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

DECEMBER 13, 2018:

FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida Supreme Court refuses to halt execution of Jose Jimenez

Rejecting what it described as a “novel” argument about a voter-approved constitutional amendment, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to halt the scheduled Thursday evening execution of death-row inmate Jose Antonio Jimenez.

Justices, in a unanimous decision, denied a motion to stay the execution of Jimenez, 55, who was convicted in the 1992 murder of a Miami-Dade County woman. Jimenez also had two cases pending Wednesday at the U.S. Supreme Court, according to an online docket. The execution is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison.

The Florida Supreme Court decision dealt with arguments by Jimenez’s attorneys that he should be spared execution because of a constitutional amendment that voters approved Nov. 6. Part of the amendment changed what is known as the “Savings Clause” of the Florida Constitution, a more than century-old provision dealing with how revisions in criminal laws should be applied to older crimes.

The Savings Clause historically has required that criminal laws in effect at the time crimes are committed govern the sentences that are imposed. But the November ballot measure, Amendment 11, included a change in the clause. It allowed revisions to criminal laws to affect sentences for older crimes.

Jimenez’s attorneys contended that the amendment is important in his case because of changes in Florida’s death-penalty sentencing laws in 2017. The sentencing laws had to be rewritten because of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the state’s death-penalty sentencing structure was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

With the passage of Amendment 11, Jimenez’s attorneys argued the revised laws should be applied to his case --- and that they should prevent his execution. In part, the revised laws require juries to unanimously find at least one “aggravating” factor to help justify a death sentence, a tougher standard for prosecutors than was in place when Jimenez was sentenced to death.

But the justices flatly rejected the arguments, saying that the constitutional amendment does not take effect until Jan. 8 and that, “even if the amendment were in effect, it does not change the law applicable to Jimenez’s conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death."

The four-page decision called the arguments by Jimenez’s attorneys a “novel assertion” and said lawmakers will have authority to determine how to apply the change in the Savings Clause.

Justices said the change means “that there will no longer be any provision in the Florida Constitution that would prohibit the Legislature from applying an amended criminal statute retroactively to pending prosecutions or sentences. However, nothing in our Constitution does or will require the Legislature to do so, and the repeal of the prohibition will not require that they do so."

Jimenez was convicted of killing Phyllis Minas, 63, during a burglary. Neighbors tried to enter the home through an unlocked front door after hearing Minas’ cries, but Jimenez slammed the door shut, locked it and fled by going onto a bedroom balcony, according to court documents.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Opponents death penalty hold vigils before scheduled Florida execution

The State of Florida is set to execute a death-row prisoner Thursday evening; it would be the 28th execution under Governor Rick Scott, and several vigils are planned in the Tampa Bay area. Mark Elliott is director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said “Thursday December 13th is the scheduled execution date for Jose Jimenez. It would be the second execution this year [in Florida].

“Recently, in fact last month, we had another exoneration of someone on death row. And that was the second exoneration in a little over a year. This execution, if it takes place, would be the 28th execution under [Florida Governor Rick Scott], which is a new state record.

“And the exoneration last month of Clemente Aguirre was also the 28th exoneration of a Florida death row inmate and set a new state and national record. So the numbers tell a lot in regard to this.

“Florida’s had 96 executions since executions restarted in the 1970s. During that same time there’s been 28 innocent people exonerated off our death row. So, it’s almost one exoneration for every 3 executions, which should trouble anyone.”

And ‘exoneration’ – essentially what that means is that the justice system said that this person deserves to die and then evidence came out that that wasn’t the case.

“It’s a little different in each case, but essentially that’s it. And we need to keep in mind the State of Florida tries to preserve these convictions and executions. They go to great lengths to do this.

“These people are exonerated because they were able to demonstrate – or some attorneys or investigators a lot of times, at no charge, took interest in the case and were able to demonstrate – innocence. And then they were released.”

(source: WMNF news)


Judge schedules court date in murder case


Attorneys for Christopher Eugene Smith and co-defendant Sara Jane Atwood on Wednesday asked Judge Howard for more time until their next hearing so they can finish depositions in their clients’ alleged murder of a Lecanto man. Charles Vaughn, Atwood’s attorney, and Chief Assistant Public Defender Edward Spaight, Smith’s lawyer, told Howard between 20 and 25 key witnesses will be deposed in mid-January, and requested a February court date.

With no objection heard from Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, Howard scheduled Atwood’s and Smith’s next appearance for Feb. 13.

A Citrus County grand jury in September indicted Atwood and Smith on a capital-felony count of 1st-degree premeditated murder and a life-felony count of armed burglary, in connection to the April 30, 2017, murder of 73-year-old James Thomas Roman.

According to reports, Atwood, 24, allegedly conspired with Smith, 33, to murder her grandfather for financial gain. Smith then broke into Roman’s home off of West Cardamon Place and choked him to death, the indictment alleges.

Magrino announced in October he will be seeking the death penalty for Smith, not for Atwood.

If Smith is convicted of capital murder but a jury doesn’t find him eligible for the death penalty, Howard must still issue him a life sentence. Atwood will also stay behind prison bars for life if jurors find her guilty of murder.

(source: Citrus Chronicle)


Defense attorney accused of felony for hiding bullet casings in Louisville death penalty case

A lawyer for a man charged with killing 15-year-old Gregory Holt in 2012 claims an attorney with the Louisville Public Defender’s office committed a felony by hiding key evidence in the death penalty case.

The attorney for James Mallory said in a recently filed motion that public defender Angela Elleman “concealed” bullet casings linked to the shooting at the request of her client, Anthony Hogan, a co-defendant in the murder case.

In the motion, filed late last month, Lexington attorney Gregory Coulson asked Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Susan Schultz Gibson to investigate whether Elleman and any other employees with the public defender’s office have committed a crime, specifically felony tampering with physical evidence.

That investigation should include a review of Elleman’s communications with her client and prosecutors as well as an inspection of the defense’s case file to “determine that the services of (the defense team) have been used in furtherance of a crime or fraud upon the court,” according to Coulson’s motion.

Mallory’s trial was delayed earlier this year after the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office found out Elleman and an investigator working with the public defender’s office had for six years been in possession of the casings without disclosing them.

In hearings about the issue, Gibson has repeatedly asked whether concealing the shell casings amounted to tampering with physical evidence. No charges have been filed.

/ But the head of the public defender’s office, Dan Goyette, has defended the actions in a previous statement to WDRB News:

“After a careful review of the rather complex legal and evidentiary situation that arose in this case, it’s clear that the actions of Mr. Hogan’s attorneys were directed in the best interests of their client and were consistent with their professional obligations."

Elleman did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday.

In the recent motion, Coulson, who recently took over representing Mallory, acknowledged that requesting an investigation by the judge of the public defender’s office is unusual, but argued that the “conduct is clearly felonious.”

Elleman and an investigator dug up the shell casings buried in a tree stump outside a bar in Louisville just months after the April 11, 2012, murder.

The casings were put in a safe at the public defender’s office for years until prosecutors learned of them in February when talking with Hogan about his agreement to testify against Mallory days before Mallory’s trial was to begin.

Hogan claims he saw Mallory bury the shell casings after Holt was shot to death in his mother’s apartment near Dixie Highway and East Rockford Lane.

Coulson said that Elleman – identified only as A.E. in the motion – posted a picture on social media in 2013 showing her in the tree stump with the evidence.

“The conduct of attorney A.E. in conspiracy with Mr. Hogan has crossed over from zealous advocacy within the bounds of ethical and legal constraints to criminal conduct,” Coulson wrote.

Coulson has also requested that Elleman’s communications with police, prosecutors, jail officials or other law enforcement agencies be turned over to the defense.

The case is scheduled to be heard in court on Dec. 19.

Holt was a student at Farnsley Middle School. Prosecutors have said Holt’s mother, Kendra Wilson, participated in a robbery and attempted execution of Mallory hours earlier, and that Mallory shot the teen while trying to retaliate against Wilson.

(source: WDRB news)


Incoming County Prosecutor won't commit to death penalty in the Catholic Supply murder----"On a personal level that case angers me and on a personal level I would like to do it myself if I could, but from a public policy standpoint, it can’t be about revenge. It has to be about justice," said Bell.

Could the Catholic Supply Store shooter be tried as a death penalty case?

For the very first time, we had the opportunity to ask incoming St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell in an exclusive interview.

"I think it’s inappropriate for me to comment on pending cases. There’s one prosecutor at a time and I’m going to respect that," Bell said.

5 On Your Side asked Bell, if he stands by the statement on his website, that he will never seek the death penalty.

"Well my positions are what they are, and those are still on my website," he replied.

He added, he would still have to evaluate the case again after he's officially sworn in.

"Let’s talk about that on January 1st," Bell said, referring to his swearing-in date.

Last month, incoming councilman and former St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch called on Bell to move the case to another jurisdiction that would try the shooter, Thomas Bruce, as a death penalty case.

Bell said he never directly heard from Fitch.

"Tim Fitch didn’t ask me anything, and had he reached out, we could have had a conversation. With that being said, I will not respond through media. If he wants to have a conversation with me as a County Councilman I would welcome that opportunity," he said.

Thomas Bruce faces charges of murder, sodomy and kidnapping. The details of what investigators believe happened are horrific.

Bell says, not only does he understand the outrage, he feels the same way.

"On a personal level that case angers me and on a personal level I would like to do it myself if I could, but from a public policy standpoint, it can’t be about revenge. It has to be about justice," says Bell.


Bell also spoke to 5 On Your Side about his ongoing transition effort into the office. He says he and his team are working on several initiatives, including expanding diversionary programs and Veterans courts.

He says his key focus, on day one, will be prosecuting fewer low-level misdemeanors and focusing more on violent crimes that have injured victims.

Bell cites misdemeanor marijuana possession charges as an example of a low-level victim-less crime.

“Since we’re not going to be emphasizing the low-level crimes as much, we’ll be able to use those man and women hours on more serious and violent crimes. I think that will not only make us safer, save us taxpayer dollars, and help people," says Bell.

Cash Bail

One of Bell's key initiatives is phasing out cash bail for low-level, nonviolent offenders.

He says the current system is skewed to favor the rich and punish the poor.

"They can’t get out because they can’t post a $1500 bail," says Bell.

He says, beyond the monetary penalty, housing those who can't post cash bail can cause someone to lose their job or get evicted because they're behind bars.

He says this program will be ushered in in phases.

In the short term, on day one, he will not ask for cash bail for low level and non-violent offenders.

In the long term, he wants to work with local judges and state lawmakers to pass legislation that will implement a similar policy statewide.

Minimizing the Turnover

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's office has been criticized for the number of prosecutors that have left since she took over.

Bell is hopeful, that won't be his experience. He tells 5 On Your Side, he expects an overwhelming majority of attorneys will stay on his team.

“We want input on those expectations and buy-in so the men and women of that office have the opportunity to be a part of this team and I want to be a part of their team," says Bell.

(source: KSDK news)


He's spent 30 years on death row. Now a Utah convict wants a new trial

A Chicago native has spent nearly 1/2 of his life on Utah's death row for the killing of a Provo grandmother.

Now, 33 years after a jury first sentenced him to die, 63-year-old Douglas Stewart Carter is asking Utah's highest court to order a new hearing based on details of the case that came to light years after he was convicted.

Carter's attorneys argue that they learned in 2011 of gifts police gave to star witnesses in the case, saying the Provo officers paid the couple's rent and instructed them to lie about the financial help.

"Mr. Carter's been on death row for over 30 years and all he's asking for is a fair trial," defense attorney Eric Zuckerman said Wednesday after the Utah Supreme Court heard arguments in Carter's case.

His lawyers contend the new information could have changed the outcome of the case and a lower court should review the evidence at a new hearing. Prosecutors say that's not true, arguing the testimony from Carter's friends mirrored his own admission to police about killing 57-year-old Eva Olesen — the aunt of a former Provo police chief — during a robbery of her home.

"Carter confessed to the police, and he told his friends, the Tovars, what he'd done," Utah's Assistant Solicitor General Erin Riley said after the hearing. "These new declarations don't change anything about their testimony, about Carter telling them he committed the murder."

Justice Deno Himonas suggested he sees it differently.

"It renders them impeachable to the nth degree, if they're being paid by the state" and disclosing they felt pressured to lie, he said.

What's more, argued Carter's defense attorney, Paula Harms, the police officers' alleged secret behavior lends more credibility to Carter's assertion that he was coerced to confess, she said.

"We believe the confession is thrown into doubt because the veracity of law enforcement is thrown into doubt," Harms said in court. She said the defense would have argued the case differently and the jury deserved to know about the money.

The state, however, emphasized in court filings that Carter presented no evidence at the 1985 trial that his statement was false, noting the witnesses have not recanted their testimony.

During a roughly hourlong hearing, justices quizzed the attorneys on both sides. The court did not issue a decision Wednesday and Carter was not present.

Jurors originally convicted him of stabbing and shooting Olesen during a home-invasion robbery in Provo on Feb. 27, 1985, and sentenced him to death. The jury considered Carter's written confession and his bragging to friends Epifanio and Lucia Tovar that he killed a woman. He appealed the sentence and in 1992, and another jury upheld the death penalty.

He also has a petition pending in federal court, but that is stayed as the Utah Supreme Court weighs its decision. No execution date has been set.

Last year, 4th District Judge Lunn Davis sided with prosecutors, ruling that Carter failed to show his constitutional rights were violated and that the newer evidence likely wouldn't have led to a more favorable outcome. In 2011, Davis decided that the new evidence came too late to be included in Carter's state petition for post-conviction relief.

The Tovars had testified during trial that police provided no incentive for them to take the stand beyond a $14 check they each received. But Carter's attorneys said they learned in 2011 that the couple received more money and gifts and police coached them to lie.

In a sworn declaration, the pair said police relocated them twice to protect them from Carter, paid their rent and utilities, gave gifts to them, including a Christmas tree, and bought toys for their children. They also said police threatened to deport them, file criminal charges and take away their son if they didn't cooperate in the case.

Epifanio Tovar, who admitted to disposing of Carter's .38-caliber handgun used in the murder, "had every reason to cast suspicion away from himself and onto someone else," Harms said Wednesday.

She also argued that Lucia Tovar gave inconsistent statements at different points in the case, but the state countered that's because she feared retaliation from Carter.

Wednesday was not the 1st time Utah's Supreme Court has weighed an appeal from Carter. The court rejected other petitions he filed on other grounds, including an alleged conflict of interest by a mental health expert who evaluated him and testified in the 1992 trial.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Matthew Durrant and Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee recused themselves. 2 judges from the Utah Court of Appeals took their place.

(source: Deseret News)


Utah Supreme Court focuses on lies and payments to witnesses in death penalty case

The justices of the Utah Supreme Court focused on lies and payments to witnesses in the case against death row inmate Douglas Carter.

Whether it is material to the homicide case or not could help decide if Carter lives or dies. The state’s top court heard arguments on Wednesday largely focusing on the statements.

Carter is facing execution for the 1985 murder of Eva Olesen in Provo. Prosecutors said the 57-year-old woman, who was a relative of Provo’s then-police chief, had been stabbed 10 times and shot in the back of the head in a home-invasion robbery.

Carter was placed at the scene by 2 key witnesses in the case, Epifanio and Lucia Tovar, who told police he had confessed to them. In court, the Tovars claimed they had only been paid $14 for their testimony. But Carter’s lawyers found later it was much more than that — police paid their rent and bills — and suggested the Tovars were instructed to lie about it.

“They are impeaching and the jury needs to know about it,” Paula Harms, Carter’s attorney, told the Utah Supreme Court. “It’s also the promise of them. You have to remember before he (Epifanio Tovar) gave these statements, he was threatened with deportation. He had every reason to cast suspicion from himself on to someone else.”

Assistant Utah Attorney General Erin Riley said Carter still confessed to the murder. But she argued to the justices that the situation with the Tovars was not relevant to the homicide itself.

“If it’s not material, why are they instructed to lie about it?” Justice Deno Himonas asked.

“Mr. Tovar says in his declaration why they told him to lie. He claims they told him that they didn’t need to mention because it was such a minimal amount,” Riley replied.

“But it’s not a minimal amount, and you as a prosecutor would have disclosed this if you were back in the 1980s trying this case?” Justice Himonas said.

“I would have, yeah,” Riley conceded, but said it was disputed that the Tovars were instructed to lie.

“On a death sentence case, it doesn’t trouble you that an official from the prosecuting arm specifically told the material witnesses to lie about the benefits received from the state?” Justice Himonas retorted.

“If that’s true, of course it troubles me,” Riley said.

“It is true, for purposes of this hearing, it is absolutely true,” he said.

Harms reiterated to the Court her belief the witnesses were told to lie.

The Utah Supreme Court took the case under advisement but did not signal when it would issue a ruling.

(source: Fox News)


Jerry Brown, Save the 740 People on Your Death Row----6 former governors call on California’s governor to follow in their footsteps and grant clemency to death row prisoners.

By Richard Celeste, John Kitzhaber, Martin O’Malley, Bill Richardson, Pat Quinn and Toney Anaya

The authors granted clemency to death row prisoners in their states.

Among a governor’s many powers, none is more significant than signing a death warrant. It’s a terrible responsibility, hard even to imagine until you’re asked to carry it out, as we were. But we became convinced that it wasn’t something a civilized society should ask of its leaders. That’s why we halted executions in our states, and we call on Gov. Jerry Brown of California to do the same.

Mr. Brown has done a remarkable job in his four terms. His overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system has ensured his legacy as one of the most courageous and effective governors in California’s history. Some of the changes include eliminating cash bail; prohibiting the incarceration of children under 12; no longer allowing children younger than 16 to be tried as adults; and prohibiting prosecutors from charging accomplices with 1st-degree murder.

Given this good work, we know it must weigh on Mr. Brown that, unless he acts soon, he will leave behind 740 men and women on California’s death row. It’s a staggering number and our hearts go out to him. From a humanitarian perspective, it is horrifying to imagine executing that many humans. As a practical matter, it’s beyond comprehension.

Even the most ardent proponents of capital punishment would shudder at composing a plan to execute 740 people. Would California’s citizens allow mass executions? If the state were to execute a single person every day, people would still be waiting on death row after 2 years.

Vicente Benavides might have been one of them. In April, the California Supreme Court released him from death row at San Quentin, where he spent 25 years after being convicted based on evidence that the court found was “false, extensive, pervasive and impactful.” We know a leader must then ask: “Are there more people wrongly convicted among the 740 in my custody?”

Perhaps. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that 164 men and women have been found innocent and released from death rows around the country since 1973, 5 of them from California. Even more disturbing, the National Academy of Sciences found that at least 4 % of people on death row were and are probably innocent. This is the horror every governor of a killing state has to live with.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, 11 governors have granted clemency to death row prisoners in their states. They did not free them; they either reduced their sentences to life, declared a moratorium on executions or repealed their death penalty. We have all done one of these; so have Gov. George Ryan of Illinois in 2003; Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey in 2007; Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut in 2012; Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington in 2014; and Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania in 2015.

The achievement of high office demands that one be courageous in leadership. Mr. Brown now has the chance to do what others in our ranks have done after they became aware of the price paid for taking a human life. We were compelled to act because we have come to believe the death penalty is an expensive, error-prone and racist system, and also because our morality and our sense of decency demanded it.

Mr. Brown has the power to commute the sentences of 740 men and women, to save 740 lives. Or, he can declare a moratorium on the death penalty and give Governor-elect Gavin Newsom the time he will need to figure out how to end a system broken beyond repair. Such an act will take political will and moral clarity, both of which Mr. Brown has demonstrated in the past. In the interest of his legacy, the people of California need his leadership 1 more time before he leaves office.

(source: Opinion; Richard Celeste was the governor of Ohio. John Kitzhaber was the governor of Oregon. Martin O’Malley was the governor of Maryland. Bill Richardson was the governor of New Mexico. Pat Quinn was the governor of Illinois. Toney Anaya was the governor of New Mexico---- New York Times)


Despite numerous attempts, NM has yet to see a federal execution

The 2 men and a young woman accused of beating, killing and mutilating an Albuquerque man over marijuana could face the federal death penalty. However, history has shown that it's rare for anyone to be executed by the federal government.

It's a lengthy process that begins with getting the U.S. Attorney General to approve seeking the death penalty. The death penalty was abolished in New Mexico, but the feds can still seek it.

In August 2017, Mariah Ferry, Jose Torrez and Chase Smothermon allegedly kidnapped and killed John Soyka of Albuquerque over stolen weed. Soyka was reportedly dismembered and buried in a shallow grave.

The feds have since taken over prosecution, and court documents reveal the feds may seek the death penalty for all 3. In order to do that, the government is required to meet certain criteria first, then ultimately get approval from the U.S. Attorney General.

The U.S. Attorney for New Mexico won't confirm to KRQE News 13 if they're asking the AG for that approval, but court documents suggest that's the case after a recent extension to the deadline for the AG to approve seeking the death penalty.

Even if the AG does give the approval, data shows the likelihood of Ferry, Smothermon and Torrez being executed is very small.

The feds have only received AG approval to seek the death penalty 10 times in New Mexico and none of those cases have resulted in execution.

Most recently, the AG approved it for Kirby Cleveland, who killed a Navajo Nation police officer. In that case, the feds ended up taking another direction.

Prior to Cleveland, John McCluskey faced lethal injection for kidnapping and killing a retired couple traveling through New Mexico in their RV. Jurors, however, voted for a life sentence rather than death.

It's a trend across the country. Data from the Death Penalty Information Center shows in more than half of cases, a plea agreement is reached or juries vote for a life sentence instead of death. Other reasons people are not executed include suicide before trial, clemency and acquittal.

In fact, only three people have been federally executed in modern history. One of those was Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

Right now, 63 people are on death row.

In the 2 years that President Trump has been in office, his AG -- formerly Jeff Sessions -- has approved at least a dozen death penalty prosecutions, according to the Associated Press.

It's an uptick from President Obama's final year in office, but not necessarily more overall.

(source: KRQE news)


Impact the death penalty may have on loved ones

According to death penalty data, the last time a person was executed at the federal level was back in 2003 in Texas.

A letter from the U.S Attorney's office indicates that prosecutors are considering federal murder charges against the accused gunman in the Chili's double homicide.

If convicted, William Wood, Jr could face the death penalty. Back in September, 2 employees at Chili's in Dewitt on Erie Boulevard East were killed. Prosecutors believe Wood intended to kill 4 employees that day.

Federal death penalty executions are rare and according to death penalty data, the last time a person was executed at the federal level was back in 2003 in Texas. This case could be the 1st local consideration of a death penalty in 5 years.

In 2013m David Renz murdered a Liverpool school librarian and raped a 10-year-old girl near the Great Northern Mall in Clay.

47-year-old Lori Bresnahan died in the attack. Renz admitted to stalking his victims, kidnapping them in the mall parking lot and forcing them into his car.

Bill Gregg was driving on Verplank Road when he saw the 10-year-old girl running away from Renz. He then found her mother, Bresnahan, who collapsed after being stabbed several times.

The death penalty was considered, but it never happened, and now Renz is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cregg thinks a death penalty trial would have been too difficult for the family, especially the young girl who survived.

He says pursuing the death penalty would have meant the release of heart-wrenching details about one of the worst crimes in Onondaga County history.

"The impact on the young girl having to testify the death penalty case those things were taken into consideration you know the district attorneys office they're made up of men and women with families, and I know they work with the victims' families to maximize justice but also care about the families and the victims," Cregg said.



Prisoner executions in Belarus ‘simply unacceptable’, says UN rights body

The continued use of the death penalty in Belarus has been condemned by an authoritative UN rights body after 3 men were reportedly executed there, despite its requests for clemency.

The Human Rights Committee, one of 10 UN treaty bodies that meet regularly in Geneva, had appealed to Belarus not to carry out sentencing on Aleksei Mikhalenya, Semyon Berezhnoi and Igor Gershankov, while it examined their cases.

Since 2010, Belarus has executed 13 people whose cases were under examination by the UN panel, it said in a joint statement with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

“The repetitive failure of Belarus to respect the Committee’s procedures …is simply unacceptable,” said Yuval Shany, committee chairperson.

“The fact that such failures occur in the context of capital cases which implicate the right to life, and which the Committee considers to be the ’supreme right’, is particularly unconscionable.”

The prisoners were executed in May and November this year, according to the committee.

All 3 had been found guilty of murder, although “all 3 cases contain allegations of torture in detention and forced confessions”.

In line with standard practice, relatives of the dead were “ignorant of the time and circumstances” of their death, the committee said, while their bodies were also not returned to their families – “an additional, useless pain”.

Belarus remains the last country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty, according to the Human Rights Committee.

In its latest report on Belarus published in November 2018, the UN panel emphasized that Belarus “should consider establishing a moratorium on executions as an initial step towards legal abolition of the death penalty”.

The country should also commit to abolishing the death penalty by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it urged, “commute all pending death sentences to imprisonment and increase efforts to change public perception about the necessity of maintaining the death penalty”.



Man gets death sentence for rape, murder of minor

A special POCSO court on Wednesday awarded death penalty to a man for raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl in Dehradun district in January 2016.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) judge, Rama Pandey, held Azhar Khan guilty and slapped a fine of Rs 90,000.

Khan was convicted under section 376 (rape), 302 (murder) of IPC and relevant sections of POCSO Act.

The minor girl’s body, who was studying in class 9, was found hanging from a road side tree, about 157 km from Dehradun. It was later found that the girl was raped before murder.

During investigation, police found out that the girl was last seen on January 1, 2016 with Khan, who was a driver by profession, on his motorcycle.

He was later arrested from Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh on January 5, 2016. During interrogation, Khan confessed of committing the crime.

(source: The Times of India)


SC rejects plea for immediate execution of 4 death-row convicts in Nirbhaya case

The Supreme Court Thursday dismissed a plea seeking directions for immediate execution of the 4 death row convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case.

"What kind of prayer you are making?," a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told the petitioner.

"You are making the court a joke," it said.

The 23-year-old paramedic student was raped on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a running bus in South Delhi by 6 persons and severely assaulted before being thrown out on the road. She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

1 of the accused Ram Singh had hanged himself in the jail and another, a juvenile, was convicted of rape and murder. He was given the maximum sentence of 3 years' imprisonment in a reform facility.

On July 9, the apex court dismissed the pleas of 3 convicts -- Mukesh (31), Pawan Gupta (24) and Vinay Sharma (25) -- seeking review of its 2017 judgement upholding the capital punishment awarded to them by the Delhi High Court and the trial court in the case.

The 4th death row convict, Akshay Kumar Singh (33), has not filed a review plea in the apex court.

During the hearing on Thursday, advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, the petitioner in the case, told the bench that though provision of death penalty was there in cases of rape-cum-murder, it was not acting as a deterrent due to delays in execution of such convicts.

"Is death penalty acting as a deterrent? Please do not file cases like this otherwise we will ask the registry not to accept it," the bench said.

"You want us to go around Delhi and execute these people? Dismissed," the bench said while rejecting the plea.

The public interest litigation (PIL) had said that despite a lapse of more than 4 1/2 months from the date of dismissal of the review petitions of 3 convicts in Nirbhaya case, the death penalty has not yet been executed.

The plea had said that in rape-cum-murder cases, the fate of the accused must be decided in a period of 8 months from the lower court to the apex court.

Such delay in execution of death penalty was acting as a bad precedent and had resulted in increasing incidents of rapes being reported on daily basis, it had said.

The fact that death row convicts in Nirbhaya case have not yet been hanged despite over 5 years of their initial conviction "apparently gives an impression in the minds of the rapists that they would also be harmless if they commit such heinous crimes", the plea had said.

The plea had also sought guidelines to prescribe strict timeline for speedy execution of death row convicts in rape-cum-murder cases, so that remedies of appeal in high court, appeal, review, curative petition in the apex court and mercy petition before the President are exhausted by convicts within a maximum period of 8 months.



Uttarakhand: Rape-Murder accused sentenced to the death penalty

A Dehradun court has awarded death sentence to an accused involved in a 2016 rape and murder case. ADJ 3rd Gurbaksh Singh pronounced the verdict on Wednesday.

Azhar, the convict, is a resident of Vikasnagar.



'Consider Background,' Says Top Court, Sparing 2 The Death Penalty----The Supreme Court also questioned the deterrence factor of the death penalty.

The Supreme Court today scaled down the death sentence of 2 convicts to life imprisonment, saying that judges should take socio-economic factors into account before sending anybody to the gallows.

The individuals under question were a man who killed 6 of a family in Kerala and another who raped and murdered a minor in Maharashtra.

A 3-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said courts should also consider the pendency of death row cases for commuting their sentences, especially in the absence of any study that conclusively establishes the deterrent impact of capital punishment. "While the socio-economic condition of a convict cannot act as a factor for disproving his guilt, it must be taken into consideration for awarding an appropriate sentence," it observed.

In the 1st case, a trial court in Kerala had sentenced the convict -- Anthony -- to death for murdering 6 members of a family in January 2001. While the original sentence was passed in 2005, the Kerala High Court and Supreme Court upheld it in the years that followed. Although his review petition was also dismissed, it was eventually taken up after a Supreme Court verdict stated that such pleas should be heard by a 3-judge bench to ensure the passage of a reasonable order.

The 2nd case pertained to Wasnik, who was awarded the death penalty for allegedly raping and murdering a 3-year-old girl in Maharashtra.

Commuting the death sentences, the Supreme Court said there was a perception that only the poor are awarded the death penalty. "There are a number of cases where convicts have been on death row for more than 6 years, and if a standard period was to be adopted, perhaps each and every person of the kind should be given the benefit of commutation," said Justice Lokur as he wrote the verdict.

While looking at the review petition, Justice Lokur also noted that the phrase -- "sentenced to death" -- can have a chilling effect on even the most hardened criminal. "Our society demands such a sentence on the grounds of its deterrent effect, although there is no conclusive study to prove that. Our society also demands death sentence as retribution for a ghastly crime, although again there is no conclusive study showing that retribution satisfies society," he said.

The Supreme Court also stated that none of the courts had considered the appellants' potential for reformation, rehabilitation and social re-integration into society.



India's death penalty problem: Speed up executions or rethink on judicial murder?----Should the death row convicts be sent to the gallows faster? Should they rather be allowed to rot in the cells awaiting death? Should we convict more criminals to death? Or should India abolish death penalty altogether?

2 back-to-back decisions by the Supreme Court of India this week has put the focus back on capital punishment. The latest judgment in the infamous mass murder case in Kerala and the dismissal of a plea in Nirbhaya gang rape and murder are a case in point.

On Wednesday, a 3-judge supreme court bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur commuted the death sentence of the man accused of killing 6 members of a family. The rarest of the rare decision came after the convict, who was the sole accused in the case, had exhausted all legal options, including the mercy petitions.

In another similar case on Thursday, the supreme court threw out a petition seeking immediate execution of the four men convicted in the dastardly gang rape and killing of Nirbhaya in Delhi in 2012.

In the first case, the court leaned on the chances of "reform or rehabilitation" of the convict. It also said the social and economic conditions of a person has no relevance in the conviction process, but when it comes to the severity of the punishment these factors must be considered.

Honestly, both these lines of argument appear to be a little shaky. Experts in jurisprudence will probably offer insightful analyses on this vexing line of argument.

In the 2nd case, the court was vehement in its outright denial of the plea that sought immediate execution of the convicts in Nirbhaya case.

"What kind of prayer you are making? ... You are making the court a joke," the bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta reprimanded the petitioner.

Lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, who had field the plea, sought the execution of convicts Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay, citing that the top court had rejected their review plea in July this year.

The petitioner said the death verdict wasn't implemented even after the lapse of considerable time following the exhaustion of the last legal option.

"Such delay in execution of Death Penalty, in the considered view of the Petitioner, is acting as a bad precedent and not able to act as a deterrent to the Rapists resulting into increasing incidents of horrific offences of Rapes being reported on daily basis in our country," the petitioner said.

As it turned out the court had little interest in the arguments offered.

Irrespective of the merit of the judgements, it's clear that India has a problem at hand with death penalties. As of December 2017, India has as many as 371 prisoners on the death row. Many of these convicts have been awaiting death for many years, the longest being 27 years.

Should the death row convicts be sent to the gallows faster? Should they rather be allowed to rot in the cells awaiting death? Should we convict more criminals to death? Or should India abolish death penalty altogether?

Rotting in cells awaiting death

In the last 13 years, only 4 death row prisoners have been executed in India. However, there's no apparent dip in the number of death sentences awarded by various courts. Instead, in April this year, the central government passed an ordinance making rape of children younger than 12 years punishable by death. Legal thinkers have always been divided on the utility of death penalty as a deterrent. Won't the spectre of death penalty motivate the rapist to kill his young victim, fearing his likely expose by her would send him to the gallows?

The 2 judgment this week don't really mean much in terms of where the country's conscience is headed or whether an anti-death penalty sentiment is gaining force. However, this can be taken as a straw in the wind.

Surpassingly though, the court did not take into account the long death row years a sufficient reason to commute the death penalty in the Kerala case.

"There are a number of cases where convicts have been on death row for more than six years and if a standard period was to be adopted, perhaps each and every person on death row might have to be given the benefit of commutation of death sentence to one of life imprisonment," Justice Lokur said.

There's apparently no plausible explanation to why some convicts end up spending decades on the death row. There have been instances in the recent past where the government took speedy action to carry out the execution of convicts.

Thursday's comments from the apex court show that the judiciary won't bring that ambivalent under its ambit either.

So India can keep thinking over the ponderous questions -- Should the death row convicts be sent to the gallows faster? Should they rather be allowed to rot in the cells awaiting death? Should we convict more criminals to death? Or should India abolish death penalty altogether?



Indonesia: 5 foreigners face death penalty over drug smuggling

Indonesian police declared that some of the 5 foreigners detained over drug trafficking on the tourist island of Bali since the end of November, are facing execution if they were found guilty.

Police revealed the citizens of Peru, Britain, China, Malaysia and Germany at a press conference on Thursday in Denpasar, the capital of Bali province.

The suspects were nabbed in 5 different raids by customs and police since November 30 that confiscated 4 kilograms of cocaine as well as marijuana, ecstasy and ketamine.

Indonesia has tightened laws regarding drug -linked cases, as dozens of convicted traffickers were handed death penalties.

Its last executions were in July 2016 when an Indonesian and 3 foreigners were gunned by firing squad.


NIGERIA: Woman To Die By Hanging For Killing Traditional Ruler

One Mrs Amina Zubairu, 35, who is the wife of the late Gom Mama of Kwarra Chiefdom in Wamba Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, has been sentenced to death by hanging for killing her husband.

The accused was reported to have killed her husband, Adamu Zubairu, who until his death in 2014, was a first class traditional ruler in the state.

Justice Aisha Bashir of the Nasarawa State High Court 2, sitting in Lafia, passed the judgment on Tuesday.

She held that the accused was found guilty of culpable homicide, which carries the death penalty.

The judge, who noted that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, subsequently sentenced the convict to death by hanging.

The police had earlier stated that the circumstances leading to the death of the traditional ruler were suspicious.

Police investigations led to a search of the compound of the deceased, where a syringe containing remnants of a poisonous substance, was found.

It was learnt that the police arrested the convict in connection with the death of the monarch on the eve of his marriage to another woman on February 15, 2015.

Amina, who was one of the wives of the deceased, was called in for questioning after she was identified as a prime suspect and she was subsequently charged to court for culpable homicide when a case was established against her.

Reacting to the judgment, the prosecution counsel, Jibrin Aboki, commended the court’s decision and said the judgment would serve as a deterrent to others with such tendencies.

Speaking in a similar vein, the first son of the late monarch, Abdullahi Zubairu, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision.

However, the counsel for the accused, Shekama Sheltu, expressed dissatisfaction with the judgment and expressed his client’s decision to appeal.

(source: Naija News)


Man sentenced to death for SUV rampage that killed 15 in Hunan province----After plowing his Land Rover into a crowd, the man got out and began stabbing survivors with a knife and shovel

On Wednesday, a man was sentenced to death by a court in Hunan province over an attack which left 15 people dead.

The vicious attack occurred on September 12th when a 54-year-old man named Yang Zanyun drove his SUV into a crowd of people at a public square in Hengdong country before exiting his vehicle and going on a stabbing spree with a knife and shovel.

A total of 15 people were killed by Yang with dozens more injured. Police said that Yang had committed the attack in order to “get revenge on society,” noting that he had served 10 years in prison on convictions including robbery, drug trafficking, and arson.

Yang becomes the 2nd high-profile criminal to be sentenced to death this week in China after a Hunan teen who murdered his high school teacher last year to prevent a phone call to his parents about his grades.

Meanwhile, the family of a woman who was allegedly killed by her husband for 30 million yuan in life insurance money is attempting to get the man extradited to China so it is more likely that he will be given the death penalty.



Top government officials distorted the truth about 1988 prison massacres

Following the publication of its damning report on a 3-decade long campaign of misinformation by the Iranian authorities about the mass prisoner killings of 1988, Amnesty International today published a video interview from December 1988 showing Iran’s then prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, denying and distorting the truth about these crimes against humanity.

The video clip has been released in response to a public debate ignited since the report’s publication about the extent to which Mir Hossein Mousavi and his government were aware of the mass killings while they were taking place between late July and early September 1988, and his role in the official campaign to conceal the truth about what happened.

In the interview, first broadcast by the Austrian national public service broadcaster, ORF, on 13 December 1988, Mir Hossein Mousavi is asked about the executions. He responds saying, “We repressed them”, without explaining what he is acknowledging, and avoids any explicit reference to the mass killings. Instead, he focuses on criticizing the July 1988 armed incursion by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), an opposition group based in Iraq at the time, in an apparent effort to misrepresent the executions as a legitimate response to an armed attack.

“Mir Hossein Mousavi’s interview with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, ORF, shows that, in late 1988, he unashamedly propagated the same false narrative, used by other Iranian authorities for decades, to hide the truth that they had forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed at least 5,000 political dissidents as part of a systematic effort to eliminate political opposition,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

For years Iranian officials at all levels have sought to deflect attention away from the mass prisoner killings by focusing on the armed incursion of the PMOI in July 1988 and defending their actions as a necessary crackdown against those involved.

The mass enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions constitute crimes against humanity under international law, which no circumstances can ever justify. Beyond this, the authorities have never provided any explanation of how thousands of prisoners held in Iran’s high-security prisons could possibly have communicated with PMOI members outside the country or been involved in the armed incursion. Testimonies from survivors at the prison confirm that prisoners being interrogated between July and September 1988 were not asked about accusations of secret collusion with the PMOI. In addition, the mass executions did not only target prisoners with PMOI ties; hundreds affiliated with leftist and Kurdish opposition groups were among the victims.

The contribution of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s government to the climate of secrecy surrounding the killings goes beyond this one interview. Since September 1988, after the news of the mass executions attracted international attention, senior government ministers and diplomats from his administration were actively involved in denying the mass killings in media interviews and exchanges with the UN to shield those responsible from accountability.

The officials involved included the then minister of interior, Abdollah Noori, the then minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayti, the deputy foreign ministers in 1989 and 1990, Mohammad Hossein Lavasani and Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s then permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Sirous Nasseri, Iran’s then permanent representative to the UN in New York, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, the Iranian chargé d’affaires in London, UK, Mohammad Mehdi Akhoundzadeh Basti, and the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Ottawa, Canada, Mohammad Ali Mousavi.

Amnesty International’s report details how these officials either flatly denied the mass killings, dismissed the reports as “nothing but propaganda” or claimed that the killings occurred on the battlefield. They also told the UN that some of the recorded victims did not exist, or were abroad, or studying at university, or being held as prisoners of war or had died due to “natural causes”.

“Direct perpetrators of the prison massacres are not the only people who must be subject to criminal investigations. Given the authorities’ ongoing refusal to reveal the whereabouts of those killed, all former and current officials who have contributed to the climate of secrecy and denial facilitating the continued enforced disappearance of thousands of victims must also be held to account,” said Philip Luther.

Amnesty International’s report names key officials involved in the mass killings, including Iran’s current justice minister, Alireza Avaei, his predecessor, Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, and former or current prosecution or judicial officials Ebrahim Raisi, Hossein Ali Nayyeri and Morteza Eshraghi, among others.

Denying knowledge of the mass killings

Since 2009, when he re-entered politics as a Reformist opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi’s response when asked about the 1988 prison massacres has often been to avoid commenting or to claim that they took place without the knowledge of his government. In this way, he has tried to justify his failure to stop, investigate or at least condemn the killings publicly.

However, documents from Amnesty International’s archives show that the organization repeatedly raised its concerns about reports of mass prisoner executions with senior officials in Mir Hossein Mousavi’s government including the minister of justice, Hassan Ebrahim Habibi, and the minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, from as early as 16 August 1988 when the organization issued its first Urgent Action appeal – while the killings were ongoing. The organization released at least 17 more Urgent Actions appeals between 16 August and 22 December 1988, mobilizing activists from around the world to send tens of thousands of appeals to the Iranian government and its diplomatic representatives abroad. On 13 December 1988 it issued a press release accompanied by a briefing.

“Despite being confronted with mounting evidence of these crimes, the government of Mir Hossein Mousavi repeatedly failed to condemn the killings and order investigations. This, coupled with officials’ grotesque denials of the truth, is truly shameful,” said Philip Luther.

Mir Hossein Mousavi himself has borne the brunt of Iran’s cruel criminal justice system since 2011, when he was put under house arrest, along with his wife Zahra Rahnavard and fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for their immediate release.

“All former and current officials who continue to treat the mass killings as state secrets effectively stand with those who have blood on their hands. He and all other officials who have hidden and distorted the truth must respond to the demands of tormented families for truth and justice, and publicly reveal any information that they have about the mass prisoner killings and the whereabouts of the victims,” said Philip Luther.

(source: Amnesty International)

DECEMBER 12, 2018:


Killer who shot newlywed, raped his wife on Mesquite walking trail is executed

A convicted killer who shot a man and raped his wife in 1993 as the newlyweds strolled on a trail in Mesquite was executed by lethal injection Tuesday night.

Alvin Avon Braziel Jr., 43, was convicted of capital murder in 2001, nearly 8 years after he killed 27-year-old Douglas White and raped 23-year-old Lora White in September 1993.

Braziel’s execution was delayed about an hour after defense attorneys filed last-minute motions to stay the lethal injection, but the motions were denied.

Braziel was pronounced dead at 7:19, less than 10 minutes after he spoke for the last time.

He was the 13th person executed this year in Texas.

In his final moments, Braziel apologized to Lora White for her husband’s death, calling his victim “Lori.”

She was not present at the execution.

“I want to apologize for the 2nd time to Lori for her husband dying at my hands,” Braziel said.

Braziel did not mention raping her in his apology.

He also apologized to the White family. Douglas White’s brother stood close to the window watching Braziel’s last words and sat after the condemned man’s heavy breathing faded.

Douglas and Lora White had been married for just 10 days and were on the walking trail at Eastfield College in Mesquite when an armed robber demanded money.

They told the man they didn’t have any.

The man put a gun to Douglas White’s head and threatened Lora White that if she ran he would “blow his [expletive] head off.”

He told the couple to get on the ground, where he shot Douglas White, then told the injured man to get up and shot him in the chest.

The couple prayed aloud during the attack. Before shooting Douglas White, the man asked, “Where’s your God at now?”

The robber, still armed, then dragged Lora White into the bushes and sexually assaulted her.

Afterward, Lora White described her attacker to a police sketch artist, but the case went cold.

In 2001, Braziel was connected to the attack on the Whites through DNA testing. His DNA had been collected after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl, a 1996 crime for which he was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Braziel’s defense attorneys filed a motion Tuesday in the Dallas County court where he was convicted, seeking to withdraw the execution date.

The attorneys had previously requested additional forensic testing to verify whether another male’s DNA could’ve been in the swab taken from Lora White after the sexual assault. Forensic testing revealed that the DNA evidence collected from Lora White was consistent with one attacker, court records show.

Lora White picked Braziel from a photo lineup and identified him in court as her attacker.

“It felt like someone was squeezing my heart,” she said when she saw his photo in the lineup, according to court documents.

During the 2001 trial, Lora White left the courtroom after prosecutors showed her an autopsy photo of her slain husband while she testified. Later, she could be heard crying in the hallway, and defense attorneys asked for a mistrial at the time. The request was denied.

In Tuesday's motion, defense attorneys said prosecutors purposely “elicited the emotional response” of Lora White during the trial. The attorneys also filed a stay of execution with the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas. The court denied the request.

Prosecutors showed a side-by-side comparison of a police sketch of the alleged killer and rapist and Alvin Braziel Jr. during the 2001 capital murder trial.

The attorneys wrote that one of the prosecutors called them Tuesday and said that the lead prosecutor, George West, said, “Watch this,” moments before showing Lora White the photo.

The former prosecutor named in the motion was scheduled to be one of the witnesses to the execution on the victim’s side but was not present.

No family members or friends of Braziel were at the Huntsville Unit to witness the lethal injection.

But the man did thank his supporters, including “Italy and France for their support for the death row prisoners."

A handful of death penalty opponents stood outside the prison shouting their support for Braziel.

After Braziel was sentenced to die, Lora White spoke to him in the courtroom.

Braziel had told her after the attack that she had done “real good,” so he would let her live.

But she said that it was God who gave her a 2nd chance after her husband prayed for her. She told Braziel that it would be his turn to be saved.

“You will go to court again, and this time, it’s for your soul,” Lora White said in court. “You’d better ask God to forgive you and make amends to God or your soul will go to hell."

Braziel becomes the 13th (and last) condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas, and the 558th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Braziel becomes the 40th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Greg Abbott became governor of the state in January 2015.

Braziel become the 24th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1,489th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Dallas Morning News & Rick Halperin)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----40

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----558

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

41---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam------------559

42---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings---------560

43---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------561

44---------Apr. 11----------------Mark Robertson----------562

45---------Mar. 28----------------Patrick Murphy----------563

46---------May 2------------------Dexter Johnson----------564

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Starr: Supreme Court must correct top Texas court's fundamental error

The job of a judge is to follow the law. If we are to be, as Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “a government of laws, and not of men,” the lower courts must carefully apply the precedent of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the top criminal court in Texas is not following this foundational constitutional principle in a matter of life and death.

Last year, in a case involving a death row prisoner named Bobby Moore, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Texas’ framework for determining whether a capital defendant had an intellectual disability — and was therefore exempt from execution — violated the Eighth Amendment. The rejected Texas criteria had in some circles become known as “the Lennie standard” because it invited the courts to compare the defendant with the fictional character Lennie Small in “Of Mice and Men” — a giant man with the mind of a child.

With respect to Moore, the Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrongly relied on non-clinical criteria about intellectual disability to uphold his death sentence. 3 justices dissented from the court’s reversal. But as all justices agree, the Supreme Court’s majority decision is the law of the land. And all justices unanimously agreed that Texas’ use of lay stereotypes was erroneous and unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion emphasized that, as a 13 year old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, telling time, the seasons and the concept that subtraction is the reverse of addition. Stressing that Moore’s serious mental and social difficulties were clear from early childhood, the court highlighted what it called “the considerable objective evidence of Moore’s adaptive deficits.” The majority also held that Moore’s IQ is well within the range of intellectual disability, an issue no longer in dispute. As is customary, the Supreme Court then sent the case back to the Texas court for further proceedings.

If the system were working as it should, Moore’s case would have been a routine matter of the Texas court applying the Supreme Court’s decision and current medical standards as directed and prohibiting Moore’s execution.

Even the prosecutors, who had obtained the death penalty against Moore, agreed in a formal filing to the Texas court that, in light of the controlling medical and legal standards, Moore is intellectually disabled and should not be executed.

Yet in a stark conflict with black letter law, the state appellate court again ruled that Moore is not intellectually disabled and set him on course for execution. The decision made reference to the Supreme Court’s ruling, but for the second time relied on lay stereotypes and non-clinical criteria despite the Supreme Court’s explicit instructions.

While I have no doubt about the good faith of the esteemed judges in Texas, their decision deviates sharply from the Supreme Court’s prior decision. The Supreme Court justices should again accept review of Moore’s case and summarily reverse this latest ruling. The Texas court, in reaching its closely divided decision, rejected the consensus of the highest court in the country, the state trial judge who held the evidentiary hearing and all parties and amici before the court — including the prosecutors, prominent Texans concerned with the rule of law and leading medical organizations.

Reasonable minds can differ about the death penalty. Some urging the Supreme Court to take up Moore’s case again support capital punishment, and some oppose it. But these citizens supporting Moore, including leading conservatives, are committed to upholding the Constitution, which established “one Supreme Court.” In giving the court the last word, the framers intended that the Constitution would be applied consistently, without exceptions and regardless of the status of a particular litigant.

I am not an abolitionist on the death penalty. I favor it in appropriate cases. But I also believe we must vigilantly observe the constitutional constraints on this ultimate sentence. In our constitutional system, courts must carefully adhere to Supreme Court decisions on all issues — especially on this vitally important subject of life and death.

In this instance, a narrow majority of Texas judges may have believed the Supreme Court was wrong about Moore. But this does not matter, as I know from my own experience as an appellate judge. The state judges had an inviolable duty to ensure its proceedings were consistent with the court’s decision. As then-U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh put it: “... It is essential that we follow both the words and the music of Supreme Court decisions.”

For our system to work, the Supreme Court must make sure that its rulings are respected and faithfully applied.

In this case, I hope the Supreme Court will act to correct the Texas court’s fundamental error, especially since Moore faces the most extreme punishment our government can impose.

Ignoring this departure from binding authority would be inimical to our bedrock constitutional principles.

(source: Opinion; Kenneth W. Starr, former chancellor and president of Baylor University, served as U.S. solicitor general from 1989 to 1993 and U.S. Circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1983 to 1989----Longview News-Journal)


Slaying victim was 7 months pregnant, suspect could face death

The woman who was fatally shot last in week in a mobile home off Crystal Springs Road was 7 months pregnant, District Attorney Billy West said Monday during a 1st-appearance hearing for the man charged in her death.

Markez Jaquan Mcgriff, 21, of the 2600 block of McArthur Landing Circle, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the death of Thailia Christina Thomas and, if convicted, could be sentenced to death or life in prison, District Court Judge Cheri Siler-Mack told him.

West is waiting on medical tests to determine whether a charge will be filed in the death of the unborn child.

“If, after the medical examination, we can legally charge for the fetus, we intend to,” West said. “We will not make a decision on the death penalty until the investigation is complete and we have all the information.”

Some of Mcgriff’s family members, sitting on one side of the small courtroom in the Cumberland County Detention Center, cried during the brief hearing.

His mother, Carolyn Johnson, appeared stunned afterward and said she didn’t know what was happening nor how her son knew Thomas.

“It’s just too much,” she said as she began to cry.

Thomas, 26, was killed Dec. 5 after investigators say Mcgriff came into her residence in the 2900 block of Spur Avenue in the Buckhead Farms mobile home park where she and two other women were living.

One of the women, Inda Davis, 33, was injured in the shooting that happened about 3:15 p.m. Davis was treated at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Mcgriff is charged with attempted 1st-degree murder in Davis’ shooting.

At the hearing, Mcgriff, flanked by Fayetteville lawyer David Smith, showed little emotion.

Mcgriff came to the residence that night to visit Thomas, West said.

“He was invited into the residence. This wasn’t a random act,” he said. “The investigation shows he was allowed into the home.”

West said investigators are still trying to determine the nature of Mcgriff’s and Thomas’ relationship.

West said it’s not known why the shooting happened.

Mcgriff has no pending charges in North Carolina District or Superior Courts, according to a search at the state Administrative Office of the Courts, and there is no record of any convictions in the state.

West said investigators found a pending misdemeanor charge, but confirmed that Mcgriff has no prior record in North Carolina.

Mcgriff was taken into custody Sunday night after Fayetteville police stopped a white Ford-F150 pickup truck matching the description of the vehicle investigators were seeking in the homicide.

The officer detained Mcgriff until Sheriff’s Office investigators arrived.

(source: Fayetteville Observer)

FLORIDA----impending execution

Will change to ‘Savings Clause’ save Florida death-row inmate?----Without a stay from the Florida Supreme Court, Jose Antonio Jimenez is scheduled to be executed 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison.

With an execution looming Thursday, attorneys for death row inmate Jose Antonio Jimenez say he should be spared from lethal injection because of a constitutional amendment passed last month by Florida voters.

Jimenez’s attorneys late Monday filed a petition at the Florida Supreme Court seeking a stay of execution for Jimenez, who was convicted in the 1992 murder of a 63-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County.

The Supreme Court has rejected earlier appeals from Jimenez, but his attorneys contend that a relatively non-controversial constitutional amendment approved in the Nov. 6 election should justify tossing out his death sentence — an argument that Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office disputes. Without a stay, Jimenez is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison.

The arguments center on part of Amendment 11, which was approved by 62 % of voters. That part changed what is known as the “Savings Clause” of the Florida Constitution, a more than century-old provision dealing with how revisions in criminal laws should be applied to older crimes.

The Savings Clause historically has required that criminal laws in effect at the time crimes are committed govern the sentences that are imposed. But Amendment 11, which was placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, included a change in the clause. It allowed revisions to criminal laws to affect sentences for older crimes.

Jimenez’s attorneys contend in court documents that the amendment is important in his case because of changes in Florida’s death-penalty sentencing laws in 2017. The sentencing laws had to be rewritten because of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the state’s death-penalty sentencing structure was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

With the passage of Amendment 11, Jimenez’s attorneys argue the revised laws should be applied to his case — and that they should spare him from execution. In part, the revised laws require juries to unanimously find at least one “aggravating” factor to help justify a death sentence, a tougher standard for prosecutors than was in place when Jimenez was sentenced to death.

“The demise of the Savings Clause with the voters’ approval of Amendment 11 has made the will of the people clear,” the motion for a stay said. “There should no longer be an obstacle to applying the statutory changes retrospectively in order to insure that defendants are treated equally across time. Statutory amendments enacted to reduce unduly harsh punishment or to require the state to prove more in order to justify a particular sentence are meant to apply retrospectively as shown by the approval of Amendment 11 and what the voters were told the benefits of the amendment were.”

But Bondi’s office in a filing Friday blasted the arguments about the effects of Amendment 11 on the Jimenez case. In part, the state’s attorneys said Amendment 11 gave discretion to lawmakers about retroactively applying criminal laws to old crimes and that statements about the intent of voters is “rank speculation."

“Importantly, the changes in the Constitution brought about with the passage of Amendment 11 will not go into effect until January 8, 2019. Consequently, this issue is not ripe and cannot apply to Jimenez since his execution is set for December 13, 2018. This (Supreme) Court should deny the petition on this ground alone,” Bondi’s office said in the brief. “Even if this court were to consider this future deletion to (the section of the Constitution that includes the Savings Clause) to be relevant to Jimenez in some way, the deletion alone does not instantaneously make the 2017 change in the amended statute retroactive to Jimenez’s case."

It was not immediately clear Tuesday when the Supreme Court might rule on the motion for a stay.

Jimenez, now 55, was convicted of killing Phyllis Minas during a burglary. Neighbors tried to enter the home through an unlocked front door after hearing Minas’ cries, but Jimenez slammed the door shut, locked it and fled by going onto a bedroom balcony, according to court documents.

(source: The Gainesville Sun)


Constitutional Amendment Spurs Call For Stay Of Execution

A death row inmate is hoping for a last-moment reprieve.

With an execution looming Thursday, attorneys for Jose Antonio Jimenez say he should be spared from lethal injection because of a constitutional amendment passed last month by Florida voters.

Jimenez’s attorneys late Monday filed a petition at the Florida Supreme Court seeking a stay of execution for Jimenez, who was convicted in the 1992 murder of a 63-year-old woman in Miami-Dade County.

The Supreme Court has rejected earlier appeals from Jimenez, but his attorneys contend that a relatively non-controversial constitutional amendment approved in the Nov. 6 election should justify tossing out his death sentence — an argument that Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office disputes. Without a stay, Jimenez is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday at Florida State Prison.

The arguments center on part of Amendment 11, which was approved by 62 % of voters. That part changed what is known as the “Savings Clause” of the Florida Constitution, a more than century-old provision dealing with how revisions in criminal laws should be applied to older crimes.

The Savings Clause historically has required that criminal laws in effect at the time crimes are committed govern the sentences that are imposed. But Amendment 11, which was placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, included a change in the clause. It allowed revisions to criminal laws to affect sentences for older crimes.

Jimenez’s attorneys contend in court documents that the amendment is important in his case because of changes in Florida’s death-penalty sentencing laws in 2017. The sentencing laws had to be rewritten because of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the state’s death-penalty sentencing structure was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.

With the passage of Amendment 11, Jimenez’s attorneys argue the revised laws should be applied to his case — and that they should spare him from execution. In part, the revised laws require juries to unanimously find at least 1 “aggravating” factor to help justify a death sentence, a tougher standard for prosecutors than was in place when Jimenez was sentenced to death.

“The demise of the Savings Clause with the voters’ approval of Amendment 11 has made the will of the people clear,” the motion for a stay said. “There should no longer be an obstacle to applying the statutory changes retrospectively in order to insure that defendants are treated equally across time. Statutory amendments enacted to reduce unduly harsh punishment or to require the state to prove more in order to justify a particular sentence are meant to apply retrospectively as shown by the approval of Amendment 11 and what the voters were told the benefits of the amendment were.”

But Bondi’s office in a filing Friday blasted the arguments about the effects of Amendment 11 on the Jimenez case. In part, the state’s attorneys said Amendment 11 gave discretion to lawmakers about retroactively applying criminal laws to old crimes and that statements about the intent of voters is “rank speculation.”

“Importantly, the changes in the Constitution brought about with the passage of Amendment 11 will not go into effect until January 8, 2019. Consequently, this issue is not ripe and cannot apply to Jimenez since his execution is set for December 13, 2018. This (Supreme) Court should deny the petition on this ground alone,” Bondi’s office said in the brief. “Even if this court were to consider this future deletion to (the section of the Constitution that includes the Savings Clause) to be relevant to Jimenez in some way, the deletion alone does not instantaneously make the 2017 change in the amended statute retroactive to Jimenez’s case.”

It was not immediately clear Tuesday when the Supreme Court might rule on the motion for a stay.

Jimenez, now 55, was convicted of killing Phyllis Minas during a burglary. Neighbors tried to enter the home through an unlocked front door after hearing Minas’ cries, but Jimenez slammed the door shut, locked it and fled by going onto a bedroom balcony, according to court documents.

(source: CBS News)


‘He was utterly merciless’: Burglar who fatally stabbed Miami court clerk faces execution

Phyliss Minas, a 63-year-old court clerk who lived alone with her cats, worked in relative anonymity at the Miami-Dade criminal courthouse. She was keenly aware of the violent stories that filled the courthouse — as part of her job, she mailed hearing notices to the lawyers who represented accused criminals.

She told coworkers she always shopped before dark and carried little cash to avoid becoming a target for muggers. “She was so careful about her life,” her supervisor once said.

Minas became a victim, not in public but in her own apartment in North Miami, in 1992. A drug-addicted junkie neighbor named Jose Antonio Jimenez broke into her house, then stabbed her to death so viciously that jurors showed him no mercy — they voted unanimously to send him to Florida’s death row.

26 years after Minas was murdered, Jimenez is scheduled to be executed Thursday evening at Florida State Prison in Stark. In a case that drew little media attention then and over the years, Minas’ story has not been forgotten by her few remaining relatives and those who worked to put Jimenez behind bars.

“It was a very gruesome crime. He was utterly merciless,” said Miami lawyer Michael R. Band, who convicted Jimenez as a prosecutor in 1994. “There was no need to harm her. He could have walked out. She wasn’t a threat to him in any fashion.”

Jimenez, 55, was also convicted separately of an earlier murder — the 1990 strangulation killing of a woman found dead inside her Miami Beach apartment. He pleaded guilty and got 17 years for that killing.

Gov. Rick Scott originally scheduled Jimenez’s execution for July 18, but the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay as his defense lawyers claimed that North Miami hadn’t turned over key police records. The high court rejected the appeal in October, paving the way for Thursday’s execution by lethal injection.

Jimenez is still appealing his execution to the Florida Supreme Court, a federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Among his chief arguments: that voters in November authorized a key change in state law that means Jimenez should be allowed a new sentencing hearing under Florida’s current death penalty law, not the one in existence in 1992 when the murder happened.

Unlike the early 1990s, jurors today must be unanimous in meting out the death penalty, and must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstances of the murder — the cruel nature of the killing, plus his criminal background and the fact that it happened during a burglary — outweigh the “mitigating” factors. At trial, his defense lawyers argued that Jimenez should be spared the death penalty because of a crushing drug problem that had turned his life into chaos.

“I believe the execution is wrong. I believe the execution is unconstitutional,” his lawyer, Martin McClain, said on Tuesday.

Minas worked as a clerk for 15 years and her savage killing stunned the criminal courthouse. Fellow clerks, on lunch breaks at the building, watched the weeklong trial.

“We deal with these things daily,” Frank Sherod, boss of the criminal clerk section, told the Miami Herald at the time. “It’s a number until you learned it was one of us. Everyone up here is devastated about this.”

Minas was murdered on Oct. 2, 1992, inside Apt. 207 at a building on the 13700 block of Northeast Sixth Avenue.

Detectives believe Jimenez, an upstairs neighbor, broke into the apartment looking to burglarize the place. Minas surprised him. Evidence showed that Jimenez beat the woman repeatedly, then stabbed her 8 times — twice plunging a knife into her heart.

“Ms. Minas was alive and conscious during the entire attack,” then Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Leslie Rothenberg said at sentencing.

At the 1994 trial, neighbors testified that they heard thuds and Minas yell out: “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” Two neighbors said they tried to opened the door, which the killer slammed shut.

Another neighbor, Clifford Merriweather, was standing by the street and said he saw Jimenez scaling down the building from a balcony adjacent to the Minas apartment. “He dropped and started walking toward me,” Merriweather testified. “His eyes were wider than a Kennedy 50-cent piece.”

Jimenez’s fingerprint was also found on the interior of Minas’ front door.

Jurors deliberated less than 2 hours in convicting Jimenez. At a sentencing hearing a couple months later, his defense lawyers depicted him as a high-school dropout controlled by his addiction to drugs.

Jimenez had dropped out of 2 rehab programs for his cocaine appetite, which cost him as much as $300 a day. His lawyers claimed that he smoked $200 worth of crack cocaine on the day of the murder.

But Judge Rothenberg, who is now on the Third District Court of Appeals, noted that Jimenez knew what he was doing.

“He still had the presence of mind to take the murder weapon with him and to conceal it from view when he dropped from the balcony,” the judge said before sentencing him to death.

(source: Miami Herald)


Death penalty should be abolished in Florida

We are moving through a season marked by hope, peace, joy and love. But in Florida, we are also moving closer to executing another human being.

Gov. Rick Scott has scheduled inmate Jose Antonio Jimenez to be executed Thursday for the 1992 killing of Phyllis Minas; it will be the 28th execution carried out during Scott’s 8 years of leadership (the most by any governor since the death penalty was reinstated more than 40 years ago).

It was Gandhi who said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

It seems our obsession with an eye for an eye has already made us blind.

We have chosen not to see:

• The flaws in our criminal justice system.

• The fact that death penalty cases are filled with deep racial and socioeconomic biases.

• The reality that death penalty cases often ignore critical mitigating evidence: low IQ, abuse, mental illness, etc.

We have also chosen not to see that murdering those who murder is not healing anyone or anything.

It is not healing the deep pain and suffering of the families of murder victims — the lengthy appeals process associated with death penalty cases drags grieving families in and out of court for an average of 15 ½ years.

That is 15 years of listening, replaying and reliving the murders of their loved ones.

Our obsession with an eye for an eye has made us blind, but it’s not too late to recover our vision.

It’s not too late for us to turn toward restorative justice.

It’s not too late for us to pursue just solutions that bring healing rather than more violence.

It’s not too late for us to embrace another way forward that is more healing; a way forward that looks less like revenge — and more like the hope, peace, joy and love we long to weave into the fabric of our society.

It’s time to end the death penalty in Florida.

The Rev. Susan Rogers, Jacksonville

(source: Letter to the Editor, Florida Times-Union)


The Conversation We're Not Yet Having About Tennessee's Death Penalty----Recent executions of white men have highlighted numerous flaws with capital punishment — but it's also racist

After last week's electrocution of David Earl Miller, Tennessee's death penalty comes to a pause.

The next prisoner set to die in the state is Donnie Johnson, whose execution is scheduled for May 16, 2019. After that, 3 more men are set to be executed in 2019, with 2 more following them in 2020.

The cases of the 3 men put to death by the state in the past 4 months — Billy Ray Irick by lethal injection, and Edmund Zagorski and Miller by electrocution — highlighted numerous flaws with the death penalty in Tennessee. Irick and Miller both had histories of severe mental illness, while Zagorski's case illustrated the arbitrary nature of the sentence (and belied the idea that death row is home to unrepentant monsters). But because all 3 men were white, the revival of the death penalty in Tennessee has not yet prompted a discussion of one of its other major problems — it's racist.

That's not breaking or particularly surprising news, of course. The criminal justice system as a whole is thoroughly infected with racial bias — why would its most severe penalty be any different?

Still, the numbers are stark.

There are currently 58 prisoners remaining on Tennessee's death row, and 28 of them are black. That's 48 % in a state with a population that is just 17 % black. Death sentences have been declining nationally, but the disparity remains. In Tennessee, 17 men have received a death sentence since the year 2000 — 11 of them are black.

But the death penalty isn't just biased against African-American defendants. Studies have consistently found racial disparities when it comes to the race of the victim as well.

This section from an American Bar Association assessment of Tennessee's death penalty published in 2007 summarizes some of those findings:

Former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Birch also has voiced concerns that racial bias may be permeating the death penalty process in Tennessee. In State v. Chalmers, Justice Birch noted that “numerous studies have indicated that racial bias may play a significant role in determining which defendants receive the death penalty.” A recent study that reviewed capital sentencing in Tennessee from 1981 to 2000 and was conducted as part of this ABA Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment Report has given credence to Justice Birch’s concerns. The study concluded that “those who kill whites are more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill blacks.” In addition to the race of victims and suspects in homicide cases, the study took account of legally relevant factors that are legitimately related to the imposition of the death penalty, namely 2 prevalent aggravating factors in death penalty sentencing: whether the crime took the life of more than 1 victim; and whether the homicide involved accompanying felonies, such as rape or robbery. The study found that individuals who killed whites were 4.75 times more likely to receive the death penalty than those who killed blacks in the absence of these aggravating factors. When at least one of these aggravating factors was present, individuals who killed whites were 3.15 times more likely to be sentenced to death than individuals who killed blacks.

In their report "Tennessee's Death Penalty Lottery" — published earlier this year in the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy — attorneys Bradley MacLean and H.E. Miller Jr. note the considerable role that discretion plays in death penalty cases.

"The exercise of discretion permeates a capital case — from the time of arrest through the charging decision, the district attorney's decision to seek the death penalty, innumerable decisions by all of the parties and the judiciary throughout the proceedings, and the ultimate jury decision of life versus death," they write. "Where there is discretion, there is room for implicit bias."

As they note, district attorneys wield significant power, and discretion. And in Tennessee, all 31 district attorneys general are white. If you have doubts about whether that matters — or whether implicit, and even explicit, racial bias is ever at play in prosecutions in Tennessee — take it from the prosecutors themselves. In a November 2015 letter to the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference — which is cited in court filings by attorneys for Abu-Ali Abdur'rahman, a black man whose execution has been set for April 9, 2020 — Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk highlights and disavows comments made by a former Nashville prosecutor at an annual conference.

The comments were made by Rutherford County Assistant District Attorney, and former Nashville ADA John Zimmerman. Funk writes:

The first of these inappropriate comments was when he said that as an ADA in Nashville, he would strike jurors with a 37215 area code, an affluent part of town, if the if the case involved people from "the inner city" because "in Nashville, rich people don't care about what happens in East Nashville." While the racial implications in the previous comment were inferential, his next statements were blatant advice to use race in jury selection. Specifically, Mr. Zimmerman described prosecuting a conspiracy case with all Hispanic defendants. He stated he wanted an all African-American jury because "all Blacks hate Mexicans."

Abdur'rahman's attorneys write: "If in today's race-conscious world, when prosecutors are under public scrutiny, Mr. Zimmermann was willing to describe and advocate for racist practices in a CLE presentation to fellow prosecutors, then it is fair to infer that Mr. Zimmermann was willing to use race in jury selection at the time of Mr. Abdur'Rahman's trial."

Tennessee is not alone, of course, when it comes to racial bias in the death penalty. The Washington Supreme Court struck down that state's death penalty earlier this year because the court found it to be "arbitrary and racially biased."

(source: Nashville Scene)


Prosecutor likely to request death penalty in Baer case----Indianapolis man convicted in 2004 slaying of Lapel mother and child

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings expects to seek the death penalty sentence of Fredrick Baer, convicted in the 2004 slaying of a woman and her daughter near Lapel.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday decided not to hear the appeal filed by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill to reinstate the death penalty for Baer.

Earlier this year the death penalty sentence was overturned by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It will eventually come back to Madison County," Cummings said of the Baer case. "We have to redo the penalty phase of the trial.

"I can't think of any reason I won't ask for the death penalty," he said.

Cummings said he was not surprised by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the state's appeal.

"4 justices have to agree to hear a case," he said. "There is only a small percentage of cases that get to be heard by the Supreme Court."

After being convicted of murder, attempted rape and theft, Baer was sentenced to death. His convictions and sentence were twice affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court, and a federal district court denied Baer's request for habeas corpus, Hill stated in a September press release.

Several years later, Hill said, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Baer was entitled to habeas relief in the form of a new penalty phase of his trial - effectively sending the case back to Madison Circuit Court for a redo of sentencing.

In a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Hill's office wrote the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals did not come close to making the showing that all "fairminded jurists" would agree that the jury instructions misled jurors into ignoring mitigating evidence would have resulted in a different conclusion.

The brief continued during the sentencing phase Baer called one witness a forensic psychologist who described Baer's history of drug abuse.

The instructions twice informed the jurors they could consider any evidence in mitigation, including voluntary intoxication at the time the crimes were committed.


On the afternoon of Feb, 24, 2004, Baer was working at a construction site in Anderson. He said he was suffering withdrawal from methamphetamine. Anxiety hammered in his head. Sweat seeped from his skin despite the February chill.

He drove to Lapel and parked near two homes. He approached one house and knocked on the door. A woman answered but cautiously kept Baer from looking inside. He asked to use her phone.

"She brought me the phone, but I was trying to get in," he recalled. "So I dialed something and gave her the phone back."

Down the road, he spotted a woman moving boxes outside. It was Cory Clark, wife of John Clark and mother of Jenna and Morgan. Her husband was in Florida looking for a job, and her older daughter Morgan was at school.

When Cory Clark went to get the telephone, Baer followed her inside and murdered the mother and daughter.

He was eventually arrested on Feb. 27 after police were tipped off when residents near the Clark home told police a man had knocked on their doors, asking for directions to Layton Road.

Residents told police the man was driving a small gray-blue hatchback, which had a handicap tag in it. One of the residents noted the car's license plate number.

Police tracked the car to an Indianapolis construction worker who was working in Anderson. Workers at the construction site said the car belonged to Baer.

During a 2013 interview with The Herald Bulletin on death row, Baer said he thinks about the case every day and that he deserves to die.

(source: Rushville Republican)


Judge refuses to toss death penalty for 4 charged in deaths of Lexington bystander, unborn son

4 men charged in the 2016 deaths of a woman and her unborn son can get the death penalty, Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell ruled Tuesday.

Defense attorneys for Saquan Freeman, 21, Demetrioun Boaz, 22, Joseph Fain, 21, and Skylar Stigall, 23, had sought to have the death penalty excluded but Bunnell overruled the motion.

“The death penalty as an option for these gentlemen is constitutional,” Bunnell said from the bench. “I think the citizens of Fayette County realize what an ultimate penalty that is."

The four men were indicted on charges of murder, fetal homicide and robbery in the September 2016 shooting death of Maryiah Coleman, 22. She was not the intended victim of the robbery, police said previously. An innocent bystander, she was walking her family’s dog outside the Matador North Apartments on Winburn Drive when she was shot.

Coleman and her unborn son, Jakobe, died at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital about an hour after the shooting.

The defendants were notified that prosecutors intended to seek aggravated penalties, including the death penalty.

The indictment against the four said Eric Cannady was the intended victim of the robbery. Police said Cannady was being robbed of guns. While all 4 men had guns, only 1 weapon was fired.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that a circuit court judge cannot exclude the death penalty as a sentencing option before a trial. Only after the facts are heard at trial and a death sentence is imposed can a circuit judge determine that the death penalty is disproportionate.

Who fired the fatal shot at Coleman has been debated. The defendants gave varying accounts, and the gun that killed Coleman and her son has not been recovered.

Stigall’s attorney, Erica Roland, said he did not even fire his weapon because it was fully loaded when police found it. Roland also said that Stigall never pointed his weapon during the robbery, but Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrea Williams said that assertion is disputed by a witness.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has held that while a defendant may not be the shooter in a murder, he can be found guilty of murder under a complicity theory and thus be eligible for the death penalty.

Boaz, Fain and Freeman are scheduled to go on trial in January on first-degree robbery charges in a separate crime. (Stigall was not involved.)

The robbery charges stem from an Oct. 20, 2016, shooting on Red Mile Road. The 3 men allegedly entered an apartment and fired multiple shots, according to court documents. Freeman was shot by the homeowner and paralyzed during the invasion, police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said previously.


CALIFORNIA----female could face death penalty

California Mom Responsible for Drowning 10-Month-Old Twins Could Face Death Penalty

A California woman is accused of drowning her 10-month-old twins inside a motel room that police helped her to arrange after she caused a scene earlier at a women’s shelter, reports said.

Tulare police Sgt. Jon Hamlin told officers had no former contact with the 37-year-old Heather Langdon and would have alerted mental health assistance if they knew she was a danger to herself or the children.

Hamlin noted that the officers didn’t want to leave without getting shelter for the three on the cold, rainy night, last Thursday, so they found a non-profit agency willing to pay for the motel room.

It was there authorities revealed that she committed the murders. The children were confirmed dead at a hospital closeby after they were found not breathing and underwater, KTLA reported.

Reports did not disclose who called authorities about the children or the how they drowned.

The children’s father has not been known but reportedly ended a GoFundMe page for the boys, Mason and Maddox. The woman reportedly has three other children.

According to the station, she faces two counts of first-degree murder and assault on a child leading to death with special circumstance allegation that she committed multiple murders.

If convicted, she could face the death penalty.



The Electric Chair Is Back and the Death Penalty Is on Life Support

On Thursday, David Earl Miller became the 2nd person in the last 5 weeks to choose death in Tennessee’s electric chair over lethal injection. Miller was executed for the 1981 murder of 23-year-old Lee Standifier.

After losing a lawsuit claiming he had a right to be executed by a firing squad, Miller took advantage of a state law allowing death row inmates convicted prior to 1999 to opt for the electric chair rather than lethal injection. He did so because he feared that the state’s lethal injection protocol, which includes midazolam, a drug that has been involved in several botched executions, would result in a more prolonged and painful death than would electrocution.

The real significance of the return of the electric chair, though, would be missed if we saw it only as a loss of faith in lethal injection by death row inmates. It signals a larger crisis for the death penalty system in the United States.

Hailed as a humane alternative to hanging, which had long been America’s preferred method of execution, the electric chair was first adopted in 1888 by New York state. It decided to use electrocution following the report of a commission charged with reviewing possible alternatives to hanging. The so-called Gerry Commission concluded that “The most potent agent known for the destruction of human life is electricity. … The velocity of the electric current is so great that the brain is paralyzed; it is indeed dead before the nerves can communicate a sense of shock.”

William Kemmler, the 1st person scheduled to die in the new electric chair, was dubious about this conclusion. He sued, claiming that its use would violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. When the United States Supreme Court eventually considered his claim, it echoed the conclusions of the Gerry Commission and allowed the execution to proceed. Unfortunately, Kemmler, not the commission or the court, was right about the electric chair. His execution was horribly botched.

Yet, in spite of Kemmler’s experience, the electric chair quickly became very popular. From the start of the 20th century until the 1980s, the number of death sentences carried out by electrocution far outstripped those carried out by other methods, including hanging, the firing squad, and the gas chamber.

2 factors combined to change this situation and relegate the electric chair to a marginal place among America’s execution methods. First was the development of lethal injection, adopted by the state of Oklahoma in 1977 and first used in Texas in 1982. Lethal injection seemed to make execution “cleaner” and “more painless” than it had ever been. It offered an attractive alternative to the “inhumanity, visceral brutality, and cost” of the electric chair, according to state legislators. The modern death chamber came to resemble a hospital room and executioners seemed like medical professionals.

Several dramatic botched executions in Florida also contributed to the sharp decline in electrocutions. Included were two executions in which inmates caught fire as they were being put to death in what Floridians referred to as “Old Sparky.” Following those botched executions, other states reconsidered the electric chair. For example, in 2001 the Supreme Court of Georgia decided that electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment under its state constitution. In that opinion, Justice Carol W. Hunstein said that “death by electrocution, with its specter of excruciating pain and its certainty of cooked brains and blistered bodies,” was no longer compatible with contemporary standards of decency.

The Supreme Court of Nebraska followed suit seven years later and used similarly vivid language to characterize the electric chair. “Burning of the prisoner’s body is an inherent part of an electrocution,” the court said. Echoing the ways 19th century proponents of the electric chair had characterized hanging, it found that electrocution “inflicts intense pain and agonizing suffering.”

Several dramatic botched executions in Florida also contributed to the sharp decline in electrocutions.

Today, 9 states retain the electric chair as a legally allowable method of execution. Since 1980, only 11 percent of American executions have involved the electric chair. Most of the other countries that have capital punishment choose 1 method of execution and stick with it. In contrast, since the late 19th century, the United States has used 5 different methods of execution: hanging, electrocution, lethal gas, the firing squad, and lethal injection. The death penalty has been sustained by the hope of making progress in the grim business of putting people to death. Indeed, its legitimacy is closely linked to the search for a technological magic bullet to insure the safety, reliability, and humanity of execution.

Even though Miller became just the 16th person put to death by electrocution in the United States since the turn of the 21st century, a period in which there have been 873 lethal injections, the return of the electric chair and other previously abandoned methods of executions signifies more than just the severity of lethal injection’s current problems. This back-to-the future moment suggests that the United States has reached the end of the road in the search for ever-better execution methods. It highlights the shaky ground now occupied by America’s death penalty.



Potential jurors in Christensen trial getting 31 pages of questions

If you read books, which authors and types of books do you like? Do you regularly listen to any radio talk shows? Have you ever used any online dating apps or websites?

These are some of the questions lawyers want answered by potential jurors in the April 2019 trial of accused kidnapper and killer Brendt Christensen.

The 31-page questionnaire is much longer than in a typical case, but as University of Illinois Law professor Andrew Leipold said, "Capital cases are always different."

"The rules are different, the procedures are different. Everything is different," said Leipold, the director of the UI's Program in Criminal Law and Procedure.

So this "is more than I've seen and than I would expect most are, but this is a capital case," Leipold said.

The questions will help attorneys choose an impartial jury that they hope can fairly decide whether Christensen is guilty of kidnapping and killing Yingying Zhang, a visiting UI scholar from China, and if he is guilty, whether he deserves the death penalty.

While many of the questions are obviously relevant — asking potential jurors about their views on different crime-related issues, whether they know anyone involved in the case and their opinion of the death penalty — others are seemingly unrelated.

For example, from the prosecutor's list of proposed questions:

— Please name the three public figures, living or deceased, whom you most admire.

— Do you enjoy movies?

— Do you have a "web page"?

If a person lists three religious figures, or all Republican or all Democratic presidents, those answers might tell the attorneys something about the juror, said Steve Beckett, the attorney for Ms. Zhang's family, who's been involved in 6 death-penalty cases.

"The newspapers or periodicals that somebody may read can tell you a lot about them; the news channels that they watch; their historical perspectives," he said. "Those are all — I hate to use the word 'hunch,' but maybe educated hunches that attorneys might make about them."

Attorneys "want to know as much about the individual juror as you possibly can," Beckett said. "A questionnaire allows you to do that without spending the time in open court."

In open court, a juror could taint the jury pool by stating what they've read about the case or what their opinion of it is.

Attorneys in the Brendt Christensen kidnapping case want to leave nothing to chance when picking a possible jury. That's evident in a 31 page questionnaire recently submitted to a judge for approval. Some of the questions might surprise you.

Christensen's lawyers are hoping to avoid this by having questioning done individually.

The questionnaire should also help attorneys on both sides select jurors they want to strike.

Each side can argue to the judge to strike a juror for cause. They also each get to strike 20 jurors without cause.

Said Leipold: "As long as they're not basing it on race or gender," which the Supreme Court has ruled is unconstitutional, "they can remove a juror because they think they won't be as good as some other juror. They're trying to identify people who really seem like they might be biased toward the prosecution or the defense."

If a juror is stricken without cause, then the other side can argue that the juror was stricken improperly.

"The other side can challenge my peremptory challenge, saying I'm doing it based on race or gender. Then it's up to me to give a race- or gender-neutral explanation," Leipold said. "I can say I don't like Juror 4 because she seemed inattentive or uninterested, but I can't say I'm removing her because I think women are more likely to believe X."

'Inflammatory, redundant'

In Christensen's case, the U.S. Attorney's Office has filed a 36-page questionnaire and the defense has filed a set of questions under seal.

Last week, the 2 sides filed an agreed-upon set of questions totaling 31 pages. They're continuing to argue over supplemental questions the defense wants to ask.

Prosecutors have accused the defense of trying to ask questions that, among other things, could lead to a conviction being overturned on appeal.

"The defendant's Proposed Supplemental Jury Questions are inflammatory, redundant, and specifically designed not to identify and select fair and impartial jurors, but to identify and select jurors who are predisposed in the defendant's favor and to create reasons to strike jurors who are not so predisposed and to later appeal if any are selected," prosecutors wrote.

Christensen's lawyers said they want to ask certain questions so they can select jurors who are willing to give a life sentence if he is found guilty, instead of automatically giving the death penalty, and whether they will be open to mitigating factors.

That's part of the problem with the jury-selection process in capital cases, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

In a capital case, jurors have to be willing to consider sentencing the defendant to death, so the jury-selection process is good at getting rid of those opposed to the death penalty.

Bias from the start

But the process is also supposed to remove jurors who would automatically impose the death penalty if the defendant is guilty, Dunham said, which doesn't always happen.

The process "is designed to try to eliminate bias in both directions. All the studies tell us that it doesn't do that," he said. "People who are opposed to the death penalty are much more likely to say they're opposed to it. People who support the death penalty are much more likely to say that they don't believe that they would automatically impose the death penalty. ... They understate their support for the death penalty."

The questionnaire is designed to help attorneys find what jurors actually believe, but Dunham said the mere fact of going through the jury-selection process biases the jury.

"The Capital Jury Project looked at more than 1,000 jurors who served in capital cases and found that 10 percent of jurors had already reached a judgment on what the guilt or innocence of the defendant should be," Dunham said. "They thought, 'Why am I being asked about the penalty if the guy isn't guilty?'"

And, he said, jurors often don't understand all the instructions. For example, the jury must unanimously agree on the presence of the aggravating factors, but each juror can individually agree on the presence of mitigating factors that could lead to a life sentence.

While most capital cases don't result in a death sentence, Dunham said the flaws in the system lead to more convictions of more serious charges.

"You might still be convicted of 1st-degree murder on facts that a jury that hadn't gone through the death-qualification process would have said is a second-degree murder or manslaughter," he said. "And we don't know how many people would have been spared with a fairer jury-selection process even after being convicted of 1st-degree murder."

(source: The News-Gazette)


Feds seek more time to review death penalty option for Tree of Life shooting defendant

A federal judge on Tuesday extended the time for discovery material to be produced in the prosecution of Robert Bowers until April and said she'll hold monthly status conferences as the case proceeds.

Mr. Bowers, who waived his appearance in court, is accused of killing 11 worshippers at Tree of Life synagogue in October.

Prosecutors have delivered some discovery material but the parties want more time to produce and review everything. The U.S. attorney's office also wants extra time to review the case for possible death penalty designation by the Department of Justice.

U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose set an April 18 deadline.

The U.S. attorney's office will submit information about the case to the justice department’s capital review committee about whether Mr. Bowers should face the death penalty. The defense will have a chance to respond.

The capital review process takes at least 90 days from the time of submission of a case for review and a decision by the attorney general.

All filings in the case will remain sealed.

Mr. Bowers is charged with 44 counts related to the Oct. 27 mass shooting.

(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


Moving away from the death penalty

As chair of the Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL), an independent not-for-profit organisation devoted to working towards the abolition of the death penalty in our region, I was invited to present a paper on the death penalty in the English-speaking Caribbean at a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington DC on December 6. The president of the IACHR is Justice Margarette May Macaulay, a Jamaican.

Joining me were Kevin Miguel Rivera Medina, president of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) and Jessica Corredor Villamil, programme manager of the WCADP.

(source: Trinidad Express)


Court In Damascus Sentences Leaders Of Terrorist Groups To Death - Reports

The criminal court of Damascus on Tuesday issued in absentia death penalty to the leaders of several terrorist groups, including Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, outlawed in Russia), local media reported.

According to al-Watan newspaper citing court's decision,?the death penalty list includes over 40 militants, mostly from the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. The leader of the Jaysh al-Islam is among the sentenced, according to the newspaper.

The militants were accused of shelling residential areas of Damascus - which has resulted in casualties among many civilians, including children and women - and other crimes.

The court's decision can be reversed if the accused will confess and surrender to the authorities, a Syrian lawmaker told the newspaper.

Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, with the government forces fighting against numerous opposition groups and militant and terrorist organizations.



Man Hanged at Urmia Prison

A Prisoner was executed at Urmia Central Prison on December 10, 2018.

According to the IHR sources, Younes Azizi was hanged on Monday, December 10, at Urmia Central Prison. He was sentenced to death for drug offenses.

“Younes was sentenced to death for possessing 100 kilograms of morphine. His case was sent for the revision under the new anti-narcotic law, but the verdict was upheld because he had three other drug-related sentences,” the source told IHR.

Younes Azizi was transferred to the solitary confinement a day before the execution.

The Iranian media outlets have not published news related to the aforementioned execution so far.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

DECEMBER 11, 2018:

TEXAS----new execution date

2nd-to-last 'Texas 7' escapee gets March execution date

The 2nd-to-last surviving 'Texas 7' escapee now has a date with death.

Patrick Murphy, who was convicted under the controversial law of parties after playing lookout during a deadly store robbery, is scheduled for execution March 28, according to Texas prison spokesman Jeremy Desel.

News of the grim date comes less than a week after the Lone Star State put to death Joseph Garcia, another member of the break-out crew.

After months of planning, on Dec. 13, 2000, the 7 men banded together to pull off the biggest prison escape in Texas history.

George Rivas, a charismatic thief already serving 17 life sentences, was the ringleader who plotted the break-out from the unit just 60 miles south of San Antonio.

Together, they overpowered a maintenance supervisor and tied up civilian workers as hostages. 2 of the gang dressed up as prison workers to sneak into the armory where they took down another employee and seized control of the guard tower.

Then, they loaded up with weapons and supplies and drove out the gate of the Connally Unit in a stolen prison truck.

After orchestrating 2 robberies in Houston, they headed up to the Dallas area.

There, on Christmas Eve, the men held up an Oshman's sporting goods store in Irving and made off with $70,000 and 44 guns. But before they left, they ran into a cop.

In a chaotic scene, 5 of the men started firing. When it was over, Officer Aubrey Hawkins lay dead in the Oshman's parking lot, shot 11 times and dragged 10 feet by an SUV as the panicked prisoners fled.

Rivas later admitted to shooting the officer. But Murphy was on the other side of the building as the lookout and, while he warned the others when Hawkins arrived, there was no indication he ever fired a shot.

After a 6-figure reward and a spot on "America's Most Wanted," the wanted men were finally captured in Colorado more than a month later, living in a trailer park and posing as Christian pilgrims.

1 of the escapees - Larry Harper - killed himself before police could get him. The rest were sent to death row, where 4 have since been executed.

Only Randy Halprin is still alive on death row with Murphy, who was serving a 50-year-sentence for aggravated sexual assault at the time of the break-out.

In the years since his conviction, Murphy has lobbed appeals raising claims of sub-par lawyering and challenging his conviction under the law of parties, which can hold non-shooters as responsible as the triggerman.

The Lone Star State has executed 12 men this year, and 1 more - Alvin Braziel - is scheduled to die Tuesday. Including Murphy's death date, there are 6 executions scheduled so far for 2019.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----39

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----557

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

40---------Dec. 11----------------Alvin Braziel, Jr.------558

41---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam------------559

42---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings---------560

43---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------561

44---------Apr. 11----------------Mark Robertson----------562

45---------Mar. 28----------------Patrick Murphy----------563

46---------May 2------------------Dexter Johnson----------564

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


TEXAS----impending execution

Texas to execute Alvin Braziel on Tuesday, making him the 2nd inmate to die in a week----Texas is scheduled to put Braziel to death on Tuesday, 25 years after he killed a man and raped his wife in Mesquite.

Lora and Douglas White were married for 10 days when the couple decided on Sept. 21, 1993 to take a walk around Eastfield College in Mesquite. It was the last thing the newlyweds would do together. The night tragically ended in a murder and rape that eventually landed Alvin Avon Braziel Jr. on death row.

Texas is scheduled to execute 43-year-old Braziel on Tuesday night, 25 years after he attempted to rob the young couple during their campus stroll. Instead, Braziel fatally shot 27-year-old Douglas and raped 23-year-old Lora at gunpoint in nearby bushes. Braziel, who was 18 at the time, eventually escaped into the night. The crime was unsolved until 2001.

By that time, Braziel was serving a 5-year sentence for a 1996 conviction of sexual assault against a 15-year-old. In February 2001, blood samples from Braziel were tested against samples taken from Lora’s rape kit from the night her husband was killed. The 2 samples were a match, and Lora also identified Braziel in a photo lineup.

Braziel was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death on July 26, 2001 in a Dallas district court. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision in October 2003 and again upheld the decision in 2009, when it denied Braziel’s application for a writ of habeas corpus.

With a week before the scheduled execution, Braziel’s attorneys filed for the state's highest criminal court to reconsider the original writ on Dec. 3, but then withdrew the suggestion the following day, according to General Counsel Sian Schilhab.

Braziel's lawyers declined to comment on the case, though they have challenged the district court’s decision in several filings throughout the years, arguing that Braziel’s original trial attorney compromised a fair sentencing by failing to present mitigating evidence of Braziel’s head injuries, exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero, a family history of mental illness and physical abuse, homelessness and struggles in school.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously decided Friday not to recommend a 120-day reprieve and commutation for Braziel. As of Monday evening, Braziel’s attorneys had not filed for a stay of execution.

Braziel is scheduled to be the 13th and final inmate put to death by Texas in 2018 - on the heels of Joseph Garcia’s execution last Tuesday - and the nation’s 24th. There are currently 5 executions scheduled for 2019 in Texas.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----39

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----557

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

40---------Dec. 11----------------Alvin Braziel, Jr.------558

41---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam------------559

42---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings---------560

43---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------561

44---------Apr. 11----------------Mark Robertson----------562

45---------May 2------------------Dexter Johnson----------563

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Prosecutors: No decision on death penalty in murder of 20-month-old

No decision has yet been made on whether to seek the death penalty against a man charged with capital murder in the death of a 20-month-old Rockdale girl, the Milam County and District Attorney’s Office said in a press release Monday.

Shawn Vincent Boniello, who’s also known as Shayla Angeline Boniello, is held in the Milam County Jail charged with capital murder in the death of Patricia Ann Rader, who died on the evening of Dec. 3 at her home in Rockdale.

“The investigation into this horrible tragedy is still on-going, and our office has yet to see a report or any of the evidence against the defendant,” prosecutors said in the press release.

“At the time of this press release, our office has received two probable cause affidavits, capital murder and endangering a child - nothing else. As such, no decision has been made on what punishment our office will seek at trial,” the press release said.

“Cost is not a determining factor for this office whether to proceed with a death penalty trial. Once our office has received the final reports and evidence from Rockdale Police Department, (District Attorney Bill Torrey) will review the complete case. After review, and only after the review, DA Torrey will meet with the family of Patrician Ann Rader, to discuss the case and what options we will have for the trial. Only after that meeting will our office know if we are seeking the death penalty for this heinous act,” the office said.

Officers, firefighters and paramedics responded to the girl’s home at around 5:45 p.m. Dec. 3 after receiving a report of an unresponsive child.

Paramedics performed CPR at the scene, but were unable to revive the girl.

Boniello was arrested that night and was initially charged with child abandonment/endangerment, but on Dec. 4 was also named in a complaint charging capital murder.

(soruce: KWTX news)


Bond revoked, death penalty possible in Hania Aguilar killing

The man accused of raping and killing Hania Aguilar made his 1st court appearance Monday in Robeson County District Court, with the judge revoking all bonds.

Michel Ray McLellan, 34, of Fairmont, is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree forcible rape and statutory rape of a person 15 or younger, 1st-degree sex offense and statutory sex offense with a person 15 or younger, 1st-degree kidnapping, larceny, restraint, abduction of a child and concealment of a death.

He could be facing a potential death sentence should the state pursue that penalty for allegedly murdering the 13-year-old child who was kidnapped Nov. 5 from her home at Rosewood Mobile Home Park.

“If I was the D.A.,” current Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt said, “I would seek the death penalty, yes."

Britt has only 2 weeks left as the district attorney. Matthew Scott, the district attorney-elect, will replace him.

Scott, during a news conference that followed McLelland’s Monday appearances in District and Superior Court on unrelated charges, said that determination on whether to pursue the death penalty had not been made.

Latest audio

McLelland’s next scheduled appearance in District Court is Dec. 21. The court will appoint an attorney to represent him. In the meantime, he is being held in Raleigh.

On Nov. 13, McLellan was arrested by Lumberton police on outstanding warrants for 2nd-degree kidnapping, attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of firearm by a felon, records show. Bail on those charges was set at $2.5 million.

On Wednesday, McLellan was charged with 1st-degree forcible rape, 1st-degree burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon from an incident that happened on Oct. 20, records show. No details were given. Bail on those charges was set at $5 million

(source: Fayettevill eObserver)


Accused killer of Rock Hill teen at Fort Mill Peach Stand set for court Tuesday

The accused killer of a Rock Hill teen clerk shot to death at a Fort Mill store in January is set to appear in court Tuesday, officials said.

The death of Karson Whitesell, 19, came at the hands of a man police said was a stranger who showed up at The Peach Stand Jan. 23 and killed her in a random act of brutality.

Christopher Benjamin Mendez, 29, of Lancaster, is charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. Mendez was hospitalized for a mental health problem before the killing and after arrest was tested by doctors, court records show.

However, no court documents have been filed stating that Mendez is not competent to stand trial or enter a plea in the case. No motive for the killing has been released.

York County prosecutors confirmed the 9:30 a.m. Tuesday hearing for Mendez at the Moss Justice Center in York, but declined to say what is expected to happen at the hearing.

“Mr. Mendez is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday morning on the murder and weapons charges he is facing,” said Willy Thompson, 16th Circuit Deputy Solicitor.

Police and prosecutors have said that the shooting was a “random act” by Mendez who did not know Whitesell.

But authorities have declined to give details about why authorities believe Mendez was at the store while armed, and why he chose Whitesell as the victim.

Mendez could potentially face a death penalty trial. If Mendez pleads guilty without a jury trial, the most punishment he could face is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Under South Carolina law, only a jury can sentence someone to death after the person is found guilty during a trial.

Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett and Thompson have not said whether the death penalty will be sought.

Mendez’ lawyer, 16th Circuit Senior Assistant Public Defender Phil Smith, has filed court documents confirming that Mendez had previous mental treatment, and asking that Mendez be tested for mental competency. He has previously declined to comment on the case.

Mendez shot Whitesell several times just inside the entrance to the store at the intersection of U.S. 21 and S.C. 160, Fort Mill Police Department officers said in arrest warrants.

Mendez killed Whitesell and then waited for officers to arrive, police said. Mendez was arrested on the scene and has been jailed without bond ever since.

Mendez was charged with assaulting a York County jailer after his arrest. Mendez screamed out “I will kill you!” while attacking the guard in September, police said.

Mendez worked for Goodwill in Lancaster before the shooting and lived with his mother.

Whitesell was a graduate of South Pointe High School who had spent time in Africa working as a missionary with children. After Whitesell was killed, her mother created a foundation in Karson’s name to assist in mission work and help law enforcement locally.

Hundreds of people showed up for vigils, church services and other events honoring Whitesell’s life after she was killed.

FLORIDA----impending execution

Catholic bishops call on Rick Scott to stop this week’s scheduled execution

The state of Florida is scheduled to execute Jose Antonio Jimenez by lethal injection Thursday at 6 p.m. for the 1992 murder of Phyllis Mina.

Jimenez was 29 years old when he was convicted of beating and stabbing 63-year-old Phyllis Minas after she caught him burglarizing her Miami-Dade apartment.

Governor Rick Scott originally signed a death warrant in July for Jimenez to be executed in August, but the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of execution on August 10. That came after Jimenez' attorneys said their client’s legal rights had been violated because of “newly discovered evidence” unearthed by the North Miami Police Department.

Jimenez’ attorneys also claimed that the state risked violating the Eight Amendment’s constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment by using the drug etomidate in the lethal-injection process.

But a majority of the Florida Supreme Court rejected both arguments in October.

Now, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling on Scott to commute Jimenez’s death sentence, and says instead that Florida should give him life imprisonment.

“Both victims of crime and offenders are children of God and members of the same human family,” writes Michael B. Sheedy, the executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We appreciate your difficult task as governor and still must ask you to commute this death sentence, and all death sentences, to life without the possibility of parole."

The governor is unlikely to be moved by the Bishops’ sentiments. Since taking office in 2011, Scott has overseen the execution of 27 death row inmates in Florida, the most of any Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

There are 354 people on Florida’s death row, the 2nd-largest total in the country, only behind California.

Catholic dioceses in 7 Florida cities will be holding vigils opposing Jimenez’ execution on Thursday.

(soure: Florida Phoenix)


Blood & truth: The lingering case of Tommy Zeigler

Dale Recinella steeled himself as he entered Florida’s death row and the rank smell of men who lived year-round with no air conditioning. The electronic door grinded as it closed behind him.

The Catholic chaplain’s Rockports squeaked on the concrete corridor as he walked from cell to cell, on that day in 1999.

Recinella had been a Wall Street finance lawyer before deciding the work wasn’t meaningful enough. He now served as a voluntary chaplain to hundreds on death row and another 1,500 in solitary confinement. It was the hardest thing he had ever done, but it had given him peace.

On the Row, angry men sometimes screamed at him, said he knew nothing about their worlds. Others barely looked up. Then there was William Thomas “Tommy” Zeigler.

Recinella felt at ease around Zeigler, who always came to the gate of his cell to talk. Zeigler called himself a “foot-washing Baptist.” He seemed gentle and cheerful. Unlike most, he always asked about Recinella’s life.

“What are you doing here?” Recinella asked Zeigler that day, about 6 months after he had started coming to death row. “You stick out like a sore thumb.”

Until that point, Zeigler hadn’t brought up his case, and Recinella hadn’t asked.

“You know I’m innocent, right?” Zeigler responded.

Recinella couldn’t imagine anyone on death row being innocent, not with as many appeals as they get to file. How was that even possible?

Zeigler said his case had been explored in a 1992 book, “Fatal Flaw: A True Story of Malice and Murder in a Small Southern Town.”

The following week, Recinella bought it and started reading. It was a complex case, made all the more complicated by the multitude of characters who found themselves in close proximity to Zeigler’s furniture store in the Central Florida citrus town of Winter Garden on Christmas Eve 1975. Four people had been murdered: Zeigler’s wife, his in-laws and a longtime customer.

Author Phillip Finch concluded that Zeigler could not have killed his family.

A few months later, Recinella visited the Midtown Manhattan law offices of Zeigler’s lawyers and spent several days looking through thousands of pages of documents stored floor to ceiling. The State Attorney’s Office had failed to turn over to defense lawyers some police reports and witness statements that supported Zeigler’s version of the story. Recinella observed a “purposefulness to the mistake, not by everyone but by some.”

As a chaplain, Recinella was forbidden from advocating for inmates. His job was to read them scripture and pray, listen and give communion. If they asked for him before they were to be executed, he went. He could lose his privileges at death row if he was too outspoken on someone’s behalf. But he couldn’t stop thinking about Zeigler. If the man was innocent, that meant he had lost everything — his wife and in-laws, his home and his business, his name and his freedom.

That would mean he, too, was a victim.

No Florida death row inmate has begged the courts for DNA testing more than Tommy Zeigler.

His lawyers have asked 6 times.

After his 2nd request in 2001, Zeigler obtained limited tests, which appeared to support his story that he was a victim of a robbery at his furniture store.

But he has been denied more advanced testing of the blood-stained clothes, fingernail scrapings and guns.

Zeigler, now 73, has been awaiting execution for 42 years. He was convicted with the help of blood evidence that was, at the time, more theory than science and has been unable to get forensic testing that’s now available in murder cases.

Florida has deprived 19 men from accessing modern science. Another nine, including Zeigler, were allowed DNA tests when the technology was in early development but were later prevented from conducting more tests or advanced analysis.

Their appeals for post-conviction DNA tests have been rejected 70 times, or almost three out of every 4 requests, according to a Tampa Bay Times review of more than 500 death row cases since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated in Florida.

8 of the men were executed without ever obtaining the tests.

Almost 70 % were convicted in the 1970s or ’80s, when DNA testing didn’t exist or was at its origins.

9 were convicted partially with “microscopic hair comparison,” a method employed by the FBI for decades that has been discredited. The evidence in 12 cases has been lost or destroyed.

3 of the men, including Zeigler, who were convicted in front of the same judge in Orange County, have spent more than 40 years on death row.

Many of the men requesting tests are likely guilty and hoping only to run the clock on their death sentences.

But the state Legislature wanted to eliminate the possibility that even one innocent man could be executed.

In 2001, it passed a statute to provide a way for inmates to obtain DNA testing in all cases. Almost 20 years later though, some prosecutors routinely fight DNA requests, especially in high-profile death row cases, and the courts often fail to intervene.

Court rules dictating procedure can supersede the state DNA law. And judges have wide discretion.

In most states, including Florida, judges often allow DNA analysis that can prove innocence, such as a test of a rape kit, where the perpetrator can be positively identified.

Judges aren’t as likely to allow for the testing if they aren’t convinced it will exonerate. And they rely on evidence from the original trial to reach that conclusion.

“There’s a failure by courts and prosecutors to understand that DNA testing is different,” said Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida. It can transform, he said, the meaning of the other evidence.

In some cases, judges are rejecting advancements like touch DNA, which can reveal whether someone participated in the crime.

Those who believe Zeigler guilty say there is too much other evidence that points to him as the killer. But his supporters have spent years poking holes in the case.

What’s clear is that a rookie detective, fresh out of a week-long blood-spatter school, decided Zeigler was guilty within hours. Police and prosecutors failed to turn over reports and witness statements that might have swayed Zeigler’s divided jury. The trial judge called a distraught juror’s doctor, who sent over Valium during deliberations — and sentenced Zeigler to death after the jury gave him life.

Questions have been raised about the primary witnesses who testified against Zeigler and about the 1970s interpretation of the evidence. His lawyers say he never would be convicted today with such a flimsy case.

Could he be innocent?

Scientists say there is a way to know, so that the state with the most exonerations in the country doesn’t execute the wrong man.

Florida refuses.

Robert Eagan flipped through a scrapbook one day last March, looking back at his storied career weeding out crime and corruption across Florida.

The former Orange County state attorney won most of his murder cases and indicted dozens of cops for bribery and extortion. He wore seersucker suits, and his patient personality drew comparisons to Atticus Finch.

“I was a very popular man with every governor,” the 92-year-old said, chuckling in the living room of his Maitland home.

But Zeigler’s case looms over Eagan’s legacy. At least seven retired police officers, a retired Orlando Sentinel editor and Bianca Jagger have raised questions about Zeigler’s guilt. More than 2,300 people have signed a petition to the governor for DNA tests of the evidence. Analyzing the blood, they argue, could raise more doubt about the prosecution’s theories, opening the door to a new trial. Or it would provide scientific certainty that Zeigler killed 4 people.

Zeigler’s lawyers have offered to pay for the DNA tests, and experts say modern technology is likely to produce results.

But Eagan is glad the courts have denied the requests.

“The fact that all this stuff is going on and on and on, you say to yourself, where does it end?” he said. “Finally, put an end to it.”

He feels that the victims’ families shouldn’t be dragged, again and again, through their loved ones’ deaths.

Zeigler’s execution, he said, is long overdue.

He remains convinced he got the right man.

No doubt in his mind.

Body chains clinked in the hallway before Tommy Zeigler appeared in a visiting room, a guard by his side. He looked skeletal, his pale, freckled skin stretched tight over a 6-foot-2 frame. Earlier this year, he caught the flu, and his weight dropped below 143 pounds.

His knees hurt with arthritis, but the visitor’s room felt good on a humid day in July compared with his 2nd-floor cell, where the only air came from vents and a 9-inch fan and temperatures can reach more than 100 degrees.

“It’s about 15 degrees cooler here than it is up there,” he said.

Gerald Ford was president and gas was 59 cents a gallon when Zeigler — then 30 — arrived in July 1976.

Only 1 of the 346 others has been here longer and only by 3 months.

The men on death row are a blur of society’s ills and humanity’s vices, of rape and cruelty and jealousy and poverty and mental illness. They murdered for money, for betrayal, for “intellectual pleasure,” for hire.

They are divided between Union Correctional Institution and Florida State Prison, adjacent facilities 9 miles outside Starke. Their numbers are shrinking because of challenges to the death penalty. About 60 % are white, 37 % are black. 58 have lived there 30 years or more.

Three times a week, they get 10-minute showers. Twice a week, they get several hours in the prison yard, and there is a weekly visit with family or friends. They are brought three meals a day, the first at 5 a.m., and eat with a spork.

Zeigler’s cell is in a row of 14. None of the men can see each other. If he wanted to talk to the guy a few cells down, he would go up to the cell bars and yell out to him. Everyone would quiet down and let them talk. Sometimes, the conversations go on for hours, with others chiming in. They talk about sports or politics or death. They are a noisy bunch, and the chatter echoes off the steel and concrete, along with the clanking of heavy gates, the whirring of metal doors.

Zeigler used to play chess with the man in the next cell, Ted Bundy. Since they couldn’t see each other, they called out moves. Bundy was executed almost 30 years ago, and Zeigler no longer plays.

“I got too old and too tired,” he said.

He used to make sweaters and scarves, until the guards, who call him “Ziggy,” took away his plastic knitting needles.

He used to run in his cell, back and forth, for hours, to get exercise. For him, it’s two paces each way. But he messed up his knees, so now he does 1,000 sit-ups on even days, and 500 pushups and 400 back-arm pushups on the odd days. It takes him about three hours. If he didn’t, he said, he would “go to seed.”

He takes Sundays off.

The rest of the time, he reads, writes letters, watches news, golf or football on his 13-inch TV and stares at the empty walls.

He has dodged death twice.

Gov. Bob Graham signed his 1st death warrant in 1982. Zeigler promised to quit smoking Kents if he avoided the second warrant, issued in 1986. He said he hasn’t smoked since.

94 men and 2 women have been executed in Florida since the death penalty’s revival. Zeigler has been around for each of them. He sat in the next cell over when John Spenkelink left for the electric chair in 1979.

Spenkelink had killed a fellow hitchhiker in Tallahassee 6 years earlier.

“It smelled like burnt bacon,” Zeigler said.

Zeigler has spent 24 years fighting to get all of the evidence against him tested for DNA.

“The courts,” he said, “don’t want to admit they made a mistake.”

He clings to hope.

“I was raised that if you tell the truth, the truth’s gonna find you out,” he said. “And I can’t believe that God has put me through this, and not gonna straighten it out. I can’t believe that.”

The evidence is stored in Orlando. It is preserved in paper bags, in a humidity-controlled vault, with answers to a crime that rattled a small town on Christmas Eve 1975.



Family of Lauren Burk hopeful death sentence will stay for convicted killer----Lockhart convicted of killing 18 year old Lauren Burk

A vicious murder of an Auburn University student more than 10 years ago is resurfacing today.

Lauren Burk was kidnapped in a dorm parking lot after a man pointed at gun at her. She was later killed by that man, Courtney Lockhart.

Attorneys for Lockhart say they want the death penalty lifted from their client.

While Lauren Burk’s parents are hoping a judge will not overturn Lockhart's sentence.

“Lauren doesn’t leave my mind any of the days since we’ve lost her. I miss her every minute of the day." said Jim Burk, Lauren’s father.

The father of once Auburn University student and Georgia native Lauren Burk. Lauren was kidnapped and murdered back on March 4th, 2008 by Courtney Lockhart.

A jury found Lockhart guilty of capital murder and sentenced the 23 year old Iraq war veteran to life in prison without parole.

However, at Lockhart’s sentencing Judge Jacob Walker used his judicial override to overturn the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Lockhart to the death penalty.

“It came as a surprise. He went through several appeals and I think he exhausted all of those appeals," Burk told News Leader 9's Parker Branton.

Burk says he then got word from the Attorney General’s office that Lockhart is using Rule 32 to claim his defense team was not adequate when the trial took place years ago.

Boston, Massachusetts based attorney Aaron Katz is representing Lockhart and said in a statement:

Lauren’s family is hoping justice is served and their beloved daughter will forever be remembered.

“It just doesn’t seem right that he’s still around and my daughter isn’t," said Burk.

The hearing will happen on December 17th. Attorney say it could last more than 1 day.

(source: WTVM news)


Jim McNew dies; he is remembered as a dedicated defense attorney

James McNew had a deep passion for both his clients and the law, colleagues closest to him say. The longtime Greenfield attorney died Friday at age 69 after a battle with cancer.

McNew joined the Greenfield law firm Allen Wellman McNew Harvey LLP in 1989 and became partner a few years later. He came from Lake County, where he had been a successful chief deputy prosecutor for most of the 1980s, said Kevin Harvey, partner with the firm. McNew focused mainly on criminal defense cases and represented clients in Hancock County’s Drug Court for several years.

“We’re deeply saddened by his passing,” Harvey said. “He meant a lot to us as an attorney and as a person.”

McNew came to Greenfield through his friendship with Dawn Wellman, the current managing partner for Allen Wellman McNew Harvey. Wellman had also practiced law in Lake County. The firm at the time needed to bolster its criminal defense practice, Harvey recalled.

In the mid-1980s, McNew prosecuted a defendant in the murder of 78-year-old Ruth Pelke in Lake County. Paula Cooper, the defendant, was sentenced to Death Row at the age of 16, the youngest person to receive the death penalty in the state. The case drew international attention — including from Pope John Paul II — and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in 1988, ruling it was unconstitutional to execute anyone younger than 16 at the time of the crime. Indiana later raised its death penalty age to 18.

In McNew’s nearly 30 years as an attorney in Hancock County, Harvey said he will best be remembered as a “strong mentor” for young criminal defense attorneys and his commitment to defending his clients well.

Earlier this year, the Hancock County Bar Association honored McNew with the James L. Brand Trial Advocate Award.

Hancock County Circuit Judge Scott Sirk said McNew was an “outstanding defense attorney.” Sirk said he tried a case against McNew many years ago — and lost.

“He ‘out-lawyered’ me,” Sirk said.

More recently, Sirk presided over drug court cases McNew worked in circuit court. McNew defended all drug court clients in the county for several years, Sirk said.

“He was a top-notch lawyer, and he cared about the law,” Sirk said. “That was his life’s work.”

Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton also worked closely with McNew on drug court cases and said it was apparent McNew had compassion for his clients and wanted them to achieve sobriety.

While Eaton and McNew served on opposite sides of the courtroom, as prosecutor and defense attorney, Eaton said he admired McNew’s dedication to the criminal justice system and drive for fairness in trials.

“His passion for that was always genuine and sincere and came through,” Eaton said.

More than 10 years ago, after Eaton left the prosecutor’s office for a period of time, he stopped by Starbucks for coffee. When he was about to pay, the employee at the drive-thru window told him another customer had paid for his drink. It was McNew.

“Obviously Jim, and I had tangled in court before and over different things at different times,” he said, “but that meant a lot to me.”

McNew worked “behind the scenes” as an attorney, Eaton said. He once volunteered as a “bad guy” during a police training exercise, Eaton said, and McNew would also serve as judge pro tem when a judge was absent. Eaton said McNew was a favorite substitute judge among county prosecutors.

“It’s a large loss not only for the legal profession, but the greater Hancock County community. I know we’ll miss him,” Eaton said. “He had his hand on the pulse of the justice system.”



Prosecutor likely to seek death penalty in 2004 slayings

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings expects to seek the death penalty sentence of Fredrick Baer, convicted in the 2004 slaying of a woman and her daughter near Lapel.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday decided not to hear the appeal filed by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill to reinstate the death penalty for Baer.

Earlier this year the death penalty sentence was overturned by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It will eventually come back to Madison County,” Cummings said of the Baer case. “We have to redo the penalty phase of the trial.

“I can’t think of any reason I won’t ask for the death penalty,” he said.

Cummings said he was not surprised by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the state's appeal.

“Four justices have to agree to hear a case,” he said. “There is only a small percentage of cases that get to be heard by the Supreme Court.”

After being convicted of murder, attempted rape and theft, Baer was sentenced to death. His convictions and sentence were twice affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court, and a federal district court denied Baer’s request for habeas corpus, Hill stated in a September press release.

Several years later, Hill said, a 3-judge panel from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Baer was entitled to habeas relief in the form of a new penalty phase of his trial – effectively sending the case back to Madison Circuit Court for a redo of sentencing.

In a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Hill’s office wrote the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals did not come close to making the showing that all “fairminded jurists” would agree that the jury instructions misled jurors into ignoring mitigating evidence would have resulted in a different conclusion.

The brief continued during the sentencing phase Baer called 1 witness a forensic psychologist who described Baer’s history of drug abuse.

The instructions twice informed the jurors they could consider any evidence in mitigation, including voluntary intoxication at the time the crimes were committed.


On the afternoon of Feb, 24, 2004, Baer was working at a construction site in Anderson. He said he was suffering withdrawal from methamphetamine. Anxiety hammered in his head. Sweat seeped from his skin despite the February chill.

He drove to Lapel and parked near two homes. He approached one house and knocked on the door. A woman answered but cautiously kept Baer from looking inside. He asked to use her phone.

“She brought me the phone, but I was trying to get in," he recalled. "So I dialed something and gave her the phone back."

Down the road, he spotted a woman moving boxes outside. It was Cory Clark, wife of John Clark and mother of Jenna and Morgan. Her husband was in Florida looking for a job, and her older daughter Morgan was at school.

When Cory Clark went to get the telephone, Baer followed her inside and murdered the mother and daughter.

He was eventually arrested on Feb. 27 after police were tipped off when residents near the Clark home told police a man had knocked on their doors, asking for directions to Layton Road.

Residents told police the man was driving a small gray-blue hatchback, which had a handicap tag in it. One of the residents noted the car's license plate number.

Police tracked the car to an Indianapolis construction worker who was working in Anderson. Workers at the construction site said the car belonged to Baer.

During a 2013 interview with The Herald Bulletin on death row, Baer said he thinks about the case every day and that he deserves to die.

(source: The Goshen News)


Inside the Supreme Court’s latest case on cruelty and the death penalty

For much of the hour, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh had been quietly shifting his weight in his seat, resting cheek against palm and looking down at the lawyers as they argued. Finally, he spoke, asking D. John Sauer, the state solicitor of Missouri, “Are you saying that even if the method creates gruesome and brutal pain you can still do it because there’s no alternative?"

The question sat there for a second. In the press area, located at the side of the courtroom gallery, twenty-some pairs of eyes ping-ponged between the justice and the solicitor. Mr. Sauer said, “Any petitioner who is claiming that it would create gruesome and brutal pain must...offer an alternative method that significantly reduces the pain."

“So,” repeated Justice Kavanaugh, “you’re saying that even if the method imposes gruesome, brutal pain, you can still go forward?"

“Well, I would say again that that petitioner has to, if they want to—"

“Is that a yes?"

“Yes, it is, your honor."

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito rocked to and fro in their high-backed chairs.

Bucklew v. Precythe, argued before the Supreme Court on Nov. 6, is about pain and cruelty. Russell E. Bucklew has been on death row since 1998, when a Missouri court convicted him of murder, kidnapping, burglary, forcible rape and armed criminal conduct. At issue 20 years later is whether an injection of pentobarbital, the chemical agent used to execute prisoners in the state of Missouri, would result in an unduly painful death for Mr. Bucklew, who suffers from a rare medical condition called cavernous hemangioma. He says the injection would cause him to choke on his own blood and has proposed an alternative, nitrogen hypoxia (a lethal gas).

Justice Kavanaugh: “You’re saying that even if the method imposes gruesome, brutal pain, you can still go forward?"

But Mr. Sauer argued there was no indication that nitrogen hypoxia would bring about a less painful death. And anyway, he said, “to eliminate the risk of pain completely is impossible."

This is one of the first death penalty cases to come before the Supreme Court since Anthony Kennedy retired, and since Pope Francis revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church in August to say that capital punishment is “inadmissible” under all circumstances. The case parallels a number of recent challenges to the death penalty, like Madison v. Alabama, argued in October before the Supreme Court, which asks if a man with dementia—who cannot remember the murder for which he was convicted—should be executed.

Bucklew v. Precythe is an “as applied” challenge (the decision, to be handed down by next June, will apply only to this “individual with a unique circumstance,” as Justice Sonia Sotomayor remarked), and it carries a strange poignancy. Mr. Bucklew is resigned to his fate, said his attorney, Robert Hochman. He just wants a say in how he goes out.

The cruel and unusual standard

In 1958, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment,” that it “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Other past justices, like Antonin Scalia, have vociferously disagreed. In their view, alterations to, or abolition of, the death penalty should depend “on persuading our fellow citizens and not 5 justices of the Supreme Court,” as Richard Garnett, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, wrote in America in 2015.

As it exists now, the death penalty is informed by decades of winding precedent and bound up with contested interpretations of “cruelty”—a slippery term. Since the 1780s, and particularly since the turn of the present century, “evolving standards” have eliminated capital punishment for juveniles, people with intellectual disabilities and crimes other than murder, even the rape of minors. In 2015, Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested in a dissenting opinion that capital punishment itself is unconstitutional.

Certain methods of execution have fallen out of favor. In the late 19th century, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the electric chair. Throughout the 20th century, a number of high-profile cases ended in electrocution, including those of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage) and Bruno Richard Hauptmann (convicted of kidnapping Charles Lindbergh Jr.). But several failed electrocutions turned public opinion against the method.

Throughout the 20th century, a number of high-profile cases ended in electrocution, including those of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Until this decade, lethal injection had been widely regarded within the justice system as a “humane” way to end a life, though some, like Deborah Denno, a professor of law at Fordham University in New York, have always been skeptical of that characterization.

“The 1st lethal-injection execution was in 1982, and that was botched,” says Ms. Denno, who adds, “we’re just looking at this with much more criticism and scrutiny than we did before.”

Ms. Denno says that problems with executions are simply better known these days. Not only do some executions fail, others take hours to carry out. Where these instances were once covered only by local newspapers, their details are now shared by millions online.

The search for a humane method

Back at the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer tried out some hypotheticals with Mr. Sauer.

“X has a rare medical condition that makes the method of execution to him feel exactly like being burned at the stake. O.K.? The Constitution would rule that out, wouldn’t it?”

“The Constitution would rule out burning at the stake,” said Mr. Sauer, “absolutely, Your Honor.”

“He has a medical condition of some kind. It makes it exactly the same…. It feels exactly the same."

“I would have to know more about the hypothetical."

“Well, that’s it. I’m making it up as I go along."

The courtroom thrummed with laughter.

“Of course, these hypotheticals about being burned at the stake aren’t really implemented in the real world,” Mr. Sauer said. “What’s implemented in the real world is a situation where capital petitioners have every incentive to engage in interminable litigation, interminable litigation, multiple challenges.”

To which Justice Sonia Sotomayor replied, “That may well be, but the reality is that there are alternatives. Many of them have not been implemented because people don’t want to see them: the firing squad, electrocution. There’s a whole lot of things that people don’t want to accept the reality of, but they’re there."

Justice Sotomayor: “There’s a whole lot of things that people don’t want to accept the reality of, but they’re there."

A shortage of lethal-injection drugs (many pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell drugs to correctional systems for use in executions), combined with those high-visibility execution failures, has prodded some states, and death row inmates themselves, to seek older methods. “We already have seen in Tennessee now that there have been two requests for electrocution from inmates,” says Ms. Denno. “An inmate was electrocuted just about a week ago, and another inmate has requested electrocution over lethal injection."

Also in Tennessee, there is a movement to bring back firing squads. Utah reintroduced death by firing squad in 2015, after an 11-year suspension. Justice Sotomayor has indicated that she believes it is a less painful alternative to lethal injection.

But like cruelty, pain is a slippery term, subject to interpretation and disagreement. In the plurality opinion for the 2008 case Baze v. Rees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote that “an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, [but that] does not establish the sort of ‘objectively intolerable risk of harm’ that qualifies as cruel and unusual."

He also wrote that “capital punishment is constitutional. It necessarily follows that there must be a means of carrying it out.” (He said much the same thing last month: “If the death penalty is constitutional, as it now is, there must be a way to administer it.”) He added that throughout its history, the court has rejected challenges to the constitutionality of methods of execution. “Our society has nonetheless steadily moved to more humane methods of carrying out capital punishment,” he wrote.

This year, public support for the death penalty crept back up to 54 %, according to the Pew Research Center, after hitting a 4-decade low of 49 % in 2016. In the mid-’90s, that number hovered near 80 %.

The public tends to be “pretty horrified by a botched execution,” says Ms. Denno. “Not everybody, of course—some people love them, and they think they’re a good deterrent and all that.”

Victims' families say the death penalty inhibits their healing.

As long as there is a death penalty, there will be public officials yearning to wield it. In March 1998, when Mr. Bucklew was on trial in Missouri, Morley Swingle, the Cape Girardeau County prosecutor, extolled the death penalty in his closing statement: “It’s the old idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And as you use your collective experience and knowledge and wisdom, you might think back to American history class in high school. And the Hatfields and McCoys from 1882, where a Hatfield killed a McCoy and McCoy killed a Hatfield and this went on...until finally the government stepped in and successfully prosecuted people and stopped it from happening.”

He said the government had a duty to seek justice for the victim’s family. “And that’s why retribution in this case calls for the death penalty for this premeditated, deliberated, cold-blooded killing.”

At the end of the hour on Nov. 6, Mr. Bucklew’s attorney emphasized again that he was familiar with the court’s prior rulings and knew that the death penalty was constitutional. “And so there has to be a way to carry it out. This claim about this individual person doesn’t call that into question at all.”

“Thank you, counsel,” said Chief Justice Roberts, indicating the end of the time allotted for argument. “The case is submitted.”



Could Half of Oklahoma End Up Under Native American Jurisdiction?

One night in August 1999, Patrick Dwayne Murphy, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN), stabbed and mutilated a fellow tribe member on a lonely stretch of road on the MCN reservation in Oklahoma, leaving him to die. Murphy was tried in a state court and sentenced to death in 2000.

Since then, he has filed a series of appeals on grounds that because he committed the crime on an Indian reservation and the victim was also Native American, the state had no right to try him; by law, the federal government has jurisdiction over murders committed by Native Americans on lands in “Indian Country”—that is, lands inside federally-recognized reservation borders, dependent Indian communities or lands historically allotted to tribe members which their heirs still hold.

Eventually, the case landed in a federal appeals court, where after a review of historic documents and legal precedent, judges in August 2017 overturned Murphy’s conviction.

This meant that Murphy was eligible for a new trial in federal court, with the tribal court sharing jurisdiction. And in federal court, he would likely escape execution: Federal law gives tribes authority to decide whether the death penalty should be imposed for crimes committed under their jurisdiction. MCN, as have all but one tribe in the U.S., rejected the death penalty.

Sticking point

But that wasn’t the end of the case. As it turns out, there is far more at stake than whether a Murphy lives or dies.

The MCN reservation spans nearly two million hectares and 11 Oklahoma counties with a combined population of about 950,000. Recognizing MCN’s criminal jurisdiction meant that all this land was legally “Indian Country.” And that, in turn, meant that MCN had civil and criminal jurisdiction over nearly half the state of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma has taken the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that MCN, established by an 1866 treaty, stopped existing in 1907 when Congress created the state.

“If not corrected, the decision ... could result in the largest abrogation of state sovereignty by a federal court in American history,” Oklahoma attorney general Mike Hunter warned in his petition to justices.

There is, however, a problem with Oklahoma’s argument: The law says only Congress has the power to diminish or disestablish reservations and it must do so in clear and “unequivocal” language. And as it turns out, as the federal court found, Congress never officially disestablished the MCN reservation.

Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide.

Economic, legal implications

In oral arguments before justices November 27, Oklahoma’s attorneys outlined “seismic” results if the federal ruling stands: Tribe members would be exempt from paying state taxes and could impose taxes on non-Native business owners, who also could be subject to MCN’s land-use and environmental laws.

Oklahoma also worries that hundreds of jailed Native Americans would have to be retried in federal courts, tying up the state’s legal system.

Oklahoma is one of the nation’s biggest oil and gas producers, and the industry is especially nervous about the case. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) filed a friend of the court briefing, explaining those concerns.

“The economic impact of transforming regulation in Oklahoma would be severe, especially in the oil and natural gas industry,” said OIPA vice president Cody Bannister in an emailed statement. “An oil or natural gas producer operating in what was previously open land would now be faced with a tribe’s claim that those wells lie in tribal lands and any rights the producer holds to the land or production of the oil and natural gas are invalid.”

Considering consequences

But Robert Miller, professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and a member of the Eastern Shawnee tribe in Oklahoma, says these concerns are overblown.

“The struggle between governments is over money and power, and power means jurisdiction,” he said. “Oklahoma can still control its non-Native citizens. It just doesn’t want to lose environmental control or civil and criminal jurisdiction over the Indians.”

During oral arguments, justices questioned the state’s attorneys about their concerns and what the ramifications of allowing the previous decision to stand.

“Yes, there will be turmoil,” said Miller. But he believes the Supreme Court should not consider real life consequences.

“The Court is supposed to decide the case based only on the law,” he said, citing the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision which ended racial segregation in public schools. That verdict set off waves of riots, violence and even murders in the U.S. South—and resistance that went on for years.

“Should the Supreme Court, then, knowing what would happen, not have rendered that ruling?” Miller asked.

But, as lawyers have noted, justices frequently do consider the effects of their judgements, especially in cases like this one, where existing laws are fuzzy.



Laci Peterson’s father, Dennis Rocha, died Sunday at age 72.----‘Now they will be together again.’

People far and wide who were captivated by her murder remember Rocha in an emotional state when his 27-year-old pregnant daughter went missing at Christmastime 2002, weeping and pleading for her safe return. The remains of mother and child washed ashore in San Francisco Bay nearly four months later, and her husband, Scott Peterson, was convicted of double murder in 2004.

“Laci loved her dad, and now they will be together again,” said her mother, Sharon Rocha, in an email Monday. She continues to go by that name even though they divorced four decades ago, when Laci was 2.

Her “other” father, Ron Grantski — Sharon Rocha’s longtime companion, who helped raise Laci — also died this year at age 71. Dennis Rocha remained on good terms with them and privately praised Grantski at his graveside service in April.

Dennis Robert Rocha had moved with his family when he was very young from Gilroy to Escalon, where he lived 70 years. He was a member of the US Marine Corps Reserves and operated a dairy for several decades before retiring, said his oldest child, Brent Rocha, in a telephone interview Monday. His father had a passion for team roping and calf roping and participated in annual Mule Days celebrations in Bishop back in the day, Brent said.

“He was a good dad and a hard worker,” his daughter, Amy Woodard, — Laci’s half-sister — said Monday.

Growing up, Brent and Laci lived with their mother and Grantski in Modesto and spent many weekends at their father’s ranch in Escalon.

Hard-core observers of the Peterson case may recall that Laci’s family was appalled when Scott traded in her 1996 forest green Land Rover as part of a purchase of a used pickup 6 weeks after she disappeared. Dennis Rocha bought it from Roberts Auto Sales on Modesto’s McHenry Avenue for $1 only days later. “(Scott) would keep the car if he knew she was coming home,” Mr. Rocha told The Modesto Bee at the time.

Mr. Rocha assumed a lower profile during Scott Peterson’s blockbuster trial, which was moved to Redwood City to escape pervasive publicity here. Always wearing cowboy boots, Mr. Rocha attended when he was able. He cried when graphic photos of his loved ones’ remains were displayed for jurors, and drew a warning from the judge when using salty language toward the defendant in the penalty phase, just before Scott Peterson received a death-penalty sentence.

“He was a very kind a loving-type person,” Brent Rocha said of his father. “He was always very affectionate and loving toward us.”

He is survived by his children, Brent and Amy, and six grandchildren between them, as well as a sister, Robin Rocha, and stepson Nathan Hazard.

(source: Modesto Bee)


Father gets death penalty for murder of boy, 14

A father of 3 has been given the death penalty after being convicted of killing a 14-year-old boy in a revenge attack in West New Britain 3 years ago.

In the the National Court in Kimbe, acting Judge Nicholas Miviri described the killing by Wesley Yanduo as “merciless and horrific”.

“West New Britain and Kimbe is riddled with killings as if there is no rule of law and sanctity of lives even though it is predominately a Christian province,” Miviri said.

“The court will not downplay nor will it pass this as an ordinary case. Rather, the act and circumstances are extreme and call for a stern deterrent and decisive sentence that is enough.

“It is a brutal killing committed in cold blood upon an innocent, defenceless 14-year-old boy. A very sharp knife was used and this is not the first time the veracity of this weapon was used against a helpless young boy.”

The court on Oct 18 had convicted Yanduo, from Kubalia, East Sepik, for the wilful murder of Naegel John Las at Galai Oil Palm settlement on Dec 6, 2015.

Yanduo first cut the victim on the wrist then continued cutting him on the head, causing him to bleed to death.

The court heard that Yanduo attacked Las in retaliation to the fatal assault of a youth by the name of Issac Vitalis, who was attacked by boys from Section 16.

Afterwards, a meeting was held for compensation to be paid to the relatives, but when the compensation was not paid, a fight started.

Las and others were escaping when he was ambushed by Yanduo, who was hiding in bushes.

“It would appear that he laid in ambush ready as they came,” Justice Miviri said. “He (Yanduo) tried correcting another criminal wrong with another authored by him. Two wrongs do not make a right.”

(source: The National)


President makes push to impliment death penalty on drug traffickers

President Maithripala Sirisena says necessary steps should be taken immediately to implement the death penalty against persons who continue to engage in drug trafficking even after they had been convicted and sentenced to death.

President Sirisena said that a failure by the relevant institutions to submit the required documents related to the convicts on death row still engaged in drug trafficking has resulted in a delay to implement the death penalty.

He said that an investigation will be launched in this regard in the near future.

He made these remarks during a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat, yesterday (10) on making the necessary changes to the laws to control of drug trafficking and minimize criminal activities.

Attorney General Jayantha Jayasooriya, Secretary for the President Udaya R. Senevirathne, Secretary of the Ministry of Defense Hemasiri Fernando, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, Commissioner General of Excise Department and secretaries of ministries were present at the meeting.



Failure to submit documents of death row inmates: Prez to launch probe

President Maithripala Sirisena today said an investigation will be launched to look into the failures of several institutions to submit relevant documents relating to those will be facing death penalty should be implemented.

He said this failure has delayed the decision to implement the death penalty. The President made these remarks during a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat today to discuss about instituting necessary changes to the laws to control drug trafficking and minimizing criminal activities.

He said necessary steps should be instantly taken to implement the decision to enforce death penalty against the convicts who are still engaged in drug trafficking in spite of being sentenced to death.

“No one should weaken the laws to suppress drug trafficking. It is important to enforce laws without having any loopholes that allow the smugglers to escape,” he said.

Attorney General Jayantha Jayasooriya, Secretary to the President Udaya R. Senevirathne, Secretary of the Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, Commissioner General of Excise Department and secretaries of ministries were present in this event.

(source: Daily Mirror)


Reason for the delay to execute capital punishment on drug racteteers revealed

President Maithripala Sirisena said that the execution of the death penalty on convicted drug racketeers, who operate the racket from prison cells, has been delayed due to the lackadaisical approach of the relevant institutions to provide the necessary documents in time.

Addressing a meeting held at his office, President Sirisena said that he expects to initiate an investigation soon to such delays.

The discussion was held with regard to introducing new laws to overcome narcotic rackets and related crimes.

Addressing the relevant officials, President Sirisena said that all institutions coming under the purview including the Excise Department should work in cooperation to prevent narcotic rackets in the country.



Those on Death Row are Most Vulnerable and Marginalised----The India Exclusion Report 2017-18 found that fair trial rights and guarantees are reduced to a nullity and seeks to breach the citadel of the collective silence.

Convicts on death row in India belong to groups marginalised along the axes of caste, religion, economic vulnerability and educational deprivation, and their fair trial rights, though a part of the Right to Life guaranteed by the Constitution, are invariably non-existent, a survey of 371 out of the 385 persons living under the death sentence and their families has revealed.

The right to fair trial – one of the most basic and statutory of constitutional guarantees, and the right against custodial torture and self-incrimination are routinely violated in death penalty cases, and the exclusion from the public good of fair trial rights takes place across different stages of the legal process in capital cases, and a complex set of institutional factors contribute to such exclusion.

These are the findings of the India Exclusion Report 2017-18 which was recently released by the Centre for Equity Studies, a research and advocacy organisation based in Delhi.

Rampant Torture

Over 80 % of the convicts admitted to having suffered custodial torture. Out of 22 who were convicted and sentenced to death for terror offences, 16 revealed they had been tortured under custody. Out of the 92 who said they had confessed in police custody (and these confessions were used to convict them despite the statutory prohibition under the Evidence Act), 72, i.e., 78.3 % admitted to making confessions due to torture.

The torture methods mirrored the torture in the notorious Guantanamo Bay - forcible anal penetration, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, tying one to a table while a venomous snake was left inside the room, electric shocks to private parts, severe beating, and the like.

False Pretexts, Abysmal Legal Representation

Many prisoners alleged malicious prosecution and false implication, Akira Begum (location not disclosed to protect privacy) said, "I left my sleeping son at home because the police called me to sign certain documents. I never got to go home after that.” Vatsal Singh narrated how he was called for questioning on an alleged bank robbery charge, and subsequently charged with murdering 6 members of a family.

Atmaram, a death row convict from Maharashtra, narrated his woeful plight. After he was arrested on a murder charge, his pregnant wife and his children were picked up (without any legally valid reason) and locked up in a police station for 4 days and weren't allowed to communicate with anyone. The experience turned out to be so traumatic that his wife underwent an abortion immediately after being released.

In other cases, prison officials and personnel demand sexual favours from the wives of those condemned to death, in order to grant them their right to a weekly mulaqat (visit).

Of the 191 prisoners who shared information regarding access to a lawyer at the time of interrogation, 185 (97 %) said they were not allowed to consult a lawyer. Of these 185, 82.6 % who spoke about their experience in custody said they had been subjected to torture.

As for the quality of legal representation, 132 (36.6 %) were represented by legal aid lawyers at the trial court, while 227 (70.6 %) had access to a private lawyer. At the Supreme Court stage, this dropped to 71.4 % and 29.9 % respectively, thus showing how tough it is to access quality legal representation. In the study, even though there were some positive opinions on lawyers, they were far outnumbered by narratives of the lawyers’ lack of interaction with prisoners and their families, repeated demands for exorbitant sums of money and dereliction of duties by defence lawyers.



Delhi HC to Hear Appeal of '84 Anti-Sikh Riots Convict Challenging His Death Sentence

The Delhi High Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a convict challenging the trial court judgement. Yashpal Singh was sentenced to death by the trial court.

Life imprisonment was handed out to Naresh Sherawat and the trial court had held that Yashpal Singh’s offence fell under the “rarest of rare” category warranting the death penalty.

The duo was convicted for killing Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh in Mahipalpur area of South Delhi on November 1, 1984, during the riots that had taken place after Indira Gandhi was assassinated at her residence by the 2 Sikh bodyguards a day before.

A mob of about 500 persons, led by the 2 convicts, had encircled the house of the victims and had killed them. It was just one of the may incidents in Delhi which saw around 3,000 people being killed in riots.

The Delhi Police had closed this case in 1994 for want of evidence.

Meanwhile, the state and police have also approached the high court for reference of his capital punishment. The high court has now fixed December 19 for hearing in both the cases.

There have been 2 verdicts in the anti-Sikh riots case in 10 days, including death penalty to a convict for the killing of two men.

The Delhi High Court upheld the conviction of 70 out of the 89 people, who were awarded 5-year jail term by a trial court, for rioting, burning houses and violation of curfew in Trilok Puri area here during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Of the remaining 19 persons, 16 had died during the pendency of their appeal against the trial court’s August 27, 1996 decision and the appeals of three others were dismissed after they absconded, the high court noted in its judgement.



15th death sentence this year in Madhya Pradesh: ‘He behaved like a beast’: Man gets death penalty for rape and murder of minor----The body of the victim had been found in a plastic bag abandoned in a dry well at Chargawan village under Sleemanabad Police Station in Katni district on June 6 this year.

In the last 11 months, various courts in the state have handed down 18 death sentences, probably the highest in the country.

A 22-year-old man was awarded death penalty Monday by a POCSO court in Katni for raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl on June 5, taking the number of cases in which rapists of minor girls have been given death sentences this year in Madhya Pradesh to 15.

The body of the victim had been found in a plastic bag abandoned in a dry well at Chargawan village under Sleemanabad Police Station in Katni district on June 6 this year.

District prosecution officer Dharmendra Taran told The Indian Express that the farm labourer had kidnapped the girl when she had gone out to buy tobacco for her father. The accused, who was arrested the next day, confessed that he had raped and murdered the girl as the victim’s father had scolded him for molesting another minor girl earlier.

Additional Sessions Judge of Katni, Madhuri Raj Lalji held that the crime met the rarest of rare criterion because the accused not only raped the girl, but also killed her in a barbaric manner. “He behaved like a beast,’’ the judge said while handing down the death sentence.

In the last 11 months, various courts in the state have handed down 18 death sentences, probably the highest in the country. In 15 of these cases, the victims were minor girls, who were either raped or raped and murdered.



Accused Gets Capital Punishment In Jhang

A court awarded death penalty to an accused involved in a murder case of Shorkot City police station.

As per prosecution, accused Waseem Iqbal had shot dead Abrar Hussain and injured another citizen in Janobi Shorkot over land dispute in 2001.

After observing evidences and witnesses, additional district and sessions judge Ghulam Mujtaba Baloch awarded capital punishment to Waseem Iqbal and ordered him to payfine of Rs 200,000.



Urgent Action


The death sentence of Hong Kong citizen Wu Zongxi is currently under review by the Supreme People’s Court. If approved, the authorities will sign an order to carry out his execution, placing him in imminent risk. Wu Zongxi’s family is gravely concerned about his physical and mental state, as they have not been allowed to meet him since he was detained more than 4 years ago.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Halt plans to carry out Wu Zongxi’s execution;

* Ensure that Wu Zongxi has regular, unrestricted access to family and lawyers of his choice, and is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment;

* Establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, in line with six UN General Assembly resolution adopted since 2007 and commute all existing death sentences.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 21 January, 2018:

Chief Justice Zhou Qiang

Supreme People’s Court

No. 27 Dong Jiao Min Xiang

Beijing Shi, 100745

People’s Republic of China


Salutation: Dear Chief Justice

Ambassador Cui Tiankai

Embassy of the People's Republic of China

3505 International Place NW

Washington DC 20008

Phone: 202 495 2266 | Fax: 202 495 2138 


Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)


Sentence of death against the Germans in Iraq: foreign office switches in the case of Levent Ö.

Levent Ö. 33-years old, a German citizen and should have worked according to the Iraqi authorities as a trainer for the terror militia “Islamic state” in the city of Rakka. The Foreign office is now seeking to have the case of those sentenced to death Ö.

The Federal government is in close contact with the Iraqi authorities. The MIRROR reported at the weekend, a criminal court in Baghdad to have the 33-year-old Levent Ö. in the past week due to active participation in hostilities sentenced to death.

Kurdish fighters had taken from Gladbeck ordinary man ends in November 2017, in the Iraqi-Syrian border area. He was then turned over to U.S. forces, the him in April of 2018 to the Iraqi justice transferred.

Already in 2014 than threat

Levent Ö. denied the allegations against him in the proceedings in Baghdad. The German Embassy in Baghdad had given to him for the procedure a lawyer. They observed the procedure and care of the Condemned consular.

The man was traveling in 2013 with his wife in the civil war area. Because of its radicalism, the police in Gelsenkirchen in 2014 ranked him as the Islamist threat. The Federal government has informed the Iraqi side that it is in any case against the death penalty.



Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for preacher Awdah – activists, family

Riyadh's public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against prominent Islamist preacher on terrorism-related charges, activists and his family said on Tuesday.

The 37 charges against the 61-year-old cleric in the Specialized Criminal Court include spreading discord and incitement against the ruler, according to London-based Saudi rights group ALQST and other activists.

Awdah's son, Abdullah, confirmed the court proceedings and said the accusations against his father included critical tweets and establishing an organisation in Kuwait for defending the Prophet Mohammad.

Amnesty International's Saudi Arabia campaigner Dana Ahmed called the reports “a disturbing trend in the Kingdom (that) sends a horrifying message that peaceful dissent and expression may be met with the death penalty.”

A government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy where public protests and political parties are banned, has witnessed a crackdown on dissent, with dozens of clerics, intellectuals and activists arrested in the past year, even as the authorities enacted some high-profile social and economic reforms.

A roundup of senior royals, ministers and businessmen last November on charges of corruption sent shockwaves through the kingdom, stunning allies and foreign investors. Most of those detainees were released after reaching undisclosed financial settlements with the government.

Awdah, whom U.N. experts have described as a “reformist” and an influential religious figure who has urged greater respect for human rights within Sharia, was arrested in Sept. 2017.

He had previously criticised the government but more recently kept silent or failed to publicly back Saudi policies, including a rift with Qatar over supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Al Saud family has always regarded Islamist groups as the biggest internal threat to its rule over a country in which appeals to religious sentiment cannot be lightly dismissed and an al Qaeda campaign a decade ago killed hundreds.

In the 1990s, the Brotherhood-inspired Sahwa (Awakening) movement demanded political reforms that would have weakened the ruling family. Awdah, a Sahwa leader, was imprisoned from 1994-99 for agitating for political change. Criticism of the ruling family earned him praise from, whom he eventually denounced.

The Sahwa movement was later undermined by a mixture of repression and co-optation. Some clerics, however, maintained large followings through YouTube sermons. Awdah has 14 million Twitter followers.

In 2011, he called for elections and separation of powers, principles antithetical to strict Islamist ideology. He has since been largely quiet on issues of domestic reform.

The authorities recommended the death penalty last month for five human rights activists from the kingdom‘s Eastern Province, including Israa al-Ghomgham, the 1st woman to possibly face that punishment for rights-related work.



Nobel Laureates Urge Khamenei To Release Swedish Scientist

More than 100 Nobel laureates have called upon Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to allow ailing Iranian Swedish dual national, Dr. Ahmadreza Jalali (Djalali) to "return home" to his wife and children.

Jalali, 46, a resident of Sweden since 2009, is a physician and researcher focused on crisis management affiliated with the Karolinska Institute near Stockholm. While on an official academic visit hosted by Tehran University, Jalali was accused of “collaboration with a hostile government” and arrested in April 2016. Since then, he has been kept behind bars at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

In their letter, 121 Nobel Laureates have addressed Khamenei asking him to ensure that Jalali receives the “best possible medical care,” is “treated humanely and fairly,” and to “allow Dr. Jalali to return home to his wife and children and continue his scholarly work for the benefit of mankind.”

Jalali was tried by a notorious Judge, Abolqassem Salavati in a Revolution Court and sentenced to death for “corruption on Earth” on October 21, 2017. Salavati is well-known for issuing harsh sentences, especially in political cases.

Jalali’s family and colleagues initially kept news of the arrest under wraps in an attempt to prevent the situation from escalating but spoke out following the death penalty verdict.

Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in December 2017.

A few days later, Iran’s state television broadcast what it described as the confessions of Jalali who it said had provided information to Israel to help assassinate several senior nuclear scientists.

However, his wife, Vida Mehran Nia told Radio Farda at the time that her husband had been forced by his interrogators to read the confession.

Amnesty International (AI) also emphasized that “Jalali has been under pressure to sign documents, admitting that he had collaborated with a 'hostile government.'"

When Jalali refused, he was threatened with being charged with waging a “war against God,” which is punishable by death in Iran, AI noted, adding, “There has been no evidence showing Jalai has ever had any activity outside the academic domain.”

Sweden also condemned the sentence and said it had brought the matter up at high-level meetings with Iranian representatives in Stockholm and Tehran.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), which has published a copy of the letter, reported on Monday, "The letter was featured by supporters of Djalali at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm on December 10."

"We now hear that Dr. Jalali's medical condition is declining rapidly and he is in a hospital and in desperate need of the best possible medical care. In light of the evidence of which we are aware, he deserves a fair trial, which should lead to his release," the Nobel Laureates have asserted in their new letter.

On behalf of the signatories to the letter, the winner of 1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Sir Richard Roberts, has addressed Khamenei, saying, "In November 2017, and again in February 2018 I wrote on behalf of a consortium of Nobel Laureates about the plight of a medical scholar, Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, who was arrested on an academic visit to Tehran in April 2016."

Furthermore, Dr. Roberts has noted, "We now have 121 Nobel Laureates supporting this cause, and we would urge you to attend to this case personally and make sure that Dr. Djalali is treated humanely and fairly and is released as soon as possible."

This is the 3rd letter signed by Nobel Laureates, calling for the unconditional release of Jalali.



Iran judiciary upholds another death sentence for economic corruption

Iran’s judiciary has sentenced dozens of individuals to prison for cases related to the fluctuation in the currency market earlier in the year.

A money changer holds US dollar banknotes as he counts other currency banknotes at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Oct. 14, 2017.

In an attempt to address economic issues and root out corruption, Iran’s judiciary has handed out another death sentence and dozens of long prison sentences for economic charges.

According to judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Hamid Bagheri Darmani. He was originally arrested in 2014 and charged with “corruption on earth,” which carries the death sentence. Bagheri Darmani was accused of embezzlement at a number of Iranian companies, including at Jey Oil Refining Company, Bank Melli Iran, Iran Insurance Company and Tourism Bank.

Bagheri Darmani’s arrest was long before the latest crackdown by the judiciary to stamp out corruption in the exchange market and other general economic corruption. However, the announcement by the judiciary and headlines in Iranian media suggest it is being packaged in a manner that it is part of the judiciary’s heavy-handed measures to demonstrate that there will be little leniency with economic charges.

In relation to the cases stemming from the exchange rate fluctuation earlier in the year, Mohseni-Ejei announced 30 convictions in Tehran and Shiraz for “disturbing the economic system.” The sentences ranged from one year to 10 years in prison, heavy fines, and confiscation of property and finances. In November, Iran hanged 2 men — 1 of them dubbed “Sultan of Coins” — after they were accused of manipulating the currency market. Their cases made international news.

Mohseni-Ejei said that in the last month there have been 36 new indictments related to the economic corruption cases that are being handled by special courts, and there are currently 7 branches of these special courts handling the economic corruption cases in Tehran, Bandar Abbas, Esfahan and Shiraz. He said the judiciary will pursue the economic corruption cases with “certainty and speed.”

While the judiciary continues to hand out heavy sentences in order to bring stability to the exchange markets and address other economic corruption issues, President Hassan Rouhani has been fighting a battle to bring about a bill that would bring some economic transparency to the country’s financial sector. During a Dec. 10 speech, Rouhani addressed the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) bills that some conservatives have opposed but administration officials claim are necessary to facilitate banking transactions with European countries. “Is it possible in today’s world to not work with international banks?” Rouhani rhetorically asked, adding, “Then some people come — and I don’t know where this idea comes from — but they provoke people and say that if such a contract or convention is signed or that if we work with this financial group then Islam will be lost."

Rouhani said, “How will Islam be lost? Only if you understood Islam.” He continued, “The costs must be told to the people that if we don’t do this, how much of the costs will come out of their pockets, and if we do it, then what conveniences have we provided for them."

Iranian parliamentarian Mohsen Koohkan denied the president’s comments that anyone had claimed the FATF bills endanger Islam. He accused the president of using the same harsh language to describe his opponents as he did when he was selling the nuclear deal to the public. “During that, there were a lot of attacks against opponents of the nuclear deal, but after the exit of the United States, he did not make even one small apology despite the fact that his opponents were right. And now he’s criticizing the FATF opponents with the same methods.”


DECEMBER 10. 2018:


Lethal injections are poison, not medicine

Texas’ preferred method for executing criminals is lethal injection with pentobarbital. The whole process has the look and feel of a medical procedure. There are protocols, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and people in white coats. But don’t be fooled: This is not the practice of medicine.

This facade of professionalism is no accident. It becomes easier to execute people when the public regards lethal injection as a serious and sober activity — subject to the same safety oversight as a procedure at a doctor’s office. This is little more than an illusion. Any attempt to cite medical or pharmaceutical regulatory oversight in any aspect of lethal injection, including drug manufacturing, is a forgery of the truth. No pharmaceutical has “lethal injection” as a Food and Drug Administration-labeled indication. There is no medically approved way to execute someone. The result is a market of questionable sources for chemicals involved in lethal injections.

According to a recent piece by Buzzfeed News, a Houston-based pharmacy called Greenpark Compounding may be the source of pentobarbital used in Texas lethal injection executions. The shocking story reveals that Greenpark Compounding has been the subject of a number of complaints as a result of improper drug manufacturing.

They’re not the only ones. Compounding pharmacies have been in the spotlight before for bad manufacturing, most notoriously in the case of New England Compounding Center, (NECC). In 2012, NECC manufactured an injectable steroid that was later shown to be contaminated. This compounded steroid was used widely to treat patients and, as a direct result, 64 people died.

In Texas, pentobarbital is intended to be used as poison, not as medicine. Asking whether it is being prepared properly is a question better answered by the evil queen in Snow White — she of poisoned apple fame — than an authority tasked with regulating pharmacies. Greenpark Compounding may have substandard practices with respect to some of its medical pharmaceuticals, but as a maker of poison for execution, its record of success is unblemished. Yes, the inmates all die.

However, in several lethal injection executions in Texas, inmates have also been heard to declare a feeling of burning as they succumb. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution unambiguously prohibits cruelty in the setting of punishment. Previous courts claimed there is such a thing as the normal pain of dying, and that lethal injection does not need to be 100 percent pain free to be a constitutionally valid form of punishment. That’s what the judges say. Doctors, however, have a different opinion.There is no such notion of the “normal pain” of dying in the medical field. Doctors seek to relieve all pain associated with death. Anything less than this is a treatment failure.

Pentobarbital is a drug known to be caustic. Texas injects a large quantity of this chemical into individuals to kill them. Whether it is properly assembled or improperly tainted, this chemical will likely burn upon injection.

This burning is not trivial. It occurs on the inside of the body as well as within the vein that first encounters the pentobarbital. Those watching an execution might think they’re seeing someone be killed by a chemical that induces sleep and leaves the body in pristine condition. Evidence under the skin tells a markedly different story. Autopsies of executed inmates show internal organ damage unseen by witnesses. This isn’t because pentobarbital was wrongly prepared. To the contrary, this is exactly how the chemical is supposed to work. Questions about Greenpark Pharmaceuticals’ manufacturing standards miss the point. To criticize them for failing regulatory marks is like critiquing a firing squad because its bullets weren’t properly polished.

Capital punishment is a kind of killing, whether by pharmacy or firing squad, and any attempt to obscure this simple fact sets the debate backwards. How we regard the rightness or wrongness of capital punishment requires us to own the fact of killing, no matter the method.

(source: Opinion; Joel Zivot, M.D., is an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at the Emory University School of Medicine----Houston Chronicle)


Jury to begin sentencing phase for James Fields Jr.

The same jury that convicted a man of 1st-degree murder for driving his car into counterprotesters at a 2017 white nationalist rally will now decide his punishment.

The jury in the trial of James Alex Fields Jr. will reconvene Monday to hear additional evidence and come up with a sentencing recommendation for Judge Richard Moore on murder and other charges.

Fields, who is from the Toledo area, was convicted Friday in the death of Heather Heyer during the "Unite the Right" rally organized to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Fields also injured dozens when he drove into a crowd of people who showed up to protest against the white nationalists.

Fields is also facing federal hate crime charges. If he is convicted in that case, he could face the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)


Lawmakers OK bill creating database of violent offenders

Ohio lawmakers have approved creation of a statewide database of violent offenders under legislation named for a college student who disappeared while bicycling and was found slain.

The bill named for Sierah Joughin and known as "Sierah's Law" was approved this week. It will take effect if it's signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich (.

The database of people convicted of violent crimes would be for law enforcement use. Offenders would have to register when they're released from prison.

The man convicted of kidnapping and aggravated murder in Joughin's 2016 death in Fulton county had been convicted decades earlier of abducting another woman riding a bicycle. James Worley has been sentenced to the death penalty in Joughin's slaying.

The bill passed the Senate Thursday by a 24-3 vote.

(source: Associated Press)


We don't need the death penalty

We don't need to kill people in order to get justice.

One solid piece of advice for anyone voyaging through the internet is to avoid the comments section of web posts. Occasionally you might find something witty, rarely you'll find something insightful.

For me, though, taking a look at the feedback to stories we post on our website or our social media accounts is part of the job. Admittedly, sometimes it does help identify questions or follow up stories for us to work on.

But the comments that typically drop below crime stories we write aren't the greatest.

The definition of "justice" on social media often looks more akin to a Deep South lynch mob than our modern day court system. That's not an exaggeration. One comment recently literally was, and I quote, "Hang him in the public square."

On a story about a man pleading guilty to a charge of murder, there was also a sentiment that "he got off easy!" Maybe it's just me, but doing 45-65 years in an Indiana prison isn't "getting off easy."

I mean, this week I am spending all day for 5 days in a Noble County courtroom for a jury trial in a murder case. There's going to be a lot of effort this week to litigate that case, meanwhile the other guy just straight up pleads to murder and that's not good enough? That's a murder conviction handed out on a platter!

There's a misguided idea that, "Well, if he admitted to killing someone they should just execute him right away!" But that's not how corporal punishment works in this state, or in this nation. The decision for the state to take someone's life away is a weighty, serious, very involved decision.

I've written about the death penalty in Indiana twice before in this column, once in November 2015 and again in December 2017. In both iterations, I raised the question why this state still wastes it time and resources on something so ineffective and wasteful.M

I spent several days of my life in 2014 covering a death penalty case when I worked in Franklin. At the time, Michael Dean Overstreet, convicted of criminal confinement, rape and murder of a 18-year-old Frankin girl, was undergoing Indiana's 1st-ever hearing on the matter of competency to be executed.

After spending 17 years on death row, the judge ultimately decided his paranoid schizophrenia was so debilitating it had broken the link between his understanding of his crime and the punishment he was sentenced to. Now, he remains in prison indefinitely.

According to the Indiana Public Defender Council, the average time an inmate spends on death row before execution is 16 years. But that's only the ones who were eventually executed. For every one person Indiana has executed since 1977, three more have had their death sentences overturned, commuted or otherwise derailed.

"Well Steve, if we just didn't waste so much time with appeals and finding excuses for them to get off, we could execute way more bad dudes much faster!"

I suppose we could. And I suppose we could just do away with due process, with courts, with the Constitution. We could have a legal system more like some oppressive dictatorship.

And then where is the line?

Death penalty for a drug deal gone bad where someone gets shot and killed? Death penalty for a domestic dispute turned deadly? Death penalty for parents who shake or hit a baby and it dies? Death penalty driving drunk and killing someone in a car accident? Death penalty for drug dealers who sell drugs that lead to an overdose death?

A timely reminder here as we're talking about killing more people via the legal system that death penalty cases are magnitudes more expensive than a regular trial.

Prosecuting (and later defending at appeal) a life without parole case is about 10 times more expensive than a normal trial. A death penalty trial is about 10 times more expensive than a life with parole case -- 100 times more expensive than a regular trial. That's been a consistent ratio over the years in studies conducted by Indiana's Legislative Services Agency.

In 2015, that cost was about $385,000 per death penalty case. That cost, by the way, is paid by the county that prosecutes it, aka, your tax dollars. (And yes, if you're wondering, incarcerating someone for life is always less expensive than pursuing the death penalty.)

And, lastly, I must challenge again this notion that pops up: "If we executed more people then maybe they'd think twice!"

No, they wouldn't.

If the thought of losing the rest of your life, spending 45-65 years in prison, isn't a deterrent to committing some heinous crime, why would the possibility of being executed stop them? If you're caught, you've basically surrendered your life anyway. In some cases, dying is probably less of a punishment than serving out a full prison term.

We, as a society, don't gain anything by seeking an eye for an eye. Executing a murderer doesn't bring the victim back. It doesn't stop future crimes.

It doesn't give us a justice that we can't get without it.

(source: Steve Garbacz is editor of The News Sun)


In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row----When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.

Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its 3rd execution in 4 months.

This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.

Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and Mr. Miller elected to die in Tennessee’s electric chair, which was built in 1916. (The state spruced it up in 1989.) Their choice says something very clear about Tennessee’s three-drug execution cocktail, as Justice Sonya Sotomayor noted in a dissenting opinion to the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Mr. Miller’s case: “Both so chose even though electrocution can be a dreadful way to die,” she wrote. “They did so against the backdrop of credible scientific evidence that lethal injection as currently practiced in Tennessee may well be even worse.” Electrocution might not be any more humane than death by lethal injection, in other words, but at least it offers a speedier hideous death.

Presumably this is the same thinking behind the position taken by 51 death-row prisoners in Alabama who want to die in an untested nitrogen gas chamber rather than by either the electric chair or lethal injection.

Nitrogen gas. That’s where we are in the whole ungodly machinery of capital punishment: Human beings are choosing to die by nitrogen gas.

Here in red-state America, the death penalty is supported by 73 % of white evangelical Christians and by even a solid majority of Catholics — 53 %, despite official church teaching to the contrary — according to a Pew Research Center survey released in June.

The three men Tennessee most recently executed were all convicted of especially brutal murders — in Mr. Irick’s case the rape and murder of a little girl left in his care; in Mr. Miller’s the murder of his girlfriend, a young woman with cognitive disabilities. Mr. Zagorksi murdered two men who were meeting him to buy a hundred pounds of marijuana with cash. Death-row inmates are not sympathetic figures.

Not that being a sympathetic figure gets you very far here in Execution Alley in any case. In 1998, Texas executed a woman who became a born-again Christian while in prison. In 2015, Georgia executed a woman who had earned a theology degree on death row.

It’s hard not to notice that all these inmates, sympathetic or not, were killed in the Bible Belt, in states where a sizable portion of the population believes they live — or at least believes they should live — in a Christian nation. Mr. Miller was the second inmate in the South to be executed last week, and 2 more — one in Texas and one in Florida — will die at state hands by Thursday. That’s a lot of killing for the thou-shalt-not-kill states and at a time of year that’s particularly ironic. What is Advent, after all, but a time of waiting for the birth of a baby who will grow up to be executed himself?

For many anti-abortion Christians, there’s no contradiction between taking a “pro-life” position against allowing a woman to choose whether to continue a pregnancy and taking a “tough on crime” position whose centerpiece is capital punishment. An unborn fetus, they argue, is innocent while a prisoner on death row is by definition guilty.

But for a true “pro-life” Christian, guilt or innocence really shouldn’t be the point. Cute and cuddly or brutish and unrepentant, human life is human life. It doesn’t matter whether you like the human life involved. If you truly believe that human life is sacred, right down to an invisible diploid cell, then you have no business letting the state put people to death in your name, even if those people have committed hideous crimes.

There are numerous pragmatic reasons to abolish the death penalty. It doesn’t deter crime. It doesn’t save the state money. It risks ending an innocent life. (The Death Penalty Information Center lists the names of 164 innocent people who have been exonerated after serving years on death row. The most recent, Clemente Javier Aguirre, was released from a Florida prison just last month.) It is applied in a haphazard and irrational manner that disproportionately targets people of color. It puts prison staff in the untenable position of executing a human being they know personally and often truly care for.

But the real problem with the death penalty can’t be summed up by setting pros and cons on different sides of a balance to see which carries more weight. The real problem of the death penalty is its human face.

A person on death row is a person. No matter how ungrieved he may be once he is gone, he is still a human being. And it is not our right to take his life any more than it was his right to take another’s.

(source: Opinion; Margaret Renkl, New York Times)


Doctors say Perez-Lopez remains unfit for trial in murder case by Ron Wood

A Springdale man charged with capital murder in connection with a 2013 stabbing is still not mentally fit for trial and, according to doctors at the Arkansas State Hospital, he may never be.

Juan Pablo Perez-Lopez, 32, is charged in Washington County Circuit Court in the death of Jesus Cecilio Villalobos, 48, in Springdale on Feb. 13, 2013. Villalobos was stabbed multiple times.

Involuntary commitment

A procedure whereby a person is confined in a mental institution either for determination of competency to stand trial or after acquittal by reason of insanity.

Perez-Lopez has pleaded not guilty.

Results of the latest fitness examination performed on Perez-Lopez concluded he continues to suffer from schizophrenia.

"At the time of the examination, Mr. Perez-Lopez lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings against him, as well as the capacity to effectively assist his attorney in his own defense, due to mental disease," according to Dr. Lacey Willett Matthews. "Given my opinion that Mr. Perez-Lopez is not fit to proceed, opinions regarding criminal responsibility are deferred."

Doctors said further efforts to restore Perez-Lopez to competency are not likely to result in significant improvement.

An assessment of how dangerous Perez-Lopez may be was also conducted. He was found to pose a moderate risk of violent behavior if released into the community or a less restrictive setting than the State Hospital.

"This rating is contingent upon his future compliance with treatment," Matthews concluded. "Although Mr. Perez-Lopez has a history of violent behavior and severe mental illness, he has not acted violently in approximately 1 year and his hallucinations and delusions have responded well to medication. As a result, it is possible that he could maintain stability in a supervised, structured treatment setting. However, if he is released into the community without continued treatment and supervision, his risk for future violence would increase."

Matt Durrett, Washington County prosecuting attorney, said the findings put the case "kind of in perpetual limbo."

"They've been renewing 180-day civil commitments since he's been not fit to proceed, so they'll just keep treating him," Durrett said.

Durrett said Thursday the criminal case against Perez-Lopez has been reset to December 2019 and he has been moved from the State Hospital to a lock-down facility for ongoing treatment. Perez-Lopez will remain in that facility unless he's eventually found to be restored to competency.

"As long as they're still affected with mental disease, they still pose a danger to the community," Durrett said.

The latest examination, at least the 5th, was done in late October. Perez-Lopez was committed to the State Hospital for treatment and restoration for more than 2 years.

Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay signed the original commitment order at the behest of Durrett. The order said Perez-Lopez is a danger to himself or others and should remain at the State Hospital as long as he remains unfit. Doctors periodically report to Lindsay on his condition.

Perez-Lopez's attorneys notified the judge 2 years ago they were having trouble working with him. An initial examination at the Arkansas State Hospital found Perez-Lopez fit for trial, but a second examination called his mental fitness into question, and he was again committed for treatment.

A report by Melissa Dannacher, a psychologist at the State Hospital, diagnosed Perez-Lopez with schizophrenia and antisocial disorder. Dannacher was hopeful at the time he could be restored to fitness with continued in-patient treatment and restoration services.

Motorists called Springdale police in February 2013 about 2 men fighting on Huntsville Avenue and said one of them had a knife and was riding away on a bicycle.

Police found Perez-Lopez on a bicycle with a knife and bloody hands, then found Villalobos in a parking lot with multiple stab wounds to his chest and his throat cut, according to a search warrant affidavit. Perez-Lopez told police he went to Walmart, stole a knife and returned to Latino Tires with the intention of stabbing Villalobos because he thought Villalobos was making fun of and taking advantage of him.

Perez-Lopez said he stabbed Villalobos, an auto mechanic, about 20 times at the business and in the street, according to the affidavit.

Capital murder, if convicted, is punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

(source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette)


‘The Innocent Man’: Inside the Two Gruesome Murders Haunting a Small Oklahoma Town----This new 6-part Netflix docuseries, based on the John Grisham book of the same name, re-examines two controversial murder cases in Ada, Oklahoma.

“If I wrote The Innocent Man as a novel, fiction, folks probably wouldn’t believe it,” says John Grisham at the outset of Netflix’s new six-part documentary series based on his bestselling 2006 non-fiction book. Those who’ve watched Making a Murderer, The Confession Tapes or any number of other recent true-crime offerings, however, will immediately recognize it as a familiar example of a criminal justice system gone awry—and, specifically, the difficulty of exposing false confessions and overturning unjust convictions.

Executive-produced by Grisham and directed by Clay Tweel (Gleason), and premiering on Dec. 14, The Innocent Man concerns Ada, Oklahoma, a rural enclave best known for pecans and 2 notorious murders that took place more than 30 years ago. The 1st of those involved Debra Sue Carter, a young woman who, on the night of Dec. 8, 1982, left her job at the Coachlight (a “boot-scootin’ bar”) and returned to her apartment, where she was brutally raped and killed, her body and furniture scrawled with misspelled messages. Then, on April 28, 1984, young Denice Haraway disappeared while working at McAnally’s gas station convenience store, the apparent victim—according to eyewitnesses—of an abduction.

In both cases, a pair of men was suspected of murdering the victims. Three of them were eventually sentenced to life in prison, with the fourth receiving the death penalty. But as The Innocent Man contends, none of them were guilty; rather, they were railroaded by law enforcement and the district attorney’s office, who cared more about providing the community with resolution (and, perhaps, with covering up their own misdeeds) than with unearthing the truth.

The Innocent Man tackles its intertwined tales with an occasionally ungainly hand, flip-flopping between its narratives—and their various points of focus, including the accused’s friends and family members—in a manner that leaves the proceedings feeling a bit jumbled. That fortunately doesn’t undercut its cogent contentions about Ada’s lead police investigator Dennis Smith, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s Gary Rogers, and D.A. Bill Peterson. Those men built their cases on the backs of dubious confessions, which were vital given that there was little physical evidence linking their would-be killers to the slain women. And alongside those admissions, they employed dubious scientific findings as well as testimony from a prison snitch who just happened to possess key information about both trials.

With regards to Carter, police took 5 years before truly targeting Ron Williamson—a once-promising baseball phenom with mental illness issues whose life had fallen apart after his athletic career flamed out—and his best friend Bill Fritz, who’d been on the skids since his wife was murdered in front of their young daughter. Primarily on the basis of testimony supplied by Carter’s school friend Glen Gore, who said he saw Williamson arguing with Carter at the Coachlight, and also a forensic report about a hair sample found at the crime scene, Williamson was sentenced to death, while Fritz just narrowly escaped that fate, instead getting life.

Not helping either man’s defense was a May 8, 1987, interrogation with Williamson (recorded five years after Carter’s death), during which he recounted a dream about killing Carter. That this account wasn’t real didn’t seem important to police or the D.A., who used it against him at trial. And they did so, to a large extent, because they knew it was a tactic that would sway a jury—because it already had, in the earlier case of Denice Haraway.


In September 1985, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot were given life sentences for the murder of Haraway—despite her body having not been found—thanks to matching confessions in which they claimed to have abducted, raped and stabbed her to death along with a 3rd accomplice. As it turned out, Ward’s damning statement (which was given 1st) was at least partly the byproduct of a dream he’d had in-between his 1st and 2nd interrogations. Moreover, as happened with Williamson and Fritz, D.A. Peterson—in lieu of physical evidence, which didn’t exist—used testimony from prison informant Terri Holland as part of his courtroom argument.

As grippingly recounted by The Innocent Man, subsequent revelations in both cases shined a suspicious spotlight on those who put these individuals behind bars. In 1999, twelve years after their conviction, Williamson and Fritz were exonerated by DNA evidence, which proved that Carter had in fact been killed by the prosecution’s star witness, Glen Gore. And even before that, on January 20, 1986, Haraway’s body was found—in a location different from where Ward and Fontenot had confessed to disposing it; in a blouse that didn’t match their descriptions of it; and with a single gunshot to the head, rather than stab wounds. Which raised the obvious questions: Had Ward and Fontenot’s (wholly erroneous) confessions been coerced by police? And if so, why?

Marrying new on-the-ground footage (with lawyers and journalists) to interrogation videos, dramatic recreations and archival interviews, photos and home movies, The Innocent Man thoroughly dissects its related cases as well as the ongoing attempts to appeal Ward and Fontenot’s convictions. In doing so, it reveals a systematic attempt to not only coerce false confessions, but to cover up potentially exculpatory evidence, to ignore other leads, and—according to a theory promoted by numerous speakers—to protect possible killers because they might have damaging info on law enforcement. Like Making a Murderer, it suggests that reliable witnesses are often the real culprits, and that vacating first-degree murder convictions is an uphill battle, especially in the absence of a clear alternative hypothesis about what took place.

Most of all, though, Tweel and Grisham’s series is another stinging censure of a legal machine compelled to find answers to mysterious crimes at all costs (regardless of whether those answers are accurate), and then to stand by those findings, no matter how thoroughly they’re debunked by new evidence and analysis. As Grisham himself puts it, “In small towns like Ada, the prosecutors and the police are under enormous pressure. Winning means justice. Winning means everything. And along the way, if the truth gets blurred, or forgotten, or twisted, or manipulated, that’s too bad... It’s all about winning.”



Man convicted for killing Modoc deputy

Jack Breiner, the man who killed Modoc Sheriff's Deputy Jack Hopkins in 2016 was convicted of several charges in court Thursday including 1st degree murder and 1st degree attempted murder.

Breiner was also found guilty on the special circumstances of shooting a peace officer, and shooting from a vehicle, killing someone.

He was also convicted of numerous weapons charges.

The sanity phase of Breiner's trial starts Wednesday to determine if he is sane enough to be convicted for the death penalty.

There is a gag order in place for this trial, meaning most of the details of the case are not being released to the public at this time.

(source: KRCR news)


Death penalty: Get public feedback first, urges Perkasa

Perkasa has urged the Pakatan Harapan government to obtain public feedback regarding its move to abolish the death penalty.

Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's administration should not rush to abolish the death penalty as this has caused concern among the rakyat.

"The government should actually be focusing on efforts to lessen the rakyat's cost of living as they promised.

"The government should not bow down to the voice of the minority and that is why we suggest they hold a referendum or a survey so that the community can voice their opinion about the abolition of the death penalty.

"Through the survey, anyone can campaign (to support or not) [...] the Bar Council can also campaign," Ibrahim told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

Home Minister Muhyidddin Yassin said on Oct 27 that the government was currently collecting feedback from various parties before finalising its decision on the abolition of the death penalty.

"We are getting feedback from all parties. The media has also done their research, some agreed, some don't. The final decision has yet to be made.

"This matter will be brought to the attorney-general to be examined and after that to the cabinet before being brought to the Parliament stage.

"So we do not have a final decision yet," Muhyiddin said.

The abolition of the death penalty is one of the promises in Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto.,P> Ibrahim said the suggestion to have a survey is aligned with democratic principles where the voice of the majority should be accepted.

He said efforts to abolish the death penalty in the name of "humanity" would be unfair towards the families of fatal crime victims.

He also believes that abolishing the death penalty would "encourage" people to commit crimes without worry.

"Currently there are 1,281 convicts waiting to face the death penalty. Every month, RM19.2 million is spent and in 30 years, it would be RM575 million.

"Imagine that RM500 million being used for the benefit of the rakyat," Ibrahim said.

On a separate issue, he also insisted he was not a racist as portrayed by certain parties.

To back his point, he said that his business partner was a Chinese and his driver an Indian.

"I am a good person. To know Ibrahim Ali is to fall in love with Ibrahim Ali," he argued.



Prisoner Hanged at Karaj Central Prison

A prisoner was hanged at Karaj Central Prison (Nedamatgah) on murder charges. He was denying the accusation during the whole trial process.

According to the IHR sources, Behzad Adib was hanged at Karaj Central Prison on the morning of December 4, 2018.

“Mr Adib had denied the accusations all the time during the trial. He and the supposed victim were injecting drugs together at the time of the incident. Adib told the court that his friend was died because of the drug overdose,” the source told IHR.

IHR had previously received a couple of reports reflecting the same story. In a similar case, there were 2 addict friends helping each other in injecting drugs, and one died of an overdose. In the end, the court sentenced the injector to death on the charge of murder.

There is a lack of a clear classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

The Iranian media outlets have not published news related to the aforementioned execution so far.


Prisoner Hanged at Qazvin Prison----An unnamed prisoner was hanged on the rape charges on the morning of December 9, 2018.

A prisoner was hanged at Qazvin Central Prison yesterday.

According to Iranian media outlets reports, an unnamed prisoner was hanged on the rape charges on the morning of December 9, 2018.

According to the Qazvin chief prosecutor, Mohammad Qasemi, there are 5 defendants in the case and the first defendant was sentenced to death for rape and robbery. “The rest of the defendants were sentenced to flogging and long-term prison terms,” Qasemi said.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Supreme Court upholds death verdict against Baqeri Darmani

Iranian Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje'i announced on Sunday that the Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentence against Hamid Baqeri-Darmani for bribery and fraud which was issued in a lower court.

In October, the Judiciary announced that Baqeri-Darmani and Vahid Mazloumin, a mogul known as the lord of gold coins in Iran, had been sentenced to death. Mazloumin was executed in November.

Speaking at a press conference, Mohseni Eje'i also said the special courts for economic crimes have handed down prison sentences to a number of individuals for disrupting the economy, ISNA reported.

(source: Tehran Times)


Presidency rejects Amnesty’s report on increasing executions in South Sudan

South Sudan’s presidency sternly denied a recent report by Amnesty International saying that Juba government executed seven people including a child in 2018.

In a report released on 7 December, the human rights group said alarmed by the increase of executions in South Sudan for the 1st time since the impendence in 2011.

"Amnesty International has established that at least 342 people are currently under the sentence of death in South Sudan, more than double the number recorded in 2011," further said the report.

In response, South Sudanese Presidential Spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny, rejected the report, saying no one had been executed in South Sudan since 2011 pointing that his country is a signatory to the Charters that prohibit the death penalty.

"I don’t know where Amnesty International got this information," Ateny said. "There is no execution because we have put a moratorium on the death penalty since 2013."

The presidential spokesperson further commented on the reported execution of a child saying that a child cannot be executed in South Sudan if the capital punishment was implemented in the county.

"The culture of South Sudan cannot accept it," he stressed.

The report said that South Sudan executed four people in 2017 including 2 who were children at the time of the crimes for which they were convicted.

Amnesty International, also, said it interviewed a 16-year-old boy, who is languishing on death row at Juba Central Prison, after being convicted of murder.

The human rights group, in addition, said concerned for the lives of 135 people on death row, who have this year been rounded up from other prisons across the country to" 2 prisons notorious for executions".

But the presidential media official minimized the move saying the transfer of prisoners is a normal administrative measure when a prison has reached its full capacity.

"It is a routine transfer because the prison-like Juba is full. It was meant for only 1,500 inmates, it now has more than 15,000. You cannot put them in packed prison like that and you cannot release those who have committed crimes," said Ateny.

(source: Sudan Tribune)

DECEMBER 9, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Dallas County man set for execution

A man linked to a 1993 murder through DNA evidence is scheduled to be the last inmate executed by the state of Texas in 2018.

Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit. He would be the 13th inmate put to death by the state this year.

Braziel has been incarcerated at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston since 2001 for the murder of 27-year-old Douglas White.

Court testimony states that, on Sept. 21, 1993, Douglas and his newlywed wife, Lora, were walking along a jogging trail at Eastfield College in Mesquite. While walking along the trail, a man, later identified as Braziel, stepped out from behind the bushes and pointed a gun at from behind the bushes and pointed a gun at them.

According to court records, the man demanded money from the young couple. Lori testified that she and her husband prayed during the robbery. “Where’s your God at now?” Braziel asked before shooting Douglas twice.

Braziel would then drag Lora behind some bushes and sexually assault her before running off. Douglas died from his injuries and Lora survived to report the incident to law enforcement.

The case went unsolved for years, until DNA evidence taken from the female victim linked Braziel to the crime. At the time Braziel was serving a five-year sentence in TDCJ custody for sexual assault of a child. During his trial, Braziel maintained that he did not kill Douglas.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Braziel’s last round of appeals in 2016. As of Saturday afternoon, there were no pending appeals in the Supreme Court.



Murder in the Mountains: Buchanan man executed after violent rape, attack on sister-in-law----Roger Coleman professed his innocence until his execution in 1992, and his case gathered national attention with showcases on talk shows and religious figures speaking out against his execution.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story is one of 38 featured in the newly released book, “Murder in the Mountains: High-profile cases in the Deep South counties of Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia,” by the editorial staffs of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and Register-Herald in Beckley.

Wanda Faye Thompson McCoy picked up the phone around 9:30 p.m. at her home in the remote Long Bottom area near Grundy, Virginia. She recognized the voice on the other end of the line.

Her husband, Bradley, was calling from his workplace at a coal company because, he would later say, his 19-year-old wife “was more or less afraid to stay by herself.”

It was the last time they would talk.

Approximately an hour later on that Tuesday, March 10, 1981, the young woman was brutally raped and murdered. Her assailant slashed a wound in her neck 4 inches deep, severing her jugular vein, according to court testimony. She was also stabbed twice in the chest.

Bradley McCoy left work around 11:05 and arrived home about 10 minutes later to find his wife in a pool of blood in their bedroom, he said at the subsequent murder trial.

Upon his discovery of the body, Bradley called his father Hezzie, who notified the authorities. A dispatcher at the sheriff’s department testified that she received the call at 11:21.

The victim’s body was “still warm,” said county medical examiner Dr. Thomas McDonald, when he arrived at the scene of the crime. He placed the approximate time of death at 10:30 p.m.

Forensic photos taken at the scene indicated Wanda’s body was dragged from the living room to the bedroom.

A state medical examiner, Dr. David Oxley, would testify that Wanda died from a “slash wound to the throat.” Word quickly spread that the teenager had nearly been decapitated.

The Wytheville office of Virginia State Police began the investigation, led by Trooper Jack Davidson. He announced that the following Monday night that Roger Keith Coleman, also of Grundy, had been arrested for the crime. A press report indicated that Bradley McCoy had given police Coleman’s name.

Coleman, 22, was married to the victim’s sister.

So began a sensational, emotionally charged public spectacle on the local, national and international level that continued even after Coleman’s execution by the state of Virginia on May 20, 1992.

• • •

One year and a week after the murder, the county courthouse in Grundy opened its doors for the first day of Coleman’s trial. Newsweek magazine would later report that signs were visible stating “Time for another hanging in Grundy,” and that townspeople lined up for seats in the gallery.

Circuit Court Judge Nick E. Persin sequestered the jury at a local motel, with good reason. There was plenty of talk going around.

Coleman’s past was known in the county. He had gotten into trouble as a teenager for making obscene phone calls, according to a story reported years later in The Washington Post Magazine.

In April 1977, shortly before his graduation from Grundy High School, Coleman knocked on the door at the home of Brenda Rife. The area was suffering from then-frequent flooding, causing the school to be closed, and phone lines were down. According to court records cited in an Associated Press story, Coleman asked for a glass of water, then drew a gun.

At gunpoint, he made Rife tie up her 6-year-old daughter, then threw Rife onto a bed. She refused his order to undress, and escaped when she realized that Coleman had left his gun outside the room.

Coleman was sentenced to 3 years in the state penitentiary for the attack. He served 20 months, according to the Post.

On a dark and cold Monday night in January 1981, two women working in the Buchanan County library had an unsettling encounter with a man who they would identify as Coleman.

According to a story first reported in the Bristol (Virginia) Herald-Courier, Patricia Hatfield said that the man walked through the front door with “this cold, dead look,” and masturbated on the desk. He ran off as she called police.

The other library worker, Jean Gilbert, was also an artist, the newspaper story related. She drew a picture of the stranger. A policeman suggested he could be Coleman, and a check of a high school yearbook resulted in a “spot on” identification. Gilbert is now deceased.

Local law enforcement did not pursue the 1981 complaint, Hatfield said. After Coleman was charged with McCoy’s death, Hatfield told the Herald-Courier that she thought, “If somebody had taken the library thing seriously, this might not have happened.”

Coleman pleaded innocent of the charges of rape and of murder in the commission of rape. The maximum sentence for murder in Virginia was death.

• • •

The prosecution in the McCoy murder trial began making its case on March 16, 1982, calling 21 witnesses to the stand that day.

A forensic expert from Roanoke, Virginia, Elmer Gist Jr., detailed that he had examined hair, saliva and blood samples from Coleman, and samples of hair and semen taken from the victim’s body, according to trial coverage in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Gist said that Coleman’s blood type was B, which he said is present in about 10 % of the population. Semen taken from the victim’s vagina indicated B type blood.

McCoy had type O blood - the same type found sprinkled on Coleman’s blue jeans, Gist said.

Blood was detected on a yellow-handled pocket knife surrendered by Coleman, but the amount was too limited to determine origin or identification, Gist reported.

During the four-day trial, the prosecution contended that earlier on the night of the murder, Coleman had gone to the residence of Sandra Stiltner, across Slate Creek from the McCoys’ home. They alleged that Stiltner’s husband met Coleman at the front door. Coleman reportedly asked for a tape he claimed he had left there a few days earlier. He then left.

Grundy attorney Tom Scott, aiding in the prosecution’s case, told the court, “Wanda Faye McCoy was not the intended victim. This man is a shrewd individual. He left his tape there … His plan had been foiled. … He could not kill and rape.”

According to the state’s timeline, Coleman then waded across Slate Creek to Wanda McCoy’s residence, believing correctly that her husband was away at work.

During his final statement, Prosecutor Mickey McGlothlin discounted a statement by Coleman which indicated blood found on his pants leg — which matched the victim’s blood type — may have come from a cat scratch. The prosecutor noted that Coleman said he was not sure where the blood came from, or how his pants legs got wet.

Scott said Coleman had failed to “account for his steps” from the speculated time of the killing to the time he arrived at his home.

Coleman, during testimony, maintained he was at a coal company bath house in Grundy when the slaying occurred.

Scott stated, “Mrs. McCoy was killed in a cold, calculated, inhumane manner.” As he held color photographs of her body before her jurors, he talked about the deep throat wound and the chest stabbings.

“That’s an animal that did that,” he said.

McGlothlin recommended a death sentence to the jury.

Eventually, it was the defense’s turn to present its final statement.

Coleman had sat most of the morning slumped back in a brown cushioned chair, according to the Daily Telegraph account of the trial. His hands remained clasped until one of his court-appointed attorneys, Stephen Arey, stood to address the court.

For the 1st time in his trip, Coleman momentarily shed tears.

Arey reviewed principal pieces of evidence that had been presented.

He said that foreign hair on Wanda’s body was “consistent” with that of the defendant, but that experts could not say if it was definitely that of Coleman.

There was blood on the woman’s leg that was the same blood type as Coleman, but he reminded the court that about “10 %” of all persons have Type B blood.

He noted that about 40 to 45 % of the population had Type O blood, the same as Wanda McCoy’s — the same type found on Coleman’s pants.

“These are not unique facts,” Arey emphasized. “These are percentages … .”

He then suggested that evidence at the scene may have been tampered with due to the numerous law enforcement officers who had been summoned to the murder scene. He questioned why the scene was not immediately secured.

“There were people parading in and out of there that night. Was the light on or off? Was the furniture overturned or not?” he asked.

“They must have been falling all over themselves in there.”

A discrepancy was pointed out, that one officer recalled that the victim’s hands were near her socks when he arrived at the home. All other witnesses said that the woman’s hand were raised above her head.

McGlothlin, responding to that comment, said, “The officer made a mistake.”

Judge Persin read the jurors their instructions — and ordered Buchanan County Sheriff Auburn Ratliff to check the jury room for “any foreign matter.”

The jury began deliberations about 6 p.m. on that Thursday night. They were dismissed at 8 p.m. for dinner, and returned at about 9:30 p.m. By approximately 10:45, they had reached a decision on both the rape and murder charges.


• • •

Consistent with Virginia state law, the jury returned to the courtroom the next morning to deliberate on the sentence for the murder conviction.

Before their verdict was ready, Persin said “threats had been received.” He cleared the courtroom of “some 150 spectators,” according to the Daily Telegraph coverage. Each spectator was searched before being allowed back in the room to hear the jury’s decision.

They recommended the death penalty. Persin set sentencing for the following month, nothing that state law required the filing of a report by the probation department before he could act.

On April 23, the sentencing hearing commenced. James Bevins, a probation and parole officer, delivered his pre-sentencing report. Under cross examination, he said he interviewed jailers and said their comments were “favorable. … They had no problems with Mr. Coleman.”

Defense attorney Terry Jordan pointed out that the report noted Coleman’s “intelligence and religious beliefs.” He said Coleman, who was still in the custody of the county sheriff’s department, attended all the religious services he could while in jail — and had taken a correspondence Bible course.

Appealing for mercy, Jordan said, “We submit that this man should live … .”

McGlothlin, in rebuttal, recalled the trial testimony that Wanda McCoy was at home, “minding her own business, (when) the defendant … raped her, brutally murdered her.”

He cited the 1977 attempted rape conviction.

“Fortunately, she got away,” the prosecutor said. “Wanda Faye Thompson McCoy did not get away.”

“He showed Wanda Faye Thompson McCoy absolutely no mercy. No mercy whatsoever,” McGlothlin said. “He must be banished from the community. I ask the court to sentence him to death.”

He called Coleman a “dangerous man,” and commented that many men turn to religion while in jail.

Persin asked Coleman if he had anything to say. He said he believed the murderer was still walking the streets.

“I still maintain my innocence,” he said. “But I will not ask for mercy.”

Whatever would happen to him “is the Lord’s will,” he said.

On the rape conviction, Persin sentenced Coleman to a life prison term. Then he addressed his decision on the murder charge.

He said it is very difficult to sit and judge one’s fellow man, but that it is sometimes “absolutely necessary if we’re going to live in an orderly society.”

As to the jury’s recommendation, he said, “Now the court is faced with that same awesome responsibility the jury had. … The court puts a great deal of emphasis in jury verdicts. To do otherwise would really frustrate the system under which we operate in this country.”

Calling the murder “a vicious crime,” he said, “I can’t disagree with the verdict of the jury. Therefore the judgment of the court … is that you be sentenced to death in the electric chair and the court will set the date of execution for July 12, 1982.”

The judge offered the opinion that whatever happened to him in the future, Coleman “must face a higher judge than this court and it is my hope and prayer that the higher judge will grant you mercy.”

Scott, one of the prosecution’s attorneys, told the Herald Courier later, “There are many thoughtful people on both sides of the issue of the death penalty — and all of them have valid points. But if ever there were a case for the death penalty, this was the case.”

It sounded final. It was anything but final.

• • •

10 years later, Roger Keith Coleman was still living on death row.

Death sentences trigger automatic appeals, taking months and years to play out, and Coleman’s case was no different.

As time unfolded, stories started to circulate claiming that another Buchanan County resident had raped and killed Wanda McCoy, and that he had attacked other women near Grundy.

In early 1992, one of those women told her story of an attack to a Roanoke television station, according to newspaper reports. She died the next day – from a prescription pill overdose, a police report concluded.

Coleman’s defense tried to introduce that line of stories as “new evidence” in their appeals.

Federal Judge Glen Williams told The Associated Press in May 1992, “The man implicated denied it, and his blood (type A) doesn’t match the evidence and Roger Coleman’s does.”

That crucial point was hammered home by Virginia Senior Assistant Attorney General Donald R. Curry, who presented the state’s case against Coleman’s petition.

“He (Coleman) is attempting to abuse and manipulate the system,” Curry said. “These claims are contrived.”

Tom Scott, the lawyer who helped prosecute Coleman in his original 1981 trial, reinforced Williams’ contention about the 1992 proceedings, stating that “the scientific evidence already in existence, including the DNA evidence, which Coleman himself commissioned, reinforces Coleman’s guilt and the fact that he acted alone ….”

Scott predicted, correctly, that the appeal “will clearly be rejected.”

After failing with state appeals, the next step was an appeal to the federal courts.

Coleman’s legal team missed the deadline to file that federal appeal – by 1 day. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that the missed deadline, as specified in law, actually did matter, and that the right to an appeal had been forfeited.

• • •

Along the way, Coleman’s case was transformed into a sort of national plebiscite on capital punishment in America. At the heart of this effort were 2 people who became the convicted man’s chief advocates – James C. McCloskey, executive director of Centurion Ministries, and Washington, D.C.-based attorney Kathy Behan.

Celebrities, big-city newspapers, magazines and national TV talk shows were recruited to allow Coleman to proclaim his innocence as the date approached for his appointment with the electric chair.

Former Bristol Herald-Courier reporter Kathy Still said earlier this year, “They thought they’d found the poster boy for wrongful conviction in a death-row case.”

The reputation of Grundy and its legal apparatus were trashed.

The initial trial was described as “a garden-variety capital case” in a 1992 Newsweek magazine article. It said the crime took place “in a small, sooted town of central Appalachia,” and it gave rise to “the kind of twisted tale that gives Southern Gothics a good name. Trouble is, this one’s not fiction … .”

The article described the process as “Investigation, trial, conviction, some mediocre lawyering, a few unsuccessful appeals – in America, the defendant gets a basic trial, not a perfect one.”

The article alleged falsely, “Coleman was convicted and sentenced to death, wholly on circumstantial evidence.”

Regarding the missed filing deadline for a federal appeal, the national news magazine quoted Behan as saying, “We’ve all heard of people who get off because of a technicality. … Roger is going to be executed because of one.”

Coleman had sought out McCloskey in 1988. His Centurion Ministries represented clients who they thought may have been wrongly convicted. McCloskey had a good record of identifying prosecutorial errors and of freeing innocent people.

In a 2006 article in the magazine Philadelphia, author Matthew Teague said that when McCloskey met Coleman, “he found the inmate to be wholly unlike the monster the locals described. He seemed thoughtful and articulate, soft-spoken and gentle.”

The meeting took 3 hours, the article said, even though McCloskey had already become familiar with the case by analyzing trial transcripts, legal motions, witness accounts and the like.

“McCloskey already knew all the details, but he wanted to test Coleman, to hear his voice, to know him as a man,” Teague wrote. McCloskey was quoted as saying that Coleman “looked me square in the eye. Earnest. Authentic. Forthright. Not charismatic, he could never snow you over with his charisma. But he was forthright.”

Eventually, Coleman made his case for his innocence on Larry King Live, the Today Show and the Phil Donahue Show, one of the top nationally-syndicated TV talk shows of the era.

The Washington Post Magazine story said, “Soft-spoken and thoughtful, Roger Coleman had presented his case calmly and articulately, with logical explanations and apparent sincerity.”

Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa spoke out against his execution, according to The Associated Press.

A massive last-ditch appeal was launched to have people write letters to Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, asking him to call off Coleman’s execution.

Roger Keith Coleman’s face was not the one that the people of Grundy would have wanted to represent their region on the cover of a national news magazine.

Yet the bespectacled visage of Coleman was the cover image of the May 18, 1992 edition of Time. The bold headline beneath his photo stated, “THIS MAN MIGHT BE INNOCENT. THIS MAN IS DUE TO DIE.”

Coleman died 2 days later in a prison electric chair.

His final words included, “An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven I hope Americans will recognize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized nations have. …”

Still, who witnessed the execution, said there were “around 100 TV cameras” outside the prison that day.

• • •

Even after the execution, the case did not go away. Death penalty opponents pushed for more DNA testing, using newly refined procedures, to find out once and for all if Coleman had been guilty or innocent.

Mark R. Warner, who had been sworn in as Virginia’s governor in 2002, ordered new testing of material that had been preserved since March 1981. It was said to be the second case nationally in which DNA evidence of an executed man was analyzed.

The results were announced in January 2006. The chance that Coleman was not the murderer was established at 1 in 19 million. Warner announced that the testing had conclusively proven that Coleman was guilty. The debate was over.

To his credit, McCloskey fully acknowledged he had wrongly backed Coleman.

“We now know that Roger’s proclamations of innocence, even as he sat strapped in the electric chair moments before his death, were false,” McCloskey said in a press statement dated Jan. 12, 2006. “Indeed, this is a bitter pill to swallow.”

“Even though the results are far different than I expected, and even though this particular truth feels like a kick in the stomach, I do not regret that this effort has at last brought finality to all who have had an interest in this matter,” he said.

“I trust that all those with the power and authority to do so throughout the nation will follow in Governor Warner’s footsteps – to have the courage and vision to preserve all the biological evidence and allow post conviction and even post execution DNA and other forensic testing to go forward so that the absolute truth may be known to all.


FLORIDA----impending execution

Florida Gives Jose Jimenez Execution Date of December 13, 2018

The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to halt the execution of Florida inmate Jose Jimenez. The Supreme Court did not issue a reason for refusing to hear the case. Jose has 2 appeals pending before the Florida Supreme Court, including one filed Saturday.

Jose Antonio Jimenez is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm EST, on Thursday, December 13, 2018, at the Florida State Prison near Raiford, Florida. 55-year-old Jose is sentenced to death for the murder of 63-year-old Phyllis Minas in Miami, Florida on October 2,1992. Jose has spent the last 25 years on death row in Florida.

Prior to being arrest fro murder, Jose worked as a painter

On October 2, 1992, Jose Jimenez entered the home of Phyllis Minas, located in a north Miami apartment complex. Jimenez was also a resident of the apartment complex. Once Jimenez was inside, he beat and stabbed Phyllis. A neighbor heard her screaming “Oh God, Oh my God!” during the attack and attempted to enter the apartment through the open front door. As they were entering, Jimenez slammed the door shut and locked it. The neighbor called the police.

Jimenez exited the apartment by going out onto a balcony, where he jumped to a neighboring balcony before jumping to the ground. A custodian witnessed a man, whom he later identified as Jimenez, drop to the ground from the balcony. Jimenez changed his clothes and cleaned himself up before re-entering the complex and asking someone to use their phone to call a cab.

When rescue workers arrived at Phyllis’ apartment, she was still alive. She died a short time later. Jimenez was arrested on October 5, 1992, at his parents home in Miami. His fingerprints had been found inside Phyllis’ apartment. He was tried, convicted, and then sentenced to death in December 1994. The jury’s decision was unanimous.

Following his death sentence, Jose was also charged and convicted of 2nd-degree murder of Marie Debas, robbery with a deadly weapon, and burglary with assault for a crime that occurred on October 19, 1990. For that crime he was sentenced to a total of 49 years in prison.

Jose was scheduled to be executed earlier this year, however, it was stayed by the Florida Supreme Court just days before the execution. Jose’s case was stayed after his attorney requested more time to review over 1,000 new pages of police documents from the initial police investigation, that was given to him for the 1st time just 2 weeks before the scheduled execution. Jose’s lawyer further said, that 2 weeks was not enough time to throughly examine all the documents, as it appeared some handwritten notes by the detectives contradicted their trial testimony.

Please pray for peace for the family of Phyllis Minas and Marie Debas. Please pray for strength for the family of Jose Jimenez. Please pray that if Jose is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Jose may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



Man convicted of killing Auburn student from Marietta appeals death sentence

A man sentenced to death row for the kidnapping and killing of an Auburn University student from Marietta in 2008 has filed an appeal for a new trial, Channel 2 Action News reported Friday.

Courtney Lockhart, a U.S. Army veteran from Smith Station, Ala., was convicted in 2011 for the murder of Lauren Burk, who was 18 years old and a college freshman.

Lockhart was found guilty of forcing her to undress before shooting her in the back when she tried to jump out of her moving car March 4, 2008. She was found a few miles from Auburn’s campus and died later that night at East Alabama Medical Center.

Burk’s Honda Civic was found burning shortly afterward at the Hinton Field parking lot near a dormitory on campus. Lockhart was arrested 3 days later in Phenix City, Ala.

According to a letter from the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, Lockhart is now filing for a new trial, claiming his defense attorney, Jeremy Armstrong, gave such an inadequate defense that he deserves another chance, Channel 2 reported.

Jim Burk, Lauren’s father, told the news station he’s furious that Lockhart is trying to appeal and get out of his death sentence.

“Oh, it’s made me sad and nervous and upset and confused altogether,” Burk said. “My goal is to make sure he gets nothing that he wants.”

In 2011, Lockhart was sentenced to life without parole by a Lee County, Ala., jury, but the judge decided to overrule the jury and sentenced Lockhart to death.

“And for him to be able to sit in that cell every day and think about his life ending one day like my daughter’s did, it gives me some sort of comfort,” Burk told Channel 2.

Lauren Burk graduated from Walton High School in 2007 and was a member of Delta Gamma sorority at Auburn.

Lockhart’s hearing will be Dec. 17 in Alabama.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Perlis DAP breaks ranks, wants Putrajaya to retain death penalty

The federal government, of which the DAP is part of, may be planning to abolish the death penalty.

However, the party is facing objections from within, with Perlis DAP today approving a motion against the abolition of capital punishment.

The motion was approved unanimously at the Perlis DAP convention, according to Kwong Wah Yit Poh.

Perlis DAP chief Teh Seng Chuan said the abolition of death penalty would be unfair to the families of murder victims.

"We are the 1st state within the party to object to the abolition of the death penalty.

"Even though the abolition of the death penalty came from the federal government but we will object to any policy that we feel is unsuitable," he was quoted as saying.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Liew Vui Keong, who is in charge of law, had said Putrajaya had plans for the total abolition of the death penalty.

However, there had been some public pushbacks. Human rights groups have urged the government to stay the course.



CJI Dipak Misra spotlights the law on death penalty

A series of Supreme Court decisions after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi took over as top judge has seen the Supreme Court veer away the death penalty and point out lapses in the way justice is administered in death penalty cases.

For one, Chief Justice Gogoi has been heard repeatedly admonishing frivolous Public Interest Litigation (PIL) litigants for wasting the time of the court. The CJI has expressed annoyance at how his court is straddled with such PILs when judges ought to hear the under-100 pending death penalty references.

Uncertain prisoners

“Every morning, these people wake up wondering when the court will hear them,” the Chief Justice said, expressing the uncertainty of prisoners in death row. The CJI said such cases are the priority for the court.

Recently, the apex court put an end to its own practice of dismissing death penalty appeals in limine, without even assigning a reason for the decision. Death row convicts deserve an explanation as to why the highest court of the land had concluded that they deserved to hang for their crime.

“Special leave petitions filed in cases where the death sentence is awarded by the courts below should not be dismissed without giving reasons, at least qua death sentence,” a three-judge Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, Ashok Bhushan and Indira Banerjee observed in a recent judgment.

Reasons for remission not beyond judicial review: experts

The Bench’s decision came in a review petition filed by Babasheb Maruti Kamble, who was condemned to the gallows for murder.

? Kamble had filed a review against the apex court’s earlier dismissal of his appeal against death with a 2-line order which merely said: “Delay condoned. Dismissed.” The apex court also laid down that in death penalty cases, the court was obliged to independently examine the case, “unbound by the findings of the trial court and the High Court."


"Such an approach is the time-honoured practice of this court,” the Supreme Court has observed.

Justice Kurian Joseph, in his last solo opinion before retirement as Supreme Court judge, questioned the way courts decide that a person cannot be reformed and thus sentenced to death.

“His good conduct in prison or the fact that he has engaged in studies inside the prison walls is not considered a mitigating factor against death penalty,” Justice Kurian told The Hindu.

(source: The Hindu)

DECEMBER 8, 2018:


I'm a police chief who has fought for justice all my life, and I support the death penalty

This column will probably come as no surprise to you, but I support the death penalty. I know as a subscriber to The Dallas Morning News, this sentiment is not shared by the editorial board. Over the years I have read the arguments posed against the death penalty and consider the recent execution of Joseph Garcia an appropriate time to provide a different perspective.

I serve as a chief of police, and I have worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years. Some of that time was spent as a detective investigating homicides. So before you write me off as some right-wing, blood-thirsty vigilante, let me explain. As a police professional, I firmly believe in the rule of law. I stand for justice.

I have fought my entire career to ensure the innocent were protected and that those who would do evil against society were held accountable. And I did so the right way, never taking short cuts or bending the truth. Upholding the law and everything it stands for is how I approach this calling. I also believe the overwhelming majority of men and women serving in law enforcement today feel and act in the same vein.

That is why I find it so troubling every time I read or hear of a new case of a person wrongfully convicted due to mishandled, inept, corrupt or misguided investigations and prosecutions.

Recently my support of the death penalty has been tested as stories of police corruption, prosecutorial misconduct and judicial ineptitude have come to light. I have found myself asking the question there is no answer for: Why? Why would a police officer lie to secure a warrant? Why would a prosecutor purposely hide evidence? Why would a judge or jurors ignore their responsibility to act fairly? These questions have any number of possible answers, none of which justify or fully explain the why.

So should we as a society do away with the death penalty because there are a few among us who cannot be trusted to act justly? I could very easily adopt that view but for two very significant dates. March 20, 2000, and Dec. 24, 2000, will forever prevent me from supporting the abolition of the death penalty.

That date in March was when Robert Wayne Harris walked into the Mi-T-Fine Car Wash in Irving and systematically executed 5 of the 6 employees because of some warped sense of injustice about his termination. Harris had previously been convicted of burglary, he was sentenced to 8 years, and he served the entire 8 years (which rarely happens in our prison system). Harris was also the primary suspect in the disappearance of Sandra Scott, whom he later confessed to murdering before leading me to her remains. Harris was the epitome of evil.

Christmas Eve was forever changed because of Garcia, who was recently executed, George Rivas, Donald Newberry, Michael Rodriguez, Randy Halprin, Patrick Murphy Jr. and Larry Harper. They became known as the Texas 7, seven escaped convicts from the Connally Unit in Kenedy, each serving between 30 years to life in prison for crimes including capital murder, murder, sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and injury to a child.

Society was supposedly protected from their violence; after all they were secured away in a maximum security prison. Yet each of these violent convicts took an active role in an escape that caused injuries to prison personnel and rained terror on a number of businesses in the Houston area as they committed aggravated robberies before making their way to North Texas.

They ended up in Irving on Christmas Eve and committed another violent robbery. Officer Aubrey Hawkins was just finishing Christmas Eve dinner with his family at a local restaurant when he was called to investigate what was reported as a suspicious circumstance at an Oshman's Sporting Goods store. When he arrived, he was met with a hail of gunfire before even getting out of his squad car. He was murdered that night because 7 convicted felons had escaped from prison and would do anything and everything to avoid being captured and sent back.

The idea of convicting or executing an innocent person is abhorrent, so it is critical that the criminal justice system works the way it is intended. That means the men and women sworn to uphold the rule of law — police officers, prosecutors and judges — must be held to the highest standards and held accountable when they fall short. I know the system can work. It did in the cases described above, or at least it has so far, and I know it has in many others across the state.

The death penalty must remain a possible outcome for those who would commit the most unspeakable evil against our society. If it is not, how do we protect our communities from those like Robert Wayne Harris or George Rivas and his brotherhood of evil? There is no guarantee that confinement in a maximum security prison will.

(source: Commentary; Jeff Spivey is the Irving chief of police. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News)


Death Penalty Rejected Again for Killer of Pioneering Dallas Civil Rights Attorney

For the 2nd time in 8 years, Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals has reversed the death sentence of a man who was convicted for the brutal killing of pioneering Dallas civil rights attorney Fred Finch, because a jury was not properly instructed about the defendant’s intellectual disability.

Kenneth Wayne Thomas was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 1987 for the slayings of both Fred Finch, one of the first African-American graduates of Harvard Law School, and his wife, Mildred Finch, a college math instructor, in their modest home in South Dallas.

Fred was a World War II veteran who served as a Tuskegee Airman before graduating from Harvard Law in 1954. He later returned home to Dallas, where he became a civil rights attorney who helped desegregate the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Woman’s University. His wife was a beloved professor at Dallas’ El Centro College.

According to the decision, Thomas stabbed 64-year-old Mildred more than 80 times and 66-year-old Fred more than 20 times. Thomas, known on the street by the name “Clean” for his well-dressed appearance, stole Fred’s clothes and watch and later told family members that he had “killed them folks on TV,” referring to news reports about the murders, adding “dead folks can’t talk,” according to the decision.

Thomas was later charged with and convicted in 1987 of the murders. In 2010, the CCA affirmed the convictions but voided Thomas’ death sentence because the 1987 jury was not allowed to consider whether Thomas’ low intelligence, brain damage and mental illness warranted the imposition of a life sentence rather than a death sentence.

In 2014, a trial court held a 2nd punishment hearing for Thomas and again sentenced him to death.

Thomas again appealed his death sentence to the CCA, arguing that the evidence standards used during his 2014 trial for deciding whether a person has an intellectual disability had since been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

And in a 5-4 decision released this week, the CCA agreed with Thomas’ argument and granted him a third punishment hearing that could decide whether he receives a life sentence or a third death sentence.

“Based upon our review of the record, we hold that, because the jury was not presented with the proper diagnostic framework regarding Thomas’s claim of intellectual disability, then as a matter of due process, Thomas is entitled to a new punishment hearing,” wrote Judge Bert Richardson in the majority decision. “We vacate Thomas’s death sentence, and remand this cause for a new punishment proceeding."

CCA Presiding Judge Sharon Keller dissented to the majority decision, noting that Thomas’ claim of intellectual disability was not preserved for appeal and because the majority did not conduct a harm analysis.

“The court should either have conducted a harm analysis or explained how this particular claim was immune from a harm analysis,” Keller wrote in her dissent. “Because the court has done neither of these things, even if I believed that Appellant’s claim was preserved, I would not be able to join the Court’s opinion."

Kimberlee Leach, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, said the decision on whether to seek a 3rd death penalty punishment hearing for Thomas will be left up to incoming DA John Creuzot. Creuzot, a Democrat, defeated Republican Dallas DA Faith Johnson in the November 2018 general election and will take office in January.

John Tatum, a Richardson attorney who represents Thomas, did not return a call for comment.

(source: Texas Lawyer)


Heather Heyer's Father Doesn't Want Her Killer To Get The Death Penalty----"He was too stupid and too young to realize what he was about to do would change his whole life," Mark Heyer told BuzzFeed News about the white supremacist who killed his daughter.

The white supremacist convicted Friday of 1st-degree murder for killing anti-racist protester Heather Heyer at 2017's Unite the Right rally won't face the death penalty until his federal trial next year. And Heyer's father is more than OK with that.

“I don’t relish the thought of him getting the death penalty. That’s my belief,” Mark Heyer told BuzzFeed News by phone in Florida before the verdict was reached. “I’d rather him get his heart straight and get life [in prison].

James Alex Fields Jr. was found guilty of 1st-degree murder and other charges Friday for ramming his car into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather Heyer and injuring scores of other counterprotesters at the white nationalist rally. The death penalty isn't on the table for the state's case when his sentencing hearing starts on Monday. However, he will face the possibility of a death sentence next year if he's convicted at his next trial on federal hate crime charges.

During Fields’ trial, defense attorneys did not dispute that he was the one who drove the Dodge Challenger into the crowd, but they argued he did so because he was in fear for his life. However, prosecutors used video and phone records, as well as earlier social media posts, to prove what they said was a calculated effort to inflict harm on the counterprotesters.

Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, did not comment Friday after the verdict, but in an earlier email to BuzzFeed News she said the decision on whether to pursue the death penalty will ultimately be made by officials, not the family. That said, Fields’ death "would not bring Heather back," she wrote.

Bro has taken up her daughter's activism in the ensuing year, appearing at notable events like the 2017 Video Music Awards to implore viewers to "make Heather's death count" in the fight against racism.

Whatever happens, Mark Heyer said he forgives Fields because he has to do "what the Lord taught" him.

"He was too stupid and too young to realize what he was about to do would change his whole life. I think about his mother and what she’s having to go through," he said.

Mark Heyer knows Fields will get some form of punishment, saying he is "still going to have to pay the price," but ameliorating the hate he sees as his motivation for the 2017 attack is more important to him than retribution.

“What happened to make him hate that much?” he said. “You don’t just wake up in the morning like that. He had hatred building up in him for years.”

(source: BuzzFeed News)


How much is 30 years of a man’s life worth?----'He left this world as a free man': After 30 years in prison, Edward Elmore dies at 59

After 3 decades behind bars, Edward Lee Elmore was granted 6 years of freedom before his death.

He spent 11,000 days in jail for a murder he and his attorneys maintained across decades he did not commit.

On Monday, Elmore died. He was 59.

According to a relative, he woke up that morning in his Columbia home, poured himself a cup of coffee and went out to his front porch to enjoy it. As he sat there, his heart stopped beating.

On Jan. 16, 1982, Greenwood’s Dorothy Edwards, 75, was found dead after she was raped, beaten and stabbed. Edwards’ neighbor, former Greenwood County Councilman Jimmy Holloway, reported finding her body in a bedroom closet at her home.

Elmore, who was then 23, was a handyman who had performed work at Edwards’ residence. Holloway identified Elmore as a suspect for police. Within 48 hours, police arrested Elmore after finding a thumbprint matching his on the frame of Edwards’ back door, a number of his pubic hairs at the scene and blood on the clothes he had been wearing that day which matched Edwards’ blood type.

What followed was a legal back and forth that would keep Elmore behind bars for the majority of his life. He was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to death, but the conviction was overturned. A second conviction was followed by another death sentence, leaving him on death row until 2010, when his death sentence was vacated.

A life sentence later that year came with the possibility of parole, but a U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling overturned his conviction and leave an opening for his legal team to get him out of jail.

Throughout these convoluted legal battles, however, Elmore kept his patience and radiated a ceaseless optimism that one day he would have his freedom back, said Christopher Jensen, co-counsel on Elmore’s legal team.

“I first met Eddie in the early 1990s, and he was not what I expected,” Jensen said.

The gentle, smiling man he met had been convicted of murder at the time, but Jensen said from the moment he met Elmore he knew he wasn’t a killer.

“He was a sweet, gentle man living in conditions that were really quite difficult, but he had this optimism that everything would turn out for the better,” Jensen said. “He always remained cheerful and positive.”

The woman who championed Elmore’s innocence and led the fight for his freedom is Columbia-based attorney Diana Holt. She became involved with the case in the early 1990s when she reviewed the case as part of an internship at the South Carolina Death Penalty Resource Center.

Holt raised questions about evidence used against Elmore, testimony that went unchallenged in court and the willingness of Elmore’s initial defense attorneys to accept information the state provided. She, Jensen and others worked tirelessly to earn Elmore his freedom — though when he was released in 2012 he was not cleared of the charges.

Elmore agreed to an Alford plea, acknowledging that if a jury were to believe the facts of a case as the state presented them, he’d likely be found guilty. Edwards’ daughter, Carolyn Lee, agreed to a plea deal, hoping that a resolution to the case would finally give her peace and closure.

“When he walked out of that courtroom, his status was not innocent or not guilty, it was guilty under Alford,” said W. Townes Jones.

Jones prosecuted Elmore during the 1986 sentencing phase trial, and his father, the late William T. Jones, served as 8th Circuit Solicitor and prosecuted Elmore during the initial trial. If Elmore and his attorneys wanted exoneration, Jones said they should have taken the case to trial and tried to prove his innocence.

“Based on the evidence that was brought to the solicitor’s office, I always thought that it would be sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Jones said. “I would certainly hope and pray that the time that he served for the crime he pleaded to went a long way toward rehabilitating him."

Following the plea deal, 8th Circuit Judge Frank Addy sentenced Edwards on March 2, 2012 to 30 years in prison, with credit for his 30 years served.

“We had a stipulation in the plea that if we agreed to it we could walk him out through the front doors of the courthouse,” Jensen said. “It was really the greatest day of my life as a lawyer. I can’t tell you there’s been anything in my career as a lawyer that was as satisfying."

Holt was unavailable to speak following the news of Elmore’s death, but gave Jensen a comment to share.

“I’m relieved that Eddie is no longer suffering and that he left the world as a free man,” she said.

Jensen said he kept in touch with Elmore in the years following his release. Though Elmore frequently struggled with his health, his spirits stayed as high as ever, Jensen said.

“He was always the same guy, inside of jail and outside of jail,” Jensen said. “I feel like I’m a better person just having known him — his life and his story."



Woman accused of starving stepdaughter to represent herself in death-penalty trial

A Gwinnett County woman accused of starving her stepdaugher to death said she would rather rely upon divine guidance than the guiding hand of legal counsel. Tiffany Moss is now on track to represent herself at her upcoming death-penalty trial.

On Thursday, the Georgia Supreme Court declined to hear a pretrial appeal that sought to overturn a judge’s decision to allow her to serve as her own lawyer. She was accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter Emani Moss to death in 2013. The girl weighed only 32 pounds when her body was found, authorities said.

Moss’s trial, which had been scheduled for this past July, was postponed when Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson allowed 2 lawyers from the state’s public defender system to appeal his decision allowing Moss to represent herself. The judge will now have to reset her trial date.

Criminal defendants have a right to counsel if they cannot afford to pay for legal representation. They also have the right to represent themselves, although it’s extremely rare for this to happen in a death-penalty case.

During a pretrial hearing, Hutchinson found Moss competent to stand trial. But before granting her request to be her own lawyer, Hutchinson implored her to accept legal representation. At one point, Hutchinson told Moss he had retained a lawyer to represent his daughter when she got a traffic ticket a few years ago.

That was a trivial matter compared to what Moss faces now, he said.

“They are seeking to have you executed, and I can’t be more blunt than to say they are trying to have you killed,” the judge said. “That’s just as serious as it can possibly get and I think it’s best that you have an attorney.”

As a precaution, Hutchinson appointed capital defenders Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert to serve as standby counsel and represent Moss if she changes her mind. On Friday, Gardner and Gilbert, who had filed the pretrial appeal on Moss’s behalf, expressed disappointment that the high court had declined to hear the case.

“We are extremely concerned about her ability to navigate through this death-penalty trial,” Gilbert said. “At this point, we’re still standby counsel but have gotten no word from her that she wants our assistance. It appears she is willing to rely on God to provide guidance to her. That’s it. And it appears she’s unable to conduct any preparation for trial."

District Attorney Danny Porter had agreed the state Supreme Court should at least consider the pretrial appeal. Hutchinson, he added, has done as much as he can to warn Moss about the perils of self-representation in a case where the stakes are so high.

“I’m much more comfortable now with the idea we’ve gone out of our way to make sure she understands what she’s doing and the risks that come with it,” he said. “We’ll now go forward with her representing herself."

At a previous court hearing, Moss acknowledged she had not been reviewing the evidence against her or putting together a list of witnesses who would testify on her behalf. Instead, she said, she was getting ready “in a more spiritual way than, you know, a physical way."

Despite Hutchinson’s attempts to persuade her to get a lawyer, Moss has held firm.

“I’m confident in my decision and I’m standing by it,” she told the judge.

Reluctantly, Hutchinson acceded to her wishes. But he also allowed the state Supreme Court to scrutinize his decision before the trial.

The state Supreme Court was unanimous in deciding not to hear the appeal and the justices said they had thoroughly reviewed the case record.

Prosecutors are expected to tell jurors that after Emani Moss starved to death, Tiffany Moss, her stepmother, burned the body and put it in a dumpster outside the apartment where they lived.

Prosecutors had also sought the death penalty against Emani’s father, Eman Moss. But he pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Tiffany Moss in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Florida should provide DNA testing for all death row inmates. But don't use Tommy Zeigler as the poster child for why.

19 men on Florida’s death row have been asking for DNA testing in their cases for years, and Florida courts have said no.

What can the judges be thinking?

Journalists at the Tampa Bay Times pointed out this injustice in an excellent series last week that was illustrated by the persistent case of Tommy Zeigler, a Winter Garden furniture store owner who has been on death row for 42 years.

Zeigler, now 73, has asked 6 times for DNA testing and been refused five of them, the Times reported. More than 15 years ago, Zeigler was allowed to do limited testing of small squares of the clothes he was wearing when 4 people — his wife, her parents and a longtime customer — were shot and killed in the store on Christmas Eve 1975.

None of the squares contained blood from anyone but Zeigler, damaging the police narrative that Zeigler bludgeoned his father-in-law 16 times with a heavy metal crank from a roll-up door while holding him in a headlock. That, of course, would have been rather a messy process. So DNA testing at least threw into question the police version and bolstered Zeigler’s story that he was innocent and longtime customer Charlie Mays, one of the dead, did the shooting.

Regardless of Zeigler, Florida ought to be DNA-testing every case in which new evidence could shed any light on the truth. A law passed by the Legislature declaring that suspects have the right to DNA testing unfortunately also gave judges wide latitude over whether to approve it, which is how Zeigler got turned down so many times.

Judges get to decide in death cases whether the DNA would make a difference in the outcome of the case. If they think not, they can turn down the request. Good grief. Who cares? That’s just unnecessary drama if the goal is truth rather than conviction. Prosecutors should stop opposing such tests. They end up looking like all they’re trying to do is cover their own fannies in a weak case.

The arguments against DNA testing are lame — the blood samples may have deteriorated, the DNA wouldn’t clinch innocence or guilt anyway and samples that are years old weren’t properly preserved because DNA testing wasn’t available at the time. That’s all specious. If an accredited lab can’t property do the test, it will say so.

Even if a convicted killer wants the test just to delay being put to death, give it to him. It’s a few hundred bucks, and 6 weeks. Move on.

Florida must do everything possible in the way of forensic science because of its shoddy record of sentencing innocent people to death. Some 28 men have been exonerated through Nov. 5, the most in any state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Does that make you proud?

Zeigler’s case, however, isn’t the best example on which to base an argument for DNA testing. It’s a convoluted mess of twisted forensics along with contradictory evidence and testimony. DNA probably won’t make any difference in the outcome. Consider that a bullet stopped a clock at 7:24 p.m. at the furniture store, but Zeigler, who was shot in the stomach sometime before police arrived, didn’t call for help until 9:18 p.m.

Meanwhile, there are tales black guys who were supposed to be picking up a TV instead being taken into the woods to fire guns, of witnesses coming and going, of bullet fragments and the bloody fingertip of a rubber surgical glove. That’s not to mention the rumor of a three-legged dog that Zeigler supposedly maimed deliberately. Heaven alone knows what would have emerged if the suspects and victims had texting and phone video capability back then.

Compared to any modern crime scene, the bloody picture inside the store was a hot mess of jumbled forensics, which the detectives at the time used to clumsily piece together how it all happened.

Did they get some of it wrong? Undoubtedly.

But a single witness, not any forensic evidence, is the biggest roadblock to Zeigler’s innocence.

Edward Williams is dead now, like so many others in this story, including the judge, the lead detective and a number of witnesses. The Bahamas native would be 101 if he were living. Interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Roy (full disclosure, this columnist’s ex-husband) a decade after the murders, Williams described how Zeigler tried to kill him that night.

Williams, who worked for the family, said Zeigler asked him to come to the store to help moved heavy items, then pointed a gun at his chest and pulled the trigger three times when he arrived. It didn’t fire, and Williams fled. Later, detectives theorized that Zeigler forgot to reload it after the 1st round of killing and may have mixed up which of 5 guns at the scene actually was still loaded.

Williams later that evening had a friend take him to the Orange County Jail at 33rd Street to make a complaint.

Those who believe Zeigler innocent point out that Williams went home and changed clothes that were bloody, suggesting that he was involved. Roy, who now is a journalist for a national magazine, chuckled at the notion that changing clothes somehow makes Williams culpable when set in the context of Central Florida in 1975, where civil rights arrived way late. No sensible person of color would have shown up at police station with blood on his shoes.

“He’s black and poor but not stupid. He knows what’s gonna happen,” Roy said.

Williams, when he was 67, told Roy during an interview that he figured out why he was able to escape what he thought was certain death at Zeigler’s hands.

“The Lord wouldn't allow it. He wanted someone to be alive to tell the truth, to see that Zeigler was punished. The Lord spared me,” he said in that 1986 interview.

Roy, who covered the case on and off for nearly 20 years, said he asked Zeigler about Williams’ damning testimony and never got a straight answer. He said Zeigler usually muttered something about how he “just didn’t know why” Williams would make up such a story.

“Edward Williams, despite the back-and-forth about details, was always the key. Maybe he was in on the murders as Zeigler’s accomplice. But no way Williams did it without Zeigler.

“There is no way to square his testimony with Zeigler’s innocence."

(source: Commentary, Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel)


Loden's attempt to block lethal injection drug fails

Thomas Loden's attempt to avoid the death penalty for the rape and killing of an Itawamba County girl was denied by the state supreme court Thursday.

In his most recent appeal, Loden argued that midazolam was not an appropriate anesthetic and should not be used in the 3-drug mixture the state of Mississippi uses to execute inmates.

Loden pleaded guilty to capital murder, rape and 4 counts of sexual battery in the June 2000 death of Leesa Marie Gray. He was sentenced to death plus another 150 years, to run consecutively.

In the ruling handed down Dec. 6, the Mississippi Supreme Court said Loden had only offered the unproven arguments of one expert and said "some portions of his affidavits ... are a 'sham' and are not supported by established medical literature."

The 6-2 ruling further stated that "the United States Supreme Court considered the same arguments presented in Loden's petition and rejected them."

(source: Daily Journal)


Capital Costs: Murder case drains taxpayers' pockets

Since his arrest in June 2017 and the appointment of 2 capital punishment-certified attorneys to represent him, Daniel Myers has cost Sandusky County taxpayers nearly $62,000.

Because the county is seeking the death penalty against Myers — who is charged in the murder of single mother Heather Bogle — he has the right to two attorneys certified in handling death penalty cases.

And the costs will only continue to rise as Myers awaits his murder trial, scheduled to start March 4.

During a bond hearing in June 2017, Myers was declared by Sandusky County Common Pleas Court Judge John Dewey to be indigent, meaning the court would not force him to pay for his own legal counsel.

Sandusky County Prosecutor Tim Braun argued that the suspect could pay for his own defense, citing between $40,000 and $50,000 in assets through a retirement plan from Whirlpool and property ownership.

Myers told Dewey during the hearing he was unable to obtain counsel because he was terminated from his job at Whirlpool and just purchased a home, paying $20,000 cash.

Sandusky County Administrator Theresa Garcia said Myers' legal fees have come to $73,730.50 so far, with the attorneys paid $125 per person per hour. But because of the state reimburses counties for 42 percent of their public defender costs, Sandusky County taxpayers are on the hook for $30,966.88.

In addition to costs for his defense counsel, taxpayers are also paying for Myers' stay at the Sandusky County Jail, where he has been since his June 1, 2017 arrest.

Sandusky County Sheriff Chris Hilton said the cost to house Myers is $56 per day, which includes housing and food.

With 554 days as an inmate, taxpayers have paid $31,024 so far for his stay in the jail.

The legal and jail costs will continue to rise until a resolution is reached for Myers, whose trial has been delayed several times after initially being slated to begin in May.

Trial's repeated delay increases expenses

During a Feb. 21 hearing, Myers' attorneys Merle Dech and Jane Roman, both of Toledo, and Braun said they were prepared for the May 7 start to the trial, which is expected to last 2 to 3 weeks.

But in April it was announced the trial would be delayed because Dech was also representing James Worley in a capital punishment case in Wauseon and Dech, who is Myers' lead counsel, could not be present for an April 7 pretrial hearing for Myers.

A new trial date was set for Oct. 22 and a jury pool of 225 was selected. The list of prospective jurors was pared down to 140, with 12 jurors and between 2 and 4 alternates to decide Myers' fate.

But on Oct. 17, a sealed motion was filed and a gag order was placed on the case and the trial was delayed indefinitely.

The exact reason for the delay has not been disclosed by the court or the attorneys involved, but Myers had been taken to ProMedica Memorial Hospital on Oct. 15 for treatment of wooziness and incoherence, according to Sandusky County Chief Deputy Ed Hastings, who spoke to The News-Messenger prior to the gag order being imposed.

A new trial date was set for March 4, but more delays could mean more taxpayer dollars spent, Garcia said.

"If they (Myers' attorneys) come visit him in jail, or work on the case, the county pays for it," she said.

Garcia said the more the trial has been the delayed, the more money the county is on the hook for, unless Myers opts for a plea deal.

"They meet with them every month," Garcia said of Myers' attorneys. "Now they're doing more research, and because they have more time, they're asking for more things, like they want new investigators to do more research, so now they're asking for more things that will go into the costs."

'The real issue is how do we get justice'

Braun said his job is to seek justice, but he is fully aware of how expensive death penalty cases can be.

"The real issue is how do we get justice for the family," Braun said. "I'm not unrealistic about it ... I know what it costs the county."

On Thursday, Dech and Roman filed a motion to have a psychological evaluation of Myers that will add more costs to the county's bill.

Sandusky County Commission Board President Kay Reiter said delays could be a good thing for the case.

"I look at a little differently," Reiter said. "I look at it like the more it gets the delayed, the more of the opportunity that he'll accept a deal."

"That would be a significant savings," Sandusky County Commissioner Scott Miller said.

But Braun told The News-Messenger on Friday that a plea deal is unlikely.

"At this point, no, I don't think the case will be resolved by a plea," Braun said. "We are ready to go to trial. All the delays have not been from us, they're coming from the defense."

Reiter said she does not believe it to be a budget issue, because the county has to "deal with it no matter what."

Garcia said the county budgeted $460,000 for all of its public defender costs. She said because of the financial strain of Myers' and other cases in 2018, the commissioners had to appropriate another $120,000 to cover costs before reimbursement.

And the state can reject a request for reimbursement, for factors such as requests being turned in late or not filled out properly, Garcia said.

Before state reimbursement, as of Wednesday the county has paid $570,295.65 for public defenders this year, compared to $522,849.39 paid over that same time the previous year.

In 2017, the county paid $775 for Myers.

For 2019, when Myers' case is expected to be resolved, Garcia said the county has budgeted $425,000 for all of its public defender costs.

Legislation could provide relief for counties

Reiter said there is legislation, House Bill 781, being discussed by the Ohio House and Senate that could relieve all counties of defense costs associated with capital punishment cases.

She cited the Pike County murder case, involving the brutal slaying of the Rhoden family.

Four people have been charged in the case and each will face the death penalty if convicted.

"Pike County doesn't have the money," Miller said.

Reiter said if the state legislature passes a bill that removes all costs for the county in death penalty cases, it would be "huge" for Sandusky County.

But the commissioners are not sure if the Myers' case would be grandfathered in, since the county has already paid more than $30,000 for Myers' defense.

If the bill is passed, though, Garcia said future costs could be paid by the state.

"I think they're trying to push it really quickly," Reiter said of the legislation.

And Reiter believes incoming Governor-elect Mike DeWine may be willing to support the legislation, having served as Ohio's Attorney General.

Myers' defense has other financial repercussions, as his two-to-three-week trial will delay other proceedings in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, Braun said.

"I've spent a substantial amount of time on this case," Braun said. "This trial is going to impact other cases, because other cases are going to be pushed back for this."

Other costs will include jury fees of about $15 per juror per day.

Food and housing is provided to the jurors when deliberations continue for a length of time, Braun said.

And if Myers is convicted and sentenced to death by the jury, the state estimates that he could cost all state taxpayers $412,000, based on the 17-year average someone stays on death row, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

But it may be less expensive to execute an inmate than sentence someone to life without parole.

The OLSC estimates people sentenced to life without parole on average spend 23 years in the prison system at a cost of $562,000.

Of the 137 waiting for execution, Sandusky County currently does not have anyone on death row.

(source: News-Messenger)


Death penalty in Tennessee: What I saw when I watched David Earl Miller die on electric chair

David Earl Miller didn't care that I came to see him die.

He didn't care if anyone heard his last words. He didn't mention Lee Standifer, the woman he beat and stabbed to death a generation ago, didn't bother to apologize — even when he got a 2nd chance to speak as all of us in the witness chamber at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution leaned toward the glass in the dark.

Those might have been the only words he could say that her family would have wanted to hear. I heard the disappointment in her mother's voice. No more delays I won't write what was said on that phone call. I called the mother — with her permission — to give her the chance to speak for her daughter, since she chose not to make the trip to Tennessee from Arizona for Thursday's execution. But everything she wanted to say publicly, she's said. She's in her 80s now. She wants to remember her daughter, not Miller. But she wanted to hear the case was finally over.

For 3 decades, the brown envelopes in the mail found her as she and Lee Standifer's father, now dead, moved across the country — another notification, another appeal, another delay. She'll never get another one of those envelopes again. Mumbled last words I was 5 years old when Miller killed Lee Standifer, a woman he barely knew, in South Knoxville the night of May 20, 1981. Some of the reporters in the witness chamber Thursday night weren't yet born.

2 Knox County juries sentenced Miller to die for the crime. A faded clipping in the News Sentinel morgue tells how he showed "no expression" when he heard the sentence — maybe the same look he showed as he sat waiting in the electric chair Thursday night. He didn't look like the center of attention, didn't look like the long­haired young drifter turned interstate fugitive in his 37-­year-­old mug shot.

He barely looked up at all as the blinds rose on the window to the death chamber. He sat strapped into the electric chair, bald, flabby, pale as the institutional white paint on the walls of the prison hallways. He looked resigned, indifferent — maybe even bored — as the warden asked him for any last words. If not for the straps, he might have shrugged. We could barely make out what he mumbled, either time. His attorney gave us his best guess at the statement: "Beats being on death row."

None of Miller's family came to see him die. No surprise. His appellate briefs tell a consistent story of a life of anger, alienation and abuse, from daily beatings to sexual violation to drug and alcohol abuse that began at the earliest age. He tried suicide over and over — the last time just before the hitch­hiking trip that brought him to Knoxville where he met Lee Standifer.

He told psychologists he dreamed nightly of his abusive stepfather staring him in the face, cursing him, wishing him more pain. He chose electrocution in apparent hopes it might be quicker, easier than lethal injection.

Did he get his wish? Or did he see the specter from his nightmares as the straps on the helmet buckled and the hood slipped over his face? I can't know that, anymore than I can know whether the same man who died in front of me was the same man mentally, emotionally, spiritually as when he killed Lee Standifer that night. All I can tell is what I heard and saw.

I saw the saline water run down his face from the sponge fastened atop his skull to help the electric current course through his body. I saw him wince when the solution dripped into his eyes before a guard wiped his face — almost tenderly — with a rag. I heard the click of a switch and the hum of a generator or exhaust fan as the current kicked on once. Then twice. I saw his body stiffen, arch, rise as much each time as the straps allowed until the current stopped and a corpse slumped back into the chair. I heard the warden pronounce him dead and the sentence "carried out."

What I saw looked like a man who didn't care about life — not his, not Lee Standifer's, not even as he breathed for the last time.

(source: The Independent)


David Earl Miller's death clears way for 3 more executions from East Tennessee

David Earl Miller became the 3rd inmate executed this year in Tennessee on Thursday night — the 2nd from Knox County since 2000.

Miller, 61, died by electrocution for beating and stabbing Lee Standifer, 23, to death the night of May 20, 1981, in South Knoxville. He was the state's longest-serving inmate on death row.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has set execution dates for 3 more inmates from East Tennessee — 2 in the coming year and 1 in 2020. That number doesn't include the 4 left from Knox County who still wait for their sentences to be carried out.

Here's a snapshot of the region's next in line for the ultimate punishment. Because each committed his crime in the years before Tennessee changed execution methods in 1999, each will get the choice, like Miller, between lethal injection and electrocution.

Stephen Michael West: Aug. 15

Steve West and Ronnie Martin took a drive after work, drank some beers and then raped and stabbed Wanda Romines and her teenage daughter to death.

West, 23, and Martin, 17, had known each other about two weeks when they clocked out at the McDonald's in what's now Rocky Top the night of March 17, 1986. They drove around for a few hours before heading to the Romines home on Stooksbury Road near Big Ridge State Park in Union County, where they watched and waited for Wanda's husband, Jack, to leave for work.

The husband drove away around 5:20 a.m. West and Martin then broke in the house, where they raped Wanda Romines and her daughter, Sheila, 15, at knifepoint and killed them. An autopsy found each had been stabbed more than a dozen times, with many of the wounds described as "torture-type cuts."

Jack Romines found his wife and daughter dead when he came home from work that evening. Neighbors had seen West's car get stuck in a ditch as the pair left the scene, and each blamed the other for the crimes when questioned by detectives.

West testified at his trial he didn't take part in the killings because he was held at knifepoint by Martin, too "terrified" to intervene. But he couldn't explain why his life was spared or why mother's and daughter's wounds appeared to be inflicted by not 1, but 2 knives. A Union County jury sentenced him to death.

Martin's age — just young enough to be charged in Juvenile Court — spared him being tried on capital charges. He received a life sentence instead.

West has come almost to the threshold of the death chamber repeatedly over the decades, only to be spared by last-minute stays of execution from appellate courts. His closest call came in March 2001, when a reprieve arrived with just 14 hours to spare.

He's set to die Aug. 15.

Leroy Hall Jr.: Dec. 5

Leroy Hall Jr. and his girlfriend couldn't get along. The last time they argued, he sloshed her with gasoline and set her and her car on fire.

Traci Crozier lived long enough to tell Chattanooga police who threw a burning 2-gallon jug of gas at her the night of April 16, 1991. She suffered burns over 95 % of her body and died of what emergency-room doctors at Erlanger Hospital called the worst injuries they'd ever seen.

Hall at first denied he'd thrown the firebomb at Crozier, then insisted she only burned because she ignored him when he threw it and told her to get out of the way. He loved her, he said — he just wanted to burn her car. Never mind he'd left messages on her answering machine threatening to kill her exactly the way she died.

A Hamilton County jury found Hall guilty in 1992 of 1st-degree murder and aggravated arson. He's set to die Dec. 5.

Nicholas Todd Sutton: Feb. 20, 2020

Nicholas Sutton was sentenced to die in the 1985 stabbing death of a fellow inmate at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility. He and another man stabbed inmate Carl Estep 38 times. Witnesses said Estep, who was imprisoned for child molestation, had sold the two inmates bad drugs. Nicholas Todd "Nicky" Sutton wasn't old enough to buy a beer the 1st time he killed — or the 2nd, or the 3rd. None of those got him the death penalty.

Sutton was 18 when he knocked his grandmother, a retired elementary school teacher, unconscious with a stick of firewood, wrapped her in a blanket and trash bags, chained her to a cinder block and threw her alive into the Nolichucky River from Hale's Bridge in Hamblen County's Lowland community 3 days before Christmas Day 1979. She drowned in the icy waters, an autopsy found.

Dorothy Sutton, 58, had made the mistake of telling her grandson no when he asked for money, prosecutors said. She might also have discovered he'd already killed 2 other people — John Large, a childhood friend, and Charles P. Almon, a bankrupt Knoxville contractor.

Dorothy Sutton's daughter reported her missing when she didn't show up for dinner on Christmas Day. The grandson at first claimed she'd disappeared, but the various stories he told deputies fell apart fast. Searchers pulled her body from the river Dec. 29.

Sutton eventually led authorities to Large's body after a jury found him guilty of 1st-degree murder in his grandmother's death and sentenced him to life in prison. He'd killed Large, 19, on a trip to Mount Sterling, N.C., and buried his body in a shallow grave on property that belonged to Sutton's aunt.

In October 1979, he shot Almon and dumped his body in a North Carolina quarry. Searchers found that corpse only after spending thousands of dollars searching in other spots as Sutton, who loved the attention, spun one confession, then another.

Investigators learned to recognize what they called the "Sutton signature" — bodies wrapped in plastic, bound in chains and weighted with cinder blocks. He claimed he'd killed 5 people in all, but 2 of the stories he told never yielded bodies, missing-person reports or other hard evidence.

Sutton hadn't served 5 years when he helped stab Carl Isaac Estep, a convicted child rapist from Knoxville, more than 3 dozen times Jan. 5, 1985, in a cell at Brushy Mountain Penitentiary in Morgan County. This time a jury sentenced Sutton to death.

He's set to die Feb. 20, 2020.

(source: Knoxville News-Sentinel)


Hearing For Calloway Death Penalty Case Set For Next Week

A hearing for what could be Calloway County's 1st death penalty case in a century is set for Thursday.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney James Burkeen says this status hearing is procedural in nature to aid additional discovery and jury selection.

"The rules of criminal procedure require jury questioning in death penalty cases to be conducted in a certain manner," said Burkeen. "And they wanted a motion to make sure that process and all those requirements were met."

Pascasio Pacheco faces charges in connection to the shooting death of his aunt and uncle and setting fire to their home, and killing the couple’s 2 children.

Pacheco’s trial itself is set for January 7th.

(source: WKMS news)


Trial of man accused in death of transgender teen moved

A 19-year-old Missouri man accused of killing a transgender teenager in 2017 will be tried in Greene County.

Andrew Vrba was scheduled to be tried in Crawford County for 1st-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Ally Steinfeld, who identified as a male-to-female transgender person.

Vrba was 1 of 4 people charged with killing or helping to dispose of Steinfeld's body. Her remains were found in September in Cabool.

Investigators say she was stabbed several times, her eyes were gouged out and her body was set on fire. Authorities have insisted the killing was not a hate crime.

The Springfield News-Leader reports Texas County Prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr. intends to seek the death penalty.

The case was moved earlier this week because the Crawford County judge assigned to the case lost his re-election bid.

(source: The Kansas City Star)


Conservatives become split on death-penalty debate

With a new administration — and new proposals for carrying out executions — the ultimate punishment could soon be front and center again.

While the state is controlled by Republicans, there's a growing split among conservatives regarding what to do about the death penalty.

It is the party that proclaims the need for limited government. And as concerns about everything from the application to execution of the death penalty continue to make headlines, some conservative leaders in Oklahoma say it's time to give capital punishment a second thought.

"I don't believe that a government should ever be able to invoke the death penalty," Marven Goodman said. "I don't think the government should ever be doing that because they make mistakes, even one's too many."

Goodman is a Logan County commissioner and is one of the conservatives concerned about the death penalty.

Goodman is a staunch second-amendment supporter and believes in the right to self defense, but working in government has taught him even more — that government doesn't get everything right all the time.

"The first time I heard someone state it in that terms, 'do you really want the government that's supposed to provide services and keep you safe, do you really want that same government killing its citizens'" he said.

Goodman says when he thought about his conservative values — the death penalty didn't fit.

"How can you be pro-life and also be pro-death penalty?" he said. "It all depends on how long after someone is born that you take their life that doesn't make sense. I can't square that,"

Supporters of capital punishment say there is a difference between innocent life and those on death row.

In an interview with London-based Sky News in 2015, the former warden of the state penitentiary in McAlester said the death penalty is needed.

"I absolutely would keep the death penalty," Randy Workman said. "And people ask me, 'well the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime.' Well, yes it is, that individual will never commit a crime again."

Randy Workman oversaw dozens of executions and says each one was different, sometimes he was cursed for carrying out the death sentences.

But other times?

"I have had some individuals that were being executed that were very nurturing to us," he said. "You know and said, 'I'm going to go to heaven don't worry about me, everything is just fine.'"

But while he supports the death penalty, he says rarely do the families of victims ever get what they were hoping for after the killer is put to death.

(source: KOKH news)


Fox 25 Investigates: The Death Debate

Oklahoma is preparing for a new year, a new administration and a new way to carry out executions. The state was once home to one of the busiest death chambers in the country, but no death sentence has been carried out since 2015.

Since 1915, Oklahoma has executed 195 people, more than 100 of those since 1990 when the death penalty was reinstated in Oklahoma following the Supreme Court decision that put the ultimate punishment on hold.


Oklahoma’s current self-imposed moratorium began in 2015 when Oklahoma was in the national spotlight following a botched execution and a case that called into question everything we're supposed to believe about the justice system.

As the public debate raged over the fate of Richard Glossip, all eyes turned to the governor’s office amid the growing concern about the legitimacy of his conviction. Governor Mary Fallin only had the authority to call for a short stay of execution, but that was a power her office made clear she would not use because she believed Glossip was guilty and jurors were right to impose the death sentence.

Delivering that news to the world, was not the governor of Oklahoma, but here spokesman Alex Weintz. In the Fall of 2015, Weintz would be the face the world saw as that supporting the execution of Richard Glossip and the justice of Oklahoma’s death penalty.

“I really liked my job; I liked working for Governor Fallin,” Weintz said of his time as the governor’s communications director. Weintz left public service and now works for a private public relations and public policy company. However, being caught in the middle of the death penalty was not a pleasant part of his time working for the governor. “I think we did a lot of good things in that office this is a part of my job I didn't like and it was hard not to take home with me."

This is Weintz’ 1st time speaking on camera about the events surrounding the lead up to Glossip’s scheduled execution. It is the public’s first time hearing from anyone in Fallin’s inner circle about one of the most controversial times of her administration.

Weintz had worked for Mary Fallin for years prior to her gubernatorial election and had spoken for her on a number of controversial issues in the past. The death penalty debate was different than any other previous controversy.

“I've always been conflicted about the death penalty,” Weintz said of the challenge of defending the scheduled execution of Glossip while struggling with his own beliefs.

He saw his job as making sure the governor’s position was clearly communicated. “I was frustred, and I think a lot of people in the governor's office were frustrated because I thought that outside forces, like Susan Sarandon for instance, had come into the state and were essentially spinning a narrative which we did not agree with.”

Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon had portrayed Sister Helen Prejean in the motion picture “Dead Man Walking.” Sarandon became one of Glossip’s most outspoken advocates along with the woman she once portrayed, Sister Helen Prejean who had become Glossip’s spiritual adviser.

Sarandon once said “the governor of Oklahoma is just a horrible person,” during an interview. She would later apologize for that comment as the national and international spotlight on Glossip’s case and on the governor’s office grew brighter.

The governor would end up receiving requests from other celebrities including Richard Branson and even Pope Francis.

“I thought that our office quickly became a political pressure cooker,” Weintz said.

It wasn't just those opposed to the death sentence, the office heard the impassioned pleas of those on the other side of the death penalty debate.

“There were people who were part of this process who viewed a successful execution as closure and justice for the [Barry] Van Treese family,” Weintz said about hearing from the family of the victim Glossip is accused of planning the murder of and paying Justin Sneed to commit.

Ultimately, it wasn't any of pro or con arguments that led to the governor issuing a stay of execution. It was the 11th hour revelation the prison had received the wrong drug needed to end Glossip's life.

Our first look at the pressure inside the governor's office on that day came in the 106-page grand jury report that detailed the failures of the state in carrying out executions. The report showed the governor’s then general counsel Steve Mullins was pushing to carry out the execution even with an unapproved drug. He, no famously, told the Attorney General’s office to “Google It” when trying to convince Scott Pruitt’s office to order the execution to continue with Potassium Acetate instead of the required Potassium Chloride. The internal debate raged as state officials became aware that Oklahoma had, apparently unknowingly, experimented killing with potassium acetate on Charles Warner earlier in 2015.

“I think everyone wanted to get it right and was frustrated when, quite frankly, the state didn't get it right,” Weintz said. All of the debate

It all added to Weintz's own internal conflict over capital punishment.

“I think the best way to explain it is, on the one hand I want justice and accountability; on another hand, I am both as a person of faith and a conservative skeptical about giving government or other human beings ultimate power over other human beings."

Also troubling to Weintz, the unintended consequences on the rest of the people who find themselves, willingly or not, in the middle of the death penalty.

“You're asking me about my role as a spokesperson, all I did was talk about it, someone in the Department of Corrections job is to inject people with poison and kill them; that takes a toll,” Weintz told FOX 25.

A new governor and a new staff will soon take over the office where the death penalty debate raged in 2015. Kevin Stitt has previously said he supports the death penalty for the “worst of the worst."

“The death penalty is something sucks all the oxygen out of the room,” Weintz said in warning to any future policy makers, “Defending the death penalty or for that matter attacking the death penalty is ,something that takes a lot of moral and political capital and energy and you may find that you don't have any left to do anything that is constructive when you are done. So that is why I’ve become a skeptic of the death penalty."


Where is the balance between justice and revenge? Can you have one without the other, or does it matter if you have both justice and revenge?

What is the proper punishment for killing someone? It's a question society and our courts have debated for centuries and your perspective on that question often depends on whether you attend a funeral before a trial.

“According to the coroner, the first blow was to her head and caused a hemorrhage, she screamed and the second blow was to her throat and crushed her larynx,” Ken Busch recalled of how his daughter Kathy was murdered. Floyd Medlock would confess he went on to beat, drown, rape and stab the seven-year-old girl before she finally died.

“Any victim that you talk to you that has been in the grieving process for long, initially we go through that part that says I want vengeance; I want them dead and I want them dead now and I’ll do it,” Busch said.

Ken would go on to found the Oklahoma Homicide Survivor’s support group. He was one of the first family members in Oklahoma who got to witness the killer’s execution.

"You think as you're building up to that wow this is going to give me some closure, everything stops here,” Busch told FOX 25.

Witnesses reported Medlock said "You all take it easy" to his family before his lethal injection began.

“It creates some other problems,” Busch said of the aftermath of the execution, “Because for 11 years, I had someone to focus my hate at; he was alive and breathing setting in a cell and I could, that's who I could hate and when he was dead, I didn't have anyone else to hate.”

Busch still supports the death penalty, but says it should be used carefully and constitutionally. He believes in making sure the right person is convicted and that justice is carried out efficiently.

“[The execution] was not a night of celebration, this was a night of justice,” Busch said, “At that time I knew there was another family, his family that knew my pain."

Taylor Heintzelman's mother LaDonna lives knowing the man who ordered the kidnapping, torture and murder of her son walks free.

“That was because the [District Attorney] let them plea down. They were both charged with first-degree murder and they allowed them to plea one to accessory to kidnapping and the other accessory to first-degree murder and I don't think people realize those two crimes are not considered violent in this state,” LaDonna told FOX 25.

Only the person who pulled the trigger to finally end Taylor’s life is in prison. He is serving a life sentence, LaDonna said she was promised it was a death penalty case. She has become an ardent supporter of capital punishment.

“There's always that group of people that are going to say you need to forgive them or you're never going to have peace. I have plenty of peace in my life,” LaDonna said. “God's son was murdered too and he knows how we feel and what we're going through too and if he can forgive the murderers if they truly are repentful he'll forgive us, and I’m not worried about that. I know I’ve got God on my side."

When the death penalty is discussed in Oklahoma, inevitably, regardless of how supportive or unsupportive the debaters are there is one case above all others that comes up. What about Timothy McVeigh? The man who blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killing an identified 168 victims, including 19 children in a daycare and changing forever the lives of so many others.

“I had a period of time after Julie’s death, almost a year that I supported the death penalty because I was so full of that revenge; I had to get my revenge,” said Bud Welch who’s only daughter Julie Marie Welch died when she walked into the lobby of the Murrah building to meet a client just as the truck bomb exploded.

“I remember going down to the bomb site about 10 months after her death and I stood across the street from where the chain link fence was that surround the footprint of the Murrah building,” Welch recalled. “Every muscle in my body ached, and it was caused from alcohol poisoning and I began asking myself what did I need to do to move forward."

Bud would end up embracing a cause his daughter had championed while she was alive; abolition of the death penalty.

“I recognized that the day we would take Tim McVeigh from his cage to kill him was not part of my healing process,” Welch said.

While Bud, Ken and LaDonna may disagree on the specifics or even the need for the death penalty, they do agree it isn't the so-often cited word "closure."

“[The word closure] is a way for a news person to attach something to it when they don't have anything to attach they call it ‘closure,’” Welch told FOX 25.

“Closure is something you do the door, you close the door, you close a drawer there's not closure in things like this,” Heintzelman said “And just because your loved one is dead you don't stop loving them."

“The thing we all find out is the day your loved one was murdered you died with them and you have to learn who you are all over again,” Busch told FOX 25, “I became someone else when my daughter died. That person when she was alive died with her."

If closure is a myth, then what is the death penalty?

If I had to argue why we need the death penalty, because we need justice,” Busch said “And that's what it has to remain is justice."

“An execution is not about correcting anything,” Welch said, “An execution is basically revenge that's all it is and revenge never healed anyone."


Oklahoma's last method of execution ended up being fought all the way to the Supreme Court, the new method of using nitrogen gas will likely see a similar legal fight.

In a state where researchers say nearly 80-percent of citizens identify as “Christian” and nearly 90-percent say they believe in God, the debate about capital punishment often appeals to a higher power.

So often in Oklahoma politics, elected officials share their religious beliefs that impact their legislative priorities. The state went to court to defend putting the Ten Commandments monument on capitol grounds. Republican leaders regularly file what they call “pro-life” legislation.

In a political sense, the term “pro-life” applies to opposition to abortion. There is a growing number of religious leaders in Oklahoma who say “pro-life” should mean more than just that.

“The church has always maintained the sanctity of life, thou shall not kill we are created in the image and likeness of God and life is precious,” said Archbishop Paul Coakely of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese.

The Catholic Church’s position on how far to take "thou shalt not kill" has evolved over the years.

“So we believe in the sanctity of life we believe the state does have an obligation to protect itself to protect its citizens,” Archbishop Coakley said.

That position allows for the justness of wars, and the punishment of prisoners. In recent years, Catholic teachings have shifted away from supporting capital punishment.

“Pope Francis has taken that a step further that he says that he can see really no situation in which the use of the death penalty is morally necessary or justifiable,” Archbishop Coakley told FOX 25 saying that life should be protected from conception to its natural end.

“It is sometimes harder for people to grasp that though a person has committed a grievous heinous crime that they don't forfeit their human dignity their God-given human dignity,” the Archbishop said.

That is not the end of the debate, nationally, the Southern Baptist Convention has made it clear Christians should support the death penalty.

“Quite frankly, I happen to be a Baptist but I couldn't care less whether the Baptist Church supports something or not if it is clearly delineated in scripture and that is really what our standard is to be what does the Bible say,” said Pastor Paul Blair of the Fairview Baptist Church.

Pastor Blair said from the beginnings of the biblical set up of civil government, God ordained the death penalty.

“Obviously, this is a serious issue. Life is critical and that's why I am advocate for ending abortion because I think that is the senseless slaughter of innocent life and no life should be taken lightly,” Blair said.

Blair says the Old Testament teachings call for two or three witnesses before the death sentence is handed down.

“If a person is a murderer in their heart then the consequences of that then they should forfeit their own life and it should be done with absolute justice.”

That is the Old Testament, the New Testament includes the Gospels which tell a story of Jesus being asked to carry out an execution. Scriptures record Jesus telling the accusers that the person without sin could cast the first stone.

“Recognize that Jesus also wrote the Old Testament there is one author of the bible the Old Testament and the New Testament complete and complement each other,” Blair said of any concern there is a contradiction in the Bible’s teachings on the death penalty. “The woman taken in adultery was a unique situation and quite frankly it dealt more with hypocrisy of those who were making the accusation."

“It is hard to imagine on the lips of Jesus any kind of statement in support of the death penalty,” Archbishop Coakley said.

Catholics argue the death penalty is simply unnecessary in today's day and age because life in prison fulfills the purpose of scriptural sentencing requirements. The Catholic church also argues that it allows for redemption without threatening society with the release of a killer.

“’Blessed are the merciful’ our Lord said. We can't ration Cod's mercy. We can't put limits on God's mercy,” Archbishop Coakley said. “So I would say that nobody is beyond the mercy of God; no sin, no crime is beyond redemption.”

While the justifications differ, both Pastor Blair and Archbishop Coakley agree that the death penalty as it is applied in Oklahoma has problems.

“The way it is carried out in this day and age I don't know that it is effective,” Blair said. “Because it is scriptural I am an advocate for it if it was carried out properly.”

“It seems as though there's a growing desire in our state to see reforms in these areas,” Archbishop Coakley said. “I truly hope so, the state of Oklahoma and the people of Oklahoma deserve better.”,P> THE NEW METHOD

Oklahoma is on track to be the 1st state to use nitrogen gas as its primary means of execution

With lethal injection drugs becoming harder and harder to get, the state announced earlier this year they are moving on to develop procedures to use nitrogen gas, or other inert gas to carry out executions.

One of the researchers on the project said Oklahoma should invest in a high-altitude training simulator to carry out these executions. The reasoning is it would be easier to defend in court because the effects of such a simulator are well documented.

Critics of the plan have claimed it could lead to a feeling of suffocation or potentially harm bystanders and other witnesses who could be overcome by the effects of the inert gas.

In an effort to separate fact from fiction, FOX 25 went to an Oklahoma physician who is also a certified flight surgeon for the United States Air Force.

Doctor Joshua Carey provided his medical expertise and personal experiences for this story and is in no way endorsing or opposing capital punishment. He recalled for us his last time in the simulator.

“They put you in an altitude chamber and they pump the atmosphere out so that it is the pressures of the gasses in our atmosphere are much, much lower. After a while you are in there you feel light headed that is usually the first thing, after that you get a little giddy. Your judgement starts getting impaired. Your vision changes because the rods and cones that do vision specifically the color vision they use a lot of oxygen as they work so y our color vision goes away, fairly quickly,” Dr. Carey said.

“Eventually my judgement was impaired and I didn't want to put my mask back on because I was feeling too good and they had to come and help me put my mask back on,” Dr. Carey said.

For executions there will be no one with an oxygen mask. The oxygen will either continue to be removed and replaced with an inert gas, or a mask or hood will be placed on the inmate to deliver straight nitrogen.

“Specifically, this is called hypoxic hypoxia meaning there is no oxygen and that is why your oxygen levels are getting low,” Dr. Carey said. He said someone experiencing this will not feel like they are suffocating.

“What drives humans to breath is not oxygen and it is not our sensation of whether or not we have enough oxygen, it is whether or not we are eliminating carbon dioxide,” Dr. Carey said. He said it is the carbon dioxide build up that cause anxiety and the body does not detect when oxygen is not present as long as the carbon dioxide is not being expelled.

Dr. Carey said it would only take two or three breaths of pure nitrogen for someone to pass out. Once that happened there is the possibility of heart arrhythmia or seizures, but a person would not experience pain with those and death comes quickly if oxygen is not introduced.

If nitrogen does leak out of any system, bystanders or witnesses it should not be concerned about being impacted. Dr. Carey said that humans breathe in nitrogen all the time and a little extra nitrogen is not problematic as long as there is some ventilation in the room.

(source: Fox News)


Experimental drug protocol for execution worked, but likely to inspire death penalty appeals

A grand jury has found that convicted double-murderer Carey Dean Moore died of respiratory failure during the state’s 1st execution in 21 years.

But a national authority on the death penalty says that finding will lead to more questions, and likely more legal challenges, to the “experimental” 4-drug protocol used by Nebraska in the lethal injection execution in August.

“Prisoners will use any uncertainly to challenge the efficacy of the execution process,” said Robert Dunham of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

On Friday, a Lancaster County grand jury issued a 2-page report after reviewing the death of Moore, who was executed Aug. 14. By state law, all deaths that occur while in the custody of law enforcement, jails or prisons require a grand jury examination. Four officials testified before the grand jury, including Dr. Robert Bowen and Scott Frakes, the state corrections director.

The jury found that the cause of death of Moore, 60, was “multi-drug toxicity which resulted in respiratory failure."

Due to the difficulty in obtaining drugs previously used in executions, the State of Nebraska used a 4-drug protocol in August that had never been used.

The drugs and their sequence were: diazepam, a sedative intended to knock out the condemned inmate; fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller designed to slow breathing; cisatracurium, a muscle relaxant intended to paralyze and halt breathing; and potassium chloride, intended to stop the heart.

Dunham said that it was hard to tell from the grand jury’s finding whether Moore died from a side effect of the 4 drugs, or whether the drugs did “what they are supposed to do,” which is shut down his heart. The transcript of the grand jury’s deliberations may shine some light on that, but that record is not expected to be available for a couple of weeks, according to Troy Hawk, the clerk of the Lancaster County District Court.

The difficulty in obtaining drugs for executions, and questions about new combinations of drugs used in execution chambers, have been key points in recent controversies over the death penalty. Nebraska, along with several other death penalty states, has declined to reveal the source of its drugs, which has prompted questions about their purity and effectiveness.

Among the questions raised at the Moore execution was why curtains were closed to witnesses both while the IV lines were set and later, during a 14-minute span when Moore was declared dead.

Fresenius Kabi filed a notice Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit that unsuccessfully tried to keep Nebraska from using drugs that the company believed were its in the Aug. 14 execution of Carey

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Could political wave end capital punishment in Nevada?

Buried in the Nevada attorney general’s court papers over blocked lethal injection drugs sits a line that hints at a bleak future for capital punishment in the state.

It was one of the last paragraphs in a 55-page appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court over District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez’s late-September decision to prohibit the prison system from using its supply of a sedative in the lethal injection of condemned killer Scott Dozier.

Lawyers for Alvogen, which distributes midazolam, had argued that their product was obtained by prison officials through subterfuge. They claimed the company would suffer irreparable harm if the drug were used in a state-sanctioned execution.

“Alvogen’s legal theory will virtually abolish the death penalty without a vote of the people or their representatives,” wrote Deputy Solicitor General Jordan Smith, who represents the Nevada Department of Corrections. “Corporate interests should not be allowed to interfere with lawful capital sentences and delay justice for victims and their families."

Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt said during his recent failed campaign for governor that he supports the death penalty, “especially for dangerous criminals guilty of horrific, gruesome crimes like Scott Dozier."

Laxalt and his deputies have fought court battles for more than 2 years with criminal defense attorneys and billion-dollar pharmaceutical corporations to ensure that a 3-drug killing cocktail is upheld.

Execution delays

Dozier’s execution was halted in July, for the 2nd time in 9 months, after Alvogen sued the prison system. Dozier would be the 1st prisoner executed in Nevada since 2006.

The inmate, who waived his legal appeals in late 2016, was sentenced to die in 2007 after 1st-degree murder and robbery convictions in the killing of Jeremiah Miller. Dozier had a murder conviction in Arizona before he was brought to Nevada to face charges in Miller’s death.

“A drug company’s private litigation filed to score public relations points with anti-death penalty advocates is not a lawful basis to prevent a capital sentence,” Smith wrote, pointing out that other states have shot down similar litigation. “Yet despite the frivolous nature of the drug companies’ claims, this case lingers and renders Nevada an outlier."

Smith tried to show a path that would open the gate to continued lawsuits, including attacks on “every method of execution, from the rope-weaver, armorer, electrician, and chemist, to the pharmacist and everyone in between."

But defense attorney Scott Coffee, who closely tracks the death penalty in Nevada and across the country, said the argument rings hollow.

“There’s a 40-year history in Nevada of not actually following through with death sentences,” Coffee said. “Why does it make a difference now?"

The high court asked the drug company to respond to the prison system’s appeal by next week, and the attorney general’s office has another 2 weeks to file its last reply.

New attorney general

But by the time the Nevada Supreme Court likely will hear arguments in the case, the newly elected attorney general, Democrat Aaron Ford, will have taken office. He will not say whether he plans to drop the appeal.

Ford told a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter that he is opposed to the death penalty, but he also vowed to “uphold the law of the state, irrespective of any case going on."

He said he could not comment on the current attorney general’s appeal of Gonzalez’s ruling, adding that he still needs to review pending litigation in which the office has an interest.

Coffee said Ford could drop the appeal once he takes office, “particularly if he considers it to be a waste of resources or lacking in merit.”

Meanwhile, 2 new state Supreme Court justices are set to take the bench in January, and Nevada voters recently elected various Democrats to public office across the state who could sound the death rattle for Nevada’s executions.

Governor-elect Steve Sisolak has said he does not support the death penalty “except for in extreme cases.”

Democratic Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, a criminal defense lawyer who recently won his second term in office, said he anticipates legislation that calls for abolishing the death penalty, which he said he would sign, or a request for the governor to call for a moratorium.

“There’s a social change coming,” Fumo said. “Overwhelmingly, we’re going to see people think about it, and say this is wrong."

Death penalty costs

He argued that the money spent on death penalty cases should instead fund other state institutions, such as education, along with police and fire protection.

In his appeal, Smith listed costs and man-hours that went into preparing for Dozier’s execution.

More than 100 prison staff members, including officers, administrators and supervisors, spent upward of 2,600 hours rehearsing the steps at Ely State Prison.

The prison system spent “well-over $100,000,” Smith wrote, and each training session, "which lasts 10 hours, utilizing the entire facility, costs around $15,000 a day.” In the meantime, the entire facility is placed on lockdown, he added.

Smith pointed to a poll that stated that 55 % of Americans supported the death penalty, while 66 % of Nevadans favored keeping it.

Prosecutors in Dozier’s case have argued that delaying his death wish “inflicted profound emotional disturbance, disappointment, and confusion” for the family of his victims.

But Fumo pointed out that many convicted killers sit on death row in Nevada for decades.

“The 50 years that the families are waiting doesn’t give them any closure,” Fumo said. With a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, he continued, victims know that murderers remain in prison “and leave in a pine box."

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Donald Trump keeps bringing up the death penalty

President Donald Trump has been talking a lot about the death penalty recently.

On Friday, he pushed for capital punishment for people who kill police officers.

"We will protect those who protect us," he said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Kansas City. "And we will believe the right punishment, and we all do, for cop-killers, is called the death penalty. And you know in some circles, that's very controversial to say that? You have all the television cameras rolling back there, for me it's not even a little controversial. You kill a cop, and it's called the death penalty."

The US federal government has not executed a prisoner since 2003 and most prosecutions and convictions for murder occur in state courts. There are currently 62 prisoners on federal death row compared to more than 2,500 on death row in states, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted in support of using the death penalty for drug dealers in China, weighing in on the domestic affairs of another nation and contradicting bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts, which Trump has endorsed.

Trump was praising the Chinese government and President Xi Jinping for criminalizing fentanyl, but he also took the step of making clear he has no problem with China's government killing "pushers" of the drug, which has also helped fueled the opioid crisis in the US.

It's not the first time Trump has spoken admiringly of other countries' use of the death penalty for drug dealers. He's mooned after the Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte's liberal use of execution for drug dealers, meted out by mobs, even though it's drawn international concern about the rule of law.

In March he suggested during a White House summit on the opioid epidemic that the death penalty for drug dealers be imported to the US.

"Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do," Trump said.

He repeated the sentiment a few weeks later during a speech in New Hampshire, which has been hard hit by the opioid crisis.

"If we don't get tough on the drug dealers, we are wasting our time," Trump told the audience in Manchester, New Hampshire. "And that toughness includes the death penalty."

Not long afterward, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo calling for prosecutors to seek "capital punishment in appropriate cases" and cited various laws that allow for the death penalty for drug-related offenses, including a 1994 law explicitly allowing the death penalty for drug crimes.

It is hard or impossible to square Trump's clear interest in the death penalty for drug pushing with the separate bipartisan efforts undertaken by members of his administration, notably Jared Kushner, to institute criminal justice reform, which could include sentencing reform. It's one of the few truly bipartisan efforts on display in Washington at the moment.

Add to that Trump's stated interest in delivering pardons and commutations to drug dealers.

That's what he did to Alice Johnson after public lobbying by Kim Kardashian, granting Johnson clemency in June.

"While this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance," the White House statement at the time said.

Johnson's crime, by the way, was drug trafficking. She was the linchpin of a massive drug ring that "dealt in tons of cocaine," according to news reports about her conviction.

She turned into a model prisoner and mentor, and that's why she ultimately got Trump's clemency.

Support for executing murderers, not drug dealers

The bipartisan effort to overhaul the criminal justice system would seek to change some mandatory minimum guidelines, and there is some bipartisan support for changing sentencing guidelines specifically to give nonviolent drug offenders 2nd chances.

While Trump did endorse those efforts, he pays much more lip service to toughness -- in endorsing fellow Republicans, he routinely promises they'll be "tough on crime." That's a phrase that brings to mind the 1990s era, which saw a race to make criminal penalties increasingly strict and which the criminal justice reform effort, to some extent, is seeking to unwind.

A majority of Americans think capital punishment is morally acceptable for murderers, but the numbers flip when they are asked if it should be applied to drug dealers.

After Trump's comments in March, Quinnipiac asked about the death penalty in a poll and found 58% of Americans support the death penalty for people convicted of murder, but another majority, 51% , said they would prefer a sentence of life without parole.

In that same poll just 21% said they supported the death penalty for people who sold drugs that contributed to a fatal overdose. A similar 20% said they thought capital punishment for such people would help stop the opioid crisis.

The Supreme Court has held that the death penalty should not be instituted for any offense that does not result in the death of a victim, and has said it is not appropriate for rape.

Large-scale drug trafficking is a capital crime under US law, but the death penalty has not been instituted for that purpose, and would certainly raise a court battle.

The use of the death penalty has been on the decline in the US in recent years, according to a trove of data maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center.

30 states and the US government have the death penalty, although 3 of those -- Colorado, Pennsylvania and Oregon -- have placed a moratorium on its use in recent years, according to the center. 7 of the 20 states that have abolished the death penalty have done so since 2007, either by court decision, legislative action or, in the case of New Mexico, by vote.

The rate of executions has fallen markedly, from more than 60 each year nationwide in the late 1990s to fewer than 30 each year since 2015, and the drop in death sentences has been even steeper.

Executions today are clustered in a few states. There have been 65 people put to death in the US in the past three years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and 40% of those were in Texas alone.

Oklahoma has not had an execution for years, in part because it cannot get the drugs needed to carry them out.

Nebraska set a new precedent in August, when it conducted its 1st execution in 21 years and put Carey Moore to death for the double murder in 1979 of Omaha taxi drivers Maynard Helgeland and Reuel Van Ness Jr. The 4-drug cocktail used to execute Moore included fentanyl, the drug Trump suggested seeking the death penalty for illegally pushing, as a painkiller.

(source: WTHI TV news)


Trump nominee William Barr pushed for the death penalty to “send a message to drug dealers

William P. Barr, the former attorney general under George H. W. Bush, could be returning to his old job, after Donald Trump nominated him yesterday to fill the position held by Jeff Sessions.

Barr, who served as attorney general from 1991 until 1993, was a staunch proponent of the death penalty, and pushed hard to get a Bush-backed bill that would have expanded the types of crime that could punished by execution.

What Barr, who has been a Verizon employee and a private attorney since he left Bush’s administration, believes now about the death penalty isn’t clear yet. But he’s sure to be questioned about it during the Senate confirmation process, which is expected to start in January.

Sending a message to drug dealers

Barr’s rationale for stricter death penalty laws was that they would reduce crime, including drug trafficking, as he explained in a 1991 op-ed in The New York Times:

"We need a death penalty to deter and punish the most heinous Federal crimes such as terrorist killings. That penalty would send a message to drug dealers and gangs.

"The need for a death penalty was highlighted by the recent hostage crisis at the Federal prison at Talladega, Ala. Detainees, faced with deportation to Cuba, seized control of the prison and held 10 Federal officers hostage. The prisoners threatened to kill them unless the Justice Department granted their demands to remain in the U.S. Fortunately, no one was killed, and the prisoners were deported. If the crime bill had been law, the prisoners would have faced the death penalty for killing a hostage, increasing the chances our personnel would be recovered safely."

He also argued that death row inmates’ ability to challenge their sentences should be limited, to avoid cases dragging on for years. “This lack of finality devastates the criminal justice system. It diminishes the deterrent effect of state criminal laws, saps state prosecutorial resources and continually reopens the wounds of victims and survivors,” he wrote in the op-ed.

The exact Bush bill that Barr was backing never passed. But in a sign of attitudes at the time, Democratic president Bill Clinton signed into law a massive federal crime bill just three years later that included sixty new death penalty offenses, including “terrorism, murder of a federal law enforcement officer, civil rights-related murders, drive-by shootings resulting in death, the use of weapons of mass destruction resulting in death, and carjackings resulting in death,” Politico reported.

Shifting views on the death penalty

In the years since, however, the use of the death penalty in the US has plummeted. The exoneration of dozens of inmates on death row, thanks in part to the increased use of DNA in appeals and investigations, has led to a reexamination of the practice. Overwhelming evidence of racial prejudice in death penalty trials and sentencing has led three states to abolish the death penalty outright. Barr and Bush’s own speechwriter, Mary Kate Cary, denounced it in a 2011 op-ed in USNews titled “The Conservative Case Against the Death Penalty."

"Every day, it seems the newspapers have another story about a wrongfully convicted person being released, often after serving decades in jail. Just last week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell released a man from prison who had served 27 years for rapes he did not commit. DNA testing cleared him.

"As I said, it’s hard to turn your back on innocent people whose lives have been destroyed.

"It’s becoming harder to justify the death penalty in the face of evidence that our system is flawed."

If Barr is confirmed, the issue of execution as a deterrent to drug-related crimes is sure to resurface. Barr’s daughter Mary Daly was appointed by Trump as the top Department of Justice official on opioid crimes this year. As president, Trump has advocated for the death penalty for drug traffickers who caused the crisis, but it is unclear whether he means the pharmaceutical executives who pushed prescription opioids, or the people distributing illegal opioids.



Trump demands border wall money, promises death penalty for ‘cop killers’ at conference

President Donald Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, and he called illegal immigration a "threat to the well-being of every American community."

Trump spoke hours after signing a short-term spending bill that covers key government departments for 2 more weeks, until Dec. 21, setting up a pre-Christmas showdown over the wall.

The president wants the next spending package to include at least $5 billion for the proposed wall. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California rejected that a day earlier.

At an appearance at the Project Safe Neighborhoods conference in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump accused Democrats of playing a political game, and said it was one that he ultimately would win.

He also said money for a program that encourages federal, state and local authorities to collaborate on crime-fighting strategies was increased by $50 million this year. The president said he will ask Congress for more money next year, but didn't say how much.

Trump said his administration is giving law enforcement officials the resources they need to do their jobs. He said there are more than 200 new violent crime prosecutors nationwide and cities have access to $600 million worth of surplus military equipment.

Trump noted he's also making police officers a top priority and believes anyone who kills a cop should face the death penalty.

"We will protect those who protect us," he said. "And we will believe the right punishment, and we all do, for cop-killers, is called the death penalty."

(source: Associated Press)


Gaza military court sentences 6 to death for collaboration

A spokesperson for Gaza’s interior ministry announces the death sentences against 6 Palestinians convicted of collaboration by a military court on 3 December. Ashraf Amra APA images

A military court in Gaza this week sentenced 6 Palestinians, including a woman, to death and 8 others to prison terms with hard labor for collaborating with Israel.

Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza decried the “unprecedented” number of death sentences issued in a single day and called for the abolition of the death penalty.

According to Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, 5 persons were sentenced to death by hanging and one by firing squad.

“The court also issued 8 other sentences of imprisonment with hard labor, ranging from 6 to 15 years,” Al Mezan stated.

Authorities in Gaza, where the resistance faction Hamas oversees internal affairs, have issued or approved nine death sentences since the beginning of 2018, the rights group said.

Al Mezan stated that despite “the seriousness of the criminal acts committed by the convicted, the death sentences issued should not be carried out but replaced by alternative penalties in line with Palestine’s international obligations.”

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, also based in Gaza, stated that any death sentence carried out without the approval of the Palestinian Authority president, as required by Palestinian basic law, would amount to an extrajudicial killing.

Nearly 30 death sentences have been carried out in Gaza without the PA president’s approval since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the territory after winning legislative elections held the previous year.

Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, stated that “No one should be sentenced to death. Supposedly collaborating with Israel is no excuse.”

He added: “And given Hamas’ unfair courts, its sentencing of 6 for execution smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law.”

European Union officials also condemned the death sentences.

The body’s missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah stated that “The EU considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhuman, that it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behavior, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity."

A Hamas spokesperson said that the 6 sentenced to death on Monday were not directly connected to an Israeli commando unit uncovered in Gaza 3 weeks ago, triggering more than 48 hours of intense fire over the boundary with Israel.

The spokesperson told the AFP news agency that the convictions were linked “to a communications and eavesdropping device planted by the occupation.” AFP added: "6 Hamas members were killed when the device apparently exploded after detection near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza in May."

Israeli commandos posed as medical aid workers

Meanwhile more details have emerged regarding the Israeli commando unit exposed in Gaza last month.

Hamas officials said that undercover forces posing as medical aid workers used forged ID cards of actual Palestinians living in Gaza who were unaware that their identities had been used.

Their cover was blown because the Hamas fighters who checked their IDs were “suspicious as their accents and voices did not match the areas where they said they were from,” a Hamas official told the UK publication The Independent.

Citing a Hamas source, The Independent reported that the undercover unit was in Gaza “to replace listening and surveillance devices that had been laid before.”

An Israeli lieutenant-colonel, a Hamas military commander and 6 other fighters were killed in a gun battle when the undercover unit was discovered in Khan Younis on 11 November.

The Israeli military launched air strikes to provide cover for the retreating commandos and the forged IDs were found in the destroyed vehicle used by the Israeli agents.

7 more Palestinians were killed during intensive Israeli bombardment after armed groups in Gaza launched hundreds of rockets towards Israel, killing a Palestinian man in a home in Ashkelon.

PA detains and tortures woman activist

Meanwhile Amnesty International has called on Palestinian authorities to “urgently investigate the torture and other ill-treatment” of a woman detained in the occupied West Bank.

Suha Jbara, described by Amnesty as “a Palestinian, US and Panamanian citizen and social justice activist involved with Islamic charities,” told the rights group “that she was beaten, slammed against a wall and threatened with sexual violence by her interrogators."

Jbara was arrested during “a violent raid on her home” on 3 November, according to Amnesty, which said “she was asked about collecting and distributing money in illegal ways, an accusation she denies.”

The activist told Amnesty that she had a seizure and lost consciousness during her arrest and was taken to a hospital. There security forces “dragged her out of her hospital bed, barefoot, and transferred her to Jericho Interrogation and Detention Center."

At the detention center, she was physically abused by a male interrogator.

“He insulted me all the time, used very dirty and violent sexual language, threatened to bring a doctor to look into my virginity and say that I was a whore, and threatened to hurt my family and to take my kids away from me,” Jbara told Amnesty.

Jbara was denied access to a lawyer during her 3-day interrogation. On 7 November a judge granted the prosecution’s request to extend her detention for another 2 weeks and she was transferred to another detention center.

After she began a hunger strike on 22 November, “in protest at her torture during interrogation and unfair treatment by the prosecution and judiciary,” according to Amnesty, she was placed in solitary confinement after a brief hospitalization.

Jbara remains on hunger strike and reported being subjected to various forms of pressure and punishment to end her protest, such as being denied family visits and phone calls.

Amnesty stated that it “is calling on international donors to the Palestinian security sector to review their assistance to Palestinian forces to ensure that it is not facilitating human rights violations and is in line with international standards.”

A recent report by Human Rights Watch, based on 2 years of investigation, faulted both the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza for widespread use of arbitrary arrests and torture to crush dissent.



Prisoner Hanged at Bandar Abbas Prison

A prisoner was hanged at Bandar Abbas Central Prison on murder charges last Tuesday.

According to the IHR sources, Jamshid Agha-Rahimi was hanged on the morning of December 4, 2018, at Bandar Abbas Central Prison.

“Jamshid was from Hajiabad city and was imprisoned there. He was transferred to Bandar Abbas Prison 15 days ago for the execution. He killed a person who had abused his sister four years ago,” the source said, “He could not win the consent of the victim’s family and was executed."

According to the Iranian Islamic Penal Code (IPC) murder is punishable by qisas which means “retribution in kind” or retaliation. In this way, the State effectively puts the responsibility of the death sentence for murder on the shoulders of the victim’s family. In many cases, the victim's family are encouraged to put the rope is around the prisoner's neck and even carry out the actual execution by pulling off the chair the prisoner is standing on.

The Iranian media outlets have not published news related to the aforementioned execution so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges. There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.


Prisoner Hanged at Gorgan Prison

A prisoner was hanged on the charge of rape at Gorgan Central Prison.

According to Mizan Online News Agency, the prisoner was sentenced to death for raping a 13 years old child. He was executed on the morning of Tuesday, December 4, 2018, at the northern city of Gorgan’s prison.

The whole process leading to the prisoner’s execution, from the arrest to carrying out the verdict, only took place in 6 months.


Forgiveness: Iranian Juvenile Offender Milad Azimi Saved from Execution

Milad Azimi, a juvenile offender who allegedly committed a murder at the age of 17, was forgiven by the plaintiffs on Thursday, December 6, 2018.

Milad's death sentence was upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court a few months ago. The plaintiff had set a diyeh (blood-money) of 500 million Toman (approximately 50.000 USD) with the deadline of December 4. Milad's family were not able to pay that amount of money. However, the local human rights defenders and civil society activists could motivate righteous people to help to collect money.

(source for all: Iran Human Rights)


Juvenile Offender Executed as Tehran Continues to Reject Human Rights Principles

Between Sunday and Tuesday, the Iran Human Rights website issued 3 separate reports related to the Iranian judiciary’s ongoing use of capital punishment in cases where the accused person was below the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

Such executions are categorically banned by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Iran is a signatory to both of these documents, but the judiciary and the Iranian regime as a whole have routinely rejected key provisions, including the ban on juvenile executions, while insisting that international human rights standards are often examples of cultural imperialism.

Despite such talking points, the regime has occasionally showed sensitivity to widespread international condemnation of juvenile executions and other clear instances of prisoner abuse. However, these sorts of death sentences are rarely overturned, even when they are delayed and placed under review. The judiciary has a long history of affirming the supposed intellectual and emotional maturity of people who allegedly committed capital offenses when they were young teenagers. Iranian law sets the age of legal majority at 13 for boys and only 9 for girls.

International outcry over death sentences for juvenile offenders was credited with bringing about case reviews as recently as last year. But at the beginning of 2018, human rights organizations warned that the pace of implementation for such sentences was actually accelerating, with three taking place in the month of January alone.

That pace did not continue, however, and only 2 other juvenile offenders were known to have been put to death prior to last month, although executions are often not officially recorded by the regime, leaving domestic human rights activists to reveal more complete numbers over time.

Indeed, the report issued by Iran Human Rights on Monday indicated that the most recently reported juvenile execution actually took place on November 14. The identity of this individual, Omid Rostami, initially went unnoticed in part because he was only one of 10 prisoners to be executed on that same day in Rajai Shahr Prison.

Now that new details have been revealed, it has been reported that this was Rostami’s 5th trip to the gallows for a murder that he allegedly committed only 2 days after his 16th birthday. Many death row prisoners in Iran have reported being taken to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions, only to then be returned to their cells, adding an element of uncertainty and psychological torture to their ordeal.

Iran Human Rights explained one contributing factor in this phenomenon, noting that the family of Rostami’s victim had repeatedly requested more time to reconsider whether to grant him reprieve, as is their right under the principle of Islamic jurisprudence known as qisas.

This feature of the Iranian criminal justice system also allows a victim’s family to set an amount of blood money, or diyeh, to be paid in order to spare the convict from execution. In the case of another juvenile offender, Milad Azimi, this figure was set as the equivalent of 50,000 dollars.

Iran Human Rights reported on Tuesday that his family is unlikely to be able to raise this amount of money, making poverty an imminent determining factor in the young man’s death, while indecision was a determining factor in Rostami’s.

According to Rostami’s mother, “On September 4, 2018, the prosecutor told the plaintiffs that they have the maximum of 1 month time to take their final decision to forgive Omid or carry out his execution. Otherwise, Omid should be released on bail.” Facing this pressure, the family finally visited the prison to see the sentence carried out on November 14.

The prosecutor’s instructions to the family arguably help to paint the picture of a judiciary that is committed to maintaining its world-leading rate of executions along with the practice of juvenile executions.

And this picture is further clarified by the judiciary’s failure to take steps that might have allowed a legal alternative to Rostami’s execution. Under an amendment to Iran’s Islamic Penal Code put into effect in 2013, a judge may vacate the death sentence for a young offender who was unable to fully understand the consequences of his or her actions. Not only was this option refused in the given case, but the judge denied the Rostami family’s request for a forensic examination to determine Omid’s level of psychological development.

The same issue hangs over another juvenile death sentence, which may be the next to be implemented now that it has been upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court. On Sunday, Iran Human Rights reported upon the case of Seyed Danial Zeinol-Abedini, who allegedly committed murder at the age of 17 in September of last year. Given that his case was so recent, it was fully subject to the New Islamic Penal Code, and yet his lawyer complains that the defendant was never sent to forensics as is required for the court to make a determination of his maturity.

There is little chance of the attorney’s argument holding sway over the judiciary now that the death sentence has been upheld by the highest court. But in the case of Omid Rostami, no lawyer was even present to argue his case prior to the death sentence being carried out.

This, of course, casts serious doubt upon the fairness of his case even under the outmoded and non-amended principles of the Islamic Penal Code. And it is indicative of a problem that has serious bearing on other capital cases besides those involving juvenile offenders.

Iran Human Rights Monitor called attention to 2 such cases last week. In the first place, it reported that the judiciary had issued and carried out a sentence of hanging while ignoring clear signs of the defendant’s mental illness.

The individual in question, barely more than 18 years old himself, had been hospitalized only days before committing the murder for which he was very promptly executed. IHRM adds: “The execution of this convict and all other judiciary processes were carried out in less than 10 months, raising concern over lack of sufficient due process.”

In another recent case, the hanging was carried out for a convicted murderer who claimed diminished responsibility because his victim was an Islamic cleric who had subjected him to sexual abuse over several years, beginning when he was 14 years old.

According to Iran Human Rights, far from being regarded as a mitigating factor in the case, the victim’s identity only accelerated the conviction and further erased the appearance of due process.

The man’s father was quoted as saying, “We did not have a chance to prove [the abuse] in the court, because the victim was a clergyman and he had an influential family.

Everything was for them and the court did not listen to us… Finally, the judge issued the death sentence in 3 or 4 months and then the Supreme Court upheld the verdict.”



Death Penalty Awarded In Murder Case In Faisalabad

Additional Session Judge Tandlianwala Ejaz Ahmad Sheikh awarded death penalty in a murder case of Sadar police station.

According to the prosecution, Ghulam Mustafa Shah along with his accomplices Altaf Shah, Ali Aqdas Shah, Zuhray Khan and Shahid Khan had killed Muhammad Ameer Shah resident of Chak 404-GB over a minor dispute, 5 years ago.

The convict was also directed to pay Rs. two lakh as compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased whereas other 4 accused were acquitted.



Julian Assange can leave embassy as U.K. says he won’t be sent to death penalty nation: Ecuador

Ecuador’s president said Thursday that conditions have been met for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to leave the country’s embassy in London, which would end a six-year standoff with British authorities.

“The way has been cleared for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave in near-liberty,” President Lenin Moreno told reporters, explaining that he still had to answer in Britain for violating the terms of his bail.

Moreno, however, said Britain had guaranteed that the 47-year-old Australian would not be extradited to any country where his life would be in danger.

Ecuador has been seeking a way to terminate Assange’s stay for several months, amid souring relations with its embassy guest, who recently sued Quito for restricting his internet access.

Assange, who gained international renown by publishing huge caches of hacked State Department and Pentagon files, has repeatedly expressed fear that Britain would extradite him to the United States to face charges there.

The 251,000 classified cables from U.S. embassies around the world — released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and published by leading international newspapers — embarrassed the Bush administration in Washington and caused uproar in its bilateral relations with other countries.

U.S. prosecutors last month inadvertently revealed the existence of a sealed indictment against Assange, according to WikiLeaks, but it was not known what the actual charges were.

The possible indictment suggested that Washington will seek Assange’s extradition if he leaves the embassy.

There is speculation that the U.S. interest in Assange is connected to the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election that brought President Donald Trump to office.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper last month reported that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort held secret talks with Assange, whose organization is accused of leaking thousands of emails allegedly stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic campaign of Hillary Clinton.

In July, Mueller charged 12 Russian spies with conspiring to hack the Democratic National Committee computers, stealing and publishing data in an effort to sway the election.

Assange took refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning in 2 alleged cases of sexual assault.

Sweden has since dropped that case, and Ecuador says there are no pending extradition requests against the WikiLeaks founder.

“The British government sent us an official communication indicating that the constitution of Great Britain bars extradition of a person to a place where his life would be in danger,” Moreno said.

That could be an issue in the case of the United States because it has the death penalty.

His lawyer Carlos Poveda said last month that Assange was prepared to surrender to British police if he receives assurances he will not be extradited.

Ecuador’s foreign minister Jose Valencia said at the time that Britain was merely asking him to appear in court to answer for having broken his bail conditions, and that he was likely to get a sentence of no more than 6 months.

“We do not see the British changing their point of view, they continue to insist that he appear before the courts,” said Valencia.


DECEMBER 7, 2018:

TEXAS----new execution date

'I can't forgive till you're dead': Execution set for brain-damaged Texas man behind 4 killings

It was a warm summer night when Dexter Johnson killed Maria Aparece and Huy Ngo.

Along with 4 friends, the brain-damaged, schizophrenic 18-year-old had carjacked the young couple hours earlier, driving them around town to get money before eventually leading them out into the woods and shooting them both in the head - just one of the many brutal crimes prosecutors say Johnson pulled off during his monthlong spree of violence.

That was all 12 years ago. On Thursday, on a cool winter morning - over Johnson's angry protestations of his innocence - the now-30-year-old got a date with death.

With one appeal still pending in the courts, Judge Denise Collins signed off on a May 2 execution, while the victims' families - who'd filled the benches in the 208th District Court - sobbed and Johnson's family looked to the heavens.

"You changed all of our lives for the worse," said Jose Olivares, whose father Jose was killed in Johnson's string of violence. "I know they say you're supposed to forgive, but I can't forgive till you're dead."

Ngo's sister wept as she addressed the court, while one of Aparece's family members raised his voice, almost shouting as he promised no pity.

Afterward, Johnson - mumbling over the sobs behind him - apologized to the families, even while denying his own guilt.

"I do understand their hate, I do understand," he said. "But I never killed nobody."

The emotionally-charged court appearance drew prosecutors from earlier in the case, including attorney Brian Wice who served as an appointed pro tem earlier in the appeals process.

"This was my 1st experience as a special prosecutor," he said. "I'd handled over a dozen death penalty appeals and writs and until today I never really had a sense of what the families of the victims are going through and how they may never obtain closure for a loss that can only be described as unspeakable."

In the years since he was sent to death row, Johnson has fought his sentence with appeals based on bad lawyering, racial bias, intellectual disability and his long history of schizophrenia and psychotic breaks.

"Mr. Johnson has significant brain damage that is at the root of this tragedy, and that same damage has made him unable to help his defense throughout this process," defense attorney Pat McCann said last year. "He has an actual hole in his brain where functional brain matter ought to exist."

Thursday's court setting was significantly calmer than the trial that put him on death row more than 10 years ago. Then, two of his relatives collapsed in the hallway, while the mother of his child lay on the floor moaning and breathless after hearing the verdict. At one point he'd refused to come to his own court dates. Later, he hurled a chair across the courtroom.

"My son is no murderer," Renee Johnson told the Chronicle at the time. "He didn't have it in his blood."

But it took a Harris County jury only 2 hours to find him guilty of the carjacking, rape, robbery and murder. The night of the June 2006 crimes, Johnson and 4 accomplices came across the young couple sitting in Aparece's Toyota, where they were chatting outside Ngo's home. Johnson and 2 others threatened them with a pistol and a shotgun, according to testimony at trial.

Then, 3 of the attackers drove the young couple around Houston in Aparece's car, stealing her cash and credit cards and trying to get money from her bank accounts. Behind them, 2 other accomplices followed in their own car.

Eventually, the violent crew pulled over and, according to trial testimony, Johnson raped Aparece in the backseat. Her boyfriend was forced to listen to it all on his knees as the other attackers taunted him.

Then, Johnson shot Ngo in the head before slaughtering Aparece. At trial, Johnson's defense team argued that it was someone else who walked the couple into the woods and fired the fatal shot.

It took investigators 5 days to figure out what happened.

After a quick guilty verdict, jurors heard testimony about the monthlong crime spree before and after the double slaying. That May, prosecutors said, Johnson killed a 60-year-old man washing his barbecue pit at a local car wash.

A few weeks later - the day before the slayings that put him on death row - Johnson and a partner in crime robbed 2 men standing at a pay phone, killing one after he offered them only a roll of quarters, prosecutors said.

In the days that followed, Johnson and his confederates pulled off a string of other robberies,. Then, according to trial testimony, he was potentially involved in the murder of a man inside his car on Annunciation Street.

In his appeals since then, Johnson's attorney has focused on arguments alleging that his client lacked the brain functioning to be held to the same standard as adults. Instead, he drew parallels to past court decisions that ban executing juveniles and the intellectually disabled, saying similar reasoning should be applied to Johnson's brain damage.

"If you have an actual hole in your brain that you could basically run water through at that point you have to recognize that this is a person who's not fully responsible for what they're doing," McCann said earlier this year.

The Lone Star State has executed 12 men this year, and another is scheduled to die next week. Including Johnson, there are 5 executions scheduled so far for 2019.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

*********************----impending execution

Texas Prepares for Execution of Alvin Braziel, Jr. Scheduled for December 11, 2018

Alvin Avon Braziel, Jr., is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Tuesday, December 11, 2018, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Alvin is convicted of the murder of 27-year-old Douglas White on September 21, 1993, in Dallas, Texas. Alvin has spent the last 17 years on death row in Texas.

Alvin was born in Texas. He dropped out of school following the 8th grade. Alvin allegedly grew up in an abusive home and his family had a history of mental illness. Alvin also sustained a head injury as a child, which could have affected his brain function. Alvin worked as a laborer prior to his arrest. On September 21, 1993, Douglas and Lora White were walking along a jogging trail at Eastfield College. The newlyweds had been married for 11 days. While walking, a man, later identified as Alvin Braziel, stepped out from behind some bushes and pointed a gun at them. He demand money. The couple had no money with them and Braziel then shot Douglas twice. Braziel then dragged Lora behind some bushes and sexually assaulted her before running off. Douglas died from his injuries. Lora reported the incident to the police and was able to provide the police with a description. She also worked with a sketch artist to create a drawing, however, no match was made.

Some years after the murder and attack of Douglas and Lora White, Braziel was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison for the sexual assault of a child.

In February 2001, Lora was contacted by police saying the DNA collected from her assault was matched to an offender currently incarcerated. Lora was able to identify her attacker when viewing a photo line-up. She was also willing and able to testify and identify him in court.

Braziel was convicted and sentenced to death on August 9, 2001.

Please pray for peace and healing for Lora and for the family of Douglas White. Please pray for strength for the family of Alvin Braziel. Please pray that if Alvin is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Alvin may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----39

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----557

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

40---------Dec. 11----------------Alvin Braziel, Jr.------558

41---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam------------559

42---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings---------560

43---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------561

44---------Apr. 11----------------Mark Robertson----------562

45---------May 2------------------Dexter Johnson----------563

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Border Patrol agent charged with capital murder, prosecutors will seek death penalty

A U.S. Border Patrol agent who confessed to shooting four women in the head and leaving their bodies on rural Texas roadsides has been indicted on a capital murder charge, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

A grand jury decided to upgrade the charge against Juan David Ortiz , Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said at a news conference. Alaniz said prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

Ortiz, 35, was initially charged with 4 counts of murder, as well as aggravated assault and unlawful restraint. He has been held in Webb County jail on a $2.5 million bond since his Sept. 15 arrest in the border town of Laredo.

The Border Patrol intel supervisor and Navy veteran seemed to be living a typical suburban life with his wife and 2 children when the killings occurred. After the 1st slaying, he continued going to work as usual. He was eventually arrested after he pulled a gun on a woman who was able to escape and asked a state trooper for help.

Authorities have said the victims were sex workers whom Ortiz knew and targeted for their vulnerability. Melissa Ramirez, 29, was slain on Sept. 3, and 42-year-old Claudine Luera was killed on Sept. 13.

On Sept. 14, he picked up another woman, Erika Pena, who told investigators that Ortiz acted oddly when she brought up Ramirez’s slaying and later pointed a gun at her in a gas station, according to court documents. Pena said Ortiz grabbed her shirt as she tried to get out of his truck, but she pulled it off and ran, finding a state trooper who was refueling his vehicle.

Ortiz fled and, he later told investigators, he then picked up and killed his last 2 victims — 35-year-old Guiselda Alicia Cantu and 28-year-old Janelle Ortiz, a transgender woman whose birth name was Humberto Ortiz.

With Pena’s help, authorities were able to track Ortiz to a hotel parking garage where he was arrested.

According to court documents, Ortiz confessed to investigators that he had killed 4 people.

(source: Associated Press)


Border Patrol agent accused of killings could face execution, but victims' families rebuke death penalty

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Juan David Ortiz, a U.S. Border Patrol agent charged with killing 4 women around Laredo this year.

Ask Patricia Ortiz, an aunt to Nikki Enriquez, 1 of the victims, and she'd be OK if he just spent the rest of his life in prison.

“I’m a good believer in God, and I know God will take care of this situation,” she said. “I can’t say I want to see him die."

Wednesday's announcement that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Ortiz, 35, split families and friends over whether the alleged killer should die or spend a lifetime in prison.,P> Texas by far leads the nation in putting convicted criminals to death, with 511 executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based group that advocates against the death penalty. Virginia is in far-off 2nd, with 113 executions, followed by Oklahoma with 112.

[MY NOTE----Texas has executed 557 individuals, not 511, since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982]

The Texas borderlands – largely Hispanic, Catholic and generally anti-death-penalty – see things differently.

Cristina Benavides, mother of Melissa Ramirez, another victim, said she suffers from crying bouts when she thinks of her daughter’s slaying and has barely slept in the 3 months since her death. She said she wants to see Ortiz suffer the same way her family has but doesn’t think the death penalty is the right choice.

“Let God apply justice,” she said. “God is knowing. He’s watching him."

Authorities allege that Ortiz, a 10-year veteran of the Border Patrol, picked up 4 women – Ramirez, 29; Claudine Luera, 42; Guiselda Alicia Cantu, 35; and Enriquez, 28 – on different occasions from Sept. 3 to 14, drove them to remote locations and killed each with gunshots to the head. All the women were sex workers who congregated around San Bernardo Avenue in Laredo, known for its sex and drug trade.

Ortiz, 35, was arrested after a f5h woman fled from his truck and alerted police. He was charged with 4 counts of murder and has been held at the Webb County Jail on $2.5 million bond. Officials described him as a "serial" killer. Cristina Benavides, mother of Laredo murder victim Melissa Ramirez, is still trying to raise enough money to inter her daughter's remains in a nearby Catholic cemetery. "I cry a lot," she says.

Isidro Alaniz, district attorney for Webb and Zapata Counties, said at a news conference Wednesday that Ortiz, who was indicted on one count of capital murder, showed a consistent "scheme" in the killings. All the women except Ramirez knew they were going to die soon after entering his truck, he said.

It's only the 2nd time in 25 years that Webb County prosecutors will seek the death penalty, Alaniz said.

"Ortiz preyed on the weak, the sick, the vulnerable," he said. "San Bernardo was his hunting ground. What does that make him? That makes him a predator."

Texas law mandates a trial in death penalty cases. An arraignment is expected in the next 30 days, Alaniz said.

In a tearful statement after the indictment was read, Colette Mireles, Luera's sister, said she was "leaning on faith" to get through this difficult time and the emotional days before a protracted trial.

"God has the last word, and God is what gives us the strength to move forward," she said.

She said, "In my heart, I just want what's right. We're no one to wish death on anybody. But we know God has the last word. Whatever the outcome, justice will prevail."

Karina Ramos and Kristian Montemayor, Luera's nieces, said they were split on their desire of punishment for Ortiz, if he's convicted: Ramos wants him to spend the rest of his life in prison; Montemayor would prefer to see him executed.

Ramos, 29, said Ortiz was suicidal as police caught up to him and probably wants to die. A long prison sentence thinking of his alleged acts is worse punishment, she said.

Montemayor, 24, said he deserves to die for the pain he brought to her family and other families. "He'll be in jail, comfortable, eating three times a day," she said. "He doesn't deserve to be alive."

(source: USA Today)


State's last death row inmate resentenced to life in prison

The last man sentenced to death in Connecticut has been resentenced to life in prison for the killings of a woman, her 9-year-old daughter and a Good Samaritan.

The Connecticut Post reports 51-year-old Richard Roszkowski said during his Thursday hearing he is remorseful for what happened that day.

His sentence was converted as a result of a 2015 state Supreme Court decision that declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

Roszkowski was convicted in 2009 of felony murder charges for fatally shooting 39-year-old Holly Flannery, her daughter, Kylie, and 38-year-old Thomas Gaudet in Bridgeport in 2006.

Police said Roszkowski stalked Flannery after she broke up with him and falsely believed she and Gaudet were romantically involved.

(source: Associated Press)


Should I Have Let My Friend on Death Row Kill Himself?----“We don’t live on death row; we wait to die."

As count time neared, I went to the janitor’s closet here on death row to get some hot water to make a coffee. But it was closed. Someone passing by told me that one of my friends had locked himself in there.

This was alarming. We all use the closet at different times, usually to get water. But no one locks himself in.

Life Inside

Perspectives from those who work and live in the criminal justice system.

I knocked a few times and called my friend’s name. There was no response. My spirit began to sink. I alerted the officer in the control booth, and asked her to send another guard with a key to open the door.

One arrived quickly, inserted the key into the lock, and pulled the door open…

My friend had just hanged himself. His body dangled limply. The tips of his sneakers faced away from the chair he’d used to reach the overhead pipe that connected a twisted bedsheet to his neck. His eyes were closed. His body was still. He’d succumbed.

The guard went into shock upon seeing the body. He turned away, bent slightly, buried his head in his hands, and wept.

I had to shout at him, “Cut him down! Cut him down!”

The guard gathered himself and ran off to get a knife, while the officer in the control booth started yelling frantically at us over the intercom, “Lock down! Return to your cells! Lock down! Lock down!”

But we were the only ones there to help. Big Mac, a muscular prisoner with massive strength and an even bigger heart, wrapped my friend’s body in a bear hug and held it up to relieve the pressure on his neck until the guard returned.

“He’s still breathing!” Mac yelled. “Hurry! He’s still breathing!”

My spirit lifted.

More officers and medical staff arrived. They administered CPR, put an oxygen mask over his face, and started an IV drip. A nurse tried to talk to him: “Can you hear me? Do you know what happened?”

My friend seemed responsive as they wheeled him out on a stretcher. His eyes were open. He looked disoriented but alert.

As we were finally locked into our individual cells, I was left alone with my thoughts.

Apparently, my friend had been locked in the closet for nearly 30 minutes. Others knew he was in there, probably with an idea of what he was going to do, and were either indifferent or wanted him to kill himself.

I ran their comments back in my mind, while it was all happening. In monotones, they’d said, “Yeah, he locked in the closet.” “He been in there ’bout 30 or 40 minutes.”

I realized I hadn’t been paying attention.

Then I thought of the hooded glances I’d gotten as I went to alert the guards about my friend—as if I were spoiling the fun. When he was responsive after being cut down, they were disappointed. They were like vultures, circling for death.

Living on death row is a contradiction. Some become overwhelmed by the perpetual thought of death looming over our heads, the denial of all physical contact with loved ones or any other human beings, and the daily indignities to our personhood. Others fight like hell and cling to the tiniest semblances of life: a letter, a visit, a handshake, a smile.

It’s easier to succumb. There is no disappointment when there are no expectations. We don’t live on death row; we wait to die.

Death is constantly reinforced. From our clothing (red jumpsuits) to the walls of the unit (also painted blood red), every day is a crime scene. When we go outside, we’re surrounded by guards on high platforms with high-powered rifles pointed at us.

Suicide attempts should be expected here, perhaps even welcomed.

Now I’m questioning myself. Were the other prisoners right? Was I wrong to alert the authorities? Should I have just let him die? Isn’t that what he wanted? Is death preferable to death row?

When later asked why I did what I did, I paused. “I didn’t think,” I said, defensively. “I just responded…”

But this was my friend, as much as there can be friends here. When he finds something funny, his laugh is rich, joyous, from the gut. I remember the day he cried when he found out his mom died. I told him not to worry and promised to always be on hand for him if he needed.

I meant what I said. He’s always been kind and shared whatever he got and never asked for anything in return. He’s my friend.

I had just talked to him, that day. I don’t even remember about what. But I’m praying he lives as much as I hope that he forgives me.

Paul Brown, 53, is incarcerated at Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he is serving a death sentence for a 1st-degree double murder he committed in 1996.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety declined to confirm or deny any details of the suicide attempt described in this essay.



North Carolina Murder Suspect Faces The Death Penalty Over Killing Of Hearing Impaired Coworker With 'Trusting Soul'----Grand jurors allege in a new indictment that Derek Shawn Pendergraft killed fellow inn employee Sara Ellis "willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation."

An inn employee turned murder suspect from North Carolina could be put to death over the killing of a coworker after federal prosecutors announced new charges in the case.

Initially charged with 2nd-degree murder, Derek Shawn Pendergraft, 21, now faces a 1st-degree murder charge, as well as 2 counts of aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death of his co-worker Sara Ellis, 29, according to a Thursday release by the U.S. Department of Justice.

While each of the charges he faces carry a maximum penalty of death, the DOJ has not yet said whether it would seek out the death penalty for Pendergraft.

Pendergraft allegedly killed Ellis "willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation," according to a new grand jury indictment cited by the Asheville Citizen Times.

Ellis' body was discovered on July 24 just off a path near a staff dormitory on the property of the Pisgah Inn in Canton, North Carolina after Ellis and Pendergraft had reportedly taken an after-work hike together.

Pendergraft, who worked as a housekeeper at the inn, initially told investigators he and Ellis opted to hit the trails after work at around 4 p.m. However, he said that Ellis decided to turn back after it started to rain while he continued onward, prosecutors said.

He claimed that he found Ellis' umbrella and hat lying on the ground on his way back, and he alerted the inn’s staff that she could be missing.

"Rangers and first responders searched the area and located the victim’s body lying off an embankment, near a trail, within the boundary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Transylvania County, in the Western District of North Carolina," the DOJ statement said.

Pisgah Inn owner Bruce O'Connell told the Citizen Times on July 26 that an employee allegedly confessed to killing Ellis the next night, reportedly informing the inn’s general manager.

Authorities arrived at the manager’s office to interview Pendergraft before placing him under arrest, according to prosecutors.

Ellis reportedly had severe issues with her hearing — just like her identical twin and her two other sisters, making her more vulnerable to a possible attack, the Citizen Times reports.

The grand jury considered this impairment as well as other special sentencing factors in its indictment.

Shortly after her death, friends and family members described Ellis, who had three sisters including an identical twin, to the Citizen Times as a “trusting soul” who had a "sweetness" and "innocence" about her.

"She would run up to a stranger and give them a high-5 just to make their day better," Carrie Ellis, one of Sara’s older sisters, told the paper, adding that she was almost “kind to a fault.”

Uncle Phillip Ellis said he wondered if Sara’s “tragic” death could partly be attributed to her trustful innocence.

"That might have been her downfall, and that's what angers me," he told the paper. "I hope whoever did this gets the justice deserved."



Mississippi justices reject challenges over execution drug

Mississippi's state Supreme Court on Thursday denied appeals from 2 death row inmates over Mississippi's plans to execute them using a sedative called midazolam.

In a pair of 7-2 rulings Thursday, justices found that Thomas Edwin Loden Jr. and Richard Gerald Jordan hadn't presented enough scientific evidence about the drug to justify a hearing on whether inmates executed using it would feel pain. A state law calls for an inmate to be unconscious when executed, and the inmates say the drug isn't powerful enough to guarantee unconsciousness.

However, a federal court challenge involving both Loden and Jordan continues, making it unlikely either will be executed soon. Mississippi hasn't executed anyone since 2012, amid efforts by death penalty opponents to cut off supplies of execution drugs and legal challenges to new procedures to get around the resulting shortages of older drugs.

The use of midazolam has been repeatedly challenged nationwide because prisoners have coughed, gasped and moved for extended periods during executions. Mississippi plans to follow the sedative with a second drug to paralyze an inmate and third drug to stop an inmate's heart.

Jordan has served 41 years on death row for kidnapping and killing Edwina Marta in Harrison County in 1976. Loden pleaded guilty in 2001 to kidnapping, raping and murdering Leesa Marie Gray in Itawamba County.

The separate cases were parallel, with prisoners and the state relying on sworn statements from the same experts and judges giving similar reasons for their rulings.

Presiding Justice Michael Randolph wrote for the majority in Loden's case , describing a sworn statement from Oklahoma State University pharmacology professor Craig W. Stevens questioning midazolam as offering so little scientific proof that it was a "sham." Under Mississippi law, that means justices could rule in favor of the state's arguments without ordering a lower-court judge to conduct a hearing weighing from Stevens and the state's expert.

"Loden has not carried his burden of proof in presenting a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right," Randolph wrote.

Randolph also said the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 rejection of a challenge to midazolam in an Oklahoma case "dictates the outcome in this case," saying Stevens "failed to present any new argument that was not already considered and rejected by the United States Supreme Court."

Chief Justice William Waller Jr. used similar reasoning but more reserved language in Jordan's case , writing that midazolam is "likely to render the condemned inmate unconscious, so that the execution process should not entail a substantial risk of severe pain."

"Jordan has failed to provide credible evidence to support the contention that midazolam does not meet the statutory requirements," Waller wrote.

In both cases, justices Leslie King and James Kitchens dissented, arguing Stevens presented enough proof on behalf of the inmates to justify a further hearing.

"The majority's conclusion, which is essentially that any scientist who disagrees with the majority's unscientific opinion on midazolam is a sham, is simply not supported," King wrote of Loden's case.

Both said Mississippi's court needs to consider separately whether midazolam meets Mississippi's state law requirement that a prisoner be unconscious. They noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Oklahoma case turned on the separate legal issue of whether the use of midazolam violated the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Jordan and Loden are among plaintiffs in a separate federal court challenge to Mississippi's use of midazolam. That case has been stayed pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to Missouri's lethal injection methods. The high court is scheduled to hear the case in November.

(source: Associated Press)


Tennessee Executes David Earl Miller for 1983 Murder----Miller is the 2nd Tennessee prisoner to be put to death in Tennessee's electric chair in as many months

Nearly 37 years after he was convicted of murdering Lee Standifer, a 21-year-old Knoxville woman he'd been dating, David Earl Miller has been executed in the electric chair. Miller was pronounced dead at 7:25 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6. His last words were "Beats being on death row."

Miller is the 2nd Tennessee prisoner to be killed by electrocution in as many months. Edmund Zagorski was executed in the electric chair in November. After going nearly a decade without an execution, Tennessee has now carried out 3 at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville this year. Miller, the longest-serving prisoner on Tennessee's death row, had been awaiting death for nearly 37 years.

The Scene offered Miller the chance to give a statement before his death, and sent questions to him through his attorneys, but he declined.

The brutal murder for which Miller was sentenced to death took place on May 20, 1981. After the 2 had gone on a date, Miller killed Standifer — who was intellectually disabled — by bludgeoning her with a fireplace poker before stabbing her dead body numerous times. Prosecutors asserted at the trial that the murder had taken place after Miller sexually assaulted Standifer. The state’s medical examiner found evidence that sexual intercourse had taken place, but Standifer’s body showed no signs of sexual assault. The court determined that there was not enough evidence of sexual assault to put it before the jury. Later, during Miller’s sentencing, a different judge allowed prosecutors to present that charge to a jury, but the jury rejected it.

Gov. Bill Haslam announced just after noon on Thursday that he would not intervene to stop the execution, despite a plea for clemency from Miller's attorneys that detailed the condemned man's horrific history of mental illness and childhood physical and sexual abuse. As a young boy, Miller was allegedly raped by his mother on multiple occasions, and brutally beaten by his stepfather. Miller's attorneys note that by age 10 he had attempted to kill himself twice and was already drinking alcohol. Sexual abuse, mental illness and addiction would be a theme throughout his life, up until the night he killed Lee Standifer.

Miller had a daughter of his own, Stephanie Thoman, who was just 2 years old when her father was sent to prison. She first remembers meeting him when she was 12 and has maintained a relationship with him since.

“I think that he’s a kind person," she told the Scene earlier this week, when asked to describe her 61-year-old father as he is today. "He’s quiet. He kind of stays to himself. It’s hard to imagine him getting mad.”

Lee Standifer's 84-year-old mother, Helen, lives in Arizona now. She did not make the trip to see the man who murdered her daughter put to death.

“I don’t see that it accomplishes anything at all," she told the Scene in an interview. "It’s immaterial. It doesn’t bring my daughter back, it doesn’t accomplish anything. Frankly, I don’t see any reason to be there.”

Miller becomes the 3rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Tennessee and the 9th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 2000.

Miller becomes the 23rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1,488 overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. The 23 executions equals the total of executions carried out in the USA last year; there are executions scheduled in Texas (Dec. 11) and Florida (Dec. 13) next week.

(sources: Nashville Scene & Rick Halperin)


Tennessee executes another inmate by electric chair after supreme court battle----David Earl Miller was the 2nd inmate in 5 weeks to reject the state’s preferred method of execution

A convicted killer who spent more than 36 years on death row in Tennessee was executed by electric chair on Thursday, the second time in five weeks that the state used electrocution to carry out a death sentence.

Corrections officials say 61-year-old David Earl Miller was pronounced dead at 7.25 pm Thursday at a Nashville maximum-security prison.

Both Miller and Edmund Zagorski before him chose the electric chair over lethal injection, a process proponents said would be painless and humane.

The execution came nearly 2 decades after the state adopted lethal injection as its preferred method. But the inmates argued in court that Tennessee’s current midazolam-based process causes a prolonged and torturous death. They pointed to the August execution of Billy Ray Irick, which took about 20 minutes and during which he coughed and huffed before turning a dark purple.

Their case was thrown out, largely because a judge said they failed to prove a more humane alternative was available. Zagorski was executed 1 November.

Earlier Thursday evening, the US supreme court rejected Miller’s final appeals. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the majority ruling, as she did when the high court denied Zagorski’s petition for a stay.

“Such madness should not continue. Respectfully, I dissent,” Sotomayor wrote in the Miller opinion.

Governor Bill Haslam declined Thursday to intervene.

Moments before the execution, Miller was asked if he wanted to say anything, but his reply was not understandable. He was asked again and his attorney clarified that he was saying: “Beats being on death row.”

Wearing a cream-colored jumpsuit, Miller was dripping with water from the sponges that were applied to his head. Before the shroud was placed over Miller’s head, he faced the media witnesses and looked down. 2 jolts of electricity were administered, causing his muscles to clench. Blinds were lowered and he was pronounced dead minutes later.

In recent decades, states have moved away from the electric chair, and no state now uses electrocution as its main execution method, said Robert Dunham. Dunham is the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which doesn’t take a stand on the death penalty but is critical of its application.

Georgia and Nebraska courts both have ruled the electric chair unconstitutional, and about two decades ago it looked as though the supreme court would weigh in on the issue. It agreed to hear a case out of Florida after a series of botched executions there. But Florida adopted lethal injection, and the case was dropped.

Dunham said he wasn’t aware of any state other than Tennessee where inmates were choosing electrocution over lethal injection.

In Tennessee, inmates whose crimes were committed before 1999 can chose electrocution over lethal injection.

Prior to Zagorski’s execution, the builder of Tennessee’s electric chair had warned that it could malfunction, but Zagorski’s and Miller’s executions appeared to be carried out without incident. Miller’s death was only the 3rd time Tennessee had put an inmate to death in the electric chair since 1960.

The courts said Miller couldn’t challenge the constitutionality of the electric chair because he chose it, even though his attorneys argued the choice was coerced by the threat of something even worse.

The day after Zagorski’s execution, Miller and 3 other Tennessee death row inmates filed another lawsuit in a US district court in Nashville arguing that the state’s lethal injection and electrocution protocols violated the constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit said a firing squad was a less painful alternative.

But the Sixth US circuit court of appeals ruled against the inmates on 28 November and said a firing squad was an outmoded method of execution.

Miller was convicted of killing 23-year-old Lee Standifer in 1981 in Knoxville. Standifer was a mentally handicapped woman who had been on a date with Miller the night she was repeatedly beaten, stabbed and dragged into some woods.

Miller spent 36 years on Tennessee’s death row, the longest of any inmate.

(source: The Guardian)


Barber spent a year cutting the hair of death row inmates

A former Tennessee Department of Correction barber remembers cutting the hair of death row inmates.

Reggie Williams, 41, used to serve time for aggravated robbery and was placed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in 2001.

"They are people too. They're completely restrained. They would come out. They're shackled at the hands, shackled at the feet, shackled at the waist. I believe we should take care of each other. It's the way God would want it," he said.

Williams said each Sunday for a year, he would have a list of inmates who wanted a haircut. He believes he cut the hair of David Earl Miller --- now 61 --- who was convicted of killing a mentally ill woman in 1981. Miller is expected to be executed by electrocution.

"I'm pretty sure if he got a haircut, I was there, I cut his hair," Williams said.

Williams said he never judged the men because he too had trouble with the law. At 19, he was convicted of aggravated robbery and served 11 years. He spent 2 non-consecutive years at Riverbend.

"Their situation might be very severe but I didn't look at it as I was different from them. I was there because of some of the decisions and choices I made that got me in trouble so," he said.

Due to of good behavior, Williams eventually earned his cosmetology license behind bars.

"And then I came out, and I worked as a barber and I saved money and invested in a business so here we are," he said while cutting a client's hair.

He runs the Headquarters Barber and Beauty Salon on Old Hickory Blvd in Madison. Williams who was fortunate turned his own life around also mentors and encourages teens to stay on the right path.



Appeal seeks to overturn Nikko Jenkins' death sentence on grounds of severe mental illness

The Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday that condemned killer Nikko Jenkins' convictions should be overturned because of his severe mental illness.

Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley said the lower court erred when ruling that Jenkins was competent to stand trial, competent to defend himself at trial and able to plead no contest to the charges against him.

The three-judge panel that subsequently sentenced Jenkins to death ignored his lifelong history of serious mental illness and the "debilitating effects" of being held for years in solitary confinement, Riley said.

"This whole case should be reversed," Riley told the high court. "If you don't, the death penalty should be reversed."

But Solicitor General James D. Smith defended Jenkins' death sentence and his convictions on four counts of 1st-degree murder and related firearms charges.

He argued that the state high court should defer to the judge who heard the evidence and interacted with Jenkins during a tumultuous three years of court proceedings.

"We have more evidence of Mr. Jenkins trying to fake, trying to malinger, trying control things to avoid the consequences of his actions," Smith said.

Jenkins, now 32, shot and killed four people over 10 days in 2013. His victims were: Juan Uribe-Pena and Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz on Aug. 11, Curtis Bradford on Aug. 19 and Andrea Kruger on Aug. 21.

The first deaths occurred 12 days after Jenkins was released from prison. He had spent more than 1/2 of his 10 1/2-year prison sentence in solitary confinement.

Thursday's oral arguments were part of the 1st appeal of Jenkins' convictions and sentence.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Disability Rights Network and nine mental health professionals. In the brief, they argued that long-term solitary confinement should be considered as a mitigating factor in death penalty cases.

The victims

Juan Uribe-Pena, 26, and Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, 29, were shot to death on Aug. 11, 2013, in Spring Lake Park after Jenkins’ sister, Erica Jenkins, lured them there on the pretense that they would party. Curtis Bradford, 22, was shot to death outside a house near 18th and Clark Streets on Aug. 19. Bradford had agreed to commit a robbery with Jenkins and Erica Jenkins. Bradford was found wearing a hoodie and gloves. Andrea Kruger, 33, was pulled from her SUV and shot near 168th and Fort Streets on Aug. 21. She had gotten off work at a bar before 2 a.m. and was on her way home after stopping at a McDonald’s drive-thru.

Nikko Jenkins slashed his throat in April, almost fatally, prompting several questions — not the least of which is how does he keep getting access to items to mutilate himself?

(source: Omaha World-Herald


California inmate lawyers want more use of life-saving drug

A pair of suspected fatal overdoses this week on the nation's largest death row is adding urgency to an effort to allow California prison guards and even inmates to carry a drug that can save the lives of those who overdose on opioids.

Starting next month, all sergeants working the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift statewide will carry naloxone, the state corrections department said Thursday in a decision that predates the most recent deaths. Sergeants are generally the first responders in housing units overnight when medical workers aren't as readily available, said Lt. Sam Robinson, a spokesman at San Quentin State Prison.

Attorneys representing inmates want even broader distribution of the overdose-reversing drug. They requested earlier this year that correctional officers and inmates also carry the inhalers, said Steven Fama of the nonprofit Prison Law Office.

40 California inmates died of drug overdoses last year, according to statistics provided to The Associated Press on Thursday in advance of their publication. That's double the number of drug-related deaths in 2014 and 2015, and the death toll continues to rise "at a very significant rate," according to an annual death review for the federal receiver who controls prison medical care under a long-running lawsuit. California's long-term drug overdose rate is more than 3 times the nationwide prison rate.

Prison nurses in California began carrying naloxone in 2016. It can reverse respiratory failures from opioid overdoses. It is routinely administered when any inmate is found unconscious, no matter the cause, because there are no adverse side-effects, said Liz Gransee, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver. She and corrections officials could not immediately comment on the request to expand its availability.

Anyone can now easily obtain naloxone at a drug store after undergoing brief training in how to administer the inhaler, Fama said, so he said even inmates should be trained in its use.

Autopsies are set Friday for Joseph Perez Jr. and Herminio Serna, who died while awaiting execution at San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco. But the Marin County coroner's office said toxicology results could take weeks.

In the meantime, prison officials are investigating how contraband may have been brought into death row and are increasing education to inmates on the dangers of abusing illicit drugs.

"Warning! Please be advised that contraband being circulated now is causing death and serious medical harm," the prison's chief medical officer said in a memo being distributed by hand to all San Quentin inmates, starting with those on death row.

California officials have spent millions of dollars system-wide, with limited success, to stem the smuggling of contraband by inmates, visitors and employees. They blamed smuggled Fentanyl for killing 1 inmate and sickening 11 others at another Northern California prison in April.

"It's obviously extremely difficult to stop because you're talking about grains of Fentanyl that can be lethal," Fama said.

Prison officials blamed "acute drug toxicity" for the deaths of condemned inmates Emilio Avalos in November 2017 and Joe Henry Abbott in January. They are the most recent since overdoses were blamed for killing 2 condemned inmates in 2005.

Aside from drugs, officials are still investigating how an inmate on the highly secure death row obtained the weapon used to kill 30-year-old Jonathan Fajardo in October.

California has not executed anyone since 2006. Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 79 condemned inmates have died from natural causes. Another 25 have killed themselves and 15 have been executed.

Officials said 2 condemned multiple murderers apparently committed suicide within hours of each other last month, but the official cause of their deaths also is awaiting autopsy results.

(source: Associated Press)

IRAN----mass executions

Mass Execution of 12 inmates in Kerman Central Prison

Iran on Thursday executed 12 prisoners in Kerman Central Prison, most of them convicted of drug charges.

4 of the executed prisoners were identified as, Abdolghani Ghalandarzehi, Yaghub Ghalandarzehi, Jalil Khodabakhsh and Yousef Jalaledin, all from Iran’s ethnic Baluch minority.

According to witnesses, the bodies of 12 people executed today were handed over to their families.

More recently, on November 21, the Iranian authorities, hanged three prisoners collectively in public in Shiraz on charge of moharebeh (fighting with God).

In yet another case on November 14, Iran carried out a mass execution of 10 prisoners in in Gohardasht Prison of Karaj.

National Council of Resistance of Iran in November called on all international human rights advocates, in particular the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and the Working Group on arbitrary death penalty, to condemn these executions.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Make death sentence non-mandatory and subject to judges' discretion

In Malaysia, the death sentence has been an integral part of the Penal Code since the time of independence. It was even made mandatory for certain offences, including possession of firearms and drugs. However, a bill to abolish the death sentence may be presented to Parliament next week.

The arguments for and against abolishing the death sentence are many. I would like to state beforehand that I am against the mandatory death sentence as practised at the moment in this country.

However, I am also against the total abolishment of the death sentence as suggested. As we can see, there have been many heinous crimes that cause public outrage, from serial murders or sexual abuse to the death of an infant recently.

The common arguments against the death sentence are that:

1. A state has no right to take away the life of an individual

Every individual’s life is his or her basic human right that is recognised worldwide. Cases where death sentences were overturned on appeal, or upon the emergence of new evidence, were always quoted as the reason why innocent lives might be lost.

However, the “individual” loses this right once the person oversteps into the forbidden areas of crimes defined by laws that may result in the death sentence, especially if he or she took away the lives of other people.

Ironically, many countries in the world that ban the death sentence have also legalised abortions. What gives these states the right to say it is acceptable to take the lives of unborn children?

It is certain that these aborted foetuses were 100 % innocent and had no chance to do any wrongs whatsoever. Yet those who claim to defend the innocent can condone abortions that are performed for non-medical reasons.

The 2nd scenario is that our soldiers are required to kill when commanded. An enemy soldier can be killed even if he has not fired a shot. His only “crime” is that he was born in an enemy country.

The 3rd scenario is that our police are to shoot if necessary to stop a criminal that can be a danger, like one who is brandishing a knife. A person who has yet to commit a crime may be killed before he is even given a chance to be tried in court.

In Malaysia, a person who is found to have murdered many people in a terror attack with multiple witnesses and evidence will go through a full trial, with defence lawyers, appeal process and appeal process to the highest court, and many years on the death roll with no new evidence emerging. To say it is wrong for the state to consider the death sentence is bending the arguments too much to the other extreme.

2. The death sentence has proven not to deter criminals from committing crimes

The death sentence definitely will not deter determined criminals. However, it does deter many people from breaking the law. Similarly, life sentences and caning will not deter would-be criminals as well.

The death sentence was not enacted as a deterrent; it was enacted from ancient times to be the punishment for the most heinous of crimes.

It was also the justice and closure needed by families of the victims for them to move on after the loss of their loved ones. The judges can always take into account the wishes of the families concerned.

3. A life sentence is a worse punishment for the wrongdoers than a death sentence

This is contradictory in the way that people who claim to be concerned about human rights want to impose a worse penalty on the wrongdoers.

Certainly, some wrongdoers will be worse off with a life sentence. However, all ordinary criminals would prefer a life sentence to a death sentence. Those who suggest that a life sentence is worse appear not to be in tune with the common people at all.

In summary, I am supportive of the idea to abolish the mandatory death sentence.

However, the death sentence was a part of every justice system in the past. People have also been sentenced to death for war crimes after World War II.

Based on the survey done by New Straits Times Online, Berita Harian Online and Harian Metro that showed 82 % of netizens are against the total abolishment of the death sentence, Malaysia should amend the process by first abolishing the mandatory death sentence.

In cases such as those involving a drug mule, the mandatory death sentence should be abolished and judges given the right to exercise their wisdom in each individual case.

(source: Opinion; Dr Ko Chung Sen is the state legislative assemblyperson for Kepayang,


Bikie killer sentenced to death in Thailand to be released after just 3 years

An Australian kickboxer convicted of the murder of a Hells Angels drug trafficker is expected to be released from jail today, despite an ongoing appeal.

Antonio Bagnato was convicted of the 2015 murder of Hells Angels boss Wayne Schneider and sentenced in February last year to the death penalty.

The former kickboxer was the bodyguard of Mr Schneider, who was kidnapped and bludgeoned to death near the resort town of Pattaya.

A staff member at Bangkwang Prison, where Bagnato is being held, told the ABC that he would be released on Friday.

"Yes, there is [a] court order to release him," said the official, who did not give his name.

The prison official said Thai police planned to re-arrest Bagnato immediately on separate charges.

"He has a pending charge and will not walk out — police will come to take him from prison to police station," the prison official told the ABC.

The brutal murder of the bikie boss is believed to be linked to a wider criminal network smuggling methamphetamines from Thailand to Australia.

In 2015, Australian Luke Cook was convicted of helping Bagnato flee to Cambodia after Wayne Schneider's murder.

Last month Cook and his Thai partner Kanyarat Wechapitak were sentenced to the death penalty for smuggling 500 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice.

The Bangkok Post quoted Police Lieutenant General Sommai Kongwisaisuk as saying the couple bought the drugs from a Chinese supplier in international waters and stored it aboard a boat.

Police said that while the boat was heading back to shore in the Sattahip district of Chon Buri province, they encountered a patrol boat and dropped the drugs into the sea before escaping.

More than 50 kilograms of ice later washed ashore at a beach in Rayong.

American Tyler Gerard was also convicted of being involved in the smuggling plot and was last month sentenced to death.

Gerard previously stood trial alongside Bagnato and received a 3-year sentence for deprivation of liberty and helping to dispose of Wayne Schneider's body.

Thai police used the GPS tracker on a rented vehicle used in the crime to identify the gravesite.



SHC rejects pleas against death penalty by military court

A division bench of the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday dismissed the appeals against death sentences awarded to the accused of Safoora Goth carnage at a military court.

At least 45 people were killed when terrorists targeted a bus carrying 60 members of the Ismaili community on May 13, 2015. A military court awarded death sentence to the convicts including Saad Aziz, Tahir Minhas, Azhar Ishrat, Hafiz Nasir and Asadur Rehman 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.

SHC orders State Bank to justify blocking of citizen’s account

Announcing the verdict, the two-member bench comprising Justice Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Shamsuddin Abbasi, however, directed the deputy attorney-general to submit replies on the pleas filed by the relatives seeking record of the case and meeting with the convicts.

The convicts, in their appeals through their counsel Hashmat Ali Habib, 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.

The court later adjourned the hearing till December 31 when deputy attorney-general will make his submissions on other pleas filed by the families of the convicts.

Meanwhile an anti-terrorism court once again issued the arrest warrants of Hussain Qamar Siddiqui, brother of Sultan Qamar Siddiqui, in the case of facilitating terrorism in Safoora carnage.

Hearing of the case of facilitating terrorism was held before a special court in anti-terrorism complex at Karachi Central Jail on Thursday. The court issued the bailable arrest warrants of Hussain Qamar Siddiqui against a surety of Rs25,000. Sultan Qamar was presented before the court by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officials. Accused Sultan Qamar and Sajid Naeem have requested for exemption from appearance in the court. The court issued notice to the prosecutor on the request and adjourned hearing till December 15.

SHC orders private schools to restore old fee structure

According to police, a military court had already awarded death penalty and other sentences to the 9 key accused in the Safoora carnage case. The court accepted the bail of accused Zahid Motiwala against a surety of Rs200,000.

Accused Zahid Motiwala, Sultan Qamar, Hussain Umar and Sajid Nadeem were already on bail while 6 other accused belonging to Al-Qaeda terrorist group are still at large.

(source: The Express Tribune)


South Sudan urged to end death penalty as evidence shows children among dead----Rise in state-sanctioned executions condemned by Amnesty International as 'outdated and inhuman'

Children are among those being executed in South Sudan, in an “extremely disturbing” escalation of the state’s use of the death penalty, according to Amnesty International.

This year, 7 people, including one child, were hanged, the highest number since the county gained independence in 2011 , according to evidence provided to Amnesty by legal professionals and government officials.

In 2017, 2 of the 4 people executed were children at the time of their conviction, the organisation said.

Among the 342 people currently on death row – more than double the number recorded in 2011 – are a secondary school pupil, who was sentenced to death when he was 15, and a breastfeeding mother. The country’s lack of transparency on its use of the death penalty meant the figures were likely to be underestimated, Amnesty said.

The rise in executions is happening at a time when the world is moving away from death sentences.

Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s east Africa director, said: “It is extremely disturbing that the world’s youngest nation has embraced this outdated, inhuman practice and is executing people, even children, at a time when the rest of the world is abandoning this abhorrent punishment.

"The president of South Sudan must stop signing execution orders and end this obvious violation of the right to life."

More than 100 countries, out of 195 globally, have abolished the death penalty. South Sudan and Somalia were the only countries in the region that carried out judicial executions in 2017.

The use of the death sentence or penalty against a person under 18 at the time a crime was committed is a breach of the South Sudanese 2011 transitional constitution, in addition to international human rights laws and standards. The execution of a mother caring for a young child would also contravene South Sudanese law and international laws and standards.

Philip Deng* was found guilty of murder when he was 15, following a trial in which he did not have any legal representation. Deng claims the crime was an accident.

Deng, who will turn 17 in December, said: “Before the accident, I was in secondary school. I was a runner, a very good one, and I was also a singer of gospel and earthly songs … My own aim was to study and do things that can help others. My hope is to be out and to continue with my school,” he said.

Deng, who said he told the judge he was 15, was sentenced to death by hanging on 14 November 2017. He finally gained access to a lawyer, who appealed against the court’s decision. He was transferred from Torit state prison to Juba State central prison in September and is awaiting his appeal.

Since independence, 140 people have been sentenced to death and at least 32 executed. The country, which allows the death penalty for crimes including murder, terrorism, drug trafficking and treason, has carried out executions every year since it acquired independence, except for 2014, when Amnesty did not record any.

This year’s spate of executions appears to have been prompted by a directive by the director-general of South Sudan’s national prison service on 26 April, in which all death row prisoners held at county and state prisons were ordered to be moved to 2 of the country’s most notorious prisons – Wau central prison and Juba central prison.

South Sudan, which has been embroiled in a civil war between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel groups since 2013, signed a peace accord in October.

2 prominent individuals, James Gatdek Dak and William Endley, who had been sentenced to death for their part in the conflict, were pardoned by Kiir and released on 2 November. Dak, a former spokesperson for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition, was sentenced to death by hanging for treason on 12 February. Endley, a former adviser to Riek Machar, chairman and commander-in-chief of the SPLMIO, was convicted and sentenced to death on 23 February for conspiracy to overthrow the government under the National Security Act.

Before a person sentenced to death can be executed, the supreme court and the president must confirm the death sentence.

In all, 23 countries carried out 993 executions in 2017, with nearly 22,000 people on death row; worldwide, there was a small drop in the number of executions carried out.

In 2017, there was a significant decrease in death sentences imposed across Sub-Saharan Africa.

* Name changed to protect identity

(source: The Guardian)


Execution spree targets even children and threatens nursing mothers

South Sudan has carried out more executions this year than it has done in any year since gaining independence in 2011, with a child among seven people known to have been executed so far in 2018, Amnesty International revealed today.

Amnesty International fears for the lives of another 135 people on death row, who have this year been rounded up from other prisons across the country to 2 prisons notorious for executions.

“It is extremely disturbing that the world’s youngest nation has embraced this outdated, inhuman practice and is executing people, even children, at a time when the rest of the world is abandoning this abhorrent punishment,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The President of South Sudan must stop signing execution orders and end this obvious violation of the right to life.”

Amnesty International has established that at least 342 people are currently under the sentence of death in South Sudan, more than double the number recorded in 2011.

The President of South Sudan must stop signing execution orders and end this obvious violation of the right to life.----Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International's Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Last year, South Sudanese authorities executed 4 people, 2 of whom were children at the time of the crimes for which they were convicted. The executions were a blatant violation of national and international laws, which strictly forbid the execution of anyone who was below the age of 18 at the time of their alleged crime.

This year Amnesty International interviewed a 16-year-old boy, who is languishing on death row at Juba Central Prison, after being convicted of murder. Waiting for his appeal to be considered by the court, he described the crime as an accident.

“Before the accident, I was in secondary school. I was a runner, a very good one and I was also a singer of gospel and earthly songs. […] My own aim was to study and do things that can help others. My hope is to be out and to continue with my school,” he said.

He said he had told the judge that he was 15 during his trial.

The use of the death penalty against people who were children at the time of the crime is strictly prohibited under international human rights law and South Sudan’s 2011 Transitional Constitution. Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of a Child, to which South Sudan is a party, stipulates that ‘neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age’.

State-sanctioned killings

Since independence in 2011, South Sudanese courts have sentenced at least 140 people to death, and the authorities have executed at least 32 people.

This year’s spate of state-sanctioned killings seems to have been sparked by a directive by the Director-General of the National Prison Service of South Sudan on 26 April 2018. In it, he ordered all death row prisoners held at county and state prisons to be moved to two of the country’s most notorious death chambers - Wau Central Prison and Juba Central Prison.

In May, 98 death row prisoners were transferred from Kuajok, Tonj, Rumbek and Aweil state prisons in Bahr el Ghazal region, in the north-western part of the country, to Wau Central Prison.

Another 37 death row prisoners, including at least 1 child and a breastfeeding mother, were also transferred from prisons in the Equatoria region in the south of the country to Juba Central Prison. 34 people were moved from Torit State Prison in September 2018 and 3 from Kapoeta State Prison in November 2018 to Juba.

“The transfer of 135 death row prisoners to prisons in Juba and Wau where all executions have taken place so far is deeply alarming. The South Sudanese government must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences to prison terms and abolish the death penalty altogether,” said Joan Nyanyuki. Any attempt to execute a breastfeeding woman would also contravene South Sudanese law and international human rights law and standards.

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 - the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice - is the most fundamental denial of human rights. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.


In South Sudan, the Penal Code provides for the use of the death penalty for murder; bearing false witness resulting in an innocent person’s execution or for fabricating such evidence or using as true evidence known to be false; terrorism (or banditry, insurgency or sabotage) resulting in death; aggravated drug trafficking; and treason.

Hanging is the method of execution provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Before a person sentenced to death can be executed, the Supreme Court and the President must confirm the death sentence.

(source: Amnesty International)


Death to Execution: Rights Groups Urge Morocco to End Death Penalty----Activists are urging Morocco to vote in favor of joining an international agreement banning executions during the upcoming UN session.

Although Morocco has not executed an individual since 1993, some human rights groups say the de facto abolition of the death penalty is not enough.

The Moroccan Organization of Human Rights (OMDH), and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) are urging Morocco to join an international agreement ending capital punishment. Morocco still maintains the death penalty as a lawful practice, and reports estimate there are at least 95 people currently on death row, according to a report from Cornell.

Morocco had 6 chances prior to 2018 to join the UN moratorium banning the practice,but each time the country chose to abstain from the vote. This angered activists who cite the country’s constitution as proof the practice is immoral and should be ended.

Though the vote to join the agreement was scheduled for December 13, activists managed to postpone Morocco’s official vote until December 19, giving them an opportunity to repeat their pleas to the government, according to news outlets.

Globally, capital punishment is steadily declining as more arguments emerge against its cruelty, as well as its statistical failure to deter future crimes.

Currently, Egypt is the only country in North Africa to still carry out executions, reports Amnesty International. Even though the other countries are abstaining from executing criminals, no country in North Africa has legally abolished the practice yet.

About 60 % of the world’s population live in countries where the death penalty is still legal. The Huffington Post reports that powerful nations like the US, China, India, and Pakistan are the top executors. However, activists still hold out hope that things will change. Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty commented that as more countries have abolished the practice “the isolation of the world’s remaining executing countries could not be starker.”

For Morocco, banning capital punishment could potentially have benefits in the political realm. As Morocco looks to become a more involved member of the international community both economically and politically, joining the growing team of abolitionist countries will make Morocco a pioneer among North Africa and a leader of human rights globally and accomplishing something a developed country like the US has still failed to do.



Urgent Action


The Supreme Military Court of Appeals formally agreed to reconsider the death sentences of Ahmed Amin Ghazali and Abdul Basir Abdul Rauf. The court set a hearing on 4 December for the substantive pleadings.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Calling the Egyptian authorities to quash the death sentences against the 2 men;

* Calling on the Egyptian authorities to retry all those convicted in the case before an ordinary, civilian court, without recourse to the death penalty, and in proceedings that respect international fair trial standards and exclude “confessions” and other evidence obtained through torture and other ill-treatment; 

* Urging them to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolish the death penalty.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 16 January, 2019:

Defence Minister

Colonel General Sedqi Sobhi

Ministry of Defence

Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt


Salutation: Your Excellency

Ambassador Yasser Reda

Embassy of Egypt

3521 International Ct NW

Washington DC 20008

Phone: 202 895 5400

Fax: 202 244 4319 -OR- 202 244 5131


Twitter: @EgyptEmbassyUSA

Contact Form:

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

(source: Amnesty International)

DECEMBER 6, 2018:

TEXAS----death sentence overturned

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturns death sentence for inmate Kenneth Wayne Thomas----Thomas' conviction stands, but he is entitled to a new punishment hearing based on modern standards for assessing intellectual disabilities, the court ruled.

Death row inmate Kenneth Wayne Thomas could see his sentence adjusted after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday ordered a new punishment hearing based on Thomas' claims of intellectual disability.

In 1987, Thomas was convicted of capital murder for the 1986 slayings of Mildred and Fred Finch, who he stabbed to death and whose bones he broke after breaking into their home in South Dallas. He was sentenced to death despite claims of mental illness.

Most recently, after a slew of appeals, in 2014, a jury found that Thomas was not “a person with mental retardation,” according to court documents. But the state’s highest criminal court wrote Wednesday that the jury had based its decision on antiquated standards for determining intellectual disability, and that Thomas is entitled to a new punishment hearing in which jurors employ modern standards.

“As a matter of due process, Thomas is entitled to a new punishment hearing,” Judge Bert Richardson wrote for the majority on a divided court.

In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bobby Moore that Texas was relying on decades-old medical standards and thus violating the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Since that case, Richardson wrote, the Court of Criminal Appeals has sent at least 6 intellectual disability cases down to lower courts for additional fact-finding.

(source: Texas Tribune)


Death Watch: Lucky 13?----The state on pace for a baker’s dozen of executions by year end

If all goes according to the state's plan, Texas will have executed 13 inmates by 2018's end. After 5 failed attempts to secure a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, Joseph Garcia was executed just before 7pm on Tuesday – with the very drug challenged in his last-minute appeals.

In the last week, Garcia's attorneys filed several new motions for a stay due to a "belief" that the Texas Depart­ment of Criminal Justice acquires its execution drug pentobarbital "from a compounding pharmacy that has been repeatedly cited for safety and sanitation violations by state and federal regulators, and has been on probation with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy since 2016." The filings argued that execution would violate Garcia's 8th and 14th Amendment rights, since "substantial concerns" have been raised that the drug "will not be what it purports to be, will be contaminated, or will be otherwise substandard."

These filings came in response to a BuzzFeed News article published Wednesday, Nov. 28, based on documents identifying one of two manufacturers for Texas' lethal injection drugs: Houston's Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy, on probation for compounding the wrong drug for several children and forging quality control documents. It's also been cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for potential sterility violations.

Texas is currently defending a 2014 lawsuit that challenges the state's refusal to identify its drug suppliers so as to avoid botched executions. BuzzFeed reported that, after receiving lethal injection, Texas inmates Anthony Shore, Juan Castillo, Troy Clark, Christopher Young, and Danny Bible all made declarations of pain and a "burning" feeling before dying.

Now Alvin Braziel Jr. is staring down a death date of Dec. 11, for the 1993 robbery-murder of Douglas White on a East­field College trail in Mesquite; White's wife Lora was brutally raped by his killer. 8 years later, after DNA linked Braziel - then serving time for another sex crime – to the rape, he was found guilty of capital murder. During the trial, Braziel maintained he did not kill White.

SCOTUS denied Braziel's last round of appeals in 2016. Attorneys Jeff Newberry and David Dow were later appointed substitute counsel, and on Dec. 3 filed a stay request and appeals at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. At press time, the filings had not been made available, nor had Dow or Newberry returned the Chronicle's requests for comment. But according to documents shared by the Attorney General's Office, Braziel's argument is based in an Atkins claim, which ruled executing the intellectually disabled is cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment. The state's response claims that relief for that request has already been denied by the CCA. If executed, Braziel will be the 558th Texan to be killed by the state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

(source: Austin Chroncile)


Border agent indicted for capital murder in 4 Texas deaths

A U.S. Border Patrol agent who confessed to killing four sex workers told investigators he wanted to “clean up the streets” of his Texas border hometown, a prosecutor said Wednesday while announcing that a grand jury had indicted the man for capital murder.

Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said he will seek the death penalty for the September slayings and that evidence presented to the grand jury showed Juan David Ortiz killed the women “in a cold, callous and calculating way.”

“The scheme in this case, from Ortiz’s own words, was to clean up the streets of Laredo by targeting this community of individuals who he perceived to be disposable, that no one would miss and that he did not give value to,” Alaniz said at a news conference.

Alaniz said Ortiz, 35, believed law enforcement didn’t do enough to curb prostitution, so he was “doing a service” by killing the women.

A suspect can be charged with capital murder if he is suspected in more than one killing in the same scheme with an overarching motive, Alaniz said. Three of the women were shot to death, and the fourth was also shot but died of blunt force trauma.

Alaniz said the horrific nature of the killings and Ortiz’s vigilante mentality were factors in his decision to pursue the death penalty. Ortiz, who has been held on murder charges in the Webb County jail on a $2.5 million bond since his Sept. 15 arrest in Laredo, presents a clear danger to society, he said.

The Border Patrol intel supervisor and Navy veteran seemed to be living a typical suburban life with his wife and two children when the killings occurred. He was only arrested after 1 victim was able to escape him and asked a state trooper for help.

“By day, he was a family man. The evidence shows that he was a supervisor, that he would go about his daily activities like anybody here. He appeared normal by all accounts and circumstances,” Alaniz said. “At the nighttime, he was somebody else — hunting the streets ... for this community of people and arbitrarily deciding who he was going to kill next.”

Alaniz said Ortiz knew some of the victims but he wouldn’t elaborate on what kind of relationship they had. Melissa Ramirez, 29, was slain on Sept. 3, and 42-year-old Claudine Luera was killed on Sept. 13.

On Sept. 14, he picked up another woman, Erika Pena, who told investigators that Ortiz acted oddly when she brought up Ramirez’s slaying and later pointed a gun at her while they were in his truck at a gas station, according to court documents. Pena said Ortiz grabbed her shirt as she tried to get out of the truck, but she pulled it off and ran, finding a state trooper who was refueling his vehicle.

Ortiz fled and, he later told investigators, he then picked up and killed his last 2 victims — 35-year-old Guiselda Alicia Cantu and 28-year-old Janelle Ortiz, a transgender woman whose birth name was Humberto Ortiz.

With Pena’s help, authorities were able to track Ortiz to a hotel parking garage where he was arrested.

“I believe that if Erika Pena would not have escaped that day that there would be more victims right now in this case,” Alaniz said.

Ortiz also was indicted Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful restraint in the attack on Pena, and a charge of evading arrest or detention.

Ortiz’s attorney did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

The Border Patrol placed Ortiz on indefinite, unpaid suspension after his arrest. On Wednesday, the agency did not respond to a request for an update on his employment status.

(source: Associated Press)


Colts Neck killings spur calls for death penalty in N.J.

Following the grisly deaths of a family in Colts Next last month, lawmakers in a mostly rural swath of northwest New Jersey are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in the state.

“The gruesome murder of the Caneiro family is proof that we must reinstate the death penalty," state Sen. Steven Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Harold Wirths, all Republicans from District 24, said in a statement.

Paul Caneiro, 51, is accused of killing his brother, Keith, 50, Keith’s wife, Jennifer, 45, and the couple’s 2 young children, 8-year-old Sophia and 11-year-old Jesse.

Caneiro, of Ocean Township, is charged with 4 counts of 1st-degree murder. His attorneys have maintained he is innocent and that he loved his family dearly.

Calling this the “most brutal” case in his career, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said last week that he would approve this as a capital punishment case, if it was an option in New Jersey.

Caneiro faces 30 years to life in prison on each count of murder, along with additional prison time on weapons offenses and aggravated arson charges.

In 1982, state Sen. John F. Russo, a Democrat from Ocean County, wrote the statute that reinstated the death penalty in New Jersey. Russo was motivated by the death of his 77-year-old father, who was fatally shot during a robbery attempt in Asbury Park on New Year’s Eve in 1970.

In December 2007, the state Legislature voted to make New Jersey the 1st state to abolish the death penalty in 42 years. The state Assembly voted 44-36 to pass the bill, and Gov. Jon Corzine signed it into law days later.

Oroho, Wirths and Space, who together represent parts of Sussex, Warren and Morris counties, made an attempt in 2016 to get legislation passed to reinstate the death penalty to no avail. Their current bills have yet to receive a committee hearing. District 24 is among the most conservative parts of New Jersey.

Space said the “most effective deterrent out there” is the death penalty.

Cases in federal court, however, can still be tried with the death penalty.

In 2015, the Justice Department authorized former U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman to seek the death penalty against Farad Roland, a leader of a violent sub-set of the Bloods street gang in Newark. Roland, 33, admitted in January to having a role in five shooting deaths and accepted a plea deal that will have him behind bars for 45 years.

“The Colts Neck murderer deserves nothing less than the death penalty,” Oroho said in the statement. “We can no longer ignore the public calls for action in gruesome cases like these."



US Supreme Court Weighs Execution of Prisoner With Severe Dementia----The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment bars the execution of an inmate suffering severe dementia.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment bars the execution of an inmate suffering severe dementia. Put bluntly, can a state execute a prisoner who no longer remembers his own name, much less committing the capital crime of conviction? In October, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Madison v. Alabama, a case that will determine whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of a prisoner whose medical condition deprives him of any memory of his offense.

In 1985, Vernon Madison killed a police officer in Mobile, Alabama. Madison was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution on Alabama’s death row, Madison suffered several strokes and was diagnosed with acute vascular dementia; his cognitive functioning is massively impaired and he has a very limited ability to remember events. In particular, Madison cannot recall any details of his crime or trial.

In January 2018, Madison requested a stay of execution. In his petition, Madison claimed that he lacked the competency to be executed. The state court denied Madison’s petition, but the Supreme Court granted the stay—and ultimately a full writ of certiorari—in order to consider Madison’s Eighth Amendment claim.

Madison argued that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and would contravene U.S. Supreme Court precedent barring the execution of mentally disabled or insane prisoners, see Panetti v. Quarterman (2007) (mentally disabled); Ford v. Wainwright (1986) (insane). Additionally, Madison stated that his execution would not serve the underlying rationales of the death penalty; because Madison does not understand why he is being executed, his execution would not deter future crimes and would not punish Madison for his crime.

By contrast, Alabama maintained that whether Madison remembers his crime is not dispositive in determining whether he may be executed for that crime. Rather, Alabama contended that Madison understands the reasons for his execution and therefore may be executed in accordance with the Eighth Amendment. In support of this argument, Alabama relied on the findings of the court-appointed psychologist, who concluded that “Madison has a rational understanding that he is to be executed for killing a police officer in 1985."

At oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts took a lead role in trying to clarify the issues presented in Madison’s case. For Roberts, the first issue was whether “someone who doesn’t remember the details of their crime” is properly analogized to the examples of insane or disabled prisoners whose execution has been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In response to this first issue, Madison’s lawyer quickly acknowledged that Madison’s inability to remember the details of his crime does not, without more, make his execution unconstitutional.

Second, Roberts stated that the court needed to examine whether dementia meets the Ford standard for incompetence—and therefore renders unconstitutional the execution of a prisoner suffering dementia. On this second point, Thomas Govan, Alabama’s deputy attorney general conceded that, “if someone has vascular dementia or any other mental illness, if it precludes them from having a rational understanding of their punishment, and that they will die when they’re executed, they would meet the Ford and Panetti standard.” With this concession, Roberts articulated the narrow issue in this case as “whether Madison himself meets the Ford and Panetti standard?”

Alabama did not appear to persuade a majority of the justices that Madison fell short of that standard. Govan explained that “there is no confusion from Madison’s perspective” regarding his incarceration or execution. Further, Govan argued that a state court had already decided that, even now, Madison possessed a rational understanding of his crime and execution. Justice Sonia Sotomayor curtly rejected this interpretation, stating that Madison is “just not rational in the way you and I understand it.” Madison’s attorney further emphasized that Madison cannot have this understanding because dementia robs its victims of the ability to sustain understanding over a period of time. More fundamentally, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan appeared to discount Govan’s argument that the state court’s inquiry into Madison’s rationality was sufficiently thorough.

The court could issue its decision anytime between now and June 2019. When announced, the Madison case will provide important insights about the Eighth Amendment’s restriction on capital punishment of the mentally disabled.

(source: Stephen A. Miller practices in the commercial litigation group at Cozen O’Connor’s Philadelphia office. Prior to joining the firm, he clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court and served as a federal prosecutor for 9 years in the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.----Rachel Collins Clarke also practices in the firm’s commercial litigation group. Prior to joining the firm, she served as an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia and graduated from Georgetown University Law


Local Author Details Executions Conducted at Former West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville

Moundsville author C.J. Plogger spoke Tuesday about his new book, “Pronounced Dead: The Executions at the West Virginia Penitentiary,” at the Ohio County Public Library.

Drawing upon penal records and old newspaper accounts, Moundsville author C.J. Plogger has researched the 94 executions conducted at the former West Virginia Penitentiary over a 60-year period from 1899 to 1959.

He appeared Tuesday at the Ohio County Public Library’s Lunch With Books program to talk about his new book, “Pronounced Dead: The Executions at the West Virginia Penitentiary."

Plogger serves as pastor of Ash Avenue Church of God in Moundsville and leads tours at the former prison. Regarding the book’s topic, he said, “I personally do not believe in capital punishment."

He said 94 men were executed at the penitentiary; a woman was sentenced to death, but received a last-minute pardon. The executions included 85 hangings and nine electrocutions. The state abolished the death penalty in 1965.

The last execution occurred on April 3, 1959, when Elmer David Bruner was electrocuted for the killing of a Huntington woman. While Bruner was on death row, he received a letter from an 11-year-old Moundsville girl; in response, he sent her “a beautiful letter” and a jigsaw puzzle that he had made, Plogger said. The framed puzzle was displayed during Plogger’s presentation.

14 men were put to death for killing their wives, he said. They included Frank Hyer who, according to a newspaper account, was so heavy that his head popped off when he was hanged on June 19, 1931.

Of those executed, 40 were black, he said. Noting the racial disparity, he said they accounted for 43 % of the executions, at a time when the state’s population was only 8 % black.

The last public execution in the state occurred in 1897 at Ripley, where souvenirs and food were sold beforehand and pandemonium ensued, he said.

In reaction to that incident, the Legislature ordered that a special enclosure be built within the penitentiary’s walls to exclude public view of executions. The so-called “death house,” a brick and stone building, was constructed at a cost of $6,000 in September 1899, he said.

For hangings, prisoners walked 13 steps to the gallows and were placed in a noose with 13 knots as a symbolic nod to the 13 people — 12 jurors and a judge — who convicted them, he said.

Shep Caldwell, of McDowell County, was the first man to be hanged at the new facility on Oct. 10, 1899. Caldwell, a married man, fatally shot his mistress in a rage after he saw her with a boyfriend, Plogger said.

Frank H. Johnson, the state’s first serial killer, was hanged July 17, 1908. On the eve of his death, he confessed to five murders. Plogger showed a Wheeling Register article about the hanging, under the headline, "Black Friday at the Penitentiary."

Harry F. Powers, a con man who allegedly murdered 55 women, was hanged in March 1938. Moundsville native Davis Grubb’s 1953 novel, “Night of the Hunter,” and Jayne Anne Phillips’ 2013 novel, “Quiet Dell,” were inspired by Powers’ story.

A triple hanging — of Philip Cannizzaro, Dick Ferry and Nick Salamante, members of the Sicilian “Black Handers” — took place Jan. 4, 1924, the author said. The group acquired its nickname for a habit of dipping victims’ hands in ink, he explained.

Another triple hanging occurred in 1938 for men convicted of kidnapping a minister who later died. Plogger said they were sentenced under a federal law enacted after the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.

The youngest man executed was Phillip Eumen, 18, hanged Aug. 20, 1926, for killing a grocery store owner.

Inmate Henry Jackson was hanged Sept. 10, 1926, for stabbing guard Earl Langfitt with a homemade shank in March of that year. Langfitt was the first correctional officer to die in the line of duty, Plogger said.

The only Moundsville native to be executed was Raymond Styres, put to death on May 13, 1938, for killing the wife of a Wheeling casino owner, Plogger said.

(source: The Intelligencer)


Man's death sentence in 2011 CarQuest double murder thrown out; convictions affirmed

A Baton Rouge man's death sentence in the 2011 slaying of 2 CarQuest Auto Parts employees at the company's Airline Highway store near Siegen Lane was thrown out Wednesday by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The high court, however, affirmed Lee Turner Jr.'s 2015 1st-degree murder convictions in the fatal shooting of Edward "Eddie" Gurtner III, 43, of Denham Springs, and Randy Chaney, 55, of Greenwell Springs.

Turner began working for CarQuest in Baton Rouge just 11 days before he killed the men during a Sunday afternoon robbery.

The Supreme Court said it tossed Turner's death sentence because state District Judge Richard Anderson issued a ruling in the middle of jury selection that prevented the defense from inquiring into prospective jurors' ability to fairly consider voting for a life sentence in a case involving a double murder committed during an armed robbery.

The high court sent the case back to Anderson for a new sentencing hearing.

One of Turner’s appellate attorneys, Caroline Tillman with the Capital Appeals Project in New Orleans, hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“The importance of a fair jury in a death penalty trial cannot be overstated, and we are thankful that the Louisiana Supreme Court has stepped in,” she said.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office is grateful that Turner’s convictions were affirmed “but nonetheless express our respectful disappointment … with respect to sentencing.""

“After enduring 13 days of jury selection followed by 9 days of trial, resulting in unanimous convictions and verdicts of death, the victims’ family members are still without closure with regard to the consequences (Turner) will face for killing Randy Chaney and Eddie Gurtner,” Moore said.

Moore said his office will “evaluate our future actions with respect to the sentencing after the new year."

Turner’s trial attorneys, East Baton Rouge Parish assistant public defenders Margaret Lagattuta and Scott Collier, noted Wednesday that they objected to Anderson’s ruling at the time it was made.

Collier said he knew the trial court’s ruling during jury selection excluding questions about armed robbery “would be a major issue on appeal."

“Our objections then have saved Lee Turner’s life today,” Lagattuta added.

Scott Crichton authored the Supreme Court decision and wrote that Anderson’s ruling categorically prohibiting Turner’s attorneys from referencing armed robbery to potential jurors “runs afoul” of prior state Supreme Court decisions.

“The general allegations of the case at hand necessarily included the fact that there were 2 victims and that the victims were killed during an armed robbery. Indeed, these were the exact statutory aggravators set forth in the state’s notice of intent to seek the death penalty,” Crichton stated. “The trial court’s blanket prohibition against referencing armed robbery was therefore an abuse of discretion."

Turner’s appellate attorneys argued that Anderson’s ruling mandated reversal of his convictions as well, but the Supreme Court disagreed, saying the error required only overturning his death sentence.

Justices Greg Guidry and Jeff Hughes agreed with their Supreme Court colleagues’ upholding of Turner’s convictions but dissented with their decision to reverse his death sentence and order a new sentencing hearing.

Turner, 28 and formerly of New Orleans, confessed the day after the March 27, 2011, killings that he shot Chaney first, then Gurtner after forcing him to open the store safe. Gurtner died with the store's keys, including a key to the safe, in his hand. A search warrant led to the discovery of bank bags and CarQuest deposit slips in a garbage can outside the Ritterman Avenue home where Turner was staying with an uncle.

Gurtner managed the store where the shooting occurred. He wasn't scheduled to work that day but went in to catch up on restocking and to hang a mirror in the store's bathroom. He was shot a dozen times, including several times in the back, as he tried to run from Turner. Chaney was the assistant manager of the company's Staring Lane location but was helping out at the Airline Highway store that ill-fated day. He was shot once in the back of the head.

(source: The Advocate)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

Clemency application: Death row inmate 'is not the worst of the worst'

Gov. Bill Haslam is reviewing a clemency application received last week, asking him to commute the sentence of David Earl Miller to life in prison without parole. Miller was convicted of beating to death Lee Standifer -- a woman he was seeing – with a fireplace poker in 1981.

“David Miller accepts responsibility for the death of his friend,” Miller’s attorney Stephen Kissinger writes in a 12-page letter to the governor.

Kissinger claims Miller had been suffering from “severe mental illness” at the time of his crime, and that his mental state places him “far outside that group of offenders who are the worst and for whom the death penalty is reserved."

Kissinger also argues the jury that convicted Miller in 1981 didn’t have the benefit of a mental health expert to explain how mental illness may have prompted Miller’s crime – something now afforded to “indigent, mentally ill” defendants following a 1982 Supreme Court ruling. Kissinger argues, had the jury heard from such an expert, Miller wouldn’t have been sentenced to death, and may not have even been convicted of 1st-degree murder.

Haslam refused to grant clemency to either of the two death row inmates executed so far during his governorship, though he granted a 10-day reprieve to Edmund Zagorski so the state could have adequate time to prepare the electric chair for its 1st use in 11 years.

Haslam’s prior refusals to grant clemency suggest an uphill battle for Miller, who is the last inmate scheduled to be executed during Haslam's time as governor.

Miller is scheduled to be executed in the electric chair Thursday at 7 p.m.

Miller is also asking the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay of execution to address 2 separate legal issues. The high court declined to issue stays for either of the 2 other inmates executed this year.

Miller’s clemency application to the governor argues that the “thousands of traumas” Miller suffered as a child led to “brain damage, substance abuse, disassociation and psychosis,” leading up to the killing of Standifer.

Kissinger says that Gov. Haslam is the “fail safe” in the state and federal criminal justice system and is “the only person presently able to consider all the facts and dispense mercy."

The application concludes: "David Miller is not the worst of the worst."

(source: WTVF news)


Tennessee Plans to Electrocute Its 2nd Inmate in as Many Months

A Tennessee inmate is scheduled to become the 2nd person to die in the state’s electric chair in as many months Thursday evening, nearly 2 decades after Tennessee adopted lethal injection as its preferred method of execution.

Both David Earl Miller, 61, and Edmund Zagorski before him chose the electric chair over lethal injection, a process that proponents said would be painless and humane.

But the inmates argued in court that Tennessee’s current midazolam-based method causes a prolonged and torturous death. They pointed to the August execution of Billy Ray Irick, which took around 20 minutes during which he was observed coughing and huffing before turning a dark purple.

Their case was thrown out, largely because a judge said they failed to prove that a more humane alternative was available. Zagorski was executed Nov. 1.

In recent decades, states have moved away from the electric chair, and no state now uses electrocution as its main execution method, said Robert Dunham. Dunham is the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which doesn’t take a stand on the death penalty but is critical of its application.

Georgia and Nebraska courts both have ruled the electric chair unconstitutional, and about 2 decades ago it looked as though the U.S. Supreme Court would weigh in on the issue. It agreed to hear a case out of Florida after a series of botched executions there. But Florida adopted lethal injection, and the case was dropped.

Dunham said he wasn’t aware of any state other than Tennessee where inmates were choosing electrocution over lethal injection.

In Tennessee, inmates whose crimes were committed before 1999 can chose electrocution over lethal injection. Zagorski’s execution was delayed about 3 weeks after he requested the electric chair amid a last-minute flurry of legal maneuvers. The state initially refused his request until a federal court judge ordered the state to comply.

Gov. Bill Haslam ordered a brief reprieve to “give all involved the time necessary to carry out the sentence in an orderly and careful manner.”

The builder of Tennessee’s electric chair warned that it could malfunction, but Zagorski’s execution seemed to be carried out without incident. It was only the 2nd time Tennessee had put an inmate to death in the electric chair since 1960.

The courts have said Miller can’t challenge the constitutionality of the electric chair because he chose it, even though his attorneys have argued the choice was coerced by the threat of something even worse.

Miller was convicted of killing 23-year-old Lee Standifer in 1981 in Knoxville. Standifer was a mentally handicapped woman who had been on a date with Miller the night she was repeatedly beaten, stabbed and then dragged into some woods.

Miller has spent 36 years on Tennessee’s death row, the longest of any inmate.



Death-row inmate awaiting word from court on stay of execution

A Tennessee death row inmate has selected a last meal as he awaits word on his execution from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Tennessee Department of Correction says David Earl Miller will be served the meal on Thursday afternoon.

The 61-year-old inmate is scheduled to die in the electric chair at 7 p.m. that day.

Miller chose electrocution, as did Edmund Zagorski a month ago. They lost a lawsuit claiming Tennessee’s midazolam-based lethal injection method causes a prolonged and torturous death.

Miller still has 2 last-minute petitions asking the justices to halt his execution.

He was convicted of killing a 23-year-old mentally handicapped woman in 1981 in Knoxville. He has spent 36 years on death row, the longest of any Tennessee inmate.

(source: Associated Press)


Murder victims' family pushes for death penalty in Kentucky----It has been decades since Sharon Vaughn McGeorge has been able to hug her father and she hates that his killer's execution has been delayed.

10 years ago was the last time Kentucky executed a death row inmate. Now, a judge who put executions on hold eight years ago, has the legal filings from both sides that could lead to hearings or a ruling.

In the meantime, victim's families are left to wait and question justice. One family spoke with WHAS11’s Chris Williams about the toll that years of uncertainty takes on survivors of brutal killings.

“Dad wouldn’t want to see me like this,” said Sharon Vaughn McGeorge as she cleaned the headstones of her father and uncle. “Me hurting and hating somebody so bad.”

Her father, Rodney Vaughn and his brother Lynn were murdered in 1991 by Kentucky’s most prolific killer. Her last memories of them are through the eyes of a devastated child.

More than 200 miles away, behind the razor wire and granite walls of Eddyville State Penitentiary lives Robert Foley, 62. His death row address is just feet from the room that houses "Old Sparky" and the gurney used to execute Kentucky's death row inmates.

The killings of the Vaughn brothers, and four other people in an unrelated case, earned Foley 2 separate death sentences.

“When the legislators passed lethal injection, they wasn't trying to be kind to us. The end results are the same electrocution or lethal injection,” Foley said during a 1998 interview with former WHAS11 reporter Stephanie Collins.

Kentucky law had just changed, introducing lethal injection and, since Foley's sentences came before March 31, 1998, he could choose between the chair or the needle.

“I hadn't gave it any real thought, but it's nice to have that kind of choice. If nothing else, like I said, more for my family than for myself,” Foley told Collins.

According to Foley, he determined his fate with the flip of a medallion. He chose lethal injection, but his date with the needle has been delayed due to a judge’s stay on executions.

Some have questioned whether families of victims ever truly get resolution when a judge hands down a death sentence.

It has been decades since Vaughn McGeorge has been able to hug her father and she hates that Foley’s execution has been delayed. She describes her wait as torture.

“I would love to be the one to push the button for him. That's how I feel about it. To me, that IV is an easy way for him. That IV is not enough pain for him. It couldn't come close to it. That IV is nothing of what he should feel,” Vaughn McGeorge said.

Since Kentucky resumed executions in 1976, only three have had their sentences carried out. The Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy said natural causes claimed nine others before the executioner could act.

Vaughn McGeorge’s hope is that Kentucky will reinstate the death penalty soon and she gets a front row seat at Foley’s execution.

“I will make sure he will split hell wide open,” Vaughn McGeorge said.

(source: WHAS-TV news)


ACLU of Nebraska argues death penalty case in Supreme Court

The ACLU of Nebraska was back in court Wednesday, this time the state Supreme Court, arguing its case on behalf of eight men on death row, challenging the referendum that reinstated the death penalty in Nebraska.

And the state and attorneys representing individual defendants were there, too, after they had been successful in Lancaster County District Court in getting the lawsuit dismissed.

The lower court, when it dismissed the case, had agreed the plaintiffs' arguments could be taken care of in post-conviction motions in their criminal cases. Post-conviction motions are reviews by a court of convictions or sentences to determine if any mistakes were made along the way.

That question also came up Wednesday with the Supreme Court.

Brian Stull, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, said post-conviction relief is a "very narrow category of relief, available only to remedy prejudicial constitutional violations."

This claim is not that, he said, but rather for relief of the uncertainty of the plaintiffs not knowing whether they are subject to the death penalty or not.

Stull argued the Legislature's repeal of Nebraska's death penalty became effective Aug. 30, 2015, changing the punishments for the condemned men - including Jose Sandoval, Roy Ellis, Jorge Galindo, Nikko Jenkins, John Lotter, Raymond Mata, Marco Torres and Erick Vela - from death to life in prison. The lower court erred in dismissing that complaint, he said.

The law was not suspended before it went into effect, he said, because the signatures on the death penalty referendum to repeal the Legislature's action were not counted and verified by the Secretary of State's office until Oct. 16, 2015. The law required that counting and verification to suspend the death penalty, he argued.

The court asked Stull if, under his interpretation, it would ever be possible to suspend a statute.

Yes, Stull said, but the requirement is onerous, as it should be, for suspending a law.

Also under his interpretation, would it allow the secretary of state, who oversees the referendum process, to drag his or her feet to prevent the suspension of a law?

"That is possible," he said, but added: "I don't think the court should presume the bad faith of the secretary of state."

Even with that, the ballot petitioners would have an opportunity in court to get the state official to follow the law, although there is no time limit on certification in the law.

Retroactive suspension of a law is unworkable, Stull told the court.

On the state side, Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post argued the death penalty repeal was suspended and never took effect, because the referendum is invoked when the signatures are filed.

He said the Constitution provides the procedure for how and when a referendum is invoked, and his interpretation is that suspension happens prior to the act taking effect.

Otherwise, he said, "it would place the ultimate decision on when a law was suspended in the hands of 93 counties, as this court ... rightly recognized, that could possibly drag their feet. And that would not facilitate the referendum process and would be contrary to the Constitution."

Post also argued that because in this case the plaintiffs are challenging their final criminal sentence, it should be done through post-conviction remedies, not in this manner.

Danielle Conrad, executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, said in a news release "The irreversible punishment of execution — the maximum and most solemn penalty our government can mete out — is a process that requires our government to be working fairly, even-handedly and transparently."

The case, she said, goes beyond the concerns of the ACLU clients in addressing the respect for good and workable governance in the referendum process and the Legislature’s ability to reform unduly harsh punishments in the thousands of cases beyond the death penalty.

"Today’s argument concerns Nebraska’s ability to reflect on whether overly harsh punishments are consistent with Nebraska values and effective criminal justice policy," she said.

In 2016, Nebraska voters approved the referendum ballot question 61 % to 39 %, reversing the Legislature's repeal of the death penalty and restoring capital punishment in the state.

In August, the state executed condemned prisoner Carey Dean Moore. It has also notified Sandoval of the drugs that would be used in his execution, but has not issued a death warrant.

Sandoval was convicted with Galindo and Vela of shooting and killing Lisa Bryant, Lola Elwood and Samuel Sun, all Norfolk; Jo Mausbach of Humphrey; and Evonne Tuttle of Stanton in a 2002 botched bank robbery in Norfolk.

Lotter is now the man who has been on death row the longest, but he has received no notification of lethal injection drugs to be used in his sentence.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)


Nebraska's death penalty repeal was temporary, but it changed inmates' sentences, ACLU argues

Was the State Legislature’s repeal of the death penalty in effect long enough to give the members of Nebraska’s death row a new sentence of life in prison?

Yes, an attorney with a leading civil rights organization told the Nebraska Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Brian Stull, a North Carolina-based lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told judges that the repeal went into effect on Aug. 30, 2015, and wasn’t suspended until Oct. 16, when petition signatures were verified as sufficient to force a voter referendum on the future of capital punishment.

“Because a repeal was in effect, my clients no longer face the death penalty,” he said.

That was disputed by attorneys representing the state, Gov. Pete Ricketts and sponsors of the referendum. They argued that a Lancaster County judge was correct in dismissing the ACLU’s lawsuit 10 months ago. The repeal of the death penalty never went into effect, they said, because, 4 days before it was to be enacted, it was suspended when the referendum signatures were turned in.

Ryan Post of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office also maintained that the power to change final criminal sentences is reserved only for the State Pardons Board.

“I don’t believe the Legislature can change the final sentences,” Post said. “They can change sentences (only) going forward.”

Supreme Court judges, who will rule later on the case, had several questions for the attorneys, who presented conflicting arguments on whether a law is suspended when referendum petitions are turned in or later, when they are verified as sufficient to force a vote.

Nebraska voters, by a large margin, restored the state’s death penalty at the ballot box in 2016. A year later, the ACLU of Nebraska filed suit, seeking a judgment that death row inmates’ sentences had been changed to life in prison because the Legislature’s 2015 repeal had gone into effect, if only for a few weeks. Lancaster County District Judge John Colburn rejected those arguments in February, prompting an appeal and Wednesday’s oral arguments.

The ACLU had argued earlier this year that the planned execution in August of death row inmate Carey Dean Moore should be postponed until their appeal was decided. But that claim was rejected and the execution of Moore — the state’s 1st in 21 years — was carried out.

On Wednesday, Stull argued that if the Legislature lacks the power to change sentences, that could prevent lawmakers from reforming overly harsh criminal sentences. He added that allowing the mere submission of petitions — before they are counted and verified — to suspend a law would frustrate the powers of the Legislature.

He also argued that the case wasn’t about jurisdiction but about clarifying that the death penalty repeal had gone into effect.

Post, meanwhile, said the signatures turned into the Nebraska Secretary of State on Aug. 26, 2015, exceeded the requirement - more than 10 percent of registered votes in the state - necessary to suspend the repeal of the death penalty until voters decided. So the repeal never went into effect, he said.

“The only way we can read the state constitution,” he said, was that the repeal was suspended “upon filing” of the petitions. There is no requirement that they be verified first, Post said.

Attorney J.L. Spray, who represented the sponsors of the referendum to restore the death penalty, said that changing the death row sentences to life in prison would “frustrate, chill or destroy” the right of voters to override decisions by the Legislature.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Mesa man, charged in 3 deaths, deemed mentally fit

A man charged with killing 3 people in burglaries in metro Phoenix nearly 6 years ago that ended with the victims' homes set on fire has been deemed by a judge to be mentally fit to move forward with his criminal case.

Michael Lee Crane, of Mesa, faces murder, kidnapping and other charges in the January 2012 killings of Bruce Gaudet at his Phoenix townhome and of Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro at the couple's home in upscale suburb of Paradise Valley. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Superior Court Judge Warren Granville said in a ruling last week that Crane wanted to plead guilty in the murder case in February 2017, but the judge held off on resolving the case and instead ordered a mental health evaluation to determine Crane's mental competency.

Crane had claimed he was Lucifer at a 2015 hearing over his mental competency and was removed from the courtroom at several hearings after making obscene statements to people inside the courtroom, according to court records.

It's unclear whether Crane intends to follow through on his earlier plans to plead guilty in the killings. His attorney, Herman Alcantar, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Granville wrote that there's no dispute that Crane, who earlier in the case had refused to cooperate with his attorneys and tried unsuccessfully to represent himself, is aware of the circumstances and nature of the court proceedings.

The judge said the only issue over Crane's mental fitness is whether his failure to consult with his lawyers was the result of a mental disease or a choice he made.

The latest ruling by Granville found Crane to be mentally fit to move forward and repeatedly noted that Crane cooperated with court proceedings when he was working toward a goal, such as making sure he could be excused from attending a court hearing.

"This court's experience, over a long period of time and on many occasions, reflects a calculating decision-making process rather than an impelled compulsive behavior," Granville wrote.

Most of the litigation in the murder case over the past 21 months has focused on Crane's mental fitness.

Crane, 38, is still awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in 2017 to separate but related crimes that were carried out in the days after the 3 killings.

In that case, Crane pleaded guilty to burglary, attempted burglary, aggravated assault and robbery charges in a February 2012 spree at several homes in metro Phoenix.

Authorities say shoes recovered at an attempted burglary scene during the spree had been stolen days earlier from Gaudet's home. They said Crane's DNA was found on the shoes. Prosecutors say Crane was known for removing his shoes before entering homes during burglaries.

Authorities say a gun used in the 3 killings was found in Crane's possession when he was arrested in the separate crime spree.

In the killings, prosecutors say Crane bound and fatally shot the 3 victims at their homes, stole their jewelry and other valuables, and torched their homes. The Shapiros were killed 4 days after Gaudet.

Authorities have said Maricela Otilia Sanchez, 32, of Phoenix was found driving Gaudet's SUV near Yuma on the same day he was killed. She has since pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping in Gaudet's death.

Sanchez was sentenced to nearly 9 years in prison for the car theft, but is awaiting sentencing on her murder and kidnapping convictions.

3 other people accused of possessing items stolen in both fatal burglaries have since pleaded guilty to charges.

2 additional people also pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution for suppressing evidence that authorities believed would have led to Crane.


CALIFORNIA----2 death row inmates die

Probe of drugs in San Quentin death row; 2 inmates die in 2 days

An investigation is underway to determine how drugs made it to death row at San Quentin State Prison, where 2 inmates died in their cells this week, corrections officials said Wednesday.

Officials were awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine if the deaths were related to drug use, according to a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The statement said health care staff is increasing outreach and education to inmates about the dangers of drugs.

Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton declined to say what drugs were brought into the prison.

Joseph A. Perez, Jr. from Contra Costa County died Tuesday at the prison, the department said Wednesday.

Perez was found unresponsive in his cell at 9:11 p.m. Emergency lifesaving measures were started immediately, but Perez was pronounced dead at 9:21 p.m., the department said.

Perez was sentenced to death in Contra Costa County on Jan. 25, 2002, for the March 24, 1998, murder of Janet Daher, 46, who was strangled and stabbed in her Lafayette home during a home-invasion robbery.

On Monday, Herminio “Spankio” Serna, 53, a gang member sentenced to death in 1997 for multiple murders in San Jose, died at the prison, according to the department.

Serna was found unresponsive in his cell, the department said. Prison personnel gave Serna CPR and called an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead about 8:35 p.m.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 79 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 25 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, 1 was executed in Missouri, 1 was executed in Virginia, 11 have died from other causes and 4 – including Perez – are pending a cause of death. There are currently 740 offenders on California’s death row.


Man guilty of San Jose murders dies on San Quentin death row

A gang member sentenced to death in 1997 for multiple murders in San Jose died at San Quentin State Prison on Monday, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Herminio “Spankio” Serna, 53, was found unresponsive in his one-person cell on death row, said CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thornton. Prison personnel gave Serna CPR and called an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead about 8:35 p.m. A cause of death is pending.

“The circumstances of his death are being investigated,” Thornton said.

Serna belonged to the notorious Northern California Latino prison gang Nuestra Familia. During his trial, prosecutors said members wanted to control San Jose’s drug trade and command respect on the streets, and to achieve those goals, members killed associates who disobeyed orders and witnesses who threatened to expose them.

Serna was sentenced to death by a Santa Clara County jury on Nov. 21, 1997, for the murders of Esteban Guzman, Marcos Baca and Sheila Apodaca. His partners in crime, 66-year-old James Trujeque and 53-year-old Bobby Lopez Jr., were also sentenced to death that year for a series of gang-related murders in the San Jose area.

Serna had been on death row since Nov. 26, 1997.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 79 condemned inmates have died of natural causes, 24 have committed suicide, 15 have been executed, 11 have died of other causes and 3 — including Serna — are pending a cause of death, according to the CDCR. There are currently 741 offenders on death row in the state.

(source for both: Marin Independent Journal)


Canada “Deeply Concerned” over Fate on Environmental Researcher in Iran

The Canadian government says that it is “deeply concerned” about the continued detention of environmental researcher Niloufar Bayani, who is facing the death penalty in Iran on vague security charges.

On Friday, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Richard Walker said the Canadian government “is deeply concerned” about Bayani’s detention and remains “committed to holding Iran to account for its violations of human and democratic rights”.

Bayani, who is being held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, was arrested back in January by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), alongside eight other environmental activists who were monitoring the endangered Asiatic cheetah with motion-activated camera traps.

The arrests have been condemned by scientists, environmentalists and human rights activists, with anthropologist Jane Goodall being just one of 350 conservations, scholars and researchers from 70 countries calling for the environmentalists to receive “fair and just” treatment.

Bayani’s friends and colleagues, especially those who knew her from her biology degree at McGill University or her work at the United Nations Environment Program in Geneva, have also criticised her imprisonment in an effort to attract public attention and pressure for her release. Anthony Ricciardi, a McGill University biologist for whom Bayani was a research assistant, explained that he is “worried about her safety”.

Sadly, he has good reason to be. Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, 63, the Iranian-Canadian head of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation that Bayani works for was one of those arrested with her. He died under suspicious circumstances in Evin prison just 3 weeks later and, while officials claim it was suicide, his family and the United Nations want an independent investigation.

The IRGC has said the cheetah research was cover for espionage on behalf of the US and Israel, which even the Iranian Parliament have dismissed, but the environmentalists have still been held. Now 5 of them have been charged with “sowing corruption on earth”, a “crime” punishable by death, with no evidence presented to support this theory.

Ricciardi said: “They’re field ecologists and in this particular case they were trying to track a declining species. If you want to find something rare you can’t sit there all day waiting for the animal to come by, and it might be spooked by you. So you set up cameras instead.”

Of course, the truth is that the environment has become a contentious political issue in Iran and anyone seeking to tell the truth about the Regime’s disregard for it is risking their lives. After all, the Regime can ill-afford any more popular protests against it.

Ricciardi said: “[Bayani] must have known some of the risks (or working in Iran) but she did it anyway. That’s courage. From what I’ve seen of her here, I’m not surprised.”

Human Rights Watch reported that the environmentalists have not been allowed access to lawyers of their own choosing and no trial date has been set.



'New Constitution Should Make Provision for Stronger Death Penalty'

Lamin Ceesay of Jarra Japineh village in the Lower River Region of the Gambia, said the death penalty should not be abolished in the proposed new Constitution, because it is a deterrent to the crime rate and killing of people without any genuine reasons.

Ceesay said this in response to questions posed by Commissioner Yankuba Manjang, on the death penalty in the 1997 Constitution, during the engagement of the people of Japineh with the CRC on the 3rd of December 2018.

"The death penalty should not be eliminated, but the manner in which it is conducted, needs to be looked at," he said. Ceesay said that during the previous Government, the death penalty was in the Constitution. But that people thought it was Government that was killing convicted people. He suggested that the proposed new Constitution should make provision for individuals to be jailed for the rest of their lives, when they commit such crimes," he said. Ceesay contributed further that election dates should be determined by National Assembly Members, and not by the president. "The president is a politician. He may decide to choose a day that will not favour opposition parties in order to stay in power," he said.

Commissioner Manjang further explained that in the 1997 Constitution, citizenship is captured under different categorizes; that it explains that citizenship can be acquired by birth, when either of or both parents of the person are Gambians; that the other is by naturalization; that it explains that when one spends fifteen years in the country and fulfils all his or her requirements of qualification, the person can become a citizen.

Manjang further added that there is citizenship by marriage, and asked the people to give their opinions and contributions on the category or categories of citizenship they want the proposed new Constitution to make provision for.

Commissioner Manjang further engaged the people on the issue of Diaspora Gambians and prisoner's voting rights. "The prisoners should they vote or not?" he questioned.

Abba Sanneh of Japineh village said prisoners should vote. "They have the right to vote. Some of them are in prison for breaking the Law, but this should not prevent them from exercising their fundamental rights as citizens," he said.

Sanneh contributed that the categorized citizenship is very difficult to deal with, especially the one dealing with those whose parents came to this country and had them born here. "These kinds of people do not know any other country than where they were born, and that is the Gambia. So, they really deserve to be citizens," he told the CRC delegation.

Women and youth in their focal group discussions, looked at some important issues in the 1997 Constitution, ranging from Citizenship, the fate of prisoners and Diaspora Gambians, the death penalty, the appointment of Governors, the Auditor General, the Alkalos and Chiefs etc.

Women expressing themselves at a CRC constitutional review meeting in Japineh.



Korean bishops light up shrine to oppose death penalty----Still no word from government as protest movement enters 12th year

A martyrs' shrine in Seoul that served as a former execution site was illuminated recently to highlight the Catholic community's opposition to the continued use of the death penalty in the country.

The Justice and Peace Commission of the South Korean Bishops' Conference spearheaded the move.

The lighting ceremony at the Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine took place on Nov. 30 and was attended by a smattering of civil and religious groups.

The slogan attached to one of the walls of the religious relic was illuminated in yellow, blue and green. It read: "Life Peace, Abolitionist Country Korea, Abolition of Death Penalty."

Scores of Korean Catholics were decapitated at the shrine, the name of which literally translates as the "Mountain of Beheading."

"Sadly, people's awareness of the death penalty has barely grown despite the church's efforts to abolish this form of punishment," said Sister Jean Marc Cho Sung-ai from the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres.

"Many people think inmates on death row deserve to die for their crimes, but most of them come from poor families and are not well educated. Society must accept some of the responsibility for not giving them the chance to grow up with a proper education, so we cannot lay all of the blame for their brutal crimes at their feet."

Sister Sung-ai is hailed as a "godmother" by many waiting to be executed by the state for the crimes they have committed.

"Now is the time for the government to abolish capital punishment," she added.

Korean bishops chose Nov. 30 as it commemorates the day when Pietro Leopoldo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, abolished the death penalty in 1786.

The bishops' committee has held similar lighting "protests" at various venues in Seoul including Myeongdong Cathedral, City Hall, and Seodaemun Prison History Museum since 2006.

So far, the government has not issued any official response.



3 Of Family Convicted In Sargodha

Additional district and sessions judge Jauhrabad Ashfaq Ahmad on Wednesday handed down capital punishment on 2 counts with a fine of Rs 1.2 million to a man and his 2 sons involved in a double murder case.

According to the prosecution, Azmat Ali, resident of Block-4,Jauharabad with the abetement of his 2 sons named Liaqat Ali and Shaokat Ali had gunned down his neighbours Behzad Ashraf and Danial Rafiq over a petty issue on October 24, 2016.



Honour killing case: Man gets death penalty for murdering sister

A local court here awarded death penalty to a 26-year-old man Wednesday for murdering his sister.

Additional District and Sessions Judge Pankaj awarded the sentence to Ashok, 26, a resident of Juglan village in Hisar district.

Ashok was held guilty of murdering his sister Kiran on February 9, 2017.

According to prosecution, Rohtas of Siswal village had a love marriage with Kiranon August 8, 2015. The woman's family had opposed their marriage as Rohtas belonged to a different community.

On February 9, 2017, Kiran was murdered under suspicious circumstances in Juglan village. She was later cremated in the village by her family members.

A police complaint was subsequently lodged after the man, who had helped register their marriage, raised suspicion alleging that Kiran's death could be a case of honour killing.

The police later arrested Ashok, the brother of the deceased. A case was registered against Ashok under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.



Justice Kurian Joseph calls for rethink on death penalty

Justice Kurian Joseph retired from the Supreme Court on 29th November, 2018, after a distinguished tenure of almost 6 years, being elevated to the Supreme Court in March, 2013. On 28th November, 2018, he was part of a three judge bench in deciding a criminal appeal, where the bench unanimously commuted the death sentence awarded to the convict to life sentence, but moving beyond commutation, Justice Joseph chose to delve into the vexed question of death penalty, and whether it was time for a rethink on the validity of capital punishment.

The Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of death penalty way back in 1981 in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab [(1980) 2SCC 684], wherein it laid down the test of ‘rarest of rare’, ie, death penalty should be awarded only in the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, when the alternative is unquestionably foreclosed.

Justice Joseph pointed out that different benches of the Supreme Court had lamented in various judgments the lack of uniform application of the principles in Bachan Singh. The principles, though, should be followed till they are overhauled. He also highlighted the difference in the 2 reports by the Law Commission in the year 1967 and in the year 2015, which it had written on the special request of the Court. The former had asked for the retention of the penalty but the latter after extensive research came to the conclusion that the death penalty was ineffective to deter offences.

Justice Joseph further noted that “having regard to the said report of the Law Commission, the constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh has failed to prevent death sentences from being ‘arbitrarily and freakishly imposed’ and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionally and penological goals, we are of the view that a time has come where we review the need for death penalty as a punishment, especially in purpose and practice.” [Channu Lal Verma vs State of Chhattisgarh, Criminal Appeal No 1482-83 of 2018, date of judgment: 28.11.2018]

Historically, one of the main arguments in favour of retention of death penalty is that it deters future crimes, especially murders and accordingly, death penalty is a more effective deterrent than long-term imprisonment. However, there is no conclusive proof to establish this claim, which has engaged the minds of scholars, social scientists and penologists for over a century now. In fact, recent studies show that research till date is not conclusive whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates, and these research findings should not influence policy deliberations.

It is argued that owing to the lengthy appeal process and rarity of executions, as compared to the number of people sentenced to death sentence, the deterrent value of capital punishment is hardly different from long-term imprisonment. This position was brought out by a recent survey of the top criminologists of the world, majority of whom agreed that death penalty does not add any significant deterrent over long-term imprisonment.

Another of the main arguments in favour of capital sentence is that it serves as ‘just deserts’ for the criminal, ie, the criminal deserves the death sentence that he/she has inflicted on the victim by committing homicide. Retribution, as one of the penological theories, has appealed to jurists and legal scholars for long and is based on the doctrine of lex talionis, which asserts that a person deserves to experience the suffering he/she has caused. However, scholars argue that lex talionis is not a correct doctrine, since no legal system would allow the rape of a rapist, assaulting an assaulter, amongst others. Still, death penalty is an exception, wherein it is considered to be justifiable by some that a person who has murdered another person ought to be given death penalty, as part of ‘just punishment’.

It is argued that retribution, as a legitimate goal of sentencing policy, has no role in a constitutional democracy like India. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Shatrughan Chauhan and Anr vs Union of India (UOI) and Others (2014 (3) SCC 1) has observed that “retribution has no constitutional value in our largest democratic country. In India, even an accused has a de facto protection under the Constitution and it is the Court’s duty to shield and protect the same.” The desire for retribution often hides the primitive notion of private revenge to be extracted on behalf on behalf of the victim, which is incompatible with modern penology that places premium on reformation and corrective approach.

As many abolitionists argue, the main contention against retention of capital punishment is that it deprives people of the opportunity to reform, since by executing convicts, it deems certain people so evil that they are incapable of reforming themselves. The argument that certain hardened offenders are beyond reform is a fallacy because there is no way of accurately predicting that a particular offender can never be reformed.

Justice Bhagwati in his dissenting opinion in Bachan Singh had noted that “the hope of reforming even the worst killer is based on experience as well as faith and to legitimize the death penalty even in the so called exceptional cases where a killer is said to be beyond reformation, would be to destroy this hope by sacrificing it at the altar of superstition and irrationality.” In fact, if reformation is one of the objectives of criminal justice system, then capital punishment goes against that very objective by extinguishing life and putting an end to any possibility of reformation.

It is hoped that Justice Kurian’s words would reignite a debate on the death penalty in India, and we move towards a humane and compassionate society and legal regime.

(source: Amritananda Chakravorty is a freelance


2 men convicted of drug trafficking escape death row after acquittal by apex court

2 men convicted of drug trafficking have escaped the gallows, after the Court of Appeal found them not guilty and acquitted them in a split 2-1 decision.

Mohamed Affandi Rosli and Mohamad Fadzli Ahmad had appealed against their convictions in the High Court — Affandi for trafficking 132.82g of diamorphine, also known as heroin, and Fadzli for abetting by instigating the trafficking.

Both were given the mandatory death penalty for the offences.

In a written judgment issued on Wednesday (Dec 5), Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin granted both appeals.

They found that the prosecution had failed to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, the chain of custody of the drug exhibits from the time they were seized to the time the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) analysed them, such that the drug exhibits seized were the substances eventually analysed.

However, Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang disagreed, saying there was no break in the chain of custody, and that Fadzli had abetted Affandi.

After their trial in the High Court, Affandi and Fadzli were also convicted of other drug-related charges that did not carry the death penalty, but the prosecution at the time sought a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for them, in light of their capital punishment.

With the latest development, the apex court will hear at a later date any further orders that may be sought by the prosecution and lawyers in connection with that.


On July 12, 2013, officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) inspected Affandi’s car and found 8 bundles of drugs containing 132.82g of diamorphine, as well as 4 packets of drugs containing methamphetamine. Affandi was a fire safety supervisor working at Marina Bay Sands then.

Fadzli, a part-time mover, was arrested on the same day. CNB officers found 4 packets of drugs containing methamphetamine in his car, and he later surrendered 2 packets of nimetazepam tablets when officers searched his flat.

Affandi said that the diamorphine belonged to Fadzli, and that he was only in possession of the bundles until Fadzli was ready to collect them.

Fadzli denied knowledge of the diamorphine, claiming that he had met Affandi that afternoon to collect groceries from him to donate to an orphanage.

During the High Court trial, Affandi’s main defence was that there were serious questions surrounding the chain of custody of the drugs.

However, the High Court judge rejected this argument, saying it was not enough for the defence to suggest that there was a real break in the chain of custody without indicating when and how it might have happened.

The judge also found that Fadzli was seeking to distance himself from Affandi, and would have no reason to do so if he had nothing to hide.


Delivering the majority decision, Chief Justice Menon noted that “two inconsistent narratives” emerged during the trial as to how the drugs were handled by the arresting officers.

Accounts by two CNB officers showed that there were inconsistencies as to where the drug exhibits were or who held them at several points — such as during the time the arresting officers were searching Affandi’s flat, and after they returned to the CNB’s headquarters.

The prosecution is first required to account for the movement of the exhibits from when they were seized to the point of analysis by the HSA, the Chief Justice noted.

It would then be for the defence to raise reasonable doubt that there was a break in the chain of custody.

However, neither of the "2 complete and mutually exclusive” chains of custody that emerged were disproved.

“We respectfully disagree with the (High Court) judge’s conclusion that the defence had to show ‘that the exhibits have left the custody of the officers, or that unauthorised parties had access to them at some time during that period, or that the exhibits have been interfered with’. Instead, the onus is first and foremost on the prosecution to prove the chain of custody beyond reasonable doubt,” the majority judges said in the written judgment.

Neither Affandi’s nor Fadzli’s DNA was found on the bundles of diamorphine as well, they added.

Judge of Appeal Tay, in delivering the minority decision, found that the 2 inconsistent narratives did not suggest there was a break in the chain of custody.

He noted that the drug exhibits were always in a trash bag and in the custody of the CNB officers, and there was no evidence they had been mixed up with other exhibits.

Along with the other 2 appeal judges, he also rejected the defence’s argument that the drug exhibits could have been tampered with or contaminated.

The defence had argued that after the investigating officer took possession of the exhibits, she left them on the floor of her office, unsealed and unsigned, for almost 34 hours instead of locking them in a safe or steel cabinet.

However, the argument was “premised on a mere theoretical possibility”, Mr Tay said.

Chief Justice Menon and Senior Judge Chao also said that the defence’s argument was speculative as the investigating officer’s office was locked and even though the keys to her office were centrally available, the officer’s personal authorisation was required before anyone else could enter it. During the period in question, no one had requested such access, and there was nothing to suggest that the protocol had been compromised.



Trump gleefully encourages China to execute drug dealers----This totally ignores human rights, and the fact that executing dealers does not stop drug cartels.

Citing the number of people dying from fentanyl overdoses, President Donald Trump on Wednesday gleefully tweeted his support for China to start executing drug dealers.

“One of the very exciting things to come out of my meeting with President Xi of China is his promise to me to criminalize the sale of deadly Fentanyl coming into the United States,” he tweeted. “If China cracks down on this ‘horror drug,’ using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!”

It’s worth noting that the United States does not use the death penalty for drug traffickers, and that the policy of funding the “war on drugs” in countries that do execute traffickers and dealers is as ineffective as it is inhumane.

China has executed drug offenders, although fentanyl — a synthetic opioid — was not on the country’s list of controlled substances until now. China already leads the world in the number of executions, but it’s tough to know how many are killed on drug offenses.

Iran, which is also one of the world’s leading executioners, tends to publicize drug-related executions via state media. An estimated 205 of the roughly 507 put to death in Iran in 2017 (according to numbers gathered by Amnesty International) were killed on drug charges, but after pressure from European partners funding its anti-trafficking measures, Iran early this year passed a law easing the parameters for offenses that result in capital punishment. There had been movement among Iran’s lawmakers to change the law for some time, as officials realized that killing people was not solving anything.

There are no reliable numbers for how many people China has executed — nor how many it has put to death for drug offenses — but according to Amnesty International, “thousands of executions … were believed to have been carried out in China” in 2017.

Despite that, its own state media reports that parts of the country are “plagued with rampant drug production and trafficking."

With his tweet, President Trump, who has also mused that executing drug traffickers in the United States might be a good idea, is also promoting executions in a justice system that seldom grants appeals or opportunities for reform.

For instance, in the province of Guangdong in June 2017, 18 people were publicly sentenced to death, with eight of those people being executed immediately after sentencing. Chilling footage of another such sentencing in December of the same year — which included drug traffickers — was described thusly by the BBC:

[Footage] shows convicts being surrounded by armed guards and led onto raised platforms to individually receive their sentences … After they have been sentenced, they are then led onto another platform on the back of a police car surrounded by armed guards and are driven away. For some of them, the journey is directly to the firing range.

Aside from promoting practices that are in violation of human rights, President Trump is also neglecting the fact that these measures simply do not work.

For one thing, the dealers and mules — those who are paid to carry the drugs across borders — are the lowliest members of any drug cartel.

They are often poor, desperate and incredibly disposable. Sending them to the gallows is not going to slow the roll of any kingpin, nor will it actually solve the root problems of addiction.


DECEMBER 5, 2018:


'Texas 7' Inmate Executed for Officer's Killing

A member of the notorious "Texas 7" gang of escaped prisoners was executed Tuesday evening for the fatal shooting of a suburban Dallas police officer during a Christmas Eve robbery nearly 18 years ago.

Joseph Garcia received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the December 2000 shooting death of 29-year-old Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins.

Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Garcia replied: "Yes, sir."

"Dear heavenly Father, please forgive them, for they know not what they do," Garcia said.

He then paused, for nearly a minute, before speaking again as the muffled revving of motorcycles ridden by a group of bikers who support police could be heard inside the death chamber.

"To some of you," Garcia said, pausing again as the lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital apparently had already started.

"They've already started and I ain't even finished," he said.

He gasped 3 times and snored twice before all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m.

Garcia, 47, who was serving a 50-year sentence for murder, was among a group of inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison that month and committed numerous robberies, including the one in which they shot Hawkins 11 times, killing him.

Hawkins had just finished Christmas Eve dinner with his family when he responded to the call about the robbery at a sporting goods store and was ambushed.

The escaped inmates were eventually arrested in Colorado, ending a 6-week manhunt. One of them killed himself as officers closed in and the other 6 were convicted of killing Hawkins and sentenced to death.

Garcia was the 4th of the group put to death. 2 others remain on death row.

Garcia's attorneys had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution, arguing he never fired his gun at Hawkins or intended to kill him. One of his lawyers, J. Stephen Cooper, said prosecutors didn't have any information that showed his client was one of the shooters.

"He didn't do anything violent or prepare or encourage anybody else to do anything violent," Cooper said.

The high court rejected Garcia's appeals Tuesday evening.

Garcia was convicted under Texas' law of parties, in which a person can be held responsible for another individual's crime if he or she assisted or attempted to help in the commission of that crime.

At the time of the prison break, Garcia was serving time for the slaying of Miguel Luna in San Antonio. Luna's parents and his 3 daughters were among witnesses to Garcia's execution, along with 2 friends of Hawkins. They did not make themselves available to reporters following the punishment.

Toby Shook, the lead prosecutor who handled Garcia's case and the 5 others who were tried, said that while authorities couldn't narrow down which escaped inmate used which gun to shoot Hawkins, the inmates acted as a team to commit the robbery and the officer's murder.

Shook said Garcia's case is a clear example of why the law of parties is needed in certain cases.

"He was up to his ears in murder and mayhem out there. He was actively participating in everything," said Shook, now a defense attorney in Dallas.

Shook said Garcia's execution will be another step to getting closure for Hawkins' family and law enforcement.

"Ultimately, we can finally close the book on them when the punishments are all completed," he said.

Garcia becomes the 12th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 557th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Garcia becomes the 39th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Greg Abbott became governor of the state in January 2015.

Garcia becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1487 overall lsince the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: & Rick Halperin)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----39

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----557

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

40---------Dec. 11----------------Alvin Braziel, Jr.------558

41---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam------------559

42---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings---------560

43---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------561

44---------Apr. 11----------------Mark Robertson----------562

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


PA Supreme Court To Consider Putting End To Death Penalty

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will weigh whether to block the use of the death penalty unless the state overhauls how it is imposed. In an order Monday, the court said it will consider taking the unusual step of hearing the case before lower courts have ruled on it.

In a petition filed in August, the federal defender's office in Philadelphia urged the justices to exercise what’s called “king’s bench jurisdiction” to declare Pennsylvania's system of capital punishment unconstitutional. The king's bench power allows the justices to skip over the appeals process and weigh a case immediately.

The appeal involves 2 death-row inmates, Jermont Cox and Kevin Marinelli. The federal defender's petition argued that king's bench authority is warranted following a bipartisan report that state lawmakers released this summer: The report highlighted numerous defects with Pennsylvania’s capital punishment regime. It found that since 1972, 6 death row inmates have been exonerated while just 3 have been executed.

Similar numbers nationally, the petition said, show “the justice system cannot guarantee that an innocent person will not be convicted and sentenced to death.”

The petition added that the legislative report concluded that death sentences are imposed arbitrarily, based not on “the defendant’s unique culpability, but [on] bad lawyering, geographical happenstance, racial disparities, and prosecutorial caprice.”

The state Attorney General's office, which represents the commonwealth in such cases, opposed the king's bench petition. In its own filing, the AG's office said the move would “forgo all judicial norms and standards” to make “a major public policy determination.”

Justices should require the case “to be litigated in the normal manner,” the office said, rather than rely on a report it called a "nonjudicial document."

The court's 1-paragraph order instructed lawyers on both sides to prepare arguments on "the propriety of this Court's exercise of either King's Bench or extraordinary jurisdiction, as well as the merits of the issues raised in the petition." Justices Max Baer and Sallie Mundy dissented from the high court’s decision to consider the inmates’ case.

Representatives from the Philadelphia federal defender’s office and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said they cannot comment on the matter.

Cox and Marinelli, the inmates named in the case, are among roughly 150 Pennsylvania convicts awaiting execution. Both were convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in the mid-1990s.

Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium on all executions in Pennsylvania in 2015, saying that he would revisit the decision after reviewing the General Assembly’s report. Wolf said in a statement at the time, "This moratorium is in no way an expression of sympathy for the guilty on death row, all of whom have been convicted of committing heinous crimes."

Rather, the governor said, "This decision is based on a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive."

(source: WESA news)


Warren County prosecutor opposes appeals of Clayton man’s death penalty

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell wants appeals of a Clayton man’s death sentence rejected by both the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Court.

Last week, Fornshell urged the Ohio Supreme Court to reject the sentence appeal of Austin Myers, 24, a Northmont man sentenced to death in Warren County for murdering Justin Back, 18, of Warren County.

On Monday, Fornshell argued a writ of certiorari filed by Myers’ lawyers in the U.S. Supreme Court failed to meet standards set by the nation’s highest court.

“This court has already denied certiorari on the same question, and Ohio’s death penalty scheme is constitutional,” Fornshell wrote in his brief in opposition.

On Nov. 29, Fornshell said the motion for reopening filed by Elizabeth Orrick, a former state public defender, failed to raise a “genuine issue.”

In the U.S. Supreme Court, Ohio Public Defender Bethany O’Neill claimed that the high court’s ruling in another death penalty case, Hurst v. Florida, “rendered Ohio's death penalty scheme unconstitutional,” Fornshell wrote.

Myers was convicted in 2014 of murdering Back, a childhood friend. Back was about to join the U.S. Navy.

Myers was the youngest person on Ohio’s death row at the time.

Timothy Mosley, the other Clayton man charged in the case, entered a plea to life in prison without parole and cooperated with prosecutors.

(source: Springfield News-Sun)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

David Earl Miller moved to death watch as his execution approaches

Tennessee death row inmate David Earl Miller has been moved into a cell next to the electric chair days before his scheduled execution.

The Tennessee Department announced the move Tuesday, as preparations for Miller's execution continued. The new cell is part of Miller's "death watch," a period of time within 72 hours of an execution, when an inmate is under 24-7 surveillance and other heightened security measures.

Unless a court or Gov. Bill Haslam intervenes, Miller will stay in the new cell until he is put to death Thursday night. Miller, 61, has told prison officials he wants to die by the electric chair.

What to expect: David Earl Miller is scheduled to die by electrocution Thursday

Inmates can choose the chair over lethal injection if they were convicted of a crime that took place before 1999. The chair was used last for the execution of Edmund Zagorski on Nov. 1.

State officials said they are prepared to use the electric chair.

Miller's execution seems likely to move forward — his legal options are dwindling, with long-shot requests for a stay pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Gov. Bill Haslam has not commented on Miller's request for clemency, but the governor has not stopped previous executions.

Miller was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Lee Standifer, 23, in Knoxville.

(source: The Tennessean)


Tennessee death row inmates ask for electrocution over lethal injection. It’s a form of protest.----A botched drug cocktail protocol is to blame.

David Earl Miller will face the death penalty in Tennessee later this week, and like a growing number of inmates, he’s asking for electrocution over lethal injection.

Miller sent a handwritten note marked “URGENT” to the warden over at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, mere weeks before his sentence is to carried out on December 6. The 61-year-old man was found guilty of the 1981 murder of Lee Standifer in Knoxville, according to the Tennessean.

Miller is the 2nd death row inmate this year who chose the electric chair over lethal injection, and his wish appears to play out amid 2 big factors: Botched executions have gotten national attention, and challenges either to the death penalty itself or to specific forms of execution are on the rise.

In any case, it is a definitely a provocative move. Electrocution was chosen in 2018 by a Tennessee inmate for the 1st time in 11 years, and no other state has used it since 2013.

As painful as it is, though, electrocution lasts roughly 35 seconds. Lethal injection may take up to 18 minutes to kill an inmate.

“It’s a little bit surprising to me that they’d prefer electrocution,” said Deborah Denno, a death penalty expert and professor at Fordham University. “I really see that as a huge statement against lethal injection because electrocution has had its own problems.”

A national trend that creeps behind a botched protocol

Lethal injection was first enacted in the United States in 1977, but it wasn’t put to use on death row inmates until 1982. According to Denno, lethal injection protocol has been “consistently problematic” since its onset and has only gotten worse in terms of accounting for failed executions over the years.

In Alabama, some 51 inmates said they’ve chosen to die in the nitrogen gas chamber rather than succumb to lethal injection since granted the option in March. In Texas, a man accused of a series of rapes asked for the firing squad before eventually dying of a drug cocktail earlier this year.

In Tennessee, inmates have neither option (those with crimes committed before 1999 can still choose the electric chair, though), and some have legally challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection over what appears to be a rising concern over botched executions.

European pharmaceutical companies, which manufactured the main lethal injection drugs used in the US and exported them across the world, stopped supplying them to North America circa 2009, which created a massive shortage. Ever since, the US Department of Corrections has faced difficulties acquiring the proper cocktails, relying on cheap substitutes instead.

In comes midazolam. According to modern lethal injection protocol, midazolam (a sedative) is the 1st of 3 drugs given to death row inmates. It’s meant to render them unconscious so the other 2 (a muscle paralytic and a heart-stopping drug) can act on the sentenced men and women without them experiencing any pain.

But 7.1 % of the roughly 1,000 lethal injection executions since 1890 were botched - many due to midazolam failing to act as a proper sedative.

“It is not able to knock somebody out and keep them unconscious if [the inmates] are subsequently exposed to painful stimuli,” said Rob Dunham, executive director at the Death Penalty Information Center. “There is no question that the other drugs are going to produce pain … We know from botched executions that the description of being burned alive is physically accurate.”

Denno said she’s heard inmates who survived lethal injection describe the experience as “sticking a hot poker in your stomach.”

Of course, the failed use of midazolam is not the sole contributing factor in botched sentences. Denno and Dunham told me that, in addition to the ineffective drugs, both the physicality of the inmates and the lack of proper training and procedure carried out during the executions can explain the number of inmates who end up surviving a death sentence.

“A ‘typical’ botch is an inability to follow the protocol,” Dunham said. “So, if you struggle to find a vein, that’s a botch. If you find a vein and you administer the drugs and the execution is problematic because it’s an inappropriate drug, that’s a botched protocol.”

Failed sentences are happening at the same time as — and maybe even contributing to — legal challenges and changes to the death penalty

On Columbus Day this year, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that lethal injections will remain the preferred method of execution for people on death row, delivering a major blow to some 32 inmates who’ve protested the drug cocktails violate the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which orders that no “cruel and unusual punishments” be inflicted on prisoners.

Tennessee Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins wrote in the majority opinion: “We conclude that the plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of showing availability of their proposed alternative method of execution … As a result, we need not address the plaintiffs’ claim that the 3-drug protocol creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain."

And yet, Tennessee inmates are not alone in the fight. Many death penalty cases have come before the Supreme Court just this year, a matter that’s put America’s highest court — and its recently confirmed controversial justice — in the spotlight.

“This all creates a perfect storm of extraordinary ineptitude,” Denno said. “The Supreme Court … is embarrassed that it’s taken on as many [death penalty cases] as it has without any resolution. It wants them to go away.”

But the Supreme Court’s apparent incompetence has driven state lawmakers to take a stronger stance on capital punishment.

Since the turn of the century, 8 states have moved to abolish capital punishment for all crimes, a possible outcome of the long-standing legal battle that argues lethal injection — and electrocution, for that matter — is unconstitutional.

What’s more, support for the death penalty has drastically fallen, with 54 % of Pew survey respondents approving of the sentencing, in stark contrast to 78 % just over 2 decades ago.

According to Dunham, Americans’ approval has definitely swayed state legislatures (especially left-leaning ones like New York, Connecticut, and, most recently, Washington) to move away from capital punishment sentences, a trend that’s “certainly” also been affected by the high number of botched lethal injection executions.

And yet, in Tennessee, inmates are still likely to choose electrocution in the years to come as a form of protest.

“It really tells us about the state of the death penalty in the United States,” Dunham said. “It’s astonishing that we’ve come to this.”



Death penalty rejected for man who killed woman and her 4-year-old daughter

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request by Indiana's attorney general's office to reinstate the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a central Indiana woman and her 4-year-old daughter.

Monday's decision leaves in place a federal appeals court ruling that threw out Frederick Baer's death sentence because he had ineffective legal counsel. He'll now be resentenced by an Indiana court.

The 47-year-old Indianapolis man was convicted in the 2004 slayings of 26-year-old Cory Clark and her daughter Jenna at their rural Madison County home about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

A 3-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago threw out Baer's death sentence in January.

Indiana's attorney general's office asked the full federal appeals court in February to reinstate Baer's death sentence.

(source: Associated Press)


Fitch calls for Bell to turn over Catholic Supply case to feds for death penalty

Thomas Bruce, 53, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the Nov. 19 Catholic Supply store killing.

Former St. Louis County police Chief Tim Fitch, now set to take a seat on the County Council Jan. 1, called on the incoming county prosecutor to turn the Catholic Supply killing case over to federal authorities so that the killer can get the death penalty.

Prosecutors charged Thomas Bruce, 53, of Imperial with 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and burglary in the case, in which they say Bruce went into the Catholic Supply store at 14069 Manchester Road Nov. 19, sexually assaulted 3 women at gunpoint and shot Jamie Schmidt in the head when she refused to comply with his demands. House Springs resident Schmidt, 53, later died at a hospital.

Bruce is being held without bond at the St. Louis County Justice Center.

The Catholic Supply store is in the west county-based 3rd District, which Fitch, R-Fenton, will represent starting in January. Incoming county Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell will be sworn in alongside Fitch at a ceremony Jan. 1.

But Bell should not be prosecuting the case, Fitch argued in a news release sent out last week.

“This horrific sexual assault and murder begs for the ultimate penalty upon conviction,” Fitch said. “The community needs to send a convincing message in senseless deaths such as the one forced upon the victim, Jamie Schmidt.”

In a press conference following Bruce’s arrest, county Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said that the decision on the death penalty would be up to Bell.

The incoming prosecutor vowed in his campaign platform that he would not seek the death penalty in any case. He defeated 7-term incumbent McCulloch in the Democratic primary in August and had no challenger in the November general election.

Fitch noted that Bell said on his campaign website that he “pledges never to seek the death penalty.”

Fitch said he believed federal prosecutors could find multiple federal crimes to associate with the case to seek execution.



Provo man facing death penalty pleads not guilty in murder of 4-month-old baby girl

A Provo man pleaded not guilty Monday in an aggravated capital murder case stemming from the death of a 4-month-old girl in March.

23-year-old Cameron Willingham is accused of killing baby Nevaeh King, who was his girlfriend’s daughter.

Provo police said that on March 19, officers responded to the call of a baby that was not breathing. The baby was flown to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

“Through the autopsy, it was found that she [Nevaeh] had serious head and neck injuries as well as abdominal hemorrhaging,” said Sgt. Nisha King with Provo Police.

Police announced the arrest of Willingham several days after Nevaeh died.

Willingham appeared in court Monday, where he entered a not guilty plea for 1 count of capital murder and 1 count of obstructing justice, a 2nd-degree felony.

His pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.

(source: Fox News)


EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah condemn death sentences issued in Gaza

The European Union Representative and the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah Tuesday condemned the death sentences issued in the Gaza Strip on Monday against 6 Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel, according to a statement.

A Hamas military court found the 6 Palestinians guilty of collaborating with Israel, mainly in the botched operation that took place in Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, on November 11, which resulted in the death of seven Palestinians. The commander of the undercover Israeli force was also killed after the operation was uncovered.

The EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah recalled in their statement their firm opposition under all circumstances to the use of capital punishment.

The statement said the EU considers that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the protection of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.

“The EU considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhuman, that it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behavior, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”

The EU Missions called on the de facto authorities in Gaza to refrain from carrying out any executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority, pending the abolition of the death penalty in line with the global trend and following the signing of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.



Urgent Action


Saudi activist Israa al-Ghomgham and 4 other individuals on trial at the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) face the death penalty for charges related to their participation in peaceful protests.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Urging the Saudi Arabian authorities not to hand down the death sentence to the 5 defendants;

* Urging them to release Israa al-Ghomgham, Ahmed al-Matrood, Ali Ouwaisher, Mousa al-Hashim, Khalid al-Ghanim and Mujtaba al-Muzain immediately and unconditionally, as they are held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association;

* Urging them to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact these 2 officials by 14 January, 2018:

King and Prime Minister

His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques Office of His Majesty the King Royal Court, Riyadh

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)

+966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)

Twitter: @KingSalman

Salutation: Your Highness

Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

601 New Hampshire Ave. NW

Washington DC 20037

Phone: 202 342 3800

Contact Form:

Twitter: @SaudiEmbassyUSA

Salutation: Your Royal Highness

(source: Amnesty International)


Bill to abolish death penalty will only be tabled later, says MP

A Bill to abolish the death penalty will not be tabled at this parliamentary sitting, said Bukit Gelugor MP and vocal critic of the death penalty Ramkarpal Singh.

Last October, de facto law minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong had confirmed that the death penalty would be abolished for 33 offences, including murder.

“This is obviously not going to happen at this sitting and there is no official reason being given as to why,” Ramkarpal said at a forum on the abolition of the death penalty, organised by the Bar Council’s human rights committee.

“We hope to see it being tabled at the next sitting in March,” he added.

Crimes against kids

Ramkarpal said the abolition of the death penalty, as promised in the PH manifesto, was “all-encompassing”. It was for offences which carry both the discretionary and mandatory death penalty.

“Certain offences such as crimes against children and sexual offences have raised debate as to whether or not the country is ready to totally abolish the discretionary death penalty,” he said.

He said this had resulted in the government taking a step back to consider the views of all the stakeholders who have an interest in the issue.

“We have to accept the fact that not everybody is anti-death penalty. A responsible government has to take into account the views of all the stakeholders.”

Ramkarpal had previously stated that the death penalty could be retained in certain cases.

“When I said the death penalty could be retained in certain cases, I meant it in the context of new identifiable offences. I don’t mean this discretion should be applied to the current offences that we have.”

He gave as example repeat offenders or offenders who were caught “red-handed” for specific crimes, although he did not go into the details.

However, Ramkarpal stressed that the government’s view was that the death penalty must go.

“It is this responsibility of considering the views of all stakeholders that has resulted in the delay in tabling the Bill at this parliamentary sitting."


Expedite reforms or you’ll lose credibility, Ambiga warns PH

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government will lose credibility if it fails to carry out reforms as outlined in its election manifesto, former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan said.

She said the people voted for PH instead of Barisan Nasional as it had promised to promote democracy and uphold human rights.

"If PH keeps backtracking on the promises, it will lose credibility,” she told a forum entitled “Abolition of the Death Penalty: Rationale and Implications" organised by the Malaysian Bar here this evening.

The human rights lawyer said it was also important for this region that Malaysia succeeds as a vibrant democracy.

She also suggested that PH set up a transition team, which comprised government representatives, civil society members and the Malaysian Bar, to kickstart all reforms as promised in the manifesto.

"This committee will help the government explain to the public its reform agenda."

She said there were already concerns that the reform agenda would grind to a halt.

Ambiga said it would be disgraceful if PH could not get a simple piece of legislation, like abolishing the death penalty, approved, given that 142 countries had already repealed it.

"What is our excuse?"

Ambiga said she still hoped the government would table the bill in the Dewan Rakyat to repeal the death penalty on Dec 10, which is the World Human Rights Day.

"Give it as a present to the people of Malaysia."

Ambiga said there had been enough consultations and arguments for and against capital punishment.

"No need for further consultations. You cannot run the government by referendum."

She said the government needs to abolish the death penalty first but could consider retaining the punishment in the “rarest of rare cases” later.

The Cabinet made a decision on Oct 10 that the death penalty in all laws in this country should be abolished.

(source for both:

DECEMBER 4, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

'Texas 7' Member Set To Die Under Controversial Law

A San Antonio man is set to die by lethal injection on Tuesday for a murder he didn’t actually commit. As part of the notorious “Texas 7” escape, Joseph Garcia was convicted and sentenced to die under a controversial law some say is unconstitutional.

“Why am I here? Why am I on death row? You know, I don't get it," said Garcia from death row Wednesday. "... Why are you trying to kill me for the actions of somebody else?”

Garcia was sentenced to death under the “Law of Parties,” which holds a non-shooter accomplice just as criminally liable as the person pulling the trigger.

Stephanie Stevens, law professor, and supervising attorney for the St. Mary's University Center for Legal and Social Justice, said the law is broader in Texas than in other states.

“If you and another person were going to go rob a convenience store. If during the course of that robbery, your friend inside the store shot and killed the convenience store clerk, you would be guilty for capital murder as well, even though you sat in the car the whole time,” she said.

On Dec. 13, 2000, the group of inmates, known as the Texas 7, broke out of the Connally Prison Unit in Karnes County. The escape triggered the largest manhunt in the state’s history. 11 days later, on Christmas Eve, members of the crew fatally shot and ran over Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins during a robbery of a sporting goods store.

“He was very nice and easy to get along with — very unassuming,” said Jeff Spivey, chief of the Irving Police Department, of Hawkins.

But Garcia said he shouldn’t be executed because he didn’t actively take part in the fatal shootout Hawkins.

"You have the testimony of these people who did actually kill," Garcia said. "... They did it. And so, I mean, I think what it all boils down to ... is that I'm one of the Texas 7.”

Garcia said his version of events is supported by the testimony of others — he was inside the store and never fired a gun.

“I don't know. I don't know what caused them to start firing at the officer," he said. "By the time I got out there on the back dock, it was over.”

But Chief Spivey says that makes no difference. Garcia directly participated in the murder of Hawkins in other ways.

“Joseph Garcia, due to his accomplice testimony is either credited with pulling Officer Hawkins’ dead body out of the car and moving the car so that they could then escape in the Ford Explorer," he said. "So I think it's a little self-serving for Joseph to say that.”

Nevertheless, some anti-death penalty activists say using the Law of Parties in death penalty cases might be a violation of the Constitution’s 8th Amendment, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. And with last-minute appeals filed the courts could intervene. Garcia is scheduled to be executed Tuesday at 6 p.m.



Texas’s Death-Penalty System Is a Travesty. Joseph Garcia Is Proof.

Texas’s death-penalty system is a travesty. It is racist; kills people who are probably innocent at an alarming rate; and has used drugs sourced from a pharmacy that, according to BuzzFeed News, was “cited for scores of safety violations,” forged quality control documents, and sent at least 1 child to the emergency room because it had improperly compounded their medication. 5 of the 11 Texas inmates executed in 2018 said the drugs used to kill them felt like they were “burning” them internally, even though they were supposed to be pain-free — reflecting a nationwide pattern of excruciating deaths by lethal injection. Perhaps even worse is that Texas is not unique. These issues illustrate an ethical and logistical crisis facing the American death-penalty system as a whole, from Tennessee to South Dakota to Oklahoma.

Yet barring a miracle, December 4 will be business as usual. Joseph Garcia is set to be executed in Texas for his role in the Christmas Eve 2000 murder of Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins, which occurred during a shoot-out after Garcia and 6 other men broke out of a maximum-security prison in Kenedy and robbed a sporting goods store. There is no proof that Garcia pulled the trigger. In fact, he was inside the store while the shooting unfolded outside, making his guilt unlikely. But Texas’s Law of Parties holds that he could be convicted of a crime his associates had committed simply because he was present.

Details from Garcia’s tragic personal story cast doubt on whether he should have been in the prison he escaped from in the first place. Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun and prominent death-penalty abolitionist, outlined it in a Twitter thread on Sunday:

The thread is worth reading in its entirety, but includes accounts of Garcia’s trauma-filled childhood, including several instances of sexual abuse and his first criminal conviction, for which he received a 50-year prison sentence. The conviction stemmed from a 1996 incident where he stabbed and killed Miguel Luna, an acquaintance with whom he attended a party one night. Luna — who had had a history of violence against women and, in Prejean’s words, “men who he perceived as obstacles to his access to women” — had stolen Garcia’s keys and attacked him after Garcia separated him from a female partygoer Luna was trying to coerce into sex.

Garcia’s court-appointed attorney failed to note Luna’s history or make a self-defense argument, but the system’s failure to give Garcia a fair shake did not stop there. 4 years later came the Irving store robbery that spiraled out of control, resulting in the death of a police officer for which there is still no proof of Garcia’s hands-on involvement. In 2003, his case was overseen by a judge named Vickers “Vic” Cunningham, who made headlines in May when the Dallas Morning News reported that his living trust rewarded his children for marrying white people rather than interracially. These injustices continued in the absurdity of Garcia’s death sentence. Participating in a robbery is not murder. Yet under Texas law, he was found guilty of killing Officer Hawkins — which he has maintained he did not do, and which nobody has proven he did — because the people with whom he was simultaneously committing a different crime may have. This is an unacceptable pretense on which to convict anybody of a crime, let alone sentence them to death.

But in a broader sense, Garcia’s case illustrates the fundamental illogic on which the death penalty is predicated. There is no proof that capital punishment deters crime. It is racist, as demonstrated locally by the 102 black inmates executed in Texas, as of July 2017, out of the 235 total — a rate of 43 %, compared to black Texans’s 12.7 % population share. Every European nation has abolished it, save for Belarus, a dictatorship. It is such a contentious practice that its application is often subject to years of appeals, deferring closure to victims and leaving the convicted to languish on death row for decades, awaiting what can end up being an agonizingly painful death. The details of its implementation aside, the existence of the death penalty presumes that a country whose wealth was derived from black slave labor and indigenous-land theft, and seen thousands of racist lynchings, has moral legitimacy to be executing people in the first place.

America’s commitment to this horrific farce persists nonetheless. Capital punishment is cast often as the overwhelming province of former slave-holding states in the South, like Texas, but California houses one in every 4 death-row inmates. Its use is declining across the country, but efforts to do away with it entirely face severe opposition. After Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala — the 1st and only black elected prosecutor in Florida history — announced in March 2017 that she would not seek the death penalty in any case tried by her office, Republican then-governor Rick Scott personally reassigned several of her cases to another prosecutor. “He’s taking away the authority that she was given by the people [who elected her],” State Senator Randolph Bracy told the Orlando Sentinel at the time. Most of these national tensions converge at Garcia’s case, which illustrates vividly the dysfunction and immorality of a systemic atrocity masquerading as justice. Nobody is served by the death penalty’s continued existence save its financial profiteers and those committed to the delusion it constitutes anything more than revenge. That a broken man like Garcia can be killed legally, here, in its name, is Texas’s shame, and ours as a nation.

(source: Zak Cheney-Rice)


‘We don’t do it’: As protesters gather, Texas pharmacy owner denies providing lethal injection drugs

Denouncing capital punishment and shouting into a bullhorn grisly descriptions of executions, a small cadre of anti-death penalty activists turned out Monday to protest a Houston area pharmacy that allegedly compounded death drugs for the Texas prison system.

But even as the sign-carrying crowd gathered outside, the owner of Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy & Gifts emerged to clear the air and refute allegations that his business compounds drugs destined for the Huntsville death chamber.

“It’s the wrong pharmacy and we don’t do it,” said Ken Hughes. “They have been mistaken or misinformed.”

For more than an hour, close to two dozen activists posted up outside the Southside Place store that BuzzFeed last week identified as one pharmacy that mixes the state’s supply of pentobarbital, the deadly barbiturate used to dole out capital punishment. Previously, Hughes told the online news outlet that his store only did drug testing for the prison system, but did not offer a clear answer when asked if he’d ever compounded death drugs for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

“They need to tell us today that they are going to stop making execution drugs,” said long-time activist Gloria Rubac.

Another activist called lethal injection a “modern-day lynching” and likened it to the Holocaust.

Although the store owner came out to document who turned up, the gathering stayed well-behaved. At one point, Southside Place police Chief Don McCall pulled up and politely asked the protesters not to block the driveways and please not swear on the bullhorn because “there’s women and kids around.”

The protest plans came together in response to Wednesday’s reporting by BuzzFeed’s Chris McDaniel who, citing unidentified federal documents, named the small gift shop in southwest Houston as 1 of 2 compounding pharmacies allegedly providing drugs to the state.

Aside from identifying Greenpark as the alleged source of the drugs, the news report also laid out a slew of documented safety violations that landed the Braeswood business on probationary status 2 years ago.

In 2016, according to state records, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy found that the company had mixed up the wrong drug for 3 kids. In a warning letter two years later, the FDA dinged the Houston business for “insanitary conditions” that could have contaminated drugs.

It was those problems that prompted lawyers for death row inmate Joseph Garcia - 1 of the notorious “Texas 7” escapees, who’s set for execution Tuesday - to ask the governor for a 30-day reprieve and file a last-minute federal appeal.

Exactly where the state gets its death drugs has been shrouded in mystery, as a 2015 law keeps secret the suppliers’ names. Previously, the state has argued that revealing identifying information about the source of the drugs could endanger businesses and their workers.

“Releasing publicly the identity of any supplier of execution drugs raises serious safety concerns that real harm could come to the business, operators and its employees,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel told the Chronicle in October.

But Monday’s protest stayed peaceful if, at times, loud. And the activists stressed that their presence didn’t present any threat.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said protester Ward Larkin, “to let these people know that they’re not acting ethically.”

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Local death penalty case moved to Greene County

A Texas County death penalty case will be heard in Greene County, a judge in Steelville determined Monday.

Andrew J. Vrba, 19, of Houston, is charged with 1st-degree murder, armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse in the September death of Joseph M. Steinfeld, 17, who went by “Ally” and planned to transition to a female, according to family members. Authorities allege the victim was stabbed and the remains burned.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

No trial date has been set.

2 other defendants were previously sentenced, and another, Briana Calderas, still faces a trial. A pre-trial conference was Wednesday in her case. A trial in Pulaski County is Feb. 25-March 1. She also is charged with 1st-degree murder, armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse.

(source: Houston Herald)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----38

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----556

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

39---------Dec. 4-----------------Joseph Garcia-----------557

40---------Dec. 11----------------Alvin Braziel, Jr.------558

41---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam------------559

42---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings---------560

43---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------561

44---------April 11---------------Mark Robertson----------562

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


U.S. Supreme Court rejects death row appeal

With Florida death row inmate Jose Antonio Jimenez scheduled to be executed next week, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up an appeal.

The Supreme Court, as is common, did not explain its reasons. Gov. Rick Scott last month scheduled a Dec. 13 execution for Jimenez, who was convicted in the 1992 murder of 63-year-old Phyllis Minas during a burglary in Miami-Dade County.

Neighbors tried to enter the home through an unlocked front door after hearing Minas’ cries, but Jimenez slammed the door shut, locked it and fled by going onto a bedroom balcony, according to court documents.

Jimenez, now 55, also has 2 appeals pending at the Florida Supreme Court, including one filed Monday.

Scott signed a death warrant in July and initially scheduled the execution of Jimenez in August. But the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of execution so it could look further at issues in the case.

The Florida Supreme Court on Oct. 4 lifted the stay, allowing Scott to reschedule the execution.

(source: Florida Politics)


Should those with serious mental illnesses be exempt from the death penalty in Ohio?

If Ohio is going to execute convicted murderers, it shouldn't execute individuals with serious mental illnesses, a bipartisan group of lawmakers says.

That is the aim of House Bill 81, which would prohibit capital punishment for anyone with a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder. The proposal has stalled for years in the Ohio House but could advance this week for the first time after gaining support from a handful of Republicans.

Those facing the death penalty would present evidence, including an expert evaluation, to prove they were "significantly impaired" at the time of the offense – they didn't know what they did was wrong or illegal. Prosecutors could dispute that.

If a judge or jury finds the person was impaired at the time of the murder, the defendant could not be sentenced to death. They could still face life in prison.

The idea came from a 2014 task force of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and academics who recommended several changes to Ohio's death penalty. It builds on U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Bill Seitz of Green Township and Democratic Rep. Nickie J. Antonio of Lakewood, has bipartisan support. Groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio and Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association agree that certain people shouldn't face the death penalty.

“If we are going to have a death penalty, it should be reserved only for those who are the worst of the worst, not for those who are suffering from impaired judgment due to a severe mental illness," said Richard Cline, chief counsel with Ohio Public Defender's death penalty department, during a Nov. 27 hearing.

Convicted killers could be exempt from the death penalty even if they are found competent to stand trial and don't meet the standards for being found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors and some GOP lawmakers aren't convinced that the changes are needed.

Under the bill, those already on death row could ask a judge to take another look at their mental state at the time of the offense and possibly have their death sentence vacated.

Some worry that every inmate on death row would claim some mental illness to escape execution.

“It would be a substantial miscarriage of justice for someone convicted and sentenced to death years ago to be able to now claim that they had a serious mental illness at the time and should, therefore, be excluded from the death penalty,” said Lou Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

Opposition from prosecutors has stalled the proposal once before.

Still, the bill could get a vote in committee Tuesday. From there, the proposed law would need approval from the Ohio House and Ohio Senate before heading to Gov. John Kasich. The Legislature has only a handful of sessions remaining.


TENNESSEE----impending execution

Tennessee inmate asks US Supreme Court to halt execution

A condemned Tennessee inmate is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his Thursday execution and consider his claims that the electric chair is unconstitutional but the state's lethal injection method is worse.

Attorneys for David Earl Miller filed a petition with the high court Monday after a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the inmate.

Miller has chosen to die by electrocution, the second Tennessee inmate in just more than a month to make that choice. His attorneys have argued that Tennessee's preferred execution method of midazolam-based lethal injection cause a prolonged and torturous death.

The 6th Circuit ruled that Miller could not challenge electrocution because he chose that method. His attorneys argue the choice was coerced by the threat of something even worse.

(source: Associated Press)


Appeals court denies attempt to delay David Earl Miller's execution

A federal appeals court has blocked an attempt to delay David Earl Miller's execution while he challenges the constitutionality of lethal injection and the electric chair.

In an opinion handed down Monday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the federal district court in Nashville, saying Miller's execution should move forward as scheduled Dec. 6 while his lawsuit against Tennessee's execution methods is pending.

Miller, 61, has told prison officials he wants to be executed using the electric chair. He was sentenced to death for killing 23-year-old Lee Standifer in 1981.

Miller was 1 of 4 death row inmates to file suit in November, arguing that a firing squad would be more humane than the state's 3-drug lethal injection protocol or the electric chair.

In order to secure a stay of execution, the appellate judges wrote, Miller would have to show he was likely to succeed in challenging Tennessee's lethal injection and electrocution methods as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

A majority of the judges said he had failed to do so.

"Miller (has) not shown that the new (lethal injection) protocol is 'sure or very likely' to be less humane than electrocution" the majority wrote in a 2-1 decision. "Because Miller has elected to be executed by electrocution, he has waived any challenge to his execution by that method."

But Judge Helene White dissented, saying he had shown adequate evidence that the state's lethal injection and electrocution methods were cruel and unusual enough to violate the U.S. Constitution.

The defeat at the 6th Circuit further limits Miller's options to stop his execution, although a few remain.

His attorneys have appealed the 6th Circuit's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on a separate request for a stay in this case.

And Gov. Bill Haslam has not decided on Miller's application for clemency, which was filed Friday.

(source: The Tennessean)


David Miller should not be executed because of his childhood adversity

Children are our future; what happens while they are young has life-long consequences. I recently retired after 45 years advocating in Tennessee for improving outcomes for children and families. The last several years focused on preventing adverse childhood experiences – ACEs – and mitigating their impact on children, families and society.

Research on ACEs demonstrates childhood adversity leads to trauma and toxic stress that damage the developing brain. This can cause developmental damage, violence, substance abuse, and physical and mental health challenges.

Gov. Bill Haslam and other state leaders launched Building Strong Brains Tennessee, an effort to establish Tennessee as a national model promoting culture change to prevent and mitigate ACEs and their impact, and to enhance long-term prosperity by improving outcomes for children.

The original ACEs study identified 10 types of childhood trauma. 5 are personal: physical, verbal or sexual abuse, and physical or emotional neglect. 5 are caused by family dysfunction: parental substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, domestic violence and the absence/loss of a parent.

Each experience of trauma counts as 1 ACE. So, if before age 18, a child experiences physical abuse and a father in jail, his ACE score is 2. Higher scores increase risk for poor mental and physical health outcomes (depression, addiction, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and psychosocial outcomes (incarceration, job failure, lower education).

Individuals who become violent often have experienced substantial trauma and have high ACE scores. ACEs are facts, not fate, so safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments can reduce damage from significant childhood stressors.

David Miller has been on Tennessee’s death row nearly 37 years and is scheduled for execution Dec. 6. As a child, David experienced chronic physical, sexual and emotional trauma, giving him an irregularly high ACE score. His biological father and mother both had mental illness; his mother sexually abused him for years. David’s stepfather beat him regularly, sometimes to unconsciousness.

David repeatedly fled the abuse only to be returned home, where the beatings and sexual abuse continued. Later, he was sent to a boys’ school, another experience marked by rampant abuse and assaults. At age 14, David began experiencing seizures and episodes of losing contact with reality, attributable to his severe, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition led to the crime for which he was sentenced to death.

David was dating Lee Standifer in Knoxville when she was murdered. According to court documents, he had significant memory lapses that night and couldn’t explain what happened. He did not dispute that he had killed Ms. Standifer, but only remembered hitting her with his fists.

In his 1982 trial, the law did not allow a defense expert as it does today, so no expert testified about David’s diminished mental health. The law had changed by his resentencing in 1987, but his attorney failed to call an expert to testify about his brain damage and psychosis, factors juries often find warrant a sentence of life in prison instead of the death penalty.

Though lay witnesses shared his history of abuse in his resentencing in 1987, Tennessee's death penalty statute failed to let the jury weigh this as mitigation, a defect in Tennessee law since addressed. Today, jurors can consider any facts supporting a life sentence over a death sentence.

Someone with a life-long history of ACEs whose abuse and mental health problems weren't properly considered by the courts should not be executed. David Miller's traumatic experiences should have been mitigating factors and would be if he were tried today.

As we continue advocating for children today, we must also stand up for those who have been extensively victimized since childhood. In cases like David's, execution is not the answer.

(source: Linda O'Neal, Guest Columnist; Knoxville News Sentinel)


Jihadist Beheader In Oklahoma Cleared For Execution ----The Alton Nolen case is very much worth remembering, along with all terror attacks that occur on U.S. soil, not just for the victims and their survivors but for lessons that must be learned.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially cemented the execution of America’s least known Islamic terrorist. Jihadist convert Alton Nolen is now set to be put to death in Oklahoma, likely by nitrogen gas inhalation.

The Supreme Court’s October 1, 2018 rejection of Nolen’s final death penalty appeal went unremarked upon by news media so, partly as a result, I missed it. But the Nolen case is very much worth remembering, along with all terror attacks that occur on U.S. soil, if not just for the victims and their survivors but for lessons that can and must be learned.

The September 24, 2014 attack in Oklahoma is somewhat notable in the annals of many officially uncalled terrorist strikes in that Nolen emulated a favorite ISIS death tactic no doubt learned online: he fully beheaded a co-worker—the beloved wife, mother, and grandmother Colleen Hufford—inside the Moore, Oklahoma food processing plant where they both worked. Shouting “Alluah Akbar” throughout the attack, Nolen used the same oversized butcher knife on the neck of a second co-worker, Tracy Johnson, when the company’s chief operations officer, a reserve law enforcement officer named Mark Vaughn, burst in with an AR-15 rifle. He shot and wounded Nolen as Nolen disengaged from his second victim and charged at him with the bloody knife.

Such an attack must generate a particular horror in its witnesses and, when Nolen is finally put to death, one should keep in mind what Hufford must have experienced in her last moments.

The Benefits of Calling Terror Attacks ‘Terror Attacks’

Rather than to call this an Islamic terror attack and charge it federally as such, President Obama’s U.S. Department of Justice let the local district attorney charge Nolen under state murder statues (and as an assault and battery against survivor Traci Johnson). The whole disgusting affair was quickly forgotten by the rest of the nation, government, and all but those involved and some locals. But make no mistake: This was a jihadist terror attack on American soil.

This attack and its repercussions warrants our full national attention and should be properly memorialized until all related matters are finally resolved, not least for any comfort this can still bring the victim, survivors, and witnesses. Terrorism acknowledgement and media treatment can encourage the nation to comfort those who were there and help them close the emotionally important loop of knowing why loved ones and innocents died, who did it, and for what cause.

Calling terrorism out for what it is portends practical benefits too. Federal acknowledgement of Islamic terrorism opens the throttle on investigations that can identify co-conspirators and foreign connections. Public acknowledgement and remembrance can spur suspicious activity reporting from the general public, which can roll up other cocked and loaded extremists before they also kill.

Also importantly, federalizing the identification of terrorism cases helps homeland security authorities look inward to determine if intelligence failures occurred. Homeland security professionals learn from those what not to repeat and how to fix broken processes, to reduce the chances of future law enforcement intelligence failures.

The Obama administration decided not to call this a terror attack or count it as one soon afterward, even though Nolen, a prison convert to Islam, had filled his Facebook page with hideous ISIS propaganda and openly praised the death cult’s rise to global prominence through constant blood-letting. Nolen had just been suspended after co-workers rejected his Islamist proselytizing and demands for religious accommodations at Vaughan Foods. This gave those already predisposed to downplay Islamic terror attacks the excuse needed to suggest workplace violence and mental illness was somehow at play, instead of the prima facie terror attack it was.

Proof of Terrorism Overflowed at Trial

The 2017 trial, which received only some highly localized Oklahoma TV news coverage, decisively showed this was neither mental illness nor workplace violence. Taped police interviews of Nolen and other evidence showed Nolen was motivated by Qur’anic scripture and the very same well-worn extremist ideology we have seen cited for attacks across the globe, to include the 9/11 attacks. Nolen has proven unrepentant.

On September 29, after hearing the evidence a jury rejected defense arguments that Nolen was insane. Right after the attack, for instance, police asked a very calm and collected Nolen if anyone had told him to behead unbelievers. He responded that the Qur’an gave him the idea. (Qur’an 47:4 states that “When you meet the unbelievers, strike their necks.) Nolen answered: “Uh, no. I read the Qur’an. Like I say, the Qur’an is easy to understand. No one guides me but Allah.”

When asked why he beheaded Hufford, he answered: “I just feel like…I did what I needed to do. What Allah says in the Qur’an to do. Oppressors don’t need to be here. You know the Muslim is somebody who submits their will to Allah…Whatever he wants done, that’s what we do…And you know he wants us to get the oppressors out of this place.”

When asked if he regretted murdering Hufford, Nolen answered: “There wasn’t nothing but a trial for me. I passed it because, like I said, I felt oppressed. I knew for sure that, if I was to die right then, I was going to heaven.” He added: “I feel, you know, you know what I’m saying, if I was to die in five or 10 minutes, I’m going to heaven. That’s all that matters to me.”

Nolen also confirmed that he had screamed “Allahu akbar” as he beheaded Hufford.

Johnson testified that she ran into the next room after hearing screaming and saw Nolan standing over Hufford with a bloody knife. “When I saw the defendant, I was frozen. I couldn’t move. And I saw the knife with the blood on the knife, and he made a mad dash toward me and pushed me up against the wall and held me up with his forearm against the wall and just started splicing my neck. He was just going back and forth like he was just cutting a piece of meat.”

The hero of this tragedy is Vaughan, then COO of Vaughan Foods and an Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy. When the call came that a knife attack was underway, Vaughan suited up with his weapon, ammo, and first aid on a vest. Vaughan testified that he and another employee entered the building where the attack was underway and saw Nolen on top of Johnson. He testified that he called for Nolen to stop. Nolen jumped up, ran around a corner and charged Vaughan at full speed. Vaughan said he fired 3 rounds.

Nolen leaned against a wall and fell to the ground. Vaughan then held Nolen at bay until police arrived and took the suspect away.

Deserves National Acknowledgement and Coverage

Although Nolen’s execution warrants national notice, no solid date was readily available. Oklahoma has been caught up in political wrangling with death penalty opponents and thus shut down the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs. Most of the state’s executions are awaiting a resolution over state plans to start using nitrogen gas. Earlier this year, the state announced it was working to develop a new execution protocol making nitrogen hypoxia the preferred method.

When this is all sorted out, politically and legally, Nolen’s turn will come and bring the state’s only possible final resolution to this terrorism episode so we can all properly move on. When that resolution is at hand, I hope somehow the world finds out about it.

(source: Todd Bensman is a Texas-based senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies. For nearly a decade, Bensman led counterterrorism-related intelligence efforts for the Texas Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division----The Federalist)


On death row, Marvin Gabrion plans appeal in woman's 1997 killing

Condemned killer Marvin Gabrion filed notice he would appeal a federal judge's ruling rejecting his multiple, long-running allegations of mistreatment by the justice system.

Gabrion, 65, is awaiting the death penalty in the 1997 killing of Rachel Timmerman, 19.

He is also suspected of killing her 11-month-old daughter, Shannon, whose body was never found, and 3 others.

Gabrion, who has already exhausted direct appeals, has waged a "collateral attack," a civil process that alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution, in an attempt to vacate his conviction and sentence or get a new trial.

He wanted to depose attorneys, prosecutors, FBI agents, mental-health experts, a forensic pathologist, state police and others and examine evidence and records used to convict him. His attorneys provided an extraordinary report looking at four generations of his family's history, including mental illness, substance abuse and "chaotic" home environments.

Marvin Gabrion is awaiting the death penalty in the 1997 killing of Rachel Timmerman, 19. Authorities suspect he also killed her 11-month-old daughter and 3 other men.

"Marvin did not escape this family tree unscathed," a defense report said.

He has filed notice to appeal a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Jonker rejected Gabrion's claims that Gabrion's incompetence, ineffective counsel, false or misleading evidence, lying witnesses and other issues led to his wrongful conviction.

Attorneys for Marvin Gabrion submitted a detailed report on Gabrion and 4 generations of his family in an effort to overturn his death sentence for killing a 19-year-old girl in 1997, court records showed.

"The evidence of Gabrion's guilt and of the aggravating factors in support of his sentence are overwhelming," Jonker wrote in a 216-page opinion.

"His trial attorneys provided admirable assistance in the face of this evidence, despite Gabrion's uncooperative and unpredictable behavior. .. the evidence of Gabrion's guilt is so strong.. ."

The government says Gabrion, awaiting trial accused of raping Timmerman, killed her to prevent her from testifying against him. She was bound and gagged, chained to concrete blocks, and thrown from an old, metal boat into a weedy, muddy lake in the Manistee National Forest.

Marvin Gabrion is awaiting execution in the 1997 killing of Rachel Timmerman, 19, who was killed 2 days before she was to testify he raped a year earlier.

She was alive when she was put into Oxford Lake and drowned. Her body was recovered about a month after her early June 1997, killing.

She disappeared 2 days before Gabrion was to stand trial for raping her in August 1996.

Attorneys for Marvin Gabrion have asked a judge to hold a hearing to determine if he is incompetent and should be treated with psychiatric medication so he help appeal his conviction and sentence.

Gabrion was sentenced to death by a jury in 2002. Michigan law does not allow the death penalty but Gabrion was tried under federal law after the prosecution showed the killing happened on federal land.

The federal appellate court has previously cited the "the utter depravity of the manner in which (Gabrion) killed (Timmerman)." The U.S. Supreme Court has refused previous request to hear his case.

Gabrion is held in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where most condemned prisoners stay. His execution is anything but certain. Since 1988, when the federal penalty was re-instated after a 16-year moratorium, only 3 on death row have been put to death.

Among them: Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He did not challenge the sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy VerHey says Gabrion's challenge to the appellate court could be his last legal avenue.

The government said John Weeks, at Gabrion's urging, convinced Timmerman to go to dinner with him. She brought her daughter. They soon went missing. Weeks also went missing. So did Wayne Davis, a witness to the sexual assault, and Robert Allen, a mentally disabled Kent County man whose Social Security checks were stolen by Gabrion.

For many years, Gabrion tried to get U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell to recuse himself, including when Bell told MLive/Grand Rapids Press in 2016 that Gabrion "is in the right place" on death row. Bell would not recuse himself. He retired at the end of 2016 and Jonker took the case.

In a strongly worded opinion, Jonker rejected Gabrion's claims. Many of them have been litigated, at length, over the years.

"Furthermore, in the Court's own judgment, the death penalty is not automatically an excessive punishment for all criminally responsible people who have some form of mental illness," Jonker wrote.

"In this case, all the evidence before the Court indicates that Gabrion is unwilling to cooperate with counsel, not that he is unable to do so. Gabrion's current counsel assert that '(e)fforts to discus (Gabrion's) case are met with derision and anger,' and that Gabrion is 'consumed with topics having nothing to do with this litigation and that is all he will discuss with counsel. He is actively delusional,'" the judge wrote.

Those are "virtually identical" observations of trial attorneys, the judge said.

He was "always hostile" to his attorneys. During the sentencing phase, he punched an attorney, which he later contended should have served as grounds for a mistrial.

The judge said Gabrion filed "an exhaustive list of challenges" to the criminal proceedings but none had merit.

He also wants to represent himself now, saying his attorneys "are in a conspiracy with an 'Obama crime syndicate,'' and he has been "proven innocent through DNA evidence," the judge said.

Jonker said that Timmerman "made it clear to others that she was terrified that Gabrion would kill her. At one point, she stopped by a friend's house, closed the curtains, and stated repeatedly that Gabrion was going to kill her because of the rape case," Jonker wrote.

She had called police twice to report seeing Gabrion in an effort to leave a "trail" in case he followed through on a threat to kill her, the judge said.

"Rachel's fear was justified."



If There's Nothing Wrong With the Death Penalty, Why All the Secrecy?

In the nineteenth century, the United States began quietly moving executions from the public square to the insulated walls of prisons.

The change was largely in response to a powerful movement in the 1830’s to abolish the death penalty, with proponents of capital punishment believing that the disgust produced by public executions would eventually lead to outright abolition. And thus began the modern day death penalty system, one that has largely been shrouded in secrecy since its inception.

Since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977, 90 % of executions have used lethal injection to carry out sentences­­, predominately to avoid legal challenges over prior methods such as electrocution and hanging and to foster the image of a humane process for the public. That image, however, is a farce, and state governments have gone to great lengths to conceal practically all facets of modern day executions.

“Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States,” a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center, delves deeply into the problematic practices currently at play and showcases the unethical behavior being carried out by big government across 30 states and the federal and military death penalty systems.

Some tactics have been in place for decades, serving to block the government from transparency and accountability measures: Information about those who carry out the executions and their qualifications are withheld. Very few members of the public are able to witness executions. Those who do observe executions are seldom able to view the entire process.

In recent years, however, disturbing new layers of secrecy have been added.

States are now blocking information about the drugs they are using in lethal injections, and not just from the public, but frequently from the very manufacturers producing the drugs who do not want their product used in this manner.

Since 2011, 13 state legislatures have passed new laws that have enacted secrecy statutes to prevent the public from obtaining important information about executions. 8 additional states have invoked existing laws or protocols to refuse disclosing this type of information. In four of these states, it is either a civil or criminal offense to disclose such information.

These laws are a mechanism for the government to thwart the constitutional rights of individuals, the ability of courts to ensure the protection of those rights, and the capability for the public to hold their government accountable. It seems in many, many areas of our system, elected officials have forgotten that they work for us — not the other way around.

We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that botched executions occur, whether due to error of the executioners or problems with execution drugs. Despite the use of a paralytic in most execution drug cocktails to mask any symptoms of pain, witnesses have still reported signs of severe distress in several executions, notably where the drug midazolam was used. By covering this information up, governments are preventing rigorous and robust discussion on the death penalty along with any public oversight that might come from that.

Another unethical practice these secrecy laws are veiling are the corrupt lengths to which state governments are going to obtain the needed drugs for executions. Pharmaceutical companies do not want their medicines used in executions. Period, end of story. When you consider the amount of money it takes to develop a medication and bring it to market, it is wholly understandable why a company that is producing a product meant to cure would object to it being used instead to kill — on both moral and financial grounds. Use of one’s medication in an execution is not exactly a great marketing strategy.

However, despite the explicit wishes of these companies, states have deliberately circumvented drug distribution contracts that prohibited the sale of medicines for use in executions using false pretense and trickery. Several drug companies have alleged as much in lawsuits and have also pointed out that use of these tactics will make it harder for people who actually need their medicines to obtain them.

States often claim these secrecy laws are to protect the pharmaceutical companies from harassment, but that's an obvious lie considering that every FDA-approved supplier of the drugs has sought to block the use of their product in executions. This makes it vividly apparent that states are trying to conceal knowledge on the drugs being used from the manufacturers themselves.

It should surprise no conservative that the government is out of control.

It’s time those on the right realize that the death penalty is another failed big government program, filled with all the ineffectiveness and corruption as the others. Clearly, when this much secrecy is needed to carry out the death penalty, it’s not operating correctly.

(source: Hannah Cox is the National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Hannah was previously Director of Outreach for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank. Prior to that, she was Director of Development for the Tennessee Firearms Association and a policy advocate for the National Alliance on Mental


Family members of death row prisoners hope for 2nd chance

Families of several prisoners on death row are hoping that the government goes ahead with the plan to abolish the death penalty even though there is a lot of opposition against it.

They hope that society can forgive their family members for the crimes they committed and that they are given a 2nd chance.

Yong Wong, 80, hopes that she is able to see her 57-year-old son Chong Yun Fatt walk free one day after he was convicted of trafficking drugs 31 years ago.

She said her son admitted to what he did but said he did it because he wanted to help his family after his father walked out on them.

Yong said she had worked as a rubber tapper and that her son only wanted to see her have a better life.

Her son is currently in the Simpang Renggam prison.

"He was a good son and he loved me very much. He only wanted the best for me. He has regretted his actions very much," she said with tears during a press conference on Tuesday (Dec 4).

A total of 6 families spoke at the press conference, which was organised by the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall and the Geha Bodhi Buddhist group.

4 cases were drug-related, one was for kidnap while another was for an accident case.

Chandra Segaran, 68, admitted that his son Senguttawan, 33, was guilty due to his involvement in an accident case that resulted in the death of a 2-year-old child.

He, however, questioned why his son was charged with murder and not under the Road Transport Act.

He claimed that his son was fleeing the police at the time and in his panic, crashed into a wedding party, causing the death of the child 5 years ago.

"It's a mistake but couldn't he be given 10 to 15 years in prison? That would be fair. He didn't have any intention," said Chandra.

For the other families, the cases were not so clear, as they claimed their family members were framed.

The family members of G. Selvam, 41, and Rizalmi Mohd, 42, refused to accept their guilt for drug-related crimes, claiming that they were wrongly convicted.

Ng Ah Kwai said her son Chew Wai Keong was wrongly accused in a kidnap case that resulted in the death of a man.

She claimed that her son's boss had used his identity card to rent a room where the dead person was found.

"My son didn't know what was going on. No one seemed to believe that he could be involved in such a thing. He always was with me and never stayed away," she said.

She added that she wanted her son to get another trial in court.

In October, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said that the Cabinet had decided to abolish the death penalty, with a moratorium for those on death row.

A proposed Bill to abolish the death penalty is expected to be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.

However, in a recent survey of 3,600 respondents conducted by The Star Online, almost 1/2 of Malaysians surveyed were against the Cabinet’s plan to abolish the death penalty.

About 45% felt the death penalty was needed to keep hardcore criminals at bay while 32% said it was still needed for violent crimes, especially crimes against children.

Recently, several family members of murder victims had come out to say that there would be no justice should the death penalty be abolished.



What happened to bill to abolish death penalty, asks rights group

Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has questioned the delay in tabling a bill to abolish the death sentence despite the government’s recent assurance that the capital punishment would be axed for 33 offences.

LFL adviser N Surendran said no such bill had even appeared in the parliamentary order paper, whether in the list for first reading or in the orders of the day.

In a statement, he said this was cause for concern as the current session of the Dewan Rakyat would end by next week.

“We understand that the bill to abolish the death penalty has been given to the Cabinet for approval. Who, or what, is then holding it up?”

On Oct 10, de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong said the death penalty would be abolished, with a bill on the matter to be tabled in the current Parliament sitting which began on Oct 15.

He later said inmates on death row would serve 30 years’ life imprisonment under the proposed abolition.

There were 1,267 prisoners on death row as of October, about 900 of whom were convicted of drug offences, including trafficking in dangerous drugs.

Surendran said the decision to table the bill must be made at the Cabinet meeting this week.

He urged the government leaders not to forget the ideals they fought for during their time in the opposition, warning that any backtracking or compromise in their decision to abolish the death penalty would paint them as “weak, indecisive and untrustworthy”.

“Another U-turn would be devastating for public confidence in the new government,” he said.

“We urge the Cabinet to direct the minister in charge to table the bill in the Dewan Rakyat at least by Dec 10, which is international human rights day.

“This would be a fitting present to the Malaysian people, who voted for justice, the rule of law and the upholding of human rights on May 9.”



No more U-turns, table death penalty bill by next week, says lawyers’ group

Lawyers for Liberty advisor N. Surendran says the Pakatan government must table the bill to abolish the death penalty before the end of the current Parliament session next week. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 4, 2018.

PUTRAJAYA must table the bill to abolish the death penalty before the end of the current Parliament session next week to prove that it is not backtracking on its earlier decision, said Lawyers for Liberty.

The group’s advisor, N. Surendran, said the Pakatan Harapan administration would appear weak if it backtracked on the decision to do away with the death penalty.



Zimbabwe To Abolish Death Penalty

Zimbabwe’ cabinet, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi says he will soon receive a proposal on abolishing the death penalty in the country. Ziyambi told delegates at the 11th international meeting of the ministers of justice in Rome on Sunday that the death sentence was not only cruel and degrading punishment, but also destroyed life.

This development comes at a time when Zimbabwe has 81 prisoners on the death row, while 127 are serving life terms.

Ziyambi also said Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution had pointed the country in this direction on the question of death penalty. He said the constitution provides for the death penalty if a person were convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.

He made distinctions that the constitution stipulates the death sentence must not be imposed on women, male persons under 21 years of age, and more than 70 years old if convicted of murder committee in aggravating circumstances.

The minister also said researches in criminology have shown that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent, but compounds the commission of crimes.



Woman escapes hanging, jailed 30 years for husband's murder

A 65-year-old woman has survived hanging after the Supreme Court reversed her death penalty to 30 years in jail for murder of her husband. A panel of 5 Justices of the Supreme Court substituted a death sentence handed to Ms Yusitina Aharikundira upon the reasoning that mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors.

The judgement was delivered by Jotham Tumwesigye, assisted by justices Esther Kisaakye, Stella Arach Amoko, Opio Aweri and Lilian Tibatemwa. “…the appellant brutally murdered her husband and cut off his body parts in cold blood. The maximum sentence for this offence is death. That notwithstanding, the appellant was first offender with no previous criminal record and is of an advanced age. Further, she did not bother court on 2nd appeal regarding her conviction and displayed remorsefulness. The appellant was the surviving spouse and mother of 6 children,” the court ruled.

In 2006, the High Court sentenced Ms Aharikundira to death for murder of her husband, Vicensio Kajura and the same punishment had been confirmed by the Court of Appeal.

The murder of Kajura, a retired tea estate worker, stemmed from a disagreement with his wife over sale of cows and land in Rutundwe Cell, Kyasano Parish in Kamuganguzi Sub-county in Kabale District.

The Supreme Court justices held that it is the duty of court while dealing with appeals regarding sentencing to ensure consistency with cases that have similar facts because the rule of law requires laws to be applied with equality and without unjustifiable differentiation.

According to the judgment, there is a high threshold to be met for an appellate court to intervene in the sentence handed down by a trial judge on grounds of it being manifestly excessive.

Aharikundira, through her lawyer, Mr Andrew Ssebugwawo, appealed to the Supreme Court challenging the death sentence arguing it was excessive.



Juvenile Offender Milad Azimi May be at Risk of Execution----According to Article 91 of Iran's revised Islamic Penal Code, it is up to the presiding judge's discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense

Milad Azimi is a juvenile offender who allegedly committed a murder at the age of 17. His death sentence was upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court a few months ago. The plaintiff has set a diyeh (blood-money) of 500 millions Toman (approximately 50.000 USD) with the deadline of December 4. Milad's family are not able to pay that amount of money. Therefore, if he fails to win the plaintiff’s consent, his execution will be carried out quite soon. Local civil society activists have been trying to collect money to save Milad's life.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) urges the Iranian authorities to stop juvenile executions and calls on the international community to act in order to save Milad's life.

According to the IHR sources, a student was killed during a gang fight on December 8, 2013, at a high school in the Iranian city of Kermanshah. Milad was one of the students participating in the fight and was arrested by police on murder charges. He was born on December 21, 1995, and was 17 at the time of the offense.

Milad's case was sent to the forensic medicine which confirmed Milad's maturity. A close relative of Milad told IHR, “We were there (forensic medicine) at the time of the scheduled examination. Everything went so quickly. They just visited him for a short time and concluded that he is mature enough to take responsibility for his action.”

According to Article 91 of Iran's revised Islamic Penal Code, it is up to the presiding judge's discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense: "In the cases of offenses punishable by hadd or qisas, if mature people under 18 years do not realize the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age, they shall be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter." Otherwise, the Islamic Penal Code puts the age of criminal responsibility 15 years for males and 9 years for females.

Milad’s case proves once more that Article 91 has not resulted in stop nor even decrease of juvenile executions in Iran. From the application of article 91 in 2013 to the end of November 2018, at least 41 juvenile offenders have been hanged in Iranian prisons. So far in 2018, at least 6 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran.

Despite ratifying the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran is the world's top executioner of juvenile offenders.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Arrest of Tunisia nurse who raped dozens of patients

The Tunisian security forces finally arrested a nurse accused of raping dozens of patients in a hospital in the capital.

Media sources said that a male nurse at the mental hospital Mongi Ben Hamida in the capital was arrested after it turned out that he had raped dozens of patients.

The investigation indicated that the defendant was using sleeping pills to carry out his crimes against patients in the hospital. He was investigated in 2016 on charges of harassment but was released because there was “insufficient evidence” which prove his involvement.

However, one of his victims finally identified him, gave his descriptions to the security forces, and filed a legal complaint against him.

Tunisian law classifies rape as a terrorist offence. The Anti-Terrorism Law permits the death penalty for anyone who, in the context of a terrorist crime, deliberately rapes a female victim. Assaults on a male or female can be 20 years imprisonment with a fine up to 100,000dinars (around $55,000). The penalty is life imprisonment if the victim is under the age of 18, or if the perpetrator resorts to threats and use of arms.

Researchers and activists have proposed tougher penalties for rape, starting with “castration” and reaching “public torture” to become a lesson to others.


DECEMBER 3, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Execution set for 'Texas 7' escapee

A member of the notorious ‘Texas 7’ prison escape is scheduled to be executed this week, amidst clemency appeals, a federal lawsuit and a request for a reprieve.

Joseph Garcia is scheduled to die at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit on Tuesday, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The 47-year-old inmate was sent to death row in 2003, after being part of one of the largest prison escapes in Texas history, which left a law enforcement officer dead.

According to pleas from defense attorney’s, Garcia was convicted to death under the law of parties—the law allowing conviction based on the acts and intents of others—and treated the ‘Texas 7’ as a “single unit.”

Now, nearly 2 decades after the escape, Garcia’s lawyers were hoping to stall the execution with a plea for clemency to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles along with a federal lawsuit filed against that same board.

The TBPP Board denied the clemency plea on Friday, but are still facing a federal lawsuit filed against them by Garcia’s attorneys. The suit was seeking to prevent the board from making a decision until a “more representative set of members can be appointed.” According to the suit, the board is “stacked with individuals whose background places them firmly on the side of the State and law enforcement.” There are currently 2 former TDCJ members on the board, but the suit claims that 7 of the 8 members on the board have backgrounds in law enforcement.

According to state law, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles can have only 3 former TDCJ employees at any given time.

Garcia’s attorneys are also asking for a reprieve from Governor Greg Abbott in light of recent reporting regarding the source of the state’s execution drug pentobarbital.

BuzzFeed News reported late Wednesday, citing unidentified documents, that a Houston compounding pharmacy is believed to be one of the two that mixes up the lethal drug used in the Huntsville death chamber. The state has previously confirmed that it uses a compounded form of the powerful barbiturate, which indicates that TDCJ is turning to a compounding pharmacy to mix up the drugs — as opposed to getting them directly from a drug manufacturer.

“The fact that Texas may be relying on a compounding pharmacy for pentobarbital, which is a sterile injectable, subjects our client, Joseph Garcia, to the unreasonable risk of a cruel execution,” Garcia’s defense lawyers wrote in the letter to the governor.

As of Friday evening, no details on the federal court ruling or the Governor’s ruling have been released.

Background of crime

On December 13, 2000 7 inmates escaped from the Connally Unit in Kenedy. The inmates — George Rivas, Larry Harper, Donald Newbury, Randy Halprin, Michael Rodriguez, Patrick Henry Murphy and Garcia — were all serving long sentences for violent crimes. At the time of the escape, Garcia was serving a 50-year murder sentence out of Bexar County, where he was sentenced for stabbing a man at least a dozen times.

According to court records, the prison escape began during lunch when 6 of the 7 escapees subdued 14 employees and inmates and stuffed them in an electrical room. 2 of the inmates — identified as Murphy and Harper — later showed up at the back gate and overpowered the guard. From there, the 7 stole a variety of firearms and ammunition and fled the prison in a stolen vehicle.

Court records indicate that the group then fled to Irving where they robbed Oshman’s Supersports on Dec. 24. It was during the robbery that Officer Aubrey Hawkins was shot and killed. Hawkins was shot multiple times after a gunfight with the escapees.

The 7 escapees then fled to Colorado and were captured a little less than a month later. Harper committed suicide before being taken, while the others were brought back to Texas to face criminal trials.

Garcia is set to be the 4th of the group to be executed by the state of Texas and 12th inmate executed by the state of Texas this year. Halprin and Murphy are still on death row at the Polunsky Unit in West Livingston.

(source: Huntsville Item)


Death penalty considered for Laredo BP agent accused of killing 4 women----Juan David Ortiz will face grand jury Wednesday

The Webb County District Attorney's Office is preparing to present their case before a grand jury Wednesday to request formal charges against the Border Patrol agent accused of fatally shooting 4 women and kidnapping another.

State law requires that a person who is in jail pending trial of a felony must be released either on a personal bond or by reducing the amount of bail required if the prosecution is not ready for trial within 90 days from the initial arrest. The agent, Juan David Ortiz, 35, has been behind bars since his arrest on Sept. 15, held on a $2.5 million bond. Wednesday will mark his 80th day in jail.

After a bond reduction hearing for Ortiz held in October, District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said his office planned to formally charge Ortiz by Dec. 5. He said he and his office were preparing the case but still needed to wait for all the evidence to come forward before deciding if it merited the death penalty.

"(Right now) we are at felony one," Alaniz said in October. "As we get closer to December, once we have all of the factors, the history of the defendant, the seriousness of the crime, the scheme of all of these things, we need to see if we do in fact meet the elements to go forward on capital murder."

? It remains unclear if the District Attorney's Office will be seeking the death penalty.

Alaniz said Friday through his spokesperson that "the evidence has not been received and that we will be reviewing the evidence with the law enforcement agencies next week."

A murder charge is elevated to a capital offense when a homicide occurs under specific circumstances.

State law says that among the ways a capital murder charge can be filed is if a person commits multiple murders during different criminal episodes but they are committed in the same style or pattern.

Ortiz is accused of killing Melissa Ramirez, 29, on Sept. 3, Claudine Ann Luera, 42, on Sept. 6, and Guiselda Alicia Hernández, 35, and Nikki Enriquez, 28, both around Sept. 14. All 4 were killed in roughly the same area near North U.S. 83 and I-35 in the northwest part of Webb County. All 4 were shot in the head.

Erika Peña is the 5th victim who escaped from Ortiz's vehicle and helped law enforcement find him.

Alaniz said all the victims were sex workers.

"If it's something that I decide that this type of case merits, capital murder or capital life, then we will make that decision, but (the date is) coming pretty quickly," Alaniz said in October. "We keep working with law enforcement, federal, state and local, to get our evidence together and we'll be ready to go Dec. 5."

Ortiz was charged with four counts of murder, unlawful restraint and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

If prosecutors do not seek the death penalty, Ortiz could face life in prison without parole if convicted of capital murder.

According to affidavits released by law enforcement, the 1st victim was Ramirez, a mother of two. Her body was found Sept. 4 in the 300 block of Jefferies Road near the intersection of Texas 255, also known as Camino Colombia Road. An affidavit states that Ortiz said he killed her Sept. 3.

The 2nd victim was Luera, a mother of 5. She was found barely alive at about 7 a.m. Sept. 6 near mile marker 436 of Texas 255, about a half-mile east of U.S. 83. She died at a hospital later that day.

Ortiz told law enforcement that he picked up Peña on Sept. 14, according to the arrest affidavits.

When they stopped at a gas station, she began talking about Ramirez, the criminal complaint states. Ortiz told investigators that he pulled out a pistol and pointed it at her. They struggled inside his truck and she ran out, making it to another gas station where she found a Department of Public Safety trooper and asked for help, according to the affidavit.

In the 5 hours between Peña's escape and Ortiz's arrest, he confessed to killing 2 more victims, the affidavit states.

Ortiz picked up Hernandez on San Bernardo Avenue, drove out of the city limits and told her to get out of the car at the Webb County Interchange overpass, at mile marker 20 on I-35, according to the document. He shot her multiple times in the head and left her body there, the affidavit states.

Ortiz then picked up Enriquez, a transgender woman, also on San Bernardo Avenue, and again left the city limits, stopping near mile marker 15 on I-35. The affidavit states that he shot Enriquez once in the back of her head and left her body behind the gravel pits at the mile marker.

Hernandez's body was found Friday night; the body of Enriquez was found after Ortiz told officers where to look, the affidavit states.

Authorities said Ortiz was off-duty when he killed the women but that he may have used his service weapon in the homicides.

During a news conference on Sept. 17, Carla L. Provost, U.S. Border Patrol chief, said the killings were committed by just 1 "rogue individual" in her agency.

"I'm here to support my men and women, on whom it obviously has had an extreme impact. I'm sickened and saddened by the events that occurred," she said.

In a statement, Andrew Meehan, assistant commissioner for public affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said his agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General are fully cooperating with all investigators.

"Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims' family and friends. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated," Meehan said.

The slayings and arrest of Ortiz rocked the Laredo community this half of the year. The news made national headlines, with reporters from numerous media outlets descending on the Gateway City.

One of the first capital murder cases this decade in Webb County occurred in 2012 when Demond Bluntson killed his ex-girlfriend's 2 children in a hotel room. In 2016, jurors sentenced him to death. That marked the 1st time in 25 years that a jury in Webb County had sentenced someone to death row.

Ortiz is the 2nd Border Patrol agent in Laredo to be arrested on murder charges this year.

On April 9, suspended Border Patrol Agent Ronald Anthony Burgos-Aviles was accused of fatally stabbing his alleged 27-year-old lover, Grizelda Hernandez, and their 20-month-old son, Dominic Alexander Hernandez. He was indicted on 2 counts of capital murder June 27. He was denied bond and remains at the Webb County Jail until the outcome of his case is decided by a jury. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

(source: Laredo Times)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

'A simmering rage': David Earl Miller's path to Tennessee's electric chair

He started drinking in the womb, abused from his first moments by a mother who wished he'd never been born.

He grew up in a household of "unspeakable horror" and made his 1st suicide attempt at age 6.

When his mother died this year, her obituary didn't even list his name.

David Earl Miller came to Knoxville in 1979 a 22-year-old drifter - homeless, jobless and friendless. He might never have stayed had he not been picked up on Interstate 75 by a preacher looking for sex - and Lee Standifer might be alive today.

Miller's set to die Thursday in the electric chair in Nashville, more than 37 years after he beat and stabbed Standifer to death the night of May 20, 1981.

"It was just a series of random events that led him here and to her and to her innocent life," said Jim Winston, a retired Knoxville Police Department lieutenant who worked the case from the first night. "She was just starting a life on her own, and he took all that away from her. What she could have been or what her future might have been if she could have lived ... we'll never know."

A life of rage

Miller was born July 16, 1957, in Bowling Green, Ohio, a suburb of Toledo. His mother met his father during a one-night stand in a bar, drank throughout her pregnancy and was later diagnosed with brain damage from exposure to toxic fumes at her job in a plastics plant. He was 10 months old when she married his stepfather, an alcoholic who routinely beat him with boards, slammed him into walls and dragged him around the house by the hair, according to court records.

Miller told social workers he had his first sexual experiences when abused by a female cousin at age 5, by a friend of his grandfather's at age 12 and by his drunken mother at age 15. He tried to hang himself at age 6 and began drinking, smoking marijuana and huffing gasoline daily by age 10. By age 13, he'd landed in a state reform school where counselors regularly whipped boys with rubber hoses and turned a blind eye to sexual molestation.

He later said he couldn't remember a single person from his early years ever telling him they loved him.

"Being beaten by his stepfather is the earliest memory that Mr. Miller can recall, and beatings are the rhythm of his childhood," a clinical psychologist wrote after a court-ordered examination. "Mr. Miller, from a very early age, harbored a simmering rage. He hated his stepfather for the brutality and humiliation he was subjected to, and he loathed his mother for first failing to protect him from his stepfather and later for turning him into her sexual plaything. .... His rage has also been enacted on many other innocent 'stand-ins' for his mother."

Miller joined the Marine Corps in 1974 at 17 and made it through boot camp but deserted when he learned he wouldn't be sent overseas to fight in Vietnam. He came home to Ohio, got a girlfriend pregnant, and left again when she chose to marry another man and raise their child, a daughter, without him.

He bounced between Ohio and Texas, working odd jobs as a welder and bartender. He was hitchhiking through East Tennessee when a car driven by the Rev. Benjamin Calvin Thomas stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 75.

In the pastor's house

Thomas, the principal of Sam E. Hill Elementary School and pastor of Thorngrove Baptist Church, took Miller into his South Knoxville home on Wise Hills Road in exchange for sex. He told neighbors Miller worked as a handyman around the house and later insisted he'd treated Miller like a son. Miller, he complained, proved cold.

"You know, I would have liked to redeem him," the pastor told police. "I just wanted to help him by showing that there was somebody in this world that cared for him. I am sorry that I failed."

The pair developed a daily routine: Thomas would drop Miller off each morning as he drove to school near the Broadway viaduct downtown. Miller would give blood or show up at a bus station cafeteria to bus tables and work in the kitchen for enough cash to blow at the pool halls and bars that then dotted downtown. He built a reputation fast as a violent drunk who once tried to fight an entire house band at once.

"Everybody that has ever seen him hates him yet," a vice squad detective said at the time. "A psychopathic misfit if you ever saw one."

Twice officers arrested Miller on charges of rape. Each time the women failed to prosecute, saying they were scared of Miller, and the charge was dismissed.

Defense lawyers argued Miller was venting the rage he still harbored at his mother. Prosecutors said he was working up the nerve for the crime that followed.

On a May day downtown in 1981, he met Lee Standifer.

'An innocent child'

Standifer, born with mild brain damage, was learning to live on her own at age 23. She worked at a food-processing plant, stayed in a room at the YWCA on Clinch Avenue and called home every day to talk to her mother.

Just before her death, she told her mother she felt like she'd just started to live. She didn't tell her she was going on a date.

No one's sure to this day just how the pair met. Standifer never turned down a chance to make a new friend.

"She was naive and trusting, like an innocent child," said Winston, the retired investigator. "He was a handsome guy. They were about the same age. She would have had no idea. A date to her was probably a walk around the mall (at Market Square), holding hands or him buying her a Coke - and probably buying it with her money."

Standifer called her mother for the last time around 5:30 p.m. on May 20. She walked out the door at 7 p.m. with a friend. Miller stood waiting on the corner of Clinch and Gay.

Police later retraced their steps: from the YWCA to the Hideaway Lounge, a favorite hangout of Miller's on Gay Street, now torn down; to the library on Church Avenue, where he checked out a book that included descriptions of murder during sex; to the bus station, where Miller finagled a taxi ride to the pastor's home on Wise Hills Road.

The body in the woods

The taxi driver dropped them off just after 9:30 p.m. The pair had the house to themselves, with the pastor at a Wednesday night prayer meeting.

Miller claims not to remember what happened next. An autopsy determined he struck Standifer across the face with a fire poker twice with enough force to fracture her skull, burst one of her eye sockets and leave imprints on the bone. He stabbed her over and over - in the neck, in the chest, in the stomach, in the mouth.

Some of the wounds went so deep, piercing bone, they could only have been made by driving the knife with a hammer, the autopsy found.

Thomas came home from church around 10 p.m. to find his carpet soaked with blood and Miller hosing out the basement with a story that he'd bloodied his nose in a bar fight. Thomas ordered Miller out but gave him until the next day to leave; Thomas even drove him to a truck stop off I-75 and gave him $25 in traveling money.

The pastor told police he had no idea Standifer's body lay just a few yards away in the woods beside his house, not until he drove home from dropping Miller off and his headlights caught the outline of Miller's bloody T-shirt hanging from a tree. Standifer's corpse lay underneath.

Winston still remembers the sight.

"It was like he just wanted to destroy her as a person," he said. "In all honesty, I think she died after that first stroke."

'A caught rat'

Miller's run didn't last long. Police in Columbus, Ohio, arrested him a week later when he tried to pay a bar tab with a counterfeit $10 bill. He soon found himself sitting across the table from detectives in an interrogation room.

"He didn't really want to talk about it at first," Winston recalled. "He tried to deny it, but when he saw what kind of evidence we had, he knew he was just a caught rat. I think he realized he'd done wrong, but I don't think he thought he'd face capital punishment for it."

Miller told police Standifer, whom he'd given alcohol, grabbed him and sent him into a blind rage when he told her he was leaving town.

"I turned around and hit her," he said in a taped confession. The blood "just sprayed all over when I hit her. ... She quit breathing. ... (I) drug her downstairs through the basement and out through the yard and pulled her over into the woods."

Miller's attorneys have argued he lashed out in a burst of psychotic fury, driven by years of pent-up anger from a lifetime of abuse. Winston's not satisfied with that story, then or now.

"It's hard to explain, but how do you ever explain something like that?" the retired detective said. "I think he saw an opportunity to exploit the power he had over her. Maybe he'd been abused, but that doesn't change what he did."

Miller tried to hide his face from the cameras on his return to Knoxville. 2 juries ultimately sentenced him to die - the first in 1982, the last in 1987 after the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered Miller resentenced.

Decades of appeals followed. Miller turned 61 this summer and is the longest-serving inmate on Tennessee's death row.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down Miller's latest challenge to Tennessee's death penalty law last week. He's chosen to die in the electric chair.

Winston won't be there. Neither will anyone from Standifer's family.

"I don't take any joy in it," he said. "It's just a shame that it's taken this long and he's gotten so much publicity while Lee has been forgotten. I hate he has to die, but those are the rules of our society. He broke the rules, and the rules say that he has to die."

(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)


Judge to consider whether trooper-killer who received death penalty should be resentenced

A federal judge is considering whether to approve a report that calls for a new sentencing hearing to be held for a Vian man convicted and sentenced to death in the 1999 fatal shooting of an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper.

U.S. District Judge James H. Payne is weighing whether to accept a recommendation from a magistrate that Kenneth Eugene Barrett, 57, be granted a new sentencing hearing.

U.S. Magistrate Steven P. Shreder in an August report found that Barrett received ineffective counsel during a sentencing hearing in which a jury recommended the death penalty on 1 of the Barrett’s convictions.

The Muskogee federal court jury in 2005 convicted Barrett in the Sept. 24, 1999, shooting of Trooper David “Rocky” Eales.

Eales and other members of the OHP tactical team were carrying out a no-knock search warrant just after midnight in search of methamphetamine at Barrett’s Sequoyah County cabin when they came under fire.

The 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in 2015 ordered an evidentiary hearing be held in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma regarding whether Barrett’s trial attorneys were deficient in not investigating Barrett’s background and mental health during the penalty phase of the 2005 trial.

After listening to 7 days of testimony in 2017, Shreder issued a report and recommendation Aug. 10 that said Barrett should be given a new sentencing hearing.

Shreder, in his 34-page report, wrote “based on all of the evidence presented both in mitigation and in aggravation, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the penalty phase of the defendant’s trial would have been different.” Testimony in the 2017 evidentiary hearing indicated that Barrett’s mental issues began before he was born and continued well into his childhood.

Evidence was offered that Barrett’s mother drank alcohol during her pregnancy with him and that Barrett suffered a series of head injuries as a youth, including being hit in the head with a steel ball. Barrett was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another doctor testified that test data indicated Barrett suffered from impairments in multiple areas of the brain.

“The undersigned Magistrate Judge thus finds that this evidence regarding the defendant’s brain could have had a ‘powerful mitigating effect’ on the jury in this case,” Shreder wrote.

While generally supporting Shreder’s recommendation, attorneys for Barrett have objected in court filings to limiting the rehearing to only the death penalty count.

“Mr. Barrett was entitled to the effective assistance of counsel at the sentencing, the entire sentencing trial, not only as it related to the death sentence imposed,” attorneys for Barrett argued.

In addition to the death sentence, Barrett was sentenced to life in prison on counts of drug trafficking and committing a crime of violence.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the prosecution have objected to the report’s recommendation, citing what it claimed was Barrett’s substantial planning and premeditation of the murder as evidence that any mental health issues shown to jurors would not have affected the trial’s outcome.

“Although the experts identified issues that supposedly compromised Barrett’s ability to process information under pressure, the defendant had resolved to murder Trooper Eales long before the opportunity arose,” the government stated in its objection to the Shreder’s findings.

(source: Tulsa World)


Death row inmate Floyd Maestas dies of natural causes

Death row inmate Floyd Eugene Maestas has died, the Utah Department of Corrections announced Sunday.

Maestas, 63, who has been awaiting execution for the 2004 murder of 72-year-old Donna Bott, died Sunday of natural causes. Bott was murdered in a robbery.

Maestas was convicted in 2008 and has been awaiting execution ever since. With his passing, there are now 8 men on Utah’s death row.

(source: Fox News)


Death penalty should be abolished

Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking” and opponent of the death penalty, has spoken at several events in the Philadelphia area over the past few weeks. I was lucky enough to attend a talk about her experiences of serving as a spiritual adviser to 2 death row inmates before their executions. Ultimately, Sister Helen’s talks are about the trauma caused by America’s death penalty system.

During one of her talks, she said something that has stuck with me: “Most people have never thought about the death penalty because it doesn’t touch their daily lives.” This statement is true.

But the death penalty does have a direct impact on someone’s life. Sister Helen spoke about witnessing an execution and the physical toll that it took on her. She also spoke about effects that executions have on the lives of prison guards. These prison guards, who are doing their jobs, are having to put people to death by order of the state. They have to live with the trauma of killing a person, in the name of the law, on their conscience for the rest of their days.

We continue to sentence people to die without understanding the full weight of this decision on the lives of those involved. However, we continue to be blissfully ignorant to the effects that the death penalty has because it doesn’t directly involve us.

I stand with Sister Helen and agree that the death penalty should be abolished because it should not involve anyone.

— Sydney Smith, Glenside

(source: Letter to the Editor, Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser)


Gaza court sentences 6 people to hang for 'collaborating' with Israel

A military court in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Monday sentenced 6 people, including a woman, to death by hanging for "collaborating" with Israel, authorities said.

In total 14 people were sentenced for "collaborating with the occupation," with 6 sentenced to be hanged, the interior ministry in Gaza said.

The rulings come 3 weeks after 8 people were killed when an alleged Israeli army cell in Gaza was uncovered, leading to a vicious fire fight.

Hamas fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response, wit h the Jewish state striking dozens of targets in Gaza before a ceasefire agreement.

The 6 sentenced to death Monday were not related to the November 11 flareup.

The woman, named only as Amal, was sentenced in absentia and is alleged to have encouraged her nephew in Gaza to collaborate with Israeli intelligence.

Iyad al-Bozum, the spokesman of the interior ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, hailed the rulings.

"Collaborators must realise the (Israeli) occupation will not be able to protect them," he told a news conference.

Hamas and its allies have fought 3 wars with Israel since 2008.


IRAN----juvenile execution

Execution of the 6th Juvenile Offender in 2018

A juvenile offender who had been sentenced to death for committing an alleged murder at the age of 16, was hanged at Rajai Shahr prison. Iran Human Rights (IHR) had previously reported about the execution of 10 prisoners at Rajai Shahr Prison on November 14, 2018. New documents obtained by IHR show that one of the executed prisoners was a juvenile offender identifies as Omid Rostami. Omid Rostami is the 6th juvenile offender executed by Iranian authorities in 2018.

IHR strongly condemns Omid Rostami's execution and calls for strong international reactions. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: " The international community must not tolerate Iranian authorities' continuous executions of juvenile offenders. We expect stronger reactions by the EU and the Norwegian government which have ongoing dialogues with the Iranian authorities and which are regarded as the world leaders in the fight against the death penalty. Attempts to save the nuclear deal must not lead to closed eyes on juvenile executions and other serious human rights violations by the Iranian authorities ".

Omid Rostami's birth certificate shows that he was born on July 10, 1996. He was sentenced to death for a murder committed on July 12, 2012, 2 days after his 16th birthday.

Omid had been subjected to additional psychological torture by being taken to the gallows 4 times earlier. Each time, the plaintiffs (victim's family) had said that they wanted to rethink about carrying out the execution or forgiving him.

According to the Iranian Islamic Penal Code (IPC) murder is punishable by qisas which means “retribution in kind” or retaliation. In this way, the State effectively puts the responsibility of the death sentence for murder on the shoulders of the victim’s family. In many cases, the victim's family are encouraged to put the rope is around the prisoner's neck and even carry out the actual execution by pulling off the chair the prisoner is standing on.

“On September 4, 2018, the prosecutor told the plaintiffs that they have the maximum of 1 month time to take their final decision to forgive Omid or carry out his execution. Otherwise, Omid should be released on bail,” the juvenile offender’s mother told IHR.

Finally, the plaintiffs went to the prison and carried out Omid's execution on the early morning of November 14, 2018.

The Islamic Penal Code (IPC) puts the age of criminal responsibility for males at 15 and 9 for females. In case of murder and other offenses punishable by Hadd or qisas, article 91 of the amended IPC of 2013 allows judges to use their discretion and not issue a death sentence against a child who was not able to understand the nature and consequences of the crime at the time. The amended law also allows the courts to rely on “the opinion of a forensic doctor or other means it deems appropriate” to establish whether a defendant understood the consequences of their actions.

However, according to Omid's family, he didn't have a lawyer, and the family's request for a forensic examination of Omid was not accepted by the judge. According to Omid’s mother, the juvenile had 2 previous records of robbery and convictions, and the Court took that as a proof of his maturity and therefore, didn't send Omid's case to forensic medicine.

Despite ratifying the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child which bans the death penalty for offenses committed at under 18 years of age, Iran stays the world's top executioner of juvenile offenders. According to reports by IHR, Iranian authorities have executed at least 40 juvenile offenders since 2013.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Bangladesh tries 8 over deadly cafe attack

8 alleged Islamist extremists went on trial in Bangladesh on Monday (Dec 3) over a savage 2016 attack claimed by Islamic State that killed 22 people including 18 foreigners at a Dhaka cafe popular with Westerners.

Prosecutors say that the 8 members of a homegrown extremist outfit were "associates" of the 5 attackers killed when police stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe.

The 8, who face the death penalty if convicted, "helped mastermind the attack and supplied arms and ammunition," prosecutor Jahangir Alam Chowdhury told AFP.

6 defendants were present with 2 having absconded. More than 200 witnesses have been called in a special anti-terrorism court in the old part of the capital Dhaka under tight security.

The brazen assault in July 2016 saw young men armed with assault rifles and machetes lay siege to the cafe in Dhaka's well-heeled Gulshan neighbourhood.

In addition to 22 civilians, 2 policemen were killed. Military commandos took over the cafe after a 10-hour standoff and freed more than two dozen hostages.

The attack claimed by the Islamic State group fuelled tensions over Islamist extremism in the Muslim-majority nation of 165 million people in South Asia.

Police have said the aim of the attack was to destabilise the country and turn it into a militant state.

8 others - including the attack's mastermind Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, a Canadian of Bangladesh descent - were killed during raids in Dhaka and its suburbs months after the incident.

They included commanders of a new faction of the homegrown extremist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) that police blamed for the attack.

The government has repeatedly denied that international jihadist networks have a presence in Bangladesh.

The IS-linked news agency Amaq however published extensive details of the attack, including gory images from inside the cafe.

The hostage crisis marked an escalation from a spate of murders claimed by IS and Al-Qaeda of atheist writers, rights activists, gays, foreigners and religious minorities since 2013.

It was seen as a major blow to the country's image as a moderate Muslim nation.



Nation moves to limit use of capital punishment

Amendments to the laws related to criminal affairs have gradually reduced the number of offenses punishable by death.

Editor's note: This is the 2nd in a series of stories reflecting China's achievements in fields such as science, law enforcement, education and transportation resulting from 40 years of the reform and opening-up policy. More stories will follow in the coming weeks.

In the 40 years since China adopted the reform and opening-up policy, the country has moved to gradually limit the use of the death penalty, a punishment that was once seen as a cornerstone in the fight to deter offenders and maintain public order.

Experts say the move away from capital punishment is partly a result of the nation's growing economic strength, but is also motivated by a desire to prevent irreversible miscarriages of justice.

Zhou Guangquan, a professor of criminal law at Tsinghua University in Beijing, often uses the case of Nie Shubin as an example.

In 1995, Nie was executed at the age of 21 after being convicted of raping and killing a woman in Hebei province. In 2016, however, the Supreme People's Court, China's top court, quashed Nie's conviction and pronounced him not guilty posthumously after ruling that the evidence presented at his trial had been obtained illegally and could not guarantee a flawless conviction.

Moreover, in 2013, during a trial at Handan Intermediate People's Court in Hebei, a man named Wang Shujin confessed to the crimes that led to Nie's execution.

Cases such as Nie's demonstrate that the death penalty must be used in a prudent and controlled fashion, according to Zhou, who was pleased to see greater restrictions on its use written into a report issued at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 2013.

"It was a signal that capital punishment would be used less frequently in China," he said, adding that the loss of a young life and the anguish suffered by Nie's family "was too devastating to be erased by simply overturning the conviction".

Mo Hongxian, a professor of law at Wuhan University, Hubei province, who has focused on the use of the death penalty since 1997, said the report was probably the 1st time the prudent application of capital punishment had been mentioned in a national-level document.

"It can be regarded as a display of firm support for the drive to limit the use of the death penalty in the past 2 decades," she said.

A key move in 2007 saw the Supreme People's Court being given the power of final arbitration over the use of capital punishment, meaning it has to approve all death sentences passed by lower-level courts. Meanwhile, "innocent until proven guilty" and "punishment stipulated by law" were enshrined as basic principles in the Criminal Law.

In 2011, the death penalty was abolished for dozens of nonviolent crimes, such as fraud of financial documents and theft.

"These measures illustrate the country's determination to protect human rights" said Mo, who was born in 1954 and has witnessed all 40 years of reform and opening-up.

She added that the changes were a direct result of China's rapid economic development, stronger management of public security and the public's growing legal awareness, and noted that the abolition of the death penalty for a growing number of crimes is in line with global trends.

Although the number of people sentenced to death every year is never disclosed, both Mo and Zhou are optimistic about further reductions in the use of capital punishment for a wide range of nonviolent crimes.



Why we should rethink the death penalty----We execute the poor. The rich get off.

Justice Kurian Joseph’s judgment of November 28 in Chhannulal; 2 days before he retired asks us whether a rethink on death penalty is called for.

Before we proceed, we must note Justice Joseph’s approach that the law is both severity and kindness. This has been characteristic of his approach in all matters in his career as a judge in Kerala, as Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court and Judge in the Supreme Court.

It is reminiscent of Brecht famous phrase that “we who fight for kindness must ourselves be kind”.

This does not mean that the severity of the law would be compromised where necessary. But, the image of the law as blindfolded or angry must yield to a balance both as a matter of form and substance. The “law” and “judges” are not angels of death.


The death penalty is not a stranger to India. Those in favour of the harshness of the law also espouse a thirst for retribution and public vengeance.

The contrary view is espoused not just on the ground that death penalty is irreversible and mistakes cannot be rectified. But that state executions are also a form of state sanctioned murder and inconsistent with principles of sentencing and penology.

Throughout the ages, the “public” have always not just made blood-thirsty demands for death by hanging, guillotine, electric shock, injections or otherwise. Many have also enjoyed the gruesome spectacle. The annals of life and literature are full of this.

Of course, now there are no public executions except in some countries which show beheading after supposed finding of guilt. People watch this both in horror and awe on the spot and television amidst conflicting deep psychological factors of approval and sense of inhumanity.

Usually, the death penalty is for murder and forms of treason.

Asia Bibi in Pakistan was tried for blasphemy. Would it be enough if we follow one Indian Law Commission’s view for more humane methods of execution (i.e. chemically)?

India has not signed the Convention on Torture of 1984-87 and voted in favour of the Death Penalty in the UN General Assembly in 2007 and 2012.

In India, politically private Bill for abolition was supported by the Hindu Mahasabha, NC Chatterjee pointed to innocents being hung.

In 1958, actor Prithvi Raj Kapoor wanted a Committee to examine abolition.

In 1961 and 1962 there was further support for abolition. The 1973 Criminal Code demanded reasons for imposing death penalty. The Verma Committee (2013) following the Nirbhaya rape-murder did not favour death penalty.

While the Law Commission had earlier argued for retaining death penalty in its 35th Report, the AP Shah headed Law Commission in 2015 argued against it. Delhi’s National Law School Study that death penalty is imposed on the poor and Blackshield 1976 analysis showed inconsistency in Supreme Court impositions. Recent judgments of the Supreme Court ordained special hearing in death cases.

Populist demands

Earlier, the Supreme Court wavered but eventually Bachan Singh (1980) emerged with the formula of death penalty of the rarest of rare case to which Machhi Singh (1983) elaborated that this meant in cases of gravest culpability with guidelines on aggravating circumstances. But many disturbing comments also come from judgments as in Surja Ram (1994) that punishment must respond “to society’s cry for justice against the criminal”.

This puts a premium on populist demands.

There are problems of delay in execution and the pardoning power.

We have to examine death penalties in the Calcutta rape case (2004), Auto Shankar (1995) Nirbhaya (2015) as also executions of Kasab (2012), Afzal Guru (2013), Yakub Memon (2015) to set a balance on atrocity and terror cases even though in some cases (such as Afzal) great doubt exists.

In the Justice Kurian judgment (2018), Chhannulal used a knife to kill 3 members of the Sahu family and caused grievous injury to another. Earlier, in another case, the accused had been acquitted of rape. The trial court and High Court denied mitigating circumstances.

The Supreme Court tellingly asked whether the accused had attempted to positively reform himself and genuinely regretted his act as indicated by Bachan Singh. On this, all 3 judges (Kurien Joseph, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta) felt that death be commuted to life. Thus, the ‘reform’ and rarest of rare tests were applied.

Arbitrarily imposed

But, 2 judges (Gupta and Gupta JJ) without reasons disagreed with Justice Joseph’s view that the time had come to review where death penalty be abolished, relying on the Law Commission’s report that death penalty was “arbitrarily and freakishly imposed” and had not served useful deterrent effects.

But even in this case of intentional and bloody murder, all 3 judges felt that death sentence be commuted to life.

Are we now saying the death penalty be reserved for rape, murders and terrorism?

But all 3 judges agreed that though the law presently permitted death penalty, the element of reformist potential cannot be ignored. The case for abolition of death penalty is supported not just by the Law Commission, but also by the Amnesty and Delhi National Law School reports.

We execute the poor. The rich get off.

The throw-away sentence of the Supreme Court that populist demands must be accepted defeats the rule of law as for Asia in Pakistan.

The lack of deterring effect undermines continuing death penalty. The reformist perspective is significant. We need to take the final step towards abolition amidst the horrifying pathological drumbeat demanding death.

Justice Joseph was the conscience of the court. He shall be missed.


DECEMBER 2, 2018:


Prosecutor Considering Pursuing Death Penalty For Man Accused In Murders Of Woman, Child

A grand jury has indicted a man accused of setting fire to a suburban Cleveland home and killing a woman and her 8-year-old daughter.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said Friday his office is considering pursuing the death penalty against 27-year-old Dominique Swopes, of Mayfield Heights, in what he called a “senseless” killing. dominique swopes Prosecutor Considering Pursuing Death Penalty For Man Accused In Murders Of Woman, Child

Swopes is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated arson and other counts in the Nov. 20 deaths of his neighbors.

Authorities say 41-year-old Rebecca Pletnewski was fatally stabbed before her home was set on fire and her daughter, 8-year-old Olivia Schneider, died at a hospital from smoke inhalation. Authorities say Swopes had four of Pletnewski’s rings, valued at more than $1,000.

Court records don’t list an attorney for Snopes. He is set to be arraigned Dec. 14.

(source: The Associated Press)


Mental illness, the death penalty and House Bill 81

When a statewide task force recommended ways for Ohio to improve its death penalty, it included a proposal to bar from execution those defendants suffering from severe mental illness at the time of the crime. The panel gave strong support, the vote 15-2. Yet, as with too many of the 56 recommendations, this idea has languished, state lawmakers failing to act.

Will that change? The opportunity now is here. On Tuesday, the House Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony concerning House Bill 81, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, and Nickie Antonio, a Lakewood Democrat. The committee chairman, state Rep. Nathan Manning, a North Ridgeville Republican, said he expects the panel to vote next week.

A favorable vote would send the measure to the House floor and, if approved, would open the door to Senate action in the current lame-duck session. The legislation deserves passage.

The proposal builds on the exclusions already established for juveniles and the developmentally disabled. The thinking reserves the death penalty for the worst of the worst. That designation does not include those with impaired judgment, for instance, due to their youth or inability to distinguish fully right and wrong. Out of decency, it follows to include those with severe mental illness.

At the committee hearing, prosecutors reiterated their opposition. They have warned that those currently on death row would flood the courts with motions seeking review of their sentences. Actually, the legislation is narrowly cast, identifying 5 precise mental illnesses, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and delusional disorder.

A judge would weigh the evidence and decide whether the defendant suffered from the affliction when committing the crime.

How many death row inmates would meet the threshold? Experts put the number at roughly 10 %, or hardly overwhelming for the courts. Even then, not all would succeed. The burden of proof rests with the defense to show the defendant was ill.

Prosecutors have argued that the courts have a process for assessing the role of mental illness. They point to the sentencing phase of capital punishment trials, when jurors decide whether to apply the death penalty as the law directs. At that point, a defendant can put forward evidence of mental illness as a mitigating factor. The trouble is that research reveals jurors often see mental illness as an aggravating factor and thus are more likely to see a death sentence as warranted.

They tend to see mental illness as confirming guilt and a reason to fear the defendant. The familiar stigma, or prejudice, or discrimination, comes into play.

In that way, the mitigation phase risks turning justice upside down, the findings of researchers making stronger the case for House Bill 81. This legislation isn’t about leniency or somehow cutting bad actors a break. Those excluded from the death penalty still would face a severe punishment, life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Again, defendants would have to prove to the court they suffered from one of the severe mental illnesses set in the law. That wouldn’t be easy, but it would offer a needed measure of protection for the rest of us. There is good reason for exempting juveniles and the developmentally disabled. It also applies to those with severe mental illness at the time they commit the crime. They are not among the worst of the worst and thus should not face a death sentence.

(source: Akron Beacon Journal Editorial Board)


Death penalty can help put an end to country’s drug problem: Bato

Death penalty for drug traffickers?

If former Philippine National Police director Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa is elected senator, that’s exactly what he will propose--to reinstate the death penalty, especially for convicted drug traffickers.

He admitted that the illegal drug problem in Cebu City seems to be never-ending, but he thinks that there has been a major improvement.

The former police chief, who was in Cebu on Saturday, Dec. 1, for the Anti-Drug and Peace and Order Summit 2018 in Tuburan, said that many policemen and narcopoliticians turned over a new leaf because they didn’t want to be killed.

Over the past months, especially in Cebu, suspected drug personalities were killed by unidentified men even though not a single case was filed against many of them.

Dela Rosa, though, believes that summary execution is illegal and the people behind it should be punished. The only legal way to kill criminals is to reinstate the death penalty, he said.

He said this is an appropriate punishment for drug lords who allow the entry of illegal drugs in the country and who distribute shabu in the communities.

The senatorial candidate told reporters that when he was the director general of the Bureau of Corrections, he talked to several Chinese drug traffickers. That was when he realized how weak the country’s laws on drugs are.

He said that drug lords from Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China said it’s easy to flood the Philippine market with illegal drugs because of the country’s weak laws and the absence of the death penalty.

That might also explain why, in Cebu City alone, millions worth of drugs were seized last month.

“So in less than a month it’s almost P90 million siguro,” said Senior Supt. Royina Garma, the director of the Cebu City Police Office, referring to the illegal drugs seized by city operatives recently. “So that means many are still using. That’s what I meant when I said there is a market. So we should do something to eliminate the market.”

Based on the data collated by Superbalita Cebu, Cebu City operatives seized around P95 million worth of shabu in November.

The latest was the P36.3 million worth of illegal drugs seized during a drug bust in Barangay Sambag 2 last Friday night, Nov. 30.

Four people were arrested in the operation by the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Guadalupe Police Station in Sitio Tambis on Urgello Road past 9:30 p.m.

The operation was the result of a 3-month surveillance. The suspects were arrested in the middle of repacking illegal drugs.

One of those arrested was Michael Pacilan Carabaña alias Mike, 28, of Barangay Pardo. He was a surrenderer of Barangay Pardo’s Oplan Tokhang (approach and talk).

Another suspect, 24-year-old Jemuel Enrile of Barangay Cansojong, Talisay City, is in Talisay’s drug watchist.

Also arrested were Arnold Pacong Arquiza, 37, and Agustin Regis Quijano, 34, both of Barangay Quiot, Cebu City.

Guadalupe Police Station Chief Dexter Basirgo said that Carabaña had only been renting in Sitio Tambis for 3 weeks. He reportedly transferred after his name came up in Pardo as among those involved in the sale of illegal drugs.

An informant reported to the Guadalupe Police Station that illegal drugs were sold in bulk in Sambag 2.

A poseur-buyer transacted P12,000 worth of illegal drugs with Carabaña. When the sale was consummated, Carabaña was immediately arrested. When police entered Carabaña’s house, they found 3 other men repacking what looked like shabu.

Police confiscated over 3 kilos of shabu with an estimated worth of P36,344,000. They also recovered P105,000 in cash, an expensive cellphone, 3 motorcycles, a Toyota Avanza and a weighing scale.

According to their investigation, the supply of shabu came from Luzon. Carabaña directly receives the supply and then distribute it to street pushers. Carabaña reportedly supplies drugs in Sambag 2 and Pardo in Cebu City as well as the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue.

“Based on their narration, the drugs came from Manila. They have been in the illegal drug trade for some time and their transactions are already in bulk,” said Basirgo in Cebuano.

Police also recovered notebooks, which contained names that police believed to be Carabaña’s colleagues in the illegal drug trade. The names are now under background investigation.

Garma urged boarding house owners to get to know their boarders so they wouldn’t meet any problems in the future.

Garma was disappointed by the large haul despite their continued drug operations.



Man awarded 3 death penalties for raping, killing minor girl in DI Khan

Additional sessions judge Usman Wali Khan on Saturday awarded 3 death sentences and slapped a Rs900,000 penalty on Muhammad Bilal for raping and murdering a 6-year-old girl last year.

The verdict was based on section 364-A, 376-C and section 302 of Pakistan penal code, which included the sections of abduction, rape and murder.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, the father of the victim expressed satisfaction on the court verdict, saying the severe punishment will set an example for others to refrain from committing such heinous crimes against minors.

The prosecutor told the media that the culprit has the right of appeal against the verdict in upper courts within fifteen days of the court orders, adding that he would have to contact the jail administration to do so.

The 6-year-old victim had disappeared from a wedding function on January 26, 2017 in DI Khan after her family was threatened by the convict on refusing her hand for marriage.

The body of the deceased was recovered from a sugarcane field 2 days later.

Police arrested him on the grounds of doubts and during physical remand, he admitted to the charges of abduction, rape and murder by strangling.

During the investigation, it was revealed that the convict was also involved in abducting and raping two other minor girls from the same village.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Juvenile Offender Seyyed-Danial ZeinolAbedin Sentenced to Death

Seyed Danial ZeinolAbedini is a juvenile offender whose death sentence has been upheld by the Supreme Court and is scheduled for execution. Iran Human Rights (IHR) urges the Iranian authorities to stop juvenile executions and calls on the international community to pay urgent attention to Seyyed-Danidal's case.

According to the IHR sources, Seyyed-Danial Zeinolabedin was born on August 9, 2000. He committed a murder on September 22, 2017. This means he is sentenced to death for a crime committed under the age of 18.

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 prison terms.

Seyyed-Danial’s lawyer, Asoo Arya, told IHR, “my client is underage. According to Article 91 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, execution of people under 18 years old is not allowed unless the court recognizes the defendant as a mature person by sending him/her to forensics. My client has not been sent to forensics.”

However, according to Article 91 of Iran's revised Islamic Penal Code, it is up to the presiding judge's discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense: "In the cases of offenses punishable by hadd or qisas, if mature people under 18 years do not realize the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age, they shall be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter." Otherwise, the Islamic Penal Code puts the age of criminal responsibility for males at 15 and 9 for females.

However, the article could neither stop nor even decrease the execution of juvenile offenders. From the application of article 91 in 2013 to the end of 2017, at least 35 juvenile offenders have been hanged in Iranian prisons. (source: Iran Human Rights)


Nigerian man sentenced to death for pushing drugs in Malaysia----A man charged with trafficking 727.1g of methamphetamine has been sentenced to death after a judge found him guilty of the crime over a year before the verdict.

A judge has decided on capital punishment for a Nigerian man Sidrey Shalod Dike who was found guilty of drug trafficking that carried a death sentence.

Sidrey Shalod Dike, a 46-year-old Nigerian man, has reportedly been sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Malaysia.

According to the New Straits Times (NST), the convict was found guilty of pushing more than 700g of drugs into the country in May 2017.

“After examining arguments by both the defence and the prosecution, the court found that the defence failed to raise reasonable doubt and the accused is found guilty and sentenced to death,” says Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah who gave the verdict on Friday, November 30, 2018.

The convict is a part-time delivery man says a report by NST. Dike was reportedly charged with trafficking 727.1g of methamphetamine at 2.30pm on May 3, 2017.

As a result, he faced a charge under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which is punishable under Section 39B(2) of the same law.

It provides a mandatory death sentence upon conviction for anyone found guilty of the allegation.



Given Lubinda addresses 11th International Congress of Justice Ministers

Minister of Justice Honourable Given Lubinda, MP joined several Ministers of Justice from around the world when he attended the 11th International Congress of Justice Ministers held from 28th to 29th November, 2018 under the theme “A World Without the Death Penalty” The meeting which brought together Ministers of Justice and members of the Nuncio and civil society, was held at the Italian Parliament under the auspices of the Community of Saint Egidio in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy.

In his remarks, the Honourable Minister stated that a just world was not possible while the death penalty was in place. He told the meeting that the right to life was enshrined in the constitution of Zambia. However, the same constitution gave powers to the courts to determine sentencing within the purview of the law, which also provided for capital punishment. In the same vein, the minister stated that judges in Zambia prefaced their death sentences by stating that they were bound by the law to hand down the death sentences because the Pénal code has the death penalty as a mandatory sentence in cases of murder, aggravated robbery using a fire arm and treason.

He further informed the meeting that the last execution of the death penalty in Zambia was done in 1997 and since then there have been a number of commutations to life imprisonment. He also emphasized that President Edgar Lungu had committed more death sentences than any of his predecessors. The Hounourable Minister stated that consequent to the foregoing, Zambia was a defacto death penalty abolitionist state.

He further informed the meeting that although Zambia traditionally voted on abstaining when there was a vote on abolishing the death penalty, government was in support of a moratorium on such capital punishment. He said, as the constitution stood, the death penalty was in place and until such a time when the people of Zambia decided to amend the constitution to abolish the death penalty, the status quo would continue to obtain. He mentioned however, that government was in the process of sensitizing the populace on the need to do away with the death penalty as it was at variance with the principle of the right to life as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. He said there was need for the Zambian society to reflect upon this provision of the law and encouraged international and local NGOs, faith-based organizations and other CSOs to get involved in creating awareness among citizens about the need to abolish the death penalty.

Further, that due to the importance that the Zambian Government attaches to people’s rights, on 10th December Zambia would be commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted on 10th December 1948. He invited Saint Egidio to send a delegation to participate in the event in Zambia.

Earlier on, during the opening session, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, Mr. Enzo Moavero Milanesi addressed the meeting and stated his government’s commitment to abolition of the death penalty as this was traditionally the position of the Tuscany Region of Italy in the 18th Century before Italy became a nation state. As such, the tradition was carried on to present day Italy.

Honourable Lubinda was accompanied by Mr. Silumelume Mubukwanu, Counsellor Economics.

(source: Lusaka Times)


White Nile court sentences Darfur student to death

The Kosti criminal court in Sudan’s White Nile state condemned Darfuri student Abubakar Yousef to death, and sentenced another 10 students from Darfur to prison terms, for their participation in riots at the University of Bakht El Rida in May 2017.

The court passed the death sentence on Abubakar Yousef for the murder of a policeman during the university violence. El Tayeb Ahmed received a 4-month prison sentence for causing grievous bodily harm, while nine other students received 6-month prison sentences for rioting and violating public safety.

Lawyer Jibril Hasabo told Radio Dabanga that the defence council would appeal the sentences. He explained that the court ordered those students sentenced to prison to be released, as they spent 18 months in custody pending trial, so the court considered the prison terms already served.


The students were arrested and charged after violence erupted at the Faculty of Education of the University of Bakht El Rida on 9 May 2017 after disagreements at the university's student union. Police intervened and dispersed the protesters using tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as live ammunition. A policeman and a woman student were killed, and 25 other people, including 4 police officers, were injured.

Mass resignation

In July, in reaction to the detentions, between 1,000 and 1,500 students submitted collective resignations from the university in protest against “the security services and the university administration’s racial targeting of Darfuri students."

The students then attempted to travel to Khartoum to register their protest in the national capital, but they were prevented from boarding busses by agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

This prompted to walk towards Khartoum as a mass march, however the NISS stopped them at the village of Sheikh El Yagout and prevented them from entering the city.


DECEMBER 1, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution

Clemency denied for 'Texas 7' prisoner scheduled for execution

A day after suing the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Texas death row prisoner Joseph Garcia lost his long-shot bid for clemency when the 7-member board denied him a favorable recommendation to the governor. He is currently scheduled for execution Tuesday in Huntsville.

The 47-year-old was sentenced to die nearly 2 decades ago for his role in the state's biggest prison break, a carefully plotted scheme followed by a crime spree and the slaying of a suburban Dallas police officer.

Even though the 7-member parole board unanimously rebuffed his request for a lenient recommendation, Garcia has a number of other claims pending in the courts as well as a request for reprieve in front of the governor.

"We are obviously disappointed," said defense lawyer Mridula Raman. "Justice could be served by having Joseph spend the rest of his life in prison. It is unfortunate that the board puts politics over fairness and mercy."

In December 2000, Garcia was serving time for a Bexar County slaying when he teamed up with 6 fellow prisoners to break out of a maximum-security prison south of San Antonio. Fleeing canines and helicopters, the men drove to Houston where they pulled off 2 store robberies to stock up on supplies and money before heading north toward Dallas.

There, on Christmas Eve, the crew of escapees robbed an Oshman's sporting goods - and on their way out, killed Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins. The men drove through a blizzard and headed to Colorado, where they were caught a month later posing as Christian missionaries and living in a trailer park.

Though 5 gunmen fired shots and 1 of them - ringleader George Rivas - confessed to shooting the cop, Garcia has long maintained he never opened fire.

Still, he was found guilty and sentenced to die under the law of parties, a controversial statute that can hold non-shooters as responsible as triggermen.

Challenging the use of that statute has become the center of one of Garcia's last-ditch legal battles. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against him in that appeal on Friday, but in a 17-page dissent Judge Elsa Alcala wrote that "evolving standards of decency" might mean it's no longer permissible to execute someone who never intended to kill, and that it might not serve a penological purpose.

Late Friday, Garcia's attorneys appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The same day, his legal team filed a federal lawsuit over the state's lethal injection supplier. Echoing a letter sent to the governor earlier in the week, the suit focuses on concerns stemming from a BuzzFeed News report on Wednesday that identified the Houston compounding pharmacy believed to be 1 of 2 responsible for making up the batches of pentobarbital used in the Huntsville death chamber.

Since the Braeswood-area business had a track record of safety violations documented by the state, Garcia's attorney's asked the federal court to ban the state from using drugs compounded there or to simply call off Garcia's execution.

In addition to the new filings on Friday, Garcia has an appeal challenging the Bexar County conviction that originally put him behind bars; a lawsuit alleging the state's parole board has too many ex-law enforcement members; and a request for reprieve in front of the governor.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


State-Sanctioned Secrecy Shields Texas’ Death Penalty Machine from Scrutiny----New revelations about the source of Texas’ execution drugs underscore the risks of capital punishment shrouded in secrecy.

Shortly before he died by lethal injection earlier this year, Anthony Shore, Houston’s infamous “tourniquet killer,” exclaimed that he felt a burning sensation. Later that month, condemned killer William Rayford reportedly grimaced and writhed on the gurney during his final moments. Chris Young, executed this summer over the objections of his victim’s surviving son, was one of several death row inmates who said he could feel the drugs burning in his throat before he died.

On Wednesday, Buzzfeed News reported that Texas buys execution drugs from Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy in Houston, which state health officials have repeatedly cited for dangerous practices in recent years, including for giving kids the wrong medicine and forging quality control documents.

After the Buzzfeed report, lawyers for Joseph Garcia — set to die Tuesday for his role in a deadly 1999 prison escape — urged Governor Greg Abbott to give Garcia a 30-day reprieve, saying the revelation raises questions about the quality of Texas’ death drugs. Killing Garcia next week, his attorneys argue, subjects him to the “unreasonable risk of a cruel execution."

Secrecy has always been a part of the American death penalty machine. Executioners donned hoods when the condemned were hanged in the public square, and by the 19th century, pressure from death penalty abolitionists had pushed officials to hold executions behind prison walls. In most of the 30 states that authorize the death penalty, the names and qualifications of anyone involved in administering the ultimate punishment are withheld from the public. Laws in some states even threaten to punish journalists who dig up and publish such information.

Many death penalty states, including Texas, began to shield the identity of execution drug suppliers over the past decade as large drug manufacturers distanced themselves from state-sanctioned killing. As their supply chain dried up, Texas officials turned to compounding pharmacies, which aren’t subject to the same strict federal standards as large drug companies, and began to restrict what information it publicly released about the drugs used in executions. In 2015, after it became clear these smaller pharmacies wouldn’t peddle execution drugs in public, the Texas Legislature passed a law shrouding them in secrecy.

"Secrecy is bad practice, bad policy and bad government. It continues to erode public confidence in whether states can be trusted to carry out capital punishment."

As states veiled their shifting execution protocols and drug suppliers, reports of botched executions — such as prisoners who appeared to be suffocating or experiencing excruciating pain while strapped to a gurney — began to rise, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center released earlier this month. The report argues that secrecy prevents the public from having an honest conversation around the death penalty, while simultaneously undercutting inmates’ Eighth Amendment claims and increasing the risk of a painful execution.

“Secrecy is bad practice, bad policy and bad government,” said Robert Dunham, the group’s executive director. “It continues to erode public confidence in whether states can be trusted to carry out capital punishment.”

Until this week, Greenpark Pharmacy’s role in Texas’ death penalty machine was a closely guarded secret. Someone who answered the phone at the pharmacy on Friday refused to comment, as did a spokesperson for the Texas prison system.

The governor’s office hasn’t yet responded to Garcia’s lawyers’ request for a 30-day reprieve. Moving forward with his execution next week, they say, “creates a grave risk that he will be put to death in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment."

(source: Texas Observer)


Supreme Court saved Bobby Moore from execution once. It should do it again.

The job of a judge is to follow the law. If we are to be, as Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “a government of laws, and not of men,” the lower courts must carefully apply the precedent of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the top criminal court in my home state of Texas is not following this foundational constitutional principle in a matter of life and death.

Last year, in a case involving a death row prisoner named Bobby Moore, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Texas’ framework for determining whether a capital defendant had an intellectual disability — and was therefore exempt from execution — violated the Eighth Amendment. The rejected Texas criteria had in some circles become known as “the Lennie standard” because it invited the courts to compare the defendant with the fictional character Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men — a giant man with the mind of a child.

With respect to Moore, the Supreme Court ruled the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrongly relied on non-clinical criteria about intellectual disability to uphold his death sentence. Three justices dissented from the court’s reversal. But as all justices agree, the Supreme Court’s majority decision is the law of the land. And all justices unanimously agreed that Texas’ use of lay stereotypes was erroneous and unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion emphasized that, as a 13-year-old, Moore lacked a basic understanding of the days of the week, the months of the year, telling time, the seasons and the concept that subtraction is the reverse of addition. Stressing that Moore’s serious mental and social difficulties were clear from early childhood, the court highlighted what it called “the considerable objective evidence of Moore’s adaptive deficits.” The majority also held that Moore’s IQ is well within the range of intellectual disability, an issue that is no longer in dispute. As is customary, the Supreme Court then sent the case back to the Texas court for further proceedings.

If the system were working as it should, Moore’s case would have been a routine matter of the Texas court applying the Supreme Court’s decision and current medical standards as directed and prohibiting Moore’s execution. Even the prosecutors, who had obtained the death penalty against Moore, agreed in a formal filing to the Texas court that, in light of the controlling medical and legal standards, Moore is intellectually disabled and should not be executed.

Yet in a stark conflict with black letter law, the state appellate court again ruled that Moore is not intellectually disabled and set him on course for execution. The decision made reference to the Supreme Court’s ruling but for the 2nd time relied on lay stereotypes and non-clinical criteria despite the Supreme Court’s explicit instructions.

While I have no doubt about the good faith of the esteemed judges in Texas, their decision deviates sharply from the Supreme Court’s prior decision. The Supreme Court justices should again accept review of Moore’s case and summarily reverse this latest ruling. The Texas court, in reaching its closely divided decision, rejected the consensus of the highest court in the country, the state trial judge who held the evidentiary hearing and all parties and amici before the court — including the prosecutors, prominent Texans concerned with the rule of law and leading medical organizations.

Reasonable minds can differ about the death penalty. Some urging the Supreme Court to take up Moore’s case again support capital punishment, and some oppose it. But these citizens supporting Moore, including leading conservatives, are committed to upholding the Constitution, which established “one Supreme Court.” In giving the court the last word, the framers intended that the Constitution would be applied consistently, without exceptions and regardless of the status of a particular litigant.

I am not an abolitionist on the death penalty. I favor it in appropriate cases. But I also believe we must vigilantly observe the constitutional constraints on this ultimate sentence. In our constitutional system, courts must carefully adhere to Supreme Court decisions on all issues — especially on this vitally important subject of life and death.

In this instance, a narrow majority of Texas judges may have believed that the Supreme Court was wrong about Moore. But this does not matter, as I know from my own experience as an appellate judge. The state judges had an inviolable duty to ensure that its proceedings were consistent with the court's decision. As then-U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh put it: “As a lower court in a system of absolute vertical stare decisis headed by one Supreme Court, it is essential that we follow both the words and the music of Supreme Court decisions."

For our system to work, the Supreme Court must make sure that its rulings are respected and faithfully applied. In this case, I hope the Supreme Court will act to correct the Texas court’s fundamental error, especially since Moore faces the most extreme punishment our government can impose. Ignoring this departure from binding authority would be inimical to our bedrock constitutional principles.

(source: Op-Ed; Kenneth Starr served as U.S. solicitor general from 1989 to 1993 and U.S. Circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit from 1983 to 1989. He joined an amicus brief supporting summary reversal in the U.S. Supreme Court in the pending Bobby Moore case----Washington Post)

FLORIDA----new death sentence

Judge sentences Colley to death in 'execution' of wife, her friend----Colley gunned down 2 women in August 2015 rampage

A man who gunned down his estranged wife and her best friend in the couple's upscale St. Johns County home in 2015 was sentenced to death Friday for their murders.

A jury unanimously recommended the death penalty for James Colley Jr. in July, and Circuit Judge Howard Maltz followed that recommendation Friday, saying Colley's conduct deserved the "harshest penalty" allowed by Florida law.

In addition to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, Colley was convicted of 2 counts of attempted 1st-degree murder, 2 burglary counts and a count of aggravated stalking. Maltz tacked on life in prison sentences for the attempted murder charges.

At a Spencer hearing in October, Colley apologized and called the killings a "terrible accident."

"I wish it would have been different, but it's not, and I'm sorry for all parties involved," Colley said.

A Spencer hearing typically is the last chance for a defendant facing the death penalty to persuade the court to spare his life.

Speaking in measured words Friday, Maltz scoffed at Colley's claim that the murders were an accident, saying Colley “executed” the 2 women “in the prime of their lives” and “devastated” their families.

"You characterized what happened as a horrible accident," Maltz said to Colley. "Nothing could be further from the truth based upon the evidence that was presented. The evidence presented in this case establishes that these murders were committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner."

Colley killed his estranged wife, Amanda, and her best friend, Lindy Dobbins, when he went on a shooting spree inside the couple’s home on Aug. 27, 2015.

A woman who survived the deadly rampage testified that Colley showed up uninvited at the home, looking for a man he believed was in a relationship with Amanda Colley, 36. Earlier that day, Colley had been ordered by a judge not to have contact with his wife, who had an injunction against him.

Rachel Hendricks told jurors that she and Dobbins, 39, ran and hid in a walk-in closet after Colley appeared in the backyard of the home carrying a gun and opened fire.

Hendricks said Colley forced his way into the closet and held the gun to Dobbins' head as Hendricks ran for her life. She said she heard a shot as she fled.

Prosecutors said Amanda Colley heard her best friend being shot in the closet before James Colley found her, wounded on the bathroom floor, and shot her multiple times as she begged for her life.

The grisly murders were captured on an agonizing 911 call.

Colley took off after the shooting spree and was arrested after a traffic stop in Virginia hours later. He has been in custody ever since.

Colley did not speak in court Friday. His mother said after the sentencing, "I love my son no matter what, and the whole story was not told."

Colley’s attorney told News4Jax he plans to appeal for a new trial. Colley's conviction and sentence will be automatically appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Colleys had 2 children, who are now being cared for by family, and Dobbins had three children, who are now being cared for by their father.

State Attorney R.J. Larizza, who attended the hearing and sat with the victims’ families, said “[f]or those who believe the death penalty to be barbaric, how would they feel if they were there to witness the cold and barbaric murders of Amanda and Lindy? It is our hope that the family will find some peace and comfort now that the defendant was held accountable for his actions."



New jury to consider death sentence for convicted killer Juan Rosario, judge rules

Convicted killer Juan Rosario will get a 2nd chance to avoid the death penalty, after a judge on Thursday threw out a jury’s recommendation that he be sentenced to die.

Circuit Judge Leticia Marques ruled that the attorneys who defended Rosario at trial last year, Roger Weeden and Luis Davila, did not represent him effectively in its penalty phase, during which 12 jurors unanimously recommended Rosario’s execution.

Rosario was convicted last year of killing 83-year-old Elena Ortega in her home on Turnbull Drive, near South Semoran Boulevard.

During Rosario’s trial, his ex-girlfriend told jurors that he broke into Ortega’s home early on Sept. 18, 2013, to commit a robbery - but Ortega woke up and, when Rosario realized she saw his face, he beat her until she was unconscious and set fires to 3 rooms in her house to try and get rid of any evidence.

The case went unsolved for months until Rosario was arrested in another home invasion and his ex-girlfriend, Janet Gutierrez, decided to tell Orange County deputies what she said Rosario had told her when he came home the morning of Ortega’s death.

Jurors recommended a death sentence for Rosario June 2, 2017. But the case stalled after he asked for new attorneys, who needed time to prepare for the hearing at which Marques was to decide whether to abide by the jury's recommendation and send Rosario to death row or override it and sentence him to life without parole.

That hearing was scheduled for Friday - but it was cancelled Thursday afternoon when Marques issued her ruling. The judge’s order does not overturn Rosario’s guilty verdict, only the jury’s recommendation for a death sentence.

“Even though Mr. Weeden had represented [Rosario] since January 2015, he and Mr. Davila were patently unprepared for the trial’s penalty phase,” Marques wrote. “They failed to conduct even a basic mitigation investigation, such as retaining a doctor to examine [Rosario]."

Weeden said he was “extremely pleased” that his former client will get another chance to avoid a death sentence.

Weeden said he had asked the court for extra time to get experts on topics including mental health, medical and intellectual disability and substance abuse to testify for Rosario - the "same experts and testing” he said were later granted to Rosario’s new lawyers, “through which [they] obtained this order for a new penalty phase trial."

A new penalty phase has not been scheduled. In her order, Marques acknowledged that it could take years.

"The years preceding an inevitable retrial of [the] defendant’s penalty phase would result in an even greater emotional toll on the victim’s family, additional costs to Florida taxpayers and the risk of witness unavailability due to the passage of time," Marques wrote.

(source: Orlando Sentinel)


Prospective gassing of human beings in Alabama is an abomination

When, in October 2016, I wrote “[d]eath row inmates in Alabama are human guinea pigs” because the state’s capital punishment regime - specifically its barbaric, often bungled lethal injection protocol - is already so dark, so depraved, so outrageously cloaked in lies and officious secrecy, I never could have predicted the situation could get worse. But it has.

In glaring contrast to the heavily circulated, smiling picture of exonerated former Alabama death row inmate Anthony Ray Hinton, ebullient after voting for the first time in a midterm election since being freed in 2015, after a hellacious 30 years on Alabama’s death row, it’s important to understand: the death penalty in Alabama has gotten far worse since Mr. Hinton’s release - not better. First, because of the cynically named “Fair Justice Act,” convoluted legislation hacksawing fundamental constitutional rights of (overwhelmingly indigent) death-sentenced defendants, signed into law last year - over the varied, vociferous, published objections of the ACLU, a highly respected Harvard Law School professor, defense attorneys in the state, myself, and even Mr. Hinton - it is far easier under current Alabama law, for an innocent person like Mr. Hinton, to be convicted and sentenced to death.

Second, despite a fairly recent slew of patently botched lethal injections, including that of Ronald Bert Smith, Torrey McNabb, and Christopher Brooks — as well as the bloody, horrific, and failed execution attempt of Doyle Hamm, during which, among other atrocities, state executioners repeatedly (and futilely) jabbed multiple needles into Hamm’s groin and pelvis — Alabama has coldly, inhumanely, and, as I wrote elsewhere in June, steadfastly continued “its odious tradition of ducking and dodging transparency and accountability in how the state puts its prisoners to death.” I’d presaged this discomfiting conclusion several months earlier, in October 2017, in a piece for USA Today, after McNabb’s shameful, gruesome torture; in it, I dubbed the Commissioner of Alabama’s Department of Corrections (ADOC) “‘Baghdad Bob’ of Alabama’s death row.”

Pouring accelerant on this already demoralizing and distasteful dumpster fire, a just-released report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), “Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States,” observes: “Alabama has one of the most restrictive secrecy policies in the nation, consistently maintaining that all documents associated with an execution are confidential.” (While he wasn’t focusing on the modern death penalty, in reviewing W. Fitzhugh Brundage’s new book “Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition” for the L.A. Times, author Colin Dickey recently and insightfully wrote: “The work of American torture has always been twofold: not just the violence itself, but the complex legal and rhetorical strategies that obfuscate it away to maintain a myth of America as a civilized place without cruel and unusual punishment.”)

And now, as if this wasn’t all ghastly enough - this undeniable fact Alabama has been torturing poor people for a long time, and that it shows no sign of stopping - the Montgomery Advertiser’s Bryan Lyman wrote on November 23rd that the state is planning to augment the barbarism involved in its executions to even greater and more unseemly dimensions; Lyman reports that plans are now underway for Alabama to develop a protocol to execute death row prisoners with nitrogen gas.

But, Lyman notes, because “[n]itrogen asphyxiation has never been used in capital punishment before,” Alabama “finds itself inventing a method of execution.” Soberly and pointedly, Lyman observes: “The American Medical Association authorizes the use of the method in animal euthanasia, though only for birds and small animals.” Relatedly, in March, Robert Dunham, Executive Director of DPIC, tweeted: “The World Society for the Protection of Animals lists nitrogen inhalation as ‘not acceptable’ for animal euthanasia because loss of consciousness is not instantaneous, and dogs euthanized by nitrogen gas have been observed convulsing and yelping after ‘falling unconscious.’”

Also in March, following Alabama’s vengeful killing of an 83-year-old man, I urged that during such dreary, desolate days for death penalty abolitionists, unusually sage insight, and perhaps also, the solace of understanding, can be gleaned from the words of writer James Baldwin. The same is true today as more and more developments emerge about the prospective state-sanctioned killing of human beings with nitrogen gas in Alabama - and even more depressingly, in other states like Oklahoma and Mississippi (which have approved the procedure), too.

In his essay “What Price Freedom,” Baldwin postulated: “I still believe when a country has lost all human feeling, you can do anything to anybody and justify it, and we do know in this country we have done just that.” Borrowing from Baldwin further, and speaking directly to Alabama’s Attorney General’s Office and the ADOC, Baldwin concluded, in yet another one of his piercing essays “The Uses of the Blues,” that “[i]n evading [death row prisoners’s] humanity, you have done something to your own humanity.”

But, last time when I wrote how James Baldwin’s writing helps us to understand the continued dastardly use of the death penalty, I also wrote about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and, I let Baldwin get the last word; this time, it’s with the power of Dr. King that I’ll close. Because it was Dr. King who, from his humble pulpit on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, Alabama, began a nonviolent movement in this country - a movement for justice, for equality, for humanity, a movement for the betterment of all mankind - a movement that continues to this day.

In his book Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. King wrote these hallowed words, words that all Alabamians, and indeed all Americans, still have not fully internalized, accepted, and allowed to become part of our baseline morality: “Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached a day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.”

With the prolonged picking and poking of condemned prisoners with needles, the “choice” of electrocution, and now, perhaps, also nitrogen gassing, we’re not there yet. Not even close.

(source: Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015----Los Angeles Post-Examiner)


Dominique Swopes Indicted For Murder Of Mayfield Heights Mom----A Grand Jury handed down the indictment this week. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor said he may seek the death penalty in the case.

Dominique Swopes has been indicted for the murder of Rebecca Pletnewski and her daughter Olivia Schneider. Swopes could face the death penalty, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley announced.

A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury indicted Swopes for aggravated murder. In total, he faces 14 counts, including aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property, murder, and felonious assault.

The indictment also reserves the right to seek the death penalty at a later date. "We are evaluating this crime as a potential death penalty case for the senseless killing of Ms. Pletnewski and her young daughter," O'Malley said on Friday.

Bond was set at $5 million for Swopes on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Law enforcement announced Monday they would seek an indictment for murder and arson.

Pletnewski's home on Longwood Road caught fire on November 20. She was found dead inside the house by firefighters. Her 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, was rushed to Hillcrest Hospital where she later died from smoke inhalation.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner later ruled that Pletnewski was dead before the fire was set. The cause of her death was "cervical compression with sharp force injuries." That effectively means the 41-year-old was stabbed in the spine.

Mayfield Heights Police Chief Fred Bittner told Fox 8 that Pletnewski's family said Swopes had been potentially stalking the woman. "He became our primary suspect at the time after talking to family," Bittner said.



Closure deserved in boy’s death

We see a sad irony in the fact that one defendant in the 1985 brutal murder of 12-year-old Raymond Fife - the one who was sentenced to serve a life term — died last week in prison, while the other defendant - the one sentenced to be executed more than 30 years ago - still lives in Ohio’s prison system.

Ohio death row inmate Danny Lee Hill, now 51, has been incarcerated with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction since 1986. That’s 32 years of being supported at taxpayers' expense and 32 years of using publicly funded defense attorneys to appeal and fight his death sentence over and over and over again.

The other defendant, Timothy Combs, died earlier this month while incarcerated at Grafton Correctional Institution in Lorain County. He was 50. He had not been eligible to face the death penalty in his crimes because he was only 17 when the brutal assault and slaying of a 12-year-old boy occurred as he rode his bicycle home after a Boy Scout meeting.

Undoubtedly every person who ever is accused of a crime in America deserves due process and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But we, like most local residents who recall the heinous crime and subsequent trial, are growing tired and frustrated with the never-ending parade of motions and legal maneuvers that continue to stall Hill's execution - even after his criminal conviction was first pronounced and subsequent appeals have upheld it.

In the days after Combs' Nov. 9 death, his young victim's mother, Miriam Fife, said the killer’s death left her no cause to rejoice.

“This is not something that I celebrate,” she said, but then noted, “I will be able to rest in peace that he will not be able to get out and do what was done to Raymond to anyone else."

Miriam Fife’s words were spoken with the dignity — and profound sadness — that have remained all these years.

Certainly, she now deserves to have that same closure and opportunity to rest in peace with an end to the appeals by her son’s other killer.

Indeed, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins and his staff have fought tirelessly for that closure.

Isn’t it time?

(source: Editorial, Tribune Chronicle)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

'It's taken so long': Lee Standifer's last night and David Earl Miller's road to execution

Lee Standifer felt like she'd just begun to live.

Then she met David Earl Miller.

"I remember talking to her that day," said her mother, Helen Standifer. "She must have just met him, but she didn't mention him. She just chit-chatted, the way girls do. We were going to a show for her birthday that weekend, and she was looking forward to it."

She never heard her daughter's voice again. Standifer died hours later — 2 days before her 24th birthday — beaten and stabbed, her body dragged through the dirt and dumped in the woods by a man she barely knew.

'It won't bring my daughter back'

Miller was 23 when he killed Standifer in South Knoxville that night of May 20, 1981. He was 24 the 1st time a Knox County jury sentenced him to die for the crime. He turned 61 this summer, the longest-serving inmate on Tennessee's death row and one of just a few to be sentenced to death twice.

He'll die in the electric chair Thursday unless a court intervenes — 36 years and 5 days after his original execution date.

Helen Standifer saw Miller for the first time across the courtroom days after her daughter's death. She faced him again and again in the years that followed — at hearings, at trial, at each time a jury weighed whether her daughter's life mattered enough that Miller deserved to die. She never got an apology, never got an explanation - not that anything would ever be enough.

She won't be there to face him if he dies in the chair Thursday - or any other day.

"I'm not going," said the mother, now a widow and living in Chandler, Ariz. "I just don't see that it accomplishes anything. It won't bring my daughter back. It doesn't give me any comfort or satisfaction. I don't see any point in being there.

"I went to all the trials, because I knew someone had to stand up for my daughter. Someone had to represent her and speak for her. And if we had to go through another trial, I would stand up for my daughter again. But this has become about him, and I don't want to acknowledge him or honor him in any way. It's taken so long, and I just want it to be finished."

The gurney and electric chair sit inside the execution

No room for regret

Miller doesn't fit into the mother's memories. When she looks back, she sees the face of the bubbly young woman who greeted each day with the joy and enthusiasm of a child. "I can still see my daughter bouncing out of the car at Christmastime," the mother said. "She would even tie jingle bells on her shoelaces. She was one of the happiest people you could ever know. It didn't matter how old she was. She always had a smile for everybody, and if you met her once, you were her friend."

Doctors diagnosed Lee Standifer with mild brain damage as a child. Today the diagnosis might be different.

"We never did know the cause," the mother said. "Her vocabulary and her reading ability were always above average, but her comprehension was not always on target."

Standifer's father, Richard, worked as a chemical engineer, and the family moved around the country with him as he transferred through various jobs and projects. She attended special education classes in Colorado until the family moved to Tennessee in 1975. Her disability didn't keep her from attending Farragut High School, where she graduated the following year.

Between classes, she helped her mother with crafts — knitting, painting, wire sculptures — traveling to shows and making friends wherever she went.

'I've finally begun to live'

Police later described Standifer as a grown woman with a mental age of around 12. Her parents knew she wasn't ready to drive or attend college. But they knew she deserved a chance to live her own life.

First she moved in with her younger sister, Audrey, while the sister attended the University of Tennessee. When her sister graduated, the parents found her a room at the YWCA on Clinch Avenue downtown and a job at Cavalier Food Products, where she packed boxes on an assembly line.

Every day she rode the bus to work and back. Every day she called her mother. Most weekends she came home to visit.

"It was a gradual transition," the mother said. "Most people would have found the work mind-numbing, but she loved it. She was always early, never late. She was just so glad to be out on her own.

"I'm sure there were people who thought we were doing wrong by putting Lee out in the world. She may not have lived long, but at least she lived her life. I didn't live it for her. I'm just sorry it didn't last longer."

All the bus drivers knew her by name. She never hesitated to say hello to a stranger.

"I feel like I've finally begun to live," she told her mother on the day she died.

A new friend

Lee Standifer never told her mother the name of the man she'd met. To this day she's not sure how her daughter and the man who killed her crossed paths.

Maybe on the bus. Maybe at the bus station, where Miller worked part-time at a lunch counter. Maybe at the library a few blocks away on Church Avenue.

"She spent the weekend before at home with us, and she said she'd met a new friend at the library," the mother said. "I think she just met him once. He probably said, 'Let's go do something,' she said yes, and that was it."

Standifer told a friend just before she left she "wasn't sure" about the man she'd met. She didn't know about his history — about how he'd drifted across the country after a childhood of daily physical and sexual abuse, about the trail of crimes he'd left including two arrests on suspicion of rape, about how he supported himself as a prostitute sponging off a closeted Baptist minister in South Knoxville.

Standifer hung up with her mother around 5:30 p.m. on May 20, a Wednesday. She left the YWCA with Miller soon after.

Witnesses saw them together in the hours that followed — at the Hideaway Lounge, a bar on Gay Street now demolished; at the library, where Miller checked out a book that included a description of murder during sex; at the bus station cafeteria; in the back of a taxi that carried them to the pastor's home on Wise Hills Road.

Arrest and appeals

Standifer didn't show up for work the next day. She didn't call home. Her mother feared the worst.

"You never know what can happen," the mother said. "You can't know."

She called police to report her daughter missing. She learned the next night her daughter's body had been discovered, bound and battered with a fire poker, in the woods beside the pastor's house. Miller was missing.

Police caught up with Miller a week later when he tried to pass a counterfeit bill at a bar in Columbus, Ohio. He returned to Knoxville in handcuffs, hiding his face from the cameras as officers marched him to jail.

The years of court dates that followed run together into a blur in the mother's memory. First came the trial in March 1982, when a jury found Miller guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death.

The Tennessee Supreme Court threw out that sentence two years later, with justices finding no fault in Miller's conviction but ruling prosecutors shouldn't have told the jury about his history of rape arrests. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing — a mini-trial before a new jury to decide whether he deserved death.

The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld David Earl Miller's 1982 murder conviction for killing Lee Standifer but threw out his 1st death sentence. He was sentenced again to die in 1987.

The 2nd jury deadlocked on a sentence. A 3rd reached the same decision as the 1st — death — and sentenced him for the last time in February 1987. 31 years of appeals followed. Standifer's mother, father and sister moved across the country. Her father died in 2014. The appeals dragged on.

"There have been so many appeals," said the mother, now in her 80s. "I wouldn't have been averse to a life sentence. But that wasn't an option (at the time of the trial). This was the only way to go. I miss my daughter, and I want my memories to be of her."

(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)


Judge smacks legislature, says retroactive law doesn't prevent release of death penalty records

The state Department of Corrections has to release records on how it carries out executions, including names of lethal drugs and the companies that make them, a judge ruled.

Marion Circuit Court judge Sheryl Lynch upheld her ruling from 2016 that a Washington, D.C. lawyer, A. Katherine Toomey, is entitled to the records she requested through Indiana's Access to Public Records Act.

Lynch said the legislature's 2017 retroactive law meant to subvert such requests does not apply to Toomey. The law was controversial because of how it passed. Around 2 a.m. on the final day of the 2017 legislative session, it was added to a budget bill, 2 pages out of 175.

"The General Assembly may not change the result of (Toomey's) litigation," Lynch wrote. "While other requests may be precluded by the Statute, blocking Toomey’s request after this Court had already ordered the Department to produce the documents violates ... Indiana’s Constitution."

It's unclear if the state will appeal. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office said "we will discuss our options moving forward."

The DOC lost an appeal of Lynch's original 2016 summary judgement ruling and then the Indiana Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Behind the scenes, the state worked to pass a law to keep death penalty information secret. The DOC and House Speaker Brian Bosma said last year that anything less than anonymity would prevent companies from selling lethal drugs for executions.

Judge Lynch's order quoted an email from the DOC's deputy commissioner to the Governor's legislative chief. Commenting on a draft of the secrecy bill, the DOC deputy commissioner wrote that it "should be helpful in resolving the Toomey case, and serve the other purposes."

Lynch wrote, "As applied to this case, the General Assembly’s passage of the Statute overstepped its authority and violated the Indiana Constitution’s Separation of Powers by disturbing a pending case and upsetting this Court’s judgment."

David Dickmeyer, a lawyer for the state, had argued it was appropriate for Judge Lynch to change her summary judgment ruling because of "an extraordinary circumstance."

He said that making the death penalty records public would subject manufacturers and vendors of execution drugs to "public shaming, public protests, hate mail and lawsuits."

Peter Racher, Toomey's Indianapolis lawyer, said, "The stonewalling should have ended years ago."

Toomey's online profile says she "represents groups opposing the death penalty in various types of litigation, including public records cases concerning the sources and use of pharmaceuticals needed for lethal injection."

A once-common drug used in executions isn't produced anymore in the U.S. and isn't legal to import. Drug companies are suing to prevent their products from being included in whatever deadly chemical cocktail a state might have devised.

Indiana is not the only state to have passed secrecy laws on execution protocol. A report released last week by the Death Penalty Information Center said 13 states passed secrecy laws since 2011.

"During the past 7 years, states have begun conducting executions with drugs and drug combinations that have never been tried before," the report said. "They have done so behind an expanding veil of secrecy laws that shield the execution process from public scrutiny. ... This retreat into secrecy has occurred at the same time that states have conducted some of the most problematic executions in American history."

A Gallup poll from last month said 56 % of adults in the U.S. favor the death penalty for convicted murderers.

But 49 % said the death penalty is applied fairly — the lowest percentage since 2000.

Matthew Wrinkles, who murdered 3 people, is the last person executed in Indiana. That happened Dec. 11, 2009.

There are 9 people sentenced to death in Indiana, according to the Department of Corrections. No execution dates are scheduled. When the state notifies the Indiana Supreme Court that all appeals have been exhausted, the Supreme Court sets an execution date.

(source: Indianapolis Star)


Former executioners: SCOTUS must stop lethal injection in Missouri case

This month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will ultimately determine whether Missouri can proceed with its plan to execute Russell Bucklew. As former corrections officials who have participated in executions ourselves, we feel strongly that the court should step in and force Missouri to change course.

At its core, this case is about whether Missouri can use a lethal injection to execute Bucklew, even though he has a rare medical condition that could lead to him choking on his own blood during the execution.

The prospect of a botched procedure raises serious constitutional concerns — carrying out this procedure on Bucklew may well violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment" by resulting in an excruciating death. Bucklew suffers from cavernous hemangioma, an exceptionally rare condition that has caused tumors filled with blood to grow in his throat. These tumors bleed easily and block his airway when he is lying on his back. The veins in his arms are also compromised, making it difficult to place an intravenous needle. As a result, Bucklew could suffer severe bleeding or have a vein fail during the procedure, possibly while also struggling to breathe.

Compounding these factors, Bucklew’s attorneys argue, Missouri does not appear to be taking sufficient steps to make sure the execution team is adequately prepared for possible medical complications.

During oral argument, the two sides disagreed over how much information the anesthesiologist would receive. There is evidence they would only see a one-page summary of Bucklew’s condition.

The last time the state prepared this form, when it sought to execute Bucklew in 2014, it omitted crucial information about his breathing and vascular problems. Failing to provide the execution team with all relevant information would dramatically increase the odds of an unconstitutionally cruel execution.

Bucklew requires special care in his cell, where he receives a biohazard bag, gauze and a soft-food diet. If he requires this attention on a daily basis, the state can’t reasonably assume that no special planning would be necessary for his execution.

Corrections officers are responsible for treating the inmates under their care humanely and legally — and it appears that in this case the state is setting up its employees to fail in that mission.

Carrying out an execution is the most solemn task a corrections officer could ever perform, and we don’t doubt that the team in Missouri will try to be as professional as possible. But we also know that mistakes and complications can occur, with awful consequences.

In 2014, the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma gained international attention after Lockett died of a heart attack. And earlier this year in Alabama, the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm was halted after officials repeatedly tried and failed to set an IV to administer the drugs because of his compromised veins.

The court’s ruling will turn on whether the execution is likely to result in illegal suffering for Bucklew. But we believe it is just as important to remember that if the procedure goes wrong, there will be other victims as well. We have seen firsthand that even in the best of circumstances, participating in executions can be immensely traumatic for those tasked with this grave responsibility. Our colleagues, like many corrections officials who have been involved in executions, have struggled with anxiety, depression and substance abuse. A botched procedure only heightens these psychological scars.

Over the summer, we joined with corrections colleagues from across the country to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court to share why our experiences compel us to oppose the execution plan in this case. We firmly believe that if Missouri proceeds as planned, this execution will go badly, and, as we warned the Supreme Court, it will make the state’s “public servants parties to barbarism."

There is no doubt about Bucklew’s guilt. He was convicted of murdering Michael Sanders. He was also found guilty of kidnapping and raping his former girlfriend, Stephanie Ray. The impulse to want to see him suffer a fate worse than his victims’ is one we can understand. Even so, an execution at all costs says far more about us than it does about the person we seek to kill.

Missouri has other ways to seek finality and justice in this case, and we urge the court to act accordingly.

Semon Frank Thompson was the superintendent of the Oregon State Prison from 1994 to 1998, where he oversaw 2 executions.

Jerry Givens served as the executioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, performing 62 executions between 1982 and 1999.

(source: USA Today)


Judge barred from death penalty cases asks nation's high court to review dispute with Arkansas Supreme Court

Attorneys for Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen said this morning they are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the judge’s ongoing legal dispute with the justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The petition for a writ of certiorari filed with the country's highest court comes after Griffen’s complaints against the Arkansas Supreme Court have already been dismissed by the state's judicial watchdog, a federal district judge in Little Rock and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Daily Email Newsletters

The protracted legal fight began in April 2017, when the Supreme Court ordered Griffen removed from all cases and future cases involving the death penalty.

That decision was a reaction to Griffen's action in front of the Governor's Mansion, where he strapped himself to a cot in protest of capital punishment, on the same day he issued a ruling that temporarily threatened the state's plans to carry out several executions.

Griffen has argued that the justices violated his religious and free speech rights by punishing him for the protest and alleged, without evidence, that the justices engaged in out-of-court communications with the attorney general's office while considering an appeal of Griffen's actions.

A U.S. District Court judge, James Moody, had initially dismissed the court itself from Griffen’s federal lawsuit earlier this year, but allowed the suit to continue against each of the 7 justices individually.

That decision was reversed by the 8th Circuit, which tossed the case.

"In addition to terminating the case, this ruling obviously prevented Judge Griffen from engaging in the discovery process, which we believe would have added significant support to his case and which the Justices fiercely opposed," said a news release from Griffen’s attorneys.

Chief Justice Dan Kemp could not be reached for comment Friday morning.

A separate complaint that led to charges of wrongdoing by the justices was dismissed by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission earlier this month. The commission is still reviewing Griffen’s actions at the anti-death penalty protest.



Woman charged in death, dismemberment pleads not guilty

A woman accused of helping kill and dismember a Lincoln woman has pleaded not guilty to 1st-degree murder and unlawful disposal of human remains.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the pleas for 24-year-old Bailey Boswell were entered Thursday in Saline County Court.

Prosecutors say Boswell and 52-year-old Aubrey Trail strangled Sydney Loofe, and Boswell helped Trail cut up Loofe's body and stuff the remains into trash bags. The remains were found Dec. 4 in Clay County, weeks after Loofe was reported missing.

Both Boswell and Trail face the death penalty if convicted.

(source: Associated Press)


America Is In The Middle Of A Death Penalty Crisis----Our death penalty practices are unconstitutional. Period.

This past July, 8 death row prisoners in Alabama requested to be killed via gas chamber, fearful their deaths would be painful and prolonged if lethal injection was used instead.

In August, when Tennessee executed a man via lethal injection, he jolted and pushed against his restraints as he choked and gasped for air.

In October, South Dakota executed an intellectually disabled man who participated in the state’s Special Olympics as a child.

Just this month, Tennessee executed a man with an electric chair first used in 1916. Days later, 4 other Tennessee death row prisoners requested death by firing squad, instead.

Capital punishment has a sordid history in this country ? one that many Americans know little about. But if ever there was a time to unearth that past and do away with the death penalty entirely, it’s now: Drug manufacturers are doing all they can to keep their products out of our execution practices. States are resorting to increasingly dangerous and deceptive measures to ensure executions continue; some have even returned to methods once thought too barbaric to endure. Botched executions are a common occurrence. And who are we sentencing to die? Overwhelmingly, poor people, people of color, people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses ? and, sometimes, the innocent.

The death penalty in America is in crisis.

The U.S. has employed a variety of execution methods in its short history, including firing squads, gas chambers, hangings and electrocution. Such methods often led to gruesome deaths. It wasn’t uncommon for prisoners to catch on fire during electrocutions, such as in the case of John Evans, who was executed in April 1983 via Alabama’s electric chair. Witnesses had to be dismissed from Jimmy Lee Gray’s September 1983 gas chamber execution in Mississippi; they were horrified by his throaty gasps for air. Gray eventually died after repeatedly banging his head against a steel pole inside the chamber.

Eventually, officials began looking for a more humane way to execute prisoners. Enter Jay Chapman, an Oklahoma medical examiner. When a state legislator reached out to him in the late 1970s for advice, Chapman suggested using a three-drug cocktail to kill prisoners: a barbiturate to anesthetize the person; pancuronium bromide to paralyze the body and halt breathing; and potassium chloride to stop the heart. He did this despite having zero pharmacological training.

This 3-drug cocktail (with some variations) was used throughout the U.S. for about 30 years. But in 2011, the European Union implemented an export ban on the relevant drugs. Born out of the EU’s staunch opposition to capital punishment, this strategy has been successfully preventing states from obtaining the proper drugs for the better part of the past 5 years.

This hasn’t stopped America from executing its death row prisoners; instead, authorities have started concocting dangerously experimental drug combinations or returning to older execution methods. This means our prisoners have become human guinea pigs, since there’s no way to test these drug combinations before using them.

Midazolam, for example, is now frequently used during executions to induce a pain-free unconsciousness before death, but is startlingly ineffective. In 23 of 27 autopsies of individuals executed using the drug, signs of froth or foam were found in the lungs ? pulmonary edema. In layman’s terms? Prisoners given midazolam experience liquid in their airways and blood entering their lungs while they’re still breathing. They are, essentially, drowning to death. Why? Because midazolam is not really an anesthetic. It’s used in medical settings for low-level sedation, not total unconsciousness.

Many U.S. states don’t require officials to reveal how they obtained lethal injection drugs, thanks to a host of secrecy laws passed in recent years. These laws are meant to shield the people involved in administering executions. Now, they shroud the entire process. A Department of Corrections director in Arkansas once gave $250 cash to an unknown supplier in exchange for midazolam. Other states turn to compounding pharmacies (companies that make drugs to order), allowing the buyer to bypass mainstream pharmaceutical suppliers (and regulations). On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News broke a story on lapsed safety and other violations at the previously secret compounding pharmacy that supplies Texas with its lethal injection drugs. The pharmacy’s license has been on probation for 2 years after the Texas State Board of Pharmacy discovered it had compounded the wrong drug for three children (resulting in one child being rushed to the emergency room) and blatantly forged quality control documents.

These practices are dangerous and can lead to botched executions. Eric Robert was executed in 2012 with a dose of pentobarbital produced by a compounding pharmacy. His eyes actually opened during the lethal injection ? a clear sign the drug wasn’t working. An investigation later revealed the batch of pentobarbital used to kill him was contaminated. And executions can easily be botched in other ways, too, like when needles are improperly placed, which is how Clayton Lockett ended up dying a torturous death during his infamous 43-minute execution in 2014.

For their part, pharmaceutical companies continue to fight back as states increasingly look for ways around restricted drug sales and export bans. When Oklahoma first used pentobarbital instead of the standard sodium thiopental in 2010, Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck restricted the sale of the drug for execution use. British manufacturer Hikma followed in Lundbeck’s footsteps. Even Pfizer is now restricting distribution of drugs that could be used to execute prisoners.

The Supreme Court has ruled that for the death penalty to be considered constitutional, it cannot be cruel and unusual, and it cannot be arbitrarily applied. An estimated 17,250 people were murdered in the U.S. in 2016, and 31 new death sentences were imposed. Were the 31 people who received death sentences responsible for the grisliest crimes? Were they the most irredeemable? No and no. Race, socioeconomic status, the county in which the crime was committed and the quality of the lawyers ultimately played the most decisive roles in who received a death sentence. There are no wealthy people on death row.

And America regularly gives death sentences to innocent people, too. This month, Clemente Aguirre became the 164th person to be exonerated from death row since 1973. Troy Clark and Daniel Acker, who were executed within a 24-hour period in Texas this past September, never wavered in their proclamations of innocence. About one out of every 25 people sentenced to death are innocent of the crime for which they’re convicted, and we know of at least 15 people who were executed despite strong evidence of their innocence.

We also execute an alarming number of people with intellectual disability and mental illness. Research published in October found that roughly 25 percent of people executed in the U.S. over an eight-year period had been diagnosed or treated for mental illness. And between 1976 and 2002, the U.S. executed 44 people with intellectual disability (formerly referred to as mental retardation). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia in 2002 that executing inmates with “mental retardation” was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, America continues to execute people with intellectual disability.

Lastly, we cannot discuss the death penalty in America without tracing its roots to lynching and other forms of racial violence and oppression in the South. Almost 80 % of death row prisoners since 1976 were sentenced to die for killing a white person, despite the fact that roughly 50 % of murder victims are black. Only 20 white people have ever been executed for the murder of a black person. And despite comprising only 13 % of the national population, 41.7 % of death row prisoners are black.

For many Americans, the idea of a torturous execution is acceptable ? justified, even. But this doesn’t change the fact that the American death penalty as we know it violates our Constitution’s ban against cruel and unusual punishment and our constitutional guarantee of due process and equal protection under the law. Our death penalty practices are unconstitutional. Period.

Death sentences, executions and public support for capital punishment are in decline across the U.S. Each death-row exoneration chips away at public faith in the system’s ability to get it right, and every botched execution serves as a stark reminder that there is no way to ensure death comes without suffering.

It’s unlikely ? though not impossible ? that the Supreme Court will abolish the death penalty in this generation. And despite President Donald Trump’s recent endorsement of some criminal justice reform measures, he remains a staunch death penalty advocate. It’s therefore more likely that the fight to end capital punishment will head to the states in the coming years.

There’s cause for optimism there: In just the last 10 years, 6 state legislatures have voted to abolish capital punishment, and district attorneys across the country are declining to seek the death penalty with more and more frequency. Just last month, the Supreme Court of Washington struck down the state’s capital punishment statute, writing that “the death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.” In doing so, Washington became the 20th state to do away with the death penalty. 27 U.S. states still have capital punishment fully on the books; the 3 remaining states allow for the death penalty but currently have a gubernatorial moratorium on executions.

Still, some states continue fighting to retain the right to kill prisoners. They fight to uphold a fallacy of justice: the notion that suffering and pain are somehow redemptive. They fight to uphold a punishment that is ineffective, costly and long shunned by the rest of the industrialized Western world. No person ? regardless of their worst act ? should be subjected to a death like that at the hands of their own government.

It should shock us to hear that prisoners are now fighting for the right to choke to death in a gas chamber as nitrogen surrounds them, or to be hit by a barrage of bullets, or to be strapped to a chair and electrocuted by decades-old equipment in order to avoid a botched lethal injection. The death row inmates in Tennessee currently asking for death by firing squad are arguing such a death would actually be less painful than what our lethal injection protocol has become.

If lethal injections were supposedly our last chance for humane, dignified executions, and prisoners are now requesting archaic and barbaric alternatives, at what point do we concede? At what point do we accept that the death penalty has no place in a democratic country that professes to follow the Constitution and care about human rights?

Now. That point is now.

(source: Opinion; Hannah Riley is communications manager at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. She previously worked in criminal justice reform at the Innocence Project in New York----Huffington Post)


Andover's outcast dead: Exploring an Anglo-Norman execution cemetery

Between the 7th and 12th centuries, criminals who were put to death in Anglo-Saxon England were often interred not in community graveyards, but in separate burial grounds. Archaeological evidence of such sites is relatively rare, but traces of a recently discovered example have been uncovered on the outskirts of Andover. Jeremy Clutterbuck reports.

South of the River Anton, the chalky Hampshire landscape is rich in archaeological remains. There, in the mid-1970s, excavations by the Andover Archaeological Society (AAS) revealed a virtually complete Anglo-Saxon cemetery, dating from the late 5th to 6th century. It was dubbed Portway East.

In 1981, part of a 2nd cemetery, a few hundred metres away, was also uncovered by the AAS. This site – Portway West – dated from the 7th to 8th century, and is thought to be the successor burial ground to its neighbour.

At first glance, these appeared to be conventional early medieval cemeteries: most of the burials at both sites had been interred respectfully, and according to traditional contemporary rites, but 2 men, found at Portway West, were more unusual. Not only had both individuals been consigned to the same grave, but both were missing their heads. ‘Deviant’ burials like these are sometimes associated with capital punishment; indeed, there are a number of Anglo-Saxon execution cemeteries known across the chalk downland – at Guildown (Surrey), at Stockbridge Down (Hampshire), and 2 at Winchester. Early medieval law codes included the death penalty for crimes including theft and absconding from penal slavery, although nonlethal punishments like mutilation, ransom, and being ‘sold beyond the sea’, as well as a system of paying compensation known as wergild, were also provided for.

2 other Anglo-Saxon cemeteries are known in the immediate area of the Weyhill site: one, Portway East, dates from the 5th-6th century; the other, Portway West, from the 7th-8th century. This plan, based on the 1876 1st edition Ordnance Survey map, shows the execution cemetery’s prominent location on both the parish boundary and the route of a Roman road.

The definitive study of execution sites was carried out by Andrew Reynolds of UCL (in 2009 he proposed that there are 27 known examples in this country; Alyxandra Mattison of the University of Sheffield has since suggested refining this number to 9), who outlined a number of distinctive characteristics. They are often found beside routeways, barrows, or other landmarks, and stand out because of strikingly unusual burials – bodies that have been laid in their graves face down or in other, often contorted, positions; bodies with their heads removed or with signs of their hands or feet having been bound; and multiple bodies crammed into the same grave cut. 2 clusters of such graves have been found at Sutton Hoo, one on the cemetery’s eastern fringe, the other scattered in the shadow of one of the royal barrows (see CA 331).

During the earlier Anglo-Saxon period, we find these kinds of burials among more conventional graves. It appears that, at that time, wrongdoers who had been put to death could still be buried in community graveyards. But it has been suggested that the adoption of Christianity, the growth of kingship, and the formation of the English state led to the evolution of separate cemeteries for executed criminals. As the parish church became the dominant hub of community interaction and exchange in the late Saxon period (c.AD 850- 1066), and the churchyard effectively became the ‘proper’ passage to the afterlife, a mix of emerging Christian belief and residual Germanic lore is thought to have provoked a superstitious reimagining of the edge of settlements – and any associated earthworks or barrows – as having more negative spiritual connotations.

These liminal places were geographically and ideologically ideal for formal executions, and there criminals could be buried, cut off from the rest of the community, in a phenomenon that spanned the 7th to approximately the 12th century. Portway West’s apparently long chronology led Nick Stoodley of the University of Winchester to suggest, in 2006, that as this cemetery had seemingly not developed into a formal late Saxon execution site, then one might perhaps lie undiscovered close by. His words would prove to be remarkably prescient.


In 2016, archaeological work began on a brownfield site about 500m from the Portway cemeteries – the planned location of a new Aldi store on Weyhill Road, on the western edge of Andover. Cotswold Archaeology had been commissioned by Aldi to carry out a watching brief during the construction process, and as work commenced, it quickly became apparent that the south-west corner of the site was home to a dense cluster of graves. It was decided that, while the watching brief would continue on the northern half of the site, the entire southern portion would be stripped under archaeological supervision, and carefully recorded. As this new phase progressed, the cemetery began to give up its secrets.

The surviving area of the burial ground measures 21m east–west by 14m north–south, but it is likely that it was originally much larger: some of the outer graves had been truncated by modern services and foundations – something that may account for the apparent gap in the graves that was recorded towards the eastern side of the cemetery – while parts of the site had also been ploughed, with scars clearly visible in the chalk.

Many of the Weyhill human remains were buried in unusual ways, which might might mean they were the victims of execution. This overhead view shows individuals who had been variously interred with tied hands, laid face down, and, in the case of Sk1294, placed in his grave with legs bent vertically at the knees, cramming his body into a grave that appears to have been too short.

Despite this damage, some 95 graves have been identified, containing the remains of an estimated 124 individuals – though disarticulated pieces of bone point to the presence of around another 35. This was not a tidy cemetery with orderly rows of burials, but a complex jumble of intercutting graves, oriented on all points of the compass, and with quantities of disturbed bones found in their infills.

It seemed that the burial ground had been in use for some time, and the examination of the occupants of its graves revealed tell-tale signs that this could indeed be the predicted execution cemetery. Analysis by Cotswold Archaeology osteoarchaeologist Sharon Clough showed that the bones were overwhelmingly those of young men. Of the adults whose sex could be determined, 97% (90 out of 93) were male, and 69% had been under 35 years old when they died – in fact, the largest subgroup was those aged 18-25. Nor were there any elderly individuals or very young children, both of which you would expect to find in a typical cemetery population. Instead, the skeletons spoke of a darker purpose for the site.

Some of the Weyhill skeletons had damage to their cervical vertebrae, hinting at decapitation. This bone comes from Sk1335(the cut faces are shaded), a mature man whose skull was found placed under his torso, and whose hands were tied in front of his body.

Many of the individuals had been laid in their graves face down, with a smaller number placed in a crouched position on their side, and seven of the graves contained multiple bodies. Numerous skeletons also bore the marks of a violent end: there were up to 23 examples of decapitation, as evidenced either by a skull that was missing, or placed between the individual’s legs or at their feet, or by cut marks to the neck vertebrae, lower jaw, or head. Some 27 people had also been committed to their graves with their hands or feet apparently bound – as might be expected from unwilling victims of execution – and an iron swivel fitting, found in one of the graves and identified as a type of hook often fitted to chains, has been interpreted as part of a possible restraint (similar examples are known from the 12th century).

Bound hands are sometimes associated with death by hanging – as they are with some of the ‘execution burials’ at Sutton Hoo – and, indeed, two of the Weyhill individuals had fractures to their second cervical vertebrae, which hints at such a fate. Isolated cases of mutilation also seem to have taken place at this site: the 35- to 45-year-old man who was recorded as Sk1240 is thought to be the first osteologically confirmed example of a person whose hands had been cut off at or around his time of death. The severed hands had been tucked under their unfortunate owner’s pelvis when he was buried.


If the make-up of the burial ground meets many of Andrew Reynolds’ key characteristics for an execution cemetery, the site’s prominent location adds to its likelihood. It lies on the boundary of both the Hundred and the parish, straddling the probable route of the Roman road from Silchester to Old Sarum (the projection is based on better-surviving sections to the north-east and south-west). Given this interpretation, though, it is poignant to note that it was not only adults interred here: the partial remains of at least one 8- to 12-year-old child (possibly two) were recovered among the Weyhill dead.

Such discoveries were not entirely unexpected: early Anglo-Saxon laws applied the death penalty to offenders as young as 12 (for crimes including stealing goods worth more than eight pence), and these rulings were common enough occurrences that in AD 930 King Athelstan raised the age of criminal responsibility to 15. He was concerned, it is recorded, that it was ‘cruel’, and that an excessive number were being killed below this age. How much influence this had on actual regional practices is not known, though – and it is worth noting that, in England, the judicial system continued to execute children into the early 19th century.

Sk1193 had a long bone laid across his neck – might these represent attempts by the living to keep the dead in their graves?

Given the brutal end that many of the Weyhill individuals seem to have met, it is perhaps not surprising that hints of superstitious fears on the part of those who buried them have also been observed. One of the skeletons was found with the long bone of a different individual laid across their neck, while another had a large stone set beside their skull. Were such efforts intended to pin the deceased in their graves? At other known execution sites of this period, flints placed on skulls and bodies covered with heaps of bones, stones, or planks are thought to have been motivated by a fear of the dead coming back, and a desire to keep them in the ground.

Few artefacts were recovered from the Weyhill graves, apart from a small number of worked bone objects and a handful of iron items – mostly buckles, like this example (which is similar to others from Stockbridge Down, another Hampshire execution cemetery).

Other burial rites are harder to interpret, though. One individual had the remains of a mature ewe, decapitated but otherwise articulated, laid over his left leg, while another was accompanied in the grave by a sheep’s skull and lower jaw bones. The meaning of these arrangements remains obscure, and have no clear echo in surviving law codes, but burials containing animals are known from three other execution cemeteries – two of them fewer than 15 miles from our site. At Stockbridge Down, 2 graves include a decapitated dog and a sheep skull respectively, while four newborn lambs had been laid across the knees of an individual interred at Old Dairy Cottage, Winchester, and a cow was recorded during the excavations at Sutton Hoo.

It is possible that at least some of these animals might in some way reflect the crime committed by the individuals that they were buried with: Andrew Reynolds suggests that the Stockbridge Down dog might be evidence of a conviction for coursing. He also notes a reference from before AD 955 in the charter bounds of Chalke, Wiltshire, of an execution taking place ‘because of the goat’.

The late 10th-century silver penny of Aethelred II was found in the hand of Sk1220.


What can we tell of the executed individuals themselves? In addition to their age and sex, osteological analysis also revealed that they were largely of average height for the time (estimated from their long bones). Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their low average age, there was little sign of age-related disease among this group, but a small number of congenital conditions were observed, including 1 case of spina bifida occulta and one of Klippel-Feil syndrome (a fusing of two or more vertebrae in the neck, resulting in a shortened neck with a limited range of mobility). We also saw low levels of infected bones and sinus problems, while nine individuals showed signs of cribra orbitalia, a distinctive pitting in the eye sockets that speaks of ill health or malnutrition in early life; it is hoped that isotope analysis will shed more light on their adult diets.

As might be expected for executed criminals, the Weyhill dead had not been laid to rest with elaborate grave goods. Very few artefacts were recovered from the burials at all, other than 11 iron objects, mostly buckles, and a small number of worked bone items, including a handle for a knife or other tool. A single silver coin of Aethelred II (Aethelred ‘the Unready’, r.978-1016) was also found in the hand of a young man of 17-24, recorded as Sk1220, who had been buried face down with his hands bound behind his back. This latter discovery represents the only direct dating evidence for the graves, but radiocarbon analysis would reveal that any late Saxon interpretation for the cemetery was only part of the story.

The number and density of the graves implied that, if all were from the same period, late Saxon Andover must have been a particularly lawless place. The intercutting graves, though, speak of a site with a much longer lifespan. Our next step was to try to unpick the burial ground’s internal organisation, and to establish how it had developed. To that end, 15 samples of human bone were submitted for radiocarbon dating at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) in Glasgow. The results were surprising.

Although a number of the dated inhumations were indeed from the late Saxon period, the cemetery’s window of use proved to be much wider. The earliest grave for which we currently have dating evidence, lying on the north-eastern fringe of the burial ground, was middle Saxon (AD 650-850), while at the other extreme one young adult appears to have been buried in the 13th to 14th century – a strikingly late date that presumably also applies to a second young adult, whose remains were not sampled, interred in the same grave. The majority of the burials, though – around 60% – were not Anglo-Saxon at all, but Norman in date (1066-1154), with a particular spike provisionally identified for the reign of William II (r.1087-1100).

With most of the interments apparently spanning the 8th-12th centuries, if we calculate the possible shortest and longest likely durations of the cemetery, and its population of around 159 dead, executions might have happened there every two to four years on average. Moreover, if the burials do continue further to the south and south-west of the excavated area, as suspected, a larger number of inhumations could hint at an even higher frequency of executions. Either way, this suggests that people were being put to death significantly more often at Weyhill than at other published execution sites: in 2016, a study of nine other such places suggested a minimum interval of seven and a half years between each occurrence.

Added to this, if the suggested 23 decapitations among the Weyhill dead is accurate, this would be the largest such assemblage from any currently known execution cemetery. (If we only count individuals with cut marks and repositioned skulls, it is joint first with Bran Ditch in Cambridgeshire.) As such, this site is a fascinating resource for studying cemeteries of this kind – and, with its good levels of preservation, a nationally important one.


We also carried out isotope analysis to investigate the origins of some of these individuals. Samples from 11 skeletons were tested for oxygen isotopes, and 5 of these were also analysed for strontium isotopes. Of this latter group, research by Mandy Jay of Durham University suggests that data for 4 individuals falls within the ranges expected for a chalk location in Britain, while 1 (SK1211 – the 30- to 34-year-old man who was buried with a large stone beside his head) is an incomer to the site. Of the 6 for whom only oxygen data are available, 4 lie within the typical range for Britain, but the other 2 fall below that level, suggesting that they may be immigrants. Their values hint at a colder climate, like Scandinavia or north-eastern Europe. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the men – both possible decapitations – died in c.879- 1013 and c.1030-1185. This suggests that, while the majority of the people buried at our site may have been local, throughout the time the cemetery was in use, strangers could be found among the surrounding population and could be buried there.

By and large, separate execution cemeteries seem to have mainly faded from the English landscape by the 12th century. After the Norman Conquest, there seems to have been a cultural shift to allow offenders to be buried among the general population within graveyards once more, and towards corporal punishment being favoured over capital punishment – although substantive change only really arrived with the reign of Henry II (1154-1189). This is not to say that prominent displays of execution would have wholly disappeared, and indeed it is probable that dedicated execution sites would have continued in use, but cemeteries specifically set aside for executed individuals probably became sparser or went out of use.

Of the currently known and dated Anglo-Saxon execution sites, only Sutton Hoo has previously provided evidence for a similar duration of use to Weyhill, spanning up to 6 1/2 centuries. This apparent rarity could be, in part, a product of the availability and number of radiocarbon dates for such cemeteries – at least 4 of the 10 comparable sites were dug in the 1920s and 1930s, and while Norman artefacts and pottery were found associated with the graves at Stockbridge Down, absolute dates are not available. Staines in London, Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and Oliver’s Battery in Winchester are all thought to have continued into the Norman period, based largely on radiocarbon dating, and the new data from Weyhill provides some of the most substantive evidence yet found to add to this picture.


An interim report on the project can be found at Its appendices include a description of each of the skeletons found at Weyhill, giving details of their sex, likely age, position in the grave, and the grave’s orientation, as well as any grave goods or unusual characteristics/signs of execution.

(source: Current Archaeology)


Prisoner Hanged Convicted of Murdering Prominent Cleric

A prisoner convicted of murdering a prominent cleric who had allegedly sexually abused him when he was a minor, was hanged this morning at Rasht Central Prison in northern Iran. IHR had previously reported about his case and scheduled execution.

According to the IHR sources, Hossein Esmailpour was a student at a religious school. He was convicted of murdering Fakhri Langaroudi with the complicity of two of his friends on September 15, 2014. The clergyman, who had a prominent position at the religious school, had allegedly sexually abused Hossein over a period of several years since Hossein was 14 years old.

Hossein Esmailpour had previously told IHR, “One of the defendants who was charged with complicity to murder was released and the other one is sentenced to life imprisonment."

Fakhri Langaroudi, the clergyman, was an advisor in 2013 elections for Mohsen Rezaei (former Commander in Chief of IRGC) campaign, and the consultant of the secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council in Gilan province The whole judicial process leading to Hossein’s death sentence lasted 4 months, which is very short to deal with such a complicated case. However, some believe that the influence of the clergyman’s family was the reason for an unfair trial.

Hossein’s father had previously told IHR, “we did not have a chance to prove us in the court, because the victim was a clergyman and he had an influential family. Everything was for them and the court did not listen to us… Finally, the judge issued the death sentence in 3 or 4 months and then the Supreme Court upheld the verdict."

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Singapore hangings spur recent calls by rights teams

Singapore on Friday hanged a Malaysian convicted of drug trafficking, the latest in what rights groups said was a series of executions prompting them to renew calls for the wealthy city-state to abolish the death penalty.

Singapore has some of the world’s toughest anti-drugs laws, and airport customs forms warn arriving travelers of “death for drug traffickers” in no uncertain terms.

Human rights group Amnesty International and the U.N. Human Rights Office have urged Singapore to halt executions and follow the example of neighbouring Malaysia, where a newly elected government has vowed to end capital punishment by year-end.

“The execution was an unlawful and brutal act, carried out in breach of due process and in defiance of the appeals made by Malaysia,” N. Surendran, the lawyer for the executed man, said in a statement.

Prabu N Pathmanathan, the Malaysian citizen, was hanged at dawn in the city state’s Changi prison, he added. Malaysian Law Minister Liew Vui Keong had said this week that he planned to urge Singapore to exercise clemency.

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs did not immediately have comment.

Authorities in Singapore routinely do not comment on executions and only release data on executions in annual reports.

A regional representative of the United Nations Human Rights Office urged Singapore to immediately ban the death penalty as a step towards its complete abolition.

“We are deeply dismayed that there has been a sharp increase in executions in Singapore in recent years,” said Cynthia Veliko, the U.N. official.

“We understand that there have … been a number of executions to date in 2018, including a reported four this week alone.”

Amnesty International said the execution of another man, whose name had not been released, was imminent, citing reports of another man executed this week and 3 on Oct. 5, all for drug-related offences.

That compares with 8 executions for drug-related offences in Singapore for all of 2017.

Although 15 countries prescribed the death penalty for drug-related offences in 2017, Amnesty recorded executions in only 4 – China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, it said in a statement.

Pathmanathan was convicted of smuggling drugs from Malaysia into Singapore in 2014, court documents show.

“Yes, he broke the rules, but that doesn’t mean you have to kill him,” Magentrau Somalu, one of his close friends, told Reuters. “He deserved a 2nd chance.”



With 17 death sentences, MP records highest in year

With 1 more death sentence in murder case of MP, total number of death sentences are 17 in year 2018 which is highest in any State in India and a record in history of MP Prosecution.

On Friday, DJ court Mandsaur has given capital punishment to accused KL Meena for murdering his wife and two minor daughters. Incident occurred on June 16, 2018 in Mandsaur district.

Total number of capital punishment are 17 during 2018 out of which 14 cases are of rape with girl child, 1 rape case with boy child and 2 in normal murder cases. This is the highest number of capital punishment secured in a year in MP in entire history. No other state in India has secured so many capital punishment.

In August 2018, Prosecution secured capital punishment in 6 cases, July month 3 cases, June 1 case and in May 2 cases . 6 capital punishment in 1 month in child rape cases is also a record in country.

PM of India Narendra Modi has quoted and appreciated success story of MP Prosecution on 3 occasion. First in his speech from Red Fort on August 15 and 2nd in Radio programme Man Ki Baat and 3rd in Forensic science university convocation programme at Gandhinagar.

The High court has already confirmed capital sentences in 3 cases and in 3 cases commuted sentence to life imprisonment. High court has not acquitted any case which is a big success.

These capital sentences are excellent example of teamwork , commitment and focused approach of MP Prosecution. Credit of extra ordinary success goes to team MP Prosecution.

(source: Daily Pioneer)


Asia Bibi, in hiding after blasphemy acquittal, is banned from leaving Pakistan----It has been a month since Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy, but her ordeal is far from over.

A Christian woman who spent 9 years in prison for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty, Bibi is now in hiding in a government safe house along with her husband, Ashiq Masih.

“We’re afraid,” said Joseph Nadeem, who serves as the guardian of 2 of Bibi’s daughters while she lives in secret. “In recent days, the Islamists have fired at the gate of our home. We are constantly receiving threats and on more than 1 occasion we have been followed.”

Exoneration in a blasphemy case in Pakistan rarely means one can start afresh. Instead, those acquitted of the charges face persecution from religious groups that refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the courts.

Often, they must leave the country.

But following countrywide protests by religious extremists after the 31st October verdict, Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to prohibit Bibi from leaving Pakistan. Australian, Canadian and Dutch diplomats are reportedly negotiating with the Pakistani government for her release so she might travel to one of those countries for asylum.

Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied reports that Bibi had already left Pakistan.

“There is no truth in reports of her leaving the country,” he said. “It is fake news.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May came under fire for refusing to offer Bibi a safe haven. Asked about the issue recently in Parliament, May said she was working to help the woman.

“The absolute prime concern that we must have is the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family,” said May.” And we want to see a swift resolution of the situation.”

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, noted that women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai and author Salman Rushdie received asylum in the UK when extremists targeted them for violence.

“Does this mean that the UK has now capitulated to extremists and is now under the stranglehold of extremists?” said Chowdhry. “Does this mean the UK is now held hostage to extremist encroachment? This is a sad set of affairs for a country once lauded for its human rights record.”

Persecution of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan is rampant, he added.

Last week, in a crackdown against the Tehreek-e-Labbaik - the group that organised the protests that erupted after Bibi’s acquittal - police arrested hundreds of its members, including the group’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi. He is now in protective custody.

Government critics said the move was only for show, contending that Pakistani officials are allied with Rizvi and his followers.

“The current government that stood on Rizvi’s side and used the blasphemy card against its opponents has little legitimacy to deal with these Islamists,” said Rubina Saigol, an independent political analyst based in Lahore. “Even if the civilian government has the will to take down these extremists, we know that the intelligence agencies of the country have long had an unholy alliance with these sectarian and religious outfits.”

Bibi’s daughter Eisham Ashiq, 18, is holding out hope that she and her parents can be reunited somewhere abroad soon. She recently appeared in a video thanking those who supported her mother.

“Thanks to everyone who prayed for my mother,” she said. “I would also like to thank the great judges and the Pakistani justice system that recognized my mother’s innocence."

Meanwhile, others accused of blasphemy remain under threat in the country.

Sawan Masih, a Christian, was sentenced to death in March, 2014, for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet. He said his Muslim accusers were trying to obtain his property. After he was accused in 2013, a mob attacked his home and churches in the Christian district of Lahore.

His family awaits justice and sees hope and fear in Bibi’s verdict.

“I am very happy that Asia is free and, someday, I hope my husband can also come home,” said Sobia Masih, his wife. “But when I see [how] the situation [developed] after her release, I fear for Sawan’s safety in prison.

“My daughters Romika and Noor miss their father,” she added. “They have been devoid of his love through no fault of ours.”

(source: Sight Magazine)


No Need for Hangman If Zimbabwe's Death Penalty Goes

The consideration for the abolition of the death penalty may be the lifeline needed for 81 prisoners who are on death row, while 127 others are serving life terms. The country has not carried out any executions since 2005 when the last hangman retired.


NOVEMBER 30, 2018:

TEXAS----impending execution----Death row inmate sues Texas parole board for having too many ex-law enforcement members

A 'Texas 7' escapee scheduled for execution filed a lawsuit this week alleging that there are too many men and too many former law enforcement officials on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Joseph Garcia, who is slated to die Tuesday, currently has a plea for clemency in front of the 7-member board, asking them to recommend a commutation nearly 2 decades after he was sentenced to die for a prison break-out and crime spree that left a police officer dead.

The board would normally be expected to issue a recommendation Friday - 2 business days before the planned execution. But mid-day Thursday, Garcia's attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent the board from making a decision until a more representative set of members can be appointed. Currently, the suit notes, the board is "stacked with individuals whose background places them firmly on the side of the State and law enforcement."

A spokesman for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles did not respond to a request for comment.

By law, the there's a limit on the number of former prison employees who can be on the parole board, though it hasn't always been that way. When the legislature first began regulating the board's membership in 1997, the only requirements were that members had to be representative of the "general public" and that they had to have lived in Texas for 2 years.

In the late 1990s, a number of inmates sued the parole board, including notorious Houston ax killer Karla Faye Tucker, who alleged that the whole clemency process was so "inadequate" as to violate her due process rights. She lost, but in another lawsuit that same year a federal court found that "a flip of the coin would be more merciful than [the Board's] votes."

On the heels of public criticism and media scrutiny, the legislature added a new requirement in 2003, limiting the number of former Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees who could be on the board at any time to 3.

Even though the current board includes only two former TDCJ employees, attorneys allege, all but one of the seven voting members has a law enforcement background, including past jobs as police officers and county sheriffs.

"Eighty-five percent of the Board members, then, are either former employees of TDCJ, law-enforcement officers, or both," Garcia's lawyers wrote. "The failure of this Board to be 'representative of the general public' is highlighted by the fact that approximately 0.4% of the Texas population are law-enforcement officers and 0.15% are TDCJ employees."

The 7th board member is a former adviser to Gov. Greg Abbott.

On top of that, 6 of the board's members are men, a distribution that's also not representative of the general population.

Given all that, the lawsuit asks for an injunction to bar the parole board from making a decision on clemency until the governor appoints a more representative board.

The newly filed lawsuit came hours after Garcia's attorneys sent the governor a letter begging for a 30-day reprieve in light of media reporting regarding the source of the state's execution drugs.

Citing unidentified documents, a BuzzFeed News report on Wednesday identified the Houston compounding pharmacy believed to be one of two that mixes up the batches of pentobarbital used in the Huntsville death chamber.

Since the Braeswood-area business had a track record of safety violations documented by the state, Garcia's attorney's asked the governor for a reprieve to give them time to investigate.

The governor's office did not respond Thursday to the Chronicle's request for comment on the letter.

At the time of the notorious escape that eventually landed Garcia on death row, he was already in prison for a crime out of Bexar County, where he stabbed a man at least a dozen times. Since then, he's repeatedly framed the slaying as self-defense and not murder.

In December 2000, he was serving time at the Connally Unit when he teamed up with 6 fellow prisoners to plot the biggest break-out in Texas prison history.

In a carefully orchestrated plot months in the making, the 7 inmates took hostages, busted into the prison armory, stole weapons and stormed out of the unit in a prison truck. After a crime spree across the state, on Christmas Eve the men held up an Oshman's sporting goods store and ended up killing Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins.

Afterward, the crew fled and were captured a month later in Colorado, living in a trailer park and posing as Christian missionaries. Though one of the men killed himself rather than surrender, the other 6 were captured and sent to death row. 3 have since been executed.

Though Garcia said he never fired a shot, he was convicted under the law of parties and sentenced to die. If his appeals, request for reprieve, and clemency plea all fail, he'll become the 12th Texas prisoner put to death this year.

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Pablo Melendez, Jr.: Atheist Innocent On Death Row?

When I reached out to an atheist on death row, if you'll recall, all I really aimed to find out was what life was like behind bars for a heathen. But when Pablo Melendez, Jr. wrote back to me from Texas' death row, what I got was a glimpse into an absolute travesty of justice.

Pablo wrote to me, kind enough to answer my simple questions about life on death row as an atheist. He barely mentioned his case, but he said just enough that I needed to know more. I couldn’t find much out there on the web and so I asked him for more information on his case. He referred me to a book called, No Justice, No Victory: The Death Penalty in Texas by Susan Lee Campbell Solar. When I looked it up, I was disappointed to find out that the only place willing to ship it to Canada was charging over $60 for it. I couldn’t afford to spend that on a book and so I reached out to you for help. One of you was generous enough to have it sent to me. I can't thank you enough, because this case, I very strongly believe, needs to have more light shed on it.

In the time since my first posts about Pablo, click here and here for those, I’ve been able to read more about his case and I have also received another letter from him. Today, I'm going to shed some light on the biggest problems in Pablo's case, and next week, I will publish the latest letter from our fellow infidel on death row in Texas.

The Problems With Pablo's Case

If you were to buy the State’s version of events, it’d go something like this: Michael Sanders and Tommie Seagraves pull into a car wash late one evening in Fort Worth, Texas. They pull up next to a payphone to make a call when they're approached by a man wielding a gun demanding their money. Just before midnight, the stranger shoots Seagraves in the neck, and despite Sanders' pleas to let them go, proceeds to fire his gun at Michael's back. Michael Sanders is shot 4 times and falls back into his truck’s cab where he quickly dies from his wounds. Seagraves, however, manages to survive and is able to give the police a pretty detailed description of his assailant. The shooter, very clearly, had a goatee, a ponytail and a tattoo on his right shoulder. Two other eyewitnesses corroborated this description and a composite sketch was drawn up:

Many months after the crime took place, a tip came in that implicated Pablo Melendez, Jr. an 18-year-old gang member who’d had trouble with the law before. They picked Pablo up, mounted a case, tried him and he’s been sitting on death row ever since.

It's an open-and-shut case, according to the State of Texas. They got the bad guy, he’s set to die, and none of us have to worry about it again (save for Pablo's family and the prison and medical staff who have to kill him), right?

Wrong. Enter Gracie Jett, the mother of the murder victim, Michael Sanders, who happens to have balls of steel. None of this made sense to her. None of it added up. Gracie wanted to know what happened to her son and so she began her own investigation. The problems in the case she couldn’t get past are as follows:

1. If the shooter was Pablo Melendez, an 18-year-old boy who was, at the time, unable to grow a beard, why did the composite drawing from Seagrave’s description include extensive facial hair? In a parole photo taken a week prior, Pablo’s face was as smooth as a baby's bottom and his hair neatly trimmed and short. According to Seagraves, the shooter had had a ponytail and a tattoo on his right shoulder, neither of which applied to Pablo. 2 other witnesses, totally unrelated and unknown to Seagraves and Melendez, reported the same features on the shooter. Pablo, aside from being Hispanic and male, didn't match the description in any other way. In fact, he'd had the precise opposite features to those that witnesses had very carefully described.

2. Upon demanding to see photos of her son’s corpse, Gracie discovered he’d been beaten up. According to No Justice, No Victory: The Death Penalty in Texas by Susan Lee Campbell Solar, Gracie said "his nose was broken, his face was skinned above the eye. The report said his eye was swollen." This contradicts the state's version of events. Nowhere in their narrative did a beating take place.

3. The tip that came in implicating Pablo was from another member of the gang Pablo had belonged to, who was facing 12 years in prison for attempted murder. He was given a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Melendez. His name was Johnny Ayala and his brother-in-law, Robert Gonzalez, Jr., was the gang's leader, whose brother, Roel Gonzalez, happened to look familiar: he was a dead-ringer for the composite drawing of the suspect in Michael Sanders' murder.

4. After one of the eyewitnesses testified at trial that the man she saw fleeing the scene was Pablo Melendez, Gracie’s daughter, Mickey approached her. She showed the witness, Susie Carillo, a photo of Pablo and asked if that had been the man she saw. Carillo said no. When Mickey pressed her on why she’d testified it was at trial, Carillo said she’d been in a bad mental state as she’d just lost her son, and the pressure the prosecutors had put on her to identify Melendez had been unbearable. Despite this, she demanded to see the suspects in a lineup – demands that went ignored. And so, in her weakened mental state, she broke down and did as the prosecutors asked.

5. Nearly all of the state’s witnesses against Melendez were related in some way or another to the man who bore an uncanny resemblance to the composite drawing, Roel Gonzalez. He even had a tattoo where the description said the killer had one and where, at the time of the killing, Melendez had none. The gang members who testified against Melendez also walked away with the reward money for tips in this case.

6. The testimony of eyewitnesses, such as Jeffrey Jackson, had been excluded from the trial and kept from the defence team – testimony that would have painted an entirely different story of what went down that night. When the defense team tracked Jackson down he said, without hesitation, that he’d be happy to go on the record with his version of events. When they returned several days later to have him sign his statement, the BBQ restaurant owner suddenly had a different tone and refused as though he'd been threatened. Jackson later ignored a subpoena to appear in court and give his testimony and there is physical evidence, in the form of a note from the prosecutor's desk, that implies they’d been in contact with Jackson about the matter, perhaps even suggesting that he would face no consequences if he didn't show up to testify.

7. Pablo Melendez, it is claimed by the prosecution, confessed to the crime, but his confession consisted of nothing more than the admission he didn’t know if he did it or not because he had been so high. The “confession” was also written in English, which he did not speak, read or write at the time he was asked to sign it. Recall, he was an 18-year-old boy at the time. He also didn’t know how to read or write in his native Spanish.

When you break it down, the case against Melendez rests on 2 things: a tip from his fellow gang member who got, in exchange for his testimony, less time in prison for the charge he’d been facing and the testimony of his fellow gang members who, in testifying, took reward money and deflected the spotlight from their leader’s brother, who looked exactly like the composite sketch of the suspect.

If you were to tell me there was a better case that illustrated reasonable doubt, I'd not believe you. There is ample reasonable doubt here, and the state of Texas is getting ready to kill this man.

In 1999, Pablo's appeal was denied.

If this doesn't alarm you, someone needs to shake you awake. Get the defib paddles out and check your pulse, because you should be boiling. Especially you, Texans. They're taking your tax money and they’re going to use it to kill a man who may very well be innocent. If you're not absolutely livid, you simply haven't got a heart.

We know Pablo had been in trouble before. We know he struggled with addiction and was headed down a path that was going to lead to prison or death at some point or another. We know he wasn’t exactly a stand-up citizen, but there is no evidence, whatsoever, that suggests he's killed anyone, ever.

Gracie Jett and her daughter Mickey both strongly believe that the wrong man is being punished for Michael’s murder. So much so, that both of them have made repeated contact with Pablo. Mickey has even gone to visit him on death row. They are certain that the man who killed their beloved son and brother is Roel Gonzalez and it would appear he's gotten away with it.

What are your thoughts on Pablo's case? What questions do you have for him that I can send in my next letter? Let me know in the comments! If you would like to write to Pablo or send him books to read (he was amazed to find out there are atheist books), let me know:

(source: Courtney Heard;


St. Patrick Church to ring its bells in honor of death row inmates

Churches across 17 counties will ring their bells in unison today in honor of the 344 people on death row in Florida.

St. Patrick Church, at 500 NE 16th Ave., will host the second annual Gainesville Cities for Life event at 6:30 p.m., said Deacon Lowell “Corky” Hecht, the director of the prison ministry for the Diocese of St. Augustine. The event will feature three speakers, a Q&A and ringing of the bells.

Cities for Life is an international day that calls for the end of the death penalty in honor of when Italy ended its death penalty on Nov. 30, 1786, Hecht said.

The speakers at the event include criminal appeals lawyer Sonya Rudenstine, anti-death penalty activist Christine Henderson and Herb Donaldson, whose uncle was executed and is believed to have been innocent, Hecht said.

Hecht, who has served as a deacon for 27 years, has worked with the inmates at Florida State Prison, Union Correctional and smaller prisons around the Catholic district for the past 2 years. He prays with inmates, gives them communion and provides religious books for them to read.

Outgoing Gov. Rick Scott has scheduled an execution for Jose Jimenez on Dec. 13, Hecht said. Jimenez was convicted of killing a Miami woman in 1992, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Hecht has known men who have been executed and has spoken with men in solitary confinement right outside their cell door, he said.

Catholics should stand against the death penalty in order to preserve the preciousness of human life, he said.

“It’s extremely hard to rationalize why, as a civilized society, we do this,” Hecht said.

Abigail Moritz, a 20-year-old UF business administration sophomore, will volunteer at the demonstration by introducing speakers.

Moritz said the death penalty is not talked about as much as it should be and more young people should get involved.

“We cannot just rely on older generations to take care of things for us,” she said.

Last year, 45 people attended the first Gainesville Cities of Life event, Hecht said. He hopes more than 100 people attend this year.

While there will be an opening and closing prayer, the event is not strictly for Catholics, Hecht said. The demonstration will close with a candlelighting ceremony.

“When we light these candles, it’s like taking ownership for 1 soul, 1 person,” Hecht said.

(source: The (Univ. Florida) Independent Alligator)


Lawyer wants judge to toss death penalty for man accused of shooting 6 people in Sanford

Defense lawyers for the man accused in 2 shootings that left 2 people dead and 4 others hurt want to know if their defendant will face the death penalty.

Allen Cashe is accused of killing LaTina Herring and her 8-year-old son Branden during a domestic dispute in March 2017. Herring’s father and 3 others were also shot but survived.

Cashe’s trial is scheduled to start in January. On Thursday, a judge heard a long list of motions by Cashe's public defender. Many of those motions focused on the sentencing phase if Cashe is found guilty because Cashe could face the death penalty.

"It's come to a point in our country where the death penalty is evolving,” public defender Jeff Dowdy told the judge. “We would urge that you declare the death penalty unconstitutional."

While the judge denied that motion, and several other motions related to Florida’s lethal injection procedure, he did allow some motions involving the jury for the sentencing phase to be revisited at that time.

Cashe was being held at the Orange County jail, but the judge ordered that he be held instead at the Seminole County jail until the trial so his defense team can prepare.

Police said the shootings started with an argument over keys. Herring told police Cashe had the keys to her home and refused to give them back. While speaking to Herring, police received a 911 call from Cashe stating that Herring had the keys to his vehicle. The victim returned the keys to Cashe at a gas station in Sanford, and both parties left separately.

Police said they later received a 911 call about the former couple getting into a 2nd argument over property, this time at the home. The officer went to the home and was able to settle the argument once more, police said.

Officers arrived at the home, and found Herring and Cashe fighting in the front yard, arguing over Cashe returning the keys, which were later located inside the home.

According to police, Cashe then collected some of his clothing and was preparing to the leave the home. The victim brought out a bag, saying it was filled with more of Cashe’s belongings. Cashe refused to take the bag and left.

Herring asked if officers would take the bag with Cashe’s belongings and hold it for safekeeping. Inside the bag, officers found a Glock 22 handgun and ammunition.

Soon after that, police said the received another 911 call from someone reporting that Herring, her father and her children had been shot.

Police said Cashe drove away from the scene and randomly shot 2 bystanders at West 24th Street and South Marshall Avenue. Both bystanders survived.

(source: WFTV news)


Bailey Boswell pleads not guilty to murder, dismemberment charges in death of Sydney Loofe

Bailey Boswell, 1 of 2 people accused in the death and dismemberment of Lincoln store clerk Sydney Loofe, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of 1st-degree murder and improper disposal of a body.

Boswell, 24, entered the plea in writing, which cancels a planned Dec. 17 arraignment in Saline County District Court. The plea comes a week after District Judge Vicky Johnson rejected Boswell's motion to nullify the state's death penalty.

Both Boswell and her 52-year-old boyfriend, Aubrey Trail, face the death penalty if convicted.

The pair had been living at an apartment in Wilber, Nebraska, at the time of Loofe's disappearance. Loofe, who worked at a Menard's store in Lincoln, disappeared a year ago after arranging a date via Tinder with Boswell. The clerk's body was found 3 weeks later in a rural area about 50 miles west of Wilber following extensive searches by local, state and federal law enforcement officers.

Trail, in calls to reporters, has claimed that he was responsible for Loofe's death and that Boswell was not in the room when it happened.

Trail is scheduled to go on trial in June in Saline County. A trial date for Boswell has not yet been set.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)


Lawyer: Man picks death penalty risk over Las Vegas judge’s sentence

Covered in neo-Nazi tattoos, Bayzle Morgan would rather face the death penalty than be sentenced by a certain Las Vegas judge, his lawyer said Thursday.

More than 7 months after prosecutors said they would not seek capital punishment for Morgan, he’s now trying to pull back on a plea to 1st-degree murder for killing 75-year-old Jean Main inside her home in 2013.

"My client’s position right now is that he’d rather be given the death penalty than be sentenced by (District) Judge (Michelle) Leavitt,” attorney Dayvid Figler said.

Moments earlier inside the judge’s courtroom, when Leavitt asked whether the 27-year-old Morgan had pleaded guilty because prosecutors withdrew the death penalty, the defendant spoke up: “I don’t care about that.”

When he entered his plea in April before District Judge Eric Johnson, Morgan’s lawyers said they planned to ask for a minimum of 21 years behind bars in the murder case. Morgan was later assigned to Leavitt’s courtroom after she took over Johnson’s homicide cases.

"The only reason he entered into his guilty plea was because of his comfort with Judge Johnson and interactions with Judge Johnson,” Figler said. “If he does not get to be sentenced by the judge who he entered his plea in front of, then it’s his desire to withdraw his guilty plea."

Prosecutors are expected to ask a judge to send him to prison for life without the possibility of parole, but if he is allowed to pull back on the deal, he could once again face capital punishment.

Figler added that Morgan “strenuously objects" to Leavitt deciding “any issue of merit with regard to his case."

But Chief Deputy District Attorney Giancarlo Pesci said, “There is no expectation expressed in the plea canvas. You can’t create one after the fact because you have sour grapes."

Leavitt pointed out that neither Morgan nor his lawyers negotiated to ensure that Johnson handed down his sentence.

"If you want to file a motion to withdraw your guilty plea and put the death penalty back on the table, I guess I’m just literally shocked by that statement,” the judge said. “Shocked."

Morgan, whose tattoos were covered with makeup during a 2016 robbery trial in a separate case, also pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit burglary, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon and robbery with a deadly weapon.

A swastika within a clover is permanently etched under Morgan's left eye. The words “Most Wanted” are scrawled across his forehead. “Baby Nazi” is tattooed on his neck, and two white supremacist tattoos are where his eyebrows should be. On Thursday, his head was shaved, and he had a thin, light brown beard.

Jurors convicted Morgan in the robbery trial, and he is serving a sentence of about 3 to 9 years at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs.

Prosecutors said the slaying of Main occurred just days before the unrelated robbery.

Also according to prosecutors:

In May 2013, Morgan broke into Main's home in the 8000 block of Green Pasture Avenue while she was alone, pistol-whipped her over the head so hard that the trigger guard broke into pieces, then shot her in the back of the head. Her boyfriend found her face-down in a 1st-floor bathroom.

A getaway driver, identified as Keith Smith, now 49, left when he heard gunshots but returned and saw Morgan with a suitcase of items from the victim’s house. Smith was sentenced to 4 to 10 years in prison on burglary charges.

Police recovered a laptop, a Kindle Fire, a purse with $800 and keys to a Cadillac Escalade at Morgan’s residence when he was arrested.

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)


Public Execution of a Person with Mental Illness

A prisoner was hanged in public at Iranian city of Taft (Central Iran) on Thursday, November 29. The man was suffering from mental disability and had previously been hospitalized in a Psychiatric hospital, according to the Iranian media reports.

According to Iranian media, the man whose first name identified as Kamran, was suffering from mental disability and was hospitalized in a Psychiatric hospital before committing a murder. Kamran was 19 when he murdered a 36 old woman; and told the prosecutors that he loved the victim. “I expressed my love to her and she refused. I decided to take revenge,” the prisoner had said in his confessions.

According to the Yazd Province Judiciary Courthouse’s Public Relations department, Kamran was hanged in public in Taft city, on the morning of Thursday, November 29.

UN human rights experts, including the former Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, had previously drawn particular attention to continued reports of public executions. “a dehumanising effect on both the victim and those who witness the execution” and ultimately reinforced the “already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty,” UN experts said.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) warns against the new wave of executions in Iran and urges the UN, EU, and countries with diplomatic relations with Iran to react immediately and accordingly.

"We demand the halt of all executions, especially public executions which are inhumane and disdainful, and increase the level of violence in society, ”IHR spokesperson and director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, emphasised, “At the 1st anniversary of the nationwide protests in Iran, we are concerned that the Iranian authorities will use more executions and terror to avoid new protests."

IHR has previously reported about other cases where people with mental illness have been executed in Iran.


Man Hanged at Tabriz Prison

A prisoner was hanged at Tabriz Central Prison on murder charges.

According to the IHR sources, Hassan Fakhri, a citizen of Sarab city, was executed on the early morning of Tuesday, November 27.

Kurdistan Human Rights Network, Hassan Fakhri was held in ward 9 of Tabriz prison.

The Iranian media outlets have not published news related to the aforementioned execution so far.

According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges. There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


Iranian tribunals send executives to gallows

Special Iranian anti-corruption courts established this summer have in recent weeks handed down harsh sentences, including the death penalty, against businessmen who allegedly took advantage of worsening economic conditions caused by U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The tribunals, established by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in August, are part of a high-profile government crackdown on corruption amid growing public anger over high unemployment and other economic ills.

The Trump administration this month reimposed a near-total embargo on Iran's economy, sanctioning everything from oil sales to bank transactions,to pressure Tehran to give up its ballistic missile program and abandon its support for armed proxy groups in the Middle East.

The economic woes have given rise to mounting calls inside Iran for corrupt businessmen and officials to be tried and punished.

Authorities this month hanged two prominent currency traders for hoarding gold coins as the rial plunged to record lows against the dollar this summer, causing gold prices to surge. At least three others have also recently been sentenced to death for similar crimes - and scores more arrested - according to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, which has tracked the prosecutions.

"Some people who've been enraged feel relieved," said a Tehran-based legal scholar named Mohsen, who declined to use his full name for fear of retribution from authorities.

But he added that the public also wants to see high-level government officials put on trial for economic crimes, and many Iranians have little faith that senior officials will be prosecuted. "The judiciary is one of the most loathed institutions of the Islamic Republic," he said.

The new courts were set up by special decree after judicial officials asked Khamenei to grant them more flexibility to go after "enemies" they said had sabotaged Iran's economy and currency in recent months.

Khamenei approved the use of revolutionary courts - which try security and other crimes against the Islamic Republic - for 2 years to take "swift and just" legal action against "those who are guilty of corrupt economic practices," he said, according to Iranian state television.

"The special economic courts appear to have two goals: to deter illegal economic activity and to show the public that the government is taking the economic crisis seriously," said Henry Rome, an Iran analyst at Eurasia Group, a risk analysis firm in New York.

But Rome and other analysts say that corruption is too widespread for the trials to carry any weight. Even as Iran's rulers seek to assuage public anger, the government must enact real changes that would buoy the economy despite U.S. restrictions, he said.

"For the government, it's easier to prosecute a handful of allegedly corrupt businessmen than to, say, conduct major reforms in the banking system," he said. "Corruption is simply too rampant and its participants too politically well connected."

Human rights groups say that the trials, which often lack due process, violate international law. The revolutionary courts, rights groups say, are known for rapid trials, quick rulings and issuing sentences based on confessions extracted under torture. According to the Oslo-based nonprofit group Iran Human Rights, revolutionary courts are "responsible for the majority of death sentences carried out over the past 38 years."

Iran has one of the highest execution rates in the world, according to Amnesty International, and has previously tried and executed businessmen and former government officials accused of corruption.

In 2016, a court sentenced billionaire tycoon Babak Zanjani to death for allegedly embezzling state oil revenue during an earlier period of U.S. sanctions. More recently, in August, authorities arrested former Central Bank deputy Ahmad Araghchi for unspecified financial crimes. Araghchi, who oversaw foreign exchange affairs at the bank, is the nephew of Iran's current Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

In Iran's besieged business community, some executives warn that the convictions will make wary investors even more reluctant to do business deals with Iranian companies. Many investors have been steering clear of Iran because of U.S. sanctions, which generally prohibit trade with the country with the exception of food, medicine and medical supplies. Most major European firms withdrew staff and assets as renewed restrictions loomed earlier this year.

"Such forceful reactions [by the government] will only harm the economy more," said Babak, the finance director of a consumer goods company in Iran. He also declined to give his full name so he could speak freely about Iran's economy and the special tribunals.

"Investors are very sensitive to a lack of security," he said. "And this will make them feel even less secure."

Another entrepreneur, Nima, who runs an import business, said that if corrupt businessmen were being tried "fairly and in accordance with the law, it would bring transparency, reduce violations and improve the economic situation."

But if the courts are "political and nontransparent," he said, "it will lead to capital flight from the country." Nima also declined to give his full name so as not to draw scrutiny from the government.

In a final interview before his execution this month, prominent gold trader Vahid Mazloumin spoke candidly of the brisk business he did in the exchange market over the years.

"One night, I became the 'Sultan of Coins,' " Mazloumin, wearing a prison jumpsuit, said in an interview with Iran's Mehr news agency. "And now I'm here."

In a segment aired on Iranian state television, Mazloumin smiled wryly as he smoked a cigarette and leaned back in his chair.

"You must enjoy the pleasurable things in life," he said.



Pakistan urged to not target mentally ill people with death penalty

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Pakistan to remove people with mental disabilities from death row as it violates “country’s international legal obligations".

In a statement released on Thursday, HRW said the United Nations Human Rights Committee and United Nations special experts have determined that the execution of a person with a psychosocial disability violates the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.

The statement comes after a medical board submitted a report to the Lahore’s district and sessions court in the case hearing of Saleem Ahmad, who is suffering from chronic schizophrenia.

Ahmad, 50, had been scheduled to be executed in November 2017, but a court suspended his execution and ordered a medical board to assess his mental health. Ahmad – who was convicted of murder – has been in prison for more than 17 years.

The statement further said, “This is a scathing indictment of Pakistan’s criminal justice system and should be used as an opportunity for reform. While the death penalty is inherently cruel and should be abolished, executing an individual with psychosocial disabilities violates Pakistan’s international legal obligations."

“Ahmad is one of many prisoners with psychosocial disabilities on death row. In April, the Supreme Court of Pakistan reviewed the death sentences of Kaniz Fatima and Imdad Ali, death row convicts with psychosocial disabilities. During the proceedings, the chief justice of the Supreme Court remarked: ‘Neither reason nor sensibility allow me to believe that we can execute a mentally ill or disabled person.’ Kaniz Fatima and Imdad Ali remain on death row.

Kaniz Fatima is one of the few women on death row in Pakistan. According to her lawyers, she has not spoken for 12 years and is unable to eat, drink, or take care of herself without assistance. She has been in prison for 29 years."

It further said that Kaniz Fatima is among more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan – one of the world’s largest populations of prisoners facing executions. Pakistani law mandates capital punishment for 28 offences, including murder, rape, treason, and blasphemy.

“The arbitrariness, unfairness, and high risk of error in capital prosecutions in Pakistan has been documented extensively. The death penalty is inherently cruel – but even more so for those who may not recognise their crimes. It good to see Pakistani authorities beginning to realise executing people with psychosocial disabilities is an affront to human decency and serves no criminal justice purpose. Pakistan should strengthen its justice system and work towards a complete moratorium on death sentences, rather than sending people like Saleem Ahmad to the gallows,” it concluded.

(source: Pakistan Today)


SC asked to review Aasia Bibi case ruling

A citizen approached the Supreme Court on Thursday, seeking review of its Oct 31 judgement of acquitting Aasia Bibi in a blasphemy case after overturning an October 2014 Lahore High Court verdict that had sentenced the Christian woman to death.

Abdul Ghafoor Khan, a resident of Arain village on Raiwind Road in Lahore, moved the petition though his counsel Aftab Bajwa with a request to maintain the capital punishment.

The petitioner also sought a court directive for the interior ministry to place the name of Aasia Bibi on the Exit Control List (ECL) till a final decision on his petition.

On Oct 31, a 5-judge SC bench reversed the judgements of the high court as well as the trial court, thus setting aside the conviction and the death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi, accused of committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman in Sheikhupura in June 2009. The petition argued that no previous enmity, ill will or ulterior motive came on record to claim that she had been falsely implicated in such a heinous crime.

Moreover, the petitioner said, the prosecution had proved its case through independent and confidence-inspiring evidence, adding that the accused had confessed to her guilt and due to this reason, the prosecution witnesses were not cross-examined during the trial - a fact sufficient to prove the guilt of the accused.

During the trial, the petition contended, the accused did not utter a single word in her defence and she was rightly convicted.



Justice Kurian Joseph calls for review of death penalty with last judgement----The judgement aims to increase the threshold for sentencing someone to death

As Justice Kurian Joseph retires on Thursday, he will be remembered for his last judgment, which will further limit the grounds for imposing the death penalty. In Chhannu Lal Verma vs the State of Chattisgarh, Justice Joseph, while commuting the death sentence of the appellant to life imprisonment, observed that the time had come to review the need for the death penalty as a punishment, especially its purpose and practice.

The other 2 judges on the bench, Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, while agreeing that the death penalty imposed on the appellant in this case must be commuted to life imprisonment, disagreed with Justice Joseph's observation. According to them, since the constitution bench in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab had upheld capital punishment, there was no need to re-examine it at this stage.

The constitution bench upheld capital punishment in the Bachan Singh case way back in 1980. The question which the two judges on the bench did not answer is this: If the passage of almost 40 years is not reason enough to review the judgment, what would be the appropriate stage for such an exercise?

Justice Joseph did not seek the reconsideration of the Bachan Singh judgment, but only sought to re-examine the purpose and practice of the death penalty, and whether as a punishment, it serves any goal at all. In other words, the death penalty can continue to remain constitutionally valid because of the Bachan Singh judgment, but its application in substantive cases coming before the court must be restricted to only those cases which meet the criteria laid down in that case.

It is now trite to say that Supreme Court judges have mostly misapplied the rarest of rare doctrine. In Bachan Singh, the court held that the death penalty could only be imposed if the alternative of life imprisonment is ‘unquestionably foreclosed’. It’s unfortunate that ever since Bachan Singh, judges of the Supreme Court who pretended to apply the death penalty based on what they determined to be severe crimes, closed their eyes to the word ‘unquestionably’ in that judgment.

The alternative of a life sentence in a murder case could only be unquestionably foreclosed if it could not be imposed on a convict, for reasons such as his lack of potential for reformation, or absence of any mitigating factor. The meaning of the word ‘any’ here also failed to resonate with post-Bachan Singh judges for many years. The word ‘any’, as common sense would suggest, cannot be understood in plurality. That is, even if there is a single mitigating factor in favour of the accused, it should necessarily be considered by a judge as reason enough to suggest that life imprisonment as an optional punishment cannot be ‘unquestionably foreclosed’.

In other words, contrary to what many would think, the constitution bench, even while upholding the constitutionality of the death sentence, had in fact made it nearly impossible for future judges to impose it through a strict construction of the rarest of rare doctrine.

In Bachan Singh, the bench upheld the constitutionality of the death sentence primarily because the 35th report of the Law Commission, submitted in 1967, justified its retention, based on responses to its questionnaires sent to persons from different walks of life. There has been a tidal change in public opinion since then. The 262nd report of the Law Commission, prepared and submitted in 2015, following a request made by the Supreme Court itself, took a different view, after extensive research and with a slant towards an international approach.

Indeed, Justice Joseph relied on this 2015 report to hold that the constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh has failed to prevent death sentences from being “arbitrarily and freakishly imposed” and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionality valid penological goals.

Therefore, the view of the 2 judges on the bench presided by Justice Joseph that there is no need to re-examine the constitutionality of capital punishment is tantamount to disassociating from the wisdom of the 2 previous Supreme Court benches which commissioned the Law Commission’s 2nd project on the validity of the death penalty. In both Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs State of Maharashra (2009) and Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs State of Maharashtra (2013), the Supreme Court sought the Law Commission’s intervention to resolve the issue. Surely, their reasoning was not merely to add to the academic literature on the subject, but to make necessary correctives in death penalty jurisprudence.

Landmark judgment

Having said that, Justice Joseph deserves to be complimented for laying down a few key principles which will be difficult to ignore by any sentencing judge.

1st, if a jail superintendent provides a certificate attesting to a convict’s good behaviour, it stands reasonable to suggest that the accused possesses the potential to reform himself, and therefore life imprisonment would suffice to meet the ends of justice.

2nd, the Justice Joseph-led bench held that without certified psychological/psychiatric evaluation, it would be improper to preclude the possibility or probability of reform. The state must bear this in mind while furnishing evidence that a convict is incapable of reform or rehabilitation. In other words, the burden rests on the prosecution to establish the lack of reformative potential of the criminal.

Unfortunately, as has been witnessed over the years, the prosecution often exercises this responsibility with considerable indifference. Without questioning the absence of any evidence pertaining to the lack of a convict’s reformative capacity, the courts too effectively condone this lapse with a similar degree of apathy. In many cases, the courts themselves concluded that the accused was beyond reformation – based solely on the heinous nature of the offence and without seeking supporting forensic and scientific reports. Hopefully, this distressing trend will come to an end with this judgement.

3rd, the imposition of the death penalty can be vacated if the accused is able to demonstrate being denied procedural fairness and due process during the trial. In this case, not having a separate hearing for sentencing after the trial and holding it on the same day when the accused was convicted was cited as a reason why he could not get sufficient time to furnish evidence relevant to sentencing and mitigation.

4th, in this case, the prosecution argued that the accused failed to establish emotional instability resulting from being falsely implicated of rape by 1 of the deceased as the reason for committing murder. He was convicted for killing 3 persons. But the Supreme Court rejected this contention by holding that the court can independently search for a mitigating factor in favour of the accused, even if the latter did not himself come forward to cite one.

The other 2 judges on the bench felt the present was not the appropriate time to re-examine Bachan Singh. The question does not arise because it was not an issue in this case, as the appellant had not challenged the constitutionality of the death sentence itself. Therefore, even if the 2 judges had not expressed their disagreement with Justice Kurian on this question, it would not have altered the result of their verdict, as the chief justice of India was unlikely to constitute a larger bench to reconsider Bachan Singh merely because this bench wanted to debate the validity of the death penalty.

To reconsider Bachan Singh, it is important that a Supreme Court bench expresses its reservations regarding its rectitude through a reasoned order – requesting the CJI to initiate a review, while explaining what substantial questions of law require clarification by a larger bench.



Court Sentences 9 To Death For Heroin Trafficking

A Northern Vietnamese Court on Friday sentenced 9 people to death for heroin trafficking, authorities reported.

Following a 5-day trial in Ha Nam Provincial People’s Court, the 6 men and 3 women were found guilty of trafficking around 20kg of heroin throughout northern Vietnam, according to the Cong An Nhan Dan police-run gazette.

The court also sentenced three others to life imprisonment on the same drug charge, while 10 others received sentences ranging from 12 years to 20 years.

The conspiracy began in June 2016 when ringleader Le Van Manh, among those sentenced to death, began soliciting cash investments from other conspirators to buy heroin to resell.

Under Vietnamese law, trafficking more than 100g of heroin warrants the death penalty.



Capital punishment may await Anglophone separatists if proven they plot terror

10 Cameroonian separatist leaders extradited from Nigeria earlier this year will face trial next month on terrorism charges that could lead to the death penalty, one of their lawyers said after a court hearing on Tuesday.

The accused include Julius Ayuk Tabe, the leader of an Anglophone separatist movement in western Cameroon fighting to break away from the Francophone-dominated central government.

Hundreds of people, including civilians, separatist fighters and Cameroonian security agents, have been killed in the past year’s violence, which has emerged as the most serious security threat to President Paul Biya, in power for 36 years.

"10 charges have been brought against them, including terrorism, advocating terrorism, secession, civil war and revolution,” lawyer Christopher Ndong told Reuters after the charges were read out at the capital Yaounde’s military court.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 6, Ndong added.

Tabe and his co-defendants were among 47 Anglophone Cameroonians arrested in Nigeria and deported to Cameroon in January. The remaining 37 suspects are still being held by the authorities and have not been charged, said Ndong.

Cameroon’s government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Cameroon regularly sentences people to death but has not carried out an execution in years.

(source: African Daily Voice)


Zim keen to end death penalty

Zimbabwe is moving closer towards the abolishment of capital punishment and proposals to that effect will soon be tabled before Cabinet, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has said.

Addressing international delegates attending the 11th international meeting of the Ministers of Justice themed “A world without death penalty — no justice without life”, in Rome, Italy, yesterday, Minister Ziyambi said the death sentence was not only cruel and degrading punishment, but also destroyed life.

This development comes at a time when Zimbabwe has 81 prisoners on the death row, while 127 are serving life terms.

“The coming into force of the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe brought a significant trajectory on the question of death penalty,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“The death sentence may be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.

“Secondly, such form of sentence must not be imposed on women, male persons who are under the age of 21 and over the age of 70 years convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances. The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act has already been amended in order to give effect to this constitutional provision.

“Let me also highlight that the death sentence is not only cruel and degrading punishment, but also destroys life and annihilates human dignity.

“Furthermore, criminological researches have revealed that the death penalty does not deter the commission of crimes, but rather compounds it."

(source: New Zealand Herald)


Statement by Timo Soini, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, on death penalty in Belarus

"I deeply regret the reported executions of Mr Syamyon Berazhny and Mr Ihar Hershankow in Belarus, which were carried out despite the strong call made by the Committee of Ministers in October 2018 to the authorities of Belarus to establish a formal moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty," Mr Timo Soini, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, underlined in a statement today.

On the same occasion, the Committee of Ministers - representing 47 member States - encouraged the Belarusian authorities to apply the alternative punishment provided for in the Belarusian criminal legislation and to commute the death sentences which have been imposed. "The Council of Europe is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and is resolutely committed to its abolition worldwide," the Minister added.



Indonesian migrant worker faces death penalty for murder

A migrant worker from Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Zainul Watoni, is facing the death penalty for allegedly killing a man in Malaysia.

Malaysian media reported that the 31-year-old is being charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for allegedly killing Rizal Muhammad, in Ladang Kambau, Tanjung Sedili in Johor on Nov. 4.

He was taken into custody along with a woman.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

NOVEMBER 29, 2018:


Pakistan Should Remove People with Mental Disabilities From Death Row

Imdad Ali, who is aged around 50, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious cleric in 2002 and is set to be hanged tomorrow.

This week, a medical board confirmed that Saleem Ahmad, a prisoner on death row for 14 years, has chronic schizophrenia. Ahmad, 50, had been scheduled to be executed in November 2017, but a court suspended his execution and ordered a medical board to assess his mental health. Ahmad – who was convicted of murder – has been in prison for more than 17 years.

This is a scathing indictment of Pakistan’s criminal justice system and should be used as an opportunity for reform. While the death penalty is inherently cruel and should be abolished, executing an individual with psychosocial disabilities violates Pakistan’s international legal obligations. The United Nations Human Rights Committee and UN special experts have determined that the execution of a person with a psychosocial disability violates the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment.

Ahmad is one of many prisoners with psychosocial disabilities on death row. In April, the Supreme Court of Pakistan reviewed the death sentences of Kaniz Fatima and Imdad Ali, death row convicts with psychosocial disabilities. During the proceedings, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court remarked: “Neither reason nor sensibility allow me to believe that we can execute a mentally ill or disabled person.” Kaniz Fatima and Imdad Ali remain on death row.

Kaniz Fatima is one of the few women on death row in Pakistan. According to her lawyers, she has not spoken for 12 years and is unable to eat, drink, or take care of herself without assistance. She has been in prison for 29 years.

She is among more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan – one of the world’s largest populations of prisoners facing executions. Pakistani law mandates capital punishment for 28 offenses, including murder, rape, treason, and blasphemy.

The arbitrariness, unfairness, and high risk of error in capital prosecutions in Pakistan has been documented extensively. The death penalty is inherently cruel – but even more so for those who may not recognize their crimes. It good to see Pakistani authorities beginning to realize executing people with psychosocial disabilities is an affront to human decency and serves no criminal justice purpose. Pakistan should strengthen its justice system and work towards a complete moratorium on death sentences, rather than sending people like Saleem Ahmad to the gallows.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

TEXAS----impending execution

"Texas 7" Escapee Set for Execution----Inmate challenges original conviction, post-escape “law of parties” verdict

Joseph Garcia is infamous for his role in the biggest prison escape in Texas history. For that crime and a murder that followed, Garcia is facing an execution date of Tuesday, Dec. 4, where he would become the fourth of the "Texas 7" to be put to death. But with 2 appeals and a stay pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and a clemency petition before the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Garcia's placement on death row remains controversial.

On Dec. 13, 2000, the Texas 7 broke out of a maximum-security prison near San Antonio with stolen weapons in a prison truck. Once free, the men committed several robberies across the state, including at a sporting goods store near Dallas on Christmas Eve, where they ran into police officer Aubrey Hawkins and fatally shot him 11 times. A month later, after making national news, the men were captured in Colorado. All, save 1 who killed himself, were sentenced to death under the Texas "law of parties," though Garcia maintains he never fired his weapon that night. State statute allows accomplices to another crime - such as robbery - that results in murder to be held responsible even if they were not involved in the slaying, and Garcia's lawyer Dale Baich said, "Joseph was sentenced to death even though the state could not prove that Joseph killed, intended to kill, or was even present when the co-defendants killed Officer Hawkins."

Garcia's concurrent appeals touch on more than the law of parties. Before his escape, Garcia was serving out a murder sentence from Bexar County; the 1st matter pending before the CCA argues he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel in that case. Garcia insists he acted in self-defense, but his trial attorney failed to investigate or present that claim to the court, and the filings allege Garcia continued to receive shoddy counsel through his appeals.

A subsequent petition at the CCA argues Garcia's death sentence in the Hawkins case was a result of "misleading evidence" presented by the state, ineffective counsel, and a "racially prejudiced judge" who tainted the case, in addition to its challenge to the law of parties. Via email, Baich stressed that there remain "significant legal issues before the courts that have not been presented until now because of procedural technicalities and bad lawyering."

Garcia has been fighting his sentence for nearly 2 decades. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court denied his last appeal and he was scheduled for lethal injection in August, but was spared due to a technical issue. If a stay or clemency is not granted, Garcia will be the 12th Texas inmate executed in 2018. Before the year is up, 1 more - Alvin Braziel Jr. - is scheduled to die, on Dec. 11.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Inmates Said The Drug Burned As They Died. This Is How Texas Gets Its Execution Drugs.----Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy gave kids the wrong medicine. It forged documents. Its employees didn’t wash their hands adequately. So why did the state with the most executions hire it to make lethal injection drugs?

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which has carried out more executions than any other state, has for the last 3 1/2 years bought drugs for lethal injections from a pharmacy that regulators have repeatedly cited for dangerous practices.

The source of the state's execution drugs has until now been a closely guarded secret. Texas, like other death penalty states, has a law that prevents the disclosure of that information, making it impossible for the public to learn about the manufacturer's safety record. But documents obtained by BuzzFeed News indicate that one source is Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy in Houston, which has been cited for scores of safety violations in recent years. Its license has been on probation since November 2016, when the Texas State Board of Pharmacy found that it had compounded the wrong drug for 3 children, sending 1 to the emergency room, and forged quality control documents.

Questions about the source and quality of Texas's execution drugs have been particularly acute in the past year, since in their final moments of life, 5 of the 11 inmates who Texas put to death in 2018 said the drug they were injected with, which is supposed to be painless, felt like it was burning as it coursed through their bodies.

"I can feel that it does burn. Burning!" Anthony Shore said, his voice rising, as he died in January. 4 months later, Juan Castillo swore and said the drug burned and that he could taste it in his throat. In the next few months, inmates Troy Clark, Christopher Young, and Danny Bible all made similar statements as they were dying. A 6th inmate, William Rayford, writhed and shook on the gurney after the drug began to flow into him.

2 more inmates are scheduled to be executed in coming days: Joseph Garcia on Dec. 4 and Alvin Braziel on Dec. 11.

Texas has faced growing difficulties in securing supplies of lethal drugs in recent years, as manufacturers have become increasingly unwilling to be associated with capital punishment, and the Food and Drug Administration has blocked surreptitious attempts to get the drugs from overseas. The manufacturer of pentobarbital, the substance Texas uses in executions, requires its distributors to sign agreements that they will not sell their drugs to death penalty states. So Texas sought out a compounding pharmacy, which can combine the basic ingredients of known drugs according to a prescription for a specific patient - for example, a child who needs a medicine in a liquid rather than pill form. (The state has also tried importing drugs from a supplier in India, but the FDA seized the shipment.)

Compounding pharmacies are not subject to the same stringent federal standards as large manufacturers, and the products they make have a significantly higher failure rate and shorter shelf life, one measured in days, than conventionally manufactured drugs.

Attorneys for death row inmates have long warned that compounded pentobarbital could expire or degrade over time, putting their clients at risk of a painful death that would amount to torture.

"Improper compounding and testing procedures may leave fine particles undetectable by the naked eye in the solution, or larger particles that would not be detected by an untrained eye," Dr. David Waisel wrote in a 2016 affidavit. "These particles can cause great irritation to the vein, resulting in extraordinary pain."

In inspections by state regulators, Greenpark has been cited for 48 violations over the past eight years, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. The violations included keeping out-of-date drugs in stock, using improper procedures to prepare IV solutions, and inadequate cleaning of hands and gloves.

Federal documents show that in November 2014, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice obtained, from an unnamed source, enough of the raw ingredient in pentobarbital to be used in hundreds of doses. The documents indicate that over the years, the state has transferred fractions of the ingredient to 2 compounding pharmacies, which use it to produce pentobarbital. The department first transferred 50 grams of the raw ingredient to Greenpark in April 2015, then again in February 2016. The documents indicate the state has not sent any of the ingredient to any other compounding pharmacy since then.

In a declaration it submitted under a pseudonym in June, Greenpark said it had supplied lethal injection drugs to Texas, and that the relationship "was and is contingent on" the pharmacy's "identity remaining a secret." If its identity became public, Greenpark wrote, it "will no longer conduct business with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice."

The other pharmacy that the documents indicate received shipments of the ingredient (80 grams of it in August 2015) remains unidentified. It's unclear which pharmacy supplied the compounded drugs for each execution, but over the last three years Texas appears not to have acquired the drugs from any other sources.

BuzzFeed News shared the documents with two pharmaceutical experts who are familiar with such records. The experts confirmed the methodology behind the reporting.

Speaking by phone to BuzzFeed News, Ken Hughes, Greenpark's head pharmacist, said that his pharmacy had performed drug testing for the criminal justice department, but added, "It's none of your business what I do." Asked about the compounding of execution drugs, Hughes repeatedly said, "I don't do it."

When asked if that meant that the pharmacy, which also operates as a gift shop, does not do it currently or if it has never done so, Hughes said that he had two other calls on hold and ended the conversation. He did not respond to repeated follow-up emails or phone calls.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice declined to comment.

It's unclear how the state selected Greenpark. Of the state's nearly 200 pharmacies that perform this sort of high-risk compounding, Greenpark is 1 of only 8 that currently have their licenses on probation or revoked.

That probation, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this month, was put in place after a pharmacy technician made a mistake in compounding a batch of lansoprazole, a drug that can be used to treat high levels of stomach acid. Instead, the pharmacy gave 3 children lorazepam, a benzodiazepine similar to Xanax.

The state board found that 1 of the children had to receive "emergency treatment in a hospital after experiencing adverse effects," and that the pharmacy technician forged quality-control documentation. Without admitting or denying guilt, Hughes agreed to implement new procedures to prevent dispensing errors.

The parents of the child who went to the hospital after taking Greenpark's drugs sued the pharmacy in September 2017. Without admitting liability, the pharmacy settled, agreeing to pay $55,000 toward the child's college saving fund.

The FDA also inspected Greenpark in October 2017, and cited the pharmacy for several potential sterility violations. Greenpark said that it adhered to state pharmaceutical guidelines. Hughes added that the inspection has "given us an opportunity to review our procedures and look for improvements."

The FDA told BuzzFeed News it could not release its full report on Greenpark because doing so "could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings."

(source: Chris McDaniel is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News)


Proposed expenses adding up for Luzerne County death penalty cases

A 3rd Luzerne County department request for more funding in 2019 due to capital cases - this time for $70,000 - prompted citizen Mark Rabo to question the sense of even pursuing the death penalty.

Speaking during public comment at this week's council budget work session, the Hazleton man believes it would be more feasible for the district attorney’s office to settle for seeking life without the possibility of parole, largely because Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was elected to another 4-year term and has said he won’t sign off on an execution.

"That would be more cost effective, and you wouldn't be able to get the death penalty in Pennsylvania because the governor put a moratorium over it," Rabo said.

The DA's office is pursuing the death penalty against 52-year-old Joseph John Marchetti and Anthony Spudis, 36, citing the severity of their alleged crimes.

District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Wednesday her response is the same as it was when Councilman Stephen A. Urban raised the same issue earlier this year: She has a legal obligation to seek the death penalty if certain factors are met.

"As stated in the past, I follow the law," she said.

Salavantis said she strives to save tax dollars when possible but cannot allow the cost of prosecuting or defending cases to drive decisions on seeking justice.

Prosecutors also sometimes use the death penalty as a bargaining chip to obtain a life sentence plea, which could save the time and expense of a trial.

Marchetti is accused of beating and then shooting his girlfriend, Antoinette Wilkinson, 46, at their Foster Township home in January. Prosecutors also say Marchetti beat Wilkinson’s mother, Barbara Wilkinson, 72, with a lead-filled club, then dragged her into the room where her daughter lay before shooting himself in the face. The younger woman passed away as a result of the attack.

Spudis faces criminal homicide, burglary and robbery charges for allegedly breaking into 97-year-old Gertrude Price’s Nanticoke home in 2013 and stabbing her several times in the head when she confronted him.

The public defender’s office is representing Marchetti, and the county court retained outside legal counsel in the Spudis case due to a conflict with the public defender and conflict counsel offices, officials said.

Expenses adding upM

A council majority had approved an $80,000 budget reserve transfer in July to cover public defender's office expenses for expert witnesses and a mitigation specialist in the death penalty case it is handling.

The public defender's proposed 2019 budget seeks a $15,000 increase for experts and a mitigation specialist for the capital case, which would raise its examinations/witnesses budget category from $85,000 to $100,000.

In the DA's office, Salavantis is requesting $100,000 more for expenses related to both pending capital cases next year, for a new total of $110,000.

Court administration presented its request this week for $70,000 more due to the capital case defense it must fund.

Councilwoman Sheila Saidman sought an explanation of that expense.

Court Administrator Michael Shucosky said the courts must secure and fund private outside defense counsel when it cannot be provided by the assistant public defenders or conflict counsel. He estimated only approximately 20 outside attorneys in Northeastern Pennsylvania have the required certification in death penalty cases, which creates a “seller’s market” commanding higher fees in addition to other litigation expenses.

The courts have retained attorney Robert Saurman, of Monroe County, to represent Spudis, records show. Shucosky said he cannot discuss the amount of the fees because payment records have been sealed, which is common before a capital case is adjudicated.

Council is set to vote on the 2019 budget Dec. 11. The administration proposed a 3 % real estate tax increase.



Attorneys for suspect in killing of 2 cops will need more money for defense

Lawyers for the man accused of fatally shooting 2 Kissimmee police officers will need more tax dollars to defend him.

Everett Miller's attorneys need the money to hire a private investigator to find mitigating evidence to keep Miller off death row.

In the case against accused Miller, it seems there is no shortage of evidence.

There was cellphone video of him challenging Kissimmee police Officer Matthew Baxter in the minutes before investigators said he shot Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard to death.

Baxter's DNA was on Miller's nail clippings, his revolver, tank top and necklace. Howard's DNA was on Miller's shoes and his car.

Newly released cellphone records show Miller's phone was in the area around the time of the shootings.

His defense team has already hired a private investigator for a hundred hours of work, and new court records show Miller's attorney is asking the court for more money to pay the private investigator for and additional 300 hours of work.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said in a death penalty case, an investigator will spend much of their time looking for evidence and information about the defendant that could be used if he's convicted.

It would be presented in the penalty phase of the trial to try to keep him from getting the death penalty.

"The majority of this investigation is going to be focused on keeping their client off death row," said Sheaffer.

Miller's trial is expected to begin in March.

(source: WFTV news)


Prichard murder suspect gets hefty bond, may face death penalty

A Prichard murder suspect is sitting in jail on a hefty bond.

Marquiel Manassa was in court this morning.

Police say he killed Xydarius Harrison back on November 10th on Peterson road in Prichard.

According to court documents, Manassa supposedly jumped into the back seat of the car that Harrison was in to Rob Harrison and Harrison's brother in the car.

Harrison's brother was able to get out of the car and run away to get help.

Authorities say Harrison was shot and killed inside the car.

Both murder during a robbery and murder in a car, make the case eligible for the death penalty.

No word from the District Attorney's office if they will pursue the death penalty.

The assistant DA says more arrests are possible.

Manassa's bond was set at $150,000 bond with $10,000 dollars of it in cash.

He'll be back in court Thursday.

(source: WPMI news)


Man Faces Potential Death Penalty, Charged In Massacre Of Ohio Family

The 1st of 4 family members charged with killing 8 people from another Ohio family has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and other charges in the potential death penalty case.

26-year-old Edward "Jake" Wagner acknowledged the 23 counts against him but said little else Tuesday in Pike County court. He's being held without bond.

Wagner, his parents and his brother are charged in the 2016 shootings of 7 adults and a teenager from the Rhoden family.

The Wagners will be arraigned over the next week. An attorney who's represented them has said they'll be vindicated.

Authorities say a custody dispute was a possible motive. Jake Wagner shared a daughter with 1 of the victims.

The judge says he's prohibiting lawyers and authorities involved from publicly discussing Wagner's case.


Ex-governors: Inmate execution decisions a tough burden

Ohio's 3 living former governors have no trouble agreeing on the toughest burden they faced in office: deciding whether someone should live or die.

And after a collective 20 years as Ohio's governor, Richard F. Celeste, Bob Taft and Ted Strickland all wish they had spared more people from execution.

The 3 are in Columbus for a new exhibit of both the original 1802 and 1851 Ohio constitutions now on permanent display at the Statehouse Museum.

As snow fell softly outside, they sat with The Dispatch for 80 minutes Tuesday afternoon in a vacant Statehouse hearing room to chat about today's corrosive politics and talk about what they now view as their biggest accomplishments - and where they'd like a "do-over."

Strickland brought up the death penalty under the latter category: "I wish I had done what my friend Jay Inslee, who's the governor of Washington state, did when he became governor. He just said, 'There will be no executions as long as I'm the governor of the state of Washington.'

"And I wish I had had the courage to make that decision."

Strickland, 77, who was a prison psychologist before becoming a congressman and then, from 2007 to 2011, governor, says he is especially relieved that he commuted the sentence of Kevin Keith, whose bid to challenge his conviction for killing three people in Bucyrus in 1994 is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I'm just convinced as long as we have the death penalty, innocent people are going to lose their lives ... our judicial system has serious problems that need attention," the Democrat said.

Republican Taft said that when he was governor from 1999 to 2007, his attitude toward capital punishment was that "it was the law of Ohio. It had been enacted by the people's representatives. My job was to carry out the law unless there were extraordinary circumstances that would call for a commutation."

Even though he granted only 1 commutation, reviewing the files of death row inmates who pleaded for leniency slowly caused a transformation in his thinking.

"Going through all those cases as governor, and the time you spend on those cases, really changed my attitude in certain ways. So I have growing reservations about the death penalty," he said.

Taft, 76, who has taught at the University of Dayton since shortly after leaving the governor's office, supports a ban on executing the mentally ill, a lower bar for the defense to establish than insanity. Plus, he would eliminate a section of Ohio law allowing the death penalty for so-called "felony murder."

"I think there is great disparity, there is great inequality, there are great differences between the counties in how that's applied."

Taft still backs potential capital punishment for those convicted of such offenses as murder for hire, killing a law enforcement officer, or causing death by an act of terrorism.

Celeste, a Democrat who served from 1983 to 1991, said he was given advice by the longtime counsel for his GOP predecessor, James A. Rhodes, about potential executions: "You shouldn't let it happen."

The attorney told Celeste that Rhodes had sent him to witness an execution, and the counsel came back and told Rhodes that he would quit rather than watch another, saying "If you want to let somebody die in the chair, you go watch it."

Celeste ignited major controversy near the end of his second term by ordering the first mass prison release of battered women in this country, granting clemency to more than two dozen who were in Ohio's prison for women in Marysville.

And a couple of weeks later, Celeste commuted the death sentences of 4 men and all 4 women on death row.

"Not because they were necessarily innocent, actually. I knew several of them weren't," Celeste conceded Tuesday.

"As I look back on it, if I had really would have been bold, I would have done what Toney Anaya did in New Mexico (as governor at the same time as Celeste) and the governor of Illinois did later, just say, 'I'm going to commute them all to life (sentences), without the benefit of parole.' You save the state a lot of money in the process."

Celeste, who turned 81 this month, retired in 2011 after serving as president of Colorado College in Colorado Springs for nine years. He now consults for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

All 3 former chief executives agreed that even the rough-and-tumble politics of their eras featured bipartisan agreements and personal relationships across party lines. Interestingly, both Taft and Strickland - whose families have grown close over the years - agreed that the invective and stridency of the Donald Trump era began with the ascension of Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich to U.S. House speaker in 1995.

Taft also cited the decline of "moderating institutions" such as major newspapers that no longer have influential editorial voices, political parties that are overshadowed by super-PACS, and unaccountable independent campaign groups getting undisclosed cash.

Celeste pointed to familiar targets to explain the decline of civility and bipartisanship: the state legislature's term limits that eroded both experience and any incentive to take more than a short-term view, a more partisan national press trying to fill a 24/7 news cycle, the constant yammering of social media, and gerrymandering that has pushed both parties to their extreme in both Ohio and Congress.

"If I could wave a magic wand and make every district 51-49 (% partisan split), I would," Celeste sai


Man convicted in slayings faces death penalty at sentencing

A 3-judge panel has decided an Ohio man who pleaded guilty to killing a woman and her 2 daughters will face the death penalty at his upcoming sentencing.

The Cuyahoga County judge on Monday set Dec. 28 for the formal sentencing of George Brinkman Jr.

Brinkman pleaded guilty this month to aggravated murder charges in the June 2017 slayings of 42-year-old Suzanne Taylor, 21-year-old Taylor Pifer and 18-year-old Kylie Pifer at their home outside Cleveland

Authorities say the 46-year-old Brinkman was a family friend. No motive has been determined.

A woman answering the phone Tuesday at Brinkman's attorney's office said attorney Fernando Mack had no comment.

Brinkman is charged in Stark County with fatally shooting a couple at their Lake Township home where he was house-sitting in June 2017.

(source for all: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

Murder victim's mother has no plans to witness David Earl Miller execution

If David Earl Miller dies in Tennessee's electric chair next week as scheduled for the 1981 murder of Lee Standifer, the slain Knoxville woman's mother won't be there to witness it.

Helen Standifer won't say exactly how she feels about the execution, but she knows she doesn't need to see it.

"I'm not vengeful like that," she said in a phone interview from her home in Chandler, Arizona, adding that her presence at the execution "won't help my daughter at all."

Court documents say little about Miller's 23-year-old victim, other than noting she had "diffused brain damage when born" and was "mildly retarded."

But her mother's memory is far more nuanced, and she has wondered over the years whether that was the right diagnosis.

She said her daughter was good at certain things, like reading, and was very verbal, but other things challenged her. For instance, if told an event would happen next week, she might not comprehend how long she'd have to wait for it.

Because of her difficulties, Lee Standifer didn't attend college and she didn't drive. Her mother said there weren't many options for someone with her daughter's special needs at the time, but they found a place for her to live at the Knoxville YWCA. From there, she would ride the bus to work at a food processing plant.

"It was repetitious work that would drive most of us out of our heads," but Lee Standifer liked the work, her mother said. In turn, "They just loved her. She was never late and never missed a day."

According to court records, Miller was a drifter who had been living in the home of a man who picked him up hitch-hiking.

Lee Standifer had been dating him, and the two were seen together around town the evening of May 20, 1981. The young woman's body was found the next day in the yard of the home where Miller had been living. She had been beaten, possibly with a fire poker, and stabbed multiple times.

Miller later said he was on drugs at the time and didn't remember the crime. He was sentenced to death in 1982, and again in 1987 after the first sentence was thrown out. The jury found the murder was "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel."

Asked to describe her daughter, Helen Standifer says what a positive person she was.

"She was a bubbly, happy character from the time she was very small. ... She used to embarrass her sister around Christmas time. She would put jingle bells on her shoelaces."

When she was little she used to always greet the mail man and have "big conversations" with him, her mother said.

Born in West Virginia, Lee Standifer spent most of her school years in Colorado, where she was active in 4H. Her mother still has a gold medal she won for backstroke in an early version of the Special Olympics.

The family moved to East Tennessee during Lee Standifer's senior year of high school. She loved going to Tennessee craft shows where her mother sold wire sculptures.

As a young woman, "She was very confident in who she was. She wasn't bothered by comparing herself to others," Standifer said.

Even after she started living at the YWCA, up until the time she was killed, she would spend most weekends at her parents' home in Farragut, about 20 miles west of Knoxville.

Helen Standifer says the pain of her daughter's loss never leaves.

"You're always missing that person. It's not as every day, not as constant a pain as it was early on, but it doesn't go away."

She honestly can't remember whether Miller ever offered some kind of apology.

She adds, "... So much of that, I just lived through - barely."

(source: Associated Press)


Missouri adjusts policy for media witnesses at state executions

The state of Missouri has a new policy for media members who apply to witness inmate executions.

The Missouri Department of Corrections will no longer pick and choose who gets to serve as media witnesses to state executions. It stems from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of an NPR reporter who once worked in St Louis, who was continually denied access to be a witness. The reporter has since moved on to another outlet, and he covers capital punishment across the country.

The practice was discriminatory, said Tony Rothert, an ACLU attorney.

"Prior to these new policies the director of the department of corrections had complete discretion on who to invite, or not invite, to be a media witness," Rothert said.

The ACLU alleges that the previous director of corrections denied permission to witness executions based on reporters' political leanings.

The new policy dictates The Associated Press, the Missouri Broadcasters Association, and the Missouri Press Association will select which reporters will serve as media witnesses, and act as so-called pool reporters.

(source: KMBZ news)


Killer in KCK's infamous Pamela Butler kidnapping case loses death penalty appeal

The man who kidnapped, raped and killed a 10-year-old Kansas City, Kan., girl in 1999 lost an appeal of his conviction and death sentence Wednesday.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the claims of Keith D. Nelson that his attorney had provided ineffective assistance.

Nelson, now 44, kidnapped Pamela Butler, who was rollerblading near her house when Nelson grabbed her, threw her into a pickup truck and sped away.

2 of her sisters witnessed the kidnapping, including Casey Eaton, who in 2017 was fatally shot near where Pamela had been taken.

Several days after Pamela was kidnapped, her body was found in a wooded area in Grain Valley. Nelson was the subject of a widely-publicized manhunt, and his arrest was broadcast live on television.

Nelson was linked to the crime by DNA, and in 2001 he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Kansas City to a charge of interstate kidnapping resulting in death.

He was subsequently sentenced to death. At his sentencing hearing, Nelson showed no remorse and unleashed a "profanity-laden tirade" in court, according to Wednesday's appeals court ruling.

An initial appeal by Nelson was previously denied, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request for a hearing.

Wednesday's ruling dealt with several issues pertaining to how Nelson's attorney represented him, including advising him to plead guilty.

The court denied the appeal on each count.

(source: Kansas City Star)


Death penalty sought in case against man accused of killing Adams County Sheriff's deputy

The Adams County District Attorney will seek the death penalty in a case against the man accused of fatally shooting Adams County Sheriff's deputy Heath Gumm, it was announced Tuesday.

Dreion Martise Dearing, 22, is formally charged with 4 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count each of 1st-degree burglary, possession of a weapon by a previous offender and 3rd-degree assault.

Deputy Heath Gumm was shot after responding to a report of an assault in progress about 7 p.m. Jan. 24 in the 8700 block of Dawson Street.

Gumm was taken to Denver Health Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

(source: KDVR news)


Federal court hears case over delays in executing Utah white supremacist killer

One of Utah's most notorious death row cases is before a federal appeals court.

Troy Kell is facing a firing squad execution for the 1994 murder of Lonnie Blackmon inside the Central Utah Correctional Facility at Gunnison. Kell stabbed Blackmon 67 times in a murder that was captured on video.

"White power!" Kell screamed at corrections officers who were putting on riot gear to get into the cell block. Kell, a white supremacist, stabbed his victim, who is black, and left him to bleed to death on the floor. Kell was already serving time for another murder in Nevada.

The video of the gruesome killing was entered into evidence and used to convict Kell, who was sentenced to death.

Now, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering how long it has taken to exhaust Kell's appeals. Recently, a three judge panel heard arguments over a lower court's decision to stay his case, grinding it to a halt.

"It did so in a way that irrevocably and unreviewably deprives the people of Utah of their constitutional right to timely carry out their presumptively valid sentence against Mr. Kell," assistant Utah Attorney General Andrew Peterson argued before the court.

But Kell's attorney, Lindsey Layer, argued there are still legitimate legal issues that need to be explored and exhausted by both state and federal courts.

"There have been multiple stays in this case and that might be unusual, but it’s warranted by the circumstances," she argued.

In their questions, the judges on the 10th Circuit panel wrestled with prior case law on capital punishment appeals and decisions made by other courts across the country. Senior Judge Bobby Baldock suggested this case may go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We either do have jurisdiction or we don't have jurisdiction," he said. "The groundwork's been laid if there's 4 Circuits gone one way, we go another... perfect vehicle for the Supreme Court to straighten it out."

The 10th Circuit Court panel took the case under advisement with no timeline for when they will release a decision. The Utah Supreme Court is also considering this case.

(source: Fox News)


Ministers of Justice, Sant’Egidio ask Jerry Brown for death penalty halt

Ministers of Justice from 25 countries have joined the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, one of the new lay movements in the Catholic Church, to jointly issue an appeal to California Governor Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on the death penalty in his state.

Should Brown comply, the moratorium could be short-lived, since Gavin Newsom will be sworn in as California’s new chief executive on Jan. 7. Yet Sant'Egidio insists the measure is urgent, since California presently has the largest death row in the Western world with 742 inmates awaiting execution.

The appeal came from a Sant'Egidio-sponsored conference at the Italian parliament on "A World Without the Death Penalty." It was presented by Mario Marazziti, coordinator of Sant'Egidio's campaign for a universal death penalty moratorium, representing the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Ministries of Justice from South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, and Malaysia.

"We launch an appeal to a great American politician, Jerry Brown, governor for 4 terms with a vision for the State of California, the state with the largest death row in the Western world in San Quentin: 742 death row inmates waiting for execution, among them innocent people - as the Vincente Benavides and Fred Watherton case have shown this year."

Benavides is a Mexican national freed after nearly 26 years on death row after a reexamination of forensic evidence found he was not culpable for the charges of rape and sodomy upon which he'd been convicted. Weatherton's conviction on 2 counts of murder, with special circumstance allegations, was overturned by the California Supreme Court on the basis of juror misconduct allegations.

"The appeal I launch, on behalf of this congress and the Ministers here gathered, is that the governor declare a death penalty moratorium and begin the process to commute all death sentences before leaving his office by the end of the year," Marazziti said.

"It [would be] a gesture of great political wisdom that will strengthen the authoritativeness of the system of justice in California, a state where half of death sentences come from only 3 counties out of 53, [and] where they seem to be related more to geography than the nature of the crimes and those convicted for the crimes," Marazziti said.

"I hope Governor Brown is willing to leave this legacy as a present to his citizens, to all Americans, to the world, and through this leaving a sign in history," he said. "All hope we will soon be able to celebrate a death penalty moratorium where we will light up the Colosseum to celebrate California and the political courage of Governor Brown."

In reality, if Brown were to take such a step, its significance would be largely symbolic. Of the 971 California death sentences recorded by the Death Penalty Information Center since 1978, only 13 condemned inmates have been executed, while Californians have paid more than $5 billion to maintain the system.

According to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, the state would save $170 million each year by converting all death sentences to life without parole.

In July, the Catholic bishops of California came out in support of a ballot measure to end executions in the state altogether.

"Our commitment to halt the practice of capital punishment is rooted both in the Catholic faith and our pastoral experience," a statement said. "Our support to end the use of the death penalty is also rooted in our unshakeable resolve to accompany and support all victims of crime," the bishops said. "They suffer the very painful consequences of criminal acts. With the violent loss of a loved one, a sword has pierced their heart. Their enduring anguish is not addressed by the state-sanctioned perpetuation of the culture of death."

"Capital punishment has repeatedly been shown to be severely and irrevocably flawed in its application. In the long - but absolutely necessary - process of ensuring an innocent person is not put to death, we have seen many accused persons being exonerated as new forms of forensic investigation have enabled us to better scrutinize evidence," they said.

"The high cost of implementing the death penalty has diverted resources from more constructive and beneficial programs both for rehabilitation and restoration of victims and offenders. Finally, repeated research has demonstrated that the death penalty is applied inconsistently along racial, economic and geographical lines," the bishops said.



Man knifes boss for withholding salary for sex, gets death penalty in UAE

Municipal workers discovered the victim's body in a parked car and informed the police.

A worker accused of killing his boss for refusing a salary increase has been sentenced to death.

The Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance has handed down the execution sentence to the man after he was found guilty of premeditated murder and theft.

He had been earning Dh1,000 a month, but attacked his employer after the man delayed the Dh500 salary increment which he had promised him for a long time.

Official court documents stated that the defendant had been brought by the Pakistani victim to work at his workshop in Musaffah area.

He had promised to pay him a monthly salary of Dh1,500 but when he reached here, he instead paid him Dh1,000.

After working for many months, the employer informed the defendant that his monthly salary had been increased from Dh1,000 to Dh1,500. But the boss didn't fulfil his promise.

Upon seeing that the employer was reluctant to include the salary increment of Dh500 to his pay in the months that followed, the man planned his revenge.

He went to a shop with his friend and bought a meat cleaver.

He then phoned his boss for a meeting. He told him that he wanted to go to a remote area in the city outskirts to pick something from a friend but needed his help because he didn't have transport.

The boss drove him in his car. And while on the way in a quiet area, the worker pulled out the meat cleaver and hit him with it on the head and neck.

He then drove the car and parked it on the roadside, leaving the dead man inside. The worker also took two mobile phones from the victim and his laptop and fled the scene.

The following morning, he went to his workplace as usual, pretending that nothing happened.

Municipal workers discovered the victim's body in a parked car and informed the police.

Police later arrested the worker after investigations revealed that he carried out the murder.

The CCTV cameras at the store from where the victim bought the murder weapon (meat cleaver) in the company of his friend had helped the authorities to identify the killer.

Upon police questioning regarding the meat cleaver, the worker said he bought it for personal safety.

Later, he admitted to using the meat cleaver to murder his boss. He said he did it out of anger because the man wanted to have sex with him so that he would increase his pay, but he never intended to kill him.

The Abu Dhabi public prosecutors charged the man with premeditated murder and theft.

In court, the accused retracted his earlier confession and denied planning to kill his boss.

He said the man wanted to have sex with him by force and that he attacked him in self-defence.

Prosecutors had demanded that he be given the death penalty.

The death sentence can be appealed within a period of 2 weeks after the issuance of the ruling.

(source: Khaleej Times)


Kurd in Iran put on death row as teen has days to live unless more money raised: report

An Iranian Kurdish (Rojhilati) family of a 21-year-old youth on death row for the alleged murder of a classmate is struggling to acquire the sum demanded by the parents of the victim for a pardon, according to a local report.

In late 2013, Milad Azimi had been in class when he got into an altercation with another student, during which he reportedly injured the other boy who later passed away in the hospital due to the severity of his wounds, Hamdeli Daily reported on Monday.

Shortly after the incident, the local court issued Azimi an arrest warrant and eventually handed him a death sentence based on the confession the teen had made under interrogation saying he had caused the fatal wounds to his classmate.

However, he later told the court that he had only admitted to the crime under the pressure of his interrogators. Azimi had added that due to the chaotic and crowded fight, he was actually uncertain if he had been the cause of the injury.

It is unclear how the wound was inflicted during the fight or if the use of a weapon was involved.

After years of work, Azimi's parents only recently convinced the family of the victim to pardon their son, but this on the condition of a hefty payment in Iranian Tomans, equivalent to nearly USD 130,000.

"By selling all our belongings and the aid of charitable people, we collected a sum of 150 million Tomans [USD 36,250]," Fariba Bakhshi, Azimi's mother, was quoted as saying in the paper's report. She added they had received about USD 47,500 more from another charity organization, totaling nearly USD 83,750.

Should Azimi's family fail to deliver the amount in question, the 21-year-old will be executed on Tuesday.

Early October, Iran executed a woman who was arrested and put on death row as a teen for the murder of her husband.

"Not only was she a child at the time of the crime, she was subjected to a grossly unfair legal process," Amnesty International had said days ahead of the trial.



Iraq to hang man behind 2012 twin car bombings in Karbala market

A local court in the Iraqi province of Karbala sentenced to death on Thursday a man convicted of being behind 2 car bombings in a market 6 years ago.

The incident occurred in 2012 in the vegetable market of the Karbala town of Al-Hindiya and resulted in the deaths of 7 people, wounding more than 30 others.

The Supreme Judicial Council in a statement said that the Karbala Criminal Court considered the defendant's case, convicted him of having carried out the attacks, and sentenced him to be "hung to death."

The statement did not reveal the identity of the alleged terrorist.

"The terrorist admitted to exploding the 2 cars," the statement read, adding that the court issued its verdict according to the Iraqi anti-terrorism law.

So far, Iraqi authorities have not released the number of terrorism suspects currently in jail, or those facing capital punishment or life imprisonment.

Iraq has accelerated the pace of prosecutions against individuals charged with carrying out terrorist acts since Baghdad declaring final victory over the Islamic State (IS) after a devastating 3-year-long war.

Various human rights organizations, including the United Nations, have repeatedly expressed their concerns with the rising number of death sentences in Iraq.

Aside from their condemnation, the organizations warn that Iraqi authorities' efforts to hasten the implementation of death sentences could lead to the execution of innocent people.



Free after 5 decades on death row, a Japanese man may be forced to return

Every day, in any weather, 82-year-old Iwao Hakamada walks around the small Japanese city of Hamamatsu for up to 6 hours. A volunteer follows a few steps behind to be sure he doesn't get hurt and can find his way home.

Hakamada suffers from a mental condition diagnosed as "prison psychosis," the result of spending nearly 5 decades on death row - thought to be the world record - for a quadruple murder that evidence suggests he did not commit.

In 1966, he was a 30-year-old former professional boxer working at a miso factory, when the manager, along with his wife and 2 children, were found stabbed to death in their home, which was then set on fire. Hakamada lived on-site and was the only suspect. No one could corroborate his alibi that he'd been in his dorm room and rushed to the fire to help put it out.

Police detained him for about 3 weeks and according to records from the detention center, interrogated him for up to 14 hours a day. He alleged they beat him with nightsticks, pricked him with pins to keep him awake and denied him adequate food and water until finally he confessed. He later retracted the confession in court.

"It's striking, almost stunning, how long the interrogations went. Day after day after day, before finally on day 20, Hakamada confessed,” said David Johnson, professor of sociology and an expert on the Japanese justice system at the University of Hawaii. He said false confessions are a major source of wrongful convictions in Japan.

Overall, Japan's conviction rate is above 99 %, meaning almost every criminal case that goes to trial ends in conviction. In part, that’s because prosecutors only bring cases they think they can win, said Johnson, and many of those cases are built on confessions.

Hakamada was imprisoned for 48 years - 30 of them in solitary confinement. Every morning, he awoke at 7 a.m. to find out whether that would be the day he would die by hanging. Japan does not give prisoners advance warning of their executions.

The US and Japan are the only G7 countries that still have capital punishment. The UNHRC has urged Japan to consider abolishing it, pointing to the large number of crimes that can carry a death sentence, the lack of pardons and the execution of elderly and mentally ill convicts.

For Hakamada, decades of living in existential limbo took a toll on his mental health. His decline can be charted in the letters he wrote his family that his sister Hideko keeps in a box at her house, where he now lives.

The earliest letters from the 1960s, are written in neat rows of Japanese characters and filled with hope.

"The report about the 1st trial showed evidence was faked and the court misinterpreted the facts, so I truly believe there will be a retrial and I'll be cleared," one reads. "I'm doing OK so don't worry."

Then in 1980, after 12 years of appeals, the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence. Hideko says that was a turning point for her brother.

"Not long after that, he told me the man in the cell next to his had been taken away and on the way out, he said, 'so long, hope you stay well,' then never came back. And that was when the death penalty became real to him, and it was very scary."

His letters from that time show his mind starting to unravel; he writes about devils tormenting him in the shower.

"I could tell he was getting seriously mentally ill," said Hideko. "So I visited every month, but sometimes he refused to see me. I kept going though, to tell him his family hadn’t abandoned him."

Then nearly 50 years after he was first imprisoned, Hideko filed for a retrial based on new DNA evidence: Hakamada's lawyers said his blood did not match blood from the crime scene.

A district court granted the retrial in 2014, writing it was "possible that key evidence had been fabricated by investigators" and that it was "unjust to detain him because of the clear possibility he was innocent." Hakamada was released to his sister.

"I remember that day so clearly. I was 81 and I smiled for the first time since I was 33," Hideko said. "It was like I became myself again."

It was also a joyful day for a judge in the original case. Norimichi Kumamoto was chief of the 3-judge tribunal that heard Hakamada’s case in 1968. He later said he believed Hakamada was innocent but couldn't convince the other two judges. Still, as head of the panel, he had to write the death sentence. He said the look on Hakamada's face when he heard the sentence haunted him. So he quit the bench a few months later, became estranged from his family and wandered the country.

When Hakamada was released, Kumamoto met him to apologize. The judge was so frail he couldn’t speak but Hideko still thinks the visit meant something to her brother.

That is not the end of the story though. Because in Japan, prosecutors can appeal rulings and this past June, the Tokyo High Court overturned the decision that set Hakamada free.

The case now goes to the Supreme Court. If Hakamada loses his appeal, he could be sent back to death row.

"Obviously it's a tragedy for him if he goes back to death row after being released," said attorney Kiyomi Tsunogae, a member of Hakamada's defense team. "But it’s also a tragedy for this country. I don't know any other nation that has done this. They don't want to admit that they fabricated the evidence and made a mistake 50 years ago."

Tsunoga said judges are political appointees and can sometimes be more concerned with satisfying the government than administering justice.

Still, there were concerns about how the DNA evidence was handled - the expert witness failed to keep records, for example. Despite that, Johnson at the University of Hawaii said he thinks the court made the wrong decision and Hakamada should have been granted a retrial.

"I believe he's actually innocent but I can't be 100 % sure of it," said Johnson.

Johnson said it's possible Hakamada could be sent back to death row but then granted executive clemency, and that it could actually increase public support for the death penalty because the government would be seen as acting mercifully. For now, the court has allowed Hakamada to remain free on bail at his sister's house and a community group formed to help care for him. Every day, a volunteer named Ino drives over an hour from her house to cook lunch and make sure there is always someone to accompany him on his walks.

Hakamada himself doesn't seem to fully grasp his situation but remains upbeat.

"I feel good, I'm healthy," he said. "The world is developing and becoming a good world - the companies tell you, you can make a lot of money and the authorities don’t punish you anymore."

His sister just listens and doesn't push him to talk about his time in prison.

"Even death row inmates, they're not animals. They're still human and they should be treated with humanity - so I do think Japan should get rid of the death penalty," she said. "As for my brother, of course, I'd like the Supreme Court to say he's innocent but if he gets to stay out of prison, that's better than nothing."

(source: WUWM news)


The judgement aims to increase the threshold for sentencing someone to death.----Justice Kurian Joseph's Last Judgment Sparks Debate on the Death Penalty

As Justice Kurian Joseph retires on Thursday, he will be remembered for his last judgment, which will further limit the grounds for imposing the death penalty. In Chhannu Lal Verma vs the State of Chattisgarh, Justice Joseph, while commuting the death sentence of the appellant to life imprisonment, observed that the time had come to review the need for the death penalty as a punishment, especially its purpose and practice.

The other 2 judges on the bench, Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, while agreeing that the death penalty imposed on the appellant in this case must be commuted to life imprisonment, disagreed with Justice Joseph's observation. According to them, since the constitution bench in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab had upheld capital punishment, there was no need to re-examine it at this stage.

The constitution bench upheld capital punishment in the Bachan Singh case way back in 1980. The question which the 2 judges on the bench did not answer is this: If the passage of almost 40 years is not reason enough to review the judgment, what would be the appropriate stage for such an exercise?

Justice Joseph did not seek the reconsideration of the Bachan Singh judgment, but only sought to re-examine the purpose and practice of the death penalty, and whether as a punishment, it serves any goal at all. In other words, the death penalty can continue to remain constitutionally valid because of the Bachan Singh judgment, but its application in substantive cases coming before the court must be restricted to only those cases which meet the criteria laid down in that case.

It is now trite to say that Supreme Court judges have mostly misapplied the rarest of rare doctrine. In Bachan Singh, the court held that the death penalty could only be imposed if the alternative of life imprisonment is 'unquestionably foreclosed'. It's unfortunate that ever since Bachan Singh, judges of the Supreme Court who pretended to apply the death penalty based on what they determined to be severe crimes, closed their eyes to the word 'unquestionably' in that judgment.

The alternative of a life sentence in a murder case could only be unquestionably foreclosed if it could not be imposed on a convict, for reasons such as his lack of potential for reformation, or absence of any mitigating factor. The meaning of the word 'any' here also failed to resonate with post-Bachan Singh judges for many years. The word 'any', as common sense would suggest, cannot be understood in plurality. That is, even if there is a single mitigating factor in favour of the accused, it should necessarily be considered by a judge as reason enough to suggest that life imprisonment as an optional punishment cannot be 'unquestionably foreclosed'.

In other words, contrary to what many would think, the constitution bench, even while upholding the constitutionality of the death sentence, had in fact made it nearly impossible for future judges to impose it through a strict construction of the rarest of rare doctrine.

In Bachan Singh, the bench upheld the constitutionality of the death sentence primarily because the 35th report of the Law Commission, submitted in 1967, justified its retention, based on responses to its questionnaires sent to persons from different walks of life. There has been a tidal change in public opinion since then. The 262nd report of the Law Commission, prepared and submitted in 2015, following a request made by the Supreme Court itself, took a different view, after extensive research and with a slant towards an international approach.

Indeed, Justice Joseph relied on this 2015 report to hold that the constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh has failed to prevent death sentences from being "arbitrarily and freakishly imposed" and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionality valid penological goals.

Therefore, the view of the 2 judges on the bench presided by Justice Joseph that there is no need to re-examine the constitutionality of capital punishment is tantamount to disassociating from the wisdom of the two previous Supreme Court benches which commissioned the Law Commission's 2nd project on the validity of the death penalty. In both Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar vs State of Maharashra (2009) and Shankar Kisanrao Khade vs State of Maharashtra (2013), the Supreme Court sought the Law Commission’s intervention to resolve the issue. Surely, their reasoning was not merely to add to the academic literature on the subject, but to make necessary correctives in death penalty jurisprudence.

Landmark judgment

Having said that, Justice Joseph deserves to be complimented for laying down a few key principles which will be difficult to ignore by any sentencing judge.

1st, if a jail superintendent provides a certificate attesting to a convict's good behaviour, it stands reasonable to suggest that the accused possesses the potential to reform himself, and therefore life imprisonment would suffice to meet the ends of justice.

2nd, the Justice Joseph-led bench held that without certified psychological/psychiatric evaluation, it would be improper to preclude the possibility or probability of reform. The state must bear this in mind while furnishing evidence that a convict is incapable of reform or rehabilitation. In other words, the burden rests on the prosecution to establish the lack of reformative potential of the criminal.

Unfortunately, as has been witnessed over the years, the prosecution often exercises this responsibility with considerable indifference. Without questioning the absence of any evidence pertaining to the lack of a convict's reformative capacity, the courts too effectively condone this lapse with a similar degree of apathy. In many cases, the courts themselves concluded that the accused was beyond reformation - based solely on the heinous nature of the offence and without seeking supporting forensic and scientific reports. Hopefully, this distressing trend will come to an end with this judgement.

3rd, the imposition of the death penalty can be vacated if the accused is able to demonstrate being denied procedural fairness and due process during the trial. In this case, not having a separate hearing for sentencing after the trial and holding it on the same day when the accused was convicted was cited as a reason why he could not get sufficient time to furnish evidence relevant to sentencing and mitigation.

4th, in this case, the prosecution argued that the accused failed to establish emotional instability resulting from being falsely implicated of rape by one of the deceased as the reason for committing murder. He was convicted for killing three persons. But the Supreme Court rejected this contention by holding that the court can independently search for a mitigating factor in favour of the accused, even if the latter did not himself come forward to cite one.

The other 2 judges on the bench felt the present was not the appropriate time to re-examine Bachan Singh. The question does not arise because it was not an issue in this case, as the appellant had not challenged the constitutionality of the death sentence itself. Therefore, even if the 2 judges had not expressed their disagreement with Justice Kurian on this question, it would not have altered the result of their verdict, as the chief justice of India was unlikely to constitute a larger bench to reconsider Bachan Singh merely because this bench wanted to debate the validity of the death penalty.

To reconsider Bachan Singh, it is important that a Supreme Court bench expresses its reservations regarding its rectitude through a reasoned order - requesting the CJI to initiate a review, while explaining what substantial questions of law require clarification by a larger bench.



SC upholds constitutional validity of death penalty in 2:1 judgment; dissenting judge says time has come to review capital punishment

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 two 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 gave 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.

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, 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," Joseph, who wrote judgment for the bench, said.

Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta gave divergent opinion on the views expressed by 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 versus State of Punjab, has upheld capital punishment, there is no need to re-examine the same at this stage," Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta said.

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.

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.

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 3 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.



Federal Court upholds death sentence for 'Tuhan Harun' followers

2 "Tuhan Harun" followers are to hang for the murder of Pahang Islamic Religious Department (Jaip) Enforcement Division principal assistant director, Ahmad Raffli Abd Malek, in 2013.

This follows a unanimous decision by a 5-man bench of the Federal Court today to dismiss Sumustapha Suradi and Shamsinar Abdul Halim’s final appeals and upheld their convictions and the death penalty.

Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum who led the bench held that the duo’s appeals did not have merit.

The other judges on the bench were Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop and Federal Court judges Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed, Datuk Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin and Datuk Rohana Yusuf.

Sumustapha, 43, and Shamsinar, 41, were sent to the gallows by the Kuantan High Court in 2016 after they were found guilty of murdering Ahmad Raffli.

The 49-year-old deceased was shot outside his house in Bandar Indera Mahkota, Kuantan, on November 10, 2013.

The duo lost their appeals at the appellate court, which were dismissed on February 8, this year.

Cult leader Harun Mat Saat, better known as 'Tuhan Harun' (God Harun), was also charged with conspiring in the murder. However, the charge against him was dropped on August 26, 2016 after he died at the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital, Kuantan on August 16, 2016 due to respiratory problems.

Lawyer Iskandar Shah Ibrahim represented the duo while deputy public prosecutor Ku Hayati Ku Haron appeared for the prosecution.

The last option left for both men is to file a petition for clemency to the Pardons Board.



Malaysia death penalty abolition opens door to drug policy review----Campaign to legalise use of medical cannabis gathers momentum in the country known for draconian approach to drugs.

Drugs have long attracted the harshest penalties here.

Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, anyone found with 200 grams of cannabis, 40 grams of cocaine, and 15 grams of heroin or morphine risks being charged with drug trafficking - a crime that carries the death penalty.

The burden of proof doesn't even fall on the prosecution.

It is the accused who must show the drugs are not theirs.

As a result, the majority of people behind bars in Malaysia are there because of drugs.

Nearly 3/4 of the 1,281 people on death row at the end of October have been convicted of drug crimes. And just over 1/2 of the more than 65,000 prisoners in the country's jails.

But with the government now in the process of abolishing the death penalty, the country's punitive approach to drugs is also under review.

"The bulk of prisoners are drug-related offenders and this is where we have to re-look the definition of drugs - dangerous drugs, especially - with the development of certain drugs that can be used for medicinal purposes like marijuana or morphine that can be used in cancer treatment," Malaysia's de facto Law Minister Liew Vui Kheong told Al Jazeera in an interview.

Around the world, there has been a discernible shift in policies towards drugs, particularly in relation to the medicinal use of cannabis.

In October, Canada legalised the recreational use of cannabis arguing it would reduce the profits of organised crime and ensure regulation of a drug that millions of Canadians were already using. It had allowed the use of the plant for medicinal reasons since 2001.

Argentina, meanwhile, provides medical cannabis for free and 30 states in the US have also approved the drug for medical reasons.

Even in Asia, where drug policies have long been among the world's most draconian, exemplified by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody "war on drugs", Thailand is taking steps to legalise the use of cannabis for research and medicinal purposes.

In Malaysia, 2 recent cases of men facing the death penalty for selling medical cannabis have given the debate renewed urgency.

Muhammad Lukman, 29, was sentenced to death at the end of August, three years after he was arrested in possession of 3 litres of cannabis oil, 279 grams of compressed cannabis, and 1.4kg of a substance containing tetrahydro cannabidiol (THC), the psychoactive element of cannabis.

In court his lawyer argued he was an alternative healer who helped ease the pain of those with cancer and other conditions, even giving away the drugs for free to those from poor backgrounds.

A petition to free him has more than 70,000 signatures and support from MPs in the ruling coalition.

'Prohibition era'

Amiruddin Nadarajan Abdullah, popularly known as Dr Ganja (the local name for marijuana), is facing 36 charges including the death penalty on similar grounds.

Amiruddin began using cannabis to cope with the pain from kidney problems and a tumour in his back.

"The war on drugs has failed," said Intan Mustika, cofounder of the Malaysia Society of Awareness, which has been campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use since 2011. "We are living in a prohibition era, in Asian countries especially. We need a different approach."

The same year that MASA was founded, an audit of Malaysia's criminal justice system found that drug crimes dominated the caseload at all levels with few alternatives to imprisonment or pre-release schemes.

"People will continue to use drugs, for a variety of reasons, no matter how strict the laws are," Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, told Al Jazeera.

"So when a government cracks down harshly not only on drug trafficking but also use and possession, this inevitably leads to mass incarceration and prison overcrowding."

Fifa Rahman spent 6 years advocating for decriminalisation as a policy officer at the Malaysian Aids Council.

She left Malaysia in 2016 thinking her work had gone to waste.

"People didn't see there were rational reasons for decriminalisation," she told Al Jazeera on the phone from Leeds where she is now studying for a doctorate. "People thought it was a crazy idea."

Despite its generally punitive approach to drugs, Malaysia has run harm reduction programmes for drug-users since 2005 as part of its attempt to curb the spread of HIV and protect public health.

According to Harm Reduction International, the country is one of only a handful of upper-middle-income countries that have made a "sizeable national government investment" in harm reduction, spending $5.4m in 2015, according to the Global AIDS Response Progress Report.

But May's change in government, as well as a realisation of the costs of incarceration, have given additional momentum to non-punitive approaches.

MASA's Intan, who has hypokalemia, a potassium deficiency that causes muscle cramps and spasms, said she has been jailed a "few times" for drug use, but that cannabis helped ease the pain of her illness when conventional medicines couldn't.

"All the time in hospital it looked like there was nothing that would work for me," the 40-year-old said. "I would rather be illegally healed than legally die."

'Punished for desperation' Crucial for the success of any policy change will be support from the police who are concerned about the increasing amount of synthetic drugs, like methamphetamines, that are being seized.

The Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department told local media it seized drugs worth a record $83.5m between January and November this year, the highest since the unit was established 22 years ago.

A data-based review of any decriminalisation within 5 years might help reassure police and public security groups, Fifa said. She adds that her research showed most of those jailed in Malaysia for drug crimes were poor people.

"I don't think that prison is the best approach," she said. "These are generally people who did not get the best opportunities in life and are being punished for their desperation."

Malaysia spends about $10 a day on each of the 65,222 inmates in the country's jails, according to Liew. That figure includes food, clothing and personal items provided to the prisoners, as well as the salaries of the guards and other staff.

Changes to the legislation surrounding drugs would mean that some prisoners would no longer have to serve a sentence, he added, with the money instead being used to develop education programmes for young people around the misuse and abuse of drugs.

MASA is working on research designed to show the medical benefits of cannabis, and have met senior politicians in their campaign to get the drug legalised for medical purposes.

"I think most Malaysians are quite open to the idea that ganja is medicine," Intan said. "It's not something people don't recognise. It's been used way back by our ancestors."

(source: Al Jazeera)


Singapore should follow Malaysia in abolishing death penalty

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is disappointed that Singapore, which is just 1 of 4 countries still conducting execution for drug offences in 2017, went ahead and hanged 31-year-old Malaysian Prabu Pathmanathan on 26 October 2018.

Prabu was sentenced to death for committing several acts preparatory to and for the purposes of trafficking 228g of diamorphine or heroin into the island state on 31 December 2014 (Malaysiakini, 26 October 2018).

According to a report in The Online Citizen, Prabu was just one of a possible four individuals who were executed that week. TOC reported: "Ali Bin Mohamad Bahashwan was executed alongside his co-accused Selamat Bin Paki on Wednesday afternoon (24 October 2018)... Irwan Ali, a Singaporean, is the other inmate who is set to be executed this Friday..." (TOC, 26 October 2018).

The Singapore Prison Service 2017 annual report showed 8 people were executed in 2017, up from 4 in 2016. Actual statistics of executions carried out in 2018 cannot be confirmed, as Singapore continues to be 'secretive' and not transparent with such data. It is believed that there may have already been about 8 executions to date in 2018.

Many times in Singapore, one becomes aware of upcoming executions only when the immediate family is informed days before and takes the trouble to inform anti-death penalty advocates and groups.

The death sentence is provided for drug-related crimes in about 15 countries, but according to Amnesty International only 4 countries recorded drug offence executions in 2017 - Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China (South China Morning Post/SCMP, 26 October 2018).

In reality, the majority of those executed for drug trafficking will not be "kingpin" but are just low-level offenders.

Many may have been driven to crime through poverty, which highlights a failure of governments in ensuring the wellbeing and livelihood of its people. Singapore, Malaysia and other states must really look into the link of poverty to crime, and maybe the solution to crime reduction may be a caring government policy that will ensure that no one will ever need to resort to crime out of desperation for the wellbeing of themselves and their families.

Singapore also needs to strive to become a more caring and civilised nation and do away with the archaic death penalty just like neighbouring Malaysia, which has already made the decision to totally abolish the death penalty.

In Malaysia, the necessary bills will be tabled at this current parliamentary session, which will give effect to the cabinet decision to abolish the death penalty.

Madpet calls on Singapore to follow neighbouring Malaysia and abolish the death penalty, as we strive forward for a more caring and civilised Asean where there is no more death penalty and torture.

Madpet also calls on Malaysia to immediately identify Malaysians on death row at risk of being executed in Singapore prisons and proactively act now to save them from being executed by Singapore. This is a priority, as knowledge about impending executions only comes to light at the 11th hour and that too in only certain cases.

Madpet further calls on Singapore to impose a moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty.

(source: Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)


Supreme Court confirms death sentence for wife beheader

The Supreme Court yesterday confirmed the death sentence on a Binga man who axed his wife 11 times and chopped off her head before hiding it in a cardboard box following a domestic dispute.

Wonder Munsaka (33) of Zenka Village under Chief Siabuwa was last year convicted of murder with actual intent by Bulawayo High Court Justice Nokuthula Moyo and sentenced to death by hanging.

Munsaka axed his wife of 10 years, Fortunate Mutale (23) on the forehead, right palm and finger before chopping off the head in October 2014.

Supreme Court judge Justice Antonia Guvava sitting with Justices Rita Makarau and Francis Bere on circuit in Bulawayo dismissed his appeal, saying the bench was satisfied that Justice Moyo could not be faulted for passing a death sentence given the circumstances under which the offence was committed.

"The assault upon the deceased was vicious and protracted and the injuries were inflicted by the axe and directed at her head. The appellant struck the deceased no less than 11 times," said Justice Guvava.

She said Munsaka's version of events was contradictory, an indication that he changed his story as the trial progressed Justice Guvava said Justice Moyo's exercise of discretion to impose the death penalty in the circumstances could not be impugned since the murder was committed in aggravating circumstances.

"The murder was committed in aggravating circumstances. Accordingly, we are of the unanimous decision that the appeal both against conviction and sentence lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed," she ruled.

Munsaka, through his lawyers Shenje and Company, conceded that the conviction was proper. He however, sought an order for a life imprisonment, arguing that the sentence imposed by the High Court induced a sense of shock.

"Wherefore, the appellant seeks to impugn his sentence and pray that it be set aside and substituted with a sentence of life imprisonment," said Munsaka's lawyers.

Chief Public Prosecutor Mrs Tariro Rosa Takuva, in her head of argument, said the death sentence was proper since the murder was committed under aggravating circumstances. "It is common cause that the murder was accompanied by mutilation when the appellant relentlessly struck the deceased with an axe to the point of decapitating her head. The murder was committed in aggravating circumstances and the death sentence is therefore appropriate in the circumstances," she argued. According to State papers, on October 7 in 2014 at around 9PM, Munsaka and his wife had a domestic dispute at their matrimonial homestead. He got angry and struck his wife using an axe once on the forehead, right palm and finger and behind the right ear. Munsaka also struck her on the upper lip and nose. During the scuffle, Mutale bolted out of the kitchen screaming for help with her husband in hot pursuit.

She fell down and Munsaka chopped off her head with the axe. He put the head in a large cardboard box and hid it under their bed. After committing the crime, he went to Nabusenga Dam where he washed his blood-stained clothes and the axe.

Ms Agnes Mutale, a neighbour who heard the deceased screaming for help went to Munsaka's grandmother, Ms Mavu Mwinde's homestead and notified her. Ms Mwinde went to her grandson's place and found the deceased's body lying in a pool of blood in an open space in the yard and the head was missing.

A report was made to the police who combed the house and found the head hidden under the bed. According to post mortem results, the cause of death was spinal cord injury, decapitation, chop wound and homicide.

Munsaka took his 2 minor children to his parents' home where he intended to leave them before he could proceed to Zambia. However, when he returned he found neighbours and the police officers gathered at his homestead. He tried to flee but was apprehended by the police officers.

Prior to the trial, Munsaka in 2014 claimed that he was mentally unstable prompting the courts to send him to psychiatrists for examinations. Dr Nemache Mawere, a psychiatrist who examined Munsaka concluded that he was mentally stable.



Aregbesola pardons prisoners on death penalty, reduces sentences

Immediate past governor of Osun State Rauf Aregbesola has pardoned 4 prisoners on death penalties.

The former governor also reduced the sentences of 2 others prisoners on death penalties to 10 years, as 1 of his last duties in the office.

Osun state Head of Service, Dr Oyebade Olowogboyega, disclosed the governor's pardon in a statement.

The beneficiaries are Kazeem Adiamo, who was sentenced to death in 2012, and Adesina Bolaji, sentenced to death in 2006, both now pardoned.

Also on the list also was Kayode Dada, sentenced to death in 2006, but had the death sentence commuted to a life sentence in 2006, and Adewale Owolabi sentenced to death, but now freed.

The affected inmates were being kept at the Federal Prison, Ibara, Ogun state.

Others with a reduced sentencing are Lateefat Jimoh, who was sentenced to death but her sentence has now been commuted to 10 years imprisonment and Fatai Jimoh, also sentenced to death but his sentence has now been commuted to 10 years in prison.



Zambia to maintain moratorium on death penalty: official

The Zambian government has voted in the affirmative on the maintenance of a moratorium oo the death penalty at the United Nations (UN), a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Minister of Justice Given Lubinda said President Edgar Lungu directed the country's embassy in the United States (US) to vote in the affirmative after having abstained from voting on the moratorium for years.

The Zambian minister, in remarks delivered ahead of a conference on the 10th anniversary of the campaign against the death penalty in Rome, said the decision to vote in the affirmative was made in 2016 but has just been actualized, according to a press release.

According to him, despite the death penalty still being upheld in the country's constitution, no Zambian leader has signed it since 1998 when late President Frederick Chiluba appended the execution of a prisoner.

The decision not to sign death penalties has earned Zambia the reputation as an abolitionist in implementing the death penalty, he added.

However, he said unlike other laws that could easily be amended, the death penalty was part of the bill of rights that could only be amended through a referendum.

Lubinda said incumbent President Lungu has commuted more death penalties to life imprisonment than any other leader in the country.



Capital punishment neither useful nor necessary, says Italy's minister

There can be no justification for the death penalty, which is "neither useful nor necessary" Italy's foreign minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said on Wednesday, recalling that Italy has always been at the forefront of a global campaign to abolish capital punishment.

"The death penalty is neither useful nor necessary," Moavero told the international conference 'For a World Without the Death Penalty' taking place at the Italian lower house of parliament.

"Italy was one of the first countries to abolish capital punishment and has a clear position: we oppose the death penalty and want it removed from nations' statute books," he said.

"We favour a moratorium on its application wherever it exists."