News and Updates (as of 12/22/96)
MAY 27, 2020:
Poll Finds Record-Low Support for Death Penalty Among Houstonians
Just 20% of Houstonians — a record low — now support the death penalty over life-sentencing alternatives, a new Rice University survey has found. The 2020 Houston Area Survey by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, released on May 4, 2020, found that death-penalty support has declined by more than 1/2 since the turn of the 21st century in the city of 2.3 million residents.
The survey results are noteworthy because Houston comprises 50% of the population Harris County, Texas, a county that has accounted for more than twice as many executions in the past half century as any other county in the United States.
The 2020 survey was conducted during February and early March of 2020, “before there were clear signs of an impending [coronavirus] crisis,” the Institute said. The researchers asked Houston residents to choose which among three sentencing alternatives they believed was most appropriate for persons convicted of 1st-degree murder:?”the death penalty, life imprisonment with no chance for parole, or life imprisonment with a chance for parole after 25 years.” They reported that “the percentage choosing capital punishment dropped from 41 % in 2000, to 37 % in 2010, to 27 % in 2016, and to 20 % in this year’s survey.” In 1993, 75% of Houstonians said they were in favor of the death penalty. In the 2019 Kinder survey, those who said they were in favor of capital punishment had declined to 56%.
The survey linked respondents’ death-penalty attitudes to broader shifts in opinions on crime and punishment. Just 11% of residents named crime as the biggest problem facing Houston — the lowest number in the 39 years of the survey. The percentage who said they were very worried about being a victim of crime also hit a record low, at 17%. Houstonians’ support for harsh punishments for low-level drug crimes also declined. Most respondents (70%) said possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be a criminal offense, a major shift since the question was last asked in 2003, when a 56% majority said marijuana possession should be criminalized. “The decline in punitiveness is consistent with the other evidence showing the growth in empathy and in the acceptance of differences that seems to be developing among Houston area residents,” the report’s authors wrote.
A DPIC analysis of county-level sentencing and execution data shows that the dramatic decline in public support for the death penalty in Houston has been reflected in an equally dramatic decline in death-penalty usage county-wide. 66 capital defendants were sentenced to death in Harris County from 1995–1999. There have been only 2 new death sentences in the county since 2015. Though Harris County has produced more executions than any other county in the United States, with 129, that number also has fallen sharply in recent years. The DPIC analysis found that 24 Harris County prisoners were executed in the second half of the 1990s, as compared to 7 in the 2nd half of the 2010s.
In 2016, the county elected a new District Attorney, Kim Ogg, who pledged “very few death penalty prosecutions” and said in 2017, “I don’t think that being the death penalty capital of America is a selling point for Harris County.” 2017 marked the 1st time in more than 30 years that Harris County imposed no new death sentences and no one sentenced to death in the county was executed.
(source: Death Penalty Information Center)
Judge sets new deadlines for defense in trial of accused Tree of Life shooter
The federal judge overseeing the capital case of accused synagogue shooter Robert Bowers on Tuesday imposed new deadlines next month for the defense to file pre-trial motions.
The defense team had filed a motion this week asking for a delay because of virus-related issues but the prosecution objected, saying the defense has had many months to prepare its case and should have to file its motions before May 30. Prosecutors said the judge has already granted seven extensions and that any further delays jeopardize the rights of the victims and the public to a speedy trial.
After a phone conference, U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose ordered that the defense has until June 15 to file challenges to the indictment and the government's notice of intent to seek the death penalty, including the aggravating factors in that decision.
Government responses are due by June 30 and replies by July 13, the judge ruled.
She also said any challenges to the jury selection process are due by July 20, responses by Aug. 3 and replies by Aug. 17.
(source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Norris E. Gelman, a leading criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia, dies at 77
Norris E. Gelman, 77, of Wyncote, a criminal defense lawyer who represented some of the region’s most infamous defendants, died Sunday, May 24, of complications from a heart ailment at Abington Hospital - Jefferson Health.
For decades, Mr. Gelman was a high-profile figure in his field and the cases he handled were no less so. His clients included Philadelphia mobsters Nicky Scarfo Sr. and Nicky Scarfo Jr.; Ira Einhorn, the new-age intellectual who killed his ex-girlfriend in West Philadelphia; and Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State coach serving decades in prison as a serial child-sex predator.
An expert in the state’s death-penalty law, Mr. Gelman was often called to testify in court. Over his career, he helped win reversals in sentences for 10 death-row clients and set many legal precedents. He wrote and lectured widely on the topic.
“Everybody recognized he was the best criminal appeals lawyer in Pennsylvania,” said Philadelphia lawyer and friend Dennis Cogan.
Despite his prominence, Mr. Gelman never bragged about winning. He wasn’t flashy in court. He used humor and superior knowledge to win his cases.
“He was so unselfish about sharing his time and knowledge with other lawyers,” Cogan said. “He was the kind of guy who was very decent and nice to everybody."
Born in Oak Lane, Mr. Gelman attended Cheltenham High School. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1964 and the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1967.
Since much of his life was spent working, his legal colleagues were among his closest friends. Some were cocounsel on cases.
His base was a group practice in the Benjamin Franklin House and before that, a high-rise at 20th and Market Streets in Center City.
He never officially retired. “Despite the fact that he talked about it on various occasions, he didn’t,” said lawyer and office mate Jeremy Gelb. “Then, when COVID-19 got to a certain stage, we implored him to stay home and take care of himself, and he did.”
Known to friends as “Norrie,” Mr. Gelman began his legal career in 1967 as an assistant under Philadelphia District Attorney Arlen Specter. It was there, in the early 1970s, that Mr. Gelman met Cogan and became his mentor.
“He began to develop in the DA’s Office very quickly,” Cogan said. “He was open to teaching me the ins and outs of the criminal law in Pennsylvania. He never pontificated. A brief conversation with Norrie was a teaching session. He never took himself too seriously.”
In 1974, Mr. Gelman left the DA’s Office and became a defense lawyer. He had studied cases from both vantage points to such a degree that it wasn’t much of a transition, Cogan said.
Among his notorious clients were John du Pont, the chemical company heir who shot and killed wrestler Dave Schultz at du Pont’s estate in Newtown Square in 1996. After du Pont was convicted, Mr. Gelman worked with Alan Dershowitz on an appeal, but du Pont died in prison in 2010.
In private life, Mr. Gelman was the sort of man people loved to be around, Gelb said. He was well-read, and loved opera, classical music, and jazz.
“Not just listening to them — he was an authority on the great recordings,” Gelb said. “He was a very, very colorful guy. He was a great storyteller and raconteur.”
His daughter, Maya Cheek, said he was loved by his family and will be missed. “He was just everything to us. He was a bigger-than-life character,” she said.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 51 years, Carole Calbazana Gelman; a son, Michael Calbazana; and four grandchildren. A sister died earlier.
Services are private due to the pandemic.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Career Wardrobe, 1822 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19130.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Russell Tillis ruled competent for trial----Tillis charged with kidnapping, dismembering woman whose remains were found buried in yard of his home
Russell Tillis has been ruled competent for prosecution following a two-day mental evaluation hearing.
The ruling was made after Judge Mark Borello heard 4 psychologists who examined Tillis.
Tillis, 59, is charged in the kidnap, murder and dismemberment of Joni Gunter. Police said the woman’s remains were found in the yard of his Southside home in 2016 while Tillis was in jail on unrelated charges.
The case has dragged on for years as Tillis has fought with his lawyers. He’s now on his 11th and 12th attorneys, and he’s trying to get rid of one of them. Tillis has filed detailed motions himself again and again in the case.
The trial was reset for Aug. 10. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Shocking surveillance video reportedly shows Miami mom shoving 9-year-old son into canal
A Miami woman faked her son’s abduction after trying to drown him twice, with witnesses rescuing the boy from a canal the 1st time, and the 2nd attempt ending in the boy’s death, officials said Saturday, May 23. Now, shocking surveillance video of her 1st attempt has emerged.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Patricia Ripley, 45, is facing attempted and premeditated murder charges and being held in jail with no bond.
The boy, Alejandro Ripley, 9, was autistic and nonverbal. He was found floating in a canal Friday, May 22.
In an interview Saturday, Fernandez Rundle said Ripley apparently tried to drown her son an hour earlier at a different canal but nearby residents heard yelling and rescued him. Then, Fernandez Rundle said, Ripley drove her son to another canal.
“Unfortunately, when she took him to the second canal, and there was no one there, she tried it once, and people rescued him,” Fernandez Rundle said in an interview with The Associated Press. “He was alive. He could have stayed alive. She intended, from all the facts of the case, to kill him.”
Shocking surveillance video obtained and aired by Univision appears to show Ripley’s first attempt to kill her son. She and Alejandro can be seen walking along a Miami-Dade canal when she could be seen forcefully shoving the boy into the water. The video then shows her running away from the scene, only to return 20 seconds later with a bystander who rushed to rescue the child and pulled him from the murky water.
About an hour later, investigators said she drove him to a 2nd canal where he died.
Fernandez Rundle said an autopsy was being done on the boy Saturday to determine if he had other injuries or perhaps had something toxic in his system. She said no decision has been made yet on whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
Fernandez Rundle also noted that because the boy was nonverbal, he could not have told his initial rescuers what had happened with his mother.
“He can’t say anything to his rescuers,” Fernandez Rundle said. “We talk about children being voiceless. This is another level of voicelessness. He was incapable of saying that ‘mommy put me in the water.’”
The father, Aldo Ripley, broke down in tears after a bond court hearing. Between sobs, he said, “We love Alejandro, and we got aggrieved with whatever they said about my wife. It’s not real.”
The lawyer, Nelson Rodriguez-Varela, said he was gathering a legal team “so she has the opportunity to vindicate her good name” and asked the public to reserve judgment for when more information comes out.
“There is obviously a great deal of support for her,” he said. “By all accounts, she has been an excellent mother, an excellent person, a great family as you can see from the people who are here.”
Miami-Dade police said the mother first claimed she was ambushed by 2 black men who demanded drugs and took her cellphone, tablet and son, before fleeing Thursday night, prompting an Amber Alert in the area south of Miami.
The boy’s body was pulled out of a golf course canal early Friday as police continued to interrogate the woman.
An arrest affidavit says she provided “conflicting statements,” and finally was confronted with testimonies of witnesses and video footage showing the first attempt to push the boy into the canal.
The document says she recanted her story and admitted she drove to another site and led the boy into a different canal stating “he’s going to be in a better place.”
(source: Fox News)
Murder trial for man facing death penalty delayed to 2021
A hearing for a man who may face the death penalty for allegedly killing his wife and 3 other family members in an Ohio apartment has been further delayed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gurpreet Singh, 37, was indicted last year on 4 counts of aggravated murder in the fatal shootings of his wife, her parents and her aunt at an apartment complex in West Chester in April 2019.
Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard moved Singh's trial from Sept. 21 to May 3, 2021. He cited “issues concerning the public health crisis regarding COVID-19" and said it may be difficult to seat a jury for the necessary time period to conduct the trial in the rescheduling order.
Singh has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond at the Butler County Jail.
(source: Associated Press)
Defense in death penalty case asks for postponement of October trial
Matthew A. Adams, the Utica man facing the death penalty for allegedly killing a woman in her Owensboro home in 2018, is scheduled to go to trial in October.
But Adams’ lawyers are asking the trial be postponed at least until the beginning of next year, citing complications that the COVID-19 pandemic has created in preparing the defense.
Adams, 28, was charged with murder and first-degree burglary in the death of Erica Owen, who was killed in her home on Placid Place in July 2018. Prosecutors charged Adams with breaking into Owen’s home and strangling her. He also faces charges of violating a protective order, tampering with evidence and theft of auto over $10,000.
Adams had a prior relationship with Owen and was already facing charges for vandalizing Owen’s home before the July 2018 incident.
Michael Bufkin, one of Adams’ public defenders, said in a motion that the pandemic has interfered with investigating the facts of the case. Also, potential mitigating factors, such as Adams’ mental health, can’t be adequately investigated because attorneys and evaluators are not currently able to meet with him in person, he said.
Bufkin, who is part of the state Department of Public Advocacy, said the defense team is bound by an executive order from Gov. Andy Beshear to limit in-person contact with people, which has limited the information they can gather.
“There are at least 45 relevant mitigation witnesses not previously interviewed who cannot be interviewed because of social distancing requirements,” Bufkin wrote. The motion also includes a statement from mitigation specialist Anita Dawn Jones, which says her examination of Adams’ mental health history has been stopped because Adams cannot be met with in person. Adams is incarcerated in the Daviess County Detention Center.
In particular, Jenkins said she has found evidence of “cognitive disorders that need to be investigated,” including problems with reading and math, but Adams’ teachers can’t be interviewed because of the pandemic.
Jenkins said Adams has “severe mental issues” including anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorder, but physicians who worked with Adams can’t be interviewed, and all records can’t be obtained, because of the pandemic. Defense mental health experts have also been unable to meet with Adams, Jenkins said.
Jenkins wrote she would be at least 6 months from the time the state’s social distancing requirement is lifted to complete her investigation.
April Rush, a fact investigator with the Department of Public Advocacy, also provided an accompanying statement with Bufkin’s motion that said she has been unable to meet with or find witnesses or visit the Placid Place home where the incident took place. Phone interviews are inadequate for interviewing witnesses, Rush said.
Bufkin argued the pandemic also creates issues with conducting a trial that might still be present in October.
The Administrative Office of the Courts has said that jury trials can resume no earlier than August.
Bufkin said the trial will require a large jury pool that will create the possibility of virus transmission, and jurors might “be tempted to make rushed decisions” in order to get away as quickly as possible.
“This pandemic is uncharted territory for a capital trial,” Bufkin wrote. “It would make sense for the court to try a number of less weighty cases before tackling a capital trial where a man’s life hangs in the balance.”
A hearing is scheduled later this week to discuss motions, including one to exclude the death penalty.
SC seeks Centre's reply on plea for fixing time limit for disposal of mercy petitions----The top court said that only thing it may consider is directing the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on time limit for placing the mercy petition before the President.
The Supreme Court Wednesday sought the Centre's reply on a plea seeking direction to the government to frame specific procedure, rules and guidelines for time-bound disposal of mercy petitions.
The top court said that only thing it may consider is directing the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on time limit for placing the mercy petition before the President.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy issued notice to the Centre and sought its response within 4 weeks.
The top court, which was hearing a petition filed by one Shiv Kumar Tripathi through video conferencing, sought to whether there was any timeline for disposal of mercy petitions by President.
Tripathi in his plea has contended that there were no guidelines for disposal of mercy petitions within a particular time frame.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said he needs time to seek instructions and respond to the query.
The bench said that format of mercy petition is not important but what is important is time limit for placing it before the President.
Tripathi has sought a direction to the Centre to fix a time-frame within which a mercy petition has to be decided and "the consequences of not disposing of the mercy petitions within such time frame".
He said in his plea that since there is no specified written procedure and guidelines for disposing of mercy petitions within a time-bound manner, it results in "arbitrariness" in their disposal.
"It also leads to undue delay in disposal of the mercy petitions and thus giving rise to public unrest and creates doubts and suspicion in the mind of public at large," it said.
The plea said that in some cases, due to the prolonged delay in disposal of mercy petitions, convicts had taken the benefit and got death penalty converted into life imprisonment.
"The victims and their families feel cheated in such cases. For effective disposal of the mercy petition in a time bound manner and for transparency therein it is must that specific procedure and guidelines for disposing the mercy petitions within a time bound period, are immediately framed and implemented," it said.
The petition said that power to grant pardon is an extraordinary power and it has to be exercised by the concerned authority with "great care and caution".
"The principles of natural justice demands that this power shall be exercised uniformly in each and every case. Its beneficiaries ought not to be the extraordinary persons but all deserving individuals," it said, adding that delay in disposal of mercy petition by the President is "another big problem".
It said that in August 2008, the Ministry of Home Affairs while replying to a petition had given information to the Central Information Commission (CIC) that there is no written procedure to deal with mercy petition.
The plea said that in United States of America, a convict can apply to the President for pardon on a prescribed form, which is easily available along with necessary instructions that are required to be followed.
It said that in England, if a person is willing to seek pardon, he or she has to file an application before the Home Secretary.
"The framing of rules is necessary for the purpose of transparency," the plea said, adding that absence of specified procedure and guidelines for time-bound disposal of mercy petitions is resulting in "arbitrariness and discrimination" in their disposal.
MAY 26, 2020:
Walter Barton’s execution was ‘cruel and unusual’
Regarding Michael A. Wolff’s guest column “Should Missouri kill Walter Barton? (May 18): In the case of Walter Barton, there were 2 mistrials, a trial and conviction, a reversal and remand by the Missouri Supreme Court. The 2nd trial ended in conviction and was upheld by the Supreme Court but later thrown out by a lower court. At the 5th trial, Barton was found guilty, and the death penalty was recommended. During final appeal, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 to uphold his death sentence.
On Feb. 19, the state of Missouri set the execution for May 19. A petition, which was signed by more than 5,800 people, asked Gov. Mike Parson to grant clemency. The clemency appeal was based on an innocence claim and lack of competence.
Michael A. Wolff, retired Missouri Supreme Court justice who voted against the conviction and death sentence, wrote: “Even if the evidence were strong enough to support a conviction, it may not have been enough to warrant the death penalty.”
In the end it was up to Parson. He was asked to stay the execution and appoint a board of inquiry to investigate. He chose to take no action, seeing no reason to intervene. Barton was executed last week by a lethal drug.
I am horrified, angered and saddened to live in a state and a country that condones and promotes the killing of a human being who may not have been guilty. This is indeed cruel and unusual punishment.
Lucy Freeman • St. Louis
(source: Letter to the Editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
MONTANA----female to face death penalty
Aunt, man tied to murder of West Yellowstone boy post bail
The aunt of a West Yellowstone boy and another man arrested in connection with his murder posted bail over the weekend.
The Gallatin County Detention Center confirmed with NBC Montana that 18-year-old Madison Sasser and 18-year-old Gage Roush posted bail.
Both were arrested in connection with the death of 12-year-old James Alex Hurley.
Authorities arrested Roush in February, and charged him with felony assault on a minor. A judge set his bond at $50,000.
Officials later arrested Sasser in March, charging her with negligent homicide. A judge set her bond at $150,000.
Sasser's mother, father and 14-year-old brother face deliberate homicide charges in the Feb. 3 death of Hurley. Those 3 family members remain behind bars.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Patricia Batts, the grandmother of Hurley.
(source: NBC Montana)
Death Penalty Considered for Accused Killer of Jassy Correia ---- Louis Coleman III was indicted on one count of kidnapping resulting in death in connection to the disappearance and murder of 23-year-old Jassy Correia last year
A virtual hearing is scheduled Tuesday to consider the death penalty for Louis Coleman- the man accused of kidnapping and killing a 23-year-old mother from a Boston nightclub last year.
Jassy Correia was last seen early on Feb. 24 leaving a Boston nightclub after celebrating her birthday and getting into Coleman's car, according to police.
Surveillance video shows Coleman carrying her into his providence apartment. Correia, of Lynn, was found in the trunk of his car when police stopped him in Delaware 4 days later.
Attorneys on both sides of the case of a man accused of killing 23-year-old Jassy Correia will return to court.
He now faces a death sentence or life in prison under federal kidnapping charges resulting in death. Coleman, 32 of Providence, Rhode Island, has pleaded not guilty.
The death penalty will be weighed in the case in a hearing today via video conference.
The man indicted for the kidnapping death of 23-year-old Jassy Correia pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in federal court in Boston Tuesday morning.
Coleman's lawyers may decide whether they intend to pursue an insanity defense. It's unclear if Coleman will appear.
Correia is survived by her family, including her 2-year-old daughter.
MAY 25, 2020:
Alabama mayor candidate calls for public hangings for drug dealers with 3 convictions
A special education teacher running for mayor in a city in Alabama is proposing public hangings for drug dealers with multiple convictions.
Michael Ray James, who’s a mayoral candidate for Sylacauga, has called for public hangings for drug dealers who have been convicted 3 times.
“Please consider that Drug Dealers have murdered, for profit, approximately 1,000,000 teenagers, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles in a short 20 year period,” James wrote in a Facebook post on May 13.
“Yes, I’m very aware public hanging is extreme and totally not possible without Federal Approvals and not from city or state officials. Extreme yes, but definitely brings attention to this scourge on Sylacauga, Alabama and the United States of America.”
Some disagreed with James’ proposal on social media.
“A public hanging of any sorts isn’t the proper position anyone, yet alone a someone running for public office should endorse in any way...,” one Facebook user wrote in response. “You know the statement has racist undertones all over it, but you’re smart enough to phrase it in a way for spin purposes.”
“I understand their position,” James said an interview with AL.com.
“It’s just a difference of opinion. I think everybody has an opinion and that’s OK. I am serious about, after somebody has been convicted 3 times, I am very serious about them losing their life, whether it’s to lethal injection or hanging.”
The end of death row in Oregon: Beat Check podcast
27 men sit in solitary confinement on death row in the Oregon State Penitentiary. This summer those men will be moved – but they‘re not going far.
On the latest episode of Beat Check with The Oregonian, investigative reporter Noelle Crombie talks about her most recent stories about those inmates and the long path toward the end of capital punishment in Oregon.
Crombie recently broke the news that Oregon’s death row inmates will be moved, and many will be headed to the general prison population at the state’s only maximum security prison.
The decision effectively means death row is no more in the state.
On this episode, we talked about how we got to this point, her tour of the death chamber last year, what this decision means for the inmates and what victims families think of the development. On the second half of the show, we talked about COVID-19’s effect on the prison system in the state.
Shortly after this recording, Crombie reported that the state penitentiary was now the state’s largest COVID-19 hotspot.
(source: The Oregonian)
EU hails Chad for abolishing death penalty
The European Union has hailed Chad for abolishing the death penalty for terrorism crimes nearly 5 years since its last execution.
In a statement on Saturday, the EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Virginie Battu-Henriksson, said the move by Chad should be emulated by other countries that still allow death penalties.
“With this law, Chad has become the 22nd African state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes,” said Battu-Henriksson.
“It sends a strong signal to other countries around the world and contributes to the gradual abolition of the death penalty in Africa. 80% of the Member States of the African Union are already abolitionists in law or in practice. The European Union is strongly opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances.”
Chad passed legislation in 2016 to abolish capital punishment, but made an exception for perpetrators of terrorism.
The Sahel country now becomes the 22nd member of the African Union to abolish the death penalty.
Battu-Henriksson said the decision by Chad is a positive step towards the harmonization of the judicial framework of the G5 Sahel in the fight against terrorism.
MAY 24, 2020:
Homicide suspect could face death penalty
The Lexington man arrested Thursday for shooting 2 men to death earlier this month in Elizabethtown could face the death penalty.
Taynandree Reed, 28, was arrested by Versailles police after an officer recognized him as he walked by him at a Kroger. When Reed realized it was a police officer, he fled and was captured following a short foot pursuit.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young said the case is death penalty eligible and he will decide when the Commonwealth gets the case at a later time whether or not to seek the penalty.
Reed was on supervised release for a 2011 conviction on multiple charges when he was arrested.
He finished serving a nearly 8 years in prison in September at Northpoint Training Center in Danville for a conviction in Jefferson County for 1st-degree robbery, 3rd-degree burglary; 1st offense trafficking in marijuana more than 8 ounces and less than 5 pounds and receiving stolen property more than $500 and less than $10,000.
According to the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Reed was to remain on supervised released through March 2021.
Reed is charged with fatally shooting Shawn Fox, 32, and Michael Buckner Thomas, 37, of Hopkinsville inside of a vehicle, and wounding a woman, on the afternoon of May 13.
According to an arrest warrant issued the day after the shooting, Reed was in front of Ashley Pointe apartments on Stewart Court in Elizabethtown between 4 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., standing beside a 2017 maroon Hyundai Elentra when he began to fire shots into the vehicle.
The woman, who was shot in the head, according to the arrest warrant, drove away in the vehicle and pulled into a driveway on nearby Patterson Street. Fox and Thomas were pronounced dead in the vehicle by the Hardin County Coroner’s Office.
The driver of the Elentra was taken to University Hospital in Louisville and has since been released.
Elizabethtown Police Department spokesman Chris Denham said E’town police identified Reed as a suspect within 24 hours of the shooting and sent out information to various police organizations to be on the lookout for Reed.
Denham said Reed became a suspect early through “investigative work.”
Police haven’t disclosed what brought Reed, Fox, Thomas and the adult female, who is not from Hardin County, to Elizabethtown.
Reed is charged with 2 counts of murder, 1st-degree assault and 1st-degree robbery – as he also took the woman’s purse from the vehicle, police said.
He is being held in lieu of a $500,000 cash bond in the Hardin County Detention Center. He will appear at 9 a.m. June 12 in Hardin District Court.
(source: The News-Enterprise)
Why care about the death penalty in Oregon?
Edwin Edwards, who served four terms as governor of Louisiana beginning in 1972, was a thoroughly corrupt man. Nonetheless, like most of us, he was a morally mixed bag.
When he first ran for the office in 1971, he promised the ACLU of Louisiana, of which I was then president, that he wouldn’t sign any death warrants, a promise he kept during his first two terms. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court made it easier for him to keep it by ruling in Furman v. Georgia that, as administered up to that time, the death penalty was unconstitutional. That ruling emptied death rows across the country.
Unfortunately, when states passed statutes that separated the trial stage from the sentencing stage in capital cases, they began filling again. In Edwards’ 3rd term, from 1984-1987, he signed 12 warrants.
There’s some likelihood that at least one who died was innocent. Since 1973, 167 people on death row have been exonerated. These are the ones lucky enough to have had their cases taken up by organizations like the Innocence Project, founded in 1992, that have competent lawyers and money for investigators, and especially if DNA samples have been preserved in their cases. It’s fair to assume that many other innocent people who weren’t so lucky have died.
Some governors have been deeply disturbed by the possibility of signing the death warrants of innocent people. In 2000, Gov. George Ryan of Illinois declared a moratorium on executions after 13 death row inmates had been exonerated during the same period that the state had executed 12. In 2011, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who had signed two warrants in a previous term, also announced a moratorium, and his successor, Kate Brown, affirmed her commitment to it.
In the past 50 years, Oregon has executed only 2 people, Douglas Franklin White in 1996 and Harry Charles Moore in 1997. Nonetheless, district attorneys continue to seek capital sentences. Currently, 29 people live in prison under the shadow of death.
Last week, the Department of Corrections announced that it would eliminate death row at the state penitentiary in Salem, where 27 have been held, and put them in with the general prison population as a cost-saving measure. It can’t commute their sentences, however. Only the governor can do that.
She should. Further, the state Legislature should pass a bill referring to the ballot a measure to end capital punishment in Oregon. Voters will have to decide, because in 1984, they amended the state constitution to reinstate the death penalty, having voted in 1964 to abolish it. (The same changes of mind had occurred in 1914 and 1920.)
Why should either supporters or opponents of capital punishment care that it exists in Oregon if nobody is being executed? Its leading supporters are district attorneys. Why? Because their ability to bring a capital charge is a powerful threat to the defendant in every prosecution that state law allows them the discretion to bring it, including cases in which their evidence is shaky. The only voice raised in opposition to the elimination of death row was the Oregon District Attorneys Association.
And why should opponents of the death penalty care? Well, a future governor might sign death warrants. But the greater concern is what the death penalty says about us as a people. It’s no accident that the large majority of executions take place in Southern states. They have a long history of barbarity. Oregonians should declare ourselves a civilized society.
(source: Herb Rothschild’s column appears in the Ashland Tidings every Saturday)
New coalition seeks to pull together church’s prison ministry efforts
There are more than 30 Catholic organizations providing some kind of prison ministry in the United States. One reason is because the need is so great, with a prison population estimated at about 2.3 million by the Prison Policy Initiative.
But U.S. incarceration rates grew so fast over the past generation, they far outstripped the ability of any one organization to keep up. What’s more, few of the organizations had any contact with others to coordinate ministry efforts.
That issue is now being addressed by the new Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition, which has slowly come into being over the past two years.
Karen Clifton, the coalition’s executive coordinator, had been executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, the anti-death-penalty organization. Despite its focus on capital punishment and restorative justice, the network would be approached with requests for resources on issues regarding prisons and prisoners from people who knew of nowhere else to turn.
In early 2018, the Vatican sent a questionnaire to the papal nunciature in Washington asking about the state of prison ministry in the United States, according to Harry Dudley, then staff to the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service.
Dudley, who has since retired, got the ministry organizations “to really tell them from their perspective what was going on. And all of those reports were sent to my desk, and I was asked to compile them and follow up,” he said.
“The major issue really was the role of paid chaplains in prisons really was decreasing. There were less clergy doing it, and more laity doing it, in all the different churches. And the number of incarcerated people was so great, nobody was really addressing it.”
Catholic Mobilizing Network held a daylong program on restorative justice in spring 2018, and invited representatives from the different Catholic groups doing some form of prison ministry — from advocacy to mailing devotional literature to jails — to meet separately to help determine the scope and breadth, but also the gaps, in the church’s prison ministry efforts.
One gap was pastoral care — to those in prison and their families, to crime victims and their families, and to those who work in prisons and their families.
“One of the reasons certification didn’t really pick up in this country was that everything focused on the highest level of certification — the master’s program, the DRE (director of religious education),” Dudley said. “Not everyone needs that, but what people need are other pathways to do the work and then people can think, ‘Gee, if I can do the work at this level, maybe I can do more.'”
One sign of the interest in training, according to Clifton: The first such training session was scheduled around the Independence Day holiday in 2018, and despite the link to register online for the training being made available just 4 days before the session was held, 650 people signed up.
An earlier inkling came at the 2017 Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida, where Clifton was asked to moderate two breakout sessions on the effects of incarceration on families. Catholic Mobilizing Network’s focus has always been on information and advocacy, “not the ministry piece,” said Clifton, who holds a master of divinity degree and had enjoyed a career in ministry prior to joining CMN.
But “this really spoke to me deeper,” she told Catholic News Service. “And having heard so many stories and being part of the journey with so many people affected by incarceration, I really felt called by this.”
It’s personal to Dudley, too. “I had an uncle who was a prison guard at Sing Sing Prison when I was growing up in Yonkers, New York. He had a breakdown because of the work. … I had a brother who did time.”
A lot of discerning took place in the coalition’s creation from among its members. Each national organization in the coalition has a representative on a steering committee, and from that group an executive committee addresses priority issues. A formation committee monitors standards for prison ministry, and 6 webinars have already been held to deepen a largely volunteer contingent’s understanding of the nature of prison ministry.
The coalition’s mission statement has several goals it has set out to achieve: Educate Catholics about the effects of incarceration and detention; advocate for the necessary changes in the “broken” correctional system; build networking hubs for the Catholic prison ministries; “break down silos” that impede communication among the different ministries; recruit new prison ministers; and gather ministers for networking and education when needed.
The coalition also established a website, https://www.catholicprisonministries.org, that Clifton said is akin to “a Yelp! for prison ministry and resources.”
While money is a must to achieve the coalition’s many aims, neither Clifton nor Dudley saw the need, or had the desire, to create another 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency to raise funds. But it did acquire the sponsorship of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, which focuses on hospital chaplaincy, allowing the coalition to use the association’s nonprofit status to raise money to carry out its goals.
Blood on the bog: A brother and sister hanged for an Offaly murder----150 years ago, Patrick Dunne’s ‘dying declaration’ helped convict his neighbours of his murder
Patrick Dunne lived with his mother in a cabin just outside Philipstown in King’s County – now Daingean, and now Co Offaly. The normal route home for the farm servant, who was about 30 when he was shot dead, took him past a gate, near a stile, over which a walker would find a path that provided a shortcut to the home of Pat Sheil – an old man. Ellis’s gate, as it was known, stood about 265m – or 53 perches – south of the town.
It was on the side of the road near Ellis’s gate where a man named Thomas Russell found Dunne on the evening of February 26th, 1870. It was about 8pm, the night was dark, Dunne had his feet in the drain and he was drenched from head to toe. At that point, his mother would have expected him home.
“I asked him what ailed him,” recalled Russell, according to official records.
“Is that Tom?” asked Dunne.
“Yes,” said Russell.
“I am dying,” replied Dunne.
“He seemed to be perfectly in possession of his senses,” Russell later said. A cart was summoned and the injured man was taken to the dispensary, where he was attended by a doctor, a priest and a magistrate.
Dunne could describe with clarity what happened to him. The injured man told Russell he had been shot, and that he knew who pulled the trigger. But the damning statement he made a short time later on his deathbed was very nearly thrown out when the case came to trial at the Assizes the following spring.
The story of Dunne’s murder begins many months beforehand. The above-mentioned old man, Pat Sheil, lived with his children Peter, Laurence (Larry) and Margaret (Peggy). The Sheils and Dunne, in short, did not get along.
Throughout reports and records concerning “The Philipstown Murder”, mentions are made of a feud over the right of way to a small area of bog. Records from the Petty Sessions in 1868 shed a little more light.
Peter was brought before a judge a number of times that year for preventing people accessing Toberronan bog. The first complaint, by a man named Bernard Tracy, alleged that Peter “unlawfully” prevented him drawing his turf on May 30th, 1868 – with the defendant “having no legal claim on said turf”. Peter was let off, on that occasion.
In August, it was a similar story – but this time the complainant was Patrick Dunne. The farm servant alleged he was prevented “by threats” from drawing his turf at the same bog.
In October, Peter escalated his campaign, and Dunne became the target. The complaint in the court record reads: “Defendant did assault Complainant at Toberronan on the 12th October 1868 by inflicting . . . wounds on his head with a blow of a shovel.” This time, Peter was jailed for 6 months.
That stoked the fire. It would be Larry and Peggy who exacted revenge. At least, that’s what Patrick told Russell when he found him wet and freezing at the roadside, and what he repeated to the resident magistrate, Mr Scully, later that evening.
His official declaration was as follows: “I, Patrick Dunne, of Togher, Philipstown, do believe myself to be dying, and do declare that Peggy Sheil and Larry Sheil were standing on the road at Togher, and I on my way home this Saturday evening; they bid me good night, when Peggy Sheil fired a pistol shot at me; I turned round, when she again fired another shot at me; they both then went into Mr Ellis’s field; I was afraid of them since the burning of the turf.”
The young man signed the above statement with an “X”. Thirty minutes later, he began having severe paroxysms of pain and begged to be put out of his misery. An hour after that, he died. Dunne had been shot twice – the first skimmed the top of his head, the second had been fired into his back, breaking his shoulder blade.
Police arrested Peggy at her father’s house, according to one report. About the same time, they picked up Larry, who was trying to board an emigrant ship to America at Cobh – then Queenstown – under the name Byrne. A pistol belonging to Larry was recovered, along with scraps of the wadding required to fire the shots.
At trial, the pair’s father presented an alibi, which didn’t hold up. Quickly, Peggy was painted as the orchestrator, with evidence to suggest she had the murder planned for some time. A man named Thomas Rooney swore that Peggy said she would pay £10 for a man to kill Dunne, and when Rooney suggested she see a priest, Peggy had replied: “To hell with the priests” and said she would “hold a basin for the priest’s heart, to see a man cutting Dunne’s throat”.
The pair were found guilty on April 1st and sentenced to death.
The dead man’s statement was key to securing the conviction, and was submitted as a “dying declaration” – which holds more weight in court; why would a dying person lie?
To qualify as a dying declaration, it had to be shown that Dunne knew he was dying. The matter was challenged by the defence, and went as far as the Court of Criminal Appeal. It’s for that reason that files about the crime in the National Archives detail Dunne’s dying moments in great detail.
Scully, the magistrate, stood at Dunne’s head after last rites had been given, and as per the procedure for taking a dying declaration, Scully asked if Dunne knew who he, the magistrate, was. The dying man said he did. Scully then asked: “Do you believe you are dying?”
Dunne replied: “I do.” Scully then took the testimony. A short while later, as his condition worsened, Dunne complicated the matter by asking: “Am I dying?”
The question “Am I dying?” was where the defence staged their bid to have the evidence thrown out. Was it a genuine question? Why would he ask that question if he believed he was dying? Did it nullify the sanctity of the dying declaration? The priest, doctor and magistrate thought not.
Perhaps it was a general exclamation – or if interpreted verbatim, perhaps he was asking if he was just then in the act of dying. In the end, the appeal failed, and the conviction was upheld.
The jury recommended mercy for the prisoners. A memorial was signed in a bid to spare their lives – the killing, the petition argued, was the result of a family dispute, rather than an agrarian crime; the latter would have been seen as a more serious affair in those decades.
The family had seen too much suffering, they argued; another brother had been murdered some years beforehand. Laurence, they said, was a young man and easily influenced, while Margaret was “a person of very excitable disposition”.
The sun was shining on the morning Peggy and Larry were hanged. We know that because The Irish Times reporter mentioned the weather. Contemporaneous reports of Victorian-era hangings leaned towards the dramatic, to put it mildly. This one was no different. The gaol building at Tullamore where the action was to take place “frowned”, yet the sun beamed “as if on scenes of happiness and joy”.
The reportage was familiar, but this was no ordinary execution story. That day, May 27th 1870 – 150 years ago this week – would mark the first execution in Ireland following the Capital Punishment Amendment Act, 1868, which outlawed public hangings. The public were barred, but reporters were allowed to attend.
The late 19th century saw a growing appetite for the abolition of capital punishment, a trend which can be seen in the hanging procedure itself. As hangings retreated behind prison walls, the need for a platform disappeared. Instead, pits were dug, into which a body could fall and remain for a time before being cut down and buried.
The length of the rope , or “drop”, became important, too; as the century wore on, weight-to-rope-length ratios would be devised –– most notably by William Marwood and later James Berry – to better ensure quick, struggle-free deaths.
In 1870, they still had some way to go. The London executioner at the time, William Calcraft, had a reputation as a bit of a brute, and morbid stories of his notoriously short drops are plentiful in newspaper archives. However, it does not appear that Calcraft travelled to Ireland 150 years ago for this particular job. Though a hangman was kept on government retainer, technically it was a sort of freelance gig: anyone could apply. Sailors were sometimes chosen because they tied the best knots, and an English executioner passing up a trip to Ireland in those decades was not rare.
In the case of the Sheils’ execution, the hangman is unnamed. Preparations were made by “a wretched looking man who was brought from a distance to perform the office of executioner, and who seemed quite new to the duty,” we’re told. The hangman “trembled considerably” while setting up the ropes.
The prisoners never confessed, but apparently acknowledged the justice of the sentence. Following the trial, they took to praying. Many did. Execution reports often cited the careful religious observations made by condemned prisoners once the chance of reprieve disappeared. Pat Sheil was too weak to visit his children, though their brother did make the trip.
On the morning of the execution, Larry was “white as a sheet”, while Peggy wore black silk, and stood onto the scaffold first. When she ascended, she turned and beckoned her brother to follow. The reporter noted her “firmness and composure”, echoing a court report from the previous month: when the pair were sentenced to death, Peggy was “the only unmoved person” in the room.
“The executioner adjusted the ropes round their necks, and, on a given signal, the bolt was drawn, and both fell struggling in the agony of death.”
The bell tolled at 8am and a black flag was hoisted to signal the fulfilment of the sentence. Peggy was 29 when she died, and Larry 25. Their bodies were buried in a corner of the prison yard.
(source: The Irish Times)
Revisiting Death Penalty
MAY 23, 2020:
Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----51
Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----569
Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx.
52-------June 16---------------Ruben Gutierrez---------570
53-------July 8----------------Billy Wardlow-----------571
54-------Sept. 9---------------John Ramirez------------572
55-------Sept. 30--------------Carlos Trevino----------573
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
With the execution of Walter Barton in Missouri on March 19, the USA has now executed 1,518 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.
1519------June 16----------Ruben Gutierrez-----------Texas
1520------July 8-----------Billy Wardlow-------------Texas
1521------Aug. 4-----------Harold Nichols------------Tennessee
1522------Sept. 9----------John Ramirez--------------Texas
1523------Sept. 30---------Carlos Trevino------------Texas
(source: Rick Halperin)
Triple Murderer Denied New Chance to Escape Death Penalty----Penalty hearing had two errors, Ninth Circuit says; Both errors were ‘harmless’ in determining sentence
Attorneys for a man who murdered his family performed ineffectively at a penalty hearing that resulted in a death sentence, but their failure to develop mental health evidence likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome, the Ninth Circuit ruled.
Joseph Weldon Smith’s refusal to submit to psychological testing would have left more thorough defense counsel with vulnerable expert testimony about a trail of fraudulent and illegal schemes, which they linked to a grandiosity disorder, the court said Thursday.
Federal Executions Delayed Until June 8 as Death Row Inmates File Appeals to Supreme Court
An appeals court in Washington, D.C. agreed Friday to stay its ruling concerning the legality of federal execution protocols until June 8 while four inmates on death row appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Department of Justice introduced the Federal Execution Protocol Addendum in 2019, which sought to provide a blanket method for executions. Attorney General William Barr said the multiple drugs normally used in lethal injection procedures would be replaced by the single drug, pentobarbital. Many states use different drugs during their executions.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the four death row prisoners says the addendum violates the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994. Under that act, those sentenced to death must be executed "in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed."
Legal counsel for the inmates wrote in their court filing that the "outcome of this case will dictate whether the Government may employ this Protocol in executing the more than sixty prisoners under federal sentences of death, including several whose execution dates were announced at the same time as the new Protocol itself."
Newsweek reached out to the Department of Justice for comment.
MAY 22, 2020:
Judge orders new proceedings or release for Texas death row inmate
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered prosecutors to either bring new proceedings against a Texas death row inmate or release him from prison.
The ruling means Ronald Prible, 48, could go free within a matter of months.
He was given the death penalty in 2002 for the 1999 deaths of 5 family members in Houston. A jury convicted him of capital murder for the shooting deaths of Esteban "Steve" Herrera and Nilda Tirado, and the deaths by smoke inhalation of their 3 children -- Rachel, 7, Valerie, 7, and Jade, 1.
District Judge Keith Ellison granted Prible's motion for relief based on his lawyers' arguments that prosecutors suppressed evidence and improperly handled testimony from jailhouse informants.
An inmate at the Federal Correctional Institute in Beaumont, Texas, testified that Prible confessed to him he killed the family. Defense lawyers, though, said prosecutors coached informants to speak against Prible, and that his cellmate, Michael Beckcom, acted "based on promises of relief" from investigators.
"Beckcom's testimony was plainly the most compelling evidence that the jury heard at trial," Ellison wrote.
"Although the defense could and did impeach Beckcom's credibility as a jailhouse smith, they did not have strong impeachment evidence about the actual substance of what he relayed to the jury about Prible's confession.
"Prible has made a strong case that there is more than a 'reasonable probability' that exclusion of Beckcom's testimony would have altered the outcome of the trial."
Ellison gave prosecutors 180 days to bring a new case against Prible or he'd be entitled to release from confinement.
(source: United Press International)
Man who filmed Ahmaud Arbery shooting arrested and charged with murder
The man who filmed a 25-year-old black man being shot in Georgia was charged with murder by the state.
William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., 50, was charged and arrested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on felony counts of murder and criminal attempt of false imprisonment for filming an incident that showed Ahmaud Arbery being shot in a street. Bryan Jr. will reportedly be booked into the Glynn County jail.
Should Bryan Jr. be convicted for the criminal charges against him, he would be eligible for the death penalty under Georgia law.
CNN prime-time host Chris Cuomo interviewed Bryan Jr. and his lawyer Kevin Gough following the incident, but Bryan Jr. could not answer many substantive questions related to the case.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced in early May that Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, the father and son seen in the video, were arrested and charged with murder for the death of Arbery.
Cellphone footage of the event taken by Bryan Jr. recently emerged online, apparently showing Arbery running around a white vehicle before being shot at twice.
The McMichaels reportedly told police they pursued Arbery in their vehicle after seeing him running because they suspected he was responsible for recent burglaries in the area. The father claims his son left the truck holding a shotgun and was attacked by Arbery, according to ABC News.
(source: Washington Examiner)
Florida Supreme Court reverses itself again on death penalty legal issue----Florida’s Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that a Miami man was still eligible for death row even though the same court ruled only years ago that those deemed intellectually disabled shouldn’t be executed.
Harry Franklin Phillips, a convict who shot a Miami parole officer to death in 1982, was hoping to get his death sentence reversed by convincing the courts that he is intellectually disabled.
But the Florida Supreme Court, backtracking on its own case decided only years ago, on Thursday ruled that Phillips isn’t ineligible, the court’s latest reversal in how sentences in major cases are meted out.
The court ruled that an earlier decision allowed for the broadening of who can be deemed intellectually disabled — generally someone with an IQ of 70 or less — does not apply “retroactively” to older cases such as Phillips’.
How many death row inmates the decision could affect was not clear on Thursday.
The court ruled 4-1. The only dissenter was Justice Jorge Labarga.
“Yet again, this Court has removed an important safeguard in maintaining the integrity of Florida’s death penalty jurisprudence,” Labarga wrote. “The result is an increased risk that certain individuals may be executed, even if they are intellectually disabled.”
With retirements and new selections in recent years, the Florida Supreme Court has become more conservative. Gov. Ron DeSantis still needs to appoint two more justices to replace Robert Luck and Barbara Lagoa, who spent only a brief time on the court before President Donald Trump elevated them a federal appeals court.
The decision in Phillips’ case drew immediate criticism from opponents of the death penalty, who say the Florida Supreme Court has yet again thumbed its nose at the legal concept of stare decisis, or making decisions drawing from legal precedents.
“I am personally shocked at the Court’s audacity and frankly its meanness,” said defense lawyer Stephen Harper, of Florida International University’s Florida Center for Capital Representation.
“So many people who were already granted relief by the Florida Supreme Court are now being deprived of that relief by the Florida Supreme Court. “And stare decisis has been abandoned, and this will have a much more devastating effect on the public’s trust in the judicial system.”
2 years ago, the Florida Supreme Court backtracked on allowing certain juveniles — who had been eligible for parole because their murder convictions were from decades ago — to get new sentencing hearings.
In January, the Florida Supreme Court reversed itself in ruling that unanimous jury verdicts were not needed to mete out the death penalty, a ruling excoriated by opponents of capital punishment. Florida law, however, still require juries to be unanimous in handing down a death sentence.
In the latest case, the Florida Supreme Court issued the ruling in the case of Phillips, who was first sentenced to death in 1984. He shot and killed parole supervisor Svenson in August 1982 in a North Miami-Dade parking lot.
Phillips has for years sought to reverse his death sentence, arguing that he could not be executed because he is intellectually disabled. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2002, ruled that executing intellectually disabled people is “cruel and unusual punishment” outlawed by the Constitution.
A Miami trial judge, however, ruled that Phillips was not intellectually disabled, a decision upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in 2008.
In the ensuing years, in a case called Hall v. State, the state high court broadened the range of people who could be deemed intellectually disabled, allowing people who have tested within five points of an IQ of 70 to present additional evidence that they may in fact be intellectually disabled.
Then, in 2013, Florida justices, in Walls v. State, ruled that that range could be applied to older cases. Phillips appealed, hoping to fall in that category.
But the newest court — with a majority of conservative-leaning justices — ruled that its early incarnation “clearly erred in reaching that conclusion and we now recede from our decision in Walls.” Justices said the Hall case “merely clarified” how the state determines who is intellectually disabled, and wasn’t significant enough to warrant retroactivity.
Nashville cathedral rallies behind Episcopalian on Tennessee’s death row as court case intensifies
Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman, on Tennessee’s death row since a 1987 murder conviction, was confirmed in 2014 as an Episcopalian by Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt. Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville counts the 69-year-old Abdur’Rahman as one of its parishioners, and Episcopalians there regularly visit him and are among the most dedicated supporters of his legal team’s efforts to stop his execution.
Now Abdur’Rahman’s supporters, after sharp turns in the case last year, are looking ahead to a June hearing before the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals and praying that the life of the man they call “brother” eventually will be spared.
Those efforts appeared to have succeeded last year. In August, a Davidson County judge approved an agreement between prosecutors and Abdur’Rahman’s lawyers to change his sentence to life in prison, because renewed scrutiny of the original prosecutor’s handling of the case cast doubt on the fairness of Abdur’Rahman’s trial.
“I’m very thankful to God for this good news about Abu,” Bauerschmidt told the Tennessean after the judge’s decision. “The Episcopal Church has long spoken against the death penalty through resolutions of our General Convention.”
Bauerschmidt and other Episcopalians who have gotten to know Abdur’Rahman thought the case was over. It wasn’t.
The following month, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s office filed an appeal seeking to reverse the agreement, saying it “uproots decades of established legal procedure and lacks any legal justification.” Slatery argued for keeping the state’s schedule to put Abdur’Rahman to death on April 16, 2020, though his execution has been stayed while the appeal is pending.
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship also has taken up Abdur’Rahman’s cause. Last month, its Death Penalty Abolition Action Group pointed Facebook followers to a petition drive at JusticeforAbu.org, “in case we need to go to the governor” to commute his sentence, the website says.
For Nashville Episcopalians, the cause is personal. “He’s my brother,” Christ Church Cathedral parishioner Ed Miller told Episcopal News Service this week. “I want to care for him as a brother.”
Miller, a lawyer, was just getting involved in advocacy against the death penalty when he first met Abdur’Rahman in 2012 during a prison visit. Miller now assists Abdur’Rahman’s clemency team and had been seeing him regularly until the coronavirus pandemic ended inmate visitations at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, where all 50 men on Tennessee’s death row are held.
Miller’s visits cover a range of topics, legal and spiritual. “I may talk to him about what’s happening at the church,” Miller said, and Abdur’Rahman readily welcomes more expansive conversations about spirituality. He converted from Christianity to Islam soon after his conviction and death sentence, before again becoming a Christian and joining The Episcopal Church more than two decades later.
“If you want to have a religious conversation with him you can have it,” Miller said, “because he probably knowns about the different religions as well as anybody I’ve ever talked to.”
Abdur’Rahman is “an engaging character” with an “infectious smile,” the Very Rev. Timothy Kimbrough, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, said in an interview with ENS. Like Miller, he has visited Abdur’Rahman for years and finds him easy to talk to. “You leave a visit ready to see him the next time.”
The cathedral’s visitation ministry at Riverbend in Nashville and other prisons in the region was already established when Kimbrough became dean in 2009, and he has been outspoken in taking up the church’s call to oppose the death penalty. Kimbrough counsels parishioners who visit Abdur’Rahman and other death row inmates that this ministry is not about guilt or innocence.
“You’re not here to hear the person’s story, to weigh it somehow in your own mind’s eye whether this person should or should not be incarcerated or sentenced to death based on the facts or the testimony of the case,” Kimbrough said in an interview with ENS. “We are at this because when we meet with the incarcerated, we meet with Jesus. We are there because we see and hear Jesus.”
He also emphasizes The Episcopal Church’s clear stance against capital punishment, as reaffirmed several times at General Convention since 1958. Most recently, the 79th General Convention in 2018 passed new a resolution that calls for all death row inmates’ sentences to be reduced and enlists bishops in states where the death penalty is legal to take up greater advocacy.
Later in 2018, that advocacy intensified in Tennessee when the state resumed executions after a nearly decade-long hiatus, prompting demonstrations that were joined by Episcopalians from Christ Church Cathedral. Despite such opposition, 6 death row inmates have been put to death by the state in the past 2 years.
In 1987, Abdur’Rahman was convicted along with an accomplice in the stabbing death of Patrick Daniels. The victim’s girlfriend also was injured but survived, while her two daughters in another room were unharmed. Since then, Abdur’Rahman’s legal team has argued that key evidence wasn’t introduced at the trial, evidence that suggested Abdur’Rahman was less culpable in the attack than the other attacker.
The original prosecutor, John Zimmerman, showed “overt racial bias” and “engaged in a pervasive pattern of suppression and deception,” according to Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, who recommend changing Abdur’Rahman’s sentence to life in prison.
When Judge Monte Watkins agreed to take Abdur’Rahman off death row, “we really thought this was the successful end to a long, long, long battle, and everyone was thrilled and excited and relieved,” Linda Manning told ENS. Manning has visited Abdur’Rahman for 20 years as a volunteer spiritual adviser and was familiar with the twists in his case over the years that alternatively gave rise to hope and disappointment.
“This one felt like it was the real deal. It really was going to happen,” she said. Instead, she and others in Abdur’Rahman’s camp were shocked by the attorney general’s rapid appeal of the change in sentence.
Abdur’Rahman, however, isn’t giving up, Manning said. “He has this incredible hope and faith in an ultimate outcome that sustains himself.”
Manning is a semi-retired Vanderbilt University professor with a background in psychology. She grew up in The Episcopal Church and said that her Christian upbringing still forms a core part of her spirituality, though these days she practices Buddhism rather than attending church. She thinks her winding spiritual journey helped her form a connection with Abdur’Rahman.
“He is a very kind person, very concerned about others and their needs,” she said. “He is deeply spiritual. His spirituality is strongly connected to nature and the notion that we are all one, one community. … He is as much my spiritual adviser as I am his.”
(source: David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service)
Pair charged in March slaying at Pine Bluff apartment
Formal charges have been filed against 2 teens accused in the slaying of a Pine Bluff man who was found shot to death inside an apartment in March.
According to court records, Ke'untae Shelton, 18, of Pine Bluff and Karizma Fisher, 18, of Monticello were charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery in the March 12 death of Leoncio Flores.
On March 12, officers were called to an apartment complex at 2402 McConnell Circle about 1:30 a.m. in response to a report of a shooting, according to an incident report from the Pine Bluff Police Department. Upon their arrival, officers found Flores' body lying inside the doorway of Apartment 5. Flores, 21, had been shot once in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene by Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelley.
According to a probable cause affidavit, witnesses told police that they had seen 4 black males run out of the apartment and leave in a silver-colored Ford Mustang. A search of Flores' cellphone turned up a video that was recorded about the time of the slaying with audio of a conversation between a woman, later identified as Fisher, and Flores, according to the affidavit.
About 13 minutes into the video, according to the affidavit, the audio captures the sound of several males entering the apartment and demanding items from Flores. Several slaps can be heard and then a single gunshot, followed by someone yelling" and sounds of people fleeing the apartment.
On May 18, shortly before 5 p.m., the affidavit said, Fisher was located at a residence on Lilac Street in Pine Bluff and was taken into custody.
About the same time, according to an update to the incident report, police stopped a dark-gray Ford Mustang at West 23rd Avenue and South Hickory Street in Pine Bluff. The report said Shelton was identified as the driver and was arrested at the scene. Two unidentified males who were passengers were released.
According to the affidavit, Fisher told police that Flores, who she said appeared to be drunk, had picked her up at her home in Monticello on March 12 and taken her to his apartment on McConnell Circle. Once there, she said she called her cousin, who was not identified in the affidavit, to come and get her.
Instead, she told police, several black males showed up a short time later in a silver Mustang and went inside Flores' apartment, the affidavit said. Fisher told police that the males emerged from the apartment a short time later and left the area, dropping her off in the Howard Drive area, the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, Shelton told police that Fisher had texted a friend of his to say that Flores "had been beating and raping her" and asked the friend to go get her and to kill Flores. He told police, the affidavit said, that he and three other men went to the apartment intending to rob Flores but one of the men shot Flores in the head and they all fled.
A supplemental report filed by Pine Bluff police detective Christopher Wieland made no mention of any other suspects.
"During the course of the investigation [it] was found that Ke'untae Shelton and Karizma Fisher are two suspects in this case. Both were arrested and booked into [the Jefferson County jail] for Capital Murder and Aggravated Robbery" was the only notation made in the supplemental report other than a reference to the detective case file for further information.
"To my knowledge they're thinking that [Shelton] was the shooter," said DeAunuana Roberts, Pine Bluff police public information officer.
Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Hunter said he could not comment on any of the facts of the case and could address only procedural matters. Hunter did say that, if convicted, Fisher and Shelton would face a narrow range of sentencing options.
"The penalties for capital murder, there's only two," Hunter said. "That's life without parole and the other one is the death penalty, and we haven't made a decision yet on whether to seek the death penalty."
7 drug traffickers sentenced to death in Vietnam
An appealing court in Vietnam's southern Ho Chi Minh City has handed down the capital punishment to 7 drug traffickers for smuggling nearly 400 heroin cakes from Laos to the country, local media reported on Friday (May 22).
The 50-year-old mastermind from central Nghe An province and his 6 accomplices were sentenced to death earlier in a trial court in late 2019.
The defendants filed an appeal for mitigation but was rejected by the panel, online newspaper VietNamNet reported on Friday.
Between June and July 2018, the ring trafficked a total of 379 cakes of heroin, weighing 132.2kg, and 55kg of crystal methamphetamine from Laos to Vietnam, said the court.
According to the Vietnamese law, those convicted of smuggling over 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5kg of methamphetamine are punishable by death. Making or trading 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal drugs also faces death penalty.
(sources: Xinhua/Asian News Network)
Family Of Slain Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Forgives Saudi Killers, Sparing 5 Execution----The government agents had been sentenced to death for an operation that cast a cloud of suspicion over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The family of slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi announced Friday they have forgiven his Saudi killers, giving legal reprieve to the 5 government agents who’d been sentenced to death for an operation that cast a cloud of suspicion over the kingdom’s crown prince.
“We, the sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father as we seek reward from God Almighty,” wrote one of his sons, Salah Khashoggi, on Twitter.
Salah Khashoggi, who lives in Saudi Arabia and has received financial compensation from the royal court for his father’s killing, explained that forgiveness was extended to the killers during the last nights of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in line with Islamic tradition to offer pardons in cases allowed by Islamic law.
The announcement was largely expected because the trial in Saudi Arabia left the door open for reprieve by ruling in December that the killing was not premeditated. That finding was in line with the government’s official explanation of Khashoggi’s slaying that he was killed accidentally in a brawl by agents trying to forcibly return him to Saudi Arabia.
Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had written critically of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in columns for the Washington Post. He’d been living in exile in the United States for about a year as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversaw a crackdown in Saudi Arabia on human rights activists, writers and critics of his devastating war in Yemen.
In October 2017, a team of 15 Saudi agents was dispatched to Turkey to meet Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul for what he thought was an appointment to pick up documents needed to wed his Turkish fiance. The group included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office.
Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw. The body has not been found. Turkey, a rival of Saudi Arabia, apparently had the Saudi Consulate bugged and has shared audio of the killing with the CIA, among others.
The grisly killing, which took place as his Turkish fiance waited for him outside the building, drew international condemnation of Prince Mohammed.
The 34-year-old prince, who has the support of his father King Salman, denies any involvement. U.S. intelligence agencies, however, say an operation like this could not have happened without his knowledge and the Senate has blamed the crown prince for the murder.
After initially offering shifting accounts of what transpired, and under intense international and Turkish pressure, Saudi prosecutors eventually settled on the explanation that Khashoggi had been killed by Saudi agents in an operation masterminded by 2 of the crown prince’s top aides at the time. Neither was found guilty in trial, however.
In addition to the five who had been sentenced to execution, the Saudi trial concluded last year that three other people were found guilty of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison. In all, 11 people were put on trial in Saudi Arabia for the killing.
Saudi media outlet Arab News sought to clarify Friday that the announcement made by Khashoggi’s sons may spare the convicted killers from execution, but does not mean they will go unpunished.
In an interview in September with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Prince Mohammed said he takes “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia.” But he insisted that he had no knowledge of the operation, saying he cannot keep close track of the country’s millions of employees.
(source: Associated Press)
Nepali man shot to death in Qatar as punishment for murder
A Nepali man has been shot to death in Qatar.
Anil Chaudhary of Aurahi-1 in Mahottari has been shot dead for his involvement in the murder of a Qatari national. He was arrested in the first week of April 2017 on charges of murder.
A court in Qatar in June last year had sentenced Chaudhary death penalty by a firing squad for murdering a Qatari citizen Umair Mohammed Umair Al Ramzani Al-Nauimi.
A lower court there had sentenced him to death for murder. However, the prison administration executed the death sentence after the Supreme Court approved it.
This is the 1st time a Nepali has been sentenced to death in Qatar.
The full details have not been made public. His body is being kept at a local hospital. The Qatari administration has given permission to send his body to Nepal.
MAY 21, 2020:
‘Not even a murderer’ loses dignity, right to life, Florida bishop says
In his 5th pastoral letter since becoming head of the Diocese of St. Augustine 9 years ago, Bishop Felipe J. Estevez said Catholics “are called to stand for the inviolability and dignity of all human life.”
This holds true “even when a person whose life is in the balance has made great mistakes, such as taking another’s life. Not even a murderer loses his dignity,” he said in his 20-page pastoral on the death penalty in Florida.
“Protecting human rights and the inviolable dignity of each human made in the image of God motivates me to publish this pastoral letter on this controversial social issue,” Estevez said. “Our system of incarceration needs to change from inhumane punishment to hopeful rehabilitation. Everyone must be concerned that not a single innocent human is condemned to deadly execution.”
The 20-page document, released in mid-May, is titled “Standing Up for the Dignity of all Human Life: A Pastoral Letter on Capital Punishment in Florida.” It addresses the teachings of the church about the intrinsic value and God-given dignity of every human life from conception until natural death.
“We believe that God - and only God - is the author of every human being, and only God should determine the end of that life,” the bishop wrote.
Estevez also draws attention to the dignity of the victims of the accused and their families, saying, “A vital dimension of our prayer and our advocacy remembers the victims. … They must never be forgotten. … Our family of faith must stand with them as they struggle to overcome their terrible loss and find some sense of peace.”
He draws on the writings and teaching of three popes - St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis - and his predecessor the late Bishop John J. Snyder. All them challenged the world to stand up against the death penalty.
Estevez cites the example of Catholics whose lives were cut short because of their ministry “and high regard for human life,” such as St. Maximilian Kolbe, who voluntarily took the place of a condemned inmate in Auschwitz, and one of the Diocese of St. Augustine’s own priests, Father Rene Robert, who advocated for an end to capital punishment 21 years before his murder in 2016.
He also highlights the long-standing efforts of Florida’s Catholic bishops to create a culture, including many statements against the death penalty. Florida Catholics also have organized many candlelit vigils on behalf of prisoners facing execution. He also points to Dale Recinella, who has served for more than 20 years in the St. Augustine Diocese ministering to death-row inmates.
“We are living in a time when the God-given gift of human life is under assault,” Estevez said. “We are immersed in a culture of death that seeks to use death as a solution to social, personal and financial issues.
“As a diocese and through our beautiful parishes, we are responding to this challenge on many fronts, especially the taking of innocent human life. The horrors of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and assisted suicide, for example, are consistently and energetically confronted and resisted by the faithful, religious and clergy of our diocese.”
“And we face a more profound challenge in the battle to protect the dignity of the human person” - the death penalty, he said.
“The life of St. Kolbe and his execution by lethal injection in an Auschwitz cell speak loudly to us as we stand before the assault on the dignity of human life through capital punishment,” he said.
“This is especially true in the state of Florida, which has been severely criticized for an execution process that lacks transparency in its clemency. No death-row inmate in Florida has been granted clemency since 1983,” he explained.
Regarding papal teaching on capital punishment, Estevez discusses the change Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made in 2018 to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It now states the “death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”
In June 2019, the U.S. bishops voted to revise the death penalty section of the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults based on that change.
But Estevez points out John Paul in his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”) said the death penalty was “morally permissible only in those rare instances where it would not be possible otherwise to incarcerate someone safely and keep them from harming society.” These “rare instances” were nearly nonexistent, the pope emphasized.
“When visiting our country, St. John Paul II continued to challenge us to discard capital punishment,” Estevez recalled and quoted the pontiff at his papal Mass in St. Louis Jan. 27, 1999:
“The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation,” the pope said. “A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.
“Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary,” the pope added.
Benedict XVI continued to support the limitation and eradication of the death penalty during his pontificate, Estevez noted.
“While humbly recognizing there is still much work to do in promoting our belief in the sanctity of life, there seems to be a growing consensus everywhere that capital punishment is unnecessary to protect society from the worst offenders,” Estevez wrote.
“We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders,” he added. “The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.”
Death penalty opponents decry first execution carried out amid pandemic
Catholic advocates against the death penalty spoke out against Missouri's May 19 execution of a death-row inmate, Walter Barton, whose death by lethal injection was the first execution to happen during the pandemic.
So far, amid the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, 8 executions have been rescheduled citing concerns over COVD-19 infections.
"Our nation has gone to great lengths to save lives and prevent unnecessary loss of life during the COVID-19 crisis," said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, a group working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.
"It's tragically contradictory that Missouri put a man to death amidst the herculean efforts we see daily to protect life," she said in a statement, adding that his execution was "wrong-headed and unconscionable."
Capital punishment opponents also pointed out that Barton's execution went forward despite his strong claims of innocence.
Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of the death penalty, said in a May 18 tweet that Barton had been tried five separate times for the same crime and that "at least three of the jurors that sent him to death row now have doubts after seeing new evidence."
She said Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson "should stop this execution" and appoint a board of inquiry "to figure out what really happened."
She wasn't the only one asking the governor to stop this execution. Representatives of the Missouri Catholic Conference, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People delivered over 5,000 petitions, including 2,500 petitions from the Catholic Mobilizing Network, to the governor, asking Parson to stop Barton's scheduled execution.
On its website, the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, said Barton, who was 64, spent 26 years on death row and was confined to a wheelchair with a severe neurological disorder due to a traumatic brain injury.
It pointed out that Missouri would be the 1st state to move forward with an execution during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the Missouri Department of Corrections has suspended all prison visits until June 18, and 15 states, including Ohio and Texas, have stayed, rescheduled, or granted reprieves for executions during the pandemic.
The governor said May 18 he would not stop the execution, which took place in a state prison in Bonne Terre, south of St. Louis. Strict protocols were in place to protect workers and visitors from exposure to the coronavirus. People who entered the prison had their temperatures checked and face masks were required.
Barton was convicted in 1991 for fatally stabbing an 81-year-old woman. His execution was delayed for years because of appeals, mistrials and two overturned convictions. Appeals were rejected during Barton's final days. A federal appeals court May 17 overturned a 30-day stay of execution granted by a judge on May 15 and the U.S. Supreme Court on May 19 denied Barton's attorney's request for a stay of execution.
The Associated Press reported that Barton's final statement released prior to his execution, said: "I, Walter 'Arkie' Barton, am innocent and they are executing an innocent man!!"
The Catholic Mobilizing Network also noted Barton's "execution went forward despite his strong claim of innocence" and stressed that his murder conviction was "largely based on the testimony of an unreliable jailhouse informant and the use of bloodstain pattern analysis -- a forensic method with questionable validity."
"Today, as we mourn the unnecessary loss of Walter Barton, we cannot ignore the stark inconsistencies in how society views some lives as valuable, and others as worthless," Vaillancourt Murphy said.
(source: Catholic News Service)
Nebraska Supreme Court Orders Release of Lethal-Injection Drug Records
In a major victory for media outlets and prisoner advocates, the Nebraska Supreme Court has ordered the state’s Department of Correctional Services (DCS) to release public records related to the procurement of drugs used in the 2018 execution of Carey Dean Moore (pictured). The court rejected the state’s argument that drug suppliers and manufacturers are members of the execution team whose identities may be shielded from disclosure but permitted DCS to redact information that could identify corrections personnel who carried out the execution.
The court’s 7-0 decision, issued May 15, 2020, came in an appeal of orders entered by a lower court in a series of open-records lawsuits filed by two leading Nebraska newspapers and the ACLU of Nebraska. The Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, and the state chapter of the ACLU had each separately sued DCS after the department denied requests for lethal-injection records submitted by the organizations in 2017. On June 18, 2018, 2 months before Moore’s scheduled execution, a Nebraska district court ordered DCS to turn over the records. The state appealed that decision to Nebraska’s high court, and as a result, the documents remained secret at the time of Moore’s execution.
Representatives of the newspapers and the ACLU applauded the decision as a victory for government transparency.
In an editorial published on May 19, the Omaha World-Herald called government transparency “vital” and wrote, “The Nebraska Supreme Court last week upheld a key principle: Government should operate in the open, to ensure accountability to the people.” The World-Herald’s managing editor, Paul Goodsell, said the court’s decision “makes clear that officials can’t sidestep their disclosure obligations.”
Dave Bundy, editor of the Lincoln Journal Star, said “[s]hedding light on government — sometimes forcing that light to be shed — is one of the key functions of the press.” The court’s action, he said, “is important both for the gravity of the death penalty, but also it’s an important assertion of the public’s right to know how that penalty is carried out.”
Nebraska ACLU director Danielle Conrad called “[o]pen, transparent government … a bedrock Nebraska tradition … deeply valued by citizens across the political spectrum because it provides a check on the abuses of big government.” She expressed pleasure that “the court agreed that Nebraskans have a right to know what the state is doing with taxpayer dollars and will finally bring transparency to this suspect process.”
In 2011, Nebraska purchased sodium thiopental from a supplier in India named Harris Pharma. Harris had obtained the drugs without charge from the Swiss-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Naari, telling the company that he was sending the drug to Africa for humanitarian purposes. Naari sued Nebraska after learning that its product had been purchased for use in executions. Four years later, while the state legislature was debating the repeal of the state’s death-penalty statute, DCS purchased 1000 more vials of sodium thiopental from Harris Pharma, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that importation of the drug would violate federal law. Nebraska paid $54,400 for the drugs but, citing a lack of clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, FedEx refused to bring the drugs into the country. Harris Pharma did not refund the payment Nebraska had made for the drugs.
In August 2018, the German-based pharmaceutical company Fresenius Kabi sued Nebraska alleging that the state intended to use drugs manufactured by the company in the execution of Carey Dean Moore. The company alleged that Nebraska had obtained those drugs “through improper or illegal means,” in violation of the Fresenius Kabi’s distribution contracts, and unsuccessfully sought to have its drugs returned.
The public-records lawsuits filed by the newspapers and the ACLU requested that DCS produce numerous records documenting the state’s process for buying the execution drugs and identifying the supplier from which it was purchased. The Nebraska court’s order requires DCS to turn over purchase orders, chemical analysis reports, communications with the drug supplier, federal Drug Enforcement Administration forms, invoices, inventory logs, and a photograph of the packaging in which the drugs arrived. The decision sends the case back to a lower court, stating, “On remand, the district court must order [DCS director Scott] Frakes to produce nonexempt portions of the purchase orders and chemical analysis reports after portions that may be withheld have been redacted, such as an execution team member’s name, title, home or work address, telephone number, or email address.”
State officials said the process may take 4 months, depending on whether the state seeks a rehearing, and how quickly the lower court acts.
Carey Dean Moore’s execution was the first, and thus far only, in the country to use a 4-drug protocol of diazepam (the sedative Valium), fentanyl citrate (an opioid painkiller), cisatracurium besylate (a paralytic), and potassium chloride to stop the heart. In addition to the dispute over the execution drugs. Moore’s execution also became the subject of controversy because a curtain was dropped, blocking witnesses from viewing significant portions of the execution.
US Supreme Court refuses to hear Wyoming death-penalty case
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of what was Wyoming’s lone inmate on death row, possibly clearing the way for his execution.
Prosecutors plan to ask that Dale Wayne Eaton, 75, be put to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell in 1988.
The body of Kimmell, who was originally from Billings, Montana, was found in the North Platte River soon after her death but the case remained unsolved until investigators linked Eaton’s DNA to the case.
In 2002, they dug up Kimmell’s car on his property in remote central Wyoming.
Jurors convicted Eaton in 2004 of 1st-degree premeditated murder, felony murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and 1st-degree sexual assault.
Eaton was Wyoming’s only person on death row until a federal appeals court ruled in 2014 Eaton hadn’t received appropriate representation and threw out his death sentence, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Prosecutors in 2019 announced they would again seek Eaton’s execution after an appeal by Eaton to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals failed.
No court has fully determined whether Eaton’s trial lawyers harmed his case by failing to investigate his competence before the trial began, his lawyers argued in asking the Supreme Court to intervene.
Eaton was beyond the point of being able to claim ineffective representation, attorneys for Wyoming argued.
Attorneys on both sides didn’t return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
(source: Associated Press)
Death row inmates ask for stay while they appeal to Supreme Court
The inmates lost an appeal at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in their legal challenge against the Trump administration's new execution protocols. Their legal team asked the D.C. Circuit to delay its mandate by two weeks in order to prepare a petition for the Supreme Court.
In a filing submitted to the appeals court, the lawyers said it is critically important to resolve the legal questions surrounding the administration's execution procedures before allowing federal death sentences to resume for the 1st time since 2003.
"The outcome of this case will dictate whether the Government may employ this Protocol in executing the more than 60 prisoners under federal sentences of death, including several whose execution dates were announced at the same time as the new Protocol itself," the lawyers wrote in their motion. The circuit court last week said it would not rehear the case after a 3-judge panel upheld the execution protocols in April. The panel ruled 2-1 in favor of the administration, with two Trump appointees carrying the majority. Attorney General William Barr last year announced protocols that implemented a new lethal injection routine. The four death row inmates challenging the protocols say they violate a death penalty law requiring the federal government to respect the regulations of each state governing executions.
The Supreme Court in December rejected the government's request to lift a preliminary injunction against the protocols while the legal challenge plays out. But 3 of the court's conservative justices urged the D.C. Circuit to resolve the case quickly.
"The Court has expressed the hope that the Court of Appeals will proceed with 'appropriate dispatch,' and I see no reason why the Court of Appeals should not be able to decide this case, one way or the other, within the next 60 days," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in an opinion that his colleagues Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined.
Iran’s judiciary sentences couple to death over corruption----The long arm of the Iranian law has reached the “sultan of cars” and his wife, last in a line of market manipulators sent to the gallows.
An Iranian judge has ordered capital punishment for a man and his wife over multiple corruption charges, on top of them disrupting the country’s auto market.
According to judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, the couple were found guilty of money laundering, sabotaging Iran’s forex, and hoarding 6,700 vehicles purchased from Saipa, one of the giant but crisis-hit domestic carmakers. Iranian authorities also confiscated over 24,000 gold coins worth nearly $43 million and over 100 kilograms of gold at the residence of Vahid Behzadi and his wife Najva Lashidaee in the capital Tehran. Under the law, the couple still have the right to appeal the death sentences.
The trial came at the height of economic turbulence hitting Iran’s already crumbling and sanctions-hit auto industry. Plummeting production coupled with deep-rooted corruption has in recent weeks sent free market prices of Iranian homemade vehicles soaring by 60%.
Known as a well-connected tycoon, Behzadi has earned the title “sultan of vehicles”, a moniker Iranian media has given other powerful business moguls each “unlawfully” controlling and disrupting a sector of the Iranian economy.
“It is simplistic to assume that stability will return to the auto market after cracking down on a handful of hoarders,” wrote Reformist paper Aftab-e-Yazd, “because we are dealing with an ailing market.” The remedy, according to the Aftab-e-Yazd, will come only from an “important decision” whereby the monopoly gripping the auto industry is lifted. Iran’s state-owned car producers have for decades been enjoying an uncompetitive business environment, which has in turn led to accumulated consumer dissatisfaction.
Another pro-Reform daily Arman-e-Melli suggested that the roots of the car market’s crisis need to be traced at upper management within the auto industry, where a hoarder is allowed to purchase thousands of cars and thus gains the power to manipulate the market. “The rules of the game have been wrongly set,” the editorial argued, leaving room for “such sultans to exploit lack of transparency."
Echoing the same assertion, ultraconservative daily Javan criticized the “production line of corruption,” alleging that such individuals are only part of a fraudulent network linked to other powerful institutions including the parliament.
A harsh crackdown on financial corruption has become a key priority of the Islamic Republic since May 2018, when American sanctions were reimposed on the Iranian economy following Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The consequent depreciation of the Iranian national currency among other ramifications provided privileged individuals and entities with the opportunity to bring the mayhem into the service of profiteering. To stabilize the crisis-hit environment, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei granted the judiciary special powers to tackle fast-growing fraud with a merciless, zero-tolerance approach.
The new policy has already pushed several convicts to the gallows: “The sultans” of petrochemicals, tar, paper and gold coins. In this, hard-line judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has been trying to position himself as an iconic flagbearer with an iron fist, which has even hit many close to the upper echelons of power, among them a brother of President Hassan Rouhani as well as the son-in-law and daughter of 2 former ministers within the president’s entourage.
Nevertheless, whether the chief justice is pursuing a genuine anti-corruption drive remains an open debate. Those targeted claim that Raisi has been granting legal immunity to the like-minded while fixating on political rivals with no leniency.
MAY 20, 2020:
Political Prisoners Teach-In: ‘Greetings from Texas, death penalty capital’
[These slightly edited remarks were given April 24 at the “U.S. Empire vs. Political Prisoners” webinar teach-in sponsored by Mobilization4Mumia and held in honor of the 66th birthday of political prisoner and revolutionary Mumia Abu-Jamal, incarcerated for 39 years by the U.S. state.]
Greetings from the state of Texas, home to the largest prison system in the United States and the death penalty capital of the country. The executions here in Texas are now up to 658 people who have been legally lynched by the state of Texas.
I want to give my greetings to our brother Mumia Abu-Jamal on his 66th birthday and say happy birthday to you from an activist who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. People like Mumia, all the sisters and brothers in the Black Panther Party, were such an inspiration to me as a young revolutionary. Now I read year after year, decade after decade, that some of these Panthers are still locked up. That’s an indictment of this system. It proves the illegality of this system we live under.
And it’s not just the Panthers or Mumia, but our brother Leonard Peltier, the Puerto Rican political prisoners, Imam Jamil Al-Amin. Thank heavens, I don’t have to say the MOVE 9 anymore. But we live under a system that doesn’t give a damn about us and locks up more people than any other country on this planet.
I’m humbled to be part of this teach-in today. And I just want to say to the political prisoners what an inspiration you are. I dedicate my words today to my friend and comrade on Texas death row, Harvey Tea Earvin, whom I met back in 1988 when he asked me to come visit him so he could ask me to witness his execution. Fortunately, he is still alive and I still visit him. Harvey Tea Earvin became a revolutionary activist on death row and formed a group called PURE — Panthers United for Revolutionary Education.
I’ll close by saying what the late Kwame Touré always said: “Y’all, we gotta organize, organize, organize! So free Mumia, tear down the walls, and free them all!”
(source: Gloria Rubac is a founding member of the Houston branch of WWP and a contributing editor to WW newspaper----Workers World)
Man convicted of 1991 Ozark murder executed
He maintained his innocence to the end, but an Ozark man has been executed for murdering an 81-year-old woman in 1991.
Walter Barton, 64, died shortly after 6 p.m. upon receiving a lethal dose of the drug pentobarbital at the Missouri Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. Barton was the first person to be executed in Missouri in 2020, and the 1st person in the United States to be executed since much of the country fell under emergency orders due to the COVID-19 disease pandemic.
Barton's execution concluded at 6:13 p.m.
Barton had a brief moment of reprieve over the weekend, but it was dashed in federal court late Sunday.
On May 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated a stay of execution that a judge issued for Barton on May 15, meaning that Barton could be executed on May 19 for the murder of Gladys Kuehler.
“(W)e see no possibility of success on the merits of either of Barton’s claims,” the appellate judges wrote in their opinion issued the day before Barton’s execution date.
A jury found in 2006 that Kuehler’s death “involved depravity of mind, and as a result thereof, the murder was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman.”
Vigil for a convicted killer
Abraham Bonowitz, a leader of the national group Death Penalty Action, led an online vigil conducted in the hour before Barton was executed. One by one, guest speakers shared their thoughts on the Barton case and capital punishment in Missouri.
"We remember the victims. We remember Gladys Kuehler, we remember her family and everybody that's touched by this," Bonowitz said. "We hope that they can somehow find some comfort in what's happening, but leaders among us in this movement are murder victim family members."
Nimrod Chapel, president of the Missouri Conference of the NAACP, is a frequently outspoken activist against the death penalty in Missouri.
"Mr. Barton's case reveals that there is a deep divide between the haves and the have-nots," Chapel said. "Another reality present in the United States and certainly present in Missouri at this time is that there are inequities that are playing out in people's lives and leading to the end of their lives. There is no reason that we should be at the conclusion of a criminal case and not be sure that the person actually did it."
Chapel felt that Barton's case still had too many questions surrounding it for the state to carry out the execution.
"We are taking a life, and I think that that is as solemn as it gets, because after this there will be no more opportunity for (Barton)," Chapel said. "Sometimes justice is an issue, but even in the absence of justice, there is always mercy."
Elyse Max is the director of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. She and two other protesters donned face masks and held vigil outside the prison in Bonne Terre on the evening of the execution. She said she had come to know Barton by exchanging letters.
"(Barton) has always maintained his innocence. He has been helpful, and he is kind. He wants to go out and he wants to go fishing, and he wants to be with his family and with his friends," Max said.
Defense argues about jurors, COVID-19 impact
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments on Barton's behalf just after 4:30 p.m. on May 19, about 90 minutes prior to the start of Barton's 24-hour execution window.
The court denied Barton's request for a writ of certiorari, or an agreement that the Supreme Court would have stayed Barton's execution in order to take time to review his case and appeals. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch issued the 1-page order denying Barton's motions.
Defense attorney Frederick Duchardt filed a motion for stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court on May 18. In that motion, Duchardt wrote that prior to a statewide stay-at-home order came down April 3, defense attorneys and investigators obtained contact information for jurors from Barton’s 2006 trial.
At least 3 jurors are alleged to have signed affidavits in which they found “new evidence of actual innocence brought forth to the Missouri Supreme Court,” to be “compelling,” and reportedly said that the evidence would have impacted jury deliberations.
“However, the adverse conditions created by the COVID-19 restriction have stymied efforts to find and interview the remaining jurors,” Duchardt wrote.
The defense also argued that Gov. Mike Parson did not have adequate time or resources to consider a request for clemency and a stay of execution for Barton.
“Moreover, because of this crisis, the governor’s agenda is obviously over-full. Thus, it would be fundamentally unfair to have the weighty issue of possible clemency for Mr. Barton come to the governor at this time,” Duchardt wrote.
When asked about the execution and possibility of clemency on March 18, Gov. Mike Parson indicated that the execution would be carried out as planned.
Timeline of events
The sequence of events from the day that Gladys Kuehler died has been recounted in a U.S. Supreme Court petition that Barton’s attorney filed in seeking a writ of habeas corpus for Barton and requesting a hearing before the court.
Gladys Kuehler lived in a mobile home that she owned at Riverview Mobile Home Park in Ozark.
On the morning of Oct. 9, 1991, mobile home park resident Carol Horton last saw Kuehler at 11 a.m. Kuehler was sitting on a daybed in her living room, and Horton shopped for Kuehler and retrieved her mail that day.
Barton reportedly visited Horton’s trailer between noon and 2 p.m. Barton was described to be in a “happy-go-lucky” mood. He told Horton he was going to Kuehler’s residence to see if she would lend him $20. At the time, Barton was reportedly living in his car.
Barton allegedly returned about 15 minutes later. During the 2 o’clock hour, Kuehler reportedly had some visitors at her trailer. Teddy Bartlett and his wife, Sharon Strahan, and park co-owners Dorothy and Bill Pickering all stopped by. A man named Roy reportedly stopped in to return some items he borrowed from Kuehler, and Debbie Selvidge, Kuehler’s granddaughter, called on the phone and briefly spoke to Kuehler.
Everyone reportedly left at around 2:45 p.m. Kuehler was going to take a nap.
Barton reportedly left Horton’s mobile home for a 2nd time at 3 p.m., stating he was going back to Kuehler’s home.
At 3:15 p.m., Bill Pickering phoned Kuehler. A person with a male voice answered the phone, and told Pickering that Kuehler was unavailable and using the bathroom. Pickering gave his name and asked for Kuehler to call him back. Barton later told a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper that he had answered the phone call.
Barton returned to Horton’s home at about 4 p.m., and asked to use the restroom. Horton noticed that he took a long time in the bathroom, and she went to check on Barton. Barton said that he had been working a car and was taking a while to wash his hands.
Horton reportedly, “noticed that (Barton’s) mood had changed, and now, instead of being jovial as he was before, he was distant and seemed in a hurry.” Horton told Barton she was going to Kuehler’s trailer. Barton told her, “No, don't… Ms. Gladys is lying down taking a nap.”
Horton went to the trailer anyway. No one answered her knock at the door, so she left and went to get her car washed.
Selvidge, Kuehler’s granddaughter, called her grandmother at 4 p.m. When she did not get an answer on the telephone, Selvidge went to Kuehler’s trailer. Seeing the lights off, Selvidge left to get help.
Selvidge and Horton requested help from Barton to knock on Kuehler’s door again.
Sometime after 6:30 p.m., Selvidge and Horton drove to the downtown Ozark square and flagged down a police officer. The police called a locksmith, who unlocked the trailer. As the locksmith worked, the police officer “left to take another call.” When the door was unlocked and open, Selvidge, Horton and Barton entered the trailer.
According to the court document, Selvidge walked down a hall toward Kuehler’s bedroom, as Barton allegedly said, “Ms. Debbie, don’t go down the hall. Ms. Debbie, don’t go down the hall.”
Selvidge found her grandmother lying dead on the bedroom floor. She had been stabbed, “numerous times, with her throat cut ear-to-ear.”
Selvidge turned and pushed past Horton and Barton and returned to the living room. Barton allegedly looked over Horton’s shoulder into the bedroom, “but he never got close to the body or the blood in the bedroom.”
Horton and Selvidge also said that Barton did not get upset when he saw Kuehler’s body, “but remained calm, showing no emotion,” and when he returned to the living room, he told Selvidge he was “so sorry,” according to the court document.
Case against Barton
Police took Barton into custody when he told a Highway Patrol investigator that he had answered the phone call from Pickering, which placed Barton in the trailer at 3:15 p.m. Police “noticed what appeared to be blood on the elbow and shoulder of [Barton’s] shirt, and [Barton] responded that he had gotten the blood on him when he slipped while pulling Selvidge away from the victim’s body.”
“An autopsy conducted on the victim revealed that she was stabbed well in excess of 50 times,” the Supreme Court document reads. Kuehler was stabbed in both eyes, her chest, neck, abdomen, left hand, left arm and 23 times in her back. Examiners concluded that Kuehler suffered a blunt force injury to her head, and that Kuehler had was sexually assaulted.
Police also found a check missing from Kuehler's checkbook, which was otherwise meticulously kept. Three days after the killing, a volunteer cleaning up roadside trash found a check of the corresponding number filled out Kuehler's handwriting. It had been made out to Barton in the amount of $50.
The legal history in Barton’s case is “lengthy and complex.” Since his arrest in 1991, he has been tried five times. The first attempt was a mistrial, due to the state’s failure to endorse any witnesses. The second trial was a hung jury, deadlocked over the issue of Barton’s guilt. On the third trial, a jury found Barton guilty and he was sentenced to death, but the verdict was overturned on appeal “due to the trial judge’s improper restriction of defense counsel’s closing argument,” according to the Supreme Court document.
Barton was found guilty and sentenced to death at his fourth trial. Through the appeals process, the Missouri Supreme Court eventually reversed and remanded the decision. After a hearing on remand, a judge in Benton County set aside the conviction and sentence, and ordered another trial.
In 2006, a Cass County jury found Barton guilty of 1st-degree murder, and Circuit Judge Joseph Dandurand sentenced Barton to death. The Missouri Supreme Court, through the appeals process, eventually affirmed the sentence in 2007, in 2014, in 2016 and again in 2020.
(source: Christian County Headliner News)
Man Executed After SCOTUS Denies Stay Bid With Virus Claims
Missouri carried out the pandemic era’s 1st execution in the U.S., after the Supreme Court denied a prisoner’s stay bid that claimed the virus prevented his legal team from gathering evidence that he said could undercut his 2006 murder conviction.
The high court rejected Walter Barton’s plea late Tuesday afternoon. The execution went ahead as planned, and he was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. local time.
Other states have postponed executions in light of virus concerns.
The justices denied Barton’s stay request and rejected his certiorari petition without any public dissent.
In a filing Monday, Barton had told the court that pandemic restrictions stopped him from fully investigating his innocence claims, by stymieing his team’s ability to find and interview jurors from his trial.
He was convicted for what the state called the “vicious stabbing murder of an 81-year-old acquaintance.”
Jurors that had been found and interviewed had attested to “compelling” evidence not presented at trial that contradicted the state’s blood spatter evidence, Barton told the justices in court papers on Monday.
He also said the execution itself would violate assembly restrictions put in place for the pandemic.
Opposing any execution delay, Missouri officials said Barton waited too long to bring his claims. They cited the high court’s 2019 decision in Bucklew v. Precythe, where the five-justice majority chided the death row prisoner for what it deemed dilatory litigation tactics.
In his reply brief on Tuesday, the final filing to the justices before they rejected his appeals, Barton said that “when a condemned man petitions this Court just a day before his execution is scheduled to occur, it is too easy for his opponents to claim that this Court should shun the arguments and scorn the petitioner due to the ‘last minute’ way the matter has been presented.”
Sometimes such claims are fair, Barton conceded, “but not this time,” he said, insisting it was the state that delayed the matter over the years by way of prosecutorial misconduct.
In his final statement before he was executed, he proclaimed: “I, Walter ‘Arkie’ Barton, am innocent and they are executing an innocent man!!”
The case is Barton v. Stange, U.S., No. 19-8483.
Barton becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri, and the 90th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989. Only Texas (569), Virginia (113), Oklahoma (112), and Florida (99) have carried out more executions since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976.
Barton becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1,518th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 2, 1977.
(sources: bloomberglaw.com & Rick Halperin)
With the execution of Walter Barton in Missouri on May 19, the USA has now executed 1,518 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.
1519------June 16------------Ruben Gutierrez------------Texas
1520------July 8-------------Billy Wardlow--------------Texas
1521------Aug. 4-------------Harold Nichols-------------Tennessee
1522------Sept. 9------------John Ramirez---------------Texas
1523------Sept. 30-----------Carlos Trevino-------------Texas
(source: Rick Halperin)
Julius Jones Is On Death Row And Seeking Clemency — Can Kim Kardashian Help?
When he was 19 years old, Julius Jones was arrested and convicted for a murder he has always said he didn’t commit. Now, almost 20 years later, he sits on death row in Oklahoma, and could be facing execution as early as this fall if he’s not granted clemency. But, despite the fact that Jones is held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, he is not alone. In addition to Jones’ family, victim advocates — including the large number of people behind a Change.org petition — are fighting for clemency; plus, celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Viola Davis have also spoken out about Jones’ case. And now, there will be a new way for people to understand his plight as Jones fights for his life.
On Wednesday, May 20, the 10th season of the podcast Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom will premiere, and the st episode is all about Jones’ case. Kardashian West will appear on the May 20 episode of Flom’s podcast and Refinery29 has an exclusive clip of her 1interview.
Jones was a college basketball player who was attending the University of Oklahoma on an academic scholarship in 1999, when an Edmond, OK insurance executive named Paul Howell was murdered during a carjacking.
From the beginning of the investigation into Howell's murder, racial bias and shoddy investigation played a role in Jones' arrest, as they later would during his trial and conviction. Jones was tried for the crime along with a co-defendant, Chris Jordan, who fit eyewitness descriptions of the shooter. But, Jordan accepted a plea deal and became the state’s key witness against Jones — he also later admitted to being involved in the crime and was heard saying he set Jones up. Jordan is now free after having served 15 years in prison.
But there was more that was suspicious about Jones' conviction than Jordan's testimony: Not only did a police officer use a racial slur during Jones’ arrest, but also the state removed all prospective Black jurors except one, and a juror told the judge that another juror had used the n-word to describe Jones during the sentencing phase of the trial and the judge never removed him. Also, Jones’ lawyer never even mounted a defense: When called upon, he simply said, “the defense rests” and didn’t call any of the witnesses who were in the courtroom that day to testify on Jones’ behalf.
“With Julius’ case, he just didn't get a fair trial, bottom line," Kardashian West told Flom on the podcast, continuing that she thinks there should be a retrial "if there is even a chance that someone is innocent and their life would be taken. We’ve just seen it happen too many times."
Kardashian West has recently made it her mission to advocate for prison reform and to take up cases of people she believes have been wrongfully convicted or are deserving of clemency. She went to the White House in March to meet with women who had had their sentences commuted by President Trump and who she helped free. She is also working towards a law degree.
I have been following the case of Julius Jones for little while now. Julius Jones is on death row in Oklahoma, despite maintaining his innocence and compelling evidence that he was wrongfully convicted. His case has also been strained with so much racial discrimination. — Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) December 1, 2019
“Kim has been an absolute godsend in terms of her not just her using her platform to bring broad attention to the overall issues plaguing our criminal legal system, but also to focus attention on individual cases as few other people possibly could, as she is this iconic and wildly popular person,” Flom told Refinery29 in a recent interview. “I have found her, from the first time we met, to be hyper-focused, prompt, attentive, and basically she wants to learn everything she can from everyone.”
And Kardashian West has learned a lot over the course of her studies, and it's making a huge impact on her. “It infuriates me to hear when there is ineffective council. It just makes me so mad, especially if it's an appointed attorney,” Kardashian West said on the podcast. “I don’t know if I could live with myself if I was an attorney like that.”
On Flom’s podcast, Kardashian West also came out against the death penalty. “I’m just not for the death penalty no matter what,” she said. “Obviously there are people who have done really horrific things and definitely deserve to be behind bars, but I don't believe in taking a life.”
Flom’s podcast has resulted in tangible victories. Last fall, Flom highlighted the case of Rodney Reed and the episode added to a growing mountain of public outrage about the case (Kardashian West also spoke out about Reed’s case). Just days before Reed was set to be executed, he received a stay. Flom says that’s the hope with Jones’ case: to have him granted a stay of execution so his case can be re-examined.
“When I set out to do this podcast, I wanted it to help shift the popular opinion about things like the death penalty, about mass incarceration, about wrongful convictions in general,” Flom said. “And I wanted to help influence the outcome of future court proceedings by educating the public as to how these things happen and why they happen so frequently so that everyone could be better jurors if they find themselves on a criminal trial. And we have seen real life results that have actually borne that out.”
The 10th season of Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom premieres on May 20. For more information on Julius Jones’ case, visit JusticeForJuliusJones.com
US Supreme Court refuses to hear Wyoming death-penalty case
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of what was Wyoming's lone inmate on death row, possibly clearing the way for his execution.
Prosecutors plan to ask Dale Wayne Eaton, 75, be put to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell in 1988.
Kimmell's body was found in the North Platte River soon after her death but the case remained unsolved until investigators linked Eaton's DNA to the case. In 2002, they dug up Kimmell's car on his property in remote central Wyoming.
Jurors convicted Eaton in 2004 of 1st-degree premeditated murder, felony murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and first-degree sexual assault.
Eaton was Wyoming's only person on death row until a federal appeals court ruled in 2014 Eaton hadn't received appropriate representation and threw out his death sentence, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
Prosecutors in 2019 announced they would again seek Eaton's execution after an appeal by Eaton to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals failed.
No court has fully determined whether Eaton's trial lawyers harmed his case by failing to investigate his competence before the trial began, his lawyers argued in asking the Supreme Court to intervene.
Eaton was beyond the point of being able to claim ineffective representation, attorneys for Wyoming argued.
Attorneys on both sides didn't return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
(source: KIDK news)
Singapore sentences man to death via Zoom call ---- Malaysian man receives sentence remotely for role in drug deal as city-state tries to stem coronavirus
A man convicted of drug-trafficking offences has been sentenced to death in Singapore via a Zoom video-call, the city-state’s first case where capital punishment has been delivered remotely.
Rights groups condemned the sentencing of Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, as inhumane, and a reminder of the country’s continued use of the death penalty for drug-related offences.
Genasan was found to have been complicit in trafficking at least 28.5g of heroin by coordinating two couriers in 2011. He denied any connection to the pair, but his defence was rejected on Friday.
A spokesperson for Singapore’s supreme court told Reuters the case involving Genasan was conducted online “for the safety of all involved in the proceedings”.
The country has been under quarantine measures since early April, following a surge in the number of coronavirus cases linked to migrant worker dormitories. Court cases considered essential have been held remotely, though many others have been adjourned.
Genasan’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, said his client received the judge’s verdict on a Zoom call and is considering an appeal. He said he did not object to the use of video-conferencing since it was only to receive the judge’s verdict, which could be heard clearly, and no other legal arguments were presented.
Rights experts described the decision to hold the case remotely as callous. “The absolute finality of the sentence, and the reality that wrongful convictions do occur around the world in death sentence cases, raise serious concerns about why Singapore is rushing to conclude this case via Zoom,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.
Singapore, which has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs, is one of only four countries known to still execute people for drug-related offences, according to Amnesty International.
“This case is another reminder that Singapore continues to defy international law and standards by imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking, and as a mandatory punishment,” said the group’s death penalty adviser, Chiara Sangiorgio.
Four people were executed in the city-state last year, compared with 13 in 2018.
Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment made via its representatives in Singapore.
A similar case in Nigeria, where a man was sentenced to death via Zoom for murdering his employer’s mother, has also been criticised by rights groups.
(source: The Guardian)
MAY 19, 2020:
Man who confessed to killing inmate gets death penalty
Joel Drain walked out of his cell and downstairs in the Warren Correctional Institution. He covered the blood on his shirt by putting on a green hoodie. Drain, 38, greeted a friend and told him he had just smoked synthetic marijuana, even though he had not.
Drain later told investigators he said this because he looked crazy – and he had just killed someone. As he walked by other inmates in his unit, an officer noticed blood on the stairs. This officer followed the blood upstairs, where he found a bloody footprint.
He followed the blood to Drain’s cell, No. 215, and called for backup when he got there. Another officer arrived and unlocked the door, where a window had been covered to block the view of what was inside.
Once opened, officers saw a room in disarray. They saw an inmate with a bloody sheet covering his face. They saw part of a broken fan, cable wire from a TV and pencils on the bed. When the sheet was removed, they would discover one pencil had been jammed into the inmate’s eye.
As the officers called for more backup, Drain got on his knees downstairs and put his hands in the air.
When he woke up that morning, in April 2019, Drain said he planned to kill someone else. When he spoke with state investigators hours later, dragging past midnight, he forgot the man’s name whom he’d killed.
There was another inmate who lived in his unit. That inmate was a child molester, Drain said in a recorded interview played in Warren County Common Pleas Court Monday. And that’s who he woke up planning to kill, he said.
Drain had been using nail clippers to fashion a knife out of his cell window, but it was taking too long.
“I was getting antsy,” he told investigators.
He had invited Christopher Richardson into his cell to smoke synthetic marijuana. Richardson, 29, was serving 4 years for aggravated arson. The two knew each other, but not well. Drain had no problems with him and said he was “weirdly friendly.”
When Richardson got to the cell, Drain’s adrenaline was pumping. He had disassembled a fan and removed the heavy motor from it. He kept it in his hoodie.
“I started thinking he’d be an easy kill,” Drain told investigators about Richardson. “I could still carry out my plan. I could kill him and the other guy.”
So he did. By beating him with the fan, the stabbing him in the eye.
Drain would later confess to the killing in a letter he sent to The Columbus Dispatch.
As these details were revealed Monday, heavy rain could be heard coming down outside the Warren County Court of Common Pleas. The rain was loud, but not as loud as the tears of Richardson’s mother.
Drain was on trial Monday on charges of aggravated murder and 2 other felonies. A 3-judge panel found Drain guilty of all charges and sentenced him to death. It took them about an hour to reach their decision.
Drain, of Findlay, had previously been convicted of murder in 2016 and was serving a possible life sentence. He’d been transferred to the Warren County prison a few weeks before the 2019 homicide because he had cut his wrist.
Drain’s attorneys presented little evidence in his defense. He waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded no contest. He told the court he didn’t want to blame his actions on a dysfunctional childhood or other trauma in his life.
He said his attorneys tried to get his 14-year-old daughter to testify, but he wouldn’t allow it.
“My daughter has nothing to do with my criminal behavior,” he said. “I refuse to let her be used as a human shield.”
Drain said he was locked in a prison cell when he was 13 and told investigators he’d been in and out of prison most of his life.
“My death sentence was handed down long ago,” he said.
(source: Columbus Dispatch)
Missouri Governor Mike Parson: Execution of Walter Barton “will move forward as scheduled”
The governor says the execution of a convicted southwest Missouri killer will move forward, clearing the way for Tuesday evening’s scheduled execution in Bonne Terre.
Governor Mike Parson told Capitol reporters on Monday in Jefferson City that he hasn’t seen any reason to intervene in Walter Barton’s scheduled execution, saying “that will move forward as scheduled.”
Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones told Missourinet on Monday evening that, at this time, “Governor Parson fully anticipates carrying out the court order and discharging his duties as prescribed by law, on May 19.”
In another defeat for Barton, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes’ stay in the case. In a nine-page ruling, the Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, in part: “We vacate the stay of execution and remand with instructions to dismiss Barton’s petition because we see no possibility of success on the merits of either of Barton’s claims.”
Barton’s attorneys have made 2 main claims: that he is innocent and is also incompetent to be put to death.
Barring intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, Barton will be executed by lethal injection Tuesday night at the maximum-security prison in Bonne Terre.
He was convicted of 1st-degree murder for the 1991 killing of 81-year-old Gladys Kuehler in Ozark, south of Springfield. She managed a mobile home park. Court documents say that Kuehler, who was unable to move without the assistance of a cane, was stabbed more than 50 times, including 23 times in the back.
The court documents also indicate that her throat “had been cut from ear to ear.”
Judge Wimes issued the stay of execution on Friday, saying he needed more time to review the claims from Barton’s lawyers.
This case has been working its way through the state and federal court system for almost 30 years. The “Springfield News-Leader” notes Barton was first convicted in 1994 and ended up having five trials because 2 convictions were overturned on appeal.
Barton’s attorneys are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the case on Tuesday. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court issues a stay, Barton will be executed.
(source: KTTN news)
2 ‘IS militants’ get death on 70 counts in Qalandar shrine suicide blast case
An antiterrorism court on Monday sentenced 2 men, said to be associated with the militant Islamic State group, to death in a case pertaining to the 2017 suicide blast at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan that killed around 70 people and wounded dozens of others. The judge of the Anti-Terrorism Court-XVI found Nadir Ali and Furqan guilty of facilitating suicide bomber Barar Brohi who on Feb 16, 2017 blew himself up at the packed-to-capacity courtyard of the shrine of the Sufi saint.
The court handed them capital punishment on 70 counts (for killing of 70 victims, including women and children) and ordered to pay a collective fine of Rs14 million each (Rs200,000 for each killing) to the state.
It also ordered the convicts to pay a collective fine of Rs14m (Rs200,000 each), as compensation to the legal heirs of victims.
The judge also awarded 10-year imprisonment to each convict for wounding each of 65 people. They were ordered to pay a fine of Rs100,000 for causing injuries to each victim.
Additionally, the convicts were awarded a collective sentence of 24-years each for their involvement in the bomb blast and ordered to pay Rs100,000 fine each.
Nadir Ali was further given life imprisonment for possessing explosives in addition to seven-year imprisonment for possessing illicit weapon and Rs50,000 fine.
However, their death sentences are subject to confirmation by the Sindh High Court. Other sentences of imprisonment would run concurrently.
70 devotees were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up over 3 years ago at the Sehwan dargah
The case against 5 alleged absconding accomplices — Saifullah, Abdul Sattar, Aijaz Bangulzai, Zulqarnain Bangulzai and Tanveer — was kept on dormant file until their arrest or surrender.
The court ordered protection of 2 private witnesses, who voluntarily turned up to testify against the convicts, during the trial leading to their conviction.
Both the convicts, who were produced in court, were remanded to the Karachi central prison to serve out their sentence.
The prosecution recorded testimonies of 29 witnesses, including police officials, who deposed that minutes before the blast 3 men hugged the suicide bomber and congratulated him on the premises of the shrine before leaving.
In September 2019, the court had indicted the duo for facilitating one of the deadliest attacks targeting a shrine in the country. They pleaded not guilty and had opted to contest the case.
Earlier, in March 2019, the Hyderabad Counter-Terrorism Department had filed a supplementary charge sheet against Furqan, claiming that he and his other alleged accomplices were affiliated with IS.
The investigating officer, Sohail Ahmed Mirza, further mentioned that Furqan had recorded his confessional statement before a judicial magistrate and admitted that he with others had helped the suicide bomber.
The report added that the suspect, a resident of Quetta, and his accomplices had facilitated the attack on a directive of Mufti Hidayatullah, who was reportedly killed in Balochistan.
Nadir Ali alias Murshid, a resident of Kashmore, was arrested in November 2017 and had already been charge-sheeted in the present case.
A supplementary charge sheet said that 3 absconders were residents of Balochistan and 2 were from Punjab’s Rajanpur district.
It further said that as per the geofencing report, Furqan was in Sehwan on the day of the incident, adding that evidence was also collected from a guesthouse where he stayed during that period.
In his alleged confessional statement, he said that on the directive of Hidayatullah he came to Sehwan, stayed there for 3 days to carry out reconnaissance of the shrine, adding that he went back to Quetta and provided the information to Hidayatullah, who handed over a suicide jacket to Barar Brohi and Nadir Ali and sent them to Sehwan, it said.
The statement added that Hidayatullah had also sent Ghulam Mustafa alias Saeen, who was reportedly killed in a shootout in Mastung, Safiullah Mazari, Sattar Mazari, Maqbool, alias Zulqarnain, Ijaz Bangulzai and Tanveer to Sehwan to help the bomber.
Top court reveals cases in which minors were hurt by criminals----Unveiling meant to protect children, deter would-be offenders from harming them
The Supreme People's Court unveiled seven severe cases involving harm to minors in a bid to show its determination to protect children and uphold justice.
"People who harm juveniles with cruel intent must be heavily punished, and the death penalty must be given without hesitation to those who should be sentenced to death in accordance with the law," the Supreme People's Court said in a statement, calling for courts nationwide "not to be tolerant of them".
As it highlighted the fight against crimes in which juveniles were harmed, and ordered courts at all levels to make the protection of children a priority, the top court on Monday also revealed seven influential cases, 3 of which dealt with rape.
Although the children in those 3 cases were not killed or seriously injured, "defendants were still sentenced to death because of their cruel behavior, including raping several young girls or raping a victim multiple times," it said.
For example, a defendant surnamed Wang was given a death sentence after he used the internet to lure 14 girls and forced them to have sex with him 23 times. Of the victims, 11 were under the age of 14, according to the top court.
"We disclosed such cases to the public because we want to warn potential offenders not to harm children. Otherwise, they will be severely punished," it added.
While strengthening criminal punishments, courts across the country have also paid attention to safeguarding children's rights by efficiently dealing with related cases in recent years in a move to provide them with more judicial support.
From 2013 to 2019, a total of 29,787 criminals were penalized for harming juveniles' rights, including those who engaged in abduction, molestation and organizing children to beg. In the same period, courts across the country heard 713,671 civil cases related to custody, visitations and rearing of juveniles, up 34.2 % year-on-year, according to statistics from the top court.
"People from all walks of life should attach importance to protecting children's physical and mental health. Courts are no exception," it added. "Improving judicial policies, strictly enforcing laws and harshly punishing offenders is our responsibility, and we'll continue watching over children's growth by rule of law."
Zhao Li, a criminal lawyer from Beijing, said harsher penalties will play a bigger role in threatening those who attempt to harm children, but he added that it isn't enough.
"As we strengthen efforts to protect juveniles, we should also teach them how to protect themselves, giving them more security training and education," he said.
It is also essential to give people some occupational restrictions, such as refusing to allow them to be teachers or work in schools if they have harmed children in the past, he suggested.
"Today's China still needs heavy penalties to fight violent crimes or crack down on extremely serious cases, but they should not contradict our nation's move to limit the use of capital punishment. I believe the trend of applying the death sentence prudently will not be changed," he added.
International outcry over Yemeni journalists facing death penalty----150 rights groups call for release of 4 Yemeni journalists sentenced to death for 'spying' by court in Sanaa.
More than 150 human rights and press freedom groups have appealed to the United Nations to help overturn the death penalty to 4 journalists in Yemen. The Specialised Criminal Court in the Houthi rebel-controlled capital Sanaa sentenced the 4 to death on April 11 on charges of spying after they spent nearly 5 years in prison.
Human rights lawyer Abdelmajeed Sabra, who defended the journalists, described the convictions as a "serious violation of the Yemeni constitution and law".
The 4 journalists - Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid, and Tawfiq al-Mansouri - were arrested on June 9, 2015, while using the internet at the Qasr Al-Ahlam hotel in Sanaa.
The media members were part of a group of 10 journalists arrested at the same time. 6 others were convicted on similar charges, including "spreading false news and rumours" allegedly to aid the Saudi-Emirati-led military coalition that has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
After filing an appeal, 6 of the journalists were ordered to be released, but only one was freed in April so far. Prosecutors alleged between January 2014 and December 2015 the journalists broadcast "false and malicious news" and propaganda and disturbed public security. They were also accused of "collaborating with the enemy".
"The charges against the journalists are fabricated. They were just doing their jobs as journalists," Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.
In 2019, Amnesty International called the charges "trumped-up".
Lack of press freedom
Yemen has one of the poorest press freedom records in the world, ranking 167th on Reporters without Borders' World Press Freedom Index.
Barbara Trionfi, executive director of the International Press Institute, said: "After many years in conflict, press freedom has suffered immense damage due to the lack of respect for the rule of law as a consequence of the conflict."
Trionfi added: "In this context, the only tool left to press freedom advocates is international pressure which is, however, often weakened by the political divisions caused by the Yemeni conflict."
The list of 150 groups calling on the UN to help free the journalists includes the Sanaa Centre for Strategic Studies, the Yemeni Women Journalists Network, and the Arab Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
Elisabeth Kendall, a senior fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, described the cases as "a truly worrying turning point".
"The intimidation of journalists in Yemen is a common phenomenon but actual death sentences are rare, until now at least," Kendall told Al Jazeera.
Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy to Yemen, made special mention of the situation in his briefing to the UN Security Council on May 14. He called for the immediate release of all journalists currently held in Sanaa.
"The international community regards this as a massive violation of human rights. The petition shows that the international community is coming together to prevent the death penalty," Ibrahim said.
The "international reputation" of the Houthis will suffer if they do not overturn the decision, he added.
No fair trial
Sabra, the lawyer, stated on his Facebook page the cases were heard without the presence of any defence lawyers up to the point when the death penalty was handed down.
Commenting on this, Kendall said the trial could not be considered to have met fair trial standards.
"The journalists' lawyer was not even granted access to the verdict hearing," she said.
On the court's appeal ruling to release the 6 journalists, Kendall said: "Not only has this not been implemented, but they had already been held for nearly five years, including periods of solitary confinement and alleged torture, and they were held for over 3 years before even being charged."
According to Rob Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, journalists in Yemen face multiple threats from the Houthis, the Saudi-led coalition, and various militias.
"The brutality of the fighting and the lack of state institutions to protect basic civil liberties such as press freedom have proved deadly for journalists," Mahoney told Al Jazeera.
Kendall said the convictions were "one more example of how all sides in this war are keen to control the message".
"If a warring party doesn't like what's being said, it simply dismisses it as 'fake news' and, in worst-case scenarios, it then intimidates or arrests the journalists in question in order to discourage others from reporting unfavourably in the future," she said.
"However, to the best of my knowledge, the Houthis are the only warring side so far to have issued actual death sentences to journalists."
Al Jazeera made several attempts to contact Houthi officials for comment but received no response.
MAY 18, 2020:
NJ Jurisprudence Helps Guide Death Penalty Litigation Nationally----We point out that it is now settled as a result of the landmark opinion in 'Apprendi' and its progeny that an aggravating factor or factors permitting the death penalty must be found by a jury.
On Feb. 25, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision (McKinney v. Arizona, 589 U.S. ___ (2020)), affirmed a judgment of the Arizona Supreme Court which had upheld a death sentence. More than 20 years earlier, the defendant, James McKinney, had been convicted by a jury of 2 first-degree murders. Under Arizona law at the time, he was eligible for the death sentence if the trial judge found at least 1 aggravating circumstance. The judge so found, and thus a death sentence was imposed.
Almost 20 years later, on federal habeas corpus review, an en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, by a vote of 6-5, decided that the Arizona courts had violated the 1982 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982), in which it was held that a capital sentencer could not refuse to consider relevant mitigating evidence. McKinney’s case was remanded to the Arizona Supreme Court where he then argued that he was entitled to be resentenced by a jury. The state urged that the Arizona Supreme Court could itself weigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances as permitted by Clemons v. Mississippi, 494 U.S. 738 (1990). The Arizona Supreme Court agreed with the state and upheld McKinney’s death sentence after reviewing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
In granting certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court identified the issue as a “narrow” one, to wit, whether the Arizona Supreme Court “could not itself reweigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances” or whether that function and the resentencing had to be performed by a jury. Writing for the 5-member majority, Justice Kavanaugh analyzed previous decisions involving the question of whether an appellate court could itself weigh permissible aggravating and mitigating evidence in order to conduct required resentencing. The conclusion was that on a collateral attack in which the death penalty was affirmed on direct review before Ring v. Arizona, 536 US 584 (2002) was decided, an appellate court could, under Clemons, reweigh the aggravating and mitigating factors and sustain the death penalty. In 2002, Ring held that a jury had to find the existence of an aggravating factor which made a defendant death eligible, and Ring relied upon Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) in reaching that decision. In Apprendi, a divided New Jersey Supreme Court had affirmed a decision of the Appellate Division which upheld an extended sentence for a bias crime where a statute provided for an extended sentence where the crime was found to have been committed with a “biased purpose.” The issue, as expressed by Justice O’Hern, was whether a jury would have had to have found that biased purpose beyond a reasonable doubt before a judge could impose the extended purpose. The majority found that the purpose of the crime was a sentencing factor and not an element of the offense that would have to be determined beyond a reasonable doubt. Justice Stein dissented (joined by Justice Handler), contending that the mental state of the defendant was an integral part of the offense and should be so characterized, thus requiring a jury determination beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a 5-4 decision by Justice Stevens, in which two of the concurring members also wrote separately, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the New Jersey Supreme Court and held that judges could not increase or enhance a sentence (other than on the basis of prior convictions) beyond the prescribed statutory maximum unless the jury found the aggravating factor or factors under a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. In New Jersey, Apprendi applied to extended terms other than those based on recidivism, and the McKinney majority wrote that Apprendi made clear a judge could consider the aggravating and mitigating factors in imposing a sentence “within the range prescribed by the statute.“
In the McKinney case, writing for the 4 dissenters, Justice Ginsburg pointed out that in Ring, the court found Arizona’s “capital sentencing regime” to be unconstitutional. Under Ring, an “aggravating factor” necessary to find a defendant eligible for a death sentence has to be found by the jury because it is “ ‘the functional equivalent of an element of a greater offense.’”
Analyzing the procedural route the McKinney case had taken in reaching the Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg concluded that the case had been before that tribunal on “direct review” and not “collateral review.” Had it been the former, Justice Ginsburg urged, the Ring case would have applied, and a jury would have been required to find the aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt. The dissenters were in agreement that the Arizona Supreme Court was considering McKinney on direct review and had thus erred in its conclusion and in its appellate application of the “harmless error” standard.
We take no position on the actual holding of McKinney because it deals with a technical procedural issue concerning collateral attacks. We do point out, however, that it is now settled as a result of the landmark opinion in Apprendi and its progeny that an aggravating factor or factors permitting the death penalty must be found by a jury. We also note that, while New Jersey no longer has the death penalty, the law developed as a result of our extended term sentencing structure has had enormous and beneficial impact on the imposition of capital punishment wherever the death penalty can be imposed in the United States.
(source: New Jersey Law Journal)
State seeks renewed death sentences as Florida high court backtracks on unanimous juries----Several Tampa Bay area death row inmates were re-sentenced to life, or on their way to new penalty hearings, after a 2016 decision struck down Florida’s old death penalty law.
William Deparvine and Ray Lamar Johnston are not sympathetic characters. Both men were convicted of horrible crimes in Hillsborough County. And both men were sentenced to die because of it.
Both men also had trials in which the jury was not unanimous about whether death was an appropriate sentence. That lack of consensus became a problem; ultimately, it put each of them on track for new sentencing hearings, with new juries, set for later this year.
Now, though, it appears the new sentencing hearings might not happen. And some lawyers say that’s unfair.
Prosecutors recently asked a judge to re-impose the original death sentences for Deparvine and Johnston. They cited a recent Florida Supreme Court decision, which reversed an earlier high court ruling that made unanimous juries a requirement going forward. A judge in Hillsborough County both on hold until after the Florida Supreme Court decides whether the death sentences in cases like theirs can stand.
Elsewhere in the state, some prosecutors have done the same for other death row cases that featured non-unanimous juries. Defense attorneys and legal scholars have raised constitutional questions, and warned of reverberations throughout Florida jurisprudence.
“Reinstating these death sentences would destabilize Florida’s entire judicial system, upend the most basic and longstanding principles of finality of judgments and waiver, and erode public confidence in the fair administration of Florida’s death penalty,” said Maria DeLiberato, a lawyer who specializes in death penalty appeals.
The Florida Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the issue next month.
This all happened because of a case called Hurst. It was a Florida case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2016 struck down the state’s death penalty law. The Hurst decision was later interpreted as requiring that juries be unanimous if they are to recommend the death penalty. Previously in Florida, a bare majority of 7-5 was all it took.
In the wake of Hurst, there came the question of what happens to the men already on death row. Ultimately, it was decided that those with non-unanimous juries, whose sentences were not finalized by 2002, could be eligible for new sentences.
In the Tampa Bay area, prosecutors identified 17 death row inmates whose cases fit the bill. 8 cases were from Pinellas County, 7 from Hillsborough, and 2 from Pasco.
Of those 17 defendants, 6 were re-sentenced to life in prison after prosecutors decided not to go for a new death sentence, court records show. One defendant appears to have had no significant court activity in recent years. In another case, the defendant was found to have been wrongfully convicted and was set free.
Only 1 defendant had a new jury impaneled for a new sentencing hearing. He got life.
The remaining 8 defendants were all slowly working toward their own new sentencing hearings. They included Deparvine and Johnston.
Deparvine was found guilty of the 2003 murders of Rick and Karla Van Dusen, whom he killed after telling them he wanted to purchase a vintage truck they had for sale. The jury in Deparvine’s trial was split on the death penalty, 8-4.
Johnston was sentenced to death in 2000 after a jury’s unanimous decision on the death penalty for the murder of LeAnne Coryell, whose battered and strangled body was found floating in a pond. In a separate trial in 2001, Johnston was found guilty of beating and strangling Janice Nugent in her Tampa home. But in that case, the jury’s death recommendation was 11-1.
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, who has been critical of some aspects of capital punishment, said he disagrees with the Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation, but that he is obligated to follow the law.
“These two defendants committed the worst of the worst of crimes and are the rare cases that deserve the death penalty,” Warren said. “Although I disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, my duty is to follow the law as written, not as I want it to be. It would be inappropriate for me to invent my own rules of procedure when the Supreme Court has already said what the law requires.”
In reversing the Hurst decision, the Florida Supreme Court opined that a jury only needs to unanimously find that an aggravating factor qualifying the death penalty exists in a case.
In Deparvine and Johnston’s cases, the reasoning is that since the defendants each were found guilty of multiple murders, that alone is an aggravating factor that has been proven.
2 other Hillsborough cases remain pending, but there has yet to be any request to reimpose death sentences in either of them. One involves Adam Davis, whose jury was split 7-5 on the death penalty for the murder of his girlfriend’s mother in 1998.
The other is that of Dontae Morris, whose jury was split 10-2 for the murder of Derek Anderson, a killing that occurred a few weeks before Morris killed two Tampa police officers during a traffic stop in 2010. In the police killings, the jury was unanimous on the death penalty for Morris.
Prosecutors in Pinellas and Pasco Counties have yet to ask for death sentences to be reimposed in any of their cases. But one Pinellas case, that of Genghis Kocaker, convicted of the 2004 murder of a Clearwater cab driver, is pending at the Supreme Court. The attorney general’s office has asked that his death sentence stand.
“(The court) should not require the prosecutors and citizens of Florida, not to mention the victims’ family, to go through the empty formality and enormous waste of resources of a new penalty phase based on that legally flawed and erroneous decision,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Marilyn Beccue wrote in a court paper. “Additionally, the new penalty phases required by the now-repudiated (Hurst) decision consume massive prosecutorial resources that are better spent in prosecuting other cases and in keeping citizens safe from other criminals.” Whatever the court decides will likely come on the wings of two other cases, though.
One of them is a defendant named Bessman Okafor, sentenced to death for a 2012 Orange County murder by an 11-1 vote. He was about to have a new sentencing hearing when the Florida Supreme Court reversed itself.
Now, the state wants his death sentence to stand. His lawyers have noted that 4 justices who helped decide Hurst have since retired. They call the notion that a jury could be anything but unanimous in sentencing a defendant to death unconstitutional.
A group of 14 Florida law school professors and civil attorneys joined in a support for the defense side. They criticized the notion that the court could reverse a decision that was already final long ago.
“The notion that the Court’s duly issued opinion is not final and can be revisited years later can only cause uncertainty and unrest in the lives of many who count on the Court for stability and consistency,” they wrote. “If this Court need not follow its own rules, then what rules should litigants follow and professors teach?”
Here’s a roundup of what happened in each of the 17 Tampa Bay area cases affected by the Hurst decision.
•Ray Lamar Johnston strangled 2 women in 1997 in Tampa. Jury vote: 12-0 in one case; 11-1 in the other. Prosecutors asked a judge to reimpose the death penalty in the latter case.
•Adam Davis stabbed his girlfriend’s mother to death in 1998 in Carrollwood after injecting her with bleach. Jury vote: 7-5. A new sentencing hearing is set for later this year.
•Pedro Hernandez-Alberto shot his 2 step-daughters to death in Apollo Beach in 1999. Jury vote: 10-2. He was re-sentenced to life in 2017.
•Khalid Pasha stabbed his wife and stepdaughter to death in 2002 at an office park near Town 'N Country. Convicted and sentenced to death twice. Jury vote: 11-1. He was re-sentenced to life in 2017.
•William Deparvine shot a man and a woman in 2003 after he met them to ask about buying a vintage pickup truck. Jury vote: 8-4. Prosecutors asked a judge to reimpose the death penalty.
•Kenneth Jackson abducted a Seffner mother of 3 in 2007, then stabbed her to death. Jury vote: 11-1. He was re-sentenced to life in 2019.
•Dontae Morris killed 2 Tampa police officers after killing another man weeks earlier. Jury vote: 12-0 for the officers; 10-2 for the civilian. The latter case remains pending.
•Jeffrey Muehleman beat and asphyxiated a 97-year-old man in 1983. Sentenced to death a second time in 2003. Jury vote: 10-2. There has been no recent activity in his case.
•Troy Merck stabbed a man repeatedly in 1991 outside a St. Petersburg bar after he was asked not to lean on a car. Jury vote: 9-3. An appeal is pending in the state Supreme Court.
•Harry Butler stabbed and strangled his former girlfriend in 1997 in Clearwater. Jury vote: 11-1. Re-sentenced to life in 2018.
•Charles Peterson shot and killed a man during a robbery at a Big Lots store in St. Petersburg on Christmas Eve 1997. Jury vote: 8-4. Re-sentenced to life in 2017.
•Genghis Kocaker stabbed a cab driver, bound him, then set fire to his car in Clearwater in 2004. Jury vote: 11-1. His case is pending before the state Supreme Court.
•Richard Robards stabbed a Clearwater couple before attempting to steal their safe. Jury vote: 7-5. Re-sentenced to life in 2017.
•John Hampton raped a woman in 2007 in Clearwater, slit her throat, then tried to destroy DNA evidence. Jury vote: 9-3. Re-sentenced to life in 2018 after a jury split 11-1 for death.
•Ralph Wright was exonerated in 2017 after being sent to death row on a 7-5 jury vote.
•Phillup Partin stabbed, beat and strangled a 16-year-old girl in 2002 in Port Richey. Jury vote: 9-3. He was proceeding toward a new sentencing hearing.
•John Sexton raped and murdered Ann Parlato, 94, in her New Port Richey home in 2010 before lighting her body on fire. Jury vote: 10-2. He was previously set for a new sentencing hearing later this year.
In a letter to the newspaper, he confessed to killing a prisoner. Now, he faces the death penalty
My name is Joel Drain. I am the person who killed him.
A month after writing those two sentences in a letter to an Ohio newspaper, Drain was indicted by a grand jury in Warren County. He was charged with aggravated murder and two other felonies.
Now, he faces the death penalty, and his trial is scheduled to start today.
During a pretrial hearing in February, a public defender called Drain one of the most intelligent people he knows. So why did the 38-year-old confess to a crime in the newspaper?
“Beat him. Stabbed him. And strangled him," Drain wrote in July. "It's all black & white."
Drain was already serving a potential life sentence for the 2016 stabbing and strangling of a man in Northwest Ohio. Shortly before that, he had been arrested for stabbing his father.
Then, in April of 2019, Drain was accused of killing another inmate while incarcerated at the Warren Correctional Institution. Christopher Richardson, 29, was serving 4 years for aggravated arson when he was killed.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell called Richardson's death a "blood bath." Drain beat Richardson with the motor from a desk fan, stomped on his throat and kicked a pencil into his head, the prosecutor told the Dayton Daily News.
"He tried to stand up for a known child molester. He was a snitch,” Drain wrote in his letter to the Columbus Dispatch. “I gave him what he deserved. No apologies.”
Before Drain was charged, he read an article in The Dispatch about the assault. 3 months later, although Drain had been moved to a different prison, he had still not been charged.
In his letter, the inmate with "unforgiven sin" tattoed below his lip said prosecutors and other authorities had been pointing to him as the killer behind the scenes for months. Drain said he wanted to get it all out in the open.
And now, he wants to get the trial over with.
Drain has waived his right to a jury trial and, against the advice of his attorneys, is expected to plead no contest today. That means he is not admitting guilt, but admitting to the facts contained in his indictment.
But because this is a death penalty case, prosecutors still have to prove their case to a panel of three judges – who were selected earlier this year when a sheriff's deputy drew marbles out of a hat.
The trial in Warren County Common Pleas Court is scheduled to last 2 days. If the judges find him guilty, they will then decide if Drain should be put to death.
"Now you know the real story," he wrote in his letter last year.
"Respectfully," he signed it. "Joel Drain."
MISSOURI----stay lifted----execution re-set for tomorrow
Missouri man who maintained innocence to be executed Tuesday
There has been breaking news on Sunday night in the case of Walter Barton, a Missouri man convicted of rape and murder. The 8th Circuit Court overturned Barton’s stay of execution.
That means his execution moves ahead and will take place on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Barton has always maintained his innocence in the case.
His legal team says the blood spatter evidence used to convict him was junk. They recently presented new information to jurors in his murder conviction. 4 of them say new analysis would have made a difference in the jury room.
Barton has explained blood specks on his clothes happened when he rushed to the scene and found the body. Prosecutors say those blood specks were from the murder itself.
Barton’s supporters are now calling on Missouri Governor Mike Parson to grant a stay of execution.
(source: KCTV news)
Concerns Over Fate of Death Row Political Prisoner, Hedayat Abdollahpour, 9 days After Disappearance
Hedayat Abdollahpour, a Kurdish political prisoner sentenced to death was transferred from Urmia prison to an unknown location 9 days ago and there has since been no news of his whereabouts.
According to IHR, Hedayat Abdollahpour was transferred from the political prisoners' ward of Urmia Central Prison to an unknown location on May 10. His family, who have not had any contact with him worry that his sentence may have been carried out.
A well-informed source told Iran Human Rights (IHR), "Today [Saturday, May 16], Maziar Tataei, Hedayat's lawyer, went to the Urmia Court and was told that the IRGC's intelligence had taken Hedayat for interrogation. According to the court, the sentence had not been carried out."
Hedayat Abdollahpour has not had any contact with his family to date and there has been no new information pertaining to his current condition. Last week, his lawyers told IHR: "While it is true that Hedayat's death sentence has been upheld, there is no legal basis and would be illegal for any action to be taken to enforce his sentence as long as his case is at the Amnesty and Pardon Commission.”
Today, a government source unofficially told some political prisoners that Hedayat had been transferred to Tehran by the IRGC's intelligence services.
Hedayat Abdollahpour was arrested along with at least 6 others in a village near Oshnavieh city, West Azerbaijan province, on June 15, 2016. The seven detainees were accused of providing food and shelter to members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran during clashes with the Revolutionary Guards.
Hedayat is the only one of those detained to be sentenced to death on charges of "rebellion" following a complaint by the Revolutionary Guards and ruling by the 1st Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Urmia.
His sentence was overturned by the 47th Branch of the Supreme Court and referred to the 2nd Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Urmia for review. Hedayat was again sentenced to death by this branch, and the sentence was finally upheld by the 47th Branch of the Supreme Court.
There has been a sharp rise in prison executions in Kurdish areas in recent months. Implementing sentences of prisoners whose cases are at the Amnesty and Pardon Commission is illegal but not unprecedented. Ramin Hossein Panahi, a Kurdish prisoner was executed in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, while his case was still at the Amnesty and Pardon Commission.
MAY 17, 2020:
US Attorney General suggests death penalty for Woodbine man
US Attorney General Anthony Barr has directed prosecutors to seek the death penalty against a Woodbine man who is currently facing charges for the murder of his girlfriend and her child.
Daniel Nantz, 30, was named on a 7-count indictment in July for murder by a federal grand jury for fatally shooting Geri D. Johnson on March 16, 2019.
The indictment also charges Nantz with kidnapping, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, two counts of conspiracy to distribute 500 or more grams of a substance containing methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm knowing that he had previously been convicted in a court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
The indictment states that the firearm was a black Taurus .38 caliber Model 85 revolver.
Johnson, who was 7 months pregnant at the time, sustained 2 gun shot wounds, once in her back near her right shoulder and once in the neck. Johnson was driven to Baptist Health Corbin by Nantz where doctors attempted to revive her.
Johnson’s daughter, Amelia Johnson, was able to be delivered and was transferred to the University of Kentucky Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for treatment. The baby was listed in critical condition for several days before passing away.
According to testimony from Todd E. Tremaine, a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Johnson had named Nantz in a drug trafficking scheme that the agency had been investigating at time.
The aforementioned indictment states that Nantz “willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation and malice forethought,” killed Johnson with the intent of keeping her from telling officials about his drug operation.
Nantz was one of 19 individuals named in an indictment in March 2019 by a federal grand jury on drug trafficking and firearm offenses.
The indictments came as a result of a nine-month investigation by the ATF into methamphetamine and firearms trafficking.
According to the indictments, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in and around Laurel, Knox, and Whitley Counties. The indictments further allege that defendants trafficked firearms, used firearms during their drug trafficking transactions, and illegally possessed firearms.
Nantz has pleaded not guilty to the charge, claiming that Johnson shot herself.
Since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the United States in 1988, no one has been sentenced to death by a federal court in Kentucky. However, the state has executed three inmates since then, with the last being Marco Allen Chapman on November 21, 2008.
Singaporean man, 20, charged with murder for Punggol Field death
A 20-year-old Singaporean man has been charged in court on Sunday (17 May) with the murder of a jogger at Punggol Field last weekend.
The Straits Times reported that Surajsrikan Diwakar Mani Tripathi, who appeared via video link, is accused of stabbing Tay Rui Hao, 38, near a bus stop along Punggol Field Road last Sunday at 11.08pm.
His next court appearance will be on 5 June, and he will be remanded at Changi Prison Complex Medical Centre.
In a media release on Saturday, police said that the accused was identified and arrested at 2.45am on Saturday morning after round-the-clock investigations, extensive ground enquiries and expansive review of closed-circuit television footage.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the suspect is not known to the victim and is believed to have acted alone.
Last Sunday, Tay was jogging when he was stabbed near the bus stop in Punggol Field, opposite Block 227A Sumang Lane. He later died from his injuries at Sengkang General Hospital.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigation and Intelligence) concurrent Director CID (Criminal Investigation Department), Florence Chua, commended the officers who had worked tirelessly to solve the case.
The murder charge carries the death penalty.
(source: Yahoo News)
MAY 16, 2020:
Georgia inmate freed after 43 years for crime he denies committing----Courts found blatant racism was key factor in Johnny Lee Gates’ conviction
After 43 years in prison — more than 25 years of that on death row — Johnny Lee Gates walked out of custody on Friday a free man.
Gates was convicted during a 1977 trial of the rape, armed robbery and murder of a 19-year-old German immigrant who’d moved to Columbus 12 days earlier to be with her husband, a soldier at Fort Benning. But Gates’ lawyers later showed that prosecutors used blatant race discrimination during jury selection and persuaded the Georgia Supreme Court to grant Gates a new trial based on newly discovered DNA evidence.
“I’ve fought for 43 years for this day,” Gates said. “I always had faith it would come, even when others weren’t sure. I am an innocent man. I did not commit this crime. What happened to me is something that should never happen to any person. But I am not bitter. I thank God that I am here, and I am happy to be free.”
On Friday, Gates entered what’s called an “Alford plea” to involuntary manslaughter and armed robbery — a plea in which Gates did not admit to committing the crimes but conceded prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him.
Gates was sentenced to 40 years for the 2 crimes. But since he had already spent all that time, plus an additional 3 years, behind bars, he received credit for time served.
Gates confessed to police he’d committed the crimes, but his lawyers contended he had been coerced. At trial, prosecutors said Gates tightly bound murder victim Katharina Wright with a necktie and a belt from a bathrobe before killing her.
In 2015, representatives from the Georgia Innocence Project found those 2 pieces of evidence in the Muscogee County district attorney’s office in 2015, and Senior Judge John Allen allowed the items to be tested for DNA. A series of tests found the presence of DNA from as many as 5 individuals on the tie and belt — but not from Gates.
This led Allen to grant Gates a new trial, a decision that was later upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court. In its ruling on March 13, the state high court said “the newly discovered DNA evidence now available to Gates casts significant doubt on the state’s theory that Gates was the perpetrator.”
In his new trial order, Allen also condemned prosecutors’ strikes of prospective black jurors during jury selection, finding “undeniable” and “overwhelming” evidence of race discrimination.
Prosecutors' notes from the 1977 murder trial of Johnny Lee Gates in Columbus, Ga. show that all 4 black prospective jurors (marked with an N in the notes) were struck. Each name also has a 1 to the left of it, indicating that prosecutors found them least favorable. 2 other white prospective jurors who were also struck are included here, with a note on one (Campbell, No. 15) saying that he was opposed but would grant the death penalty.
Gates’ new legal team from the Georgia Innocence Project and the Southern Center for Human Rights found that Columbus prosecutors systematically excluded prospective black jurors in 7 death penalty cases, including Gates’, in the 1970s.
In handwritten notes, Columbus prosecutors described prospective black jurors as “slow,” “ignorant,” “con artist” and “fat.” They also jotted a “B” or an “N” next to black people’s names on jury lists and routinely ranked them as the least desirable jurors.
Gates was initially sentenced to death during his 3-day trial in 1977. He was re-sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2003.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Florida Supreme Court upholds death penalty in 2013 Polk murder
The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction and death penalty against Benjamin D. Smiley Jr., who was found guilty in October 2016 of gunning down a 58-year-old Lakeland man during a home-invasion robbery.
The state’s high court rejected arguments, in part, that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict Smiley, of Tampa, and that some photographic evidence should not have been admitted.
At 27, Smiley remains the youngest inmate on Florida’s death row.
Clifford Drake was awakened in the bedroom of his Lakeland home that April night in 2013 to Smiley tapping him on the forehead with a chrome revolver, according to court testimony. Smiley ordered Drake to tell him where the safe was hidden, and when Drake said he didn’t have one, Smiley fired a single shot into his leg, hoping to force him to reveal the safe’s whereabouts. When Drake continued denying any knowledge of a safe, Smiley shot him in the chest.
During Smiley’s trial, Mark Wilkerson identified Smiley as the man he had seen in the back yard of his stepfather’s home the night of the shooting, and who had ordered him inside at gunpoint.
During the investigation, Lakeland police detectives discovered a backpack that had been left behind in Drake’s bedroom, but it would take two years to make an arrest. Their break came when Hillsborough County deputies arrested Smiley for armed robbery, and his DNA in that case was linked with DNA found at the Drake murder scene.
In testimony during the trial, Smiley told jurors he wasn’t at Drake’s home that night and had no involvement in the crime.
Jurors deliberated about 6 hours in 2016 before convicting Smiley of first-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault with a firearm and armed burglary. Sentencing was delayed while the state Legislature revised Florida’s death-penalty process in response to a U.S. Supreme Court mandate.
In April 2017, a new jury recommended unanimously that Smiley should be executed for Drake’s murder, and Circuit Judge Jalal Harb followed that recommendation when sentencing him to death in February 2018.
In an unrelated case, Smiley was sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment in February 2018 for gunning down Carmen Riley, 46, during an attempted robbery in her Lakeland home a month before Drake’s killing. Prosecutors initially had been seeking the death penalty in that case, as well, but later withdrew it.
Eleventh District: Death Sentence Appeal of Accomplice to Ohio’s Only Woman on Death Row Rejected
The death sentence of a man who conspired with the only woman currently on Ohio’s death row to kill her ex-husband for insurance money was upheld by a divided Ohio appeals court.
While rejecting 2 separate complaints brought to the court by Nathaniel Jackson, the Eleventh District Court of Appeals noted that Jackson still has another appeal pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. Jackson is seeking a 3rd resentencing or new trial to overturn his 2002 conviction and death sentence.
Jackson’s appeals follow those of Donna Roberts. In 2001, Jackson was in prison, and Robert Fingerhut had been residing with Roberts, his ex-wife. Jackson and Roberts exchanged letters and phone calls plotting to kill Fingerhut when Jackson was released so she could collect more than $500,000 in life insurance proceeds. Jackson was convicted in November 2002 aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. Jackson confessed to the murders but claimed it was in self defense.
Donna Roberts case
The 11th District had previously ordered the resentencing of both Roberts and Jackson citing an improper role the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office played in the original death sentence. In August 2006, the Supreme Court vacated Roberts’ death sentence based on her argument that prosecutors, without the inclusion of the defense attorneys, aided the presiding judge, John M. Stuard, in preparing the court’s sentencing opinion. Roberts was resentenced in 2007 and again sentenced to death. Roberts challenged the merits of the 2007 sentence, and in October 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a third sentencing hearing for Roberts. In April 2014, Judge Ronald Rice sentenced Roberts to death for the 3rd time.
Jackson’s appeal of first trial
This week, the appeals court ruled on the same day on 2 separate Jackson appeals. The 1st, filed in 2008, challenges the Trumbull County Common Pleas Court’s rejection of his request for a new trial. The other is the trial court 2013 rejection of his postconviction relief petition asking the court to vacate its ruling.
Based on the Roberts ruling, Jackson filed his own appeal and in August 2012 he was given a new sentencing hearing where again Judge Stuard sentenced him to death. Judge Stuard retired in 2012 and died in 2013. Jackson appealed his first death sentence to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2003 and it was upheld. He made his 2nd direct appeal to the Supreme Court of his August 2012 death sentence and his appeal is still pending.
In the cases before the 11th District, Jackson argued the 2006 Roberts case provided him new information about his original 2002 trial. In his first trial, Jackson filed a motion to suppress his confession. Jackson claimed that the Roberts appeal revealed that not only did the prosecutors meet improperly with Judge Stuard on the sentencing opinion, but the prosecutors also assisted in the judge’s ruling overruling his motion to suppress his confession.
Writing for the appeals court Judge Timothy P. Cannon noted the trial court properly overturned the motion to suppress concluding that Jackson was advised of his Miranda rights and voluntarily waived the rights, and did not request counsel before making a statement to police. He noted the Supreme Court also upheld the trial court’s ruling in Jackson’s direct appeal of his conviction.
Jackson argued that it was not until 2008 that he learned the prosecutors assisted the judge in preparing the entry to overrule the motion, and filed his motion for a new trial. A motion for a new trial is to be filed 120 days after the original verdict, but the time can be extended if the convicted person can prove “he was unavoidably prevented from discovering the evidence.”
Prosecutors argued that if Jackson wanted to challenge their actions in the original motion to suppress, it had to come shortly after the information was discovered in 2006. Jackson argued he didn’t know precisely about the motion to suppress until disciplinary hearings took place after the 2006 ruling in the Roberts case.
“We are not persuaded by (Jackson’s) argument that, while he knew as early as the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Roberts that assistant prosecutors from the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office drafted some judgment entries, he had no reason to know that (the prosecutor’s office) drafted the judgment entry overruling his motion to suppress until his counsel was directed to them during disciplinary proceedings pending against Judge Stuard.”
The appeals court concluded Jackson waited too long to file for the new trial.
Jacksons appeal of both trials
The appeals court then turned to Jackson’s postconviction appeal. He cited 19 grounds for vacating his death sentences. Judge Cannon noted that 18 of the arguments stem from Judge Stuard’s original 2002 conviction and one from the 2012 resentencing.
Ohio law requires a death penalty postconviction petition be filed within 180 days after a trial transcript is filed with the Ohio Supreme Court. Citing the 12th District Court of Appeals case State v. Piesciuk (2010), Judge Cannon said the 180-day clock does not restart when a 2nd trial is ordered. The appeals court ruled that all Jackson’s 18 claims surrounding the first trial were filed too late and would not be considered.
The only argument the appeals court considered was Jackson’s claim that the trial court during the resentencing failed to hear any additional evidence. The trial court rejected that claim based on res judicata, writing that Jackson is making the identical argument in his appeal pending before the Supreme Court. Because the argument is before the high court, the appeals court said it was not proper for it or the trial court to consider his petition.
Judge Diane V. Grendell concurred in the decisions.
Judge Colleen Mary O’Toole dissented in both decisions. Judge O’Toole said similar to Roberts, she would vacate Jackson’s death sentence and remand the matter back to the trial court for a third sentencing hearing.
“The record establishes that the same improper drafting procedures involving the sentencing entry which occurred in Roberts’ case took place in this case as well. Like Roberts’ case, this case also involves a very serious matter as (Jackson’s) life in on the line,” she wrote.
Because she would order a resentencing hearing, Judge O’Toole argued that the postconviction relief petition should not be considered by the appeals court. She wrote that the petition should be considered after a third sentencing was conducted and if there was an appeal filed after it.
State v. Jackson, 2015-Ohio-6; 2015-Ohio-7Opinion: http://sc.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/11/2015/2015-ohio-6.pdf http://sc.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/11/2015/2015-ohio-7.pdfCivil Appeal From: Trumbull County Court of Common PleasJudgment Appealed From Is: AffirmedDate of Judgment Entry on Appeal: January 5, 2015
Death Row Inmate’s Appeal Earns Access to DNA Test Result
When a judge fails to comply with the state DNA testing law, the Ohio Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear an offender’s appeal, the state’s high court ruled today.
The Court ruled 5-2 that a laboratory report’s conclusions about a DNA test are not equivalent to actual test results. Therefore, the trial court partially failed to meet the requirements of R.C.2953.81, which states that DNA testing results must be provided to an offender.
The ruling came in the case of death row inmate Tyrone Noling. The Supreme Court ruled that Noling is entitled to the DNA profile of an unknown male, which was obtained by testing a cigarette butt found at a 1990 crime scene. The decision marks the third time the Court has issued an opinion on a postconviction relief appeal from Noling.
Writing for the Court majority, Justice Patrick F. Fischer explained that, while the law does not define the “results of the testing,” it is clear from reading the entire Ohio Revised Code section regarding DNA tests that “results of the testing” means the DNA profile developed by a crime lab after testing the evidence. The Court rejected Noling’s request for additional materials, such as lab notes, and it upheld a trial judge’s decision not to conduct additional tests on other crime scene evidence.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Judith L. French joined the opinion. Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge William A. Klatt, sitting for former Justice William M. O’Neill, also joined the majority.
Justices R. Patrick DeWine and Sharon L. Kennedy dissented. Justice DeWine wrote that the law is crafted to narrowly limit appeals to three specific rulings on DNA tests by a trial court, and what constitutes “the results” of a DNA test is not one of them.
Convict Seeks to Prove Innocence
Noling was found guilty of the aggravated murders of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig in their Portage County home in 1990. He was sentenced to death, and the Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 2002. He has filed several actions in federal and state courts, including requests for DNA testing of items found at the crime scene. Noling claims that with more-advanced DNA testing than was available during his 1995 trial, the evidence may point to another suspect.
Noling maintains his innocence and has spent nearly 2 decades attempting to link DNA on a cigarette butt found on the driveway of the Hartig home to other evidence, including shell casings from a fired weapon and ring boxes in the Hartig home.
Prior to his initial trial, a DNA test was conducted on the cigarette butt, and it excluded Noling and the others tried with him for the murders. In 2008, the trial judge rejected retesting of the cigarette butt. In 2010, Noling sought again to have the cigarette butt tested, claiming that newly discovered evidence pointed to other suspects. One other suspect was Daniel Wilson, who was described to authorities by his foster brother as being a violent person who broke into homes at the time of the Hartig murders. Noling claimed that previous DNA analysis of the cigarette butt did not exclude Wilson as a source of the DNA.
Noling also identified other possible suspects, including the Hartigs’ insurance agent, who defaulted on a loan from the Hartigs. Noling argued that more-advanced DNA testing could possibly match the unidentified DNA on the cigarette butt to one of the suspects, whom prosecutors had not disclosed to Noling prior to his original trial. The trial court again denied the testing request, and Noling appealed.
2nd DNA Test Ordered, New Requests Added
In 2013, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a change in state law permits the trial court to order the testing requested by Noling. The trial court was directed to consider if biological material from the cigarette butt could be used to identify another suspect. (See 2013 Supreme Court Clarifies Requirements for New DNA Testing of Biological Material in Criminal Cases.)
As the case returned to trial court, Noling amended his DNA testing request to include the shell casings collected from the Hartigs’ kitchen and ring boxes from their bedroom. He also asked that the shell casings be submitted to the FBI’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) for a possible match with the missing murder weapon.
Prosecutors objected, arguing the shell casings and ring boxes had been contaminated and were not suitable for DNA testing. The state noted the evidence was collected and examined at a time before standards were put in place to handle evidence without contaminating DNA. The state also objected to submitting the casings to NIBIN because the request was unrelated to the DNA test request.
The trial judge rejected the request to submit the shell casings to the federal database, stating that there was no procedure in state law that allowed Noling to make the request.
Test Results Disputed
The trial court ordered the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to collect DNA evidence from the cigarette butt and to compare the DNA profile created from the evidence to DNA profiles in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a database created by law-enforcement agencies. BCI confirmed that Wilson’s DNA was in the database that was searched. The DNA profile from the cigarette butt did not match anyone in the CODIS database, including Wilson’s.
The state provided Noling with a 1-page report that explained how the DNA profile was created from the cigarette butt, but did not provide him the DNA profile that BCI created.
Noling asked the court to allow Orchid Cellmark Laboratories (Cellmark) to test the shell casings and ring boxes for DNA, stating that the company was better equipped than BCI to determine if it could gather DNA from the items. The trial court directed BCI to report whether there was the quality and quantity of evidence available to conduct DNA tests, and BCI found that the shell casings and ring boxes were contaminated and unsuitable for testing. The trial court dismissed Noling’s application for testing based on BCI’s report.
Noling appealed to the decision to the Supreme Court. At the time of his appeal, R.C. 2953.73(E)(1) provided death penalty recipients with only a right to request that the Supreme Court hear an appeal of a denied DNA testing request. Noling argued the law was unconstitutional, and in 2016 the Court agreed. (See Post-Conviction DNA Testing Appeals Process Unconstitutional.) While the Court ruled Noling had a right to appeal, it did not rule at that time on his claims or whether the law allowed the Court to rule on the three testing requests.
Law Limits Appeals of DNA Issues
Justice Fischer’s opinion explained that when there is a request for DNA testing, the offender must sign an acknowledgment form that states the common pleas court has “sole discretion” to decide whether the offender is eligible to make the DNA request. If the offender meets the criteria for having a request accepted, R.C. 2953.72(A)(8) provides that, with three exceptions, the discretionary rulings of the common pleas court are not appealable to any other court. The Court listed the three discretionary decisions that are appealable:
•whether an individual is an eligible offender to request a test
•whether an application meets the criteria to be accepted
•whether an application should be accepted.
Court Finds Duty to Provide Full Testing Report
The Court held that R.C. 2953.81(C) states that a court or testing authority “shall provide a copy of the results of the testing” to the prosecuting attorney, the Ohio Attorney General, and the offender. The Court explained that Noling’s challenge to the trial court’s failure to provide him a full report of the DNA test is a claim that the court did not comply with a mandatory duty to provide the results. That makes the issue appealable, the majority concluded.
“As Noling is not appealing the manner in which the provision was carried out, but whether the provision was carried out, this court has jurisdiction to hear the claim,” the Court stated.
The Court determined that the law required BCI to create a DNA profile by testing the sample taken from the cigarette butt and to compare “the results of the testing” to the CODIS database. This process checked for DNA matches with the profiles contained in CODIS. Because the only data that can be compared with the DNA profiles in CODIS is another DNA profile, “results of the testing” must be a reference to the DNA profile, the Court ruled. The Court ruled that, as a result, Noling is entitled to only the DNA profile created by BCI and no more.
The Court stated the Noling is not entitled to the lab reports or other underlying scientific data that BCI used to produce the profile. It also ruled that the discretionary decisions to deny sending the casings to test against the FBI’s NIBIN, the denial of providing DNA to Cellmark, and the rest of Noling’s testing requests are not the issues the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear on appeal.
The Court remanded the case to the trial court to ensure that Noling is provided with the DNA profile of the unknown male suspect but no more, and it dismissed the remainder of Noling’s claims.
Dissent Would Fully Reject Appeal
In his dissenting opinion, Justice DeWine wrote the legislature created the procedure to allow an offender to obtain postconviction DNA testing in limited circumstances, and because it is a special procedure, there is no general right to challenge the trial court’s determinations. Rather, the only right to appeal is that which is set forth specifically in the statute at issue, R.C. 2953.72(A)(8). Justice DeWine wrote that the trial court’s decision about what constitutes “the results of the testing” does not fall within the limited number of trial-court determinations from which the legislature has authorized an appeal. As a consequence, he concluded, “this court lacks jurisdiction to consider Noling’s appeal on that issue.”
Justice DeWine noted that an offender who believes the trial court failed to carry out a mandatory duty is not without options to contest the court’s work. He stated the offender could seek a writ of mandamus from an appeals court to direct a lower court to carry out a duty.
2014-1377. State v. Noling, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-795.
(source for both: einnews.com)
MISSOURI----stay of impending execution
Judge issues stay in Missouri execution
A federal judge in Missouri issued a stay of execution Friday for a man convicted of killing an 81-year-old woman in 1991.
District Judge Brian Wimes granted the stay for Walter Barton, 64, who was scheduled to be executed Tuesday. He was convicted in the death of trailer park operator Gladys Kuehler.
Barton sought the stay on the grounds that a blood spatter expert disagrees with the state's expert, who said during trial that blood pattern on the defendant's clothes showed he killed Kuehler. The new expert, though, said that had Barton killed her, he would have had more blood on him.
The petition also called into question the reliability of a jail informant, who testified at trial that Barton threatened to kill her "like he did that old lady."
Barton's lawyers also sought the stay based on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hindered defense attorneys across the country from conducting investigations needed in the final weeks before a scheduled execution.
Wimes said he needed more time to consider the merits of the case beyond the Tuesday date of execution.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt appealed the stay, sending the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
If Barton is executed Tuesday, his will be the 1st since March 5. Texas has delayed or rescheduled 6 executions, while Tennessee delayed 1, all due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(source: United Press International)
Western District Court of Missouri Grants Walter Barton 30 Day Stay of Execution
The Western District Court of Missouri granted Walter Barton a 30 day stay of execution. Walter was scheduled to be executed on May 19th, 2020. According to the order granting the stay, the stay will allow the federal court time to determine if the Petitioner would likely succeed based on the merits of the habeas petition.
In this case, the petition for writ of habeas corpus relief is based on the grounds of the actual innocence case. The first point is the testimony of a blood spatter expert for the Defence, who says he would have contradicted the testimony of the State’s blood spatter expert had the counsel for the Petitioner called him to testify at trial. Also in question is the discovery of additional prior convictions for the State’s witness, a known jailhouse informant. Debunked evidence and the use of jailhouse informants are common elements of innocence cases. When you consider that these were the most compelling 2 pieces of evidence used to convict Barton of the 1991 murder of Gladys Kuehler, it is undeniable that there should be time to consider the merits.
In addition to the innocence claim, the court will review the merits of a mental competency claim. Walter Barton has a severe neurological disorder from a traumatic brain injury. He has been under psychiatric care while incarcerated.
Attorneys for Barton say the State has already filed an appeal in the Eight Circuit Court.
(source: Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty---- Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is a statewide organization working to repeal the death penalty in Missouri by educating and informing fellow citizens and legislators about the costs and consequences of capital punishment. )
With the execution of Nathaniel Woods in Alabama on March 5, the USA has now executed 1,517 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.
1518------June 16------------Ruben Gutierrez-----------Texas
1519------July 8-------------Billy Wardlow-------------Texas
1520------Aug. 4-------------Harold Nichols------------Tennessee
1521------Sept. 9------------John Ramirez--------------Texas
1522------Sept. 30-----------Carlos Trevino------------Texas
(source: Rick Halperin)
Nebraska court orders disclosure of execution drug records
Nebraska prison officials cannot withhold public records that reveal where they purchased their supply of lethal injection drugs, the state's highest court said Friday in a ruling that could threaten Nebraska's ability to carry out executions for the dozen men on its death row.
In ordering the documents to be disclosed for public scrutiny, the Nebraska Supreme Court sided with two newspapers and a prisoner advocacy group that sued the Department of Correctional Services after its 2017 refusal to release them. Before that, the department had regularly disclosed such records to anyone who requested them.
At the time, the agency was under mounting pressure to obtain lethal injection drugs as death-penalty critics questioned whether Nebraska would ever carry out another execution.
Pharmaceutical companies object to their products being used in executions and have sought to prevent pharmacies from providing them. Some states have moved to keep their suppliers secret, but Nebraska lawmakers have rejected "shield laws" that would have given prison officials the authority to withhold such records.
Media outlets including The Associated Press, The Omaha World-Herald and The Lincoln Journal Star filed formal requests in 2017 for purchase orders and other records that would have identified Nebraska's supplier. A leading prisoner advocacy group, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, filed a similar request.
The Omaha World-Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star and the ACLU of Nebraska sued after those request were denied, arguing that the department had violated Nebraska's open-records laws.
Prison officials said the supplier should be considered a member of the official "execution team," whose identities are confidential under Nebraska law.
The high court rejected that, writing that the department's "contentions contradict the text of Nebraska's public records statutes and are adverse to this court's public records precedent."
Danielle Conrad, the ACLU of Nebraska's executive director, said she was pleased with the court's ruling "that Nebraskans have a right to know what the state is doing with taxpayer dollars."
"Open, transparent government is a bedrock Nebraska tradition; it's so deeply valued by citizens across the political spectrum because it provides a check on the abuses of big government," Conrad said.
Representatives for the Department of Correctional Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, Director Scott Frakes told a legislative committee in 2017 that it would be "very difficult" to acquire lethal injection drugs if the department was forced to identify its suppliers.
The Nebraska attorney general's office, which represented the department, issued a statement saying: "The Attorney General appreciates the Court providing clarity on multiple issues of first impression and on prior case law. Going forward, the Attorney General expects the parties will work together to bring this to a resolution."
The case had been under appeal since a district court judge ordered the department to release the records in 2018. That same year, Nebraska executed its 1st inmate since 1997, using the drugs prison officials obtained from the unknown supplier.
Nebraska lawmakers narrowly abolished capital punishment in 2015, largely due to a coalition of conservative legislators who viewed it as a waste of money given how long it had been since the state had an execution. As lawmakers were considering the move, prison officials and Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts sent $54,400 in state money to a broker in India who promised to deliver lethal injection drugs. The broker later said his shipments were being blocked and refused to return the money.
The next year, voters approved reinstating capital punishment in a ballot measure that was partially financed by Ricketts, a death penalty supporter.
German drugmaker Fresenius Kabi told the AP in 2017 that one of its products had ended up in Nebraska's lethal injection supply. A spokesman said the company tried unsuccessfully to get the state to return the drugs.
Fresenius Kabi later alleged in a lawsuit that the state had procured even more of its drugs in violation of distribution contracts that prohibit the company's products from being sold to correctional departments.
The state currently has no executions scheduled.
(source: Associated Press)
Elko man now faces murder charge in death of baby
An Elko man who was arrested this week on child abuse charges is now facing a charge of open murder, after the infant died, as well as an additional child abuse charge regarding the 4-year-old boy he was caring for.
Nathan J. O’Dell, 24, was caring for the 7-month-old male and a 4-year-old boy at a home on Douglas Street when he called 911 Tuesday morning to report the infant was not breathing, according to Elko Police Chief Ty Trouten.
The baby died 2 days later at a hospital in Utah.
A complaint signed Thursday by District Attorney Tyler Ingram said the state may seek to impose the death penalty if O’Dell is convicted.
Trouten said O’Dell had been left in charge of the children while their mother was working out of town. He claimed the infant was ill and had stopped breathing when the call was made shortly after 7 a.m.
According to a declaration of probable cause, O’Dell told police he left the baby unattended briefly to change his clothes and then found him not breathing. He said he tried to revive the baby by splashing him with cold water in the shower, but while attempting to get the water started he dropped the baby from a height of about 12-18 inches.
The baby was taken to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital with multiple skull fractures that medical staff said were indicative of violent shaking often referred to as “shaken baby syndrome.”
Concerned family members also transported his 4-year-old brother to the hospital. He had “numerous injuries to his body and significant bruising to his buttocks area,” police said.
An Elko Police Department detective spoke with O’Dell at the hospital, where he reportedly admitted hitting the baby across the head out of frustration. He also admitted spanking the older child as discipline for having trash under his bed.
The children's mother had left the residence on the prior Thursday to work in Round Mountain.
During additional interviews with police, O’Dell admitted to striking the baby about half a dozen times over a three-day period, and forcefully throwing him onto a bed on one occasion and tossing him into a playpen on another. He also said he “squeezed” the baby forcefully while trying to console him.
The baby was transported to Primary Children’s Hospital where he died Thursday morning. A doctor there indicated the cause of death was abusive head trauma resulting in brain damage.
O’Dell was formally charged later that day with open murder, including 1st degree murder committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of child abuse.
(source: Elko Daily Free Press)
‘Dead Man Walking’ author Sister Helen Prejean discusses her spiritual journey ahead of Town Hall talk
No one is tougher on Sister Helen Prejean than, well, Sister Helen Prejean.
The New Orleans-based Roman Catholic nun is best known as the author of the 1993 bestseller “Dead Man Walking.” The book inspired the 1995 film starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, for which she won an Oscar playing Prejean, who will deliver a livestreamed Town Hall talk on May 22 discussing her 2019 book, “River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey.”
During a recent phone interview, Prejean, 81, recalled the grueling self-scrutiny of “Dead Man Walking,” which is about serving as spiritual adviser to two death row inmates before their executions in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola.
“My editor read my first draft and said, ‘You are so hooked into [convicted killer Elmo Patrick Sonnier’s] human rights and ending the death penalty. You wait far too long to talk about his terrible crime,’” said Prejean. “He said if in the first 10 pages I didn’t face the fact Sonnier and his brother killed 2 teenage kids in cold blood, and my own horror at this, no reader is going to continue the book.”
At the same time, Prejean “didn’t have a clue as to what to do about the victims’ families.”
“I thought I better just stay away,” she said. “It was a terrible mistake. It was cowardice.”
The lesson for Prejean was that writing was her road to moral clarity. By bringing readers into her mistakes, they could identify with her as a human being.
Those same principles and more apply to “River of Fire,” a story about the first half of the author’s life. “River of Fire” flows through Prejean’s ever-evolving cultural and spiritual awareness, from sheltered, upper middle class white girl in Jim Crow Louisiana, to rigorous student of advanced theology as a young nun, to the call of social activism.
“It was a long journey, and I thought it might be helpful to share how I woke up,” she said. “Looking back on my younger self, I can see my spirituality really needed to change. I thought the main thing was to pray for people, for homeless people, hungry people. You pray, and God solves all the big problems. What’s one little person going to do?”
Prejean’s path to answering that question becomes a captivating narrative in “River of Fire,” full of rich detail, emotional immediacy and literary grace.
She recalls her crushing fear of sin as a small child, the trickle-down impact of a draconian, punitive Catholic church prior to the Second Vatican Council.
The latter veered the church away from stifling rules and encouraged the engagement of clergy and lay people in the broader world and its needs. Vatican II’s changes resonated with Prejean, who was in her early 20s at the time.
“It had everything to do with how you love people, and how you grow in love and how you care about people. Everybody is called to be a saint.”
2 key relationships are a major part of “River of Fire.” One is with Prejean’s best friend, Sister Chris, a hospital nurse described as a near-Dickensian figure, overworked, bone-weary and unable to advance her position. The other is with Father William, a priest with alcoholism who wants to marry Prejean, and whose emotional demands finally alienate her. In both obvious and subtle ways, these ties help Prejean become true to herself.
While in her 40s, Prejean took charge of younger, novice nuns. Their passion for fighting social injustice, poverty and racial disparity awakened her to a higher calling.
“Poverty is not God’s will. That’s a result of human systems,” Prejean said. “I realized I had accepted that suffering was God’s will for people. They’ll have a shiny home in heaven. I was not dealing with what it means to not have health care for your children.”
Prejean moved into New Orleans’ nearby Saint Thomas housing projects. She still lives in New Orleans today. It is there where she has better understood, as she puts it, “You either watch history go by, or you’re a part of it.”
“Pope Francis has spoken of the church as a field hospital where the poor and the vulnerable are,” Prejean said. “That’s the call of the Gospel of Jesus. It’s not self-perfection and me becoming a holy nun. It’s the suffering in the world and what’s happening in my time.”
Sister Helen Prejean will be one of the keynote speakers for the livestreamed event “The Death Penalty in the Age of Data, Science, and Abolition” hosted by Seattle University, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, May 22; tickets are free, with a $10-$50 requested donation; death-penalty.eventbrite.com.
Prejean will discuss “River of Fire” via Town Hall livestream at 7:30 p.m., Friday, May 22; contribution requested; townhallseattle.org.
(source: Seattle Times)
DC Circuit Won’t Overturn Trump Appointees’ Ruling for Barr's Death Penalty Protocol----Judge David Tatel said he believes the case is “en banc worthy” but should not be delayed after the U.S. Supreme Court asked the circuit to “render its decision with appropriate dispatch.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Friday denied a request for an en banc rehearing of a challenge to Attorney General William Barr’s new federal death penalty protocols, with 1 judge pointing to the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction for the court to not hold up the case.
A 3-judge panel on the court ruled 2-1 earlier this year to lift a preliminary injunction placed on the protocols, which would allow federal executions to resume. Judges Neomi Rao and Gregory Katsas, both appointed by President Donald Trump to the bench, disagreed on their legal reasoning but came to the same conclusion on lifting the injunction.
Judge David Tatel disagreed with that finding, and in a dissenting opinion said he believed the protocol is “contrary” to federal death penalty law. He issued a statement with Friday’s order saying he believes the case “is en banc worthy” but “did not call for a vote because, given that the Supreme Court directed this court to proceed ‘with appropriate dispatch,’ I agree that ‘[our] review should be concluded without delay.’” Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan did not participate in consideration of the petition.
Barr announced last year the adoption of new federal execution policies, which were quickly challenged in federal court. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued a preliminary injunction blocking the protocol, and both the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court denied Department of Justice’s motions to stay that ruling. The justices said in December they expected the circuit court to “render its decision with appropriate dispatch.”
In a statement issued with the Supreme Court’s findings written by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the justices said they believed the Justice Department “is very likely to prevail when this question is ultimately decided.”
“Nevertheless, in light of what is at stake, it would be preferable for the District Court’s decision to be reviewed on the merits by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before the executions are carried out,” the justices said.
Hogan Lovells appellate attorney Catherine Stetson argued the case before the D.C. Circuit in January. In the petition for an en banc rehearing of the case, signed by attorneys from Hogan Lovells, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, KaiserDillon and federal defenders, lawyers argued the panel opinion “conflicts with Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit precedent and will carry grave and irremediable consequences.”
“The upshot: In its haste to uphold the protocol, the panel majority disregarded foundational principles of statutory interpretation, administrative law, and judicial review. These errors are troubling in their own right, as they could affect a wide range of this court’s administrative-law cases,” the petition filed last month reads. “But the consequences here are far more imminent and grave. The panel’s decision will allow the government to execute scores of federal inmates pursuant to an unlawful protocol.”
In a filing last week, the Justice Department urged the circuit to uphold the panel opinion. “If plaintiffs wish to attempt to persuade the Supreme Court that Judge Tatel’s dissenting views are correct, they are free to seek further review there,” the DOJ lawyers wrote. “But this court should not frustrate the Supreme Court’s expectation that this court would render a decision with dispatch, by engaging in lengthy en banc proceedings to second-guess rulings that present neither a conflict with governing precedent nor questions of exceptional importance.”
Stetson said in a statement Friday that the legal challenge to the protocol will continue. “The Court of Appeals’ fractured decision leaves many questions about the legality of the government’s execution protocol unresolved,” she said. “We will be actively assessing all available avenues to ensure that no federal executions take place until the courts have had an opportunity to review all outstanding issues.”
Vietnamese Assemblymen Request Legislative Review of Death Row Inmate’s Case
2 deputies of Vietnam’s National Assembly have called for assembly oversight in the case of prominent death row inmate Ho Duy Hai, who last week was rejected in his bid for a new trial that would have sparked a reinvestigation into his murder case.
Ho was arrested in March 2008 and convicted 9 months later of plundering property and murdering 2 female postal employees in Ho Chi Minh City. The People’s Court of Long An province sentenced him to 5 years for the theft, and gave him the death penalty for the murders. These sentences were combined, resulting in a death sentence.
Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court rejected a request by the country’s Supreme People’s Procuracy to reinvestigate the case, prompting his family members to petition lawmakers over the decision Monday.
Ho’s younger sister Ho Thi Thu Thuy told RFA’s Vietnamese Service Monday that his family had petitioned National Assembly deputies Luu Binh Nhuong and Truong Trong Nghia “in the hopes that they will speak out in favor of a re-investigation.”
Luu and Le Thanh Van, another assembly deputy, put in the request Thursday while sending a letter to the Communist Party of Vietnam’s chief, the president, and the assembly’s chairman, asking them to look into 5 specific issues in the case that they say need to be solved in a cassation case.
Deputy Luu told RFA that the letter was also aimed to maintain state discipline and the party’s prestige, to ensure justice and human rights, as well as to maintain confidence in the people’s courts.
On Thursday, the Ho family’s legal advisor Tran Hong Phong told RFA he sent a petition and evidence of Ho’s alibi to President Nguyen Phu Trong. According to Tran, who reexamined the case files, evidence shows that the killer was left-handed, while the prosecution argued that Ho killed the women using his right hand in the initial and appeal cases.
Le Van Triet, who was once Vietnam’s trade minster, told RFA Thursday that the petition was justified, and it is the correct procedure for citizens to bring their concerns before the National Assembly.
The petition opens the door for the case to be reinvestigated.
“I think the deputies’ petition has a certain value. The Judiciary Committee will also have to address a petition about this case and I hope that it will be able to be reconsidered,” Ngo Anh Tuan, a lawyer from Hanoi, told RFA on the same day.
The appeal by assemblymen is rare in Vietnam, a traditional 1-party Communist state without independent courts or media and no separation of powers, with a legislature designed to rubber stamp ruling party decisions.
But the Supreme People’s Court’s rejection of the cassation trial caused a social media frenzy, but the government dismissed it as an attempt by activists to smear the judiciary system.
“It was more dangerous when some national assembly deputies spoke untruths of the Ho Duy Hai case, because their ideas are based on news spread on Facebook, making the case out to be more complicated [than it actually is.]” said the Vice Chief Justice of the court, Nguyen Tri Tue at a press briefing Tuesday, shortly after the rejection.
Several Vietnamese activists defended the role of social media platforms like Facebook in Vietnamese societal discourse.
“I believe that Facebook at present has an important position in our society,” Dang Dinh Manh, a lawyer, told RFA on Wednesday.
“[Facebook] not only helps to popularize slogans to the community, it also [can be used to] consolidate strong power in a way that is independent from traditional media, the legislature, the executive branch and the judiciary,” said Dang.
“That is why the assembly deputies take advantage of social media to relay their sentiment to the public effectively,” he said.
But the fact that Facebook is their only means to get their views out shows that deputies Le and Luu are also victims of the government’s censorship, according to a Ho Chi Minh City-based independent journalist.
“[It] proves that they –party members—representatives for the people, are also having their freedom of expression suffocated,” Nguyen Ngoc Gia told RFA Wednesday.
Another Ho Chi Minh City-based journalist told RFA that the two deputies are merely getting with the times.
“Posting their opinion one social media is a very progressive move. It means they read Facebook often and understand the sentiments of the people [they represent],” said Suong Quynh.
In Vietnam some local governments have enacted regulations that ban or limit civil servants’ use of Facebook, but except for the police, there is no official ban from the central government. Civil servants are, however, discouraged by Hanoi from expressing views publicly on platforms like Facebook.
The death of justice
Critics of the Supreme People’s Court’s decision not to reinvestigate the trial say that upholding the death sentence for Ho is the same as sentencing justice itself to death.
“If Ho Duy Hai is sentenced to death, this regime’s justice and fairness will also be sentenced to death along with this society and all its institutions,” Pham Dinh Trong, a writer, told RFA.
Ngo said the prestige of the judiciary would take a massive hit in the eyes of legal professionals if they refuse to reconsider the case.
“For those who have knowledge about legal matters, we will lose faith in Vietnam’s judiciary, because we will have realized that the serious wrongdoing [during the investigation] was not considered objectively at the national-level courts,” said Ngo.
Others reacted to the decision, saying that the court ignored irregularities in the investigation.
“I felt indignant about the judgment,” said Suong, who said she had protested on Ho’s behalf for the past 7 years.
“They rejected the petition even though there is much evidence of wrongdoing during the process of the investigation,” she added.
Suong and others, along with civil organizations, signed a petition May 9 requesting clarification of the truth in Ho’s case.
Ngo said he had been optimistic that the death sentence would be canceled, but he does not think so anymore.
“For the past few days I had trust in the [the judicial process], but now I can only say that I hope the case will be reconsidered.”
The case so far
Observers have pointed to several procedural errors in Ho’s case, including that it was largely based on a confession that he later recanted, saying he had been forced to do so by police during his detention.
Additionally, prosecutors lacked crucial evidence, as no time of death for the 2 victims was ever established, fingerprints at the crime scene did not match Hai’s, and the murder weapons were misplaced by the forensic team.
London-based rights group Amnesty International has cited Ho’s mother as saying that he was tortured in prison, citing his deteriorating health and loss of weight.
Ho was originally set to be executed on Dec. 5, 2014 but was granted a stay a day earlier by then-President Truong Tan Sang.
In February 2015, the National Assembly’s Committee on Judicial Affairs declared after a reinvestigation into the case that during both the initial trial and the appeal, there had been “serious violations of criminal procedural law.”
The committee urged that the case be reviewed on appeal, but in Dec. 2017, Long An province’s procuracy pushed for execution.
In November last year, Amnesty International sent a petition with 25,000 signatures to President Trong calling for Ho’s acquittal.
Between August 2013 and June 2016, Vietnam executed 429 people, while 1,134 people were given death sentences between July 2011 and June 2016, according to government figures released in 2018.
(source: Radio Free Asia)
MAY 15, 2020:
Bush murder conviction and death penalty stands
On August 26, 2011, Historic City News reported that, following the execution of several search warrants and review of DNA test results, detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Sean A. Bush in connection with the nearly 3-month-old murder of his 35-year-old wife, Nicole Elise Bush. Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence.
The autopsy showed that the victim suffered 6 gunshot wounds, including five to the head, and was stabbed and beaten, including suffering 3 blows to the head that split her skull. The gun and the weapon used to stab Nicole Bush were never found, and authorities did not have direct evidence that the estranged husband committed the murder.
“During the months leading up to the murder, Bush was in severe financial distress, unable to pay his rent on time, responsible for paying child support and asking others for money,” Thursday’s opinion found. “Bush expressed that he was broke as a joke and low on cash. Bush was the beneficiary of his wife’s $815,240 life insurance policy, and he was aware for some time prior to the murder that he had been designated as the policy beneficiary.”
Investigators developed large amounts of circumstantial evidence, including the life insurance policy that named Bush as a beneficiary. Several weeks after the murder, Bush called to confirm his beneficiary status and subsequently submitted a claim for the policy proceeds.
A jury convicted Bush based on the circumstantial evidence, ultimately resulting in his death sentence. While his attorneys raised a series of arguments in the appeal, all 5 Supreme Court justice agreed the evidence was adequate to uphold his conviction.
“Because a rational trier of fact could, and did, find from this evidence that Bush committed the 1st-degree murder of Nicole under both premeditated and felony murder theories, Bush is not entitled to relief,” the court ruled.
The ruling in this case essentially abandons a “special appellate standard” in circumstantial-evidence cases in Florida. Decades ago “all federal courts and almost all state courts instructed juries using a special standard when the evidence of a defendant’s guilt presented at trial was circumstantial.”
The U.S. Supreme Court called the standard into question in 1954. Federal courts and most states stopped using the special standard. Florida stopped using the standard to instruct juries in 1981 but continued to use it in considering criminal appeals.
After this decision, appellate courts in circumstantial-evidence cases will use a standard like in cases with at least some direct evidence — “whether the state presented competent, substantial evidence to support the verdict.” Thursday’s opinion was at least the 3rd time in the past year that the Supreme Court has reversed course on decisions made by justices in the past.
Last May, it changed a decision about controversial expert-witness standards in lawsuits and in January backed away from a decision that required unanimous jury recommendations before murder defendants could be sentenced to death.
The changes have come after conservatives became a majority of the court in early 2019. Longtime justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince, who had been part of the left-leaning majority, left the court in January 2019 because of mandatory retirement age, allowing remaining conservative justices and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to reshape the court.
(source: Historic City News)
Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell loses latest attempt to overturn conviction, death sentence
An appeals court on Thursday rejected convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell’s latest attempt to overturn his 2011 conviction and death sentence.
A 3-judge panel at the 8th District Court of Appeals unanimously held that Sowell failed to present enough evidence that he did not receive a fair trial and that his trial attorneys ineffectively represented him during the penalty phase of his trial.
Eighth District judges Eileen T. Gallagher, Patricia Ann Blackmon and Larry A. Jones upheld Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Dick Ambrose’s 2018 dismissal of Sowell’s petition for post-conviction relief without holding a hearing. The judges also rejected arguments from the county public defender’s office on Sowell’s behalf that the death penalty is unconstitutional, and that he was barred from hiring enough expert witnesses and investigators to defend himself from a death sentence properly.
The case will likely head to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The ruling is the latest procedural step as Sowell moves closer to being executed for killing 11 women and hiding their bodies in his home on Cleveland’s East Side.
Police investigating a rape complaint against Sowell discovered the bodies in 2009 during a search of his Imperial Avenue home. A jury convicted him of raping and killing the 11 women, raping 2 others and attempting to rape another. He is currently on death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. The state has not set his execution date.
The case became one of Cleveland’s most notorious crime stories. The city has paid more than $1.3 million to victims and their families to settle lawsuits over how detectives handled accusations against Sowell before his arrest.
A woman came forward to police late last year to accuse Sowell of raping her in 2008. The case was closed last month without charges, according to court records.
Former Prosecutor, Now on Arkansas Supreme Court, Cited for ‘Bad Faith’ Destruction of Exculpatory Evidence in Death Penalty Case
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has found that a former prosecutor now serving as a justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court deliberately destroyed exculpatory evidence in a case in which he had sought the death penalty. On April 29, 2020, a unanimous 3-judge panel of the federal appeals court affirmed the rulings of a federal district court overturning the convictions of life-sentenced prisoners Tina Jimerson and John Brown, Jr. because of the “bad faith” misconduct of then-deputy prosecutor Robin Wynne. Wynne has served on Arkansas’ high court since 2015.
Jimerson and Brown had raised claims of rampant prosecutorial misconduct in the case, but the appeals court decision in their cases turned on Wynne’s suppression and destruction of a recorded statement obtained by a prison informant that would have undermined the testimony of a critical prosecution witness. The appeals court wrote that Wynne and law enforcement had “worked together to intentionally conceal [the recording’s] existence from the defense,” “effectively concealed the fact that a recorded conversation took place,” and destroyed the recording. It also wrote that Wynne provided “untruthful answers” to the defendants’ requests seeking disclosure of all recordings, actively preventing the defendants from learning about it. This “bad faith” destruction of evidence, the court said, entitled the defendants to new trials.
Jimerson and Brown were tried along with a 3rd co-defendant, Reginald Early, for the 1988 murder of Myrtle Holmes. A 4th suspect, an intellectually impaired man named Charlie Vaughn, confessed and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder to avoid the threat of a death sentence. No physical evidence linked Brown, Vaughn, or Jimerson to the crime. Vaughn implicated Early and Brown as his accomplices in raping and murdering the victim and implicated Jimerson as the getaway driver.
The prosecution sought the death penalty, charging the 3 men with rape as well as capital murder. However, DNA test results contradicted Vaughn’s story, excluding both him and Brown as sources of DNA evidence. Early, however, could not be excluded. That trial ended with a hung jury, with 6 jurors voting to acquit. At their 2nd trial, in 1992, prosecutors dropped the rape charges and no evidence relating to the DNA was presented. The jury convicted Brown, Jimerson, and Early of 1st-degree murder and sentenced them to life in prison.
The case broke open in 2014, when an investigator for Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, which was representing Jimerson, interviewed Dallas County Sheriff Donny Ford. Ford said that in 1991, he had intentionally planted an informant in the same jail cell as Vaughn, and that the informant had secretly recorded statements from Vaughn. Investigators were able to identify and contact the informant, Ronnie Prescott, who confirmed that he had told Vaughn he would face a death sentence if he didn’t confess and name the others as accomplices. Unrelated charges against Prescott were dropped in exchange for him obtaining the statements from Vaughn. Despite the existence of a recording, Wynne, the prosecutor at the time, responded to a pre-trial request by stating he had “no knowledge of any informant who led to or assisted in making the arrest in this matter.” He told defense attorneys in 1991 that the state only had recordings of conversations with two witnesses, and that no informant had been offered leniency or other incentives. Police deliberately omitted any reference to the recording in their report of information they had received from Prescott.
The Eighth Circuit wrote that, because the recording was concealed and destroyed, “We do not know if Vaughn reluctantly and nervously confessed and implicated others, or if he willingly and confidently” did so. “What we can conclude on this record is the failure to make any mention of the fact that Prescott recorded conversations with Vaughn in a handwritten statement … combined with the failure to disclose the recording is evidence of a conscious effort to suppress evidence. The deliberate omission is indicative of bad faith” on the part of police and prosecutors. Establishing “bad faith” destruction of evidence allowed Jimerson and Brown to pursue claims under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Youngblood v. Arizona.
Further evidence of Brown’s and Jimerson’s innocence came to light in 2015. After learning that new DNA testing methods could determine who had raped Holmes, Early came forward and admitted that he had committed the rape and murder alone. He told the Innocence Project that he did not know Jimerson or Brown, and barely knew Vaughn.
In 2018, a federal district court ordered the release of Brown and Jimerson, pending the outcome of the appeal. Arkansas prosecutors must now decide whether to retry them.
(source: Death Penalty Information Center)
Oregon to close death row, reassign inmates to general population, other housing
The Oregon Department of Corrections is expected to announce Friday that it will close death row and reassign the 27 men who live there to other housing in the state prison system.
The agency has considered the move since 2016, when a prominent prison reform group recommended that the unit be emptied to lessen the potential psychological harms associated segregated prison housing.
Jennifer Black, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, confirmed the plan late Thursday but declined further comment.
The men will be moved to the general population or “special housing” somewhere in the state’s prison system either because they are a danger to others or they themselves are vulnerable in part because of the crimes they committed, according to a source briefed on the plan but not authorized to speak on behalf of the agency.
Death row is located in a far corner of the penitentiary grounds. During a tour of the unit earlier this year, most of the men were in their cells; the unit was quiet. Adjacent to death row lies the death chamber, a mothballed space that has not seen an execution since 1997. The state has had a moratorium on executions since 2011.
Some of the most notorious criminals in Oregon’s modern history reside on death row, some for decades: Dayton Leroy Rogers, 66, considered Oregon’s most prolific serial killer; Jesse Compton, 43, whose rape and murder of a 3-year-old Springfield girl in 1997 led to the adoption of tougher child abuse reporting laws; and Christian Longo, 46, who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for the 2001 killing of his wife and 3 young children in 2001.
The Vera Institute of Justice, a national research and policy nonprofit based in New York City, four years ago issued a report on Oregon’s prison system, recommending that death row be closed.
This week, Elena Vanko, a senior program associate with the group, said Oregon’s decision to dismantle the unit is part of a national trend away from capital punishment.
Death row, she said, is a form of solitary confinement where inmates don’t get access to programming like their counterparts in general population. Decisions about where a prisoner lives should be made on their conduct in prison, not their sentence, she said.
“The idea is to treat these people with death sentences the same in that sense,” she said.
Jesse Merrithew, who represents 2 men on death row, said his clients were given a heads-up through “very unofficial channels” that change is coming.
“No details, no timing as to where they are going,” he said. The 2 are Jason Brumwell, convicted in the 2003 murder of a fellow inmate, and Bruce Turnidge, who along with his son, Joshua Turnidge, was convicted a decade ago in the Woodburn bank bombing.
Paige Clarkson, Marion County district attorney, said she was not briefed on the specifics of the plan but late Thursday said she opposed shifting men like the Turnidges off death row. She said prosecutors in her office seek the death penalty not only because some defendants pose a danger to the public, they also are dangerous inside of prison, too.
“When we are talking about seeking the death penalty on the worst of the worst, those folks are a threat both inside and outside,” she said.
“They are not just dangerous in the community because they killed police officers,” she said. “They are dangerous inside the facility because their ideology is dangerous. And they can have contact with other inmates and influence them.”
Sue Shirley -- whose parents Rod and Lois Houser were killed by Randy Guzek in 1987 in their Terrebonne home -- said she strongly opposed the move.
“4 juries – 48 jurors have agreed that that is the appropriate sentence and what is the motivation now?” Shirley said. “They have the distinction of being death row inmates. Why are they removing that disposition?”
Drug trafficking suspect nabbed, RM52,500 syabu seized
A local man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of involvement in drug trafficking.
He was caught in possession of about one kilogram of methamphetamine (syabu) on May 12, at about 8pm at a roadblock at Mile 30, Ulu Dusun here.
The arrest was made as a result of intelligence information from the Narcotics Nucleus Secretariat (SNN) Sabah of Narcotics Crime Investigation Department, Bukit Aman in collaboration with the Narcotics Crime Investigation Department of Sandakan Headquarters Police Station here.
According to Sandakan District Police Chief, ACP Mohd Azhar Hamin, the suspect was driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle towards Sandakan town when the police inspected his vehicle and found a plastic bag with a tea packaging that contained transparent powder, believed to be syabu.
The police then seized the syabu which is estimated to be worth about RM52,500, which makes it the third-largest drug bust in Sandakan district this year.
Early investigation revealed that the suspect had been using the same modus operandi by getting drug supply from a neighbouring district with a four-wheel-drive, with the excuse that he was going to get coconuts for business.
The suspect is a lorry driver who lives in Rancangan Sungai Manila, Mile 12 here.
“The suspect has tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine drugs. Further investigation is being carried out to identify and locate the drug supplier. The case is investigated under Section 39B of Dangerous Drugs Act 1952,” Azhar said.
The suspect is currently remanded for seven days under Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The suspect is facing the death penalty or imprisonment for life and whipping if found guilty.
Azhar said that SNN and the Narcotics Crime Investigation Department of Sandakan Headquarters Police Station are always working to curb attempts of drugs distribution in the districts in Sabah.
(source: The Borneo Post)
Man sentenced to death for drug trafficking; his brother gets life imprisonment
Suief agreed to work for Punithan by helping him receive and deliver shipments of heroin from Malaysia.
On Oct 12, 2011, Punithan introduced the 2 at the carpark of McDonald's at West Coast Park.
On Oct 27, 2011, Punithan took possession of the car for a few hours before returning it to Shanmugam.
The next day, Shanmugam drove the car to Singapore and picked up Suief at a bus stop at Haw Par Villa.
Punithan then phoned Suief and told him to deliver 3 of the 10 bundles of heroin that were in the car.
Shanmugam and Suief were arrested shortly after.
Punithan, who worked for a moneylending company in Malaysia, claimed that he never met the pair on Oct 12. He said he was preoccupied with collecting a debt and accompanied by his friend, Gobi Krishna Karuppiah.
He also claimed that he could not have passed the car to Shanmugam in Johor on Oct 27, as he was in Kedah celebrating Deepavali with his family.
Justice Chan accepted that Punithan was in Singapore to collect a debt, but said there was ample time for him to meet the couriers that day, based on immigration records.
The judge could not rule out that Mr Gobi would lie to protect Punithan. He noted that the witness could "astoundingly" recall the events eight years ago in minute detail but his "superhuman memory" failed him when asked other questions.
As for the testimony of Punithan's wife that he was with her in Kedah, the judge said her exonerating evidence must be treated with caution as she was an interested witness.
(source: The Straits Times)
Pakistan processing steps to ensure review of Kulbhushan Jadhav case:FO
Islamabad, May 14 (PTI) Pakistan said on Thursday that it was processing steps to ensure the review of the Kulbhushan Jadhav case in the wake of the verdict by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The Hague-based ICJ ruled in July last year that Pakistan must undertake an "effective review and reconsideration" of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.
Jadhav, the 49-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of "espionage and terrorism" in April 2017. Weeks later, India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.
"Pakistan has granted India consular access to Commander Jadhav and is processing measures for effective review and reconsideration as per the guidelines provided by ICJ in its Judgment,” Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said at the weekly briefing when asked to comment on a recent statement by Harish Salve, the Indian counsel in the Jadhav case at the ICJ.
Farooqui said that on humanitarian grounds, Pakistan even arranged meeting of Jadhav with his mother and wife.
“Being a responsible state, Pakistan abides by all its international obligations and will continue doing so,” she said.
"We were hoping that through back channel, we may be able to persuade Pakistan to let him go. If they want to say on humanitarian ground or whatever, we want him back. We said let him go. Because it has become a big ego problem in Pakistan. So, we were hoping that they will let him go. They haven''t," Salve said on May 3.
Pakistan claims that its security forces arrested Jadhav from the restive Balochistan province on March 3, 2016 after he reportedly entered from Iran.
However, India maintains that Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran where he had business interests after retiring from the Navy.
Talking about the recent statement of the Indian army chief that he asked the government to adopt a "whole-of-government approach" in decisively confronting the “strategic uncertainties”, Farooqui said, "irresponsible rhetoric were motivated by an exaggerated view of its own capacities and hegemonic designs."
On India’s reaction to Pakistan''s Supreme Court ruling regarding elections in Gilgit Baltistan, she said a senior Indian diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office to convey "our strong rejection of India’s baseless and fallacious contentions."
To a question about alleged violation of the Indus Water Treaty by India, she said, "our concerns on this score are well known” and Pakistan “unambiguously raised its concerns with India via the mechanisms provided within the Treaty and will continue to pursue a resolution of these issues through all possible avenues.”
Fears of Secret Execution Mount for Disappeared Prisoners
Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities to immediately reveal the truth about the fate and whereabouts 4 death row prisoners who have been transferred to an unknown locations.
“The authorities’ refusal to provide the families of the men with information has sparked fears that they are at risk of being tortured or executed in secret”, the London-based rights group said in a statement on Wednesday, May 13.
Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji and Naser Khafajian three death row prisoners from Iran’s Arab minority, have been forcibly disappeared since 31 March 2020 and Hedayat Abdollahpour, a death row prisoner from Iran’s Kurdish minority, since 9 May 2020 after being transferred from their usual places of detention to undisclosed locations.
“Their enforced disappearance has taken place amid an apparent rise in the number of executions since April 2020, including in prisons populated by ethnic minorities, which has further heightened concerns about their safety and wellbeing,” AI asserted.
Iranian law requires the authorities to inform lawyers of the scheduled execution of their clients 48 hours in advance and grant families the right to visit their loved ones for the last time. In practice, however, the authorities have a long-standing record of secretly executing members of ethnic minority groups after transferring them to unknown locations and refusing to reveal their fate and whereabouts for months or even years.
“All 4 men were sentenced to death following grossly unfair trials and amid serious torture allegations, which have never been investigated. They were denied access to their lawyers and families, as well as to any details of the evidence against them, during the investigation period”, AI disclosed in its statement.
“According to individuals with direct knowledge of their cases, security and intelligence officials repeatedly pressured them to make self-incriminating statements, which were then used by courts to issue convictions against them.” AI added.
According to a statement issued by the spokesperson of the judiciary on 14 January 2020, Hossein Silawi, 31, Ali Khasraji, 27, and Naser Khafajian, 34 have been sentenced to death in connection with an armed attack on a police station in 2017, in Ahvaz. Amnesty International believes that the proceedings which led to the men’s conviction and sentencing were grossly unfair.
The men have said that they were held for months in solitary confinement in a ministry of intelligence detention center in Ahvaz, without access to their families and lawyers, and were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment by their interrogators to “confess”, reportedly resulting in their ribs or hands being broken.
Hedayat Abdollahpour, who has been on death row in the central prison in Urmiah, West Azerbaijan province, since 2017, was transferred to an undisclosed location with no declared reason on 9 May 2020. Since then, his distressed family has sought information about his fate and whereabouts from various official entities.
However, these official bodies have all refused to provide them with any information.
In response to the family’s efforts, the deputy prosecutor in Urmia told his family on May 12: “When the ministry of intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards do not tell you where your relative is, you better refer to the cemetery.”
Hedayat Abdollahpour was arrested in Oshnavieh on August, 3, 2016, in connection with an armed clash between the Revolutionary Guards and members of Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) which took place on 14 June 2016. On January 20, 2017, following an unfair trial, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Urumieh convicted him of “taking up arms against the state” (baqi) and sentenced him to death.
His conviction was based on his alleged membership in KDPI, which he has denied, and no evidence pertaining to his involvement with armed clashes was presented at his trial. The Court also ignored and failed to order investigations into his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment during the 78 days of his solitary confinement in a detention facility in Almahdi military barracks in Urmiah, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards.
Hedayat Abdollahpour has said that he has lost hearing in one ear as a result of the torture to which he was subjected during this period to “confess”.
2 to die by hanging for ritual killing in Rivers
Justice Adolphus Enebeli of the Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has sentenced one Ifeanyi Maxwell Dike to death by hanging for the killing of an 8-year-old girl, Victory Chikamso, for money rituals in 2017.
Also sentenced to death was one Ugochukwu Nwamairo, Dike’s accomplice who requested for the victim’s body parts.
An ex-police sergeant, Johnbosco Okoronze, will serve 1 year at a correctional centre for Dike’s escape from custody.
Dike, a 200-Level Physics student of the University of Port Harcourt, (UNIPORT), on August 18, 2017 strangled the child who was also his niece.
Read Also: Rivers converts site of demolished hotel to primary school
Chikamso’s body parts such as breast, private part, fingers, ear, heart and eyelid, among others, were missing when her remains were found with Dike.
He was on his way to the community central trash bin at midnight to dispose of what was left of the child’s body when he was apprehended by community vigilance personnel and handed over to the police.
Dike and Nwamiro were found guilty of conspiracy and murder.
Sentencing them, Justice Enebeli pronounced that Dike should be hanged by the neck until he died, while Nwamiro should be hanged upsidedown.
The court explained that the ex-police sergeant was sentenced to just 1 year jail term because he had already served two years in prison from the time he was arrested, and that he has been dismissed from the police.
(source: The Nation)
Zimbabwe death row prisoners benefit from COVID-amnesty
For 46-year old James Dube, May 5th will remain a very special day for the rest of his life. He was suddenly released from Zimbabwe’s Chikurubi Maximum Prison where he had spent more than 2 decades – mostly in solitary confinement – as he waited to be delivered to the gallows to satisfy a death sentence imposed on him in 1998 by the High Court for murder.
“It is a miracle that I never expected,” said Dube after he – together with 5 others former death row prisoners – had been set free through an amnesty granted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The 6 who unusually qualified for amnesty – all sentenced to death individually for separate murders – had each been locked up for at least 22 years. Before their release, the prisoners had had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Under Zimbabwean law, murder is a specified crime, which means those convicted of it do not qualify for amnesty.
De facto abolitionist
Considered a de facto abolitionist nation, Zimbabwe is on the road to abolish the death penalty. The southern African nation has not carried out any executions since 2005. At the end of 2019 the country had about 80 people on the death row.
In March President Mnangagwa commuted to life imprisonment the death sentences of all those convicts that had been on the death row for at least 10 years.
Amnesty positive side of COVID-19
The 6 ex-death row inmates were part of the over 4,000 prisoners who were granted amnesty as a move to de-congest the country’s 46 prisons, one of the measures being taken to control the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Among those that also expectedly benefited from this amnesty were all nursing mothers, a woman jailed for 50 years for a human trafficking crimes in which victims ended up being sex slaves in Kuwait, and another woman jailed after being found in possession of ivory.
The abolitionist Zimbabwean leader, himself being a former death row prisoner, is working on legal modalities to remove the death penalty from the country’s statute books altogether.
Opponents of the death penalty in Zimbabwe accused former president, the late Robert Mugabe, of using capital punishment as a handy weapon to cow political opponents. Mugabe and his supporters strongly opposed previous efforts to completely abolish capital punishment in the build-up to the promulgation of a new Constitution in 2013. Mnangagwa used to clash with his former boss, Mugabe, over the issue. Mnangagwa narrowly escaped the hangman’s noose in the 1960s on the technicality that he was below 21 years when his colleagues were hanged after they were caught while on a terrorist mission to sabotage infrastructure inside the then Rhodesia, as they fought against white colonial rule.
Majority oppose death penalty
Results of a 2018 survey on public attitudes towards capital punishment showed that a majority of Zimbabweans were opposed to the death penalty.
According to the survey conducted by international criminologist, Dr Mai Sato, in collaboration with the Mass Public Opinion Institute, most Zimbabweans would be happy to see the abolition of capital punishment.
“When exploring the reasons behind the support for the death penalty, it was striking that the “eye for an eye” argument did not hold much traction with the Zimbabwean public,” said the survey’s report. “Only 14 % of retentionists supported the death penalty for retributive reasons. Nor did the public think that the death penalty was an effective criminal justice policy, with 92 % of the Zimbabweans favouring policies other than “more executions” for reducing violent crime rates.”
The survey was commissioned by Veritas Zimbabwe, a local legal and legislative watchdog that, for many years, has been campaigning for abolition of capital punishment in Zimbabwe.
Retentionists still argue…
When the issue of abolishing the death penalty was debated in Parliament in February this year, a majority of law makers supported the motion, with the few that opposed it demanding its retention especially for criminals such as machete killers and those who rape and kill children.
Texas Appeals Court Declines to Apply Junk-Science Law to Review Death Sentence Based Upon Hypnotically Assisted Identification Testimony
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) has upheld the ruling of a Dallas trial court that denied a new trial to death-row prisoner Charles Flores (pictured), whose conviction and death sentence were the product of hypnotically assisted testimony. The TCCA said its decision was “[b]ased upon the trial court’s findings and conclusions,” which the appeals court acknowledged had simply “adopted the State’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.”
No physical evidence links Flores, a heavyset Latino man, to the murder and, before hypnosis, the witness had described the suspect as a thin white man. That witness’ hypnotically induced testimony is the only evidence linking Flores to the scene of the crime. “Take her out of the equation and there wouldn’t have been a conviction,” said defense attorney Gretchen Sween at a 2017 hearing.
At least 21 states ban hypnosis evidence. In Texas, at least 54 people have been convicted on the basis of hypnosis since the mid-1970s. According to an investigation by the Dallas Morning News, 5 of those convictions have been reversed based at least in part on the use of hypnosis. 4 people convicted with hypnotically assisted witness identifications are currently on death row, and 11 others have been executed.
Flores had sought to challenge the hypnosis evidence under Texas’ “junk science” law, which allows prisoners to present new scientific evidence that contradicts evidence used in their case. Texas lawmaker, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), who proposed a bill to bar the use of hypnotically induced testimony in Texas, said: “It is unfortunate that the court avoided the key issue and did not weigh on the merits of the use of hypnosis in [a] case where there is no corroborating evidence to support a conviction. In this case, you have a defendant who was convicted and sentenced to death based on hypnosis. Science and research considered hypnosis used for these purposes as ‘junk science.’”
The Texas Forensic Science Commission, which examines the validity of forensic methods like bite mark and blood spatter analysis, lacks authority to evaluate the use of hypnosis because it is only tasked with examining methods that analyze physical evidence.
Carlotta Lepingwell, deputy director of the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, said of the latest ruling, “We were hoping that the Court would recognize that Mr. Flores’s conviction was irretrievably tainted by the junk science of ‘forensic hypnosis, ’” but noted that the ruling is not the final word on the issue. “We don’t read the Court’s decision … as weighing in on the legitimacy of hypnosis,” she said, “and think it should not preclude future challenges to the use of this junk science by law enforcement.”
Prosecutors did not allege that Flores was the actual killer. He was sentenced to death under the Texas “law of parties,” which subjects an accomplice to the same criminal liability as the actual killer, whether or not he or she participated in the killing or intended that a killing take place. Richard Lynn Childs, who pleaded guilty to the killing, was sentenced to 35 years and was released on parole in 2016.
Hinojosa’s bill, which was introduced in response to Flores’ case, did not pass this session. He says he intends to reintroduce it next session.
(source: Death Penalty Information Center)
Judge: No bond for man charged with killing 2 officers
A Mississippi judge on Wednesday denied defense attorneys' request to set bond for a man awaiting trial in the 2018 shooting deaths of 2 police officers.
Marquis A. Flowers, 27, sat silently between his attorneys during a status hearing in Lincoln County Circuit Court, the Daily Leader reported.
Circuit Judge Michael Taylor said in his ruling that based on exhibits, relevant law and the Constitution, bail can be denied and should be in this case, especially considering Flowers's history of failing to appear in Adams County Circuit Court while released on bond in a different case. Taylor said the charges of capital murder also weighed heavily in the decision.
Flowers was indicted Oct. 28 on 2 counts of capital murder in the deaths of Brookhaven police Cpl. Zach Moak, 31, and patrol officer James White, 35, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Flowers pleaded not guilty Nov. 12 to all 3 counts.
The officers were killed Sept. 29, 2018, while responding to a call about shots being fired at a home in Brookhaven.
Flowers was previously convicted of auto burglary charges in south Mississippi’s Lincoln and Pike counties. He was charged in Natchez with taking a motor vehicle and 4 counts of auto burglary, fleeing from authorities in a high-speed chase in February 2017. He later turned himself in. Released on bail, Flowers was a fugitive at the time of the Brookhaven shootings after failing to appear for a court date in Adams County.
Flowers’ parole was revoked after the Brookhaven officers were killed, and he has remained in custody. He is being held in the Adams County jail. Another status hearing in the capital murder case is set for June 9. The district attorney has said he will pursue the death penalty once the case goes to trial.
(source: Associated Press)
In 1992 slaying of LSU student, convicted killer seeks to renew grand jury discrimination claim
Nearly 3 decades ago, a month after Dale Dwayne Craig was formally charged in the carjacking and execution-style slaying of an LSU student, his attorneys tried to have his indictment thrown out, alleging age discrimination in the selection of the East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury foreperson.
Craig's lawyers argued back then in a motion to quash the 1992 indictment that there was an intentional, discriminatory and systemic exclusion of young adults (age 18-30) from the position as grand jury foreperson in East Baton Rouge.
Then-19th Judicial District Judge Michael McDonald denied the motion, and Craig — who was 17 when he fatally shot 18-year-old Kipp Earl Gullett — was convicted in 1994 of first-degree murder.
Now, Craig's appellate attorney wants the grand jury discrimination claim renewed in light of a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling in April 2019 concerning East Baton Rouge's jury pool.
In that ruling, the high court found that the parish's jury pool was not properly constituted because it excluded — among others — 18- to 25-year-olds. Administrators at the 19th Judicial District Court said the problem was caused by a computer glitch and had gone on since 2011. It was discovered early last year and was fixed in April 2019.
More importantly for Craig, the state Supreme Court recognized in its ruling that persons excluded from grand jury selection because of their age are a "cognizable group" entitled to equal protection of the laws, said John Landis, Craig's appellate lawyer.
"In light of the ... ruling, Mr. Craig now reasserts the age-based grand jury discrimination challenge that the court denied prior to his trial," Landis states in Craig's recently filed third application for post-conviction relief.
The Louisiana Attorney General's Office, which is now handling the case, declined to comment. Landis chose not to elaborate Wednesday on the latest filing.
In a previous post-conviction application filed by Landis on Craig's behalf, the 45-year-old Craig sought a new trial by claiming his trial lawyers did not have his consent to concede his guilt to an East Baton Rouge Parish jury in an attempt to avoid a death sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 in a Louisiana case that a defense attorney cannot admit his client's guilt to a jury over the client's objection.
The jury found Craig guilty and condemned him to die, but the U.S. Supreme Court later turned the death sentence into a life term when it struck down the death penalty for juvenile killers.
Craig's request for a new trial is pending.
He also is awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court-mandated resentencing. The high court ruled in 2012 that automatic life prison terms for juvenile killers are unconstitutional and said they are entitled to hearings to try to show they are capable of reform.
The Attorney General's Office is advocating for a sentence of life without parole for Craig.
In Craig's 3rd post-conviction relief petition, Landis says there were 30 grand juries selected in East Baton Rouge from March 1981 through February 1992. Of the 23 grand jury forepersons for whom adequate demographic information was available, only one was 30 years old or younger at the time of his selection.
"This disparity on its face is sufficient to show that the underrepresentation of young adults was significant over a period of time," Landis wrote.
Craig was a week shy of his 18th birthday when he fatally shot Gullett, of Pineville, after carjacking the freshman student from the Kirby Smith Hall dormitory parking lot on LSU's campus on Sept. 15, 1992.
Gullett was killed at an isolated construction site on South Kenilworth Parkway after he was beaten, pistol-whipped and had begged for his life, trial testimony indicated.
Prosecutors said Craig wanted Gullett's Ford Bronco.
3 others ranging in age from 16 to 19 at the time of Gullett's death were convicted in the case: James Conrad Lavigne was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life; and Roy Maurer and Zebbie Berthelot pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received 20-year prison terms.
(source: The Advocate)
Cleveland Agrees To $18 Million Payout To 3 Death Row Exonerees
3 men were convicted back in 1975 when they were young men, and an investigation revealed police tampered with evidence and hid evidence that they were innocent.
3 men who once called death row home have been awarded $18 million by the City of Cleveland. Kwame Ajamu, his brother Wiley Bridgeman, and Rickey Jackson were once accused of the robbery and murder of a man named Harold Franks. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the 3 men were arrested and convicted back in 1975 when Ajamu was 17, Jackson was 18, and Bridgeman was 20.
At the time, there wasn't any physical evidence to link any of the three suspects to the murder, but 4 months after the violent incident, their trials began. A 12-year-old boy reportedly testified against the young men, but it was later learned that he had been coerced by Cleveland officers. A decade later, the boy—who was a young man, himself—recanted his testimony and stated that police threatened to throw his parents in jail if he didn't comply. An investigation also reportedly uncovered that police tampered and falsified evidence, as well a hid evidence that proved the trio couldn't have been the perpetrators.
Ajamu, Jackson, and Bridgeman were quickly sentenced to death. When Ohio rid itself of the death penalty in the late 1970s, their sentences were reduced. Ajamu and Bridgeman would later be paroled, but Jackson remained behind bars for 39 years before all of their sentences were vacated. It's reported that to date, it's the longest an American inmate has spent in prison who was later exonerated.
The $18 million will be split among the three as such: Jackson will take 40 percent while Ajamu and Bridgeman will split the remainder 50-50. “Money cannot buy freedom and money certainly does not make innocence,” Ajamu reportedly stated. He added that they all agreed to the $18 million settlement after filing a civil rights lawsuit because “we now know that you have no other reason and no other recourse but to tell the world that you wronged three little black boys 45 years ago.”
This is one of but many cases that plague the Cleveland Police Department who have been accused of misconduct for decades.
Advocates petition clemency for Missouri man scheduled to be executed
Advocates for a Missouri man scheduled to be executed May 19 gathered at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon to deliver petitions for clemency to Gov. Mike Parson.
Members of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP), the NAACP and other organizations hand-delivered over 5,000 petitions requesting the governor delay the execution of Walter Barton, 64, during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The lawyers can't do their work ... (to help) this man, who has an innocence claim pending," NAACP Missouri Chapter President Nimrod Chapel said. "At some point, we have to choose life."
Walter Barton was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1991 killing of 81-year-old Gladys Kuehler in Ozark, a town near Springfield. Barton has been tried 5 times between 1991 and 2006, with 3 of those resulting in guilty verdicts. The other 2 ended in mistrials.
Despite new questions about forensic evidence that played a critical role in convicting Barton and concerns about coronavirus that has caused other states to delay their lethal injection procedures, the governor's office said last week this execution will proceed as scheduled.
Based on new reports about that forensic evidence may not have been as credible as originally thought, 3 jurors from Barton's 2006 have signed affidavits saying they do not stand by their original guilty votes in the trial.
Elyse Max, executive director of MADP, cited concerns that lawyers can't do necessary work to fully investigate this new information and the affidavits.
“These are face-to-face meetings, you have to build trust, you have to build confidence with people, and those face-to-face meetings haven’t been allowed to happen," Max said. "We know with that work, with getting the juror statements, the pandemic has impeded that.”
Missouri is the only state so far that has not delayed executions during COVID-19. If the execution proceeds as scheduled, it will be the 1st execution in the country since March and the 1st in Missouri since Oct. 1, 2019.
"If we're going to worry about the sanctity of human life, that's everybody's life who is involved, not just the individual who's sentenced to be executed," Chapel said. "That's part of the logic and rationale used in other states. If (other states) can stop killing people for a little while during the pandemic, I'm sure Missouri can, too." (source: KRCG news)
Relatives sue store that sold bullets used in 3 Missouri killings
Relatives of one of three people shot to death in Springfield in 2018 are suing Academy Sports and Outdoors for selling bullets to a woman who gave them to the man charged in the killings.
The lawsuit alleges a worker at Academy Sports in Springfield should have realized the woman who bought the bullets, Nyadia Burden, intended to give them to Luis Perez. Perez, 24, couldn’t buy ammunition because he was in the country illegally, had no driver’s license and was facing felony charges, according to police. The lawsuit also names Burden.
Perez is facing the death penalty in the Oct. 31, 2018, deaths of his ex-roommates, Steven Marler, 38, and Aaron “Josh” Hampton, 23, and the wounding of two others. Prosecutors allege he fatally shot Sabrina Starr, 21, the next day. She had provided him with the gun he used, police said.
The lawsuit alleges that Perez, Burden and Aaron Anderson went to Academy Sports after a Walmart worker refused to sell them bullets.
The lawsuit contends Academy employees did not try to determine whether Perez was legally able to buy ammunition, even though it was clear that Perez and Burden were together. He handed her the box of bullets and gave her $20 to pay.
A spokeswoman for Texas-based Academy Sports did not return messages seeking comment.
Federal immigration authorities said in 2018 that Perez should have faced deportation proceedings after a previous arrest in Middlesex County, New Jersey, but he was released because the Immigration and Customs Enforcement request didn’t meet the county’s required criteria.
Perez was charged with 3 counts of 1st-degree murder. Anderson was charged with being an accessory to 1st-degree murder and Burden pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.
The lawsuit was filed May 1 on behalf of Hampton’s parents and son. The relatives are asking for compensation for pain and suffering and for costs such as funeral expenses.
Hampton’s family’s attorney, Craig Heidemann, said the family respects people’s right to bear arms but wants to encourage firearm dealers to obey regulations designed to keep guns and ammunition out of the wrong hands. (source: stltoday.com)
MONTANA----female to face death penalty
James Alex Hurley's grandma faces death penalty over 'systematic torture' leading to 12-year-old's deat----As per reports, Gallatin County Attorney's Office had filed papers that indicated that they would be seeking capital punishment against Batts
Montana prosecutors are seeking death penalty against a grandmother over the alleged "systematic torture" of her 12-year-old grandson.
48-year-old Patricia Batts had been accused of murdering her grandson, James Alex Hurley along with two of her children. The child's body had been found emaciated and beaten in February. On February 3, James' body was found by Gallatin County deputies at his grandparents' home located in West Yellowstone.
According to the Great Falls television station KRTV, Gallatin County Attorney's Office had filed papers that indicated that they would be seeking capital punishment against Batts. KTVH-DT revealed that Gallatin County Deputy Attorney Bjorn Boyer said, "I believe the systematic torture and beatings [were] perpetrated on the victim in this case that led to his death."
"She (Batts) is on a lot of the videos that show the torture to this young boy. She’s in the videos seen strangling the boy," Boyer added.
The authorities had immediately grown suspicious when they found his body with many bruises and marks. There was also a mysterious gash on the back of his neck, as per a criminal complaint that was obtained by Oxygen.
Detectives revealed that the child had "severe" bruising on his backside it seemed as though a "large" amount of blood had been scrubbed up. James had been staying with his grandparents and their children who are not the boy's mother or father for a 2 year period.
According to Gallatin County Jail records, authorities arrested James' grandfather, James Sasser Jr, grandmother, Patricia Batts, and her teenage son post the young boy's death and charged them with deliberate homicide. They had also arrested Batts' daughter, Madison Sasser who has been charged with aggravated kidnapping and negligent homicide.
Around the time that James' died, he seemed to be emaciated although video clips from two years before showed him healthy, court documents have revealed. Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin shared that the case is the worst he has seen during his career.
"The preliminary report from Doctor Prasher was blunt force trauma to the back of James' head. There are rumors flying around that James had committed suicide. That is absolutely not true. There’s no evidence to support that. As a matter of fact, we have three people in custody for the exact opposite," Gootkin shared.
The news of the torture of James came as a shock to one of Batts' closest friends. While choosing to remain anonymous, the woman revealed, "Before it was confirmed to me, personally, that it was them, that these were...this was my friend that did this, I couldn’t help but go to what this was like for him and how scared he must have been."
"I knew something was wrong and I encouraged her repeatedly to get him some help and have him put somewhere and she just really expressed that she just did not like him. I trusted this woman. I’ve known her since 2008. I’m just reeling. I’m devastated for this little boy," the woman added.
Batts is currently being held on a $750,000 while Sasser Jr is being held on $500,000 along with James' uncle.
Death penalty decision will cost taxpayers plenty
It was announced Friday that Gallatin County will seek the death penalty against Patricia Bats.
Setting aside the issue of whether the state should be allowed to impose such a penalty, the pure economics of the issue give us all reason to question Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert’s judgment. Remember that, in Montana, Gallatin County will pay the costs of this prosecution.
Data concerning the amount of money spent by Montana prosecutors in unsuccessfully imposing the death penalty—and Mr. Lambert will be unsuccessful—are hard to come by. But disclosures by the Office of the Public Defender provide some insight. In 2018, for example, it appears the office spent $1 million defending a single death penalty case.
If we assume it costs the state half as much to prosecute a death penalty case—in reality, because the state bears the burden of proof, the state’s costs are probably equal or much higher—it is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Lambert has decided to spend at least half a million dollars of taxpayer money to sentence this woman to death. Even better, he may have signed county taxpayers up to cover this expense every year until this process has been completed (conservatively, this process could last a decade).
This decision becomes even more curious when you consider the fact that, in 2015, a District Court declared that the current drug cocktail used to execute a person violates Montana law. In other words, Mr. Lambert has decided to spend half a million dollars a year to seek a penalty he likely cannot legally carry out.
This multi-million-dollar boondoggle will be a needless burden on Gallatin County for years to come.
(source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle)
Federal prosecutors seeking death penalty against Daniel Nantz
9 months after prosecutors began the process, U.S. attorneys filed paperwork declaring their intention to seek the death penalty again Daniel S. Nantz, who is accused of the 2019 kidnapping and murder of Geri D. Johnson that also resulted in the death of her unborn child.
Daniel Nantz is facing the death penalty following his indictment on a federal charge of murder in connection with the shooting death of Geri D. Johnson.
Nantz, 30, of Woodbine, was indicted on July 24 on charges of murder, kidnapping, two counts of conspiracy to distribute 500 or more grams of a mixture containing methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
According to investigators, on March 16, 2019, Nantz fatally shot Johnson and then drove her to Baptist Health Corbin where he dropped her at the ambulance bay.
Johnson was pronounced dead at Baptist Health Corbin. The baby was successfully delivered and later transported to the University of Kentucky Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
The child, listed as Amelia Johnson in the coroner’s report, died Tuesday at UK.
Nantz reportedly told 911 dispatchers and Kentucky State Police that Johnson had committed suicide. However, an autopsy indicated that he had been shot in the back near the shoulder area, and a second time in the neck.
Police recovered the weapon – a .38–caliber revolver– out of the pickup truck in which Nantz had reportedly transported Johnson from his residence at 1252 McNeil Corn Creek Road in Woodbine to the hospital.
Police located Nantz on the Corbin bypass near the access road to Ky. 26 minutes later.
Investigators reported that multiple witnesses reported seeing Nantz’s pickup truck traveling up the road near his home. As it passed, Nantz was reportedly heard yelling, “She shot herself!”
Investigators also reported finding a bullet hole in the headboard of the bed at Nantz’s home, but that no blood was found in the bed or the room.
However, they did find a blood trail leading toward an outbuilding near where the truck had been parked.
As to a possible motive, investigators noted that Johnson was named as a co-defendant in a federal indictment charging Nantz with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
In the paperwork, prosecutors noted the cruel and heinous manner of Johnson’s murder and kidnapping, that it took substantial planning and premeditation, and that it involved multiple victims.
“(Nantz) demonstrated a callous lack of remorse by preventing the victim, Geri D. Johnson, from obtaining immediate medical treatment, using the time before driving her to the hospital in an effort to conceal his crime,” prosecutors added.
Attorney B.J. Foley, who, along with law partner Paul Croley, is representing Nantz, declined to comment.
No additional court dates have been scheduled to date.
Supreme Court upholds death sentences for 82-year old, 4 others
The Supreme court has dismissed an appeal by Clement Wandubire 82, who was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of 3 people including two Police Officers and a Civilian old man.
Prosecution alleged that on September 21, 1998, while at his home in Kimaruli Village, Bugobero Subcounty in Mbale District, Wandubire shot and hacked to death the then Officer in Charge of Bugobero Police Post, SGT Etuket, Police Constable Ojok and another civilian John Musunga to death following a land wrangle.
According to Prosecution, Wandubire bought land which was subject of a conflict, which ended up in court, with the judge ruling in favour of the deceased John Musunga.
In top of the court battle, Musunga had also reported a case of malicious damage to property against Wandubire and on the fateful day at 6Am, the trio had come to effect the court orders, that would oversee the eviction and arrest of Wandubire.
Upon arrival, Wandubire was asked to get out but he refused, prompting Police to try access the property with through forceful entry by breaking of Wandubire’s house door, but upon entry, Wandubire who was armed with a panga cut the Police Officer, disarmed him and shot him and proceeded out and shot the other Police Officer and John Musunga.
After the deadly attack, Wandubire and his son tried to escape but a mob pounced on them and killed his son and Wandubire was saved by Police who arrested him and indicted him for murder of 3 people.
High Court in Mbale convicted Wandubire on all the three counts on 20th/January/2003 and sentenced him to suffer death. However, he was unsatisfied with the court ruling and appealed the High court decision in the Court of Appeal challenging the legality of the sentence; reasoning that the lower court did not take into consideration that he was a first offender and was of advanced age.
However the Court of Appeal on 21st/August/2017 confirmed his sentence, but he wasn’t deterred by his quest for freedom and proceeded to Supreme Court where the panel of 5 Justices of the Supreme court led by Justice Dr. Esther Kisaakye also upheld Wandubire’s death sentence saying although he was a first offender, and a person of advanced age, the circumstances under which he murdered the victims justify the death sentence as mantained by the lower courts.
They added that the circumstances of this case fell squarely within the ambits of the rarest of the rare cases and therefore find no merit in his appeal and ordered to have Wandubire returned to Luzira prison and wait for the hangman to execute his final punishment.
In a related Development, the Supreme Court has also confirmed the death sentence of 4 people from Kamuli District, who are accused of disarming Police and lynched to death, 4 people suspected of poisoning Paul Kigoli.
The State alleged that on the morning of 19th October 2000 the body of Paul Kigoli was found by the roadside, near the home of one Eseza Namusobya, a local potent gin seller.
In the previous evening , late Kigoli had been drinking in the company of Mawulira Fred, Mubezi Moses and Swaga David and when the death of Paul Kigoli was reported to the Local authoroties, Namusobya was arrested alongside Mawulira, Mubezi and Swaga as suspects and locked them up in the cells at Gadumire Local Administration Police Post.
However, Kyabire Patrick, Abdu Mpiira, Maganda David and Kabuze Moses led a mob of angry residents who raided the Police post, overpowered the officers on duty and forcefully removed the 4 suspected from the cells.
They then took Namusobya to her hut, locked her inside, set it ablaze from outside and burnt her to ashes. After that, they hucked each of the other 3 suspects to death and burnt their bodies as well.
After the gruesome attacks, Kyabire, Mpiira, Maganda and Kabuze were arrested and charged with 4 counts of murder; and on 24th/June/2002 were sentenced to suffer death by the High court in Jinja.
They then appealed to the Court of Appeal reasoning that the sentence was harsh and excessive but their appeal was dismissed and now 5 Justices of the Supreme court led by Justice Dr. Esther Kisaakye have also dismissed their claim that the offence was committed by way of mob justice.
They ruled that the 4 appellants were properly identified as the culprits who had participated in this heinous crime with the common intention of killing the deceased persons. That the deceased were tortured and killed under the watchful eyes of the community since it was broad daylight. This was very traumatising on the community especially for one of their mothers who fainted when she saw the appellants actually burning her son to death.
The Justices therefore mantained that they were intotal agreement with the Court of Appeal that the gravity of the offence in this appeal justifies the imposition of the maximum sentence on the appellants.
They then dismissed the appeal and upheld the death sentence on each of the appellants.
Supreme court’s Acting Registrar Lawrence Tweyanze read the judgement on behalf of their Lordships at Buganda road court via Video Conferencing where the 4 convicts also appeared and received their judgement.
Justice Honyenuga calls for the repeal of death penalty
A nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga has called for the scrapping of the death penalty from the country’s statutes.
Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga made this appeal while facing the Appointment Committee of parliament on Monday May 11, 2020.
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu sought for his view on the ‘death penalty code’ in Ghana of which Justice Honyenuga advocated that a legislative step must be initiated with urgency to abolish the death penalty from the country’s statutes.
“As I said, I used to be a very hard guy but I am now a born again and therefore I am for the abolishing of the death penalty. It should be substituted with life without parole.
"Besides since 1975, nobody convicted of that sentence has been killed."
"I will advocate that there must be legislative step to abolish the death penalty.” He stated.
Born on the 4th of September, 1952 at Nyagbo-Gagbefe in the Volta region and being called to the bar in November 1981, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga has had over 20 years of legal practice and seventeen years as a Judge in Ghana.
Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga together with two others, Yoni Kulendi and Justice Issifu Omoro Tanko Amadu have been appointed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to the Supreme Court to replace Justices Julius Ansah, Nasiru Sulemana Gbadegbe and Anthony Alfred Bennin who are due for retirement this year.
He has been serving as a Justice of the Appeals Court until his appointment.
Currently, he has been sitting as additional High Court judge in the state’s criminal case against former COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo who have been accused of causing financial loss to the state.
Owner of cadet school gets death for boy's fatal beating
The provincial court has sentenced the owner of a private military cadet school to death, and his wife and mother-in-law to life imprisonment, for the fatal disciplinary beating of a 15-year-old student.
The court issued its judgement on May 12, ordering capital punishment for Natthaphol Thavornphibun, the owner of Ban Phi Nat tutorial school in tambon Wat Sai of Muang district of this northern province.
The court sentenced Natthaphol’s wife Phiraya Phalasaen and mother-in-law Nonglak Phalasaen to life imprisonment for colluding in physical abuse. They were present during the beating.
Natthaphol, 28, admitted hitting Thapakorn “Nong Chaidaen’’ Sapsin, then 15, with a baseball bat at least 20 times on June 12 last year at his cadet school.
The beating caused severe injuries, including a torn pancreas, which led to the boy’s death in hospital 2 days later. The injuries on his body indicated he had been struck with a hard object on his back and legs.
Natthaphol said he beat Thapakorn as punishment for swearing when his mother-in-law refused to return the boy’s mobile phone when he asked for it.
During police interrogation, Natthaphol had denied murdering the boy. He said he had no intention to kill the boy, only to punish him - as a teacher punished a student.
The court said the evidence clearly showed Natthapol's wrongdoing. He did not repent his action and kept denying the charges. The court handed down the death sentence.
The defendants have 30 days to appeal.
The dead boy's parents, Phitsanu and Suwanna Sapsin, were satisfied with the judgement, saying the court administered justice for Nong Chaidaen.
However, they still hurt. Nong Chaidaen was their only child.
As June 12 would be the 1st anniversary of their son’s death, they would move his body from Somdetphrajaotaksin Maharaj Hospital to a temple in Tak province for funeral rites.
In most death penalty cases, court invoked ‘collective conscience’ of society: Study
This was also true of 42% of cases in Madhya Pradesh and 51% of cases in Maharashtra during the same period, according to the study.
72 % of all cases in which Delhi trial courts awarded the death penalty from 2000 to 2015 cited “collective conscience of the society” as an influencing factor, a study by Project 39A, a criminal reforms advocacy group, has found.
This was also true of 42% of cases in Madhya Pradesh and 51% of cases in Maharashtra during the same period, according to the study.
The team led by Dr Anup Surendranath, Executive Director of Project 39A and Assistant Professor of Law at NLU, Delhi, looked at 215 trial court judgments from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to study the award of death sentences by trial courts.
The 3 states were chosen for the study since they rank high on the list of states awarding capital punishment and a large number of decisions in capital cases were overturned at the appellate level — in the High Courts and Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling in Machhi Singh And Others vs State of Punjab which introduced ‘collective conscience’ into the capital sentencing framework and laid down 5 categories, where the community would “expect the holders of judicial power to impose death sentence, because collective conscience was sufficiently outraged”.
The study found that “in such cases, the trial courts opined that the crime was heinous enough to shake the collective conscience of the society and, therefore, the harshest punishment available under the law had to be meted out to the offenders”.
Of the 112 cases in which collective conscience was a factor impacting the decisions of courts, absolutely no other mitigating factor was considered in 63 cases.
In 1980, in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, the Supreme Court developed a framework for sentences in cases that involved the death sentence while evolving the ‘rarest of rare’, a doctrine that advocated a restrictive approach to the award of capital punishment.
The Bachan Singh case required trial courts to weigh the circumstances of the offence and the offender, while also considering the probability of reformation, and the suitability of the alternative option of life imprisonment.
While Bachan Singh also requires a separate hearing for sentencing after conviction that would look into relevant facts, the Project 39A study found that sentencing on the same day of conviction was rampant — 44 % cases had sentencing hearings on the same day as the pronouncement of guilt.
“Same day sentencing has an obvious impact on the nature and quality of arguments that are eventually presented before the court,” the study noted.
Another indicator of the ineffective quality of arguments by defence counsel, as recorded in the judgments, was the lack of individualised arguments in cases involving multiple accused.
Of 52 cases in the three states, where multiple accused were involved, individual mitigating circumstances for each accused was argued only in 9 cases.
The study also found that trial courts mainly relied on aggravating circumstances to impose death sentences.
In Madhya Pradesh, in 51 judgments out of a total 82, no mitigating circumstances were considered during sentencing. In Maharashtra, it was true of 41 out of 90, and in Delhi, in 18 out of 43 cases.
Incidentally, in Delhi, of the 80 death sentences handed by trial courts between 2000 and 2013, over 60% later resulted in acquittals or where sentences were commuted by the Delhi High Court.
In Maharashtra, out of approximately 120 sentenced to death by trial courts between 2000 and 2013, more than half the prisoners were acquitted or had sentences had sentences commuted by Bombay High Court.
“At the time of conceptualising the study, the exact statistics were not available for Madhya Pradesh. However, we noticed a trend, especially in cases involving sexual violence, that there had been short trials and quick confirmation proceedings by the High Court,” the authors noted.
(source: The Indian Express)
Amnesty calls on Iran to ‘reveal fate' of four death row prisoners
Human rights monitor Amnesty International on Tuesday called on Iranian authorities to “immediately” reveal the truth about the fate and location of 4 death row prisoners from various minority groups. Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji, Naser Khafajian, and Hedayat Abdollahpour have all been transferred to “unknown locations,” according to the organization.
Abdollahpour is a Kurdish Iranian prisoner, while the other 3 are from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority.
“The authorities’ refusal to provide the families of the men with information has sparked fears that they are at risk of being tortured or executed in secret,” an Amnesty report read.
Silawi, Khasraji, and Khafajian disappeared on March 31, while Abdollahpour is said to have disappeared on Saturday.
All 4 prisoners were sentenced to death following an “unfair trial” on charges “taking up arms against the state,” Amnesty added.
Abdollahpour was arrested on August 3, 2016 after he was accused of having ties with the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), and attacking Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on June 14, 2016.
The other 3 were accused of attacking a police station in Ahvaz on 14 May 2017, which resulted in the death of 2 police officers.
According to information received by Amnesty International, Iran has executed more than 92 people since January.
“A disproportionate number of those executed since January were members of Iran’s Kurdish minority,” the Amnesty report added.
Tens of thousands of political prisoners are jailed in Iran over various charges including advocating for democracy and promoting women’s or workers’ rights.
Amid growing fears of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the UN has already urged Iran to include political prisoners in its temporary release of inmates.
Ethnic minority groups including Kurds and Azeris are disproportionally 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.
Since the re-imposition of US sanctions and the heightening of tensions, authorities in Iran have started tightening the noose on labor activists, journalists, satirists, environmentalists, anti-death penalty campaigners, and researchers, who have been detained in droves, with some sentenced in trials whose fairness has been questioned.
MAY 13, 2020:
Report: NC Supreme Court jury race discrimination decision part of nationwide trend
The North Carolina Supreme Court is part of a growing number of state courts addressing unconscious racism, also known as implicit bias, in jury selection, according to a new report from The Marshall Project.
NC Policy Watch reported in early May about the state’s highest court historic ruling in a jury discrimination case. For the first time, the state Supreme Court gave lower courts guidance about how to investigate and better assess claims of racial discrimination in jury selection. The decision was hailed by criminal justice reform advocates as progress for the only state in the nation whose appellate courts have never acknowledged race discrimination against jurors of color.
The new opinion is part of a larger effort across the nation in which state courts are reconsidering more seriously how race affects jury selection. The Marshall Project article states high courts in Washington, California and Connecticut have called on or implemented changes to address how implicit bias can unfairly exclude Black people from juries.
“Recent research has unveiled unconscious racism driving everything from police-involved shootings of black men to charging decisions made by prosecutors. Researchers have found that people are more likely to perceive black people as guilty, more likely to shoot them in police simulations and more likely to remove them from juries, even when their other demographics are identical to white potential jurors’,” the article states.
The 1st state to do so was Washington, which in 2018 issued a rule requiring judges to consider “implicit, institutional, and unconscious biases, in addition to purposeful discrimination,” the article states.
The story goes on:
“At the core of recent arguments about racism in jury selection is the recognition that attorneys too often ‘rely on stereotypes like who is going to be sympathetic or not’ says Catherine Grosso, a Michigan State University law professor who co-authored a seminal 2012 study of death penalty cases in North Carolina. The study found that black people were removed from juries at more than twice the rate of those of other races. The data undergirds [Cedric] Hobbs’ appeal [in North Carolina]. ‘I think what we’re seeing is a recognition that even explicit racism doesn’t always have a smoking gun.'”
Read the full Marshall Project report online. In it, David Weiss, a staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation and one of Hobbs’ attorneys, said he is hopeful the North Carolina high court will create a working group to look at implicit bias.
Ahmaud Arbery's Mother Would Support Death Penalty For Men Charged In Son's Death----Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, called for everyone who played a part in her son's death to be "prosecuted to the highest."
Wanda Cooper-Jones, who has been fighting adamantly for justice in her son, Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting death for more than 2 months, is calling for everyone involved to be “prosecuted to the highest,” up to and including the death penalty.
“I would like for all hands that were involved, that played a part in my son’s murder to be prosecuted to the highest,” she told TMZ when asked what swift justice would look like for her.
TMZ released an interview with the grieving mother on Tuesday, where she acknowledged, when asked, that if the death penalty were on the table, she would “totally agree with it.”
“Coming from my point of view my son died, so they should die as well,” Cooper-Jones said.
In the meantime, Cooper-Jones says she’s been in contact with Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, who was recently appointed to lead the prosecution of Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father and son duo who are charged with murder in the case.
Cooper-Jones said that Holmes offered assurances, although she declined to go into details. The mother did say, however, that she was confident that with the counsel that she has attained, and the newly assigned district attorney, there will be justice for Ahmaud.
Attorney asks Missouri Governor Mike Parson to stop execution of convicted killer
In just days a local man is scheduled to be put to death by the state of Missouri.
After 5 trials, Walter Barton was convicted of the brutal murder of Gladys Kuehler nearly 30 years ago in Ozark.
His attorney, Frederick Duchardt, has made his case for Executive Clemency to Governor Mike Parson. He says he has new evidence to prove Barton's innocence. He is hoping that it's enough to convince Parson to pardon Barton or at least delay the execution to allow a more thorough investigation.
"The new evidence of actual innocence that the jury never heard is powerful enough," he said.
Duchardt said this case was botched from the beginning.
Former prosecutor Ron Cleek says he disagrees.
"He had fair trials. He really did receive his whole due when it came down to it. This last trial that I did was very clean," he said.
Cleek tried Barton's 5th and final case.
"Before I started the trial they came to me and I said if you want to have life without you need to take it right now. I was laughed at," he explained.
Duchardt said that the most compelling evidence he's presented to Parson involves a forensics expert.
"I'm using the very expert that the defense lawyers at that trial, misunderstood, misperceived and didn't give the right information," he said.
Cleek disputes this claim.
"I understand they have a blood spatter expert. They may have all of these other things. The attorneys I tried this with were excellent in their approach. Some of the better attorneys I had dealt with," he said.
However, Duchardt said that the expert Lawrence Renner's findings have not been heard by the court.
"He drops the bombshell. He is the proof of actual innocence. He says that Walter Barton clothes could not have been worn by the person who killed Gladys Kuehler," he said.
It will be up to state officials to review the evidence and make their decision about whether or not Barton lives or dies in 7 days.
Cleek said, "The victim gets her just due. I think it was the right decision then. It's the right decision now. His life will be ended so that no one else could be hurt. He is not an innocent man."
"They're going to kill an innocent man. Simple as that," said Duchardt.
We reached out to Governor Mike Parson's office for comment on this case and are waiting to hear back.
(source: KSPR news)
The First Execution of the Pandemic----Missouri is pushing ahead to execute a possibly innocent man. A cot with straps in an execution chamber.
On May 19, Missouri will conduct the 1st American execution since the COVID-19 crisis began. The state intends to put Walter Barton to death for killing an 81-year-old mobile home park manager nearly 3 decades ago. Last month, the state Supreme Court denied Barton’s request to delay the execution because of the public health dangers involved in bringing people together to carry it out.
Those dangers seem not to faze some powerful lawmakers and politicians. Barton’s execution is one glaring example of Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s grim determination to return life to normal after Missouri was shut down for two months. The governor, following his party’s playbook, has allowed Missouri’s businesses to reopen. He is also letting residents go out in public without masks, in spite of a dramatic spike in his state’s coronavirus cases.
But the circumstances of Barton’s conviction make this rush to execution particularly concerning. “Missouri is about ready to put to death an actually innocent man,” his lawyer, Frederick Duchardt Jr., said in February. The state used a jailhouse informant and blood splatter evidence to convict Barton, both of which are notoriously unreliable.
Because of that unreliable evidence, the state had considerable difficulty convincing a jury of Barton’s guilt. In fact, he was tried 5 times for the murder between 1993 and 2006; the 1st 2 ended in mistrials, and his conviction was overturned on appeal twice. It was only in his 5th trial that he was convicted.
In addition, the fact of the pandemic has called into question whether Walter Barton has received full due process. COVID-19 has put much of the usual work of defending a death row inmate in the run-up to an execution on hold. Since March, Barton’s lawyer has stopped interviewing new witnesses, reinvestigating disputed evidence, and filing any new legal claims. Missouri courts have curtailed some proceedings and adopted special procedures. As Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, recently explained, “When courts aren’t even capable of dealing with the ordinary business, it is unrealistic to expect they’ll be capable of dealing with extraordinary business.”
The execution itself could also endanger others’ health.
Karen Pojmann, a spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Corrections, says the state will take special measures for Barton’s execution. The state will put in place a “robust viral containment plan and strict safety protocols.” That plan requires that everyone be screened, with a temperature check, before entering the prison where the execution will take place.
The prison where Barton will be executed has 3 separate viewing rooms for witnesses: 1 for the victim’s family, 1 for the family of the condemned, and a 3rd for journalists and other witnesses. In a bizarre concession to the realities of putting people to death during a pandemic, Pojmann explained that each witness room can be limited to 10 or fewer people who can be spaced out within the room, in accordance with the state’s social distancing guidelines. She went on to say, “We have ample access to hand sanitizer, fabric face masks and other supplies, as needed.”
While witnesses to the execution may take comfort that their presence will not unduly expose them to infection, the execution itself is going forward in spite of the request last month from a group of physicians and medical experts that death penalty states release drugs used in lethal injection to hospitals that are treating COVID-19 patients.
Missouri’s rush to execute those convicted of capital crimes may have its paradoxes, but it falls well within historical norms in this country. It is fully in line with what happened during America’s previous pandemics.
100 years ago a flu pandemic wreaked havoc in the United States from 1918 to 1920. Nonetheless, the business of execution went on. In that 3-year period, 236 people were put to death, making it one of the busiest stretches in the modern history of the death penalty.
Just under 1/2 of the executions between 1918 and 1920 were hangings, with the other half managed by electrocution. Utah put one person to death by the firing squad.
Another pandemic hit in 1957 caused by H2N2. It resulted in an estimated 116,000 deaths. That year, 70 people were executed. Six of them were hanged, 15 died in the gas chamber, and the remainder in the electric chair.
The 1st pandemic of the 21st century occurred in 2009, this one associated with an H1N1 virus strain that caused 12,469 deaths in the United States. Nonetheless, 52 executions were carried out in 11 different states. All but 1 of them were done by lethal injection. Like older execution methods, it requires close contact between the guards responsible for the execution and the condemned.
But, thus far, in the current crisis, capital punishment has been treated differently. Because of the risks of spreading the disease and the need for social distancing, executions across the country have been put on hold. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine moved executions scheduled for July and August to 2022. The Tennessee Supreme Court put off an execution scheduled in June until early 2021. Even Texas, the death penalty capital of the U.S., which has reopened stores, beaches, and restaurants, has delayed 6 executions, citing concerns that they could not be carried out without spreading the coronavirus.
Lawyers argue Utah's death penalty is unconstitutional
Attorneys in a Utah homicide case have urged a judge to declare the death penalty unconstitutional arguing the sentencing portion of the law shifts the burden of proof to defendants.
An attorney representing Miller Costello, 28, said in a motion filed last month that aggravating factors already have been decided at trial, putting the responsibility on the defense during the sentencing phase, the Standard-Examiner reported.
Costello and his wife Brenda Emile, 25, have been charged with capital murder in the 2017 death of their daughter Angelina Costello.
The girl, 3, suffered prolonged abuse, authorities said, adding that she had bruises, cuts, burns and open sores around her body.
The Weber County attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against both parents if convicted.
During trial prosecutors must convince a jury that a least one aggravating circumstance, such as child abuse, occurred to justify the capital murder charge.
Costello's attorney Randall Marshall argued that because an aggravating circumstance already has been determined if a jury finds a defendant guilty, it is unconstitutional to require a defendant to overcome that aggravating circumstance a second time during the sentencing phase.
The shift violates the defendant’s procedural due process protections under the state and federal constitutions and the constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, Marshall said.
The state “cannot require a defendant to prove his life should be spared,” Marshall said, adding prosecutors “must have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the death is the appropriate penalty.”
Weber County Attorney Chris Allred on Friday declined to comment on the latest defense motions. He said his staff was working on responses to be filed before a scheduled May 22 hearing.
(source: Associated Press)
Sex offender father accused of killing 1-year-old daughter, tossing her over cliff, police say; could face death penalty
A California man has been charged on multiple counts in relation to the death of his 1-year-old daughter on May 6.
Adam Slater has been charged with multiple crimes, including murder, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported.
Police said Slater stabbed his wife who is the child’s mother before he took his daughter, KESQ reported. Family members told KESQ that the woman is 6 months pregnant with the couple’s second child. About half an hour later, Slater’s car went off a highway and overturned.
Originally it was reported that the child, whose name was Madalyn, was thrown from the crash, KESQ reported.
But police said when a person tried to help get the little girl from the car’s wreckage, police said Slater stabbed the man and ran with the child. He then threw her into a ravine, the Desert Sun reported.
KNTV reported Slater also slashed and killed Madalyn before he threw her over the cliff.
He ran from police but was eventually caught.
Neither his wife nor the bystander who were both stabbed had life-threatening injuries.
Slater is a registered sex offender stemming from a 1995 conviction. He served about 2 years behind bars before he was released in 1997.
He is now charged with 1st-degree murder with a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a knife in the commission of a murder and committing a murder during a kidnapping. That makes him eligible for the death penalty if the District Attorney decides to seek that sentence, KNTV reported.
(source: KIRO news)
More States Are Finally Confronting Unconscious Racism in Jury Selection----“I think what we’re seeing is a recognition that even explicit racism doesn’t always have a smoking gun.”
This article was originally published by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the US criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.
When lawyers in Cedric Hobbs Jr.’s 2014 death penalty trial in Cumberland County, North Carolina, began picking a jury, the pool was 50 percent black. By the time the trial began, there were only two black people on the jury. When the defense accused prosecutors of racial discrimination in the selection process, they acted indignant. “Somehow we’re just racists in this county,” one told the judge.
Prosecutors presented a range of justifications. One black man, according to court documents, “had once been a member of a gang in his youth.” Another was eliminated for singing “the sun will come out tomorrow,” a line from the musical “Annie,” as he exited court. The judge allowed the jury to stand.
In February, Hobbs’ attorneys argued at the Supreme Court of North Carolina that the selection process was part of a longstanding pattern in which prosecutors systematically exclude black people from juries, then argue race is not a factor. In briefs filed in support of Hobbs, a coalition of criminal justice advocates argued that implicit biases—the notion that people can hold prejudices without being conscious of them—”are no less entrenched and no less harmful to the criminal justice system” than overt racism.
Another was eliminated for singing “the sun will come out tomorrow,” a line from the musical “Annie,” as he exited court. The judge allowed the jury to stand.
On May 1, the court handed down its decision: it did not grant Hobbs the new trial his lawyers sought. But it found that the judge did not consider all the evidence of discrimination and told him to look again.
The North Carolina Supreme Court, which heard another case about racism in jury selection in August, isn’t the only one in the country reconsidering how race may affect jury selection. High courts in Washington, California and Connecticut have called for or implemented changes to address how implicit bias can keep black people off of juries unfairly.
The 1st state to do so was Washington, which in 2018 issued a rule requiring judges to consider “implicit, institutional, and unconscious biases, in addition to purposeful discrimination.”
Last December, the Connecticut Supreme Court followed suit by announcing it would appoint a special task force to study implicit bias in jury selection. The Supreme Court of California made a similar announcement in January. These developments come amid a sharpened focus in the criminal justice system on implicit bias.
Recent research has unveiled unconscious racism driving everything from police-involved shootings of black men to charging decisions made by prosecutors. Researchers have found that people are more likely to perceive black people as guilty, more likely to shoot them in police simulations and more likely to remove them from juries, even when their other demographics are identical to white potential jurors’.
At the core of recent arguments about racism in jury selection is the recognition that attorneys too often “rely on stereotypes like who is going to be sympathetic or not” says Catherine Grosso, a Michigan State University law professor who co-authored a seminal 2012 study of death penalty cases in North Carolina. The study found that black people were removed from juries at more than twice the rate of those of other races. The data undergirds Hobbs’ appeal there. “I think what we’re seeing is a recognition that even explicit racism doesn’t always have a smoking gun.”
The U.S. Supreme Court established the foundation for challenging racial bias in jury selection in 1986 in the case of Batson v. Kentucky. At issue were “peremptory strikes,” the limited number of opportunities prosecutors and defense attorneys have to remove jurors without having to explain why. The Batson decision forbade lawyers from using race as a basis for a peremptory strike. But from the minute the Batson decision was handed down, its critics—including Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who nevertheless voted to support it—argued that the so-called “Batson challenge” process had a major loophole. To mount a Batson challenge, a lawyer—most often for the defense—argues that a strike is race-based. All opposing attorneys have to do is offer a reason that is supposedly race-neutral. Then the judge makes a ruling.
Attorneys too often “rely on stereotypes like who is going to be sympathetic or not.”
Potential jurors have been rejected for having dyed red hair, or wearing a large white hat and sunglasses. In 1995, the Supreme Court further said prosecutors need not even give “a reason that makes sense,” as long as the reason “does not deny equal protection.”
Stephen Bright, a Yale University law professor who has argued several Batson-related cases before the Supreme Court, says familiarity with prosecutors can affect the decisions judges make. “A judge who deals with prosecutors every day is not going to say, ‘You intentionally discriminated on the basis of race, and you lied about it with pretextual reasons.’”
In one Georgia case prosecutors systematically excluded black potential jurors by saying, for example, one was too close in age to the defendant (she was 34 and he was 19), and one had a son who had been convicted of “basically the same thing that this defendant is charged with” (the son stole hubcaps; the defendant was accused of murder). State judges allowed these reasons to stand until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned them.
In researching the Georgia case and several others, defense attorneys have uncovered trainings and manuals teaching prosecutors to invent plausible-sounding “race neutral” explanations for striking black jurors such as “appearance,” “lifestyle concerns,” living in a “high crime area.” In one Alabama case, the judge allowed the prosecutor to strike a black prospective juror because the prosecutor said he “looked like a drug dealer.”
But outside of extreme examples, prosecutors may not even realize that they are acting on the basis of prejudice. “The person who strikes doesn’t really know why they struck,” says Bright. “[Prosecutors may say to themselves,] ‘this is a young black woman, but she’s a school teacher. And I don’t like school teachers.’ Lawyers tell themselves they’re striking for other reasons.”
This is what makes implicit bias in jury selection so intractable.
Washington’s Supreme Court began to look at the issue in 2013 after it decided the case of Kirk Saintcalle, a black man convicted of murder after prosecutors removed the only black potential juror. The court ruled against Saintcalle, finding the prosecutor’s stated reason—the juror had recently lost a friend to murder—was good enough under Batson. But it sparked an internal reckoning. “Batson recognizes only ‘purposeful discrimination,’ whereas racism is often unintentional, institutional, or unconscious,” the judges found. “We conclude that our Batson procedures must change.”
“A judge who deals with prosecutors every day is not going to say, ‘You intentionally discriminated on the basis of race, and you lied about it with pretextual reasons.’”
Connecticut and California had similar reckonings in 2019, in which the high courts in those states upheld a strike as race-neutral under Batson and then declared that Batson is not good enough. “The Batson framework has proven to be wholly inadequate,” wrote Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Raheem Mullins in an opinion accompanying the majority’s.
The Washington rule passed in 2018 says the judge need not find purposeful discrimination. What matters is whether “an objective observer could view race or ethnicity as a factor.” It also includes a list of reasons that have long been allowed as “race neutral” but which judges should now assume are stand-ins for race, like receiving public benefits or “expressing a distrust of law enforcement.” The court hasn’t yet collected data on what impact the new rule has had on the racial composition of juries, says spokesperson Wendy Ferrell. Today, California lawmakers will hold hearings on a bill that has a similar list of reasons for excluding jurors that judges should assume are simply racism by another name.
For the North Carolina Supreme Court to follow Washington, Connecticut and California’s lead will require a substantial shift in mindset: In the 30 years since Batson was handed down, the court has never once found a violation against a juror of color.
That’s still true. In the Hobbs case, the high court said only that the original judge must re-examine evidence of bias. But David Weiss, a lawyer who worked with groups in support of the Hobbs case,* said he is hopeful the court will still create a working group to look at implicit bias. “It’s an option that we gave them,” he said. “The chief justice can take us up on that at any time.”
(source: Mother Jones)
U.S. Dishonors Navajo with Death Penalty
Amidst the coronavirus devastation, it’s important not to overlook the fact that, at the end of April, 2 federal appellate judges called out the U.S. government for continuing to dishonor the Navajo Nation – the second largest Indigenous tribe in America – through its pursuit of the death penalty for Lezmond Mitchell.
Judge Morgan Christen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit wrote that the federal government’s insistence that Mitchell, a Navajo, be executed for crimes perpetrated on Navajo victims and on Navajo land – against the express wishes of members of the victims’ family and the Navajo Nation – is a “betrayal of a promise made [by the federal government] to the Navajo Nation, and it demonstrates a deep disrespect for tribal sovereignty.”
Christen continued: “People can disagree whether the death penalty should ever be imposed, but our history shows that the United States gave tribes the option to decide for themselves.”
Judge Andrew Hurwitz, Christen’s colleague, effectively piled on in a separate opinion observing, “that the government had the right to make this decision does not necessarily make it right.” (Interestingly, Hurwitz’s rhetoric is reminiscent of that of Lady Hale of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom – in a recent significant ruling that Britain cannot provide evidence to the U.S. for use in death penalty cases – in which Hale advanced a truism rarely confessed by a jurist: “What is immoral and unacceptable is not necessarily unlawful.”)
Hurwitz also alludes to the best legal take on Mitchell’s case to date, an opinion by the late Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt in 2015; dubbedthe “liberal lion of [the] federal court,” Reinhardt has posthumously been accused of sexual harassment, but his opinion in Mitchell’s case is a must read for anyone wanting to know the extent of the government’s perfidy in the case of the Navajo Nation on the issue of capital punishment.
Recounting how the so-called “tribal option” was enacted by Congress in 1994, as a “small but important development toward tribal self-determination,” Reinhardt’s opinion detailed how the federal government’s insistence that Mitchell face the death penalty “reflects a lack of sensitivity to the tribe’s values and autonomy and demonstrates a lack of respect for its status as a sovereign entity.”
Reinhardt highlighted how, in advocating for the tribal option, the Navajo Nation explained to Congress that “‘the death penalty is counter to the cultural beliefs and tradition of the Navajo people who value life.’” Further, Reinhardt pressed, even “Kevin K. Washburn, [then] Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior,” wrote that “adoption of the tribal option reflected a ‘modest step’ in favor of a policy that ‘criminal justice in Indian country must be decolonized.’”
Reinhardt’s defense of the tribal option in Mitchell’s case is an oasis of humanity in a desert landscape of legal and other policy decisions in America that have, and still do, dehumanize Indigenous people; examples of this denigration unfortunately abound in a nation that honors Christopher Columbus, a wicked man whose conquests resulted in the murder, torture, and enslavement of millions of Indigenous people. (Take, just for example, in 1862, when 38 Dakota men were hanged in the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Or, beginning in 1863 and lasting until 1866, when “more than 10,000 Navajo were marched east” – in what’s bitterly known as the “Long Walk” – before being imprisoned “in squalid conditions [where] [m]any died of starvation and disease.”)
What makes Reinhardt’s, Christen’s, and Hurwitz’s actions so extraordinary is, their acknowledgement that the federal government has the legal authority to pursue the death penalty against Mitchell, but, nonetheless, their willingness to use their judicial opinions as a bully pulpit to implore the executive branch to reconsider. Why do that? Because they insist that the existence of the tribal option shows that the United States plainly lacks the moral authority to execute Mitchell. (Understatedly, Christen’s opinion says: “I write to underscore only that the United States made an express commitment to tribal sovereignty when it enacted the tribal option, and by seeking the death penalty in this case, the United States walked away from that commitment.”)
What these federal judges are urging is that what President Donald Trump’s puppet, Attorney General William Barr, wants to have happen in Mitchell’s case for political reasons – not unlike the savage pro-death penalty appetites of previous attorney generals – is not what should prevail. Instead, they’re saying: respect for the Navajo’s disdain for the death penalty, as expressed through the tribal option, is the only honorable option for America.
(source: Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California----counterpunch.org)
Teacher who killed husband has sentence reduced
A teacher who was found guilty of killing her husband has had her death sentence reduced after an appeal.
Jane Nambuye Manyonge was sent to the hanman on May 30, 2017 by Justice Stella Mutuku, who found her guilty of killing her husband Francis Mulumeti at their home in Riruta Dagoretti in 2013.
Mulumeti worked with the Ministry of Devolution at the time of his death while Manyonge was a teacher at Le Pic School in Dagoretti.
While reducing the sentence, the Court of Appeal used a recent legal jurisprudence which states that it is not compulsory for a convict to be handed the mandatory sentence provided for in law.
The new jurisprudence states that each case should be considered on its own circumstances.
"We deem it fit to consider the circumstances of this case. We observe that the appellant was a first offender and the trial judge stated that she had no discretion to vary the death penalty.
“In keeping with the recent jurisprudence, we hereby set aside the death sentence imposed on the appellant," said justices Mohammed Warsame, Asike Makhandia and Jamila Mohammed.
Throughout the trial the 51-year-old teacher denied killing her husband but the judges noted that the circumstantial evidence pointed towards her.
This is because the victim and the convict were the only people in their house in the fateful evening before the man was found dead in the house.
Further, there were blood stains all over the house and a knife was found in the house with blood stains.
The court also considered the teacher's contradictory statements on various issues for instances, when asked by the gateman Jeremiah Asuku what had happened to her husband, she told him that he had fallen on a stool and hurt himself.
She later reported to police that her husband had complained of chest pains after they had eaten supper.
At the police station she admitted that they had a difficult relationship because he used to drink heavily.
Life is sacred, I don't support death penalty - Yoni Kulendi tells Vetting Committee
Renowned Private Legal Practioner, Mr. Yoni Kulendi, has said he does not support the death penalty under the Criminal and other Offences Act on the basis that legal processes are prone to error.
He was of the view that persons found guilty of committing a crime should be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than the death penalty because life is sacred and human life should not be terminated by anybody.
Mr. Yoni Kulendi made the comment before the Appointments Committee of Parliament today (Tuesday) during his Vetting as a nominee by the President to the Supreme Court. It was in response to a question by Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, MP for North Tongu on his opinion about the death penalty.
In response to a question by Sampson Ahi, MP for Bodi on Legal education in the country, Mr. Yoni Kulendi said there is the need for reform in legal education in the country.
He, therefore, suggested the conduct of a comprehensive study to determine the type of reform needed in legal education in the country.
Answering another question by Sampson Ahi on what he will do in a situation where a case involving the President, Nana Akufo-Addo comes before the Supreme Court if his (Kulendi's) nomination is approved by Parliament since he worked with him in his Chambers as a lawyer from 1995 to 2002, Mr. Yoni Kulendi said he will abide by the oath of a Judge which requires Judges to be fair, just, equitable and reasonable in their judgment.
Answering a question by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu on the upper limit of Judges who should be appointed to the Supreme Court, Mr Yoni Kulendi said there should be no specific limit to the number of Judges to be appointed to the Supreme so that as and when necessary Judges could be appointed to serve as Supreme Court Judges without the need for amendment of the Constitution.
Brothers charged for alleged honor killing of sister in South Sulawesi
The police have arrested 2 brothers in Bantaeng regency, South Sulawesi, and named them suspects for allegedly killing their own 18-year-old sister over “shameful acts” committed by the victim that they said had brought dishonor upon their family.
The girl was found dead with stab wounds at her home in Pattaneteang village, Tompobulu district, Bantaeng, on Saturday.
Bantaeng Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Wawan Sumantri said witnesses testified that the suspects, identified as R, 30, and S, 20, had murdered their sister after the family found out she was involved in an extramarital affair with 45-year-old Usman, who is still considered a close relative.
Usman went to the family’s house on Saturday and refused to marry the girl. The suspects chased Usman to his home and attacked him.
The suspects also took a passerby hostage, forcing him to marry their sister. The hostage escaped when police surrounded the house after receiving a complaint from local residents.
“The hostage told the police that someone had been murdered in the house. We raided the house to apprehend the suspects along with their family members,” Wawan said on Monday.
He added that the suspects testified they were ashamed no one was willing to marry the girl.
Seven other family members who were present and allegedly witnessed the killing were also apprehended but only questioned as witness in the case. However, they remained at the police station as of the time of writing because local residents would not let them return to the village.
Wawan said psychiatrists were going to check the mental health of the suspects and their family members, which include a 14-year-old, as they had witnessed the murder.
The police charged the 2 suspects with violating the 2014 Child Protection Law and the Criminal Code, which carry a maximum penalty of death. Wawan added that the police would also charge the suspects with persecution and kidnapping.
(source: The Jakarta Post)
18 minors leave Riyadh reformatory under royal pardon----Saudi Arabia has abolished death sentences for those under 18 when they committed crimes
18 juvenile delinquents have been released from a correctional institution in the Saudi capital Riyadh under a royal pardon marking the holy month of Ramadan, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported Tuesday.
The 18 were found eligible for the pardon conditions, an official said.
“Minors residing in the Social Observation Centre patiently wait for such a chance after they have shown signs of good behaviour,” Youssef Al Siali, the director of the Ministry of Resources and Social Development’s branch in Riyadh, said.”During their stay in the place, they have received all kinds of care, education and training at the hands of qualified specialists and attended intense courses aimed at correcting their mistakes,” he added without elaborating.
Underage delinquents, who acted unlawfully, are sent to such centres where they stay until court rulings are given to them or they get pardoned.
Last month, Saudi Arabia abolished death sentences and the execution of convicts who were under 18 at the time of committing crimes, a major step seen boosting human rights in the kingdom.
According to changes to the Saudi justice system, security authorities have been directed to compile a list of final death sentences issued against inmates who were minors at the time of perpetrating crimes.
Public prosecution has also been directed to amend indictment bills against underage defendants to make the maximum penalty for them 10 years in prison.
(source: Gulf News)
N. Korean businessman executed for refusing to buy gov’t bonds
The owner of mine shafts in a suburban area of Pyongyang who refused to buy government bonds was recently arrested and quietly executed, Daily NK has learned.
“The owner, a Mr. Lee, was arrested at the Laborer Hall in the Kangdong Area Coal-mining Complex on May 6 and executed soon after,” a source in North Korea told Daily NK on May 7.
In late April, Lee was called to a meeting with other mine shaft owners by the complex’s sales department director. Lee’s open refusal to purchase government bonds at this meeting was reportedly the reason why he was punished so harshly.
North Korea began requiring organizations requiring state funds to purchase raw materials or supplies in the country to use bonds instead of cash from Apr. 20.
The source told Daily NK that the sales department director had called the meeting to echo calls by the government to “spend their dollars and participate in the national public bond purchasing plan.” While the other mine shaft owners quietly listened, Lee reportedly asked the director what would happen if he chose to “not buy any public bonds.”
The sales department director responded that the act would be considered “reactionary” because it would mean refusal to carry out party policy.
Lee responded sarcastically, asking in what way the “state” and the “complex” had helped him build up his mining business. His response led to a war of words between the 2 men.
“The sales department director immediately reported the events of that day to the complex’s party committee. The committee convened a ‘security committee meeting’ that ended up reporting Lee to the Ministry of State Security [MSS],” the source said.
Security committee meetings are convened at the provincial, municipal and county levels to discuss and make decisions on urgent matters. Participants typically include the chairman of the relevant party committee, the chairman and vice-chairman of the local people’s committee and management-level security officials.
The MSS did not immediately take action against Lee. It was not until May 6 that agents from the security agency visited the complex, forced all the complex’s workers to gather in the facility’s Laborer Hall, and then arrested Lee in front of them for “verbal reactionism”. Lee was charged with “criticizing party policy” and he was immediately executed without trial or any other due process.
It is rare in North Korea for such a punishment to be meted out so quickly – and on the same day – as an arrest. North Korean authorities may have aimed to make Lee an example of what happens when business people refuse to take part in party policy.
“[Other] mine shaft owners appear to be accepting the [government’s] plans to have enterprises buy up public bonds, but they are complaining about it nonetheless,” the source said.
The state reportedly seized Lee’s mine shafts along with large cargo trucks Lee purchased with his own money. North Korean authorities also raided Lee’s home and seized his possessions while his wife and 2 children were sent to a prison camp.
According to the source, the family of Lee’s wife complained that the authorities did not given the wife a choice to divorce Lee, which is usually a choice offered by officials in such criminal cases.
“The mother of the wife is being detained at a police detention facility in Kangdong County for asking the authorities to send her to the same prison camp her daughter is in,” the source said, adding, “People are saying she may receive around 6 months of hard labor.”