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

OCTOBER 24, 2020:

TEXAS----new execution date

John Hummel has been given an execution date of June 30, should be considered serious


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----52

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----570

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

53----Jan. 21---------Blaine Milam--------------572

54----Feb. 10--------Edward Busby---------------573

55----Mar. 4---------Ramiro Ibarra--------------574

56----Apr. 20--------Ramiro Gonzales------------575

57----June 30-------John Hummel-----------------576

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Court appoints lawyer for woman accused of mother-child murder

A woman accused of murdering a New Boston woman so she could take her unborn child earlier this month has been appointed a lawyer to represent her on charges of capital murder, murder and kidnapping.

Taylor Parker, aka Taylor Morton, 27, was taken into custody Oct. 9 at a hospital in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, in connection with the deaths of 21-year-old Reagan Simmons Hancock and her unborn daughter, Braxlynn Sage Hancock. Reagan Hancock was 34 weeks into her pregnancy when Parker allegedly attacked her in her New Boston home, cut the baby from her womb and left with the child.

The baby, 6 weeks short of full term, was pronounced dead at the hospital. A Texas state trooper who pulled Parker over at about 9:37 a.m. in DeKalb on the morning of Oct. 9 reported that Parker had the infant in her lap, claiming to have delivered the child roadside, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

This week, 202nd District Judge John Tidwell appointed Harrelson, an experienced criminal defense attorney, to Parker's defense. Thus far, Parker's only court appearances have been in Oklahoma, where she waived extradition to Texas, and before a magistrate judge in the Bowie County jail, where bails totaling $5 million were set.

Should the state seek the death penalty for Parker, it is likely Tidwell will appoint a second defense lawyer and a mitigation expert as is routine in such cases. A mitigation expert is tasked with collecting evidence about a defendant that might lead a jury to opt for life without parole rather than death in the event of a capital murder conviction.

Parker allegedly faked a pregnancy for months. Parker's boyfriend allegedly told investigators the couple held a gender reveal party and that he expected to meet Parker at the hospital in Idabel, Oklahoma, around noon Oct. 9 for a planned, induced labor and delivery.

Bowie County District Attorney Jerry Rochelle issued a public plea for assistance in the case Wednesday.

Rochelle said law enforcement is seeking to acquire surveillance video or other information that would help them establish the movement of a 2009 black, 4-door Toyota Corolla with Texas license plate LHL0637 on the morning of Oct. 9.

"Any video of any route between New Boston and DeKalb could potentially contain vital information," Rochelle said. "The main areas of concern are, but not limited to, U.S. Highway 82, FM 1840, FM 561 and FM 992."

(source: Texarkana Gazette)


'Exonerated Five' Member Sells Shirt Clapping Back at Trump’s Death Penalty Ad After Debate

A member of the Central Park Five, now known as the Exonerated Five, has created a T-shirt clapping back at the President Trump after Trump said he was the “least racist” person and has done more for the Black community than any president “with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

Following Thursday night’s final presidential debate, Raymond Santana, who owns the clothing line Park Madison, took to social media to showcase a new series of T-shirts encouraging people to vote, with one a direct jab at the president.

The T-shirt features an ad which the real estate mogul took out asking to bring back the death penalty in the 1989 case. The ads never explicitly called for the death penalty for the 5 teens, but Trump made it clear that the action he was calling for was done with the victim of the attack, Trisha Meili, in mind.

“I want to hate these murderers and I always will,” Trump wrote in the May 1989 ad. “I am not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”

During Thursday’s debate, the Central Park Five’s story came up as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden brought up the fact that Trump wanted the 5 teens dead following the president’s comments about how he is the “least racist.”

“This is the guy who, when the Central Park Five — 5 innocent Black kids — he continued to push for making sure they got the death penalty,” Biden said. “None of them, none of them were guilty of the crimes that were suggested.”

Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana had years of their lives shaved off — imprisoned for a crime they never committed.

Trisha Meili was the victim of a gruesome rape in New York's Central Park in 1989. In tabloids and newspapers, she came to be known as the “Central Park Jogger," while the 5 teens accused of attacking her — Wise, Salaam, McCray, Richardson and Santana — were dubbed the “Central Park Five.”

In 2002, the 5 men convicted as teens were freed after the district attorney determined Meili had been attacked by Matias Reyes, who confessed to the crime. His admission was confirmed by DNA evidence. Meili was the second woman he raped and beat in Central Park that week.

The 5 boys were elsewhere in the park at the time of Meili's attack, the district attorney's office determined in 2002.

In 2003, the 5 men sued the City of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. The city settled in 2014 with the 5 defendants for $41 million.

Trump in 2019 said he wouldn't apologize for his comments made in 1989. “You have people on both sides of that,” he said at the White House. “They admitted their guilt.”

In 2019, their story was featured in the acclaimed Netflix series “When They See Us."



Death row inmate says he's facing execution based on lying jailhouse snitch's word----James Dailey says he may be executed without physical, eyewitness evidence; Skalnik testified in at least 35 cases for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and was once described as “the Florida State Attorney’s go-to witness.”

The clock is ticking for death row inmate James Dailey, and the jailhouse informant who helped put him there said he has no regrets about his participation in the case.

Dailey has spent more than 3 decades on Florida’s death row for the brutal 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. He has appealed, time and again, each time unsuccessful, and he’s running out of options.

Since his 1987 conviction, Dailey, a 74-year-old Vietnam War veteran, has maintained his innocence. Dailey’s legal team said there’s no evidence -- eyewitness, physical or forensic -- to tie Dailey to the teen’s killing, and that prosecutors relied on the word of jailhouse informants to win a conviction, one of whom was Paul Skalnik.

Skalnik was a storied con man with a long rap sheet. Yet, he served as a witness in 35 different cases, helping send dozens to prison and three others to death row.

During Dailey’s trial, his current legal team said Skalnik lied on the witness stand when cross-examined about his past criminal history and lied when he claimed Dailey had confessed to him he committed the crime.

ABC News tracked down Skalnik in a nursing home, in Corsicana, Texas, in January. He agreed that he helped put Dailey on death row.

When asked if he lied on the stand, as Dailey alleged, Skalnik said, simply, “there’s a time and a place to talk.”

Did he have any regrets? “Not to my knowledge,” Skalnik said.

Dailey has had one stay of execution, but a new date could be set at any moment. He said he has nothing to say to the man who helped put him there.

“I wouldn't say anything to him [Skalnik],” Dailey told ABC News' Matt Gutman in an interview from death row. “He wouldn't hear [it]. He's just so self-absorbed, so narcissistic, such a big con man, and he's a child rapist.”

Dailey’s legal team hasn’t given up the fight. Josh Dubin, Dailey’s co-lead counsel, is an Innocence Project advisor and renowned advocate for the wrongfully convicted. In 2018, Dubin won a case that freed an innocent man from Florida’s death row. Now he’s on Dailey’s case with the same goal.

Skalnik died 2 months after speaking with ABC News. Dailey’s co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Boggio and was Dailey’s housemate at the time of the murder, signed a declaration last December stating that he alone killed Shelly.

“James Dailey had nothing to do with the murder of Shelly Boggio,” the declaration said. “I committed the crime alone. James Dailey was back at the house when I drove Shelly Boggio to the place where I ultimately killed her.”

But Pearcy refused to testify to this at a hearing on March 10, instead insisting he was innocent.

“I've done 35 years for a crime I didn't commit and I don't plan on testifying against somebody else to help the State kill them and that will be all my testimony could basically do, so I have nothing else to say,” Pearcy said at the hearing.

In an evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio, co-defendant Jack Pearcy leaves the courtroom after refusing to testify, March 5, 2020 in Clearwater, Fla.

Now, Dailey’s legal team is appealing for a new trial to the Supreme Court of Florida or clemency from Florida Gov. Ron Desantis.

What happened to Shelly Boggio?

On May 5, 1985. Shelly Boggio and her twin sister were with a friend near St. Petersburg, Florida, when they were picked up by Pearcy, then 29, Dailey, then 38, and Oza Dwain Shaw, Pearcy’s friend from Kansas, then 28.

Dailey said, “we drove back to our place and smoked some dope and drank some beer.”

Afterwards, Dailey said he, Pearcy, Shelly, Shelly’s sister, their friend and Gayle Bailey, Pearcy’s pregnant girlfriend at the time, got back in the car. Dailey said they dropped Shelly’s sister and the friend off and then the four that remained went to a local bar.

Shelly Elizabeth Boggio was killed at the age of 14 on May 5, 1985. Her killer, James Dailey, now 73, is set to be executed on Nov. 7, 2020.

Dailey said they left the bar around midnight and went back to the house. According to Dailey, Pearcy said he would drive Shelly home.

Shaw had not gone to the bar but stayed behind at the house. When Pearcy said he was going out again to drop Shelly off at home, Shaw told police in a 1985 interview that he asked him for a ride to the payphone to call his girlfriend, which Pearcy agreed to do.

Dailey insists he did not go with them. “I went in my bedroom, went to sleep,” he said.

While he was at the payphone, Shaw told police Pearcy and Shelly waited in the car. After a bit, he told authorities Pearcy and Shelly “got impatient and was honking” so he told them to leave him.

Chelsea Shirley, Dailey’s former appellate attorney, told ABC News that they have the telephone records to confirm this call was placed at 1:15 a.m.

The medical examiner would later determine that Shelly was murdered sometime between 1:30 and 3:30 a.m.

After hanging up with his girlfriend, Shaw told authorities he walked back to the house. In a 1985 police interview, a detective asked Shaw: “Where was Jimmy [Dailey] this time you came back from making your phone call?”

“He wasn't in the living room or I think he was in bed, in the bedroom,” Shaw said. “I'm not sure.”

Shaw told detectives Pearcy returned to the house hours later, alone, around 4 a.m. Dailey said Pearcy then came into his room and woke him up.

“[He] said, ‘I've got a couple of joints. Let's go smoke them,’ and grabbed a six pack of beer out of the fridge," Dailey said.

Dailey said he got out of bed and he and Pearcy drove out to the Belleair Causeway, a bridge near St. Petersburg. He said he and Pearcy threw a frisbee around by the waterside there. The frisbee went into the water and he got his pants wet when he fished it out, he said, and then after a while, the two men returned home.

“The next morning, the bridge tender finds Shelly's body mutilated and she's naked and she's dead,” Carol Martin, a juror who served on the trial, told ABC News.

Shelly's body was found floating in the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway near the Indian Rocks Beach drawbridge. She had been stabbed more than 30 times. Authorities said she had fought back and had a number of defensive wounds.

Shelly’s cousin Andrea Boggio recently went to the place where her body was found 35 years earlier for the first time. She still couldn’t believe something so horrific had happened to the young teen, whom she described as being "very kind, very sweet" and "very soft spoken."

“How could somebody kill a little girl and just leave them in the water,” Boggio said. “What drives somebody to do that? The devil. An evil, evil person.”

Kalli Boggio said her sister Shelly’s “life mattered and it still matters.” Boggio said she and her family “will never stop until we seek justice.”

Dailey and Pearcy go to trial

Dailey and Pearcy were arrested and indicted on 1st-degree murder charges. At the time, Pearcy told authorities that Dailey killed Shelly and that he was sleeping in his car when the murder took place.

Dailey maintained that he never saw Shelly again after she, Pearcy and Shaw left to go to the payphone.

Both Shaw and Bailey told police in 1985 interviews that Dailey's pants were wet when he and Pearcy returned home the morning of May 6.

The 2 men were tried separately, with Pearcy going first in 1986. The jury convicted him quickly, but recommended life in prison instead of a death sentence. The following summer, Dailey’s case went to trial.

“The state's theory was that Jack, Jim Dailey, and Shelly left and that they drove around, then they went to the waterside,” Shirley said.

Dubin told ABC News “there was just no evidence” to tie Dailey to the killing, adding that Dailey "didn't have a history of violence against women. He didn't have a motive.”

At trial, prosecutors called a trio of jailhouse informants who were in jail with Dailey while he was awaiting trial. 2 of them testified that Dailey made incriminating statements, but then the third inmate, Skalnik, took the stand, and Dailey’s attorneys claim he was a show-stopper.

At the time, Skalnik was in jail on a pending charge for grand theft. He testified that Dailey confessed to him that "the young girl kept staring at him, screaming and would not die. And he stabbed her and he threw the knife away.”

When asked about his reaction to Skalnik’s testimony, Dailey said, “Well, other than disbelief, other than trying to tell my attorney that never happened, it was just sickening.”

Dailey said he didn’t kill Shelly and never confessed to Skalnik or anybody else. “Absolutely not.”

He said everyone in the jail knew Skalnik was a snitch. He maintains that weeks before his trial, he was moved to the same wing of the Pinellas County Jail as Skalnik. Skalnik, Dailey says, was in a single cell, and that he was in a pod of about 16 prisoners.

“According to Paul Skalnik, as he's walking down the hallway, Dailey shouts at him through this double layer of bars, ‘Oh hey, let me talk to you,’” Shirley said. “So according to Skalnik, they talk. Mr. Dailey says, you know, he killed her."

In other words, Dailey said, “I would have had to yell my confession to him, and there's always guys sitting at the table right there, playing cards.”

Paul Skalnik testified that Dailey confessed to him in jail, but Dailey insisted he never confessed and said he "would have had to yell" a confession "in a pod of about 16 guys."

The jury was told by both the prosecution and Skalnik that he was not promised anything or given a deal in exchange for his testimony against Dailey. The jury never heard Dailey's explanation for having wet pants because he never took the stand, though Dailey said he wanted to testify.

“I wanted to get up and tell what really happened,” he said. “I don't know why-- my attorney at that trial said that he didn't want me to testify because he couldn't believe that we played Frisbee.”

But because Dailey never testified, Martin, a juror on the case, said Skalnik’s testimony was the only information the jury had that "supposably" came from Dailey.

“If we were to believe what the snitches were saying, that was the only way we could hear James Dailey's voice,” said Martin. "It was very interesting, listening to the snitches."

Dailey was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1987.

“I went out, sat down on a bench,” Dailey said. “And there was a mental health guy there. And I just started crying. He says, ‘What's the matter?’ And I said, ‘Well, I was just sentenced to death for a crime I didn't commit.’”

Five days after Dailey was sentenced to death, Skalnik was released from jail on his own recognizance, which meant he did not have to put up bail on the pending grand theft charge. Then he skipped town.

The perfect liar?

Born in 1949, Skalnik was adopted young, raised in League City, Texas. He started out on the right track, according to school yearbooks: student council, the Key Club, and he was even voted president of the Future Business Leaders of America. After high school, he went to the New Mexico Military Institute for a short stint. Then went on to become a police officer, for just over a year, in Austin, Texas.

But then his life took a drastic turn.

“He was charged with theft,” said former Texas prosecutor Margaret Hindman. “It was a bunch of hot checks.”

Skalnik was allowed to resign from the force and slipped into a new career as an insurance agent. By age 30, Skalnik had divorced twice. His third wife was Penny Rogers.

According to Rogers’ daughter, Skalnik was a master manipulator who at first swept Penny right off her feet when they met in 1977.

“I thought my mother had found the most wonderful guy,” Lisa Rogers told ABC News. “He told me I was his princess and that I could call him Dad, but I never did. He told her that he was CEO of Southwest Airlines. He would get dressed in a three-piece suit, all his gold and diamonds.”

Not long after her mother married Skalnik, Lisa Rogers said, “He got to be very abusive. He would lock my brother up in a room, beat him. My mom, he would beat her. He ... started touching me inappropriately. I was like, ‘What did I do? What did I do to make him do that?’”

Skalnik never faced charges for crimes Rogers said he committed against her and her family, but by spring 1978, Skalnik found himself in a Houston jail for passing a dozen bad checks. Once he was released, Rogers said Skalnik disappeared.

“He was engaged to another woman in Florida while being married to my mom,” Rogers said.

Skalnik continued committing crimes. In 1982, Karen Parker was just 12 years old, a 7th grader, when she says Skalnik showed up “out of the blue,” an acquaintance of a neighbor, in Florida. Skalnik was 32 at the time.

One day, Parker says, she and others in the neighborhood were supposed to go fishing when Skalnik summoned her to his car.

“It was dark,” Parker said. “His windows were tinted. And he pulled me in and started kissing me on the mouth-- like an adult would kiss an-- another adult. And-- he grabbed my hand and put it in his pants. I couldn't believe it was happening. I felt like where's all the adults?”

Ultimately, Parker told authorities and Skalnik was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct on a child. He was facing 15 years if convicted. Parker passed a polygraph. There were witnesses who say they saw this, and in a strange bit of irony, Skalnik allegedly told someone, in jail, that he committed the crime. Still, the charge was dropped because the state attorney's office determined there was insufficient evidence and Skalnik instead pleaded no contest to a pending grand theft charge.

When asked about Dailey, Parker said she doesn't know if he's innocent or guilty of murdering Shelly Boggio but that "if any of his sentencing is based on the testimony of Paul Skalnik, that should be wiped away and start over because he's a perfect liar."

Skalnik's plea deal kept him in the Pinellas County Jail.

While in Pinellas County Jail, Skalnik claimed that a fellow inmate, Kenneth Gardner, confessed to him for the murder of a hardware store owner in Clearwater, Florida.

“Skalnik was claiming at that time that Mr. Gardner had made a statement to him to the effect of, "I killed him, but no one will be able to prove it," Frank Louderback, who represented Gardner, told ABC News.

Gardner was convicted, and Skalnik, was later paroled after serving 1/2 of a 5-year sentence for grand theft. But Skalnik wouldn’t stay out of jail, and he kept gathering confessions.

“Prosecutors used him an awful lot,” Ronnie Crider told ABC News.

Crider, an attorney who defended Pearcy, said he became familiar with Skalnik during another case and even took his deposition.

“I asked him how many times he'd actually been listed as a witness by the state,” Crider said. “And he told me 28.”

Documents obtained by ABC News reveal that Florida used Skalnik as a witness in 35 cases in Pinellas County alone.

“Suddenly Skalnik, who was unknown to me... became known as what appeared to be the state attorney's go-to witness,” said Louderback.

Skalnik testified in at least 35 cases for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and was once described as “the Florida State Attorney’s go-to witness.”

In one case involving Skalnik as an informant, the state’s attorney’s case file included a handwritten note that says that if Skalnik’s assistance "in previous discussed cases is substantial, the state will be seeking to mitigate -- Probation was discussed!"

Skalnik was not just a witness for the state attorney's office. In 1984, one Pinellas County detective, John Halliday, wrote to the parole board in support of granting Skalnik’s parole while he was serving time for the grand theft conviction, saying "Skalnik has to my knowledge testified in excess of thirty (30) criminal trials in which six (6) inmates received the death penalty.

Skalnik was paroled. But not for long. Just 2 years later, Skalnik was back in Pinellas County Jail again, where he would claim Dailey confessed to him.

Five days after Dailey is sentenced to death, Skalnik was released from jail, “due to his cooperation in the first-degree murder trial where he was a witness,” according to internal Florida Parole Commission documents obtained by ABC News. Skalnik was released from jail without having to post bail on the pending grand theft charge. Then he skipped town.

Halliday declined to be interviewed by ABC News for this story.

Stephen Thompson, a spokesperson for the 6th Circuit prosecutor's office submitted a statement to ABC News saying, “we don’t typically comment on any cases… The judges' decisions in court speak for themselves.”

What happened to Skalnik after Dailey's trial

After the Dailey case, Skalnik made his way back to Texas where he met the mother of Misty Anderson. But before long, Anderson said, Skalnik was sexually assaulting her. “The horrible things he did still live in my nightmares.”

“I was an assistant criminal district attorney,” Margaret Hindman told ABC News. “This was a sexual assault of a child-- he had really groomed this little girl. Of course, he denied it.”

Misty Anderson said she quickly felt something wasn’t right about Paul Skalnik, and after he started to abuse her, Anderson said, “I told my mother and my mother, in that moment, became my hero."

Hindman says Skalnik claimed to be working for the CIA as an informant for the FBI and used the alias “Jason Paul Bourne,” seeming to refer to the Robert Ludlum novels.

Skalnik was convicted in 1993 of sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 10 years in a Texas prison.

When ABC News caught up with Skalnik, he had been released after serving his time in prison for the Anderson case. He said that in the years since then, he had moved to Massachusetts, had more brushes with the law, served more time, and was back in Texas.

When asked if he wanted to see Dailey put to death, Skalnik said, "there are times and moments, yes."

Skalnik died two months after our interview.

Robert Heyman, 1 of the prosecutors at Dailey's trial, said the state was aware Skalnik was a professional con man when he testified against Dailey.

“Skalnik, you know, we vetted him,” Heyman said. “I know he's been under attack as a professional snitch… we checked him out.”

Heyman maintains that justice has been served in Dailey’s case.

“I think that's an appropriate sentence under the law of the state of Florida,” he said. “Do you know how many times this has been reviewed by the courts, both in the state and the federal levels? And they seem to have been satisfied so far.”

And now, at any moment, the governor of Florida could sign a death warrant for Dailey.

"I'm not afraid to die," Dailey said. "What I'm afraid of is spending the rest of my life in prison for a crime I didn't commit, not being able to clear my name for my kids and my grandkids and my great-grandkids.”

(source: ABC News)


Who Did Paul Skalnik Send to Death Row?

Paul Skalnik was a widely used jailhouse snitch in Pinnellas County, Florida, and even had a detective speak on his behalf during a parole board hearing.

He served briefly as a cop in Austin, Texas and retired after he was caught for writing bad checks. Skalnik’s work as a confidential informant resulted in dozens of guilty pleas and convictions, which are now under fire. ABC 20/20 is looking into his testimony in a 2-hour episode, “The Perfect Liar.” The case looks into the case of James Dailey, who is on death row following Skalnik’s testimony. The episode airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time Friday, October 23, 2020 on ABC.

Dailey wasn’t the only person who was sentenced to death in a case that relied on Skalnik’s information or testimony. Also sentenced to death were Kenneth Gardner, Richard Cooper and Jason Walton.

ABC 20/20 is examining the case on “The Perfect Liar,” a 2-hour episode that looks into the use of confidential informants in jail. The episode airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time Friday, October 23, 2020.

Here’s what you need to know:

Paul Skalnik’s Work as an Informant Supplied Information in 35 Cases & Sent 4 People to Death Row

THIS STORY should shake your faith in our legal system: Paul Skalnik is a “con man” & ex-cop who cheated his wives, ratted on strangers, & racked up arrests. Hard to fathom a less credible informant – but there’s a man on death row rn on his testimony — Keri Blakinger (@keribla) December 4, 2019

Skalnik became one of the most prolific jailhouse informants in history. His testimony over the years sent 4 people to death row, according to The New York Times Magazine. In 1984, he sent a letter to Sen. Lawton Chiles of Florida requesting favorable treatment.

“I have placed 34 individuals in prison, including four on death row,” the letter said.

In only 6 years, from 1981 to 1987, he supplied information or provided testimony in 37 cases in Pinellas County, Florida, alone. In 18 of those cases, a suspect was under indictment for murder. Most of the cases resulted in convictions or plea deals, the article said.

Dailey was scheduled for execution in November 7, 2020, but was granted a limited stay of execution, according to The Innocence Project. He remains on death row as his attorneys fight his case.

Death Sentences Were Overturned for 2 Defendants Involving Skalnik Supplying Information

Maybe the best piece ever written about a jailhouse snitch: @pamelacolloff 's searing, unforgettable portrait of Paul Skalnik, the pathological informant used by FL prosecutors even as he preyed upon children and committed other harmful crimes…. — The Open File (@openfilesite) December 4, 2019

Skalnik testified in a 1982 triple-murder that sent two defendants to death row. In 2020, only 1 of those 2 defendants remains on death row, and the other is sentenced to life in prison. Steven Fridella, Bobby Martindale and Gary Petersen were killed with a shotgun in a case that became known as the “High Point Murders” in Pinellas County. Richard Michael Cooper was granted a new trial in 2011 following a court decision that determined a jury should have heard about the abuse he suffered as a child. You can read the court decision in full here.

The decision addresses Skalnik’s testimony in great detail, but said it was not a factor in the decision. He testified in the penalty phase of the trial.

Footnotes of the court decision said:

Because Cooper is entitled to relief from the death sentence on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase for failure to investigate and present mitigating evidence, we need not decide whether trial counsel was ineffective in his investigation and cross-examination of state witness Paul Skalnik during the penalty phase, or whether direct appeal counsel rendered ineffective assistance by filing a brief that failed to raise a Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320, 105 S.Ct. 2633 (1985), violation during Cooper’s penalty phase, as both issues deal with the penalty phase of Cooper’s trial.

One of Cooper’s 2 co-defendants in the triple murder, Jason Walton, remains on death row, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Cooper’s attorneys accused Walton of being the ringleader of the group who committed the brutal murders.

“Based on the known history of informant convict felon Paul Skalnik, I do not see the fairness in executing James Dailey,” says a retired special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville division.

“His guilt is certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt.” — Opinion by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Opinion) January 4, 2020

“…3 victims were found lying face down with their wrists bound, and each had been shot at close range with a shotgun. An 8-year-old boy was found unharmed but had been locked in a bathroom,” the article said.

The 1st time Skalnik told authorities he heard a murder confession was from his cellmate, Kenneth Gardner, in 1983, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Skalnik claimed Gardner told him, “I killed him, but they’ll never prove it.” The line was not recorded, and Skalnik’s notes were “lost or destroyed.” Skalnik spent 3 years on death row before his conviction was overturned. He later pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to life in prison.



Stone could face death penalty, says prosecutor

A notice of aggravators has been filed against murder suspect Dennis Stone that could open the door for the commonwealth to seek the death penalty.

“(Stone) was indicted by a grand jury, and his bond remains the same,” Commonwealth Attorney Kathy Senter said. “I will be filing a notice of aggravators today (Friday), which enlarges the range of penalties I can seek against him, which includes the death penalty. His pretrial conference is Jan. 25, 2021.”

Stone, 32, of Madisonville, is facing murder, assault and wanton endangerment charges after Nichole Merrell, 30, of Madisonville, was shot and killed on Aug. 14 at an Earlington convenience store. One of her children was also shot, but was later released from the hospital, according to past reports.

Stone remains lodged in the Hopkins County Jail.

(source: The Messenger)


Virtual forum on state’s death penalty set for Sunday

A virtual community forum on “Race, Wrongful Conviction and the Death Penalty” will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. A focus will be on the planned execution of Pervis Payne, scheduled for Dec. 3 in Nashville.

He is a Black man with intellectual disability and son of a pastor.

If you would like to attend the forum, email to get the Zoom link.

The speakers will be Rolanda Holman, Payne’s sister, who will describe the circumstances surrounding his case and the push for DNA testing and commutation of his sentence; Sabrina Butler Smith, exoneree from Mississippi’s death row and Memphis resident, who will connect issues from her case to those in Payne’s case and the broader realities of racial injustice inherent in the death penalty; and the Rev. Stacy Rector, executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who will reflect on current issues raised by the death penalty, particularly as they relate to race and wrongful conviction.

According to Rector, “Pervis Payne’s case has all the ingredients for a wrongful conviction and death sentence. He is a Black man with intellectual disability who was accused of murdering a white woman; the prosecution played upon racial fears and stereotypes, and, for years, the state blocked DNA testing of evidence that could help prove Payne’s innocence. Gov. Lee should grant clemency on the grounds that he is likely an innocent man, and that as a person with an intellectual disability, his execution would be unconstitutional.”

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, the death penalty is disproportionately reserved for those who are Black, poor, or diagnosed with a mental illness. From 2007 to 2017, 8 of the 9 new death sentences in Tennessee were given to Black defendants.

In 2012, EJI examined jury selection procedures in 8 Southern states, including Tennessee. It found shocking evidence of racial discrimination in each state, including in counties where prosecutors excluded nearly 80% of Blacks qualified for jury service and in majority Black counties where defendants were tried by all-white juries. EJI also identified prosecutors who were trained to exclude people from juries based on their race.

(source: Opinion; Carolyn Krause, The Oak Ridger)


Execution date rekindles memories in Skidmore

Rows of headstones give way to fields of corn at the small, windswept cemetery where Bobbie Jo Stinnett is laid to rest. It’s possible to feel a sense of peace here that contradicts what happened nearly 16 years ago just a mile or so north, in Skidmore, Missouri.

On Dec. 16, 2004, Stinnett was 8 months pregnant when she met with a woman, who went by the name of Darlene Fischer, about a litter of rat terrier puppies. The 2 women played with the puppies outside of Stinnett’s house in Skidmore, but the visitor carried a kitchen knife and a white cord inside her jacket. A few hours later, the woman was gone, the baby was gone and Stinnett’s mother walked into a scene of sheer horror.

“This is one of the cases that you’ll never forget,” said Nodaway County Sheriff Randy Strong, who worked the case as a Maryville Public Safety investigator. “I’m constantly reminded of it.”

Another reminder came Oct. 16 when Lisa Montgomery — the woman who called herself Darlene Fischer on that day — was given a Dec. 8 execution date for the death of Stinnett and the kidnapping of the baby she cut from the 23-year-old mother’s abdomen. It will mark the 1st federal execution of a woman since Bonnie Heady in 1953, another case that featured a Northwest Missouri connection. Heady and Carl Hall where executed for the kidnapping and murder of Bobby Greenlease, a 6-year-old boy whose body was buried in St. Joseph.

Strong, who was part of a massive law enforcement response after Stinnett’s body was discovered, helped locate Montgomery and the baby in Melvern, Kansas. Years after he helped extract a confession, he plans to witness the execution at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

“It’s a finality for me,” he said, “something I want to see through to the end.”

The case brings not just finality. It also stirs up painful memories for those involved, as well as the wider community of Skidmore. The small Nodaway County town become the subject of news stories and documentaries about the 2004 murder/kidnapping as well as 2 unsolved cases: the shooting death of town bully Ken Rex McElroy in 1981 and the disappearance of 20-year-old Branson Perry in 2001.

“Of course it weighs on the people in Skidmore,” said Sandy Wright, the town’s mayor. “I think Skidmore has gotten a bad rap for some of the things that have happened here. Sometimes bad things happen in good places.”

Last week, even U.K. newspapers contained stories on the scheduled execution and recounted details of the crime. When Montgomery’s death sentence was appealed, federal court documents described the case this way: “Defendant incapacitated a pregnant woman so that she could extract the fetus and kidnap the baby.”

That doesn’t reflect all that happened. Those same court documents reveal that Montgomery strangled Stinnett until she passed out, but the young mother may have regained consciousness as Montgomery began to cut her. A struggle ensued, forcing Montgomery to use the cord a second time to kill Stinnett and then remove the fetus.

“We all dealt with terrible cases before,” said Don Fritz, a retired Cameron police officer who worked with Strong on the investigation. “But this one was just kind of extreme.”

The day after the murder, Strong remembers driving up to the house in Melvern and noticing rat terriers running around his feet as he prepared to enter. During her initial interrogation, Montgomery denied everything to Fritz and Strong. Fritz recalls pulling his chair up, patting Montgomery’s hand and telling her, “We’ve got to have the truth.” Then he looked down.

“I saw what I believed to be blood under her fingernails,” he said. “She dropped her head and said, ‘You’ve got the correct one. You’ve got the right baby.’”

During the penalty phase of the trial, a prosecutor asked Montgomery’s oldest daughter whether she had ever apologized. Montgomery replied that she did not remember committing the crime, according to court documents.

Strong has never wavered in his belief that the murder and kidnapping were meticulously planned. Montgomery brought a hospital-grade clamp for the umbilical cord. Gas station records indicate she conducted a dry run before the day of the attack. Court documents show that she was unable to get pregnant because of a medical procedure but may have wanted to fake it because of a custody dispute.

“It was one of the most well-planned murders I’ve ever seen,” Strong said.

The only source of joy is that Victoria Jo, the baby, was saved and reunited with her father. In those frenzied hours after the grisly discovery, investigators weren’t just trying to solve a murder. Strong remembers thinking how he had to get that baby out of Montgomery’s arms as soon as possible when he first saw them.

“You’ve got to get to the bottom of it,” Fritz told Strong on the drive to the house in Melvern. “You’ve got to recover the child.”

Today, that girl is old enough for high school and still lives in Nodaway County, surrounded by a family that values its privacy. Strong said he doesn’t know if it’s possible to have closure, for the family, for law enforcement and for the community at large.

“I think people want to see it over and move on,” he said. “I think that’s a stigma that floats over Skidmore. The people there still don’t like to talk about it.”

Wright said Skidmore is trying to move forward. “I don’t like dwelling on things that have happened in the past,” she said. “We’ve got a good town here.”

(source: The News-Press)


Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates to speak at Carson City Democratic tele-luncheon

Judicial candidates Ozzie Fumo and Bonnie Bulla will be the featured speakers at Monday's virtual Democratic luncheon. Fumo, Nevada State Assemblyman for District 21 in Las Vegas, is running for Nevada Supreme Court, Seat D. Bulla, who was appointed to Department 3 of the Nevada Court of Appeals by Governor Steve Sisolak in February 2019, is running to retain that seat.

Ozzie Fumo, a first-generation American, grew up in Las Vegas and was first elected to the State Legislature in 2016. As an Assemblyman, Ozzie’s two sessions have been marked by significant legislative achievements. In 2017 he sponsored Harvey’s Law to save lines by insuring that all paratransit drivers are trained in CPR, and in 2019 he championed Brooklynn’s Law, named after 13-year-old honor roll student, competitive gymnast, runner and violinist Brooklynn Mohler of Las Vegas, who was accidentally shot to death by her best friend using a hand gun left loaded in the kitchen cabinet by her father, who faced no legal consequences under Nevada's existing criminal statutes. He championed bills to end the death penalty, end cash bail, and codify automatic teacher raises into law. He also fought for legislation to make jury pools more reflective of community diversity.

One of the few members of the community to sit as a Hearing Master on Metro’s Public Fact Finding Police Use of Force Board, Ozzie has also served as a Judicial Referee in Las Vegas Justice Court. He has received the prestigious State Bar of Nevada Pro Bono Advocate of the Year Award for helping the indigent. He was named the 2019 Defender of the Year by the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and was named the 2019 Consumer Advocate of the Year by the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association. He is also an adjunct professor at the UNLV Boyd School of Law.

A partner at the Pitaro & Fumo law firm, he has been a trial lawyer for over two decades, defending Nevadans from all walks of life. He helped to seal the records of those who had paid their debt to society and needed a fresh start to their lives. He was honored as being among the Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers of 2015 by the American Society of Legal Advocates. He is currently the only Supreme Court candidate with firsthand experience writing legislation, trying death penalty cases, and effectively arguing cases before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bonnie Bulla was elevated to the Court of Appeals after a rigorous, comprehensive and competitive selection process conducted by the Nevada Commission on Judicial Selection. By then she had already served on the bench for more than 12 years as the Discovery Commissioner for the Eighth Judicial District Court, where she worked collaboratively with all 32 judges of the Eighth District, resolving tens of thousands of pre-trial discovery disputes spanning virtually every aspect of the law.

Judge Bulla was appointed to the Nevada Supreme Court Rules Committee by Justices Gibbons and Pickering to revise the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure. She has also been a member of the Eighth Judicial District Court Rules Committee. She has served as a grader of the Nevada Bar Exam, been an instructor in the National Institute of Trial Advocacy Deposition Program, a lecturer in pretrial discovery at the Nevada State Bar’s Trial Academy Young Lawyer’s Section, and was selected to serve as a judge for Trial by Peers, a diversionary program for youthful offenders. She served as a judge for Nevada's “We The People” high school civics competition, and has also coached soccer for children with special needs through the American Youth Soccer Organization. She is a long-time volunteer at Amazing Grace Ministry, where she assists the poor, homeless, and near homeless of Las Vegas.

Bonnie was born in Phoenix. In 1984. She graduated from from Arizona State University Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor of science degree in economics, and received her J.D. from Arizona State's College of Law in 1987. She moved to Nevada immediately after law school, and began a 19-year career as a litigator, working with some of Nevada's finest attorneys on a wide variety of complex litigation matters until being selected to be Discovery Commissioner in 2007 from a field of 50 candidates. She is past president of the Howard D. McKibben Chapter of the American Inns of Court, and has been a member of the Nevada Bar since 1987.

Judge Bulla's career experience includes working as an attorney, hearing master, discovery commissioner and appellate judge. She is a past president of the Southern Nevada Association of Women Attorneys, former Assembly Speaker of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (1997-1998), and was a 2018 recipient of the Clark County Law Foundation Liberty Bell Award. She was given an AV Pre-eminent rating by Martindale Hubbell's Judicial Edition.

Sponsored by the Democratic Men's Committee, this event is scheduled for noon on Monday, October 26th, and will be held online via Zoom teleconference due to the restricted availability of in-person venues. Those wishing to be on distribution for these Zoom links can email Rich Dunn, Men's Committee Events Coordinator, at

(source: Carson Now Reader)


Scott Peterson, who killed pregnant wife, faces death penalty at resentencing ---- “At this point in time, we are on track to retry" the death penalty case, a prosecutor told a judge in California on Friday.

California prosecutors disclosed Friday they will seek the death penalty, again, against convicted killer Scott Peterson, two months after his capital sentence was overturned.

Peterson appeared remotely from San Quentin State Prison, his home for more than 15 years since he was convicted of killing wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son.

“At this point in time, we are on track to retry the (death penalty) case," Stanislaus County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris told a judge in Modesto.

The California Supreme Court earlier this year overturned Peterson's death sentence, citing problems with jury selection during his trial

"Before the trial began, the trial court made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase," the state's high court ruled.

"While a court may dismiss a prospective juror as unqualified to sit on a capital case if the juror’s views on capital punishment would substantially impair his or her ability to follow the law, a juror may not be dismissed merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter."

The underlying conviction still stands, and prosecutors are free to seek the death penalty again.

“Peterson contends his trial was flawed for multiple reasons, beginning with the unusual amount of pretrial publicity that surrounded the case," according to the state high court ruling. “We reject Peterson’s claim that he received an unfair trial as to guilt and thus affirm his convictions for murder.”

Laci Peterson, 27, was 8 months pregnant when she vanished around Christmas Eve 2002.

Scott Peterson, now 47, had maintained he went fishing the day she disappeared. The remains of Peterson and her unborn child washed up later along the shore of San Francisco Bay, not far from where Peterson said he had gone fishing.

Laci Peterson's disappearance and the ensuing arrest and trial of Scott Peterson was one the most closely watched cases of the early 21st century.

The couple lived in the Central California city of Modesto, but the case was tried about 90 miles west in Redwood City, south of San Francisco, due to pretrial publicity.

Friday's hearing was in Modesto.

(source: NBC News)

USA----impending federal execution

Orlando Cordia Hall is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, November 19, 2020, at the Federal Correction Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. 49-year-old Orlando is convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering 16-year-old Lise Rene in September 1994. Orlando has spent the last 25 years on federal death row.

Orlando grew up in an unstable home and suffered from property. His parents fought almost daily and often failed to provide and/or care for their children. They divorced when Orlando was 15.

Orlando Hall, along with Bruce Webster and Marvin Holloway, ran a marijuana trafficking enterprise in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, that transported the purchased drugs from Texas to Arkansas. On September 21, 1994, Orlando traveled to Texas, where he met with Steven Beckley, who lived in Texas and usually transported the drugs.

After arriving in Texas, Orlando and Steven met two local drug dealers, Stanfield Vitalis and Neil Rene, at a car wash, and gave them $4700 for marijuana. Orlando and Steven returned to the car wash later that day to pick up the drugs, however Stanfield and Neil never appeared. Orlando was able to contact Stanfield and Neil by phone and the two local drug dealers claimed they had been robbed.

Using the phone number, Orland was able to locate an address and Orlando, Steven, and Orlando’s brother Demetrius Hall, staked out the Arlington, Texas address. They eventually saw Stanfield and Neil exit an apartment and approach a car they had claimed was stolen along with the money.

On September 24, 1994, Orland had his partner Bruce come down to Texas. Orlando, Bruce, Steven, and Demetrius, all armed with weapons knocked on the door of the apartment they had previously seen Stanfield and Neil leave. Lisa Rene, Neil’s 16-year-old sister, refused the let the men into the apartment. Bruce attempted to kick down the door, but was unsuccessful. Demetrius went around the patio where he saw Lisa on the phone through the sliding glass door. Using a baseball bat, Bruce shattered the door, entered the apartment, and dragged Lisa out and into the car.

During the drive, Lisa was raped by Orlando. The group changed cars before continuing to drive to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. They rented a motel room in Pine Bluff, where Lisa was tied to a chair and raped repeatedly. Lisa begged to be let go and promised to repay the money her bother had stolen.

On September 25, 1994, Orlando and Marvin went to the hotel room and took Lisa into the bathroom for 15-20 minutes. When they came out, Orlando said, “She knows too much.” Orlando and Bruce went to Byrd Lake Park and dug a grave. That evening, Orlando, Bruce, and Steven took Lisa to the park but were unable to find the dug grave. They returned to the hotel room.

The next day, Steven and Demetrius moved Lisa to another hotel out of concern that the security guard at the first hotel was getting suspicious. Later that morning, Bruce, Orlando, and Steven again took Lisa to Byrd Lake Park and covered her eyes with a mask. This time they were able to locate the grave.

Orlando struck Lisa on the back of the head. She screamed and started running. Steven quickly grabbed her and hit her twice on the head with the shovel. Bruce and Orlando then took turns hitting her over the head with the shovel until she was unconscious. Bruce then gagged Lisa, stripped her, and put her in the grave. They dumped gasoline on her and put dirt on top of her, before returning to the motel and picking up Demetrius.

On September 29, 1994, an arrest warrant was issued in Arlington for Orlando, Demetrius, and Steven. Demetrius, Steven and Bruce were arrested a short time later. Orlando turned himself into the police the following day. Orlando later gave a written statement to the FBI and Arlington County officials.

Orlando was convicted and sentenced to death in November 1995. Bruce was convicted and sentenced to death in June 1996. Demetrius, Steven, and Marvin all pled guilty to kidnapping and agreed to testify against Orlando and Bruce. They were given various prison sentences in exchange for the their testimony.

Pray for peace and healing for the family of Lisa. Pray for strength for the family of Orlando. Pray that if Orlando is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Pray that Orlando may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



DPIC Analysis: Use or Threat of Death Penalty Implicated in 19 Exoneration Cases in 2019

Prosecutors or police used or threatened to use the death penalty as a coercive tool that led to or extended the wrongful convictions of at least 19 people who were exonerated in 2019, a Death Penalty Information Center analysis of data from the National Registry of Exonerations has revealed. Nearly 95% of those cases also involved some other form of major misconduct, the DPIC analysis found.

DPIC’s special report, Use or Threat of Death Penalty Implicated in 19 Exoneration Cases in 2019, which the organization released on October 23, 2020, found that the use or threat of the death penalty was a factor in at least 19 of the 143 exonerations in the U.S. in 2019, more than 13% of the nation’s total. Collectively, these wrongful convictions caused exonerees nearly 500 years lost to wrongful incarceration.

Tracking the National Registry’s designation of factors contributing to the wrongful convictions (click here to enlarge graphic), the DPIC analysis found that Official Misconduct and/or Perjury or False Accusation was present in all but one of the wrongful incarcerations in which the death penalty was implicated (18 of 19, or 94.7%). Misconduct occurred with even greater frequency in the cases involving the use or threat of capital punishment than the already alarming rate at which misconduct historically occurs in exonerations. In its September 2020 report, Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent, the National Registry of Exonerations found that misconduct was present in more than 1/2 of all exonerations since 1989, and rose to nearly 3/4 of the cases in which exonerees had been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death.

“The numbers show that the death penalty has dangerous effects on the criminal justice system that go far beyond the already significant risk of executing innocent people,” said DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham, who conducted the analysis. “Innocent people confess to crimes they didn’t commit to avoid the possibility of being executed. Suspects, both innocent and guilty, who are threatened with the death penalty if they do not cooperate with law enforcement provide false testimony that sends innocent people to jail, often for decades. The data suggest that the misuse of the death penalty as a coercive interrogation and plea-bargaining tool poses a far greater threat to the fair administration of the criminal laws than we had previously imagined.”

The 2019 Annual Report of the National Registry of Exonerations includes 3 former death-row prisoners who were exonerated in 2019: Clifford Williams, Jr.; Charles Ray Finch; and Christopher Williams. Collectively, they spent 111 years wrongfully incarcerated for murders they did not commit. However, DPIC’s review of the National Registry’s data identified at least 1 other exonerees not sentenced to death who either were wrongfully convicted after they or others associated with the case were threatened with the death penalty or had their wrongful incarcerations extended because witnesses had been threatened with the death penalty if they testified for the defense.

In addition to the 3 death-row exonerations:

•Prosecutors sought the death penalty against 4 other men. In 3 of the cases, jurors convicted them of lesser degrees of murder or rejected circumstances that would have made them eligible for the death penalty. In the 4th case, prosecutors withdrew the death penalty at the start of trial.

•An 18-year-old was not capitally charged because of his age but was tried before a death-qualified jury because his co-defendant (who also was exonerated in 2019) was capitally tried.

•9 falsely confessed as a result of the death penalty. 6 gave false confessions after law enforcement threatened them with the death penalty. One of them pled guilty to rape and murder to avoid the death penalty; the actual killer remained free and committed another rape and murder. 3 falsely confessed to rape to avoid capital murder charges and then falsely implicated a 4th man (also exonerated in 2019) in the murder. A 16-year-old falsely confessed under pressure from his older brother so the brother would not face the death penalty, and then a prosecution witness who had been threatened with the death penalty falsely implicated the teen.

•3 were convicted of murder after prosecutors presented false testimony from witnesses who had been threatened with the death penalty.

•1 had his exoneration obstructed when prosecutors threatened a post-conviction witness with the death penalty for admitting to the murder and then charged the witness with perjury for his truthful admission.

The Registry’s September report also found that government misconduct was more likely to occur in cases involving Black defendants. Among the 2,400 exonerations it examined, 57% of Black exonerees and 52% of white exonerees had been victims of police or prosecutorial misconduct. However, the report found, “this gap is much larger among exonerations for murder (78% to 64%) — especially those with death sentences (87% to 68%).” The 2019 exoneration cases in which police or prosecutors sought or threatened to use the death penalty provided further evidence of this disparity. DPIC found white exonerees were victims of misconduct 75% of the time (in 6 of 8 cases), while all eleven Black exonerees had been victims of misconduct.

The DPIC analysis found dramatic evidence of the impact of coercive effect of law enforcement threats to use the death penalty. The odds that Official Misconduct contributed to a wrongful conviction were 4.57 times greater when the death penalty was pursued or its use was threatened, as compared to the 2019 exonerations as a whole and increased more than seven-fold (7.32 times greater) in the death-penalty-implicated cases as compared to non-homicide exonerations. Compared to homicide exonerations as a whole, Official Misconduct was nearly twenty percent more likely (19.3%) to be present when a case involved wrongful use or threat of the death penalty and the odds that Official Misconduct contributed to a wrongful conviction were 2.83 times greater.

The pursuit or threatened use of the death penalty also strongly correlated with the presence of Perjury or False Accusation. The odds that a wrongful conviction was procured by such testimony more than doubled (2.2 times higher) in cases involving death-penalty threats and were nearly triple (2.98 times higher) than in non-homicide exonerations. Compared to homicide exonerations as a whole, Perjury or False Accusation was ten percent more likely to occur when law enforcement sought or threatened to use the death penalty and the odds that Perjury or False Accusation would be present as a factor were 1.67 times higher.

Although every type of error or misconduct was more likely to be present in exonerations involving the use or threat of the death penalty than in other exonerations, the 2 areas in which the differences were greatest were wrongful convictions in which prosecutors presented false or fabricated confessions or mistaken eyewitness identifications. False confessions were 3.26 times more likely to occur in a case in which prosecutors threatened to pursue the death penalty or police threatened suspects or witnesses with the death penalty (42.1% versus 12.9%). Mistaken Eyewitness Identifications were present in more than half of the cases in which prosecutors pursued or law enforcement threatened the use of the death penalty (11 of 19 cases, or 57.9%) and were nearly twice as likely to occur (1.94) in the death penalty cases than in other exoneration cases (37 of 124 cases, 29.8%).


World and European Day Against the Death Penalty: Expert Panel Discusses Systemic Flaws in U.S. Death Penalty

Expressing the hope “that we’ll be able to celebrate very soon, together with the American people, the abolition of the death penalty in the United States,” European Union Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambrinidis opened the EU in the USA and Council of the Europe’s virtual commemoration of World and European Day Against the Death Penalty.

“Let’s work together to get this done,” Lambrinidis said.

As part of the commemoration, the Death Penalty Information Center and Witness to Innocence partnered with the E.U.’s U.S. embassy to present a panel discussion on October 14, 2020 about the United States death penalty and the film Just Mercy. The speakers surveyed the state of capital punishment in the U.S., underscoring both a broken system and a need for reform. The panelists included Louisiana death-row exoneree Shareef Cousin; Ohio Assistant Federal Public Defender Paul Bottei; Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham; and Federal Capital Habeas Project Director Ruth Friedman. Paula Redondo Alvarez-Palencia, political officer representing the Delegation of the European Union to the U.S., moderated the panel.

Ambassador Lambrinidis and Ambassador Emily Haber of Germany, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, stood firm in their arguments against the death penalty and discussed the importance of death penalty abolition for democratic societies in their opening remarks. Both emphasized that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime and that its abolition across Europe has not made the continent less safe. “I submit to you that we cannot allow a killer to turn us into an executioner,” Lambridinis said. “It is our dignity that is on the line.”

Ambassador Haber urged the panel not to forget the lessons learned from World War II, including the dangers of allowing capital punishment to be “an exception to the right to life.” “Nazi Germany used the death penalty as an instrument of its racist, totalitarian, Anti-Semitic policies,” she said. “Our clear position today stands at the end of a historic process that was to a large extent also triggered by the horrors of the Holocaust and lawless totalitarianism on European soil in the 20th century.”

“Honestly, it’s made me broken.”

Shareef Cousin started off the panel discussion, recounting the traumatizing events that led to his illegitimate imprisonment and exoneration in Louisiana. At the time of the murder, 16-year-old Cousin was playing youth basketball and the game was videotaped. “I had 20 witnesses, other kids that were playing basketball with me — they were there to testify, where I was at the time of the murder,” he said. “And I never tell people that I was ‘wrongfully convicted’ … [I] say I was actually ‘framed,’ because the police department and the DA’s office conspired to put me on death row when the evidence showed that I was innocent.”

At age 17, Cousin was the youngest person on Louisiana’s death row. “At 17, you should be thinking about your high school prom, or your high school graduation, or what you’re going to do, you know, with the next years of your life,” he said. “There’s no reason why a child should be on death row, thinking about whether or not he’s going to live or die. … [H]onestly, it’s made me broken.”

Bottei, Dunham, and Friedman — all experienced capital litigators — explained that the issues in Cousin’s conviction and exoneration have occurred repeatedly in other death-penalty cases — as in the case of Alabama death-row exoneree Walter McMillian that inspired Just Mercy. “The main issues … with wrongful convictions [are] law enforcement, prosecutors, jurors, witnesses, and counsel,” Bottei said. “It’s the perfect storm — one, or two, or three, or four of these problems all existing at the same time.”

The modern death penalty “is a manifestation of America’s race problem.”

Dunham discussed DPIC’s September 2020 report, Enduring Injustice: the Persistence of Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Death Penalty, identifying an inextricable link between the death penalty and racial discrimination in the United States. “What we found when we looked at the current practice is that rather than the death penalty having a race problem, the modern death penalty is in itself a manifestation of America’s systemic problem with the criminal justice system and race,” Dunham said. Later, in a response to a question about the prevalence of wrongful convictions, he added, “You can fix a lot of things that are wrong with evidence. What you can’t fix is the way that racism affects the system. And what you can’t fix is the way misconduct occurs.”

Friedman confirmed that racial bias is as much of a federal problem as a local one. She added that the death penalty is also geographically arbitrary: “Three states alone make up almost half of the row. … Do we believe that those three states — which are Texas, Missouri and Virginia — have the worst crimes and the worst of the worst offenders?” She also raised the case of her client Daniel Lee, the first prisoner to be executed this year by the federal government after a 17-year hiatus. Following Lee’s appeals, his lawyers found that the prosecution had withheld important evidence: the government expert responsible for Lee’s psychological assessment had later disavowed it, and Lee’s record of prior murder turned out to be false. Despite both victims and prior judges coming out against his death sentence, procedural roadblocks prevented the judiciary from reaching the case. “That is an indictment of our system,” Friedman said.

“The federal government is completely out of step with the rest of the country.”

The panel then went on to answer questions on whether the 2020 execution spree by the federal government represented a resurgence of the death penalty in the U.S., lethal injections, wrongful convictions, and the role of the international community.

“The federal government is completely out of step with the rest of the country,” Dunham said, contrasting current federal practices with continuing trends away from the death penalty at the state and county levels. Since the 1990s, the number of death sentences imposed each year in the U.S. has decreased by 85%, Dunham said, and executions are down by 75%. An additional 10 states have abolished the death penalty in the past 15 years, bringing the total number of abolition states to 22. Other states have imposed moratoriums on the death penalty, and the practice has declined significantly in states where it is still authorized. While there have been more federal executions in the last three months than in the previous 60 years combined, Dunham said, 2020 will see the fewest state executions in 37 years and fewer new death sentences than in any other year since the death penalty resumed in the U.S. in the 1970s.

“You can’t be using these drugs to try to execute people.”

Discussing lethal injection in Ohio, Bottei explained, that the first drug in the state’s three-drug execution protocol, “[a] sedative called midazolam … has very, very serious problems.” Midazolam “doesn’t anesthetize,” Bottei explained. “The person does feel the pain of the execution.” As a result, the prisoner experiences a sensation akin to waterboarding, suffocation, and chemical burning as the other drugs are administered. “[A]nd,” Bottei said, “the governor has recognized that, under the circumstances, you can’t be using these other drugs to try to execute people.”

On the subject of prosecutorial misconduct, a central theme to the movie Just Mercy, Friedman emphasized that cases like Walter McMillian’s are more common than people believe. “So, the [Equal Justice Initiative] got involved in that case. What if it hadn’t?,” she asked. “Would the case have been investigated — would all of this have come to light?” Prosecutorial misconduct, she said, “is so much more rampant and prevalent than people are aware.”

Cousin ended the discussion with two quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., “‘[inj]ustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’” and “whatever affects one directly affects us all indirectly.” “We are all mutually tied, interconnected with humanity,” Cousin said, emphasizing the broad potential for European Union advocacy against the death penalty to reach and affect audiences all over the world.

(source for both: Death Penalty Information Center)


Attorney general is weighing federal death penalty in Poway synagogue shooting----A decision is still pending on whether to pursue capital punishment against John Earnest in a federal case

The question of capital punishment continues to hang over the federal prosecution of John T. Earnest, the 21-year-old man charged with opening fire inside a Poway synagogue last year, killing 1 and wounding 3 others.

Earnest is already facing the death penalty if found guilty in a parallel prosecution by the state — that trial is set for March — but the U.S. Attorney General is still apparently weighing how to proceed in the federal case.

Federal death penalty cases are rare — so much so that San Diego has never tried one.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys made a presentation to the Department of Justice’s Capital Review Committee via teleconference on Sept. 28 on the possibility of pursuing death. The committee must then make a recommendation to Attorney General William Barr, who will ultimately decide.

During a court hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia raised the possibility of a new White House administration come January and asked how it might affect the pending decision. In that case, a new attorney general would have to familiarize himself or herself with the case, but the process likely wouldn’t be sent back to square one, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Ko.

A decision on the matter will greatly affect the course of the case, as capital cases are more complicated and require extensive investigation. Lawyers must essentially prepare for two trials — a guilt phase and a penalty phase. It is up to a jury to decide whether the ultimate sanction is warranted.

Earnest’s defense team noted in a recent motion that the coronavirus pandemic has hampered “mitigation investigation critical to a meaningful penalty phase in a capital prosecution.”

Until that decision is in hand, setting a trial date remains arbitrary, attorneys on both sides argued.

Still, Battaglia urged the attorneys to make as much progress as possible in the meantime, and he set a schedule for attorneys to begin to argue certain motions in the case.

“There are victims out there who deserve to see some progress made,” Battaglia said.

Earnest is charged with 113 counts in the case. He has pleaded not guilty.

There were 54 people inside the Chabad of Poway the morning of April 27, 2019, when the shooting occurred, and the indictment counts each as a victim on charges of a hate crime and obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs using a dangerous weapon resulting in death, bodily injury and attempts to kill.

Earnest is also charged with 4 counts of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed in the attack. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was shot in both hands, causing him to lose an index finger, while Noya Dahan, 8, and uncle Almog Peretz, 34, were wounded.

An additional charge — damage to a religious property using fire — relates to an arson at Dar-ul-Arquam mosque in Escondido a month prior.

Earnest, who lived in Rancho Penasquitos and attended California State University, San Marcos, was arrested shortly after the shooting after calling 911 and surrendering in a nearby parking lot, according to court records. A screed filled with racist and anti-Semitic statements attributed to him was posted just before the shooting in the online messaging platform 8chan, which is known for hosting extremists.

Defense attorneys Ellis “Trip” Johnston III and Patrick Burke indicated that they plan to challenge the constitutionality of the hate-crimes charges.

Earnest recently had a change in his defense team, as attorneys with Federal Defenders of San Diego had to recuse themselves in July for unknown reasons. The attorneys said in a filing that the conflict was not one that could be waived by Earnest and that details were protected by attorney-client privilege.

Another twist to the case came this summer when Goldstein, the rabbi who was injured, pleaded guilty to masterminding several financial frauds tied to Chabad of Poway that put more than $600,000 in his pocket. He had already been quietly under investigation by the FBI when the shooting occurred. The FBI is also investigating the attack.

(source: San Diego Union-tribune)


US trying to execute notorious MS-13 gang leader

US federal prosecutors have charged 127 suspected members of the violent MS-13 street gang this year, and six face sentences of life in prison after being convicted in 2020.

The statistics — detailed in a report being released by the Justice Department Wednesday night — emphasise the priority the Trump administration has given to prosecuting members of MS-13 and the aggressive effort by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to try to dismantle the gang.

MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is considered one of the top transnational organized crime threats in the United States.

The Justice Department’s statistics show that federal prosecutors brought cases against 749 defendants in MS-13 related cases since 2016.

6 defendants convicted this year were sentenced to life in prison and 26 others received sentences of more than 5 years in federal prison.

Attorney General William Barr has also directed prosecutors to seek the death penalty in two MS-13 cases, including the case against Alexei Saenz, an MS-13 leader on Long Island.

Homicide squad use cutting edge equipment to search for toddler who disappeared almost 50 years agoHomicide squad use cutting edge equipment to search for toddler who disappeared almost 50 years ago.

Saenz was charged in seven killings in New York, including those of teenage friends Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, who were slashed with machetes and beaten to death with baseball bats near an elementary school in September 2016.

The gang has been blamed for dozens of killings on Long Island since 2016.

Alexei Saenz is charged over the killing of 2 teenagers.

The statistics show federal agents believe MS-13 has been active in about 2 dozen states in the US, primarily on the East Coast.

The gang, generally known for extortion and violence rather than distributing and selling narcotics, has long established cliques in California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly centred his immigration agenda in part on the violence from MS-13, blaming it on lax immigration policies.

MS-13 recruits young teenagers from El Salvador and Honduras, though many gang members were born in the US.

Long Island has a large population of unaccompanied minors from Central America, including many who fled the violence in their home nations.

MS-13 is believed to have been founded as a neighbourhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador.

That country’s Supreme Court defined the gang as a terrorist group in 2015, allowing courts there to give tougher sentences to its members.

The Justice Department's 17-page report details how “leaders of MS-13 based in Central America have directed MS-13 criminal activities in the United States.”

“These leaders — many of whom were previously deported from the United States — operated with impunity because of failure of the rule of law and law enforcement corruption in these countries; a lack of law enforcement training; and a lack of coordination between US law enforcement and their Central American counterparts,” the report says.

Federal and local law enforcement officials have been working with partners in El Salvador to identify suspected MS-13 leaders for years and to share intelligence.

Mr Barr visited the country in May 2019 to meet with his counterparts from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to discuss how to combat the surge of MS-13 violence stemming from the region known as the Northern Triangle.

(source: Associated Press)


Death row case: Lawyer says won't apologise to Singapore AGC, seeks apology for Malaysian client instead

Human rights lawyer M. Ravi said he will not apologise to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) as requested and is instead demanding an apology from state prosecutors on behalf of his client Gobi Avedian and his family.

In a letter sent to the AGC yesterday — a copy of which he provided to TODAY — Mr Ravi said that his client Gobi, who was on death row for drug-trafficking charges, has instructed him to seek a public apology from the prosecutors for the "ordeal" Gobi has suffered as a result of the prosecutors’ conduct.

Regardless of whether there is an apology, the letter, which was addressed to Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar, also stated that Gobi and his family have given instructions for legal action to be taken against Kumar, Attorney-General Lucien Wong and the prosecutors who worked on his case.

The 32-year-old Malaysian escaped the gallows on Monday, after the Court of Appeal reviewed an earlier decision to give him the death penalty and reinstated his original High Court sentence of 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the cane.

On the same day, Ravi gave an interview with socio-political site The Online Citizen and said, among other things, that the prosecution had been “overzealous” in handling his client’s case.

Later on Monday, the AGC responded by saying Ravi’s claims were “categorically false” and that he had “sought to mischaracterise the reasons for the decision issued by the Court of Appeal.”

The AGC also sent a letter to Ravi on Tuesday, demanding that he apologise and unconditionally retract allegations he had made about the prosecutors in the video interview, which was posted on TOC’s Facebook page.

Ravi said in his letter to the AGC that their request for an apology and a retraction of the statement he made was “not only plainly without basis, but also insulting.”

This is because the AGC has treated Gobi’s life with “blatant disregard,” with his life saved by Ravi only at the 11th hour, read the letter.

In the letter, Ravi also refuted allegations by the AGC that the comments he made were false and that he has breached legal professional rules.



UP man gets death penalty for rape-murder of toddler----On May 3, 2014, an FIR was lodged at the Salon Police Station on a complaint by the child's father.

A court here awarded death penalty to a man in connection with the rape and murder of a 1 1/2-year-old girl in 2014.

Special judge (POCSO) Vijay Pal awarded the death sentence to Jitendra Singh on Friday, government counsel Vedpal Singh said.

On May 3, 2014, an FIR was lodged at the Salon Police Station on a complaint by the child's father, who alleged that his relative raped and later strangled his daughter to death.

Jitendra Singh had buried the body in a tube well outside the village to destroy evidence, the counsel said.

The court also imposed an overall fine of Rs 2.20 lakh and ordered 1/2 of it to be given to the father of the minor, Vedpal Singh added.

(source: The New Indian Express)


"Perhaps the Trial Judge got swayed with the gravity of the crime", Patna High Court sets aside death penalty against rape and murder accused----The High Court took specific exception to the fact that the trial court had failed to examine the material witnesses and place on record crucial evidence.

The Patna High Court recently acquitted a rape and murder accused, thereby setting aside a death sentence awarded by the trial court for lack of cogent reasons (Ajit Kumar v. State of Bihar).

The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and S Kumar pronounced judgment in the matter.

Taking note of the fact that the prosecution evidence seemed to be founded on hearsay, the Court recorded its dissatisfaction with the lower court’s finding that the offence warranted the death penalty. The judgment states,

“The trial judge has in a perfunctory manner referred to the evidence and not furnished any cogent, much less legally sustainable reasons in arriving at conclusions, holding the accused guilty of each one of the charged offences."

Patna High Court

The appellant, Ajit Kumar, was convicted by a trial court under provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 for the kidnap and rape of a minor.

As per the prosecution’s account, the appellant and another enticed and kidnapped a minor and set her on fire after sexually assaulting her. The prosecution had at first averred that the girl had poured kerosene on herself and died thereby.

The Bench noted that the trial court did not furnish cogent reasons to conclude that the appellant deserved the death penalty, in the nine-pages it had devoted to condemning him. It noted,

“The approach adopted is casual and perfunctory in nature, unmindful of the consequences of the decision which when implemented becomes irrevocable and irreversible.”

The Court found the testimony of the 3 witnesses called upon by the prosecution to prove their case that the girl had been kidnapped, to be based on hearsay, uninspiring, and self-contradictory.

A supposed confession statement was the basis of the conviction, without its admissibility in evidence having been examined, the High Court noted.

"The existence of the confessional statement was what weighed with the learned Judge for convicting the accused, but its relevance or admissibility was never considered and examined", the Bench remarked.

Pertinently, the Court found that the evidence on hand did not indicate that the deceased minor had been the victim of a sexual assault.

The Court observed:

"On the issue of sexual assault, there is no evidence at all. The testimony of P.Ws. 1, 2 and 3 lacks credence. None found any telltale signs of rape on the spot or the body of the deceased. There is neither medical nor any scientific evidence indicating such fact. The theory of the accused pouring kerosene oil and setting the deceased on fire is also not borne out of the record, for P.W. 6 has not ruled out the possibility of suicide. He has deposed that "cannot say it is suicidal, homicidal or accidental." Also, what was the original version recorded in the Case Diary is not on record."

The High Court took specific exception to the fact that the trial court had failed to examine the material witnesses and place on record crucial evidence. It was also noted that the trial court failed to ascertain whether the evidence at hand inspired confidence and established the prosecution case beyond reasonable doubt.

The verdict further reads,

“Perhaps the Trial Judge got swayed with the gravity of crime which undoubtedly is heinous in nature. But this is where the Judge's role comes in, to decide judiciously in removing the husk from the chaff. The Trial Judge presumed and assumed without discussing, the veracity of fruitfulness of the testimonies of the witnesses…”

Patna High Court

It was also noted that the trial judge did not take into consideration a number of factors before handing out the death sentence.

"What is the basis of his conclusion of the case being the rarest of rare cases is not discussed. What are the special reasons for grant of capital punishment; whether there were any mitigating circumstances; what was the mental state, motive, or the brutality of the crime were never thought of much less considered by the learned trial judge. The approach adopted is casual and perfunctory in nature, unmindful of the consequences of the decision which when implemented becomes irrevocable and irreversible."

On these terms, the death penalty was overturned and the accused was acquitted.



HRW: Egypt executed 49 people in 10 days

Human Rights Watch has called on Egyptian authorities to immediately halt executions and retry detainees on death row after they executed 49 people in 10 days.

“Egypt’s mass executions of scores of people in a matter of days is outrageous,” says deputy MENA director Joe Stork.

“The systematic absence of fair trials in Egypt, especially political cases, makes every death sentence a violation of the right to life.”

Between 3 and 13 October Egyptian authorities executed 2 women and 32 men convicted in criminal cases and 15 political prisoners.

13 of these political prisoners were being held on the execution block of Scorpion Prison, where at the end of September four prison officers and four detainees were killed in what authorities said was an attempted prison break.

At the time rights groups cast doubt on whether a prison break would be possible given that Scorpion is one of the most secure jails in the country. They have called on authorities to reveal the true cause of death and whether or not the inmates were physically liquidated.

The executions have been described as a warning to other inmates who could have witnessed what happened, and retaliation for the killing of the officers.

According to a lawyer who spoke to the family of 2 of the inmates, the 4 prisoners killed the officers using improvised tools after which security forces entered the block and other inmates heard gunshots.

Egypt is one of the top ten countries globally for executions and death sentences along with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Since the 2013 coup, through which Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi assumed power, death sentences have soared in Egypt. Executions are often implemented after unfair, mass trials and confessions coerced through torture.

In a particularly shocking ruling, in 2014 the Minya Criminal Court sentenced over 500 people to death at the same time.



Prisoner Shahram Takhsha Executed in Sanandaj Prison

A prisoner sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder during the course of an armed robbery” has been executed in Sanandaj Central Prison.

According to the Iran Human Rights, Wednesday morning, October 21, a male prisoner was executed in Sanandaj Central Prison. The prisoner, whose identity was established as 28-year-old Shahram Takhsha, was on death row on the charge of “premeditated murder during the course of an armed robbery.”

Previously, an informed source had told IHR: “Shahram Takhsha was arrested 2 years and 11 months ago on charges of murder during an armed robbery with his brother Shahriyar. Shahram was arrested after being shot in the leg and sentenced to death as the primary defendant and his brother sentenced to 40 years in prison as his accomplice.”

IHR had reported that Shahram had been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution on Sunday.

HRANA News Agency, which first published the news, wrote of Shahram Takhsha's health condition: "Shahram Takhsha was shot and wounded during his arrest and has since been in prison without any medical attention until he was taken limping for execution this morning.”

At the time of publication, the execution of this prisoner has not been announced by the domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ annual report, at least 225 of the 280 of those executed in 2019 were charged with "premeditated murder."

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.



Afkari Brothers Remain Incommunicado After Navid’s Execution

Authorities have taken Afkari brothers, Habib and Vahid, to solitary confinement in a prison in southwestern Iran since early September to stifle their voices.

The authorities have denied the Afkari brothers visitations and phone calls with their family since their younger brother Navid Afkari was executed on September 12, 2020.

Vahid and Habib Afkari were taken to solitary confinement in notorious Adelabad Prison in Shiraz on September 3 and 5, where they have been brutalized and tortured.

Mr. Hossein Afkari and Ms. Bahieh Namjoo, the parents of the Afkari Brothers, wrote a letter to the judge in charge of Adelabad Prison in Shiraz, Hashemi, asking for an explanation about the continued solitary confinement and torture of their children, Vahid and Habib, after the execution of their other son.

The text of the letter of this suffering parent is as follows:

“Our sons, Navid, Vahid and Habib Afkari were violently transferred to solitary confinement on September 3 and 5, 2020. For this reason, they filed complaints and requested that their complaints be examined by court. Also, our family also demanded examination of the case filed against Ali Khadem-ol Hosseini and prison guards who brutalized and tortured them. Subsequently, agents from the Forensics Office went to Adelabad Prison and examined the injuries and wounds of my sons. They registered 17 counts of injury for Navid, and 15 for Vahid and Habib, each.

“47 days have passed since the examination. However, no measures have been taken in this regard. The office of Mr. Rezaii Dana, warden of Adelabad Prison, claims that the complaints have been registered by Mr. Rezaii Dana, but they do not give us the authority who examined the cases, the date of registration of the complaints and their registration numbers.

“I request that if registered, these documents be handed over to us and followed up for appropriate measures. I also request explanation for delay in registering the complaints.

If the complaints have not been registered, please explain why the registration has been prevented.

By the way, my sons are being detained in solitary confinement after being brutalized. If you are the one who makes the decisions, please arrange for their urgent transfer to the general ward, explain the reasons for their solitary confinement and torture. If you are not a decision-maker, please introduce an authority who has ordered you to take these actions.”


OCTOBER 23, 2020:


The State of Texas vs. Melissa

“The State of Texas wants to kill me,” Melissa Lucio tells the camera in the opening minutes of Sabrina Van Tassel’s quietly heart-wrenching documentary The State of Texas vs. Melissa. Lucio, who’s been on Texas’ death row since 2008 for the killing of her 2-year-old daughter, speaks to the camera from a prison visiting area. She looks tired as she confesses: “I don’t understand how the court system did this to me.”

For anyone versed in Texas’ death row, Lucio’s story (which Van Tassel tells with great care) is nothing new. Every year, Black and brown Texans appeal death sentences arguing poor trial defense, a history of abuse and poverty, and mental health issues should keep them from being executed. Some are likely innocent. The state nor the courts rarely side with the prisoner and Texas holds its lead as the state with the highest number of executions. It’s the commonality of Lucio’s story and case that makes Van Tassel’s documentary more impactful.

Lucio, from Harlingen in South Texas, is believed to be the 1st Latina woman sentenced to death in Cameron County. Her case, as Van Tassel depicts, is riddled with ineptitude and what can only be described as corruption. The documentary, which somehow manages to capture Texas' unfiltered natural beauty alongside the cruelty of its legal system, is told through interviews with Lucio’s family – her now-grown children, her siblings, and her mother – plus interviews with her appellate attorney, her trial attorney, and a private investigator. Other parts of the story are told through footage: Various interviews following the child’s death, including clips from Lucio’s near-seven-hour interrogation and of her children being asked to discuss their home life. The kids are calm, nervous, and well-behaved – a perfect (and tragic) foil for when Lucio’s trial defense attorney insists her kids were wild and would not have cooperated in a courtroom.

Van Tassel, a French-American filmmaker and journalist, wrote and directed the film with both a focus on Lucio and her family, and a powerful look at poverty. “I don’t think she ever had a single piece of new furniture,” Lucio’s sister says while the camera pans across houses in various states of disrepair and trash piles with broken furniture. In doing so, Van Tassel also highlights the death penalty’s inhumanity. One can’t help but ask: Would Melissa be on death row if she were white or affluent, if she could’ve afforded a lawyer who called even a single witness to speak on her behalf?

Poor lawyering is just a piece of the criminal justice system that, at best, failed Lucio or, at worst, framed her for a tragic death she didn’t commit.

“Are you a cold blooded killer or just a frustrated mother?” One of three cops demand of Lucio during her interrogation; they ask her to show them how she beat her daughter. She repeats, “I don’t hit my children.” Her confession, which acts as the film’s prologue, showcases how the system treats poor brown women. Though it’s a gut-wrenching story, The State of Texas vs. Melissa, works hard to offer viewers the smallest semblance of hope.

The State of Texas vs. Melissa is available now as a virtual cinema release.



Santikos to show new documentary on El Paso Walmart mass shooting----A new documentary being shown in three San Antonio theaters will show the yield of what an accused serial shooter did. But it won't mention his name.

"915" is now more than an area code in El Paso. It's a 123-minute documentary delving into a mass casualty shooting at a Walmart.

"This was the ultimate hate crime from a racist outsider from Dallas who drove to El Paso," Charlie Minn said.

Minn is a filmmaker who has 32 projects under his belt. "915" is his latest. The lure of doing a documentary on the El Paso incident is partly personal since the city is an adoptive home for him.

The director felt like the El Paso mass shooting got widely covered, but there were still things to discover.

"The film is the most honest, comprehensive, and in-depth look at this mass shooting," he said.

Minn described the moments he spoke to everybody possible as real and raw.

Investigators said Patrick Crusius stands accused of shooting 23 victims at the store and killing the same number. Federal prosecutors said hate motivated the shooting spree.

"He went to El Paso to try to kill as many Mexican people as possible," Minn said. "This is absolutely unacceptable."

Crusius faces a state death penalty charge and as many as 90 hate crime and weapon offenses.

His name, Minn said, is not mentioned in the documentary because the filmmaker does want to encourage copycats.

"Why should I give this dirtbag---this criminal what he wants? And that's the attention," he said.

Santikos plans to play the independent content in three theaters on Friday: The Palladium, Mayan Palace, and Casa Blanca.

Minn said the documentary is already running El Paso. It's been in the theaters there for 3 weeks.

(source: KENS news)


Civil Rights Loom Large in North Carolina’s Supreme Court Elections----The race for chief justice, between a former public defender and a former prosecutor, will shape the court’s willingness to advance racial justice.

This is the latest in our series spotlighting state Supreme Courts.

Amid the nationwide protests against police violence last summer, North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley held a press conference to amplify the call for racial justice. “These protests are a resounding, national chorus of voices whose lived experiences reinforce the notion that Black people are ostracized, cast out, and dehumanized,” she said.

Beasley, who is the 1st Black woman to serve as chief justice in North Carolina, acknowledged that, in the state’s court system, “African Americans are more harshly treated, more severely punished, and more likely to be presumed guilty.”

Paul Newby, another sitting justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court, has taken issue with Beasley’s statements. “Where’s the evidence that we’re not treating everyone the same?” he asked at a recent candidate forum. Studies show racial disparities at every stage of the criminal legal system, from how frequently Black people are stopped and searched to the severity of the charges they face and the sentences they receive.

Beasley, a Democrat and former public defender, and Newby, a Republican and former prosecutor, are now facing off in a chief justice election that will shape civil rights in North Carolina for years to come.

Instead of seeking another term as associate justice this year, Newby chose to challenge Beasley for the position of chief justice. That put his own seat on the Court up for grabs, and it’s now hotly contested between Democrat Lucy Inman and Republican Phil Berger Jr. In addition, Democratic Justice Mark Davis faces Republican challenger Tamara Barringer.

The Court had a Republican majority as recently as 2016, but Newby is now its lone GOP member. Democrats enjoy a 6-1 majority and will retain their edge whatever happens on Nov. 3. Still, if they sweep the three Court elections on the state’s ballot, they would hold all seven seats. A Republican sweep, on the other hand, would reduce Democrats’ majority to a single-vote margin, 4-3, and put Republicans in a position to flip the majority in 2022. It could also change outcomes on a Court that does not always divide neatly along party lines.

And the stakes of who occupies these seats are clear for racial justice.

Beasley and Newby’s statements are not simply the personal or political views of each justice, carefully set aside when they don their robes. They play out in the Court’s decisions. In the last year, with Beasley as chief justice and with the addition in 2019 of Justice Anita Earls, a longtime civil rights leader, the Court made a series of rulings protecting the rights of Black people against systemic racism in the criminal legal system, which included decisions about whether Black people can be struck from juries, whether they will get a fair trial, and whether they will be executed.

Newby dissented in each of these cases, often alone.

The Court has emerged as a counterweight to the Republican-controlled legislature, which both state and federal courts have repeatedly rebuffed for removing legal protections against racial discrimination and for engaging in discrimination itself.

And it’s also a counterweight to the federal judiciary. Lawyers for the ACLU of North Carolina and the North Carolina NAACP told me that they increasingly depend on the state’s Supreme Court and constitution to protect civil rights, since the federal courts, after four years of Trump appointments, have become increasingly white, conservative, and hostile to their claims.

Whether the Court continues to occupy this role will shape the rights of Black people going forward, both in the criminal legal system and in other areas such as the right to vote and participate in democracy.


In 2009, North Carolina enacted the Racial Justice Act (RJA), a groundbreaking law that invalidated any death sentence if a court found that race played a significant role in the decision to seek or impose the death penalty. The law addressed the reality that a racist system can lead to death sentences even without overt acts of racism in a particular case. It was one of the first laws in the country, for instance, that allowed people to challenge racism in jury selection without having to prove intentional discrimination on the part of prosecutors. Instead, it enabled people to use statistics or other evidence to show a pattern of prosecutors disproportionately striking Black jurors.

In 2011, appearing at a Tea Party event, Newby dismissed the need for such a reform. “It’s as if race were relevant to any of this,” he reportedly said. “I have discussions with people who say that there are too many Black people in prison. I don’t disagree with that, there are. But they are not there because they are Black. They are there because they committed a crime.”

Four people have had hearings under the Racial Justice Act, and all 4 won their case. A trial court determined that racism had influenced each of their death sentences and it resentenced each of them to life in prison. In other words, Beasley later wrote, “the [Racial Justice Act] worked as intended. Immediately, proceedings initiated pursuant to the Act revealed pervasive racial bias in capital sentencing in North Carolina.”

But these hearings only lasted for a few years. Republican lawmakers, who took control of the legislature in 2011, weakened the law in 2012, restricting the evidence that people could introduce to show racism’s influence. Then in 2013, with Republican Governor Pat McCrory sworn in, the GOP repealed the law entirely. More than 100 other people on North Carolina’s death row had pending claims when the law was repealed. To extinguish them, the legislature made the repeal retroactive.

In 2 decisions issued this year, both written by Earls, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that these people on death row should still get to press their case of racial discrimination. It held that the RJA’s repeal could not apply to people who filed claims while the law was still in effect. That would violate both the state and federal constitutions’ prohibitions of ex post facto laws, the Court said, which bar new laws that change the punishment for acts committed before the law was enacted.

Newby was the lone dissenter in both cases.

The Court also held that the four people who had already received new sentences could not have the death penalty reinstated. Writing for the Court in Marcus Robinson’s case, Beasley provided historical context, explaining how the state’s long, violent history of racism continues to plague its criminal legal system. “The same racially oppressive beliefs that fueled segregation manifested themselves through public lynchings, the disproportionate application of the death penalty against African-American defendants, and the exclusion of African Americans from juries,” she wrote.

Again, Newby dissented, calling the ruling “judicial activism.” This time Justice Sam Ervin IV also wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Mark Davis.

The RJA was an answer to persistent racism left unaddressed. One study has found that in 20 years of capital cases, North Carolina prosecutors struck Black jurors at more than twice the rate they struck white jurors, a disparity that increased when the person on trial was Black. In his RJA hearing, Robinson submitted prosecutors’ notes made during another capital prosecution in the same county. The notes showed that a Black juror with a criminal history was labeled a “thug,” while a white juror with a criminal record was a “fine guy”; another Black juror was a “blk wino,” but a white juror with a DUI conviction was a “country boy—ok.” Other RJA litigation turned up documents showing how prosecutors have been trained to elude allegations of discrimination.

It is of course unconstitutional to strike jurors because of their race, a rule the U.S. Supreme Court announced in its 1986 decision Batson v. Kentucky. And yet to this day, over decades and more than one hundred appeals, North Carolina’s appellate courts have found a Batson violation for striking Black jurors in only a single case—a staggering record even by already poor national standards.

Here, too, the addition of justices more sensitive to claims of racial discrimination has pushed the North Carolina Supreme Court toward a different path.

This year, the Court ruled in two decisions that a trial court was wrong to deny claims that prosecutors discriminated against Black jurors. While the Court did not definitively find unlawful discrimination, it provided guidance on how to assess claims under Batson, providing stronger protections against discrimination, and sent the cases back for further review. Lawyers involved in the appeals called the decisions “historic” and the Center for Death Penalty Litigation said the rulings will “begin a culture change in a state where trial judges routinely dismiss complaints of racially motivated jury strikes without thorough investigation.”

Beasley was part of the majority in both cases, whereas Newby dissented both times.


Racial justice will also be front and center in the North Carolina Supreme Court when it comes to voting rights.

The state’s new voter ID law, for example, is subject to ongoing litigation and could soon arrive at the Court. The state’s previous voter ID requirement, enacted in 2013, was struck down after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that lawmakers “target[ed] African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” Its replacement is now tied up in court, again, for discriminatione against Black voters.

The Court may also hear challenges to the new legislative districts that will be drawn next year based on the 2020 census. In North Carolina, the state legislature creates district maps without governor approval. The previous maps, based on 2010 data, led to years of litigation, including multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions, over complaints of racial gerrymandering designed to minimize the power of Black voters.

When the state Supreme Court heard these complaints in 2012, Newby refused to recuse himself after the same group that helped Republican lawmakers draw challenged maps, the Republican State Leadership Committee, spent over $1 million to help him win election and preserve the court’s slim conservative majority. He later wrote the 4-3 opinion upholding the maps. Beasley partially dissented, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with her in its 2017 decision Cooper v. Harris, which struck down 2 North Carolina congressional districts as racially discriminatory.

The state Supreme Court could also set definitive limits on partisan gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative districts to benefit one political party—one that cannot be entirely separated from race—that North Carolina Republicans have openly embraced. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court held that federal courts cannot interfere with the practice, leaving state courts as the only forum to bring a legal challenge. Later, a Wake County court, in rulings based on the state constitution, struck down North Carolina’s legislative and federal congressional maps as examples of “extreme partisan gerrymandering,” and Republican lawmakers produced new maps without appealing to the Supreme Court. This scenario could play out again.

These civil rights issues, among others, are likely to come before the Court in the coming years. Nov. 3 will determine whether they are heard by a chief justice who believes that current policies and institutions perpetuate systemic racism, or one still looking for evidence that systemic racism even exists.?? (source:


Activist for Georgia's homeless and death-row inmates dies

Murphy Davis, a determined advocate for death row inmates and homeless people in Georgia, died on Thursday of complications related to cancer. She was 72.

Davis had been in hospice care in Baltimore, where she and her husband, Eduard Loring, lived after leaving Atlanta a few years earlier. Her death was confirmed by their daughter, Hannah Murphy Buc.

"Family surrounded her in fierce calm and peace. A long-haul, hard and beautiful journey is complete. We send thanksgiving to you and love beyond measure," the family wrote on Facebook.

Davis, a Presbyterian minister, left an indelible imprint on Georgia, where for decades she was a regular visitor to death row inmates.

"It is not always an easy task to affirm that even a murderer is a child of God, but we know that it is true," she told The Associated Press in 1986. "There is no act, no matter how vicious, that entirely blots out that identity."

Among her numerous honors, she received a 1991 fellowship from the Petra Foundation, which recognizes the work of "unsung heroes" for social justice, and she is listed among Robert Shetterly's Americans Who Tell The Truth.

Davis became a full-time activist as a theological student in the mid-1970s, after a key Supreme Court decision upheld the death penalty. Along with her husband and fellow Presbyterian minister, she made it her life's work to fight against the death penalty, advocate for homeless people and press for racial and economic justice and the abolition of war.

In 1979, carrying a 10-day-old baby, they opened Atlanta's 1st night shelter for the homeless, their daughter said. Then in 1981, the couple and a few others founded Open Door Community near downtown Atlanta, fashioned on Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker movement. Based in a large, old home, they housed and fed many of the homeless people living on nearby streets while working for their larger social justice goals.

They organized protests that won concessions from the city of Atlanta and prompted the city's public hospital to reverse its plans to impose a co-pay on its poorest patients. They also demonstrated at the state Capitol to oppose executions, and Davis made innumerable visits to the prisoners on Georgia's death row. Eventually, she counted many of its inmates among her friends.

Anti-death penalty attorney Bryan Stevenson, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, called Davis "a person with deep conviction and resolve, constantly looking for ways to bring light into dark places," and wrote that she "has actually spent more time in jails and prisons than most people who have never been convicted of a crime."

Stevenson, who met Davis and her colleagues as a young lawyer, wrote the foreword to Davis' 2020 memoir "Surely Goodness and Mercy." He said Open Door gave him and other activists a place to be nurtured in spirit as well as to think, talk and strategize.

"People from every different sort of life experience sat together at table and learned about one another and figured out how to share life," said her daughter, now a nursing professor at the University of Maryland. "The opportunity to grow up with such a wide and loving perspective on the world and see how to work constantly for justice through that love and those relationships has informed everything that I've ever done. And she was the center of that."

"She was the most deeply kind and loving and most courageous person," her daughter said. "She also had the ability to listen and hear people who never experienced being listened to in their entire lives."

The Open Door Community's Atlanta home closed its doors in 2017 as the founders grew older and their neighborhood gentrified. By then, Davis had lived for more than 2 decades with Burkitt's Lymphoma, a relatively rare and highly aggressive cancer that was supposed to give her just 6 months. Davis chronicled her excruciating cancer battle in her memoir, published just weeks before her death.

"In contrast to many people I've watched die who had been judged unworthy to live, I know that I will be extravagantly loved into death, by a remarkable partner and a myriad of family members and friends," she wrote.

Davis's survivors include her husband and their daughter, son-in-law Jason and granddaughter Michaela, and a sister and 2 brothers.

(source: Associated Press)


Florida to seek death sentence for man who hammered, stabbed girlfriend's nephews to death----Mark Wilson Jr was arrested in late August after he allegedly killed Robert Baker and Tayten Baker using hammer and knife

A man who allegedly killed 2 boys, aged 12 and 14, may face death sentence as the Florida state is intending to demand one for him, State Attorney RJ Larizza said. Mark Wilson Jr is accused of killing Robert Baker (12) and Tayten Baker (14), who were the nephews of his girlfriend. The announcement regarding the death penalty came on Tuesday, October 20, after has was indicted by a Putnam County grand jury on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of burglary with a battery, and 1 count of burglary while armed.

Larizza said the decision to seek the death sentence for the 30-year-old suspect came after having a discussion with the deceased boys' family. He stated, “The aggravating factors are the defendant was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person. Because these were double homicides committed almost simultaneously, we believe that aggravator applies. Also, the capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of a burglary — a forcible felony. We also believe that the capital felonies, or murders, were especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel. We also believe that they were committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner. I can tell you it was not a difficult decision to make.”

While Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach said that it was not his or anyone else’s job to decide the punishment for the accused, he hoped that the hard work of deputies, investigators, victim advocates, and the State Attorney’s Office will help get justice to the adolescent boys and their family. “While it’ll be up to a jury to hear the case and decide the facts — here is not the place to have a trial by public perception — but I’m saying only that this is truly one of the most horrific crime scenes that I’ve ever seen in my life. Our thoughts and condolences remain with the family,” DeLoach added.

After committing the alleged murders, Wilson Jr was arrested in late August. At the time of the incident, he was living in an outbuilding of the Baker family who recently shifted to Putnam County from Polk County to stay near the family. He allegedly used a hammer and knife to murder the boys, who died from blunt force trauma and deep lacerations. After recovering the bodies of the victims, the Sheriff’s Office investigators set up a meeting between Wilson Jr and an unidentified witness.

During the meeting, the accused reportedly confessed to double murder. He also said that he did so because he and his family were stressed by the children’s family, who reported them to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). However, it was not immediately clear why the victims’ family would report the accused and his family to DCF. During the interrogation, Wilson Jr also trapped his girlfriend, who were the kids’ aunt, into his alleged evil plan. He claimed that he and her partner thought of murdering the whole family, including a 4-year-old kid, the Sheriff’s Office stated.

The warrant revealed that Wilson Jr also told a witness that the actual plan was his girlfriend would kill the kids’ mother and the 4-year-old boy, while he would murder Robert and Tayten. He stated that his girlfriend did not contact him after the killings, which left him furious. But the kids’ grandmother has denied any such allegations against her daughter. The aunt is not facing any charges while her boyfriend has been held without any bond.

Locals were also happy with the announcement as one identified as Brittany Snyder said: “I feel like justice was served. I feel like those two boys were taken from our community and our society way too soon.” Resident Jennifer Graham added, “They need to get the death penalty. That’s children.”



Wyoming woman who lost family to murder calling for death penalty repeal

The Wyoming Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty and the Wyoming Interfaith Network are organizing an online forum to talk about repealing the death penalty in the state at 6 pm Thursday, Oct. 29.

The forum will feature Christal Martin, a resident of Green River, “who will share her story of having lost 2 family members to murder and why she is opposed to the death penalty,” the Wyoming Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty said in an announcement about the forum.

Wyoming Representative Jared Olsen of Cheyenne will also participate in the forum and discuss efforts to pass legislation in Wyoming to repeal the death penalty. Olsen will also talk about “why a growing number of state legislators are turning against capital punishment.”

40 Wyoming representatives and senators sponsored a bill that would have repealed the death penalty in the state during the 2020 budget session. However, the House of Representatives voted 37-23 on Feb. 12 to have the legislation introduced for further consideration in the legislature.

That failed to meet the 2/3 majority required for introduction during budget sessions.

“We’re disappointed that legislators won’t consider a bill to repeal the death penalty this year, but our resolve to end this abhorrent practice remains strong,” said ACLU of Wyoming Director of Campaigns Sabrina King said in a release after the bill failed introduction. “The death penalty is costly, ineffective and it is disingenuous to keep it part of our criminal justice system. It is clear that a majority of the House supports repeal. We know by next year the Senate will as well. One year from now it is our commitment that Wyoming will finally end the death penalty.”

Legislators sponsoring the bill included Representatives Olsen, Barlow, Blake, Brown, Burkhart, Burlingame, Clifford, Connolly, Crank, Dayton-Selman, Eklund, Eyre, Flitner, Freeman, Harshman, Henderson, Larsen, Lindholm, Nicholas, Olsen, Pelkey, Piiparinen, Roscoe, Schwartz, Tass, Western, Wilson, Yin and Zwonitzer and Senators Anselmi-Dalton, Baldwin, Boner, Case, Gierau, Kost, Landen, Pappas, Rothfuss, Schuler and Von Flatern.

Wyoming Interfaith Network Executive Director Jordan Bishop and Wyoming Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty State Coordinator Kylie Taylor will host the up-coming forum.

(source: Oil City News)


New court motion accuses Orange County D.A. of withholding important information from defendants

Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders claims in a court motion filed this week that the Orange County district attorney’s office has for years systematically withheld information from a special handling log that could be crucial to defendants’ cases.

The log was used by deputies during former D.A. Tony Rackauckas’ tenure to record their interactions with jailhouse informants. It became crucial to the illegal jailhouse informant scandal, when Sanders discovered that the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department were illegally using jailhouse informants to obtain confessions in 2016.

Sanders claims that D.A. Todd Spitzer, who took office in 2019, has continued to withhold the log’s information from defendants.

D.A. spokeswoman Kimberly Edds said in a phone interview that the district attorney’s office has been reviewing the special handling log and making notifications to defense attorneys when issues have been identified.

“When the current district attorney administration learned that the prior district attorney abandoned its action plan to review the Sheriff’s Special Handling Log (SH Log), District Attorney Spitzer immediately directed a top to bottom review of the SH Log by a team of veteran prosecutors,” Edds said in an emailed statement. “That review, which involves a complete review of every inmate listed in the log to determine if Brady and discovery obligations have been met, has been ongoing for the last year, and is nearing completion.”

Edds said the special handling log review is expected to be finished possibly at the end of this year or beginning of next year.

“What’s taking so long, you’re going very, very slowly,” Sanders said in an interview. “None of us buy it.”

Deputies initially denied the existence of the log during the 2014 and 2015 hearings for the case of Seal Beach mass murderer Scott Dekraai, though it eventually came to light. After Sanders exposed the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department for using illegal jailhouse informants, a judge removed the death penalty from the table and kicked the district attorney’s office off of one of the biggest cases in Orange County history.

“The concealment of the [special handling log] was almost unquestionably the single most important factor in the decision of former Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals (and current Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal) to strike the death penalty as a sentencing option in People v. Dekraai,” Sanders says in the motion.

The details of what unfolded with the special handling log was outlined in a July report from special prosecutor Pat Dixon. That report described how Rackauckas’ office announced in 2016 that it would seek to rectify the issue by reviewing the log and disclosing evidence of wrongdoing that had been kept secret.

Of the 1,157 pages in the log, only 243 redacted pages were turned over. Rackauckas put an experienced prosecutor in charge of the review, and prosecutors Dan Wagner and Scott Simmons were assigned to assist. Both were at the center of the illegal informant scandal as the lead attorneys on the Dekraai case.

Sanders described in his motion that the review was dropped and the log re-buried after an appellate ruling affirmed the recusal of the district attorney’s office.

”... It now appears that on or near the day of the landmark opinion affirming the OCDA’s recusal — furious prosecutors exacted their revenge on defendants by re-burying the SH Log and placing it even deeper in the ground,” the motion says.

According to the report, Spitzer learned of the prior office’s abandonment of the log review in October 2019 and restarted informing defendants of past violations.

Yet, Sanders claims that Spitzer has kept the logs buried.

His motion is asking for a recusal of the district attorney’s office from the drug possession-related case of defendant Robert Barr. Sanders said in the motion that the district attorney’s office is not turning over entries made in the log by investigator Jonathan Larson, who is a witness in Barr’s case.

Sanders said Larson is a former special handling deputy who made entries in the special handling log.

“Why, then, are we here 4 years later with the prosecutor’s office still unwilling to turn over entries from the SH Log made by J. Larson?” the motion says.

Sanders said in an interview with TimesOC that he doesn’t trust Spitzer to rectify the special handling log issue, in part, because of his track record with Wagner.

Sanders said in the motion that Wagner was “unquestionably one of the leaders in the intentional concealment of Brady evidence from the SH Log...”

Sanders said in an interview that just two months after Spitzer acknowledged that the special handling log concealment was an issue he would seek to correct, he was recorded in an online video praising Wagner and Simmons during a retirement party for the prosecutors.

“I have nothing but respect and admiration for them,” Spitzer said of Simmons and Wagner.

Sanders said Spitzer also promoted Wagner after he became D.A. in January 2019.

Other allegations

In the court motion, Sanders also accuses Spitzer and the district attorney’s press office of employing a “combination of brazenly false accusations, character assassination and intimidation” towards him.

An example detailed in the motion describes how the district attorney’s office responded to a protest held in August that was critical of Spitzer. The district attorney’s office announced that Sanders was running for district attorney and that the protest was being held to “further an agenda” to replace Spitzer.

Sanders denied that allegation.

The motion also says the district attorney’s office conveyed in September to the county Board of Supervisors that interim Public Defender Martin Schwarz should be replaced “with someone who will terminate Sanders or force him to stand down on issues related to OCDA misconduct.”

“The Orange County district attorney’s office files 70,000 cases a year,” Edds said in the statement. “We litigate legal motions in a court of law, not in the press as has been the pattern and practice of the Orange County public defender’s office. It is disappointing that Mr. Schwarz, as the interim, not permanent public defender, who reports to the Board of Supervisors, continues to allow one of his taxpayer-funded attorneys to hijack unrelated cases in order to further his own personal agenda.

“It is clear that Mr. Sanders cares more about advancing his own political and personal agenda than representing his client, which is the work the taxpayers pay him to do.”

(source: Los Angeles Times)


HRW: 8 child offenders face death penalty in Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced on Wednesday that Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 8 Saudi men charged with protest-related crimes, some of which they allegedly committed as children.

The rights watchdog confirmed that it has obtained and analysed the charge sheets for 2 group trials that included the 8 men in 2019, explaining that: “Some of the crimes listed were allegedly committed while the men were between ages of 14 and 17.” One of the men, now 18, is charged for a non-violent crime he supposedly committed aged 9.

All of the men are from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where most of the country’s Shia minority reside. “All eight men have been in pretrial detention for up to two years,” HRW added.

Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch Michael Page expressed: “If Saudi Arabia is serious about reforming its criminal justice system, it should start by banning the death penalty against alleged child offenders in all cases.”

International law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Saudi Arabia is a state party, prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed by children.

As of 11:20 GMT, the Saudi authorities have not commented on the HRW report.



War Crimes: Death warrant for JP leader Kaisar

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) yesterday issued death warrant for Syed Mohammad Kaisar for his crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

The full verdict of the Supreme Court, upholding the death penalty of Jatiya Party leader and former state minister Kaiser, has been received and sent to the office concerned, said Syed Ahmed, registrar of the ICT.

The death warrant has been sent to the Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj, secretaries to the home and law ministries and the district magistrate.

Kaiser can file a petition seeking review of the death penalty within 15 days.

On January 14, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty of the JP leader, handed down by the ICT for his crimes against humanity.

The full SC verdict was published on Wednesday.

On January 23, 2014, the ICT sentenced Kaiser to death. The ICT also sentenced him to death on seven charges, life-term imprisonment on four charges and 22-year-jail on 3 other charges.

Later, Kaiser filed an appeal petition against the verdict.

(source: The Daily Star)


Bangladeshi protestors say death penalty not the answer to rise in rape

Protesters took to Dhaka’s streets on Wednesday to demand action on rising rape cases in Bangladesh, saying a new law that expanded the use of the death penalty was not enough to bring about real change.

Women’s rights campaigners are demanding a root and branch reform of the legal system and more education to address what they say is a rising incidence of violence against women in Bangladesh.

Earlier this month, the government changed the law to make rape committed by a single person punishable by death following protests triggered by an online video showing a group of men sexually assaulting a woman.

Previously, the death penalty could only be applied to gang rape, or rape that resulted in the victim’s death.

“We didn’t protest to change the law or to look for punishments. We protested to change this culture where women and girls are treated unfairly,” said Shireen Huq, founder of Naripokkho, a women’s rights group.

“To change this, we need to attack the root. We need to include sex education in curriculums. We also need to educate families so that they stop blaming girls for this,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Government ministers could not immediately be reached for comment. Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters last week that he was confident the change in the law would lead to a drop in rapes.

Bangladesh has seen a surge in reported sexual crimes in recent years, but convictions remain rare at just 3% of cases.

Nearly 1,000 sexual crimes were reported between January and September, including more than 200 gang rapes, according to human rights group Ain-o-Salish Kendra.

Women’s rights campaigners say the true figure is likely much higher as such crimes often go unreported.

Among the proposals put forward by the Rape Law Reform Coalition of 17 human rights groups are more options for sentencing convicted rapists.

At the moment, the only options are life imprisonment or death, which campaigners said could make judges reluctant to convict.

It also wants the government to review the use of character evidence in rape cases, which it says provides scope for blaming the victim.

Campaigners have also urged the government to ensure rape trials are completed within 180 days.

“There are cases which have been running for 12 years. We need to improve on this,” said Maleka Banu, a spokeswoman for Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a women’s rights group.

Activist Shrobona Shafique was among the about 150 protesters who turned out on Wednesday, following a larger demonstration over the weekend that was attacked by counter-demonstrators.

“We raised our voice against the attack of the anti-rape rally. We also reaffirmed that we don’t think death sentence is the solution,” she said. “We need systemic changes.”

(source: Reuters)


Karnataka High Court favours death for gang rape----Death penalty already exists for gang rape-cum-murder, as in the Nirbhaya case, but is not yet applicable for cases of gang rape in which there has been no death.

The Karnataka High Court has recommended amending provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to include capital punishment for gang rape in addition to the existing provisions of life imprisonment with fine. The high court made the suggestion keeping in mind women’s safety and to curb the menace of this crime in society at large. Death penalty already exists for gang rape-cum-murder, as in the Nirbhaya case, but is not yet applicable for cases of gang rape in which there has been no death.

A division bench of Justices B Veerappa and K Natarajan made this recommendation to the Legislature/Central Government for further amendments to provisions of IPC Section 376D which deal with gang rape, while upholding the trial court’s order sentencing seven accused to life imprisonment for the gang rape of a law student on the Jnana Bharathi campus in Bengaluru in October 2012.

Section 376D of the Indian Penal Code describes gang rape and the penalties it attracts as “where a woman is raped by one or more persons constituting a group, or acting in furtherance of a common intention, each of those persons shall be deemed to have committed the offence of rape and shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, and with fine…”The court appreciated the victim for her courage during the legal battle, and pointed out that gang rape was much worse than murder.

‘Attack on any daughter is attack on ours’

The bench of Justices B Veerappa and K Natarajan said that between Nirbhaya’s case and the gang rape of the law student, the only difference was that in the former, the victim died after the brutal crime was committed on her, but in the latter, “the victim discontinued her law course and returned to her homeland Nepal.”“We, the judges, are the societal parents. If our concern for the society of girls/women can be summed up in one sentence, an attack on anybody’s daughter is an attack on our daughter,” the bench said while pointing out the no remorse was shown by the accused during the trial.

“...we cannot say that we have achieved Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of Indian independence and we are not proud to say that India achieved empowerment of women even after seven decades of independence of our country,” the HC remarked. The bench noted that rape is not only a crime against women, but against the entire civil society. “The accused have no principles of life. Because of the ghastly incident, the law and order of the nation, particularly Karnataka, is being made responsible. Since the reputation of the country is at stake, no lenience can be shown to the accused persons,” it said.

The court also appreciated the victim for her courage in the legal battle and effective assistance to Additional Public Prosecutor Vijay Kumar Majage, the district judge, investigating officers and the medical team. “The ‘kerchief’, an important piece of evidence left on the spot, with seminal stains of the accused and the victim, helped in proving the barbaric act of the accused. It has become the ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ of Lord Sri Krishna, to punish the accused persons”, the bench said while noting that a DNA analysis had conclusively proven their guilt. In the 160-page judgment, the bench directed all concerned, including the state and central governments and the media, to create awareness and increase gender sensitivity as it is crucial to enhance women’s safety.

The eight accused Ramu, Shivanna, Maddura, Eleyaiah, Eeraiah, Ramu and Dodda Eeraiah raped the victim after her friend dropped her off at her hostel near Gandhi Bhavan on the Bangalore University campus, around 9 pm on October 13, 2012. The six accused were sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2013-14 by the trial court. One of the accused, Ramu, who was absconding, was sentenced in 2017 after he was arrested by a special team constituted by the state government to probe the case. The proceedings against another accused was under the Juvenile Justice Act, as he was minor.

(source: The New Indian Express)


Man handed death sentence for killing cop

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) awarded on Thursday 2 death sentences to a man for killing a police official during a bank robbery attempt.

The court also sentenced the convict, Muhammad Nawaz, to 44 years of imprisonment for robbing a bank, injuring a guard and taking people hostage. The court further ordered the convict to pay a fine of Rs600,000.

The ATC had reserved the verdict on the case in the previous hearing.

Reading out the decision, the court said the prosecution had proven Nawaz guilty of robbing a bank and killing Sub-Inspector Ishaq, with the help of the presented evidence.

The court ordered Nawaz to deposit the fine in the national exchequer.

According to the prosecution, Nawaz had tried to rob a private bank on April 1, 2014, within the limits of Sharafi Goth police station. He and his accomplice had gunned down Ishaq and injured a security guard, Anwar, for offering resistance.

Nawaz's accomplice, Faizan, was also killed during the incident.

Possession of explosives

Separately, an ATC sentenced Ashiq Ali alias Kamran to 5 years of imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs50,000 for the possession of explosive material.

In case of non-payment of the penalty, Ashiq will have to serve an additional 6 months in prison.

The convict was presented in court by jail authorities, where the court announced the decision on the case that it had reserved during the last hearing.

According to the prosecution, Ashiq was arrested by the police from Shah Latif Town, along with explosives.

(source: The Express Tribune)


Apex court allows constitutional challenge by heroin trafficker on death row

The Court of Appeal on Friday (23 October) granted leave, or permission, for a judicial review application by a drug trafficker on death row to be heard. Syed Suhail Syed Zin, 44, is arguing that his previously scheduled execution ahead of others on death row is unconstitutional, as it breaches his right to equality under the law guaranteed by Article 12 of the Constitution.

He is also arguing that because no clemency has been granted by the president to any drug offender since 1998, the powers of pardon conferred under Article 22 of the Constitution has also been effectively extinguished.

The High Court had dismissed Suhail’s application for leave, but Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on Friday found that the threshold for allowing the application to proceed had been crossed.

The judicial review will be scheduled for an expedited hearing at the High Court.

Suhail’s lawyer M. Ravi, in his arguments, brought up the specific case of Datchinamurthy Kataiah, a drug trafficker who was sentenced to death before Suhail but has not been scheduled for execution.

About the case

Suhail, 44, received the mandatory death penalty in December 2015 for trafficking in not less than 38.84g of heroin. He was arrested in 2011 with 2.21kg of drugs in his room and claimed that all of it was for his personal consumption, although he admitted to having sold drugs in May that year.

The apex court dismissed his appeal in October 2018. Among other things, it considered that Suhail never mentioned to investigators that the drugs were for his own use; the evidence did not point to his alleged consumption of 12g to 18g of heroin per day; and that his text messages revealed he was in dire need of money.

On 8 September, the President ordered that Suhail’s sentence be carried out on 18 September. But on 17 September, Suhail’s lawyer M Ravi made a last ditch application to the apex court to review the case both on sentence and conviction.

Last Friday (16 November), the apex court threw out Suhail’s “patently unmeritorious” application, with Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang saying that finality is a fundamental part of the legal system, without which “dissatisfied litigants could (and probably would) bring repeated applications to the courts”.

“Judicial decisions must confer certainty and stability and it is impossible to have a properly functioning legal system if legal decisions are open to ‘constant and unceasing challenge’,” he noted.

“Indeed, it cannot be the case that a dissatisfied litigant could bring repeated applications until the desired outcome is achieved. If so, that would be the very perversion of justice and fairness and would make a mockery of the rule of law,” he said.

The judge added that lawyers should discourage clients from repeatedly bringing “patently unmeritorious applications” before the court.


CHR survey shows support for the death penalty among Filipinos

Research by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) shows that Filipinos support the reintroduction of the death penalty in the country.

The study, titled Defense of the Right to Life: Analyzing Factors Affecting Filipino Opinion About Death Penalty, found that Filipinos feel safer from crime if criminals are punished with the death penalty.

At a press conference marking the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Mae Labucay, co-author of the study, said that "people would like to feel safe and are worried of being victimised by crime. This is why they support the death penalty.”

The CHR carried out the research in cooperation with the Social Weather System (SWS). Some 2,000 randomly selected participants across the country, aged 15 and up, took part in the study.

According to CHR chief Gwendolyn Gana, the survey was conducted to obtain scientific evidence about Filipinos’ sense of safety.

For Labucay, media have an effect on people pushing for the death penalty. Research found that crimes highlighted in the media can spark fear and anger in people.

“The media just emphasise the crime and not whether justice has been achieved,” she explained.

They focus on crimes, not on perpetrators who are caught or jailed. This is what makes people fear for their own safety; they see crimes occurring in the absence of proper law enforcement.

She added that if the country had a good justice system and if law enforcement was done rigorously, fears over safety would lessen. Proper law enforcement would stop people from committing crimes.

In line with this, the CHR strongly reiterated its opposition to any form of the death penalty. “In whatever form, we are against the death penalty. Lethal injection or any other form they may suggest,” the CHR said.

Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished the death penalty in 2006. In his fifth State of the Nation address last July, incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte asked the Philippe Congress to reimpose it.

Catholic social doctrine affirms the sacredness of life and protecting life is one of its central tenets.


OCTOBER 22, 2020:

TEXAS----foreign national may face death penalty

Alleged killer of Houston police sergeant could face death penalty----Police had been to the accused man's home twice during the past weekend for domestic issues, authorities said

An undocumented immigrant accused of killing a Houston police officer and wounding another Tuesday was charged, and could face the death penalty, prosecutors said.

Elmer Manzano, 51, faces capital murder and attempted capital murder charges in the death of Houston police Sgt. Harold Preston and the shooting of officer Courtney Waller, respectively.

They were shot during a domestic violence call at an apartment complex, according to court documents obtained by Fox News. Manzano also is charged with aggravated assault.

Preston was a 41-year veteran of the police force. Waller has been with the department for 3 years.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg filed a request for a court hearing to ask that that Manzano be denied bail. The filing also noted that there is strong evidence he will "probably be punished by the death penalty," Ogg's office told Fox News.

The officers were responding to an apartment complex in southwest Houston after Manzano's estranged wife said she was moving out and wanted to get some things from inside. They spoke with the woman and her 14-year-old son in a parking lot for about an hour before the boy unlocked the apartment door and alerted officers that his father had a gun.

Manzano is accused of opening fire and hitting Preston, Waller and his son. Preston was shot multiple times. Waller and the boy are expected to recover. Manzano surrendered to authorities after barricading himself inside the apartment.

Officers went to the residence twice last weekend for domestic issues, Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said Tuesday. After the shooting, critics said Manzano should have been charged after the earlier responses.

In a statement, Ogg's office said any attempt to blame prosecutors for Tuesday's shooting is "sadly political and not factual."

"The only person responsible for this horrible crime is the killer himself," the statement reads. "The record speaks for itself; the officers in these cases didn't believe that a crime had occurred and that left no evidence on which to base any charges."

Manzano, a Salvadoran national living in the U.S. without documentation, has at least 4 arrests, including assault and unlawfully carrying a firearm, dating back to 1994, according to media reports.

(source: Fox News)


State Seeks Death Penalty for Fla. Man Accused of Stabbing and Bludgeoning Boys, 12 and 14, to Death----An arrest report alleges that Mark Wilson Jr. and his girlfriend -- who was the children's aunt -- originally planned to kill the entire family

Authorities in Florida are seeking the death penalty for a 30-year-old man accused of brutally murdering 2 boys with a hammer this summer.

Mark Wilson Jr. faces 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the August 2020 killings of 14-year-old Tayten Baker and 12-year-old Robert Baker, WEAR, First Coast News and WGFL report.

"We believe that the capital felonies or murders were especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel," State Attorney R.J. Larizza said at a virtual news conference Tuesday.

The boys were found dead in their Melrose mobile home on August 26. They had been stabbed with a knife and bludgeoned with a hammer.

"This was truly one of the most horrific crime scenes that [I've] ever seen in my life," Putnam County Sheriff DeLoach said at the news conference.

According to an arrest report, Wilson and his girlfriend, Cindy -- who was the boys' aunt -- originally planned to kill the entire family, but Cindy never followed through on her part of the plan, First Coast News and Action Jax News report.

Wilson allegedly confessed to the crimes in a recorded meeting with an unnamed witness.

"Mark went on to say he was angry because [the girlfriend] did not follow through after he killed the two boys," the report states.

Wilson and Cindy, who is not facing charges at this time, had been invited by the victims' family to stay on their property because they were homeless.

"We believe that [the crimes] were committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner," Larizza said at the press conference.

A grand jury also indicted Wilson for assault and battery, as well as burglary, on Tuesday.

Attorney information was not available at press time.



Roane County pair could face death penalty after indictment in horrific child abuse case

A Roane County husband and wife are facing a 42-count indictment for the death of 1 of their adopted children and the abuse and neglect of 2 of their other 3 adopted children.

Michael Anthony Gray Sr., 63, and, Shirley Gray, 60, each face 4 counts of felony murder, 8 counts of aggravated child abuse, 8 counts of aggravated child neglect, 9 counts of aggravated kidnapping and and 6 counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, according to the Ninth District Attorney General's Office.

They also each face counts of abuse of a corpse, charging theft and falsification of educational or academic records.

Death penalty is possible

The Grays were arrested on multiple warrants in May and have been in custody ever since. The Grays, who lived in the Ten Mile community, are each being held on a $1.5 million bond. The couple will be arraigned Monday, most likely via video link because of COVID-19 safety measures, the District Attorney's Office said.

If convicted on felony murder, the couple would face 1 of 3 possible sentences: death, life in prison without the possibility of parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The other charges combined carry a penalty of up to 156 years in prison, if convicted.

Couple continued to collect benefits for dead children Roane County authorities discovered the remains of a girl believed to be the Grays' 11-year-old adopted daughter buried underneath a pole barn in the backyard of the couple's home in April.

According to court records, Michael Gray admitted to burying the child there after she died in 2017.

The Grays never reported the death of the girl or of a boy discovered buried behind the Knox County home the couple shared with their adult son before moving to Roane County in 2016. The new indictments come even as an investigation continues in Knox County, the district attorney general's office said.

Authorities in Knox County have been investigating a home in the Halls neighborhood that is owned by an adult son of the Grays, Michael Anthony Gray Jr.

Children rescued from horrific conditions

3 other adopted children were rescued from the couple's Roane County home, including a 15-year-old boy who authorities say had been confined to the unfinished basement of the home on small amounts of bread and water for 4 years.

At least 1 other child periodically was kept inside a wire dog cage in the basement until the Grays constructed a small, concrete room – measuring approximately 3 feet by 4 feet – under the stairs for confinement, arrest warrants previously obtained by Knox News state.

According to the warrants issued at the time, all 3 of the Grays' surviving adopted children "appeared to be stunted in growth," and had gone without medical attention for at least the past 6 years.

Inside the Knox County home, authorities found a large dog crate and a room with a "reversed door lock and a peephole," a search warrant said.

They continued to receive adoption payments from the state and other financial benefits for the dead children, according to a Roane County search warrant previously obtained by Knox News.

(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)


US to execute 1st woman since 1953

The US is to execute a female federal inmate for the 1st time in almost 70 years, the Justice Department said.

Lisa Montgomery strangled a pregnant woman in Missouri before cutting out and kidnapping the baby in 2004.

She is due to be given a lethal injection in Indiana on 8 December.

The last woman to be executed by the US government was Bonnie Heady, who died in a gas chamber in Missouri in 1953, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The federal execution of Brandon Bernard, who with his accomplices murdered 2 youth ministers in 1999, has also been scheduled for December. US Attorney General William Barr said the crimes were “especially heinous murders”. Last year, the Trump administration said it would resume federal executions. In December 2004, Montgomery drove from Kansas to the home of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, in Missouri, purportedly to purchase a puppy, according to a Department of Justice press release. “Once inside the residence, Montgomery attacked and strangled Stinnett - who was eight months pregnant - until the victim lost consciousness,” it says.

“Using a kitchen knife, Montgomery then cut into Stinnett’s abdomen, causing her to regain consciousness. A struggle ensued, and Montgomery strangled Stinnett to death. Montgomery then removed the baby from Stinnett’s body, took the baby with her, and attempted to pass it off as her own.”

In 2007, a jury found Montgomery guilty of federal kidnapping resulting in death, and unanimously recommended a death sentence. But Montgomery’s lawyers say she experienced brain damage from beatings as a child and is mentally unwell, so should not face the death penalty.

(source: The News International)


Saudi commission insists no minors to face death penalty

A Saudi Arabian governmental body on Thursday insisted that executions have been abolished for crimes committed by minors, after Human Rights Watch said earlier this week that Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a number of young men from the predominantly Shiite eastern region of the kingdom for protest-related crimes they allegedly committed as children.

The Saudi government's Human Rights Commission, which monitors human rights-related complaints and cases, said it "has found no basis to substantiate Human Rights Watch's claim that Saudi prosecutors still seek the death sentences for juvenile offenders."

"We are confident that Saudi prosecutors will fully uphold Saudi law," the commission said, and referred to a royal order in March that abolished the death penalty for individuals convicted of crimes committed as minors.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday warned that Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 8 Saudi men charged with protest-related crimes, some of which they allegedly committed as children between 14 and 17 years old.

The charges include "seeking to destabilize the social fabric by participating in protests and funeral processions," "chanting slogans hostile to the regime," and "seeking to incite discord and division."

The New York-based independent rights group said it obtained and analyzed the charge sheets for two group trials that included the eight men in 2019. The youngest of the group is now 18 and was arrested at age 15 for nonviolent offenses that include, among other alleged crimes, participating in demonstrations and funeral processions when he was as young as 9.

Human Rights Watch said prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 8 men under a provision of Islamic law that carries specific penalties for serious crimes.

The Saudi Human Rights Commission, however, insisted that no one in Saudi Arabia will be executed for a crime committed as a minor in accordance with the royal decree issued earlier this year. The commission said the law allows for a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for crimes committed by individuals as minors.

The kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of execution. Last year, Saudi Arabia executed a young man convicted of crimes that took place when he was 16 years old for offences related to his participation in anti-government Shiite-led protests.

(source: Associated Press)

OCTOBER 21, 2020:


Request for jurors in death penalty case nears 1,000

The defense attorney representing a 25-year-old Edinburg man is asking the judge overseeing the case to summon at least 800 people to appear for jury duty in the case.

The request for the large number of potential jurors follows the Sept. 16 announcement by prosecutors that they will seek the death penalty if Victor Godinez is convicted of capital murder for the death of 49-year-old Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Moises Sanchez.

Authorities accuse Godinez of shooting Sanchez on April 6, 2019, after a car crash at the corner of North 10th Street and Freddy Gonzalez Drive in McAllen. Sanchez, who initially appeared to be recovering from his wounds, died on Aug. 24, 2019, after surgery in Houston.

The revelation of the request for the huge jury pool came in one of more than a dozen motions filed by defense attorney O. Rene Flores and the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office between last Thursday and Tuesday.

The newspaper reviewed several defense motions that were publicly available but many of the state’s motions, and possibly some defense motions, are not publicly available in online court records, saying access to the documents is restricted.

During his last hearing, state District Judge Letty Lopez noted that selecting a jury for a death penalty trial at the Hidalgo County Courthouse would be impossible because of social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Typically, potential jurors show up to the courthouse’s first-floor auditorium, which Lopez said previously can only hold 25 to 29 people with social distancing measures. Lopez’s courtroom can only hold 14 people, including her staff, with those measures.

She told Flores, Godinez’s attorney, and Joseph Orendain, the prosecutor, that an alternative venue may have to be used for jury selection.

“I don’t have any ideas right now but I am thinking of convention centers at this point; maybe the Bert Ogden Arena, as crazy as that sounds,” Lopez said previously.

The judge said she hopes it doesn’t come to that.

Jury trials are on hold until Dec. 1, having been canceled since March.

Godinez is also charged with 2 counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer over allegations that he shot at two Edinburg police officers, who were not injured, during a manhunt.

He remains jailed on a total of $3 million in bonds and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing next week.

(source: The Monitor)

ALABAMA----female may face death penalty

Heather Keaton's attorneys file motions to bar death penalty in murder resentencing

A flurry of filings in the capital murder resentencing of Heather Keaton have occurred in the last week.

On Friday, attorneys for Keaton filed no less than 4 motions to bar the death penalty when she is resentenced for the 2011 murders of her step children, 4-year-old Natalie and 2-year-old Chase DeBlase.

The motions argue multiple theories on why Keaton should not be sentenced to death.

First, defenses argue that the state used inconsistent theories of the murders to secure her conviction. They argue that at John DeBlases’ trial, the children’s father, the State alleged that DeBlase strangled his 2 children. DeBlase was convicted and sentenced to death.

At Keaton’s trial, the defense argues that the State gained the conviction against Keaton by arguing she poisoned the children.

“These incompatible theories went to the core of the State’s case for conviction and death, and thus violated due process,” the motion argues.

Next, the defense motion to bar the death penalty due to non-unanimous jury verdict argues that because the jury’s verdict was 11 for death and one for life in prison, the death penalty should be barred.

Third is the motion to bar the death penalty due to lack of jury findings regarding the weight of mitigating and aggravating circumstances. Defense attorneys argue that because only 11 jurors found that aggravating circumstances outweighed mitigating circumstances, it was not a unanimous finding of mitigating circumstances.

Lastly, attorneys argue that her trial was fundamentally unfair and unreliable.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a motion opposing each of the defense's arguments on Monday.

Marshall argues that the instructions from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals are clear. Keaton is to given the opportunity to allocute, to speak on her own behalf, and after allocution, the court is to “sentence Keaton to either death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

The State contends that the Appeals court order does not give the lower court the authority to hear arguments on any of the defense motions.

Despite explicitly clear instructions from the CCA, on Friday, October 16, at 7:00 p.m., Keaton’s counsel filed the above referenced motions. All 4 motions are irrelevant to the proceedings before this Court. This Court is to hold a resentencing at which Keaton is to be allowed to allocute and allocute only. Any other action taken is beyond the scope of remand, and therefore, would be void for lack of jurisdiction.

Keaton’s death sentence was vacated in early October because the appeals court found that Keaton was not afforded the opportunity to make a statement on her own behalf at sentencing and that violated her constitutional rights.

The resentencing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Wednesday before Judge Brandy Hambright.

(source: WPMI news)


Death penalty forum set for Sunday

A virtual community forum on “Race, Wrongful Conviction, and the Death Penalty” will be held at 4 p.m., Sunday, October 25.

A focus will be on the planned execution of Pervis Payne, scheduled for December 3 in Nashville. He is a Black man with an intellectual disability and son of a highly respected pastor, a press release said.

The speakers will be Rolanda Holman, Payne’s sister, who will describe the circumstances surrounding his case and the push for DNA testing and commutation of his sentence; Sabrina Butler Smith, exoneree from Mississippi’s death row and Memphis resident, who will connect issues from her case to those in Payne’s case and the broader realities of racial injustice inherent in the death penalty; and the Reverend Stacy Rector, executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who will reflect on current issues raised by the death penalty, particularly as they relate to race and wrongful conviction, the press release said.

According to Rector, “Pervis Payne’s case has all the ingredients for a wrongful conviction and death sentence. He is a Black man with intellectual disability who was accused of murdering a white woman; the prosecution played upon racial fears and stereotypes; and for years, the state blocked DNA testing of evidence that could help prove Payne’s innocence. Governor Lee should grant clemency on the grounds that he is likely an innocent man, and that as a person with an intellectual disability, his execution would be unconstitutional.”

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, the death penalty is disproportionately reserved for those who are Black, poor, or diagnosed with a mental illness. From 2007 to 2017, eight of the nine new death sentences in Tennessee were given to Black defendants, the press release said.

In 2012, EJI examined jury selection procedures in eight Southern states, including Tennessee. It found shocking evidence of racial discrimination in each state, including in counties where prosecutors excluded nearly 80 percent of Blacks qualified for jury service and in majority Black counties where defendants were tried by all-white juries, the press release said. EJI also identified prosecutors who were trained to exclude people from juries based on their race.

If you would like to attend the forum, send an email to to get the Zoom link.



Family of Tennessee death row inmate awaits 'miracle' as 11th hour DNA test underway----With an execution date set for December, the Payne Family discusses Pervis and their hopes for overturning his sentence now hinging on new DNA evidence

Carl Payne believes his son is innocent of murder.

He believes that for 33 years, his son has been wrongfully imprisoned, facing the death penalty.

And he believes that God has allowed it, choosing this family like the biblical Queen Esther for God’s glory to be manifested.

“God allows things to happen every once in a while to let folks know I am God,” said Carl Payne, 78. “God is a god of justice, righteousness and all good and perfect gifts come from him. This is God’s plan. This I know.”

Carl Payne is the father of Pervis Payne, the Tennessee man scheduled for execution Dec. 3 for the 1987 stabbing deaths of Millington woman Charisse Christopher, 28, and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie. Christopher's 3-year-old son, Nicholas, survived multiple stab wounds in the brutal attack that took place in their apartment building.

Pervis Payne has also maintained his innocence, but multiple appeals have been rejected over his years on death row.

During those years, his family has stood beside him, some going to their graves still saying they believed he would be freed. Their steadfastness is rooted in their Christian faith, members of the family say, a faith that Pervis Payne shares.

Now, just months before Pervis Payne’s scheduled execution, the family has had their first “victory” in the decades-long fight: A judge has granted DNA testing in the case. And, a powerful coalition of attorneys, legislators, nonprofits and faith leaders have gathered around the family to advocate for Pervis Payne.

“It’s a lot of joy happening. We’ve been asking the Lord to do it, now I’m thanking him for where he brought us from for where he brought us to,” Carl Payne said. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. We’re in that process.”

Carl Payne, 78, father of Pervis Payne who was convicted of a capital crime in 1988 and is on death row awaiting a December execution date. Recently Shelby County courts granted Payne's motion requesting DNA analysis, giving the family renewed hope for a reversal of his 32-year-old guilty verdict.

'Chosen for such a time as this'

Carl Payne was mowing his grass in Drummonds, Tennessee when he got a phone call that his only son was in trouble. He didn’t believe it then but rushed to the police station in nearby Millington.

Millington was the big town for the family — where you went to shop, where Carl Payne pastored a church. Today, Carl Payne remains an elder and is a superintendent in the Church of God in Christ, overseeing several churches in Tennessee.

Millington was also where Pervis Payne’s girlfriend lived in an apartment complex where a brutal crime had just occurred in the unit next to his girlfriend’s.

The white woman who lived next door to Pervis Payne’s girlfriend was dead, stabbed more than 40 times. She also had more than 40 defensive wounds. Her two-year-old daughter was also dead and her son had to be rushed to LeBonheur Children's Medical Center with multiple stab wounds.

Pervis Payne had been there: An officer saw him leaving the apartment complex drenched in blood. When he saw the officer, Pervis Payne struck the officer with an overnight bag and ran. He was later found hiding in an ex-girlfriend’s attic. His baseball cap was found looped around the 2-year-old victim's arm, and his fingerprints were on a beer can inside the apartment.

When Carl Payne arrived at the police station, he was allowed to see his son.

“Dad, I didn’t kill no woman,” Carl Payne recalled his son saying.

“I know you didn’t,” Carl Payne said he replied.

“I thought he’d be out of there in the next day or 2, but he’s been in there 33 years,” Carl Payne said in an interview. “They want to take his life, the only son that I have.”

At trial, Pervis Payne said he heard cries and entered the apartment after the Christophers had been stabbed, where he placed his hand on the knife lodged in Christopher’s throat, trying to help. When the white police officer arrived, Payne, who is Black, said he panicked and ran, fearing he would be seen as the prime suspect.

At trial, prosecutors pointed out inconsistencies in Pervis Payne’s testimony: The door to Christopher’s apartment was locked when police arrived, meaning Payne must have locked it when he left, something that didn’t make sense for a Good Samaritan to do, they said.

And after Pervis Payne said he got blood on himself when Christopher “hit the wall,” prosecutors said, “She hit the wall while he was stabbing her to death.”

Rolanda Holman, the younger of Pervis Payne’s 2 sisters, was just 13 when the crime and arrest happened. To this day, she calls her brother “Bubba,” since she couldn’t pronounce “brother” as a child. The family was naïve about the justice system, Holman said. They began praying but were convinced that her brother would be turned loose.

They told him, if you just tell the truth, they’ll set you free.

“We’re thinking as little girls, my sister and I, well Bubba will be home soon,” Holman said. “But we began to get in court and began to see the twists and turns and the things that were not right and the poor support from his defense lawyer, and we began to see something is not right here. … I had to take into consideration we had a white victim and a black man, I had to take into consideration is this a racial issue here?”

Her brother’s defense didn’t aid him like they should have, Holman said, including in responding to the racial framing and the statement about whether he had been there when Christopher “hit the wall.”

DNA testing: Judge grants DNA testing in Pervis Payne's Tennessee death penalty case

Something unique happened at trial: For the 1st time, victim’s impact statements were allowed. The legality of that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, changing how trials were conducted across the country.

Just as her brother’s case resulted in a significant change, Holman believes it will end with a significant change for the judicial system. Perhaps it will be the end to the death penalty, she says.

“We’ve been chosen for such a time as this,” Holman said, echoing the biblical book of Esther. “We’re chosen. That means we’ve got to keep going with it. We’re in it now. I said, ‘Bubba, we’re out here swimming now.’”

'I want to see a miracle'

Holman hopes that when the evidence is tested for DNA, there will be “no question” that her brother is innocent.

But others say they are certain of his guilt, including the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. Throughout his 33 years on death row, none of Payne’s appeals have succeeded.

The family of the Christophers, the victims, also cooperated with the prosecution at trial. The remaining members of the Christopher family did not wish to speak with The Commercial Appeal in an interview.

“For 30 years the defendant has been trying to run from what he did that day — run from what a jury sentenced him to,” Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich recently said in a written statement. “Countless state and federal courts have reviewed this case — including the United States Supreme Court. Each time, the same result: they find the evidence against the defendant overwhelming and his explanation unbelievable. That is because you can’t outrun the facts of this case — the truth about what the defendant did and how this family suffered and is still suffering. … The time for the defendant to finally be held responsible is long overdue.”

When Judge Paula Skahan ruled in September that DNA evidence should be tested, that was the first victory for the Paynes in 33 years, Holman said. The results of the tests are expected in mid-November.

She called her brother after getting the news.

“Child, let me tell you,” she began. He had to get off the phone after a few moments, saying he needed to soak in the news, she said.

“My hope is right there on those boxes right now,” Holman said, referring to the boxes of evidence.

Holman and Carl Payne said they imagine Pervis Payne coming home. They imagine the joy of him being freed again, but they also imagine the sorrow of him visiting the graves of his sister Tyrasha and his mother Bernice.

Tyrasha died in June 2016, while Bernice died in July 2005.

Members of COGIC back Pervis Payne's innocence claim in death penalty case. Here's why.

Weirich asks court to deny request for DNA testing in Pervis Payne death penalty case

Every New Year, Pervis Payne’s mother Bernice would say, “Pervis is coming home this year.”

Holman said she understands the reality of the looming Dec. 3 execution date. The family isn’t “so spiritual we don’t have any common sense,” she said, and they have a plan for every reality.

But, they also have “hope: The anticipation, the expectation that something good is going to happen,” she said.

For Carl Payne, as he awaits the results of the DNA testing, there is no doubt, he said.

“I want to see a miracle, and God is working that miracle out,” Carl Payne said. “We’ve never lost our focus on God. I knew God was going to get him out of here. I didn’t know it was gonna take him this long.”

(source: The Commercial Appeal)


Trial Set For Ex-MLB Player Charged In Corona Triple Murder Case----Brandon Willie Martin?, 27, of Corona — formerly with the Tampa Bay Rays — is facing the death penalty if he's convicted on all charges.

Trial is scheduled to begin Monday for a former Major League Baseball player who is charged with killing 3 men in Corona with a baseball bat.

Brandon Willie Martin, 27, of Corona was the 38th overall Major League Baseball draft pick selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. But in 2015, he took a very bad turn, according to prosecutors.

In March of that year, he was released by the Rays — and just 6 months later he bludgeoned to death 2 family members and an ADT alarm installer with a black wooden baseball bat engraved with his name, according to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

Martin is charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, and the DA's office alleges a special circumstance of multiple murders, with DA Mike Hestrin seeking the death penalty in the case.

In September 2015, Martin was at the family's home on Winthrop Drive in Corona when he took the black bat to his disabled father, Michael Martin, 64; his uncle, Ricky Andersen, 58; and Barry Swanson, 62, the ADT alarm installer, prosecutors allege.

Swanson was at the home to install an alarm system because the family feared Brandon, according to prosecutors.

The bodies of the 3 men were discovered by Brandon's cousin who called 911.

Brandon made a getaway in Swanson's Ford Raptor pickup, but the next day Corona police spotted the truck driven by the ex-big leaguer and a chase began, according to prosecutors.

Brandon eventually ditched the truck and fled on foot. In his attempt to evade officers, he broke into a home, but Corona police eventually cornered him on Derby Street thanks to a police canine.

The former MLB player is now housed at Robert Presley Detention Center is Riverside with no bail set for him.

His trial begins at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Riverside.



Saudi Arabia Urged to Halt 8 Imminent Executions

Human Rights Watch called on Saudi Arabia to stop the imminent execution of 8 men charged with activities related to a wave of anti-government protests while they were under the age of 18.

In a statement on Tuesday, the New York-based group denounced Saudi Arabia’s death penalties as the 8 alleged child offenders are awaiting the death penalty.

The group questioned the kingdom’s 2018 criminal justice reform, saying the ongoing cases demonstrate critical gaps in the plan, which was expected to curb the death penalty for child offenders.

The HRW obtained and analyzed the charge sheets for 2 group trials that included the 8 men in 2019.

Some of the crimes listed were allegedly committed while the men were between ages 14 and 17.

One of the men, now 18, is charged with a nonviolent crime he allegedly committed at age 9. All 8 men have been in pretrial detention for up to 2 years.

“Saudi spin doctors are marketing judicial reforms as progress while prosecutors appear to blatantly ignore them and carry on as usual,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“If Saudi Arabia is serious about reforming its criminal justice system, it should start by banning the death penalty against alleged child offenders in all cases,” he said, Press TV reported.

According to the rights group, the Saudi Public Prosecution accused the detained men, all from Shia-majority towns and villages in the Eastern Province, of several charges that do not resemble recognizable crimes.

It said that the men had been accused of “seeking to destabilize the social fabric by participating in protests and funeral processions”, “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” and “seeking to incite discord and division.”

The 8 are named as: Ahmad al-Faraj, Ali al-Batti, Mohammed al-Nimr, Ali al-Faraj, Mohammed al-Faraj, Ali al-Mabyook, Sajjad al-Yasin, and Yousef al-Manasif.

Saudi authorities arrested the men between April 2017 and January 2018.

Citing Saudi activists in communication with sources close to al-Nimr and al-Faraj, Human Rights Watch said that the men were subjected to torture during their initial detention and interrogation and that both were denied access to legal counsel.

It said that the crimes listed in the men’s charge sheets, which for 7 of the 8 men included attacking police officers or patrols with Molotov cocktails or firearms, are almost entirely based on the men’s confessions, and give no details of any injuries to police officers.

The HRW has documented longstanding due process violations in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system that makes it difficult for a defendant to get a fair trial even in capital cases.

It referred to a case in April 2019, when Saudi Arabia carried out a mass execution of 37 men, 33 of them from the country’s Shia minority community.

Citing local activists, the rights group earlier said that more than 200 people from Shia-majority towns and villages in the Eastern Province have gone on trial for similar offenses since 2011.

Mostly Shia residents of Eastern Province towns such as Qatif, Awamiya, and Hufuf have repeatedly held protests over discrimination by the government since 2011.

Ali al-Nimr - who was sentenced to death over his alleged role in anti-regime protests in 2012 when he was 17 years old, is the nephew of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi cleric who had called for reforms and was executed in January 2016.

Saudi Arabia is one of the top executioners in the world, with more than 2,000 people executed between 1985 and 2016. Suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking face death penalty.

In the most stunning case of executions, Saudi Arabia executed on January 2, 2016, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, along 46 other people in defiance of international calls for the release of the prominent Shia cleric.

(source: International Quran News Agency)

OCTOBER 20, 2020:

TEXAS----new execution date

Edward Busby has been given an execution date for February 10 (2021); it should be considered serious.

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----52

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----570

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

53----Jan. 21--------Blaine Milam----------------572

54----Feb. 10--------Edward Busby----------------573

55----Mar. 4---------Ramiro Ibarra---------------574

56----Apr. 20--------Ramiro Gonzales-------------575

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


The death penalty protested in Texas for the 21st year

The incredible depth and breadth of capital punishment was brought out very clearly on Oct. 10, as the 21st Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty was held. Even though it was a virtual event this year, the passions, emotions, dedication and love shared by all participants were empowering tributes to the determination of Texas families and activists to stop legal lynchings.

Sandra Reed spoke, as her 3-year-old grandson, R.J., peered into the camera from behind her. She raised goosebumps on participants, as she described all the “illegalities, lies, deceits and conspiracies” that sent her innocent son, Rodney Reed, to death row in 1998. She declared: “The death penalty is heartless. It is racist. It is wrong. We will continue to fight for what is right — and that is to end this death penalty now!”

From Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, an activist in Paris, an organizer for the World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and the spouse of Hank Skinner — who is on death row in Texas — to Bill Pelke, based in Alaska, founder of the Journey of Hope, the speakers captivated attendees.

Dee Colonize, a poet and recognized spoken word artist, shared her own moving work, “Cruel and Unusual,” and then she read a poem entitled “Miracles” by political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Walter Long spoke. He is the attorney who founded the Texas After Violence Project, a new program at St. Edward’s University in Austin which provides therapeutic counseling for death row families dealing with complex grief and unique trauma.

Families express deep angst, trauma and fear

It was the words spoken by those with family members on death row who revealed how deep the angst, trauma and fear runs. Yancy Balderas, spouse of Juan Balderas on the row, spoke through tears: “The death penalty affects me every day. The process of justice is not right. How did the nephew of the prosecutor get to sit on Juan’s jury? Why wouldn’t the judge accept the hung jury in Juan’s case?”

Balderas stressed: “If this had been a cop case, the judge would have accepted a hung jury and ended it. Juan’s appointed attorney was Jerome Godinich who was chastised by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for repeatedly failing to meet federal death penalty deadlines, and who never did an investigation. We never even met him for 4 years.”

And Balderas asks further leading questions: “Why did we wait over eight years for a trial? Juan has been on death row for six years, and we just got evidence turned over in 2018 that should have been given to us at trial. This system is broken in Texas. It can’t be fixed. It’s got to be abolished.”

Maria Victoria Reyes, the mother of Juan Balderas, cried as she told us, “Every single day I suffer, every single day because I cannot even touch my son. There’s no justice for poor people, people like us. We feel this every day.”

‘This is not justice. It is ‘revenge, pure and simple’

Elsa Alcala, a former judge who served 6 years on Texas’ highest court, was a special guest: “As a young prosecutor, I was told that the death penalty was reserved for the worst of the worst. I bought into that. But after serving on the Court of Criminal Appeals, I learned that this just is not true. . . . Taking a live human being and causing their death is called homicide. That’s what it is,” she explained. “It’s revenge, pure and simple. That is not justice.”

Texas State Rep. Harold Dutton, an ally of abolitionists since first elected to the House in 1984, has introduced a bill in every session to abolish the death penalty. He has held a Day of the Innocent at the Legislature and recognized death row exonerees on the floor of the House.

Rep. Dutton says: “The death penalty is only applied to poor people, Black and Brown people! In Texas. you can get the death penalty and not have killed anybody. This is called the ‘Law of Parties’ — and it is absurd. Since the death penalty doesn’t apply to the rich, we must just eliminate it. Let’s keep the movement up, and keep this fire burning brighter. We need to just abolish the death penalty.”

Terri Been, Jeff Wood’s sister, attended. Wood is a death row prisoner even though he wasn’t in the building where a murder took place. He is one of many — Randy Halprin, Rudy Medrano, Juan Ramirez, Humberto Garza and others — who are on death row under the Law of Parties.

Been explains: “I consider myself to be a victim of this crime. So is his daughter, his grandkids, our parents. There are not words to describe what our family goes through. Emotionally, I am in that cell with my brother every single second of every single day. Every day I am awaiting death.

“Our stresses come in many forms. We as family members receive hate mail. We are called names. Guns have been pulled on us. Our loved family members are called ‘monsters,’ and family members become the ‘monsters’ our loved ones are called. We’ve lost jobs. We have contemplated suicide. We’ve had to move. I have PTSD. I’ve been put on drugs. This is our life on death row.”

Sabrina Butler Smith: 1st woman exonerated

“My name is Sabrina Butler Smith, and I was charged with murdering my baby son and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Mississippi,” the first exonerated woman explained. “One of my attorneys was a divorce attorney, who was drunk every day of my trial. I was poor, young, Black and undereducated. My execution date was July 2, but no one even told me that I had appeals. I was waiting all day to die. Since I have been freed, I have learned that together we can accomplish a lot. I am the first woman exonerated from death row, and I will continue to fight as a member of Witness To Innocence and with all of you.”

Another exoneree, Ron Keine, a board member of Witness To Innocence, is on a committee called Justice After Exoneration. He said: “We’re 172 people who were exonerated from death row. But not every state provides compensation. So I’m working in New Mexico and other states to get compensation for exonerees. My case is like Rodney Reed’s, because the real killer in our cases was a cop. I got off because the cop who committed the murder that I was charged with found Jesus, and he confessed.”

Viewers were treated to a photo display of actions by the Kids Against the Death Penalty. Since their founding in 2008, the KADP have demonstrated at each annual event and at the governor’s mansion and the Texas Capitol, and they have lobbied the legislature. Speaking for them were Gavin Been and Brittany Burts who set up the online event which can be found on their FaceBook page.

Humberto Garza is on death row because of the Law of Parties. His mother, Lydia Garza, spoke from the Rio Grande Valley, saying, “I am not an eloquent speaker, but I just want to thank everybody who has joined this effort, especially the KADP who were so young and small when we first met them. Not having visits all these months has been quite depressing for families. My son is my only son, and he was sentenced under the Law of Parties. He was not the shooter. He wasn’t at the place where this happened. This is so unjust. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and my son does too.”

Delia Perez Meyers spoke on behalf of her brother Luis Perez, whose innocence she has been fighting to prove since he was arrested in 1998. “We are still getting boxes of evidence that were never turned over to Perez’s attorney. Several innocence projects are now working on my brother’s case. My brother sends his love, even though he is still terribly ill from suffering a few heart attacks.

‘Pandemic executions expose lies about public safety’

Liliana Segura writes for the Intercept, which published her excellent article on the recent federal execution of 19-year-old Christopher Vialva. She told us, “When the federal government is carrying out executions during this pandemic, this really exposes the lies that this is about public safety. It is revenge.”

After a talk by Lillian Mauldin, of Amnesty International at the University of Texas, the last speaker was a representative of Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement and Workers World Party. She spoke of the six women on Texas death row and gave the good news about Melissa Lucio, whose case was thrown out by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and is awaiting either a new trial or release.

Many statistics were given showing that the death penalty is dying. Fewer people are being executed. Fewer death sentences are being given out. Fewer people support executing people.

The emotional event ended with a power point presentation of beautiful death row art, narrated by Perez Meyer.

Organizations sponsoring the event were the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Austin Abolitionists, Kids against the Death Penalty, the Jeff Wood Support Group, the Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center and the Jude Filler Foundation.

The pandemic may have prevented an in-person march and rally, but this virtual event proved to be just as emotionally taxing, but also as exciting, informational and motivational as the previous 20 in-person events.

(source: Workers World)


A Question of Life and Death Looms for Amy Coney Barrett----If confirmed, she may soon have to reconcile her Catholic morality and the law over a death penalty case.

After 2 decades on death row, Ruben Gutierrez’s time nearly came this summer. A little over an hour before he was due to be killed in the execution chamber housed in Texas’ Huntsville Unit, a reprieve arrived from an unlikely source: Justice Samuel Alito.

For years, Mr. Gutierrez has maintained that he did not murder Escolastica Harrison, an 85-year-old widow and trailer park owner he and an accomplice robbed in 1998, though he confessed to being present at the woman’s residence during the botched burglary in which Ms. Harrison was stabbed and beaten to death.

But the question of his guilt was not what led to the temporary stay of execution. Instead, Mr. Gutierrez was granted a little more time on earth so that the courts could decide whether his religious liberty had been unduly infringed on by a 2019 state regulation banning clergy in the execution chamber. Mr. Gutierrez, a Catholic, had wanted a Christian chaplain with him at the moment of death; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had denied his request, and his lawyers had appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. There, Justice Alito saw enough merit in the complaint to halt the impending execution so the courts could decide whether to settle the question.

As it stands, the Supreme Court is considering Mr. Gutierrez’s case, and could accept or reject it in the immediate future. If the matter does go before the court — which Mr. Gutierrez’s lawyers consider a decent possibility — it is likewise probable that Amy Coney Barrett will have a hand in deciding his fate.

If so, Judge Barrett will find herself in an onerous tangle of principles and expectations. Judge Barrett is — like Mr. Gutierrez and myself — a devoted Catholic, and she has evinced a serious, thoughtful concern about how the morality of her faith ought to interact with the application of the law — specifically with regard to capital punishment. And, if any doubt had remained about the attitude Catholics ought to adopt toward capital punishment, it was removed this month in a propitiously timed encyclical published by Pope Francis, who thoroughly opposes the practice. Considering the strange particulars of Mr. Gutierrez’s case and the radical demands of the Christian faith, what then must we do?


Shawn Nolan was brought up Catholic; that’s part of what motivated him to go into public defense. “I’ve always thought of my job as — I represent the poor, and that’s, I think, consistent with my Catholic upbringing,” he told me during an October phone interview. Mr. Nolan took up Mr. Gutierrez’s case two years ago and has worked tirelessly to save his client’s life.

Several of Mr. Nolan’s clients have been put to death despite his best efforts, but it wasn’t until this summer that he witnessed an execution in person.

“It was very surreal,” he recalled. “Pentobarbital causes flash pulmonary edema, which is incredibly painful,” he said, but his client, Dustin Lee Honken, appeared to be unconscious — though Mr. Nolan wasn’t certain if he was unaware or merely paralyzed. “I couldn’t tell if he was suffering terribly,” he told me, “It’s a sensation of drowning, is what they described it as, the experts that have talked about this. And so, I couldn’t tell. I’m just sitting there watching, nothing I can do about it at that point. Our litigation was all lost.”

There’s something nightmarish, too, about the state of Mr. Gutierrez’s case, and the threads that hold his life in the balance.

Before April 2019, Texas had allowed state-employed chaplains in the execution chamber. But the state had only Christian and Muslim chaplains on staff, which meant that a Buddhist death row inmate, Patrick Murphy, would have been denied the presence of a spiritual adviser at the time of death. Mr. Murphy’s lawyers objected, and they pressed their case to the Supreme Court, which halted the execution pending one of two options: Either all inmates could have a spiritual adviser of their religious persuasion with them in the execution chamber, or none could. Texas chose the latter.

In a brief submitted this September in Mr. Gutierrez’s case, Texas authorities argued that there are too many faiths among Texas’ death row inmates for the state to employ a chaplain representing each one, and bringing nonemployees into the chamber would be too great a security risk to tolerate.

The state refused to budge, even after the Texas Catholic bishops presented an amicus curiae brief in support of Mr. Gutierrez’s desire for a pastor’s presence at his death.

“The perspective of the bishops is — it’s bad enough that you’re using the death penalty, which we are opposed to, but it’s unconscionable that, if you are going to execute somebody, you would not allow them to have the religious, moral freedom to be accompanied by somebody who will be able to assist them in those ultimate questions and ultimate realities,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, explained during a telephone interview.

Bishop Flores acknowledged, as did Mr. Nolan, that those who support Mr. Gutierrez’s cause are somewhat at a loss: Mr. Gutierrez’s execution will proceed whether the Supreme Court declines to hear his case, or should the court hear it and either require Texas to permit clergy in the death chamber or allow the state to bar clergy altogether.

“We are opposed to the death penalty, but that doesn’t mean that once we’re dealing with a system that seems to be dead set on it, that we cease being an advocate for that person,” Bishop Flores said. Where clemency isn’t available, the church will still seek a little comfort for the damned.

The presence of a priest, Bishop Flores told me, can serve to assure “this person that the judgment of God does not necessarily coincide with the judgment of the court.”

Bishop Flores paused in our conversation, collecting his thoughts. He spoke quickly, alert and energetic, clearly disturbed by the fact of execution, and what it entails.

“We isolate them, and then we inject their veins — and it’s like they’ve completely been stripped of their humanity at that moment,” he reflected. But the Catholic Church holds that human dignity can never be effaced, even when a person is unborn, even when a person is ill and dying, even when a person is guilty of terrible crimes. “This is a human being,” the bishop told me. “And the state has decided what the state has decided, but there’s a justice beyond this.”


Judge Barrett is well aware of the justice beyond our earthly simulacrum.

In “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” a 1998 Marquette Law Review article, Judge Barrett and her co-author, John Garvey, now the president of the Catholic University of America, argued that Catholic judges had no choice but to recuse themselves when facing certain death penalty cases.

“We believe that Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty,” they wrote. “This means that they can neither themselves sentence criminals to death nor enforce jury recommendations of death.”

In her career, Judge Barrett has wrestled with this question of what to do. She reaffirmed in her 2017 confirmation hearings for her appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that as a trial judge she would recuse herself from sentencing in capital cases. But she had assisted with capital cases when she was a clerk, and she voted recently to allow an execution to proceed.

Perhaps her assent to capital punishment in certain cases arises from the fact that the church has historically wavered on the death penalty’s legitimacy. In the article she wrote with Mr. Garvey, the 2 said that the church’s “prohibitions against abortion and euthanasia (properly defined) are absolute; those against war and capital punishment are not.”

Yet it’s hard to maintain that room for permissible capital punishment remains in Catholic thought. Earlier this month, Pope Francis published “Fratelli Tutti,” an encyclical calling on Catholics to better realize the love of Christ in our relationships with one another and the world. He addressed capital punishment in that context: “The firm rejection of the death penalty shows to what extent it is possible to recognize the inalienable dignity of every human being and to accept that he or she has a place in this universe. If I do not deny that dignity to the worst of criminals, I will not deny it to anyone. I will give everyone the possibility of sharing this planet with me, despite all our differences.”

Put differently, the Catholic rejection of capital punishment is a key thread in a tapestry of teachings that uphold the inviolable dignity of human life — including the church’s opposition to abortion, a cause Judge Barrett has enthusiastically championed on and off the bench. In fact, this teaching, and the understanding that no termination of life other than natural death is acceptable, is something Judge Barrett is already aware of. In 2006 she signed a statement to “oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death.”

Catholic judges (including the five already on the Supreme Court, and Judge Barrett herself) have never seen it necessary to recuse themselves from cases involving abortion. So neither should they vacate the bench in cases involving capital punishment. Judge Barrett’s 1998 article suggests she would recuse herself only in the event of a conflict between her sincerely held moral convictions and the plain requirements of the law. But on the Supreme Court, her role would be in part to decide precisely what the requirements of the law are, and whether they are legitimate.

Judge Barrett should approach capital case litigation with the same morally informed legal reasoning she seems to have applied throughout her career, and she should use her authority, to oppose the death penalty.

Mr. Gutierrez’s case presents the opportunity to take a step in that direction. Should Judge Barrett indeed receive the opportunity to rule on Mr. Gutierrez’s case, the least she could do would be to grant Mr. Gutierrez the mercy of a priest at his side as the state ends his life.

But perhaps there is something more. If the State of Texas holds that it’s impossible to properly vet and train spiritual representatives of the myriad faiths represented among its condemned, and it violates a person’s religious liberty to be refused a spiritual adviser at the moment of death, then the simplest resolution is that no person ought ever to be executed in Texas again.

Would that this be the court’s decision, and that the justice we know in this realm and the justice beyond it align.

(source: Opinion; Elizabeth Bruenig, New York Times)


Trial in killing of Tennessee prison official moved to 2021

The trial of a Tennessee convict charged with killing a corrections official before escaping prison on a tractor has been delayed until next year.

Curtis Ray Watson had been scheduled to face trial Oct. 26 in the killing of Tennessee Department of Correction administrator Debra Johnson. Her body was found in her home on the grounds of a state prison in Henning in August 2019.

Johnson had been a state employee for 38 years and oversaw wardens at several area prisons.

Watson is charged with premeditated murder, rape and escape. He has not entered a plea. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Watson’s lawyer, David Stockton, said a judge has moved the trial to Sept. 20, 2021. Stockton said he hasn't had face-to-face contact with Watson since March due to coronavirus-related policies at the prison where Watson is held.

Stockton said he has filed a motion asking for access to Watson. Defense attorneys have only been able to speak with him by phone, Stockton said.

“The need to reset the trial is also related to the need to evaluate volumes of discovery and obtain the services of experts,” Stockton said.

Jury trials in Lauderdale County have been reset until January, at the earliest. The courtroom and jury room “are not able to be in compliance with the COVID-19 requirements of social distancing to keep the jurors safe during the proceedings,” assistant district attorney Julie K. Pillow said in an emailed statement.

Sequestration for the jury would also create possible risks of virus exposure, Pillow said.

Watson is serving a 15-year sentence for especially aggravated kidnapping.

(source: WRCB TV news)


Death penalty restored against man convicted of murdering De Soto couple in 1996

A federal appeals court on Monday overturned a lower court judge and reinstated the death penalty against a man who fatally shot a De Soto couple in their home in 1996.

A 3-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Carman Deck's appeal should fail because he didn't raise his concerns in state court first.

Deck robbed and killed James and Zelma Long in their home in July 1996.

Deck has been sentenced to death 3 times since his original conviction, and each time that sentence was overturned.

He was originally sentenced to death in February 1998, but that sentence was reversed by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2002 due to errors by Deck's lawyers.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned his 2nd death penalty in May 2005 because he was shackled in front of the sentencing jury.

He was sentenced to death again in September 2008. But in April 2017, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry called Deck's 3rd penalty-phase trial “fundamentally unfair," saying he was unable to fully present evidence arguing for a sentence other than death due to the decade of delays. She wrote that witnesses for Deck couldn't be found, had died or had developed “hostile attitudes” toward Deck. She called Deck’s lawyers "ineffective" for not claiming the delay was a constitutional violation during the trial, or during state court appeals.

The appeals court said that the law was not settled at the time about whether a long delay between conviction and sentencing raises constitutional violations, and therefore his lawyers were not ineffective for failing to raise the issue.

(source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


House Interim Study members examine multiple concerns about Oklahoma’s death penalty processes and practices

There have been no executions in Oklahoma since 2015.

Many citizens wonder if that lengthy moratorium should ever end. Some who defend use of executions have, over the past half-decade, come to believe the process has become problematic. A recent interim study by an important legislative panel that met on Wednesday, October 14, underscored multiple concerns about the Ultimate Sanction. However, supporters of the death penalty stressed an intention to, sooner or later, resume state-managed killing.

The legislative interim study, led by state Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, was held at the state Capitol last week.

McDugle has declared that one of the state’s most prominent death row inmates – Richard Glossip — is actually innocent. He drove the dynamic that led to this study, the sum of which was critical of past execution practices.

The meeting itself, guided by House Public Safety Committee Chairman Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, was a rare moment in Oklahoma policy development. Sympathy for major changes in the death penalty process – along lines suggested by the historic work of a review commission of Oklahomans – was overt. Indeed, McDugle said weeks ago he believes executing Glossip would be a mistake.

While the direction of questions hinted at significant reform possibilities, outright abolition of the Ultimate Sanction seems unlikely, for now.

Don Knight, attorney for Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, told members of the panel he had located more than 400 people who might have information and who should have been talked to by the police or defense investigators– regarding Justin Sneed, the actual killer in the murder of an Oklahoma City inn-keeper, for which Glossip was sentenced to death as alleged mastermind.

Knight, who has worked on the case pro bono, indicated that many of them are wiling to testify that Sneed was a desperate intravenous methamphetamine user willing to trade anything he had for access to drugs and women.

Knight told the panel, “We found people who had extensive knowledge of Sneed’s intravenous methamphetamine use.”

The opening speaker, Knight addressed the recent interim study at McDugle’s invitation.

Because of intimidation other individuals faced by prosecution after they came forth with potentially exculpatory information some years ago, Knight is not disclosing the identities of the new witnesses whose testimony, he believes, effectively exonerate Glossip and/or raise significant questions about police or prosecutorial misbehavior in his case.

Early in the proceedings, after a suggestion from Knight, Rep. McDugle asked that the review commission’s final report be admitted into the record. It was, as the expression goes, “without objection, so ordered.”

Knight pointed to letters, found after lengthy investigative work, from Fred McFadden, an inmate, who early in the Glossip proceedings corresponded with Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy saying he had information concerning Sneed’s responsibility for the murder of hotel operator Barry Van Trease, and Glossip’s innocence.

Knight showed, on a screen, a redacted version of one letter.

“The new evidence we presented, which is only a small sample of the evidence no one has ever seen, shows that if Rich Glossip is executed, Oklahoma will be killing an innocent man,” Knight told The City Sentinel in a post-hearing interview.

“I’m thankful to Representatives McDugle and Humphrey for giving us the opportunity to use Rich’s case to highlight the serious problems that grow from defense attorneys who fail to do even the most basic work on behalf of their clients, and how the appeals are not designed to remedy these problems,” he continued.

“By bringing these issues to the attention of all Oklahomans, we also want to acknowledge the suffering of the members of the Van Treese family. Our thorough investigation has clearly shown that Justin Sneed murdered Barry Van Treese for drug money and that Rich had nothing to do with it.

“Since 1997, Rich has also been forced to pay a terrible price for Sneed’s murderous meth addiction,” Knight stated. “Only by allowing Rich a fair opportunity to present his evidence can justice be obtained, both for the Van Treese family, and Rich Glossip. We hope the attention can now be turned to consideration of changes that will provide innocent people, like Rich, a truly fair opportunity to present their newly discovered evidence before it is too late.”

Attorney Bob Ravitz — a career public servant who has long guided the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office — expressed various frustrations over the realities of limited resources and prosecutorial use of “snitches who will tell you anything to save themselves” – with Sneed (from the Glossip case) as among the most notable examples of an actual killer making a deal to allow a death sentence for an alleged accomplice who was not the murderer.

Ravitz said the system can only work honorably when defense attorneys can count on “super-ethical prosecutors” on the other side. Many examples were given of what happens when that is not the case.

Weaknesses in the Glossip case garnered much of the panel’s scrutiny, but other notable past and present death row inmates were referenced.

“There’s a guy who’s been out of prison for some time now and got a lot of money from the state of Oklahoma. Jeffrey Todd Pierce was inappropriately convicted for the crime of rape. Ultimately, he was exonerated because of DNA evidence,” Ravitz told the panel.

While covering a broad front and multiple issues, Ravitz’s presentation was nonetheless compelling, including this reflection: “I’m pulling my hair out today and every day because I saw the number of capital cases in my office today and it’s horrifying – that is ineffectiveness of counsel. Unless there is sufficient funding for lawyers to represent defendants and do the adequate investigation. I’m almost convinced that there ought to be a specialized unit that handles capital cases that has trained expert witnesses. It’s really hard to find lawyers that want to do capital cases. I had one lawyer die, one lawyer who got cancer, another one retire and another one leave. I have nobody who is first chair in a capital case.”

Ravitz stated that his agency is sorely underfunded in its ability to hire expert witnesses in order to defend its clients properly.

In an exchange with conservative Republican lawmakers, he drew astonished reactions when he said – in response to questions – “My expert witness budget for all my capitol cases for the whole year is $75,000.”

Scott Crow, interim director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, told legislators “As of today there are 56 inmates on Oklahoma’s death row and of that number 31 have exhausted their appeals.”

Craig Sutter, representing the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS) pointed to the work of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission: “Since 1976 and [until] 2014 there were 321 people sentenced to death in Oklahoma and of that 163 were reversed for one reason or another. And 156 were taken off of death row completely. I think those numbers go towards the fact that there’s always the potential for mistakes and errors and the inability to come back and fix those errors. We’re pretty limited when it comes to doing an investigation.”

That’s a 50 % reversal of those sentenced to death row.

One pro-death penalty legislator asked if Sutter believes “Oklahoma has executed innocent people in the past.” Sutter’s succinct response: “Yes.”

Also speaking was Christy Sheppard, whose cousin was murdered, and after 5 years of legal proceedings, 2 men were convicted in the killing. Ron Williamson,of John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man” fame, received the death penalty and Dennis Fritz avoided the death penalty (in penalty phase) by 1 vote.

Later the 2 men were exonerated through a review of DNA evidence.

As Sheppard recalled, “What I have learned about the criminal justice system is that it is not what I thought it was. I have a degree in criminal justice and that’s not what I learned at higher levels of education.

“I think just as general lay people we get hung up in the end game. We get concerned about how that individual may or may not have suffered and is that equivalent to what the victim has gone through. But we don’t give much thought about how that person made it to death row. We have a system that doesn’t anticipate itsown failure.

“We can say that we have checks and balances and that while we’ve exonerated innocent men off of death row to see the system worked – we were able to get that done. … I believe this is the most accurate statistic I have right now is that 87 % of all exonerations had gone through the entire appeals process and we can’t give them that time back. We can’t make up for what’s gone.”

Referring to the “snitch” issue, she told the panel, “I don’t’ know that it’s justice that we have the wrong man is prison when the real perpetrator goes free. And in many cases committed other violent crimes…rape and murder. Just in my cousin’s case we know that he [the actual killer] committed three other violent rapes after my cousin’s murder. He was eventually imprisoned, where DNA investigations tied him to multiple crimes.”

State Attorney General Mike Hunter, known as a defender of the status quo, told the interim study he believes the state’s 3-drug protocol – aiming to bring back the use of the death penalty, will be approved. “Issues in these drugs in the past have always led back to human error. We’re confident that the lethal injection protocol will clear the judicial process,” Hunter said.

Still, in an exchange with Rep. Humphrey he agreed transparency between the prosecution and defense counsel is vital. When Humphrey asked if Hunter agreed “there needs to be a little bit more transparency by the prosecution?” Hunter replied, “Prosecutors have a legal and ethical responsibility to share evidence that they’ve gathered in connection with their case, including exculpatory evidence.”

He continued, “If there’s exculpatory evidence that a prosecutor has uncovered, whether it’s during the trial process or subsequently, that person has a responsibility to the justice system to make it available. There are sufficient safeguards and responsibilities to ensure that exculpatory evidence is provided to defendants and their attorneys thru the appellate process as far as I’m concerned.”

However, Hunter did not directly address issues raised repeatedly during the meeting regarding exonerations, or attempted exonerations or the inability of defense counsel to visit apparent new evidence after appeals have been exhausted under existing law.

Hunter said executions could resume early-to-mid 2021.

Terry Baggett, representing the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council, said the review commission had 4 recommendations touching on training and counselor notification, and believes “we have done what we were asked to do.” Concerning ineffective counsel for capital defendants, he asserted: “Not many cases are overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Does it happen, yes, but it is not routine.”

The 300-page, Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission report, released in May 2017 and the first of its kind in the nation, acknowledged the strong support Oklahomans have for the death penalty, but said, “Nevertheless, it is undeniable that innocent people have been sentenced to death in Oklahoma. And the burden of wrongful convictions alone requires the systemic corrections recommended in this report.”

In addition to the Commission’s recommendation that the current moratorium be extended, the report made 45 additional recommendations that it said would significantly improve how the state carries out executions.

The Commission concluded that,” Many of the findings of the Commission’s year-long investigation were disturbing and led Commission members to question whether the death penalty can be administered in a way that ensures no innocent person is put to death.”

Since 1973, 172 former death-row prisoners have been exonerated of all charges related to their wrongful convictions. Ten people have been exonerated from Oklahoma’s death row.

Tom Bates, new executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board, told the study members the first training session for board members will take place in December, led by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Miller. Bates noted that no one now on the board has ever dealt with a death row clemency hearing. Bates said P&P Board hearings take place after all other appeals have been exhausted, and “I don’t know if it’s the Pardon and Parole Board’s place to decide cases.”

In closing remarks,Rep. McDugle reflected: “When all of the evidence is not laid on the table to where people can’t decide without seeing everything that’s involved in the case…that personally bothers me, especially when it comes to death row.

“If you find yourself outside the appeals process with a new attorney, without the ability for new evidence to be laid on the table, and now the new attorney who is an outstanding attorney doesn’t have the ability to go back and get the evidence that should have been presented in the first place. is it possible for someone to be on death row and be innocent? It is my personal opinion that it is possible.

“My conviction here is that we’ve got to get it right. If we’re going to put somebody in the chair, as Oklahomans, we have to get it right.”

(source: The City Sentinel)


Death row inmate who killed youth minister in car fire to be executed 21 years later----Brandon Bernard was convicted of murder in 2000 for his part in the kidnap and killing of 2 youth ministers in Iowa, who had been forced into a car boot at gunpoint before being shot and the vehicle set alight

A former gang member who set fire to a car killing a youth minister unconscious in the boot, will be executed after 21 years.

Brandon Bernard, along with 2 accomplices, kidnapped Todd and Stacie Bagley from Fort Hood, Iowa, in 1999.

According to court records, the 3 youths, from Killeen, Texas, were looking for someone to rob when they found Todd using a convenience store payphone.

He agreed to give them a ride in his car - but during the journey Bernard's accomplice Christopher Vialva pulled out a gun and ordered the couple to get into the boot.

During the several hours they spent in the trunk, the Bagleys could be heard telling their kidnappers to embrace Christianity.

After withdrawing $100 from Todd's card and spending it on fast food and cigarettes, Vialva parked up in an isolated area and shot both Bagleys in the head.

Bernard then set the car on fire, with an autopsy showing that Stacie died from smoke inhalation.

He was found guilty of murder in 2000 by a jury in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, and subsequently placed on death row.

The justice department on Friday scheduled a December 10 execution at Terre Haute, Indiana - which will be the 9th the federal government has carried out in 2020.

Bernard's attorney, Robert Owen, said in a statement the federal government misled the jury who found his client guilty 20 years ago.

Its decision was tainted by false testimony, Owen said.

"This evidence confirms that Mr. Bernard is simply not one of the 'worst of the worst' offenders for whom we reserve the death penalty, and that sparing his life would pose no risk to anyone," Owen said.

Vialva became the 1st black man to suffer the federal death penalty since the punishment resumed earlier this summer after a 17-year hiatus.

In a last statement, Vialva, aged 40, asked God to comfort the families of the couple he had killed, saying, "Father...heal their hearts with grace and love."

His final words were: "I'm ready, Father."

The Justice Department has also scheduled the execution of Lisa Montgomery the day before Bernard.

She was convicted of the 2004 murder of a heavily pregnant woman and is set to become the 1st female federal prisoner executed in 67 years on December 8.

The Trump administration ended an informal 17-year-hiatus in federal executions in July, after announcing last year that the Bureau of Prisons was switching to a new single-drug protocol for lethal injections, from a 3-drug combination it last used in 2003.

The new protocol revived long-running legal challenges to lethal injections.

In August, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled the Justice Department was violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in not seeking a doctor's prescription to administer the highly regulated barbiturate.

But an appeals court held the violation did not in itself amount to "irreparable harm" and allowed federal executions to proceed.



Emerging Europe is close to fully abolishing the death penalty

The United Nations Human Rights Council describes capital punishment as inhumane, ineffective in fighting crime, and inconsistent with the most basic human right – the right to life.

While the majority of states worldwide have entirely abolished the death penalty, including most of emerging Europe, the governments of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have so far failed to fully put an end to the internationally-condemned practice.

This could soon be changing though, as pressure to abolish this type of punishment is mounting in all 3 states.

As Kazakhstan continues its efforts to achieve sustained economic prosperity and attract foreign investment, a number of foreign governments and international organisations have on multiple occasions reminded the state that it needs to improve its human rights record if it wants to reap the full benefits of being a part of the international community.

Last month Kazakhstan made a significant step towards proving its commitment to abolishing capital punishment by signing the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a move welcomed by human rights organsations.

“This news encourages us as Kazakhstan gets closer to joining the ever-growing family of nations that have left this shameful punishment behind,” said Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Marie Struthers. “Kazakhstan must now take the final step by abolishing the death penalty in law for all crimes and ratifying the Optional Protocol without reservations.”

If the Kazakh government successfully ratifies the international treaty, effectively abolishing capital punishment, it would also be seen as proof of its dedication to humanising criminal legislation.

The countries of emerging Europe were amongst the last on the continent to abolish the practice, with most states in the region (including Central Asia) putting an end to it throughout the 1990s. The last in the region to do away with the death penalty were Serbia in 2002, Armenia and Moldova in 2006, and Uzbekistan in 2008.

While the law in Tajikistan still allows for the use of the death penalty, the nation has not reported any executions since 2004, when a moratorium on the application of death sentences was declared. Before the ban, in the three years between 2000 and 2003, 133 executions are believed to have been carried out in the country.

A public survey showcased at the 2014 Regional Conference ‘Towards a Complete Abolition of the Death Penalty in Tajikistan: Experience of Central Asian Countries’ suggested that the majority of Tajik citizens (67.18 per cent) support the complete abolishment of the death penalty. Perhaps a promising sign that the Central Asian country will eventually follow in the footsteps of its western neighbours.

The situation appears to be more complex in Belarus, where just last year at least 2 people are known to have been executed. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, more than 400 are believed to have been killed by the state.

Despite the bleak circumstances, in June of this year, the Belarusian Supreme Court for the first time ever reversed a death penalty sentence in the case of a young man from the city of Babruysk, in what Belarusian human rights activist Andrey Paluda referred to as “a historic moment”.

The fact that Belarus is now the only country in Europe, and the only post-Soviet state both allowing and actively implementing the death penalty has not gone unnoticed by the protesters currently standing up to the abuses of the Belarusian government. As part of the ongoing protests – which began in August following a rigged presidential election – civil society activists, led by Paluda, organised a Week Against the Death Penalty between October 5 and 10 with the slogan: “The death penalty – a component of state oppression”.

Numerous countries and international bodies, including the European Union, have repeatedly called on the Belarusian government to join the international moratorium on capital punishment on multiple occasions, but so far to no avail. It appears that the outcome of the continuing anti-government protests will also determine the fate of this outdated practice in the country.

(source: Emerging Europe)


Alleged Child Offenders Face Death Sentences----Reform to Curb Death Penalty for Children Leaves Glaring Exceptions

Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against eight Saudi men charged with protest-related crimes, some of which they allegedly committed as children, Human Rights Watch said today. The ongoing cases demonstrate critical gaps in a 2018 criminal justice reform curbing the death penalty for child offenders, leaving the eight men at risk of capital punishment.

Human Rights Watch obtained and analyzed the charge sheets for 2 group trials that included the 8 men in 2019. Some of the crimes listed were allegedly committed while the men were between ages 14 and 17. One of the men, now 18, is charged for a nonviolent crime he allegedly committed at age 9. All 8 men have been in pretrial detention for up to 2 years.

“Saudi spin doctors are marketing judicial reforms as progress while prosecutors appear to blatantly ignore them and carry on as usual,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Saudi Arabia is serious about reforming its criminal justice system, it should start by banning the death penalty against alleged child offenders in all cases.”

The Public Prosecution, which reports directly to the king, accused the detained men of several charges that do not resemble recognizable crimes, including “seeking to destabilize the social fabric by participating in protests and funeral processions,” “chanting slogans hostile to the regime,” and “seeking to incite discord and division.” All of the men are from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where most of the country’s Shia minority live.

In 2018, around a year before prosecutors referred the cases to court, Saudi Arabia introduced the Juvenile Law, which sets a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for anyone who committed a crime before they turned 18 and was convicted under the Islamic law principle of ta’zir. Ta’zir offenses do not have set penalties under Islamic law, and judges have wide discretion to determine punishments in individual cases.

However, this provision does not apply to qisas, or retributive justice offenses – usually for murder – or hudud, serious crimes defined under the country’s interpretation of Islamic law that carry specific penalties.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 8 men under hudud, which would leave them ineligible for pardons if sentenced to death. The Saudi prosecution also demands that if the judge does not impose the death penalty on the basis of hudud, he should do so on under ta’zir, in blatant disregard of the Juvenile Law.

Saudi authorities arrested the men between April 2017 and January 2018. One group – Ahmad al-Faraj, Ali al-Batti, Mohammed al-Nimr, Ali al-Faraj, and Mohammed al-Faraj – have only had 2 trial hearings since first being presented to court in September 2019, partly due to Covid-19 restrictions. Human Rights Watch could not determine how many hearings the 2nd group – Ali al-Mabyook, Sajjad al-Yasin, and Yousef al-Manasif – has had nor the month they were first presented to court in 2019. The next court hearings for both groups remain unclear.

Saudi activists in communication with sources close to al-Nimr and al-Faraj told Human Rights Watch that authorities tortured them during their initial detention and interrogation and that both were denied access to legal counsel.

The crimes listed in the men’s charge sheets, which for 7 of the 8 men included attacking police officers or patrols with Molotov cocktails or firearms, are almost entirely based on the men’s confessions, and give no details of any injuries to police officers.

Al-Faraj, now 18, was arrested at age 15 and is the youngest of the 8. The charges against him, none for violent crimes, include participating in demonstrations and funeral processions, one of which he confessed to attending when he was 9. Other charges include chanting slogans against the state, concealing men wanted by police, and monitoring and sharing the movements of armored security vehicles via WhatsApp with men wanted by the police.

Human Rights Watch has documented longstanding due process violations in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system that make it difficult for a defendant to get a fair trial even in capital cases. In April 2019, Saudi Arabia carried out a mass execution of 37 men, 33 of them from the country’s Shia minority community. One, Abd al-Kareem al-Hawaj, was a child at the time of his alleged offenses and arrest; another, Salman Al Quraish, was a child at the time of some of his alleged offenses.

In June 2019, Saudi prosecutors sought the death penalty against an 18-year-old, Murtaja Qureiris, who allegedly committed some of his offenses when he was just 10 or 11 and was arrested at 13. Later that month, following international pressure, he was spared the death penalty and instead sentenced to 12 years in prison.

On April 8, 2020, the Saudi authorities briefly posted an execution announcement to the Saudi Press Agency website for a man convicted of murder allegedly committed when he was a child, but the announcement was removed later that day. The Saudi authorities have not publicly confirmed whether they executed him.

International law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Saudi Arabia is a state party, absolutely prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed by children. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

In April, Saudi Arabia introduced a royal decree allowing the 2018 Juvenile Law’s provisions to be retroactively applied, meaning that justice officials can review the cases of convicted child offenders and stop punishments for those who have already served 10 years.

On August 26, the Saudi Human Rights Commission announced the judiciary would review 3 death sentences in accordance with the recent decree. Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoun, and Abdullah al-Zaher were between 15 and 17 when arrested in connection with demonstrations in 2011 by the country’s minority Shia citizens against systematic governmental discrimination. They were held incommunicado and detained without charge or trial for up to 22 months, and eventually sentenced to death following grossly unfair trials.

Under the decree, the commission stated, the 3 detainees will be resentenced based on the Saudi Juvenile Law. They will have completed the maximum 10 years in prison under that law by 2022.

“Saudi authorities should spare Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoun, and Abdullah al-Zaher’s lives and make sure no other alleged child offender ends up on death row,” Page said.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


Gardener in Dubai 'murders' ailing Emirati, death penalty sought

The Dubai Public Prosecution has demanded the death penalty for a gardener who allegedly strangled an Emirati man to death with a piece of cloth over previous verbal brawls. The Dubai Court of First Instance heard that the 29-year-old defendant, a Pakistani, had been taking care of the frail and ailing victim.

The incident was reported on June 15 at Al Muraqqabat police station.

The gardener, who is detained, has been charged with premeditated murder and breaching the residency law by flouting sponsorship rules.

A 42-year-old housewife said she found her husband motionless after 6.30pm. "I had just returned after shopping when the defendant met me at the entrance.

He told me that my husband had fallen down and hurt himself. He said there was a tie around his neck."

She rushed to the annex of the villa, where her husband had been staying. "I found him on the floor near the fridge. His face was blue and swollen. I thought it was just another bout of diabetes. I told the accused to call the police, but he claimed he did not know how to call them. I then tried to call all his sons. When the paramedics arrived, they told me my husband was dead," she said.

By the time the police arrived, the accused had fled.

The victim's 22-year-old son recounted during investigation how the defendant was allegedly laughing when his father's body was still on the floor. "I told him to do something to help my father but he just stood there laughing, saying my father was fine. I realised my father had been murdered when I spotted a piece of cloth around his neck."

The son recalled that his father had repeatedly told him the gardener was abusing him. "He would hold him by the neck and push him. My brother had told me the same."

The witness told the prosecutor that his father was frail but mentally conscious.

A police officer said they were alerted about the incident at a villa in Hor Al Anz. "We arrested the worker around 9.30pm on June 16 outside a grocery store in the same area. He claimed that the victim's son had brought him to take care of his elderly and ailing father for a Dh2,000 salary. But that was later reduced to just Dh600. He also claimed that the victim had been mistreating him - kicking and insulting and beating him."

The accused claimed to the police that the victim had beaten him first on that day. A forensic doctor said the victim's death was caused by strangulation.

The trial has been adjourned to November 15.


Human right group urges review of death penalty laws

The head of an International Human Rights group, Avocats Sans Frontieres, Ms. Angela Uwandu has urged Nigerian legislators to review the issue of death penalty, as it does not serve as a deterrent to the commission of crime.

According to her, the strategy in abolition of death penalty is to set short-term goals and have a long-term plan.

Her words: “The short term goal is to stop the expansion of the scope of death penalty in Nigeria by engaging both the executive and the legislative arms of government as more laws have been passed in recent times that promotes death penalty. For instance, law against kidnapping has been adopted and passed in many eastern states.”

Uwandu made this call during a webinar organized by Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) to mark the 18th World Day against death penalty, with the theme, “Access to Counsel: A matter of life or death.”

She added that part of the short-term goals could be challenging the mandatory nature of death penalty in Nigeria.

Apart from Umandu, other speakers at the webinar were National Coordinator of LEDAP, Mr. Chino Obiagwu (SAN); National Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Anthony Ojukwu; Executive Director, Lawyers Alert, Mr. Rommy Mom and Director, Amnesty International, Ms. Osai Ojigbo.

The keynote speaker, Mr. Ojukwu highlighted the issue of effective legal representation with regards to suspects. According to him, it is the pillar to fair hearing, which is an important part of human right.

He stated that Nigerian Constitution upholds the sanctity of human life.

He further stated that without effective legal representation, there wouldn’t be fair trial, which may eventually lead to wrongful conviction.

“Thus, the Supreme Court in Udofia v. The State held that in capital trial, counsel must realize that it is a matter of life and death and must assist the court to do justice”, he said.

Mr. Obiagwu (SAN), who spoke on “Challenges hindering access to counsel and justice for persons charged with capital offenses and possible solutions” said the theme for this year’s World Day against Death Penalty is very instructive and the challenges hindering access to counsel is centred on the absence of an attentive and readily available scheme.

He further stated that one of the solutions to lack of effective representation is to increase funding for Legal Aid Council, so that the Council can employ more senior lawyers.

According to him, the NBA should also encourage lawyers to take up pro bono cases.

Mr. Obiagwu (SAN) therefore called for the domestication and implementation of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) across the states of the federation.


OCTOBER 19, 2020:

USA----impending female, federal execution

Lisa Montgomery to be 1st female federal inmate executed in 67 years

The US is set to execute a female federal inmate for the 1st time in 67 years, Donald Trump’s justice department has said.

Lisa Montgomery, who strangled a Missouri woman in 2004 and stole her unborn baby, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the US penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on 8 December.

Montgomery, whose lawyers have long argued she has brain damage from beatings as a child and suffers from psychosis and other mental conditions, will become the first woman executed by the US government since Bonny Brown Heady in December 1953. Heady was convicted of kidnapping and killing the 6-year-old heir of an automobile tycoon. With her boyfriend, she was executed in a gas chamber.

The attorney general, William Barr, announced the decision to proceed with the execution of Montgomery, 52, in a statement that also detailed a 10 December execution date for Brandon Bernard, 40, who with 2 accomplices was found guilty of the murder of 2 church ministers in Texas in 1999.

Barr said the crimes were “especially heinous murders”. Montgomery, who sliced open the belly of Bobby Jo Stinnett and took her daughter, is the only woman among 55 federal inmates awaiting execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Under Barr, 7 executions of federal prisoners have taken place since July. Before that, only 3 inmates had been executed since the restoration of the federal death penalty in 1998, the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and another in 2001, the other 2 years later.

In state prisons, 16 women have been executed since a 1976 supreme court decision lifted a moratorium on the death penalty across the US. The most recent was in September 2015, when Kelly Renee Gissendaner received a lethal injection in Georgia for the 1997 murder of her husband.

Montgomery’s attorney, Kelley Henry, attacked Barr’s decision as an “injustice”.

“In the grip of her mental illness, Lisa committed a terrible crime,” Henry, an assistant public defender in Nashville, Tennessee, said in a statement. “Yet she immediately expressed profound remorse and was willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence with no possibility of release.

“Lisa Montgomery has long accepted full responsibility for her crime, and she will never leave prison. But her severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice.”

Now 16, Stinnett’s daughter, Victoria Jo, was raised by her father. In 2004, Montgomery’s husband said he was unaware the baby his wife brought home was not theirs.

“I had no idea,” Kevin Montgomery said. “I sure hope [the Stinnett family] get as much support from their church and community as I have because we are all going to need it.”

(source: Yahoo News)


The Federal Death Penalty Returns----State-level executions have been on the decline since 2000, but the federal government recently got back in the business of executing prisoners.

The federal government is back in the business of executing prisoners.

Prior to 2020, the last federal death row inmate to be executed was Louis Jones Jr., put to death by lethal injection in 2003. Only three federal prisoners were executed under GOP President George W. Bush, among them Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. None were executed under Democratic President Barack Obama.

17 years after Jones' execution, on July 14, the United States government executed Daniel Lewis Lee. Just 2 days later, the feds executed Wesley Ira Purkey. The next day, the feds executed Dustin Lee Honken. On August 26, they executed Lezmond Mitchell. The Trump administration has now executed more death row inmates than any president since Dwight Eisenhower.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced in July 2019 that he had directed the Bureau of Prisons to resurrect the execution protocols and scheduled Lee, Purkey, Honken, and 2 other men for lethal injections. The Justice Department selected death row inmates who had been convicted of particularly brutal crimes involving either the elderly or children.

When Barr made his announcement, he said that the Justice Department and the federal government "owe it to their victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

But in Lee's case, the family of the victims had opposed his execution for years. Lee was convicted in 1999 after he traveled to Arkansas to rob gun dealer William Mueller as part of a white separatist plot. He ended up killing Mueller, his wife Nancy, and their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah, and dumping their bodies in the Illinois Bayou.

Lee was the accomplice of another man who had masterminded the crimes and had been sentenced to life in prison—the same sentence the victims' family wanted for Lee.

While the legal fights delayed Lee's execution, with challenges making it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Justice Department was ultimately granted permission to carry out the execution via injection of pentobarbital.

Barr's move is a significant reversal of a broad trend away from capital punishment. State-level executions have been on the decline since 2000. Since 1973, 170 inmates on death row have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 3 have been freed just this year. There's a very real possibility that if federal executions continue, Barr will be sending innocent men to their deaths.


OCTOBER 18, 2020:


Special Report: Why 4,998 died in U.S. jails without getting their day in court

Harvey Hill wouldn’t leave John Finnegan’s front yard. He stood in the pouring rain, laughing at the sky, alarming his former boss’ wife. Finnegan dialed 911.

“He needs a mental evaluation,” the landscaper recalls telling the arriving officer. Instead, Hill was charged with trespassing and jailed on suspicion of a misdemeanor offense that could bring a $500 fine.

It was a death sentence.

The next day, May 6, 2018, Hill’s condition worsened. He flew into a rage at the Madison County Detention Center in Canton, Mississippi, throwing a checkerboard and striking a guard with a lunch tray.

Three guards tackled the 36-year-old, pepper sprayed him and kicked him repeatedly in the head. After handcuffing him, 2 guards slammed Hill into a concrete wall, previously unpublished jail surveillance video shows. They led him to a shower, away from the cameras, and beat him again, still handcuffed, a state investigation found. The guards said Hill was combative, exhibiting surprising strength that required force.

Video showed Hill writhing in pain in the infirmary, where he was assessed by a licensed practical nurse but not given medication. Mississippi law dictates that a doctor or higher credentialed nurse make decisions on medical interventions. But Hill was sent straight to an isolation cell, where a guard pinned him to the floor, removed his handcuffs, and left him lying on the cement. Hill crawled to the toilet. Then he stopped moving.

No one checked him for 46 minutes. When they did, he didn’t have a pulse. Within hours, he was dead. And he had a lot of company.

Hill’s is one of 7,571 inmate deaths Reuters documented in an unprecedented examination of mortality in more than 500 U.S. jails from 2008 to 2019. Death rates have soared in those lockups, rising 35% over the decade ending last year. Casualties like Hill are typical: held on minor charges and dying without ever getting their day in court. At least 2/3 of the dead inmates identified by Reuters, 4,998 people, were never convicted of the charges on which they were being held.

Unlike state and federal prisons, which hold people convicted of serious crimes, jails are locally run lockups meant to detain people awaiting arraignment or trial, or those serving short sentences. The toll of jail inmates who die without a case resolution subverts a fundamental tenet of the U.S. criminal justice system: innocent until proven guilty.

“A lot of people are dying and they’ve never been sentenced, and that’s obviously a huge problem,” said Nils Melzer, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture and other inhuman punishment, after reviewing the Reuters findings. “You have to provide due process in all of these cases, you have to provide humane detention conditions in all of these cases and you have to provide medical care in all of these cases.”

The U.S. Constitution grants inmates core rights, but those provisions are hard to enforce. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees fair treatment to pre-trial detainees, but “fair” is open to interpretation by judges and juries. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel punishment forbids “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners,” but proving deliberate negligence is difficult. The Sixth Amendment assures speedy trials, but does not define speedy.

The Reuters analysis revealed a confluence of factors that can turn short jail stays into death sentences. Many jails are not subject to any enforceable standards for their operation or the healthcare they provide. They typically get little if any oversight. And bail requirements trap poorer inmates in pre-trial detention for long periods. Meanwhile, inmate populations have grown sicker, more damaged by mental illness and plagued by addictions.

The 7,571 deaths identified by Reuters reflect those stresses. Most succumbed to illness, sometimes wanting for quality healthcare. More than 2,000 took their own lives amid mental breakdowns, including some 1,500 awaiting trial or indictment. A growing number – more than 1 in 10 last year – died from the acute effects of drugs and alcohol. Nearly 300 died after languishing behind bars, unconvicted, for a year or more.

As with much of the U.S. criminal justice system, the toll behind bars falls disproportionately on Black Americans, such as Hill. White inmates accounted for roughly half the fatalities. African Americans accounted for at least 28%, more than twice their share of the U.S. population, a disparity on par with the high incarceration rate of Blacks. Reuters was not able to identify the race of 9% of inmates who died.

Jail deaths typically draw attention locally but escape scrutiny from outside authorities, a gap in oversight that points to a national problem: America’s system for counting and monitoring jail deaths is broken.


America’s 3,000-plus jails are typically run by county sheriffs or local police. They often are under-equipped and understaffed, starved for funds by local officials who see them as budgetary burdens. A rising share have contracted their healthcare to private companies.

Yet there are no enforceable national standards to ensure jails meet constitutional requirements for inmate health and safety. Only 28 states have adopted their own standards to fill the gap. And much of the oversight that does exist is limited by a curtain of secrecy.

The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has collected inmate mortality data for 2 decades – but statistics for individual jails are withheld from the public, government officials and oversight agencies under a 1984 law limiting the release of BJS data. Agency officials say that discretion is critical because it encourages sheriffs and police to report their deaths data each year.

The secrecy has a cost: Local policy makers can’t learn if their jails’ death rates are higher than those in similar communities. Groups that advocate for inmates’ rights can’t get jail-by-jail mortality data to support court cases. The Justice Department’s own lawyers, charged with taking legal action when corrections facilities violate constitutional standards, can’t readily identify jails where high death counts warrant federal investigation.

“If there’s a high death rate, that means there’s a problem,” said Julie Abbate, former deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, which enforces civil rights in jails. Publicizing those rates “would make it a lot harder to hide a bad jail.”

The Justice Department does issue broad statistical reports on statewide or national trends. But even those fatality numbers don’t always tell the full story.

Some jails fail to inform BJS of deaths. Some report them inaccurately, listing homicides or suicides as accidents or illnesses, Reuters found. Justice Department consultant Steve Martin, who has inspected more than 500 U.S. prisons and jails, said that in all the cases he’s investigated, he recalls only one homicide being reported accurately. The others were categorized as “medical, respiratory failure, or whatever,” he said.

Other jails find other ways to keep deaths off the books, such as “releasing” inmates who have been hospitalized in grave condition, perhaps from a suicide attempt or a medical crisis, so they’re not on the jail’s roster when they die. Sheriffs sometimes characterize these as “compassionate releases” that allow inmates’ families a chance to spend their final hours together without law enforcement supervision.

In all, Reuters identified at least 59 cases across 39 jails in which inmate deaths were not reported to government agencies or included in tallies provided to the news organization.

Death rate rising in U.S. jails, Reuters data project finds

The Justice Department has grown more secretive about the fatality data under the Trump administration. While BJS never has released jail-by-jail mortality figures, it traditionally has published aggregated statistics every two years or so. The 2016 report wasn’t issued until this year.

And, a Justice spokesman said, there are “no plans” to issue any future reports containing even aggregated data on inmate deaths in jails or prisons.

The report delays are “an outrage,” said Representative Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who co-authored the original reporting law in 2000 with a Republican colleague. Scott said secrecy was never the goal. He co-authored a 2014 update, which restricts federal grant money when jails don’t report deaths and shifts data collection to a different Justice Department agency that would not be restricted from releasing jail-by-jail data. The updated law has yet to be implemented.

“The whole point,” Scott said, “is we suspect a lot of the deaths are preventable with certain protocols – better suicide protocols, better healthcare, better guard-to-prisoner ratios. You’ve got to have information at the jail level. You have no way of really targeting corrective action if you don’t.”

Because the government won’t release jail-by-jail death data, Reuters compiled its own. The news organization tracked jail deaths over the dozen years from 2008 to 2019 to create the largest such database outside of the Justice Department. Reporters filed more than 1,500 records requests to obtain information about deaths in 523 U.S. jails – every jail with an average population of 750 or more inmates, and the 10 largest jails or jail systems in nearly every state. Together, those jails hold an average of some 450,000 inmates a day, or about 3 out of every 5 nationwide.

Reuters is making the full data it gathered available to the public here

One finding: Since the last Justice Department report, for 2016, the death rate in big jails has continued to climb, leaving it up 8% in 2019, the highest point in the 12-year period of 2008-2019 examined by Reuters. In that time, the suicide rate declined as many facilities launched suicide awareness and response initiatives. But the death rate from drug and alcohol overdoses rose about 72% amid the opioid epidemic.

The data also reveals scores of big jails with high death tolls, including 2 dozen with death rates double the national average.

Such data “would have actually been very helpful for enforcement purposes,” said Jonathan Smith, who ran the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section from 2010 to 2015.


Detailed insight into jail deaths can save lives.

In 2016, the Justice Department began investigating the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia, after state Attorney General Mark Herring and local civil rights groups called for a probe following several inmate deaths. Reuters found the jail, which serves 5 jurisdictions, averaged 3.5 deaths per thousand inmates over the years 2009 to 2019, more than double the national average of 1.5 deaths.

In December 2018, the Justice Department said the 900-bed jail violated inmates’ rights by failing to provide adequate medical and mental healthcare. The regional authority that manages the jail agreed to a “consent decree,” enforced by a federal judge, to ensure improved treatment of prisoners.

Inmate deaths dropped after the agreement, which required increased staffing, better training and enhanced medical services. The jail reported two fatalities in 2019 and one through this May, down from an average of five a year in the prior 4 years.

That was one of the Justice Department’s last jail investigations. From 2008 to 2018, the department opened 19 investigations into jails, three during President Trump’s tenure.

Yet since 2018, it hasn’t opened any. A memo circulated in November 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions put hurdles in the way of entering consent decrees for overhauling jails. In a telephone interview, Sessions told Reuters the policy he set forth adhered to Supreme Court standards on when consent decrees could be entered, allowing them when “appropriate” and “justified.”

In the absence of federal oversight, states have a patchwork of guidelines.

17 states have no rules or oversight mechanisms for local jails, according to Reuters research and a pending study by Michele Deitch, a corrections specialist at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. In 5 other low-population states, all detention facilities are run by state corrections agencies. The other 28 have some form of standards, such as assessing inmates’ health on arrival or checking on suicidal inmates at prescribed intervals. Yet those standards often are minimal, and in at least 6 of the states, the agencies that write them lack enforcement power or the authority to refer substandard jails for investigation.

Deitch said these gaps make comprehensive nationwide statistics all the more important. “You can’t have good policy without good data,” she said. “Data tells us what is going right and what’s going wrong.”


Without jail-by-jail mortality data, even jails with extraordinary death rates can escape official intervention for years, and local officials can remain blind to the seriousness of problems their facilities face. One example is the Marion County Jail in Indiana, a decrepit 65-year-old facility nicknamed “The Fossil” within the sheriff’s department.

Overfilled and understaffed, the Marion County jail had at least 45 deaths from 2009-2019. Yet local officials rejected pleas from 2 consecutive sheriffs for additional funding to bolster staffing and build a new facility.

Reuters found that the jail is among the 2 dozen with an average death rate, 3.5 deaths per 1,000 inmates, at least double the national average from 2009 to 2019. And its record was troubling on one of the most challenging problems plaguing jails: suicide, which accounted for more than 1/4 of all U.S. jail deaths.

Thomas Shane Miles, a married father of 2, struggled for years with mental illness and opioid addiction when he was arrested in 2016 on a misdemeanor drug possession warrant. On his second day in jail, he flung himself down a stairway and swallowed the contents of a chemical ice pack.

Put on suicide watch, Miles was given a “suicide smock” – a heavy hospital-style gown closed with Velcro – and placed in a monitored cell. The jail’s policies, as well as American Bar Association guidelines, dictate that suicidal inmates be monitored continuously.

On Day 6, Miles was given a jail uniform for a hearing and escorted down an underground hallway to a holding cell below the adjacent court building – a cell with no video monitor or clear sightlines for deputies. Left alone, he tore a strip of cloth from the collar, looped it over a door hinge and hung himself. He was found unconscious 30 minutes after entering the cell. An internal inquiry said the supervising officer logged his rounds after the fact, leaving it unclear when Miles was checked.

In a wrongful death suit that settled this September, Miles’ family argued that despite being identified as a suicide risk, he was given the means and opportunity to kill himself. The sheriff’s office denied misconduct and said it admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement; details were not disclosed.

Miles’ suicide was the jail’s 7th in just under 15 months. The Fossil’s suicide rate ranked it among the top 20 jails in the Reuters study.

In 2016, the sheriff called the suicide problem an “epidemic,” but county officials denied requests for more funding. While the county knew it had a suicide problem, there was no way to know how it compared. Like all other officials, Marion County’s leaders had no access to the Justice Department figures.

The sheriff’s jail-management mission often “came in second” in a budget system that pits it against the Indianapolis police department’s law enforcement duties, said Frank Mascari, who sits on the City-County Council. “We knew there were some deaths” at the jail, he said, “but we didn’t have the statistics” to know the rates were extraordinary.

From 2015 to 2017, the sheriff’s budget grew just over 1% a year, audit figures show. The inmate population rose 12% in that time, due to a rise in arrests and to state legislation dictating that some low-level felons serve their sentences in county jails, not state prisons.

The sheriff launched suicide-prevention efforts, hired social workers and trained deputies in spotting suicide warnings. From 2017 to 2019, the number of suicides dropped to 2 a year, but staffing remained critically low as deputies routinely left for better paying jail jobs in nearby suburbs.

Jail deaths remained stubbornly high despite the decline in suicides, reaching 6 last year, the heaviest toll in more than a decade, driven in part by drug and alcohol overdoses. Still, there has been no state or federal intervention.

In July 2018, Kyra Warner, 30, went quiet about 90 minutes after arriving at the jail. As her limbs twitched, cellmates called for help, telling nurses and deputies that Warner said she had been using methamphetamine and anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

Jail video shows Warner unable to walk on her own as deputies moved her to a monitored isolation cell, where they left her on the floor, still twitching. She lay unresponsive as they checked her periodically over two hours – until medical staff found no pulse. She died of an accidental overdose.

“The officers that are watching aren’t medically trained,” said Rich Waples, a lawyer handling the family’s ongoing wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff and Wellpath, the company providing the jail’s healthcare. “If she’d gotten prompt care, they could have reversed the effects of those drugs.”

Jail officials denied wrongdoing and noted in their response to the suit that deputies checked on Warner numerous times, but added they are not medical professionals. Wellpath, also contesting the ongoing suit, denied any misconduct.

“We’re not built to be the largest mental health hospital in the state,” said Colonel James Martin, who oversees the jail. “We’re not built to be the largest detox facility in the state.” Yet the jail has “more detox beds than any single hospital in the state.”

The jail’s shortcomings have been documented, including a county-commissioned review in 2016 that found the Fossil “antiquated,” with inadequate staffing and design flaws that severely hamper inmate monitoring. In 2018, after another independent study highlighted the jail’s challenges, the county approved a new $580 million criminal justice complex, with dedicated facilities to treat mental illness and substance abuse. In 2022, the Fossil will be history.

Another flaw in the U.S. system for monitoring jail fatalities is misleading disclosure. The John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Florida’s Seminole County reported one death to the Justice Department in 2019. But at least one other death at the jail was not reported in its official filings.

On June 2, 2019, Thomas Harry Brill, 56, was found hanging by a bed sheet in his cell. Staff tried but failed to resuscitate him, the jail said. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kim Cannaday said he “was released out of our custody” before he died. “Therefore, it would not technically be considered an in-custody death.”

Brill’s sister, Tracy, was shocked to learn his death was excluded from the jail’s official count. “They’re trying to avoid responsibility,” she told Reuters. “They’re playing with the numbers. That’s just wrong.”

Brill graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a mathematics degree and lived on a sailboat for years, she said. He had been wrestling with mental illness when he flew from his home in San Diego to look at a boat in Florida. Out of money, he was found in a stolen car and arrested, but couldn’t afford bail. He died unconvicted of the charge. “He needed $500 to get out,” she said. “It was an awful, ridiculous waste that he died.”


The Reuters death database also points to another benefit of collecting and publishing jail mortality rates: It can identify an unusual number of fatalities at jails that typically have few. One is Mississippi’s Madison County Detention Center, where Harvey Hill died after being beaten by guards.

The jail had occasional deaths, and in several years reported none. Yet in 2018, it had two deaths, including an inmate who died of complications from an ectopic pregnancy. Few other jails its size had multiple deaths that year.

Hill grew up in the poorest county in the poorest state in America. West, his town of 185 people, is intersected by a four-lane highway in Mississippi’s rural Holmes County. He did landscaping work an hour’s drive south in Canton, a city of 13,000 in the state’s wealthiest county, where 19th Century antebellum shophouses packed with antiques line a postcard-perfect downtown square.

When he was 18, Hill was arrested on charges of sexual battery and robbery. He pleaded guilty and served 14 years in prison. Friends and family say he began piecing together his life after his 2015 release, taking landscaping jobs with business owner Finnegan. “He was an incredible worker,” said Finnegan.

Through the winter of 2017 into the spring, Hill showed signs of mental illness, displayed flashes of paranoia and complained of insomnia, said Finnegan. After he let him go in 2018, Hill started showing up at his home, claiming his old boss owed him millions of dollars. “Harvey, if I had taken your millions, I wouldn’t be landscaping. I would be on an island,” Finnegan recounts telling him.

Hill kept returning. In May 2018, Finnegan called the Madison Police Department. If he wanted Hill removed, he had to press charges, Finnegan said he was told, so he did. “That’s not something I really wanted to do,” he said. “Harvey needed to be in a mental hospital.”

At the station, Finnegan told the officer he’d drop the charges and take Hill to a mental health facility if they could find a room. Instead Hill was booked into Madison County’s jail that Friday morning. “I’ll pick you up on Monday,” said Finnegan. “And we’ll get you some help.”

The Madison Police Department said there were “no remarkable or extraordinary events related to his arrest.” Mississippi has no standards or oversight for jails.

In their response to a family lawsuit, the guards said their actions were proper under jail policy. Michael Wolf, an attorney for one of the guards, James Ingram, told Reuters that Hill bit and then tried to head butt an officer, “and continued to resist and exhibited unusual strength. The control techniques were consistent with the County use of force continuum.” The other guard named in litigation, James Buford, declined to comment.

The family believes the force was unjustified. “Harvey Hill was in handcuffs and beaten to death,” said Derek Sells, a lawyer representing the family. “Someone needs to be held responsible.”

Hill’s death was 1 of 4 Reuters identified at the jail over the 12-year period. After he died, the jail filled out a form for the BJS with Hill’s name and details including his race, age and charges. The box for “homicide” was left unchecked. Two years later, no “cause of death” has been sent to the BJS, the jail said, citing an ongoing investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. No one has been charged.

The family said the jail lied about his death. “They just told us that Harvey had passed and he had had a heart attack,” said Katrina Nettles, his younger sister. The jail did not respond to requests for comment. Its medical contractor, Quality Correctional Health Care, and the nurse who treated Hill denied wrongdoing in litigation.

An autopsy ruled Hill’s death a homicide, however. The report showed that abrasions speckled his head and chest. Severe internal bleeding swelled his neck. His liver had been lacerated.

The state medical examiner, citing a backlog, didn’t release the findings to the family until this June, 25 months after he died and 13 months after the statute of limitations had expired for litigation involving assault. The family filed its ongoing lawsuit last February, before receiving the autopsy.

Told by Reuters of the autopsy’s grim findings, Finnegan bent forward and choked back tears. “God Almighty,” he said, dragging a hand over his face. “Harvey was a friend.”

(source: Reuters)


Martin: Repeal the death penalty for victims’ family members

Many times, we hear and read stories in the news about violent crime and think, ‘that only happens to other people.’ The reality is, it can happen to anyone. I was impacted by the murder of a loved one — twice. As a child, my mother was kidnapped, raped, and murdered at the hands of a man that had already been to prison and was out on parole. As an adult, my husband was murdered by a man that shot him point-blank in the head and burned his body in a fire pit while in a meth-induced episode.

People impacted by violence react and cope in many different ways. For me, my mother’s murder brought so much uncertainty into my childhood. There are entire years of my life back then that I don’t even remember. In my teens, I was consumed with grief and sadness and became self-destructive. I was also consumed by anxiety and fear — fear of ever having to see the man who murdered my mother, fear for my father and his grief, fear of allowing people into my life because there was a possibility that they too could be viciously ripped from me.

I can hardly imagine what would have happened if the man who murdered my mother was sentenced to death. As it was, the trial took over a year to reach a final verdict and sentence. (Keep in mind, this was with a confession in hand.) I don’t think I would have survived those teenage years if we were dragged back to court year after year, hearing after hearing, appeal after appeal, as happens with capital cases. And I’m not sure I could have handled the state putting another family through the kind of loss that my family had endured.

My husband’s murder had a completely different impact on me, though still very traumatizing. I knew — because of my own experience as a child — that I needed to focus on my children, to try to help them cope and heal in ways I was never able to. I also knew to seek out victim services to help us get through the emotional and financial toll of both the loss and also the eventual trial. But those services are perpetually underfunded and extremely difficult to navigate.

Each time I walked into a courtroom for another hearing or had a conversation with the prosecutor’s office about the next steps in the case of my husband’s murder, my children and I were re-traumatized. The vision of what happened to my husband replayed over and over in my mind.

In the years since my husband’s murder, I have been able to learn about and seek restorative justice to address the violence that my family and I have endured. Going through the process has reaffirmed for me just how much our current justice system fails murder victims’ families, right at the moment when they need support the most. Murder is traumatizing on families and isolates survivors in their pain. Many survivors face trouble just getting out of bed (I know I did), much less figuring out where to find grief counseling and other needed services.

It’s time to end the Wyoming death penalty. Instead of maintaining a costly death penalty that throws millions of dollars at just a few cases, Wyoming should commit to providing adequate support to families of murder victims like mine. Cost savings from ending the death penalty could be used towards programs that actually keep our communities safe, preventing violence before it occurs, and that provide healing resources for victims’ families like mine.

All murders are horrible and leave families in grief and overwhelmed by heartache. But I don’t believe calling for someone’s death is the solution.

The emotional and financial costs are too great for Wyoming to bear. Repeal Wyoming’s death penalty for victims’ family members like me and my children.

(source: Opinion; Christal Martin resides in Rock Springs, Wyoming----Casper Star-Tribune)

USA----impending female, federal execution

U.S. Schedules 1st Execution of a Woman in Nearly 70 Years----Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and attempting to pass the baby off as her own.

A date has been set for the execution of a Kansas woman who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her abdomen in what would be the 1st federal execution of a woman in nearly 70 years, officials said on Friday.

The inmate, Lisa Montgomery of Melvern, Kan., was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death by a jury in federal court in Missouri in 2008. Her death, by lethal injection, is scheduled for Dec. 8 at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind.

Federal executions have not taken place in nearly 20 years, but Ms. Montgomery’s would be the ninth federal execution since they resumed in July.

In 2004, Ms. Montgomery told her friends and family that she was pregnant, despite having undergone a sterilization procedure years earlier, according to court documents.

In December of that year, she contacted Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was 23 and 8 months pregnant, under the guise of wanting to buy a rat terrier puppy from a litter that Ms. Stinnett had advertised online, court records show.

Ms. Montgomery, who was 36 at the time, drove to Ms. Stinnett’s home in northwestern Missouri, where she strangled her to death and cut the baby girl from her abdomen. Ms. Montgomery then went home and attempted to pass the baby off as her own.

Ms. Montgomery, who confessed to the crime, lost all attempts to appeal her conviction and sentence, according to the Department of Justice.

Kelley Henry, an assistant federal public defender representing Ms. Montgomery, said in a statement on Friday that Ms. Montgomery has accepted responsibility for her crime, “but her severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice.”

Ms. Henry said that abuses Ms. Montgomery endured as a child, including being sex-trafficked by her mother and gang-raped by adult men, “exacerbated a genetic predisposition to mental illness inherited from both sides of her family,” including complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Few human beings have lived through the kind of torture and trauma that was inflicted on Lisa Montgomery by her mentally ill, alcoholic mother,” Ms. Henry said.

If Ms. Montgomery is executed, her death will be the 1st federal execution of a woman since 1953, when Bonnie Heady was killed in a gas chamber for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City, Mo.

Ms. Heady, with assistance from her accomplice Carl Hall, took the boy from school, held him for ransom and killed him. She was the first woman executed for kidnapping, according to reports at the time.

That same year, Ethel Rosenberg was sent to the electric chair after she was convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage. Ms. Rosenberg and her husband Julius were found guilty of stealing secrets from the United States’s atomic bomb project to aid the Soviet Union.

Only around 2 % of inmates on death row and 1 percent of those executed are women, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. In April, there were more than 50 women on state and federal death rows, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Statistically, the violent crimes women commit are less likely to be considered for capital punishment than those committed by men, because of both the nature of the crimes and public perceptions of women, Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said on Saturday.

Most murders committed by women are domestic murders, which are often considered acts of passion and not eligible for the death penalty, Mr. Dunham said. Jurors, sometimes subconsciously, take into account stereotypical views of women, including that they are less violent and pose less of a future threat to society.

“The sense is that a woman is going to commit acts of violence only in extreme circumstances of extreme emotional stress or acting out of extreme mental illness,” Mr. Dunham said, noting that prosecutors who seek death penalties for women are often perceived as “bloodthirsty.”

In cases of women on trial for murder, prosecutors often attempt to portray women as “deviant” and not meeting traditional gender roles, and they tend to blame them for their own abuse or mental illness, he said.

Execution of women is rare: Since 1632, there have been 575 documented executions of women of the more than 15,000 confirmed executions in the United States, according to the Espy File, a database of executions in the United States and the earlier colonies.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972, arguing that it constituted “cruel and unusual punishment,” then reversed its decision four years later, 16 women in death rows across the country have been executed.

Among them was Aileen Wuornos, a hitchhiking prostitute who killed 6 men along Florida highways. Ms. Wuornos initially claimed the killings were in self-defense after she was assaulted by clients but later told officials she did them intentionally. She was executed in Florida in 2002.

Last year, Attorney General William P. Barr announced that the Justice Department would resume executions of federal inmates sentenced to death, using a single drug, pentobarbital, after several botched executions by lethal injection renewed scrutiny of capital punishment.

The Department of Justice also on Friday scheduled the execution for Brandon Bernard, who was found guilty of the murders of two youth ministers in Texas in 1999.

Christopher Andre Vialva, another man convicted in the same killing, was executed last month.


Lisa Montgomery to be first female federal inmate executed in 67 years

The US is set to execute a female federal inmate for the 1st time in 67 years, Donald Trump’s justice department has said.

Lisa Montgomery, who strangled a Missouri woman in 2004 and stole her unborn baby, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the US penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on 8 December.

Montgomery, whose lawyers have long argued she has brain damage from beatings as a child and suffers from psychosis and other mental conditions, will become the first woman executed by the US government since Bonny Brown Heady in December 1953. Heady was convicted of kidnapping and killing the 6-year-old heir of an automobile tycoon. With her boyfriend, she was executed in a gas chamber.

The attorney general, William Barr, announced the decision to proceed with the execution of Montgomery, 52, in a statement that also detailed a 10 December execution date for Brandon Bernard, 40, who with 2 accomplices was found guilty of the murder of 2 church ministers in Texas in 1999.

Barr said the crimes were “especially heinous murders”. Montgomery, who sliced open the belly of Bobby Jo Stinnett and took her daughter, is the only woman among 55 federal inmates awaiting execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: Associated Press)


ICC delegation heading to Sudan to discuss case against al-Bashir----Former president has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

An International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation is heading to the Sudanese capital to discuss the arrest warrants currently in place in relation to the conflict in the western region of Darfur, including former President Omar al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir, who was being held in jail in Khartoum after being removed by the military in April last year following months-long protests against his rule, is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, in a conflict that began in 2003 and killed an estimated 300,000 people.

Led by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the delegation arriving on Saturday “will discuss cooperation between the International Criminal Court and Sudan regarding the accused, against whom the court has issued arrest warrants”, a statement from the office of Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said.

The delegation would meet senior Sudanese officials during its stay in the country, which will last through October 21.

A spokesman from the ICC prosecutor’s office confirmed to the AFP news agency that “Bensouda and a delegation from her office will be in Khartoum for the next few days to discuss ICC-Sudan cooperation”.

A Sudanese government source told AFP Bensouda would “discuss the extradition” of al-Bashir and others to The Hague-based court.

The ICC accused al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 of masterminding atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the Darfur region, charges he has previously denied.

2 other former officials wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in Darfur – Ahmed Haroun and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein – are also in detention in Khartoum.

In June, Ali Kushayb, the head of the Popular Defence Forces accused of carrying out some of the worst atrocities in Darfur, surrendered to the ICC and is now in custody.



Man on death row since 1999 dies at 88

An 88-year-old man on death row since 1999 for committing 3 murders died of pneumonia on Saturday morning at the Tokyo Detention Center.

According to the justice ministry, Wasaburo Takada had been in the hospital wing of the detention center since June of 2018, Sankei Shimbun reported. His condition worsened on Friday night and he died at 12:45 a.m. Saturday. His death leaves the number of death row inmates in Japan at 110.

Takada was sentenced to 14 years in prison for one murder and given the death penalty for 2 other murders committed in Saitama Prefecture between 1972 and 1974, Kyodo News reported. In February 1972, Takada conspired with a gambling friend who was in the real estate business to kill Takao Kobayashi, 45, after the friend embezzled the money which had been entrusted to him by Kobayashi.

Seventeen months after Takada hammered Kobayashi to death, he murdered the real estate agent by hitting him with a jack for fear his crime might come to light. In an unrelated incident in February 1974, Takada killed Fujio Tajima, then 32, by hitting him with a stone and then withdrew about 3 million yen from his bank account.



Calls for the death penalty in order to stop the rise number of rapes

After weeks of pressure, the Bangladeshi government announced plans to introduce the death sentence for people found guilty of rape.

For several days, protest rallies have been held across the country to denounce the rise in sexual violence against women.

Last week, a video showing a gang attacking a 37-year-old woman went viral sparking mass protests.

According to some human rights groups, such as Ain or Salish Kendra, 975 cases of rape were reported in Bangladesh from January to September this year. As a result of rape, 43 women died and 12 committed suicide.

Yesterday, thousands of Muslims rallied in front of the Baitul Mukarram mosque, demanding justice for the victims of sexual violence.

“People are suffering from the coronavirus, and women are becoming victims of sexual persecution. This is because Islamic law is not followed,” said Nur Hossian, leader of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh.

“In our society, justice must be restored,” Hossian explained. And “Only Islamic law can do so. For his crime, the rapist must be killed in public.”

Fr Albert Rozario, head of Justice and Peace in Dhaka, is not calling for the death sentence, but at least wants to see justice.

“In our country, rapists are never punished; for this reason, the number of acts of sexual violence is increasing,” he said. “If raped women obtained justice, such incidents would decrease. I urge the government to hold quick trials against acts of sexual violence.”

On Thursday, more than 100 women organised a bicycle rally to protest sexual violence in Dhaka and Narayanganj.

Team Narayanganj Cyclist is the Facebook profile of a group of cyclists. “This protest is to safeguard our honour,” writes administrator Maharab Hossian.

The latter too wants to see the death penalty for rapists. “If a person cannot live honorably in society, his life is worthless. We are working for that.”

(source: Asia News)

OCTOBER 17, 2020:


Billy Joel Tracy's death row appeal heads to federal court after denial

Texas death row inmate Billy Joel Tracy is taking his appeal to federal court after being denied relief by a state appellate court earlier this year.

Tracy was found guilty in the fall of 2017 in the brutal beating death of Barry Telford Unit Correctional Officer Timothy Davison. A video of Tracy slipping a hand free of its cuff and attacking Davison was played for the Bowie County jury that found Tracy guilty of capital murder.

Tracy, 42, had a long history of violence both in and out of prison before he attacked 47-year-old Davison the morning of July 15, 2015, during a routine walk from a prison day room to Tracy's 1-man cell in administrative segregation. Tracy, who packed all of his personal belongings before walking out of his cell for an hour of recreation, violently struck Davison with fists he'd managed to free of their cuffs.

Tracy then grabbed Davison's tray slot bar, a tool used to manipulate the rectangular openings in cell doors, and beat him to death.

A Bowie County jury convicted Tracy of capital murder in November 2017 in Davison's killing. In keeping with the jury's answers to special issue questions, retired 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart sentenced Tracy to death.

In April, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously affirmed Tracy's conviction and sentence. The court again denied Tracy's request for post-conviction relief Sept. 30.

Tracy filed a motion Thursday in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas for a court-appointed lawyer to represent him in a federal appeal. In his motion, Tracy claims that the two Capital Habeas Units in the state that typically provide representation to death row inmates cannot accept appointment currently to his case because of "staffing and caseloads."

Tracy asks the court to appoint Jennifer Merrigan as lead counsel in his federal appeal.

"Ms. Merrigan is an adjunct professor at Saint Louis University Law School and Washington University School of Law, where she founded and teaches a death penalty clinical practicum," the motion states. "Ms. Merrigan has represented people facing sentences of death and life without parole for 15 years. Her training and background are in capital mitigation, and she has been appointed and has consulted in state and federal habeas corpus, pre-authorization, and trial cases as a mitigation specialist and as counsel. She is a former staff attorney and Acting Director of the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic, a non-profit law firm in Kansas City, Missouri."

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Michael Truncale of Beaumont, Texas. Truncale has not ruled on Tracy's motion requesting Merrigan's appointment to his case.

Tracy is currently being held at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas.

(source: Texarkana Gazette)


Alan Chartock: One wrongful execution is one too many

There will always be those among us who believe in the death penalty. I understand that, though I can’t personally support it. Capital punishment is used in some American jurisdictions, both federal and state, and is continually being advanced here in New York.

Let’s just stop for a minute and suppose you had a son or a daughter, a mother or a father, who was cruelly cut down for absolutely no good reason. Once the perpetrator was caught, positively identified, tried and found guilty, would you want that person shut down forever? I know that I would. However, let’s take a step back.

The world is filled with people who murder with impunity and total disregard for life. They might as well be swatting flies. The threat of capital punishment acts as a deterrent. It sends a message to other potential killers that should they take a life, their own life will be taken in return. One of my all-time heroes, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, may have lost a potential fourth term as governor because of his unconditional refusal to support the death penalty in New York. His son, Andrew, shares this sentiment.

Those like the Cuomos who are so opposed to capital punishment are willing to take the consequences for their opposition. On the one hand, they get great credit for doing something that is politically unpopular but sticking to their guns. However, they know that in some particular cases, it can come back and bite you in the rear end. I recall asking Mario Cuomo, who maintained that he opposed to the death penalty with no exceptions, whether he would have made an exception in the case of the Israeli execution of the Adolph Eichmann, one of the architects of the “Final Solution” who was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews. It was clear that Cuomo wasn’t happy about the question because the potential political consequences were so great.

It costs a great deal of money to keep people convicted of murder in prison. It puts prison personnel at risk, as we have seen so many times. The cost is astronomical. So why am I opposed to the death penalty? The answer is that there have been too many instances in which what seemed to be incontrovertible evidence leading to a guilty verdict was later proven to be wrong. Just 1 wrongful execution is unacceptable.

Consider the matter of social costs. We know that people of color have always been subjected to the death penalty more than whites. Also, the laws are written in such a way to protect those with the most assets. For example, Donald Trump is undoubtedly responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of lives because of his ill-advised political decisions regarding COVID-19. His famous quote, delivered on Jan. 23, 2016, was, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” As Freud wrote, so-called humor is related to the unconscious.

There is a protection of sorts when the death penalty is forgotten. Recently, Trump called for the prosecution of his political rivals. We have seen this type of get-even politics throughout history by despots. By outlawing the death penalty, we can ensure that no leader can invoke such a penalty on his or her political opponents.

The reason why the death penalty has weighed so heavily on us as the ultimate political sanction is that unlike almost anything else, it cannot be undone. It has become a part of the right-wing rhetoric in this country, while the left seems to oppose it, with some exceptions on both sides. Some states have it and will not give it up. However, every time we find out that someone has been executed unjustly, we will revisit the wisdom of allowing it.

(source: Sunday Freeman columnist Alan Chartock is a professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network----Daily Freeman)


After jury recommends death penalty for Marlin Joseph, families speak to judge once more

As he sat in the witness box behind Plexiglas on Friday morning, Kenneth Crowell told the judge he missed his daughter's dimpled smile and contagious laugh. He missed his smart and happy granddaughter. Then, he turned his attention to Marlin Larice Joseph.

"Those bullets you fired, Mr. Marlin (...) Look at me. I wish you would look at me. Those bullets are still moving. They didn’t stop in the bodies of our own children," he said. "You destroyed multiple lives. Even those in your own family."

He paused for a moment, staring directly at Joseph.

"Why?" he paused, waiting for an answer.

"Why? he said again louder.

"You deserve nothing less than what is coming your way," Crowell said.

On Friday, Joseph and his lawyers had another chance to present more evidence and testimony to Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo before she imposes a sentence for the 29-year-old convicted of killing Kaladaa Crowell and her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra Inglett, in 2017. The 12-person jury who found him guilty in February unanimously recommended the death penalty for Joseph.

If Caracuzzo follows the jury's recommendation, Joseph will be the first person in Palm Beach County to be sentenced to death since 2002. Joseph's case has been back and forth between mental-health court and criminal court, but he was found competent to stand trial, again, in September, according to court documents.

The judge did not set a date for sentencing, but said she expected it to be in the next 3 to 4 weeks after she reviews the trial evidence.

Each time Caracuzzo asked Joseph a question as to whether he wanted to put on any evidence or speak on his own behalf, the father of three leaned up to the mic and repeated:

"I didn't kill anybody. I plead the Fifth Amendment."

On Dec. 28, 2017, police say, Joseph shot Kaladaa Crowell several times, and as she asked for help, he shot her twice in the head. Then, investigators said, he chased Kyra out of the home as she fled and shot her 5 times, including 3 times in the head.

Witnesses told police that Joseph was upset about an issue between his daughter and Kyra, though those in the shared West Palm Beach home said that before the shooting, the girls were playing around like they normally did.

Friday's hearing also gave time for Joseph and Crowell's family to speak about their loved ones and ask the judge either to spare his life or, as Crowell's father, Kenneth Crowell, said to Joseph directly, "you deserve nothing less than what the state of Florida allows."

Florida is one of 25 states that still have the death penalty, according to the national nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Caracuzzo reminded those speaking that while she appreciated what they all had to say, she cannot weight their testimony when making her decision about the sentencing.

"But clearly, 2 families' lives have been destroyed," she said.

Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo talks with attorneys during a break in testimony during Marlin Joseph's murder trial Friday, February 21, 2020. Joseph is charged in the Dec. 28, 2017, killings of Kaladaa Crowell, 36, and her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra Inglett.

One by one, each of Joseph's children went up in front of the judge, rose their small hands to take the oath and march up to the witness box. One son looked over at the deputy, confused when the clerk asked if he would swear to tell the truth. Caracuzzo translated the formality and asked if he promised to tell the truth. He agreed.

In timid, and sometimes whispered words, each child explained how much they loved their father and wanted him home. Each kept their eyes to their hands as their father watched on from the far side of the room, shackled in place.

Robin Denson, who had been through the entirety of the trial as did Crowell's parents, immediately broke down in tears. She said she asked God why he chose Marlin out of all of her children to be in this situation. She said he was a football player who understood how important school was, but when he had his daughter in high school, his No. 1 priority was to be a father.

"I just want to say no one knows Marlin better than me or God, other than his name and why we are here today.

"Many people have said they want me or Marlin to die or rot in hell," she said. "But I’m still here. I’m still standing. I’m still fighting. And I will continue to fight."

She turned her attention to Crowell's parents and spoke to them directly She said she wouldn't wish what happened to their daughter and granddaughter on anyone and that she is still in pain from what happened as well. Denson and Crowell shared the home together with their children, police said.

"Whether you believe it or not, I pray for you all more than I pray for my son," she said.

Lajunia Crowell said when Joseph fired the first bullet into her daughter in 2017, she knew that he meant to kill her but that, "God said no."

"When he fired a second bullet, God again said no. She was still alive," she said. "(Joseph) took a third bullet and he shot Kaladaa, he executed Kaladaa in the head. ... I know he wanted to make sure that Kallada didn’t exist."

She said the way he then went after her granddaughter and killed her devastated the family even more. She said she believes the jury "got it right" with the death penalty.

"If I smell a fragrance, see a child, or see someone who looks like my daughter or my granddaughter, it comes down like a brick. It is so heavy," she said.

Kenneth Crowell let Joseph know every feeling he had from the moment he learned the news to sitting Friday across from him in the courtroom.

"You just don’t know what I want to do. Or what I want to say," he said. "I’m going to say one thing: You are an evil person. An absolute evil person in its purest form."

But, he said, he did not hate Joseph, because he was a Christian and a deacon. He admitted to want to track him down after the fatal shootings, but "the God in me wouldn’t let me do what I had in my mind."

Joseph's youngest brother, Cordarious, told the judge he originally didn't plan on saying anything. But as he listened to Crowell's father say over and over how his brother deserved the death penalty, he said he had to say something. He said you can't be a Christian and want death.

"I love you forever," he said to his brother, breaking down on the stand. "No death penalty is going to change that."

(source: Palm Beacvh Post)


Bryant gets 2nd attorney in capital case----Accused in shooting of Struthers 4-year-old

Kimonie Bryant had his 1st hearing Friday in front of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge who will hear his aggravated murder case.

Bryant during the proceeding waived his right to a speedy jury trial. It means his Nov. 30 trial will be reset, though no new hearing or trial dates were available late Friday.

Bryant, 24, of Struthers, is charged in the Sept. 21 shooting death of Rowan Sweeney, 4, in the home on Perry Street in Struthers where Rowan lived with his mother, Alexis Schneider, 22.

Bryant is accused of shooting Andre McCoy, 20, and Yarnell Green Jr., 30, shortly after entering the home at about 2 a.m., then approaching the boy, who was on a couch with his mother, Alexis Schneider, 22. He was asleep when Bryant entered the home, prosecutors said, but it’s not known whether he was awake when he was shot.

Police have said Rowan’s mother covered Rowan and begged Bryant not to shoot him, but Bryant did. Bryant also is accused of shooting Schneider and Cassandra Marsicola.

Bryant’s charges make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted of aggravated murder and certain specifications. Because of that, Judge John Durkin appointed a 2nd attorney, Lynn Maro, to represent Bryant. Attorney John Juhasz was appointed earlier to represent Bryant.

Various notifications about the case and appointments have been sent to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Bryant remains in the Mahoning County jail without eligibility to make bond. There was no discussion during Friday’s hearing on whether his attorneys will ask Durkin to set bond.

In addition to the charges related to Rowan’s death, Bryant also was indicted on 4 counts of attempted murder and 4 counts of felonious assault in the shootings of the 4 adults.

A sizable number of people attended Friday’s hearing.

(source: The Vindicator)


Blanton applies for criminal court of appeals vacancy

Sumner County Assistant District Attorney Ron Blanton is 1 of 11 applicants vying for a seat on the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals.

The criminal appeals court was created by the Tennessee legislature in 1967 and hears trial court appeals in felony and misdemeanor cases as well as post-conviction petitions. The court’s 12 members are appointed by the governor and elected every 8 years on a “retain-replace” ballot.

The recent vacancy was made available by the retirement of Judge Thomas T. Woodall who steps down Dec. 31.

A prosecutor for 22 years, Blanton – who also has experience with corporate and private practice law - says he is uniquely qualified for the position.

A horrific crime hits close to home

After obtaining a bachelor of science degree from Campbellsville College in Campbellsville, Ky., in 1983, Blanton went to work for Shoney’s Inc., where he worked in the Captain D’s division in various capacities from in-store training to human resources.

In 1986, he started attending the Nashville School of Law while still working full-time for the company. He graduated from the law school in 1990, and began practicing corporate law for the restaurant chain.

It was one of the Nashville area’s most infamous crime sprees that prompted Blanton’s jump from corporate law to criminal prosecution in the late 1990’s.

As Director of Franchise Operations for Captain D’s, Blanton often conducted management training at their Donelson location because of its proximity to the company’s corporate office.

On Feb. 16, 1997 a man entered the store before business hours asking for a job application. Once inside, he forced the store’s manager and an employee into the restaurant’s cooler where he shot them execution style.

The crime was the 1st of 3 fast food restaurant killings attributed to Paul Dennis Reid. Reid was convicted for a total of seven murders and received the death penalty. He died of natural causes in 2013.

Blanton was called to the restaurant the next day to help investigators determine if anything had been moved or was out of place.

“I had to go in the cooler where the crime had occurred,” he said. “They had removed the bodies but nothing had been cleaned up.”

Blanton says that at about that same time there had been a similar incident in Little Rock, Ark., where an employee was killed during a robbery.

“I made a decision then that I needed to use my law degree for something besides corporate law,” he said. “I really wanted to help these victims’ families get the justice I thought they deserved.”

Blanton started his own law practice in January of 1998. 8 months later he accepted a position in the Sumner County District Attorney’s office. He left the office for private practice in 2000, but returned in 2003.

“In August of 2003, I had the opportunity to return to the District Attorney’s office,” he writes in his 50-page application for the judicial position. “This is where God meant for me to be at that time.”

Since his return to prosecution Blanton has served as the drug prosecutor working closely with the district’s drug court. He’s also tried several child sex abuse cases in front of a jury. For the last 10 years he’s served as the district’s violent crimes prosecutor trying more than 20 homicide trials – many of them high-profile cases.

In 2013, Blanton and District Attorney General Ray Whitley secured a conviction in the double-murder trial of Lindsey Lowe, a case that received national attention.

3 judges among Blanton’s competition

Blanton has applied for a judicial appointment just once before when the legislature created a second General Sessions Court judge position in 2014. Former attorney Mike Carter was chosen by members of the Sumner County Commission to fill that seat.

Blanton says it’s been several years since an appeals court seat has become vacant.

“I felt like the timing was right for me to apply,” he said.

His competition includes 19th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jill Bartee Ayers of Clarksville; 16th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Barry R. Tidwell of Murfreesboro; 23rd Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Larry J. Wallace of Dover; State Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Wardle of Lebanon; Kim R. Helper of Franklin, the District Attorney General of the 21st Judicial District; and5 mid-state attorneys.

He admitted the other candidates are “certainly qualified,” but pointed out that Woodall had served as an assistant district attorney before his appointment.

“I think my chances are as good as any of the other 10 candidates who have applied,” he said.

State Rep. William Lamberth, a former Sumner County prosecutor, has known Blanton for several years as both a colleague and a friend.

Lamberth acknowledges Blanton’s experience with defense and corporate law but says his prosecutorial experience would add to the current bench.

“There are very few former prosecutors [on the court],” said Lamberth. “His experience with this aspect of the law would just bring another aspect or dimension to the mix.”

Lamberth pointed to Blanton’s temperament as well.

“He’s a very even, steady individual,” he said. “I feel like he would be able to look at cases in an unbiased way.

“I just think he would do a really good job,” Lamberth added.

Blanton will interview with the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments on Oct. 26 or 27 via Zoom. The panel will meet privately and vote on three nominees to present to Gov. Bill Lee. Lee will interview the three nominees and make a selection.

(source: Henderson Standard)


State Officials Say Oklahoma Is On Track To Resume Executions

Executions by lethal injection are usually carried out in 6 to 12 minutes.

On April 29, 2014, it took 43 minutes for Clayton Lockett to die.

Lockett, who sentenced to death for the 1999 murder and rape of a 19-year-old Perry woman, began to convulse, writhe in pain and speak minutes after medical staff declared him unconscious. In the last of 3 injections, medical staff had injected Lockett with the wrong drug — potassium acetate, rather than the state-approved potassium chloride.

Then-corrections director Robert Patton called off the execution after Lockett regained consciousness. Ten minutes later, Lockett had a heart attack and died.

Another death row inmate, Charles Warner, was supposed to be executed two hours after Lockett. His execution was initially delayed for two weeks and later pushed back to Jan. 3, 2015. The same drug combination administered to Lockett was used on Warner.

Richard Glossip, convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the 1997 murder of an Oklahoma City motel manager, came within hours of being executed on Sept. 30, 2015. The execution was called off after prison officials informed then-Gov. Mary Fallin that the state had again received potassium acetate instead of the state-approved potassium chloride. 8 days later, Fallin agreed to halt all executions until a reliable supply of approved drugs became available.

It’s now been more than 5 years since the state of Oklahoma carried out an execution.

Since 2015, state officials have explored new execution methods and battled lawsuits that challenge Oklahoma’s death penalty procedures. They’ve also struggled to find suppliers willing to provide the drugs necessary to carry out executions.

The battle to bring capital punishment back to Oklahoma may soon be over.

During an interim study held Wednesday at the State Capitol, Attorney General Mike Hunter and Corrections Director Scott Crow told members of the House Public Safety Committee that Oklahoma is prepared to carry out executions in a humane manner.

Here are 4 takeaways from the meeting:

Executions Won’t Resume Until 2021

Oklahoma will resume executions by early-to-mid 2021 at the earliest, Hunter told committee members. The state is currently fighting a lawsuit in federal court, brought on by attorneys of death row inmates, that alleges the state’s death penalty protocol is unconstitutional. Hunter said he couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation, but expects a ruling in favor of the state sometime early next year.

“We’re confident that the drug protocol will clear the legal process,” Hunter said. “I say this because lethal injection has been ruled as humane and has satisfied both the constitution and court system numerous times.”

If the federal judge rules in favor of the state, the Department of Corrections may schedule execution dates for death row inmates. There are 46 men and one woman on death row in Oklahoma; 31 of the 47 have exhausted the appeals process, corrections director Scott Crow told committee members.

The state plans to use the same three-drug combination — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — that it did prior to 2014. The state now has a reliable supplier of the drugs, something it had trouble finding for several years, Hunter said.

Midazolam is a sedative that’s used to slow breathing and induce relaxation and drowsiness. Vecuronium bromide, a paralytic, is used to stop muscle movement and breathing. Potassium chloride stops the prisoner’s heart.

Corrections Director: ‘We’re Ready to Resume Executions‘

The Department of Corrections is prepared to carry out executions if and when the federal court approves the state’s lethal injection protocol, Crow told committee members.

Crow, who was appointed corrections director last December, said there are additional policies in place to ensure the right drugs are used and medical staff are properly trained to carry out executions. He also said inmates would not be used in mock execution training sessions.

“I’m going to make sure I do the very best I can so the state of Oklahoma can move past the problems that we’ve had before,” Crow said.

Pardon and Parole Board Prepares for Clemency Hearings

Death row inmates are entitled to a clemency hearing before the Pardon and Parole Board at least 21 days prior to their execution date. The board has the authority to recommend clemency to the governor’s office, who then has the authority to adjust the sentence as they see fit.

But because Oklahoma hasn’t carried out an execution since 2015, no person currently serving on the board has ever presided over a death row clemency hearing. Director Tom Bates said board members will receive training in December on how to conduct these hearings.

Because the hearings take place after all other appeals have been exhausted, Bates said it’s unlikely the board would recommend clemency under most circumstances.

“I don’t know if it’s the Pardon and Parole Board’s place to decide cases,” he said.

Oklahoma is one of eight states where the governor must receive a recommendation from an independent parole board before granting clemency to an inmate.

Committee Questions Appeals Process

Don Knight, an attorney representing death row inmate Richard Glossip, told members of the committee that he has found two new witnesses who speak against the state’s claim that his client is responsible for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese. But because Glossip has exhausted the appeals process, Knight said he has not been able to present the evidence before a court.

In addition, Knight said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has refused to provide him with state evidence used during Glossip’s two trials, held in 1998 and 2004.

State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, said state lawmakers should consider legislation that makes it easier for death row attorneys to acquire evidence from prosecutors and present any newly discovered evidence to a judge.

“If the other side has that solid of a case, to me it’s ‘show your hand and let’s see it’,” Humphrey said during the study.

(source: KGOU news)

USA----2 new federal executions set, including female

U.S. to carry out 1st federal execution of woman in nearly 70 years

The U.S. Justice Department said on Friday it has scheduled the 1st federal execution of a woman in almost 70 years, setting a Dec. 8 date to put to death Lisa Montgomery, convicted of a 2004 murder.

Montgomery, who was found guilty of strangling a pregnant woman in Missouri, will be executed by lethal injection at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana, the department said in a statement.

The last woman to be executed by the U.S. government was Bonnie Heady, who was put to death in a gas chamber in Missouri in 1953, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The justice department on Friday also scheduled a Dec. 10. execution for Brandon Bernard, who with his accomplices murdered 2 youth ministers in 1999.

The 2 executions will be the 8th and 9th the federal government has carried out in 2020.

The Trump administration ended an informal 17-year-hiatus in federal executions in July, after announcing last year that the Bureau of Prisons was switching to a new single-drug protocol for lethal injections, from a 3-drug combination it last used in 2003.

The new protocol revived long-running legal challenges to lethal injections. In August, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled the Justice Department was violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in not seeking a doctor’s prescription to administer the highly regulated barbiturate.

But an appeals court held the violation did not in itself amount to “irreparable harm” and allowed federal executions to proceed.

In 2007, a U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri sentenced Montgomery to death after finding her guilty of a federal kidnapping resulting in death.

Bernard’s attorney, Robert Owen, said in a statement the federal government misled the jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, which in 2000 found Bernard guilty of murder. Its decision was tainted by false testimony, Owen said.

“This evidence confirms that Mr. Bernard is simply not one of the ‘worst of the worst’ offenders for whom we reserve the death penalty, and that sparing his life would pose no risk to anyone,” Owen said.



USA----impending/scheduled executions

With the execution of Christopher Vialva at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on September 24, the USA has now executed 1,526 condemned individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized 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 further scheduled executions as the nation continues its shameful practice of state-sponsored killings.

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

1527-----Nov. 19-----------Orlando Hall-----------------Federal

1528-----Dec. 3------------Pervis Payne-----------------Tennessee

1529-----Dec. 8------------Lisa Montgomery--------------Federal, female

1530-----Dec. 10-----------Brandon Bernard--------------Federal

1531-----Dec. 31-----------Harold Nichols---------------Tennessee

(source: Rick Halperin)


The Hidden Cruelty of Trump’s Executions----Less than a week after executing Christopher Vialva in front of his mother and aunt, the DOJ announced it will kill Orlando Hall next.

On the morning she buried her son Christopher Vialva, Lisa Brown arrived at Affordable Burial and Cremation Service, a small funeral home in a strip mall in Killeen, Texas. Her older sister was waiting, along with the funeral director, who wore a suit and a mask. The last time Brown had seen her son, he was lying under a blanket on a gurney in Terre Haute, Indiana, where a federal official had declared his time of death. Now he lay in a casket in a blue pinstripe suit, a prayer shawl, and a kippah he crocheted himself.

“I walked over to the casket and put my hand on his chest,” Brown recalled. It was the 1st time she had touched her son in more than 20 years. Looking down, she saw something she’d noticed inside the execution chamber. “The whole back of his hand was bruised,” she said. The funeral director said it was probably where they had inserted his IV. “And I said, ‘I know it was.’”

Brown moved her hands to Vialva’s hands and face. She touched him all over, so eagerly, the funeral director “probably thought I was mauling my son,” she chuckled. “I was thankful that he said he was an understanding man.” Brown’s sister did the same thing. “She was hugging on him and she was touching his chest. She kissed him on the forehead.”

Vialva had been executed 1 week earlier, on September 24, for the carjacking and murder of 2 youth ministers from Iowa in 1999. He was 19 years old when he shot Stacie and Todd Bagley on the grounds of Fort Hood, not far from the funeral home. Vialva’s co-defendant, Brandon Bernard, was only 18 at the time. Both were sentenced to death. After the Trump administration restarted federal executions following a 17-year pause, Vialva became the seventh man killed in the Terre Haute death chamber since July.

Even to those paying close attention, the loved ones of the condemned had remained largely invisible in Terre Haute. Although the Bureau of Prisons books travel and accommodations for the families of the victims — and arranges for them to address reporters following the executions — no such help is given to relatives of those facing execution. Until Vialva, none of the condemned had arranged for family to attend.

Brown was disturbed by the lack of communication from prison officials. After confirming that she would be in attendance, they did not speak to her until the day before he was to die. Brown was on an elevator leaving the prison after her last visit with her son when Vialva’s case manager told her that the Crisis Support Team was waiting to brief her. Answering her questions in the lobby, they were courteous, almost overly polite. “They almost seemed nervous. You know, like it was a new thing for them. Which it probably was.”

By the time she woke up on the morning of her son’s death, Brown had done as much as she could to prepare herself. She had even read the filings in a lawsuit over lethal injection, which warned that autopsies from executions carried out using pentobarbital showed clear evidence that the condemned had experienced pulmonary edema: the filling of their lungs with fluid. “For me, knowledge is power,” Brown said. “The more I’m aware of what can go wrong, the more comfortable I am.” Still, it wasn’t easy to read that Vialva might suffer a sensation akin to being waterboarded — “that same panic, suffocating, drowning feeling.”

There were also things she could not prepare for. Nobody told her that, after reporting to the parking lot of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Office and being taken to the prison, she and her sister would spend two and a half hours inside a van, waiting to be taken to the death house, with just a port-a-potty and a cooler of water bottles nearby for comfort. Nobody warned that, once they were finally escorted into the witnessing room, the shades would go up so quickly, revealing her son on the gurney. “I didn’t even have a chance to sit down.”

Brown knew where her son would be positioned. She had told him, “Look at me. Look to your left.” He did. Like his mother, Vialva practiced Messianic Judaism and was deeply devout. His last words were a prayer for the family of his victims. Then he said, “I’m ready, Father.” After the drugs began to flow, she saw him open his eyes wide. “Then, once it starts affecting their lungs, they like blow their cheeks out,” she said, imitating the sound. “He did that twice. And then he yawned once, which is another sign of the drug, because they’re trying to get more air.”

Brown described the execution calmly, matter of factly. But this particular memory spilled out in an anguished sob. “What took me aback so much was that when he yawned, it took me back to when he was a baby,” she said, “when he would yawn when he was ready to go to sleep.”

“My sister was holding my hand,” Brown said. They saw no signs of struggle. Instead, she said, she felt an overwhelming feeling of peace wash over her. “I prayed for the Father to allow me to feel his spirit leave him and he answered my prayer,” Brown wrote in a text message later that night. “He was looking at me when he died.”

The next morning, Vialva’s lawyers dropped off a box of things for Brown at the Drury Inn & Suites in Terre Haute. Arriving home in Killeen close to midnight, she went through the contents before going to sleep. There were photos she had sent him over the years, along with some Bible teachings and legal records. Vialva’s best friend on death row had suggested that it might be comforting for his mom to receive some of the clothes he’d worn in his last days. On his shirts and sweatshirts, she could smell the prayer oils he used to use, which she had ordered for herself.

Finally, the box contained two letters and a CD. One letter was to be read at his funeral. The other was for her. She inserted the CD into her computer and watched her son reading the second letter. He told her how sorry he was for his crime and the weight it had placed on her life for so long. “Now is the time to lay down your burden,” he said. “No more money wasted on monthly allowances. No more long drives for prison visits. No more crying over the unknown. The deed is done and I am in the care of the Father.”

A Well-Oiled Death Machine

Amid a global pandemic, national protests, and the impending presidential election, news of the federal executions had been largely eclipsed since they began this summer. Vialva had been dismayed by the lack of national media attention as the men around him went to their deaths. After the execution of Lezmond Mitchell on August 26, he wrote to a friend that they had mentioned him on the CNN crawl, but that was it. “A man’s life is taken by the government but not even a segment to talk about it,” he said.

“They are a well-oiled death machine now,” he went on. “It was sad watching them walk Mitchell right past me so they could drive him to the death house. Everything was so clinical.”

Vialva’s execution was a painful blow to those who knew and worshipped with him on death row. “I just want everyone to know that Chris was the real deal when it came to his faith and being sorry for all he had done,” one neighbor wrote to his own supporters in late September. As with every round of executions, a wave of anxiety spread across the Special Confinement Unit after Vialva died. “We don’t know when they will pick someone else, but we believe it will be 3-5 more people in the coming months.”

On September 30, the Department of Justice announced the next execution date. Orlando Hall, 49, is scheduled to die on November 19. He would be the 2nd Black man killed in the federal execution chamber this year. In a media release, his lawyers noted that Hall was sentenced to death by an all-white jury, one of myriad ways in which the federal death penalty mirrors the same flaws and inequities of state systems. On October 16, the DOJ announced execution dates for 2 more people. One is Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row. The other is Vialva’s co-defendant, Brandon Bernard.

Politicians on both sides have remained almost completely silent about the federal executions. Although it was the Trump administration that was preparing to take his life, Vialva was particularly critical of the Democrats before he died. The party has enshrined opposition to the death penalty as part of its platform, yet ignored the issue during the Democratic National Convention. Presidential candidate Joe Biden, who was instrumental in the expansion of federal death row but now claims to disavow capital punishment, has said nothing about the executions. Neither has vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, despite touting her opposition to the death penalty.

2 days before Vialva’s execution, as the DOJ prepared to kill William LeCroy on September 22, activists with Death Penalty Action gathered for a press conference in front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Faith leaders were present from different religious denominations. They spoke out against the executions and called out Attorney General Bill Barr, who was scheduled to be honored the next day during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

The event featured New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat, the sponsor of a bill to abolish the federal death penalty introduced last summer. A parallel bill, introduced the same day, was brought forward by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who last year called for an investigation into the federal government’s lethal injection plans.

“We’ve gotta be louder about this,” Espaillat said. He echoed a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center, linking the death penalty to the legacy of slavery and lynching in the United States. Not only are Black people overrepresented on death row today, he said, “defendants convicted of killing white victims are executed at a rate 17 times greater than those convicted of killing Black victims.” Indeed, of the 7 men executed in Terre Haute, almost all of their victims were white.

Later that day, activists under the banner of the Terre Haute Death Penalty Resistance returned to the grassy field next to the Dollar General on Route 63, directly across from the federal penitentiary. Ashley Kincaid Eve, a lawyer and activist from Indianapolis, was leading the protests that week, although she still harbored hope that Vialva’s execution would not go forward. Eve had developed a close friendship with Vialva after he saw her on the news and wrote to thank her for caring enough to protest the executions. “We are here because people decided that we are trash to be thrown in the dumpster,” he said in his first letter. But over the years, “I have listened to men sing the praises of their children, mourn the loss of their loved ones, talk about their ambitions while knowing they will not come to fruition, discuss their spiritual journey, and lament the decisions that put them here.”

Eve had previously spearheaded a successful lawsuit against the Indiana State Police, who barred the activists from the area across from the prison during the 1st round of executions in July. It was one of many ways in which authorities tried to tightly control what the public was able to see. In a nod to the First Amendment, the BOP had designated 2 spots in the fields along Route 63 for protesters on either side of the issue, but required participants to be transported by government buses hours in advance. No phones or electronic devices would be allowed. In the briefings for press before each execution, BOP spokespersons have repeatedly told reporters that no one has shown up to protest the executions.

BOP officials have been tight-lipped with journalists. For media witnesses, who have waited long hours on prison grounds to carry out their assignments, there are few explanations or updates. In contrast to death penalty states where prison officials routinely provide detailed descriptions about the last meals of the condemned, the BOP refuses to disclose even such trivial information. But Vialva had told Eve about LeCroy’s last meal. He had asked for KFC but his request had been rejected, she told me. The bones in the chicken presented a security risk, he was told. So, like Vialva, he requested Pizza Hut instead.

Victims on Both Sides

LeCroy’s execution went later than planned. Although it was scheduled for 6 p.m., he was not declared dead until after 9 p.m. LeCroy had been sentenced to death for the brutal killing of a nurse practitioner named Joann Lee Tiesler. Court records showed that LeCroy, who had a history of mental illness, said he had killed her in the mistaken belief that she was a former babysitter who had molested him when he was a child. In a clemency application for LeCroy, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, his attorneys pointed out that LeCroy’s own family had lost his brother, a Georgia state trooper, to murder in 2010. “The pain and sorrow felt by the LeCroy family at potentially losing 2 of their sons is unimaginable,” they wrote.

Tiesler was engaged to be married when she was murdered; her fiancé witnessed LeCroy’s execution, as did her father, Tom Tiesler. In a written statement, Tom Tiesler thanked Trump and Barr for restarting federal executions. LeCroy “died a peaceful death in contrast to the stark horror he imposed on my daughter Joann,” he wrote. “He was allowed to live 19 years longer than Joann, with us taxpayers paying for his food, shelter and medical care. I am unaware that he ever showed any remorse for his evil actions, his life of crime, or the horrific burden he caused Joann’s loved ones.”

LeCroy had prepared a lengthy statement of his own, which he mailed to Sister Barbara Battista, a Catholic nun who served as his spiritual adviser, to read at his execution. But it did not arrive on time. Two days later, on the morning of Vialva’s execution, Battista brought the letter to a press conference outside the Dollar General. It began with a quote from the poet W. H. Auden. “‘Those to whom evil is done do evil in return,’” it read. This was not an excuse, he said. “Yet it describes many of us human beings in our primitive emotional states as children. It is a fact that some abuse — physical, emotional, and/or sexual — can stunt emotional growth. … We feel that we are what happened to us, that we cannot be that which we desire to become. And we lash out in anger. … We did things that we were unable to take back, harmed another human being, ourselves, and so many who loved us.”

Activists stood behind Battista as she read the letter, holding signs and wearing masks. They were joined by Lisa Brown. In a purple mask, a black headscarf, and a gold Star of David pendant, she came forward after Battista was done, to say a few words about her son. “This is really hard,” she said, her voice breaking. “This is the first venue that I’ve had in which I could say to Todd and Stacie’s family, I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve never been able to tell you that because I was told I could not have access to you.”

Brown emphasized that her son was remorseful for his crime. But she also shared a story she told me the first time we spoke. Like LeCroy’s family, she had experienced the legal system from both sides of the courtroom. “In 2009, my daughter’s ex-husband attempted to murder her,” she said. “He bludgeoned her in the head with a hammer, poured gasoline over her and set her on fire. She survived with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 80 % of her body. And she forgave her attacker shortly after it happened. … And she taught me that I had to forgive. And it changed my life from being in a perpetual state of victimhood to a life that I can put that behind me, and see that there is peace in that.”

Later that day, as Brown reported to the parking lot of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Office, Eve returned to the same spot at the Dollar General to set up for the protest against Vialva’s execution. She had said goodbye to Vialva on the phone the night before, hoping to convince him to let her file a last-minute challenge to his execution. But he asked her not to. Everyone on death row had seen what happened to Daniel Lewis Lee, the first man to be executed in Terre Haute this year: Lee was lying on the gurney for four hours before the government took his life, as lawyers fought over his fate. Vialva did not want that to happen to him.

“He’s lost faith in our courts and I don’t blame him,” Eve said. “I’ve lost faith in our justice system. But I haven’t lost faith in humanity.” In the last several weeks, she had heard from people all over the world who were moved by his story.

It was just after 6 p.m. when Eve introduced the final speaker, a woman named Katie, who had traveled to Terre Haute from Minnesota. “I don’t know Chris personally,” Katie said. But she knew Vialva’s younger sister, Audrey. The 2 had met at a retreat for survivors of domestic violence, where Audrey had shared the story of how her ex-husband tried to kill her. “I am at risk of being a murder victim,” Katie said. Before going to prison for violating a restraining order, her own abuser beat, choked, and sexually assaulted her, she said. He is no longer incarcerated — and he could still kill her one day, she said. But she does not want his life.

Katie pointed to the penitentiary complex behind her. “Do you think that what’s going on behind us right now is going to save my life?” she asked. “Do you think he knows that this is happening and it’s going to deter him from anything he wants to do? It’s not.”

At 6:48 p.m., a BOP spokesperson sent out an email to reporters. “Please report back to the Media Center at this time if you choose to,” he wrote. The execution had been carried out. At the media center, officials handed out a statement from the mother of Todd Bagley. She said she was “hurt and disappointed” by the coverage of the case that morning, which focused on Vialva and how he had changed. Todd and Stacie also touched many lives, she wrote. “We will never know how many people they could have influenced for good if they had been given the chance.” She was heartened by the fact that they were in Heaven, she said. “I know without a doubt we will have a glorious reunion with them one day!”

The Ultimate Price

On October 1, a few dozen guests gathered at the Killeen City Cemetery for Vialva’s funeral. His gray casket was covered in white lilies and chrysanthemums. His mother and sister sat in the front row. Eve, who drove down from Indianapolis, sat behind them under the tent.

Vialva’s 11-year-old nephew read a tribute from Vialva’s best friend on death row. Then Vialva’s sister Audrey delivered his eulogy. She shared childhood memories: how they would break the rules and ride their bikes to Walmart; how he would tickle her, play freeze tag with her, and have water balloon fights with her every summer. As he got older, she said, Vialva started spending more time playing video games and listening to music with his friends. But she remembered the time they stayed up all night memorizing the lyrics to the 1994 song “Funkdafied” by Da Brat. “He kept hanging his head off the top bunk asking why it was taking so many playbacks for me to get it,” she said. “His memory was always better than mine.”

Brown read the letter Vialva had written for his funeral. He was no longer the angry 19-year-old he had been, he wrote. “If you have written me a thousand letters or only just sat and thought about me from time to time, I appreciate it. If you came to visit me once a year or just saw my mother in passing and told her to tell me hello, I appreciate it. … If anyone here feels they could have done more, don’t. You did what you could and that is all that matters. So, thank you for those mercies and for your attendance today.”

The funeral director, Robert Falcon, was moved by the service. It was not the 1st time he had presided over the burial of a man executed by the state. Often times, he told me, such families “want to arrange something very private, something very, very quiet,” he said. “I’ve had services where nobody shows up. … There may be a representative from the family, a minister, and the funeral director. And that’s it. And Christopher’s situation was quite unique in that there was about 40 people present. And I’ve never seen that.”

Falcon did not minimize the pain of the victims in cases like Vialva’s. In his decades helping families bury their loved ones, he had seen his share of murder victims. He knew that their families continued to hurt after an execution, he said. But “sometimes we forget that the person has now paid the ultimate price for their crime, and now that family is left to hurt.”

Five days after her son’s funeral, Brown spoke to the mother of Orlando Hall, the next man in line to die in Terre Haute. She learned that he has 6 children and a number of grandchildren. Hall’s mother is in poor health and was not sure whether she will attend the execution, Brown said. “I told her, I want to be able to help facilitate their peaceful transition through this process,” Brown said. “And she said, ‘Oh thank you, Jesus.’ She says, ‘You just made my day, Miss Lisa.’ That blessed me.”

Brown has not yet spoken to the mother of Brandon Bernard. But she feels called upon to support other families as their loved ones get execution dates. “There are so many more like me,” she said. It is also what her son would have wanted. Over the phone, she read from a card that was waiting in the mail when she returned from Terre Haute. “I know this is hard for you,” he had written. “I would even go so far as to say that it’s harder on you than me. … I just want you to stay strong. I need you to do that for me. If they do take me away, then you can let them know how much it hurts. Maybe one day your love will change things.”



Rights groups denounce rise in Gaza death sentences----Victim’s son: We demand execution of criminal who killed our father.

According to the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, authorities there have handed down 10 death sentences so far in 2020. This brings the number of capital sentences issued in the Palestinian territories since 1994 to 239, including 189 in the Gaza Strip.

Of these, 90 have been carried out, including 78 in Gaza.

Rights activists and institutions say the increase is alarming. Experts attribute it to the devastating economic, social and political conditions.

“The high crime rates are directly proportional to the [harsh] humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” psychologist Fadel Abu Hein told The Media Line.

“Psychologically," Hein said, "crime is a deviant behavior that expresses the anger of the perpetrator about the harsh living and humanitarian conditions he faces.”

With the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics placing the enclave’s poverty rate for 2020 at 53%, and its unemployment rate at 46%, observers believe that, coupled with the catastrophic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, it is just a matter of time before the Gaza Strip reaches a point of social explosion where crime rates further spike.

Nevertheless, activists are demanding the abolishment of capital punishment in accordance with international human rights law.

Al Mezan deputy director Sameer Zaqout says such sentences are ineffective in preventing or discouraging serious crimes and are a breach of signed commitments.

“As human rights institutions, we are, in principle, against the death penalty, and we are working toward its abolition from Palestinian legislation, especially since the Palestinian accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [in 2014] and the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR [in 2019], which explicitly seeks the abolition of the death penalty,” he told The Media Line.

“Since the State of Palestine has ratified the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol, it must commit to abolishing the use of capital punishment and adapt all Palestinian legislation to fit and respect the new commitments,” he said.

Taking the opposite side, the legal adviser and spokesperson for Gaza’s judiciary, Ihab Arafat, argues that the Palestinian legal system “does not prohibit the application of the death penalty, which is at the forefront of the penalties under Article 37 of the Palestinian Penal Code No. 74 of 1936, which is, in turn, still in force and is applicable in Gaza’s courts.”

Arafat explained to The Media Line that the Palestinian legal system “limits the application of death sentences to indictable offenses that disturb civil peace, destabilize society and shake public confidence in state institutions."

These institutions include the judiciary, legislature and executive.

“The court cannot override the law or circumvent its provisions regarding the application of this punishment against perpetrators of crimes of murder, concerning whom there are convictions,” he stated. “There is no choice but to apply the law.”

The legal adviser insists that all procedural and substantive guarantees are observed under the Palestinian Basic Law and the Penal Procedure Code No. 3 of 2001 so as to ensure a fair trial.

Zaki Albasheeti, son of the murdered currency broker – who was the primary provider for 15 family members – called the death penalty, which had been demanded by his family, “a legitimate and legal request” designed to preserve the rights of victims’ families.

“We demand the execution of the criminal who killed our father,” he exclaimed to The Media Line.

Still, rights activists question the legitimacy of capital punishment due to the absence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s authorization. Since 2005, Abbas has issued no decrees authorizing executions. However, a number of death sentences have been handed down by Palestinian courts in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Zaqout believes that applying the death penalty there “violates national legal standards,” adding: “The death penalty must not be carried out without the president’s authorization. This is an essential condition set for a reason, which is to lengthen the litigation period, because execution is a final and irreversible sentence.”

Commenting on this, Arafat told The Media Line: “There is an independent judicial system in the Gaza Strip and the government provides all the judicial, administrative, technical and logistical human resources to carry out its basic tasks by following up and directing the adjudication of disputes and resolving cases on sound legal foundations.”

Zaqout believes that even those who support capital punishment should ask to freeze its implementation for several reasons, given exceptional circumstances of the Gaza Strip.

“[In Gaza], we are not in a position that enables us to trust the rule of the law. Almost all experts, including the Bar Association and workers in the field of human rights, are unanimous regarding the absence of the rule of the law and the independence of the judiciary. When we live in a [state of] division [between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank], everything is in question, including the formation of the courts,” he said.

“Moreover,” he continued, “the exceptional situation of the Gaza Strip means we lack the requirements for ensuring a fair trial. For instance, there are no forensic laboratories in Gaza that are well-equipped and meet the necessary standards to be qualified to resolve cases with high proficiency.”

Arafat disagrees, saying the enclave’s Justice Ministry has the required resources.

“We have a department called the General Administration of Criminal Evidence and there are experts at a high level who have taken courses in a number of neighboring countries, in addition to [learning from] local experience and courses,” he said.

To ensure that these experts are up to date, “we usually coordinate and communicate with international experts in this field in order to stay informed of the latest developments regarding forensic science and to develop the skills of the Palestinian experts involved in investigative operations and the examination of crime scenes,” Arafat added.

(source: The Jerusalem Post)

OCTOBER 16, 2020:


Prosecutors to pursue death penalty for man accused of killing Carlisle women

If Cumberland County prosecutors have their way, a 25-year-old accused of killing the mothers of his children weeks apart this summer will face the death penalty if he’s found guilty.

The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office announced plans to seek the death penalty Thursday during Davone Unique Anderson’s formal arraignment, according to Sean McCormack, chief deputy district attorney.

“We believe we have the evidence to obtain those convictions," McCormack said.

Anderson is accused of carrying out the separate, but related shooting deaths of Sydney Parmelee and Kaylee Lyons in July. The 25-year-old — who fathered children with both women — confessed to both shootings after his arrest, Carlisle police said.

Police said Anderson admitted to shooting Parmelee, 23, July 5 at a home on the 100 block of East Louther Street in Carlisle because he thought she was cheating on him. He shot Lyons, who was six months pregnant, July 30 at the same home out of fear she’d turn him in, according to police.

Anderson was arrested on theft charges the night of the 2nd shooting when he was spotted driving Lyons' car in downtown Carlisle, police said.

McCormack said a notice of aggravated circumstances has been filed against Anderson, which is a requirement to seek the death penalty. These circumstances include Anderson’s lengthy history of felonies, that Lyons was a possible witness for the prosecution to Parmelee’s murder, and the killing was done while committing a felony.

Anderson is facing 3 1st-degree murder charges, as well as endangering the welfare of children and firearms offenses. He is being held in the Cumberland County Prison without bail.



How Scott Peterson’s murder convictions were suddenly thrown into doubt

Laci Peterson’s 2002 disappearance from her Modesto home on Christmas Eve made instant headlines. Her family initially said that Scott, her husband, was beyond suspicion. Then a woman surfaced who said she was having an affair with him. Finally, Laci’s remains and her 8-month-old fetus washed up on a rocky shore near where Scott said he had gone fishing on Christmas Eve.

18 years later, Peterson’s death sentence for killing his pregnant wife and unborn son has been overturned, and his convictions are under scrutiny. Alleged juror misconduct has sent the case back to San Mateo County Superior Court, where the fertilizer salesman was found guilty and sentenced to death after a 2004 trial.

“It’s basically a second chance for Peterson,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who now leads a project at the school to try to free the wrongly convicted.

The unraveling of such a high-profile murder case stems from legal errors made by the trial judge and a woman who allegedly lied to get picked for the jury and became obsessed with the death of the fetus, whom Laci and Scott were going to name Conner.

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an order requiring a San Mateo County judge to examine whether the juror committed misconduct, and if so, whether the guilty verdicts should be overturned. A full-blown hearing with witnesses is possible. If the evidence clearly shows misconduct, prosecutors will have to show the juror’s actions were irrelevant to the case to prevail.

Whatever the judge decides can be appealed, and the process could take months if not years. If the defense succeeds in overturning the convictions, Peterson most likely would be retried.

The order issued by the state’s highest court is called “an order to show cause.” It asks the trial court to determine whether Peterson should be granted a new trial on the grounds that “Juror No. 7 committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime.”

The California Supreme Court rarely issues such orders and usually limits them to sentences, not verdicts, said Scott Kauffman, a criminal defense appellate lawyer. In any case, Kauffman said, the prosecution ultimately prevails most of the time.

“When you are in habeas you are already dead and buried,” Kauffman said. “If you get an order to show cause, you’re closer to the surface but you are not there. You have to prove your claims in a hostile environment against a usually hostile judge.”

But the defense can prevail. Cliff Gardner, Peterson’s defense lawyer, said he has had two capital cases in which such orders led to the overturning of sentences.

“I am very confident that we can win it,” Gardner said Thursday. “Whether we do or not, there are a lot of things that go into that calculus.”

The California Supreme Court’s actions, he said, “reflect the importance of jury selection in a case.”

John Goold, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County district attorney’s office, which prosecuted Peterson, downplayed the significance of Wednesday’s order.

“This is one step in a very long and complicated appellate process,” Goold said.

The California Supreme Court had little choice but to overturn Peterson’s death sentence this year. The late Judge Alfred Delucchi, who presided over the trial, discharged prospective jurors who expressed opposition to capital punishment but said they would be willing to impose it. Delucchi’s actions flouted U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

“Jurors may not be excused merely for opposition to the death penalty, but only for views rendering them unable to fairly consider imposing that penalty in accordance with their oath,” Justice Leondra R. Kruger wrote for a unanimous California Supreme Court.

The court expressed bewilderment about Delucchi’s actions. He had experience in criminal law and should have known better, the court said.

The Aug. 24 decision left intact the guilty verdicts.

But Peterson’s lawyers also challenged the convictions in a separate habeas corpus petition, which examines evidence the court did not hear.

Most legal documents are dry and soporific, but Peterson’s 277-page habeas was gripping. It raised evidence suggesting Peterson was innocent and alleged that his trial lawyer, Mark Geragos, had failed his client by neglecting to read a document that could have been used to challenge a prosecution witness.

The court, however, rejected all claims but one: that Richelle Nice, Juror No. 7, lied to get picked for the jury.

Initially seated as an alternate, Nice replaced a discharged juror during deliberations. She later co-wrote a book about the case with several other jurors.

Peterson’s lawyers argued that Nice worked hard to get on the jury. Even though her employer would pay for only 2 weeks of jury service, Nice said she was willing to forgo months of pay to serve.

All the potential jurors were asked whether they had ever been a victim of a crime or involved in a lawsuit. Nice said no to both questions.

In fact, Peterson’s lawyers said, Nice in 2000 had obtained a restraining order against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend for harassing her when she was 4 ½ months pregnant.

Nice filed a lawsuit to obtain the order, saying she feared for her unborn child. The attacker was tried based on Nice’s charges, convicted and sentenced to a week in jail, according to Peterson’s lawyers.

They also said Nice also was 1 of 2 holdouts for convicting Peterson of first-degree murder for killing his unborn child. The jury convicted Peterson of the 1st-degree murder of Laci and the 2nd-degree murder of the fetus, whom Nice called “Little Man.”

After the trial, Peterson’s lawyers said, Nice wrote Peterson more than 2 dozen letters, many of them focused on the killing of his unborn son.

Peterson was tried in San Mateo County after a judge ruled he could not get a fair trial in Stanislaus County. Stanislaus County prosecutors may seek a new penalty trial for Peterson to try to get the death penalty reinstated. Goold, the district attorney’s spokesman, said no decision has been made on that.

Loyola’s Levinson said the errors the judge made in the Peterson case and the possible juror misconduct raised questions about less visible death penalty trials.P> “If this can happen in a high-profile case, it certainly makes us wonder what is happening in cases that are not under the microscope,” she said.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Apex court dismisses death-row convict’s judicial review application

The Court of Appeal on Friday (Oct 16) threw out an application by a Singaporean drug trafficking convict to conduct a judicial review into his case. He was originally scheduled to be hanged last month.

Syed Suhail Syed Zin, 44, was in 2016 sentenced to death for trafficking at least 38.84g of heroin in 2011.

He was set to be executed on Sept 18 this year, after the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against his conviction and sentence in 2018.

However, the day before the hanging, his lawyer M Ravi applied for leave to file a review application. Syed Suhail was granted an interim stay of execution pending the review.

A judicial review seeks to ensure that the law is not in conflict with the doctrines of rule of law and separation of powers, or inconsistent with the Constitution.

Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who delivered the court’s decision on Friday in a 25-page judgment, stressed the stringent requirements to be satisfied in a review application.

The other 2 judges on the court’s bench are Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash.

The judges noted that Mr Ravi’s application was “so lacking in merit” that it would provide a basis for similar applications in the future to be dismissed at the leave stage.

They emphasised again the point that lawyers who raise arguments without a reasonable basis in a review application would be abusing the court process. The courts “will not hesitate to summarily dismiss patently unmeritorious applications in the future, even at the leave stage”, the judges said.

“Indeed, it cannot be the case that a dissatisfied litigant could bring repeated applications until the desired outcome is achieved,” they added. “If so, that would be the very perversion of justice and fairness, and would make a mockery of the rule of law.”


The judges heard the review application on Sept 22, when Mr Ravi sought to disqualify the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) from the case — including Deputy Chief Prosecutor (DCP) Francis Ng, who appeared in court.

Mr Ravi said that this was because the prosecution had, without the inmate’s consent, come into contact with privileged or confidential information from Syed Suhail’s earlier appeal.

The information in question was contained in a personal correspondence from Syed Suhail’s former lawyer Ramesh Tiwary and four letters sent to the inmate from his uncle.

Community Action Network, an activist group that supports a campaign against the death penalty, argued that this raised questions about the public prosecutor’s respect for the inmate’s privacy. It urged an independent inquiry into the matter.

The judges said they were satisfied that Mr Ravi did not produce anything to justify his claim. DCP Ng also confirmed that he had neither been involved in the earlier appeal nor seen the contents of the letters, even though they were sent to AGC.

Judge Phang noted that Mr Ravi did not give notice about this argument and merely spoke about it orally. “We take this opportunity to reiterate that this is not the appropriate way to raise such issues before the court.”


The judges emphasised the stringent requirements for a judicial review.

Applicants must show that there is enough material, either evidential or of a legal nature, for appellate courts to conclude if there has been a miscarriage of justice.

If the material does not satisfy any of the following requirements under the law, the review application will be thrown out:

- The material was not explored at any stage during previous court proceedings

- It was compelling enough to show a miscarriage of justice in relation to an earlier decision

- The material could not have been adduced with reasonable diligence

In Syed Suhail’s application, the judges found that all three requirements were not met.

Mr Ravi had put forth two grounds in the application: Whether Syed Suhail suffered an abnormality of mind that was not explored before and that Mr Tiwary had failed to use available evidence to show that the convict received a S$20,000 inheritance from his uncle. This would have rebutted the prosecution’s argument that Syed Suhail could not have bought all the heroin for his own use.

The judges found the inheritance argument to be a “non-starter”. Mr Ravi did not rely on the argument eventually.

As for the argument on abnormality of mind, Syed Suhail had confirmed during his trial that he would not be raising that.

The Court of Appeal will on Oct 23 hear Syed Suhail’s constitutional challenge against his death sentence.


Central Narcotics Bureau officers arrested Syed Suhail on Aug 3, 2011, near a traffic junction in Chua Chu Kang. He was escorted to his rental home nearby, where officers found heroin weighing no less than 38.84g.

He was convicted of possessing the drug for the purposes of trafficking after a seven-day trial in the High Court in December 2015.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal in October 2018.

Anyone convicted of trafficking more than 15g of heroin faces the death penalty.



Hapur court awards death penalty for rape of minor

The District and Sessions Court of Hapur awarded death penalty to two domestic helps for raping and killing a 12-year-old in September 2018 on Thursday. The 3rd accused, Amarjeet, has been acquitted.

In her order, Veena Narayan, Additional District Judge and Special Judge (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences or POCSO Act), Hapur said the convicts, Ankur and Sonu, should be hanged till death, and asked officials to take them into custody. She said the order would be put on hold till the Allahabad High Court upheld it.

The accused have been found guilty under Sections 302, 307, 394, 120B and 411 of the IPC, and Section 6 of the POCSO Act.

The crime, which took place on September 5, 2018, sent shockwaves in the region as the convicts were working as domestic help at the victim’s house for a long time. They not only raped and killed the girl but also attacked her 8-year-old brother with a knife.

According to Vaibhav Pandey, Circle Officer, Hapur (City), 18 witnesses were produced in the court. “We ensured that forensic evidence are collected and the chargesheet wass filed in a fixed time frame. The chargesheet was filed on October 27, 2018,” he added.

Mr. Pandey said the prosecution could not prove charges of criminal conspiracy against Amarjeet, a neighbour of the victim.

Sankalp Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Budaun, who was posted in Hapur at the time of the incident, said the convicts, in their 20s, worked as house helps at the house of the victim’s father, who was in the dairy business. “In an officer’s life, there are cases where you feel that justice should be delivered without any delay. This was one of those cases,” he said.

On the day of the incident, when the victim’s parents were not at home, the accused raped her and when she made noise, they strangulated her. As her brother had seen them committing the crime, they thrashed him and slit his throat.

“It was the brother who identified the accused through brief notes, where he mentioned the names of the domestic helps. He had lost his voice and it took doctors a long time to restore it,” recalled Mr. Sharma.

After the crime, the convicts hid the body of the girl beneath cattle fodder in an adjoining room and tried to present the scene of the crime as if a robbery had been committed. “They tried to mislead the police that dacoits had kidnapped the girl and decamped with money. When the body was recovered and the police took the accused into remand, they accepted their crime,” said Mr. Sharma.

(source: The Hindu)


Prisoner Executed at Mashhad Central Prison

A prisoner sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, was executed at Mashhad Central Prison on Sunday. IHR previously published news of the execution of a female prisoner at the same prison, on the same day, raising Mashhad Central Prison’s execution count to 2 for Sunday, October 11.

According to the Khorasan newspaper website, on the morning of Sunday, October 11, the death sentence of a male prisoner was carried out in Mashhad Central Prison. The prisoner, who has only been identified as 37 year old Ali had been sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

Ali was accused of stabbing someone to death during a fight in a drug den in 2016, when he was 33 years old.

It should be noted, that with the execution of a female prisoner (Razieh, 33 years old) on that day, the number of people executed at Mashhad Central Prison on October 11 now stands at 2.

According to Iran Human Rights’ annual report, at least 225 of the 280 of those executed in 2019 were charged with "premeditated murder."

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.


OCTOBER 15, 2020:


Photography; Death Row Exonerees: behind a powerful photo project on injustice----Martin Schoeller’s devastating new exhibition captures the faces and stories of Americans accused of crimes they didn’t commit

Martin Schoeller is a photographer known for his up-close portraits of the world’s biggest names – from Barack Obama to Taylor Swift and Brad Pitt – all photographed with a special halo light reflected in their eyes, capturing their personality, or even their soul.

The German photographer has now decided to aim his lens towards victims of the prison system in his current exhibition Death Row Exonerees, which is on view at Fotografiska in New York City until 10 January.

Schoeller worked with an organization called Witness to Innocence, which highlights the stories of death row exonerees, in a photo and video series. The survivors explain how they were convicted and sentenced to death for crimes they didn’t commit.

Viewers are presented with stories of innocent people who were forced to endure “government-sanctioned horror”, he says.

“These women and men bear witness to the unacceptable costs of a misguided system of laws, which are in desperate need of revision, and a prison system that focuses on punishment, rather than on rehabilitation.”

It all started in 2018, when Schoeller began researching the death penalty online. He found Witness to Innocence, contacted them, and it took off from there.

“For my personal projects, I always like to do something emotionally meaningful,” says Schoeller. “I have always felt so strongly against the death penalty, having lived in America for so many years, and it’s hard to grasp that the death penalty still exists here.”

Witness to Innocence focuses on abolishing the death penalty. It works with death row survivors, many of whom share their own stories across the country to raise awareness of criminal justice reform. It’s the first time this photo series is being shown in the US.

But it wasn’t easy to gain access to the participants. When Schoeller contacted the organization’s executive director, Kirk Bloodsworth, (a death row exoneree himself), he was hesitant to collaborate for this art project.

“He saw my closeup pictures as ‘mugshots’ and was not so keen on opening the door to me, but later he was willing to meet with me,” says the photographer.

Eventually, Bloodsworth came around and saw the humanity in Schoeller’s closeup photos. Shortly after, the photographer attended Witness to Innocence’s annual meeting in Puerto Rico in 2019, where he approached the exonerees to participate in the project.

In total, he filmed, photographed and interviewed 15 exonerees over the course of four days in a hotel room in Puerto Rico, which was chosen as a location for having abolished the death penalty in 1929. Ten are featured on view at Fotografiska.

“Nobody has been [judicially] killed in almost 100 years in Puerto Rico, but half of American states have the death penalty,” says Schoeller. “It’s hard to understand how someone could be sentenced to die and them sitting in a death row cell for years, sometimes decades, with an execution looming over their head.”

The interviews with the exonerees were not your typical, journalistic Q&As. They were more like informal conversations. “I talked with them without a running video camera because people open up more that way,” says Schoeller. “Who wants to see another video of talking heads anyway? I decided to film them in a closeup style.”

Over the course of four days, Schoeller spent hours interviewing them and having drinks and dinner with the exonerees. “I hung out with them for days and really got to know them,” he says.

When the works showed at the NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf, gallery-goers could sit down and watch the films. Here at Fotografiska in New York, it’s a more intimate experience. “With every room you walk into, you meet a new person,” says Schoeller.

The series strikes a markedly different tone than his trademark celebrity portraits of George Clooney, Rihanna and Angela Merkel. “With famous people I usually have 10 minutes and there’s no conversation, it’s a different experience,” he says. “I enjoy this work a lot more. It’s closer to my heart and I get to make friends and meet people who have incredible stories to tell.”

With the gallery walls painted black and dramatic lighting, it’s symbolic of death row. “I always felt like a death row cell is kind of like being buried alive,” he says. “But seeing big faces feels intimate. I wanted to create a new experience that speaks to people on an emotional level. It illuminates what an exoneree’s experience was like being on death row.”

This experience is what the photographer aims to depict: the feeling of discomfort. “It makes you uneasy,” he says.

Among the exonerees that Schoeller worked with for the exhibition, there is Derrick Jamison, who spent 20 years in prison for a murder and robbery he didn’t commit.

“There is a double standard when it comes to justice in our judicial system, especially with wrongful conviction,” says Jamison. “If you are a minority or a low-income citizen, the pursuit of justice can be an elusive one. But if you are rich, it happens overnight.”

He also worked with Kwame Ajamu, who was sentenced to death in 1975 for the murder and robbery of a salesman, due to a false eyewitness testimony and police misconduct. He was released from prison in 2003, after serving 28 years.

“Kwame thinks within the next 5 years, the death penalty will be abolished,” says Schoeller. “Many people think it doesn’t make any sense and more politicians are realizing that.”

Schoeller also shot Sabrina Butler-Smith, the only woman in the series. She was convicted in 1990 for the death of her baby son Walter, due to false forensic evidence from a medical examiner. She spent 5 years in jail. She is only 1 of 2 women ever exonerated from death row in the US.

“Based on that one medical examiner’s testimony, she was sentenced to die,” says Schoeller. “It’s amazing how one doctor can decide between life or death.”

It was a heavy experience to listen to the exonerees share their stories. “I started to cry when I was talking to them, they cried, too,” says Schoeller. “It’s hard to see grown men and women who have spent 28 years in prison start crying. It was heavy, I’ve got to tell you.”

To Schoeller, it’s more than just abolishing death row in America. Each exoneree had a profound story to tell, wisdom to learn from.

“These survivors have a strong will to live. It comes with a lot of joy, they’re positive people. They’ve overcome tremendous hurdles to be here. For the most part, they’re not bitter or angry, which is still hard to fathom.”

He adds: “There’s a lot to be learned from these people; to be able to forgive and have mercy. To look for the better and not dwell on the bad.”

Death Row Exonerees is on view at Fotografiska in New York City until 10 January 2021

(source: The Guardian)


Frostproof triple homicide: State to seek death penalty against T.J. Wiggins in slayings

The State Attorney’s Office will seek the death penalty against Tony “T.J.” Wiggins, who’s accused in the July triple homicide of three longtime friends in Frostproof.

Prosecutors filed a notice in Circuit Court on Tuesday stating their intention, citing 2 reasons for that decision:

• If Wiggins is convicted in all 3 killings, each one would serve as a previous conviction of a capital felony for the other 2.

• The killings were committed to avoid or prevent arrest or to escape custody.

Dottie Payton, whose 28-year-old son, Brandon Rollins, was among those who died that night, said Wednesday she’s relieved.

“It doesn’t bring back my son or the other boys,” she said, “but it’s a start to get this going in the right direction. Why let him sit in jail and breathe free air when our boys never get to breathe free air again.”

A memorial was erected along Lake Streety Road in Frostproof for triple murder victims, top to bottom, Brandon Rollins, Damion Tillman and Keven Springfield.

Rollins, along with Keven Springfield, 30, and Damion Tillman, 23, was gunned down July 17 within minutes of meeting at Frostproof’s Lake Streety for some night fishing. In a statement to Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives, Wiggins’ younger brother, known as Robert, said he was there when his brother pulled up on the 3 men, walked over to Springfield and accused him of stealing his truck. Wiggins, 26, then opened fire on the three men, who were still in or near their trucks.

As he lay dying, Rollins called his father, Cyril, who raced to Lake Streety Road to help them. He spoke with his son briefly, then left to call 911, reports stated. He had forgotten his cellphone when he left to help his son, according to reports.

Wiggins, of Frostproof, was arrested 3 days later after a store receipt in Tillman’s truck led detectives to a surveillance video at a nearby Dollar General, reports stated. Tillman and Wiggins could be seen talking in the video, and a store clerk told detectives Tillman had mentioned he was meeting Springfield to go fishing.

Further investigation led to Robert Wiggins’ statement about the shooting, according to Sheriff’s Office reports.

The grand jury indicted Tony Wiggins last month, formally charging him with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of tampering with evidence and 1 count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Robert Wiggins, 21, told detectives his brother had tossed the handgun out the window after the killings, and that information led to the tampering charge.

The younger Wiggins and his brother’s girlfriend, Mary Clare Whittemore, 27, are both charged with three counts of accessory after the fact to a capital felony, each of which carries up to 30 years in prison if they’re convicted. He’s being held without bail and she remains in custody under $45,000 bail, jail records show.

The court filing came one day before an online petition asking prosecutors to pursue a death sentence reached its goal of 1,000 signatures.

Erin Peralta said she initiated the petition on to support the families of those who were killed and to seek justice for them.

“T.J. Wiggins already has a very violent history,” she said, “and to carry out the horrific murders like he did, and it was so brutal, we wanted to get the ultimate justice for our guys.”

She said the group still intends to pass the petition along to prosecutors, even though the decision has been made to pursue the death penalty.

“When it comes time for his sentencing,” she said, “to me, this is more support for them to present to the judge for the death penalty.”

In any death penalty case, prosecutors are restricted to 16 statutory reasons for seeking death, including the killing of a child or an on-duty law enforcement officer, a killing that is heinous, atrocious or cruel, or a killing for pecuniary gain. There is no limit to how many of the 16 reasons prosecutors can argue.

Defense lawyers have a broad scope of reasons for seeking a mandatory life sentence — the only sentencing alternative for a first-degree murder conviction.

Wiggins is scheduled to return to the courtroom Nov. 3 for a status hearing.

(source: The Ledger)


Supreme Court to decide for Jackson if state’s death penalty protocol is invalid

The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear whether the state’s execution protocol is invalid because it didn’t go through the proper rule-making procedures.

The court’s decision sets up another potential complication for Ohio’s death penalty, which has been under an effective moratorium since 2018 as state officials have struggled to find execution drugs.

By a 4-3 vote, the Supreme Court accepted 2 appeals filed respectively by the 2 Ohioans who are next on the state’s execution schedule: Lima native Cleveland Jackson and Cincinnati’s James O’Neal.

The appeals claim Ohio’s 3-drug lethal-injection protocol is a rule and, under the law, all state-level rules must be first filed with the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, as well as either the secretary of state or with the director of the Legislative Service Commission.

Ohio’s execution protocol is invalid because it wasn’t filed with any of those bodies, attorneys for O’Neal and Jackson argue.

Jackson was convicted of murdering 17-year-old Leneshia Williams and 3-year-old Jayla Grant in Lima during a 2002 apartment robbery. His execution date, which has been rescheduled 6 times, is currently set for June 15, 2023.

O’Neal, a Cincinnati man convicted of shooting his wife to death in 1993, is set to be put to death on Feb. 18, 2021.

2 lower courts previously sided against O’Neal and Jackson. The Tenth District Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio’s execution protocol isn’t a “rule” but rather “an order respecting the duties of employees.” Rules, the appeals court held, govern “day-to-day procedures or operations,” but executions do not occur on a daily basis.

In each of the 2 cases, Justices Michael Donnelly, Judith French, Sharon Kennedy, and Melody Stewart voted to accept the appeals. Donnelly and Stewart are the 2 Democrats on the court.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, as well as Justices Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine, dissented.

Since taking office last year, Gov. Mike DeWine has frozen Ohio’s death penalty for a different reason: the state’s continuing problems with finding a pharmaceutical company willing to sell drugs for use in executions.

The governor has repeatedly expressed his concern that if companies find that Ohio used its drugs to put people to death, they will refuse to sell any of its drugs (not just the ones used in executions) to the state. That would endanger the ability of thousands of Ohioans - such as Medicaid recipients, state troopers, and prison inmates - to get drugs through state programs.

Any new cocktail of lethal-injection drugs must also be deemed by the courts not to be unconstitutionally “cruel and unusual” punishment.



Oklahoma judge rules triple killing occurred on tribal land

A death row inmate in Oklahoma is likely to get a new trial in federal court after a judge determined that the victims in the case were tribal citizens and the killings happened on Indian land, as determined by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

McLain County District Judge Leah Edwards issued the ruling Tuesday in the case of Shaun Michael Bosse, 38, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2010 killing of Katrina Griffin and her 2 young children. All 3 victims were found inside a burning mobile home near Dibble, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City.

The ruling stems from a U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer that found that Congress never disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation and that the state of Oklahoma therefore lacks criminal jurisdiction in cases involving defendants or victims who are tribal citizens when the crime occurs on tribal lands. Although the Supreme Court’s decision applied to the Muskogee (Creek) Nation, several other Oklahoma-based tribes have similar historic reservations, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole nations.

Although Bosse is not a tribal citizen, the court determined that Griffin and her children were Native Americans and that the crime occurred on land inside the Chickasaw Nation’s historic reservation.

“He’s benefiting from the people he killed,” said District Attorney Greg Mashburn, whose office prosecuted Bosse. “It would be a travesty of justice if he got anything less than death.”

Bosse’s attorney didn’t immediately reply to a Wednesday phone message seeking comment.

The case now returns to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, which will determine how to handle dozens of appeals of inmates who claim they were wrongfully prosecuted in state court.



Attorney for Oklahoma death row inmate claims new evidence

An attorney for an Oklahoma death row inmate testified Wednesday that he has found new potential witnesses who might be able to help his client’s case but who would be prevented from testifying by a state law because his client’s appeals have been exhausted.

Attorney Don Knight, who represents death row inmate Richard Glossip, testified before the House Public Safety Committee during a hearing about the future of the death penalty in Oklahoma.

Glossip was convicted of ordering the beating death of Oklahoma City motel owner Barry Van Treese in 1997 and was sentenced to die. Another man, Justin Sneed, admitted to robbing and beating Van Treese with a baseball bat, but said he did so only after Glossip promised to pay him $10,000. Sneed was sentenced to life in prison.

Knight, who joined Glossip’s defense team after his appeals were exhausted, claims he also hasn’t been able to access all of the evidence and files in the case. Among the new witnesses Knight says he’s found are a dancer at a club near the motel who could testify that Sneed previously plotted to rob victims at the motel, and an inmate incarcerated with Sneed in 1997 who recalled Sneed talking about a plan to rob Van Treese.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, whose office prosecuted Glossip before Prater took office, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about Knight’s comments. But Prater has said previously that he’s confident in Glossip’s guilt and that, if necessary, he would retry Glossip and seek the death penalty.

Oklahoma once had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers, but a moratorium on capital punishment has been in place since 2015 following three consecutive flawed executions. Glossip himself was just hours away from being executed in 2015 when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug.

Although the state has revamped its execution protocols and obtained a new source of lethal drugs, Attorney General Mike Hunter told the committee that a challenge to the procedure in federal court is likely to continue at least into early 2021.

Of the 56 inmates currently on death row in Oklahoma, 31 have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting an execution date, said Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow.

Rep. Kevin McDugle, a Republican from Broken Arrow, requested Wednesday’s study because of concerns that Oklahoma’s laws could result in an innocent person being put to death in Oklahoma.

“I’m trying to find out what can I do to make this process better,” McDugle said. “I’m not about ending the death penalty by any means, but I want to make sure we’re not executing an innocent person either.”

Among the statutory changes McDugle said he’s considering are that attorneys for death row inmates have access to all evidence and files in the case and that any newly discovered evidence in a case can be presented to a judge.

(source: Associated Press)

NEBRASKA----female faces death penalty

Jury finds Nebraska woman guilty of dismembering Tinder date

A jury found a woman guilty Wednesday of the killing another woman who disappeared after a Tinder date and whose dismembered remains were later found in trash bags along rural Nebraska roads.

Jurors took less than 4 hours to find Bailey Boswell, 26, guilty of 1st-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and improper disposal of human remains in the 2017 killing of 24-year-old Sydney Loofe of Lincoln, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Boswell's defence had argued she was forced by her boyfriend to go along with the killing and dismemberment, but state prosecutors said Boswell acted in tandem with Aubrey Trail, 54, to meet and kill Loofe.

Boswell could become the 1st woman sent to death row in Nebraska when she's sentenced at a later date. Trail was found guilty last year and also faces a possible death penalty.

Investigators say Boswell arranged a date with Loofe, a Lincoln store clerk, through the dating app Tinder for Nov. 15, 2017 -- the same day officials say Loofe was killed. Loofe was reported missing by her family, and a massive search was launched. Her remains weren't found until Dec. 4, when her dismembered body was found stuffed into garbage bags that had been dumped in a field near Edgar, about 90 miles (145 kilometres) southwest of Lincoln.

(source: Associated Press)


Case Against Utah County for Retaliatory Firing of Lawyer Who Criticized Inadequate Funding of Death Penalty Appeal Moves Closer to Trial

A federal district court judge has issued an order moving closer to trial a lawsuit filed against a Utah county for the alleged retaliatory firing of a lawyer who had publicly criticized the county for refusing to adequately fund his client’s death-penalty appeal.

In an opinion published September 30, 2020, Judge Howard C. Nielson, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah denied a motion filed by lawyers for Weber County, Utah to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Samuel Newton that claimed the county had violated his First Amendment right to free speech for terminating a contract to provide appellate representation to indigent defendants in response to his efforts to obtain funding for interviewing and presenting witnesses and additional briefing during his representation of death-row prisoner Douglas Lovell.

The court flatly rejected Weber County’s argument that Newton was simply an “ordinary public employee” acting in the course of his official administrative duties when the county fired him for criticizing its alleged unwillingness to adequately fund Lovell’s appeals. A defense attorney “‘speaking on behalf of the client,’” Judge Nielson declared, “is emphatically ‘not the government’s speaker.’” The county, Nielson wrote, could not “terminate an attorney whom it has engaged to represent indigent criminal defendants based on his or her official communications without further First Amendment scrutiny.”

Judge Nielson also rejected the county’s contention that Newton’s speech was not protected by the First Amendment because it involved personal contractual matters, rather than matters of public concern. “To the contrary,” Judge Nielson wrote, “these communications implicated matters such as whether the County was underfunding the defense in a high-profile capital case, whether the County was seeking to limit Mr. Newton’s communications with his client, and whether the County was second guessing and undermining Mr. Newton’s ‘exercise of independent judgment on behalf of the client.’”

Although the court allowed Newton’s First Amendment claim against the county to move forward, it dismissed the portions of his complaint seeking damages against the county commissioners in their individual capacities, finding that they had qualified immunity against suit. Judge Nielsen also dismissed Newton’s claim that the commissioners and the county had engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice by “operat[ing] in concert to violate [his] rights.”

Before his appellate defense contract was cancelled by Weber County, Newton had a separate contract with the county to represent Douglas Lovell in the appeal of his 2015 death sentence. That contract provided for up to 500 hours of appellate services at a rate of $150 per hour. Based on evidence uncovered during Newton’s representation, the Nevada Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing on alleged investigative failures by Lovell’s trial lawyer and the possible interference by the Church of Latter-Day Saints with the testimony of bishops who had worked with Lovell in prison. Having reached the funding limit authorized in his initial agreement with the county, Newton asked for further funding in August 2017, estimating that it would take an additional 500–750 hours. The county said it would pay no more than $15,000, publicly accusing Newton of overbilling, unnecessarily interviewing witnesses the county claimed were irrelevant, and meeting too frequently with his client. The county refused to move off its $15,000 offer even after Newton reduced his request to an interim authorization of $37,500 for further work.

Newton then sought to withdraw from the case, citing the underfunding and the toll the dispute with the county was taking on his health. The county had placed him in a “terrible catch-22,” Newton said: either he could “represent Mr. Lovell zealously and lose his livelihood or compromise Mr. Lovell’s case and save his practice.”

After the court granted his request to be taken off the case, Newton continued speak out about Weber County’s failure to properly fund Lovell’s appeal. In October 2017, claiming that Newton had “made various representations to the media and to the court that have been untruthful and harmful to the county’s reputation,” the Weber County commissioners terminated Newton’s contract to provide indigent appeals services to the county in other cases two years before its scheduled expiration date.

The dispute over the funding of Lovell’s death-penalty appeal is an outgrowth of systemic issues in Utah’s provision of counsel in capital cases. The state has created a trust fund administered by the Utah Indigent Defense Commission to defray the costs of capital-defense representation. All but five Utah counties make an annual payment into the trust to ensure funding is available in the event of a capital prosecution in their county. However, Weber County — which has long been criticized for underfunding defense lawyers in death penalty cases — does not contribute to the fund, placing it on the financial hook for the entire cost of representation of indigent capital defendants at trial and on appeal.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)


A Man On San Quentin’s Death Row Was Just Over 18 Years Old When Convicted 36 Years Ago ... Will A Federal Judge’s Ruling Release Him?

In 1983 in Orange County, California, William A. Noguera was arrested, tried and convicted of murder. He was little more than 18 years old and had no prior convictions. His sentence was enhanced because of testimony from a mentally disturbed man who stated that Noguera was motivated by a $50,000 life insurance policy of the victim. That testimony has since been recanted but the sentence for Noguera was final, the death penalty. For the past 35 years, Noguera has lived life on notorious San Quentin’s death row.

In 1994, after more than a decade of incarceration, U.S. District Judge Alice Marie Stotler (District of Central California) accepted Noguera's appeal and proceedings began in what Noguera thought might lead to his release from prison. However, for the 25 years, the attorney general in California, along with delays by Judge Stotler stalled Noguera's prayers for relief through appeal. In an interesting move, Judge Stotler retired and instead of passing the case to active judge, she took it into retirement. Noguera waited several more years. Stotler passed away in June 2014 with no ruling on Norguera’s case.

In 2017, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled that Noguera's death sentence conviction be overturned and that he be released in 120 days. Finally, after 34 years in prison, most of it spent on death row, Noguera seemed to be heading for freedom. Not so fast.

Within days of Judge Snyder’s ruling, the attorney general in California filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit arguing that Judge Snyder did not have jurisdiction to rule on the case without an evidentiary hearing ... something the same attorney general had argued since 1994 that "No evidentiary hearing is required since Noguera was not entitled to any relief".

Since Judge Snyder’s ruling, another 3 years have passed and Noguera, now 56 years old, still awaits for the wheels of justice to turn.

The irony in all of this is that laws already exist in California, that if applied to Norguera, would lead to the same consideration that others have been given. Attorney Zoe Jordan wrote a paper in December 2019 on the California legislature’s consideration, but ultimate failure, of excluding the death penalty for those who are under 21 years of age at the time of their crime. Jordan wrote that “punishment must be limited to those offenders who commit a narrow category of the most serious crimes’ and whose extreme culpability makes them ‘the most deserving of execution.’ In Roper v. Simmons, decided in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, under the United States Constitution’s “cruel and unusual” punishment standard, the death penalty could not be imposed on a juvenile, a person under the age of eighteen ... since the Roper decision, a new national consensus has developed concerning the minimum age eligibility for the death penalty. This consensus is based on numerous psychological and neurobiological studies that have led many scholars, researchers, scientists, and should not be sentenced to death because they are psychologically similar to attorneys to agree that young adults, persons under the age of 21, juveniles and, therefore, less culpable than older adults.”

For years, laws have existed in California to avoid excessive sentences, including capital punishment, for underage offenders. These laws (SB 9, 260, 261 & AB 1308) did not excuse nor give youth offenders a pass for crimes they may have committed, but it did acknowledge a consideration that some adolescence make huge mistakes but, through extensive programming in a corrections environment, might deserve a second chance. The result was to place a cap of 25 years in prison for many youth offenders. It is still a long time in prison, but if they served their time and proved that they rehabilitated through strict standards set by California, they would be eligible for a parole hearing. This does not mean that they would automatically be granted parole, only that they have a chance at parole, which itself has strict supervision guidelines. However, Noguera is still in the middle ... a 56 year old man on death row while politicians decide whether he gets another chance at freedom.

When Proposition 7 was passed in 1978 (also known as California's death penalty law) no one knew about brain development and the scientific evidence these new laws are based upon. As a result, youth offenders were lumped together with hardened criminals, serial killers, etc... the worst of the worst. So how many people would be released if any of these laws were enacted? Most experts say it would be someone like Noguera.

In the interest of justice, California lawmakers should correct this problem by passing laws to enhance the already in place laws to include teenagers like Noguera. Recently these same lawmakers passed SB 1437, known as the Felony Murder Rule, which basically states a person cannot be charged with a murder if they did not actually pull the trigger. Prior to this. People were charged with murder if they were present when the crime happened. But this new law changed this. Of course, the attorney general sued stating that SB 1437 changed Prop 7 and therefore must be stricken because it went against the will of the people who voted for Prop 7 in 1978. The courts disagreed and SB 1437 was upheld. So there can be change.

California's Prop 7 may be unconstitutional for teens who were sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole but the legislation has not moved forward. California Senator Nancy Skinner recently introduced SB 889 which raises the age of juveniles to 19. Noguera has filed this very argument in the California Supreme court and it was shuffled to a lower court where it still sits today. Noguera has written hundreds of letters to Senators, Congressmen and even both Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsome, but neither seem interested.

Noguera has done a lot to change his life since being incarcerated. Since 1983, Noguera, earned a law degree, is a model prisoner, lectures through a state approved phone to MBA School's, is an award winning visual artist, and a critically acclaimed author of Escape Artist: Memoir of a Visionary Artist On Death Row. He was assigned by the Warden of San Quentin to care for disabled and elderly prisoners, is the founder of the East Block Advisory Committee who reported directly to the warden on matters that resulted in better communications and lower incidences of violence between inmates and staff. He has accomplished more than anyone gave him credit for when he was ordered to San Quentin.



Scott Peterson murder convictions ordered re-examined

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a 2nd look at Scott Peterson's conviction for killing his pregnant wife and unborn son, less than 2 months after it overturned his death penalty.

The court sent the case back to San Mateo County Superior Court to determine whether Peterson should receive a new trial, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The court said a juror committed “prejudicial misconduct" by failing to dislose that she had been involved with other legal proceedings. The juror had filed a lawsuit in 2000 to obtain a restraining order after her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend harassed her while she was pregnant, the Times said.

The juror said she feared for her unborn child.

Yet when asked as a potential juror whether she had ever been a crime victim or involved in a lawsuit, she answered no, Peterson's attorneys told the Times.

In a case that garnered worldwide attention, Peterson was convicted in 2004 of 1st-degree murder of Laci Peterson, 27, who was 8 months pregnant. He also was convicted of second-degree murder of his unborn son, Connor.

He has maintained his innocence.

Laci Peterson disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002. Her husband, who was living in Modesto, told police that he had left that morning to go fishing in Berkeley.

Prosecutors contended that Peterson dumped their bodies from his fishing boat into San Francisco Bay, where their bodies washed ashore nearly four months later. They were found a few miles from where Peterson had said he was fishing.

Investigators chased nearly 10,000 tips and considered parolees and convicted sex offenders as possible suspects. Peterson was eventually arrested after Amber Frey, a massage therapist living in Fresno, told police that they had begun dating a month before his wife’s death, but that he had told her his wife was dead.

In August, the state Supreme Court overturned Peterson's death sentence. The justices cited “significant errors” in jury selection.

The court said potential jurors were improperly dismissed after saying they personally disagreed with the death penalty but would be willing to follow the law and impose it.

(source: Associated Press)


New data: Solitary confinement increases risk of premature death after release----Any amount of time spent in solitary confinement increases the risk of death after release from prison, including deaths by suicide, homicide, and opioid overdose.

A recently published study of people released from North Carolina prisons confirms what many have long suspected: solitary confinement increases the risk of premature death, even after release. Personal stories, like those of Kalief Browder’s isolation and subsequent suicide, are canaries in the coal mine.

Underneath seemingly isolated events, researchers now find that solitary confinement is linked to more deaths after release from prison.

These preventable deaths aren’t outliers; in the U.S., where the use of solitary confinement is widespread, an estimated 80,000 people are held in some form of isolation on any given day, and in a single year, over 10,000 people were released to the community directly from solitary.

Premature deaths – by suicide, homicide, or opioid overdose – after release from prison are more likely for those that spent any amount of time (even one day) in solitary confinement than those who have never experienced solitary confinement.

The new study shows that the effects of solitary confinement go well beyond the immediate psychological consequences identified by previous research, like anxiety, depression, and hallucinations.

The authors, from the University of North Carolina, Emory University, and the North Carolina Departments of Public Safety and Public Health, find that any amount of time spent in solitary confinement increases the risk of death in the first year after individuals return to the community, including deaths by suicide, homicide, and opioid overdose.

Reentry is tumultuous and challenging to begin with, and the first two weeks after release are among the most difficult. Previous research has shown that, within those first two weeks, the risk of death from drug overdose, cardiovascular disease, homicide, and suicide is elevated. A 2007 study found that the risk of death in these first two weeks can be up to 12 times higher than that of the general population. Building on that study’s findings, this new North Carolina study finds that the experience of any solitary confinement more than doubles the risk of death for people recently released from prison.

The study identifies 2 additional factors correlated with a heightened risk of death after release: race and the amount(length and frequency) of solitary confinement. All incarcerated people of color are more likely to die within a year of release, and the experience of solitary confinement only amplifies this racial disparity.

A previous study found that, compared to their share of the total prison population, Black men and women are overrepresented in solitary confinement, exposing them disproportionately to its harms. And unsurprisingly, more frequent placements in solitary confinement — as well as longer stays — are associated with worse outcomes across both white and nonwhite populations.

This graph is based on the Cox Propotional Hazard ratio, which represents the risk of death while accounting for variables like sex, race, age, prior incarcerations, length of incarceration, and other factors as calculated by the authors of the study.

This study adds to the overwhelming body of evidence that solitary confinement causes indelible harm and should be prohibited. But until that happens, the authors recommend that discharge plans and public health systems should consider time spent in solitary confinement as a risk factor to be addressed when people are released from prisons.

By considering solitary confinement in discharge plans, reentry programs and professionals could connect people to services after release from incarceration, specifically trauma-informed, community-based substance use and mental health treatment, overdose prevention and harm reduction, and wraparound care and services.

Of course, there is no need to wait until a person is released from prison to address the long-lasting harms of solitary confinement. Programs and professionals working in prisons that use solitary confinement should use this information to provide services that focus on breaking the link between solitary confinement and premature death after release. Correctional systems should not wait to mitigate harms after they have already occurred: Solitary confinement causes far more harm than good and is not a “rehabilitative” process.

(source: Prison Policy Initiative)


Kazakh Foreign Minister Speaks Out Against Death Penalty on World Day

Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi addressed a high-level conference dedicated to World Day and the 10th anniversary of the International Commission against the Death Penalty and spoke out against death penalty, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry press service reported.

The meeting gathered heads of foreign ministries, United Nations representatives and human rights experts from around the world, who explored the role of international efforts in reducing the number of death sentences and the eventual abolition of the death penalty.

In his remarks, Tileuberdi supported the commission’s initiative aimed at declaring Central Asia and Mongolia the 1st region in the world free of the death penalty. He stressed Kazakhstan’s commitment to upholding the fundamental right to life and human dignity.

The meeting participants also commended the decision of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to join the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in September. Tokayev announced that Kazakhstan will join the treaty at the high-level session of the 75th UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Sept. 23.

The signing of the Second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty goes in line with the nation’s efforts to gradually humanise the criminal legislation of Kazakhstan. The international treaty will enter into force after its ratification by the Kazakh Parliament.

Kazakhstan has maintained a moratorium on the death penalty since December 2003. Article 15 of the Kazakh Constitution states that the “death penalty is established by law as an exceptional punishment for crimes involving the death of people, as well as for especially grave crimes committed during wartime.”

(source: The Astana Times)


Rape is ‘monstrous’, but death penalty not the answer: UN rights chief

Sentencing rapists to death, as Bangladesh did Thursday, is not an appropriate punishment even for such a heinous crime, the UN rights chief said.

“Tempting as it may be to impose draconian punishments on those who carry out such monstrous acts, we must not allow ourselves to commit further violations,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

Her comment came after a Bangladesh court sentenced 5 men to death Thursday for the 2012 gang-rape of a 15-year-old girl.

It marked the 1st conviction since the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week introduced the death penalty for rape.

Gang-rape already carried the death sentence, but rape by a single offender had previously been punishable only by life imprisonment.

Bachelet cited the law change in Bangladesh, but also calls in a number of other countries to impose the death penalty for rape.

She highlighted calls in Pakistan for public hanging and castration of rapists, and a law introduced in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kaduna last month imposing surgical castration followed by execution in rape cases where the victim is under 14.

“The main argument being made for the death penalty is for it to deter rape – but in fact there is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than other forms of punishment,” Bachelet said.

“Evidence shows that the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, deters crime.”

She stressed that in most countries, “the key problem is that victims of sexual violence do not have access to justice in the first place.”

This was due to a range of factors, including “stigma, fear of reprisals, entrenched gender stereotypes and power imbalances,” she said, stressing that handing the death penalty to perpetrators would not remove those barriers.



Alyea Begum acquitted after 13 years in condemned cell

A 4 member Appellate Division bench, headed by Chief Justice Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, pronounced the verdict on Wednesday, after concluded hearing of a jail appeal.

The Appellate Division has acquitted Aleya Begum from charges of killing her daughter in law--Muslima Khatun, 24, and her2-years- old grandson Keya in 2000 at Narail.

The top court also reduced punishment of Shahan Shah Tito Shikder, husband and father of two deceased, from death penalty to life imprisonment in the case.

A four member Appellate Division bench, headed by Chief Justice Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, pronounced the verdict on Wednesday, after concluded hearing of a jail appeal.

Advocate ABM Bayezid represented the accused during the hearing.

According to the case documents, on July 14, 2000, Muslima Khatun and her daughter Keya found dead in a pond near their house at Narail. At the same day, Jiku, 22, brother-in-law of Masuma committed suicide while they were found dead.

Although police recorded an unnatural death case after the incident, but later filed a murder case. Police arrested four persons, Shahan Shah Tipu Shikder, his mother Alyea Begum and two sister Tanjina and Rupa in connection with the case.

On April 13, 2007, the Narail Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal pronounced death penalty for all of the accused.

The High Court, on June 19, 2011, upheld the tribunal’s verdict for Shahan and Alyea, but announced 7-years-imprisonment and Tk20,000 fine for Tanjina and Ruma, in failure more 6 months imprisonment.

In an another jail appeal, the Appellate Division on Wednesday upheld death penalty for Sirajul Islam after concluded the in charges of killing his wife Shahida Akhter.

On March 7, 2004, Shahida Akhter murdered in her Siraj’s house at Habiganj. Later on September 9, next year police arrested Sirajul Islam, after hearing of the case the speedy trial tribunal in Sylhet, on February 28, 2007, pronounced death penalty for him.

Later on August 2008, the High Court upheld the trial court verdict.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


Law without enforcement pointless: BNP

BNP senior leader Gayeshwar Chandra Roy on Wednesday said the there is no let-up in rape incidents in the country even after making the death sentence as the punishment for the heinous crime lacks in enforcement.

“Apart from reports on death sentence for rapists, there’re news on seven rape incidents in today’s (Wednesday’s) newspapers. People knew it seven days back that the punishment for rape would be made death sentence, but there’s no respite from rape. The reason is there’s no enforcement of the law,” he said.

Speaking at a discussion, the BNP leader also said there was law and provision in the past to punish the rapists within 90 days under the speedy trial tribunal, but most of the trial process in such cases never ended even by 9 years.

“We wouldn’t have required the death penalty for rape had we been able to make the trial process effective and end the trial by 90 days since life term punishment means jail unto death,” he observed.

Jatiyatabadi Dal Somobai Dal arranged the programme at the Jatiya Press Club, marking its 10th founding anniversary.

Amid the widespread protest against the rise in rape incidents, President Abdul Hamid on Tuesday promulgated an ordinance increasing the punishment in rape cases to the death sentence from life-term imprisonment.

Gayeshwar, a BNP standing committee member, said there is no point in making any law if its enforcement is not ensured.

"There’re many laws on paper, there are many things also on paper. There’re many things written in our constitution and there’re many laws in the country that are enough to deal with such a social menace, but we only need their enforcement,” he said.

The BNP leader alleged that the government itself does not obey the constitution. “So, who’ll obey the law when those who made those violate the constitution?”

He said there is no alternative to ‘restoring’ democracy in the country to get rid of the current situation. “The current social degradation and widespread plundering are an outcome of lack of democracy in the county. Where there’s no democracy, there are no human rights. Where there are no human rights, there’s no public security and where there’s no rule of law, basic rights can never be enjoyed.”

Gayeshwar called upon all to get united and take to the streets together for establishing their rights and ensuring the rule of law and good governance in the country.

(source: UNB News)


Death penalty for rape stokes heated debate

Bangladesh's decision to introduce the death penalty for rape has been criticized by international rights groups. Critics say capital punishment is not the solution to the problem of sexual violence in the country.

Bangladesh's Cabinet this week approved an increase in the maximum punishment in rape cases to death from life imprisonment after a series of recent sexual assaults triggered protests on streets and social media.

Demonstrations have broken out nationwide after harrowing footage of a group of men stripping and attacking a woman went viral on social media. The clip sparked outrage in the South Asian country, where activists say only a tiny percentage of sexual assault victims see justice.

"Over 1,500 rapes were reported in the last 8 months. The number could be higher as many more rapes remain unreported. We are not safe anywhere, not even in our homes. It has to change," a female demonstrator told DW from a protest in Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.

Protests erupted across Dhaka following the release of a video showing a women being sexually assaulted and tortured

"We want to see the death penalty brought in immediately for rapists," she added.

Labonno, another protester — who asserted she was molested on a public bus just before joining the protest — believes that Bangladesh has become a country of rapists. "We can't take it anymore. We want to change this situation. That's why I'm protesting against sexual violence," she told DW.

In response to the protests, the Bangladeshi government approved the death penalty measure.

'We don't want this kind of a country'

Is capital punishment a solution?

Nearly 1,000 incidents of sexual crimes were reported between January and September, more than a fifth of them being gang rapes, according to local human rights organization Ain-o-Salish Kendra. Its statistics suggest a sharp rise in such crimes in the country, especially in the past 2 years.

Experts, however, said tougher penalties would not be enough to tackle the problem and that authorities needed to immediately address systemic problems in rape trials and the extremely low conviction rates.

"It's a bad decision, not only because capital punishment is inherently inhumane and should be abolished, but because it is not a real solution to sexual violence," Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"There is no conclusive evidence that capital punishment curbs any crime, including rape, and it could end up deterring reporting or even encouraging rapists to murder their victims to reduce the likelihood of arrest," she added.

A 2013 survey conducted by the United Nations found that, among men in Bangladesh who admitted to committing rape, 88% of rural respondents and 95% of urban respondents said they faced no legal consequences.

Many rapes go unreported in Bangladesh because women fear being stigmatized

Ganguly said that the South Asian country's criminal justice system needs to be improved to ensure that sexual assault crimes are properly investigated and prosecuted. "The low conviction rate for rape in the country gives rapists every reason to be confident that they will get away with their crimes," she said.

Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, a South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, echoed a similar opinion. "Executions perpetuate violence, they don't prevent it," he said in a statement, adding: "Instead of seeking vengeance, the authorities must focus on ensuring justice for the victims of sexual violence including through delivering the long-term changes that would stop this epidemic of violence and prevent it from recurring."

It 'will reduce rape'

However, Miti Sanjana, a lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, is of the view that capital punishment will help curb sexual crimes. She stressed that her country needs the death penalty.

"I strongly believe that the death penalty is the most severe punishment and that will provide a greater deterrence than life imprisonment. It also registers in the minds of the people that rape is one of the most heinous crimes," she told DW.

She pointed out that Bangladesh's existing laws allow for the death penalty in cases of murder. So, it's highly unlikely that the amendment of the sexual crime-related law will encourage the rapists to murder their victims, Sanjana stressed.

Rights activists blame the increasing number of assaults on a culture of impunity and protection of suspects

"By introducing the death penalty for rape, Bangladesh has recognized rape as one of the most serious crimes, which is certainly a timely response,'' the lawyer said, adding: "Under the amended law, trials in rape cases have to be completed in a speedy manner. It's a key milestone in rape law reform in Bangladesh."

Bangladesh has hanged 23 people since 2013, while at least another 1,718 are on death row. Although many countries worldwide have abolished the death penalty, the South Asian nation has so far not shown any inclination in following this path.

(source: Deutsch Welle)


Supreme Court extends stay order on re-imposition of death penalty

The Supreme Court yesterday extended till October 28, 2020, the stay order issued earlier, on the re-imposition of death penalty on murder convicts.

A group of petitioners has complained that the re-imposition of the death penalty by the retired President Maithripala Sirisena, was inhuman and the violation of the right to life, enshrined in the constitution.

A person is convicted of murder on the evidence available at the trial Court. There can be even a trivial chance that the convict was not the person directly involved in the murder. In a predominately Buddhist country the imposition of death penalty is unethical. It was stopped in the constitution of 1978, they have argued.

Among the respondents are Maithripala Sirisena and the Commissioner General of Prisons.

Yesterday, the petition was called before Justice Buwaneka Aluwihare and Justice L.T.B. Dehideniya.

Among the counsels appearing for petitioners are Romesh de Silva (President’s Counsel) K. Kanag Ishwaran PC, Sanjeewa Jayawardena PC, M. A. Sumanthiran PC, and Saliya Peiris, PC.

The case will be next called before a 5 judge bench on October 27, 2020.



Man gets death penalty for 1992 rape, homicide

A man was sentenced to death for raping and killing a college student 28 years ago in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on Wednesday.

Ma Jigang, now 54, noticed that the student, surnamed Lin, was studying by herself in a classroom at Nanjing Medical University-then known as Nanjing Medical College-on March 20, 1992. He approached her and used an iron bar to force her into the courtyard of a teaching building.

Ma beat Lin's head with the bar repeatedly while raping her because she resisted him. He then dragged her out of the courtyard and dropped her into a well to cover up his crime. Lin's backpack, books and clothes were dropped in a neighboring well.

Lin's body was found 4 days later. Forensics confirmed that she died from mechanical asphyxia caused by drowning and injuries to her head.

Nanjing police investigated more than 15,000 people and asked for assistance from the Ministry of Public Security and the public security bureaus of other provinces. However, due to technological limits, they failed to find any suspect at the time.

In February, Nanjing police received information from Peixian county police that the suspect whose DNA was found at the crime scene was related to a man being investigated in the county. According to the Peixian police, the suspect must be the man's relative.

After excluding 11 male family members who lived in the same village as the man, they investigated the family tree and found that one of the man's cousins who lived in Nanjing and seldom visited the county matched the description of the suspect.

That same month, Nanjing police arrested Ma in a residential community in the city after confirming that his DNA was identical to that of the suspect's semen.

After committing the crime, Ma had worked as a driver for a well-known company in Nanjing for years. His neighbors said that he liked to help people and had a good relationship with them.

Ma said that he thought about turning himself in to police but finally decided to take his chances to elude justice. After police collected his DNA, he also thought about fleeing the city, but he abandoned the plan because the police would catch him easily, according to Fangyuan Magazine.

The day before Ma was arrested, he took his wife for a walk, which he had never done before. He also told his family members that he would like to be the one to answer the door if anybody knocked that night. He preferred not to have children for years after getting married to avoid possible harm to them due to his history.

Lin's mother attended the trial in Nanjing. She had visited the classroom where her daughter was last seen alive every year since her death, but had to stop in 2011 due to poor health.

Lan Tianbin, a lawyer with Dongheng Law Firm, said that the mother might get compensation from Ma, but the amount would be limited.

"In such cases, spiritual damages will not be compensated under current laws," Lan said. "It's controversial, and the laws should be amended. The mother can just receive a direct loss compensation caused by the crime, such as some of the funeral expenses and the basic living expenses for the victim's dependents."



Canada granted consular access to Canadian facing death penalty in China

Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, has been granted consular access to a Canadian detained in China for the 1st time since late January.

In an update released Wednesday afternoon, Global Affairs Canada said Barton was granted virtual access to Robert Schellenberg.

The statement said the agency continues to offer consular services to Schellenberg and his family.

However, Global Affairs Canada said under provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information would be disclosed.

“Canada continues to call for clemency for Robert Schellenberg, as we do for all Canadians facing the death penalty,” the statement reads. “Canada opposes the use of the death penalty in all cases, everywhere, and will undertake clemency intervention in all cases of Canadians facing execution.”

Schellenberg was arrested in December of 2014 and sentenced to death by a Chinese court in January of last year on drug smuggling charges.

The decision came after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on a U.S. extradition warrant in December. Days later, 2 Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were detained in China in apparent retaliation.

More than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized as part of Schellenberg’s case, the court said.

It called the Canadian the “principal offender” and said the evidence presented was “true and sufficient.”

The news of Schellenberg’s consular visit comes days after it was announced Barton had been granted virtual access to both Kovrig and Spavor.

In a statement on Wednesday, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, Francois-Philippe Champagne, said he welcomed the news that consular services had been granted to the 3 detained men, and called on China to “immediately restore regular and consistent consular access to all Canadians in detention.”

He also called for the immediate release of Kovrig and Spavor, and for clemency for Schellenberg.



Prisoner Mehrshad Barahouyi Executed for Drug Charges

A prisoner sentenced to death on drug-related charges, has been executed at Ghaen Prison.

According to the Balouch Activists Campaign, a male prisoner was executed at Ghaen Prison in South Khorasan province on the morning of Tuesday, October 13. He has been identified as Mehrshad Barahouyi.

An informed source said that “Mehrshad did not have any prior criminal records.”

At the time of publication, Mehrshad’s execution has not been announced by domestic media or officials in Iran.

Ghaen is the capital of Ghaenat County and the 2nd biggest city in Khorasan Province.

According to reports collected by Iran Human Rights, 30 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2019.



Iranian wrestler executed by regime exonerated again by new witness----“My sources also name Moslem Rahimi, a supermarket owner, who witnessed the murder, who has stated Afkari was not the killer.”

The British-Iranian investigative journalist Potkin Azarmehr revealed on Wednesday that a new witness has provided additional evidence to the widespread view that Iran’s regime murdered the innocent champion wrestler Navid Afkari for a crime he did not commit.

Human rights groups and sports organizations accused Iran’s regime of framing Afkari for the killing.

“My sources also name Moslem Rahimi, a supermarket owner, who witnessed the murder, who has stated Afkari was not the killer,” Azarmehr wrote on the website of The Investigative Project on Terrorism in a highly detailed account of Afkari’s case.

The supermarket owner is another piece of exculpatory evidence in a long list of documentation that has established Afkari’s innocence. The world-class wrestler was arrested in 2018 for participating in nationwide protests against regime corruption.

Afkari, wrote Azarmehr, explicitly denied during his trial to having murdered Hassan Torkaman, a regime security informant, and “challenged the judge to produce the CCTV footage. The judge, Mehrdad Tahemtan, simply replied ‘I don't need to.'"

Azarmehr is known to have solid sources across the Islamic Republic of Iran for his groundbreaking reports over the years.

“Navid's torturers wanted him to confess to killing Hassan Torkaman and implicate his brothers. One of Navid's 2 brothers twice tried to kill himself because he found the tortures so unbearable,” wrote Azarmehr.

Afkari has become a cause célèbre because Iran’s regime summarily executed the Greco-Roman champion wrestler on September 12 without any semblance of a fair trial or due process protections, according to human rights organizations and legal experts.

Azarmehr wrote that “Afkari's execution generated global condemnation after his sentence sparked an international campaign to save him, but in the end, he was brutally tortured and arbitrarily executed to send a message to the millions of Iranian dissidents within Iran.”

He continued that “Iran denied that Afkari's death sentence was for participating in the protests. Rather, it claimed the champion wrestler murdered a regime security agent, Hassan Torkaman, who took part in the crackdown on protesters in Shiraz, in August 2018.

"When a regime security agent is killed, the case cannot remain unresolved. A scapegoat must be found and what better than to blame a protester? Navid was chosen to be that scapegoat.”

AZARMEHR'S REPORT contains previously unreported biographical information on the executed 27-year-old wrestler. “Afkari's family however, like the vast majority of Iranians, never got a share of what the revolution promised. Navid spent his childhood selling chewing gum and balloons on the streets to help the family make ends meet and had to leave school in his teens.”

According to the report, Afkari “developed a love for wrestling. He entered his 1st tournament at age 14, placing second nationally. His wrestling accolades continued when he was conscripted in the armed forces, and he won the bronze medal in the Armed Forces Greco-Roman wrestling tournament. After his service ended, he worked as a plasterer while wrestling when he could.”

Azarmehr noted that Afkari has become a figure of domestic significance with Iran. “Navid however, became a national hero. For those Iranians, the Islamic Republic's noose around Navid's neck was a gold medal for courage in the struggle against a tyrannical regime that has suppressed the Iranian people's talents and aspirations in the last four decades," he wrote.

He continued that "There was an outpouring of sorrow and condemnation by many Iranians. Government repression has so far prevented mass demonstrations for Navid and his brothers, but the pent-up anger has been manifested in other ways. Posters and graffiti declaring him as a national hero adorned many walls across Iran, and thousands used Navid's picture for their social media profiles.”

Azarmehr ended his article by saying: “It now remains to be seen whether the international bodies and governments will let the Islamic Republic get away with Navid's unjust execution.”

He concluded that "If they refuse to speak out, they will only further embolden this rogue regime to carry out even more arbitrary executions of its political opponents.”

(source: Jerusalem Post)


Malawi revives death sentence amid albino killings

GENDER based violence, amid the eruption of the coronavirus (COVID-19) scourge globally, has been denounced as a 2nd pandemic.

Adding insult to injury, in Malawi, a 3rd pandemic has emerged in the form of a recurrence of the murder of people living with albinism.

Aptly, the government has taken drastic action against this menace, with the sentencing to death of a 30-year-old father and his accomplice (aged 24) to death for killing a 1-year-old baby with albinism set to be a deterrent to perpetrators.

The High Court in the central region of Kasungu has slapped capital punishment on the evil father, White Chilumpha, and his malicious accomplice, James Kanjira.

Another perpetrator, Laston Phiri (24) was slapped with a 10-year prison term.

The child was killed in April after she was abducted while sleeping with her mother in a local village.

Law enforcers recovered bones the accused had removed from the baby.

The motive behind the abduction and the murder could not be ascertained but in Malawi, false beliefs prevail that body parts of people living with albinism are a source of luck.

There are also misconceptions that families where these vulnerable members of the community are born are cursed.

The death sentences imposed in Kasungu are the first to be effected this year as the government tightens its crackdown against murderers of people with albinism.

4 people were slapped with the same sentence last year.

3 of them were involved in a single case.

Malawi had not carried out any executions since 1994. Death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.

Critics have over the years argued government was complicit in the murder of people with albinism because of lack of deterrent action against perpetrators.

Hence the heightening calls for capital punishment.

The immediate past administration of Peter Mutharika laid the foundation against these evildoers.

With the recent sentencing in Kasungu, the government of Lazarus Chakwera, at the helm since June this year, appears to be maintaining the stance.

Last week, Chakwera appointed Overstone Kondowe as special adviser on People Living with Albinism and Disability.

There are 134 000 people with albinism in Malawi, a country of over 18 million people.

Human rights groups have reported 150 cases of albino killings, attacks and other human rights violations reported here over the past 5 years.

Malawi has confirmed 5 761 cases of COVID-19, including 179 deaths.


OCTOBER 14, 2020:


For Native Americans, first genocide then the death penalty

Henry Berry Lowry, a Lumbee from Robeson County, led a multi-racial guerilla war against powerful whites and was known as the Robin Hood of North Carolina.

[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Racist Roots: Origins of North Carolina’s Death Penalty, a comprehensive project by the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. The project includes more than 30 pieces, including essays and opinion, interviews, poems and artworks. It also chronicles the death penalty’s evolution over time, and connects each piece to a broader historical framework. Visit the website to see these essays in their original format and explore the ways they connect to the death penalty’s history.]

Most people know this country was “settled” by Europeans who waged war and subjected Native Americans to genocide. Less well known is how the government has used the death penalty to subjugate and terrorize Native people.

During the Civil War, even as the Union fought to free enslaved Americans, the United States executed nearly 40 members of the Eastern Sioux tribe. 38 men were hanged in Mankato, Minn., in December 1862, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The condemned were sentenced to death by a military court following the Dakota War, a battle between European immigrants and Native Americans defending their land.

In North Carolina during the Civil War, Confederate authorities conscripted Native Americans as laborers. Native Americans were forced to work on military fortifications at Fort Fisher in Wilmington, for example. In Robeson County, a Lumbee farmer named Allen Lowry led members of his tribe in resistance to Confederate authorities. Rather than work as forced laborers along the Cape Fear River, the group hid in swamps.

Confederates also suspected Lowry of fomenting rebellion by enslaved Blacks. In March of 1865, as Sherman’s Army neared Robeson County, Allen Lowry and his son William were accused of illegal possession of firearms. After a hasty trial, they were convicted and executed the same day.

Over the next decade, Allen Lowry’s surviving son, Henry Berry Lowry, led a multi-racial guerilla war against powerful whites. The Lowry Gang, made up of Native Americans, Blacks, and whites, raided plantations and distributed food to poor people. They later killed the head of the Ku Klux Klan. The Governor set a bounty on their heads, and by 1872, most if not all of the Lowry Gang were dead at the hands of the military and law enforcement.

North Carolina has executed seven Native Americans since the creation of the state-run death penalty. The state conducted a double execution in 1943, when it put Harvey Hunt and Purcell Smith, both in their 20s, to death on the same day for raping a white woman.

The state conducted another double execution in 1949, when Native Americans Leander Jacobs and Hector Chavis were executed for a Robeson County robbery and murder. It took 11 minutes for the men to die in the gas chamber, seated side by side in two wooden chairs.

First, our government committed genocide against Native Americans, enslaved them, and took their land. Now, after decimating the Native population and leaving many in poverty, it continues to disproportionately target them with the death penalty.

Under North Carolina’s so-called “modern” death penalty, Anson Maynard, a Lumbee, received the death penalty for shooting a man and sinking his body in the Cape Fear River. Seven days before his execution in 1992, Gov. Jim Martin commuted his sentence. Martin said an extensive review of the evidence left him “not convinced that Anson Maynard pulled the trigger.”

In 2003, North Carolina executed Henry Hunt, a Lumbee, despite serious questions about his guilt in a Robeson County double homicide. Hunt passed two polygraphs and no physical evidence linked him to the killings. Moreover, his codefendant swore in an affidavit that he and his brother committed the murders and Hunt was not involved. Law enforcement withheld critical information at trial and destroyed other case records. Invoking Crazy Horse’s battle cry at Little Big Horn, Hunt’s final statement before he was executed by lethal injection was, “It’s a good day to die.”

Today, 8 Native Americans live on North Carolina’s death row. One of them is Paul Cummings, who is Lumbee. Paul’s grandfather, Jerry Cummings, was sentenced to death in Robeson County. Jerry lived nearly 30 years on death row before he died of natural causes in 2016. He spent a dozen of those years caged near his grandson Paul, who came to death row in 2004, after he was sentenced to death in Wilmington, 20 miles from Fort Fisher.

A Michigan State University study of North Carolina’s death penalty showed that, between 1990 and 2010, Native Americans were nearly twice as likely to receive the death penalty as whites, even after controlling for factors like the seriousness of the crime — and the ulitimate punishment is used most intensely against Native Americans who kill whites.

In Robeson County, home to North Carolina’s largest Native population, prosecutors were six times more likely to seek the death penalty if the defendant was Native American and the victim was white. And Native American defendants convicted of killing white people in Robeson County were nearly 23 times more likely to be sentenced to death.

First, our government committed genocide against Native Americans, enslaved them, and took their land. Now, after decimating the Native population and leaving many in poverty, it continues to disproportionately target them with the death penalty.


ALABAMA----death row inmate dies

Alabama’s longest-serving death row inmate dies from pneumonia at 61

Alabama death row inmate Arthur Lee Giles, who served more than 40 years behind bars, has died from pneumonia. He was 61.

At the time of his death on September 30, Giles was the longest-serving inmate on death row. He was never executed after repeatedly appealing his sentence.

Giles was 1 of 2 men convicted in the 1978 murders of Carl and Wilene Nelson in Blount County, Alabama. Giles was 19 at the time and worked for the Nelsons picking fruit and vegetables on their farm. He and his accomplice, Aaron Jones, were convicted of going to the Nelson home to rob them, and then shooting the man and woman with a gun and stabbing them. Giles and Jones also stabbed and shot the Nelsons’ 3 children and Carl Nelson’s mother, all of whom survived. Jones was executed in 2007.

Giles was sent to death row for the 1st time in 1979. An appeals court overturned his case, but he was convicted again in 1982. In 1991, a sentencing hearing landed him back on death row, where he remained for the rest of his life. During that sentencing, 11 jury members chose death and 1 chose life without parole.

An obituary for Giles reads, “He fought his death sentence steadfastly, and remained ever hopeful that he would obtain relief in the courts. At the time of his death, his case was pending before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.”

The obituary further stated that Giles had been suffering from brain and lung cancer since 2018. It also alleged that Giles felt remorse for the crimes he committed as a young man.

“Art humbly acknowledged mistakes in his past, which resulted heavily from the extremely adverse and impoverished conditions in which he was raised, and he sought to demonstrate to everyone around him — attorneys, prison guards, and other inmates on death row — that he was a very different man in prison from the teenager he had been before, and that he sought to spread love, hope, perseverance and faith to everyone he encountered,” the obituary read.

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, there are currently 170 inmates on death row. The department no longer lists Giles in its database.



'I just never stopped fighting': Curtis Flowers, now a free man, gives his first interview----After 6 trials and more than 20 years on death row, Curtis Flowers talks with APM Reports' In the Dark podcast host Madeleine Baran.

Curtis Flowers, a Mississippi man who was tried 6 times for the same crime, gave his 1st interview since his murder charges were dropped to a reporter whose investigative podcast helped set him free.

Flowers recently spoke at length with Madeleine Baran, host and lead reporter of American Public Media's podcast In the Dark, about his life and the legal saga that resulted in his imprisonment for more than 20 years.

In the Dark will drop the full interview in an episode on Wednesday.

"I used to hear guys talk who’d been there 20, 30-some years on death row," Flowers told Baran. "I hear one guy say, 'It’s not being executed and killed, what bothers me. It’s the anticipation of it because you never know when.'

"Hearing things like that, you know, it just showed me how some people just give up. And I just never stopped fighting," Flowers said.

In the Dark began investigating Flowers' case in 2017 and continued to cover major developments through this year.

“Up until now, we’ve been missing the voice of the central figure in this story,” Baran said in a statement. “It was incredible to speak face-to-face with the person whose case we know so well, but whose own perspective we haven’t been able to share until now. We look forward to sharing Curtis’ own story with the In the Dark listeners who have followed this story along with us.”

Curtis Flowers' story, in his own words

American Public Media shared segments of the interview before the Wednesday release of the full conversation with Flowers. Here's Flowers' story, shared in his own words.

On his arrest:

"I remember police showing up at the door, there was 3 of them. He said, 'Sorry to bother you, I'm looking for Curtis Flowers.'

I said, 'That’s me.' Next thing I know I'm against the wall.

He told me, 'We have a warrant for your arrest back in Mississippi.'

And I said, 'For what?' And he told me and I said, 'Oh that can’t be me.'"

When the jury announced the death penalty:

"It was like having the air sucked out of you, you know. You can’t breathe.

I remember one of the deputies said, 'Your mom want to speak with you.'

And she told me, 'Keep your head up and don’t give up. I know it’s a lie, you know it’s a lie. Don’t give up.'"

Is there anything you’d want to say to (District Attorney) Doug Evans?

"No, no I wouldn’t. Some things you don’t – just don’t need to be said, you know? What’s understood is understood. I feel that Doug was wrong. He knew he was wrong. But as far as a conversation, no."

Flowers, who performed in a gospel choir before his arrest, sang "I Won't Complain" by Rev. Paul Jones:

"I’ve had some good days. I've had some hills to climb. I've had some weary days and some lonely nights. But when I look around and I think things over. All of my good days outweigh my bad days. And I won't complain."

What happened in Curtis Flowers' case?

In 1996, 4 people were shot, execution-style, at Tardy Furniture in Winona. Flowers, who had briefly worked at the furniture store, was accused of the murders.

Over about two decades, the white prosecutor, Evans, tried Flowers, a Black man, an unprecedented 6 times for the murders, but could not get a guilty verdict to stick. Two of Flowers' trials ended with hung juries. The other 4 trials resulted in convictions which were later overturned by higher courts due to prosecutorial misconduct, including racial discrimination during jury selection.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Flowers' 2010 conviction because justices found that Evans had deliberately excluded Black people from the jury.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch dropped the case against Flowers in September, ensuring that Flowers would not be tried a 7th time.

Samara Freemark, managing producer of In the Dark, said in a statement: “When we started covering this story, we could not have predicted that our reporting would have such an impact. It’s been a remarkable experience to discover the depth of this story and how it speaks to larger systemic issues in our justice system.”

(source: Clarion Ledger)


Ohio Supreme Court to decide whether state’s death penalty protocol is invalid

The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear whether the state’s execution protocol is invalid because it didn’t go through the proper rule-making procedures.

The court’s decision sets up another potential complication for Ohio’s death penalty, which has been under an effective moratorium since 2018 as state officials have struggled to find execution drugs.

By a 4-3 vote, the Supreme Court accepted 2 appeals filed respectively by the 2 Ohioans who are next on the state’s execution schedule: Cleveland Jackson and James O’Neal.

The appeals claim Ohio’s 3-drug lethal-injection protocol is a rule and, under the law, all state-level rules must be first filed with the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, as well as either the secretary of state or with the director of the Legislative Service Commission.

Ohio’s execution protocol is invalid because it wasn’t filed with any of those bodies, attorneys for O’Neal and Jackson argue.

2 lower courts previously sided against O’Neal and Jackson. The Tenth District Court of Appeals ruled that Ohio’s execution protocol isn’t a “rule” but rather “an order respecting the duties of employees.” Rules, the appeals court held, govern “day-to-day procedures or operations,” but executions do not occur on a daily basis.

In each of the 2 cases, Justices Michael Donnelly, Judith French, Sharon Kennedy, and Melody Stewart voted to accept the appeals. Donnelly and Stewart are the 2 Democrats on the court.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, as well as Justices Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine, dissented.

Since taking office last year, Gov. Mike DeWine has frozen Ohio’s death penalty for a different reason: the state’s continuing problems with finding a pharmaceutical company willing to sell drugs for use in executions.

The governor has repeatedly expressed his concern that if companies find that Ohio used its drugs to put people to death, they will refuse to sell any of its drugs (not just the ones used in executions) to the state. That would endanger the ability of thousands of Ohioans – such as Medicaid recipients, state troopers, and prison inmates – to get drugs through state programs.

Any new cocktail of lethal-injection drugs must also be deemed by the courts not to be unconstitutionally “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Jackson was convicted of murdering 17-year-old Leneshia Williams and 3-year-old Jayla Grant in Lima during a 2002 apartment robbery. His execution date, which has been rescheduled six times, is currently set for June 15, 2023.

O’Neal, a Cincinnati man convicted of shooting his wife to death in 1993, is set to be put to death on Feb. 18, 2021.


Prosecutors seek potential death penalty for Canton man accused of killing Akron man, 1-year-old daughter

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh announced Tuesday a grand jury has added death penalty specifications to the indictment of a Canton man accused of using his vehicle to fatally strike a 43-year-old man and his 1-year-old daughter.

Shawn Allen, 36, has been charged with aggravated murder, murder, failure to stop after an accident, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse, according to Summit County Common Pleas Court records.

Horace Lee was walking with his 22-month-old daughter, Azeria Tucker, in a stroller just after 1 a.m. on July 12 on Crouse Street near the University of Akron when they were struck, according to police and prosecutors.

Investigators identified Allen as a suspect because he and Lee had an altercation outside a nearby bar, prosecutors say.

“This was an awful tragedy,” Walsh said in a statement. “Mr. Lee and his [nearly] 2-year-old daughter were targeted and purposefully run over and left to die. My office will fight for Horace, his little girl, and their family. The death of a child is one of the worst forms of criminal conduct in our society. After a thorough examination of this case, seeking the death penalty is appropriate.”

Allen is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 13 for a hearing.

(source for both:


Pervis Payne: Black Caucus joins request for death sentence commutation

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators has joined in the request that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee commute Pervis Payne's death sentence to life imprisonment.

They are making their request because Payne is intellectually disabled, members of the caucus wrote in a letter to the governor sent Friday, and both the U.S. and Tennessee supreme courts have ruled against executing people with intellectual disabilities.

"The possibility that an innocent man might be executed is the single greatest reason why the death penalty must be imposed rarely, and only when all procedural safeguards have been rigorously enforced," the caucus wrote. "Those safeguards have not been protected in Mr. Payne’s case."

Payne is scheduled for execution Dec. 3 for the 1987 deaths of Millington woman Charisse Christopher, 28, and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie. Christopher’s 3-year-old son, Nicholas, survived multiple stab wounds in the brutal attack that took place in Christopher’s apartment.

Call on Gov. Lee: Pervis Payne's attorneys call on Gov. Lee for mercy: 'You are the solution to the problem'

Payne's attorneys asked Lee for clemency earlier this month. Lee has not granted any requests for clemency in a death penalty case since taking office in 2019. So far, there have been four executions during his administration.

A spokesperson for Lee said his office had received the request from Payne's attorneys and “will give it a thorough review.”

The Black Caucus is currently working on legislation to fill a "procedural hole" that will allow people like Payne to bring their claims of intellectual disability before the court.

Payne’s multiple attempts to have his claim of intellectual disability heard have been denied for procedural reasons.

However, the caucus will not be able to present their legislation until January, after Payne's scheduled execution.

"That leaves the burden of preventing a miscarriage of justice upon you, Governor Lee," members of the caucus wrote. "Only you possess the power to prevent an unconstitutional, State sponsored execution by granting clemency to citizen Mr. Payne."

Payne has maintained his innocence for 33 years, saying at trial that he heard cries and entered the apartment after the Christophers had been stabbed, where he placed his hand on the knife lodged in Christopher’s throat, trying to help. When a white police officer arrived, Payne, who is Black, said he panicked and ran, fearing he would be seen as the prime suspect.

Currently, advocates for Payne also await the results of DNA testing of evidence from the crime scene. The evidence — some of which has since been lost — has never been tested for DNA, and testing was for the first time approved by a Shelby County judge in mid-September. Testing the DNA on the remaining evidence, including the murder weapon and a tampon removed from Christopher’s body during the assault, is expected to be completed in mid-November.

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office has maintained that regardless of what DNA testing shows, the evidence to convict Payne of the crimes was overwhelming.

“For 30 years the defendant has been trying to run from what he did that day — run from what a jury sentenced him to," Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said in a written statement earlier this month. "Countless state and federal courts have reviewed this case — including the United States Supreme Court. Each time, the same result: they find the evidence against the defendant overwhelming and his explanation unbelievable. That is because you can’t outrun the facts of this case — the truth about what the defendant did and how this family suffered and is still suffering."

An officer saw him leaving the scene of the crime drenched in blood, and Payne admitted to being there. His baseball cap was found looped around the 2-year-old victim's arm, and his fingerprints were found on a beer can inside the apartment.

In federal court, Payne’s attorneys have also filed a petition asking the court to prevent his execution until hearing his claim that he is intellectually disabled.

According to that complaint, a 2019 analysis by a forensic psychologist concluded that Payne had an IQ score of 72 and a lower score of 68.4 when corrected for “outdated testing norms.”

Payne's attorneys and supporters have said often that racism played a role in his prosecution and conviction.

"In addition to exploiting his vulnerability due to intellectual disability, the prosecutors concocted a story of a drug-addled and sex-crazed Black man preying on a defenseless white woman," the caucus wrote. "This narrative played into deeply held racist stereotypes in a county with a notorious history of lynching Black men for perceived insults to the “honor” of white women. It is hard to imagine that these themes did not have an unfair impact on the jury that sentenced Mr. Payne to death."



Federal Prosecutors Seek Supreme Court Review of Appeals Decision Overturning Death Sentence in Boston Marathon Bombing

Federal prosecutors have filed a petition in the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to review a federal appeals court ruling that overturned the death sentence imposed on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (pictured) in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

On October 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a petition for writ of certiorari challenging the July 31 ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that Tsarnaev’s right to an impartial jury had been denied when the trial judge failed to question 9 of the 12 impaneled jurors on the content of their exposure to the extensive pretrial publicity about the case. Prosecutors also challenged the appeals court’s decision that the trial court improperly excluded mitigating evidence relating to his brother Tamerlan’s involvement in a prior triple murder that would have supported Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s argument that Tamerlan was more culpable and that Dzhokhar was acting under the dominating influence of his older brother.

In August, Attorney General William Barr vowed to “do whatever’s necessary” to return Tsarnaev to the federal government’s death row. “We will take it up to the Supreme Court and we will continue to pursue the death penalty,” he said at that time.

In asking the Court to review and overturn the judgment of the First Circuit, federal prosecutors stressed the circumstances of the offense and the logistical consequences of having to retry the case. The petition states: “To reinstate the sentences that the jury and the district court found appropriate for respondent’s heinous acts, the government will have to retry the penalty phase of the case; the court will have to conduct (and prospective jurors will have to undergo) a voir dire that will presumably be much longer and more onerous than the original 21-day proceeding; and the victims will have to once again take the stand to describe the horrors that respondent inflicted on them.”

The prosecutors characterized the appeals court ruling as requiring that “a district court must always grant counsel’s request to ask every prospective juror in a ‘high profile case’ what they had ‘read and heard about the case,’” and called the appeals court’s rule “rigid” and “inflexible.” In its decision, the circuit court noted that the government had initially requested that the trial judge inquire into the substance of jurors’ exposure to publicity and that the trial court had planned to ask those questions until prosecutors changed their mind.

After the jury was impaneled, defense counsel learned that 2 of the jurors, including the one that eventually became foreman, had published several social media posts about Tsarnaev following the bombing. One juror tweeted that Tsarnaev was a piece of garbage and on the day of the sentencing changed her Facebook profile picture to an image that said ‘Boston strong.’

Federal prosecutors also argued that the trial court properly excluded evidence of Tamerlan’s lead role in a triple murder on the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Such evidence, they said would “sidetrack the penalty-phase proceeding in this case by inviting the jurors to solve a different crime” and “had no significant probative value” on the extent and circumstances of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s involvement in the marathon bombing. In any event, the prosecutors said, any error in excluding the evidence was “harmless.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)


Most Pinoys buck death penalty – study

7 out of 10 Filipinos, when provided with alternative punishments other than the death penalty, would not support capital punishment, a new study by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) showed.

The study, “Analyzing Factors Affecting Filipino Opinion about Death Penalty,” was commissioned as early as 2018 and is perhaps the first of its kind in the Philippines on the topic of capital punishment, said CHR commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit.

Conducted in partnership with the Australian National University, the research used a nationwide “deliberative polling” of 2,000 respondents through a series of questions that probed their thought processes and perceptions behind death penalty, instead of simply asking them whether they were in favor of the punishment.

“This method also shows us that if people are given options, their responses will be more diverse, and can convey what they truly believe in,” Dumpit said.

The CHR has been vocal against the Duterte administration’s attempts to resurrect the death penalty, which was abolished during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term in 2006. The commission is instead urging the government to uphold its commitments under international law and to push for restorative justice policies.

Survey belie hard truths

But lawmakers seeking to reinstate the death penalty often cite high public support based on national surveys, said Iremae Labucay, researcher and senior survey specialist for the Social Weather Stations.

But often these surveys belie some hard truths: that Filipinos’ basis for such opinions were often based on flawed research on capital punishment.

“Public opinion swings toward favoring the death penalty but as one goes beyond the tip of the iceberg, layers and masses of conditions and intentions abound, depicting a commonality of yearning for an efficient, impartial justice and due process for all,” the researchers said.

Indeed, their findings revealed a more layered portrait of Filipinos’ perceptions on restorative justice and death penalty.

For one, there was indeed moderate support (60 %) for the death penalty, and most agree this should only apply for people found by the courts to have committed heinous crimes.

6 in 10 Filipinos, meanwhile, believed that capital punishment “somehow provides some sense of justice of the victims.”

However, when presented with alternative punishments, such as reparative payments or prolonged sentences, around seven in 10 favored such methods in restorative justice over capital punishment.

Likewise, a majority of Filipinos also prefer prison terms for those convicted of serious drug crimes—a surprising finding considering President Duterte’s take-no-prisoners approach under his brutal war on drugs, supposedly propelled by public demand.

Overall, however, only three out of 10 Filipinos have expressed the strongest support for the death penalty.

This could mean public support for capital punishment may actually just reflect the “policy inclinations of the government, only because the government framed the death penalty as the only solution without providing options for alternative punishments,” the research concluded.

(source: Philippine Daily Inquirer)


Court Calls Off Death Penalty For M'sian Who Smuggled 500G Of Drugs Into Singapore----He was sentenced to death in January this year by Singapore's High Court.

A Malaysian man escaped a death sentence when the Singaporean Court of Appeal decided to acquit him on Tuesday, 13 October, of a charge for being a drug courier.

According to The Straits Times, the court found there were sufficient grounds that the accused, Beh Chew Boo, was not completely aware that he was committing a crime when he was arrested for being in possession of 499.97g of methamphetamine at Woodlands Checkpoint, Singapore in 2016.

The 38-year-old was sentenced to death in January this year by the country's High Court.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong found that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Beh knew that he was transporting drugs.

He was arrested on 26 October 2016 while trying to cross the causeway when Police Constable Israel Rajan stopped him for a routine immigration check.

Beh and his girlfriend were riding a motorcycle that was owned by his friend and former colleague, Lew Shyang Huei, who Beh told the court he often borrowed the motorcycle from to enter Singapore as the toll fees were cheaper.

The policeman found several packages of a crystalline substance inside the storage compartment of the motorcycle and immediately arrested the duo. Investigations later confirmed the substance was methamphetamine.

When questioned, Beh said that he did not know the drugs were in the motorcycle and also denied that they were his.

He also claimed that he did not know the contents of the packages until they were opened.

However, Beh admitted that he recognised the drugs that were seized as he had consumed 'yao tou wan' (the Chinese term for meth) a few days before at a party hosted by his friend, Lew.

Judge of Appeal Tay said there were factors to the case that justified Beh's acquittal and the court convicted him of the charge accordingly.

Investigations found that Lew's fingerprints and DNA were found on the interior and exterior of the packages, but none from Beh was found.

"Lew was linked inextricably to the drug bundles in the motorcycle. Only his DNA was on the drug bundles, a fact which the prosecution accepted as suggesting that Lew was the person who packed the drugs," said Tay.

"In the unique circumstances here, we are of the view that Beh's account was not inherently incredible," he added.

Even though he was acquitted, Beh will continue to be in remand until the court decides to proceed with 4 other charges related to the case.

Meanwhile, Lew had been arrested and sentenced in July 2018 to seven years in prison for unrelated drug charges. He was not called to testify at Beh's trial.?



Can the death penalty end Bangladesh's rape crisis?----Critics say capital punishment is not an effective solution to social issues that trigger crimes like rape

Following days of angry street protests demanding justice including the death penalty for some brutal gang rapes in Bangladesh, the government has decided to introduce capital punishment for the crime, triggering a debate over whether it can really bring an end to sexual violence committed with impunity.

Anisul Huq, Bangladesh’s law minister, said on Oct. 12 that the cabinet has approved a draft amendment to the Women and Children Repression (Prevention) Act 2000 that includes the death penalty for rape. The amendment will come into effect with an executive order from President Abdul Hamid as parliament is suspended during Covid-19.

Under the existing law, the maximum punishment for rape is life in prison or the death penalty when the victim is killed or dies from injuries sustained during the assault.

The government move is in response to criticism at home and abroad as well as nationwide street protests for nearly a week following several high-profile gang rape cases in Bangladesh. Protesters have called for the death penalty and strict enforcement of the law to curb an alarming rise in rape cases and an extremely low rate of trials and convictions.

A 37-year-old housewife was gang-raped, beaten, stripped and filmed naked while begging for mercy from her tormentors in Noakhali district on Sept. 2. The video was circulated on social media 32 days later to socially ostracize the woman as having an “immoral character.” The viral video sparked a massive public backlash and forced law enforcers to hunt and arrest nine accused rapists.

The victim told a team from the National Human Rights Commission that the leader of the same notorious local criminal gang raped her several times before terrorizing her with weapons.

The brutal rape came days after a newly married woman was raped by 6 men at a college campus in Sylhet district on Sept. 25. It was a day after the gang rape of an indigenous Chakma woman with an intellectual disability by 9 men in Khagrachhari district of Chittagong Hill Tracts.

According to data from the One-Stop-Crisis Center, a multisectoral mechanism for preventing violence against women, only 3.56 % of cases filed under the Women and Children Repression (Prevention) Act 2000 have resulted in a court judgment and only 0.37 % of cases ended with convictions.

Dhaka-based rights group Ain-O-Salish Kendra (ASK) documented 975 rape cases including 208 gang rapes in Bangladesh from January to September this year. It recorded 1,413 rape cases in 2019, about double the 732 in 2018.

No mercy for rapists

Shakhawat Hossain, 25, a postgraduate sociology student at Dhaka University, has taken part in massive protests in capital Dhaka to demand the death penalty for rape.

He believes the death penalty and implementation would send a message to society and the state that a heinous crime like rape is absolutely unacceptable.

“Rape has engulfed our society and state, and today no woman is safe from rape. Rapists are worse than animals and they don’t deserve mercy to live anymore. We thank the government for approving the amendment to the law and introducing the death penalty. We demand completion of all rape cases in the quickest possible time and handing down of punishment to rapists,” Hossain told UCA News.

The traditional social latitude for males and political patronage should be stopped and laws enforced so that justice can take its own course without any external or internal influence, he noted.

“Impunity is part of the criminal justice system, which must end now. The law must be enforced strictly everywhere and no perpetrators should be spared,” Hossain added.

Death penalty is not a solution

Rights and women activists as well as a Catholic Church official equivocally dismissed the death penalty as a solution to deplorable crimes like rape.

“The death penalty is not acceptable from a human rights perspective. The law is not a problem but the main obstacles are in a system that makes justice impossible, prolonged and favorable to influential criminals,” Nina Goswami, a Supreme Court lawyer and senior deputy director of ASK, told UCA News.

“If we cannot ensure the end of impunity and proper and speedy functioning of the legal system, there would be no result from the death penalty. The rape cases won’t end up in judgments and convictions.”

Rita Roselin Costa, a women's and social activist, is skeptical about the death penalty and fears it might trigger even more killings of rape victims.

“The death penalty might instill a bit of fear in the rapists but I don’t think it can really curb the rape menace. The rapists now might think of murdering the victim and hiding the body in order to get away with the crime, and that’s a real danger for women,” Costa, convener of the women’s desk at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, told UCA News.

However, as a citizen aggrieved over rising rapes, she thinks the death penalty can be put in place as “rapists who commit the crime or kill victims don’t really deserve to live.”

“The most important thing is to ensure a fair and quick justice system for rape cases. On the other hand, the government and non-government organizations should address the issue of moral degradation and decline of social values everywhere in society and the state,” Costa added.

Father Albert T. Rozario, a member of the Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said the Church denounces the death penalty as it opposes the taking away of life in any form, even through the justice system.

“The government has introduced the death penalty under public pressure, which the Church cannot support. By putting forth the death penalty, various problems that trigger crimes like rape and impunity are being bypassed. The death penalty might reduce rape or sexual violence to some extent, but it is no way an effective solution when we don’t tackle other issues like impunity, moral decline and sheltering of criminals,” Father Rozario told UCA News.



Death Penalty Not the Answer to Bangladesh’s Rape Problem----The Government Should Institute Real Reforms, Provide Services, Remove Barriers to Justice

The Bangladesh government has approved new measures to use the death penalty as punishment for rape, after widespread protests in response to several recent gang rape cases.

It’s a bad decision, not only because capital punishment is inherently inhumane and should be abolished, but because it is not a real solution to sexual violence. There is no conclusive evidence that it curbs any crime, including rape, and it could end up deterring reporting or even encouraging rapists to murder their victims to reduce the likelihood of arrest.

Bringing in the death penalty is easy. What takes work – and is urgently needed – is to overhaul a justice system in which survivors are systematically ignored and maligned, and to ensure they have access to health services and legal support. Sexual assault crimes are underreported, but even when survivors take the brave step of reporting the crime, their cases are rarely properly investigated or prosecuted. In Bangladesh, the low conviction rate for rape gives rapists every reason to be confident that they will get away with their crimes.

Earlier this year, the High Court ordered the Law Ministry to form a commission within 30 days to address the troubling rise of sexual violence. Over 9 months later, the commission still hasn’t been created. Activists are also calling on the government to pass a witness protection law which the Law Commission first drafted almost 15 years ago. Women’s groups helped draft a sexual harassment law years ago, but this too hasn’t moved forward.

The Rape Law Reform Coalition – which brings together many women’s rights groups, and explicitly opposes the death penalty for rape – drafted a 10-point to-do list that the Bangladesh government could start on today. This includes changing the definition of rape to include all victims, regardless of gender identity or marital status, prohibiting the use of character evidence in rape trials, training police and court officials on sexual and gender-based violence, and providing sexuality education to all children.

The real question is whether the government will take the easy way out, or finally listen to activists and start real reform.

(source: Human Rights Watch)


World Day against Death Penalty

The World Day against the Death Penalty was jointly marked by the Australian and New Zealand High Commissions on October 9 in Nuku'alofa.

Australian High Commissioner, HE Adrian Morrison noted Australia’s commitment to universal human rights and opposition to the death penalty, at a reception held at his residence.

This year's theme for World Day against the Death Penalty is ‘Access to counsel: a matter of life or death’.

He said effective legal representation is important in all trials but particularly so in death penalty cases, where it can literally be a matter of life and death.

“We urge Tonga to take the next step of abolishing death penalty in law, and to join Australia, New Zealand and 86 other countries throughout the world in ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.”

The event was an opportunity to reflect on the suffering caused by the death penalty and acknowledge the efforts of governments and civil society to bring about its universal abolition.

Meanwhile, New Zealand High Commissioner, HE Tiffany Babington who co-hosted the event, spoke of her government’s support for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

She said they consider states to have an obligation to protect the rights of their citizens, including their right to life.

“We welcome the fact Tonga has not applied the death penalty since 1982, being abolitionist in practice, reflecting our shared views on the sanctity of life, and look forward to the day when the death penalty is removed from Tonga’s laws.”

The last execution in Tonga took place in 1982. Since then, Tonga has maintained a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, although it remains in law as a punishment for murder and treason.

At the end of 2019, about 106 countries (a majority of the world’s states) had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, and 142 countries (more than two-thirds) had abolished the death penalty in law or practice. To date, all Pacific nations have abolished the death penalty entirely except for two, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

Pesi Fonua, Editor of Matangi Tonga, said that in1981 the murder convictions of four men had resulted in the last hangings in Tonga at Vaini. It was another 24 years until a jury delivered a guilty verdict for a murder conviction. The sentence for murder is either life imprisonment or death by hanging. The verdict is a matter for the jury, and the sentence is for the presiding Judge of the Supreme Court. Any death sentence passed must be confirmed by His Majesty the King. In 2005 and 2008 two death penalites were commuted to life imprisonment. Since then, there have been several jury trials in Tonga on the charge of murder but none of the juries have passed a guilty verdict for murder, preferring a lesser charge of manslaughter.

The World Day against the Death Penalty event was attended by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Lord Fakafanua, Hon Mr Justice Laki Niu, church leaders, civil society, media and government representatives.



Four Prisoners Executed at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj

Yesterday morning, four death row inmates were executed at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. Three of the prisoners had been sentenced to death for murder and one for moharebeh (enmity against God) through armed robbery.

According to Iran Human Rights, four male prisoners were executed in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj yesterday, Tuesday, October 13. The four prisoners had been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their execution on Sunday, October 11, in a group of about 10 death row inmates.

The identities of 3 of the prisoners have been established as Mohammad Yadi, Mehdi Ali and Saman Yameni. The fourth prisoner’s identity has yet to be established at the time of writing.

An informed source who provided the information to IHR, said: “Mohammad Yadi had been a fugitive for 12 years and had also spent 12 years behind bars until his execution. He had taken the rap for his brother so he could flee the country but his brother was killed in a car accident in England. The victim’s family and officials knew that he had nothing to do with the murder but they arrested and executed him.”

The source also said of Mehdi Ali: “He had been involved in the robbery of a gold shop and accused of moharebeh (enmity against God) but he had repented which the court had accepted and had even managed to gain the consent of the victim’s family. Mehdi Ali was actually waiting for the court to issue his release, but to everyone’s disbelief, he was taken for execution.”

Speaking about Saman Yameni, the source continued: “Saman and his brother Sasan were arrested for killing an elderly woman during a robbery. Initially, Sasan had been sentenced to death and Saman sentenced to 15 years in prison, however, Sasan appealed the decision and with the influence of the victim’s family, the appellate court sentenced both to death. They executed Sasan two years ago and today, Saman’s sentence was carried out. This is despite the fact that from the outset, forensic doctors had confirmed that the victim had died of fear and a heart attack.”

Another prisoner, Abolfazl Ghanipour, who was due to be executed today, managed to attain a three month extension from the plaintiffs and was returned to his cell.

At the time of publication, the execution of these 4 prisoners has not been announced by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ annual report, at least 225 of the 280 of those executed in 2019 were charged with "premeditated murder."

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.



South Sudan Cattle Raiders Sentenced to Death by Hanging

A judge in South Sudan's Jonglei state has sentenced 2 men to death for stealing 2 cows and killing the man who owned the animals.

Officials say they hope the judge's sentence will deter other cattle raiders in Jonglei, where cattle raiding and child abductions are rampant.

High court judge John Yiel Aleu sentenced 30-year-old Kuorwel Majok Mayom and 25-year-old Chol Manyiel Jool to death by hanging on Tuesday in the state capital, Bor.

Majok and Manyiel were found guilty of killing John Buol Dut and stealing his cows last December when the cattle were being moved from Bor to Awerial County in Lakes state.

The judge said the death penalty was appropriate for the crimes committed.

"The court followed its procedures and today it passed its judgment that the accused Kuorwel Majok and Chol Manyiel have been convicted under Section 305 and 206 penal code act 2008 and they are sentenced to death," he announced in court.

Michael Khor Dut, a brother to the deceased, welcomed the punishment.

"This gentleman was killed intentionally. Why? Because of his cattle. He was not a cattle keeper, he was just a university student who was taking his cows to the cattle camp," said Dut.

Malueth Nyok, an uncle to both convicted men, called the ruling unfair. Nyok argued there was no direct evidence introduced in court that linked his nephews to Dut's murder.

"There is no evidence that shows that these gentlemen beat the deceased with the stick, no one saw them doing that. We see that cattle get lost and these cattle were lost and that is why they were being kept so that the owner would come and take them," Nyok told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.

The family will appeal the ruling within the next 14 days, according to Nyok.

Strong message

Although cattle raids and child abductions are common in Jonglei state, very few suspected cattle raiders are ever arrested or prosecuted.

Activist David Garang with the Jonglei Civil Society Alliance said capital punishment sends a strong message to would-be cattle raiders.

"If they are sentenced to death, that is the right way of doing it because there is no one who has the right to take another person's life, so it is a very good step for the justice to take its course because this time here we need justice to prevail. If there is justice, then all these atrocities will stop," Garang told South Sudan in Focus.

Garang said communities will only be safe when cattle raiders, child abductors and other perpetrators of serious crimes are arrested and brought to justice.


OCTOBER 13, 2020:


Racial Justice and the Death Penalty at Stake in Ohio Prosecutor Election

After choosing in 2017 not to reindict a University of Cincinnati campus police officer for the fatal shooting of a Black man, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters blamed his failure to get a conviction on racism, while imploring white jurors to “see beyond Black and white.”

In 2015, in the context of an assault case involving Black defendants, Deters said that the reason perpetrators of violence commit such acts is, “there’s no discipline in the homes, they don’t go to school, you know, they live off the government, no personal accountability, and they just beat people up for no reason.”

Deters has spent 22 years—nearly half his adult life—as the elected prosecutor for Hamilton County (Cincinnati). Apart from a period as Ohio State Treasurer, a job for which he ran successfully as a Republican candidate in 1998, he has been Cincinnati’s top prosecutor since 1992.

That is despite his habit of running head-first into controversies by using local media as a megaphone for off-color comments. In addition to the racially problematic statements above, he once told local news that a rape case where a local defense attorney was the victim was “weak” was because “she shouldn’t be having parties with her clients”—while he was allegedly prosecuting the case on her behalf.

Unlike a lot of conservative prosecutors, Deters is an extremely savvy politician and has built a political empire in Hamilton County.

For criminal justice reform veterans, the Hamilton County prosecutor seat has been a focus for years—because Deters has turned Cincinnati into a rare death penalty hotspot above the Mason-Dixon line.

A 2012 investigation by the Cincinnati Enquirer found that under Deters, Hamilton County had the second-highest per capita death penalty sentencing rate in Ohio. First place went to Clark County, an area with approximately 1/6 of Hamilton County’s population of almost a million residents.

Unlike a lot of conservative prosecutors, Deters is an extremely savvy politician and has built a political empire in Hamilton County. As Howard Wilkinson, the senior political analyst at WVXU explained, virtually all of the locally elected judges in town had first served as assistant prosecutors under Deters. Deters is also chummy with Alex Triantafilous, the chair of the Hamilton County Republican Party, and Governor Mike DeWine—with whom he closely cooperated in an attempt to treat accidental drug overdoses, including those in which family or friends supplied the substances, like first-degree murder back in 2014, when DeWine was Ohio’s attorney general.

Unlike almost all other elected prosecutors, Deters has also gone on record in support of marijuana legalization. But that was largely because of political smarts; Deters acknowledged that legalization is “inevitable.”

Fanon Rucker is running against Deters this year. An African-American Democrat who served as an assistant prosecutor and a local judge for 12 years, Rucker represents a serious challenge to the status quo on matters of local criminal justice in one of Ohio’s biggest cities.

In seeming anticipation of his candidacy, he left the bench in 2019 to work as an associate attorney at the prestigious Cochran Firm’s Cincinnati branch. Rucker has been endorsed by progressive organizations like the Democracy for America, and the PAC’s website explains how Rucker has pledged to not seek the death penalty, not prosecute nonviolent drug charges, and more.

While many prosecutor elections are held in off-seasons without a big-ticket national contest, Deters versus Rucker will happen at the same time as President Donald Trump versus former Vice President Joe Biden. Historically conservative, Hamilton County is trending in a more Democrat-friendly direction as of late, but the local population is still almost 70 percent white. That could be tough for Rucker, as 62 percent of white men voters and a majority of white women supported Trump in 2016. Cincinnati has long been known for its large white working class population, which also happens to be the core of Trump’s base.

On criminal justice reform, Hamilton County voters seem to be pretty much split down the middle, however. In 2018, voters had to make a choice on Issue One, an Ohio ballot initiative that would have made drug possession of any drug a misdemeanor, rather than a felony. It failed by 63 to 37 percent statewide. Yet, in Hamilton County, about 48 percent of voters supported what would have been meaningful reform.

Incumbent Deters’ statement about white jurors in his county voting to acquit a white cop who killed a Black man based on racial biases feels strangely prophetic in the context of this electoral contest. If Joe Deters keeps his seat, will it be because Hamilton County voters are too white to see beyond their own biases and identity politics? The answer isn’t certain, but Hamilton County’s prosecutor election will be one of the most watched in the country for good reason.

(source: Rory Fleming is the founder of Foglight Strategies, a campaign research services firm for forward-thinking prosecutors nationwide. He previously worked for the Fair Punishment Project, which was founded as a joint project of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute and its Criminal Justice


McDugle to host study on death penalty

State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, will host an interim study this week focusing on death penalty practices and procedures.

The study will be hosted before the House Public Safety Committee.

It will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday in Room 206 at the Capitol.

Speaking on death penalty cases in Oklahoma will be:

• Don Knight, death row inmate Richard Glossip's attorney

• Craig Sutter, executive director of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System

• Christy Shepherd, the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission

• Bob Ravitz, Oklahoma County public defender

Speaking on the future of the death penalty in Oklahoma will be:

• Mike Hunter, Oklahoma attorney general

• Scott Crow, Oklahoma Department of Corrections director

• Trent Baggett, Oklahoma District Attorneys Council chief executive officer

• Adam Luck, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board



Man accused of killing NHP sergeant deemed sane for trial

A man accused in the March shooting of a Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant has been deemed competent to stand trial following roughly 2 months of treatment for bipolar disorder at a psychiatric facility.

John Leonard Dabritz is accused of killing NHP Sgt. Ben Jenkins on March 27.

White Pine County District Judge Steve Dobrescu ordered in court on Oct. 6 that Dabritz be held at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center for “safekeeping” as he awaits trial in the murder case.

Dabritz faces capital punishment if convicted.

His attorneys plan to use the insanity defense at trial. Dr. Steven Zuchowski testified that Dabritz had been diagnosed with Type 1 bipolar disorder, which he said is a more serious form.

(source: Associated Press)


Supreme Court Native Sovereignty Decision Continues to Reverberate Through Oklahoma’s Death Penalty

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the sovereignty of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation over tribal lands that span much of the eastern half of Oklahoma continues to reverberate through the state’s criminal justice system as prisoners sentenced for murders committed by or against Native Americans on tribal lands challenge the state’s authority to have prosecuted their cases.

The Court’s July 9, 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma already has vacated the conviction and death sentence of Muscogee citizen Patrick Dwayne Murphy for a murder committed on lands the Court held were part of the historic Creek Reservation. On October 5, the Court granted Garry Wilson’s petition to vacate the judgment of conviction against him for a murder he says was committed within the historic boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. And in a case that could establish state-court procedures for prisoners challenging their convictions under McGirt, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordered the McClain County District Court to conduct a hearing to determine whether a triple murder by death-row prisoner Shaun Bosse was committed against citizens of the Chickasaw Nation on lands that are part of the historic Chickasaw Reservation.

Since the 1800s, the Major Crimes Act has granted the federal government — not states — exclusive authority to prosecute major crimes committed by or against Native Americans on their tribal lands. If an accused or the victim is a tribal citizen and the defendant was tried and convicted in state court of an offense occurring on lands recognized by the federal government as “Indian country,” that conviction is void. The legal issue, Native American Rights Fund senior attorney Joel Williams told Discussions With DPIC, “was never about these people going free … [or] that their crimes shouldn’t be punished. The question was, ‘Who should have the authority to do that?’”

While McGirt addressed the question only of whether Congress had disestablished the historic Creek Reservation, the Court’s reasoning applies equally to whether Congress disestablished the reservations of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole nations — the other members of the “Five Civilized Tribes” whom the federal government forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands during the Trail of Tears and relocated onto reservations in Indian Country that later became part of the state of Oklahoma. Legal experts anticipate that the courts, applying McGirt, will rule that Congress also did not disestablish those tribes’ reservations.

Wilson contends that he is a Cherokee citizen and that his offense occurred within the Cherokee Reservation. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has agreed that he is entitled to a hearing to determine the validity of his conviction but does not concede Wilson’s Native American ancestry or that the murder occurred on Indian lands.

Bosse is not Native American but his three victims were members of the Chickasaw Nation. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has not conceded that the murders occurred on the Chickasaw Nation’s reservation and is arguing that McGirt should not apply to defendants who are not tribal citizens. At a September 30 hearing in McLain County District Court, the county District Attorney, Greg Mashburn, contested Bosse’s petition for relief and told the court that the victims’ family members wanted Oklahoma to retain jurisdiction in the case.

The Chickasaw Nation filed a friend-of-the-court brief providing a history of the treaties between the tribe and the federal government and detailing the boundaries of the historical reservation. Bosse’s lawyer, assistant federal defender Michael Lieberman, presented expert testimony to show that the offense occurred on tribal lands. “[T]he law’s the law,” Lieberman said, and “the state of Oklahoma never had jurisdiction in this case.”

Tribal authorities have met with federal prosecutors concerning prosecuting defendants in federal court if their convictions are voided.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)


IACHR Wants Caribbean Countries to Abolish Death Penalty

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is calling on Caribbean countries to impose a moratorium on executions, as a step towards their gradual abolition.

It is also urging regional countries that are members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) to ratify the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The last execution in the region was carried out in St Kitts-Nevis in 2008. No one has been executed in the other countries for more than 20 years and in Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and Barbados for more than 30 years. Many of the Commonwealth Caribbean countries have at least one prisoner, on death row.

World Day Against the Death Penalty was observed last Saturday and the IACHR said that the Inter-American Human Rights System has played a crucial role to establish international standards concerning the death penalty.

It said it was the 1st international human rights organization to examine and assess the consequences of the compulsory application of this form of punishment on the enjoyment of human rights.

“The Commission concluded that the death penalty is incompatible with the rights to life, humane treatment, and due process. For decades, the Inter-American Commission has identified the death penalty as a crucial challenge for human rights. While most member states of the OAS have abolished the death penalty, a significant minority still hold on to this form of punishment.”

The IACHR said that the regional instruments for the protection of human rights “do not ban the death penalty per se, but impose specific restrictions and prohibitions concerning its application.

“The American Convention on Human Rights includes dispositions to restrict the application of the death penalty, with the aim of reducing it until it is finally abolished. There is a global trend in the direction of abolishing the death penalty that is evident in recent developments at the level of the United Nations, regional systems for the protection of human rights, and international criminal law.

“The American Convention reduces the scope for application of the death penalty to only the most serious crimes, and it establishes that it should not be extended to crimes to which it does not currently apply and that it should not be re-established in States that have already abolished. According to the Commission, this is evidence of the Convention’s clear goal of protecting the right to life. Moving toward the abolition of the death penalty therefore needs to be a common goal across the Americas.”

The IACHR, which is an autonomous body of the OAS, said that in this context, it stresses the recommendation held in its report, titled “The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition”, aimed at ending this form of punishment.

“The Commission also urges the States that have not done so to ratify the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.”



The number of women executed under Rouhani reaches 109

The number of women executed in Iran during Rouhani’s tenure as the mullahs’ president reaches 109.

The clerical regime’s Judiciary carried out the execution of yet another desperate woman at dawn on Sunday, October 11, 2020, in the Central Prison of Mashhad.

The desperate woman identified as Razieh, 37, was on the death row for 4 years. Razieh, a single woman head of household, was very poor and committed murder out of poverty. (The state-run ROKNA news agency – October 12, 2020)

With this execution, the number of women executed under Rouhani reaches 109.

The mullahs’ Judiciary hanged Mahtab Shafii, 32, at dawn on September 23, 2020, in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, also known as Rajaiishahr prison.

The Iranian regime hanged two other women in the Central Prison of Mashhad on August 2 and 18, 2020.

World’s top executioner of women

More than 4300 people have been executed in Iran under Rouhani’s tenure. They include 109 women and at least 38 juvenile offenders.

The actual number of executions and particularly the execution of women is much higher. The clerical regime carries out most executions in secret and out of the public eye. No witnesses are present at the time of execution but those who carry them out.

Iran holds the record of the world’s top executioner with the highest number of citizens executed per capita. Iran also holds the world’s record of top executioner of women. These executions are cruelly unjust.

The NCRI Women’s Committee formerly noted that many women convicted of murder in Iran are victims of domestic violence. They have committed murder in self-defense.

The NCRI Women’s Committee has published a list of the women executed during Rouhani’s tenure. The substantiated information is based on news and information published in the state-run media in Iran and other reliable sources inside Iran.

The Iranian Resistance calls for the abolishment of the death penalty in Iran.



Groundbreaking Survey Reveals Iranians' Attitudes Towards the Death Penalty

A survey conducted in Iran during the month of September 2020 reveals that 70% of Iranians either oppose the death penalty completely (44%) or agree with it only in unique cases (26%).

Marking the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) and Iran Human Rights (IHR) will hold a digital press conference to present the results of a survey on the Iranian people’s attitudes towards the death penalty (details below).

This survey, conducted by the GAMAAN Institute between the 3rd and the 11th of September 2020, includes responses from about twenty thousand people living inside Iran. The findings can be generalized to the whole population of literate Iranian residents above 19 years old, who account for 85% of the total adult population of Iran.

Also, according to this survey:

•Only 14% of Iranians favor the death penalty as mandated by the Sharia Law (as it is in the present Iranian Penal Code)

•More than 85% of Iranian people oppose the death penalty for crimes committed by persons under 18 years of age

•86% of Iranians oppose the practice of public executions

•Only 21% of Iranians say they would prefer qisas (death penalty as retribution) over another penalty if an immediate family member were murdered

Iran has the greatest number of executions after China. Under the Iranian penal codes a wide range of offences are punishable by the death penalty. The list includes murder, rape, armed robbery, possession and trafficking of narcotic drugs, espionage, economic corruption, affiliation with armed opposition groups, insulting the Prophet, blasphemy, same-sex intercourse, adultery and being sentenced for drinking alcohol for the 4th time. Iran is also one of the only countries retaining public executions and the death penalty for juvenile offenders.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Director of IHR, observed, “This survey indicates that, contrary to official assertions, Iranian authorities’ death penalty policy doesn’t have the support of the people. The vast majority of Iranian people want to put an end to public executions and the death penalty for child offenders, and they prefer alternative punishments even for serious crimes such as murder. The international community must echo the Iranian people’s voice and call on Iranian authorities to implement fundamental reforms in order to make a significant move toward the abolition of the death penalty.”

According to IHR reports, a majority of people executed in Iran since 2017 had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death under the legal principle of qisas (retribution in kind). Iranian authorities assert that qisas is the right of the plaintiff (the victim’s family) and that most qisas executions take place upon request of the plaintiff.

However, when questioned about their preferred punishment if an immediate family member were murdered, only 21.5% of respondents chose qisas (death penalty as retribution), while more than 50% preferred alternative punishments such as imprisonment.

"Although a State’s obligation to respect human rights should never be subject to popular vote, the results of this survey clearly indicate that public acceptance of capital punishment in Iran is nuanced, with a significant portion of respondents opposed to the death penalty regardless of the crime”, affirmed the WCADP president, Kevin Rivera-Medina.

“Iranian authorities, eager to keep the death penalty, are quick to point out that they are carrying out the will of the people, claiming that the death penalty is fair and mandated by Sharia law. However, with only 14% of respondents agreeing with such a statement, it is evident that the Iranian government’s inaccurate assertions about public opinion are merely pretext for ongoing human rights abuses. Now, more than ever, the Iranian government should heed the Iranian people’s call to abandon qisas and take positive steps to reduce the scope of the death penalty on its territory. Such steps would both reaffirm these views and recognize the worldwide principle of respect for human life", added Rivera-Medina.

On publication of this survey, the WCADP and IHR call for an immediate moratorium on the use of death penalty and the implementation of serious penal reforms limiting the use of the death penalty as a step towards its total abolition in Iran. Iranian authorities’ reforms implemented in the Anti-Narcotic Law in 2017 have significantly reduced the number of executions. But Iran’s execution numbers are still among the highest in the world.

Main findings

All results, diagrams, and tables presented here are based on the “weighted sample” extracted from respondents inside Iran. The findings can be generalized to the whole population of literate Iranian residents above 19 years old, who account for 85% of the total adult population of Iran, with the respective credibility intervals and credibility level of 5% and 95% (which replace the margin of error and the confidence level in online non-probability surveys).

2.1 General attitudes

The survey asked respondents about their opinion on the death penalty. About 44% opposed the death penalty regardless of the crime and 26% agree with the death penalty in unique cases only. Almost 13% agree with the death penalty as a punishment mandated by Sharia law and 14% agree with the death penalty as punishment for premeditated murder.

The survey results show that women oppose the death penalty slightly more often than men. Those who voted for Hassan Rouhani or did not vote in the 2017 presidential election are 3 times more likely to oppose the death penalty than those who voted for Ebrahim Raisi. Of those who voted for Raisi, 37% agree with the death penalty as a punishment mandated by Sharia law.

2.2 Cases

Respondents were asked in which cases they agreed with the possibility of the death penalty and could choose multiple options.

Figure 3 shows that the highest rate of agreement with the death penalty was for cases of “serial murder and massacre [qatl-i ‘am],” with 50% of the population in favor of the death penalty for these crimes. 32% also agree with the death penalty for rape, 32% for premeditated murder, 29% for extensive embezzlement and corruption, 18% for espionage and treason, 17% for major drug trafficking, 11% for kidnapping, 9% for armed robbery, and 8% for armed operations against the political regime.

About 14% of the population agree with the death penalty as a punishment mandated by Sharia law (for crimes such as apostasy, blasphemy, and adultery).

2.3 Justifications

Respondents were asked their opinion on various death penalty-related statements.

The responses show (Figure 4) that 68% of the target population disagree with the statement that “the death penalty prevents crime and makes society safer” and 67% do not believe that “the death penalty brings justice.” Further, 60% hold that “the death penalty promotes and normalizes violence in society” and 57% disagree that the death penalty “gives the victim’s family closure.”

Moreover, 62% believe that the judiciary should set the type and length of punishment for murder, not the victim’s family. 46% of the population also think that the right to life should not be taken, even if the person has committed a crime.

On the other hand, 85% oppose the death penalty for offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of committing an alleged murder, and 84% agree that the punishment and diyah amount (blood money) should not depend on the victim’s sex (male or female).

According to the survey results, 86% of the population opposes public executions and 17% have witnessed public executions.

The survey results show (Figure 5) that those in favor of the death penalty have witnessed public executions almost twice as often as those who oppose the death penalty.

2.4 Punishments

In response to the question, “If a member of your immediate family was murdered, which punishment would you prefer for the murderer?” about 48% of the population selected a life sentence or long-term imprisonment (Figure 6), while 5% preferred to receive the diyah (blood money) and forgive.

In contrast, about 22% chose execution or qi?a? (retribution-in-kind) and about a quarter said they “don’t know” which option they favor.

2.5 Transitional justice

Respondents were asked what kind of punishment they agree with during a transition from an authoritarian regime, to punish the perpetrators of massacres in the previous regime. Figure 7 shows that about one-third of the population disagrees with the death penalty, even if perpetrators are found guilty in a fair trial. About 5% favor a general amnesty (‘afv-i umumi) and the formation of a truth commission (kumitah-hay-i ?aqiqat-yab).

In contrast, about a third think that perpetrators of massacres should be sentenced to death, as long as they are given a fair trial. About 7% agree with the revolutionary execution of the former regime’s officials.

A quarter suggest that legal experts should be responsible for deciding on the best form of transitional justice.

2.6 Decision-makers

A majority of 69% believe that the people should be the final arbiter of the existence or abolition of the death penalty in Iranian law (Figure 8), to be determined in a public referendum.

About 17% chose an elected parliament as the final decision-making body, and about 14% think that religious authorities should decide on the abolishing of the death penalty in an Islamic country.


•The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty is an alliance of more than 165 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities and unions, that was created in Rome in 2002. The aim of the World Coalition is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty. Its ultimate objective is to obtain the universal abolition of the death penalty.

•Iran Human Rights (IHR) is an independent non-partisan NGO struggling for the abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of the rule of law and universal human rights in Iran. IHR is a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty since 2009 and an elected member of the coalition’s steering committee. IHR is registered and based in Norway.

•The Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN) is an independent, non-profit research institute registered in the Netherlands.


Prisoner Executed at Karaj Central Penitentiary

A prisoner who had been sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) twice and also sentenced to death for murder and rape, has been executed at the Karaj Central Penitentiary.

According to the Iran newspaper website, on the morning of Sunday, October 5, a male prisoner was executed at the Karaj Central Penitentiary. The identity of the prisoner who had been sentenced to qisas twice for two murders and also sentenced to death for rape, has been only revealed as Massoud. While the report does not stipulate which sentence was carried out, it would appear to have been the death sentence for the charge of rape.

Explaining the details of the case, the article states that Massoud had “killed his brother in-law and his wife” and “raped” his wife.

In cases involving rape, the likelihood of defendants being tortured to force a confession is very high. Iran is one of the few remaining countries to issue the death penalty for rape.

(source for both:


Iran must halt execution of Kurdish prisoner arrested as juvenile: Amnesty

A top human rights watchdog is calling for the halt to the execution of a Kurdish prisoner arrested as a juvenile in Iran.

Barzan Nasrollahzadeh was 17 years old when he was arrested in the Kurdistan province capital of Sanandaj on suspicion of being involved in the murder of a Sunni cleric. He was later found guilty of ‘enmity against God’, which carries the death penalty. He said agents of the intelligence ministry tortured him during his pre-trial detention, suspending him upside down and applying electric shocks applied to his body, according to Amnesty International.

“By sentencing juvenile offenders to death, it violates international law,” Amnesty Iran tweeted on Monday of Nasrollahzadeh’s sentence.

The prisoner is currently being held in Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj, Alborz province, according to Amnesty.

“We are concerned about the risk that its execution will be scheduled shortly,” the organization posted on their website on Friday.

Tens of thousands of political prisoners are jailed in Iran over various charges including advocating for democracy and promoting the rights of women, workers, and ethnic minorities.

Ethnic minority groups including Kurds and Azeris are disproportionately detained and more harshly sentenced for acts of political dissidence, according to a July 2019 report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.



Surge in Nepal rape cases triggers death penalty discussion

A spate of gruesome sexual crimes in Nepal has thrown the spotlight on the issue of gender violence and the culture of impunity in the country. Calls have been growing louder for rape convicts to be sentenced to death.

A 12-year-old girl from Bajhang district in western Nepal went missing on September 23. After a long search, her family members found her semi-naked body at a nearby temple. An autopsy report confirmed that the girl, who belonged to the Dalit community, was sexually assaulted prior to her death.

Police have arrested a local youth in connection with the case but the victim's family fear that he may be freed by the authorities citing a "lack of evidence."

This was not the only rape case reported in that week.

Another 12-year-old girl from eastern Sunsari district was also found dead at her home on September 25. A teenager confessed that he killed her after she resisted his sexual advances, according to police.

These cases are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problem of rape and sexual assault in Nepal. The number of reported crimes has surged exponentially over the past few years.

'Pandemic' of rape and sexual assaults

These are just tip of iceberg about widespread rape and sexual assaults against women in Nepal, which has been surged exponentially in recent years.

There were only 112 rape cases reported in the country in 1998, but last year that figure was 2,144, according to Nepal police.

Nepal police spokesperson Kuber Kadayat told DW that rape cases surged during the coronavirus lockdown from mid-March to mid-September. At least 1,221 cases, or seven cases per day, were lodged during this period, he said.

Rights activists say the actual number of crimes committed is far higher than the officially reported figure.

A recent report by the NGO Anti-Slavery International has identified that only around 5 in 100 cases of rape and sexual violence are reported to police, with even fewer reaching the trial stage.

Santosh Sigdel, a lawyer and activist, told DW that many victims fail to report their cases due to threats, local "settlement" and the victim-blaming culture.

Pushpa Bhushal, a member of Nepal's parliament, told DW that perpetrators are mostly targeting young girls and women, particularly those from socially marginalized groups. "The exponential rise of rape and sexual assault cases has now become a pandemic," she said.

Culture of impunity

Rape and sexual assaults are serious criminal offenses in Nepal, with convicts facing prison sentences ranging from 7 to 25 years. Despite stringent laws on paper, the number of cases has been on the rise.

Weak criminal investigations, attempts by officials to protect perpetrators, the politicization of rape cases and dilly-dallying in delivering justice, have collectively led to a worsening of the problem, said Bhusal.

New life of Dalit women in Nepal

It's widely reported that victims of sexual assault are being prevented from seeking legal action in the name of local "settlement" and "reconciliation." Community elders and even elected politicians have been found involved in such activities.

Recently, a 15-year-old gang-rape victim in Dhanusa district of southern Nepal was offered 1.2 million rupees (€8,670, $10,243) by a group of community elders, including some elected representatives. After her family refused to accept the deal, they started receiving "death threats," reported a local daily newspaper.

A recent report by the NGO Trial International revealed that police themselves are often engaged in such settlements, even though they're responsible for the victim's safety and security.

Activists say rapists are encouraged by a culture of impunity in Nepal

Police spokesperson Kathayat maintains that the law enforcement agency has not been involved in such acts, but accepted the weakness of the police to act swiftly in certain cases. The police department has instructed all its agencies to take action against those involved in extrajudicial settlements.

Neelam Sharma, a researcher at Anti-Slavery International, told DW that insensitive remarks by politicians and officials point to the lack of seriousness and understanding among some influential figures in dealing with the problem.

Speaking at a parliamentary panel recently, Nepal's Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa downplayed the issue, saying that many economically advanced countries witness a higher number of sexual assault crimes per capita than Nepal.

In September, lawmaker Ram Narayan Bidari from the ruling Nepal Communist Party had said that 90% of rape cases in the country involving adults "are not rape cases."

Their remarks drew widespread condemnation, forcing Home Minister Thapa to publicly apologize.

Growing calls for death penalty

Activists have launched street protests and social media campaigns against sexual crimes, in an attempt to seek justice for rape victims. The issue has also become a subject of discussion in the nation's parliament, where women lawmakers have unequivocally called for harsher punishments for rape convicts, including the capital punishment.

"We should not consider a sympathetic law for those who commit gruesome crimes," Shanta Chaudhari, an MP from the ruling party, argued.

Nepal's constitution — promulgated in 2015 — has categorically barred any law to be made that prescribes the death penalty.

Kathmandu has also been a signatory to a host of international human rights charters — including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — which are in favor of the abolition of the death penalty.

The women lawmakers in the parliament, however, have formed a 9-member taskforce to review the existing laws and the country's international legal obligations and come up with suggestions on how to incorporate the death penalty for convicted rapists. Separately, a parliamentary committee has also asked the government to look at the possibility of bringing such a law.

Rape of Dalit woman fuels outrage across India

Bhushal, also a member of the taskforce, shares the view that those who rape minors should be sentenced to death. Speaking to DW, she stressed that the death penalty has become necessary after other efforts proved unsuccessful in controlling the problem.

The idea of capital punishment, however, has not been received warmly by everyone in Nepal.

Mohna Ansari, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, says that existing legal instruments are enough to punish the perpetrators, if the authorities pursue the rape cases seriously and deliver justice impartially. Advocate Sigdel shares a similar view. "Are such crimes being repeated just because of not having a provision of the death penalty?" he questioned.

Professor Sanjeev Upreti, who did his post-doctoral research at Harvard University on the subject of masculinity, told DW that rape and other forms of gender violence are outcomes of the larger structural problems that women are facing in Nepal.

"Women are dominated by men on all fronts — socially, politically and economically. Only enacting laws isn't enough to address such problems," he said. "We need to address it structurally, legally and ideologically."

(source: Deutshce Welle)


Man caught with over 15 kg of drugs

Police in the central Nghe An Province arrested a man on Monday for allegedly possessing around 15.4 kg of drugs.

They took Nguyen Van Nghia, 34, in as he was leaving his house in Nghi Loc District and getting into a taxi.

They found 330 g of heroin and 12 synthetic drug pills on him. A search of his house turned up 13 kg of meth, 2.1 kg of heroin and 50 pills.

Nghia, a mechanic, rode a motorbike to Que Phong District that borders Laos last Saturday to pick up a suitcase stuffed with drugs, hid it in his house and was waiting for a chance to transport it to the south, authorities said.

Vietnam is a key trafficking hotspot for narcotics from the Golden Triangle, an intersection of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar and the world's second largest drug producing area after the Golden Crescent in South Asia.

From Vietnam, the drugs are taken to Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea and even Europe, Australia and Latin America.

In Vietnam, those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.



Bangladesh to allow death penalty for convicted rapists

Bangladesh is set to allow the death penalty for convicted rapists after weeks of protests over sexual violence in the country.

Bangladesh's Cabinet on Monday approved an amendment changing the maximum punishment for convicted rapists from life imprisonment to death, according to state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS).

The new provision will go into effect once it is signed by Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid. The step is considered a formality.

"Surely (the law) will be a deterrent to such notorious crimes while we simultaneously will make all-out efforts to expedite the trial process of rape cases in the relevant courts," Law Minister Anisul Huq said, according to BSS.

Bangladesh's government has faced calls to do more to prevent sexual violence amid national outrage over a viral video of a group of men attacking and sexually assaulting a woman in the country's south.

"Bangladeshi women have had enough of the government's abject failure to address repeated rapes and sexual assaults," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement last week.

"The Bangladesh government needs to finally make good on its empty promises and heed activists' calls to take meaningful action to combat sexual violence and to support survivors."

At least 975 women and girls were raped in the first 9 months of 2020 in Bangladesh, according to Ain o Salish Kendra, a Bangladeshi human rights and legal aid organization based in capital city, Dhaka.

The new punishment is unlikely to be widely applied; according to Human Rights Watch, Bangladesh has an extremely low conviction rate for rape, and victims face myriad difficulties in reporting sexual crimes and pursuing legal cases against alleged attackers.

(source: CNN)


News Classifieds Business Opinion Sport Cricket Tube Turning Points Adv More Follow @bdnews24com ????? ??????? Tuesday, October 13, 2020 × ????? ??????? News Bangladesh Sport Cricket Politics World Middle East Europe Campus Education Media Neighbours Environment Health Fashion People Automobile Aviation Business Economy Technology Lifestyle Entertainment Opinion Recent News Photos Tube SMS NEWS SERVICES Latest Bangladesh records 1,537 virus cases, 22 deaths in a day J&J pauses COVID-19 vaccine trials due to unexplained illness in participant India's coronavirus infections rise by 55,342 to 7.18 million Malaysia's Anwar submits documents to king to show support to form new govt Asia-Pacific countries begin to ease pandemic-related travel bans, but hurdles remain Actor Soumitra Chattopadhyay still in ‘high risk zone’ ? ? Home > Bangladesh President Hamid signs ordinance on capital punishment in rape cases

Bangladesh President Md Abdul Hamid has issued an ordinance elevating the maximum punishment in rape cases to the death sentence from life imprisonment.

Hamid on Tuesday signed the amendment to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, which was approved by the cabinet led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The cabinet approved the legal amendment for death penalty in rape cases on Monday.

Different organisations have been protesting at Dhaka’s Shahbagh square and other parts of the country for nearly a week over sexual assaults on a woman in Noakhali and the rape of another woman in Sylhet’s MC College.

The maximum punishment under the previous law in rape cases was life imprisonment.

In Bangladesh, most of the cases get forgotten due to the delay in trials. A lack of proper medical tests of the victims, fears of reprisals and social stigma and interference by influential people make it difficult to get justice.

As many as 4,541 rape cases have been reported in the past 16 years. The accused were punished in only 60 of these incidents, according to data from the tribunals.

At least 889 women have been raped in Bangladesh between January and August 2020, according to rights group Ain O Salish Kendra or ASK.

As many as 192 others faced attempted rapes and sexual harassment in this period, while nine of the victims took their own lives.

Rights activists believe the numbers are much higher because many of the victims do not complain to the police.



Only law can't stop rape: BNP

BNP senior leader Gayeshwar Chandra Roy on Monday said heinous acts like rape cannot be stopped by only formulating a law without its proper enforcement.

"Will the atrocious crime like rape be stooped from tomorrow if the death sentence is made the highest punishment for committing rape today? It won’t happen,” he said.

Speaking at a discussion meeting, the BNP leader said, "Law shouldn’t be only on paper, it should be enforced. The administration has to protect people enforcing the laws and stand by people.”

Dhaka city unit of Jatiyatabadi Samajik Sangskritik Sangstha (Jasas) arranged the programme at the Jatiya Press Club protesting the growing incidents of rape and violence against women across the country.

Amid widespread protests against the surge in rape incidents in the country, the Cabinet today approved a draft of the Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2020 to make the death penalty as the highest punishment for the heinous crime.

Gayeshwar, a BNP standing committee member, said the rape incidents are taking place one after another due to the prevailing impunity culture.

He said it is written in the criminal code about the punishment of crimes based on their natures. “The criminal code can be applied if there’s the rule of law. The administration has no accountability and the judiciary has no independence as the county lacks the rule of law.”

The BNP leader called upon people to raise their voice against violence against women and the impunity culture to force the government to strongly enforce the laws and ensure the security of women and children.

He bemoaned that a grand festival of plundering and grabbing is also going on alongside that of rape of women and children. “We all must get united and raise our voice together to get rid of such a situation.”



Death penalty is not the solution for violence against women

Responding the Bangladeshi government's decision to introduce the death penalty as a punishment for rape, Amnesty International’s South Asia Researcher, Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, said:

“This regressive step is a fig leaf that deflects attention from the lack of real action to address the appalling brutality faced by so many Bangladeshi women. Executions perpetuate violence, they don’t prevent it. Instead of seeking vengeance, the authorities must focus on ensuring justice for the victims of sexual violence including through delivering the long-term changes that would stop this epidemic of violence and prevent it from recurring. That means, for example, ensuring that Bangladeshi women and girls are protected and that they feel safe coming forward and reporting crimes. Perpetrators must be prosecuted and held accountable and the impunity for these horrific crimes must come to an end-but through fair proceedings and without resort to the death penalty.”


Following large-scale protests calling for an end to impunity for rape against women and girls, the Bangladeshi cabinet approved the draft Women and Children Repression Prevention (Amendment) Bill, amending Section 9(1) of the existing Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act 2000, to increase the highest punishment for rape from life imprisonment to the death penalty.

(source: Amnesty International)


Faithful urged to join Prayer for Restorative Justice

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines -Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (CBCP-ECPPC) has called on the faithful to join in the praying of the Prayer for Restorative Justice and Second Chances Advocates for a just society that gives prime importance to life as well as dignity for all prisoners.

Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon, chairman of the commission, appealed to the faithful to join in the prayer for all prisoners every day at 8 p.m. from October 10, which is observed as World Day Against the Death Penalty until December 10, which is observed as Human Rights Day.

Baylon said the prayer, which may be viewed online, was based on the new encyclical of Pope Francis which strongly opposes death penalty.

“The CBCP-ECPPC reiterates our strong opposition to capital punishment. The death penalty violates the inherent dignity of a human person, which is not lost despite the commission of a crime. No person, no matter how evil he is perceived to be, is beyond reformation,” Baylon said over Church-run Radio Veritas.

“The death penalty is nothing but vengeance and punishment. True justice must be restorative, never merely punitive. It should give the person the chance to change for the better, no matter how slim the chance may be. The death penalty is anti-poor and marginalized. Experience shows that most, if not all persons meted the death penalty are poor and uneducated, who cannot afford quality legal representation to defend them,” the Church leader added.

Baylon said that instead of the reimposition of the capital punishment, law enforcers must strictly observe and enforce the laws of the land. The government, he added, must also focus its efforts at looking after the welfare and safety of those who have been most affected by the pandemic.

(source: Manila Bulletin)


A policeman sentenced to death in East Darfur for raping a girl

A court in East Darfur State has sentenced to death a police man for raping a 13 year old girl.

The girl was raped in the city of Abu Jabra, in East Darfur, on 19/4/2020.

Lawyer, Al-Hadi Mahmoud Al-Sharif, told Darfur 24 that the accused deserves this punishment for his heinous act.

Al-Hadi Mahmoud considered the ruling as a deterrent and to protect society from the evils of “human wolves”.



How lawyers are delaying Bashir's coup trial

Trial prosecutors in Sudan have been facing technical hitches in the case against ousted president Omar al-Bashir and others accused of masterminding a 1989 coup that brought him to power.

This past week, a defence team representing Mr Bashir and a group of former senior officials who served in his government walked out of a trial session to protest what they called an unfair run of the case.

The case was supposed to begin in July, but defence lawyers protested the venue of the trial in Khartoum three times, claiming that it was a health hazard due to the pandemic. The venue was moved to the new headquarters of the Police Officers Training Institute for Forensics — still in Khartoum.

Last week, the defence lawyers claimed the country's Attorney General addressed the court on charges facing the accused even though he created the accusations and investigations team that led to the creation of the special tribunal.

The lawyers claimed the presiding judge refused to hear their arguments relating to the presentation on the accused by the Attorney General, and they walked out before he finished his speech.

Mr Bashir's lead lawyer Mohamed Al-Hassan Al-Amin said the Attorney General had turned the prosecution into defence.

"There is a petition in which these defendants complained, and we presented a copy to the judge in the previous session. It is the complainant who formed the investigation team that led to the charges against these accused. His efforts led to the creation of this special court," Mr Al-Amin said.

The presiding judge said that they decided to hear the charges from the Attorney General, and later hear the defence team's arguments. If legally acceptable, the court would decide to exclude the sermon. The lawyers rejected the proposal and left the court.


Legal experts say the procrastination by the defence will not delay the progress of the case.

"Nothing can disrupt the progress of the trial as long as the case reached the court. The defence teams are stalling so that the trial does not proceed. The requests are not based on anything serious, and therefore the trial will continue whether or not the lawyers come. They as defendants have the right to bring other lawyers," Moez Hadhra, a legal expert in Khartoum, told The EastAfrican.

Mujahid Abdel Gader Awad, a Sudanese scholar of international law, said Sudan must appear to be fair in the trial, to convince the world that its internal justice system is just to litigants.

The local trial could help the country's fight against impunity more than the International Criminal Court, which has indicted Mr Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"The main factor in this is the harshness of the penalties of domestic laws compared with those stipulated by international law, whose articles do not contain the death penalty, for example," Mr Mujahid told The EastAfrican.

"In addition, they cannot return to their country to face trial for other cases once their trial at the ICC starts. In fact, this may be considered impunity and for that international justice may not be helpful to the victims."

"I think the trial of al-Bashir and his aides should proceed here on all criminal cases regardless of their technical classification between the internal and the international.

Mr Bashir was indicted by the ICC for the killing, rape, genocide, and pillage against civilians in Darfur, south-west of Sudan. He has never faced trial at the ICC, largely because the African Union and the Arab League opposed his trial while he was still in power.

The Transitional Government has not declared whether it will hand him over to the ICC, but he was sentenced to jail last year, for 2 years, for corruption. Sudan is not a member of the ICC.



Zambia human rights body calls for abolishment of death penalty

The Zambian government should completely remove the death penalty from its statute books so that the country joins other countries that have abolished it, the country's human rights body said on Tuesday.

While commending the government for not executing anyone for the past 23 years, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) believes that the government needs to move a step further by abolishing it.

Mweelwa Muleya, the human rights body spokesperson said the government should be encouraged to ensure that the country successfully graduates into the growing number of countries that have abolished the death penalty both in law and in practice.

"To this end, the commission is calling for members of the public and various stakeholders to make submissions to the Zambia Law Development Commission to appropriately amend the penal code and the criminal procedure acts in order to enhance respect for the right to life," he said in a statement.

According to him, the mandatory death sentence for the crime of treason, murder and aggravated robbery must be amended to give discretionary powers to the judiciary based on merits of each case.

Zambia carried the last execution in 1997.



Court sentences Lsk man to death for killing girlfriend

LUSAKA High Court Judge Sharon Newa has sentenced a 22-year-old man of Mandevu to death by hanging for killing his 20-year-old girlfriend, whose lifeless body was discovered in her house by her elder sister. In this matter, Allan Lungu was charged with 1 count of murder. Particulars the offence were that on March 2, 2019, Lungu murdered Misozi Soko. Lungu had denied the charge and during trial, the State called 5 witnesses. Lungu also gave his defence on oath but did not call any witnesses.


OCTOBER 12, 2020:


Louisville man indicted in E’town homicide

A Louisville man arrested for the Sept. 6 shooting death of a man inside an Elizabethtown residence has been indicted on 5 felony charges, including murder.

Jalen Williams, 21, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Juwone Doleman.

Williams was arrested Sept. 18 by members of the U.S. Marshals Service and Louisville Metro Police Department. He was indicted for killing Doleman, 23, of Danville, and the shooting of an adult female in the same residence in the 600 block of Westport Road.

The woman, whose identity was not released, is recovering from her injuries, according to authorities.

The arrest warrant said Williams took an unknown sum of cash, a handgun and jewelry belonging to Doleman during the incident. He also is accused of taking the female victim’s cellphone and discarded it on the side of the road while fleeing, according to the warrant.

According to Eliza­beth­town Police Depart­ment spokesman Chris Den­ham, Williams was identified as a suspect within hours of the shooting.

Williams was indicted on murder, 1st-degree assault, 1st-degree robbery, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and tampering with physical evidence.

He is lodged in the Hardin County Detention Center in lieu of a $1 million cash bond.

If convicted of murder, Williams could spend the rest of his life in prison. The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office also could seek the death penalty in the case.

(source: The News-Enterprise)


Death Row Delayed: The pandemic’s impact on Tennessee executions

The COVID-19 pandemic shut down bars, restaurants, the entertainment industry. It also shut down executions in Tennessee.

Death row inmate Nicholas Sutton was executed by electric chair on the evening of Feb. 20 at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. He was the 7th Tennessee inmate put to death in a span of 18 months – a pace topped only by the state of Texas.

But as the dynamics of the pandemic continued to evolve, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued stays of execution for 2 death row inmates because of COVID-19.

In April, the court postponed the scheduled execution of Oscar Smith by eight months. He had been sentenced to die on June 4 for the murders of his estranged wife and her 2 sons from a previous marriage. Smith’s attorneys argued that restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus prevented them from doing important legal work for the case.

Then in June, the court postponed the execution of Byron Black – moving it from Oct. 8 to April 8, 2021. Black was convicted in Nashville of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home in 1988. His attorneys said the pandemic made it impossible to have a hearing on whether Black is competent to be executed. They also wrote that the health crisis was interfering with the ability to prepare for a clemency request.

In July, Governor Bill Lee Governor announced he would grant a temporary reprieve from execution to death row inmate Harold Wayne Nichols.

“I am granting Harold Wayne Nichols a temporary reprieve from execution until December 31, 2020, due to the challenges and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gov. Lee said in a statement to News 2 on July 17.

Nichols was convicted of rape and 1st-degree felony murder in the 1988 death of Karen Pulley in Hamilton County. Weeks after the decision, Pulley’s sister spoke to The Associated Press.

“My hurt does not get to take a break because of a pandemic,” Lisette Monroe said in a phone interview. “I thought finally we were going to have justice. I thought finally I could go to Karen’s grave and say, ‘it’s over.’ But that’s not what I got. I got another excuse.”

Since the execution of Sutton in Tennessee in February, 10 death sentences have been carried out nationwide, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. According to the group’s website, the last 7 executions were carried out on the Federal level.

News 2 is digging deeper into the impact coronavirus has had on the capital punishment process in Tennessee, including legal arguments and the emotional toll on the families of murder victims.

(source: WKRN news)


Bangladesh to Allow Death Penalty for Rape Convictions----Ministers approved an amendment that would permit capital punishment for the crime after a series of assaults led to widespread calls to tackle what many say is a systemic problem.

The government of Bangladesh has approved measures to allow for the death penalty for rape, after several high-profile sexual assault cases set off widespread protests in recent weeks.

Khandker Anwarul Islam, the Bangladeshi cabinet secretary, told reporters in a news conference on Monday that ministers had approved an amendment to the country’s existing law that would elevate the maximum punishment for rape to death, from life in prison.

A presidential declaration on Tuesday is expected to put the provision into law by amending the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, officials said. Parliament is not in session because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Anisul Huq, the Bangladeshi minister for law, said on Monday that the government hoped that the new measure would act as a deterrent and lead to a significant drop in rape cases. But rights groups have said that simply enacting harsher punishments for offenders is insufficient.

A series of harrowing attacks on women and young girls have focused attention on the problem of sexual violence.

In recent days, protests were held in Dhaka, the capital, and elsewhere, after a video of a woman being attacked by a group of men in the country’s southwest spread rapidly on Facebook.

Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, a South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said in a statement released soon after the video was made public that the “truly disturbing footage demonstrates the shocking violence that Bangladeshi women are routinely being subjected to.”

But he also noted that it was part of a larger system of impunity for attackers.

“In the vast majority of these cases, the justice system fails to hold the perpetrators responsible,” he said in the statement. “There can be no excuses here — the Bangladeshi authorities must immediately launch a thorough and impartial investigation and bring those responsible for this vicious attack to justice through fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.”

After the most recent case, local and international rights groups were critical of the lack of accountability for attacks and minimal support for survivors, and urged the government to make meaningful changes.

This year, and also in response to large scale demonstrations, the country’s highest court ordered the government to set up a commission to investigate a steep rise in the number of rape cases being reported nationally.

Ain o Salish Kenya, a rights monitoring group in Bangladesh, has documented 975 instances of violent rape, based on media reports, but experts say that the number is most likely higher, as many go unreported.

Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the introduction of the death penalty would do little to address the core issues and what she called an “epidemic” of rape cases.

“Apart from the fact that the capital punishment is inherently cruel and should be abolished, Bangladesh has to confront a much more basic problem — that it has a broken criminal justice system where survivors are unable to even approach the police with confidence, forget expect a successful prosecution,” she said.

She noted that conviction rates in cases of violence against women were “abysmally low,” and that there was no access to legal aid, medical care, safe shelter, witness protection, or psychological and social counseling for survivors of violent sexual assaults.

“The government should instead do the hard work to bring protection mechanisms and remove institutional barriers to justice,” she said.

Public reaction to the sentencing guidelines has been largely positive. Tahmid Binte Mahima, 21, a graduate student, said the measure was a “very welcome move,” as the possibility of a death sentence could act as a deterrent.

“Such harsh punishment will create fear among offenders,” she said. “But the more important thing is the strong implementation of law and the quick settling of cases. This needs to be ensured.”

(source: New York Times)


State Minister: Amendment approving death penalty for rape a milestone in women empowerment

Earlier on Monday, the cabinet approved the amendment of the Prevention of Women & Children Repression Act-2000 to include death penalty for perpetrators of rape.

State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatunnessa Indira has said the amendment of the Prevention of Women & Children Repression Act-2000 to include death penalty for perpetrators of rape is a milestone for women empowerment in Bangladesh.

She made the remarks after a cabinet meeting at the Secretariat on Monday afternoon.

“There is no place for rapists in Bangladesh. That’s why our ministry submitted the proposal for the amendment to the cabinet,” she said.

Indira also thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other cabinet members for supporting the amendment.

Earlier on Thursday, Law Minister Anisul Huq said that his ministry had made a proposal for approving death penalty as the highest punishment for rape.

On Monday, the cabinet approved the amendment of the Prevention of Women & Children Repression Act-2000 to include death penalty for perpetrators of rape.

A series of rape incidents have rocked Bangladesh in recent weeks, triggering countrywide protests.

According to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), between January and September of 2020, nearly 1,000 rape cases were reported, including 208 gang rapes.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)


5 gets death penalty for killing child after abduction

A tribunal in Joypurhat on Monday sentenced 5 people to death for killing a 2 1/2 years old girl after abduction in 2015.

Judge of Joypurhat Woman and Child Repression Prevention Tribunal Mohammad Rustom Ali handed down the verdict.

The convicted accused are-- Uttam Kumar, Biresh Chandra, Santosh Kumar of Rashidpur Molan village and Mostafizur and Obaidul of Bindhara village in the upazila, reports UNB.

The court also sentenced the convicts to life term imprisonment in the case and fined Uttam Tk 500,000 and other convicts Tk 300,000 each.

According to the prosecution, Aradha Rani, daughter of Paresh Chandra of Rashidpur Molan village in Panchbibi upazila had gone missing on December 22, 2015.

Later, the girl’s body was recovered from a pond on December 25.

Victim’s father Paresh Chandra filed a case with Panchbibi Police Station.

Police arrested Uttam , Biresh, Santosh, Mostafizur and Obaidul in this connection.

After interrogation, the arrestees confessed that they had kidnapped the girl for realizing ransom from the victim’s father and kept her in a box after tying up her hands and mouth where she died.

Later, they dumped the body into the pond.

(source: The Financial Express)


EU envoys ask Korea to fully abolish death penalty

The following is a joint statement by ambassadors in Seoul from European Union member states on the abolition of the death penalty in Korea. ? ED.

The ambassadors of the European Union and the 27 member states of the European Union reiterate the EU's strong opposition to the death penalty around the world and call for its final abolition in the Republic of Korea. The ambassadors recognize and welcome the de facto moratorium on the implementation of executions since 1998, but note that around 60 people are still under sentence of death in Korea, and that the legal provisions for capital punishment continue to be in place.

The ambassadors recall that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea recommended that the Republic of Korea accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, declare an official moratorium on the implementation of executions and take gradual measures to abolish the death penalty.

The ambassadors welcome the Constitutional Court's upcoming assessment of the constitutionality of the death penalty in the Republic of Korea. The EU will be following closely the Constitutional Court's deliberations showing its strong commitment against the death penalty, while welcoming the amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Court by Amnesty International and the International Commission Against the Death Penalty.

Capital punishment is inhumane and degrading ? not only to those sentenced but also to everyone involved. No compelling evidence exists that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime. The death penalty also allows judicial errors to become irreversible and fatal. The European Union expresses its strong and unequivocal opposition to capital punishment at all times and in all circumstances.

(source: Korea Times


Report: Houthi-controlled courts issued 200 death sentences since 2017

Sam Organisation for Rights and Freedoms said courts controlled by the Houthis in Yemen have issued more than 200 death sentences against political and civil opponents including 4 journalists in politically motivated cases since 2017.

“When observing and following up on these the proceedings of these trials, that reached into these rulings, SAM found that they entirely violated the guarantees and standards of fair trials,” the Geneva- based watchdog said in a statement issued on the International Day Against the Death Penalty.

According to the statement: “There are more than 50 civilians are standing trials before flawed judiciary, where the judges playing roles in predetermined trials, including the rulings which are in clear contradiction with the laws.”

The organisation called for the judiciary to be liberated from the domination of the Houthis and apply fair trial guarantees and standards without discrimination, so that no one is unjustly and arbitrarily deprived of his life.

“Although the Houthis militia has not executed any of the aforementioned death sentences, it is necessary that the militia declares its commitment to stop manipulating the judiciary to terrorise and abuse its opponents,” it added.

(source: Middle East Monitor)


Arrests, torture and executions: Iran’s autumn of discontent

In the face of the Middle East’s worst COVID-19 outbreak and economic ruin, Iran’s violent crackdown and persecution of anti-government activists is an attempt to deter future protests, analysts say. Yet, in their view, the regime’s disregard for human rights may well be a sign of weakness rather than strength.

The world was appalled in September at the cruel hanging of Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrestling champion. He sought a fair trial until the end, but was deprived of legal representation and detained alongside his two brothers. The brutal mistreatment meted out to Afkari and his sudden execution were intended to send a clear message to normal Iranians, said Mansoureh Mills, Iran researcher at Amnesty International.

“The Iranian authorities are flexing their muscles,” he told Arab News. “At a time when the general mood among Iranians is shifting away from the death penalty and the world is looking in horror at Iran’s increasing use of it against protesters, dissidents and members of minority groups, the Iranian authorities are using executions, like that of Navid Afkari, as a tool of political control and oppression to instill fear among the public.”

More than 7,000 people were arrested during the 2019 demonstrations alone and at least 30 other protesters have already received death sentences, wrote Iranian democracy activists Shirin Ebadi, Abbas Milani and Hamid Moghadam in a recent opinion piece, titled “Iran deserves a red card for its human rights abuses,” for US news website The Hill.

A report released by the rights group Amnesty International in September detailed the catalog of horrors that detained protesters face in Iranian prisons. Prisoners spared the death penalty were regularly subjected to torture, including “beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions and sexual violence,” the report said.

Tehran’s treatment of women’s rights campaigners has been particularly harsh. For example, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced 57-year-old Nasrin Sotoudeh, a leading Iranian human rights lawyer, to 38 years in jail and 148 lashes on charges of “disrupting public order and colluding against the system” for her work defending the rights of women. Amnesty has called the sentence an “outrageous injustice.”

Since 2009, the regime has imprisoned or attempted to prosecute at least 60 lawyers for defending political prisoners, according to Human Rights Watch. The regime is also accused of trumping up spy charges against foreign visitors to effectively hold them hostage, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian dual national jailed in 2016, and British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been detained since 2018.

As COVID-19 swept through Iran’s overcrowded jails earlier this year, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was temporarily released from the notorious Evin prison and placed under effective house arrest with her parents in Tehran, where she awaits fresh charges. Moore-Gilbert was recently moved from Evin to Qarchak, which is widely regarded as the worst women’s prison in Iran, known for its extrajudicial killings, torture and other rights violations.

Even the families of dissidents outside Iran are unsafe. Masih Alinejad, an outspoken US-based critic of the Islamic Republic, has said her family inside Iran has been regularly targeted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Her brother was imprisoned and tortured, while her mother has faced a pattern of harassment. At one point, her mother “threatened to pour gasoline on herself and set herself on fire” during a confrontation with IRGC officers, Alinejad said.

This mistreatment of protesters, Mills said, can be directly linked to the declining economic and political control that Tehran exerts over the population.

Since the beginning of 2020, the value of the Iranian rial has plummeted to new lows each passing month. In October, it dropped to its lowest-ever value. Worse yet for the regime, the US is moving forward with the re-imposition of “snapback” sanctions lifted as part of the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, with pressure mounting on European countries to take a harder line against Iran, one of the regime’s few remaining economic lifelines could soon vanish.

“Whenever the political and economic situation in the country declines, the Iranian authorities clamp down even further on the public and erode human rights even more — Tehran has shown it will do everything in its power to crush protests and silence dissent,” Mills said.

Iran’s spiraling economic crisis could herald yet more repression and violence by Tehran in an attempt to control the volatile domestic situation, Mills added. But far from dampening the appetite of ordinary Iranians for regime change, he believes widespread repression and the flippant use of execution have, and will continue to, enrage the population.

“The anger at Navid Afkari’s execution among Iranians is palpable,” he told Arab News. “Since his death, graffiti has appeared in Iran’s streets criticizing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and calling for revenge for his killing, and people are urging protests against his execution.”

Mills’s prediction of unrest and anti-regime anger is echoed by Ali Safavi, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an Iranian dissident group that views itself as Iran’s government-in-waiting.

Safavi says much like the protests of 2018 and November 2019, which were both triggered by economic grievances among the Iranian populace and morphed into anti-regime movements, the deteriorating economic and social foundations in Iran will catalyze further uprising.

In trying to prevent this, Safavi said, the regime is “caught between a rock and a hard place. While it needs to repress and execute to survive, it is fully cognizant of its fragile and vulnerable state, and is very worried about the massive social backlash of executions.”

The case of dissident campaigner Shahla Jahanbin epitomizes the regime’s problem. She penned a letter to Khamenei earlier this year imploring him to resign.

In response, Jahanbin was sentenced to nearly four years in jail and forced to return to prison just months after receiving back surgery. But her cruel treatment at the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Court has failed to suppress the anger of Iran’s youth against the regime — it only fuels it, Safavi said.

“The regime is terrified of the eruption of another uprising,” he added. But Tehran’s nightmare scenario may already be playing out. Footage obtained by Arab News shows unidentified individuals setting fire to the entrance of the Shiraz court where Afkari was handed his death sentence. A later video also shows an explosive device detonating in the heavily fortified entrance to Lorestan province’s central prison administration office.

Both attacks took place at night and caused only material damage, but were met with an immediate deployment of security forces. Safavi said this demonstrates the fear of the regime and its vulnerability in the face of the Iranian public.

The only way out of the cycle of repression, public backlash and more repression, according to Bob Blackman, a UK Conservative Party MP, is for the international community to send a clear message to Iran that “we are not going to put up with their human rights abuses.”

He told Arab News that European countries must abandon their attempts to appease Iran by rescuing the nuclear deal, and instead follow in the US administration’s footsteps with new sanctions against the regime. “We have to be strong and firm about this,” he said.

Blackman also noted the uncertainty and potential unrest caused by Iran’s sky-high coronavirus death toll — over 20,000 by official accounts, though many suspect the true figure may be far higher. He said concerns over personal safety amid the pandemic may be discouraging Iranians from taking to the streets against the government, but this reluctance to gather in protest will not last forever.

The issue in Iran, Blackman said, is increasingly a question of how much abuse normal Iranians are willing to put up with in their daily lives, and what they will resort to when it becomes too much to bear.

“What we do know is that the Shah (Iran’s pre-revolutionary ruler) was deposed after a long campaign of civil disobedience — it took a long time,” Blackman added.

“The anti-regime protests in Iran that continue to take place reflect the genuine sentiments of the Iranian people. These protests are a continuation of those beginning in November and proceeding through December, reforming again and again in the face of harsh repression.”

The consensus among rights groups, politicians and Iranians abroad is that Tehran’s executions and violent repression create a vicious cycle of more unrest, more human rights abuses, and therefore, more unrest.

Blackman said this cycle will continue until the international community abandons its strategy of appeasement and accepts the reality of the situation: The Islamic Republic cannot be trusted and will not change.

The general consensus among Iran analysts is that human rights abuses, executions and instability will continue until Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and the IRGC’s grip on Iran is replaced by a representative and democratically elected government.



'I insist': Film gives new voice to jailed Iran rights lawyer

The lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh reflects on a career that has seen her take on the most sensitive of causes in Iran, including saving juveniles from the death penalty, defending outlawed religious minorities and standing up for women's rights.

"Even though this movement did not achieve the desired results, it is an experience and an asset for our future steps. Because of this I should tell myself 'Yes! I should have the right to be happy!'" she smiles.

Three months later, in June 2018, Sotoudeh was jailed to serve a 5-year sentence on spying charges, after a secret trial she was not even able to attend.

The following year, she received a new 12-year sentence for "encouraging corruption and debauchery".

The 2012 winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov prize and the 2020 Right Livelihood Award laureate remains behind bars in Tehran's Evin prison, and her case is generating increasing international concern.

Deprived of tools to communicate, Sotoudeh, 57, put her life on the line in a 1 1/2-month hunger strike from August to September, calling for the release of political prisoners during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the release of a documentary film has given Sotoudeh a new voice for her determination to campaign for justice in Iran.

The film, "Nasrin," shows Sotoudeh going about her daily work in Iran before her latest arrest, defending cases including those of women arrested for removing their compulsory headscarf.

"If we are successful in these efforts to gain our freedom through our choice of clothing then it will be a permanent freedom," she tells the camera in the film.

"We need to speak out. We need to demand. We need to insist. We need to stand our ground."

- 'Risk a lot' -

The credits in the film, made by documentary maker Jeff Kaufman and narrated by "The Crown" actress Olivia Colman, say the filming on the ground in Iran was carried out by "anonymous" with their names withheld for security reasons.

"We found a couple of people we could work with and trusted. They were just amazing. They did risk a lot," Kaufman told AFP. "They felt that getting the story out was important."

The film, which had its premiere this month at the GlobeDocs Film Festival, shows Sotoudeh plunged into the intensity of her daily routine, negotiating Tehran's crammed traffic at the wheel of her car as she travels from her office to courthouses.

She gently guides one tearful young woman through the prospect that the judiciary is likely to impose a prison sentence for her bold protest in symbolically removing her headscarf. But the smile and kindness never falter.

"You must have one of these pastries," she tells her.

Another client is the celebrated Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi -- who featured Sotoudeh in a cameo in his prize-winning film "Taxi Tehran," made inside a car due to a ban from filmmaking -- as he seeks to have a travel ban overturned.

The film also shows the toll on Sotoudeh's family life, with her young daughter and son only able to communicate through phone calls and occasional prison visits behind a thick glass pane.

"This call is made by an inmate of Evin prison," says an automatic voice that constantly interrupts one phone call with the family.

- 'Enemy of progress' -

Sotoudeh was previously jailed from 2010 to 2013, during which time she staged several hunger strikes.

"One of the problems is that you can never take what they (the authorities) say seriously," her husband Reza Khandan says in the film, "It is never clear if they are telling the truth."

Taghi Rahmani, the husband of rights campaigner Narges Mohammadi, who spent half a decade in jail, adds that "Evin is where freedom bleeds and human rights are violated and raped."

In a rare flash of hope, Mohammadi was unexpectedly freed last week.

Kaufman said Sotoudeh has never had a chance to see the film.

"But Reza and the children have, and they have been incredibly supportive," he said, adding that he was optimistic the film would raise awareness of her case.

"The regime has a way of putting pressure on families to keep them silent," he said. "Nasrin and Reza believe that silence is an enemy of progress."



Reinstating death penalty goes against PH’s international commitments

Reinstating the death penalty in the country would breach the international obligations of the Philippine government.

In an online forum organized by human rights groups Karapatan on Saturday, Oct. 10, Bronwyn Dudley of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty said that if the death penalty in the Philippines would be enacted into law once again, it would constitute a serious violation of international covenants and other human rights instruments which the Philippines has ratified.

In this year’s State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte once again call for the swift passage of a law seeking the reimposition of death penalty through lethal injection for offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

At present, there are 12 bills pending at the House of Representatives, seeking to revive the death penalty in the country.

Dudley said that the Philippines cannot simple turn its back against the international commitments that it has signed.

Prior to the Second Optional Protocol, the Philippines has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1986. Dudley said Article 6 of the ICCPR, has focused on the right to life as well as death penalty.

The Second Optional Protocol, on the other hand, aims for the abolition of death penalty in all countries. In Article 1, it stated that “Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”

In General Comment 36, issued by the United Nations in 2018, explains further the Article 6 of the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol. It states in number 34 of the General Comment that “States parties to the Covenant that have abolished the death penalty, through amending their domestic laws, becoming parties to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant or adopting another international instrument obligating them to abolish the death penalty, are barred from reintroducing it.” It added, “Abolition of the death penalty is therefore legally irrevocable.”

“No country wants to be responsible for violating international law and considered unlawful particularly with laws that have been voluntarily ratified. It paints a picture of inconsistency, reduces the credibility of state responsibility and genuinely undermines the rule of law,” Dudley said.

With the filing of numerous bills on death penalty at the House of Representatives, the UN Human Rights Committee has sent an open letter to the Senate in 2017 reminding the Philippines of its commitment and the irreversibility of the commitments made, Dudley said.

In the said letter, the Human Rights Committee called on the “State party to take its obligation under the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol seriously and refrain from taking retrogressive measures, which would only undermine human rights progress to date.”

Dudley added that returning death penalty in the country would certainly have consequences such as the withdrawal of the Philippines’ GSP+ status at the European Union.

With these international commitments, lawyer and former dean of Ateneo School of Government, Antonio La Viña, said “this is the formidable obstacle for Congress because to adopt death penalty would violate the international commitments that we adhere to.”

“Besides the technological point of view, there is no just and humane way that the death penalty can be imposed,” La Viña said.

La Viña also expressed hopes that the proposed measures pending in Congress will not be passed this year. However, he emphasized that the people should be vigilant. “This is a winnable fight but we have to be very vigilant,” he said.

The death penalty in the country was abolished in 1987. It was revived during the administration of President Fidel Ramos in 1993. After more than a decade, in 2007 under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the capital punishment was once abolished. It is also in the same year that the Philippine government has ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.



Cruelty of the death penalty

Merri Utami, a drug convict on death row, has been spared the death sentence after asking for the President’s clemency in July 2016. But she deserves more, given the miscarriage of justice that has continued to plague the country. Merri is among 358 death row inmates who are awaiting execution in the country, 4 of them for 20 years. Merri was sentenced to death in 2002 after her ex-boyfriend tricked her into carrying 1.1 kilograms of heroin from Nepal to Indonesia. She also claimed to have signed a confession of guilt as a result of torture during interrogation.

Indonesia has maintained the death penalty it inherited from its former colonial master, at a time when more countries have abolished the cruel form of punishment. By the end of 2019, no less than 106 countries have completely eliminated capital punishment.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Indonesia adopts, protects the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Indonesia, however, justifies the death sentence by claiming it deters serious crimes like drug trafficking, terrorism and premeditated murder. After taking office in 2014, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo ordered the execution of convicted drug dealers, mostly foreign nationals.

Data from Reprieve, a nonprofit organization focusing on ending the death penalty, shows that 146 people were sentenced to death in 2017-2019, with 63 in 2019 alone.

The Jokowi administration has put executions on hold since 2016, but shortly after his appointment, Attorney General ST Burhanuddin in October 2019 pledged to resume state killings. The government has drafted a revision of the Correctional Law, which would allow a death row prisoner’s sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years in jail, but its legislation process was halted last year following mass protests. As part of the revision, the new law would make it easier for graft convicts to receive a reduced jail term and be released on parole.

In commemorating World Day Against the Death Penalty and World Mental Health Day on Saturday, human rights groups renewed their call on the government to abolish the death penalty, not only because the country’s judiciary system is prone to mistakes, but also because of human rights violations and the mental anguish death-row inmates have endured.

Reprieve researcher Teresa Prasetio said the group found that anxiety and mental stress resulting from poor prison conditions were “additional punishment that is actually very cruel, inhumane and degrading to human dignity”.

There are reasons for the government to listen to the aspirations of groups who are against the death penalty. Execution is the ultimate and irrevocable punishment, while mistakes, including in Indonesia, often happen. There is a great risk of killing an innocent person, which perhaps was one of the reasons Jokowi decided on a moratorium.

Capital punishment has so far been ineffective in deterring drug trafficking, as the government has claimed. Oftentimes, law enforcers discover the crimes were orchestrated inside prisons.

Jokowi can show Merri mercy, but to end this cruelty, he can initiate a complete end to the death penalty.

(source: Editorial Board, The Jakarta Post)


Turkey, the death penalty on the agenda

The last execution of the death penalty in the Republic of Turkey was held on October 25, 1984. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002, changed the relevant articles of the Constitution, the new Turkish Penal Code (TCK) did not place it, and who reject the death penalty European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and agreed to that Protocol No. 6. It started to be mentioned frequently after the coup attempt on 15 July 2016. Today, we see that the death penalty is on the agenda again as a hot topic.

European Convention on Human Rights to which Turkey is bound (ECHR) and must not forget that on the additional protocols of the law. Consequently, Turkey has thought of making amendments to the Constitution regarding the death penalty, adopted at the 2004 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is required to give up the 6th article and 13 additional protocols. If 360 votes are reached in the Parliament for this change, the change can be taken to a referendum. When more than 400 votes are exceeded in the Parliament, a Constitutional amendment can be made on the death penalty without the need for referendum.

When we look at the crimes stipulated in the Turkish Penal Code No. 765 (Removed) “Death penalty”:

Article 125 Offenses against the territory and sovereignty of the State

Article 126 Citizen’s participation in the war against the state

Article 127 foreign state’s drive to open warfare against Turkey

Article 128 Recruitment and hostile actions

Article 131 Destruction of military facilities

Article 132 Destroying the documents regarding the state security

Article 133 Espionage against state security

Article 136 disclosing information on state security

Article 137: Disclosure of information prohibited in time of war

Article 138 discoveries, ambitions and innovations that should remain confidential for the security of the state

Article 141 Organization in order to base the state order on the basis of class

Article 146 Crimes against the Constitution

Article 147 forcibly obstructing or encouraging the Council of Ministers to work

Article 149 armed riot against the government, the crime of encouraging people to arm themselves against each other.

Article 156 assassination of the President

Articles 403, 406, 407 Drug trafficking (converted to “heavy life imprisonment” in 1990.)

Article 418 Seasonal rape (converted to “heavy life imprisonment” in 1990.)

Article 439 Seasonal girl abductions (translated into “heavy life imprisonment” in 1990.)

Article 450 Murder

In the second paragraph of Article 26 of the Constitution with the title of freedom of expression and dissemination of thought, “for the purposes of not disclosing the information duly specified as state secrets, protecting the reputation or rights of others, private and family lives or professional secrets stipulated by the law, or fulfilling the judicial duty in accordance with the requirements of the law. may be restricted ”statement is a measure related to the news only and is not a restriction on the reporter.

In order to save our country from this bad situation and to realize the basic principle of “The press is free and cannot be censored”, which is protected by constitutional principles, first of all, social and political pressures on journalists should be removed.

Moreover, “Everyone has the freedom to express and express their views” referred to in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers. This article is also clarified with the provision that it does not prevent states from keeping radio, television and cinema enterprises under a permit regime ”.

The execution of the death penalty will fundamentally affect social life and individual behavior.



FG tasked on end to death penalty

As the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty held at the weekend, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has called on the Federal Government to stop expanding the scope of the punitive measure.

This year’s theme was “Access to Justice: A Matter of Life or Death.”

The group said it had found an increasing number of persons standing trial for capital offences in Nigeria, owing to the fact that more offences have been prescribed as such.

“For instance, not less than 8 Nigerian states have prescribed capital punishment for kidnapping, while the 12 states that have adopted the Sharia penal code prescribe the death penalty for sexual offences and others offences such as adultery,” LEDAP said in a statement signed by its head, Edmund Chinonye Obiagwu (SAN).

“The trend has led to an overload in our criminal justice sector and justice administration, especially for public defenders and the courts,” it added.


OCTOBER 11, 2020:


The history of hangings in Tioga County

3 men were hanged for murder in the history of Tioga County. Who were they? What were their crimes? Wellsboro Agitator archives and Tioga County Historical Society Director Scott Gitchell satisfy our morbid curiosity.

1. George Traviss (Traverse/Travis), executed Jan. 15, 1885

George Traviss was the 1st person to be executed in Tioga County.

He was convicted for the murder of Martha Sylvia in 1883, according to Wellsboro Agitator articles accessed through the Digital Archives of Green Free Library.

Sylvia was described by the paper as "a simple minded, honest hearted woman of middle age living in a little hut" in Charleston Township.

Human remains were pulled from a burning frame barn on a road leading from Sylvia's house to Wellsboro Borough on April 3, 1883.

"The remains of the body were so much consumed that it was impossible to tell whether the body had been subjected to any violence before it was burned," the Agitator reported April 10, 1883.

A set of keys found in the barn where the body lay unlocked Sylvia's front door, trunk, wardrobe, and satchel, according to testimony printed in the Agitator.

According to testimony by George F. Butler, Traviss said he bought cattle from Sylvia for $53.

Several witnesses testified that they saw Sylvia and a man who looked like Traviss walking and talking together at various locations around the borough near the time of Sylvia's death.

On her last day alive, Sylvia told Alice Swope that she and Traviss planned to go away to Michigan together and be married, according to a Jan. 20, 1885 Wellsboro Agitator article.

Chauncey Howard testified that Traviss knocked on his door and asked for matches on the night of the fire, according to the Agitator's April 10, 1883 report:

"I gave him some matches, and he turned and went to the road toward the barn that was burned that night," Howard testified.

Other testimony suggested stains on Traviss' coat were human blood.

A jury found Traviss guilty of first degree murder and Traviss was sentenced him to be hanged by the neck until dead on Aug. 6, 1883.

"During his last night on earth, Traviss slept more than he did the night before but he was still quite uneasy," the Agitator reported. "At his request the operation of gallows was minutely described to him."

More than 150 people applied to watch Traviss hang but the jail's corridor could only accommodate a limited number, the Agitator reported on Jan. 6, 1885.

"Traviss showed no weakness or especial emotion in walking to his death," the paper said.

On the day of Traviss' execution, "the black cap was drawn over his face, the noose adjusted around his neck and at a silent signal from one of the deputies, the Sheriff cut the rope at 12:25 p.m," the Agitator reported Jan. 20, 1885.

Traviss was declared dead by a physician who noted that his neck did not break. This fueled rumors that Traviss' friends had revived him upon receiving his body, and that Traviss was now at work on the Pine Creek railway as brakeman, the Agitator reported.

"It is true that Traviss’ neck was not broken, but he was dead beyond a doubt...the man paid the penalty of his crime by his death, and his body was promptly buried. Now let him rest in peace," the paper wrote.

2. Walter Goodwin, 22, executed June 9, 1898

Walter Goodwin was the second person to be hanged in Tioga County, Gitchell said.

Goodwin shot his estranged wife Effie four times in the head with a revolver in Mansfield Borough on Sept. 4, 1897, according to the Wellsboro Agitator. Effie had Goodwin arrested for desertion that spring.

"It is said the young Goodwin was very anxious that his wife should withdraw her suit," the Agitator reported on Sept. 8, 1897. "It is understood that she stoutly refused to abandon the suit, because she had knowledge that he was running with a number of other girls and he was doing absolutely nothing towards her support."

A driver discovered a bloody Effie Goodwin, still alive, laying on the bank about 100 feet from the road on Sullivan Street on Sept. 4, 1897.

Goodwin was arrested for her murder that evening, according to the report.

Effie was sent to the Cottage State Hopsital in Blossburg, where she died the next morning, according to the Agitator.

Goodwin's mistress Gertrude Taylor, the prosecution's star witness, told the court that Goodwin showed her the bloody revolver used to kill Effie.

"He took a revolver out of his hip pocket, the end of which was covered with blood, and said, 'You see that little dog, that killed my wife last night.' Witness stated she was horrified at the sight of the blood on the barrel of the pistol, and said to him, 'You must have got very close to her when you fired,'" the Agitator reported Oct. 6, 1897.

Goodwin steadfastly maintained his innocence up to the moment of his execution, the Agitator reported.

The scaffold was made of 6 by 6 bolted posts, with a 10 by 10 platform that stood 9 feet off the ground, according to the paper. A 16-foot fence was erected behind the jail to shield the hanging from public view.

Although there was nothing to see, a crowd of men, women and children "hugged the fence with morbid desire to hear the sickening thud of the drop from the scaffold," the Agitator reported.

While standing on the gallows scaffolding, Goodwin addressed the crowd: "The awful crime charged against me I am not actually guilty of. The very act or deed, the firing of the shots which killed my poor wife were fired by Gertrude Taylor. This is no lie. I could not face death and tell a lie at this time."

"Goodwin's neck was broken by the fall, and there were very slight signs of life after the drop," the Agitator reported.

3. Isaac Birriolo, 55, executed Nov. 15, 1900

Isaac Birriolo was the third and final person to be executed in Tioga County, Gitchell said.

"He was an Italian barber from Blossburg. He basically set his wife's dress on fire and held her arms out straight so she couldn't get the fire out. The poor lady was horribly burned and died as a result," Gitchell said.

Birriolo's hanging drew less of a crowd than Goodwin's. Most of the 175 people in the crowd consisted of jurors, deputies, county officials and newspaper reporters from Williamsport and Elmira, the Wellsboro Gazette reported Nov. 21, 1900.

The gallows stood in the same spot as Goodwin's hanging, but were covered with a tent-cloth to protect it from snow, according to the Gazette.

"[Birriolo] walked firmly and calmly approached the steps and coolly mounted to the platform and without any apparent emotion took his place on the fatal trap through which he was to plunge into eternity," the Gazette reported. "Never once did he wince or appear to be conscious of the crowd below."

Just as the sheriff was about to place the black cap over Birriolo's head, he turned and pleasantly requested the sheriff remove his glasses, the Gazette said.

"This was done, and Birriolo said, 'Be quick!'" the paper reported.

One sheriff drew the knot under Birriolo's ear while another pulled the lever releasing the trap, according to the report.

"The body was dropped and it was all over within five minutes after the prisoner had left his cell," the Gazette said.

All 3 men executed in Tioga County were hung by gallows in the central avenue part of the jail, Gitchell said.

Gitchell said that some people have the mistaken impression that the old American Elm in front of the jail was used for hangings.

"No one was ever hanged from that tree, they were all hanged by gallows," Gitchell said.



Penalty phase of trial of convicted teen killer in recess

The penalty phase of the trial of a 20-year-old Pine Bluff man convicted of killing a 72-year-old Wooster woman is in recess. Faulkner County jurors are hearing testimony as prosecutors seek the death penalty for Tacori Mackrell in the 2018 death of Elvia Fragstein.

Mackrell was convicted Thursday of capital murder after testifying a day earlier that he had choked Fragstein when she refused to turn her car over to him outside a Conway mall. Defense attorneys say they're trying to spare Mackrell's life.

The penalty phase was recessed Friday after testimony that included Fragstein's friends and family. The jury is to return Tuesday.

(source: Associated Press)


Political notebook: House panel to examine death penalty

This week, state Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, is holding an in-depth review of Oklahoma’s death penalty process.

Scheduled witnesses include Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter; Corrections Director Scott Crow, an attorney for death row inmate Richard Glossip; public defenders and a representative for the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association.

The hearing, called an interim study, begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday. It will be livestreamed through

Oklahoma has struggled to re-institute capital punishment since Clayton Darrell Lockett took more than a half-hour to die from a lethal injection in April 2014.

Charles Frederick Warner’s execution by lethal injection in January 2015, with drugs not approved for the purpose, is the last carried out by Oklahoma.

With manufacturers refusing to supply the combination of drugs used in lethal injection, Oklahoma has for the past 5 years endeavored to find an alternative. Nitrogen hypoxia, electrocution and firing squad have all been authorized but put aside as impractical or unacceptable for other reasons.

Hunter announced earlier this year the state is prepared to resume executions.

“I just want to make sure that when we start the death penalty again that we are properly trained and that each individual we put to death is guilty and deserving,” McDugle said in a news release. “Some of those on death row have new evidence in their cases since 2015, and we want to make sure all new evidence is looked at before we send someone to the chamber.”

48 men and 1 woman are awaiting execution in Oklahoma.

Campaigns and elections: After U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe mocked Democratic opponent Abby Broyles’ endorsement by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Broyles slammed Inhofe for once calling the late Sen. Strom Thurmond a “great American.”

Thurmond, a staunch segregationist who led a revolt of southern Democrats that split the party three ways in the 1948 presidential race, served 48 years in the Senate from South Carolina.

The League of Women Voters Election Guide is being released Sunday, with copies included in the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman and available online at

Tulsa mayoral candidate Greg Robinson, second in the Aug. 25 election to incumbent G.T. Bynum, endorsed State Question 805.

(source: Purcell Register)


Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs on World Day Against Death Penalty

Yesterday, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, Canada restated its strong opposition to the use of the death penalty in all cases, everywhere. Capital punishment is a cruel, inhumane and degrading affront to human rights, as well as an ineffective deterrent to crime.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued the following statement:

“Today, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, Canada restates its strong opposition to the use of the death penalty in all cases, everywhere. Capital punishment is a cruel, inhumane and degrading affront to human rights, as well as an ineffective deterrent to crime.

“The worldwide trend to abandon capital punishment is encouraging. In particular, Canada welcomes Kazakhstan’s recent step toward abolition, and we will continue to work toward an end to the death penalty among the countries that still apply it.

“To that end, I am pleased to announce Canada’s intention to join the Support Group of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, a diverse group of 23 countries led by Spain. Together with these and other members of the international community, we oppose the death penalty at every step of the way.”



The Gruesome Story of Tyburn Tree, London’s Infamous Gallows

In the modern day and age, crime is no less present than it was several hundred years ago. Sure, the world did become a lot more civilized, but criminals still exist. But the truth is, that while most crimes will certainly get a criminal into a whole lot of trouble, it will not be as bad as it was in ye olden days. Because in the 1600’s in England, even the smallest crime could cost you your life! From as early as the 1300’s and all the way to the end of the 1700’s, England – and especially its capital, London – were a real hive of crime and villainy. Imprisoning all these crime-loving perpetrators was certainly a challenging task, so it turned out to be easier to simply sentence them to death. This is where the famous Tyburn Tree comes in – a gallows that became one of London’s most macabre attractions.

The Origins of the Tyburn Gallows

Once upon a time, before the rapid expansion of the metropolis that is London, Tyburn was a village on its periphery. It once stood close to where the iconic Marble Arch is situated today and at the southern end of the Edgware Road. As a small hamlet, it boasted a lengthy history and some importance in England’s distant past. It was 1 of the 2 medieval manors of the parish Marylebone – which is now a part of Greater London too.

Plenty of evidence shows that Tyburn was a place of local significance even in ancient times. In the village, which grew at the crossroads of two important Roman roads , there stood an ancient standing stone. Known as Oswulf’s Stone , this menhir marked the area for many centuries.

It was eventually buried in 1851 with the moving of the Marble Arch, but was dug up again a mere three years afterwards – as its historical value was recognized. For a short while this stone stood leaning on the Arch, but it has not been seen for many years now. It could have given us some very important information about Tyburn and its history.

But not to worry – the citizens of London and the whole of England made sure to give Tyburn a new face and a new history to echo through time. They did this with crime and death. From early medieval times, Tyburn became the location at which public executions took place.

The only method used on this spot was hanging, and throughout its history, this location close to the junction of Edgware Road and Oxford Street sported a macabre looking gallows pole. For centuries, it was the last stop for many a criminal, highwayman, thief, and traitor, before they would meet the great unknown.

Between roughly 1108 and 1783, the Tyburn gallows were the primary execution spot in London, but certainly not the only one. Around the 1500’s the gallows pole evolved – it was redesigned as a triangular, three post gallows, from which multiple criminals could be hanged at one time. From this point on, it became the iconic Tyburn Tree.

Being a criminal in medieval England was certainly a popular calling, and surely a lucrative one. But getting caught red-handed meant that harsh punishment was guaranteed. Gibbers, stocks, lashings, and chains were a certainty for lesser offences, and death for harder ones. Trials were often prompt, and depending on the crime committed, death without pardon was oft declared.

And in these cases, Tyburn was most often the final destination. In time, this grim location in London acquired legendary status. Executions at the Tyburn Tree became true spectacles, attracting crowds that numbered thousands. Public executions were advertised days in advance, and were almost treated as holidays.

Workers and apprentices were given a day off on the execution day, and tickets were sold for raised seats to observe the hanging. As the population of London grew, so did the amount of crime, and so did the crowds to watch the events at Tyburn Tree. A particularly exciting execution would draw thousands of people, who would cheer the condemned or jeer at them. Numerous sources state that the executions would draw between 3,000 and 30,000 people, while the hanging of a particularly important person could attract close to 100,000 people.

Dancing the Tyburn Jig

‘To go west,’ ‘take a ride to the Tyburn,’ and ‘dance the Tyburn Jig’ became common expressions in London of the time. They were all euphemisms for death. But oddly enough, being hanged at Tyburn wasn’t as grim as you might think.

For aspiring criminals of the era, execution at the Tyburn Tree was sort of an acknowledgment of their status, so to speak. It was the crème de la crème of executions. And as much as it was a spectacle for the crowd, it was for the condemned too. They would put on their finest clothing and put on an act as well. A criminal was expected to give “a good death” to the crowd, and face the gallows with bravery and humor. Such a death would earn shouts of joy and acceptance from the gathered. In cases of fear or a “bad death”, those shouts would be jeers and hoots.

Most prisoners that were sentenced to death - if not all - were transported to Tyburn from the Newgate prison. After hearing their prayers, and receiving the sacrament if they wished to do so, the prisoner was then taken to the gallows in an open horse drawn cart. The procession was always followed by crowds of people, often making the progress slow and lasting many hours – even if the distance from Newgate to Tyburn was only 3 miles (4.8 km). The procession would stop at one of the inns along the way, usually the Bowl Inn at St Giles, where the condemned man was allowed to drink wine or strong liquor. Afterwards, it was time to dance one final, Tyburn jig.

Tyburn became the last stop for many notorious and infamous criminals of the era, most of which took on the form of folk heroes, loved by the poor classes of London who never truly liked the law. Jack Sheppard was one such man, known by the folk as Honest Jack.

Born into a poor family and serving as a carpenter’s apprentice, Honest Jack soon saw that the woodworker’s trade wasn’t really for him. Instead, he turned to theft and burglary. Known to all as Gentleman Jack, Jack the Lad, and Honest Jack, he quickly became recognized for his crimes.

He was arrested 5 times and imprisoned each time, but managed to escape prison four times, using daring and unique methods. For these exploits, Jack the Lad became an almost legendary figure, and something of a folk hero for the poor classes.

Alas, greed got the better of Jack. In 1724, he robbed a pawnshop in Drury’s Lane, and dressed himself as a dandy gentleman. From the money he stole he spent the whole night with mistresses, until he was arrested while being absolutely blind drunk.

The Dashing Rogue Goes West

So famous was Gentleman Jack, that the jailers charged four shillings for anyone who wished to see him. And his execution was no less of a spectacle. On that day, when it was time for Jack to dance the Tyburn Jig, a crowd of 200,000 people gathered to witness it. At the time, that was a third of London’s entire population! The procession that took him to the gallows stopped on Oxford Street, at a tavern known as City of Oxford Inn. There, Jack drank a pint of sherry.

Meanwhile, at the Tyburn Gallows, a true carnival was happening. Sheppard’s semi-official autobiography was sold en-masse to the gathered crowd. Most agree that this “autobiography” was actually ghostwritten by the famous writer of the time Daniel Defoe. Even so, the 22-year-old Jack Sheppard couldn’t escape the hangman’s noose. He danced the Tyburn Jig.

It certainly isn’t a nice way to depart from this mortal coil while thousands of faces eagerly await to see you do so, cheering you on all the while. But many a thief and criminal found courage in it, smiling and cheering even as the noose was tightened around their neck. That is what happened for William Spiggot, a notorious highwayman and one of many who pestered rich folk on England’s roads.

During that period, highwaymen were a dime a dozen. They looked like normal citizens, but one thing separated them others – they robbed travelers they met on the road. Spiggot became notorious in London society for being a poacher, burglar, highway robber, and a murderer.

His exploits and notoriety made him another semi-legendary figure for the poor classes. Alas, that didn’t save him from justice, and he too ended up on the Tyburn Tree. Spiggot met his end thanks to one particular gentleman, the self-proclaimed Thief Taker General - Jonathan Wild.

The Final Decades of the Infamous Tyburn Tree

During his lifetime, Wild became a notorious figure of London’s society. Posing as a lawman and fighter against crime, Wild in fact benefited from both law and crime. As an infamous underworld figure, he ran a lucrative and major criminal empire, all the while acting as London’s foremost “thief taker” - a private individual employed to apprehend wanted criminals .

For Wild, this cover of crime fighting posed a great screen for his shady activities, such as bribery, theft, money laundering, fraud, and numerous other crimes. He would often steal valuable items, only to collect rewards offered for their return. As a thief taker, he would often apprehend his own criminal rivals, and efficiently remove his competition – all in a somewhat lawful manner. Arguably the most noted of the Thief Taker General’s arrests is that of the aforementioned folk hero, Gentleman Jack. For it was Wild who arrested him and sent him to Tyburn Tree.

But the old gallows pole does not differentiate between a lawman and a criminal. The noose is a universal tool – one size fits all! And so it was that even the notorious thief taker Jonathan Wild ended dancing the Tyburn Jig. Not long after his arrest of Jack Sheppard, the criminal activities that Wild was involved in all came to surface. His ex-accomplices turned against him, and soon enough, the man who had sent many a criminal to the Tyburn Tree ended up there himself.

Almost 60 years later, the old Tyburn Tree would have its final victim. A murderer and a highwayman, John Austin, was hanged at the gallows on November 3rd, 1783, becoming the last ever person to meet that fate. The most likely reason for Tyburn’s retirement was the expansion of London as a city, and the focus on executions within the confines of the Newgate prison.

Today, the exact location of the Tyburn Tree is somewhat disputed, but the widely accepted site can be seen. It is situated in one of the busiest parts of London, at the junction of Oxford Street, Edgware Road, and Bayswater Road. The exact location is a traffic island, and is marked with a commemorative plaque and three young oak saplings – a metaphoric parallel to the three-posted gallows pole of the past. Contrary to the post that made up an instrument of death – today we have a symbol of life and flourishing: the young saplings.

A Few Centuries of Grim Reputation

The Tyburn gallows were not the only ones in the London area, and certainly not in England of the medieval period and later. Such grim spots were to be found all over the realm, and acted as a certain symbol of power and dominance of regional lords and law-givers. Alas, England was also rife with criminals and miscreants of all kinds imaginable, which meant that the gallows were in frequent use. But none of these spots gained such a fearsome and long lasting reputation as the storied Tyburn Tree.



World Day against the Death Penalty – Statement by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (10 October 2020)

On the occasion of the 18th World Day against the Death Penalty, France reaffirms its strong opposition to the death penalty everywhere and in all circumstances. It calls on all states that apply the death penalty to establish a moratorium with a view toward its definitive abolition and encourages all states to sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

The death penalty, which has no deterrent effect and means that any judicial error is irreversible and irreparable, often disproportionately targets women, the poor and economically vulnerable, and persons belonging to minorities. Despite a global trend toward the abolition of the death penalty, it continues to be applied in several countries.

In this respect, France underscores the importance of the UN General Assembly resolution calling for a universal moratorium on the death penalty, adopted in 2018 by a historic 121 states. France encourages all states to support its ongoing work within the framework of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly to ensure the adoption of a new resolution.



Germany commends Sri Lanka over moratorium on death penalty

Germany has commended Sri Lanka over the moratorium on the death penalty.

The German Ambassador to Sri Lanka Holger Seubert tweeted saying Sri Lanka has to be commended on its moratorium on the death penalty.

He noted that the death penalty has not been carried out in Sri Lanka since 1976.

In recent decades, more and more countries around the world have restricted or abolished the death penalty.

While fewer than 60 countries continue to impose it, they include close partners of Germany such as Japan and the US. In the US, death sentences were carried out at federal level in July 2020 for the 1st time since 2003.

In Europe, Belarus is the only country to use the death penalty.

The majority of death sentences last year were imposed in China with over 650 executions and with in excess of 250 executions in Iran.

Supporting initiatives to abolish the death penalty is a priority of German human rights policy.

Together with its EU partners, Germany has been actively campaigning against the death penalty for many years, including within the framework of the United Nations and the OSCE.



Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran are among the countries that carry...

In conjunction with the International Day Against the Death Penalty, human rights organizations and associations and individuals renewed calls for the abolition of the death penalty.

The pioneers of social networking sites in a number of Arab countries launched the hashtag #International_Day_Anti_the death penalty, and through it, they called on a number of countries to abolish this punishment.

Ola said, “The death penalty is a symptom of the phenomenon of violence, not a solution to it, and the death penalty is killing a person through a judicial process for the sake of punishment or general deterrence and prevention.”

Pope Francis tweeted, “All Christians and people of good will are called upon today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty in all its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, in the context of respect for the human dignity of people who have been deprived of their freedom.”

Legal representation of individuals

This year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty focuses on the right to legal representation for individuals who may face the death penalty.

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which includes more than 150 NGOs, bar associations, local groups and trade unions, said that “without obtaining effective legal representation (lawyer or attorney) during arrest, detention, trial and post-trial, it is not possible to guarantee a fair trial. In a case in which the death penalty may be imposed, the consequences that could result from the lack of effective legal representation may be the difference between life and death.

In the words of its Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations reiterated its call on states to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances and to ensure that it is not applied on discriminatory grounds or as a result of arbitrary application of the law.

For its part, UNICEF expressed its concern about repeated reports of children being executed in the Middle East and North Africa.

On the other hand, Twitter users refused to abolish the death penalty, which in their view is a deterrent to anyone trying to harm the security of the state and the citizen.

Bu Turki said: “Except for the intentional murderer and traitor to his homeland and its people, the right of the homeland and the people must be executed and other similar crimes, so it is not fair for these criminals to enjoy the right to live on earth.

Saudi European Organization

For its part, the European-Saudi Organization issued a statement saying: “Detainees in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are full of detainees who face the risk of being killed at any moment. Despite the difficulty of obtaining accurate numbers of those threatened with execution, the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights counted 53 cases of detainees facing the risk of execution of various degrees. Litigation: Most of these cases fall within the category of political detainees, and the organization believes that there are also death threats in criminal prisons, who report hundreds, most of them on drug charges.

The organization affirmed: “It is not possible to trust any official Saudi statements or promises that are not accompanied by the immediate release of arbitrary detainees and the abolition of death sentences that were based on trials that lacked justice, as well as those based on non-serious crimes. It also stresses the importance of compensating families who lost their members arbitrarily. Including their right to bury them."

The most implementing countries forThe death penalty

According to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty:

•106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes

•8 Countries have abolished the death penalty only for ordinary crimes

•56 countries retain the death penalty

And in 2019, the top 5 implementers of that punishment were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.

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Webinar held to mark 18th World Day against the Death Penalty

Activists and former officials on Saturday called for limiting the application of the death penalty in Jordan until social attitudes are altered and the punishment is abolished altogether from the legal textbooks.

The call was made during a webinar, which was organised by Solidarity Is Global Institute (SIGI) and titled “Opposition to Death Penalty”, funded by the European Union.

The event, which is part of SIGI’s Rule of Law and Fair Trials from a Gender Perspective Project, was organised to commemorate the 18th World Day against the Death Penalty.

Around 20 women are awaiting execution in Jordan according to a local human rights organisation in Jordan.

Lawyer Fatima Dabbas said that “despite the fairness of the justice system in Jordan, human errors are possible”.

“There have been some international cases whereby some people were put to death by their governments and later it was proven that they were innocent,” Dabbas said.

That is why, Dabbas maintained, “it is important to start lobbying against the death penalty so that there would be a chance for individuals who are sentenced to death in the event of a human error”.

Meanwhile, SIGI Executive Director Asma Khader touched on the issue of women who are sentenced to death in Jordan during the 3-hour webinar.

“Obviously there is discrimination in the familial treatment of men and women who are sentenced to death,” Khader said.

Khader added that her observations are based on examining dozens of files related to women who are sentenced to death and interviewing some of them.

“Obviously families do their utmost to try to save their male members from execution by appointing the best lawyers, trying to reach a financial settlement with the victims’ families and would visit them regularly while they are incarcerated as a form of moral support,” Khader said.

But the situation for women who are on death row are totally the opposite, according to Khader.

“Families would rarely visit them, if they are married, they will be immediately divorced and in most cases the court appoints a lawyer to defend them and their families will never attempt to reach a financial settlement with the victims’ families so that they would drop charges against them, which would spare their lives,” Khader said.

SIGI Programmes and Activities Director Inam Asha added that “most of the sentenced women have no idea of their legal rights and are not properly guided through court proceedings, which results in them being sentenced to death”.

Asha stressed that it is of utmost importance to “cancel the death penalty in Jordan and substitute it with life imprisonment”.

Former Court of Cassation Judge Mohammad Tarawneh added his voice to the other speakers by describing the death penalty as an “ugly punishment”.

“This is an ugly punishment and I would like to tell everyone who thinks that the death penalty will contribute in decreasing the crime rate in Jordan or elsewhere in the world that they are wrong,” Tarawneh stressed during the webinar session.

On the contrary, Tarawneh maintained, the crime rates in countries that “still apply the death penalty are on the increase”.

Also speaking during the webinar event was theatre director Hakeem Harb who told the audience that he had conducted theatre tours at several correctional and rehabilitation facilities in the Kingdom.

“We were really surprised when we went to the women’s correctional and rehabilitation centre and interacted with women there, including ones who are on death row,” Harb said.

“In the beginning we felt that these women had hatred feelings, tired and stressed because they felt they were marginalised and that the world was not fair to them,” he said.

“But we discovered that many could sing, act, or perform comedy acts so we decided to focus on them so that we would give them a new hope by allowing them to vent out their frustration and hatred of the world,” Harb said.

Activist Amani Jarrar, who did her thesis on human rights and the right to life and justice, said it is “of utmost importance to investigate the reasons that lead these people to commit murders”.

“We need to focus on the human angle by trying to understand why these crimes are committed and at the same time to stop another life from being taken away and instead sentence them to life imprisonment,” Jarrar stressed.

Other suggestions to push for cancelling or limiting the death penalty in Jordan included initiating a study to determine the gender discrepancy “between the way women and men are being tried by the justice system and how they are being treated by their families”.

Tarawneh suggested launching a meeting with the judiciary branch to discuss “the death penalty since judges have the authority make use of the Penal Code to issue a punishment that is not the death penalty”.

Dabbas emphasised the need to establish a special fund for women on death row in particular, “because on many occasions, women do not have the financial means to reach a settlement with a victim’s family”.

Asha said she was hopeful that the Jordanian government would work to stop the application of the death penalty, as has been the case since 2006, and to reduce the crimes punishable by death until capital punishment is completely abolished.

SIGI had prepared several statements to commemorate this day including: “The priority is to guarantee the right to life. No to capital punishment”, “The postponement of executions is a double punishment”, “The death penalty will never deter a crime”, “Executions are unhuman punishments”, and “No matter how the justice system is fair and transparent, human errors could occur in death sentence”.

In July, SIGI launched a coalition named “Life”, to oppose and reduce the death penalty from a gender perspective and to highlight the importance of the right to life and justice for all.

The coalition, which is part of SIGI’s Rule of Law and Fair Trials from a Gender Perspective Project, strives to build a peaceful and secure society by conducting several activities from a gender perspective to raise awareness about this important topic and work gradually to decrease the offences that are punishable by death.

Currently, there are 120 people on death row in Jordan, including 20 women. The last time a woman was executed in Jordan was in February 2015 when Iraqi national Sajida Rishawi, 44, was executed after being convicted by the State Security Court in a terror-related case.

Rishawi, was convicted in September 2006 of possessing explosives and plotting terrorist attacks against three hotels in Amman in November 2005, which left 60 people dead and around 90 injured.

During the period between 1975 and 2016, Jordan carried out more than 1,226 death sentences, including 26 carried out since 2014, according to a recent statement by SIGI.

(source: The Jordan Times)


Iran Hit Record of Executions in 2020 First Half

In today’s ‘civilized world’, thousands of people are sentenced to death each year. They are hanged, shot, tortured to death, and sometimes stoned to death. Execution is a sign of the legacy of human barbarism. The association of the wild and lawless world of the past.

For this reason, an attempt to stop executions worldwide was made in 2002. Amnesty International and the Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) have declared October 10 as the International Day Against the Death Penalty. The goal was to tie all efforts to combat the death penalty on this day and to concentrate actions and rallies to fight the death penalty on this day.

While the whole world is moving towards the abolition of executions with admirable speed, in Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s declining government is moving in the opposite direction with incredible speed. In the first six months of 2020, Iran’s regime executed 136 prisoners in various prisons. Of these executed prisoners: 134 were men and two were women. A prisoner was executed in public. The names of several minor offenders can be seen among those executed.

In disbelief, there are eight political prisoners among those executed. The names of the eight political prisoners are Mostafa Salimi, Abdolbaset Dahani, Shahram Baygan, Hedayat Abdollahpour, Diako Rasoulzadeh, Saber Sheikh Abdullah, Mostafa Salehi, and Navid Afkari.

These prisoners were hanged in various prisons:

•Mostafa Salimi in Saqez Central Prison on charges of Moharebeh (waging war against God) on April 11, 2020

•Abdolbaset Dahani, in Zahedan Central Prison on charges of Moharebeh on April 23, 2020

•Shahram Baygan, in Tabriz Central Prison on April 23, 2020

•Hedayat Abdollahpour, in Oshnavieh on charges of Moharebeh on May 21, 2020

•Diako Rasoulzadeh: In Kermanshah Central Prison on charges of Moharebeh on July 14, 2020

•Saber Sheikh Abdullah: In Kermanshah Central Prison on charges of Moharebeh on July 14, 2020

•Mostafa Salehi, in Isfahan Central Prison on charges of Moharebeh on August 5, 2020

•Navid Afkari, in Shiraz Central Prison on charges of Moharebeh on September 12, 2020

Dictatorship and Execution of Political Prisoners

The diminishing dictatorship of the mullahs, in fact, by executing this number of political prisoners, has shown its fear of the growing movement of the society. The dictator is forced to show his teeth in times of crisis.

For this reason, in addition to all the executions so far, it has included eight political prisoners related to the uprising on its prospective execution list.

•Saeed Tamjidi, Greater Tehran Prison

•Mohammad Rajabi, Greater Tehran Prison

•Hadi Kiani, Dastgerd Isfahan Prison

•Mehdi Salehi Ghaleh Shahrokhi, Dastgerd Esfahan Prison

•Mohammad Keshvari, Dastgerd Isfahan Prison

•Mohammad Bastami, Dastgerd Isfahan Prison

•Majid Nazari Kondari, Dastgerd Isfahan Prison

•Abbas Mohammadi, Dastgerd Isfahan Prison

In addition to these young people whose sentences have been issued and finalized, a number of other detainees, such as Ali Younesi and Amir Hossein Moradi, and some other detainees are also facing the threat of execution. We do not forget that 20 other political prisoners, most of whom are Sunni or Arab Iranians, have been sentenced to death in previous years and have been under execution for many years.

Execution of Children

In the first 6 months of this year, three children have been executed by the judiciary. These executed children are:

Shayan Saeedpour was executed in Saqez Central Prison on charges of murder on 21 April 2020. He escaped from prison during the Saqr Central Prison riot and was re-arrested. He had an acute mental illness.

Majid Esmailzadeh was executed in Ardabil Central Prison for murder on April 18, 2020.

Arsalan Yassini was executed in Urmia Central Prison for murder on August 17, 2020. He was tortured and forced to confess without committing murder.

Prisoners of Ordinary Crime

During the first 6 months of 2020, a total of 128 prisoners were executed on charges of ordinary and social crimes. These prisoners are generally portrayed in the state media as murderers, thieves, rapists, and drug dealers. But what the regime and its so-called independent judiciary never answer is why people are forced to commit such crimes.

Executed Women

Among the detainees arrested for ordinary crimes are 2 women. Mehri with an unknown last name was hanged in Mashhad prison on August 2, 2020, and Fereshteh was executed on August 18.

Also, among the executed prisoners, 2 prisoners were executed for espionage and 1 prisoner for drinking alcohol.

Among the executed prisoners, the execution of political prisoner Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari, a wrestling champion, shook the minds of the Iranian public and the world public opinion. The anti-execution campaign launched on the eve of the execution of the 2 prisoners was unprecedented. Artists, athletes, politicians, and of course, and most important all the people, all stood up to prevent the execution of the 2 men. But Khamenei proved that he was too weak to retreat from his decision. And if he would accept the protest of the people, this would be the start of the end of its killing machine. Execution is the lever of the government’s survival, but it seems as if this is becoming the government’s own noose.

The situation of women in Iran has been very concerning during the past few decades under the rule of the mullahs.

105 Women Executed Under Rouhani

2 women were executed in Shiraz and Mashhad last week, bringing the total number of women executed during the reign of supposed moderate Hassan Rouhani to 105.



World Day Against the Death Penalty: 209 Executions Since Start of 2020 in Iran----This year, as we mark the World Day against the Death Penalty, at least 209 individuals have been executed in Iran since the beginning of this year

As we mark the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, at least 209 people have been executed since the beginning of this year across Iran, including five political prisoners and two juvenile offenders.

Iran Human Rights calls on the people and civil society in Iran to stand against the death penalty to mark this day. IHR Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “Iran has become one of the key battlegrounds between the abolitionist movement and the Islamic Republic that executes. In recent months, the Iranian people launched one of the biggest anti-death penalty movements in the world, with millions participating in the #?????_????? (don’t execute them) campaign. This is while the Islamic Republic has consistently been on top of the list of countries that carry out the death penalty.”

10 October 2020 marks the 18th year that this day was set as the World Day Against the Death Penalty. Each year, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty focuses on a particular issue surrounding the death penalty, the individuals executed and those awaiting execution. The issue being highlighted this year is the right to access legal counsel for individuals who are at risk of execution.

This year, as we mark the World Day against the Death Penalty, at least 209 individuals have been executed in Iran since the beginning of this year. Of those, 202 were male and 7 female and 1 prisoner was executed in public, which is a significant decrease compared to the same period last year when 12 prisoners were executed publicly.

Official sources and domestic media in Iran only reported 67 of those executions and the other 142 were recorded by Iran Human Rights’ statistics department through internal sources and human rights activists.

The death penalty on political and security charges:

Since the beginning of this year, 5 political prisoners namely, Hedayat Abdullahpour, Diako Rasoulzadeh, Saber Sheikh-Abdullah, Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari were executed. Furthermore, the death sentences of Reza Asgari and Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd on charges of espionage were carried out during this period.

Continued execution of juvenile offenders:

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the last governments to sentence juvenile offenders (those accused of committing a crime under the age of 18) to the death penalty.

In the first 10 months of this year, the executions of 2 juvenile offenders who were arrested and tried before the age of 18 were recorded and there are reports of another execution of a juvenile offender which IHR is investigating further. During the same period last year, two juvenile offenders were recorded as having been executed.

In addition, following a prison riot in Mahabad Prison on Sunday, 29 March 2020, a juvenile offender, Daniel Zeyn-Ol-Abedini and several other prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement for participating in the protest. Daniel Zeyn-Ol-Abedini was severely beaten by Mahabad prison officials before being transferred to Miandoab Prison where he was beaten again. On Thursday, April 2, prison officials contacted Daniel’s family and informed them of his death. His body was covered in severe beating and injury marks.

Qisas (retribution death penalty) counts for most of the executions:

164 of those executed during this period were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) on the charge of “murder", which is the exact number as the previous year. After murder, with 18 executions, drug-related charges held the highest number of executions in the first 10 months of this year. During the same period last year, 25 prisoners were executed on "drug-related" charges.

The death penalty for alcohol consumption:

1 of the 209 death penalty cases in the first 10 months of this year was the execution of a man accused of drinking alcohol in the city of Mashhad. His death sentence was carried out on July 9. This is one of the few recorded executions for drinking alcohol which has been confirmed publicly by official sources of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Death penalty statistics compared to last year:

The executions recorded by IHR’s statistics department show that the number of executions this year is similar to those recorded last year. In the same period last year (1st January-10th October 2019), 212 executions were recorded, of which 68 were announced by state media or officials and a further 144 were carried out secretly.

In 2002, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty established October 10 as the World Day Against the Death Penalty with the aim of abolishing this inhuman and irreversible punishment, a turning point in the struggle to abolish the death penalty. The coalition consists of 140 members from 5 continents with 20 organisations, including Iran Human Rights, having seats on the steering committee. The committee is tasked with determining general policies as well as the issue being highlighted by the coalition each year.

It should be noted that more than 2/3 of nation states have either abolished the cruel and irreversible death penalty or while not outlawed, are abolitionists in practice.



Before The Sun Comes Up: Performance highlights plight of death row prisoners

To observe the 18th annual World Day Against the Death Penalty, a storytelling performance was streamed live online on Saturday evening based on 4 original short stories written by acclaimed journalist and author Mohammad Hanif.

In the stories, narrated in first person by actor-director Sarmad Khoosat, four death row prisoners recount the events that led to them landing in jail, the manipulation by the powerful and how the justice system failed them, while they await the moment they would be sent to the gallows at dawn.

Aptly titled ‘Before The Sun Comes Up’, the special project was produced by Justice Project Pakistan in partnership with The performance aimed at highlighting the plight of over 4,000 death row prisoners in Pakistan, many of them with no access to effective legal representation and/or resources to engage counsel.

The performance, lasting a little over an hour, comprised 4 short stories, each about 10-minute long and spaced out in between by 3 to 4 minutes to allow the puppeteer to prepare for the next.

As the performance began, a curtain of sorts opened to reveal the title of the show, followed by a slide displaying paper cut-outs/puppets of two men and 2 women, representing the central characters of the stories to follow.

“Are you in a lockdown? We are too," say the characters, with Sarmad as their voice narrating their suffering. The lockdown due to Covid-19 was compared with the incarceration that the characters call their lockdown — one that they know will end, before the sun comes up. “Are you wearing a mask? We are waiting that we’ll be forced to wear a mask so that you don’t see our faces, so that you don’t see who you’re killing,” they continue.

As the 1st story, ‘The Readymade Killer’, began, the screen split into 4: one displaying the title and the remaining 3 depicting objects and figures as they were being brought up in the story.

‘The Readymade Killer’ is about a man who is asked to follow and keep an eye on “a girl with short hair" because his “friends who were his masters” asked him to. He wanted to kill her, but did not have a reason enough to. When she is eventually killed, he is caught and sentenced to death during an in camera trial.

Objects such as a ticking clock, a rat, scissors explaining the girl’s haircut, large eyes meant to depict the eyes of the public on the prisoner, a gun scrolled through the 3 parts of the screen as the story progressed. In the bilingual narration, the prisoner talks about a conversation with his lawyer, the injustice of the in camera trial that landed him on death row. “Can there be justice without truth?” he asks his lawyer and requests for an open trial.

The 2nd story, ‘The Prisoner Who Did Something’, then begins after a short interval. This is about a woman who only asked for water while working in the fields, but people said she had committed a horrible crime. She was sentenced to death following an in camera trial and kept in solitary confinement for fear of being killed by other inmates.

“They don’t want you to know what I didn’t do; they don’t want you to know what they did,” begins the narration.

Figures depicting a sword, the gallows, a child, a woman in fields appear as they featured in the story. The woman wonders to her lawyer what her crime was. He tells her she was disrespectful. She says she was only working in the fields and asked for water. She also narrates the ordeal of her minor children, living in hiding for fear of being killed. She also mentions a powerful man in suit who came to see her in prison, had his picture taken with her, extended support to her, got death threats for it and was eventually killed. She says she was scared when she got the news of his killing, scared for her own fate.

The third story, ‘The Man Who Had One Job’, is about a cleaner at some important office, where he isn’t allowed to touch expensive murals and carpets. He is asked to buy huge plastic sheets and cover a room with them. Later, he is asked to take the bloodied sheets back with him. He is eventually sentenced to death for being accessory to murder.

During the narration, puppets and paper cut-outs representing plastic sheets, carpets and murals, a bonesaw, mobile phone are shown as the story rolls out. The prisoner says he was told he was part of an international murder that almost caused a war and was all over world news; his fingerprints on the plastic sheets, and how his family was told to accept compensation money.

The last story, ‘The Lucky Woman’, is about a widow who raises four sons, all of whom eventually abandon her. Her last wish is to go on a pilgrimage. One day she’s visited by a son’s close friend who offers to send her on the pilgrimage and gives her a bag to carry. When she reaches her destination, her bag his opened at the airport and some things are found that she claims aren’t hers. She was sentenced to death. The puppets/objects displayed to explain this story included framed photographs, a suitcase, date trees, and the 4 sons.

The production, which was streamed live on, brought together artists from two countries who performed the entire show live on the meeting app Zoom. The haunting, eerie music playing in the background was arranged by Hailey Beavis and the puppetry was performed brilliantly by Emma Brierley — from their homes in Edinburgh, Scotland. The performance was conceived by poet and artist from Golden Hour Productions, Ryan Van Winkle.



In recent years, SC minimised scope of death penalty----Apex court evolves jurisprudence through its various rulings

Pakistan currently has the second largest reported death row population in the world with 4,225 prisoners. However, in the last 5 years, the country’s apex court has evolved jurisprudence through its various rulings and minimized the scope of death penalty.

In March 2019, former chief justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa wrote a 31-page verdict, declaring that the rule “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus – false in one thing, false in everything” shall be an integral part of jurisprudence in criminal cases.

It said the rule shall be given effect to, followed and applied by all the courts in its letter and spirit.

The Latin rule holds that a witness who gives false testimony in one matter is not credible to testify in any matter because “the presumption that the witness will declare the truth ceases as soon as it manifestly appears that he is capable of perjury”. It says faith in a witness's testimony cannot be partial or fractional.

In view of this ruling, a large number of death penalty cases were overturned by the superior courts. The trial courts are also following the same principle in murder cases.

A study conducted by the Justice Project Pakistan revealed that Supreme Court of Pakistan set aside the death penalty in 78 % of cases between 2010 and 2018. On an even more uplifting note, 97 % of sentences were commuted to life imprisonment or otherwise in 2018.

Last year, Justice Khosa while presiding over a 7-judge larger bench declared that the sentence passed in non-compoundable offences like terrorism must be reduced on the grounds of compromise between the parties in compoundable offence committed in the same case.

“It is declared that in an appropriate case, keeping in mind the peculiar circumstances of the case, compounding of a coordinate compoundable offence may be considered by a court towards reduction of the sentence, within the permissible limits, passed for commission of a non-compoundable offence.”

The 27-page judgment authored by Justice Khosa declared that consideration of this factor vis-à-vis reduction of the sentence passed for commission of the non-compoundable offence lies within the discretion of the court and cannot be treated as automatic or as a matter of course.

The judgment made it clear that there would be no acquittal in non-compoundable offences like terrorism on the basis of compromise between private parties in compoundable offence in the same case. However, it declared that the convict’s sentence could be reduced in a similar situation.

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Executive Committee Chairman Azam Tarar said it was another landmark judgment, which would open up the window to reduce the death sentence in the country.

“Even the court has also given opportunity to the convict approaching the president for a second mercy petition on the basis of compromise in similar matters and the president may reduce the conviction in view of the apex court’s verdicts,” said Tarar.

In the last couple of years, the Supreme Court has also limited the scope of terrorism.

Last year, the apex court urged the parliament to redefine the word ‘terrorism’ by taking into consideration international perspectives and focusing on violent activities aimed at achieving political, ideological or religious aims.

Justice Khosa also authoring the judgment observed that the definition of ‘terrorism’ contained in Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997 as is too wide and the same includes so many actions, designs and purposes which have no nexus with the generally recognized concept of terrorism.

The legal experts believe that that ruling has also limited the chances of death sentence.

It is reported that since December 2014, almost 86 per cent people sentenced to death under the ATA were accused of offences that had nothing to do with terrorism. The death penalty was introduced for people involved in trade of narcotics in 1994 through amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act.

In the case of Ghulam Murtaza, Justice Khosa set out sentencing guidelines in narcotics cases. He also elaborated other mitigating circumstances for juvenile and women. The ruling streamlined the sentence awarded by all courts when trying cases for narcotics and reduced the number of death sentences.

Senior lawyers said application of the death penalty can progressively be restricted through codification of these sentencing guidelines.

In July, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of 2 brothers – Sikandar Hayat and Jamshed Ali – who had sent 27 years of their lives in jail on account of “the right of expectancy of life”.

By a majority of 2-1, a 3-judge bench accepted a review petition filed by the death row prisoners.

Authoring the majority judgment, Justice Yahya Afridi held that the petitioners have the right of expectancy of life as they were incarcerated for more than 25 years, while their pleas challenging their death sentences were pending before the competent legal judicial forums.

The judgment noted that the right of expectancy of life is a right of a convict sentenced to death, who while consciously pursuing his judicial remedies provided under the law has remained incarcerated for a period equal or more than that prescribed for life sentence.

The court noted that the right of expectancy of life had genuinely accrued to the petitioners having admittedly being incarcerated in the death cell for a period more than twenty-five years, while they were seeking justice from the appropriate judicial courts of our country.

Legal experts said the life expectancy period will reduce death penalty.

A senior prosecutor, who represents the state in murder cases, said the superior courts now uphold death sentence in only heinous crimes like terrorism. Generally, the courts convert the death sentence into life imprisonment in view of various mitigating factors.

Sharing his own experience, he said in the last 3 years, the apex court upheld the death sentence in only 7 cases in which he was representing the prosecution department.

To a query about the high number of death sentences awarded by the model courts in the recent past, the law officer said the trial courts work in a different atmosphere and the superior courts consider other factors and convert death sentences into life imprisonment.

The Amnesty International’s report on executions and death sentences revealed that Pakistani courts awarded 632 death sentences in 2019, showing an alarming increase of 253 % compared to 2018.

The spike is due to the model courts that were established on the recommendations of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee to clear the backlog of criminal cases.

Cases in these courts are heard on a regular basis and adjournments are not granted on usual grounds. The district police officials are given the responsibility to make sure the presence of witnesses and complainants whenever needed.

Recently, the Justice Project Pakistan conducted an analysis of 128 death sentences awarded by the model courts. According to the available data, the highest number of death sentences is awarded by the courts functioning in Punjab.

The model courts in Punjab have awarded 75 death sentences which constitutes 58.53 % of all the death sentences. It is surprising because previously it was noted that Punjab's share in executions, death sentences and death row population was more than 80 %.

Another trend that shows that the courts in Punjab are more inclined to award death sentences is that on average a model court in Punjab has sentenced two suspects to death during these 33 days, whereas a model court in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) sentenced less than one person to death (0.38).

In Sindh and in Balochistan this average is 1.1 and 0.26.

Pakistan among the top 5 executioners

In the wake of a deadly terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014, a tragedy which resulted in the loss of nearly 150 lives, most of them children, Pakistan lifted a 6 year moratorium on the death penalty in an effort to combat terrorism.

Since then Pakistan has been among the most prolific users of the death penalty with 516 executions and 1,563 death sentences, mostly for non-terrorism related charges. Pakistan currently has the 2nd largest reported death row population in the world with 4,225 prisoners.

“In Pakistan, the capital punishment is an exception and is awarded in very rare cases. No one has been executed in the country in the ongoing year (2020),” Dr Farogh Naseem said on the eve of the “18th World Day Against the Death Penalty” on Friday.



Punishment of death

The issue of capital punishment has been debated for years, indeed for decades or centuries. The debate was revisited again on Saturday, as the World Death Penalty Day, was observed. The day is intended to draw attention to the pros and cons of the death penalty, a punishment that has been eradicated by two-thirds of the world's countries, but still remains in place in many others. The main issue is that of deterrence and preventing further crime in society. Those who favour the death penalty, either for religious reasons, or for reasons of preventing crime, hold that it deters others from committing the same crime. Logically speaking, this indeed should be the case. Who would wish to walk to the gallows after committing a murder, if others have done so, before him. But human nature is strange. Data from the various states of the US show that there is no decline in murder in states that have banned the death penalty compared to others, which retain it. Similar figures are available from the Scandinavian countries and other parts of the world. Indeed, it seems, the death penalty appears to increase the sense of brutality or violence in society and therefore, contribute to the idea that it is all right to kill. This is the argument put forward by those who oppose it.

Even if the moralistic argument against the widespread use of the death penalty does not convince everyone, the state of our justice system should give us all pause. Essentially, in an overwhelming majority of cases where capital punishment has been handed down, the apex court has found that mistakes were made either in the gathering of evidence or in the verdicts reached by judges in lower courts. The death penalty also disproportionately hits the poor as they cannot afford lawyers who insist on a fair trial. There have been reports of death row prisoners who were executed even before their final appeals were ruled on by the Supreme Court. Clearly reform is needed in all aspects of our justice system. If we insist on keeping the death penalty, it should be a punishment of the last resort, used only for very few crimes. There should absolutely be no question about the person’s guilt and death row prisoners have to be given access to competent legal help. Right now, the state is failing on all counts.

(source: The News)


Horrendous crimes ignite debate on capital punishment in Maghreb

Moroccan and Tunisian human rights activists are campaigning against the death penalty amid a surge in demand for restoring the capital punishment.

In Morocco, the horrendous double crime of sexual assault and killing of two children by pedophiles in two different regions propelled a spate of anger and resentment with many calling for the implementation of the capital punishment.

In North Africa, only Egypt carried out executions in 2017. Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco have not carried out executions since the early 1990s.


While capital punishment remains a legal penalty in Morocco, no executions have taken place since 1993, when Mohamed Tabet was executed following a 10-year moratorium. He was executed for various serious offences including rape, kidnapping, abduction and barbaric acts.

Human rights defenders and capital punishment abolitionists, while acknowledging the gravity of the crime and the pain suffered by the parents of the assassinated children, said the crime should not be used as an argument to restore the death penalty.

A group of capital punishment abolitionists, bringing together rights NGOs, lawyers and journalists, argued that putting an end to the criminal’s life may sooth some of the anger felt by the family of the child and a part of the Moroccan people but unfortunately it will not help prevent the recurrence of such crimes.

They rather advocated, in a statement, that the criminal be prosecuted according to Moroccan law and that real awareness raising campaigns to protect children from pedophilia should be launched.


In Tunisia, the brutal killing of a young woman has reignited a debate over capital punishment with the President Qais Said saying that “murder deserves the death penalty” and urged the security forces to redouble their efforts in countering what he characterized as a nationwide increase in crime.

No executions have been carried out in Tunisia since 1991. In 2016, death sentence was handed to 44 people, and at the end of 2017, at least 77 people were under the sentence of death in Tunisia, following trials related to national security.

For human rights campaigners, a change in policy on the death penalty would mark a significant reversal in the patchy progress in civil liberties the country has made since its revolution in 2011, besides the fact that there is no evidence that the death penalty works as any kind of deterrence.

(source: North Africa Post)


On World Day Against Death Penalty, Bar renews call for abolition

The Malaysian Bar renews its call to abolish the death penalty, in conjunction with the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, which falls on 10 October each year.

We have remained at the forefront to safeguard the rule of law, as well as constitutional and human rights in our country.

The Malaysian Bar has persistently, during its annual or extraordinary general meetings over the past 30 years, passed resolutions advocating the abolition of the death penalty.

The Malaysian Bar has always been and remains a vocal opponent of the mandatory death penalty, and has repeatedly called upon the government for its abolition.

There is no empirical evidence to confirm that the death penalty is a deterrent to crimes. Despite the existence of capital punishment in Malaysia, there is nothing substantive to support that this form of punishment has resulted in a reduction in the commission of crimes, especially for drug-related offences.

In December 2018, Malaysia cast its 1st vote and joined a record number of UN member states in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

On this historic day, the Malaysian Bar once again calls upon the government to continue to support the resolution to abolish the death penalty when the time comes for a vote again at a later date. It is of utmost importance that Malaysia maintains its global reputation and credibility by reaffirming and fulfilling its international commitments and pledges.

The Malaysian Bar urges the government to make public the recommendations of the Special Committee to Review Alternative Sentences to the Mandatory Death Penalty, which was established in September 2019 to study the abolition of capital punishment and to consider meting out alternative sentences.

We renew our recommendation for the establishment of a law reform commission to review outdated laws and sentencing procedures to bring our country in line with international human rights standards.

(source: Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian