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

OCTOBER 18, 2018:

TEXAS----new execution date

Execution date set for local man who killed 3 over failing marriage

8 days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected what could be his final appeal, a Waco state district judge set an execution date Wednesday afternoon for a Central Texas man who killed 3 members of his estranged wife's family in 1989.

Billy Wayne Coble, 70, initially refused to enter the courtroom for the sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon after his appellate attorney failed to show up.

Waco lawyer Russ Hunt, Jr. was appointed to represent him in the hearing and State District Judge Matt Johnson set a Feb. 28, 2019 execution date.

Coble was convicted in 1990 of killing his in-laws, Robert and Zelda Vicha, and their son, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, at the family's Axtell home

After shooting the three, Coble kidnapped his estranged wife, Karen Vicha, threatened to sexually assault and kill her, but was injured when he crashed his vehicle during a police chase in Bosque County.

Coble has a list of appeals, the only 1 successful filed in 2007 with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that resulted in the dismissal of the death sentence and an order for re-trial on punishment after the court's opinion stated Coble’s jury faced 2 questions that were unconstitutional.

The punishment re-trial ended with the same result, a death sentence.

A retired police officer who worked on the Coble case and a current district judge who back then was a prosecutor and who took Coble to trial on the capital murder case for the 1st time were among a few dozen people who crowded into the 54th District Courtroom on Wednesday to watch the hearing.

After a few minutes the judge asked one of the bailiffs why Coble wasn't in the courtroom and the bailiff said he was refusing to leave the holding cell.

Johnson sent a squad of bailiffs to retrieve Coble, but they reported he refused to come to the courtroom, after which Johnson called the case, read the preliminary documents concerning the appeals Coble has filed since his conviction, and then set the date.

Truman Simons, a former police officer, sheriff's deputy and now a private investigator, worked on the Coble case back in 1989.

"He killed his (father-in-law) 1st and wrapped him up in a rug," Simons said.

"Then he tied up the 2 kids and shot Bobby Vicha.

"Then he ...waited in the garage where he killed Zelda (Vicha) and kidnapped (his estranged wife) Karen," Simons said.

Former McLennan County Assistant District Attorney J.R. Vicha, o1 of the 2 children Coble tied up that day, was only 11-years-old at the time his family was murdered.

The boy, along with 2 of his cousins, were tied up inside the home while the killings took place.

During the 2008 punishment re-trial trial, prosecuted by retired Assistant District Attorney Crawford Long, Long told the jury that Coble "has a heart filled with scorpions."

(source: KWTS news)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----37

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----555

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

38---------Oct. 24----------------Kwame Rockwell--------556

39---------Nov. 7-----------------Emanuel Kemp, Jr.-------557

40---------Nov. 14----------------Robert Ramos------------558

41---------Dec. 4-----------------Joseph Garcia-------------559

42---------Dec. 11----------------Alvin Braziel, Jr.---------560

43---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam--------------561

44---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings-----------562

45---------Feb. 28----------------Billy Wayne Coble-------563

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

*************************************----impending execution

Kwame Rockwell Will Be the Next Disabled Person Executed by America----America's courts still don't have clear protections for defendants with severe mental illness.

Unless last-ditch appeals are successful, the next person to be executed in the United States of America is going to be Kwame Rockwell. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has scheduled his execution for October 24th. The state had planned to execute Rockwell along with another prisoner, Juan Segundo, but Segundo's death was stayed by the Texas Court of Appeals. Together, the cases epitomize deep problems with enforcement of the death penalty. Both prisoners are people of color in a state where prosecutors overwhelmingly only seek the death penalty against non-white offenders, and both are disabled. Segundo has an intellectual disability, and last year the Supreme Court finally established clarity around diagnostic standards required to exempt people with such conditions. Rockwell has schizophrenia. His lawyers didn't bring it up at trial, and appeals courts refused to consider his condition.

America still doesn't have clear protections for people with severe mental illness. These 2 cases in Texas remind us of the unfortunate diagnostic limitations that protect only some people with disabilities from the death penalty. (Of course, it's also long past time to just abolish the death penalty altogether.

Last year, Arkansas announced plans to kill 8 prisoners in a rush before their lethal injection drugs could expire; the state actually executed 4. The 1st to die was Ledell Lee, an African-American man with fetal alcohol syndrome. He might have been innocent. After his death, I started to ask a simple question of experts who provide and organize legal defense for condemned prisoners: How many people on death row are disabled? The answer came back unanimously: pretty much all of them. The news last spring wasn't all bad, though. About a week before Lee's execution, the Supreme Court struck down the "Lennie Standard," by which Texan judges could issue the death penalty as long as a convicted man's mental capacity was higher than that of the fictional character Lennie in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. In Moore v. Texas, the court demanded instead that states use the best available medical experts in assessing intellectual disability. There's still plenty of room for bias in that medical model, but it's better than using literary analysis to decide life and death.

As I reported those stories, it became clear to me that many legal experts believe they can save lives through generating an exception for severe mental illness, similar to the one that Moore v. Texas grants for intellectual disability. The twin executions planned in Texas demonstrate precisely why that's needed. Segundo was initially condemned under the Lennie Standard, but now the Texas Court of Appeals has followed Moore by issuing a stay and sending the case back to the lower courts to arrive at a more accurate assessment of Segundo's disability. There's no guarantee that Segundo will be spared, but he's safe for now.

Severe schizophrenia and similar conditions are a fairly common mitigating factor in capital crimes, but there's no absolute standard requiring a court to assess mental disabilities or to take them into account during sentencing. In trial, Rockwell's lawyers didn't even raise the question of his mental disabilities, a fact that his appeal lawyers used as evidence of "ineffective counsel." The Texas Court of Appeals, though, turned down his appeal, and so far the Supreme Court has declined to intervene. I don't know whether Rockwell's schizophrenia should be a mitigating factor in assessing his culpability, but neither does the state of Texas.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, was one of the experts I consulted when working on disability and the death penalty last year. At the time, he raised the hope that we might be close to forging a mental-health exemption to capital punishment, but now he says that we're in "pretty much the same place" as we were 15 months ago. Citing a 2014 poll, he tells me that 2/3 of Americans don't believe that people with severe mental illness should be executed, and notes that over a half-dozen different bills creating an exemption were introduced in state legislatures last session, but they all went nowhere. Meanwhile, courts also haven't ruled such executions unconstitutional.

"This execution is in many respects typical of the cases that end up in execution," Dunham says of the Rockwell case. "If the evidence of mental illness had been properly presented at trial, he would never have been sentenced to death."

The status quo is shifting: Just last week, the state of Washington abolished the death penalty after a compelling statistical analysis demonstrated that juries were 4 times more likely to condemn black defendants than white defendants. Eventually, either wholesale abolition or at least expanded exemptions will come to the remaining death penalty states, including Texas, but likely not in time for Kwame Rockwell.



Death Watch: Rockwell Schizophrenic or Faker?----1 execution stayed, another set for Oct. 24

The Court of Criminal Appeals has spared the life of Texas death row inmate Juan Segundo - at least for now. Segundo, who faced execution on Oct. 10, was granted a stay just days before in light of the Supreme Court's 2017 ruling in Moore v. Texas. Like Bobby Moore, Segundo asserts that he is intellectually disabled and, therefore, ineligible for execution. Further orders from the CCA are still pending.

In the meantime, another inmate faces execution on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Kwame Rockwell, a Fort Worth man, was convicted of killing two people during a botched store robbery in 2010. Though the U.S. Supreme Court denied Rockwell's last appeal for relief in Oct. 2017, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals approved a request for Rockwell's previous lawyer to withdraw, and appointed David Dow as substitute counsel on Oct. 2. That's often seen as a sign of impending legislation, but few court filings have been made since and Dow did not respond to requests for comment.

According to court records, the same day Dow was assigned to Rockwell's case, an amended motion for leave to file for reasonably necessary funds "ex parte and under seal" was received in a U.S. District Court. Two days later, the state filed their response detailing Rockwell's request for funding to "litigate a state competency-to-be-executed proceeding," which the state argued is not "reasonably necessary." Rockwell alleges that he suffers from schizophrenia, but the state argues that he's faking his illness, noting that both his trial attorneys and "own mother" believe he's malingering. The state also claims that Rockwell's request does not require ex parte confidentiality. Fort Worth federal court Judge Reed C. O'Connor filed a sealed order the same day that the state filed their response, but according to O'Connor's staff, what's in that order is not a matter of public record.

What happens next in Rockwell's case remains a mystery - court records haven't been updated since Oct. 4. Rockwell is expected to be the 11th inmate executed this year. 3 more are scheduled for this year.

There had been 6 men slated for end-of-year executions, but a Tarrant County trial court stayed the execution of Emanuel Kemp, scheduled for Nov. 7, to conduct additional forensic testing. Kemp, who landed on death row in the late Eighties, had since been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and was eventually deemed too ill for execution. But according to the Houston Chronicle, the D.A. unexpectedly requested the November date before approving an order to halt Kemp's execution pending DNA testing.

(source: Austin Chronicle)


Attorney: Autism diagnosis could keep killer alive

Attorneys at a Wednesday hearing differed over whether convicted murderer Micah Crofford Brown suffers from autism spectrum disorder and whether it would have saved his life before a jury sentenced him to death 5 years ago.

Brown was convicted in May 2013 of capital murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection for the 2011 shooting death of his ex-wife, Stella Michelle "Doc" Ray, a Caddo Mills school teacher.

Testimony in the evidentiary hearing for Brown's latest appeal ended in late July, and attorneys from both sides made their final arguments Wednesday morning before 196th District Court Judge Andrew Bench.

"Micah Brown deserves a new trial," said defense attorney Natalie Corvington with the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, which filed the appeal of Brown's death sentence.

But the prosecution's attorney, Tina Miranda of the Texas Attorney General's Office, countered that the trial attorneys may not have even considered presenting the diagnosis to the jury as part of the defense strategy.

"It is equally probable they could have found that harmful," Miranda said.

At the close of the hearing Bench said he would review the arguments before making a decision.

Testimony during the trial indicated Ray was shot and killed in Greenville on the night of July 20, 2011, as the result of a dispute with Brown concerning the couple's 2 children.

After the conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a last-ditch appeal called a "post-conviction writ" was filed in 2015 by the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, a state public defender agency charged with representing convicts sentenced to death in appeals proceedings.

The 124-page document listed multiple alleged problems with Brown’s conviction and sentence, including "ineffective assistance" by the defense attorneys in the trial and initial appeals hearings; "improper arguments" by prosecutors during the punishment phase; and failure to present "evidence during the punishment phase that Brown suffers from autism spectrum disorder."

The condition is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior, which, Corvington argued, may have mitigated the jury’s decision to issue the death penalty.

Corvington said the trial defense team failed to listen to a mitigation specialist who suggested Brown may have the disorder. She told the court that the disorder "could be responsible for how he appeared as remorseless and unemotional during the commission of the murder, during police interviews and interrogations and while testifying in his own defense during trial."

"None of this is justification, of course, but it is by its definition mitigating," Corvington said, noting how the revelation of the condition potentially could have convinced "just 1 juror" against returning with the death penalty. "Autism explains all of it."

Miranda responded by noting that defense attorneys did present at trial other information provided by mitigation specialists showing that Brown suffers from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. She said the disorder would have accounted for many of the same symptoms.

"I don't know what else counsel could have done," Miranda countered, adding that about 80 of Brown's family members and friends were interviewed by the defense about the case - none of whom mentioned that Brown had or might have autism.

"That's where the red flags [about potential autism disorder] should have come from," she said.

Brown, who has been in custody at the Hunt County Detention Center since the July hearing, was to be transferred back to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division following Bench's final ruling in the appeal.

An execution date has not yet been scheduled for Brown.

(source: Herald Banner)


City man on death row seeks new trial----Staton claims attorney failed to present evidence

An Altoona man who was sentenced to death 12 years ago for the stabbing death of his estranged girlfriend is seeking a new trial based on his attorney's failure to present evidence of his alleged "diminished capacity" during his attack on her.

Andre Staton, 55, is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Greene County.

He was sentenced to death in May 2006 after being convicted of 1st-degree murder for the killing of Beverly Yohn, 26, whom he attacked on Feb. 25, 2004, after breaking through the back door of the home where the victim was staying with her 3 children.

Staton stabbed Yohn 12 times and then fled to his native Baltimore where he was arrested 3 days later.

An aggravating circumstance presented during the death penalty stage of his case was that he was under a protection-from-abuse order at the time he stabbed Yohn.

Since his conviction and death sentence, Staton, through multiple attorneys, has repeatedly attempted to obtain a new trial.

His most recent try came Thursday when he filed a petition with the U.S. District Court in Johnstown contending his attorney was ineffective for not attempting to introduce evidence of diminished capacity during the guilt phase of his case.

Staton contends his counsel failed to "investigate, develop and present expert testimony in support of the defense theory that (his) history of depression and fit of rage on the day in question, rendered him incapable of forming a specific intent to commit 1st-degree murder."

Staton stated there were many factors in his life, including brain injury, that "rendered him incapable of forming a specific intent on the day of the crime."

His attorney's failure to present such information until the penalty phase of his trial, he contended, was unreasonable.

He explained that he had been interviewed by psychologists and a psychiatrist who noted he had medical problems as a child and suffered throughout his life from substance abuse of cocaine and PCP, also known as angel dust.

Staton also stated he had several psychiatric hospitalizations over the years.

He concluded in his petition that had there been expert medical testimony presented during the guilt phase of the trial, "There is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different."

Whether the motions in Staton's petition will ever be heard remains a question because on Monday, U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti in Pittsburgh ruled that she would not consider his new petition and instructed him to continue to meet with his present court-appointed attorneys to prepare an acceptable petition for a new trial.

Court records show that Staton remains at odds with his court-appointed attorneys, John A. Schwab and Robert Perkins, both of Pittsburgh.

Staton was upset with Schwab for preparing a petition without consulting him, federal court records show.

Conti met with Schwab, Perkins and Blair County Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul on Monday to discuss Staton's post-trial appeal at the federal level.

She denied his motion for a new attorney "without prejudice," meaning he can refile it if the differences with his present attorneys cannot be resolved.

The federal record shows that Staton has already had 6 attorneys appointed for him.

He has a history of not getting along with his attorneys and in 2013 attacked Ebensburg attorney Tim Burns following a hearing before Blair County President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle.

Burns suffered a severe concussion in the attack.

Staton argued in his petition presented to Conti that his diminished capacity argument has never before been raised by his appeal attorneys.

(source: Altoona Mirror)


Delaware High Court Rejects Convicted Murderer's Appeal

The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled that a man serving life without parole for the rape and murder of a 68-year-old woman has failed to offer any new evidence to prove his innocence.

The Delaware State News reports that the court ruled against Ambrose Sykes's motion for post-conviction relief.

Sykes, now in his 40s, was sentenced to death for the 2004 rape and strangulation of retired teacher Virginia Trimnell. Delaware abolished its death penalty in 2016, a decision that applied retroactively.

The court said Sykes' lawyer raised "speculative and implausible theories" about how someone else could have been involved in the crime, and speculated that Sykes had a consensual relationship with the elderly woman without so much as a sworn statement from Sykes himself.

(source: Associated Press)


"Relic of Another Era": Most People on North Carolina's Death Row Would Not Be Sentenced to Die Today

In the summer of 2001, North Carolina executed 42-year-old Ronald Wayne Frye, convicted of stabbing and robbing his 70-year-old landlord in 1993. The crime was brutal and there was no question of his guilt. Yet the circumstances of Frye's trial and conviction would come to shock members of the public - and even members of his own jury - as his execution approached. 2 jurors came forward to say that they would not have sentenced Frye to death row had they known then what they had since learned.

Like many who end up on death row, Frye lived a life marked by severe abuse and trauma. This history was never investigated by his defense attorneys, despite the fact that it would have made for powerful mitigating evidence. "A background of neglect and abuse would have changed my decision and my vote," one juror told the Hickory Daily Record weeks before Frye's execution. Among the evidence the jury never heard was that Frye's mother had given him and his brother away to a pair of strangers she met at a gas station when Frye was a young boy. The couple beat Frye and his brother with a bullwhip and forced the boys to beat each other as well.

Frye was reluctant to share this history with his court-appointed lawyers. "I didn't want my family involved," he told one reporter. "I felt like I had shamed them enough already." A competent capital defense attorney would have navigated this challenge to save a client's life. Instead, Frye was represented by a man named Tom Portwood, a dentist-turned-attorney who had a severe drinking problem. His alcoholism would force him to stop practicing just a few years later. Portwood all but abandoned his client, later admitting that he did no work on Frye's case outside the courtroom. Portwood's co-counsel did not speak up until 2 weeks before Frye's scheduled execution, writing in a sworn statement that he "chose to believe the best about my friend for as long as I could."

North Carolina's legal community was moved to action by Frye's looming execution. "For the 1st time in its 35-year history, the 4,000-member N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers asked for clemency for a death-row prisoner," the Raleigh News and Observer reported in August 2001. If the governor allowed the execution to go forward, the group's president said, "The right to counsel has lost its meaning in this state." Nonetheless, on August 31, 2001, Frye died by lethal injection.

Frye's execution came at a flashpoint for capital punishment across the country. In the late 1990s, the American Bar Association had recommended a national moratorium on the death penalty, citing unfair trials, racism, and wrongful convictions as pervasive problems. In North Carolina, activists, lawyers, and lawmakers took up the cause; in 2000, a legislative commission recommended a moratorium on executions in the state. A few months before Frye's execution, a major study examining data from 1993 through 1997 found new evidence of racism in North Carolina’s death penalty system.

It was in this same era that the North Carolina legislature passed the 1st in a series of hard-fought reforms to the state's death penalty system. Among them was the establishment of Indigent Defense Services, a state office that coordinates the representation of people facing the death penalty. Opened in July 2001, it imposed standards to ensure that cases were assigned to competent lawyers who received decent compensation - too late for defendants like Frye, but to the benefit of scores of defendants in the years to come.

The majority of people on death row were tried in a system that was effectively rigged against them.

The overhaul of indigent defense was a game-changer in North Carolina. But it was its combined effect with other systemwide reforms that would transform the landscape of capital cases in the state. This evolution is at the heart of a new report by the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation. Titled "Unequal Justice: How obsolete laws and unfair trials created North Carolina's outsized death row," it reveals how the majority of people on death row were tried in a system that was effectively rigged against them. Of the 141 men and women facing execution in North Carolina, more than 100 - 73 % - were sentenced before the creation of the indigent defense office. The majority were also convicted prior to laws that prohibit the execution of people with mental disabilities; impose protections against wrongful convictions; and require prosecutors to share evidence against defendants before trial.

The CDPL report shows how the implementation of such reforms has led to a precipitous drop in death sentences. "The death penalty is all but extinct in North Carolina," the authors write. "Juries have recommended only a single new death sentence in the past 4 years. Capital trials have become rare. The state hasn't carried out an execution since 2006." Although North Carolina's death row is still among the largest in the country, it "is a relic of another era."

In Catawba County, where Portwood once practiced, no one has been sentenced to death for 20 years. Yet his legacy lives on. In 2012, the state settled a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Glen Edward Chapman, sentenced to die in 1994 for a double murder he insisted he did not commit. Represented by Portwood, Chapman spent years on death row before a Superior Court judge overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial. He was exonerated in 2008. Another one of Portwood's former clients, Nathan Bowie, remains on death row. Bowie was 20 years old when he was tried alongside his uncle for a double murder in 1993. Today he is 47.

Bowie is one of a handful of condemned men profiled in detail in the report, which describes his case as "emblematic of capital defense at the time." Portwood was appointed to represent him despite his well-known drinking problem and assisted by a lawyer with no experience in capital defense. Bowie remembers Portwood showing up to one of their 1st meetings smelling like alcohol. In the time he represented Bowie, the report notes, Portwood was involved in a car crash and found to have a blood alcohol level sufficient to kill him.

A video on the case of Nathan Bowie featured in the CDPL report.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Portwood and his co-counsel did little investigation into Bowie's background. As a child, Bowie had experienced poverty, abuse, and bouts of homelessness; he was removed from his home when he was 12 and placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services. At 13, he was sent to Sipe's Orchard Home, a facility for troubled youths, where he stayed until he was 19. Portwood did not review the records or interview staff from the facility. If he had, he would have discovered evidence of sexual abuse that occurred at Sipe's, where Bowie kept a stick in his possession that he called his "protector."

Portwood's failures were compounded by the conduct of the prosecutor in Bowie's case, Jason Parker. "His office had prosecuted a Sipe's staffer for molesting boys there," the report reveals, yet Parker cast the facility as a wholesome environment before the jury. Arguing for the death penalty, he also emphasized that no one from the facility had appeared at trial on Bowie's behalf. Yet Parker had actually received a letter from the head of the facility offering to testify on Bowie's behalf, which he never disclosed to defense.

Parker is now retired. In total, he sent seven people to death row, including Frye and Chapman, the two other people represented by Portwood. Parker said he never saw evidence that Portwood was drunk on the job in the years he tried cases against him. "Everybody knew he would take a drink here and there," Parker said, "but as far as coming to court drunk, alcohol on his breath, never saw it." Parker's personal feelings about the death penalty have not changed, he said. "In certain horrific cases, the death penalty is highly justified." Nevertheless, he says he would no longer seek death sentences if he were still working as a prosecutor today. "My reason is simple," he said. "In reality the death penalty does not exist in North Carolina."

Parker explained that of all people he sent to death row, only 1 - Frye - has been executed. 1 man killed himself. Another 2 died of natural causes. The remaining men - Bowie and his uncle - "have outlived the son of my co-counsel who was born during their trial" and died in a car accident at 24. "My position would be: Why waste my time?"

"Zombie Cases

More than 40 years since the start of the so-called modern death penalty era in the United States, it has become widely understood that most people sentenced to death are more likely to die awaiting execution than on the gurney. In California, home to the country's biggest death row population, the last execution was carried out in 2006; only 13 people have been executed since the 1970s. Those who do live to see the death chamber have often spent decades on death row.

The result is what Stephen Bright, founder of the Southern Center for Human Rights, has described as "this very strange situation now, in which these people sentenced to death a long time ago" are coming up for execution in cases that would be highly unlikely to lead to a death sentence today. Bright called them "zombie cases" - convictions that "remind us of just how unfair" the system used to be.

In Georgia, Kenneth Fults was executed in 2016 despite revelations that one of his jurors harbored racist animus against him, telling an investigator, "Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that's what that nigger deserved." Veteran death penalty lawyer Thomas Maher, who heads Indigent Defense Services, has written about this disconnect in North Carolina. "The question, then, that policymakers and courts should confront is this: Should we execute scores of inmates for crimes that would not warrant the death penalty if they were tried today?"

Gretchen Engel, director of CDPL, explains that the report was published to "ignite a conversation" about this question. "It speaks to a need for there to be some kind of mechanism that will account for our evolving standard of decency," she said. Given that most of North Carolina's death row population would likely not be sentenced to die today, "it's very hard to justify how we can execute them now."

Engel joined CDPL soon after graduating law school in 1992. "I think when I arrived there were maybe 75 people on the row" in North Carolina, she said. But the 1990s became "just a very bloody, frenzied time.' By the end of the decade, there were more than 175 people on death row.

Part of what drove the surge in capital prosecutions were overzealous prosecutors like Ken Honeycutt, who "celebrated new death sentences by handing out noose lapel pins to his assistant DAs," as the CDPL report notes. Particularly notorious was Joe Freeman Britt in Robeson County, who attracted national media attention and even a listing in the Guinness World Records as the "world's deadliest DA." Britt sent some 38 people to death row over his 14-year tenure. Among them were 2 teenagers, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, who were famously exonerated of murder and rape in 2014.

The impact of overzealous prosecutors has been well-documented where capital punishment is concerned. But in North Carolina, the phenomenon was compounded by a perverse, lesser-known feature of the state's death penalty system. One of the more startling areas of the CDPL report is a section that explains how prosecutors were essentially coerced into seeking death sentences as often as possible. "In the 1990s, N.C. was the only state that required prosecutors to seek the death penalty for every aggravated 1st-degree murder," the report explains, "regardless of other factors that called for mercy."

Rooted in years of rulings by the state Supreme Court, the sentencing scheme was originally intended to ensure uniformity in the application of the death penalty. But in practice, it curtailed prosecutorial discretion to an absurd degree. Prosecutors were forbidden from arranging plea deals in which a defendant could plead guilty to 1st-degree murder in exchange for a life sentence. Instead, their only alternative was to reduce a charge to 2nd-degree murder.

In 1993, the year Bowie was tried, 33 people were sent to death row in the state.

Parker began handling capital cases in Catawba County in 1990. He recalls seeking the death penalty in numerous cases that he would not have tried capitally had they come later in his career. In the case of Nathan Bowie, Parker actually offered a plea deal for 2nd-degree murder. "That wasn't the world's greatest case," he explains. The witnesses were unreliable - the kinds of people who say one thing in a meeting, then "go out on the stands and they say something entirely different." But Bowie and his uncle rejected the deal. "So I didn't have any choice but to try them for the death penalty. Once they turn down that 2nd degree, it was on."

Alex Charns, Bowie's current attorney, counters that in fact, Parker did have a choice in Bowie's case. "It could have been tried as 2nd degree," he says, adding that most prosecutors would not be inclined to do that. Bowie's fate speaks to the utter neglect of Portwood in representing his client at every stage of his case, Charns says. But it is also illustrative of a phenomenon known as a "trial penalty," in which prosecutors come down especially hard on defendants who refuse their plea offers. The notion that a crime could merit a charge of 2nd-degree murder in 1 minute and a death sentence the next is also emblematic of the arbitrariness so often described by critics of capital punishment.

The lack of prosecutorial discretion in 1st-degree murder cases was "perhaps the biggest driver of a decade of excessive death sentences" in the state, the CDPL report says. It "propelled North Carolina to one of the highest death sentencing rates in the nation." In 1993, the year Bowie was tried, 33 people were sent to death row in the state.

In 2001, the North Carolina legislature finally passed a law to address the problem of prosecutorial discretion. "Some DAs were having to try capital cases that they really didn't want to try," remembers Rep. Phil Baddour, a Democrat from Wayne County who sponsored the bill. "It went through without a lot of opposition."

To Engel, it made sense that prosecutors would not oppose the new law. "It increased their power and so they didn't fight it. I think that's why it was really probably the least controversial of the reforms." What she and her colleagues did not necessarily expect was just how dramatic a change would follow. Death penalty prosecutions "plummeted," from an average of 50 per year in the 1990s to roughly 16 capital trials per year in the decade following the 2001 law.

The drop was no doubt due to prosecutors like Parker, for whom the death penalty became an easy way to force a defendant to plead guilty in exchange for life. "Most of the cases I tried for the death penalty after the law changed were those who rejected the plea offer taking the death penalty off the table." Still, defendants were inclined to take the deal, he said. "Once you prove that you could put somebody on death row, it was a heck of a tool."

A Legacy of Racial Violence

"I think if you polled district attorneys, they would all say, 'Oh yes, the death penalty is very necessary,'" Engel says. But their actions betray the truth. Prosecutors are seeking fewer death sentences and are more willing to accept a plea to a life sentence, she points out. Indeed, as Parker recalls, after the law changed, "I made that offer available in the great majority of 1st-degree murder cases."

Engel sees something similar among the general public, which seems to favor the death penalty more in theory than reality. "I think while public support for the death penalty in North Carolina has fallen just like it has nationally, you'd still have a fairly large number of people who would say, 'Yes, of course, we should execute the worst of the worst.'" Yet "jurors are not returning death sentences, even in really horrendous cases."

Nevertheless, the stubborn devotion to North Carolina’s death penalty has been on dramatic display for much of the past decade, in the ugly battle over the state's Racial Justice Act. Passed in 2009, the groundbreaking law provided a way for condemned people to fight their sentences if they could prove that racism played a role in jury selection at their trials.

4 people on death row succeeded in getting their sentences commuted to life without parole before the Republican-led legislature repealed the RJA in 2013. 2 years later, the North Carolina Supreme Court vacated the judge's rulings, sending the 4 defendants back to death row. It was up to Engel and her office to share the wrenching news. By then, a couple of them had gone to medium custody, she recalls. One, Christina Walters, had completed her GED. "The impact on the families of those clients - to think your [child] is spared from execution and then 3 years later, oh no, you're back on death row - it was devastating."

Nathan Bowie was among those who sought relief under the RJA before its repeal. In a 2012 filing, Charns, his lawyer, details the history of racial violence in Catawba County and the surrounding area. In 1919, the filing noted, a black man named Tom Gwyn died in the electric chair for raping a white girl despite the efforts of a mob that tried to lynch him first. He was still awaiting trial when a local newspaper declared the guilt of the "brute" with "beast-like hands."

An all-white jury convicted him in 10 minutes.

Racism permeated the prosecution of black men in rape cases into the 1970s, Charns points out. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a group called North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence tracked racial intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan in Catawba County. By the time Bowie went to trial before an almost all-white jury in 1993, the county had a black population of less than 9 %. Parker, who is black himself, appealed to the racist fears and biases of the jury in court. Although there was no evidence that the crimes had anything to do with gang rivalry, Parker attributed the murders to a gang war, invoking Philadelphia, where Bowie came from, and contrasting it with the town of Hickory - "your community."

Parker demurred when asked about evidence of racism in North Carolina's death penalty system. And he was dismissive of Bowie's RJA motion. "All I can say is ... you had a black guy trying 2 black guys for killing 2 black people," he said. "So if that's injustice, fine. You know? I don't see it."

The evidence of systemic racism contained in Bowie's RJA filing - and the aggressive denial that such a thing exists - underscores the broader thesis underlying the CDPL report. It's not just that North Carolina's death sentences are a relic dating back to the bad laws of the 1990s. Its death penalty system is inextricable from a history of racial violence rooted in slavery and reconstruction. As in the rest of the South, the same kind of fearmongering propaganda once used to defend lynchings would support state-sanctioned executions, particularly as punishment for rape against white women. The bloodlust extended all across the state; in 1922, 16-year-old McIver Burnett - "convicted in 3 minutes and 30 seconds," according to the Daily Free Press - was executed for rape in Raleigh amid a crowd of spectators holding tickets to the execution, a mob dominated by "youths wearing the red caps that distinguish State College freshmen," according to the News and Observer.

Evidence of enduring racism in capital cases helped pave the way for the landmark 1972 Supreme Court ruling in Furman v. Georgia. The plurality decision held that the death penalty was arbitrarily and thus unfairly imposed. Some death penalty states responded to Furman by crafting new statutes that would provide for bifurcated trials with a penalty phase to weigh aggravating and mitigating evidence - the system widely in place today. But others decided that the solution was to make the death penalty mandatory for crimes like murder and rape. The first to do so was North Carolina.

One of the 1st people to face North Carolina's mandatory death penalty was a black woman named Joan Little. The 20-year-old had been charged with 1st-degree murder after stabbing a white guard to death with an ice pick while being held at the Beaufort County Jail in 1974. She said she had killed the man to stop him from raping her - his body was found naked from the waist down in her cell, with seminal fluid on his leg. Nevertheless, Little faced a mandatory death sentence if she was convicted.

As Little's trial approached, the case became a cause celebre - a symbol of the South's deep-rooted racism and the largely unspoken sexual abuse of black women by white men dating back generations. In 1975, amid demonstrations, a jury acquitted Little. The next year, in Woodson v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s mandatory sentencing scheme.

For Jennie Lancaster, 1 of the jurors in the case, the Little trial would indelibly shape her perspective on the criminal justice system. As a 25-year-old counselor at a juvenile prison facility in Raleigh, "I had this almost idealistic view of what you could accomplish" within prisons, she recalls. After the Little trial, she went on to become warden of the state's women's prison and eventually the Central Region director in the North Carolina Division of Prisons, where she supervised 12 facilities, including the prison in Raleigh that houses death row.

"Racism and sexism. That was prevalent in the whole judicial process within deep eastern North Carolina."

Among Lancaster's early responsibilities was presiding over the 1984 execution of Velma Barfield, a white woman convicted and sentenced to die for poisoning 4 people. As her execution date approached, the case of the "death row granny" became a media circus and political lightning rod; the state set the execution date just days before a major election for Senate. Democratic North Carolina Gov. James Hunt faced incumbent Sen. Jesse Helms. Hunt, who would go on to lose, denied Barfield’s pleas for clemency.

"I got to know Velma," Lancaster says. "I got to know her family. I got to know what a positive influence she was" at the prison. She also saw the additional ways in which women behind bars were abused and dehumanized. Lancaster recalls having to fight with prison administrators to allow Barfield to wear a bra during her execution. "She was a big-breasted woman and she asked me, 'Miss Lancaster, if I've got to go through this, I would like to have the dignity of wearing a bra.'"

The Barfield execution would eclipse the Little case in North Carolina's death penalty history. But it was the latter that opened Lancaster's eyes. "The system was on trial," she said. "And our role in the criminal justice system was really on trial." While she was proud at the outcome, the case was only her 1st look at the rampant abuse within prisons. "It ingrained a stronger sense of responsibility within me, about how we should be caretakers. And how we should not allow, if we're in a supervisory role, the taking advantage of offenders who are under our care."

"And also, the amount of racism," Lancaster added. "Racism and sexism. That was prevalent in the whole judicial process within deep eastern North Carolina."

Today Lancaster is an outspoken critic of the death penalty - and especially of its impact on prison staff. "There's no training for it," she says about the psychological and emotional effects of executions. For the public, "executions are out of sight, out of mind," Lancaster says. People don't want to deal with it - "they just want it to be over with." But people who work in the system "can't go home and talk about it. We can't talk about it anywhere. We can't really even talk about it at the prison." Over the course of her career, Lancaster attended 24 executions.

Parker, the former prosecutor, did not attend the execution of Ronald Frye in 2001. "I gave my ticket to the arresting officer," he said. Parker said he had developed a certain level of affection for Frye by then. "I thought he has what's coming to him, but I wasn't gonna go watch him die."

I asked Parker if he would feel satisfied if Nathan Bowie were to be executed today, 25 years after he was convicted. Would he consider it justice? Parker paused. "I really haven't given it much thought," he said, adding, "I did my job." He doesn't miss it. He's happily retired, playing golf a few times a week, he told me. "I don't think about it much anymore. I leave it alone."



Suspect in fatal shooting of NC state trooper identified

Prosecutors have identified the man accused of fatally shooting a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper during a traffic stop in Columbus County early Wednesday morning.

According to officials, Raheem Davis, 20, of Chadbourn has been charged with 1st-degree murder in the shooting death of Trooper Kevin Conner.

First Sgt. Michael Baker with the State Highway Patrol said Conner was shot at approximately 12:15 a.m. while conducting a traffic stop for a speeding violation on U.S. 701 near Sellers Town Road in Columbus County. As Conner approached the vehicle, the suspect fired several shots, striking the trooper.

Conner died after being taken to a local hospital.

"At that time, the driver fled the scene and drove into Fair Bluff," Baker said in a media briefing. "The Fair Bluff Police Department attempted to stop the vehicle and a chase ensued. The driver of that white GMC became disabled on the railroad tracks in Fair Bluff off of Rogers Street. A foot pursuit ensued and he was apprehended by authorities after an extensive search."

Davis made his 1st appearance in a Columbus County courtroom Wednesday afternoon, flanked by 9 officers, some wearing bulletproof vests.

During the appearance, Davis was brief while answering questions from the judge, limiting his answers to "yes" and "yes, sir."

The judge ordered that Davis be held under no bond. He faces the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Following the court appearance, District Attorney Jon David said "this was cold-blooded, 1st-degree murder" and that Trooper Conner, just 15 hours prior, was "patrolling the streets of Columbus County, but now he's dead."

Conner's funeral services are scheduled for Sunday with visitation at South Columbus High School from 1-4 p.m. The funeral is scheduled after visitation.

David said Davis was driving a stolen pickup truck and speeding in the opposite direction on U.S. 701 prior to being pulled over by Conner in front of a nearby convenience store. David said the deadly shooting was caught on dashcam video and by the store's surveillance system.

According to David, Conner was "blissfully unaware" as he walked up to the truck and asked Davis why he was speeding, at which point Davis allegedly started firing a gun without saying anything. Conner was struck twice.

Hilton Cox lives just down the road from where the shooting occurred and was outside his home smoking a cigarette when he heard 4 or 5 gunshots ring out.

"When I heard the gunshots, I heard tires squeal and saw the cop car still sitting there with blue lights going," Cox said. "I told my wife something didn't seem right." Cox said he jumped in his vehicle and drove down to Conner's patrol car where he found the trooper lying on the highway in front of the car.

"I immediately called 911 and started talking to him, checking his vitals. He had a pulse. He was breathing and he still had a heartbeat and was gasping for air," Cox explained. "I held onto him until the EMTs showed up."

Other troopers responded to the scene and watched the dashcam video to identify Davis, who they found minutes later in the same truck in Fair Bluff.

After Davis' truck stalled on some railroad tracks on Rogers Street, he fled on foot and was later found hiding in a wooded area behind the tracks.

David said the gun used in the shooting has not been found yet.

David and Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher have requested the SBI investigate the incident.

According to online records, Davis was out on probation after serving about 3 months in prison after he was convicted last year of firing gunshots into a couple's SUV as they were driving through Chadbourn on their way to Myrtle Beach, SC in 2015.

Conner was an 11-year veteran of the N.C. State Highway Patrol and was assigned to Troop B out of Columbus County.

(source: WECT news)


Twice-convicted cop killer seeks new trial

Luzenski Cottrell, a twice-convicted death row inmate, is asking for post-conviction relief.

Cottrell fatally shot Myrtle Beach police officer Joe McGarry in 2002.

He was sentenced to death in April 2005.

3 years later, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the jury was not allowed to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Cottrell was found guilty again in a retrial in 2014, and was again sentenced to death.

According to documents filed October 12, 2018, Cottrell is seeking post-conviction relief.

"Mr. Cottrell's right to effective assistance of counsel... was violated when his trial attorneys failed to exercise peremptory strikes to remove 2 jurors whose views, expressed during voir dire, prevented or substantially impaired their ability to consider constitutionally relevant mitigating evidence," the documents state.

During voir dire, two jurors stated "unequivocally that they would not regard evidence of a defendant's 'background characteristics' as 'relevant' in selecting an appropriate penalty for murder... Defense counsel rightly recognized these statements as conclusive indicators that each juror lacked the capacity to perceive and give effect to mitigating evidence mandated by the Eighth Amendment, and objected to the jurors' qualification on the ground that each was 'mitigation impaired...' However, once the trial court overruled their objections... trial counsel deficiently failed to exercise peremptory strikes necessary to ensure the unqualified jurors would not be seated on the jury."

"As a result, both unqualified jurors were seated, and both participated in the guilt-or-innocence and penalty determinations," the document continues. "Because of their self-professed unwillingness to consider a broad range of constitutionally relevant mitigating evidence, it is at least reasonably probable that one or both jurors adversely affected the outcome of the penalty phase deliberations, and that, absent their participation, the result of those deliberations would have been different."

The filing seeks a new trial-- or at the very least, a new sentencing hearing.

Cottrell is already serving a life sentence in an unrelated murder case, but is also serving 3 10-year sentences for grand larceny, resisting arrest and assault with intent to kill related to the McGarry case.

Authorities say McGarry confronted Cottrell outside a Dunkin' Donuts, and the officer pinned Cottrell against a car as he questioned him. The 2 struggled and investigators say Cottrell shot the officer in the face.

Cottrell admitted to the killing.

For McGarry's parents, justice for their son means the ultimate price. "He (Cottrell) needs to the ultimate punishment," said Anita McGarry, Joe's mother. "He's a murderer. He's a gangster. You have to pay the price for what you do."

(source: WPDE news)


Shannon Gargis capital murder trial underway in Franklin County

More than 2 years after the death of a Franklin County toddler, the man accused is standing trial.

Shannon Dale Gargis is charged with capital murder for intentionally causing the girl's death.

Over the last 3 days, a jury pool of 500 people were questioned repeatedly by prosecutors and defense attorneys. Wednesday afternoon, 12 jurors and 2 alternates started hearing the case.

The details of how 22-month old Serenity Renfroe died are haunting. A state forensics autopsy performed shortly after her death indicated Serenity died from blunt force trauma to the head.

During a preliminary hearing after Shannon Gargis's arrest, an investigator with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office took the stand. He stated under oath, Gargis admitted to becoming "overly aggressive" after the baby spilled cereal on the floor. The investigator added Gargis said he picked the toddler up by the throat and threw her across the room onto a loveseat, hitting her head.

Prosecutors opened their statement by saying this was one of the most serious cases in Franklin County history. District Attorney Joey Rushing took jurors step-by-step through the investigation and how they believe Gargis killed serenity.

Autopsy results showed she had over 100 bruises on her body - which showed signs of abuse.

Defense attorneys claim the death of Serenity came at the hands of her mother Halie Renfroe. According to investigators, Renfroe was at work until 2:30 that morning and returned home to find Serenity dead and laying at the feet of Gargis who was asleep.

In 2017, Halie Renfroe pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution after it was determined she was not involved in the death. She is expected to testify for the prosecution during the trail.

Courthouse officials expect the trail to last at least 2 weeks. If convicted, Gargis could face the death penalty.

(source: WHNT news)


Accused killer of Beavercreek man to be sentenced in Carolina case

The man accused of killing a Beavercreek man in front of his children is scheduled to be sentenced for an unrelated case in South Carolina federal court before his potential death penalty case moves ahead in Dayton's U.S. District Court.

Sterling H. Roberts, 35, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 28 in U.S. District Court in Greenville, S.C. Roberts pleaded guilty in November 2017 to being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to federal court records.

Roberts, Tawnney Caldwell and 4 others have been indicted for the Aug. 15, 2017, death of Robert "Bobby" Caldwell, who was shot in Riverside in front of his 3 sons - 1 of whom (Jacob) was missing for a year before being located by law enforcement in August.

Roberts and Tawnney Caldwell could face the death penalty if they are convicted as charged. Also charged are Chance Deakin, Christopher Roberts, James Harmon and Chandra Harmon.

A hearing Thursday in Dayton's U.S. District Court for Chandra Harmon, Deakin, and Christopher Roberts was continued after an in-chambers conference involving defense attorneys and one assistant U.S. attorney.

Multiple defendants have requested and received permission to file motions under seal because of sensitive information.



A Tennessee inmate who won a last-minute reprieve sparing him from execution last week may be running out of options, and a new date with the death chamber could be set as early as the end of the month, court records show.

Edmund Zagorksi, who was sentenced to die in 1984 for killing 2 men he robbed during a drug deal, has no new execution date scheduled after the state's plans for a lethal injection last Thursday were cancelled amid a flurry of legal maneuvers. They included a court order that he die in the electric chair, at his request.

Those moves may have set back possible execution a few weeks at best. Court filings indicate Zagorski, who has spent 34 years on Tennessee's death row, could get an execution date as early as Oct. 28.

Just a day before his previously scheduled execution, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay that could have delayed it for many months. But the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the stay the next day and also declined to hear a separate appeal challenging Tennessee's 3-drug lethal injection cocktail.

Meanwhile, a 3rd federal court ordered Tennessee to honor Zagorski's request to die in the electric chair, rather than by lethal injection. Zagorski's attorney said the inmate believes electrocution would be quicker and less painful.

That last decision, by a U.S. District Court judge in Nashville, apparently prompted Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to put a temporary halt to the execution.

Although inmates whose offenses occurred before 1999 have the option to choose electrocution, under Tennessee law, Zagorski gave the state only 3 days' notice of his choice. But when the Department of Correction said it would go forward with lethal injection, Zagorski's attorneys asked the court to intervene.

Correction officials never said whether they would be able to carry out an electrocution on such short notice, but Haslam said in a statement his reprieve would "give all involved the time necessary to carry out the sentence in an orderly and careful manner."

Once the 10-day reprieve expires, the Tennessee Supreme Court can set a new execution date. It must be at least 7 days later.

Meanwhile, with its stay lifted, the 6th Circuit is fast-tracking Zagorski's case before that venue - a claim of poor legal representation at trial. But it is unclear whether that case could be heard and decided before another execution date.

Jurors sentenced Zagorski to death in 1984 after finding him guilty of shooting John Dotson and Jimmy Porter and slitting their throats. The victims had planned to buy marijuana from Zagorski. Prosecutors said Zagorski never had any marijuana but set the men up to rob them and then killed them to cover it up.

Zagorski's attorney Kelley Henry has said the legal team is reviewing its options.

(source: Associated Press)


Arkansas justices challenge ethics charges over judge's case

Arkansas Supreme Court justices on Wednesday challenged efforts to sanction them over the court's decision to prohibit a judge who participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration from hearing any execution-related cases.

The justices filed a lawsuit with their court challenging the charges related to the decision to disqualify Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen from handling any death penalty cases. Justices disqualified Griffen last year, days after he was photographed on a cot outside the governor's mansion last year wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs opposing executions.

Earlier the day of the demonstration, Griffen blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug over claims the company had been misled by the state.

A three-member of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has charged all seven of the court's justices over the move. The panel said the court never gave Griffen notice or an opportunity to be heard over his removal from death penalty cases. The charges are set to go before the full nine-member commission, which could recommend suspending or removing the justices if they're found to have violated judicial rules of conduct.

"The commission has no jurisdiction over decisions of a judge rendering a decision on issues of law," the lawsuit said.

David Sachar, the commission's executive director, said he had not seen the filing and the commission would respond accordingly.

An attorney for the justices said all 7 members of the court would recuse from hearing the lawsuit. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will have to name special justices to hear the case.

The lawsuit was filed by Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justices Jo Hart, Shawn Womack, Karen Baker and Rhonda Wood. Justices Courtney Goodson and Robin Wynne did not join the lawsuit.

The ethics complaint against the justices was filed by Griffen, who was charged earlier this year by the disciplinary panel over the demonstration. Griffen had sued the justices over his disqualification, claiming it violated his constitutional rights, but a federal appeals court dismissed the case. The justices' lawsuit on Wednesday cited that dismissal in seeking an end to the ethics case against them.

(source: Associated Press)


Executioners Lobby for Death Row Inmate at High Court

A Missouri death row inmate's Supreme Court fight has support from unlikely allies: former executioners.

The group of ex-prison officials - wardens, superintendents, commissioners, and even executioners themselves - aren't directly involved in Russell Bucklew's case. But they've filed an amicus - or "friend of the court" - brief with the justices to share firsthand reflections on administering the ultimate punishment.

They're trying to help Bucklew avoid it. Or at least to avoid the way the state wants to do it.

Bucklew argues his impending execution by lethal injection would violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

His rare and severe health conditions - leading to compromised veins and other ailments - mean the necessary injections would cause him to suffer needlessly, replete with bursting and bloody tumors, he says. He'd rather be killed by lethal gas, which he argues would be less cruel.

But Missouri wants to kill him its way.

The Nov. 6 oral argument comes as executions across the country have gone awry, leading to potentially painful episodes for inmates. It's more than the Constitution can tolerate, they've argued with little success.

About 3 % of all executions from 1890 to 2010 were botched, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The numbers for lethal injection are more than twice as bad.

But even if prisoners like Bucklew put forward alternative - potentially less painful - methods of execution, the law doesn’t automatically accept the proposal, leading to legal fights like the one here.

The former officials join Bucklew in that fight.

"Such executions do not serve the State's interests in finality or justice," they argue. "Instead, they make public servants parties to barbarism."

Their brief is a "moving testament to the human toll that these executions exact on our public servants - our men and women in uniform who have to carry them out," Bernard Harcourt told Bloomberg Law. Harcourt, a professor at Columbia Law School, represented Doyle Lee Hamm, whose botched execution attempt earlier this year the ex-officials cite as an example of what can go wrong in situations like Bucklew's.

"We rarely hear about the extent of the psychological damage to all the men and women who are involved in these executions, the wardens and officers, the attorneys and paralegals, the chaplains, and so many more," said Harcourt. "Most people don't even know the number of people who are touched, and don’t really care."

But Bucklew shouldn't get an "exemption" from capital punishment, the state maintains, pointing to his "vicious crime spree" over 2 decades ago, where he committed murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, escape from jail, and assault. Missouri's lethal injection method "is the most humane and effective method of execution available," the state says.

Heavy Burden

The ex-officials agree with Bucklew that his execution would run afoul of the Constitution.

But their argument isn't framed in purely altruistic terms. They want the court "to consider not only the immorality of executing a man using cruel and unusual means, but also the harm to public servants who participate in such an act."

They emphasize "the heavy burden that executions place on the people who must carry them out - a burden that becomes intolerable when, as here, there is a grave risk that a botched execution will result in excessive pain and suffering."

It's bad enough when inmates don't present dire circumstances like Bucklew's, they explain to the justices. "Even when everything goes according to plan, standing face-to-face with an inmate and taking his life is a substantial burden to carry." The psychological consequences of carrying that burden, they note, "are well-documented, and can be severe."

It leads some employees to substance abuse and to experience "symptoms of post-traumatic stress including depression, flashbacks, nightmares, pain with no known physical origin, and dissociative disorders."

But the burden will be especially heavy if the state has its way here, they contend. There's a "substantial probability that the process will be lengthy and will end only when Mr. Bucklew either suffocates or drowns in his own blood," the former officials warn. When an execution results "in unnecessary pain and suffering, the burden of participation becomes unbearable."

(source: Bloomberg News)


Attorneys for Pablo Serrano again move to preclude death penalty

Attorneys for an undocumented immigrant accused of killing a New Florence man in 2016 are again asking a St. Louis judge to preclude the death penalty from his case.

Pablo Serrano-Vitorino is accused of killing Randy Nordman on March 8, 2016 at Nordman's home. Serrano was on the run at the time for allegedly killing 4 people in Kansas. Nordman's death started a massive manhunt in Montgomery County and authorities captured Serrano nearly 24 hours later.

Serrano's lawyers filed a motion Tuesday claiming that Missouri's "capital sentencing scheme" violates several court cases argued across the country.

They alleged that if a jury deadlocks on the death penalty decision, even if the majority of jurors are in favor of life in prison, a judge could rule in favor of the death penalty anyway.

Serrano's attorneys, Heather Vodnansky and Chelsea Mitchell, quoted a case out of Maryland that referred to that structure as "the height of arbitrariness."

They also filed a motion to strike 4 of the statutory aggravating circumstances from the reasons why Serrano should be sentenced to death.

Prosecutors will cite aggravating circumstances in a death penalty case. For Serrano, prosecutors included more than a dozen, including that Nordman's killing showed a disregard for the "sanctity of all human life," which is commonly cited by prosecutors pursuing the death penalty.

Vodnansky wrote that 4 of the aggravating circumstances, that Serrano committed the murder of Nordman "while [he] was engaged in the commission of another unlawful homicide," be struck. They refer to the 4 people he is accused of killing in Kansas. She said that they should be struck from the list because the people were killed before Nordman's death, not during, and so should not be part of this case.

Former Cole County prosecutor Bill Tackett said Tuesday's filings are typical in a death penalty case. He said both sides will want to follow due process as completely as possible to make sure that the wrong person doesn't get put to death or that a conviction isn't eventually overturned on appeal because due process wasn't followed.

"Seasoned death penalty lawyers, regardless of which side they're on, they know where the boundaries are," he said. "The defense is going to push it because that's their job, and they should push it."

Tackett said death penalty cases are extremely meticulous, and it can take up to 10 years before the convicted person is put to death because of the appeals process.

(source: ABC News)


Lahore: Zainab's killer hanged but the death penalty 'is not the solution'----The execution took place this morning. In January, Zainab, a 7-year-old girl, was abducted, raped, tortured and dumped on a garbage heap. A certain criminal mindset is "well rooted in society".

Imran Ali, the 24-year-old man convicted for the murder, rape and torture of 7-year-old Zainab, was executed this morning at the Central Jail Lahore (Kot Lakhpat Jail).

The murder of the child, who was on her way to religious class and whose body was dumped on a garbage heap, took place in early January in Kasur (near Lahore).

The murder sparked outrage across Pakistan. Many Pakistanis reacted vehemently, complaining pf police inaction. Many activists condemned the crime, noting its relationship to a widespread "culture of rape" that allows crimes to go unpunished.

The death sentence was carried our at 5.30 am (local time). The father of the victim Muhammad Ameen, was among the witnesses of the execution.

For Human Rights Focus Pakistan president Naveed Walter, speaking to AsiaNews, "hanging someone does not do justice and it is not the solution to the problem".

In his Naveed's view, a "long-term strategy" is needed "to bring positive changes in society and in the lives of the victims, children and girls. The inhumane practice [of sexual violence] will not end with the hanging of the guilty, until adequate security measures are adopted for all citizens."

Other human rights defenders, who consider capital punishment an appropriate punishment for the guilt committed, disagree.

Samson Salamat, president of Rwadari Tehreek (inter-religious movement for tolerance), believes that the punishment imposed on Imran Ali is the way that Pakistan must follow to "increase the scope of justice in an infinity of similar cases in which justice is denied."

For him, "It also demonstrates the power of the voice of the people: when the people are on the side of justice, nothing can stop it."

Activist and writer Kashif Hussain agrees, noting that Zainab's rape and murder is not an isolated incident.

"I have read the newspapers for 30 years and I always find the same crimes that are deeply rooted in our society," he said.

"I am astonished when I see that the masses do not rebel. Sometimes I fear going crazy. In our society there are many other Zainabs waiting for justice. We must not stop; we must continue the fight against the evils that afflict society."

The activist also points the finger at a certain religious mindset. "When we ask for sex education courses, we clash with the reaction of religious groups".



Man gets death penalty in murder case

A trial court in Karachi on Wednesday convicted a man in a murder case and sentenced him to death after a charge was proved against him.

Additional district and session judge (West) announced its verdict which was earlier reserved after recording evidences and final arguments from both sides. The court found Akhtar Perveez alias Babu guilty in murder of Shakeel Ahmed in Orangi area on April 30, 2014.

The prosecution has stated that the convict had confessed to kill the deceased, adding that witnesses, produced before the court, had also identified the guilty. An FIR had been registered under Sections 23-1 (a) Sindh Arm Act 2013 at the Orangi Town police station on the complaint of Jameel Ahmed (brother of the deceased).

In his statement, the complainant had submitted that in the day of the incident, he was sitting outside a factory, wherein he was working, he heard firing and when he reached to the spot, he saw that Babu was holding pistol in his hand while his brother Shakeel was lying on the ground having injury on his head.

Meanwhile, Babu also tried to fire on him, but bullet did not fire from the pistol. So he ran away, while his brother Shakeeel succumbed to death on spot. Thereafter, dead body was taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. According to the written judgment, the convict was also found in possession of 1 pistol. He also made judicial confession before magistrate. The prosecution had established in the court that the convict fired on Shakeel Ahmed intentionally which hit him on his head and caused his death. The order stated that there was also no dispute as to identify of the accused, because it is also admitted by the accused that they knew each other prior to incident.

After going through the perusal of FIR, one can misjudge that the fact of dispute over water had been alleged as a motive, the court was fully satisfied that the dispute of water tap did exist between the families of complainant and accused.

Earlier, the defense counsel had submitted his arguments by stating that his client was innocent and was falsely implicated in this case, but he failed to produce any witness in the defense of his client.

The court also announced imprisonment of 7 years for possession of illegal weapon case, and imposed fine of Rs 5,00,000, if the amount is deposed by the accused, the same shall be paid to the legal heirs of the deceased as per Shariah and in default of paying of fine, the accused shall further undergo simple imprisonment for periods of 6 months.

(source: The Nation)


Will a New Malaysia Kill the Old Death Penalty?----The new government seems to be entertaining the idea.

In a sign of potential reform, the Malaysian government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appears to be moving toward abolishing the death penalty. Though there is still some uncertainty around how things will eventually play out, it has nonetheless sparked a conversation about potential alternatives the country could adopt in this respect.

Malaysia is not alone in having the death penalty in Southeast Asia. While a few countries have abolished the death penalty in recent decades, such as Cambodia and the Philippines, it is still used in other countries like Indonesia and Singapore and remains on the books in other places such as Brunei and Laos. Despite variations in frequency of use, it has at times led to unwanted tensions in diplomatic relations with countries opposed to the death penalty.

In Malaysia, by one estimate, about 1,200 people are on death row for crimes ranging from murder to drug trafficking. Charges like rape that causes death, child rape, kidnapping, and terrorism also carry the death penalty.

Law Minister Liew Vui Keong has raised the possibility of Malaysia getting rid of the death penalty and considering alternatives. Liew has cast this as part of a wider promise by the new government in its election manifesto to get rid of oppressive and cruel laws in the country.

The re-evaluation, which initially made headlines around the World Day Against the Death penalty, has been tentatively welcomed by international rights groups and was an obvious cause for celebration by those on death row. Amnesty International led the chorus of human rights groups that are campaigning for an end to the death penalty, saying the Malaysian decision was “a major step forward” for what is “an ultimate cruel, inhumane, degrading punishment."

Despite the initial optimism, the exact path forward for Malaysia in this respect remains unclear. The Law Minister has expanded on why a reconsideration is necessary, pointing to the fact that there has been a government study conducted indicating that there is no deterrent effect from the death penalty. He also has ordered a halt on all executions until legislation is gazetted and comes into effect.

"Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out... We will inform the Pardons Board to look into various applications for convicts on the waiting list to either be commuted or released."

To address concerns among some, including lawmakers, Liew has also subsequently said that Malaysia will approach any re-evaluation carefully, including making sure that the death penalty is replaced by some version of life imprisonment or longer jail terms, with a terms of 30 years being thrown out as an example.

But the Malaysian Bar has warned that death sentences should not automatically be replaced by these alternatives, but rather be replaced by specific jail terms in relation to the severity of their offences and other specific circumstances.

"Only then will the punishment of imprisonment meted out be just and effective," its president George Varughese said in a statement on October 16.

One thing is for certain: if Malaysia does get rid of the death penalty, it will be in good company. Malaysia will emerge as the 107th country to rid itself of state-sanctioned killing, compared with just 64 nations just 2 decades ago.

(source: The Diplomat)


Brothers accused of drug trafficking walk free

Smiles and tears of joy filled a courtroom when 2 brothers were acquitted and discharged of drug possession and trafficking charges due to technicalities in the case.

Unemployed B. Gopi, 32, and lorry driver B. Sasitharan, 25, smiled and thanked their lawyer as family members teared up after High Court Judicial Commissioner Datuk Ahmad Shahrir Mohd Salleh meted out the judgement.

JC Ahmad Shahrir said the prosecution had failed to prove a prima facie case against the siblings.

"The prosecution did not prove that the contents of the car belonged to the defendant (Gopi) although he led them to the car.

"They also did not produce the brother who owned the car in court.

"He had knowledge of the drugs but there is not enough evidence to show possession.

"It is not uncommon for siblings to share things but it does not mean what was found belonged to the accused," he said yesterday.

JC Ahmad Shahrir then said 2 other people, who were also caught during the incident, were not produced in court as witnesses.

"The prosecution has failed to prove and provide sufficient and satisfactory efforts to produce key witnesses," he said.

Gopi and Sasitharan were represented by Hussaini Abdul Rashid. DPP Mohammad Khalid Ab Karim prosecuted.

The brothers were earlier accused of trafficking 42.14g of heroin and monoacetylmorphines at a house in Taman Seri Kijang, Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Prai at about 5pm on Aug 1, 2014.

The offence under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, punishable under Section 39B(2) of the same Act, carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

The duo were also charged with possessing 6.35g of methamphetamine at the same location.

Gopi was also acquitted and discharged of a separate charge of trafficking 70.87g of heroin and monoacetylmorphines, found in a car at the same location and time.



Death penalty debate reignited by film starring late Ren Osugi

"Kyokaishi" (Chaplain), a new movie starring the late veteran actor Ren Osugi, is currently inspiring conversations across Japan based on the classic moral dilemma: Do you agree with the death penalty?

The film, which was released Oct. 6, is comprised mostly of conversations between a prison chaplain and 6 inmates on death row.

Osugi, who died of heart failure in February, plays the chaplain.

Director Dai Sako, 46, also wrote the script of "Kyokaishi" based on interviews with chaplains, former prison officials and others.

"As whether capital punishment is really appropriate is being discussed, I would like people to contemplate the system after watching the movie," Sako said.

"Kyokaishi" refers to those monks and men of the cloth who visit prisons and detention houses so they can impart their religious teachings to inmates.

The chaplain system is said to have been introduced in 1872 in Japan when a priest from the Otani school of the Shinshu sect of Buddhism delivered a sermon at a prison.

Of the 1,848 chaplains of the Zenkoku Kyokaishi Renmei (National chaplain association), 1,199 were Buddhist monks, 264 were Christian clergy and 222 were Shinto priests as of January 2018.

In the film, the chaplain meets with 6 inmates, including a good-natured yakuza boss, a middle-aged woman who talks volubly in the Kansai dialect and a former homeless man who appears to have been falsely charged, at a special room in a prison.

While the chaplain is sometimes embarrassed about what the convicts say, he tries to comfort them by telling them, "Your soul will continue to exist."

A highlight of the movie is a scene where the protagonist talks with a young man who displays a provocative attitude toward him.

The youngster says, for example, "It is unacceptable for the state to kill its nationals." He also points out one "cannot decide whether or not to support the death penalty, because no detailed information on the system is disclosed."

The chaplain is puzzled by the questions fired at him by the young man.

"I expected chaplains to provide assistance to convicts so they can return to society," said Sako. "I became interested in the issue as I thought if so, what is the meaning of the guidance chaplains offered to individuals who are just waiting for death to come?"

After writing the script for "Kyuka" (Vacation), another movie released in 2008 themed on a prison officer involved in executions, Sako became increasingly interested in capital punishment.

"Abolishing the death penalty is the current trend around the world, but 80 % of Japanese still support it," Sako said. "I wondered why."

Trying to gain a deeper insight into the death penalty by better understanding circumstances facing death row inmates, Sako decided to make a film focusing on a chaplain for his next project, and so he interviewed chaplains and former prison guards.

Based on the interviews and some real-life cases, Sako finished the script.

Shinzo Yamane, 74, a pastor at the Hiroshima Seibu Church of the United Church of Christ in Japan, described the film as having "social significance."

"The work attempts to shed light on an aspect of the death penalty that is rarely made accessible for the public," said Yamane.

As a chaplain himself, Yamane has talked with 3 death row inmates.

He even maintained a dialogue with 1 of the convicts once a month for more than 10 years.

Yamane held talks with the inmate repeatedly, telling him, "Anyone has desires, and you and I are hardly different," and the convict began reading the Bible and got baptized. But despite those signs of a change of heart, the inmate's hanging proceeded.

"The convict said 'death row inmates lead public lives as well' and he was totally right in that they provide lessons for society," Yamane said.

"Kyokaishi" depicts "what people who have done irreversible things do and how they change before their deaths," according to Yamane.

"Covering the issue has great importance, as the state does not disclose such information," he said.

"Kyokaishi" hit cinemas in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and elsewhere on Oct. 6, and will be screened at 57 theaters nationwide eventually.

(source: The Asahi Shimbun)


Emotions run high as remains of 6 PAC members exhumed in Pretoria

Families of 6 members of Poqo - the armed wing of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) - who were hanged in 1963 became emotionally overwhelmed on Wednesday as their remains were exhumed at the Mamelodi West Cemetery.

The sombre ceremony which started off with the families retracing their slain kinsmen's final steps before they were hanged at the gallows - in the now Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre on the outskirts of Pretoria CBD - was led by the Missing Persons Task Team (MPTT) of the National Prosecuting Authority, in conjunction with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) unit of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

A grateful retired major-general Daniel Mahato Mofokeng, former chief of the Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA), described the 6 as "martyrs of the PAC".

"Today we are exhuming 6 of our martyrs ... who were executed. This is a programme that the PAC has approved and the government is executing it through justice [department]. We are very thankful that the government is giving support to the families of the deceased who are martyrs of the PAC," Mofokeng told journalists.

"The government is so giving support to the PAC. It has been a very painful road. PAC activists were executed in large numbers from 1961 until we got our democracy. Those who were executed at the maximum prison were almost 100."

He said numerous other PAC activists who opposed apartheid died in detention while others were killed in combat.

"Those who can be accounted for, their names are there at the Kgosi Mampuru maximum prison. What is happening is that today the government is releasing these people [the remains of the combatants] because they had been convicted, so they had been State property until today. Today, the government is exhuming and giving the remains the people [families] and for reburial later on," said Mofokeng.

"What must be understood is that when you were executed by the apartheid government, you remained State property until the government releases you to family. So, the families could not do anything about them because they belonged to the State. That is why we are keen that this process must be done."

He said the burial of the convicted was also heart-rending as several bodied were "thrown into a pit".

According to the NPA, the 6 PAC activists, who are better known as the "Cofimvaba 6", are Modi Mbiso, 26, Zenzile May, 27, Goli Sonamzi, 27, Katzekile Pilali, 28, Siqwayi Mhlaba, 27, and Nkosinam Ngalo, also aged 27.

"All 6 were members of the PAC's armed wing Poqo in Cape Town who were sent to target a certain chief and headman in the Cofimvaba area in the Eastern Cape. The group was provided with money, pangas and knives, and they travelled from Cape Town to Banzi location near St Marks. There, they attacked and killed headman Gwebindala Gqoboza on 19 October 1962," said a statement issued by the NPA.

"The 6 were charged with murder, they were found guilty and were sentenced to death on 7 February 1963. They were denied leave to appeal and all 6 were hanged at the Pretoria gallows just three months later, on 9 May 1963."

The ongoing exhumations form part of the Gallows Exhumation Project launched by Minister of Justice Michael Masutha in 2016, aimed at recovering the remains of political prisoners who were hanged at the gallows prior to the suspension of the death penalty in 1990.

The hanged political prisoners were given pauper burials at different areas around Pretoria.



A Prisoner Hanged in Maragheh, 2 Others in Isfahan

3 prisoners were hanged in Iranian cities of Maragheh and Isfahan on murder charges.

According to the IHR sources, on the morning of Tuesday, October 16, Mowloud Shah-Hosseini, 29, from the Iranian city of Divandarreh, was executed at Isfahan Central Prison. He was convicted to death on both murder and drug-related charges. However, the execution was carried out for the murder charge.

On the same day, another prisoner, Behrouz Ansari Lenjan, was executed at Isfahan Central Prison. A source close to the prisoner, told IHR, "Behrouz was convicted to death for murdering a man whose name was Majid. Majid owed Behrouz 7 million Tomans. They fought and unfortunately, Majid was killed."

Another prisoner, Aslan Shirani, 33, was executed on Sunday, October 14, at Maragheh Prison. He was from the Iranian city of Miandoab and was executed on murder charges. A well-known source told IHR, "Aslan's business partner, Hatam, owed him 45 million Tomans. They could not solve their financial disputes; they fought and Aslan killed his business partner during the fight. This happened 3 years ago."

The Iranian media outlets have not published news related to the aforementioned executions 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.


Man Hanged at Ilam Prison----The Iranian media outlets have not published news related to the aforementioned execution so far.

According to the IHR sources, the prisoner identified as Kourosh (Ali) Behzadian. The source told, "Kourosh was married with two sons. He was addicted to Methamphetamine. 6 years ago, Kourosh broke into a neighbour's house for robbery. He killed the elderly neighbour woman and also hit her husband into the head. The man went into a coma, however, he survived and told who was the attacker."

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)

OCTOBER 17, 2018:


Is the Death Penalty Worth It? It’s a Question More States Should Ask

The Washington Supreme Court recently abolished the death penalty in that state, saying the practice was racially biased. That conclusion and the fact that the death penalty is extraordinarily expensive and does not do much to deter violent crime may help propel other states to abolish it.

The ruling makes Washington the 20th state to halt the death penalty in recent years. Currently there are 2,800 convicted inmates on the death rows of the remaining 30 states with the death penalty. 3 states, California, Florida and Texas, have nearly 50 % of the death row population. Not only have more states been abolishing the death penalty in recent years, death sentences in the states that still have it have been declining. There were 300 death sentences imposed in 1995. In 2012, that dropped to 82. Last year, there were 39 death sentences.

One reason is that states have been giving judges and juries options in the form of life without parole sentences.

There aren't many ways to be tougher on crime than the ultimate punishment of death. The United States is not alone in the use of the death penalty, but we do belong to an ever-shrinking group of nations that have it. 2/3 of the world's countries have abolished the death penalty, including all of the nations of the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and every other major U.S. trading partner with the exception of China and Japan. The top 5 countries in terms of executions are China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Interesting company we keep.

Public support for the death penalty is related to political party. Nearly 75 % of Republicans, just over 50 % of independents and 45 % of Democrats support it. The support seems related to a belief that the death penalty is morally acceptable, a view expressed by 61 % of those polled.

At the same time, there is concern about getting it right. Just under 40 % expressed confidence that the criminal justice system sentences to death those who are truly guilty. 3/4 believe that because mistakes are made, there should be a higher standard of proof in death penalty cases.

The Innocence Project is the primary driver of exonerations in the U.S. It has been able to use DNA evidence to obtain exonerations of 18 death row inmates and 16 inmates convicted of capital felonies but not sentenced to death. There have been an additional 140 death row inmates who have been exonerated based on evidence other than DNA.

The death penalty is also expensive. For example, capital cases in Texas cost about $2.5 million each. The death penalty costs about 10 times the cost of a comparable non-death penalty case. The excess cost to try, convict, sentence and execute an offender compared with the cost of life in prison without parole is about $8.5 billion for the inmates currently on death row in the United States.

Is it worth it? Prosecutors charge capital offenses, prosecute them and argue for the death penalty under a presumption that the death penalty deters.

The bottom line is that there is no scientific evidence that supports the assertion that the death penalty deters, a conclusion voiced by the National Research Council of the National Academies as recently as 2012.

One can certainly appreciate that a victim's family and friends may desire retribution for a murder. An eye for an eye is well ingrained in Western philosophy and religion. But we must ask: At what cost?

In light of the ever-present potential for error and bias, the absence of a deterrent effect and the extraordinary cost to prosecute, appeal and execute someone, we are left with the basic question: Is the death penalty worth it? It's a question more states ought to ask.

(source: Commentary; William R. Kelly is a professor of sociology at the University of Texas and the author of four books on criminal justice reform---- Austin American-Statesman)


Another state ends the death penalty and it’s past time for NC to follow suit

Last week, Washington became the 20th state to end the death penalty after its Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment is arbitrary and racially biased. If those are reasons to outlaw the death penalty, then it is surely time for the North Carolina death penalty to go.

How much more proof can you ask for that the death penalty is racist and arbitrary in our state?

More than 63 % of North Carolina's death 141 row prisoners are people of color, even though they make up less than 30 % of the state population. More than 2 dozen of the people on death row were sentenced to die by all-white juries.

A comprehensive statistical study found that defendants who kill white victims are more likely to get the death penalty, and that across the state, African American citizens are systematically, and illegally, excluded from capital juries.

If that's not enough, let's talk about arbitrariness.

A new report from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation shows that most of the people on N.C. death row are only there because they had the bad luck to be tried under outdated laws, before there were basic legal protections to ensure fairness at their trials. Had they been tried under modern laws, most wouldn't be on death row today.

Watch the story of Nathan Bowie, who because there was no indigent defense agency at the time of his trial, ended up with an alcoholic lawyer who came to court drunk.

Today, after the enactment of many reforms, only a handful of people each year face capital trials. Yet, the selection of that handful remains arbitrary. It has more to do with the practices of the local DA, the county where the crime occurred, and the defendant’s willingness to accept a plea bargain than it does with the severity of the crime.

Across the country, people have become unwilling to ignore the obviousness unfairness that infects the death penalty. Last week, Washington admitted the truth about its death penalty. It's time for North Carolina to do the same.

(source: Kristin Collins is the Associate Director of Public Information at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. This post appeared originally on the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty


He is on death row for killing a Myrtle Beach cop. Now he wants a new trial

The man facing the death penalty for murdering a Myrtle Beach police officer in 2002 says he deserves a new trial because his lawyer didn't strike 2 jurors who found him guilty.

This week Luzenski Allen Cottrell filed a post conviction rights request in Horry County Circuit Court.

A jury convicted Cottrell for the murder of Myrtle Beach police officer Joe McGarry outside a Dunkin Donuts on Dec. 29, 2002. McGarry and his partner, Mike Guthinger, were walking into the shop when Guthinger recognized Cottrell as a suspect in another shooting, according to court testimony.

The officers confronted Cottrell outside and a brief struggle ensued. Cottrell pulled out a .45 caliber gun and shot McGarry. Guthinger returned fire and shot Cottrell in the leg as he fled.

McGarry had just proposed to his girlfriend days before the shooting.

In 2014, Judge Larry Hyman sentenced Cottrell to death.

That was after the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned Cottrell’s previous murder conviction and death sentence during an April 2005 trial. The court overturned the case because the jury did not have the option of convicting Cottrell of a lesser charge.

Cottrell is also serving a life sentence for a 2004 murder indictment in Marion County.

In Cottrell’s post conviction right request, he says he was denied effective lawyers during the 2014 trial. Cottrell argued attorneys failed to strike 2 potential jurors - out of hundreds who were called.

The jurors stated they would not consider Cottrell's background as relevant when considering the death penalty,according to the filing. Mitigating evidence can be considered by a jury when deciding on the death penalty.

Lawyers objected to the jurors, but the judge overruled that objection, according to the filing. Lawyers then did not use strikes to remove the jurors who were eventually part of the jury.

"Because of their self-professed unwillingness to consider a broad range of constitutionally relevant mitigating evidence, it is at least reasonably probable that one or both jurors adversely affected the outcome of the penalty phase deliberations," the filing reads.



Convicted killer faces death penalty in 2002 Waffle House murder

Hours after police found the bodies of waitress Christina Delarosa and cook Willie Absolu inside a Davie Waffle House in March 2002, a detective told Gerhard Hojan something he did not want to hear.

"Barbara Nunn survived."

After hearing that, according to Broward State Attorney Mike Satz, Hojan lowered his head. Nunn had been shot and left for dead, a witness who could identify Hojan as "Chip" and a 2nd suspect, Jimmy Mickel. The suspects were former Waffle House co-workers who decided to rob the restaurant in western Davie on March 11, 2002.

Hojan did not plan to leave any living witnesses, but Nunn was able to tell police enough to identify him as the shooter, Satz said.

Now Hojan is back in a Broward courtroom, the beneficiary of a change in Florida's death penalty law. Originally convicted and sentenced to die, Hojan was given a reprieve when the state's capital punishment procedure was determined to be unconstitutional.

The new jury will have to decide unanimously that Hojan deserves to be put to death.

Satz said there is plenty of reason: Hojan committed 2 murders and an attempted murder as well as an armed kidnapping. The crimes were committed to eliminate witnesses and for financial gain. The victims were aware of what was happening, locked in a freezer waiting for Hojan to call them out, order them to their knees and open fire.

Mickel was acquitted of the murders and is serving 5 life sentences for his role in the kidnapping and robbery.

Hojan's defense lawyer, Mitch Polay, deferred his opening statement until after Satz has finished putting on his case.

Nunn took the stand at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday to describe the robbery and shooting to the jury.

(source: Sun-Sentinel)


3 judges to decide death penalty trial in Warren County

3 judges, rather than a jury, will decide whether a Warren County man will be convicted and possibly sentenced to death for the death of his adoptive sister in September 2017.

On Monday, Judge Donald Oda II cleared up remaining issues leading up to the trial of Christopher Kirby, 38, of South Lebanon.

Oda, along with Judges Joe Kirby and Robert Peeler, will hear the cases made by lawyers for and against Kirby.

John Kaspar, one of the lawyers representing Kirby, said they decided to make their case to the judges, rather than a jury, after reviewing responses of potential jurors in the case.

The 2-week trial is scheduled to begin next Monday in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

During Monday's hearing, Kirby's other lawyer, Timothy McKenna, said prosecutors had turned down an offer for Kirby to plead guilty to all charges and be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Kirby is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.

Assistant County Prosecutor John Arnold said the offer was rejected for several reasons, but he did not elaborate.

Kirby is accused of murdering Deborah Power and badly beating her husband, Ronnie Power, at the home they shared with Kirby, his wife and children in South Lebanon.

In April, Jacqueline "Jackie" Kirby, 31, was sentenced to 3 years on probation for her part in the case and ordered her to enter the Women's Recovery Center, an outpatient substance abuse program in Xenia.

It was unclear whether she will testify in her husband's trial.

Authorities were summoned by a 911 call from an 8-year-old boy. During a hearing Monday, Oda indicated a young witness was expected to testify.

Deborah Power, 63, of South Lebanon, was found under a blanket and "cold to the touch with blood underneath" by sheriff's deputies called to 59 W. Broadway, according to a search warrant.

Christopher Kirby was first interviewed at West Chester Hospital, the day after the incident. At the hospital, detectives recovered the victims' truck and 3 credit cards allegedly taken from them as the Kirbys tried to raise more money to buy drugs.

His lawyers motioned for his statements to police to be thrown out, citing the likelihood he was feeling the effects of heroin or withdrawal from it when he was questioned.

They also argued that a detective secretly recorded the man's statements during a "smoke break."

But Oda rejected the defense motions, ruling the statements were obtained lawfully.

(source: Dayton Daily News)


The death penalty is now unconstitutional in Washington state. California should be next

The California Supreme Court should follow the lead of the Washington state Supreme Court, which on Oct. 11 declared that state's death penalty to violate the state constitution "because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner."

California's death penalty suffers the same flaws and likewise should be struck down.

In its carefully reasoned opinion, the Washington Supreme Court explained that the "use of the death penalty is unequally applied - sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant."

The same could be equally said about the death penalty in California. In fact, in 2014, federal Judge Cormac Carney declared the state's death penalty unconstitutional because of the very arbitrary way in which it is administered. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned Carney’s ruling on procedural grounds, but never questioned his reasoning about the death penalty.


Carney's analysis of the death penalty in California was stunningly similar to that of the Washington high court.

"Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes," he explained. "Of them, only 13 have been executed. For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death.

"As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary," the judge added.

Carney's facts are unassailable. Countless factors - the process of direct review by the California Supreme Court, the lack of qualified attorneys to handle death penalty cases, the need for multiple levels of review - contribute to long delays and unpredictability in carrying out death sentences. The average delay between sentencing and execution in California is 25 years. In the case before Carney, the defendant was sentenced to death in 1995 and there are still appellate proceedings in his federal case.

Nor is there any fix for this.

Short-circuiting appeals or proceeding without competent counsel increases the risk of executing innocent people, or imposing the death penalty when there has been a serious constitutional violation. The U.S. Supreme Court long has recognized that arbitrary punishments violate the Eighth Amendment. Carney's opinion shows, as many judges and law professors have concluded, that California death penalty system is irreparably broken.

In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 66 to speed up the death penalty by requiring that all state appeals be completed within 5 years. No one believes this is possible given the complexity of the cases and the lack of qualified lawyers to handle them. In 2017, the California Supreme Court upheld this initiative by saying that despite the mandatory language of the initiative, it should be regarded as only advisory. Proposition 66 does not deal with any of the reasons why there are inevitable delays and does nothing to address the arbitrary imposition of the death penalty.

There is no doubt that in California, as in Washington State and every other state with capital punishment, the death penalty is imposed in a racially discriminatory manner. Of the 743 people on California's death row, 2/3 are individuals of color. Careful studies have shown that in California, as elsewhere, a jury is far more likely to impose a death sentence when the victim is white compared to when the victim is African American or Latino.

In the past 15 years, 7 states - Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York - have abandoned capital punishment through court order or legislative act. 3 - Colorado, Oregon and Pennsylvania - have adopted moratoriums.

Gov. Jerry Brown should impose such a moratorium before leaving office.

And California Supreme Court justices should show the same fidelity to constitutional principles and judicial courage as the Washington Supreme Court and declare the state's death penalty to be unconstitutional.

(source: Opinion; Erwin Chemerinsky is dean and professor of law at the UC Berkeley School of Law----Sacramento Bee)


USCCB welcomes end to death penalty in Washington State

Following the Washington Supreme Court's ruling striking down the state death penalty statute, Bishop Frank J Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, welcomed the news and reiterated the Church's teaching on capital punishment.

The full statement of Bishop Dewane follows:

"The Washington Supreme Court is to be commended for its unanimous decision to strike down the state death penalty statute. In his 2015 address to the US Congress, Pope Francis called for 'the global abolition of the death penalty,' as he explained, 'I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. . . . A just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.'

"In the Court's opinion, the death penalty was deemed 'invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.' This echoes one of the reasons to oppose the death penalty that the bishops gave in their 2005 statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death:

[The death penalty's] application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as race, the quality of legal representation, and where the crime was committed.

"We join the Catholic Bishops of Washington, the Washington State Catholic Conference, the Catholic Mobilizing Network, and all people of good will in welcoming this development and persevering in the work to end the death penalty."

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank Dewane



The Death Penalty Makes America Less Safe

There are many misconceptions about the death penalty that contribute to supporters’ defense of it. High on the list are the arguments that the system enhances public safety by sending a warning to would-be perpetrators and preventing violent crime.

But in reality, studies show that those who commit violent crimes (like murder) do not think about the potential consequences when acting. Moreover, states with the highest rates of executions also tend to have the highest rates of murder and violent crime.

Rather than acting as a deterrent, the death penalty is, in fact, partly to blame for the reality that the majority of crimes are never even solved. I’ll explain why.

The murder clearance rate in the U.S. is among the lowest in the world, with fewer than 60 % of homicide cases cleared on average. A clearance rate refers to a case where an arrest is made or a suspect is identified but not apprehendable, so the % of homicides that actually lead to a conviction is even lower.

Why is this? There are a multitude of problems within the justice system that contribute, but reports show that at the top of the list is a lack of law enforcement resources. In a 2009 study, Police Chiefs also ranked a lack of resources as the top barrier for effective law enforcement. Tellingly, they ranked the death penalty as the least effective measure for combating crime in that same study.

Justice is expensive and resources are limited. Therefore, if the primary purpose of the criminal justice system is to make society safer, resources must be dedicated to the programs that have proven most successful at preventing, deterring, and solving crime.

The death penalty certainly isn’t one of them. 88 % of criminologists agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent, and the data backs them up.

Regions of the country with the most executions continue to have the highest rates of violent crime (the South), while regions that have very few executions or that have repealed the death penalty have very low violent crime (the Northeast). In fact, in 2016 the murder rate in non-death penalty states was 4.49 compared to a murder rate of 5.63 in states with the death penalty. That's a 25 % difference.

Not only is the death penalty not a deterrent, it's a resource zapper. It is far more costly than any other sentence, including life without the possibility of parole.

When you consider the fact that the death penalty is the most expensive part of the justice system on a per-offender basis, then couple that with the fact that the death penalty does not deter or reduce crime, it becomes pretty obvious what needs to go. The resources wasted pursuing death sentences for a cherry-picked number of cases would be more effectively used staffing, equipping, and training police departments so they could solve more crimes.

And while we're focusing on unsolved homicides here, let's not forget that limited resources also mean many other violent crimes go unsolved (and only about 50 % are reported in the first place).

For every 1,000 rapes in this country, only 310 are reported to police, 11 are referred to prosecution, and merely 6 will result in incarceration. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested across the country, while the sands run out on the statute of limitations for victims to press charges. That problem has gotten so bad that the federal government has given grants to over 20 jurisdictions to pay for the processing of this evidence - something that should already be in their budget.

To top it off, only 1/3 of property crimes are reported in the U.S. each year, and of those only 19 % are cleared. Resources wasted on the death penalty are resources that can't be used towards solving these crimes as well.

It is in no way just to waste millions of dollars a year pursuing death for a few cases while most victims receive no justice whatsoever, nor is it just to waste millions of hard-working Americans' tax dollars on a system that provides them nothing in return.

If the primary purpose of the system is to make society safer and actually advance justice, then the death penalty not only fails to contribute to that goal, it acts as a huge barrier.

(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


Pope Francis has unshackled the church from the death penalty

In his Sept. 24, 2015, speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis said, "Recently my brother bishops in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation."

What was it - a fear of being preachy, a hesitancy of offending his hosts who might support capital punishment - that kept Francis from condemning the American passion for the death penalty? Whatever the reason, the pope had his chance and he blew it.

Perhaps atoning for his tepidity, he returned to the topic this year on Aug. 2 to declare to a larger audience of 1.2 billion Catholics that executions are "inadmissible" in all cases: meaning no exceptions for killers who massacre schoolchildren, no leniency for assassins whose murdering was declared "heinous" by judges and prosecutors.

The papal absolutism put Francis in a league of his own, well separate from wafflers like Pope John Paul II who intoned that in some cases killing killers was "the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor." Such thinking echoed the early church arguments of Augustine and the medieval Thomas Aquinas.

In one stroke, Francis did what no pope ever attempted: unshackling the church from supporting capital punishment.

In a Vatican address on Oct. 11, 2017, to mark the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Francis argued that "no one ought to be deprived ... of life."

"No matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person," Francis said.

Predictably, the assertion brought on a storm surge of criticism, including from Edward Feser, co-author of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment. Obviously rattled that Francis was not only out of line but was something of a heretic, Feser wrote: "In our book ... Joseph Bessette and I assemble a mountain of evidence from Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the popes, saints and theologians, and catechisms and other church documents, that shows conclusively that the legitimacy of capital punishment is irreformable Catholic teaching [emphasis in original]. And if that is so, then it follows that a pope who taught that capital punishment was always and intrinsically wrong would be as manifestly guilty of doctrinal error as he would be if he denied the Trinity."

According to the Pew Research Center, public support of the death penalty is 54 percent, a tick higher than 53 percent among Catholics. Not among that group was Fr. Matthew Regan, a California priest who before his death in 2003 had a singular ministry that included weekly visits to death row inmates in the San Quentin prison.

(source: National Catholic Reporter)


Drug mule nabbed with 308 killos of tik faces death penalty in Vietnam

Police in northern Vietnam have arrested a Laotian man caught with more than 300 kilograms of methamphetamine (commonly known as tik in South Africa) in one of the largest meth seizures ever recorded in the country, authorities announced on Tuesday.

Police arrested Xeng Vang, 23, in Quang Binh province's Le Thuy district on Saturday, one day after he fled from a traffic stop after attempting to bribe the officers who pulled him over for speeding, police said in a statement.

Upon inspecting the car, police found 308.6 kilograms of meth stored in 300 nylon bags. It was the largest drug bust recorded in Quang Binh province, with an estimated street price for the drugs in the millions of dollars.

Although Xeng managed to escape into a forest along with 2 suspected Vietnamese accomplices, police tracked him down the next morning. He admitted to being paid 10 000 dollars to transport the drugs from Vietnam's Ha Tinh city to Da Nang. The other 2 suspects are still at large.

In Vietnam, those caught smuggling at least 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.



Journo Farhad, wife killing: HC commutes death penalty of 2

The High Court (HC) commuted the death sentence on Tuesday of 2 convicts to life imprisonment over the killing of journalist Farhad Khan and his wife Rahima Khatun in the city in 2011.

An HC bench of Justices Md Ruhul Quddus and ASM Abdul Mobin passed the order after hearing petitions filed by the convicts and the death references.

The death penalty was commuted for Nazimuzzaman Yon and his friend Raju Ahmed.

Advocate Abdul Matin Khasru and Mansurul Haq Chowdhury stood for the convicts while Deputy Attorney General Moniruzzaman Rubel represented the state.

Farhad Khan, 60, senior sub-editor of the Dainik Janata, and his wife Rahima Khatun were killed at their Nayapaltan residence in the city on January 28, 2011.

His younger brother Abdus Samad Khan filed a case with Paltan Police Station accusing unknown persons.

On October 10, 2012, the Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal-3 sentenced Yon, Farhad's nephew, and Raju to death.

Later, the convicts filed separate petitions with the High Court challenging the lower court order.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Law Council backs Australia’s global death penalty abolition drive

The Law Council of Australia is supporting the Australian government's newly unveiled framework to abolish the death penalty around the world.

The "Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty," launched by Senator Marise Payne, Australia's foreign minister, details practical steps that the country's ministers, parliamentarians, and diplomatic missions can follow to end death penalty worldwide.

"Australia's Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty sends a powerful message that Australia is committed to advocating for the abolition of the death penalty beyond our borders," said Arthur Moses SC, Law Council president-elect.

He said it is paramount that Australia steps up its opposition to the death penalty as the country is faced with the prospect of the execution of some of its citizens abroad.

"This is particularly pressing in our own region where some of our neighbours and allies continue to shoot and hang people convicted of crimes," he said. "Senator Payne is correct when she says the death penalty is an affront to human dignity. If you believe this, then it is your responsibility to advocate forcefully on a global level and this is exactly what Australia is doing."

He said that international progress is being made, with Malaysia saying last week that it will end the practice.

"The Law Council will continue to strongly and consistently argue that no person, anywhere in the world, should ever be subjected to the death penalty. The death penalty is a breach of the most fundamental human right: the right to life," he said. "We are extremely pleased that the Australian government is taking a strong position we can all be proud of."



Unjust for death row prisoners to serve 30 years in jail, says MP

It is ridiculous for death row prisoners to serve another 30 years following the government's move to abolish the death penalty, a backbencher said.

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said these prisoners were already serving time in jail, for between five and 20 years, from the time they were arrested and convicted by the courts.

"It is totally unjustified to order them to serve another 30 years in prison. This is akin to natural life imprisonment," he told FMT.

Ramkarpal said this in response to the announcement by de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that death row inmates would serve 30 years' life imprisonment under the proposed abolition of the death penalty.

"Their jail term will run from the date the Pardons Board commutes the death sentence to life imprisonment," he said.

There are 1,267 prisoners on death row, about 900 of whom were convicted of trafficking in dangerous drugs.

Ramkarpal, who is a lawyer and has appeared for accused persons charged with offences that carried the death penalty, said the changes in the law would be meaningless to death row prisoners.

"Those aged between 40 and 50 will die in prison as I understand the additional 30-year jail term is mandatory and cannot be commuted."

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said the cases of these condemned prisoners should be brought before the Federal Court for review.

"The bench can substitute the death penalty with a jail term after taking into account mitigating and aggravating factors," he said.

Varughese said for new cases before the court, judges should be given the discretion to impose a jail term of up to 30 years.

"All death sentences should not be automatically replaced with a minimum 30-year life imprisonment," he said, adding that only then will the jail punishment meted out be just and effective.



Malaysian Bar: Don't automatically replace death sentences with life imprisonment

Death sentences should not automatically be replaced with life imprisonment or a minimum of 30 years’ jail after the death penalty is abolished, says the Malaysian Bar.

Its president George Varughese said the sentences of death row inmates should instead be commuted to sentences that are proportionate to the severity of the offences they had committed.

He also said various factors should be taken into consideration for each offender's case, including the offender's age, past criminal record, mental capacity, fear of another person, rehabilitation goals, degree of cooperation with the authorities and remorse shown by the offender.

"Only then will the punishment of imprisonment meted out be just and effective," he said in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 16).

His statement comes following comments by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong that prisoners on death row would have to serve time for at least 30 years once the death penalty is abolished.

He said these prisoners would have their sentences commuted to "imprisonment for life" or "life imprisonment".

He added that "imprisonment for life" means that the convicts would serve the rest of their lives in prison without any release date whereas for "life imprisonment", convicts have to serve time for a minimum of 30 years.

(source: my)


Pakistan executes Kasur child rapist and murderer----Execution of Zainab Ansari's assailant takes number of state-sanctioned killings to nearly 500 since late 2014.

Pakistan has executed a man convicted of raping and murdering a six-year-old girl in the eastern district of Kasur, jail authorities and the girl's family have said.

Imran Ali was hanged at the Kot Lakhpat jail in the eastern city of Lahore early on Wednesday, jail officials told Al Jazeera. They spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Ali, 24, was executed in the presence of Muhammad Amin Ansari, the father of 6-year-old Zainab Ansari, whose brutal rape and murder in January sparked a widescale manhunt.

"He walked by himself to the gallows and stood there comfortably," Muzammil Ansari, Zainab's cousin, told Al Jazeera by telephone.

"They put the noose around his head, he did not resist. He did not ask for any forgiveness from us."

Zainab's body was found in a rubbish heap in Kasur on January 9, sparking nationwide outrage and protests. In Kasur, riots broke out, police clashing with angry protesters demanding justice be done in the case.

Police arrested Ali 2 weeks later, after closed-circuit television footage showed Zainab being led down a narrow lane in her neighbourhood. Police said that DNA tests also linked Ali to at least 6 other cases of rape and murder.

In February, a trial court convicted Ali for the kidnapping and murder of Zainab, handing down a death sentence on 4 counts, including kidnapping, rape and murder.

He was later sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 4 other children in Kasur.

Public hanging request denied

On Tuesday, the Lahore High Court rejected an appeal by Muhammad Amin Ansari, the victim's father, for Ali to be hanged publicly, saying it was not the prerogative of the court to make that judgment.

The provincial government had denied an earlier, similar request by Ansari, as it did not conform to Pakistani law.

Ansari's family said they made the demand in order to deter potential criminals.

"To the parents of other daughters, I would say just this: this request we had made for a public hanging, the objective was so that the whole world could see it, and it would have a good effect," Zainab's father, Muhammad, told reporters gathered outside the jail shortly after the execution on Wednesday.

"But even now, given how much the electronic media has highlighted this, because of this families and children have all gained a lot of awareness and become a lot more conscious [...] about how they should bring them and take them to school and other places," Ansari added.

Muzammil Ansari, Zainab's cousin, said she was "not just our daughter, but a daughter of the nation."

Executed, then acquitted: Fair trial concerns plague Pakistan

"Our daughter's gone, she will never come back. But we wanted to save the other daughters of the nation, by creating fear in the hearts of those who do such horrible things," he added.

For years, Pakistan maintained a moratorium on executions, which it lifted in late 2014 after an attack on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed more than 130 schoolchildren.

Since then, the state has executed at least 497 people, with a death row population of more than 4,687. Rights groups say the use of the death penalty in Pakistan is problematic, given numerous fair trial concerns in an overloaded criminal justice system.

The eastern district of Kasur had earlier come to prominence in 2015 when police arrested a gang of paedophiles in the district. The gang had allegedly been involved in the sexually assaulting and filming more than 280 young boys.

Years later, family members of the abused children told Al Jazeera they are still awaiting justice.

(source: Al Jazeera)


Pakistan executes murderer and repeat child sex offender

Pakistan hanged Imran Ali on Wednesday morning, who was convicted of sexually abusing many minor girls in Kasur city located to south of Lahore, in the Pakistani province of Punjab.

Imran Ali was hanged in the presence of Superindtendent Kot Lakhpat Jail, Magistrate and medical officer, reported Geo News.

Tight security arrangements were made around Kot Lakhpat Jail before the execution of Imran Ali.

4 members of Imran's family, including his father and uncle, were present in jail to receive his body.

On June 12, Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had turned down his plea against death sentence in rape and murder case of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari.

(source: United News of India)


A Death Sentence Over a Cup of Water?----The case of Asia Bibi has become a symbol of ancient hatreds in Pakistan. The country's Supreme Court has the chance to put things to rights.

"To pardon or overturn the verdict against Asia Bibi, self-confessed blasphemer is the commission of blasphemy itself and is crime against Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan." So read a handout distributed by the hardline Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan in rallies all over Pakistan last week. The group threatened to paralyze the country with protests if the mother of 5a were to be exonerated by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, members of the group dispatching to all the major areas of the country.

Going by the laws of evidence and due process, Asia Bibi should be freed rather than put to death as ordered in 2010. Stemming from a dispute over a drinking cup, the case has huge evidentiary holes, violations of due process and factual fabrications. And as it has proceeded to the supreme court in Pakistan, it has become an emblem of how longstanding hatreds and vague laws have enabled minority persecution.

The story began in the small village of Katanwala, in an area known as Nankana Sahib, which stands 30 miles from the Pakistani city of Lahore. There, on the afternoon of June 14, 2009, 4 women working in the fields got into a terrible argument over a drinking cup. Asia Bibi, the only Christian among them, allegedly grabbed the communal cup and drank from it before the other 3 could do so. The others claimed she had "contaminated" the cup and that they should have been permitted to drink first. The argument escalated and more fieldworkers gathered. In an interview to BBC Newshour, Bibi’s daughter recounted how she ran to get her father. When they returned, however, Bibi had already been taken away. Within days a blasphemy case had been registered against her by the village cleric, who additionally claimed she had "confessed" to the crime.

The question of drinking order is a vestige of the Hindu caste system.

The question of drinking order is a vestige of the Hindu caste system that has lingered in the area even after most of the population converted to Islam over a hundred years ago. Christians, believed to be converts from the lowest classes of Hinduism, continue to be treated as untouchables in parts of Pakistan. For high caste Hindus, using the same utensils as someone from a lower caste represented contamination or impurity. It seems the women in the field with Asia Bibi on that ill-fated June day believed this as well.

The case seemed tailor-made for hardline parties looking to mobilize communities against religious minorities. Similar recent blasphemy cases have been brought against Shia Muslims and members of the Ahmediyya sects. The country is rapidly transitioning from a mostly rural to mostly urban milieu. With caste and status in flux, clinging to some imagined superiority based on religion can be an attractive prospect - even if it only confers the privilege of drinking from a cup before a Christian.

The blasphemy law itself has been criticized even by Islamic scholars, who have pointed to its vaguely worded text. But the law has become the signature issue of hardline groups who oppose any change they see as weakening the Islamic nature of the Pakistani state. Tehreek-e-Labbaik have deployed themselves as watchdogs and vigilantes, supposedly policing the country against blasphemers. In another incident several months ago, they staged a protracted sit-in at one of the major intersections in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital city, paralyzing traffic for months, because the government had surreptitiously removed the name of the Prophet Muhammad in the oath of office. The government capitulated, saying that the altered oath had been a "mistake."

The new government installed after the election this summer has also shown susceptibility to hardline Islamic pressure. A little over a month ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan removed Princeton economist Atif Mian from his Economic Advisory Council because the latter belongs to the Ahamdiyya sect, which does not believe that the chain of prophets ended with Muhammad. Mian's expertise in the area of debt and credit restructuring is sorely needed as Pakistan lobbies for an IMF bailout. But Khan, who already expressed his support for the blasphemy law as he wooed Islamists during his election campaign, removed Mian from his position.

With a public that has increasingly championed the death penalty and cheered its resumption following a seven-year moratorium that ended in 2015, and a Prime Minister beholden to the very people who want her dead, Asia Bibi can only rely on the Supreme Court itself. The lawyers and judges have all faced intimidation from the hardliners who are issuing threats, insisting that those who exonerate Asia Bibi will be blasphemers themselves. The three male justices deciding her case heard arguments from both sides on October 8, and while they seemed interested in the way the witness statements contradicted each other, and that the male cleric who had filed the case was not actually present when the altercation took place, there were few clues as to which way the court leaned. At the end of the proceedings, the court said it would "reserve" the verdict. Pakistani media were told to refrain from discussing the case, a directive most of have adhered to in recent days.

Aside from the threat of protests, a more sinister shadow hangs over the proceedings. 2 politicians - the former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, and a Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti - were gunned down in 2011 for supporting Asia Bibi's innocence.

The Supreme Court has made bold rulings before, for example the one in 2017 that ended Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s time in office - he was subsequently convicted of corruption. And there is genuine concern in Pakistan about the international reaction to putting a woman to death over a dispute centered on a drinking cup.

Asia Bibi's case may have begun as a macabre mélange of class, caste, and religious persecution, but it has quickly become a gendered narrative as well. Most if not all Tehreek-e-Labbaik members are men, as is Khadim Rizvi, its leader. Asia Bibi's case would represent the 1st case ever of a woman put to ever be executed. The power now lies in the hands of the all male bench of the Supreme Court that heard her case, as the 2 male lawyers presented their arguments.

The country's Supreme Court has shown it can stand up to politicians. Now is its chance to show it can stand up to the mob, and the deeply ingrained prejudices mobilizing it. At the heart of the case is, quite simply, a woman - and a large number of people who want her dead.

(source: Rafia Zakaria is an attorney, a political philosopher and the author of The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan----The New Republic)


Man Hanged at Ferdows County Prison

A prisoner was executed at Ferdows County Prison on murder and armed robbery charges last Sunday.

According to HRANA, on Sunday, October 14, a prisoner named Ayyub Jahandar, 28, from Torbat Heydariye city, was hanged at Ferdows County prison.

According to the prisoner's relatives, "Mr Jahandar was accused of murdering a person during an armed robbery that happened six years ago. His brother also convicted to 15 years of imprisonment for assisting Ayyub in the robbery."

Ferdows County is a county in the north of South Khorasan Province in Iran. Around 300 prisoners are held in the county's prison.

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

(source: Iran Human Rights)


81 Death Row Inmates Await Execution

Zimbabwe Prisons says it has in its custody, a total of 81 death row inmates with some now having been on the list for more than 10 years.

The inmates live in the anguish of not knowing when they will finally be executed after government has failed to find a hangman since the retirement of the last one 2006.

The last execution in Zimbabwe was done in 2005.

Last year the Justice Ministry advertised for the post, later telling the media it had received some 50 applications but up to now no one has been appointed.

In an interview, Prisons Deputy Commissioner Human Resources Fadzayi Mupure said death row inmates live under the same conditions as those of other inmates.

"We need to appreciate from the onset that the death penalty, although still used in many countries and even in Zimbabwe, lobbying for its abolition in the international law has risen to high levels," Mupure said.

"The fact that we have a death penalty as provided for in Section 48 of the Constitution, I however need to point out that Zimbabwe has set conditions for all the incarcerated persons such as the right to appeal."

Mupure went on to say that inmates are informed about their rights as soon as they are convicted and sentenced to death.

"Immediately after their sentence, the prisoners are informed aout their right to appeal against their sentence," she said.

"If their appeal is not successful, they are at liberty to seek pardon or moratorium by the President."

She however could not give figures over how many have pending appeal cases.

"... Let me add also that of the 81, two used to be women but I also still need to verify on that one," she said.

At least 16 inmates on the death row escaped the hangman's noose when President Emmerson Mnangagwa commuted their death sentences to life in jail early this year.

Some of them who have been on the death row for more than 10 years also had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment.

According to the country's constitution, the death sentence cannot be imposed on women, persons who are aged less than 21 or older than 70 years.



Sajid Javid accused of abandoning moral stand on death penalty

The Home Secretary has been accused of abandoning the UK's moral and legal stand against the death penalty by handing over evidence to the United States on 2 alleged Isis terrorists. The accusation's been made by Ben Emmerson QC, a sitting Judge, who's called for an inquiry into Sajid Javid's decision to hand over evidence without assurances that the 2 men will not receive the death penalty.


OCTOBER 16, 2018:


Judge to set death date for Coble

A judge has called a hearing to set an execution date for convicted triple murderer Billie Wayne Coble.

Judge Matt Johnson of Waco's 54th State District Court has set the hearing for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, 8 days after the U.S. Supreme court rejected Coble’s appeal of his conviction in the 1989 deaths of his brother-in-law, Waco Sgt. Bobby Vicha, and Vicha's parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, at their homes in Axtell.

By statute, Johnson must set the execution date at least 91 days after Wednesday's hearing. Johnson will coordinate the date for Coble's execution, which will be carried out at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, with prison administrators and the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Johnson signed a warrant Monday to have Coble returned to Waco for Wednesday's hearing.

Coble, 70, one of the oldest on Texas' death row, has been on death row since 1990, when he first was convicted in the Vichas' deaths. He won a new punishment trial in 2007 when the 5th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals ruled questions asked of jurors to return the death penalty were unconstitutional.

He was sentenced to death again following a punishment retrial 10 years ago.

Trial evidence showed Coble was upset over the failure of his 3rd marriage. After killing Karen Vicha's brother and parents, Coble kidnapped his estranged wife and threatened to rape and kill her. Coble was arrested after he and Karen Vicha were injured after a high-speed chase with police in Bosque County.

J.R. Vicha, a Waco attorney and former McLennan County prosecutor, was 11 at the time of the slayings. Coble tied him up, along with 2 cousins, and fled with his wife.

"I want to thank Judge Johnson for getting this done so quickly," Vicha said Monday. "I hope he sets the date as soon as possible after the 91 days so we can get this done."

Coble's attorney, A. Richard Ellis of Mill Valley, California, did not return a phone message Monday.

(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)


Inmate convicted of capital murder in death of Abilene corrections officer

An inmate has been found guilty of capital murder in the death of an Abilene corrections officer.

The jury found Dillion Gage Compton guilty after deliberating for less than 3 hours.

Compton killed Marianne Johnson in July 2016 at the French Robertson Unit.

The punishment phase, which starts tomorrow at 10 a.m., will determine whether he will face the death penalty.

(source: KTXS news)


Who will be the last person executed by Virginia?

On Oct. 11, the Washington state Supreme Court unanimously struck down that state's death penalty statute as unconstitutional ["State's high court rejects death penalty," national digest, Oct. 12]. The court wrote:

"The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner. While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered."

Washington becomes the 20th state to end capital punishment. 10 more states have not put anyone to death in the past decade.

Unfortunately, Virginia is among the few remaining states that still carry out executions - 3 in the past 5 years.

However, no Virginia jury has sentenced an offender to death since 2011. There are only 3 men remaining on Virginia's death row. Who will be the last person executed by the commonwealth?

It is long past time that Virginia ends what the unanimous Washington Supreme Court called "an arbitrary and racially biased" punishment.

Michael E. Stone, Richmond

(source: The writer is executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty----Letter to the Editor, Washington Post)


Death penalty switched to life in prison for Alabama man who killed 4 children

A Bayou La Batre man who was given the death penalty after throwing his 4 children off a bridge in 2008 had his sentenced reduced Monday to life without a parole after 2 independent psychologists said that his IQ did not meet the state minimum to be executed.

Lam Luong, 38, who born in Vietnam before moving to the United States as a teenager, was present in court when the new sentence was handed down.

District Attorney Ashley Rich, who was visibly shaken while reading a press release at Government Plaza late Monday afternoon, said that "no one deserves the death penalty more" than Lam Luong.

"Our hands are tied," she added, while citing state and federal laws that prohibit executing a person with an IQ of lower than 70 points. To do so would be considered cruel and unusual punishment, as outlined in the 8th Amendment.

DA Rich said that no member of the legal profession that interacted with Luong during his initial trial in April 2009 believed he had learning issues. "None of these very experienced members of the bar specializing in criminal law ever had any indication that the defendant might be below average intelligence."

Attorneys for Luong hired a licensed psychologist and developmental neuropsychologist to determine their clients IQ, which had never been done at the initial trial. His IQ was measured at 57, said Rich. An independent licensed psychologist hired by the Alabama Attorney General's Office, which sought to appeal the test's findings, measured Luong's IQ even lower, at 51.

Luong will now spend the remainder of his life in prison. He has no opportunity for parole.



Inmate faces death penalty after allegedly strangling cellmate to death

A former Warren County inmate strangled his cellmate to death in April, prosecutors said.

Jack Welninski was serving a nearly 70-year sentence when police said he killed Kevin Nill at the Lebanon Correctional Institution. But now, if convicted, Welninski could be sentenced to death.

The 33-year-old was indicted on a capital murder charge Monday, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said.

In 2015, Welninski was convicted for the attempted murder of an Oregon, Ohio, police officer. He was sentenced to 69 years in prison.

On April 23, Welninski was placed in a cell with Kevin Nill, 40, of Piqua, Ohio. Nill was dead less than an hour later, the Warren County Prosecutors Office said.

"Investigators believe that Welninski murdered Nill to obtain a transfer to a different prison," officials said in a press release Monday.

The killing occurred in the Lebanon Correctional Institution. Welninski has since been sent to the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio.

Fornshell explained that death penalty is an option due to the alleged killing occurring while Welninski was incarcerated and prior violent offenses.

Welninski has not yet been arraigned on the murder charge. Trial dates will be scheduled later.

The victim, Nill, of Piqua was serving an 18-month sentence for attempted domestic violence. He scheduled to be released from prison on May 24, about a month after he was killed.

The death penalty in Warren County

There are 4 recent cases of the death penalty being brought to bear in Warren County.

Christopher Kirby is accused of killing his sister Debra Power in September 2017. Prosecutors said Kirby and his wife was living with his sister and his sister was threatening to kick them out. Kirby's trial begins next week, and a jury will be asked to consider the death penalty in the case.

Terry Froman abducted his estranged girlfriend from Kentucky and killed her on Interstate 75 in Sept. 2014. A Warren County jury recommended the death penalty for Froman. His appeal is currently pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.

Austin Myers is scheduled to be put to death on July 20, 2022. Myers and another man killed Justin Back, an 18-year-old Navy recruiter, in Jan. 2014. Justin's Law was passed in Ohio as a response to the murder and increased penalties in murder cases.

James Hanna killed a fellow inmate, 18-year-old cellmate Peter Copas, with a paintbrush and a padlock at the Lebanon Correctional Institution in 1997. Hanna is scheduled to be put to death in Dec. 2019.

The last man to be executed from Warren County was Rocky Barton. He killed his wife in 2003 and was executed in July 2006. The short period between the murder and his death was due to Barton refusing to appeal his conviction or ask for clemency. He tried to kill himself with a shotgun blast to the head the day he killed his wife, who was attempting to leave him, and later said he deserved to die.


TENNESSEE----impending execution

State prepares electric chair, execution date unconfirmed

While the details of the execution are still up in the air, but the state is preparing to send a death row inmate in Tennessee to the electric chair.

A jury sentenced Edmund Zagorski to death back in 1984 for the slayings of two men during a drug deal.

Zagorski had been set to be executed at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 11, but that was halted after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday granted a stay over concerns of inadequate representation.

As the state rushed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling and ensure the execution took place as scheduled, a separate federal judge barred the state from using lethal injection to kill Zagorski after it refused his request to die in the electric chair.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge of Tennessee's lethal injection protocol and lifted a stay of execution ordered by a lower court because of inadequate counsel.

The court issued the rulings Thursday night around the time Zagorski's execution had been scheduled. But earlier in the day, Gov. Bill Haslam granted a 10-day reprieve to give the state time to prepare for an execution by electric chair.

"I am granting to Edmund Zagorski a reprieve of 10 days from execution of the sentence of death imposed upon by him by a jury in 1984 which was scheduled to be carried out later today," Haslam stated. "I take seriously the responsibility imposed upon the Tennessee Department of Correction and me by law, and given the federal court's decision to honor Zagorski's last-minute decision to choose electrocution as the method of execution, this brief reprieve will give all involved the time necessary to carry out the sentence in an orderly and careful manner."

Before the state can use the electric chair, it has to be tested four times a year, including two weeks before an execution. The state says it just tested the chair Wednesday.

The 10-day reprieve is set to run out October 21, but It's still not clear just when Zagorski's execution could happen.

(source: WATE news)


Last-Ditch Efforts to Save Death Row Inmate in Tennessee Rejected

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected 2 last-ditch efforts to save the life of Tennessee death row inmate Edmund Zagorski, apparently clearing the way for his execution despite a delay caused by legal wrangling.

The court rejected a challenge of Tennessee's lethal injection protocol and lifted a stay of execution ordered by a lower court because of inadequate counsel.

The court issued the rulings Thursday night around the time Zagorski's execution had been scheduled. But earlier in the day, Gov. Bill Haslam granted a 10-day reprieve to give the state time to prepare for an execution by electric chair.



Prosecutors considering death penalty against Christopher Clements

Prosecutors are considering the death penalty for the man accused of kidnapping and murdering 2 young girls.

Christopher Clements is accused of killing 6-year-old Isabel Celis and 13-year-old Maribel Gonzales.

Prosecutors need to give notice of intention to seek the death penalty within 60 days of the arraignment. Prosecuting and defense attorneys asked a judge to extend the deadline another 60 days "given the complexity of the case," according to court documents.

The Pima County Attorney's Office now has until January 24 to decide if it wants to seek the death penalty.

(source: KVOA news)


Scott Dozier Still Wants to be Executed. And He's Still Waiting.----After forcing Nevada into a legal battle over its lethal injection drugs, an execution "volunteer" says the state is punishing him.

Last week, Nevada death row prisoner Scott Dozier called his family and friends and said they might not be hearing from him for a while. He had been placed, he said, in a form of solitary confinement so his mental health could be assessed, with just a few articles of clothing and an anti-suicide blanket.

Prison officials have not offered an explanation, but Dozier has speculated that they are punishing him for - or trying to get him to halt - his years-long effort to be executed. "I have never heard him sound so defeated," said Edgar Barens, a filmmaker who has regularly corresponded with Dozier.

Dozier's ongoing legal saga, which I wrote about in January, continues to illuminate the ambivalence and political turmoil surrounding the death penalty in the United States. Death row prisoners usually appeal their sentences, and many manage to hold off execution for decades. Many live in solitary confinement with few amenities, but Dozier was given access to an exercise yard, as well as a television, MP3 player and art supplies. Still, he did not feel that life in prison was a life worth living. 2 years ago, he announced that he would give up his appeals and agree to be killed. His request forced Nevada, which had not executed anyone in a decade, to come up with a new lethal injection cocktail and defend it in a number of court battles.

As of now, the state is losing those battles, and it appears Dozier will not be executed anytime soon. In late September, Las Vegas district judge Elizabeth Gonzalez barred officials from using their store of lethal injection drugs, based on opposition from the pharmaceutical companies that produced them. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt is asking the state supreme court to overrule Gonzalez, but if that fails, officials will need to acquire new drugs - no company has offered to sell them - or else develop a new execution method, such as the firing squad.

After 2 previous stays of execution, Dozier was placed on suicide watch for several days. The prison agency said this was a temporary precaution until he could be given a psychological evaluation, but Dozier thought officials might be punishing him. "I can't fucking believe they can treat people like this," he told me by phone in July after the most recent stay. "It feels like they're fucking with me to get me to stop [pushing to be executed]." He wrote letters to the head of the prison agency and a state senator, but to no avail.

This time, family and friends said Dozier had been in good spirits until he was put in these conditions, which he described to Barens as "limbo inside of limbo." In an email sent on Oct. 3 to 1 of Dozier's lawyers, obtained by The Marshall Project, Ely State Prison warden William Gittere wrote that Dozier's placement was based on a "mental health provider's orders." "He is not on a suicide watch, but has been placed in an infirmary cell to be observed and assessed for the next few days to a week," Gittere wrote. "I cannot comment on the source of information that led to the provider's concern due to an ongoing investigation."

Last Friday, Dozier’s family sent a letter to Nevada Department of Corrections director James Dzurenda. "At this point there is little to no information supporting the idea that Mr. Dozier is a risk to himself or others," they wrote. "He has asked to speak with medical staff yet requests were left unanswered, denied, or met with apathy."

In an email, corrections department spokesperson Brooke Santina cited patient privacy in declining to provide details about Dozier's mental health treatment, but said prisoners are only placed in segregation when "we have a reason to believe that there is a threat to their safety or the safety of another.” Asked if Dozier was being punished, she responded, "With nearly 14,000 inmates in 18 facilities across the state, it's imperative we follow the law and our policy to ensure each inmate is treated as any other inmate in his or her circumstances would be treated."

Dozier was sentenced to death in 2007 for killing and dismembering 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller, an associate in the methamphetamine trade. He was separately convicted in Arizona of killing 26-year-old Jasen Greene, and while in an Arizona jail, in 2005, he attempted suicide. He denies both murders, and began appealing his convictions, but in October 2016, he ended his appeals. Some have described his effort to be executed as akin to state-assisted suicide, but Dozier doesn't see it that way. "It's not that I think I deserve the sentence," he told me. "It's more that I'm resigned ... I'm not raging against the dying of the light."

His decision set off a chain reaction. Pharmaceutical companies, most of which have refused to sell drugs for use in lethal injection in recent years, declined to sell them to Nevada. The state announced a new cocktail featuring fentanyl, the opioid better known for causing overdoses across the country, and set an execution date in November 2017. When Dozier let his defense lawyers argue that death by the new drug combination might be painful, and therefore unconstitutional, a judge stayed his execution.

As the months passed, Dozier's frustration - with the state, with his lawyers, with himself - only grew. "I see this as a war right now, a battle, and I feel like sometimes I'm winning, and sometimes I feel like I'm losing," he told me by phone in February. He started wondering if state officials were dragging out the legal process, hoping he would change his mind and save them the hassle of killing him.

But he also maintained his caustic, nihilistic sense of humor. When President Trump said he wanted to give the death penalty to some drug dealers, Dozier said, "They can't even execute me! Get your shit together, people."

After state officials set a new execution date for last July, several drug companies accused them of purposefully obfuscating their intentions while buying their products. When a judge halted the execution, it was a benchmark moment: never before had a drug company stopped an execution in court.

Dozier was visiting with his family - for the last time, he thought - when an officer told them about the stay. "It is heartbreaking and stressful," Dozier's sister Bekki Patzer told me in an email. "I don't know for certain, but I imagine it is similar to someone having a terminally ill family member. We don't know how long we have with him, when will be the last time we see him, hug him, talk with him, or say our final goodbyes."

His family has continued to write letters to the department about Dozier's conditions but have not received a reply. Patzer told me she understands that the prison must take precautions, but does not understand why her brother has been deprived of his personal belongings, along with the ability to exercise in the yard, make calls and receive visitors. "His well-being is my primary concern," she said, "and I don't see how keeping him from those things can do anything but cause a deterioration in his mental and physical well-being."



Looking back at the only case to face the death penalty in Yakima County

Yakima County has seen its fair share of murders over the years, but there's only been 1 case where the death penalty was filed by prosecutor’s office.

The murder of Mike and Dorothy Nickoloff in 1988. Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic said it's one of the most gruesome crimes the county has ever seen.

"A couple residing here in Yakima County, and they're tragically killed by two individuals in their home and we filed the death penalty," he said.

Police said then 17-year-old Herbert Rice Jr. and Russell McNeil went into the Nickoloff's home, stabbed both people inside dozens of times and then stole their television.

McNeil pleaded guilty and Rice Jr. went to trial facing the death penalty.

The jury ended up voting 11-1 in favor of death but state law required it needed to be a unanimous vote for capital punishment.

Since then, Yakima County has seen a handful of cases considered for the death penalty.

The most recent being against Manuel Verduzco, who was found guilty on 2 charges of 1st degree murder. After police said he went into a MoneyTree and shot 2 women in Yakima.

One reason Brusic said the death penalty isn't filed very often is because of how expensive it can be for the county to take someone to trial.

"The last 2 cases (King County) had, King County taxpayers spent millions of dollars on those cases to see them go through the system," he said.

Which means the county can spend millions of dollars to only have the jury vote against the death penalty.

The state supreme court ruled capital punishment was arbitrary and racially biased.

Brusic said he and prosecutors across the state don't agree with the ruling because it limits their options when dealing with crime.

"Under the right circumstances, which doesn't happen all that often, it is an option that could be sought. I think being taken away does affect our abilities at times," he said.

The death penalty is gone but the Nickoloff case still lives on today.

Brusic said Herbert Rice Jr. is set to be re-sentenced in March of next year for a murder that happened 30 years ago.

(source: KIMA news)


Letters from inmates on death row----An overview of why South Korea needs to abolish capital punishment

Letters written on death row were given to the Hankyoreh by Lee Sang-hyeok, the attorney who set up the Council for the Abolishment of Capital Punishment in South Korea in 1989. For more than 2 decades, from Mar. 1994 until this past July, Lee received 63 handwritten letters running for more than 200 pages that record the fear of death, guilt for crimes committed and remorse for family members left behind.

"Even the most heinous of criminals should be given a chance to sincerely repent for their crimes and apologize to their victims," said Lee while showing the letters. Lee's correspondence with Kim Jin-tae, 52, offers insight into the life of inmates on death row.

Kim Jin-tae was a death-row inmate until his death sentence was commuted to life behind bars by a special amnesty on the last day of 2002. During the decade between 1993 and 2002, he wore a red name badge on his chest and spent each day waiting for death. In 1992, Kim was arrested by the police on charges of killing his father and abandoning his body, and he was sentenced to death the following year. That happened when he was 27 years old.

When Kim's father drank, he habitually resorted to violence. After getting married at the age of 18, Kim's mother endured this violence for nearly 30 years. On the day of the incident, his father had been drinking heavily, as usual. His intoxicated father struck his mother in the head with a blunt object, knocking her out. Seeing this drove Kim out of his mind. He shot his father with a shotgun and dumped his body in the Han River.

Arrested on charges of patricide, Kim said that he meekly confessed his crime to the police. This resulted in his incarceration and induction into death row at the Seoul Detention Center, where he has been doing time for 26 years now. Kim went behind bars in his 20s and is now in his 50s.

While on death row, Kim was referred to as a "maximum-sentence prisoner" rather than a "death row prisoner." The meaning is the same, as the term means a prisoner receiving the maximum sentence. The term "death row prisoner" is not often used in prison. The words "death penalty" exacerbate the inmates' fear. Referring to death row prisoners as "maximum prisoners" is normal practice in prisons.

Every passing day a step closer to death

Of course, use of the term "maximum-sentence prisoner" does not make the death penalty any less of a reality. While in prison, death row prisoners are constantly close to death. Every day could be their last. While most prisoners hope for the days to go by quickly, death row prisoners see each passing day as one step closer to death.

"We death row prisoners can't really be said to be serving sentences. I suppose it's like getting bonus life," Kim wrote on Mar. 17, 1997. "You could say that while people serving time get closer to their release as time passes, for us it means the day of our death is drawing nearer. It's been 6 years since I was put on death row. I came in as a 27-year-old, and now I'm 32."

Since every day is a "bonus," it is not considered strange that execution day eventually will arrive. This does not erase the fear of death, however. The life of a death row prisoner is one of constant uncertainty. Prisoners start at even the smallest noises. Every guard's footstep, every prisoner number that is called is a nerve-racking moment that could signal their ushering to the execution chamber.

That sense of day-to-day anxiety for prisoners was apparent in a 2009 piece Kim wrote from prison about his experience on death row. Its title was "Waiting in a Cold Prison Cell for the Death Penalty System to Kill Itself."

"The shoes of the approaching prison guard echoing as he strode through the corridor were like the ticking of a time bomb, the sound of the angel of death drawing near. When they finally called out a prisoner's number for a visit, chapel, or trip to the infirmary, cold sweat would stream down my spine and my heart would drop through my stomach. I would confront this fear of death several times a day.” (Dec. 3, 2009)

Kim could still vividly remember one moment when he seemed to be staring death in the face. It happened on Dec. 30, 1997, during his 6th year of imprisonment. That morning, he woke up earlier than he ever had before. "Human beings are spiritual animals, and I just had a sense," he explained on why that morning in particular seemed so chilling to him.

From the moment his eyes opened, Kim felt that this was to be the day. He took a cold shower early in the morning. With his head now cleared, he wrote a final message and silently prayed. After some time of praying and waiting, a guard called out his prisoner number.

"4088, Kim Jin-tae. Visit."

Thinking his time had finally come, Kim said a final goodbye to the "brothers" sharing his cell and stepped outside, a Bible in his hands. He also said a last farewell to the people he saw as he walked down the corridor. But the place the guard escorted him to was the visitors' room, not the execution chamber. Standing there was Rev. Moon Jang-sik, the Seoul Detention Center's head pastor at the time. Seeing Moon’s bloodshot eyes, Kim vaguely sensed that someone else's execution had been carried out, not his. On that day, the Kim Young-sam administration carried out death sentences against 23 death row prisoners, including 6 members of the "Chijon family" gang, who kidnapped and cruelly murdered 5 innocent people. It was the last day executions were carried out in South Korea. One of the people who died that day was a fellow "maximum prisoner" Kim had been close with. He too had been baptized as a Christian. The fellow prisoner had his organs and body donated when he was executed.

Death row prisoners often pledge to donate organs

Many death row prisoners make pledges to donate their organs before their final day arrives. While it may have been a crime that brought them to prison, they feel they should save other people's lives when their time comes. Kim was one of them. In 1995, 2 years after his death sentence was finally confirmed, he signed a pledge to donate his organs and allow the use of his body for medical science experimentation. He reached the conclusion after pondering ways to ensure his death was "not in vain."

He asked for his organs to be donated to those in need, his body to be dissected in a medical school, and the remains to be cremated and spread on his father's grave.

"Please donate my organs and bodies as needed and cremate the rest so that I can at least fertilize the ground on the grave of the feather who died because of me. I hope that what can be used is put to use and the rest can serve as fertilizer on my father's grave as some small form of atonement to my departed father and my remaining family as a depraved person who killed the father who gave birth to me because he had become a servant of evil satanic demons and beaten and abused by mother," he wrote on Mar. 27, 1995.

The organ donation was meant as a small gesture of atonement to Kim's father. Donations have already become a customary way of expiation for Kim. Every year, he donates 1 million won (US$890) from his custody holdings to relief groups for underfed children and other causes. He also uses some of the money to buy needed items for prisoners without family. "I feel so happy and grateful to be able to help others from here," he wrote on Aug. 25, 2000.

Inmates performing penitence and turning to religion in prison

Death row prisoners often perform penitence for their crimes in prison. Many turn to religion while behind bars, or awaken to the brutality of their crimes on the outside during conversations with correctional commission members and volunteers.

One example is Seo Chae-taek, who received a final death sentence in 1987 on charges of homicide during a robbery. Seo became a Buddhist while in prison and sincerely repented his acts. The wife of the man whose life Seo had taken submitted a petition asking that his death sentence be commuted to life in prison. But in 1994, he was put to death. In his final message, he wrote, "I am sorry to [the victim's] family. I hope I will be the last, and there will be no other executions." Seo too donated his body to science.

Death-row prisoners who choose suicide before execution

Living in daily fear of death, some death row prisoners opt to take their own lives. In 2015, a prisoner surnamed Lee sentenced to death for killing 5 relatives was found hanging in his Seoul Detention Center; he died of related injuries 2 days later.

Another death row prisoner surnamed Jeong hanged himself in 2009 in a solitary confinement cell at Seoul Detention Center. No note was found, evidence suggests Jeong was fearful of his execution. A notebook he kept included a message that read, "They say there are no plans to abolish the death penalty right now. Recently, the death penalty has been issued once again. [. . ]. Life is like a cloud, coming and going all too soon." The Ministry of Justice speculated Jeong may have taken his own life out of fears stemming from public calls for enforcing the death penalty in the wake of the Cho Doo-soon assault case.

After hearing the news, Kim sent a letter to his attorney saying, "I can understand how he feels in some sense, having lived in fear of the execution that might come at any time during 10 years as a death row prisoner."

"Many of the prisoners who heard about it said something like, 'Good for him choosing to end his own life cleanly instead of living in fear of death every day,'" he added.

"If it weren't for religion, something might have happened to me too," he wrote.

"I've met with 70 to 80 death row prisoners over the years, and most of them have shown some potential for rehabilitation," said attorney Lee Sang-hyeok, who has devoted more than 3 decades to fighting for abolition of the death penalty.

"In some cases, prisoners turn over a new leaf and sincerely ask for and receive forgiveness from the victim's family," he added.

A model prisoner, Kim had his death sentence commuted to life in prison in 2002. At times, he seemed to have given up on life during period on death row. "I'm astonished at my bizarre attachment [to life] when I think about the crime I've committed," he wrote on Mar. 8, 1994. "I'll live an eternal life after death."

But after his sentence was commuted in 2002, he vowed to live life to the fullest. "After 10 years of waiting for execution day with a red prisoner number on my chest, I have been granted life by the grace of God," he said. Possessing 8 certificates that he earned in prison - as an auto mechanic, boiler technician, and hot-water heating technician - he is committed to a new life in the off chance he ever returns to society.

"There's something I used to imagine every time I crawled in my sleeping bag to escape the cold that seemed to scrape into my flesh - that this prison was a repository for human garbage, that I was garbage inside a trash bag. But while some garbage is completely unsalvageable and gets buried or incinerated, other garbage can be melted down and recycled," he wrote on Apr. 21, 2006.

"Sometimes I promise myself that I will be recycled, melting my ugly and foul past crime away in the furnace and becoming usable again, if a little worse for wear."

Dreaming of the day when the death penalty is abolished

In addition to his return to society, Kim also dreams of the day the death penalty is abolished. Though he is no longer technically a death row prisoner, he sees himself as "eternally a death row prisoner" in spirit, and he hopes to see the system abolished so other prisoners are given the opportunity for remorse for their deed and atonement to the victims. His hopes for the death penalty's abolition were apparent throughout his letters.

"It was very welcome and inspiring news to hear that the Ministry of Justice is re-examining the death penalty law. It was tremendously gratifying to think all of your efforts over the years are beginning to bear fruit, and I sincerely hope for and cautiously look forward to nothing unfortunate happening before it is fully achieved," he wrote on Apr. 1, 2006.

"People like us who have been sentenced cannot speak for ourselves. We can only await the disposition of the public and government," he added later in the same letter.

Kim, who said he collects newspaper articles on the death penalty, also voiced his hopes for the system's abolition in a letter from this year.

"I saw an article in the paper a few days ago saying the President was pushing for a moratorium on executions within the year, and I thought my wish and prayer was finally coming true," he wrote on July 3.

Inmates fear life in prison over death; the importance of redemption

Attorney Lee Sang-hyeok, who has been exchanging letters with death row prisoners for decades, said, "What the death row prisoners really are afraid of is not actually execution, but a life sentence."

"We need to abolish the death penalty and institute relative life sentences as an alternative while allowing for parole according to very strict standards," he recommended.

"What inspires [the prisoners] to truly repent is hope, even if it's just the eye of a needle in terms of possibility. It's a mistake not to grant opportunities for rehabilitation to offenders who have committed severe crimes," he said.

Kim's 71-year-old mother (surnamed Jang), who lost her husband as a result of her son's crime, tearfully pleaded for him to be allowed to return home.

"It is true that my son did wrong, but he has repented for his past deeds, he has lived an upstanding life in prison, and he has helped people in need," she said. "I hope to hear some good news."

Having witnessed her son imprisoned for over 25 years, Jang is now over 70 years old. She has set up a small home where she hopes to spend the rest of her life with the oldest son who committed an ineradicable crime to protect her. She currently lives there alone.



SC allows lawyers of four convicts to review death penalty

The Supreme Court has granted permission to the lawyers of 4 convicts, who have been sentenced to death on terrorism charges by a trial court, to review their case record.

The order was issued on Monday by a 3-judge bench of the top court that was hearing appeals of the convicts - Ismail Khan, Wasim Shah, Liaquat Ali and Syed Nabi.

The bench, headed by Sheikh Azmat Saeed, allowed the lawyers to review the record of the trial court which handed down the sentences, and instructed the additional attorney general (AAG) to show them the documents.

Justice Saeed said the lawyers should come prepared after reviewing the record at the AAG office "because if they do not come prepared on the next hearing, their clients will suffer."

The AAG told the court that some records could not be shown due to security reasons. However, Justice Saeed said the Monday's decision was a collective one but the next cases would be heard separately.

Later, the SC adjourned hearing for 3 weeks. During the previous hearing, the bench had suspended implementation on the convicts' death sentences.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Pakistan Court Dismisses Petition Seeking Public Hanging of Serial Killer

A serial killer will be executed inside a jail on Wednesday after a Pakistani court on Tuesday dismissed a petition for his public hanging filed by the father of a 7-year-old girl, who was raped and murdered by the convict.

A 2-member Lahore High Court bench comprising Justice Sardar Shamim Ahmed and Justice Shahbaz Rizvi dismissed the plea of Amin Ansari, father of the minor girl, seeking public hanging of convict Imran Ali.

In January last, police arrested Imran 2 weeks after he raped and killed the minor girl and threw her body into a garbage dump in the city of Kasur, some 50-km from Lahore.

The incident triggered nation-wide street protests in Pakistan with people demanding a harsh punishment for the 23-year-old accused. Violent protests in Kasur city following her murder claimed 2 lives.

An anti-terrorism court here last week ruled that Imran's death sentence will be carried out on October 17 at Lahore's Central Jail.

"You are required to hang Imran Ali, 23, by neck until he be dead at central jail, Lahore on October 17 and to return this warrant to this court with and endorsement certifying that sentence has been executed," read the ATC Lahore Judge Sajjad Ahmed.

Imran, a resident of Kasur, was accused of being involved in at least nine incidents of rape-cum-murder of minors. The court has given its verdict in five cases.

Dismissing Ansari's plea to hang Imran in full view of public, Justice Shamim asked the petitioner's lawyers "you should have filed the application to the government. We are not the government. You have come here so late. The date of the hanging has been fixed for tomorrow."

Ansari's counsel requested the court to allow a live telecast of the hanging inside the jail. The court did not agree and dismissed the plea.

The petitioner said the convict can be hanged publicly under the Section 22 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, which allows the government to specify the manner, mode and place of execution of any sentence passed under this Act.

"The purpose and objective behind the incorporation section is very much clear. The murderer of my daughter should be given exemplary punishment so as to avoid any such tragedy in future, God forbid. The statutory violation of Section 22 of ATA 1997 cannot be allowed under the Constitution of Pakistan hence calls for the interference of the LHC," the petitioner said.

The girl's mother had also demanded his public hanging.

"We want that the suspect should be stoned to death for his crime as hanging in jail is a punishment which is given to other criminals but this beast deserves either public hanging or stoned to death," she said.

According to central jail officials, Imran will be hanged at 5.30 am Wednesday.

The ATC on February 17 gave him 4 counts of death penalty, 1 life term, a 7-year jail term and Rs 4.1 million in fines.

The 4 death penalties were for kidnapping, raping and murdering the girl, and for committing an act of terrorism punishable under Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act.



Victorian independent candidate calls for death penalty to return----Ronald Joseph Ryan was the last person legally executed in Australia in 1967, but one independent candidate wants the death penalty to return.

While the Australian Federal Government abolished the death penalty in 1973, one Victorian independent candidate is hoping capital punishment will be reinstated across the country.

Appearing on the 3AW Mornings show with Neil Mitchell on Tuesday, Gottfried ‘Goff’ Wolf explained that he wanted the death penalty to return to Victoria and that it's at the top of his agenda. Wolf is running for the seat of Geelong in the upcoming state election.

Ronald Joseph Ryan was the last person legally executed in Australia in 1967 after he was found guilty of shooting and killing a warder during a Victorian prison escape.

"Why the hell are we keeping these people around?" Wolf said in response to people who have murdered across Victoria in recent times. "There's got to be some sort of consequence for these people to face what they've done."

During the interview, he wasn't able to detail the number of murders in Victoria, while Mitchell pointed out the murder rate had remained steady for the last decade. He said there hadn't been an outbreak of murder in recent times as Wolf claimed, but acknowledged it was still awful. Wolf revealed he wanted the people of Victoria to vote on the matter but said if there was enough evidence to prove someone was guilty of murder, they should be executed. He also said people with mental illness who murder shouldn't be exempt from being executed.

"There's no excuse for it," he said. "There's hundreds of people with mental illness or bloody drug addiction or alcoholism. If you take the life of someone else, you forfeit yours."

During the interview, Wolf also described the prison system in Australia as "a joke". He also said he'd prefer the lethal injection as a method of killing murderers and admitted he wouldn't want to go back to hanging because it's cruel.

Neil became confused when his guest said no one has the right to take somebody’s life, pointing out that Wolf wanted to give that same power to politicians. He explained that the power would be given to the public and that the legal system would decide who faced the lethal injection.

Although he's one of the few speaking up about the issue, Wolf said he was sure there were others who wanted the death penalty reintroduced.

"I'm pretty sure there'd be a lot of politicians that would like it to come back, but everyone's being pretty quiet about it," he said. "They're too scared to talk about it and that's what I said. You've got to bring it to a vote, to a referendum so people can decide what they want to do."

Wolf said he didn't think drug dealers should be executed and that his plans were for deliberate killers.



Mistakes in death sentence judgment: HC directs Principal Judge to take action against court staff

The Bombay High Court recently directed the Principal Judge of the Mumbai sessions court to initiate action against the 'negligent and irresponsible' court staff for making mistakes while typing judgments. The HC was irked over the numerous 'discrepancies' made by the trial court staff in the original judgment by which a special court had handed over death to a man for raping and killing a 4-year-old girl.

A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre was seized with a reference made by a special POCSO court to confirm the death sentence of Nazir Javed Khan. Khan, a labourer in a hoarding manufacturing company at Saki Naka in Andheri, had raped and killed a minor girl, who was playing near his godown. The girl's dead body was found near Vile Parle and subsequently, Khan was arrested and the court after conducting a full-fledged trial had found him guilty under charges of murder and rape.

The court termed this case to be 'rarest of rare' and handed him a death sentence and accordingly the judgment copy was sent to the HC for obtaining confirmation of the capital punishment. However, the original judgment copy had too many mistakes and this did not stop here, the bench of Justice More also found several discrepancies in the copy placed before them. The bench noted the mistakes in the operative part and also in the statements of some prime witnesses and even the postmortem report.

Irked over this, Justice More said, "To say the least, the person who has prepared, verified and certified the paper book (reference) is not only negligent but irresponsible callous." "We expect a report from the Principal Judge of city civil & sessions court, Mumbai regarding the lapses in this judgment copy. The Principal Judge to further take necessary action against the court staff responsible for such lapses," Justice More added.

(source: The Free Press Journal)


2 sentenced to death for possession of heroin

Colombo High Court Judge Vikum Kaluarachchi has sentenced 2 persons to death for the charge of holding 122.68 g of heroin today (16).

The 2 defendants were arrested on December 2010 on a police raid conducted in Mirihana area.

The case against them was filed by the Attorney General for the possession of illegal drugs.

Following an extensive hearing, Judge Kaluarachchi stated that the charges against the defendants have been proved without reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, the judge ordered that the 2 defendants were to receive the death penalty.



30 years' jail to replace death penalty, says Liew

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Liew Vui Keong says death row inmates will serve 30 years' life imprisonment under the proposed abolition of the death penalty.

The de facto law minister said the inmates would serve the full jail term.

"Their jail term will run from the date the Pardons Board commutes the death sentence to life imprisonment," he said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Liew previously said the Cabinet had agreed to abolish the death penalty with the bill to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat soon.

There are 1,267 prisoners on death row. About 900 of them were convicted of drug offences, including trafficking in dangerous drugs.



Civilians Hastily Executed Without Due Process Protections by Egyptian Military Courts

Joint Statement

Today October 15, 6 independent rights organizations released a new report as part of the campaign to end capital punishment in Egypt. The report, "Military Execution," examines the state-sponsored killing of 33 civilians between July 2013 and September 2018, following 8 trials in military courts lacking basic due process guarantees, and rife with violations and irregularities. The organizations contributing to the report demand an immediate moratorium on death sentences issued by both civilian and military courts, as a prelude to societal dialogue on the abolition of the death penalty.

Since the beginning of 2018, 175people in 11 cases have been sentenced to death in Egypt, most recently in September with a mass death sentence for 75 people in the Rabaa Dispersal Case. In addition, the Court of Cassation upheld death sentences for at least 28 people in 3 separate cases this year, recently affirming the death penalty for 20 Egyptians in connection with the 2013 attack on the Kerdasa police station. 10 people have already been executed this year following 6 military trials, including the 4 Egyptians executed on January 2, 2018 after being convicted for the Kafr al-Sheikh bombing in 2015.

The report begins by reviewing Egyptian legislation that subjects dozens of crimes to the death penalty, with an eye to narrowing their vague terms and reconsidering their prescribed penalties. This is particularly urgent for statutes carrying the death penalty for unconsummated crimes, such as intention to kill or possession of weapons for a criminal purpose that was not realized. These include the Penal Code (Law 58/1937) and its amendments, the Military Code of Justice (Law 25/1966); as well as the laws regulating weapons and drugs (laws 394/1954 and 182/1960, respectively). It also focuses on laws allowing politically sensitive cases to be heard by exceptional courts, whether military courts pursuant to Law 136/2014 on the protection of vital facilities, or before the special terrorism circuits created through decree of Interim President Adly Mansour.

This legislation laid the groundwork for the 8 military trials ending with 33 civilian executions, starting with the six Egyptians executed in May 2015 in connection with the Arab Sharkas case; the 1st time after the January 25th 2011 revolution that a death sentence given to civilians by a military tribunal was carried out. This would only portend what would swell into an unprecedented increase in the number of Egyptian civilians executed by the state. By the beginning of this year, the Egyptian authorities had executed 27 civilians in connection with seven cases, including case no. 93/2011, where three civilians were executed on January 9 2018 - the only case in which civilians were sentenced to die by a military court for non-political charges.

Although military courts issue death sentences less frequently than the regular judiciary, these sentences are of grave concern due to the partiality of military courts and their haste in carrying out death sentences, relative to civilian courts. Of the 10 cases in which death sentences were executed during the period under review, 8 of them were issued by military tribunals. The Minister of Defense appoints the judges of these tribunals, leaving them with no claim to neutrality or independence. Fundamental rights are denied, disregarded, or severely curtailed - including the rights to defense and a trial before one’s natural judge, and the principle of a public trial. The military judicial system is also prone to extracting confessions using illegal practices such as torture and enforced disappearance, as detailed in the report.

Accordingly, the path to execution for the 33 defendants in these eight trials was paved with grave violations, with some defendants forcibly disappeared and detained incommunicado, putting them at risk of torture, inhumane treatment, coerced confessions. These trials also infringed upon the right to have a lawyer present, a key due process protection enshrined in Article 54 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution.

The report calls on the Egyptian authorities to suspend and reconsider the death penalty and take action to amend laws codifying the death penalty - such vague and loosely-defined legislation cannot serve as the basis to deny the right to life. It further recommends for the authorities to stop infringing upon due process guarantees and violating defendants' rights in death penalty cases, most significantly by prosecuting them before exceptional courts and circuits, such as military tribunals and terrorism circuits. Such due process violations render the death penalty in Egypt a "gross and irreversible miscarriage of justice" according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Indeed, the report’s recommendations echo those of the international community, including the UN and European Parliament, which have called on the Egyptian government to halt death sentences and executions, and refrain from using terrorism as a pretext. Only by following these recommendations can the rising tide of injustice in Egypt be curbed to prevent the arbitrary and mounting loss of civilian life.

Signatory organizations

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Egyptian Front for Rights and Freedoms

Committee for Justice

Nadeem Center

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms

Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms (ACRF)



Ghana urged to remove death penalty from its laws

Mr Robert Akoto Amoafo, the Country Director of Amnesty International Ghana has disclosed that as at the end of 2017, there were about 160 prisoners on death row.

He said they comprised 154 men and 6 women who remained locked up under death sentence at Nsawam prison complex.

Mr Amoafo who recently mentioned this during this year's Day Against Death Penalty in Accra said although Ghana had not carried out a single execution since 1993, the law allowing it, was still preserved in Ghana's statute books, and therefore, called for its total removal.

Mr Akoto Amoafo mentioned overcrowding, poor nutrition, inadequate healthcare and isolation of male inmates as some of the sub-standard conditions in which inmates on death row lived in, that needed immediate intervention.

"On the world day against the death penalty 2018, Amnesty said prisoners on death row must be treated with humanely and dignity and held in conditions that meet international human rights law and standards.

“We believe that it is time for Ghana to abolish the death penalty as many West African countries have done, he stated, and appealed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo to give prisoners on death row a special Christmas gift by publicly committing to the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes and rather convert all death sentences to terms of imprisonment.

The organisation appealed to the President to order the review of all cases of death row prisoners to identify potential miscarriages of Justice and provide the necessary support to mandated agencies to ensure that all death row prisoners were treated in accordance with the UN standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners.

He called for the implementation of the Nelson Mandela Rules that ensured that prisoners got adequate medical care, including access to recreational and educational facilities.

The world day against death penalty is celebrated on October 10 annually. The 2018 day focused on the substandard conditions of prisoners on death row.

(source: Ghana News Agency)


2 Men Executed in Shahrekord Prison

2 Prisoners were executed on murder charges at Shahrekord prison yesterday morning.

HRANA identified the aforementioned prisoners as Saleh Dehkordi, 38, and Yarali Nouri, 40.

Saleh Dehkordi was in prison for 7 years for murdering a person and convicted to qisas (retribution in kind).

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: Iran Human Rights)

OCTOBER 15, 2018:


It's wrong for an imperfect system to impose an irreversible punishment.

In the remaining months of 2018, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is likely to reach a grim milestone. Of the 4 remaining scheduled executions in Texas, 3 defendants were convicted in Fort Worth or Dallas.

The next of those executions to proceed will be the 100th execution resulting from convictions in Tarrant and Dallas counties since our state resumed executions in 1982.

4 other individuals convicted in Tarrant or Dallas counties face execution in the remaining months of 2018.

Historically, Tarrant and Dallas county juries have returned a combined 181 death sentences in the modern death penalty era, more than any major metropolitan area in Texas except for Houston.

And while prosecutors across the nation are increasingly electing life without the possibility of parole over the huge expense of a death penalty trial, district attorney offices in Tarrant and Dallas continue to seek death sentences and advance executions, despite compelling evidence of waning public appetite for capital punishment.

Since 2015, prosecutors in North Texas have sought the death penalty 4 times but secured just 1 death verdict from a jury.

I was elected 4 times as district attorney for the 97th District of Texas. I can attest to the central role prosecutors play in the death penalty process.

As district attorney, I faced the decision whether to seek life or death 17 times. Three times I chose to seek a death sentence. I was also responsible for seeking an execution date that resulted in the execution of Clifford Boggess, who was convicted of a murder in Montague County, Texas, and sentenced to death in 1987.

As the death penalty decreases in popularity and use, district attorneys owe it to their constituents to consider the questions surrounding the death penalty before proceeding to seek a sentence that many believe has been administered unfairly in the past.

Many of the arguments supporting the death penalty no longer hold up in 2018. Public support for the death penalty is now at a historical low in the modern era.

I've heard all the arguments in favor of the death penalty. I have made those arguments myself. But after years of Texas' aggressive use of capital punishment, we know that executions seldom deter violent crime in our communities.

And we are more aware than ever that our justice system is not perfect. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, juries and judges make mistakes.

When it comes to the death penalty, there is no acceptable margin of error because a mistake means that an innocent person may be executed. Since 1996, over 150 men have been released from death rows around the country after being exonerated by the results of DNA tests or other evidence. How many innocent people were executed that we did not discover before these advances in forensic science?

After years of confronting these decisions myself, I believe there is no longer an adequate justification for an irreversible punishment that does little to make our communities safer.

Our district attorneys should stop and consider this before seeking the next death sentence or setting the next execution date.

(source: Opinion; Tim Cole was elected to 4 terms as 97th district attorney (1993-2006) and has tried more than 150 jury trials. He also served as counsel to Gov. Clements in 1990 and general counsel for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association from 1988 to 1990----Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)


District attorney in northeastern N.C. pursues death penalty for prison killings despite odds

Despite the odds, a district attorney is pursuing the death penalty for the 4 prisoners charged with killing a manager, a mechanic and 2 corrections officers in the deadliest prison escape attempt in North Carolina's history.

The case meets almost every standard for capital punishment, said Andrew Womble, the district attorney for northeastern North Carolina.

But the reality is that it has been 12 years since an inmate was executed in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety. The state has 141 inmates on death row. The oldest case goes back to 1985, and the most recent one is from 2016.

"The death penalty is all but extinct in North Carolina," according to a report by the nonprofit Center for Death Penalty Litigation, based in Durham. "It is a relic of another era."

For the district attorney, the effort is worth pursuing. The circumstances of the brutal killings, he said, are enough to justify the punishment he wants.

"These 4 scream for the death penalty," Womble said in an interview last week. "I feel incredibly confident about this case."

On Oct 12, 2017, 4 prisoners started a fire inside the Pasquotank Correctional Institution north of Elizabeth City and attempted to escape. During the chaos, 4 prison employees were killed with hammers and scissors from a sewing plant inside the facility off U.S. 17 where the prisoners worked.

The 4 inmates - Mikel Brady, Jonathan Monk, Seth J. Frazier and Wisezah Buckman - were charged with 1st-degree murder. Killed were Veronica Darden, the manager of the sewing plant; Geoffrey Howe, a mechanic; and Justin Smith and Wendy Shannon, both corrections officers. All 4 prisoners were serving time for violent crimes.

The prison was short 84 positions, about a quarter of the recommended staff, according to a report released in January by the National Institute of Corrections. One correctional officer and three staff members oversaw 30 inmates at the sewing plant where they made high-visibility vests for highway workers and embroidered uniforms. Deadly tools such as scissors with 6-inch blades and claw hammers were distributed by inmates rather than staff, as required, according to the report. Prisoners were able to come and go from the sewing area without a search. Doors to other parts of the prison that should have been secured were left unlocked.

The prisoners used hammers and scissors to bash the victims in the head and chest, according to autopsy reports. One was stabbed more than 65 times, according to one autopsy report.

Prison administrator Felix Taylor and his second in command, Colbert Respass, were removed from their posts. Taylor was reassigned, and Respass retired.

On Wednesday, The Virginian-Pilot confirmed that the families of the victims have hired lawyers.

"This was a tragedy waiting to happen," Cate Edwards of the Raleigh law firm Edwards Kirby said in an email Wednesday. She is the daughter of former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.

"We are working on taking broad legal action because 4 people needlessly lost their lives," Edwards said. "These people were public servants and deserved better, safer working conditions from this state."

Chicago lawyer Donnya Banks is a co-counsel for the families of Darden, Smith and Shannon. Banks had no comment.

In laying out his argument for the death penalty, Womble, the district attorney, said that 9 of 11 aggravating factors needed in such a case apply, though no trial date has been set. Those circumstances include that the acts were cruel, they endangered many people and they were committed against prison officers, he said. A jury only needs 1 factor to give a death sentence, he said.

The deadly escape was premeditated, Womble said. The people killed were "sympathetic victims," he said, rather than criminals killing other criminals. The prisoners were captured on the spot just after the killings.

"This is not a 'who done it' case," Womble said. "We got it all."

State Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan supports Womble. Steinburg, who represents Pasquotank County, said he has spoken extensively with family members and correctional officers about the escape attempt.

"These were brutal, brutal murders," he said. "One woman was nearly decapitated. I think as people become aware of the details of this case, it will change a lot of hearts and minds."

Executions in North Carolina have been stalled by lawsuits over racial bias and lethal injection drugs, said Gretchen Engel, the executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

6 capital cases await a hearing before the N.C. Supreme Court to decide if race played a role in jury selection. A study showed that the state's prosecutors struck black jurors at roughly double the rate of others, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

(source: Winston-Salem Journal)


Derrick Dearman joins 179 inmates on Alabama's death row

On Monday morning Derrick Dearman, the Citronelle man that murdered 5 people and an unborn baby, will become the newest member of Alabama's Death Row.

The exclusive club is spread out over 3 locations across the state. Of the 179 people waiting to be killed by the state, 21 are located at the maximum security Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Jefferson County.

All 5 women are located at the Julia Tutwiler prison for women in Wetumpka, Elmore County. The rest, 153 men, can be found in single cells at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Escambia County.

In total, there is 89 black men, 1 black women, 82 white men, 4 white women, and 3 other men of a different race.

Here is a look at some of the people on Alabama's death row.


Giles, 59, and his accomplice Aaron Lee Jones were convicted and sentenced to death for the November 10, 1978 murder of Willene and Carl Nelson, who were shot and stabbed to death. The couple's 3 children, ages 10, 13 and 21, were critically wounded, but survived. Their grandmother, 85, also survived.

"Giles had worked for Carl Nelson picking vegetables, and after a night of drinking went with Jones to the Nelson house, intending to rob them," said a Birmingham News report from May 4, 2007, the day Jones was put to death. "The oldest of the children, Tony, who was 21 at the time, testified that he was awakened just after 3 a.m. when Giles turned on the light in the bedroom Tony shared with his 10-year-old brother, Charlie. Carl Nelson confronted Giles and told him to leave, but minutes later Tony Nelson found Giles at the house's back door, and Giles shot him twice. Jones and Giles then made their way through the house, shooting and stabbing its occupants. After a wounded Tony got to his feet and made his way to his parents' bedroom, he found Charlie and 13-year-old Brenda, stabbed, shot and bloody, but alive at the foot of their parents' bed. Jones and Giles were tried separately, both receiving a death sentence."

Giles has been on death row since Aug. 1979.

William Bush

William Bush was convicted and sentenced to death after shooting convenience store clerk Larry Dominguez and Thomas Adams during 2 separate robberies on the evening of July 26, 1981, according to court documents and newspaper reports from the time. Various appeals in state and federal courts have upheld the conviction and sentence. A third convenience store clerk was wounded.

Also with Bush that evening was Edward Lewis Pringle, who did not shoot any of the 3 victims. He is currently serving life without parole in Holman Prison.

Because of a federal habeas corpus questioning the initial trial in 1981, Bush was tried again in 1984 and then again in 1991, according to court documents. He was found guilty both times. Since then Bush's current attorneys have filed numerous motions and petitions stating that Bush was inadequately represented during his initial trial and subsequent retrials. They believe that his low IQ, dysfunctional childhood, lack of education, and subsequent conversion to spirituality might have prevented him receiving the death penalty.

He is the 2nd longest serving death row inmate in the state, after Arthur Lee Giles.

He has been on death row since January 1982.

Harry Nicks

Harry Nicks entered a Bessemer Pawn Shop March 5, 1983 and shot owner Robert Back and his employee Debra Lynn Love in the back of the head as the lay on the ground. Nicks was attempting to rob the store at the time.

"One shot entered the back of Love's head; one entered the back of Back's head, penetrating his brain; and one went into a rubber mat on the floor. Back either died instantly or in a matter of minutes from the bullet wound to his head; however, the bullet fired into Love's head lodged in her skull and she survived," according to court documents.

Forensic exports concluded that the pistol used to shoot the 2 victims was probably just inches from their heads. Nicks attempted to plead insanity at trial but this was not accepted. He was sentenced to the electric chair in October 1984.

He has been on death row since August 1984.

Vernon Madison

Vernon Madison has been tried and convicted 3 times of murdering Mobile police Cpl. Julius Schulte, who at the time of his murder was responding to domestic disturbance call in April 1985, according to court documents. Madison snuck up behind Schulte and shot him twice in the head. He also shot his own girlfriend, who survived.

During his 1st and 2nd trial, Madison claimed he was mentally ill. At his 3rd, he argued self-defense.

The jury at his final trial recommended life without parole, but this was rejected by the trial judge who sentenced Madison to death. Alabama law has since changed meaning that judges can no longer impose a harsher sentence that recommended by the jury. His attorneys as recently as 2017 said his sentence should be commuted and he serve life without parole.

The state had most recently attempted to put Madison to death January 25 this year, but a last minute intervention by the Supreme Court ensures that he will remain on death row for now. His attorneys say that because his dementia prevents him from remembering why he's being punished the death penalty would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Madison has been on death row since Sept. 1985.

James Edmund McWilliams, Jr.

James Edmund McWilliams, Jr., raped, robbed, and murdered Patricia Vallery Reynolds on December 30, 1984 at store in Tuscaloosa.

"Patricia Vallery Reynolds was a clerk at Austin's, a convenience store. The defendant went into the store, locked the front doors, robbed Mrs. Reynolds by taking money from her possession, took her to the back room and brutally raped her, then shot her with a .38 caliber pistol. There were 16 gunshot wounds (8 entrance, 8 exit). She was initially shot while standing, and also shot while lying on the floor," according to court records.

He has been on death row since Nov. 1986.

Earl Jerome McGahee

Earl Jerome McGahee was convicted of murdering his ex-wife and her classmate after entering the George C. Wallace Junior College in Selma, Alabama, on Sept. 11, 1985 and killing them both.

After asking to see his ex-wife, Connie Brown, McGahee entered the classroom where she was studying and fired 1 shot. As students began fleeing the room, McGahee shot another student, Cassandra Lee. As Brown, who was shot 1st began to make her way to the classroom door, McGahee stamped on her head several times until she was incapacitated. He also began hitting and sexually assaulting a third student in the classroom, Dee Ann Duncan.

Brown died in the classroom, while Lee later died in hospital. Duncan suffered brain injuries that later affected her sense of taste and smell.

McGahee was sentenced to death Oct.10, 1986. He has been on death row ever since.


Patricia Blackmon

Patricia Blackmon was convicted in the May 1999 capital murder of her 2-year-old adopted daughter, Dominiqua Bryant in Dothan. The child's body sustained numerous injuries, including a fractured skull, and was stomped with such force that an imprint from a shoe was left on her chest, according to previous reporting.

Dr. Alfredo Parades, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, testified that Dominiqua died of multiple blunt-force injuries to her head, chest, abdomen, and extremities-he detailed some 30 injuries that he discovered on the child's body, according to court documents.

Blackmon was sentenced to death June 7, 2002.

Tierra Capri Gobble

Tierra Capri Gobble of Dothan was convicted in the death of her 4-month-old son Phoenix Jordan Parrish in the Dec. 15, 2004. The child suffered a fractured skull, 5 broken ribs, broken wrists and numerous bruises. An autopsy showed he died from head trauma consistent with child abuse, according to newspaper reports from the time.

"The autopsy showed that Phoenix died as a result of blunt-force trauma to his head-Phoenix's skull had been fractured," according to court documents. "Phoenix had numerous other injuries, including fractured ribs, a fracture to his right arm, fractures to both wrists, multiple bruises on his face, head, neck, and chest and a tear in the inside his mouth that was consistent with a bottle having been shoved into his mouth."

Gobble was sentenced to death Sept. 1, 2005.

Christie Michelle Scott

On Aug. 16, 2008, Christie Michelle Scott purposefully set fire to her house in order to kill her 6-year-old son so she could claim life insurance against his death.

Mason Scott died of smoke inhalation. Scott's other son, Noah, was sleeping in her room that night and survived the fire.

The life insurance policy was worth $175,000, according to reporting from the time. it was the 2nd fire Scott had been involved in within a year. Both her and her husband were insurance agents.

Multiple witnesses testified that Scott did not seem alarmed or desperate at the time of the fire, and that she wasted valuable time going to a neighbors house to phone 911. It was later revealed she was in possession of her cell phone when the fire started.

After being found guilty, Scott was sentenced to life without parole by a count of 7-5. However, the Franklin County judge at the time overturned the jury's recommendation and sentenced her to death.

She has been on death row since Aug. 2009.

Heather Leavell-Keaton

Heather Leavell-Keaton, originally of Louisville, Ky., tortured and killed Natalie DeBlase, 4, and Chase DeBlase, 3, with her common law husband, John DeBlase, in their residence at Peach Place Apartments in Mobile. John DeBlase was convicted of capital murder in their deaths in a separate trial in November 2014.

Natalie's body was dumped in the woods March 4, 2010, while Chase was killed and dumped in woods June 20 the same year.

The couple mixed anti-freeze into their children's food.

She has been on death row since Aug. 2015.

Lisa Graham Carpenter

Lisa Graham Carpenter hired a hitman to murder her daughter Shea Graham in July 2007. Carpenter told a friend that her daughter was ruining her life and needed her dead, according to court documents.

Kenneth Walton, a longtime family friend lured Graham from Columbus, Georgia, with the promise of providing her with a car. He shot her in the back of the head and then a further 2 times.

It took 5 years for the trial to commence in Russell County.

But after the start of the trial, the presiding Circuit Court judge called a mistrial because of his failing health. The 2nd trial commenced Feb. 2015.

While assessments of Carpenter's health found her to have an IQ of 77, meaning she would unlikely be able to consider the consequences of her actions, she was deemed mentally fit to receive the death penalty. It was also revealed during the trial that she suffered from schizophrenia and multiple personality disorders.

She has been on death row since Feb. 2016.


Mobile County Sheriff's Office

Derrick Dearman

Derrick Dearman killed 5 people and an unborn child during a meth-induced killing spree with an axe and gun in Aug. 2016.

In March 2017, a grand jury indicted him on multiple counts of capital murder, both for murders committed during a burglary and a murder involving multiple victims. Dearman pleaded not guilty to the charges in May 2017.

After firing his attorneys in September, Dearman pleaded guilty. The move came after Stout deemed Dearman mentally fit to stand trial.

Peter Capote

Peter Capote and Benjamin Young were part of a group of 5 men that lured Ki-Jana Freeman to an apartment complex in Tuscumbia, Colbert County, March 2016.

Freeman, who was shot as he sat in a Mustang with his friend Tyler Blythe outside Spring Creek Apartments in the city, believed he would be selling an X-box to one of the men.

Young already received the death penalty at an earlier trial. A third man, De'Vontae Bates pleaded guilty earlier this month and is expected to receive up to 20 years when he is sentenced in March next year. The so-called mastermind behind the killing, Thomas Hubbard was given life without parole during a trial in June. The final defendant Riley Hamm Jr. is expected to go on trial next year.

The group believed Freeman had stolen the game console and a TV from Hubbard a few nights before. They wanted to get it back and take revenge.

Blythe, 17, was injured in the shooting.

Capote has been on death row since May 2018.

Benjamin Young

The jury took less than 2 hours before reaching a guilty verdict Feb. 7 this year. The very next day, it took about 90 minutes to recommend the death penalty, which will be administered by lethal injection.

The Colbert County jury voted 11-1 when it recommended the death penalty for Young.

Young has been on death row since March 2018.

Jamal O'Neal Jackson

Jamal O'Neal Jackson murdered Satori Richardson by strangling and stabbing her at a Mobile apartment July 4, 2014. He later set fire to the apartment.

After taking officers in Gulf Breeze, Florida, on a high speed chase, he was eventually captured and extradited back to Mobile.

Investigators say Richardson was strangled with an electrical cord. An autopsy determined that Richardson was still alive after she had been stabbed.

Jackson has been on death row since July 2017.

Ryan Clark Petersen

Ryan Clark Petersen spent most of an August evening in 2012 at a nightclub in a small town just outside of Dothan. He was drinking alone and acting strangely, according to witnesses. Club security removed Petersen from the establishment after a dispute with an employee. He returned moments later armed with a handgun and opened fire, killing Cameron Paul Eubanks, 20, Tiffani Paige Grissett, 31, and Thomas Robins Jr., who was 59. He also shot Scotty Russell, 33, of Opp, who survived his injuries.

"Justice needed to be served for the 3 victims that are deceased and the 1 victim that was fortunate to survive," said the Houston County District Attorney at the time. "The actions that occurred took place that evening was inhumane. These victims are members of someone's family."

Petersen has been on death row since May 2017.



Ohio's broken death penalty

On Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court struck down that state’s death penalty due to racial bias and arbitrary application. Washington became the 19th state to abandon the death penalty. Ohio lawmakers would be wise to follow suit.

In 1981, 3 short years after Ohio's death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in the case of Lockett v. Ohio, lawmakers resurrected the death penalty. Since then major problems with the state's death penalty have become clear.

The death penalty routinely sends innocent people to death row. Nationally, 163 innocent people have been freed from death row. For every 10 executions conducted in the U.S., one innocent person has been released from death row.

Here in Ohio, the data are even more chilling. For every 6 executions Ohio has conducted, 1 person has been freed from death row. Ricky Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman, Kwame Ajamu, Gary Beeman, Dale Johnston, Gary James, Timothy Howard, Derrick Jamison and Joe D’Ambrosio are the 9 men wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Ohio. It is unlikely they are the only innocent people ever sentenced to death. Ohio's next governor already has 24 scheduled executions to deal with. How many of those condemned prisoners are innocent?

The death penalty is enormously expensive. The Beacon Journal examined the initial trial costs of 2 aggravated murder cases in 2017, 1 with death specification and 1 without. Both defendants were tried around the same time. The result was Summit County spent 10 times more on the death penalty case than the non-death case. Legislators have never examined what Ohio spends on death cases, but if they did they would find that the roughly 330 death sentences since 1981 have likely cost Ohio taxpayers over $1 billion.

Why don't we taxpayers notice what is being spent on capital cases? Good question, and one that deserves attention.

Just like in Washington state, Ohio's death penalty is biased and arbitrary with respect to race and geography. Given the costs, one would think every Ohio county was regularly seeking death sentences. To the contrary, Ohio's death cases (and the costs, errors and troubling inefficiency) come from just a handful of counties. More than 56 % of all death cases in the modern era come from 2 counties - Cuyahoga and Franklin. When we look at which counties execute the most, data show that 4 counties - Lucas, Summit, Cuyahoga and Hamilton - are responsible for more than 1/2 of all executions.

Equal justice is the foundation of our laws and society, but our justice system is administered by flawed individuals with implicit bias. Researcher Frank Baumgartner found that Ohio's death penalty is plagued by racial bias. 65 % of all executions in the modern era were for crimes involving white victims despite the fact that 43 % of homicide victims were white.

Baumgartner also found that homicides involving white female victims were 6 times more likely to result in an execution compared to homicides involving black male victims. Equal justice under law has a different meaning for white and black homicide victims in Ohio.

Death penalty case outcomes are inefficient and unreliable. Under the current law, prosecutors have initiated over 3,200 death penalty cases according to the Ohio Supreme Court capital indictment records. Already deemed worthy of the death penalty, these thousands of cases resulted in 330 actual death sentences. Put another way, prosecutors fail to get the verdict they seek in almost 90 % of expensive death penalty cases.

Even when they do secure that rare death conviction, nearly 40 % of all death sentences are overturned by courts due to some error or somehow result in an execution never taking place. Most recently, a review of all the capital cases brought in Ohio between 2014 and 2017 reveals that nine of 10 cases end in something other than the death penalty. Taxpayers, however, are still on the hook for those exponentially more expensive death cases.

Forty years after the Lockett decision and after Ohio lawmakers tried to engineer a fair and accurate death penalty system, it is clear the most severe punishment we have is just not working. Reforms have been suggested by a task force of the Ohio Supreme Court, but those fixes have sat idle for years. As legislators fail to correct widely known deficiencies, they run the risk of an Ohio Supreme Court decision finding our death penalty unconstitutional just like what happened in Washington state.

(source: Opinion; Kevin Werner is executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions and a panelist at the University of Akron law school symposium on the 40th anniversary of the Lockett v. Ohio ruling. The public is invited to attend or watch online, Monday, at 12:00 pm., at Beacon Journal)


Woman exonerated from death row to speak at DSCC Thursday

Sabrina Butler Smith will join a group of panelists at the Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC) Jimmy Naifeh Center at Tipton County Thursday, October 18, 2018, at 10 a.m. for a discussion entitled 'A Broken System: Perspectives on the Death Penalty in Tennessee'.

In 1990, Sabrina Butler Smith, a teen mother from Mississippi, was convicted of murdering her nine-month-old son, Walter. She was later exonerated of all wrongdoing, and is 1 of only 2 women in the United States exonerated from death row.

On April 12, 1989, Smith rushed Walter to the hospital after he suddenly stopped breathing. Doctors tried to resuscitate the baby, but failed. The day after her son's death, Smith was arrested for child abuse because of bruises left by her resuscitation attempts. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned her conviction in 1992. The Court said that the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident.

At retrial on Dec. 17, 1995, she was acquitted after a very brief jury deliberation. It is now believed that the baby may have died either of cystic kidney disease or from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smith spent more than 5 years in prison and 33 months on death row.

Other panelists at the event include Cynthia Vaughn, whose mother, Connie, was murdered in Memphis in 1984 and whose stepfather, Don Johnson, is now on Tennessee's death row convicted of the crime; Amy Lawrence, coordinator of Tennessee Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty; and Reverend Stacy Rector, a native of Dyersburg and executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP).

"Since 1973, 160 people have been exonerated and released from death row in this country," said TADP Director Reverend Stacy Rector. "Since 2000, Tennessee has released four individuals who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death while executing 6. Mrs. Smith's story reminds us of just how real the risk of executing an innocent person really is, particularly as the State plans to resume executions this year."

This event is sponsored by DSCC's Criminal Justice department, Sociology department, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the TADP.

The event will be held in the Baptist Memorial Health Care Academic Building Auditorium located at 3149 Highway 51 South in Covington. Admission is free to the public.

For more information regarding this event, please contact Michael Brooks, DSCC associate professor of criminal justice, at 901-475-3164 or

(source: Covington Leader)


Gubernatorial Candidates Weigh In On Death Penalty, TBI Police Shooting Investigations

Both Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean say the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation should continue to investigate officer-involved shooting deaths, but they disagree on whether that role should expand.

At Friday's final gubernatorial debate, Lee and Dean were asked whether they would support mandating the TBI to investigate all officer-involved shootings, not just those that end in fatalities.

Dean said he hopes the local police departments would ask an outside agency to investigate the shootings, before mandating it as governor. But, he said, "I would not be afraid to look at that and mandating that also."

Dean said he would consider allocating additional funding to pay for these investigations.

"For me, things like this - like basic justice, and how people respond to the criminal justice system, and how much they trust it, and how much people think the justice system is blind to racial issues, and other issues - (are) important, and it would be worth those dollars," Dean said.

Lee said he believes the state’s bureau should maintain its current policy of investigating fatal officer-involved shootings, but he said the state doesn’t have the resources to investigate those that don't end in death.

Lee said he would work with local law enforcement agencies to improve the system that investigates non-fatal shootings.

The TBI currently investigates officer-involved shootings that end in fatalities, like the case of Daniel Hambrick, who was killed by Metro Police Office Andrew Delke during a foot pursuit. But the TBI was also recently brought in to investigate an officer-involved shooting in Memphis that left Martavius Banks critically wounded. Even the Memphis Police Department asked the TBI to get involved, expressing concern that the officer who shot Banks had his body camera turned off.

Intervening In Executions

The gubernatorial debate at Belmont University was held the day after Gov. Bill Haslam granted a 10-day reprieve to death row inmate Edmund Zagorski, whose execution was scheduled for Oct. 11. Haslam has declined to commute Zagorski's sentence.

Both Lee and Dean said they would likely decline to intervene in executions. Lee said that, although a difficult topic, the law in the state allows for the the death penalty, something he said he agrees with in the "most heinous and egregious of crimes."

"I don't think that it would be my place to replace my judgement for the execution of justice through the criminal justice system," Lee said.

He recognized the possibility of flaws in "the system," and in those cases, he said he would consider dropping the death penalty.

Dean said the death penalty comes "as part of our democratic process," but that concerns about whether there could be additional evidence after an execution could have an impact on final decisions.

"All of that is available information that should be debated and discussed," Dean said. "But that is ultimately up to the people of Tennessee and up to the legislature and, as governor, I would follow the law."



Nevada County DA's office considers death penalty in Stan Norman murder case

The prosecutor in the Stan Norman murder case says he plans to meet with defense attorneys before determining whether to seek the death penalty. Sean Bryant, 52, and Michael McCauley, 42, face a murder charge in connection with the April death of Norman, 70. Both men were scheduled for court last Friday, through their hearing was postponed because Bryant's attorney, David Brooks, couldn't appear.

The men now are scheduled to appear Thursday in Nevada County Superior Court.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said he must speak with Brooks and defense attorney Kelly Babineau, who represents McCauley, before his office decides whether to seek the death penalty.

"It's really just having that meeting," Walsh said. "We want to consider whatever they may have to offer."

Possible considerations include the men's backgrounds and upbringing, Walsh said.

The prosecutor added that he wants a decision made and a preliminary hearing held for the men before year's end.

Authorities have said that Norman was last seen April 15. They arrested Bryant a month later on an unrelated charge. 3 weeks after that they charged him with murder after finding human bones in a Sadie D Drive burn pile. McCauley was arrested June 1.

Both men remained Sunday in the Nevada County Jail without bond.



Social justice movie night teaches students about the Death Penalty executioners

On Thursday, Oct. 11, Fullerton College political science department hosted a social justice movie night in Room 1420. The film, "There Will Be No Stay" was shown to students where they learned about those affected by the death penalty - the executioners.

This film presented all of the stages of the death penalty, more specifically what the executioners must go through. With no training or counsel they are thrown into the death rooms to commit a legal homicide. An intense moment in the movie was when an ex-executioner stated, "Society supported me turning into a serial killer."

Discussion time

The film was followed by a discussion where students got the opportunity to share their thoughts, ask questions, and discuss amongst each other about the death penalty.

"I was in the middle about this issue because I didn't know enough information, but now after watching this and seeing that we are teaching people not to kill by killing others, is like teaching a child not hit people and then hitting them," said FC student Sydney Anderson.

With elections coming up soon, political science professor Jodi Balma, made sure she kept students informed on how to vote.

“I think it's really crucial to get students engaged whether that's about social justice or local elections...getting them to know who to vote for. I think that's the most important thing is to educate people not just that they need to vote but also how to find information," said professor Balma.

For those who missed this event, but are interested in learning about voting on issues like this, Professor Balma will host an election forum on Oct. 30 at noon in Room 224. You can also visit to learn more about the death penalty.



Dhaka not to abolish death penalty: FM----Govt defends Digital Security Act

Bangladesh would not abolish death penalty, foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali said in Dhaka on Sunday.

Law minister Anisul Huq defended Digital Security Act 2018 claiming that the law was finalised for ensure people's right to safe digital space after intensive consultation with the editors' council and other journalist groups. Ali also said the law 'is necessary to ensure public safety and order.'

They said these at a diplomatic briefing in presence of about 37 ambassadors and diplomats of foreign missions in the capital.

'Bangladesh is not abolishing death penalty considering its public opinion and socio-political reality,' the foreign minister said as European Union ambassador Rensje Teerink wanted to know whether the Bangladesh government had any plan to abolish or put moratorium on death penalty, according to a foreign ministry press release.

The diplomatic briefing was organised to inform the diplomatic community in Dhaka of the verdict in the case of August 21, 2004, grenade attack on an Awami League rally and the recently-passed Digital Security Act.

Law minister Huq claimed the trial was done complying with due process of law having heard 225 witnesses and the defence was also allowed to exercise all rights guaranteed to them under the law.

Journalist community in Dhaka and international quarters were protesting against the law describing it against the exercise of freedom of speech.

State minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam and foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque were also present.

Earlier on the day, heads of mission of the EU member states and the European Union called on the Bangladesh authorities calling for a moratorium on executions as a 1st step towards abolition of capital punishment.

The 10th of October is World Day against the Death Penalty and they said that on that same day 19 death sentences were issued in Bangladesh.

European Union and its member states reiterated their absolute opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and restated their commitment to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

The death penalty violates the inalienable right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, they said.



Urgent prayer for Pakistani mother on death row----'Pray for me' pleads Asia Bibi

A Catholic Pakistani woman facing the death penalty for blasphemy against Islam is calling on the international community to pray for her release.

After spending almost a decade in jail, Aasiya Noreen - commonly known as Asia Bibi - is now anxiously waiting to hear if she will be sentenced to death after her final appeal was heard in Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday October 8. A decision is expected any day.

Despite increased calls from radical groups for the death penalty to be carried out, sources report that Bibi's family remain hopeful that she will be acquitted.

"God willing it will soon be over and [Asia Bibi] will be back home with the family." - Emmanuel Yousef

While waiting for the court's ruling, Bibi's family have been visiting England with support from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Speaking on behalf of the family, Father Emmanuel Yousef from ACN, said: "Although the judges didn't give a judgement, this has happened in many cases of this kind in the past - and they still ended positively ...

"We will have to wait a few days but we are confident that things will go well ... God willing it will soon be over and [Asia Bibi] will be back home with the family."

Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih was equally optimistic when speaking to the Catholic Herald, saying that his wife "wanted to deliver a message to the international community that they must remember her in their prayers." He continued, "These prayers will open the door of the prison, and she will be released very soon."

"She feels when she is praying, Jesus is encouraging and supporting her." - Ashiq Masih

According to the Catholic Herald, Masih also said his wife was "spending her life praying with a very strong faith and is reading the Bible every day. She feels when she is praying, Jesus is encouraging and supporting her."

As the mother of 5 made her final appeal in court last week, Pakistani Christians engaged in a day of fasting and prayer. Meanwhile, radical religious groups are making death threats towards the judges presiding over the case to warn them against showing leniency towards Bibi.

According to AFP, hardline Islamic party, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), warned judges they would meet a "horrible" end if they didn't go through with the death penalty via a press conference recorded on YouTube. The group was also calling for mass protests this week to support the stricter enforcement of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Another religious group, the Red Mosque in Islamabad, is also reported to have asked the Supreme Court to rule that Bibi is not allowed to leave the country if she is acquitted.

Bibi has always maintained her innocence.

Bibi has been on death row since 2010, when she was convicted of blasphemy against Islam's prophet Muhammad. It took 4 years for her appeal against this charge to be first heard by the Lahore High Court in 2014. At that time the court upheld the death sentence, but postponed her execution. Her 2nd - much delayed - appeal this month was Bibi's final chance to have the charge overturned.

Bibi has been on death row for 9 years for alleged blasphemy.

Bibi has always maintained her innocence, most definitively through her memoir, Blasphemy, which was published in 2013. In this book, she tells how she was accused of blasphemy while working in the fields picking fruit in Punjab, Pakistan's second-largest province, in 2009. According to Bibi, her offence stemmed from simply drinking a cup of water.

A series of catastrophic events resulted. Bibi was accused of stealing the cup by a Muslim co-worker and contaminating it as an "unclean" Christian. An argument followed, during which one of the women accused Bibi of blasphemy for a comment she allegedly made about the founder of Islam, Mohammed - a charge punishable by death in Pakistan. Bibi was beaten by a mob, imprisoned and, 1 year later, sentenced to be hanged.

Since then tensions around the case have escalated. Bibi's family have been forced to flee their village due to threats of violence. 2 prominent public figures who came to Bibi's defence - the Muslim governor of the Punjab Province, who supported reform to the country's blasphemy laws, and Pakistan's Christian Minister for Minorities - were both assassinated. In 2016, around 150 Muslim clerics from radical Islamist group Sunni Tehreek called for Bibi to be hanged.

International outcry about the case has come from the European Parliament, the EU’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and even from Pope Francis.

And now, the rest of the world is being called to urgent prayer for Bibi. Yousef told ACN: "We have prayed 10 years now for our sister, Asia, and I am confident that our prayers will be heard, and the judgement will go in favour of Asia, her family and the entire Pakistani Christian community."



LHC seeks replies on plea for public hanging of Zainab's killer

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday issued notices to the Punjab government and other respondents on a petition filed by Amin Ansari, father of 7-year-old Zainab, seeking court directives for public hanging of his daughter's murderer.

A bench of the LHC directed the respondents to file their replies on the petition on Tuesday (tomorrow).

The petitioner submitted that convict Imran Ali, who will be sent to the gallows on Oct 17, could be executed publicly under Section 22 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. He added the section allows the government to "specify the manner, mode and place of execution of any sentence passed under this Act having regard to the deterrent effect which such execution is likely to have."

Amin said the murderer of Zainab should be given exemplary punishment to stop such incidents in future.

The convict will be hanged on the morning of October 17 at the Lahore Central Jail. He was found guilty of rape and murder of seven minors including Zainab.

The warrants were issued after President Arif Alvi rejected the mercy plea on October 10.

Death row prisoner Imran Ali was handed 4 counts of death penalty, one life term, a 7-year jail term and Rs4.1 million in fines in the Zainab rape and murder case.



Australia in push to ban death penalty

Australia will lead a push to stop pregnant women, children, and people with mental or intellectual disabilities being handed the death penalty as a step towards its global abolition.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday launched a concerted diplomatic strategy to end the death penalty.

"We consider the death penalty to be deeply flawed and an affront to human dignity," Senator Payne said on Monday.

"There is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty deters crime. It is irrevocable and degrading."

As part of the push, Australia will aim to increase the number of abolitionist countries, and try to get pardons for people on death row.

Australia also aims to reduce the number of executions and the number of crimes that attract the death penalty.

The strategy calls for an end to the use of the death penalty on pregnant women, people younger than 18 years and those with mental or intellectual disabilities.



Death penalty still in effect until abolished, says Dr M----Tun Dr Mahathir says the death penalty in Malaysia is still in effect and will remain until it is officially abolished.

The prime minister said the necessary legislation has yet to be put in place to abolish the death penalty.

"(Saying that the death penalty will be abolished) does not mean that it has already been abolished.

"We have to wait until the necessary Act is passed to repeal it," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Monday.

Last week, the Cabinet gave the green light to put in motion the end of the death penalty in Malaysia.

Malaysia will join 106 countries which have abolished capital punishment.

If Parliament approves its abolishment, it will serve as a reprieve for 1,267 prisoners currently on death row.

The pending abolishment, however, has triggered a storm of controversy. In an online poll conducted by NSTP, 82 % of the 22,000 netizens polled opposed the government's move to axe the death sentence.

On Sunday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the death penalty will be replaced with a sentence of a minimum of 30 years behind bars.

He said this could be used in the proposed amendment to Section 39 (B) of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952, for instance, where a convicted offender was subjected to the mandatory death sentence.

In addition, there are also 17 other criminal offences that bear the same sentence. These offences include waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, terrorism, murder, attempted murder during a life imprisonment, killing victims during kidnapping, possessing and using firearms as well as rape leading to death and rape of minors.



No death penalty reprieve for man who distributed cannabis oil

Muhammad Lukman Mohamad, who was found guilty of distributing cannabis oil (medicinal marijuana), is not getting a moratorium on his death sentence as his case is still up for appeal, the minister in charge of law, Liew Vui Keong, said today.

Any moratorium on death sentences could only be for cases which have completed the process of trial and appeal in the courts, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department told The Malaysian Insight.



Man to hang for killing woman in confinement

A security guard was sentenced to death by the Shah Alam High Court today after he was found guilty of murdering a woman in confinement, 3 years ago.

Judge Mohd Azman Husin made the decision after finding that the prosecution had proved a prima facie case against Mohd Azmirul Shamsuddin, 39.

Mohd Azmirul was charged with murdering Rabiatul Adawiah Abd Aziz, 23, at an apartment in Sungai Way, Petaling Jaya, near Shah Alam, at 8.22pm on March 4, 2015.

The charge, under Section 302 of the Penal Code provides for a mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Deputy public prosecutor Lokman Kasim prosecuted, while Mohd Azmirul was represented by lawyer Halim Ashgar Mohd Hilmi.

A total of 14 prosecution witnesses and 1 defence witness testified during the trial.

According to media report, the woman, who was in confinement after giving birth to her daughter 2 months earlier, was found dead in the apartment with her hands and legs tied and her mouth gagged, next to her unharmed baby.



Surgeon tells High Court videographer would have bled to death from gunshot

A cardiac surgeon told the High Court that if RTM videographer Mohamad Amirul Amin Mohamed Amer, who was shot in the chest, had not had surgery he would have probably died from his injuries.

Dr Francis Gerard Lopez said Mohamad Amirul sustained 2 injuries, circular wounds on his chest and back due to a foreign object penetrating through him.

"There was an entry wound on his chest and an exit wound on his back. If the operation had not been performed immediately, he would have continued to bleed and his breathing would have continued to be affected resulting in probable death.

"From the X-ray, CT scan and findings during the operations, the object was no longer in the victim.

"He also sustained fractures to his ribs," he said during examination-in-chief by senior DPP Emma Syafawati Abdul Wahab on Monday (Oct 15).

Meanwhile, factory worker Lee Hong Boon, 58, said that bodyguard Ja'afar Halid stopped Lee's motorcycle and pointed the gun at him before shooting him in his left shoulder.

"I was driving home when he (Ja'afar) stopped me and asked me to get off my motorcycle.

"He said 'turun, turun, turun' three times with the gun pointed at me. He then told me to remove my helmet.

"I removed it and raised my hands in fear. I then took 2 steps back and he shot me. I then ran about 30ft before hiding behind a tree," he said during examination-in-chief.

Lee then identified Ja'afar as the shooter when he was asked if the man who shot him was present in the court room.

During cross-examination by defence counsel Y. Anbananthan, Lee, 58, said Ja'afar looked fierce but had a bit of a smile.

"He did not raise his voice and sounded normal. We did not argue and I followed his instructions.

"I heard a gun shot and realised I had been shot," he said.

When asked if he believed Ja'afar behaved like he was crazy, Lee agreed that he behaved like a crazy person.

Dr Francis and Lee were testifying in the trial of bodyguard Ja'afar, 39, who claimed trial to murdering his boss, businessman Datuk Ong Teik Kwon, professional clown Choi Hon Ming and flower supplier M. Senthil.

The incident happened at the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway between 7.15pm and 7.30pm near the Penang Bridge intersection of the expressway on Dec 1, 2016.

He faces the mandatory death penalty if convicted of murder.

He also claimed trial to the attempted murder of Dr K. Arivarni, TNB Bhd assistant manager Nurul Huda Ab Aziz, Lee, Mohamad Amirul and Puoh.

He can be jailed up to 20 years if convicted for attempted murder.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday (Oct 16) before Judicial Commissioner Datuk Abdul Wahab Mohamed.



Iranian political prisoner calls for stop of death sentence----On World Day Against Death Penalty Iranian political prisoner call for stop of death sentence

On the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, a number of families of political prisoners and execution victims issued messages and statements calling for abolition of the death penalty in Iran.

In an open letter that has been secretly sent out of prison, Iranian political prisoner Hassan Sadeghi, who has been held in Iran's Rajaie Shahr Prison, has revealed details about the execution of political prisoners during 1980s.

Reiterating periods during which the Iranian regime carried out widespread executions of Iranian opposition members, Sadeghi, who has spent many years in the Iranian regime’s prisons, writes:

Wishing for an Iran without execution

"We are approaching the World Day for the Abolition of the Death Penalty and the executions continue in Iran. The ruling mullahs have no scruples in resorting to the death penalty as a tool for repression because it is founded on pillars of executions, killing and criminality and from the very first day, it found his survival in this inhuman act.

The regime ironically has worn the execution of so many innocent people as a badge of honor. The execution of innocent children and juveniles like Fatemeh Mesbah and Ezzati Mesbah at the ages of 13 and 15 will not be erased from the record of this regime." Sadeghi writes.

"I had 2 uncles, Haj Mohammad Mesbah and Ata Haj Mahmoudian. We were always together.

Fatemeh, Ezzat-o-Sadat, Mahmoud, Asghar and I, were childhood playmates. Our toys were pens, papers and books. Our play was to read and write books like Little Black Fish, or the stories of Qoran, Imam Hussein and Imam Ali. Everyone should tell what he understood so that our fathers gave us scores," Sadeghi recounts.

"We had never thought that one day what we had learnt from Imam Hussein and Imam Ali (2 of the most revered Shiite leaders) would lead to imprisonment of Fatemeh, Ezzat and I, and eventually to the execution of 13-year-old Fatemeh, and 15-year-old Ezzat, even without trial. We had never thought that one day Ezzat-o-Sadat 15, and his brother, Mahmoud 18, would be executed without committing any crime," Sadeghi writes.

"The regime's crimes got to a point where it had to conceal them under the banner of supporting the children in Yemen.

Can you tell what you have done to the Iranian children that you are now talking about killing children? What did you do with the youth like Mohammad Mesbah, Teymour Davar, Masoud Khastou and Ali Khademi so now you are talking about the killing of Palestinian youth?

Of course, it is not surprising that if the hangman Pourmohammadi shamelessly says before camera that, "we executed people and it was out right."

Who gave you the right to execute teenagers like 15-yer old Afshin or the youth like 20-year-old Mostafa Mosana?

I was taken to Ghezelhesar Prison in 1982. Later, I heard that Mahmoud Mesbah, whose leg was broken the time of the farewell, was executed shortly after my departure along with his brother Akbar Mesbah while holding their hands at the last moments." Sadeghi recounts.

"Less than a year later I was transferred to Evin Prison's room 30 of Hall 6. Only 5 people had remained of 30. Ahmad, Jebreil, Teymour, Behrouz, where had they all gone?" Sadeghi asks from the remaining fellow cellmates.

"I got my answer from a sob caught in their throat and their heads down. The regime's execution machine is still on after 40 years and continues to kill. Just a few weeks ago, they executed Zaniar and Loghman. No matter how many youths are murdered, the ruthless dictators never get satisfied. I hope one day the world makes any relations with the record holder of per capita executions, conditional on an end to the death penalty.

Hassan Sadeghi

Gohardasht Prison

October 2018"


OCTOBER 14, 2018:


Final arguments set in death penalty appeal

Closing arguments are scheduled this week in the appeal of a death penalty capital murder case from Hunt County.

Micah Crofford Brown was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection in connection with the 2011 shooting death of his ex-wife Stella Michelle "Doc" Ray, a Caddo Mills Independent School District teacher.

Testimony in the evidentiary hearing regarding Brown's latest appeal ended in late July. Attorneys from both sides are scheduled to make their final arguments Wednesday morning before 196th District Court Judge Andrew Bench.

At the close of the evidentiary hearing, Bench said the attorneys would await opportunities to review an official transcript of the hearing, before presenting their "facts and conclusions of law.'"

Bench said once those documents were presented to his court, he would schedule a hearing for both sides to present their final live arguments before he makes a ruling in the appeal.

Brown, of Greenville, was convicted in May, 2013 and sentenced to death by lethal injection, He does not yet have an execution date scheduled.

Testimony during the trial indicated Ray was shot and killed in Greenville on the night of July 20, 2011 as the result of a dispute with Brown concerning the couple's 2 children.

After the conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a post conviction writ was filed on Brown's behalf in 2015 by the Office of Capital Writs, a state agency charged with representing death-sentenced persons in state post-conviction habeas corpus and related proceedings.

The 124-page document listed multiple alleged issues with Brown's conviction and sentence, including ineffective assistance by the trial and appeals defense attorneys, improper arguments by prosecutors during the punishment phase, and failure to present evidence during the punishment phase that Brown suffers from an autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior, which may have mitigated the jury’s decision to issue the death penalty.

(source: Herald Banner)


Death Penalty Sought in Toddler's Death

Prosecutors have announced plans to seek the death penalty in the death of a toddler in Pennsylvania earlier this year.

The (Altoona) Mirror reports that 19-year-old Drue Burd of Altoona pleaded not guilty Friday to homicide, aggravated assault, strangulation and related charges.

Police allege that he told investigators he put his hand over the mouth and nose of 16-month-old Angela Beard in May to make her fall asleep. She was pronounced dead at a Pittsburgh hospital.

Prosecutors said they will seek capital punishment if he is convicted of 1st-degree murder.

The judge Friday barred attorneys from publicly commenting about the case, saying she wanted to avoid pre-trial publicity and to ensure a fair and impartial trial.

(source: Associated Press)


District attorney pursues death penalty despite odds

Despite the odds, a district attorney is pursuing the death penalty for the four prisoners charged with killing a manager, a mechanic and 2 corrections officers in the deadliest prison escape attempt in the state's history.

The case meets almost every standard for capital punishment, said Andrew Womble, district attorney for northeastern North Carolina.

But the reality is that it's been 12 years since an inmate was executed in North Carolina, according to the state's Department of Corrections. The state has 141 inmates on death row. The oldest case goes back to 1985, and the most recent one is from 2016, according to the state.

"The death penalty is all but extinct in North Carolina," according to a report by The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a Durham, N.C. nonprofit. "It is a relic of another era."

For the district attorney, the effort is worth pursuing. The circumstances of the brutal killings, he said, are enough to justify the punishment he is seeking.

"These four scream for the death penalty," Womble said in an interview this week. "I feel incredibly confident about this case."

A year ago today, four prisoners started a fire inside the Pasquotank Correctional Institution north of Elizabeth City and attempted to escape. During the chaos, four employees were killed with hammers and scissors from a sewing plant inside the facility off U.S. 17 where the prisoners worked.

Mikel Brady, Jonathan Monk, Seth J. Frazier and Wisezah Buckman were charged with 1st-degree murder. Killed were Veronica Darden, manager of the sewing plant, Geoffrey Howe, a mechanic, and corrections officers Justin Smith and Wendy Shannon. All four prisoners were serving time for violent crimes.

The prison was short 84 positions, about a quarter of the recommended staff, according to a report released in January by the The National Institute of Corrections. One correctional officer and three staff members oversaw 30 inmates at the sewing plant where they made high-visibility vests for highway workers and embroidered uniforms. Deadly tools such as scissors with 6-inch blades and claw hammers were distributed by inmates rather than staff, as required, according to the report. Prisoners were able to come and go from the sewing area without a search. Doors to other parts of the prison that should have been secured were left unlocked.

The prisoners used hammers and scissors to bash the victims in the head and chest, according to autopsy reports. One was stabbed more than 65 times, according to 1 autopsy report.

Prison administrator Felix Taylor and his 2nd-in command Colbert Respass were removed from their posts. Taylor was reassigned and Respass retired. Dennis Daniels, an experienced North Carolina prison administrator, was appointed to lead the Pasquotank facility.

On Wednesday, The Virginian-Pilot confirmed that the families of the victims have hired lawyers.

"This was a tragedy waiting to happen," Cate Edwards, of the Raleigh law firm Edwards Kirby, said in an email Wednesday. She is the daughter of former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.

"We are working on taking broad legal action because four people needlessly lost their lives," she said. "These people were public servants and deserved better, safer working conditions from this state."

Chicago attorney Donnya Banks is co-counsel for the families of Darden, Smith and Shannon. Banks had no comment.

In laying out his argument for the death penalty, Womble, the district attorney, said that nine of 11 aggravating factors needed in such a case apply, though no trial date has been set. Those circumstances include that the acts were cruel, they endangered many people and were committed against prison officers, he said. A jury only needs one factor to give a death sentence, he said.

The deadly escape was premeditated, he said. The people killed were "sympathetic victims," he said, rather than criminals killing other criminals. The prisoners were captured on the spot just after the murders.

"This is not a 'who-done-it' case," Womble said. "We got it all."

Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan supports Womble. Steinburg, who represents Pasquotank County, said he has spoken extensively with family members and correctional officers about the escape attempt.

"These were brutal, brutal murders," he said. "One woman was nearly decapitated. I think as people become aware of the details of this case, it will change a lot of hearts and minds."

Executions in North Carolina have been stalled by lawsuits over racial bias and lethal injection drugs, said Gretchen Engel, executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Six capital cases await a hearing before the state's Supreme Court to decide if race played a role in jury selection. A study showed the state's prosecutors struck black jurors at roughly double the rate of others, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Additionally, a lawsuit is pending in Wake County Superior Court where several prisoners claim lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, Engel said.

"There will be no executions as long as they are pending in court," she said.

While Engel acknowledges extreme murder cases, the system as a whole remains flawed, she said.

"You're bound to have arbitrary results," she said.

One of the primary cases cited is that of Henry McCollum, who spent 30 years on death row for the murder and rape of an 11-year-old girl before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2014.

In the 1990s, most death row inmates were sentenced under different laws, The Center for Death Penalty Litigation report said. Legislation passed since then guarantees that death row defendants get trained defense attorneys and have the right to see all evidence in their cases, among other things.

A 2013 survey showed 68 % of North Carolina residents supported replacing capital punishment with life without parole as long as the offender worked and paid restitution to the victim's family, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

But the Pasquotank prison break attempt also raised questions about allowing violent offenders to work.

Another argument against executions? Defendants can be imprisoned for life and not harm anyone, Womble said.

"These guys can't say that," he said of those accused in the Pasquotank County case. "They were in prison."



The man who was to be executed next week: Why death row inmate was saved----2 decades after he brutally murdered his wife and another man, a death-row inmate has been saved.

2 decades after Ohio man Ray Tibbetts brutally beat and stabbed his wife and another man to death, the 61-year-old has escaped from death row.

Tibbetts has been in prison for the past 21 years, waiting to die, after he was found guilty of the 2 murders and sentenced to death.

But in February, a juror that sat on Tibbetts' 1998 murder trial reached out to the governor of Ohio, John Kasich - the only person who had the power to save his life.

Juror Ross Geiger wrote to Governor Kasich saying Tibbetts' traumatic past and the horrific way he was treated through his childhood were never detailed at his lengthy murder trial.

In his letter, which was later released by, Mr Geiger said deciding whether Tibbetts should be sentenced to death was "one of the most consequential decisions of my life".

Tibbetts was initially scheduled to die on February 13. Mr Geiger asked Governor Kasich to at least grant a temporary stay of execution.

"I had faith in the system in which I made my vote for death, but Ohio's criminal justice system failed me and Mr Tibbetts," he wrote.

"The system failed to provide me with the information I needed to make an accurate and fair determination.

"Mr Tibbetts'; crimes were terrible, and nothing excuses his guilt. But if I had known all the facts, if the prosecutors had been honest and forthcoming about the horrors he and his siblings experienced in the foster care system, and if we had an accurate understanding of the effects of Mr. Tibbetts' severe drug and alcohol addiction and his improper opioid prescription, I would have voted for life without parole over death."

Mr Gieger wrote the letter after reading the clemency report submitted by Tibbetts' lawyers.

The report claimed Tibbetts had been starved, beaten, burned and thrown down stairs as a child. It claimed he was tied to his bed at night.

After reading Mr Geiger's letter, the governor delayed Tibbetts' execution, which had been scheduled for October 17.

Tibbetts was due to die next week but the governor granted him clemency, permanently changing his sentence to life in prison.

"The defence's failure to present sufficient mitigating evidence, coupled with an inaccurate description of Tibbetts' childhood by the prosecution, essentially prevented the jury from making an informed decision about whether Tibbetts deserved the death sentence," Governor Kasich said.


In November 1997, Judith Crawford threatened to kick her husband out of the Cincinnati home they shared with 67-year-old Fred Hicks, the sick landlord Judith had been caring for.

High on drugs and furious, Tibbetts lashed out at his 42-year-old wife, brutally beating her with a baseball bat and stabbing her with a knife dozens of times.

Mr Hicks, who had to permanently wear an oxygen mask because of his emphysema, was sitting in the living room as the brutal crime unfolded.

Tibbetts then walked to Mr Hicks and stabbed the ailing landlord with a number of knives, leaving him to die in his chair.

A day later, Mr Hicks' sister came to check on him realising her brother's car was gone.

Walking inside, she found her brother slumped in his chair with four knives still in his body.

Police attended and found Ms Crawford upstairs. A knife was still in her neck.

They had both been dead for hours when found.

Tibbetts and Ms Crawford had been living with Mr Hicks for less than a month before they were murdered.

A day later, Tibbetts checked into a mental health hospital under a different name in Kentucky.

But nurses at the hospital recognised him called the police.

DNA testing later revealed the clothes Tibbetts was wearing when he checked himself into the hospital were covered in the victims' blood and they also found blood inside Mr Hicks' car.

Tibbetts' execution was delayed a number of times over the years with the governor finally commuting his death penalty sentence in July.


As Ohio grants one of its inmates clemency, other US states continue to debate the death penalty.

Earlier this week, Washington's Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's death penalty as arbitrary and racially biased, making it the 20th state in the US to do away with capital punishment.

Execution was already extremely rare in Washington, with 5 prisoners put to death in recent decades and a governor-imposed moratorium blocking its use since 2014.

But the court's opinion eliminated it entirely, converted the sentences for the state's 8 death row inmates to life in prison without release, and furthered a trend away from capital punishment in the US.

"The death penalty is becoming increasingly geographically isolated," Death Penalty Information Centre executive director Robert Dunham said.

"It's still on the books in 30 states, but it's not being used in 30 states. It's becoming a creature of the Deep South and the Southwest."

Texas continues to execute more prisoners than any other state - 108 since 2010.

Florida has executed 28, Georgia 26 and Oklahoma 21 in that time frame.

But nationally, death sentences are down 85 % since the 1990s, Mr Dunham said.

In the past 15 years, 7 states - Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York - have abandoned capital punishment through court order or legislative act, and 3 - Colorado, Oregon and Pennsylvania - have adopted moratoriums.

In New Hampshire and Nebraska, politicians banned the death penalty but saw those decisions overturned by veto or referendum.

The concerns cited in those states have ranged from procedural matters, such as the information provided to sentencing jurors in New York, to worries about executing an innocent person or racial and other disparities in who is sentenced to death, as was the case in Washington.

"The death penalty is unequally applied - sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant," Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote in the lead opinion.

"Our capital punishment law lacks 'fundamental fairness.'"

Earlier this year, the state Senate passed a measure abolishing the death penalty, but it failed to pass in the House.

"There is a profound shift in our state and country that the death penalty is below us as a civil, just and moral society," Democratic Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who had been a sponsor of those previous attempts, said in a text message. Republican Sen. Mike Padden, who voted against the death penalty abolition, said he was troubled by the ruling's impact.

"The death penalty should be rarely used, but I do think it should be an option in the most heinous cases," he said.



How Statistics Doomed Washington State’s Death Penalty----A half-century after Justice Lewis Powell applied the logic of tobacco manufacturers to dismiss empirical studies, a state supreme court decided to accept their findings.

Last week, the American death penalty lurched on step closer to its eventual demise, as the Washington Supreme Court decided to fan away some of the smoke from Lewis Powell's cigarette.

In State v. Gregory, the state court held that the death penalty, as imposed in the state of Washington, was unconstitutional because it was racially biased.

How does that relate to Powell and tobacco? Fastidious and health conscious (acquaintances remember seeing him order a turkey sandwich for lunch, then set aside the bread and eat only the turkey), Powell was a non-smoker. But he also sat from 1963 until 1970 on the board of Virginia-based tobacco giant Philip Morris. Like all members of the board, he posed in the customary annual photo with a lit cigarette in his fingers.

Over the past half century, that cigarette has befouled the U.S. Supreme Court's miserable handing of capital punishment. In 1972, the Court put a moratorium on death sentences. It held that Georgia's capital punishment laws violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." The justices could not agree on a rationale - but the case came to stand for the idea that the death penalty by itself might not be unconstitutional, but would be so if state systems were arbitrary or racially biased. The result was a 15-year scramble by state legislatures to design a more consistent way of choosing which murderers to put to death.

That revised system was tested in a 1987 case called McCleskey v. Kemp.The defendant, Warren McCleskey, was an African American man sentenced under Georgia's new procedures to die for murdering Atlanta police officer Frank Schlatt. McCleskey challenged his sentence by proffering a massive statistical study of the death penalty in Georgia by legal scholars David Baldus and Charles Pulaski and statistician George Woodworth. They concluded that, controlling for other variables, murderers who killed white people were 4 times more likely to receive a death sentence than those who killed African Americans. In other words, it said, Georgia was "operating a dual system," based on race: the legal penalty for killing whites was significantly greater than for killing blacks.

Punishing by race seemed a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" and of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of "the equal protection of the laws."

But the Supreme Court divided. 4 justices - Justices William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, Harry A. Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens - voted to reject Georgia's racist system. 4 others - Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Byron White, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Antonin Scalia - wanted to approve it.

Powell cast the deciding vote and wrote the majority opinion, concluding, "At most, the Baldus study indicates a discrepancy that appears to correlate with race. Apparent disparities in sentencing are an inevitable part of our criminal justice system."

Statistical evidence, Powell argued, could provide "only a likelihood that a particular factor entered into some decisions"; it could never establish certainty that it had done so in any individual case.

Anyone from the tobacco south recognizes the logic. In 1964, during Powell's service on the Philip Morris board, the U.S. surgeon general released the famous report, Smoking and Health. Then as now, the numbers were unmistakable: cigarettes kill smokers.

But Philip Morris, like all the rest of the industry, responded with denial. The statistical correlation, the industry said, didn't prove anything. Something else might be causing the cancer. In response, a member of the company's board stated, "We don't accept the idea that there are harmful agents in tobacco."

The logic Powell applied to the death penalty is the same logic Philip Morris employed while he served on its board. Numbers on paper don't prove a thing.

The death-penalty lawyer Anthony Amsterdam has called McCleskey "the Dred Scott decision of our time" - the moral equivalent of the 1857 opinion denying black Americans any chance of citizenship. After his retirement, Powell told his biographer that he would change his vote in McCleskey if he could.

But it was too late. The Supreme Court was committed to cigarette-maker logic.

Last week, the Washington Supreme Court, in a fairly pointed opinion, declared that, at least in its jurisdiction, numbers have real meaning. And to those who have eyes to see, numbers make clear the truth about death-sentencing: It is arbitrary and racist in its application.

The court’s decision was based on 2 studies commissioned by lawyers defending Allen Gregory, who was convicted of rape and murder in Tacoma, Washington, in 2001 and sentenced to death by a jury there. The court appointed a special commissioner to evaluate the reports, hear the state’s response, and file a detailed evaluation. The evidence, the court said, showed that Washington counties with larger black populations had higher rates of death sentences - and that in Washington, "black defendants were four and a half times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white defendants." Thus, the state court concluded, "Washington's death penalty is administered in an arbitrary and racially biased manner" - and violated the Washington State Constitution's prohibition on "cruel punishment."

The court's opinion is painstaking - almost sarcastic - on one point: "Let there be no doubt - we adhere to our duty to resolve constitutional questions under our own [state] constitution, and accordingly, we resolve this case on adequate and independent state constitutional principles." "Adequate and independent" are magic words in U.S. constitutional law; they mean that the state court's opinion is not based on the U.S. Constitution, and its rule will not change if the nine justices in Washington change their view of the federal Eighth Amendment. Whatever the federal constitutionality of the death penalty, Washington state is now out of its misery.

Last spring, a conservative federal judge, Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit, published 51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law, a book urging lawyers and judges to focus less on federal constitutional doctrine and look instead to state constitutions for help with legal puzzles. That's an idea that originated in the Northwest half-a-century ago, with the jurisprudence of former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Hans Linde. It was a good idea then and it's a good idea now. State courts can never overrule federal decisions protecting federal constitutional rights; they can, however, interpret their own state constitutions to give more protection than does the federal Constitution. There's something bracing about this kind of judicial declaration of independence, when it is done properly.

And the Washington court's decision is well timed. It is immune to the dark clouds gathering over President Trump's new model Supreme Court. Viewed with the logic of history, capital punishment is on the sunset side of the mountain; but conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are likely to join the other conservatives in lashing the court even more firmly to the decaying framework of official death, no matter how much tobacco-company logic they must deploy as a disguise for its arbitrariness and cruelty.

Smoke may cloud the law in D.C. for years yet. But in the state of Washington, numbers are actual numbers. When racism and cruelty billow across the sky, that state's courts will no longer pretend they cannot see.

(source: The Atlantic)


When the murder of a priest meted a cruel death penalty

Although priests in the past were among the most revered people in Malta, 2 priests were murdered on the island in the 19th century. Dun Alwig Decelis, aged 75, lived in Triq tal-Ghaqba, the uphill road from Lija cemetery to Naxxar. In spite of his age the priest celebrated Mass at the village's parish church every morning.

On February 6, 1806, Decelis did not turn up at the church, and his nephew, another priest, became worried as the previous day his uncle had seemed in good health, so it was highly unlikely that he was confined to his bed. After Mass the nephew went straight home to tell his father, Pietru (Decelis's brother), about the matter and the 2 hurried to the house of the old priest. Repeated knocks on the door yielded no result so Pietru asked a boy to enter from the back yard and unlock the main door.

Naxxar parish church where Dun Alwig celebrated Mass every morning.Naxxar parish church where Dun Alwig celebrated Mass every morning.

Pietru entered his brother’s house and called him several times but no one answered the calls, and so he proceeded to the bedroom where, to his horror, he saw Decelis lying dead on the floor. The room where the corpse was found was in great disorder, suggesting a struggle had taken place. Pietru immediately sent word to the luogotenente (lieutenant) of Naxxar who was in charge of public order in that locality.

Meanwhile, the doctor who examined the deceased certified that the cause of death was apoplexy and, with no foul play suspected, it seemed a closed case. The doctor, however, remarked that he had noticed bruises on the neck of the deceased.

However, when Pietru searched his brother’s house he realised some valuable objects were missing and he insisted with the luogotenente that his brother's death was not due to natural causes and should be investigated further. Pietru said he was certain it was theft which had led to the murder. He also added that 3 weeks previously his brother had told him someone had broken into his house and locked him in the bedroom but nothing had been stolen on that occasion.

The luogotenente was duty bound to inform the commissioner of police about Decelis's death, and when the latter read the report he concluded that a murder had been committed. A few days later a government notice was issued offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer. Meanwhile, the lieutenant of Balzan received confidential information that led to the arrest of Guzeppi Camilleri, Salvu Grech, Ganni Magri, Giovanni Scerri and Ganni Sciberras.

The arrested men all denied the allegations made against them but still they were not released. While in police custody, Grech was informed that his father had died suddenly and, on hearing the news, he decided to talk. In his statement to the police Grech said that, about 3 weeks before the death of Decelis, he had been approached by Borg, Camilleri and Magri to join them in a burglary. Grech said that at first he had not been interested in the job, but then he accepted. According to Grech, they had broken into Decelis’s house one night but the burglary was aborted as Decelis had heard them entering his house and started crying for help. They had locked the priest in his bedroom.

The Floriana glasis where executions were held.The Floriana glasis where executions were held.

Grech added that on February 5, 1806, together with the other thieves he had robbed Decelis of 600 scudi and several valuables. He also said Scerri had grabbed the priest by the neck and choked him to death.

After this statement some doctors were asked to re-examine the cause of the priest's death but Decelis had been buried for some days and an autopsy had not been carried out. Although the exhumation was not carried out the doctors concluded the priest had been murdered. In their report the doctors said that the marks on the neck mentioned earlier were sufficient to prove strangulation.

Grech’s testimony was not proof enough to convict the others so the investigating police devised an ingenious plan to incriminate Scerri who had since been imprisoned for another crime.

Grech was permitted a contact visit with Scerri in the prison yard and the 2 spoke about the priest's murder. During this conversation Scerri talked about how the priest died in his hands, which was sufficiently incriminating to convict him. 2 prison guards, hidden close to where the meeting took place, also heard Scerri implicate the others in the crime.

When the police went to arrest Magri they learnt that he had fled to Sicily and had paid 40 scudi to the captain of the small sailing coaster S.S. Crocifisso to smuggle him there. However, when later the captain was questioned by the police, he promised he would bring Magri back to Malta.

The S.S. Crocifisso sailed regularly between Malta and Sicily, and when the captain was again in Sicily he sent word to Magri that he had an important message from someone in Malta. Magri lost no time in going on board the boat but, when he was in the captain's cabin, the boat sailed out of the Sicilian port. It was too late to go ashore when Magri realised the boat had left. Back in Malta, Magri was arrested and kept in custody with the others. Eventually they were all charged with theft and murder.

The trial (not with a jury) of Grech, Magri, Camilleri and Scerri began in November 1806 and dragged on for about 12 months. They were all found guilty and sentenced to death. Meanwhile, Sciberras was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment in connection with the attempted theft from the house of the deceased.

After the convictions, Dr Filippo Torregiani, on behalf of the defence, submitted a petition to the civil commissioner of Malta for a retrial and with more judges since the 1st trial had been held before 2 judges, namely Dr Stefano Zammit and Dr Stefano Assenza. Civil Commissioner Sir Alexander Ball upheld the request and appointed Dr Vincenzo Caruana Zerafa, Dr Giuseppe Borg Olivier and Dr Salvatore Scifo to hear the case. In the 2nd trial the accused were found guilty and Scerri and Magri were sentenced to death. Grech and Magri received a life sentence, however, they were not told that their sentence had been changed.

In those days executions were held at Floriana and after the trial the 4 condemned men were held in the Castellania prison in St John's Street, Valletta, from where they were taken to the gallows in a long procession led by the head of police.

On September 18, 1807, Scerri and Camilleri were executed in Floriana. It was after these two executions that Grech and Magri were told they had received a life sentence. Moreover, when Scerri's body was removed from the gibbet to be buried in a pit, his head was cut off and later placed in Triq il-Ghaqba, where the murder had been committed. The decapitation was part of the punishment. This was the only case of a beheading after an execution since 1800.

19 years later another murder was committed in Triq il-Ghaqba and the murderer received the same sentence. On May 11, 1825, Guzeppi Grech was found guilty of murdering his brother Salvatore. After the death penalty was pronounced, the Court ordered that after the hanging, Grech's right hand was to be cut off and placed where the corpse of his brother was found.

(source: The Times of Malta)


Somalia executes perpetrator on anniversary of deadliest attack

Somalia on Sunday executed by firing squad a man linked to one of the country's deadliest ever attacks, one year after the tragedy which left over 500 dead, a court statement and police sources said. Hundreds of Somalis gathered at a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the attack in which a truck packed with explosives blew up at a busy intersection, destroying some 20 buildings in an apocalyptic scene in a city used to regular explosions at the hands of Islamist group Al-Shabaab.

A year on, the Al-Qaeda linked group which still governs large swaths of territory, has never claimed responsibility, which observers attribute to the public outrage caused by the attack.

To coincide with the anniversary, a military court announced early Sunday morning that a member of the team involved in the attack, had been executed.

Hassan Adan Isak, was sentenced to death for "driving one of the vehicles used in the blast," read a statement from the court.

"Today, the 14th October 2018, the death penalty was carried out against him."

Isak was the driver of a vehicle which he parked near an airport checkpoint shortly after the truck went off, and was arrested for suspicious behaviour. The target of his attack was unclear and there were no casualties in the 2nd blast.

Police sources said he died by firing squad.

- 'Justice and protection' -

Business at the Zoope intersection has returned to normal, and some buildings have been reconstructed, now carrying billboards depicting harrowing pictures of the blast and its victims.

A memorial tower has been erected in the middle of the intersection.

"All we can do is pray for them, I have lost them, I don't think commemoration would bring them back to me, but I hope nothing like the October tragedy happens again," said Omar Haji Mohamed, a disabled father who lost two children in the blast.

"I still cry from the bottom of my heart where people cannot see and only God knows how much I go through every day of my life after that tragedy," he added.

Some frustrated residents said mourning would not solve the insecurity in the capital.

"I don't think mourning is the right and sufficient answer to wipe the tears from the eyes of those who have lost their loved ones, these people were massacred, so the perpetrators need to be chased and eliminated," said Ali Adan, a Mogadishu resident who lost 3 of his friends in the blast.

Abdisalan Mohamed, 23, who lost his brother, agreed: "I can still see the disaster right in front of me. We can mourn as much as we can, but it will not bring back our relatives, all we need is justice and protection."



2 corruption-related death penalty cases handed to Supreme Court

Tehran Province's chief justice says the cases of 2 individuals, who were sentenced to death for financial corruption, have been handed to the Supreme Court.

"Appeals have been filed with regard to the cases of Hamid Baqeri-Darmani and Vahid Mazloumin, and the cases have been referred to the Supreme Court," Qolamhossein Esmaili said, ISNA reported on Saturday.

Earlier this months, the Judiciary announced that Baqeri-Darmani, who was involved in a major corruption case, and Mazloumin, a mogul known as the lord of gold coins in Iran, had been sentenced to death.

(source: Tehran Times)


International Federation Condemns Death Penalty Threat Against Iran Truckers

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has condemned a reported call by the Islamic Rebulic's judiciary, including the head of Qazvin Judicial Department, for issuing the death penalty against 17 activists involved in a widespread truckers' strike.

ITF has described the threats as "inhumane" and "unthinkable", calling for the International Labor Organization (ILO) to intervene.

The International Transport Workers' Federation is a global federation of transport workers' trade unions, founded in 1896. In 2017 the ITF had 677 member organizations in 149 countries.

In an ITF statement signed by its general secretary, Stephen Cotton, the Islamic Republic's authorities have been urged to listen to the truckers' demands.

"The death penalty for striking is the most serious of violations of workers' rights, it's inhumane and unthinkable", said ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton, adding, "From what we understand, Iran's truckers took action as a last resort in the struggle to feed their families. The threat of the death penalty is utterly disproportionate."

Prosecutors Threaten Truckers With Death Penalty As Strike Enters 2nd Week

In recent days, several judiciary officials, including the head of the judicial department of Qazvin, have threatened to sentence truckers to death after their new round of strike.

Announcing that 17 of the truckers on strike have been so far arrested in the province, the acting Qazvin Prosecutor-General, Mohsen Karami, said on Wednesday, October 10, "We will demand the death sentence for the detainees, and if they are proven guilty of 'fighting against God', heavy sentences, such as execution, would be waiting for them."

"Fighting against God" is a serious crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Other judicial authorities have also accused the strikers of "aggression" and threatened them with the punishment set for brigands, i.e. death.

To back up their claims, the judicial authorities have published a series of footages, trying to prove the truckers attacked and damaged public and private property.

Nevertheless, the strikers have dismissed the clips as "fake" and "staging" evidence to pave the way for suppressing truck drivers who are merely demanding their rights.

Based on the latest reports, nearly 200 truckers have been arrested.

The strike is still going on and images of it in different cities of Iran were published on social media, on Saturday, October 13.

Basing cargo fees on ton per kilometer is one of the main demands of the strikers who are either truck owners or hired truckers.

Meanwhile, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic revolution Guards Corp's Baseej (Basij) militia force, Fars reported on Saturday that the Supreme Council of Transport Coordination has approved the demand.

However, the approval had been repeatedly promised before, but never materialized.

Iran's truckers have seen their wages and standard of living decline steadily over the last two decades. Their job security has been under attack, thousands have had their pay delayed for months and all are suffering from extreme inflation, says ITF.

Since September 22, in an effort to raise awareness of their plight, almost half a million truck drivers have been participating in actions across 290 cities in 31 states. The truckers have also been urging their government to address their grievances over poverty-level earnings - and to be allowed to have a voice in decisions affecting their livelihoods.

Iranian truckers' strike has been supported by Italy's main trade unions, "No, to austerity measures" Front, as well as General Confederation of labor and the Union of Workers of Tehran and the Suburbs Bus Company (UWTSBC)

Furthermore, Iranian truck drivers who have gained international attention have also received support from the largest transportation workers' union in North America.

"The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing 1.4 million transportation and supply chain workers in the United States and Canada, stands in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters," James P. Hoffa, the head of Teamsters union wrote in a letter to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. on October 2.

"We urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining," Hoffa added.

(source: Radio Farda)


EU wants Bangladesh to abolish capital punishment

The EU and its member states reiterated their absolute opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and restated their commitment to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty

The European Union (EU) has called on Bangladesh to introduce a moratorium on executions as step towards abolishing capital punishment.

"The death penalty doesn't act as a deterrent to crime, and any error of judgment is impossible to correct," heads of Mission of the EU Member States and the European Union Delegation said in a statement, reports UNB.

On October 10, 19 death sentences were given out, the same day celebrated as the World Day against the Death Penalty, read a statement shared by the EU Embassy in Dhaka on Sunday.

The EU and its member states reiterated their absolute opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and restated their commitment to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty.

They said the death penalty violates the inalienable right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is a cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.

The signatories to the statement are: Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union Rensje Teerink, Italian Ambassador Mario Palma, Spanish Ambassador D Alvaro de Salas Gimenez de Azcarate, Swedish Ambassador Charlotta Schlyter, France Ambassador Marie-Annick Bourdin, Charge d'Affaires at German Embassy Michael Schultheiss, Charge d'Affaires at Royal Danish Embassy Refika Hayta, Charge d'Affaires at Dutch Embassy Jeroen Steeghs and acting British High Commissioner Kanbar Hossein-Bor.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Several thousand protesters hit the streets of Pakistan calling for the Christian woman accused of insulting Islam be put to death. Asia Bibi would become the 1st person executed for blasphemy if her appeal fails.

The Pakistani city of Lahore was the center of Friday’s protests, which were organized by the anti-blasphemy party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP). Demonstrations also took place in a number of other cities across the country, including Karachi and Rawalpindi.

The rallies came after Pakistan's Supreme Court heard the final appeal of Bibi, a Christian laborer accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed in 2009 by Muslim women she was working with in a field.

According to Bibi's autobiography 'Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death Over a Cup of Water' the incident began when she went to retrieve a cup of water from a well during a hot day of fruit picking.

When a Muslim woman nearby saw her doing so she shouted, "Don't drink that water, it's haram (forbidden)!" She then turned to the other women in the field, telling them that Bibi had dirtied the water in the well by drinking from their cup.

"Now the water is unclear and we can't drink it! Because of her!" the woman said. Several women called Bibi a "filthy Christian" and told her to convert to Islam.

"I'm not going to convert. I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?" Bibi said.

At that point, one woman spat on her while another shoved her. Days later, she was accused of blasphemy.

Friday's protests came despite the court saying it had reached a judgment at a hearing on Monday, but that it would not be released immediately for "reasons to be recorded later." It also said that it had ruled on a petition that would put Bibi on the no-fly list if released, but did not publish that judgment either.

Bibi's case has prompted international calls for her release, with Pope Benedict XVI joining in the calls in 2010. Pope Francis met with Bibi's daughter in 2015.

Although Pakistan's law takes the accusation of blasphemy very seriously and people have been sentenced to death, no one has ever actually been executed.



The hangman's noose

The PTI mandate hinges largely on eradicating corruption and ensuring justice for all. That much is understood. What is less clear is why the new set-up has thus far shied away from revisiting the debate on outlawing the death penalty.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari took to Twitter to effectively rule this out on the grounds that it is "complicated". Yet if Pakistan is to transition into a modern democratic state it cannot afford to shy away from sensitive issues. Especially when confronted with substantial data analysis compiled by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) that paints a grim picture of the criminal justice system.

In short, 3 years after the 7-year-long PPP moratorium on capital punishment was lifted the country currently 'enjoys' a global ranking as one of the worst offenders when it comes to tightening the hangman's noose. From 2015-2017, some 3,659 prisoners worldwide were sent to the gallows. Pakistan accounted for 13 % of this total; executing 479.

The death penalty made a comeback here following the Army Public School (APS) massacre. The state needed to be seen to act following the callous terrorist attack against the softest of targets: schoolchildren. But there can never be any shortcut for intelligence gathering and comprehensive investigation procedures. For even before cases reach the courts, law enforcement agents tend to rely on confessions. Sadly, police torture is a reality. Thus, as JPP director Sarah Belal points out: unless and until this is tackled head-on - the question of water-tight convictions will remain meaningless. The Supreme Court (SC) has, since 2014, overturned 85 % of death sentences during the appeals process due to problems with collection of evidence, among others.

All of which ought to be of grave concern to the Imran Khan government. Particularly given that it is the under-privileged class that typically suffers most when criminal justice is flawed. But if this is insufficient to persuade the Centre, it should perhaps consider the potential impact on foreign investors or overseas Pakistanis. For not everyone is comfortable with the idea of splashing the cash in nations that support the death penalty. Indeed, social media, to a large extent, has been something of a game-changer in this regard. The end result being that consumers the world over are increasingly linking human rights to purchasing power; in a bid to try and bridle global capitalism.

Whichever way this is looked at, one thing is clear. The time to talk about ending capital punishment is now.

(source: Editorial, Daily Times)


8,000 inmates await executions----Zainab's killer Imran Ali to be hanged in central jail on Wednesday

After 1-year-long lull, a condemned prisoner and notorious criminal Imran Ali will be executed in Lahore's central jail on Wednesday.

The prison staff has finalised arrangements to execute the serial rapist-cum-killer in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail on October 17. But, Zainab's father Amin Ansari has once again approached the Lahore High Court and demanded public hanging of the merciless killer.

An official said the murder convict would be given an opportunity to have a final meeting with his family inside the jail before his hanging. A team of doctors will also examine the prisoner before sending him to the gallows.

Imran Ali had raped and killed 7-year-old Zainab in Kasur district early this year. He has been accused of being involved in at least 9 cases of child rape and murder which he had confessed during the investigation of Zainab murder case. He was booked by police in 7 cases and the court announced its verdict in 5 such cases.

Imran Ali is one of the 8,000 prisoners who currently await execution across the country. His death warrants were issued after President Arif Alvi rejected his mercy petition in the Zainab murder case, officials said.

Most of those put on the death row were convicted in murder cases and hundreds among them have exhausted their appeals and their clemency appeals have also been rejected. Some 4,000 inmates are on the death row only in Punjab where more than 2,700 people were murdered during the first 8 months of this year.

Imran will be the 1st person to be hanged this year in Punjab. In November 2017, 2 inmates were hanged in Jhang and Sahiwal jails. Prisoner Nasir Abbas was hanged in the Central Jail Jhang. He had killed a man named Hafiz-ur-Rehman in 2001 over a minor dispute. Another convict Tahir was executed in Sahiwal district jail. Tahir had shot dead his wife over a family dispute in 2007.

Pakistan had lifted 7-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014 in response to the deadly attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. The executions picked up momentum in 2015 with 332 convicts sent to gallows. However, the executions dropped drastically in 2016 and 2017. At least 87 convicts were hanged across the country in 2016 while 44 convicts were executed in 2017.

According to Justice Project Pakistan, at least 496 convicts have been hanged in the country since the moratorium was lifted.

It is not clear yet why the executions of the murder convicts are halted this year again. But key international players have been calling for an immediate halt to executions since the country had suspended the ban on the death penalty for all convicts.

Many among those hanged to death in recent years were terrorists in addition to murderers.

In 2016, several inmates were hanged to death in murder cases reported by police almost 20 years ago. They remained in the prison for 15 to 20 years before they were executed. Among them were double-murder convicts Mansha Munees and Salman Munees who were hanged in the Lahore's Central Prison on February 4, 2017. The police had reported the offense in 1996.

While rights activists call for reforms in the criminal justice system stating that the death penalty does not deter crimes, the police officers think otherwise. Police investigators and jail officers say executions help control crime particularly murders in this society where thousands of people are killed each year.

A police official said that if the convicts would not be hanged for many years the impact of the punishment would vanish. He said that thousands of people are murdered due to one or another reason each year in this province. “The suspects are arrested by police, sent to jails, and convicted in the courts. But they are rarely executed. They must be punished under the laws," he suggested.

A former Inspector General of Prisons says that 95 % of those put on the death row were sentenced to death in murder cases. A few drug convicts are also on the death row in Punjab, he said. Farooq Nazir, who served in Punjab for many years to lead the Prisons Department, defends the capital punishment stating that it works as deterrence. "Hundreds of people are murdered (in Punjab) every month. But only a few convicts are hanged," he said. "The convicts are given fair trials. Even they can compromise with the heirs of the deceased under the laws."

He went on to say that the ratio of homicides is zero in the countries where murder convicts are executed on fast-track like Singapore, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. He said only a few murder convicts are hanged in Pakistan after years long legal wrangling. "The impact of the punishment disappears if the convicts are sentenced after 20 years," he said.

On the other hand, rights activists say the country's criminal justice system is too complicated and mired in corruption. They say the poor can't hire strong defence lawyers. "None of the millionaires is put on the death row. The lawyers of poor convicts don't appear in the courts even after accepting fees," activists say.

(source: The Nation)


Indonesia should follow Malaysia on death penalty: Amnesty International

Indonesia should follow in Malaysia's footsteps in abolishing the death penalty, a human rights group has said.

Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said an initiative to abolish the death penalty could come from the House of Representatives.

"In Malaysia, the initiative comes from the government. In Indonesia, it could come from the House, as the initiator of the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes," he said, adding that such a move would be supported by the global community.

Usman said he appreciated a statement made by Charles Honoris, a member of the House's foreign affairs and defense commission who suggested that Indonesia learn from Malaysia.

"We recommend that the House communicate with the Malaysian parliament as soon as possible to process the proposal of a death sentence abolition" Usman said.

Previously, Malaysia's cabinet agreed to abolish the death penalty, with more than 1,200 people on death row set to win a reprieve following a groundswell of opposition to capital punishment, AFP reported.

Capital punishment in Malaysia is currently mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes, and is carried out by hanging - a legacy of British colonial rule.

Malaysia's communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo confirmed that the cabinet had resolved to end the death penalty.

"I hope the law will be amended soon," he said as quoted by AFP.

(source: Jakarta Post)

OCTOBER 13, 2018:

ALABAMA----new death sentence

Derrick Dearman sentenced to death for 2016 Citronelle slayings

Derrick Dearman, a man who killed 5 people and 1 unborn baby in killing spree in Citronelle, was sentenced to death Friday.

Dearman was found guilty during a trail trial and the jury recommended the death penalty.

A judge denied Dearmans plea of being 'mentally unfit.'

The killings, which took place in Aug. 2016 while Dearman was under the influence of meth. Dearman used an axe and a gun in the murders.

The bodies were found in a rural area outside Citronelle. Police said Dearman entered the home in the early hours of the morning and attacked the sleeping residents using an axe and a firearm.

(source: WEAR TV news)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

Stop Imminent Execution in Tennessee (USA: UA 183.18)



Edmund Zagorski has been on death row in Tennessee for over 30 years after allegedly receiving ineffective counsel. He was scheduled to be executed on 11 October, using a 3-drug lethal injection. After challenges made through litigation, the state Governor issued a 10-day reprieve to allow for preparation of the execution.

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

* Halt Edmund Zagorski's execution and commute his death sentence.

Friendly reminder: If you send an email, please create your own instead of forwarding this one!

Contact this official by 21 October, 2018:

Governor Bill Haslam

600 Charlotte Avenue

First Floor

Nashville, Tennessee 37243

United States of America

Telephone: +1 615-741-2001

  Twitter: @BillHaslam

Facebook: @TeamHaslam

Salutation: Dear Governor

(source: Amnesty International USA)


My voice was heard from death row

Stanley Howard was sentenced to Illinois' death row in 1987 based on a confession tortured from him by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge's underlings. Held in an interrogation room for over 40 hours, Stanley was repeatedly punched and kicked, and had a typewriter bag put over his head to suffocate him.

In prison, Stanley, along with other police torture victims, formed the Death Row 10 and reached out to the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) for help. The CEDP agreed, and a deep bond developed as they worked together, from the inside and the outside, to try to win justice for these prisoners. CEDP members and other activists organized press conferences, protests and rallies, and Live from Death Row forums, where prisoners would speak to an audience via speakerphone. Stanley called in to many of these forums, and he was a columnist for the CEDP’s New Abolitionist newsletter.

As a result of the determined work of prisoners themselves, activists on the outside, lawyers and journalists, the death penalty in Illinois was exposed for its racism, unfairness and shocking errors. In 2003, Stanley was pardoned of the charge that landed him on death row by then-Gov. George Ryan as he commuted all death sentences. Unfortunately, Stanley remains in prison on another charge but hopes to be released soon. He has just finished a book called Tortured by Blue that is on its way to the printer.

Marlene Martin, the former national director of the CEDP, interviewed Stanley about the years working in the CEDP and what lessons and reflections might be important today.

IN the 2 decades that the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) existed, what stood out to you as its accomplishments?

The CEDP was established when executions in America were at a high point since the death penalty was reintroduced.

It was also when politicians were fighting with each other trying to prove who among them was tougher on crime. This fight led to the elimination of many safeguards and protections so that it would be easier to convict and quicker to execute.

Through its organizing skills and activism, the CEDP was able to help change the landscape of the criminal justice system, taking it from the unjust tough-on-crime era to a path where even the staunchest Republicans are calling for reforms.

The CEDP was part of the push that forced Illinois Gov. George Ryan to openly admit that the death penalty was "broken" and filled with errors. His admission led to the first moratorium on capital punishment, the clearing out of Illinois’ death row and the eventual abolition of the death penalty in the state.

In what ways was the CEDP different from other groups you encountered in organizing against the death penalty?

I began working with the CEDP in 1998 when its national director, Marlene Martin, responded to one of the many letters I sent out from my cell on death row.

I was seeking assistance on a new idea I had to form what we called "the Death Row 10" - a group of prisoners on death row who had all been convicted after being tortured by Chicago police under the command of Jon Burge. She agreed to help us in any way she could.

Some of the CEDP members, including Joan Parkin, Alice Kim, Noreen McNulty, Julien Ball, Marlene and others, were also members of the International Socialist Organization. And in my opinion, what made them different than other anti-death penalty groups was their willingness to confront the so-called powers that be.

They weren't passive paper-pushers who sat in an office submissively until an execution was inevitable. They were proactive. They were hard-nosed activists who had no problem organizing our families and friends, or networking with other people and groups for rallies and protests.

And what I liked the most is they had no problem with face-to-face confrontations with police department officials, Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley, or Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine, and later Anita Alvarez. No one was off-limits from their opposition.

The CEDP came around at the time when we needed someone to think outside of the box and take our fight to the street - to the people. And their grassroots organizing was our number-one fighting tool. It was the main weapon that kept politicians and public officials back-peddling and running for cover.

What conclusions did you draw about how we need to organize against the criminal justice system and racism?

I can understand why some groups feel the need to organize among themselves, with African Americas separate from whites and others. Their fears and suspicions are real, but it must not serve as the reason to isolate your group from organizing with like-minded people and groups.

Our fight to expose the Chicago police torture scandal, the death penalty, and the broken, corrupt, racist criminal justice system involved people of all races - the human family - networking and fighting as one.

That's how people fought together to help abolish slavery and bring an end to Jim Crow, and that's how they stood on the front lines with my blood family to save my life when I was about to be lynched on Illinois' death row.

Our brothers and sisters who are carrying the torch and standing on the front lines today need to understand that in the era of Trump and Jeff Sessions, we need all hands on deck for battle. Nothing should divide our human family in the fight for political, social and economic justice - because divide is exactly what Trump is trying to do. We must stand and fight together.

I've been really motivated and inspired by those who are carrying the torch today. I've seen them standing and demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Laquan McDonald and so many others. And I can close my eyes and still hear all of them screaming as one: "Hands up, don't shoot," "I can't breathe" and "16 shots and a cover-up."

I saw a young white woman activist lose her life in Charlotteville, Virginia, standing up against white hatred. My days behind bars are soon coming to an end, and I will be marching and shouting in solidarity with you.

How did you, as an individual, change, learn, grow and develop as a result of being involved with the CEDP?

Working with the CEDP and members of the ISO was a crash course in activism for me. They opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn't know about or care about - causes that were bigger than my personal fight to save my life.

I saw people dying because they couldn't afford medication or health insurance. I saw how poor folks are housed and educated, compared to those at the top of the food chain. I saw how top 1 % robs the bottom 99 % out of most of the world's wealth without shame.

I saw million of children dying of starvation while only a few people together had hundreds of billions in wealth. I saw the injustices surrounding mass incarceration and how the school-to-prison pipeline worked. I saw the unjust and racist manner in which the death penalty was being ued in this country.

And I saw how this rigged system was being controlled by the same 2 political parties that drive this country into the ground, while the rich get richer (and all the tax breaks) and the poor get poorer.

The CEDP gave me the opportunity to use my voice to speak out from my cell on death row.

I was given my own column, called "Keeping It Real," in the CEDP's newsletter The New Abolitionist. And I participated in many "Live from Death Row" events, where I was able to call in and speak to audiences around the country about the death penalty, my life on death row and the Chicago police torture scandal.

I loved being able to interact with the audience, where they were able to ask me questions - most had a hard time believing that cops were torturing suspects in Chicago to obtain so-called confessions.

I grew and changed so much that when George W. Bush kicked off the war in Iraq in 2003, right after I was released from death row based on innocence, I started a group called "Prisoners Against the War" while I was in Statesville prison.

Working with the military resisters in New York City and ISO members Thomas Barton and Alan Stalzer, prisoners were able to send letters to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We wanted them to know that we supported them 100 %, but were against the war and wanted them to come home safely.

I hated that warmongers were able to send our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, onto battlefields to kill each other when we're all part of the same human family.

I've been forever changed because I was taught that I have an obligation and duty to get in the fight. There will be no standing on the sidelines and hoping that things will get better - I had to get in the fight in some form or fashion to make it better.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity. I'll see you all on the front lines real soon.



Lincoln Co. prosecutors seek death penalty in child abuse death

Lincoln County prosecutors on Thursday filed a Bill of Particulars to have a death penalty option, upon conviction, against 2 charged in the murder of a Lincoln County toddler.

The toddler's mother, Judith C. Danker, 19, and her reported boyfriend, Khristian T. Martzall, 27, both face a charge of murder in the 1st-degree, child abuse.

They are accused in the May death of Danker's son, Braxton, who prosecutors say suffered "horrendous" injuries.

Pottawatomie/Lincoln County First Assistant District Attorney Adam Panter said this was the worst case of child abuse he's ever seen.

The death penalty "is the the only true justice for Braxton," he said.

"Braxton spent his last days of life suffering," Panter said. "Both of them are responsible..."

Panter said filing the death penalty request, which outlines aggravating circumstances, such as the heinous nature of the crime, gives the jury an option choose whether the death penalty is a possible punishment for the defendants, if convicted.

The child lived with his mother and her boyfriend in Wellston, Panter said, and the mother was reportedly rushing the child to the closest Emergency Room in Edmond when an ambulance met them en route and transported the child, who died a short time later.

"The child had physical injuries all over his body," Panter said.

Panter called the injuries "horrendous," and said they included open sores all over the child’s body, including some that were gangrenous. The boy also was covered in bruises, he said, and also had a "serious head injury."

Both defendants, who remain jailed in Lincoln County, were initially scheduled for preliminary hearings on Thursday, but those have been re-scheduled for November.

(source: Pawhuska Capital-Journal)


Prosecutors seeking the death penalty in murder, kidnapping case

Prosecutors in Pontotoc County are seeking the death penalty against a 19-year-old man accused in the kidnapping and murder of a 70-year-old woman.

In January of 2017, authorities say 19-year-old Kalup Born kidnapped 70-year-old Brenda Carter from her home in Ada at knife-point. Investigators allege that Born stole Carter's car before crashing it into a creek.

According to a news release from the Pontotoc County District Attorney Paul Smith, the crash dropped Carter 12 to 15 feet onto a wet, rocky creek bed. Carter was left with severe injuries to her hip and pelvis.

Following the crash, investigators say Born left Carter there to die.

Ultimately, Carter was found and rushed to the hospital. However, she succumbed to her injuries almost five months after the incident.

Born also allegedly broke into 2 more homes and multiple cars before a final stop.

Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said Born then broke into and set another home on fire with an elderly couple inside. The couple survived, however their home was a total loss.

Now, Born is facing 11 counts including burglary, assault, kidnapping, larceny and murder.

Prosecutors say they are seeking the death penalty in the case, but a current case pending in the United States Supreme Court may have implications on this case since Born was an enrolled tribal member when the crimes were allegedly committed.

Born's arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 25 at 1 p.m.

(source: KFOR news)


Aussie mum who could face death penalty fronts court

In an orange jumpsuit and shackled in chains, Australian Lisa Cunningham waved and mouthed the words "I love you" to her 21-year-old daughter in the public gallery.

Mrs Cunningham 43, was then ushered out of the courtroom, and back to jail in Maricopa County Jail, in Phoenix, Arizona.

The mother-of-four is awaiting trial on felony murder and child abuse charges, along with her American husband, former police detective Germayne Cunningham, over the death of seven-year-old Sanaa Cunningham.

Sanaa was Germayne's biological daughter, Lisa Cunningham’s step-daughter. The little girl died in February 2017, suffering a head injury, an open wound on her foot and a sepsis infection.

The prosecution also alleges Sanaa had injuries to her wrists consistent with being tied up using zip-ties.

The alleged crime, committed in Arizona, carries with it the death penalty.

The last time a woman was put to death in this state was in 1930; the Maricopa County Attorney believes this case fits the criteria, and the judge agrees. But according to Lisa Cunningham's defence team, the case is not as clear cut as it would seem.

Sanaa Cunningham was a troubled child, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 6, and was prescribed anti-psychotic medication.

Court documents allege at times, the little girl was restrained with an oversized t-shirt tied behind her back.

The defence claims some of Sanaa’s injuries were self-inflicted.

Defence Attorney Eric Kessler says the parents repeatedly sought medical help for Sanaa, maintaining they took care of her to the best of their ability.

Mr Kessler told the court, shortly before she died, Sanaa was taken to a medical professional, and the parents were not given appropriate advice on how to help their child.

A murder trial for Lisa and Germayne Cunningham is still a long way off, perhaps up to 2 years.

In the meantime, defence counsel is alleging "prosecutorial misconduct" telling the he court, prosecutors told the grand jury "one side of the coin."

"I'm glad that the judge is taking our argument seriously. He's given them great thought and having taken them great thought and having taken the matter under advisement. That means that he is seriously considering remanding this back to the grand jury.

Defence Attorney Eric Kessler says the parents repeatedly sought medical help for Sanaa, maintaining they took care of her to the best of their ability.

Lawyers for the Cunninghams want the judge to send the case back to the grand jury, which in this state, has the role of determining the charges on the indictment.

Defence counsel is claiming a significant discrepancy in the timeline of Sanaa's death, an error of 3 hours, which the grand jury wasn't aware of when they determined Lisa and Germayne Cunningham should be charged with felony murder, a death penalty charge.

The 3 hours is significant according to the defence counsel, because it could have proved to the grand jury there was time for the child to receive medical treatment, and that parents didn't take her to hospital "at the last minute."

If the judge rules the case should be sent back to the grand jury for re-presentation, jurors have the option of coming back with different charges.

Anything less than felony murder and the death penalty comes off the table.



State court to hear appeal of man convicted in 1998 rape, murder of mother of 3

The California Supreme Court is set next month to hear an automatic appeal filed on behalf of 1 of 3 men on death row for the December 1998 rape and beating death of a mother of 3 attacked while walking to a store in Long Beach.

J amelle Armstrong - whose appeal will be heard Nov. 7 in Sacramento - was sentenced to death in 2004 for his involvement in the Dec. 29, 1998, sexual assault, robbery and slaying of Penny Sigler, also known as Penny Keprta.

In a 6-1 ruling in May, the state’s highest court upheld the conviction and death sentence of Armstrong's half-brother, Warren Justin Hardy.

An automatic appeal is still pending for the 3rd defendant, Kevin Pearson.

In a 2012 ruling that cited the trial court's "improper excusal of a prospective juror because of her views on capital punishment,' the California Supreme Court unanimously threw out Pearson's 1st death sentence. The 2nd jury to hear the penalty phase against Pearson recommended in April 2013 that he be sentenced to death, and he was formally sentenced again to death about 2 months later.

The 43-year-old woman was walking to a store at about 11 p.m. when she was attacked under an overpass to the 405 Freeway in Long Beach. She suffered 114 injuries, including at least 10 skull fractures that appeared to have been inflicted before her death, according to the California Supreme Court majority's May 31 opinion in Hardy's case.

The woman's body was found by Caltrans workers - one of whom thought the body was a mannequin - on a freeway embankment on the northbound 405 Freeway near Wardlow Road and Long Beach Boulevard.

"The victim was moved to the embankment before being raped, from which the jury could infer that defendant and his co-defendants kidnapped her with the intent to rape in addition to the intent to kill," Justice Ming W. Chin wrote on behalf of the majority in Hardy's case.

The panel also noted that there was evidence that Sigler had been given food stamps, that an empty food stamp booklet was found at the scene of the crime and that food stamps bearing that serial number were used at a nearby market, and that the store's owner testified that Hardy had used food stamps to buy items around that time.

"This evidence was sufficient to support the conclusion that defendant took the victim's food stamps and used them. This conclusion, in turn, supported the robbery finding," Chin wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Goodwin H. Liu wrote that he felt the judgment against Hardy should be reversed.

"As a result of the prosecutor striking every black juror she could have struck, the black defendant in this capital case, charged with raping and murdering a white woman, was tried by a jury that included no black person," Liu wrote, adding that his inquiry "leads me to conclude that, more likely than not, the jury that convicted Hardy and sentenced him to death was not selected free of improper discrimination."

(source: Long Beach Post)


As Washington Scraps Death Penalty, Gubernatorial Candidate Knute Buehler Pledges To Bring Executions Back To Oregon----"I will follow the desires of the voters of Oregon," he said.

On Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state's death penalty law.

2 days prior, Oregon gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler promised, if elected, to start executing people on death row in this state for the 1st time in 21 years.

In the last debate of the campaign, Buehler said he intends to bring back executions.

"I will follow the desires of the voters of Oregon," he said. "And I will enforce the death penalty."

There hasn't been an execution in Oregon since 1997. Former Gov. John Kitzaber issued a moratorium on enforcing the death penalty in 2011, just before a man was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Gov. Kate Brown has maintained the policy and refused to execute any of the 33 inmates on death row. If re-elected, Brown says she would not allow any executions to move forward.

? The Washington Supreme Court struck down that state's death penalty law, citing racial disparities among the men and women sentenced to die. Washington is the 20th state to bar capital punishment.

(source: Willamette Week)


Statement by the Spokesperson on the abolition of the death penalty in Washington State, USA

On 11 October, the Supreme Court of the US State of Washington ruled to ban the death penalty, bringing the number of US States that have now abolished the capital punishment to 20.

The decision further encourages the growing trend to abandon capital punishment.

The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. No compelling evidence exists to show that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime and any miscarriages of justice are irreversible.

As the European Union, we strongly oppose the death penalty and will continue to work for its abolition worldwide.



Social worker who served Yates' victims supports end of death penalty

Before investigators learned the name of Spokane serial killer Robert Lee Yates Jr., fear gripped the women who worked as prostitutes on East Sprague Avenue.

As their friends disappeared in the early 1990s, the terror grew. Yet the women, many of whom believed they had no other options, continued to put themselves in harm's way.

Every Wednesday, the women would visit a van named "Gloria" and grab a fistful of condoms and clean syringes. The rig was the home base for Lynn Everson, the needle exchange coordinator for Spokane Regional Health District. She would give the women a hug and advice and send them on their way.

"If you look at the victims of serial killers, prostituted people are at the top of their list because they have no choice but to get into vehicles with strangers," Everson said. "Some carried pepper spray. Some carried butcher knives in their pockets. They were afraid, but at the same time they had no other choice but to go out and work."

Everson said she personally worked with most of the women who would become the murder victims of Yates, who pleaded guilty in 2000 to 13 counts of 1st-degree murder and was sentenced to 408 years in prison. Then in 2002, he was convicted of 2 additional murders in Pierce County and was sentenced to death.

But on Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, saying the law is applied arbitrarily and in a racially biased manner. As a result, Yates, and every other death row inmate, had their sentences commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"I am pleased that (Yates) gets to sit in 1 small, miserable cell for the rest of his life," Everson said. "I think the death penalty is too easy. I think the consequences of lifetime in prison are both cheaper and better justice."

Everson, 69, is about eight months away from retirement. She's spent more than 29 years working with the city's most troubled clients. For 27 of those years, Everson maintained a "bad trick list" that included rapists and men who robbed, choked, beat and stabbed prostitutes.

"Yates was on there," she said of the list. "These women face hostility, anger and violence every single day of their lives. I admire their courage, and I'm very sorry about the choices that they have to make."

Everson experienced that fear one night when she realized that a "trick" had followed her from East Sprague to downtown Spokane. She was driving a marked health district car.

"I took evasive action and he came back around, so I parked the vehicle ... and ran into the Dead End Tavern for safety," she said of the former bar at 1121 W. First Ave. "In my panic, I did not get the license plate."

But her pursuer drove a black van with rainbow stripes. She later learned from detectives that the van was driven by Yates. "My theory was that he just liked to mess with people," Everson said.

For the social worker, working East Sprague was just her job. But to Everson's clients, the street was their life.

"I knew one woman who had gotten an insurance settlement. She used the insurance money to change her life," Everson said. "She was the only one we ever heard from who was able to leave prostitution as a means of survival."

A different woman used prostitution to support her mother until her mother died. "Her mother was her 1st pimp," Everson said. Most women on the street suffered some sort of psychological, physical or emotional childhood trauma, or a combination of all those ordeals, and turned to substance abuse at an early age.

"Some of the women could not read or write. Some had violent pimps," she said. "Prostitution is not a choice. They came from painful, dysfunctional places."

And some had the misfortune of meeting Yates. As a result of her interactions with the women, Everson testified as a witness in Yates' trial.

"It's very emotional. When I was in court testifying, (Yates) tried to stare me down when I was on the witness stand," Everson said. "I just remember staring back thinking, 'You will never walk out of here. I, on the other hand, am going to go enjoy my life.'"

“Knowing that he will occupy a small cell forever and ever, it works for me. And the women I know, it works for them, too."

(source: Spokesman-Review


'Disappointed,' says father of murdered 12-year-old girl on death penalty ruling

The Washington state Supreme Court struck down Washington's use of capital punishment - finding it "arbitrary" and "racially biased."

When Frank Holden got the call from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee 4 years ago he was stunned - the man who killed his 12-year-old daughter in 1988 wasn't going to be executed anytime soon.

Holden, of Pocatello, Idaho, said Inslee told him he was going to declare a formal moratorium on the state's use of the death penalty. Jonathan Lee Gentry, who was condemned to death in 1991, was already one of the state's longest serving inmates.

Holden told KOMO Thursday it was clear the Governor's mind was made up, so Holden hung up on him. But, he said, he held out a sliver of hope that the moratorium would be lifted after Inslee's term.

On Thursday, Holden learned that the state Supreme Court took a stronger stand and struck down Washington's use of capital punishment - finding it "arbitrary" and "racially biased."

Holden said he was "disappointed."

"This doesn't surprise me," he said. "I've been waiting a long time."

(source: KOMO news)


Meet the UW professor who just killed the death penalty----The state Supreme Court was just the scene of a 2-year-long, back-and-forth scientific smackdown, which ended in the death penalty being thrown out. The professor at the center of it all talks about the experience.

When the state Supreme Court threw out the death penalty the other day, the justices' opinions naturally focused on weighty constitutional questions, about equal rights and the proportionality of punishment in our criminal-justice system.

But most of the 4-year-long case that led to the landmark ruling was consumed by a far less lofty question: Is Katherine Beckett legit?

Who, you ask? That's what she was wondering.

"I had no idea that my work, or questions about my competence, would become so central to a constitutional death-penalty case," Beckett told me Friday. "So to have it come out the way it did ... it was exhausting and suspenseful, but in the end, extremely gratifying."

Beckett is the University of Washington sociology professor whose 2014 study of capital-murder cases in our state found that black defendants were 4 times as likely to be sentenced to death as defendants of other races. It's no exaggeration to say this single finding killed the death penalty.

"To reach our conclusion, we afford great weight to Beckett's analysis and conclusions," was how Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst put it in the court's unanimous ruling Thursday.

But it's also no exaggeration to say that Beckett, a UW prof for 18 years, was put on trial every bit as much as the death penalty itself.

She and her co-author, Heather Evans, who was then a grad student but is now a UW sociology lecturer, were blasted as unethical by a state-hired expert. He accused them of "opportunistically" jiggering the models to reach a predetermined result. The state's attorneys derisively dubbed their work "garbage in, garbage out."

Beckett's study "should play no part in reasoned discussion about the role of race in the imposition of the death penalty," wrote the University of California, Irvine, professor who was hired by the state, in a blistering 116-page critique.

Little known to the public, a behind-the-scenes scientific smackdown consumed the case for more than two years. About halfway through, the court went to the unusual step of deputizing a court commissioner solely to referee the hundreds of pages of disputes about statistical analysis and modeling.

It all revolved around one study, based on trial reports filled out by the judges in aggravated-murder cases. It looked at all 297 aggravated-murder cases from 1981 to 2014 in our state in which the defendants were both adults and eligible for the death penalty.

The 2nd sentence of the study is shocking in its own right, and maybe helps explain why folks got so riled up: "To date, however, no published study has examined the role of race in capital sentencing in Washington State, where the death penalty was first authorized 160 years ago."

We've never even looked at the issue before? We're putting people to death and we didn't even want to know.

"It is surprising," was all Beckett would say about the lack of past analysis about race.

The findings of the study are fascinating. For starters, prosecutors over the 33-year period showed no racial bias at all when deciding whether to seek the death penalty, the study showed. Prosecutors were no more likely to bring the death-penalty hammer down on black defendants than anyone else.

But juries were not so equitable. At sentencing, which in capital cases also goes to the jury, black defendants were 4 times as likely to get death, Beckett found.

"It really implicates the juries," she said of her study. She said it could be explicit racial bias or implicit, subconscious bias - it's impossible to know for sure.

The study attempted to correct for other factors in the cases, such as the number of murder victims or whether sex crimes were involved (the latter is much more likely to lead to a death sentence, as is killing a police officer.)

"Every possible objection they threw at us about our work, we answered," Beckett said. That included submitting testimony from 12 experts backing their methods, correcting some data errors and re-running the analysis using different models. "The core finding about racial bias in the death penalty never changed."

Here's how the court summed it up: "Where new, objective information is presented for our consideration, we must account for it. As a result of the State's challenge and ... fact-finding process, Beckett's analysis became only more refined, more accurate, and ultimately, more reliable."

In academia, which is dominated by caveats and gray areas, that's what's known as a slam dunk.

Beckett says the ruling is a landmark because it acknowledges racial bias in our justice system - which this story shows can be extremely difficult for us to do. But she was also heartened by it for another reason.

"They took the social scientific work very seriously, including in how hard they vetted it," she said of the court. "In this era of fact-free, emotion-based decision-making, I was pleased by that - to see that rigorous science still matters."

It turns out science is still legit. That's as good news as I've reported in this space in quite some time.

(source: Danny Westneat, Seattle Times)


Military Court Rules Against Accused USS Cole Bomber's Lawyers

A military court review panel sided Friday with the judge in the USS Cole trial, ruling that defense lawyers had no authority to quit the case over ethics questions raised by their discovery of a secret microphone in their meeting room -- developments that have stalled the war crimes trial since February.

A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment on whether, and how soon, pretrial proceedings would resume at Guantanamo in the death-penalty case against Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. The court's calendar shows the courtroom assigned to the USS Cole case for all of October. Nashiri, a Saudi, is accused of orchestrating al-Qaida's Oct. 12, 2000, suicide bombing of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded dozens of others.

He has been held by the U.S. since 2002 but was first charged in 2011.

The 57-page decision by the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review also ruled that the chief defense counsel, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, did not have the authority to let the civilian lawyers quit the case a year ago. The judge, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, convicted Baker of contempt of court for doing so, fined him $1,000 and ordered Baker confined to his quarters for 21 days in a conviction that was subsequently overturned.

The 3-member panel ruling was dated Thursday but released by the court clerk in the early hours of Friday morning, the 18th anniversary of the USS Cole bombing off Aden, Yemen.

A footnote in the ruling acknowledged the disconnect between Spath's contempt finding and U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth's ruling, which found a war court judge had no such unilateral contempt authority and overturned the general's conviction.

The footnote said that the White House and Congress may "may wish to consider legislation" that allows military commission judges to hold parties in contempt. The war court trying Nashiri was created in 2006 and then reformed by Congress in 2009 to provide defendants accused of death-penalty offenses with Pentagon-paid defense lawyers with expertise in capital defense, called learned counsel.

It was also not immediately known what the three defense lawyers who quit would do. Learned counsel Rick Kammen currently has a restraining order in a U.S. District Court in Indiana, where he practices law, preventing the Pentagon from taking him into war court custody without prior notice.

His co-counsel, Rose Eliades and Mary Spears, are Pentagon paid attorneys but have hired their own lawyers to represent them in the tug-of-war over whether they must defend Nashiri. A year ago, the three defense attorneys obtained an ethics opinion declaring their ostensibly privileged relationship with Nashiri compromised over the microphone discovery and other suspect monitoring episodes at Guantanamo.

On the discovery of the microphone -- which was kept secret from the public and Nashiri for months -- the court agreed with prosecutors that listening and recording devices discovered by the defense were a "legacy" of times in the past, and not used when Nashiri was meeting with his lawyers.

Kammen told McClatchy on Friday "this excuse has never been subjected to any adversarial hearing or scrutiny. Candidly, we do not believe this to be true because of other things we found that remain classified."

As for whether Kammen would return to the case, he said he was considering whether to pursue the question in a federal court and would "be guided by my ethical obligations and the best interests of Mr. al-Nashiri."

The new Nashiri case judge, Air Force Col. Shelley Schools, was assigned to preside in August after Spath submitted his papers to retire from service. She has yet to hold a hearing pending the higher court decision.

Spath froze all proceedings in the case until a higher court ruled on his contempt authority and other questions raised by the resignations, notably whether pretrial hearings could go forward without Kammen or another learned counsel. The review panel found it could.

When the hearings were suspended, Nashiri was defended by Navy Lt. Alaric Piette, a former Navy SEAL with no capital defense experience. Spath at one point advised him to engage in some "self-help" to get some death-penalty defense expertise.

The panel had earlier rejected another challenge by Nashiri's military attorneys that sought to have Spath's rulings in the case dismissed because he had pursued work as an immigration court judge before retirement. The hiring process takes a year or more, Nashiri's lawyers argued, meaning Spath would have been seeking employment from the Department of Justice while presiding in the case, which has both Pentagon and Department of Justice prosecutors.

Friday, a federal appellate court in Washington D.C. agreed to hear the appeal of the Spath conflict-of-interest question.

The Pentagon has said that Spath officially retires from the Air Force on Nov. 1. But he is already listed as an immigration judge on the Executive Office of Immigration Review website, which disclosed he was sworn in on Sept. 28.

Separately, McClatchy filed a Freedom of Information Act request on July 17 for Spath's Department of Justice hiring record, and was notified on Oct. 2 that the application for the information was listed as number 10 on the Executive Office of Immigration Review's "complex" FOIA list.



Botswana using fellow prisoners as hangmen for death row inmates - Official

Botswana is allegedly using fellow prisoners to carry out executions of death row inmates, APA learned here on Monday.Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Justice and Security Segakweng Tsiane told the Public Accounts Committee that they decided to use inmates as hangmen after locals failed to respond to an advert that invited them to apply.

After failing to get candidates for the position, the government had to turn to the Department of Prisons for assistance.

"We turned to the Department of Prisons to capacitate us," Tsiane said.

She however could not state the number of death row inmates has Botswana executed since independence from Britain in 1966.

According to Tsiane, the inmates who had acted as hangmen are, however, left traumatised by the experience and now demanding that they be provided with counselling.

"They are offered counselling before carrying out the executions and after that," she said.

The official said the ministry has re-advertised the hangmen position in an attempted to outsource the service to private companies.



Group seeks ends to death penalty

A Lagos-based human rights group, Legal Defence & Assistance Project (LEDAP), yesterday urged the federal and state governments to put an end to death penalty in the country.

In statement signed by its Senior Legal Officer, Pamela Okoroigwe, to commemorate the 16th World Day against the Use of the Death Penalty with the theme "Living conditions on death row", LEDAP asked government at all levels to put an end to the use of the death penalty.

It said that in the meantime,government should "urgently introduce moratorium on sentencing and execution, and improve the conditions of detentions of death row inmates."

It recalled how it has "consistently campaigned for the abolition of the death penalty by providing direct free legal assistance to death row inmates, supporting legislative enactment on moratorium, conducting public poll survey on the use of death penalty and the inhumane living conditions of death row inmates.

The statement added: "Our findings revealed that death row prisoners are subjected to 2 distinct punishments: the death sentence itself and the prolonged years of living in inhumane conditions that include poor health care, overcrowding, poor feeding and poor medical attention. "Prisoners on death-row live in a state of constant uncertainty over their possible date of execution. For some death-row prisoners, the anxiety results in a sharp deterioration in their mental and emotional well- being. This manifested in the case of Olatunji Olaide, who was exonerated by the Court of Appeal after spending 24 years on death row. Olatunji died shortly after his release from prison due to his terrible ill health and untreated eye condition from prolonged detention.

"LEDAP is particularly worried that the appalling prison conditions have serious damaging effects on the mental and physical health of the inmates. These conditions further infringe on their rights, particularly right to human dignity and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. LEDAP believes that the human rights of death row inmates should be protected at all times. The dignity of the human person must be preserved, both within and outside the prison walls."

(source: The Nation)


Ghanaians want death penalty expunged from justice system - Survey

A survey conducted by the African Institute for Crime, Policy and Governance Research (AFRICPGR) has revealed that majority of Ghanaians want the death penalty expunged from the criminal justice system.

Findings of the survey, which were presented at a workshop at the University of Ghana, Legon, yesterday, showed that of the 2,460 views sampled, 48.3 % of the respondents supported calls for the abolishing of the death penalty while 19.7 % were in favour of its retention.

For those who disapproved of the sentencing of persons convicted by the courts to death either by hanging or firing squad, they recommended the replacement of that sentence with other forms of punishment such as life imprisonment.


The survey was led by 2 directors of the AFRICPGR, Dr Kofi E. Boakye and Dr Justice Takebe, and was presented to students of the University of Ghana as part of activities marking the 16th World Day of the Death Penalty, which was on the theme: "Living conditions on death row".

The findings were presented by a lecturer at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Ghana, Dr Francis Annor.

Death row

Taking the participants through conditions in Ghana's prisons, a Deputy General Staff Officer of the Ghana Prisons Services, Chief Superintendent of Prisons Mr Thomas Mahama, said Ghana's prisons were currently holding a total of 170 persons on the death row, including 7 women.

They were all sentenced to death for murder.

He said Ghana had not executed convicted persons on death row since July 17, 1993, after the execution of some 19 prisoners on that day.

In recent years, he said, some persons on death row had had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years in custody, while others had been given 20-year terms. Others were also released through amnesty granted by the President.

He admitted that persons on death row went through trauma and stress as "they do not know when they will be executed".

Mr Mahama suggested that such persons be given the needed attention to reduce the trauma and stress they went through if abolishing of the death penalty was not enforced in the near future.


A lawyer and advocate for the abolishment of the death sentence, Ms Joyce Adu, who chaired the function, said the death penalty was enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana and was recognised by the courts.

She expressed concern that although Ghana was among the countries that had abolished the execution of prisoners on death row, it was yet to stop sentencing convicts to death by getting rid of the punishment from its legal system.

"Death penalty was to serve as a punishment that would deter others but it has not been effective as murder cases have not reduced over the years," she said.

Many death row inmates, she said, did not receive adequate legal representation for their trials even though they had a right to a government-appointed lawyer.



Death penalty an affront to humanity: ED

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has once again stoked debate on capital punishment after concurring with a European Union position on the emotive matter. The EU said capital punishment had not established any deterrent effect on murderers.

"The death penalty is an affront to human dignity. It constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is contrary to the right to life. The death penalty has no established deterrent effect and it makes judicial errors irreversible," he European bloc said on its official Twitter account.

Mnangagwa re-tweeted it, adding: "I agree whole-heartedly."

Contacted for clarity, Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet (Presidential communications), George Charamba said Mnangagwa still needed to convince other stakeholders before there were changes to the law in order to reflect his desire.

"It cannot happen from the President's office but from a legislative perspective. That is the President's own view point, but it still has to find favour in terms of our laws and policies. He has expressed his personal wish, desire, and a personal conviction, but he has to build consensus around his personal view before it translates initially to policy then, secondly, law," Charamba said yesterday.

Mnangagwa's view on capital punishment was a matter of public record. The President escaped the hangman’s noose during the liberation struggle after it is discovered that he was under age.

Mnangagwa, who has served as Justice minister under former President Robert Mugabe, is a well-known advocate for the removal of the death penalty. Mugabe once revealed that he had an altercation with Mnangagwa over capital punishment.

Mnangagwa also differed with Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who openly declared his support for capital punishment. Zimbabwe has not implemented the death penalty for over 10 years now, with Mnangagwa credited for that.



Allahabad HC upholds death sentence of man convicted for rape, murder of minor girl

The Allahabad High Court on Friday upheld the death penalty awarded to a 31-year-old man convicted of raping and murdering a minor girl.

Considering the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the case, imposition of the extreme penalty of death sentence on Putai is fully justified, the court said.

The court also upheld the life imprisonment awarded to co-accused Dileep, who was convicted for the same offences.

The two had filed separate appeals challenging a 2014 sessions court order. The appeals were dismissed by the Lucknow bench of Justice R R Awasthi and Justice Mahendra Dayal.

"The manner in which the crime has been committed reflects the mental condition of the appellants..In order to satisfy their lust, (they) committed rape on a minor girl and thereafter killed her and also tried to conceal the evidence by throwing her body in a nearby field...," the bench said.

"The injuries found on the body of the deceased girl also reflect the manner in which she was subjected to rape and one can imagine as to how much pain she must have suffered during the commission of crime by the appellants," it added.

Government advocate Vimal Srivastava contended that the additional sessions judge of Lucknow had rightly convicted and sentenced the appellants in 2014 on the basis of circumstantial evidence which clearly proved that the 2, who were neighbours, had not only raped a minor child but also strangled her after beating her black and blue.

He stressed that the appellants did not deserve any leniency.

According to the FIR lodged by the victim's father, the girl (12) went out on the evening of September 4, 2012, to relieve herself but did not return. Her father and others launched a search but in vain.

The girl's disrobed body was found in a field the next day, following which her father lodged an FIR against unknown persons. Blood stains were also found near the body.

Suspicious conduct of Putai and Dileep and evidence found during the investigation helped nail them.

(source: Press Trust of India)


Let judges decide on death sentence, say legal eagles

Legal experts have proposed that judges be given the discretion to impose the death penalty on accused persons who commit violent crimes.

They cautioned against a blanket removal of the capital punishment, saying it would send the wrong message to would-be offenders that their lives would be spared even if they are found guilty.

Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said public interest might demand the retention of the death penalty in cases such as the rape or murder of children.

"The circumstances surrounding the crime may be so gruesome that it requires the offender be put to death," he told FMT.

Instead of scrapping the death penalty for all offences, he suggested that the courts be given the discretion to impose either a prison term or the death sentence.

He said this had been the practice prior to 1983, when judges were given the option to impose a custodial sentence or order the hanging of convicted persons in drug trafficking cases.

He was responding to the announcement by de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong that amendments to abolish the death penalty would be tabled in the coming Parliament sitting.

The mandatory death sentence is currently imposed for drug trafficking, kidnapping, possession of firearms and waging war against the king.

Lawyer A Srimurugan suggested that Malaysia emulate India, where courts are allowed to decide whether to take the life of a convicted person.

"This is also known as the rarest of rare case tests, as pronounced by their Supreme Court in two cases," he said.

In India, he said, life imprisonment was the norm while the death sentence was the exception.

In Malaysia, he added, once the prosecution proves the crime of murder or trafficking, the court has no choice but to impose the capital punishment.

"A jail term is allowed only if the trial court orders the accused to enter defence on a reduced charge, or the prosecution amends the charge to culpable homicide not amounting to murder or possession of drugs."

He said the government’s decision to abolish the death penalty was a knee-jerk reaction to please the public, as pledged in Pakatan Harapan's election manifesto.

He urged for a detailed study to be carried out on the implications of a blanket ban on the death penalty.

Srimurugan also suggested that those charged with trafficking who were proven to be mere carriers be exempted from the death sentence.

"But kingpins and drug manufacturers should not be spared as they are responsible for untold suffering for the nation and its citizens," he said.

Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali agreed that discretion should be given to judges as they were the triers of facts and law.

"Judges are trained in law and have wide experience before they are elevated to the bench," he told FMT. "Discretion must be placed in their hands."

He proposed that the government set up a select committee to obtain feedback from the public before amending the law.

He said the committee should also study the prison system and the expense to the government if serious offenders are made to serve long years behind bars.

The criminal justice system, including the measure of punishment, should be tailored to local needs and circumstances, he said.

"We should be master of our destiny, and not be influenced by what is happening elsewhere, including in the West."


UN chief praises Malaysia's death penalty repeal as 'major step forward'

Malaysia has announced that it plans to abolish executions, a move hailed by United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday, as a "major step forward."

The nation joins some 170 other States that have implemented a moratorium, or ended the practice of the death penalty; a policy that the Secretary-General endorsed earlier this week, commemorating the World Day against the Death Penalty, on 10 October.

Spokesperson for Mr. Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement that the UN chief saw the decision as a stride toward eliminating the death penalty worldwide.

"The Secretary-General commends this decision as a major step forward in a global movement towards the universal abolition of the death penalty," said the statement.

In the United States on Thursday, the Pacific north-western state of Washington's supreme court also announced that it was striking down the death penalty on constitutional grounds, making Washington 1 of 19 US states who've imposed a ban.

Earlier this week, the UN Chief urged all nations to "put an end to the death penalty now," noting that in some parts of the world, executions are still carried out in secret, or without due process.

Mr. Dujarric said that in Secretary-General's salute to Malaysia's repeal, the chief "seizes this opportunity to call on all countries which still retain it, to follow the encouraging example of Malaysia."



Federal Government will look into repatriating back home, Malaysians who had been sentenced to death in countries abroad.

This matter will looked into after amendment’s to abolish the death penalty is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat said Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya.

He assured that the government would come up with a solution for Malaysian facing execution abroad.

"This is in the best interest of the rakyat, we will try to do our part for our citizens through our embassy abroad.

"In some countries, similar process had been undertaken, detainees sentenced to death then they changed it (the death penalty). So we will try as well," he said after launching the National Sports Day celebration at Sekolah Kebangsaan Jelutong here today.

He was commenting on a proposal by civil group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) which urged the government to save Malaysians from the death penalty for offences committed in countries abroad.

Recently, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong revealed that the death penalty in Malaysia would be abolished.

The amendments to the existing laws involving the death penalty, to abolish the capital punishment would be tabled in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat session.

Marzuki also said he would welcome suggestions from the non-governmental organisation's or like-minded organisations on their views relating to abolish the death penalty.

"However everything must be done through the existing legal process, but anyone can give their suggestions.

"The government will negotiate with the countries which we have diplomatic ties," he added.



Deaf gets death for killing ex-girlfriend

A 21-year-old deaf was on Friday sentenced to death by the High Court here for murdering his former girlfriend in Kota Marudu, 2 years ago.

Judge Datuk Nurchaya Arshad found Mohd Faizul Abdul Latif guilty and convicted him of the charge.

Mohd Faizul, unemployed, was accused of murdering one Asrina Sahran, 15, at 9.10pm on Oct 11, 2016 in front of a house at Kg Ranau.

The offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code carries the death penalty on conviction.

Mohd Faizul appeared calm after knowing the decision through a sign language interpreter.

He had, on Aug 7, given an unsworn statement in his defence after being ordered to enter his defence on June 4.

In his statement, Mohd Faizul stated that he had never intended to harm or kill Asrina because he loved her.

He stated that he confessed to a police officer at the police station by telling the officer through a sign language that he did stab Asrina but he had no intention to kill or injure her.

He also stated that he came to know Asrina in 2013 and that they were an item before Asrina broke off with him in 2014 and after that Asrina always mocked at him whenever they came across, which to him was an insult.

He said he always wanted to get back with Asrina as he loved her.

He stated that prior to the incident on the said day, he had bought a knife and a chopping block for his grandmother in town and that after purchasing them, he went to Asrina's house to meet her as he had told her before that he wanted to meet her to discuss their relationship.

During their meeting, Mohd Faizul said Asrina ignored her and scolded her which angered him.

"Without me realising, I took the knife from a plastic bag and stabbed Asrina. I do not know which part of her body was stabbed as the place was dark," said Mohd Faizul, adding that he was stunned when seeing Asrina's reaction of screaming.

He panicked, ran away and drove off his uncle's vehicle before stopping at the roadside where the police later came and brought him to the police station.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gan Peng Kun prosecuted while Mohd Faizul was represented by engaged counsel Hamid Ismail.

(source: Daily Express)


Put death-row inmates to work instead sentencing them to death

The recent announcement of the government's plan to abolish death penalty has caused significant uproar. Among the comments found on Facebook are:

"Oh, now the drug lords' businesses will boom."

"Why do criminals deserve human rights when they did not consider the victims' rights while committing the crime."

"I do not want my tax money to be used to sustain these criminals for life."

"An eye for an eye."

Yes, the abolition of the death penalty does sound benevolent in the name of human rights, taking into account of the fallibility of the criminal justice system and the fact that the existence of death penalty all this while has failed to reduce the rates of capital offences.

But what is the alternative?

Commutation of a death sentence to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is merely a cosmetic change in the name of human rights if the conversion is to be carried out without a concrete plan to rehabilitate the inmates or integrate them into a new system.

Rehabilitative programmes may be planned by the prison board in collaboration with NGOs and religious bodies. However, for death-row inmates whose sentences are to be commuted to life sentences without any possibility of parole, how do we make them, or rather give them the option of contributing back to society?

Historically, the concept of prison labour is not new. The death penalty may sound cruel, but what if we give the death row inmates a choice of escaping the gallows in exchange of a life sentence without possibility of parole where they have to work certain jobs at a particular rate calculated to sustain their own lives in prison? They should be allowed to choose between their death sentence or a life sentence with a labour plan.

Of course, suggestions like this may trigger another set of human rights argument as to "forced labour". However, the fallibility of the criminal justice system should also not be used as a blanket immunity against "punishment" imposed on the inmates.

Ideally, a death-row inmate should not have the best of both worlds - after committing a heinous crime and having his life spared, a convict shouldn't be sustained at the taxpayers' expense until he dies.

Realistically, the Home Ministry probably has an allocated budget to sustain each inmate. If death-row inmates who choose to work as an alternative to being hanged to death, it would be a win-win situation for both the country and the inmates.

One possibility would be to allow companies that produce items of necessity to set up factories within the vicinity of prisons and prisoners may be ferried there by prison bus.

These factories may hire inmates to work at a lower-than-usual rate. This would lead to the lowering of production costs for those items, which would be advantageous to consumers. While inmates get to escape the gallows, they would work to sustain their prison stay, thereby shifting the burden of their living costs away from the taxpayers.

In the event their wages cover more than the cost of sustaining their prison existence, the inmates may be given the extra money. Also, in the event the inmate is repeatedly subjected to disciplinary action, something like the California 3-strike rule could apply whereby the inmate's sentence shall be reverted back to his original sentence for his lack of remorse.

(source: Letter to the editor, Jean


Petition filed in Pak court seeking death for killer of minor girl

A petition was filed in the Lahore High Court on Saturday seeking the death penalty for a killer of a minor girl in Punjab province of Pakistan.

The anti-terrorism court here on Friday issued death warrants for Imran Ali, 23, to be hanged on October 17 in central jail in Lahore.

In January, police arrested Ali 2 weeks after he allegedly raped and killed a 7-year-old girl and threw her body into a garbage dump in the city of Kasur, some 50 kms from Lahore. The murder drew nationwide outrage and condemnation, and triggered violent protests that claimed 2 lives.

On Saturday, Amin Ansari, the father of the girl, filed another petition in the high court seeking "public hanging" of Ali.

The petitioner said, "The murderer of my daughter should be given exemplary punishment so as to avoid any such tragedy in future".

In his previous petition, Ansari had demanded that the murderer of his daughter should be hanged on the spot where he had killed her. The girl's mother had said that the suspect should be stoned to death.

A 2-member LHC bench comprising Justice Sardar Shamim Ahmed and Justice Shahbaz Rizvi will hear the appeal on October 15.

The Lahore High Court, the Supreme Court and the president had rejected Ali's mercy plea.

Ali reportedly confessed to his crime, saying he became a "pervert" due to an addiction of watching child pornography on the Internet, a law officer informed.



Man gets death penalty for 8 murders

The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) awarded 9 times death sentence to a man involved in a murder case in Bhalwal police station limits. The verdict was announced by ATC Judge Atiqur Rehman Bhindar.

The prosecution told the court that accused Arshad had murdered 8 people, including women and children in a village over family dispute on August 21, 2012.

The local police registered a case against the accused and presented challans in the ATC court for trial. After completion of the arguments and analysing evidence, the judge awarded 8 times death sentences to the culprit over murder and one time death sentence under ATC Act along with 97 years additional imprisonment. Besides, the court also imposed a fine of Rs3.5 million on the convict for possessing illegal weapons. The culprit was shifted to District Jail Sargodha.

Man kills mother for 'eloping with paramour' in Peshawar

Earlier, a court handed down a death sentence to a convict for his involvement in a murder case in Multan.

The prosecution told the court that Shahbaz, in connivance with Qaiser, Muhammad Tariq, Muhammad Fayyaz, Ali Raza and Muhammad Sajid, gunned down a woman named Shamim Akhtar over a dispute on October 9, 2017.

The local police registered a case against the accused and presented the challan before the court. After hearing the arguments, the judge handed down a death sentence to Shahbaz. The court also imposed a fine of Rs0.2 million on the convict.

(source: The Express Tribune)


"Management and coexistence': Japan's justice minister calls for balance in dealing with foreign nationals

10 days into his new job, Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita said one of his major goals is to strike a balance between management and coexistence when it comes to foreign nationals in Japan.

"As we accept foreigners to Japan, I believe the government must carry out proper residency management including getting an accurate account of foreign residents' status to avoid problems such as illegal employment," Yamashita said in a group interview with media organizations on Thursday.

"On the other hand, it is important for the country to have some responsibility to provide support to foreigners," he said, adding that the Justice Ministry is working on compiling comprehensive measures related to living alongside foreign nationals by the end of this year. "We must balance management and coexistence."

The interview took place as the ministry is preparing to submit a bill to the upcoming extraordinary Diet session that would revise relevant laws to allow blue-collar foreign nationals with specific skills to obtain new types of visas to work in Japan from next April.

"This new system will allow us to accept foreign human resources who are industry-ready, against the backdrop of the situation in our country where there is a serious shortage of labor (in some areas) and have them work and play an active role in Japan," said the 53-year-old lawmaker, who is serving his third term in the Lower House.

"Japan already has 2.6 million foreign residents, and 1.3 million of them are working. We also had 28 million inbound visitors (last year). With Japan making great strides toward internationalization, we are moving toward accepting foreign human resources with certain expertise and skills who can immediately contribute to the workforce," Yamashita said.

The Okayama native said he expects Japan to further expand its acceptance of foreign workers down the line and emphasized the importance of creating a welcoming environment that would allow them to work hard and live in communities along with Japanese nationals.

On the topic of capital punishment, Yamashita said it is important for him to heed court decisions.

"The death penalty is a truly serious punishment that ends one's life, and execution should be handled very cautiously," said Yamashita, a graduate of the University of Tokyo's Faculty of Law who has experience working as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer. "But the death penalty is something that courts hand down after exhausting careful examinations on someone who has committed an extremely atrocious and grave crime. A justice minister must respect the decisions of the courts."

Under his predecessor, Yoko Kamikawa, all 13 Aum Shinrikyo cult members on death row were executed in July.

In relation to a case in April in which a prisoner escaped from an open prison in Ehime Prefecture and was on the run for three weeks before being recaptured, Yamashita said that despite the incident, it is important to have such correctional facilities designed to help convicts rehabilitate.

"There is a big difference in the treatment (of inmates) at open facilities compared with that at ordinary prisons, and I believe these facilities play a very large role in having convicts make a change for the better, rehabilitate and make a smooth return to society," said the minister, who was serving as parliamentary vice minister of justice when the escape occurred.

He said the 4 open-type prisons in the country each offer unique correctional programs, with the cooperation of local residents, to encourage inmates to gain confidence in reintegrating into society.

Yamashita, whose experience includes working as a diplomat at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said he hopes to publicize the ministry's policies and activities in simple language.

"People in the legal profession tend to explain difficult things in a difficult manner and even simple things in difficult ways," he said. "I think it's important to talk about simple things simply of course but also to explain difficult things about legal administration - something that is close to people's lives - in easy-to-understand words that would reach people's heart and make them feel that it is something familiar."

(source: Japan Times)


French Ambassador Calls On Lebanon To Abolish Capital Punishment

French Ambassador Bruno Foucher Wednesday called for Lebanon to formally abolish capital punishment, at a conference commemorating World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Though Lebanese courts still distribute death sentences, none have been carried out since 2004, amounting to a de facto moratorium on the punishment. Former MP Ghassan Moukheiber attributed the moratorium to international pressure against execution, particularly from the European Union.

This international pressure, he told The Daily Star, often competes with domestic support for the death penalty especially when egregious crimes capture national attention. Moukheiber said the aftermath of the murder of 22-year-old Roland Chbeir was a period of notable pressure in favor of capital punishment, with the victim's family leading the charge.

The emotional pitch of the debate has been heightened also by the question of how to punish terrorist groups. So far in 2018, the Military Tribunal has sentenced 4 people 4 of them alleged members of Daesh (ISIS) to death for the murders of Lebanese soldiers.



Women watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup match between Iran and Portugal in a public viewing event at Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Iran on June 25, 2018.

Last week, Iranian authorities executed Zeinab Sakaavand for allegedly murdering her husband when she was 17. During her trial the court discounted Sakaavand's claims that her husband frequently beat and abused her. She was only 15 when they were married.

Sakaavand is the 5th child offender that Iran has executed this year. On January 30, Mahboubeh Mofidi was executed for allegedly murdering her husband when she was 17. The same day, Ali Kazemi was executed for a murder he allegedly committed at 15. Amirhossein Pourjafar was also executed in January for the rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl when he was 16. In June, authorities executed Abolfazl Chazani for an alleged murder he committed at 14.

Iran is 1 of only 4 countries known to have executed child offenders since 2013. Amnesty International has identified 49 alleged child offenders at risk of execution in Iran, and the United Nations Secretary-General reported that there were 160 child offenders on death row in Iran as of late 2014.

Iran changed its laws in 2013 to limit when child offenders could face capital punishment - they granted judges the discretion to not sentence to death a child offender who could not comprehend the nature and consequences of the crime when it happened.

Yet the law allows courts to rely on a forensic doctor's opinion as to whether a defendant understood the consequences of their actions. In the case of 14-year-old Chazani, the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran reportedly concluded he had reached "developmental maturity" at the time of the crime. Even with this flawed approach to the death penalty, research shows children are far more predisposed toward impulsive decisions.

Especially troubling is the cases of the 2 young women executed for killing their husbands who both were victims of child marriages and possible domestic abuse. In Iran, girls can marry at 13 and boys at 15. Girls who marry as children face a higher risk of physical and sexual abuse than women who marry later.

Under Iran's Qisas law, an intentional murder is punishable by death but victims’ families can forgive the accused to save them from execution. This means the burden has been on activists and mourning families to work around the law. It is time for Iranian authorities to recognize their own responsibility and end the execution of child offenders once and for all.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Criticism of Iran's Practices at "World Day Against the Death Penalty" Conference in Paris

The Mayor of the 5th District in Paris hosted a conference against the death penalty in Iran, which was organized by the Committee for the Support of Human Rights in Iran (CSDHI) on Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 marking the World Day Against the Death Penalty. Speaking at the conference were mayors, politicians, and celebrities.

Maryam Rajavi read a message at the conference, recalling the 120,000 Iranian dissidents who were executed by the clerical regime. She reminded attendees that the ordeal continues, with thousands of death row inmates in the regime's prisons. She said that Iran is the number one state executioner of minors in the world - in violation of international conventions. She added that the executions serve to maintain terror and that they are instruments of the Iranian regime's survival. She also explained that terrorism abroad is an extension of the policy of executions and torture in Iran.

Mrs. Rajavi is the president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). She called on governments around the world to make their political and economic relations with the Iranian regime conditional upon their stopping the torture and executions, and that they dismantle terrorist apparatus.

Mayor of the 5th District of Paris, Florence Berthout, hailed the fight of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. She quoted Victor Hugo: "The death penalty is the eternal sign of barbarism..." She added, "On this World Day Against the Death Penalty, we raise a cry of alarm to Iran."

Tribute was paid to the 30,000 victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran by Jean-François Legaret, Mayor of the 1st District, who said that "these barbarities still continue." He also discussed the foiled bombing against an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June. "An Iranian minister sponsored the attack on Villepinte," he said. "The Iranian regime is desperate and is trying to execute those outside, who stand in solidarity with the resistance in Iran." Legaret continued, "I call on the French government to launch an international investigation under the auspices of the UN to shed light on this state terrorism and the barbarities in Iran."

The former FARC hostage and Colombian presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, emphasized it is the Iranian diplomatic network who set up this terrorist plot to "eliminate once and for all, a friend who is dear to us, Mrs. Rajavi, who carries the torch of this Iranian opposition." She praised the French government for its courage, for standing up to Iran's pressure, and for demanding accountability. She called on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini "who did not have a word to denounce the facts of the terrorist attack in Villepinte," and asked all those who, like her, were in Villepinte, to file a civil suit case now opened in Belgium regarding this attack.

"Iran is, unfortunately, the world champion, the world record holder of executions," said Gilbert Mitterrand, the President of the Danielle Mitterrand Foundation. He said that the 1988 massacre perpetrators, "are there, whereas the institutions exist, whereas the legal instrument exists, whereas the proofs have been established for a long time, while the procedures exist."

Former magistrate Francois Colcombet said, "The regime in Iran is using the death penalty to stay in place, just like state terrorism."

"We must fight on this subject and find international structures to crack down," added the Jean-Pierre Bequet, former Mayor of Auvers-sur-Oise, who congratulated the Iranian Resistance for having abolished the death penalty in its plan for the Iran of tomorrow. "When we went to Tirana to see the Ashrafians who had just arrived, with many wounded and maimed as a result of the regime's attacks. These people had no hatred or revenge," he said.

Pierre Bercis, in reference to the June terrorist plot near Paris, said, "This fight for freedom in Iran is a long marathon; the one who knows how to suffer 2 minutes more is triumphant."

Jean-Pierre Muller, Mayor of Magny-en-Vexin said, "The People's Mojahedin, Maryam Rajavi, they are not terrorists; they are brave men and women who fight for freedom, equality, and fraternity." He added, "There are no moderates in Iran, only barbarians," and proposed to declare a day of solidarity between the people of France and the PMOI/MEK.

Also in regards to the June terrorist plot near Paris, Jean-Pierre Brard, Mayor of Montreuil, emphasized "the attack not only targeted the resistance, but it also targeted our country. This embodies the hate seen in the mullahs." Mr. Brard also rejected the moderates' thesis in Iranian politics. "A fascist is always a fascist," he said. He also allied with Ingrid Betancourt in the idea to launch a civil case regarding the foiled Paris plot.

Bruno Mace, Mayor of Villiers-Adam, spoke about visiting the PMOI/MEK in Albania. "I saw in Tirana people who want to set up this secular democracy that we all aspire to."


OCTOBER 12, 2018:


Author speaks on death row inmate exonerated through DNA evidence

Students listened to author Tim Junkin present his findings on the 1st death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence at Salisbury University Thursday night.

Junkin is the author of the novels "Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Evidence," "The Waterman: A Novel of the Chesapeake Bay" and "Good Counsel." Junkin is a practicing attorney and an award-winning novelist who resides in Maryland.

All 3 of his novels take place on the Eastern Shore. His novel "Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Evidence" is the 2018 One Maryland One Book selection.

Kirk Bloodsworth is the 1st American to be sentenced to the death penalty and be exonerated due to DNA evidence. Bloodsworth was convicted in 1985 for the 1984 1st-degree murder and rape of Dawn Hamilton.

Police captured Bloodsworth in his home when he was 22 years old. He was later gassed multiple times in prison.

Bloodsworth was released 19 years after his arrest.

Bloodsworth is now a national spokesperson for prison reform and has gone on tour with Junkin presenting the novel. Bloodsworth was exonerated in 2004, but the death penalty was not eradicated in the state of Maryland until 2013.

The United States spends over $80 billion on incarceration each year. The United States comprises about 5 % of the world's population, but it houses approximately 25 % of the world's prisoners.

The death penalty is used disproportionately against minorities, with 50 % of death row inmates being black.

Junkin said that Bloodsworth became a symbol of hope and justice for people after speaking on their book tour and speaking at law schools together. He said Bloodsworth is a symbol of wrongful conviction and the problem of mass incarceration in the U.S.

"We have a burgeoning crisis of mass incarceration in our prison system," Junkin said.

Bloodsworth was represented by lawyer Bob Warren. At the time of Bloodsworth's conviction, only 2 labs in the country were performing DNA testing.

In the United States, 162 people have been exonerated from death row after Bloodsworth.

DNA evidence has convicted the serial sexual offender and rapist Kimberly Shay Ruffner as the killer of the 9-year-old girl whose body was found in Rosedale. Ruffner was an absolute DNA match with the semen and blood samples found on Hamilton's clothing.

Junkin's novel has experienced a renaissance in popularity recently despite having been released in 2004. Junkin said the themes of justice and wrongful conviction still ring true to audiences in 2018.

"I think it's got some really important parallels for today," Junkin said. "Everybody that comes in contact with him thinks he's innocent."

Junkin read about Bloodsworth's case in the newspaper and was inspired to find the truth. He studied police notes and the grand jury testimony, and he spoke directly to Bloodsworth and the people working the case.

He researched his case as an investigative journalist, speaking to every source that was willing to talk to him. He said the only people who refused to talk to him were the 2 homicide detectives in charge of the case.

He decided that creating a 1st-person narrative from Bloodsworth's point of view would be the best way to create sympathy and understanding with the reader, but he also only wanted to write information that was factual in his novel.

"Of course I wanted to write this story from Kirk's perspective," Junkin said, "But, I also wanted to write from the perspective of the investigators and the prosecutors."

Junkin believes that people in the community wanted to accept Bloodsworth as the killer without DNA evidence because it gave them a sense of security for their children. He said they wanted a simple case of justice that was solved quickly.

"The community is terrified," he said, "And they're afraid to let their kids out of the house."

Bloodsworth had weed in his shoes and was sweating nervously after having a fight with his wife at the time his psychological profile was performed. Junkin said this profile led the police to "key in on Kirk."

The case also relied on 10- and 7-year-old eyewitnesses who described a tan, blond, mustached man. Junkin said that Bloodsworth had red hair and pale skin that did not tan.

Junkin believed that Bloodsworth was innocent, but he did not want to make any assumptions as he investigated his case.

Molly Welch, a social work and community health major, thought the lecture was insightful and had an interest in the case because she wants to specialize in the criminal justice field of social work. Welch grew up in Somerset County around a family working in law enforcement, and she said working with people in this field has made both her and her family stronger.

Welch said people are "quick to jump to conclusions" whenever a child is harmed because people want to keep children innocent and safe. She thinks adults are better able to protect themselves than children, and children are also less mentally developed than adults.

"You wanna feel safe as a society, but you also don't wanna put others at risk and not have them be safe," Welch said. "In this country, we have a problem with knee-jerk reactions, and especially when it comes to children because we wanna protect children- we love children."

Brittany Tignor, a Snow Hill High School librarian, took a group of students who read the novel and were interested in the case on a field trip to learn more from the author himself. She thought her students found the lecture very informative, and she felt the lecture clarified things for both her and her students, especially the question and answer portion.

Tignor feels that people wanted a quick and decisive ending to the case because uncertainty is uncomfortable to live with. She said people wanted clear answers, not a list of possibilities to choose from.

"It's a great example of how broken our system has become," Tignor said. "I understood the prosecutor and the investigators' desire to solve the case, but I didn't understand the desire to just, like, find somebody to pin it on and be done with it."

Tignor enjoyed Junkin's novel, not from the perspective of the crime drama, but from the perspective of the characters. She said the novel made her believe in Bloodsworth's innocence and made her root for his character.

"As a former English teacher, I am not a big fan of crime drama - I'm not really a big fan of law books in general, but I loved how Tim Junkin made me care about the characters and sort of wove the characters throughout the process of the court system and everything," Tignor said. "You become very attached to Kirk ... and you're sort of cheering him on through the whole thing."



A year later, district attorney pursues death penalty despite odds in Pasquotank prison break case

Despite the odds, a district attorney is pursuing the death penalty for the 4 prisoners charged with killing a manager, a mechanic and 2 corrections officers in the deadliest prison escape attempt in the state's history.

The case meets almost every standard for capital punishment, said Andrew Womble, district attorney for northeastern North Carolina.

But the reality is that it's been 12 years since an inmate was executed in North Carolina, according to the state’s Department of Corrections. The state has 141 inmates on death row. The oldest case goes back to 1985, and the most recent one is from 2016, according to the state.

"The death penalty is all but extinct in North Carolina," according to a report by The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a Durham, N.C. nonprofit. "It is a relic of another era."

For the district attorney, the effort is worth pursuing. The circumstances of the brutal killings, he said, are enough to justify the punishment he is seeking.

"These 4 scream for the death penalty," Womble said in an interview this week. "I feel incredibly confident about this case."

Escape attempt

A year ago today, 4 prisoners started a fire inside the Pasquotank Correctional Institution north of Elizabeth City and attempted to escape. During the chaos, 4 employees were killed with hammers and scissors from a sewing plant inside the facility off U.S. 17 where the prisoners worked.

Mikel Brady, Jonathan Monk, Seth J. Frazier and Wisezah Buckman were charged with 1st-degree murder. Killed were Veronica Darden, manager of the sewing plant, Geoffrey Howe, a mechanic, and corrections officers Justin Smith and Wendy Shannon. All 4 prisoners were serving time for violent crimes.

The prison was short 84 positions, about 1/4 of the recommended staff, according to a report released in January by the The National Institute of Corrections. One correctional officer and 3 staff members oversaw 30 inmates at the sewing plant where they made high-visibility vests for highway workers and embroidered uniforms. Deadly tools such as scissors with 6-inch blades and claw hammers were distributed by inmates rather than staff, as required, according to the report. Prisoners were able to come and go from the sewing area without a search. Doors to other parts of the prison that should have been secured were left unlocked.

The prisoners used hammers and scissors to bash the victims in the head and chest, according to autopsy reports. One was stabbed more than 65 times, according to one autopsy report.

Prison administrator Felix Taylor and his second-in command Colbert Respass were removed from their posts. Taylor was reassigned and Respass retired. Dennis Daniels, an experienced North Carolina prison administrator, was appointed to lead the Pasquotank facility.

On Wednesday, The Virginian-Pilot confirmed that the families of the victims have hired lawyers.

"This was a tragedy waiting to happen," Cate Edwards, of the Raleigh law firm Edwards Kirby, said in an email Wednesday. She is the daughter of former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.

"We are working on taking broad legal action because four people needlessly lost their lives," she said. "These people were public servants and deserved better, safer working conditions from this state."

Chicago attorney Donnya Banks is co-counsel for the families of Darden, Smith and Shannon. Banks had no comment.

"Brutal murders" In laying out his argument for the death penalty, Womble, the district attorney, said that 9 of 11 aggravating factors needed in such a case apply, though no trial date has been set. Those circumstances include that the acts were cruel, they endangered many people and were committed against prison officers, he said. A jury only needs 1 factor to give a death sentence, he said.

The deadly escape was premeditated, he said. The people killed were "sympathetic victims," he said, rather than criminals killing other criminals. The prisoners were captured on the spot just after the murders.

"This is not a 'who-done-it' case," Womble said. "We got it all."

Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan supports Womble. Steinburg, who represents Pasquotank County, said he has spoken extensively with family members and correctional officers about the escape attempt.

"These were brutal, brutal murders,' he said. "One woman was nearly decapitated. I think as people become aware of the details of this case, it will change a lot of hearts and minds."

State executions stalled

Executions in North Carolina have been stalled by lawsuits over racial bias and lethal injection drugs, said Gretchen Engel, executive director of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

6 capital cases await a hearing before the state's Supreme Court to decide if race played a role in jury selection. A study showed the state's prosecutors struck black jurors at roughly double the rate of others, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Additionally, a lawsuit is pending in Wake County Superior Court where several prisoners claim lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, Engel said.

"There will be no executions as long as they are pending in court," she said.

While Engel acknowledges extreme murder cases, the system as a whole remains flawed, she said.

"You're bound to have arbitrary results," she said.

One of the primary cases cited is that of Henry McCollum, who spent 30 years on death row for the murder and rape of an 11-year-old girl before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2014.

In the 1990s, most death row inmates were sentenced under different laws, The Center for Death Penalty Litigation report said. Legislation passed since then guarantees that death row defendants get trained defense attorneys and have the right to see all evidence in their cases, among other things.

A 2013 survey showed 68 % of North Carolina residents supported replacing capital punishment with life without parole as long as the offender worked and paid restitution to the victim's family, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

But the Pasquotank prison break attempt also raised questions about allowing violent offenders to work.

Another argument against executions? Defendants can be imprisoned for life and not harm anyone, Womble said.

"These guys can't say that," he said of those accused in the Pasquotank County case. "They were in prison."

(source: The Virginian-Pilot)


Haslam Grants Edmund Zagorski Reprieve From Execution

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today made the following statement on death row inmate Edmund Zagorski:

"I am granting to Edmund Zagorski a reprieve of 10 days from execution of the sentence of death imposed upon by him by a jury in 1984 which was scheduled to be carried out later today. I take seriously the responsibility imposed upon the Tennessee Department of Correction and me by law, and given the federal court's decision to honor Zagorski's last-minute decision to choose electrocution as the method of execution, this brief reprieve will give all involved the time necessary to carry out the sentence in an orderly and careful manner."



Supreme Court rejects Tennessee death row inmate efforts

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected two last-ditch efforts to save the life of Tennessee death row inmate Edmund Zagorski, apparently clearing the way for his execution despite a delay caused by legal wrangling.

The court rejected a challenge of Tennessee's lethal injection protocol and lifted a stay of execution ordered by a lower court because of inadequate counsel.

The court issued the rulings Thursday night around the time Zagorski's execution had been scheduled. But earlier in the day, Gov. Bill Haslam granted a 10-day reprieve to give the state time to prepare for an execution by electric chair.

It was not immediately clear what options Zagorski's attorneys have in the wake of the decisions by the court and the governor.

"We are reviewing the court's opinion and will assess what options we have," his lawyer, Kelley Henry, wrote in an email.

Zagorski had asked to die in the electric chair earlier in the week, instead of lethal injection, which he argued was cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional.

The state denied the request, arguing that Zagorski missed the deadline, but hours before the scheduled execution, a federal judge blocked the state from using its 3-drug cocktail.

Zagorski was sentenced in 1984 for the slayings of 2 men during a drug deal.

Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented from the majority's decision not to stay the execution, with Sotomayor writing that those sentenced to die "are not entitled to pleasant deaths under the Eighth Amendment, but they are entitled to humane deaths.

"The longer we stand silent amid growing evidence of inhumanity in execution methods like Tennessee's, the longer we extend our own complicity in state-sponsored brutality."

Zagorski had been set to be executed at 7 p.m. Thursday, but that was halted after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday granted a stay over concerns of inadequate representation.

As the state rushed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling and ensure the execution took place as scheduled, a separate federal judge barred the state from using lethal injection to kill Zagorski after it refused his request to die in the electric chair.

Tennessee is one of only of nine states that allow electrocutions. The last electrocution in the U.S. took place in Virginia in January 2013.

Zagorski had asked to die by electrocution just days before his execution because he said the three-drug cocktail the state used constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated his constitutional rights.

However, the state denied his request, arguing Zagorski waited too long to ask for the electric chair. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger disagreed with that decision and barred the state's lethal injection method so both Zagorski's request could be honored and more time would be allowed to review the state's lethal cocktail.

Haslam then granted the reprieve.

"I take seriously the responsibility imposed upon the Tennessee Department of Correction and me by law," Haslam said in a statement. "And given the federal court's decision to honor Zagorski's last-minute decision to choose electrocution as the method of execution, this brief reprieve will give all involved the time necessary to carry out the sentence in an orderly and careful manner."

Shortly after the Republican governor's announcement, the Department of Correction said it would return Zagorski to death row after moving him to a "death watch" cell earlier this week.

The Republican governor had said he wouldn't intervene in Zagorski's case.

The temporary reprieve will be in effect until Oct. 21. It's still unknown when Zagorski's new execution date will be set.

"Tennessee's death penalty statute makes it clear that Mr. Zagorski has the right to choose execution by electrocution," Henry said. "While being burned alive and mutilated via electricity is not a good death, Mr. Zagorski knows that death by electric chair will be much quicker than lethal injection using midazolam, a paralytic, and potassium chloride."

Zagorski was sentenced in 1984 in the slayings of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter. Prosecutors said Zagorski shot the men, then slit their throats after robbing them in Robertson County in April 1983. The victims had planned to buy marijuana from Zagorski.

He's been on death row for 34 years, the 2nd longest in Tennessee.

Zagorski's decision to ask for electrocution was based on evidence that Tennessee's lethal injection method would cause him 10 to 18 minutes of mental and physical anguish. He argues the electric chair will be quicker even if it means being set on fire.

In Tennessee, death row inmates whose offenses came before January 1999 can choose either lethal injection or the electric chair. The last time Tennessee put someone to death by electrocution was in 2007.

(source: Associated Press)


Prosecutor who called for Zagorski's death penalty speaks out after reprieve granted

Death row inmate Edmund Zagorski's execution was initially slated for Thursday evening, until Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted the convicted killer a 10-day reprieve. Haslam decided to give Zagorski more time after a judge granted his last minute decision of choosing the electric chair instead of the 3-drug lethal injection method. The governor said he wants to make sure officials have enough time to prepare and correctly carry out the process. Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley called for the death penalty back in February 1984 when Zagorski was convicted for shooting 2 people, then cutting their throats over a marijuana deal.

"He shot them out in the woods and before they were dead, he went over and slit their throats and slaughtered them, and left them there," Whitley says. "They weren't found for 2 more weeks."

The victims of the crime were John Dale Dotson and Jimmy Porter.

"There's no question about his guilt," says Whitley. "I don't think anyone, even Mr. Zagorski at this point, questions his guilt."

Court documents show that since his sentence, Zagorski has made several appeals to Whitley's decision.

The death row inmate's current appeal claims he has had inadequate counsel and ineffective assistance at trial. That's something Whitley disagrees with, saying Zagorski was represented by two very qualified people. One became a circuit judge for many years, the other later served as president of the Tennessee Bar Association.

He added that Zagorski has had nothing but excellent representation since his conviction. He believes he would have killed again if he had the chance.

And while calling for the death penalty is not an easy decision, Whitley says it's a call he would likely make again today.

"I would like to see justice done," Whitley says. "It's an appropriate punishment for the type of crime that was committed and that's what justice is all about."

Whitley also says that while back in 1984 life without parole was not an option, it's unfair to go back 34 years and question jurors on whether they'd change their options if they had that option.

(source: WZTV news)


Here's The Horrifying History Of The Electric Chair That Might Soon Kill An Inmate In Tennessee----Documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show the original sales pitch for the Tennessee machine in 1985. The chair has only been used once so far.

A Tennessee death row prisoner hoping to avoid a lethal injection he believes would be "torture" just won a major victory in his battle to choose how the state will kill him. If Edmund Zagorski is to be executed, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, the state will have to use the electric chair.

The decision, if it holds, would result in the first electric chair death in Tennessee since 2007, and the first in the US since 2013. Gov. Bill Haslam granted a 10-day reprieve to Zagorski on Thursday to "give all involved the time necessary to carry out the sentence in an orderly and careful manner." Although dying by electrocution can be incredibly gruesome, it's more reliably lethal than drug injections. Until the 1990s, electric chairs were common across the country. But all states eventually turned to lethal injection as their primary choice, over concerns that electric chairs were too barbaric, particularly for viewers. 9 states permit the use of the electric chair, but just 2 - Virginia and South Carolina - have used one in the past 10 years.

Documents obtained by BuzzFeed News show the original 1985 sales pitch for the construction of Tennessee's current machine, as well as reservations by its creator - a Holocaust denier who falsely presented himself to the Tennessee Department of Correction as an engineer - decades later, when he feared that modifications would make the chair "an instrument of torture."

On at least one occasion after the chair was installed, experts disagreed about the exact configuration of current and voltage that would lead to a humane death. The documents also include several versions of a checklist for operating the chair, one of which ends with the instruction: "LEAVE EXHAUST FAN ON!!!"

The inmate who wants to die in this chair, 63-year-old Zagorski, was convicted for the murder of two men in April 1983. Zagorski lured John Dotson and Jimmy Porter into the woods in northern Tennessee, under the pretense that they were buying at least 100 pounds of marijuana. According to court documents, Zagorski instead shot and slit the throats of the 2 men, and took the thousands of dollars that they brought for the drugs. He was sentenced to death a year later.

Of the 30 states that still have the death penalty, 21 do not have the electric chair as an option. And two of those states have explicitly ruled that electrocution is unconstitutionally cruel: In Georgia's ruling banning the device's use, for example, the state Supreme Court cited expert testimony suggesting the alternating current "could repetitively activate the brain, causing the perception of excruciating pain and a sense of extreme horror." Experts in that case had also said that the voltage sequence used in the execution could stop the heart, only to start it up again.

The Nebraska court, in its ruling, cited expert testimony claiming that a chair caused a prisoner's skin to reach "a temperature of 200 degrees." It noted that protocol required a fire extinguisher be kept nearby, and that witnesses of past executions had described smoke emerging from a prisoner's leg, and reported smelling burning flesh in the viewing room.

Both court rulings mentioned the possibility of burns to the head from "the sloughing or 'slippage' of a large portion of the scalp," and "sagging skin on the sides of the prisoner's head from the temple areas and cheeks to above and behind the ears."

Although the electric chair can result in grisly outcomes, lethal injection actually has a higher rate of botched attempts than electrocution. Tennessee, like several other states, employs a 3-drug lethal injection protocol: 1st a sedative akin to Valium, then 2 incredibly painful drugs - a paralytic and potassium chloride. If the inmate is not properly anesthetized by the 1st drug, the final 2 drugs would feel like being buried alive and then burned alive, according to medical experts. The sedative Tennessee hopes to use, midazolam, has been implicated in several botched executions over the past few years. Although the electric chair can result in grisly outcomes, lethal injection actually has a higher rate of botched attempts than electrocution.

Zagorski, along with dozens of other death row inmates, sued the state, arguing this method constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. On Monday, three days before Zagorski's scheduled execution, the Tennessee Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the inmates had not met their burden of coming up with a better way to be killed. The inmates had proposed using another drug, but the state said it couldn't be obtained.

Within hours of Monday's ruling, Zagorski asked to be killed by the electric chair, to avoid a lethal injection he says would be torture. In Tennessee, inmates sentenced to death before 1999 have a choice between the chair and lethal injection.

But the Tennessee Department of Correction swiftly rejected his request. The state argued that Zagorski needed to make his decision weeks before, by Sept. 27. TDOC Deputy Commissioner of Administration and General Counsel Debra Inglis told Zagorski's attorney that he would have to die by lethal injection.

On Wednesday, Zagorski's lawyer filed an emergency motion to compel the state to consider his request, arguing the deadline the state set was arbitrary and not in the statute. On Thursday, a federal judge ruled in Zagorski's favor and prohibited the state from executing the inmate by any method other than the electric chair.

Zagorski's execution is still on hold, however. Late on Wednesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit stayed his execution over concerns that he had inadequate representation during his original trial in 1984.

"Tennessee's death penalty statute makes it clear that Mr. Zagorski has the right to choose execution by electrocution," Kelley Henry, an attorney for Zagorski, said in an emailed statement. "While being burned alive and mutilated via electricity is not a good death, Mr. Zagorski knows that death by electric chair will be much quicker than lethal injection using midazolam, a paralytic, and potassium chloride."

BuzzFeed News asked the state's Department of Correction for the chair's execution protocols, manuals, logs of quarterly equipment checks, and related records. The documents show that the state's current chair was made by Fred Leuchter Jr., a Boston man who would eventually be charged with fraud for practicing engineering without a license. He was also the author of a report that attempted to show that the Holocaust gas chambers were not used to kill people.

Leuchter had advised more than a dozen states on execution equipment of various types, but by 1990, according to a New York Times report at the time, states were finding that his methods fell short. The Illinois Department of Corrections terminated his contract after an expert testified that one machine, used to inject potassium cyanide, "would cause the prisoner unnecessary pain, consisting of a severe burning sensation."

Starting in 1985, documents show, he corresponded with the Tennessee State Penitentiary about the benefits of his electrocution machine. In October 1987, he sent a quote for execution equipment to a warden, noting that the company had equipment in many states throughout the US, "including hardware for electrocution, lethal injection, Gas chambers, and gallows."

Leuchter completed the installation of the electrocution system at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in November 1989. A purchase order dated June 1989 and issued to Fred A Leuchter Associates Inc. indicates he was paid $41,844 for "movement, renovation, and repair of the electrical equipment," including labor and materials. Additionally, the state purchased a "modular power supply test unit" for $5,900.

A manual that Leuchter provided to Riverbend included detailed descriptions of how the chair worked, instructions on how to disengage the prisoner after the execution, and how to clean the chair.

According to this manual, the chair itself was made of oak - Leuchter claimed it included wood from Tennessee's 1st electric chair - and had an adjustable backrest, as well as a removable drip pan. Its 2 ankle electrodes were made of brass, and a 3rd electrode - a "tightly fitting cap" - would ensure that the current would pass "through the complete trunk of the subject's body."

There were also medical notes about the device explaining that one had to consider both the "conscious and the autonomic nervous system” for the best outcome. Calculations for "an average man weighing 70 kilos" estimated the right voltage that would stop the heart and "minimize body damage (cooking)." One version of the manual included the disclaimer that the company "assumes no liability for the intended or actual use of this device."

Leuchter trained 19 employees and even made his own certificates to say that each was an "Electrocution Technician."

The documents also revealed that technical experts disagreed sharply on the most humane way to administer an electric current with the goal of killing a person.

In April 1994, as part of a lawsuit, an outside expert visited the prison, inspected the equipment and wrote in a report to the state attorney general that the electric current typically used was too low and that the machine "does not seem to have the capacity to function with a typical load for an execution."

The facility hired an engineer from Arkansas, Jay Wiechert, who helped implement a series of modifications, including increasing the amount of current that would flow during an execution, and changing the timing of the electrocution cycle.

But the Leuchter camp disagreed with those changes.

"These modifications may result in 'tissue cooking' of the executee, and further, fibrillation of the executees heart resulting in failure to execute and a brain dead vegetable at the conclusion of the execution procedure,' John V. Maye, president of JVM, the firm that had acquired rights to Leuchter's designs and technology, wrote to the associate warden at Riverbend in April 1996.

Maye called the modifications, particularly the change in cycle timing, "dangerous" and said that the changes voided the guarantee with Leuchter's firm, which JVM had now acquired.

"We bear no legal liability in this matter except to advise you of these conditions and the possibility of torture of the inmate if an execution is carried out with the modified equipment."

Riverbend warden Ricky Bell replied in September that year asking that JVM provide documentation "that the system will not function as expected, and further, to refute the modifications recommended" by the other 2 experts. (No reply was ever received, he wrote in a 2006 memo.)

Wiechert continued to visit and examine the equipment through at least 2007 - the year it was used for the 1st time, to execute convicted murderer Daryl Holton.

The day before Holton's execution, Leuchter told the City Paper that he had reservations about if the chair would work - he worried that the voltage was too low and that the chair would fall short of its lethal goal, leaving the inmate brain dead. He reportedly even petitioned then-Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to halt its use. (Leuchter could not be reached by phone or Facebook message.)

Holton did die. His body tensed and arched upward with each of the 2 blows of electricity, according to a news report.

Zagorski would be only the 2nd person to die in the chair since. "I don't want to be tortured with those drugs," he told the Nashville Scene earlier this week, "but I am not afraid of death."

(source: BuzzFeedNews)


Texas offers model for death penalty

The state of Texas has used lethal injection as its method of executing death row inmates since 1982. During this period of time, Texas has used legally obtained drugs in more than 400 executions. Though difficulty in purchasing lethal injection drugs has forced Texas to reduce its 3-drug cocktail to a single fatal dose, its execution protocol is swift and humane.

After 35 years of Texas using legal execution drugs, it is obvious to me that Nebraska Director of Corrections Scott Frakes should be communicating with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as to where they obtain these drugs, so that Nebraska will follow the lawful order of the judges who sentenced these men on death row to be executed according to the law.

Sadly, if Nebraska takes the men off death row and gives them life sentences, our own Board of Pardons or Parole Board could, in 15 or 20 years, find them rehabilitated and parole them. I personally know of 1 inmate who received 2 life sentences and was paroled 17 years later.

John Wheat Sr., Lincoln

Retired, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services

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


Final moments: The execution process in South Dakota

With Rodney Berget's execution scheduled for the fall, the inmate convicted of murdering a prison guard in 2011 will soon join a small cohort of South Dakotans: Those put to death by the state.

Berget will be the 19th person to be executed in South Dakota, which saw its last death sentence carried out in 2012. A warrant for execution was issued on Wednesday morning by Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Few and far between

Only 18 people have been executed by the state in South Dakota's history. The 5 most recent are:

Donald Eugene Moeller: Executed by lethal injection on October 30, 2012 for the 1990 rape and murder of 9-year-old Becky O'Connell.

Eric Robert: Executed by lethal injection on October 15, 2012 for the 2011 murder of correctional officer R.J. Johnson.

Elijah Page: Executed by lethal injection on July 11, 2007 for the murder of Chester Allan Poage.

George Sitts: Executed by electrocution on April 8, 1947 for murdering state criminal agent Thomas Matthews and Butte County Sheriff Dave Malcolm.

Joe Rickman: Hanged on December 3, 1913 for murdering Ellen Fox and her daughter, Mildred.

That the state has few and far between death penalties demonstrates the severity of the sentence, according to Attorney General Jackley.

"That demonstrates (that) investigators and prosecutors, courts and juries, have really reserved capital punishment for the most heinous crimes - those individuals that pose an ongoing danger to the public," he said.

The execution process

Berget is scheduled to die by lethal injection any time between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3, 2018. South Dakota State Penitentiary Warden Darin Young will choose the date and time of the execution.

"We will be ready to carry out the order of the court," South Dakota Department of Corrections secretary Denny Kaemingk said in a statement.

Department of Corrections spokesman Michael Winder declined requests for interviews regarding the upcoming execution.

The 3 most recent South Dakota executions were carried out by lethal injection. Elijah Page died by a 3-drug cocktail of sodium pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, while Eric Robert and Donald Moeller were both given a single drug, pentobarbital.

South Dakota Department of Corrections policy states that inmates can be executed by either of the 2 methods above or by a 2-drug cocktail of pentobarbital and pancuronium bromide. The DOC has not stated the method by which Berget will be executed.

Directly before the execution, 2 IVs are inserted into the inmate's arms, including 1 as a backup method in case the 1st fails. The inmate is then given an opportunity to make a final statement before the fatal drugs are administered.

According to DOC policy, several people will be invited to witness the execution, including:

Others on death row

Excluding Berget, there are 2 inmates on death row in South Dakota.

Charles Rhines: Sentenced in 1993 for the 1992 murder of a Rapid City doughnut shop worker Donnivan Schaeffer. Rhines has appealed his case time and again claiming the jury that convicted him had tainted views on his sexual orientation. The South Dakota Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court have both ruled his sentence appropriate.

Briley Piper: Sentenced by jury to death in 2011 for the March 2000 murder of 19-year-old Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish. A trial judge initially handed down Piper's sentence, but the South Dakota Supreme Court overturned the ruling, saying a jury should decide his fate.

Both cases are "proceeding through the court system," Jackley said.

(source: Argus Leader)


Attorney Wants to Remove Death Penalty in Case of Murdered Indian American Cab Driver

A man charged with murder in northern Idaho is too young to face the death penalty, his lawyer says.

Attorney R. Keith Roark filed a motion Oct. 4 in 1st District Court on behalf of Jacob Coleman, 20, the Bonner County Daily Bee reports.

Coleman was 19 when authorities say he stabbed to death 22-year-old Indian American cab driver Gagandeep Singh of Spokane, Washington, in Kootenai in August 2017. Singh had driven him to Idaho after picking him up at the Spokane International Airport. Coleman has pleaded not guilty to 1st-degree murder.

Roark contends the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution eliminates the death penalty for Coleman or a life sentence without parole. The Eighth Amendment prohibits governments from imposing cruel and unusual punishments.

Roark argues that research shows human brains aren't fully developed until at least the age of 21. He said 23 states don't execute offenders who are under that age.

"The age of 18 is not, and has never been, a true age of maturity and adulthood,'' Roark said in the 91-page motion. "It was chosen for expedience. There is no principled reason to treat those who are still immature as if they are fully developed adults."

Law enforcement officials say Coleman flew from Seattle to Spokane to start a new semester at Gonzaga University.

The school said a person matching Coleman's description approached housing officials on campus but was not enrolled as a student and was never assigned campus housing.

Police said Coleman called a cab and Singh picked him up. Authorities say Coleman told police he became homicidal and bought a knife during a stop at a store.

Singh stopped in Kootenai when it became clear Coleman didn't have a destination. Police say Coleman then stabbed Singh, who died at the scene.

Coleman is being held at the Bonner County Jail. His trial is set for spring.



Washington Supreme Court tosses out state's death penalty

Washington state's Supreme Court ruled Thursday ruled that the death penalty, as applied, violates its Constitution.

The ruling makes Washington the latest state to do away with capital punishment. The court was unanimous in its order that the eight people currently on death row have their sentences converted to life in prison. 5 justices said the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner."

"Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals," the justices wrote.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a 1-time supporter of capital punishment, had imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014, saying that no executions would take place while he's in office.

In a written statement, the Democrat called the ruling "a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice."

"The court makes it perfectly clear that capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an 'arbitrary and racially biased manner,' is 'unequally applied' and serves no criminal justice goal," Inslee wrote.

The ruling was in the case of Allen Eugene Gregory, who was convicted of raping, robbing and killing Geneine Harshfield, a 43-year-old woman, in 1996.

His lawyers said the death penalty is arbitrarily applied and that it is not applied proportionally, as the state Constitution requires.

In its ruling Thursday, the high court did not reconsider any of Gregory's arguments pertaining to guilty, noting that his conviction for aggravated 1st degree murder "has already been appealed and affirmed by this court."

(source: USA Today)


Washington Supreme Court Abolishes the Death Penalty

On Oct. 11, 2018, the state of Washington's supreme court unanimously struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional, ruling the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased matter" and because it fails to serve any legitimate penological goal." The death penalty is a punishment that is as flawed as it is final, and as the Washington high court acknowledges, one plagued by racial bias and arbitrariness.

The ruling came in response to an appeal in Allen Gregory's case. Gregory argued that the entire death penalty scheme in Washington was unconstitutionally discriminatory, relying in large part on a rigorous and sophisticated statistical study by researchers at the University of Washington. The study ultimately showed that Washington juries were more than four times as likely to sentence a Black defendant to death as a non-Black defendant.

Gregory's case led a broad group of advocates, researchers, and criminal justice attorneys to file amicus briefs arguing Washington's death penalty scheme was a demonstrated failure, infected by racial bias and arbitrariness. 75 retired or former judges in Washington state joined the ACLU’s amicus brief asking the Washington court to strike the death penalty. They did so because they had the grim benefit of front row seats to its unjust application.

Today's decision is a blow to racial injustice, yet nationwide the racism inherent in the procession and decisions in capital cases too often is unaddressed. In fact, the Washington Supreme Court joins just a small number of state courts, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, that have struck down the death penalty after recognizing the intolerable taint of racial discrimination.

Racial bias is the intractable legacy of the death penalty's history in America. Capital punishment can never free itself of the yoke of its roots in lynchings and racial terror. As the Equal Justice Initiative's national lynching memorial viscerally demonstrates, many of the same southern and midwestern counties that tolerated and even encouraged lynchings of Black men were enthusiastic proponents of capital punishment.

But the legacy of racial violence extends beyond just any county or state border: Racial bias permeates capital punishment at every stage from the decision to charge the death penalty to execution. One acute pinch point of that discrimination is in jury selection.

Prosecutors across the country routinely discriminate against potential Black jurors in capital cases by striking them from serving. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for Timothy Foster after handwritten notes from the prosecution surfaced showing its relentless efforts to strike Black jurors from his capital case. This included the prosecutor's notes designating each Black juror with a "B" and noting the lone juror they would accept if they "have to pick a Black juror."

This kind of discrimination in juror selection is far from limited to Foster's case. In studies ranging from North Carolina up to Pennsylvania and back down to Louisiana, we see clear systematic discrimination against qualified Black jurors in capital cases. In North Carolina, prosecutors were trained statewide, with a handy top-10-style cheat sheet, in how to give pre-textual explanations to avoid being caught for racial discrimination.

Decisions about who should live and who should die are too often driven by the race of the defendant or race of the victim, as studies for decades have repeatedly shown. But, as the Washington Supreme Court found, the death penalty's problems go far beyond racial bias. It is a flawed and ineffective tool of justice, one has become itself a tool of injustice. Capital punishment does not deter crime, and it fails to protect the innocent from wrongful convictions.

These concerns have caused the public to turn from the death penalty, with support for capital punishment at a near-historic low in the modern area. Likewise, death penalty jury verdicts and executions have plummeted. Today, Washington became the 20th state to officially reject capital punishment. 3 other states have governor moratoriums, and another 10 states have not had an execution in the last decade.

The problems with the death penalty cannot be fixed. It is time for other courts to follow Washington's lead and strike the unconstitutional, unjust, and racially discriminatory punishment from the books once and for all.

(source: Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project)


Washington Becomes the 20th State to Abolish the Death Penalty

Reacting to news that the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled the death penalty violates its Constitution, Kristina Roth, Senior Program Officer at Amnesty International USA stated:

"This is tremendous news for all who fought to abolish the death penalty in Washington. Now that Washington has become the 20th state to end the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, other states should follow suit.

"The Court ruled that the death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner and is invalid. The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, it does not deter crime or improve public safety, and it should be ended once and for all."

106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes by the end of 2017 and 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. These figures underscore the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty. Only a few countries carry out executions. Just 4 countries were responsible for 84% of all recorded executions in 2017.

In 2017, the US had 23 executions in 8 states: Alabama (3) Arkansas (4) Florida (3) Georgia (1) Missouri (1) Ohio (2) Texas (7) Virginia (2). Texas remained the state with the highest number of executions, accounting for 30% of the national total.

(source: Amnesty International USA)


Citing Arbitrary Use and Racial Bias, Washington Supreme Court Abolishes State's Death Penalty

Citing racial bias and arbitrary application, the Supreme Court of Washington on Thursday ruled that the use of capital punishment violates the state's Constitution, a decision that will ban the use of the death penalty going forward and immediately commuted the sentences of death-row inmates to life terms.

"Washington's Supreme Court showed courage in refusing to allow racism to infect life and death decisions. Let's hope that courage is contagious." —Jeff Robinson, ACLU"Today's decision by the state Supreme Court thankfully ends the death penalty in Washington," declared Washington's Democratic Governor Jay Inslee in response to the ruling.

"The court makes it perfectly clear that capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an 'arbitrary and racially biased manner,' is 'unequally applied' and serves no criminal justice goal," Inslee added. "This is a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice."

The ACLU noted the ruling makes Washington the 20th state in the U.S. to ban the death penalty, but the group said it "won't stop fighting until it's struck down everywhere in America."

As Slate reports:

the court held Thursday that capital punishment is imposed in "an arbitrary and racially biased manner" and "fails to serve any legitimate penological goals." The problems go beyond race: Most prosecutors in the state have stopped seeking the death penalty, so all current capital sentences arise from just 6 of Washington’s 39 counties. The location of your crime may therefore determine whether you live or die. This "random" and "capricious" application of the ultimate punishment, the court ruled, fatally undermines any state interest "retribution and deterrence of capital crimes by prospective offenders."

There are currently 8 inmates on Washington's death row. The court converted their sentences to life imprisonment and forbade the state from conducting any further executions. Because its ruling is based entirely in the state constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court cannot overturn it. And the court left no room for future reconsideration of its unanimous decision. Capital punishment is over in Washington State.

Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director and director of the ACLU's Trone Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the court recognized clearly that racial bias remains at the heart of "who should and who should die" in the America's skewed justice system.

"There is nothing unique about the role racism played in Washington's death penalty," said Robinson. "What is rare is the Supreme Court’s willingness to call out the truth that has always been there."

Noting that both conscious and unconscious racial bias "plays a role in the death penalty decisions across America, influencing who faces this ultimate punishment, who sits on the jury, what kind of victim impact and mitigation evidence is used, and who is given life or death," Robinson said that this kind of "disparity can be described by many words - but justice is not one of them."

Human rights groups and other death penalty opponents said they hope that others states, and ultimately the U.S. federal government, will now follow the other 20 states and ban the death penalty nationwide:

"Washington's Supreme Court showed courage in refusing to allow racism to infect life and death decisions," said the ACLU's Robinson. "Let's hope that courage is contagious."



Bellingham teen-killer’s death sentence commuted due to state Supreme Court ruling

A Whatcom County man sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and murder of a teenage girl will have his sentence converted to life in prison due to a Washington state Supreme Court unanimous ruling that says the death penalty, as applied, violates the state Constitution.

5 of the justices argued in the Thursday opinion the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner," while the other 4 said additional state principles applied, the Associated Press reported.

All justices agreed that the 8 people currently on death row, which includes Clark Richard Elmore of Whatcom County, should have their sentences converted to life in prison.

In late December 2016, Gov. Jay Inslee granted his 1st reprieve for a death-row inmate to Elmore. The Whatcom man was sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend's 14-year-old daughter, Kristy Lynn Ohnstad, in a van south of Lake Samish in April 1995. Elmore raped Ohnstad, choked her, drove a metal skewer through her skull, beat her with a sledgehammer and dumped her body in the woods off Nulle Road, according to previous reports in The Bellingham Herald.

Elmore led his own search party and told local media the police weren't trying hard enough to find Ohnstad. Elmore initially fled to Oregon after Ohnstad's body was found, but later returned to Bellingham and turned himself in, The Herald reported.

Elmore pleaded guilty to aggravated 1st-degree murder and was sentenced to death May 3, 1996. Since that time, Elmore appealed in the hopes of having his sentence overturned. In October 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case and several weeks later the U.S. 9th Circuit denied a rehearing.

Elmore's execution was then scheduled for Jan. 19, 2017. Elmore, who was 1 of 9 inmates on death row at the time in the state penitentiary in Walla Walla, was the 1st to exhaust all of his appeals.

In light of the new state Supreme Court ruling, Elmore's sentence will be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole, as Inslee's order of reprieve only stayed his execution date at the time. He remains on death row in Walla Walla.



Supreme Court examines dementia, health issues in death penalty cases

The U.S. Supreme Court, no stranger to death penalty cases, is looking very narrowly at 2 aspects of capital punishment this term: if an inmate with dementia should be executed if he has no memory of the crime he committed 3 decades ago and if a death-row prisoner with a specific health problem can be executed by a less painful manner because of his condition.

These 2 cases "put the unworkability and inhumanity of capital punishment on full display," said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group that champions restorative justice and an end to the death penalty.

She said state prison systems are increasingly "faced with the question of how to execute people with severe mental and physical health problems" particularly since America's death-row populations are getting older and the average death-row inmate spends 15 years awaiting execution.

"Harsh living conditions, including solitary confinement, only further exacerbate physical and mental illness," she added.

The court heard oral arguments Oct. 2, the second day of its new term, about the pending execution of Vernon Madison, an Alabama man who killed a police officer 30 years ago. He has suffered strokes in recent years that left him blind and with vascular dementia and significant memory loss. He cannot tell what season or day it is, nor does he remember committing the crime.

This case, Madison v. Alabama, was argued before eight judges while Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation was on hold. The court has already held that states may not execute the mentally ill or the intellectually disabled but has not ruled on those with dementia. This case also examines whether someone can be executed if they were mentally capable when they committed the crime but later developed cognitive impairments.

During arguments, the judges appeared to lean in Madison's favor, but this also is a new bench without Justice Anthony Kennedy, who in recent years played a key role in the court's opposition to the death penalty. He wrote the majority opinion in the court's 2007 decision saying people who cannot understand their punishments cannot be executed and in its 2005 ruling that juvenile offenders could not be executed. Both decisions had 5-4 votes.

Kavanaugh will not vote on the Madison case, but the court could decide to have it retried if it reaches a split vote.

During arguments, Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization for prisoners' rights based in Montgomery, Alabama, told the court that it is simply not humane to execute someone who is disabled, confused or fragile. He also put it this way: "No penological justification or retributive value can be found in executing a severely impaired and incompetent prisoner."

But the state saw it differently.

Alabama Deputy Attorney General Thomas Govan said the state still deserves to win "retribution for a heinous crime," and described Madison's claim as "unprecedented."

Justice Stephen Breyer, who has been the court's leading death penalty opponent, said Madison's numerous impairments are not unusual since death-row prisoners are older on average than they used to be and have been awaiting execution for 20 to 40 years.

"This will become a more common problem," Breyer said, adding that a narrow ruling in Madison's favor might prevent similar cases from flooding the courts.

The other death penalty case before the court is Bucklew v. Precythe. Russell Bucklew is on Missouri's death row for a 1986 murder. He suffers from a rare medical condition that causes blood-filled tumors in his head, neck and throat, which can easily rupture. His attorneys have argued that the state's lethal injection protocol would be more gruesome and cause more suffering than if he were put to death by lethal gas, which the state does not have the protocol to use.

Kavanaugh will hear the oral arguments in this case before the court Nov. 6, but how he will vote on a death penalty case is still pretty much unknown since, as a federal appeals court judge, he rarely heard capital punishment cases.

Garrett Epps, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, wrote in the Sept. 18 issue of The Atlantic that however the Bucklew case is resolved, it shows "how fully the court has become enmeshed in the sordid details of official killing. As the population of death row ages, issues of age-related disease and dementia will become more important in assessing individual death warrants, and the court will be the last stop for those challenged."

Vaillancourt Murphy said it is not likely that many Catholics are paying attention to either of these cases before the court, but she said there has been an increased interest among Catholics to understand what capital punishment means in modern society particularly since the catechism was revised in early August calling the use of the death penalty "inadmissible."

"This added clarity in Catholic teaching is a welcome validation of the church's pro-life stance. We are called to uphold the sacred dignity of every human person, no matter the harm someone has caused," she said in an Oct. 9 email to Catholic News Service.

She said Catholics "should pay attention to these cases because they serve as important measures of how the highest court in the land is working to defend or disregard human life."

"As believers and as U.S. citizens, we should be prepared for more cases resembling these to go before the court in coming years," she added. "The conundrum of America's aging death rows is not going to go away."

(source: National Catholic Reporter)


Top Cop says Death Penalty Can Be a Deterrent

Acting Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney, believes there is still a place for the death penalty in today's society.

"Over the years we keep hearing all the debate about it, but I think it still has its place. I think it can serve as a deterrent to some of the heinous crimes we are having. Some persons think it is inhumane but you need to have certain things to serve as a deterrent to crime. I am one of the people who think it still has its place," the acting commissioner said.

He was speaking with OBSERVER media on the occasion of World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Rodney acknowledged that there are those who would argue that there are countries which continue to practice the death penalty which would suggest that it has not acted as a deterrent.

"But, I think that we need to have some sort of strong punishment to send a serious message in those cases," Rodney said. "It is still on the books but there has been a lot of procedures and rulings from higher courts that give certain instructions."

The World Day Against the Death Penalty is observed annually on October 10 since 2003.

It has been spearheaded by the World Coalition against the Death Penalty (WCADP).

Many renowned institutions that support the anti-death penalty thrust, including Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, are members of WCADP.

The annual commemoration highlights the plight of those who have been denied the most essential human right of all, the right to life, by the justice system.

This year, the aim is to raise awareness of the inhumane living conditions of people sentenced to death.

The Greater Caribbean For Life has highlighted that too often, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners are ignored, with many death row inmates confined to harsh and inhumane conditions.

The rules set out the minimum standards for good prison management, to include ensuring the rights of prisoners are respected.

In a release, the activist group listed overcrowding, solitary confinement, substandard physical and psychological health care, as well as insufficient access to natural light as some of the problems plaguing those condemned to death.



Journey of Hope Organisation visits the Commission

Staff from Journey of Hope Uganda chapter together with US based chapter paid a courtesy visit to Uganda Law Reform Commission. The purpose of this visit was to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty and replace it with alternative forms of punishment. This will end the cycle of violence that capital punishment perpetuates in society. The speakers shared their stories about the process of healing through reconciliation. Among these included family members of those executed by death row and those exonerated from death row.



Iranian Yarsani Man; Killed by Security Forces or Executed in Prison?

Iranian state-run media say Ramin Majidifar has been executed on rape charges while some human rights activists say he was initially arrested by security forces for propagating his religious beliefs.

On October 9, 2018, Iranian Semi-official Fars News Agency reported that Ramin Majidifar was executed in the Iranian city of Hamedan on rape charges. According to the report, he was arrested on August 16, 2018, in Hamedan and was convicted to death for raping 10 people, kidnapping, recording video of his sexual relationship with women and blackmailing them.

However, some human rights activists, including Iran HRM website, report that he was arrested in the Iranian city of Tuyserkan -not Hamedan- and for charges like spreading propaganda for Yarsan faith. Ramin Majidifar was a Yarsani, belong to Yarsan faith which has hundreds of thousands of followers, mostly in western Iran and among Kurds.

Some human rights activists claim that he was killed while was under arrest by security forces, and his execution was announced to cover the murder.

Lack of transparency in Iranian Judiciary and suppressing freedom of the press makes it difficult for the media and human rights activist to obtain credible information in such cases. In this regard, Iran Human Rights (IHR) Persian website has invited those who know about Ramin’s case or have pieces of related evidence, to contact the organization.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


LHC sets aside death sentence handed to PML-N MNA Abid Raza, 3 others in murder case

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday acquitted PML-N MNA Chaudhry Abid Raza and 3 others in a murder case, DawnNewsTV reported.

A 2-member LHC division bench comprising Justice Sardar Shamim Ahmad and Justice Shehbaz Rizvi was hearing the case.

A trial court had sentenced Raza in 1999 under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for murdering 6 people. The conviction was challenged before the LHC but was dismissed when both parties reached a compromise. The death sentence was revoked in 2003 by a division bench.

In 2016, the Supreme Court suspended the 2003 judgement and remanded the case to the LHC.

Last month, the LHC bench that was hearing the case, had appointed a criminal law expert as amicus curiae (friend of court) to decide whether an offence under Section 7 of the ATA was compoundable (reconcilable).

During today's hearing, the MNA's lawyer had argued that Raza was acquitted after an agreement with the complainant. The state lawyer, however, said that a compromise deed did not hold in a terrorism case and urged the court to reinstate the trial court's verdict that was issued in 1999.

Previously, the counsel for MNA and other convicts had claimed that Section 7 of the ATA was not added in the case. They argued that the high court would have to hear the appeal against the conviction on merits if it maintained death penalty under the special law.

The counsel had further said that the omission from conviction under section 7 of ATA in the 2003 decision was on part of the court and the acquitted convicts could not be punished for that error.

The bench, in its ruling today, suspended the trial court's decision and acquitted four people, including Raza, MNA from NA-71 (Gujrat).



UN pushes for PNG to abolish death penalty

As the world mark the 16th World Day against Death Penalty, the UN Resident Coordinator in PNG reaffirms the UN’s commitment towards the abolition of death penalty in PNG.

As the world mark the 16th World Day against Death Penalty, the UN Resident Coordinator in PNG reaffirms the UN’s commitment towards the abolition of death penalty in PNG.

Even though, the Papua New Guinean courts still hand down death sentences, none have been carried out since 1954, amounting to a de facto moratorium on the punishment.

UN resident coordinator Gianluca Rampolla said that the last execution occurred over half a century ago making it de facto.

"The last execution in Papua New Guinea occurred in 1954, over half a century ago, putting Papua New Guinea in line with 140 out of 153 UN member states, which have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice," Mr Rampolla said.

He urged the government to formalise the de facto moratorium.

"On behalf of the UN, I urge that the de facto moratorium on the death penalty, in line with the global trend towards abolition, must be maintained and formalised."

He said that the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights.

It lies at the very heart of international human rights law."

He said that there was no evidence that the death penalty deterred crime while there was ample evidence that it resulted all-too-frequently in miscarriage of justice.

"It is the certainty of punishment, not the severity that has proven to be an effective deterrent to crime."

He echoed the remarks of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein concluding his country visit to PNGin February 2018 that "transparent societies with a strong emphasis on the rule of law, accountability and human rights attract opportunities for growth, and make for more stable societies".

Mr Rampolla said that the UN works with the PNG government, civil society and other development partners.

This is to strengthen rule of law and to uphold respect for human rights.

"We also work with the law enforcement agencies and justice system to put in place mechanisms to deal with serious issues such as human trafficking and people smuggling, juvenile justice, domestic violence, and sorcery accusation related violence."



Busting the myths of the death penalty

October 10 is World Day against Death Penalty. Indonesia is one of the few remaining countries that still implements capital punishment. Despite many rejections from various circles, the Indonesian government still believes the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent against crime.

In a book, Politik Hukuman Mati di Indonesia (The Politics of Capital Punishment in Indonesia), I wrote that research on the deterrent effect of the death penalty has yet to be conducted in Indonesia. Apart from the lack of empirical data, other arguments and studies around the world have shown the deterrent effect of capital punishment is a myth.

The rationale of capital punishment

Within penology, a branch of criminology that studies criminal sanctions, the idea that the death penalty has a deterrent effect rose with the influence of classic utilitarianism in the 18th century within the Western legal system.

Classic utilitarianism is a theoretical approach to ethics that was introduced by the philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Scholars before them, such as Immanuel Kant in The Philosophy of Law, regarded punishment as a moral obligation. Kant saw sanctions not as an attempt to promote goodness but as a direct punishment against the perpetrator of a crime.

Classic utilitarianism also shifted the perspective of penalties towards its purpose or consequences. Based on the utilitarian approach, a sanction is justified if it can bring the most benefit to the most number of people. If crime can be prevented to create public safety, then a punishment is justified.

Capital punishment is then seen as a type of sanction that can effectively scare people from committing crime. The death penalty is not valuable because it's a legal court "sanctioned act to kill". It's valuable because it creates a particular benefit, the prevention of crime as it deters people from transgressing in the first place.

The death penalty in Indonesia

Capital punishment in Indonesia has been in effect since the colonial era. The Governor General of the Dutch East Indies Herman Daendels utilised capital punishment as a method to silence rebellion within the colonies. The legal basis of the death penalty was formalised in Dutch colonial penal code (Wetboek van Strafrecht voor Indonesia (WvSI)) on January 1, 1918. Provisions within the WvSI were maintained as Indonesia's penal code even after the country's independence.

From the colonial era until today, the death penalty is still being carried out in Indonesia despite numerous renunciations. Rejection mostly comes from civil organisations such as Amnesty International, The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), and the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam).

Their reason to refuse the death penalty relates to the concept that capital punishment as a penalty violates human rights and, at the same time, does not guarantee fair trial. The National Commission for the Protection of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) also recommends its practice in Indonesia be reviewed.

However, it seems the government has turned a blind eye and still goes forward with the death penalty in Indonesia.

The most high profile case of capital punishment that received global attention happened in 2015.

On January 18 and April 29, 2015, the government executed 14 death row inmates who were convicted for drug-related crimes.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has proclaimed he will enforce the law and eradicate drug abuses as they have torn the nation apart. Jokowi's stance on capital punishment is seen as a decisive act and a call to war against narcotics. Jokowi believes the death penalty is a manifestation of the government's responsibility to protect future generations.

The myth of deterrence

K.G. Armstrong, a penologist, sees punishment as a way to inflict suffering against a criminal perpetrator so they won't repeat the same violation, and to deter others from the same crime.

However, the claim capital punishment can have a deterrent effect against future crime has been refuted many times. Numerous studies, especially within the US, have cast doubt on the deterrent effect.

The main reason for doubt relates to the difficulty of obtaining empirical evidence for the effect of capital punishment. Sociologist Michael L. Radelet and criminologist Ronald L. Akers stated in 1996 that to prove the death penalty's deterrent effect we would need a method that may be constrained by the ethics of research. Ultimately, it's not ethical to measure the deterrent effect of capital punishment before and after an execution.

A method that can then be used is to measure the statistics of crime that are subject to the death penalty, and compare data before and after an execution.

However, research conducted by sociologist David Johnson in Japan and South Korea shows how the decline in the executions in Japan is followed by a decline in murder cases. In the 1950s, the average number of executions in Japan was 25 per year while in the 1980s that average dropped to only 1.5 per year. During that period, the murder cases dropped by 80%.

On the other hand, in South Korea, there was not a significant difference in the number of murder cases between the years before and after 23 people were executed in 1997. This data questions the ability of the death penalty to control crime.

Another problem related to measuring the deterrent effect is that even if there was a decline, is it not possible it was influenced by other factors?

Law professor Stuart Banner found the deterrent effect for murders in the US cannot be isolated from the influences of other factors such as population density, welfare equality, level of education and religion.

The factors mentioned above affect the number of crimes. While other studies that have sought to prove the deterrent effect of capital punishment, tend to see those extraneous factors as constant.

Minimal support from criminologists

Radelet and Akers's research presented noteworthy data showing there is minimal support from criminologists of the death penalty.

They concluded capital punishment does and will not have higher deterrent effect than lifelong imprisonment. They also found the death penalty is nothing more than a political commodity in relation the electability of politicians during election season.

In 2009, Radelet conducted another study with a similar method along with legal expert Traci L. Lacock.

Involving 94 respondents, the research has shown only 2.6% agreed with the statement that the death penalty can deter people from committing murder. The remaining 86.9% disagreed. This means only a small number of acclaimed criminologists in the US actually believes the threat of the death penalty can curtail murder. Most of them believe life imprisonment is a stronger deterrent.

In other words, criminologists agree capital punishment is not supported with strong empirical data that it can decrease crime.

Although classic utilitarianism is seen as the foundation of penal theory, in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, Jeremy Bentham explained there were certain conditions where the implementation of certain sanctions can no longer be condoned. Those conditions include circumstances when punishments can no longer prevent crime or if there are alternative types of sanctions that can do a better job.

Due to minimal evidence and support from empirical data, the Indonesian government should reevaluate the practice of capital punishment.



Malaysia to Repeal Death Penalty and Sedition Law

The case of Muhammad Lukman Mohamad ignited outrage in August, when he received a death sentence in Malaysia for selling medicinal cannabis oil to cancer patients.

Even the country's new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, called for a review of the sentence the 29-year-old father received.

Now, Mr. Mahathir's government is going 1 step further, eliminating the death penalty entirely.

"All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop," the country's minister of law, Liew Vui Keong, told reporters this week.

The government is also preparing to rescind the colonial-era Sedition Act, which was used by previous governments to silence critics and opposition politicians. Gobind Singh, the communications and multimedia minister, said on Thursday that use of the law should be suspended immediately, pending its repeal.

"The decision was made by the cabinet yesterday that since we are going to abolish the Sedition Act, action under that act should be suspended temporarily," he told reporters.

Parliament is expected to consider measures rescinding both laws in the coming weeks.

About 1,200 people, many of them sentenced for drug offenses, are on death row in Malaysia. The government imposed a moratorium on executions in July.

Amnesty International called the decision to end capital punishment "a major step forward for all those who have campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Malaysia."

Abolishing capital punishment and repealing the Sedition Act were in the campaign platform of Mr. Mahathir's coalition, Pakatan Harapan, but the measures received little attention during the recent election campaign.

The coalition won a surprising victory in May over the political machine of the prime minister at the time, Najib Razak, who now faces dozens of charges of corruption. Mr. Mahathir, 92, previously served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

Ending the death penalty could aid in the investigation of Mr. Najib's possible role in the 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, by his bodyguards. While the bodyguards were convicted, the authorities hope to discover who gave the orders.

Ms. Altantuya helped negotiate Malaysia's purchase of French submarines, a transaction that remains under investigation for possible kickbacks. She claimed that she was owed $500,000 for helping to broker the deal.

One person convicted of her murder, Sirul Azhar Umar, fled to Australia, where he is now in immigration detention. He has offered to help Malaysia's new government in its investigation, but Australia had been unwilling to return him because he could have faced the death penalty in Malaysia.

Securing Mr. Sirul's return was not the purpose of abolishing the death penalty but is “a good side benefit,” said Ramkarpal Singh, a member of Parliament and the brother of Mr. Gobind.

"Now the Australian government must send him back," he said. "They have no reason to keep him once it is abolished."

Malaysia's move to end capital punishment goes against the grain in Southeast Asia, where some countries execute people convicted of trafficking even relatively small amounts of narcotics.

Only 2 countries in the region, Cambodia and the Philippines, have banned the death penalty. And President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has encouraged extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug users and sellers, is leading an effort to reinstate legal executions.

In Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for murder, drug trafficking, treason and waging war against the king.

The case of Mr. Mohamad, the cannabis oil seller, helped focus attention on the unfairness of imposing a mandatory death sentence in drug trafficking cases even when they involved the sale of relatively small amounts, said Mr. Ramkarpal, who has long opposed the death penalty.

During his trial, Mr. Mohamad testified that he had sold cannabis oil to patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

"Cases like that made the point very clearly that the mandatory death penalty ought to go," Mr. Ramkarpal said.

(source: New York Times)


Malaysia decision raises hopes for Exposto

A convicted Australian drug trafficker on death row in Malaysia could escape the hangman's noose after the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced plans to abolish the death penalty.

An appeal court in Malaysia sentenced Sydney grandmother Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto to death by hanging earlier this year after overturning her earlier acquittal on charges of trafficking 1.5kg of crystal methamphetamine into Malaysia.

"That will have a very very positive effect on Maria's case, it means she won't face the death penalty," Exposto's lawyer, Farhan Shafee, told AAP.

Abolition of the death penalty was announced on Wednesday - World Day Against the Death Penalty - and Shafee said legislation was expected to be tabled in parliament next week.

"We are still waiting for it to be tabled," he said. "Of course we are very, very happy to read the news and we welcome this decision by the cabinet. This means Malaysia will conform with international standards, which we have always been advocating."

Exposto, 54, claimed she was the victim of a set-up after she was found with the drugs stitched into the lining of her bag when arriving in Kuala Lumpur on a flight from China en-route to Melbourne in 2014.

She was acquitted after the judge found she was scammed by her online boyfriend and was unaware she was carrying the drugs. But the prosecution in the appeal argued Exposto had been wilfully blind, that her defence was made up and she had engaged in a "sly game".

Shafee said a date had not yet been set for Expostos's final appeal to be heard in the Federal Court, although he expected this to be made known shortly.

Australia's relationship with Malaysia has been strained in the past over the use of the death penalty and soured in 1986 amid the hanging of Australian drug runners Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers.

The decision to abandon the death penalty was also welcomed by Amnesty International.

"Today's announcement is a major step forward for all those who have campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Malaysia," Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's Secretary General, said.

"Malaysia must now join the 106 countries who have turned their backs for good on the ultimate cruel, inhumane, degrading punishment - the world is watching."

(source: Australian Associated Press)


Aussie on death row wins reprieve as Malaysia abolishes the death penalty

Malaysia has decided to abolish the death penalty, a senior minister said Thursday, with more than 1200 people on death row, including Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, set to win a reprieve following a groundswell of opposition to capital punishment.

Executions are currently mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes, and is carried out by hanging - a legacy of British colonial rule.

Human Rights Watch hailed the "fabulous news", with its deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson saying the move would increase pressure on other countries in the region to follow suit.

The government decided to scrap capital punishment because the Malaysian public had shown they were against the death penalty, communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo Gobind said.

"I hope the law will be amended soon," he told AFP.

Government minister Liew Vui Keong reportedly said earlier Thursday there would be a moratorium on executions for inmates currently on death row.

"Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out," the Star newspaper quoted him as saying.

Liew said the amended law would be put before parliament next Monday.

The government's announcement was "an encouraging sign", Amnesty International's Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.

"There is no time to waste - the death penalty should have been consigned to the history books long ago."

The moratorium on the death penalty affects, among others, two women accused of assassinating the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il last year.

A Malaysian court last year ruled the case could proceed against Indonesian national Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam after Kim Jong Nam's murder at Kuala Lumpur Airport.

Australian citizen Exposto, 54, who was found guilty of drug smuggling by an appeals court in May, will win a reprieve.

"The reprieve can be in the form of a life sentence," Gurdial Singh, president of the National Human Rights Society, told AFP.

2 Chilean tourists, currently on trial for the murder of a Malaysian man, would also have faced the death penalty if found guilty of murder.

The abolition could also pave the way for the extradition to Malaysia of a convicted hitman in the high-profile murder of a Mongolian model who was the lover of one of ex-prime minister Najib Razak's close associates.


Former Malaysian police officer Sirul Azhar Umar was convicted in Malaysia for the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006, but fled to Australia.

Australia has said it can only extradite him if Malaysia abolished the death penalty.

'Barbarous, cruel'

In April last year, Amnesty International ranked Malaysia 10th in the use of death penalty among the 23 countries that carried out capital punishment in 2016.

Between 2007 and 2017, 35 individuals were hanged, the New Straits Times newspaper said.

A total of 1,267 prisoners are on death row, making up 2.7 % of the 60,000-strong prison population.

Malaysian rights advocates welcomed the decision, saying there was never any proof that mandatory death sentences deterred offenders from violent or drug-related crimes.

"The death penalty is barbarous, and unimaginably cruel," N. Surendran, an advisor with the Lawyers for Liberty rights group, said in a statement.

Once capital punishment is scrapped, Malaysia will have the moral authority to fight for the lives of Malaysians facing death sentences abroad, he added.

Only 23 countries retain the death penalty, with China believed to be the "world's top executioner", according to Amnesty International in its report last month on capital punishment in 2017.

There were 993 executions recorded in 2017 in 23 countries, but Amnesty's numbers do not include the "thousands" it says are believed to have been executed in China, which classifies this information as a state secret.

Excluding China, Amnesty says Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan - in that order - carried out 84 % of all executions in 2017.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand have death penalty laws.



Filipina to raise constitutional issues in death penalty appeal

A 9-member Federal Court bench will be assembled early next year to hear an appeal by a Filipina who is facing the death sentence for drug trafficking.

Justice David Wong Dak Wah, who chaired a 5-member bench today, allowed the application by lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, who is appearing for Alma Nudo Atenza, on grounds that constitutional issues would be raised.

Wong then adjourned the case to Jan 9 to have the case heard before an enlarged panel.

Sri Ram, who was assisted by A Srimurugan, said there would be a challenge to the constitutionality of section 37A of the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) 1952 which allows the court to invoke double presumptions to convict an accused.

Written submissions made available to FMT said the Federal Court in the 1998 case of Muhammed Hassan v Public Prosecutor had held that presumptions could not be used as that would be oppressive.

However, as a result, the government introduced section 37A to allow the prosecution to rely on presumptions under section 37 (d) and 37 (da) of the DDA, thereby overuling the Federal Court judgment.

Alma, in her written submission, said Article 74 (1) of the Federal Constitution only allowed Parliament to make laws but the power to declare law was in the hands of the judiciary.

What Parliament did by introducing section 37A amounted to reversing the Federal Court judgement in Muhammed's case, she added.

She argued that section 37A also violated her constitutional right to life under Article 5.

The Court of Appeal last year affirmed the 2016 findings of the High Court, which sentenced her to death for trafficking 2.5kg of methamphetamine at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang on Aug 19, 2014.

The drugs in 36 packages were found in a hand luggage.

The High Court said Alma, a mother of three, had failed to raise a reasonable doubt on the prosecution's case.

The court further held that she had failed to rebut the presumption of possession and knowledge under section 37(d) and had failed to rebut the presumption of trafficking under section 37 (da).

However, the defence took the position she was an innocent carrier of the luggage from Hong Kong which was given by an African friend.



Cabinet places moratorium on medical marijuana case, Lukman escapes the gallows

The Cabinet has agreed to place a moratorium on Muhammad Lukman's death sentence, who was recently sentenced for possessing, processing and distributing medical marijuana (cannabis oil).

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (pic) said this to reporters, when met during his visit to Pakatan Harapan's youth machinery for the Oct 13 polls in Port Dickson.

"I brought this issue up in the Cabinet as well and had discussions with (Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. As a consensus, we agree that it (death penalty) should not have happened.

"At the same time, we have also agreed to put a moratorium on his death penalty," he said.

Syed Saddiq also said the Cabinet has agreed that patients who used medical marijuana should never be punished by the law.

"So, it's 2 accounts. One is death penalty as a whole, which will be taken down. And 2nd, at the same time, the usage of medical marijuana should never be punished by death penalty."

Pressed further on whether medical marijuana should be legalised, Syed Saddiq replied "one by one."

Lukman, a 29-year-old father of 1, was arrested in Dec 2015 for the possession of 3.1 litres of cannabis oil, 279 grams of compressed cannabis, 1.4kg of substance containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

He was nabbed by the police along with his 5-month pregnant wife, who was freed later, during a raid at his home. He was handed a death sentence by the Shah Alam High Court on Aug 30.

The death sentence meted down to him had triggered a public outcry from various quarters, including Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, who said she will be writing an appeal to the Attorney General to seek a pardon for Lukman.

Dr Mahathir, had on Sept 19, said that Lukman's death sentence should be reviewed, while an online petition calling for his release, had garnered almost 70,000 signatures so far.



Online poll reveals majority of netizens opposed to death penalty abolition

An overwhelming 82 % of netizens opposed the government's move to axe the death penalty, as polled by Berita Harian Online, Harian Metro and the New Straits Times Online.

The stance of 22,000 Facebook and Twitter users was made clear in the online poll which opened yesterday.

Only 18 per cent of respondents backed the Cabinet’s bid to do away with mandatory death penalty in cases like murder and drug-trafficking.

Student Nur Disyah Aminuddin disagreed with the bid to abolish the death sentence as it could lead to more crimes.

"Why must we keep criminals in jail? Their upkeep is borne by the people. If there is no death sentence, then criminals would no longer be afraid and this would lead to a crime wave," she said.

Sharing the same sentiment, respondent Mohd Adam cautioned that such abolition would be a greenlight for criminals to cast aside fear of the law.

"If the death penalty is abolished, it will be a signal for criminals not to be afraid of the law.

"All (convicted criminals) will escape (the death sentence) for serious offences like vicious murders, robberies that end up in murders, and drug-trafficking," he said.

For David Lee, he opined that the government should instead allow the imposition of the death penalty on a case-to-case basis.

"There are many cases of murderers and rapists lacking in humanity who deserve deterrent punishment.

"The death penalty will also be justice for the victims' families," he said.

Respondent Nik Azman said that instead of doing away with the death sentence, the government should instead show its seriousness in combating corruption by increasing penalties for graft cases.

Respondents Sulaiman Jamin, Ron Guiza and Gnera Nineleven even suggested that Islamic Hudud-style punishments be implemented in Malaysia.

However, respondent and student Joon Hoe Tan threw his support behind the Cabinet's move as many countries no longer imposed the death penalty.

"The death sentence does not cut down crime. Life imprisonment is an opportunity for offenders to repent," he said.

Respondents Anne Axry and Faizatul Hanim Afandi said there were many alternative ways to penalise criminals and imposing the death penalty was akin to infringing on the domain of God.



Death penalty or no, police to push for maximum punishment for drug offences

Maximum punishment will still be pushed by the Bukit Aman Narcotics Crime Investigations Department (NCID) when dealing with drug traffickers, even if the death penalty is abolished.

"If we look under the Dangerous Drug Act, there is a provision there that states that the court can punish the trafficker with life imprisonment with whipping of no less than 15 strokes," said Comm Datuk

Seri Mohmad Salleh during a press conference at the district police headquarters here today (Oct 12).

He was responding to questions regarding the planned abolishment of the death penalty.

Comm Mohmad Salleh reiterated that the police would always go for the maximum punishment when it came to drug trafficking.

He said, personally, he thought the death penalty was a more suitable punishment.

"If you ask me, I would still prefer the death penalty.

"You must remember that the trafficker also kill (with drugs). Slowy. But surely.

"So, my personal opinion is that the best punishment is capital punishment. But as an enforcement officer, we will follow whatever law that has been passed by Parliament."



Appeal filed against Duminda Silva's death penalty dismissed

An appeal filed against the death penalty imposed on former Parliamentarian Duminda Silva was dismissed by the Supreme Court today.

Duminda Silva and 2 others, who were sentenced to death, had appealed against the sentence.

The Supreme Court however dismissed the appeal today.

Duminda Silva was found guilty in the Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra murder case and was sentenced to death.

Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, a former Presidential advisor, and his bodyguards were murdered in October 2011 ahead of elections held at the time.

Duminda Silva was also injured in the incident and he sought treatment overseas but he was accused of being involved in the killing.

The convicts in the case will serve life in prison as the death sentence is not implemented in Sri Lanka.

(source: Colombo Gazette)

OCTOBER 11, 2018:


Billie Wayne Coble appeal denied, execution date to be set

The McLennan County District Attorney's Office has confirmed that convicted triple murderer Billie Wayne Coble has been denied his petition of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, clearing the way for the setting of his execution date.

The Texas Attorney General's Office handled the presentation of the state's presentation in the case, with Assistant Attorney General Gwen Vindell assigned to it.

Coble was convicted in 1990 of killing 3 members of his estranged wife's family in Axtell.

It was on August 29, 1989 that his wife's parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha and her brother, Waco police officer Bobby Vicha were killed at a home in Axtell.

2 children were left restrained in the home as he abducted his wife Karen and driving off.

During the ensuing manhunt, the vehicle Coble was driving was spotted in Bosque County.

During the pursuit, Coble crashed his pickup into a tree.

He was given a death sentence in his original conviction, but in 2007, an appeals court ordered a new trial for his sentencing.

However, that 2nd jury also came back with a death penalty decision.

Coble then began his appeal process again, ending up with his final appeal at the US Supreme Court denied.



Death penalty trial for man charged with killing his 5 children delayed----Timothy Jones was arrested in Mississippi at a drunk driving checkpoint in 2014

A judge has delayed until next year the death penalty trial of a South Carolina man charged with killing his 5 children.

Circuit Judge Eugene Griffith Jr.'s order says both sides agreed to delay Timothy Jones' trial, scheduled to start Monday. It didn't give a reason. Tuesday's order says a new date will be picked once court dates for 2019 are set.

Authorities said the 36-year-old father killed his children at his Lexington home in 2014, put their bodies in plastic trash bags and drove for 9 days around the Southeast before leaving them on a hillside in Camden, Alabama.

Jones was stopped at a drunk driving checkpoint in Mississippi, where authorities said they found blood and handwritten notes about killing and mutilating bodies. Jones' lawyers plan an insanity defense.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE----stay of impending execution

Tennessee inmate Edmund Zagorski granted stay of execution

A federal appeals court has granted Tennessee inmate Edmund Zagorski a stay of execution. The death row inmate's execution was initially scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.

Federal courts have the authority to delay an execution when a habeas corpus proceeding is pending appeal.

"At a minimum, due process requires that Zagorski be afforded an opportunity to present his appeal to us," court documents read.

The current appeal stems from Zagorski's claims of inadequate counsel and ineffective assistance at trial.

Sources close to the case say the death row inmate opted for the electric chair instead of lethal injection for the execution. The state rejected Zagorski's request to die in the electric chair, according to his attorney.

The last time Tennessee put someone to death by electric chair was 2007.

Zagorski's request came after the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld that the state's current lethal injection protocol is constitutional.

The 3-drug lethal injection protocol was adopted in January 2018 by the Tennessee Department of Correction as an alternative execution method to the single-drug protocol using pentobarbital. 33 death row inmates filed a constitutional challenge to the new protocol in February as TDOC eliminated the pentobarbital alternative. The 3-drug protocol now stands as the only available lethal injection execution method in Tennessee.

Critics say the 3-drug cocktail does not work properly, causing "torturous effects."

Zagorski was convicted of shooting and slitting the throats of John Dotson and Jimmy Porter, of Robertson County, during a marijuana deal in 1983. Governor Bill Haslam denied clemency for Zagorski on October 5.

(source: WZTV news)


Federal Appeals Court grants Stay of Execution for Edmund Zagorski

A Federal Appeals court has granted Edmund Zagorski a stay of execution, according to court records.

The Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Cincinnati granted the stay Wednesday, saying the stay was not granted based on the method of execution.

According to court documents, Zagorski filed a federal appeal on Oct. 5. The stay was granted because Zagorski filed the appeal in a timely manner with the court and executing him before the appeal is heard would be a violation of his constitutional rights.

There has also been some controversy around the method of execution.

Zagorski requested Monday night to die by electric chair. The Tennessee Department of Corrections denied his request, saying it was filed in a timely manner.

It's currently unknown how long the stay is for.

Tennessee Department of Corrections declined to comment, stating: "Due to pending litigation, it would be improper for the department to comment at this time."

(source: WKRN news)


Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals delays Edmund Zagorski execution

In a surprise move amid a flurry of legal filings, a federal appeals court has granted a request to delay Edmund Zagorski's execution, which was scheduled for Thursday.

It remains unclear how the order, from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, will impact the execution's timing - it is possible the U.S. Supreme Court could consider the stay Thursday and it could go forward as scheduled..

Zagorski asked federal courts to reconsider unexamined claims of ineffective trial counsel. The federal district court in Nashville rejected that argument Tuesday but a panel of 6th Circuit judges said the argument was provocative enough to merit full consideration.

To do that, they said, a stay was necessary.

"We acknowledge, as the district court did, that petitioner faces an uphill battle on the merits," the order stated. "Yet, balancing this factor with the others, petitioner's motion presents conditions rarely seen in the usual course of death penalty proceedings."

One judge on the appeals panel disagreed.

"A state is entitled to the assurance of finality," Circuit Judge Deborah Cook. "Granting the stay shortchanges the State’s interests."

A separate request for a stay is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Tennessee's lethal injection protocol.

This is the latest in a series of legal wrangling over the method and timing of Zagorski's execution.

More developments are likely to come quickly as the state and defense attorneys continue to battle over the execution, which had been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.

(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)


Here's a look at some major cases Brett Kavanaugh could help decide on the Supreme Court

And then there were 9.

Amid protests from the left and staunch cries of support from the right, Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the US Supreme Court over the weekend and heard his 1st set of oral arguments Tuesday.

With the balance now tilted, 5-4, in favor of conservative justices, the Globe asked high court observers about cases they're tracking in light of the new composition of the panel.

Kari E. Hong, a Boston College Law School professor, said she watched with interest Tuesday as the court heard arguments dealing with the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984, which calls for stiffer sentences for crimes committed with firearms by offenders with 3 or more prior convictions for certain infractions.

"The majority of justices don't like the law," Hong said. "I don't think Kavanaugh's vote will make a difference, but it will be interesting to see if he still dissents." That could be a harbinger of his more conservative opinions on criminal justice matters, she said.

Kavanaugh's questions during Tuesday's session, she said, "didn't show a lot of empathy for the criminal defendant."

Hong said in a follow-up e-mail that the career criminal act will remain on the books regardless of the outcome.

The "issue before the Court was not its constitutionality, but rather how to apply 2 of its provisions to a robbery and burglary statute," Hong wrote. "2 of the justices mentioned that Congress has bills that would fix the problems that keep leading the [career criminal act] cases to come back to the Court with technical issues. It appears that the Justices will side with the defendants in that the broader interpretations of the law that would lead to longer sentences do not apply to them."

Hong said she's also watching a 2nd case, Nielsen v. Preap, that was on the high court's agenda Wednesday.

That case focuses on the question of whether "a criminal alien becomes exempt from mandatory detention" for deportation proceedings "if, after the alien is released from criminal custody, the Department of Homeland Security does not take him into immigration custody immediately," according to a filing on the Supreme Court's website.

Hong said she believes the Preap case will likely be a 5-4 decision, with Justice Neil Gorsuch and possibly Chief Justice John Roberts voting in favor of the immigrants.

"Kavanaugh will be with the dissent," she wrote in an e-mail. "He expressed comfort [during oral arguments] with the government arresting someone on their death bed 50 years after a petty theft offense. That was the hypothetical given that Gorsuch and [Justice Stephen] Breyer felt would be too much power for the state to have. Kavanaugh defended that exercise of state power."

Immigrant rights attorneys are representing lawful permanent residents who served time for criminal offenses and then "returned to their families and communities," the lawyers said in an August brief. "Years later, the immigration authorities took them into custody and detained them without bond hearings."

The lawyers contend their clients were held unlawfully because the "textual requirement that noncitizens be detained 'when . . . released' limits mandatory detention to those whom the [Homeland Security] Secretary detains 'at the time of' or 'immediately' upon their release."

But the Department of Homeland Security has maintained in court filings that there's no time limit for when it can take a convicted immigrant into custody following their release.

"What if the alien was sentenced to time served or released without a sentence of imprisonment, so the government could not have learned when he would be released until after that had occurred?" the solicitor general wrote for DHS in a brief last month. "What if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not have officers available in the vicinity to effectuate the arrest? What if DHS asked the jurisdiction to notify it when the alien was going to be released, but the jurisdiction declined to do so?"

Daniel S. Medwed, a Northeastern Law professor who teaches courses on criminal procedure and evidence, said in an e-mail that he's watching 2 cases in particular.

One is a Missouri death penalty case the court will hear in November.

"A man named [Russell] Bucklew claims that lethal gas would be better than lethal injection because of his underlying medical condition (Missouri permits both methods)," Medwed wrote. "I suspect and fear Kavanaugh will defer to the state's discretion."

A number of parties have filed amicus briefs in the case, including the ACLU, which is supporting Bucklew, and a consortium of death penalty states including Texas, Alabama, Arkansas and Colorado, that are backing the state of Missouri.

The ACLU brief says Bucklew, who killed a man in 1996 and raped the man's girlfriend, then later escaped custody and attacked the rape victim's mother with a hammer, would be subject to cruel and unusual punishment if executed by lethal injection.

The brief says Bucklew will "choke on his own blood and suffocate for four minutes before dying. This does not happen with other lethal injection executions. But Mr. Bucklew suffers from cavernous hemangioma, a rare medical condition that will lead to these results and make the lethal injection procedures particularly excruciating in his case."

The death penalty states counter that if Bucklew prevails, the case could lead to "repeated and lengthy litigation and indefinite delay in carrying out death sentences. Prisoners would challenge each alternative method subsequently adopted by the State as lacking in some way due to the prisoner's unique anatomy, history, or combination of conditions."

A 2nd case Medwed is following deals with the double jeopardy clause in criminal proceedings.

"[I]n December, the Court will hear a double jeopardy clause case that reconsiders the suitability of the so-called 'separate sovereigns' doctrine," Medwed wrote. "That is, even though the 5th [Amendment] bans someone from being tried twice for the same offense, the Court has long recognized a 'separate sovereigns' exception - while, say, Massachusetts couldn’t try someone twice for murder for the same incident, the federal government could try the person after a Massachusetts state acquittal."

Medwed said he believes a conservative "textualist" such as Kavanaugh, meaning a justice who believes legal statutes should be interpreted strictly as written, may "interpret the double jeopardy clause strictly to ban separate trials even in separate jurisdictions," which could have implications for President Trump.

"In theory, [Trump] could pardon someone like [former national security adviser Michael] Flynn from a federal conviction down the road and states might be barred from prosecuting Flynn for crimes related to the same underlying event," Medwed wrote.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said 4 justices have to agree to hear a case, so Kavanaugh's placement on the court could affect the types of matters that are considered.

Among the test cases that could be accepted for review are those dealing with the Second Amendment, Waldman said, noting that Kavanaugh as an appellate judge dissented against a ruling upholding a state assault weapons ban.

Other upcoming cases deal with gerrymandering and whether the government can inquire about a person's citizenship status on a census form, Waldman said by phone.

"We're a few days into a new constitutional era," said Waldman, a former speechwriting director in the Clinton administration. "If the court is aggressive and activist, it really will create a period of conflict" between the court and the broader public.

(source: Boston Globe)


Moving away from the mandatory death penalty

Today marks the 16th World Day against the Death Penalty, once again providing an opportunity to reflect on the use of the death penalty around the world. The path towards abolition is frequently paved by progressive restriction in the imposition and application of capital punishment. Accordingly, this year we consider the decline of the mandatory death penalty, a practice which an ever-increasing number of countries have recognised as cruel, unfair and ultimately incompatible with fundamental human rights protections.

Approximately 29 countries around the world continue to impose mandatory death sentences for crimes including murder, drug trafficking and blasphemy, amongst other offences. In many countries, the practice of imposing the death penalty automatically originates in laws inherited under British colonial rule. Since then, an increasing number of countries have rejected the archaic practice as incompatible with evolving standards of decency.

In the past 12 months the global consensus against the mandatory death penalty has continued to grow. 2 more courts, in Kenya and Barbados, have ruled the automatic imposition of a death sentence incompatible with their national constitutions, bringing the total number of countries where The Death Penalty Project has successfully brought or supported constitutional challenges to the mandatory death penalty to 13 nations. As a direct consequence, thousands have been removed from death rows around the world.

We look forward to continuing to support efforts to end the mandatory death penalty and are hopeful that movement away from this practice will continue. For instance, there are promising signs in Malaysia, where the new government is exercising leadership and has pledged to abolish mandatory death sentencing.

Nevertheless, even with discretionary sentencing it is impossible to guard against arbitrariness in the application of death penalty. The experience of India, taking just one example, shows how judicial discretion can give way to a lethal lottery, where the decision to impose the death penalty depends significantly on who is hearing the case. Stringent sentencing guidelines and adherence to safeguards may provide some protection for those facing capital charges but ultimately, whether the sentence is mandatory or discretionary, it is impossible to ensure that the death penalty is applied consistently and without arbitrariness, discrimination or error. Despite this, it is clear that moving away from the mandatory death penalty is a step in the right direction on the road towards complete abolition of capital punishment.

(source:, Oct. 10)


'Put an end to the death penalty now', urges Guterres, marking World Day

Progress made toward eliminating the death penalty has been "marred by setbacks,' said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement on Wednesday, marking the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty.

He noted that hundreds of offenders - often impoverished, women or hailing from minority groups - have been executed without legal representation or transparent criminal proceedings, which might have spared them from the death penalty.

"In some countries, people are sentenced to death in secret trials, without due process, increasing the potential for error or abuse" - UN chief Guterres

Some 170 States have abolished or put a stay on executions, since the UN General Assembly's 1st call for a moratorium on its use, in 2007. Mr. Guterres noted the lack of transparency in some countries where the death penalty is still used, underscoring its incompatibility with human rights standards.

Mr. Guterres said he was "deeply disturbed" in particular, by the number of juvenile offenders being executed. Only last week, Zeinab Sekaanvand Lokran of Iran, was executed for killing her husband, when she was 17, despite a trial marred by irregularities.

"In some countries, people are sentenced to death in secret trials, without due process, increasing the potential for error or abuse" said the UN chief.

These comments echo those of UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour. In an interview with UN News last November, he said there was "far too much secrecy, and it's quite indicative of the fact that although many countries are giving up the practice, those that retain it, nevertheless feel that they have something to hide."

He noted the majority of executions today are carried out in China, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Guterres concluded with a call for all nations to abolish the practice of executions. "I call on those remaining, to join the majority and put an end to the death penalty now," he added.



16th World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October 2018)

On this 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty, France reaffirms its opposition to the death penalty everywhere and in all circumstances.

France is committed to the universal abolition of this unjust, inhumane and ineffective punishment and calls on all nations that still apply the death penalty to establish a moratorium on it with a view to its definitive abolition.

France welcomes the decision by Mongolia, Guinea and Burkina Faso to abolish the death penalty. It also welcomes Gambia’s ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aimed at abolishing the death penalty, as well as Guatemala’s abolition of capital punishment for ordinary crimes.

France reiterates its concern over the continued use of the death penalty in all too many countries.

France invites all nations to mobilize ahead of the Seventh World Congress Against the Death Penalty to be held from February 27 to March 1, 2019, in Brussels. It also calls on states to support the adoption of the resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty by the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly.



Italian government says Capital punishment is "unjustifiable under any circumstance"

Capital punishment is "unjustifiable under any circumstance", the Italian government said on Wednesday, underlining its opposition to state-sanctioned execution.

"On European and World Day against the Death Penalty, Italy reaffirms its firm opposition to the death penalty, which is unjustifiable under any circumstance," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Italy has always sought to marshal "the widest possible support" for the 2007 UN moratorium on the death penalty and keeps working to "broaden the consensus of the international community" on the resolution, the statement said.

"Over many years now, this effort has involved the whole diplomatic network in a continuous dialogue also with civil society," the statement added.



Austria Continues to Call for Global Moratorium on Death Penalty - Foreign Minister

Austria along with other EU countries continue to call for introduction of the global moratorium on death penalty in the United Nations, the country's foreign minister, Karin Kneissl, said on Wednesday.

Speaking on the World Day Against the Death Penalty, Kneissl pointed out that there was no place for capital punishment in the 21st century.

"Along with the European Union and other countries that share this point of view, we will continue to call for the global moratorium [on death penalty] as a first step toward the global ban," Kneissl said, as quoted by the ministry's press service.

The minister added that Austria condemns the use of death penalty under any circumstances and attaches significant importance to fighting for the global ban of capital punishment.



AGO Still Waiting to Execute Death Penalty Inmates

The Attorney General`s Office is still waiting for the right time to execute 91 death penalty inmates on drug cases.

"Later," said Attorney General M. Prasetyo when he was asked about the time of death row inmates' execution at his office in South Jakarta, Wednesday, October 10.

Prasetyo once stated that the death row inmates were buying time for the execution by using their legal rights because the law provided opportunities. "They all tried to buy time," Prasetyo said, September 28.

The Constitutional Court also provides an opportunity for the death row inmates to test the verdict through a judicial review (PK) more than once.

In addition, the absence of a deadline for filing clemency also becomes an obstacle for the execution. "This is our problem," he said.

In coincidence with the World's Anti-Death Penalty Day on Wednesday, Oct. 10, the coalition of death penalty elimination (HATI Coalition) urged the Indonesian government to abolish and review the law on the death penalty.

HATI Coalition also explained that the death penalty applied in Indonesia shows injustice since the law often targets vulnerable groups with high poverty rates.

The death penalty inmates often experience difficulties in obtaining access to justice, information, participation, equality and they often experience discrimination.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) noted that throughout 2018, Indonesian courts had sentenced to death 43 defendants in 19 cases. 7 cases include murder cases and 12 others were narcotics cases.



3 out of 10 Pinoys favor death penalty for 6 drug-related crimes - SWS poll

Most Filipinos do not see the death penalty as the solution for 6 out of 7 crimes related to illegal drugs, results of a special Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey commissioned by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) showed.

About 33 % or less demand the death penalty for 6 crimes related to drugs, namely importation of illegal drugs, maintenance of drug dens, manufacture of illegal drugs, murder under the influence of drugs, sale of illegal drugs, and working in drug dens.

SWS found that for these 6 crimes, about 51-55 % of Filipinos prefer life imprisonment as the penalty. Another 15- 24 % prefer imprisonment for 20 years or 40 years.

The only exception, where 47 % think the death penalty should apply, was for rape under the influence of drugs.

These are the main findings of the March, 2018 National Survey on Public Perception on the Death Penalty, conducted by SWS for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines.

It is the 1st survey in the Philippines to explore thought processes and disentangle layers of perceptions about the death penalty. It was conducted through face-to-face interviews of 2,000 respondents aged 15 and above nationwide during the period March 22 to 27, 2018.

For all the crimes, the survey found only minority support for the death penalty.

The strongest demand for the death penalty is at 47 %, for rape under the influence of drugs.

For the other 6 crimes, the demand for death penalty is from 22 % to 33 %.

Meanwhile, on the demand for imprisonment, instead of death, is over 70 % for those found guilty of working in drug dens (78 %), sale of illegal drugs (76 %), and maintenance of drug dens (73 %).

It is followed by murder under the influence of drugs (69 %), importation of illegal drugs (68 %), and manufacture of illegal drugs (66 %).

Demand for imprisonment as a punishment for those guilty of rape under the influence of drugs is 53 %.

(source: Manila Bulletin)


Daughter of Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy speaks of emotional final meeting with her mother waiting to hear if she will be executed for 'insulting Mohammed'

'I was very close to her, and there hasn't been a day that I haven't been praying for her to come home.'

She was a young child when her mother was first accused by fellow villagers in Sheikhupura, Punjab, of insulting Islam in 2009.

They were the only Catholic family in the village, but although their religion had seen her parents sometime struggle to find work, Ms Ashiq had a happy childhood in a loving home.

It was a hot day in June 2009, when her mother went to fetch water for her fellow farmhands while working in a field picking berries.

The Muslim women she was labouring with objected, saying that as a non-Muslim Ms Bibi was unfit to drink from the same water bowl as them.

Ms Bibi would later say that the women insulted her religion, to which she responded: 'I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?'

This prompted the Muslim women to go to a local imam and accuse Ms Bibi of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed.

Before Ms Bibi could be arrested on any official charges, a violent mob descended on their family home, and beat Ms Bibi up in front of her children.

The abuse was so violent, police were called to the scene, but after rescuing the mother-of-five, they arrested her and threw her in jail - and a year later she was convicted of blasphemy.

Over the past 9 years, Ms Ashiq, her father and her siblings - sisters Naseem, 29, Sidra, 26, Esha, 17, and brother Imran, 27 - have been taking turns in visiting Ms Bibi on death row.

It takes them 6 hours to travel from their home in Punjab to the prison where Ms Bibi is being held, in the same solitary confinement cell since her 2009 arrest.

They are allowed to see her for around 15 to 20 minutes under the watch of prison officers, before making the 6-hour trip home.

Ms Ashiq and Mr Masih say they are only able to make the long and expensive journey every few months, with 2 or 3 of them going each time.

The family last saw Ms Bibi last Monday, a meeting which may well have been their last.

Ms Ashiq said: 'It was a very emotional meeting, but I am confident in God and that He will set her free.'

Ms Ashiq said she had to 'find inner strength' to overcome her mother being in prison while growing up.

She currently attends a local school along with her sister Esha, who has a developmental disorder and is a special needs student.

She dreams of becoming a lawyer, hoping to help poor people and those who, like her mother, have been accused of blasphemy.

Mr Masih, a builder by trade, tells MailOnline: 'Asia is always saying "I am missing my children" and she is praying and praying to be free.

'We always trust in God to care for her during her suffering days. Physically and mentally she is as well as she can be.

'She has been in solitary confinement since day one as they fear someone might attack her.

'We believe they will set her free, but the circumstances are such that she would be unable to live in Pakistan as a free woman. She would not survive.'

Ms Bibi's case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help her were assassinated, including Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by his own bodyguard.

Fundamentalist groups have been protesting in the streets, calling for her execution to be carried out.

One of the most vocal groups, the ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), has warned of 'terrible consequences' if she is granted leniency. M

The Supreme Court reached a decision on Monday, but their announcement is not expected until later this week or perhaps next, potentially due to a fear of mob violence.

If the 3-judge Supreme Court bench uphold the 53-year-old's conviction, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the president for clemency.

Ms Bibi has always denied blaspheming and her representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and that her accusers had contradicted themselves.

Blasphemy is a charge so sensitive in Pakistan that anyone even accused of insulting Islam risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

The charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of death under legislation that rights groups say is routinely abused by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

The law does not define what blasphemy constitutes, and evidence is often not reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.

Despite this, calls for reform of the blasphemy law have regularly been met with violence and rejected.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan launched a wholehearted defence of the laws during his election campaign earlier this year, vowing his party 'fully' supports the legislation and 'will defend it'.



Asia Bibi awaits judgment on final Supreme Court appeal against 'blasphemy' death penalty

Pakistan's Supreme Court has heard the final appeal of a Christian mother of 5 who was sentenced to death for blasphemy - her crime was to drink from a water fountain used by Muslims. The conviction and sentence handed down to Asia Bibi has led to international condemnation of the country's much-abused blasphemy laws. In 2016, members of the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting in Lusaka, said it "stands in solidarity and prayer with Asia Bibi" and asked that "her case be re-investigated and that she be honourably acquitted." They also expressed their "solidarity and prayer with other victims" of Pakistan's blasphemy law.

Bibi has been held in custody since June 2009 after her co-workers said that by drinking water meant for Muslims she had made it ritually unclean. In November 2010, she was sentenced to death and has had numerous appeals postponed.

Hardline Islamists in Pakistan have campaigned against her release. In January 2011, Salman Taseer, a governor of Punjab, said that Bibi was innocent and called for a review of Pakistan's blasphemy laws. In response, he was shot and killed by his own bodyguard. 2 months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the country's Minority Affairs Minister, was ambushed and killed by gunmen near his Islamabad home. He had previously told reporters that he would campaign for Bibi's release.

After years of delays and adjournments, a tribunal of three Supreme Court judges, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, and supported by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, heard her final appeal October 8.

"They have come to a decision, but it has been reserved," said Mehwish Bhatti, an officer with the British-Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), said from the court house. "The Chief Justice has banned media interference, but all the journalists are talking about this.

"Earlier they took my mobile [phone] for almost 2 hours after I tried to take a picture of the court house. The entrance of high-profile people was from the other side, so nobody could see them."

Last week, Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, spoke at an event organized by Aid to the Church in Need at the Catholic chaplaincy of Lancaster University in northwest England, alongside the couple's eldest daughter, Eisham. "She is psychologically, physically and spiritually strong, having a very strong faith," Masih told BPCA's chairman Wilson Chowdhry. "She is ready and willing to die for Christ."

Chowdhry commented: "News of her poor health and early signs of dementia are a paramount concern for our community, and the date of this appeal is very timely. These charges have been proven false time and again, and it is time for her to return home to her family. Clearly, she will need asylum in a Western country where she can live out the remainder of her days in peace.

"We hope this time she will be completely exonerated and this wrongful conviction will finally be overturned, as this is her last chance to be heard at court."

Many churches in Lahore held a day of prayer and fasting. "All around Pakistan, and even many parts of the world, the sense of anticipation...regarding Asia Bibi's final appeal hearing are now at fever pitch," BPCA outreach officer Leighton Medley said ahead of today’s hearing. "There is a sense here in Pakistan that once again, battle lines are being drawn: the battle between those who support hatred and intolerance and those who fight for peace and justice.

"There is no doubt, will be able to cut the atmosphere with a knife. There will be protests on both sides, and you can bet there will be trouble ahead."

He added: "We must have faith that God can intervene in this situation and this mountain will be removed. It is very much like going into the lion's den.

"It truly is D-Day for Asia, this is the final countdown, and we will soon know whether the extremists win or lose. And whether there will be peace and justice in Pakistan or just more hatred, prejudice and intolerance, which sadly has come to typify Pakistan today."

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores. The death sentence has never been carried out; but at least 20 people have been murdered in prison after being convicted.

(source: Anglican Journal)


'7 in 10 Koreans oppose death penalty'

The majority of South Koreans agree that the death penalty should be abolished and replaced with alternative forms of punishment, the state-run human rights body announced Wednesday.

According to data from the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, 7 out of 10 Koreans are against retaining capital punishment on the condition that serious punitive measures are put in place to deter crime.

The commission released the data at a conference held to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The survey showed that few Koreans were willing to do away with capital punishment immediately. Only 4.4 % of respondents favored its immediate abolition, whereas 15.9 % agreed that it should be abolished at some point in the future.

However, the number rose steeply, to 66.9 %, when the question was rephrased to ask respondents if the death penalty should be replaced with other punitive measures.

Alternatives that respondents favored adopting in place of capital punishment included "absolute life imprisonment," which topped the list with 78.9 % in favor. This was followed by "absolute life imprisonment with punitive damages,' favored by 43.9 % of survey respondents. Currently, the most common penalty for murder is a life sentence.

The abolition of the death penalty has been the subject of much debate in Korea, where the last execution took place in December 1997. According to the Ministry of Justice, there are currently 61 prisoners on death row.

(source: The Korea Herald)


Asian countries urged to end death penalty, respect right to life

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and 28 civil society organizations in Asia condemn the recent imposition of the death penalty by the Singaporean authorities on Abdul Wahid Bin Ismail, Mohsen Bin Na'im, and Zainudin bin Mohamed.

All 3 were convicted of drug-related offences and were executed on 5 October 2018. As a network of human rights organizations, FORUM-ASIA sees the death penalty as a grave violation of the right to life - the most fundamental and essential human right for other rights to be realized.

It serves no purpose to the State and its people in their pursuit of justice. We therefore call on the Government of Singapore, and other Governments in Asia that retain the death penalty to immediately impose a moratorium to the death penalty, as the 1st step towards its abolition.

The use of the death penalty has seen a global decline in recent years, signifying a movement towards more effective ways of deterring crimes.[1] Despite this global trend, several Governments in Asia continue to use the death penalty.

Just this year, India expanded the scope of crimes covered by the death penalty. The numbers of those sentenced to capital punishment in Bangladesh yearly remains unabated. The region has also seen an increased tendency to use the death penalty for drug-related offences.

Indonesia has been executing primarily those convicted of drug trafficking in recent years. It is estimated that China executes hundreds to thousands yearly for drug trafficking or murder, although exact figures are hard to find.

The Sri Lankan Cabinet recently approved the President's proposal to take steps towards implementing the capital punishment to those sentenced to death for drug offences and who continue to operate 'drug rackets' while in prison. In the Philippines, several State officials continue to push for the revival of the death penalty, despite having previously committed itself to its abolition.

Governments continue to retain the death penalty despite troubling concerns. There is no convincing evidence to support that the death penalty deters crime.

In Mongolia, the death penalty was abolished after it was recognized that the threat of execution did not have a deterrent effect.[2] Arguments for its use are based more on public opinion rather than on solid scientific evidence.

The effect of the death penalty disproportionately affects those who are often the poor and the most marginalized, as they have limited access to resource and power.

Judicial systems worldwide are all susceptible to abuse.

In Vietnam, the cases of Ho Duy Hai and Le Van Manh, who were sentenced to death despite gaps in evidence and allegations of police impunity, cast strong doubts on the credibility of the judicial system. Capital punishment is irreversible; it violates the right to life and the right to live free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment - fundamental rights of all human beings.

It goes against our goals of promoting rehabilitation for the convicted, and the values and standards of universal human rights we all stand for.

On the World Day against the Death Penalty, we express our grave concern on the continuing use of the death penalty in Asia. We call on all Governments to work for the abolition of the death penalty and to create a justice system that can respect human rights for all, including the perpetrators and the victims. Only when we respect the right to life and dignity of all can we move towards a global humane society.

The statement is endorsed by:

1. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India

2. Bytes for All, Pakistan

3. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia

4. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence - Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan (KontraS), Indonesia

5. Community Resource Centre, Thailand

6. Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), Nepal

7. Equality Myanmar, Myanmar

8. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan

9. Human Rights Alert, India

10. INFORM, Sri Lanka

11. Law & Society Trust, Sri Lanka

12. National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace

13. Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA), Bangladesh

14. Maldivian Democracy Network, the Maldives

15. National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace, Pakistan

16. Odhikar, Bangladesh

17. People\'s Watch, India

18. People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea

19. People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India

20. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), the Philippines

21. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

22. South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), India

23. Suara Rakyat Malaysia, Malaysia

24. Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Taiwan

25. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), the Philippines

26. Think Centre, Singapore

27. Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Vietnam

28. Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia/ Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBH), Indonesia



Extradite Sirul once death penalty is abolished, says Ramkarpal

Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh today called for the Australian government to extradite convicted killer Sirul Azhar Umar once Malaysia abolishes the death penalty.

"Once death penalty is abolished, the Australian government should extradite him back here to serve his sentence," he told FMT.

Ramkarpal has been pushing for Sirul to be brought back to complete investigations into who ordered the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, but the Australian government does not want to do so as he will face the death penalty here.

Sirul was 1 of 2 men convicted of murdering the Mongolian woman, who was shot dead before her body was blown to bits with explosives in 2006.

Ramkarpal said it would give an opportunity for Sirul to return home without the fear of being on the death row. "He can come back to serve imprisonment," he added.

Yesterday, law minister Liew Vui Keong said the Cabinet had decided to abolish the death penalty and a bill to this effect would be tabled at the next Dewan Rakyat sitting.

Ramkarpal, who is also Bukit Gelugor MP, said abolishing the death penalty was a good move.

"It should apply not only to those who are facing capital punishment but also those on death row."

He said he had represented clients who were sometimes sent to death row.

"You can never be sure of the conviction of death penalty, if it is 100% correct," he added. "Whether the man should be sent (to be hanged). It is someone's life."

In Malaysia, the death penalty, carried out by hanging, is mandatory for crimes such as murder, drug trafficking and possession of firearms.

Between 2007 and 2017, 35 individuals were hanged while another 1,200 are on death row.



Parliament must consign death penalty to the history books

Responding to the Malaysian government's announcement today that it plans to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's Secretary General, said:

"Today's announcement is a major step forward for all those who have campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Malaysia. Malaysia must now join the 106 countries who have turned their backs for good on the ultimate cruel, inhumane, degrading punishment - the world is watching.

"Malaysia's resort to the death penalty has been a terrible stain on its human rights record for years. In Malaysia death row prisoners are often cruelly kept in the dark about the outcome of their clemency applications and notified of their executions just days or hours before they happen.

"With a bill on abolition set to be tabled next week, we are calling on the Malaysian Parliament to completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes, with no exceptions. There is no time to waste - the death penalty should have been consigned to the history books long ago. Malaysia's new government has promised to deliver on human rights and today's announcement is an encouraging sign, but much more needs to be done."


The Minister of Law in the Prime Minister's Office, Datuk Liew Vui Keong, today announced that the Cabinet has decided to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. A bill with this aim is due to be tabled in the next Parliament sitting, which begins on October 15. Malaysia announced a moratorium on executions in July 2018.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally and has been campaigning for its abolition for over 40 years. As of today, 142 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

10 October is World Day Against the Death Penalty. One emblematic case that Amnesty is highlighting is Hoo Yew Wah's, from Malaysia. Sentenced to death at a young age for drug trafficking, he is asking to be given a 2nd chance. Although the authorities have suspended the implementation of executions, Hoo Yew Wah is yet to find out if his 2014 clemency appeal has been successful. He was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in May 2011 after he was forced to sign a self-incriminating statement.

(source: Amnesty International)


Law Minister: No more death penalty, death row inmates to get reprieve

The death penalty will be abolished and there should be a moratorium on all executions until then, Datuk Liew Vui Keong (pic) said on Wednesday (Oct 10).

The de facto law Minister in the Prime Minister's Department said that the only issue was what to do with the convicts currently on death row.

''All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop.

''Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out.

''We will inform the Pardons Board to look into various applications for convicts on the (death penalty) waiting list to either be commuted or released,'' he told the press after chairing the “Law Reform Talk” at Universiti Malaya' Faculty of Law.

While the government is studying certain cases, he said that in reviewing the punishment, various aspects must be taken into account in ensuring an appropriate penalty was doled out to offenders.

''Drug-related offences will be different and consideration must be given to convicts who, for example, were drug mules, as compared to those who committed heinous crimes.

''We also need to comprehensively consider all cases, especially when it concerns the families of murdered victims,'' he said.

Liew also noted that the Bill on abolishing the death penalty will be tabled in the coming Parliament sitting, beginning Oct 15.



Malaysia to abolish death penalty

Malaysia plans to abolish the death penalty, according to the prime minister's office, in a decision described by human rights advocates as a major step forward for the country.

The cabinet decided to scrap the death sentence for all crimes, after Kuala Lumpur announced a moratorium on executions in July, Liew Vui Keong, minister of law in the prime minister's office, said.

"All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop," Mr Liew said after an event at University of Malaya, according to local press.

A proposed bill is expected to be tabled at the next parliamentary sitting scheduled for October 15.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's secretary general, said in a statement that the announcement was "a major step forward for all those who have campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Malaysia. Malaysia must now join the 106 countries who have turned their backs for good on the ultimate cruel, inhumane, degrading punishment - the world is watching," adding this practice has been "a terrible stain on its human rights record for years".

Soon after the landmark electoral victory of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) in May, Muhyiddin Yassin, home minister, said the death penalty was 1 of 7 laws in need of revision, in line with the ruling coalition's manifesto.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last month voiced his support for a man facing the death penalty for selling cannabis oil to patients and called for his sentence to be reviewed.

(source: Financial Times)


Activists demand for the abolition of the death penalty in Uganda

The European Union and the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative have again demanded the abolition of the death penalty, saying it violates human rights and dignity.

The demand was made during commemoration of the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative offices in Kampala.



Nigeria's 100-year-old death-row inmate seeking pardon

Death-row inmate Celestine Egbunuche has been dubbed Nigeria's "oldest prisoner" amid a campaign calling for his release.

He is 100-years-old and has spent 18 years in jail after being found guilty of organising a murder.

Small and slightly hunched over, he looks wistfully into space as he sits on a tightly packed bench inside a stuffy prison visitor's room.

Dressed in a white T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, he lifts his head slowly - his way of acknowledging our presence.

But otherwise, he remains quiet during our visit - in stark contrast to the rest of the room that is filled with loud chatter at Enugu Maximum Security Prison in south-east Nigeria.

His son Paul Egbunuche, 41, sits protectively close to him - and does the talking. He is in jail on the same murder charge.

They were both accused of hiring people to kidnap and kill a man over an alleged land dispute in Imo state.

Paul maintains their innocence. They were detained in June 2000 and eventually convicted and sentenced to death in 2014.

It has not been possible to contact the family of the man who was killed - even the Nigeria prison service has been unable to find them.

'Confused and childlike'

As prison officials look on, he tells me that his father isn't really able to talk much any more and is no longer aware of his surroundings.

"When you ask him something, he says something else. The doctor told me that it is his age, he has become like a little pikin [child].

"There are some times when he will ask me: 'These people here [inmates], what are they doing here?'"

Paul says he rarely leaves his father's side now; he has been his primary carer since his health began to deteriorate in prison.

These health problems include diabetes and failing eyesight - and Paul uses what he can to manage them.

"The only thing I'm using to manage him is food, unripe plantain, and they [officials] give him some drugs."

Birthday photo

Father and son share a cell with other death-row prisoners, who are separated from the general population.

"When I wake up in the morning, I will boil water and bath him," Paul says. "I'll change his clothes then prepare food for him. If they open up [the cell] I'll take him out so the sun will touch him.

"I'm always close to him, discussing with him and playing with him."

Paul says the other inmates sometimes help him care for his father and that many of them want his father to be released.

It was after his father's 100th birthday on 4 August that events were set in motion that may lead to his release.

A photo of Paul and a frail-looking Egbunuche went viral in August after a local paper did a story about him turning 100 in jail. It sparked a debate about the length of time Nigerians spend on death row and the place of capital punishment altogether.

The latest figures from the Nigerian Prisons Service show that more than 2,000 people are on death row in Nigeria, many of whom spend years waiting to be executed.

The death sentence is not commonly carried out in Nigeria. Between 2007 and 2017, there were 7 executions - the last one taking place in 2016, Amnesty International reports.

Poverty and punishment

However, the death penalty is still meted out by judges for offences like treason, kidnapping and armed robbery.

"You have people who have spent 30 years on death row, it's common," says Pamela Okoroigwe, a lawyer for the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP).

"Governors are reluctant to sign [death warrants] and they're not willing to grant pardons - that's why we have a high number of death-row inmates."

Ms Okoroigwe says death row is a "punishment for the poor" and one that a growing number of Nigerians want abolished.

"Have you ever seen a rich man on death row?" she asks.

"How many people can afford to get a lawyer to represent them in court? A rich man who ended up in court can afford to get the best and he'll be free."



No more justification for death sentence in Nigeria - Group

An advocacy group, Human Rights Law Service, has said there is no longer any justification for Nigerian judges to continue to pass death sentence on convicts in the country.

This, according to HURILAWS, which is being spearheaded by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), is because state governors, who have the power to sign the death warrants for death row inmates, are shying away from such responsibility.

The group, quoting Amnesty International, said there were no fewer than 2,285 death row inmates languishing in different prisons across the country, noting that in 2017 alone, a total of 621 persons were sentenced to death by the courts with no governor willing to sign their death warrants.

In a statement on Wednesday by its Senior Legal/Programme Officer, Collins Okeke, in commemoration of this year’s World Day against the Death Penalty, HURILAWS urged Nigerian judges to support the advocacy for the abolishment of death penalty by, in protest, stopping to sentence convicts to death.

It noted that though death row inmates were entitled to the protection of their human rights, in Nigerian prisons they were being kept under dehumanising conditions.

The group said, "In practice, since May 29, 1999, most state governors have failed, refused or neglected to sign warrant of execution. The result is that death sentences are handed down by the courts and are not carried out.

"For many of these death row prisoners, conditions are traumatic, harsh and dehumanising.

"Most death row cells are 7 by 8 feet, shared by 3 to 5 people; the cells are dark and are with hardly any ventilation. Prisoners use buckets as toilets and sleep on the bare floor.

"The average period spent on death row by prison inmates in Nigeria is between 10-15 years. Many death row prisoners have developed mental illness during their long stay in prison and on death row.

"HURILAWS is of the view that since the death sentence passed on convicts are never carried out and will never be carried out, there is no more constitutional justification for the sentence of death.

"The punishment of death is protected under Section 33 (1) CFRN 1999 'in the execution of the sentence of a court' and when those who should sign death warrants are unwilling to, it becomes clear that the sentence of death is unconstitutional since Section 33 (1) covers execution not sentencing in vain keeping the convicts on the death row indefinitely.

"HURILAWS, therefore, calls on judges in Nigeria to employ activism to declare this practice unconstitutional.

"HURILAWS also calls on the federal and state governments in Nigeria to stop torturing and traumatising death row inmates by either abolishing the death penalty or signing into law a death penalty moratorium law."



Commission seeks reduction of death sentences to life imprisonment

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has called on the President and state governors to consider commuting the sentences of all death row inmates to life imprisonment.

The Executive Secretary (ES) of the commission, Mr Tony Ojukwu, made the call on Wednesday in Abuja in commemoration of the 2018 World Day against Death Penalty.

Ojukwu, in a statement signed by him, said that death penalty as a retributive measure might not serve as deterrent to crime.

According to him, the lack of certainty on the fate of death row inmates as well as their living conditions in prison is worrisome as it has grave human rights implications.

The ES stated that imprisonment was no longer seen solely as a retributive measure but was targeted at reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates.

"Considering the challenges faced by our Criminal Justice Administration System, it is necessary for all concerned to exercise caution in carrying out executions of convicted inmates," he warned.

He said there was the need to revisit the findings of the Study Group which gave`birth to the Moratorium on Death Penalty for a better understanding of the justification for Moratorium in the country.

The ES said that the adoption of official Moratorium and eventual abolition of death penalty in Nigeria was a proactive step toward fulfillment of Nigeria's international human rights obligations.

"The commission observes that freedom from torture is a non-derogable human right.

"Nigeria is a party to the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocols and has domesticated this instrument by virtue of the Anti-Torture Act (2017).

"Nigerian Government is, therefore, under obligation to give effect to the spirit and letters of these instruments," Ojukwu advised.

He enjoined all stakeholders to join hands in advocacy for a rethink on retaining Death Penalty in the nation's legal System.

The World Coalition against Death Penalty and the Abolitionists mark World Day against Death Penalty on Oct. 10, every year and the 2018 celebration focuses on the living conditions of those sentenced to death.



Zimbabwe president 'wholeheartedly' against death penalty

Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa has expressed his view on death penalty stressing that it was an affront to human dignity.

"I wholeheartedly agree," he quoted a tweet by the European Union, EU, in Zimbabwe which read: "The death penalty is an affront to human dignity. It constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is contrary to the right to life.

The death penalty has no established deterrent effect and it makes judicial errors irreversible." The EU issued a statement on the European and World Day against the Death Penalty. It stressed the Council of Europe and EU's strong opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and for all cases.

"Let's restore the death penalty. People are playing with death by killing each other. Is this why we liberated this country? We want this country to be a peaceful and happy nation, not a country with people who kill each other," the words of former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

The 94-year-old was at the time speaking at the funeral of a political ally, Don Muvuti, in the capital Harare.

Reports indicate that the country in 2017 had over 90 prisoners on death row. Rights groups have increasingly called for the death penalty to be scrapped from the law books across the world.

Most African countries only have them sitting on the books but hardly implement them. Nigeria's Lagos State have mooted death sentence for kidnappers after a spike in the cases.

In Tanzania, however, President Magufuli was quoted as saying even though it was on the books, he will not be in a position to sign death warrant of convicts.

"I know there are people who convicted of murder and waiting for death penalty, but please don’t bring the list to me for decision because I know how difficult it is to execute," he said.

Tanzania's Penal Code, Cap 16 stipulates the death penalty for serious offenses like murder and treason.



Death penalty for Etihad bomb suspect

A former Islamic State commander who allegedly conspired with his Sydney-based brothers to blow up an Etihad flight has been sentenced to death.

The ABC reported that Tarek Khayat was sentenced by Alrasafah Central Criminal Court in Baghdad over his role with the terrorist group in Iraq.

The Australian broadcaster said the 48-year-old Lebanese citizen was arrested in the Syrian city of Raqqa and has 10 days to appeal against his sentence of death by hanging.

He was not charged over the Etihad plot but Australian Federal Police alleged last year he directed his brothers in Sydney to plant the bomb on an Etihad Airbus A380 flying between Sydney and Abu Dhabi in July, 2017.

2 of his brothers, Kahled and Mahmoud, are in custody in Australia awaiting trial on 2 charges each of planning or preparing to commit a terrorist act. They have pleaded not guilty and are due to face court next year.

Australian police alleged the brothers tried to get an improvised explosive device on the plane on July 15 by planting it in the luggage of an unwitting 4th brother, Amer.

The bomb was allegedly concealed in a kitchen meat mincer but the bag containing it was not checked in because Etihad staff told Amer his bags were overweight. He then flew out on the plane unaware of the plan, according to the AFP.

Police alleged the brothers then hatched a second plot to build "a chemical dispersion device" using toxic hydrogen sulfide gas.

The ABC said Amer was arrested by Lebanese authorities 11 days after arriving and has been in custody while authorities attempt to determine his involvement in the alleged plot.

News Corp reported that Tarek Khayat claimed after his sentence was brought down that he was not involved in the Etihad plan.



International pressure targets death penalty in Lebanon

French Ambassador Bruno Foucher Wednesday called for Lebanon to formally abolish capital punishment, at a conference commemorating World Day Against the Death Penalty.

(source: The Daily Star)


Kurdish political prisoner loses final death sentence appeal

Iran's supreme court has upheld a death sentence given to a Kurdish political prisoner for providing a dissident party with food and shelter. Hedayat Abdollahpour, who maintains his innocence, has lost the final stage of his appeal against the sentence.

The verdict has been announced to his lawyer and family.

Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, the political prisoner's lawyer has confirmed the news.

Hedayat Abdollahpour was first arrested on June 15, 2016, along with 6 other people. They were charged with providing the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) with food and shelter. However, their relatives refuted the accusations and claimed that the Revolutionary Guards makes up these accusations to intimidate local Kurds.

In 2016, Hedayat Abdollahpour was sentenced to death for the 1st time, and the other co-respondents were sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison by the Revolutionary Court of Urmia.

Abdollahpour was physically and mentally tortured while in custody, according to his father, Abubakr Abdollahpour.

"He's been under torture the whole time, but he is innocent. Our son never collaborated with the democrat party," he said.

On January 18, 2018, Hedayat Abdollapour was for the 2nd time sentenced to death by Urmia Revolutionary Court on charge of "cooperation with a Kurdish opposition party."


More Than 207 Executed Since the Beginning of the Year in Iran

According to statistics department of Iran Human Rights (IHR), Iranian authorities have executed 207 prisoners including 5 juvenile offenders between January 1 and October 10, 2018. This report is being published on the occasion of the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty, which aims at raising awareness on the inhumane living conditions of people sentenced to death.

This year we celebrate World Day Against the Death Penalty while several human rights activists are in prison for their peaceful activities against the death penalty in Iran. Atena Daemi, Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh are among them and are held in women ward at the Evin prison in Tehran.

On this day, Iran Human Rights (IHR) urges the civil society institutions as well as Iranian citizens to join the abolitionists' movement. IHR also calls on the international community to demand an unconditional end to juvenile and public executions and immediate release of imprisoned anti-death penalty activists. "These demands must be on top of the agenda in the bilateral and multilateral dialogue between the members of the international community and the Iranian authorities," said IHR's director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. He continued: "The death penalty is an inhumane punishment that dictators use to spread fear among the people in order to continue their rule. This inhumane punishment must not be tolerated by the international community".

According to reports by IHR, so far in 2018, at least 207 prisoners have been executed in Iran but only 75 cases were announced by the official Iranian media. 20 prisoners, including three Kurdish political prisoners have been executed on Moharebeh (waging war against God) charges, 8 on drug-related charges, 155 on murder charges (qisas or retribution in kind) and 21 for rape. In the same period of time in 2017, 437 execution were registered by the IHR statistics department, 221 of which for drug offenses.

Reduction in the number of drug-related executions form 221 in 2017 to 78 in 2018 is the main reason for the relative decrease in the number of executions in 2018 compared with those of 2017. The new amendment to Iranian Anti-drug law which was enforced on November 14, 2017, has led to a significant decrease in the number of drug-related executions.

However, Iranian authorities continue executions for other charges and Iran remains the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders also this year.

Most of the juveniles executed by the Iranian authorities are charged with murder. According to the Iranian Islamic Penal Code, murder is punishable by qisas (retribution in kind). Iranian authorities use Islam as a pretext to continue the execution of juvenile offenders and consider any objection against the death penalty as the protest against Islam.

In 2013, Sadeq Larijani, head of the judicial system of Iran, said, "as per our previous announcements, most of the claims about violation of human rights in Iran, including opposition against the death penalty, is indeed opposition to Islam. Qisas (retribution in kind) is the direct order of Quran."

Iran is among the few countries in the world that issues the execution verdict for minors. So far in 2018 at least 5 juvenile offenders have been executed in different Iranian prisons. Iran Human Rights (IHR) has identified them as "AmirHossein Pourjafar, Ali Kazemi, Mahboubeh Mofidi, Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, and Zeinab Sekanvand." The aforementioned juvenile offenders were executed while under Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code which was added to the law 5 years ago, allows judges to issue alternative verdicts for the minors whom the judge considers not mature enough to realize the nature of the crime committed. However, the article could neither stop nor even decrease the execution of juvenile offenders. Since the application of article 91, at least 35 juvenile offenders have been hanged in Iranian prisons.

In this regard, more orchestrated pressure on Iranian government from international institutions, human rights organization and countries with diplomatic relations with Iran, is needed to force Iranian authorities to unconditionally abolish the death penalty for offenses under 18 years of age.


Iran Human Rights (IHR) has been a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) since 2009 and an elected member of its Steering Committee since 2011.

In 2002, WCADP announced 10th of October of each year as the World Day Against the Death Penalty. The Coalition consists of more than 140 members from 5 continents.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)


PCHR: "On World Day against Death Penalty, PCHR reiterates its call for Abolishing This Penalty in Palestinian Law"

Today, 10 October, coincides the World Day against Death Penalty when calls are annually renewed by the countries of the world to work on abolishing this penalty from its legislation, considering it as an inhuman penalty that is incompatible with the values of justice and goals of punishments that aim at rehabilitating the offenders and not wiping them off.

On this occasion, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), reiterates its call for abolishing this penalty from the Palestinian legislation. PCHR more than once has called upon the President to issue a law by decree to suspend the death penalty until the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) convenes to amend the Penal Code in order to abolish death penalty.

In June 2018, State of Palestine acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Thus, Palestine now has an international obligation to abolish this penalty, and continuing applying it is considered a grave breach of Palestine’s international obligations.

Article 1 of this Protocol provides that: "1. No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed. 2. Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction."

Despite signing the Protocol, the official authorities have not yet taken any measures to give effect to its obligation. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has not yet made any attempts to suspend or abolish the death penalty in the Palestinian legislation.

Since its establishment, PCHR has always rejected the application of death penalty in Palestine and based on legal, objective, and human justifications, outweighing the considerations of justice over the political bickering and desire for retaliation.

PCHR believes that the judicature in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip, does not have the expertise and tools need for such a sentence as serious as the death penalty that is irreversible in case the accused person was found not guilty.

Moreover, the investigation and trial proceedings include many violations, such as systematic torture during investigations and bringing civilians before Military Courts, in grave breaches of the international law and standards. Thus, the sentence becomes invalid.

It should be mentioned that in 2018, the number of death sentences issued has so far risen to 7 sentences; all of them were issued in the Gaza Strip. Five of sentences were issued by courts of first instance, while the 2 others; one by the Court of Appeal upholding a previous sentence and the other by Court of Cassation.

Thus, the total number of death sentences issued in the PA controlled areas has risen to 207 since 1994, 30 of which have been issued in the West Bank and 177 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 119 sentences have been issued since 2007.

PCHR has noticed a significant increase in the application of the death penalty in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Palestinian division and Hamas takeover on the Gaza Strip, particularly in the last 3 years. In 2017, 19 new death sentences were issued; 16 sentences were issued in 2016; and 12 sentences were issued in 2015.

However, a significant decline in the application of death sentence was recorded in the West Bank courts as during the last 3 years, only 3 death sentences were issued; all of them in 2015. Meanwhile, 2016 and 2017 and even 2018 have not witnessed issuance of any death sentence in the West Bank.

Furthermore, since the establishment of the PA, 41 death sentences were applied, 39 of which were in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. Among the sentences applied in the Gaza Strip, 28 were applied since 2007 without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of the law.

In addition, in 2017 only, 6 death sentences were applied in the Gaza Strip, which is the highest number of those sentences applied in one year since the takeover of Hamas on the Gaza Strip in 2007.

It is noteworthy that 9 death sentences were applied following the formation of the National Unity Government in 2014 while no death sentences has so far been applied during this year.

It should be noted that the Palestinian President has not ratified any death sentence since 2005. The death penalty requires ratification of the President to be applied as codified in Article 109 of the Palestinian Basic Law (PBL) which provides that "A death sentence pronounced by any court may not be implemented unless endorsed by the President of the Palestinian National Authority."

The death sentences in the Gaza Strip were applied upon the ratification of the deposed government there in explicit violation of the law which provides the ratification of the president himself and continued doing so until the formation of the National Unity Government in June 2014.

Later, a new way to ratify the death sentences to be executed in the Gaza Strip was renovated as the Change and Reform Bloc which convenes on behalf of the PLC is now granting the ratification. PCHR has repeatedly emphasized that such ratification is invalid and does not give any legal cover for the implementation of the death sentence.

PCHR stresses its complete rejection of applying any death sentence and considers that the implementation of death sentences without the ratification of the Palestinian President is an extra-judicial execution which demands effective accountability.

PCHR also emphasizes that any decision issued by any other authority regardless of its legality or the authority it represents will not ever replace the President's ratification.

On the World Day against Death Penalty, PCHR stresses the seriousness of using this inhuman punishment and will continue working with the national and international partners to abolish completely this penalty from all legislations in Palestine.

Thus, PCHR reiterates its call upon the Palestinian President to commit to its obligation under the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR to which the State of Palestine has acceded and make immediate amendments to the Penal laws applicable in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; the 1936 Penal Code applicable in the Gaza Strip and 1960 Penal Code applicable in the West Bank. CHR reiterates its call for suspending the 1979 Revolutionary Penal Code for its unconstitutionality.

PCHR also calls for ending the application of death sentences in the Gaza Strip and emphasizes that the attempt to replace the ratification of the President with the ratification of the Change and Reform Bloc in the Gaza Strip is legally invalid and has no value.

(source: IMEMC News)


Mass death sentences will not deliver justice for victims of church bombings

Responding to the news that 17 people accused of carrying out 3 deadly church bombings in 2017 as well as attacks against security forces have been sentenced to death by a military court in Alexandria today, Amnesty International's North Africa Campaigns Director Najia Bounaim said:

"There can be no justification for the utterly reprehensible attacks which targeted worshippers in Coptic Christian churches across Egypt in 2017. There is no doubt that the perpetrators of these horrific attacks should be held accountable for their crimes. But handing out a mass death sentence after an unfair military trial is not justice and will not deter further sectarian attacks.

"Egypt has a shocking track record of unlawfully trying civilians in its notorious military courts and sentencing scores to death after grossly unfair mass trials, often based on 'confessions' extracted through torture. Those accused of involvement in these heinous crimes must be retried in a civilian court in proceedings that comply with international human rights law and fair trial standards."


Military trials are inherently unfair because all personnel in military courts, from judges to prosecutors, are serving members of the military who report to the Minister of Defense and do not have the necessary training on rule of law or fair trial standards.

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception - regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution.

(source: Amnesty International)


Charges against Baha'i in Yemen must be dropped: UN experts urge release of detainees

A group of UN independent human rights experts have called for the immediate release of 24 people, mostly from Baha'i minority, who have been held by authorities in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, since the middle of last month.

The detainees face charges of apostasy - or abandoning the state-sanctioned religion - teaching the Baha'i faith and spying; the latter, is subject to the death penalty.

The 5 UN experts said that charges "must be dropped and discriminatory practices based on religion, outlawed".

At least 22 of those being held are Baha'is, including 8 women and 1 minor. The individuals were prosecuted on 15 September without investigation or warning prior to the start of the trials.

Baha'i is a faith that emphasizes the worth of all religions since its establishment in the 19th century, according to the international community's website. Around 1 % of Yemen's non-Muslim population are estimated to subscribe to the faith.

It is unacceptable for anyone, including persons belonging to religious minorities, to be targeted or discriminated based on religion or belief - UN expert Ahmed Shaheed

Houthi rebels, who are Shia Muslims, have controlled Sana'a since 2014, as part of the long-running conflict with officially-recognized Government forces and their allies for full control of the country. According to news reports, the Houthis have been responsible for a wave of detentions targeting Bahai's.

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed said the recent wave of detentions in Yemen appears to be an intimidation tactic intended to pressure Baha'is into recanting their faith.

In a statement last May, he stressed that "it is unacceptable for anyone, including persons belonging to religious minorities, to be targeted or discriminated based on religion or belief."

The statement from the UN experts said: "We are very concerned at the criminal prosecution of these persons based on charges connected to their religion or belief." Referring to charges of espionage, they added, "we are particularly concerned that some of the convictions include crimes that carry the death penalty."

5 of the indicted attended a court hearing on 29 September in Sana'a, where the judge ordered the names of the remaining 19 individuals to be published in a local newspaper. The next court appearance is scheduled for later this month.

"We reiterate our call to the de facto authorities in Sana'a to put an immediate stop on the persecution of Baha'is in Yemen," the UN experts said, adding that international human rights obligations apply to de facto authorities, the same as any governing authority.


OCTOBER 10, 2018:


Judge recommends new trial for Texas death row inmate Rigoberto Avila----The state's highest criminal court will now weigh the recommendation.

An El Paso judge on Tuesday recommended a new trial for Rigoberto Avila, a death-row inmate sentenced in the 2000 death of a 19-month-old, based on new doubts over the scientific testimony used to convict him.

That's largely the result of a trailblazing 2013 Texas law that allows courts to overturn a conviction when the scientific evidence that originally led to the verdict has since changed or been discredited. While that law, often referred to as the "junk science law," has sent several death penalty cases back to court for further review, Avila, 46, is the 1st inmate to receive a favorable recommendation from a district court. The case now heads to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will weigh Perez's recommendation.

In a 2001 trial, El Paso County prosecutors claimed Avila had killed his girlfriend’s infant son, Nicolas Macias, while babysitting him in 2000. Avila's lawyers claimed he did not hurt the child and that the fatal injuries could have been caused by Nicolas' 4-year-old brother. Prosecutors said it would have been practically impossible for a toddler to have caused such injuries so it must have been Avila.

"There's no other way the kid could have died," prosecutors told the jury at trial.

Judge Annabell Perez examined new scientific evidence and concluded that if that evidence had been available at trial it "probably would have led jurors to harbor reasonable doubt about his guilt" and that "the State presented false and misleading evidence and argument" that likely affected the jury's judgment.

Avila was originally set for execution in 2013, but he petitioned for a new trial the same week the new law went into effect. In March 2017, the court held a multi-day hearing, which included expert testimony indicating the 4-year-old "may have been physically capable of" causing the fatal injuries, according to Perez's Oct. 9 order.

"The new scientific evidence creates a compelling case for Mr. Avila's innocence, and a judge has now found that the verdict against him rests on false and misleading testimony," Avila's attorneys, Cathryn Crawford and Rob Owen, said in an emailed statement. "After spending 17 years on death row - and facing 4 serious execution dates - for a crime he did not commit, Mr. Avila is anxious to present the reliable scientific evidence to a jury."

(source: The Texas Tribune)


U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal in Coble death penalty case----Billie Wayne Coble has been on death row since 1990.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Billie Wayne Coble's final appeal in his 1990 capital murder case Tuesday, all but guaranteeing him the death penalty. Coble, 70, was convicted of killing the parents and brother of his estranged wife in 1989 in Axtell.

In 2007, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Coble’s original death sentence and ordered a new punishment trial, saying jurors faced two unconstitutional questions during sentencing.

Trial evidence showed Coble was upset over the failure of his marriage and killed his wife's parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, and her brother, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, in their homes in Axtell.

J.R. Vicha, a Waco attorney and former McLennan County prosecutor, was 11 at the time of the slayings of his father and grandparents and was tied up by Coble, along with 2 cousins. Coble kidnapped his estranged wife, Karen, and threatened to rape and kill her. Coble and his wife were injured after a high-speed chase with police in Bosque County.

"Just as there are many men who have died that deserved to live, there are some who live that deserve death," Vicha said in an email on Monday. "Mr. Coble is without question one of those that deserves death. Although this justice has been delayed for nearly 30 years, it still needs to be done and I'm glad it's a step closer."

Crawford Long, who prosecuted Coble's case in the 2008 punishment trial, once said Coble has a "heart full of scorpions."

Coble's attorney, A. Richard Ellis of California, could not be reached Tuesday.

(source: Waco Tribune-Herald)


Gov. Tom Wolf wrong that report backs his death penalty moratorium

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has twice claimed recently that a state Senate report released this summer recommended continuing his moratorium on the death penalty.

The Democratic governor, who has called Pennsylvania's death penalty system "ineffective, unjust and expensive," instituted the moratorium shortly after taking office in 2015, fulfilling a campaign promise. He said it would remain in place until he could review the Senate report, which was already years in the making when he took office.

Although Pennsylvania has 144 people on death row, the most recent execution was nearly 2 decades ago.

Capital punishment is a politically divisive issue in the state, and Wolf has a month left in a re-election campaign against a Republican opponent, Scott Wagner, who is an ardent death penalty supporter.

During a debate with Wagner on Oct. 1, and again in a meeting with the editorial board in Harrisburg on Monday, Wolf contended a Senate report recommended continuing the moratorium.

THE CLAIM: "I want our system of justice to be fair, and I put the moratorium on, waiting for the bipartisan Senate commission to make their report. They did make their report and they suggested - they recommended - the moratorium. So I will continue that."

THE FACTS: Wolf is wrong when he claims the Senate-ordered report released in June recommended he continue the moratorium.

The set of recommendations in the report, "Capital Punishment in Pennsylvania: The Report of the Task Force and Advisory Committee," included having the state set up a publicly funded agency to provide legal representation for those facing the possibility of a death sentence. It also recommended making public the state's lethal injection protocol and using "an appropriate and effective drug."

It made no mention of Wolf's moratorium, and took no position about whether the death penalty should remain in place.

Challenged on the claim, the Wolf campaign on Monday cited 3 references in a separate report by the state court system, issued in 2003, that had been attached to the Senate report as an appendix.

A campaign spokeswoman then said that earlier report was cited in error and said Wolf "always believed" that the Senate report "implied that the moratorium should continue until these problems are properly addressed."

As governor, Wolf has been granting reprieves - not commutations - when inmates are scheduled for execution. The inmates who receive reprieves remain on death row.

When Wolf imposed the moratorium, he said he had concerns about a "flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive."

Although the death penalty has been legal in Pennsylvania since the 1970s, the state has executed only 3 people in the intervening years, and all 3 had voluntarily given up their appeals.

State and federal courts have prevented any other convicted murderers from being subject to capital punishment, so it's not likely executions would begin if Wolf were to stop issuing reprieves.

(source: The Morning Call)


District attorney seeking death penalty for Donald Scott Layne

Caswell County District Attorney Jacqueline Perez filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty Tuesday afternoon, October 9, 2018 against Donald Scott Layne, 52.

The notice comes after a Caswell County grand jury indicted Layne on 1st degree murder, attempted 1st degree murder, kidnapping, rape, breaking and entering, and forcible sexual offense Tuesday morning.

Layne was charged after allegedly killing Juanita Hankins at her New Walter's Mill Road home in Caswell County on September 14, 2018.

Additionally, Layne allegedly shot Stephanie Snead, a former employee of Layne's.

According to court documents, Layne was notified by letter addressed to the Caswell County Jail of the grand jury's decision.

The 2-day trial for Layne that was scheduled for November 19 and 20 is no longer occurring on those dates according to Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Newman.

"I have had several conversations with the DA office down in North Carolina. The charges here will still be the same - the cases will not be heard on November 19/20. At this time we will still see if we can get custody of him from NC for the limited purpose of trying our cases first - but at this time no new date or timetable," Newman said.

Layne was charged with rape, abduction, and kidnapping in Virginia which stemmed from a rape allegation at Megabounce in March 2018.

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. in the Caswell County Courthouse.



Report: Obsolete Laws Used to Sentence Most NC Death Row Inmates

In North Carolina, 141 men and women currently face death sentences, making the state home to the 6th-largest death row population in the country. This week, a new report from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation reveals that about 3/4 of these people were sentenced before a number of reforms were passed to ensure fairness and prevent wrongful convictions.

Gretchen Engel, the center's executive director, said the difference between then and now is significant - and frustrating.

"We know that if these crimes happened today, that most of the people would not face the death penalty at trial," she said, "and if they went to trial, would very unlikely be sentenced to death."

The report, called "Unequal Justice," found that 92 % of people on death row were sentenced before 2008, when a package of state reforms took effect. Many were tried in the 1990s, when 25 to 35 were sentenced to death each year. Public opinion largely has shifted on capital punishment since then, although supporters of the death penalty have argued it is needed in the most heinous of crimes.

The report comes as North Carolina passed its 12th year without an execution and is on track for another year with no new death sentences. 1 person has received a death sentence in the last 4 years.

With the current knowledge of better trial practices and shifting public opinion, Engel said, the 141 cases should be reconsidered.

"Given that we have decided that the fairer way and the more reliable way of imposing the death penalty is under our current system," she said, "we have to go back and figure out a mechanism to evaluate these old cases."

Many of the reforms came after multiple exonerations in the Tar Heel State and elsewhere, where some people on death row were found to be innocent.

The report is online at



Most people on NC death row don’t belong there, new report says. Here's why.

With 142 inmates waiting to die, North Carolina has the 6th largest death row in the country.

But a report released Tuesday says most of the prisoners would not be awaiting execution if their cases were investigated and tried today.

In "Unequal Justice: How obsolete laws and unfair trial created North Carolina's outsized death row," the Center for Death Row Litigation in Durham says the state's death row is stuck in time while the views of capital punishment continue to evolve.

"They are prisoners of a state that has moved on, but refuses to reckon with its past," the report says. "Today, the death penalty is seen as a tool to be used sparingly. Instead of a bludgeon to be wielded in virtually every 1st-degree murder case."

According to the report, almost 3/4 of the men and women on N.C. death row were tried before 2001. That's when a series of reforms - from how police and prosecutors handle investigations and share evidence to DNA testing and higher performance standards for defense attorneys - began reducing the number of capital cases.

The state also eliminated a law - the only one of its kind in the country - that forced prosecutors to seek the death penalty in every case of aggravated, or 1st-degree, murder.

"If these people on death row had been tried under modern laws, most of them would be serving life without parole sentences instead of facing execution," said Gretchen Engel, executive director of the litigation center, in a statement accompanying the report.

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather was not available for comment Tuesday.

More than 100 of the condemned inmates were convicted in the 1990s, when the state operated under radically different laws, Engel says.

Today, the state's death row inmates are stuck in legal limbo. North Carolina has not executed a prisoner in 12 years.

Juries across the state have handed down only a single death penalty in the past 4 years, the report says. Mecklenburg County, the state's largest local court district has not sent a prisoner to death row in almost a decade.

The Durham-based center compiled the report based on the case files of the death penalty Among the report's findings:

-- 92 % of the death row prisoners were tried and convicted before a 2008 reform package aimed at limiting false confessions and mistaken eyewitness identifications.

-- 82 %, 118 prisoners in all, were sent to death row before North Carolina passed a law giving the defense the right to view all the prosecution's evidence. Up to then, district attorneys routinely withheld vital information until it was presented at trial, giving the accused little time to prepare a defense, the report says.

-- 73 % of the death row population, 103 inmates in all, were sent there before the passing of laws barring the execution of people with intellectual disabilities.

-- That same percentage were convicted before the state eliminated the only law in the country that required prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in every aggravated 1st-degree murder case. Now, district attorneys have the discretion to limit death penalty cases to the most heinous of crimes.

The impact of those reforms has been significant. In the 1990s, according to the report, North Carolina averaged about 50 death-penalty murder cases a year. Today, there are fewer than 5.

Prisoners on the North Carolina death row make their way back to their cell block at Central Prison in Raleigh in 2002, not long after a series of reforms began sharply reducing the number of death-penalty cases in the state. A new report by a death penalty advocacy group says most of the death row prisoners would not be there had they been investigated and tried using today's laws.

Mistaken ID

Mistaken identifications are a leading cause of wrongful convictions around the country, the report says. To illustrate, it homes in on the case against Elrico Fowler of Charlotte.

In 1997, Fowler was sentenced to death in Mecklenburg for the murder of a Howard Johnson's motel employee during a 1995 robbery in Charlotte. 4 years later, his conviction and sentencing were upheld by the state Supreme Court.

"Elrico Fowler executed an unarmed man lying face down on the floor," one of his prosecutors said in 2001. "He's an exceptionally dangerous human being, and the ultimate punishment is the only we can ensure he doesn't murder another innocent person."

The report, however, says Fowler was largely convicted based on the questionable eye-witness identification of the manager of the motel restaurant. He told Fowler from the witness stand during the trial, "I hope you fry, man."

What the jury did not know, according to the report, is that the restaurant manager identified Fowler after weeks of shifting descriptions and after undergoing multiple photo lineups, including one that occurred after police had publicly circulated photographs of Fowler and another suspect.

"Every practice now required to prevent false identification was violated," according to the report. The lineups were not recorded. The police conducted them (now, someone who does not know the suspect's identification must run the lineup), and the investigators did not take a statement from the witness on his level of confidence in the identification, among other missteps, the report says.

Gerda Stein, a spokeswoman for the litigation center, said the goal of the report is to educate the public and decision-makers about the inequities in the state's history with capital punishment.

Eventually, she said, the center hopes that "these injustices" would be remedied by the courts, the General Assembly or the governor.

(source: Charlotte Observer)


US Supreme Court to reconsider if they'll take up Danny Lee Hill case

The nation's highest court has not yet passed judgment on whether they'll hear arguments in the decades-old capital murder case against Danny Lee Hill.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins announced Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to "relist" the petition asking them to hear the case. Essentially, the court's ruling means they'll reconsider whether or not to hear arguments in the case.

Watkins said the court turned down applications for more than 200 other cases during their session on Tuesday.

"The mere fact that the Court has relisted this petition indicates the Supreme Court of the United States is strongly considering hearing and reviewing the case on its merits" a portion of a release from Watkins reads.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office filed a formal petition in July, asking that the Supreme Court of the United States intervene in the capital murder case against Danny Lee Hill. Hill was convicted of torturing, raping, and murdering 12-year-old Raymond Fife in 1985.

The Attorney General's filing asks the nation's highest court to either hear the case or overturn a previous decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In that February decision, the appellate court upheld Hill's conviction for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Raymond Fife, but also found that Hill demonstrates several of the prerequisites to be considered mentally deficient.

According to that ruling, Hill's IQ varies between a low of 48 and a high of 71.

After review of videotapes of Danny Lee Hill's interrogation, the court found Hill to be "childlike, confused, often irrational, and primarily self -defeating".

Attorneys for the state argue in their petition that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals based their decision on case law from 2014 and 2017, which could not be applied retroactively to the case.

A previous U.S. Supreme Court decision found that persons with diminished capacity are not subject to the death penalty.

Hill's case has been sent back to the lower court for re-sentencing.

In addition, prosecutors argue that the Sixth Circuit has a history of decisions that go against federal law. The state's petition cites half a dozen cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned decisions by the appellate court.

Following a denial by the Sixth Circuit to rehear the case, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins sent a letter to the Ohio Attorney General's Office asking them to take the case either.

"The bottom line is that Ohio has nothing to lose and everything to gain with an appeal," wrote Watkins, who adds that federal courts have not adequately considered the "many Ohio court decisions affirming that Danny Hill was not mentally retarded..."

According to court records, on September 10, 1985, Raymond Fife's father found his son burned, naked and beaten in a wooded field behind the Valu-King supermarket on Palmyra Road in Warren.

The boy's underwear was found tied around his neck and appeared to have been lit on fire.

He died in the hospital 2 days later.

The coroner testified during the trial that Fife had been choked and burned. There was damage to Fife's rectal-bladder area and bite marks on his penis.

3 Warren Western Reserve High School students testified that Hill and Timothy Combs were in the area of the Valu-King and the bike trails on the evening Raymond Fife was assaulted. One of the students had also seen Fife riding his bike in the store parking lot.

A student who said he saw Combs on the trail also said he heard a child's scream. Another student says he saw Combs pulling up the zipper of his blue jeans.

2 days after Fife was found, Hill, who was 18-years-old at the time, went to the Warren Police Station to inquire about a $5,000 reward that was being offered for information concerning the murder.

Eventually, police say Hill admitted on audio and videotape that he was present during the beating and sexual assault of Fife, but that Combs did everything to the victim. Combs was eventually convicted of felonious sexual penetration, arson, rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder.

Since Combs was 17-years-old at the time of the crime, he was not eligible for the death penalty and is serving a life sentence. He will be eligible for his first parole hearing in 2049.

Hill was convicted on the same charges, but since he was 18-years-old at the time Fife was assaulted, he was sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court can now choose to order the lower courts to forward all case information to them, can reverse the Sixth Circuit's decision meaning Hill would face execution again or abstain from the case.

Several years ago the U.S. Supreme ruled in a similar case involving 33-year-old Sean Carter who was convicted of raping and murdering his adoptive grandmother in 1997.

In that case, the federal court ruled that the death-row inmate could not indefinitely prevent his execution based on the claim that he was mentally incompetent.

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide as early as Friday, October 12th whether or not they'll take up Hill's case.

(source: WFMJ news)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

Tennessee inmate moved to death watch

Tennessee inmate Edmund Zagorski has been placed on death watch in anticipation of his Thursday execution by electric chair.

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, inmates on death watch are placed in a cell next to the execution chamber where they are under 24-hour surveillance.

All visits are non-contact until the final day before the execution, when the warden will decide whether Zagorski can have a contact visit.

Zagorski's spiritual adviser, the Rev. Joe Ingle, says he will be with Zagorski every day but will not be a witness to his death.

Ingle says, "I'm not going to watch my friend get executed."

Zagorski's attorney announced on Monday that Zagorski has chosen to die by electrocution rather than lethal injection because he believes it will be quicker and less painful.


Tennessee denies inmate's request to die by electric chair

A Tennessee inmate on death row for a murder he committed in the early 1980s was denied his request to die in the electric chair, his attorney said.

Inmate Edmund Zagorski, 63, announced his preference to die by electrocution instead of lethal injection on Monday, his attorney Kelley Henry said. In Tennessee, death row inmates whose offenses came before January 1999 can choose either lethal injection or the electric chair.

But prison officials refused Zagorski's request because he waiting too long to decide, the Tennessean of Nashville reported, citing a member of his legal team.

Zagorski is 1 of 32 death row inmates in Tennessee suing over the state's 3-drug method of lethal injection. They claim the 1st drug, midazolam, leaves prisoners unable to cry out as their lungs fill with fluid, while they experience drowning, suffocation and burning.

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a split decision Monday, ruled against the inmates. The state will now proceed with its plans to execute Zagorski by lethal injection on Thursday, Henry said.

Henry had asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay earlier in the day after announcing Monday that Zagorski had chosen to die by the electric chair because he believed it would be quicker and less painful.

"Between 2 unconstitutional choices I choose electrocution," Zagorski told prison officials. "I do not want to be subjected to the torture of the current lethal injection method."

Tennessee has not put someone to death by the electric chair since 2007.

Zagorski was sentenced in 1984 for murdering 2 men during a drug deal the year before. Prosecutors said Zagorski shot the 2 men, then slit their throats after robbing them in Robertson County in April 1983.

A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction did not immediately respond to messages asking whether the state will be ready to use the electric chair Thursday, but she did send out an email stating Zagorski has been moved to death watch, a normal procedure during the 3-day period before an execution in Tennessee.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he will not intervene in Zagorski's case.

(source: Fox News)


Lawyer: Inmate's choice of electric chair won't buy him time

An attorney for Tennessee death row inmate Edmund Zagorski says his choice of death by electrocution over lethal injection is not a ploy to buy time.

Kelley Henry announced Zagorski's decision Monday night. He's scheduled to be executed Thursday.

Henry said some people will see the choice as a stall tactic, but Zagorski cannot legally challenge the use of the electric chair after choosing to die by that method.

Henry said Zagorski's decision is based on evidence that Tennessee's lethal injection method would cause him 10 to 18 minutes of mental and physical anguish. He believes the electric chair will be quicker.

"It was certainly a difficult decision," Henry said. "It's impossible to know which is better of the 2 unconstitutional choices."

Zagorski is 1 of 32 death row inmates in Tennessee suing over the state's 3-drug method of lethal injection. They claim the 1st drug, midazolam leaves prisoners unable to cry out as their lungs fill with fluid and they experience drowning, suffocation and chemical burning.

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a split decision, ruled against the inmates on Monday. Henry said she intends to ask for a stay of Zagorski's execution in order to allow the U.S. Supreme Court time to review the merits of the lethal injection case.

Henry will argue that the fact Zagorski has now chosen to die by the electric chair should not prevent the court from granting a stay because he was forced to make that choice as the lesser of 2 evils, she said.

In Tennessee, death row inmates whose offenses came before January 1999 can choose either lethal injection or the electric chair. The last time Tennessee put someone to death by electrocution was in 2007.

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution of Daryl Holton wrote that a black shroud was placed over his head before a 20-second shock was administered. The shock caused Holton to straighten his back and move his hips up out of the chair before he slumped back. There was a 15-second pause before he was given a 2nd shock that lasted 15 seconds.

A report from the state medical examiner later found that Holton had suffered minor burns to his head and legs but there were no signs of the severe burning and other major injuries that had been seen in some past electrocutions.

A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction did not immediately respond to messages asking whether the state will be ready to use the electric chair Thursday, but she did send out an email stating Zagorski has been moved to death watch, a normal procedure during the 3-day period before an execution in Tennessee.

Gov. Bill Haslam already has said he won't intervene in Zagorski's case.

(source for both: Associated Press)


WKRN Reporter recalls witnessing last time Tennessee's electric chair used

The State of Tennessee's electric chair is suddenly is getting a lot of attention after death row inmate Edmund Zagorski chose it late Monday as his method of execution scheduled for Thursday, October 11th.

Here is WKRN's Chris Bundgaard's account from 2007, just hours after the "chair" at Nashville's Riverbend Prison was last used:


For a few brief moments, it felt like watching a movie---a very late-night movie. The window blinds to a chamber next to the room where I was sitting had just been raised. Along with nine other individuals, we peered through the glass from comfortable chairs. We were told to stay seated. On the other side of the 2-way window, Daryl Holton sat in a much different, much more uncomfortable chair. He too, could not leave it. The chair was made of wood, with straps and braces holding him there. It was electric.

The time was shortly after 1 a.m. on Sept. 12 at Nashville's Riverbend Prison. Daryl Holton's late-night date with death was just beginning for the six media witnesses selected to watch his execution. Reluctantly, I was one of them, but reporters are often assigned to stories, not of their choosing. No one really wants to see someone die. Unfortunately, in the helter-skelter world of covering news, reporters get tossed into situations where they sometimes see and hear the passing of life. That's how I got to Riverbend Prison. Daryl Holton's journey there began more than a decade earlier.

The crime that led to the death sentence for the Shelbyville man is hideous. Daryl Holton shot his kids--execution style. The oldest was 12, the youngest 4. At his trial for the 1997 killings, prosecutors said Holton did not want the children in the custody of his ex-wife. Defense attorneys said Daryl was temporarily insane with the idea the kids were suffering and might be better off dead than with a woman who had alcohol problems. Holton always admitted guilt and decided to drop any appeals beyond mandatory ones. He was also given a choice between lethal injection and electrocution. Daryl chose electrocution. His lawyers say their client possessed a highly rigid sense of ethics--a moral code that made him crazy. Holton said the electric chair was the legal means of execution at the time of his crime. So, the chair it would be on this September night.

After glancing quickly at the one clock in the two rooms, it did not take long for the movie image to be replaced by stark reality. The 45-year-old Holton seemed larger than expected strapped in the chair just a few feet from me. He was no longer the guy with the shock of red hair seen in news pictures. Instead, his head was freshly shaven. It wasn't glistening like the look many guys now have. Holton's scalp was pasty-looking, chalky white. So was his face and seemingly everything else in the execution chamber. The walls, the lights, the garments of the condemned man and the rest of his visible skin all carried that off-white look---washing out any other color in the room.

Then I looked directly into the eyes of Daryl Holton. They opened and closed in unison with his mouth. I was now reminded of a tiny bird in a nest waiting for its mother to bring something. Like the rest of the media witnesses, I wondered if Holton had been sedated. Prison officials later said, "he was just hyperventilating." The movements sort of stopped when Holton was asked by the prison warden if he had any last words. The condemned man mumbled something about "having just 2, I do." Holton's spiritual adviser Dixie Gamble says she did not discuss with him what he might say. She guessed the words had something to do with his failed marriage. It may have harkened back to Daryl's rigid moral code. Dixie says he would have taken his wife back. Normally the speaker himself is asked to clarify. Not this time.

After his last words, Daryl was brought something. The bird-like figure in the chair would no longer have his mouth open. The execution chamber attendants put a headgear on him. We all thought it looked like an old-time football helmet complete with a chin strap. Inside the headgear was a sea sponge. It was soaked in saline solution. The fluid all poured all over him. The attendants momentarily mopped him down with towels, but then Daryl Holton spoke a new set of last words: "don't worry about it, ain't going to matter much." Moments later, the attendants flipped a leather shroud over the condemned man's face. No one would see the expressions of the death row inmate as he was executed.

After another minute or so it was time. Some kind of electrical sound softly moaned in the execution chamber. A few seconds later Daryl Holton's body jerked violently upward about 6 inches above the chair's base. For 20 seconds it remained that way. It was the same length of time that 1750 volts of electricity coursed through his body. I felt that if he had not been strapped in tight, the body would have shot through the roof.

The witnesses strained in their chairs to look for signs of life. Not a finger twitched in the chair through the window. There was no smoke, no flame, no smell. The fingers clenching the side of the chair seemed to become a darker shade of pink. The procedure was repeated with 2 more 20-second shocks of electricity. Then there was a 5-minute wait. One person familiar with electrocutions said it was literally a cooling down period. Daryl Holton's body was just too hot to handle.

Then the blinds came down. For 5 minutes we had looked at a shrouded corpse strapped in an electric chair. Another couple of minutes passed before the voice of Warden Ricky Bell came over the room's intercom. He said, "Daryl Holton was pronounced dead at 1:25 p.m. This ends the legal execution of Daryl Holton, please exit." Any thoughts about a movie were over.

I can't remember much about walking out of the prison. We passed Holton's spiritual adviser Dixie Gamble who was seated in a large room just outside the witness chamber. She mouthed the words, "are you OK?" My head nodded, but I really wasn't sure. As we quickly passed through the various gates and barriers of the maximum-security institution, notes got compared among the media witnesses. A primary spokesperson, The City Paper's Clint Brewer, was selected just before we went out the prison's front door. A small group of reporters and photographers waited in front of TV lights. Our job was now to tell them what had happened. Speaking at a podium in the middle of the night, Clint seemed to remember things as I did, but he deftly tossed in many details I would have forgotten. My head seemed like the fog that had just rolled in from the nearby Cumberland River.

Like Daryl Holton just a few minutes earlier, I mumbled a few things when asked questions. Thankfully, Clint had covered most of what my fellow reporters wanted to know. Away from the gathering, I was then interviewed by fellow WKRN reporter Scott Fralick for my perspective, Snippets of the short conversation would run throughout newscasts later in the day. He asked if seeing an execution changed me. So many others during the next few hours and days--either by phone or in person--would ask related questions: Do I believe in the death penalty? What was it like? Did I think of Daryl's kids during the execution? Would I watch it again? Only the last question brings a definitive answer: No, I do not want to see another execution.

But I think others should. Maybe all of us. If inmates are going to be executed why not show the pictures? Imagine a couple of cameras inside the witness room trained on the execution chamber. You would see things almost as we saw them. Why not? Every step of the legal process for a murder case is publicly photographed. Every step except the final one. If you could see it, perhaps you might have answers for questions that are always asked about a legal execution. It isn't like the movies, this was real life--and death.

(source: WKRN news)


POLL: Do you support the death penalty for people convicted of murder?

Tennessee death row inmate Edmund Zagorski is scheduled for execution on Thursday, October 11. He is asking the state to use the electric chair instead of lethal injection and is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution. Zagorski was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of 2 men during a drug deal in Robertson County.


(source: WKRN news)


Lawyers Fight to Ban Death Penalty From Truck Attack Trial

Lawyers for a man charged with killing 8 people when he drove his truck onto a New York City bike path said Tuesday that the death penalty should be ruled out because President Donald Trump was "uninformed and full of rage" when he called for it.

The lawyers said in papers filed in Manhattan federal court on behalf of Sayfullo Saipov that Trump irrevocably tainted the legal process when he tweeted in all capital letters a day after the attack that Saipov "SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!"

Saipov was arrested immediately after the Oct. 31, 2017, destruction. He's pleaded not guilty. Authorities say he told them after his arrest that he was inspired by Islamic State videos and had used a truck in the attack to inflict maximum damage against civilians.

Lawyers wrote that prosecutors were out of line when they notified the court last month that the Justice Department had authorized them to seek death.

They said Trump spoiled options for death with his tweets.

"His impetuous decision was uninformed and full of rage; he actually reveled in the prospect of condemning Mr. Saipov to die in the 'home of the horrible crime he committed.' But the Constitution does not tolerate a death-penalty scheme driven by bloodthirst or revenge," the lawyers said.

They said Trump's words prevented Attorney General Jeff Sessions from acting independently and following due process.

"President Trump's emotionally-charged directives were designed to constrain Sessions's decision-making and discourage him from genuinely considering the pursuit of a sentence less than death," they said.

The 30-year-old Saipov moved to the United States legally in 2010 from Uzbekistan. He lived in Ohio and Florida and worked as a commercial truck driver before living more recently with his family in Paterson, New Jersey.

A trial is scheduled for October 2019. A jury, if it finds Saipov guilty, will be asked to decide in a 2nd phase of the trial if he should be executed.

In 2001 just weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, a jury in Manhattan federal court declined to impose death on 2 men convicted in the deadly bombings of 2 U.S. embassies in Africa.

(source: Associated Press)


Letter: Dying 'anxiously' on death row is good deterrent

George Will, in his essay published in The Greenville News on Oct. 1, argues against the death penalty. He argues that executing a man held in jail for most of his adult life and who has become senile, has no deterrent effect. I strongly disagree.

The deterrent effect of the death penalty is hotly debated. Even so, the best statistical evidence is that it does have a deterrent effect, and I argue that part of that is the vision of spending the rest of one's life in constant fear of dying at the hands of the state and then not dying. Surely, to the thugs who harass society, the thought of dying quickly has little threat. They face that every day. I think the thought of dying very slowly and bureaucratically unpredictably, has more deterrent than the cop's bullet.

I want people who do horrendous things to know they will suffer. I think that the threat of dying anxiously of old age on death row is good punishment.

Michael T. Maloney, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Clemson Clemson

(source: Letter to the Editor, Greenville News)


Mystery still surrounds Aum incident after mass executions

An expert opinion regarding the mental state of a death row inmate from the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult pointing to mind control was never viewed by any Japanese court, raising questions about whether the recent executions of the cult members were carried out after the whole picture of their crimes was fully clarified.

The 45-page paper shows the inmate, Satoru Hashimoto, "was under strong influence, or mind control, of the Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara and he could not reject any unjust orders from the doomsday cult leader," according to Masahide Kawai, a defense lawyer of Hashimoto.

Convicted of involvement in the 1994 deadly sarin nerve gas attack in the central Japan city of Matsumoto and the murders of a lawyer, his wife and their 1-year-old son in 1989, Hashimoto was hanged on July 26 at the age of 51, together with five other former Aum members. The lawyer, Tsutsumi Sakamoto, worked to help parents seeking to free their children of the cult's control.

Their executions followed those of Asahara, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, and six other members 20 days earlier. Some of them were accused of involvement in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes.

The defense team of Hashimoto intended to submit the document to the Tokyo District Court as "new evidence" in applying for a retrial, after the death sentence on Hashimoto had been finalized by the Supreme Court in 2007.

"After the top court rejected our appeal, we, the defense lawyers, immediately prepared an application for a retrial so we could send it to the district court with the 'expert opinion about mind control,'" Kawai said. "We repeatedly urged Mr Hashimoto to seek a retrial so we could clarify the dread of mind control."

Hashimoto, however, never signed the application, saying, "I'm not entitled to seek a retrial as I committed what should never be forgiven...I feel really sorry."

Kawai still has the statement and no judges will look through it, he said.

It was compiled by Rissho University Professor Kimiaki Nishida, who repeatedly visited Hashimoto at the Tokyo Detention House before concluding that he was "a victim of mind control."

Hashimoto initially contacted Aum to try to persuade a close friend to leave the cult, when Hashimoto was studying law at Waseda University. But he himself became interested in Aum and joined.

"He was searching for what he should do in life, when he encountered Aum," Nishida said. "I sympathized with him as he was just like any ordinary youth, including me."

Kawai was also once invited to join the Aum cult when he was a freshman at Chuo University, "as if it were recruitment for a student group."

The lawyer said he might have taken a step in the wrong direction but backed out and often spoke with Hashimoto at the detention center about "a twist of fate" that might have led them to sit on opposite sides of the acrylic screen -- Kawai as a death row inmate and Hashimoto as defense attorney.

These circumstances are key to understanding the real nature of the Aum crimes, which resulted in the deaths of 29 people among a total of over 6,500 victims, Kawai suggested.

Following the executions of all 13 Aum death row inmates, then Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said trial records of criminal cases involving Aum would be preserved permanently as part of efforts to prevent a repeat of similar crimes, but Nishida's statement will not be archived as it is not considered a trial document.

Nishida, for his part, expressed a feeling of emptiness, saying, "Setting aside the debate on the pros and cons of the death penalty, the government should not have hanged the key witnesses before hearing all of what they had to say" if it really aimed to clarify the truth of the Aum crimes and learn lessons from them.

The psychology expert said he was not necessarily satisfied with the scope of his paper on Hashimoto, as he had not been provided with sufficient time for the interviews with him and a prison guard had always been present during their talks.

His statement ended with the remark that "it is desirable to conduct a more detailed study."

Among the 13 executed inmates, 10 applied for retrials, but Kamikawa said that the government does not refrain from hanging a death row inmate even if he or she seeks a retrial.

Touching on her comment, Yoshihiro Yasuda, who led the defense team of Asahara, said it breaches Article 32 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right of access to the court.

"It also jeopardizes judicial independence to execute an inmate seeking a retrial, as long as a court still examines the petition," the Tokyo-based lawyer said. "Some former death row inmates were exonerated in postwar Japan after their pleas for retrials had been rejected repeatedly. Executions terminate such a development."

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations shared the criticism, with its president, Yutaro Kikuchi, issuing a statement following the executions, arguing that hanging death row inmates who are seeking retrials is problematic as "the rights to counsel and defense should be sufficiently guaranteed throughout all stages of criminal procedures."

Expecting that suspension of Asahara's hanging could have stemmed the execution of the others, his defense team filed a habeas corpus petition on the grounds that he had been left unattended despite his insanity, while applying for amnesty.

In June, the Asahara side also filed a fresh lawsuit to prevent the justice minister from issuing an execution order, arguing Asahara was mentally incompetent, "but the government brushed aside all of these procedures guaranteed by law," Yasuda said.

The least the government could do at present is to collect and preserve Aum-related documents as broadly as possible -- not only the criminal trial records but also those linked to police investigations as well as other documents -- through broad-based consultations involving persons of various viewpoints, he added.

Kawai last met with Hashimoto 6 days before his execution. "He shed tears as he was apparently aware that it would be our last meeting," Kawai said. "He reiterated apologies to the victims and their families...He remained repentant and noble, in a sense, without justifying himself to the last."

(source: Japan Today)


Film / Review----'The Chaplain': Ren Osugi shines as a clergyman working on death row

The sudden death of Ren Osugi last February robbed Japanese cinema of one of its most dependable actors. That loss is rendered all the more acute by "The Chaplain," Osugi's final screen role, and his debut as producer. It’s the kind of serious, intelligent drama that might struggle to get made without an established screen star to lend it clout, and it's hard not to wonder what might have come next.

The movie is also notable for focusing, with rigor and an almost total lack of sentimentality, on a topic that's generally kept out of the media spotlight in Japan: the death penalty. Surveys suggest that capital punishment enjoys widespread popular support here, but there's very little public debate on the subject, and executions are conducted in an almost clandestine fashion.

The Chaplain (Kyokaishi)

Run Time 114 mins.


"The Chaplain" sheds some light on the reality of life on death row, as seen from the perspective of a Christian clergyman. Saeki (Osugi) makes fortnightly trips to a prison to counsel inmates awaiting execution, toting a Bible and a portable music player in case anyone fancies singing hymns. Only 6 months into the job, he's still a little shaky in his faith, and Osugi's restrained performance conveys the uncertainty of a man who isn’t sure he has all the answers.

The prisoners he meets spend most of their time in solitary confinement, and their sessions are inspired less by religious devotion than a need for human contact. While a former yakuza, Yoshida (Ken Mitsuishi), is able to bellow hymns with gusto, the elderly Shindo (Takeo Gozu) confesses that he's ignorant about Christianity. When Saeki gives him a copy of the Bible, it turns out that he's illiterate too.

Details of the crimes that brought each of them to death row emerge slowly, if at all. Some of their stories feel familiar, most obviously with Takamiya (Reo Tamaoki), who's clearly modeled on the perpetrator of a 2016 killing spree at a care home in Kanagawa Prefecture. An eloquent and wholly unrepentant sociopath, he doesn't bother to feign interest in spiritual absolution, preferring to treat his conversations with Saeki as an opportunity for philosophical sparring.

Writer-director Dai Sako (who also penned the death row-set "Vacation" in 2008) isn't looking to make another "Dead Man Walking," and "The Chaplain" is nearly as constrained in its aesthetic as the lives of the characters it depicts. There's no soundtrack, and almost the entire film takes place within a single room.

While cinematographer Tatsuya Yamada endeavors to keep things interesting, there's no getting past the austerity of the setting, but this becomes a source of the film's power. The longer Sako confines viewers in that room, the more oppressive the atmosphere becomes, and when he suddenly inserts a flashback to Saeki's troubled childhood it feels like a major misstep. So too does the inclusion of supernatural elements, which undermine the prevailing soberness of the drama.

There are some very fine performances here, but the most affecting is from a non-actor, Noboru Ogawa, who appeared in a few of Sako's early films and has been working a regular corporate job ever since. Describing the events that brought him to death row, and the sons who refuse to visit him, his character's voice barely rises above a whisper. Whatever your thoughts about the death penalty, it's heart-breaking to watch.

(source: Japan Times)


Army officer killers sentenced to death

A High Court judge has sentenced 2 notorious robbers to death for robbing and fatally stabbing a senior army officer who had offered them a lift from Gutu in May last year.

Justice Garainesu Mawadze last Friday sentenced Admire Maorere (28) of Maorere Village under Chief Ndanga and Windas Munzweru (27) of Nematombo Village under Chief Chadyamatombo in Karoi to death by hanging after convicting them of murder with actual intent.

Maorere and Munzweru hid the army officer's body in his vehicle’s loading box before dumping the car near Craft Centre along the Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway. The 2, together with their alleged accomplice, Nyasha Sango, who is still at large, stabbed Captain Phio Jeketera (51) of Harare several times all over the body with an Okapi knife until he died.

Sentencing the duo, Justice Mawadze, who was sitting with assessors Messrs Samuel Mutomba and Joseph Mushuku said the callous murder was premeditated and they acted in common purpose to kill an innocent person who had genuinely offered them a lift.

The 2, added Justice Mawadze, also showed that they were unrepentant criminals as they had previously served 24 months behind bars for armed robbery.

"In my 8 years on the Bench I have not passed a death sentence on any offender and it has not been easy to pass an appropriate verdict on this matter," said the High Court judge.

Justice Mawadze said in Section 47(2) of the Constitution, a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.

The 2 men, represented prodeo by Mr Joseph Chipangula of Tshuma, Gurajena and Partners Legal Practitioners, pleaded with the court for leniency saying that they had young families who looked up to them for survival.

Prosecutor Mr Tawanda Chikwati said in May 2017 and along Roy-Gutu Road, the 2 accused, together with Sango, killed Captain Jeketera by stabbing him with a knife.

Jeketera was traveling from Harare to his rural home in Zaka when tragedy struck.

The convicts had asked Captain Jeketera to stop the car a few kilometres from Gutu-Roy turn-off under the pretext that one of them wanted to visit his aunt's homestead nearby.

They dragged Captain Jeketera to the side of the road where they pepper-sprayed him before stabbing him all over the body with a knife until he became unconscious. They proceeded to take his G-Tel cellphone and cash amounting to $540 after which they put his body at the back of his vehicle.

The trio drove the car towards Masvingo City, where they dumped the vehicle containing Captain Jeketera’s body at the Craft Centre, about 1,4 kilometre from the city centre.

The following day, the court heard, the body of the deceased was discovered by police officers manning a road block.

(source: The Herald)


2 sentenced to death for murder

2 murderers have been sentenced to death after being convicted of stabbing to death a Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) member.

Admire Maorere (28) of Maorere village under Chief Ndanga and Windas Munzweru (27) of Chidyamatombo in Karoi were found guilty of stabbing a ZNA Captain, Phio Jeketera several times all over his body leading to his death.

Prosecutor Tawanda Chikwati said on the 19th of May, Jeketera was travelling from Harare to Zaka when he gave a lift to Maorere and Munzweru who were going to Gutu.

At Gutu turn off, the 2 are said to have produced an okapi knife and demanded money from Jeketera.

Jeketera is said to have resisted, before the two convicts dragged him to the side of the road and stabbed him.

Prosecutor Chikwati said the 2 then took his phone and cash amounting to $540 and they put Jeketera's body in the boot before driving off towards Masvingo city where they dumped the vehicle by the road side, a kilometer from the city center.

The court heard that Jeketera's body was discovered in his dumped car by police officers who were manning a road block.

The body was taken to Masvingo general hospital were a post mortem was conducted by Dr Godfrey Zimbwa, who revealed that Jeketera died of hemorrhage shock as a result of wounds from the numerous stabs.

The police arrested the 2 through a cellphone vendor based in Masvingo who bought Jeketera's phone from the 2.

Delivering the sentence, Masvingo High Court judge, Justice Garainesu Mawadze, who set with assessors; Samuel Mutomba and Joseph Mushuku, said the actions of the 2 were in common purpose to kill the deceased.

Justice Mawadze said according to section 47 (2) of the constitution, a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.



Governments must put an end to death penalty cruelty and take steps towards full abolition

Prisoners under sentence of death must be treated with humanity and dignity and held in conditions that meet international human rights law and standards, said Amnesty International on World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October).

The organization is launching a new campaign to pressure 5 countries, Belarus, Ghana, Iran, Japan and Malaysia, to put an end to inhumane conditions of detention for prisoners sentenced to death and move towards full abolition of the death penalty.

"No matter what crime they may have committed, no one should be forced to endure inhumane conditions of detention. Yet in many cases, prisoners under sentence of death are kept in strict isolation, lack access to necessary medications and live with constant anxiety from the threat of execution,”"said Stephen Cockburn, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Global Issues Programme.

"The fact that some governments notify prisoners and their relatives a few days or, in some cases, a few moments before their execution is cruel.

"All governments retaining the death penalty must immediately abolish it and put an end to the appalling conditions of detention that too many death row prisoners are forced to endure."

While Amnesty International has documented appalling abuses across the world, its new campaign highlights cases in Belarus, Ghana, Iran, Japan and Malaysia, where death penalty cruelty is rife.

In Ghana, death row prisoners have said they often do not have access to medication to treat illnesses and long-term conditions.

Mohammad Reza Haddadi in Iran, on death row since he was 15 years old, has been forced to endure the mental torture of having his execution scheduled and postponed at least 6 times over the past 14 years.

Matsumoto Kenji, in Japan, has developed a delusional disorder most likely as a result of his prolonged detention in solitary confinement as he awaits execution.

Hoo Yew Wah, in Malaysia, lodged a petition for clemency in 2014, but is yet to receive any further news.

Secrecy surrounding the use of the death penalty is also prevalent in Belarus, where executions are strictly concealed from the public and are carried out without giving any notice to the prisoners, their families or legal representatives.

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

The death penalty is a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Amnesty International recorded 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4% from 2016 and 39% from 2015. Most executions took place in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. These totals do not include the thousands of executions carried out in China, where data on the use of the death penalty remained classified as a state secret.


End the Death Penalty----Death penalty cruelty - a stain on governments

Prisoners under sentence of death around the world are often subjected to the cruellest conditions of detention. In many cases, they are kept in strict isolation, lack access to necessary medications and live with the constant anxiety of the threat of execution. Some governments notify prisoners and their relatives a matter of days or even moments before their execution.

Amnesty International has documented appalling abuses across the world. To mark World Day Against the Death Penalty, we're launching a campaign highlighting cases in Belarus, Ghana, Iran, Japan and Malaysia where death penalty cruelty is rife.

Solitary confinement, with or without the use of restraining devices, is a common practice on death row. In the case of Matsumoto Kenji, a death row prisoner in Japan, this particularly inhumane punishment has been the likely trigger of a delusional disorder that has reportedly made him paranoid and incoherent.

Matsumoto Kenji has been on death row for murder since 1993. He has a longstanding intellectual disability due to mercury poisoning and a low IQ of between 60 and 70, according to a psychiatrist’s diagnosis. Yet, court authorities ruled that he was mentally competent enough to be sentenced to death, and that his "confession" was reliable, despite his lawyer’s argument that Matsumoto Kenji was pressured by the police.

Mohammad Reza Haddadi in Iran has spent his entire young adult life on death row after being convicted of murder in a grossly unfair trial and sentenced to death at the age of 15. He is 1 of at least 84 others facing the death penalty in Iran for alleged crimes committed below the age of 18.

Not only is this in violation of international human rights law, but Mohammad Reza has also been forced to endure the mental torture of having his execution scheduled and cancelled 6 times over the past 14 years. The last time this happened was on 31 May 2016, when Mohammad Reza received a last-minute reprieve following public outcry over his case.

A lack of transparency about the use of the death penalty in Malaysia means death row prisoners like Hoo Yew Wah are kept in the dark about applications for clemency.

Hoo Yew Wah was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in May 2011 following unfair legal proceedings. In 2005, aged 20, he was found in possession of 188.35 grams of methamphetamine. He was automatically presumed to be trafficking drugs and later convicted and sentenced to hang. He is still waiting to hear the outcome of a petition for clemency, which was lodged with the Sultan of Johor State in April 2014. Hoo Yew Wah will turn 33 in December and has said: "If given a chance, I want to prove that I have changed."

Secrecy surrounding the use of the death penalty is prevalent in Belarus. Executions are strictly concealed from the public and carried out without giving any notice to the prisoners, their families or legal representatives. A former Director of Minsk Pretrial Detention Centre No.1 - the prison where all death row prisoners in Belarus are held - told Amnesty International that prisoners were first taken to one room. In the presence of officials, they were told that their appeal for clemency had been turned down and that the sentence would be carried out. The prisoner would then be taken to a neighbouring room where they were blindfolded, handcuffed, forced to their knees and shot in the back of the head.

In accordance with Belarusian law, authorities refuse to return the bodies of those executed to their relatives or disclose the burial site - a legacy of Soviet times.

Harsh conditions of detention are also experienced by death row prisoners in Ghana. When Amnesty International visited Nsawam Prison in 2016, death row prisoners were not allowed to take part in educational and recreational activities, leading to an increased sense of isolation, causing distress and anxiety. Death row prisoners also told Amnesty International that medical care was limited. They said they had difficulties accessing medication to treat illnesses and long-term conditions because sometimes medicines were not available or were unaffordable for the prisoners. One death row prisoner spoke of his fears when he became unwell: "When you feel sick at night in the cell and the officer does not come to assist you, you can even die."

From Belarus to Ghana, Iran, Japan and Malaysia, governments with prisoners sentenced to death must ensure they are treated with humanity and dignity and held in conditions that meet international human rights law and standards.

It's time for all governments retaining the death penalty to immediately abolish it and put an end to the appalling conditions of detention that too many prisoners under sentence of death are forced to endure.

The death penalty is a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

(source: Amnesty International)


Punishment For Smoking Weed is Death? Countries That Kill for Cannabis?

Drug laws are by their very nature draconian. Telling someone what they can and can't put in their body is a restrictive and unethical law in and of itself. However, as a wise man once said: "there are levels to this game". As it would seem, this saying applies perfectly to the punishment for smoking weed. If you thought being stuffed in the back of a dank, urine-soaked Ford Crown Victoria was bad (which it is), just remember that there are countries that kill for cannabis.

So let's have a look at the cannabis wall of shame and evaluate the contestants for the worst cannabis laws of all time.


As you're about to witness, a lot of countries that kill for cannabis are in South East Asia. Perhaps they could take a few notes from Thailand on their punishment for smoking weed.

In Malaysia, the most severe punishment for smoking weed on the books is death. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952, anyone caught with an excessive amount of cannabis is deemed to be a drug trafficker. This necessary minimum amount to meet the qualifications for execution is about 200 grams worth.

The death penalty in Malaysia is administered by hanging. In extreme cases, the prisoner will be sentenced to a whipping or canning before their execution is carried out. To me, this just seems gratuitous and cruel.

Luckily for Malaysian citizens, simple possession is not an offense that warrants the death penalty. However, such an offense will yield 5 years in prison and a substantial fine. Jesus... get it together Mahathir Bin Mohamad... and please no more antisemitism either.


On a list of countries that kill for cannabis, you knew Singapore would turn up on this list sooner or later. Malaysia's neighbor to the south is known for some rather strange laws. Did you know that the country has made chewing gum illegal?

This ex British colony enforces a strict rule of law and places a high societal value on order, cleanliness, and discipline.

Singapore was one of the earliest nations to prohibit marijuana, criminalizing the plant in 1870. The Misuse of Drugs Act was enacted in 1973 and dictates much of the nations penalties.

When I think of misuse of drugs, the first thing that pops into my mind are those cannabis bonfires that drug enforcement agencies seem to love having. Are they trying to get god high? Don’t they know that cedar makes much better kindling?

Ironically, in Singapore misuse of drugs involves using them to getting high. I can personally think of no more appropriate use for drugs.

The city-state of Singapore is a tad trigger happy when it comes to the death penalty. The small nation had the 2nd highest per capita execution rate from 1994 - 1998. In addition, Singapore carries a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. I’m surprised that trafficking in chewing gum doesn't yield a similar punishment.

Singapore is rather lax with their definition of trafficking as well. Under the aforementioned act, 15 grams is enough to merit a death sentence. Death sentences are carried out by long drop hanging. This is the more humane method of hanging that instantly breaks the criminal's neck when the rope reaches its apex.

Foreigners are not immune from death sentences either, as one Nigerian soccer player was hanged to years ago for possessing 92 grams of cannabis. This is undoubtedly a terrible miscarriage of justice.

What is the punishment for smoking weed in Singapore? People caught with under 15 grams of cannabis face a number of draconian penalties from 24 lashes with a cane or even life in prison.


According to this list, South East Asia does not appear very good in the human rights department... But believe me, it gets worse.

The nation formerly known as Burma recently released a new National Drug Control Policy that they believe will better address many of the issues the nation is currently facing. This policy attempts to move away from a punitive model, and towards a more health-focused approach.

The new policy is strikingly modern and progressive for a nation that executed for marijuana. The Policy calls for decriminalizing personal drug use and encourages alternatives to prison time for drug charges. This new punishment for smoking weed is a logical and sound choice of public policy indeed.

This change in course for Myanmar comes in the wake of a long and grueling struggle with drug trafficking. The country has long been renown as one of the world's largest producers of opium. But what is the punishment for smoking weed here? And what about selling it?

Cannabis was banned in the nation in 1870 under... You guessed it... British rule. Today, the punishment for smoking weed is commonly handed down to Indian migrant workers as Burmese citizens are much less likely to use the plant.

Myanmar is one of the countries that kill for cannabis trafficking and well as possession. Anyone caught possessing what is deemed an excessive amount of cannabis is automatically considered to be trafficking.

Myanmar's death penalty for trafficking becomes mandatory if the criminal is in possession of weapons or explosives, uses children under the age of 16 in their process, or uses the influence of a public servant in carrying out the offenses.

Like its other South Asian counterparts, Myanmar hangs its traffickers. On the wall of shame, Myanmar stands out as one of the less harsh countries that kill for cannabis.


Finally, we can take some heat off of South East Asia. Egypt is one of the few African countries that kill for cannabis. The 1870s were a bad year for cannabis rights as Egypt outlawed the plant in 1877.

To think that a nation where cannabis had been present since 3000 BC would adopt a legal punishment for smoking weed. In ancient history, the plant was utilized to make a sturdy hemp rope as psychoactive strains were not yet introduced to the continent.

The nation also has a rich history with hashish dating back to the middle-ages. Hashish was introduced to the nation by wandering Sufi mystics in the 1100s BCE. Ever since the plant has been a cultural staple. In Egypt it was referred to as Indian hemp, hinting at the plant’s origins.

Trafficking is punishable by death in Egypt. Possession may also be punishable by death if the person is suspected of trading the substance. A more drug serious offense also exists on the books which referred to as drug trafficking resulting in death, although this offense is surely not enacted for cannabis.

As far as countries that kill for cannabis, Egypt is not afraid to enact its archaic laws drug enforcement laws. In one case as recent as 2013, an imprisoned British traveler was sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle 3 tones of hash into the nation by boat. Hanging is once again the only method of execution utilized in Egypt.

Cannabis in Egypt is a fairly widely utilized substance today. The punishment for smoking weed in Egypt is rarely enforced, and law enforcement will often give people a pass for using the plant. Trust me... they have bigger fish to fry.


If I were to make a tally of all the administrations that value human life on this planet, China's communist party would undoubtedly be absent. Human rights abuses are more prevalent than many would like to acknowledge in China, thus it is no surprise that they would appear on a list of countries that kill for cannabis.

Believe it or not, China actually used to be a major exporter of marijuana. In the 1800s, the Islamic, Xinjan region used to produce and expert hashish. The plant was legally sold in British India until the trade routes were eliminated by the government in 1934. Black market smuggling persisted after this, however, and these cannabis trade routes would continue.

To this day, cannabis is widely grown in Yunnan province, despite unsuccessful attempts by the government to rid the province of the plant.

In Chine, those caught drug trafficking receive death sentences by firing squad or occasionally lethal injection. China’s anti-drug campaign takes 'just say no' scare tactics to a whole new level. In fact, in a recent anti-drug initiative, the government publicly executed 10 people in front of a stadium crowd in Liufeng in Guangdong province. With the current trajectory of drug policy, it is reasonable to assume that history will not look favorably upon these crimes against human decency.

The punishment for smoking weed in China is considerably less harsh. The Law on Public Security Administration Punishments states that the punishment for smoking weed is 10 -15 days in prison and a fine of 2000 Yuan. However, consequences can often be as severe as 3-year prison sentences.

The fact that China doesn't execute for consuming cannabis is a fortunate fact for Jacky Chan's son.

The Philippines

If you've been following world news lately, you may be familiar with President Rodrigo Duterte. What this man has done for his country's drugs policy can be considered nothing short of genocide.

Unfortunately for the Philippines, Duterte's regime takes the statement war on drugs a little too seriously. Unlike the American war on drugs (which is certainly devastating in its own right) this war has a real, accumulating body count. As of this date, more than 20,000 people have fallen victim to the firing squads.

Drug users and dealers aren't even given the dignity of a trial as many are dragged from their homes into the streets and shot on site.

Not much more needs to be said about the punishment for smoking weed in the Philippines other than the fact that Duterte's campaign is shockingly supported by a public majority, and that the President has no plans of stopping the violence any time soon.

Saudi Arabia

Sooner or later you knew Saudi Arabia was going to turn up on a list of countries that countries that kill for cannabis.

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries most synonymous with human rights abuses. Anecdotal experience further enforces this perception for yours truly. Two friends of mine have both lived in Saudi Arabia for a significant portion of their childhood. Both of these people witnessed public beheadings before they reached the age of 14.

The country is governed under a puritanical, orthodox version of Sunni Islam referred to as Wahhabism. This strain of Islam is often criticized as one of the least tolerant and most oppressive.

For possession charges, Saudi Citizens are often treated with more leniency than foreigners. The 1st time a suspect is caught, their punishment for smoking weed will result in up to 6 months in prison and more than a few whippings.

Drug dealing can result in as much as 10 years in prison and mandatory public whippings as well. For repeat offenders or traffickers, the situation is more dire, as they can receive the death penalty.

The Kingdom of Suadi Arabia prefers their executions to be brutal, bloody and, public in order to make a spectacle of the accused. The 2 most common methods of execution are stoning and beheading, both occur in public. Firing squads have also been used and it is rumored that crucifixions have taken place in modern times as well.

Bodies of the victims are displayed publicly, hanging from cranes or buildings as a further deterrent to criminals.

Foreigners will rarely be executed as punishment for smoking weed or smuggling in Saudi Arabia. Deportation is usually the consequence of such actions. However, in the nation's capital of Riyad, Saudi authorities executed 1 of its citizens along with 2 Yemenis in 2016 for attempting to smuggle hashish and amphetamines into the country.

Countries That Kill for Cannabis... A Final Thought

With the legalization of cannabis in Canada, as well as recent successes in the United States, South Africa, and Mexico, it is easy to forget that some nations are living in a different century with concern to cannabis laws.

While it might seem easy to draw geographic parallels (cough South East Asian), one should caution from making snap generalizations. The punishment for smoking weed can be different as night and day between 2 geographic neighbors as we have seen with Thailand and the Philipines.

While the cannabis rights movement has made overwhelming progress in the last 10 years, there is still a long way to go, and a great many minds to change.

Which nation would you be least likely to smoke weed in?

(source: Stefan Hosko, Puff Puff Post)


Myuran Sukumaran's final 72 hours shown in a special Darwin screening

The LAST 72 hours of Myuran Sukumaran's life, before the convicted drug smuggler was executed in Bali, will be shown in a special screening of GUILTY at the Deckchair Cinema tonight. The event Darwin coincides with several other national screenings, as a part of an initiative for World Day Against the Death Penalty. Co-writer and producer Maggie Miles, who will be present tonight for a Q&A, said Top End audiences would be able to feel the full impact of the film.

"I think more so than any other place in Australia, people in Darwin would have had a strong sense of what was happening just across the ocean," she said.

Ms Miles, who cut her teeth as a filmmaker here in the Territory, said the film acknowledges the pair were guilty of their crimes but argues that the death penalty is inherently wrong.

"What we do with the film is create a very human portrait of the artist, of the man, who was Myuran Sukumaran as a way of putting forward the human cost of the death penalty," she said.

Sukumaran faced the firing squad in 2015, alongside fellow Australian Andrew Chan.



Richard Branson says Australia can lead the world on abolition of death penalty

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, alongside the mother of convicted drug smuggler and Bali 9 member Myuran Sukumaran, speak to reporters in Melbourne, calling for the abolition of capital punishment. "Innocent people get executed all over the world, people like Raji's son, after they've completely rehabilitated in prison and it was a complete waste of an incredibly talented young man's life," he said. "For a country to say it's civilised it should have no part in the death penalty."



Civic groups call for abolition of death penalty

A coalition of civic, human rights and religious groups on Wednesday reiterated its call for South Korea to completely abolish capital punishment, as it marked the annual World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The coalition, comprised of Amnesty International Korea, Lawyers for a Democratic Society and 13 other bodies, held a ceremony at the National Assembly to observe the international day. They urged the South Korean parliament enact a law renouncing the death penalty.

In a declaration, the coalition said, "11 years have passed since 2007, when the Amnesty International designated South Korea as a de facto abolitionist state," adding that it is about time the country enhance the level of human rights in its society through the abolition of capital punishment.

South Korea is 1 of 4 members of the 36-nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that has a de-facto moratorium on capital punishment. The country still sentences convicts to the death penalty, but has not carried out an execution since 1998, nor has the country officially declared its discontinuance.

The coalition lamented that the bill has been submitted to the National Assembly but never passed through its legislative and judiciary committee.

"Punishment for crimes should not be made in a way of strong revenge like the death penalty," the declaration said. "We need to rid our society of fundamental sources leading to crimes and do away with the society's structural contradictions, so as to work harder to establish social safety nets."

According to the coalition, 106 countries legally abolished the death penalty for all crimes as of the end of last year, with 36 countries, including South Korea, being abolitionist in practice.

In 2002, anti-capital punishment organizations, mostly from Europe, launched the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The alliance of bar associations, local bodies and unions whose aim is to strengthen the international anti-death penalty movement, designated October 10 as the date of the annual World Day Against the Death Penalty in 2003.



Why the delay in abolishing death penalty?

Today, on the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) wants to remind the Malaysian government that it has yet to make good its promise to abolish the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

In the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, it was clearly stated that "The Pakatan Harapan government will revoke the following laws: Sedition Act, Prevention of Crime Act 1959...Mandatory Death by Hanging in all Acts..."

Currently in Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for about 12 offences, while about 20 other offences are punishable by a discretionary death penalty.

Murder and drug trafficking carry the mandatory death penalty but many of these mandatory death penalty offences do not even involve in death or grievous injuries to victims.

The effect of abolishing the mandatory death penalty will restore judicial discretion when it comes to sentencing. Judges will thereafter be able to evaluate each and every convicted person and determine what the just and fair sentence should be, after taking into account all factors and circumstances.

The mandatory death penalty is undemocratic as it violates the democratic principle of separation of powers. The legislature (Parliament) has robbed the judiciary of their rightful role and power when it comes to sentencing.

When a law provides for just one mandatory sentence, in this case death, judges on finding a person guilty of the said offence, have no choice but to sentence the convicted to death, even if he/she does not justly deserve to be hanged to death.

Many of the politicians and political parties that are now in power, previously in opposition, were always for the abolition of the death penalty, but now when in power, it is disappointing to see that they are procrastinating.

Further, it must be reminded that they are yet to make good their election promise to repeal all laws that provide for 'Mandatory Death by Hanging...', which was a decision and commitment of all the four Pakatan Harapan parties.

As reported by The Star on June 28, there are 1,267 people on death row or 2.7% of the prison population of about 60,000 people. 35 executions took place from 2007 to 2017

The death penalty in Malaysia currently is provided for secular or ordinary laws, not in Islamic law.

As such, there is no reasonable justification for any Muslim in Malaysia to oppose abolition of the death penalty on the grounds that Islam allows death penalty for certain specified offences.

In Islam, there is a strict requirement to comply with Islamic Criminal Procedure and Evidential requirements. Even then, in Islam, there are ways that the death penalty can be avoided.

As the Acts that now provide for death penalty in Malaysia are in the secular law, politicians and their parties that use the argument that Islam allows for the death penalty to oppose the abolition, are very wrong. They need to demonstrate leadership, not fear.

The "best interest of the child" is certainly best served by incarceration of a parent, sibling or relative rather than having them hung to death by the state.

Malaysia, who has ratified the Child Rights Convention, has an obligation to do what is in the best interest of the child, and as such, this is yet another reason why the death penalty must be abolished.

The possibility of miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable. This is yet another reason why the death penalty needs to be abolished.

We recall the words of the then minister in the prime minister's department Nazri Abdul Aziz, who said "No criminal justice system is perfect. You take a man's life and years later, you find out that another person did the crime. What can you do?"(as quoted in The Star on Aug 29, 2010)

In the Malaysian context today, it would have been great injustice if the 2 convicted for the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu had been hanged, for then it may result in others involved escaping justice.

Likewise in other cases where perpetrators may still be at large, yet to be arrested, charged and tried.

Abolition of the death penalty is an ineluctable global trend as 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes by the end of 2017 while 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Malaysia, embarrassingly, is amongst the few countries who still retains the out-dated penalty and carry out executions.

In 2018, Malaysia, under Umno-BN, brought into effect the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.

It has been about 5 months since the formation of the Pakatan Harapan-led government, but we have yet to see bills being tabled that will lead to the abolition of the death penalty.

Our hope is that we will see this happening in the next Parliamentary session or at least by the end of the year.

Being a reformist government, Malaysia needs to make rehabilitation and second chances the principal considerations in sentencing.

Madpet also calls for immediate moratorium of all executions pending the abolition of the death penalty.

(source: This letter is written on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)


Minister: Putrajaya to abolish death penalty

The Cabinet has decided to abolish the death penalty, and it will be tabled in the next Parliament sitting, which will begin on October 15, said Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

The minister in charge of law in the Prime Minister’s Department said while the government is studying certain cases, as of now, all executions have been halted.

"All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop.

"We are studying certain issues... we need to look into it and hear the views of all, but as it stands today, the decision is to abolish the death penalty," he told the media after the "Law Reform Talk" at Universiti Malaya here, today.

Liew said that with Putrajaya intending to abolish the death penalty, the Pardons Board will be tasked with looking into the applications of death row inmates.

"Our view is that executions should not be carried out we will inform the Pardons Board to look into the various applications for all the death row inmates to either commute or release them. "When commuted, they would have to face life imprisonment because there had been several deaths that were caused by the offender and so they were sentenced to death by the court," he said.

Liew added that all the paperwork for the abolishment of the law is in its final stages, and that the Attorney General (AG) had given the green light for it to be tabled in Parliament.

"All the papers are in the final stage. The AG has also indicated to us that it is ready to be tabled, hopefully in this (Parliamentary) session," he said.

Earlier in his opening speech, Liew said the Pakatan Harapan government is also mulling a repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 and other draconian laws.



SWS: Majority of Filipinos favor return of death penalty

Nearly 6 in every 10 Filipinos favor the revival of capital punishment for heinous crimes, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, according to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released on Wednesday.

The poll from March 22 to 27 among 2,000 Filipino adults nationwide showed 59 % of respondents agreed that the death penalty should be restored for people proven in court to have committed heinous crimes, while 23 % disagreed.

This yielded a "moderate" net agreement of +26, which is the difference between the percentage of respondents who approved and disapproved of the proposed law.

The survey, however, emphasized that only 33 % of Filipinos wanted the death penalty if there were other punishment options for those who would commit serious crimes related to illegal drugs.

"The only exception is the crime of rape under the influence of drugs, for which a minority 47 % think the death penalty should apply," SWS said.

For the crimes of importation of illegal drugs, maintenance of drug dens, manufacture of illegal drugs, murder under the influence of drugs, sale of illegal drugs and working in drug dens, the demand for death penalty ranges from 22 to 33 %.

SWS said the demand for imprisonment, instead of death, was over 70 % for those found guilty of working in drug dens (78 %), sale of illegal drugs (76 %), and maintenance of drug dens (73 %).

This is followed by murder under the influence of drugs (69 %), importation of illegal drugs (68 %), and manufacture of illegal drugs (66 %).

"Demand for imprisonment as a punishment for those guilty of rape under the influence of drugs is 53 %," the polling firm added.

The survey used face-to-face interviews and had sampling error margins of ±2.2 % for national percentages, and ±5 % each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

(source: Manila Times)


De Lima calls for renewed, sustained campaign against death penalty

On the World Day Against Death Penalty, opposition Senator Leila De Lima called for a renewed and sustained campaign against the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines.

"Today, I join fellow human rights defenders and the global community in renewing and sustaining the campaign against the death penalty," De Lima said in a statement on Wednesday.

The senator asserted that a fully-functioning justice system is what deters criminal acts, not the imposition of the death penalty.

"What deters and resolves crimes rather is a well-oiled and thoroughly functioning criminal justice system, one that ensures swift and certain accountability for the crimes committed and the imposition of commensurate penalties to the wrongdoers," she said.

De Lima reminded that the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights which is "inherent, inalienable, universal and non-derogable."

"It is a right that belongs to us all regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity and expression, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, birth or other statuses," she said.

De Lima said that as a human rights defender and legislator, she has pushed for the introduction of the penalty of qualified reclusion perpetua in criminal laws to ensure restorative justice instead of punitive measures.

"I was pushing for the introduction into Philippine criminal laws the penalty of qualified reclusion perpetua, to ensure that, even in extraordinarily heinous crimes, our policy direction looks at restorative justice over punitive or retributive measures, while equally aware and conscious of the need to bring to justice perpetrators of the most egregious offenses," she said.

De Lima cited several international institutions that have opposed the imposition of death penalty and have come up with policies that ensure the protection of human rights.

Among which are the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

"These firm and unequivocal efforts to move away from the death penalty are the outcome of rights-based developments in law and in science that point to the flaw in the typical argument that the imposition of death penalty is a key deterrent to the commission of heinous crimes," she said.

(source: Philippine Inquirer)


Irreversible penalty

On World Day Against the Death Penalty, the question once again arises: should the state - consisting of human beings, prone to human error - make decisions on who gets to live or die?

There are philosophical arguments in support for and against the death penalty and intrinsic to these are themes of social order, punishment and retribution.

But what about justice?

When emotions and paranoia run high, humans are less likely to be convinced by the lucidity of an argument. But justice has to remain impartial; it cannot be swayed by popular sentiment. And it cannot be rushed to cover up its systemic failings.

Pakistan is one of 57 countries that retains the death penalty law.

Since 2004, we have sentenced 4,500 people to death by hanging.

In 2008, a moratorium on the death penalty was imposed. No executions occurred between 2009 and 2013 (barring one in 2012).

But in the aftermath of the APS attack in 2014, when 132 schoolchildren and nine others were brutally murdered, the moratorium was lifted and military courts were propped up.

Few challenged the decision. The country was hurting. Blood had to be repaid in blood.

Since the lifting of the moratorium, Pakistan has carried out 465 executions.

True, the death penalty gives citizens living in chaotic times a superficial sense of security; it also satiates the darker aspects of human nature (revenge, scapegoating, and the element of 'purifying' society of 'anti-social' elements).

But it is also evident there can be no trial in which courts guarantee flawless prosecution or ensure complete absence of arbitrariness.

And it is the poor who are largely made victims of a faulty justice system.

Unable to cover legal fees, they are at the mercy of state-appointed lawyers. It is also common practice for investigative officers, on a tight budget, to write reports in favour of whoever pays them well. Mental illnesses are rarely factored in.

The vast majority of admissions of guilt are through confessions, which can be extracted through torture.

Despite all these faults and more than enough reasons for doubt, we continue to have on the statute books the highest form of punishment for 27 offences, ranging from (alleged) murder to (alleged) treason to (alleged) blasphemy.

Death is irreversible. Let's not create more victims in the process of 'justice'.

Perhaps both state and society should also reflect on the circumstances, and their own role, in creating criminals.



Nadeem Nusrat demands immediate release of Asiya Bibi

South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation (SAMAF) chairman Nadeem Nusrat urged Pakistan's Supreme Court to drop unfounded blasphemy charges against death row convict Asiya Bibi, and ordered her immediate release.

The Mohajir leader, in a statement, said that for years, Bibi has been kept in prison under charges that clearly lack credibility and mock the norms of justice. She has already suffered enough and there is no reason to keep her in prison, he added.

Nusrat's statement comes a day after Pakistan's Supreme Court reserved its judgement on the blasphemy case lodged against Bibi, the only woman in Pakistan to be facing a death penalty for blasphemy.

Bibi, a Christian woman, was allegedly involved in an argument with three Muslim women after they refused to drink from a cup that she had touched, according to Al Jazeera. The three women later claimed that Bibi, in an ensuing argument, insulted Prophet Muhammed, a charge that carries capital punishment in Pakistan. In 2010, a court in Sheikhupura sentenced her to death by hanging. Since then, several appeals against the death sentence have not been able to give Bibi a relief. Last year, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar declined to hear her case.

Meanwhile, the SAMAF chairman, who also heads the Voice of Karachi, added that it is a common knowledge that blasphemy charges in Pakistan are routinely used against the country's religious minorities and Asiya Bibi's case is no exception. "In most cases, the real reasons behind blasphemy charges are very different and have nothing to do with the charges levelled against the accused persons," said Nusrat.

He further added that Pakistan's own military establishment has been fanning religious extremism in the country for decades, which has not only emboldened religious extremists but also made it "very convenient for anyone to accuse members of religious minorities of blasphemy."

Such reckless policies of the military establishment, Nusrat said, have created an environment of hatred and intolerance where not just religious minorities, but every peace-loving, secular-minded individual seems to be under threat.

"The killing of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer is just one example of this growing madness where religious and ethnic minorities have become a hostage to religious extremist forces and standing up to them is becoming increasingly dangerous," he added.

Apart from demanding the release of Bibi, the SAMAF chairman also urged Pakistani lawmakers to amend the current blasphemy laws, stating that the present laws allow religious extremists to conveniently accuse members of religious minorities of unfounded blasphemy charges.



Bangladesh court hands life sentence to acting opposition party chief over 2004 blasts

A Bangladesh court on Wednesday sentenced Tarique Rahman, the acting chairman of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to life in jail, and 19 more to death, over a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2004, lawyers said.

The opposition is in disarray ahead of general elections set for December, with Rahman trying to run its campaign from exile in London after his mother and party leader, former premier Khaleda Zia, was jailed on corruption charges in February.

(source: Reuters)


Tarique deserves death penalty: Law Minister

Expressing satisfaction over the verdict in the cases regarding August 21, 2004 grenade attack, Law Minister Anisul Huq said Tarique Rahman was the main hero (mastermind) behind the attack and he deserves death penalty, reports BSS.

Asked about whether he is satisfied with the verdict, he said at his secretariat office, "We are satisfied with the verdict. But the main hero (mastermind) behind the attack was Begum Khaleda Zia's eldest son Tarique Rahman and he deserves death penalty."

"But, he (Tarique) was given life imprisonment. After through scrutiny of the verdict, we will file appeal with the higher court for enhancement of his punishment," he continued.

Coming down heavily on BNP for not believing in rule of law, he said, "The Awami League government under the dynamic leadership of Sheikh Hasina has been relentlessly working to establish the rule of law with holding trail of all the cases. But, the BNP has destroyed the rule of law with not holding trial in such cases."

Referring to the verdict in the August 21, 2004 grenade attack, the law minister said, "I have so far knew the court sentenced death penalty to 19 people (including then BNP's state minister Lutfuzzaman Babar and deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu) and life term imprisonment to 19 others (including BNP's acting chairperson Tarique Rahman and political adviser of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia)."

"It was quite satisfactory as all of the accused of the cases had been sentenced in the verdict," he added.



'They hanged me from ceiling fan and beat me,' says grenade attack case 'scapegoat’ Joj Mia

Md Jalal alias Joj Mia became a household name for all the wrong reasons - he was implicated in an incident he had nothing to do with. He was tagged 'top terrorist' and spent a long time in jail.

Joj Mia from a village in Noakhali's Senbagh was made a 'scapegoat' in the investigation into the grenade attack targeting Sheikh Hasina on an Awami League rally in Dhaka around 1 1/2 decades ago.

Once an accused in the cases over the attack, Joj Mia is the witness now. spoke to Joj Mia, now working as a driver at a hospital in Dhaka, on Oct 5 ahead of Wednesday's verdict in the cases over the attack.

"I want maximum penalty for those who framed me and those who killed people in the grenade attack," he said.

BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman, now acting as the party chief from exile, and 37 other defendants face up to death penalty and 11 government officials maximum 7 years in jail if the court finds them guilty of the charges under the Bangladesh Penal Code and the Explosives Act.

The first 3 investigation officers of the case -- CID special superintendent Ruhul Amin, and 2 ex-CID ASPs Munshi Atiqur Rahman and Abdur Rashid - are also among the accused now.

The 3 investigation officers are accused of attempts to divert the investigation by showing Joj Mia as the attacker.

CID's assistant police superintendent Fazlul Kabir pressed charges against 22 people in June, 2008 -- during the caretaker government -- although the investigation made no progress during the BNP-Jamaat government.

After the Awami League came back to power in 2009, investigator Akanda filed a supplementary charge-sheet accusing 30 more including Tarique, and the 3 investigators.

Joj Mia recounted how his 'confession' was taken through torture after he was arrested on June 9, 2005.

Joj Mia, who ran a CD and poster business on the pavement in Dhaka's Gulistan, was at home in Noakhali at the time of the attack and his arrest as well.

He said he had taken part in the Awami League's protest programmes against the attack after seeing the news on TV.

He believes a local leader of the BNP selected him as the 'scapegoat' and handed him to the police.

Initially, he knew that he had been arrested on drugs offence charges, but later CID's Rashid brought him to Dhaka and officials threatened him at the CID office to make a confession that he had carried out the grenade attack.

Investigators Rashid, Ruhul Amin and Atiqur pressed him for the confession, Joj Mia said.

He was remanded for around 30 days in phases. The officials initially wanted to know who were involved in the attack and later they started pushing him for the confession, he said.

"There were days when I was hanged from ceiling fan. They hit me on my toes," said Joj Mia, who still carries the scars of the torture.

He alleged the CID officials also threatened him with death in so-called crossfire.

"I agreed at one stage considering my mother and sister's safety," he said.

Joj Mia said the police officials made him memorise the confessional statement with details of the attack. They also showed him videos of the area and the incident to make it clear to him, he said.

Rashid was present and corrected him when a magistrate recorded his statement, Joj Mia said.

He said he had to name top criminals like Subrata Bain and Molla Masud, who he had not known.

"The CID officials asked me to say that these 'Big Brothers' had ordered me to carry out the attack for Tk 5,000. Later, I met one of them ('Big Brothers') in jail and he asked me why I had took his name!" Joj Mia said.

He said his family was given money on a monthly basis through the CID as a reward for his 'confession'.

The media first unearthed the truth after his mother spoke out. He was later released.

Asked about his family, he gave both good and bad news. His mother died some days ago from a kidney disease and he could not arrange her treatment due to lack of money, Joj Mia said.

His sister's marriage is getting delayed for his involvement in the Aug 21 cases, he said.

And Joj Mia and his wife are expecting a child now, said the man with beaming smile.



Death for child rapists ineffective and too expensive, says policy paper

The infamous gang-rape and murder of a woman in New Delhi in 2012 sparked national protests and led to stringent punishments for perpetrators of rape. Almost 6 years after this incident, the rape and murder of an 8-year-old in Kathua and the sexual assault on a teen in Unnao, shocked the country and outraged people took to the streets, demanding death penalty for child rapists.

Driven in part by public sentiments, Indian parliament recently passed a law prescribing death penalty for the rape of children younger than 12 years. While this legislation is based on ideology that severe punishments will deter the commission of child rapes, a policy paper released by the Center for Criminology & Public Policy recently, suggests that expanding death penalty to child rapists is ineffective as a deterrent and is more expensive than other sentencing measures.

"Death penalty regime escapes the decisive cost-benefit analysis, because it is used by the government to distinguish itself by the toughness of their position - rather than its effectiveness. Before expanding death penalty to child rapists, the government should have carried out a scientific assessment to check whether it acted as deterrent for sexual crimes". - R Rochin Chandra, Director, CCPP

The policy paper, which was prepared in consultation with several experts, including legal researchers, police officers, advocates, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and rehabilitation consultants, highlighted the need for stricter implementation of laws, and diversion of public expenditure into child sexual-abuse prevention programs.

Director of the Center and policy paper's author, R Rochin Chandra, said, "Death penalty is not only a facile solution to the problem of child rape but its excessive cost of implementation interferes with a spectrum of preventive programs that have been demonstrated to work well".

In its paper, the Udaipur-based think-tank stated that endorsing death penalty for child rapists was a 'fiscally irresponsible decision' and its application will disproportionately affect the child victims, adding to the alarmingly low rates of conviction.

Emphasizing that execution of death penalty is shrinking the budget for crime prevention programs, Chandra, who has been offering consultancy to state's CID Crime Branch, said the state police forces run several innovative programs under its public-police outreach projects, which are aimed at solving the problems of crime faced by citizens.

For example, recently, Ahmedabad City Police in association with academic criminologists at Raksha Shakti University launched a policing program where they used crime victimization data to understand the conditions that promoted sexual violence against children and subsequently developed a community-based intervention model to provide prevention education and awareness around the issue of child sexual abuse".

"But because of government's heavy reliance on death penalty, the budget for such innovative and workable programs is shrinking", Chandra added.

Key arguments against death penalty

Prison economics overlooked

On how execution of death penalty increased the cost of prison management, the policy paper said: "the government will have to bear the expenses of locking up death row convicts, while also paying a team of judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors for many years - often decades - to debate whether a sentence of death should be imposed on them. This makes capital punishment more costly than its closest alternative - life imprisonment without parole."

Death penalty will serve differential justice

Pointing out that jurisprudence is always prospective not retrospective, the policy paper revealed that: "death penalty might satisfy public demand for justice to child victims, but it will cause gross injustice to child survivors, whose wrong doers would still be tried under old legislations".

"The decision to provide death penalty for child rape was a knee-jerk reaction by the government. It will only serve differential justice, where the rape of certain children would be treated more seriously than the rape of another", added Chandra.

Legal process is rigorous for death penalty

The paper mentioned that during 2004-2015, about 1300 prisoners were put on death row, but of those, only 4 cases resulted in execution. "These figures show that legal process for death penalty is significantly longer and more complex than for life imprisonment, and applying such punishment for child rape will only result in more acquittals than convictions", the position paper said.

Rapists will kill their victims

On what makes death penalty counter-productive, the paper said: "the threat to death will encourage the rapists to kill their victim in order to cover up the crime and eliminate the prime witness".

Death Penalty will have a silencing effect on victims

Highlighting that most of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are 'family members' or 'someone 'known' (as per the 2016 NCRB 'Crime in India' data), the paper argued that, "death penalty will put the child in a loyalty conflict, due to which she will not reveal the abuse".

It also added that expansion of death penalty to child rapists will seriously reduce the reporting of crime.

Death Penalty - a hollow claim of deterrence

The paper argued that death penalty for child rape is not an effective instrument of deterrence.

"Even after executing Nirbhaya convicts and bringing severe punishments under substantive as well as juvenile laws, there has been a considerable rise in child rape cases in the entire country, explaining the ineffectiveness of death penalty as a deterrent", Chandra said,adding that, "certainty and swiftness of punishment will have greater deterrent effect than severity of punishment".



Lord Ahmad marks World Day Against the Death Penalty

Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad reaffirms the UK's long-standing policy on the death penalty.

Minister for Human Rights, Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon said:

On World Day Against the Death Penalty, we reaffirm the UK’s long-standing policy to oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle.

The death penalty undermines human dignity, there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value, and any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreparable.

With the Magna Carta Fund we work globally through our diplomatic network and with international experts to reduce use of the death penalty and to work towards its abolition.

We call on the 73rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations to vote in favour of the Resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. We will continue to work with other states, parliaments and civil society groups who share this goal.



I didn't know my country had the death penalty - until they executed my father

My father was sentenced to death in Belarus in 2016. 10 months later, he was executed. We were only notified 1 month after his death, as is usual in Belarus.

I used to visit my father in prison once a month. He was escorted to our meetings by 5 prison guards. His hands were tied together and he couldn't see where he was going. He was always stressed when he came to see me. He knew he was either going to see me, his lawyer or he was going to be shot.

The prison guards would stay with us, listening carefully to what we were talking about. We never spoke about what he did or about his case. We only spoke about personal matters.

I remember the last time I saw my father. It was on 5 November 2016. He was saying:

'Everything is fine, we have enough time, don't worry.'

One prison guard was joking ironically: 'Yes, you have a bit of time. Just a bit left.'

The guard was making it clear that my father's execution was going to happen sooner or later. He wanted to crush my father's morale while I was there. I can only imagine how they acted one on one, with no relatives or loved ones present.

I gave my father a parcel, thinking I would go again a month later. Just as I was planning to visit him again, we got the letter. He'd been shot the day I went to see him.

We didn't ask for any of his personal belongings. My mother was scared they would send us his prison uniform. But it's a shame because he had personal photographs. I think they threw them out or burnt them - they could have returned them to us.

My father had been accused of killing his girlfriend but the whole trial was very strange. It was more like a circus. 1 witness turned up drunk. His testimonies were contradictory, even the judge questioned it. The witness was saying: 'Oh, I can't remember exactly.'

The entire case was built on such testimonies and evidence. 'Nobody else could have done it' was the main line of argument in the case and the fact that my father had a criminal record. The court didn't care about who else could have done it.

It's bizarre but that's how it was - our government decided the outcome.

The death penalty is a longstanding practice in Belarus. It’s thought that during the Soviet times up to 250,000 people were executed and buried in a place called Kurapaty.

It might seem like a long time ago, but it's still happening today. People are executed and nobody is notified. Families have no idea where their loved ones are buried.

For us, it's hard to come to terms with what's happened because we didn't bury my father, we didn't see his body - so it's like he's still out there somewhere, alive and well.

We do have a plot for his grave. We've kept it very plain, but it doesn't stop us from praying for him. It's harder for my mother because some people keep telling her he's still alive. Others call and say they can show her where he's buried - if we pay.

There are few people who pay attention to the fact we still have the death penalty in Belarus - so I am grateful to organisations such as Amnesty International which continue to draw public attention to the problem and which campaigned for my father's death sentence to be commuted.

After he was sentenced to death, nobody ever discussed it with me in our small town in Belarus. However, people on the internet had a lot to say.

People didn't understand why my mother and I supported him. Some said we should be shot as well or placed in a psychiatric hospital. People also said things about my 4-year-old daughter. That's what hurt me the most. They said she should be shot because she will grow up to be the same.

People often ask me why I tell my story. I don't talk about political issues, I'm not interested. I am telling my personal story, how it affected my family. Despite the tragedy that struck our family, we are moving on - I need to, especially for my daughter.

I have a great creative job, which I love. It's helping me to heal, move on from my problems and forget all the difficulties we've faced.

I didn't even know the death penalty existed in Belarus - the 1st time I heard about it was in court. When the public prosecutor demanded the death penalty, I was shocked. I thought he was mistaken. That's the problem. Before you face it yourself, you don't think about it.

There are at least 4 prisoners known to be on death row in Belarus. To mark World Day Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty International is launching a campaign highlighting cases in Belarus, Ghana, Iran, Japan and Malaysia, where the death penalty is commonly used. To find out more, visit



Somalia's al Shabaab executes 5 men accused of spying

Somalia's al Shabaab Islamists on Tuesday shot 5 men in a public execution, including a Somali British citizen accused of spying, a sign of the insurgents' control of southern swathes of the country, even as authorities step up efforts to combat them.

Al Shabaab's grip on the Horn of Africa nation has been weakening since it was pushed out of the capital by African Union peacekeepers in 2011, but the government and the U.S. military are beefing up an offensive against it.

"5 of them were publicly shot to death this afternoon after they admitted espionage before the court," said Mohamed Abu Abdalla, al Shabaab's governor for the Jubba regions.

"Awale Ahmed Mohamed, 32 spied for MI6 and he came from Britain to Somalia to establish Islamic State," he told Reuters late on Tuesday.

3 of the men spied for the United States and helped guide drones to carry out strikes in Somalia, while a 4th spied for the Somali government, he added.

The government did not return telephone calls from Reuters to seek comment.

The U.S. drones often carry out strikes against the Somali militants, with the U.S. military saying it killed 1 militant in an air strike in southern Somalia over the weekend.

Al Shabaab is trying to overthrow Somalia's weak, U.N.-backed government and impose a strict form of Islamic law. The country has been torn apart by civil war since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator before turning on each other.

(soruce: Reuters)


It's time Kenya abolished the death sentence

Death is the most controversial topic in many cultures and societies. Some believe life is cyclical; it doesn't have an end. Others believe life is lineal; there is an end to it.

While some talk about it freely, in most African cultures death is usually spoken about in hushed tones and whispers. In some communities, it is an abomination to talk about death. They believe it is an enemy of life and life should be preserved by all means, even if the case is hopeless.

I take 'hopeless' to mean those suffering from incurable diseases, habitual offenders, murderers or other people or conduct that disrupts, or terminates, life.


Most human beings fear death. We can tell from the many inventions and products churned out on a daily basis to prolong life, prevent ageing and delay death. If this is the case, what about that person who knows that on a certain date they will meet their death in the most inhumane way?

No matter how hard we try to justify the death penalty through religion, culture and laws, it still is inhumane. Death is barbaric, inhumane and degrading. Why should one human being condemn another to such cruelty?

In Kenyan laws, the death penalty is prescribed in the Penal Code for offences of murder, robbery with violence, attempted robbery with violence, treason and administration of oath to bind a person to commit a capital offence.


Until recently, the courts did not have discretion to consider mitigation when meting out the death penalty unless where the accused was mentally ill, pregnant or a minor.

The death penalty is a residue of the colonial laws imposed on Kenya by the British colonial master, who used it to uphold "good governance, justice and civilisation". Violence and death were tools to control the African and facilitate operations of the State.

The application of the death penalty in Kenya was heightened during the Independence struggle. Records show that 280 of the 3,584 people sentenced to death were executed in 24 years - 1963 to 1987.

Around the world, 106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, seven for ordinary crimes, 29 are abolitionist in practice (including Kenya) and 56 retain the practice.


The death penalty, whether in law or practice, deprives a person of their humanity. Living on death row is a two-pronged punishment: Psychological torture for waiting to die and the death itself.

But how can a regional economic power and democratically progressive nation such as Kenya keep such a heinous punishment in its laws? The penalty has not deterred crime. The threshold in some of the capital offences that attract the death penalty are low.

Further, Kenyan prisons are congested due to limited infrastructure.

While the prisons authorities might try to offer good living conditions, the high numbers of inmates make it hard to manage the wards, especially in regard to personal hygiene. This usually leads to infections and diseases. This further threatens their rights to life, dignity and privacy.


I have spent time with inmates who had been condemned to death before the sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.

I have seen them making use of their time in prison in many useful ways: Studying for degrees, teaching their colleagues in the prison school and using their technical skills in the workshop, among other vocational programmes.

I have witnessed some of these people, who had a date with the hangman, supporting fellow inmates to access justice and even challenging unconstitutional laws in court.

I have talked to people who, in my opinion, have reformed and are ripe for reintegration. I have seen people who were on death row released either through acquittal on appeal or the presidential pardon moving on to provide immense service to the community.


I do not even want to get to those who, for whatever reason, have innocently found themselves in prison.

I wonder what loss we would incur if these useful members of society had been killed.

The British, who enjoy a cordial bilateral relationships with Kenya, have a moral obligation to advocate against death penalty in their former colony too. They introduced this heinous law and should, therefore, come out to condemn it and support the abolition movement.

As we mark the 16th World Day Against Death Penalty today, it is time Kenya looked at the effectiveness of the death penalty and whether we need to continue having it in our books or not.

(source: Mr John Muthuri is a legal aid manager at African Prisons


World Day 2018: Death penalty; an inhumane punishment for death row prisoners, their families and society as a whole

Every year several hundred people are executed by the Iranian authorities. According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and other human rights groups, death row prisoners have often no access to a defence lawyer after their arrest and are sentenced to death following unfair trials and based on confessions extracted from them under torture. These are issues which have been addressed in IHR’s previous reports. The current report is based on first-hand accounts of several inmates held in Iran's prisons and their families. The report seeks to illustrate other aspects of how the death penalty affects the inmate, their families and, as a consequence, society.

How does a death row inmate experience his final hours?

Speaking about the final hours of a prisoner prior to his execution, Saeed (name changed), who has been on death row for a while and has even been taken to the gallows once, told IHR: "Recently, there has been an increase in the number of the days inmates at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj are kept in solitary confinement ahead of their execution and so you can no longer really speak of an inmate's final hours. Generally, the prisoners have their hands and feet cuffed in this period to make sure they harm neither themselves nor their guards and to avoid any trouble during their transfer. Prisoners sentenced to death are moved to solitary confinement on Saturdays and usually executed on Wednesdays. There have been cases where the execution was postponed to Wednesday in the following week. During this time, prisoners are given only government food to eat. And that food is absolutely inedible. While still in their ward, they do their own cooking, making their own meals and throwing away the government food.

The final visit is the most awful thing there is and, to my mind, worse than the execution itself. A prisoner who is taken to his final visit hasn't cleaned himself and eaten in days and has had to wash his hands in the toilet bowl of his solitary confinement cell. As the windows are sealed shut, the solitary confinement cell is steaming hot in the summer. I could virtually see the sweat coming out of the cells of my skin. Imagine, in these conditions, the prisoner, whose hands and feet are cuffed, is brought to the last visit and given 10 minutes to say goodbye to his family. Granted, in some cases, they do uncuff the prisoner's hands. The families weep, they cry out in anguish, then the 10 minutes are over, and they hold on to the prisoner's hands and feet and won't let him leave the visiting room. The male guards forcefully separate the women from the prisoner as there are no female officers to do that.

These are frantic and reprehensible moments for the families, and most prisoners whose hands and feet are tied become angry and, frequently, they are subjected to electric shocks and beaten with truncheons once they have left the room. The final visit is usually held after office hours because that is when the visitors' section is closed.

On the one hand, the blankets which are given to prisoners in the solitary confinement cell reek of vomit. When they moved me to solitary confinement, there was a blanket under the dustbin and slime was dripping on it from the waste in the bin. The officer told me to pick it up. I told him it was dirty. The officer said that the other blankets were even dirtier, and he was telling the truth. All the blanket smelled of urine, excrement and rubbish.

There is no fixed time for taking a death row inmate to his execution. Usually, it is between 5 and 6 in the morning. But there was a case where an inmate, Mohammad Ghiasvand, who was convicted of a murder under a group fight was held in solitary confinement for a week and was executed at 8 in the morning. When he was picked up to be executed, he thought they were taking him to meet his lawyer. He didn't know that he was going to be executed on his own. Unless someone has pity on you, no one gets to know (about the execution) and you are not told when you are going to be executed individually or in twos.

As in the nights before, the prisoner is kept in solitary confinement for the last night. His hands and feet tied together, he lies on the floor of the cell with his eyes fixed on the ceiling. Sometimes, if the prisoner is lucky, his hands are tied in the front and he gets to masturbate."

Drugs: a refuge for death row inmates

Prisoners wait between several months and several years before their death sentence is carried out. Anxiety, depression and, in many cases, suicide is rampant among death row inmates and as no specialised healthcare provider and adequate medication are available in prison, most of the prisoners revert to the use of narcotic drugs. To procure drugs in prison, you need money. Generally, maintaining good relations with the guards and other prison staff is helpful. To make money, addicted prisoners are forced to sell drugs, and to be able to sell drugs in the prison environment you need some kind of power structure to protect yourself and this kind of power can be acquired in group structures. For this reason, most prisons have gangs consisting of death row inmates who traffic drugs.

Ali (nicknamed Black Ali ) was one of the prisoners at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. He was imprisoned after having been found guilty of murder for having killed someone in a street fight. Soon after being throw in prison he became addicted to drugs and started to peddle drugs in order to cover his expenses. As it happened, prison officers discovered drugs in his cell and this time he was sentenced to death for possessing and dealing drugs. After having been convicted to death, Ali began to shoot heroin and soon infected with HIV. In order to earn money, he then became a "fall guy" who, every time drugs were found in the prison facility, would report to the prison guards and say: "Those drugs belong to me". In return for doing so, the actual owners would give Ali drugs or pay him money to buy more drugs. As a result, he was convicted to death in 8 more cases of drug possession. In 2011, Ali put an end to his life at the Rajai Shahr Prison facility.

Sexual relations between death row inmates

Sexual relations between prisoners, particularly between death row inmates who have no hope of ever coming out of prison alive, is very common. Although, for the most part, the prisoners engage in such relations voluntarily and based on mutual consent, sometimes weak prisoners engage in such relations with strong prisoners and drug sellers for the protection they afford and in return for drugs.

Execution: The punishment inflicted on an inmate's family

A prisoner incarcerated at Urmia Prison who faces the death sentence reports: "In truth, my execution is punishment for my family. My mother will lose a son, my wife her husband, my sister her brother and, most important of all, my daughter will never get to see her father again. But me, after I'm dead, I will no longer be around to be punished.

Alongside the psychological aspects and the behavioural issues that death row inmates need to come to terms with, the prisoners' families also have their burden to bear. For families of prisoners, especially of prisoners who are married and have children, this is particularly agonising. It appears that there are some similarities in what children of death row inmates experience in society. In the knowledge that their father or mother have been put to death on account of the society’s laws, they are confronted with the concept of death and need to find a way to move on with their lives. Having been marked while they are still children, they will have to suffer the stigma of being the child of someone who has been executed for the remainder of their lives. As a result, these children are much more likely to develop anti-social behaviour, personality disorders and other mental issues.

Gholam (name changed) was executed in 2017 at Urmia Prison after being found guilty of drug trafficking. He had received 300 thousand tomans, a paltry sum, for the job of carrying the drug. The person who had hired him was never arrested although Golam disclosed his identity. Fellow inmates report that Gholam was called out for execution on a Friday morning at 8 Am. Moments before he was going to be executed, he gave the attending judge a picture of his children and said: I did it to fill their empty stomachs, don't make my children orphans. Gholam's wife now lives in Urmia with her two children and receives an insignificant allowance from welfare, which hardly suffices to make ends meet. The family had been renting a place and when Qolam was executed the landlord found out and demanded that Gholam's wife and children vacate the premises. Gholam's wife and children lived with relatives for roughly one year until they finally found a room to rent in one of Urmia's poorest neighbourhoods. The people of the neighbourhood have been told of Gholam's fate and the two children are sometimes made fun of at school. Also, ever since he was executed, Gholam's wife has been routinely harassed by men wanting sexual relations with her. A family friend says: Even the local cleric went after her once he found out that she has no husband.

Depression, anxiety and even suicide are prevalent among the family members of the death row inmates. The families of inmates who have been put to death, most of whom are from the lower social classes, do not receive any psychological support and counselling.

The story of a 52-year-old mother's suicide in Kermanshah after her son had been executed in 2013 was even reported by the State media. After two years in prison, Fereydoon was sentenced to death at Dizel Abad Prison (Kermanshah) for carrying drugs. He, too, had agreed to act as a courier for a small fee due to money problems. Fereydoon was married and up until he was incarcerated he had also cared for his mother. 3 days after Fereydoon's execution, his mother took her own life by hanging herself.

Whether guilty or not, the outcome of the death penalty is the same. In Iran, the death penalty is by hanging, and it takes from several agonising seconds to several harrowing minutes for death to occur and for everything to be over. However, before their death sentence is carried out, the inmates spend some time in prison or the detention centre. Many death row inmates do not consider these few minutes of struggle on the threshold to their death the main punishment, but rather the days and nights they spend in prison awaiting their death.

It is undeniable that the families of those condemned to death, and particularly the children, also suffer from the profound impact this experience has on their lives; so much so, that these children and families themselves, in enduring this punishment, can be said to experience a death of their own. The effects appear at the time of the actual execution and last for many years thereafter. The indifference or hostility shown by society is capable of exacerbating the trauma that the families of prisoners suffer on account of the execution of a loved one or even just the risk of execution. That is why, until the death penalty is completely abolished in Iran, civil society organisations, need to pay particular attention to the families of death row inmates, especially to their children.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

OCTOBER 9, 2018:


From death row to preacher, man changed NC's death penalty law has died

James Woodson, a man whose case led to the overturn of an automatic death penalty in North Carolina, died last week at the age of 67.

Woodson was convicted in 1974 of 1st-degree murder in connection with the death of a convenience store clerk who was shot during a store robbery. Woodson, who claimed that his life would have been threatened if he did not join 3 others in the robbery, stayed in the car as a lookout.

At the time of his trial, state law automatically allowed for the death penalty for a 1st-degree murder conviction.

Claiming the automatic death sentence violates the Eighth Amendment - which prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments - Woodson appealed and, in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed, struck down the law and spared Woodson's life and that of 120 other inmates.

Woodson served about 17 years in prison, then lived a crime-free life in Raleigh, eventually returning to the Wake Correctional Center to preach to inmates there.

"There's a choice in the matter in life itself," he told WRAL News in 2009. "Do you want to live? Do you want to be helpful to another individual because you've been helped?

"It was a good feeling (when I was released). I, James Tyrone Woodson, don't ever want to be in prison again," he said.

Woodson's obituary, posted by Haywood Funeral Home, said simply, "Mr. James Woodson, 67, of Raleigh, North Carolina, departed this earthly life on Thursday, October 4, 2018."

(source: WRAL news)


2 Henderson accused killers wait to learn if they will face the death penalty

2 Henderson County murder suspects will soon learn whether they may face the death penalty if they are convicted.

District Attorney Greg Newman says Anthony Moore and Terry Brank will learn if they may face capital punishment in a hearing November 5, 2018.

(source: WLOS news)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

As His Execution Nears, Edmund Zagorski Speaks----I don't want to be tortured with those drugs, but I am not afraid of death'

Edmund Zagorski MagSometime tonight, prison officials at Nashville's Riverbend Maximum Security Institution will take Edmund Zagorski from his cell on death row and move him to one of four 8-by-10-foot cells next to Tennessee's execution chamber. He'll spend the next three days there on "death watch," before the state puts him to death by lethal injection on Thursday night.

Zagorski says that, as he takes that final walk, he'll have the Molly Hatchet's 1979 hard-driving Southern rock classic "Flirtin' With Disaster" in his head.

I'm travelin' down the road, I'm flirtin' with disaster

I've got the pedal to the floor, My life is running faster

Prison officials will not permit interviews with men awaiting execution. The Scene sought an interview with Zagorski through his attorneys, but the request was denied by Riverbend Warden Tony Mays. We were able to get him written questions through an attorney who visited with him over the weekend. Zagorski answered them all.

Although some death row staff and prison officials have expressed support for clemency in Zagorski's case, and jurors from his original trial say they would have sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole if they'd had that option, Gov. Bill Haslam announced last week that he will not intervene to stop the execution. The Tennessee Supreme Court could rule this week on a lawsuit brought by dozens of death row inmates arguing that the state's lethal injection protocol amounts to torture.

Zagorski grew up in Tecumseh, Mich., and was 29 years old when he was convicted. He has been on death row for 34 years - since he was sentenced to death for murdering John Dale Dotson and Jimmy Porter after they met him to buy a large quantity of marijuana. As of this writing, barring intervention from the governor or the courts, Zagorski has less than 100 hours left to live.

Here's what he has to say.

Can you tell me about a happy time in your life, in prison or before you went to prison?

The gravel pits were my paradise. I didn’t like to spend much time at home because my mom was mentally ill. So I would go out to the gravel pits. I had privacy there, and there were swimming holes. I would race my motorcycle out there. I love motorcycles. I had a Harley. The girls loved a man on a Harley.

Is there a book or music that has been important to you during your time in prison?

The Washing of the Spears, the Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation is my favorite book. It is about how the Zulus stood up to the British. They made a movie out of it. I also like The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. By reading that book you get a better understanding of the Middle East.

As far as music, I like old rock and roll from the '70s and '80s. Stevie Nicks is my favorite female singer. I like old Rod Stewart. Old Aerosmith. The song that I have been thinking about and will be in my head when they take me over there is "Flirting With Disaster" by Molly Hatchet.

How are you feeling this week as this date approaches? Has your daily routine changed at all?

Relieved it's over. I feel good. I have no resentment against anybody. I am glad that I get to go out in good health instead of rotting away in prison.

Are you afraid of what will happen on Thursday?

No, not at all. I don't want to be tortured with those drugs, but I am not afraid of death.

Is there anything you think people should know about death row and the men who live there?

That most of them don't belong in here if you look at what it is that they have done and what the death penalty is supposed to be for. There are a very few exceptions, but most of the guys are really easy-going. I have been in here for 35 years now, and I have never had anything stolen from me.

Is there anything more you would like to say to Gov. Bill Haslam?

Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate you at least taking the time out to consider it.

Is there anything else you would like to say to the public about your life, the crimes for which you were convicted or your time in prison since?

To the general public, things are not always as they seem. I think people need to relax a little bit more. And be a little less judgmental about your neighbors. And try not to dictate everybody else's life. Always try to have more friends than you do enemies.



Tennessee Supreme Court Tosses Lethal Injection Protest

Tennessee's execution method is not cruel and unusual, the state supreme court ruled Monday, 3 days before the state's next execution, because inmates challenging its 3-drug lethal injection protocol did not present a viable alternative.

27 death-row inmates claimed the execution protocol violates the Eighth Amendment because midazolam, a sedative, does not counteract the burning and suffocating effects of the next 2 drugs: vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

But in the 4-to-1 ruling Monday, Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins wrote: "(T)he Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden to establish that Tennessee's current 3-drug lethal injection protocol constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution or article 1, section 16 of the Tennessee Constitution. As a result, we need not address the Plaintiffs' claim that the 3-drug protocol creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain."

That burden, Bivins said, included offering a viable alternative, as laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Glossip v. Gross (2015), which unsuccessfully challenged Oklahoma's virtually identical execution protocol.

The Tennessee inmates said at trial that the state could execute them through Tennessee's other execution protocol: 1 lethal dose of pentobarbital. Texas and Georgia executed people that way this year.

But the Tennessee Supreme Court disagreed and sided with the state, which said it could not obtain pentobarbital. Many pharmaceutical companies refuse to provide the drug for executions. Bivins also ruled that the court could not "establish new law" by accepting the inmates' argument that Tennessee secrecy laws involving death penalty protocols affected their ability to argue their case.

"We will not judge the reasonableness of Tennessee's efforts to obtain lethal injection drugs by the ability of other states to do so. ... Proof that lethal injection drugs are available with ordinary transactional effort requires more than mere speculation, more than just a showing of hypothetical availability," Bivins wrote.

The decision came just 5 days after the court heard oral arguments in Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman et al. v. Tony Parker et al., and 3 days before the Tennessee plans to execute Edmund Zagorski.

Tennessee in January adopted a lethal-injection protocol that begins with a 500-milligram dose of midazolam, followed by vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. 33 original plaintiffs sued the state in February and appealed the trial court’s dismissal in July. The state supreme court reached down to take up the case, and set an expedited briefing schedule.

Justice Sharon Lee on Monday wrote a 9-page dissent, lamenting the court's "unfortunate rush to execute," rather than resetting the execution dates so it could consider the constitutionality of the 3-drug protocol.

"With the stroke of a pen and in the interest of fairness and justice, the Court could have reset these executions," Lee wrote, referring specifically to Zagorski, Billy Ray Irick (already executed) and David Earl Miller, scheduled to be killed on Dec. 6.

"By putting this case on a rocket docket," Lee added, "the Court denied the Petitioners a fair and meaningful opportunity to be heard and jeopardized the public's confidence and trust in the impartiality and integrity of the judicial system."

Bivins, however, found that due process was met, in part, because the parties were allowed to file expanded briefs. While the page limit for appellate arguments is usually 50 pages, the court allowed attorneys representing the inmates to file a 179-page argument. Lee also criticized Glossip, noting that it was a 5-4 decision, and saying it deflected the Tennessee court's attention from the question of whether the midazolam-led, 3-drug protocol was likely to cause needless pain and suffering.

"(U)nder Glossip, even if the Petitioners established that the State’s execution method will cause them to experience needless suffering or intolerable pain," Lee wrote, "the State may still carry out the execution unless the Petitioners also prove an available alternative method for their own executions [emphasis in original]."

Lee said that because the trial court did not base its decision on the evidence of pain, that portion of the trial was not reviewed at the appellate level.

In an email to Courthouse News, Kelley Henry, a federal public defender who argued on behalf of the inmates before the Tennessee Supreme Court last week, wrote: "Today a divided Tennessee Supreme Court paved the way for torturous executions. The decision is unfortunate and we will appeal to the United States Supreme Court."

That appeal, if it comes, faces little chance of success. The U.S. Supreme Court, after all, rejected the appeal from Irick this year, and he was executed. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a stinging dissent in Irick, which Lee quoted in her dissent: "In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the Court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the State of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody, while shrouding his suffering behind a veneer of paralysis," Sotomayor wrote. "If the law permits this execution to go forward in spite of the horrific final minutes that trick may well experience, then we have stopped being a civilized nation and accepted barbarism."

(source: Courthouse News)


Justice Delayed, With a Life on the Line

Imagine being framed for a horrific crime: the fatal stabbing of a married couple and 2 children. You then spend 35 years in prison awaiting execution for that quadruple murder.

Imagine that you’re a black man and that the trial was tainted by the ugliest racism. Meanwhile, federal judges and FBI investigators cite evidence that the real killer is a white convicted murderer who came home late on the night of the murders in bloody coveralls, but when his girlfriend reported him to authorities, police took the bloody coveralls and threw them away.

Imagine that evidence sits in government storage that could show who actually committed the murders, yet year after year a governor refuses to allow advanced DNA testing.

That is, I've argued, what happened to Kevin Cooper, now on death row at San Quentin prison. For 11 years, as attorney general and governor, Jerry Brown has refused to allow advanced DNA testing that could free Cooper or confirm his guilt.

Now I have a new argument that perhaps can move Brown. The white convicted murderer who is the other suspect in the case has voluntarily provided samples of his DNA and told me that he too wants advanced DNA testing of evidence from the murder scene.

"I had nothing to do with this crime," the man, Lee, told me. "I want it all retested, yes. To clear my name."

I've used just Lee's 1st name, because he asked me not to use his full name and because enough damage has been done in this murder case by people jumping to conclusions without clear proof. Lee said that his former girlfriend had fingered him to police because she was jealous of his new flame, and that the bloody coveralls were not his.

"I have no idea who did it," said Lee, now 68. "The police need to do their job properly and find out who did it."

So both suspects in the case are now pleading with Brown to permit advanced DNA testing of evidence from the murder scene. A towel used by the killers has never been tested at all, and a T-shirt used by a murderer hasn't been tested for "touch DNA" to determine who wore it.

Some hairs found clutched in the victims' hands, possibly ripped from the killer's head, are not from an African-American like Cooper and have also never been tested at all.

Will Brown listen?

I asked Brown what he is waiting for, and he emphasized that he is reviewing the case with input from both sides. "I'll act on it," he said. He also protested that my reporting on the case, which led to widespread calls for DNA testing, was one-sided and had "left out a number of elements.”

While Brown denied that he was running out the clock, he refused to commit to resolving the issue before leaving office in January. Referring to the likelihood that Gavin Newsom will be elected governor next month, he said: "You're going to get a guy more liberal than me coming around the corner. Don't worry."

I suggested that for an innocent man on death row, every extra day is no minor thing. Brown shrugged and observed that California has 130,000 prisoners.

There has been another important development in the Cooper case. A witness has provided a sworn declaration describing a confession by Lee to the killings, committed with 2 other named individuals, according to Cooper's defense counsel, Norman C. Hile. The name of the witness is being kept confidential for now for the protection of the witness, Hile said in a letter to the governor.

The 1983 killings - of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica, and an 11-year-old neighbor, Chris Hughes - were as barbaric a crime as one can imagine. Yet the horror of this crime will have been compounded if an innocent man has been framed for it.

Granted, maybe I'm wrong about this. So, governor, prove me wrong. Test the evidence. Settle the doubts.

To study criminal justice is to see how flawed our system is. Researchers have repeatedly found that black defendants are more likely to be convicted, more likely to receive long sentences, more likely to be sentenced to death - especially, as in this case, where the victims are white. One study found that judges are less likely to grant parole when they are hungry, before lunch. Another study found that judges issue longer sentences the week after their college alma mater football team unexpectedly loses a game. Given this arbitrariness in the system, it is unconscionable to let a man languish on death row without even testing all the evidence. At stake is the life of one man, but also the legitimacy of our criminal justice system.

This case is illustrative of the problem with the death penalty, and 163 people on death row have been exonerated since 1973. This is not a problem of one man, but of a flawed system of justice.

I generally admire Brown and agree with him on most issues. But I'm mystified, as are many of his friends, by his recalcitrance in the Kevin Cooper case. I'm glad that my May column finally got him to review options for DNA testing, but almost 5 months have elapsed and Cooper is still waiting.

Brown told me he wished that "people would take more of an interest" in criminal justice issues. Governor, here's 1 such issue: Please show more interest yourself.

(source: Nicholas Kristof writes for The New York Time)


Can Kim Kardashian save the life of death row inmate Kevin Cooper?

A tweet by Kim Kardashian this past Sunday may mean new hope for California death row inmate Kevin Cooper. Cooper has been on death row since he was convicted in 1985 of a quadruple murder of a family in the Chino Hills suburb of Los Angeles.

The crime scene was bloody and brutal. Law enforcement insists that Cooper killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, who was staying with the family the night of the murders. There was one survivor, a then-8-year-old Josh Ryen, who had his throat cut and was left for dead.

Cooper had escaped from a minimum-security prison and was hiding out at a nearby residence at the time of the murder, and police focused their attention on him as the chief suspect in the case. When he was finally arrested, police claimed that evidence - including a bloody footprint, a drop of blood and a piece of cigarette paper - tied him to the crime scene.

However, after Josh Ryen recovered from his injuries, he stated that it was three white or Hispanic men who attacked and killed his family and that Cooper was not involved.

In 2016, Copper received national attention after the date of his execution was once again scheduled, despite 5 federal judges issuing a blistering 103-page dissent on his last appeal.

The judges stated, "There is no way to say this politely. The district court failed to provide Cooper a fair hearing. The district court impeded and obstructed Cooper's attorneys at every turn. [T]he court imposed unreasonable conditions, refused discovery that should have been available as a matter of course; limited testimony that should not have been limited; and found facts unreasonably, based on a truncated and distorted record. Public confidence in the proper administration of the death penalty depends on the integrity of the process followed by the state. ... So far as due process is concerned, 24 years of flawed proceedings are as good as no proceedings at all."

The judges found that the prosecution and the Sheriff's office destroyed, tampered with and hid from the defense significant evidence that the jury never heard. Finally, in a damning statement, the judges wrote, "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man."

Now Kim Kardashian has asked via Twitter:

Governor Brown, please add Kevin Cooper to your legacy of smart, fair and thoughtful criminal justice reforms.

- Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 7, 2018

The reality TV star and wife of rapper Kanye West was successful this summer in appealing to President Donald Trump to commute the sentence of Alice Johnson, a Black grandmother who had served 21 years of a life sentence after being convicted on drug possession charges. But whether she can help a Black man convicted of murdering a White family in a case involving an alleged police cover-up remains to be seen.

These facts about Cooper's case are listed on a defense website,, and are as follows:

The coroner who investigated the Ryen murders concluded that the crime took 4 minutes at most and that the murder weapons were a hatchet, a long knife, an ice pick and perhaps a 2nd knife. How could a single person, in 4 or fewer minutes, wield 3 or 4 weapons, and inflict more than 140 wounds on 5 people, 2 of whom were adults - including a 200-pound ex-marine - who had loaded weapons near their bedsides?

2 days after the crimes were discovered, the sheriff's department issued a "criminal bulletin" stating the suspects were "3 . . . White or Mexican males," one wearing a "blue short-sleeve shirt." In 2004, the defense uncovered that the day after the murders a sheriff's deputy recovered a blue shirt with blood on it near the scene of the crimes. The prosecution never disclosed the blue shirt to the defense, and it is now "missing."

A woman identified as a girlfriend of one of the possible murderers alerted the sheriff's department that her boyfriend, a convicted murderer, left blood-spattered coveralls at her home the night of the murders. She also reported that her boyfriend owned a hatchet matching the one recovered near the scene of the crime, which she noted was missing in the days following the murders. It never reappeared. Furthermore, her sister saw the boyfriend in a vehicle that could have been the Ryens' car on the night of the murders.

The sheriff's deputy who destroyed the bloody coveralls lied at trial when he testified that he acted on his own in destroying them. In 1998, more than 13 years after the trial, the defense uncovered a sheriff's office "disposition report" that showed that the deputy's supervisor had in fact approved the destruction of the coveralls. That report was never turned over to the defense, and the jury thus never knew that the testimony they heard from the deputy was false.



Judge denies Marvin Gabrion's latest appeal

One of the last chances for Michigan's only inmate on death row to avoid execution has been struck down.

In a 216-page response filed last week, a federal judge in West Michigan denied Marvin Gabrion's latest appeal.

In that appeal, Gabrion claimed some of what the jury heard was false or misleading, that his attorneys were ineffective and that the government didn't disclose some evidence that could have helped his case. He also claimed the death penalty was unconstitutionally applied in his case, in part because he is white and in part because he says he is mentally ill.

Judge Robert Jonker said the appeal had no merit and that parts of it didn't meet procedural requirements. Jonker also rejected Gabrion's request to have a competency hearing, to have a psychiatrist visit him, to file some documents under restricted access and to fire his lawyer.

Gabrion was convicted in 2002 of killing 19-year-old Rachel Timmerman in 1997. Authorities say she was still alive when he bound her, weighed her down with cinder blocks and dumped her in a lake near Big Rapids.

At the time, Gabrion was awaiting trial for Timmerman's rape. She and her 11-month-old daughter Shannon Verhage are among five people he is suspected of killing to get rid of them.

Michigan does not have the death penalty. But because Timmerman's body was found on federal property in the Manistee National Forest, Gabrion's case was handled at the federal level, which does have capital punishment. Over the course of several appeals, higher courts have overturned his sentence and then reinstated it.

Now 64, he is being held at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

(source: WOOD TV news)


Trump demands death penalty for cop killers

President Trump on Monday renewed his call for those who kill police officers to get the death penalty, during a speech to law enforcement officers in Florida.

"Reducing crime begins with respecting law enforcement," Trump said. “We believe that criminals who kill our police officers should immediately, with trial, but rapidly as possible, not 15 years later, 20 years later - get the death penalty."

The president has issued that call before and even vowed during the campaign to pursue a related executive order, which he has yet to do. But the comments come toward the end of what has been an especially deadly year for law enforcement. Already, 43 officers have been fatally shot, nearing the 2017 total of 45 gunfire-related deaths.

Trump spoke at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Orlando, where he also discussed the Chicago crime crisis and said he's sending Attorney General Jeff Sessions "immediately" to address the "shooting wave' in the city.

"The crime spree [in Chicago] is a terrible blight on that city, and we'll do everything possible to get it done," Trump said. "Law enforcement people in Chicago ... they would solve the problem if they were simply allowed to do their job and do their job properly."

Trump said that the administration would start working with Chicago "today."

"We strongly oppose efforts from politicians who try to shackle local law enforcement. Let's see whether Chicago accepts help. They need it," he said. "We'll straighten it out fast. They want to straighten it out. ... Sometimes I think maybe it is possible that they don't."

Last month, Sessions gave a speech outside Chicago to police officers, likewise complaining that politicians are "forcing their police departments to restrict proactive community policing."

According to the Chicago Tribune, 2,346 people have been shot in the city this year - still lower than in 2017.

Trump also announced that last week, the administration provided "historic levels of funding" to improve school safety, noting that schools and police departments would be able to "train more teachers" and hire more officers "to better detect early warning signs of mental illness before it’s too late."

"Heavy funding, but you've made a lot of strides," Trump said. "We're just helping as much as we can the extraordinary men and women helping in our communities."

The president, meanwhile, used part of his speech to rail against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's rocky confirmation process, slamming what he called "false charges' and "false accusations" leveled against him. Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault and misconduct by at least 3 women. The FBI found no evidence to corroborate the claims, however, and Kavanaugh adamantly denied them. Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate on Saturday by a 50-48 vote.

"Horrible statements that were totally untrue," Trump said Monday. "Brought about by people who are evil."

Earlier in the day, Trump called the allegations a "hoax." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reacted by calling that "another phase in the denial that the Republican leadership in Washington has."

(source: Fox News)


10 October: European Day against the Death Penalty

The 47-nation Council of Europe and the 28-member European Union have published a joint declaration to mark the European and World Day against the Death Penalty on 10 October.

The declaration underlines the 2 organisations' strong opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances.

"The death penalty is an affront to human dignity. It constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is contrary to the right to life. The death penalty has no established deterrent effect and it makes judicial errors irreversible." - Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini

Pending the introduction of a moratorium, the declaration calls on countries still applying the death penalty - which notably include Belarus, the only European country still using capital punishment - to commute any existing death sentences to prison terms.

It also urges Council of Europe and EU member states to avoid involvement in the use of the death penalty by third countries, for example by acting to prevent the trade in goods that could subsequently be used to carry out executions.

Through the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe has created a death penalty-free zone covering 47 countries and over 830 million people.

No executions have taken place in any Council of Europe member state for more than 20 years.



Fear of infuriating Trump made UK drop opposition to death penalty for British Isis suspects, court told----Sajid Javid was advised that Donald Trump could 'hold a grudge' and administration would be 'outraged'

Sajid Javid "gave up" on attempts to ensure the US did not execute 2 British Isis militants because he feared sparking outrage in Donald Trump's administration, a court has heard.

El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who were allegedly members of a cell dubbed "The Beatles" and who killed a series of hostages in Syria, have been the subject of a legal dispute between the US and UK since being captured in January.

Earlier this year a leaked letter showed that Mr Javid had agreed to hand evidence on the pair to American authorities for a federal prosecution, but without assurances that the death penalty would not be used.

Elsheikh's mother, Maha Elgizouli, is attempting to launch a judicial review over the decision and claims it is unlawful.

Her lawyers told the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, and Mr Justice Garnham that the "unprecedented and unjustified" move was taken against advice from government departments and violated precedent.

Edward Fitzgerald QC said it was influenced by the "anticipated outrage" of members of the Trump administration if the UK demanded assurances that the pair would not face the death penalty.

"[Mr Javid] wrongly exposed the suspects to the very real risk of an inhuman punishment," he told the Administrative Court in London.

"This country should not facilitate the imposition in another country of a punishment which we ourselves recognise as inhuman and unlawful.

"He took those steps in large part because of the anticipated outrage of certain political appointees in the Trump administration if the UK insisted on death penalty assurances.

"We submit that the anticipated outrage of those US officials was not a proper consideration as a matter of law."

Lawyers for Mr Javid argued that there is no common law prohibition on providing legal assistance to another country where it may result in proceedings leading to the death penalty.

"This group [the Isis Beatles] is associated with some of the gravest offences perpetrated against civilians in Syria during the conflict," James Eadie QC told the court.

"These beheadings are notorious globally, all but one having been filmed and posted on the internet."

He said Mr Javid's decision was rational, did not create inconsistency with the UK's general death penalty policy and "did not misdirect himself in law or fact". Mr Eadie also said the government had not violated the Data Protection Act.

The court heard that the US first made a request for "mutual legal assistance" (MLA) on Kotey and Elsheikh in June 2015, when the then home secretary, Theresa May, said material would not be handed over without assurances against the death penalty.

In response the US Department of Justice offered partial assurances that it would not make direct use of the evidence in its case but the British government did not change its position.

Mr Fitzgerald said it remained consistent even after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, and the Home Office was still demanding full assurances against the death penalty in August 2017.

After Elsheikh and Kotey were detained in Syria in January, the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the 600 witness statements gathered by the Metropolitan Police but concluded that there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute them in Britain.

Mr Fitzgerald said that although the current proceedings were not challenging that decision "it does seem very strange that if this country has evidence that is sufficient to put these 2 suspects on trial in the US, that they can't be tried for anything in this country".

He said that in March Amber Rudd met the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who requested the UK put the suspects on trial itself and "expressed a favourable view of Guantanamo" if they had to be handled by the US.

Then in April, the security minister Ben Wallace held talks with the US Department of Justice where the court heard he was "informed of the opposition of senior members of the administration" to a federal trial and "strong voices arguing for Guantanamo".

Later that month Ms Rudd resigned as home secretary and was replaced by Mr Javid, who discussed the case with Mr Sessions by phone.

The US attorney general said he "did not want his hands tied" by UK demands and insisted that the death penalty "should not be an issue", Mr Fitzgerald said.

Then in May a briefing by the British ambassador in Washington warned that continued demands could cause "something close to outrage" among Mr Trump's political appointees.

Mr Fitzgerald said the advice expressed fears that Mr Sessions, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others would "wind the president up to complain to the PM and potentially, to hold a grudge" that could damage bilateral relations.

The UK Central Authority continued recommending that the UK demanded full assurances against the death penalty, which the US has complied with in other cases, but days later there was an "about-turn".

Mr Fitzgerald said that in a meeting with Mr Sessions on 30 May, Mr Javid "assessed that if he asked for assurances, whether full or partial, it was likely to provoke outrage". "We submit that that about-turn was both unreasonable and unlawful," he added, accusing the government of "washing its hands".

"Effectively he gave up ... Mr Javid didn't even try, he made no attempt to ask for assurances at all. We submit that that was an unworthy capitulation."

The home secretary informed Boris Johnson of the change in June, claiming that "significant attempts" had been made and that the dropping of assurances would mitigate the risk of Kotey and Elsheikh being detained in Guantanamo.

In a letter, Mr Javid noted the risk of "key US political appointees" reacting with "outrage". In his reply, Mr Johnson said there was also American dissatisfaction with the UK's "perceived unwillingness to pursue a prosecution, while at the same time seeking to dictate terms to the US".

The then foreign secretary backed the transfer of evidence but warned that it could reduce the UK's global "moral authority" on the death penalty, while providing fodder for radicalisers.

On 22 June Mr Javid communicated the decision to Mr Sessions to provide material without assurances.

"The decision was an unprecedented and unjust," Mr Fitzgerald told the court. "It wrongly exposed the suspect to the serious risk of execution and moreover such execution is likely to follow."

He argued that the home secretary also violated the Data Protection Act and failed to consider the long periods spent on death row in the US, and evidence of "extreme pain" caused by lethal injection.

The home office announced a temporary pause of the MLA after Elsheikh's mother launched legal action but evidence will continue to be transferred if it fails.

Mr Fitzgerald said the case was "not so much about the rights of Elsheikh" but about the government being held to its own previous policy and the rule of law.

"The claimant [his mother] has not come before this court to excuse the appalling acts with which her son has been linked, if those acts are proved against him, and has not come to oppose that if he is convicted he is appropriately punished,' he added.

"Her concern is the death penalty and she asks that the government should be held to its general policy and invariable practice of seeking death penalty assurances before providing evidence pursuant to the MLA treaty."

Families of the hostages murdered by the Isis Beatles have said they want Kotey and Elsheikh put on trial but not executed, as have their surviving victims.

Mr Javid has faced criticism from all parties over his decision, which was branded "extraordinary" and a "dramatic change of policy" by the former reviewer of anti-terror legislation, Lord Carlile.

Kotey and Elsheikh, who were raised in the UK, remain detained by Kurdish forces in Syria and are among alleged Isis fighters to be stripped of their British citizenship.

Terror experts have cautioned that executing them would hand Isis a fresh propaganda victory as it seeks to regroup in new "wilayat" (provinces) following territorial losses across Syria and Iraq.

Originally from London, the pair were declared "Specially Designated Global Terrorists" by the US State Department ahead of their capture in January, with official documents naming them as members of "The Beatles" and saying the cell had beheaded more than 27 hostages and tortured many more.

Surviving captives have told of their brutality, which included waterboarding, electric shocks, mock executions and crucifixions.

Executioner Mohammed Emwazi, who became known as "Jihadi John", was killed in a drone strike, while the remaining "Beatle", Aine Davis, is imprisoned in Turkey.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday.



EU ambassadors in Seoul support abolishing death penalty in South Korea

European Union (EU) ambassadors issued a statement on Oct. 8 expressing their support for a National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) recommendation calling for the South Korean government to enter an international agreement on abolition of the death penalty.

Meeting with the Hankyoreh that day, a diplomat with the EU delegation to South Korea (serving as the EU’s local embassy) said it was the "1st time the EU and its individual ambassadors have issued a statement on abolishing the death penalty."

At a plenary session in Sept. 10, the NHRCK approved a motion to recommend that the South Korean government join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for abolition of the death penalty.

Countries that sign on to the protocol - adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 - are obligated to take necessary measures to abolish the death penalty, including bans on executions. 85 countries are currently parties to the protocol. Of the 36 members of the OECD, all but four are parties - the exceptions being South Korea, Japan, the US, and Israel.

The statement endorsing the NHRCK's recommendation was issued in the name of EU ambassador to South Korea Michael Reiterer and ambassadors for all 28 EU member countries in Seoul. In the statement, the signatures said they "strongly support" the NHRCK recommendation for South Korea to join the Second Optional Protocol, adding that the EU "strongly and clearly opposes the death penalty in all situations and circumstances."

The statement also expressed hope that the South Korean government would declare an official moratorium on the death penalty and vote in favor at a UN General Assembly meeting in December.

"The death penalty has no proven deterrent effect [against crime] and is a system that renders judicial errors irreversible," it said.

With the EU and its ambassadors now urging South Korea to sign on to the Second Optional Protocol, the debate over abolition of the death penalty appears likely to heat up.

Democratic Party lawmaker Keum Tae-sup previously served as lead sponsor for a resolution urging the government to sign on to the Second Optional Protocol in time for World Day Against the Death Penalty on Oct. 10.

In a press conference with Amnesty International Korea at the National Assembly press center on Oct. 5, Keum said, "Abolition of the death penalty is an ineluctable global trend, and we strongly urge the South Korean government to sign on to the Second Optional Protocol and vote in favor of the death penalty moratorium resolution [at the UN General Assembly session in December]." Keum was one of 31 lawmakers sponsoring the resolution.



NGOs tout ongoing national debate over death penalty

Nongovernmental organization (NGO) activists on Monday called for greater public participation in a national campaign to discuss alternatives to the death penalty aimed at replacing it with other punishments.

A series of 30 deliberative meetings, titled "Let's Discuss the Alternatives to the Death Penalty," have been scheduled since May to engage with people holding different views on the death penalty. So far, 10 have been held and another 20 sessions are scheduled by the middle of 2019.

"We hope to hear a wide diversity of opinions on the subject no matter whether they support retaining or abolishing the death penalty," Lin Hsin-yi, head of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) which initiated the campaign, said at a press conference.

Although successive governments in Taiwan have talked about ending the death penalty as a long-term goal, 35 death row inmates have been executed since 2010, the latest on Aug. 31, the first under the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

Administrations of both the Kuomintang (KMT) and DPP have cited public support for the death penalty, as suggested by numerous polls, as a main reason for not removing it from Taiwan's statute books and have made no effort to encourage public discussion on the issue.

In a society where people tend to consider "an eye for an eye" as justified, the government is obliged to facilitate public dialogue to examine such a multifaceted issue, said Huang Song-lih, head of Covenants Watch.

The issue of capital punishment relates to how we can best improve the country's criminal justice system and focus on the positives of society rather than a simple yes/no question, said Yang Kuei-chih, founder of the Plain Law Movement. Representative of the European Union to Taiwan Madeleine Majorenko and Australia's Deputy Representative to Taiwan Susan Moore both attended the press conference, held 2 days ahead of the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty on Oct.10, to extend support for the deliberation campaign.

It is very important that Taiwan holds this public discussion because it provides facts and can clear up many misconceptions about the death penalty, Majorenko said.



SC clears way to execute Khalaf murder convict

The Supreme Court has dismissed a review petition filed against the death penalty handed down to a convict in the murder case of Saudi embassy official Khalaf Al Ali.

A 4-member bench of the Appellate Division, led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, gave the order on Sunday, rejecting the petition filed by the convict.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said there is no bar to execute the verdict against the convict, reports the UNB.

Earlier on October 4, the Supreme Court set October 7 to deliver the order on the review petition filed against its judgment in the murder case.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had upheld the High Court verdict that gave death sentence to Saiful Islam Mamun, and life term to 3 others-Md Al Amin, Akbar Ali Lalu, and Rafiqul Islam.

Khalaf Al Ali, 45, a non-diplomatic official with the consular section of the embassy, was shot near his Gulshan residence on March 5, 2012.

A murder case was filed with Gulshan police station against 5 people, 2 days after the killing.

On December 30, 2012, a Dhaka court sentenced all the 5 accused of the case to death.

However, the decision was overturned when the convicts' appeal and death sentence was sent to the High Court.

In 2013, the High Court acquitted fugitive Selim Chowdhury; commuted the sentences of Md Al Amin, Akbar Ali Lalu and Rafiqul Islam to life in prison; and upheld the death sentence of Saiful Islam Mamun.

The state then filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in 2014.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Bangladesh sets death penalty for drug offences in draft law

Bangladesh's cabinet on Monday approved a draft law prescribing the death penalty for drug offences, despite widespread criticism over a drugs crackdown in which police have shot dead more than 200 people since May.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched the campaign ahead of a general election due by December, but the killings have prompted fears among rights groups of a bloody Philippine-style campaign to wipe out drugs.


The Narcotics Control Act defines methamphetamines, also known as "yaba", and other drugs, such as "shisha", as narcotics for the 1st time, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told reporters after the meeting chaired by Hasina.

"It proposes the death sentence as maximum punishment for producing, smuggling, distributing and using more than 5 gm of 'yaba'," he said, adding that possession of less than 5 gm (0.18 oz) would attract a maximum jail term of 5 years.

Alam said the stern punishment was needed to curb the spread of the highly potent stimulant smuggled in from neighboring Myanmar.

Bangladesh has said an influx last year of Rohingya fleeing Buddhist-majority Myanmar is partly to blame for soaring methamphetamine use.

But many Rohingya say their young people are being pushed into crime because they cannot legally work or, in many cases, receive aid.

Hasina has vowed to continue the campaign until Bangladesh is freed of the drug menace, but critics say it as a sign of her increasingly authoritarian rule ahead of the election.

In more than 1/3 of the killings recorded by Dhaka-based human rights group Odhikar since mid-May, the suspects were arrested before they were killed.

The government has dismissed accusations of extrajudicial killings, saying the crackdown has popular support.

(source: Reuters)


Bangladesh court to rule on 2004 blasts targeting PM Hasina

A Bangladesh court will rule on Wednesday in a case in which most of the leaders of the main opposition party are accused of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a public rally 14 years ago, when she herself was in opposition.

Among those facing charges is Tarique Rahman who is leading the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) from London while his mother and the former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, is jailed in separate graft cases.

The court ruling comes just months ahead of a national election in which Hasina will be seeking a 3rd consecutive term in office while the opposition remains in disarray.

The case relates to an attack on a public rally organised by Hasina's Awami League in the capital, Dhaka, in August 2004 while she was in opposition. Minutes into her speech, assailants threw grenades into the rally, killing 24 and wounding more than 500, most of them party workers.

Hasina escaped injuries. Her party blamed the BNP for mounting the attack that occurred while her bitter foe Khaleda was in power.

"The target was Sheikh Hasina and all the leaders of her party," said Motahar Hossain, a deputy attorney general. Hossain, who led the prosecution case, said he would ask for the death penalty if a guilty verdict is handed down.

The case is likely to further deepen the divisions in country's volatile politics. Hasina is already facing criticism of crushing dissent and of putting rivals behind bars to strengthen her re-election bid.

"The government is trying to implicate top leaders of the opposition," said Khandker Mahbub Hossain, a senior leader of the BNP. "This is nothing but political revenge."

Khaleda was jailed in February for 5 years on corruption charges that she alleged were part of a plot to hamper her political career.

Her son, Tarique Rahman, was also convicted and sentenced to a 10-year prison term, though he now lives in exile in London.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said police will be on high alert for Wednesday's ruling.

"We will deal with anyone disturbing public disorder with an iron hand."



Chilean tourists appeal Malaysia death penalty charge----The pair are on trial at the high court over the killing of a Malaysian man in the lobby of a Kuala

Defence lawyers for 2 Chilean tourists facing the death penalty in Malaysia for murder said on Tuesday (Oct 9) they are seeking a review of the charge, as the mother of 1 of the accused pleaded for prayers.

Fernando Candia, a 32-year-old chef, and Felipe Osiadacz, 28, are on trial for allegedly killing a Malaysian man in a hotel lobby less than 24 hours after they arrived in the country for a holiday on Aug 4 last year.

If found guilty of murder, they face the death penalty which in Malaysia is carried out by hanging.

Both men, who are being held in prison, have pleaded not guilty and their lawyers claim they acted in self-defence after the Malaysian attacked them first.

A defence counsel said Tuesday they have written to the Attorney-General's Chambers, Malaysia's chief state prosecutor.

"We have written an appeal letter ... to reconsider the charge against both of them," defence counsel R. Alagendra told AFP.

"We are confident the right thing will be done for them," she added.

The court has fixed Oct 24 for the outcome of the appeal.

At least 10 prosecution witnesses have taken the stand so far, including a toxicologist who found traces of drugs in the urine and blood of the deceased.

After Tuesday's court hearing, Maritza Olcay, the mother of Candia, said she had been praying for her son and appealed for others to pray for him as well.

"I am always praying. I urge all the people to pray for my son," she told reporters outside the court as she struggled to hold back tears.

Also present in court was Osiadacz's girlfriend from Belgium who told AFP she also longed for his freedom.

"I want to take him home. He has lost some weight but is psychologically strong. I really believe the judiciary in Malaysia is fair and just," said the girlfriend, who gave her name as Gaelle.

A court official told AFP the prosecutors hope to wrap up the case by November with 3 more witnesses remaining, including a policeman and a doctor.

The next hearing is set for 2 days from Nov 14.



Review Lukman's death penalty for medical marijuana

The recent death penalty handed to a 29-year-old Lukman has caused public outrage and triggered robust talks to legalise marijuana for medical use in the country.

Lukman was arrested in December 2015 along with his wife during a raid at this home for the possession of 3.1 liters of cannabis oil, 279g of compressed cannabis, 1.4kg of substance containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While his wife was released for innocence, Lukman was handed a death sentence for possessing, processing and distributing cannabis oil this year.

According to Lukman's lawyer, he reportedly gave this alternate medication to approximately 800 people who were suffering from ailments and that Lukman has no intention to distribute or deal cannabis on the streets to for consumption of the masses.

A petition via has been created since then in order to seek to justice for Lukman.

Malaysia is one of the 53 countries that are still practice the death penalty. Under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (DDA), individuals caught possessing 200 grams or more of cannabis, will be charged under drug trafficking, which carries the death penalty.

While I have came across the news reporting related to medical marijuana in other part of the world, but I have not been paying particular attention on the case of Lukman, until the day when a journalist friend from The Star alerted me the urgency of his case.

As widely reported by The Star, few ministers such as the Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr. Xavier Jayakumar and also Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad have also raised concern on this issue.

Mahathir is quoted of saying that, "It will take a bit of encouragement and convincing as far as this topic is concerned My own personal view is that if it's got medicinal value, then it can be a controlled item that can be used by Ministry of Health for prescription purposes."

Up to today, there remains controversial debate on the rational of legalizing medical marijuana. The usage of medical marijuana is a widely debated issue across the world. Many might consider it as a taboo topic, especially for those who have never been exposed to this marijuana.

Is marijuana helpful for acute pain?

At a recent press conference, for now, the Ministry of Health said that it has insufficient data to support the use of cannabis oil to treat patients.

While scientists argue over the quality of the evidence whether medical marijuana can actually cure chronic pain and sickness, for the case of Lukman, at least for now, the focus is on overturning a death sentence handed to a man convicted of possessing, processing and distributing medicinal cannabis oil as there is a potential of miscarriage of justice as also highlighted by Permatang Pauh Member of Parliament Nurul Izzah.

But here's the thing: despite the law currently prohibiting any form of cannabis, there are people who obtain and use it. These individuals are between a legal channel and a personal hard decision, that is, either they obey the law and physically suffer, or violate the law but to be able to obtain relief from their suffers.

The challenge for Malaysia, which still imposes capital punishment for some drug trafficking offences, is how to draft new laws that are specific enough to differentiate marijuana for medical as opposed to recreational and other uses.

Mahathir has said the matter that has since been labelled, as a miscarriage of justice should be reviewed, and if there was ever a time to enact successful drug policy reform, now is that time.

Ultimately, the death penalty is wrong because by sentencing someone to death, you are basically denying his or her right to life. It is more so in the case of Lukman that is caught in between debates over the effectiveness of cannabis oil that are widely argued.

(source: Khoo Ying Hooi is Universiti Malaya senior


Debt collector receives death penalty for drug distribution

A debt collector was sentenced to the gallows by the Penang High Court today after he was found guilty of 2 charges of distributing drugs 3 years ago.

Judicial Commissioner Datuk Abdul Wahab Mohamed made the ruling after the defence failed to raise a reasonable doubt.

Abdul Wahab also ordered the accused, Keow Sze Teve, 36, to be sentenced to 16 years jail and 12 strokes of the rotan for 2 charges of possessing a firearm and 2 charges of possessing bullets without a valid licence.

For the drug charges, he was charged with distributing 512.2g and 474g of methamphetamine and was charged under Section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the death sentence upon conviction.

As for the possession of firearms, he was found guilty of possessing a Coughar 8000 FT and Pietro Gardone VT.

He was also charged for possessing 32 S&B 9X9 12 bullets, 15 S&B 40 S&W bullets and 12 RA1 10 Luge 9mm bullets.

All offences were committed about 2am at Jalan Impian Ria, Taman Impian Ria, Machang Bubok in Seberang Perai on June 19, 2015.



Pakistan delays ruling on blasphemy death sentence case

Pakistan's Supreme Court postponed its ruling Monday on the final appeal of a Christian woman who has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam.

The judicial panel listened to Asia Bibi's defense lawyer challenge statements by those who accused her of insulting Islam's prophet, an allegation punishable by death that can incite riots in conservative Pakistan.

The 3-judge panel, headed by Pakistan's Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, did not say why they reserved their judgment or when they would announce their decision. It ordered everyone present to refrain from commenting on the case, in an apparent attempt to avoid inflaming public opinion.

The charge against Bibi dates back to a hot day in 2009 when she went to get water for her and her fellow farmworkers. 2 Muslim women refused to take a drink from a container used by a Christian. A few days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

Bibi's lawyer, Saiful Malook, argued that the many contradictions in witnesses' statements tainted the evidence. The 2 Muslim women who leveled the charges against Bibi denied they were quarrelling with her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked. Yet several independent witnesses who gave statements recounted a cantankerous exchange between the women.

The prosecution's case centered mostly on religious texts that vilify those who make blasphemous statements.

Ahead of the hearing, Malook expressed optimism that he would win the last legal appeal for Bibi. But if not, he planned to seek a review, which could take years to complete.

"I am a 100 % sure she will be acquitted," Malook told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on the eve of the hearing. "She has a very good case."

He refused to comment at the end of Monday's hearing, citing the judges' orders.

Bibi's case has generated international outrage, but within Pakistan it has fired up radical Islamists, who use the blasphemy law to rally supporters and intimidate mainstream political parties.

Even defending Bibi in court is dangerous.

"I have lost my health. I am a high blood pressure patient, my privacy is totally lost. You have to be in hiding," her lawyer said ahead of the hearing. Everyone on his tree-lined street knows his identity, he said. "They look at this house and they know this is the home of a person who can be killed at any time by angry mullahs."

Police provide round-the-clock security around Malook's home, in the city of Lahore.

Members of Pakistan's religious minorities have campaigned against the law, which they say is invoked to justify attacks on them. For them, Bibi's case is seen as a watershed. Her husband recently traveled to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.

Joseph Francis, an activist for Pakistan's Christians, said he currently is aiding 120 Christians facing blasphemy charges. His organization, Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, provides legal aid as well as finding a safe haven for Christians who are targeted even after being cleared of blasphemy allegations.

"This law is misused and it is not only misused against Christians but also against Muslims," he said.

France, Spain and Germany have all offered to welcome Bibi should she be acquitted, said Francis, who said he will help secret her out of the country.

But Khadim Hussein Rizvi, the leader of a radical Islamist party, warned after the postponement that "no blasphemer will be able to escape punishment.

In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was shot and killed by one of his elite guards for defending Bibi and criticizing misuse of the blasphemy law. Malook prosecuted his killer, Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged for his crime.

Qadri has since become a martyr to millions, who make a pilgrimage to a shrine erected in his name by his family outside the capital, Islamabad. His supporters have called for the immediate killing of anyone accused of blasphemy.

Pakistan's newly elected government is led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, a former cricket star who has embraced religious conservatism and bowed to some of the demands of radical Islamists. Last month, a member of his government offered prayers at Qadri's shrine, drawing outrage from rights activists.

An unprecedented number of religious parties participated in the July elections that put Khan in power. As in previous elections, they garnered less than 10 % of the popular vote, but they have allies among all the major parties.

According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 71 countries have blasphemy laws - around 1/4 of them are in the Middle East and North Africa and around 1/5 are European countries, though enforcement and punishment varies.

Pakistan is one of the most ferocious enforcers.

At least 1,472 people were charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016, according to statistics collected by the Center for Social Justice, a Lahore-based group. Of those, 730 were Muslims, 501 were Ahmadis - a sect reviled by mainstream Muslims as heretical - while 205 were Christians and 26 were Hindus. The center said it didn't know the religion of the final 10 because they were killed by vigilantes before they could get their day in court.

While Pakistan's law carries the death penalty for blasphemy and offenders have been sentenced to death, so far no one has ever been executed.

(source: Associated Press)


Iran's judiciary requests death sentences against 17 striking truckers in Qazvin

Iran's judiciary has requested death sentences for 17 striking truckers for taking part in a nationwide strike, the state media reported on October 8. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted the head of the Qazvin Court as saying, "The judiciary will without any tolerance deal with those who disrupt the security of drivers and also those who intend to take advantage (of the strike) and create insecurity."

In a meeting in Qazvin, Mohsen Karami added that truck drivers' problems "would not be solved with strikes".

"In the past few weeks, we witnessed a number of people attacking truck drivers in the province", he said in reference to truck drivers who were trying to prevent other drivers from breaking the strike.

"We have apprehended 17 of these people and they have been handed over the Judiciary for legal processing," the head of Qazvin Court added. He said that they had requested the capital punishment and that if it was proven that they were "moharebs", enemies of God, they would be sentenced to heavy punishments such as death.

The truck drivers' nationwide strike has continued into the third consecutive week, the regime’s judiciary officials and Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are continuously resorting to threats of arrests and executions.

In his remarks aired by the state TV on September 29, the attorney general Mohammad Ali Montazeri threatened strikers to "severe punishments and executions," saying, "Based on our information, there are individuals seen in various paths of some cities, provoking truck drivers and causing problems for them during their commuting. These individuals will be considered criminals and thieves, and they will be punished according to the law. In some cases, it will lead to their execution."

Ali Alqasi-Mehr, judiciary chief in Fars Province of south-central Iran, accused the protesting truck drivers of "corruption on earth."

Mohammad Sharafi, a high ranking state-police official, also resorted to voicing serious threats against the truck drivers, according to state-TV.

On Thursday, a road and transportation official of Fars Province ridiculously claimed the truck drivers’ strike is nothing but rumors.

"There have been rumors for the past few days, spread in various outlets and social media, claiming truck drivers are on strike. This is nothing but dissidents taking advantage of the drivers' needs in order to create a crisis in our country and their methods are quite obvious for all Iranians," the official said as cited by the state-run Fars news agency.

IRGC Colonel Kavos Mohammadi, a police force deputy of the Fars provincial, described the protesting truck drivers as "disrupters of order."

"Following the disrupting acts of some of these people on the roads of Fars Province... 22 thugs and disrupters of public order were arrested and, after filing a case, they were sent to judiciary authorities and eventually placed behind bars. Police will deal with sensitivity and vigilance with the smallest insecurity factors in coordination with the judiciary, and the process of confronting with disrupters of order and road security in Fars Province will continue on a daily basis. The police monitor and control all the roads in this province and resolutely deal with all individuals disrupting order and security in these areas," he added in remarks wired by the state-run IRNA news agency.

Iranian regime has taken various measures to intimidate striking truck drivers into quitting the strike which has crippled Iran's transportation activities.Human rights sources say that more than 300 truckers have been detained all over Iran during the 16-day strike which has spread to more than 300 cities and all of Iran's 31 provinces.

Regime officials also acknowledged the arrest of truckers. The head of Fars province judiciary announced the arrest of 35 drivers and the head of Isfahan judiciary announced the arrest of 13 drivers. The commander of police of Khorasan Razavi province announced the arrest of 77 people on the roads in Khorasan Razavi, Izeh and Hamedan, police commander of Lorestan province announced the arrest of 12 "disturbers", and state media reported the arrest of 20 protest truckers in the province of Alborz, 25 in the Qazvin province, 12 in Kermanshah and 6 in the Chaharmahal va Bakhtiari, 5 in Zanjan, 2 in Kangan, 3 truckers in Bukan, 3 in Tehran, and 4 truckers In Nahavand.

All of the country's 31 provinces have witnessed truckers strike during the past weeks, protesting low paychecks, skyrocketing prices for spare parts and tires, and authorities refusing to respond to the truckers' righteous demands. This strike, despite all the obstacles, has been able to continue in the face of numerous threats and plots launched by Iranian regime authorities. The truckers were specifically seen continuing their strike in the cities of Shiraz, Bushehr, Isfahan, Assad Abad, Borujen, Kashan, Khorramabad, Tehran, Bandar Abbas, Malayer, Saveh, Yazd, Mobarakeh, Fouladshahr, Zanjan and Hamedan.

(source: Iran Human Rights)


She Was a Teenage Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape. She Sought Help. This Week, Iran Executed Her

"Child bride." "Criminal." "Juvenile offender." These are some of the many labels assigned to Zeinab Sekaanvand during her far too short life. Sekaanvand, who was executed on Tuesday in Urumieh prison in Iran's West Azerbaijan province, was rarely seen for who she really was: a vulnerable young woman trapped in a cycle of violence and sexual abuse since childhood.

Sekaanvand, who was 24 when she was hanged, had spent almost 1/3 of her life in detention. In February 2012, she was arrested and put on trial over the murder of her husband, a crime that took place when she was 17 years old. She had reported being raped by her brother-in-law and tortured by police after her arrest.

What’s especially chilling about Sekaanvand’s case is the number of points at which the Iranian authorities could have intervened to help her. Sekaanvand reported the abuse she suffered. She spoke out, yet she was ignored.

It's a scenario that is all too familiar to many women and girls. But because Sekaanvand lived in Iran, her story took an even darker turn.

There are many more like Sekaavand in Iran - which is one of the world's last countries to execute "juvenile offenders." At least 88 people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime are currently on death row, some of whom have been languishing there for over a decade. In particular, Zeinab's case echoes that of Fatemeh Salbehi, who was executed in 2015 at the age of 23 for the murder of her husband, whom she had been forced to marry when she was 16.

Looking closer, Sekaavand's case reads like a textbook explainer of the myriad ways the Iranian justice system stacks the odds against women.

Born in northwest Iran into an impoverished and culturally conservative Iranian Kurdish family, Sekaanvand was 15 years old when she ran away from home to marry a man called Hossein Sarmadi. Zeinab had said she saw the marriage as her only opportunity for a better life. But her new husband was violent, and the relationship quickly became physically and verbally abusive.

Sekaanvand requested a divorce on more than one occasion but her husband refused. In Iran, the legal system's deeply-entrenched discrimination against women and girls often prevents them from getting a divorce, even if they are subjected to domestic violence.

Although Sekaanvand registered several complaints about her husband's violent abuse with the police, they repeatedly ignored her pleas for help and failed to launch an investigation against him.

Desperate, Sekaanvand tried to return to her parents, but they had disowned her for running away. She said that, meanwhile, Hossein's brother was regularly raping her.

Still a child, she was under the power of 2 violent and abusive men, and no one would help her.

In February 2012, Sekaanvand was arrested for the murder of her husband. She was denied access to a lawyer and said she was tortured and beaten by police officers during questioning. It is under these circumstances that Sekaanvand "confessed" to stabbing her husband.

It was only at her final court hearing, 3 years after her arrest, that the authorities provided her with a lawyer. At this point, she retracted her "confession," telling the judge that her husband's brother - her alleged rapist - had committed the murder.

Sekaanvand said in court that her brother-in-law had told her that, if she accepted responsibility, he would pardon her. Under Iranian law, murder victims' relatives have the power to pardon the offender and accept financial compensation instead.

But rather than request further investigations, the authorities dismissed Sekaanvand's statement - convicting and sentencing her to death by hanging.

Sekaanvand's trauma did not end there. In 2015, while in Urumieh prison, Sekaanvand became pregnant after marrying a male prisoner. Her child was stillborn in September 2015. Doctors said her baby had died in her womb 2 days earlier due to shock - around the same time that Sekaanvand's cellmate and closest friend had been executed. The authorities forced Sekaanvand to go back to prison the day after the stillbirth and did not provide her with any postnatal care or psycho-social support.

Before she was executed this week, the authorities carried out a pregnancy test on Sekaanvand. When it came back negative, they took it as a green light to execute her.

Sekaanvand's life was defined by a legal system which brazenly disadvantages women. A system which sets the age of criminal responsibility at 9 years for girls and 15 for boys - and the legal age of marriage for girls at 13. It does not criminalize rape of a woman by her husband.

It violently imposes the abusive, discriminatory and degrading practice of forced hijab (veiling) on women and young girls and then jails the ones who campaign against it.

It's a system where a woman's testimony is worth less than a man's. That's why no one in power listened to Sekaanvand's story. They chose to end it instead.

(source: Amnesty International)


DITSHWANELO statement on World Day Against the Death Penalty 2018

The Botswana Centre for Human Rights joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 16th Annual World Day Against the Death Penalty 2018. The theme this year is "Living Conditions on Death Row".

First recognised in 2003, this day focuses on the use of the death penalty around the world, raises awareness about the death penalty and related issues. DITSHWANELO, together with other human rights organisations around the world, remains opposed to the use of the death penalty.

DITSHWANELO reiterates its appeal to our nation to reflect deeply on the country’s founding principles of unity and botho, and what they mean in our daily lives. They are essential to our identity, as Batswana. We should remember to always uphold them, irrespective of our individual social and economic circumstances.

Botho, forms the basis of our acknowledgement of respect for all people and of the dignity inherent in our shared humanity. Humility has always guided and continues to positively impact human relations in our society. It has also enabled appreciation of the efforts and effects of every person’s actions in our society. Unity has always been enabled by the spirit of community and consideration of others. These principles reflect an understanding of the possibility of erroneous behaviour and actions by fellow human beings, who are imprisoned after fair trials who may reform their behaviour.

DITSHWANELO condemns all violations of human rights and crime in all of its forms. We encourage collective responsibility as a nation, to taking action in relation to socio-economic factors which impede our ability to fully exercise and enjoy human rights.

DITSHWANELO calls on the Government of Botswana to institute a moratorium while continuing to seek alternatives to the death penalty as a form of punishment. Forty-two (42) African countries no longer carry out the death penalty. Botswana remains the only country in our SADC Region which continues to do so. We reiterate our call for the eventual abolition of the death penalty in Botswana.

We believe that it is the responsibility of every Motswana to contribute to the developing of a Botswana which fully respects the right of all people to live a dignified life, without the death penalty. Dealing with the root cause of crime through the responsive socio-economic framework for sustainable development for all is a critical foundation for every Motswana to live life with and in dignity.



Slain soldier's family demanding death penalty, boycott IDF court----The family's lawyer, former IDF West Bank chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsch, said that the call for capital punishment was intended to deter further attacks on soldiers.

The family of St.-Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky, a commando in the elite counterterrorism Duvdevan unit killed in May by Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid during an IDF operation to arrest suspected terrorists in al-Am'ari refugee camp near Ramallah, announced Monday that it will boycott the trial taking place in the Judea Military Court because the court has refused to consider the death penalty for the attacker.

Standing outside the court, Lubarsky's family said that the court's decision not consider the death penalty was "an embarrassment and a disgrace."

The family has accused "the judicial establishment of putting itself above the political establishment," and noted that in private meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the IDF Military Advocate General and other top defense officials, they were told no complete ban is in place against the death penalty.

The family’s lawyer, former IDF West Bank chief prosecutor Maurice Hirsch, said that the call for capital punishment was intended to deter further attacks on soldiers.

Hirsch added Netanyahu expressed surprise that the IDF prosecution was not seeking the death penalty and that, after meeting with him, the family had expected the court to be more open to the idea.

During Monday's hearing, Abu Hamid pleaded not guilty of murdering Lubarsky.

Earlier, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan and Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis both issued statements favoring capital punishment for him.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman has championed capital punishment for Palestinian terrorists for years. To date, Netanyahu has publicly sided with the legal establishment's blanket opposition to the death penalty.

In July, the IDF West Bank prosecution filed an indictment for murder against Abu Hamid for murdering Lubarsky.

Israel will continue to bring to justice anyone who attacks or tries to attack Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers, Netanyahu said following Abu Hamid's arrest in mid-June.

"A Duvdevan soldier is the one who was killed, and Duvdevan is the unit that apprehended the terrorist," Netanyahu said.

Lubarsky, from Rehovot, was seriously wounded when a marble slab was dropped on his head during an operation to arrest a terrorist cell involved in recent shooting attacks. The soldier, who was part of the operation's covering force, received initial emergency medical attention in the field. Transferred to intensive care at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, he succumbed to his wounds 2 days later.

(source: Jerusalem Post)

OCTOBER 8, 2018:

TENNESSEE----impending execution

2 Jurors In Zagorski Case Argue For Life Without Parole Ahead Of Execution

With days until his scheduled execution, 2 jurors who condemned Edmund Zagorski to death say the convicted murderer's life should be spared.

Michael Poole served on the jury in 1984, before life without parole became an option in Tennessee capital murder cases in 1995.

"We were instructed that if we were assured beyond any doubt that Mr. Zagorski had done this crime, that he should be given the death penalty because that's what the prosecution was actually seeking in this case," Poole told WPLN Friday.

Poole says he had no doubt that Zagorski committed a double murder in 1983, shooting and slitting the throats of a Hickman County logger and a bar owner from Dickson. The men expected to buy 100 pounds of marijuana.

Poole says the jury's concern was making sure Zagorski could never be released and potentially commit the same crime again. The small business owner from Springfield says he's not entirely opposed to the death penalty but says Zagorski doesn't have to be executed.

Juror Nancy Arnold shares the same feelings, 34 years later.

"I hate for him to have to lose his life over it. I don't think that's going to help anything," she told WPLN Sunday.

Arnold says she vividly recalls Zagorski's eyes during the trial and sentencing. They "were so penetrating," she says. And she was sure to look him in the eyes when the verdict was delivered.

But the graphic designer from Robertson County says she's tried to forget about the case, though she does feel like the jury would have supported midde ground rather than death.

"If there had been a choice of life without parole, I would have chosen that over what we did," she said.

No Intervention

Zagorski is set to be put to death by lethal injection on Thursday at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison. He asked Governor Bill Haslam for clemency based on good behavior while in prison.

But on Friday, Haslam denied the request.

"While Zagorski has exhibited good behavior during his incarceration, that does not undo the fact that he robbed and brutally murdered two men and attempted to kill a police officer while on the run. Further, while juries today have the option of imposing a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in capital cases, the jury in Zagorski's case heard the evidence at trial and rendered a unanimous verdict in accordance with the law at the time and their duty as jurors."

Haslam also noted the verdict in Zagorski's case has been upheld by 10 courts, including the Tennessee and U.S. Supreme Courts.

In August, Haslam also declined to intervene in the execution of Billy Ray Irick.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is expected to rule on an expedited case challenging the state's lethal injection protocol in the coming days, which could also have a bearing on Zagorski's fate. If not, his attorneys say they will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay of execution.



UK dropped objection to death penalty for Isis suspects 'to appease US'----High court told home secretary abandoned policy to avoid White House 'outrage'

The home secretary, Sajid Javid, decided to cooperate with US authorities in the prosecution of 2 alleged Islamic State fighters, without assurances they would not face the death penalty, in order to avoid "political outrage" in the Trump administration, the high court has been told.

The allegation came as the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, and Mr Justice Garnham heard an application on behalf of the mother of El Shafee Elsheikh over the legality of the Home Office’s agreement to provide evidence to US prosecutors.

Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who were raised in Britain, are alleged to have been part of an Isis terrorism cell, some of whom were known as "the Beatles", that is thought to have carried out 27 beheadings of US and UK citizens in Isis-held territory. Those killed included the British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines, and the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

The pair, who have been stripped of their British citizenship, were captured in February by Syrian Kurdish fighters, prompting behind-the-scenes negotiations between the UK and the US governments over where they should be prosecuted.

Javid's decision not to seek assurances from the US that the 2 men would not face the death penalty was in defiance of advice from the Foreign Office and senior civil servants, said Edward Fitzgerald QC, who represents Maha El Gizouli, Elsheikh's mother.

It also broke with the policy of 2 previous home secretaries, Theresa May and Amber Rudd, who had sought such assurances in the cases of both suspects, the court was told.

Javid's decision in May to abandon seeking such assurances over the death penalty was "in large part because of anticipated outrage among political appointments in the Trump administration", Fitzgerald said.

The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had initially pressed for Elsheikh and Kotey to be prosecuted in the UK, acknowledging that 600 statements taken by the Metropolitan police's counter-terrorism command would be needed to convict them.

At a later US Senate panel hearing, Sessions expressed "disappointment that the British are not willing to try the case but had tried to tell [US prosecutors] how to try them", Fitzgerald said. Gizouli was not bringing that case "to excuse the appalling acts of which her son is accused", he added.

The issue with which she is legitimately concerned is whether the home secretary has made a legal decision. "It's relevant that the families of the victims have said they want justice but not the death penalty."

If imposed, Elsheikh and Kotey would suffer a "gruesome and painful" death through lethal injection. Executions in the US are often long-delayed and delivered through a system "that is unreliable, tortuous and experimental", Fitzgerald said.

Defending the decision, Sir James Eadie, for the home secretary, said in written submissions that it was accepted that Elsheikh was outside the protections of the Human Rights Act.

Those arguing for assurances over the death penalty faced "insuperable barriers" in showing that there was a common law right that the home secretary had to "protect an individual's life from the actions of a 3rd party", Eadie said.

Nor was there any common law prohibition on the provision of legal assistance where it might be used to impose the death penalty in a foreign state, he added.

Elsheikh was captured in January. Metropolitan police documents written shortly afterwards suggest he and Kotey were being held by US forces in Iraq, the court was told.

This is the 1st time there had been a "deliberate attempt" to depart from the long-established UK policy of opposing the death penalty around the world, Fitzgerald said.

The only previous incident, in 2014, involved British police cooperating with officers in Thailand, but when it was opposed, he said, the courts stopped it on the grounds that the police had "acted unlawfully and failed to have regard for public policy".

Not only had Javid not sought assurances over the death penalty, the court was told, he even decided not to take up earlier partial assurances the Americans had offered over not sending the men to Guantánamo Bay detention centre.

The British ambassador to Washington had warned Javid that seeking death penalty assurances would provoke "something close to outrage among Sessions, James Mattis [the US defence secretary] and Mike Pompeo [the US secretary of state].

"These political appointees would be outraged and they will tell the president and he will hold a grudge," Fitzgerald said, and that would damage relations between the UK and US.

Javid met Sessions in late May. According to records of a senior civil servant released to the court, Javid said if he asked for assurances it was likely to result in political outrage. Accordingly, he had decided not to ask for any assurances. This was an "an unworthy capitulation", Fitzgerald commented.

Correspondence released to the court show that in June Javid wrote to the then foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, stating that "significant attempts having been made to seek a full assurance, it is now right to accede to the mutual legal assistance (MLA) request without an assurance [over the death penalty]". Johnson wrote back that month and pointed out that not obtaining assurances carried a political and security risk to the UK "should the men be executed". Nonetheless, Johnson concluded, this was a "unique and unprecedented case, [so] it is in the UK's national security interests to accede to an MLA request for a criminal prosecution without death penalty assurances for Kotey and Elsheikh".

(source: The Guardian)


IStatement by Iran’s death row prisoners on World Day against the Death Penalty

On the eve of October 10 which marks the World Day against the Death Penalty, as a number of death row prisoners all over Iran, we announce the following:

- While 176 prisoners were executed during the 1st half of 2018

- While the Iranian regime has executed prisoners despite repeated international calls, including 3 Kurd political prisoners, Ramin Hossein Panahai, Zaniar Moradi and Loghman Moradi, to intimidate the public in fear of the spread of protests and the anger and frustration of the people- While the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet condemned the execution of juveniles

- While Iranian truckers have been on strike since September 23 which has spread to more than 310 cities; While the government has threatened truck drivers to death and has arrested 250 truck drivers

- While we are among the thousands of prisoners across Iran awaiting our death and like Zaniar Moradi wrote before his death: "9 years have passed. 9 years in which I languished in prison while being sentenced to the inhumane death sentence. During these long years... I dreamed of being hanged by the noose. I've spent these 9 years thinking about the gallows and the noose and that they will hang around my neck... Every time a young person was hanged in this country, I felt as though it was my turn to be hanged."

Therefore, as a number of prisoners in various prisons in Iran who have been sentenced to death:

- We urge all international human rights organizations, especially the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, journalists and the media, to condemn these executions and take immediate action to stop these medieval crimes being carried out in the 21st century.

- We request that the 40 years of execution, public execution and systematic killings be stopped in Iran.

Currently executions have turned into an instrument in the hands of the authoritarian rulers of Iran to consolidate their rule and suppress the people. We consider the execution of prisoners as systematic killings carried out by the government. The gallows are not the solution to the Iranian people's problems.

As prisoners who have faced death and execution throughout these years, we call on the families of all death row prisoners, political prisoners and all political and human rights activists to unify and become the voice for the annulment of the death sentence and to aid the people of Iranian in countering this historical calamity.


A group of death row prisoners in Iran

(source: Iran Human Rights)


Bangladesh to execute Saudi diplomat's killer

Bangladesh's Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for a convict charged with the murder of Saudi embassy official Khalaf Al Ali.

A 4-member bench of the Appellate Division, led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmoud Hussain, rejected the petition filed by the convict against the death penalty.

"Now, there is no bar towards executing the verdict against convict Saiful Islam Mamun," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam was quoted as saying on Sunday by the United News of Bangladesh.

The High Court had sentenced Mamun to death and Mohammad Al Amin, Akbar Ali Lalu and Rafiqul Islam to life in prison for their role in the murder of the Saudi citizen.

Al Ali, 45, an official with the consular section of the embassy, was shot in the capital's highly secured Gulshan diplomatic zone in front of his rented apartment at about 1am on March 5, 2012, the local authorities said. He died at a hospital at around 5pm.

Al Ali had worked in the Saudi embassy in Dhaka for two years after being posted in Azerbaijan for 7 years and was scheduled to be moved to Jordan within months.

2 days after the killing, 5 suspects were charged with the murder, and on December 30, 2012, a Dhaka court sentenced the 5 accused to death.

However, the convicts appealed the sentenced, and the High Court in 2013 upheld the death sentence of Saiful Islam Mamun, but commuted the sentences of Mohammad Al Amin, Akbar Ali Lalu and Rafiqul Islam to life in prison and acquitted fugitive Selim Chowdhury.

The case reached the Supreme Court in 2014.

(source: Gulf News)


Death penalty for yaba dealers----Cabinet approves draft law

The cabinet today approves the draft of a law, in principle, with a provision of death penalty for trading yaba.

According to the 'Narcotics Control Act-2018', if yaba dealers are found with less than 5 grams of the drug, they can be sentenced to maximum 15 years in prison.

And if the yaba traders are found with more than 5 grams, the maximum punishment is death penalty.

Cabinet Secretary Shafiul Alam today confirmed the matter to reporters at a press briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting.

The Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) has drafted the law.

(soruce: The Daily Star)


Pastor who counselled the Bali Nine ringleaders before they were executed issues a chilling warning to Aussie tourists - and reveals her last words to the drug smugglers before they faced firing squad

The pastor who guided 2 of the Bali 9 ringleaders before their execution has issued a chilling warning to Australian tourists, after revealing the pair's final moments.

Myuran Sukumaran and And­rew Chan were convicted of attempting to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin out of Indonesia and into Australia in 2005, and were sentenced to death for their leadership roles in the ring before being executed in 2015.

Christie Buckingham fears the increasing number of cheap flights to South East Asian nations will mean more 'irresponsible' Australian travellers tempted by drug trafficking.

According to Ms Buckingham, 3.5 million Australians each year visit 8 neighbouring countries that still execute criminals.

The Australian government warns tourists to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines, because of drug laws and fears of terrorist attacks.

'We are talking about a lot of irresponsible young adults, or irresponsible older people who go there because alcohol is inexpensive and everything is permissible,' Ms Buckingham told The Herald Sun.

'Then they have unrealistic expectations of the embassies. They are not there to get you out of trouble that you are not insured to be in.'

Sukumaran and Chan spent 10 years on death row, and were widely believed to be rehabilitated when they faced the firing squad in 2015.

Ms Buckingham, who was a pastor in the prison, who led and worked with both men during their journey toward rehabilitation but ultimately their death.

The Christian leader saw Sukumaran become an accomplished artist and teacher within the prison and watched Chan follow in her footsteps to become a pastor as well.

She lobbied tirelessly to get the men off death row, but Indonesia was firm in its decision, and her pleas went unanswered.

Ms Buckingham was with Sukumaran in the minutes before he was killed.

She put her hand over his heart in the moments before she had to step out of the way, and was astonished by how calm he was.

She said he had accepted his fate, and was at peace with what was about to come.MO< Her last words to Sukumaran before he died were: 'You have a good heart'. I’ll see you on the other side.'

Ms Buckingham portrays herself in the film 'Guilty', which will be released to coincide with a United Nations vote to put pressure on countries who still impose the death penalty.

The film documents the last 72 hours of both men's lives.

It hopes to draw awareness to the implications of making potentially deadly mistakes in foreign countries, particularly at a time when holiday packages to Indonesia are so cheap.


The Bali 9 was the name given to a group of Australians convicted for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kg of heroin out of Indonesia in April 2005.

The haul was estimated to be worth $4million and was headed to Australia.

Ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were sentenced to death and were executed in April 2015.

Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen died in a Jakarta hospital from stomach cancer in June this year.

Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush and Martin Stephens were sentenced to life behind bars in Indonesia.

Renee Lawrence is only Bali 9 member have her jail time cut and received a reduction on her 20-year sentence in 2017. She could return home to Australia later this year.



Pakistan postpones ruling on Christian woman

Pakistan's Supreme Court has postponed its ruling on a final appeal by a Christian woman on death row since 2010 on charges of blasphemy.

The judicial panel listened to Asia Bibi's defense lawyer challenge statements by those who accused her of insulting Islam's prophet, an allegation that can incite riots in conservative Pakistan.

The charge dates back to 2009 when Bibi went to get water for her and her fellow farmworkers. 2 Muslim women refused to take a drink from a container used by a Christian. A few days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

The 3-judge panel led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar did not indicate on Monday when the court would announce its ruling.



Last appeal of Christian on Pakistan death row for blasphemy

Pakistan's Supreme Court is to hear Monday the final appeal of a Christian woman who has been on death row since 2010, accused of insulting Islam's prophet, a crime that incites mobs to kill and carries an automatic death penalty.

Ahead of the hearing, lawyer Saiful Malook expressed optimism that he would win the last legal appeal for Aasia Bibi. But if not, he planned to seek a review, which could take years to complete.

"I am a 100 % sure she will be acquitted," Malook told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on the eve of the hearing. "She has a very good case."

On a hot day in 2009, Bibi went to get water for her and her fellow farmworkers. After she took a sip, some of the Muslim women became angry that a Christian had drunk from the same container. They demanded she convert, she refused. 5 days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

Malook said he will argue that the many contradictions of the eyewitnesses taint their evidence. Malook said he will also argue that the witnesses were not judged in keeping with Islamic injunctions, which requires they be proven to be "pious, to never have lied, to be of good character."

Internationally, Bibi's case has generated outrage. But in Pakistan, it has rallied radical Islamists and militant groups who have embraced Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law, using it to cultivate support and attack those who try to break their power.

Just defending her is dangerous.

"I have lost my health. I am a high blood pressure patent, my privacy is totally lost. You have to be in hiding," her lawyer said. Everyone on his tree-lined street knows his identity. "They look at this house and they know this is the home of a person who can be killed at any time by angry mullahs."

Outside Malook's home in the Punjab provincial capital of Lahore, police provide around-the-clock security.

In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province was shot and killed by one of his elite guards for defending Bibi and criticizing misuse of the blasphemy law. Malook prosecuted his killer, Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged for his crime.

Qadri has since become a martyr to millions, who make a pilgrimage to a shrine erected in his name by his family outside the capital of Islamabad.

Last month a member of Pakistan's newly elected government, which is led by Imran Khan, a former cricket star who has embraced religious conservatism, offered prayers at Qadri's shrine, generating an outcry from rights activists. Qadri's supporters have openly called for the immediate death of anyone accused of blasphemy.

An unprecedented number of religious parties participated in the July elections that put Khan in power. But as in previous elections, they garnered less than 10 % of the popular vote. Still, they have allies among all the major parties.

One party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik, won 3 provincial seats in Pakistan's southern Sindh province by campaigning on a single issue - the finality of the Prophet Muhammad. Its followers are ardent supporters of the harsh blasphemy law that prescribes death for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam.

According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 71 countries have blasphemy laws - around a quarter of them are in the Middle East and North Africa and around 1/5 are European countries, though enforcement and punishment varies.

Pakistan is one of the most ferocious enforcers.

At least 1,472 people were charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016, according to statistics collected by the Center for Social Justice, a Lahore-based group. Of those, 730 were Muslims, 501 were Ahmadis - a sect reviled by mainstream Muslims as heretical - while 205 were Christians and 26 were Hindus. The center said it didn't know the religion of the final 10 because they were killed by vigilantes before they could get their day in court.

While Pakistan's law carries the death penalty for blasphemy and offenders have been sentenced to death, so far no one has ever been executed.

Malook said an acquittal could generate countrywide protests. In the past, people charged with blasphemy but later freed have had to flee Pakistan for their safety.

(source: Associated Press)

OCTOBER 7, 2018:

TEXAS----stay of impending execution

Texas halts execution scheduled for man who raped and murdered Fort Worth girl, says he's intellectually disabled

A Fort Worth man whose execution was scheduled for Wednesday has been granted a stay after the Supreme Court ruled in a separate 2017 case that Texas' standards for determining intellectual disability in death-row inmates are outdated.

Juan Ramon Meza Segundo, 55, was set to die for the 1986 rape and murder of 11-year-old Vanessa Villas, found strangled in her Fort Worth home.

He removed a box fan from the girl's window and slipped in through the gap while her three cousins slept and her mother ran errands, police said.

"I cried for about 10 years," Vanessa's mother, Rosa Maria Clarke, told The Dallas Morning News in 2005. "Always, I wondered what happened to my little girl."

DNA evidence at the scene linked the crime to Segundo, who was married to a family friend and attended Vanessa's funeral. He was tried in Tarrant County in 2006.

Segundo was also linked to the rapes and strangling of 2 other local women in 1994 and 1995.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a 2016 appeal that argued that Segundo's lawyers failed to develop evidence that he was intellectually disabled, and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

Supreme Court justices also refused to review the case in 2017.

Old standards used to gauge intellectual disability included the subject's ability to lie convincingly, and their family's perception of their capabilities.

Segundo's IQ consistently measured around 75, and he was unable to read a clock or tell left from right, according to a Texas Tribune report.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----37

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----555

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

38---------Oct. 24----------------Kwame Rockwell----------556

39---------Nov. 7-----------------Emanuel Kemp, Jr.-------557

40---------Nov. 14----------------Robert Ramos------------558

41---------Dec. 4-----------------Joseph Garcia-----------559

42---------Dec. 11----------------Alvin Braziel-----------560

43---------Jan. 15----------------Blaine Milam------------561

44---------Jan. 30----------------Robert Jennings---------562

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

Juror In Zagorski Case Pleads For Life Without Parole Ahead Of Execution

With days until his scheduled execution, a juror who condemned Edmund Zagorski to death says the convicted murderer's life should be spared.

Michael Poole served on the jury in 1986, before life without parole became an option in Tennessee capital murder cases in 1995.

"We were instructed that if we were assured beyond any doubt that Mr. Zagorski had done this crime, that he should be given the death penalty because that's what the prosecution was actually seeking in this case," Poole told WPLN Friday.

Poole says he had no doubt that Zagorski committed a double murder in 1983, shooting and slitting the throats of a Hickman County logger and a bar owner from Dickson. The men expected to buy 100 pounds of marijuana.

Poole says the jury's concern was making sure Zagorski could never be released and potentially commit the same crime again. The small business owner from Springfield says he's not entirely opposed to the death penalty but says Zagorski doesn't deserve an execution.

"I don't feel that taking Mr. Zagorski's life some 35 years later is going to really do anything to make this world a better place," he said.

Zagorski is set to be put to death by lethal injection on Thursday at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison. He asked Governor Bill Haslam for clemency based on good behavior while in prison.

But on Friday, Haslam denied the request.

"While Zagorski has exhibited good behavior during his incarceration, that does not undo the fact that he robbed and brutally murdered two men and attempted to kill a police officer while on the run. Further, while juries today have the option of imposing a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in capital cases, the jury in Zagorski’s case heard the evidence at trial and rendered a unanimous verdict in accordance with the law at the time and their duty as jurors."

Haslam also noted the verdict in Zagorski's case has been upheld by 10 courts, including the Tennessee and U.S. Supreme Courts.

In August, Haslam also declined to intervene in the execution of Billy Ray Irick.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is expected to rule on an expedited case challenging the state's lethal injection protocol in the coming days, which could also have a bearing on Zagorski's fate. If not, his attorneys say they will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay of execution.



Nebraska county to seek state help paying $28.1M judgment

Residents of a small Nebraska county that owes $28.1 million to 6 people wrongfully convicted of a 1985 rape and murder will seek a bailout from the state now that their appeals are nearly exhausted, but some lawmakers aren't interested in helping them avoid a big property tax increase.

Community leaders in Gage County plan to ask lawmakers and Gov. Pete Ricketts for state funding or a loan to help pay the civil judgment owed to the former inmates, known as the Beatrice 6. They served a combined 70 years in prison for the slaying of 68-year-old Helen Wilson before being released a decade ago.

Gage County Supervisors voted last month to raise the county's property tax levy by 11.76 cents per $100 of valuation, the highest they can go without submitting the issue to voters. The higher tax will generate about $3.8 million next year.

For the owner of a $150,000 home, the increase amounts to an extra $177 in taxes annually. Land-rich farmers who have already seen their property taxes soar would pay substantially more at a time when low grain prices have squeezed their margins.

"If we continue on the path we're on with no assistance from the state, it will drive at least some farmers to bankruptcy," said Greg Lauby, a former attorney from Wymore who helped organize a group of residents to look for a solution. "We have homeowners who are struggling to put food on their table and clothe their children, and that's an amount that will make a difference."

The former inmates successfully sued Gage County after DNA evidence exonerated them in 2008, and a federal appeals court upheld the judgment in June and refused to postpone it for further appeals. That left county officials with few options other than a longshot request for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case or an uphill legal fight with their former insurer.

Jurors in the lawsuit found that some members of the group were coerced into false confessions by authorities, who convinced them they had repressed memories of the murder.

Some also struggled with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities and agreed to plea deals after investigators told them they might face the death penalty. Only 1 of the 6 Joseph White, maintained his innocence and went to trial, but he was convicted based largely on the testimony of those who had struck plea deals in exchange for lesser charges and lighter sentences.

Sen. Roy Baker, whose district includes Gage County, introduced two bills last year that sought to address the problem - one that would have let the county seek direct state reimbursement and another that would allow it to get a low-interest state loan.

Neither bill advanced, in part because of their cost and the state's tax revenue shortfall. Baker, who isn't seeking re-election, said he asked to have the bills held in committee until the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case. By the time the appeals court ruled, lawmakers had adjourned for the year.

Baker said he doesn't think the reimbursement bill is likely to pass, but the one that would allow Gage County to borrow money has "a sporting chance."

He said he's concerned the higher property tax will make voters less likely to approve other measures, such as bond issues to build new schools.

Despite the push, any attempt to collect money from the state is likely to face opposition from some lawmakers who have criticized how local officials handled the case and the impact it had on those wrongfully convicted.

"This was strictly a county matter," said Sen. Ernie Chambers, of Omaha. "They made their bed, now they have to sleep in it."

Chambers noted that the Beatrice 6 defendants' false confessions came after they were threatened with the death penalty, yet Gage County voters overwhelmingly supported a 2016 ballot measure to reinstate capital punishment after the Legislature repealed it.

"They haven't learned a thing," Chambers said.

A spokesman for Ricketts did not answer emailed questions about whether the governor would support state assistance for Gage County but said in a statement that the administration "will continue to talk with the county about their plans." Ricketts has made property taxes a top issue in his re-election campaign.

Gage County Supervisor Myron Dorn said county officials approved the tax increase because if they didn't, attorneys for the Beatrice Six would have asked a federal judge to order it.

Dorn, who is running for Baker's seat in the Legislature, said the county board is "aggressively looking at other options" to pay the debt, but hasn't come up with concrete solutions. He said that, if elected, he'll introduce a bill next year that would allow for state assistance.

"It would definitely help relieve some of the burden," Dorn said.

(source: Associated Press)


Judge to allow death penalty in serial killing case

The judge in a serial killing case against a former bus driver in Phoenix has denied a request by his defense team to bar the death penalty because a jailhouse video of the suspect was released to news media.

Superior Court Judge David Cunanan says there is "no basis" for the request because anyone can ask for a public record, such as the video.

Aaron Juan Saucedo's defense lawyers have said in court papers that the release of the video to The Arizona Republic and other news organizations violated their client's constitutional right to bodily privacy.

Saucedo has pleaded not guilty to 1st-degree murder and other charges in attacks that killed 9 people and wounded 2 others. He did not attend Friday's hearing.

Cunanan scheduled a Dec. 3 status conference.

(source: Associated Press)


Counsel: Age should halt death penalty

More irons are being added to the fire in a bid to remove the death penalty from the 1st-degree murder case against Jacob Corban Coleman, according to 1st District Court records.

Counsel for Coleman filed a 91-page motion Thursday arguing that he should not pay the ultimate penalty for stabbing a Spokane Valley cab driver to death in Kootenai due to his age. Coleman was 19 when he killed Gagandeep Singh inside his minivan taxicab.

Coleman’s capital defense counsel, Eagle attorney R. Keith Roark, contends that there is growing acceptance of scientific research here and abroad which holds that human brains aren't fully developed until at least the age of 21 and the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees someone of Coleman's age at the time of the crime cannot be executed or made to serve a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Roark points out in the motion to strike the death penalty that there is a national consensus which reflects that offenders under the age of 21 should not be put to death. 23 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and 5 U.S. territories, don’t execute offenders who are below that age. Roark said that position is rooted in scientific research involving the role and development in the brain's prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain which directs cognitive behavior, decision making and personality.

The research holds that it's the last part of the brain to fully develop and undergoes major neural reconstruction through the early 20s, according to Roark. That research is supported by U.S. laws and mores which are pegged around the age of 21 - alcohol consumption, gun ownership in some states and car rentals.

"The age of 18 is not, and has never been, a true age of maturity and adulthood. It was chosen for expedience. There is no principled reason to treat those who are still immature as if they are fully developed adults," Roark said in the motion.

The motion follows other motions to strike the death penalty. Those motions argued that Coleman should not be put to death by lethal injection because Idaho's methods would amount to cruel and unusual punishment and because Coleman was never indicted by a grand jury for Singh's killing.

Coleman, now 20, is being held at the Bonner County Jail. His trial is scheduled for this spring.

(source: Bonner County Daily Bee)


Death sentence or 2nd chance is the question

Of late, the debate regarding the death penalty has resurfaced.

This follows the unabated crime wave in the country, underlined by the recent crime stats that show that about 50 people are murdered daily on these shores.

In South Africa, back in 1995, the Constitutional Court abolished the death penalty, ending a decades-old practice of executing criminals convicted of serious crimes which had given the country one of the world's highest rates of capital punishment.

In America, the home of 'democracy' (if that term even exists anymore), the death penalty is still legal in 31 states and illegal in 19 others.

The death penalty has been an ongoing debate over many years, with the argument that no one who commits a horrible crime deserved a 2nd chance. This included, it seemed, crimes against children.

The recent incident at a restaurant in Pretoria, during which a girl (7) was raped in the bathroom over the weekend, in broad daylight, will most likely fuel the debate in the minds of many.

I'm sure there will be some who will say that no time behind bars will be punishment enough for the terrible trauma and pain afflicted on an innocent life.

And then there is the ongoing argument that the prisons are already overcrowded. Some might still frown upon sentences handed down to murderers and rapists.

Then again, if we live in a democracy, we then have to put our faith in the judicial system, otherwise we become a county where the rule of law is abolished for the sake of mob justice and tyranny.

In America, the rule of law prevailed when a judge in Pennsylvania jailed the US comedian Bill Cosby for three to 10 years for sexual assault. Cosby, 81, was also categorised as a sexually violent predator.

So where does this leave us with the death penalty?

The reality is that our government has no intention to budge on its decision of 1995. This is evident from the efforts made by correctional services, throughout the nation, to rehabilitate offenders and to reintegrate them back into society.

The Advertiser has now for many years written articles on the programmes run by the Boksburg Correctional Services to empower inmates with education, and with the necessary skills to be productive members of communities again.

Recently, during a graduation ceremony of inmates at the Boksburg prison, The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, urged employers not to close their doors when ex-offenders with relevant qualifications seek job opportunities at their companies.

On that day, a total of 127 offenders from various correctional centres in Gauteng graduated with various qualifications ranging from certificates to masters’ degrees from different institutions.

The Advertiser is also aware of a fully-fledged juvenile school that is now operational at the Boksburg premises (watch out for this story). So clearly, the government's intention is to rather empower than to hang, or to flip the switch.

The debate over the death penalty really boils down to: a person deserves a 2nd chance. There will be varying opinions on this subject, but personally, I believe so.

So many of those behind bars are themselves victims of abuse, trauma, hurt, pain, and so the saying goes that hurting people do hurt others. Some are behind bars because life handed them a rough deck of cards, others were driven by desperation to survive and others just made a bad choice a terrible decision.

Such actions can never be justified, no matter the crime, but let us remember there is always a story involved and a story that we do not know.

Life is really all about 2nd chances. We have all made terrible decisions and wrong choices. Let us just be honest about it. For some of us - because of luck, grace or fate - we are fortunately not in prison.

In our democracy, we have to allow the rule of law to prevail, for in this country you have to believe there are still consequences to your actions - determined by the courts.

We also have to believe people can be remorseful of their deeds, no matter how terrible, and they can become better spiritually, emotionally or psychologically.

If we don’t, then we have lost all hope in humanity, and thus our own humanity becomes enslaved by the cruelty of our own fears and intolerances.

(source: Editorial,


Liew: Study on move to abolish death penalty at final stage

A study to abolish the mandatory death sentence is in its final stage before being presented to the Cabinet, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

According to Liew, the study was conducted by the Attorney General's Chambers following the government's intention to abolish the death penalty made in accordance with International Standards on Human Rights.

"I'm sure, if possible, we can table the Bill by the end of the year," he said after a community social integration programme in Kampung Karamunting here on Saturday night.

The programme was organised by the Sandakan district National Anti-Drug Agency under the agency's Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Committee in collaboration with the Rukun Tetangga of Kampung Karamunting. Liew, who is also in charge of legal affairs, said the mandatory death sentence was for offences relating to drug trafficking, murder and terrorism.

He said that in reviewing the punishment, various aspects will be taken into account in ensuring an appropriate penalty was doled out to offenders, particularly for murder and terrorism.

"For me, in drug cases, sometimes we are overly hard on those being used as drug mules, but our laws against anyone found guilty of trafficking excessive amounts of drugs (Under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952) is the mandatory death sentence."

According to him, if the mandatory death sentence can be abolished, the focus will be on Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.



Final Death Sentence Appeal Scheduled for Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy, will have her final appeal heard tomorrow, October 8, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has announced.

Bibi, a 51-year-old mother of 5, has been in prison since 2009.

A special 3-member panel comprised of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel will hear the appeal.

The appeal has been languishing with the Supreme Court since 2015, when it issued a stay of execution.

Bibi was first convicted of blasphemy by a lower court in 2010 and sentenced to death. The Lahore High Court upheld her death sentence in 2014.

Dawn (PK) details the charges:

The allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women she was working with.

Asia Bibi, accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 despite her advocates maintaining her innocence and insisting the accusers held grudges against her.

She was asked to fetch water, but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

The women went to a local cleric and accused Bibi of blasphemy against the Prophet, a charge punishable by death under legislation that rights groups say is routinely abused to settle personal vendettas.

Bibi's supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute, and the Vatican has called for her release.

Pakistan's notorious blasphemy law has been repeatedly used to target religious minorities, including Christians and Ahmadi Muslims (whom Pakistan does not recognize as Muslims).

The hashtag #HangAsiya in support of Asia Bibi's death sentence is currently trending on Twitter in Pakistan.



Calcutta HC Commutes Death Sentence Of 7 For Witch-Hunting 3 Women, Says When Motive Is Engrained In Psyche, Judicial Execution Doesn't Help

The Calcutta High Court has commuted to life the death sentence of 7 men guilty of killing 3 women believing them to be witches while noting that when motive of crime is engrained in psyche, judicial execution does not help and that cases like this reflected upon the failure of the state to perform its constitutional duty of spreading universal education to the darkest corner.

The decision was taken by a bench of Justice JoymalaBagchi and Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya, which also directed the state government to implement guidelines issued by the court in the year 2016 to check the crime of witch-hunting by mounting effective surveillance, compensation to victims etc.

In the part of the judgment penned by Justice JoymalaBagchi, he commuted to life the death sentence awarded to Sani Mandi, Bhaku Singh, Rabin Singh, Mangal Singh, Nura Singh, Somai alias Samai Mandi and Kali Singh while upholding the life term awarded to 4 others - Chhabi Singh, Panchami Singh, Kuni @ Kuri Singh, Lakshmi Singh @ Kuni.

The lifers have also been slapped a fine of Rs 60,000 each.

The court, however, acquitted 2 co-convicts Chandmoni Singh and Jayanti Singh @ Jayeti who had been sentenced to life.

All the men are members of Munda community, a Scheduled Tribe residing at Dubrajpur and Haridaspur villages in the district of Paschim Medinipur.

They had been booked for murdering 3 women - Sambari Singh, Fulmani Singh and Sombari Singh - believing them to be witches responsible for the ills and diseases facing their village.

On October 16, 2012, under the leadership of one Thoba Singh, who is absconding still, a meeting was organised where the 3 women were declared witches and asked to pay a fine of Rs 60,000 which was far from their paying capacity.

Due to their failure to pay the fine, the women were assaulted with fists and blows and dragged to river Kangsabati where their bodies were found the next morning buried on the bank.

The families of the victims intervened but were threatened.

While upholding the conviction of all but two by carefully examining the role of each of them in the crime and holding those guilty whose role are corroborated by 2 or more witnesses (as laid down by the apex court in case titled Busi Koteswara Rao and Ors. vs State of A.P.) Justice Bagchi said, "In view of the legislative scheme under section 354(3) read with section 235(2) Cr.P.C...I hold it is the duty of the Court at the time of hearing on sentence to call upon the prosecutor and the defence to adduce evidence in support of the aggravating and mitigating factors available in the case and thereupon come to a conclusion as to whether upon a balance sheet of the aggravating and mitigating factors so established the case falls within the category of 'rarest of rare' cases, justifying imposition of death penalty."



Iraq to hang 'terrorist' who killed famed Christian Archbishop

An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced to death yet another "terrorist" who was accused of partaking in the 2008 murder of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, one of the most famous and respected bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, Nineveh.

In late February 2008, Rahho was kidnapped by gunmen who intercepted his car in al-Nour neighborhood and killed his 2 guards and driver, east of Mosul.

The incident occurred just after the 65-year-old bishop ended his prayers in his church, at a time when Christians were the target of insurgents throughout Iraq.

The kidnappers had demanded a ransom for the bishop's release. But the money was not paid and, reportedly, Rahho had called his church demanding the money not be handed over.

"He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions," church officials had said, according to the New York Times.

In March, the bishop's body was found buried in a shallow grave near Mosul, and security forces promptly arrested many suspects.

Upon the inspection of his body, Raho's exact cause of death was not apparent since he had a history of health problems.

The incident drew condemnation from the Vatican and foreign governments including the United States.

Just 2 months after in 2008, Iraq announced the death sentence of Ahmed Ali Ahmed, known as Abu Omar, who, then Iraqi government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh, said was a leader of al-Qaida in the country.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Abdul Sattar Birqdar, said in a statement that the Central Criminal Court considered the case and handed the "terrorist' the death penalty.

The statement did not mention the individual's name.

Birqdar added that the convict had asked Rahho's church in Mosul to "pay 50,000 dollars for his release," but the church did not comply with his request at the time.

"The death sentence against the terrorist comes on the basis of the provisions of article 4 of the anti-terrorism law," he said.

Christians in Iraq have been subjected to increasing rates of violence since 2003, prompting many to move to the Kurdistan Region while others left to Europe and America for security. Iraq's Christian population is believed to have nearly halved since the fall of Saddam Hussein.