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

APRIL 22, 12019:

TEXAS----impending execution

Jasper awaits execution of James Byrd slayer

James Byrd Jr. told his family that he would “put Jasper, Texas, on the map” one day, and he did.

“He thought it would be because of his music,” said Louvon Harris, one of his sisters, recalling the confident young man who played trumpet in the school band and sang exuberantly in the church choir or for anyone he thought it would bring joy to.

“Never did we think it would be because of his death.”

But it was Byrd’s murder — a horrific, white-on-black hate crime along a lonely country road — that brought notoriety to this East Texas town and created an impression that locals say was never quite true and has taken years to correct.

They hope Wednesday’s scheduled execution of killer John William King will be the final act in a searing legal and moral drama that has lasted nearly 21 years.

“Now when you mention Jasper, you associate Jasper with James,” Harris said. “It’s sad to know it was for a different reason than he anticipated.”

Byrd, a 49-year-old African-American known and liked around town, took a ride from King, a buddy of his from prison and another friend who worked at the local movie house. In an unconscionable rage in the early hours of June 7, 1998, the white men wound up chaining Byrd by his ankles to the bumper of a 1982 Ford pickup and dragging him for 3 miles before dumping his body on the side of the road.

The crime and the quick arrest of the killers — King a shocking figure with white supremacist tattoos — devastated the townspeople here as deeply as it did the rest of the nation. Yet from the beginning, their grief was overshadowed by the growing stereotype of their community as a place where the whites were mostly racists and the blacks lived in constant fear.

The people of Jasper did their best to prove the outsiders wrong. They stayed indoors when the Ku Klux Klan marched through town. They did the same when the New Black Panthers Party marched through. Clergy members preached forgiveness and worked hard to keep lines of communication open.

They came together to address areas of legitimate concern, such as racial disparities in local hiring.

The Rev. Kenneth Lyons, the Byrd family’s minister at Greater New Bethel Baptist Church, drew up a list of names that he hoped would save Jasper. For 20 years, he has kept it tucked inside the Bible under the lid of his pulpit.

Recalling scripture where God offered to save a city for the sake of 10 honorable men, Lyons drew up his own list.

Among the names is a fellow minister, a woman who “played a big role during that time” and one of James Byrd Sr.’s good friends.

“I began to think of 10 people in Jasper who I knew were sincere and earnest,” he recalled. “And this is what I said: I said, ‘Lord, here are the 10 that I have found here in Jasper, Texas. You said if you could find 10 in Sodom and Gomorrah, you would save it. And here’s 10 from Jasper, Texas. Save it.’”

Faith, he and others say, may have done just that.

“There was kind of a rally in the faith,” said Eddie Hopkins, executive director of the Jasper Economic Development Corp., likening it to the coming together that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “I think that same kind of sentiment happened after James Byrd. I think there was a rally in the faith.”

The Ministerial Alliance, with leaders from about 30 churches in and around Jasper, stepped in immediately.

“We all spoke with one voice,” Lyons said. “When the Black Panthers came to town, the black preachers spoke out against it. When the Ku Klux Klan came, the white ministers spoke out against it. To show harmony, to show them that Jasper was of one accord.”

The work inside the community didn’t stop the stain from spreading.

“We were stereotyped,” said Billy Rowles, Jasper County sheriff at the time. “I was stereotyped as a pot-bellied, beer-drinking, East Texas redneck, racist sheriff. They portrayed me that way and our community as a bunch of racists and bigots and zeroes.

“It broke your heart, how they portrayed us.”

The economy suffered, too.

“Doctors wouldn’t come; businesses wouldn’t come,” said the Rev. Ron Foshage of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. “People moved out. It’s been very difficult because we live with this stigma.”

Foshage, Rowles and Lyons insist that the stereotypes were overhyped. In 2019, there are signs that attitudes have softened.

A large tech support business headquartered in Brewton, Ala., is remodeling a building across from the courthouse for a new Texas location that promises to add as many as 250 jobs. Provalus chose Jasper out of 50 prospective cities across the country.

Landing the company wasn’t easy, said Hopkins of the economic development group.

“One of the things that came up in a conversation with the corporation’s president was James Byrd,” he said. “Not that we were going to have to convince him that we’d overcome it, but the clients that they work for. When they see ‘Provalus: Jasper, Texas,’ there’s always going to be those questions of, how safe will my employees be if they go to Jasper? Questions like that.”

People weren’t exactly fearful, said Century 21 Realtor Liz McClurg, but they were leery.

Prior to Byrd’s death, McClurg said, it took her an average of 30 to 45 days to sell a home. After, it would take about 270 days.

“Nobody wanted to come here — to live, to work, to start a business, to relocate,” she said. “I would just tell them: Come meet our people, come visit our shops, come see our schools. I stressed to my clients that the perception that they may have is not a pattern, it’s not a mentality.”

Foshage was part of a task force formed after Byrd’s death to tackle other issues.

“Myself and other members of the task force personally went to the banks, the courthouse, the car dealers. And we asked them to hire African-Americans,” the priest said. “And they agreed. Many people didn’t realize that there were no African-Americans in many of the Jasper businesses.”

Hopkins said the economy is getting better, but progress has been slow.

“It happened,” he said of the murder. “And we’re never, ever going to be able to dismiss the fact that it did. However, we have to live in spite of it. We have to go on. There has to be commerce. There has to be economy. There has to be life as normal as we can have it.”

Caden Bynum, 15, wasn’t alive at the time of the murder, and his mother, 29-year-old Linda Bynum, wasn’t old enough at the time to remember much. But both often are surprised by the opinions of those outside their town.

“We went to a college in Orange, and people looked at us like, ‘Oh my gosh, you live there?’” Linda Bynum said while dining with her son at a Jasper restaurant. “There are so many people outside of Jasper that look at this town as a racist town. Really and truthfully, it’s not. Most people are loving here.”

Caden Bynum, who plays on the high school football team, said the Byrd story occasionally is discussed in the classroom. He doesn’t hear other students making racist remarks. That’s not a word his generation would use to describe Jasper.

Capt. James Carter, a 30-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, blames the media for making the town appear that way.

“They blew it all out of proportion,” he said. “It wasn’t like they said it was.”

Carter grew up with the Byrds.

“We rode the bus together. We played after school. We went to church together. They were more like my family than a friend,” he said.

He went with then-Sheriff Rowles to inform the family of Byrd’s death. The details are as horrifying now as they were 21 years ago.

Byrd was a former vacuum cleaner salesman who lived on disability and had an apartment but no vehicle. So he walked, sometimes accepting rides from passing townsfolk.

He was walking home when King, Shawn Allen Berry and Lawrence Russell Brewer offered to give him a ride in Berry’s pickup. Out on an old logging road, court evidence would later show, they shared cigarettes and beer.

Then the unthinkable happened. Byrd was chained by his ankles to the bumper of Berry’s truck and dragged 3 miles down Huff Creek Road. His remains, naked and decapitated, were dumped outside a black church and a neighboring cemetery at the end of the road.

“I don’t think he was chosen,” Carter said. The attackers had “their minds made up.”

“It could have been anybody that night.”

Lyons’ congregation was in Sunday school when the news broke.

“It brought back memories of the ’30s and ’40s when our race was treated in that kind of way,” he said. “And I think most of us just couldn’t come to grasp, to believe it. We had come so far.”

The killers were all found guilty of capital murder. Berry, 44, is serving a life sentence, eligible for parole in 2038. Brewer was executed in 2011. King, the 1at to stand trial, is scheduled to die Wednesday evening in Huntsville.

In 2001, then-Gov. Rick Perry signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, creating harsher penalties for crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, age, gender, disability, national origin or sexual orientation.

8 years later, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, linking the Byrd case to the slaying 3 months later of a young gay man in Laramie, Wyo.

“Hate is a learned behavior,” Harris said last week as she prepared for the upcoming execution, which she and her sister Clara Taylor will attend. “Learned can be unlearned.”

Of the punishments, she said, “There’s closure in a sense that justice was served, but the reality of the impact that it created for our family is that James is gone forever. I don’t think anything could close that chapter.”

Those who lived through the tragedy haven’t forgotten, but they continue moving forward.

“Jasper, Texas, won,” former Sheriff Rowles said. “We may have a little scar and it’s healed up some, but we won.”

Robert Cowles, 62, a landscaper who moved to the area from North Carolina a few years after the murder, said he walks the same streets that Byrd once did with no fear, pushing his mower from one lawn job to the next.

As he walked past the now-shuttered Jasper Twin Cinema, he reflected on the parallels between his life and that of Byrd, a man he’d never met.

“He really was doing nothing but walking,” Cowles said. “He just loved to walk, like me.”

Foshage, the priest, remains a focal point for peace in Jasper. He spoke with Hearst Newspaper effortlessly, as if from a script, always smiling. It was clear he had done more than a few interviews over the past 2 decades.

Asked if Jasper is looking forward to the day the interviews will stop, Foshage kept smiling and answered softly:

“Yes, we are.”

(source: Beaumont Enterprise)

GEORGIA:

Going it alone, death-penalty defendant confronts would-be jurors

It was the kind of question no one could imagine.

“So if in this case, and this is an if, you were picked for the jury and you did find the defendant — me — guilty of … starving a child, my own child, and burning her body, would you be able to consider life with parole as an option or would death be the necessary action taken? ” Tiffany Moss asked.

The 35-year-old Gwinnett County woman posed it last week to a Transportation Security Administration officer who’s a potential juror for her death-penalty trial. Because Moss is acting as her own attorney, she found herself asking the unthinkable.

Taken aback, and clearly uncomfortable, the TSA officer — Juror No. 52 — said death would be his “1st priority.”

Jury selection, which consumed all of last week, will wrap up soon in this extremely rare instance in which a capital defendant is going it alone. Despite the recommendations of almost everyone, Moss has refused to be represented by two experienced state capital defenders who were assigned her case. (Instead, they have been appointed “standby counsel” and sit behind Moss in the courtroom gallery ready to help if she asks for it.)

Atlanta attorney Ken Driggs, who has represented capital defendants at trial and on appeal, spent time in court last week to see how Moss was doing. He left unimpressed.

Because Moss is not raising any objections, he said, she cannot appeal possible errors during her trial if she’s convicted and sentenced to death.

“When you represent yourself you can’t complain about your mistakes,” Driggs said. “You are stuck with the consequences of your mistakes or lack of knowledge.”

So far, more than 70 prospective jurors have been questioned about their thoughts on capital punishment and the criminal justice system to see whether they can be qualified as fair and impartial.

The jurors are also asked what they think about Moss’s decision to exercise her constitutional right to represent herself.

“I guess I feel that it’s kind of shocking,” Juror No. 56 said, looking over to Moss sitting alone by herself at the defense table.

“It might not be the most logical decision,” said Juror No. 17, a Gwinnett librarian.

“I would just say I hope she’s been given some guidance,” said Juror No. 41, a retired elementary school teacher. “That does bother me a little (but) you said it was her choice. You have to respect that.”

Others said they just wanted to know why Moss had made such a decision. (They were never told why, although Moss has said she’s putting her faith in God’s hands.)

Most jurors said they would not hold Moss’s self-representation against her or the state.

Juror No. 63, a school support technician, was an exception. “I think I would have a little bias,” she said, referring to Moss.

During jury selection, Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson has read the sobering indictment to panels of prospective jurors. This includes the murder-by-starvation allegation, various child cruelty charges and her alleged attempt to conceal the crime.

Then, one juror at a time sits alone in the jury box, first to answer questions posed by the judge. District Attorney Danny Porter or assistant DA Lisa Jones are next.

When it’s Moss’s turn, she most often smiles and tells Hutchinson, “No questions, your honor.” On very few occasions, however, she poses the question about the starvation and burning of her stepchild.

When she does speak, Moss is polite and pleasant, sometimes bubbling up with nervous laughter. Some jurors return her smile, while others cast a curious glace at the woman they’d just been told is accused of starving and burning her stepchild.

According to law enforcement, 10-year-old Emani Moss weighed just 32 pounds when her charred body was found in the fall of 2013.

On two occasions, Moss won challenges to keep potential jurors in the final selection pool. This occurred after prosecutors sought to disqualify them because they said they would be reluctant to vote for a death sentence.

One of them, Juror No. 30, a veterinary nurse, told Porter she had signed petitions opposing capital punishment. “I’m personally not a fan of it,” she said.

But when Porter asked her if she could consider all 3 sentencing options — life in prison with the possibility of parole, life without parole or the death penalty — the juror said, “I would like to think I could.”

As Porter continued to question her, the woman admitted to having bad experiences with law enforcement. One was being handcuffed by police as a teenager after squirting water from a car into the face of a taxi driver. Another included a friend she believed was wrongly convicted of a sexual assault.

After probing that, Porter finally asked Juror No. 30 if, given her views and life experiences, she could truly vote for the death penalty.

“I’ve been against it for so long,” the woman said, equivocating.

Porter later moved to have Juror No. 30 disqualified.

But Moss reminded Hutchinson the woman had said she could consider all three sentencing options, including death. Hutchinson granted Moss a small victory and kept the woman in the jury pool.

At the same time, Moss has stumbled a number of times. On one occasion, she failed to try and disqualify a juror who’d said she could not vote to sentence a person convicted of killing a child to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Anther occasion involved Juror No. 138, who said she’d once supported capital punishment but now opposed it.

Experienced defense lawyers would have questioned such a juror to try and get her to admit that, in especially egregious cases, she could still vote for death. Such a concession could make her a qualified juror and one favored by the defense.

When Hutchinson asked Moss if she had any questions for this juror, Moss appeared to sense this possibility. She called for her standby lawyers, Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert, and they spoke to her at length at the defense table. As they gave instructions, Moss repeatedly nodded her head in agreement.

After Gardner and Gilbert returned to their seats, Hutchinson asked Moss if she had anything to say. “No questions, your honor,” Moss said with a smile.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

ALABAMA:

Prosecutors seeking death penalty for man accused of killing 11-year-old in DeKalb County

Prosecutors will seek death penalty for 11-year-old girl’s murder in DeKalb County----There’s been a new development in the case of a DeKalb County man accused of abducting and killing an 11-year-old girl.

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against Christopher Madison.

Madison is charged with capital murder in the death of Amberly Barnett. She was found strangled in the wooded area behind Madison’s home in Collinsville last month. She had been reported missing before her body was found.

Chief Investigator David Davis testified at Madison’s preliminary hearing in March that during a search of Madison’s home they found blood and hair in multiple locations along with other key pieces of evidence.

(source: WAFF news)

OHIO:

3 years after killings, Rhoden murder case works way through court

3 years ago Monday, tragedy struck Appalachian Ohio.

On April 22, 2016, 8 members of the Rhoden family were found shot to death in 4 separate homes in rural Pike County. 3 children — an infant, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old — were found alive and physically unharmed among the bodies.

For more than 2 1/2 years, the case remained unsolved. Then, this past November, Angela and George “Billy” Wagner III and their 2 adult sons were arrested and charged with aggravated murder. 2 other Wagner relatives were arrested and charged with ancillary crimes related to the homicides.

As the anniversary approaches, here’s a recap and a look at where things stand today:

The victims

Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife Dana Rhoden, 47; their children, Hanna Rhoden, 19, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie Rhoden’s fiancée, Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Sr.’s brother Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and cousin Gary Rhoden, 38.

The crime scenes

Chris and Gary were found in Chris’s trailer on Union Hill Road. They were the only 2 not shot while in their beds, and authorities have said the killers dragged their bodies through the house. Chris had been shot at least once through a door, scene evidence and wood fragments on his body found during an autopsy showed. He also had been shot more than any other victim: 9 times.

Frankie and Hannah were found dead in their beds in the trailer next door. Frankie’s 3-year-old son from a previous relationship was found unharmed in the living room — with cartoons playing on the television — when Dana’s sister discovered the bodies just before 8 a.m.

Dana and Hanna and Chris Jr. were found in a trailer they’d recently moved to about a mile up Union Hill Road. Home from the hospital less than 48 hours after giving birth, Hanna had her infant daughter by her side.

Kenneth’s body was the last discovered, several hours later. He was dead in the bed of his remote camper about a 15-minute car ride away.

The Wagners

Hanna and Edward “Jake” Wagner had a 3-year-old daughter together, Sophia. She was staying with Jake on the night of the killings. About a year after the homicides, Angela and Billy Wagner and Jake and his brother George IV moved to Kenai, Alaska, a place where they later told the Cincinnati Enquirer they had hunted and fished before. They said they wanted to get Sophia away from the spotlight and the stress of the case. A year later, the family returned to Pike County.

The charges

Billy, Angela, Jake and George IV are all charged with 8 counts of aggravated murder, which carry a possible death penalty if convicted, and more than a dozen other charges that include aggravated burglary; tampering with evidence; engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; unauthorized use of property; interception of communications; conspiracy; and unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance.

Billy’s mother, Fredericka Wagner, is charged with perjury and obstructing justice. She’s accused of lying to a grand jury about the purchase of 2 bulletproof vests. Rita Newcomb, Angelas’s mother, is charged with forging custody documents for Jake and Hanna’s case, as well as for George VI’s custody case.

The motive

Authorities have said obsession to control and obsession with custody of children was at the root of the killings.

The evidence delivery

At each defendant’s hearing, prosecutors have said they are turning over evidence as quickly as they can. That includes multiple hard drives of information; social media screenshots; a Walmart receipt; more than 1,400 crime-scene photos; and cell phone records.

The trials

All 6 charged have pleaded not guilty. Fredericka Wagner’s trial is set to begin July 29, and Rita Newcomb’s is set to begin July 8. It will likely be years before the death penalty eligible cases go to trial.

(source: ohio.com)

ILLINOIS:

Joliet Serial Killer Milton Johnson Loses Another Appeal----Milton Johnson was sentenced to die for his Will County crimes, but the state's death penalty was abolished.

Joliet resident Milton Johnson has spent most of his life living behind the walls of a maximum security prison because he is a notorious convicted serial killer. These days, Johnson lives at Menard Correctional Center. At one of his murder trials, Will County prosecutor Stephen White pointed at the defendant and told the jury Johnson was an animal.

This month, Joliet Patch has learned, the 68-year-old Johnson got some more bad news, but most people familiar with mass murderer Milton Johnson will be happy.

The Third District Appellate Court has issued an 11-page ruling in Johnson's latest postconviction petition, turning it down. The issues in front of the judges surround the post-conviction appeal that dates all the way back to Nov. 23, 1987, court documents note.

During his early thirties, Johnson was convicted of murdering 18-year-old Anthony Hackett and raping Hackett's girlfriend, then stabbing her in the stomach and leaving her for dead, south of Joliet, near Wilmington, on July 17, 1983. At his second murder trial, Johnson served as his own criminal defense attorney, the August 1983 quadruple murders inside the Greenware By Merry ceramic shop at 1405 E. Cass St. in Joliet.

All 4 women were fatally stabbed and one of the victims, 75-year-old Anna Ryan, was also shot. Their purses were also taken.

Johnson was sentenced to die in the 1980s for a total of five murders. He was also suspected of committing several more murders during the summer of 1983, but Will County State's Attorney Edward Petka selected the I-55 murder and the ceramic shop murders as the best cases to bring against Johnson at that point in time.

Here are some key excerpts from this month's ruling by the Illinois appeals court out of the Third District that went against Johnson.

"Defendant contends that the circuit court erred in denying his postconviction petition following an evidentiary hearing. Specifically, defendant contends that he established that defense counsel provided ineffective assistance for failing to move to bar or rebut the State's expert witness who opined as to the origin of the bullets recovered from Hackett's body and the cartridges recovered from defendant's residence. Upon review, we find the court did not err in denying defendant's postconviction petition, because defendant failed to establish prejudice resulting from counsel's purported deficient performance."

"To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must demonstrate that (1) counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) the deficient performance prejudiced the defense. Even assuming defense counsel performed deficiently, we find that defendant cannot demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the result would have been different because the evidence of defendant's guilt is overwhelming."

Given that the evidence of defendant's guilt is overwhelming without even considering (FBI special agent Roger) Peele's expert testimony, any attempt by defense counsel to challenge the forensic evidence would have had no impact on the jury's determination. At best, the potential rebuttal testimony would have demonstrated that it was impossible to state with certainty that the bullets recovered from Hackett's body and the cartridges found in defendant's residence came from the same box. The rebuttal evidence would not show that the bullets came from different boxes. In other words, the defense's expert testimony would merely negate Peele's testimony. Consequently, we hold that it is not reasonably probable that the outcome of the trial would have been different."

(source: patch.com)

TENNESSEE----impending execution

Tennessee Is Set to Execute Another Man Who Suffered Abuse as a Child----Without clemency from the governor, Don Johnson will be put to death on May 16

As detailed in his application for clemency, which was delivered to Gov. Bill Lee earlier this month, Johnson’s mother Ruby was married to a relentlessly brutal man named James Lee who “throughout their 46 years of marriage … treated Ruby like a whipped animal.” Her husband slapped, beat and choked her, Johnson’s lawyers write. At one point, Ruby fled to Michigan, and a brief relationship with another man, Elmer Young, left her pregnant with a baby boy. But she returned to James Lee in hopes of finding financial security. “It was into this violent and hate-filled home that Don Johnson was born,” Johnson’s lawyers write.

They go on: “Donnie Johnson was a frail little boy, with bad eyes, and no love. He wore coke bottle glasses and was a regular target of bullies (at school and at home). He was routinely and mercilessly beaten by James Lee for any and all reasons. James Lee would use a leather shaving strop, a switch, or his fists and feet. Through all of this abuse, Don Johnson was kept ignorant of his true origin — he was raised believing that James Lee was his biological father, and that his biological father hated him.”

Now 68 years old, Don Johnson sits on death row more than 30 years after a Shelby County jury convicted him of the murder of his wife, Connie Johnson. Barring an act of mercy from the governor, Johnson will be executed on May 16 at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

The attorneys pleading on his behalf for that act of mercy have built their case on Johnson’s remarkable redemption story, and his reconciliation with Connie’s daughter, Cynthia Vaughn.

“This is a case for which clemency was designed,” they write. “While Don Johnson’s death sentence may be legally acceptable under all of the analytical considerations of dispassionate law, it is not morally right — in the words of Alexander Hamilton it would be ‘unduly cruel.’ The remarkable transformation that Don has made warrants mercy. Cynthia Vaughn, the person with the greatest claim on his life, deserves to have her forgiveness honored.”

Johnson and Vaughn’s relationship is indeed an extraordinary testament to the power of forgiveness and the possibility of redemption — one that challenges notions about what the death penalty does for victims. But it is Johnson’s violent, abusive childhood that makes him fit in perfectly with the men who have gone before him into Riverbend’s execution chamber. For the most part, this is who we put to death — men who have been victimized, starting at a heartrendingly young age, and have gone on to victimize others as adults. Along with mental illness, childhood abuse is such a common feature of death row prisoners’ stories that one risks becoming inured to the descriptions of physical and psychological violence.

All 3 men executed in Tennessee last year were said to have experienced varying degrees of physical abuse as children at the hands of their parents.

Billy Ray Irick (executed Aug. 9 by lethal injection) was sent to his first mental health institution at the age of 6. He told people “that his mother mistreats him, that she ties him up with a rope and beats him,” according to a clinical social worker who performed an assessment of him. Ed Zagorski (executed Nov. 1 by electrocution) grew up in a dilapidated home with a mother who suffered from mental illness and would chase after him trying to beat him. On one occasion, according to an affidavit signed by a cousin, Zagorski’s mother broke his arm. Even in this context, the details of David Miller’s upbringing are particularly disturbing. Miller (executed Dec. 6 by electrocution) was repeatedly sexually assaulted by his mother — in addition to other family members and adults — who also beat him, whipping him with a belt, an extension cord, a wire coat hanger and an umbrella. Miller’s stepfather, according to court documents, once “knocked David out of a chair, hit him with a board, threw him into a refrigerator with such force it dented the refrigerator and bloodied David’s head, dragged him through the house by his hair, and twice ran David’s head through the wall.”

In Johnson’s case, after enduring years of violence, he started acting out and running away from home. When he was 14, he was sent to a juvenile facility known as Jordonia where he lived for six months. Newspaper clippings from around that time in the 1960s referred to Jordonia — officially called the State Vocational Training School for White Boys — as a “concentration camp” and a “prep school for the pen.” In Johnson’s clemency application, his attorneys write that he suffered physical abuse there and was victim of an attempted rape.

After a brief return home, Johnson — then a teenager — was sent to Pikeville, another notorious juvenile facility. Johnson’s attorneys quote newspaper reports about the conditions there: “The Kingsport Times-News described a sentence to Pikeville as ‘like going to Hell.’ A Murfreesboro Daily News-Journal headline read ‘Humans Treated Worse Than Animals, Report Says.’”

As quoted by his attorneys, Johnson describes his stint in the Ohio Penitentiary as a relief by comparison: “It was like going from the darkness into the light, the conditions in prison were so much better.”

Johnson’s attorneys stress that he “does not place blame for his subsequent wrongs on his father, on Jordonia, or on Pikeville.” But to explain is not to excuse. People who are abused as children are, of course, not destined for a life of violent crime. But is it any surprise that so many men on America’s death rows were victims first before they went on to make victims of their own?

(source: Nashville Scene)

LOUISIANA:

Lawmakers to Discuss Death Penalty in Louisiana

State lawmakers will talk about moving forward with the death penalty in Louisiana, but they are working to pass a measure to conceal the identities of companies that make the drug cocktail used in executions.

Hammond Representative Nicky Muscarello has proposed a measure to hide the identities of companies that sell lethal injection drugs or equipment to the state. Louisiana has not performed an execution since 2010, and Muscarello says a big reason why is drug companies fear retaliation from anti-death penalty consumers.

The legislation is similar to laws in Arkansas and Texas.

The Tangipahoa Parish Republican says he was moved to propose this measure after hearing testimony from families of victims who’s attackers arelingering on death row. This includes the victims of Shreveport serial killer Nathanie Code who has been on death row for more than 25 years.

Muscarello says those families were promised an execution, and this would help increase the odds of that happening. Muscarello says the death penalty is law, and it’s the legislature’s responsibility to make the enforcement of law as feasible as possible.

Governor Edwards says he would sign the legislation if it were to reach his desk.

(source: KEEL news)

ARKANSAS:

State heads to trial in inmates' death-drug suit----Execution sedative’s effectiveness at issue in federal case that begins Tuesday

A federal lawsuit filed by death row inmates has renewed a court fight over whether the sedative Arkansas uses for lethal injections causes torturous executions, two years after the state raced to put eight convicted killers to death in 11 days before a previous batch of the drug expired.

Arkansas recently expanded the secrecy surrounding its lethal injection drug sources, and the case heading to trial Tuesday could affect its efforts to restart executions that have been on hold because of a lack of the drugs. It'll also be the latest in a series of legal battles over midazolam, a sedative that other states have moved away from after claims that it doesn't render inmates fully unconscious during lethal injections.

States that want to avoid unnecessarily inhumane executions will be watching closely, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which has criticized the way states carry out the death penalty.

But, Dunham added, "states that are watching because they want to figure out how to just execute people will be looking to see what Arkansas is able to get away with."

Only 4 of the 8 executions scheduled in Arkansas over 11 days in 2017 happened, with courts halting the others. The state currently doesn't have any executions scheduled, and Arkansas' supply of the three drugs used in its lethal injection process has expired. Another round of multiple executions is unlikely if Arkansas finds more drugs, since only one death row inmate has exhausted all his appeals.

This time, Arkansas isn't racing against the clock to execute inmates before a drug expires. The state currently doesn't have any execution drugs available, but officials believe they'll be able to get more once the secrecy law takes effect this summer.

State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says the inmates in the case have a very high burden to meet and cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month against a Missouri death row inmate. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority in that case, wrote that the U.S. Constitution "does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death." Rutledge called the federal case in Arkansas the latest attempt by death row inmates to delay their sentences from being carried out.

"Juries gave these individuals lawful sentences for committing the most heinous acts against a human being, taking another human being's innocent life," Rutledge, a Republican, said. "We must see these sentences carried out. The families of these victims deserve justice."

30 states have the death penalty. Governors in 4 of them -- Oregon, Colorado, Pennsylvania and California -- have declared moratoriums, and court rulings have effectively put executions on hold in several others.

The list of death penalty states is poised to shrink, though, with New Hampshire lawmakers sending the governor a repeal measure. Bills to repeal or significantly curtail the death penalty have been introduced in 18 states this year, Dunham said.

Much of the trial over Arkansas' process will focus on midazolam, which critics have said doesn't render inmates fully unconscious before the other lethal injection drugs are administered. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld midazolam's use in executions in 2015, but its use continues to prompt legal challenges nationwide. Seven states have used the sedative as the first administered in a three-drug execution process, and two have used it in a two-drug process, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Critics have cited problematic executions involving the sedative as evidence that it doesn't work properly. Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett remained alive for 43 minutes, groaning and writhing on a gurney after an intravenous line was improperly connected in his 2014 execution. Inmate Joseph Wood gasped for air, snorted and his belly inflated and deflated during the nearly two hours it took him to die during his execution in Arizona in 2014.

Under Arkansas' execution process, inmates are first administered midazolam. They're then administered vecuronium bromide, which stops the lungs, followed by potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Attorneys for a group of death row inmates argue that two of Arkansas' executions in 2017 demonstrate the problems with midazolam. One execution cited is that of Kenneth Williams, who witnesses said lurched and convulsed 20 times before he died. Another inmate, Marcel Williams, arched his back and breathed heavily during his execution, according to a witness.

Based on past court rulings, the inmates will also have to prove there's an alternative to the state's lethal injection method available that's likely to be less painful. The inmates' attorneys have argued those alternatives include firing squads and a barbiturate commonly used in physician-assisted suicide.

Other states have moved away from midazolam over concerns about the drug. Ohio's Republican governor earlier this year ordered the prison system to look at alternative drugs after a federal judge said midazolam could cause severe pain and needless suffering. Oklahoma put executions on hold in 2015 after a series of mishaps that included a botched execution involving midazolam, and the state is now developing a plan to execute inmates using nitrogen gas.

"If the court in Arkansas finds that midazolam is a drug that doesn't do what the state claims that it does and in effect tortures prisoners when it's used in executions, that's going to be another state that may not be able to use the drug," said Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender in Arizona who has been involved in litigation in that state and Oklahoma over the use of midazolam.

The trial comes weeks after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure prohibiting the release of information that could directly or indirectly identify the source of its executions drugs. The measure was in response to state Supreme Court rulings that the current secrecy law doesn't cover the manufacturers of Arkansas' drugs. Arkansas' supply of drugs has expired, and prison officials last year said they wouldn't search for more until the secrecy measure was enacted.

The bill faced criticism from media organizations and death penalty opponents, especially over its criminal penalties for recklessly disclosing the information. Two pharmaceutical companies also objected to the law, saying it would hamper their ability to ensure their drugs aren't used in executions. The new law takes effect in late July.

(source: arkansasonline.com)

IRAQ----new death sentences

Iraqi court sentences 4 Daesh terrorists to death

An Iraqi court has sentenced 4 members of Daesh organization to death by hanging over their participation in terrorist attacks in Iraq and Syria.

The Karkh Criminal Court in Baghdad handed Daesh terrorists the death penalty for conducting a number of terrorist attacks against security forces and civilians in Iraq and Syria with the purpose to destabilize the security situation there, Alghad Press website quoted the Supreme Judicial Council media center as stating in a press statement on Sunday.

The statement emphasized, "Despite their arrest in Syria, the terrorists were tried in Iraq after having been handed over by the Syrian Democratic Forces for being wanted by Iraqi judiciary".

Iraqi courts have sentenced a number of Daesh terrorists, including a big number of female members, to death over participating with the terrorist organization.

(source: menafn.com)

APRIL 21, 2019:

TEXAS:

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----42

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----560

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

43---------Apr. 24----------------John King---------------561

44---------May 2------------------Dexter Johnson----------562

45---------Aug. 21----------------Larry Swearingen--------563

46---------Sept. 4----------------Billy Crutsinger--------564

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

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

USA----countdown to nation's 1500th execution

With the execution of Billie Wayne Coble in Texas on February 28, the USA has now executed 1,493 condemned individuals since the death penalty was relegalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision. Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of scheduled executions as the nation approaches a terrible milestone of 1500 executions in the modern era.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1494-------Apr. 24------------John King------------------Texas

1495-------May 2--------------Scotty Morrow--------------Georgia

1496-------May 2--------------Dexter Johnson------------Texas

1497-------May 16-------------Donnie Johnson-----------Tennessee

1498-------Aug. 15------------Stephen West-------------Tennessee

1499-------Aug. 21------------Larry Swearingen---------Texas

1500-------Sept. 4------------Billy Crutsinger---------Texas

1501------Sept. 12------------Warren Henness-----------Ohio

(source: Rick Halperin)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Why Philly’s Reformist Prosecutor Finally Supports Letting Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Appeal Go Forward

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s long struggle for freedom and justice gained crucial ground this week. The former Black Panther, activist, and journalist will get a new hearing to appeal his conviction for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer. On Wednesday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner dropped his opposition to the appeal, opening a potential — though far from assured — avenue to freedom for Abu-Jamal, an outcome that had previously seemed impossible.

In January, Krasner’s office decided to fight Abu-Jamal’s appeal. He told The Intercept at the time that the move was “a narrow, technical decision in one sense, but incredibly complex and nuanced and affects many other cases.” The latest shift is a welcome one, not least because Abu-Jamal’s grounds for new appeals certainly go beyond the technical.

Larry Krasner dropped his opposition to the appeal, opening a potential avenue to freedom for Abu-Jamal, an outcome that had previously seemed impossible.

The reasons for the defense’s new appeal relates to a recusal issue. Former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille had been Philadelphia’s district attorney as Abu-Jamal initially tried to overcome his conviction. Then Castille, who supports the death penalty and has ties to police unions, heard Abu-Jamal’s case between the years of 1998 to 2012 as chief justice. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys argued that Castille should have recused himself from presiding as a judge over a case he had previously played the prosecutor’s role in.

The specifics aside, the mere fact that Abu-Jamal will be able to argue his appeal again in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is, at the very least, a tacit recognition that his treatment by the criminal justice system was colored by bias and an ideology of deference to the police.

“District Attorney Larry Krasner did the right thing when he withdrew his office’s appeal in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case,” the Amistad Law Project, a Pennsylvania-based prisoner advocacy and prison abolitionist organization, wrote in a statement. “This shows commitment to individualized justice.”

As The Intercept reported last year, Krasner’s decision to block Abu-Jamal’s appeal effort drew fierce criticism from criminal justice advocates who had high hopes in the district attorney’s promise to radically reform his office. Before taking on the role, Krasner had sued the Philadelphia Police Department for abuses 75 times; as the city’s prosecutor, he recommended parole for former MOVE members. Yet in blocking Abu-Jamal’s appeal, he appeared to side with police interests, earning the ire of activists, raising questions about whether there could truly be a “progressive prosecutor” at a time when prosecutors around the country are winning elections on strong reformist platforms. Abu-Jamal, now 64, was sentenced to death in a 1982 trial for the killing of Daniel Faulkner, a police officer. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2011, but the fight to overturn his conviction continues to draw international support. “Free Mumia!” has for decades been a rallying cry for justice against a racist criminal justice system.

The original case was mired in the sort of police misconduct typical in the prosecution of Black Panthers, including evidence tampering and racism in jury selection. According to the affidavit of a court stenographer, Abu-Jamal’s trial judge, the late Albert Sabo, reportedly told someone in the courthouse, “I am going to help them fry the n—–.”

Krasner’s decision this week made no judgement on the activist’s original conviction, but removes a crucial hurdle enabling a historic injustice to be legally challenged. He stressed that his previous opposition was based in the fact that the original ruling to grant Abu-Jamal new appeals had been too broad. Krasner claimed that the ruling, from Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker, risked reopening many hundreds of cases wherein a judge had at one time been a prosecutor.

Last month, however, Tucker rewrote and narrowed his opinion in such a way that continued to grant Abu-Jamal new appeals but allayed the district attorney’s concern about the possible consequence of reopening many other cases.

The judge’s opinion, which vacates the appeal denials from 1998 to 2012, followed a Supreme Court precedent that also involved Castille. Tucker said that an impartial appeal process is violated if a prosecutor who had significant personal involvement in the case is later a judge in the same matter. The changes Tucker made in his modified opinion makes clear that being a former prosecutor alone is not grounds for recusal, but Castille’s involvement as a prosecutor rose to the level of “significant personal involvement.” As an instance of potential bias, Tucker cited a letter Castille had sent in 1990 urging the governor’s office to issue death warrants for all police killers.

“So-called progressive prosecutors and lawmakers must reverse the racist policies that resulted in the crisis of aging in prison, which disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx people sentenced to ‘death by incarceration.'”

“Although the issue is technical,” wrote Krasner’s office in a muted statement, “it is also an important cautionary tale on the systemic problems that flow from a judge’s failing to recuse where there is an appearance of bias.”

Krasner’s office noted in its statement that, in withdrawing its opposition and allowing Abu-Jamal new appeal hearings, it is “effectively setting the clock back to where it was in the past,” before the appeals heard by Castille. But, for Abu-Jamal, those two decades — half spent on death row — cannot be taken back. Like so many long-term victims of the carceral system, the chance for eventual freedom does not add up to the deliverance of justice.

“So-called progressive prosecutors and lawmakers must reverse the racist policies that resulted in the crisis of aging in prison, which disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx people sentenced to ‘death by incarceration,’” Jose Hamza Saldana, the director of the Release Aging People in Prison campaign and himself a former political prisoner, told The Intercept. “These elders are left to grow old, despair, and die in prison, and could otherwise be safely released to our communities. DA Krasner can and should take the lead on ensuring justice applies to Abu Jamal, reopen his case, decide that the prosecution was racially and politically motivated and support his release from prison.”

(source: theintercept.com)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas Sued by Death Row Inmates Over Sedative for Executions

A federal lawsuit filed by death row inmates in Arkansas has reignited a court fight over the sedative used in the state's lethal injections. Two years ago, Arkansas raced to put 8 convicted killers to death in 11 days before a batch of the controversial drugs expired. They successfully put to death only 4 of the inmates, with courts halting the others. The controversy is over whether the sedative used in the lethal cocktail, midazolam, renders inmates fully unconscious during the injections. The state's executions have been on hold due to a lack of the drugs. Arkansas currently doesn't have any execution drugs available, but officials believe they'll be able to get more once a new secrecy law takes effect this summer. The law prohibits the release of any information that directly or indirectly would identify the maker or supplier of Arkansas’ execution drugs. Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says the law would be the most extreme in the country. “It’s a combination of withholding all the information and making it a felony to even unintentionally but recklessly disclose it,” Dunham said. “What also stands out is the level of conscious disregard for the facts and conscious disregard of the potential effects.”

(source: Reuters)

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

Arkansas faces new court fight over sedative for executions

A federal lawsuit filed by death row inmates has renewed a court fight over whether the sedative Arkansas uses for lethal injections causes torturous executions, two years after the state raced to put eight convicted killers to death in 11 days before a previous batch of the drug expired.

Arkansas recently expanded the secrecy surrounding its lethal injection drug sources, and the case heading to trial Tuesday could impact its efforts to restart executions that have been on hold due to a lack of the drugs. It'll also be the latest in a series of legal battles over midazolam, a sedative that other states have moved away from using amid claims it doesn't render inmates fully unconscious during lethal injections.

States that want to avoid unnecessarily inhumane executions will be watching closely, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which has criticized the way states carry out the death penalty.

But, Dunham added, "states that are watching because they want to figure out how to just execute people will be looking to see what Arkansas is able to get away with."

Only four of the eight executions scheduled in Arkansas over 11 days in 2017 actually happened, with courts halting the others. The state currently doesn't have any executions scheduled, and Arkansas' supply of the three drugs used in its lethal injection process has expired. Another round of multiple executions is unlikely if Arkansas finds more drugs, since only one death row inmate has exhausted all his appeals.

This time, Arkansas isn't racing against the clock to execute inmates before a drug expires. The state currently doesn't have any execution drugs available, but officials believe they'll be able to get more once the secrecy law takes effect this summer.

State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says the inmates in the case have a very high burden to meet and cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last monthagainst a Missouri death row inmate. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority in that case, wrote that the U.S. Constitution "does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death." Rutledge called the federal case in Arkansas the latest attempt by death row inmates to delay their sentences from being carried out.

"Juries gave these individuals lawful sentences for committing the most heinous acts against a human being, taking another human being's innocent life," Rutledge, a Republican, said. "We must see these sentences carried out. The families of these victims deserve justice."

30 states have the death penalty. Governors in 4 of them — Oregon, Colorado, Pennsylvania and California — have declared moratoriums, and court rulings have effectively put executions on hold in several others. The list of death penalty states is poised to shrink, though, with New Hampshire lawmakers sending the governor a repeal measure. Bills to repeal or significantly curtail the death penalty have been introduced in 18 states this year, Dunham said.

Much of the trial over Arkansas' process will focus on midazolam, which critics have said doesn't render inmates fully unconscious before the other lethal injection drugs are administered. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld midazolam's use in executions in 2015, but its use continues to prompt legal challenges nationwide. Seven states have used the sedative as the 1st administered in a 3-drug execution process, and 2 have used it in a 2-drug process, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Critics have cited problematic executions involving the sedative as evidence that it doesn't work properly. Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett remained alive for 43 minutes, groaning and writhing on a gurney after an intravenous line was improperly connected in his 2014 execution. Inmate Joseph Wood gasped for air, snorted and his belly inflated and deflated during the nearly t hours it took him to die during his execution in Arizona in 2014.

Under Arkansas' execution process, inmates are first administered midazolam. They're then administered vecuronium bromide, which stops the lungs, followed by potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Attorneys for a group of death row inmates argue that 2 of Arkansas' executions in 2017 demonstrate the problems with midazolam. One execution cited is that of convicted murderer Kenneth Williams, who witnesses said lurched and convulsed 20 times before he died. Another inmate, Marcel Williams, arched his back and breathed heavily during his execution, according to a witness.

Based on past court rulings, the inmates will also have to prove there's an alternative to the state's lethal injection method available that's likely to be less painful. The inmates' attorneys have argued those alternatives include firing squads and a barbiturate commonly used in physician-assisted suicide.

Other states have moved away from midazolam over concerns about the drug. Ohio's Republican governor earlier this year ordered the prison system to look at alternative drugs after a federal judge said midazolam could cause severe pain and needless suffering. Oklahoma put executions on hold in 2015 after a series of mishaps that included a botched execution involving midazolam, and the state is now developing a plan to execute inmates using nitrogen gas.

"If the court in Arkansas finds that midazolam is a drug that doesn't do what the state claims that it does and in effect tortures prisoners when it's used in executions, that's going to be another state that may not be able to use the drug," said Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender in Arizona who has been involved in litigation in that state and Oklahoma over the use of midazolam.

The trial comes weeks after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure prohibiting the release of information that could directly or indirectly identify the source of its executions drugs. The measure was in response to state Supreme Court rulings that the current secrecy law doesn't cover the manufacturers of Arkansas' drugs. Arkansas' supply of drugs has expired, and prison officials last year said they wouldn't search for more until the secrecy measure was enacted.

The bill faced criticism from media organizations and death penalty opponents, especially over its criminal penalties for recklessly disclosing the information. Two pharmaceutical companies also objected to the law, saying it would hamper their ability to ensure their drugs aren't used in executions. The new law takes effect in late July.

(source: Associated Press)

ARIZONA:

Man convicted of murder in 2010 killing of police lieutenant

The death penalty phase began Wednesday after a man was convicted of 1st-degree murder and other charges in the killing of a Phoenix-area police officer during a 2010 traffic stop. The shooter and another man then led police on a high-speed chase where he fired gunshots and tossed tools and other objects at pursuing officers, authorities said.

A jury returned its verdict against Christopher Redondo in the shooting death of Lt. Eric Shuhandler on Tuesday.

Authorities say Shuhandler, a 16-year police veteran, stopped Redondo's truck because his license plate was partially obscured. He was shot as he walked from his patrol car back to Redondo's truck after learning there was an open arrest warrant for Redondo.

Authorities say Redondo, 44, and Daimen Joseph Irizarry, who was driving Redondo's truck, fled after the shooting in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix.

Shuhandler was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

During the 50-mile (80-kilometer) chase, police say, Redondo leaned from the passenger-side window of the truck and fired 2 gunshots at a police vehicle on U.S. 60. Police also said Redondo climbed into his truck's bed and tossed wrenches, an air compressor tank and other objects at pursuing officers to get them to back off. The objects prompted some officers to pull to the shoulder of the freeway, police said.

They say Redondo fired shots at officers again after the truck ran out of gas, and the chase ended in the mining community of Superior, about 65 miles (104 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix.

Authorities said Redondo and Irizarry got out of the truck, and Redondo fired more shots at officers, who returned fire.

Redondo and Irizarry were both shot and survived.

Redondo was convicted on charges of 1st-degree murder, aggravated assault, and drive-by shooting.

Irizarry was sentenced to 107 years in prison for his convictions on drive-by shooting and aggravated assault charges.

(source: Fox News)

USA:

Death penalty should be abolished in U.S.

Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., almost 1,500 people have been executed. For every 10 people who have been executed, someone has been found innocent and released from death row. This irreversible punishment has taken the lives of many innocent people who could have had the chance to a whole life.

In Texas in 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed. He had been given the death penalty for starting a fire that killed his three young children at their family home. It later was proven the evidence that the fire was set was based on flawed science, and that the fire wasn’t intentionally set. Had he been sentenced to life in prison without parole, he would have been released and had the chance to reclaim his life.

There is no humane method of killing, whether its lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, firing squad or hanging — methods still used in the U.S. today.

Executions can be botched and cause cruel and torturous deaths. No one deserves to suffer that way.

Many also believe capital punishment scares people away from committing crimes, but in fact has never been proven to deter criminal actions more than a prison sentence. Having someone sit in prison for their rest of their life also costs us less in taxes than executing someone does. Killing someone because they killed someone is like taking an eye for an eye, and taking an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

ERIN McBRIDE, JACKSON TOWNSHIP

(source: Canton Repository)

APRIL 20, 2019:

TEXAS----impending execution

The Lynching of James Byrd Jr.: 2 Decades Ago This Racist Murder Shocked America. Now His Killer Faces Execution

For the past 2 decades, John William King has sat on death row in Texas, waiting to die for his part in an atrocious hate crime that shocked America. Now, finally, it is his time. This is the story of his victim.

James Byrd Jr., 49, left a party in his hometown of Jasper, Texas, at around 2 a.m. on June 7, 1998, and began walking home down a dark rural road.

Along the way, 3 young men passing by in a gray pick-up, one of whom Byrd Jr. recognized from around town, and let him hitch a ride in the back.

Byrd Jr., a father of 3, didn’t make it home.

The trio were white supremacists. The ringleader King, 23, with his friends Shawn Berry, 23, and Lawrence Russell Brewer, 31, drove Byrd Jr. up a dirt logging road. They beat him and chained him to the back of the truck by his ankles.

For a mile and a half, they dragged Byrd Jr. along Huff Creek Road.

He held his head up to protect it, rolling his body from side to side to cope with the pain as the friction wore his skin and flesh down to the bone, his ribs breaking on the bumps.

Suddenly, Byrd Jr. hit an exposed culvert, tearing his right arm, neck, and head from his body.

Byrd Jr.’s chained remains were hauled further down the road and dumped in front of a black church, left to be discovered on Sunday morning.

Police traced the rest of Byrd Jr.’s body back up the road and the dirt track.

They began an investigation into a sadistic lynching that would change the law in America.

‘There was no other verdict’

The 3 trials of the accused in the Byrd Jr. lynching were straightforward because the case against them was compelling.

They were known hardcore racists. They were seen on the night driving with Byrd Jr. in the back of the pick-up by his friend who, fatefully, couldn’t give him a ride home from the party. And they clumsily left a trail of forensic and circumstantial evidence behind them.

“I had a lot of confidence in the DA system and the criminal justice system at that time,” Clara Taylor, Byrd Jr.’s sister, who sat in on all 3 trials, tells Newsweek.

“I think because of the time we lived in, some were saying they’d never get a conviction of a white man for killing a black. Well, I knew by listening to the evidence and with everything going on there was no other verdict for them to come [to].”

During King’s trial, the jury was shown the racist tattoos all over his body, including one of a hanged black man.

The court heard how King, who fetishized the KKK, would proudly show off his tattoos and say: “See my little n***** hanging from a tree.”

“King was the leader of a Klan group called ‘Confederate Knights of America—Texas Rebel Soldier Division’,” Guy James Gray, the former Jasper County district attorney who prosecuted King, tells Newsweek.

“His particular group was formed in the Beto I unit of the Texas prison system. He was a prolific writer with impressive skill for a high school drop-out.”

Dr. Tommy Brown, a forensic pathologist who carried out the victim’s autopsy, testified in harrowing detail about the extent of Byrd Jr.'s injuries.

As Brown’s description shows, the term “dragging” neutralizes the depravity of what murder by this method really means for the victim.

Almost all of Byrd Jr.’s front ribs were broken. Most of his body was covered in what Brown described as "massive brush burn abrasions."

His testicles were missing and Brown found gravel in the scrotal sac. The knees, feet and buttocks were worn down. So was the flesh on the left cheek, exposing the jawbone.

Toes were missing. Muscle was exposed on the legs.

But there were no injuries to Byrd Jr.’s brain and skull. Brown concluded that Byrd Jr. was conscious and holding up his head until the culvert killed him.

Moreover, the formation of some of Byrd Jr.’s wounds left Brown to conclude that he was moving deliberately during the dragging to relieve the pain.

“I think I can probably remember all the details of evidence, of trials, of juries. Everything about it. It's just about as raw today as it was 20 years ago to me,” Gray says. “It was tremendously emotional.”

King was the 1st to be convicted of capital murder and sentenced. On February 25, 1999, a little over 20 years ago, King received the death penalty.

“I thought it was truly amazing that in this state that they were able to find a guilty verdict because there was no sign of remorse in him whatsoever,” Taylor tells Newsweek.

In September that year, Brewer also received the death penalty. He was executed by lethal injection on September 21, 2011.

“This had never happened before,” Gray says. “Never in the history of the state of Texas had a white man been given the death sentence for the murder of a black man. The old heads around said it couldn't be done.”

Berry was spared the death penalty but sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder at the culmination of his trial in November 1999.

Hate crime needs better data

Statistics suggest the number of hate crimes against black people have reduced significantly over the past 2 decades.

FBI data shows that in 1999 there were 3,679 victims of anti-black hate crime, accounting for 67 % of the total, the largest proportion of any victim sub-group.

The most recent data is for 2017 when there were 2,458 victims of anti-black hate crime, or 48.5 % of the total.

Between 1999 and 2017, the number of black victims of hate crimes fell by 33 %.

Heidi Beirich, a director at the anti-hate group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and an expert on extremism, tells Newsweek that “anti-black hate crimes are always a large portion of the data, especially if you take into account the size of the black population in the U.S.”

Beirich added: “So a historic problem that comes from our long history of white supremacy continues to result in violence directed at the black population.”

While the longer-term picture is improving, things appear to have worsened again during the Donald Trump era.

Between President Barack Obama coming to power in 2009 and him leaving office, the number of black victims of racial hate crimes fell by 23.5 % to 2,220.

But in the 3 years between Trump announcing his candidacy in 2015 and the end of his first year as president in 2017, the number of black victims is on the rise again.

Between those years there was an 11.5 % increase in the number of victims of anti-black hate crimes, the FBI data shows.

Racist murders of black people are not consigned to American history because they never stopped. They are a constant through the country’s 242 years of existence.

In 2015, the 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed 9 African American worshippers at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, hoping to trigger a race war.

3 years later, Gregory Bush, 51, allegedly tried to do the same in Louisville, Kentucky.

Police say Bush, who was armed, attempted to enter the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, a black church, but the doors were locked. He was heard banging on them.

Thwarted, Bush is alleged to have walked to a nearby Kroger supermarket where he shot dead Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, who were both black.

A witness told WAVE3 News that Bush declared: “Whites don’t kill whites.”

Throughout his campaign and presidency, critics accused Trump of inflaming social tensions, playing to white America’s fears about crime, race and immigration.

Michael Cohen, the president’s disgraced former attorney and fixer, told Congress under oath that Trump is a racist who thought black people were too stupid to vote for him.

“I don't mean to be political,” Gray tells Newsweek, “but the current administration, their choice of words and the way that they present things and argue things, it polarizes everybody.

“I think it encourages some of these fringe white supremacist-type groups to be more active. In general, I think the trend is going in the right direction, but the current tone in our politics is not helpful.”

The data isn’t yet strong enough to draw robust conclusions about the impact of Trump on hate crimes. “It’s really hard to know given how poor the data is,” SPLC’s Beirich says.

And underreporting by victims is a real problem, obscuring the reality of hate crime in America.

“It’s a problem for all hate crimes,” Beirich says. “The DOJ says there are about 250,000 hate crimes a year in the U.S. and the FBI only reports about 6,000. That’s 5 % of the data.

“So we really don’t know how serious a problem hate crimes of any kind are because we don’t have good data.”

When Jussie Smollett, 36, a star of the show Empire, came forward with his story of a racist hate crime, it played all the right notes.

Smollett, a black man, was out in Chicago in the early hours of the morning to get a sandwich when, he claimed, 2 men shouting Trump campaign slogans and racist remarks assaulted him.

These men, Smollett said, sprayed him with a chemical substance and put a rope around his neck before running off.

The lynching imagery was lost on nobody. The story spoke to fears about Trump giving new life to old hatred in modern America.

But after investigating and then arresting 2 suspects—a pair of black brothers—Chicago Police charged Smollett with making a false police report.

The department accused Smollett of paying the 2 brothers to stage the hate attack to win sympathy for himself and advance his career.

Police said Smollett wanted to negotiate a better contract.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel decried Smollett on CNN because the incident will have terrible consequences for the many real victims of hate crime.

“What about the person in a workplace facing…racial discrimination?” Emanuel asked CNN’s Don Lemon.

“What about the young man who is dealing with his own sexual orientation and is attacked for it in high school or in some school who's now going to doubt whether people will believe him?

“You have put all those real stories at risk for your fake story. That is not right.”

Smollett maintains that he has told the truth. After agreeing to community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond to the city of Chicago, prosecutors dropped the charges against him.

But the Cook County State’s Attorney said in a statement that it stood behind the police investigation despite dropping the charges in an alternative prosecution deal.

Emanuel was furious. “This is a whitewash of justice," the mayor said at a news conference.

“If this turns out to be a hoax, I would be very saddened,” Louvon Byrd Harris, another of James Byrd Jr.’s sisters, told Newsweek before the charges against Smollett were dropped.

“Because hate crime is a very serious issue and many victims have and are still suffering from damages because of hate.

“Therefore, hate crimes are real and shouldn't be made a mockery of.”

As Emanuel predicted, the damage may already be done. America’s hard-right conservatives seized on the doubt to bring all hate crime into question.

“Alright, this particular hate crime turned out to be a hoax, but let's remember, ALL OF THEM are hoaxes,” tweeted Ann Coulter, the right-wing pundit.

Underreporting is already a problem. Smollett’s case risks making it an even bigger one.

Legacy

? To bring about good from evil, and to secure a legacy for James Byrd Jr. that is more than the story of his murder, the family set up The Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing.

Its motto: Stop the hate, educate.

Through training workshops, school visits, community programs and keeping James Byrd Jr.’s memory alive, the foundation hopes to combat the racism that leads to tragedies like their own.

The foundation’s work to fight hate and raise awareness of what happened to Byrd Jr. helped bring about a major change in the law.

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which reformed, strengthened and broadened federal hate crime laws.

Matthew Shepard, a gay 21-year-old student, was beaten and tortured to death in Laramie, Wyoming, because of his sexuality in October of the same year as Byrd Jr.’s lynching.

Louvon Byrd Harris still runs the foundation.

“When this crime happened to James the hate crime laws were very weak. No one would or could ever get convicted of a hate crime using the current law that we had at the time,” Byrd Harris tells Newsweek.

“But now with this new hate crime law I do feel a little safer simply because the criminals have to think long and hard about the crime they are about to commit because if caught he or she will pay dearly perhaps with their own life.

“I feel if we had such a law in 1998 perhaps James would still be alive.”

She warned that America is today “dealing with a new generation of people who were not born during the time of James and also with people who still feel that they are above the law no matter what,” and blamed a lack of education.

“The Byrd Foundation provides the tools that are necessary to educate and change the mindset of what that individual [has] been taught about people that are different than them,” Byrd Harris says.

“People often hate because of fear and they fear because they do not know each other, and they do not know each other because they do not communicate, and they do not communicate because they are separated.

“The foundation is determined to break down the barriers that separate us as a people.”

Taylor, who described what happened to her brother as “a modern-day lynching,” is likewise focused on a brighter future.

“He did not deserve to have this happen to him. But [at] the cost of his death, his legacy should be one of the good things that happens as a result of it,” Taylor says.

2 decades on death row

Berry is still in prison serving out his time for killing Byrd Jr.

And King is still alive on death row, two decades after receiving his sentence, the execution delayed by appeals. He is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

He is 44 now and, according to prison mugshots, looks it; heavier, his eyes sunken and dark, but as hollow as ever.

“His execution is long overdue,” Gray, tells Newsweek. “I'm not a big fan of the death penalty. I never have been. But there are cases from time to time when it just feels like it's the only reasonable thing to do. This is one of those.”

There was no remorse during his trial. As far as the Byrd family knows, King has shown none since.

“Throughout the trial he looked like he was just bored, sitting there with no interest, nothing that was shown, and so I think he wanted to make a name for himself. And that’s what he did,” Taylor tells Newsweek.

“When he left the courthouse that day on being given the death sentence he used an expletive as he referred to our family.

“Ever since then, he’s shown no remorse whatsoever and so I think that in his case the death penalty is completely justified.”

Richard Ellis, King’s attorney, declined to be drawn on King’s remorse or otherwise.

“As for any of my client's feelings, I hope that you can appreciate that I am ethically forbidden to divulge such information,” Ellis tells Newsweek.

The appeals process is not yet dead for King. In February 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit gave King permission to proceed with an appeal.

King claims his trial counsel failed to properly present the case for his innocence.

Ellis said the appointment of King’s Federal Public Defender as co-counsel for clemency was approved only recently. Funding for the clemency investigation proceeds from that.

“There are still remaining areas of investigation in this case and legal avenues to present this,” Ellis says, and one of those areas “will probably center around the issue upon which the 5th Circuit granted a certificate of appealability.”

By the end of March, Ellis had filed a clemency petition for King with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. He planned in early April to file a subsequent petition at the state court.

The execution, and some sense of closure for the Byrd family, it being the final loose end from the trials, hangs tauntingly in the near distance.

They have waited many years for the execution of King. But they fear it will be snatched away.

? “I feel like he had a right to appeal as much as the system allows him to,” Taylor says.

“Sometimes technicalities can get a person off, or you get a judge leaning one way or the other who can cause another appeal to be approved, and going through the whole trial over again, we’re not looking forward to that at all.”

She adds: “I think that 20 years was an extremely long time because even in that time period he didn’t seem to be any worse off for being on death row. He looked healthy, he’s gained weight.

“He looked like he’s just enjoying life to the extent that he could enjoy it. It makes you think about your loved one not being given that time to see what he would be like if he grew older.”

Gray says he has been asked repeatedly to attend the execution of King, but he has no plans to.

“If this execution had been 10 years ago, I'd actually be more inclined to be there. But when you wait 20 years to execute someone on a jury's verdict, I don't know, it's anticlimactic I guess,” he says.

But Taylor will be in the room whenever King finally gets his lethal injection, be it April or beyond, just as she was for Brewer.

She made a promise to her late mother, Stella Byrd, who died aged 85 in 2010.

“Some of us will be there to represent our family and especially our mum who asked that we see this through,” Taylor tells Newsweek.

“When we attended the execution of Brewer, it sort of takes a few minutes. It’s kind of a quiet, peaceful time. A time for meditation. But it also brings back the memory of how James died. A horrific death. And [King] just peacefully goes to sleep.

(source: Newsweek)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

N.H. Death Penalty Repeal Will End 'Cycle Of Pain,' Says Lawmaker Who Lost Father To Murder

New Hampshire lawmakers in both the state Senate and House have passed a bipartisan bill with a veto-proof majority to repeal the death penalty.

Gov. Chris Sununu has said he'll veto the bill, but if he's overridden, New Hampshire will become the 21st state in the country to abolish capital punishment.

Renny Cushing, the lawmaker behind the bill, is no stranger to death.

He founded "Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights" after both his father and brother-in-law were murdered.

Cushing said he supports repealing the death penalty because it "only continues the cycle of pain."

(source: WBUR news)

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

Murder by state: The Legislature says repeal capital punishment; the governor should listen

Repeal of the death penalty in New Hampshire is headed to the desk of Gov. Chris Sununu. He’s repeatedly vowed to veto the measure, but he ought to rethink that stance.

To begin with, it’s simply wrong for the state to be in the business of killing people. As a punishment, even for the most heinous of crimes, it’s uncivilized, overly costly and — importantly — irrevocable; it cannot be undone, even in cases where mistakes or injustices have been done. Further, one can reasonably make the case that a lifetime in prison is a harsher penalty than a relatively quick ending.

Moreover, it’s a political battle those with his view are likely going to lose. We say that not only because both the House and Senate backed House Bill 455 by wide enough margins to override a veto — though there is no guarantee the governor can’t sway enough lawmakers to his side to ultimately sustain such a move — but also because capital punishment is falling out of favor.

Nationally, a growing number of conservative lawmakers, traditionally the core of death penalty backers, are moving away from that stance. Efforts this year in Wyoming, Kentucky, Montana and Virginia to repeal or diminish capital punishment statutes have widespread Republican backing.

And in New Hampshire, support for repeal efforts has been growing among GOP lawmakers. In 2014, 56 Republican House members backed a repeal bill. Last year, 71 did. And HB 455 passed the House this term with 72 GOP votes, even as that party lost many seats in last November’s election.

Among the groups calling for repeal is Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, which argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that “the death penalty does not comport with conservative principles such as limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a commitment to life.”

New Hampshire has not executed anyone for a capital crime in 80 years. One man stands convicted of a capital murder and sentenced to die — Michael Addison, who shot and killed Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs during a robbery in 2006. Although the repeal bill ostensibly affects only future cases, former state attorney general Kelly Ayotte told the Judiciary Committee that she believes Addison’s death sentence would likely be commuted if it passes.

Addison’s future has been a central point in death penalty debates in recent years. Several gubernatorial candidates have said while they supported repeal, it would only be if it didn’t apply to him. Briggs’ widow testified before the Judiciary panel last month that her husband was a death penalty supporter, and she urged the senators to kill the repeal measure.

Such appeals are based on emotion, as is the death penalty statute itself. The idea of “an eye for an eye, a life for a life” may feel just, but it is born of rage, not logic.

As for the notion that putting a murderer to death will serve as a warning and deter others from similar crimes, that is, as Cheshire County jail Superintendent Richard Van Wickler testified, a fallacy that’s been debunked by many studies. “There’s no deterrent effect, specifically or generally. ... It doesn’t exist.”

Sununu looks to be ready to veto quite a number of bills this session. Many of them have been passed along partisan lines and there remain enough Republicans in both chambers to support his vetoes.

House Bill 455 is not in that category. If he cannot flip a handful of Senate votes or a larger number of representatives, Sununu stands to see a veto of this measure overridden. He ought to accept that it has bipartisan support and sign it, or if unwilling to do so, allow it to become law without his signature.

(source: Editorial, Keene Sentinel)

PENNSYLVANIA----new death sentence

Jacob Sullivan Sentenced to Death for 14-Year-Old Grace Packer’s Rape, Murder

Jacob Sullivan was sentenced to death Thursday morning for the rape and murder of his partner’s 14-year-old adopted daughter, Grace Packer, The Morning Call reports. Last month, Sullivan pleaded guilty to plotting the Pennsylvania teen’s rape and murder for months before finally carrying it out on July 8, 2016. Police said previously that the couple beat her and Sullivan raped her, before they forced her to overdose on medications and stuffed her in a closet to die. When that didn’t work, Sullivan strangled her—but he had difficulty carrying it out, and prosecutors said that the murder took about 2 minutes.

The jury was initially torn between life imprisonment and the death penalty—but after a judge refused to declare a deadlock Wednesday, the group decided to sentence him to death. The judge urged jury members to seek counseling, if necessary. “The butchery in this case was beyond my ability to describe,” she reportedly said. “To live through it vicariously through the photos and the tapes and the recordings... must have taken a toll.” Sullivan will now join 142 other inmates on death row, The Morning Call notes, although no one has been executed in the state since 1999.

(source: thedailybeast.com)

VIRGINIA:

Virginia dad could face the death penalty for shooting dead his daughter, 18, and the teenage niece who he got pregnant

A Virginia father who police say shot dead his daughter and niece has been charged with capital murder.

Abdool Zaman, 39, was originally charged with second degree murder for allegedly killing his daughter, Vanessa Zaman, and his niece Leona Samlall, both 18. Zaman had impregnated Samlall, who gave birth to the man's son.

Investigators say Abdool opened fire on the teen girls while they were walking near the Oakmeade Apartments in Highland Springs around 12.17pm on December 13.

Vanessa's mother, Saveeta Barnes, said her daughter had wanted to re-establish a relationship with her estranged father even thought she had warned he was 'not a good person'.

'Her biological father was out of her life for most of her life. Vanessa always wanted his love and for him to be a part of her life,' Barnes wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to pay for a memorial site for her daughter.

'When she turned 18, she got in contact with her father. Even after telling her countless times that he was not a good person, she still went ahead and moved in with him... She told me, "Mom, I'm going to give you 18 years of my life. I want to give my dad the next 18." Apparently she gave him her entire life.'

Not long after moving in, Vanessa saw her dad abusing the woman she thought was his girlfriend and the mother of his son. Vanessa later discovered the abused woman, Leona, was actually Abdool's niece who had been missing from her own mother's home for 2 years.

That's when Abdool's daughter tried to help his niece escape back to her mother's home, but she never made it.

'On 12/13/18 [Abdool] shot and killed his own daughter,' Barnes wrote. 'Vanessa died a hero protecting others while paying with her dear life. Gone but will never be forgotten.'

Abdool fled to New York where he was arrested on December 18. He tried to fight extradition, but was sent back to Virginia on March 28, according to WTVR.

Prosecutors recently raised the severity of the charges against Abdool after further investigating the circumstances surrounding the teens' deaths.

Authorities determined seeking the death penalty was appropriate because Abdool allegedly killed multiple persons as a part of the same criminal act.

A 2nd capital murder charge was added for killing more than 1 person within a 3-year period.

Zaman was also charged for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony 1st and 2nd offense.

Barnes told Newsday in January that life without her daughter has been 'torture,' and that she hopes her child's father gets sentenced to death.

'It’s what he deserves,' she said.

(source: dailymail.co.uk)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Defense aims for life in prison for Godwin

After listening to evidence in the sentencing hearing for David Isaiah Godwin this week, a jury will decide Monday on the fate of the man who has been found guilty of murdering Morehead City resident Wendy Tamagne in 2016.

The jury determined April 12 that Mr. Godwin, 28, of Newport, is guilty on 5 counts of 1st degree murder in the case. Next, the panel will determine whether to sentence him to life in prison without possibility of parole or impose the death penalty.

Defense attorneys Ernest Conner Jr. and Philip Clarke III called upon expert witnesses and family and friends of Mr. Godwin to testify this week. In total, about a dozen witnesses testified in the hope Mr. Godwin will escape death row.

The prosecution, led by assistant district attorneys David Spence and Ashley Eatmon, did not bring any additional witnesses to the stand during this phase of the trial.

The defense enlisted the help of mitigation specialists with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a nonprofit group based in Durham that seeks to reduce instances of capital punishment. According to the group’s website, investigators “delve into clients’ backgrounds and social histories to uncover evidence of factors that may reduce their culpability, such as mental illness or severe childhood abuse.”

Among the defense’s witnesses were psychologists who reaffirmed prior testimony that Mr. Godwin suffers from a number of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and depression. They also said he experienced early childhood trauma and abuse, as well as attempted suicide multiple times.

During the guilt determination phase of the trial, the defense argued Mr. Godwin did not possess the “specific intent to kill” Ms. Tamagne on July 4, 2016 because he was influenced by a combination of factors, including a medication he was taking at the time, alcohol and sleeplessness.

Mr. Godwin beat, strangled and stabbed Ms. Tamagne, 38, in her Morehead City apartment before dismembering her body. She was found July 5, 2016, tied up in garbage bags in the apartment, while Mr. Godwin fled to Oregon and later turned himself in to authorities.

One witness testifying this week was Dr. Dan Chartier, a psychologist who specializes in quantitative electroencephalography, a tool that measures and analyzes brainwave patterns. He said based on his examination of Mr. Godwin, the defendant has an “abnormally” functioning brain, perhaps due to brain trauma earlier in life.

Dr. Chartier said during cross-examination Thursday Mr. Godwin may have entered a dissociative state when the murder took place.

Another witness was James Aiken, a consulting expert in the correctional field, who said he believes Mr. Godwin would acclimate well to life in prison. He said based on his review of Mr. Godwin’s jail records and other relevant information, the defendant would not pose a threat to prison staff, other inmates or himself if sentenced to life in prison.

Mr. Godwin would be placed in a maximum-security state prison if that is his sentence.

Other witnesses included family friends, former teachers, an ex-girlfriend and family members of Mr. Godwin. They all said they were “shocked” to learn Mr. Godwin had been charged with murder, and many said he deserves a second chance at life.

“That’s not the David I knew,” Deborah Belknap, his former high school drama teacher, said.

Those who were closest to Mr. Godwin said they knew he was troubled and could fall into periods of depression, but they said he never appeared aggressive or violent. They described him as creative, funny and intelligent.

“He was always lost, he could never find his way,” his ex-girlfriend, Bernadette Opra, said.

The defendant’s final witness Thursday was Linda Godwin, Mr. Godwin’s adoptive mother. She also testified last week during the guilt determination phase of the trial.

She viewed old family photographs and reflected on the happy times with her son, showing the jury Mr. Godwin “wasn’t always bad.”

The courts are closed for the Good Friday holiday and the jury will reconvene Monday morning to deliberate Mr. Godwin’s punishment.

The case is being presided over by Judge Joshua Willey.

(source: carolinacoastonline.com)

ALABAMA:

Convicted killer of north Alabama jeweler dies after extended illness in prison

A man serving life without parole for the 1990 shooting death of a north Alabama jeweler has died.

James David Beard, 59, died at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center after being transferred there from William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. Beard was pronounced dead just after 9 p.m. Thursday from an extended illness, according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.

Beard was convicted of capital murder in the shooting death of 72-year-old Jesse Pitts, who was shot and killed during a burglary in February 1990 in Marshall County. Pitts was found dead in his home after having been shot 3 times.

Less than two weeks after Pitts’ was found dead, Beard was arrested on a probation violation charge while driving a rented truck on Interstate 59 in Etowah County. He had previously been convicted of drug possession, receiving stolen property and escape.

Beard was twice found guilty in Pitts’ death of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Beard’s 1st conviction because of an improper charge given to the jury by the judge. Though sentenced to death following the 1st conviction, the victim’s family agreed not to pursue the death penalty at the 2nd trial.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Judge delays ‘death penalty phase’ in trial of man convicted of double slaying at Cleveland car dealership

The 2nd phase of the trial where a man faces the death penalty for killing a couple at a Cleveland car lot in March 2017 has been delayed.

Joseph McAlpin was convicted Tuesday of all counts he faced, including aggravated murder, in the execution-style deaths of Michael Kuznik and Trina Tomola in the Mr. Cars dealership.

The trial was set to reconvene Monday to begin the penalty phase, where jurors would hear additional evidence and recommend whether McAlpin should receive the death penalty or a life in prison. The final decision on the sentence rests with Common Pleas Court Judge Brian Corrigan.

But McAlpin on Friday asked for a mitigation report and a pre-sentence investigation. Those reports require court staff and mental-health doctors to interview McAlpin to determine, among other things, if he has any mental-health conditions or a troubled past that could be used during the penalty phase to convince jurors to spare his life.

McAlpin, who is representing himself during the trial, refused to sit down for those interviews before the trial began.

Court officials on Friday had not set a new date for the second phase of the trial to begin.

Prosecutors relied on DNA evidence, cellphone records, search history and testimony from a man who admitted to helping McAlpin carryout what was supposed to be a simple burglary to steal cars and titles to tie McAlpin to the March 11, 2017 slayings.

McAlpin entered Mr. Cars and shot Kuznik, 47, in the showroom. The bullet grazed Kuznik’s face before he tried to escape toward a backroom, where McAlpin stood over him and shot him in the top of his head, prosecutors said at trial.

Tomola, 46, tried to run from the building during the robbery. McAlpin shot her in the back of her head, near an exit, prosecutors said.

McAlpin also shot and killed the couple’s Doberman Pinscher, Axel, who accompanied the couple to work every day for protection, prosecutors said. He also disabled the car lot’s security video systems before stealing the cars.

Investigators found McAlpin’s DNA in Kuznik’s back pocket, where prosecutors said he had put cash from two car sales earlier in the day. The cash was not found on Kuznik’s body. His DNA was also found on a computer modem that was inches from Tomola’s body, and inside a BMW sedan that was stolen during the killings, prosecutors said.

(source: cleveland.com)

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

Victims could have voice in death-penalty trial of accused killer of Westerville officers

The death-penalty case of a man accused of murdering 2 Westerville police officers could be the 1st in Ohio to allow jurors to hear victim-impact statements if they reach the point of recommending a sentence of life or death.

Attorneys for Quentin L. Smith, 32, had filed a motion asking that such statements be prohibited.

But a Franklin County judge on Friday agreed with prosecutors who argued that victims have a right to address the jury during the sentencing phase under Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in November 2017.

Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Frye said he thinks such statements must be allowed under provisions of the victim’s-rights law.

Prosecutor Ron O’Brien called the ruling “a sea change” in what the state can present to jurors in advocating for a death sentence.

Smith’s attorneys, Frederick Benton and Diane Menashe, declined to comment.

Both sides agreed that it’s the 1st time the issue has been raised in a death penalty case since Marsy’s Law went into effect in Feb. 5 2018, 5 days before the Westerville shooting.

Jury selection in Smith’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 11.

Smith is charged with killing Westerville police Officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli on Feb. 10, 2018, in an exchange of gunfire as they entered his townhouse in the 300 block of Cross Wind Drive to investigate a 911 hangup call from his wife over a domestic dispute.

If jurors convict Smith of aggravated murder and find that he purposely killed 1 or both officers, he would become eligible for the death penalty. Jurors then would enter a 2nd phase during which the defense would present what is known as mitigating evidence in an effort to persuade them to spare Smith’s life.

Under Frye’s ruling, the jury also would hear testimony from the victims’ family members about how the crime has affected them.

“Right now, juries only hear ‘woe-is-me’ about the defendant and his bad childhood and his drug or alcohol problems and never hear about the terrible impact of the crime on the victim’s family,” O’Brien said.

(source: The Columbus Dispatch)

TENNESSEE:

Gov. Bill Lee talks about considering mercy as first execution of his term approaches

Gov. Bill Lee said his review of a death row inmate's plea for mercy is "well underway," and he acknowledged the jarring gravity of the decision as the first execution of his term approaches.

Death row inmate Donnie Edward Johnson, 68, is scheduled to die May 16, 4 months after Lee took office. He has asked Lee to spare his life — his legal team says it will be their only attempt to stop the execution.

Johnson's clemency request focuses on his transformation behind bars, from a lying murderer to a devout religious leader in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was convicted with killing his wife in Memphis in 1984, but his stepdaughter, the victim's daughter, has joined him in begging the governor to stop the execution.

Lee said Wednesday he was considering the request, but he said it was too soon to announce a decision.

"It's a thought process and something that I've never had to consider in my whole life," Lee said during an event focused on criminal justice reform. "And the power is profound."

Lee was reluctant to offer his view on executive clemency writ large, saying it was too soon into his term to have a definitive philosophy on those decisions.

"I will approach each individual case differently," he said. "It's awfully early for me to be able to comment on how I view the situation."

Lee and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin spoke together at a Wednesday event, hosted by the Men of Valor prison ministry and conservative group Right on Crime. Both Republican governors said they were dedicated to continuing criminal justice reforms, even as they acknowledged some resistance among hardliners in their own party.

'Everybody wins if we get this right.'

Lee and Bevin said it could be hard to push changes to the criminal justice system, but they said there was broad bipartisan support for the concept. They both cited the passage of the First Step Act as an example of coalescing support.

The First Step Act, pushed by President Donald Trump in 2018 and passed by a wide margin in an otherwise divided Congress, is a sweeping federal law that allows courts to shorten unduly harsh prison terms.

Trump's embrace of criminal justice reform cleared the way for leaders at the state level to pursue their own reforms.

"It makes it much easier for us to talk about what we want to do here when it's being talked about at the federal level," Lee said.

This year, Lee has pushed to spend millions of dollars to educate prisoners and his proposal to eliminate state engagement fees passed both chambers of the General Assembly.

Bevin said those and other reforms would benefit the community as prisoners finish their sentences and get released.

"Everybody wins if we get this right," Bevin said.

(source: The Tennessean)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas murder conviction overturned

The conviction of a man for raping and killing his 6-year-old son was reversed by the Arkansas State Supreme Court in an opinion released Thursday morning.

The court remanded the case for a new trial, due to questions about jurisdiction.

Mauricio Torres was accused of raping Isaiah Torres while on a family camping trip in Missouri on March 29, 2015. Isaiah was brought to a hospital after the family returned to Benton County, Arkansas later that day. He died at the hospital in Arkansas.

Mauricio Torres was convicted in Benton County in November 2016 of Capital Murder and 1st Degree Battery. He was sentenced to death on the Capital Murder charge and to 20 years on the 1st Degree Battery charge.

Torres was sent to death row at the Varner Supermax Unit in Grady, Arkansas.

Isaiah Torres' mother, Cathy Torres, pleaded guilty to Capital Murder in March 2017 as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty.

During the trial, a forensic pathologist testified that Isaiah died as a result of sexual abuse. He also said Isaiah's body showed signs of being whipped and struck repeatedly.

Isaiah's 9-year-old sister also took the stand. She testified that her "old dad" would force Isaiah to sleep in a locked cage or trash can naked most nights, and she also described other abuse.

The defense rested its case without calling any witnesses. In closing arguments, defense attorneys said Torres did not knowingly kill his son, and that his actions did not meet the legal definition of rape.

(source: 4029tv.com)

MISSOURI:

Senate committee hears pair of bills modifying death penalty guidelines

2 bills that would further curtail just when the death penalty could be handed down were considered before a Senate committee this week.

Championed by Republican state Sen. Paul Wieland, SB 288 would remove the option of the death penalty if all jurors cannot unanimously agree to such a punishment. Wieland told the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee courts can currently decide on a penalty for someone found guilty of 1st-degree murder except in instances when the governor intervenes or in death penalty cases.

“We believe this raises serious constitutional questions about our death penalty currently,” a representative from the Missouri State Public Defender System told the committee, adding the office would have more resources for other cases should this bill pass.

Tim Lohmar, president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, spoke in opposition to SB 288, noting it could take just one juror to decide whether someone would receive the death penalty.

One person who didn’t approve of the death penalty could “derail” the option of that punishment in some of the most vile cases, Lohmar argued.

The other legislation brought before the committee this week was SB 462 from state Sen. Lauren Arthur, a Democrat. Her legislation would eliminate the option of the death penalty for convicted felons who are found to have been suffering from a serious mental illness at the time of the crime. That person would still be able to receive life in prison without parole, however.

A defense would need to provide evidence that an individual was indeed suffering from an “established serious mental illness” at the time of the crime, and the prosecution would be allowed to present evidence pointing to the contrary.

The mental illnesses laid out in the bill are: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder with psychotic features, a major depressive disorder with psychotic features, delusional disorders, traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The 2 main reasons the U.S. Supreme Court decided as justification for the death penalty — retribution and deterrence — don’t apply to [people with] serious mental illness when they’re too delusional to understand what they’ve done,” Arthur said. “This bill elevates our highest ideal to pursue justice in a fair and equitable manner.”

Lohmar also opposed this bill, saying it would “eliminate any evidence of a person’s mental illness or lack thereof from a jury” and only be before a judge.

“The fact remains that all the evidence about a defendant’s mental illness is available and will be and must be presented to the jury under the present law,” he said.

There is similar legislation to SB 288 in the House — HB 811 — which was voted out of committee last week.

(source: Southeast Missouri Times)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

A man with severe mental illness is accused of killing his mother and nephew. Should he face the death penalty?

[This article was originally published by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.]

Aleesha DeKnikker was grocery shopping, her phone set to silent, when the voicemail from her mother, Carol Simon, came in: “Oh, it’s just Mom. Your brother has really lost it, Aleesha.... He’s just having a mental breakdown and he won’t even believe where he’s from. He won’t even believe that I gave birth to him. ... I don’t know what to do.”

Six weeks later, Simon was found dead, along with her 7-year-old grandson, Brayden Otto. Her son, Heath Otto, 24, admitted to investigators in Sioux Falls that he had strangled his mother and nephew with a phone cord and then slit their throats.

Soon after, Otto was ruled incompetent to stand trial, and he was sent to a state hospital. Doctors hired by his defense lawyers diagnosed him with schizophrenia. The Minnehaha County state’s attorney, Aaron McGowan, told DeKnikker that her brother could face the death penalty. A trial will take place as soon as Otto’s mental condition stabilizes, unless the prosecutor agrees to let him be committed to a hospital permanently rather than face prison and potential execution.

The case is gearing up amid a broader decline in the death penalty, as lawmakers around the country are considering bans on death sentences for people with certain serious mental illnesses. Some prosecutors have pushed back, seeing these bans as a backdoor effort to abolish the punishment entirely.

Otto was close to his mother growing up, and he began experimenting with drugs as a teenager. After a discharge from the Marines in his early 20s — he was caught using steroids, his sister said — she started to notice moments of paranoia.

“Unless you were close to him you wouldn’t see it,” Simon’s friend Maddie Borah said. “He was going to school to be an electrician, and he’d be convinced people were going into his toolbox.”

He began drinking heavily, and occasionally Simon would call a detox facility to hold him until he sobered up. “I think she was lenient because deep inside she knew there was something going on, beyond him being an addict,” Borah said.

Simon and DeKnikker, Otto’s mom and sister, were both nurses, so they recognized a turning point around January 2016 — he was more paranoid than ever, repeating himself and retreating into isolation.

“I knew he had schizophrenia,” DeKnikker said. “I knew he would need to get in trouble to get help, but I never thought he would do something violent.”

He was not formally diagnosed. Twice, in May and August of 2016, he was arrested at a bank where he was refusing to leave, as he talked about applying to work for the CIA, and in September, he set off his mother’s home alarm system, with the aim of making a CIA recruiter show up.

Simon wanted her son to be committed to a mental health facility, but South Dakota laws required that he be a danger to himself or others, and as in much of the country there were few resources for those needing mental health treatment. He never saw a therapist. DeKnikker offered him money if he agreed to seek treatment on his own, but he said she’d need to give him a large sum, to pay for the voices in his head. Finally he agreed to treatment, but when it came time to check into a hospital, he changed his mind and refused to stay.

“He didn’t verbalize intent to harm himself or others,” Borah said, so he was not committed.

That was on a Tuesday in November. On Sunday, his other sister, Cassandra Otto, left her son Brayden with him and their mother. When she called to check in, she could tell from his tone that something terrible had happened. She sped home. He’d set off the home alarm, so law enforcement officers had already arrived. They asked if anyone needed medical attention, and Otto responded: “Not anymore.”

He went on to claim, falsely, that his mother and nephew had medical conditions and he wanted to “put them out of their misery.” He later told DeKnikker, in her recollection, “It was an order from the CIA, and then he said stuff about Hillary Clinton, and if he didn’t do it it was going to be World War III.” His defense lawyers hired experts who diagnosed him with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Prosecutors may contest these diagnoses at trial, but they did not take issue with the judge’s decision that he was incompetent to stand trial. According to reporting by the Argus Leader, Otto had to wait several months for a bed to open up at the state’s only public psychiatric hospital. In December 2018 a doctor at that hospital told the court there was a “substantial probability” Otto would be able to face trial within a year.

McGowan, the state’s attorney, does not need to formally announce yet whether he is seeking the death penalty, but the case is proceeding as though he will; the defense team is more robust than it typically would be in a non-capital murder case. McGowan declined an interview, saying in an email that “our rules of professional responsibility preclude me from commenting on the case.”

DeKnikker has written him a letter asking him not to seek the death penalty.

“Please know that killing another member of our family in no way honors my mom’s life,” she wrote, “and doesn’t reflect anything my mom stood for.”

But Cassandra Otto, Brayden’s mother, wants her brother to be executed for the killing of her child.

“I do forgive him, in a way, because I know my mom tried getting him help,” she said. “I’m in a phase where I don’t know if he’s faking it or he’s really mentally ill.” But, she added, “I think he should get the death penalty no matter what, because my family doesn’t deserve what happened to us. My sister disagrees, because that wasn’t her kid.”

She said her brother “knew what he was doing,” pointing out that he got a knife only after he failed to kill Simon and Brayden with the phone cord. It is easy to imagine prosecutors making a similar argument at trial.

Earlier this year, the South Dakota state legislature rejected a proposal to ban death sentences for people with serious mental illnesses, though it had passed such a proposal through one chamber last year. The Virginia state senate approved a similar bill three months ago. Other bills are gaining traction in Texas, Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri. Some include post-traumatic stress disorder, while others are limited to schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder. Many require active psychosis at the time of the crime. Some would let a judge decide who should be exempted, before the trial begins. The Texas bill would let a jury decide during the trial. The Tennessee bill requires a documented medical history before the crime, which might exclude someone like Otto.

Supporters of these bills, with the backing of the American Bar Association, argue that the “insanity defense” tends to be very narrowly defined, and juries are skeptical of it. The Supreme Court has already banned the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities and those who committed their crimes before the age of 18. Both bans were based on the idea that society views these murderers as “categorically less culpable than the average criminal.” The high court has ruled that death row prisoners must be “competent” to be executed, though lower courts are still debating exactly what that means.

“Defendants who have a mental illness are particularly vulnerable in our criminal justice system,” Amanda Marzullo, director of the Texas Defender Service, told a panel of legislators in her state last month. “They are very likely to fire their defense lawyers, or not cooperate with them, or even try to represent themselves.”

Prosecutors have been wary. “The version of this legislation that is pending in Ohio would effectively end the death penalty,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. He predicted that everyone facing the punishment would be able to obtain a diagnosis. A defendant can already mount an insanity defense, he pointed out, and then tell the jury about mental illness as a way of persuading them to vote for life without parole instead of death. Ohio’s bill, as of now, would apply retroactively, potentially setting up lengthy legal fights over old cases.

If Heath Otto goes to trial, the state and the defense will battle over how well Otto understood what he was doing, and what his drug and alcohol use says about his culpability. In the meantime, he lives in a psychiatric hospital.

Maddie Borah, his mother’s friend, said she doesn’t visit, because she fears she might trigger him: “If he understood what he did to his mother, he would probably try to commit suicide.” She sees the entire situation as an indictment of the way our society treats those with severe mental health problems: “It’s much easier to kill a mentally ill man than to admit your mental health system, your law enforcement, your policies and procedure are so inept.”

(source: argusleader.com)

CALIFORNIA:

This attorney once had sex with a client’s daughters. The ACLU wants him off capital cases

Gary Turnbull hadn’t practiced law in California for 20 years before he reactivated his license last October.

Within about a month, he was appointed to defend a man facing the death penalty in the fatal shootings of 2 men at a bar south of Bakersfield.

Soon, a sordid story of the attorney’s past would resurface.

Decades ago, while representing a woman accused of killing her husband, Turnbull, now 74, had secret sexual relationships with 2 of her 3 daughters, eventually having a child with one. Twice he was suspended from practicing law — in 1995 for not paying child support and again in 2004 for not paying bar dues.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union is taking an unusual step of intervening to try to remove him from the death penalty case, arguing that his ethical transgressions and years out of practice make him unfit to take it on.

Turnbull’s appointment, an ACLU attorney said, is just one example of what she sees as a troubling pattern: Problems with how attorneys for indigent clients are appointed and paid are driving higher numbers of death sentences in some Southern California counties.

“Many people mistakenly assume that the defendants charged with the death penalty receive the best lawyering available,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project. “In fact, we see all too often the worst kind of lawyering provided to the poor defendants charged with capital crimes.”

Turnbull dismissed the arguments as “sour grapes.”

“They’re saying from a relationship I had 35 years ago, that I’m unfit. Yeah, well, that’s history and the bar didn’t find it was unethical, immoral, illegal or any conflict,” Turnbull said. “According to court rules, I’m totally qualified.”

In a November declaration requesting to represent the man in the current capital case, Turnbull indicated that he handled more than 100 criminal jury trials and completed 300 hours of death penalty seminars throughout his career. He told The Times that he is now handling w other capital cases.

Turnbull said he inactivated his license because he fell ill with cancer, moved to Canada and didn’t think he’d practice again. He reactivated his license, he said, because he was bored.

The ACLU’s effort to remove Turnbull is the latest twist in the nearly 4-year-old case of Juan Pablo Vega, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Jorge Zavala and Frederico Zuniga Moreno.

Kern County prosecutors allege that Vega walked into an Arvin nightclub in June 2015 and shot 3 people, killing 2 and wounding the other, after his girlfriend called him and said they were bothering her and to come take care of it.

Vega’s trial is set for January.

A handful of attorneys were in and out of the case before a judge appointed Keith Rutman, a San Diego lawyer, to represent Vega in October 2017 because the Indigent Defense Program was unable to find a qualified attorney within the county.

The Indigent Defense Program, run by the Kern County Bar Assn., contracts with Kern County to represent defendants when the public defender’s office has a conflict or otherwise cannot. The program director, Henry Marquez, did not return multiple requests for comment.

As Rutman began building his defense, he needed to hire mitigation investigators to dig into Vega’s upbringing in Mexico to find out what led him to this point, he said in a court filing.

Rutman requested more funding to send investigators to Culiacan, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, because the county’s rate to pay them was so low — $42 an hour — that he couldn’t find qualified people to take on the dangerous assignment, he said in court filings.

Vega, he wrote, “is facing disparate treatment” from those facing the death penalty in other California counties where there is enough funding for mitigation investigators.

“The painful life stories of capital defendants are an important part of the mitigation evidence defense counsel are duty-bound to investigate and present,” the filing states.

A judge granted the request in November, ordering the county to pay an investigator $150 an hour for work done in Mexico and another investigator $120 an hour for work done in the U.S.

After Rutman told the Indigent Defense Program director about the developments, he was told another attorney would take over.

That turned out to be Turnbull.

Joe Hughes, vice president of the bar association’s board of directors, said Rutman was not approved to be the lead attorney on capital cases and can only serve as second chair. He did not say why.

Stubbs, of the ACLU, filed a declaration saying that an email exchange with the Indigent Defense Program director “suggested possible retaliation against Mr. Rutman for his advocacy” of Vega in securing additional funds. She also wrote that someone who hasn’t practiced law for 20 years and “has not maintained regular capital trainings” is unqualified to represent clients in death penalty cases.

In a motion to clarify counsel, Rutman points to Turnbull’s history, saying it raises “serious questions” about his fitness to serve.

“Turnbull engaged in such grave misconduct — having sexual relations with his client’s 2 daughters — that the judge hearing the post-conviction case … suggested he intended to refer the case” to the State Bar of California, the motion says.

It’s unclear if the bar opened an investigation, but it does not appear from online records that Turnbull was disciplined.

“These were young women who had lost their father, their mother was in jail for having killed their father. He steps in, he’s a predator,” said Linda Starr, an attorney who represented the mother, Glenda Crosley, after her conviction.

Crosley was convicted in a 2nd trial. The 1st trial — in which she testified — resulted in a hung jury. She did not testify in the 2nd trial. She died in prison in 2013, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“We can’t know what he didn’t do because he was protecting his relationships more than his client,” Starr said.

Turnbull said there was no conflict, describing one of the relationships as “just two people, both alone, going through divorces.” He did not go into detail about the 2nd one.

“What was unethical about it?” Turnbull said. “You’re going to rehash something from 35 years ago? I can’t believe it.”

Turnbull and Rutman appeared in a Bakersfield courtroom on Thursday, each one separately approaching and consulting with Vega, who was in a brown jail uniform, his wrists shackled to a chain around his waist.

Kern County Superior Court Judge John R. Brownlee postponed the scheduled hearing to clarify counsel to May because the court’s presiding judge was out of town.

“We have a skeleton crew this week,” Brownlee said, adding that the matter should be handled by the presiding judge since it “has the potential to fundamentally change how we do business with the IDP.”

(source: Alene Tchekmedyian covers Los Angeles County’s criminal courts----Los Angeles Times)

USA:

Veil of Execution Secrecy Expands in Several Southern Death-Penalty States

3 southern states have taken action to limit the public’s access to information relating to executions by increasing secrecy surrounding lethal-injection drug suppliers. On April 12, 2019, the Texas Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision that would have disclosed the source of lethal-injection drugs used to carry out executions in Texas in 2014, asserting that disclosure “would create a substantial threat of physical harm to the source’s employees and others.” On April 9, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law one of the most expansive and punitive execution secrecy laws in the nation, concealing the identity of lethal-injection drug suppliers from the public and criminalizing disclosure of execution-related information. Act 810 exempts lethal-injection records from the state’s Freedom of Information Act and makes the intentional or reckless disclosure of the exempted information a felony. In Louisiana, amidst partisan feuding over the reasons the state has not carried out executions, a bill that would make secret the source of execution drugs was referred to the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on April 8, the first day of the 2019 Louisiana state legislative session. Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, who voted against a similar bill five years ago while serving as a state legislator, indicated that he would likely sign the measure. Louisiana’s legislature is also considering two bills that would abolish capital punishment.

The Texas Supreme Court decision marked the culmination of several years of litigation over the state’s lethal-injection secrecy policy. A Texas district court and a state court of appeals both ordered disclosure of the drug supplier’s identity, and the Supreme Court initially upheld those lower court rulings. The state asked for a rehearing, arguing that disclosure would have “potentially devastating consequences” to public safety. The rehearing took place after BuzzFeed News revealed through investigative reporting that the state had obtained lethal-injection drugs from Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy, a Houston based compounding pharmacy with a history of safety violations. When the compounder’s identity was revealed, activists peacefully protested outside the pharmacy. Attorney Ari Cuenin, arguing for the state, said that protests, along with alleged threats, had convinced pharmacies not to provide drugs to the state. The state called the pharmacy a “soft target” in an “urban area, whose only defense is its anonymity.”

A number of states have asserted that anti-death-penalty activists have intimidated pharmacies and major pharmaceutical companies into refusing to supply drugs for executions and have argued in legislative debates and in litigation that these alleged threats justify execution secrecy. In its secrecy bill, the Arkansas legislature alleged without evidence that “there is a well-documented guerilla war being waged against the death penalty” and that “[a]nti-death penalty advocates have pressured pharmaceutical companies to refuse to supply the drugs used by states to carry out death sentences.” In fact, calling the use of their medicines in execution contrary to their medical mission, several drug companies have sued Arkansas or filed friend-of-the-court briefs alleging that the state engaged in misrepresentations and subterfuge to improperly obtain their drugs. Independent media and law enforcement investigations have concluded that the alleged threats against drug manufacturers and suppliers have been unfounded or grossly exaggerated. A 2016 BuzzFeed News investigation revealed that FBI records debunked an alleged threat that Texas and Ohio claimed established the need for secrecy. That supposed threat was an email from a university professor who provided his name and phone number and warned an Oklahoma pharmacy to take safety precautions. The email was one of three pieces of evidence, along with a blog post and comments left on the website of a previous supplier, that the Texas court relied on in its decision. “There is no evidence of a history of specific threats to that particular pharmacist or pharmacy because the source's identity has been kept confidential,” the court wrote. “Thus, the question before us in this case is whether the mere fact that the public knows that the Department is receiving lethal injection drugs from some source, whoever it might be, is enough to conclude that a substantial threat of physical harm will come to bear on the source of the drugs if the identifying information is made public.”

(Keri Blakinger, Name of lethal injection supplier can be kept secret, Texas Supreme Court decides, Houston Chronicle, April 12, 2019; Julia O’Donoghue, Measure could make it easier for La. to carry out death penalty, NOLA Media Group, April 16, 2019; View from the Senate: Lethal Injection Records to Become Confidential, AMP News, April 12, 2019.) Read the Texas Supreme Court decision in Texas Dept. Crim. Justice v. Levin et al. and DPIC’s November 2018 report, Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States. See Lethal Injection, Secrecy, and Recent Legislation.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

SRI LANKA:

Sri Lanka interviews dozens of aspiring hangmen after restoring death penalty----Former recruits have failed to show up to work or quit after one look at the gallows, but Sri Lanka's President is determined to find 2 hangmen to send thousands of prisoners to their deaths.

Sri Lanka wants to start executing convicted drug traffickers as soon as possible, but it is having trouble hiring a hangman.

The job was traditionally handed down from father to son, but during a 42-year moratorium on the death penalty, it has been harder to keep someone in the job.

A recently employed executioner resigned in shock after seeing the gallows for the 1st time.

His replacement never showed up to work.

But the moratorium is due to end any day now, with President Maithripala Sirisena vowing to start hanging drug traffickers.

Nearly 50 men have been interviewed this month for 2 positions as hangmen.

President Sirisena said he has been inspired by Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drug crime.

On a visit to the Philippines in January, he hailed Mr Duterte's violent crackdown as "an example to the world".

"Drug menace is rampant in my country and I feel that we should follow your footsteps to control this hazard," Mr Sirisena said during a meeting with Mr Duterte.

Mr Duterte's policy has seen more than 5,000 people killed in police anti-drug raids since 2016 and prompted widespread condemnation over extrajudicial killings.

The illicit drug trade is a problem in the island nation of Sri Lanka, which is used as a South Asian transit point for traffickers.

Earlier this month, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms of seized drugs as President Sirisena looked on.

More than 100 men apply to be Sri Lanka's hangmen

The Government began its recruitment drive for hangmen with an advertisement in the local papers in February.

More than 100 people applied for the job — including 1 American.

He was immediately excluded because foreigners are not eligible.

Only men between 18 and 45 are eligible for the position, which pays about $280 a month.

The ad stated that applicants must have "excellent moral character" and "mental strength" to be considered for the job.

Prisons Commissioner TM Jayasiri Wijenath, who only took on the job last month, said applicants will undergo psychological testing.

He also noted that because it has been so long since the death penalty was used, Sri Lanka will have to import training for the hangmen.

"We have to take consultancy and professional training from a foreign country. We have no preferences, but we have identified many countries, like Pakistan," Mr Wijenath said.

The Government imported a hangman's rope from Pakistan several years ago, but it's never been used.

"Already we have a rope, but we have to check whether it's ok or not," Mr Wijenath said.

Sri Lanka's death row prisoners face an unclear future

Despite the decades-long moratorium, Sri Lankan judges have never stopped handing down the death penalty for serious crimes like murder.

Until now, the sentence has been commuted to life in prison.

But President Sirisena wants to resume executing criminals on death row as soon as possible, and his top priority is drug traffickers — murderers will have to wait their turn.

About 1,300 prisoners are on death row in Sri Lanka, and 17 convicted drug traffickers including one woman have been earmarked for the first round of executions.

Sri Lanka has quietly decided not to execute any of the foreign nationals, mostly Pakistani, on death row for drug trafficking.

Human rights advocates want to know why the identities of the condemned are being kept secret.

"All we have is a number; we don't know their names, we're not in touch with their families," said Amnesty International South Asia director Biraj Patnaik.

"We have no idea whether they had a fair trial, we have no idea whether these trials took place under circumstances where the evidence was obtained under torture," Mr Patnaik said.

"Sri Lanka has been criticised for its track record of using torture for extracting confessions."

Some Asian countries follow Duterte's lead

Mr Sirisena's decision to lift the moratorium on the death penalty is at odds with his own Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe's stance on the issue, and has drawn sharp condemnation from human rights groups.

A statement issued by the European Union and also signed by Australia and Canada called on Sri Lanka not to reinstate capital punishment.

"The death penalty is an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity," the statement said.

President Sirisena has promised that the first executions will be carried out soon.

"Because of the fact that there's so much secrecy surrounding these executions, we have absolutely no idea of the timeline," said Biraj Patnaik.

"Which is really extraordinary because it denies the people on death row and their families an opportunity to either appeal or even to connect."

Given that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist-majority country, Mr Patnaik said he was hoping that prominent voices in the Buddhist clergy, as well as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, will try to change Mr Sirisena's mind.

A report released by Amnesty International this month showed that use of the death penalty declined worldwide last year.

However, the report does not include China, which is regarded to be the world's largest executioner and considers its tally a state secret.

Thailand recently carried out its first execution in a decade, while Malaysia placed a moratorium on the death penalty and promised to ban it.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh started emulating President Duterte's drug crackdown last year; it is estimated 200 Bangladeshis suspected of drug crimes have been the victims of extrajudicial killings.

(source: nzcity.co.nz)

KENYA:

Court: Death row convict to be retried

The High Court has quashed a death penalty against a man convicted for robbery with violence.

Judge William Musyoka ruled that the trial court erred in relying on evidence that had been trashed to convict Evans Ayiega, alias Kubare.

Justice Musyoka termed the case a mistrial and ordered that Ayiega be tried afresh before a different magistrate.

Ayiega was found guilty of violently robbing Beatrice Munyori of Sh30,000 and a mobile phone worth Sh2,000 in Gawani village, Vihiga County on October 22, 2014.

The trial commenced before then Hamisi Senior Principal Magistrate Julius Ng’ang’ar who heard four witnesses before he was transferred. The case was handed to Senior Resident Magistrate Evans Muleka, who later handed him the mandatory death penalty.

(source: standardmedia.co.ke)

VIETNAM:

2 Taiwanese arrested for drug trafficking in Vietnam

Vietnamese police have arrested 2 Taiwanese nationals in connection with a 1,100-kilogram haul of narcotics seized recently in Ho Chi Minh City, the online newspaper Vnexpress reported on Saturday.

According to the report, the 2 Taiwanese, Yeh Ching-Wei and Chiang Wei-chih, were arrested when police checked three vehicles unloading goods with their engines still running on April 12.

2 of the vehicles fled the scene, but were later caught, the report said.

About 606 kilograms of narcotics, in 600 packages disguised as tea bags stuffed inside 60 large loudspeakers, were discovered in the vehicles, according to the report.

After the police expanded their investigation, they arrested a Vietnamese man and seized another 50 kilograms of narcotics inside five loudspeakers and yet another batch of illegal drugs, weighing nearly 452 kilograms, in 38 loudspeakers in Ho Chi Minh City, the report said.

These three batches of narcotics were shipped from Thailand, according to the report.

It quoted the police as saying that this was Yeh's first entry into Vietnam. Chiang, on the other hand, had been to Vietnam three times since 2018 via Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, the busiest airport in the country, according to the police.

It said the 2 Taiwanese were abetted by a Chinese national.

In another case that happened on April 15, Vietnamese authorities arrested four suspects and seized more than 700kg of drugs packed into 600 packets and hidden inside 50 loudspeakers in central Vietnam's Nghe An province, according to local English language daily news outlet VietNam News.

The four suspects were led by a Taiwanese man, the report said, adding that the drugs were transported from Laos into Vietnam on a truck.

The police are now expanding their investigation to determine if the two cases are related and to track the illicit drug flow, Vnexpress reported.

According to VietNam News, the Southeast Asian country has become a key trafficking hub for narcotics around the Golden Triangle, the world's second-largest drug producing region where China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet. However, the news website pointed out, Vietnam also has some of the world's toughest drug laws.

Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty, it said.

(source: focustaiwan.tw)

PAKISTAN:

78% death penalty cases overturned by SC: report

Supreme-CourtCriminal law barrister at Doughty Street Chambers Timothy Moloney QC and UK-based non-governmental organisation ‘Reprieve’ Director Maya Foa met Federal Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Dr Muhammad Farogh Naseem on Friday and presented a report on death penalty cases overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The report revealed that 78 % of death penalty cases out of 310 reported capital punishment judgements between 2010 and 2018 had been overturned by the Supreme Court, acquitting the accused, commuting the sentence, or ordering a review.

The study also revealed that the Supreme Court frequently cited unreliable witness testimonies, involuntary or retracted confessions, insufficient or manipulated evidence and lack of motive of the accused as the primary reasons for overturning death sentences.

Additionally, the Supreme Court, in exercising its capital jurisdiction, raised serious doubts over the reliability of police investigation, particularly where there was an unexplained delay in registration of the first information report (FIR) and where the evidence appeared to be planted, manipulated or otherwise doubtful, it argued.

The report said that the Supreme Court had upheld death sentences for lethal offences only – every judgement of a non-lethal offence ended with the Supreme Court overturning the conviction or commuting the death sentence.

It regretted that despite this, the lower courts continued to regularly award death sentences for non-lethal offences. “The Supreme Court now recognises a growing number of mitigating factors, which counsel against a death sentence,” it stated. These include: type and gravity of the offence, lesser participation by the accused, lack of premeditation, provocation, social and familial circumstances, partial compromise with the victim’s family, age of the accused, whether the accused was acting under the influence of an elder, mental state of the accused, capacity for reform and time spent on death row.

The report stated that the court had recognised that even a “single mitigating instance, available in a particular case, would be sufficient to put on guard the judge not to award the penalty of death but life imprisonment”.

The delegation also presented recommendations to the law minister based on the study to limit death penalty in Pakistan. The minister thanked the delegates for presenting him the report on their findings and for their recommendations.

(source: dailytimes.com.pk)

GREAT BRITAIN:

The Bloody Code: The worst ways to be executed in Britain in the 18th Century

Beginning in the 17th Century the Bloody Code consisted of more than 200 offences; a list of crimes that were punishable by death.

If you were a criminal in the times of the Bloody Code, it’s highly likely you’d be executed, whether you committed a murder, stole a rabbit or managed to wreck a fishpond.

Beginning in the late 17th Century the Bloody Code consisted of more than 200 offences; a list of all the crimes that were punishable by death.

In 1688, the number of crimes carrying the death penalty was 50. By 1815 there were 215 crimes on the list.

Why was the English legal system so brutal? It was mostly due to the wealthy men who created the laws; they looked down on everybody else as being lazy, sinful and greedy.

Judges rarely showed any mercy and, because the rich made the laws, they were created to protect them — any crime against their property was made punishable by death.

The Bloody Code was thought to be a perfect deterrent and those times saw an increase in the number of public hangings. It was also thought that the more people witnessed public executions, the more likely they’ll be obeying the law.

Thankfully there were a handful of reformers, led by Sir Samuel Romilly, who were horrified that people could be executed for petty crimes.

It was 216 years ago this month that the dreaded ‘Bloody Code’ was revised by Sir Romilly and ensured people weren’t executed for cutting down trees, wearing blackface at night or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner.

Crimes on the Bloody Code

If you committed a crime that was listed on the Bloody Code — that’s 214 crimes on the list — chances are you’d be given a date to meet the hangman. Here are just some of the crimes you’d be hanged for:

• Stealing from a shipwreck

• An unmarried mother concealing a stillborn baby

• Forgery

• Impersonating a Chelsea pensioner

• Begging without a licence if you’re a soldier or sailor

• Stealing horses or sheep

• Arson

• Being out at night with a blackened face

• Strong evidence of malice in children aged 7-14

• Cutting down trees

• Destroying turnpike roads

• Wrecking a fishpond.

• Stealing from a rabbit warren

• Writing a threatening letter

According to historian Lizzie Steel, the main aim of the Bloody Code was deterrence. The other issue that made the Bloody Code so cruel was that those in court faced with this brutal system had to defend themselves. Once you were convicted, there was very little hope.

Let’s take a look at the most popular ways to be executed.

Hanging

In the early years, hanging simply involved placing a noose around the criminal’s neck and suspending them from a tree. Other methods included using ladders or carts to hang people from wooden gallows. But by the late 13th Century the horrific practice of “drawing, hanging and quartering” was introduced. This was a death mostly reserved for those accused of treason.

First, the criminal was dragged by horses to the place of execution (drawing) then they were hanged, and then came the worst of all; the”‘quartering”.

The poor victim was disembowelled and beheaded and then their limbs were chopped off. Later, the head and limbs were kept on display for everyone to see — as a grisly reminder of what happens when one is foolish enough to break the law. Death was by asphyxiation, which was often excruciatingly, painfully slow.

According to historian Lizzie Steel, in 1783, the “New Drop” gallows were introduced, so that up to three criminals could be hanged at the same time. This involved a wooden platform with trapdoors through which the people fell. The system of hanging was “upgraded” yet again in the later 19th Century when a “long drop” was used. This form of hanging took into account the prisoner’s weight and the length of the drop through the trap door. Placing the knot of the noose in a particular way meant that the criminal’s neck was broken, which was much quicker than being strangled.

Note: In 1752 a new law was created that meant the body of an executed person must be handed over to doctors for them to dissect, for the purpose of research. These days, that seems perfectly feasible but, back then, the idea of having their body cut up and used for research was truly horrifying. For most people, this new law was seen as an additional punishment to the execution itself.

Burnt at the stake

From the 11th Century, burning at the stake was used in England mostly for heresy and later (the 13th Century) for treason. The majority of those burnt at the stake were women who had been convicted of murdering their husband or employer and the practice continued in Britain well into the 18th Century.

The concept of burning at the stake was relatively simple. All that was needed was a pile of wood and a stake in the middle to tie the criminal to — then the fire is lit and life is over.

But death didn’t come quickly. It rarely took less than half an hour before the victim died and it often took up to 2 hours for the victim to die.

If it was windy and the fire blew away from the person at the stake, it could take hours to be slowly burned to death.

Hanging widely replaced burning for treason from 1790. However, women suspected of witchcraft in Scotland were still burnt at the stake until the 18th century.

Interestingly, if you were found guilty of a crime on the Bloody Code and were able to prove that you had basic literacy, you could claim “benefit of clergy”, which was available until laws were changed in the 1820s.

Drowning

Drowning wasn’t used as an execution but was used as torture to extract information which usually led to their execution. Of course, if people were accidentally held under water for too long, they’d inevitably drown on what was known as the “ducking stool”. This stool was just a seat on a long wooden arm. What did you need to do to be forced upon the ducking stool? If you’d been accused of spreading rumours, otherwise known as gossiping, you’d be ducked in the local pond or river until you confessed. 1809 was the last year the ducking stool was officially used as punishment in Britain.

Beheading

You might think beheading might be less horrendous than a hanging but, due to the execution being carried out with an axe or a sword, it was often the worse of the worst ways to die. That’s because you might be unlucky enough to have an executioner who wasn’t entirely skilled in the art of swinging an axe against the nape of a neck and he might have needed several blows before your head was severed.

Beheading was usually reserved for the upper class because it was seen as being more dignified than a public hanging. Back in the 16th Century, during the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, it took 3 blows of the axe before her head was removed; it was said to be hanging by a “few strings” and witnesses said her lips were still quivering for a few minutes after her death.

Sir Samuel Romilly

One of the most vocal critics of the Bloody Code was the campaigner and reformer Sir Samuel Romilly, who protested against what many considered “a lottery of justice”.

There was such complexity around sentencing and punishment that, even when somebody was sentenced to death, there were often questions over whether that person was going to be executed immediately, sometime in the future, or not at all.

Sir Romilly, who was a barrister by profession, believed judges held too much power and would often sentence people according to their own beliefs.

After much campaigning, Sir Romilly succeeded in repealing the death penalty for some minor crimes, as well as ending the sickening practice of disembowelling convicted criminals while alive. By 1834, the practice of hanging in chains was abolished and there was an end of capital punishment for cattle stealing and other minor offences.

By the 18th Century, the more brutal punishments of the Tudor period were almost entirely abolished, although the public whipping of women didn’t end until 1817.

Macabre punishments, such as ear slicing and nose slitting also ended. The use of the pillory, a medieval torture device, stopped too — mostly because some people lost an eye or died while strapped into the wooden device.

(source: news.com.au)

EGYPT:

Egypt court sentences Egyptian man to death for killing Italian citizen in Milan

An Egyptian criminal court sentenced a defendant to death for killing an Italian citizen in the city of Milano in 2013.

The case dates back to November 2014, when Interpol requested the arrest of an Egyptian citizen over the robbery and murder of a carpet shop owner of Iranian descent in Milan.

The defendant fled Italy after committing the crime in 2013 and was arrested months later at his residence in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya.

The defendant told authorities that he worked as a cleaner in the shop owned by the victim, and claimed that he was sexually assaulted by the shop owner.

The defendant can appeal the verdict before the Court of Cassation.

According to Egyptian law, an Egyptian citizen who commits a crime abroad can be arrested and tried within Egypt as long as the act is considered a crime in both Egypt and the country where the crime was committed.

(source: ahram.org.eg)

APRIL 19, 2019:

TEXAS:

Rare estate sale find shows how capital punishment was once carried out in Harris County

A striking piece of Houston history sold earlier this week on eBay, a reminder of how criminal justice was once meted out in Harris County.

The medal, about the size of a quarter, depicts a hooded, suit-wearing figure hanging from the gallows. Inscribed on the front is the name Henry McGee, his ethnicity is described as "colored" and the date of his execution is provided: Aug. 12, 1892.

Also inscribed is the name of McGee's victim, Houston police officer James Fenn. We then learn the time it took for McGee to die on the gallows, 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

The back of the medal reads, "Presented to R.E. Sutton by J. Warfel." A city directory from that period lists a Robert E. Sutton as deputy sheriff and assistant jailer. There are 2 Warfels listed in the directory, one of whom was a watchmaker.

The medal, which came from a Houston-area estate sale, baffled some Texas historians.

"I never came across anything like that," said Mitchel P. Roth, professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University and co-author of "Houston Blue: The Story of the Houston Police Department."

At the time of McGee's execution, the Houston Daily Post looked back on the case and noted "there was strong talk of lynching" after he was jailed.

4 men are known to have been lynched in the county in the 1800s and early 20th century. No doubt that when McGee was arrested, the mob-fueled slaying of John Walton, suspected in a burglary and attempted rape the previous year, was on many Houstonians' minds. A brother-in-law of the burglarized homeowner, also a Houston cop, took part in the lynching.

McGee's arrest came at time when the South was experiencing a rising number of lynchings that continued for decades.

Patricia Bernstein, author of "The First Waco Horror: the Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP" said it was amazing that McGee was not lynched and that he was tried twice for Fenn's death.

"It was almost like there were 2 separate systems of justice, for blacks and whites," she said, noting that wealthy, well-placed whites tended to fare better in the criminal justice system than poor whites. The system, though, was always going to be worse for African Americans, she said.

Cary Wintz, distinguished professor of history at Texas Southern University saw the medal as a personal item, given its rarity.

"To me, the issue is how many did he make?" he said, speculating that there could have been some personal connection between Sutton and Fenn that led Warfel to create it. He and other historians also wondered what was it about the case that prompted this.

"This one is just off the wall," Wintz said.

Bernstein found the medal appalling, even if it depicts a lawful execution.

"It's a medal that celebrates the murder of somebody," she said.

Roth said badges, and even ball-and-chains, will appear in police and criminal justice collections, but he had never seen anything like this object.

Here's what is known about the crime:

On March 14, 1891, Fenn was at a gathering spot known as the Broom Factory where alcohol and music mixed in the Second Ward. Fenn was sent there by the chief of police to maintain order, according to a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. This was not his first time there as he was considered popular in the African-American community.

McGee, who once worked as a waiter at the Capitol and Grand Central hotels, apparently held a grudge against Fenn over an earlier arrest for shooting a pistol and threatened to kill the officer if he "was ever sent to the poor farm in consequence of an arrest."

"Very soon afterwards a pistol was fired, and Fenn and another officer, Frank Michael, went in the direction of the pistol shot, where a man stood flourishing a pistol in his right hand," according to the appeals court. "As they got close to him, he deliberately lowered the pistol in front of him, and holding it (in) both hands, fired upon Fenn and killed him."

McGee fled but was captured a few days later at a home occupied by 2 women in the First Ward.

McGee soon went on trial and was convicted and sentenced to death. That conviction was reversed on appeal and sent back to the trial court because of the admission of improper testimony. The following year, McGee was tried and sentenced to death again.

***

At 7 a.m. on Aug. 12, 1892, a crowd of Houstonians gathered outside the Harris County Jail for McGee's execution.

"Men, women and children of all conditions congregated about the jail and gazed with renewed interest at the iron-girded pile of brick and mortar which barred their morbid curiosity by shutting out sight of the condemned man," the Houston Daily Post noted. "As time worn on the [motley] crew increased, until the sidewalks could no longer hold them."

About four hours later, inside the jail, McGee made his way to the gallows assisted by the Rev. Jack Yates and the Rev. Henry Watts. He asserted his innocence and instead put blame on an unidentified person for killing Fenn. McGee also talked openly of his religious conversion and offered goodbyes to Sheriff George W. Ellis and his jailers, including Sutton.

After his execution, relatives took McGee's body to Lynchburg for burial.

Fenn is buried in Glenwood Cemetery.

(source: Houston Chronicle)

FLORIDA:

He killed his wife, young daughter with a machete, cops say. Now, he faces execution.----Family speaks out about the ‘monster’ who is suspected of murdering his wife and young daughter with a machete

A Miami Gardens man accused of murdering his wife and 10-year-old with a machete is now facing possible execution.

Prosecutors on Thursday announced they plan to seek the death penalty for Noel Chambers, 57, after a grand jury indicted him on charges of 1st-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty Thursday during a hearing in front of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stacy Glick.

Chambers used the large blade to kill Lorice Harris and her daughter, Shayla, on March 30 at an apartment in Miami Gardens, police say.

The woman’s mutilated body was found on the porch, the girl inside a bedroom. Another daughter, Shanalee Chambers, 29, was critically injured in the attack. Chambers disappeared, sparking a sprawling three-day manhunt in North Miami-Dade that ended when firefighters spotted him walking outside their station.

Investigators believe Chambers was set off because his wife asked him for a divorce. During the manhunt, the woman’s family called him a “monster.”

(source: miamiherald.com)

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

State seeks death penalty against man charged with killing Cocoa mother of 4

The state attorney’s office filed notice this week that it plans to seek the death penalty against a man suspected of kidnapping a 31-year-old mother of 4, then shooting her to death and leaving her body in a remote stretch of Osceola County.

Prosecutors examining the case file prepared by Cocoa police said the actions of Joshua Taylor were ‘especially cruel and calculated’ to prevent Tashaun Jackson from testifying against him in another criminal case in which she was the victim.

A grand jury indicted Taylor, 30, on 1st-degree premeditated murder with a firearm, kidnapping while inflicting death, and possession of a firearm by felon charges in connection with the Feb. 9 death of Jackson.

Jackson was reported missing Feb. 9 after she failed to return home during a quick errand to a nearby convenience store and a stop at McDonald’s. Cocoa police said Taylor, who completed a 12-year sentence in state prison for an unrelated carjacking charge last April, targeted Jackson she was cooperating as a witness against him in a burglary that took place at her home.

Surveillance video showed Jackson at a 7-Eleven store, then leaving. Later, say police, Taylor found Jackson, got her into his car and then drove her to Osceola County. Police said Taylor shot the mother the same day.

Jackson's mother is now caring for the children. The family spoke out about the case, drawing attention to Taylor and Jackson's previous concerns about his behavior.

Taylor remains held without bond at the Brevard County Jail in Sharpes. A court hearing on the case is set for July 23 at the Moore Justice Center in Viera.

(source: floridatoday.com)

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

State Attorney Phil Archer Files Notice of Intent to Seek Death Penalty for Joshua Taylor

The State of Florida filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty for Joshua Lemar Taylor, 30, in the 1st Degree Premeditated Murder of 31-year-old Tashaun Jackson on February 10, 2019.

Taylor had been indicted by the Grand Jury on March 19, 2019.

On February 10, 2019, Cocoa Police responded to a report that Jackson failed to return home after walking to a nearby convenience store the day before.

Surveillance video confirmed Jackson had been at the store but left alone a few minutes after arriving.

Jackson’s body was discovered almost a week later on February 15 in rural Osceola County.

A subsequent investigation established that Jackson had been abducted and killed by Taylor on the same day of her disappearance.

Taylor was arrested by Cocoa Police on February 26 at his mother’s home in Cocoa.

In their notice, prosecutors described the murder as “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel” and “was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”

They also cited provisions indicating that Taylor had committed the murder for the purpose of silencing Jackson as a witness and attempting to prevent the State from prosecuting him for a 2018 burglary at Jackson’s home.

Taylor will remain in custody with no bond at the Brevard County Jail.

The case is set for Docket Review before Judge Jeffrey Mahl on July 23 at the Moore Criminal Justice Center in Viera.

(source: spacecoastdaily.com)

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

State to seek death penalty against man accused of killing son

Bill Eddins, State Attorney for the First Judicial Circuit, announced Thursday that his office will seek the death penalty against a Bluewater Bay man accused of stabbing his 3-year-old son to death.

Frederick Rudolph Franken Sr. awaits trial in the Okaloosa County Jail on the charge of 1st degree premeditated murder and/or 1st degree murder, according to a press release from Eddins’ office. He is being held without bond.

Franken was indicted by the Okaloosa Grand Jury on April 8, 2019 for the March 15 stabbing of his son in their home.

(source: nwfdailynews.com)

LOUISIANA:

Sister Helen Prejean: Holy Week should inspire Louisiana residents to end the death penalty

In the early morning of April 5, 1984, a prison vehicle brought me from the execution chamber to the front gates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where I promptly bent over in the dark and threw up. I had just witnessed a man electrocuted to death at the hands of my state. His killing was a legal act, declared so by the U.S. Supreme Court. About 80 % of Louisiana citizens supported it, and few church leaders publicly protested it.

I was soon to learn it was not that our citizens' inherent vengefulness that led to popular support for the death penalty. The truth was that in the late 1970s, violent crime was on the rise, fear was palpable, and “tough on crime” politicians misled us into thinking that some criminals were so evil that only death was a fitting punishment. And surely, with the “best system of justice in the world,” the chances of condemning an innocent seemed negligible.

Today, with 30-plus years of state executions and a whole lot of mistakes under our belts, we are beginning to see things differently. Per capita, our state has wrongfully condemned more people to death than any other state. Consider Glenn Ford, who was exonerated after almost 30 years on death row, then died one year later of lung cancer. Or ask John Thompson, who spent 18 years in prison, 14 on death row, because a prosecutor had hidden blood evidence ultimately used for Thompson’s exoneration. Or ask Manuel Ortiz, a courageous man whose innocence I believe in and whose spiritual adviser I am privileged to be, accompanying him and fighting for his release as he agonizes through 27 years in the hell hole of Louisiana’s death row.

Louisiana is not alone in its wrongful convictions. As of April 2019, 165 wrongfully convicted death row prisoners have been exonerated. When you look at the practice of the death penalty, mistakes are inevitable. Some 98 percent of people tried for capital murder are poor and cannot hire crackerjack defense lawyers, which means that the truth often does not come out at trial.

Death penalty cases are expensive to prosecute, too, because the penalty is final, and trials and appeals are complicated. Those convicted spend 19 years, on average, on death row, forcing victims’ families to endure years of appeals under a public spotlight. What if we took the millions of dollars spent on a handful of capital cases and funded support services for victims instead? Or redirected resources into educating and mentoring at-risk kids to help prevent violent crimes from happening in the first place?

As we conclude Holy Week, we have for the 3rd year bipartisan bills to repeal the death penalty before the House (HB 215) and Senate (SB 112). Louisiana has the chance to become the 1st “Deep South” state to end the death penalty. And now, for the first time, an initiative is being launched for the full force of Catholic young people across the state to join forces with their bishops through larepeal.org to turn Louisiana from a death state to a life state. As we have seen with young people from Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida seeking to end gun violence, and with the million students from 120 countries who marched to address climate change, when young people, our future, are on the move, there’s hope.

(source: Sister Helen Prejean, a Baton Rouge native and member of the Congregation of St. Joseph, is an internationally recognized opponent of the death penalty. She's authored 3 books, including "Dead Man Walking" and the forthcoming "River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey." She writes at sisterhelen.org.----The Advocate)

NEW MEXICO:

One man’s journey from death row to political advocacy

Ron Keine plans to return to the state that tried to kill him. It won’t be a vacation.

If nothing else, he will prove there can be life after death row.

But his hopes are higher. Keine, 71, will try to persuade state legislators to approve a law providing financial compensation to people who were wrongfully convicted of a crime.

He expects to receive nothing for himself. Not after all these years.

Keine and 3 other men received death sentences in the 1974 murder of a university student in Bernalillo County. The defendants were in Southern California when the crime occurred, and they could prove it.

None of that evidence mattered. In his case, appearances obliterated truth. Keine said even his own lawyer believed he was guilty.

Keine and his cohorts were members of a rough outfit, the Vagos Motorcycle Club. He said that was all it took for then-District Attorney James L. Brandenburg to assume their guilt and prosecute them for 1st-degree murder.

“The facts didn’t matter, especially for a bunch of dirty bikers,” Keine said in a phone interview from his home in suburban Detroit. “If we had been preachers, they never would have gone after us.”

Three of the bikers, Keine included, were from Michigan. The Detroit News launched its own investigation into the murder and prosecution in New Mexico. The newspaper produced extraordinary journalism that exposed every flaw in the prosecution, most notably the lies of a woman who had testified to witnessing the killing.

The News called the case “an incredible tale of perjured testimony, witness coercion and trial by community opinion.”

Then a drifter from Georgia, Kerry Rodney Lee, had a religious conversion and confessed to the murder. His admission was bolstered by ballistics evidence. A gun Lee had stolen was the weapon used in the killing. He was convicted of 2nd-degree murder.

Keine had gone from condemned man to freedom. He walked out of the old state penitentiary on a snowy day, unsure of what he would do with the rest of his life.

“When you get out of something like that, a murder case, you can’t get a job,” he said.

Keine and the other three men who were exonerated tried to sue the people who sent them to death row. Detectives and prosecutors had immunity.

The bikers successfully sued a medical examiner who had been a witness for the state. Keine said he received $2,200.

The dignity of honest work helped him to survive. He became an entrepreneur, selling rock salt door to door in Detroit.

Of the four bikers who faced the gas chamber, Keine is the only one still alive.

Another of the men, Richard “Doc” Greer, committed suicide after his exoneration and release from prison.

“I have a lot of survivor’s guilt,” Keine said. “Doc, toward the end of our time on death row, well, he lost hope.”

Keine is active in the national organization Witness to Innocence. It’s led by men who were on death row.

New Mexico repealed the death penalty in 2009, but Republican legislators tried to bring it back in 2016. Juan Melendez, a member of Witness to Innocence, provided the most compelling testimony against the bill.

Melendez spent almost 18 years on death row in Florida.

“Amigo,” he said, “I never met the man they said I killed.”

Another interest of the organization is obtaining compensation for the wrongfully convicted.

New Mexico is one of 17 states without such a law. Keine, a Republican, says he can be effective in persuading fiscal hawks that a compensation statute for exonerated convicts is good policy.

Thirty-three states have compensation laws. Some are insubstantial. Others are ignored.

For example, Keine’s home state of Michigan this year received heavy criticism for failing to make payments promised to the wrongfully convicted. They included a man who served a decade in prison for rape and now can’t find a job.

Keine says compensating the wrongfully convicted is a moral cause, just like ending the death penalty.

New Mexico paid to house, feed and terrify him on death row.

He says he will make the case that it should pay innocents who wasted years in prison.

(source: Santa Fe New Mexican)

ARIZONA:

Court overturns death sentence in 1987 execution-style Yuma murder

A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned the death sentence for Theodore Washington, the last of 3 defendants still on death row in the 1987 execution-style murder of Sterleen Hill during a “disastrously violent home invasion” in Yuma.

A divided 3-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Washington’s trial attorney failed to present evidence of his client’s “diffuse brain damage, and his history of substance abuse” and other problems that might have weighed against the death penalty.

“This raises a reasonable probability that, had the court been presented with the mitigation evidence the first instance, the outcome would have been different,” Judge Ronald Gould wrote in the opinion for the court, which ordered a new sentencing hearing for Washington.

But Judge Consuelo Callahan dissented, writing that there is “no good reason” to second-guess the trial judge in the case and adding that the only injustice “is our unwarranted interference” in the case.

Lawyers in the case did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s ruling, the most recent in years of appeals by Washington.

The case began on the night of June 8, 1987, when two men forced their way into the Yuma home of Ralph and Sterleen Hill, looking for the Hills’ daughter who had left her common-law husband and returned to her parents’ house.

The Hills were bound and forced to lie face down on their bedroom floor while the men ransacked the house, demanding drugs or money and intermittently twisting a pistol into Ralph Hill’s ear, according to court documents. At some point, the men shot Ralph Hill in the back of the head with a shotgun, reloaded and then shot Sterleen execution-style.

She died but Ralph Hill survived with serious wounds.

Fred Robinson, Susan Hill’s common-law husband, was arrested shortly after the attack and Washington and Jimmy Mathers were arrested soon thereafter. Each of the men was charged with six counts, including murder, attempted murder, assault, burglary and armed robbery.

The three were tried together in December 1987, all 3 were convicted on 6 counts and all were sentenced in January 1988 to death row.

The Arizona Supreme Court vacated Mathers’ conviction for insufficient evidence, but upheld Washington and Robison’s convictions. The two appealed but had their convictions and sentences upheld by Superior Court Judge Stewart Bradshaw, the same judge who presided at their trials and sentencing.

In a subsequent appeal, however, the 9th Circuit vacated Robinson’s death sentence, agreeing with his argument that his trial attorney had utterly failed to mount a defense in the sentencing phase of his trial.

Gould said the ruling in Robinson’s case cast a “long shadow” over Washington, who made a similar argument – among others – on his latest appeal.

Washington said that had his attorney properly investigated his past, it would have shown that he suffered daily whippings as a child, was sedated with alcohol and later became an alcoholic, had a cocaine problem and a low IQ – all of which could have argued against the death penalty.

“The record here amply demonstrates that (defense attorney Robert) Clarke’s representation of Washington at the penalty phase was objectively unreasonable and deficient,” Gould wrote.

Gould said Bradshaw “committed precisely the same error” with Washington as he did in Robinson’s case, and that there was a good chance he would have ruled differently if he had all the facts about Washington’s past.

The court sent the case back with orders for a new sentencing hearing or, if not, for the state to change Washington’s sentence to life in prison.

But Callahan said that Bradshaw did have the evidence he needed and was in the best position to rule.

“There is no good reason for us to dismiss Judge Bradshaw’s conclusion from our lofty perch 25 years later,” Callahan wrote. She said Washington’s claim of an ineffective defense “presents no basis for vacating his sentence.”

Callahan also said there is “a temptation to bend the governing legal standards” to “equalize the outcomes,” because Mathers had his conviction overturned and Robinson had his death sentence vacated.

“However enticing the impulse, that is not our role,” she said. “Ours is the duty to apply the law to determine whether Washington has met his high burden of showing a constitutional violation that deprived him of a fair trial.

“He has not,” Callahan said.

Theodore Washington was the only one of three men still on Arizona’s death row in connection with the 1987 execution-style murder of Sterleen Hill in a Yuma home-invasion robbery. (source: Tucson Sentinel)

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

Capital Case Oversight Committee Meets To Review Arizona Death Penalty Case Load

A committee that reviews death penalty cases in Arizona met in Phoenix on Thursday to recommend future policy changes for the State Bar of Arizona and the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Capital Case Oversight Committee was established by the state Supreme Court in 2007, “to study and recommend measures to facilitate capital case reduction efforts, make recommendations for adequate notice to the Supreme Court to assist the Court in making the necessary modifications to its staffing levels and judicial assignments to ensure the timely processing of appeals, and develop recommendations for any formal policies deemed necessary,” according to the Arizona Judicial Branch website.

Retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Ronald Reinstein chairs the committee, which is made up of various stakeholders, including judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors.

“When Andrew Thomas was the county attorney, the cases ballooned to 143 pending cases in Maricopa County,” Reinstein said. “It was taking up almost all the resources of the criminal bench in Maricopa County, so the Chief Justice formed a Capital Case Task Force.”

That task force would then create the review committee which continues to meet and provide review and guidance.

“Death is supposed to be different,” Reinstein said, “as opposed to just filing, you know, cases without considering what the ramifications are.”

The committee tracks capital case loads in each county as well as the verdicts for the cases.

Reinstein says since the committee began tracking numbers, it has found about 16 % of death notices filed in Maricopa County resulted in the death penalty.

He believes this realization, as well as the costly nature of pursuing the death penalty, has led to an overall decline in capital cases being filed.

“Once you file that death notice is triggers the appointment of 2 counsel for the defense — an investigator, a paralegal, mitigation specialists, expert witnesses and the like,” he said.

“Prosecutors in particular see the results,” Reinstein said. “It causes them to really take a look as to what warrants a notice of intention to seek the death penalty.”

Representatives told the committee there are currently 48 capital cases pending in Maricopa County.

Reinstein says the next items on its agenda will be to form a work group to make recommendations to the state bar on revised jury instructions in capital cases. It also will make recommendations to the Supreme Court on judicial training in the jury selection process.

(source: KJZZ news)

NEVADA:

Nevada Democrats fail to move forward on death penalty ban

Opponents of capital punishment began the Nevada legislative session bolstered by the governor's general disapproval of the death penalty.

But 2 bills that would have banned the punishment didn't receive hearings and failed last week due a legislative deadline.

Political observers say Democratic leadership wanted to avoid a divisive debate this session over the death penalty -- an issue they say moderate Democrats have a hard time fully embracing in the state with a history of law-and-order politics.

"There's this symbolic belief that the death penalty gives us justice," said Eric Herzik, a political science professor the University of Nevada, Reno.

Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College, said Democratic leadership is trying to steer away from certain issues that could serve as a rallying cry for Republicans in the 2020 election.

Democrats don't want to move too far to the left and risk losing control of the Legislature, he said.

"The death penalty is probably a far better topic for 2021," Lokken said.

The state has not carried out an execution since 2006 and some supporters have acknowledged a lack of urgency to deal with the issue.

Scott Coffee, a veteran deputy public defender in Clark County, said it has the highest rate of pending capital punishment cases of any metropolitan area in the nation. He argued that the two stalled bills were the best chances in decades to end the punishment in Nevada.

It "wasn't a priority for the Democratic leadership," he said.

Supporters of a ban argue that capital punishment cases are costly. A state audit found such cases cost about $532,000 more than other murder cases. It says those cases cost more due to procedural safeguards that seek error-free sentences.

State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, a Democrat, pointed to other criminal justice reforms efforts when asked if a death penalty debate was too great of a political battle for the Democrats to take on.

"I think we're really trying to focus on some of the criminal justice reform ideas that I think really can help improve the system for very real problems that are happening right now," she said.

Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager, who leads the Assembly judiciary committee, said the panel did not have enough time to conduct a lengthy hearing on the death penalty. He said the situation could have been different if the Senate had passed a measure.

Helen Kalla, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said the governor is personally opposed to the death penalty except in extreme circumstances. But Nevada law does not give the governor unilateral authority to commute a death sentence, she said.

Democratic Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, a Las Vegas defense attorney who has represented death row inmates, sponsored that chamber's bill banning the death penalty. He said he is baffled that lawmakers did not consider the legislation.

"We spend millions of dollars defending these people and the state pays for it," he said.

(source: Associated Press)

WASHINGTON:

Abolition of death penalty won’t happen in 2019. House Democrats cite other priorities----The Washington State Supreme Court said Thursday that the death penalty is unconstitutional, because it is “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.” The ruling was part of a 1996 Tacoma case, in which the murderer was sentenced to death

A bill to eliminate the death penalty from Washington’s statutes won’t reach the governor’s desk to become law this year.

The Senate passed a death-penalty abolition bill on Feb. 15 by a 28-19 margin, but the House did not vote on it by Wednesday’s deadline for non-budget bills to pass from the opposite chamber.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who requested that legislators pass the bill, said Thursday the House had enough votes for approval.

“Simply put, the votes are there. We provided House leadership with a bipartisan list of 54 members committed to voting to abolish Washington’s death penalty. There’s no other way to put it — I’m extremely disappointed,” said Ferguson, a Democrat who is exploring a possible run for governor if Jay Inslee does not seek a 3rd term.

Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, said the bill did have “considerable support” in the Democratic-controlled chamber,” but she noted that the “death penalty is illegal at this time” and holding off until next year to vote didn’t involve any risk.

She said House Democratic leaders had to set priorities. Those included passing bills so that individuals no longer will receive life prison sentences for second-degree robbery under the “three strikes” law and parents can sue for the wrongful death of their adult children.

“These have an impact immediately in the next year on people’s lives,” said Stonier, the Majority Floor Leader.

Sen. Reuven Carlyle, the Seattle Democrat who was the lead sponsor of SB 5339, said 54 was the minimum number of House members who would have voted yes on the bill. He blamed House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, for not bringing it to a vote by Wednesday’s deadline. The bill also died in the House last year after the Senate approved it.

“This decision rests squarely and unequivocally on the desk of the Speaker. It’s his choice, his decision, and his silence has been deafening,” Carlyle said.

Stonier said House Democratic leaders make many decisions on which bills to bring to the floor as a team, and “some of them, I think, the Speaker makes in his position.”

“As Floor Leader, I can tell you if I had run that bill as much as I really would have liked to and as much as I advocated and pushed to find ways to do it, some other priorities may not have made it off the floor this year,” she said.

The state Supreme Court last year struck down the death penalty law because it was imposed in an “arbitrary and racially biased manner.” The high court stressed that the law — not the death penalty itself — was unconstitutional. The ruling left open the possibility that the Legislature might enact a “carefully drafted” statute to impose capital punishment in this state, but it cannot create a system that offends constitutional rights, Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst wrote.

Carlyle’s bill was intended to slam the door shut on that possibility.

The bill would have codified the Supreme Court’s decision and current practice, which is to sentence those convicted of aggravated first-degree murder to life in prison without the possibility of release or parole. If the measure had become law, legislators also wouldn’t have been able to amend the death penalty statute. Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley, tried to do that earlier this year, but his bill never got out of committee.

The last execution in Washington state was in 2010 when the state used lethal injection to put Cal Brown to death for the 1991 murder of a Seattle woman. In 2014, Inslee declared a moratorium on capital punishment. The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate are opposed to the death penalty.

When the House Public Safety Committee approved the death penalty bill on April 1, Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said lawmakers needed to remove any “uncertainty” about the death penalty’s legal status.

“I do believe that the Legislature should have the last word on this matter, because the Legislature is vested solely with the authority to establish sentences for crimes. My position is that the death penalty should not be an option,” said Goodman, who is the committee chairman.

Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, was among the GOP members who voted against the death penalty bill in committee. Graham took the oath of office in January on the Bible of her sister, Debra, who was murdered by the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway.

“If not for the death penalty, Washington state would not have ever gotten the answers surrounding the most prolific serial killer case in U.S. history. That is an inarguable fact. I take offense to some people saying the death penalty doesn’t work,” she said.

An aide said Graham was unavailable for comment Thursday.

In a Feb. 23 op-ed in The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, Graham wrote that in order to avoid the death penalty, Ridgway agreed in a plea deal with the King County prosecutor to disclose the locations of many of his victims who were missing.

“Victims’ families were finally able to give their loved ones a proper burial,” Graham wrote.

20 states and the District of Columbia do not have the death penalty, either by legislative action or court decision, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit group. It’s unclear how many of those 21 jurisdictions without the death penalty also have the law still on their books like Washington.

Carlyle said he expects the bill will pass next year if there’s a new House speaker. Chopp, the state’s longest-serving speaker, announced last year he would step down from his leadership position after this year’s legislative session but would remain a House member.

(source: thenewstribune.com)

GLOBAL:

The death penalty? Kill it off, around the world

Newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing is the latest high-profile example of a sovereign meting out extreme justice and capital punishment. CIA analysts concluded that Khashoggi was brutally killed last October inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

And, shockingly, it was legal.

One reason the Saudis have not faced international retribution in the courts or official diplomatic blowback for the killing is simple: Death is a legal form of punishment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Like it or not, the sentence was handed down, perhaps by Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, and the cruel execution was conducted within the consulate and on what is arguably Saudi Arabia’s diplomatically sovereign territory.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan argues that the murder was committed on territory that is physically and geographically in Turkey, a NATO ally that gave up its own death penalty in a 2004 bid to join the European Union. But the reality is that Erdogan will respect the conventional inviolability of a foreign embassy and consulate in a centuries-old tradition that gives safe passage and protection to diplomatic missions. To act otherwise would be to breach not only diplomatic protocol — it would also put at risk the protections of Turkey’s own diplomatic missions overseas.

Instead of seeking to overturn a generally accepted and mostly desirable practice afforded to foreign missions, there is really only one way to make future Khashoggi-type killings infrequent and universally unacceptable: Outlaw capital punishment.

Make it illegal now. Here, there and everywhere.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is now in the national spotlight for using his powers to call for a death penalty moratorium. (Disclosure: My wife is California’s lieutenant governor and opposes capital punishment.)

In 2016, a little over 1/2 of California voters decided to keep capital punishment. That referendum focused on the enormous moral, judicial and penal costs of capital punishment. Newsom sees his recent election as a popular affirmation of his strong and highly personal opposition to the death penalty.

I have long argued against capital punishment on national-security grounds. Some of the most heinous criminals residing overseas never get extradited to the United States for punishment unless America is willing to cut a deal and spare these extreme criminals from the ultimate punishment. And it’s not just murderous terrorists who escape extradition. Edward Snowden remains out of reach, and it may keep Julian Assange off U.S. soil.

Most recently, it was El Chapo who got immunity from the death penalty. In contrast, 737 individuals on California’s death row received no such deal by dint of getting caught for their horrific crimes within United States. This 2-tier system of justice is bad enough. For criminals, the lesson is simple: If you plan on hurting Americans, do it overseas.

It’s not just geography that defines legal differences. It’s the crimes themselves. What’s legal in one place is punishable by death in another. Florida’s rules are not the same as Saudi Arabia’s. In some countries, political dissent or being gay is punishable by death.

As a result, differences in legal norms and reasonable punishment cause diplomatic tension. It puts stress on relations between allies and strategically friendly nations. In America, it created absurd conditions for President Trump, who had to contort American policy and stretch to justify the inhumanity of Khashoggi’s death.

Only one approach can harmonize global legal policies, stop cavalier killing and make the consequences of such actions palpable and universally accepted. Outlaw the death penalty. Everywhere. Not just in California and around the United States, but in capitals around the world.

The good news is that the medieval practice is commonplace in only a few nations outside the United States: Iran, China, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Saudi Arabia for example. Clearly, this is not the best company for the United States to keep.

Abolishing the death penalty globally would allow countries to join together in a common cause that does not threaten their sovereignty, but, rather, reinforces their global responsibility, shared humanity and respectable membership in a civilized community of nations.

It won’t even require a massive legal movement or shift in policy. All these nations have already signed onto the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which rejects capital punishment.

From a policy perspective, Trump has already recognized the unfairness of an unbalanced American justice system. That’s why he has commuted sentences and signed an important criminal justice bill. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, in his current role, can also apply sovereign mercy on a case-by-case basis today.

An accepted and internationally recognized reversal of the world’s death penalties would be a sane and civil approach for nations and leaders who no longer want to get caught up either in the direct appeals for clemency or the multilateral diplomatic challenges of trying to explain — or explain away — their out-of-step stance.

It’s time to kill the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; Markos Kounalakis reported in several countries with capricious laws and corporal punishments. He is now safely working as visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution----miamiherald.com)

NIGERIA:

Man remanded for allegedly stabbing father to death

An Ebute Meta Magistrates’ Court in Lagos on Thursday ordered the remand in prison of a 23-year-old man, Rasheed Shitta, for allegedly stabbing his father to death, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

The Magistrate, Mrs Adeola Adedayo, remanded Shitta in Ikoyi Prisons and ordered that the case file should be sent to the Lagos State Director of Public Prosecutions for advice.

Adedayo adjourned the case until April 24.

Shitta, who resides at No. 23, Dada St., Majidun in Ikorodu, near Lagos, is facing a charge of murder.

His plea was not taken.

Earlier, the Prosecutor, Insp. Chinalu Uwadione, told the court that Shitta committed the offence on April 14 at 1.00 a.m. at Oriokuta, Imota community in Ikorodu.

Uwadione said that the defendant stabbed his father, Muda Shitta, 73, to death with a knife while he was asleep.

According to the prosecutor, the offence contravenes the provisions of Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

Section 223 stipulates death penalty for offenders.

(source: pmnewsnigeria.com)

PAKISTAN:

Capital punishment: legal experts divided over government’s decision

Legal experts are divided over the government's decision to convert capital punishment into life imprisonment to facilitate extradition of Pakistani nationals living abroad, particularly in European countries, and facing serious charges in Pakistan.

Talking to Business Recorder on telephone, senior Supreme Court lawyer Wasim Sajjad said that it would be a step forward in the right direction as majority of European countries do not extradite those facing cases in their countries fearing they may face the death sentence.

"If the government waives the condition of capital punishment, it will succeed in extraditing those who have taken asylum abroad, especially in European countries," he added.

Kamran Murtaza, vice chairman Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) said that the government can not decide on behalf of those aggrieved as there are issues of 'qisas and diyat' in murder cases.

"How can you abolish the death penalty if someone is awarded death sentence and their relatives refuse blood money," he questioned. He further stated that the proposed amendment will be challenged in the court as there are legal complications which may be struck down by the superior judiciary.

The Federal Cabinet has accorded its approval to amend Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for the extradition of Pakistani citizens living abroad, especially in European Countries, and wanted in Pakistan.

Briefing the media in Islamabad following a meeting of the Federal Cabinet, the Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the legislation would facilitate the extradition of people like Altaf Hussain, Ishaq Dar, Hussain Nawaz, and Hassan Nawaz, the sons of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

(source: Business Recorder)

BANGLADESH:

5 to die for rape, murder

A Chapainawabganj court yesterday awarded 5 men with death penalty for raping and killing a girl in 2015.

The convicts are Nayan Karmokar Rabidas, 28, Proshanto Rabidas, 22, Nitai Chandra Rabidas, 25, Subhash Das, 42, and Proshanto Rabidas, 24, all hailing from the same district.

Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal-2 Judge Shawkat Ali handed down the verdict after examining records and hearing 14 witnesses.

The court also fined Tk 1 lakh to each of the convicts.

On June 14, 2015, police recovered the body of 20-year-old Ayesha Khatun from a ditch in Maharajpur area of the district’s Sadar upazila. After an autopsy was conducted on the body, the law enforcers found out that the girl was raped before being killed.

On August 15 of the same year, Shamim Aktar, sub-inspector of Sadar Police Station, filed a case against unnamed people, following which Inspector Sarwar Rahaman of the same station pressed charges against eight people on December 14 in the same year.

According to the charge sheet, Nayan developed a relation with Ayesha over the time. On June 13, 2015, he called the girl and raped her with others at night.

Later, they strangled her and dumped the body at the ditch, the charge sheet added.

(source: The Daily Star)

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

5 get death for murder of Bogura farmer

5 men have been sentenced to death for the murder of farmer Yasin Ali in Bogura almost 13 years ago.

District and Sessions Judge Naresh Chandra Sarkar passed the verdict on Thursday.

4 others were also sentenced to prison for different terms.

The recipients of the capital punishment are Ismail Hossain, his 2 sons Mamun and Zulfikar, his brother

Abdur Rahim and Sirajul Islam. They have also been fined Tk 20,000 each.

A total of 19 people were tried in the case but 10 were acquitted after the charges against them could not be proved.

According to the case dossier, Bahadurpur village resident Yasin Ali, 64, started a case against 9 people on Jun 3, 2006 after Tk 80,000 was stolen from the funds of a cooperative association in the village.

The suspects in the case were arrested but were subsequently released on bail. They later set out to attack and vandalise Yasin Ali’s home. But when Yasin attempted to stop them, he was beaten to death by the assailants.

Yasin’s wife Anwara Begum initiated a murder case with the Gabtoli Police later that same day. SI Sanwar Hossain later submitted a charge sheet against 19 suspects following an investigation.

After a prolonged hearing, the court on Thursday returned a guilty verdict against 9 of the accused in the case.

(source: bdnews24.com)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Death penalty for 8 men over spate of armed robberies in Sharjah----The suspects were caught after 3 raids in which about Dh1.8 million was stolen

Eight men have been sentenced to death over a spate of armed robberies in Sharjah in which security van guards were attacked and Dh1.8 million stolen.

The men - all Nigerian nationals - were convicted of armed robbery, physical assault and forcefully obtaining money by Sharjah Criminal Court on Wednesday.

The cash was stolen in 3 raids on vans transporting cash boxes in December 2016. The men were arrested in early January 2017.

The court heard some of men admitted the charges, while others denied them, at an earlier hearing.

At the time, Sharjah Police said about 20 suspects were initially held over the raids outside ATM machines.

The 1st raid took place at a Dubai Commercial Bank ATM on King Abdul Aziz Street where about Dh340,000 was stolen.

2 days later the gang attacked security guards near an ATM in Al Safeer Mall in Al Nahda and made off with about Dh700,000. A 3rd attack on a van near a cash machine in the Muweilah area led to Dh710,000 being taken.

A 4th attack at a money exchange office on Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road, near National Paints on the Dubai-Sharjah border, was thwarted by police.

The men fought with police, injuring 2 officers, as they were taken into custody, Sharjah Police's Colonel Aref Al Bayat told reporters at the time.

Police said some of the money was recovered and some lost, without specifying figures.

“Officers found drugs in the apartment, which was shared with about 40 people from the same nationality,” he said.

A 9th suspect was sentenced to six months in prison on Wednesday, to be followed by deportation for possessing stolen money.

He told the court he was not aware the money was stolen. He said the brother of one of his fellow defendants phoned him from Nigeria and asked him to take Dh60,000 and transfer it to him.

The case was the latest in a spate of armed robberies.

In February, 9 men, also all Nigerians, were sentenced to a total of 18 years for a raid on a cash transit vehicle in Dubai.

And last month, 2 men were arrested over an armed robbery on a supermarket in Sharjah.

Dramatic CCTV footage showed the men wielding cleavers and lashing out at security guards, who tackled them. The men are in custody awaiting trial.

(source: thenantional.ae)

PHILIPPINES:

In search for true justice: Death penalty is a false solution----The passion of Christ vivified nothing less than the destruction of the scales of justice if only to tilt in favor of the selfish desires of the wicked

Once again our predominantly Catholic country will observe Holy Week as the culmination to the 40-day Lent. It is during this time of the year when we pause and reflect over the pixels of our lives, and remember how “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

This Holy Week we recall the story of an innocent man who came to the world as Savior – who healed and brought to life the sick and the dead, who exposed the corruption and lavish lives kept hidden inside temples, and who sympathized with tax collectors and prostitutes because in the eyes of God we are all His children, but who was in turn crowned with thorns and scourged mercilessly, who carried the very cross he was sentenced to die on.

The passion of Christ vivified nothing less than the destruction of the scales of justice if only to tilt in favor of the selfish desires of the wicked. It epitomizes everything that is wrong in a system that permits the taking of a life under a set-up that is neither perfect nor error-free.

Capital punishment, popularly known as “death penalty,” can be defined as a state-sanctioned act of executing a person sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense. The history of the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines shows a volte-face attitude that clearly depicts the divided opinion and reception of our people towards the purpose, aptness and effectivity of the punishment.

President Rodrigo Duterte rose to fame for his rather simplistic style of governance; relying mostly on threats of brute force and actual violence to get his way. His presidential campaign leaned heavily on both the promises of ridding the country of drugs with a violent campaign, through which he promised that he will “kill all the druglords,” and of the restoration of death penalty to deter crimes. But is death penalty as golden as the promise?

Senate support

Senator Panfilo Lacson recently made a pitch to reimpose capital punishment in an effort to discourage drug cartels operating in the country. “We should also open our eyes to the reality. They will make this country a playground for drug lords because they play with impunity and it’s profitable for them,” he said.

The campaign in the Senate to restore death penalty is currently led by Senate President Vicente Sotto, III and Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao.

SP Sotto admitted that a majority of senators do not support the death penalty. He said he, Sen. Lacson and Sen. Pacquiao are working to convince their fellow senators to support the death penalty measure, at least for high-level drug trafficking and other heinous crimes.

The poor as victims

From historical experience and in-depth studies we realize how imperfect and inadequate our justice system is. Socio-economic realities have skewed the implementation of the law against the poor and the marginalized. Police raids and warrantless arrests are an everyday occurrence for our countrymen in the slum areas who are lucky enough to make it out alive. At the same time, the same police force approach the gated communities with respect and full accord of their rights.

Equal Justice Initiative founder and Executive Director Bryan Stevenson argues that, “Our justice system treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent."

This observation is even more pronounced in the Philippines with our increasing levels of social and material inequality. Here, our detention facilities and penal institutions are overflowing with detainees and offenders belonging mostly to the lower socioeconomic classes. For instance, in a 2004 study, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) surveyed a total of 890 death row inmates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa and Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong and discovered that the profile of the then death row was reflective of the Filipino poor: largely uneducated, mostly underemployed and generally inhabiting hovels and shanties.

Such an uneven system of administering justice leads to the erosion of our faith in the law and the legal system.

Death penalty: the cure or the poison?

In incidents of terrorism, rape, and other heinous crimes where victims are horrendously and helplessly slain or notoriously dishonored, the knee-jerk response of traditional politicians is to propose to make the punishment so severe as to create an illusion of justice. Under immense pressure to appease the angry mob and ease the outrage of the public for retribution, many legislators pin the blame on the absence of the death penalty as the cause of heinous crimes. They would argue that if there is a threat of capital punishment, the offenders would not dare commit such depraved acts.

On the contrary, there is no empirical evidence that death penalty curbs crime. In fact, global trend is towards its abolition. Amnesty International reported in 2018 that 121 of the UN’s 193 member states voted on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. When the UN was founded in 1945 only 8 of the then 51 UN member states had abolished the death penalty. Today, 103 of 193 member states have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and 139 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Our focus should be to ensure that our justice system punishes the true offenders, while our government address the social injustice that breeds or encourages criminal or anti-social behavior.

This trend is brought about by various studies proving that there is no empirical evidence that death penalty deters crime in any part of the world. In fact, leading criminologists Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock (2009) presented the consensus among criminologists that the death penalty does not add any significant deterrent effect in lowering homicide rates compared to long-term imprisonment.

The Ministry of Home Affairs says the survey is part of the government's 'regular research on our criminal justice system' and involves citizens and permanent residents Malaysia to abolish death penalty – minister

The Malaysian government has decided to scrap capital punishment because there has been strong domestic opposition to the practice

Roque says no to death penalty in drug crimes

Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque contradicts the Duterte administration on death penalty for drug-related crimes

This can be confirmed by another local study conducted by FLAG, in 2004, which revealed that majority of 1,121 death row inmates knew about death penalty before they even committed their offenses. Despite this, the study also uncovered that more than half of them, did not know that the crimes they were charged of were subject to capital punishment. This obliviousness may even be caused by poverty and lack of education, which are indicators that the poor are the only ones targeted by this measure.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, who used to chair the Senate committee on justice and human rights, shared that during their hearing on the measure suspending the imposition of death penalty, it was revealed that despite 7 death penalty executions undertaken under the Estrada administration from 1998 to 1999, the crime rate further increased by 15.3%.

The certainty and swiftness of punishment is more effective than tougher sentences. An ineffective system of implementing the law provides criminal elements an opportunity to avoid punishment making the nature of the penalty immaterial. Our focus should be to ensure that our justice system punishes the true offenders, while our government address the social injustice that breeds or encourages criminal or anti-social behavior.

Flawed and decaying criminal justice system and its irreversibility

The Supreme Court in the case of People vs. Mateo (2004) admitted that a considerable majority of the trial courts had wrongfully imposed the death penalty during the time it was sanctioned as a sentencing option from 1993 to 2004. In the said case, the SC said that for 11 years from 1993 to June 2004, 907 out of 1,493 cases were submitted to the Supreme Court for judicial review. Of this number, the death penalty was only affirmed in 230 cases or 25.36 % of the cases for review. More than half (53.25%), or 483 death penalty cases, were reduced to reclusion perpetua, while 65 were acquitted. A shocking declaration of the Supreme Court revealed a judicial error of 71.77% that time saving 651 out of 907 appellants from death. It was a clear "miscarriage of justice," as described by then Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.

This phenomenon of judicial error even discounts the poison that is corruption – so potent is its powers that it does not only bedevil ordinary agencies of government, but has reached even the hallowed halls of our courts.

To compound this problem would be the irreversible nature of the capital punishment. All too often we have seen convictions reversed years later after pieces of evidence have surfaced that would exonerate the accused.

Our current policy and international commitment on death penalty

The 1987 Constitution prohibits the imposition the death penalty save “for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes” as may be provided for by Congress. Death penalty was reintroduced in our county in 1993 but was prohibited again in 2006.

To solidify our commitment against death penalty, we even acceded to the International Treaty on the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in November 2007. This requires all state parties, the Philippines included, to "take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction."

Death penalty as a weapon of repression

The death penalty has historically been used as a weapon to suppress dissent and oppress the political opposition. The practice even pre-dates the most infamous of death penalty sentences ever carried out. Four centuries before Jesus Christ was sentenced to die on the cross, the philosopher Socrates was sentenced to die based on charges apparently arising from his act of asking politico-philosophic questions of his student, but were, in reality, motivated by suspicions regarding his political affiliations and his vocal criticism of Athens’ political system and prominent citizens.

Just recently, we have seen the zeal of our law enforcers to implement arrest warrants for petty cases against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, while going easy against Imelda Marcos and Nur Misuari for graft and rebellion cases, respectively. We have seen how the law is used to silence witnesses against criminal wrongdoings of the administration allies without making any sincere effort to investigate the allegations.

If the death penalty were reinstated, it would be a taxpayer-funded machinery for political assassination. Freedom to speak and to dissent would die, and with it our democracy.

In fact, one need not look further than this author’s experience to see the disparity between how this administration treats persons who are guilty of nothing more than being vocal critics of its acts, omissions and policies, versus how it treats its allies who are guilty of the most heinous of offenses. I have now been under detention for 779 days already, based on trumped up charges that are supported by no corpus delicti, but relies chiefly on the perjured and self-serving testimonies of self-confessed drug lords. And yet, these self-confessed drug lords, save for one, were not charged at all for their undisputed participation in the drug trade. I, an innocent political opponent, is behind bars, while the real drug lords have gotten away with their crimes.

If the death penalty were reinstated, it would be a taxpayer-funded machinery for political assassination. Freedom to speak and to dissent would die, and with it our democracy.

Death penalty is an outdated way of addressing criminality

Putting criminals to death as a form of punishment has existed in the earliest of human civilizations. It may seem inherently logical to human beings to reason that a person who takes the life of another should also be killed. A life for a life. For many, this is justice. However, in light of the many researches and studies in the administration of criminal justice, given the imperative for a more humane understanding of and approach to the root causes of poverty and criminality, the time has come for us to confront and re-examine the timeless questions surrounding the imposition of death penalty.

The complex problem of criminality in the Philippines calls for an urgent but strategic response. If we believe that death is the answer to curbing criminality and exacting the highest possible price for committing a crime is indeed right and just – with thousands of deaths under the so-called war on drugs of the Duterte administration – why is crime and corruption still rampant in the Philippines?

Politicians will try to pander with tough talks and promises of harsh punishment against criminals. However, they are all cheap and meaningless if they do not translate to actual arrests, prosecutions and convictions.

Criminality is a more complex and nuanced matter than politicians will care to admit. The reinstatement of the death penalty – and equating death with justice – is a patently fallacious and iniquitous way of going about it.

The problem requires a multi-dimensional and multi-level approach considering how aggravating and aggravated the situation is. Our justice system is weak and the poor are even more enfeebled as studies have repeatedly shown that an empty threat of death is never the answer. Over and above legislating for death penalty, our Congress should be pushing for bills on prosecution and judicial reforms that would make our justice system more effective and efficient.

An honest-to-goodness administration of justice bests any legislation increasing penalty on crimes; and a sincere governance that would raise the quality of life of our people would keep them from a life of evil. The Bible says in Zechariah 7:9, “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.’” – Rappler.com

(source: Opinion; Senator Leila de Lima, a fierce Duterte critic, has been detained in a facility at the Philippine National Police headquarters for more than 2 years over what she calls trumped-up drug charges. She is a former justice secretary and chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights----rappler.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Drug trafficking and the Saudi sword

Following the execution of one Kudirat Afolabi, a Nigerian woman, by the Saudi Arabian authorities earlier this month for drug trafficking, reports emerged that eight Nigerians have already been executed in the Kingdom (probably in this year alone), while 23 others are currently on death row.

The federal government has come under renewed criticism for allegedly not doing enough to save Nigerians facing execution in Saudi Arabia, for drug trafficking and other crimes that attract capital punishment in the Kingdom.

It’s important to point out that capital punishment for drug trafficking was introduced in Saudi Arabia in 1986 when the then King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud wrote to the Hait-Kibarul Ulama i.e. Council of Senior Scholars in the Kingdom under its then Chairman, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah bin Baaz, seeking juristic thoughts on the appropriate judicial punishment for drug trafficking in view of the extremely destructive impacts of drugs on individuals and communities, as well as the sheer magnitude of the threat posed by drug trafficking to the Kingdom’s socio-economic well-being and political stability.

After sessions of thorough deliberations in light of relevant Shari’a jurisprudential principles on the bases of relevant Qur’anic and Sunnatic texts especially the Qur’anic verse 33 of Suratul-Ma’idah, the Council recommended the introduction of capital punishment as the appropriate judicial punishment for drug trafficking, and to serve as a maximum deterrent to other would-be Kingdom-bound drug traffickers.

By the way, the Council had obviously deliberated in the context of Ta’azir, a Shari’a judicial principle that allows eminent Muslim jurists to recommend punishments they deem appropriate for crimes not specifically addressed in the Qur’an or authentic Sunnah.

Anyway, it’s equally important to note that the process leading to the execution of a convicted drug trafficker in the Kingdom is exhaustive, contrary to what some people apparently assume. On average, the period between the arrest and execution of a convicted drug trafficker ranges between a year and a couple of years of investigations and trials.

A drug trafficking suspect in the Kingdom is always tried, at first, before a 3-judge open court where he is provided with a translator if he can’t understand Arabic, and free defence lawyer services. The proceedings are held in as many court sessions as necessary leading to either his conviction or immediate acquittal, depending on the prosecution and defence evidence presented to the court.

Also, even if found guilty, the case file is automatically transferred to a 5-judge court of appeal where the guilty verdict issued by the first court will be thoroughly scrutinized to uphold or quash it, depending on the judges’ findings.

Likewise, even if the court of appeal upholds the verdict, the case file is again automatically transferred to the five-judge Supreme Court of the Kingdom in Riyadh where the guilty verdict of the 2 previous courts will equally be exhaustively reviewed to uphold or quash, depending on its findings.

Though the Supreme Court decision is final, yet even if it upholds the guilty verdict, the case file is still automatically transferred to the King who will be briefed by his legal advisers before he issues a Royal Decree giving the go-ahead to carry out the execution. Also, the country of a non-Saudi convict is always duly informed through its embassy in Riyadh or consulate in Jeddah, before executing him.

In short, typically a person convicted of drug trafficking in the Kingdom has been tried by 13 judges at 3 courts of different hierarchical jurisdictions. A convict is usually only informed of his imminent execution on the morning of his last day on earth.

I have witnessed a few public executions in Riyadh and Makkah. A typical public execution takes place in a mosque yard. Amid tight security, the convict is brought out from a prison van and led gently into the centre of the yard, handcuffed, leg-chained and blindfolded. He is made to kneel down. The executioner examines the convict’s kneeling posture and the balance of his head, apparently to ensure that he hits the right spot on the back of his neck. He (executioner) then takes a few steps back, draws his sword out of its sheath, moves closer to the convict with his glittering bare sword, and cuts off the convict’s head with one strong and swift strike.

Of course, the scene is so gory that even some of the policemen around can’t stand watching; they turn their backs shortly before the execution. Anyway, a prepared short announcement from a nearby public address van follows giving a summary of what the executed person had committed and the judicial process that led to his execution. Afterwards, the body and the head are loaded onto a mortuary van while a vacuum truck comes in to wash off the blood as the spectators disperse.

Obviously with the sheer amount of warnings continuously flowing around that drug trafficking attracts capital punishment in Saudi Arabia, and that the punishment is indeed carried out, the insistence of Saudi-bound drug traffickers to carry on anyway is the height of recklessness.

Now, while the federal government should improve its anti-drug trafficking measures, it’s equally important to tackle the crimes being perpetrated by some particularly callous drug traffickers said to be operating at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), where they take advantage of some unsuspecting Saudi-bound Umrah or Hajj travellers to plant drugs in their luggage hoping they wouldn’t attract exhaustive scrutiny at the Saudi airports in view of their unassuming appearance and apparent innocence. Though a few victims have been saved from the Saudi sword, thanks partly to the efforts of the Nigerian Consulate-General in Jeddah, others are still out there languishing in the misery of fear and constant uncertainty.

(source: dailytrust.com.ng)

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

Saudi yet to free hundreds of Indian prisoners

The confirmation comes weeks after the Kingdom executed 2 Indians accused of murder

Saudi Arabia is yet to free hundreds of Indian prisoners languishing in its jails, sources said on Thursday. The confirmation came weeks after the Kingdom executed 2 Indians accused of murder.

“The Kingdom is in the midst of a process and after its completion, a royal decree will be issued that will set the Indian prisoners free,” said a source.

The decision to free a part of the Indians in Saudi jails was conveyed to New Delhi during the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in February. At the end of the visit, the dignitary had taken a decision to free 850 Indians in Saudi prisons. However, within days, the 2 men from Punjab were given the capital punishment, an RTI inquiry has revealed.

Saudi Arabia had announced a similar move of amnesty for Pakistani prisoners serving sentences in the Kingdom.

Riyadh executed Satwinder Kumar of Hoshiarpur and Harjeet Singh of Ludhiana, accused of murdering a fellow Indian.

Sources said the Indian embassy was allowed consular access to the men though the Saudis did not keep the Indian side informed of all the decisions regarding the case. The beheadings have drawn strong response from Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who termed them “barbaric” and accused the government of inadequate response.

(source: thehindu.com)

IRAN----executions

3 Men Hanged at Ilam Prison

3 prisoners were executed for murder charges at Iranian western city of Ilam’s Central Prison yesterday.

According to Rokna, on the morning of Thursday, April 18, 3 prisoners were executed at Ilam prison. All were sentenced to death for murder charges. More details have not been revealed by Iranian authorities or media so far.

According to the Iran Human Rights statistic department, the majority of executions in 2017 and 2018 in Iran was for murder charges. At least 188 prisoners were executed for murder charges in 2018. Only 33% of executions were announced by Iranian authorities in 2018.

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 Zanjan Prison

A prisoner was hanged for murder charges at Zanjan prison last Tuesday.

According to IHR sources, Hedayat Mehrabi, 37, was hanged for murder charges on the morning of April 19. A well-informed source told IHR, “Hedayat was arrested around five years ago in the city of Kermanshah for murder a person. He was sentenced to death and the verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court around 2 years ago.”

The aforementioned execution has not been reported by Iranian media so far.

According to the Iran Human Rights statistic department, the majority of executions in 2017 and 2018 in Iran was for murder charges. At least 188 prisoners were executed for murder charges in 2018. Only 33% of executions were announced by Iranian authorities in 2018.

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)

BRUNEI:

Brunei defends death to gays law, claiming executions will be rare

Brunei has issued a letter defending its new policy imposing the death penalty for gay sex, claiming executions will be rare.

The country issued a formal letter ahead of a European Union debate on whether the country’s harsh new penal code violates human rights standards.

Homosexuality was already illegal in the country, but the Sharia penal code introduces the death penalty for gay sex and adultery, while lesbian sex is punished with whipping.

However, in the April 15 letter, Brunei’s Mission to the European Union claims that “there appears to be a misconception” about the penal code.

The letter claims: “The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims, particularly women.

“The offences, therefore will not apply to non-Muslims unless the act of adultery or sodomy is committed with a Muslim.”

It adds that the death penalty has an “extremely high evidentiary threshold (…) to the extent that convictions may solely rest on confessions of the offender.”

It adds that the punishment of whipping will be conducted with “moderate force.”

The letter goes on to claim that the penal code’s provisions are “not man-made laws but are ordained by Allah,” adding that they are “not to be misunderstood as any kind of radicalisation.”

The country claims it “reaffirms its commitment to its international obligations in promoting and protecting human rights as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” adding: “As a responsible member of the international community, [Brunei] will continue to uphold its obligations and adhere to international covenants on human rights.”

The letter did not assuage MEPs, who voted in favour of a resolution on Thursday (April 18) that strongly condemns the Sultan of Brunei for human rights violations.

MEP Marietje Schaake said: “The ferocious corporal punishments that have been introduced in Brunei, like punishing gay sex with death by stoning, are repugnant and go against all international human rights legislation.

“Capital punishment could even be imposed on children. We, as Europe, have to respond unitedly.”

The resolution threatens Europe-wide sanctions against Brunei over the law.

Schaake added: “With European measures such as a travel ban and the freezing of financial assets, aimed at the Sultan himself, we [can] really put him under pressure. We also want to blacklist the hotels of the Brunei Investment Agency, owned by the Sultan.”

“It’s time for European leaders to speak out loud, clear and with one voice about the situation in which the citizens of Brunei find themselves. We have to take action now, to show that we stand up for LGBTI people worldwide, and to prevent people from getting hurt.”

Sultan of Brunei stripped of honorary titles over ‘death to gays’ law

In the UK, several honours previously awarded to the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah have been placed under review.

On Wednesday (April 17), the University of Aberdeen announced it had revoked an honorary degree given to the sultan in an “unprecedented” decision.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) also unanimously agreed to revoke an honour given to the sultan, and said it would also rename the Brunei Auditorium at its London headquarters.

King’s College London and the University of Oxford have both also said they will review honorary degrees given to the Commonwealth country’s leader.

“We will reconsider this decision through our established process in light of the information now available, as other British Universities are doing,” reads the statement from the University of Oxford.

“At no point has the University declined to reconsider this decision.”

King’s College London said: “King’s is very proud of our diverse community. We take very seriously the concerns raised by our community regarding the honorary degree held by the Sultan of Brunei which was awarded in 2011.

“President & Principal Ed Byrne shares these concerns, and given recent developments has asked the university’s Fellowships and Honorary Degrees Committee to urgently review the award.”

(source: pinknews.co.uk)

APRIL 18, 2019:

TEXAS----impending execution

Death Watch: King Set to Die for James Byrd Lynching----Last-minute appeal seeks new trial as King maintains his innocence

Only 2 of 2019's 5 (so far) scheduled executions have taken place; the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Mark Robertson a stay on April 8 – 3 days before his execution date – "pending further order." Robertson's last appeal alleges his trial counsel purposely excluded black jurors for fear they wouldn't be sympathetic to the white defendant. And John King, sentenced to die for the infamous murder of James Byrd Jr. in 1998, now hopes to be the next inmate spared – if only temporarily – by the courts.

Byrd's modern-day lynching led to Texas' James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, signed into law in 2001 by Gov. Rick Perry, which controversially (at the time) included not only race but "sexual preference" in its protected classes. And in 2009, Barack Obama signed the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

King's friend Lawrence Brewer was executed in 2011; the 3rd man convicted of Byrd's murder, Shawn Berry, will reportedly be eligible for parole in 2038.

With his execution set for Wednesday, April 24, King's counsel filed appeals on April 10 at the CCA and at state district court in Jasper, where the crime took place, which reaffirm his longstanding claim that he got out of Berry's truck before Byrd was notoriously dragged behind it to his death. King says he told his original counsel he wanted to present this claim at trial and attempted to replace them when they refused and eventually conceded his guilt; his appeal cites the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 ruling (in McCoy v. Louisiana) that defendants have a Sixth Amendment right to insist counsel maintain innocence at trial, as well as a similar ruling by the CCA, and asks for a completely new trial.

On March 20, King also filed a petition for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which also insists he was not present for Byrd's murder and cites Brewer's reported statement that he had been pressured to frame King rather than Berry because of King's criminal record and affiliation with white-supremacist prison gangs. (Brewer did not testify at King's trial.)

If no stay is granted, King will be the 3rd Texas execution this year, and the 561st inmate killed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Mumia Abu-Jamal gets new hearing in 1981 police death

A former Black Panther and death row activist convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer decades ago will get a new appeals hearing after the city prosecutor on Wednesday dropped his opposition to it.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, 64, is serving a life sentence after spending decades on death row in the 1981 slaying of Officer Daniel Faulkner, who had pulled his brother over in an overnight traffic stop.

Abu-Jamal, who was shot during the encounter, was largely tried in absentia at his 1982 capital murder trial, after being removed over his repeated objections and efforts to serve as his own lawyer.

A former radio journalist, Abu-Jamal's prison writings made him a popular cause among death penalty opponents worldwide -- and a foe of police unions and the slain officer's widow. The attention to his case quieted after his death sentence was set aside over flawed jury instructions in 2011, and his appeals appeared exhausted.

However, in December, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker granted Abu-Jamal a new chance to argue his initial appeal after the U.S. Supreme Court said a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice had improperly heard a murder case he had overseen as Philadelphia district attorney. The justice, Ronald Castille, had done the same in Abu-Jamal's case.

District Attorney Larry Krasner initially fought Tucker's order, fearing it could affect a large number of cases. On Wednesday, he dropped his challenge, citing a revised ruling from Tucker that narrows the scope of his order.

Krasner agreed that Castille should not have worn "2 hats" in the case, a fact made more egregious, he suggested, by the discovery of a 1990 note Castille sent Gov. Robert Casey about "police killers," urging him to issue death warrants to "send a clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty actually means something."

"Although the issue is technical," said Krasner, a longtime civil rights lawyer, "it is also an important cautionary tale on the systemic problems that flow from a judge's failing to recuse where there is an appearance of bias."

Castille told The Associated Press last year that Abu-Jamal's lawyers never asked him to step down from the appeal. He served as district attorney after Abu-Jamal's murder trial. He said his colleagues on the Supreme Court "knew I'd signed off on the appeal (filings), but I had nothing to do with the trial."

Tucker, in his opinion, said "the slightest appearance of bias or lack of impartiality undermines the entire judiciary."

Judith Ritter, a lead lawyer for Abu-Jamal, said her client will now get a chance to air the alleged trial errors at "a fair appellate hearing."

"The D.A's decision is in the interests of justice. We look forward to having our claims of an unfair trial heard by a fair tribunal," said Ritter, a professor at Widener University's Delaware Law School.

(source: WITF news)

GEORGIA:

Woman representing self in death penalty case barely speaks during trial----Tiffany Moss is accused of starving her stepdaughter and burning her body.

"No questions, your honor."

Tiffany Moss uttered that phrase twelve times today as she represented herself in a death penalty case. She’s the Gwinnett woman accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Emani Moss, and burning her body and throwing it in a dumpster in 2013.

For a woman acting as her own lawyer, Moss has had remarkably little to say during the first 3 days of her trial.

Moss, wearing dark slacks and a navy shirt with a yellow pattern, barely spoke during the morning proceedings. When the judge read the list of charges she's facing to prospective jurors, Moss occasionally looked at jurors but showed no emotion. She declined to question any jurors but she did, for the first time since this trial began, confer with her standby attorneys.

24 jurors have been qualified and moved on to the final jury selection phase in the Tiffany Moss murder trial.

Though Moss is representing herself, she has two court-appointed attorneys who are sitting behind her and available at any time to answer legal questions. They are, however, not acting as her attorneys at her wish.

She spoke with the attorneys during the portion of the jury selection in which either side can ask for a dismissal of a juror. The District Attorney had requested to excuse a juror because he said he could not impose the death penalty. She conferred privately with the standby attorneys for a few minutes then told the judge she would not disagree with the DA’s request to excuse that juror.

He was 1 of 2 jurors excused. The other was excused because of a language barrier. English is not her first language and it was evidence she would not be able to follow court proceedings.

In total, 5 more jurors were questioned during the morning session at Gwinnett County Superior Court in Lawrenceville. Of those, three jurors were held over for service.

Gwinnett County Police arrested and charged Emani's father and stepmother with murder. Police said they set her on fire, hoping to make evidence of their abuse of her disappear. Before her body was burned, the girl was literally starved to death.

Eman Moss, her dad, signed a plea deal in 2015. He is serving a life sentence without parole but does not face the death penalty. Tiffany Moss, her stepmother, has been awaiting trial for more than 5 years.

Tiffany Moss faces 6 counts of murder and concealing a death, plus 2 counts of felony murder and 1st-degree cruelty to children. She also faces the death penalty.

(source: 11alive.com)

FLORIDA:

Female ‘killer clown’ who ‘murdered her lover’s wife’ faces death penalty----A woman who police say dressed up as a clown and killed her lover’s wife now faces the death penalty.

Sheila Keen-Warren, 55, is accused of shooting Marlene Warren, 40, in the face in the front doorway of her Wellington, Florida in May 1990.

The last thing Marlene saw was Keen-Warren standing at her door wearing an orange wig, red bulb nose, and a painted-on smile, handing her flowers and balloons with one hand – and aiming a gun at her in the other, prosecutors say. The clown who killed Michael Warren’s fled in a white car, which was found four days later, but the investigation eventually went cold, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Authorities believe Keen-Warren was having an affair with Marlene’s husband, Michael, at the time of the murder. thumbnail for post ID 9242395At least 28 people dead as tourist bus crashes off mountain road.

The 2 later married in 2002 after Michael was released from jail for financial crimes related to his used-car business where his alleged mistress worked.

They operated a popular fast-good restaurant in Kingsport, Tennessee for over a decade as the case remained unsolved.

Keen-Warren was arrested at her home in September 2017 after the FBI announced they found a hair in a car linked to the murder.

Authorities also said evidence includes hundreds of pages of interviews, photographs, and reports, but officials did not elaborate on the findings, according to CBS.

An employee at a nearby costume shop told police that a customer resembling Keen-Warren begged to be let into the store just before it closed 2 nights before the murder.

The employee said that the woman told her and another clerk that she needed a wig, white gloves, a red nose, and white face makeup. The 2nd clerk said the woman may have been Keen-Warren, but was not completely sure.

Since his Keen-Warren’s arrest, Michael Warren has stood by his wife and also said he had nothing to do with the murder.

The case will be presented to a jury in February after Keen-Warren waved her right to a speedy trial and pleaded not guilty the 1st-degree murder charge.

Her lawyer, Richard Lubin, said old evidence is slowing the trial process down and maintains that his client is innocent.

‘They’ve arrested the wrong person. This case is 100 % circumstantial,’ Lubin said, adding that there is nothing that links his client to the crime.

Prosecutors announced they are seeking the death penalty.

(source: metro.co.uk)

ARIZONA:

Court overturns death sentence in 1987 execution-style Yuma murder

A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned the death sentence for Theodore Washington, the last of three defendants still on death row in the 1987 execution-style murder of Sterleen Hill during a “disastrously violent home invasion” in Yuma.

A divided 3-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Washington’s trial attorney failed to present evidence of his client’s “diffuse brain damage, and his history of substance abuse” and other problems that might have weighed against the death penalty.

“This raises a reasonable probability that, had the court been presented with the mitigation evidence the first instance, the outcome would have been different,” Judge Ronald Gould wrote in the opinion for the court, which ordered a new sentencing hearing for Washington.

But Judge Consuelo Callahan dissented, writing that there is “no good reason” to second-guess the trial judge in the case and adding that the only injustice “is our unwarranted interference” in the case.

Lawyers in the case did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s ruling, the most recent in years of appeals by Washington.

The case began on the night of June 8, 1987, when two men forced their way into the Yuma home of Ralph and Sterleen Hill, looking for the Hills’ daughter who had left her common-law husband and returned to her parents’ house.

The Hills were bound and forced to lie face down on their bedroom floor while the men ransacked the house, demanding drugs or money and intermittently twisting a pistol into Ralph Hill’s ear, according to court documents. At some point, the men shot Ralph Hill in the back of the head with a shotgun, reloaded and then shot Sterleen execution-style.

She died but Ralph Hill survived with serious wounds.

Fred Robinson, Susan Hill’s common-law husband, was arrested shortly after the attack and Washington and Jimmy Mathers were arrested soon thereafter. Each of the men was charged with six counts, including murder, attempted murder, assault, burglary and armed robbery.

The 2 were tried together in December 1987, all 3 were convicted on six counts and all were sentenced in January 1988 to death row.

The Arizona Supreme Court vacated Mathers’ conviction for insufficient evidence, but upheld Washington and Robison’s convictions. The two appealed but had their convictions and sentences upheld by Superior Court Judge Stewart Bradshaw, the same judge who presided at their trials and sentencing.

In a subsequent appeal, however, the 9th Circuit vacated Robinson’s death sentence, agreeing with his argument that his trial attorney had utterly failed to mount a defense in the sentencing phase of his trial.

Gould said the ruling in Robinson’s case cast a “long shadow” over Washington, who made a similar argument – among others – on his latest appeal.

Washington said that had his attorney properly investigated his past, it would have shown that he suffered daily whippings as a child, was sedated with alcohol and later became an alcoholic, had a cocaine problem and a low IQ – all of which could have argued against the death penalty.

“The record here amply demonstrates that (defense attorney Robert) Clarke’s representation of Washington at the penalty phase was objectively unreasonable and deficient,” Gould wrote.

Gould said Bradshaw “committed precisely the same error” with Washington as he did in Robinson’s case, and that there was a good chance he would have ruled differently if he had all the facts about Washington’s past.

The court sent the case back with orders for a new sentencing hearing or, if not, for the state to change Washington’s sentence to life in prison.

But Callahan said that Bradshaw did have the evidence he needed and was in the best position to rule.

“There is no good reason for us to dismiss Judge Bradshaw’s conclusion from our lofty perch 25 years later,” Callahan wrote. She said Washington’s claim of an ineffective defense “presents no basis for vacating his sentence.”

Callahan also said there is “a temptation to bend the governing legal standards” to “equalize the outcomes,” because Mathers had his conviction overturned and Robinson had his death sentence vacated.

“However enticing the impulse, that is not our role,” she said. “Ours is the duty to apply the law to determine whether Washington has met his high burden of showing a constitutional violation that deprived him of a fair trial.

“He has not,” Callahan said.

(source: azpbs.org)

CALIFORNIA:

Serial Killer Who Attacked Lisa Rinna's Mom Still on Death Row

"He was straddling me with a hammer in one hand and a knife in the other."

The serial killer who tried to murder Lisa Rinna's mom is still on death row today.

David Carpenter, AKA the Trailside Killer, has been awaiting execution for 34 1/2 years in San Quentin State Prison in San Francisco.

The now 88-year-old was convicted in the rape and murder of seven women, though is suspected of having many more victims.

His 1st ever victim, Lois Rinna, luckily managed to escape with her life — 3 years before giving birth to Lisa.

Both women recounted the horrific tale on Tuesday night's episode of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills".

"I was very lucky, very. I should not even be here. You shouldn't even be here," Lois said to her daughter.

"A few years before I was born, my mom was attacked by a man that she worked with," Lisa explained in a confessional; the co-worker had invited Lois to come see his new baby, and picked her up in his car.

But Lois quickly realized something was wrong when he turned down a deserted road.

"He tried to rape her," Lisa said. "He tried to kill her."

"I thought that was it... that I was going 'bye-bye', Lois recalled with admirable calm. "He was straddling me with a hammer in one hand and a knife in the other."

Luckily a military policeman had seen the car turn off onto the dirt road and got suspicious. Lisa described what happened next to Andy Cohen on "Watch What Happens Live".

"David Carpenter straddling my mom at that point so he could see out the back window, and he went at my mom with a knife, and she grabbed the knife with her hand, and he saw the military police," she told him. "And then he reached in the back and got the hammer and tried to kill her, trying to kill her when he drove down."

"And then he somehow got out of the car and then the military police shot him in the stomach, and he didn't die."

Carpenter was convicted for the attempted murder in 1960, but was sentenced to just 7 years. Upon release he was convicted again, this time for kidnapping, and got another 7 years.

But after his 2nd release, he went on a murder spree, stalking, raping and stabbing to death at least 8 people — mostly young women in their teens and early 20s — among the hiking trails in state parks near San Francisco, earning him the moniker the Trailside Killer.

"I was the first one that he went to jail for," Lois recalled. "After he got out he then did all the murders."

"He became a serial killer," Lisa added. "He killed many people."

In 1988 he was convicted of multiple counts of rape and 1st degree murder, and sentenced to die in the gas chamber.

Capital punishment is still a legal penalty in the state of California; however all executions are currently halted indefinitely by an official moratorium ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom. The last death penalty to be carried out there was in 2006.

According to the LA Times, there are currently 737 inmates on death row in California.

On Tuesday's show, Lisa revealed she didn't learn about the attacks until she was 18, believing her mom had lost her sense of smell and had metal plates in her head because "some kid in a playground hit you on the head with a hammer" — a story her mom couldn't even remember concocting.

"When I had finally learned the truth, I had such great sadness and empathy for my mom knowing that not only did this happen to her but that she basically just stuffed those feelings for how many years," Lisa said. "She never dealt with it, she never talked about it, she never even told her daughter about it."

Nevertheless, she grew up "with a lot of fear": "My mom's stuff and attack is probably in my DNA. When I was in her womb, I picked it up," she surmised.

The reality star even believes it has affected how she has raised daughters Delilah and Amelia, whom she shares with husband Harry Hamlin.

"I'm very open and honest about how I am because I've been very much like that in my life and terrified [for] my children and what might happen to them, so I'm over-fearful," she explained. "But I am overly hyper-sensitive to walking by myself. I would never go into a garage by myself, like a parking garage. I grew up with a lot of fear, which I think has saved my life. I do. I think it's saved me on a lot of occasions."

"I must have put out such an energy that no-one would ever even f--k with me," she added. "It's really weird that I'm one of the only people that I know that was not raped or sexually harassed any way shape or form in my life."

Lisa admitted afterwards on "WWHL" that reliving her mom's story almost 60 years later brought her to tears.

"I haven't seen those headlines since I was 21 years old, so it really hit me tonight harder than it had in a long time," she said. "And I was in tears, and I thought my mom was so brave to be that open and honest on TV."

(source: toofab.com)

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

Jurors cry as prosecutor describes fatal attack on officers

The trial of a man charged with killing 2 Southern California police officers in an ambush-style attack began with tears Wednesday, as jurors cried when the prosecutor in the case held up the AR-15 rifle used in the killings and described the fatal wounds.

Prosecutor Manny Bustamante told jurors in opening statements that admitted gang member John Hernandez Felix targeted the officers simply because they were police. Some cried as he spoke of their wounds.

Palm Springs Officers Lesley Zerebny and Jose "Gil" Vega were killed while responding to a domestic violence call at Felix's mother's house on Oct. 8, 2016. Prosecutors say Felix was wearing body armor when he opened fire with the AR-15.

"This defendant intentionally took that sunset and any remaining sunsets they had in their lives, not only because they were Zerebny and Vega, but because they were Officer Vega and Officer Zerebney," Bustamante said, the Desert Sun reported .

6 other officers were injured as police and Felix exchanged gunfire in the residential neighborhood in Palm Springs, more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. Felix was arrested after a lengthy standoff.

Felix's attorney told jurors that his client has low intelligence and was on drugs at the time of the crime.

"The acts described by Mr. Bustamante were extremely violent and ultimately deadly," defense attorney John Dolan said. "Were the acts the only thing to be considered by the jury, this case would be indefensible."

He said it's Felix's intent that's "the controversy in this case."

Felix's parents described him as lazy and later angry when on drugs, but never violent, Dolan said. The only time Felix's mother said she feared her son was the day of the attack.

"She said, 'That was not my son. He was acting very strangely,' " Dolan said.

The Indio courtroom was packed for the first day of the trial, which continued with testimony in the afternoon.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Felix's attorneys had argued that he is too intellectually disabled to face capital punishment, but the judge in the case disagreed.

Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year announced a moratorium on the death penalty in California. Newsom's reprieve lasts only so long as he is governor and does not prevent prosecutors from seeking nor judges and juries from imposing death sentences.

Vega, a father of eight, was a 35-year veteran months away from retirement when he was killed. He wasn't scheduled to work the day he died but had volunteered to fill the shift.

Zerebny was a rookie officer just back from maternity leave.

(source: sacbee.com)

WASHINGTON:

Legislation to repeal death penalty dies in the House

Legislation to repeal the death penalty in Washington has died in the state House of Representatives for the 2nd consecutive year.

"Speaker did not bring it up for a vote: It has died another year without a floor vote," State Rep. Gael Tarleton said in an email. Wednesday was cutoff day for legislation in Olympia.

The State Senate, by a 26-22 vote last year and a 28-19 vote in February, has twice passed bipartisan repeal legislation. Its support has ranged from chief sponsor Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, to GOP Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, whose district includes the Washington State Penitentiary.

"One step closer to justice," Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted in February, when the Senate voted against hanging.

The failure by the House to act does not mean Washington will have executions. The State Supreme Court ruled last October that the death penalty in Washington was arbitrary and racially biased.

Inslee put a moratorium on executions in 2014, and vowed that nobody will be put to death as long as he is Governor.

20 states and the District of Columbia have abolished executions. There is a moratorium in effect in Oregon, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Executions still take place mainly in Texas and states of the deep south.

The death penalty in Washington was restored in 1976 by a 2-to-1 margin in a statewide vote. The electorate was not swayed by the Committee Against Hanging, which traveled the state in a flatbed truck with a noose hanging from the rear.

But public attitudes have changed. A poll taken last year by Public Policy Polling, for the Northwest Progressive Institute, showed majority support for replacing capital punishment with life imprisonment without parole.

The Senate passed legislation would have imposed a sentence of life in prison without parole for those convicted of aggravated 1st degree murder.

"I don't know why it didn't come up: I was a 'No' but I don't know where the rest of the caucus was," said State Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen.

The failure of the Democratic-controlled House to act represents an undistinguished end to the tenure of longtime House Speaker Frank Chopp, who has often hesitated to bring controversial bills to the floor. Chopp has been strongly protective of the remaining moderate-to-conservative Democrats in his caucus.

(source: seattlepi.com)

AFGHANISTAN:

2 sentenced to death for 2018 killing of Afghan journalist Abdul Manan Arghand

The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Afghan government to deliver justice through a fair and transparent process after 2 suspects were sentenced to death for the killing of Kabul News journalist Abdul Manan Arghand.

The verdict was announced on April 16 by the Afghan attorney general's office, following the court's decision on April 6, according to local independent broadcaster TOLO News and Jamshid Rasooli, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office, who spoke to CPJ.

The names of the 2 suspects have not been released, and the trial was not open to the public, according to Rasooli.

"We applaud the government's efforts to end impunity in the murder of journalists in Afghanistan, which is one of the deadliest places in the world to be a journalist," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy executive director. "But justice delivered in darkness is not justice, especially when the state decides upon capital punishment. We urge the Afghan authorities to try suspects in open court in accordance with international human rights standards."

The primary court's decision will be reviewed by a secondary court and by the Afghan supreme court, Rasooli told CPJ.

Arghand, a reporter with the privately owned Kabul News television channel, was shot and killed by 2 unknown gunmen on April 25, 2018, while he was driving to work, according to CPJ reporting. He had previously received anonymous death threats and the Interior Ministry said the Taliban had marked Arghand as a target for assassination, CPJ reported.

The 2 men who were sentenced to death were associated with the Taliban, Rasooli said.

A court also convicted 3 men for killing Ahmad Shah, a reporter with the BBC's Afghan service who was killed in 2018, the BBC reported in January; one man was handed a death sentence, and the other 2 were sentenced to 30 years and 6 years in prison. The motive for Shah's killing remains unclear, according to the BBC and CPJ. CPJ is continuing to investigate the case.

Afghanistan was the deadliest country for journalists last year and ranked 6th on CPJ's Impunity Index, which highlights states with the worst records of prosecuting the killers of journalists.

(source: cpj.org)

THAILAND:

Couple may face death penalty for 'sea home' off Thai coast

An American bitcoin investor could face the death penalty after Thailand's navy accused him of violating the country's sovereignty by building a "seastead" home off the coast, which he insisted was simply in pursuit of a vision of freedom.

Chad Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, known as Bitcoin Girl Thailand, are facing charges of threatening the kingdom's independence after the authorities found their ocean-based home about 12 nautical miles from shore.

But Elwartowski told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that their home was 13 nautical miles out, which he said is just outside Thailand's territorial waters.

An official complaint was filed at a Phuket police station, Police Colonel Nikorn Somsuk confirmed yesterday.

Col Nikorn told AFP: "The navy and its team... found a concrete tank floating on the sea but there was no one on it. So they filed a charge, citing Criminal Code Article 119."

If the couple are officially charged and found guilty, the maximum sentence Elwartowski and Supranee could face is the death penalty.

Col Nikorn said the navy would have to meet provincial officials "to consider what to do next".

The Royal Thai Navy said on Facebook the couple "did not seek permission from Thailand" before constructing their home.

Putting a call out to other interested investors also shows "they do not care about Thailand as a sovereign state".

But Elwartowski, who worked as a software engineer for the US military in Afghanistan, Germany and South Korea, told AFP that he and Supranee just wanted to live somewhere free.

"I like the idea of being able to vote with your home. If you don't like how your community is being run, you just float to a new one," he said.

The bitcoin-rich couple are part of Ocean Builders, a community of entrepreneurs who aim to build permanent homes in waters outside of government territory.

They had recently called for 20 interested investors for new seasteads to be built around their maiden platform, which is "just outside of Thailand's territorial waters", said Elwartowski.

On April 10, he put out a call for people to invest in an Initial Seastead Offering (ISeaO), which would have launched last Monday.

The ISeaO is now postponed, and Elwartowski said he and Supranee, whose English name is Nadia, just want to live together in peace.

"We didn't do anything on the seastead that was not legal on land but the feeling of being free is just amazing."

Some advocates of seasteading believe in creating "competing governments on the high seas", he said.

But Ocean Builders "never took a political stance" on the homes' purpose. "That was for the customers to decide," he said.

The couple is now hiding in "a fairly safe place".

A statement published on Monday on Ocean Builders' website said Elwartowski and Supranee were not responsible for the construction of the seastead.

(source: The Striats Times)

INDIA:

Mentally ill convict escapes the noose----SC commutes sentence to life

Severe mental illness in a condemned person post his conviction is a factor for commuting the death penalty, the Supreme Court has held.

The court held that mental illness formed post-conviction deprived the death row prisoner of his ability “to understand the implications of his actions and the consequences.”

“In this situation, the execution of such a person would lower the majesty of law... If the accused is not able to understand the impact and purpose of his execution because of his disability, the raison d’être for the execution itself collapses,” a Bench of Justices N.V. Ramana, Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee reasoned in their April 12 judgment.

The judgment came in a case of double murder of minor girls, both aged below nine, by their neighbour in 1999. The accused, kept anonymous by the court, has been awaiting execution in prison for 17 years.

The court issued guidelines for determining post-conviction mental illness. It did not want convicts to exploit the relief as a loophole to cheat the hangman. The assessment of the disability should be done by a multi-disciplinary team of qualified professionals (medical practitioners and criminologists), including professionals with expertise in the particular mental illness of an accused, the court said.

It would be up to the convict to prove with clear evidence that he suffered from severe mental illness. He had to demonstrate active, residual or prodromal symptoms. The state could also offer evidence to rebut the claim. In appropriate cases, the courts could set up panels of experts, Justice Ramana, who authored the verdict, explained. The convict from Maharashtra had raised the plea of post-conviction illness. The court commuted his death penalty to life without remission, saying he was still a threat to society.

(source: The Hindu)

VIETNAM

Vietnam police seize 900 kg of meth days after similar bust

Police in central Vietnam seized nearly a tonne of methamphetamine found abandoned by the side of the road on Wednesday, an officer told AFP, just days after another massive drug bust in the same region.

Local residents came across dozens of bags of white powder that had been left on the road near a salt field in central Nghe An province and reported them to police, an officer told AFP.

The residents thought they might be filled with salt or rubbish, but police later confirmed the sacks contained 900 kilograms (1,984 pounds) of meth, the largest recorded bust in years.

“We have identified 5 people related to the drugs and arrested three,” the police source said, requesting anonymity.

“We are searching for the other 2, who are on the run, including a foreigner,” he added.

He said authorities are investigating where the drugs came from, while state media said the meth haul was destined to be shipped outside Vietnam.

The bust comes just days after police in the same province found 600 kilograms of meth stuffed into stereo boxes in a home occupied by an elderly couple.

Synthetic drug use is on the rise in Vietnam and police have busted several homegrown labs in recent years.

But much of the country’s illegal supply floods in from the lawless “Golden Triangle” zone that straddles Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.

Though older users in Vietnam have long prefered opium and heroin as their narcotic of choice, younger people are increasingly turning to party drugs such as meth, ketamine and ecstasy.

Seven people died of suspected overdoses last year at an electronic music show in Hanoi, shocking many in the conservative city and prompting the government to ban festivals.

The 1-party communist state has some of the toughest drug laws in the world. Anyone caught with more than 600 grams (21 ounces) of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine can face the death penalty.

(source: nst.com.my)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

8 men get death penalty for armed robbery in Sharjah

The police found their fingerprints and identified the perpetrators.

The Criminal Court of Sharjah awarded death sentence to 8 men for armed robbery at a money exchange center in Sharjah.

The court accused the African nationals of armed robbery, public assault and seizing money by force, Emarat Al Youm reported.

Another defendant was also sentenced in the same case with 6 months in prison and deportation for possession of stolen money.

The accused denied the charges against him and said that one of the accusers' brother asked him to transfer Dh60,000 to his overseas account.

It was reported that some of the accusers confessed to their crime while some denied the charges against them.

According to the police's investigation, they checked the surveillance cameras and found fingerprints to identify the perpetrators. They were caught and admitted to their crime to the police.

One of the defendants returned part of the stolen money.

(source: Khaleej Times)

EGYPT:

Torture, threats and trumped-up charges: The story of an Egyptian on death row

The first time Nusela Harun saw her son after his arrest, he had cigarette burns all down his neck in geometric patterns.

“It was as if they enjoyed drawing on his neck," she told Middle East Eye.

The nerves in his hands were damaged because of how he was hanged from his wrists during interrogations - Nusela Harun, mother of Ahmed el-Shal

Harun, a lawyer, has already lost one son. Her eldest, Khaled el-Shal, was killed by Egyptian security forces along with nearly 1,000 others during the Rabaa massacre in 2013.

Now she’s worried she’s about to lose another son, Ahmed el-Shal, who has been condemned to death on the back of an apparently false confession extracted from the 30-year-old through torture.

He would join the 15 young men executed in Egypt since the beginning of 2019, convicted in trials the United Nations has poured doubts on and in a process described by one rights group as a “human rights crisis”.

Alongside Shal, nearly 50 others face imminent execution.

Ahmed disappears

Shal and Harun’s ordeal began on 28 February 2014, when they visited Khaled’s grave in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura where the family lives.

Tending Khaled’s grave had become a weekly ritual ever since he was shot dead in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adaweya Square, as security forces cracked down on supporters of toppled president Mohamed Morsi following a 2013 military coup.

News from friends and neighbours on returning home, however, would upend that routine completely.

Abdullah Metwalli, the bodyguard of a judge who controversially tried Morsi in a trial condemned by Human Rights Watch as “badly flawed”, had been shot dead earlier that morning.

According to reports, Metwalli had been riding down the Mansoura motorway, when a gunman apparently pulled up beside him and shot him in the head.

3 days after the murder, the state security prosecution issued arrest warrants to 18 people accusing them of forming a “militant cell” to kill Metwalli.

A week later, on 6 March, Shal disappeared on his way to the nearby university where he was studying.

Shal never hid his opposition to the military coup or Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the general who led it before becoming president. He and his friends took part in regular, peaceful sit-ins to protest Morsi's ousting.

“But he never resorted to violence, even after his brother was killed in Rabaa,” Harun told MEE.

Shal, now 30, had just finished medical school and was doing an extra year of practice.

“He dreamed of being a paediatrician. He was planning to travel to the US to continue his studies,” Harun said.

Hours after Shal’s arrest, security forces raided Harun’s home without a warrant. They searched the house and “turned everything upside down”, she said.

“They attempted to extract confessions from me that Ahmed was intending to kill police officers in retaliation for the killing of his brother in Rabaa,” Shal’s mother recalled.

It seemed like déjà vu. Following Khaled’s killing, authorities had arrested and tortured another of her sons, Osama.

Osama managed to flee Egypt, fearing for his life. This time, Shal wouldn’t be so lucky.

Televised 'confession'

From that moment on, Shal’s judicial process has been irregular and highly problematic. It has also been violent.

Almost exactly a year after he was arrested, a sober-looking Shal appeared on television beside two co-defendants.

As a microphone was passed between them, the youths confessed to Metwalli’s murder. Shal, with dark rings around his eyes, said he shot at the judge’s bodyguard 6 times from the back of a motorbike.

Interspersed with the confessions is footage of a table covered with arms the 3 allegedly possessed. Assault rifles, handguns, knives, a shotgun and piles of ammunition.

It was the 1st time Harun had seen her son since he was arrested.

"I was about to lose my mind," she said about watching the footage. "I felt I didn't recognise him as my son. When we met later after the video, he told me, 'I had to do this for your sake' because they threatened they would rape me if he didn't confess."

10 days passed until she got word of him again, when a lawyer told Shal’s family that he was being held in the notorious maximum security Scorpion Prison on the outskirts of Cairo.

They threatened to rape me in front of him. This is when he agreed to recite their confession on tape - Nusela Harun, Ahmed el-Shal's mother

Eventually, 3 months later, Shal and 23 others were referred by the prosecution to the criminal court on charges of joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood group that Morsi was a prominent member of.

Some of the defendants were accused of “premeditated murder” and others faced charges of being accomplices.

After a 3-year trial, in June 2017, Egypt’s highest appeals court upheld the death penalty for 6 defendants: Shal, Basem Mohsen Elkhorieby (also known as Bassem Mohsen), Khaled Askar, Mahmoud Mamhouh Wahba, Ibrahim Yahia Azab and Abd Elrahman Attia. All but one were students

. Shal is the main defendant in what became known as the Mansoura Guard Murder case, accused of shooting Metwalli. The other 5 were convicted of being his accomplices.

Slapped, stripped and strung up

According to Harun, however, the conviction was primarily based on false confessions drawn out of Shal through “deadly torture”.

After being “electrocuted and raped with a stick”, Shal still refused to tell his torturers what they wanted to hear, Harun said.

It was then that they threatened to rape Harun in front of him, she said. "This is when he agreed to recite their confession on tape.”

After recording the confession, Shal was transferred to the national security agency headquarters blindfolded. An officer threatened to torture him again if he ever retracted his confession, his mother said.

Harun said she read her son’s torture testimony six months after it was taken.

When Harun received a copy, the lawyer immediately filed a complaint with the attorney-general, but no investigation was ever conducted.

Shal told his mother that he attended a hearing with the attorney-general on 21 March, without a lawyer, and told him that he was innocent and forced to confess. This was also ignored, she said.

Middle East Eye has obtained an official copy of Shal’s testimony during an interrogation, noted down by his legal representatives.

In it, Shal describes in detail abuse meted out by security forces.

Ahmed el-Shal's torture testimony

“I deny all the charges, because I was not fully conscious when I said what I said before. When I was arrested, I was taken to the Mansoura police headquarters, blindfolded, slapped on my face, electrocuted, and hung on a door from my underarms.”

“When I was arrested they blindfolded me, and someone started kicking me, but I don’t know who he was because I was blindfolded.

"Then someone electrocuted me on my face, then I was taken to the room of an officer, who stripped me of my trousers and hung me from my hands and feet on a stick; then someone started inserting a stick into my anus repeatedly, and he turned it, and another one started electrocuting me on my legs and neck.

"Then they removed the blindfolds and I saw an officer whose name is Sherif Abu el-Naga. This was the same officer who asked me to take off my trousers then asked me to put them on. Afterwards they hung me on the door from my underarms. When they took me down, I felt that my hands were paralysed.

“I don’t know who raped me with a stick, because my head was on the other side.

“I have bruises on my shoulder and neck, and burns because they burnt it with cigarette butts.”

He says he was slapped, stripped, strung up and electrocuted. According to Shal’s testimony, Egyptian authorities also raped him using a stick.

“Someone started inserting a stick into my anus repeatedly, and he turned it, and another one started electrocuting me on my legs and neck,” Shal recounts in his testimony.

All the defendants in Shal’s case have recanted their confessions.

'Arbitrary deprivation of life'

The confession that Shal says is false and was forced out of him has not only condemned him, but gravely affected his due process as a defendant.

It has been used by the prosecution to justify questioning Shal without the presence of legal representation.

Meanwhile, the airing of the defendants’ confessions on national television ahead of their trial has been condemned by the Geneva-based rights group Committee for Justice, which said it violated the principle of the "presumption of innocence".

It said the prosecutors were aware that torture took place in national security agency offices, but “failed to uphold impartiality” towards the defendants as it “overlooked the torture testimonies”.

There is no accountability where trials are characterised by a myriad of irregularities, including torture - Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur

In addition to confessions, the prosecution primarily relied on the testimony of an Egyptian intelligence officer, Ahmed Khedr Abulmaati, who cited “secret sources” as the source of his information.

Meanwhile, much evidence used in the trial was marred by “major inconsistencies”, according to a letter to the Egyptian government from independent UN experts.

The bullets collected from Metwalli’s body did not match the rifle that was said to have been confiscated from Shal and supposedly used to kill the bodyguard.

Moreover, the motorbike said to have been used in the murder was a different colour to the one described by state security officers at the time.

And a crime scene report indicated that the killer must have been standing near the victim at the time of the crime, rather than riding a motorbike.

Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and one of the UN experts tasked with investigating the case, told MEE that the Egyptian government insisted in responses to her letters that the sentences were imposed in the context of Egypt’s war against terrorism.

She condemned the death sentences imposed in the case, criticising the international community for its “deafening silence” towards the growing number of executions in the country.

“Those responsible for attacks and killings must be held accountable for their crimes. But there is no accountability where trials are characterised by a myriad of irregularities, including torture,” she said.

“Death sentences in such cases amount to arbitrary deprivation of life.”

'Barely surviving'

Shal is not well. Harun said her son had 2 brain surgeries to remove tumours, affecting his balance.

“Though he dreamed of riding horses, he was never able to,” Harun said.

“He couldn’t ride motorbikes for that reason either,” she added pointedly.

Shal’s lawyers said during the trial that his condition would prevent him from firing accurately at any target, let alone a moving one from the back of a motorbike.

“It’s impossible,” Harun added.

Now Shal is being held in Wadi Natroun prison, in a tiny cell only just long enough for him to stretch out to sleep, Harun says. He is allowed to leave his cell for 1 hour a day.

“They have no toilet. They use bags and buckets to relieve themselves,” Harun said.

Things are tough at home too, as Harun and her family are caught in limbo, fearing the worst.

“Life is very difficult after the death of Khaled and the arrest of Ahmed. We are barely surviving.”

(source: middleeaseeye.net)

BRUNEI:

If Brunei’s New Stoning Law is Enforced, Sanction the Sultan

This month, the Sultanate of Brunei confirmed plans to impose a new penal code with brutal punishments. These include whipping or death by stoning for extramarital sex and anal sex, among other things, and amputations of limbs for theft. Abortion is also criminalized, and lesbian sex is punished by 40 lashes.

Many of these new “crimes” were already prohibited under the country’s Syariah Penal Code Order, published in October 2013, but had not been enforced.

Criminalizing extramarital or homosexual sexual activity is contrary to international human rights norms, and the code’s punishments amount to grave human rights violations under international treaties prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Not surprisingly, the new Shariah (Islamic law) code has been condemned by several governments, the United Nations, and human rights groups.

Condemnations from activist celebrities such as George Clooney and others have included calls for boycotts of businesses owned by the Sultan of Brunei, such as the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and the Dorchester Hotel in London. Investment companies are now publicly weighing the reputational risk of doing business with Brunei or businesses funded or supported by the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

However, there is another, more targeted way to put pressure on Brunei to abandon these provisions: impose sanctions on the sultan. Governments that really want to send a tough message should be informing Brunei that any of its government officials implicated in the execution of the country’s new law and punishments, including the sultan, could face travel bans and financial sanctions, including seizure of their assets.

In recent years, the United States and several other countries have adopted Global Magnitsky laws that can be used to impose financial sanctions, seize property and bank accounts, and impose travel restrictions on government officials implicated in the commission of gross human rights abuses. These laws are named after a Russian whistleblower, Sergei Magnitsky, who was killed in 2009 while in Russian custody, in retaliation for exposing corruption.

Global Magnitsky laws differ slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and are being adopted differently in the European Union, but they have a common basis. They allow governments to seize assets, freeze bank accounts, and bar travel by government officials implicated in torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other serious human rights violations.

Those responsible for imposing stoning, amputating, or whipping of criminal suspects would meet these laws’ criteria, and the sultan himself could be sanctioned for imposing the new code and ordering its execution.

Foreign government officials should be putting Brunei on notice that they intend to use these laws if Brunei carries out the country’s horrific legal provisions. Concerned governments should be warning the sultan that they can seize his extensive properties – the luxury hotels, a polo park, and several major estates and homes around Kensington and Ascot in London – while cutting him off from banking systems and preventing him from traveling through their territory.

This approach would potentially impose less harm on the workers of the many establishments owned by the sultan or the government, because if handled responsibly in escrow, even after seizure in many cases the businesses could continue to operate.

A government that criminalizes private sexual activity and then imposes brutal execution and torture as the punishment should not be tolerated anywhere in the world. Criticism and condemnation are not enough. It’s time for Brunei and its ruler to face consequences.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

IRAQ:

Iraqi court sentences IS member to death for involvement in sniper attacks

An Iraqi court has sentenced an Islamic State militant to death by hanging over his involvement in several sniper attacks in the country.

The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad handed the Islamic State militant the death penalty for shooting dead several security forces and members of the Popular Mobilization Forces in sniper attacks in Nineveh province, Baghdad Today website quoted the Supreme Judicial Council media center as saying in a press statement on Thursday.

The Islamic State “terrorist admitted belonging to the Islamic State group and standing behind the killing of several security personnel,” said the statement.

Iraqi courts have sentenced many of Islamic State members, including a big number of female members, to death over joining the militant group.

The exact number of detained militants is still unknown, however, it’s estimated to be at thousands. It’s also unclear how many members are likely to face death sentences.

Iraqi authorities regularly announce the capture of Islamic State extremists in different parts in the country since the collapse of the group’s territorial influence in the country in December 2017.

(source: iraqinews.com)

BANGLADESH:

Kushtia man gets death for murder, another sentenced to life for rape

A man in Kushtia has been handed the death penalty for the murder of a fruit trader 2 years ago while another has been sentenced to life imprisonment in a 9-year-old case of child rape.

The verdicts were passed by the Kushtia District and Sessions Judge Arup Kumar Goswami and Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal Judge Munshi Md Moshiar Rahman, respectively, on Wednesday.

While Nur Alam, the death penalty recipient, was in court when the verdict was announced, Jamal Uddin, who was given a life sentence, is still at large.

According to the case dossier, police found the body of fruit trader Rabiul Islam stuffed in a plastic drum at Kushtia city's Chourhash intersection on Jun 20, 2017.

Following the incident, Rabiul's wife Borna Akhtar as plaintiff initiated a murder case against Nur Alam with Kushtia Model Police.

The trial began after the police submitted charge sheets against Nur and Tipu Mondol on Dec 5, 2017. Tipu was subsequently acquitted as the charges against him could not be proved.

On the other hand, Jamal was accused of luring a neighbour's child to his home in Kushtia city's Kalishankarpur and raping her on Oct 9, 2010.

The charge sheet against Jamal was submitted to court on Dec 1, 2010 after a case was initiated with the Kushtia Model Police by the child's mother.

(source: bdnews24.com)

PAKISTAN:

PTI govt to waive death penalty for extradited suspects

The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved to amend a law to waive death penalty for the accused persons to be extradited from the European Union (EU) and also gave provincial counter terrorism departments the powers to investigate money laundering cases.

The provincial departments have been given the power to probe case of money laundering in a bid to fulfill conditions of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that would hold second review of the implementation of its 27-point action plan next month.

The Asia Pacific Group (APG) – a FATF-style regional body – had declared lack of power to probe money laundering cases as a critical deficiency in Pakistani laws.

“In order to remove a hurdle in the way of extradition of politically influential people from the EU, the federal cabinet approved to amend the section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code of 1860,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry while briefing the media about the meeting.

The minister said the decision to waive death penalty would help in extradition of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) former chief Altaf Hussain, former finance minister Ishaq Dar and Hussain Nawaz and Hasan Nawaz – sons of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

H said the EU laws bar extradition of people to the countries that have capital punishment. “Many people could not be extradited from the EU due to death penalty in Pakistan,” he added.

The section 302 of the PPC says whoever commits qatl-e-amd [premeditated murder] shall be punished with death as qisas [retaliation in kind]; punished with death or imprisonment for life as ta’zir [penalty] having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case.

The minister did not clarify whether the government would promulgate a presidential ordinance or present a bill in parliament to amend the PPC of 1860. In case it takes the parliament’s route, it will take months before the amendment is passed.

(source: The Express Tribune)

APRIL 17, 2019:

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

Keep the death penalty

To the Editor:

It would be a 2nd mistake for the State of New Hampshire to go with other states in repealing the death penalty. The 1st mistake was not making use of the penalty which is leading to its own demise.

Think about it. The opioid crises is getting out of control, and nobody thinks the death penalty is a deterrent. I ask you how many times will a dead drug dealer continue to make money on drugs. I would use the death penalty, reduce death row time and wipe the dealers off the face of this country. If we don’t, our county will die from within. Something to think about as New Hampshire votes to repeal the death penalty.

I am with our governor who wants to keep the death penalty.

Keep the death penalty governor, but you have to use it!

Louis J. Santucci, Rochester

(source: Letter to the Editor, forsters.com)

NEW YORK:

Former Death Row Inmate Speaks About Her Life After Being Exonerated

On Tuesday, former death row inmate and anti-death penalty advocate Debra Milke shared her story with the Cornell community. Milke was invited by Prof. John Blume to speak to his LAW 4051: Death Penalty in America class, and the event was open to the public.

In 1990, Milke was wrongfully convicted of 1st-degree murder of her 4-year-old son, Christopher, as well as conspiracy to commit 1st-degree murder, kidnapping and child abuse. After 22 years in prison, she won her appeal in the Ninth Circuit in March 2013 and was released from prison in September of the same year. She was exonerated in March 2015.

Her story is an “emotional” one, she said. In 1989, Milke was a 25-year-old single mother living near Phoenix, Arizona, struggling to get by after leaving a “bad marriage,” when she took up her friend James “Jim” Styers’s offer to move into his apartment.

On December 2, 1989, Milke’s son, Christopher, asked to go to the mall with Styers to see Santa Claus, and that was “the last time I saw my son alive,” said Milke.

Many hours later, she was escorted into an interrogation room at the Pinal County police department, where Detective Armando Saldate Jr. entered the room and delivered the truth that Milke was awaiting with “despair.”

“He just looked at me and he said, ‘We found your son. He was murdered and you’re under arrest.’ Just like that, in one breath,” Milke said.

After that, Milke was charged with “a whole slew of crimes” based on a confession that Saldate claimed he obtained from Milke in that interrogation room. “That cop lied,” Milke said. “The prosecutors were making up things.” She was ultimately convicted of all charges.

After being put into solitary confinement in prison and losing her first post-conviction appeal, Milke knew that she had to “figure out a way to help [herself].” She familiarized herself with legal language, learned how to read a brief, and got a new lawyer.

In the next three decades, she continually lost appeals. However, despite the occasional “scary moments,” Milke refused to give up.

“An innocent person doesn’t give up. You just don’t,” she said.

Eventually, her case reached the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and on March 14, 2013, the Ninth Circuit judges overruled her convictions on the basis of an unfair trial.

Throughout the entire 3-decade-long ordeal, Milke maintained her “cautious optimism” and sense of humor as a coping mechanism for her situation.

She remembered that during a practice run of her execution, a doctor was taking her blood to make sure she was healthy. “Well, check my cholesterol too,” she joked, adding that she probably made the doctor uncomfortable, but that she didn’t care.

Milke describes her experience as having to deal with two tragedies at the same time — first, the loss of her son and second, her unfair trial and the subsequent years in the capital appeals system.

“The win was bittersweet. The legal tragedy, I overcame, but then right at my doorstep was the reality that my son was gone,” she said, her voice catching. She had to put her pain “on a shelf because [she] couldn’t deal with both things at the same time.”

“My son’s been gone for 30 years but it doesn’t matter how many years he’s been gone,” she continued. “Pain is — it’s very raw and it lasts, and it seems like it just happened sometimes, even though it’s been three decades.”

Now, Milke is a member of Witness to Innocence, an advocacy organization composed of exonerated death row survivors, and travels the country to speak about her experiences.

“I like to speak to students because you guys are the future,” she said. “I don’t know if any of you want to be lawyers, but the message I want to get across is that there is a human being behind a case number.”

She also spoke out against the death penalty, stating that executing her son’s killer “won’t change anything. It’s not going to bring my son back.”

“There are so many wrongful convictions that there shouldn’t be a death penalty, because it just takes one time to execute an innocent person, and it’s irreversible,” Milke continued.

Following her talk, there was a Q&A session with the audience. Students generally asked about her life after 22 years of solitary confinement and her reintegration back into society.

Milke said that she had changed all the doorknobs in her house to remove the ability to lock the rooms. She also does not close any doors and has a clock in every room, as she was never told the time when she was in prison.

“In public, I need to know how to get out of a room,” she added. Milke recounted a story of a time she and her nephew, who served in Iraq and also has PTSD, went out to dinner. They both headed towards the same seat at the table, because “he needed to know who was coming in the door. I needed to know how to get out of it.”

When asked about whether people still perceive her to be a murderer, Milke said, “If you want to be judgmental, fine. But you didn’t have to walk in my shoes.”

She currently works as a legal assistant at the law firm of the attorney who helped her win the appeal. When asked about how her interest in law stemmed from the years she spent experiencing the justice system firsthand, Milke quipped that at the beginning of her appeals process, she naively left everything to her attorneys.

“I thought that if you went to law school, then you’re smart and you know what you’re doing,” she said, as the audience’s responded in laughter.

Cassandra Gologorsky ’21, a student in the course, said it was “eye-opening” to hear her story.

“We’ve read a lot of cases in this class, but it’s different to hear it from someone who’s actually experienced it,” Gologorsky said. “I knew it was going to be a very emotional story, but I was surprised — in a good way. She’s a powerful speaker.”

(source: The Cornell (University) Daily Sun)

PENNSYLVANIA----new death sentence

Philadelphia man gets death for teen’s rape, murder, dismemberment

A man who as part of a rape-murder fantasy he shared with the teenager’s mother was sentenced Thursday to death.

Jacob Sullivan, 46, had pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder and related charges for killing Grace Packer in 2016.

After deliberating over parts of 3 days, a suburban Philadelphia jury imposed the death penalty. Sullivan had no reaction as the verdict was read. Pennsylvania has a moratorium on the death penalty, but juries can still impose the sentence.

“The butchery in this case was beyond my ability to describe,” Bucks County Judge Diane Gibbons told jurors, thanking them for their service. Imposing the jury’s sentence on Sullivan, she declared: “You have no soul.”

District Attorney Matthew Weintraub had asked the jury to send Sullivan to death row, reminding them that Grace’s life “ended in a house of horrors that became a hell on Earth.”

The defense asked for a life sentence, insisting that Grace’s mother, Sara Packer, masterminded the gruesome plot and controlled Sullivan. Sara Packer, who testified last week and admitted to jurors she wanted her daughter dead and took part in the plot, is expected to plead guilty Friday to first-degree murder in exchange for a life sentence.

Sullivan and Sara Packer took Grace to a sweltering attic and gave her what they intended to be a lethal overdose of medicine, authorities say. The couple bound her hands and feet with zip ties and stuffed a ball gag in her mouth, and Sullivan sexually assaulted her as Sara Packer watched.

The couple left Grace in the attic to die, but she managed to escape some of her bindings and spit the gag out, prosecutors say. Sullivan and Sara Packer returned to the vacant house 12 hours later, and Sullivan strangled her.

Sara Packer and Sullivan stored Grace’s body in cat litter for months, then hacked it up and dumped it in a remote area where hunters found it in October 2016, authorities said.

“He met my expectation of a monster,” jury foreman Kevin McDermott said after the sentencing , according to The (Allentown) Morning Call.

Sara Packer and her husband at the time, David Packer, adopted Grace and Grace’s younger brother in 2007. The couple cared for dozens of foster children before David Packer was sent to prison for sexually assaulting Grace and a 15-year-old foster daughter.

Sara Packer lost her job as a Northampton County adoptions supervisor in 2010 and was barred from taking in any more foster children. But child welfare authorities did not remove Grace from the home, despite evidence of abuse.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services launched an investigation after Grace’s murder, but its findings have not been made public.

Sullivan joins 142 other inmates on the state’s death row. Pennsylvania last carried out an execution in 1999, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf declared a moratorium on capital punishment in 2015.

(source: Glenwood Guardian)

VIRGINIA:

Prosecutors seek death penalty for suspect charged in fatal stabbing of elderly Danville couple

Danville prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Onis Donnell Moon, who is accused of stabbing an elderly married couple to death and wounding their adult daughter in November, court documents show.

The commonwealth filed a notice in Moon’s court file Tuesday, signaling intentions to seek the death penalty because of the severity of the charges.

“The conduct of the defendant in committing this offense was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman,” the document states, “and said conduct involved torture, aggravated battery or depravity of the mind.”

Moon, 52, was originally charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder — since amended to one count of capital murder, covering both deaths — in connection to the stabbing deaths of Royal Douglas Barley, 83, and his wife, Valean Ferrell Barley, 87. He is also charged with maliciously wounding Sandra Faye Callands, the couple’s adult daughter. Both the Barleys were in wheelchairs, neighbors told the Danville Register & Bee.

In Virginia, murder charges must have aggravating factors associated with them to be elevated to capital status. Moon’s case was heightened because he is accused of killing multiple people in the same instance.

Police arrested Moon just a few houses down from the Barleys’ home at 122 Lexington Ave., where they found three people suffering from “severe” stab wounds. The Barleys were pronounced dead there, and Callands was taken to a hospital.

An officer at the scene noticed Moon in the area and saw blood on his hands, according to a search warrant filed in Danville Circuit Court. There, Moon “made statements about the crime” to the officer and was promptly arrested, according to the warrant.

When police interviewed him later, court documents state, Moon admitted to drinking and “being around” drugs that day. His speech was slurred and investigators noted a strong smell of alcohol on him. A blood test was also taken, but its results are unknown.

A search of Moon’s truck turned up blunt wrappers and 2 metal grinders full of “plant material,” according to the warrants. On the Barleys’ property, police found red stains and a knife.

Callands told police that she saw Moon stab her parents. She also said she was in a relationship with the alleged attacker.

“While the caller was on the phone with the dispatchers, she began to scream ‘he is stabbing her,’” court records state. “She screamed to dispatch that her mother and father had been stabbed.”

Moon will next appear in court for a scheduling hearing on April 23. He is being held without bail in the Danville City Jail.

(source: godanriver.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Carteret County death penalty trial halted as courthouse loses power

A Carteret County man’s life sits in limbo after being convicted of 1st degree murder in a Morehead City woman’s death.

David Godwin, of Newport, was tried and convicted of killing 37-year-old Wendy Tamagne.

Tamagne’s body was found in her apartment, cut into pieces and stuffed into trash bags in July 2016. The jury delivered Godwin’s guilty verdict on April 12, 2019.

While there is no question at this point that Godwin killed Tamagne, what remains unknown is whether he will live out his sentence in prison or be given the death penalty.

Tuesday’s court proceedings were forced to an early end after the Carteret County courthouse lost power shortly before 11 a.m. As of 2 p.m. that day, power had still not been restored.

According to authorities, someone backed their car into a transformer, shutting off power to the entire building.

Tuesday's proceedings are expected to resume Wednesday.

Before the outage, it was revealed Godwin would not be testifying on his own behalf. Rather, his defense team would be bringing forth 8 witnesses on Tuesday and 7 on Wednesday.

Prosecutors presented no additional evidence.

The defense’s 1st witness, James Aiken, an expert in prison management, reviewed Godwin’s records while he’s been incarcerated leading up to the trial.

Aiken cited no unusual social behavior in prison, but did recall an incident where Godwin got into an altercation with another inmate. Aiken’s interpretation is the incident was no more than a gesture with no actual intent to kill.

“Godwin does not present an unusual risk to staff at corrections facility,” Aiken said while on the stand.

But while Aiken doesn’t think staff are at risk, Godwin is a different story.

The potential for bullying in prison is high for Godwin, according to Aiken’s expert opinion.

Prosecutors cross examined Aiken and it was revealed Godwin was serving a 4-year enlistment when he left the military after only one and a half years of service.

They also noted an attempted escape in Godwin’s incarceration report. The documents said Godwin tried to escape his cell by wedging a piece of paper in the lock so it would not close all the way, to which Aiken said that is the “absolute minimum to be defined as an escape attempt.”

Prosecutors also noted an altered ink pen and razors were found in Godwin’s cell. Aiken couldn’t recall how the pen was modified though.

(source: WCTI news)

GEORGIA:

Gwinnett woman representing herself in capital case wins jury motion

Jury selection continued Tuesday in the death-penalty trial against Tiffany Moss, a Gwinnett County woman accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter to death in 2013.

Moss, 35, has refused representation by 2 experienced attorneys from the state capital defender office and is serving as her own lawyer. On Tuesday, seven prospective jurors appeared in court to individually answer questions about their views to see if they can be qualified as fair and impartial.

As she most often does, Moss, with a smile, told Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson she had no questions for any of the prospective jurors. She did so after either District Attorney Danny Porter or Assistant District Attorney Lisa Jones had asked numerous questions to each of the jurors, exploring their views on capital punishment and their backgrounds.

Even though she asked no questions, Moss did win a motion to keep one woman in the pool of potential jurors when the jury is ultimately selected.

This woman, Juror No. 30, had acknowledged to Porter that she had signed petitions opposing capital punishment.

“I’m personally not a fan of it,” said the woman, a veterinary nurse. “… It’s hard to sleep at night making that decision.”

Porter then asked her if she believed she could consider all three sentencing options — life in prison with the possibility of parole, life without parole or the death penalty — if she was selected as a juror in the case.

“I would like to think I could,” she said.

Under the law, potential jurors are to be excused from service in a death-penalty trial if they say they cannot impose a death sentence. So Porter continued to question her.

As he did, the woman admitted to having bad experiences with the criminal justice system.

Once on her birthday when she was a teenager, she said, she shot a water pistol out of a car window and the water hit a taxi driver in the face. The taxi driver feared it was a terrorist assault, and the woman wound up handcuffed by police and threatened with an aggravated assault charge, she said.

“It was not my favorite birthday,” the woman said. “I was a dumb teenager.”

Even though she was never charged, it left a bad taste in her mouth, she said.

Juror No. 30 also told Porter she believed a friend of hers was wrongly convicted of a sexual assault, for which he received a 10-year prison sentence.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in it,” she said of the criminal justice system, citing a “lack of consistency.”

Porter then asked Juror No. 30, given her views and life experiences, whether she could truly vote for the death penalty.

“I’ve been against it for so long,” the woman said, equivocating.

After Juror No. 30 stepped out of the courtroom, Porter moved to have her excused. He cited her opposition to capital punishment and her problems with the criminal justice system.

When Hutchinson turned to Moss, she rose from the defense table and objected. Juror No. 30 had said if she were selected and heard all the evidence she could consider all 3 sentencing options, including the death penalty, Moss said.

Hutchinson agreed, granting Moss a small victory. “She will not be excused for cause,” the judge said.

So far, about two dozen potential jurors have been individually questioned and more than half of them have been qualified to be in the final pool. Opening statements and testimony are expected to begin early next week.

(source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

ALABAMA:

Alabama seeks new execution date for man who stabbed pastor

Alabama on Monday sought a new execution date for an inmate spared last week when the clock struck midnight before a divided U.S. Supreme Court said his lethal injection could proceed.

Justices on Friday lifted a stay that had blocked the execution of 46-year-old Christopher Lee Price, but the order came about 90 minutes after the death warrant setting the execution date automatically expired at midnight.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office asked the state Supreme Court to quickly schedule a new lethal injection on April 25 or May 2 in the "interests of justice." The state asked to set aside a rule normally requiring 30 days' notice.

"Price has already had his execution set and erroneously delayed, he has been given more notice than other inmates in his position and more than enough notice to satisfy concerns of fairness and due process," the state wrote in the motion.

Price was convicted of murder in the 1991 stabbing death of pastor Bill Lynn.

A federal judge on Thursday stayed Price's execution scheduled for that evening to consider his challenge to the humaneness of the state's lethal injection procedure. Price had asked to be put to death by breathing nitrogen gas, a method the state has authorized but not yet used.

With a stay in place, Alabama announced about 30 minutes before midnight that it could not carry out the execution that night. The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 early Friday morning to vacate the stay, but the execution warrant had expired at midnight.

(source: Associated Press)

LOUISIANA:

Measure could make it easier for La. to carry out death penalty

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he might be willing to sign legislation that would keep the source of Louisiana’s lethal injection drugs a secret and out of the public record -- a move that could make executions easier to carry out in the state.

“I would suspect that if it comes to my desk I won’t have a problem with it, but I always reserve the right to look at it because [bills] typically get amended, they get changed and that sort of thing. But we will take a look at it when it gets there, if it gets there,” Edwards said in an interview Saturday, referring to House Bill 258.

Louisiana has 72 death row inmates but hasn’t executed anyone since 2010. A federal judge has ordered that all executions in Louisiana be delayed until July 2019 because the state hasn’t been able to obtain lethal injection ingredients.

Edwards, a Democrat, has also refused to say how he personally feels about the death penalty. As a legislator in 2014, he voted against a previous piece of legislation to keep the source of death penalty drugs secret.

Edwards was one of just seven lawmakers -- and two House members -- to vote against that bill five years ago. It was supported overwhelmingly, but didn’t end up getting enacted because its sponsor, former state representative and current Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, pulled the bill over an unrelated dispute with then-Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Edwards’ reticence over the death penalty has led Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and other conservatives to speculate that the governor is dragging his feet over executions, possibly because the governor might have moral objections to capital punishment.

The Department of Public Safety and Corrections, which Edwards oversees, have pushed back on that notion and says the governor’s personal views on the death penalty have nothing to do with the delay in executions. The problems carrying out the death penalty extend back to when Jindal was in office, officials say.

The agency is struggling to obtain lethal injection drugs for executions, in part, because Louisiana’s public records laws allow for the disclosure of the manufacturer and pharmacists that supply the substance, Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc has said in previous interviews.

Sources for the lethal injection drugs are unwilling to do business with the prison system over fear of the blowback from being involved in executions. Some drug manufacturers also refuse to sell products to the state if they are going to be used for executions, according to the prison system.

The new death penalty drug bill, sponsored by Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R-Hammond, would exclude from the public record the identity and any identifying information of people, pharmacies, manufacturers and others who are responsible for getting Louisiana lethal injection drugs or “medical equipment” used to carry out an executions. Courts, boards, tribunals, commissions and agencies as well as individuals wouldn’t have access to this information, under this legislation.

It resembles draft state legislation that Landry started pushing last summer, when the attorney general said that a public records exemption might help get executions moving again. Several states, including Texas, have passed laws in recent years to keep the source of their execution drugs a secret. The Arkansas legislature just approved an updated version of their death penalty drug secrecy law earlier this month.

The stall in Louisiana’s executions upsets the families of victims of people sitting on death row. Many families have already been waiting decades to see the offender who killed their family member put to death, since appeals in death penalty cases can already take several years. A further delay because death penalty drugs can’t be obtained can be frustrating, according to recent testimony from families at a hearing on the death penalty.

While some lawmakers are seeking to resume executions, others are hoping to abolish the death penalty. Two legislators -- State Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge -- have introduced bills to end the death penalty for people facing criminal charges moving forward. The 72 people on death row would still be subject to executions, but people who face criminal charges in the future couldn’t join them on death row.

(source: Daily Comet)

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

State executions should not be shrouded in secrecy

Arizona prison officials estimated it would take 10 to 20 minutes to execute convicted double murderer Joseph Wood using an experimental two-drug cocktail of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.

Instead, Wood coughed and wheezed for almost 2 hours — so long that his lawyer had time to file an emergency appeal in federal court — before he finally died.

“I counted about 660 times he gasped,” an Arizona Republic reporter who witnessed the execution said in July 2014.

Then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued a statement expressing concern for “the length of time it took for the administered drug protocol” to work but little sympathy for Wood, who had gunned down his girlfriend and her father.

“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer," Brewer said. "This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his 2 victims – and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

Cold-blooded killers do not evoke much compassion but we should avoid jettisoning the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment protection against a “cruel and unusual punishment” in which execution becomes torture. Woods’ death was just one in a series of botched executions across the United States in 2014.

The New Orleans mayor is going the extra mile to alert illegal bus operators. Why didn't she do that for regular motorists?

In January, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire using the same unproven drug combination that was given to Wood. A pastor who watched the execution wrote that McGuire had died “gasping for air.” A Columbus Dispatch reporter said it was a “kind of a rattling, guttural sound. ... A couple of times, he definitely appeared to be choking.”

In Oklahoma, convicted killer Clayton Lockett, 38, died of a massive heart attack almost 30 minutes after prison officials had called off the execution because untrained technicians had made what the warden described as “a bloody mess” trying to insert needles for an IV to carry the lethal drugs into Lockett’s system.

The Oklahoma prison officials were using an experimental three-part drug cocktail obtained from a source kept secret from the public. State witnesses did not get to observe Lockett’s final minutes because a prison official pulled the blinds as the supposedly unconscious inmate struggled against his restraints.

Lethal injection became the primary means of execution in the United States over the past four decades. The process was seen as more humane than hanging, firing squad or electrocution as the combination of drugs used proved to be effective.

That changed in the first decade of the 2000s, when pharmaceutical manufacturers, under pressure from death penalty opponents, began to refuse to sell the drugs for executions and to ban their distributors from doing so.

That sent the states scrambling to purchase new drugs from other markets or to contract with pharmacies to compound the required chemicals.

This has raised questions from opponents about the science of the concoctions and the purity of the drugs being used. They also have continued political pressure against any entity involved in the process.

Death penalty proponents have responded to these legal and political challenges by trying to make the state’s process — source, science and suppliers — a secret.

This is where it stands in Louisiana, which hasn't executed anyone since 2010 and is barred from doing so until July when a court rules on its lethal injection protocols.

Attorney General Jeff Landry and others believe that the lack of executions are evidence of delayed justice and are supporting legislation, House Bill 258, to exclude from the public record any identifying information of people, pharmacies, manufacturers and others who are responsible for providing the state with lethal injection drugs or the “medical equipment” used to carry out executions.

That is the wrong approach. It is subverting the people’s right to know to gain a political objective. It is secrecy designed to thwart legitimate protest and to shroud in darkness one of the greatest powers wielded by government: the power over life and death.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion Catholic who won’t publicly state his position on the death penalty, recently said that he would likely sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. This is essentially the same measure he voted against as a state representative 5 years ago. He was right then.

This is a law that says that the only way for the state to carry out the people’s will is to keep the people in the dark.

(source: Tim Morris; columnist, The Times-Picayune)

OHIO:

Cleveland man guilty in Mr. Cars slayings, faces death penalty

A jury on Tuesday found a Cleveland man guilty of aggravated murder in the execution-style killings of a couple and their dog inside the used car lot they owned.

Joseph McAlpin will now face the death penalty in the March 2017 deaths of Michael Kuznik and Trina Tomola inside the Mr. Cars lot in the city’s Collinwood neighborhood.

Jurors found McAlpin guilty of all counts he faced. The verdict will kick off a 2nd phase of the trial on Monday in which prosecutors will seek to convince jurors that McAlpin ought to be sentenced to death.

Jurors will ultimately recommend a sentence of either death by execution or life in prison. Common Pleas Court Judge Brian Corrigan has the final say and can either accept the jury’s recommendation or lessen it.

Members of the Kuznik and Tomola families, who attended much of the testimony throughout the 3-week trial, wept when Corrigan read the verdict.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley told reporters late Tuesday that he expected the verdict, but didn’t consider it a victory.

“There are three children who don’t have their parents," O’Malley said. “Even though [McAlpin] was found guilty on all counts today, it’s really not a victory when you have to look at the family and the scars that will forever be on them.”

McAlpin represented himself at trial, a move that is believed to be the 1st in a capital trial in Cuyahoga County history. He remained motionless and did not react as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors relied on DNA evidence, cellphone records and testimony from a man who admitted to helping McAlpin carryout what was supposed to be a simple burglary to steal cars and titles.

Prosecutors say McAlpin entered Mr. Cars and shot Kuznik, 47, in the showroom. The bullet grazed Kuznik’s face before he ran to a backroom, where McAlpin stood over him and shot him in the top of his head, prosecutors say.

Investigators found McAlpin’s DNA in Kuznik’s back pocket, where prosecutors said he had put cash from 2 car sales earlier in the day. The cash was not found on Kuznik’s body.

Tomola, 46, tried to run from the building during the robbery. McAlpin shot her in the back of her head, near an exit, prosecutors said.

McAlpin also shot and killed the couple’s Doberman Pinscher, Axel, who accompanied the couple to work every day for protection, prosecutors said. He also disabled the car lot’s security video systems before stealing the cars.

Investigators found McAlpin’s DNA on a computer modem that was inches from Tomola’s body, and inside a BMW sedan that was stolen during the killings, prosecutors said.

McAlpin’s admitted accomplice, Andrew Keener, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and agreed to testify for the state at trial. Keener told jurors that he and McAlpin’s brother, Jerome Diggs, waited outside the lot while McAlpin went in. Keener testified that he spoke on the phone several times with McAlpin while he was in the dealership before McAlpin summoned him to drive a Mercedes sedan away from the lot while McAlpin followed in the BMW.

Keener is set to be sentenced after McAlpin’s trial wraps up. Diggs has pleaded not guilty to charges including aggravated murder, and his case is pending.

Google Location Services put McAlpin’s location at the store at the time of the slayings, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Brian Radigan said, as did information from cellphone towers. The Google locations stopped around 5:30 p.m., which Radigan said happened because the modem with McAlpin’s DNA on it was ripped from the wall.

Cellphone towers later put McAlpin’s location on West 48th Street, where police found the stolen BMW, Radigan said.

McAlpin pointed out that prosecutors had no eyewitnesses to the shooting and no video evidence of what happened inside the Collinwood used car lot.

He criticized the DNA evidence prosecutors said showed he was inside the used car dealership and in a BMW that was stolen during the robbery.

McAlpin also said he did not have his phone at the time of the slayings. Investigators used information from the cellphone, including Google Location Services and cellphone tower pings from McAlpin’s phone.

He called Keener a liar who told police what they wanted to hear to spare himself.

“I’m not a monster,” McAlpin said during closing arguments on Monday.

(source: cleveland.com)

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

Is this the beginning of the end for Ohio's death penalty?

Jeffrey Wogenstahl was supposed to die today.

If things had gone according to plan, he would have been strapped to a table this morning and injected with lethal drugs.

His loved ones, lawyers and the family of the 10-year-girl he was convicted of killing could have watched.

But that won't happen.

Wogenstahl's case began in 1991 when 10-year-old Amber Garrett went missing and was found dead three days later in Indiana. A jury found him guilty of beating and stabbing the girl to death. Wogenstahl was 31 at the time. He's 58 now.

After 27 years of lawsuits and appeals with 3 cases pending at the county, state and federal level, Wogenstahl was granted an indefinite stay of execution by the Ohio Supreme Court last fall due to open questions about his case.

Since then, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has suspended all executions in a continuing struggle for the state to find a painless way to kill death row inmates.

With drug suppliers refusing to allow their products to be used to kill people and botched executions making headlines, Ohio's death penalty is on life support.

Wogenstahl managed to live past the day Ohio first scheduled for his death without the help of Mike DeWine, buthe andthe 137 other people on death row are likely wondering what the governor and legislature might do next.

The problem with midazolam

DeWine recently ordered the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to find a new method for executing death row inmates. Until that happens, all executions are on hold.

A federal magistrate called Ohio's three-drug death penalty protocol "cruel and unusual punishment" banned by the U.S. Constitution. That carried weight with the governor.

"Having that opinion in front of me, I felt that Ohio shouldn't be carrying out an execution while we know those facts," DeWine told The Enquirer.

The main problem: the first drug administered, midazolam.

Midazolam is a sedative used in some surgeries to relax the patient and block the formation of traumatic memories. It's not a painkiller, even at high doses, experts testified before the federal magistrate.

Midazolam can lead to pulmonary edema, a condition where fluid fills the lungs making it difficult to breathe. One doctor compared it to the torture technique of waterboarding. And the amount of midazolam that Ohio uses to execute prisoners would cause "severe burning sensations in the blood vessels," a doctor testified.

An autopsy showed Hamilton County Killer Robert Van Hook suffered from the condition when he was executed in July 2018. He was the last person put to death before DeWine's suspension.

After the midazolam, Ohio then injects a paralytic and potassium chloride to stop the inmate's heart. Without an analgesic, the inmate would feel the pain of both those drugs even if he were unconscious, according to doctors' testimony.

Ohio executed 3 death row inmates using this 3-drug combo. But the next person executed in Ohio will likely die by another method.

Hunt for execution drugs

Across the nation, states have struggled to access drugs to execute death row inmates.

Ohio used a single drug, pentobarbital, until manufacturers refused to sell it to states for executions. So the state switched to an untested, two-drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone for Dennis McGuire, who was convicted of raping and fatally stabbing a pregnant woman.

McGuire's execution in January 2014 took almost 26 minutes – the longest since Ohio reinstituted the death penalty in 1999. He struggled, gasped for air and choked for about 10 minutes before eventually dying, according to a Columbus Dispatch witness.

The fallout from McGuire's execution stalled Ohio's death penalty for 3 1/2 years.

During that time, the state created its new 3-drug protocol and changed policies to obtain the drugs.

Legislators passed a law granting anonymity to compounding pharmacies that prepare Ohio's lethal-injection drugs. The state ordered the drugs through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services rather than the prison system, according to a Dispatch report.

On July 26, 2017, Ohio executed inmate Ronald Phillips with the new method and newly acquired drugs. The state's death penalty was back in business.

Or it was before the federal magistrate compared Ohio's execution protocol to waterboarding earlier this year.

State Public Defender Tim Young and his office are leading a lawsuit against the current lethal injection practices. One problem: Ohio keeps changing its methods.

"Whenever the Department of Correction changes the protocol, you essentially reset the litigation," Young said.

Though he agrees with the governor's actions, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the debate over what drugs to use is just a charade to obstruct the death penalty in a state where the public supports it.

"The reality is we are killing someone. It's not pretty. It's ugly," he said, rattling off alternatives to lethal injection. "We've got a boatload of fentanyl sitting in (storage) right now. Bring back the firing squad. That has been ruled constitutional."

The DeWine difference?

DeWine's political experiences have given him a unique perspective on capital punishment.

He sponsored legislation to reinstitute the death penalty legislation as a state lawmaker, fought against death row inmates' appeals as the state's attorney and now governs a state where the death penalty is legal.

DeWine, a Republican, is also a devout Catholic. Last year, Pope Francis declared capital punishment to be wrong in all cases, saying the church will work "with determination" to abolish the practice worldwide.

But should Ohio continue the death penalty? DeWine didn't take a stance when asked by The Enquirer.

"That is a discussion that certainly can take place, but I’m not going to engage in that today," he said.

Opponents of the death penalty still see DeWine as their best hope to end – or at least stall – capital punishment in Ohio.

"Gov. DeWine has been very thoughtful, and he has been careful," said Kevin Warner, executive director of the group Ohioans to Stop Executions.

Former Gov. John Kasich was also quick to stall executions when the federal court deemed Ohio's protocol unconstitutional.

"Ohio has a history of problematic executions, but Ohio has also had governors who don’t want to torture prisoners to death," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national non-profit organization that does not take a stance on capital punishment but has been critical of its implementation.

"Other states don’t seem to care as much," he said.

Lawmakers to end death penalty? Not likely

20 states have abolished the death penalty. Some, such as Michigan, have never executed a prisoner. Others have outlawed it in the past decade, concerned about its constitutionality, racial bias, cost or potential wrongful convictions.

But Ohio is unlikely to join that list anytime soon. The state's GOP-controlled Legislature has little appetite for limiting, much less banning, capital punishment.

In 2011, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, led a task force of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and academics, who studied ways to improve the state's death penalty.

One recommendation – to ban the death penalty for individuals with a documented serious mental illness – has been proposed repeatedly by a bipartisan group of lawmakers only to die in committee.

The main opponent to these limits on the death penalty: the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

"We support the death penalty," the association's executive director Louis Tobin told The Enquirer. "It’s a recognition that some people can’t be rehabilitated."

If Ohio offered an exception for serious mental illness, everyone on death row would be filing some proof of their mental health issues, Tobin said. The court battles would drag on, leaving victims' families in limbo.

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly introduced bills to abolish the death penalty in Ohio to no avail. Still, Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said she sees DeWine's call for a new protocol as an opportunity to move the conversation forward.

"Any time there’s difficulty in figuring out how to execute people, that’s a window to discuss whether the death penalty is even appropriate," Antonio said.

But it's possible DeWine's delay could have the opposite effect. Lethal injection is currently the only execution method on the books in Ohio, but lawmakers could recommend an alternative, such as electrocution, firing squad, gas chamber or hanging.

Senate President Larry Obhof has said he's happy to explore other options.

"We are all concerned that if you're going to have capital punishment, you should have a process in place that courts are willing to accept and meets constitutional muster," he told The Enquirer.

Wogenstahl's fight for a new trial

When the jury announced Wogenstahl was guilty, he broke down in tears. As he was led for the courtroom he shouted: "I didn't do it. I'm sorry. I didn't do it."

He has steadfastly maintained he is innocent.

When 10-year-old Amber was killed, there were no witnesses.

Among other things, prosecutors pointed to a hair found on Amber's clothes, a jailhouse confession to fellow inmate Bruce Wheeler and blood evidence.

Since his conviction, the Department of Justice admitted that what an expert told the jury about the hair “exceeded the limits of science.”

His attorneys say Wheeler was made promises by the prosecution despite saying the opposite in court.

They uncovered police records showing Amber’s mother and brother were hypnotized by a Harrison police officer. Other documents showed that police were told before the trial Amber had previously been sexually assaulted and her mother was involved with drugs and in debt to dealers.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said the things Wogenstahl uncovered could show "he can establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty."

Deters, who prosecuted Wogenstahl's case back in the 1990s, called the arguments "total crap."

He said Wogenstahl tricked Amber's brother to get him out of the house, kidnapped Amber from her bed, killed her and dumped her body in Indiana. Deters said Wogenstahl power-washed his car to get rid of evidence.

"I know for certain Jeffrey Wogenstahl killed Amber Garrett.," Deters said. "Ultimately, I hope he gets the justice he deserves. It's so frustrating to observe the tactics."

On the other side, Young points to 7 exonerations in Ohio since the 1980s while 56 people have been put to death. Young said nationally, for every 10 executions, there is 1 exoneration.

With that kind of failure rate, Young argued, we shouldn't be killing people.

Deters has a different take. He said he only seeks the death penalty for the worst of the worst, cases where there is no question of guilt.

"There's just some crimes people deserve to die for," he said.

(source: Cincinnati Enquirer)

INDIANA:

Dansby death-penalty trial on track for October

The trial of a Fort Wayne man facing the death penalty in 4 killings remains on track for October, defense attorneys and prosecutors said today.

Marcus Dansby, 23, is charged with killing the 4 -- 1, his unborn child -- Sept. 11, 2016.

Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille and defense attorney Michelle Kraus each said in court this morning they will be ready for the trial to start with jury selection Oct. 1. The trial is expected to last a month.

Prosecutors also could respond this week to a request by Dansby's lawyers to ask the Indiana Supreme Court whether Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull erred when she rejected a request to exclude the death penalty as punishment for the slayings. Defense attorneys Kraus and Robert Gevers have asked Gull to sign off on allowing the high court to weigh in.

Proceedings in the case would stop until justices make a decision, if the local judge approves the request.

(source: The Journal Gazette)

ILLINOIS:

Freed death row inmate Rolando Cruz meets with Ripper Crew killer Thomas Kokoraleis in Aurora

They met back in 1984, sharing a pod for more than a year inside the DuPage County jail, where both young men were incarcerated for 2 sensational crimes that shocked Chicago and its suburbs.

Thomas Kokoraleis, then 22, was behind bars for his part in a series of ritualistic Ripper Crew rapes, mutilations and murders of as many as 17 young women. Rolando Cruz, 20 at the time and living in Aurora, was awaiting the 1st of what would turn into 3 trials for the rape and beating death of a 10-year-old Naperville girl.

Well over three decades later, the 2 middle-aged men, both free but still haunted by their pasts, had a chance to reunite over the weekend. This time it was in a conference room at Wayside Cross Ministries in Aurora, where Kokoraleis, released from prison 3 weeks ago after serving 1/2 of a 70-year prison sentence for the murder of Lorry Ann Borowski, is residing while taking part in a Christian-based program to help ex-cons re-enter society.

Unlike his fellow DuPage inmate, Cruz was eventually exonerated of the murder of Jeanine Nicarico after a trio of high-profile trials that led to the exposure of a corrupt legal system and a multi-million-dollar settlement. But not before Cruz spent a decade as an innocent man on death row.

Since his release from prison in November 1994, Cruz has become a vocal advocate for reform of the criminal justice system, lecturing nationally and internationally on such topics as the death penalty. But he seems most proud of his work helping convicted murderers upon their release from prison, not just those exonerated but those who served their time and are trying to get on with their lives.

Cruz, who recalled most of their conversations back in those DuPage County jail days were “about the law,” admitted he would never have recognized the now far-heavier Kokoraleis if he met him on the street. But “I kept tabs on you a lot when you were inside,” Cruz told his former pod-mate.

In addition to their jailhouse connection, Cruz feels Kokoraleis is “under attack” and that made him decide to reach out for this visit. Kokoraleis’ stay in the Fox Valley has ignited a firestorm of controversy, with Mayor Richard Irvin publicly demanding the 91-year-old downtown Aurora mission find another home for the convicted murderer farther away from this urban area and his DuPage County victim’s loved ones.

“I understand (protesters’) concerns,” Cruz told Kokoraleis after the two exchanged hugs and a few moments of pleasantries. “But you are doing nothing wrong. You are not on parole. You are allowed to turn around and get a job and go on with your life.”

Cruz, of all people, knows how hard that can be when you are the subject of such a notorious case. A self-described “high-ranking gang member” when he was arrested in 1984, “all I ever wanted was to be left alone,” he said, echoing the words Kokoraleis declared to me after his first interview as a free man earlier this month.

Instead, Cruz — who spent time on death row with Kokoraleis’ brother Andrew, the last Illinois inmate to be executed — was immediately pulled in a dozen different directions by people, all “wanting something to fit their own agendas.”

The first person in Illinois to be exonerated, in part, due to DNA evidence, Cruz said he “had no support system” in place and “did not know how else to hide” from the onslaught of this unwanted celebrity status. So he turned to drugs and alcohol, and it wasn’t until six years after he was freed that, looking directly into the face of one of his young children, it suddenly hit him “how lost I was.”

That’s when Cruz deliberately dropped out of sight — moving to Wisconsin for a while before settling four years ago in Sycamore with his three minor children and working as an IT engineer at a medical facility.

Cruz, who attended law school for a while, describes his present life as blessed. “But people don’t know what it cost me to get to that station,” he said to Kokoraleis. “I still suffer from PTSD, which is one reason I want to talk to you. I don’t want you to have to constantly deal with this kind of stuff.”

The goal is “to help those who want to help themselves,” said Cruz, insisting that his desire to make this a “win win win” for the controversial Wayside resident, the community and victims’ loved ones will not stop with this one visit.

Cruz, who talked via phone with Irvin prior to this nearly 2-hour meeting, realizes he’s likely to “get a lot of flak” for the visit with Kokoraleis.

“I tell people, you don’t understand the guy like I do. You don’t see the human side of him,” he said, insisting he would have been just as comfortable talking to Kokoraleis at his home with his kids present.

“Yes, this is a nasty murder case,” he said of the Ripper Crew saga. “But every murder case is nasty. Either complain about all of them or none of them. He is human and he paid his debt to society. How many times does he have to keep paying that debt?”

Before the 2 parted, Cruz told Kokoraleis to call him at any time. And he offered this advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff and stay focused on what “needs to be done to get on with your life.”

Kokoraleis, who did most of the listening during this nearly two-hour meeting, nodded when his visitor told him to “stay strong” and continue growing spiritually and psychologically. And he expressed appreciation to Cruz, who’s “got my back,” he noted, as controversy continues to swirl around him.

“He’s trying to become a productive citizen,” Cruz insisted moments before the 2 former inmates hugged again and said good-bye. “Allow him that opportunity … don’t bring out the lynch mob now.”

(source: Chicago Tribune)

MISSOURI:

Man convicted in 2014 killing of 5 in south KC neighborhood

A 38-year-old man charged in the killing of 5 people in a south Kansas City neighborhood in 2014 has been convicted.

Brandon Howell was convicted Monday by a Jackson County jury on all counts including beating 2 people to death and shooting and killing 3 others in 2014.

In August 2015 Jackson County prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for Howell. On Monday, Jackson County Persecutor Jean Baker said they met with all of the family members and decided it was best to remove death as an option in this case and to see the rest of Howell's nature life in prison.

"They are still heartbroken," Baker said. "They are still heartbroken but they’re elated with the news. They waited so so long to get here. They’ve been very patient so I’m very grateful to be able to deliver that news today."

Baker said this was a case that struck terror in a whole community.

"And I really hope what the community takes from this, especially that little community on south KC, is that the person who causes this incredible harm to them can no longer harm them," Baker said.

According to court documents, the murders happened on Woodbridge Lane, near Wornall Road and Blue Ridge Boulevard. The victims are 86-year-old Ann Taylor, 80-year-old George Taylor, 88-year-old Lorene Hurst, her 68-year-old son Darrel Hurst and 69-year-old Susan Choucroun.

Court documents say Howell allegedly tried to steal a vintage Jaguar from Ann and George Taylor. Police found the couple badly beaten and barely clinging to life in their basement. They later died at the hospital.

According to a police investigation, Howell hot-wired the car and tried to get away. But the car didn't work, and neighbors came outside to try to help. That's when court documents say Howell allegedly shot at them and killed Lorene Hurst, Darrel Hurst and Susan Choucroun.

Then, court documents say Howell drove off in another one of the Taylor's cars, a Toyota SUV. It all happened in broad daylight, around one o'clock. Hours later, just before midnight, police found Howell walking with a shotgun they said he brought to the Taylor's home and used in the killings, near I-29 and Northwest Barry Road.

They said he attacked 3 people at a Motel 6 after he left Woodbridge. Howell is facing charges in Platte County related to that incident.

A memorial stands tall at the entrance of the Woodbridge neighborhood in South Kansas City. It's a reminder of the 5 victims.

A sentencing date has not yet been announced.

This case is not Howell's first brush with the law. He did jail time in Kansas for assault and kidnapping and was acquitted of 2 1999 murders.

(source: fox4kc.com)

NEBRASKA:

Man accused in Sydney Loofe murder challenging death-qualified jury

A man accused of killing and dismembering a Lincoln woman is trying to make sure some of his jurors will oppose the death penalty.

Court documents filed Tuesday show Aubrey Trail, 52, says the death qualification of the jury "violates his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Sections 3, 6, 9, 11, and 15 of Article I of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska."

A death-qualified jury means that the jurors know that the death penalty is on the table as a possible sentence, and are not opposed to capital punishment. Jurors must also understand that the death penalty should not be imposed in all cases, however.

It also means that during jury selection, only those who are not opposed to the death penalty would be selected.

If Trail's motion is approved, it would allow for the selection of jurors who oppose the death penalty. It would also mean that jurors wouldn't even know if the death penalty is an option in the case.

Attorneys for Trail are also trying to find out whether Nebraska's governor is behind the prosecutors' decision to seek the death penalty.

Lawyers filed a discovery motion last week in Saline County District Court, seeking documents on communications between prosecutors and any members of Gov. Pete Ricketts' office about the death penalty in criminal cases and especially in Trail's case and that of his co-defendant.

The motion said Ricketts and his family spent a lot of money in support of a referendum to reinstate the death penalty after the Legislature voted to abolish it in 2015.

Trail and Bailey Boswell are accused of killing 24-year-old Sydney Loofe in November 2017, dismembering her body and dumping the remains in rural Clay County.

Trail's trial is scheduled to begin June 17. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for both Trail and Boswell. Her trial is set to begin Oct. 15.

(source: KHGI news)

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Lawyers seeking information on death penalty decision in case of Murdered Neligh, Neb. native

Attorneys for a man accused of killing and dismembering a Lincoln woman want to find out whether Nebraska’s governor is behind the prosecutors’ decision to seek the death penalty.

Lawyers for 52-year-old Aubrey Trail filed a discovery motion last week in Saline County District Court, seeking documents regarding communications between prosecutors and any members of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office about the death penalty in criminal cases and especially in Trail’s case and that of his co-defendant.

The motion says Ricketts and his family spent heavily in support of a referendum to reinstate the death penalty after the Legislature voted to abolish it in 2015.

Trail and Bailey Boswell are accused of killing 24-year-old Sydney Loofe in November 2017, dismembering her body and dumping the remains in rural Clay County.

Trail’s trial is scheduled to begin June 17. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for both Trail and Boswell. Her trial is set to begin Oct. 15.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

U.S. Supreme Court denies death penalty appeal for 2nd time

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the 2nd appeal of a man sentenced to death for a 1992 Rapid City murder.

Charles Rhines was convicted by a Pennington County jury in January 1993 and was sentenced to death for murdering 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer while burglarizing a donut shop in Rapid City. According to South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, Rhines confessed to the murder during his trial.

Rhines requested his case be reviewed by the Supreme Court for a 2nd time after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied his petition for rehearing in October 2018. His appeal asserted that he was sentenced to death because his sexual orientation biased jurors.

(source: Mitchell Republic News)

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He’s Living With Severe Mental Illness. Should He Face the Death Penalty?----A South Dakota case reflects the national debate on whether execution should be banned for the mentally ill.

Aleesha DeKnikker was grocery shopping, her phone set to silent, when the voicemail from her mother, Carol Simon, came in: “Oh, it’s just Mom. Your brother has really lost it, Aleesha.... He’s just having a mental breakdown and he won’t even believe where he’s from. He won’t even believe that I gave birth to him…. I don’t know what to do.”

6 weeks later, Simon was found dead, along with her 7-year-old grandson, Brayden Otto. Her son, Heath Otto, 24, admitted to investigators in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that he had strangled his mother and nephew with a phone cord and then slit their throats.

Soon after, Otto was ruled incompetent to stand trial, and he was sent to a state hospital. Doctors hired by his defense lawyers diagnosed him with schizophrenia. The Minnehaha County state’s attorney, Aaron McGowan, told DeKnikker that her brother could face the death penalty. A trial will take place as soon as Otto’s mental condition stabilizes, unless the prosecutor agrees to let him be committed to a hospital permanently rather than face prison and potential execution.

The case is gearing up amid a broader decline in the death penalty, as lawmakers around the country are considering bans on death sentences for people with certain serious mental illnesses. Some prosecutors have pushed back, seeing these bans as a backdoor effort to abolish the punishment entirely. Otto was close to his mother growing up, and he began experimenting with drugs as a teenager. After a discharge from the Marines in his early 20s—he was caught using steroids, his sister said—she started to notice moments of paranoia. “Unless you were close to him you wouldn’t see it,” Simon’s friend Maddie Borah said. “He was going to school to be an electrician, and he’d be convinced people were going into his toolbox.” He began drinking heavily, and occasionally Simon would call a detox facility to hold him until he sobered up. “I think she was lenient because deep inside she knew there was something going on, beyond him being an addict,” Borah said.

Simon and DeKnikker, Otto’s mom and sister, were both nurses, so they recognized a turning point around January 2016—he was more paranoid than ever, repeating himself and retreating into isolation. “I knew he had schizophrenia,” DeKnikker said. “I knew he would need to get in trouble to get help, but I never thought he would do something violent.” He was not formally diagnosed. Twice, in May and August of 2016, he was arrested at a bank where he was refusing to leave, as he talked about applying to work for the CIA, and in September, he set off his mother’s home alarm system, with the aim of making a CIA recruiter show up.

Simon wanted her son to be committed to a mental health facility, but South Dakota laws required that he be a danger to himself or others, and as in much of the country there were few resources for those needing mental health treatment. He never saw a therapist. DeKnikker offered him money if he agreed to seek treatment on his own, but he said she’d need to give him a large sum, to pay for the voices in his head. Finally he agreed to treatment, but when it came time to check into a hospital, he changed his mind and refused to stay. “He didn’t verbalize intent to harm himself or others,” Borah said, so he was not committed.

That was on a Tuesday in November. On Sunday, his other sister, Cassandra Otto, left her son Brayden with him and their mother. When she called to check in, she could tell from his tone that something terrible had happened. She sped home. He’d set off the home alarm, so law enforcement officers had already arrived. They asked if anyone needed medical attention, and Otto responded: “Not anymore.”

He went on to claim, falsely, that his mother and nephew had medical conditions and he wanted to “put them out of their misery.” He later told DeKnikker, in her recollection, “It was an order from the CIA, and then he said stuff about Hillary Clinton, and if he didn’t do it it was going to be World War III.” His defense lawyers hired experts who diagnosed him with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Prosecutors may contest these diagnoses at trial, but they did not take issue with the judge’s decision that he was incompetent to stand trial. According to reporting by the Argus Leader, Otto had to wait several months for a bed to open up at the state’s only public psychiatric hospital. In December 2018 a doctor at that hospital told the court there was a “substantial probability” Otto would be able to face trial within a year.

Aaron McGowan, the state’s attorney, does not need to formally announce yet whether he is seeking the death penalty, but the case is proceeding as though he will; the defense team is more robust than it typically would be in a non-capital murder case. McGowan declined an interview, saying in an email that “our rules of professional responsibility preclude me from commenting on the case.”

DeKnikker has written him a letter asking him not to seek the death penalty. “Please know that killing another member of our family in no way honors my mom’s life,” she wrote, “and doesn’t reflect anything my mom stood for.”

But Cassandra Otto, Brayden’s mother, wants her brother to be executed for the killing of her child. “I do forgive him, in a way, because I know my mom tried getting him help,” she said when I reached her by phone. “I’m in a phase where I don’t know if he’s faking it or he’s really mentally ill.” But, she added, “I think he should get the death penalty no matter what, because my family doesn’t deserve what happened to us. My sister disagrees, because that wasn’t her kid.” She said her brother “knew what he was doing,” pointing out that he got a knife only after he failed to kill Simon and Brayden with the phone cord. It is easy to imagine prosecutors making a similar argument at trial.

Earlier this year, the South Dakota state legislature rejected a proposal to ban death sentences for people with serious mental illnesses, though it had passed such a proposal through one chamber last year. The Virginia state senate approved a similar bill three months ago. Other bills are gaining traction in Texas, Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri. Some include post-traumatic stress disorder, while others are limited to schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder. Many require active psychosis at the time of the crime. Some would let a judge decide who should be exempted, before the trial begins. The Texas bill would let a jury decide during the trial. The Tennessee bill requires a documented medical history before the crime, which might exclude someone like Otto.

Supporters of these bills, with the backing of the American Bar Association, argue that the “insanity defense” tends to be very narrowly defined, and juries are skeptical of it. The Supreme Court has already banned the death penalty for people with intellectual disabilities and those who committed their crimes before the age of 18. Both bans were based on the idea that society views these murderers as “categorically less culpable than the average criminal.” The high court has ruled that death row prisoners must be “competent” to be executed, though lower courts are still debating exactly what that means.

“Defendants who have a mental illness are particularly vulnerable in our criminal justice system,” Amanda Marzullo, director of the Texas Defender Service, told a panel of legislators in her state last month. “They are very likely to fire their defense lawyers, or not cooperate with them, or even try to represent themselves.”

Prosecutors have been wary. “The version of this legislation that is pending in Ohio would effectively end the death penalty,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. He predicted that everyone facing the punishment would be able to obtain a diagnosis. A defendant can already mount an insanity defense, he pointed out, and then tell the jury about mental illness as a way of persuading them to vote for life without parole instead of death. Ohio’s bill, as of now, would apply retroactively, potentially setting up lengthy legal fights over old cases.

If Heath Otto goes to trial, the state and the defense will battle over how well Otto understood what he was doing, and what his drug and alcohol use says about his culpability. In the meantime, he lives in a psychiatric hospital. Maddie Borah, his mother’s friend, said she doesn’t visit, because she fears she might trigger him: “If he understood what he did to his mother, he would probably try to commit suicide.” She sees the entire situation as an indictment of the way our society treats those with severe mental health problems: “It’s much easier to kill a mentally ill man than to admit your mental health system, your law enforcement, your policies and procedure are so inept.”

(source: The Marshall Project)

USA:

We should preach about the death penalty on Good Friday

To avoid preaching about the evil of the death penalty on Good Friday is akin to not preaching about the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. The central scriptural context of the liturgical readings is focused on the state execution of Jesus Christ. And yet, if previous experiences are any indication, anecdotal evidence suggests that few Catholics will hear their pastors deliver a homily this Friday in which the Passion of the Lord is connected to the sin of capital punishment.

The very nature and purpose of the Good Friday homily begs such an engagement. As the General Instruction of the Roman Missal makes clear, the homily ought to be an explanation of the readings that ties together the mystery we celebrate in faith and the needs and contexts of the people gathered in assembly. But the homily is not merely an opportunity for exegesis or catechesis, it is meant to inspire, challenge, lift up and embolden the faith of the hearers.

The important 1982 U.S. bishops' conference document "Fulfilled in Your Hearing," on the role of the homily in liturgy, reminds us that "the homily is preached in order that a community of believers who have gathered to celebrate the liturgy may do so more deeply and more fully — more faithfully — and thus be transformed for Christian witness in the world" (no. 43). Likewise, in 2012, the U.S. bishops' conference issued another document on the homily on the 30th anniversary of "Fulfilled in Your Hearing." This text, titled "Preaching the Mystery of Faith," states: "The purpose and spirit of the homily is to inspire and move those who hear it, to enable them to understand in heart and mind what the mysteries of our redemption mean for our lives and how they might call us to repentance and change" (p. 30).

Given the purpose and place of the homily, the subject of the death penalty in the context of the United States offers both the preacher and the assembly an important opportunity. For the former, while it takes courage to discuss a subject that will surely find a mixed reception in many congregations, it is an opportunity to directly address the continued and pressing relevance of the church's teaching on the inexcusability of capital punishment as borne witness to in the Lord's passion and in the many hundreds of death-row inmates today. For the assembly, it is an opportunity, as the U.S. bishops' conference documents on preaching recall, to grow in understanding of the faith, see the connection between that faith and an injustice in our midst, and thus move toward greater transformation in order to be Christian witnesses in the world.

Beyond the homiletic impetus for it, the need to address capital punishment as a pressing moral issue in our day is heightened by the recent Amnesty International report on global trends in the death penalty, which was published just last week. While some of the statistics will not be surprising — the greatest number of state executions took place in nations like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Iraq — some of the report should be a particularly disturbing reminder of how unjust the United States' judicial system remains. For example, the report says that: "For the 10th consecutive year, the USA remained the only country to carry out executions in the region [of North and South America]."

Think about that for a minute. The national narrative and accompanying rhetoric used by politicians on both sides of the aisle often claims that the United States is a beacon of democratic hope and a model of integrity for the world. Furthermore, many of our leaders and ordinary citizens alike enjoy thinking of our country as a "Christian nation," but one of the starkest signs of our moral hypocrisy is witnessed in the data that show we are the only nation in the Western Hemisphere that sentences its own citizens to death. And, according to the Amnesty report, as of 2018 the number of death sentences and executions increased in the United States from 2017. We are in the worldwide minority of countries that still maintains the death penalty, and those with whom we share that appalling company include an embarrassing collection of dictatorships and promoters of state terrorism.

One of the traditional go-to justifications for supporting the death penalty among American Catholics had been a clause in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church that acknowledged the possibility that state execution of criminals could be justified as a last resort and for the sake of the common good. That document was promulgated under St. John Paul II, who was an outspoken critic of the death penalty (including in the United States) and who, according to reporting by Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese, didn't want to include the exception and would have preferred to see the practiced entirely abolished. "But some in the Vatican were concerned about how the church would explain its change in teaching," Reese explains. So, to avoid having to provide a difficult explanation, "John Paul had the catechism say that the death penalty was only permitted 'if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.' The catechism quotes John Paul, who stated that cases requiring the execution of the offender 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent' (no. 2267)."

Last August, Pope Francis accomplished what John Paul could not during his own ministry as bishop of Rome. The pope instructed the prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to revise paragraph 2267 of the catechism. This summary of the church's teaching now reads:

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.

This week marks the first Good Friday liturgy since this clarification of the church's teaching on the death penalty. I cannot think of a more auspicious time to address it than when we gather in prayer and worship to commemorate the time our Lord and Savior was executed as a victim of capital punishment. As we call to mind the end of Jesus's earthly life, may we open ourselves to becoming ever-more "pro-life," remembering that those on death row have as much dignity and value as any other person, born or unborn; and that no one, not even the state, has the right to take another's life.

(source: Daniel P. Horan is a Franciscan friar and assistant professor of systematic theology and spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago---- National Catholic Reporter)

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Why the Death Penalty Has Lost Support From Both Parties----A generation ago, most Democrats and Republicans backed capital punishment. But in New Hampshire, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle just voted to abolish it, reflecting a nationwide trend.

20 years ago, most politicians in both parties supported the death penalty. But today, opposition to it has become increasingly bipartisan.

Democrats have always been more wary, but now more conservatives have also become convinced that capital punishment is another failed government program. In part, that's because the legal process for such cases is enormously expensive, even though few executions are ever carried out.

“When you look at how much money we’re spending, no one looks at that and thinks the death penalty works fine,” says Hannah Cox, national manager for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a pro-abolition group. “We’re seeing a real escalation as far as the number of Republican legislators who are sponsoring repeal bills.”

There’s evidence of declining political support for capital punishment all around the country.

Last month, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions. In October, the Washington state Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, finding it arbitrary and racially biased. In February, Wyoming's GOP-controlled House passed an abolition bill, although it failed in the Senate.

“This is far too much authority to rest in government,” GOP state Sen. Brian Boner said during floor debate over the Wyoming bill. “Sometimes we wonder if our government can deliver the mail correctly.”

Lately, the spotlight has shifted to New Hampshire, where last week the legislature sent the governor a bill to repeal the death penalty. Both chambers passed the bill by veto-proof margins, with bipartisan support. Once the legislature overrides GOP Gov. Chris Sununu’s expected veto, New Hampshire will be the 21st state to outlaw capital punishment. Colorado and Nevada could be next -- both have repeal bills currently pending.

For the 1st time since the death penalty was put back into practice during the 1970s, a majority of Americans now live in states that have abolished the practice or imposed a moratorium on it, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which researches the issue.

Still, support for capital punishment has not vanished. Polls show that a majority of Americans continue to back it.

President Trump has called for executing drug dealers as part of his plan to address the opioid epidemic. And last week, the U.S. Supreme Court -- where a majority of justices have repeatedly vented frustration with delays in executions -- ruled that Alabama can carry one out despite concerns that the state's method of lethal injection could cause excruciating pain.

But the number of executions has come down fast from its peak 20 years ago. The number of death sentences being imposed has also dropped dramatically.

“The successful abolition efforts have been bipartisan,” says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Democrats are more likely to support repeal than Republicans, but we’re getting to the point where more and more Republican legislators are introducing bills to abolish the death penalty and signing onto bills in states where the repeal effort is bipartisan.”

Responding to Crime Rates

Back in 1992, while running for president, Democratic Gov. Bill Clinton flew back to Arkansas to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a man so badly brain-damaged that he said he was saving part of his last meal “for later.”

“Democrats were still supportive of the death penalty,” says Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. “They certainly believed it would be a political killer not to be vocal in saying that, at least in some cases, the death penalty would be appropriate.”

Violent crime rates peaked in the early 1990s, and the tough-on-crime response embraced by Democrats and Republicans at the time culminated in the 1994 federal crime law, which made dozens of additional federal crimes punishable by death.

But by the time the bill had passed, crime rates were already beginning to fall. According to the FBI, violent crime rates plummeted by 49 percent between 1993 and 2017. Property crime rates dropped even more.

The steep national decline in violent crime and murders over the past generation has made it possible for politicians to do something other than seek the maximum possible sentence at every turn. As with the broader criminal justice reform effort, reexamining the ultimate punishment has become a bipartisan project.

“There’s a natural alliance with Democrats,” says Cox of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “There are not a lot of issues where the two sides are coming together.”

Concerns About Cost and Innocence

Appeals are filed as a matter of course in capital cases. Relatively few of them result in sentences of death. Among those convicted, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate more than 160 death row prisoners. 1 prisoner is now exonerated for every 9 executions that are carried out.

“It’s well-known that it’s more expensive to put people to death than to keep them in prison for the rest of their lives,” says Daniel LaChance, an Emory University historian who studies the issue. “It all adds up to a really expensive big-government program. There has been a sense, particularly in places that use the death penalty infrequently but have big death rows, of what is this all for?”

California has the largest death row in the nation, with more than 700 prisoners, but the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. New Hampshire hasn’t carried out an execution since 1939. In Wyoming, it’s been more than 25 years.

“If you have a sentence on the books, you want it used, and it’s not being used,” says Brandon Garrett, a law professor at Duke University. “The only point of the death penalty is to execute people quickly or it does seem arbitrary.”

Supreme Court justices and politicians sometimes express frustration and even anger about the long delays involved with executions -- the endless rounds of appeals, the legal challenges that have blocked execution methods.

"We need to accelerate the process as much as we can," Mississippi GOP state Rep. Mark Baker, who is running for state attorney general, told the Clarion Ledger recently. "Stories abound of inmates on death row and they're just not moving."

But a growing number of politicians wonder whether preserving the death penalty is worth the cost.

“When you talk about death penalty, a lot of people immediately want to have a criminal justice angle on it or a morality angle,” Chad McCoy, the Kentucky House Republican whip and sponsor of an abolition bill, told The Hill. “Mine is purely economics.”

Fewer Prosecutors Seek Death Sentences

It’s not only lawmakers who have grown more skeptical about capital punishment. Prosecutors have, too.

In part due to the costs associated with capital cases, the death penalty has essentially disappeared from rural counties, says Garrett, author of End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice. Fewer than 2 % of the counties in the nation are responsible for half the death row convictions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Not long ago, jurisdictions like Philadelphia County, Los Angeles County and Harris County, which includes Houston, were imposing 10 or more death sentences apiece per year. If Harris County were a country, it would have spent years ranked among the world's top 10 for death sentences.

But there’s been a changing of the guard in many large counties over the past two or three years, including Harris and Philadelphia. Voters are electing reform-minded prosecutors who are less likely -- or completely unwilling -- to seek execution as a punishment. Last year, no county in the United States imposed more than 2 death sentences.

During the mid-1990s, there were more than 300 death sentences imposed annually for three years running. Last year, the total was 42. There hasn’t been more than 100 since 2010.

“There have been zero defendants sentenced to the death penalty in cases prosecuted by this administration,” says Dane Schiller, spokesman for Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who was elected in 2016. (One defendant received the death penalty in a case handled by an independent prosecutor due to a conflict of interest in the DA’s office.) “Three Harris County inmates have been executed, in decades-old cases, since we took office.”

Last year, 8 states executed a total of 25 prisoners -- down from a peak of 98 in 1999. So far this year, 3 prisoners have been put to death: 2 in Texas and 1 in Alabama.

Not only is the death penalty only being used in a limited number of places, it’s also declining in those places.

Texas and Florida used to impose more than 40 death sentences per year -- now the number is less than 10. Georgia, another leading death penalty state in recent years, hasn’t imposed a death sentence since 2014. Virginia hasn’t sentenced anyone to death row for nearly 8 years.

During the George W. Bush administration, the federal Justice Department actively sought to pursue capital cases in states where the death penalty was moribund. That’s not happening under Trump, even though he was elected on a pro-death penalty platform in 2016.

“His Justice Department has done nothing, to my knowledge, to speed up executions at the federal level or help at the state level with speeding up capital systems or executions,” says Berman, the Ohio State law professor.

In 2016, the same year Trump was elected, Nebraska voters overturned a death penalty repeal that had been passed by the legislature, while California voters rejected a ballot measure to end capital punishment. But if 2016 seemed to signal a shift back in favor of capital punishment, the momentum hasn't been sustained.

Under Trump, just 3 federal prisoners have been sentenced to die. In last year’s elections, 2 governors who imposed moratoriums on the death penalty -- Democrats Kate Brown of Oregon and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania -- both won reelection.

Conversely, 2 governors who vetoed abolition bills -- Republicans Pete Ricketts of Nebraska and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire -- also won reelection. (Sununu vetoed an abolition bill last fall, when both chambers were still controlled by Republicans, and legislators failed to override him.)

“No one’s yet to see any significant backlash on either side for being either abolitionist or disinclined to support the death penalty,” Berman says.

Mile Wide and an Inch Deep?

Last year, Gallup found that 56 % of Americans support the death penalty. That was a point higher than in 2017 but still below the level of 60 % or higher that Gallup found every other year dating back to 1976 -- including 80 % support in 1994, the year of the federal crime law.

Support for capital punishment has weakened, among both juries and the public at large, due to the spread of the sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

“In a place like Texas, a big part of the story is life without parole, which they didn’t have until 2005,” says LaChance, the Emory historian, and author of Executing Freedom: The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United States. “For so long, juries were voting for death because they didn’t trust the system, they didn’t want revolving-door justice.”

Death penalty opponents like to say that support for executions is a mile wide but an inch deep. A majority of people will reflexively say they’re in favor of it but will support alternatives like life without parole, if given a choice, or be troubled by the number of exonerated death row prisoners.

If crime rates increase, support for the death penalty could make a comeback. And many politicians and prosecutors want to keep execution available for punishing the “worst of the worst.” In Florida, for example, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the alleged shooter in last year’s Parkland high school massacre.

Death penalty experts agree that the practice will not be completely abolished anytime in the foreseeable future. But both the use of the death penalty and political support for it has declined markedly since the 1990s, when it was a wedge issue that moved many voters. The list of states abolishing the death penalty continues to grow.

“I see the death penalty ending with a whimper, not a bang,” Garrett says. “It may be that the best thing is to allow states and communities to decide what’s best for them.”

(source: governing.com)

US MILITARY:

Court Rejects 2 Years of Judge’s Decisions in Cole Tribunal

A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out more than 2 years of a military tribunal judge’s decisions in the case of the man accused of plotting the bombing of the destroyer Cole, finding that the jurist wrongly hid his pursuit of an immigration judge job while sitting on the war crimes case.

The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was a major setback in the oldest death-penalty case at Guantánamo Bay, and yet another twist in a winding and fraught case that has come to symbolize the government’s difficulties in pursuing prosecutions of detainees through the military tribunal system.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 54, who has been in American custody since 2002, has been represented by military commission defense lawyers since 2008 and was formally charged in 2011. Mr. al-Nashiri, a Saudi, is accused of being the architect of Al Qaeda’s suicide bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole off Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000. Seventeen American sailors died, and dozens more were wounded.

But more than seven years after Mr. al-Nashiri’s arraignment, the case is still in pretrial hearings to determine what law and evidence would apply at a capital trial by the military commission. The decision means a new military judge will have to revisit defense challenges to the charges, what evidence prosecutors must provide Mr. al-Nashiri’s lawyers and fundamental constitutional questions about the legality of the military commission system.

The crux of the issue confronting the appeals court was whether the judge, the now-retired Air Force Col. Vance Spath, was wrong not to disclose that he had applied for and obtained an immigration court job with the Justice Department while sitting on the case, which was being jointly prosecuted by Justice and Defense Department lawyers.

The three-judge panel found that he was and threw out all of Colonel Spath’s decisions from November 2015 to February 2018, when the judge suspended the case pending higher court review. His Justice Department job offer was still secret at the time.

Judge David Tatel wrote in the appeals court’s 31-page opinion that the court recognized “the burden” that the decision “will place on the government, the public, and al-Nashiri himself.”

“Despite these costs, however, we cannot permit an appearance of partiality to infect a system of justice that requires the most scrupulous conduct from its adjudicators,” Judge Tatel said.

Ron Flesvig, a spokesman for the military commissions, said on Tuesday that prosecutors had no immediate comment on whether they would seek a review by the full appeals court of the question or challenge the decision at the Supreme Court, developments that could even further delay the start of the death-penalty trial. Colonel Spath did not respond to a message left seeking a comment at his Arlington, Va., immigration court office.

Capt. Brian Mizer, a defense lawyer for Mr. al-Nashiri, said based on the latest development it would be nearly impossible to predict when the case would come to trial.

“I would hate to hazard a guess,” Captain Mizer said. “Eleven years of litigation to get where we are now would suggest Mr. al-Nashiri’s trial defense team may be in high school right now. Which is a tragedy for everyone involved.”

A survivor of the Cole bombing, retired Navy Senior Chief Joe Pelly, said he was “kind of shocked” by the decision. He added that he was particularly disappointed for “the parents of the children that were killed,” a reference to the young sailors who were killed in the bombing, which struck the ship’s galley for enlisted sailors.

“I just believe that we, the Cole survivors, and the Gold Star family members have just been a pawn in this whole process,” he said. “But hopefully our time shall come that we can move forward in this case.”

Captain Mizer, a Navy reservist, was returned to the case last year at Colonel Spath’s request. All of Mr. al-Nashiri’s civilian counsel quit the case in October 2017 in an ethics dispute with the judge.

His civilian lawyers had found a microphone hidden in the wall of their meeting room at the United States Navy base prison, but Colonel Spath prohibited them from investigating its purpose or telling their client about it as a potential violation of attorney-client confidentiality because the information was classified. Prosecutors eventually disclosed the discovery in a court filing that called the microphone a “legacy” listening device, and said nobody eavesdropped on the team.

The 3-judge panel faulted Colonel Spath, case prosecutors and a Pentagon appeals panel called the United States Court of Military Commission Review. “Criminal justice is a shared responsibility,” the panel wrote, adding that in this case, only Mr. al-Nashiri’s defense team had shouldered it.

First, the judge failed to disclose his job pursuit. Later, prosecutors rejected a request by Mr. al-Nashiri’s lawyers for information about Colonel Spath’s quest to find a civilian job before retirement, and the Pentagon panel agreed that defense lawyers were not entitled to it.

That information emerged through a Freedom of Information Act request for Colonel Spath’s immigration court application and supporting materials filed by the news organization McClatchy. Defense lawyers appended it to their appeal.

The court found it “especially troubling” that Colonel Spath issued most of his classified rulings in the national-security case “in a flurry” after Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, agreed to his appointment to be an immigration judge in March 2017.

At military commissions, prosecutors can present the judge directly with classified information and get permission to use a substitute for original evidence, citing the need to protect national security.

To undo those secret substitutions, the appeals courrt turned the clock back.

Once back on track, a new judge will have to reconsider Colonel Spath’s invalidated decisions and revisit a prosecution request to pre-admit hundreds of pieces of physical evidence F.B.I. agents tagged from the wreck of the ship in Aden, Yemen, as well as several safe houses in Aden. In both instances, hearing testimony showed, sailors on the heavily damaged destroyer and Yemeni police or intelligence agents got to the evidence first.

Also apparently thrown out was a closed-court deposition Colonel Spath took at Guantánamo Bay from a confessed Qaeda terrorist. Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi testified against Mr. al-Nashiri before being repatriated in May to serve a prison sentence his native Saudi Arabia.

It was unclear how far-ranging the effects of the Cole case decision would be.

But a defense lawyer in the Sept. 11 capital case, James Connell, said on Tuesday that he would renew an objection to that case’s trial judge, Col. Keith Parrella of the Marines, because the colonel had done a 2014-15 fellowship as an on-loan prosecutor at the counterterrorism section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

They had argued that the colonel’s earlier role presented a particular ethical conflict because 4 of the 9 prosecutors on the Sept. 11 case work for the same unit.

Government lawyers defending Colonel Spath’s decisions had argued that the Executive Office for Immigration Review was a far-removed division of the Justice Department, so the colonel had no obligation to disclose his job pursuit.

The appeals panel, however, found that “the attorney general was a participant in al-Nashiri’s case from start to finish: He has consulted on commission trial procedures, he has lent out one of his lawyers and he will play a role in defending any conviction on appeal.”

(source: New York Times)

PAKISTAN:

Murderer Get Death Penalty In Islamabad

An Additional District and Sessions court Tuesday awarded death sentence to an accused involved in a murder case of Koral police limits.

The Koral police produced the Challan of an accused Zaheer Ahmed s/o Muhammad Bakhsh resident of Attock in the court who allegedly murdered Yahya Hussain in February last year over a dispute.

The court after listening to the arguments of both parties declared the accused guilty and awarded death sentence to him.

The court also released an accomplice giving the benefit of doubt.

(source: urdupoint.com)

INDIA:

Man gets capital punishment for raping, killing 3-yr-old

The court of additional session judge Lolark Dubey under district on Wednesday awarded to a man for raping and strangulating a three-year-old minor in Gumla district.

Police said on September 23, 2018, the child was playing outside her house at Hesaguttu-Kohlutoli village under Puso police station in Gumla district when 20-year-old Bandhan Oraon lured her to his house. A police officer said, “Her mother, Etwari Oraon, went out to look for her across the village when a girl told her that she saw the minor playing with Bandhan outside his house. When she approached Bandhan, he told Etwari that her daughter was sleeping inside his house and that he would bring her home once she wakes up.” He added, “Etwari went back to his house after half-an-hour and Bandhan said the child’s body had become cold. When the mother went inside the house, she found her daughter dead and covered in a bloody bedsheet.”

Notably, the judgement came within two-and-a-half months after cognizance of the case, in which 13 witnesses appeared. The court awarded the death penalty under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 376 AB and 302 and also imposed a fine worth Rs 10,000 on Bandhan.

(source: doverdailynews.com)

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

SC stays death sentence of Theni man----Warrant has left no time for the convict to file an appeal, says Bench led by Chief Justice

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the execution of a 30-year-old man convicted for killing a college girl and her lover after raping her near Suruli Hills in Theni district in 2011.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi set aside the warrant of execution issued by the Theni principal sessions judge after the Madras High Court upheld the conviction of Diwakar for murder, and confirmed the death penalty on March 13.

The date of execution of the convict, as per the warrant, was April 22.

The CJI-led Bench noted that the warrant of execution left no time for the convict to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

If implemented, the convict would be executed even before the time allowed under law to file an appeal was exhausted.

“The period for filing of a special leave petition/an appeal against the order of conviction and sentence passed is yet to be over, we are of the view that the warrant for execution of death sentence, dated March 27, 2019, 27.3.2019, is contrary to the law,” the apex court held.

The Supreme Court further recorded: “We are also told that the petitioner is in the process of filing an appeal. The same as and when filed, will receive due attention of the court”.

In its judgment, the High Court had termed the murder as a “brutal act on the helpless young couple, that too after raping the girl”.

“The savageness of the act was shocking and such a person will be a menace to the society,” it had observed.

The trial court had sentenced Diwakar to death in March 2018, saying the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

(source: The Hindu)

EQUATORIAL GUINEA:

Presidential announcement a welcome step towards abolishing the death penalty

Reacting to the news that Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema will propose a draft law to abolish the death penalty, Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director said:

"This presidential announcement is a welcome move and, if the death penalty is abolished in Equatorial Guinea, the country will join more than half of the countries in the world that have consigned the cruel punishment to history – where it belongs.

"Now that the announcement is made, we hope that President Teodoro Obiang Nguema will immediately take necessary steps to ensure his announcement is implemented without delay. Abolishing the death penalty will be a positive step in improving Equatorial Guinea’s human rights record, particularly the protection of the right to life.

“We would also like this positive announcement to be followed by others in favour of the protection of freedoms of expression, opinion, association and assembly and for Equatorial Guinea to respect its human rights obligations.

“Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature of the crime because the death penalty is a violation of the right to life. There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than prison terms."

Background

Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema announced yesterday in Praia, Capo Verde, that he will soon submit to the country’s parliament a bill to abolish the death penalty, as required by the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP).

The last executions recorded in Equatorial Guinea occurred in January 2014. Nine people convicted of murder were executed some days before the establishment of a temporary moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

In its annual Death Penalty Report, released last week, Amnesty International recorded a dramatic drop in executions worldwide. At least 690 executions took place in 20 countries in 2018, a decrease of 31% compared to 2017 (at least 993). This figure represents the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the past decade.

(source: Amnesty International)

MALAWI:

Malawi Debates Death Penalty for Murderers Hunting Albino Body Parts for Witchcraft

A minority party politician in Malawi reignited the debate regarding the use of the death penalty in the African country, Malawi’s Nyasa Times reported Tuesday, calling for the execution of killers targeting albino people to sell their body parts on the black market.

In Malawi, Tanzania, and other parts of southern Africa, the belief persists that people with albinism possess magical powers. Traditional herbalists and healers will often pay high prices for albino body parts to use in magic potions alleged to bring good fortune to the drinkers. Some also believe that engaging in sexual intercourse with someone with albinism can cure HIV/AIDS, a superstition that has fueled rape attacks against albino women and girls.

Investigations from the region have found that some witch doctors will pay up to $75,000 for albino bodies. Given how expensive the ingredients for these magic potions can be, customers are often wealthy individuals and politicians, presenting a significant enforcement problem for local governments.

Tanzania criminalized all witchcraft in 2015.

Malawi, meanwhile, had to contend with increased demand for albino body parts in light of its neighbor’s ban.

“This is a difficult issue. It is not right for a person to be killing other people just like that and these cases have been left for too long without finding the real killers and without any convictions while people with smaller crimes get stiff sentences,” Ulia Kaunda, a local Chibanja politician for the minority United Democratic Front (UDF), said during a debate on Friday. “I will protect all people with albinism in Chibanja, when I am elected. I will also meet the Member of Parliament and ask him to push for the death penalty on anyone who kills an albino.”

Malawi allows for capital punishment in its laws but has not executed a convict since 1992 and faces significant pressure from the international community to abolish the death penalty. Police have ordered officers to shoot first in cases that appear to be albino abductions, but the courts have not followed suit. On the contrary, albino murder cases can often take months to process as police struggle to round up suspects, both killers and potential buyers. In one case, for example – the murder of Macdonald Masambuka, police had arrested 12 people by April 2018, a month after investigators found Masambuka’s body. Among the suspects was a Catholic priest, Father Thomas Muhosha.

Last year, President Peter Mutharika announced that he would look into bringing back the death penalty for individuals found guilty of killing albinos or hacking attacks against them. Some assailants, rather than kill albinos, choose to attempt to hack their limbs off so as to not end their lives but also have something to sell to local healers. Mutharika faced significant resistance from tribal leaders, 94 % of which opposed capital punishment in general according to a survey at the time.

In January, following the murder of Yasin Phiri, a man with albinism, on New Year’s Eve, Mutharika urged the nation to refrain from the killings and cease believing that albino body parts could improve their lives if cooked into a potion. The assailants in the Phiri case chopped off his hands and left him to bleed to death in front of his 9-year-old son.

“I want to say it here that we should stop attacking our friends with albinism,” Mutharika said at the time. “It is ignorance to think that you can get rich if you have a body part of a person living with albinism. We have over 10 albinos that have been killed in this country and how many of those killers have become rich? Let us stop such childish and barbaric thinking.”

By the end of February, the government had documented 6 cases of albino murders. Officials vowed to combat the spread of violence against people with albinism by establishing better census statistics of how many albino people live in the country to better confirm when people go missing, as well as establishing programs to help survivors of albino attacks reintegrate into society and overcome trauma.

On Monday, Malawi Eastern Region Police Commissioner Arlene Baluwa claimed that the number of cases of albino attacks had gone down in what had transpired of 2019, at least in that part of the country.

“Our region, especially in districts such as Mangochi and Machinga, used to register a lot of cases of abduction and killing targeting people with albinism,” Baluwa said. “However, we seem to be making progress. Last year, we registered a single case, thanks to the good working relationship with traditional leaders, proper coordination among police personnel as well as the understanding of our friends with albinism.”

(source: breitbart.com)

NIGERIA:

3 Policemen To Die By Hanging For Kidnapping Deaconess In Akwa Ibom

Although Akpakwa denied knowledge of the plot to kidnap her friend and neighbour, some members of the gang told the court that they did not know her name when she attended the final meeting at Aka.

The State High Court In Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital has sentenced three policemen and four others to death by hanging for kidnapping a woman.

Another woman, who was contracted to cook for the victim, Deaconess Ime Ekanem, while in the custody of the kidnappers, was also sentenced to death.

Justice Joy Unwana sentenced the defendants according to the anti-kidnapping law of the state.

A suit marked HU/13c/2012 was instituted against 8 members of the gang in 2012. The defendants are Cpl Emmanuel Charlie, Ekaette Moses, Fidelis Jeremiah, Cpl Bassey Sunday (377812), PC Mfon Bassey (478463), Ndu Johnny, Unyime Etukakpan, and Itohowo Akpakwa.

They were convicted on a 3-count charge of conspiracy to commit felony, kidnapping, and concealing, aiding and sponsoring kidnapping.

Justice Unwana said: “The decision of the court to pass the death sentence is in tandem with the anti-kidnapping law of Akwa Ibom State. It is a loud statement to the country that the crime of kidnapping is a grievous offence in the state and punishable by death. I hope it will discourage those planning to engage in the crime to steer clear off Akwa Ibom.”

Akpakwa confessed to visiting her friend in a bar at Idakeyop Aka, where she gave Etukakpan money to buy medicine for his ill-health. Although Akpakwa denied knowledge of the plot to kidnap her friend and neighbour, some members of the gang told the court that they did not know her name when she attended the final meeting at Aka.

They, however, insisted that she was the one who identified her friend and gave the direction to her house in Obio Etoi village, Uyo.

It was learnt that the victim was dragged out of the Toyota Sienna car driven by her husband, in front of the family house at about 6.30pm and whisked away in a Volvo Wagon car to Afaha Udoeyop in Ibesikpo Asutan council area, where she was kept, under armed guard, in an isolated building.

The anti-kidnapping unit of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) investigated the incident, as negotiations for ransom were looking, with the initial N20million reduced to N1.8million, which was agreed to be paid in 2 instalments.

However, when the ransom was to be paid, SCID officers, who were in mufti, were shocked to discover that the first two persons who approached the Afaha Ibesikpo Market square venue for the ransom delivery were fellow SCID operatives. Shortly after the encounter, the venue for the delivery of the ransom was changed.

A police investigation report, it was gathered, indicated that after changing the venue 3 times, the 1st instalment of N800,000 was delivered at Itam in another Local Government Area.

Meanwhile, sharing the proceeds of the crime led to disagreement, and a member of the gang, who was in Uyo Prison on a different criminal matter, returned home to discover that he had been short-changed. He then confessed details of the plot and how it was carried out to the Police.

The eighth and the only accused who escaped the capital punishment, Mrs. Itohowo Akpakwa, a member of staff of the University of Uyo, had earlier been granted bail.

(source: saharareporters.com)

BOTSWANA:

Death Penalty Remains----Despite strong push against it

More and more capital punishment convictions continue to add on to the number of inmates on death row in the country's prisons.

This despite the international call to abolish the punishment as it is deemed counteractive to the sole purpose of the justice system that seeks to rehabilitate convicts and integrate them back into the society. The argument in most cases is that the death penalty does not give the convict a chance to redeem themselves and become a fully functioning member of the society and also that it borders on violating a human's right to life.

Debate has always sparked around the matter with some strongly believing that convicted murderers deserve a date with the hangman, 'a life for a life' approach that they believe balances the scales.

African countries, Botswana included, are reluctant to abolish the death despite desperate calls for sub-Saharan countries to do away with the legislature.

A Premium Times article published on April 10, 2019 article by London-based Oluwatosin Popoola suggests that today, 20 countries in the region have complied.

"Sub-Saharan Africa is on course to completely abolish the death penalty, the trajectory may be slow, but, it is steady," purports the article.

In the article the Amnesty International's Advocate/Adviser on the death penalty, Popoola reckons that the employment of capital punishment, which he regards as the 'world's ultimate cruel punishment' has decreased in sub-Saharan Africa. This, he states, is with accordance to a recent Amnesty International report.

"This is good news for sub-Saharan Africa and an indication that the region continues to turn against the death penalty," he states.

The Advocate continues that of the 29 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that still retain the death penalty in law, only 4 - Botswana, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan - carried out executions in 2018.

Although Botswana and Sudan resumed executions last year, having not carried out any in 2017, the overall number of known executions in the region went down from 28 in 2017 to 24 in 2018.

"This drop was mainly due to Somalia, which usually carried out the highest number of executions in sub-Saharan Africa, executing less people last year than it did in 2017," he attests, stating that the surge in executions in South Sudan sparks concern as last year the country executed seven people, the highest number since gaining independence in 2011 and has already surpassed this grim record by executing eight people in the first 3 months of 2019.

At the end of last year, at least 4,241 people were known to be on death row across sub-Saharan Africa; each individual with their own story and a reminder that thousands of people are at imminent risk of their lives being taken away by the state.

"It is hoped that before too long, Burkina Faso and Gambia will join these countries, and others will follow. Despite a minority of countries holding the region back, Sub-Saharan Africa is on course to completely abolish the death penalty, the trajectory may be slow, but, it is steady," Popoola believes.

Botswana's stance

The conversation on the country's capital punishment stance, which is still to uphold the practice, still continues with Human Rights advocates speaking vehemently against the exercise.

Botswana's constitution provides for the death penalty under section 4(1) which states that, "No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of an offence under the law in force in Botswana of which he has been convicted."

On the same breath, section 202 of the Botswana Penal Code, which enforces the death penalty, states that, "any person who of malice aforethought causes the death of another person by an unlawful copyright Government of Botswana act or omission is guilty of murder."

Still in the Penal Code, section 203 states that "subject to the provisions of subsection (2), any person convicted of murder shall be sentenced to death. It continues that where a court in convicting a person of murder is of the opinion that there are extenuating circumstances, the court may impose any sentence other than death. (3) In deciding whether or not there are any extenuating circumstances the court shall take into consideration the standards of behavior of an ordinary person of the class of the community to which the convicted person belongs."

Pushbacks

Renowned Human Rights lawyer Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm, Rantao Kewagamang Attorneys' Tshiamo Rantao and Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners believe there is no remedy in administering capital punishment.

The trio continues to call for the abolishment of the death penalty with Ndadi having been quoted in local news saying, "... the proponents of capital punishment argue that it serves as a deterrent, does it? NO!!!" he argued, stating it is wrong and barbaric to kill, unless it is in self-defense.

Ndadi's contention is that the argument that a punishment must fit the crime committed holds true, "but not to the extent of repeating the crime," he was quoted.

"That is why we do not rape people who rape, steal from those who steal, beat up those who beat others (even their spouses and partners) for we know it is wrong to do so. But why do we find it okay to kill?" he continued to probe.

These sentiments he shares while being aware that the Court of Appeal has declared the death penalty constitutional in Botswana.

"...the right to life must be preserved by government as well. No one should be licensed to kill by any law. The government must take the lead in showing how precious life is, and not follow what murderers do. Otherwise it is like punishing a child for doing what you yourself do to the child or others," he argued.

Rantao has also come out in the past to blast the act, calling for its abolition and terming it an evil irrevocable form of punishment that does not solve anything. In his remarks, Rantao recommended a life sentence instead. The advocate asserted that the penalty is discriminatory in that those with better means to afford expensive and eloquent representation can easily evade the gallows and while the less fortunate will be at the mercy of the courts.

"The death penalty is inhumane and degrading, therefore it should be repealed from Botswana laws," he was quoted at The University of Botswana (UB) and Ditshwanelo 2012 commemoration of the 10th annual World Day against the death penalty.

"The only reason is revenge. After someone dies then what? A life sentence does not deter a convict from suffering as he should for his crimes," said Rantao in a quote in a local article titled 'Is the death penalty still necessary?'

Another death penalty abolitionist Advocate Martin Dingake contends that the high number of capital sentences is attributable to a number of factors.

Dingake represented defendant, Patrick Gabaake in a high profile case that ended with his client being executed in 2016. Gabaake was sentenced to death for murder.

"There has been an upsurge of murder cases involving more than two accused per case in the recent past, some committed in the heat of passion and others simply to gain an economic value or benefit," he was quoted in a local article.

Acknowledging that some of the murders committed are carried out in the most vicious ways, he noted that sometimes the few or non-existent extenuating circumstances are far outweighed by the aggravating circumstances. He noted that the occurrence mostly occurs when there are two accused persons.

The attorney also argues that there are reasons why death row convicts never win in their appeals for clemency as his appeal for Gabaakanye's presidential pardon was unsuccessful, noting that the history of the republic sets precedence as no President has granted a death row inmate clemency.

"Although this has not been publicly said, it seems this is largely based on the concept of separation of powers and the rule of law. That is to say, the courts, as institutions best placed to determine the culpability of an accused person, should not and cannot be second guessed by the Executive," reads a quote from a local report. "This is a highly persuasive and attractive argument. But given the many frequent pardons extended to other convicts, it seems, with respect, to be a convenient and self-serving argument," he continued.

Despite the pushbacks and calls for abolition of the death penalty, the then Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu adamantly stated that the death penalty will continue to be practiced in Botswana. Batshu was quoted speaking at the 29th session of the third cycle review report of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland last year February.

The country's list of death row inmates continues to grow with more people getting the death penalty while a handful of inmates get the Court of Appeal (CoA) to overturn their convictions with only a select few have had their convictions set aside.

"Once a High Court Judge rules that he cannot find extenuating circumstances in a murder conviction, the sentence of death is almost always handed down," reads an excerpt from a 2017 December article by Mmegi Reporters Mbongeni Mguni and Pini Bothoko. The duo contends that convicts can appeal for a Presidential pardon between conviction and execution, though none of the 4 Botswana Presidents have granted any of the applicants the courtesy of circumvention their date with the hangman's noose.

(source: allafrica.com)

INDONESIA:

UK surfer faces death penalty in Bali for medicinal cannabis possession

A British man has revealed the sheer terror of facing time inside one of the world‘s most notorious prisons and the death penalty after his arrest in Bali last week.

Pip Holmes, a 45-year-old father from Cornwall in England‘s southwest, was arrested on December 3 as he went to pick up a package sent from Thailand which contained bottles of cannabis oil.

Indonesian police said he received nearly 31g of cannabis oil in the mail and could face the death penalty if convicted. Indonesia has strict drug laws and dozens of convicted smugglers are on death row.

Mr Holmes, who describes himself as an artist and surfer, claims he was caught with just a tiny amount — around 3g — of medicinal THC oil, which he uses to treat his arthritis.

“Marijuana makes a considerable difference to the pain — it‘s not a leisure activity for me,” he told the .

“I knew what I was getting into … I knew there were very strict laws, but I chose to come here anyway because the surf is the best in the world.

“It feels like a great injustice, but I‘m not in the UK, I‘m in Bali, so it‘s my own fault … I‘m afraid because I don‘t know how long it‘s going to be before I can hug my children again. They are the only thing keeping me going right now.”

Pip Holmes said he went to Bali 2 months ago for the surf.

Mr Holmes was 1 of 5 detained foreigners paraded by officials at a news conference in Denpasar, Indonesia last week.

In a written statement, Mr Holmes said he had already been moved from a cramped police cell in Bali to a rehabilitation centre. He told supporters that “for the last few days, each morning I have woken up in a terrible nightmare” and asked for them to donate money to cover his legal fees.

“I still can‘t believe that I‘m here and I feel sick with fear,” he wrote.

“As it stands, I don‘t know if I‘m about to spend a few months in a rehabilitation or if I‘m about to face 5 to 15 years in Kerobokan — one of the toughest prisons on earth.”

Pip Holmes was arrested on December 3

He said he wants to be able to hug his children for their future birthdays and Christmases

In his desperate plea for help, Mr Holmes said he had been “very stupid” and that he “knew what (he) was getting into”.

“This is Asia, it‘s not like the west. I am guilty under Indonesian law of possession of narcotics, there‘s no denying that,” he wrote.

“Even though medicinal THC is something so widely accepted elsewhere and it was such a small amount, I foolishly crossed the line in a very strict country.

“The only way now to ensure my sentence is something I will survive is to invest in the right legal representation and rehabilitation.”

Mr Holmes said he was hoping to serve a short sentence in rehabilitation before being deported to the UK.

Pip Holmes‘ full statement

Thank you for taking time away from Christmas shopping and making plans for the holidays.

I so wish I could spend this Christmas exchanging gifts and pulling crackers with my loved ones too but as I write these words, I have recently been moved from a cramped Balinese police cell to a rehab facility and although things are looking up, I have no idea what is going to happen to me next.

My children have been sending me pictures and voice messages telling me about all the things they want to us do for their birthdays next spring.

My family, friends and loved ones are constantly telling me that everything is going to be OK and that they‘re going to get me the help I need.

They keep on saying I‘m the strongest person they know and I can get through this.

But the truth is, I‘m afraid. I‘ve never been so afraid. It‘s hard to be strong when you read the words “death penalty” in the paper in relation to your story.

I‘m also afraid because I don‘t know how long it‘s going to be before I can hug my children again.

They are the only thing keeping me going right now.

What I‘d give to read them a story.

To surf … to paint … or even just to be able to have a shower.

For the last few days, each morning I have woken up in a terrible nightmare. I still can‘t believe that I‘m here and I feel sick with fear.

(source: clarksburgcaller.com)

SRI LANKA:

13 prisoners at risk of 'imminent execution' in Sri Lanka warns Amnesty International

At least 13 prisoners in Sri Lankan prisoners are “at risk of imminent execution” warned Amnesty International, as they launched an urgent action appeal this week.

“After 43 years without using the death penalty, the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, is reportedly planning to execute prisoners on death row,” said Amnesty.

“There is completely secrecy around the dates identities of the prisoners who are expected to be imminently executed. No information about their case histories has been shared. It is unknown whether the individuals had fair trials, access to lawyers or whether they were able to engage in a meaningful clemency process. The last execution in Sri Lanka was in 1976. 2019 cannot be the year that we see this this progress reversed.

No details have been released about the prisoners thus far.

Earlier this month Amnesty International found that “people who are from less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, or belonging to racial, ethnic or religious minorities, are disproportionately vulnerable to being sentenced to death”.

(source: Tamil Guardian)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudis beheaded 2 Punjabis on February 28

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has confirmed that two persons from Punjab, Satwinder Kumar of Hoshiarpur and Harjeet Singh of Ludhiana, have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia. The Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia, however, was not informed by the authorities before their execution.

The families of the both the deceased, who had gone to Saudi Arabia on work permits in 2013, may not get their bodies because of restrictions in place in that country. The MEA, however, expected to get their death certificates by the end of April.

These details were revealed by MEA after a petition was filed by Satwinder's wife Seema Rani of Safdarpur Kullian village in Hoshiarpur district to get information on the whereabouts of her husband. In a letter, from the MEA to Seema on Monday evening, it was revealed that Satwinder and Harjeet, a native of Machhiwara village in Ludhiana, were arrested on December 9, 2015 in connection with murder of Arif Imamuddin, another Indian national.

‘Executed without informing embassy’

According to the ministry, Harjeet and Satwinder were arrested and kept in Dammam jail for drinking liquor and fighting, but on completion of their sentences in the liquor case and during deportation formalities that involved fingerprinting for final exit from Saudi Arabia, they were found to be linked to the murder of Imamuddin.

“They were, therefore, shifted to Riyadh jail for trial of the murder case and during investigation both of them confessed to their crime. The hearing of their case on May 31, 2017 was attended by an embassy official. At that time, the case file was transferred to an appeal court adding an additional charge of ‘hirabha (highway robbery that also invites capital punishment)’,” according to the MEA communication.

The letter, signed by Prakash Chand, director (consular), added that embassy officials used to visit the jail where the two Punjabi men were confined to follow up about the status of their trial.

“However, both were executed on February 28, 2019 without informing the embassy. Several communications were made to ministry of foreign affairs, Saudi Arabia to get the mortal remains but it has been learnt that the Saudi system does not permit handing over the bodies of those executed, to the embassy or families of the deceased,” the MEA claimed in the letter to Satwinder’s wife.

Reacting to the MEA letter, lawyer of deceased Satwinder's family, advocate Vinod Kumar said it was shocking that the embassy was not informed about the execution. He also claimed that residents of Satwinder’s village are in shock as they could not believe that Satwinder could be involved in so many criminal activities, as claimed by the MEA.

Satwinder had gone to Saudi Arabia in 2013 as a truck driver for a company called Al-Majid.

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

2 Indians executed for murder in Saudi Arabia

The foreign ministry has confirmed that 2 Indians, Satwinder Kumar of Hoshiarpur and Harjeet Singh of Ludhiana, have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia on charges of murdering a fellow Indian. The 2 were executed on February 28 this year.

The Indian embassy in Riyadh, however, was not informed by the Saudi authorities before the executions. The families of the deceased may not get the bodies because of rules against it.

Harjeet and Satwinder killed Imamuddin after a scuffle broke out between them over distribution of some money they had looted. A few days later, the two were arrested for drinking liquor and fighting. While deportation formalities were being completed, they were found to be linked to the murder.

Indian duo were shifted to Riyadh jail for their trial

The details of the fate of Satwinder Kumar and Harjeet Singh were revealed by the foreign ministry after a petition was filed by Satwinder’s wife Seema Rani. In the letter, delivered to Seema on Monday, it was revealed that Satwinder and Harjeet were arrested on December 9, 2015 for allegedly killing Arif Imamuddin.

“They were shifted to Riyadh jail for trial and they confessed to their crime. The hearing of their case on May 31, 2017 was attended by an embassy official. At that time, the case file was transferred to an appeals court, with an additional charge of ‘hirabha (highway robbery that also invites capital punishment)’,” according to the MEA communication.

The letter, signed by Prakash Chand, director (consular), added that embassy officials used to visit the jail to know about the status of their trial. “But, both were executed on February 28, 2019 without informing the embassy. Several communications were made to the ministry of foreign affairs, Saudi Arabia, to get the mortal remains but Saudi system does not permit handing over the bodies of those executed to the embassy,” the letter said.

(source: timesofindia.com)

BRUNEI:

Stoned to death for being gay? Americans immune to cruelty must wake up and speak out----Americans should condemn a penal code that sentences gays to death by stoning in the tiny nation of Brunei instead of immunizing ourselves to cruelty.

Like many Americans, my first exposure to death by stoning came from reading Shirley Jackson’s short story, "The Lottery," in high school. First published in 1948 in The New Yorker, the story is the tale of a fictional New England town where one very unlucky resident is chosen by chance — to be killed. The magazine responded to outraged readers by explaining that Jackson had chosen “a nameless little village to show, in microcosm, how the forces of belligerence, persecution, and vindictiveness are, in mankind, endless and traditional and that their targets are chosen without reason.”

I’ve been thinking about "The Lottery" since I read that Brunei — a tiny monarchy in Southeast Asia ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s wealthiest people — had enacted a new penal code that includes death by stoning. Crimes that warrant this penalty include adultery, and consensual sex between men. (The punishment for theft is amputation of limbs, for abortion it is flogging.) Sadly, the sultan’s decision to enact such horrific penalties echoes Jackson’s point about the persistence of persecution and vindictiveness.

Brunei joins a handful of other countries that call for death by stoning based on a draconian interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law. But as Melody Moezzi, a Muslim-American attorney and author, told me, “There is no one such thing as Sharia. Islamic law is all about interpretation, and there are as many interpretations as there are individual Muslims.” “Death by stoning,” she adds, “is antithetical to the highest tenets of Islam, chiefly that of a most compassionate and most merciful Creator.”

Why should Americans care about a brutal law in a tiny nation on the other side of the globe? After all, human rights abuses and hate crimes are taking place much closer to home, including here in the U.S.

Why should Americans care about Brunei?

I can think of 2 reasons, starting with a personal example. On a flight to Southeast Asia earlier this year I had a brief layover in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, half a world closer to Brunei. The UAE also calls for death by stoning for “crimes” that include sex between men. Waiting at the airport I looked at my Facebook feed, and then out of curiosity and boredom, opened a gay dating app. I found dozens of guys, with profile photos, seeking everything from “right now” sex to a partner or husband.

After being cleared through 2 security checkpoints, a guard pulled me out of line for “a random search.” “No problem,” I thought, until the officer demanded my iPhone, which still displayed profiles and photos of the gay Dubai locals. I froze. I imagined these men hunted down and charged with breaking Sharia law, and feared the same for myself.

Fortunately, the officer merely confiscated my cup of coffee, and then told me to put the phone away. My relief was immense, palpable. Still, I understood in a flash how these laws “create a culture of fear,” which is what a group of 115 civil society organizations in South East Asia asserted in an open letter to Brunei’s sultan. Even for those who don’t travel frequently, or who aren’t LGBT, any spread of this climate of fear should be cause for concern.

The second reason is more fundamental. “People anywhere should care when others’ human rights are being abused,” Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher in the LGBT Rights program at Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization, told me. Is that harder these days when acts of incivility and hate crimes are front-page news stories? Are we becoming immune to cruelty?

I fear the answer is, “yes.”

We have to speak out for human rights

I did some research on death by stoning and discovered "The Stoning of Soraya M.,” a film based on the true story of the execution of an Iranian woman in the 1980s. Soraya Manutchehri had been falsely accused and convicted of adultery by a Sharia court; death by stoning was her punishment. The film’s narrator explains how Manutchehri is buried to her waist as villagers, including her sons, throw rocks at her “until there is nothing left but a bloody stump." You would need to see it for yourself to fully appreciate the horror. (I had to turn the sound off, even cover my eyes.)

Some nations and organizations have spoken out strongly against the sultan’s decision. The Canadian government raised its “concerns directly with Brunei,” urging the sultan “to suspend the implementation of its new penal code.” Human rights groups called the laws “barbaric to the core” and “cruel and inhuman.” The U.S. State Department was tepid in a statement that said it “opposes violence, criminalization, and discrimination targeting vulnerable groups,” including LGBTQ people.

We can do more. Ghoshal, from Human Rights Watch, seeks a travel ban on Brunei’s leaders and a freeze on the government’s financial assets. Celebrities like George Clooney have called for a boycott of the luxury hotels owned by the sultan. President Trump, a seeming friend of dictators and despots around the globe, should have taken a much stronger response. After all, this is a horror that requires our outrage — and action.

We have other tools at our disposal as well. “This is an appeal to the basic humanity of people in the United States,” Ghoshal added. We have to speak out. We must acknowledge that “the forces of belligerence, persecution, and vindictiveness” may indeed be traditional, but they need not be endless.

(source: Steven Petrow, Opinion Columnist, USA Today)

APRIL 16, 2019:

NORTH CAROLINA:

After being spared death sentence for killing neighbors, Wake Forest man pops off in court

A Wake Forest man who avoided a death sentence for the murders of 3 of his neighbors 3 years ago insisted Monday that he was framed, blasted prosecutors and his defense attorneys and threatened jurors before being led off to prison.

Jon Frederick Sander was convicted a week ago of gunning down Sandy Mazzella, 47, his wife, Stephanie Ann Mazzella, 43, and his mother, Elaine Mazzella, 76, in their home on March 25, 2016.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty against Sander for the brutal murders – all 3 victims were shot several times at close range with a pump-action shotgun. But jurors deliberated for almost 5 hours over 2 days before recommending the life sentence.

Before Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley imposed the sentence, Sander went on a 27-minute rant, railing against the Mazzellas and the justice system and implicating Sal Mazzella, Sandy Mazzella's father and Elaine Mazzella's husband, in the killings.

"Everything's a lie and a scam," Sander said. "This whole thing was fabricated. Sal killed his family for the insurance money."

Sal Mazzella choked back tears earlier in the hearing as he forgave Sander for killing his wife and the parents of his grandchildren.

"Though we will forever live with the loss of my precious family members, I do not hate you," Sal Mazella told Sander. "You heard what I said? I do not hate you."

"Wait till I'm done with my speech," Sander replied, sarcastically applauding after Sal Mazzella finished, despite his hands being shackled.

Shirley cut Sander off when the convicted killer started telling jurors he would be set free on appeal and wouldn't forget their faces. The judge then lit into him as he handed down the sentence.

"You love the spotlight," Shirley said, noting that Sander repeatedly spoke directly to a camera in the courtroom. "You've delighted in your celebrity. Let me tell you something, as horrific as this crime was, when the light goes out in this courtroom today ... the memory of you in the eyes of the public is going to fade, and it's going to fade quickly.

"Come Monday, they're going to be watching something else," the judge continued. "They won't care about you. They won't care about this trial. They look for entertainment. You'll no longer matter in their eyes. You won't even be a footnote."

Sander admitted to investigators that he shot the Mazzellas, but he maintained that he had been overcome with rage and had "snapped."

He lived next door to Sandy and Stephanie Mazzella, and he and Sandy Mazzella worked together in a landscaping business. But difficulties in dissolving the struggling business and an allegation that Sander touched a member of the Mazzella family inappropriately sparked a feud that escalated quickly in early 2016.

The Mazzellas took out restraining orders against Sander in February 2016, when Sander was charged with threatening the family. The orders expired the day before the shootings, when a judge said there was no reason to extend them.

In the videotaped interview, which took place several hours after the shootings, Sander told a Wake County Sheriff's Office investigator that he feared losing his family because of the molestation allegation, so he wanted to "get even" and grabbed a loaded shotgun in the garage and headed next door.

During his rambling statement Monday, Sander said he had no problems with the Mazzellas before the restraining orders, saying he was a "caring friend" to Sandy Mazzella who tried to help the business grow in every possible way.

But the restraining orders, an attempt by Sandy Mazzella to charge him with auto theft and the molestation accusation sent Sander over the edge, he said in court.

"I was going to go to jail for something I didn't do? No," he said. "I was built up with anger. I was built up with paranoia. I was built up with anxiety."

During the sentencing hearing last week, the defense presented testimony that Sander suffered from mental health problems, including being bipolar, that went untreated and likely contributed to his actions.

Sander said he blasted his way into the Mazzella home and fired shots near both women and 2 shot into Sandy Mazzella's abdomen before leaving. But he said all 3 were already dead, noting that he was too drunk to notice then and remember later when he spoke to investigators that the victims were already on the floor when he went inside.

The Mazzellas' son, Nicholas, wasn't at home during the shootings. On Monday, he pointed out that Sander destroyed two families that day 3 years ago.

"Was what you did really worth the consequences?" Nicholas Mazzella asked. "Now, your kids don't even get to see you anymore."

(source: WRAL news)

GEORGIA:

Death-penalty trial begins for Gwinnett woman representing herself

Jury selection is underway in a death-penalty trial against a Gwinnett County woman who is acting as her own lawyer.

Tiffany Moss, 35, is accused of starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter, Emani, to death in 2013. Her trial is expected to take about 3 weeks.

Moss sat alone Monday at the defense table, occasionally taking notes with pens and a legal pad brought to the courtroom for her by District Attorney Danny Porter. She also thumbed through questionnaires filled out last week by potential jurors.

Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson is bringing jurors into the courtroom one by one for individual questioning.

They are being asked for their views on capital punishment and whether they could consider all three sentencing options if Moss is convicted of murder: the death penalty, life in prison without the possibility or parole and life with the possibility of parole.

When it’s his turn to ask questions, Porter is telling jurors know that Moss has a constitutional right to represent herself and that she’s exercised that right. He is also asking them what they think about that.

“It’s pretty brave,” said one potential juror.

The man, a former U.S. Navy nuclear engineer who now works for Kroger, said he wouldn’t hold that against Moss.

As for the death penalty, he said, “If the circumstances equate to it, it should be a just form of punishment.”

After Porter finished his questioning, Moss rose and posed the first and only question she asked a juror during the morning session. She reminded the man he said he wife had talked to him about the case long before he’d received his jury summons.

If your wife thought I was guilty, Moss asked, would that affect your ability to be fair and impartial?

No, the man answered, adding, “My wife is over-opinionated.”

Another potential juror, however, said she wasn’t sure how Moss’s decision to represent herself would affect her thinking.

“Well, if you’re defending yourself you’ve got a certain confidence,” said the woman, a massage therapist. “… I would think if you’re confident enough to do that now, why could you not have stopped the death of someone before.”

Moss, who has said she’s putting her fate in God’s hands, has refused representation from 2 lawyers from the state’s capital defender office. Those attorneys, Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert, are sitting behind Moss in the courtroom gallery as “standby counsel” and are there to assist Moss if she asks for help. But the defenders have said Moss stopped talking to them months ago.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

ALABAMA:

Court: Alabama can‘t keep its lethal injection method secret

A federal appeals court sided with news media organizations Monday in ruling that Alabama can’t keep its lethal injection protocol secret from the public.

A 3-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected Alabama’s argument that its execution method is not a court record and thus should remain secret.

“Judicial records provide grounds upon which a court relies in deciding cases, and thus the public has a valid interest in accessing these records to ensure the continued integrity and transparency of our governmental and judicial offices,” the court stated in its ruling.

At issue is what the court described as the botched execution of Doyle Hamm on Feb. 22, 2018. The court said that after several failed attempts to insert a needle into his veins, the execution was called off as midnight approached. The Associated Press and other news outlets then sought the state’s execution protocol and related records.

“Alabama is the most secretive state in the country with respect to its protocol,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

“The intense secrecy has obvious problems,” he said. “The Doyle Hamm case is one classic example of that because the difficulties in finding a vein all happen out of the view of the public.”

Representatives of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday’s decision, so it wasn’t known whether they would appeal.

Alabama could ask the appeals court for reconsideration of the case, or appeal to the United States Supreme Court, Dunham said. The state also could ask for a stay of Monday’s ruling as appeals play out, he said.

Monday’s decision upheld a federal judge’s ruling last year that the public has “a common law right of access” to the records. In that May 2018 ruling, U.S. Judge Karon Bowdre decided that some information can remain secret in the interest of security, such as the names of low-level prison employees involved in executions.

Last year’s ruling found that the execution protocol and related records “clearly concern a matter of great public concern, i.e., how Alabama carries out its executions,” the appeals court wrote in Monday’s ruling.

(source: Associated Press)

LOUISIANA:

John Bel Edwards may be willing to keep source of Louisiana’s death penalty drugs a secret

Gov. John Bel Edwards said he might be willing to sign legislation that would keep the source of Louisiana’s lethal injection drugs a secret and out of the public record -- a move that could make executions easier to carry out in the state.

"I would suspect that if it comes to my desk I won’t have a problem with it, but I always reserve the right to look at it because [bills] typically get amended, they get changed and that sort of thing. But we will take a look at it when it gets there, if it gets there,” Edwards said in an interview Saturday (April 13), referring to House Bill 258.

Louisiana has 72 death row inmates, but hasn’t executed anyone since 2010. A federal judge has ordered that all executions in Louisiana be delayed until July 2019 because the state hasn’t been able to obtain lethal injection ingredients.

Edwards, a Democrat, has also refused to say how he personally feels about the death penalty. As a legislator in 2014, he voted against a previous piece of legislation to keep the source of death penalty drugs secret.

Louisiana executions won’t resume anytime soon, but it’s not clear anyone will do something about it

Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state can't get the drugs to execute people, and no lawmaker has come forward with legislation to make those types of purchases easier yet.

Edwards was 1 of just 7 lawmakers -- and 2 House members -- to vote against that bill 5 years ago. It was supported overwhelmingly, but didn’t end up getting enacted because its sponsor, former state representative and current Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, pulled the bill over an unrelated dispute with then-Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Edwards’ reticence over the death penalty has led Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and other conservatives to speculate that the governor is dragging his feet over executions, possibly because the governor might have moral objections to capital punishment.

The Department of Public Safety and Corrections, which Edwards oversees, have pushed back on that notion and says the governor’s personal views on the death penalty have nothing to do with the delay in executions. The problems carrying out the death penalty extend back to when Jindal was in office, officials say.

The agency is struggling to obtain lethal injection drugs for executions, in part, because Louisiana’s public records laws allow for the disclosure of the manufacturer and pharmacists that supply the substance, Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc has said in previous interviews.

Sources for the lethal injection drugs are unwilling to do business with the prison system over fear of the blowback from being involved in executions. Some drug manufacturers also refuse to sell products to the state if they are going to be used for executions, according to the prison system, according to the prison system.

The new death penalty drug bill, sponsored by Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R-Hammond, would exclude from the public record the identity and any identifying information of people, pharmacies, manufacturers and others who are responsible for getting Louisiana lethal injection drugs or “medical equipment” used to carry out an executions. Courts, boards, tribunals, commissions and agencies as well as individuals wouldn’t have access to this information, under this legislation.

Louisiana AG Jeff Landry pushes new execution options: gas, electrocution, firing squad, hanging

Landry said he will back legislation to make the death penalty easier to carry out.

It resembles draft state legislation that Landry started pushing last summer, when the attorney general said that a public records exemption might help get executions moving again. Several states, including Texas, has passed laws in recent years to keep the source of their execution drugs a secret. The Arkansas legislature just approved an updated version of their death penalty drug secrecy law earlier this month.

The stall in Louisiana’s executions upsets the families of victims of people sitting on death row. Many families have already been waiting decades to see the offender who killed their family member put to death, since appeals in death penalty cases can already take several years. A delay because death penalty drugs can’t be obtained is frustrating for some, according to recent testimony from families at a hearing on the death penalty.

While some lawmakers are seeking to resume executions, other are hoping to abolishment the death penalty. 2 legislators -- State Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge -- have introduced bills to end the death penalty for people facing criminal charges moving forward. The 72 people on death row would still be subject to executions, but people who face criminal charges in the future couldn’t join them on death row.

(source: nola.com)

MISSOURI:

St. Charles man will face death penalty in family murder trial

A man accused of killing his girlfriend, her 2 children, and the children’s grandmother will face the death penalty in the upcoming trial, the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney said Monday.

Prosecutor Timothy Lohmar said a grand jury indicted Richard Darren Emery last Friday for the December 2018 killings.

Emery is accused of shooting and killing 39-year-old Kate Kasten, 8-year-old Zoe and 10-year-old Jonathan Kasten, and 61-year-old Jane Moeckel, Kate’s mother.

The murders took place at Kasten’s home in the 100 block of Whetstone Drive. Police found the victims inside the home. 3 of them were dead at the scene. One of the victims was taken to a hospital where she later died.

Emery was arrested the following day after attempting to carjacking a woman. He also engaged in a brief shootout with police. Emery was located inside a gas station bathroom, wounded and covered in blood.

(source: Fox News)

NEBRASKA:

Aubrey Trail's attorneys ask court to order prosecutors to disclose reasons behind decision to seek death penalty

Aubrey Trail's defense attorneys have asked a judge to order attorneys prosecuting him to disclose documents in an effort to see if Gov. Pete Ricketts is behind their decision to seek the death penalty against him.

In a filing Friday afternoon, Ben Murray, one of Trail’s court-appointed attorneys, said he had no other means of obtaining the reasons behind their decision.

"To be clear, this motion does not accuse the government of any wrongdoing," he said. "Instead it seeks information that is necessary to ensure that the decision to seek the death penalty in this case was based on circumstances of the case and not on improper political or personal motive."

Murray's motion pointed out that Ricketts and his family spent a large amount of money on a referendum to reinstate the death penalty after the Legislature voted to abolish it in 2015.

He said the Nebraska Attorney General's office, which took over prosecution from the Saline County Attorney, decided to seek the death penalty.

"Absent a court order compelling the prosecuting attorneys to disclose their reasons, defendant will be unable to investigate and determine whether the state is acting in an unconstitutional and biased manner in seeking his execution, contrary to his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection and his protections against cruel and unusual punishment," Murray wrote.

He is asking Saline County District Judge Vicki Johnson to order counsel to disclose:

* All communications between the prosecuting attorneys, any employee of the Attorney General's office or any agents of the Governor's office regarding seeking the death penalty in criminal cases.

* All communications between them regarding seeking the death penalty against Trail and Bailey Boswell, his co-defendant.

* Any documents or records, including emails, letters and phone messages, between them regarding the decision to seek the death penalty in this case.

Trail is set to go to trial in June on charges of 1st-degree murder and improper disposal of human remains in the November 2017 slaying of Sydney Loofe.

Last month, they added a conspiracy charge alleging he conspired with Bailey Boswell to solicit young women online, to recruit others to carry out a murder and to select Loofe as their victim.

Loofe, 24, met Boswell on the dating app Tinder and went missing Nov. 16, 2017, after going on a date with Boswell the night before.

Loofe’s remains were found in Clay County on Dec. 4, 2017, and investigators allege Trail strangled her before he and Boswell dismembered and dumped her body and then fled the state, according to court documents.

Trail has told investigators and news reporters that Loofe died at his hands accidentally.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Supreme Court won't hear death penalty appeal alleging anti-gay remarks from jurors

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a gay South Dakota man who alleges that homophobia played a role in his death penalty sentence.

Charles Rhines, who was convicted of murder in 1993, claimed that members of the jury made anti-gay statements that influenced their decision to sentence him to death and that a 2017 Supreme Court ruling that states must consider racist sentiments of jurors should apply to his case as well.

But the court's decision to not review his case prevents them from expanding the scope of that ruling and keeps Rhines's death sentence in place.

Rhines alleged that several jurors made anti-gay comments during the course of his trial, with one juror allegedly saying that Rhines “was a homosexual and thought that he shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.”

Rhines claimed that another juror said that a member of the jury made “a comment that if he’s gay, we’d be sending him where he wants to go if we voted” to sentence him to life in prison.

A 3rd juror allegedly said the panel had “lots of discussion of homosexuality” and “a lot of disgust.”

Rhines argued that a 2017 divided Supreme Court ruling that a judge might reject a verdict if there is evidence of jurors using racial stereotypes or sentiments during non-death penalty convictions should also be used in his case, pointing to the severity of his sentence.

Several LGBT rights groups had advocated on behalf of Rhines in the case, including Lambda Legal, the National LGBT Bar Association and the ACLU.

Rhines was convicted of the 1992 murder of Donnivan Schaeffer at a donut shop where Schaeffer worked.

The state, which said that Rhines didn't have standing to make his claim of anti-gay bias, argued that jurors made their decision to sentence Rhines to death over the "calloused and gruesome nature of the murder."

(source: thehill.com)

COLORADO:

Left-leaning Outlet In CO Says Hickenlooper ‘Making Stuff Up’ On Death Penalty----Death penalty discussion 'never happened under Hick's watch'—'not even close'

A left-of-center news outlet in Colorado says presidential candidate and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is exaggerating his track record on the death penalty while on the campaign trail.

The death penalty has been a significant policy issue for Colorado over the last decade as Democrats have sought to repeal the punishment in the state.

The left-leaning Colorado Independent said the former two-term governor "started flat-out making stuff up when he went on to suggest that, as governor, he encouraged a broad dialogue about capital punishment, its effectiveness and whether it's being meted out fairly."

In May of 2013, the execution of Nathan Dunlap was fast approaching. Dunlap had been convicted of killing 4 people and seriously injuring another in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in 1993.

Rather than commute the sentence, Hickenlooper issued a "temporary reprieve," meaning Dunlap's execution would only be put on hold, and the next governor could potentially lift the reprieve and allow the execution to go forward.

"He did not make a decision," former state Republican chairman Dick Wadhams told the Washington Free Beacon last month. "He found a third way that I don't think anybody was aware existed, and that is: Kick it to your successor."

After issuing the Dunlap reprieve, Hickenlooper said he wanted to use the moment to engage in a "statewide" conversation, something he's now selling on the presidential campaign trail as part of his record of being a consensus-builder.

"What we've done in Colorado is a statewide conversation on the death penalty, and I mean it doesn't deter," he said recently on CNN. "I mean of the states that got rid of the death penalty 40 years ago have no more homicides or mass killings than states that execute people multiple times a year."

"But such a discussion never happened under Hick's watch," the Independent wrote.

"Not even close."

"He did call for one in 2013 while under scrutiny about his decision to grant Dunlap, the convicted Chuck E. Cheese killer, a temporary reprieve rather than commute Dunlap's death sentence altogether. But once scrutiny blew over and Hick was re-elected a year later, he seemed to forget about the conversation he promised and clammed up about the issue during his next 4 years in office."

"It is only now that the moderate seeking support among party progressives has chosen to speak out," the Indy concluded.

As the Free Beacon has previously reported, Colorado attorney David Lane, one of the most well known lawyers in the state and a long-time opponent of capital punishment, has leveled similar arguments against Hickenlooper.

Talking to a local talk-radio show in August of 2014, Lane was highly critical of the then-governor, who was just three months away from a reelection vote.

"The legislature in Colorado, last year [2013] had the votes to abolish the death penalty," Lane said on the Craig Silverman Show. "That bill was killed amazingly, and shockingly, and disappointingly by Governor Hickenlooper. He killed the bill and lobbied against it, while at the same time he was giving Nathan Dunlap a reprieve, not a commutation to life without parole."

"The governor called for a statewide conversation on the death penalty, and has studiously avoided having that conversation since he called for it," Lane said later.

The high-powered lawyer said he personally called the governor's office to volunteer to travel the state and participate in town halls as part of Hickenlooper's proposed statewide conversation.

"I never heard another word from them," he said.

The issue flared up again in 2015 during the sentencing phase for the man convicted of the Aurora Theater shooting in 2012 that killed 12 and injured scores more.

A Denver Post article that year again raised the question of how much of a statewide conversation had occurred since Dunlap's temporary reprieve.

"I'm not aware that's happened, and I think I would have been aware of it," Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, a Democrat from Denver, told the Post.

"What kind of conversation was Lucia looking for? What kind of conversation was she expecting?" Hickenlooper said in response.

In Hickenlooper's defense, the Post story also noted "the formation of the Better Priorities Initiative, aimed at ending the death penalty, and a series on capital punishment at both the Denver Seminary and the Iliff School of Theology."

Currently, Hickenlooper has promised if elected president he would suspend the death penalty at the federal level. Most other Democrat presidential candidates have also indicated their opposition to capital punishment.

Requests for comment from the Hickenlooper campaign as well as his leadership PAC were not returned.

(source: Washington Free Beacon)

CALIFORNIA:

DA Todd Spitzer releases letter to CA governor regarding death penalty moratorium

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and members of his executive team met with Governor Gavin Newsom’s office to share the concerns of crime victims over the governor’s death penalty moratorium.

District Attorney Spitzer hand-delivered this letter to the governor to share the stories of crime victims and how the governor’s moratorium is preventing these families from having justice for their loved ones. To read the entire letter, please visit www.orangecountyda.org and select Reports under the Reports pull-down menu.

This article was released by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The letter from Todd Spitzer addressed to Governor Gavin Newsom is as follows:

Honorable Governor Newsom:

Your blanket mortarium [sic] of the death penalty devastated hundreds of innocent crime victims and denied them of long-awaited justice. This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. It is a time when we as a nation remember those who have been victims of violence and honor the survivors. As a prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the utter devastation that violent crime has taken on individuals. I have also witnessed the incredible strength that victims possess in the pursuit of justice.

Steve Herr spent his son’s 27th birthday praying that police would find his son’s head. Sam Herr, a combat veteran, had been shot and killed by his friend and neighbor. The next day, Sam’s killer dismembered his body and cut off his head, scattering the body parts in a park.

When Sam’s father came to the morgue to identify his son’s body parts, he asked the coroner to sew Sam’s body back together so he could be buried in one piece. They did, except for the hand that was never found.Ron and Bruce Harrington have spent the last 40 years searching for the man who killed their youngest brother and his wife. Keith Harrington was just 24 years old when he was bludgeoned to death. Patti Harrington was 27 years old when she was raped and then bludgeoned to death.

Their lives were just starting. Their possibilities were limitless.

But a monster walked through an unlocked door and beat those possibilities to death.

Your protection of vicious, brutal, tortuous, and sadistic murderers does not give you the moral high ground. The crime victims are the only ones entitled to moral high ground. The decision to show compassion belongs to the victims and the victims alone.

On April 8, 2019, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office stood with victims of crime and listened to their stories of the horrendous crimes perpetrated against their loved ones – and the pain they endured as they pursued justice.

These stories are hard to tell – and hard to listen to.

But you have not listened.

You have not listened to Steve Herr recount how he spent what should have been his son’s 27th birthday praying for his son’s head to be found.

You have not listened to how Thanksgiving traditions – and the family that kept them – were shattered by the loss of the youngest Harrington brother.

For your benefit, the victim’s speeches were videotaped and are being delivered to you.

Listen to the pain caused by your decision. I am requesting that you view this tape so that you have an understanding of the devastation and the reopening of painful memories caused by the moratorium and denial.

Compassion should not be reserved for monsters. Compassion should be reserved for the victims.

Sincerely,

Todd Spitzer

District Attorney, County of Orange

(source: oc-breeze.com)

USA:

Breyer Signals Tension Surge on Death-Penalty Cases

Unable to muster enough votes Friday, the Supreme Court’s liberal minority signed onto a biting dissent that shows an increasing division on death-penalty cases at the court.

“Should anyone doubt that death sentences in the United States can be carried out in an arbitrary way, let that person review the following circumstances as they have been presented to our court this evening,” Justice Stephen Beyer wrote, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The dissent comes after the conservative wing of the court voted to vacate a stay of execution granted to Christopher Price in Alabama.

Price, who was convicted of the 1991 murder of pastor William Lynn, contends that the state’s 3-drug lethal-injection protocol will cause extreme pain and that it would be more humane to kill him in a gas chamber.

Though the state court found the inmate’s evidence credible, Breyer notes that the conservative wing of the court hastily overturned the stay on Thursday night rather than wait a few hours to discuss the case during a Friday morning conference.

“To proceed in this way calls into question the basic principles of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system,” Breyer wrote. “To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.”

Breyer noted that the jurisdictional issue presented by the state warrants fuller briefing.

“It is possible that Price was given no more than 72 hours to decide how he wanted to die,” he wrote. “That is not a reason to override the lower courts’ discretionary determination that the equitable factors warrant a stay.”

Price’s appeal comes nearly 2 weeks after the Supreme Court refused a similar challenge to lethal injection from Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate with a rare blood disorder.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority in the case that “courts should police carefully against attempts to use such challenges as tools to interpose unjustified delay.”

Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall issued a statement Friday where he said that Price’s legal fight has revictimized the family of his victim. Marshall did not return a request for comment Monday.

Because the Supreme Court wrangling stretched so late into the night on Thursday, Alabama must set a new execution date for Price.

Aaron Michael Katz, an attorney for Price with the Boston firm Ropes and Gray, did not return request for comment.

In a separate order, Ginsburg, the court voted 5-4 against a new bid by Price for a stay of execution.

(source: courthousenews.com)

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

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Won’t Face Death Penalty On Ecuador’s Request

Arrested Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may not face the death penalty in the U.S if extradited.

The arrest of this Internet activist took place in London on April 9 from the Ecuador Embassy on 2 warrants—1 from the U.K. and other from the US.

Assange faces a U.S warrant of December 2017 relating to his alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst, who leaked many classified materials to WikiLeaks.

The U. S reportedly gave this assurance to the South American country, during back-channel negotiation to finally evict the activist from the London embassy and face the legal process.

Since Ecuador opposes death penalty it wanted an explicit assurance from the U.S. that Assange would be spared from capital punishment if extradited.

The first request in this regard went to the U.K. seeking assurances that it would not extradite Assange to a country where the death penalty exists.

According to reports, the U.S assurance followed a deal brokered by Ecuadorian ambassador to Germany and his U.S. counterpart in Germany.

The U. S envoy Richard Grenell updated the State Department about the South American country’s request, to which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein favorably responded.

The report said Ecuador took a decision to insulate from Assange in March 2018. Assange has been hiding in its London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced a case of sexual assault on a woman.

Burden on Ecuador

The Latin American country was facing the pressure of financial burden as well. It reportedly spent $10 million on Assange, including food, medical expenses, legal counsel and other things in the last seven years.

However, there is no official confirmation from the U.S. Justice Department that the U.S. would spare the death sentence.

In the U.S, there are 41 federal offenses punishable by the death penalty. Treason and espionage are part of such crimes.

It is unknown if the U.S contemplated an espionage charge on Assange under the indictment filed in March 2018 in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The indictment alleged Assange in 2010 sought to assist Manning in cracking a password stored at the United States Department of Defense computers on a Secret Internet Protocol Network that houses classified documents and communications.

(source: International Business Times)

TAIWAN:

Drunk Drivers Who Kill People To Be Punished With Death Penalty In This Country

Some countries believe that the death penalty is the right way to go for certain reprehensible crimes. Whether they are the sexual assault of a child or murder, every country has its own rule. Kenya, recently, for example, has decided to institute the death penalty for poachers caught killing the country’s most beautiful animals. Taiwan has decided to increase the penalty for convicted drunk drivers to be death by lethal injection – and most people are cheering at the change.

In Taiwan, the government wants people who get behind the wheel while intoxicated to be fierce. Because people put other lives at risk when they drive drunk, Taiwan wants its motorists to understand the risk – to their own lives. If someone kills another person while driving drunk, then they will face the death penalty.

In late March, Taiwan’s cabinet has approved a draft of an amendment to the Criminal Code that would allow prosecutors to pursue the death penalty for any person who killed another while driving drunk. The change to the law would make it possible for homicide by drunk driving to be indictable as a murder offense and not just manslaughter or something less dangerous in the courts. If the deed is found to be “intentional,” which most drunk driver cases are, then the death penalty could be the punishment.

Although the death penalty for drunk driving position has not yet been approved – it is pending final say by the parliament, it has been met with a lot of support, and just as much resistance.

The maximum penalty that people can get for killing someone while drunk driving is only ten years behind bars. That’s not enough many people believe. Residents of the Asian country want perpetrators to face the wrath of the government, especially since they put people at risk when they get behind the wheel drunk.

The new law would not just institute the death penalty. It would also increase the length of jail sentences and have stricter punishments for repeat offenders – those who commit another offense within 5 years.

“Cases of drunk driving leading to death are rampant… drink drivers recklessly caused accidents that took lives and destroyed families to result in irreparable regret,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

In January, a 40-year-old man got behind the wheel while intoxicated. He smashed his car into a taxi. He killed three people and injured three others, including himself.

Taiwan believes that men like him deserve to face the death penalty. The people want drunk drivers to know how serious their actions are.

Few countries seek the death penalty for such cases. China and the United States have been known for putting murderous drunk drivers to death. Texas, for example, does not hesitate to use lethal injection to punish people indicted on “capital murder” if they do something truly heinous while behind the wheel of their car drunk. In 2014, one Texas man plowed his vehicle into a crowd, killing four. But prosecutors instead sought life in prison for him.

(source: opposingviews.com)

PAKISTAN:

K-P cabinet approves draft bill proposing death sentence for possessing over 1kg of meth-ice

The provincial cabinet on Monday cleared the draft of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Control of Narcotics Substances Bill 2019 which proposes death penalty or life imprisonment for people found possessing more than 1 kilogramme of methamphetamine, popularly known as ice.

K-P Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai and CM’s Adviser on Merged Districts Ajmal Wazir said this at a press conference in Ghalnai.

It was for the 1st time that a meeting of the provincial cabinet was held at Ghalanai, the district headquarters of Mohmand. Chief Minister Mahmood cired the meeting attended by provincial ministers and chief secretary and administrative secretaries of various departments.

After the meeting, K-P Information Minister Shaukat Ali Yousafzai and CM’s Adviser on Merged Districts Ajmal Wazir told a press conference that K-P Control of Narcotics Substances Bill 2019 proposes severe penalties for those involved in the business, trafficking and use of narcotics with special focus on methamphetamine popularly known by street name of ice.

They said that in order to eliminate the use of ice in educational institutions, the law proposed a penalty of two-year imprisonment and fine or both if ice up to 50 grammes was found in someone’s possession, for more than 50 grammes and less than 100 grammes, three-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs500,000 to 100,000, for more than 100 grammes and less than 1 kilogramme, 7-year imprisonment and a Rs100,000 to Rs300,000 fine.

Similarly, judges could award death sentence or life imprisonment if the accused was found in possession of more than one kilogramme besides fine of Rs0.5 million to Rs1 million.

A special Narcotics Wing will be established in Excise department to implement the law.

(source: The Express Tribune)

IRAN ----executions

Man Hanged for Drug Offenses

A man who was sentenced to death for drug charges, hanged on Monday morning at Dastgerd Prison in the Iranian city of Isfahan.

According to IHR sources, prisoner Abdollah Ghanbarzehi, 29, was executed on April 15, 2019. He was from the Iranian southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.

A well-informed source told IHR, “Ablollah was arrested with 9 kilograms of drugs in the city of Isfahan.” Baluchi Activists’ Campaign published Abdollah’s photos (See below) and mentioned that he was arrested on September 28, 2017.

The new amendment to Iranian Anti-drug law which was enforced on November 14, 2017, includes a mechanism to limit the use of the death penalty and reduce the sentences of those sentenced to death or life imprisonment. The law was retroactive and could potentially save many prisoners’ lives after their case-review process.

The amendment specifies that the death penalty should be limited to those who have been carrying or have used weapons while trafficking, sponsoring or organizing narco gangs and inducting children under the age of 18 or people with intellectual disabilities into such gangs. Those with a prior prison term of more than 15 years would also be excluded from the commutations under the amendment.

Following the enforcement of Iranian Anti-drug law in November 2017, the number of drug-related executions is significantly decreased compared to the past years. IHR’s Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran shows that the number of people executed in 2018 for drug charges, is significantly reduced. 24 people were executed on drug charges in 2018. The number for 2017 was 230. However, there is a risk that a new wave of drug-related executions starts after completing the case review process.

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

Iran execute 4 prisoners in the cities of Gorgan, Isfahan and Shiraz

Iranian regime has executed at least 4 prisoners since April, in the prisons of Gorgan, Adelabad and Dastgerd.

On Monday, April 15, 2019, a prisoner identified as Abdal Zahedani (Ghanbarzehi) was executed on drug related charges in Dastgerd Prison of Isfahan, central Iran.

Also on Thursday, April 11, 2019, the Iranian regime executed 2 prisoners in Adelabad Prison in Shiraz, south-central Iran.

The victims, Taha Shirdokht and Kazem Minayi were found guilty of drug charges and murder.

They were transfered to solitary confinement along with 4 other death row prisoners on April 7.

Just days prior to that, on April 7, 2019, a prisoner identified as 36-year-old Davoud Mohebzadeh was hanged in the central prison of Gorgan, northern Iran. He had been transfered to solitary confinement on April 6. No information is available on the fate of 4 other prisoners.

Iran has remained among the world’s top 5 executioners despite an overall drop in the number of death sentences, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The Iranian regime has a dismal report card of at least 286 executions in 2018, including the execution of 10 political prisoners, four women and seven individuals who were sentenced to death for crimes they allegedly committed as children.

The real numbers were likely to be much higher as use of capital punishment in Iran is often shrouded in secrecy.

(source for both: Iran Human Rights)

BRUNEI:

Canada-led rights coalition slams Brunei death penalty for gay sex

More than 30 countries led by Canada have called on Brunei to repeal its newly-adopted death penalty for gay sex and other harsh punishments for robbery, rape, and adultery.

In a weekend statement, the intergovernmental Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) expressed "profound dismay" that the sultanate adopted the "extreme penalties" among several harsh new sharia laws.

"We urge the government of Brunei to repeal the new penalties, and to ensure that any measures that are introduced are consistent with Brunei's international human rights obligations and commitments," it said.

A tough penal code in the tiny country on tropical Borneo island -- ruled by the all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah -- came fully into force last Wednesday after several years of delay.

It has sparked a storm of global criticism from politicians, celebrities, and rights groups.

The ERC, currently co-chaired by Canada, was launched in 2016 at an LGBT rights conference in Montevideo, Uruguay to promote international equal rights for all.

Its declaration on Brunei was signed by Britain, France and several other European powers, the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Israel and a handful of Latin American nations, including Uruguay and Mexico.

The group said the penalties introduced by the southeast Asian country have "a detrimental impact" on vulnerable groups in Brunei, including LGBT people, women, and children.

The measures, it said, exacerbate their marginalization and "increase the risk that they will be exposed to discrimination, persecution and violence, even if they are not prosecuted for having violated the Code."

(source: abs-cbn.com)

SRI LANKA:

Commute Death Sentences of 13 Prisoners (Sri Lanka: UA 45.19)

Urgent Action

After 43 years without using the death penalty, the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, is reportedly planning to execute prisoners on death row. There is complete secrecy around identities of the prisoners who are expected to be imminently executed. No information about their case histories has been shared. It is unknown whether the individuals had fair trials, access to lawyers or whether they were able to engage in a meaningful clemency process. The last execution in Sri Lanka was in 1976. 2019 cannot be the year that we see this this progress reversed.

Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.

President Maithripala Sirisena

Presidential Secretariat

Galle Face

Colombo 01

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Fax: +94 (11) 2340340

Email: ps@presidentsoffice.lk

--

Charge d'Affairs Sarath Dissanayake

Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

3025 Whitehaven Street NW,

Washington DC 20008

Phone: 202 483 4025 // 4026 I 4027 I 4028

Fax: 202 232 7181

Email: slembassy@slembassyusa.org, da@slembassyusa.org

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

--

Dear H.E. President Maithripala Sirisena,

I write to you to plead for the lives of the 13 prisoners whom you have said you will be executing in the coming days.

We understand that you are determined to combat drug use and drug-related crime in Sri Lanka. However, executions will not help with that.

There is no evidence that implementing the death penalty will end drug-related crime. Many of the shrinking number of countries that still use executions for drug-related crime recognize the failure of the death penalty to act as a deterrent, including Iran and Malaysia.

There is no coming back from a flawed judicial process. The punishment is absolute. The mistakes are irredeemable, which can lead to someone innocent paying the ultimate price.

If you implement the death penalty, President Sirisena, it is a line you cannot uncross.

I implore you to reconsider your decision to hang these 13 prisoners, and commute their sentences. Please retain Sri Lanka’s positive death penalty record and establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolish the death penalty entirely.

Yours sincerely,

(source: Amnesty International)

INDIA:

Post-conviction Mental Illness is a Mitigating Factor for Commutation of Death Penalty, Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has held that post-conviction mental illness will be a mitigating factor while considering a plea for commutation of death penalty.

The judgment was rendered by a Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Mohan M Shantanagoudar, and Indira Banerjee in a review petition filed by a convict who had been sentenced to death for rape and murder of 2 underage girls.

The trial court had sentenced him to the death in 2001. This decision was confirmed by the High Court and was later challenged before the Supreme Court which dismissed the appeal. A review petition was filed against the same in which the Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment on the ground of his mental illness.

Submissions

During the hearing of the review petition, two issues were raised by the Counsel for the accused. Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan argued that the accused was not given a separate pre-sentencing hearing by the trial court as is provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The 2nd issue raised pertained to the post-conviction mental illness of the accused. It was argued that the execution of persons suffering from mental illness or insanity violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Hence, this was a fit case that warranted commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment.

Counsel for the State of Maharashtra, Nishant Katneshwarkar, argued that the trial court proceedings would not stand vitiated merely on the ground that the pre-sentence hearing was not conducted on a separate day. As regards the mental illness of the accused, the State refuted the claim and submitted certain medical reports to substantiate its stand that the accused was not suffering from any mental illness.

Verdict

On the issue concerning pre-sentence hearing, the Court was of the view that a hearing on a separate date is not mandatory as long as the accused is provided adequate time to present his case, bring material on record, and the spirit of the provisions of the CrPC is upheld.

The Court then proceeded to consider the aspect of sentencing and the impact of post-conviction mental illness on sentencing.

At the outset, the Court noted the position in India as regards sentencing which is something midway between judicial intuition and strict application of rule of law.

As much as we value the rule of law, the process of sentencing needs to preserve principled discretion for a judge. In India, sentencing is mostly led by ‘guideline judgments’ in the death penalty context, while many other countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America, provide a basic framework in sentencing guidelines, the Court noted.

The Court elucidated the general aspects of sentencing as evolved from various judgments. It then proceeded to consider the aspect of post-­conviction mental illness as a mitigating factor in the analysis of ‘rarest of the rare’ doctrine which has come into force after the Bachan Singh case.

Usually, mitigating factors are associated with the criminal and aggravating factors are relatable to the commission of the crime. However, the ground of post-conviction mental illness arises a long time after the crime and conviction. Hence, the justification to include the same as a mitigating factor does not tie in with the equities of the case, rather the normative justification is founded in the Constitution as well as the jurisprudence of the ‘rarest of the rare’ doctrine.

Thus, the Court resorted to Articles 20 and 21 of the Constitution and Section 20(1) of the Mental Health Act and the Prison Rules of various States to hold that post-conviction mental illness is a mitigating factor in a death penalty case.

It then considered the test for recognizing an accused eligible for such mitigating factor. Placing reliance on ‘International Classification of Diseases (ICD)’, which is accepted under Section 3 of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it held that there can be no set disorders/disabilities for evaluating ‘severe mental illness’. However, a ‘test of severity’ can be a guiding factor for recognizing those mental illnesses which qualify for an exemption.

The Court laid down the following directions to be followed in future cases:

That the post­conviction severe mental illness will be a mitigating factor that the appellate Court, in appropriate cases, needs to consider while sentencing an accused to death penalty.

The assessment of such disability should be conducted by a multi­disciplinary team of qualified professionals (experienced medical practitioners, criminologists etc), including professional with expertise in accused’s particular mental illness.

The burden is on the accused to prove by a preponderance of clear evidence that he is suffering with severe mental illness. The accused has to demonstrate active, residual or prodromal symptoms, that the severe mental disability was manifesting.

The State may offer evidence to rebut such claim.

Court in appropriate cases could setup a panel to submit an expert report.

‘Test of severity’ envisaged predicates that the offender needs to have a severe mental illness or disability, which simply means that objectively the illness needs to be most serious that the accused cannot understand or comprehend the nature and purpose behind the imposition of such punishment.

In the instant case, however, the Court noted that while the exact mental illness which the appellant was suffering from was not clear, it was evident that he had been reeling under bouts of some form of mental irritability since 1994. Moreover, the Court also took into account the fact that he had suffered long incarceration as a death row convict

However, highlighting the barbaric nature of the offence committed, the Court ruled out commuting the term to a life-sentence simpliciter but commuted the death penalty of the accused to a life sentence for the remainder of his life.

“It is extremely clear that the Petitioner poses such a grave threat to society that he cannot be allowed to roam free at any point whatsoever. In this view of the matter, we deem it fit to direct that the Petitioner shall remain in prison for the remainder of his life”

The Court thus allowed the appeal. It also directed the State Government to consider the case of the accused under the appropriate provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 and if found entitled, provide for his rights under that enactment.

(source: barandbench.com)

BANGLADESH:

Couple murder: SC sets aside death warrant against man

The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the death warrant issued against T Kattaivellai alias Dhivakar, for killing a 20-yr old college girl and her lover in Theni district in May 2011, after noting the convict has yet not exhausted all legal remedies, including appeal, before it.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said that the warrant was issued in violations of the law laid down in the 'Shabnam vs Union of India & Ors' (2015) in this regard.

The court allowed the writ petition filed by the convict without even issuing a notice to the state government and quashed the warrant.

The court was told senior advocate Siddharth Dave that the convict was yet to file the appeal against the March 13 Madras High Court's judgement which had affirmed the capital punishment awarded to the convict.

He also submitted the principal district and sessions judge who on March 27 issued the warrant for the execution of the death penalty, had on Monday withdrawn it.

“Be that as it may, as the period for filing appeal within 60 days time is yet to be over, we are of the view that the warrant issued on March 27 is contrary to the law laid down. Accordingly, we deem it proper to set aside the death warrant issued for the execution of the death sentence,” the bench said.

The counsel said the convict would soon be filing the appeal.

The high court had on March 13 affirmed the death sentence awarded by the trial court in March 2018 to Kattaivellai, 28-year-old coconut plucker, rape and murder of the college student, near Suruli falls in Theni district. The high court had noted the convict had committed the murder in a gruesome manner. He had also killed the girl's lover when he tried to protect her.

(source: deccanherald.com)

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

RU Prof Shafiul Murder-----3 accused handed death penalty

A Rajshahi court yesterday sentenced 3 people to death for killing Rajshahi University teacher Prof AKM Shafiul Islam in 2014.

Judge Anup Kumar of Rajshahi Speedy Trial Tribunal awarded death penalty to Abdus Samad Pintu, Ariful Islam Manik, and Mohammad Sabuj at 12:15pm, said public prosecutor Entajul Haque.

In addition to the capital punishment, each convict would have to pay a fine of Tk 10,000, he said.

Among the convicts, Pintu, a Jubo Dal activist, and Manik, former Katakhali municipal unit Jubo Dal organising secretary, were present at the court, while Sabuj was absconding.

Haque said the murder was planned after the Prof Shafiul misbehaved with Pintu’s wife Reshma Khatun, a staff of the university. Pintu threatened the teacher for this before committing the murder, he added.

Announcing the brief judgement, the judge left the courtroom as the 2 convicts burst into tears. Pintu wailed, “Everyone knows we are not the killers, yet we are punished.”

The court also acquitted 8 other accused in the case, as prosecution could not prove the allegations bought against them beyond doubt, the judge said in his verdict said.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the verdict, defence lawyer Golam Mortuza said the convicted persons are innocent as well, as the prosecution side could not prove their involvement beyond doubt.

“The victim was a university teacher; that is why the investigation of his murder case was politically motivated,” he said, adding that none of the 34 witnesses mentioned names of the accused persons being involved in the killing.

On the other hand, Soumin Shahrid, son of the slain professor, said he would not comment on the verdict as it took place in accordance with the investigation. “And the investigation could not establish the motive of the murder logically”.

“The reason for the murder of a university professor cannot be as trivial as misbehaving with a person,” he said.

Soumin said he was a 2nd year student of Dhaka University during the investigation. He could not submit a no-confidence petition on it as the university authority assured him of supervising the case proceedings properly.

“Instead of me, it was the then RU authority who filed the case, and they asked me to concentrate on my studies; they neglected the issue,” he said.

Soumin claimed that Rab interfered in the case, saying, “They misled the investigation.”

The defence lawyer said the prosecution recovered a machete from the place of the occurrence, and an “S” was inscribed on it. Police identified Sadhan Karmaker, a blacksmith from Bogura, who made the machete.

Sadhan told the court that he sells his weapons through Amol Kumar Mohonto, a hardware businessman of the district. Amal told police that he sold this weapon to a tall fair youth, but the police did not present the accused persons before Amal to identify the youth.

“We think police did not do that, because Amal Kumar did not find the buyer of the machete among any of the accused persons,” he said.

However, the public prosecutor said the reactions of the defence lawyers and the professor’s son were “not based on facts”.

CASE HISTORY

Assailants stabbed Prof Shafiul, 48, to death on November 15, 2014 when he was returning home in Rajshahi city's Choddopai area, near the then Rajshahi Rab headquarters and the campus.

Shafiul was known as a progressive teacher and a Lalon song enthusiast.

The then RU registrar filed the murder case the following day, accusing unknown persons.

Hours after the killing, banned Islamist outfit Ansar Al Islam Bangladesh-2 claimed responsibility for the murder on social media, and police arrested three militants over the claim.

Senior police officials then told media that they found militant link behind the murder, and the victim's son Soumin Shahrid suspected the same.

One week later, the investigation of the case took a turn when Rapid Action Battalion held 6 pro-BNP men and presented them before the media in Dhaka, who confessed that they are involved with the murder.

On November 30, 2015, Inspector Rezaus Sadik of police's Detective Branch submitted the charge sheet, and ruled out any militant outfit's involvement in the murder.

He accused Anwar Hossain Ujjal, a former convener of Rajshahi district unit of Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal, and 10 others for the murder.

Other accused are: Nasrin Akhter Reshma, an assistant section officer of RU; her husband Pintu, Manik, Sirajul Islam Kalu, Mohammad Sabuj, Al Mamun, Mohammad Arif, Mohammad Sagor, Zinnat Ali, and Ibrahim Khalil alias “Tokai Babu”.

According to the charge sheet, Sabuj, Sagor, Arif, Zinnat and Ibrahim hacked Prof Shafiul upon instructions from Ujjal and Manik.

The charges were based solely on the judicial confession of accused Nasrin Akter Reshma, who claimed Prof Shafiul was killed because “he misbehaved with her”, said public prosecutor Entajul.

He said the killers were annoyed at the professor for his love for Lalon as the victim organised functions of Lalon songs at his home twice a week.

(source: The Daily Star)

AFRICA:

These 9 African countries have the highest number of people on death row

Amnesty International, a non-governmental organisation that focuses on human rights, has revealed that 6 African nations performed execution on death row in 2018 with sub-Saharan African accounting for 90% of it.

According to its global report on "Death sentences and executions 2018," Amnesty International said despite the decline in executions in the world in 2018, 20 countries performed at least 690 executions compared to at least 993 executions in 2017.

The figure represents the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the past decade. From the figures, the most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, VietNam and Iraq – in that order.

In Africa, Egypt, Botswana, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan – carried out executions in 2018.

The human right group said progress against the use of the death penalty in the sub-Saharan Africa region was relatively positive in 2018 as there was decrease in recorded executions from 28 in 2017 to 24 in 2018.

Country Death Row (as of 2018) Recorded Death Sentences in 2018 alone

Nigeria 2,000 46

Tanzania 500 4

South Sudan 345 8

Zambia 252 21

Ghana 172 12

Kenya 158 12

Uganda 145 5

Somalia 139 15

Mauritania 115 3

(source: pulse.com.gh)

EQUATORIAL GUINEA:

Equatorial Guinea to abolish death penalty – but democratically

The last time Equatorial Guinea applied the death sentence was in 2014 but President Obiang Nguema has given a strong hint that the judicial measure will soon be abolished.

The abolition is premised not on the years of advocacy by human rights groups but from pressure by a political bloc that the country belongs to, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, CPLP.

President Nguema’s assurance on the decision to abolish was during a visit to Cape Verde where he said the abolition of death sentence was all but done but he only wanted the process to be democratic.

“So my government will soon put this question to parliament, where my party has a majority. I am sure that this proposal will be approved,” he is quoted as saying.

The country has been a member of the CPLP since 5 years ago. As part of reforms they were tasked with on joining, the need to abolish the death penalty was listed. The government has routinely been accused of muzzling opposition and press with arbitrary arrests and detention.

The death sentence remains on the books of most African countries though it is hardly implemented. Persons slapped with the sentence usually have their sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

A recent report noted that only 5 African countries carried out the measure in 2018, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Botswana.

Despite being a former Spanish colony having attained independence in 1968, the country has 3 official languages – Spanish, French and Portuguese, and it officially uses the Central Africa CFA franc.

President Nguema has been in charge since 1979 making him the longest serving African leader. His son, Teodorin, a former minister of agriculture is the current vice-president.

(source: africanews.com)

APRIL 15, 2019:

TEXAS----impending execution

Final Execution Set in James Byrd Jr.'s 1998 Murder Case

On a spring night 21 years ago, James Byrd Jr. was looking for a ride back to his Jasper, Texas, home. The men who offered it to him viciously murdered Byrd in a crime that shocked the nation.

Byrd's sister, Louvon Harris, says those 24 hours threw the family into a state of disbelief.

"That's a moment where you say to yourself, is this really happening? Because we just left him the day before at my niece's bridal shower. And as a family, we're a normal family. And the only problem he had that day was, 'Am I gonna be the only male at that bridal shower? And he laughed about it," Harris told InsideEdition.com.

The next day, on June 7, 1998, three white supremacists severely beat Byrd — even defecated on him — before they chained his ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him for 3 miles.

A pathologist testified Byrd was alive for much of it. He died about halfway through, after being decapitated and having his right arm ripped off.

"You deal with pain, shock, and we were numb and we became very angry. Who gave them the right to say my brother's not worth living because he was born black? Something he had no control over? And they said you don't deserve to live because of that,” Harris said.

Billy Rowles was head of the Jasper County Sheriff's Office at the time and saw the horrific crime scene.

"It made me sick to my stomach. For what it's worth. It's the remains of a human being who had been dismembered. Very sickening," he told InsideEdition.com.

Rowles said a witness told authorities he saw a dark colored pickup truck with loud mufflers barreling down the street. He said he spotted three white men inside and Byrd in the back.

"And when he got up on the porch, he heard a pickup truck with very loud mufflers coming toward his house. And he looked out there and when the truck went by in front of it."

They dumped Byrd’s body in front of an African-American cemetery.

Word got around town and Rowles said witnesses led them straight to Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King. They were all tried and convicted of Byrd's brutal murder.

Back then, Byrd's son, Ross, spoke up against the death penalty and expressed that the punishment for murder should not be more murder. Brewer was sentenced to the death penalty.

Harris went to Brewer's execution in 2011 and said the man showed no remorse.

"I never been to an execution before, I never thought I'd be in this situation before. Of course I never thought I'd be a victim family of a hate crime either. It was pretty eerie because, to watch someone die. But it was also an eye opener to see how far hate will go. Will you take it to the grave?"

Berry received a life sentence. After numerous appeals, King was also sentenced to death by lethal injection. It is scheduled for April 24.

"I'm gonna be there. Yea. I'm not gonna watch it, I've seen too many people die in my life. But I am gonna be sitting outside on the grounds when it happens," said Rowles, now the Newton County sheriff.

Harris will be there too. "It won't bring James back, but justice was served. In history you find out very seldom two white men put to death for killing a black man. And so you have history there."

Byrd's family marked the 20th anniversary of his death last year.

Rowles said the loss, paired with Matthew Shepard’s grizzly murder in Wyoming four months later simply because he was gay, helped change the course of history.

"Everybody now knows what a hate crime is. Back then when this happened, it was a racially motivated murder. A civil rights violation.The man was murdered because of his race. The phrase, hate crime came out of this a few weeks after this, we had the Matthew Shepard case up in Laramie, Wyoming," Rowles said.

Rowles feels like the incident tarnished the image of the small Texas town — a wound still trying to heal.

Yet through pure heartache, Byrd's family found a ray of light: starting The Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing.

The foundation's goal is to encourage racial unity through education and reduce the number of racially motivated crimes. For the case that has haunted Rowles, the town and the nation for decades, closure can't come fast enough.

"I'll be glad when it's over. That would be the final act of this case. Would be when John William King is laid to rest, it's over," Rowles said.

James Byrd's memory and legacy continue to will live on.

"James was a fun loving person. He loved people. He loved music. He could pick up an instrument and just play it right there and not thinking about it. And he also teased the family, ‘I'ma put Jasper on the map, I'ma put Jasper on the map!’ And everything. And I keep hearing those words in my mind. We thought it would be through his music and through his playing. Never in my wildest dreams did we think it would be because of his death," Harris said.

(source: insideedition.com)

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

Boy, 18, ‘slits mum’s throat then beat her to death when she caught him stealing her things’----Death penalty for Matthew Dempsey and his friend if convicted after being charged with the murder of Mary Helen Dempsey

A son has been accused of slitting his mum's throat and beating her with a baseball bat after she caught him stealing her things.

Matthew Dempsey and his pal Daniel Saucedo, who are both 18, have been charged with capital murder in connection with the murder of Mary Helen Dempsey.

Mary Helen Dempsey's body was found by her daughter after she failed to show up at work

If convicted they face the death penalty for the murder of the 53-year-old in San Antonio, Texas.

According to an arrest affidavit, Dempsey confessed to killing his mother with Saucedo's help, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

He reportedly told investigators he went to his mum’s house at late on Monday night or early Tuesday morning and entered with a key.

The pair then began gathering items to steal but they were interrupted when Mary Dempsey returned and turned on the lights.

At that moment her son immediately attacked her from behind with a bat Saucedo then joined in and beat her with a bat as well, the affidavit states.

Dempsey then went to the kitchen to get a knife with which to slit his mother’s throat.

'THROAT SLIT'

The affidavit says he gave Saucedo some duct tape to bind her and then covered her with a blanket from his mother's bedroom.

It’s alleged the pair went through her wallet and loaded the stolen items into her car.

Saucedo left in Mary Dempsey's car and they later withdrew money from her account at an ATM.

After Mary Dempsey failed to show up at work and she couldn’t be reached by phone, her employer notified her daughter Jessica.

She went to her mum’s house and found the door unlocked, the house ransacked and her car missing.

Jessica Dempsey then saw the blanket in the living room and “saw it was covering a person and saw a pool of blood", according to the affidavit.

Mary Dempsey was pronounced dead at the scene, and investigators began questioning neighbours in the area who said two males had been seen leaving the home.

Detectives began to suspect Dempsey may have been involved in his mother's death and they visited his mobile home, where he was later arrested when he returned with his girlfriend.

Dempsey's girlfriend told police he had confessed to killing his mother with Saucedo, the affidavit says.

Saucedo was arrested shortly after and is being held with Dempsey at Bexar County Jail on $1million bail.

(source: thesun.co.uk)

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

Family wants gunman who killed mother, daughter, infant to face death penalty----'My pain is triple to one of them,' Melinda Quiroz said

After a mother, daughter and granddaughter’s deaths following a shooting Tuesday, family members hope the shooter gets the death penalty.

Janette Quiroz, 37, and her daughter Bernadett Quiroz, 18, were standing next to an SUV at the Rosemont at University Park apartments in the 100 block of Emerald Ash Tuesday night when a juvenile male opened fire, San Antonio Police said. Police have not announced any arrests in the case or any possible motive.

Janette Quiroz died at the scene, but Bernadett, who a family member said was seven months pregnant, was brought to San Antonio Military Medical Center where she later died.

Bernadett’s daughter, Tabitha Bernadette Quiroz, was delivered by c-section before Bernadett died, said her grandmother, Melinda Quiroz.

However, the Quiroz matriarch said Tabitha was brain dead and had “a leakage on her tummy, a leakage in her brain, and again, she didn’t have no signs of life.”

So she made the difficult decision to take the infant off life support.

“Even though I would have liked for her to be here with us, but unfortunately, I didn’t want her to suffer," Melinda Quiroz said. "So I made that decision. And all I can say is she went with her mom because she was dead by the time they got her to the hospital, too. She was brain dead. So I'm saying she died with her mommy. And the only thing that consoles me is that ‘OK, well this happened. So I have to return her back to her mommy.’”

So on Friday night at just three days old, Tabitha Quiroz also died.

“When I found out that she was not going to make it, it tore me a lot. Because then I won’t have anything left of my sister besides memories,” said Bernadett’s older brother, Damian Quiroz.

It has been an emotional few days for the family, and both Damian and Melinda Quiroz said they want the shooter to face the death penalty when they are caught.

“I feel like, we’re in Texas. So I want them to get the full punishment. I don’t care how old you are, or how young you are, you deserve the death punishment,” said Damian Quiroz.

“My pain is triple to one of them,” Melinda Quiroz said.

(source: KSAT news)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Sean Kratz, accused in Bucks murders, scheduled for court hearing

The 2nd suspect in the murders of four young men in Bucks County is scheduled to be in court Monday.

The trial for Sean Kratz was set to begin Monday but court records show that has been canceled and a miscellaneous criminal hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. instead.

Kratz and his cousin, Cosmo DiNardo, were charged in the deaths of 4 men found dead on the DiNardo family farm in Solebury Township in 2017.

Kratz, 22, is accused of helping DiNardo with 3 of the killings.

Kratz rejected a plea deal in May. Prosecutors at the time said they would seek the death penalty against him. He's charged with three counts each of homicide, abuse of corpse, robbery and related offenses.

DiNardo pleaded guilty to killing the 4 men and is serving a life sentence.

(source: WFMZ news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty sought in North Carolina child abuse death

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a North Carolina man convicted of killing a 2-year-boy and who they say was the drug dealer and pimp for the child's mother.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports the sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Monday for 33-year-old Charles Thomas Stacks of Winston-Salem. Stacks was convicted last week of 1st-degree murder in the death of Jaxson Sonny Swain in August 2015.

Evidence showed Stacks repeatedly slammed the child on the ground.

Prosecutors said Stacks was angry that Jaxson's mother owed him for drugs and that she left him alone with Jaxson and without any heroin. They say Stacks whipped, kicked and hit Jaxson because he wasn't potty-trained and didn't call him "sir."

Prosecutors said Stacks was the pimp and drug dealer for Jaxson's mother.

(source: newsobserver.com)

FLORIDA:

Marion Gavins Jr. in custody, charged with 1st-degree murder in death of Curtis Gray----Gray's death was the 1st homicide in Flagler County in 2019.

After a 36-hour investigation, the suspect in the murder of 18-year-old Flagler Palm Coast High School student Curtis Gray has been arrested, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said at a press conference on the afternoon of Sunday, April 14.

Marion Lee Gavins Jr., 17, of Palm Coast, got into an altercation with Gray outside Coin Laundry on Belle Terre near Palm Coast Parkway at around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, April 13. Deputies found Gray bleeding from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was taken to Halifax Health, where he died.

Deputies were able to identify Gavins, a previous offender, as a suspect nearly 12 hours after the shooting.

Deputies conducted a felony traffic stop on a car leaving the suspect's house on Saturday afternoon. Deputies, along with a SWAT team, served a search warrant at a residence on Woodfaire Lane in Palm Coast on Saturday afternoon. The vehicle the suspect was in during the shooting was located in the garage but the suspect was not in the home, and he was not in the vehicle that was previously stopped.

At 11 p.m. Saturday, a 1st-degree murder warrant was issued for Gavins' arrest.

The family of Curtis Gray set up a GoFoundMe account to help raise money for the funeral and memorial services. You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/LongLiveCurtis.

“Our team did not give up. They put the pressure on," Staly said. "Our deputies and detectives did a great job.”

At around 2 p.m. Sunday, deputies spoke with Gavins' mom, who wished to turn him in. She agreed to meet at the Sheriff's District 2 Office in Palm Coast. Gavins turned himself in at 3 p.m.

“These things can end very poorly for the suspect," Staly said. "I think the mom was trying to keep her son alive because he was obviously making bad decisions. So I’m glad that she did that.”

Staly said he has already spoken with State Attorney R.J. Larizza and requested that Gavins be charged as an adult. There is no known motive “for this senseless killing," he added.

In addition, Gavins has a criminal history dating back to 2014. He was arrested in October 2014 for sale of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school. He was arrested in 2015 for violation of probation and possession of a weapon on school campus (an 8-inch kitchen knife). And he was arrested in 2016 for domestic violence.

Gray's death was the first homicide in Flagler County in 2019.

“This is a tragedy for two families,” Staly said. "One who has lost a son who was an aspiring athlete. And the other who’s son will likely spend the rest of his life in prison or possibly face the death penalty."

(source: palmcoastobserver.com)

TENNESSEE:

How a Former Death Row Prisoner and a Murder Victim’s Daughter Joined Together To Fight the Death Penalty

If you ask Cynthia Vaughn and Sabrina Butler Smith how they met, there’s a good chance they’ll erupt in laughter. It’s not your typical funny story — not as awkward first encounters go. But it’s pretty epic.

“Tell it, Cynthia,” Sabrina says. “Take it away!”

“It was at this big church,” Cynthia begins. Somewhere in Memphis. The two of them had been invited to speak on a panel organized by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. They had never heard of one another — or so they had thought. “I’d seen the flyer and it hadn’t clicked yet,” Cynthia says. Sabrina giggles.

“We were sitting there getting ready to do everything,” Cynthia continues, “And they were introducing her. And they’re talking about how she was convicted.” Listening to the story and looking out at the audience, it suddenly dawned on Cynthia. “Ohhhhh,” she says, her eyes wide, her voice lowering to a dramatic whisper. “I remember this lady.”

Sabrina had once been notorious in Mississippi, where Cynthia grew up. Arrested in 1989 for killing her infant son, Walter, Sabrina swore she was innocent. But a nearly all-white jury sentenced her to die. She was only 19. After her conviction was overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct, however, a second jury acquitted Sabrina in December 1995. She was the 1st woman ever exonerated from death row in the United States.

Losing both parents in a way most people couldn’t fathom, Cynthia had grown up filled with rage.

News of Sabrina’s release had enraged Cynthia, who had just graduated high school in 1995. As a staunch supporter of capital punishment, Cynthia had no patience for those who claimed their innocence, let alone death penalty opponents who had no clue about the system in real life. She did. Her mother, Connie Johnson, was murdered in Tennessee in 1984, when Cynthia was just 7 years old. Her stepfather was sentenced to die for the crime.

Losing both parents in a way most people couldn’t fathom, Cynthia had grown up filled with rage. It radiated beyond her stepfather and toward the world around her. She became a devoted member of pro-death penalty forums, often posting during her overnight shifts as a police dispatcher. “When we weren’t busy, I would be online arguing with anti-death penalty people,” she says. One of the cases that especially incensed her was Sabrina’s.

But in 2012, everything changed. Cynthia went to see her stepfather at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. She had planned to confront him with every ounce of anger that had built inside her since she was a child — and she did. But in spite of herself, she also found herself forgiving him. It transformed her whole life. Cynthia felt freer, happier, more present for her own children. A few years later, she gathered up the courage to tell her story publicly for the first time. The response was so positive, she kept telling it. And that’s how she found herself at the church in Memphis, side by side with a woman whom she once wanted dead.

After the panel ended that night, Cynthia went to look for Sabrina in the bathroom. “And I just bombarded her,” she says. “I was like, ‘Alright, look. You don’t know me. But I know you. And I’m sorry ’cause a long time ago, I said really bad things about you.’” Sabrina forgave her.

Today, Cynthia and Sabrina tell the story like old friends. Traveling across the state to speak against the death penalty, they have worked out a routine. “I tell her, ‘You go first,’” Sabrina says. “We fought about it for a long time,” Cynthia laughs, but she agreed that it made sense. The story she shares now is not just about her own ability to forgive her stepfather anymore; it’s about a deeper transformation, the kind that will be necessary to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

That work has taken on a new urgency recently. In the summer of 2018, Tennessee carried out its first execution in nearly a decade. By the end of the year, it had killed 2 more men on death row. 6 more people are scheduled to die between this year and 2020. The next execution is set for May 16, 2019. The man scheduled for death is Don Johnson, Cynthia’s stepfather.

After years of supporting his execution, Cynthia now desperately wants Johnson to live. She explained why at an event in February at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School. It wasn’t just about forgiveness. Cynthia always craved knowledge about her mother growing up. For most of her life, she said, her mother was “like a character in a storybook,” one she could never fully picture. After recovering from the initial shock of forgiving her stepfather at the prison that day, Cynthia told Johnson, “Now you’re going to tell me things I want to know.” She asked basic questions, “simple things that people take for granted all the time. ‘What was her first car?’ And he told me. It was a Ford Torino. ‘What kind of music did she like?’ Her favorite band was the Rolling Stones.” Her favorite perfume? Chanel No. 5. “Little things that made her a human that I did not know. He gave that to me. … Nobody had ever done that for me.”

Cynthia has gone back to visit Johnson several times. And she is still asking questions. “There is so much more about her I want to know,” she says. “But I can’t do that if the state of Tennessee executes him.”

In the official narrative of capital punishment, there are victims and there are victimizers. The latter forfeit any value they might have to society; their death brings comfort and closure to the people they have harmed. Barriers to their execution — or those who protest against it — are an affront to victims and all grieving families.

The reality is far more complicated. There are the cases of actual innocence, in which the victimizer is the state. There are the revelations about the condemned that sometimes surface long after trial; childhoods often marked by extreme trauma, violence, or abuse, which complicate the definition of who we consider victims. There are the divisions within families over support for the death penalty for a loved one’s murder. And there is the inescapable reality that executions widen the trauma of a violent crime, impacting people in ways often invisible to society. In families like Cynthia’s or Sabrina’s, these are the same people who have already been victimized by the original tragedy. “People always want to say ‘victims’ family, victims’ family’ — and I’m one of those people,” Cynthia says. “But we have to understand that every single one of those inmates also have family.”

The reality of the capital punishment is far more complicated than its official narrative.

That understanding can lead to powerful acts of compassion. On the eve of the 2017 execution of Kenneth Williams in Arkansas, for example, the daughter of one of his victims not only wrote a letter asking the governor to spare his life — she flew Williams’s daughter to Arkansas to see her father before he died. “If Mr. Williams is executed,” she wrote, “her loss, her pain, will be as real as mine.” Her letter was ignored.

Despite the resurgence in executions, the reality is that death sentences are on a steep decline in Tennessee. This mirrors trends across the country, where support for the death penalty has reached historic lows. But the notion that the death penalty is justice for victims remains widely entrenched. The narrative was recently on display in Nashville, where the governor quietly signed a bill to speed up the appellate process in capital cases. Named the Sgt. Daniel Baker Act in homage to a sheriff’s deputy who was gunned down while on duty last year — and whose alleged killers have yet to be tried — the sponsors cast the legislation as an overdue remedy that has unfairly denied closure to victims’ families for years.

It’s true that the lengthy appellate process is burdensome for all involved, but Tennessee’s law will do very little to mitigate the problem. For one, it only applies to death sentences imposed after its passage — a vanishingly small number. In the meantime, politicians and prosecutors keep promising closure to victims’ families while continually delivering the opposite. “Every time I would try to get to a point in my life where I felt like I could move on, where I felt like I could try to lead some type of normal life, the death penalty is right back in my face,” Cynthia told the audience at Vanderbilt.

Politicians and prosecutors keep promising closure to victims’ families while continually delivering the opposite.

Johnson’s death has been scheduled before. One date was in 2006, when Cynthia still supported his execution. Her bags were packed to drive to Nashville. “I was ready to go,” she said. “I wanted him dead. That was my revenge. That was what I had been waiting for.” But mere days beforehand, she got a phone call telling her that he had gotten a stay. “That was probably the 1st time that I realized that something is just not right,” she said. “The state is making me a victim over and over and over again.” Meanwhile, she had never received the help she needed to process her trauma.

In the archived pages of the pro-death penalty websites where she once spent so much time, there’s a lot to show Cynthia wasn’t alone. The posts weren’t all bloodthirsty rants; in one thread, participants described how much they were struggling with their physical, mental, and emotional health. A mother could see how her depression was impacting her child; the grown son of a murder victim described feelings of guilt over his own mourning process. There was talk of the news media that swarm around trials or execution dates. How do you cope when everybody seems to care about you one moment and the next minute it’s like you don’t exist?

Sabrina never had a chance to mourn the loss of her son. To this day, in fact, she cannot access his grave. After she was exonerated, she became a seasoned public speaker with groups like Witness to Innocence. Yet she struggled to get a job. “Nobody wanted to hire me,” she says. Although Mississippi passed legislation in 2009 to provide compensation for the wrongfully convicted, no sum of money could address the enduring effects of her incarceration. “They didn’t give me any type of mental service, nothing.”

In a memoir published in 2011, Sabrina describes how she “became the living dead” after the death of her son. “I was an emotional zombie for many years.” The loss was compounded by the terror she felt over the threat of execution. Her first official “death date” was set soon after her conviction in 1990. While this was a mere formality given her right to appeal her conviction, Sabrina did not understand this, and her defense attorneys never explained it. A woman in a neighboring cell tried to reassure her that the state would not kill her so fast, but on that day, Sabrina woke up at 3 a.m. and paced furiously, scared for her life. “Every time I heard some keys,” she wrote, “I thought they were coming for me.”

On a Thursday afternoon in March, Sabrina and Cynthia met up again, this time at LeMoyne-Owen College, a historically black college in Memphis. Cynthia wore pink nail polish and a black top, her sleeves rolled up to the colorful tattoo she got as an homage to her mother. Sabrina wore braids and a T-shirt that read “Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing,” which she got during a tour with an abolitionist group whose members have been impacted by murder and state-sanctioned executions.

Sabrina and Cynthia were scheduled to speak that evening, at an event co-sponsored by Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the local criminal justice reform group, Just City. In their introductory remarks, speakers would trace the death penalty to its roots in lynchings and other forms of racial violence. The legacy is ever-present in Memphis, where Confederate statues were removed from city parks in 2017. A couple blocks away from the LeMoyne-Owen campus, a historical marker stood on the site of the People’s Grocery, whose three employees were murdered in a notorious lynching that helped inspire the activism of journalist Ida B. Wells.

Sabrina and Cynthia are no strangers to this history. Both grew up in small Southern towns with mostly white populations. After her mother’s murder, Cynthia was raised by an aunt in Tunica, Mississippi, just south of Memphis. Sabrina was born in Jackson, Mississippi, later moving across the state to Columbus. “In Columbus,” Sabrina told me, “they still have a mural on the wall in the post office of people in the field picking cotton.”

This legacy makes their particular bond a point of some pride. “I’ll go there, I’ll say it,” Cynthia said as we discussed the ways their message resonates with audiences. “She’s a black woman and I’m a white woman.” In a region where racial divisions run so deep, and at a time when people seem more politically polarized than ever, Cynthia and Sabrina believe that they can reach more people together than they ever could apart. Their stories remind people of the many ways women are affected by the death penalty — it is not all about men facing execution. And they defy people’s expectations of what friendship can look like. “We’re a force,” Sabrina says.

It’s not all about shared suffering or pain, either, although the feeling of being understood brings its own joy. They have a lot of funny stories to tell, like the time at a nice restaurant after an event in Chattanooga, when they both felt out of place deciphering the menu. (“We’re not fancy people,” Cynthia says.) Driving home later that night, Cynthia got a flat tire in the middle of the night; it was Sabrina who stayed on the phone with her to make sure she got through it OK.

As the event came to a close later that night, a young woman in the audience asked Cynthia a question that gave her pause. “You are both family of the victim and family of the accused,” she said. How did she find space to grieve her mother? “I think you’re the 1st person to ever ask me that,” Cynthia said.

On April 3rd, a small press conference was held at Riverside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nashville. Members of Johnson’s legal team handed out copies of a clemency petition that had been delivered to Governor Bill Lee earlier that morning. It told the story of Cynthia’s journey to forgiveness as well as Johnson’s own transformation while on death row. “It is not uncommon for inmates to have a religious experience while they are incarcerated,” Pastor Furman Fordham said. But Johnson became such a powerful leader in the prison ministry at Riverbend, the congregation took the rare move of ordaining him as a church elder in 2008.

Fordham recalled a day after church when a man approached him to say he had received bible study from Johnson in prison, a powerful testament to the role he has had helping men leave Riverbend “as changed individuals.” The clemency materials include portions of letters written on behalf of Johnson from dozens of men on death row. But the petition urges the governor to consider Cynthia above all. “She is the human being most deeply and directly affected by the weighty decision before you.”

Cynthia was not at the press conference that afternoon. It was her birthday. As she does most days, she spent the morning sleeping after her overnight shift at the casino where she works. She woke up to a chocolate cake and well-wishes from her friends. But she was bracing herself for the response to news of the clemency petition, including from family members who do not support her activism. On Facebook a couple of days later, Sabrina liked a post Cynthia put up quoting Tupac Shakur: “Y’all supposed to be happy I’m free.” (“You get it don’t ya Sabrina,” Cynthia replied.)

As Cynthia waits to hear from the governor, there is hope in the people supporting her stepfather. But the most relief right now comes from those who simply don’t judge or require explanations or expect anything from her. Sabrina gets this too. For all the years she has been telling her own story, it is always exhausting to recount your worst trauma — to reporters, to people at public events. “When you’re looking out into the audience, it’s like you have to prove something to the people,” Sabrina says. “That’s not easy. It’s not easy to put yourself right back where you started. That’s hard. So I love her because I can look over there and I can know that she shares what I know.”

(source: theintercept.com)

USA:

Capital punishment a flawed system

Editor: Capital punishment, also referred to as the death penalty, is the government-authorized killing of a person who has committed a serious crime. This flawed system does not meet modern-day values, it has not been proven to deter crime, may result in the killing of an innocent person and therefore should be abolished in all states.

Although supporters of capital punishment will argue that the possibility of death will prevent one from committing a crime, evidence shows that there is no way execution deters crime more than a life sentence in prison.

Current and past presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies participated in a study in which 88 % of these experts claimed that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to murder. The death penalty as a punishment is completely irreversible and within 42 years, 148 prisoners on death row were found innocent and released. The state of Florida will mistakenly sentence someone to death row around once every 18 months. The death penalty system is incredibly flawed as factors such as race and intellectual disabilities may contribute to a faulty death sentence.

A study proved that jurors in Washington are 3 times more likely to recommend a death sentencing for a black defendant than a white defendant. Mental illness and intellectual disabilities may also lead to an unrightful killing.

One must prove that the accused person is not mentally ill, thus creating a large risk factor. With the use of the death penalty in the last hundreds of years, the abolishment is long overdue and needs to be enacted immediately. There are too many factors that may contribute to an unrightful death for death sentencing to be an option of punishment.

Mia Reinert

SHAVERTOWN

(source: Letter to the Editor, Citizens Voice)

GLOBAL:

China remains the world’s top executioner-Amnesty International

Global executions fell by almost one-third last year to the lowest figure in at least a decade, Amnesty International said in its 2018 global review of the death penalty published today.

The statistics assess known executions worldwide except in China, where figures thought to be in their thousands remain classified as a state secret.

In Southern Africa, Botswana resumed executions after a break in 2017. In March 2018, Zimbabwe commuted the death sentences of prisoners who had been on death row for more than 10 years. The country has not carried out any executions since 2005.

Following a change to its anti-narcotics laws, executions in Iran – a country where the use of the death penalty is rife – fell by a staggering 50%. Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia also showed a significant reduction in the number they carried out. As a result, execution figures fell globally from at least 993 in 2017, to at least 690 in 2018.

“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realize the death penalty is not the answer,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Despite regressive steps from some countries, including Botswana, the number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly. This is a hopeful indication that it’s only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs.”

Reinstating the death penalty

However, it wasn’t all good news. Amnesty International found increases in executions in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the USA. Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, while Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena declared he would resume executions after more than 40 years, posting an advert seeking executioners in February 2019.

“The positive news of 2018 has been marred by a small number of states who are shamefully determined to buck the trend,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“Japan, Singapore and South Sudan reported their highest levels of executions in years, and Thailand resumed executions after almost a decade; but these countries now form a dwindling minority. To all the countries that still resort to the death penalty, I challenge you to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment now.”

Noura Hussein, a young Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death in May 2018 for killing the man she was forced to marry as he tried to rape her. After global outrage, including major campaigning efforts from Amnesty International, her death sentence was over-turned, and she was instead given a 5-year prison sentence and asked to pay financial compensation, customarily known as Diya or “blood money” of 337,500 Sudanese pounds (around US$8,400) to the victim’s family.

Noura told Amnesty International:

“I was in absolute shock when the judge told me I had been sentenced to death. I hadn’t done anything to deserve to die. I couldn’t believe the level of injustice ­– especially on women. I’d never imagined being executed before that moment. The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘How do people feel when they are executed? What do they do?’. My case was especially hard as at the time of sentencing, my family had disowned me. I was alone dealing with the shock.”

The world’s top executioners

China remained the world’s top executioner – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret. Amnesty International believes thousands of people are sentenced to death and executed each year.

In an unprecedented move, death penalty figures were made publicly available by authorities in Viet Nam, who reported that at least 85 executions took place in 2018. This tally confirms its place within the world’s top five executing countries: China (1000s), Iran (at least 253), Saudi Arabia (149), Viet Nam (at least 85) and Iraq (at least 52).

H? Duy H?i, convicted of theft and murder after he says he was tortured into signing a “confession”, was sentenced to death in 2008. He remains at risk of execution on death row in Viet Nam. The stress of a pending death sentence has had a hugely detrimental impact on his family.

His mother, Nguy?n Th? Loan, told Amnesty International:

“It has been 11 years since he was arrested and our family was torn apart. I can no longer bear this pain. Just thinking about my son suffering behind bars hurts me so much. I would like the international community to help reunite my family. You are my only hope.”

Despite a significant decrease in the number of executions it carried out, Iran still accounted for more than 1/3 of executions recorded globally.

Amnesty International was also concerned about a sharp spike in the number of death sentences that were imposed in some countries over the course of the year.

In Iraq, the number quadrupled from at least 65 in 2017, to at least 271 in 2018. In Egypt, the number of death sentences handed down rose by more than 75%, from at least 402 in 2017, to at least 717 in 2018. This rise can be attributed to the Egyptian authorities’ appalling track record of handing out mass death sentences after grossly unfair trials often based on “confessions” obtained under torture and flawed police investigations.

Global trend towards abolition

Overall, 2018’s figures show that the death penalty is firmly in decline, and that effective steps are being taken across the world to end the use of this cruel and inhuman punishment.

For example, Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes in June. In February and July respectively, Gambia and Malaysia both declared an official moratorium on executions. In the US, the death penalty statute in the state of Washington was declared unconstitutional in October.

During the United Nations General Assembly in December, 121 countries – an unprecedented number – voted to support a global moratorium on the death penalty. Only 35 states voted against it.

“Slowly but steadily, global consensus is building towards ending the use of the death penalty. Amnesty has been campaigning to stop executions around the world for more than 40 years – but with more than 19,000 people still languishing on death row worldwide, the struggle is far from over,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“From Burkina Faso to the US, concrete steps are being taken to abolish the death penalty. Now it’s up to other countries to follow suit. We all want to live in a safe society, but executions are never the solution. With the continued support of people worldwide, we can – and we will – put an end to the death penalty once and for all.”

At the end of 2018, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes and 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Background

There were at least 356 people known to be under the death sentence in Southern Africa at the end of 2018. Botswana was the only country in southern Africa to execute 2 people after they were convicted of murder.

(source: newsghana.com.gh)

VIETNAM:

5 arrested for smuggling 19 kilos of meth from Cambodia

The police have arrested five people for allegedly trafficking meth and ecstasy from Cambodia to the southern province of An Giang.

The police and border guards stopped a car and arrested Trinh Cong Nghia, 41, and Du Quoc Cuong, 29, at the border in the province’s An Phu District on Saturday and seized 25,000 ecstasy pills weighing around eight kilograms and 18.2 kilograms of methamphetamine from the vehicle.

This is the largest drug haul ever in the province.

Cuong told the police he was hired by a Vietnamese named Phuong in Cambodia to carry the drugs to Ho Chi Minh City, more than 5 hours away.

A day later the police arrest three more suspects, Nguyen Thanh Hai, 41, Nguyen Thanh Phuong, 52, and Tuyen Khoa, 33, in HCMC.

This time they found 6,850 ecstasy pills and 1 kilogram of meth.

Hai, Cuong and Khoa also tested positive for drugs.

The police have concluded that the gang transported drugs from Cambodia across the Mekong Delta to customers in Saigon.

Tens of kilograms of drugs were seized.

On March 27 the HCMC police arrested 2 Taiwanese men and a Vietnamese driver who were allegedly transporting more than 300 kilos of heroin produced in Myanmar in a truck in Hoc Mon District on the outskirts.

On March 20 a bust by hundreds of officers and border guards ended with the seizure of a truck with around 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of meth in HCMC. The drugs were on their way to Taiwan.

The cases have prompted top police officers to warn that HCMC is growing into a transit point for drugs thanks to its logistics infrastructure.

Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine could face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

(source: vnexpress.com)

BANGLADESH:

3 to die for murder of RU teacher Shafiul----The court also acquitted 8 other accused in the case

A Rajshahi court has awarded the death penalty to 3 people in a case filed over the killing of Rajshahi University teacher Prof Dr AKM Shafiul Islam in 2014.

Judge Anup Kumar of Rajshahi Speedy Trial Tribunal passed the order around 12:30pm on Monday.

The court also acquitted eight other accused in the case as the prosecution failed to produce sufficient evidence against them.

The death penalty recipients are - Abdus Samad Pintu, Ariful Islam Manik and Sabuj Sheikh. Of them, Sabuj Sheikh is on the run. All of them were involved in BNP's politics.

Those who were acquitted are- Rajshahi District BNP Joint Secretary Anwar Hossain Ujjal, Sirajul Islam, Al Mamun, Arif, Sagar, Jinnat Ali, Ibrahim Khalil and Nasrin Akhter Reshma.

Public Prosecutor Entajul Haque Babu confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune.

After the verdict, victim's son Soumin Shahrid said: "I have no comments in reaction to the verdict. However, I have confusion over the transparency of the case's investigation."

On November 15, 2014, unidentified assailants stabbed Prof Shafiul to death when he was returning home in Choddopai area of Rajshahi city.

The next day, the incumbent RU registrar filed the murder case accusing unknown persons.

On November 30, 2015, Inspector Rezaus Sadik of police's Detective Branch submitted the charge sheet accusing 11 people in the case.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

KUWAIT:

Duo sentenced to death for killing sheikh, 2 others

The court of cassation yesterday sentenced 2 Iranians to death for killing a ruling family member, another Kuwaiti and an Indonesian woman in an armed robbery in 2016. The victims were found inside an apartment in Salwa with their hands and feet tied and their mouths gagged.

At the time, the interior ministry’s media and public relations department had said in a statement the suspects were arrested after intense investigations and information from eyewitnesses. The suspects, Iranian nationals Mohammad Abdulredha Nawasser and Ali Mohammad Al-Bughaibesh, committed the crime using a handgun, said the statement. Before escaping, the 2 suspects stole KD 276,000 and 3 guns belong to the house owner, the statement added.

(source: Kuwait Times)

IRAQ:

Iraq begins trial proceedings for 900 jihadist suspects

Iraq has begun trial proceedings for nearly 900 Iraqi suspected members of the Islamic State group caught fleeing jihadist territory in neighbouring Syria, a judicial source told AFP on Sunday.

They were handed over to Iraqi authorities by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which ousted IS from swathes of eastern Syria including territory bordering Iraq.

"We received the interrogation files of nearly 900 Iraqi Daesh (IS) members coming from Syria," the court official said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

"The specialised terrorism court has begun setting dates for their trial in batches," the source added.

The nearly 900 suspected jihadists were transferred by the SDF to Iraqi custody in recent months as the remnants of IS' once sprawling self-declared "caliphate" collapsed in neighbouring Syria. Additional Iraqi suspects are in SDF custody and awaiting transferral, a security source told AFP Sun day.

"They will be handed over in batches on the Syrian-Iraqi border. They include very influential leaders, but IS had sought to keep them hidden," the security source said. One of those destined to be handed over was deeply involved in IS' efforts to develop chemical weapons, he said.

Iraq has already tried thousands of its own nationals arrested on home soil for joining IS -- including women -- and has sentenced hundreds to death. The country remains in the top five "executioner" nations in the world, according to an Amnesty International report released last week.

The number of death sentences issued by Iraqi courts more than quadrupled from 65 in 2017 to at least 271 in 2018.

But fewer were actually carried out, according to Amnesty, with 52 executions in 2018 compared to 125 in 2017. In addition to locals, Iraq has also tried hundreds of foreigners, condemning many to life in prison and others to death, although no foreign IS members have yet been executed. Among those awaiting trial in Baghdad are 12 accused French IS members, who were caught in Syria and transferred to Iraqi custody in February. Baghdad has offered to try all foreign fighters in SDF custody -- estimated at around 1,000 -- in exchange for millions of dollars, Iraqi government sources have told AFP.

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have criticised these trials, which they say often rely on circumstantial evidence or confessions obtained under torture.

(source: al-monitor.com)

IRAN----executions

2 Men Executed at Adel-Abad Prison

2 prisoners were executed on charges related to murder and drug offenses at Adel-Abad, the main prison of the Iranian city of Shiraz. The 2 were sentenced to death, both for murder and drug offenses. However, it seems the executions were related to the qisas (retribution in kind) for murder cases.

According to the IHR sources, prisoners Taha Shirdookht and Kazem Minaei, were executed on the morning of Thursday, April 11, at Adel-Abad prison. Both men were from the northern city of Rasht.

A well-informed source had previously told IHR about the case of prisoners, “they were sentenced to death at the Revolutionary Courts for having 11 kilograms of Methamphetamine and Heroin. But they were also charged with a murder case.”

Taha Shirdookht and Kazem Minaei were arrested in the Iranian city of Mashhad around 5 years ago. They were held at Isfahan Central prison but for some reason, they had been transferred to Adel-Abad Prison along with 4 other prisoners last Sunday. The fate of the other 4 is not known.

The aforementioned executions have not been reported by Iranian media so far.

According to the Iran Human Rights statistic department, the majority of executions in 2017 and 2018 in Iran was for murder charges. At least 188 prisoners were executed for murder charges in 2018. Only 33% of executions were announced by Iranian authorities in 2018.

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)

BRUNEI:

It's not you, it's me: Brunei and Shariah----Boycotts and sanctions are unlikely to persuade the tiny country to scrap its draconian anti-gay and adultery laws

Brunei is usually a quiet and tranquil country: crime is virtually unknown, traffic is light and its political scene is among the most stable in the region. Yet in recent weeks the small nation has been in the international spotlight over the introduction of draconian anti-homosexual and anti-adultery laws that had been delayed for some time.

There are now calls for boycotts and the withdrawal of Western honorary degrees and other honors that had previously been bestowed on Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is the last absolute monarch in Southeast Asia. However, the Brunei government remains resolute in insisting that this is an internal affair and that the law be implemented without external interference.

What exactly is behind this insistence in the face of international and celebrity condemnation? Commentators have pointed to the possibility that the monarch, who is the second longest reigning monarch in the world after Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, is preparing for abdication. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III, the father and predecessor of the current sultan, abdicated in 1967 and, in his capacity as adviser, guided his young successor at the beginning of his reign up to and beyond Brunei’s independence from Britain in 1984.

Although such guidance would be invaluable for Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, who faces the daunting challenge of ruling after a long preceding reign, it does not really explain the phasing in of this severe interpretation of Shariah. It is more likely that rather than being preparation for Brunei’s post-Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah future, it should be seen more as part of preparing Brunei for its inevitable post-oil future.

Looking beyond black gold

Brunei’s economy and legendarily generous social services continue to be over-reliant on income from oil and gas exports, with up to 90 % of all exports in 2018 being from this sector. Brunei’s proven oil and gas reserves should last for some years yet, but it is likely that the demand and prices for these commodities will fall as the global economy turns increasingly toward renewable and alternative sources of energy.

In recent years, the Brunei government has attempted to diversify into other sectors to improve self-sufficiency and wean the population from reliance on oil. Sectors that have seen the most activity include tourism, logistics, halal food branding and even agriculture, but these ventures have yet to yield the expected results. There remains some concern over the nation’s long-term future.

Since 1984, the Brunei government has put the idea of Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB) at the center of its national philosophy — an expression of the intention to build a nation that is Malay, Islamic, with a monarch as ruler.

However, this philosophy does not really distinguish Brunei from its larger neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia. Both countries have commonalities in terms of the Malay and Islamic culture, as well as having sultans as local rulers, albeit with much more limited powers. Indeed, in the 1960s, there were discussions regarding Brunei’s possible integration into one of these countries. These moves failed, mainly due to the inability to find a satisfactory method to divide Brunei’s massive oil wealth.

However, with the diminishing importance of oil and gas, there is a risk that these dormant ideas may reawaken in the years ahead. Brunei probably does not view this reawakening favorably. The last time that these ideas ran rampant was in 1962, when the leftist Brunei People’s Party carried out an armed insurrection to prevent the nation from joining Malaysia. Although the insurrection failed, the incident ensured Brunei’s independence and triggered the policy of confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1960s. Inside Brunei, a state of emergency was declared and the sultan’s absolute power still stems from this legal framework.

The ideology of MIB and the phasing in of Shariah can be viewed as part of an attempt to distinguish Brunei from its larger and more liberal neighbors, particularly in terms of putting Islam and the monarch at the absolute center of political, social and religious life. These measures serve not only to secure the status quo but also perhaps to ensure Brunei’s continuing independence in the long term.

The road ahead requires imagination

The current situation, therefore, should be seen in the context of how Brunei views its uncertain future. Undoubtedly, Shariah could be viewed as a useful tool to deal with political opponents. Yet, as a tool, its utility is questionable. Defendants will have to be caught in a particularly wild party in flagrante. The law, as it stands, requires a confession or at least four Muslim witnesses and, even if convicted, Brunei has not carried out an execution since 1957 (when the country was still under British rule) despite maintaining the death penalty on its statute books.

More worrying perhaps is the chilling effect on the LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex +) community, with Western news outlets reporting that LGBTQI+ Bruneians are seeking asylum abroad. Brunei has never really been a haven for this community. While the expression of this lifestyle is limited in Brunei, most affluent Bruneians can go to more liberal parts of Southeast Asia for a reprieve from restrictive laws.

In the meantime, boycotts may be useful in raising awareness of the issue, but they rarely lead to a useful outcome. Western boycotts of hotels will have little effect on Brunei, whose economy is more reliant on exports to East Asia rather than activities with the European Union and the United States. Historically, sanctions and boycotts have not really worked in the region. It was not punishing Western sanctions that opened Myanmar to the world but rather ASEAN’s close engagement and support of gradual reforms that succeeded in making progress.

If there is a genuine desire by external actors to resolve this matter, a more imaginative approach than the ones taken thus far will be required.

(source: *Will Summers is an alias used by the author who is a former diplomat and a long-time observer of Thai and international politics----ucanews.com)

APRIL 14, 2019:

TEXAS:

Department of Criminal Justice should permit clergy in execution chamber

Whatever Texans think of the death penalty – and most vigorously support it – we've never questioned the right of condemned prisoners to have a clergy member in the execution chamber.

Never, until last week, when the Texas Department of Criminal Justice started an unnecessary, constitutionally shaky, and mean-spirited policy that bans all clergy from the chamber.

The change in execution policies followed a 7-2 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution of Texas death row prisoner Patrick Murphy, 57. Murphy, who became a Buddhist almost a decade ago on death row, was scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville.

Texas had denied Murphy's request to have a Buddhist clergy member next to him at the moment of execution. Before, TDCJ allowed its own chaplains in the execution chamber. The department, however, employs only Christian and Muslim clergy, raising the constitutional issue of religious discrimination.

Now, to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling, the department won't allow clergy of any faith in the execution chamber. The new policy will affect mostly Christians, who make up the vast majority of Texas' nearly 150,000 prisoners.

Courts will determine whether the department's new policy conforms to the constitution, or unlawfully restricts religious freedom. Either way, Texas made a short-sighted decision. It could have easily resolved this case by hiring a Buddhist chaplain, or spiritual advisor, to perform last rites at Murphy's execution.

Doing so would have enabled the state to move forward, without delay, with Murphy's execution. Now, the state will have to wait until the appellate courts hear Murphy's appeal.

A one-time contract with a Buddhist chaplain probably would cost the state nothing. Ken Goldberg, chaplain of the Buddhist Center of Dallas, told the Herald-Press editorial page he would perform the service without charge. He already attends to dying hospital patients.

TDCJ could apply the same rigorous accreditation standards and background checks to a contract with Goldberg, or another Buddhist chaplain, that it does for its own clergy.

Instead of resolving the problem in a simple and humane way, the state decided to, in effect, stand the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment on its head.

Murphy will elicit little public sympathy. After breaking out of a maximum-security prison in 2000, he and six other escapees, known as the “Texas 7,” robbed a sporting goods store. During the robbery, a police officer was shot and killed. Murphy, who acted as a lookout in the getaway vehicle, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

But this isn't about Murphy. It's about the constitutional protection of religious freedom and rights for everyone, even condemned prisoners.

For Christian inmates, the presence of a clergy in their final moment recognizes the state of Texas has rendered its judgment — now, another judgment awaits them. That's a moment the state should relinquish to a higher power, and the U.S. constitution.

(source: Editorial; Palestine Herald-Press)

NORTH CAROLINA:

David Godwin guilty of 1st degree murder in death of Morehead City woman----Both sides rest case in Godwin murder trial

A Carteret County jury has found David Godwin guilty of 1st degree murder in the gruesome death of a Morehead City woman.

Jurors deliberated about 90 minutes Saturday afternoon.

Godwin has been standing trial for the July 4, 2016 killing of 37-year-old Wendy Tamagne.

The woman's body was found in trash bags inside her Morehead City apartment.

The Newport man was found guilty on all counts. Those included 1st degree murder with malice, premeditation, and deliberation; 1st degree felony murder by means of robbery with a dangerous weapon; 1st degree felony murder by means of common law robbery; 1st degree felony murder by means of felonious dismemberment or destroying of human remains; and 1st degree murder by lying in wait.

Prosecutors will now ask the same jury to give Godwin the death penalty.

The man's lawyers said the case was not about who killed the woman, but why. Several of their witnesses testified that Godwin suffered from mental health issues.

(source: WITN news)

TENNESSEE:

My stepfather killed my mother, but he shouldn't die for it ----Don Johnson has become one of my last connections to my mother, and his execution, scheduled for May 16, will not feel like justice to me.

When I was 7 years old, my mother was murdered in Memphis, and my life changed forever. My brother and I moved in with my aunt while my stepfather was convicted of my mother’s murder and sentenced to death.

From that point forward, my closest companion has been my anger toward my stepfather. Every milestone of mine that my mother missed—my 1st date, my prom night, my wedding day, the births of my children—only made me hate my stepfather more. I strongly supported the death penalty because I believed he deserved it.

Since the 1984 murder, time and time again, execution dates were scheduled and then stayed, each time feeling like a slap in the face and upending any progress I had made.

How I learned to connect with death row inmate Don Johnson

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit my stepfather for the 1st time on death row. After almost 30 years of being trapped in my own hell that he had caused, I was prepared to let him have it – and I did. I sat down in front of him, shaking with anger and fear, and words flowed out of me that I thought I’d never say.

Tears I forgot were inside me poured out as I threw every trouble and pain I’d experienced for 3 decades on him.

That day, after the end of my tirade, I realized something I had never considered before: all the hate that I had been carrying was only destroying me. What I really needed to heal was to let all that anger go.

And maybe I did, or maybe God took it from me. Whatever happened, I don’t carry it anymore. I’m finally free.

(source: Opinion; Cynthia Vaughn, The Tennessean)

MISSOURI:

Death row inmate deserves no sympathy

It never ceases to amaze us that, quite often, when a death row inmate is about to be executed, he or she argues the method planned to be used to end his or her life amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

This is obviously a last-ditch effort – after years and years of appeals, often on the taxpayers’ dime – to spare their lives or at least delay execution, but we simply do not buy it.

We often ask ourselves when we hear of these criminals pleading for their lives: What about the cruel and unusual punishment that their victims went through? Didn’t the person they murdered, raped or tortured to death experience cruel and unusual punishment?

Of course they did. It was cruel and unusual punishment committed against them by these criminals. Those also suffering cruel and unusual punishment as a result of these convicted murderers are the victims’ families. Many wait decades for justice for their loved ones who were senselessly taken from them. Some don’t live long enough because the appeals process takes so long.

This is very sad for them, in our opinion. They often can’t receive any closure until they know that the monster who killed their loved one is no longer living.

Consider the case of death row inmate Russell Bucklew in Missouri. He has been on death row since 1996 for the rape and murder of a woman. For 23 years, the family of the victim has waited for justice to be done. Bucklew and his attorneys have tied up his death penalty case all this time, recently taking their argument all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bucklew’s attorneys did not dispute that Bucklew committed the crime; instead, they argued before the high court that he has a rare medical condition called cavernous hemangioma, which causes blood-filled tumors to grow around his head and neck and that using lethal injection would cause Bucklew pain during the execution, thereby resulting in cruel and unusual punishment.

It was clear that this very weak and desperate argument was a last-ditch effort to save this cold-blooded killer’s life.

We didn’t buy it, and thankfully the majority of the high court didn’t buy it. In a 5-4 vote, the majority said the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment does not mean that executions must be painless.

Justice Neil Gorsuch also concluded that under the court’s precedents in two previous cases, Bucklew is required to present an alternative method of execution that is feasible, readily implemented and likely to reduce the chances of extreme pain.

Bucklew, whose lawyers suggested the largely untested method of nitrogen asphyxiation as an alternative to lethal injection, failed to meet those burdens, Gorsuch said. Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi have approved the use of nitrogen asphyxiation, but it remains experimental.

In a dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by his fellow liberals, wrote that the majority’s requirements could permit states to execute those who will endure pain similar to that inflicted by burning at the stake.

To suggest that putting someone to death through the means of lethal injection is comparable to being burned at the stake is a huge stretch, and frankly is a rather ridiculous comment to make.

The majority of the high court got it right in this case.

Bucklew had choices in life, like we all do. In 1996, he made the choice to rape and murder a woman. He showed her no mercy or sympathy on that day, but 23 years later he asks for sympathy.

He doesn’t deserve one ounce of mercy or sympathy. He chose his path in life. He showed his victim very cruel and unusual punishment, and if he receives it he is most certainly deserving of it.

(source: Editorial, Bowling Green (KY) Daily News)

ARIZONA----new death sentence

Jury sentences Missouri man to death for 2 Arizona murders

A Missouri man convicted in the 2012 murders of his sister-in-law and her boyfriend in Arizona has been sentenced to death.

Yavapai County Superior Court officials say a jury reached its verdict Wednesday and lawyers for 35-year-old Kenneth Wayne Thompson have already filed an appeal.

Jurors began deliberating March 30 whether Thompson should get life in prison or the death penalty.

He has been convicted Feb. 20 on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Thompson used a hatchet and knife to kill Penelope Edwards and Troy Dunn in March 2012 and then poured acid on the bodies and then set his sister-in-law's Prescott Valley home on fire.

Jurors rejected arguments by Thompson's attorneys that his motive for the slayings was rooted in his upbringing as a Scientologist.

(source: Associated Press)

OREGON:

2nd suspect faces murder in 2018 Hermiston slaying

A 2nd Hermiston man is on the hook for the 2018 shooting death of Erik Navarrete.

Vincent Wesley David Shermantine, 29, faced charges Friday afternoon of murder, 1st-degree robbery, felon in possession of a firearm and unlawful use of a weapon. District Attorney Dan Primus said Shermantine’s arraignment was Friday at 1:15 p.m. in Hermiston.

According to the indictment, Shermantine and co-defendant David Edgar Sommerville, 19, also of Hermiston, robbed Navarrete at gunpoint on June 4, 2018, and Sommerville in the course of the crime shot and killed Navarrete.

Hermiston police on Thursday identified Sommerville as a suspect. Shermantine and Sommerville have been in the jail since late March on charges unrelated to the homicide. Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said investigators identified the pair as suspects before the arrests but had to wait for the analysis of some evidence. He also said “there is a family relation” between Shermantine and Navarrete.

Sommerville faces charges of 1st-degree robbery, unlawful use of a weapon, murder and aggravated murder in Navarrete’s death. Aggravated murder is the only crime in Oregon that carries the threat of the death penalty.

The governor’s office in 2011 placed a moratorium on executions, but district attorneys sill have to consider capital punishment. Umatilla County has not had an aggravated murder case since 2015. The seriousness of the charge requires lawyers with the expertise to handle death penalty cases.

The court appointed two Portland-area lawyers to represent Sommerville: Benjamin Kim and Steve Lindsey. They defended Edwin Lara, 31, who in January 2018 pleaded guilty to aggravated murder for the 2016 killing of 23-year-old Kaylee Sawyer of Bend. Lara is serving a life sentence at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, Pendleton.

Sommerville’s attorneys filed a request for the court to order the district attorney’s office to allow inspections of evidence and provide copies of police reports, recordings, photographs and more. Primus said his office has set a meeting with Kim and Lindsey.

(source: East Oregonian)

WASHINGTON:

Let voters decide fate of death penalty

In reading former Department of Corrections Secretary Eldon Vale’s column in the April 6 U-B, much of his objection to the death penalty was focused on protecting staff who are participants in carrying out these executions.

I had first-hand knowledge as the administrative assistant for the Washington State Penitentiary superintendent for the Westley Alan Dodd execution in 1993. Dodd kidnapped and murdered 3 young boys in 1989. At that time, I as well as other staff, were given the option of participating or bowing out with no objection.

I believe justice is served when people such as Dodd are executed. Were I a parent of one of these 3 young boys who were murdered by Dodd and knew he was continuing to live, I believe I would think every day that he was living while my little boy was dead. If that were so, justice would not have been served.

Executions fit the crime of what convicted killers deserve, but that is my opinion.

I hope the legislators will pass this on to the public to let the voters decided whether or not to retain executions in the state of Washington.

Jerry Davis

Walla Walla

(source: Letter to the Editor, Union-Bulletin)

IRAN/IRAQ:

Iran, Iraq still among world’s top 5 executioners: Amnesty

Iran and Iraq remain among the world’s top 5 executioners despite an overall drop in the number of death sentences, according to a new report by human rights monitor Amnesty International.

Although the number of executions worldwide fell from at least 993 in 2017 to at least 690 in 2018, Iran and Iraq are still among the world’s most prolific executioners, Amnesty’s 2018 global review of the death penalty revealed Wednesday.

Although Beijing does not publish its death penalty figures, China tops the list with an execution rate estimated in the thousands each year. Amnesty excludes China from its global count because of lack of data.

Iran has the world’s second highest rate for 2018 with at least 253 executions. Saudi Arabia meanwhile executed 149, Vietnam at least 85, and Iraq at least 52.

“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realize the death penalty is not the answer,” said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Despite regressive steps from some, the number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly. This is a hopeful indication that it’s only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs.”

Amnesty did however acknowledge increases in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan, and the US.

Iran’s execution rate has fallen by 50 % in the past year as a result of changes to its drugs law, Amnesty says, but the Islamic Republic still accounts for more than 1/3 of executions recorded globally.

Human rights monitors have also said Iran could be executing more people in secret and Amnesty has previously reported that the number of death sentences handed down in Iran has risen.

Four Kurds were executed by the Iranian government late last year.

Iraq has drawn criticism for its execution of alleged Islamic State (ISIS) members after trials that rights agencies have condemned as rushed and unfair.

Kurdistan Region authorities imposed a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in 2008, which essentially blocks its use except for terror-related charges or “exceptionally heinous crimes.”

Kurdish law requires the president to sign death sentences before they can be carried out. Since 2008, the death penalty has been carried out in just 4 cases. Most recently, a Kurdish man and his 2 wives, convicted of abducting and murdering 2 schoolgirls, were hanged in November 2016.

Human rights groups have urged the Kurdistan Region to abolish death penalty permanently and commute them to life in prison.

()source: rudaw.net)

PHILIPPINES:

Bring back death penalty to stop drugs – poll bets

AT least 2 senatorial candidates of Hugpong ng Pagbabago want the revival of the death penalty for drug trafficking and possession.

Both Francis Tolentino and Maguindanao Rep. Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu believe that capital punishment can help stem the drug trade particularly the operation here of international syndicates.

Tolentino, the former presidential political adviser and chairman of MMDA, proposed the execution not only of drug traffickers but also of the source of narcotics and those involved in facilitating drug smuggling into the country.

“Nakakabahala nga na dumadami ang high value entries ng illegal drug sa atin. Siguro dapat ibalik na ang death penalty,” Tolentino said in an interview.

Reacting to the recovery of large narcotics shipments in Siargao and Dinagat, Tolentino said the “high value entries of illegal drugs” should prompt the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine Coast Guard to step up their operations and be more vigilant.

“Not just the traffickers pati yung source, pati ang nag-facilitate, they are considered traffickers, nagpalusot ka trafficker ka na din,” he added.

For his part, Mangudadatu expressed disappointment that Mindanao is now being used as entry point of illegal drugs.

Mangudadatu said the non-imposition of the death sentence in the Philippines has given narcotics sources the boldness to operate here.

“No death penalty, no problem. That’s how drug traffickers see the situation here,” he said in a separate interview.

The Death Penalty Bill was approved in the House but is still pending in the Senate.

A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found that if there are other alternatives, fewer people agree with reinstating the death penalty for those who commit serious crimes related to illegal drugs.

Results of the March 2018 SWS survey showed that less than 40 % of Filipinos believe that the death penalty should be the punishment for people convicted of crimes related to illegal drugs.

(source: journal.com.ph)

SINGAPORE:

Delivery driver given death penalty for drug trafficking

A delivery driver, who failed to convince a high court judge that he did not know he was delivering drugs instead of contraband cigarettes, has been handed the death penalty after being convicted of drug trafficking.

Mohamed Shalleh Abdul Latiff's defence during a 7-day trial that concluded on Jan 28 hinged on the claim that he thought the 3 bundles he was tasked to deliver contained contraband cigarettes.

But the bundles were found to have contained 54.04g of diamorphine, also known as heroin. The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount trafficked exceeds 15g.

In her grounds of decision released on Wednesday (Apr 10), High Court Judge Hoo Sheau Peng said the accused failed to successfully rebut the statutory presumption of knowledge of the drugs he was carrying.

At the end of the trial, Justice Hoo passed the mandatory death sentence on Mohamed Shalleh. There were no details on the accused's age and nationality.

On Aug 11, 2016, Mohamed Shalleh received from Malaysian Khairul Nizam Ramthan an orange-coloured plastic bag and 3 bundles wrapped in brown paper that were packed in separate zip-lock bags. Each bundle was round, irregularly-shaped and about the size of one's palm.

He passed the Malaysian man $7,000, which was given to Mohamed Shalleh by a friend who had arranged the delivery, and the men parted ways in separate cars.

Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers tailed both men and arrested Mohamed Shalleh at Mei Ling Street where he was due to deliver the goods to a third party. The Malaysian man was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint.

Mohamed Shalleh maintained in his statements that he was only delivering contraband cigarettes for a friend known to him as "Bai", who said the delivery would offset some of the debt that Mohamed Shalleh owed him.

This was the 2nd time he had agreed to help Bai deliver contraband cigarettes, and Bai said it would involve 2 1/2 cartons of cigarettes.

However Justice Hoo picked at the defence that Mohamed Shalleh trusted and believed Bai's word that the delivery only concerned cigarettes.

The accused met Bai in prison in 2008, but they lost contact. They became re-acquainted in 2014 at the Singapore Turf Club in Kranji, where Mohamed Shalleh would place bets with Bai who was a "bookie", and as a result he owed Bai at least $7,000.

They met again at a friend's wedding in 2016, where Bai gave the accused more time to repayment his debt.

Among various reasons cited for his trust in Bai, Mohamed Shalleh said he believed the former's claim that he dealt in the business of contraband cigarettes. He said he also trusted Bai because he did not insist he repay his debt and that they had mutual friends who said Bai could be trusted.

As a result, the accused claimed he was not suspicious and did not verify the contents of the goods he was delivering as he believed they contained contraband cigarettes.

However, Justice Hoo said these points were "weak support" for the strong claim of trust placed in Bai, and noted that during cross-examination the accused said he did not know basic details about Bai including his actual name or home address.

The accused also claimed the 3 bundles had been placed inside the orange-coloured plastic bag when he received them and thus never saw them until CNB officers searched his car.

However, Justice Hoo noted this ran contrary to the evidence given by CNB's senior staff sergeant Tay Keng Chye, who testified that the bundles were found beside the orange plastic bag on the floorboard of the car.

"As the 3 bundles were left exposed on the floorboard, the accused would have caught sight of their appearance," said Justice Hoo, adding that their round and irregular shape should have aroused suspicion to the nature of their contents.

When questioned, Mohamed Shalleh insisted he would still believe they contained cigarettes, as it was possible they could have been repacked into smaller packets.

However, Justice Hoo found this claim untenable.

She said the accused had been given specific instructions to receive 2 1/2 cartons of cigarettes, and she did not believe Mohamed Shalleh would have "blindly" gone through with the transaction if he could not visually verify the contents of the bundles.

In her concluding remarks, Justice Hoo said the covert and complex nature of the delivery should have triggered suspicion as to the value and nature of the goods.

For this to be overlooked, a high degree of trust in Bai would have to be found, however this was not borne out by the evidence of the case.

"Having reviewed the evidence in totality, I found that the accused failed to show any unique circumstances justifying the high level of trust in Bai, and I was unpersuaded that he relied on the information allegedly given by Bai," said Justice Hoo.

(source: straitstimes.com)

APRIL 13, 2019:

TEXAS:

Texas Supreme Court rules supplier of death penalty drug can remain secret

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that suppliers of drugs used for execution can remain secret.

The court backed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and overturned a lower court’s ruling that said the state must release the name of the drug supplier, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The court agreed with the state’s criminal justice department that revealing the name of the company that supplied drugs for lethal injection executions in 2014 could put the company in danger.

"We conclude, based on the evidence in the record, that disclosing the source's identity would create a substantial threat of physical harm to the source's employees and others, and therefore need not be disclosed,” the court said.

In 2014, a group of death row inmates sued the state, seeking the identity of the drug supplier, arguing that knowing the source of the drugs could prevent botched executions. A lower court’s decision, which the state then appealed, sided with the inmates.

The court’s Friday opinion cited past threats to execution drug suppliers, including one from a professor telling a pharmacy to “beef up” security. That letter also made reference to the 1995 Oklahoma City bomb attack by Timothy McVeigh.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the ruling, calling it “necessary” for the drug suppliers to remain anonymous.

“It is necessary to withhold the identities of these businesses and their employees from public disclosure to ensure their physical safety,” Paxton said in a statement. “The voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law.”

(source: thehill.com)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

N.H. death penalty repeal bid called 'an enormous victory for life'

The New Hampshire Senate's vote to repeal the death penalty is "an enormous victory for life," according to the executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network.

The New Hampshire Senate voted 17-6 April 11 to repeal the state's death penalty law. This follows a 279-88 vote for repeal by the state House in March.

"The overwhelming margins by which the repeal bill passed through the Legislature sends a strong message about the state's priority to put an end to the death penalty," said an April 12 statement by Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy. "It speaks to a long-term decline in support for capital punishment found not only in New Hampshire, but across the United States as a whole."

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has threatened to veto the bill, but the original vote in each chamber passed by margins wide enough to override a veto. A 2/3 vote is required to override.

"Catholic Mobilizing Network celebrates this encouraging progress and looks forward to the day when the state officially unshackles itself from the death penalty once and for all," Murphy said.

New Hampshire has not put a prisoner to death since 1939. However, there is one man on the state's death row, but the state's corrections department said there are no immediate plans to acquire the drugs necessary to execute him.

The repeal bill is not retroactive, so it will not apply to Michael Addison, found guilty of the 2006 murder of a police officer in Manchester, New Hampshire's largest city. The bill replaces the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sununu, a Republican, vetoed a capital punishment repeal bill last year that lawmakers failed to override. Then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, also vetoed a repeal bill in 2000 that was sustained. A 2014 effort to repeal the death penalty failed on a tie vote.

According to the Manchester Union Leader, once the bill is signed by the House speaker, Senate president and secretary of state, Sununu will have five business days to either veto the bill, sign it or let it become law without a signature.

An April 11 statement issued by the governor's office said, "Governor Sununu continues to stand with crime victims, members of the law enforcement community, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty."

New Hampshire is the last state in New England where the death penalty is still on the books.

In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on executions in California, the nation's most populous state — and most populous death row, with 737 men and women.

If the New Hampshire repeal bid succeeds, it would become the 21st state to abolish the death penalty.

Since the death penalty was found by the Supreme Court in 1978 to be constitutional, more than 7,800 people have been sentenced to death, and close to 1,500 executed. Another 161, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, were exonerated from their crime prior to execution. After California's moratorium, there are still about 2,000 prisoners on death row. The federal government and the military also authorize the use of capital punishment.

(source: ncronline.org)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Daily American poll: Somerset County residents favor death penalty

A majority of Somerset County residents polled believe that it costs less than $1 million to carry out the death penalty, but they are at least a $199 million off from the actual cost.

In an anonymous poll conducted by the Daily American, 62 out of 81 residents said the death penalty is the punishment they’d prefer for people convicted of murder. 57 residents also said they thought it costs the state less than $1 million to put convicted felons to death, from arrest to execution.

(source: Daily American)

GEORGIA----new and impending execution

Georgia set to execute man who killed 2 women in 1994

A man who killed his ex-girlfriend and another woman nearly 25 years ago is the 1st death row prisoner set to be executed in Georgia this year.

Scotty Garnell Morrow, 52, is scheduled to die May 2 at the state prison in Jackson, state Attorney General Chris Carr announced Friday.

Morrow was convicted of murder in the fatal shootings of his ex-girlfriend Barbara Ann Young and her friend Tonya Woods at Young’s Gainesville home in December 1994. A third woman was also shot but survived.

Morrow and Young began dating in June 1994, but she broke up with him that December because of his abusive behavior, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case. Morrow called Young on Dec. 29, 1994, and she told him to leave her alone, the summary says. Young was in her kitchen with 2 friends and 2 of her children, when Morrow showed up a short time later and the pair argued.

Woods told Morrow to leave, saying Young didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. Morrow yelled at her and pulled out a handgun and began shooting, hitting Woods in the abdomen and severing her spine, the summary says.

Morrow also shot Young’s other friend, LaToya Horne, in the arm.

Young ran from the kitchen. Morrow ran after her and kicked open the door to her bedroom, where he beat her head and face and then followed her into the hallway, grabbed her by the hair and fired a fatal shot into her head, the summary says.

Young’s 5-year-old son was hiding in a nearby bedroom and saw Morrow kill his mother, the summary says.

Morrow then returned to the kitchen, where he fired a fatal shot under Woods’ chin and then shot Horne in the face and arm, the summary says. He cut the telephone line and fled.

Young and Woods died from their injuries, and Horne was severely wounded but managed to leave the house to seek help.

? Morrow was arrested within hours. He confessed and the gun used in the killings was found hidden in his yard.

Attorneys representing Morrow in post-conviction proceedings challenged the constitutionality of his sentence in a petition filed in federal court in 2012.

“The death penalty is rarely sought — let alone obtained — in response to spontaneous and emotionally-charged crimes like that committed by Mr. Morrow,” they wrote.

When Morrow went to Young’s home, he pleaded with her to get back together. He pulled out his gun when Woods mocked him, saying Young had used him for money and companionship while her “real man” was in prison, the petition says.

“It was in immediate reaction to Ms. Woods’s comments that (Morrow) fired, shooting first at Ms. Woods. The entire crime was complete within moments,” Morrow’s lawyers wrote. “In short, Mr. Morrow’s crime was spontaneous and his mental state at the time of the crime was compromised.”

His trial attorneys failed to adequately investigate his childhood, so jurors didn’t hear about years of abuse and bullying Morrow experienced as a child that left him tormented and unprepared to function in a healthy relationship, his post-conviction attorneys wrote.

If his trial attorneys had done a proper investigation, they could have proven that Morrow “was a genuinely nice guy who, because of the psychological pain of his past, snapped,” his lawyers argued.

Morrow’s execution date was set after the Superior Court of Hall County, where he was convicted, filed an order Friday setting a seven-day window for his execution. That window stretches from noon on May 2 to noon on May 9.

Georgia uses an injection of compounded pentobarbital, a sedative, to execute condemned prisoners.

(source: Athens Banner-Herald)

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

Execution Date Set for Scotty Garnell Morrow, Convicted of Murder

An execution date for Scotty Garnell Morrow has been set for May 2, 2019. Attorney General Chris Carr offers the following information in the case against Morrow for the murder of Barbara Ann Young and Tonya Rochelle Woods.

Scheduled Execution

On April 12, 2019, the Superior Court of Hall County filed an order setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Scotty Garnell Morrow may occur to begin at noon, May 2, 2019 and end seven days later at noon on May 9, 2019. Morrow has concluded his direct appeal proceedings and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.

Morrow’s Crime (December 29, 1994)

The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

Barbara Ann Young began dating Scotty Morrow in June 1994 and she broke up with him in December 1994 because of his abusive behavior. At 9:52 a.m. on December 29, 1994, Morrow telephoned Ms. Young at her home, but she told him that she wanted him to leave her alone. After hanging up, Morrow drove to Ms. Young’s home and entered without permission. Ms. Young was in the kitchen with two of her friends, Tonya Woods and LaToya Horne. Two of Ms. Young’s children, five-year-old Christopher and eight-month-old Devonte, were also present. There was an argument in the kitchen and Ms. Woods told Morrow to leave because Ms. Young did not want to have anything to do with him anymore. Morrow yelled, "Shut your mouth, bitch!" and pulled a 9-millimeter pistol from his waistband. He shot Ms. Woods in the abdomen and Ms. Horne in the arm. The bullet that struck Ms. Woods severed her spinal cord, paralyzing her from the waist down.

Ms. Young fled down the hallway and into her bedroom. Morrow caught her in the bedroom and beat her on the head and face. She managed to flee back to the hallway where Morrow grabbed her by the hair and shot her point-blank in the head, killing her. From his hiding place in a nearby bedroom, Christopher saw Morrow kill his mother. Morrow returned to the kitchen. Testimony as to clicking noises and the fact that a live cartridge was found on the kitchen floor indicate that he either reloaded his pistol or cleared a jam. He then placed the muzzle of the pistol an inch from Ms. Woods’ chin and killed her with a shot to the head. The medical examiner opined that, although she was paralyzed, Ms. Woods had not lost much blood at that time and was probably still conscious when the fatal shot was fired. Morrow also shot Ms. Horne 2 more times, in the face and the arm, and fled after cutting the telephone line.

Despite her injuries, which included a shattered palate, permanent deafness in one ear, and nerve damage in an arm, Ms. Horne managed to get to her feet and run to a neighbor’s house. She and Christopher told the responding police officers that Morrow was the shooter. Morrow confessed after his arrest and the murder weapon was found hidden in his backyard. At trial, Morrow admitted that he shot the victims because he "wanted [Ms. Woods] to shut up."

Morrow v. State, 272 Ga. 691, 699-700 (2000).

The Trial (1995-1999)

Morrow was indicted in the Superior Court of Hall County, Georgia on March 6, 1995 for 2 counts of malice murder, 2 counts of felony murder, 6 counts of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, cruelty to a child, burglary and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. On June 26, 1999, a jury found Morrow guilty on all counts. The jury’s recommendation of a death sentence was returned on June 29, 1999.

The Direct Appeal (2000-2001)

The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Morrow’s convictions and death sentence on June 12, 2000. Morrow v. State, 272 Ga. 691 (2000). The United States Supreme Court denied Morrow’s request to appeal on March 26, 2001. Morrow v. Georgia, 532 U.S. 944 (2001).

State Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2001-2012)

Morrow filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia on October 30, 2001. An evidentiary hearing was held on April 25-26, 2005. On February 4, 2011, the state habeas corpus court entered an order denying habeas relief as to Morrow’s convictions and granting habeas relief as to his death sentence finding that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The State appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which reversed the habeas court’s order and reinstated Morrow’s death sentence on October 17, 2011. Humphrey v. Morrow, 289 Ga. 864 (2011). The United States Supreme Court denied Morrow’s request to appeal on April 23, 2012. Morrow v. Humphrey, 566 U.S. 964 (2012).

Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2012-2019)

Morrow filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on March 8, 2012. On July 28, 2016, the district court denied Morrow federal habeas relief. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of relief on March 27, 2018. Morrow v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison, 886 F.3d 1138 (11th Cir. 2018). The United States Supreme Court denied Morrow’s request to appeal on February 19, 2019. Morrow v. Ford, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 1039 (2019).

(source: law.georgia.gov)

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

USA----countdown to nation's 1500th execution

With the execution of Billie Wayne Coble in Texas on February 28, the USA has now executed 1,493 condemned individuals since the death penalty was relegalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision. Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of scheduled executions as the nation approaches a terrible milestone of 1500 executions in the modern era.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1494-------Apr. 24------------John King------------------Texas

1495-------May 2--------------Scotty Morrow--------------Georgia

1496-------May 2--------------Dexter Johnson------------Texas

1497-------May 16-------------Donnie Johnson-----------Tennessee

1498-------Aug. 15------------Stephen West-------------Tennessee

1499-------Aug. 21------------Larry Swearingen---------Texas

1500-------Sept. 4------------Billy Crutsinger---------Texas

1501------Sept. 12------------Warren Henness-----------Ohio

(source: Rick Halperin)

ALABAMA:

The Supreme Court Botches Another Death Penalty Decision----If a state has capital punishment, then the court must ensure that it proceeds fairly and deliberately.

There’s a scene in the classic 1979 film “And Justice for All” where lawyer Arthur Kirkland, played by Al Pacino, tells a client who’s been jailed for a crime he didn’t commit that even though new evidence clears him, the judge won’t let him out. The client, desperate, asks why. “There’s a law,” says Kirkland. “It says that evidence must be submitted within a certain time period. And ours came in 3 days late.” The audience is meant to be suitably shocked.

Fast-forward to this week in the real world. A man named Christopher Lee Price soon will be executed by the state of Alabama because his lawyer — in the words of this morning’s order from the U.S. Supreme Court — “submitted additional evidence today, a few hours before his scheduled execution time.” In other words, he made his claim too late.

One needn’t be a fan of capital punishment to recognize that if a death penalty is going to exist, there must come a time when the courts stop issuing stays and let the punishment proceed. But in this case, the “additional evidence” to which the majority made reference was the final version of an academic study. Price’s lawyer had previously submitted a preliminary copy labeled “do not cite,” and the U.S. Court of Appeals had decided, oddly, that the label meant that report was not “reliable evidence.” In response, the lawyer obtained the final version, which read exactly the same way. That was the new evidence.

The study in question involves the most humane way to kill the condemned man. And it has a history.

Back in 2014, the state of Oklahoma made headlines when it badly botched the execution of a man named Clayton Lockett. The sedatives didn’t work right, and a later investigation found that his death was “prolonged and apparently agonizing.” Lockett was a bad apple, who had shot a 19-year old woman and buried her alive. The sort of person, one might say, for whom capital punishment is designed. But we should still care how it’s done. One measure of civilization is its ability to treat criminals better than they treat their victims.

The Oklahoma legislature, understanding this precept, decided last year to switch to nitrogen hypoxia as a “more humane” means of execution. The apparent basis was this study. Rather than face an intravenous injection of toxic substances, the condemned man will inhale nitrogen, probably through a mask, and will get dizzy and pass out, never to wake.

Alabama followed Oklahoma in adopting nitrogen inhalation, but has not yet developed a protocol to implement it. Price missed the state’s deadline for electing to be killed by the new method rather than the old, but that’s not hard to understand: It’s difficult to make a choice when the state itself hasn’t decided how the new method will be carried out.

Several months later, however, Price filed papers to challenge his scheduled execution by lethal injection, arguing in essence that if nitrogen inhalation is truly more humane, then its pending availability in Alabama means that the state should no longer be allowed to use lethal injection. This is the lawsuit that the justices rejected in the wee hours of Friday morning.

Let’s be clear. Price, too, is evidently a bad apple. Several news accounts of the Supreme Court’s action have said simply that he was convicted of using a sword to kill an Alabama pastor. True, but less than complete. The details of his crime are worse. Price and an accomplice targeted the pastor, arriving at the house dressed all in black. The pastor and his wife had just returned from an evening church service. She had retired for the night; he was downstairs wrapping presents. Price and his partner cut the telephone lines and apparently the power. When the pastor went outside to see what was going on, he was attacked with a sword and mortally wounded. His wife grabbed a gun and fired a warning shot, but then ran out of bullets. The men beat her severely. They searched the house and then fled. 1

As I said: a bad apple.

But if we’re going to have capital punishment, all of the challenges will be from bad apples. Justice Stephen Breyer, in a dissenting opinion joined by three of his colleagues, argued that the high court should at least discuss the matter before vacating the stay of execution. “To proceed in this way,” he wrote, “calls into question the basic principles of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system.” Just as bad, he concluded, was “to proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussing.”

We can argue long and hard over the morality of the death penalty. But if we’re going to have one, we should do our best not to impose it in ways that give the impression that we’re rushing the condemned to the death chamber. There are some issues worth taking the time to debate. The most humane way to kill is surely one of them.

(source: Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.”)

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The Supreme Court Made a Death Penalty Decision in the Dead of the Night and Justice Breyer Is Pissed----“To proceed in this way calls into question the basic principles of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system.”

At approximately 3:00 a.m. Friday morning, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows the execution of an Alabama death row inmate to move forward, after a lower court had issued a stay of execution. The order itself was only a paragraph, but Justice Stephen Breyer responded with a six-page dissent that provided a glimpse into just how divided the nation’s highest court has become. “Should anyone doubt that death sentences in the United States can be carried out in an arbitrary way,” Justice Breyer wrote, “let that person review the following circumstances as they have been presented to our Court this evening.”

He then went on to describe the flurry of activity that took place on Thursday afternoon. Christopher Price was set to die on April 11 for the 1991 murder of a pastor in Bazemore, Alabama. Price had claimed that Alabama’s lethal injection protocol would cause him pain and suffering, a constitutional violation. The inmate argued that he should instead be executed by nitrogen hypoxia. Hours before his scheduled execution on Thursday, a federal judge in Mobile, Alabama, issued a stay over those claims, giving the state until May 10 to provide evidence against Price’s claim that nitrogen hypoxia would reduce the risk of severe pain.

Alabama immediately appealed the lower court’s decision, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed it. Alabama then appealed to the US Supreme Court, saying that Price failed to sign up for the new method of execution in a timely fashion. But when Price’s death warrant expired at midnight, the high court still hadn’t made a decision. The final decision was issued at around 3:00 a.m. The majority ruled in a short unsigned paragraph that because Price had not brought his claims sooner, they would allow the execution to move forward.

Breyer was not convinced by the argument that Price’s timing was a problem. On June 1, 2018 Alabama passed legislation allowing for nitrogen hypoxia, or being gassed to death, as another method of execution. The state gave inmates 30 days to choose how they wished to die. But, as Justice Breyer notes, Price may have only had 3 days to decide how the state would kill him:

Yet based on the limited information before us, it appears no inmate received a copy of the election form (prepared by a public defender) until June 26, and the State makes no representation about when Price received it other than that it was “before the end of June.” Thus, it is possible that Price was given no more than 72 hours to decide how he wanted to die, notwithstanding the 30–day period prescribed by state law.

Now, the state will have to reschedule his execution.

The majority’s opinion about Price’s timeliness is not the only issue that rankled Justice Breyer. The fact that the decision was made hastily in the middle of the night, said Breyer, undermines the entire criminal justice system:

To proceed in this way calls into question the basic principles of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system. To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all Members of the Court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.

The ruling comes at a time when the conservative and liberal justices have been clashing over capital punishment in the United States. Earlier this month, in an opinion declining to review the case of a Missouri death row inmate who has a rare disease which could make his execution “gruesome,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that 11th-hour stays should be an “extreme exception.” It appears that the case of Christopher Price did not rise to that standard.

(source: motherjones.com)

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Divided Supreme Court says execution can proceed — but the death warrant had already expired

Conservative justices on the Supreme Court overruled lower courts in a middle-of-the-night order and said an Alabama execution could proceed, over the objections of their liberal colleagues who wanted to discuss the case Friday morning.

The order came too late for the state to carry out the execution of Christopher Lee Price, and Alabama will have to ask a state court to set another execution date.

But the 5-to-4 ruling at the Supreme Court indicated that the court’s new conservative majority is far less likely to agree to last-minute stay requests from those facing execution. It also emphasized the stark divide between conservative and liberal justices on capital punishment and the most humane way to carry it out.

“What is at stake in this case is the right of a condemned inmate not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” wrote Justice Stephen G. Breyer, objecting to the majority’s decision.

He added: “To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.”

? He was joined by his fellow liberal colleagues Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Price, sentenced to death for his role in murdering an Alabama minister in 1991 with a sword and a dagger, was asking to be executed by inhaling nitrogen gas, a process called nitrogen hypoxia, rather than risk a “botched” execution by injection.

Alabama allows nitrogen hypoxia but has never used it in an execution.

But the Supreme Court majority said Price had missed his chance to elect that manner of death.

In a brief, unsigned order, the court’s conservatives said that death-row inmates in Alabama in June 2018 were given 30 days to elect nitrogen hypoxia. While 48 inmates did so, Price did not.

“He then waited until February 2019 to file this action and submitted additional evidence today, a few hours before his scheduled execution time,” said the order from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh.

That majority earlier this year allowed the execution of a Muslim inmate in Alabama who had complained that he was not allowed an imam by his side at his death, while Christian inmates could have a chaplain with them. The five justices suggested the legal action had come too late.

The conservatives also recently rejected an appeal from a Missouri inmate who said that lethal injection in his case could cause excruciating pain — such that perhaps he would choke on his own blood during the process. The court ruled 5 to 4 that Russell Bucklew had not proven that lethal injection would choke him or that another manner of execution would alleviate the problem.

Breyer’s dissent revealed the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that accompanies execution stay requests.

“Should anyone doubt that death sentences in the United States can be carried out in an arbitrary way, let that person review the following circumstances as they have been presented to our court this evening,” Breyer wrote.

After Price obtained stays from a district judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the state of Alabama asked the Supreme Court to intervene after 9 p.m. Thursday.

Breyer wrote that he requested the court take no action until Friday, when the justices were scheduled to meet in private conference to discuss other matters.

“I recognized that my request would delay resolution of the application and that the state would have to obtain a new execution warrant, thus delaying the execution by 30 days,” Breyer wrote. “But in my judgment, that delay was warranted, at least on the facts as we have them now.”

But he said the majority would not agree to that, “thus preventing full discussion among the court’s members. In doing so, it overrides the discretionary judgment of not one, but two lower courts. Why?”

The court’s ruling was emailed to reporters at 2:51 a.m. Friday.

While the deliberations proceeded in Washington, Alabama officials decided to halt Price’s execution just before the death warrant expired at midnight. That left them angry as well.

“This evening, the state of Alabama witnessed a miscarriage of justice,” Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in a statement.

(source: CNN)

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Ivey calls stay of execution for Christopher Lee Price a miscarriage of justice

Late Thursday night, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) called the granting of a stay of execution for death row inmate Christopher Lee Price “a miscarriage of justice.”

“This evening, the state of Alabama witnessed a miscarriage of justice,” Gov. Ivey said. “Just days before Christmas in 1991, Christopher Lee Price brutally took the life of Pastor Bill Lynn. This horrendous crime left Pastor Lynn’s wife and family to grieve, and now, almost 30 years later, the family is still left with no closure. ”

“To Pastor Lynn’s family, as well as the prosecutors and members of law enforcement who have worked on this case for years, I want to offer my assurance that I will continually fight to uphold the laws that bind our state,” Ivey continued. “Rightfully administering justice is a necessary duty as governor of Alabama.”

“Tonight, in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn was deprived of justice,” said Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R). “They were, in effect, re-victimized by a killer trying to evade his just punishment. This 11th-hour stay for death row inmate Christopher Price will do nothing to serve the ends of justice. Indeed, it has inflicted the opposite— injustice, in the form of justice delayed.”

“On December 22, 1991, Bill Lynn was wrapping Christmas gifts for his grandchildren when he was ambushed outside his home, slashed and stabbed with a sword dozens of times,” Marshall explained. “His killer has dodged his death sentence for the better part of three decades by employing much the same strategy he has pursued tonight—desperately clinging to legal maneuverings to avoid facing the consequences of his heinous crime.”

“I can promise you this: Alabama will never forget victims. Justice will be had for Pastor Lynn and his family” Marshall vowed. “As for Christopher Price, his day of justice will come.”

Thursday evening, Judge Kristi Dubose, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, granted Price’s second petition for a stay, which was later upheld on appeal by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Time ran out before the State’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court could be considered.

(source: alreporter.com)

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Over 3 A.M. Dissent, Supreme Court Says Alabama Execution May Proceed----“To proceed in this way calls into question the basic principles of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in his dissent.

A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled early Friday morning that the execution of an Alabama death row inmate could proceed. The vote was 5 to 4.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s anguished dissent, issued around 3 a.m., said the majority had denied his request that the execution be delayed so that the justices could discuss the matter at their scheduled private conference on Friday morning. That was a rare glimpse into deliberations that are ordinarily secret.

The dispute among the justices lasted long enough that Alabama officials called off the execution of the inmate, Christopher L. Price, which had been scheduled for Thursday night. They said a new execution date will be set.

“To proceed in this way calls into question the basic principles of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system,” Justice Breyer wrote. “To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.”

The majority, in a brief unsigned opinion, said Mr. Price had waited too long to raise his claim that Alabama’s method of execution, a lethal injection of three chemicals, could subject him to excruciating pain. Mr. Price asked to be executed using nitrogen gas, a method allowed by Alabama law.

The case is the latest example of an increasingly rancorous divide on the Supreme Court over the death penalty, with conservative justices frustrated over what they considered excessive delays in carrying out executions. The liberal justices, on the other hand, have accused the majority of reckless haste that could give rise to pain amounting to torture.

The replacement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was a moderating force in capital cases, with the more conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh has hardened the divide between the two sides. This term’s major cases will be decided in the coming months and similar angry splits are likely.

Mr. Price and an accomplice were convicted of using a sword and dagger to kill William Lynn, a minister, in his home in Bazemore, Ala., in 1991 while he was preparing Christmas presents for his grandchildren. The pastor’s wife, Bessie Lynn, was badly wounded in the attack but survived. Mr. Price admitted to participating in robbing the couple but claimed that only his accomplice had harmed them.

In June, Alabama gave death row inmates 30 days to choose nitrogen hypoxia, which deprives the body of oxygen, as the way they would be executed, and Mr. Price had failed to do so. The majority said that was the end of the matter.

Lower courts entered stays of execution on Thursday, citing new evidence and questions about jurisdiction. Around 9 p.m. on Thursday, Alabama officials asked the Supreme Court to lift the stays. It agreed about 6 hours later.

Earlier this month, in rejecting a challenge from a Missouri inmate about how he was to be put to death, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for a five-justice majority, said “courts should police carefully against attempts to use such challenges as tools to interpose unjustified delay.”

That decision followed a 5-to-4 ruling in February to allow the execution of a Muslim inmate in Alabama after his request to have his imam be present was denied, with the majority saying he should have asked sooner. In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the majority was “profoundly wrong.” In March, the court stayed the execution of a Buddhist inmate in Texas in similar circumstances, over two noted dissents, with the majority apparently satisfied that the request had been timely.

In his 7-page dissent on Friday, Justice Breyer reviewed the proceedings in Mr. Price’s case and said undue haste had undermined justice. Justices Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined his dissent in the case, Dunn v. Price, No. 18A1053.

“Should anyone doubt that death sentences in the United States can be carried out in an arbitrary way,” Justice Breyer wrote, “let that person review the following circumstances as they have been presented to our court this evening.”

He said his colleagues had turned away his request to discuss the matter in person. Late-night rulings on death penalty stay applications are not unheard-of, but they are seldom issued in the predawn hours.

“I requested that the court take no action until tomorrow, when the matter could be discussed at conference,” he wrote, referring to a private meeting that is regularly scheduled for most Friday mornings during the court’s term. “I recognized that my request would delay resolution of the application and that the state would have to obtain a new execution warrant, thus delaying the execution by 30 days.

“But in my judgment, that delay was warranted, at least on the facts as we have them now,” Justice Breyer wrote.

Alabama officials expressed outrage over the delay after the death warrant expired.

“Tonight, in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn was deprived of justice,” said Attorney General Steven T. Marshall. “They were, in effect, re-victimized by a killer trying to evade his just punishment.”

Mr. Marshall complained that Mr. Price had long “dodged his death sentence for the better part of three decades by employing much the same strategy he has pursued tonight — desperately clinging to legal maneuverings to avoid facing the consequences of his heinous crime.” He vowed that Mr. Lynn’s “day of justice will come.”

In his dissent, Justice Breyer wrote that a brief delay to allow the Supreme Court to discuss the matter was warranted.

There were substantial questions, he wrote, about whether Mr. Price had acted too slowly in choosing nitrogen gas.

“What is at stake in this case,” Justice Breyer wrote, “is the right of a condemned inmate not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

(source: New York Times)

TENNESSEE:

Tennessee death row inmates bring legal challenge to U.S. Supreme Court

Death row inmates who challenged their method of death lost their case in Tennessee, but that's not the end of it. The case is now headed to the United States Supreme Court and could bring planned executions to a grinding halt.

Death row inmates challenged the state's lethal injection protocol in 2018, arguing the three drug cocktail is inhumane.

The Tennessee Supreme Court threw out their objections, leading to the inmates to the U.S. Supreme Court and an advocate, who might surprise you.

"This is our 1st such brief and we are excited to be a part of it," said Hannah Cox.

Cox is with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

Yes, conservatives -- who Cox admits traditionally support capital punishment.

"That's absolutely been the stereotype and it's been true for many years," said Cox.

But she said that's changing. The group is siding with Donnie Johnson, who killed his wife, and 22 other Tennessee death row inmates -- for the first time taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is a great way to highlight how ridiculous the system has gotten," said Cox.

"This is a fundamental fairness issue," added attorney Amy Rao Mohan.

She said it was wrong when late last year the state upheld the use of the 3-drug execution cocktail, which critics say can cause great pain.

Rao Mohan said key documents on other drugs and their manufacturers which the state works with were redacted. As a result, inmates were not given the opportunity to show there are more humane drug alternatives.

"When someone is fighting for their life they at least deserve a fair chance," said Rao Mohan.

The petitions were filed with the highest court, and if the case moves forward, it could put executions in Tennessee back on hold for months if not years.

The U.S. Supreme Court will issue a ruling before Tennessee's next execution.

Donnie Johnson is scheduled to be executed next in Tennessee on May 16.

The state attorney general issued a response to the filings urging the high court not to take the case and to affirm the actions of the Tennessee Supreme Court.

(source: WTVF news)

NEBRASKA:

Aubrey Trail's attorney aims to discover if Pete Ricketts influenced decision to seek death penalty

The attorney for accused murderer Aubrey Trail wants to discover whether Gov. Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment, had any influence on the decision to seek the death penalty for Trail and his girlfriend.

Attorney Ben Murray, Trail’s court-appointed defense attorney, filed a motion on Friday to discover “all communications” between the governor’s office and attorneys with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, who are prosecuting Trail and who decided to seek the death penalty.

Murray said that he is not alleging wrongdoing by the governor and only has suspicion of his office’s involvement, but that any decision to seek the death penalty must not be based on “improper influence or bias.”

“Seeking death on the basis of political or personal gain would constitute an improper reason to seek the execution …” stated the motion.

“I feel like we have a right to know,” Murray said in a telephone interview. “It’s too important not to find out if everything is on the up and up.”

The governor’s office spokesman, Taylor Gage, said that they do not comment on pending litigation.

The discovery motion is another bizarre twist in an already bizarre case.

Trail, 52, and his girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, 25, are accused in the slaying and dismemberment of Lincoln store clerk Sydney Loofe. Loofe, 24, disappeared after arranging a date with Boswell via an Internet dating app, Tinder, on Nov. 15, 2017.

Trail and Boswell went on Facebook as a massive search was underway to find Loofe to say they were not responsible. Weeks later, after they were arrested, Trail called reporters to say he accidentally strangled Loofe to death during a sexual fantasy. Boswell, according to Trail, was not there during the slaying, but assisted in disposing of the body.

Last summer, the Attorney General’s Office announced that the death penalty would be sought for both Trail and Boswell.

That was about 1½ years after Nebraskans voted to restore capital punishment in Nebraska via a referendum that was backed by Ricketts financially and via his public statements. The governor gave $300,000 toward the petition drive to put the matter on the ballot; his father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, gave $100,000.

The initiative was launched after the Nebraska Legislature, in the spring of 2015, voted to abolish the death penalty over a veto from the Republican governor.

Friday’s motion by Trail’s attorney stated that the “potential for improper influence” from Ricketts was illustrated by his spending “substantial” personal sums to support the effort to restore the death penalty, and because state attorneys — rather than prosecutors from Saline County — chose to take over the prosecution of Trail.

Trail, who shared an apartment in Wilber, Nebraska, with Boswell, is scheduled to stand trial on June 17 at the Saline County Courthouse. Boswell’s trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 15.

(source: Omaha World-Herald)

NEVADA:

Despite costs and wrongful convictions, lawmakers OK with death penalty

Juan Melendez spent 17 years, eight months and one day on Florida’s death row for a murder he didn’t commit.

It took years and several defense attorneys before evidence was discovered to exonerate him, so Melendez sat alone in his prison cell waiting for the state to kill him.

Death never came, but the constant dread it could arrive any moment can change a man. For Melendez, those years transformed him into an activist seeking to end capital punishment nationwide. “My dream, what I pray to God everyday about, is that we can abolish the death penalty,” he said. “I am angry about what happened to me. But I’m using my anger in a positive way.”

Standing in front of social work students at UNLV Wednesday, Melendez paced back and forth throughout the classroom. Each word of his story was accompanied by large hand gestures and animated body language. He didn’t just want students to hear what he had to say, he wanted them to feel it.

Melendez is flying from city to city sharing his story, hoping to inspire efforts to end the use of capital punishment — 20 states have abolished the practice, but Nevada isn’t one of them. “The death penalty is flawed policy that just creates collateral damage,” Melendez says. “It is a law made by, and carried out by, humans. Humans make mistakes.”

Even as he was speaking, Nevada’s own effort to repeal capital punishment was inching toward death. Earlier this week Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo told Nevada Current he was informed his legislation to abolish the death penalty, Assembly Bill 149, wouldn’t even get a committee hearing before the April 12 deadline.

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Steve Yeager declined to comment on why the legislation wouldn’t get a hearing — a similar bill at least got a hearing in 2017 despite then Gov. Brian Sandoval being opposed to abolishing capital punishment.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, who previously told The Nevada Independent that he opposes the death penalty, declined to comment on the legislative process.

Sisolak’s office declined to respond when asked by the Current if he would considered imposing gubernatorial moratoria, which has been implemented by governors in three states to bar the practice of the death penalty.

State Sen. James Ohrenschall, who cosponsored AB 149 with Fumo, had a similarly proposed Senate Bill 246. It is also not scheduled to get a hearing.

Attempts to contact Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizarro, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, were unsuccessful.

“I’m sure (lawmakers) would be happier if this went away quietly,” said Scott Coffee, the deputy Clark County public defender. “But the death penalty is the elephant in the room. We can’t ignore it.”

Of the 30 states that have capital punishment, Nevada is one of 11 to not use it for more than a decade. There have been 1,493 executions during that time — 346 in Texas alone.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 165 people have been exonerated from death row over the same period. “It seems like a small number, but that number should be zero when you’re dealing with life and death,” Melendez says. The organization confirms one person in Nevada has been exonerated from death row.

Growing doubts about the integrity of murder convictions, combined with more awareness of racial bias that goes into imposing the death penalty, have led to steadily declining public support for the practice over the years — the exception being a slight uptick from 49 % in 2016 to 54 % in 2018.

Though Melendez would love to appeal to the better angels of politicians hoping their moral compass will point them toward abolition, he said it’s the associated financial burdens that are more likely to win them over.

Such data has failed to move Nevada lawmakers. A 2017 legislative audit found it costs $500,000 more per case when the death penalty is sought, regardless of outcome.

Asked by the Current if Sisolak was worried about the costs to taxpayers, his office didn’t respond.

“Clark County is handing out (the death penalty) like it’s candy,” Coffee said. “Nevada is a hotbed for capital punishment. Clark County has more capital cases pending than any place in the country. There are 3,000 plus counties in the United State and we are No. 1 per capita in pending capital cases. As we speak, there are 60 people facing the death penalty.”

Coffee reiterated that each of these 60 cases comes with a half-million dollar additional price tag. He estimates many of the cases will be reversed — for all the people Nevada sentences to death, the state has only executed 12 people and the last time was in 2006.

Essentially, he argued, taxpayers are paying for a practice that isn’t even used.

Trying to execute someone on death row is just as costly. Attempts to hear the bill come months after Scott Dozier, an inmate requesting to be put to death, died by suicide.

Dozier was scheduled to be executed in 2017, but it was stalled due to legal challenges surrounding the type of lethal injection drugs being.

Holly Welborn, the policy director with the ACLU of Nevada, said “until the death penalty is repealed,” the state could be open to more costly lawsuits. “If another person were to ‘volunteer,’ they could be opened to future litigation,” she added.

Beyond costs, Melendez’s case highlights some of the worst practices in death penalty cases. His conviction was secured through the testimony of a jailhouse informant. It was also later discovered the attorney prosecuting him hid evidence — a confession from the real killer — that would have exonerated him.

“Every state is always at risk of executing an innocent person,” he said. “We can release innocent people. We can never, I repeat, we can never release an innocent person who we’ve killed.”

Lawmakers are fine giving compensation for those who are wrongfully imprisoned, as legislation to provide reparations for the exonerated, Assembly Bill 267, passed out of committee. Legislators tearfully listened to DeMarlo Berry, who sat in a Nevada prison 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and insisted on justice.

But those prosecuting Berry initially wanted death — they settled for his liberty. Berry could have easily been No. 166 in those exonerated from death row.

Laura Martin, the executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, added there are multiple pieces of legislation dealing with exonerations and the guidelines of bringing new evidence — the same day lawmakers heard Berry’s story, they were presented Assembly Bill 356, which updates the process of how a person convicted of a crime can introduced new evidence. “If you have to pass a law, then there might be people currently on death row who have never seen the benefit of this law,” Martin said.

Along with arguments that capital punishment is cruel and unusual and doesn’t deter crime, Martin said it simply doesn’t “belong in any civil society.” “I don’t think any other Western nation does this,” she said.

Of all people able to abolish the death penalty, Martin thought it would have been democratic lawmakers — who claim to be progressive, control both houses and serve with a Democratic governor.

“We have a governor who is open about being deeply religious, but the legislature can’t come through ,” Martin said.

(source: Nevada Current)

CALIFORNIA:

Hearing to be held to determine Norma Lopez's killer's death penalty eligibility

A 42-year-old welder who kidnapped and killed a 17-year-old Moreno Valley girl nearly 9 years ago will be judicially assessed to determine if he is mentally deficient -- and therefore ineligible for the death penalty, a judge ruled today.

A 5-woman, 7-man jury in Riverside last month recommended that Jesse Perez Torres receive capital punishment for the July 15, 2010, slaying of Norma Angelica Lopez.

During a pre-sentencing hearing Friday morning, Torres' attorneys presented motions arguing that the defendant is ``intellectually disabled'' and should receive an ``Atkins hearing'' to make a final determination.

The Atkins process, based on a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, is intended to determine whether a defendant has a cognitive disability. If so, the impaired defendant cannot be sentenced to death because, per the Supreme Court, it would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz ruled the defense should have an opportunity to present it case for deficiency, but not before a jury. Schwartz will hear the matter in a bench trial this summer. He set a June 21 status conference at the Riverside Hall of Justice to discuss scheduling and witnesses with the prosecution and defense.

The District Attorney's Office opposed the Atkins hearing and will argue that Torres is of sound mind, and hence eligible for a death sentence.

If Schwartz rules there is evidence of mental impairment, the default sentence for the defendant will be life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Torres is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

The same jury that recommended death for the defendant convicted him of 1st-degree murder and a special circumstance allegation of killing in the course of a kidnapping.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Kersse argued that Torres' ``brazen evilness'' and its impact on the victim's family, friends and community demanded that he receive capital punishment.

The prosecutor pointed to a September 2011 attack on a homeless prostitute, identified in court records only as Miss Rose, as a further example of the defendant's ``hatred of women'' and ``evil heart.''

The woman was taken at knifepoint by Torres outside a Long Beach liquor store, then driven to the defendant's home, where he bound and raped her, videotaping and photographing the injurious assault, according to Kersse, who emphasized the attack happened 14 months after Norma was kidnapped and killed.

"It tells you everything about what kind of man this is,'' Kersse said.

The prosecutor said jurors should consider the ``unimaginable situation'' that defined the final hour of Norma's life.

"He wanted her for his evil sexual gratification,'' Kersse said.

"What mercy did he show her? What sympathy? None. Norma is dead and that monster is not. And that's just wrong.''

Attorney Darryl Exum told jurors during the penalty trial that his client was ``not normal'' and that for him to ``to die in prison, never seeing the light of freedom again,'' was punishment enough.

Trace DNA left all over Norma's clothing, purse and jewelry confirmed Torres was her killer.

The county's chief pathologist, Dr. Mark Fajardo, testified that he could only speculate as to exactly how the victim was killed, suggesting that ``strangulation or asphyxiation'' was possible.

Fajardo said the girl's remains were in a degraded state after being left in an olive tree grove along Theodore Street, at the eastern edge of Moreno Valley, amid sweltering heat. Her body was found on July 20, 2010.

The prosecution said Torres watched Norma from his then-residence at 13173 Creekside Way, observing whenever she left Valley View High School, where she was taking a morning biology class for the summer.

Every day that she'd left the campus for several weeks, she had been with her boyfriend. But on July 15, 2010, he was behind schedule, and she set off on her own, heading across a field adjacent to Cottonwood Avenue, where Torres followed her in his SUV, forcibly grabbing her and pulling her into the vehicle, sealing her fate, according to prosecutors.

(source: KESQ news)

USA:

U.S. Attorney Barr authorizes pursuing death penalty against Chili’s murderer

Department has decided to pursue a death penalty case against Chili’s restaurant killer William D. Wood Jr.

United States Attorney General William Barr has authorized and directed the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Syracuse to pursue the death penalty against Wood, the U.S. Attorney Office for the Northern District announced Friday afternoon.

Wood, 33, of Syracuse was indicted by a federal grand jury Feb.14 for crimes resulting from the Sept. 15, 2018 armed robbery of Chili’s Bar and Grill in Dewitt, and the murders of two employees committed during the course of that robbery.

While the federal charges contained in that indictment carry a maximum sentence of death, the death penalty could only be pursued if authorized by Barr.

This is a highly unusual move, said Richard Southwick, speaking for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District. Southwick said his office hasn’t both sought and been authorized to seek the death penalty in a case for as long as he can remember.

He said he couldn’t comment on why this specific case qualified for the death penalty.

Wood has admitted in state court to killing the two men, pleading guilty to 10 charges in all. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Monday to life in state prison without parole on the state charges.

The decision was announced by U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and John Devito, special agent in charge of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The federal death penalty was last considered in Central New York for David Renz, who pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old girl and killing Liverpool school librarian Lori Bresnahan after abducting them in the parking lot of Great Northern Mall in Clay on March 14, 2013.

Federal officials in Washington, D.C. decided against seeking the death penalty for Renz.

Renz was sent to state prison for life without a chance for parole.

Most death penalty convictions occur in state courts, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

There are currently 62 prisoners on federal death row compared to more than 2,500 on death row in states, according to the center.

Since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988, only 3 people have been executed by the federal government, according to the Death Penalty Information Center:

Louis Jones Jr.., March 18, 2003. Executed for the rape and murder of Pvt. Tracie McBride, Texas

Juan Raul Garza, June 19, 2001. Executed for the murder of Thomas Albert Rumbo and ordering the murders of seven other people in conjunction with a drug-smuggling ring, Texas

Timothy McVeigh, June 11, 2001. Murder of 8 federal law enforcement officers through the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma (source: syracuse.com)

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

Booker calls for death penalty repeal, opposes Justice Department opinion on online gaming

Sen. Cory Booker, after recently applauding California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to halt executions, is calling for both states and the federal government to abolish the death penalty.

Booker, in a brief phone interview with The Nevada Independent on Friday ahead of a trip to the state next week as part of his 2020 presidential campaign, called capital punishment a “final solution that is imperfect in its nature,” noting that a number of death row inmates have been exonerated in recent years by DNA evidence establishing their innocence and that such inmates are disproportionately low income and people of color.

“On a federal level, on a state level, we should abolish the death penalty in America,” Booker said. “We’re the only industrialized nation that still has the death penalty.”

The New Jersey senator’s comments come the same day as Nevada’s Democrat-controlled Legislature sent a bill proposing to abolish capital punishment in the state to its grave. Death penalty opponents here have expressed disappointment that Democrats, who control both the Legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time in 20 years, aren’t throwing their political capital behind the issue this session.

(Gov. Steve Sisolak has said he believes the death penalty is appropriate in only “very extreme” circumstances and had not indicated whether he would sign a death penalty repeal into law.)

(source: thenevadaindependent.com)

BANGLADESH:

5 teachers arrested over death of Chattogram madrasa boy

The father of Md Habibur Rahman, an 11-year-old boy whose body was recovered from a mosque inside a madrasa in Chattogram, has initiated a murder case.

Police showed 5 people, including the madrasa's teacher Tarekur Rahman and Principal Abu Darda, arrested in connection with the case on Friday.

The 3 other arrestees are madrasa teachers Md Zubayer, Md Anas Ali, and Md Abdus Samad.

Habibur's father Anisur Rahman started the murder case under Section 302 of the Penal Code, Bayezid Bostami Police Station OC Ataur Rahman Khondaker said.

The accused face maximum death penalty if found guilty.

Anisur named Tarek and Abu Darda along with 7 others as suspects in the case.

"We had brought 5 suspects, including the madrasa's principal and Tarek, to the police station for questioning. We have arrested all 5 of them after recording the case," the OC said.

Habibur's body was found hanging from the grills of a window at a mosque inside Omar Faruk al-Islamia Madrasa and Orphanage in Wazedia area of the port city on Wednesday.

Some injury marks were found on his knees, police said.

The madrasa authorities claimed the boy had taken his own life, but the family allege he was murdered and later his body was hanged.

His father Anisur pulls rickshaw in Chattogram City. The family from Dighinala in Khagrhachharhi live in Shershah area of the port city while Habibur was a residential student of the madrasa.

(source: bdnews24.com)

THAILAND:

Businessman could face death penalty for DUI murder of policeman

A leading Bangkok businessman faces the death penalty after being charged with murder for the death of a top Crime Suppression Division policeman and his wife last Thursday night.

Pol Col Jatuporn Ngamsuwitchakun died at the scene in his Suzuki Swift. His 44 year old wife Nutchanat died later in hospital. Their 16 year old daughter Piyapha remains in a serious condition.

They were involved in a collision with a Mercedes Benz driven by 57 year old Somchai Werotphiphat, the owner of a major automotive parts factory.

Daily News reports than he had been playing golf not far from the scene of the collision and had consumed 4-5 bottles of beer before farewelling his friends and driving home at around 11pm.

He allegedly told police he was so drunk that he couldn’t remember anything until he was surrounded by airbags in his car.

Gen Wirachai said that this was not just a case of drink driving and negligence causing death. He said the charges carry anything from 15 years to life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

Somchai remains in custody in Taling Chan, western Bangkok.

Gen Wirachai said that the Thai police nationwide are set to charge anyone with murder who causes death while drink driving.

“If people are injured in DUI cases drivers will face attempted murder charges instead.”

(source: The Thaiger)

NORTH KOREA----executions

Fortune tellers executed in North Korea to ‘maintain social order’

North Korea have publicly executed 2 women and jailed another for life because they were fortune tellers. The trio had allegedly formed a collective named the Seven Star Group and claimed a ‘spirit oracle’ could be channelled through 2 children, aged 3 and 5, to tell the future.

A source within the country told Radio Free Asia that the execution was ordered to ‘maintain social order’ over fears fortune telling had become too widespread.

They added: ‘Even high-ranking officials and the families of judicial authorities often visit fortune tellers before arranging weddings or making business deals.’

Thousands of people reportedly attended the execution of the 2 women in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province.

In 2013, Kim Jong-un ordered the execution of his own uncle, Jang Song-thaek, a high ranking government official, after accusing him of trying to increase his own power.

The full extent of the use of capital punishment in North Korea is not fully known, but its criminal code states the death penalty can be applied for vaguely defined offences such as ‘crimes against the state’ and ‘crimes against the people,’ according to the a report published by the UN.

It added: ‘The policy of regularly carrying out public executions serves to instil fear in the general population.’ An amendment to the law in 2007 extended the death penalty non-violent offences such as smuggling, and authorities are able to order a person’s execution if they deem the crime to be ‘extremely serious’.

North Korean defector Gim Gyu Min previously told Metro.co.uk about being forced to attend public executions from the age of 6. He said: ‘Officials would usually announce an execution was taking place about a week before it happened and notices would be put up in the neighbourhood. ‘Everyone had to attend and workers would be rounded up and brought as a group to the execution site. There would be a little stage or a clearing, with a stake in the middle where the person would be tied up with their friends and family standing closely nearby. ‘The condemned would be taken behind a curtain and have their head smashed to knock them out, so when they were tied up they wouldn’t resist. ‘Guards would then tie them up, take aim, and shoot.’

(source: metro.co.uk)

AUSTRALIA/BRUNEI:

Solidarity protest against death penalty for LGBTI people in Brunei

More than 100 LGBTIQ+ activists and supporters attended a rally in Brisbane on April 13 targeting the Royal on the Park hotel. The hotel is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who recently introduced the death penalty for homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy and apostasy.

The Rally across the street from the hotel is the 1st of many large-scale actions in Australia to oppose the sultanate’s draconian new laws.

Speakers at the rally called for a boycott of the hotel in an effort to put pressure on the Sultan’s business interests and help force the repeal of the draconian laws.

The laws in Brunei have drawn condemnation from across the globe, and sparked grassroots campaign fora boycott of the Sultan’s hotels overseas.

Speakers at the rally said it was vital for the campaign to continue and for people to do all they could to stop the slaughter of innocent people since Brunei is a country in our region, and a member of the Commonwealth.

Speakers made it clear that the campaign was not an attack on Islam, as most of the victims of the new laws would be Muslim citizens of Brunei. The rally heard that the corrupt regime in Brunei is perverting the holiness and the sanctity of religion for base political reasons.

Speaking at the rally, a spokesperson for the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Shelley Argent, said the situation in Brunei is a human rights emergency in our region.

“On Australia’s doorstep, people can now be murdered by their government simply for being gay, or for adultery, blasphemy or apostasy,” she said. “We owe it to our neighbours in Brunei to stand up for their rights.”

(source: Green Left Weekly)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

8 ALLEGED MURDERERS TO PAY DH 200,000 BLOOD MONEY

The Sharjah Sharia Court of First Instance has ordered 8 men accused of murder to pay Dh200,000 as blood money to the victim's family, and sentenced them to 3 years and 6 months' in jail followed by deportation, Khaleejtimes reported on 8 April 2019. The convicts were found guilty of robbing and stabbing to death a compatriot. Court records show that the incident took place when the accused, all Asians, attacked the victim while he was walking on a highway in Sharjah. After assaulting and stabbing him, they stole his money and fled. The victim was rushed to Al Qasimi hospital, where he succumbed to his fatal injuries.The court confronted the defendants with premeditated murder charge for stabbing the man to death. But the accused denied all the charges. The lawyer of the defendants, who was appointed by the court, requested the acquittal of the accused and use clemency in the trial. The victim's parents accepted the blood money and dropped their request for capital punishment.

(source: handsoffcain.info)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Amnesty: Saudi uses death penalty to crush opposition

Saudi Arabia systematically uses the death penalty to crush opposition figures, Amnesty International has said, noting that the country’s Public Prosecution is planning to execute more activists.

Saudi’s Public Prosecution is planning more executions of those who call for freedom of expression, the rights group said, noting that prominent preacher Sheikh Salman Al-Owdeh is one of those targeted for execution, Al-Sharq reported yesterday.

According to Amnesty, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Iran topped its list of countries which carry out executions, which has increased 75 % compared to last year. Four new activists are facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia over their participation in protests calling for reform in the country’s Eastern Province.

Saudi Arabia has carried out a new campaign against activists, bringing the number of those in prison to 14. All of these activists are male, with the exception of two females, one of whom is pregnant. Two of these latest prisoners hold US passports. Though most are not prominent opposition figures, they have expressed their support for women’s rights and other reforms which has led to their detention.

Many prisoners inside Saudi facilities were arrested without charge but have since faced extortion, with some asked to pass part of their properties to the Kingdom or face long prison terms.

Some of these prisoners are members of the Saudi royal family, such as multi-billionaire businessman Al-Walid Bin Talal who was released after conceding a portion of his property to the Kingdom.

(source: Middle East Monitor)

EGYPT:

Egypt inmates dread noose as executions rise under Sisi

After years of anxiously waiting in cramped prison cells, appointments with the noose can come fast to the many on Egypt’s death row.

Leila’s brother Amr was hanged in February.

The news of his impending execution — one of many carried out under incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — shook her.

“I found out at night that he would be hanged the next day,” Leila told AFP, which has used pseudonyms in this story to protect families’ identities.

“We were all in shock. My mother was hysterical,” Leila said.

“It was a very tough night. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone”.

Amr was accused, along with eight others, of assassinating former prosecutor general Hisham Barakat, who was killed in a car bomb in June 2015.

Leila said Amr was preparing to get married — buying suits and readying a new home — when he was arrested in February 2016, in the family residence in a major southern Egyptian town.

She alleges he disappeared for two weeks, and that the family only found out where he was thanks to lawyers, and relatives of other prisoners.

Amr said she saw signs of torture, including scars, on her brother’s body during jail visits.

Executions — always by hanging — have risen sharply under Sisi, who won a second term in March last year.

So far this year, 15 people have been executed in 2 separate trials, calculations by AFP show.

And between early 2017 and late 2018, Egypt executed 92 people, according to a recent report by local rights groups Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and Adalah for Rights and Freedoms.

These numbers are far higher than for previous governments, including that of former dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed in the 2011 Arab Spring protests.

A total of 11 people were executed in the last 3 full years of Mubarak’s rule, according to Amnesty International.

– ‘Arbitrary killings’ –

At a February summit with European Union leaders in the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, Sisi vehemently defended use of the death penalty.

“You are not going to teach us about our humanity…respect our humanity…as we respect yours,” he said.

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on executions Agnes Callamard told AFP the increased “use of the death penalty … (constitutes) arbitrary killings” that are designed to crush dissent.

AFP spoke to families of men executed, and others who are on death row.

After the Sisi-led military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, experts note Egyptian judges have been more authoritarian, in line with an ongoing government crackdown which has incarcerated thousands.

“We are witnessing a rise in death sentences from tens per year before 2011 to hundreds per year after 2013,” Sahar Aziz, a law professor at Rutgers University, told AFP.

London-based rights group Reprieve estimates that at least 2,159 individuals were provisionally sentenced to death between 2014 and 2018.

Hundreds of sentences have subsequently been commuted, but many remain on death row.

In March 2014 — just prior to Sisi’s elevation to the presidency in June that year — the UN said Egypt’s mass death sentences contravened international law.

The Egyptian legal system is based on Islamic sharia law, which legitimises capital punishment.

A high level Egyptian judicial source with knowledge of the death sentences handed down said “there is no politicisation of these cases whatsoever”.

“We are implementing Islam according to its laws and you’re getting upset? If you are a terrorist who killed, then you must also be killed,” he told AFP.

He preferred not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

An Amnesty report this week ranks Egypt sixth globally in the number of people executed in 2018 behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq.

Many of the death sentences were handed down at mass trials involving hundreds of defendants and lasting just days.

– ‘Taste of injustice’ –

“How many court sessions are needed to ensure that every prisoner is given a fair trial to explain their side of the story?” said Osama.

His father Abbas Al Minyawi is on death row (names have again been changed to protect identities).

He was one of 183 defendants accused of storming a Cairo police station and killing 11 policemen and 2 civilians.

Minyawi and 19 others in the ‘Kerdasa massacre’ case do not know when they will be executed.

“My dad was sentenced to death — and also my mother in a way was also condemned to die with this news,” Osama told AFP.

“The taste of injustice is bitter,” he added.

The “troubling speed” at which the death penalty has been used indicates that Egypt’s legal process has been politicised as part of the authorities’ crackdown, law professor Aziz contended.

UN special rapporteur Callamard said “the circumstances leading to the imposition of these sentences and their execution are a great matter of concern”.

She also blamed international powers for failing to hold Egypt accountable over its flagrant use of capital punishment.

“This (international) deafening silence has become an integral part to the spiralling human rights violations in Egypt”.

For the relatives of those executed, such as Leila, painful memories endure.

“He wasn’t the same person I remember when I saw him in the morgue,” Leila said of her brother.

“He was so beautiful. He was sleeping peacefully.”

(source: siasat.com)

APRIL 12, 2019:

TEXAS:

Judge rules state can seek death penalty in capital murder trial for Zavala-Garcia, who is accused of killing 10-year-old

The judge who is presiding over Gustavo Zavala-Garcia's capital murder trial ruled Thursday the state can seek the death penalty.

Zavala-Garcia's lawyers previously asked the court to preclude the state from seeking the death penalty. They also asked for a change of venue for the trial and to suppress statements Zavala-Garcia made to law enforcement officers when he was arrested.

Judge Jack Skeen Jr. of the 241st District Court said the motion to change the venue and the motion to suppress custodial statements Zavala-Garcia made when he was arrested would be taken up at a later time.

Zavala-Garcia, 26, is accused of the November 2016 killing of 10-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco, and, if convicted on the capital murder charge, could be sentenced to death.

The defense also filed six constitutional motions regarding the death penalty. Skeen denied all of them.

Zavala-Garcia's defense attorney Jeff Haas said the motions are routinely presented, routinely denied and the court's rulings in the matters are affirmed by higher courts.

He said he filed them in case the Supreme Court changes its course on the death penalty.

Officials also are waiting on DNA evidence results to come back from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the University of North Texas labs, although this was not discussed at the hearing.

Zavala-Garcia was related to Kayla by marriage and he was among the last people to see her before she went missing Nov. 1, 2016, from the foyer of Bullard First Assembly on U.S. Highway 69.

Her body was found four days later in a well on the property where Zavala-Garcia lived, in the 22100 block of Farm-to-Market Road 2493 (Old Jacksonville Highway) in Bullard.

It is unclear what caused her death, and at the time the indictment was released, then-District Attorney Matt Bingham declined to comment, citing a restrictive and protective order in the case.

In the indictment, prosecutors contend Zavala-Garcia attacked Kayla and sexually assaulted or attempted to sexually assault her after her kidnapping.

Prosecutors also contend he struck Kayla with and against a blunt object, asphyxiated her and drowned her.

Zavala-Garcia's next pretrial hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

(source: Tyler Morning Telegraph)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

N.H. Senate passes death penalty repeal sending the bill to Sununu with veto-proof majorities

New Hampshire is on track to become the next state without the death penalty now that both the House and Senate have voted with veto-proof majorities to repeal its capital punishment law.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a death penalty repeal bill last June, and the Senate lacked the votes to override it in September. But momentum grew after Democrats won control of both the House and Senate in November, and an identical bill has passed both chambers with more than the necessary 2/3 majority needed to override Sununu’s planned veto. The House vote 279-88 last month, while the Senate vote Thursday was 17-6, with 5 Republicans joining 12 Democrats voting in favor of repeal.

“State-sanctioned killing is cruel, ineffective and inherently flawed,” said Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover. “It is time to abolish the death penalty in New Hampshire. Now is the time.”

Thirty states allow capital punishment, though in four of them, governors have issued moratoria on the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Twenty states have abolished or overturned it.

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

“The day that this passes and is signed into law, Mr. Addison’s sentence will be converted to life in prison,” said Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry. “Please talk to Mrs. Briggs about that, the wife of the police officer that was murdered in the line of duty. She will not be able to speak to her husband again, whereas Mr. Addison will be able to talk to his family and have them come up to visit him.”

Laura Briggs has largely stayed out of the debate over the death penalty bill over the years, but she spoke last month against a repeal in part because her son’s now working in law enforcement.

“The death penalty is about protecting society from evil. It’s not about an eye-for-an-eye or revenge. It’s about protecting our society from evil people that do evil things,” she said at the time.

Carson echoed those comments Thursday.

“We’re not talking about getting revenge or soothing the families soul or anything else like that,” she said. “This is about justice nothing more, nothing less.”

Other relatives of murder victims, however, testified against the bill, as did retired prosecutors, clergy and former death row inmates who were exonerated and released. Sen. Harold French, R-Franklin, said their comments helped solidify his previous opposition to the death penalty, which had been based mainly on the cost associated with lengthy appeals in capital murder cases.

“As I get older I realized for a fact we’re actually all on death row and it’s just a matter of time before our names get called. When my name gets called, I’m going to go before the Lord with a huge basket full of regrets and misdeeds, just like you will. But I tell you what won’t be in that basket of misdeeds,” he said. “What won’t be in there is that I did not turn a deaf ear to those who came and took the time to speak to us to get rid of the death penalty.”

Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, kept her remarks short, explaining simply that her father was killed when she was 7 years old.

“He never saw us grow up. My mother forgave whoever it was, and I will vote in favor of this bill,” she said.

A spokesman for Sununu reiterated the governor’s opposition to the bill Thursday.

“Gov. Sununu continues to stand with crime victims, members of the law enforcement community and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty,” Ben Vihstadt said in a written statement.

Still, Thursday’s vote was comforting to a small crowd of death penalty opponents who lined the State House steps.

For Ruth Heath, her position against capital punishment is not a recent one. The Canterbury resident has been a Quaker for 40 years, and the prospect of killing is impossible to support.

“It’s morally wrong,” she said. “And it’s also wrong because it’s not equally distributed among all people.”

Heath and others waving signs Thursday morning said they noticed a shift in public attitudes in recent years, a major factor in the Senate’s vote.

David Keller, a pastor at the United Church of Christ in Concord, pointed to two changes in the last 20 years: a rising awareness of executions carried out against convicts who were later exonerated, and attention on the expenses incurred by states that have the punishment.

“Those 2 other pieces of insight I think have changed the conversation quite a bit,” he said. “The moral issue’s been around, but what’s new is the cost and the discovery through DNA evidence that people on death row were not guilty of the crimes they were convicted of.”

(source: Concord Monitor)

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

New Hampshire Lawmakers Pass Bill to Ban Death Penalty----Legislation has enough support to override possible veto

The New Hampshire state Senate voted to abolish the death penalty, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu with enough support to overcome a possible veto.

The state House passed the repeal bill with veto-proof numbers in March. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats and will have to vote again if Mr. Sununu vetoes, but supporters said they believed they had momentum to remove New England’s last capital-punishment law after years of trying.

(source: Wall Street Journal)

GEORGIA:

Facing the death penalty, Gwinnett woman chooses a lawyer — herself

‘It looks like a prolonged suicide’

She’s produced no list of witnesses she plans to call at trial. She has yet to look over the boxes of discovery turned over to her by the state. She brings no documents, not even a legal pad, with her into the courtroom.

Yet on Monday, Tiffany Moss will represent herself as Gwinnett County prosecutors seek the death penalty against her. Moss faces murder and child cruelty charges for allegedly starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter to death and then burning her body in 2013.

As described by law enforcement, the brutal death of 10-year-old Emani Moss is one of the most notorious cases of child abuse in Georgia history. The young girl weighed only 32 pounds when her charred body was found in a dumpster outside the apartment where she lived.

Moss has said she is leaving her fate in God’s hands, rather than the 2 experienced public defenders who were initially assigned to represent her. They work for the state’s capital defender office, which is credited as a primary reason no one has received a death sentence in Georgia in more than 5 years.

It begs the question: With her life on the line, is Moss going to be able to put up a fair fight on her own behalf?

“It looks like a prolonged suicide,” said Atlanta attorney Jack Martin, who has defended a number of capital cases. “God may be an all-powerful and merciful force in nature, but he’s a lousy criminal defense lawyer.”

Will She Plead For Her Life?

During a pretrial hearing last Monday, Moss, 35, told Chief Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson III she was ready for her upcoming trial.

Over the course of the three-hour-long proceeding, Moss repeatedly gave the judge yes or no answers. The only subject on which she elaborated was the clothes her family has brought for her so she can change out of her jail jumpsuit. They’re not big enough, she told Hutchinson.

“I’ll need to switch some of them out,” Moss said, disclosing she’s now a size 7.

Moss’s demeanor throughout the hearing was unfailingly pleasant. She often rose from her seat and grinned when she answered Hutchinson’s questions. But there’s no telling how she’ll be during the trial.

How will she react when the prosecution shows Emani’s autopsy and crime scene photos to the jury? Moss’s husband, Eman Moss, was also charged with his daughter’s murder. He pleaded guilty in 2015 and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He also agreed to testify against his wife.

So far, Tiffany Moss has given no indication she will actively defend herself. This provokes a number of other questions: Will she participate in jury selection? Will she make an opening statement? Will she cross-examine her husband?

Will she present any witnesses? Will she plead for her life?

University of Georgia law professor Alan Cook, a former district attorney, said no prosecutor wants to try a case against a pro se defendant.

“In theory, defendants who represent themselves should know the rules of evidence and the protocols of trying a case,” Cook said. “Of course, they don’t. So this means the prosecution will have to do its job and do the defendant’s job, too. That’s because you want a fair trial. You want the defendant to get due process.”

At Monday’s hearing, Judge Hutchinson told Moss how a death-penalty trial works. First, there’s the phase in which the jury will find you guilty or not guilty. If it finds you guilty, then it moves to the penalty phase, in which jurors will decide whether you live or die, the judge said. Hutchinson also told Moss about the rule of sequestration (making sure your witnesses aren’t in the courtroom listening to testimony before they take the stand) and stipulations (in which both sides agree to allow certain information into evidence without the need for testimony).

Hutchinson also reminded Moss she can take the stand and testify, essentially giving a statement to the jury. But if you choose to do so, that also means you’ll be subject to cross-examination by the prosecution, the judge said.

“I do want you to be thinking about it,” Hutchinson said.

In prior hearings, Hutchinson implored Moss to accept legal representation. After she refused, the judge presided over closed-door hearings before determining she was competent to stand trial and could represent herself.

Hutchinson’s decision was appealed before trial to the Georgia Supreme Court. The high court declined to hear the appeal, allowing Hutchinson’s ruling to stand and the trial to get underway.

From Ted Bundy to Dylann Roof

In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to represent themselves at trial after being adequately warned of the dangers and disadvantages in doing so. Since then, a number of high-profile defendants chose to do just that.

Serial killer Ted Bundy, who attended law school, defended himself at trial in Florida. The jury sentenced him to death. Colin Ferguson, who killed six people on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, was convicted at trial and sentenced to 315 years in prison. More recently, Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for the 2015 massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

Moss is not the first defendant in Georgia to act as her own lawyer at a death-penalty trial. In 2015, Jamie Hood represented himself when he was convicted of the shooting death of a police officer in Athens, the attempted murder of another officer and other offenses

. During the trial, Hood was an active participant. He cross-examined the officer he shot and testified from the witness stand. The jury ultimately spared him, sentencing Hood to life without the possibility parole instead of death by lethal injection.

District Attorney Ken Mauldin, who tried Hood, said pro se defendants pose unique challenges.

“You’ve almost got to walk on egg shells to make sure you’re doing everything correctly and making sure it doesn’t look like you’re taking advantage of someone,” he said. “The prosecutor’s job is to do what’s right and to seek justice. So there are times when you’ll have to make sure things are being done to protect the defendant’s rights.”

Mauldin said he’s wondered whether the jurors gave Hood life because they got to know him during the trial, making it more difficult to sentence him to death. “It’s also possible they thought life in prison without parole was a worse sentence than death,” the DA said.

Death Penalty Drought

The last time a death sentence was handed down by a Georgia jury was March 2014 in Augusta against Adrian Hargrove, who committed a triple murder. When asked why death sentences have become so rare, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree with Mauldin’s assessment: the availability of a life-without-parole sentence is seen by many as more acceptable.

Without a skillful and cohesive defense, Moss could break the drought and receive Georgia’s 1st death sentence in years.

Nationally, views about the death penalty have also been changing. Over the past decade, 8 states abolished capital punishment through court rulings, moratoria issued by governors and repeals at the ballot box or in the legislature.

And there have even been some signals of shift in a law-and-order state like Georgia. Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty here. It was introduced too late to move this session but will be up for consideration when lawmakers gather again next year.

But the death penalty still remains on the books in Georgia and this week it’s staring Moss in the face.

Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert, the two capital defenders initially assigned to represent Moss, have said she stopped talking to them months ago. Hutchinson has assigned them to be “standby counsel,” and they sit in the courtroom gallery ready to assist Moss if she asks for help.

During trial, it’s possible the capital defenders could ask Hutchinston to reconsider his decision. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that defendants found competent to stand trial are not necessarily competent to represent themselves if they can’t conduct their own defense. The court said the trial judge should made such a decision in the interest of achieving a fair trial.

If Moss wants to end her case, she can do so now.

During Monday’s hearing, District Attorney Danny Porter said he’s offered Moss the same plea agreement he offered her husband. If she pleads guilty to Emani’s murder, Porter will withdraw the death penalty and allow her to be sentenced to life without parole. But that offer stands only until a jury is selected, expected sometime this week, he said.

Porter also told Hutchinson that the last time he broached such an agreement with Moss, “she emphatically stated she did not want to discuss a plea.”

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

ALABAMA----stay of execution

Execution called off for Christopher Price, was set to die for 1991 slaying of minister

Christopher Price was set to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1991 killing of a minister in Fayette County, but the execution was called off about half an hour before Price’s death warrant expired at midnight.

The decision comes after hours of last appeals, beginning with Price’s attorneys filing an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction to a federal judge in Mobile asking her to halt the execution around 1 p.m. That motion states that despite the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeal’s rejection Wednesday of Price’s appeal, the court did confirm “Price had demonstrated a substantial likelihood of showing that nitrogen hypoxia is an ‘available’ method of execution that the State could use relatively easily and reasonably quickly on Mr. Price as an alternative to the midazolam lethal injection protocol ‘that will cause him severe pain and needless suffering ... The 11th Circuit held that the evidentiary record was insufficient on a single discrete factual issue—whether execution by nitrogen hypoxia would be essentially painless for Mr. Price.”

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office filed a response with the court, but just before 4 p.m. U.S. Southern District Court Judge Kristi DuBose stayed the execution. DuBose wrote in her order that Price’s execution is stayed for 60 days: “The State has until May 10, 2019, to submit evidence in contradiction to Price’s contention that 1) the 3-drug execution protocol will cause or is likely to cause him severe pain and 2) that execution by nitrogen hypoxia will significantly reduce the substantial risk of severe pain.”

The AG’s Office appealed the stay to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling and kept the stay in place. “In light of the jurisdictional questions raised by the parties’ motions, we stay Price’s execution until further order of this court," the court wrote.

The AG’s Office then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Price’s attorneys also filed a brief with the court arguing the stay should not be lifted.

At 11:34 p.m.—when the nation’s highest court had yet to rule—the state called off the execution. A statement from the ADOC said, “As a practical matter, the time remaining before the expiration of the death warrant does not permit sufficient time to accomplish the execution in accordance with established procedures."

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement after the announcement was made. “Tonight, in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn was deprived of justice. They were, in effect, re-victimized by a killer trying to evade his just punishment. This 11th-hour stay for death row inmate Christopher Price will do nothing to serve the ends of justice. Indeed, it has inflicted the opposite—injustice, in the form of justice delayed."

Marshall said Price “has dodged his death sentence for the better part of three decades by employing much the same strategy he has pursued tonight—desperately clinging to legal maneuverings to avoid facing the consequences of his heinous crime. I can promise you this: Alabama will never forget victims. Justice will be had for Pastor Lynn and his family. As for Christopher Price, his day of justice will come.”

Samantha Banks, an ADOC spokesperson, said Price’s last request was to be married to his fiancée. He was married Wednesday in the visitation yard at Holman.

Price was visited by his wife, an aunt, and an uncle on Thursday. Wednesday, he made four phone calls to attorneys, one to his wife, and one to an aunt.

Price refused his breakfast but asked for and received 2 pints of turtle tracks ice cream for what he believed would be his final meal. Several people from Price’s family planned to witness his execution, including his wife, 2 aunts, an uncle, and a cousin.

6 witnesses from the victim, Bill Lynn’s, family, also were present to witness. Those witnesses would have been the victim’s wife Bessie Lynn, the couple’s 2 daughters, 2 grandsons, and Bill Lynn’s brother.

Price had requested that no spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber, so the spokesperson said the department’s Christian chaplain was not set be inside the chamber.

The 46-year-old inmate was denied a stay of execution by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, after appealing a lower court’s ruling that also denied him a stay based on his argument he wanted to be executed by Alabama’s newly approved method of nitrogen hypoxia. He appealed Thursday morning to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay.

No Alabama inmates have been executed by the new method, and a state protocol for the nitrogen hypoxia executions has not been developed yet.

Price was set to die by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. He was convicted in the 1991 robbery and slaying of Lynn and was sentenced to death by a jury’s vote of 10-2. A judge upheld the jury’s recommendation and sent Price to death row.

Price had asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in March for a stay of execution, arguing the Alabama Department of Corrections’ 3-drug lethal injection cocktail could cause Price severe pain during his execution. The inmate also claimed the state’s refusal to allow him to elect the nitrogen hypoxia method denies him equal protection under the Constitution.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office claimed in a response filing Price was given the forms necessary to elect a change of execution method from lethal injection to nitrogen hypoxia last summer, when all other inmates on death row were given the same opportunity. The state says Price neglected to make that election and called the current lawsuit a “meritless delay tactic.”

The state’s response states, "Price had timely notice, Price could have asked counsel if he wanted a legal consultation, and yet Price sat on his hands for 7 months until the State moved to set his execution date.”

Early last year, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill giving inmates the option to choose execution by nitrogen hypoxia. According to the state, inmates waiting to be executed were allowed to opt in the nitrogen method if they wished, but had to do so within a 30-day period in June 2018. Of the 177 inmates on Alabama’s Death Row, more than 50 inmates have chosen to die by the new method.

ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the department is working with the AG’s Office to develop a protocol for executions by nitrogen hypoxia, but has no timeline on when that protocol might be finalized and ready to implement.

One of Price’s attorneys argued in a filing the ADOC allowed some inmates to choose nitrogen hypoxia in a manner that was “completely arbitrary” and “created 2 classes of death row inmates.”

The state said in its response they were rational to set a timeline for the inmates to opt into the new method, because otherwise an inmate “could change his mind as to his method of execution up until the moment he entered the death chamber. In other words, conceivably, the ADOC could prepare for a lethal injection but be blindsided by an 11th-hour nitrogen election.”

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Kristi DuBose denied the stay of execution and noted Price did not elect to choose nitrogen hypoxia by the cutoff date and that the gas is not readily available since the state has not yet developed a protocol for those types of executions. She is the same judge who Thursday granted a 60-day stay.

Price’s attorneys appealed that ruling. Wednesday afternoon, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals also denied the stay.

Price also was at the center of a lawsuit in 2014 with similar claims, which sought to block the state from setting his execution date because of what he called “prolonged, excruciating and needless pain” caused by the lethal injection drugs.

Lynn, a minister at Natural Springs Church of Christ, was fatally stabbed with a knife and sword outside his home in the Bazemore community 3 days before Christmas in 1991. Court records state Lynn was putting together Christmas presents for his grandchildren, when the power went out. He walked outside to check the power box when he was attacked.

Records state Lynn suffered 38 cuts, lacerations, and stab wounds, and one of his arms was almost severed. He died en route to a local hospital. His wife, Bessie Lynn, was wounded in the attack but survived her injuries.

Price, of Winfield, was 19 at the time and was arrested in Tennessee several days after the slaying. He was convicted in 1993.

(source: al.com)

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Alabama execution called off after stay

As the clock ticked down Thursday night, Alabama prison officials announced they would not proceed with the lethal injection of Christopher Lee Price, even if the U.S. Supreme Court lifted an execution stay before midnight.

Price, who was scheduled to die on Thursday for the 1991 murder of Fayette County preacher Bill Lynn, received an 11th-hour stay of execution at about 3:30 p.m. An appellate court upheld the decision at about 5:30 p.m.

Prison officials in Atmore were prepared to go forward with the execution, however, awaiting a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Shortly after 11:30 p.m., an Alabama Department of Corrections spokesperson said prison officials could not feasibly begin execution procedures before midnight, when Price's execution warrant expired.

"The State will not move forward with the execution of Christopher Price tonight," Samantha Banks said. "As a practical matter, the time remaining before the expiration of the death warrant does not permit sufficient time to accomplish the execution in accordance with established procedures. The United States Supreme Court has not acted to set aside the Stay of Execution."

Price had argued Alabama's lethal injection protocol has "botched" previous executions and could cause unconstitutional pain and suffering. Price instead asked to opt for death by nitrogen gas, a method Alabama approved last year but has yet to develop protocol for carrying out. The state argued Price failed to opt-in for the nitrogen method in 2018.

In the federal district order, Judge Kristi DuBose stayed Price's execution 60 days. DuBose wrote Alabama has until May 10, 2019 to "submit evidence in contradiction to Price’s contention that 1) the three-drug execution protocol will cause or is likely to cause him severe pain and 2) that execution by nitrogen hypoxia will significantly reduce the substantial risk of severe pain.”

After the 60-day period, Alabama will likely have to seek a new date of execution from the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Tonight, in the middle of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the family of Pastor Bill Lynn was deprived of justice," said Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in an emailed statement. Marshall's office had appealed to the Supreme Court to vacate Price's stay.

"They were, in effect, re-victimized by a killer trying to evade his just punishment. This 11th-hour stay for death row inmate Christopher Price will do nothing to serve the ends of justice. Indeed, it has inflicted the opposite — injustice, in the form of justice delayed."

Before the stay, Price prepared for the expected execution date with a number of visits and phone calls with his attorney, family and fiancée.

Alabama prison officials said his final request was to be married, which was granted. Price and his fiancée were married in the Holman Correctional Facility yard on April 10.

Price was convicted of the brutal slaying of Bill Lynn, a Fayette County preacher, during the course of a 1991 home robbery. Price was 19 at the time of the murder.

Lynn and his wife, Bessie, were at their Bazemore home 3 days before Christmas when the house's power went out. When Bill Lynn went outside to check the powerbox, he was attacked, according to court documents. Bessie Lynn later testified that two assailants then beat her before stealing jewelry and money from their home.

Bill Lynn, who prosecutors say was cut or stabbed 38 times with a sword and dagger, died at a hospital approximately 45 minutes after the attack.

Prison officials said Thursday that Bessie Lynn was prepared to witness Price's execution, along with Bill Lynn's 2 daughters, 2 grandsons and a nephew.

A Fayette County jury in 1993 sentenced Price to death by a vote of 10-2. Price later tried to contest his sentence, alleging his original trial attorney was unprepared for the penalty phase of his trial. Price argued the lawyer failed to offer evidence that the then-teenager was psychologically traumatized following years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his mother's boyfriends. The Supreme Court declined to review his case in 2013.

Price's execution is the 2nd set by the state this year. Alabama in February executed Domineque Ray after an 11th-hour U.S. Supreme Court ruling vacated a stay of execution pending a religious rights claim. The court ruled by a narrow majority Ray had waited too late to bring the issue to light.

Ray, a Muslim, had argued Alabama's practice of including a Christian prison chaplain in the execution chamber was in violation of the First Amendment. Ray sought to have his imam present in the death chamber at the time of his death, but the state said it would only allow trained prison employees in the chamber.

The court's 5-4 decision to allow Alabama to execute Ray proved controversial across the country, provoking stinging criticism from both capital punishment opponents and conservative evangelicals, who viewed Ray's claim as a religious liberty issue.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

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USA----countdown to nation's 1500th execution

With the execution of Billie Wayne Coble in Texas on February 28, the USA has now executed 1,493 condemned individuals since the death penalty was relegalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision. Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of scheduled executions as the nation approaches a terrible milestone of 1500 executions in the modern era.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1494-------Apr. 24------------John King------------------Texas

1495-------May 2--------------Dexter Johnson------------Texas

1496-------May 16-------------Donnie Johnson-----------Tennessee

1497-------Aug. 15------------Stephen West-------------Tennessee

1498-------Aug. 21------------Larry Swearingen---------Texas

1499-------Sept. 4------------Billy Crutsinger---------Texas

1500------Sept. 12------------Warren Henness-----------Ohio

(source: Rick Halperin)

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

Death penalty sought against woman charged with 89-year-old’s death

Prosecutors said Thursday at a court hearing they plan to pursue the death penalty against a woman charged in the 2013 stabbing death of an 89-year-old Wellborn woman.

Prosecutor Lynn Hammond said the state plans to seek the death penalty if Monica Marie Shively, 35, is convicted of capital murder during the course of a robbery or capital murder during the course of a burglary.

(source: The Anniston Star)

LOUISIANA:

Capitol Views: Death penalty on the docket

Lawmakers will debate Louisiana’s use of the death penalty this session, as a series of bills have been filed on the issue and appear poised to bring the Legislature into a contentious debate on capital punishment.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who has unsuccessfully tried to abolish the state’s use of the death penalty in the past, has filed another bill to end executions. It is worth noting Claitor’s effort has picked up support in the House from Rep. Terry Landry, the New Iberia Democrat who served as superintendent of State Police from 2000-2004. “We’ve both been on different sides of law enforcement and see that it is not an effective deterrent,” said Claitor, a former prosecutor.

The Baton Rouge Republican readily admitted to supporting the death penalty earlier in his career but said that a visit to a Catholic school in his district changed his viewpoint. “It was quite literally from the mouth of babes,” Claitor said. “The more that I talked with these kids, it became clear that I was a hypocrite on the issue.”

While Claitor’s previous efforts and other similar bills have not received much traction in the past, the senator said he is receiving “plenty of quiet encouragement on the issue,” adding that even representatives of the French and British governments reached out to offer their support.

Opponents of the bill such as House Criminal Justice Chairman Sherman Mack, R-Albany, believe that Claitor’s measure is counterproductive and would cripple the efforts of prosecutors. “I don’t think that the district attorneys can do their jobs without this discretion,” Mack said.

Mack pointed to a recent string of homicides in his Livingston Parish district as crimes that would warrant capital punishment. “You have cases where it calls for the death penalty,” he said. “As the end of the day, this is about justice.”

Rep. Nicholas Muscarello, R-Hammond, has filed a bill that would make it easier for the state to perform executions by allowing the companies who provide the drugs for lethal injections to remain secret. Similar bills passed in Texas and Arkansas allowed corrections officials there to continue administering the death penalty after delays. “If the death penalty is on the books, we need to carry it out,” Muscarello said.

Muscarello’s sentiment was echoed by Mack. “Right now, the health penalty is the law of Louisiana,” Mack said. “Victims are asking why it is not being used.”

(source: businessreport.com)

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

How jury selection works in a Louisiana death penalty case

A criminal defendant’s right to trial by an impartial jury of his or her peers is a bedrock principle of American law, enshrined in both the United States and Louisiana Constitutions.

When a defendant is charged with first-degree murder and faces the death penalty in the Pelican State, the jury is composed of twelve people, all of whom must agree the defendant is guilty, before his or her execution can be ordered.

While there are other felonies in Louisiana that now require a jury to return a unanimous verdict, death penalty cases are unique, in that they are essentially two trials in one. The first being a legal test to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence, and the second weighing the proper punishment, either the death penalty or life in prison at hard labor without the possibility of parole.

Since courts consider death the ultimate punishment, selecting a legally fair and proper jury takes on a heightened sense of importance in capital murder cases. So, like the trial themselves, jury selection in a death penalty case is procedurally different. Traditionally more expensive and time-consuming when compared to other criminal matters.

Put in the most basic sense, jury selection in a first-degree murder trial plays out in three phases: calling a jury pool, death qualifying potential jurors and seating the jury panel.

The process begins when a pool of people, called venires, show up at the parish courthouse for jury service, after being randomly chosen from a list of prospective jurors. Court officials get that list of names, sometimes referred to as the “jury wheel,” by combining parish voter registration rolls and driver licenses records.

While the typical venire or pool in a felony case is between 70 and 100 people, in death penalty cases the venire is much larger, usually a few hundred people.

Once the venire is chosen and assigned to the courtroom where the death penalty case is set to be tried, the judge presiding over the trial may excuse certain potential jurors from serving based on medical, financial or other hardship reasons or excuses. Because capital murder cases can last several weeks, Louisiana courts are more mindful of hardship pleas in these types of trials, but excusal from service is still rare.

At this point, defense attorneys, the prosecution and the judge, start asking potential jurors questions. Lawyers call this process “voir dire” and it is meant to weed out individuals from the jury pool who cannot keep an open and fair mind to both the defendant and the law.

This is where the greatest difference between a death penalty case and other felony trials is seen.

In Louisiana, juries must be “death qualified” when execution is a possible sentence. Therefore, during this 1st part of voir dire, potential jurors are asked about their views regarding capital punishment. Here, the court is trying to determine whether jurors will follow Louisiana law if called upon to sentence a defendant found guilty of 1st-degree murder.

Courts can eliminate “for cause” anyone who is absolutely opposed to voting for the death penalty. Prosecutors will generally move to “strike” any person who has doubts about execution, and defense attorneys usually try to exclude jurors who are so pro-death penalty they might ignore life in prison as a possible sentence.

Members of the venire that remain after this first phase of voir dire are “death qualified.”

This is when the 2nd part of voir dire begins, with lawyers asking questions geared towards the potential jurors’ background, including education, occupation, family life, criminal record, and religious beliefs. In this phase of the proceedings, the defense and prosecution are hoping to root out any hidden biases that might tilt the jury in favor of or against the defendant.

Both the defense team and prosecutors are given a limited number of “peremptory challenges,” which allow them to strike potential jurors without having to show bias or give a reason for their exclusion.

Once the venire is culled to 12 persons, plus alternates, the panel is sworn in and jury selection is complete. This is the point where “ legal jeopardy” attaches, meaning the defendant is now on trial, facing the possibility of conviction and punishment.

(source: KSLA news)

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

Former death row inmate calls for end of death penalty in Louisiana

On the steps of the Louisiana Capitol Building, the executive director of the ACLU in the state, Alanah Hebert, and a former death row inmate urged lawmakers to end the death penalty.

"We are here today because the death penalty is a broken process from start to finish,” Hebert said.

Standing next to Hebert was Shareef Cousin. He was sentenced to death for the murder of a New Orleans man who was coming out of a restaurant in the French Quarter back in the 90s. He was sentenced to death when he was 16-years-old.

"I was innocent. I was framed,” Cousin said. “While on death row, people could not imagine the mental anguish that I had to go through as a child.”

After being on death row for nearly three years, his case was dismissed by the Louisiana Supreme Court and he was exonerated.

"The likelihood of being sentenced to death doesn’t depend on someone’s account of the severity of the crime, but rather on their lack of adequate legal representation, the color of their skin, or the state where they happen to live,” Hebert said.

House Bill 215, filed by Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana for any offenses committed on or after Aug. 1.

Opponents like Special Assistant Attorney General John Sinquefield, who has prosecuted several death penalty cases, do not believe it should be repealed. He says he does not believe an innocent man could be put to death under the current system.

"Where we have DNA and all the modern forensics, death penalty cases and Louisiana reserved for people or there is an absolute certainty of guilt and then that’s reviewed,” Sinquefield said.

He says the death penalty is a necessary deterrent for the most serious offenders.

“It’s critical now,” he said. “It’s worse than ever. We have murder rates that to me are sad and astounding.”

For Cousin, the lack of protection was all too real for him while he was serving his time.

"In my case, it was no DNA evidence that would have exonerated me,” Cousin said.

According to the ACLU, Louisiana leads the nation in death row exonerations per capita, having released 11 men since the punishment was reinstated in the 1970s.

(source: WASB news)

OHIO:

Judge upholds death penalty case----Man convicted in ’89 killing, attack on pair

A Trumbull County Common Pleas Court judge’s decision issued Thursday upholds the death penalty for a man convicted in 1989 of killing a man and attacking a woman in their home.

Andre Williams, 51, was sentenced to death for the Feb. 17, 1989, beating death of George Melnick, 65, of Warren, and the beating, blinding and attempted rape of Melnick’s wife, Katherine. He has lost a series of appeals in an effort to get off death row since the 1990s.

In 2003, his defense attorneys filed an Atkins petition, claiming he was too intellectually disabled to be sentenced to death. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional to execute someone who is intellectually disabled. The state dismissed the case at the request of prosecutors, without a hearing, because his defense team didn’t submit evidence showing an intellectual disability.

Williams’ expert reported his IQ was 75, putting him on the “borderline range of intelligence.” The 11th District Court of Appeals sent it back to the court to readdress the issues. In a revised judgment, the judge ruled against Williams again without a hearing.

The decision was appealed again and upheld by the appeals court, and the Ohio Supreme Court did not hear the case. Williams then field the petition with federal court, which was denied.

But, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court to grant Williams a conditional writ of habeas corpus, protecting him from the death penalty until further proceedings.

Hearings were held in 2017 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court before Judge W. Wyatt McKay.

Experts testified about variations in test scores Williams took over several years, including when he was a child, and went over evaluations conducted to determine his functional abilities.

In order to qualify to be spared the death penalty because of an intellectual disability, a defendant has to prove 3 things — “significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, significant limitation in 2 or more adaptive skills like communication, self care and self direction, and that the disability began before age 18.

Williams’ intellectual testing scores were “borderline,” a test of his adaptive functions revealed no “significant limitations” and although Williams required special classes while in school, that classification was not a diagnosis, but a decision made for education, Wyatt’s ruling states.

Williams is being held at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

(source: Tribune Chronicle)

CALIFORNIA:

Poll: Nearly 50% of Californians favor life in prison over death penalty

District attorneys from across California criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom's moratorium on the death penalty Thursday.

The criticism came as a new poll shows Californians are divided over capital punishment.

"Death row killers have murdered over a thousand victims across California. 200 + of those victims are children, well over 40 are police officers," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at a press conference.

While district attorneys were critical of the governor's executive order, family members of victims shared their painful stories, calling on the Newsom to rescind his executive order.

"I felt betrayed by Gov. Newsom," said Phyllis Loya, whose son was murdered. "I felt like he was a thief in the night who stole justice from us."

"The voters approved the death penalty in 2012 in this state," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. "They re-approved it in 2016. In fact, in 2016, they said they wanted the death penalty actually expedited."

A poll by Quinnipiac University released Thursday shows the opinion of California voters has changed: 41% favor capital punishment for people convicted of murder while 48% favor life in prison without the possibility of parole as a punishment.

As for the governor's moratorium, which halts the execution of more than 700 inmates currently on death row, public opinion is virtually split, the poll shows: 44% agree with Newsom while 46% disapprove of the order.

The issue is more divided when looking at the political parties:

68% of Republicans prefer the death penalty as a punishment for people convicted of murder, while 22% favor life without parole.

69% of Democrats prefer life in prison without parole as a punishment for people convicted of murder, while 24% prefer the death penalty.

A spokesperson for the governor said Newsom sends his condolences to family members of the victims.

The spokesperson also said Newsom met with many victims’ families before making his decision. Schubert said he only met with 1.

(source: KCRA news)

WASHINGTON:

Legislature, abolish Washington’s death penalty

Washington’s death penalty has squandered millions in public resources and been applied unevenly, especially to people of color and those in urban areas.

The state House should follow the Senate in approving Senate Bill 5339. It’s time to take that ineffective and unconstitutional law off the books.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled in October that the way Washington administered the death penalty was unconstitutional, but the court’s action did not eliminate capital punishment in the state. To purge the penalty from state law, the Legislature must vote to repeal.

Use of Washington’s death penalty was racially biased and arbitrarily administered, the justices ruled. Opopponents have been saying that for years. Research quoted in the Supreme Court decision found that, in this state, “black defendants were four and a half times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white defendants.”

The Supreme Court acknowledged that the Legislature could “fix” the death penalty and make it more fair. But this Legislature and the lawmakers who will follow in its footsteps should not be allowed to do so.

Lawmakers have failed for years to pass laws similar to SB 5339. Now, with the court ruling affirming credible arguments against it, is the perfect time to end Washington’s death penalty.

Yes, some Washingtonians still believe the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. That is not the opinion of many government officials prosecuting crimes, including longtime King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg, who has said on these pages: “It is my duty to report that the death penalty law in our state is broken and cannot be fixed. It no longer serves the interests of public safety, criminal justice, or the needs of victims.”

Since Washington reinstated the death penalty in 1981, 33 people were sentenced to die, although some had their sentences changed on appeal, and 5 have been executed. Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on executions in 2014. The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling converted the sentences for the state’s remaining eight death-row inmates to life in prison without release.

In the past 15 years, seven states have ended their death penalties and Washington, Colorado and Oregon adopted moratoriums. Only a few states continue to execute prisoners, including Texas, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma, and nationally death sentences have decreased dramatically.

The decrease is due, in part, because few municipalities can afford the cost of trial and death-penalty appeals. Seeking the death penalty adds at least $1 million to the cost of prosecution in Washington state.

The death penalty squanders public resources, has been applied unevenly and is not a deterrent to crime. It should be abolished for good in Washington state.

(source: The Seattle Times editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Donna Gordon Blankinship, Brier Dudley, Mark Higgins and William K. Blethen (emeritus))

GLOBAL:

People Do Not “Deserve to Die”: Injustice of Death Penalty Persists

While figures have dropped, the “inhuman” use of the death penalty still remains too common worldwide, a human rights group said.

In a new report, Amnesty International found that global executions fell by almost 1/3 last year, making it the lowest rate in at least a decade.

“The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realise the death penalty is not the answer,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo.

“This is a hopeful indication that it’s only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs,” he added.

For instance, Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty in 2018, while both Malaysia and the Gambia declared an official moratorium on executions.

In Iran, where the death penalty is an all too common form of punishment, executions fell by a whopping 50 %.

Despite the positive news, the use of the death penalty has continued, violating basic human rights including the right to a fair trial and the importance of ensuring dignity and respect.

According to Amnesty International, there were 2,531 death sentences globally in 2018, just a slight decrease from 2,591 reported in 2017.

Though there was some progress, Iran still continues to account for more than one third of all recorded executions.

In fact, approximately 78 % of all known executions were carried out in just four countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Iraq.

H? Duy H?i is among 600 people under the death sentence in Vietnam, and still remains at risk of execution.

Convicted of theft and murder, H? Duy H?i said he was tortured and forced to sign a “confession” which he later retracted.

In 2015, the Committee on Judicial Affairs of the National Assembly found serious violations of criminal procedural law in the handling of H? Duy H?i’s case.

“It has been 11 years since he was arrested and our family was torn apart. I can no longer bear this pain. Just thinking about my son suffering behind bars hurts me so much,” his mother Nguy?n Th? Loan told Amnesty International.

“I would like the international community to help reunite my family. You are my only hope,” she added.

While exact figures are unknown, China is still the world’s top executioner with potentially thousands of people sentenced to death each year.

The death penalty is applied in a range of offences including non-violent offences which violates international law and standards as they do not classify as the “most serious crimes.”

In June 2018, authorities in Lufeng city in southeastern China conducted a “mass sentencing rally” where 10 people were charged for drug-related offences and executed.

Elsewhere, the use of the death penalty has been reintroduced which, in some cases, is happening in countries that have had a decades-long moratorium.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he would reinstate executions after more than 40 years and apply death sentences to those convicted of drug offences, like the Philippines.

The government even posted a job advertisement seeking an executioner with “excellent moral character” and a “very good mind and mental strength.”

Sudan resumed the implementation of death sentences after a hiatus in 2017, including the sentencing of Noura Hussein.

Hussein, a young Sudanese woman, was married against her will to Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad at the age of 16 and was raped when she refused to consummate the marriage.

When Hammad tried to rape her again, Hussein defended herself and in the struggle, he sustained a fatal knife injury and died.

Despite evidence of self-defence, Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death, prompting global outrage.

“I was in absolute shock when the judge told me I had been sentenced to death. I hadn’t done anything to deserve to die. I couldn’t believe the level of injustice – especially on women,” Hussein told Amnesty International.

“My case was especially hard as at the time of sentencing, my family had disowned me. I was alone dealing with the shock,” she added.

Though the death sentence was overturned, it has only been replaced with a five-year prison sentence and financial compensation of 8,400 dollars. Still, prosecutors are pushing to reinstate the death sentence in her case.

The global struggle is still far from over, Naidoo noted.

“Slowly but steadily, global consensus is building towards ending the use of the death penalty…from Burkina Faso to the U.S., concrete steps are being taken to abolish the death penalty. Now it’s up to other countries to follow suit,” he said.

“We all want to live in a safe society, but executions are never the solution. With the continued support of people worldwide, we can – and we will – put an end to the death penalty once and for all.”

(source: Inter Press Service)

KENYA:

No, Kenya is not introducing the death penalty for wildlife poachers

Articles shared tens of thousands of times online have reported that Kenya is planning to introduce the death penalty for convicted wildlife poachers. The articles quote Tourism Minister Najib Balala, who is supposed to have made the announcement during a meeting held on May 10, 2018. However, Balala was not at that meeting, and told AFP there was no such plan. Capital punishment is in theory permitted in Kenya, but the country has an effective ban on carrying out death sentences. No death row prisoner has been executed since 1987.

Kenya, like several other African countries, has seen its elephant and rhino populations decimated by illegal poaching to feed a booming international trade in tusks and horns. Elephant ivory is often carved into ornaments or jewellery and rhino horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, with China representing the biggest market for such goods.

The articles about the supposed death penalty plan began appearing online in May 2018, shortly after the meeting during which Balala was reported to have made the announcement.

Animal poaching is a highly emotive subject, and some articles reporting the announcement have racked up more than 100,000 shares each.

One post published by South African site News360, which we’ve archived here, has been shared online 123,000 times, according to data from social media monitoring site CrowdTangle. Another, published on the website of Joseph Mercola -- a controversial alternative medicine practitioner in the United States -- has been shared more than 100,000 times. A quick Google search reveals that the death penalty claim has been repeated on a large number of websites.

Existing penalties against convicted poachers have “not been deterrence enough to curb poaching,” the articles quote Balala as saying.

In many of the articles, it’s unclear when or where Balala was supposed to have made his announcement, but the News360 article linked to a similar report from Britain’s Independent news website, dated May 13, 2018.

(source: factcheck.afp.com)

VIETNAM:

Vietnam only applies death penalty for ‘especially serious’ crimes

The application of the death penalty is a sovereign nation’s prerogative and Vietnam only applies it for very grave crimes.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang was responding Thursday to a report by Amnesty International on the death penalty and countries that still have it on their books.

She said the abolishment of capital punishment is not part of the international treaties on human rights to which Vietnam is a signatory.

The death penalty is only applied for "especially serious" crimes in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the criminals are dealt with as per Vietnamese law, which guarantees transparency, fairness and their rights, she added.

Vietnam has many times reduced the number of crimes that can be punished with the death penalty. The latest Penal Code in 2015, which took effect in January 2018, removed the death sentence from eight crimes. It also says that people under 18, pregnant women, women taking care of an offspring below 3 years old and people aged 75 or above will not be sentenced to death for their crimes, said Hang.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International released a report on death penalties in 2018, saying that global executions fell by nearly a third in 2018 to 690, the lowest levels in a decade.

Vietnam executed at least 85 people last year, according to the report.

"Slowly but steadily, global consensus is building towards ending the use of the death penalty," said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's Secretary General, as cited by AFP.

Vietnam has death punishment on its books for 15 crimes, including rape, murder, corruption, and offenses involving drugs and national security.

(source: vnexpress.net)

PHILIPPINES:

Tolentino seeks death penalty vs drug offenders

Administration senatorial bet Francis Tolentino has renewed his call for the revival of death penalty following the recent discovery of P257.4-million worth of cocaine bricks along the waters off Burgos town in Siargao Island.

Local fishermen recently found some 40 bricks of cocaine bricks floating the the shoreline of Municipality of Burgos in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte.

According to Tolentino, international drug syndicates and their traffickers are exploiting the country’s justice system since they knew that capital punishment has been scrapped by Congress almost 15 years ago.

Earlier, House committee on dangerous drugs chair and Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers expressed his worries that members of the international drug syndicates are using Siargao as a transshipment point of cocaine in the country.

Barbers explained that leaders of the drug rings might be using Siargao as a repacking point or pit stop for wholesale distribution.

He added that as a rising tourist spot in the country, Siargao Island is prone to be conquered by members of a large-scale drug ring amid influx of tourists.

For his part, Tolentino said he is worried due to several reported “high-value entry” of illegal drug shipment within the Philippine waters especially along the eastern sea board, adding that authorities especially the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) should increase their vigilance.

The former mayor of Tagaytay City earlier stressed that the re-imposition of death penalty in the country will have a “chilling effect” for those engaging in the illegal drug trade just like what the Marcos regime did when it executed convicted Chinese drug lord Lim Seng.

The military tribunal in 1973 has sentenced Lim Seng to suffer the death penalty by firing squad inside Fort Bonifacio.

According to Tolentino, the operations of various drug syndicates during the 1970’s were paralyzed following the execution of Lim.

(source: politics.com.ph)

MALAYSIA:

Cabinet decides to keep death penalty

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong confirmed that the cabinet had decided to retain death penalty, abolishing only mandatory death penalty.

He also said the motion to abolish death penalty would not be tabled in the current parliamentary sitting.

(source: mysinchew.com)

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

Watch out for those in jail for life if death penalty abolished

If abolishing the death penalty is approved, this would mean that the country would have to accept responsibility for prisoners, including foreigners, who are serving life sentences.

We must have a separate prison for those on life imprisonment.

They should not be housed with prisoners who are on shorter sentences.

As a security measure, prisons must also have a hospital wing to avoid having prisoners transferred to public hospitals.

Prisoners who are serving life sentences may be more aggressive and harder to discipline, thus, we can expect fights to break out.

If this is done right, we would not have to worry about whether it’s right or wrong.

We must ensure prisoners serving life sentences do not escape, because in some countries that have abolished the death penalty, long-term prisoners have escaped from prison with outside help.

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL (RTD) DATUK ABDULLAH SAMSUDIN

Ampang, Selangor

(source: Letter to the Editor, New Straits Times)

UNITED KINGDOM:

UK pledges it won't send Assange to country with death penalty: Ecuador

Britain has guaranteed to Ecuador that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not be extradited to a country that has the death penalty, Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said on Thursday after Assange was arrested in London.

“In line with our strong commitment to human rights and international law, I requested Great Britain to guarantee that Mr Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty,” Moreno said in a video posted on Twitter.

“The British government has confirmed it in writing, in accordance with its own rules.”

(source: Reuters)

SAUDI ARABIA----executions

Saudi Arabia executes Pakistani couple on drug-related charges

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry has announced that 2 Pakistani nationals, a husband-and-wife duo, were executed on Thursday after being found guilty by its courts of smuggling heroin into the Kingdom.

The country's ministry, in a press release, stated that Muhammad Mustafa and Fatima Ijaz were "arrested when they smuggled a quantity of heroin".

The case was referred to the court where an investigation led to the indictment of the accused, said the Saudi ministry, adding that the punishment was also supported by the court of appeals as well as the supreme court.

Therefore, the ministry said, a royal order to implement the death sentences were issued, and the duo were executed in Jeddah.

JPP condemns 'unprecedented' execution of Pakistani woman

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) condemned the development, especially the "unprecedented execution of 1st Pakistani woman in 5 years".

The human rights organisation said it was "outraged" at the executions, which it noted came "despite the fact that the 2 nations are currently negotiating a prisoner transfer agreement".

The JPP press release said that the capital punishments carried out on Thursday also included a third Pakistan named Abdul Maalik, who was not mentioned in the Saudi ministry's announcement.

"These executions are particularly worrying in the face of the announcement by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in February this year to release 2,107 Pakistanis imprisoned in the Kingdom," JPP noted, adding that "the promise has yet to be fulfilled as only 250 Pakistani prisoners have returned so far."

"There has been a sharp rise in executions of Pakistani nationals following the announcement," it added.

JPP further said that it is common for "low-paid labourers to be trapped by rogue Overseas Employment Promoters and forced to transport drugs on Saudi-bound flights".

"They are completely abandoned by their government once they are arrested," the press release adds.

"Saudi Arabia has executed more than 100 Pakistanis in the past 5 years," it said. "Despite being a close regional ally, the Kingdom executes more Pakistanis than any other foreign nationality, with 20 executions in 2014, 22 in 2015, seven in 2016, 17 in 2017, 30 in 2018 and 14 this year so far. More Pakistanis are imprisoned in Saudi Arabia than any other country in the world, with the total exceeding 3,300 Pakistanis."

The human rights NGO also identified the legal problems facing Pakistani nationals in the kingdom. "Pakistanis imprisoned in Saudi Arabia are at the mercy of local courts without access to lawyers, impartial translators, or consular assistance from the Pakistani diplomatic missions," it said.

"These destitute Pakistanis face the harshest punishments due to their lack of understanding of and assistance with the legal process, incapability to communicate directly with the court, and inability to produce evidence from Pakistan in their defense.

"In most instances, the families of death row prisoners are not notified prior to their execution, depriving family members and loved ones the chance of a final goodbye. The bodies of those executed are also not returned — which is a gross violation of all legal and moral protocols, and Islamic injunctions."

JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal urged the government to "utilise all diplomatic channels to compel the Saudi government to halt the executions of Pakistanis facing the harshest punishment".

(source: dawn.com)

IRAN----execution

Man Hanged at Gorgan Prison

A prisoner was executed at Iranian northern city of Gorgan for murder charges last Sunday.

According to HRANA website, prisoner Davoud Mohebzadeh, 36, was hanged on Sunday, April 7, at Gorgan prison. He was sentenced to death for murdering a person during a fight 3 years ago.

The aforementioned execution has not been reported by Iranian media so far.

According to the Iran Human Rights statistic department, the majority of executions in 2017 and 2018 in Iran was for murder charges. At least 188 prisoners were executed for murder charges in 2018. Only 33% of executions were announced by Iranian authorities in 2018.

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)

BRUNEI:

Brunei defends gay sex death penalty as more for 'prevention than to punish'

Brunei said new laws imposing the death penalty for gay sex and adultery were designed more for "prevention than to punish" in response to the United Nations' condemnation of the measures.

The United Nations said the Muslim-majority former British protectorate violated human rights on Apr 3 by implementing Islamic laws which punish sodomy, adultery and rape with the death penalty, including by stoning, and theft with amputation.

But Erywan Yusof, Brunei's second minister of foreign affairs, defended the new laws in a letter to the United Nations, saying the move was focused more on "prevention than punishment".

"Its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than to punish," Yusof wrote to the United Nations.

In the letter Yusof said the offences would not apply to non-Muslims in Brunei, which has has been at the centre of a media storm since it announced the rollout of more Sharia laws in March.

Brunei, a small Southeast Asian country of about 400,000 people, has consistently defended its right to implement the laws, elements of which were first adopted in 2014 and which have been rolled out in phases since then.

Its UN letter said the "criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims particularly women".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Apr 3, through a spokesman, said "human rights are to be upheld in relation to every person everywhere without any kind of discrimination".

"The legislation approved is in clear violation with the principles expressed," his spokesman said.

The UN has noted that the right to be free from discrimination was enshrined in article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said he had met with Yusof who assured him that prosecutions for gay sex were "unlikely" but this was not satisfactory. "(Yusof's) suggestion that Sharia prosecutions are in practice unlikely is not acceptable: everyone should be free to be who they are and love who they want," Hunt said on Twitter.

Celebrities, from actor George Clooney and singer Elton John, have galvanised support against the new laws, with protestors boycotting the Dorchester Collection range of hotels, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, across the world.

Over the past week, travel agents, London's transport network and finance houses were among a rising number of companies to cut ties with businesses owned by Brunei.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

APRIL 11, 2019:

TEXAS:

GOP Texas lawmaker reintroduces bill to allow death penalty for women who have abortions

A Republican state lawmaker in Texas has reintroduced a bill that would criminalize abortion without exception, making it possible for women to be convicted of homicide and sentenced to death for having the procedure.

Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R) was placed under state protection in 2017 when he first introduced the bill because of the death threats he received, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

His bill earned its 1st public hearing this week, and he argued that his intention is to guarantee “equal protection” for life inside and "outside the womb.”

He has previously said that his proposal would completely remove access to abortions and “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex.

“Right now, it’s real easy," Tinderholt told the Texas Observer in 2017. "Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child.”

The Post called Tinderholt’s bill a clear violation of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The bill would criminalize abortion and classify it as homicide, which would make it possible for a woman to receive the death penalty for having the procedure done. The legislation's language directs authorities to enforce its requirements “regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order, or court decision.”

“I think it’s important to remember that if a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, they get charged twice. If you murder a pregnant woman, you get charged twice. So I’m not specifically criminalizing women. What I’m doing is equalizing the law,” Tinderholt said during a hearing Tuesday, according to Fox4 News.

Hundreds of people attended the 2-day hearing before the Texas House’s Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence this week.

Committee members said that it was the 1st time in Texas history that public testimony was hearing on a measure to hold women criminally responsible for abortions.

There are 446 witnesses who registered their approval for the bill ahead of the hearing, the Post reported. The majority of supporters represented faith groups or local Republican parties.

54 people — including business leaders, women’s rights activists and legal experts — spoke against the bill.

(source: thehill.com)

NEW HAMPSHIRE:

With a Death Row of 1, New Hampshire Weighs Ending Capital Punishment

Soon after the man who killed his father with a shotgun blast to the chest was captured, Renny Cushing ran into a friend at the grocery store, who said that he hoped the culprit would be executed so that Mr. Cushing’s family could find some peace.

“I didn’t know how to respond,” recalled Mr. Cushing, who is now a New Hampshire state representative. “I knew he was trying to give me some comfort.”

Mr. Cushing, a Democrat, was then — and is today — a death penalty opponent. And in the 31 years since his father’s murder, he has become one of the nation’s leading opponents of capital punishment. But his efforts at repeal in his home state have always fallen short.

That may soon change: The New Hampshire State Senate is expected to vote on Thursday morning to repeal the death penalty, after a 279-88 vote for repeal in the State House last month.

Twice before — in 2000, and again last year — both chambers have voted for repeal, only to be blocked by a governor’s veto.

This time, backers of repeal are hopeful that 16 of New Hampshire’s 24 senators will vote their way. That would give the measure the 2/3 majority needed to override another anticipated veto by the governor, Chris Sununu, a Republican who is a capital punishment proponent.

If that were to happen, New Hampshire would become the last state in New England to get rid of the death penalty.

And it would continue a national trend toward fewer executions. 20 states have now abolished capital punishment, and bills to limit the application of the death penalty or to repeal it have been introduced in at least 18 states this year.

With the suspension of capital punishment announced last month in California, most people in the United States now live in places where the death penalty is either outlawed or subject to moratoria, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit.

In nine states, he added, repeal bills have significant Republican sponsorship or support. In New Hampshire, too, the debate has not fallen exclusively along party lines. (The House was controlled by Republicans during the 2000 vote for repeal, and it was a Democratic governor, Jeanne Shaheen, who vetoed that legislation.)

In recent years, some Republicans in the state have changed their stances on the issue and now favor abolishment; some have cited the $5 million it cost to prosecute and sentence the state’s only current death row inmate as part of their reasoning for the change. At the same time, some Democrats still back capital punishment.

State Senator John Reagan, a Republican who favors repeal, said he had long believed that the government’s primary role was to keep people safe, and that the death penalty was part of that.

His views changed, though, because “the more and more experience I had with government, I concluded that the general incompetency of government didn’t make them the right people to decide life and death.”

But it is Mr. Sununu who remains the principal opponent to abolishing the death penalty, and who, according to supporters of repeal, has continued to urge Republican colleagues to reject the legislation.

“Governor Sununu will always stand up for law enforcement and the families of crime victims,” said Benjamin Vihstadt, his spokesman, who said that representatives of the governor’s office had met with people on both sides of the issue. But Mr. Cushing said Mr. Sununu had avoided meeting with the relatives of victims who see the issue the same way Mr. Cushing does.

“The governor has positioned himself as saying he’s vetoing the repeal of the death penalty because he cares about law enforcement and victims, but he’s refused to meet with murder victims’ family members who oppose the death penalty,” Mr. Cushing said.

The debate over capital punishment has simmered in New Hampshire for decades, though the state hasn’t executed anyone in 80 years. The state’s only death row inmate — Michael Addison, 39, who was convicted of murdering a police officer — has no execution date. What’s more, the state does not actually have an execution chamber at this point. (State law authorizes lethal injection as the means of execution, with hanging as a backup option.)

Asked how the state would proceed with Mr. Addison’s execution if it ever came to that, a Corrections Department spokeswoman said: “We have worked with our legal counsel on draft policies and procedures that have not yet been finalized. If an execution order is enacted then we would finalize the policies and move forward.”

Yet Mr. Addison’s fate has taken on an outsize role in the legislative debate, serving as a rallying point for opponents of repeal, including state law enforcement associations.

The legislation is not retroactive, and would not affect Mr. Addison’s case. But opponents of repeal say passage of the legislation would nevertheless make it more likely that a judge would be inclined to reduce his sentence. Laura Briggs, the widow of the officer killed by Mr. Addison, told a legislative committee last month that she worried that a vote to repeal would almost inevitably lead to the commutation of Mr. Addison’s sentence.

“The person that killed my husband was smirking in court. He had no interest in feeling remorseful,” Ms. Briggs said. She added that her husband had also believed in capital punishment. “It’s about protecting our society from evil people that do evil things.”

The debate has evoked powerful emotions on both sides. State Representative David Welch, a Republican, said he changed his mind to favor repeal after his wife died two years ago, causing profound grief and prompting him to be baptized.

“The victim’s family goes through grief similar to what I went through,” Mr. Welch said in a recent speech. But “when that inmate is put to death, there’s another family going through the grief, and they’re innocent.”

(source: New York Times)

FLORIDA:

Escambia County woman remains in prison for beating, burning a teenager to death

An Escambia County woman who was convicted of beating and burning a teenager to death in 2012 is remaining in prison.

Tina Brown was convicted in June for killing 19-year-old Audreanna Zimmerman.

The court records revealed the jury recommended Brown for the death penalty.

Channel 3 News had a crew in the courtroom when the judge's decision was delivered at that time.

"The defendant, Tina Brown, is hereby sentenced to death in the matter subscribed by law for 1st-degree murder for Audreanna Zimmerman."

In 2017, Brown filed a motion for post-conviction relief saying her attorneys were "ineffective" and jurors were biased.

Last week, Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh reviewed Brown's arguments and found them insufficient.

Trial Judge Gary Bergosh issued a 100 plus page order in the case of Tina Brown, who was asking for a new trial based in ineffective council in her original trial.

The judge denied her motion and now that order is also now subject to appeal.

(source: WEAR TV news)

ALABAMA----stay of impending execution is denied

Man facing execution for pastor's sword-and-dagger slaying

A man convicted of the sword-and-dagger stabbing death of a pastor is set to become the 2nd person executed in Alabama this year, barring a last-minute stay.

46-year-old Christopher Lee Price is scheduled to receive a chemical injection Thursday evening, sentenced to death for the killing of pastor Bill Lynn. The 57-year-old victim was slain during a Dec. 22, 1991, robbery while preparing Christmas gifts at his home.

Prosecutors said Lynn was at his Fayette County home, getting toys ready for his grandchildren, when the power was cut. Lynn went outside to check the fuse box when he was killed, according to court filings.

Lynn’s wife, Bessie Lynn, testified she was in an upstairs bedroom watching television when she heard a noise. She said she looked out a window and saw a person dressed in black in a karate stance, holding a sword above her husband’s head. Lynn, a minister at Natural Springs Church of Christ, had returned home with his wife from a church service before the slaying.

Bessie Lynn said she went outside to help her husband, but two men ordered her back in the house and demanded money and any jewelry and weapons they had. After being arrested, Price initially told police it was an accomplice that killed Bill Lynn. An autopsy showed that Lynn had been cut or stabbed more than 30 times.

After Lynn’s conviction in the killing, a jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 10-2.

A second man, Kevin Coleman, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

In last-minute legal filings, attorneys for Price have sought to stay execution plans over Price’s request to be put to death by nitrogen hypoxia. His attorneys argued that the state was planning to execute Price with a drug combination that has been linked to problematic executions while agreeing to execute other inmates by use of nitrogen hypoxia.

Although Alabama last year authorized nitrogen as an execution method, it has not developed a procedure for using it or carried out any death penalty using the gas.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday declined to halt Thursday’s execution plan. The appellate judges said Price did not have an equal protection claim because all death row inmates had an opportunity to select nitrogen as their preferred execution method after the law was approved, but that Price missed the deadline for making a selection.

According to the state, some 48 of the more than 170 inmates on death row have elected to be put to death by nitrogen hypoxia. As states have had trouble obtaining lethal injection drugs, Alabama in 2018 authorized nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative for carry out death sentences. Proponents of the change argued nitrogen would be readily available and hypoxia would be a painless way to die.

If carried out, the execution would be Alabama’s 2nd this year.

In February, Alabama executed inmate Dominique Ray for the 1995 murder of a 15-year-old girl.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI:

It’s time to give capital punishment a death sentence

The state of Missouri should repeal the death penalty.

5 members of the Missouri Legislature agree with me and have introduced bills to either scale back executions or ban them outright.

State Sen. Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) is one of them. He introduced Senate Bill 32 for a full repeal of capital punishment. It’s the 5th straight year he’s sponsored such legislation.

Numerous Senate and House capital punishment bills have come and gone since 2012, which tells you misgivings about state-sponsored death linger in the minds of our Jefferson City lawmakers.

And well they should. The case against it has become compelling, resulting in movement on this issue nationally.

Last October, Washington became the 20th state to abolish the death penalty and the seventh in the last 15 years. In March, California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on capital punishment, a reprieve for the state’s 737 death row inmates. His move was mostly symbolic because legal challenges have held up executions in California since 2006, but it sent a message. “I think if someone kills, we don’t kill (them),” Newsom said. “We’re better than that.”

In fact, 10 other states with the death penalty haven’t executed anybody in more than a decade, including New Hampshire (last one was 1939), Kansas (1965), Wyoming (1992), Colorado and Oregon (1997), Pennsylvania (1999), Montana, Nevada and North Carolina (all 2006) and Kentucky (2008).

Nationwide, courts are issuing fewer death sentences, dropping from 295 in 1998 to 42 last year. Executions nationally peaked at 98 in 1999; last year there were 25.

Here in Missouri, the pace also has slowed dramatically. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized capital punishment in 1976, ruling it does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, our state has put 88 people to death, all by lethal injection.

We executed 16 people in 2014-2015, but only 2 since then. The last was Mark Anthony Christeson on Jan. 31, 2017.

We can debate whether the slowdown reflects general moral qualms or just legal and practical obstacles. I think it’s both. But in the meantime my thinking has changed 180 degrees on this issue.

For many years I walked that tightrope of moral contradiction, opposing legalized abortion while supporting the death penalty. My justification was brutally simple: Abortion takes innocent human life; capital punishment ends guilty human life.

If only we could be so sure of the latter.

The leading objection to the death penalty is the potential innocence of those convicted. More than 160 death row inmates have been released since 1973 after new evidence exonerated them. A major scientific study in 2014 concluded that nationwide, the probable innocence rate among those sentenced to death is 4.1 % – one of every 25 convictions.

“A surprising number of innocent people are sentenced to death,” said Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School, lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He noted that with an actual exoneration rate of about 1.6 %, “It tells you that a lot of them (innocent inmates) haven’t been exonerated. Some of them no doubt have been executed.”

Newsom finds that unacceptable: “I cannot sign off on executing hundreds and hundreds of human beings, knowing – knowing – that among them will be innocent human beings.”

The Supreme Court in Washington state unanimously struck down capital punishment for a different, but related, reason – the inequities in our systems of justice.

“The death penalty is unequally applied – sometimes by where the crime took place, the county of residence, the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant,” wrote chief justice Mary Fairhurst. “Our capital punishment law lacks fundamental fairness.”

Numerous studies have shown that death sentences slant disproportionately based on the races of the defendant and victim. Odds of conviction are highest for black defendants with white victims. Of the 310 people executed since 1976 for an interracial murder, 290 were blacks convicted of killing whites.

A key rationale for capital punishment is that it reduces crime. Here, statistics don’t help much. A major project of the National Research Council, reviewing 35 years of studies on the “deterrence effect” of the death penalty, concluded that all that research “is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases or has no effect on homicide rates.” The studies the NRC looked at, it said, “reached widely varying, even contradictory conclusions.”

It’s worth noting, however, that the region of the U.S. with the highest murder rate (6.4) per thousand population in 2017, the southern states, accounts for 80 % of executions since 1976.

Add to this 2 other reasons for abolition: cost and botched procedures.

Death rows are the most expensive real estate in America, with spending for trials, appeals and petitions typically running 2 or 3 times higher than for life sentences. Colorado law professor Michael Radelet, meanwhile, has compiled a detailed list of 51 botched executions in the U.S. since 1982. Try reading the whole list (just Google it) without getting sick.

And finally, in the court of public opinion, support for capital punishment is declining. A 1996 survey found 78 % in favor and only 18 % opposed. In 2015, that split was 56/38, according to the Pew Research Center. And clear majorities of the public are troubled by the risk of executing the innocent (71 %) and believe the death penalty doesn’t deter serious crime (61 %).

I fully supported the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001. I believed that if anybody deserved it, he did. The evidence for his conviction was overwhelming.

But as Gov. Newsom said, we are better than that.

Retribution cheapens justice. We should leave the ultimate punishment to God.

(source: Gordon Bess, myleaderpaper.com)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska death-row inmate's post-conviction motion sat idle for 2 years after judge retired

A Nebraska death row inmate's case raising constitutional claims has sat idle for more than 2 years, following a Scotts Bluff County judge's retirement.

In 2004, a jury there found Jeffrey Hessler guilty for raping and killing 15-year-old Heather Guerrero after he abducted her while she delivered newspapers, and he got a death sentence.

On Friday, a federal judge asked for an update on where Hessler's motion for post-conviction relief stood in state court, because his federal court case has been stayed since 2015 so that issues raised in it could be handled first.

U.S. District Judge David G. Kays' request led to a status hearing by phone Tuesday in Scottsbluff.

According to court records, the state's motion to dismiss Hessler's motion for post-conviction relief has been pending since District Judge Randall Lippstreu retired Feb. 28, 2017.

Both sides had submitted briefs prior to his retirement, but there was no decision.

District Judge Andrea Miller, who was appointed to succeed the retired judge in November 2017, wasn't made aware of the pending motion to dismiss. But, according to court records, she will make a decision on the briefs that previously were submitted.

In 2016, Hessler had asked to be taken off death row because a 3-judge panel and not a jury sentenced him to death for Guerrero's murder.

His motion cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier that year that struck down part of Florida’s system because jurors didn’t play a great enough role in determining whether defendants were sentenced to die.

In Florida, a jury had considered evidence before making a recommendation on whether the death penalty was appropriate, but the decision ultimately fell to a judge. In January 2016, the nation’s high court found that sentencing scheme violated the Sixth Amendment.

Nebraska has a similar method: A jury must determine whether certain aggravating circumstances alleged by the state existed to make the case eligible for the death penalty, then a 3-judge panel weighs mitigating factors before making a decision.

(source: Lincoln Journal Star)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Deadline set for death penalty decision in SD murder case

The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office must disclose by April 30 whether it intends to seek the death penalty if 2 Rapid City men are convicted of their alleged roles in a murder, a judge ruled Tuesday, April 9.

Andre Martinez and Cole Waters, both 19 years old, are each charged with aiding and abetting 1st-degree murder, commission of a felony with a firearm, aiding and abetting 1st-degree robbery, and conspiracy to commit 1st-degree murder.

They each pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday at the Pennington County Courthouse in Rapid City, the Rapid City Journal reported.

If found guilty of aiding and abetting 1st-degree murder, they could face the death penalty or life in prison.

At a previous court proceeding, a prosecutor said Martinez and Waters hatched a plan to rob another teenager. During the robbery on Feb. 26, Waters allegedly held a gun to the head of 17-year-old Emanuel Hinton, of Box Elder, and pulled the trigger.

(source: The Mitchell Republic)

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

Jurors Thought a Gay Man Would Enjoy Prison. So They Sentenced Him to Death----The Supreme Court may decide if LBGT discrimination is the same as racial discrimination.

When Charles Rhines, a gay man, was convicted of the murder of Donnivan Schaffer in January 1993, the jurors at his trial in South Dakota were tasked with deciding whether he would serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, or death. During deliberations, some jurors wondered if life in prison would be punishment at all, suggesting that years in a men’s prison might not be a hardship for a man who is gay. The jurors sentenced him to death.

Rhines’ lawyers have filed a petition to the US Supreme Court, asking the justices to review his case, especially since the high court has weighed in recently on racial discrimination in juries. But Rhines’ case presents a new question: Should juries be able to discriminate against the LGBT community? “Just as the Constitution does not permit a person to be sentenced to die because of his race, it should not permit a person to be sentenced to die because of his sexual orientation,” the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in an amicus brief supporting Rhines’ petition.

“Just as the Constitution does not permit a person to be sentenced to die because of his race, it should not permit a person to be sentenced to die because of his sexual orientation.”

In 1992, Rhines used a key to enter a donut shop that he’d previously been fired from in Rapid City, South Dakota, to steal cash. The robbery turned deadly when he was interrupted by Schaefer, a former coworker. Rhines stabbed Schaefer 3 times, killing him. At the 1993 trial, the jurors sent the judge a note. In it, they said that in order to consider what “life in prison without parole” really meant, they needed to know what life in prison would be like for a gay man like Rhines. They wondered if he would be able to “create a group of followers or admirers” or “brag about his crime to other inmates…or young men,” or if he’d have a cellmate and be allowed conjugal visits. “It’s just so clear in this case that the jury was considering gay bias in their deliberations,” says Shawn Nolan, one of Rhines’ attorneys. “And the court ought to correct it.”

The Supreme Court has a mixed record on cases involving discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2015, the court ruled in favor of same-sex couples who’d argued that marriage bans violate the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law. But in 2018, the court ruled that a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple for religious reasons did not discriminate against the couple.

The Supreme Court has dealt with racial bias in the death penalty before. In Buck v. Davis, a 2017 case, the court overruled a black inmate’s death sentence after it found that a Texas jury was told that black defendants are more dangerous than white ones. In Texas, jurors can only sentence a defendant to death if they can prove that he will be a danger to society.

A few weeks later, the court ruled in favor of Miguel Pena-Rodriguez, a Latino man, who was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct and harassment. He pleaded guilty, but 2 jurors later told his lawyers that another juror had made racist statements about his likely guilt. Most states have a no-impeachment rule, which means jurors cannot testify about what was said or occurred during deliberations. When the case reached the US Supreme Court, it ruled in the defendant’s favor and established that racial discrimination is the only exception to the no-impeachment rule. But in March 2019, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Keith Tharpe, a black man who had argued that a case against him was tainted by a white juror who wondered if black people even had souls.

(source: motherjones.com)

ARIZONA:

It just got a bit tougher to get the death penalty in Arizona

For a person to be sentenced to death, Arizona law requires proof of at least 1 aggravating circumstance and the determination that the sentence is the most appropriate punishment.

Wednesday, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law legislation that eliminates 3 of the possible aggravating circumstances, potentially limiting how many people will qualify for a death sentence.

But supporters of the bill have said prosecutors don't use those three factors very often anyway, and opponents say the new law doesn't go far enough toward restricting the use of the death penalty.

Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, introduced the legislation. The Senate passed the bill unanimously; a few Democrats in the House opposed it.

Arizona's last execution took 2 hours

Currently, there are 115 people on death row in Arizona. The most recent execution was Joseph Wood in 2014.

Wood killed his estranged girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father Eugene in Tucson in 1989. His botched execution took nearly 2 hours and required 14 more doses of death drugs than called for in the department’s protocol.

Arizona is among 30 states that still have a death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which provides information on capital punishment.

Democratic lawmakers have in the past introduced bills in Arizona to eliminate it, but Republican legislative leaders never put them up for a vote.

New law may have limited impact

Under the new law, the Arizona death penalty statute will decrease from 14 aggravated circumstances to 11.

The law will eliminate:

The defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the person murdered.

The offense was committed in a cold, calculated manner without pretense of moral or legal justification.

The defendant used a “remote stun gun” during the crime.

In February, Rebecca Baker, a legislative liaison for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the bill. She said the office had discussions about which factors it used the most when prosecuting cases and how the statute could be more sustainable for the future.

According to Baker, the three circumstances have proven to historically not be the most persuasive factors when prosecuting death penalty cases.

Phoenix lawyer Susan Corey spoke at the House Judiciary Committee meeting about her concerns with the bill. In 2017, Corey asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review Arizona’s death-penalty statute.

“Aggravating factors are designed to identify those most deserving of the death penalty,” she said.

She said the legal defense community believes the bill is a step in the right direction toward restricting the death penalty sentence. But she said changes still need to be made to the state statute overall.

(source: The Arizona Republic)

NEVADA:

Push to ban death penalty expected to fail in Nevada

One Nevada lawmaker who backed a bill (AB149) to end capital punishment said Wednesday that the measure is not expected to cross the finish line this legislative session.

Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo said the bill is likely to die in committee because it will not receive a hearing within the next two days, failing to meet a legislative deadline.

Fumo, a Las Vegas defense attorney who has represented death row inmates, said he is baffled the committee did not consider the legislation. The Democrat said he thought the measure had a good chance of moving forward due to strong Democratic majorities in each chamber.

Legislators who supported ending capital punishment cited costly appeals.

"We spend millions of dollars defending these people and the state pays for it," Fumo said, arguing that some Republicans as well see banning the death penalty as fiscally responsible.

State Sen. James Ohrenschall sponsored a similar bill in the Senate, but he expressed doubt on Wednesday that the measure would receive a hearing in the next two days and continue on in the legislative process. The state has not carried out an execution since 2006.

Ohrenshall said that fact has taken some of the urgency out of moving forward with a ban on capital punishment in Nevada.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada both expressed disappointment that the push to ban capital punishment did not go further this session.

Holly Welborn, policy director for the ACLU of Nevada, said there are issues of racial disparities in the way a person receives a sentence for capital punishment.

"Governmental sanctioned death is one of the biggest intrusions on liberty that a person could experience," she said. "And death at the hands of the state is something that we have argued as being contrary to the Eight Amendment -- prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Golden State Killer: California prosecutors to seek death penalty

Prosecutors in California will seek the death penalty if they convict the man suspected of being the notorious “Golden State Killer”.

The move comes less than a month after the California governor, Gavin Newsom, announced a moratorium on executing any of the 737 inmates on the nation’s largest death row. But Newsom’s reprieve lasts only so long as he is governor and does not prevent prosecutors from seeking nor judges and juries from imposing death sentences.

Prosecutors from four counties in the state briefly announced their decision one after another on Wednesday during a short court hearing for Joseph DeAngelo, jailed as the suspected “Golden State Killer”.

DeAngelo was arrested a year ago based on DNA evidence linking him to at least 13 murders and more than 50 rapes across California in the 1970s and 80s.

He stood expressionless in an orange jail uniform, staring forward from a courtroom cage, as prosecutors from Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Orange and Ventura spoke.

Although prosecutors from six counties were in court for the four-minute hearing, charges in those four counties include the special circumstances that could merit execution under California law.

DeAngelo’s attorney, the public defender Diane Howard, did not comment. DeAngelo, 73, has yet to enter a plea and his trial is probably years away.

Prosecutors wouldn’t comment after the hearing, but the Orange county district attorney, Todd Spitzer, said several prosecutors and family members of murder victims planned a Thursday news conference to denounce Newsom’s moratorium.

An announcement from Spitzer’s office said victims’ families “will share their stories of losing their loved ones and how the governor’s moratorium has devastated their pursuit of justice”.

“These are horrific crimes,” Newsom said in a statement. “Our sympathies are with the victims and families who have suffered at the hands of the Golden State Killer. The district attorneys can pursue this action as is their right under the law.”

California has not executed anyone since 2006, but Newsom said he acted last month because 25 inmates have exhausted their appeals and court challenges to the state’s new lethal injection process are potentially nearing their end. He endorsed a repeal of capital punishment but said he could not in good conscience allow executions to resume in the meantime knowing that some innocent inmates could die.

He also said he is exploring ways to commute death sentences, which would permanently end the chance of executions, though he cannot act without permission from the state supreme court in many cases.

Voters narrowly supported capital punishment in 2012 and 2016, when they voted to speed up executions by shortening appeals.

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation legal director, Kent Scheidegger, said prosecutors’ decision made sense despite Newsom’s moratorium.

“It’s a perfect example of a killer for whom anything less would not be justice,” said Scheidegger, who is fighting in court to resume executions. “I think it’s entirely appropriate for DAs to continue seeking the death penalty in appropriate cases, because the actual execution will be well down the road and the governor’s reprieve won’t be in effect by then. Something else will have happened.”

(source: The Guardian)

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

Attorneys to seek death penalty if East Area Rapist suspect convicted

The man accused of being the East Area Rapist and the Golden State Killer appeared in court Wednesday.

Joseph DeAngelo, 73, is charged with 13 counts of murder, with many additional special circumstances, as well as 13 counts of kidnapping for robbery in 6 counties, officials said.

Prosecutors from 5 California counties appeared in court and said that if DeAngelo is convicted, they will seek the death penalty.

The crimes happened in Sacramento, Contra Costa, Orange, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties between 1975 and 1986, investigators said.

DeAngelo's charges were announced in Orange County last August. District attorneys from several California counties, including Sacramento County, announced last year that the case will be tried in Sacramento.

"On behalf of at least some of the victims of the Golden State Killer, we are thrilled with the decision to seek the death penalty," said Ron Harrington, whose brother and sister-in-law were victims of the Golden State Killer. Newlyweds Keith and Patty Harrington were killed in 1980.

(source: KCRA news)

PHILIPPINES:

Admin candidates seek to reimpose the death penalty to curb drug smuggling

With the recent seizure of nearly P800 million worth high grade cocaine off the coast of Siargao and Dinagat Islands, Hugpong ng Pagbabago candidates are convinced that the bill reimposing the death penalty should be ratified by the 18th Congress.

Former presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino and Maguindanao Rep. Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu have expressed support for death penalty measure that has been approved in the House of Representatives but remained pending in the Senate.

On the other hand, former Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” De la Rosa noted that his disclosure in campaign sortie to pursue the enactment of a measure for the execution of drug traffickers is among his legislative plans that have been drawing huge public approval.

Asked to react on the recovery of large narcotics shipment in Siargao and Dinagat, Tolentino said the “high value entries of illegal drugs” should prompt the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine Coast Guard to step up operations and be more vigilant.

Tolentino called for the execution not only of drug traffickers but also of the source of narcotics and those involved in facilitating drug smuggling into the country.

However, the former presidential adviser said the imposition of the death sentence should be dependent on the frequency of the commission of the offense.

Reacting to the large-scale drug smuggling operations, Mangudadatu said the non-imposition of the death sentence in the Philippines has given narcotics sources the boldness to operate here.

“No death penalty, no problem. That’s how drug traffickers see the situation here,” the Muslim lawmaker said.

Earlier, Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers aired fears that the world-famous tourist attraction has become a transshipment venue for illegal drugs of international cartels based in Latin America.

Barbers, chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, warned public officials and law enforcers against dipping their fingers in illegal drug trade even as he urged authorities to impose stricter measures that would put an end to drug smuggling and illicit narcotics trade in Siargao and other tourism areas in the country.

He said there is a strong possibility that narcotics smugglers have local contacts in Siargao who repackage the drugs.

“Maybe residents of Siargao, I believe are their contacts. These contacts may be engaged in repacking, or in the wholesale distribution of the dope,” he said.

The senior administration solon pointed out that smugglers have no local contacts who are knowledgeable of the island’s security.

Last week, 40 bricks of cocaine were discovered by local residents floating in the sea off Burgos town in Siargao island.

On February 14 and 15, a total of 70 abandoned cocaine bricks worth nearly half a billion pesos were seized by the police in Siargao and Dinagat.

All cocaine bricks bore “3B Bugatti” markings, indicating that they belonged to the same group of drug smugglers.

Barbers did not discount the possibility that the foreigners and even locals in Siargao provide a ready market for the recovered cocaine.

However, he noted that such large amount of drugs may also be seen as an indication that Siargao is being used as a transshipment venue for narcotics that are being distributed to other parts of Asia.

(source: Manila Bulletin)

INDONESIA:

15 foreigners among 48 handed death penalty in Indonesia last year: Amnesty

Indonesia sentenced to death 48 people last year, including 15 foreigners convicted of drug crimes, according to the latest global report on capital punishment by human rights organization Amnesty International.

In its annual report released on Wednesday, Amnesty explained that of the 48 death sentences, 39 were in drug-related cases, 8 were for murder and 1 for terrorism.

In 2017, 10 foreigners were among 47 individuals sentenced to death.

At least 308 convicts were on death row by the end of last year, awaiting their execution without a clear date.

Despite its stance on capital punishment, Indonesia has positioned itself as a human rights pioneer in Southeast Asia. But in 2018, the country observed a moratorium on executions for the second year in a row after the government under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo executed 18 inmates convicted of drug-related offenses, including foreigners, in 3 batches between 2015 and 2016.

Nonetheless, Amnesty’s records show that Indonesia has not taken any steps toward abolishing the death penalty, much to the frustration of activists who point out that Indonesia is an initiator of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). The country is currently also seeking a fifth term on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“As a pioneer of human rights in Southeast Asia, Indonesia actually has a wider chance to progress from the moratorium [to abolition],” said Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid. “It is ironic that Indonesia has yet to take any formal steps to abolish the death penalty when the global trends show positive progress. Neighboring Malaysia has even announced an initiative to reform the punishment.”

Amnesty’s report shows a global decrease in executions from 2017 to 2018, down by 31 percent, from 993 to 690 executions – the lowest number in the past decade. The number of death sentences globally also slightly dropped from 2,591 in 2017 to 2,531 in 2018.

Known proponents of capital punishment have even started to abandon it last year. For instance, Gambia declared a moratorium on executions, while Burkina Faso abolished capital punishment for general crimes and Malaysia announced a death penalty reform after previously decided to halt executions.

Usman said that eliminating the death penalty could level up Indonesia's diplomatic efforts to save roughly 188 Indonesian citizens on death row abroad.

“Well, how can Indonesia convince other countries to save its citizens from capital punishment if Indonesia maintains a legal basis to practice inhumane punishments at home?"

Usman urged the House of Representatives to push the government into scrapping the death sentence in the Criminal Code (KUHP).

Lawmaker Charles Honoris of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), who attended the report's launch, said that capital punishment was ineffective in curbing crimes, particularly drug offenses, given that the number of drug-related cases continued to increase in the past few years.

However, he shifted the responsibility to the government and the President, saying that the House was divided over the issue, with few lawmakers daring to openly voice their support for abolishing capital punishment. Therefore, the political will of the President was “key to starting the process of repealing the death penalty”.

The government softened its stance in the past few years by recategorizing the death penalty in the Criminal Code revision bill as an "alternative punishment" that could be commuted to life imprisonment if the convict showed good behavior. However, the draft’s deliberation has progressed at a snail's pace.

(source: The Jakarta Post)

IRAQ:

Iraq arrests ISIS member accused in infamous Speicher massacre

Iraqi security forces on Wednesday announced they had arrested an Islamic State member who they allege had participated in a grizzly 2014 mass killing known as the Speicher massacre.

After occupying much of northern and western of Iraq, the terrorist organization shocked the nation on June 12, 2014, by killing over 1,500 cadets and other personnel at a military academy known as Camp Speicher located in the province of Salahuddin.

In video footage released online by the group, gunmen were seen executing captives with a single, close-range shot to the head before dumping their bodies into the Tigris River or into shallow graves.

2 years later, the government of Iraq announced they had discovered the bodies of more than 1,000 victims after uncovering mass graves in Tikrit.

At least 50 suspects have been convicted of participating in the mass murder and Iraqi courts have handed them death sentences. Iraqi authorities carried out the execution of 36 in a single day in August 2016.

2 additional suspects were arrested in Finland in late 2015, identified from videos released by the Islamic State.

An Iraqi security team “was able to arrest one of the perpetrators of the terrorist act at the Speicher military camp by Da’esh [ISIS] gunmen,“ a statement from the Iraqi Defense Ministry read. According to the statement, forces had captured the suspect in an ambush in the city of Fallujah near a local traffic directorate.

(source: kurdistan24.net)

BRUNEI:

Brunei’s Royal Barbarity and Hypocrisy----The oil-rich sultanate imposes harsh Shariah law on its subjects, while members of the royal family enjoy lives of conspicuous luxury.

An intriguing aspect of Brunei’s barbarous Shariah laws is that if they were to be really enforced, a few of the sultan’s ridiculously wealthy, jet-setting kin would be leading candidates for death by stoning. Adultery is one of the crimes for which the archaic penalty is prescribed under the stern laws that went into effect on April 3 — along with sex between men, abortion and rape — and tabloids around the world have accumulated plenty of evidence against some Bruneian royals.

Such royal hypocrisy may seem to be the norm among autocratic rulers sitting atop oceans of oil who place no limits on their own dissolute lifestyles and yet impose cruel Islamic law on their subjects. And tiny Brunei, a country roughly the size of Delaware that shares the island of Borneo with Malaysia and Indonesia, might not seem worth getting worked up about.

Yet it is, for several reasons. First is that “this is the way we do it” is no longer a viable excuse for cruelty and barbarism anywhere. The world has gone way past times when witches were burned, homosexuals castrated or adulterers branded, and Brunei has signed (but not yet ratified) the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Brunei’s cruel, inhuman and degrading penalties are not a relic of history, like the sodomy laws that stayed on the books of American states well into the 20th century, but the whim of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, who has ruled the Lilliputian nation since 1967 and ranks among the most ludicrously wealthy people on earth. He has long pushed his predominantly Muslim nation toward a conservative and restrictive form of Islam, and he first announced the new penalties — which, in addition to death by stoning for gay male sex, include amputation for theft and 40 lashes for lesbian sex — 6 years ago.

An international outcry at that time prompted him to delay the laws. A similar outcry has accompanied their latest introduction: The United States, the European Union, Australia and others, as well as the United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, have all denounced the penalties, and celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John, Billie Jean King and Ellen DeGeneres called for a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei, which include the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, the Dorchester in London and the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris.

Besides the barbarity of the penalties, there is the danger that the law could nudge neighboring Islamic giants Malaysia and Indonesia toward tightening their own national or regional versions of Shariah laws targeting homosexuals. Conservative Muslim politicians in both countries were quick to voice their support for Brunei’s law. Beyond that, there is the fact that Sultan Hassanal enjoys his absolute dominion and his obscene treasure, including a gold-plated Rolls-Royce and a 1,788-room palace, because the world outside buys his oil. That gives his clients — including Britain, Brunei’s former colonial master — a measure of responsibility and leverage.

That celebrities are taking action is good, but governments and multinationals that do business with the wealthy sultanate have an obligation to look for ways to persuade Sultan Hassanal and other beneficiaries of Brunei’s oil riches that they best quickly bring their laws into compliance with their human rights obligations and abandon vicious punishments for blameless behavior.

(source: Editorial Board, New York Times)

AFRICA:

5 African countries applied death penalty in 2018 – Amnesty report

5 African countries applied the death penalty in 2018, a report by international rights group Amnesty International revealed on Wednesday. Of the quintet, 4 were in sub-Saharan Africa and 1 in north Africa region.

Egypt was the only country up the Sahara to apply the measure. They are classed in the Middle East and North Africa, MENA, region; according to the report.

In Sub-Saharan Africa: Botswana, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan used the measure. Somalia being the main user due to the incidence of terrorism related crimes by military courts against Al-Shabaab insurgents.

As numbers dropped in Somalia, they were on their way up in South Sudan, the report said. Most of these sentences were related to violent crimes amid a country embroiled in a security crisis.

Most African countries still have the death sentence on the law books and judges continue to pass such judgments. They are however not enforced with convicts usually having their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

Sub-Saharan Africa

4 countries – Botswana, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan – carried out executions in 2018.

A drop in recorded executions in Somalia drove an overall decrease in the region, from 28 in 2017 to 24 in 2018, despite an alarming increase in executions in South Sudan.

Recorded death sentences reduced from at least 878 in 2017 to at least 212 in 2018. The number of countries that imposed death sentences increased to 17 from 15 recorded in 2017.

Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes only, and Gambia established a moratorium on executions and ratified an international treaty committing it to abolishing the death penalty.

Middle East and North Africa

The number of executions recorded by Amnesty International in the Middle East and North Africa region dropped by 41%, from 847 in 2017 to 501 in 2018, the lowest number of executions recorded in the region.

5 countries – Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – were known to have carried out executions, a 50% drop in executing countries.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq remained the top executing countries in the region, carrying out at least 454 recorded executions between them, 91% of the total number in the whole of the region.

There were 1,170 recorded death sentences in 2018, marking an 89% increase compared to 2017, when 619 death sentences were recorded. Egypt imposed the highest number of confirmed death sentences in the region with at least 717 people sentenced to death compared to at least 402 in 2017.

(source: africanews.com)

KENYA:

Couple jailed for killing their baby

A man and his wife were on Tuesday sentenced to serve 15 years imprisonment each by a Narok High Court for killing their 1 1/2-year- old baby.

Emmanuel Kiprotich Sigei, 25 and Irene Nalomuta Sigei, 23 had bought a chemical used to spray livestock from an agrovet shop and given it to the baby apparently because she was sickly, unlike their 1st child.

They had appeared before Narok Resident Judge, Justice Justus Bwonwong`a charged with the murder of baby Brenda Chepkorir at Nasitori area in Narok South Sub County on February 6, 2014.

The court had heard that on the fateful day, Kiprotich went to an agrovet shop nearby and bought the said poison.

After they administered the poison to the baby, his wife Irene took the minor to her parents in law who were living nearby pretending that she was going to fetch water but it was part of the larger scheme to escape. The baby died minutes later in her grandfather's hands.

The judge said the prosecution had proved their case beyond reasonable doubts. “The evidence produced in this court clearly shows the accused actually gave their baby poison and left her to die in the hands of their parents as they escaped,” Justice Bwonwong`a said.

He said the prosecution had even produced the trader of the agrovet who testified how Kiprotich bought the poison from him and the container which had the poison he bought was found in their house.

Postmortem examination on the body of the baby also confirmed that she had died from the poison she had consumed.

According to the law, the accused persons were supposed to be sentenced to a mandatory death sentence for the offense of murder but in meting out a 15-year sentence, the judge said he considered various issues such as the mitigation where the convicts pleaded for leniency, saying they were the sole breadwinner for the remaining child.

The Supreme Court had in December 2017 also ruled that death sentence was against the Constitution which guarantees the right to life.

The highest court in the land then directed that any court dealing with capital offenses should be allowed to use judicial discretion when delivering judgments.

This followed an appeal by Francis Karioko Murwatetu and another who had appealed and questioned the constitutionality of death sentence. The Supreme Court in its ruling on this matter then said the mandatory death sentence is unconstitutional.

The apex court judges further directed the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecution and other agencies to prepare a detailed professional review of cases regarding sentencing. They also ordered that the law be placed before the National Assembly speaker for necessary amendments to the law.

In Kenyan laws, there are only 3 offenses that carry the death penalty and are referred to as capital offenses. They include; robbery with violence, murder and treason or sedition.

There is currently a clamour to abolish death sentence in the country. Some civil societies have been lobbying to have this penalty abolished, saying it is inhuman and violated right to life.

(source: kenyanews.go.ke)

APRIL 10, 2019:

TEXAS:

Texas lawmakers consider the death penalty for abortion

State legislators stayed up well into the morning hearing emotional testimony about a proposed abortion ban.

House Bill 896 would criminalize abortion and classify it as a homicide. Women who have abortions could be sentenced to the death penalty.

How essentially one is okay with subjecting a woman to the death penalty for the exact… to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging that she is doing to a child,” said State Rep. Victoria Neave, a Democrat from Dallas.

“I think it’s important to remember that if a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, they get charged twice. If you murder a pregnant woman, you get charged twice. So I’m not specifically criminalizing women. What I’m doing is equalizing the law,” said State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican from Arlington.

The hearing in the House Judiciary Committee wrapped up at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

The bill now goes before the full Texas House for debate.

Under laws introduced in 2013, abortions after 20 weeks are prohibited in Texas. All women seeking an abortion are required to have 2 appointments – 1 for an ultrasound and 1 for the procedure.

It’s not the first time proposed laws in Texas have made international headlines.

In 2017, one bill stated that men in Texas would only be allowed to masturbate under supervision, inside approved health care facilities.

The ‘Man’s Right to Know Act’ proposed men be charged US$100 for each “emission” that occurred “outside a woman’s vagina”.

The action would be considered “an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life”.

The legislator, Jessica Farrar, introduced the bill knowing it would never get passed, but wanted to satirise how women have been affected by some forms of legislation, especially those related to abortion.

(source: Yahoo News)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Democrats in North Carolina want to repeal the death penalty

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, since 1910 when the state assumed responsibility for executing criminals, the number of people sent to death row total more than 1000. Male death row inmates are sent to Central Prison. Women death row inmates go to the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women.

There are 141 offenders currently sentenced to death in North Carolina, but there hasn’t been an execution since 2006. But if certain Democrats have their way with legislation they filed this week, the Death Penalty in the Tar Heel state will be repealed.

The legislation, HB 587 – Repeal Death Penalty is championed by Representatives Graig R. Meyer (D-Caswell), MaryAnn Black (D-Durham), and Zack Hawkins (D-Durham).

The proposal begins with many of the same old tired arguments for ending capital punishment in resolution form with various “Whereas.” Every one of them is specious.

Let me try to speak to each one with brief comments.

Whereas, 9 people in North Carolina were sentenced to death row have been found innocent of the crime for which they were sentenced.

How is this reason for ending the death penalty? Death row inmates receive super due process of law that can account for an average of 12 years of appeals. It’s obvious the current legal process which allows more than ample time to cover every possibility of innocence is working. There exists no solid evidence of even one innocent nation-wide being executed for more than a century. And with modern forensic science today, some would rightly argue the chances of executing an innocent have become exceedingly slim to none.

Whereas, the death penalty continues to be disproportionally imposed on members of minority groups, persons of low income, and persons with mental and intellectual abilities.

I think John McAdams, a professor of political science at Marquette University, effectively speaks to this. He contends:

“Nobody would even think of trying to apply this principle in a consistent way. If we find that black neighborhoods get less police protection than white neighborhoods, would we withdraw cops from black and white neighborhoods? If banks are discriminating against black homebuyers in mortgage lending, would we demand they stop all mortgage lending? If we find the IRS discriminating against middle-class and poor taxpayers, would we want to abolish the IRS?...[w]hat we have, in the way of statistical evidence, fails to support the politically correct fantasy of massive discrimination. Is the death penalty administered with perfect fairness? No. Is it administered as fairly as other criminal sanctions? Yes.”

Whereas, studies have shown that the death penalty does not deter crime.

Well, it’s obvious that it deters the executed criminal.

Furthermore, I would suggest it’s not the law that deters; it’s the enforcement of it. If North Carolina’s death penalty or the death penalty in other states doesn’t deter, it’s because it isn’t being enforced as it should.

Without the death penalty, we are risking the sacrifice of more innocent lives. With it, we are risking saving more innocent lives. Which is the better risk?

Isn’t the answer clear?

Whereas, North Carolina spends almost 11 million dollars ($11,000,000) annually on costs related to the death penalty, even though the last person executed in North Carolina was in 2006.

I contacted my friend, Dudley Sharp, one of the nation’s premier death penalty advocates in the country about this argument. Sharp told me that it’s clever for the sponsors of the bill not to compare the $11 million to a life sentence. He says that there is no reason to accept the $11 million as accurate. He says the estimate was first mentioned in 2004 by Philip Cook, at Duke University. It’s supposed to be the state government expenditures for processing murder cases, but it is purely hypothetical. Sharp said: “It doesn’t make any difference what the death penalty costs if you don’t look at the total “life without parole” (LWOP) costs.

“For example, the $11 million is about $0.09 a month per North Carolina citizen, likely the smallest component in North Carolina taxes. Are North Carolinians complaining about spending 9 cents per month?” says Sharp.

In other words, if LWOP costs essentially the same, what does it matter if the death penalty costs $11 million? That’s not a sufficient reason for the state not to require justice consistent with the crime. The crime of murder should require the forfeiting of the murder’s life.

As William H. Baker in his book, Capital Punishment, says, “Capital punishment as a form of retribution is a dictate of the moral nature, which demands that there should be a just portion between the offense and the penalty.” For the criminal to receive a life sentence, when his victim is dead, does not level the scales of justice.

Whereas Justice William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court found that the death penalty was inherently unconstitutional as a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Sharp reminded me that there were 114 justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. “2 of them,” he said, “Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, found that the death penalty was inherently unconstitutional. To say their opinion is in the minority is a woeful understatement.”

Whereas elected prosecutors make decisions about whom to seek the death penalty against, so this is tied into a political bias.

It is juries that assess whether an individual is worthy of death. A prosecutor only applies the law as it meets the law. So it could also be said that if the prosecutor decides not to seek the death penalty, when the level of the crime meets the law’s requirement of capital punishment, then the prosecutor by his own bias, political or otherwise, becomes the sole arbitrator, overruling the public’s will as stated in the law. So, you see, this cuts both ways.

HB 587 would repeal the death penalty in North Carolina for the sorriest of reasons.

Capital punishment is moral, a responsibility that God gave solely to the state in Genesis 9:6, saying, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” This command of God, which is to be a model law for every nation in every era, God has never repealed. It forbids personal vengeance, but serves to rightly secure justice for victims, restoring a disturbed equilibrium in the universe, while also protecting the lives of the innocent.

If this bill is considered and taken up for a vote by the North Carolina General Assembly, I sincerely pray lawmakers will sentence it to death.

(source: Rev. Mark H. Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina Inc.----Christian Post)

FLORIDA----new death sentence

Jury recommends death penalty for Michael Bargo----He will be sentenced at a later date for the Marion County murder of Seath Jackson.

A jury on Tuesday unanimously recommended Michael Shane Bargo be put to death for the murder of Seath Jackson.

At 5:05 p.m., nearly 5 hours after they began their deliberation, the 7 women and 5 men let bailiffs know they had reached a decision.

After instructing those inside the courtroom — family members of both Bargo and Seath — to be respectful of the jury’s decision, Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti called for the jurors at 5:15 p.m. 3 minutes later, the recommendation was read aloud. Bargo’s head was bowed.

At 5:24 p.m., when the clerk finished reading, Bargo, wearing a dress shirt and pants, wanted the judge to skip what’s called a Spencer hearing, which is when lawyers for the defense and prosecution argue their positions on sentencing. Bargo said there was no point in continuing this, and he wanted his statement to be placed on the record.

(source: ocala.com)

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Pensacola woman Tina Brown to remain on death row for brutal 2010 murder

A Pensacola woman on death row for the fatal assault, kidnapping and burning of her neighbor had her most recent appeal denied last week.

Tina Lasonya Brown, 48, was one of three people who in 2010 ambushed 19-year-old Audreanna Zimmerman, attacked her repeatedly with a stun gun, gagged her, stuffed her in the trunk of a car, drove her into the woods, beat her with a crowbar, doused her with gasoline, set her on fire and left her to die.

In 2017, Brown filed a motion for post-conviction relief that raised numerous arguments for vacating her conviction and sentence. Among them were claims that her attorneys were ineffective, that multiple jurors should have been dismissed from the trial because of their biases and that "new evidence" implicated one of her co-defendants was more culpable in the murder than jurors were led to believe.

In a 110-page order filed Friday, Circuit Judge Gary L. Bergosh reviewed all of Brown's arguments and found them insufficient. In most instances, the accusations failed to provide supporting evidence or demonstrate how they had impacted the outcome of the trial.

Brown was the only one of the three co-defendants who received the death penalty in the case. Brown's daughter Britnee Miller, who was 16 when she participated in the vicious attack, was sentenced to life in prison for her role in the murder.

Heather Lee, a friend and neighbor of Brown and Miller, was the 3rd accomplice in the killing, and she was sentenced to 25 years in prison after making a plea agreement with the state.

Much of Brown's appeal was dedicated to a claim that Lee had actually been the party most responsible for Zimmerman's killing.

The appeal claimed Lee wanted revenge against Zimmerman because she had an affair with Lee's husband. It said all the weapons used in the attack — the stun gun, crowbar and gas can — came from Lee's house, and that Lee later admitted to associates she had been the one to set Zimmerman on fire.

Brown's appeal said multiple witnesses could have testified to these facts, but Bergosh noted that none of that testimony would have affected the case against Brown. He said there was evidence Brown had been the one to use the stun gun against Zimmerman, to kidnap her and to beat her with the crowbar.

"The evidence is simply too strong against (Brown) that she played a substantial role in the victim's murder," the judge wrote. "... Regardless of whether (Brown) actually poured the gasoline and lit the victim on fire, the evidence at trial shows (Brown) was not being dominated or under extreme duress when she launched the fatal attack against the victim."

Brown was sentenced to death because of the brutality of Zimmerman's murder, and she is currently 1 of only 3 Florida women on death row.

Last week, Miller also had an appeal of her life sentence denied.

(source: Pensacola News Journal)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama set to execute man convicted of killing Fayette County preacher----Christopher Lee Price is scheduled to be executed on April 11. Price was convicted of stabbing a Fayette County preacher to death in 1991.

Alabama plans to execute prisoner Christopher Lee Price on Thursday in its 2nd execution of 2019.

Price is seeking a last-minute stay after years fighting Alabama's lethal injection protocol in state courts. In an appeal filed this week, Price's attorneys argued the state's execution method could cause the prisoner severe pain, violating the Eighth Amendment.

The appeal also argues the state in 2018 established an "arbitrary" 30-day election period in which inmates could choose to die by a different method.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation into law last year allowing condemned inmates to choose death by nitrogen gas. But the method of execution, which proponents in Alabama argued was a more humane way to kill human beings, is effectively a hypothetical method at this time. Alabama is now one of three states to legally allow death by nitrogen, but zero executions in the country have used the method and it's unclear how it could be implemented. Methods ranging from a gas chamber to a gas mask have been floated.

Last year, state officials said any Alabama prisoner sentenced to death before June 1, 2018, would have a 30-day period to choose nitrogen hypoxia over lethal injection.

Price's motion alleges the state has made "secret" agreements with other death row inmates on executions methods. In court filings, Alabama prosecutors deny the allegation and say Price, along with every other death row inmate at Holman prison, were given forms to choose nitrogen hypoxia in June 2018.

Price's attorney has not yet returned request for comment.

Price was convicted of the brutal slaying of Bill Lynn, a Fayette County preacher, during the course of a 1991 home robbery. Price was 19 at the time of the murder.

Lynn and his wife, Bessie, were at their Bazemore home three days before Christmas when the house's power went out. When Bill Lynn went outside to check the powerbox, he was attacked, according to court documents. Bessie Lynn later testified that two assailants then beat her before stealing jewelry and money from their home.

Bill Lynn, who prosecutors say was cut or stabbed 38 times with a sword and dagger, died at a hospital approximately 45 minutes after the attack.

A Fayette County jury in 1993 sentenced Price to death by a vote of 10-2. Price later tried to contest his sentence, alleging his original trial attorney was unprepared and failed to offer evidence that the then-teenager was psychologically traumatized following years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his mother's boyfriends. But the Supreme Court declined to review his case in 2013, according to an Atlantic report.

Price's execution is the 2nd set by the state this year. Alabama in February executed Domineque Ray after an 11th-hour U.S. Supreme Court ruling vacated a stay of execution pending a religious rights claim. The court ruled by a narrow majority Ray had waited too late to bring the issue to light.

Ray, a Muslim, had argued Alabama's practice of including a Christian prison chaplain in the execution chamber was in violation of the First Amendment. Ray sought to have his imam present in the death chamber at the time of his death, but the state said it would only allow trained prison employees in the chamber.

The court's 5-4 decision to allow Alabama to execute Ray proved controversial across the country, provoking stinging criticism from both capital punishment opponents and conservative evangelicals, who viewed Ray's claim as a religious liberty issue.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

MISSISSIPPI:

Supreme Court Hears Case of Man Tried Six Times for Same Crime----The justices are considering if the prosecutor was racially biased in keeping African-Americans off the jury.

1 crime, 6 trials, 3 tossed convictions, two hung juries, a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, and a man on death row. Those are the dizzying statistics surrounding the case of Curtis Flowers, who is currently awaiting execution for a crime he says he did not commit.

Flowers has been tried 6 times for the 1996 slaying of 4 individuals in Winona, Mississippi. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in his case last month, tasked with deciding if District Attorney Doug Evans discriminated against potential African-American jurors during Flowers' 2010 trial. Evans used his peremptory challenges—which strike would-be jurors without explanation—to exclude 5 out of 6 African-Americans from the final panel.

Racial diversity on juries can be pivotal in ensuring a fair trial, particularly in a community like Winona, where there are more black than white people. Naturally, a jury of Flowers' peers should reflect the surrounding area, providing an assortment of different life experiences to arrive at a fair verdict (plus, research shows diverse juries are better equipped to reach accurate conclusions).

Flowers' case is a prime example of that: The two trials resulting in hung juries had the greatest number of black jurors.

Evans has prosecuted each trial—spanning from 1997 to 2010—and has used 41 out of 42 peremptory challenges to block African-Americans from serving on the various juries. That move likely conflicts with Batson v. Kentucky, a 1986 Supreme Court precedent that prohibits barring a juror based on race alone. And it was Evans' long and troubled track record that seemed most likely to sway the justices in Flowers' favor.

"We can't take the history out of the case," Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh said.

Justice Elena Kagan outlined inconsistencies in Evans' questioning toward whites versus his inquiries toward blacks, calling the disparity "staggering." During jury selection in 2010, Evans asked 12 questions to the 11 white jurors who were ultimately impaneled, and asked 145 questions to the five prospective black jurors who were kept off the jury.

Kagan also highlighted a potential black juror named Carolyn Wright who was blocked from serving, even though she expressed support for the death penalty. Prosecutors are known for striking jurors who may not be able to come to an unbiased conclusion: In a capital murder trial—where the state seeks the death penalty—a would-be juror would be disqualified, then, if he or she had a moral opposition to the ultimate punishment. Wright did not, nor did she have ties to the Flowers family.

"Except for her race, you would think that this is a juror that a prosecutor would love when she walks in the door. Isn't she?" Kagan asked.

Evans has committed a slew of prosecutorial infractions, including the use of faulty testimony from Odell Harmon, a jailhouse snitch who falsely implicated Flowers after the state offered him a deal. He has since recanted. That drew mainstream outrage after the release of the second season of "In the Dark," a podcast profiling Flowers's jaw-dropping journey through the legal system.

But it isn't the Supreme Court's responsibility to render a verdict on Flowers' guilt, nor are Evans' other sketchy tactics under their current purview. Regardless, they seem poised to give Flowers yet another chance at justice—one that might ensure he secures a fair trial the 7th time around.

(source: reason.com)

OHIO:

New lawyer named in Lebanon inmate death penalty case

A new lawyer has been appointed to help defend a prison inmate facing the death penalty for strangling his cellmate in their cell at the Lebanon Correctional Institution.

Last week, Judge Donald Oda II appointed Ryan DeBra as co-counsel for Jack Welninski, 33.

Welninski is accused of murdering cellmate Kevin Nill “because it worked for” Casey Pigge, an inmate transferred after murdering an inmate at the prison, according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell. Nill, 40, was a Piqua man serving a short prison sentence for domestic violence.

DeBra replaces Tamara Sack as co-counsel to John Kaspar.

“The Defendant has communicated to Lead Counsel that he does not trust me and does not want me to represent him,” Sack said in a motion filed on March 29 in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Sack was appointed on Oct. 19 and has participated in hearings and filings since then.

“It is therefore not possible for me to remain on as Co-Counsel, as I cannot carry out my responsibilities in this Capital case due to the irreconcilable bias and mistrust the Defendant has for me,” Sack added in her motion to withdraw from the case.

Sack could not be reached for comment.

It was unclear how much this would delay Welninski’s trial. He is now held, along with Pigge, at the Ohio State Penitentiary, the state’s prison for the most dangerous inmates.

Welninski was serving a 69-year prison sentence after being convicted in Wood County for the 2015 attempted murder of an Oregon, Ohio, police officer.

Nill was serving an 18-month sentence for attempted domestic violence.

On Oct. 15, Welninski was indicted for aggravated murder, along with 2 capital specifications, and a repeat violent offender specification by a Warren County grand jury.

Welninski is accused of murdering Nill on April 23 at the prison west of Lebanon in Turtlecreek Twp.

Nill was found in his cell, a rope around his neck, and pronounced dead at Atrium Medical Center, according to Doyle Burke, chief investigator for the Warren County Coroner’s Office.

“The 2 had been cellmates for less than an hour before Nill was discovered deceased in the cell,” according to the release.

Pigge is one of Ohio’s most notorious prisoners.

In January 2017, he pleaded guilty to murdering cellmate Luther Wade of Springfield at Lebanon Correctional on Feb. 23, 2016.

He has since pleaded to strangling another inmate, David Johnson, on Feb. 1, 2017, as they rode on a prison bus.

Pigge was moved to the state’s super max facility in Youngstown after he and another inmate were suspected in a brutal attack on Corrections Officer Matthew Mathias.

(source: Dayton Daily News)

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Man whose death sentence overturned gets 26 years to life

An Ohio man whose 1994 death sentence for the rape and slaying of a woman was overturned has been resentenced to 26 years to life in prison.

The Marion Star reports that a federal appeals court overturned Maurice Mason's death sentence in 2008 and ordered the new sentencing that occurred Monday in Marion County. The appeals court ruled Mason had ineffective legal help during the penalty phase of his trial in 19-year-old Robin Dennis' slaying. Her body was found in an abandoned building in 1993.

(source: Associated Press)

ILLINOIS:

Innocence Project founder seeks 'conviction integrity unit'

The co-founder of a group that has cleared a dozen people wrongfully convicted of crimes said Tuesday that the Illinois attorney general should create a "conviction integrity unit" to investigate innocence claims.

Bill Clutter, a private investigator who helped create the Illinois Innocence Project in 2001 and now does similar work from Louisville, Kentucky, said he proposed the idea in a letter to Attorney General Kwame Raoul .

Illinois has a history of wrongful convictions. Chicago Police Lt. Jon Burge was accused of torturing more than 200 criminal suspects into forced confessions in the 1980s. Former Gov. George Ryan labeled the state's system of capital punishment "haunted by the demon of error" when he halted executions in 2000. By the time Illinois abolished the Death Penalty in 2011, wrongful death sentences imposed on 20 people had been reversed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Conviction integrity units have sprung up recently in major metropolitan jurisdictions such as Dallas, New York, and Chicago. But a statewide team in Illinois would be a first nationally.

Clutter said that an independent, statewide team of detectives and lawyers to review convicts' claims of innocence would be more effective than a nonprofit organization with limited resources and limited power. He used the example of Karen Slover of Decatur, whose ex-husband and in-laws are serving 60-year sentences for her 1996 murder. Seeking to clear them, Clutter sought an analysis of an unknown fingerprint in the victim's blood at the crime scene, but was rebuffed.

"With a conviction integrity unit, you have a prosecutor who has the authority, who wants to know the answer to the question, 'Who left that fingerprint in blood at the crime scene?'" Clutter said at a state Capitol news conference. "They'd have a badge and they could work cooperatively with innocence projects within the state to unlock this evidence."

The plan got a cool reception from Raoul, a Democrat who took office in January.

"Ensuring the integrity of a conviction by evaluating new evidence, eyewitness testimony or an appellate court decision is the responsibility of every prosecutor," spokeswoman Annie Thompson said.

Clutter agrees, but he said it's human nature for a prosecutor to be defensive of suspected errors or omissions.

Former Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez created a conviction integrity unit in 2012. Under successor Kim Foxx, it's become an independent unit of the office with publicized policies and standards, spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said. The office receives about 150 applications annually from those convicted of felonies, but many do not meet criteria for review.

Since 2017, just after Foxx took office, 70 convictions have been reversed, Simonton said. Staffing the office are a director, supervisor, four assistant state's attorneys who conduct investigations, one who specializes in forensic work, a part-time forensic scientist and an administrative assistant.

Clearly, only a jurisdiction the size of Cook County can afford such an outlay, said Clutter, who is currently seeking exoneration for Thomas McMillen in the 1989 abduction and murder of Melissa Koontz of Springfield.

Even in Sangamon County, where Springfield is the county seat, "it would be a financial burden for this office to have a truly independent staff of at least one investigator and one attorney to review the claims, and there are not enough claims like this in a county like Sangamon to warrant those resources," Clutter said. "But on a state level, it makes sense to have it housed in the attorney general's office."

(source: herald-review.com)

TENNESSEE:

Tennessee gov signs bill to nix 1 court death penalty review

Tennessee is removing one state court's review before executing inmates under legislation signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee.

With Lee's approval Tuesday, Tennessee in July will begin skipping the state Court of Criminal Appeals and provide automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews.

Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold has said the governor was deferring to the Legislature's will on the legislation.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge John Everett Williams has said his court's last four death penalty reviews took 3 to 6 months. Federal courts account for most of sometimes-3-decades in death penalty court reviews.

Tennessee executed 3 inmates in 2018. 4 executions are scheduled this year.

The law is named for Dickson County Sheriff's Sgt. Daniel Baker, who was killed in May. 2 people are approaching trial over Baker's death.

(source: Associated Press)

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A death chamber is shown.

Tennessee officials want to have their cake and eat it, too, a group of death row inmates complains to the U.S. Supreme Court in a petition challenging a state court’s “Kafkaesque” ruling implicating execution drug secrecy.

Except the cake is information the prisoners say they need to prove their cruel and unusual punishment claim, and eating it, too, means executing them without due process.

“In the annals of increasing government powers and government assertions that citizens are powerless to contest, this case involves the most extreme example yet—via legislation, the State of Tennessee has taken away the ability of certain citizens to secure a fair hearing to prove that their Eighth Amendment rights are being denied them,” according to an outside brief filed Monday by a group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “If that precedent can be set in this context, what will prevent government actors from taking similar steps in countless other contexts?”

The inmates are challenging the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, which “hinges on the ability of one drug, midazolam, to block the torturous sensations of entombment and burning caused by two other drugs,” they say in their petition.

But as the Supreme Court reaffirmed last week in its contentious 5-4 decision in Bucklew v. Precythe, a prisoner claiming a state’s execution method violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment needs to put forth an available and feasibly implemented alternative that will substantially reduce the risk of suffering.

State officials argue the proposed alternative here, a single-drug protocol of pentobarbital, is not readily available, and the state’s top court approved the status quo based on the challengers’ failure to offer “direct proof” otherwise.

The problem with that, the prisoners say, is that the state court approved government officials’ testimony based on their privileged communications with potential drug suppliers, which, under the state’s secrecy law, are shielded from discovery.

So the state’s secrecy law “ensured that petitioners’ claim would fail,” they argue, saying the issue goes beyond just Tennessee, citing a surge in such laws around the country in death penalty states.

The conservative group supporting the prisoners says the Bucklew decision, which ruled against an inmate’s Eighth Amendment challenge over heated dissent, makes their case even stronger. That’s because Missouri’s Russell Bucklew had “extensive discovery” into alternative methods of execution, and the majority in his case said death sentences are permissible “so long as proper procedures are followed.”

But that’s not the case here, the group says, “because there was no discovery—the essential discovery was completely barred.”

In this case, “Tennessee’s execution secrecy statute barred discovery into the state’s communications with 10 concededly willing suppliers,” the prisoners say in their petition. They add that it barred them from “exploring the details of the suppliers’ offers by deposing those suppliers or even the state officials with whom they interacted,” while, at the same time, “other state officials testified that they believed pentobarbital was not reasonably available because of information passed onto them by the very persons whom petitioners were prevented from deposing.”

The prisoners say they’re not challenging state secrecy laws in general, but, rather, the government’s ability to use one here as both a “sword” to win its alternative method argument and a “shield” from letting defendants test the state’s argument and, in turn, prevail on their constitutional claim.

So the state court’s “Kafkaesque ruling,” allowing their executions to go forward without fully exploring less risky alternative methods, “strikes at the core of due process,” they say, imploring the justices to step in.

State officials argue in opposition that the prisoners never presented to the state court the claim they’re raising now at the Supreme Court, and so the justices should decline to review it. Officials go on to argue that the justices should also reject the claim because due process does not entitle prisoners “to unlimited discovery to support their affirmative claims against the State.”

They, too, cite Bucklew, where Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s opinion for the majority said it wasn’t an abuse of discretion for the trial court to deny the prisoner the ability “to learn the identities of the lethal injection execution team members, to depose them, or to inquire into their qualifications, training, and experience.”

They say the challengers can’t “force the State to disclose the identity of its drug procurer, its potential drug suppliers, or other participants in the execution process.” Requiring such disclosures, officials say, “would unduly burden the State by making it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out the death penalty.”

The case is Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman, et al., v. Parker, U.S., 18-8332, petition pending

(source: bloomberglaw.com)

MISSOURI:

Undocumented immigrant facing death penalty found dead in jail

The undocumented immigrant accused of killing 5 people, including a man in Montgomery County, was found dead Tuesday.

According to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, workers at the St. Louis Justice Center found Pablo Serrano-Vitorino unresponsive inside his cell around 2:02 a.m.

Serrano-Vitorino was pronounced dead at the hospital around 3 a.m.

Serrano-Vitorino was 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.

Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty in the case.

(source: ABC News)

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Missouri Supreme Court hears arguments in Wood death penalty case

The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in Jefferson City in the case of a prisoner who’s appealing his death sentence for killing a Springfield child in 2014.

51-year-old Craig Wood was convicted of 1st degree murder and was sentenced to death for killing 10-year-old Hailey Owens.

The court heard about 50 minutes of arguments and asked numerous questions of both attorneys.

Wood’s public defender, Rosemary Percival, tells the Supreme Court that Missouri’s “death penalty scheme” is unconstitutional, because it allows a judge to impose a death sentence when the jury is not unanimous.

“Even the staunchest of death penalty states, states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, now mandate that no defendant go to his death but by the unanimous vote of the jury,” Percival says.

Percival is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn Wood’s death sentence and instead sentence him to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.

She tells the Supreme Court’s seven judges that Missouri and Indiana are the only 2 states that allow a judge to impose a death sentence after jurors could not.

“And so I ask the court to strike this deadlock provision and order that Mr. Wood receive a sentence of life without parole,” says Percival.

Defense attorneys admitted in court in August 2017 that Wood kidnapped, raped and killed Owens, who was walking home from a friend’s house when the February 2014 abduction happened.

Greene County Judge Thomas Mountjoy sentenced Wood to death, after jurors were not unanimous about the death sentence.

The “Springfield News-Leader”, quoting the jury foreman at the time, has reported that 10 jurors supported the death sentence and that 2 favored life in prison without parole.

The jury was selected in western Missouri’s Platte County and transported to Springfield for the trial. The jury was chosen there because of the large news media coverage the case received in Springfield.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Assistant Attorney General Daniel McPherson filed a 106-page brief in response to Percival’s argument.

McPherson tells the State Supreme Court that Missouri’s statute allowing a judge to impose a death sentence when the jury deadlocks is constitutional.

The Attorney General’s office writes that the Missouri Supreme Court “has repeatedly found that procedure to be constitutional.”

Percival also says Judge Mountjoy should not have overruled defense attorneys’ objection to Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson’s closing argument that the jury, in sentencing Wood to death, would speak for Hailey Owens and her family.

Mr. McPherson addressed that issue before the Supreme Court.

“If the prosecutor had explicitly argued that the family demands the death penalty or they want you to impose the death penalty, you’d certainly have a more problematic situation,” McPherson says.

Schmitt and McPherson, in their court filing, write that Patterson’s argument was an appeal to the jury to uphold the law and not an argument that Owens’ family desired the death penalty.

Springfield Police found Hailey Owens’ body in a plastic tub in Craig Wood’s basement. Court documents say Hailey Owens died from a gunshot wound to the back of her neck.

Wood, who’s incarcerated at the maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point, was not in the courtroom on Tuesday.

A Missourinet reporter covering the Jefferson City hearing did not see Hailey Owens’ family nor Craig Wood’s parents in court.

The Missouri Supreme Court has not announced when it will rule in the case.

(source: missourinet.com)

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Craig Michael Wood asks Supreme Court to remove death penalty

Convicted murderer Craig Michael Wood, found guilty in the murder of 10-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield in 2014, will have his argument heard Tuesday by the Missouri Supreme Court that he should not face the death penalty.

Wood is accused of abducting Hailey Owens while she walked home from her best friend's house in Springfield, just two blocks from her own home. Shocked neighbors reported watching the abduction and unsuccessfully giving chase as Hailey was pulled into a pickup truck that sped away. She was found dead hours later in the basement of Wood's home.

According to the Missouri Supreme Court, the appeal of his conviction on charges of First Degree Murder, Armed Criminal Action, Kidnapping, Rape, and Sodomy presents several questions. "One involves whether the circuit court properly struck for cause a proposed juror who said she was opposed to the death penalty but then said she could listen to the evidence and consider both the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole."

"Other questions involve whether certain evidence admitted during the penalty phase of the trial over Wood’s objection violated his state and federal constitutional rights to due process, to a fair trial by a fair and impartial jury, to be tried only for the offenses charged, to confront witnesses against him, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom from the capricious or arbitrary infliction of the death penalty and, if so, whether he was prejudiced as a result."

(source: KRCG news)

SOUTH DAKOTA:

Deadline set for death penalty decision in murder case

The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office must disclose by April 30 whether it intends to seek the death penalty if 2 Rapid City men are convicted of their alleged roles in a murder, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Andre Martinez and Cole Waters, both 19 years old, are each charged with aiding and abetting 1st-degree murder, commission of a felony with a firearm, aiding and abetting 1st-degree robbery, and conspiracy to commit 1st-degree murder.

They each pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday at the Pennington County Courthouse in Rapid City.

If found guilty of aiding and abetting 1st-degree murder, they could face the death penalty or life in prison.

Waters’ attorney, John Murphy, moved for disclosure of the prosecution’s intent regarding the death penalty by April 30, and Martinez’s attorney, Randal Connelly, joined the motion, which Judge Robert Gusinsky granted.

Gusinsky also granted Murphy’s motions to hire a private investigator for Waters, and to have Waters undergo a psychological examination to determine his competency and cognitive functioning.

At a previous court proceeding, a prosecutor said Martinez and Waters hatched a plan to rob another teenager. During the robbery on Feb. 26, Waters allegedly held a gun to the head of 17-year-old Emanuel Hinton, of Box Elder, and pulled the trigger.

(source: rapid City Journal)

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Rapid City teens accused in shooting death plead not guilty, await decision on death penalty

The 2 Rapid City teens accused in the shooting death of Emmanuel Hinton, 17, of Box Elder, appeared in court Tuesday and now await a decision from the state on if the death penalty will be sought.

Cole Waters, 19, and Andre Martinez, 19, pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them, including: aiding and abetting 1st degree murder, commission of a felony with a firearm, aiding and abetting 1st degree robbery, and conspiracy to commit 1st degree robbery.

If convicted of the murder charge, the maximum penalty is life in prison or the death penalty should the state pursue the punishment.

The defense for both Waters and Martinez filed a motion to set a deadline of April 30 for the state to decide if they will seek the death penalty.

The teens are set to appear in court again on that date. They remain in the Pennington County Jail on $1 million cash bond.

On Feb. 26, Emmanuel Hinton, 17, of Box Elder was shot in the alleyway behind Blaine Avenue and later died from his injuries at Regional Health Rapid City Hospital. Waters and Martinez were both arrested and charged the next day.

According to statements from the state prosecutor, Waters admitted to putting the gun to Hinton’s head and pulling the trigger. Both teens were given “no-contact orders” for someone named “C.B.” but it is not clear at this time who that person is or what their involvement is in this incident.

(source: newcenter1.tv)

NEVADA:

Death penalty repeal bill won’t get a hearing, sponsor says

Legislation to abolish capital punishment in Nevada won’t even get a committee hearing, the bill’s sponsor said Tuesday.

Without a hearing before Friday, the bill dies along with any hopes Nevada would end the practice of the death penalty any time soon.

“I thought the time was now and that it was at least the time to have a conversation,” Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo said.

Fumo said he was told directly by Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Steve Yeager that the bill won’t even get a hearing. “It’s kind of disappointing,” he added.

Yeager could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Assembly Bill 149, sponsored by Fumo and state Sen. James Ohrenschall, would have made Nevada 1 of 20 states to abolish capital punishment according to the Death Penalty Information Center — there are 3 additional states that have gubernatorial moratoria, which essentially has suspended execution without outright abolishing it.

Fumo said support for the death penalty had been declining over the years. Activists, such as those with the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty, have called for states to get rid of the practice saying it is unfair, has room for error and is racially biased.

Fumo added there are additional reasons the Legislature should at least discuss the possibility, given the growing number of people exonerated from death row — the Death Penalty Information Center has confirmed at least 165 cases in the U.S. — to the increasing costs of the practice.

A legislative study found seeking the death penalty is also more expensive and costs $500,000 more to prosecute capital cases regardless of outcome.

(source: Nevada Current)

CALIFORNIA:

Prosecutors to cite accused Palm Springs cop killer John Felix's past contacts with police----Suspected cop killer John Felix pleaded not guilty during his 1st court appearance on Thursday.

With opening statements looming in the trial of a man accused of killing 2 Palm Springs police officers in 2016, a prosecutor said Tuesday she plans to introduce evidence of past contacts between the defendant and police, suggest they could point to a possible motive for the shooting.

John Hernandez Felix, 28, is charged with 2 counts of murder and 6 counts of attempted murder, with special circumstance allegations of killing police officers and committing multiple murders making him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

During a motions hearing on Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise said she hopes to present evidence during the trial of two past contacts between Felix and Palm Springs police that could suggest a "motive to plan and intentionally make a choice" to fire at officers who responded to a domestic disturbance call at Felix's mother's Cypress Avenue house on Oct. 8, 2016.

Veteran training officer Gilbert Vega, 63, and rookie Officer Lesley Zerebny, 27, were killed in the shooting.

"The people are going to intend to show motive in this case," Paradise said. "And, in order to do that the people will ask questions regarding prior conduct between the defendant and Palm Springs police."

Defense attorney John Dolan said he needed time to review the prosecutor's motion, but said past animosity between his client and PSPD may also be part of his arguments during the trial.

In court documents, Dolan requested that Felix's brother be included as a witness to show the family was "victimized by police." Dolan pointed to a specific instance in which Felix and his father were beaten and arrested by police when PSPD came to the family's residence looking for Felix's brother.

Around 10:30 a.m. Friday, after a monthlong selection process, a jury was impaneled. Opening statements are scheduled for April 17. Prosecutors say Felix opened fire on Vega, Zerebny and a third officer through the metal screen door of his mother's property after the victims stepped onto the porch. He also is accused of firing on 5 of their colleagues who responded to the shooting. None were struck by the gunfire.

Felix was taken into custody following a 12-hour standoff.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the defendant wanted to kill cops, donning body armor and firing armor-piercing rounds from an AR-15 rifle during the attack.

The trial comes after a string of delays connected to defense motions regarding Felix's mental fitness, including an argument alleging he has intellectual disabilities that should preclude him from execution if jurors recommend the death penalty.

Criminal proceedings were previously suspended for 6 months in 2017 when Felix's attorneys sought to have him declared mentally incompetent to stand trial.

They argued that he suffers from "traumatic amnesia" and has no memory of the shooting, preventing him from contributing to an adequate defense, but Judge Anthony Villalobos ruled in late 2017 that Felix was sufficiently competent.

Following a bench trial with testimony from mental-health experts, Villalobos ruled that prosecutors could proceed with their capital murder case against Felix, leading to an appeal of the judge's decision and another 2-month delay. An appellate court denied the defense's appeal seeking to bar the death penalty from being included as an option upon conviction.

Vega and Zerebny were the first Palm Springs police officers to be killed in the line of duty since Jan. 1, 1962, when Officer Lyle Wayne Larrabee died during a vehicle pursuit. The only other death in the department was that of Officer Gale Gene Eldridge, fatally shot on Jan. 18, 1961, while investigating an armed robbery.

Vega had been with the department 35 years — 5 years past his retirement eligibility — and had planned to retire in 2018. He had 8 children, 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

Zerebny had been with the department for 18 months and had just returned to duty following maternity leave, having given birth to a daughter, Cora, 4 months before her death.

Felix, who is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside, has a prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon, for which he served time in state prison.

(source: The Desert Sun)

OREGON:

John Hummel and Oregon’s death penalty

The only testimony in the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee last month in opposition to a bill that would functionally abolish capital punishment — was offered by the courageous and sensible district attorney of Lane County, Patty Perlow. She pointed out that voters had repeatedly said “yes” to the death penalty in Oregon, and if there was to be a massive change, the voters should make the call, not legislators.

Although I prosecuted Randy Guzek three times in Bend between 1990 and 2010, I am retired and no longer a part of Guzek’s prosecution. The current DA — John Hummel, has never tried a homicide case as a DA and excluded me from participating on behalf of the state of Oregon in the parole process involving Guzek’s co-killer, Mark Wilson. Guzek is the only person from Deschutes County on death row, sentenced for gunning down Rod and Lois Houser in Terrebonne in the summer of 1987.

Perhaps someone will ask exactly what Hummel is privately advocating for Guzek?

In 4 separate trials, 48 different Deschutes County jurors unanimously sent Guzek to death row in 1989, 1991, 1997, and 2010.

But now official position of the prosecution will not be that of the Houser family, who suffered the loss of their brother/father/mom/grandparent in 1987, but that of a politician who advocates for abolishing capital punishment.

The issue is one thing in the abstract, possible future, but very concrete for the too real double murder committed shortly after voters overwhelmingly approved the imposition of capital punishment in 1984. When Hummel testified at Wilson’s Parole Hearing three years ago, he stunned those in attendance by declining to even urge that the Parole Board order Wilson to honor his 1988 plea deal … to serve 40 years (another 8 years) before being eligible for parole in 2028. Wilson stays in prison, for now.

If deceptive and intellectually dishonest legislation offered this session by Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, passes, the multiple murder of a police officer or a serial killer, all would face only the newly created charge of “Murder in the Second Degree.” This act of legislative legerdemain is intended to bypass the constitutional requirement advocated by DA Perlow, referral to the voters, since voters passed capital punishment in a constitutional referendum. By claiming to “just limit” capital punishment by jurors, it effectively abolishes it … but not quite, without a full and public debate and without a decision by the state’s voters.

Guzek, and about 5 other death row inmates sentenced before 1991 cannot face “true life” sentences since such sentences did not exist when they were convicted, and would be eligible for immediate parole, although it would be by no means automatic. Under Oregon law if capital punishment is retroactively revoked, the maximum sentence is that sentence existing at the time the crime occurred. That could mean near immediate release of a man dozens of Deschutes County jurors decided after long deliberation, should die.

Oregon voters first abolished capital punishment in the early years of the 20th century, then a few years later reinstated it. The last time any state’s voters decided to abolish the death penalty was in Oregon in 1964. First in 1977, then in 1984 voters once again decided death should be a possible punishment in a very few of the worst murders. No state in America has voted out capital punishment since Oregon did 55 years ago.

States as diverse as Nebraska, Wisconsin, and California (twice just in the last 10 years) voted to reject abolition of capital punishment or (as in Wisconsin) to reinstate capital punishment.

Some issues are too important to be left to politicians.

(source: Guest Column; Joshua Marquis served from 1990 to 1994 as chief deputy district attorney in Bend, then from 1994 to 2018 as district attorney in Astoria. Marquis prosecuted the Randy Guzek murder case 3 times----The Bend Bulletin)

USA:

Race and the Death Penalty----A sociologist says racial prejudice is “a strong predictor" of whites’ support for capital punishment.

To the Editor:

Re “Democratic Candidates Rethink the Death Penalty, and Its Politics” (news article, April 9):

Our political parties should not be overly swayed by public opinion on the death penalty. Many studies conclude that prejudice against blacks is a strong predictor of whites’ support for capital punishment. If so many whites were not racially prejudiced, white support for the death penalty would be much lower, and so would public support more generally.

In a country that professes “liberty and justice for all,” political leaders should keep this context in mind when they consider public opinion in formulating their stance on capital punishment.

Steven E. Barkan

Holden, Me.

The writer, a professor of sociology at the University of Maine, is the author of “Race, Crime and Justice: The Continuing American Dilemma.” A sociologist says racial prejudice is “a strong predictor" of whites’ support for capital punishment.

(source: Letter to the Editor, New York Times)

GLOBAL:

Death penalty in 2018: Facts and figures

Amnesty International recorded at least 690 executions in 20 countries in 2018, a decrease of 31% compared to 2017 (at least 993). This figure represents the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in the past decade.

Most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam and Iraq – in that order.

China remained the world’s leading executioner – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret; the global figure of at least 690 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China.

The authorities of Viet Nam indicated in November that 85 executions had been carried out during 2018, placing the country among the world’s top 5 executioners.

Excluding China, 78% of all reported executions took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam and Iraq.

Botswana, Sudan, Taiwan and Thailand all resumed executions last year. Amnesty International did not report any executions in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Palestine (State of) and United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite having done so in 2017.

Executions in Iran dropped from at least 507 in 2017 to at least 253 in 2018 – a decrease of 50%. Executions in Iraq decreased from at least 125 in 2017 to at least 52 in 2018, while in Pakistan, executions fell from at least 60 in 2017 to at least 14 in 2018. Somalia halved its executions, down from 24 in 2017 to 13 in 2018.

Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty in its new penal code in June. In February and July respectively, Gambia and Malaysia both declared an official moratorium on executions. In the US, the death penalty statute in the state of Washington was declared unconstitutional in October.

At the end of 2018, 106 countries (a majority of the world’s states) had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, and 142 countries (more than 2/3) had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Amnesty International recorded commutations or pardons of death sentences in 29 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Botswana, China, Egypt, Guyana, India, Iran, Kuwait, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco/Western Sahara, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, UAE, USA and Zimbabwe.

8 exonerations of prisoners under sentence of death were recorded in four countries: Egypt, Kuwait, Malawi and USA.

Amnesty International recorded at least 2,531 death sentences in 54 countries, a slight decrease from the total of 2,591 reported in 2017.

At least 19,336 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2018.

The following methods of execution were used across the world in 2018: beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. Two new death sentences by stoning were known to have been imposed in Iran.

Reports from 2018 indicated seven people were executed in Iran for crimes committed when they were younger than 18 years of age.

At least 98 executions were known to have been carried out for drug-related offences in 4 countries – 14% of the global total and down from 28% in 2017. At least 226 of such death sentences were known to have been imposed in 14 countries.

Death sentences were known to have been imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards in countries including Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Viet Nam.

Regional death penalty analysis

Americas

For the 10th consecutive year, the USA remained the only country to carry out executions in the region.

The number of executions (25) and death sentences (45) reported in the US slightly increased compared to 2017.

The state of Texas nearly doubled its figure compared to 2017 (from 7 to 13), accounting for just over 1/2 of the country’s total. Nebraska carried out its 1st execution since 1997; South Dakota since 2012; and Tennessee since 2009.

Only 2 countries, USA and Guyana, imposed death sentences – the lowest recorded number since Amnesty International began keeping records in 1979.

The death penalty statute in the US state of Washington was declared unconstitutional in October.

Asia-Pacific

At least 136 executions in countries were known to have been carried out throughout the region in 2018, compared to at least 93 in 2017. This increase was mostly due to the rare 9 disclosure of a figure from the authorities of Viet Nam. It does not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believed were carried out in China.

Thailand resumed executions for the 1st time since 2009.

Japan more than tripled its annual figure (from 4 to 15), after the hanging of 13 men involved in a high-profile case, which saw a deadly Sarin chemical attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995.

Singapore reported 13 executions, the 1st time since 2003 that its execution total reached a double-digit figure.

Pakistan reported a drop of 77% drop in executions, from 60 in 2017 to at least 14 in 2018.

Malaysia announced a moratorium on executions and a review of its death penalty laws.

At least 1,100 new death sentences across 17 countries were known to have been imposed, a slight increase from the total of 1,037 recorded the previous year.

Europe and Central Asia

At least 4 executions were recorded in Belarus in 2018, compared to 2 in 2017. The last time another country in the region carried out executions was in 2005.

Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan continued to observe moratoriums on executions.

Middle East and North Africa

The number of executions recorded by Amnesty International in the Middle East and North Africa region dropped by 41%, from 847 in 2017 to 501 in 2018, the lowest number of executions recorded in the region.

5 countries – Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – were known to have carried out executions, a 50% drop in executing countries.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq remained the top executing countries in the region, carrying out at least 454 recorded executions between them, 91% of the total number in the whole of the region.

There were 1,170 recorded death sentences in 2018, marking an 89% increase compared to 2017, when 619 death sentences were recorded. Egypt imposed the highest number of confirmed death sentences in the region with at least 717 people sentenced to death compared to at least 402 in 2017.

Sub-Saharan Africa

4 countries – Botswana, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan – carried out executions in 2018.

A drop in recorded executions in Somalia drove an overall decrease in the region, from 28 in 2017 to 24 in 2018, despite an alarming increase in executions in South Sudan.

Recorded death sentences reduced from at least 878 in 2017 to at least 212 in 2018.

The number of countries that imposed death sentences increased to 17 from 15 recorded in 2017.

Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes only, and Gambia established a moratorium on executions and ratified an international treaty committing it to abolishing the death penalty.

(source: Amnesty International)

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

Amnesty: Lowest number of prisoners executed in 2018----Human rights organisation warns against complacency and said more needed to be done to abolish death penalty.

At least 690 prisoners were executed in 20 countries in 2018, marking a 31 % fall from at least 993 from the previous year, according to Amnesty International that reported the fewest deaths by capital punishment in at least a decade.

A total of 2,531 death sentences were also imposed in 54 countries last year, decreasing from 2,591 recorded worldwide in 2017 according to a report published on Wednesday by the UK-based rights group that hailed the significant decline in global executions.

As in previous years, China, where figures believed to be in the thousands are classified as a state secret, remained the most prolific executor, Amnesty said, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iraq - accounting for 78 % of total reported executions.

"It's very encouraging that known executions were the lowest at the end of 2018, but it is challenging to define clear reasons for the decreases and whether these reductions will be sustained in the coming years," Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty International adviser on the death penalty, told Al Jazeera.

Executions in Iran dropped by 50 % in 2018 following amendments to drug legislation that increased the minimum amounts of drugs for death penalty offences. The change meant executions were put on hold while cases were reviewed.

Iraq, which executed at least 52 people, and Pakistan, which put more than 14 to death, also showed a downward trend. Meanwhile, Somalia almost halved its executions from 24 in 2017 to 13 last year.

Amnesty's report comes after London-based NGO Harm Reduction International (HRI) revealed a drop of 68 percent in executions worldwide for drug crimes from 288 to 91 in 2018.

Popoola said that "while the global figures of executions undoubtedly tell a positive story for 2018, there were also concerning developments which show that it's not yet time to lift the pressure".

"The death penalty continued to be used in many cases against international law and standards in the absence of a fair trial and for non-lethal crimes such as drug-related offences," he said.

Amnesty found increases in executions in Japan, Singapore, South Sudan, Belarus and the United States.

Methods of recorded executions included beheading in Saudi Arabia, electrocution in the US, and hanging, lethal injection and shooting in other countries.

Calls for reform in Pakistan

Following a 77 % decline in executions, Pakistan was not ranked among the top five executing countries for the first time in four years.

While the "dramatic decrease in executions is heartening to see", Pakistan was "far from structural reform", according to Sarah Belal, executive director of rights group Justice Project Pakistan (JPP).

"This drop in executions cannot be taken as a correction to Pakistan's abhorrent history of handing out death sentences and executing the mentally ill, juveniles and those wrongfully convicted," said Belal.

According to Amnesty's report, at least 250 people were sentenced to death in Pakistan - a 25 % increase from 2017.

With more than 4,600 awaiting execution, according to data received by JPP, Pakistan has one of the world's largest death row population.

In a high profile case last year, Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, was acquitted of blasphemy and released from prison after 8 years on death row.

The Supreme Court verdict in October sparked days of protests by far-right religious groups, death threats and chaos across the country.

JPP's Belal said the landmark case not only sets a good precedent, but is also an "indictment of Pakistan's disproportionate use of the death penalty against the most vulnerable".

Pakistani protesters burn a poster image of Christian woman Aasia Bibi in Hyderabad, Pakistan [File: Pervez Masih/AP]

She said her organisation is working with the new government to reform the process of filing a mercy petition and reducing the number of offenses punishable by death - currently at 33 - among other things.

'Closer to abolition'

Meanwhile, steps towards abolition were taken by many countries last year, Amnesty said.

In June, Burkina Faso abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes, while both The Gambia and Malaysia declared an official moratorium on executions.

No executions were reported in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Palestine and the United Arab Emirates.

In December, a record high of 121 countries at the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of establishing a moratorium on executions with a view to abolish the punishment.

Like 2017, the total number of countries that had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes stood at 106 by the end of the year.

"Only a minority of countries in the world actively use the death penalty today, so we are closer to the complete and global abolition of the death penalty, more than ever before," added Amnesty's Popoola.

But with more than 19,000 prisoners still on death row around the world, Popoola said more was needed to end the "ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment which has no place in the 21st century".

"We cannot afford to rest on our laurels, but continue to call on countries that use the death penalty to abolish this punishment."

(source: aljazeera.com)

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

Global Executions Fell By Nearly 1/3 Last Year - New Report

Global executions fell dramatically by almost a third (31%) last year to the lowest figure for at least a decade, Amnesty International said in its annual global review of the death penalty.

The findings - contained in a new 54-page Amnesty report, Death Sentences and Executions 2018 - also show that there was a 50% drop in executions in Iran (where use of the death penalty is rife) following a change to its anti-drugs laws Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia also saw significant reductions in executions.

As a result, overall in 2018 execution figures fell globally from 993 (the known minimum figure) in 2017, to at least 690 (again, the known minimum figure) in 2018.

However, these statistics do not include China - the world's largest executioner where thousands are believed to be put to death every year - because the Chinese authorities refuse to release information on capital punishment and all data is classified as a state secret.

Amnesty's report - which comes amid a global outcry over Brunei's introduction of a penal code allowing death-by-stoning for same-sex sexual acts - shows that there were executions in 20 countries during 2018:

China (believed to be 1,000s), Iran (253+), Saudi Arabia (149), Vietnam (85+), Iraq (52+), Egypt (43+), USA (25), Japan (15), Pakistan (14+), Singapore (13), Somalia (13), South Sudan (7+), Belarus (4+), Yemen (4+), Afghanistan (3), Botswana (2), Sudan (2), Taiwan (1), Thailand (1), North Korea (an unknown number). Many countries do not release official information on capital punishment and several countries are thought to have executed many more than the minimum figures compiled here (indicated by a "+" symbol).

The methods of execution were: beheading (Saudi Arabia), electric chair (USA), lethal injection (China, Thailand, USA, Vietnam), shooting (Belarus, China, North Korea, Somalia, Taiwan, Yemen), and hanging (Afghanistan, Botswana, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, South Sudan, Sudan).

Despite a significant decrease in the number of executions it carried out, the figures show that Iran still accounted for more than a third of the known executions recorded globally last year. Meanwhile, Amnesty documented increases in executions in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the USA. Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009, while Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena declared he would resume executions after more than 40 years, posting an advert seeking executioners in February this year.

Amnesty is also concerned about a sharp spike in the number of death sentences imposed in some countries during 2018. In Iraq, the number quadrupled from at least 65 in 2017 to at least 271 last year. In Egypt, the number of death sentences handed down rose by more than 75%, from at least 402 in 2017, to at least 717 in 2018. This rise can be attributed to the Egyptian authorities' appalling track record of handing out mass death sentences after grossly unfair trials, often based on "confessions" obtained under torture and after flawed police investigations.

However, 2018's figures show that the death penalty overall is in long-term decline. For example, Burkina Faso adopted a new penal code that effectively abolished the death penalty last June. Also last year, Gambia and Malaysia both declared an official moratorium on executions, while in the US, the death penalty statute in the state of Washington was declared unconstitutional in October.

In all, at the end of 2018, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes while as many as 142 were "abolitionist" (having formally or informally abolished it). During the UN General Assembly in December, 121 countries - an unprecedented number - voted to support a global moratorium on the death penalty. Only 35 states voted against.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's Secretary General, said:

"The dramatic global fall in executions proves that even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realise the death penalty is not the answer.

"This is a hopeful indication that it's only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs.

"The positive news of 2018 has been marred by a small number of states who are shamefully determined to buck the trend.

"Japan, Singapore and South Sudan reported their highest levels of executions in years, and Thailand resumed executions after almost a decade - but these countries now form a dwindling minority. To all the countries that still resort to the death penalty, I challenge you to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment now.

"Amnesty has been campaigning to stop executions around the world for more than 40 years - but with more than 19,000 people still languishing on death row worldwide, the struggle is far from over."

Cases

Noura Hussein, a young Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death in May 2018 for killing the man she was forced to marry as he tried to rape her. After global outrage, including major campaigning efforts from Amnesty, her death sentence was overturned and she was instead given a 5-year prison sentence. Noura told Amnesty:

"I was in absolute shock when the judge told me I had been sentenced to death. I hadn't done anything to deserve to die. I couldn't believe the level of injustice - especially on women. I'd never imagined being executed before that moment. The first thing that came to my mind was, 'How do people feel when they are executed? What do they do?'. My case was especially hard as at the time of sentencing, my family had disowned me. I was alone dealing with the shock."

H? Duy H?i, convicted of theft and murder in Vietnam after he says he was tortured into signing a "confession", was sentenced to death in 2008. He remains on death row and at risk of execution. The stress of a pending death sentence has had a hugely detrimental impact on his family. His mother, Nguy?n Th? Loan, told Amnesty:

"It has been 11 years since he was arrested and our family was torn apart. I can no longer bear this pain. Just thinking about my son suffering behind bars hurts me so much. I would like the international community to help reunite my family. You are my only hope."

(source: allafrica.com)

AFRICA:

Death Penalty In Sub-Saharan Africa By Oluwatosin Popoola

The use of the death penalty – the world’s ultimate cruel punishment – has decreased in sub-Saharan Africa according to a recent report released by Amnesty International. This is good news for sub-Saharan Africa and an indication that the region continues to turn against the death penalty.

Of the 29 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that still retain the death penalty in law, only four – Botswana, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan – carried out executions in 2018. Although Botswana and Sudan resumed executions last year, having not carried out any in 2017, the overall number of known executions in the region went down from 28 in 2017 to 24 in 2018. This drop was mainly due to Somalia, which usually carried out the highest number of executions in sub-Saharan Africa, executing less people last year than it did in 2017.

The presence of these 4 countries on the list of executing countries in the region is not surprising as they are notorious adherents to the death penalty and have consistently implemented death sentences in the last decade. Of particular concern is the surge in executions in South Sudan, last year the country executed 7 people – the highest number since gaining independence in 2011 – and has already surpassed this grim record by executing 8 people in the first 3 months of 2019 alone.

Although 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa imposed death sentences in 2018, eight of these are abolitionist in practice because they have not executed anyone during the last 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions.

At the end of last year, at least 4,241 people were known to be on death row across sub-Saharan Africa; each individual with their own story, and a reminder that thousands of people are at imminent risk of their lives being taken away by the state. One such individual is 17-year-old Magai Matiop Ngong who, in 2017, was convicted in South Sudan for murder, a crime he claims was an accident, following a trial in which he was not represented by a lawyer. During his trial Magai told the judge he was just 15 years old, but this was disregarded, and despite a strict prohibition against the use of the death penalty against minors under both South Sudanese law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, he was sentenced to death.

As Magai languishes in Juba Central Prison waiting for the outcome of his appeal, he reflects: ‘The feeling is not good at all because no one likes to die. To be informed that you are going to die, I am not happy for that. My hope is to be out and to continue with my school.’

While South Sudan’s growing use of the death penalty puts dozens of people like Magai at risk of execution, other countries such as Burkina Faso and Gambia have chosen to take a different path.

In Burkina Faso, the death penalty was deleted from a new Penal Code that became law in June; this effectively abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes only as the death penalty remains in the country’s military law for exceptional crimes. In addition, a provision expressly outlawing the death penalty has been included in a new draft constitution which may be adopted this year.

Also, President Adama Barrow of Gambia continued to entrench his commitment to rid his country of the death penalty. In February 2018, he announced the establishment of an official moratorium on executions. In September, Gambia became the 86th State Party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty; an international treaty which commits Gambia not to carry out executions and take necessary measures to abolish the death penalty.

4 decades ago no country in sub-Saharan Africa had abolished the ultimate cruel punishment for all crimes. Today, 20 countries in the region have done so. It is hoped that before too long Burkina Faso and Gambia will join these countries, and others will follow. Despite a minority of countries holding the region back, Sub-Saharan Africa is on course to completely abolish the death penalty, the trajectory may be slow, but, it is steady.

(source: Oluwatosin Popoola, Amnesty International’s Advocate/Adviser on death penalty, based in London----saharareporters.com)

ASIA:

Death penalty: as world executes fewer prisoners, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand are killing more

Globally, the number of executions has hit its lowest level in a decade, having fallen to 690 last year from 993 in 2017, according to the human rights watchdog’s 2018 death penalty report. While Southeast Asia as a region is broadly in line with that trend – with 7 of the 10 Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members carrying out no executions last year – the other 3 states are carrying out more.

Vietnam is the region’s most prolific executioner. It carried executed 85 people in 2018, more than any other Asean member. It also handed down 122 death sentences, meaning it now has more than 600 prisoners on death row. Meanwhile, Thailand carried out its first hanging since 2009 and Singapore hanged 13 people – its most since 2003. The Thailand execution was of a murderer; in Singapore most of the executions were of drug offenders. Vietnam, which uses lethal injections, executed people for a variety of offences, including murder, drug crimes and national security violations.

Malaysian calls fall on deaf ears as Singapore executes drug trafficker Prabu Pathmanathan

Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo said despite the fall in executions worldwide some states were “shamefully determined to buck the trend”.

Singaporean anti-death penalty activist Kirsten Han said the global trend made it even “more disappointing” that Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam were “still clinging on to this archaic, cruel punishment”.

“In 2018 we have seen more executions in Singapore than for a long time, even though there is a lack of evidence that it’s more effective at deterring crime than any other punishment,” she said.

And Amnesty International Malaysia’s executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said that despite the global trend, campaigners still had their work cut out. She pointed out that the Philippines, which abolished the death penalty in 2006, was now looking to restore it.

Philippines’ Duterte wants to revive the death penalty for retribution

“Efforts should be intensified, not lessened. Countries that are pushing for the death penalty are using political populism to retain or reintroduce it, despite research proving that it is not an effective deterrent. Politicians and leaders use the death penalty to show they want to be tough on crime, despite it not impacting the crime rate.”

Her view was echoed by legal adviser and human rights activist Michelle Yesudas, who said that despite the progress it was disheartening to see some nations “taking a hardline stance on retribution and executions”. “As Singapore chalks up increased executions, Brunei, an abolitionist country in practice for more than 20 years has now included stoning to death as punishment and the Philippines is considering the reinstatement of the death penalty. These moves ride on a wave of anti-crime rhetoric and the false idea that the death penalty is a deterrent and these narratives must be countered.”

For anti-death penalty campaigners, one of the highlights of last year was a commitment by Malaysia to do away with capital punishment.

However, the former Malaysian representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, Edmund Bon, noted that so far no other Asean nation had shown signs of following its lead.

Last May, Malaysian voters unseated the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in favour of the more progressive Pakatan Harapan, which set about a series of legal reforms including a moratorium on the death penalty. The government, however, has not yet decided what will happen to the 1,275 prisoners already on death row.

Globally, China remains the world’s most prolific executioner. Amnesty International’s report said it believed the number of executions to be in the thousands, but it could not give an exact figure as the data was a classified state secret.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Iraq accounted for 78 per cent of the 690 executions in 2018. At least 98 of the executions were for drug-related offences.

There were 136 executions in the Asia-Pacific, up from 93 in 2017, although this increase was attributed mainly to Vietnam disclosing a figure – something it rarely does.

By the end of 2018, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes and 142 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

In October last year, Singapore hanged Prabu Pathmanathan, who was convicted of drug trafficking despite appeals from the Malaysian government.

Human rights groups claimed that sentence was carried out in breach of due process.

In 2016, Singapore executed another Malaysian, Kho Jabing, for killing a construction worker. In the same year, law and home affairs minister K. Shanmugam slammed activists for “romanticising individuals involved in the drug trade”.

The minister said capital punishment would remain part of Singapore’s comprehensive anti-drug framework that includes rehabilitating users.

More recently, Singapore hanged Malaysian Michael anak Garing, who was convicted of murder in 2015.

(source: South China Morning Post)

ABKHAZIA:

Abkhazia reintroduces death penalty for drug dealing----A moratorium was placed on the death penalty back in 1993

Abkhazia has passed a law reintroducing the death penalty for drug dealing.

The law also provides for life-imprisonment, and will come into force on 1 January 2020.

Abkhazia imposed a moratorium on the death penalty back in 1993. Currently, there are only 3 convicts serving life sentences in Abkhazia.

The public has responded ambiguously to the news, with roughly half the public supportive of the idea and half against it.

Comments from social media:

“I would be surprised at this decision had our legislators not banned abortions several years ago. After the ban, they are staying the course for Saudi Arabia.”

“Our children are killed every day, and they earn on their lives. Maybe if at least 2 drug dealers are deprived of their own, someone will come to their senses and be frightened?”

In the post-Soviet space, the death penalty is only allowed by law in Belarus. In other places, it has either been abolished or a moratorium imposed on it.

(source: jam-news.net)

MALAYSIA:

Malaysia continues to grapple with death penalty abolition

The number of global executions fell by 1/3 last year, making it the lowest number of executions in at least a decade, according to a report released on Wednesday by human rights group Amnesty International.

The report comes as the Malaysian government continues to grapple with whether or not to abolish the death penalty, a move fiercely opposed by conservative and opposition groups.

The Pakatan Harapan government, led by prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, had initially outlined plans to fully abolish the death penalty as part of its election manifesto in March 2018 – a move that would have granted reprieve to more than 1,200 people on death row. But since taking power in May, the coalition government has backpedalled on the initial promise. It has instead debated whether to remove the mandatory death penalty on certain crimes and leave it to the courts' discretion to enforce the death penalty – much to the dismay of human rights groups and pro-abolitionists.

"The reversal of the earlier decision is shocking, unprincipled and embarrassing," N. Surendran, advisor to human rights group Lawyers for Liberty, said last month.

The government has however placed a moratorium on the death penalty, which means any death sentence handed down in the meantime cannot be carried out until the moratorium is lifted, or a final decision is reached on abolition.

"We believe the Malaysian government knows exactly what is the right thing to do," said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, executive director of Amnesty International Malaysia, during the official launch of the organisation's report in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Parliamentarian Kasthuri Patto, a pro-abolition politician who was also at the launch, said the minister for law Liew Vui Keong is "very much on board with abolishing the death penalty."

However, she added "the challenge is for him to convince the Cabinet to speak in that same language." Opposition parties Parti Se-Islam Malaysia (PAS), an Islamist party that controls the eastern states of Kelantan and Terengganu, along with the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), have expressed their reluctance in doing away completely with the death penalty.

MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong said the government should not abolish capital punishment for the sake of fulfilling its election manifesto, in comments reported by The Star, while PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang recommended that a detailed study first be undertaken on the issue.

Meanwhile, parliamentary sittings are due to end on Thursday, making it unlikely that a landmark abolition decision will be reached within the next 24 hours. The next parliamentary sitting is scheduled to occur in July.

Till then, the decision will remain in the balance.

(source: qantara.de)

PAKISTAN:

New bill proposes death for acid attacks

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is introducing “The Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2019” to criminalise acid and burn related violence proposing death penalty or rigorous imprisonment for life on those who intentionally carry out acid and burn attacks.

According to a press release issued Tuesday, the PML-N MPA Hina Pervez Butt has prepared the Bill that will be submitted in Punjab Assembly in coming few days. The PA session is commencing from tomorrow (Thursday).

Under this Bill, if such an act has resulted into the death of any person the attacker shall be punished to death or imprisonment for life and whosoever intentionally commits acid and burn attack shall be punished with death row or rigorous imprisonment for life.

It has been proposed in the Bill that the investigations will be carried out not below the rank of inspector/SHO within 14 days of being informed or registration of FIR. However, the court will allow time but not exceeding 14 days, provided reasonable grounds exist for such extension. Total time for investigation into acid or burn attacks shall not exceed 60 days, where it does such failure may be used in performance assessment of the presiding judge of the officer in charge of investigation as the case may be.

Section 10 of the Bill says those who will attempt to commit the offence of acid attack or burn attack shall be punished with imprisonment of either description which may extended to 7 years but shall not be less than 3 years and also with fine not exceeding Rs100,000.

Hina Pervez Butt said that women caucus was concerned about the acid throwing and burn crimes which were increasing year by year. Hundreds of women and children and few men fall victim to this crime.

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

Asia Bibi will leave Pakistan within weeks, says PM Imran

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an interview with BBC News, revealed that Chiristian woman Asia Bibi will soon leave Pakistan. BBC News World Affairs editor, John Simpson, asked the premier about the current status of the Christian lady who was acquitted by the Supreme Court in blasphemy case.

Replying to the question, the PM said she will leave the country soon.

'Are we talking about days or weeks?'

To this, PM Imran Khan said 'within weeks' adding that there are some complications in this regard that could not be discussed in media.

But I assure you that she is safe, Imran told Simpson.

(source for both: Express News)

BANGLADESH:

Man receive death penalty for wife’s murder

A man was sentenced to death and fined Tk1 lakh by Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal Judge, Md Hafizur Rahman on Tuesday, for murdering his wife.

Md Nuruzzaman strangled his wife Nadira Akhter following row over dowry

Nuruzzaman’s mother and brother were also sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment by the court.

According to the case statement, Nadira was married to Nuruzzaman from Patharghata upazila of Barguna in 2008. Since the marriage, Nadira was tortured by her in laws' family for dowry.

On August 19, 2010, Nuruzzaman demanded a dowry of Tk2 lakh from Nadira. He strangled Nadira to death when she refused to meet his demand.

To cover up this murder and pass it as a suicide, Nuruzzaman, with the help of his mother and brother, hung the dead body of Nadira from the ceiling-fan.

Nadira’s father, Md Rustam Ali filed a case against Nuruzzaman, his mother, and his brother, with the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal on August 25, 2010.

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

War crimes: SC sets June 18 for Azhar, Qaiser’s appeal hearings----The International Crimes Tribunal sentenced both of the war criminals to death and life imprisonment

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has set June 18 for the appeal hearings of convicted war criminals, Jamaat leader ATM Azharul Islam, and former Jatiya Party state minister, Syed Md Qaiser.

A four-member bench of the Appellate Division, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, gave the order, Wednesday morning.

The appeals were filed challenging the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) verdict that sentenced both Azhar and Qaiser to death.

Advocate Khandaker Mahbub Hossain represented Azhar, while SM Shahjahan represented Qaiser.

On December 23, 2014, The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) 2 sentenced former state minister for Jatiya Party, Syed Md Qaiser, to death, after 14 charges out of the total 16 framed against him were proven beyond any doubt.

He was given the death penalty on 7 charges; life imprisonment on 4 charges; jail terms of 10, 7 and 5 years on 3 charges; and was acquitted of the 2 remaining ones. His jail terms will be merged with the death sentences.

Qaiser filed an appeal against his conviction on January 19, 2015.

ICT 1, on December 30, 2014, sentenced Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam to death, for his war crimes committed in Rangpur. He was found guilty on 5 charges out of 6.

He was given 25 years of rigorous imprisonment on 1 charge and 5 years on another, and acquitted of the other remaining charges. Azhar filed his appeal on January 28, 2015.

The tribunal, in its observation, also asked the state to initiate a compensation scheme for rape victims of 1971 and "war babies" – children of women raped by the Pakistan army or anti-liberation forces.

(source for both: Dhaka Tribune)

CAMBODIA:

Foreign drug traffickers don’t fear Cambodian laws: Sar Kheng

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Monday said that Cambodians are becoming increasingly exposed to drugs because foreign syndicates are taking advantage of the fact that the Kingdom does not have a death penalty for trafficking.

Speaking at a meeting with Battambang provincial officials, Mr Kheng said the country remains vulnerable to cross-border drug trafficking, noting that the spread of illegal drugs is causing many social issues in Cambodia.

He said that some Asean countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have the death penalty for trafficking, prompting international drug syndicates to operate out of Cambodia.

“During the leadership of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin, about 2,800 people involved in drugs were executed while in the Philippines authorities have gunned down more than 10,000 people who committed drugs crimes,” Mr Kheng said. “So the drug traffickers come to operate their business in Cambodia.”

He cited a report from the National Authority for Combating Drugs that said police have confiscated more than 700 kilograms of illegal drugs in the Kingdom since 2017.

Mr Kheng also said that a large number of inmates are drug dealers and users, causing overcrowding and associated problems in prisons, noting that this has led to criticism of government ministries over prison overcrowding.

“Currently, there are 30,000 inmates in prisons, one-third of whom have tested positive for drug use,” he said. “People are continuing to be affected by drug trafficking and drug use, especially those who live near the Cambodia-Laos border.”

Mr Kheng urged authorities to work harder to crack down on drug crimes at the Cambodia-Laos border and prevent drugs from entering the Kingdom.

He noted that drug rings operating in Laos also smuggle drugs to China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Mr Kheng urged officials to strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries to stop the flow of drugs and arrest drug traffickers, noting that drug trafficking is more prevalent at tourist sites such as in Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces.

According to a police report last year, foreigners involved in drug offences came from 24 different countries including Vietnam, China, France, Australia, Colombia, Nigeria, Russia, the US, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, Taiwan and England.

Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said the death penalty, which is applied in some Asean countries, has played an important part in reducing the drug menace, but noted that it has not completely stopped people from using drugs.

“The country’s constitution forbids the death penalty and we cannot move backwards to amend it,” he said. “I believe it’s important to strictly enforce the laws and strengthen the capacity of our officials in combating and preventing drug use and trafficking.”

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of monitoring and protection at rights group Licadho, yesterday said judicial reforms are needed to address the drug issue.

“Having a death penalty will not eliminate drug trafficking and I believe the best way is to reform the way public officials tackle the problem,” he said.

“Police must not be afraid to arrest powerful people behind the drugs business.”

(source: Khmer Times)

MIDDLE EAST:

Iran and Iraq lead way in reducing executions in the Middle East----Executions fell by 41 percent from 2017 to 2018, but Amnesty International says practice still taking place

The Middle East saw far fewer executions in 2018 than it did the previous year, driven largely by sharp reductions in the number of people being put to death in Iran and Iraq, according to Amnesty International.

A report from the human rights group released on Tuesday found that the number of executions in the Middle East fell by 41 % in 1 year, from 847 in 2017 to 501 in 2018.

That's the lowest number of executions the region has seen in almost a decade.

"We're encouraged by the reduction in executions, which suggests that even the countries that are the most adherent to the death penalty are beginning to change their ways," Oluwatosin Popoola, one of Amnesty's death penalty experts, told Middle East Eye.

"A 50 % drop in Iran shows that when legal reforms take place, executions can fall. However, we must also note that, overall, the region continues to use the death penalty heavily and against international law."

Only Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen were known to have carried out executions in 2018.

That's half the number of countries that used what Popoola called the "ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment" in 2017.

While Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine and the United Arab Emirates had carried out executions in 2017, none were recorded in those countries a year later, according to Amnesty's 55-page report.

The methods of execution ranged from beheadings in Saudi Arabia to shootings in Yemen. Hangings were used in Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Sudan, while stoning to death is kept on the books in some countries, but is seldom used.

Meanwhile, the chaos of Syria's war made it impossible to collect data in that country, said Popoola.

Beheadings, crucifixions and other punishments carried out by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group were not viewed as judicial executions and were not counted, he added.

Decline in Iran, Iraq

Supporters of the death penalty say that it deters would-be killers and drug dealers from wrongdoing. Abolitionists say it is cruel, outdated and typically punishes poor and minority groups, while people who are well-connected get lighter sentences.

Iran has long been among the world's top users of the death penalty, with courts battling epidemics of heroin and opium abuse - and levying the punishment against drug addicts and drug dealers making money from the illicit industry, among others.

Still, recorded executions there have fallen by half, from 507 in 2017 to 253 in 2018, Amnesty International found in its report.

This followed a shift in November 2017, when Iranian lawmakers re-wrote the country's anti-drug rules so that only kingpins, armed dealers and those convicted of smuggling large quantities of narcotics would face the punishment.

Hadi Ghaemi, director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, a campaign group, described a long struggle to change attitudes in the country, which at one time executed some 1,000 drug dealers and other convicts every year.

"It's a remarkable decline and a major accomplishment for a 10-year campaign, by activists both inside and outside Iran, aided by international pressure, against the senseless use of the death penalty in Iran," Ghaemi said.

"It was overused, too frequently against poor and illiterate individuals but not the cartel kingpins. It did nothing to address Iran's drug epidemic, and slowly public opinion and even the hardliners wised up to this."

Neighbouring Iraq saw even bigger reductions between 2017 and 2018, with a 58 percent drop in recorded executions - from 125 to 52 - in that one-year span.

This may reflect a slowdown in executions of IS members, many of whom were rounded up and convicted under anti-terror laws as their self-declared caliphate was beaten back and eventually defeated in Iraq during 2017, said Popoola.

But the report did not suggest a wholesale shift away from executions in the Middle East.

Although Iraq and Iran recorded big reductions, they still rank among the world's top 5 countries that carry out executions. The others are Saudi Arabia, with 149 recorded executions, Vietnam (at least 85) and China (more than 1,000).

In Iran, for instance, justice is often imposed more harshly against members of minority groups, such as Mohammad Salas.

A Gonabadi Dervish, Salas was executed in June after being found guilty in a "grossly unfair" trial for the murder of 3 police officers, the Amnesty report said.

Iran too frequently executes those who were aged under 18 at the time of their crimes, the group also found.

Saudi Arabia executes a large number of foreigners, mostly for murder and drug crimes, while defendants in such trials often lack legal safeguards and sometimes don't get a translator in court, Popoola said.

While the rate of executions across the region has fallen, the same does not go for the number of death penalties that were handed down by courts.

'It's a remarkable decline and a major accomplishment for a 10-year campaign, by activists both inside and outside Iran ... against the senseless use of the death penalty'- Hadi Ghaemi, Center for Human Rights in Iran

In Iraq, that number quadrupled from at least 65 in 2017 to at least 271 in 2018.

And in Egypt, the number of death sentences handed down rose by more than 75 %, from at least 402 in 2017 to at least 717 in 2018, as the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi cracked down on political opponents.

Nizam Assaf, the Amman-based co-ordinator of the Arab Coalition Against the Death Penalty, noted that while execution rates had fallen, no single Middle Eastern government had excised the death penalty from its laws this past year.

"There's been a reduction in executions in Iran and Iraq, but these two countries still execute large numbers of people," Assaf told MEE.

"We're still waiting to see real progress on this issue in our region. We need to see more lobbying work and more international pressure on these regimes so that the right to life is properly respected."

(source: Middle East Eye)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Fear over 23 Nigerians on death row in Saudi Arabia

JAILED IN SAUDI ARABIA

Halimat Oyebanjo Oyaya 10yrs

Sherifat Shawni 4 yrs

Limata Ahmad 10yrs

Halimat Isah 5yrs

Olubumi Adejarani Olaniyan 10yrs

Omobolanle Funke 15yrs

Nuratu Bolanle Yusuf 15yrs

Maryam Ibrahim Tanko 7yrs

Rahma Abdulkarim 20yrs

Nuratu Yusuf Abike 20yrs

Bolaji Kehinde 10yrs

Yasirat Abolanle Salau – awaiting trial

23 Nigerians are on the death row in Saudi Arabia. They may be beheaded any time from now, The Nation has learnt.

Besides, 11 are serving various jail terms for drug trafficking in the kingdom.

Another suspected trafficker is awaiting trial.

The 23 death row inmates could not be named for “diplomatic and sensitivity” reasons.

Unless President Muhammadu Buhari intervenes, the death toll could be higher, a source said.

The “late” response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a memo from the Nigerian Consul-General, Amb. M. S. Yunusa, is believed to have contributed to the execution of a Nigerian woman, Kudirat Adeshola Afolabi about 2 weeks ago.

It was learnt that the ministry had been “diplomatically slow” in responding to issues connected with Nigerians.

No ministry official was willing to comment on the allegation yesterday.

The Consul-General wrote twice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Geoffrey Onyeama, on December 3, 2018 and February 6, 2019, raising the alarm over the plight of Nigerians in Saudi Arabia.

He said the nation should endeavour to use its diplomatic bond with Saudi Arabia to seek pardon for all our compatriots condemned to death and for those serving various jail terms.

But more worrisome to the Consul-General is what he believe is the security lapse at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano, which is being used for massive drug trafficking.

The envoy admitted that there is a drug syndicate at the airport.

He alleged that the syndicate in cahoots with greedy airline officials at MAKIA were checking in extra bags containing prohibited drugs.

He said members of the syndicate had been using particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags to smuggle drugs leading to the arrest of Nigerians who had no links with drug trafficking.

One of the memos said: “Furthermore, it is with humility that I bring to the Honourable Minister‘s knowledge that, sadly, there are a number of Nigerians arrested for alleged drug related offence who are currently in detention at Dhahban Prison (Male Section) and Madina Prison (Male & Female Sections). Mission was unable to gain Consular access to them as the host authorities have flatly refused to grant permission for such despite several requests to that effect.

“Following the outcome of investigations carried out by both the NDLEA and the Nigeria Police (Kano State Command) the Honourable Minister may wish to note that:

“There exists a criminal syndicate collaborating with greedy officials of some airlines at MAKIA, notably Ethiopian and Egyptian Airlines, who connive to check in drug-laden bags, using passenger’s particulars without their consent or knowledge;

“Nigerian victims of the activities of these criminal gangs were arrested and detained in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking offences they did not commit;

“The outcome of investigations by the Nigeria Police and NDLEA absolved these victims of complicity in the crime of peddling drugs into the Kingdom. The investigations further established beyond reasonable doubts that the victims were unaware of the drug-laden baggage that were checked in bearing their particulars by unknown persons at MAKIA, Kano;

“All the suspected culprits had been apprehended and a case of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust and drug trafficking has been established against them, hence, they were arraigned at the Federal High Court, Kano;

“There are 24 Nigerians who were condemned to death between 2016 2018 for drug trafficking in contravention of the Kingdom’s Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Control Law issued under Decree No. M/39 dated 8/7/1428AH;

“There are 12 Nigerian women currently serving various jail terms at Dhahban prison for drug smuggling.

“Meanwhile, the following drug traffickers are serving various jail terms:

a) Halimat Oyebanjo Oyaya – 10 years b) Sherifat Shawni – 4 years c) Limata Ahmad – 10 years d) Halimat Isah – 5 years e) Olubumi Adejarani Olaniyan – 10 years f) Omobolanle Funke – 15 years g) Nuratu Bolanle Yusuf – 15 years h) Maryam Ibrahim Tanko – 7 years i) Rahma Abdulkarim 20 years j) Nuratu Yusuf Abike – 20 years k) Bolaji Kehinde – 10 years I) Yasirat Abolanle Salau – awaiting trail

“There are a number of Nigerians accused of drug trafficking incarcerated at various Saudi Prisons but the Mission was unable to undertake consular visits due to refusal by the Saudi authorities to grant permission for such visits despite repeated requests and

“Drug smuggling into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Nigerians has reached an alarming proportion and all hands must be on deck to check this menace.”

The Consul-General gave insight into how a syndicate had infiltrated the security in Kano to perpetrate drug trafficking.

His memo drew the minister’s attention to “a frightening development that portends grave danger to passenger travelling to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano.”

“It has emerged that some criminally minded individuals working in cohort with greedy airline officials at MAKIA, have perfected the art of checking in extra bags containing prohibited drugs, particularly Tramadol, using the particulars of innocent passengers and baggage tags presumably assigned to such passengers travelling to the Kingdom. Regrettably, this contemptible act exposes innocent Nigerians to high risk of losing their lives,” the memo said, adding:

“As you are aware Your Excellency, drug trafficking attracts capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. It is, therefore, imperative that urgent steps are taken to checkmate the activities of these miscreants. “Certainly, failure to do so would be tantamount to allowing innocent Nigerians to face death sentences for crimes they did not commit.

“At this juncture, it would be appropriate to mention some of these cases that were handled by the Consulate-General. For Instance, Messrs. Bashir Usman Sani, Amdani Salisu Maikasuwa and Ibrahim Abubakar Ibrahim, were arrested and later imprisoned in 2017 while Zainab Habibu Allyn and Ibrahim Abubakar were arrested on 25th December, 2018 and have remained in prison custody following date, for alleged drug trafficking.

“However, in the case of Ms. Zainab Habibu Aliyu and pursuant to a complaint lodged by her father, Alhaji Bashir Usman Sani (in Nigeria), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Nigeria Police (Kano State Command) have thoroughly investigated the case and six suspects were arrested and charged to Federal High Court, Kano.

“The accused persons are, Messrs Idris Umar Shehu (Alias Umar Sande), Sani Suleiman, Nuhu Adamu, Udosen Itoro Henry, Sani Hamisu and Ms Rhoda Adetunji. They were charged with conspiring to export Tramadol to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and for illegally checking in additional baggage containing the banned substance and linking same to Ms. Zainab Aliyu and Ibrahim Abubakar, passengers on board Ethopian Airline flight ET 941/ET 402 to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 24th December, 2018.

“ In the same token, seven other suspects, namely, Yusuf Isa Ahmad, Shaba Umaru, Diwawu Mustapha, Shafiu Musa, Murtala Muhammad, Musa Haruna and Hajiya Gawure Abba Aji were also arrested and charged to court with criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and drug trafficking. They were also accused of tagging additional drug-laden baggages and falsely linking same to Messrs Bashir Usman Sani and Amdani Salisu Maikasuwa. Again, Messrs Rabiu Mahmud Sani and Anthony/Johnson as well as Mrs. Celestine Emanuel Yayok were also charged with fraudulency tagging and exporting a bag containing psychotropic drugs suspected to be Tramadol using the passport details of Ibrahim Ibrahim Abubakar Ibrahim.

“Your Excellency, permit me to state that investigation carried out by both the NDLEA and the Nigeria Police have established beyond reasonable doubts the existence of some criminal syndicates masquerading as touts rendering assistance to unsuspecting passengers at MAKIA, Kano.

“These miscreants are now endangering innocent lives and this state of affairs should not be allowed to remain unchecked.

“ Furthermore, it is noteworthy to state that consequent upon the Mission’s relentless efforts through several notes to host Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Makkah Region Branch) and ceaseless interactive sessions with the officials of Saudi Department for combating Drugs, Food and Drug Administration as well as the offices of the Public Prosecutor, Makkah and Madinah Regions, Messers Bashir Usman Sani, Amadani Salisu Maikasuwa and Ibrahim Ibrahim Abubakar Ibrahim have all been released on 25th October, 2018 and 25/1/2019 respectively.

“Again, it is pertinent to reiterate that peddling of drugs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contravenes the Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances Control Law, issuer under Royal Decree No. M/39 dated 8/7/1428AH and is punishable with death penalty. Unfortunately, between 2016- 2017 the under noted Nigerians were arrested at King Abdul Aziz International Airport. Jeddah and Prince Muhammad bin Abdul-Aziz international Airport, Madinah for smuggling narcotic drugs concealed in their rectums.

The Consul-General made 5 recommendations to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, including the need to seek clemency for innocent Nigerians held for drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia.

The recommendations are:

Enhancement of security surveillance by installing functional CCTV cameras at the checking-in counters and other sensitive areas of airports in Nigeria;

Henceforth, Nigeria Airport Management Authority (NAMA) in collaboration with other relevant security agencies should institute a compulsory baggage identification procedure before boarding for all checked-in luggage;

Every passenger should check in his/her luggage personally and not through third parties;

The trial of those found culpable for checking-in extra-baggage’s using the identities of victims should be pursued expeditiously and the attested copies of the judgments be made available to the Mission for onward transmission to our host authorities as proof that the culprits were punished in accordance with our laws; and

The Federal Government should henceforth, appeal for clemency and pardon for all our compatriots condemned to death and for those serving various jail terms.

(source: thenationonlineng.net)

IRAN:

Woman Sentenced to death in Iran Based Solely on Qasameh

A woman suspected of murdering her husband was sentenced to death in Iran based solely on Qsameh, the state-run ISNA news agency reported Monday.

Citing that the case has “procedural and substantive” defects, the woman’s attorney Abdulsamad Khorramshahi who was cited by ISNA said they have submitted an appeal and the case will be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

According to the report, Khorramshahi had previously said about the case that his client was accused of having fatally poisoned her husband and child but there was no evidence to prove the acusations.

Khorramshahi said on January 30, 2019 that a forensics report showed that the woman’s husband and child were poisoned but it did not specify the type of poison and the poisoning may be due to gas leakage.

The lawyer has stated that his client has denied all the accusations. Furtheremore, there is no solid evidence that proves her guilt.

At the request of the victims’ relatives, the woman was sentenced to death based on Qasameh (proof of a criminal case by the means of swearing) despite the lack of evidence against her.

Qasameh is one way, within the Islamic jurisprudence and criminal law in Iran, to prove crimes related to murder and physical injuries when there is no enough evidence against the suspect.

The relatives of a plaintiff must bring 50 relatives to the court to swear an oath that the defendant is guilty. Otherwise, the defendant must swear an oath and plead not guilty 50 times in order to have her charges dropped.

The people who swear in Qasameh are not usually direct witnesses to the crime.

Qasameh appears to be a weak way to prove a crime, yet it continues to be used in the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and criminal law.

Issuing an execution verdict without evidence, because the plaintiff’s family claims the defendant is guilty, should not acceptable in a modern legal system and should be considered a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article 10.

On October 30, 2017, Mojtaba Ghiasvand was executed at Rajai Shahr Prison based on Qasameh.

(source: Iran Human Rights)

BRUNEI:

Stoning Gay People to Death in Brunei Is an Outrage and Not My Definition of Islam

I was 13 years old when I first heard of the Sultan of Brunei. The absolute ruler of a tiny, oil-rich kingdom in Southeast Asia, Hassanal Bolkiah was the subject of a much-discussed TV documentary by the British filmmaker Alan Whicker in 1992. As a young teenager, sitting in front of the television, I was in awe of this Muslim king. He was the richest man in the world! He earned a quarter of a million pounds every hour! He owned more than 150 cars!

Today, however, I’m filled not with awe but with disgust. Brunei has become the first country in Southeast Asia to impose capital punishment for “crimes” such as adultery and gay sex.

LGBTQ Bruneians, who are in particular danger, have been fleeing the kingdom. Can you blame them? According to the Associated Press, “Homosexuality was already punishable in Brunei by a jail term of up to 10 years. … But under the new laws, those found guilty of gay sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their 1st offense and a left foot on their 2nd. The laws also apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.”

This is barbarism, plain and simple. How can a punishment rightly described as “cruel and inhuman” (U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet), “vicious” (Amnesty International), and “medieval” (Human Rights Watch) be considered appropriate or acceptable in the 21st century? Has the Sultan — who isn’t exactly a paragon of moral rectitude himself — taken leave of his senses?

Then again, shamefully, Brunei isn’t alone. A recent study by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association found that there are already 6 countries that explicitly make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. And, as a Muslim, it is a source of deep frustration for me that 5 out of the 6 are Muslim-majority countries — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia — and in the sixth, Nigeria, the death penalty is imposed only in Muslim-majority or Muslim-plurality states. According to ILGA, there are also 70 member states of the United Nations that “criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts” — and, again, Muslim-majority countries are disproportionately represented on that list. In fact, homosexuality is illegal in the vast majority of the world’s Muslim-majority nations, from Senegal in West Africa to Malaysia in Southeast Asia to Qatar in the Middle East. (Full disclosure: I host 2 shows on Al Jazeera English, which is funded by the government of Qatar. According to the Qatari penal code, gay sex can result in a prison sentence.)

It is easy to blame all of this rampant, state-sponsored homophobia in the Muslim-majority world solely on Islam. Indeed, the prominent British atheist, scientist, and Islamophobe, Richard Dawkins, cited Brunei’s barbaric new law in order to compare my faith to cancer.

Yet the truth is that nowhere in the Quran is a legal punishment prescribed for the sin, or the “crime,” of homosexuality. There are no authentic reports in any of the Muslim books of history of the Prophet Muhammad punishing anyone for same-sex acts. In fact, even many Muslims today are unaware that the Ottoman Empire decriminalized homosexuality in 1858. Got that? One hundred and nine years before the U.K. and 145 years before the United States, the biggest Muslim-ruled empire on earth decreed that there should be no penalty for being gay.

To be clear: The consensus position among mainstream Islamic scholars, whether Sunni or Shia, is that same-sex relations, like extramarital or premarital relations, are a sin. There is, however, no consensus among scholars about any earthly punishment for committing this sin. Don’t take my word for it — ask Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, described as “arguably the West’s most influential Islamic scholar.”

To point the finger only at Islam, or even at Islamists, doesn’t explain why Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power after toppling the Muslim Brotherhood and is now a hero to Ivanka Trump, has violently cracked down on LGBTQ communities; or why Muslim men are fleeing a “gay purge” in secular Chechnya.

Homophobia is not the monopoly of any one country, culture, or religion. Catholic-majority Brazil is believed to have the highest LGBTQ murder rate in the world. Orthodox-majority Russia passed a “gay propaganda law” in 2013. Here in the United States, anti-gay hate crimes are on the rise and, according to Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Federation, the Trump administration has “done so many things that are as anti-LGBTQ as you could possibly be.” The president has even joked that his vice president wants to “hang” all gay people. (As my friend Owen Jones, perhaps Britain’s best-known progressive and gay commentator, has observed, “If you only talk about LGBTQ rights to bash Muslims, you don’t care about LGBTQ rights.”)

For those of us who are Muslims, however, there is no point denying that queer people do face particular abuse, discrimination, demonization, and violence across the Muslim-majority world. It is long past time for us to engage in a frank discussion about our attitudes toward gay people in our midst. We have to find a way to try and reconcile our beliefs — and Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, has traditionally seen homosexuality as a sin — with the reality of life in modern, pluralistic, secular societies in which gay people cannot be wished away or banished from sight. Personally, as a practicing Muslim, I have had to think long and hard about this over the years, and I have also written before about my own homophobia when I was younger and the lack of compassion and understanding displayed by some in my own community.

Muslims, though, are not a monolith. In the United States, the majority (51 %) of Muslims now support a legal right for gay couples to marry, compared to a majority (58 %) of white evangelical Christians who remain opposed. There are a number of prominent Muslim-majority countries, from Turkey and Indonesia to Bosnia and Kosovo, where it isn’t a crime to be gay (though, of course, homophobic prejudice and discrimination still abounds).

And, in an interview on the Deconstructed podcast in February, the soon-to-be prime minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, told me that he plans to repeal his country’s anti-gay laws. Ibrahim, one of the most respected voices in the Muslim-majority world who was himself imprisoned on trumped-up charges of sodomy, said the laws are “archaic,” a hangover from the days of British colonialism, and “nothing to do with Islam or Christianity.” For Ibrahim, “you cannot condemn people for their sexual orientation” because “your sexual orientation is your business.” However, he added, “it will take time” for attitudes to “evolve.”

Here’s the problem though: Gay Bruneians no longer have time on their side. Their Muslim-majority neighbors have stayed silent while Brunei’s Western allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, have issued the most tepid and halfhearted of condemnations. It has been left to Hollywood celebrities to publish scathing op-eds and launch a loud boycott campaign. So it’s time for the rest of us — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — to make some noise too, on behalf of members of a persecuted minority group who are in genuine fear for their lives.

Remember, this isn’t a debate about Islamic theology or ethics. This isn’t about changing sincerely held religious beliefs. We should all, of course, be free to believe what we want, but while I can’t and don’t speak for other Muslims, I’ll tell you this for free: Stoning innocent people to death is not my definition of Islam.

(source: Mehdi Hasan, theintercept.com)

BELARUS:

Europe's Last Executioner

Belarus is the last country in Europe to have the death penalty. Since 1991, about 300 death sentences have been carried out in the country. The condemned prisoners are shot in the head. The body is not given to the family and the place of burial remains a state secret.

(soruce: rferl.org)

UNITED KINGDOM:

Javid must oppose death penalties

Tories accused of backtracking on human rights by Amnesty International as death penalty rate rises around the world.

Human rights campaigners have called on the government to reaffirm its opposition to the death penalty as they accused the UK of showing a "new flexibility" in its approach to capital punishment.

Amnesty International's call comes after Home Secretary Sajid Javid faced criticism in July last year after not seeking assurances that Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, two of the so-called Isis Beatles, would not face execution if they were extradited to the US.

The charity's annual report on the death penalty globally showed an increase in capital punishment in nations which are UK international allies such as the US and Japan, despite executions overall falling by nearly 1/3 last year.

Hypocrisy

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's director, said: "Historically, the UK has a good record in terms of encouraging other countries to abolish the death penalty, but last year's backtracking in the case of Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh was extremely worrying.

"Kotey and Elsheikh's alleged crimes were appalling, but that doesn't justify the UK in adopting a pick-and-mix attitude in its opposition to the death penalty. You either oppose the cruelty of the death penalty, or you don't."

The pair are accused of belonging to a brutal 4-man cell of Islamic State executioners in Syria, nicknamed The Beatles because of their British accents, responsible for killing a number of high-profile Western hostages.

They were captured in January last year, sparking a row over whether they should be returned to the UK for trial or face justice in another jurisdiction.

Ms Allen added: "One of the likely fall-outs from the UK's new 'flexibility' on the death penalty is the possibility that pro-death penalty governments will begin to accuse the UK of hypocrisy if we oppose their use of capital punishment.

Abhorrent

"Capital punishment is a serious human rights violation and the UK should be opposing its use in every instance, not just when it suits it politically."

The report revealed that globally the number of executions in 2018 fell by nearly a third to 690, the lowest in a decade. But this also saw a rise in executions in countries including Iraq, Egypt, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the United States.

China is believed to be the world's most prolific executioner, where thousands are believed to be put to death each year, however that data is still classified as a state secret.

Despite a significant decrease in the numbers from Iran, the figures showed the nation still accounted for more than a third of the known executions recorded globally last year.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's secretary general, said: "Japan, Singapore and South Sudan reported their highest levels of executions in years, and Thailand resumed executions after almost a decade - but these countries now form a dwindling minority.

"To all the countries that still resort to the death penalty, I challenge you to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment now."

(source: theecologist.org)

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