to be captured when a K-9 trapped him near the car. The other 3 ran, but would be apprehended within hours.

Gordon was taken into custody after crashing through Moran’s garage door in her car and driving across an open field before slamming into an embankment along the shoreline of Lake Confusion.

As he was being taken into custody, officers discovered the bodies of the two women inside Moran’s house, along with a single tennis shoe and a pair of gloves with a logo stamped on the back. During the trial, prosecutors presented surveillance video from the Auburndale robbery showing Gordon wearing gloves bearing the same logo and shoes like the one found at the murder scene.

Officers also found bloody clothes in the women’s washing machine that prosecutors said Gordon had been wearing in the pawn shop’s surveillance video. One of the bloody shirts had Gordon’s DNA on the collar, according to court testimony.

Clearwater defense lawyer Jervis Wise, representing Gordon, told jurors Williams and Lamb were still on the run when the women were murdered, and suggested their involvement in the killings. He said Gordon was escaping a bad situation when he used Moran’s car to flee.

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

Chuluota man indicted in killings of parents, brother; prosecutors still weighing death penalty

A Seminole County grand jury on Tuesday indicted Grant Amato, the Chuluota man accused of killing his parents and brother last month, on 3 counts of 1st-degree murder. The indictment comes nearly 3 weeks after Chad Amato, 59, Margaret Ann Amato, 61 and Cody Amato, 31, were found shot to death in their Sultan Circle home Jan. 25.

Grant Amato, 29, was located at an Orlando hotel the next day. He admitted getting into an argument with his parents centering on his communication with a Bulgarian woman he met on an adult website. Amato’s surviving brother told deputies Amato had stolen more than $200,000 from their family to send to the woman.

Chuluota man stole $200K for Bulgarian woman he met on adult website before killing his parents, brother, deputies say

Prosecutors are still deciding whether to pursue the death penalty against Amato, said Todd Brown, a spokesman for the Seminole-Brevard State Attorney’s Office.

“The option to pursue capital punishment in this case is still under review,” Brown said in a statement.

Amato is being held in the Seminole County Jail without bond, but his lawyers are asking a judge grant him pre-trial release, saying no forensic evidence ties him to the killings.

A hearing will be held March 21 to determine whether Amato is eligible for a bond.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)

OHIO:

Fatal Clermont County standoff: Man indicted on charges of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder

The man accused of shooting and killing a Clermont County detective and injuring another has been indicted on charges of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder.

Earlier this month, Clermont County prosecutors said in court they planned to seek the death penalty for 23-year-old Wade Winn. Winn had been accused in a fatal shootout that was the result of a 12-hour standoff with law enforcement.

At that time, bond was set at $10 million.

This week, Winn was officially indicted on the charges stemming from that incident. Counts 2 and 2 are in reference to the aggravated murder charges. Counts 3 through 14 are in reference to attempted aggravated murder charges.

Winn was live on Instagram during the incident, which took place at a Pierce Township apartment complex. Officials can be heard in videos naming the suspect and asking him to surrender. Prosecutors have said in court that Winn faked his own suicide and was "lying in ambush” when two law enforcement officers entered the apartment to render him aid.

Then, according to prosecutors, he fired several shots, killing Detective Bill Brewer and hurting another officer.

(source: Fox News)

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

Jury selected, trial to begin in quadruple homicide

While opening statements and testimony were expected to get underway in a quadruple murder trial in Ironton on Monday, a mid-morning “legal issue” caused final jury selection to hit a snag, slowing down the trial process.

Arron L. Lawson, 24, of Township Road 1051 in Ironton, faces 4 counts alleging aggravated murder in the 2017 death of 4 family members.

Opening statements in the case will start at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Lawrence County Courthouse in Ironton, Ohio.

Lawson's alleged victims — Stacey Holston, 24; her son, Devin Holston, 8; Stacey's mother, Tammie L. McGuire, 43; and McGuire's husband, Donald McGuire, 50; all of Pedro — were shot to death Oct. 11, 2017, at the Holstons' home. Lawson is Tammie McGuire's nephew.

If found guilty in those deaths, Lawson faces a penalty of death.

Todd Holston, Stacey Holston's husband, also was stabbed with a pocketknife inside the family's trailer during the attack, but survived his injuries.

Lawson also was charged with aggravated burglary, attempted murder and felonious assault of Todd Holston, the rape of Stacey Holston, abuse of a corpse, kidnapping of Devin Holston, tampering with evidence, theft of a motor vehicle and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer.

Following the killings, he is accused of having fled the scene. A manhunt involving more than 100 Tri-State law enforcement officers lasted for 36 hours before Lawson was arrested along County Road 52.

Lawson appeared in court Monday in a button-down shirt with his long locks of hair and long beard, which had been shaved shortly after his arrest, growing back to their original state.

He showed no emotion during Monday’s proceedings, but spent a lot of the time stroking his beard with a quizzical look in his face.

Monday started with Judge Andy Ballard ruling in final motions and discussing some juror issues before bringing in the remaining jurors for the final selection. After about 20 minutes, however, an undisclosed issue occurred and court was delayed until afternoon.

Upon returning Monday afternoon, Ballard said the issue had been a legal one and had since been resolved during the break.

Court was not dismissed until after 5 p.m. Monday. By the end of the day, 50 potential jurors had been cut to the final 12 jurors and 4 alternates, most of whom are women.

Dozens more had been cut during previous jury selection, which started Jan. 28.

Ballard did not allow media into the courtroom for any of the jury selection process.

The trial is expected to last several weeks. The jury will be sequestered from the outside world during deliberations.

When the trial starts Tuesday, each side will be given an hour and a half for opening arguments after the jury is seated; however, Kirk A. McVay, assistant state public defender, said he only would need 15 minutes. Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson represents the state on the case.

At one point it is expected the jury will be taken to view the locations of where the alleged crimes took place. McVey said his client did not wish to attend that.

Ohio death penalty laws require a death penalty case to be a bifurcated trial. The 1st part of the trial will focus on his guilt or innocence.

If found guilty, Lawson will face a 2nd trial in which the same jury will recommend a penalty or life in prison or death.

(source: The Herald-Dispatch)

KENTUCKY:

Prosecutor seeking death penalty in Owensboro triple murder case

Daviess County Commonwealth Attorney Bruce Keugel says he seeking the death penalty for Arnett Baines.

Baines was arrested in connection to the triple homicide on Audubon Avenue in Owensboro earlier this year.

Cylar Shemwell was also arrested. Kuegel tells us he’s still working through evidence to determine if he can file the death penalty for Shemwell as well.

Baines and Shemwell were in court Tuesday morning. The judge set Baines’ bond at $250,000. Shemwell has no bond.

Police responded to a shots fired call on January 17. They found 4 people had been shot inside a home on Audubon. Jay Michael Sowders, Robert Smith, and Chris Carrie died. Carmen Vanegas was also shot, but survived.

Baines is back in court on April 12 and Shemwell will have a bond hearing on February 19.

(source: WFIE news)

TENNESSEE:

Tennessee mulls 1 less court review before executions

As Tennessee ramps up for another round of executions, the Republican-led Legislature is considering eliminating 1 level of state court review of death sentences.

A bill named for fallen Dickson County Sheriff's Sgt. Daniel Baker would provide for automatic reviews of death penalty cases by the state Supreme Court, skipping over Tennessee's Court of Criminal Appeals. The same concept failed 2 years ago. This year, it has the support of the Senate and House speakers.

After Baker's fatal shooting in May, prosecutors have said they're seeking death sentences for two people still awaiting trial in a gruesome case in which Baker's police cruiser was set on fire with his body inside. Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe afterward pledged to prod government leaders to look into changing the legal system with victims in mind.

Tennessee was 1 of 3 states to resume executions in 2018 after long breaks; meanwhile, the 25 death sentences carried out nationwide last year remained near historic lows, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Tennessee executed 3 men in 2018 — 1 died by lethal injection and 2 chose the electric chair, arguing the injection would be a prolonged, tortuous death.

4 more Tennessee executions are scheduled this year, starting in May.

In sending death sentence appeals to an intermediate court first, Tennessee stands alongside Alabama as an outlier, said Jeff Cherry, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a group that opposes the legislation.

House Speaker Glen Casada and Senate Speaker Randy McNally both hailed the bill as a means of achieving more timely justice. Republican Sen. John Stevens, a bill sponsor, said House sponsor GOP Rep. Mary Littleton added Baker's name.

"The penalty can only be truly effective if it is carried out deliberately and efficiently," McNally said. "Justice delayed 20 and 30 years is not justice at all. This bill would preserve due process, provide timely justice and restore the death penalty as a meaningful deterrent."

Before the proposal crashed in 2017, a district attorneys general group backing the bill told lawmakers that death sentence reviews were added to the Court of Criminal Appeals' duties in the early 1990s.

A public defenders group, meanwhile, testified that year that the change would only save less than a year on death penalty cases on average. Federal reviews would remain the same.

Currently, 13 of the 58 people on Tennessee's death row were sentenced in the 1980s.

Cherry said trial court death penalties in Tennessee are overturned in more than 1/2 of cases, with most reversals coming from the Court of Criminal Appeals. That typically involves a new sentencing hearing, possibly leading to new plea negotiations and changes to life without parole sentences, Cherry added.

3 of Tennessee's 202 death penalties imposed since 1977 have resulted in exonerations, Cherry said.

"The better policy result, particularly in a death penalty case is to get the right result, not to get a fast result," Cherry said. "If that takes an extra level of review, so be it. It is a further safeguard in a system where the government imposes the ultimate sanction on one of its citizens."

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro criticized the timing of the bill, given that the Legislature and new Republican Gov. Bill Lee are pledging to reform the state's criminal justice system.

Lee gave no indication how he would lean on the issue, saying Tuesday he hasn't seen the proposal yet and will review it.

"I think it'll make the work of the Supreme Court harder," Yarbro said. "And it will not save any time or money for anyone."

(source: Associated Press)

COLORADO:

Colorado Governor Likely to Commute Death Sentences if State Abolishes Death Penalty

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has said he will “strongly consider” commuting the death sentences of the three men on the state’s death row if the state abolishes the death penalty. In a February 7, 2019 interview on Colorado Public Radio, Polis told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner, “if the legislature sends us a bill to eliminate the death penalty in Colorado, I would sign that bill … [and] I would certainly take that as a strong indication that those who are currently on death row should have their sentences commuted to life in prison.” Polis, who voiced his opposition to the death penalty during his 2018 campaign for governor, reiterated his views during the Colorado Matters interview. “I think it’s not cost effective, I think it’s not an effective deterrent,” he said. “If the State Republicans and Democrats were to say, and I were to sign a bill that said we no longer have the death penalty in Colorado, whether it's formally in the bill or not,” the Governor said, “then I would strongly consider making sure that penalty that is no longer on the books in Colorado is not carried out for anybody who's in that process.”

Colorado’s previous governor, John Hickenlooper, imposed a moratorium on executions in 2013. Hickenlooper said he initially had supported the death penalty, but changed his views when he learned more about the issue: “My whole life I was in favor of the death penalty. But then you get all this information: it costs 10 times, maybe 15 times more money to execute someone than to put someone in prison for life without parole. There’s no deterrence to having capital punishment. And I don’t know about you, but when I get new facts, I’ll change my opinion. I didn’t know all of this stuff.” Former prosecutor and state representative Doug Friednash, who sponsored a bill to expand Colorado’s death penalty to include multiple murders committed during a single criminal episode, has undergone a similar evolution. In a February 1 op-ed in the The Denver Post, Friednash called on the legislature to repeal its capital punishment law. “25 years ago, as a freshman House Democrat, I sponsored legislation to expand the death penalty,” Friednash wrote. “I was wrong.” The law he supported was used to prosecute James Holmes, who killed 12 people in a shooting at an Aurora movie theater in 2012, and Dexter Lewis, who stabbed 5 people to death in a Denver bar. Juries sentenced both to life. Holmes’ case, he says, illustrates some of the problems with the death penalty – the law failed to deter Holmes and his capital trial, which resulted in a life sentence, cost taxpayers approximately $5 million. Holmes was tried in Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, where defendants are "4 times more likely to face a death prosecution than elsewhere in the state.” All 3 of the state’s death-row prisoners are Black men who were tried in that district. Friednash concludes, “It’s time to close this chapter in Colorado’s history books. The Colorado legislature should abolish the death penalty this session. And then Gov. Jared Polis should commute the death sentences of our three death-row inmates to life without the possibility of parole.”

In a February 9 editorial, the Boulder Daily Camera also urged the legislature to abolish the death penalty. Citing the lack of deterrent effect and the high cost of capital punishment, the paper wrote: “If the worth of a public policy is its ability to achieve policy objectives, then capital punishment is a failure.” The editorial also noted “great economic, geographic, and racial disparities” in Colorado’s imposition of the death penalty. “The location of the county line in relation to a crime,” it said, “should not determine whether a defendant lives or dies, and neither should the skin color of the accused.” And in conclusion, it pointed to former Governor Bill Ritter’s 2011 posthumous pardon of Joe Arridy, who was wrongfully executed by Colorado in 1939 despite what Ritter called “an overwhelming body of evidence” that Arridy was innocent. “The state-sanctioned killing of an innocent person is more morally repugnant than the execution of a guilty one could be morally just,” the editorial board wrote. “For this reason alone — given that innocent people almost certainly die under a regime of capital punishment — Colorado should abolish the death penalty.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

WYOMING:

Death Row exoneree shares his story

Wyoming residents have been discussing House Bill 145...a proposal to end the death penalty in Wyoming. It passed on third reading in the House at the beginning of February.

Death Row exoneree Gary Drinkard invited residents to hear his story and why he believes that the death penalty should be abolished.

Drinkard was exonerated in 2001 after spending almost six years on Alabama's death row. In 1995, he was sentenced to death for robbing and murdering a 65-year-old automotive junk dealer in Alabama.

According to Drinkard, at the time of the murder, he was at home recovering from a debilitating injury.

In 2000, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a new trial and Drinkard won an acquittal the following year.

This man believes that life in prison is a more severe punishment than ultimately being executed; however, supporters of the death penalty say that they see it as an effective deterrent.

The League of Women Voters of Wyoming, ACLU of Wyoming, and Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne hosted Drinkard at Highlands Presbyterian Church so that residents could hear his story.

At the end, it was announced that the Senate hearing will take place Wednesday, February 13, at noon at the Jonah and will be open to public comment.

(source: KGWN news)

USA:

The Supreme Court Is Playing Favorites With Religion

Last week, the Supreme Court permitted the state of Alabama to execute a Muslim man, Domineque Ray, without his religious advisor present. The court’s 5-4 decision reversed an emergency lower-court order that had temporarily delayed the execution because of grave concerns that Alabama’s practice of allowing only the state’s Christian chaplain to be present in the execution chamber unconstitutionally favored Christian prisoners.

Without even acknowledging those concerns, the court issued a brief, callous decision that is, as Justice Kagan noted in dissent, “profoundly wrong.” It is also the latest example of a disturbing trend of religious favoritism, in which minority faiths — particularly Islam — are given second-class legal status.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that the “clearest command” of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause “is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.” The strict rule against denominational preference lies at the heart of American religious liberty, and it dates back to the founding of our nation. The constitutional framers recognized that “religion is too personal, too sacred, too holy, to permit its ‘unhallowed perversion’ by a civil magistrate.” When the government officially favors one faith over others, it intrudes on matters of conscience and religious autonomy, fosters religious division and animosity, and tramples our national commitment to equality among faiths.

Yet that’s precisely what happened in Alabama last week. Although Alabama routinely permits a Christian chaplain to be present in the execution chamber to minister to the needs of Christian prisoners, state officials rejected Ray’s request for the same treatment. With the green light from the Supreme Court, Alabama executed Ray without his imam to attend him in his final moments. As the court of appeals recognized, the religious favoritism could not have been clearer: “If Ray were a Christian, he would have a profound benefit; because he is a Muslim, he is denied that benefit.”

Alabama prison officials offered no meaningful defense of their discriminatory policy, beyond unfounded, conclusory assertions that in the interest of safety and security, only the state-employed Christian chaplain could be present. As Justice Kagan made clear, however, the state “offered no evidence to show that its wholesale prohibition on outside advisers is necessary to achieve” the general goal of prison security. And the Supreme Court majority simply ignored the substance of the policy and any claimed justifications for it. Rather, in lifting the stay of execution and reversing the lower court, the majority merely fell back on a 2-sentence procedural argument that Ray had waited too long to make his request.

But Justice Kagan easily refuted that theory, noting that Ray had, in fact, sought judicial relief only five days after learning that his imam wouldn’t be with him in the execution chamber — and not, as the majority implied, three months after. Faced with compelling evidence that Alabama’s policy violated “the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality,” the Supreme Court could have allowed the lower courts to address this weighty constitutional issue. Instead, the majority rushed to “short-circuit that ordinary process,” just to let the state have its “preferred execution date.”

Sadly, the Alabama case was hardly the first threat to religious equality in recent years. Just last term, the Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions that cast serious doubt on its commitment to religious liberty for all. In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the court ruled on narrow grounds in favor of a Christian-owned bakery in Colorado that wouldn’t sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple on the same terms as all other customers. The court in Masterpiece excused an indisputable violation of the state’s civil rights law because, in the majority’s view, state officials had acted with anti-religious hostility when enforcing the law against the bakery.

The purported evidence of bias was weak at best, yet the court went to great lengths to remind us that fundamental religious freedom “bars even subtle departures from neutrality on matters of religion.” The First Amendment, the court noted, “commits government itself to religious tolerance, and upon even slight suspicion” that state policies “stem from animosity to religion or distrust of its practices, all officials must pause to remember their own high duty to the Constitution and to the rights it secures.”

Alabama prison officials apparently never got that message. Nor, evidently, did President Trump, when he repeatedly disparaged Islam and Muslims and then enshrined that animosity into national immigration policy with his Muslim ban. Remarkably, only weeks after the Masterpiece decision, the Supreme Court let him get away with it.

In Trump v. Hawaii, a deeply divided court upheld the president’s ban, which imposed strict, indefinite entry restrictions on individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries. Unlike in Masterpiece, the evidence of anti-religious hostility underlying the Muslim ban was massive, consistent, and unambiguous. Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump regularly vilified Islam and called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in a statement that remained on his campaign website well into his presidency. Only one week into his presidency, Trump made good on that deplorable promise, issuing an executive order that targeted Muslim-majority countries and included thinly veiled attacks on Muslim communities here and abroad. Later iterations of the ban followed the same basic blueprint, and the president continued to malign Islam throughout the process.

But none of that mattered to the Supreme Court majority in Trump v. Hawaii. In upholding the final version of the ban, the court essentially ignored the overwhelming evidence of blatant anti-Muslim animus underlying the policy, crediting superficial changes the president made in response to earlier court rulings. In the end, the court gave Trump a free pass to discriminate against an entire faith.

Coming on the heels of the Masterpiece decision, the message came through loud and clear. The Muslim ban ruling, Justice Sotomayor explained in dissent, “erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the Court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.”

Later this month, religious neutrality will face another crucial test in the Supreme Court. On Feb. 27, the court will hear oral argument in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, addressing the constitutionality of a 40-foot-tall, government-owned Latin cross. Applying decades of precedent, the lower court in the case concluded that government’s giant display of the cross — “the preeminent symbol of Christianity” — as a war memorial to honor the sacrifices of all veterans violates the First Amendment’s ban on official religious preference. Proponents of the state-sponsored cross, including the Trump administration, hope to upend that precedent and thereby open the floodgates to divisive religious meddling by the government.

But the lower court got it right, and the American Legion case powerfully illustrates the multiple dangers of governmental favoritism in matters of faith. First, the state’s elevation of this singular, prominent religious symbol as a war memorial conveys a message of exclusion and disfavor to non-Christians who sacrificed their lives for their nation. As the Jewish War Veterans of the USA explained to the court, “A government undertakes few tasks more solemn than honoring its war dead. And when the memorial takes the form of a religious symbol of an afterlife available only to Christians, the government favors one faith over others in a profound way. . . . Veterans of all stripes are united by their love of country, but they are not united by the cross.”

Second, just as the founders feared, the government’s display of a Latin cross, including its strained effort to secularize the meaning of this unambiguously and uniquely spiritual symbol, threatens a serious degradation and corruption of the faith. In their amicus brief to the court, a coalition of Christian and Jewish groups, led by the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty, pointedly noted that the government’s “welter of alleged secular meanings for the cross, and their efforts to minimize its religious meaning, are offensive to many Christians. The [state] violates its obligation to be neutral among faiths both when it sponsors the cross and when it spins stories attempting to secularize the cross.”

Although the Supreme Court continues to pay lip-service to the “clearest command” of the Establishment Clause, its recent decisions have fallen woefully short. In the American Legion case, the court has another chance to honor the constitutional promise of religious neutrality. For Domineque Ray, it’s already too late. But let’s hope the trail of religious favoritism ends here.

(source: By Daniel Mach, Director, ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief----ACLU)

IRAN:

Iranian environmentalists fear death penalty after a year behind bars

A campaign poster showing environmental activists, Taher Ghadirian, Niloufar Bayani, Amirhossein Khaleghi, Houman Jokar, Sam Rajabi, Sepideh Kashani, Morad Tahbaz and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh. #anyhopefornature campaign.

A version of this article was originally published by the freedom of expression organisation ARTICLE 19, as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Eight environmental activists in Iran have been in detention for over a year after they were arrested and charged with “espionage” and “spreading corruption on earth”. They were finally brought to trial on January 30, 2019.

The corruption charge they face, under Iran's penal code, carries a possible death sentence.

The 8 activists, Niloufar Bayani, Sam Radjabi, Houman Jowkar, Taher Ghadirian, Morad Tahbaz, Sepideh Kashani, Amir Hossein Khaleghi and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, all worked for the Tehran-based Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), and were arrested in January 2018, along with Kavous Seyed-Emami, the managing director of PWHF. Seyed-Emani died on 8 February 2018 while in custody in Evin prison. While the judiciary says Seyede-Emani died by suicide, both the domestic and international community have called for an independent investigation into his death, which has not yet taken place.

The government’s case against the activists focuses heavily on the group’s work to protect the Asiatic cheetah, a wild cat native to eastern Iran that is nearing extinction. Most members of the group had studied outside Iran, mainly in Canada and the US, and had ties to international environmental expert groups, some of whom have visited Iran in an effort to learn more about the cats and potentially help in their preservation. Iranian officials have seized on the defendants’ connections with foreign universities and used them to support accusations that the activists are foreign intelligence agents masquerading as environmental experts.

All defendants were initially accused of “espionage” and detained while awaiting trial, but Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi announced on 24 October 2018 that charges against 4 of them had been changed to “spreading corruption on earth,” which is punishable by death.

Public prosecutors built much of their case against the group from a forced confession made by one of the activists, which has since been retracted.

On 30 January and 2 February 2019, the eight conservationists faced trial at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Salavati, who has a history of issuing disproportionate and oppressive sentences to human rights defenders. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), half of the 300-page indictment was read in these sessions, all of which was based on the confessions of 1 of the 8 defendants, Niloufar Bayani. Bayani interrupted the court multiple times to object, saying that her confessions were made under duress, are false and that she had retracted them.

Other serious and concerning allegations have been made about the trials, including that the trials are being held behind closed doors, the defendants were not given the right to choose their lawyers, and that not all the judiciary-appointed defence lawyers were present in court.

The defendants say they have been subjected to months of solitary confinement and psychological torture, including being threatened with death, threatened with being injected with hallucinogenic drugs, and threatened with arrest and the death of family members.

The treatment the defendants have faced has violated their rights to life, freedom of expression, fair trial and due process of law. It also marks part of a trend of silencing those speaking out on environmental issues in the country using espionage charges.

ARTICLE 19 and other human rights organizations have called for their immediate and unconditional release, and for a thorough, immediate and impartial investigation into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

(source: globalvoices.org)

SAUDI ARABIA:

The Farce of Justice in Saudi Arabia----The kingdom wants the death penalty for my father, and its judiciary is being pushed far from any semblance of the rule of law and due process.

Despite the claims of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his enablers, Saudi Arabia is not rolling back the hard-line religious establishment. Instead, the kingdom is curtailing the voices of moderation that have historically combated extremism. Numerous Saudi activists, scholars and thinkers who have sought reform and opposed the forces of extremism and patriarchy have been arrested. Many of them face the death penalty.

Salman Alodah, my father, is a 61-year-old scholar of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, a reformist who argued for greater respect for human rights within Shariah, the legal code of Islam based on the Quran. His voice was heard widely, partly owing to his popularity as a public figure with 14 million followers on Twitter.

On Sept. 10, 2017, my father, who was disturbed by regional tensions after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar, spoke obliquely about the conflict and expressed his desire for reconciliation. “May Allah mend their hearts for the best of their peoples,” he tweeted.

A few hours after his tweet, a team from the Saudi security services came to our house in Riyadh, searched the house, confiscated some laptops and took my father away.

The Saudi government was apparently angered and considered his tweet a criminal violation. His interrogators told my father that his assuming a neutral position on the Saudi-Qatar crisis and failing to stand with the Saudi government was a crime.

He is being held in solitary confinement in Dhahban prison in Jidda. He was chained and handcuffed for months inside his cell, deprived of sleep and medical help and repeatedly interrogated throughout the day and night. His deteriorating health — high blood pressure and cholesterol that he developed in prison — was ignored until he had to be hospitalized. Until the trial, about a year after his arrest, he was denied access to lawyers.

On Sept. 4, a specialized criminal court in Riyadh convened off-camera to consider the numerous charges against my father: stirring public discord and inciting people against the ruler, calling for change in government and supporting Arab revolutions by focusing on arbitrary detention and freedom of speech, possessing banned books and describing the Saudi government as a tyranny. The kingdom’s attorney general sought the death penalty for him.

Saudi Arabia has exploited the general indifference of the West toward its internal politics and presented the crackdown against reformist figures like my father as a move against the conservative religious establishment. The reality is far from their claims.

My father is loved by the Saudi people because his authority and legitimacy as an independent Muslim scholar set him apart from the state-appointed scholars. Using Islamic principles to support his arguments, he championed civil liberties, participatory politics, the separation of powers and judicial independence.

For almost 2 decades, he has vocally led the campaign against terrorism in Saudi Arabia. He has called for renewing religious discourse and argued for moderate Islam. I wonder whether he was arrested because of his popular, progressive stances, because since the ascent of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, nobody else is allowed to be seen as a “reformer.”

While reformers like my father sit in prisons, Saudi Arabia has embraced hard-liners like Saleh al-Fouzan, an influential state-sponsored cleric and a member of the Council of Senior Scholars. In 2013, Mr. al-Fouzan denounced a future where women would drive and claimed that the Shia and other Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi beliefs are infidels and that anyone who disagrees with that interpretation is an infidel. He has also pronounced all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants forbidden because they strike him as akin to gambling, which is banned in Islam.

In August, Mr. al-Fouzan was seated between King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Prince Mohammed at the royal court to signal his authority and importance. A few months earlier, during a meeting, the crown prince told Mr. al-Fouzan, “You are like my father.” In September, Mr. al-Fouzan issued a fatwa urging the state to kill political dissidents who promote sedition against the ruler. A month later, my friend Jamal Khashoggi was murdered.

In such a culture of fear, there is little hope for justice. The judiciary is being pushed far from any semblance of the rule of law and due process.

Even some judges from the specialized criminal court, which is trying my father, have themselves been detained after they declined to impose harsh penalties recommended by the attorney general in certain cases. A judge told me that judges recently appointed to the specialized criminal court live with fear.

Yet there are some judges in Saudi Arabia who have not submitted to the total control the monarchy seeks. In 2013, around 200 judges signed a public petition calling for real legal and judicial reforms, and condemned the “overwhelming crackdown and suppression of the real and patriotic voices.” They wanted the independence of the judiciary.

Those judges were intimidated, and some were referred for investigation by the Saudi Ministry of Justice. Muhammad al-Issa, the minister of justice at the time, promised a “corrective campaign” that would rid the judiciary of these “corrupted judges.” 2 judges were fired and the rest quietly resumed their work.

On Feb. 3, the Saudi government postponed my father’s trial for the third time without explanation and continues to keep him in prison. My family has been incessantly harassed since his arrest; 17 members of my family are barred from travel, including children; our house and my personal library were searched without warrant; my uncle was arrested after tweeting about the incident; and my assets have been frozen without justification.

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi demolished the myth of a reforming crown prince running Saudi Arabia. But the world needs to raise its voice to support the Saudis actually fighting for reform — people like Salman Alodah, my father, for whom the Saudi attorney general has sought the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; Abdullah Alaoudh is a senior fellow at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University----New York Times)

CAMEROON:

Maurice Kamto, Cameroon opposition leader charged with rebellion in military court

Cameroon's main opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, has been charged in a military court with rebellion and 7 other offences, indictments that could carry the death penalty, his lawyer said on Wednesday. Kamto, who has been in custody since Jan. 28, lost what he says was a fraudulent presidential election in October and has since rallied supporters in rare protest against long-serving President Paul Biya. Kamto declared himself victor after the vote and has challenged Biya's win in the African Union court. "The investigating judges charged Maurice Kamto at the military tribunal," lawyer Christopher Ndong told Reuters. "...This is not a judicial matter. This is politics."

(source: devdiscourse.com)

KENYA:

Woman, 5 relatives to hang for killing her husband----Anne Waithera, her son Joseph Maina, her sister Ruth Wanjiru and 3 other distant relatives were found guilty of killing David Macharia.

The Court of Appeal has turned down an appeal by a woman and her 5 relatives who were sentenced to death for killing her husband in 2004.

Anne Waithera, her son Joseph Maina, her sister Ruth Wanjiru and 3 other distant relatives were sentenced to die in 2014 for murdering her husband David Macharia for marrying a 2nd wife and over greed for property.

Justice Florence Muchemi found the 6 guilty of murder.

'FALL OF HUMANITY'

While upholding the death sentence on Tuesday, 3 appellant judges described the killing of Mr Macharia as “cold-hearted and chilling”.

Judges Philip Waki, Roselyn Nambuye and Patrick Kiage said in their ruling that unless courts stand firmly against such offences, they will be contributing to the fall of humanity.

They added: “When marriage and family become a mortal peril for spouses, and children kill their parents without blinking, something of our humanity is lost and the law must be deployed and enforced to express our collective horror, revulsion and outrage,”

The judges said perpetrators of such cold-blooded murders must not be allowed to breathe the air of liberty and must never roam freely among the happy and the free who respect the lives of others.

“It is for such cold-hearted killers that the penalty of death was legislated and for whom the courts must declare it. The same was properly imposed and we have no reason to disturb it. We confirm and uphold it," the judges said.

'MARITAL PROBLEMS'

The convicts found Mr Macharia milking his cow in Lari, Kiambu County, and slashed his neck with a panga. They then wrapped his body in blankets, stashed it in 2 sacks, tied boulders around it and threw it over a water fall deep in a forest.

The 3 judges said the elimination of Mr Macharia, who had taken a 2nd wife because of incessant marital problems with his 1st wife, "was a dark mix of jealousy, rage, greed, impatience and pure hatred compounded to turn the marital space into a deadly trap and to convert filial fealty into a grossly cruel patricide".

The judges rejected submissions by defence lawyers Francis Njanja, Robert Mutitu and Gicheha Kamau that the case against the appellants had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt as there were no eyewitnesses and the trial court relied on circumstantial evidence.

The judges disagreed, saying the appellants were correctly convicted on sound evidence and their appeal was devoid of merit.

(source: na7ion.co.ke)

LEBANON:

Judge requests death penalty for Gavin Ford murderers

A Mount Lebanon investigative judge has called for the death penalty for 2 men accused of murdering Radio One host Gavin Ford at his home in November of last year.

Judge Nadim al-Nashef Sunday officially indicted Syrian nationals Issa Jasem al-Hneish, 28, and Hussein Ali Bakdash, 24. The pair had confessed to murdering the British deejay back in November, a statement from the Internal Security Forces said at the time.

According to the indictment, Hneish told investigators that he met Bakdash about a week before the murder, when Bakdash asked him for a loan of LL20,000 ($13). Hneish then suggested to Bakdash that they could go to Ford’s house and earn $50 by performing sexual services.

But according to Hneish, Bakdash refused to offer sexual services to Ford. Instead, the pair decided rob their victim.

Bakdash arrived at the victim’s house on the morning of the incident posing as someone sent by a person who allegedly frequently found sexual partners for Ford. When Ford tried to undress him, Bakdash struck the deejay with a glass bottle.

When Ford fought back, Bakdash repeatedly struck him with the bottle until he lost consciousness. Bakdash then tied up the victim’s hands and legs, and let Hneish into the apartment.

At some point, Ford regained consciousness, and the pair continued beating him and finally strangled him to death with a piece of cloth.

Bakdash and Hneish searched the apartment and found a cellphone, a checkbook, some personal papers and the keys to Ford’s car, all of which they stole, along with Ford’s car. The November ISF statement said the phone and car keys and some ID documents had later been found in the men’s residences.

Patrol units from the ISF’s Information Branch found Ford’s stolen car around Souk al-Ahad near Sin el-Fil within hours of discovering his body.

The indictment said investigations had confirmed that Ford had frequently paid for sex, mainly with young Syrian men.

It said forensic investigations had also confirmed that Ford’s hands and legs had been restrained, while his assailants had beaten his head before strangling him with a piece of cloth.

(source: The Daily Star)

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

Prosecutors request death penalty for 2 men accused of brutally murdering British radio host at his home in Lebanon

Lebanese prosecutors have requested a death sentence against two Syrian men accused of the November murder of a British radio host.

The pair, both in their 20s, were charged with the premeditated murder of Gavin Ford, a British national who had been a popular radio host in Lebanon for years.

According to the Lebanese security forces, the 2 men have confessed to killing 53-year-old Ford.

They were detained in November in the Bekaa Valley area of eastern Lebanon.

Ford was found bludgeoned and choked to death at his luxury home in the town of Broummana, east of the capital Beirut on Monday November 26.

He had celebrated his 53rd birthday the previous night, uploading a video of himself inside his apartment along with 2 other men to social media.

On Monday morning he then went to record his usual radio broadcast, which is Lebanon's most listened to drivetime show, before returning home.

The 2 men who confessed to his murder said they arrived at his home on Monday afternoon intending to rob him.

The suspects - identified by their initials as Aa.A. and H.B. and who are aged 27 and 23 - admitted strangling Ford and hitting him over the head with a sharp object.

They then fled Ford's home using his stolen BMW and having taken his iPhone.

2 Syrian men - identified only as Aa.A. and H.B., reportedly confessed to killing Mr Ford during a botched robbery

They parked the car close to a busy market on the outskirts of Beirut and hid his phone and car keys at one of their homes.

The suspects said: 'We went to the victim's [Gavin Ford] house on Monday afternoon on 26 November to commit a robbery.

'We choked him to death and hit him with a sharp object, knocking him unconscious. We left the area in his car.'

Police body was discovered next to a four-poster bed after entering the apartment around 11.15pm that night.

Colleagues at Beirut's Radio One had raised the alarm when Ford failed to turn up for work that morning. The prosecutor's request for the death penalty comes after Ford's step-mother said she would like to 'string up' his killers, who struck the day after the DJ's 53rd birthday.

Tissy Ford, 77, told MailOnline: 'We don't know if it was random or whether these 2 knew who Gavin was.

'If it was up to me, I'd string them up.'

Tissy and retired hairdresser Bob Ford, 79, live in Gloucester. They said they only learned of their son's death when they got a text from a friend which said 'condolences, so sad about Gavin.'

Tissy said: 'At that point we didn't understand the text which came from a friend in Australia.

'But minutes later Gavin's sister burst in looking like death and said: "Gavin's dead".

The elite Information Divison unit of Lebanon's Internal Security Force, which is investigating the murder, issued a lengthy statement following the men's confession.

It also released photographs of the suspects, but taken from behind.

The statement said: 'Gavin Ford was found dead and tied up in the town of Broummana. Through examination of the body it was found that the cause of death was suffocation and him being beaten on the face with a sharp object.

'Within a few hours of the crime the Information Division of the Internal Security Force found the victim's car which had been stolen at the time of the crime. It was found outside the Sunday Market area, on the outskirts of Beirut.

'As a result of investigations a Syrian man became a suspect. He is identified in this statement as Syrian, Aa. A born in 1991.

'On the 28 November following investigations the ID was able to arrest the suspect in the Beirut district Nabaa, where the suspect lives.

'During interrogation the suspect confessed to murder Gavin Ford in conjunction with a Syrian identified as H.B. born in 1995. Aa.A claimed he did not know where H.B. was.

'In less than 5 hours the 2nd suspect was located and arrested in the Jnah area of southern Beirut. He also confessed to carrying out the crime.

'They said they went to the victim's house on Monday afternoon on 26 November to commit a robbery.

'The perpetrators of the crime are not the 2 people who featured in a video published by the victim in the hours before his death.'

Neighbours at the time spoke of their shock that such a grisly murder had taken place in the luxury mountain enclave.

'This is just so horrible,' one told MailOnline. 'To live here when such as terrible thing has happened is so shocking.'

Another neighbour told how Ford had lived in the apartment, which has a huge balcony with a view over the Mediterranean Sea for the past 15 years.

She said: 'Gavin was a lovely guy, quiet and friendly.

'He left early in the morning for work but he was not trouble. There was never any noise or problems.'

One middle-aged woman said she saw Ford arrive home at around 10.30am on the day he was murdered.

She said it was 'the normal time he came back from the radio station.'

She also claimed that she saw him walk from the car park where he left his black BMW and he was alone at the time.

The police report confirms officers arrived at Ford's apartment at 11.15pm that night.

One of the neighbours claimed officers hadn't needed to break down the front door before entering to find Ford face down in a pool of blood.

A team of more than 20 officers arrived at the scene, including a pathologist and a doctor who specialises in crime scenes.

The police report confirmed Ford was strangled and his body was found with his hands bound behind his back and his ankles also tied together.

His body – which was covered in bruises, according to the report – was also covered with what appeared to be a curtain.

Abdo Kahale, the director of Radio One, described Ford as a 'super guy' and a 'gentleman.'

'I can't replace Gavin. He was really a legend for 15 years and we'll truly miss him,' he said.

A former colleague who knew Ford well for two decades added: 'He was just so incredibly gentle and kind and that's how I and many others will remember him, and also a little gullible. That was Gavin. Just too kind.

'He often would give up his time unpaid to help university students or chair panels for the Lebanese, people he loved, for a country he felt at home in. He's going to be really missed.'

British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Ramply said: 'I am shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Gavin Ford, one of Lebanon's most popular morning breakfast hosts.

'The thoughts of all at the Embassy are with his family, friends and colleagues at this terribly difficult time.'

Beirut's Radio One paid tribute to the British presenter who had become part of city's fabric through his 20-year career in Lebanon.

In a statement the radio statement said: 'We are heart-broken to announce the passing of our dear friend Gavin Ford, a member of our team for many joyful years.

'We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues all over the world.

'Rest In Peace Gavin.'

The producer of his show, Gavin In The Morning, Olga Habre, added in a FaceBook post: 'Yes it's true and I'm heart-broken. #ripgavinford.'

Ford was buried in Lebanon.

Gloucester boy who became 'Lebanon's Terry Wogan'

Gavin started his career on hospital radio before spells with Severn Sound in Gloucestershire where he was born and brought up.

He worked on an English language station in France before working in Cyprus, Israel and Beirut.

His dad said: 'While he was on the Radio Caroline ship he had to work his passage back to Lowestoft on a trawler, gutting fish all the way. Gavin wouldn't have liked that very much.

'But he loved it in Lebanon, I went out to visit him 20 years ago as now.

'He did have to leave in a hurry when things got quite bad out there, the RAF had to fly him out.

'But he went back and was very happy there - he had a big following on the radio.'

Gavin had worked for Radio One in the Lebanon for 22 years and the ex-pat community regarded him as their version of Terry Wogan.

He presented the breakfast show five-days a week and his huge following of fans were left shocked and upset by his murder on Tuesday.

Gavin had spoken to his parents on the phone the day before and was 'fine'.

Tissy said: 'Gavin loved it out there, he had a nice lifestyle and many friends.

'He was always partying, he was out most evenings with having a good time with friends.

'He lived alone with his labrador - he took care of himself and looked very good for 53.'

Gavin's sister Julia, 56, was too upset to talk about the tragedy yesterday - their parents said she was 'very close' to her brother.

Julia's husband, pub landlord Nick Beardsley flew out to Beirut immediately after hearing that Gavin had been bludgeoned and choked to death.

Distraught Julia and the couple's three sons are flying out for a funeral and cremation service on Sunday.

The family in the UK had been looking forward to Gavin visiting for Christmas, his 1st trip home for some years.

Tissy said: 'He was looking forward to it and we couldn't wait to see him. Gavin wished his dad happy birthday live on air during his popular morning programme last year.

Tissy said: 'I picked up the phone and Gavin said he was doing his show and wanted to wish his dad happy birthday.

'He introduced me to his listeners as his stepmum and told them I'd be in my stilettos.

'He said if I had wellington boots they would have stilettos - that was Gavin, he was always light-hearted, good with people and a natural broadcaster.'

Bob is unable to fly out for the funeral because he's not strong enough after his operations.

He said: 'It's horrendous, I feel so far away.

'All we've been told is that he was strangled and they took his money and car which was found abandoned.

'They have arrested 2 Syrians through the fingerprints or DNA, I don't know.'

Gavin's ashes will be scattered on the grave of his mother Patricia who died 20 years ago, at the family church in Leckhampton, near Cheltenham.

Tissy was her best friend but became Gavin's stepmother 6 years ago when she married Bob.

A memorial service will be held for Gavin at Leckhampton Parish Church at a later date.

(source: Daily Mail)

SRI LANKA:

Sri Lanka recruiting 2 hangmen before resuming death penalty

Sri Lankan prison authorities are recruiting 2 hangmen after the president pledged to end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment and execute condemned drug traffickers amid alarm over drug-related crime.

Prison department spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya said Wednesday 2 executioners will be hired and advertisements to recruit them appeared in the newspapers on Monday.

The interviews will be conducted next month. President Maithripala Sirisena has said the executions will resume in the next 2 months.

Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976.

Sirisena's announcement of ending the moratorium came after he visited the Philippines in January and praised President Rodrigo Duterte's drug crackdown as "an example to the world."

Sri Lanka has 1,299 prisoners facing death sentences, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.

(source: Associaetd Press)

FEBRUARY 12, 2019:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Murdered, pregnant prostitute ‘matters,’ prosecutor says as death penalty trial begins----The death penalty trial of Seaga Gillard, accused of fatally shooting a pregnant woman inside a Raleigh hotel room in December of 2016, began on

The case of a prostitute shot dead in the door of her Raleigh hotel room opened Monday with prosecutors insisting that she matters as a victim despite her criminal profession.

April Lynn Holland was roughly 12 weeks pregnant when she was shot in the chest and head at America’s Best Value Inn, where her boyfriend and father of their children Dwayne Garvey was also slain in December 2016.

The state is seeking the death penalty against Seaga Gillard, 31, whom prosecutors accused of seeking out Holland as a customer paying $140 and then shooting her after an accomplice shot Garvey in the hallway.

“Do they matter?” asked Wake County Assistant District Attorney David Saacks. “Do Dwayne and April matter? Will they be offered the same consideration, will they be offered the same justice that any one of us would expect? ... We are confident that they will, and that they do.”

April Lynn Holland and Dwayne Garvey, who were shot to death on the 2nd floor of the America’s Best Value Inn at 3921 Arrow Drive, off Blue Ridge Road near the Crabtree Valley Mall, before dawn on Dec. 2, 2016. The next day, police charged Seaga Edward Gillard, 28, and Brandon Xavier Hill, 29, with 1st-degree murder in the double homicide.

The case highlights the underworld of prostitution but also the increasing rarity of the death penalty in North Carolina. The state has not executed an inmate since 2006, and more than two years have passed since a jury last imposed death as punishment.

A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling showed 51 percent said North Carolina should or probably should replace the death penalty with life in prison without possibility of parole. Of those polled, 70 percent said they believe it is either very or somewhat likely that innocent people have likely been executed.

But out of 100 counties statewide, Wake is the only one to seek death sentences in each of the past three years, according to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. Since 2016, Wake held a quarter of the 12 capital trials across North Carolina.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said last month that her office seeks the death penalty in fewer than 5 % of all homicide cases, reserving it for “the most egregious.”

Much of Gillard’s trial will hinge on video footage. In his opening statements to the jury Monday, Saacks described the Wake Forest man arriving at the hotel near Crabtree Valley Mall with Brandon Hill, also known as “B.”

Holland was to have a customer in the room just before 5 a.m., and when 2 men arrived, Garvey texted her and said, “I saw 2 dudes,” and later, “You OK?”

The couple had several children together, but Saacks said they were not living with them and not at the hotel the night of the shooting. Holland texted Garvey, “It’s OK,” and to wait by the hotel vending machines.

Video footage then shows Garvey running outside the hall and banging on room 220, Holland’s room, in an agitated state, Saacks said. Hill then arrives, also agitated and carrying a gun to confront Garvey, who backed away with his hands up.

7 shots were fired, Saacks said, and Garvey stumbled away toward the lobby, where he collapsed and died. Footage then shows Gillard emerging from the room with Holland, putting up his hand and then running out to the parking lot with Hill.

“You’re not going to wonder what happened,” he said. “That’s for you and all the world to see.”

Raleigh police officers testified they found Holland in her room, naked except for her socks. They discovered seven $20 bills and an unwrapped condom inside the room with her.

Police circulated pictures from the surveillance footage and quickly got a call identifying Gillard at home in Wake Forest. They found messages on both his and Holland’s phones discussing terms for their “business encounter,” Saacks said. He had also done a Google search for the penalty for double homicide and fetal homicide.

Hill later eluded police at the hotel where he worked, then rode as the passenger in a car chase into Durham with speeds topping 100 mph, Saacks said. Hill jumped and ran from the car after it ran over “spike sticks” to puncture the tires. He was soon arrested in Florida and charged with murder.

Raleigh attorney Edd Roberts, one of two lawyers representing Gillard, cautioned jurors against drawing quick conclusions from the hotel video. He described events at the hotel as “chaos” that started in the hallway and “evoked more chaos” inside Holland’s room.

“It’s not a planned, premeditated killing,” he said.

Testimony continues Tuesday.

(source: Raleigh News & Observer)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

No death penalty or life sentences for SC juveniles under proposed law

Bipartisan bills making their way through the South Carolina General Assembly would prevent life sentences and the death penalty as punishments for juveniles convicted of crimes.

The so-called Youth Sentencing Act of 2019 was introduced in the House Wednesday, February 6. It's co-sponsored by Rep. Neal Collins, a Republican from Pickens County, and Rep. Beth Bernstein, a Columbia Democrat. Both are attorneys serving on the House Judiciary Committee.

Nearly identical legislation was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 5 by Sens. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington), Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) and Darrell Jackson (D-Richland).

The bills seek to "eliminate life without parole as a sentencing option for juveniles" in South Carolina's criminal justice system, replacing them with "age-appropriate sentencing and punishment standards [...] for juveniles who commit serious crimes."

Justification for the new law hinges on U.S. Supreme Court decisions in multiple cases, which have held factors of youth such as brain and behavioral development should protect juveniles from the most severe of punishments, even when those juveniles have committed horrible crimes.

The proposal would prevent courts from sentencing people under 18 to death or life imprisonment without parole. It would also nullify current life imprisonment and death sentences for offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crime.

Going forward, the bill calls for capping sentences for juveniles at 25 years in cases involving deaths, and capping sentences at 20 years in cases where no death occurred.

Convicts currently in prison for crimes they committed as juveniles would be automatically eligible for parole if they have served more than 20 or 25 years, depending on the type of crime.

The bill currently sits under review by the House Judiciary Committee. If it were passed, it would take effect immediately upon Governor McMaster's signature.

(source: WCIV news)

GEORGIA:

Suspect involved in shooting that killed grandmother facing the death penalty

The suspect involved in a deadly shooting of his grandmother last July is facing the death penalty.

Chantz Cooper faces more than a dozen charges including murder and aggravated assault. Savannah Police say he was involved in a shootout with an officer when his grandmother was killed.

For the 1st time in this case, these court documents from Monday’s hearing show that the state seeking capital punishment for Chantz Cooper.

Cooper was in court on Monday with his attorney in front of Judge John Morse. Savannah Police say Cooper shot at a police officer last July on Stratford Street.

Police say a stray bullet pierced through a nearby home and killed 60-year-old Cynthia Fields, who was Cooper's grandmother.

He faces 16 charges, including murder, aggravated assault on a peace officer, having a gun during a felony.

Cooper pled not guilty to those charges on Monday and asked for a jury trial.

(source: WTOC news)

FLORIDA:

This is where Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz's death penalty case stands a year later

A year after Nikolas Cruz massacred 17 people and injured 17 others at his former high school in Florida, the question is not whether he's guilty -- he's confessed on video. It's does he live or die?

His defense team has offered a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole -- but only if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table. Prosecutors have rejected the plea, meaning a lengthy trial is all but inevitable.

If the case goes to trial, Cruz will join a short list of mass shooters who've faced their victims in court. Of the 10 deadliest shootings in recent US history, Cruz is the only one who was captured alive.

Here's the latest on his case:

The trial has not started yet

The case is on what's described as the "pretrial discovery" stage, says Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, whose office is representing Cruz. He says the case is a long way from trial.

Some witnesses are giving statements

In this stage, Cruz's attorneys have been deposing dozens of witnesses to give oral statements under oath.

Such sessions happen behind closed doors and are only attended by attorneys, the court reporter and the victims' advocate, says Richard Hornsby, a criminal defense lawyer in Florida who is not involved in the case. Depositions are conducted in person by prosecutors and defense attorneys, and the defendant is not allowed to be present, he adds.

"It is common for victims/accusers to be deposed. However, from a strategic standpoint, I could not imagine the defense attorneys deposing the survivors in this case without a good reason," Hornsby says.

The Broward County Clerk of Court's website lists deposition notices for mostly law enforcement witnesses.

It's the beginning of a long, arduous process

A death penalty case can take years to go to trial.

The process itself has three stages. The current pretrial stage, where the discovery is conducted; the guilt phase, where the trial is conducted; and if convicted as charged, the penalty phase where a jury determines whether to impose the death penalty or not, Hornsby says.

Death penalty cases are so staggering in scope, it can take at least two years for the case to go to trial, he says. The process involves painstakingly combing through graphic details of the shooting in court. No detail is too small, including the gunshots, autopsies and the killer's words.

"However, with the judge pushing the case hard and the passage of Marsy's Law last fall, I would not be surprised if this case makes it to trial early next fall," Hornsby says.

Marsy's Law expanded the rights of victims of crimes, including giving them the right to have a voice in prosecution issues.

Prosecutors have so far rejected a plea deal

Broward state prosecutors have not revealed much in recent months. But in the past, they've rejected the defense's offer of a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence, paving the way for a lengthy trial.

While the prosecution did not respond to CNN's request for comments for this article, Michael Satz, Broward County's prosecutor, has previously said this is "certainly the type of case the death penalty was designed for." Assistant State Attorney Shari Tate has said Florida will not allow Cruz to "choose his own punishment for the murder of 17 people."

The defense does not want a trial

Cruz's defense team has made it clear it's not looking forward to a death penalty trial.

That's why Finkelstein is offering his client's guilty plea in exchange for 34 life sentences without parole. That would take the death penalty trial off the table and spare the victims from reliving the nightmare during testimony, he says.

That would end the extensive legal process he says could last decades if there's an appeal. In some cases, death penalty trials are followed by lengthy appeals in which survivors return to court to face the killer all over again.

"A plea to 34 consecutive life sentences ends not only the above immediately but means no appeals," Finkelstein says. "We still stand ready to plead guilty to 34 consecutive life sentences."

Some survivors are conflicted

Some Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are conflicted on the possibility of a death penalty trial.

Student leader Emma Gonzalez describes Cruz's potential death penalty trial as a "good" thing. Another student, Cameron Kasky, has said he wants him to "rot forever" in prison instead.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was one of the people killed, has said he does not plan to attend any death trial hearings.

"I don't want to go through some lengthy trial that's going to be brutal. I want him to sit in a cell and rot for the rest of his life," Pollack says.

Even the jurors face challenges

In high-profile cases such as the Parkland shooting, there are no shortages of challenges for everyone involved. Even finding a jury will be an ordeal, Hornsby says.

"Since the state is seeking the death penalty, any juror who is opposed to the death penalty will automatically be stricken, meaning the selected jury panel will already be predisposed to consider the death penalty as a viable sentencing option before the first witness is called," he says.

Jury selection will likely take weeks because the trial may be moved to a different venue, according to Hornsby.

"You will have to find people who say they could be fair and impartial to the defendant given what they know about the Parkland murders," he says. "Good luck."

Florida's death penalty law requires the jury's decision to be unanimous. If one of the 12 jurors dissents, the defendant must be sentenced to life without parole.

(source: CNN)

ALABAMA:

Alabama’s execution of Muslim inmate angers those on right and leftM

The Supreme Court’s late-night, 2-paragraph order that sent a Muslim inmate in Alabama to his execution last week has become the court’s most controversial act of the term, drawing intense criticism from the political right and the left.

The court's five conservatives agreed with Alabama officials that Domineque Ray could be put to death without an imam present in the execution chamber, even though a Christian chaplain who works for the prison system is in place for other executions.

The court's short order did not deal with the religious issue, saying only that Ray made his request too late. His lawyers, and the court's liberal members, disputed that.

The blowback was immediate.

Ray executed for 1995 murder of Selma teen

Domineque Ray killed a teen in 1995. His attorneys claim the execution should be delayed on religious grounds after Ray asked for his imam in the execution chamber instead of the Christian prison chaplain.

"I can't recall the last time that I was as shocked by a Supreme Court decision," said Deepak Gupta, a Washington lawyer who argues before the justices. "This decision is indefensible on the merits, and the court doesn't even bother to try."

Amir Ali, Supreme Court and appellate counsel at the MacArthur Justice Center and a lecturer at Harvard Law School, said the court's order was in contrast with recent decisions that have protected religious rights.

"Consider the opposite circumstance - a Christian person who is told that, during the final moments of his life, he can have only the services of an Imam," Ali wrote in an email. "It is hard to imagine the court reaching the same result as it did here. And that's a real problem because the very purpose of the Establishment Clause is to prevent this sort of religious preference."

Criticism from the right was strong, as well.

Muslim chaplain says inmate kept faith at execution

The Muslim spiritual adviser to an Alabama death row inmate executed Thursday night said the condemned man was able to read the Quran and say his required prayers before death.

"The Supreme Court Upholds a Grave Violation of the First Amendment," was the headline above conservative commentator David French's article in the National Review.

"Any policy that by law or practice provided death-row inmates with access only to Christian chaplains would likely fail 9-0 if addressed on the merits," French wrote. "In this case, however, the Supreme Court didn't decide the merits. It determined that Ray's request for an imam was made too late."

The 5 justices who allowed the Alabama execution to proceed - Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - lifted a stay imposed unanimously by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

That court said Ray had raised a "powerful" argument that prison protocol favored one religion over another: "it looks substantially likely to us that Alabama has run afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."

It called for additional briefing in the case, but called for quick resolution to keep Ray's execution on track.

Instead, Alabama filed an emergency request to the Supreme Court, saying it should be allowed to go ahead with the procedure it had put in place to conduct executions in an "orderly and secure fashion." That meant having only correctional officials, which included the prison chaplain but not the imam who had been attending Ray, in the death chamber.

Archibald: Don’t grieve for killer, but ... what if?

What if the shoe was on the other foot?

The Supreme Court majority did not address the religion issue, noting only that Ray - on death row since 1999 for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl - learned of his execution date in November, and waited until January to file a lawsuit challenging the exclusion of an imam.

In a dissent that called the majority's decision "profoundly wrong," Justice Elena Kagan said there was a reason for that.

The relevant Alabama statute, she wrote, provides that "both the chaplain of the prison and the inmate's spiritual adviser of choice 'may be present at an execution.' " Ray learned only days before filing the suit that prison policy meant his imam was not allowed to be in the room at the time of his death.

Kagan said there was no reason for her colleagues not to allow the lower court to examine the issues surrounding Ray's case.

"Ray has put forward a powerful claim that his religious rights will be violated at the moment the state puts him to death," she wrote, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

"The Eleventh Circuit wanted to hear that claim in full. Instead, this court short-circuits that ordinary process - and itself rejects the claim with little briefing and no argument - just so the state can meet its preferred execution date."

Because the court did not address the religious issues in the case, it creates no precedent for similar cases in the future.

The absence of such acknowledgment struck some as a sign the court is more alert to discrimination against Christians than other religions. The court's conservatives, for instance, allowed Christian business owners with religious objections in a separate case to opt out of federal regulations requiring contraceptives be part of insurance coverage.

"Next time the court claims that religious liberty justifies casting aside some other important principle, like nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or women's rights, we should remember what the court did here," said Gupta.

Some who disagreed with the decision say they do not believe anti-Muslim bias was the cause of the order, but the court did itself no favor by not addressing it.

Ilya Somin, a conservative professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, posted on the Volohk Conspiracy website that the decision was a "grave injustice," but likely motivated by the justices' impatience with last-minute death penalty appeals.

But "to say that this factor likely explains the ruling is not to say that it excuses it," Somin wrote. "The fact that activist lawyers sometimes abuse the process does not relieve the justices of their obligation to carefully consider the facts of each case on their own merits."

The court has ruled in favor of Muslims who have been discriminated against because of their clothing, and in favor of a Muslim prisoner who had to sue prison officials for the right to grow a beard for religious reasons.

But Ali said the court's 5-to-4 approval last term of President Donald Trump's ban on travel for some from Muslim-majority countries stung Muslim lawyers. He pointed to language in Roberts' majority opinion.

"The court went the extra step of saying that there was 'persuasive evidence' for banning people from several majority-Muslim countries," Ali said.

“If that was a gut punch to the Muslim community, this will be seen as a follow-up kidney shot.”

(source: al.com)

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

Dominique Ray attempted to challenge Alabama's prison chaplain law and failed

Late at night on 7 February, Dominique Ray was executed in the death chamber by the State of Alabama. He died alone.

The killing by the state of another African American man in the death belt of the American South would not have usually drawn significant attention. But Dominique Ray was different. He died alone because he was Muslim. Had he been Christian, Alabama would have provided a state-employed Christian chaplain to give him comfort, hold his hand and prepare him for death in his final moments.

Ray’s execution was stayed by the conservative Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court found that there was a substantial likelihood he would prevail on his claim that Alabama’s policy violated his right to religious freedom.

2 hours later, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court dissolved the stay in a one-sentence order, noting that Ray had waited too long to raise the argument. Ray had been given an execution date in November 2018; he petitioned the warden to have an imam present; the warden denied the request on 23 January 2019, and Ray filed his petition five days later. Ray had committed the crimes in 1999, when he was a teenager, and he had been on death row for 19 years. Justice Kagan, in dissent, called the lifting of the stay “profoundly wrong.”

The United States Constitution and federal statutes are profoundly protective of religious rights. The Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits discrimination among religious beliefs or between belief and non-belief: “The clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another." This is an issue that was resolved at the time of the Constitution.

To be sure there were few Muslims in America at the time of the founding, although an estimated 20 per cent of slaves brought to the American colonies were Muslim. Thomas Jefferson’s religious freedom law of Virginia, approved in 1786, was the model for the First Amendment and was intended, Jefferson wrote, to “comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination.”

Congress’ ostensible solicitousness for religious rights has also been reflected in statutes, including the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) that applies to prisoners. A RLUIPA claimant must demonstrate a sincere belief and a substantial burden on his religious practices. At that point, the government must demonstrate that the infringing policy is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.

There was no doubt that Ray was sincere in his Muslim beliefs and that being denied the spiritual comfort of chosen clergy at the hour of death was a substantial burden. It would be hard to envision a more critical or poignant moment for spiritual succour.

Alabama in Ray’s case simply argued that limiting the presence of a chaplain in the death chamber to state employees was in the governmental interest of security and that Ray could have a Christian chaplain in there if he wished. The state made no effort to consider other, less restrictive means, like obtaining the services of a Muslim military chaplain or Muslim chaplain with a history in Alabama prisons who is not on the state payroll, or employing a Muslim chaplain on the state payroll.

This Supreme Court has been in the process of enshrining religion as a kind of "super right" that takes precedence over other well-recognised rights. In the last term, Colorado cake bakers had a right of religious freedom to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple if their religious beliefs prohibited gay marriage. These were the same arguments used to challenge the Civil Rights Act requirement that African Americans be served in restaurants and provided with public accommodations.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the Court found that corporations themselves had sufficient spiritual lives that they could not be compelled to provide family planning services. School prayer, state funding of parochial schools and abortion rights are all now within the sights of the religious right in the name of religious freedom. But no such protection of religious freedom was extended to Dominique Ray.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 majority did not hold that Dominique Ray could not have a chaplain in the death chamber. They moved to the easy procedural cop-out of delay. After nearly a quarter-century on death row, and only a 5-day delay after the warden denied Ray’s request, the death sentence had to be carried out now. The state’s right to administrative efficiency apparently trumped the right of religious freedom.

Presumably, the Court knew that it could not issue an opinion saying Muslims had no right to a chaplain when Christians did, or that Muslims had to use a Christian chaplain. But let’s review the recent history. My Guantanamo Muslim detainee clients were granted no right to religious freedom; they were not “persons” pursuant to the statute. A ban on Muslims was, according to the Supreme Court “neutral on its face” despite the fact that the president said over and over again it was a ban on Muslims. This is a record of differential treatment that cannot be hidden in legal obfuscation or technical procedural rulings.

Nearly a quarter-millennium ago, George Washington wrote in his letter to the Jewish Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.” Muslims, the Stock of Abraham/Ibrahim as well, should have the same rights, the same concern, especially “at the hour of our death".

(source: The Independent)

LOUISIANA:

The quest to do away with Louisiana’s death penalty

It’s been nearly 15 years since Dan Bright was exonerated of murder and released from prison, but he still looks over his shoulder when he leaves his parents’ home in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Bright, who spent four years on death row and nine overall in a Louisiana prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder or Murray Barnes, can’t walk down the street without worrying whether New Orleans Police Department officers will spy and harass him. At times, Bright even fears for his life.

“When I’m driving and I see a cop car, I get nervous,” Bright said. “Every time, they’ve pulled me over and harassed me. They unbutton their gun holsters. I can see [the anger] in their eyes, in their demeanor. Every time I see them with a gun…”

Despite overwhelming evidence proving Bright’s innocence – his original defense attorney was incompetent and drunk, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office withheld key FBI documents that named the true killer, facts that undermined the State’s primary witness’ credibility – law enforcement officers haven’t stopped treating him like a murderer.

“Some of them think I got off on a technicality,” Bright said. “Even with all the evidence pointing to my innocence, they think it was just a technicality.”

Often Bright’s only solace comes from his family and close friends.

“I’m accepted in my community,” he said. “Everyone gets along here. My neighbors know I’m not a murderer. We’re very close-knit. Everyone knows everyone, and they know about police corruption. This neighborhood knows the truth.”

That stigma of being on death row has lingered for 15 years for Bright. On top of the often excruciating hell he went through in prison at Angola, his wrongful conviction continues to disrupt and undermine his attempts to stay on the straight and narrow.

Bright openly acknowledges that before going to prison in 1996, he was waist deep in a criminal culture that made him a local drug kingpin, entangled in a life that began before he was a teenager and continued until he was convicted of Bright’s murder. So he understands that people who don’t know much about him or his story view him with disdain or distrust. That scorn only becomes magnified even more by being branded as a 1-time death-row inmate.

“I can’t even get a job,” he said.

“Even though I was exonerated, who wants to hire someone who was on death row?” he asked rhetorically. “Who wants to have a death-row inmate next to them all day? They worry if I have mental problems.”

(Requests to NOPD spokespersons for responses to Bright’s comments were not returned last week.)

But despite the financial hardships, Bright said he has steadfastly continued to leave his criminal life in the past. He was a drug dealer, but he isn’t anymore. And he isn’t, and has never been, a murderer. Bright said he has paid his dues – even ones he was unfairly forced to pay – and now just wants a fair shake.

“I would like to stop being pre-judged,” he said. “I’d like people to get to know me first.”

But Bright knows that realistically, that day might never fully come. In the meantime, he said flatly, life can be very bleak. “It’s very shitty,” he said. “It’s hard.”

For that reason, Bright has been watching the ongoing debate in Louisiana about the possible repeal of the death penalty in this state, and he’s seen how, in just about every legislative session in Baton Rouge, a repeal bill is filed but inevitably falls by the wayside or is outright defeated.

“I think it should be abolished,” he said. “It’s long overdue. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.

“But it’s political,” he added. “It’s all political. We don’t want to engage with the issue. People don’t really want to hear anything about it.”

Damon Thibodeaux, another former death-row inmate in Louisiana who was likewise exonerated, was wrongfully convicted in 1996 of killing his step-cousin, spent 15 years in solitary confinement on death row before being exonerated in 2012. Thibodeaux has fared better than Bright and other exonerees, become a long-distance truck driver and moving to Texas since his release. But the sting remains for Thibodeaux, who has eyed the Louisiana death-penalty debate from afar and, like Bright, has built up a hardened cynicism over the years.

In a phone interview from on the road in New York state, Thibodeaux called previous attempts at repealing the death penalty “more of a political stunt than anything else.”

He said the Louisiana death-penalty debate has simply become a political football.

“[Legislators] are just punting it around, back and forth,” he said, “and they’re forgetting the people in the middle of it. They need to take it seriously. It’s always politics that kills it. If we could get the politics out of it, [lawmakers] can actually look at its merits.”

“It’s not fair or just,” he added.

Thibodeaux and others hope one or more state legislators will propose an abolishment bill during the upcoming legislative session that begins April 8 and runs through June 6, but it would still face a slew of challenges.

Such a bill was essentially nixed in 2018 by the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, and while Gov. John Bel Edwards has made moves toward considering outlawing capital punishment, State Attorney General Jeff Landry continues to vociferously support and advocate for the death penalty despite the prevalence of wrongful convictions and exonerations.

Both the Attorney General’s Office and the Governor’s Office did not return requests for comments last week

At this point, use of the death penalty is on hold in Louisiana – while the Pelican State remains one of 30 states in the U.S. to allow capital punishment, the state has not carried out execution since 2010, and the process has been halted since 2014 as a result of controversy and legal action regarding the state’s lethal injection protocol and fairness.

Last July, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick agreed to a 12-month extension of an order temporarily delaying all executions in Louisiana. Although 67 people remain on death row in the state, Michael Cahoon, coordinator for LA REPEAL, said only one death sentence was imposed in 2018, down drastically from a high of 12 in both 1995 and 1997. Cahoon said that sharp downward also provides hope for the future to abolition forces.

As other states continue to make moves toward abolishing the death penalty – with the prevalence of wrongful convictions and a shift in public opinion regarding the concept of cruel and unusual punishment – advocates of repeal remain steadfastly optimistic about the chances of abolishment here, and several non-profit and community organizations continue their efforts to sway opinion, both in the state legislature and the general public.

“The legislature has had some close votes in committee [in past years],” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national pro-abolition advocacy group. “And with the state’s continued financial crisis and prosecutorial misconduct, this state may be close to abolition. I don’t think we can predict when it will come, but there’s a sense that it will come eventually.”

He added that last fall’s successful electoral effort in Louisiana to eliminate non-unanimous juries in felony cases, including capital trials, reflected another significant trend – bi-partisan movements coalescing around justice issues.

Still, Dunham said, many district attorneys offices continue to undermine efforts to reduce capital punishment and engage in reckless pursuit of the death penalty through prosecutorial misconduct that has reached “epidemic levels in Louisiana.” The harsh views and questionable vehemence of some DAs, he said, ignore what’s becoming more and more obvious to others.

But, he said, “When an electorate insists on honest, fair prosecution that follows the law and respects individual rights and be fair, that will go a long way in reducing the use of capital punishment.”

Cahoon said his LA REPEAL entered the new year with renewed vigor and believes that capital punishment in the state may be on its last legs. He said LA REPEAL is gearing up for what promises to be a protracted, heated but hopefully successful battle in 2019, one that would make Louisiana a leader in the region.

“I fully believe that Louisiana will be the first Southern state to repeal the death penalty,” Cahoon said, pointing out the state’s 85-percent reversal rate in death sentences. “The people of this state, when they look at the history of the death penalty, both the horrible and hopeful parts of history, see what sets Louisiana apart from the rest of the South.”

He said LA REPEAL continues to lobby Louisiana lawmakers on behalf of the innocent, and he said the group has seen significant support for abolition, or at least willingness to listen fairly to the arguments.

Still, Cahoon acknowledged, “This is an issue that is controversial and requires some political courage.”

Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ken Daley noted that current District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has invoked the death penalty infrequently, Cannizzaro has pursued capital punishment only three times in 10 years, with the last one coming in 2011.

“This office continues to work in accordance with the will of citizens, as expressed in laws passed by Louisiana’s state legislature and governor,” Daley added.

Daley also said the DA’s Office has no comment on Dan Bright’s specific circumstances because Bright wasn’t prosecuted under Cannizzaro’s watch. “We have no comment on a case that was fully adjudicated in all courts under a previous administration,” Daley said.

Meanwhile, Dan Bright sits in his parents’ house, watching after his grandchildren, caring for his aging parents and trying to not go stir crazy. “I’ve gone from reading law books [in prison] and debating laws to debating with my grand-daughter about SpongeBob,” he says with a smile.

Bright has already published one book about his life experiences, “The Story of Dan Bright,” to positive reviews, and he’s written manuscripts for four more. He also tours the country on speaking engagements to tell his story and enlighten listeners nationwide.

(source: Louisiana Weekly)

OHIO:

Final jury selection delayed in start of quadruple homicide trial

Final jury selection was delayed Monday in a Pedro, Ohio, quadruple homicide case being held at the Lawrence County Courthouse.

Arron L. Lawson, 24, of Township Road 1051, Ironton, faces 4 counts alleging aggravated murder in the 2017 death of 4 individuals.

His alleged victims Stacey Holston, 24; her son, Devin Holston, 8; Stacey's mother, Tammie L. McGuire, 43; and McGuire's husband, Donald McGuire, 50; all of Pedro, were shot to death Oct. 11, 2017, at the Holstons' home.

If found guilty for those deaths, Lawson faces a penalty of death.

Todd Holston, also was stabbed with a pocketknife inside the family's trailer during the attack, but survived his injuries.

For other allegations, Lawson also was charged with aggravated burglary, attempted murder and felonious assault of Todd Holston, the rape of Stacey Holston, abuse of a corpse, kidnapping of Devin Holston, tampering with evidence, theft of a motor vehicle and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer.

Following the killings, Lawson is accused of having fled the scene. A manhunt involving more than 100 Tri-State law enforcement officers lasted for 36 hours before he was arrested along County Road 52.

Lawson appeared in court Monday in a button-down shirt with his long locks of hair and long beard, which had been shaved shortly after his arrest, growing back to their original state.

The trial is expected to last several weeks. The jury will be sequestered from the outside world during deliberations.

Monday started with Judge Andy Ballard ruling in final motions and discussing some juror issues before bringing in the remaining jurors for the final selection. After about 20 minutes, however, an undisclosed issue occurred and court was delayed until afternoon.

About 50 potential jurors will be cut Monday to the final 12, with a couple alternatives. Dozens more had been cut during previous jury selection, which started Jan. 28.

Each side will be given an hour and a half for opening arguments after the jury is seated; however, Kirk A. McVay, assistant state public defender, said he only would need 15 minutes. Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson represents the state on the case.

At one point it is expected the jury will be taken to view the locations of where the alleged crimes took place. McVey said his client did not wish to attend that.

Ohio death penalty laws require a death penalty case to be a bifurcated trial. The 1st part of the trial will focus on his guilt or innocence.

If found guilty, Lawson will face a 2nd trial in which the same jury will recommend a penalty or life in prison or death.

(source: The Herald-Dispatch)

INDIANA:

Wishawaka man pleads guilty ahead of third trial for triple murder

Wayne Kubsch pleaded guilty to murder Monday morning in a dispositional hearing.

The hearing was unexpected, taking place just before jury selection was set to begin in the 3rd murder trial against the Mishawaka man.

Kubsch has accepted a life without parole agreement.

Jury selection in this trial was supposed to begin Monday morning. This would have been Kubsch’s 3rd trial.

In 2 prior trials, he was convicted and sentenced to death, but those outcomes were overturned.

In the agreement announced Monday, Kubsch plead guilty to 2 counts of murder. 1 for Beth Kubsch and a 2nd for Rick Milewski.

Charges for the death of the 3rd victim, 10-year-old Aaron Milewski, will be dropped as a part of this plea.

Prosecutors say they discussed this with the family and they agreed to it because counts for Beth and Rick would already secure a life without parole sentence.

Prosecutors say this new deal appears to have lifted a burden off the family’s shoulders.

“It saves the family and the community a jury trial and the actual ultimate sentence here is no different than if we had done a three-week trial and got to the endpoint. Life without parole is life without parole and I think that’s a very important feature of this particular agreement,” said Eric Tamashasky, St. Joseph County chief deputy prosecuting attorney.

Sentencing is on March 8.

If the judge accepts the plea, Kubsch will spend the rest of his life in prison. If the judge does not accept the plea, the case will go to trial.

Life without parole was the maximum the prosecution could have gotten after deciding to drop the death penalty possibility.

The death penalty provision was a primary consideration in the first 2 convictions being overturned.

(source: WSBT news)

COLORADO:

Should State Legislators Repeal Colorado’s Death Penalty

The issue has been debated for decades and likely will be debated for decades to come.

The death penalty is one of those issues that tends to elicit strong feelings on both sides. It's also one of those issues where there's never going to be agreement and ultimately will come down to which party is controlling state government. Right now, that party is the Democrats.

There is currently no bill before the legislature on the matter, but it's very possible there will be before the current session ends.

As controversial as the issue is, the fact is, the death penalty has virtually been a non-factor since the national moratorium on executions was lifted back in 1976. Since then, only 1 person has been executed in Colorado, and currently, there are only 3 individuals on Colorado's death row.

Opponents of the death penalty say it's immoral and hypocritical. Supporters will say the threat of the death penalty can help solve crimes and motivate criminals to confess or to offer valuable information.

I can't say that I have strong feelings about the death penalty. I'm not so sure that it is a deterrent to violent crime, but at the same time, it seems right that if you purposely take another's life it should cost you your own. I can definitely see both sides of this, and I'm always interested in the perspective of others.

(source: Zane Mathews, KOOL news)

ARIZONA:

State to seek death penalty for man accused of killing Isabel Celis and Maribel Gonzales----Isabel Celis and Maribel Victoria Gonzales were kidnapped and killed in Tucson in 2012 and 2014.

Arizona will seek the death penalty for Christopher Matthew Clements, the man accused of killing Isabel Celis and Maribel Victoria Gonzales.

According to a spokeswoman at Pima County Superior Court, the judge will be issuing a notice specific to this filing in the next week or so.

Clements is facing 22 felony charges, including 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Celis was 6 years old when she vanished from her parents’ east-side home in April 2012. Just 2 years later, a 13-year-old Gonzales disappeared while walking to a friend’s house.

Both girls were found dead near Trico and West Avra Valley roads.

ISABEL CELIS TIMELINE

• April 20, 2012: 11 p.m., Isabel Mercedes Celis went to bed in her bedroom.

• April 21, 2012: Around 8 a.m., family members call 911 after they discover Isabel is not in the house.

• April 22, 2012: FBI search dogs arrive from Virginia to aid in the search.

• April 23, 2012: Celis family and 88-CRIME post $6,000 reward.

• March 2017: Human remains discovered near North Trico and West Avra Valley roads in rural Pima County.

• March 31, 2017: DNA analysis confirms remains are those of Isabel Celis.

• Sept. 15, 2018: Authorities announce indictment of Christopher Matthew Clements in Isabel’s death.

MARIBEL GONZALES TIMELINE

• June 3, 2014: Maribel Gonzales leaves home to walk and visit a friend.

• June 4, 2014: Gonzales reporting missing by her family after she fails to come home.

• June 6, 2014: Human remains discovered near North Trico and West Avra Valley roads in rural Pima County.

• June 20, 2014: DNA analysis confirms remains are those of Maribel Gonzales.

• Sept. 15, 2018: Authorities announce indictment of Christopher Matthew Clements in Maribel’s death.

(source: tucsonnewsnow.com)

OREGON:

Woman charged with murdering parents, attempting to kill neighbor faces death penalty

Charging documents have been filed against a woman accused of killing her parents and injuring a neighbor Friday in Oakridge.

Kelly Lynn Conrad, 39, was arraigned Monday in a Lane County Jail courtroom and charged with 2 counts of aggravated murder and 1 count of attempt to commit murder.

Conrad is accused of killing her parents, Milton Conrad, 71, and Karen Conrad, 64, in their Oakridge home Friday. She’s also accused of attempting to kill Jimmie Lavonne Moffitt, a neighbor.

According to public records, Kelly Conrad and her parents lived at a West Second Avenue home where police were called at 2:32 p.m. on a report of a dispute. When officers arrived, Kelly Conrad was armed with a knife and ultimately was taken into custody, police said in a Monday press release. In a subsequent search, authorities found Milton and Karen Conrad dead in their home and an injured Moffitt next door.

The charges of aggravated murder make Kelly Conrad eligible for the death penalty.

(source: The Register-Guard)

USA:

Pittsburgh shooting: death penalty question looms over not guilty plea

The suspect in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in which 11 people died pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges on Monday as his new lawyer, a prominent death penalty litigator who represented one of the Boston marathon bombers, signaled he might be open to a plea deal.

Authorities say Robert Bowers, a truck driver, killed 11 and wounded seven, including five police officers, at Tree of Life Synagogue in October. He appeared in federal court with attorney Judy Clarke, who expressed hope for a resolution without a trial.

Clarke is known for negotiating plea deals that helped some of the nation’s most infamous criminals avoid death row, among them the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph and Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner, who killed 6 people and injured 13 including the congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Clarke also represented the marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whom a jury sentenced to death.

A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh has said a decision about whether to pursue the death penalty against Bowers remains under review. Assistant US attorney Troy Rivetti said in court on Monday that if Bowers does opt for a trial, it could last about three weeks, not including any potential penalty phase.

Bowers, who was shackled, said little, giving yes or no answers. He has been held at the Butler county prison, about 35 miles north of the shooting scene.

On 29 January, a grand jury added 19 counts to the 44 Bowers was already facing. The additional charges include hate crimes violations, obstruction of religious belief and the use of a firearm during crimes of violence.

Bowers, 46, of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, is accused of targeting worshippers from 3 congregations on Saturday 27 October, during Sabbath services. Donna Coufal, a member of the Dor Hadash congregation, said she attended the arraignment “to bear witness”.

“It’s been a painful time,” she said, “but we remain strong as a community.”

Investigators say Bowers posted criticism of a Jewish charity on social media before the attack, claiming it “likes to bring invaders that kill our people”. Authorities said he raged against Jews as he carried out the shooting, then told investigators “all these Jews need to die”.

(source: The Guardian)

US MILITARY:

The Hidden Segregation of Military Executions During the Civil Rights Movement

The knotted rope and the fire hose, the lunch counter and the poll tax — the most notorious aspects of America’s ignominious record on race are well known, but they are not the whole story. One chapter has remained largely hidden for decades: how the United States Army, during the early years of the civil rights movement, dealt with the crucible issues of race and capital punishment. Not well, it turns out.

In the years between 1955 and 1960, all 8 white soldiers who were condemned to death, each of them a murderer, saw their sentences commuted by the Eisenhower Administration, the federal courts or the Army itself. Eventually they all won parole too, and returned home to the embrace of their families and loved ones.

In contrast, the 8 convicted murderers who were hanged by the military — summoned from death row cells in the sub-basement of Fort Leavenworth, Kans., and marched to the top of a wooden gallows — were all black.

The white men benefited from influential Washington politicians, the Army brass, astute capital defense attorneys, public outcries and even a sympathetic national press. Government records show how Washington’s elite often bent backwards to find a reason to spare their lives. One white soldier drowned an Army colonel’s only daughter, 8 years old, in shallow waters outside their base near Tokyo; yet he went home. Another raped and slashed to death a 5-year-old local girl in Okinawa: he too was set free.

Their black counterparts were seldom recognized, and never singled out for any great lobbying effort to spare their lives. No Washington insiders rushed to their defense; no press or public championed their cause. Generally, the most encouragement they could draw would be in the form of a pitiful hand-scribbled letter from their often-semi-literate mothers, pleading for mercy. “I am begger for his life,” Mrs. Gentry Collier of Chattanooga, Tennessee, wrote the Eisenhower White House. “…he was a good boy both white and colored love him he ant never have ben in trouble tell he was in the army” (sic all).

The last doomed soldier from that era turned out to be a young black soldier from southern Virginia. He was the 9th black soldier executed in that era and, it would turn out, would be the last soldier executed by the Army to this day. Private First-Class John Arthur Bennett, a descendant of tobacco-plantation slaves, was accused and found guilty of raping and assaulting a young white girl. The Army sentenced him to death, rape being then on the Army books as a capital crime. He was 18 when taken into custody in then-Occupied Austria, and he languished for 6 years on the army’s death row cellblock, a metal-and-concrete chamber deep in the bowels of the main prison at Fort Leavenworth, what many called “The Castle.”

By early 1961, when his case rolled into the start of the Kennedy Administration, a black civil rights attorney from Bennett’s home community took up his defense in hopes the country’s new commander-in-chief—a Democrat, a Catholic, a liberal—would step in and save this final life. In his plea to the President, he stressed that “a fundamental principle of an honest judicial system must be equal justice for all,” and cited the fact that white soldiers had been granted mercy.

But Kennedy was unmoved. He resisted taking up the matter of Private Bennett, and preferred to let the earlier Eisenhower decision stand that Bennett be put to death. Kennedy in those early months of his new administration had just barely won the White House, and realized politically that his very thin margin was boosted largely with white voter turnout in the Southern states. Nor was the new young president affected by pleas from some in his New Frontier administration who opposed capital punishment or last-minute telegrams from the victim and her parents urging that Bennett live.

Still Bennett implored Kennedy to save him. He had already outlasted two stays of execution. New evidence showed he suffered from a mental disorder and also suffered from epileptic seizures throughout his life, and that he may have been in the middle of an episode at the time of the assault. The young soldier and his small-town attorney continued to hope Kennedy would change his mind and commute this last death sentence, and with the presidential pen strike a major blow against the long racial history of Army injustice.

From his cell deep below the Castle, Bennett’s eyes desperately followed the prison clock as the hours drew down on April 12, 1961. Would be die at midnight too? Or would the Army’s disgraceful record of sparing white soldiers and executing only black troops at last come to an end?

They came for him, in the end. Today, the prison has long been torn down and the Army has not hanged a soldier since then. But little else has changed. A new modern Army death row currently houses 4 soldiers condemned to die. 3 are men of color.

(source: Richard A. Serrano is the author of Summoned at Midnight: A Story of Race and the Last Military Executions at Fort Leavenworth, newly released by Beacon Press----Time Magazine)

BOTSWANA:

Death penalty not a deterrent- Chief Justice

The newly appointed Chief Justice, Terrence Rannowane says the death penalty has not worked as a deterrent to murder.

Rannowane said this when delivering his maiden speech at the opening of the legal year on Tuesday at the Gaborone High Court.

Weighing in on what he described as a disturbing increase and alarming prevalence of murder cases in the country, the concerned CJ noted that, “What is also troublesome and worrisome is that the hovering and imminent presence of capital punishment seems to be of no deterrence to the perpetrators.”

Rannowane further observed that, “This issue cannot be treated with sleight of hand and left to the courts alone but instead requires the concerted efforts of all concerned stakeholders as it is now an albatross and if allowed to simmer any further will morph into a national crisis.”

Statistics has indicated that although murder incidents declined from 2017, still remain at an all time high with 278, cases reported in 2015, 305 cases in 2016, 315 in 2017 and 294 in 2018.

“As a country we are recording unprecedented horrid, gruesome and shocking incidents of murder cases, even beheadings with some bodies being buried incomplete. The situation has become endemic. One rhetorically asks, what has become of us,” he said.

The CJ however cautioned against mob justice, even when the perpetrator is alleged to have committed a horrible crime as that of murder.

“Intricately linked to the concerns of high levels of murder cases, are instances where members of the public take justice into their own hands, we cannot and must not allow ourselves to entice others to take the law into their own hands, irrespective of the circumstances. We are governed by the rule of law and not the law of the jungle,” Rannowane warned.

The Chief Justice has also vowed to commit to resolving murder cases at the earliest convenience.

“On our part as the courts, we commit to resume circuit court in murder cases not only to expedite such cases but for deterrence and closure to take root in the community where the heinous crime was committed, subject to the availability of financial resources,” he said.

Rannowane further said that they are looking into moving murder cases to the High Court from the moment of arrest of the accused persons.

“This will afford magistrates more time to manage their own cases,” he said

(source: thevoicebw.com)

INDIA:

Divergence on death penalty: The legislative expansion and judicial restriction of capital punishment in India

The recently published statistics on the state of death penalty in 2018 is an indication of the confusion that besets use of death penalty in India. Drastically different treatment by the legislature, trial courts and the appellate judiciary further intensifies competing tensions in administration of the death penalty.

Calls for death penalty began early on in the year in the backdrop of incidents in Kathua and Unnao. 2018 also saw the prime minister encouraging the death penalty in his Independence Day speech and amendments to IPC and Pocso introducing the death penalty for rape of children.

As far as its judicial treatment is concerned, trial courts in 2018 imposed a record number of 162 death sentences – the highest in nearly 2 decades. The Supreme Court, on the other extreme, commuted 11 out of the 12 death sentence cases it decided and continued to signal concerns with administration of the death penalty by courts below.

The legislative expansion of death penalty is not new. In the last five years, Parliament passed two other laws introducing death penalty. The Delhi gang rape prompted amendments to IPC in 2013 introducing death penalty for certain sexual offences. In 2016, the Anti-Hijacking Act was passed prescribing death penalty as well.

The legislature guided by political and public reactions has immense faith in death penalty as a response to heinous crimes. But, irrespective of public notions, the law requires courts to consider aspects beyond just the crime when imposing death sentence.

Socioeconomic circumstances of the individual, age, past history, time spent in prison, and the probability of reformation are some factors, which the Supreme Court itself has declared as integral to the sentencing process. However, in reality all levels of the judiciary have for long struggled with using their own terms of reference in administering the death penalty uniformly.

Given this context, expanding the use of death penalty in an already constitutionally suspect framework threatens to weaken the criminal justice system even further. Lack of cohesion within the judiciary is evident from multiple instances when the appellate judiciary has pushed back against the eagerness of trial courts in imposing death penalty.

The Supreme Court has time and again indicated that death sentence is being used by the lower courts more liberally than is intended. The ‘Death Penalty India Report, 2016’ found that over a 15-year period from 2000 to 2015, less than 5% of death sentences were eventually upheld by the Supreme Court.

This trend seems to be continuing. In 2018 itself, various high courts commuted death sentences in 55 cases, of which 24 involved sexual offences. Interestingly, out of the nine death sentences imposed by trial courts under the 2018 law, 6 were commuted by the respective high courts.

On its part the Supreme Court commuted 11 death sentences in 2018, including a dissenting opinion by Justice Kurian Joseph calling for the abolition of the penalty itself. 6 of these commutations by the Supreme Court involved charges pertaining to sexual offences. Be that as it may, the Supreme Court’s performance on death penalty sentencing is also rife with inconsistencies as traced by ‘Lethal Lottery: The Death Penalty in India’, a report analysing over 50 years of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on this issue.

It is evident that death penalty encounters different responses at various levels of the judiciary. While the trial courts demonstrate an exaggerated affection for death penalty, appellate courts seem to be increasingly sceptical.

This incoherence has been particularly glaring in the past year. The legislature’s faith in death penalty, then, is in sharp contrast to this reality and its reliance betrays an honest evaluation of the criminal justice system.

(source: Maitreyi Misra and Ruchi Chaudhury; The writers are Associates at Project 39A, National Law University, Delhi----The Times of India)

MALAYSIA:

Bring back trial by jury for death penalty, says former top cop

Tan Sri Musa Hassan today said Malaysia should consider bringing back trial by jury for cases involving the death penalty in order to avoid abuse of power.

The former inspector-general of police said in the past there was trial by jury for murder cases and if bringing it back will help reduce abuse of power he is all for it.

“We don’t have a jury trial like before which would mean a preliminary enquiry in the Magistrate’s Court to see if there’s enough evidence for a conviction,” Musa told reporters after attending a meeting between the Malay-Muslim coalition Ummah and non-governmental organisations on Malaysia’s plan to abolish the death penalty.

“The Magistrate’s Court will transfer the case to the High Court followed by trial by jury. Maybe we could suggest bringing back trial by jury if it is more justifiable and protects from abuse.”

The proposed abolition of the death penalty has taken more prominence since the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim allegedly at the hands of a mob during the Seafield temple riots in USJ25, Subang Jaya on November 27 last year.

Musa said too much of the concern now were on the criminals.

“We have to balance the rights of the criminal and the rights of the victims. Right now, we’re more concerned for the criminals,” said Musa.

“The law should be enforced strictly and I’d like to advise the Malaysian public that we should support the death penalty.

“The most important thing when convicting someone is make sure there is enough evidence, justify the evidence to the judge and the judiciary will determine if the evidence is true before conviction.”

Malaysia abolished trial by jury in 1995.

The Bill to abolish the mandatory death penalty is expected to be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting, which is scheduled to begin next month.

(source: malaymail.com)

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

NGO opposes move to abolish death penalty, demands referendum

Gerakan Pembela Ummah (Ummah) today called on the government to have a referendum on whether the death penalty is necessary.

At the same time, the NGO stated its stand that the death penalty should be retained to control crime which it said was “very high” at present.

It said in a statement that “precious taxpayers’ money” was being used to keep criminals, especially those who committed heinous crimes alive, “compromising the public’s access to funds for other higher priorities and compromising our rule of law and our safety”.

Therefore, Ummah said the taxpayers’ consent was “definitely needed” before the government decided to abolish the death penalty.

“The government should put the interests of the public, the interests of 33 million Malaysians, first — not the interests of the 1,281 inmates on death row.

“The human rights and safety of the majority public should come first.”

Ummah said studies showed that capital punishment deterred crime and saved lives, but it did not give any details about these studies, including who conducted them and where.

It said, however, that the death penalty was “ineffective due to weak enforcement of our laws”.

Noting that the country needed funds, Ummah said money used to house and care for criminals sentenced to death could be better spent on healthcare, welfare, education and infrastructure for the majority public.

It called on Putrajaya to follow the “good example” of Asian nations such as Singapore, China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and India in retaining the death penalty.

Ummah said the majority of Malaysians, being Muslim, followed Islamic law, which accepted capital punishment.

“We must not let our country and our laws to be manipulated by criminals or NGOs backed by criminals on the pretext of meeting international standards of human rights,” it said.

Ummah said there was a conflict of interest in that lawyers who acted in the best interest of their clients, including criminals, were asking for the death penalty to be dropped.

It urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to probe this conflict of interest.

The NGO called on the government to immediately lift the moratorium on the death penalty.

It wants the government to keep the death penalty and let judges have the discretion to decide on cases based on evidence and to let the Pardons Board review cases that may point to elements of miscarriage of justice.

“Address the areas of concern by redrafting the laws for drug-related cases separately.”

The NGO called for a full disclosure by all ministers and MPs, particularly lawyers, about their interest, directly or indirectly, in the 1,281 inmates on death row.

Ummah also urged the public to continue to support a petition to keep the death penalty.

(source: Free Malaysia Today)

SOUTH KOREA:

Catholic group to file constitutional petition against death penalty

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea's Committee for Justice and Peace said that its subcommittee on the abolition of capital punishment will ask the top court to review whether the first clause of Article 41 of the Criminal Act, which stipulates the death penalty, is constitutional or not.

The petition is to be submitted to the Constitutional Court in the afternoon on behalf of a man who was sentenced to life imprisonment for parricide at the Bucheon branch of the Incheon District Court last December.

Last year, the Catholic organization helped the man file a petition with a local court to rule on the constitutionality of the Criminal Act clause on death penalty, but the court rejected it saying,"Capital punishment is the strongest deterrence against crimes."

The Catholic organization said in its constitutional petition, "The life of every individual is of equal value and the life of each individual has an absolute meaning. Even brutal criminals who violate and destroy the life and human rights of others should not be an exception."

It went on to argue that the death penalty system is incompatible with the Constitution in that it treats capital punishment as a means of social defense, and doesn't recognize a criminal as a human being capable of moral reflection and improvement.

The Constitutional Court ruled 7 to 2 in 1996 and 5 to 4 in 2010 that the death penalty is constitutional.

(source: yna.co.kr)

IRAQ:

Iraqi court sentences 6 brothers to death for joining Islamic State

An Iraqi criminal court has sentenced six brothers to death by hanging for joining the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

The six were found guilty of launching armed and car bomb attacks against security forces and civilians in Al Khasfa and Hamam Al Alil districts in Nineveh, leaving scores dead, Gilgamish Press quoted the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council as saying in a statement.

The court ruling was issued pursuant to article ¼ of the anti-terrorism law, added the statement.

Iraqi courts have sentenced many of Islamic State members, including a big number of female members, to death over joining the militant group.

The exact number of detained militants is still unknown, however, it’s estimated to be at thousands. It’s also unclear how many members are likely to face death sentences.

Iraq’s anti-terrorism law empowers courts to convict people who are believed to have helped jihadists even if they are not accused of carrying out attacks.

The UN, the European Union and international human rights groups always criticize mass killings in Iraq and call for abolishing the death penalty, which was suspended on June 10, 2003, but was reinstated on August 8, 2004.

Despite defeat in Iraq in late 2017, many IS remnants remain at large in the hideouts of the Arab country.

(source: iraqinews.com)

FEBRUARY 11, 2019:

TEXAS:

Texas Gives Billie (Billy) Coble Execution Date of February 28, 2019

Billie (Billy) Wayne Coble is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Thursday, February 28, 2019, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Seventy-year-old Billie is convicted of the murder of Waco Police Sgt. Bobby Vicha and his parents Robert and Zelda Vicha, on August 29, 1989, in Axtell, Texas. Billie has spent the last 29 years on Texas’ death row.

Billie was born in Texas. He graduated from high school and had 2 years of higher education. Billie worked as an electrician prior to his arrest.

In July 1988, Billie Coble married his 3rd wife, Karen Vicha. They lived across from Karen’s parents, Robert and Zelda Vicah, and down the road from Karen’s brother, Waco Police Sgt. Bobby Vicha. After 1 year marriage, Karen told Coble to move out and that she wanted a divorce. Coble attempted to persuade her numerous times to change her mind, including randomly calling her and showing up at her work place.

In 1 attempt to persuade Karen not to divorce him, Coble hid in the trunk of her car while she was out with a friend. When she began to drive home, he came through the back seat, held a knife to her ribs and told her to drive to a field. After she stopped the car, he told her that if he couldn’t have her, no one could. He pulled out a roll of black electrical tape, however Karen kept talking, eventually convincing him that she would reconsider the divorce. When Karen got home, she talked to her brother, who encouraged her to report the kidnapping.

Coble was arrested for kidnapping, and released on bail. Meanwhile, Karen had been given a German shepherd dog by her brother for protection. Coble commented on the dog to Karen and a few days later, the dog was lying dead in front of her house. 9 days after the kidnapping, Coble went to Karen’s house. As each of Karen’s 4 children came home from school, including his 2-year-old son, Coble handcuffed the children, tied up their feet, and taped their mouths. Coble cut the telephone lines and left the house.

Coble went to Karen’s parent’s house, where he killed Robert, Zelda, and Bobby. He then returned to Karen’s house and waited for her to arrive home. According to one of the children, after returning Coble told the children that he wished he “had blown you away like I intended to.” When Karen arrived home, Coble informed her that he had killed her parents and brother. When she did not believe him, he showed her the items he had taken from them. Coble forced Karen to put on handcuffs and took her, saying he was going to torture her for a few weeks.

Coble forced Karen into the car and then began driving. Karen attempted to escape by freeing a hand from the handcuffs and grabbing the steering wheel and forcing the car into a ditch. Karen grabbed a gun and attempted to escape by shooting Coble, however the gun did not fire. Karen and Coble fought for the gun, with Coble eventually pistol whipping Karen. When a passerby noticed what was happening, Coble drove the car out of the ditch. Coble drove to a field, where they stayed until dark.

Leaving the field, the passed a patrol car, who began following them. Coble saw the car, grabbed a knife and began stabbing Karen. Coble then stated that he did not want to die in prison and drove into a parked car. Karen and Coble were both injured in the crash and both survived their injuries.

Coble was convicted and sentenced to death in July 1990. In 2007, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Coble’s sentence, granting him a new sentencing trial. A new jury also sentenced him to death.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Robert, Zelda, and Bobby Vicha. Please pray for Karen Vicha and her children. Please pray for the strength for the family of Bobbie Coble. Pleas pray that if Bobbie is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be provided prior to his execution. Please pray that Bobbie may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.

(source: the forgivenessfoundation.org)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Survey finds most NC voters oppose death penalty

The poll says voters favor life sentences and restitution payments.

A new poll released by the North Carolina Center for Death Penalty Litigation says 51 % of North Carolina’s voters say the state should replace the death penalty with sentences of life in prison without parole.

If this statistic holds, it will be a significant change in public opinion of the death penalty in North Carolina. For example, in 2015 a survey by High Point University said 72 % favored capital punishment.

The new survey, of 501 voters from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 by Public Policy Polling, comes 12 years after an unofficial moratorium on executions began in North Carolina. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 %.

Executions scheduled for early 2007 in North Carolina were halted by litigation challenging the method and legality of North Carolina’s lethal injection process. Since then, executions have been further delayed by litigation over North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act, a short-lived law that allowed death row inmates to seek commutations to sentences of life without parole if they could persuade a judge that racism tainted their trials.

North Carolina has not executed anyone since August 2006, although some inmates have been added to death row in that time. And in that time, five inmates have come off death row because they were found to have been wrongly convicted, the center said in a news release.

A poll’s results can hinge on how its questions are phrased and presented.

The 2015 High Point University poll asked respondents, “Thinking in general about your views of the death penalty, are there any crimes for which you believe people should receive the death penalty?”

And 72 % said “yes.”

The new Public Policy Polling survey posed the question this way: “Do you think North Carolina should definitely, probably, probably not or definitely not replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without parole?”

A total of 51 % said the death penalty definitely or probably should be replaced with sentences of life without parole. That compares with 44 % who said the death penalty should stay, and 6 % who were not sure.

The new survey had additional questions, most presented before that one, that had the respondents think in detail and with nuance about the death penalty. It asked whether they thought innocent people had been wrongly executed, whether race is a factor in who gets the death sentence, and whether murderers should be required to work to pay restitution instead of being executed.

If the new survey had instead asked simply asked at the beginning, “Should North Carolina have the death penalty?” the results may have been different.

Here are some of the survey’s other findings:

• 70 % thought it somewhat to very likely that an innocent person has been executed in North Carolina.

• 57 % thought racial bias affects whether someone receives a death sentence.

• 72 % opted against the death sentence for 1st-degree murder if instead the killer were to be sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence or a life sentence. In some of the answers, the respondents wanted the killer to work and pay restitution. Only 25 % of those who answered this question called for the death penalty.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

ALABAMA:

Bishops blast Alabama for denying inmate his imam at execution

In the wake of the Supreme Court and the state of Alabama denying a Muslim inmate’s request to have an imam present at his execution, Catholic leaders have decried the move as “disturbing” and an affront to religious liberty.

Domineque Ray, a death row inmate in Alabama, had requested to have his imam present at the time of his death on Feb. 7. However, the Alabama prison maintained that it was a security risk to allow an individual that was not an employee of the prison to be present.

The standard practice of the state is to allow a Christian chaplain inside the execution chamber at the time of the execution.

Last Wednesday, a Federal Appeals court granted a stay in the execution, but on Thursday by a vote of 5-4 the Supreme Court allowed it to go forward.

Ray had been sentenced to death in 1995 for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, Tiffany Harville. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Ray was executed on Thursday evening, while his imam, Yusef Maisonet, was required to watch from another room via a glass panel.

In response, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement expressing a two-fold disapproval of both the death penalty and the decision to deny Ray proper spiritual care.

“The execution of Domineque Ray deeply troubles us. The death penalty itself is an affront to human dignity, and the Church has long called for its abolition in the United States and around the world. Mr. Ray bore the further indignity of being refused spiritual care in his last moments of life, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Alabama law,” they wrote.

The statement was issued on Friday by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“This unjust treatment is disturbing to people of all faiths, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or otherwise. People deserve to be accompanied in death by someone who shares their faith.”

“It is especially important that we respect this right for religious minorities,” the bishops said. “As Pope Francis said during his recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, ‘What we are called to do as believers is to commit ourselves to the equal dignity of all.’ Let us make this commitment today.”

Religious liberty was one of the primary themes during Francis’s February 3-5 trip to the United Arab Emirates.

The Court’s decision was also condemned by a range of Catholic legal scholars and activists, who took to social media to express their outrage.

Professor Robert George, a constitutional law scholar at Princeton University, wrote on Twitter: “What Alabama did in not allowing a condemned man to have a clergyman of his own faith with him when he was executed was wrong. It did not need to happen and should not have.”

Professor Francis Beckwith who teaches courses on religion and jurisprudence issued a similar statement on Twitter.

“This is a moral outrage. Shame on Alabama for egregiously violating this man’s religious conscience,” he wrote.

On Friday, the Catholic Mobilizing Network Against the Death Penalty said, “As people of faith, we are deeply saddened by the fact that Alabama would not allow Domineque, a devout Muslim, to have an imam present for his execution…To bar a condemned man’s spiritual adviser from his execution chamber is to strip his very last shred of human dignity away from him. Alabama did nothing to uphold a culture of life last night.”

Sister Helen Prejean, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-death penalty activists, called the execution “wrong in so many ways.”

Ray’s execution comes at a time when the use of the death penalty is on the decline in the United States.

In 2018, there were fewer than 30 executions and 50 death penalty sentences, marking a historic low.

In August 2018, Francis updated the Catechism of the Catholic Church and declared that the death penalty is “inadmissible.”

“The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” reads the Catechism now, with the addition that the Church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

(source: cruxnow.com)

ILLINOIS:

Fact-check: Preckwinkle misrepresents Mendoza’s death penalty stand

A few months ago we gave a Mostly False rating to a claim by Chicago mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza that, as a member of the Illinois House in 2011, she had cast the deciding vote to abolish the state’s death penalty. Mendoza, now the state comptroller, did vote to end executions, but records and news reports from those days made it clear that the fate of the measure didn’t turn on her support.

Now, mayoral rival Toni Preckwinkle is out with a new ad that revisits Mendoza’s death penalty stand. It uses selective and deceptive video editing of a House floor speech by Mendoza just prior to that Jan. 6, 2011 vote to make it wrongly appear Mendoza was an enthusiastic supporter of capital punishment.

The ad from Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board president, includes a grainy clip in which Mendoza acknowledges a decade earlier having pushed in the House for an expansion of the death penalty. Mendoza is also heard declaring execution methods had become “too compassionate” and that she “could administer the death penalty myself and sleep like a baby at night.”

PolitiFact is an exclusive partnership between Chicago Sun-Times and BGA to fact-check politicians

But there was a lot more to Mendoza’s remarks that the Preckwinkle campaign chose to leave on the cutting room floor. And those deletions tell a very different story.

Selective editing

Transcripts of the House debate from the day Mendoza spoke make clear that her point was to describe an evolution in her thinking.

She opened her remarks by explaining how the day marked “the end of a long and difficult journey” for her on the issue, and then talked about her earlier push to expand the death penalty. That is where Preckwinkle’s ad picks up.

In the ad, Mendoza’s line about how she could administer the death penalty “‘…and sleep like a baby at night…’” is emphasized with text. What both the edited footage and those ellipses leave out is that she was referring only to cases where she knew “without a doubt” that a convicted criminal was “a cop killer or a serial murderer.”

The ad also cuts off Mendoza’s remarks before she reaches her main point — that too many people on Death Row in Illinois had later been found innocent.

“This debate for me is no longer about whether or not guilty killers deserve to die for their crimes, they do deserve to die,” Mendoza said, according to the debate transcript, just as she does in the ad. But she then went on to describe how the state’s track record of sentencing people to death row who were later exonerated and freed had changed her mind.

“I have come to realize that in order to ensure that justice is served in the form of death to an evil cancer in our society we must accept the possibility of executing an innocent person. I’m not OK with that and none of us should be OK with that,” she said.

Preckwinkle’s ad not only omits that but also leaves the impression that Mendoza was arguing to keep the death penalty in place. It does that by juxtaposing the selectively edited portions of her remarks with an old citation from a story by FactCheck.org that references the state’s woeful record of wrongful convictions.

The problem of course is that Mendoza, in the remarks the Preckwinkle ad chose to omit, specifically refers to wrongful convictions as the reason she had changed her mind about the death penalty.

When we reached out to Preckwinkle’s campaign to ask why it considered the ad an accurate representation of Mendoza’s record, spokeswoman Monica Trevino responded with an email highlighting a House vote by Mendoza in 2001 for a death penalty expansion, which she sponsored.

“Mendoza, despite her vote in 2011, gave testimony at that same time saying she still believed in the death penalty, and that she could administer the death penalty herself and sleep like a baby at night,” Trevino added. “The ad was reflective of her extreme values on this issue.”

Our ruling

With highly selective editing, Preckwinkle’s ad uses video clips from a speech Mendoza gave on the Illinois House floor in 2011 in which she declares opposition to the death penalty to leave the impression she remained an enthusiastic supporter of it.

While it is true that a decade earlier Mendoza backed an expansion of the death penalty, the speech from which the clips are taken made an entirely different point. She had changed her mind and wanted to end capital punishment in Illinois because the state had sentenced too many people to death row that later had been found innocent. Indeed, Mendoza then voted for a measure that abolished the death penalty.

None of that footage or context was used in the ad, which grossly misrepresents Mendoza’s position. We rate it Pants on Fire!<

(source: The Better Government Association runs PolitiFact Illinois, the local arm of the nationally renowned, Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking enterprise that rates the truthfulness of statements made by governmental leaders and politicians. BGA’s fact-checking service has teamed up weekly with the Sun-Times, in print and online----Chicago Sun-Times)

USA:

Eisenhower denies the Rosenbergs clemency, Feb. 11, 1953

On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for conspiracy to commit espionage under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917. Members of the Communist Party, the Rosenbergs had been convicted of passing secret information in 1945 about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Their case remains a cause célèbre, with assertions that their prosecution and conviction reflected Cold War hysteria and did not warrant the death penalty.

One of the first decisions facing newly elected President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican and World War II military leader, was whether to grant executive clemency to the Rosenbergs, sparing them from being put to death.

On this day in 1953, Eisenhower declined to do so, stating: “The nature of the crime for which they have been found guilty and sentenced far exceeds that of the taking of the life of another citizen; it involves the deliberate betrayal of the entire nation and could very well result in the death of many, many thousands of innocent citizens. By their act these 2 individuals have in fact betrayed the cause of freedom for which free men are fighting and dying at this very hour [in Korea].”

Eisenhower continued: “We are a nation under law and our affairs are governed by the just exercise of these laws. The courts have provided every opportunity for the submission of evidence bearing on this case. In the time-honored tradition of American justice, [a] freely selected jury of their fellow-citizens considered the evidence in this case and rendered its judgment.

“All rights of appeal were exercised, and the conviction of the trial court was upheld after full judicial review, including that of the highest court in the land. I have made a careful examination into this case and am satisfied that the 2 individuals have been accorded their full measure of justice.

“There has been neither new evidence nor have there been mitigating circumstances which would justify altering this decision and I have determined that it is my duty in the interest of the people of the United States, not to set aside the verdict of their representatives.”

At about 8 p.m., Julius Rosenberg, 37, was executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, N.Y. A few minutes after his body was removed from the execution chamber, Ethel Rosenberg. 35, was strapped to the same electric chair. She was pronounced dead at 8:16 p.m. Both Rosenbergs refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence up to the time of their deaths. Their sons, Michael and Robert, survived them.

In 2014, 5 historians wrote that newly available Soviet documents show that Ethel Rosenberg hid money and espionage paraphernalia for Julius, served as an intermediary for communications with his Soviet intelligence contacts, relayed her personal evaluation of individuals whom Julius considered recruiting, and was present at meetings with his traitorous sources.

[source: “This Day in Presidential History,” by Paul Brandus (2018)]

(source: politico.com)

US MILITARY:

Army Major Mathew Golsteyn defends himself in first interview since being charged in suspected Taliban bomb maker's death----Major Golsteyn's 1st TV interview since being charged in the death of a suspected Taliban bomb maker

Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, a decorated former Green Beret who has been charged in the death of a suspected Taliban bomber, defended his actions on Sunday ahead of an Article 32 hearing next month.

During an interview on "Fox & Friends," Golsteyn said he is facing a minimum of life in prison or the death penalty if he is found guilty of premeditated murder — a charge he disputed vigorously.

"Over these years, what the U.S. Army seems to be intent on doing is characterizing an ambush as murder. Those routine combat actions are now being characterized as murder," Golsteyn told "Fox & Friends."

Golsteyn said the Army has kept him from his legal counsel and his family by restricting him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

"We’re seeing just how malicious and vindictive the Army is being," his wife, Julie, said in the "Fox & Friends" interview. "They’re trying to separate us as a family, keep Matt from his legal counsel, even going so far as to break us financially."

The Army provided the following statement to Fox News on Sunday:

"On December 18, 2018, it was decided that Maj. Mathew Golsteyn will proceed to an Article 32 Preliminary Hearing, scheduled to start on Thursday, March 14, 2019, on Fort Bragg, N.C. The primary purpose of the hearing is to determine whether there is enough probable cause that Maj. Golsteyn violated Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Premediated Murder. Since recalled to active duty, Maj. Golsteyn has been afforded the respect his rank commands and privileges as any Soldier assigned to United States Army Special Operations Command. To protect Maj. Golsteyn's rights and maintain integrity of the legal process, it would be inappropriate to comment further on the case prior to the outcome of the Article 32 hearing."

TALIBAN ATTACK ON MILITARY BASE KILLS AT LEAST 65, AFGHAN OFFICIALS SAY

Maj. Golsteyn's wife defends her husband

Golsteyn, who faced years of on-and-off investigations after an incident that is said to have taken place during his 2010 deployment, was initially cleared by a military tribunal two years ago. However, the investigation into his actions was re-opened after he spoke with Fox News' Bret Baier.

As Fox News previously reported, Golsteyn was deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2010. Two Marines in his unit during that time were killed by hidden, booby-trapped explosives.

Golsteyn and his men later found a suspected Taliban bomb maker nearby — though he was not on a list of targets U.S. forces were cleared to kill, Fox News previously reported. After he was detained, Golsteyn said the man refused to talk to investigators.

AFGHANISTAN PEACE TALKS IN DOUBT AFTER TALIBAN'S ABRUPT WALKOUT

Under the rules of engagement, Golsteyn was ordered to release him, but he was worried that if he did so, the suspect would have targeted Afghans who were helping American soldiers.

“There's limits on how long you can hold guys,” he told Fox News' Bret Baier in 2016. “You realize quickly that you make things worse. It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed.”

Golsteyn told Fox News he killed the suspected bomb maker.

The case in December prompted a tweet from President Trump, who wrote that Golsteyn "could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas."

Golsteyn on Sunday said that Trump's tweet gave his son a "sense of relief" because "someone was paying attention and cared about his dad."

"They’re not looking for the truth. They’re not seeking justice. This is wrong what they are doing to him. Matt served his country and loves his country," Julie Golsteyn said. "It’s heartbreaking for me, as his wife, to watch him be dragged down by his own command."

(source: Fox News)

GREAT BRITAIN:

Sajid Javid accused of evading questions about suspects facing death penalty----Home secretary delayed to answer questions by Caroline Lucas about fate of British citizens allegedly part of Isis cell

A senior Conservative MP has reprimanded the home secretary, Sajid Javid, for failing to answer parliamentary questions about the government exposing British citizens to the death penalty overseas.

Charles Walker, chair of the Commons procedure committee, wrote to Javid describing his failure to respond to written queries from the Green MP Caroline Lucas as an “unacceptable discourtesy to a fellow member”.

Lucas has asked three questions since 18 October last year relating to the fate of El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, two British Islamic State suspects, who could ultimately be executed if extradited to the US.

Behind the Isis ‘Beatle’ Elsheikh is a story of breakdown and despair

Elsheikh and Kotey, who were raised in Britain, are alleged to have been part of an Isis terror cell known as “the Beatles”, which is thought to have carried out 27 beheadings of US and UK citizens in Isis-held territory.

Both have since been deprived of their UK citizenship and are being held by Kurdish forces in Syria. In a high court case last year it was revealed that Javid decided to cooperate with US authorities over their prosecution without assurances they would not face the death penalty in order to avoid “political outrage” in the Trump administration.

Subsequently, the Home Office security minister, Ben Wallace, stated that cooperation with foreign states in other cases involving the death penalty was not unprecedented. He declined to identify the countries or individuals concerned.

Wallace told MPs: “A review of available records dating back to 2001 has been undertaken and I can confirm that this has occurred on two previous occasions that have been identified, under successive governments.

“Due to the potential to harm ongoing criminal investigations or future prosecutions, and the confidentiality attached to mutual legal assistance, it would not be appropriate to share further information.”

Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion, then put down a series of parliamentary questions for Javid asking for more information about the two previous occasions.

The Green MP believes the refusal to answer is part of a wider pattern of Home Office evasion. Questions about undocumented migrants dating back to May last year remain unanswered, her office said.

Walker’s letter, seen by the Guardian, was sent to Javid on 5 February. It says: “All members are entitled to expect a response from ministers to questions which have been tabled and as you know the procedure Committee monitors the timeliness of answers provided by government departments.

“The failure to respond to the question, and the failure to respond to the subsequent questions tabled, is in my view an unacceptable discourtesy to a fellow member.”

Jihadist 'Beatles' complain they will not be given fair trial

Lucas told the Guardian: “It’s completely unacceptable that ministers are so brazenly refusing to answer my basic questions about government failures to protect people from the death penalty. This lack of transparency around serious breaches of human rights denies families the right to seek justice.

“That this is part of a wider pattern of Home Office failures to respond to MPs’ questions is deeply worrying. It is our job to hold the government to account, and by fobbing us off Sajid Javid is undermining a core function of parliament. He must listen to the chair of the procedure committee and urgently come clean about the government’s record on the death penalty.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have responded to the first of the parliamentary questions from Caroline Lucas MP. It is our intention to reply to the supplementary questions in parliament as soon as practicably possible.”

The death penalty for murder was abolished in Britain in 1969.

(source: The Guardian)

MALAYSIA:

Government May Punish MPs Who Say No To Abolishing Death Penalty

Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong is determined to abolish the death penalty in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting

In a recent exclusive interview with Sin Chew Daily, Liew revealed that he plans to put the bill to remove the death penalty to vote in the Second Term of the 14th Parliament Session, which will commence on 11 March.

The bill is pending approval from the Cabinet.

Liew added that government Members of Parliament (MPs) who vote against the bill may face disciplinary action

The Law Minister also remain unfazed by critics of the bill.

"Everyone has the right to talk (about it), I can't explain to each of them," Liew was quoted as saying by Sin Chew Daily.

"Malaysia has to move towards being a humanitarian state. If we don't abolish the death penalty, it means we support killing a person," he added.

"If you think killing a person is wrong, then you cannot support the government to hang a person. Even if that person did something horribly wrong," Liew said.

Liew also elaborated on the life of convicts on death row if the death penalty is abolished

"They live in 10 square feet cells, (and) they are only allowed out of their cells every day from 7am to 7.45am and 5pm to 5.45pm. They spend the rest of the time in their cells," the Law Minister told Sin Chew Daily.

"Therefore, their lives are quite horrible. If you hang a horrible person just like that, don't you think it's too easy on him?" Liew said.

"If you kill my family, and I kill you because I'm angry about that, I'm no different from those murderers. But now instead of killing you for revenge, I'm supporting the government to hang you, is there any difference? It's still murder, isn't it?" he added.

"If we keep killing each other in the name of revenge, we will never progress as a country," the Law Minister stressed.

Liew previously shot down suggestions to hold a referendum on abolishing the death penalty

"We are not going to have a referendum on this particular issue, that's for sure," Liew was quoted as saying by Malay Mail on 18 January.

His statement came after former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor called for a national referendum before the death penalty is abolished, as it is "inappropriate" to ignore public opinion on the matter.

(source: says.com)

SINGAPORE:

Drug trafficker found to be a mere courier, but apex court upholds death penalty

The apex court on Monday (Feb 11) ruled a drug trafficker to be merely a courier, but the Singaporean man still faces the gallows as he was not given a certificate of substantive assistance by the Public Prosecutor.

Delivering the 3-judge Court of Appeal’s decision, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon disagreed with the earlier High Court ruling that Zamri Mohd Tahir had not proven he was merely a drug courier.

There was no evidence to show that Zamri, 44, had resolved to do more than deliver drugs at the point of his arrest, said CJ Menon.

Zamri worked for someone he referred to as Abang, and had not received any instructions on what to do with the drugs.

When he was arrested on Oct 14, 2014 while trying to exit the carpark of Block 606 Clementi West Street 1 in a van driven by a friend, he had only collected and transported 5 bundles of heroin. The bundles were placed in a red plastic bag in the basket of a bicycle at the void deck.

Zamri was found guilty of possessing not less than 40.37g of heroin, or diamorphine, for the purpose of trafficking.

According to him, it was the fourth time he had helped to move drugs. The previous time, he had helped to repack drugs.

For the latest batch of drugs, Zamri said he intended to do whatever Abang instructed.

But the fact remained that no instructions had been given at the point of his arrest, and there was no evidence what Abang’s instructions would have been, said CJ Menon, who ruled together with Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang.

“It was, in truth, unknown and unknowable what the accused would have done after he had taken delivery of the drugs,” he said.

The Public Prosecutor affirmed on Nov 29 last year that he would not issue a certificate of substantive assistance to Zamri.

Under changes to the law that took effect in 2013, drug traffickers may escape the death sentence if they are found to have been mere couriers, and if a certificate is issued that they substantively aided the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

(source: todayonline.com)

SRI LANKA:

Measures to expedite capital punishment

The rope to be used in the gallows has been sent to the Sri Lanka Standards Institute for inspection. The Prisons Department noted that the Institute will be inspecting whether the rope is suitable to be used for capital punishment. It was brought to the country in 2015 from Pakistan.

The Department further notes that if the rope does not meet suitable standards measures would be taken to expedite the importation of another rope of suitable quality.

Meanwhile, applications will be called for an executioner from today (February 11) and it will be open till the 25th of this month.

These measures have been implemented to facilitate the decision made by the President to issue capital punishment on large scale drug dealers.

Measures to obtain the other necessary equipment required for the process has also commenced. The initiative began following a notification of the Ministry of Prison Reforms to expedite measures to activate capital punishment.

A list of 17 drug dealers inline for the death penalty was handed over to the Presidential Secretariat on the 25th of January. It was handed over upon the recommendation of the Attorney General.

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

Father who killed his daughter sentenced to death

A father who was found guilty of murdering his daughter after abuse and torture, was sentenced to death by the Anuradhapura High Court.

The defendant Senaratne Ranatunga alias Gamini is a resident of Thambuththegama. He was charged with torturing and murdering his daughter 3 1/2-year-old daughter Upeka Lakmali slamming her against a tree in June 2005.

Upon delivering the verdict, North Central province High Court Judge Mahesh Weeraman noted, the defendant was guilty as charged, beyond any reasonable doubt.

The justice added that the defendant was sentenced to death for committing homicide.

(source for both: newsfirst.com)

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

Father of 3 sentenced to death

The Colombo High Court judge Shashi Mahendran sentenced a man to death over a murder committed in 2000, today (11).

Accordingly, a 57-year-old father of 3 from Bollegolla area in Kelaniya has been sentenced to death in this manner.

On the 22nd January in 2000, a man was shot dead in Bollegolla area over an escalated personal dispute. The Attorney General filed a case against 2 persons with this regard to the incident.

One of the defendants was declared not guilty and acquitted while the other defendant was convicted of the crime.

Subsequently, the death penalty was imposed on the defendant, today.

(source: adaderanan.lk)

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

Applications sought for hangman’s job

Applications have been sought for the hangman’s job with President Maithripala Sirisena saying he hopes to implement the death penalty soon.

The Department of Prisons has called for applications from today to recruit 2 new hangmen.

President Maithripala Sirisena told Parliament last week that the death penalty will be implemented within 2 months.

He said that he is determined to implement the death penalty despite some strong objections.

The President said that he had sought a report on convicts sentenced to death for grave crimes related to drugs.

However he said the report had been delayed.

In July 2018 the then cabinet had approved a proposal by the President to implement the death sentence on repeat offenders on death row for serious drug related crimes.

Last month, the Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms Thalatha Atukorale briefed the cabinet on the steps taken by the Ministry to gather information on drug convicts who are on death row.

The Minister had told the cabinet that after President Maithripala Sirisena had announced in July 2018 that the death sentence will be implemented on convicts on death row for serious drug related crimes, the Justice Ministry had sought information on the convicts from the Department of Prisons.

The Department of Prisons had, that same month, sent a name list of 18 convicts to the Justice Ministry.

A name list on the convicts was also sent to the Attorney General in October last year.

(source: Colombo Gazette)

PAKISTAN:

SHC refuses to revoke death sentence of accused in Safoora Goth massacre

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday refused to revoke the death sentence of 5 accused in Safoora Goth massacre and said that it will consider the matter after the Supreme Court’s decision is announced.

A 2-member bench, headed by Justice Aftab Ahmed Gorar and comprising Justice Amjad Ali Sahito, heard the appeals seeking to revoke death sentence awarded to Saad Aziz, Tahir Minhas, Azhar Ishrat, Hafiz Nasir and Asad-u-Rehman by a military court in Safoora bus carnage.

As the hearing went underway, the applicants’ counsel, Hashmat Ali Habib, told the court that despite the multiple notices, the respondents did not submit their replies.

“Lahore High Court (LHC) and Supreme Court’s verdicts against the sentence awarded by military court are on the record,” he said.

The bench remarked that “those decisions were made in 2017 but what is the progress now?”

The counsel pleaded that the death sentence of the accused be dismissed and an appeal has already been under proceeding in the apex court, to which the bench said that it would consider doing so after the SC’s decision is announced.

“Who will be responsible if the accused are executed during that time,” the counsel said, to which the court issued a notice to respondents till March 11.

According to the prosecutor, “A military court awarded death sentence to the convicts on May 12, 2015, in Safoora Goth carnage and other cases of terrorism. The death sentence was later ratified by the then chief of army staff, General Raheel Shareef.”

At least 45 people were killed when terrorists targeted a bus carrying 60 members of the Ismaili community on May 12, 2015.

The convicts, in their appeals, maintained that the military court had awarded death sentence to the accused on different allegations and the families were not provided with the details of cases.

The court was requested to stop the execution of the death penalty and to allow the meeting of the families with the convicts.

The Sindh prosecutor general, in his arguments, maintained that the military court had awarded sentence in a serious offence, and appeal against the military court’s decision could be filed only in the Supreme Court.

(source: Pakistan Today)

EGYPT:

Document confirming death penalty against 3 Egyptians in violation of legislative procedures

Human rights researcher at the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, Ahmed Attar, has revealed that the government has executed 3 members of the opposition on the charge of murder. Even though they were still pursuing an appeal.

The 3 were charged with the murder of the son of the president of El Mansoura Court in 2014.

In an interview with Arabi21, the researcher said that “the execution constituted a flagrant violation of the Egyptian legislative procedures and demonstrated the continuation of a process that violates most of the basic justice rights. Moreover, this is not the first case in this regard, and this has been repeated several times”.

Attar said: “The Egyptian Constitution has set up many provisions to preserve the dignity and freedom of the Egyptian citizen, and before this, to preserve his life. The Egyptian law also has many provisions that grant the prisoner the right to appeal against the sentences even after the Court of Cassation, as the right to request a case reinvestigation is one of the extraordinary legal remedies. The law has exclusively defined several reasons for these ways. Whenever one of these reasons is available, the convicted person can benefit from this right.”

Attar also pointed out that “Article 448 of the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code states that the request of a reinvestigation shall not lead to the suspension of execution of the sentence unless it is a death sentence. Therefore, the Egyptian authorities should have suspended the death sentence pending the decision on the request of the reinvestigation.”

(source: Middle East Monitor)

FEBRUARY 10, 2019:

ALABAMA:

Execution raises uncomfortable constitutional questions

The State of Alabama put a man to death Thursday. He was the 217th person to die under the state’s death penalty – the 64th execution since a moratorium on executions in Alabama was lifted in 1983.

Dominique Ray’s execution is troubling. Not because there was any question about his guilt. Debates about the moral failings of the death penalty aside, there was no reason why Ray should not see the sentence imposed on him for the murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville almost 25 years ago carried out at long last.

What’s troubling about Ray’s execution is the constitutional question it raises. Ray, who embraced Islam while incarcerated, wanted an imam present with him in the death chamber. Prison officials refused, saying they could provide a Christian prison chaplain. Ray’s attorneys sued, and a stay of execution was issued to sort it all out.

Prison officials argue that only corrections system employees are allowed in the execution chamber as a matter of security, which is reasonable. In an earlier editorial, we suggested the prison system work to create a pool of spiritual leaders from other faiths, and vet them accordingly. That seems reasonable as well.

However, Ray’s position was that he was receiving unequal treatment because he, a Muslim, did not have the same opportunity in the execution chamber as a Christian prisoner would. And he’s right – the constitutional religious protections suggest that a condemned inmate of any stripe should have the same access to a representative of their chosen faith.

The matter made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in a 5-4 decision, vacated the stay imposed by a lower court to allow the execution to proceed. The reason – Ray had waited too long to raise his objection.

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan argues that Alabama’s policy of making available only a Christian chaplain violates the constitution’s Establishment clause:

“Under (Alabama’s) policy, a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites. But if an inmate practices a different religion—whether Islam, Judaism, or any other—he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side. That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause's core principle of denominational neutrality.”

For Ray, the argument is moot. However, despite the high court’s green light for Ray’s execution, Alabama officials must undertake an in-depth review of procedures surrounding the treatment of the state’s inmates, not only to ensure constitutional rights are upheld, but to avoid future litigation that the state can hardly afford.

(source: Editorial, The Dothan Eagle)

OHIO:

Testimony to begin Monday in quadruple homicide

A trial is slated to begin Monday in a potential death penalty case alleging murder in the fatal shooting of 4 people and an attack on another man, in Pedro, Ohio, in 2017.

Arron L. Lawson, 24, of Township Road 1051, Ironton, faces 4 counts alleging aggravated murder in the shooting deaths of Stacey Holston, 24; her son, Devin Holston, 8; Stacey's mother, Tammie L. McGuire; 43, and McGuire's husband, Donald McGuire, 50; all of Pedro. The attack occurred Oct. 11, 2017, at the Holstons' home.

Another man, Todd Holston, was stabbed with a pocketknife inside the family's trailer and survived his injuries.

Lawson also was charged with aggravated burglary, attempted murder and felonious assault of Todd Holston, the rape of Stacey Holston, abuse of a corpse, kidnapping of Devin Holston, tampering with evidence, theft of a motor vehicle and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer.

Questioning of potential jurors, which had started Jan. 28, was completed in the case Thursday.

The final jury is expected to be selected at 8:30 a.m. Monday at the Lawrence County Courthouse in Ironton in Judge Andy Ballard's courtroom with opening statements to follow.

According to an order from Ballard, spectators are asked to refrain from displaying any messages in support of or against any party involved in the case, either on clothing or items.

Those attending the trial are also requested to be seated 15 minutes prior to the trial's start.

Following the killings, Lawson is accused of having fled the scene. A manhunt by more than 100 law enforcement agencies from the Tri-State area, including federal authorities, occurred for more than 36 hours before Lawson was arrested along County Road 52.

A motive in the slayings has not been released.

Testimony is expected to last for more than a week as Lawson faces the death penalty in the case.

Under Ohio's death penalty laws, a potential death penalty case requires a bifurcated trial. First is the guilt phase where a defendant is found guilty or innocent. If a guilty verdict is returned, the same jury that heard the case will recommend a penalty of life in prison or the death penalty.

(source: The Herald-Dispatch)

WISCONSIN:

Governor should bring back death penalty

Gov. Tony Evers should bring back the death penalty.

Why are the taxpayers feeding and housing murderers for life after they take innocent people’s lives?

I am a 91-year-old veteran.

If we can let our decent military get the death penalty in wars and fight other countries’ civil wars, it’s time to bring back the death penalty or the prisons will fill to the limits with people who don’t deserve to live. advertisement

Fred Gilson

Salem

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Kenosha News)

IOWA:

Lawmakers introduce legislation

N’West Iowa lawmakers are making their marks on this year’s state legislative session by way of sponsoring bills.

Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City) sponsored House File 62, which would implement the death penalty as a possible sentence in 1st-degree murder cases.

The practice of capital punishment ended in Iowa in 1965.

“Iowa needs to seriously consider reinstating the death penalty,” Wheeler said. “The purposes are of course first and foremost, justice for the victims and their families. Secondly, it gives prosecutors another tool to use when dealing with first degree murder cases. Lastly, it sends a message that as a state we will not tolerate the shedding of innocent blood and if someone does this, they are subject to the highest punishment one can receive on the earth.”

Wheeler has a firm pro-life stance and also introduced a bill to erect an abortion victim memorial. He said a person can be pro-life and pro-death penalty.

“My stance comes from the Bible, which strongly support the death penalty, but also supports protecting innocent and unborn life from the moment of conception until a natural death,” Wheeler said. “When someone murders someone else, they took their life without allowing that person to die a natural death. They violated that person’s inalienable right to life, therefore their inalienable right to life is essentially removed. There are consequences to actions, and there should be an ultimate consequence for committing the ultimate act of evil one can perform. The government’s job is to reward good and to punish evil, and my stance on these 2 issues lines up with that.”

(nwestiowa.com)

COLORADO:

Abolish the death penalty in Colorado

If the worth of a public policy is its ability to achieve policy objectives, then capital punishment is a failure. It hasn't been shown to deter crime. It's not cost-effective. It's unevenly applied. It needs to be abolished.

Colorado abolished the death penalty in 1897 for four years, but subsequent repeal efforts have fallen short of success. In 2009 a repeal bill failed by just one vote in the Colorado Senate after passing in the House. Abolition advocates hope that 2019 is the year when Colorado can finally relegate capital punishment to history. There is growing public revulsion with the practice, its value to justice is increasingly dubious, and the political circumstances are as favorable to repeal as ever — abolition-leaning Democrats control the Colorado House and Senate, the state's new attorney general, Democrat Phil Weiser, is opposed to the death penalty, and new Gov. Jared Polis, also a Democrat, has said he would sign a repeal bill.

The momentum is there. Now lawmakers must follow through.

Executions have become exceedingly rare in the state. The 1st execution to occur in what is now Colorado was the 1859 hanging of murderer John Stoefel at a cottonwood tree along Cherry Creek. Stoefel is one of 103 men the state has put to death. (Every person Colorado has ever executed was a male murderer.) The last execution in Colorado was that of Gary Lee Davis in 1997, and that event came 30 years after the state's previous execution.

The death penalty in practice might in effect be dormant, but capital punishment is still on the books. As long as the death penalty remains viable law in Colorado, the state claims for itself the objectionable role of institutional executioner. And it's no mere abstraction: Three men today sit on Colorado's death row, and the prospect of a death sentence is an emotional and practical factor every time courts in the state take up the most heinous crimes, such as the prosecution last year of Frederick killer Christopher Watts and the Aurora theater mass murderer James Holmes.

Some argue that the death penalty deters would-be killers, but the evidence just isn't there. "Research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide rates is not useful in determining whether the death penalty increases, decreases, or has no effect on these rates," said a 2012 report from National Research Council of The National Academies. Prominent death penalty scholar Michael L. Radelet, a professor at the University of Colorado, and co-author Traci L. Lacock wrote in 2009 that 88 % of prominent criminologists "do not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent," and there was an "overwhelming consensus ... that the death penalty does not add deterrent effects to those already achieved by long imprisonment." The New York City Bar Association in a 2017 presentation asserted that murder rates did not rise in states that abolished the death penalty.

Not only does the death penalty fail to deter, it's a costly failure. In "The Death Penalty vs. Life Incarceration: A Financial Analysis," a 2016 study published in the Susquehanna University Political Review, Colorado was shown to spend about 15 % more on death row inmates than those in the general population. But that's just incarceration costs. Account for the enormous legal expenses of trying death penalty cases and the outlays skyrocket. The analysis found that in the United States each death penalty inmate costs about $1.12 million more than a general population inmate.

An especially egregious defect in American death penalty cases is their susceptibility to great economic, geographic and racial disparities. A case that results in a death sentence often depends less on the underlying facts of the alleged crime than on the financial means of the defendant. Of the almost 1,400 executions that occurred in the United States between 1976 and 2015, 71 % were carried out in the South. All manner of racial imbalances can be found in capital cases: More than 3/4 of executions stem from cases involving a white victim, yet only half of murder victims in America are white. White and black inmates make up equal shares of the death row population — 42 % — even though the country's population is 61 % white and 13 % black. All 3 death row inmates in Colorado — Nathan Dunlap, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray — were prosecuted in Arapahoe County, and all 3 are black. The location of the county line in relation to a crime should not determine whether a defendant lives or dies, and neither should the skin color of the accused.

It is implausible to think that in the United States innocent people have not been executed. Since 1973, more than 160 death row inmates have been set free because evidence showed they were innocent. "For every 10 people who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., one person has been set free," notes the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. No executed inmate in the United States has been posthumously proved legally and factually innocent, but this is largely because the justice system has little incentive to expend resources on cases in which the defendant is dead. In 2011, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter took the extraordinary step of granting a posthumous unconditional pardon to Joe Arridy, who had been executed in 1939 for a murder in Pueblo. "(An) overwhelming body of evidence indicates the 23-year-old Arridy was innocent, including false and coerced confessions, the likelihood that Arridy was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and an admission of guilt by someone else," Ritter proclaimed.

The state-sanctioned killing of an innocent person is more morally repugnant than the execution of a guilty one could be morally just. For this reason alone — given that innocent people almost certainly die under a regime of capital punishment — Colorado should abolish the death penalty. But the reasons are many. Colorado is among the 30 states that still permit capital punishment. Legislators this year should withdraw the state from that ignoble club.

(source: Editorial; Quentin Young, for the Editorial Board, Boulder Daiy Camera)

MONTANA:

Curious find casts doubt on 1922 execution

Even with a noose around his neck in a stockade behind the Missoula jail, Joe Vuckovich swore he hadn’t murdered Mrs. Jerry Shea.

“I am losing my life as innocent as any man that ever was hung,” the 33-year-old Serbian maintained in broken but clear English on a February morning in 1922.

Nora (Goff) Shea was shot dead on Missoula’s Northside on Feb. 12, 1921. Vuckovich was there and then he wasn’t, leading authorities on a manhunt that ended with his capture 4 days later 35 miles east of town.

A convicted bootlegger and known womanizer prone to violence, Vuckovich was tried and convicted of murder in Missoula district court. He was sentenced to die, but for most of a year his lawyer’s appeals delayed the hanging.

A final entreaty to Gov. Joseph Dixon, accompanied by 5,000 signatures on a petition asking the sentence be commuted to life in prison, was rejected in the final hours. Vuckovich was hanged at 6 a.m. on Feb. 17, 1922, and pronounced dead 10½ minutes later.

Tom Donovan, in his 2007 book “Hanging Around the Big Sky,” said Vuckovich was the last man in Montana to be put to death on a jerk-type gallow. A 320-pound weight was dropped, pulling the 140-pound Vuckovich off the ground and breaking his neck. 2 hundred invited guests watched.

Donovan listed it as the 8th legal execution in Missoula County dating back to 1883. The 9th was that of confessed murderer Philip “Slim” Coleman from a scaffold inside the Missoula County jail in September 1943. That was the last hanging in Montana and the last execution outside the walls of the state penitentiary in Deer Lodge.

History tucked the murder and hanging into its macabre pages, to be resurrected on occasion over the years but with no further twists.

***

Which makes Cliff Iverson’s “confession board” all the more curious.

The pine board is all of a foot long and five inches wide. It came from an old house Iverson’s father had moved from Missoula to Piltzville in the Bonner area decades ago. The small house still stands as a rental off Rustic Road.

Anton “Tony” Iverson immigrated from Norway in 1928 and went to work for the Anaconda Forest Products mill in Bonner. He retired in 1970 as head outside millwright. The same year L.A. Hurt moved the house from the 400 block of East Broadway. It joined four others displaced when Interstate 90 was built earlier in the 1960s.

After Tony Iverson’s death in 1990, and his wife Thyra’s passing in 1993, Cliff Iverson and his siblings prepared the homes for sale.

That’s when the confession board caught his eye.

“I’m thinking it must have come out of the garage,” he said last week. “It was probably lying on a workbench or something.”

On one side of the board, in what Iverson thinks is his father’s writing in the carpenter’s pencil a millwright always carries, is a synopsis of the Vuckovich story:

The handwriting on one side of Cliff Iverson's board states that Jerry Shea confessed on his deathbed to killing his wife Nora in 1921.

Hanged on Feb. 17, 1922, for the murder of Mrs. Jerry Shea … ran away to the hills … captured near “Bear Mout Mont.” … convicted … granted stay of execution … maintained innocence … “last words were that he was not guilty of the Crime in wich he was Convicted.”

Turn the board over, and in the same handwriting: “A few years later Mrs Sheas husband confesced on his death bed that he had killed her.”

Trial by 2-by-4 is no trial at all. There appears to exist no other evidence that Jerry Shea admitted to killing his wife. For history’s sake, justice was served when Vuckovich was hanged. He wasn’t the first to go to his death proclaiming innocence.

But what if he was telling the truth?

Jerry Shea died 30 years later in Miles City. Obituaries in 1952 said he was there visiting his daughter, Mrs. Frank Carlson. Marie Carlson had been 2½ and her sister Elizabeth 5 when their mother was murdered.

According to the Montana Standard, Shea was born in Michigan in 1886 and spent his childhood in Butte. The family moved to the Bitterroot Valley in 1899, and Shea lived at the original home place 3 miles west of Stevensville.

“In 1914 he was married to Nora Gofee (sic), who preceded him in death,” was the only mention of Mrs. Shea.

No word of their home in Missoula in 1921, which news reports said was at 504 N. First St. Today that’s kitty-corner across the street from the north end of the Northside pedestrian railroad overpass. At least for a time, Jerry Shea worked in the Northern Pacific yard in Missoula, not on a ranch near Stevensville.

Nora Shea was shot two blocks to the east, at a corner of North First and what was then Rose Avenue, now Woody Street. Sun Mountain Sports and the Zootown Arts Community Center are in former warehouses across the street.

There was no eyewitness to the shooting, which happened between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on a Saturday evening and prompted a banner front-page headline in the Sunday Missoulian: “Missoula Mother Shot in Cold Blood.”

The subheads included: “Mrs. Jerry Shea is Murdered by Joe Vockolvich (sic). Whole City Startled … Talk of Lynching Heard.”

Missoulian front page reporting Nora Shea's murder

Missoulian archives via Newspapers.com

Jerry Shea told police his wife had left their home to buy candy in preparation for a family trip to the Bitterroot to visit relatives. A 13-year-old boy told police he’d seen her walking down the street with Joe Wines, as Vuckovich was known.

Near the Burkhart grocery store at the corner of North First and Rose, “Wines crowded Mrs. Shea off the side walk and put his face close to hers,” the boy said and the Missoulian reported. “Apparently they were quarreling. A few minutes later a shot was heard and Wines was seen running west on North First.”

The initial news account included an interesting detail. Jerry Shea said he was in his yard when the shooting occurred. He wasn’t first on the scene, but he was there quickly, while his wife was still lying unconscious on the ground, her bloodied head on a pillow provided by one of the first arrivals.

“He knelt beside his wife with one knee upon her body. ‘Here, don’t do that,’ someone called. ‘She is my wife,’ Mr. Shea replied.”

She was taken by ambulance to St. Patrick Hospital but never regained consciousness.

***

Vuckovich sure acted like a guilty man. Neighbors said Shea knew Vuckovich was “tampering with his wife’s affections” but was afraid to interfere, the newspaper reported.

Vuckovich’s troubles began a couple of weeks earlier. He and Peter Kossich were arrested following a disturbance at the Shea home on Jan. 25. Vuckovich was said to have slapped Mrs. Shea, bloodying her nose, and to have taken her two children as far as the gate of the yard before leaving them and jumping in an automobile with Kossich. They only stopped after Chief of Police W.J. Moore fired into the back of the car when they returned.

Vuckovich threw away a gun and the car stopped. The men were arrested and Vuckovich was fined $250. Nora Shea would not appear against him.

The gun that police found on Joe Vuckovich when he was arrested near Bearmouth, which was believed to have been used to shoot Nora Shea.

Five days later, Wines/Vuckovich was back in the police report, arrested for bootlegging whiskey. He was released on bail the following day.

Just before dawn on Feb. 13, the morning after the shooting of Nora Shea, Vuckovich showed up cold and hungry at a ranch house in Grant Creek. He allegedly told E.C. Henry that the law was after him and said, “They have got me this time — they will sure hang me this time."

The Henrys thought he was referring to a Prohibition violation. They fed him and let him stay, only to discover later that day he’d robbed them of clothing and food and disappeared. Vuckovich walked east through the Rattlesnake, to Bonner where he stayed a night in an empty cabin, then up the Clark Fork Valley. He was spotted by a train crew and captured west of Drummond near Bearmouth.

At trial the following month, Deputy Sheriff Barney Wheeler, one of his captors, testified that Vuckovich confessed to the murder on the way back to Missoula. Wheeler said Vuckovich told him, unbidden: "Well, she wouldn't give my money back and I got so mad I shot her. When I get mad I get awfully mad."

Testimony by the Missoulian’s Ray Rocene seemed to clash with Wheeler’s story. Rocene had interviewed Wheeler when he returned from Bearmouth with his prisoner. He said Wheeler told him Vuckovich had not confessed, “but that he thought he would plead guilty.”

***

Meanwhile, Jerry Shea came under suspicion for his wife’s murder, at least in the eyes of defense attorney James L. Wallace.

“Did you shoot your wife?” Wallace asked at Vuckovich’s trial in March.

“No,” Shea replied, adding that he’d ejected Vuckovich from his home on Jan. 25, when Vuckovich assaulted his wife.

Shea denied he had received $1,500 from Vuckovich, and said he didn’t know Mrs. Shea withdrew money that belonged to Vuckovich from a bank on the day of the shooting.

“Didn’t you know,” Wallace pressed, “about a proposition between your wife and Vuckovich whereby she was to get a divorce and marry him and go back to Serbia with him?”

No.

“Didn’t you go to see about a divorce from your wife?”

No.

“Didn’t your wife on several occasions threaten to shoot herself?”

No.

The evidence against Vuckovich was strong but circumstantial. Nonetheless, after 3 hours of deliberation on March 28, the jury of 12 men convicted Vuckovich of 1st degree murder and fixed the penalty of death by hanging.

***

French Ferguson, managing editor of the Sentinel evening paper, interviewed Vuckovich the day after he was captured and asked him straight out if he murdered Mrs. Shea. Vuckovich seemed to feel a responsibility to reply, but said finally, “Maybe, maybe I answer you some time, but I think I better see a lawyer first.”

Ferguson concluded Vuckovich was “a contradiction in human form, a mild, sparrow-like little man who, probably, has murdered a woman in cold blood upon a public street, yet who disliked to refuse to answer a question put to him by a man he had never seen before.”

Vuckovich was hanged a year to the day after the interview. The Missoulian printed a message from him thanking those who signed the petition to the governor on his behalf.

“I want to say as my last message to you that I am losing my life for a crime I did not commit,” he wrote. “I want to tell you from my heart that I am an innocent man. I am going to my death with a smile. I have no hard feelings in my heart toward anybody. They have just made a terrible mistake.”

***

Mike Hopkins hadn’t heard the tale of the Vuckovich hanging and the mystery confession until Friday, when he got a summary over the phone at the state Capitol in Helena.

“That’s the most interesting story I’ve heard in the Legislature this session,” he quipped.

A Republican representative from Missoula House District 92, Hopkins has introduced legislation for the 10th session in a row to abolish the death penalty.

He said he’s not sure how the story applies to his bill’s quest, “other than there are multiple examples throughout the U.S. of individuals who have been put to death by the state, via the death penalty, who turned out being innocent.”

Hopkins pointed to the recent pardon by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of the so-called “Groveland Four,” four young black men who were wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in 1949. Three were convicted. The 4th was beaten to death by an angry mob before the trial after he’d escaped from jail. None of the three was legally executed but all were dead within a few years by either violent or mysterious means.

“The only thing I would add,” Hopkins said, “is obviously the only way to guarantee the state isn’t in a situation of executing an individual only to find out later they’re not guilty is not to execute the individual.”

***

If boards could talk …

There had to be a reason Tony Iverson wrote about Jerry Shea’s “confescion” in 1952 in so definite terms on such an unorthodox surface.

As far as Cliff Iverson knows, his father never met Jerry Shea in the years from 1928 to 1952 when he lived in the Bonner area and Shea lived on the family ranch near Stevensville.

He can only speculate.

“They would insulate the houses with newspapers in the olden days, do you remember?” he said. “My son-in-law said he’s sure the story must have been on a newspaper in the walls of the house and caught his eye, so he grabbed the board and wrote it down.”

Shea’s obituary in 1952 was in at least 3 state newspapers. But no published account can be found of a confession, in the Missoulian archives or other Montana newspapers digitized on newspaper.com.

Tony Harbaugh, sheriff of Custer County where Shea died, graciously took time last week to search the coroner records for the entire year of 1952 but came up empty.

In fact, he said in an email, “There is no coroner log or report on Mr. Shea’s death.”

Keith Belcher, manager of the Missoula County records center, pored through records there with no luck.

Belcher said he didn’t know where an official confession would be recorded.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that here,” he said.

Willis and Susan Hintz, both retired from the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, are longtime keepers of law enforcement history in Missoula. They’re familiar with the details of the Vuckovich hanging but said they’ve never heard a whisper about a confession by Jerry Shea.

Shea was in and out of Missoula hospitals 3 times in 1952. He was discharged for the last time in early July, and a blurb in the paper said his daughter Elizabeth had arrived from her home in Fairbanks, Alaska, to see him.

Did she take him, sick as he was, to her sister’s home in Miles City? Were both of Shea’s daughters at his bedside when he died there on Aug. 21? Did Shea have something to get off his chest that somehow ended up on a pinewood board in a Missoula home?

“Maybe something new will turn up with this story,” Cliff Iverson said.

Until then we, like the rogue Joe Vuckovich, will be left hanging in history.

(source: missoulian.com)

CALIFORNIA:

Dennis McCarthy: ‘Tool Box Killer’ Lawrence Bittaker got the death penalty nearly 40 years ago. But old age will take him in the end----A front-page Daily Breeze story from 40 years ago sparks reflection on a murder case and a convicted killer who has outlived many of the players in his murder trial.

A promise was made 38 years ago to the families of 5 teenage girls in the South Bay and San Fernando Valley who had been kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered by a monster.

It was a promise not kept.

A jury had voted unanimously to sentence Lawrence Bittaker, 39, to die in the San Quentin gas chamber for the gruesome murders, but he lives on today, approaching his 80th birthday on death row.

4 of his 5 victims never saw their 17th birthday. One had just turned 18. The girls never had the chance to graduate from high school, go to college, have a career, get married, have kids, and, by now, grandkids.

They never got the chance to grow old like their murderer is.

When the time came during sentencing for the defense to call character witnesses, they could find no one to take the stand on Bittaker’s behalf.

The closest they came was a landlord who said he paid his rent on time.

Bittaker hasn’t paid a dime of rent since. We’ve been picking up his room and board for nearly 40 years. He’s outlived half the jurors, the judge, the lead detective on the case, an assistant prosecutor, and many others who were part of his trial.

“I think they’re just going to let him die of old age,” says Stephen Kay, former Los Angeles County assistant district attorney who prosecuted the Bittaker case, and the Manson family.

That’s the death penalty in California today for cold-blooded killers – old age.

Since 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated, 13 condemned men have died in the San Quentin gas chamber, the last in 2006 by lethal injection.

Meanwhile, more than 100 others have died in their beds.

“I had nightmares for almost two years after the Bittaker trial,” Kay says. “I’d hear the girls screaming, and run to help them, but always get there too late. I’d wake up in a cold sweat.”

He’s 76 now, a grandfather of five, who still replays in his mind a terror tape made of a young Burbank girl, Lynette Ledford, 16, begging for her life as she is being tortured and brutally murdered by Bittaker.,P> The audio tape was found in the back of Bittaker’s van with his tool box – the final piece of evidence that there could be no doubt he was guilty, no chance of DNA testing later finding a mistake had been made.

It was a slam dunk. The “Tool Box Killer,” as he was known during his 6 month killing spree in 1979, was sent off to San Quentin’s death row to bide his time until the appeal’s process ran its course – which could take, incredibly, as long as 25 years because of the massive back log.

Bittaker blew by 25 years, then 35, and now begins his 38th year waiting for a promise that hasn’t been kept, and probably never will. Two lawsuits challenging the use of lethal injections have everything on hold.

Bittaker had been on death row 2 years when I went up to San Quentin to interview him in 1983. I had covered his trial, seen all the evidence and heard the terror tape. I knew I was talking to a monster.

Five minutes into the interview, he began crying. Yes, he had raped the girls, but he didn’t murder them, he said. His partner had done that, not him.

And then he smirked. It was the same smug look he had on his face sitting at the defense table doodling on a pad when Kay played the terror tape in court, and people in the gallery began crying and running out of the courtroom – sick to their stomachs for that poor girl begging this monster for her life.

It’s the same smirk you can see today on his most current mug shot in a line up with more than 750 other condemned men on death row waiting for their promise to be kept.

Bittaker’s hair is neatly combed, and his shirt pressed. He looks like a man who has aged well and adapted nicely to prison life. He doesn’t look worried that the promise will ever happen to him.

I hadn’t thought of him in a long time until this week while going through a stack of old newspapers I’d kept. I came across a front page headline from Feb. 26, 1981 in the Daily Breeze with my byline on the story.

“Bittaker May Outlive the Jurors,” it read.

And, damn if he isn’t.

(source: Los Angeles Daily News)

USA:

Killer's hearing highlights prolonged nature of death-row appeals

The recent post-conviction hearing for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. underscored how prolonged the appeal process can be for a federal death penalty case.

The appeal process for Rodriguez started in 2006 after he was convicted at trial and sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing 22-year-old Dru Sjodin.

Sjodin, a native of Pequot Lakes, Minn., was a student at the University of North Dakota in 2003 when she disappeared from the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks.

During a nine-day hearing in federal court in Fargo that concluded Thursday, Feb. 7, a video clip was played in which Rodriguez told an interviewer in 2013 how he hid Sjodin's body in a ravine near Crookston, Minn., shortly after he killed her.

The hearing focused on a defense claim that Rodriguez is intellectually disabled, a condition that would — if the court accepts it as fact — make Rodriguez ineligible for execution.

Federal Judge Ralph Erickson, who presided over the trial and is handling appeal issues, has given lawyers in the case four months to prepare briefs on the mental health question that was explored during the hearing, a timetable that doesn't start until the hearing has been reduced to a transcript and provided to lawyers.

But the mental health question is not the only issue the judge must decide.

A past hearing covered a claim by the defense that some jurors at Rodriguez's trial made false and misleading statements about their background.

A second set of hearings focused on defense claims of alleged false evidence presented at trial regarding how Sjodin died and whether she was sexually assaulted. The defense also maintains that legal counsel Rodriguez had during his trial was ineffective because it failed to recognize and challenge the alleged false evidence.

To date, most of the defense claims have yet to be ruled on by the judge.

Meanwhile, at the conclusion of the latest hearing, the defense notified Erickson that additional appeal issues could be brought forward in the near future, though the issues in question were still being investigated.

With all that remains pending, one knowledgeable court watcher suggested that final resolution of all appeal issues may not happen for many, many months, if not years.

Taking the mental health question in isolation: If Erickson rules that Rodriguez is intellectually disabled, one outcome could be that the court would vacate the death sentence and re-sentence Rodriguez to life in prison.

If the court finds that Rodriguez did not fully prove that he is intellectually disabled, but nevertheless rules that trial counsel were ineffective in pursuing intellectual deficits as a mitigating issue, 1 possible outcome would be a retrial of the sentencing phase with a new jury.

Although the ultimate resolution of his case remains a mystery, 1 thing is clear: Rodriguez, who is 65, is living in a setting he has become very familiar with.

Information presented during the latest hearing highlighted the fact that prior to being arrested in 2003 in connection with Sjodin's kidnapping and murder, Rodriguez had already spent nearly 3 decades behind bars for 2 rapes and 1 attempted rape.

Since that 2003 arrest, he has spent approximately 15 more years behind bars.

Expert witnesses who testified for the defense described Rodriguez as a person whose mental development as an infant was severely compromised by malnutrition and possibly by chemicals he and his family were exposed to as migrant farm workers.

By contrast, expert witnesses testifying for the government noted that several of Rodriguez's siblings grew up to achieve advanced academic degrees.

They also suggested that problems Rodriguez experienced in school, including failing several grade levels, could be understood, at least in part, by language issues tied to the years his family traveled back and forth between Minnesota and Texas.

(source: The Bismarck Tribune)

VIETNAM:

Australian detained in Vietnam, Chau Van Kham, investigated for crime that carries death penalty

When Chau Van Kham abruptly stopped responding to messages on a trip to Vietnam in January, his prolonged silence led to a seeping dread.

His family, based in Australia and the UK, feared he had been spirited away.

Mr Chau, 69, is an Australian citizen and retired small businessman from Sydney who fled Vietnam by boat in 1982. He once fought alongside US troops during the Vietnam War and is a long-time pro-democracy and human rights activist.

It is a devotion that led him to cross from Cambodia into Vietnamese territory in what would prove to be an ill-fated "fact-finding" mission.

"I was most worried about him disappearing," his son Dennis Chau, 29, told the ABC from the United Kingdom.

"[My mum] always tries to be strong … but I can tell how she's breaking down."

Mr Chau was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on January 15 after meeting with a civil society activist.

Now, he is under investigation for alleged activities against Vietnam's communist Government — an offence that can carry the death penalty in the most serious cases.

He is also being denied access to a lawyer.

Dennis said the news his father had been detained, however distressing, was a slight relief as at least he hadn't disappeared.

Mr Chau's family suspected he was on some kind of Government watch list for his pro-democracy activities.

In fact, it was something they used to joke about, when the concept of arrest was inconceivable.

"I just didn't imagine it would ever happen — I was shocked," Dennis said.

In a statement, Vietnam's Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Le Thi Thu Hang confirmed that "Chau Van Kham is currently detained and under investigation for violating Vietnamese laws", but declined to specify which laws had been breached.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told the ABC it was providing consular assistance to an Australian man detained in Vietnam, but for privacy reasons was unable to provide further details.

'Operations to overthrow the Government'

But a DFAT report to the family following Mr Chau's sole consular visit on January 28, seen by the ABC, reveals the Australian retiree is being investigated under Article 109 — which refers to alleged operations to overthrow the Government.

Nestled between "high treason" and "espionage" in Vietnam's criminal code, Article 109 says that a person who joins an organisation that acts against the people's Government can be punished with 12 to 20 years behind bars, life imprisonment or death.

Suspected accomplices face lesser penalties, ranging from 12 months to 12 years in prison.

Mr Chau is also being investigated for allegedly breaching Article 341, which pertains to fabricating documents. Vietnamese authorities allege he used a fake Vietnamese identity card to enter the country.

As Mr Chau's alleged crimes fall under national security breaches, he will be denied legal representation until after the investigation is already complete in late May, purportedly "to protect the secrecy" of the process.

Mr Chau was videotaped during the consular visit, prompting concerns that he wouldn't be able to speak freely with Australian officials.

The family is also concerned about his ongoing health issues, including high cholesterol and prostatitis.

Dennis said he and his family were grappling with the reality of having their father incarcerated under a judicial system that seems so far removed from Australia's.

"It's not a law system that you're used to. You don't know what to expect … [is he] going to be mistreated in jail?" Dennis said.

"If he does eventually come home, is he going to be the same? Or is he going to be frail or broken? I just don't know."

Fleeing war, facing prison

In a YouTube clip, Mr Chau shares his experience of surviving the 1968 Tet offensive as a 19-year-old student in Hue, where thousands of civilians were killed en masse by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces.

But to his sons, Mr Chau is simply known as dad.

Arriving on Australian shores in 1982, Mr Chau became a citizen the following year. He met his wife, Trang, who came to Australia in 1983.

They married in 1986 and had 2 sons, Daniel, 31, and Dennis, 29.

The family lived above the Sydney laundry shop Mr Chau ran until he opened a bakery.

"When he came to Australia, he thought it was all about opportunities he wouldn't get in Vietnam," Dennis said.

"He was always working ridiculously long hours, and it was always a bit of a struggle."

But weekends were for spending time with his sons — taking them to the beach, playing tennis and going swimming.

In his retirement, Mr Chau became an active member of Viet Tan, a group branded a "terrorist force" and outlawed in Vietnam.

But the chairman Do Hoang Diem rejected any suggestion of terrorism, saying the group aims "to promote democracy and human rights in Vietnam through non-violent civic action".

He said Vietnam had "unleashed a severe crack down on dissidents" in the past three years and Mr Chau was gathering on-the-ground information about its impact.

"When facing such a lawless regime, dissidents and activists on their black list have no choice but to resort to finding other ways to enter Vietnam," he said.

In a statement, Viet Tan said the Vietnamese Government often used arbitrary detention and "fabricated accusations to defame" the group, adding that Mr Chau had been "attacked" in a state-owned media outlet and his address had been published as "a tactic to intimidate his family".

"Chau Van Kham has undoubtedly faced emotional duress and even forced confession," it said.

Amnesty International estimates there are more than 100 prisoners of conscience in jail in Vietnam today, many of whom are slapped with lengthy prison terms after "farcical trials".

Vietnam has "a terrible record of targeting people who peacefully say what they think", an Amnesty spokesperson told the ABC in a statement.

"A simple meeting or even a Facebook post could land you years in jail."

Sentences are often pre-determined before trial for those cast as "enemies of the state" and "torture is often used by interrogators".

Reflecting on his father's activism, Dennis said he often asked why he continued to advocate for human rights and democracy in a country where he no longer lived.

His father told him it was because people don't have basic freedoms in Vietnam.

"I think that motivates him to do it. He's always been very, very passionate about it," Dennis said.

"He's always put other people ahead of himself."

(source: abc.net.au)

INDIA:

72 die from tainted liquor in India

The number of people who died after drinking illegally brewed alcohol in northern India rose to 72 Saturday as authorities began a crackdown and suspended police and officials.

At least 64 people had died in Saharanpur and Haridwar, adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand states, after drinking the poisonous liquor.

Eight more deaths, blamed on tainted liquor, were reported in Kushinagar district, also in Uttar Pradesh, regional official BD Gupta said.

In Saharanpur district, the death toll climbed from 16 to 36, top administrative official Alok Pandey said. The villagers drank the tainted liquor Thursday.

The liquor was suspected of being laced with methanol.

The Saharanpur police, who are working on the assumption that the alcohol may have come from the same source, arrested 30 people, many of them bootleggers. They seized more than 2,000 pints of tainted liquor in raids.

Authorities in the region also suspended over 30 officials, including 10 policemen, on charges of negligence or collusion in the illicit trade.

They said they would demand death penalty for those involved in the illicit trade once the case reaches court.

Later Saturday, authorities in both states announced compensation of $2,800 each to the relatives of those killed.

An average of 1,000 people, mostly from poorer sections of society, die in India each year after consuming illegally brewed alcohol, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

The liquor is usually made with poor-quality ingredients and sometimes mixed with industrial alcohol and toxic substances.

(source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur)

PAKISTAN:

CONDEMNED UNHEARD: ON DEATH ROW ABROAD----Today, over 11,000 Pakistanis - many of them migrants in search of better opportunities - are detained in jails abroad.

While successive governments have looked towards remittances to boost the economy, these tales capture the agony and helplessness of those who have had a run-in with the law in a foreign country.

Wrapped in a green hospital gown, a plastic tube inserted into his nostrils, Zulfiqar Ali knew that his last days were upon him. He had arrived in Batu Prison on Nusakambangan Island — darkly referred to as ‘Execution Island’ by the Javanese — with dim prospects of survival. In May 2018, his wan-complexioned face seemed expressionless, lying still and frozen on the hospital bed.

Spending 13 years on death row had left Ali stationed in perennial limbo since 2004, unsure about the passage of time. In 2016, Indonesia had ordered Ali to face death by a firing squad after convicting him of drug possession, despite a dearth of evidence. Back then, with a mere 72 hours remaining until Ali faced his executioners, Pakistan’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had directly intervened, taking the rare step of imploring the Indonesian government to grant clemency to a Pakistani migrant worker.

However, almost two years later, there was no grand intercession by the government of Pakistan when Ali’s health began to fail. At 54 years old, Ali heaved his last breath, succumbing to the last stages of liver cancer in the intensive care unit of the jail’s hospital. Despite the plea by the Pakistani prime minister, his name was still firmly lodged in Indonesia’s database of drug convicts when he died.

In 2001, Ali had left behind work in a textile mill on the plains of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and most fertile province, and arrived in Jakarta to stake out a new fortune. He had settled down, married an Indonesian woman named Siti, and fathered five children. By all accounts, his life was on the upswing, propelled forward by a job as a marketing manager at a friend’s company. In his free time, he tended to a side business, supplying Islamic garments manufactured in countries such as Pakistan to the Indonesian market. Fortune seemed to favour him in these early days, and he was able to acquire three homes spread between Pakistan and Indonesia.

Despite his rapidly increasing prosperity and blossoming familial roots in Indonesia, Ali’s social and cultural ties to the country were still somewhat tenuous. His command of the Bahasa Indonesian language remained weak, and he largely fraternised with South Asians. It was through these circles that he made the ill-fated acquaintance of an Indian migrant worker named Gurdip Singh in Jakarta.

In November 2004, this connection would cost him gravely when Singh was stopped by Indonesian authorities at Jakarta’s main international airport for carrying 300 grammes of heroin, a crime punishable by death in the country.

At the time, Ali, then 38, was staying at his house in Bogor, enjoying the cooler temperatures of a city set against the once-volcanic Mount Salak. Ali had no awareness of Singh’s movements at the airport, nor of the drugs he had in his possession, his lawyers say. That did not impact the ensuing events. Policemen soon knocked on Ali’s door in Bogor and handcuffed him, claiming that his name had surfaced during their questioning of Singh. The police believed he was involved in the drug smuggling.

Despite proclaiming his innocence, Ali was hauled away by officials to an unknown house, where he was beaten by the police over three days to extract a confession. During the thrashings, the police — who had entered Ali’s home without a warrant — said they would kill him if he did not sign the confession paper. Fearful of what might result if he did not assent to their demand, Ali placed his signature on the paper, effectively signing his life away.

He ended up spending 17 days at a police hospital for kidney and stomach surgery. According to Ali’s lawyers, he never recovered from some of the injuries sustained during the torture.

Although Ali was alarmed at Singh’s accusation that he was involved in drug smuggling, there was one scrap of news that brightened his mood: He learned that in a court affidavit, Singh had recanted his earlier statements that the drugs were Ali’s, confessing that the police had encouraged him to list someone else’s name in order to reduce his own punishment.

However, despite Singh’s statement, Ali was not freed; he still had to stand trial. Ali stumbled through the courtroom proceedings with a dim grasp of the Bahasa Indonesian and English being spoken, almost entirely reliant on his interpreter’s translations. His mother tongue was Urdu, and both English and Bahasa Indonesian were second languages Ali had little limited mastery of. Adding to his problems was the fact that he did not have a lawyer. A month after his trial had started in 2005, he received a lawyer, but by then it was too late. Despite a lack of evidence showing that Ali had brought any drugs to Indonesia, the Tangerang District Court sentenced him to death in June 2005.

Ali was told that the punishment would be execution, but he could serve a lesser punishment of 10 to 15 years in prison if he simply paid a 400 million Indonesian rupiah bribe, equivalent to US$27,762 at the time. Ali refused to pay the extortionate sum, declaring himself innocent.

Ali filed an appeal 2 months later which was rejected the following year. Despite the setback, he nonetheless pursued his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which struck down his request to overturn the punishment in 2008, upholding his original death sentence.

In 2010, after news surfaced that Ali faced trial without a lawyer and with subpar translation assistance, Indonesia’s ex-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered an inquiry into Ali’s case. The inquiry declared that Ali was innocent and, going 1 step further, acknowledged that he had suffered custodial abuse at the hands of the police. Despite this good news, it did not change Ali’s fate — the inquiry’s findings never made their way into the courtroom proceedings.

In April 2013, Ali filed a case review to re-examine the case. Noting that Ali had no prior drug history or convictions, lawyers argued that his case had multiple deficiencies — not only had he been operating without a proper interpreter, there was no evidence that he had committed the crime, a particularly egregious oversight in light of the severity of the punishment.

However, his case review was rejected on unknown grounds and, in July 2016, Ali received the dreaded order: in 72 hours, the Indonesians would execute him by firing squad. By August, the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), an NGO assisting Pakistanis on death row, launched a vigorous media campaign that drew attention to Ali’s case. Through the JPP’s efforts, the case reached the highest echelons of power in Pakistan, prompting then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to call upon Indonesia to halt the execution.

The Indonesians responded favourably, swiftly placing a stay on the execution. However, they did not acquit him of the charges and he still faced the death penalty at a later date. Part of the problem was that the Tangerang District Court still deemed Ali’s confession — obtained through police torture — valid in the court of law. His lawyers were outraged; not only were there no drugs found on Ali when he was taken by the police, the relatively minor quantity of heroin Singh had been carrying when he implicated Ali simply did not match the gravity of the punishment. In other cases, heroin possession of far smaller quantities had yielded milder punishments.

Complicating matters was Ali’s health which, by December 2017, had deteriorated entirely. That month, Ali’s physician informed him that he was suffering from stage-4 terminal liver cancer which doctors had no cure for.

The likelihood of him dying, either on death row or in the hospital, was now almost a foregone conclusion.

His lawyers pleaded with the Indonesian government to grant him clemency and release him for medical reasons, repeatedly underlining the fact that authorities had no evidence that Ali had carried heroin into Indonesia in the first place.

Importantly, Ali gravely needed a liver transplant, though the operation was expected to fail. Mounting medical costs threatened his physical health, as doctors discovered additional illnesses ranging from cirrhosis of the liver to diabetes. To pay the bills, Ali and his family sold his houses, and eventually Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid more than US$37,000 to cover his medical bills.

This did not solve the larger imbroglio. Medical staff told Ali that at best, he only had a few months to live, and those would likely be spent in a jail hospital.

A faint hope arose in January 2018, as an opportunity for an appeal opened up. The country’s highest authority, the Indonesian president, was one of the few officials empowered to pardon a prisoner, and Indonesian president Joko Widodo was making a rare state visit to Pakistan, during which he planned to sign memoranda of understanding with his Pakistani counterpart and even address the parliament in Islamabad.

According to then foreign minister Khawaja Asif, during Widodo’s highly-publicised meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the prime minister directly implored Widodo to release Ali on medical grounds.

For its part, the JPP, the main NGO working on Ali’s case, swiftly seized the opportunity to organize a media campaign around Zulfiqar Ali’s case. The appeals seemed to work; Widodo himself promised to reconsider the case during his visit, a drastic reversal from a man who had once told Indonesian media he would never grant clemency requests for drug trafficking.

Widodo ‘had declared war against drug traffickers, pointing to the increasing number of drug abuse victims,’ said Justice Minister Yasonna. ‘[He] was not planning to abolish capital punishment anytime soon, particularly in cases of drug trafficking,’ according to a December 2014 press release.

Yet Widodo’s promise remained unfulfilled. This might have owed partly to the fact that it was never followed up on by Pakistan’s own foreign ministry, says Rimmel Mohydin, the former head of communications at the JPP.

Today, more than 11,000 Pakistanis are detained in jails around the world, many being migrants grasping at economic opportunities abroad to escape political and financial instability at home. The country lacks a consular protection policy for citizens detained abroad, a fact that has major ramifications for migrant workers.

Typically, a consular protection policy establishes a range of services to citizens facing distress or detention abroad, ranging from legal representation to visits to jails by consular staff. “It appears that the government has adopted a policy of ‘no policy’ on overseas Pakistanis,” said Lahore High Court’s chief justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, during a 2017 court hearing of a lawsuit filed by the families of migrant workers on death row.

In Ali’s case, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was alerted by the JPP to his ordeal. Given his ill health, both the NGO and his family asked Indonesia to repatriate Ali, but this never materialised. According to the JPP, the Pakistani government’s negligence played a role in Ali’s death in Indonesia. Under Article 4(1) of the Pakistani constitution, the government holds a responsibility to protect citizens, which the foreign ministry patently failed to carry out by not advocating for Ali’s repatriation.

Indeed, although the interventions of both prime ministers Abbasi and Sharif demonstrated Pakistan’s capacity to impact how its migrant workers fare abroad, this pressure is rarely exerted. Instead, inaction by government institutions, and particularly Pakistan’s foreign service, is far more typical.

Like Zulfiqar Ali, Abu Zar was a Pakistani migrant waiting for a response that never came from his government. In February 2012, Abu Zar was excited for his first trip home to Pakistan in 2 years, paid for by the Al-Sagheer taxi company that employed him in Saudi Arabia. His days were spent driving for wages much higher than he could command back home in Pakistan’s Bhakkar district, an expanse of verdant land situated in Punjab.

After Abu Zar’s customary trip home that year, which involved greeting relatives, lavishing them with gifts, and enjoying his own joyful reprieve from the toil of driving, Abu Zar’s family drove him nearly 5 hours north to Islamabad airport. There, they embraced him for the final farewell.

After the routine goodbyes, the family expected Abu Zar to immediately embark on the plane for the onward journey. However, unbeknownst to them, an old colleague from Al-Sagheer had contacted Abu Zar, seeking help with a mundane task. The request was simple enough: Abu Zar was asked to carry an extra luggage item on behalf of the colleague, to be delivered to family in Saudi Arabia. Abu Zar agreed without asking what was inside the bag.

Indeed, for migrant workers detained on death row, the Saudi justice system often seems cruelly capricious. Sometimes detainees believe their punishment will span a fixed interval of time, only to realise the judges have arbitrarily modified the sentencing. “They will give you a punishment of 15 years imprisonment, and after five years they can change this and give you capital punishment,” Ahmed says.

Abu Zar proceeded through passport check and the security gate without any problems. At the time, he was distracted by thoughts of his family — he knew he wouldn’t see them for another year or 2.

When the plane descended at Jeddah airport, however, Abu Zar’s situation changed radically. Almost immediately after landing, Saudi airport security informed him that they had discovered drugs in his luggage. Unbeknownst to him, the tyres and handle of the bag he had taken from his colleague were lined with illicit narcotics.

The response was swift: Abu Zar was arrested for drug possession and immediately transported to Briman prison in Saudi Arabia’s western quarter. For at least 15 days, none of Abu Zar’s family members in Pakistan were notified about his whereabouts.

“The family was so upset,” remembers Nazeer Ahmed, Abu Zar’s brother in Pakistan. “We were running everywhere, contacting police, airport authorities and the airlines. We couldn’t find anything.”

Eventually, after more searching, they learned that Abu Zar had successfully boarded his flight to Saudi Arabia, and even touched down on Saudi soil. Beyond that, the details were scant.

In April 2012, 17 days after his disappearance, relatives began pouring into the family home in Bhakkar district to offer condolences to the parents and siblings. Family members dissolved into elegiac verses. Most had resigned themselves to the idea that the worst had come to pass, convinced that Abu Zar had died a mysterious death. Even though there was no body to mourn, tears were shed.

Not long after the unforeseen funeral, however, Ahmed received a call from Saudi Arabia. To his astonishment, Abu Zar was still alive.

On the phone, Abu Zar said he had been booked on drug trafficking charges and sentenced to death by a Saudi court. He had tried to get in touch with Al-Sagheer, his Saudi employer, for any form of assistance, but the calls had gone unanswered. The family was dismayed to learn that Abu Zar’s hearing took place without a lawyer, as the Saudi government held itself under no obligation to provide legal representation to the accused, including those facing the death penalty.

Following his arrest, Abu Zar was housed inside Briman jail in Jeddah, a multifunctional sand-coloured complex that served as a detention centre housing men, women and minors. During his initial stay, Abu Zar had lost all contact with the outside world, and spent his days in detention listless and stressed. He told his brother that Briman jail provided decent enough food that he was still eating. But the mental anguish of detention often felt like a bullet piercing through him, he said.

Abu Zar feared death, and the time in jail allowed thoughts of little else, his brother said. Worse, Abu Zar did not know the exact day the execution would take place, only that it would transpire in some always-imminent future. The uncertainty weighed heavily on him, as it did for many prisoners who had no choice but to wait for their own execution.

“They don’t tell a person beforehand,” said Ahmed. “They just pick him from the prison and behead him.”

Abu Zar had appealed directly to the Pakistani and Saudi governments to be released, but his search for clemency bore no fruit. Meanwhile, Abu Zar was worried and anxious about how his children were faring in his absence. He had four children — two daughters and two sons — and he thought of them often while he was in prison. He furtively called his family back home in Pakistan by bribing a guard in the jail. Other prisoners kept phones illegally, bartering minutes on the phone among fellow inmates. The privilege of calling home was eagerly sought after by detainees.

“Prisoners have a right to see and meet their children,” his brother told me, saying that the family in Pakistan was not kept abreast of anything happening in Jeddah. Distressed by the lack of information, the family arranged an umrah [pilgrimage] visa for Abu Zar’s father. “He went to Saudi Arabia and submitted papers in the Pakistani embassy. He also met the judge.” Still, it changed little — Abu Zar remained in prison.

In recounting the situation, Abu Zar’s brother lamented the Pakistani government’s inattention and negligence.

Complicating matters was Ali’s health which, by December 2017, had deteriorated entirely. That month, Ali’s physician informed him that he was suffering from stage-4 terminal liver cancer which doctors had no cure for. The likelihood of him dying, either on death row or in the hospital, was now almost a foregone conclusion.

“The people in the government didn’t listen,” said Ahmed. “They don’t pay heed to his situation. What can we do about it?”

Indeed, for migrant workers detained on death row, the Saudi justice system often seems cruelly capricious. Sometimes detainees believe their punishment will span a fixed interval of time, only to realise the judges have arbitrarily modified the sentencing.

“They will give you a punishment of 15 years’ imprisonment, and after five years they can change this and give you capital punishment,” Ahmed says. “When a person is working in another country, he feels imprisoned even when he is free. So you can only imagine the condition of those who are actually in prisons there.”

Worse, the Saudi government rarely informs foreign embassies when a citizen is on death row, as required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Many families never learn that their relatives are facing the gallows.

Ahmed adds that he attempted several times to lodge complaints regarding the outcome of his brother’s trial and detention, but there are few avenues open to report grievances.

Ahmed says that the worst moment is reserved for the time after the execution, not before: “They don’t send the body back to his family. They throw it away.”

Sohail Yafat, an investigator with the JPP, echoes Ahmed’s claim by saying that the Saudi criminal system does not give much hope to families who are looking for closure after capital punishment. Thanks to strict Islamic burial rites, the Saudi government often buries the dead bodies in unknown locations in the kingdom. Families waiting to receive the bodies often wait interminably long intervals before being told that there was no body to send back.

While this policy impacts migrant workers from a variety of countries, other foreign governments have been more active in addressing it. In 2017, neighbouring India had to petition the Saudi state for the repatriation of a woman’s body to Kerala, India, a successful move that showed the impact of a government exerting pressure. For Pakistani migrant workers, Islamabad’s lack of diplomatic lobbying has meant that few, if any, deceased bodies are returned to the next of kin.

Theoretically, the mechanisms should already be in place to address these issues. Pakistani embassies and consulates across the globe employ “community welfare attachés,” a department tasked with keeping track of any labour problems impacting Pakistani citizens in the destination country. In addition to studying local labour market conditions (which, in the Gulf, often includes the abuse and exploitation of Pakistani labourers), the remit of the community welfare attaché also extends to taking note of how many Pakistani citizens are imprisoned in local jails and, in some circumstances, visiting them or notifying their families in Pakistan of an inmate’s condition in jail.

However, according to the JPP, the majority of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails say that their embassy has never visited them in jail. Pakistani diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia say they remain too chronically understaffed to review, let alone help address, the burgeoning prisoner population.

“Abu Zar’s story is one case but there are thousands of people in Saudi Arabia with the same story,” says Ahmed. His calls with Abu Zar allowed Ahmed to glean insight into how pervasive the detention of Pakistan drug traffickers was in the Saudi prison system. He says Pakistanis crowd the jails and often have similar profiles: they fall prey to organised drug smuggling syndicates operating in Pakistan that lure migrant workers to the Gulf with promises of jobs that never materialise. Sometimes the migrants are asked to carry packages by a member of the group; other times, they are forced to ingest grammes of heroin at gunpoint. Often, they land on death row in Saudi Arabia, living in a state of limbo as the state decides when to mete out the punishment.

In the last few years, the number of Pakistanis has topped the list of foreigners executed on death row in Saudi Arabia. While other South Asian countries have successfully exerted diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia to free their citizens (for example, asking Riyadh to commute a sentence or deport a worker), Pakistan has shied away from prodding its close ally to extend clemency or grant fairer or more lenient punishments proportionate to the severity of the crime.

For example, the Philippines — one of the largest migrant-sending countries in Asia — not only takes up every case of a Filipino on death row in Saudi Arabia, it hires Saudi lawyers to defend its citizens. Likewise, a Sri Lankan housemaid escaped death by stoning in 2015, after Colombo filed an appeal against the death sentence. Overwhelmingly, when Riyadh has resolved death penalty cases without an execution, it has involved the foreign citizen’s embassy or government directly entreating the Saudis to lift the punishment or commute the sentence.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs contends that it does not have bargaining power with Saudi Arabia to negotiate the release of its citizens. However, evidence suggests otherwise: given their historically robust military and political partnership, Pakistan would seem to enjoy qualitatively better relations with Saudi Arabia than other Asian states.

As many as 70,000 Pakistani soldiers serve in Saudi Arabia’s military, and Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif was also tapped to lead Saudi Arabia’s new counter-terrorism military alliance in January 2017. Moreover, beyond the 2.5 billion US dollars in bilateral trade shared between the two Muslim countries, Pakistan’s 3rd-largest city, Faisalabad, is named in honour of the late Saudi King Faisal, whose name — and largesse — is also behind the construction of one of the largest mosques in Pakistan, the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.

In 2014, when former prime minister Nawaz Sharif visited Saudi Arabia, the late King Abdullah described the unwavering Pakistan-Saudi Arabia partnership in glowing terms, reiterating that Saudis would always support Pakistan’s government and people. Indeed, according to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has few allies like Pakistan: “We consider Pakistan our 2nd home,” he said.

When Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia in 2018 in search of economic assistance, he referenced the plight of migrant workers. “I feel bad sometimes, because we have not been able to create the conditions that would keep them at home,” he told a Saudi audience. “All they do is work very hard here to feed their families.”

In the lead-up to Khan’s election, his party pledged to reform consular services for overseas Pakistanis. “We will strengthen Pakistani embassies to provide emergency relief and other support to citizens facing hardship in case of any tragedy. We will provide consular and legal services to all Pakistanis jailed abroad,” his party wrote. “Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be focused on furthering not just Pakistan’s interests abroad, but also ensuring protection of our citizens abroad.”

Indeed, without state-level intervention from Pakistan, families of migrants such as Abu Zar may have no choice but to accept that neither the Saudi nor the Pakistani government will stand with their family in their hour of need.

(source: Sabrina Topps; The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. This essay is a modified excerpt from Uncertain Journeys: Labour Migration from South Asia, published in December 2018----Dawn)

MALAYSIA:

Death penalty must stay

The police are the appropriate authority when it comes to dealing with the criminal mind.

Part of the psychological warfare that is ingrained into the war against crime is the death sentence. It has its required effect during the initial stages of evidence gathering, specifically during interviews of witnesses and interrogation of suspects.

It is also a crucial calming factor for the psychological difficulty for both the investigator and the families of such heinous crimes especially during the initial stage of investigations, when families are in trauma during and after a commission of such serious offences.

More so when they are first informed, or when they first witness or survive such brutal offences, notwithstanding the stress witnesses are put through during proceedings.

In fact, there is an array of different limbs in the Penal Code and relevant Acts in most definitions of major crimes that assist investigators during the initial stage of investigations into serious crimes.

The stringent definitions by itself, apart from trite law, act as natural check and balances to any such conviction. The actual number of such convictions are low in terms of statistical percentage.

The death penalty plays a significant role in the said psywar in dealing with these dangerous criminals. It allows some leverage to procure intelligence and admissible evidence when dealing with such hardcore criminals.

These are part of the tools of investigation that are at the disposal of a good and experienced investigator. It is applied with appropriate force within the ambits of the rule of law.

Having dealt with serious crime offenders both during proceedings and in serious crimes investigations, it is opined that the death penalty should stay.

It is still relevant when we deal with criminals who are sadistically and mutantly brutal during the commission of serious crimes.

Although the argument for the abolishment of the death penalty has its merits from the human rights perspective, it is not prudent for us to completely remove it from our criminal justice system.

It is more practical to have it as a possible option rather than eliminating it completely. Some of the extremely dangerous criminal minds are beyond comprehension and belief and normally, only the serious crime investigators are exposed to these traits.

These dangerous species walk amongst us and their DNA to inflict unbelievable bodily harm is extreme and the death penalty is the only appropriate sentence.

Laws, however, can be amended to giving discretionary powers to the judiciary, moving away from some offences that carry a mandatory sentence. That will be the humane compromise.

(source: The Malaysian Insight)

INDONESIA:

South Sumatra court delivers death penalty to 9 drug dealers

The Palembang District Court in South Sumatra sentenced 9 people to death on Thursday after finding them guilty of transporting 80 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.

According to the hearings of the trial, the convicts, all of whom originally come from Surabaya, East Java, were caught transporting drugs from Palembang to Java between March and April of 2018. They transported them using a truck that was loaded with cassava as a cover.

The police first arrested 3 who had left 3.5 kilograms of the crystal meth at a Palembang airport, which led to the arrest of 5 others at a hotel in Surabaya, where they were found with 5.8 kilograms of meth and 4,950 ecstasy pills.

The leader of the group, Letto, is 25 while most of the other members are in their 20s.

“What the defendants have done is they have damaged the youth and the government is currently waging a war on drugs,” said jugde Efrata Tarigan.

They were all sentenced to death despite prosecutors' earlier demand of a life sentence.

South Sumatra Police narcotics unit deputy director Adj. Sr. Comr. Amazona Pelamonia said the sentence should serve as a warning to other drug dealers operating in Palembang.

“They are a syndicate from Surabaya that was caught after a lengthy investigation,” Amazona said on Friday. “The death penalty will create a deterrent effect and serves as a warning to other [drug traffickers].”

Amazona added that South Sumatra had potential routes for drug syndicates because of its developed land transportation infrastructure and the availability of interprovincial flights.

Arif Rahman, a lawyer of the defendants, said he would appeal the verdict, saying that the convicts were “victims” of a drug syndicate.

“Maybe the judges had other considerations that pushed them to sentence all of my clients to death,” Arif said.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

BANGLADESH:

Bangladesh makes record drugs seizure amid crackdown----The country has struggled to control a surge in yaba imports crossing the border from Myanmar, where the pills are manufactured by the millions

Bangladesh seized a record 53 million methamphetamine pills in 2018 – up 33% in a year – amid a deadly nationwide crackdown on the trade, officials said Sunday, February 10.

Nearly 300 suspected drug dealers were killed last year, according to authorities, who insisted the seizure figure was proof that their campaign was working.

Rights groups said the record haul showed the deaths had failed to make an impact on the trade.

The government Department of Narcotics Control said the drug – popularly known as 'yaba', a Thai word meaning 'crazy medicine' – was seized across the South Asian nation of 165 million people.

"It is the highest amount seized in a year," Bazlur Rahman, a department deputy director, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Masum-e-Rabbani, another senior official at the department, said the record haul was proof that a crackdown launched in May last year was yielding "positive" results.

He said there has been a significant decline in the use and sale of yaba.

Nearly 300 suspected drug dealers were killed by security forces in the campaign and some 25,000 arrests made, according to Rabbani.

Human rights groups say many of the deaths amount to extrajudicial killings however.

More than 40 were killed in the town of Teknaf, which borders Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state and is close to the refugee camps housing about 1 million Rohingya Muslims.

Bangladesh has struggled to control a surge in yaba imports crossing the border from Myanmar, where the pills are manufactured by the millions.

The pills have become an easy source of income for the Rohingya who poured across the border after the Myanmar military launched a clampdown in Rakhine in August 2017.

The refugees act as carriers, handing over the pills to dealers on the Bangladesh side of the border who then take them to major cities, according to police.

In October, authorities made yaba a class-A banned substance and parliament passed a law allowing the death penalty for dealing the drug.

A top rights activist said the record yaba seizure meant the hundreds of deaths had failed to make a serious dent in the drug trade.

"It proves that the police crackdown is not working. They need a different approach," an Nur Khan Liton, a former head of rights group Ain O Salish Kendra, told AFP.

(source: rappler.com)

ISRAEL:

Justice minister urges death penalty for suspect in Jerusalem murder

A senior Israeli minister told prosecutors on Saturday to pursue the death penalty for a Palestinian suspect in the grisly murder of an Israeli teen in Jerusalem last week.

Arafat Irfayia, 29, was arrested Friday on suspicion of killing Ori Ansbacher, 19, in a wooded area of southern Jerusalem on Thursday, in a case that has sparked outrage across the country.

Authorities suspect Irfayia may had a nationalistic motive, according to Hebrew-language press reports, but are also probing if the attack was sexual in nature.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Channel 13 news Saturday that “the military prosecution needs to ask for the death penalty.”

Shaked and other ministers have insisted that the murder was a terror attack, though most details of the incident have been kept under gag order.

“We should not hide the truth,” she told the news channel. “He killed Ori because she was a Jewish girl.”

Ansbacher, from the settlement of Tekoa in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, was found dead in the woods at the Ein Yael nature center in south Jerusalem late Thursday, with what police said were “signs of violence,” after she was reported missing earlier in the day.

Citing the suspect’s own account under questioning, the police and the Shin Bet said in a statement Saturday night that Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ansbacher in the woods and fatally attacked her.

He was arrested Friday during a raid in Ramallah but has not yet been charged. Irfayia had previously served time for being in Israel illegally and for possession of a knife, Channel 13 reported. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Saturday that authorities should treat the case as terror no matter what.

“When a Palestinian in Israel illegally murders a Jew in the State of Israel, there is no doubt that it needs to be considered as nationalistic murder,” he told Channel 13 news. “It does not matter what he says or doesn’t say in the interrogation. I hope the relevant authorities understand this and if not, we need to legislate it.”

Although the death penalty formally exists in Israeli law, it has only ever been used once — in 1962 in the case of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. It is technically allowed in cases of high treason, as well as in certain circumstances under the martial law that applies within the IDF and in the West Bank, but currently requires a unanimous decision from a panel of 3 judges, and has never been implemented.

Legislation that would have expanded the use of the death penalty in terror cases failed to advance late last year amid political wrangling after Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who had been pushing the bill, left the coalition.

In April, Shaked told the Ynet news site that she was in favor of the death penalty in extreme cases, but did not think the new legislation was necessary as military prosecutors already had the option.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who as defense minister oversees the military prosecution, backed the death penalty bill in November. He also called for the death penalty after a 2017 terror attack in which several members of a family were knifed to death inside their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

However, the legislation has been opposed by security officials, including Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman who called it “unhelpful” in testimony in front of a Knesset panel in November.

On Saturday, Liberman and National Union party head Bezalel Smotrich urged legislators to reconsider the death penalty legislation in the wake of the Ansbacher killing, and others urged hard-line measures.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who founded the New Right party with Shaked for April elections, called on Netanyahu to implement Knesset legislation passed in July to slash funds to the PA by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

“The terrorists are no longer afraid. At this moment [they] are preparing the next terrible murder of Jews,” Bennett said in a statement.

The education minister, along with Shaked, vowed to support the implementation of the legislation, which was supposed to have gone into effect in January.

Security officials have reportedly opposed the law due to concerns that it may lead to the collapse of the PA, whose security forces Israel cooperates with considerably to limit terror in the West Bank.

(source: The Times of Israel)

JORDAN:

Death by hanging for 2 terrorist brothers

The State Security Court on Sunday announced its 2nd and final ruling regarding the Karak terrorist attack in southern Jordan which happened in December 18, 2016, sentencing the 2 accused brothers, Khalid and Hamza Nayel al-Majali, to death by hanging.

The second verdict came after the Court of Cassation overturned the highest judicial body of its previous court ruling issued in October 2018 which reduced the death penalty to a life sentence.

The State Security Court had adopted a reduction in the sentence in its 1st verdict on the bases that the accused are young men and should be given the chance to allow them to correct their lives.

A judicial source said earlier that the Court of Cassation found that the State Security Court’s decision does not serve mitigating reasons, especially that the actions of the accused contributed to the chaos and panic and terror among members of Jordanian society as well as tourists, and led to the threat to the security and stability of the country, and contributed to the martyrdom of 12 members of the public security, citizens and a foreign tourist, and the injury of several members of the public security.

Gunmen linked to the so-called Islamic State killed 10 people, and injured many, on December 18, 2016, after a series of shootings took place in the city of Al-Karak in southern Jordan. The attack came when a group of militants ambushed emergency responders and then moved into the city, attacking police patrols and the local police station before a starting a shoot-out in the historic Crusader-era Kerak Castle, a popular tourist attraction.

(source: Roya News)

IRAQ:

Caught in Syria, foreign jihadist suspects may face trial in Iraq

Their home countries don't want them and holding trials in Syria isn't an option: now suspected foreign jihadists could end up facing tough justice over the border in Iraq. Both countries have suffered for years at the hands of the Islamic State group and Iraqi courts have already meted out hefty sentences to hundreds of foreigners detained on its soil, often after lighting-quick trials.

As the final shred of the once-sprawling jihadist "caliphate" crumbles in eastern Syria, Kurdish-led forces backed by the US have captured hundreds more diehard foreign fighters. The American military -- which spearheads an international coalition fighting IS -- has in the past shown itself willing to hand those captured in Syria to the authorities in Iraq.

In August AFP attended the Baghdad trial of 58-year-old French citizen Lahcene Gueboudj, who said he had been spirited from Syria to Iraq by US troops.

Belkis Wille of Human Rights Watch said the organisation knows of at least five instances in which US forces handed foreign detainees over to Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service. They include Australian and Lebanese citizens transported out of Kurdish-controlled areas, at least one of whom was eventually sentenced to death in Iraq.

Iraqi justice can be harsh and its courts have doled out death or life sentences to hundreds of foreigners accused of being IS members, including some 100 women. Others who come from Syria can expect similar treatment. "They are at risk of torture and unfair trials in Iraq," Wille warned.

- 'Secret deal' -

The fate of foreign fighters in Syria has come into sharper focus since President Donald Trump's announcement in December that the US will withdraw its troops from the war-torn country. Washington has stepped up pressure on its reluctant allies to bring home hundreds of jihadists, but the issue is politically sensitive in countries like Britain and France.

Governments have been grappling for weeks with the question of foreign fighters detained by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have warned that they may not be able to guard their jails once US troops leave.

France, hit by repeated deadly IS attacks, has so far opposed returning jihadists. But since Trump's announcement, Paris has said it is studying "all options".

On a visit to Iraq this week, French Defence Minister Florence Parly warned of the need "to avoid some jihadists ending up in the wild and dispersing".

Hisham al-Hashimi, a researcher on jihadist movements, told AFP that a deal appears to have been struck with Iraq "at the very highest level and in secret" to tackle the issue.

Such a pact allows foreign fighters' countries of origin to avoid politically fraught repatriations; in exchange, Iraq will receive "ultra-modern arms and crucial military equipment", Hashimi said.

"Iraq can put anyone on trial who passed through its territory, even if they didn't fight there and just headed to Syria," he said.

- 'Not settling problem' -

But while such a deal might solve a headache for politicians, it has raised serious concerns among relatives and representatives of those detained. French lawyer Vincent Brengarth, who is handling the cases of some of those detained, questioned "how it could be justified that Iraqi courts would have jurisdiction" over crimes committed in Syria.

French officials say Kurdish forces in Syria are currently detaining some 60 adult French citizens.Veronique Roy, a member of a group of around 70 French families with relatives who went to IS territory, said it would be "tragic" if captives were handed over to Baghdad.

Iraqi law means that anyone found guilty of joining a "terrorist group" can face the death penalty and its justice system has been accused of providing scant chance for a fair trial.

A number of foreign fighters have already been sentenced to death in Iraq, although three French jihadists tried so far have been handed life terms that equate to 20 years in prison. The families of those in Syria insist that their home countries should take responsibility. "We are pushing the problem back but not settling it," said Roy. "France should not subcontract this out."

(source: timesnownews.com)

SOUTH SUDAN:

Cambridge University student faces death penalty after criticising South Sudan government ---- Father-of-2, Peter Biar Ajak, has been detained without charge since July last year

A Cambridge University student faces the death penalty in South Sudan after criticising the country’s regime. PhD student Peter Biar Ajak, 35, is being “arbitrarily detained in a modern-day hellhole”, his lawyer says. Mr Ajak has been detained without charge since his arrest at Juba Airport in July last year.

He had returned to his home country to hold a youth forum, but was intercepted by government officials and taken into custody.

‘A clear violation of his rights under international law’

Jared Genser, representing Mr Ajak, claims this was “in clear violation of his rights under international law”. The charges being considered by the South Sudanese authorities include terrorism and treason, according to Mr Genser, both of which carry the death penalty.

Shortly before his return to the country, Mr Ajak, who has a wife and 2 young children, made the following comment on Twitter about the country’s governance: “We must stop thinking that the so-called leaders will bring peace #SouthSudan. We, the great people of #SouthSudan, must organize ourselves to bring about the peace we deserve!”

As a child he was one of the country’s Lost Boy refugees, orphaned and displaced by war. Mr Ajak resettled in the United States and studied at Harvard University and Philadelphia’s La Salle University, before moving to the UK to continue his studies at Cambridge University, according to a BBC report.

Cambridge University “deeply concerned”

Amnesty International, the human rights organisation, is campaigning to raise awareness of his plight, which was raised in the United States House of Representatives by Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, who “knew Peter as a brilliant student and leader” while teaching at La Salle University. Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East Africa, described Mr Ajak’s detention as “absurd”. “South Sudanese authorities must either release him so he can rejoin his wife and children who miss him dearly, or charge him with an offence recognised under international law,” he said.

A spokesperson for Cambridge University said: “The university remains deeply concerned about Peter’s welfare and his access to legal representation and the violation of his rights in accordance with the constitution of South Sudan, which guarantees all South Sudanese people liberty and security of person, due process, and freedom of expression and association.”

There has been no comment from the South Sudan government.

(source: inews.co.uk)

CANADA:

Time to reconsider the death penalty?

I wish to comment on the report in The Telegram of Jan. 30, regarding the reported guilty pleas of Bruce McArthur to eight counts of 1st-degree murder.

Inevitably, McArthur will receive a sentence of life imprisonment. One is left to wonder what plea deal, if any, was offered to McArthur to induce the guilty pleas.

This case raises once again the issue of capital punishment — the death penalty. McArthur is likely to live at least 20 more years, his upkeep maintained by the Canadian taxpayer.

Capital punishment was removed from Canadian judicial consideration officially in 1976 by politicians who had no mandate from the Canadian people to do so.

Polls on the issue have revealed Canadian public support for the restoration of capital punishment for premeditated murder to be about 60 % (as per a 2013 public opinion poll).

At the very least the Canadian public should be given the opportunity to vote on whether or not the death penalty should be restored to Canadian law.

Notorious child killer Clifford Olsen mercilessly mocked his victims’ families from behind bars while he was collecting a pension. (Editor’s note: The federal government changed this in 2010, preventing inmates serving sentences of 2 years or more from receiving their pensions while in prison. Olson died in 2011. Media reports at the time indicate his retirement benefits while in jail were put into a trust.)

Recently a convicted child killer was moved without notice to a Correctional Service Canada-run healing lodge where she enjoyed her time until there was such a public outrage the Liberal politicians had the killer removed back to a medium-security prison.

There is also the case of the nurse who deliberately murdered helpless old people in her care. These kind of cases merit consideration of capital punishment.

Liberal politicians and academics have undermined the sentencing principle of retribution in sentencing law.

However, the Canadian people have a right to voice their opinion on the issue and there should be a national vote on the restoration of capital punishment in Canadian law.

Robin Reid, St. John’s

Editor’s note: Bruce McArthur was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years on Friday afternoon — after this letter was written. He will not be eligible to apply for parole until he is 91 years old

(source: Letter to the Editor, The Telegram)

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