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

JUNE 24, 2021:

TEXAS:

Death Watch: The Stays Stop Here? After a quiet COVID season, Texas' death row machine rumbles back to life

The State of Texas is once again trying to kill John Hummel. Convicted of bludgeoning his wife and daughter to death in Ft. Worth in 2009, Hummel received a stay of execution last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic but is scheduled for lethal injection on June 30. His attorney, Michael Mowla, hasn't revealed what motions he will file to try to save Hummel's life, but has emphasized his client's mental illness in previous appeals, including the effects of trauma he suffered during his service as a Marine.

The nation's longest-serving death row inmate, Raymond Riles, was resentenced to life in prison on June 9. Riles has been locked up for 47 years after murdering a car salesman in Houston in 1974, but even prison officials acknowledge that he is deeply psychotic. Because there's no constitutional prohibition against executing the mentally ill – the only requirement is that they understand why the execution is happening – the state has fed Riles large doses of psychotropic drugs, hoping to make him sane enough to kill. But Riles continues to believe that the three executions that have been scheduled for him, and then canceled, were retribution for his knowledge of "satanic secret societies" within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals finally overturned his death sentence in April, agreeing with Riles' attorneys that his trial jury should have considered Riles' schizophrenia back in 1976. With his new sentence, the Texas Board of Par­dons and Paroles could actually release Riles from prison. His lawyer, Jim Marcus of UT's Capital Punishment Clinic, told reporters, "If the Board of Pardons and Paroles sees fit to grant parole, he has family with the capacity to care for him."

In addition to determining who gets parole, the BPP may recommend that the governor commute death sentences. But it has done so only 5 times in 50 years. Recently, the BPP turned its back on Quintin Jones, executed on May 19. Jones killed his great-aunt, Berthena Bryant, in 1999 as a young man strung out on coke. Bryant's sister, Mattie Long, forgave him and pleaded with Gov. Greg Abbott and the BPP to commute Jones' sentence to life in prison. Over 180,000 others around the world signed a petition asking the same. BPP members, who conduct their work in secret and aren't even required to meet when casting votes, ignored them.

The same day that Jones was executed, the CCA refused in a 5-4 ruling to grant a new punishment trial to Terence Andrus, a man with a very similar life story. Like Jones, Andrus grew up amidst violence and drug addiction, grappling with the trauma-induced mental illness that sometimes stems from such childhoods. Like Jones, he committed murder when still very young, killing 2 men during a carjacking in 2012. And like Jones, he had a trial attorney who made only the merest attempt to find and present the mitigating evidence of his upbringing. Gretchen Sween, Andrus' current attorney, described what his trial jury should have heard: "his family's struggles in a blighted inner-Houston neighborhood at the height of the crack epidemic, when his mother turned to prostitution and drug dealing to keep the lights on; his role as caretaker for his siblings when his mother abandoned her children; [and] his own drug addiction, multiple suicide attempts, and a long history of unresolved mental health issues, dating back to a diagnosis of affective psychosis at age 11."

The CCA's refusal to grant a new punishment trial for Andrus is made more perplexing by the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court essentially ordered them to do so last June, calling the evidence of his miserable childhood "abundant," "vast," "compelling," "powerful," and "myriad." In refusing to allow a retrial, the CCA called the same evidence "weak." Sween says she is taking the case back to the Supreme Court.

(source: The Austin Chronicle)

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Former Travis County deputy indicted for capital murder

A former Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy will go to trial on Capital Murder charges. Wednesday the Travis County District Attorney’s Office announced Stephen Broderick was indicted by a grand jury, following the April shooting deaths of his wife, daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend.

District attorney José Garza said this case has the facts and evidence required to convict Broderick of Capital Murder. In Texas, if found guilty of the charge the 2 punishment options are life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

According to Austin Police, on April 18 Broderick went to a parking lot on Great Hills Trail for a scheduled custody exchange and shot and killed his wife, Amanda Broderick, his 17-year-old daughter Alyssa Broderick, and Alyssa’s 18-year-old boyfriend Willie Simmons, III.

At the time of the shooting Broderick was out of jail on bond facing charges for child sexual assault. Court records showed his family had expressed concerns for their safety.

“We continue to think about the victims in this case. We continue to think about their families. We continue to think about the trauma that our community has suffered as a result of this act of violence. I want to be very clear-- we do not tolerate acts of violence in our community and if a person commits an act of violence they will be held accountable and when the evidence supports it they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Garza said.

Broderick will not be allowed out of jail on bond again while he awaits trial, Garza said.

Jury trials are scheduled to begin again in Travis County in July following a long hiatus due to the pandemic. The start date of this specific trial has not been set.

(source: cbsaustin.com)

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Seven men in El Paso murder cases remain on death row; 2 face death penalty

The list of death sentences handed down in El Paso could increase as two more cases are pending as 7 convicted men still sit on death row awaiting execution.

El Paso County currently has 7 convicted offenders on Texas state death row. No execution dates have been set on any of the cases.

The oldest pending case involved the murder of several young girls in the late 1980s.

Since 1980, 4 men — Justin Grant Hall in 2019, William Josef Berkley in 2010, Ricardo Ortiz in 2009 and Ramon Pedro Hernandez in 1987 — in El Paso cases have been put to death.

All were killed by lethal injection at the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas.

Current death penalty cases

There are currently 2 cases pending in El Paso district court courts where the suspect is facing the death penalty.

Patrick Crusius

The alleged El Paso Walmart mass shooter, Patrick Crusius, is facing the death penalty in both the state and federal cases pending against him.

Crusius is accused of killing 23 people and injuring about 2 dozen people in a racially motived mass shooting Aug. 3, 2019, at an East El Paso Walmart.

State prosecutors said they will be seeking the death penalty against Crusius. Federal officials have not officially announced if they will seek the death penalty.

Trials dates in neither federal nor state courts have been set.

Facundo Chavez

Facundo Chavez, who is charged with capital murder, is facing the death penalty in state court in connection with the March 2019 fatal shooting of El Paso County Sheriff's Office Deputy Peter Herrera.

Chavez allegedly shot at Herrera 15 times with several shots striking the deputy during a traffic stop in San Elizario, Texas, sheriff’s officials and court documents state.

The “unprovoked” attacked happened after Herrera pulled over Chavez’s car because it had only one headlight and an expired registration, officials said.

A trial date for Chavez has not been set.

David Leonard Wood

Wood, known as the “Desert Killer,” has been on death row since 1992 in connection with the slayings of 6 teen girls and young women.

The bodies of the girls were found between 1987 and 1988 in a desert area in Northeast El Paso.

The girls’ ages ranged between 14 to 24 years old.

3 girls reported missing during this time and whose bodies have not been found were also connected to Wood.

Wood as convicted on a serial murder charge in connection with the Northeast murders. He was sentenced to death.

Wood was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Aug. 20, 2009, but was granted a stay of execution just 24 hours prior.

The stay was given as Wood and his lawyers filed an appeal, arguing that he suffered from severe intellectual disabilities.

The appeal was denied in 2014.

No execution date has been set for Wood as him and his lawyers have requested additional DNA testing, claiming it would show that another man murdered the women and young girls.

A judge has not made a ruling on the request.

David Santiago Renteria

Renteria, 51, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2003 in connection with the death of 5-year-old Alexandra Flores.

Renteria was accused of kidnapping Alexandra Nov. 18, 2001, from a Walmart at 9441 Alameda Ave., as her family went Christmas shopping, the El Paso Times reported.

Alexandra's body was found naked and partially burned the next day in a carport near Downtown.

He remains on death row after several appeals attempts by his lawyers have failed.

Fidencio Valdez

Valdez, 42, was convicted of capital murder in 2014 and sentenced to death.

Valdez, a reputed Barrio Azteca member, was accused of killing Julio Barrios, 18, and trucker Ralph Ed Tucker, 51, at a strip club outside of Horizon City in Nov. 25, 2010.

Valdez was convicted of capital murder in 2014 and sentenced to death in connection with the slayings.

Tucker was shot during a robbery attempt of the strip club.

Barrios was killed during a drug deal to buy ecstasy. Valdez pulled out a gun and shot Barrios in his SUV and then pulled him out of the vehicle, El Paso Times reported. Valdez then shot Barrios a 2nd time.

An execution date has not been set.

Fabian Hernandez

Hernandez, 45, was convicted in connection with the deaths of his ex-wife Renee Urbina Hernandez, 28, and Arthur Lee Fonseca, 24, in 2006, the El Paso Times reported.

Hernandez was accused of killing them out of jealousy because his ex-wife had expressed a romantic interest in Fonseca.

The shooting happened while Hernandez's 2 young sons were asleep in the home.

Hernandez was sentenced to death in 2009.

He was set to be executed April 23, 2020, but the execution has postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, El Paso Times reported.

Irving Alvin Davis

Davis, 38, was convicted of capital murder in connection with rape, mutilating and killing 15-year-old Melissa Medina in 2001.

Davis was accused of following Medina home after she left a party.

Davis allegedly dragged Medina into an elementary school yard where he choked her with an unknown ligature, hit her in the head with an unknown object and killed her. He is also accused of sexually assaulting her.

Medina’s body was later found in the elementary schoolyard.

Davis was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 2002, but the sentence was overturned by an appeals court.

A retrial was held in 2008 on the sentencing where he was once again sentenced to death.

An execution date has not been set.

Rigoberto Avila, Jr.

Avila, 48, was convicted of capital murder in the death of his girlfriend's 19-month-old son, Nicolas Macias, in 2000.

According to testimony by 2 medical experts at Avila's trial, Nicolas injuries were caused by the same amount of force seen in high-speed traffic crashes and could not have been caused by an accident, El Paso Times reported.

Avila allegedly confessed to stomping on Nicolas because he was jealous of the attention his girlfriend was giving the little boy, the El Paso Times reported.

He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2001.

Avila was set to be executed Dec. 12, 2012, but it was postponed because it fell on the Catholic Church's feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

An execution date was not reset as Avila’s lawyers requested more time to go through evidence.

A district court judge order a new trial to be held in the case in 2018 because new scientific evidence, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2020 rejected the judge’s ruling and upheld Avila’s conviction.

An execution date has not been set.

Tony Ford

Ford, 48, was convicted of capital murder in the 1991 murder of 18-year-old Armando Murillo during an robbery at Murillo’s home.

Ford and an accomplice, Vanjarmar Nash Belton, are accused of forcing their way into the Murillo’s home in East El Paso, according to death row records.

The men allegedly demanded money, jewelry and a vehicle.

Ford allegedly shot Murillo, his mother and his sister during the robbery.

He was convicted of capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder. He was sentenced to death on the capital murder charge, and life in prison on each of the attempted capital murder charges.

Several appeals have been filed in the case. No execution date has been set.

Belton was convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Former death penalty cases

Angel Rivera was originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 1984 death of 88-year-old Jewel Haygood.

The sentence was reduced to life in prison in 2014, El Paso Times reported.

Cesar Roberto Fierro had his death sentence thrown out in 2019.

Fierro was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in connection with the 1979 robbery and slaying of El Paso taxi driver Nicolas Castanon.

The sentence was thrown out by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who ordered the sentencing phase of the trial to be retired.

No date has been set on when the retrial will be held.

Ignacio Gomez died due to natural causes in 2019 as he awaited execution.

Gomez was on death row in connection with the murders of 16-year-old twin brothers Michael and Matthew Meredith and 19-year-old Tolbert "Toby" Hatheway Jr. in 1996.

(source: El Paso Times)

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Texas schedules execution for inmate convicted of killing 3 people, including a minor----The 2nd execution this year in Texas was scheduled for Wednesday, June 30 for an inmate who killed 3 people in 2009.

A Texas man on death row convicted of killing 3 people, including a minor, almost 12 years ago has been rescheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday, June 30.

On the night of Dec. 17, 2009, John William Hummel entered a home in Kennedale, Texas and killed a 54-year-old man, a 35-year-old women, and minor while they slept, according to records from Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He received his death penalty later on June 29, 2011.

Williams will become the 2nd person to be put to death this year in Texas. Back on May 29, 2021 Quintin Jones became the 1st person in Texas to be executed since the pandemic paused executions. Jones was convicted of beating his 83-year-old great aunt to death nearly 22 years ago.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice also released dates for 4 more executions set to happen this year.

John Ramirez----The 36-year-old is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 8, 2021. Ramirez was convicted of robbing and killing a man July 19, 2004 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Rick Rhoades----The 57-year-old man was convicted of stealing money before murdering 2 brothers while they slept on Sept. 13, 1991, 1 day after being paroled. He is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 28, 2021.

Ruben Gutierrez----The 44-year-old is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 27, 2021. Gutierrez was convicted of entering the home office of an 85-year-old woman on Sept. 5, 1998 in Brownsville, Texas with the intent to rob her of the money she kept in a safe. The victim was struck repeatedly and stabbed multiple times in the head, causing her death. The subject and co-defendants fled the residence with a minimum of $56,000.

Ramiro Gonzales----The 38-year-old was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman before fatally shooting her on Jan. 15, 2001. He is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 17, 2021.

(source: WFAA news)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Anti-death penalty group opposed SC drug company shield law it now wants

Last week, The State published a guest column by attorney John Blume, founder of Justice 360, a non-profit that represents death row inmates in South Carolina. The column said South Carolina needs a law to shield the identify of companies that sell lethal injection drugs, and that state Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling hasn’t done enough to make that happen.

This is simply incorrect.

Soon after Stirling was confirmed as director of the Department of Corrections in 2014, he started informing the General Assembly about the department’s inability to obtain drugs to carry out a lethal injection execution.

The department’s last execution drugs expired in 2013. Even though SCDC was years away from receiving an expected death order, Stirling asked his staff to investigate and bring him options. Is there someone who would sell the state drugs without a shield law? Could the agency compound its own and, if so, how much would that cost? Are there other options? The answer he got, and continues to get, is that companies refuse to sell the drugs to our state because we do not have the ability to shield their identity.

Stirling asked for an Attorney General’s opinion on the issue, but that did not convince any drug company to sell the lethal injection drugs to the department.

He brought the issue to the General Assembly, informing lawmakers of the situation. That’s his role — to educate lawmakers about issues involving the department. Bills were introduced in the 2016 legislative session in both the Senate and House that would have created a shield law. Stirling testified about the situation multiple times. And he’s not the only one.

Justice 360 mounted fierce opposition to the shield law bill, testifying against it and urging lawmakers to vote against the measure they say South Carolina now needs.

“We oppose this bill because if the State is going to carry out the ultimate punishment and take the life of one of its citizens, it should do so with transparency and accountability,” Justice 360 attorney Lindsey Vann was quoted in The State newspaper. She described the bill as “special-interest legislation designed to shield private sector drug companies from lawful criticism and to stifle public debate.”

After their testimony, the bill that would have created a shield law never got out of committee.

We are here today because Justice 360 opposed a shield law. Stirling has repeatedly informed lawmakers of our situation, and lawmakers have responded by passing legislation to solve these problems.

Opposing the creation of a shield law paved the way for the recent death penalty law to pass, creating a firing squad and making the electric chair the state’s default method of execution. I am eager to reintroduce the shield law for consideration by the General Assembly in 2022 and I am hopeful that Justice 360 will now become a supporter of such a measure.

(source: Opinion; Greg Hembree represents the citizens of Horry and Dillon Counties in Senate District 28 and was a career prosecutor and the elected Solicitor for the 15 th Judicial Circuit for 14 years. He is the primary sponsor of the bill reinstating the death penalty by electrocution, lethal injection, and firing squad----The State)

FLORIDA:

State attorney to not seek death penalty again for man who killed BCSO deputy in 2012

More than 9 years after Brevard County Sheriff’s Office deputy Barbara Pill was killed by Brandon Lee Bradley, the state will drop efforts to have the death sentence reimposed on Bradley at the request of the Pill's family.

Bradley was originally sentenced to death following his conviction in Pill's death in 2014. But a Florida Supreme Court ruling and changes in Florida law meant the state would have had to redo the sentencing phase of Bradley's trial to reinstate the death penalty. Bradley will serve life in prison.

The state attorney announced the decision Wednesday morning.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that I personally believe Brandon Bradley was given and still deserves the death penalty for the brutal execution style killing of Deputy Barbara Pill,” Brevard County State Attorney Phil Archer said in a written statement. “However, after lengthy consideration and discussion, the Pill family has requested that we agree to a sentence of life in prison for Mr. Bradley rather than seek the death penalty through a new sentencing proceeding. Their expressed desire was to avoid re-living the pain and trauma they experienced in the 1st trial, as the graphic and disturbing evidence detailing Barbara’s murder was presented for a new jury to consider.”

Archer added that he gave “great weight” to the wishes of the family and wanted to honor their request.

Deputy Sheriff Barbara Pill was shot and killed after stopping suspects of a burglary near the intersection of John Rodes Boulevard and Elena Way in Melbourne on March 6, 2012.

She was the 1st Brevard law enforcement officer shot and killed in the line of duty since 1996.

During his trial, defense attorneys sought a life sentence for Bradley. They argued he had brain damage, had suffered abuse as a child, was a heavy drug user and was intoxicated at the time of the crime and when he waived his rights and spoke to police.

Bradley was convicted of 1st degree premeditated murder and the jury voted 10-2 to recommend that he be put to death. Judge Morgan Reinman agreed and sentenced Bradley to death.

In the following nine years, subsequent Florida Supreme Court rulings about non-unanimous death penalty jury recommendations and changes in Florida law meant that the state would have to re-litigate the entire death penalty sentencing phase of Bradley's trial or let stand a life in prison sentence.

Michael Pirolo, who has represented Bradley since 2012, said he believes the state attorney made the right decision.

“I agree with the state’s decision,” he said. “I think it’s best for both families — for Deputy Pill’s family and Brandon’s family — instead of going through the trauma of a resentencing.”

He went on to say his heart "goes out to the Pill family."

“We obviously at no point ever condoned Mr. Bradley’s actions, but there is more to Mr. Bradley than that one event," he said. "We’re just pleased with the state’s decision.”

Pirolo said he hasn’t spoken to Bradley yet, but he plans to talk to him on Thursday morning.

Bradley will be formally sentenced to life in prison July 23 at 1:30 p.m. by Judge Charles Crawford.

(source: Florida Today)

ALABAMA:

Woman charged with killing man in front of their daughter

An Alabama woman has been charged with capital murder by police who say she killed her estranged husband in front of their 7-year-old daughter.

Records show 36-year-old Tekedra Staffney is charged in the gunshot slaying of 35-year-old Jesse Myrone Rutledge on Saturday. The man was shot to death in a home in the Shelby County city of Calera.

Authorities filed the capital charge, which carries a potential death penalty because the child was present.

Records show a judge ordered the man to stay away from the woman in January after she sought a protective order claiming he might kill her.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

Father of deceased NC woman found in vehicle in Carter County says he wants death penalty for suspect

A North Carolina murder suspect arrested in Carter County appeared in court Wednesday after police say they discovered he was driving with a woman’s body in his car.

The deceased woman was later identified as 19-year-old Gianna Delgado, a High Point University Student who shared an apartment with Michael Cadogan, her alleged killer. Delgado’s father spoke about this heartbreak over his daughter’s death.

“She went by Gia, and I called her my little worm,” he said.

Ricardo Delgado fondly remembers his daughter Gianna, who he says was determined to be successful.

“She was a great little girl,” he said. “She always fought for what she wanted. She did not deserve to end up this way.”

Delgado says Gianna had ended a brief relationship with the suspect, Michael Cadogan, but they still shared a lease on an apartment in High Point, North Carolina. He said that Cadogan would often take advantage of her love for her dog Franklin.

“He (Cadogan) would use the dog as leverage to underpower my daughter, and he’d kidnapped the dog before,” Delgado said.

Delgado said he received a call from someone who had found Gianna’s phone on the side of the road in Tennessee. The news of her death soon after was devastating.

“No parent should be going through this, what I’m going through right now,” he said.

Delgado hopes Cadogan receives the most severe sentence.

“I am going to be going for the death penalty, to the max,” Delgado said. “I don’t think he deserves that air that we breathe, because he definitely took my daughter’s last breath. And I will be there when he takes his.”

Delgado says he wants to meet the woman who called police and thank her.

“Gia would have done that, what you done, and I want you to know that she’s grateful that you did do the right thing and call the proper authorities,” he said.

Until that happens, Delgado will care for Gianna’s dog, while he deals with her death.

“I’m glad he’s here with us, because he’s the only thing I have left,” Delgado said.

As of Wednesday, Cadogan is still in Carter County awaiting extradition to North Carolina, where he is charged with murder. In Tennessee, he is charged with fugitive from justice and abuse of a corpse.

(source: WJHL news)

OKLAHOMA:

As More Evidence of Innocence Emerges, 34 Oklahoma Legislators Call on Governor for Investigation of Death-Row Prisoner Richard Glossip’s Conviction

Following additional revelations that Richard Glossip may be innocent of the murder that sent him to Oklahoma’s death row in 1998, a bipartisan group of 34 state legislators are calling upon Governor Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to conduct an independent investigation into Glossip’s case.

28 Republican and 6 Democratic legislators — including many who are supporters of the death penalty — sent a letter to Stitt and the Board on May 17, 2021 advocating for the investigation. In that letter, they wrote: “Killing Richard Glossip without certainty of his guilt will erode public trust, not only in capital punishment, but in the integrity and fairness of the entire Oklahoma criminal justice system.” The legislators held a press conference at the Oklahoma Capitol on June 16 reiterating their call for action. Rep. Kevin McDugle (R-Broken Arrow), who is spearheading the effort, said, “The only reason I’m here is because I do believe personally that we have an innocent man on death row.”

Glossip has long maintained his innocence of orchestrating the 1996 murder of Barry Alan Van Treese, his boss at an Oklahoma City motel. No physical evidence linked him to the murder. Justin Sneed, another motel employee, killed Van Treese but, after receiving a deal to avoid the death penalty, claimed Glossip promised to pay him $10,000 to do so.

Flanked by the legislators at the press conference, Glossip’s lawyer, Don Knight, described the new evidence discovered from interviews with 190 people over the past six years. He said police found two sets of clothing in the motel’s laundry room linked to the murder as well as two murder weapons, suggesting the presence of an accomplice whom police failed to investigate. Multiple prisoners who had been incarcerated with Sneed in the Oklahoma City jail told the defense that Sneed confessed to the murder and told them Glossip was not involved. Other witness reported that Sneed and his girlfriend at the time allegedly had planned to rob Van Treese to get money to feed his methamphetamine habit.

The letter to Governor Stitt states: “Many of those who have signed this letter support the death penalty but, as such, we have a moral obligation to make sure the State of Oklahoma never executes a person for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Glossip’s case gives us pause, because it appears the police investigation was not conducted in a manner that gives us confidence that we know the truth.” The legislators specifically ask the governor to select an “independent attorney or investigative agency” who would have access not only to records compiled by Glossip’s legal team, but also to those of the Oklahoma County “District Attorney’s office, or any police or law enforcement agency that investigated this case.”

The Long History of Misconduct in Oklahoma County Death Penalty Cases

Since the resumption of capital punishment in the 1970s, more prisoners have been exonerated from wrongful convictions and death sentences in Oklahoma County than from all but three other U.S. counties. In February 2021, the DPIC Special Report: The Innocence Epidemic found that five men sentenced to death in Oklahoma County have already been exonerated. All were wrongfully convicted between 1980 and 2001, during the 21-year tenure of District Attorney “Cowboy” Bob Macy.

Only Cook County (Chicago, Illinois), with 15, and Cuyahoga County (Cleveland, Ohio) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), with six each, have had more wrongfully convicted defendants exonerated from death row. The Macy administration, which was marred by prosecutorial misconduct, sent 54 people to death row while he was in office and bragged in campaign advertisements about the number of prisoners he had condemned.

Glossip and Julius Jones — 2 of the highest profile death penalty cases in the United States —were prosecuted in the Macy administration and face execution despite strong evidence of innocence. Both assert that police and prosecutorial misconduct played a significant role in their convictions, and Jones alleges that a combination of racial bias, poor representation, and false informant testimony also contributed to his being sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit.

Glossip’s lawyers charge that current Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has engaged in witness intimidation to impede Glossip’s attempts to prove his innocence. They allege that, after two former prisoners who knew Sneed came forward with information that Sneed had acted alone and had lied about Glossip to receive a reduced sentence, Prater had arrest warrants issued for both men.

‘Political theater’ and ‘falsehoods and lies’

Prater called the legislators’ press conference “political theater” and complained that the legislators never reached out to him to discuss the case before calling for the investigation. “They have made no inquiry about any of the claims made by [Glossip’s] lawyers or supporters,” he said in a statement. “They have not requested transcripts of court proceedings, appellate briefs or anything else.” Prater said allegations that his office had withheld evidence in Glossip’s case were “falsehoods and lies.”

Glossip came within minutes of execution in September 2015, before the state revealed it had obtained the wrong drug for its lethal-injection protocol. Journalistic investigation uncovered records showing the state knew it had obtained the wrong drug, and had previously used it in the January 2015 execution of Charles Warner. Executions in Oklahoma have been on hold since. On February 13, 2020, the state announced plans to resume executions using the same drug protocol that led to a series of botched executions in 2014 and 2015. Prisoners have filed legal challenges to the protocol, and no executions have yet been scheduled.

In March 2020, the Pardon and Parole Board indicated that all prisoners who receive an execution date will be entitled to a clemency hearing. In a prior clemency hearing, Glossip told the board: ““I did not plan and I did not participate in the death of Mr. Van Treese, and I would have never, ever paid for someone to do anything like that.”

At the press conference, Knight said, “The board, because of the long delay that has taken place, has said that they will hear clemency once again for Richard Glossip. So there is a clemency hearing that is going to take place.” Oklahoma City’s News9 reported that Tom Bates, the board’s Executive Director, said the board had not offered to rehear Glossip’s clemency request. “I have not had any conversation with his counsel about this issue,” Bates said. “We are in some uncharted water.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

ARIZONA:

Arizona Backtracks On Expiration Date For Death Penalty Drugs

In a motion filed with the Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office revised the use-by date for lethal injection drugs the state has acquired to carry out executions.

Following the federal government’s lead, Arizona plans to use a single drug, pentobarbital, to resume executions for the 1st time in more than 7 years. Heavily redacted invoices provided by the Department of Corrections showed the state paid $1.5 million for the execution drugs.

After acquiring the pentobarbital and an agreement with a compound pharmacist to prepare the drug for lethal injections, the Arizona Department of Corrections said it was ready to conduct executions in March.

The Arizona Supreme Court court granted requests from Attorney General Mark Brnovich in May to set briefing schedules for pursuing warrants of execution for prisoners Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon. Dixon was sentenced to death for the killing of 21-year-old college student Deana Bowdoin in 1978. Atwood was sentenced to death in the 1984 killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson.

At the time, the department believed the pentobarbital would have a 90-day beyond-use date once it had been compounded.

In the motion filed Monday, the Attorney General’s Office said that timeline has been cut in half.

Deputy Solicitor General Lacey Stover Gard wrote, “The pharmacist, however, has now revised that opinion and has advised ADCRR that, until certain specialized testing of a sample batch is conducted, pentobarbital that is compounded for Dixon’s execution will have an initial beyond-use date of 45 days.”

The state submitted a similar filing concerning Atwood’s execution.

“The specialized testing could extend the beyond-use date of subsequently compounded doses from the same batch of pentobarbital,” Gard wrote. “However, this testing has not yet commenced and will not be completed in time to accommodate the briefing schedule.”

The revision of the use-by date is significant, because it would not give the state enough time to request a warrant of execution, have the execution drugs tested and carry out the execution.

In the filing, the state asks the Arizona Supreme Court to be able to push back the date that it will request the warrants for execution, while keeping the initially proposed court conference dates for Dixon and Atwood.

At the conference the court will decide whether to schedule an execution date.

“Under the current briefing schedule — which was set in reliance on the previously quoted 90-day beyond-use date — the pentobarbital will expire prior to Dixon’s anticipated execution on October 19,” Gard wrote. “Accordingly, the State respectfully requests that this Court modify the briefing schedule currently in place so that the October 19 projected execution date will fall within the 45-day initial beyond-use date of the compounded pentobarbital.”

Attorneys for Atwood previously asked the Supreme Court to send his case to a lower court over concerns regarding the window of usability for the state’s proposed lethal injection drugs.

“The science is clear,” said Atwood attorney Joseph Perkovich. “45 days is the outer limit — and that’s if this injectable form is frozen for that whole time. If it’s not frozen, it’s really a matter of a few days.”

"It is simply impossible, within the 45-day window, to request an execution warrant, compound the chemicals into an injectable liquid, test the liquid to verify it will actually kill Mr. Atwood as planned rather than severely torture him, and then use the tested chemicals to execute him," Perkovich said.

In response to questions about the state’s most recent filing, Katie Conner, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, said, “Our office filed the motions to make sure everything is done according to the law. We must always ensure that justice is served for the victims, their families and our communities.”

Documents provided to KJZZ through a public records request reveal Arizona paid $440,000 for “pharmaceutical consulting services” but it is unclear what services were actually provided. Arizona relies on a broad interpretation of state law to prevent disclosure of people involved in executions, and refuses to identify the compounding pharmacist that was paid for the consulting services.

“It raises concerns about who this pharmacist is and how they could make such a big error,” said Jen Moreno, an assistant federal public defender based in Phoenix. “It makes us wonder what other errors they could have made in this process.”

Additional documents provided to KJZZ show the results of lab tests conducted by an unknown entity on the purity of pentobarbital it has obtained.

Moreno said the test appears “thin on details” compared to the analysis run on the drugs used in recent federal executions.

“It’s significantly less information than we tend to see from other testing results or certificates of analysis from other cases,” Moreno said. “Other cases tend to give the sterility, bacterial presence and other factors, but here we’re just seeing the potency of the drug.”

Based on the limited information in the documents, Moreno said the drugs acquired by the state appear to exceed potency levels.

“One of the drugs was compounded at a significantly higher potency rate of 116% of what should be the target,” Moreno said.

Moreno said the recent court filing, combined with the documents, raises serious concerns about Arizona’s ability to perform executions.

“It really calls into question what the state is doing,” Moreno said, “if the first thing we’re seeing from them with these drugs is that they were wrong about the expiration date.”

(source: KJZZ news)

USA:

Contrary to the Gospel

First the good news.

Last week the South Carolina Supreme Court blocked the planned executions of 2 inmates.

Now the bad. The executions are blocked until the state can put its new “death by firing squad” option in place.

That’s right, firing squad.

The state supreme court said the 2 inmates scheduled to die this month should have a choice in determining how. They can die by electrocution or at the hands of the new firing squad.

The state decided to turn to the “ready, aim, fire!” method of execution after having difficulties getting its hands on lethal injection drugs. The only option available before the new firing squad law was passed was the electric chair. That’s unfair, the high court said. Those about to die should have a wider set of options to determine how.

And believe it or not, South Carolina isn’t alone in its desire to use the “death by firing squad” option. 3 other states have passed similar laws.

All of this comes at a time when, according to the most recent Gallup Poll on the subject, support for capital punishment is at its lowest point in nearly five decades. Just 55 % of people polled were in favor of state-sanctioned killing. That’s the lowest number since 1972 when just 50 percent of those polled supported the death penalty.

Those who work for the abolition of capital punishment — such as the Catholic Church and the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty — are always happy when executions are halted. But this time the reason for the delay is troubling.

The director of the national non-profit Death Penalty Action told the Associated Press last week that he was grateful the two South Carolina executions were blocked. But Abraham Bonowitz added that the decision shows the need for even greater change.

“It’s always good news when executions are put on hold,” he said. “But if the conversation is only about how we kill our prisoners rather than if the state should have this power, something is very, very wrong.”

Some national television news hosts serve, unwittingly, as examples of one side of the national dichotomy on the subject of the death penalty. The South Carolina firing squad law, one said, provides a “more honest” means of killing prisoners.

“Now they can shoot ‘em, stick ‘em or fry ‘em,” he said.

Such a callous comment illustrates the work to be done on the subject. But Catholics can take heart knowing that the church’s stance on the death penalty is clear and unequivocal.

When he approved of a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 — a revision that strengthened the church’s stance against the killing of prisoners — Pope Francis noted that capital punishment is “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”

No matter how it is carried out, the pope said, the death penalty “is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life.” And human life, he noted, “is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator.”

In the last analysis, said Pope Francis, “only God can be the true judge and guarantor” of life. And back in 2015 in a letter to the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, the pope said that capital punishment is “cruel, inhumane and degrading.”

“It does not bring justice to the victims,” the pope wrote, “but only foments revenge.”

At a time when political argument and social discourse are often clouded and confused by misinformation and obfuscation, the Church’s position is clear and undiluted by such rancor.

The Church says that capital punishment is wrong. Period.

(source: GLENN RUTHERFORD, Record Editor Emeritus----The Record)

PHILIPPINES:

No to the reinstatement of the death penalty: the Church supports human dignity and the option for life

"Every person is precious as he is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we firmly and unequivocally oppose the attempts of the current Congress to restore the death penalty in our judicial system. We believe that the penalty of death violates the intrinsic dignity of the person. No person is out of the possibility of redemption": this was stated in a message from the Commission for the Prison Pastoral Care within the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines joining the "Coalition against death penalty" in celebrating the 15th year of the abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines.

The message, released today, 24 June and sent to Agenzia Fides, is signed by Bishop Joel Baylon, Bishop of Legazpi and President of the Commission for the prison pastoral care. The text notes: "We believe that for no person a revision of life reform is impossible. Every person deserves a 2nd chance to correct their mistakes. Pope Francis, in his teachings, has constantly emphasized that taking away life is inadmissible". Opposing the project to readmit the death penalty into the Philippine judicial system, the text notes that "the death penalty will primarily affect only the poor. Past experiences show that most of those who received the death penalty were destitute and poor individuals, who simply could not afford quality legal representation to defend them before the courts. "The death penalty, the message continues, "cannot work in an imperfect judicial system like ours. Once carried out, the death sentence is irreversible and there is no possibility of rectifying an erroneous sentence". The Catholic Church continues to affirm "the fundamental option for life and we are calling for the State to approve laws that make the criminal justice system more restorative and not simply punitive".

In view of next year's general elections, the Commission remarks: "We call on voters, especially our young people, to elect people who serve the nation according to justice, defending the cause of life and fighting the current culture of death".

The Philippines was the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty in the 1987 constitution, but the provision was reintroduced in 1993, during the administration of President Fidel Ramos to cope with the rising crime rate. A new abolition was passed in 2006, when then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed a law that made life imprisonment the maximum penalty in the legislation. However, after his election in May 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte gave public support for the reintroduction of the death penalty. On March 2017, the House of Representatives voted by a large majority in favor of a bill to that effect. In the Senate, however, the bill ran aground due to opposition from the senators. The Philippine government did not abandon the idea and continued to consider bills to restore the death penalty. In 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte used his "State of the Nation Speech" to call for the death penalty with lethal injection for drug offenses or the most heinous crimes, and the debate on the possible reintroduction is still ongoing. It should be noted that the Philippines ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1986 and its Second Optional Protocol to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICCPR-OP2) in 2007.

(source: Agenzia Fides)

BANGLADESH:

It’s time to scrap the death penalty----Being confined to a cell for the rest of their lives may be better punishment than a quick death

Recently, the Department of Law of the University of Dhaka conducted a study that focused on the profiles, experiences, and perspectives of death row prisoners in Bangladesh. In the end, prominent distinct members of the Bangladeshi legal community, law practitioners, and human rights activists came to a conclusion suggesting the death penalty should be abolished.

Apart from this recent study of the University of Dhaka, all around the globe, we see human rights organizations and individual activists rally against the death penalty regularly. They present their case against capital punishment with proper reasoning. Many countries and different states in bigger countries have already abolished it. Regarding the abolition of the death penalty, I am exactly on the same page with the activists, just my position is a bit different if not diametrically opposite when it comes to the replacement of the death penalty.

Firstly, we need to look at the reasons which are generally placed against the death penalty. Death penalty does not help in deterring crime, it is a lengthy procedure, it causes a waste of resources, it is cruel, it is irrevocable, etc. These are some of the key reasons against capital punishment which are put forward. I fully agree with them, as they really make sense.

However, the question arises: If the death penalty is abolished, what shall we replace it with? In my conviction, something over which I have thought a lot, I find absolute solitary confinement to be the highest possible punishment.

The current method of executing criminals in Bangladesh hardly takes 15 to 20 minutes. To be honest, killing an individual who committed horrific deeds like war crimes or gang rape does not ensure enough punishment. It is entirely unfair to those innocent people on whom these criminals inflicted unbearable trauma, with which they will have to live forever.

Rather, keeping them alive for life, without granting any access to the outside world, the sky, the trees, nature, serves the cause of punishment in a more just manner, in the real sense of punishment. Living life in 7 x 12 cell is much more painful than death.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, my position is a bit different from some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, which I should explain. I have read in detail about their concern about the living conditions of criminals in solitary confinement, their mental health, etc.

Except for the ones that have a previous history of mental illness, why should one even need to bother about the living conditions of others? In a world where we can’t even ensure proper living conditions for a huge population in different continents, doesn’t it sound farcical to be concerned about the living condition of criminals? Often, when these criminals have no remorse whatsoever? Our very own war criminals did not show any sign of repentance till the very end. I hardly find any rational reason behind wasting humane feelings for such inhumane individuals.

Professor Robert Blecker of New York Law School, although in favour of the death penalty, described his experience of interviewing vicious criminals.

He divided them into two extremes. One group is callous, cold, and has no feeling of guilt whatsoever. Another group, when describing their crimes themselves, appeared to be thrilled and exhilarated, which is appalling in itself.

Obviously, I do differ from Professor Robert Blecker. My stance is clear: Do not kill them. Killing is not enough, let them live an excruciating life in a small dark cell which will eventually result in death, but a slow and agonizing one.

Finally, in my judgment, people who are concerned about the human rights of monstrous criminals are not just being shockingly insensitive to the victims and their eternal wound, they are also disregarding the entire expression of human rights.

(source: Op-Ed; Ratnadeep Toorja is a freelance contributor----Dhaka Tribune)

PAKISTAN:

Years after Pakistan’s terrorism crackdown, many with no terrorist ties face risk of execution

Muhammad Anwar was 17 when he was involved in a group fight that caused a death in his village. His trial ended in a death sentence, and at one point, he came within a day of being executed as part of a government crackdown on terrorism.

28 years passed before Anwar was released from prison this spring. The once-healthy teen, now a partially paralyzed man with severe heart problems, returned to a place he barely remembered. Everything felt foreign. He made a list of places to visit, including the house of his older brother, a teacher who died while Anwar was behind bars.

He considers himself lucky, though. A legal advocacy group took up his case and pursued repeated appeals. The country’s Supreme Court ultimately commuted his sentence because of his age at the time of the crime.

“Stopping the death warrant . . . was a big task,” Anwar recounted last month. “We might not have managed to do it on our own.”

Until a gruesome Taliban attack on a high school in December 2014, Pakistan had gone half a dozen years with a de facto moratorium on capital punishment. Although the government explicitly justified bringing it back to fight terrorism, officials resumed executions for other capital offenses several months later.

More than 515 people have been hanged since late 2014, with fewer than 90 of them tried as terrorists, according to Justice Project Pakistan, the organization that managed to get Anwar’s execution stayed. The country continues to have one of the world’s largest death rows.

“It has led to a perversion of the law,” said Sarah Belal, executive director of Justice Project Pakistan.

The same pattern has emerged in sentencings, with researchers contending that the vast majority of crimes resulting in death sentences have little connection to terrorism. Public pushback has been minimal, despite the consequences.

Muhammad Iqbal was 17 when he was found guilty of a killing in his village in central Pakistan. The victim’s family later forgave him, which under Pakistani law is enough to resolve certain disputes, and appealed to a court that he not be hanged. That compromise was rejected because he had been charged with murder and convicted under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

“It’s the tradition of our country that we don’t catch the big crocodiles; it’s the small ones that they can control,” Iqbal, now 40, said recently. “That’s how the system runs.”

What proved pivotal was his age when the robbery-gone-bad occurred. A 2000 law had barred capital punishment from being imposed on anyone younger than 18 at the time of an offense, and a “presidential notification” the next year made the prohibition applicable to individuals who were already incarcerated.

Like Anwar, Iqbal waited nearly two decades for the judicial system to acknowledge the effect of those developments on his case. His death sentence was finally commuted to life imprisonment in 2020; because he had already served the equivalent of a life term under Pakistan’s penal code, he was released.

At the center of much of the activity are Pakistan’s anti-terrorism courts, which were created in the late 1990s and intended to secure expedited trials and convictions through different rules for custody, detention and bail. The law governing them defines a broad target and includes threats that “create a sense of fear or insecurity in society.”

Yet the issues in the nation’s legal system go beyond those special tribunals, according to international human rights groups. Nearly three dozen offenses are punishable today by death in Pakistan, including blasphemy and adultery, and other courts rely heavily on eyewitness testimony and confessions that the groups say are often obtained through coercion or torture.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Law and Justice did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the country’s renewed use of the death penalty.

Iqbal now says he confessed to murder after being tortured during the police investigation. He was the only person to receive a death sentence in the incident. Several others were sentenced to 10 years.

In the past year, he has tried to move on, relishing both big and little aspects of his days — the feeling of freedom on a motorbike, the taste of watermelon. His nieces and nephews taught him how to use a smartphone. He spends much of his time looking after his family’s land, 8 green and gold acres patchworked with wheat and sugar cane. After years in a stuffy cell, he considers the dry landscape to be as beautiful as the valleys of Kashmir.

About 3,800 people are currently on death row in Pakistan, down from nearly 4,700 in July 2019. In February, the Supreme Court blocked the use of the death penalty for mentally ill prisoners; soon after, it commuted the sentences of 2 inmates with schizophrenia. It is unclear how many juvenile offenders still face capital punishment, though one estimate suggests it could be in the hundreds.

Outside forces could shrink death row further. Pakistan is under continued pressure to meet international human rights standards or risk its special trade status with the European Union. No executions were carried out in 2020.

While the country has been criticized internationally for retaining the death penalty — as have more than four dozen other nations, including the United States — its limited internal debate remains a problem, said criminal defense attorney Asad Jamal, who has been involved in high-profile cases, including that of a university lecturer on death row for blasphemy. “Lawyers are not talking about it. Judges are not open to criticism.”

Without those conversations, followed by key changes to anti-terrorism laws, Jamal and others worry the courts will have incentives to hand out death penalties, especially during times of violence or uncertainty.

“History does repeat itself,” Belal noted in reference to the aftermath of the 2014 school attack in Peshawar. “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”

Anwar learned about the 2001 presidential order on juvenile offenders from a radio report on BBC Urdu that he heard from his jail cell. As he recalled last month, his subsequent appeals were dismissed despite judges telling him his case didn’t merit the death penalty. He had been the only person convicted, although more than a dozen men were involved in the argument-turned-fight. The victim died of his injuries nearly a month later.

The government requires families to cover the costs of food, basic necessities and even medical treatment for a relative in prison, and Anwar’s paid around 25,000 rupees ($161) a month to take care of him, according to his brother Sarwar. It was a steep price for a large, rural family with limited means.

Anwar’s relatives welcomed him home to Arifwala with handmade signs and home-cooked food. He has been passing the time by playing chess on his cellphone — he learned the game in prison — and fielding calls from former inmates and guards who became friends during his many years of incarceration.

At 45, he walks slowly but deliberately through his brother’s house and into the Punjab sun, using a field hockey stick as a cane and his nephew’s shoulder for support. Anwar plans to start working as an electrician, which he can do from home despite his limited mobility. He has begun referring other death row inmates sentenced as juveniles to human rights organizations that might take on their appeals.

He speaks with little resentment about his experience. But the amount of time it took the system to resolve his case, and how close he came to being executed, make him question whether the final outcome can be called justice.

“If they had hung me,” he asks, “then what could have been done?”

(source: Washington Post)

JAPAN:

Man sentenced to death for driving truck into road cleaners in Fukushima

A man convicted of killing 2 road cleaners in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Miharu in May last year by ramming into them with a truck was sentenced to death at the Koriyama branch of the Fukushima District Court on June 24.

Yoshitaka Morito, 51, an unemployed man of no fixed address, was handed the death penalty at the lay judge trial as sought by prosecutors. The victims were a man and a woman.

Lawyers for Morito are set to appeal the ruling.

(source; The Mainichi)

CHINA:

China strengthens death sentence review to better protect human rights

China has reinforced human rights protection in death sentence review and tightened the conditions applicable to the death penalty in recent years, a top court official said, The Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Defendants who render significant meritorious services shall generally be granted leniency and be exempted from the death sentence if possible", – Li Xiao, a senior judge with the Supreme People's Court (SPC), told a press conference.

"The death penalty shall not be applicable to defendants over 75 years old unless they intentionally commit homicide or crimes with especially serious circumstances", Li added.

"The top court has adhered to the highest standards, strictest conditions and taken a fact-based approach in accordance with the law", she said.

"During the death penalty review, the SPC also heeds the opinions of the defendant's lawyers as sufficiently as possible, as well as the supervisory results from the Supreme People's Procuratorate over the case", Li said.

(source: ukranews.com)

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

China 'very cautious' about using death penalty: white paper

China has been very cautious about using the death penalty, according to a white paper released Thursday.

The white paper on the practice of the Communist Party of China in respecting and protecting human rights was released by the State Council Information Office.

The number of crimes punishable by the death penalty has been reduced significantly in China, the white paper said.

(source: ecns.cn)

IRAN:

UN experts urge Iran to halt execution of child offender: Iran

UN human rights experts today urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt the execution of a young Iranian man scheduled for 28 June, saying he was a child at the time of the crime, and was reportedly tortured to force a confession of guilt.

“We are deeply concerned for the life of Hossein Shahbazi, and particularly disturbed at reports indicating that the execution is planned to go ahead and that it may even be carried out earlier than scheduled. The execution of children and persons who committed a crime while under the age of 18 is clearly prohibited by international human rights law,” said the experts. At least 2 other child offenders are also at imminent risk of execution.

Hossein Shahbazi was 17 years old when he was arrested in 2018, meaning that he was a child at the time, as defined by the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Iran is a party to. In January 2020, he was sentenced to death for allegedly stabbing a classmate during a fight. Shahbazi was reportedly interrogated by police for 11 days without access to a lawyer or his family. During this time, he was reportedly tortured and forced to confess having committed the crime. As a result, there is currently a request for his re-trial pending before the Supreme Court.

In 2013, Iran amended its Penal Code to allow judges to provide alternative sentences for child offenders if there was uncertainty about their “mental development” at the time of the crime or if they had not realised the nature of the crime. Iran assured the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2016 that the amendment, Article 91, would apply systematically to all child offenders on death row.

“It is of serious concern that the judiciary repeatedly fails to take into account existing legal provisions in the law that can prevent the imposition of the death penalty on child offenders,” the experts said.

“We call on the Iranian authorities to honour their obligations under international law and immediately halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi.

“The imposition of the death penalty in Iran contrasts with the current international trend of abolishing the death penalty and is contrary to its prohibition against child offenders. We therefore call on the authorities to undertake a reform of its Penal Code to abolish the death penalty against child offenders,” the experts added.

Iran remains one of several States which execute child offenders despite its strict prohibition under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged Iran to end the execution of children and people who committed a crime while under the age of 18. However, at least 4 child offenders were executed in 2020, and to date more than 85 are reported to be on death row.

(source: miragenews.com)

YEMEN:

Yemeni activists’ Houthi death sentence condemned ---- The 2 activists were tried in absentia by a court run by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

A senior Yemeni official has condemned the Houthi death sentence handed down to two activists, who were tried in absentia by a court run by the Iran-backed militia.

Zafaran Zaid, head of the Yemeni Women’s Empowerment Foundation (Tamkeen), and her husband Fuad Al-Mansouri, Secretary of the Salam International Organization, were sentenced to death by the Houthi-run court last week.

Muammar Al-Eryani, the information, culture and tourism minister noted that the couple were targeted by the Houthis in revenge for Zafran’s prominent role in exposing the militia’s alleged war crimes and by documenting them with legal and personal accounts as evidence.

The 2 were accused, and eventually found guilty, of smuggling Buthaina Mohammed Al-Raimia, who was brought to Riyadh to receive emergency medical care after being injured in a coalition airstrike in 2017. The child was subsequently returned to her family in northern Yemen after recuperating from her injuries.

(source: Arab News)

EGYPT:

US lawmakers and rights groups call on Egypt to commute planned executions----Without a presidential pardon, Egypt is set to execute 12 Muslim Brotherhood members who stood against the 2013 coup that ousted Egypt's 1st democratically elected leader

US lawmakers and human rights groups are calling on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to commute the planned executions of a dozen members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were charged with hundreds of others in a "sham" mass trial.

Representative André Carson called the death sentences that were upheld against the 12 last week "unjust" and an "egregious human rights violations", asking Sisi to intervene before the Monday deadline.

"President al-Sisi should commute these death sentences, and he must hold accountable the members of the security forces responsible for the mass killings at Rab'a Square," Carson said in a tweet on Tuesday.

An Egyptian court upheld the death sentences against the men, including two senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Mohamed el-Beltagy and Ahmed Aref, in a ruling on 14 June.

Egypt's Criminal Procedure Code gives the president 14 days following the court ruling to pardon the defendants or commute the death sentences.

Without intervention, the executions are set to take place on 28 June.

'Politically motivated death sentences'

Calls for US pressure to be levied on Egypt have been building on Capitol Hill, particularly this week as Egypt's intelligence chief Abbas Kamel visits his counterparts in Washington.

Several members of Congress in both the House and Senate have requested meetings with Kamel to address a range of human rights issues - from recent reports that Egyptian security forces were involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to accusations of politically motivated sham trials.

On Tuesday, Representatives Don Beyer and Tom Malinowski, who are the co-chairs on the House's Egypt Human Rights Caucus, released a statement to the White House that stressed the importance of raising "persistent United States concerns about widespread human rights abuses in Egypt".

"Arbitrary detentions, trumped-up prosecutions, torture, and digital snooping by Egyptian security services are consistent features of life for many Egyptians. These abuses also matter to the United States because of the generous military assistance that American taxpayers provide to Egypt," the congressmen said.

The United States provides Egypt with around $1.8bn in military aid each year. While US President Joe Biden has so far failed to limit or further condition that aid, calls from congress to do so have been growing.

"As such, we urge the administration to raise the Egyptian security services' continued abuses with Mr Kamel, including arbitrary detention rates that dwarf any regional counterpart, recent provocative and politically motivated death sentences and pending executions," the congressmen said in Tuesday's statement, also noting a range of other human rights abuses carried out by the Egyptian government.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), thanked Representatives Carson, Beyer and Malinowski in a series of tweets on the topic, saying "we must make clear to Sisi and Kamel that these sentences must be stayed and all the defendants in this sham trial pardoned".

The US Council of Muslim Organizations, an umbrella group of the country's leading Muslim organisations, also called on the White House to condemn the court-ordered executions.

'A grossly unfair mass trial'

All 12 men set to be executed were convicted by a terrorism court of "arming criminal gangs which attacked residents and resisted policemen as well as possessing firearms and ammunition… and bomb-making material" in September 2018, following a mass trial of 739 defendants that began in December 2015.

The defendants were all arrested for their alleged involvement in a sit-in on 14 August 2013 at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square against the ousting of Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

'President Sisi should seize this moment to void their execution and put an end to Egypt's profligate use of the death penalty' - Joe Stork, HRW

During the largely peaceful protest, Egyptian security forces killed more than 800 people in what Human Rights Watch described as the "worst single-day killing of protesters in modern history".

Meanwhile, rights groups have accused Egypt's courts of foul play, saying the government has targeted dissidents "in a grossly unfair mass trial" that seeks to shift guilt from Egyptian security forces' deadly crackdown.

On Friday, HRW released a report, also calling for President el-Sisi to intervene in the planned executions and to release anyone prosecuted "solely for participating in largely peaceful protests".

The group also called on Egypt to retry defendants charged with violent offences "before a court meeting international fair trial standards".

"The Rabaa trial was a mockery of justice, so it is outrageous that the highest court has upheld these 12 death sentences," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW. "President Sisi should seize this moment to void their execution and put an end to Egypt’s profligate use of the death penalty."

At least 22 of those handed down prison terms during the mass trial were children at the time of arrest and were prosecuted alongside adults in violation of international law.

(source: Middle East Eye)

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

Egypt court sentences men to death for attempted rape, murder

The Mansoura Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced 2 men to death who attempted to rape and ended up murdering one of the man’s wife.

The incident dates back to June 2020, when Hussein, the husband of the victim Eman, allegedly contracted another man, Ahmed, to rape his wife so he could avoid paying settlements for divorce.

The husband gave Ahmed the keys to his house and stayed out for some time to allow him to break in. However, the woman defended herself against the assault and her aggressor strangled her.

The judge said that both men are partners in the attempted rape and murder of Eman, and sentenced them to the same punishment.

The court witnessed a state of joy from the victim’s family after the verdict was issued, with many chanting “Long live justice.”

The husband had made a detailed confession during the Public Prosecution’s investigations. He said that he did not want to kill his wife, but put her in a situation where he could divorce her without the financial burden.

He added that he was wishing to marry another woman.

He pointed out that his family refused his divorce to his wife, as the victim was from a good family, religious, and of high moral character.

(source: Egypt Independent)

JUNE 23, 2021:

TEXAS----impending execution

John William Hummel is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm local time on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. 45-year-old John is convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, 34-year-old Joy Keziyah Hummel, their 5-year-old daughter Jodi Ruth Hummel, and his father-in-law Clyde Bedford, in Kennedale, Texas. John has been on death row in Texas for the last 9 years.

John graduated from high school and had gotten married to Joy. John worked as a security guard at Walls Hospital in Cleburne, Texas.

In the fall of 2009, John Hummel lived with his wife Joy, daughter Jodi, and father-in-law Clyde, in a house in Kennedale, Texas. While working as an overnight security guard, Hummel met a clerk at a store at which he often stopped. He and the clerk, Kristie Freeze, became friendly and eventually began exchanging sexually explicit text messages, leading to an affair.

When Kristie discovered the Hummel’s wife was pregnant, she asked him to stop contacting her, however, he continued to call and text. Kristie informed Hummel on December 16, 2009, that her divorce had become final. The following evening Hummel visited Kristie and her young daughter at their apartment. Hummel stayed for about 30 minutes.

During the early morning hours of December 18, 2009, a fire was reported at Hummel’s home. After extinguishing the fire, the bodies of Joy, Jodi, and Clyde were discovered, each in their bedrooms. Joy was found on the floor, with bloody clothing nearby. Investigators also determined that injuries to her hands and upper body did not appear to be caused by the fire.

When police questioned Hummel immediately after the fire, Hummel said that he had driven to visit a friend, and when the friend wasn’t home, he drove around for a while, waiting for him to get home. When he never arrived, Hummel went to Walmart to check prices for Christmas gifts. Hummel claimed he discovered the fire when he got home to find the police and firemen there. Police noticed that there appeared to be blood on Hummel’s pants and asked for his clothing. Hummel gave it to the police, along with a statement, and left.

Hummel went to work the next morning, acting as if nothing was wrong. Later that day, friends and co-workers were unable to reach him on his cell phone and a missing-person report was filed.

A police investigation revealed that the fire had been set intentionally. Joy had also been stabbed a total of 35 times, in addition to having defensive wounds. There were also indications that she had been struck on the head multiple times. Clyde and Jodi both had extensive skull fractures. Evidence indicated that all three victims were dead prior to the fire.

On December 20, 2009, Hummel attempted to re-enter the United States from Mexico, on foot, using his driver’s license. The Customs officer received a warning that Hummel was wanted and he was taken to the San Diego County Jail. Upon being questioned, Hummel quickly confessed and provided a new, different statement about his activities the night of the murder and how he carried out the murders. Hummel was sentenced to death in 2011.

This is not Hummel’s first execution date. He was scheduled to be executed in March of 2020, however he was granted a temporary reprieve by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Pray for peace and healing for the families of the Joy, Jodi, and Clyde. Pray for strength for the family of John Hummel. Pray that if John is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Pray that John may come to find peace through a personal relationship with the Lord, if he has not already.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

FLORIDA:

Ronnie Oneal III accepts lawyers for death penalty phase

A Tampa jury found Oneal guilty of murder Monday night after a trial in which he represented himself. The day after a Tampa jury found him guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, Ronnie Oneal III decided to let lawyers represent him as he faces a possible death sentence for the crimes.

Oneal appeared in court Tuesday morning for a hearing in advance of the penalty phase of his trial. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco asked if he wanted to let his public defenders, who had served as standby counsel throughout the trial, to step in to represent him. He said yes.

“Wise decision,” the judge said.

She explained to Oneal that the penalty phase of a capital trial is a specialized area of law. She said that his standby attorneys know what they’re doing and would listen to his concerns.

With that, Assistant Public Defenders Jennifer Spradley and Dana Herce-Fulgueira took over Oneal’s representation.

Oneal, 32, was found guilty Monday in the 2018 deaths of his girlfriend, Kenyatta Barron, and their 9-year-old daughter, Ron’Niveya Oneal, and the attempted killing of their then-8-year-old son. During the murders, he set fire to the family’s Riverview home.

Oneal insisted on handling his own defense at trial. He questioned jurors directly during a weeklong selection process, and delivered an impassioned opening statement and closing arguments. He claimed that the government distorted evidence to bolster their case. The jury was not persuaded.

When the trial resumes Wednesday, prosecutors will try to convince the same jury that Oneal’s crimes carry a number of aggravating circumstances that qualify death as an appropriate punishment. The factors they have cited include that the murders were especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. In the case of Ron’Niveya Oneal, who was physically disabled, the prosecutors have cited her young age and her vulnerability due to disability as aggravating circumstances.

The defense will be able to present evidence of what are known as mitigating circumstances, which are factors that weigh against the imposition of the death penalty. Court documents indicate that they may present evidence of past trauma Oneal endured. Witnesses may also be called to testify as to his character.

In court Tuesday, the defense lawyers said their witnesses include a psychologist who will testify about Oneal’s mental health, a man who got to know Oneal through their involvement in a community group, and a sheriff’s deputy who is expected to say Oneal has not had disciplinary problems in the three years he has been jailed.

If the jury ultimately recommends a death sentence, their decision must be unanimous. If one juror votes against the death penalty, Oneal’s sentence will be life in prison.

Because Oneal had handled his own defense in recent weeks, the attorneys for both the state and defense told the judge they had not had time to fully question all the penalty phase witnesses. The judge said she would do what she could to accommodate them, but understood they were under time constraints.

“That is primarily due to the decisions of Mr. Oneal,” she said.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

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The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of a Palm Beach County trial judge that denied Jerry Haliburton’s claim that he ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability.

The decision marks the second time that the trial court—which sentenced Haliburton to death despite the votes of three jurors to recommend a life sentence—denied Haliburton’s intellectual disability claim. In March 2012, the court dismissed his claim without a hearing, saying Haliburton had not presented any IQ test score of 70 or below. After the Florida Supreme Court upheld that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Hall v. Florida, holding that Florida’s reliance on an IQ threshold unconstitutionally disregarded established clinical practice in determining intellectual disability. In October 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Florida courts’ rejection of Haliburton’s claim and returned the case for review using constitutionally appropriate criteria.

On remand, the trial court credited the testimony of the prosecution mental health expert over the defense expert and ruled that Haliburton had not met his burden of proving that he suffered from significantly subaverage intellectual functioning and deficits in adaptive functioning necessary to qualify as intellectually disabled. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed, finding that “competent, substantial evidence supports the trial court’s findings that Haliburton failed to establish that he has significantly subaverage intellectual functioning or concurrent deficits in adaptive behavior.”

Haliburton also challenged Florida’s requirement that he prove his intellectual disability by clear and convincing evidence. The court found it unnecessary to address that issue, saying he had failed to prove even by a preponderance of the evidence that he had intellectual disability.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Death penalty phase next in Florida double slaying trial

Jurors will determine if a Florida man should get the death penalty or life in prison after he was convicted of killing his girlfriend and disabled daughter.

The penalty phase of the trial of 32-year-old Ronnie Oneal III is set to begin Wednesday. Oneal represented himself during the guilt portion of the trial, but news outlets reported Tuesday that he has agreed to have public defenders handle the death penalty portion.

The jury in Tampa found Oneal guilty Monday of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder for the 2018 killings of his girlfriend, Kenyatta Barron, and their 9-year-old daughter who had cerebral palsy and was unable to speak.

Barron was wounded with a shotgun blast and then beaten to death, trial evidence showed. The young girl was killed with a hatchet.

Oneal was also convicted of attempted murder for stabbing his son, then 8, and of arson for setting fire to their house. The boy survived and testified against his father.

Oneal claimed investigators fabricated and distorted evidence, also contending that he acted in self-defense.

After hearing testimony in the penalty phase, the 12-person jury must unanimously recommend capital punishment for Oneal or he will serve life in prison without parole.

(source: Associated Press)

ALABAMA:

Alabama Is Preparing To Execute People With Lethal Gas, As States Scramble To Find New Ways To Kill People----Facing lethal injection shortages, states are turning to untested ways to kill people on death row.

Earlier this month, the head of Alabama’s corrections department revealed in a court filing that the agency is “nearing completion of the initial physical build for the nitrogen hypoxia system.” In other words: It is almost ready to use lethal gas to execute people on the state’s death row.

Alabama is one of several states creating new — and untested — ways of legally killing people. In recent years, the drugs used to execute people by lethal injection have become both increasingly difficult to obtain and subject to legal scrutiny in the courts. States that are determined to continue applying capital punishment have therefore set out in search of new methods to end a human life, from firing squads to bringing back electric chairs to gas.

Alabama became the 3rd state to legalize execution by nitrogen gas in 2018, a process in which the individual inhales nitrogen through a gas chamber or a gas mask and dies of asphyxiation. Until recently, this process was hypothetical. No state has ever executed a prisoner this way and even states that allow it haven’t had the capability to carry out such a killing.

Proponents of capital punishment claim the process will result in a fast, humane death. In fact, nitrogen hypoxia executions carry the same moral problems as other death penalty practices. There is no medical or scientific evidence to back the claim that any execution method is reliably painless. There probably never will be, because it is medically unethical for a doctor to study the best way to kill a person who does not want to die.

Instead, pro-death penalty politicians and policymakers with no medical expertise are pushing a killing technique they believe will both be logistically viable and appear humane, regardless of the suffering actually being experienced by the condemned. “It’s almost by definition an experimental process,” Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Associated Press.

States began looking to nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative to lethal injection after Oklahoma’s high-profile botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2014. Lockett writhed and groaned in apparent pain after being injected with an experimental combination of drugs. When it became clear the killing was not going as planned, executioners removed the needle from his body. The head of the state’s corrections department later told reporters that Lockett’s vein had exploded. Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the needle entered his body.

Lockett’s death, described by then-President Barack Obama as “deeply disturbing,” was followed by a moratorium on executions in Oklahoma. But death penalty enthusiasts were eager to find another way to resume the killings. Mike Christian, a Republican state representative at the time, had a plan.

According to The Appeal, Christian had watched a BBC documentary called “How To Kill a Human Being,” in which a former British conservative politician explores various methods of execution and declares a nitrogen mask “the perfect killing machine.” At Christian’s request, 3 people with no professional backgrounds in medicine compiled a 14-page report on the merits of nitrogen hypoxia as a form of capital punishment, citing The National Review and Slate as references. Christian, who had previously said he didn’t care if executioners used “lethal injection, the guillotine or if we feed them to the lions,” claimed in 2015 that “we have come up with a fool-proof way for a humane execution.”

In 2015, about a year after Lockett’s death, Oklahoma became the 1st state to authorize executions using nitrogen gas, followed soon after by Mississippi and Alabama. Since then, executions using lethal injection have only attracted more scrutiny. Autopsies of individuals who have been executed by lethal injection show evidence of pulmonary edema, a condition in which the lungs fill with fluid and create the painful sensation of suffocating or drowning. The federal government is facing ongoing litigation over the legality of its lethal injection protocol. Drug companies have become so wary of providing their products for use in the killings that the federal government recently bought the drugs from a secret pharmacy that failed a quality test.

Even getting the drugs into an individual’s bloodstream can be a torturous process. In 2018, an execution team in Alabama spent about 2 hours trying to inject a man named Doyle Lee Hamm, whose veins had been damaged by intravenous drug use and chemotherapy. The executioners eventually gave up, leaving Hamm urinating blood, potentially from a punctured bladder. The state said it would not try to kill Hamm again.

Although it is clear that lethal injection has not lived up to its promise as a humane method of execution, there is no evidence that nitrogen hypoxia would be a better alternative. The limited information that exists about the use of nitrogen as a killing agent comes from euthanizing some small animals, as well as from studying industrial accidents and suicides.

None of these situations resemble the conditions of an execution, in which an individual could hold their breath or otherwise try to fight for their life. The American Veterinary Medical Association said in its 2020 euthanasia guidelines that although hypoxia resulting from nitrogen exposure may be an acceptable way to kill chickens, turkeys, and pigs under certain conditions, it should not be used to kill other mammals. Rats who were exposed to high levels of nitrogen gas showed signs of “panic and distress” before they collapsed and died, the AVMA said.

The revelation that Alabama is actively preparing for executions using nitrogen came in response to a lawsuit from a man on the state’s death row named Charles Burton Jr. Burton, who is Muslim, sued the state’s corrections department in 2019 in an effort to compel the agency to provide for an imam to be present as his spiritual adviser in the event of his execution. In a June 8 status report, Department of Corrections Commissioner Jefferson Dunn told the court that the agency had not yet decided whether a spiritual adviser could safely be in the execution chamber alongside an individual being killed by nitrogen gas.

In addition to the 3 states that authorize nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, four other states allow the use of lethal gas to kill people on death row. Arizona is currently refurbishing its gas chamber to kill people using hydrogen cyanide, the same gas that Nazis used in its gas chambers in Auschwitz, the Guardian reported last month. The last time Arizona used cyanide gas in an execution, in 1999, the man, Walter LaGrand, choked and gagged for 18 minutes before he died.

(source: Huffington Post)

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Parties in Christopher Henderson capital murder case hope to present opening statements Thursday

Tuesday marked day 7 of the Christopher Henderson capital murder trial. The 46-year-old is facing a possible death sentence for the killings of 5 people, including his 9-months pregnant wife.

Neither side has presented arguments yet. The attorneys are continuing the painstaking process of vetting potential jurors.

As expected, quite a few potential jurors were relieved of their service. Some had medical excuses, some time conflicts, others were visibly upset in listening to the descriptions of the evidence from the indictment.

But the parties say still opening statements could come as early as Thursday.

Over the past few days the prosecution specifically has directly asked jurors 1 question, “can you do it?”

Tuesday during introductions, prosecutor Tim Gann told potential jurors it wasn’t fair that they were summoned to serve in this kind of case. He said prosecutors needed an honest answer to if they can handle the nature of the crimes alleged in this case.

The prosecution said they can’t really afford to lose jurors in the middle of the trial. Gann told the jurors once they see and hear the evidence presented against Henderson, he has no doubt the verdict will be guilty on all counts and the jurors will then have to choose between the only two options: the death penalty or life without parole.

Gann gave potential jurors a preview of what evidence they could see. It includes crime scene photographs of a 14-month-old stabbed to death in a crib and set on fire, an 8-year-old stabbed to death and set on fire, and a mother who had a full-term fetus cut out of her womb, which was also stabbed and set on fire.

Madison County Circuit Judge Chris Comer said parties hope to strike a jury no later than Wednesday night.

Gann told the judge the state is prepared to make its case in just a three-day timeline.

The other woman Henderson was married to at the time of the crime, and Henderson’s co-defendant, Rhonda Carlson, is set to take the witness stand against him in the case in exchange for life without parole, taking the death penalty off the table.

(source: WHNT news)

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Wife avoids death penalty to testify against Huntsville murder suspect Christopher Henderson

A major development in a capital murder case in Madison County for Christopher Henderson.

Prosecutors cut a deal to spare the life of a co-defendant in exchange for her testimony.

In court Tuesday the District Attorney's Chief Trial Attorney Tim Gann said that they have offered the deal to Rhonda Carlson.

Carlson is Henderson's wife who is accused of working with him for the murders of 5 people in 2015.

The deal is that she testifies against Henderson in the trial and the District Attorney's office will take the death penalty off the table for her case.

On Wednesday they will still be doing jury selection because the courts were closed last minute on Friday for the Juneteenth holiday.

That's when group 2 of potential jurors was supposed to come in, so now they will come in on Wednesday to be asked questions by the defense and prosecution.

Judge Chris Comer said that the plan is by Wednesday night they'll have all the jurors picked.

Once all the jurors are picked they can start the trial, which should be Thursday.

(source: WAAY news)

OHIO:

A split panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has granted a new trial to Ohio death-row prisoner August Cassano, holding that he had been tried in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation.

Prior to trial, saying that his appointed counsel that his counsel “rarely visited him, failed to provide him with updates on the case, and frequently lied to him,” Cassano filed a pro se motion to waive his right to counsel and a 2nd motion to appoint substitute counsel. New counsel were appointed, but Cassano again raised the possibility of representing himself. The court responded: “you’re not going to represent yourself in this matter. If you wish to say a word on the record about that, you can. But thereafter you won’t be speaking in the courtroom. I’m in charge of the courtroom, not you. You will never be in charge of this courtroom.”

As jury selection was about to start, the only member of the defense team certified under Ohio rules as lead counsel for representing a capital defendant was still involved in another trial. Cassano again asked about self-representation and the court explained that “I think I’d be doing you a disservice by allowing that.” The court did not conduct a colloquy to determine whether Cassano was competent to waive counsel and whether the waive would be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.

The majority opinion by Judge Eric L. Clay, joined by Judge Bernice Donald, held that the Ohio courts had never addressed Cassano’s self-representation claim and that the trial court’s refusal to allow him to represent himself violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1975 decision in Faretta v. California guaranteeing defendants the right to represent themselves. Judge Eugene Edward Siler, Jr. dissented, arguing that Cassano had never clearly and unambiguously waived his right to counsel. Judge Siler noted that Cassano’s motions to waive counsel and seeking appointment of substitute counsel were within one minute of each another, suggesting that while Cassano wanted appointed counsel off the case, he did not want to proceed without legal representation.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Death penalty ban gains support

Supporters of a measure to eliminate the death penalty in Ohio include religious and legal leaders, who say the concept is both a waste of the state’s money and time, and unethical.

“The death penalty is the most inefficient government program in existence in Ohio today,” said Timothy Young, Ohio’s state public defender. “I don’t say that as an opinion; I say that as a fact.”

Young and others stood in support of Senate Bill 103, which seeks to abolish any future possibility of death penalty sentences, favoring a charge of life imprisonment with or without parole, depending on the offense.

Citing data from the Death Penalty Information Center and state data, Young said the amount of people exonerated after a death penalty system (one in five convictions) or those left in the system awaiting appeal makes the execution sentence one full of mistakes and risks.

“If 1 out of every 5 airplanes that took flight crashed, would we tolerate that error rate?” Young asked the Senate Judiciary Committee during a recent hearing on the bill.

Along with the exoneration rate, Kevin Werner, of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, said the pervasiveness of racial bias in death penalty cases raises more red flags about the justice in execution by the state. Ohioans to Stop Executions, which has been one of the biggest proponents of execution abolishment say 33% of people executed in Ohio are people of color, despite the fact that only 15% of Ohio’s population is made up of people of color.

“The fact that innocent people have been sentenced for crimes for which they had zero involvement is, in and of itself, reason to repeal the death penalty,” Werner said.

The impact the death penalty has on the justice system and defendants is significant enough, abolishment advocates say, but the burden it places on victims and those close to victims — called co-victims — it equally impactful.

The Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., spoke to the committee as the executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches, which comprehensively opposes the death penalty.

But he also came as aA co-victim, the brother of a woman murdered in Cleveland 24 years ago.

“I am poised to advance the belief that whether the life-ending act is carried out on a Cleveland street or in a Chillicothe prison as authorized by the state, killing is wrong,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said co-victims 04have the right to feel enraged at those that murdered their loved ones, but those reactions are to “the calculated, unethical and immoral decision-making that drove other human beings to engage in grotesque, murderous acts that abruptly or gradually ended the lives of other human beings,” something in which Sullivan says the state should not also be involved.

(source: The Marietta Times)

ARKANSAS:

Arkansas panelists describe capital punishment as ‘legalized lynching’

People of faith must rise up against capital punishment as a system of legalized lynching and retribution designed to suppress people of color through intimidation, torture and death, according to a recent panel of legal experts and anti-death penalty advocates.

Participants in the inaugural “Richard Wright Summit: The Father-Daughter Legacy” also urged churches, community groups and others to become more vocal opponents of the inhumane conditions endured by death row prisoners and to see through the false claims that capital punishment is less of a burden on taxpayers than long-term prison sentences and that it helps bring closure to the families of murder victims.

The discussion, sponsored by the Elaine Legacy Center, was moderated by Arkansas judge and pastor Wendell Griffen, who also is a BNG columnist.

Panelists were Little Rock attorney Furonda Brasfield, director of leadership development for the 8th Amendment Project, and Julia Wright, a veteran in the national anti-death penalty movement and daughter of the late Richard Wright, whose 1940 novel Native Son and other novels and short stories exposed the oppression of Blacks in the U.S. His book The Man Who Lived Underground was written in 1941 but published posthumously this year.

Echoing themes he has written about for BNG, Griffen said it should be blatantly obvious that the death penalty in America is used mostly against people who are Black or brown. “It’s not justice, it’s bloodlust. Grief isn’t lessened. They (victims’ families) don’t start missing their loved ones less. That lie needs to be confronted.”

The June 17 virtual discussion occurred just days after the Pew Research Center released a new national survey showing that a majority of Americans support capital punishment.

“6 in 10 U.S. adults favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, including 27% who strongly favor it,” Pew found. “About four in 10 (39%) oppose it, with 15% strongly opposed. Support is strongly associated with a belief that when someone commits murder, the death penalty is morally justified.”

However, close to 80% of respondents admitted to having concerns about the possibility of innocent persons being executed and most said they don’t believe capital punishment is a deterrent to homicide. Respondents also saw that race is a determinant in the use of state-sponsored executions.

“A majority of Americans (56%) say Black people are more likely than white people to be sentenced to the death penalty for being convicted of serious crimes,” the study’s authors wrote. “This view is particularly widespread among Black adults: 85% of Black adults say Black people are more likely than whites to receive the death penalty for being convicted of similar crimes.”

Other data bear out the truth of the racism behind the capital punishment.

“People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43% of total executions since 1976 and 55% of those currently awaiting execution. A moratorium of the death penalty is necessary to address the blatant prejudice in our application of the death penalty,” according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

But for Wright, family history and experience have taught her about the brutality and disparities of the death penalty. She called it “a crime against humanity, basically.”

As a child, she learned an uncle had been lynched in 1916. Her father, who was 8 at the time, asked why the family hadn’t tried to do something about it.

“His mother slapped him into silence,” she said. “The impact of that lynching on that child was so tremendous, I believe that is why he became a writer.”

But she was changed by that story, too. “Those words have reverberated as ghosts in my mind through the times, through the decades, and have sent me on my quest for justice for those who were lynched — the high tech lynchings on our death rows.”

For 40 years, her activism has been devoted to attempting to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black Panther party member and journalist who in 1982 was sentenced to death in the killing of a Philadelphia police officer a year earlier. After decades on death row, his sentence was commuted to life-without-parole in 2011 and he continues to file appeals.

Abu-Jamal’s situation bears witness to the brokenness of the nation’s racist death penalty system, Wright said.

“He was the wrong color: he was Black. That was already a sentence” and “he had the audacity of becoming an award-winning journalist” who exposed police brutality, she said. “You get punished for going up the ladder like that.”

Griffen added that Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence since his trial. “It shows all the more the illegitimacy of the death penalty, the racism of capital punishment and how capital punishment was used to penalize a Black man exposing police brutality.”

Try to recall a time when a wealthy white person was sentenced to death.

Try to recall a time when a wealthy white person was sentenced to death, he said. “In the U.S. it is used predominantly, almost exclusively, to target people who are poor and not white. That disparity is glaring beyond contradiction.”

Griffen added that the conditions for death row inmates and those serving life without the possibility of parole often cause them to suffer in solitary confinement for decades. “There is a special hell that goes with being on death row.”

Civil rights groups and churches must lend their voices in opposition to these conditions and practices, Griffen said. “We need to see it as a communal issue, an issue of social justice. It’s too big for individual families to fight alone.”

But convincing religious groups to participate in the movement isn’t always easy, said Brasfield, who said she learned this as the former leader of the Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

“I tried to organize faith leaders and often ran into — with some exceptions — a brick wall trying to organize people of faith,” she reported.

The selling points for the cause, however, are numerous and powerful, Brasfield said. “We know it is morally wrong, it is not cheaper (than other forms of punishment) and it does not deter crime. Murderers don’t stop and have moments of clarity.”

She urged death penalty opponents to educate themselves about trends, including efforts in some states to use firing squads or gas to kill prisoners and the continued racial disparity among death row inmates.

“Capital punishment is racist. That is the bottom line,” Brasfield said.

“It’s legalized lynching,” Griffen added. “Let’s call it what it is.”

(source: Baptist News)

UTAH:

Douglas Lovell Seeks To Reverse Second Death Sentence In Joyce Yost Murder

The 2nd season of KSL’s investigative podcast series COLD, Justice for Joyce, concludes this week with the release of the season’s 13th episode.

The episode details the efforts of various KSL staff to contact death row inmate Douglas Lovell and request an interview with him about his murder of Joyce Yost in 1985.

“Whenever I am in the news, I know it is very upsetting to the family and loved ones of Ms. Yost,” Lovell wrote in a Nov. 9, 2019 letter, refusing one such interview request. “I believe an interview with you will most [sic] get back to Ms. Yost’s family. I hope you will understand and appreciate my decision.”

Doug Lovell wrote this letter to KSL’s Candice Madsen in November of 2019, declining a request for an interview about his murder of Joyce Yost.

KSL had made contact with Yost’s daughter Kim Salazar prior to reaching out to Lovell. In a follow-up letter, KSL informed Lovell that Yost’s family knew of and supported the interview request, in the hopes it might lead to the recovery of their mother’s remains.

Lovell did not respond to that follow-up letter.

“If he were trying to minimize our pain and suffering at this point, we wouldn’t still be on a 23B remand 35 years later,” Salazar said. “He’d be done. This thing would be done.”

History of the case

COLD’s 2nd season has detailed the entire history of the Joyce Yost case, beginning on the night in April of 1985 when Lovell first saw Yost and followed her home from a club in Clearfield. Lovell had confronted Yost outside her South Ogden apartment, raped her, kidnapped her and then raped her again at his own home.

Clearfield, Utah police detective Bill Holthaus took this polaroid photo of Joyce Yost hours after her rape at the hands of Douglas Lovell.

Yost managed to convince Lovell to release her by promising not to report what he’d done. She then reneged on that promise, providing a detailed account of the rape to Clearfield police detective William “Bill” Holthaus.

“[Lovell] was quite the cad,” Holthaus told COLD. “Separated from his wife, chasing women around. He just struck me as a guy who didn’t respect women much.”

Holthaus had arrested Lovell, but a series of miscues and miscommunications allowed Lovell to remain out of jail ahead of a trial. Then, 10 days before the scheduled trial, Yost disappeared.

Disappearance of Joyce Yost

South Ogden police suspected Lovell had killed Yost, but lacked any firm evidence linking him to her disappearance.

A Davis County jury convicted Lovell of kidnapping and sexual assault, even in Yost’s absence. He began serving a sentence of 15-years-to-life in January of 1986.

Lovell was still incarcerated in 1991 when his ex-wife Rhonda Buttars provided South Ogden Sgt. Terry Carpenter a detailed account of how her ex-husband had killed Yost to keep her from testifying.

Buttars twice wore a hidden audio recording device into the Utah State Prison at the request of police, capturing Lovell making incriminating statements about Yost’s murder.

“We got so much information from [Buttars] that we would never have gotten without her,” Carpenter said in an interview for COLD.

Doug Lovell’s 2 death sentences

Buttars received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her cooperation, which allowed Weber County prosecutors to charge Lovell with capital homicide in 1992. He pleaded guilty a year later and received a death sentence.

Lovell attempted to withdraw the guilty plea a short time later. That request became the subject of an appeal that languished for years. The Utah Supreme Court at last decided in 2010 that Lovell should be allowed to take back the plea due to a technical error made by the judge during a 1993 sentencing hearing.

The decision cleared the way for Lovell to stand trial, which he did in March of 2015. His defense team did not contest his guilt, instead attempting to convince the jury Lovell deserved a sentence of life with a chance of parole.

The defense used character witnesses to make the argument Lovell had reformed in the 30 years since he’d first assaulted Joyce Yost. The jury was not swayed and decided by unanimous vote that Lovell should receive the death penalty.

Frustration for Joyce Yost’s children

That second death sentence is now on appeal to the Utah Supreme Court. Lovell has alleged one of his court-appointed attorneys, Sean Young, acted deficiently during the 2015 trial.

Yost’s daughter expressed frustration that the appeals process continues to drag on more than 35 years after her murder.

“I think that we have a better chance of him dying of old age in there than we do of him dying by the hand of the state at this point,” Kim Salazar said.

Greg Roberts, Yost’s son, said Lovell has succeeded in drawing the focus off his mother and the brutal facts of her murder.

“I think Doug Lovell likes the limelight,” Roberts said. “This horrible perpetrator becomes the story and that’s difficult because she was so awesome and he took all that away.”

Justice for Joyce Yost?

If Lovell succeeds in winning an appeal of the 2015 death sentence, it could clear the way for yet another trial. William Holthaus, the detective who originally arrested Lovell following the rape in April of 1985, said he will be there to testify again if necessary.

“Some people aren’t even here that were involved in that case anymore. They’re gone,” Holthaus said. “I plan on staying.”

Holthaus said he’d be surprised if prosecutors again sought a death verdict in the case, if the high court overturns the the jury’s decision. But he also said he doesn’t believe Lovell will ever succeeded in getting out of prison.

“He’ll never get out and I think that’s punishment enough,” Holthaus said.

(source: ksltv.com)

USA:

U.S. Attorney General says he is reviewing Justice Dept's federal death penalty policies

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Tuesday he is reviewing the Justice Department's federal death penalty policies and he expects to issue a statement when his review is complete.

"I said at my confirmation hearing that I have concerns about the death penalty ...and I'm concerned about disparate impact on Black Americans," Garland told reporters at the Justice Department.

"I have been personally reviewing the processes of the department with respect to the death penalty," he said, adding he expects to issue a statement soon on the issue.

The Biden administration has faced increasing pressure from criminal justice advocates to return to a long-standing moratorium on the federal death penalty, after the Trump administration in its waning final months carried out 13 executions.

President Joe Biden pledged during his campaign to support legislation to end the death penalty, and Garland has previously said he has concerns about the practice.

To date, however, the Biden administration has not taken any steps to curtail its use, and in fact the Justice Department last week urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted in the deadly 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

(source: Reuters)

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America's execution mess

On Wednesday, June 16, the South Carolina Supreme Court vacated death warrants for two men scheduled to die this month, Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens. The court ruled that the state could not proceed with its plan to use the electric chair in their executions without first offering the alternative of either lethal injection or firing squad. Failing to do so, the court said, violated the “statutory right of inmates to elect the manner of their execution.”

But neither lethal injection nor the firing squad is currently available in South Carolina, one because of a drug shortage, the other because the state has not been able to find enough people to fill out a firing squad or devise suitable protocols for it.

The court ruling followed on the heels of a law passed last month by its legislature which made South Carolina the 1st state in the nation to abandon lethal injection as its primary or default method of execution. Instead, the state would turn first to the electric chair.

This change marked a significant moment in America’s death penalty history and a startling reversal of fortune for lethal injection, which since its first use in Texas in 1982, had been administered in 88 % of all this country’s executions.

The new South Carolina law offers death-row prisoners the choice of the method by which they will die, whether by electrocution, firing squad, or lethal drugs. If a prisoner refuses to make this cruel choice, the state mandates they die in the electric chair.

South Carolina’s scramble to resurrect gruesome and previously discredited execution methods — as well as its insistence that inmates become complicit in their own execution — illustrate America’s execution mess.

The mess is the result of the by-now well-documented problems surrounding lethal injection and this country’s continuing search for a way of putting people to death that is safe, reliable, and humane.

At a time when the numbers of death sentences and executions are declining nationwide, the execution mess fuels growing doubts about capital punishment among the American public.

Moreover, it exposes the fallacy of the longstanding belief that the U.S. could find a technological fix in the grim business of putting people to death. This belief has long been part of the death penalty’s legitimating narrative.

Until 2010, when it carried out its last execution, South Carolina had one of the highest executions per capita rates in the United States. Only Oklahoma, Texas, Delaware, Missouri, Alabama, Virginia, and Arkansas put more people to death per 100,000 residents.

South Carolina ranked 9th in the number of its death sentences that actually led to executions. From 1996 to 2009, South Carolina averaged about three executions per year.

But resuming executions in that state has not been easy.

After a futile attempt to secure drugs needed for lethal injection, the state brought out its disused electric chair and readied it for action. But none of those scheduled to die elected death by electrocution, so South Carolina joined Utah, Oklahoma, and Mississippi in adding the firing squad to its execution arsenal.

Even that has turned to be more complicated than the state’s death penalty supporters imagined.

William R. Byars, Jr., Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, informed the state supreme court that "Lethal injection is unavailable due to circumstances outside of the control of the Department of Corrections and firing squad is currently unavailable due to the Department of Corrections having yet to complete its development and implementation of necessary protocols and policies."

As the spokesperson for the department explained, that work can be complicated because “creating a new method of execution is multi-faceted and demands deliberate and intentional work to ensure the policies, procedures and infrastructure are proper.”

The fact that, over the last 100 years, the United States has adapted several different execution methods and today allows five methods (hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, the firing squad, and lethal injection) is quite unusual among countries still using the death penalty.

Other nations have tended to find and stay with a single method. Their histories have not been characterized by a search for an ever-better method of execution.

Outside of the United States there is an immense variety of methods of execution. A study by the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide lists nine that are used around the world: hanging, firing squad, shooting, beheading, lethal injection, stoning, lethal gas, electrocution, and falling from an unknown height. Hanging is the most common.

Of the 4 nations which executed the most people in 2020, China only uses lethal injection. Iraq uses only hanging. Iran, in contrast, uses hanging (sometimes in public), shooting, stoning and throwing from a height to kill its condemned. Saudi Arabia uses both beheading and stoning to execute. None seems to worry very much about the suffering of those they execute.

The story of execution methods in the United States is quite different.

It is one of conflict between modern notions of humaneness and the continuing desire to execute criminals. We can understand the changing methods as an ongoing attempt to salve the conscience of those who order state killing, as if a quick and easy death were easier to impose.

And we can thank the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, enshrined in the U.S. constitution, for the legal and judicial pressure to come up with painless methods of putting people to death.

Americans have dealt with that conflict and that pressure through the reinvention and technological modernization of the execution apparatus. The South Carolina story, and the execution mess which it exemplifies, suggest that we may be at the end of the road in that effort.

As New York Times columnist Russ Douthat wrote in 2017, the United States has expended considerable effort to remove two specific elements from its death penalty system: spectacle and pain. Its search for ever better methods of execution, he rightly observes, has been “about maintaining the illusion of clean hands — while harsh punishment is still imposed, but out of sight, on souls and bodies not our own.”

America’s execution mess exposes that illusion in all its shameful fraudulence. None of us can have clean hands when the state kills in our name.

(source: Commentary; Austin Sarat is associate provost and associate dean of faculty and the William Nelson Cromwell Professor Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. He is author of numerous books on America's death penalty, including Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty----thehill.com)

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US Revival Of 'Barbaric' Execution Methods Marks Disturbing Shift - Ex-Public Defender

Arizona's plan to execute inmates using the Zyklon B Holocaust gas and South Carolina's revival of firing squads are part of a disturbing reversal being seen in many US states, where capital punishment had been on the decline, former San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Erin Haney told Sputnik.

Several US states have recently approved controversial execution methods amid a shortage of lethal injection drugs. Earlier in June, The Guardian reported Arizona was preparing to execute death row inmates with hydrogen cyanide - the same lethal gas used at Auschwitz. In May, South Carolina became the fourth state to reinstitute firing squads.

"There was a resurgence of executions on the national level, even as executions in the states and public support decreased," Haney, senior counsel at Dream Corps and national policy director with Reform Alliance, said. "[Now] it's shifting in the states... [where] they are modeling the system after the most barbaric and rejected practices."

Arizona's plan to revive the gas chamber is one example of a method that is "undeniably barbaric and completely cruel."

"To consciously choose to adopt this method is horrible," she added. "The last time they [Arizona] had an execution was in 1999. It was a horrifically, excruciating execution," Haney said. "The man they were executing took 18 minutes to die."

She also pointed out that Arizona spent $2,000 to get the ingredients needed to operate the gas chamber.

"Frankly, pharmaceutical companies are saying they don't want their drugs to be used. How badly do governments want to kill their people?" Haney said.

She said its important to conceptualize "what's been happening in the country...it's happening within the context of executions at the Federal level."

Months before he lost his re-election effort in 2020, Haney said, former President Donald Trump initiated "a frenzy of executions" with more people put to death in one year since 1896. This included the first woman and the youngest person executed in nearly 7 decades, she said.

"The Trump administration did it in a boisterous, loud way while doing it during lame duck period. [President Joe] Biden ran on getting rid of the death penalty. If Lisa Montgomery's execution was delayed by a few weeks, she'd be alive," Haney said.

Haney also said despite compelling information compiled by the NAACP about the discriminatory and racist nature of capital punishment and the death penalty, it was essentially ignored by the US Supreme Court, state lawmakers and those in a position to address and correct these issues.

"Since 1973, 290 people have been executed and between 2009-2018, 73 have been put to death but the number of people of color who were executed rose from 51 percent to 75 %," Haney said. "They may be sentencing fewer people to death but we're continuing to see the roots and legacy of lynching, racism, etc."

She described the application of capital punishment as arbitrary and capricious. While the powers-that-be are modeling the system after the most barbaric and rejected practices, Haney said she hopes to see real change as more people "become more aware of the mitigation, people's social history and trauma and the humanizing of people."

"Then we can move away from the idea that we get more justice from punishment. The death penalty does not in any way equate to justice. It just creates more trauma, more pain, more hurt," Haney concluded.

(source: UrduPoint News)

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BOOKS: “Right Here, Right Now: Life Stories from America’s Death Row”

Unheard voices from death row come to life in the new book, Right Here, Right Now: Life Stories from America’s Death Row. The book, a collaborative project between the arts collective Hidden Voices and more than 100 men on death rows across the United States, thematically weaves together their personal narratives to create a comprehensive picture of who is on death row, how they got there, what they experience, and why their lives matter.

The men’s collaboration with Hidden Voices began in 2013. In an introduction by the book’s editor, Lynden Harris, the prisoners state their collective goal — one that critics say they have met: “We intend for our stories to break the stereotype of who lives on death row. We want the public to know we are not monsters.”

In his Washington Post book review, columnist Steven Petrow calls Right Here, Right Now “a collection of powerful and often wrenching first-person stories.” “It’s an emotionally difficult read,” he writes, “but it’s more than worth the investment of time and heart.”

The 99 stories are anonymous and organized into eight life stages that, collectively, present a detailed mosaic of the men’s lives. There stories range from early childhood through age five (“The Part That Was Innocent”), age fourteen to arrest (“From Bad to Worse”), entering death row and solitary confinement (“Worst of the Worst”), life on death row (“You Are Not Here to be Rehabilitated”), and facing execution (“Every Day’s Worth Celebrating”). Each story takes the reader on a different journey. One starts: “I was four when my father started trying to kill me.”

In his foreword to the book, death-penalty lawyer and advocate Henderson Hill says, “Right Here, Right Now allows us to read the stories and hear the voices of men society has determined to be disposable, persons whose humanity is officially denied, prisoners who await the capricious call of the lottery-like summons to the execution chamber.” He writes, “The stories compiled, and the voices amplified, in effect restore the 2,500 men and women on death row to the human family.”

The book, Hill says, is itself a compelling argument against the death penalty. “Right Here, Right Now,” he writes, “while addressing none of the policy arguments that color the current debate — exonerations, serious mental illness, race disparities, costs — attacks the very premise of the death penalty: that certain persons are disposable, that they have no humanity the law is obligated to respect.”

The men’s stories are riveting and often heart-wrenching. One shares that his first memory ever was a gun. Another recalls being kicked out of the house in the freezing cold by his abusive father. He and his mother stood outside with a newborn baby, struggling the entire night to keep the baby warm. But the baby got sick and died from pneumonia. “I used to go to his grave site and put flowers by the little headstone,” he writes in the fifth chapter of the book. “Soon as I was old enough, I got his initials tattooed on my left arm. So I always carry him with me in memory.”

In the fifteenth chapter, a man writes that he got his first C ever on his report card because his family couldn’t afford a trifold board required by a science project. “I felt cheated. And hurt. And deeply ashamed. That was the moment I realized hard work didn’t matter. Poverty would win out in the end. … That C was my U-turn.” In “Every Day’s Worth Celebrating,” a man nearing execution writes of eating cereal and watching TV as a child with his baby brother in their tiny closet. It was, he says, “the first game I remember playing.” They called it “Playing Solitary.”

“These voices bear witness that criminal justice in America has become a nation’s crime unto itself,” civil rights leader Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said. “We must measure our national stature and moral standing not by stock markets or church steeples but by the grace and humanity of the institutions that rebuild broken lives.”

Harris, in her introduction to the book, calls upon the reader “to trouble the waters of our complacency: a complacency that claims those of us gifted with childhoods free from witnessing murders, from the need to sell drugs for rent, from incarcerated parents.” She asks, “Do the stories in this book humanize the men? Certainly. But my hope is that by reading these stories, we humanize ourselves.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

BANGLADESH----execution

MAN EXECUTED FOR KILLING HIS WIFE 17 YEARS AGO

A 55-year-old man was executed on 17 June 2021 for the killing of his wife over a family feud 17 years ago, jail authorities said.

The execution of Sirajul Islam took place at Sylhet Central Jail-1 around 11:00pm after completing all formalities, said senior jail super Mohammad Manjur Hossain.

This was the 1st execution at the newly built Sylhet Central Jail-1, located in Badaghat in the suburb area of Sylhet, he said.

Before being executed, Sirajul was given a chance to meet his family.

His body was handed over to the family who took it to his home in Habiganj.

In 2004, Sirajul killed his wife Shahida Akter over a family feud. On 7 March 2004, Shahida’s brother filed a case in connection with Habiganj police station.

On 28 February 2007, Sylhet Speedy Trial Tribunal sentenced Sirajul to death in the case. The court also fined him Tk 10,000.

On 1 August 2012, Sirajul lost an appeal against the sentence at the High Court.

He lost another appeal at the Appellate Division which rejected it.

On 25 May this year, Sirajul filed his final petition to the president seeking clemency, but it was also rejected, jail super Manjur said.

(source: handsoffcain.info)

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(see: https://unb.com.bd/category/bangladesh/kafil-uddin-murder-sc-commutes-death-sentence-of-3-convicts/74294

INDIA:

Patna High Court acquits man sentenced to death for murdering wife----Patna high court's division bench comprising Justices Ashwani Kumar Singh and Arvind Srivastava set aside the capital punishment order of the trial court, holding that there is no direct evidence against the petitioner.

The Patna High Court has acquitted a man, who was given the death penalty by a court in Bihar's Gopalganj district for murdering his wife for dowry in 2007, for lack of evidence.

A division bench comprising Justices Ashwani Kumar Singh and Arvind Srivastava set aside the capital punishment order of the trial court, holding that there is no direct evidence against the petitioner.

His conviction was "purely based on circumstantial evidence" and "merely on the moral ground as the wife of the appellant Nasruddin had died in her matrimonial home", the high court said in its order on Monday.

The bench directed that the petitioner be released if he is not required in any other case.

The Gopalganj additional sessions judge on March 29, 2019, held Nasruddin Mian, a resident of Haradiyan village, guilty of killing his wife, Sanjeeda Khatoon (23), for dowry.

He challenged the verdict in the high court saying he was falsely implicated in the case. Nasruddin and Sanjeeda got married in 2003, and they have two children. The woman died on March 17, 2007, and her father lodged a police complaint four days later alleging that she was poisoned to death because of non-fulfilment of her husband's demand for a motorcycle.

"The medical evidence and the forensic evidence do not prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was a case of homicidal death," the bench said in its order.

The high court observed that the judgment of the additional sessions judge is an example of "how not to write a judgment".

"It has repeatedly been emphasized by the Supreme Court that the Courts and Judges must make a dispassionate assessment of evidence and that the Courts and Judges should not be swayed by the horror of crime and the character of the person.

"The judgment should be made by a Judge uninfluenced by his own imagined norms of the functioning of the society," the bench said.

(source: Hindustan Times)

MALAYSIA:

Drug trafficking: Unjust conditions for alternative to death penalty violate right to fair trial

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled that yet another person has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking despite the perception that Malaysia has amended the law on drug trafficking, abolishing death penalty especially for minor offenders or drug mules other than the kingpins of drug trafficking.

In April 2021, Shahfary Sabri, a widower, was sentenced to death by the High Court after he was found guilty of trafficking 149.5g of methamphetamine three years ago (Malay Mail, 22 April, also Utusan Malaysia).

Does mere possession of more than 50g of methamphetamine justify death?

In Malaysia, if one is found in possession of 50g or more of methamphetamine, he or she will be presumed under Section 37 of the Dangerous Drugs Act to be a drug trafficker, until the contrary is proved. If less, he would not be presumed to be a drug trafficker.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017, which provided the new possibility of a sentence other than death for drug trafficking, was gazetted in December 2017 and came into force on 15 March 2018. There is no justification for the 3 months delay in coming into force, as all those who committed the offence before that date would still be subject to the mandatory death penalty.

In this case, Shafary was charged with trafficking the drugs in a hotel room on 19 October 2018, which means that now, there was the possibility of him not being sentenced to death. Sadly, media reports did not mention whether the alternative sentence to death was even considered by the courts.

To satisfy conditions for alternative sentence means abandonment of right to fair trial

Section 39B(2A) of the amended Dangerous Drugs Act, now states that “the Court in imposing the sentence of imprisonment for life and whipping of not less than 15 strokes, may have regard only to the following circumstances:

(a) there was no evidence of buying and selling of a dangerous drug at the time when the person convicted was arrested;

(b) there was no involvement of agent provocateur; or

(c) the involvement of the person convicted is restricted to transporting, carrying, sending or delivering a dangerous drug; and

(d) that the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.

The amended law is unjust as it undermines the right to a fair trial, as one of the rights of any accused person is the right to remain silent – the right not to take the stand and deliver evidence themselves, which, if he or she does so, that accused shall be subject to cross-examination by the prosecution.

In most criminal trials, the best advice is for the accused not to personally take the stand as a witness and to call other defence witnesses. Remember that even in the infamous Anwar Ibrahim trial, he elected not to take the stand as a witness but elected to just make a statement, whereby in such a situation, there would be no cross-examination by the prosecution. However, in this case, Shahfary Sabri took the stand as the only defence witness.

It also undermines the right to a fair trial, because after conviction and sentencing at the court of first instance, one has the right to appeal – two rights of appeal. If the court of first instance is the High Court, which is the case when one is charged with a capital offence (death penalty), the right to appeal lies at the Court of Appeal, and thereafter to the Federal Court. It would be unjust for the convicted to prejudice these rights of appeal by admitting and assisting enforcement agencies simply to save himself or herself from the death penalty and hope that he or she will be sentenced to imprisonment.

At the end of the day, the amendments may have brought about the possibility of an alternative to death sentence, being imprisonment for life with whipping of not less than 15 strokes. Madpet advocates different sentences depending on the amount of drugs involved, or even what exactly was done. Possession only may attract a lighter sentence, compared to selling or distributing or smuggling into Malaysia the drugs.

Given the conditions imposed, the mandatory death sentence may be abolished, but practically it can be said that we still have the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.

Judges sentencing powers must not be inhibited by Parliament

Section 39B(2A) is also wrong because it prevents judges from considering any or all mitigation and aggravation factors before deciding on a just sentence for each case.

Worse is the apparently mandatory requirement that “the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia”. Note, an actually innocent person certainly cannot satisfy this condition.

Abolish presumptions, restore onus on prosecution to prove all elements of crime

The Section 37 presumptions remain an affront to justice and a fair trial, especially for death penalty offences.

In normal criminal cases, it is the duty of the prosecution to prove every element of the crime.

With the Dangerous Drugs Act, if an accused is found to have drugs in his or her possession, he or she is presumed to be a drug trafficker or offender. The accused person then has the duty to prove that the drugs were not his or hers, and he or she did not commit the offence. This is a very onerous duty, for which the layperson, especially the poor, does not have the needed skills, capacity or resources.

For death penalty cases especially, the burden of proof of all elements of the crime must always rest with the prosecution.

Note that besides the presumptions regarding weight, there are many other presumptions like “if any dangerous drug is found to be concealed in any premises, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that the said drug is so concealed with the knowledge of the occupier of the premises” [Section 37(g)]. How exactly can you prove that someone else may have hidden the drugs, possibly without your knowledge, in your room, house or car?

Lawyers generally may also lack the skills and capacity of conducting investigations needed to secure needed evidence and additional witnesses to rebut presumptions. Many criminal practitioners also do not even visit the site where the alleged offence is said to have been committed. The requirement for pre-trial disclosure by the prosecution is also much lacking, in terms of the needed material that needs to be provided to the accused, and the time that it has to be provided.

Hundreds in death row despite changed position for minor drug traffickers

Sadly, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, as amended today, still does not deal with the hundreds still languishing on death row. There must be an act of Parliament that will commute the death sentences to imprisonment or even provide for a re-sentencing of those on death row.

The amended law will also not apply to those who allegedly committed the offence before 15 March 2018, as all of them will still be subject to the mandatory death penalty.

In August 2020, the de facto law minister, Takiyuddin Hassan, said that, as of 11 August, 918 prisoners had been sentenced to death under Section 39B. of which 472 were Malaysians and 446 were non-citizens (Malaysian Reserve, 14 August 2020). Report of the special committee to review alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty The special committee to review alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty, made up of former Federal Court judges, former Attorney General’s Chambers officers, former Prisons Department senior officers, the Bar Council, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, academics, criminologists and civil society organisations submitted their report to the government on 17 July 2020, but sadly to date the report has not yet been made available to the public. Failure in amending law to abolish death penalty

The previous Barisan Nasional government and the Pakatan Harapan-plus government were already on the way towards the abolition of the death penalty, starting with the mandatory death penalty. The Perikatan Nasional-BN-plus government is also of like mind.

With reference to the report of the special committee on alternative sentences, the de facto law minister also said, “The findings are expected to answer the debate on whether the government will propose amending the punishment for drug trafficking to a minimum jail sentence so that punishments will be given based on the facts of each case.”

Madpet hopes that the government will not confine itself to drug trafficking, but will do what is needed for all death penalty offences.

Despite Malaysia’s representation for the abolition of the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty, little has been done to amend necessary laws. The death penalty still even exists for offences where there are no victims who suffered bodily harm or death during the commission of the offence.

The possibility of a miscarriage of justice, where an innocent person may be wrongly sentenced to death or even hanged is very real – noting that human beings are not infallible. Mistakes can happen on the part of the police, enforcement officers, prosecutors, lawyers and even judges. Once dead, nothing can be done to correct such mistakes.

Madpet calls:

for the removal of the current restriction in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 of the factors that can be considered by judges before the imposition of a just sentence

for the abolition of legal presumption in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952

for the placing of the burden of proving all elements of the crime on prosecutors, as is the norm in most criminal cases

for the enactment of a law that will enable the commutation of the death sentence or the provision of the ability for courts to review the death sentences

of drug traffickers – as even the amended law, does not address offences committed before 15 March 2018 – or the many hundreds who are still languishing on death row

on the government to immediately disclose the findings and report of the special committee to review alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty

for we also ought to be given the right to know or even make further input

for a review of the offence of drug trafficking and the introduction of different alternative, more just sentences depending on the facts of each case, emphasising also the principle of rehabilitation and a second chance

for the abolition of the death penalty and the imposition of a moratorium on executions pending abolitions on Malaysia to respect the right to a fair trial and to remove provisions in law that unjustly compel one to abandon one’s right to fair trial simply to avoid the death penalty

(source: aliran.com)

EGYPT:

New death sentences in Egypt demand us to seek clemency for the accused

2 weeks ago, the Court of Cassation in Egypt upheld the death sentences handed down to 12 defendants in the Rabaa Al-Adawiya protest dispersal case. The court reduced the sentences of 31 others from death to a life sentence.

I have written before about death sentences in Egypt, and how coup leader Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi controls the judiciary to the extent that the Ministry of Justice is nothing but an office customising laws to suit his whims and investments in the country's capabilities. Al-Sisi can say, in public and without batting an eyelid, that he has no political prisoners in more than 70 prisons, as well as 382 detention centres, where cases are fabricated against prisoners.

On the same day that the above death sentences were announced, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Al Jazeera that the reality is different from what is being promoted about the human rights situation in Egypt. The justice portfolio, he claimed, is transparent, and there are no political arrests in the country.

The regime has been able to promote itself around the world as the saviour of Egypt from the Islamists' grip. It has played all the right notes to serenade some governments that would have been tempted to put a spoke in the coup's wheel.

Despite the clear video and audio evidence of what the military coup authorities did during the dispersal of the Rabaa Square and Al-Nahda Square protests — perhaps tantamount to a crime against humanity — the world has largely accepted the allegations of "terrorism" against the Egyptian revolution and its spearhead, the Muslim Brotherhood. This was solely to get rid of a president who emerged from among the people and who does not represent the interests of countries which accepted a traitor on their red carpets because he would give them what the legitimate, democratically-elected president would not.

Amnesty International's appeal to the Egyptian authorities to re-try the people convicted in the Rabaa protest dispersal case in a fair and impartial manner, without resorting to the death penalty, is, in my opinion, an endorsement of the regime's accusation of "terrorism" against them; even an endorsement of the decision to punish them as criminals. How is it possible for Amnesty to expect that a regime which arrived on the back of a tank and shed a waterfall of blood can ever be just and impartial? The world truly is going mad.

Even the countries that supported the Egyptian revolution have retreated in the light of the political moves on the regional chessboard. Arab Spring "revolutions" have been turned into "civil wars"; "revolutionaries" have become "opponents". Al-Sisi has been given the chance to turn the page of the past, move on and develop bilateral cooperation.

The regime has made sure to defame the individuals who rose up against the coup, accusing them of forming a terrorist organisation or being affiliated with one. The idea is to cut off any sympathy for their plight domestically or internationally.

Thus an ugly image is painted of anyone who participated in the 2011 January Revolution, especially the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, as if they had landed in Egypt from another planet come to annihilate humanity. Every name against which a sentence has been issued has a good background and reputation, as well as a good social and professional standing. They are all people who have an impact on those around them. Thus, the testimony of the public refutes the lies spread by the regime-controlled media, for which huge budgets have been allocated.

Among those whose death sentences have been upheld is Mohamed El-Beltagy, 58, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. He holds a doctorate and was a teacher in the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department at the Faculty of Medicine at Al-Hussein University Hospital. He was active in the Doctors' Syndicate relief committee and worked as a director of one of the branches of charitable medical activity. He also participated in the Freedom Flotilla to lift the siege on Gaza.

Mohamed El-Beltagy won by a landslide standing for the People's Assembly in 2005. He defended the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press. He refused to consider imprisonment in publishing cases, the extension of the state of emergency, the unjust constitutional amendments in 2007 and military trials for civilians. He defended the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration. Beltagy co-founded the Egyptian campaign against the inheritance of power in 2009, represented the Muslim Brotherhood in the National Association for Change, and ran for the 2010 People's Assembly elections, which witnessed examples of flagrant fraud. He contributed to the establishment of the "popular parliament", participated in the January 25 Revolution, and was elected to the Revolution's Board of Trustees. He also co-founded the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and was chosen as its Secretary-General, winning the 2011 Egyptian Parliamentary election.

On 29 August 2013, the Public Prosecution ordered Beltagy's arrest for participating in the Rabaa Al-Adawiya protest. There is a famous video in which the regime edited his speech and portrayed him as linking the cessation of protests with the return of President Mohamed Morsi. He has since been sentenced to a total of 170 years in prison as well as death, covering 12 cases.

Beltagy accused the leaders of the Egyptian regime of killing his daughter Asma during the dispersal of the protest in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square. His 19-year-old son, Anas, has been held in solitary confinement since 2013. He is banned from having visitors, exercising, and completing his studies. The allegations against him remain unsubstantiated.

Another of those handed a death sentence is Safwat Hegazi, 58, the imam of a mosque in Cairo, and a presenter of an Islamic preaching series on satellite TV. He was the Secretary-General of the January 25 Revolution Council of Trustees coalition. He was one of the candidates for the 2012 presidential elections, but the Islamist group withdrew its support for him at the last moment. He also participated in the Rabaa sit-in and was arrested on 21 August 2013.

Abdul Rahman Al-Bar holds a doctorate in Hadith Studies and Sciences, with distinction. He worked as a professor in his specialty, supervised many masters and doctoral theses, and has authored 22 books in Islamic Sharia sciences. The security forces arrested his son Muhammad and five of his student friends at the Faculty of Medicine and arrested his daughter Aisha while visiting her brother.

Osama Yassin, 57, has a doctorate in pediatrics. He was the assistant secretary-general of the Freedom and Justice Party; the Brotherhood's field coordinator during the events of the Egyptian revolution; and the head of the Youth Committee in Parliament 2012. He worked as a youth minister in the government of Dr Qandil during President Mohamed Morsi's rule. He was arrested on 26 August 2013.

Ahmed Aref is an oral and dental specialist, former assistant secretary of the union, and media spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood. He has been detained since 22 August 2013. He is in solitary confinement in the notorious Al-Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison.

Finally, Muhammad Al-Zanati is a consultant doctor of general and endoscopic surgery. He was arrested at his workplace in 2013. His son, a student at the Faculty of Engineering, was killed on the day of the Rabaa dispersal.

I no longer demand anything from any party. The concerned parties may have more facts than I do. The matter depends on whether they would like to take an honourable position or not. I write about the oppressed and the tormented while I have never belonged to any group or held any specific political orientation. I address anyone and everyone who has any sense of feeling or emotion in this world, hoping that they will hear my call and shout in turn in the ears of humanity. Perhaps those who still have a conscience will hear us, and justice will prevail with the release of the above and their co-accused.

(source: Middle East Monitor)

IRAN----execution

Prisoner Ramin Saadat-Beiglou Executed in Qazvin Prison

Death row prisoner Ramin Saadat-Beiglou who was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, has been executed in Qazvin Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a male prisoner was executed in Qazvin Central Prison on Sunday, June 20. His identity has been established as Ramin Saadat-Beiglou who was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

Speaking to IHR, an informed said: “Ramin had been in prison on charges of murdering a person who owed him 10 million Tomans since 2017.”

“The murder took place during a fight that had started as a verbal argument. Ramin said: ‘we were standing on the street and I pushed him against the wall and saw that he was bleeding and dead.’ Scared, Ramin had initially fled but handed himself in to the police 24 hours later,” the source continued.

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for "premeditated murder."

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

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Prosecution Requests Death Penalty for Man Arrested for Alcohol Consumption

The prosecution has requested the death penalty for a middle-aged man arrested on alcohol consumption charges for the 4th time.

According to Iran newspaper, a representative from the prosecutor has requested the death penalty for a middle-aged man who was arrested for drinking alcohol earlier this year after a complaint from a neighbour.

The man, who has been arrested and flogged on 3 previous occasions, has denied the charge. In his defence, he said: “I admit I was arrested for being drunk on the street 3 times, but I was flogged 80 times on each occasion. This time I was alone in my house and was only watching TV with the volume up when my neighbour called the police. I did not drink that day and I do not accept the charges against me. That is why I got into a fight with the officers at the station.”

His case is at Branch Four of the Tehran Criminal Court and it is possible that he will be sentenced to death.

According to Article 136 of the Islamic Penal Code: "Where anyone commits the same offence punishable by hadd 3 times, and each time the hadd punishment is executed upon him/her, the hadd punishment on the 4th occasion shall be the death penalty.”

But Article 13(g) of the Code of Criminal Procedure as well as Articles 114-119 of the Islamic Penal Code give the judges the power to acquit the defendant or request a pardon for them from the head of the judiciary if they repent.

It should be noted that on 9 July 2020, a 51-year old man was executed for alcohol consumption for the 6th time at Mashhad Central Prison. According to Khorasan newspaper, his “repentance” had been rejected due to the defendant’s refusal to admit to drinking alcohol.

In February 2021, a 73 year-old retired pilot only identified as Ehsan, was sentenced to death by Branch 9 of the Tehran Criminal Court, presided over by Judge Mohammadi-Kashkouli. He was later acquitted by the same court and released.

(source for both: iranhr.net)

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AI calls on Iran to stop execution of man arrested and tortured at 17----Stop the execution of juvenile offender Hossein Shahbazi

Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal on Monday to save the life of a young Iranian man who is facing imminent execution for a crime he allegedly committed when he was 17 years old.

Responding to the Iranian authorities’ plans on 28 June to execute 20-year-old Hossein Shahbazi, who was convicted of a murder that took place when he was just 17 years old based, in part, on “confessions” obtained through torture, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, Diana Eltahawy, said:

“Iran’s authorities must immediately halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi scheduled for 28 June. Using the death penalty against someone who was a child at the time of the crime is prohibited under international human rights law and violates Iran’s international obligations. Going ahead with this execution would be an abhorrent assault on children’s rights and would make an absolute mockery of justice.

“The Iranian authorities must quash Hossein Shahbazi’s conviction and sentence and grant him a fair retrial in full compliance with the principles of juvenile justice, excluding coerced ‘confessions’ and without resorting to the death penalty. We also call on the international community, including UN bodies and the EU and its member states, to urgently intervene to save this young man’s life.”

According to Amnesty International, Hossein Shahbazi was arrested on December 30, 2018 and sentenced to death on January 13, 2020 after a grossly unfair trial before Branch 3 of Criminal Court One of Fars province.

The rights group said that following his arrest, Shahbazi was denied access to a lawyer and his family for 11 days while detained and interrogated in the Investigation Unit of Iran’s police (Agahi) in Shiraz, Fars province.

He was then transferred to a juvenile detention facility but was denied access to his family for several days, after which he was allowed a visit from his mother.

During this visit, he had bruises on his face and appeared to have lost weight. He is currently imprisoned in Adelabad prison in Shiraz.

Amnesty International reported that he was convicted, in part, based on “confessions” that he said he made after being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment at the Agahi detention centre.

His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court on 16 June 2020. In the verdict, reviewed by Amnesty International, the judicial authorities acknowledged that he was under 18 at the time of the crime, but stated that he had attained mental growth and maturity, according to an examination carried out by the Legal Medicine Organization, a state forensic institute.

Iran is among the few states that execute juvenile offenders, in violation of its obligations under the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights and Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without the possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below 18 years of age,” the convention notes in Article 37 (a).

Authorities hanged 5 juvenile offenders in 2020

However, Iran’s judiciary mercilessly issues and implements death penalties against ‘persons below 18 years of age.’

In 2020, Iranian authorities hanged at least 5 juvenile offenders, including Shayan Saeedpour, Majid Ismaeelzadeh, Arsalan Yasini, Moayyed Savari (Shia’ pour), and Mohammad Hassan Rezaei.

All these executed persons had been detained and sentenced to death for crimes allegedly committed under the age of 18. Indeed, some were kept in prison for a long time. For instance, Mohammad Hassan Rezaei was behind bars for 12 years, and authorities executed him in Lakan Prison in Rasht, the capital of the northern province of Gilan, on December 31, 2020.

Furthermore, Iranian interrogators killed several inmates, who had been arrested below 18 years of age, under torture. In April 2020, authorities tortured juvenile offender Danial Zeynolabedini to death in solitary confinement in Mahabad Prison. 2 days earlier, he had called his family from the prison, saying, “Come and save me.”

It is time for international organizations to hold the Iranian government accountable for its gross and systematic violations of human rights, particularly children’s rights. The United Nations, UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and other rights organizations must pressure the clerical regime to respect the people’s fundamental rights of life and stop executions.

(source: iran-hrm.com)

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Tehran slams UN report on human rights violations

Iran on Tuesday criticized as politically motivated a United Nations report that described the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic as “disturbing.”

"The report presented today is based on an entirely political mandate initiated by a group of like-minded, or rather 'similarly-biased', countries that have long instrumentalized human rights as part and parcel of their adversarial agenda against Iran," Esmail Baghaei Hamaneh, Tehran’s envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council, told the council on Tuesday.

The UN Secretary-General’s report on human rights in Iran over the past year concluded that, while Iran is facing deteriorating conditions under economic sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, “authorities have shown no willingness to adopt meaningful reforms,” stated the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

“Overall, the report finds a disturbing human rights landscape for Iranian women and men of every religious faith, ethnic origin, social class and other status,” she said.

The report highlighted concerns over the use of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres, intimidation, arbitrary detention, and prosecution of protesters and civil society actors, especially minorities, and the use of the death penalty.

Iran has executed at least 362 people in 2020 and the 1st half of 2021, including at least 69 Kurds put to death on “vaguely defined charges,” said Bachelet. There are also more than 80 child offenders on death row, 4 of them at risk of imminent execution.

This week, Amnesty International made an appeal for Iran to halt the scheduled June 28 execution of 20-year-old Hossein Shahbazi who was convicted of a murder committed when he was 17 years old. His conviction was obtained based on confessions made under torture, according to Amnesty.

“Using the death penalty against someone who was a child at the time of the crime is prohibited under international human rights law and violates Iran’s international obligations. Going ahead with this execution would be an abhorrent assault on children’s rights and would make an absolute mockery of justice,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East.

Tehran’s envoy Hamaneh said the UN report was not prepared in good faith. He said the United States, which unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran, is one of the driving forces behind the criticism of Iran’s human rights record. The report is “compiled inevitably to satisfy the mandate devised by a few Western states to pressurize and demonize Iran,” he said, adding that the government is committed to protecting human rights and fulfilling its international obligations.

International monitors are concerned that human rights could further erode in Iran under President-elect Ebrahim Raisi who played a role in a 1988 prison massacre.

Raisi has defended his record. “All that I have done through my years of service has always been towards defending human rights,” he said in a press conference on Monday.

(source: rudaw)

GLOBAL:

Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Death by Immurement

Immurement is a practice whereby a person is enclosed within a confined space with no exits. Normally, a person who is immured is left in that space till he/she dies, either of dehydration or starvation. In cases where a person is buried alive, asphyxiation may be the cause of death instead.

Although immurement is often carried out as a form of execution, there are also several other reasons of it being performed, for instance, as human sacrifice, or for ascetic purposes. Examples of immurement can be found in various cultures around the world, and across time. Additionally, there are many legends about people being immured. At times, skeletons have been found sealed behind walls, which has been regarded as evidence of this practice being carried out.

The word ‘immure’ is derived from the Latin words ‘in’ and ‘murus’, meaning ‘in or into’ and ‘wall’, respectively. The word traces its origin to the Medieval Latin word ‘immurare’, which literally means ‘to shut up within walls’. Considering the Latin origin of this word, what better place to begin a journey through the history of immurement than in ancient Rome?

The word ‘immure’ is derived from the Latin words ‘in’ and ‘murus’, meaning ‘in or into’ and ‘wall’, respectively. The word traces its origin to the Medieval Latin word ‘immurare’, which literally means ‘to shut up within walls’. Considering the Latin origin of this word, what better place to begin a journey through the history of immurement than in ancient Rome?

Immurement in Ancient Rome

In the context of ancient Rome, immurement is most often associated with the Vestal Virgins. More specifically, this was supposed to have been a punishment for those who were found guilty of breaking their vow of chastity.

The Vestal Virgins were a college of priestesses who served Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth. One of the most important duties of these priestesses was the tending of the perpetual fire at the Temple of Vesta. This fire represented Vesta’s protection of the city, and the dying of this sacred flame was regarded as a terrible omen. Given that the Vestal Virgins were responsible for the well-being of Rome, they were granted extraordinary privileges.

On the other hand, a Vestal Virgin who neglected her duties would be punished. Breaking one’s vow of chastity was one of the most serious crimes that a Vestal Virgin could commit, and is regarded as tantamount to treason. One punishment for Vestal Virgins who committed this crime was immurement.

The Roman author Pliny the Younger, for instance, wrote, in a letter to a friend, about the immurement of a Vestal Virgin named Cornelia by the Emperor Domitian. Interestingly, a vivid account of a Vestal Virgin’s immurement can also be found in A School Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, written during the 19th century by Anthon Smith. Fortunately, perhaps, the immurement of Vestal Virgins only had to be carried out on rare occasions.

Immurement, India and Shah Shuja

From Ancient Rome, we move forward in time, and over to the East. The year is 1660, and the place, India. On the 6th of May that year, Shah Shuja, the 2nd son of Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor, boarded a ship that sailed from Dhaka to Arakan.

2 years earlier, Shah Jahan had fallen ill, and a struggle for the throne had ensued. Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s third son, emerged victorious, and Shah Shuja was therefore fleeing India, finding asylum in Arakan. Shah Shuja’s plan was to stay in Arakan for a short while, before sailing on to Mecca, and finally to Persia or Constantinople. Since the prince arrived just as the monsoon was beginning, however, this did not happen.

Ultimately, Shah Shuja’s stay in Arakan lasted for several months, and ended with his death at the hands of his host. On the one hand, the Arakanese king did not hand the fugitive prince to the Mughals. On the other, he did not allow Shah Shuja to leave either.

Moreover, the king asked for the hand of Shah Shuja’s eldest daughter in marriage, which did not please the prince at all. In desperation, Shah Shuja attempted to overthrow the king, but his plot came to light. Fighting broke out in the city, and the Mughal prince was defeated. Although Shah Shuja managed to escape into the jungle, he was subsequently caught, and executed.

The prince’s family, however, were thrown into prison after their capture, although they were set free after some time. Moreover, the king married Shah Shuja’s eldest daughter. It seems that the surviving family members of Shah Shuja plotted to seize power again. Like the last time, the conspiracy was leaked.

This time, however, the king decided to exterminate the entire family of Shah Shuja. According to the 17th century French physician and traveler, François Bernier, the men were decapitated with axes, whilst the women were “closely confined in their apartments, and left to die of hunger”. Even Shah Shuja’s eldest daughter, the king’s wife, who was said to have been heavily pregnant at the time, was not spared.

Mongol Funerary Immurement

Immurement is most often carried out as a type of punishment, though it may also be done for other purposes, for instance, as a form of human sacrifice. Tales of the elite being buried with their servants or slaves as part of the funerary ritual can be found in various ancient cultures. It is believed that these people were sacrificed so that they could accompany their masters into the afterlife.

In some cases, the sacrificial victims were killed before their burial. In others, however, they were buried alive. An instance of the latter is found in Ibn Battuta’s Rihla, known also in English as The Travels of Ibn Battuta .

Ibn Battuta was a 14th century traveler from Tangier, Morocco. Between 1325 and 1355 AD, Ibn Battuta travelled a total of 120,000 km (75,000 miles), visiting almost every Muslim country that existed at that time, even reaching as far as China in the east. It was in his account of his visit to China, which was then ruled by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, that Ibn Battuta wrote about the use of immurement for human sacrifice.

According to Ibn Battuta, the Khan had been killed before he arrived at the palace. Ibn Battuta goes on to describe the funeral of the slain Khan, which is as follows:

“The Khan who had been killed, with about a hundred of his relatives, was then brought, and a large sepulcher was dug for him under the earth, in which a most beautiful couch was spread, and the Khan was with his weapons laid upon it. With him they placed all the gold and silver vessels he had in his house, together with 4 female slaves, and 6 of his favorite Mamluks, with a few vessels of drink. They were then all closed up, and the earth heaped upon them to the height of a large hill.”

Ibn Battuta reports that this same funerary ritual was performed for the relatives of the Khan as well, although incidentally Ibn Battuta does not provide the name of the Khan. Additionally, since his description of China is quite vague, historians are doubtful that Ibn Battuta actually made the trip to China. If it were so, then Ibn Battuta’s report about the Khan’s funeral and the accompanying human sacrifices may have been based on hearsay, and might not have happened at all.

Immurement and the Inca Children

The case of the so-called ‘Children of Llullaillaco’ or ‘Mummies of Llullaillaco’ may be regarded as being diametrically opposed to Ibn Battuta’s account of the Khan’s slaves being buried alive. In the case of these mummies, which were discovered on the border of Chile and Argentina in what was once part of the Inca Empire, there is archaeological evidence to prove the occurrence of human sacrifice through immurement. In addition, scientific analysis of the mummies revealed some aspects of their lives, in particular, their diet in the last year of their lives.

The Children of Llullaillaco consist of 3 mummies, dubbed the Llullaillaco Maiden, the Llullaillaco Boy, and the Lightning Girl. The 3 mummies were discovered in 1999, and subsequently, biochemical analyses were carried out on the remains. The results of these tests suggest that the children were chosen a year before their sacrifice, and took part in various rituals over the course of the year. These findings lend support to the historical records.

Additionally, the scientific tests reveal the diet of the children prior to their sacrifice. It was found, for example, that in the final year of her life, the Llullaillaco Maiden, who was about 13 years old when she died, was consuming elite foods, such as maize and animal protein. At the same time, there was an increase in her consumption of coca and chicha, an alcohol made from fermented maize. A noticeable increase in the consumption of the latter was detected in the last few weeks of her life.

It is thought that the drugs and alcohol would have put the Llullaillaco Maiden into a stupor, or even render her unconscious on the day of her sacrifice. She, along with the 2 younger children, where then taken to the Llullaillaco volcano, placed in their tombs, and left to die. It is believed that the high levels of alcohol, combined with the cold, caused the death of the 3 children.

Immurement and Buddhism

In cases where immurement was carried out as a form of sacrifice, it is not entirely clear if the victims were willing or not. Immurement has also been performed for ascetic reasons, and its practitioners are almost certain to have undergone it voluntarily. This form of religious suicide has been practiced in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, and examples can be found in written sources. The most remarkable of these, however, is the self-mummification practiced by certain Buddhist monks, as their mummified remains can still be seen today.

The best-known examples of self-mummified Buddhist monks are perhaps those from Japan, where they are called sokushinbutsu (meaning ‘a Buddha in this very body’). According to an article from 2016, there are 16 known sokushinbutsu in Japan, though it is believed that there are many more, yet to be discovered.

It is thought that these monks mummified themselves in an attempt to imitate Kukai, the 8th/9th century Japanese monk who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism. Although Kukai is recorded to have died in 835 AD, legends suggest otherwise.

According to legend, the monk did not die, but entered a state of meditative trance called nyujo. The legend goes on to state that Kukai plans to emerge from his suspended animation in about 5.67 million years, when he would “usher a predetermined number of souls into nirvana”.

The 1st recorded example of a Japanese monk attempting self-mummification, however, is from 1081. A monk by the name of Shojin tried to follow in the footsteps of Kukai, and had himself buried alive. When his disciples came to retrieve his body, however, they found that it had begun to rot.

It took the Japanese monks years of trial and error before they found the perfect way to mummify themselves. This process took at least three years, and at the heart of it was the mokujikigyo, which translates to mean ‘tree-eating training’. Instead of simply starving themselves to death, the monks would subsist on things they could forage on the mountain. This took a thousand days, after which the monk would be spiritually prepared to enter nyujo.

Most monks, however, are known to have undergone 2 or even 3 rounds of this process. Biologically speaking, the mokujikigyo serves to rid the body of fat, muscle, and moisture, as well as to cut off nutrients from the body’s parasites and bacteria. Both effects would help to preserve the body from decay after death.

The monk would then reduce all food intake and drink only a limited amount of water for the next hundred days. In the monk’s final days, his disciples would lower him into a box in a 3m (10 ft) deep pit. A bamboo airway was inserted through the lid, and the monk buried live. The monk would continue his meditation, and the regular ringing of a bell indicated that he was still alive.

When the ringing stopped, the monk’s disciples would open the tomb to confirm their master’s death, remove the bamboo airway, and re-bury the tomb. After a thousand days, the body would be disinterred, so that it could be determined if the monk had truly become a sokushinbutsu. If no signs of decay are found, the monk would be declared a true sokushinbutsu, and enshrined.

Immurement Through the Ages

To conclude, immurement has been practiced in various parts of the world at different times in history. Immurement was often carried out as a form of capital punishment. This is seen, for instance, in the examples of the Vestal Virgins, and the daughters of Shah Shuja.

Nevertheless, immurement was also undertaken for other reasons, for instance, as human sacrifice, or for ascetic purposes. The former is seen in the case of the victims buried alive with a dead Khan, as reported by Ibn Battuta, and the Children of Llullaillaco, whereas the latter is represented by the Japanese sokushinbutsu.

(source: ancient-origins.net)

JUNE, 22, 2021:

TEXAS:

Jury selection for former CHRISTUS nurse accused of murdering 4 patients to begin at end of July

Jury selection for the high-profile trial of a former CHRISTUS nurse accused of murdering 4 patients and severely injuring others will begin the last week of July, the judge announced Monday morning.

William Davis, 37, was arrested back in 2018 after an investigation at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital. He had been fired for “falsification of care events and his unethical practice related to failure to disclose interventions provided.”

A later investigation by hospital staff and police revealed that it was likely a crime had occurred with the injury and death of several patients that were considered “statistical anomalies.”

The 15-minute hearing on Monday focused on mostly agreeing to the jury selection process and setting a date for a hearing on the last motions from both sets of attorneys.

114th District Court Judge Austin Jackson said that 2,400 jury summons had been sent out last week by the county, a much higher number than normal due to it being a capital murder trial and the high-profile nature of the case.

Jury selection will begin Monday, July 26, and run through that Wednesday. The two sides agreed that they would call two groups of roughly 200-300 potential jurors a day, one panel in the morning and one in the afternoon.

From there, prosecutors and defense attorneys will need to select 12 jurors and 2 alternates from more than 2,000 people.

Davis was originally indicted for the death of 3 patients but was charged for a 4th murder back in May. It is unclear from those court documents when the 4th victim died. Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman says the state is seeking the death penalty for Davis.

An arrest warrant obtained by KETK News at the time of his arrest alleges that Davis intentionally introduced air into the patients’ arterial lines.

The affidavit says that security footage showed Davis entering the patients’ rooms and leaving. Almost immediately after, they would suffer a “profound incident” despite being considered stable.

All victims were identified as patients who underwent cardiovascular surgery and were recovering in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital.

In April, Davis filed a motion to suppress interviews that he had with police officers. They claim that he had already asked for an attorney and that any interrogation of him should have been stopped.

Tyler police contacted Davis on Feb. 15, 2018, to set up an interview with him about a string of incidents at the hospital. The next day, Davis told detectives that he was being represented by Jason Cassel when they called him.

The motion states that investigators “disregarded Mr. Davis’ invocation of counsel and continued his interrogation and took a statement. This statement should be suppressed.”

In all, his lawyers asked 114th District Court Judge Austin Jackson to suppress 3 statements from being presented to a jury when the trial is held later this year.

The motion also contends on an interview he had on April 30 when police confirmed that Davis was no longer represented by Cassel. Officers read him his Miranda rights and took “a lengthy statement” after receiving clearance from then-Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.

The hearing on that motion will be held on July 12 along with any remaining issues the 2 sides have before they start to assemble a jury.

Justin Roberts, a partner at the East Texas Roberts & Roberts law firm, said this case delves into one of the most litigious and gray areas of the law.

I think there’s going to be a debate over 2 things… If this defendant didn’t have a lawyer anymore, could he really still invoke his right to counsel for a counsel he doesn’t have? And number 2, they’re going to say that maybe [Davis] re-initiated contact.

The case has sat largely inactive for the last two years due to a number of different delays. DNA testing, a change in lawyers, and the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed the case down since Davis’ arrest nearly 3 years ago.

It would be the 1st capital murder trial in East Texas since Dameon Mosely was convicted back in November 2019 of murdering a gas station attendant during a robbery. After a 1-week trial, he was sentenced to death after the jury deliberated for 45 minutes.

At a hearing back in March, Jackson publicly revealed that his mother is employed by CHRISTUS, but did not say in what capacity. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed that it would not be a problem for the trial.

(source: KETK news)

FLORIDA:

Florida double-murder suspect who acted as own attorney found guilty: ‘I did kill Kenyatta Barron’

A Florida man who acted as his own attorney in his double murder trial, was found guilty on all charges Monday night shortly after he screamed at jurors and accused prosecutors of fabricating evidence during his closing argument.

After nearly 5 hours of deliberation, a 12-person jury returned to the courtroom Monday evening and delivered its verdict. Ronnie Oneal sat in silence and did not react as he was found guilty on all 7 counts against him.

He was convicted on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder for the 2018 deaths of his girlfriend, 33-year-old Kenyatta Barron, and their disabled 9-year-old daughter Ron’Niveya Oneal. He was convicted of attempted 1st-degree murder as well for slashing and stabbing his 8-year-old son, who survived the attack and testified against his father last week.

Oneal was also found guilty on 2 counts of aggravated child abuse and 1 count of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence, as well as 1 count of arson after prosecutors say he tried to set their Riverview home on fire along with his daughter’s body and his injured son.

“These murders are among the most cruel and vicious our community has ever seen,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement. “Sitting in the courtroom with the victims’ family, hearing a mother’s screams, seeing the horrific pictures of her daughter – it’s hard to fathom how someone can do something so barbaric.”

Oneal is facing the death penalty. According to the state attorney’s office, the same 12-person jury will remain in place for the penalty phase, which is set to begin Wednesday with prosecutors trying to outline why death is appropriate in the case.

“His punishment – his life – now sits with a jury of his peers, as it should,” Warren said.

Earlier Monday, Oneal had delivered his closing argument. Before doing so, he paused for a very long time, looked at the ceiling, rubbed his hands and then said something that no one could hear.

“Mr. Oneal, you need to speak up so the jury can hear you,” Judge Michele Sisco told him.

Oneal replied to the judge that he hadn’t started yet and said, “I was talking to my father.”

When Oneal did start his closing argument, it was much more than a whisper. He screamed at jurors, much like he did for his opening statement.

Oneal began his closing argument on Monday telling jurors the state had fabricated a 911 call made by Barron as she was being murdered.

“He showed you a fraudulent recording,” Oneal screamed as he pointed to the assistant state attorney prosecuting the case.

Then, Oneal made a stunning confession.

“I did kill Kenyatta Barron,” he said. “But I want you to tell it like it is, if you’re gonna tell it.”

Oneal said the state fabricated the evidence, claiming that he only hit Barron 3 or 4 times and not the 15 to 17 times that the state says he did.

“So they tampered with the face of Kenyatta Barron and put all these extra lacerations on her face and whoever did it is definitely going to pay,” Oneal said.

He then claimed that he only killed Barron after she killed their daughter and set her on fire.

“You don’t know what happened to my daughter,” he said. “But you better believe I know what happened to my daughter, and that is why Kenyatta Barron is dead.”

Oneal also claimed that his son had been coached to give false testimony and that his son’s statements since the murders are contradictory.

“He told you that he did not see me shoot his mom or beat his mom,” Oneal angrily barked at the jury. “He would have to have been outside to see that.”

In the prosecution’s closing argument, Assistant State Attorney Ron Gale told jurors the evidence in the case is overwhelming that Oneal, and no one else, committed the murders.

“The evidence against this defendant is mountainous,” Gale said.

(source: WFLA news)

ALABAMA:

Wife receives plea deal to testify against Christopher Henderson in murder trial

The jury selection process continues on Tuesday in the Christopher Henderson trial.

Henderson is the man accused of working together with Carlson to kill his other wife named Kristen, her mom, her nephew, and her son. He is facing the death penalty in this case.

DEAL FOR RHONDA CARLSON

During jury selection, prosecuting attorneys talked about a possible deal between the District Attorney’s office and Rhonda Carlson. She is the wife that’s accused of working with Henderson in the alleged crimes.

WAFF 48 confirmed with prosecuting attorneys that Carlson has been offered a deal. Attorneys say she is cooperating with the State and will testify against Henderson. In return, the state is taking the death penalty off the table in her case and she will do life without parole.

About 130 potential jurors were called in for this case, according to attorneys. This group was broken up into different panels for questioning.

On Monday, Judge Chris Comer told one of the panels of potential jurors they would not be sequestered if they were chosen to serve as a juror. Instead, he said it would be their responsibility to make sure they didn’t see anything on social media or in other forms of media.

Judge Comer said he expects 12 jurors and 6 alternates to be selected for the trial. Judge Comer said the pool will have a high number of alternates because of COVID-19 preparedness.

WAFF 48 caught up with attorneys on both sides of the case.

“In capital cases, I might say there’s a heightened level of scrutiny on who gets to serve, who is qualified to serve as a juror in this case, but absolutely the burden of proof remains with the state,” said Henderson’s Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner.

“It is serious but it’s like any other case. There’s going to be evidence. It’s going to be the burden of proof is the same. You make the same decisions based on the evidence in the case and kind of discard all the pressure and the gravity on it. It’s really the same process,” said the District Attorney’s Chief Trial Attorney Tim Gann.

(source: WAFF news)

UTAH:

KSL Investigates: Utah’s Death Row

The Utah Department of Corrections has quietly ended a decades-long practice of housing Utah State Prison inmates who are under sentence of death in maximum security, allowing the majority of them to move into medium-security cell blocks.

In an interview for KSL’s investigative podcast series COLD, Corrections Director Brian Nielson denied the department has done away with death row.

“As far as the policy of death penalty, again, that’s the Legislature’s call,” Nielson said.

But families of the victims in those death penalty cases were not notified of the housing change for some of Utah’s most notorious killers, which now provides inmates who are sentenced to death far greater privileges than they’ve previously enjoyed.

“You call it what you guys want to, I call it the state of Utah’s getting rid of death row,” Matt Hunsaker told KSL’s Investigators.

Hunsaker’s mother, Maurine Hunsaker, was murdered in 1986 by a man who’s currently incarcerated under sentence of death.

Inmate Classification System

The Utah Department of Corrections uses a classification system to determine where inmates are housed and what privileges they are allowed. The system, first adopted in the 1980s, requires incoming inmates to undergo an assessment, during which prison staff review information about the inmate’s crime and behavior.

The assessment results in an inmate being assigned a “custody level” of 1 through 4. According to the department’s own prison operations manual, custody level 1 “denotes inmates that pose the highest threat to institutional security and the safety of staff, other inmates and/or self.” Level 1 inmates are to be housed in maximum security.

The manual says death row inmates should be automatically assigned level 1 status at intake. The classification protocol allows most inmates to undergo reassessment at regular intervals throughout the course of their incarceration. But the manual also says death row inmates do not need to be reassessed “unless circumstances change regarding their sentence.”

Corrections Director Brian Nielson told KSL the current version of the classification system, which was last updated in 2019, is currently under review.

Last Chance Policy

The classification system detailed in the prison operations manual does not describe any means by which an inmate sentenced to death can trigger a move off of level 1 status, other than having the death sentence overturned on appeal or commuted by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

Nielson said what’s now allowing death row inmates out of maximum security is a 2005 department policy called “Last Chance.”

“They’ve really had to demonstrate that they can function in that setting ahead of time and then we test the waters in small incremental ways to help them get there,” Nielson said. “We’ve had a couple make it that far but it’s taken 13, 14 years to get there.”

KSL’s review reveals more than “a couple” death row inmates have taken advantage of the Last Chance policy. The department’s online offender search tool shows of the seven men currently under sentence of death in Utah, five are currently living in medium-security housing units, nicknamed Wasatch and Oquirrh, at the Draper prison.

KSL requested a copy of the Last Chance policy under Utah’s open records law in an effort to verify Nielson’s statements. The Corrections Department refused to provide it, claiming the policy was “protected.”

Life On Death Row

There are other indications the change that’s allowed death row inmates out of maximum security was a more recent development.

In 2011, the department posted a document to its website that included a list of the men who were at that time sentenced to die in Utah. The document included a page titled “Life on Death Row” that listed facts about living arrangements for condemned inmates.

Those included only being allowed out of their cells for three hours each day, always being handcuffed and shackled when interacting with officers, only being allowed visits on weekends and then only through a barrier, always being escorted by SWAT officers when out of the section and other stringent restrictions.

The document was updated and republished in November of 2019, following the death of inmate Ron Lafferty from natural causes. The page describing life on death row remained in the 2019 update.

The link to the document from the department’s website went dead sometime thereafter. Following an inquiry from KSL in May of 2021, the department provided another updated version of the document. The 2021 update no longer includes the page about life on death row.

Uinta 1

A section of the department’s website that describes the different facilities at the Draper prison says the Uinta 1 building is the highest security facility in Utah’s prison system. That web page, first published in 2013, says Uinta 1 is home to death row. The website says inmates housed in Uinta 1 “have the ability to earn greater privileges and transition to other areas over time by demonstrating positive behavior.”

But the website goes on to says “death-row inmates are the only exception, requiring a sentence to be overturned or commuted to life.”

A department pamphlet for friends and family of inmates first published in 2013 also includes a breakdown of the level classification system described earlier in this article.

“Inmates are classified to place them in the proper housing unit and security level in an attempt to provide safety for the community, staff, and other inmates,” the friends and family pamphlet reads.

The pamphlet says level 1 is reserved for death row inmates, who are said to be housed in the Draper prison’s maximum-security Uinta facilities. It lists the restrictions for level 1 inmates as a “highly structured and supervised environment; typically confined to cell 23 hours a day; restrained in the presence of non-inmates.”

This Dec. 9, 2006, security camera view shows the interior of the Utah State Prison’s maximum-security Uinta 1 building. Inmates housed in Uinta 1 are single-celled and only allowed out in the common area for an hour or so per day.

Neither the department’s website nor its pamphlet for friends and family make any mention of a policy that would allow death row inmates a pathway out of maximum security, despite both having been published years after Nielson said the secretive Last Chance policy was enacted.

No Notification For Victim Families

Families of the victims of the men who are currently facing death sentences in Utah were not notified by the department of any policy change, past or present, that would allow those men out of maximum security.

“They’re not wanting this to get out because they don’t want somebody to have to be accountable for it,” Matt Hunsaker told KSL TV.

Ralph Leroy Menzies was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in March of 1988 for killing Hunsaker’s mother. For the majority of the more than 30 years since, Menzies has been housed in Uinta 1.

The Corrections Department’s offender search tool shows Menzies is currently housed in the Draper prison’s medium-security Wasatch facility.

Hunsaker only became aware Menzies’ housing situation had changed when informed by KSL. He expressed frustration, saying he’s been unable to get a straight answer from anyone in state government as to when or why the change was made.

“Why did you change now and why didn’t you give us the respect to call us,” Hunsaker said.

Safety & Security

In medium security, inmates are provided greater opportunities for employment and recreation. The majority are afforded much more out-of-cell time than maximum-security inmates. They’re able to more easily associate with one another.

“These men are extremely dangerous, they are manipulative and they have nothing to lose,” Kim Salazar said.

Douglas Lovell murdered Salazar’s mother, Joyce Yost, in 1985 to prevent Yost from testifying against him in a rape trial. Lovell had twice attempted to recruit other men he’d met during a previous stay in prison to kill Yost on his behalf, before finally killing her himself.

Lovell is among the 5 inmates under sentence of death who prison staff have moved out of maximum security. Salazar worries the change will allow Lovell to network with others whom he might enlist to settle scores on the outside.

“He is known to have paid people to do his heavy lifting,” Salazar said. “These folks they are housed with now will eventually get out.”

Brian Nielson, the Corrections Director, said those concerns were considered.

“There’s always a balance there,” Nielson said. “There’s always that risk and needs assessment that happens and the ongoing process to make sure that we’re providing for safety and security and also providing for opportunities for those that need them.”

(source: KSL News Radio)

NEVADA:

Nevada Proposes to Execute Zane Floyd with Untried Drug Combination

The Nevada Department of Corrections (NVDOC) intends to execute death-row prisoner Zane Floyd with a 3- or 4-drug combination that has never been used before to put a prisoner to death. In a proposed execution protocol released on June 10, 2021, NVDOC said its execution cocktail would be drawn from 6 possible drugs, depending upon availability.

While acknowledging ongoing challenges to the legality and constitutionality of NVDOC’s planned execution process, Las Vegas trial judge Michael Villani granted Clark County District Attorney Scott Wolfson’s motion to set a July 26 execution date for Floyd. “The court is unpersuaded that the Nevada Department of Corrections must first prove that it can safely carry out an execution before the court can sign an order of execution,” Villani said.

Brad Levenson, a federal public defender who represents Floyd and had already filed a federal challenge to the state’s execution procedures, said he will appeal the execution order to the state supreme court. While the motion to set the execution date was pending, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Boulware II cautioned that a July execution date would make it impossible to develop the facts sufficiently to resolve the issues before him and that he may issue a stay to provide the court the time necessary to properly review the state’s execution protocol.

Nevada has not carried out an execution since 2006. At that time, it used a 3-drug combination of the ultra-short-acting barbiturate sodium thiopental, a paralytic drug, and potassium chloride to stop the heart. The 2021 execution protocol calls for either a 3-drug protocol of an opioid (either fentanyl or alfentanil, depending on availability), the anesthetic ketamine, and a drug to stop the heart (either potassium chloride or potassium acetate, depending on availability). An alternative four-drug method adds the paralytic cisatracurium as the 3rd drug in the sequence. The ACLU of Nevada sharply criticized the state’s lethal-injection protocol. Jen Shomshor, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, said the “vagaries about which drugs may or may not be used make it impossible for Nevadans to verify whether the planned execution will be lawful.” Shomshor called it “completely unacceptable that we’re talking about using a human being as a guinea pig just because we have a district attorney that’s eager to kill someone and a governor who refuses to take action to end our state’s broken capital punishment system. Taking a person’s life is the most extreme form of punishment our government can impose, and it’s not a time to be cagey about the details. The community has the right to know precise details about the state’s plans to kill one of its citizens,” she said.

District Attorney Wolfson initially announced his intention to seek an execution date for Floyd while the Nevada state legislature was considering a bill to abolish the death penalty. Although the bill passed the State Assembly and had strong support in the State Senate, it never received a hearing in the upper chamber. Advocates for abolition questioned the role of Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Melanie Scheible — both of whom work as prosecutors in the Clark County District Attorney’s office — in blocking Senate consideration of the bill.

The 2021 protocol is not the 1st time Nevada has attempted to employ untested drug combinations to execute prisoners. In 2017, as Scott Dozier attempted to rush his execution by waiving his appeal rights, the state hurriedly adopted an untried 3-drug protocol of diazepam, fentanyl, and cisatracurium. A state court judge halted Dozier’s execution, issuing an injunction based on its finding that NVDOC had obtained drugs produced by Alvogen, Inc. “by subterfuge” and prohibiting the state from using Alvogen’s drugs. While litigation over the drug manufacturer’s lawsuit against Nevada continued, Dozier — who had said he would rather die than spend his life in prison — took his own life.

Only one of the twelve people executed by Nevada since 1979 contested his execution; the other 11 “volunteered” for execution by waiving some or all of their appeals. Floyd would be the 1st non-volunteer executed in Nevada in 25 years. In addition to his challenge to Nevada’s drug protocol, Floyd has sought a stay of execution so he can receive a hearing on his clemency petition and obtain judicial review of other legal challenges to his execution.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

CALIFORNIA:

Scott Peterson Is 'Anxious' as Retrial Decision With Shot to Become a Free Man Inches Closer

Convicted killer Scott Peterson is reportedly feeling anxious as he waits for the retrial decision. California Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo will announce her retrial decision on Aug. 24.

The California Supreme court was ordered to re-examine Peterson's murder convictions last November, Crime Online reported.

Kron 4 noted that Massullo would announce a retrial if Peterson's habeas corpus petition provides enough information to get one. But an evidentiary hearing will follow if the judge has decided that there is not enough information regarding the matter.

The defense earlier said that they have enough evidence to destroy the timeline that put Scott Peterson on death row for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son, Conner, in 2002.

Scott Peterson Off the Death Row

In May, a California district attorney said in a court filing that she would not be seeking a new death sentence against Peterson.

The Stanislaus County district attorney's office noted that it would drop efforts to restore the penalty thrown out last year by the state Supreme Court, NBC News reported.

The California justices earlier ruled that the death sentence could not stand as potential jurors were excluded after saying they disagreed with the death penalty.

Laci Peterson's family has reportedly no doubt that Scott Peterson killed his wife and their unborn child. They said they think he deserves the death penalty but does not want to pursue the punishment as the process is too painful to endure once again.

The family's sentiment was stated by District Attorney Birgit Fladager in her filing in San Mateo Superior Court.

Massullo is reviewing when to resentence Scott Peterson to life without parole after Fladager said she would not seek to retry the case's death penalty portion.

The judge is also considering if Peterson should get an entirely new trial due to juror misconduct. The consideration is based on a juror's failure to disclose that she had sought a restraining order against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend in 2000.

Scott Peterson's Murder Case

Laci Peterson was 8 months pregnant with their unborn son when she was reported missing a day before Christmas in 2002.

Scott Peterson caught the attention of investigators because he seemed to be lacking concern over his wife's disappearance, and he refused to take a polygraph test.

In January 2003, Amber Frey, a massage therapist, came forward and admitted that she started dating Peterson two months earlier. She said she was unaware that he was married.

Frey contacted the police on Dec. 30, 2002 after realizing the connection of Peterson to the missing woman in the news.

Four months after Laci Peterson went missing, locals found two decomposed bodies washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay, according to a Biography report.

Scott Peterson was arrested on Apr. 18, 2003. It was the same day that the bodies were identified as Laci and Conner. When he was arrested in La Jolla, California, Peterson was sporting a dyed-blond hairdo and goatee.

He was also driving a car with his brother's ID card, several cellphones, and around $15,000 in cash. Meanwhile, Peterson maintains his innocence.

(source: latinpost.com)

USA:

President Joe Biden is failing at abolishing the death penalty

President Biden has thus far, by every objective metric, failed to fulfill his campaign promise to try and abolish the death penalty.

As citizens yearning for a justice system that’s not racist, not inhuman, and not inhumane, it’s past time we acknowledge — and start actively and passionately protesting — this incontrovertible fact: President Joe Biden has thus far, by every objective metric, failed to fulfill his campaign promise to try and abolish the death penalty.

Biden has not commuted the sentence of any, much less every, federal death row prisoner — which many legislators, legal experts, and social justice advocates have urged, and which he can do with a pen-stroke — indefensible inaction that, with each passing day, smacks of pusillanimous political calculation.

Biden hasn’t even taken the simple but highly symbolic step of ordering that the federal execution chamber be dismantled — with all its barbaric accoutrements — keeping alive the ghoulish horror it could be quickly reused again, someday, depending on how political winds blow. (California Gov. Gavin Newsom, no great hero when it comes to death penalty abolition due to his comparable feckless failure — via pen-stroke — to commute hundreds of death sentences under his charge, at least did take the important step of publicly shutting down and carting out his state’s “machinery of death.”)

And perturbingly, the Biden administration has not backed away from previous administrations’ vengeful and immoral decisions to pursue federal executions for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Charleston Church Massacre killer Dylann Roof.

Trump era death penalty policy essentially continues

Despite the steady decline in states exacting the ultimate punishment, and the steep drop in the imposition of death sentences nationally, Biden’s listless commitment to taking bold action to abolish the death penalty — so long into his tenure at the top — is not going unnoticed; in fact it’s exacerbated by headlines around the globe describing, with disapprobation, how several states in the U.S. are preparing to shoot and gas condemned prisoners to death — adding to America’s existing vile tortures of electrocution and lethal injection.

Moreover, Texas, making up for lost time and pent-up bloodlust from the pandemic, has started to resume its historically “normal“ stream of state-sanctioned killing.

Just how have these outlier states, mostly in the South — where a vestige of slavery as odious as capital punishment has been allowed to persist, and even to thrive — been incentivized by the Biden administration to end the death penalty? They haven’t.

Despite vociferous “woke” statements decrying Donald Trump’s tyrannical use of capital punishment, what legislation — state or federal — to end the death penalty has President Biden championed using the full, considerable power of his bully pulpit? None.

And putting aside the absence of meaningful executive orders — again, a mere signing of autographs by Biden — to fulfill his campaign promise he’d advance death penalty abolition, how many public appeals has Biden made since becoming “leader of the free world,” not through intermediaries but personally, to power brokers and people-at-large in pro-death penalty states, about the importance of abolishing the death penalty? Zero.

Ending capital punishment would be a win for racial reckoning

2 years ago, in this publication, focusing on the Trump administration’s turbo-charging of the federal death penalty, I observed how “[r]eggae artists and their lyrics help expose Donald Trump’s depravity.”

Specifically, I used reggae legend Burning Spear’s lyrics to express the frustration we, advocates for justice feel — understanding that the death penalty has been used as a tool of racial subjugation in this country: “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! So they want us to think stupid. That’s how they want us to be. They’ve been celebrating all these days. They’ve been celebrating all these days. So what about the slavery days? So what about the slavery days?”

Now, many months after Biden being sworn into office, I feel like singing the same song. (Putting things in temporal perspective too, it was back in 2017 that former United Nations Ambassador and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson concluded in the Washington Post that: “To effectively represent the interests of citizens, and protect our nation’s role as a global leader, a new generation of policymakers and politicians must put the death penalty to rest once and for all.”)

Arguing for death penalty abolition in February, and then again in April of this year — in The Montgomery Advertiser — I insisted that: “The ever-growing movement to end the death penalty in Alabama—and in every state—is not only a social justice imperative, it’s a must-accomplish Black Lives Matter movement in the 21st century, one we must all press for, not someday in the future, not tomorrow, but now!”

Sadly, outrageously, by his weak-sauced reticence to act decisively on this critical issue of national racial reckoning, it doesn’t seem President Biden is going to be the president he said he’d be — the one we, good people of conscience, hoped he’d be — at least not yet.

(source: Opinion; Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015----The Tennessean)

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

Justice Matters

It suddenly became much more difficult over the past week to figure out what the Biden administration plans to do about the death penalty, even though the president and attorney general previously had left little doubt.

President Joe Biden promised to work “to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow” that example. Attorney General Merrick Garland has questioned the death penalty on a fundamental level – at least in terms of practice, if not values or morality. And he said he expects a return to a longstanding moratorium under which the government refrained from carrying out a single execution from 2003 to July last year, during the Trump administration.

Biden’s campaign centered on criminal justice reform arguably more so than any previous American president, and he’s the first to take an openly abolitionist position on the death penalty. During his confirmation hearing, Garland cited the shockingly large numbers of people who’ve been exonerated in death penalty cases and of some Americans who’ve likely been executed for crimes they didn’t commit. He referred to enormous racial disparities in capital cases, and especially in those in which the convicted have ultimately been exonerated, points confirmed by an analysis published in February by the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center. Garland even said he’s concerned about the arbitrariness with which the death penalty is applied, describing it as “almost randomness.”

Nonetheless, the U.S. Justice Department urged the Supreme Court last week to reinstate the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“I think there’s reason for death penalty opponents to be concerned,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “This is not what they expected.”

So, who or what entity in the Biden administration is responsible for this vital question of justice – given the public positions it has taken? (Keep in mind that Garland, when asked if he would reinstate the federal moratorium, referred to Biden's opposition to the death penalty, and added that: "I expect that the president will be giving direction in this area, and if so, I expect it not at all unlikely that we will return to the previous policy.")

The White House back in March said Biden continues to have “grave concerns” about capital punishment, after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case initiated by Trump’s DOJ that seeks to reinstate Tsarnaev’s death sentence.

Last Tuesday, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates reiterated to my Reuters colleagues Biden’s “deep concerns” about the use of capital punishment – after Biden’s DOJ had filed a brief in the Tsarnaev case largely in line with the Trump administration’s position.

Bates added that the DOJ “has independence regarding such decisions.”

The White House doubled down two days later, on Thursday, in response to my questions for this column: “The president believes the department should return to its prior practice, and not carry out executions,” Bates told me.

The Justice Department didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The White House's public position, in other words, is that the president has made it clear how he feels about capital punishment, and the Justice Department and Garland are independent decision-makers in their death penalty cases.

Still, there is a lack of clarity. Truly ending the federal death penalty requires an act of Congress, but there’s much the executive branch can do or simply say.

“The Biden administration hasn't clearly indicated what its policy is,” Dunham said. “A policy would be some kind of statement” about administration goals, like not pursuing the death penalty in new cases, and decertifying previously approved capital prosecutions. And, of course, the president could send a clear signal through executive action, like commuting the sentences of those currently on death row.

“But all we have are words to the effect that the president believes the death penalty runs contrary to his values,” Dunham said. “That’s a statement of belief, but it’s not a clear direction.”

So maybe the White House is sidestepping a politically divisive issue, similar to the Obama administration, as the New York Times reported in April 2015, and passing the buck to the DOJ.

“We know from what happened after the Obama administration, which did not have a formal policy but simply did nothing when it came to seeking executions, that doing nothing simply sets the table for a future president to carry on executions,” Dunham said.

At the same time, Garland and the DOJ could be doing more to fulfill the president's promise.

Biden has stressed that he wants to restore the DOJ's independence from undue political influence, which means allowing agency leadership to make their own calls in individual cases, presumably including capital cases. So what's the DOJ waiting on? (Given the context, the White House's most recent public statements that it believes DOJ should not carry out executions is essentially a directive.)

For context, consider that the DOJ has implemented a new policy independently in another area, based on Biden's public positions and without any apparent order.

In May, the agency backed off a longstanding practice and said it would stop seizing reporters’ records in leak investigations. The decision followed an apparently off-the-cuff remark Biden made during a news conference, saying the practice is "simply wrong" and that he won't let it happen, according to a New York Times report on May 24. Afterward, the White House didn’t answer questions about whether Biden had spoken to Garland to convey his statement as a policy directive, but press secretary Jen Psaki commented that “the president made those comments quite publicly, so everyone, I think, is aware.”

It would seem then that both the White House and DOJ have responsibility here, and have both made choices not to act – to the extent they can – to end the death penalty, as stated, or very strongly implied, in Garland's case.

Dunham said the administration has made other under-the-radar moves, like pulling back on death penalty arguments in at least six cases that were authorized as capital prosecutions under Trump.

Still, in other respects, a decision not to act is a decision in itself. And inaction can be costly.

(source: Commentary; Hassan Kanu -- Reuters)

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

‘Happy’ or ‘deeply disappointed’: Boston’s top elected officials are split on reinstating the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev----"It deeply impacts us here in Boston."

Most of the Boston area’s top elected officials want to abolish the use of the death penalty as a punishment in the United States.

However, fewer feel that way when it comes to the case of Dhzokhar Tsarnaev.

In the wake of the request by President Joe Biden’s administration last week for the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bomber, the reactions among local Democrats have ranged across the spectrum — from disappointment to support.

“Although the president might not agree with the death penalty, I’m happy that he’s allowing his attorney general to have autonomy and make those decisions,” Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said in an interview Sunday on WCVB.

Rollins added that Biden — whose campaign said he would “work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example — was doing the “right thing” by allowing Attorney General Merrick Garland to continue the Justice Department’s pursuit of the death penalty for Tsarnaev for the 2013 bombings, which killed three people — Martin Richard, 8; Krystle Campbell, 29; and Lu Lingzi, 23 — and injured several hundred.

“It deeply impacts us here in Boston, and we know the Richards — Martin Richards’s family — is not interested in moving forward with that,” Rollin said. “But other survivors, or people that were harmed, and victims are.”

Her comments came after Rep. Ayanna Pressley — whose district includes the last stretch of the marathon course where the two bombs exploded — said she was “deeply disappointed” by the Biden administration’s move.

“State-sanctioned murder is not justice, no matter how heinous the crime,” Pressley said in a statement last week.

“The Boston Marathon bombing was a devastating day in our city and I am deeply committed to accountability and healing for the families robbed of a loved one and our community writ large,” the Boston Democrat said. “But let me be clear – no just nation should be in the business of executing people.”

A vocal opponent of the death penalty, Pressley called on Biden last year to use executive action to abolish death penalty at the federal level. Researchers estimate that it applied disproportionately to people of color and that at least 4 percent of people on death row are innocent. Canada, Mexico, and nearly every European country have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

Capital punishment also has been abolished in Massachusetts since 1984, but since Tsarnaev was convicted on federal terrorism charges, he was eligible for the death penalty. In 2015, a jury convicted and subsequently sentenced the now-27-year-old to death. However, following an appeal, a federal judge overturned the sentence last year, ordering a new penalty phase to determine whether Tsarnaev will get the death penalty or a life sentence.

Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey, who has said she was near the finish line when the bombs went off, also said last week that she remains “strongly opposed to the death penalty, for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or anyone else.”

And several members of the Massachusetts delegation, including Rep. Jim McGovern and Seth Moulton, joined Pressley in speaking out against the Biden administration’s request, as Politico first reported.

“While I support the independence of the Justice Department and I know Tsarnaev is a terrorist and a punk, I am fundamentally opposed to the death penalty — whether it’s for Tsarnaev or anyone else,” Moulton said in a statement.

“I oppose the death penalty simply because there is no way to guarantee the United States will not kill an innocent person, and the injustice of killing even one innocent person is not worth the justice of putting the guilty to death,” the Salem Democrat continued. “I also oppose the death penalty because prosecutors have a bias towards seeking it when people of color are on trial, and because the appeals process means the government spends more on death sentences than life sentences and victims must endure several trials and relive their trauma multiple times. I hope Tsarnaev spends the rest of his miserable life rotting in jail.”

Some members of the delegation, despite opposing the death penalty, have been less eager to speak out on the locally sensitive subject.

Reps. Katherine Clark and Lori Trahan — both of whom are co-sponsors of Pressley’s bill to abolish the death penalty at the federal level — did not respond to requests for comment.

Spokespeople for Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey noted that the two Massachusetts Democrats have opposed to death penalty, including for Tsarnaev. However, they also declined to comment on the Biden administration’s move.

Meanwhile, a few top elected officials offered tepid support.

Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, reiterated his stance last week that “Tsarnaev should face the death penalty.”

“I would agree with the Biden administration on that,” he told reporters last Tuesday.

A spokesman for Rep. Jake Auchincloss, who supports abolishing the death penalty, told Politico that “given the circumstances” of the Tsarnaev case, the Newton Democrat “respects the Justice Department’s decision.”

Rep. Stephen Lynch, who backed the initial move by President Barack Obama’s administration to seek the death penalty, told WBUR on Thursday that he understands the desire to “move on,” rather than continue to fight over the sentence in court. But the South Boston Democrat reasoned that the cases represented the “worst of the worst.”

“As much as I have problems with the death penalty, generally, terrorism and waging war against an innocent civilian population is a grievous, grievous offense, and what this man did was just sheer butchery,” Lynch said, adding that Biden is “trying to let the rule of law prevail here.”

White House officials say Biden continues to believe that the Department of Justice should no longer carry out executions, but that the agency also has independence under Garland.

Without a change in the law, Rollins suggested Sunday on WCVB that prosecutors are obligated to seek the maximum possible sentence in such cases.

While she is personally opposed to the death penalty, the district attorney — who is vying to become the next U.S. attorney for Massachusetts — said those personal beliefs would be “irrelevant” to her decisions in potential death penalty cases.

“If you aren’t going to ask for the death penalty in the marathon bombing, what are you gonna ask for it for?” she asked.

(source: boston.com)

IRAN:

Stop imminent execution of young man arrested and tortured at 17

Responding to the Iranian authorities’ plans on 28 June to execute 20-year-old Hossein Shahbazi, who was convicted of a murder that took place when he was just 17 years old based, in part, on “confessions” obtained through torture, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, Diana Eltahawy, said:

“Iran’s authorities must immediately halt the execution of Hossein Shahbazi scheduled for 28 June. Using the death penalty against someone who was a child at the time of the crime is prohibited under international human rights law and violates Iran’s international obligations. Going ahead with this execution would be an abhorrent assault on children’s rights and would make an absolute mockery of justice.

“The Iranian authorities must quash Hossein Shahbazi’s conviction and sentence and grant him a fair retrial in full compliance with the principles of juvenile justice, excluding coerced ‘confessions’ and without resorting to the death penalty. We also call on the international community, including UN bodies and the EU and its member states, to urgently intervene to save this young man’s life."

“Using the death penalty against someone who was a child at the time of the crime is prohibited under international human rights law and violates Iran’s international obligations ”----Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International

Hossein Shahbazi was arrested on 30 December 2018 and sentenced to death on 13 January 2020 after a grossly unfair trial before Branch 3 of Criminal Court One of Fars province. Following his arrest, he was denied access to a lawyer and his family for 11 days while detained and interrogated in the Investigation Unit of Iran's police (Agahi) in Shiraz, Fars province.

He was then transferred to a juvenile detention facility but was denied access to his family for several days, after which he was allowed a visit from his mother. According to sources with knowledge of his case, during this visit, he had bruises on his face and appeared to have lost weight. He is currently imprisoned in Adelabad prison in Shiraz.

He was convicted, in part, based on “confessions” that he said he made after being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment at the Agahi detention centre.

His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court on 16 June 2020. In the verdict, reviewed by Amnesty International, the judicial authorities acknowledged that he was under 18 at the time of the crime, but stated that he had attained mental growth and maturity, according to an examination carried out by the Legal Medicine Organization, a state forensic institute.

Iran continues to use the death penalty for crimes committed by people under the age of 18, in violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The authorities executed at least three juvenile offenders in 2020 and scores of others remain on death row. In 2020, Iran carried out at least 246 executions securing the shameful place of second top executioner worldwide.

(source: Amnesty International)

NIGERIA:

From death to life

The proposal by the Federal Government to commute the sentences of some inmates on death row in custodial centres across the country to life jail is a welcome development. The need for such step is accentuated by the surge in the number of inmates on death row, who pose grave risk to the security of the correctional service personnel and other inmates in the custodial centres.

With about 2,956 inmates on death row as at 2021, there is the urgent need to use the various opportunities provided in our laws to deal with the challenge. According to a media report, the number of inmates in the custodial centres on death row in 2017 stood at 1,606, but has risen to 2,742 by 2019. If the number continues to rise, they may become more than the entire capacity of the nation’s custodial centres in no distant time. Of course, many have blamed the governors for being tardy in signing death warrants, as provided by extant laws, to enable the correctional centres to execute the condemned inmates.

That stance might as well be true, for those who push for the enforcement of the death penalty which is still in our statutes. But for us, the death penalty should be abolished. So, we support the proposal by the federal authorities to commute the death sentences to life jail, and we urge the relevant state governments to cooperate to ensure the necessary steps are carried through.

Of note, section 12(2)(c) of the Nigeria Correctional Service Act 2019, provides “that where an inmate on death sentence had exhausted legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years had elapsed without execution of the sentence, the chief judge may commute the death sentence to life imprisonment.” As the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Mallami (SAN) hinted, even those who have spent five years on the death row should also benefit from such clemency.

The challenge was vividly captured by the Controller-General of the Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, who spoke through his image maker, Francis Enabore. He said: “We can understand that some governors dither in signing death warrants on humanitarian, political, religious, emotional and ethnic grounds. But whatever may be the mitigating sentiment, the delay in carrying out this executive function is breeding congestion that has impacted significantly on the administration of justice.”

(source: Editorial, The Nation)

SOUTH SUDAN:

Calls for Death Penalty Rise in Response to South Sudan Lakes State Violence

The newly appointed governor of South Sudan’s Lakes state is facing calls to institute the death penalty for anyone involved in inter-communal fighting, cattle raids or road ambushes, all of which have become rampant in the state.

The governor, Lieutenant General Rin Tueny Mabor, listened Sunday as hundreds of Lakes state residents, including traditional chiefs, attended a workshop in Juba’s Freedom Hall on ending the violence.

“Murder must be punishable by death, and any revenge killings that occur after the culprits have been detained must be punishable by death as well. Those who are found in possession of arms without the support of the law must be penalized and disarmed by all means possible, including the use of lethal force,” said moderator Jacob Adut Mabor, reading from a list of recommendations put forward by Lakes state citizens.

Participants agreed on 23 resolutions, including one that would arrest and punish politicians and military officials found guilty of inciting communities to fight and those that supply weapons to civilians.

Tighten rule of law

After listening to all of the recommendations, the governor vowed to tighten the rule of law in order to stop the vicious cycle of killings in parts of the state.

“My administration will fully effect the punishment of law on such elements destabilizing our state. Bandits, cattle rustling is a criminal offense against the state and must be dealt with properly. We must not succumb to criminals and must not allow our people to despair,” Mabor told the assembled crowd.

General Majak Akech, inspector general of the South Sudan National Police Service, and a Lakes state native, encouraged Mabor to apply the proper punishment for criminals commensurate with the situation, including death by firing squad.

“If the situation requires firing squad, do it. If the situation requires humanity, do it. But you should focus on strengthening local courts. If we depend on the courts in Juba, it will take long process and delay the justice process,” said Akech.

Akech said once the country’s unified forces are graduated from training camps, they will carry out a nationwide disarmament exercise.

Work without interruption

Peace and stability will not return to Lakes state until politicians and military leaders allow the new governor to do his work without interruption, according to chief Madut Buoi, who spoke at the workshop.

“We hear that there are people who have a power to bring governor and power to remove him when they don’t need him. These are our politicians who stand behind their people at home. By the time the governor starts to do his work and touch some people, the same politicians will return to Kiir and say that the governor is not doing what we want; remove him,” said Buoi.

Nepotism and sectarianism are the main challenges standing in the way of justice and enforcement of the law in Lakes state, according to Buoi.

Tired of burying men

Martha Aterieu, a member of parliament representing Lakes state, said women are tired of burying men killed in communal violence or of being abandoned by men who kill, then run away.

“After killing each other, they ran away to hide, leaving their dead colleagues for women to bury because if they engage in burial, they will be included in the fight, so they hide and leave it to women to carry the body, dig the grave and bury them. Is it right for us to be burying people? Is that our mission when we are not the ones who killed them? You must shoot them,” said Aterieu.

The number of inter-communal attacks, cattle raids, and road ambushes has increased in several parts of the state over the past couple of years.

Earlier this month, 18 people were killed during inter-communal violence between 2 communities in the town of Rumbek.

In late March, at least 13 people were killed during inter-communal clashes over a 2-day period in Rumbek.

(source: voanews.com)

BANGLADESH:

Unveiling the socio-economic profiles of death row prisoners in Bangladesh

Bangladesh retains death penalty in law as well as in practice for 33 offences (25 of which are non-fatal in nature), and has been recording a significant increase in executions since 2000. However, the death penalty regime in Bangladesh has gotten little to no space in academic and public debate. Further, almost nothing is known about the demographics of the death row prisoners, and their lived experiences of interaction with the criminal justice system.

In this backdrop, in 2019-20, the Department of Law at the University of Dhaka, in collaboration with Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) and the Death Penalty Project, UK conducted a rigorous pilot study to investigate socio-economic characteristics of death row prisoners in Bangladesh, and to explore their experiences and perspectives on the criminal justice system. A virtual launch of the study report titled 'Living under sentence of death: A study on the profiles, experiences, and perspectives of death row prisoners in Bangladesh' was organised by the Department of Law on June 17, 2021. This study brings the death penalty regime of Bangladesh into conversation and makes a modest attempt to fill the existing knowledge gap.

The study has been led by Dr Muhammad Mahbubur Rahman, Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka, who previously undertook a thorough examination and comparison of all murder cases reported in major law reports during the period 1972-2010 in his book, Criminal Sentencing in Bangladesh: From Colonial Legacies to Modernity (Brill Nijhoff, 2017).

The present study concentrates on data relating to 39 death sentenced prisoners, hailing from 17 out of 64 districts in Bangladesh. To collect socio-economic information on the prisoners, it primarily relies on relevant case records. Additionally, it uses interviews of the family members of the prisoners and followed up progresses of relevant Death Reference Cases in the HCD (up to February 2019).

The study report proceeds in 5 substantive parts. The 1st part introduces the background and objectives of the study and discusses the method of data collection and limitations. The 2nd part provides information on the legal background and administration of the death penalty regime in Bangladesh, providing tools to interpret the findings. The 3rd part, as the crux of the study, describes the socio-economic profiles of the death row prisoners: their age, gender, religion, education, economic, criminal, and family backgrounds. Part 4 underscores the prisoners' experiences of the criminal justice system. Finally, the report concludes by articulating the implications of the findings.

The study reveals some significant findings, most of which are largely consistent with the findings of studies from other countries that convincingly demonstrate that the death penalty has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable and marginalised sections of society along the lines of economic status, racial identity and levels of educational attainment.

It finds that the judicial sentencing appears not to be significantly influenced by the growing legislative trend of prescribing the death penalty for non-fatal offences. In practice, the courts, by and large, do not impose death sentences unless someone dies as a result of the offence. The study suggests that most death sentenced prisoners (74%) within this study were below 30 years of age at the time of the offence, with the largest proportion being 20-30 years of age; the death sentenced prisoners were overwhelmingly male (97%); most death sentenced prisoners in this study had low educational attainments; the majority had not been educated beyond secondary school, primarily because of family poverty; more than 1/2 of the death sentenced prisoners were low-paid salaried employees or unemployed, with almost 3/4 of them being economically vulnerable; almost 1/4 were the sole earners within their families; there was no prior criminal or delinquent records reported for 3/4 of the prisoners; none of them were earlier convicted for any other offence. The socio-economic profiles of death sentenced prisoners in the present study, to a great extent, reinforce the popular belief in Bangladesh that the death penalty is imposed mostly upon the poorest, most powerless, and marginalised people. None of the prisoners under the study belonged to the upper or upper-middle classes of socio-economic strata.

Most interview respondents were not satisfied with the quality of the legal investigation, primarily because of the alleged use of torture as an investigation tool, with at least 1/3 of the families claiming that prisoners were tortured in custody. Most interview respondents (60% of those responding) were not satisfied with the trial process. Most felt that the trial courts failed to properly appreciate the evidence and wrongly relied on false evidence adduced by the prosecution. Some were also dissatisfied with the sentencing process and outcome.

On the quality of legal representation, 2/3 of interviewees who responded appeared to be satisfied, while 1/3 had negative impressions, particularly regarding the quality of state defence lawyers. Delay in proceedings was underscored as yet another predicament in the criminal justice process, which tends to be largely responsible for prolonged detention of prisoners and their protracted isolation on death row. The cases in the present study took, on average, 4 1/2 years for adjudication by the trial courts (from the date of registration of case) and, thereafter, another 5 1/2 years for disposal by the High Court Division (HCD). From filing of the cases to their disposal by the HCD took more than 10 years in almost 1/2 of the cases.

Almost all families suffered huge economic losses and other problems as a result of legal proceedings against prisoners. The families of just more than 1/2 of the prisoners were subjected to harassment by local people, forcing four families to relocate.

Because of the relatively small sample size, the study report time and again cautions against generalising from the quantitative data to the situation of all death sentenced prisoners in Bangladesh. It does not make any claim from these statistical findings beyond the sample. However, the findings of this study 'provide indications of the socio-economic profiles of death sentenced prisoners in Bangladesh more generally and, therefore, provide an impetus for future research.' Furthermore, though the numbers are relatively low, the qualitative findings are rigorous and they expose sobering details about the experiences of justice and the debilitating impact of the death penalty regime in Bangladesh.

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

Killing of 9-year-old in Sylhet: HC confirms death of sacked policeman, 2 others

The High Court today confirmed death penalty of 3 persons, including a sacked police constable, for killing 9-year-old Abu Sayeed for ransom in Sylhet in 2015.

Abu Sayeed, a 4th grader at Shah Mir Govt Primary School in Sylhet, was abducted by the convicts on March 11, 2015. They had demanded Tk 500,000 in ransom from his family.

3 days later, Sylhet police recovered Sayeed's body in a sack from the attic of Constable Ebadur Rahman's house at Kumarpara in the city.

Outraged by the incident, locals strongly protested and demanded punishment of the killers.

The victim's father Abdul Matin filed a murder case against the arrestees and 3 other unidentified people.

Today, the HC confirmed death penalty -- given by a Sylhet court -- of Abdur Rakib, the then general secretary of Sylhet district unit Awami Olama League; Ebadur Rahman, a sacked constable of Sylhet airport police; and Ataur Rahman Geda, a police informant.

The HC bench of Justice Shahidul Karim and Justice Md Akhtaruzzaman delivered the verdict after accepting the death reference (trial court documents) and dismissing the appeals filed by the convicts, challenging the lower court judgement on them.

The HC confirmed the death sentences of three convicts saying that they made confessional statements to the magistrates and the allegations brought against them were proved beyond reasonable doubt, Ebadur Rahman's lawyer Mohammad Shishir Manir told The Daily Star.

He said his client will move an appeal before the Appellate Division against the HC verdict after receiving its certified copy.

All 3 convicts are now at Kashmirpur jail.

Deputy Attorney General Bashir Ahmed represented the state during hearing on the death reference and appeals, while lawyers Sayed Ahmed Raza and Md Siddique Rahman appeared for Rakib and Ataur.

On November 30 in 2015, Judge Abdur Rashid of Sylhet Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal handed down capital punishment to Rakib, Ebadur and Ataur in the murder case and also fined them Tk 1 lakh each in default of which they will have to serve 1 year in prison.

(source for both: The Daily Star)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan lawyer who represented Asia Bibi claims threat to life after court acquits Christian couple

Following a Pakistan court acquitting a Christian couple sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, their defence lawyer Saif ul Malook said he faces threats to his life. Saif ul Malook had also represented Asia Bibi.

The Pakistani lawyer who helped free Asia Bibi, who was acquitted after spending years on death row in a blasphemy case that attracted international condemnation, has claimed that his life is in danger.

Lawyer Saif ul Malook has over the years successfully overturned a number of convictions for blasphemy in Pakistan. He said on Monday that several posts on social media had called for his “execution”, as per a BBC report.

Saif ul Mulook had reportedly left Pakistan in 2018 due to fear that he could be attacked after the conviction of Asia Bibi was overturned. Asia Bibi, a mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She maintained her innocence, but spent most of the time in solitary confinement. She was eventually acquitted by Pakistan's Supreme Court in 2018.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting Islam or other religious figures can be sentenced to death if found guilty. While Pakistan has yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, just the accusation of blasphemy can incite riots and lynching.

THE LATEST CASE

Saif ul Malook most recently oversaw the acquittal of a Christian couple who had been sentenced to death in Pakistan.

A Pakistani appeals court earlier this month acquitted a Christian couple sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.

The appeal of their 2014 death penalty by Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel from the country's eastern Punjab province had not been heard until now for unexplained reasons, Saif ul Malook had said.

The two were arrested in 2013 and tried on suspicion of sending a blasphemous text message to a local cleric in Punjab.

The Lahore High Court in June overturned the death sentence and ordered the couple released. They had been on death row in two separate prisons, and would be freed after all the paperwork was done, said the lawyer.

“I am happy that justice has been done to this poor wife and her husband,” Saif ul Malook had said.

THE EU RESOLUTION

Earlier this year, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for a review of a preferential trade status given to Islamabad in 2017 and demanding the release of the couple.

The EU Parliament in April had also asked Pakistan to immediately repeal its blasphemy laws.

(source: indiatoday.in)

JUNE 21, 2021:

TEXAS:

Wrongly executed? Director hopes film prompts Biden to curb death penalty

Director Patrick Forbes hopes his new documentary "The Phantom" could be the spark prompting President Joe Biden to act against the death penalty thanks to its powerful message: "An innocent man was executed."

The movie, set for a July 2 release, takes a detailed look at the murder of Wanda Lopez, who was stabbed to death one night in February 1983 while working as a cashier in a Corpus Christi, Texas service station.

Just before she died, the young woman had called police to describe a suspect.

The documentary, a reconstitution of the crime in minute and chilling detail, opens with a recording of Lopez's last words: "You want it? I'll give it to you. I'll give it to you. I'm not going to do nothing to you. Please!"

The police, who arrived too late to save Lopez, took off in pursuit of a man who witnesses had seen fleeing on foot. Forty minutes later they arrested Carlos DeLuna, a 20-year-old with a long criminal record. He was hiding under a car.

Feeling certain they had found Lopez's killer, investigators ended the hunt, even as DeLuna vociferously insisted on his innocence. No trace of blood was found on him.

During his trial, DeLuna said he had fled out of fear of being blamed, and said he, in fact, knew the guilty party: a certain Carlos Hernandez whom he had met in prison.

But when shown photos of men by that name, DeLuna was unable to identify Carlos Hernandez. Certain lies he told during the trial further undercut his credibility.

The prosecutor insisted that "Carlos Hernandez" was a figment of DeLuna's imagination -- a "phantom." He was convicted and subsequently sentenced to death.

After all his appeals failed, DeLuna was executed in 1989.

'Tocayo' -

Only afterward did the "truth slowly sort of trickle out," director Forbes, who in 2011 made "True Stories: WikiLeaks -- Secrets and Lies," told AFP.

In 2004, Columbia University law professor James Liebman, intrigued by the case, launched an investigation of his own with the help of his law students and a private detective.

They quickly determined that Carlos Hernandez most definitely was a real person. He had died in prison in 1999 while serving a sentence for attacking a woman with a knife -- one of several times he had been arrested while carrying a knife. And he bore an uncanny resemblance to DeLuna.

In 2012, Liebman and his students published an extraordinarily long and detailed article in a respected law journal titled "Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution." It provided the basis for Forbes' film.

Forbes insists, however, that he began his project without any preconceived opinion of the case.

"This movie would be fatally flawed, if it was purely, you know, an advert for the death penalty campaign," he said.

He methodically tracked down key figures in the case -- not only police, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses but also some of the women who were victims of Hernandez's violence and who, years later, still feel traumatized by it.

One of them told Forbes that Hernandez had bragged to her about killing Wanda Lopez and getting away with it thanks to his "tocayo," a Spanish word for someone with the same name.

'Every mistake'

Forbes now feels he has a firm grip on the truth of the sordid case: "It's a horrible one, but it's a very human one. You know, people make mistakes," he said.

"The thing about this case," Forbes added, "is, every mistake that could have been made, was made."

He places much of the blame on a legal system that fails to provide equal protection to the poor and minorities.

"The perpetrator of this crime is a poor Hispanic man, the innocent guy who is executed is a poor Hispanic man, none of them were going to be given a fair crack of the whip."

Forbes hopes his film will not only help, belatedly, to clear DeLuna's name but also lead to wider change.

That's why he agreed to let "The Phantom" be used in support of a petition demanding that Biden commute the death sentences of anyone in federal penitentiaries.

During last year's Democratic presidential primary campaign, Biden said he opposed the death penalty. But since taking office he has yet to match words with action.

Instead, his Justice Department recently argued for the death penalty for one of the 2 men behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Forbes hopes new attention to the DeLuna case will nudge Biden to act.

"Wouldn't it be fantastic," he asked, if his movie "actually resulted in some concrete change?"

(source: Agence France-Presse)

NORTH CAROLINA:

New study on death penalty shows it’s expensive, racially disproportionate and unpopular

The death penalty is more expensive and no more effective at deterring crimes than alternative punishments such as life imprisonment, according to a report by Appalachian State University professor of government and judicial studies Matthew Robinson.

In the report published earlier this month, Robinson examined data to answer the question of whether death penalty should still be maintained as a state policy. North Carolina has not executed a person on death row in nearly 15 years; however, it is still legal. Under state law, an individual can be sentenced to death if they are convicted of 1st-degree murder and found to meet at least one of 11 aggravating circumstances.

The report highlights the arbitrariness and disparities in the harshest sentence in North Carolina, which has resulted in innocent people dying because of wrongful convictions.

These findings, coupled with a new report from the U.S. DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics, show that North Carolina, a leading state in the number of people on death row, is facing consequences from maintaining the death penalty system.

Expensive, disproportionate and unpopular

136 — number of people on death row in June 2021

2006 — the last year North Carolina performed an execution

23.5% — rate of death sentences identified as excessive, in a review of 361 cases that resulted in capital punishment from 1990 to 2010

44% — percentage of respondents in North Carolina favor the death penalty over the alternative of life without parole, according to a 2019 poll

$2 million — extra cost of each execution compared with other sentences

$11 million — cost that the state could have saved each year if it did not maintain death penalty. The state pays out large sums each year for defense cost, payment to jurors, post-conviction cost, resentencing hearings and payment to the prison system.

Racial disparities

54% — percentage of death row prisoners who are Black, whereas the group only comprised 22% of the state’s total population

47.3% — percentage of those convicted of killing white victims who were sentenced to death between 1977 and 2005

40.3% — percentage of those convicted of killing Black victims who were sentenced to death over the same time period

44% — percentage of the 1,272 jury decisions that led to death sentences between 1977 and 2005

45.8% — rate of white defendants to receive a death sentence among between 1977 and 2005

42.4% — rate of Black defendants to be sentenced to death during the same time period

14 times — likelihood of Black people who killed whites to be sentenced to death compared with whites who killed Black people between 1999 and 2006

North Carolina a leading state in death penalty population

2,570 — number of people on death row in 29 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons

5th — North Carolina’s in terms of number of people on death row in 2019, after California (724), Florida (340), Texas (216) and Alabama (175)

41% — percentage of Black death row prisoners nationwide

56% — percentage of white death row prisoners nationwide

32 — states and the federal government that still authorize the death penalty in 2019

7 — states carried out death penalty execution in 2019.

31 — number of people who received a death sentence in 2019 nationwide

3 — number of people who received the death sentence in North Carolina in 2019

(sources: The Death Penalty in North Carolina, 2021: A Summary of the Data and Scientific Studies, U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics----ncpolicywatch.com)

OHIO:

Law, religion come together in support of Ohio death penalty ban----“The death penalty is the most inefficient government program in existence in Ohio today,” said Timothy Young, Ohio’s state public defender.

Supporters of a measure to eliminate the death penalty in Ohio include religious and legal leaders, who say the concept is both a waste of the state’s money and time, and unethical.

“The death penalty is the most inefficient government program in existence in Ohio today,” said Timothy Young, Ohio’s state public defender. “I don’t say that as an opinion; I say that as a fact.”

Young and others stood in support of Senate Bill 103, which seeks to abolish any future possibility of death penalty sentences, favoring a charge of life imprisonment with or without parole, depending on the offense.

Citing data from the Death Penalty Information Center and state data, Young said the amount of people exonerated after a death penalty system (one in five convictions) or those left in the system awaiting appeal makes the execution sentence one full of mistakes and risks.

“If one out of every 5 airplanes that took flight crashed, would we tolerate that error rate?” Young asked the Senate Judiciary Committee during a recent hearing on the bill.

Along with the exoneration rate, Kevin Werner, of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, said the pervasiveness of racial bias in death penalty cases raises more red flags about the justice in execution by the state. Ohioans to Stop Executions, which has been one of the biggest proponents of execution abolishment say 33% of people executed in Ohio are people of color, despite the fact that only 15% of Ohio’s population is made up of people of color.

“The fact that innocent people have been sentenced for crimes for which they had zero involvement is, in and of itself, reason to repeal the death penalty,” Werner said.

The impact the death penalty has on the justice system and defendants is significant enough, abolishment advocates say, but the burden it places on victims and those close to victims — called co-victims — it equally impactful.

The Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., spoke to the committee as the executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches, which comprehensively opposes the death penalty. But he also came as a co-victim, the brother of a woman murdered in Cleveland 24 years ago.

“I am poised to advance the belief that whether the life-ending act is carried out on a Cleveland street or in a Chillicothe prison as authorized by the state, killing is wrong,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said co-victims have the right to feel enraged at those that murdered their loved ones, but those reactions are to “the calculated, unethical and immoral decision-making that drove other human beings to engage in grotesque, murderous acts that abruptly or gradually ended the lives of other human beings,” something in which Sullivan says the state should not also be involved.

Abolishing the death penalty appears to have growing bipartisan support within the Ohio legislature, and increasing public support as well.

(source: WTOL news)

INDIANA:

2 more arrests made in connection with riot death of former I.U. football player

2 more people have been charged in the murder of a former I-U defensive lineman during the post-George Floyd riots last year.

Prosecutors charged Marcus Anderson in December with shooting Chris Beaty to death during a robbery spree. Investigators say Beaty stepped out of his apartment building to make sure everything was okay during the violence — and into the path of a group which had been robbing drivers in the neighborhood.

Now a grand jury has charged two of Anderson’s accused accomplices with the robberies, and with felony murder in Beaty’s death.

The charges against Anderson mentioned Alijah Jones and Nakeyah Shields — Jones was charged with in a parking garage robbery which began the holdup binge. But Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears says it took time to assemble enough evidence to be confident the case could be proven in court.

Mears won’t say specifically what changed over those 6 months, but unlike Anderson, Jones and Shields were indicted by a grand jury. Mears notes grand jury proceedings are confidential, and can allow witnesses to tell what they know without fearing their names and testimony will appear in public court documents.

Jones and Shields are both charged with felony murder, meaning they’re responsible as part of the robbery even if they didn’t pull the trigger.

Because Beaty was killed during a robbery, all 3 defendants could face the death penalty. Mears says his office has been focused on establishing whether they could make the case for Jones’ and Shields’ guilt. Now that the charges have been filed, he says those discussions will begin, including consulting with Beaty’s family.

Another accused accomplice, Dorian Murrell, was shot to death the same night. The accused gunman in that killing says he was about to be the next robbery victim and is claiming self-defense. Tyler Newby’s trial is scheduled for August.

(source: 953mnc.com)

USA:

Boston Bombing survivor calls out acting mayor's opposition to death penalty for Tsarnaev; Marc Fucarile says he's scared of how crime policies are 'changing'

Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey proclaimed her opposition to the death penalty for Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, just 1 day after the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty for Tsarnaev.

"She's just trying to make a name for herself, it's pretty disgusting," bombing survivor Marc Fucarile said Friday of the mayor, on "Fox & Friends First."

"I wonder where she was 8 years ago, 2013, when we were laying in hospital beds and fighting for our lives".

Janey tweeted from the marathon 5 minutes after the bomb detonated, "Please pray! Bombs going off at marathon!"

Janey, a Democrat, assumed the role of Governor when Marty Walsh was confirmed as the Secretary of Labor in March.

"She's not even...an elected official," Fucarile pointed out, "she's really not even the mayor."

In 2015 a jury found Tsarnaev guilty on 30 counts and decided on the death penalty for the terror he caused in the city, killing three and wounding more than 260 others.

"It was definitely the scariest thing in my life and my family's life. Getting the phone call, finding out that I was blown up by a bomb in the city of Boston," recalled Fucarile.

"People were petrified. No one knew what was going on."

Just 5 years after the initial verdict, in July 2020, the Boston-based 1st S.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling in the case, saying that the trial judge "fell short" in screening jurors for potential bias created by the news coverage of the bombing.

"I think the majority of people that I've ever talked to think that he should be...put to death," said Fucarile.

Earlier this month, on June 14, the U.S. Justice Department filed a 48-page brief urging the Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence of Tsarnaev, stating that, "it is not required that the jurors be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved for a defendant to receive a fair trial."

The brief represented a break between the Justice Department and President Joe Biden, who has repeatedly stated his opposition to capital punishment.

White House Spokesman Andrew Bates said the Justice Department "has independence regarding such decisions," but stressed that Biden stands by his belief that the federal government should not carry out executions.

"If I could guarantee that he would sit in jail and rot forever, I would choose that," said Fucarile, "with the way policies are changing, it scares me that they could release this animal".

(source: Fox News)

IRAQ:

Iraq hands death sentence to Daesh's 'Sharia judge'

An Iraqi court today handed a death sentence to Daesh's "Sharia judge" after convicting him of killing 5 security forces in the country.

According to a statement by the Supreme Judicial Council: "The Criminal Court in Saladin Governorate decided to execute the Sharia judge of Daesh, after convicting him of killing 5 members of the security forces."

The statement indicated that "the accused participated in several terrorist operations, including the detonation of an explosive device on an Iraqi army patrol, which led to the killing of 5 security personnel, in addition to other crimes."

The statement did not reveal the name of the accused.

According to Iraqi law, it is a preliminary ruling and is subject to appeal before the Federal Court of Cassation within 30 days.

Daesh members are tried under the Anti-Terrorism Law, which stipulates the death penalty for anyone who has committed a terrorist act.

The execution of death sentences requires the approval of the country's president.

(source: Middle East Monitor)

BAHRAIN:

Bahrain rejects UN call to free 2 men facing death penalty

Bahrain on Sunday rejected a UN report calling for the release of 2 men facing the death penalty, which cited claims their murder convictions were based on confessions extracted by torture.

In July last year, Bahrain's top court upheld a death sentence against Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Moosa, convicted of killing a police officer in a 2014 bomb attack.

In a report on Thursday, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention cited allegations that the two men had been "tortured during their interrogations and forced to sign confessions."

"The appropriate remedy would be to release both men immediately and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations," it said.

But a Bahraini government spokesperson told AFP in a written statement that Ramadhan and Moosa were convicted of serious criminal offences.

Noting that Bahraini authorities said it was "disappointing ... that (the working group) saw fit to publish such a one-sided and misinformed report".

The men "received fair trials with full access to an appeals process, which they have now exhausted", the spokesperson added.

Rights group Amnesty International has also said the trial relied on "confession extracted through torture".

The bomb attack allegedly came amid a wave of attacks against police and other violent incidents that erupted after mass street protests in 2011 demanded an elected prime minister and a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain.

The two accused are members of Sunni Muslim-ruled Bahrain's Shia community and were first sentenced in late 2014.

Bahrain has claimed Iran trained and backed the demonstrators in order to topple the Manama government - an accusation Tehran denies.

The kingdom rejects allegations of human rights violations and denies discriminating against its Shia citizens.

(source: alaraby.co.uk)

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

UN calls on Bahrain to release 2 dissidents on death row

A United Nations human rights watchdog has called on the Kingdom of Bahrain to release and also compensate 2 activists facing the death penalty. Bahraini Security Forces arrested Mohammed Ramadhan, a security guard at the Kingdom’s International airport, and Hussein Moosa, a hotel employee, in early 2014 for allegedly bombing a convoy and killing a police officer.

In a report, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said “Taking into account all the circumstances of the case, particularly the risk of harm to the physical and psychological well-being of Mr. Ramadhan and Mr. Moosa, the appropriate remedy would be to release both men immediately and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations”. Rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, say both men had been tortured to extract false confessions.

According to the rights groups, the torture included sexual assault, beatings, sleep deprivation, and other types of abuse. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is a panel of 5 experts.

It says Ramadhan and Moosa have been detained on discriminatory grounds for participating or leading pro-democracy protests. The Persian Gulf State has used an array of powers to crackdown on an uprising that began in 2011. This included bringing in troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia to help suppress the revolution. Many leading activists, political opponents, and clerics have been detained.

Nationalities of citizens have been revoked and the leading al-Wefaq opposition party was forced to dissolve. Out of all the countries that witnessed uprisings during the Islamic Awakening era also known as the Arab Spring, per capita Bahrain was the largest. Smaller scale protests continue today, but the Persian Gulf Island has evaded any sanctions by the West for its heavy-handed crackdown. Experts say this is down to its strategic location in West Asia, its close ties to the West in addition to the fact that it hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth fleet.

(source: Tehran Times)

IRAN:

Iran’s President-elect Raisi addresses ties to mass executions

Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi has for the 1st time addressed his links with the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988 when he was deputy prosecutor of Tehran.

Rights groups maintain that, shortly after the 8-year Iran-Iraq war ended, Raisi was one of the members of a so-called “death commission” that ordered the disappearance and execution of thousands of prisoners.

Many were reportedly members of the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq (MEK), an organisation pushing for regime change that is now based in Europe, which at the time led a military assault on Iranian soil despite the fact a United Nations-brokered ceasefire had taken hold.

Asked by Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig about the executions at a press conference on Monday, Raisi did not directly confirm or deny the allegations.

“Everything I’ve done in my time of holding office has been to defend human rights,” the hardline Muslim scholar said.

He added that he has dealt with “those who disrupted people’s rights and engaged in Daeshi and anti-security moves” in reference to the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.

“If a legal expert, a judge or a prosecutor has defended the rights of people and the security of the society, he must be lauded and encouraged for preserving the security of people against assaults and threats.”

Moreover, he said, as a prosecutor and in other capacities, he is “proud” that he always defended human rights, and promised he will continue to do so as president.

Amnesty International earlier this week renewed its call for Raisi to be put on trial for “crimes against humanity”.

Raisi is the 1st Iranian president to be subject to United States sanctions after the US designated him in 2019 for his role in the executions, in cracking down on public protests, and for ordering the hanging of individuals who were minors at the time they committed crimes.

He went on to say that he and Iran could now call out human rights violations by other countries – not the other way around – and called for “those that founded terrorist groups” to be prosecuted.

Nuclear deal

The Iranian president-elect also expanded on his position on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

He reiterated the stance he announced during the presidential debates, namely that he supports the deal, but said the US must return to its commitments and first lift its unilateral sanctions imposed after abandoning the historic accord.

“The world must know that the situation has changed. To this day, ‘maximum pressure’ hasn’t worked on our people and so they must reconsider and return,” he said in reference to former President Donald Trump’s hawkish policy on Iran.

He added that his government’s foreign policy “doesn’t begin with JCPOA and won’t be limited to it” as it will include a balance of engaging with the world and the region.

“Whatever negotiation that ensures our national interests will be supported by us, but we will not tie our people’s economic situation to the negotiations and will not allow negotiations for the sake of negotiations,” Raisi said.

Asked if he would meet with US President Joe Biden, his answer was a simple “no”.

He also did not answer a question on whether he would keep the current negotiating team led by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, a veteran nuclear negotiator.

A 6th round of talks in Vienna to restore the accord ended on Sunday with delegates saying a final agreement is close but some key issues remain unsolved.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who met with Raisi on Monday at the president-elect’s request to talk about the nuclear deal, said earlier this week he believes an agreement can be reached before Raisi assumes office in early August.

Raisi became Iran’s 8th president in an election on Friday that saw a turnout of 48.8 percent, the lowest since the 1979 revolution, after the disqualification of several rival candidates.

And void votes finished 2nd for the 1st time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

(source: Al Jazeera)

YEMEN:

HOUTHI MILITANTS PUBLICLY EXECUTE 3 FOR RAPE AND MURDER

Hundreds of people gathered in Yemen's rebel-held capital on 16 June 2021 to watch the execution of 3 men -- 2 convicted of child rape and murder, and one of killing his daughters.

It was Sanaa's 1st public execution since August 2018, when the rebels shot three men and hung their bodies from a crane for raping and killing a child.

On 16 June, the 3 convicts in blue prison uniforms were escorted to the central Tahrir (Liberation) Square where an executioner in green army fatigues and black gloves laid each face down on a red sheet before shooting them in the back.

The Iran-backed rebels have made much of their crime-fighting efforts in areas under the control, which include most of the north of country.

Those executed on 16 June had been convicted of particularly heinous crimes.

Ali Abdullah al-Noami was found guilty of leaving his three daughters to die in a water tank after a disagreement with his wife.

Along with two other convicted child-killers – Abdullah Ali al-Mukahali, 38, and Mohammed Abdullah Arman, 33 – the 40-year-old was led out into Tahrir Square in the centre of Yemen’s constitutional capital Sana’a and made to kneel on a red carpet.

An executioner wielding a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle then shot all 3 men in the back in full view of a large crowd of spectators, some of whom were filming the executions on their mobile phones and video cameras.

Abdullah Ali al-Mukahali and Mohammed Abdullah Arman had been convicted of raping and killing an 8-year-old boy named Mohammed al-Haddad.

After the 3 men were shot, a medic quickly checked each body to ensure that they were all dead.

The Huthi rebels have retained control of swathes of the north despite a 6-year-old military intervention by neighbouring Saudi Arabia and its allies in support of the beleaguered government.

The conflict has pushed the country to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

(sources: AFP, Daily Star)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudia Arabia "to execute" 40 teens

Human Rights activists have raised the alarm over plans by Saudi Arabia to execute more than 40 teenagers. According to monitoring group, Saudi Leaks, the shocking revelation comes just a week after the Kingdom carried out the death penalty for Mustafa al-Darwish, who was sentenced for alleged crimes committed as a minor.

Leading international rights groups say Mustafa was arrested, tortured, held in solidarity confinement and limited access to an attorney for taking part in anti-monarchy protests during the Islamic Awakening uprising across the region, also known as the Arab Spring in 2011. It’s not the first time over the past years that the Saudi monarchy has carried out mass executions. Should the execution of over 40 minors, convicted of similar offenses as Mustafa go ahead, it will more than likely lead to international outcry; similar to those in the past.

(source: Tehran Times)

JUNE 20, 2021:

ARIZONA:

19-year-old accused of firing at people across Phoenix area

An Arizona teenager suspected of killing 1 person and injuring a dozen others during a 90-minute string of drive-by shootings in metropolitan Phoenix told police he believed people were after him because of his involvement in another shooting, according to court documents released Friday.

Ashin Tricarico, 19, is accused of opening fire on vehicles and pedestrians from a white SUV on Thursday in at least 8 separate shootings in 3 cities that stoked fear throughout the region. 4 people were shot, including a man whose pickup truck careened into a canal alongside a freeway.

A witness told police he saw the suspect drive up behind the truck and swerve into the lane beside it and then he heard a gunshot. Police later found the man's body inside the truck with a gunshot wound to the neck and his head, face and body covered in blood, the court documents state.

Police said Tricarico admitted to some of the shootings and declined to talk about others but denied firing at a woman or killing the man, whom police haven't identified. Tricarico told police he was involved in another shooting a month ago in Phoenix while he was a security guard and believed people have been following him because of it, according to the court documents.

“Ashin thinks every vehicle and person he drives past is pointing a gun at him," police wrote.

Tricarico was working as a licensed, armed security guard at a restaurant in north Phoenix on May 5 when he shot a male customer outside who was reported intoxicated, causing a disturbance and charging at Tricarico. Phoenix police said in a statement Friday night.

Police said the man was taken to a hospital with a non-life-threatening injury, and Tricarico remained at the restaurant and cooperated with investigators. The case is still being investigated, and Tricarico told police he shot the man in self-defense. The gun he used was impounded and has remained in police custody.

Tricarico, who was arrested Thursday, appeared remotely for a court hearing Friday and was directed to contact a public defender. The Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender did not have a specific attorney assigned to Tricarico, whose next court hearing is scheduled for June 24. He faces charges of 1st-degree murder, shooting from a vehicle, aggravated assault and endangerment.

There was no immediate response to a message left at a number listed for a relative of Tricarico.

Documents police filed in Maricopa County Superior Court allege Tricarico fired at more than a dozen people, seemingly at random. In some cases, he pulled up beside vehicles and placed the barrel of an assault rifle through his window and fired multiple shots, police said.

A 3-year-old child was in 1 vehicle with her mother when the front windshield and driver's side door were hit, but wasn't harmed. The mother told police she heard 3 gunshots while driving and immediately felt pain in her arm, stomach and head. She was covered in blood and screaming “oh my god,” according to witness statements.

Others were injured as bullets hit or shattered glass. Authorities said the injured ranged in age from 19 to 56.

Police said Tricarico left his house in the city of Surprise with an AR-15 rifle and later bought 4 boxes of ammunition, filling 2 30-round magazines. Matching shell casings were found at some of the shooting scenes, police said.

Richard Valencia, 34, said he spent Thursday afternoon in the hospital after being shot in the shoulder as he walked from a convenience store in Surprise. He told Phoenix news station KSAZ-TV that he fired back three times with his own weapon.

“I don’t even know the guy,” he said. “It was completely random.”

Victims and witnesses were able to give authorities a description of the suspect's vehicle — a white Volkswagen SUV — and the license plate number. A local fire department spotted the vehicle and called police, who swarmed a shopping center that includes restaurants, a nail salon and a Walgreens.

Neil Betrue, a pastor in Surprise, was alone in his church’s office when he noticed a few police officers and heard a helicopter buzzing overhead. He peered out the door and saw even more officers surrounding the suspect’s car and started recording the commotion on his cellphone.

“I did not know at the time it was a shooting spree happening,” Betrue told The Associated Press on Friday. “I just thought maybe there must have been a car chase or something.”

As officers drew their weapons, the suspect, wearing a black jacket, black pants and white shoes, raised his hands in the air. He then was cuffed without incident, Betrue's video shows.

“I'm just thankful that he didn't try to put the officers or any of the business or anyone else in harm's way here,” Betrue said.

Police don't believe anyone else was involved in the attacks.

Tricarico also was accused of pointing an assault rifle at a man in the parking lot of a convenience store Wednesday evening as the two were sitting in their vehicles, according to the court documents. Tricarico later followed the man, who ducked when he heard a gunshot but wasn't harmed, police said. Tricarico, however, claimed not to have left his house that day.

Police said they won't release any further information until Monday, saying the investigation is complex.

The Phoenix metropolitan area has seen other deadly drive-by shootings.

In 2005 and 2006, the area was terrorized by a pair of serial shooters who drove around and shot at random targets, killing six people and wounding 19 others. After they were finally arrested, airport janitor Dale Hausner and his roommate Sam Dietman, a petty criminal, were given life sentences. Hausner killed himself in prison by overdosing in 2013.

A decade later, a similar string of drive-by shootings started. In 2015 and 2016, 9 people were killed and 2 injured in what police called the “Serial Street Shootings.” Police in 2017 arrested Aaron Saucedo, then 23, alleging he randomly gunned down the people, often at night, while they were returning home from work or in their front yards. He has pleaded not guilty to numerous charges and is awaiting trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Holocaust survivors’ daughter speaks out against gas chamber executions

As Arizona prepares to resume gas chamber executions, some relatives in the Valley of Holocaust survivors are criticizing the form of execution.

“This is still very palpable to us, even using it for one person is an inhumane way to go about capitol punishment,” Janice Friebaum, vice president of the Phoenix Holocaust Association and daughter of a Holocaust survivor said on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad Show Friday afternoon.

The prison system plans to use hydrogen cyanide, a gas similar to what the Nazis called Zyklon B.

“We know from experience, history and testimony that these were not quick and easy deaths. They were painful. They were agonizing. They were slow. They were deaths of suffocation, choking and gassing,” Friebaum said.

“We have very present in our memories all the time what happened to our families who were murdered in the holocaust,” Friebaum said. “For many of us, our closest family members were actually killed using this method.”

Friebaum added that the organization doesn’t take a particular stand on the death penalty itself, however, this particular form “is inhumane, and that’s what our organization is against.”

According to Friebaum, it’s become harder to educate people on what happened during the Holocaust.

“The fact that we still have survivors, that is the best for of education we have,” Friebaum said.

(source: KTAR news)

USA:

Persons who undertake the task of administering justice impartially should not be required – indeed, they should not be permitted – to finance campaigns or to curry the favor of voters by making predictions or promises about how they will decide cases before they have heard any evidence or argument. A campaign promise to “be tough on crime,” or to “enforce the death penalty,” is evidence of bias that should disqualify a candidate from sitting in criminal cases. – U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 1996

NIGERIA:

22-year-old man to die by hanging for armed robbery in Ekiti----The prosecution says the convict and others stole Mobile phones, Lexus E5 350, recharge cards, Bajaj motorcycle, wrist watches, ZDX Acura and cash of N205,500

A High Court in Ado Ekiti on Thursday sentenced a 22-year-old man, Kehinde Olajide, 22 to death by hanging for armed robbery.

Delivering judgment, Lekan Ogunmoye, the judge, held that the prosection had proven ingredients of armed robbery against Mr Olajide, without any reasonable doubt.

Also charged with Mr Olajide are Kareem Azeez, 24, Bamisile Lateef, 28, and Adebayo Basiru, 25.

Mr Ogunmoye, however, discharged Messrs Azeez, Lateef and Basiru of all charges.

“Olajide is hereby sentenced to death by hanging. May God almighty have mercy upon his soul.

The prosecution said the offence is contrary to section 6(b), 3(1) and 1(b)(a) of robbery and firearms (Special provision) Act, Cap.R11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

The prosecution said the convict and others at various times in Ado Ekiti, armed with dangerous weapons, robbed Dayo Folorunsho, Saka Yusuf, Adeoye Oluwatosin, Adeola Oluwatobi, Olayemi Aremu, Hambali Ojo and Ayodele Oluwafemi of their belongings.

The prosecution said the convict and others stole Mobile phones, Lexus E5 350, recharge cards, Bajaj motorcycle, wrist watches, ZDX Acura and cash of N205,500.

To prove its case, the prosecution counsel, H.A Adeyemi, called 5 witnesses while exhibit tendered include statements of the accused, locally made pistols, 2 live cartridges, black mask, among others.

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

Group advocates death penalty for looters of public funds

It’s an irony that looters of public funds in Nigeria move about with police escorts, the group says.

The Ndigbo Unity Forum worldwide, a non-governmental organisation, has advocated the death penalty for looters of public funds to eradicate the current spate of corruption in the country.

The group made the call in a statement jointly signed by its president, Augustine Chukwudum and secretary, Tony Igbokwe, on Sunday, in Enugu.

It also called on the National Assembly to remove the immunity clause from the Nigerian constitution, so that governors and other public officials could be probed while still in office.

“This will go a long way in stopping the ongoing daily looting especially at the state level,” the group said.

It urged President Muhammadu Buhari to put in more stringent measures and seriousness in the ongoing anti-graft war, “because some public office holders, by their words and actions, think the anti-graft war is a ruse”.

“We also demand that institutions like EFCC, ICPC and the judiciary be strengthened so that no one can be above the law as it is today.

“Everybody must be treated equally as it is in the U.S., Britain, Canada and other countries of the world.

“By so doing, justice must prevail, not in a case where ex-managing director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, who stole billions of naira, was recently sent to jail for a term of 6 years imprisonment.

“While someone who stole vegetables that was less than N1,000 value was abandoned for more than five years as an Awaiting Trial Mate (ATM),” the group said.

The group said it was a “big irony” for looters of public funds to be moving about with “heavy police escorts”, while enjoying their loot inside the country.

“The common people, whose wealth was stolen, are dying daily of hunger, lack of potable water, bad roads, no functional hospital and no standard primary and secondary schools,” it said.

The group recalled a statement it issued in 2020, calling on the EFCC to probe both present and ex-governors of the South-east over their alleged mismanagement and looting of public funds.

(source for both: premiumtimesng.com)

VIETNAM:

Vietnam police makes massive haul; seizes quarter ton of ketamine, 90kg stored in pig organs

Vietnamese police have seized 270 kilogrammes of ketamine - including 90 kilogrammes stored in pig organs - from a Taiwanese drug-trafficking ring, the state media has announced.

After intercepting gang members transporting ketamine in instant noodle packages in May, police used testimonies from these arrests to locate a factory used by the Taiwanese traffickers.

Security officials then raided a warehouse in Ho Chi Minh City, where they found 150 kilogrammes of ketamine hidden inside electric motors, along with 90 kilograms stashed inside the organs of 900 pigs awaiting delivery to China, local newspaper Tuoi Tre reported.

Police then tracked the drugs and caught the traffickers in the act as they attempted to bring the narcotics to Hanoi.

Vietnamese drug traders in Cambodia reportedly colluded with a syndicate in Vietnam before transporting drugs across the border and shipping them out of Ho Chi Minh City.

The southern metropolis has emerged as a major transport hub for the cross-border illegal drug trade in recent years, heightened in part by Vietnam's proximity to the Golden Triangle region covering Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

Under Vietnamese law, the production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or cocaine, or 300 grams of methamphetamines, warrants the death penalty.

On October 8, 2019, Vietnamese courts sentence 11 people to death for drug trafficking in a single day.

(source: thestar.com.my)

PAKISTAN:

Case for public hanging as a deterrent to heinous crimes

The recent case of a senior cleric being involved in the act of sodomy by blackmailing a helpless student, highlights the importance of punitive and swift punishments for heinous crimes, if these are to be discouraged. The current system of justice and prosecution in Pakistan is heavily skewed in favour of the criminals and therefore there is a constant rise in the rate of such crimes.

Even in rare cases when the criminals are given death penalty, it is not adequately publicised. The offender is executed in darkness. In such a case the criminal dies but the crime remains alive.

Public hanging- The deterrent to heinous crime

Pakistan needs to adopt Islamic laws for serious social crimes. The complete Islamic penal code may not be able to be adopted at once but at least punishments for crimes like child rape, kidnapping for ransom, looting and plundering and other extreme offenses against the society can be put under the Islamic scimitar.

A person who deserves to be given death penalty should be hanged or beheaded in public. This will serve as a deterrent and criminals who have become very bold will think many times before committing such heinous crimes. The option available to the family of the victim in forgiving the criminal should also be taken away from them.

The world needs bold and speedy measures to arrest the increase in magnitude of horrendous crimes. If Islam can provide an answer, why not adopt it’s tenets regarding such crimes. Humanity will thank us if we promulgate the time tested law against terrorists of this kind

(source: Chitral News)

EGYPT:

HRW calls on Egypt's Sisi to commute death sentences

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to immediately commute the death sentences for 12 protestors, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders "who had been convicted in a grossly unfair mass trial for participation in the 2013 Rab'a sit-in that ended with security forces killing at least 817 protestors."

On June 14, 2021, the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest appellate court, upheld the death sentences for the 12 as well as long prison sentences for hundreds of other Rab'a case defendants. Egypt's Criminal Procedure Code gives the president 14 days following the court ruling to pardon the defendants or commute the death sentences.

"The Rab'a trial was a mockery of justice, so it is outrageous that the highest court has upheld these 12 death sentences," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "President Sisi should seize this moment to void their execution and put an end to Egypt's profligate use of the death penalty."

Those whose death sentences the Cassation Court upheld include senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohamed al-Beltagy, 58, Osama Yassine, 56, Ahmed Arif, 40, Abdelrahman al-Barr, 58, and a prominent Brotherhood supporter and Islamic preacher, Safwat Hegazi, 56. Al-Beltagy was a member of the 2012 parliament, and Yassine was a minister in the government of former President Mohamed Morsy, a senior Brotherhood leader who died in detention in 2019. The 12 men whose death sentences were confirmed could face execution imminently if President al-Sisi does not act.

According to Amnesty International, the Egyptian authorities have executed at least 51 men and women in the 1st half of 2021. In October 2020, Human Rights Watch documented the execution of 49 men and women by Egyptian authorities in just 10 days.

"Egypt should immediately halt any further executions, particularly of those convicted in grossly unfair trials," Stork said. "To move forward, Egypt needs to address the crimes committed by security forces, including Rab'a and the mass killings of protestors."

(source: Middle East Monitor)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Over 40 Teens Face Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia over Participation in Protests, Activists Say

Saudi authorities plan to execute dozens of teenagers from the kingdom’s Shia-?populated Qatif region in Eastern Province over their participation in peaceful anti-regime protests, human rights activists warn.

Even though Saudi officials claimed last year to have halted the practice of executing people for crimes committed as a minor, the activists said, more than 40 teenagers face death penalty only because they took part in pro-democracy rallies in 2011, the Arabic-language Saudi Leaks news website reported.

The report comes less than a week after Saudi Arabia executed young Shia Muslim man Mustafa bin Hashim bin Issa Al Darwish, 26, who was convicted on charges stemming from his participation in an anti-regime protest as a minor.

Al Darwish was arrested in May 2015 and charged with protest-related offences, many of which occurred when he was 17. He was executed on June 15 in Dammam, a statement from the Saudi Ministry of Interior read.

Reprieve and Amnesty International said his confession was obtained under duress and that he recanted his confession, which he said was obtained through torture, in court, Press TV reported.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime. Security forces have increased security measures across the province.

Hamas supporters behind bars

Separately, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia says nearly 160 Palestinians are being held captive in the kingdom on charges of affiliation to the Islamic resistance movement of Hamas.

The Prisoners of Conscience stated that the detainees are being kept at the General Abha Prison in southwestern Saudi Arabia.

Back on June 8, Hamas reiterated that Saudi Arabia should release Palestinians held in its prisons, particularly the high-ranking ailing official Muhammad al-Khudari.

Senior Hamas official Ra’fat Murra said at the time that the continued detention of Khudari, 83, and other Palestinians is a “great injustice and an offense to the Palestinian people, their just cause and the Palestinian-Saudi relations.”

Murra urged the Saudi authorities to make a “courageous and responsible” decision to immediately end the trial of Khudari and others, especially as “the detainees have not committed any offense.”

He noted that Khudari and other Palestinian detainees and their families “have gone through injustice and suffering for more than 2 years.”

Khudari and his son Hani were arbitrarily arrested on April 4, 2019. He has been living in Saudi Arabia for over 30 years, and represented Hamas between mid-1990s and 2003 in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s repressive measures against the Palestinian resistance movement as well as those seeking to collect donations for people living in the blockaded Gaza Strip coincide with Riyadh’s expansion of secret ties with Israel under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

(source: iqna.ir)

JUNE 19, 2021:

TEXAS:

Death penalty sought for at least 1 in slaying of Rumney couple

Prosecutors plan to pursue the death penalty for at least 1 of 2 people accused of killing a Rumney couple and dumping their bodies on North Padre Island near Corpus Christi, Texas, according to media reports.

Adam Curtis Williams, 35, and Amanda Noverr, 34, of Utah were indicted on Oct. 22 by a Kleberg County grand jury on a charge of capital murder for intentionally and knowingly shooting the New Hampshire couple to death during a "criminal transaction."

James Butler, 48, and Michelle Butler, 46, had been traveling the country in their camper since 2018, working temporary jobs as they went. They had parked at a free campsite on North Padre Island. Their bodies were found in a shallow grave on Nov. 1, 2019.

Prosecutors said during a hearing over Zoom on Tuesday that they would seek the death penalty against Williams if he is convicted at trial, according to a report in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Noverr also appeared in court Tuesday, but according to the Caller-Times it is unclear if prosecutors will seek the death penalty against her.

Williams and Noverr allegedly stole the Butlers' Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck and trailer and drove into Mexico, where they were later found and extradited back to the U.S. A photo released of the couple in the truck entering Mexico was used to identify them.

Williams and Noverr previously had been indicted in January 2020 on charges of felony theft and tampering with evidence.

Kleberg County District Attorney John T. Hubert previously said the crime lab testing evidence in the case was slow before the COVID-19 pandemic hit — and became slower with more people out of the office. Trials were set to start last month but have been delayed.

Hubert declined comment Thursday afternoon, saying a gag order has been issued by a judge.

(source: Yahoo News)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Ryan announces plan to introduce bill repealing Pa. death penalty

Frank Ryan, the Republican state representative serving the 101st Legislative District in Lebanon County, wants to do away with the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

In a memorandum to state House members on June 14, Ryan said he intends in the near future “to introduce legislation that would repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania.”

“According to the Department of Corrections, there are currently 117 individuals on death row in Pennsylvania,” he wrote in the memo. “A recent study found that since Pennsylvania enacted the death penalty in 1978, it has cost the state roughly $816 million dollars more than the cost of life without parole.”

However, he noted, during that time only 3 people have been executed in the Commonwealth, all of whom had waived their rights of appeal and asked for their executions to proceed.

“In addition to its overwhelming cost, human error inherent in the criminal justice with respect to the death penalty has produced numerous unjust and tragic results,” Ryan wrote. “Specifically, six individuals who had been sentenced to death in Pennsylvania were later exonerated. In 2015, the governor placed a moratorium on all executions… Currently, Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state that still authorizes the use of the death penalty. Simply put, it is time that Pennsylvania joins its neighboring states and puts an end to this practice by repealing the death penalty.”

Ryan represents Cornwall, Lebanon, Mount Gretna, Palmyra, and North Cornwall, North Londonderry, South Annville, South Londonderry and West Cornwall townships.

The bill is likely to have some bipartisan support, given that Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, enacted a moratorium on executions in 2015. Ryan noted that he has been working on the bill’s language with state Rep. Christopher Rabb, a Democrat serving the 200th district in Philadelphia.

Ryan noted the irony when he admitted that he “absolutely” supported the governor’s moratorium.

In fact, Ryan said he is frustrated that party lines and personal attacks among legislators could derail the bill, which he and Rabb previously tried to get to the Capitol floor in 2020.

“We really want to get this thing done,” he said. “Sometimes, personalities have sidetracked the bill in the past.”

Unlike some death penalty opponents elsewhere in the United States, Ryan said he doesn’t favor its repeal for racial reasons.

“I believe the death penalty adversely affects those who are in poverty,” he explained. “A lot of people want to make it a black and white issue, but… I think it’s more an issue of the poor not getting justice.”

Ryan also noted that he is attaching a corollary to the bill that would bar those who are convicted of capital crimes and would be eligible for the death penalty from qualifying for humanitarian release.

According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, “humanitarian release” is defined as making an inmate eligible for immediate early release on grounds of “particularly extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing,” such as significant health issues.

“I do not believe in humanitarian release in death penalty type crimes,” Ryan said. “There are some crimes that are so heinous, they should never be eligible for parole.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Ryan said he also opposes minimum sentences, although he quickly added that he wants “no mercy for child sex trafficking. … You could throw away the key on that one, I wouldn’t care.”

Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the bill would affect her work as the county’s top prosecutor. Ryan said he had discussed the measure with the late state Senator Dave Arnold, who was Graf’s predecessor as district attorney, and he hopes to talk about it with Graf and local judges soon.

Bill gets mixed support from local reps

It remains to be seen how much favor the bill will find among Ryan’s legislative peers. In Lebanon County, however, there’s an even split on the issue. State Rep. Russ Diamond, a Republican representing the 102nd district, said he supports the measure.

“As someone who is 100% pro-life, I am philosophically opposed to the death penalty,” he said in an email to LebTown.

Diamond represents Cleona, Jonestown, Myerstown, Richland and Annville boroughs, and Bethel, Heidelberg, Jackson, Millcreek, North Lebanon, South Lebanon, Swatara, Union and West Lebanon townships.

However, state Rep. Susan C. Helm, a Republican representing the 104th District, disagrees.

“I did not support the governor’s 2015 moratorium on executions,” she said in an email. “And, although I realize juries are not immune to human error, I do not support repealing the death penalty in Pennsylvania, as Rep. Ryan’s bill would do.

“I believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent of crime—the more severe the consequence for such heinous crimes, the lower the likelihood that someone would commit one,” Helm explained. “However, on the other side of the same coin, I believe we should be exploring avenues to improve the system by which death sentences are given and carried out. Juries are comprised of humans, and humans are imperfect. We need to somehow find a perfect system in which no false convictions or improper sentences are handed down.”

Helm’s district lies largely in Dauphin County but includes East Hanover and North Annville townships in Lebanon County.

Ryan said he has seen support building for the measure among members of both parties, and cosponsors are already signing onto the bill.

“We’re trying to resolve some differences in language,” he said. “We’ve had some fairly good, open discussions.”

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, a Republican serving the 89th district in Franklin County, chairs the House Judiciary Committee and said he would “entertain a hearing” to discuss the bill further, Ryan said.

That probably won’t happen until September or October, he said. He hopes in the meantime to get legislators talking across the aisle.

“Both caucuses have become a little more polarized than is probably good,” Ryan said. “Unfortunately, you can derail a piece of legislation with a wrongly placed comment… You might feel better for the next 30 seconds, but the damage done to the relationships is problematic.”

A brief history of executions in PA

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., to serve the media and general public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment, Pennsylvania began carrying out executions—in the form of public hangings—in the early 1600s. In 1834, Pennsylvania became the 1st state in the U.S. to outlaw public executions and move the gallows to county prisons.

In 1913, DPIC says, “the state’s capital punishment statute was amended to bring executions under the administration of the state rather than individual counties, and also changed the method of execution to electrocution.” The state in 1990 changed its method of execution to lethal injection.

The website notes that, prior to 1976, Pennsylvania carried out 1,040 executions—the third highest number of any state. In the years since, the DPIC states, the population of Pennsylvania’s death row was for more than 20 years the 4th largest in the nation.

The Reading Eagle reported in 2016 that, from the time Pennsylvania enacted its current death penalty statute in 1978 through 2015, Pennsylvania had sentenced 408 prisoners to death, of whom 169 were subsequently resentenced to life in prison, 16 were resentenced to brief terms, and six were exonerated. Only 3 convicts were executed in that period; the rest, according to the Eagle report, either remained on death row at the time of publication or had died in prison.

The number of people on death row in the commonwealth “has declined steadily in size from 246 in October 2001 to 175 in July 2016, without any executions, primarily as a result of death sentences being overturned in the courts and defendants being resentenced to life or less or acquitted,” the DPIC states.

Feb. 13, 2015, Gov. Wolf enacted a moratorium on executions, “citing concerns about innocence, racial bias, and the death penalty’s effects on victims’ families,” the DPIC explains.

(source: lebtown.com)

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

1st-degree murder conviction handed down for Carlisle drive-by shooting

Family members of a Carlisle man muttered in disappointment Friday afternoon when a Cumberland County jury convicted him of first-degree murder for a drive-by shooting on a borough street.

The jury’s next task will commence Monday when it will be asked to decide if Craig R. Hines Jr., 21, should receive the death penalty for the June 21, 2018 slaying of 23-year-old Michael Burch.

Hines showed no emotion when the jurors announced their verdict after 2 ½ hours of deliberation.

The jury also convicted Hines of 1 count of aggravated assault, illegal gun possession and reckless endangerment, but acquitted him of a second aggravated assault charge and a simple assault count.

Hines was convicted of shooting Burch from a red SUV as Burch walked in the 1st block of East Penn Street in the middle of the afternoon.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Daniel Sodus argued during the 5-day trial that eyewitness testimony and video from traffic cams and a convenience store’s security system tied Hines to the killing.

Defense attorney Shane Kope tried to convince the jurors that the prosecution case consisted only of speculation and assumptions.

On Monday morning, during the penalty phase of the trial, the jury will return to Judge Albert H. Masland’s courtroom to hear arguments from the attorneys and expert testimony regarding factors mitigating for and against the imposition of a death sentence.

The jurors will then be able to opt for a death sentence or for a punishment of life in prison. A life sentence will be imposed automatically if the jurors cannot reach a unanimous verdict regarding the appropriate penalty.

Friends and family of Hines shouted encouragement to him as sheriff’s deputies escorted him from the courtroom in handcuffs. One weeping woman complained that authorities were trying to have Hines executed for a crime he didn’t commit.

(source: pennlive.com)

GEORGIA:

Georgia charges man in death after Alabama charges dropped

An Alabama man has been indicted on murder charges in Georgia less than 3 weeks after Alabama charges in the same killing were abruptly dismissed following a judge ruling DNA evidence was inadmissible.

Local news outlets report a Columbus grand jury indicted Stacey Gray on Wednesday for murder and other charged in Renee Eldridge’s July 2015 death. Muscogee County District Attorney Mark Jones said he would seek the death penalty against Gray if convicted.

Gray had been set for trial in Chambers County, Alabama, where Eldridge’s body was found. After the judge tossed out the DNA evidence because prosecutors failed to provide a sample to the defense for separate testing before trial, charges were dismissed on June 1. Gray was extradited to Columbus, where police had warrants accusing Gray of raping and imprisoning Eldridge in December 2014 at her Columbus home.

Gray pleaded not guilty to those charges. He’s jailed without bail in Columbus. The Wednesday indictment accuses him of murder, four counts of felony murder, kidnapping and rape.

Authorities allege Gray kidnapped Eldridge from her Columbus home in 2015 after her mother had dropped her off after 3:30 a.m. Using cell phone records, they say Gray took Eldridge first across the river to Russell County, Alabama, and then dumped her body in Chambers County.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FLORIDA:

Ronnie O'Neal won't take stand in double murder trial; closing arguments Monday

Closing arguments are expected to begin Monday in the Ronnie O’Neal double murder trial.

O’Neal is accused of killing his girlfriend, Kenyatta Brown, and their 9-year-old daughter, then trying to kill his 8-year-old son.

O’Neal, who is representing himself, said he would not testify in his own defense.

Court has recessed, and the judge said she did not want to sequester the jury. She asked them to bring an overnight bag just in case they may have to stay over in deliberations.

Defendant Ronnie O'Neal has already called 3 witnesses.

"Do you have any additional witnesses to call?" Judge Michelle Sisco asks.

"Not at this time," O'Neal said.

"Well, now is the time," Judge Michelle Sisco responded. @BN9 — Dalia Dangerfield (@DangerDalia) June 18, 2021

On Friday, the lead detective took the stand and was questioned by O’Neal, who asked the detective whether it could have been self-defense.

“I’m not going to say that, no,” the detective said. “I arrested you for her murder.”

O’Neal faces the death penalty if convicted.

(source: baynews9.com)

ALABAMA:

Henderson death penalty trial opening likely pushed back to June 24

Opening statements in the capital murder trial of Christopher Henderson are now expected to take place Thursday after the courts were closed much of Friday for the Juneteenth federal holiday.

Madison County Circuit Judge Chris Comer set out 4 days of questioning of jurors by the lawyers on both sides, but that schedule is now being adjusted.

Henderson is facing multiple capital murder counts for the deaths of 5 people in New Market in August 2015. The victims include Henderson’s estranged wife who was 9-months-pregnant, the unborn child, her 8-year-old son, her 1-year-old nephew and her mother.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Henderson.

The court’s plan was to interview a juror group a day, from Thursday to Tuesday, then pick a jury and begin with opening statements Wednesday, June 23.

But the Friday group in the jury pool gathered for a little while this morning and then was excused as the Madison County courts were closed for the holiday. Those jurors have been told to return Wednesday for additional questioning.

The would-be jurors have filled out a 40-page questionnaire, which the lawyers spent 2 days reviewing. The follow-up question sessions are aimed at taking a closer look at jurors’ views of issues like the death penalty and what constitutes “reasonable doubt.”

The jury that’s ultimately selected is expected to include 12 jurors and a larger-than usual total of 6 alternates. That larger pool is due to pandemic-related concerns, the expected length of the case and the fact that capital punishment is on the table — if Henderson is convicted.

The jury selection process is due to resume Monday morning.

(source: WHNT news)

OKLAHOMA:

Pro-death penalty Republicans ask Oklahoma governor to halt execution

Dozens of Oklahoma lawmakers who support the death penalty on Thursday urged the state’s governor and parole board to pause before executing an accused murderer who has been on death row for 23 years.

Richard Glossip was convicted by two separate Oklahoma juries of paying another man to kill his boss, an Oklahoma City motel owner, in 1997. But new evidence has persuaded 34 legislators — including 28 Republicans — to urge Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and others to take another look at the case.

“I’ve never done anything like this before because I favor the death penalty and I’m usually inclined to think if a guy has exhausted the whole process then he’s probably guilty, but I knew I had to do something,” said Republican state Rep. Kevin McDugle. “There’s no political points gained here in Oklahoma for this, I can assure you, and unfortunately I don’t know if what I’ve done will be enough. But after looking at Glossip’s case, I knew I had to do something.”

Mr. McDugle and the other lawmakers are convinced Glossip had nothing to do with the savage killing and robbery of motel owner Barry Van Treese in 1997. Instead, the motel maintenance man with a methamphetamine habit and a record of breaking into and stealing from rooms and cars at the motel —19-year-old Justin Sneed — did.

Sneed, who testified against Glossip, was convicted for his part in the murder. But in return for his cooperation, he has been serving his sentence in a medium-security prison that Mr. McDugle and others said is about the cushiest incarceration location in the state.

“We do not make this request lightly,” the legislators wrote in a letter dated May 17 but not delivered to Mr. Stitt until Thursday. “Many who have signed this letter support the death penalty but, as such, we have a moral obligation to make sure the state of Oklahoma never executes a person for a crime he did not commit.

“The prosecution’s case that put Mr. Glossip on death row has been called into serious question by compelling new witness statements and expert reports, along with other evidentiary problems, that can only be resolved by additional investigation and testing,” the letter said. “Killing Richard Glossip without certainty of his guilt will erode public trust, not only in capital punishment, but in the integrity and fairness of the entire Oklahoma criminal justice system.”

Glossip has been close to being executed before. In January 2015, he was waiting outside the execution chamber when Oklahoma injected another prisoner with what turned out to be the wrong chemicals. That prisoner, Charles Warner, died writhing in pain, according to witnesses, and the state halted future executions.

That nearly botched execution also made Glossip the named plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Oklahoma’s execution protocols, and while that case is decided, Glossip’s own lethal injection has been put on hold.

That same year, Helen Prejean, a Louisiana nun and famous death penalty opponent, contacted Denver lawyer Don Knight and asked him to take on Glossip’s case. Mr. Knight said he was appalled at what he learned.

“There is no question at all Glossip had nothing to do with this and he was poorly, poorly served by his lawyers in the past,” Knight said. “There’s no doubt in my mind if a jury or panel heard what we know now, he would be quickly acquitted.”

The governor’s office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment on the letter and the case.

Glossip was a manager of a Best Budget Inn in January 1997 when Van Treese was found bludgeoned to death in Room 102, hours after his car had been found oddly parked nearby. Distraught, Glossip sold some belongings and went to a lawyer, who told him he saw little reason for Glossip to worry, only to have police arrest him in the parking lot when he left the lawyer’s office.

Police zeroed in on Glossip early and offered Sneed, who was arrested several days later, more favorable terms if he would rat Glossip out, according to several people who have studied the case.

On little more than Sneed’s word, Glossip was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998, Mr. McDugle told The Washington Times. The Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals on a 5-0 vote in 2001 threw out Gossip’s conviction as “extremely weak.”

Glossip was retried, this time with public defenders who also did no investigating and cursory trial work, according to Mr. Knight. That 2004 conviction was upheld by a divided appeals court, which ruled 3-2 against Glossip.

After Sister Prejean persuaded Mr. Knight to take the case, he appeared on an episode of the “Dr. Phil” show to discuss it, and after following up some tips that came from that appearance, Mr. Knight has developed scores of potential witnesses and boxes of statements and other evidence that shows Sneed acted either alone or with a woman a witness heard in Room 102.

“We are also hopeful that, if it is true that Justin Sneed had an accomplice who was in the room when the murder occurred, she may be brought to justice for her role in this crime,” the legislators’ letter said. “If Mr. Glossip is executed before a full review of the new evidence is completed, Oklahoma risks killing an innocent man and allowing one of the real murderers to escape justice. This cannot be acceptable when we can prevent it.”

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater’s office has refused to cooperate and release its records on the case for years, according to Mr. McDugle and others. Mr. Prater, who announced he would not seek re-election in April, did not return a phone call to his office Thursday. He was not in office during Glossip’s 2 trials.

“I’ve gone to the DA and said, ‘If you have 4 aces on this, put them on the table,’ and all my requests to the DA have gone ignored,” Mr. McDugle said. “I think there is substantial evidence that shows Glossip wasn’t involved in this and never ‘split the money’ with Sneed, whereas Sneed has a lot to gain from all of this.”

(source: Washington Times)

UTAH:

Former Utah state prison Warden talks about death row and change

Former Utah state prison Warden Ken Shulsen’s 1st shift as a corrections officer was a memorable one.

“I’ll never forget my first experience, my first official act as a corrections officer, was to walk in front of a cell, verify the individual was in the cell,” he said during Episode 12 of Talking Cold, the companion podcast to The Cold Podcast Season 2: Justice for Joyce. “One of the death row inmates threw a cup of urine down the front of me. And I remember saying something like, ‘That’s not very nice.’ And I went to the next cell, and that guy did the same thing.”

He said he looked down the row of cells and saw there were 3 more he had to verify.

“I said, ‘Now guys, have I been baptized enough, or is this going to go on all night?” said Shulsen, who spent 23 years working for corrections, including several years as Warden. “And all three of those guys said, ‘No, no problems.’ So I went by and counted them.”

After he finished the count, he went around the corner, out of view of the inmates, and took his clothes off to wash them in the sink.

“I was christened early in the system,” said Shulsen, who was 25 at the time.

Shulsen, who was warden for several years in the mid-80s, has worked in almost every area of the prison from education to athletics, as well as in corrections administration. He discussed his career on the podcast, including a small riot in which he was briefly taken hostage. Shulsen describes what happened in the riot in episode 12 of Talking Cold.

Shulsen helped oversee the execution of 3 inmates on Utah’s death row, including Gary Gilmore, who was the 1st person executed in the U.S. after a U.S. Supreme Court decision led to a nearly 10 year moratorium on executions. Shulsen’s job was to deal with the press, and he was the one who informed the world that Gilmore had been shot to death in the 1977 execution. Shulsen also said they learned lessons about what to avoid during executions from the experience with Gilmore, including making sure the inmates were isolated from family and friends prior to the death date.

Shulsen was part of the effort to come up with laws that governed the death penalty in Utah, as it was mostly up to corrections, specifically the warden, before reforms in the 1980s. And while he believes the best way to help people change their lives is to find ways to keep them out of prison, he said he witnessed a lot of positive change in his 2 decades at the prison.

“I’ve seen a lot of lives change,” he said. “I got a letter one time from a guy in Southern California, and I didn’t even remember him, have no idea who he was. He thanked me for some things I did for him to help him get through prison. And I had no idea who he was. He was president of some company down there. I mean, he was kind of a big shot. … I was in the Salt Lake temple a number of years after I retired, and I sat down and a gentleman sat down next to me. I … kind of glanced and I could see tattoos running out from under his sleeves and this voice says, ‘How are you Warden?’ And I looked in it was an ex motorcycle guy, who was in prison for murder. It was one of our firefighters. ….I’ve seen a lot of lives change.”

(source: KSL News Radio)

IDAHO:

Idaho finally compensates 1st exonerated death-row inmate. Here’s what he got

After more than 18 years in prison and 2 decades spent without being formally declared innocent of the charges against him, 72-year-old Charles Fain received a declaration of innocence from the state of Idaho last week and compensation on Thursday.

“Today we say we’re sorry as a society,” said Sen. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, at a press conference at the Statehouse on Thursday.

Ricks and Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, sponsored the Idaho Wrongful Conviction Act, which Gov. Brad Little signed into law in March. The act provides compensation from the state for people who serve time in prison in Idaho for crimes they did not commit.

Exonerees will receive $62,000 from the state for each year they spent in prison, while those who served on death row will receive $75,000 per year. For his time served, Fain received nearly $1.4 million on Thursday, according to Andrea Carone, a lawyer with Boise firm Stoel Rives LLP, who worked on Fain’s case pro bono. A second Idaho exoneree, Christopher Tapp, has also received a certificate of innocence and compensation.

“The compensation paid doesn’t restore 20 years of a person’s life,” Ricks said. “But we as a government do what we can to provide some compensation here and to back that up with a sorry that a bad crime was committed against them.”

After being wrongfully convicted for the 1982 sexual assault and murder of a Nampa child, Fain spent 6,745 days on death row, according to a release from the co-director of the Idaho Innocence Project, Greg Hampikian.

“Mr. Fain was in a cell by himself 23 hours every day, pretty much isolation,” said Rick Visser, the first legal director of the Idaho Innocence Project. “One hour a day he could bathe or take a little bit of a walk.”

At one point, in 1991, Fain told the Idaho Statesman that he had been just 4 days away from the date of his execution before it was delayed. During his imprisonment, he said the date of his execution was scheduled 3 times.

DNA played a role

Fain was released from prison in 2001, after a DNA analysis technique excluded him as a suspect in the killing. When he was released, he was given “a pair of dungarees and a jacket from the prison laundry,” Hampikian said.

In May 2020, police charged a different man, David Dalrymple, with the killing of the child after a recent advancement in DNA examination was able to match his DNA with a hair found at the crime scene.

Despite his ordeal, Fain says he has forgiven the state.

“We’ve forgiven the people that did this to us,” Fain said, referring to himself and other exonerees. “It’s a real freedom to forgive somebody.”

A Vietnam veteran, Fain is one of a small number of people in the nation who have been exonerated after spending time on death row.

“There are more astronauts that have gone into space than are death-row exonerees,” Visser said. “And we have one here in Idaho.”

In the news release, Fain said he hopes to retire, “live quietly” and buy a truck. On Thursday, he told the Statesman he may need to have bypass surgery this summer.

“Just try and (imagine) taking an 18-year chunk out of your life,” Visser said. “Our legal system needs a lot of correcting.”

(source: Idaho Statesman)

NEVADA:

Lawyers for quadruple murderer challenge lethal injection cocktail

Lawyers for Zane Floyd, scheduled to die in fewer than 40 days for a massacre at a Las Vegas grocery store, say an untested combination of drugs planned for his lethal injection would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. “Zane Floyd is in a unique position,” federal public defenders wrote in a court brief filed Friday, reiterating a request to stay the execution. “The State seeks to execute him using a novel execution protocol. Only 1 of the 6 proposed drugs and alternates has an established (though contentious) history of use in executions; the others have been used rarely, accidentally, or not at all.”

Ketamine, 1 of the drugs proposed by the Nevada Department of Corrections in a 4-drug cocktail made public last week, has never been used in an American execution, according to the lawyers.

The plan calls for an injection of painkillers fentanyl or alfentanil, “depending on availability;” ketamine, an anesthetic; cisatracurium, a paralytic; and heart-stopping potassium chloride or potassium acetate, “depending on availability.”

‘Unnecessary risks’

“Each of the 4 drugs and two alternates in Nevada’s experimental protocol involve unnecessary risks,” Assistant Federal Public Defenders David Anthony, Brad Levenson and Timothy Payne argued. “These drugs combined create a substantial risk that Floyd’s execution will involve unconstitutional pain and suffering.”

Ketamine, the lawyers argued, could cause “excessive secretions from the mouth” and vomiting and lead to a burning sensation in Floyd’s veins and lungs.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which is critical of the administration of capital punishment but takes no stance on executions, said that using untried methods of lethal injection was “inherently a problem” in the effort to carry out Floyd’s sentence.

“Otherwise, it’s about vengeance, not about trying to administer the law,” he said. “And if it’s about vengeance, that’s all about social control, and it stops being an instrument of justice.”

Prosecutors seeking Floyd’s execution declined to comment on the request for a stay, and the attorney general’s office, which represents the prison system, had not filed a response to the brief as of late Friday.

Cisatracurium would be excluded in an optional 3-drug protocol listed in the state’s execution manual.

Victims of 1999 shooting

Prison officials have not definitively said whether any of the drugs had been obtained, and a spokeswoman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday that the names of the drug manufacturers still were being withheld from the public.

Floyd shot and killed four employees — Lucy Tarantino, 60, Thomas Darnell, 40, Chuck Leos, 40, and Dennis “Troy” Sargent, 31 — and gravely wounded another, Zachary Emenegger, inside an Albertsons on West Sahara Avenue in June 1999.

He also was convicted of repeatedly raping a woman before the shooting. Now 45, he would be the first person executed in Nevada since 2006.

Nevada’s lethal injection protocol faced drawn-out legal scrutiny after another death row inmate, Scott Dozier, asked to be executed in late 2016.

Floyd’s lawyers argued that prison officials’ decision to make cisatracurium, the paralytic drug, optional pointed to its “superfluousness.”

As Dozier’s case lingered in the court system, a doctor testified that it was “unnecessary” and could mask suffering. Dozier killed himself in an Ely State Prison cell in 2019 before litigation in his case was resolved.

The use of potassium chloride or potassium acetate could cause Floyd to “suffer excruciating pain,” his attorneys wrote. Fentanyl or its alternative, they argued, could interfere with “consciousness checks” during the execution, described in the state’s manual as “an interpretable physical response” to “verbal stimulus” or a “medical grade pinch.”

Alternative execution methods

In previous court filings, Floyd’s lawyers said he favored a firing squad over lethal injection. On Friday, they argued that shooting Floyd would result in “nearly instantaneous death, be comparatively painless, and have a lower chance of a botched execution.”

The U.S. Supreme Court requires alternatives in order to challenge a method of execution. A second option the lawyers suggested was using a barbiturate such as pentobarbital, which recently has been used in federal executions, and “reliably induces and maintains a coma-like state that renders a person insensate to pain and necessarily precedes death.”

Floyd’s lawyers also argued that they should have more time to analyze the proposed lethal injection cocktail. The state’s prison director testified last month that he would prefer up to four months to prepare for an execution.

“Had the defendants developed a protocol and disclosed sufficient information to Floyd about the protocol when preparations for Floyd’s execution began months ago, a stay may not have been necessary,” the federal public defenders wrote. “And Floyd is not seeking to prevent the State from ever carrying out his sentence; he is instead seeking to enjoin the State from executing him unconstitutionally when there are alternatives available that significantly reduce the substantial risk of severe pain.”

(source: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CALIFORNIA:

Scott Peterson Murder Case: District Attorney Wants Him off Death Row

Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said that their position on Scott Peterson's murder case is that he is not eligible to be on death row and is only right to set the formal sentencing.

According to a Modesto Bee report, Fladager made the statement during a hearing for Peterson in San Mateo Superior Court on Friday, June 18.

Prosecutors also said that Scott Peterson should be sentenced so that the family of his wife, Laci Peterson, could make victim impact statements, and the defendant could be taken off death row.

Last year, the California Supreme Court had overturned Peterson's death sentence in the 2002 murders of his wife Laci and their unborn son Conner.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris initially said that the office would retry the penalty phase. However, Fladager filed a notice in late May saying that she will no longer be pursuing the death penalty.

Scott Peterson would be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole based on his 2004 murder conviction.

Early this month, California prosecutors said they would not be seeking a death penalty against Scott Peterson even if he is granted a new trial based on juror misconduct, according to ABC News.

But Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo noted that even that declaration would not be enough to completely take a death sentence off the table.

Massullo said that laws change, as well as district attorneys. She noted that she wanted to make sure that everything they do is right.

Massullo is reviewing when to resentence Peterson to life without parole after Fladager said in a court filing that she would not seek to retry the case's death penalty portion after the state Supreme Court overturned it.

The judge is also considering if Scott Peterson should get an entirely new trial due to juror misconduct. Pat Harris, one of Peterson's defense attorneys, said that prosecutors could seek the death penalty if they retry the entire case as a new trial would send it right back to square one.

The judge's consideration is based on a juror's failure to disclose that she had sought a restraining order against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend in 2000.

The juror reportedly committed "prejudicial misconduct" by failing to disclose that she had been involved in prior legal proceedings. The juror earlier said that she sought a restraining order as she feared for her unborn child.

Massullo has yet to decide if that amounted to juror misconduct and whether it was prejudicial that a new trial is warranted.

Scott Peterson's Murder Case

Laci Peterson was 8 months pregnant with their unborn child when she was reported missing on Dec. 24, 2002. Scott Peterson caught the attention of investigators as he seemed to be lacking concern over his wife's disappearance. He had also refused to take a polygraph test, according to a Biography report.

Amber Frey, a massage therapist, came forward and admitted that she started dating Peterson two months earlier. She said that she was not aware that Peterson was married. Frey contacted the police on Dec. 30, 2002 after connecting Peterson to the missing woman in the headlines.

Four months after Laci Peterson went missing, locals found two decomposed bodies washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay.

On Apr. 18, 2003, Scott Peterson was arrested, and the bodies that the authorities found were identified as Laci and Conner.

When he was arrested in La Jolla, California, Peterson was sporting a dyed-blond hairdo and goatee. He was also driving a car with around $15,000 in cash, with his brother's ID card and several cellphones.

(source: Latin Post)

USA:

The Rosenbergs were executed for spying in 1953. Can their sons reveal the truth?----Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sent to the electric chair for being Soviet spies, but their sons have spent decades trying to clear their mother’s name. Are they close to a breakthrough?

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs…… ” So goes the opening sentence of Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel The Bell Jar, referring to the Jewish American couple, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and sent to the electric chair exactly 68 years ago today. Their execution casts a morbid shadow over Plath’s book, just as it did over the United States, and it is seen by many as the nadir of America’s engagement with the cold war. The Rosenbergs are still the only Americans ever put to death in peacetime for espionage, and Ethel is the only American woman killed by the US government for a crime other than murder.

During their trial, Ethel in particular was vilified for prioritising communism over her children, and the prosecution insisted she had been the dominant half of the couple, purely because she was 3 years older. “She was the mastermind of this whole conspiracy,” assistant prosecutor Roy Cohn told the judge. But questions about whether she was guilty at all have been growing louder in recent years, and a new biography presents her in a different light. “Ethel was killed for being a wife. She was guilty of supporting her husband,” Anne Sebba, author of Ethel Rosenberg: A Cold War Tragedy, tells me. And for that, the 37-year-old mother of 2 young children had 5 massive jolts of electricity pumped through her body. Her death was so brutal that eyewitnesses reported that smoke rose out of her head.

The killing of the Rosenbergs was so shocking at the time and is so resonant of a specific period in American history that it has become part of popular culture. In Tony Kushner’s play Angels In America, Ethel haunts Cohn. In Woody Allen’s Crimes And Misdemeanours, Clifford (played by Allen) says sarcastically that he loves another character “like a brother – David Greenglass”, referencing Ethel’s brother, who testified against her and Julius to save himself and his wife. The most moving cultural response to the Rosenbergs’ deaths was EL Doctorow’s 1971 novel, The Book Of Daniel, which imagines the painful life afterwards of the Rosenbergs’ oldest child, whom he renames Daniel. In reality, the older Rosenberg child is called Michael, and his younger brother is Robert.

It is a bitter, rainy spring day when I interview the Rosenbergs’ sons. Only 3 and 7 when their parents were arrested, six and 10 when they were killed, they are now grandfathers with grey beards and known as Michael and Robert Meeropol, having long ago taken the surname of the couple who adopted them after the US government orphaned them. When their parents were arrested, Michael, always a challenging child (“That’s putting it kindly,” he says), acted out even more, whereas Robert withdrew into himself. This dynamic still holds true: “Robert is more reserved and I tend to fly off the handle,” says Michael, 78, a retired economics professor, whose eyes spark with fire when he recalls old battles. Patient, methodical Robert, 74, a former lawyer, considers every word carefully. We are all talking by video chat, and when I ask where Robert is, he replies that he’s at home in Massachusetts, in a town “90 miles west of Boston and 150 miles north-east of New York City. To be more specific… ” Michael is in his home in New York state, in a town he describes as “just south of Pete Seeger’s home”, referring to the folksinger and leftwing hero.

The differences between the brothers are obvious, but so is their closeness: Michael calls Robert “Chando”, a childhood nickname, and since Michael’s wife, Ann, died 2 years ago, his younger brother has called him every day.

“Rob and I are unusual siblings in so many ways. We have dealt with so many struggles, so we are very enmeshed,” says Michael. I ask how it would have been if he had gone through it all on his own. He recoils, poleaxed by the thought. “I think it would have been very, very hard,” he says eventually. Perhaps just as importantly, they have been there for one another as adults, as more evidence about their parents’ case has trickled out, and they’ve had to keep reframing their own past. “Throughout the 70s and 80s, we believed our parents were just communists who were framed. Do you want to add anything, Chando?” says Michael. “Yes, I would add: you can frame guilty people,” says Robert.

The brothers’ struggles began on 17 July 1950 when their father, Julius, was arrested in the family’s home on New York’s Lower East Side on suspicion of espionage. Michael had been listening to The Lone Ranger on the radio, an episode in which the Lone Ranger was framed, and now the show seemed to be happening in front of him. The previous month, Ethel’s younger brother, David Greenglass, had been arrested for the same crime. Equally significantly, the Korean war had just begun, which was seen by the US as a fight to stop communism destroying the American way of life. Senator Joseph McCarthy was warning Americans about “homegrown commies”. By the time Julius was arrested, America was in a red panic. A month later, Ethel was seized by the FBI and charged. She called Michael at home and told him that she, like his father, had been arrested.

“So you can’t come home?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

The 7-year-old screamed.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, like David Greenglass and his wife, Ruth, were communists. Like a lot of Jews, they became interested in the movement in the 1930s when it seemed like a means to fight against fascism. Unlike many others, they stuck with it after the Soviet Union and Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact, ostensibly, if not officially, allying the countries. “It’s easy today to criticise them, but these were people who grew up in poverty during the Depression and saw the rise of fascism. They thought they were making the world a better place,” says Sebba. As a historian, Sebba has built up a reputation for writing in particular about women, such as Wallis Simpson. “I do like writing about a woman who has been misunderstood,” she says, and few, according to her, have been more misunderstood than Ethel Rosenberg.

The Rosenbergs are almost invariably discussed as a duo, but as her sons have slowly realised, and as Sebba shows in her book, their stories were very different. While Julius had a close relationship with his mother, Sophie, Ethel and her mother, Tessie, had a difficult one. Tessie favoured David, the baby of the family, and for Ethel, communism was a means of educating herself and separating herself from her mother.

David briefly worked as a machinist at an atomic power laboratory called Los Alamos Laboratory. He was arrested when he was identified as part of a chain that passed on secrets about the technology to the Soviets. David quickly admitted his guilt, and his lawyer advised him that the best thing he could do for himself, and to give his wife immunity, would be to turn in someone else. Then the Rosenbergs were arrested. The FBI believed that Julius was a kingpin who recruited Americans to spy against their own country, and that he had used David to pass on secrets of the atomic bomb to the Russians. The initial allegations against Ethel were that she “had a discussion with Julius Rosenberg and others in November 1944”, and “had a discussion with Julius Rosenberg, David Greenglass and others in January 1945” – in other words, that she talked to her husband and brother. It was feeble stuff, as the FBI knew, yet Myles Lane, the chief assistant attorney for the Southern District of New York, told the press: “If the crime with which she, Ethel, is charged had not occurred perhaps we would not have the present situation in Korea.”

Michael played hangman with his father on prison visits, although he didn’t realise the irony until he was an adult

Initially, David testified that his sister had not been involved in any espionage. However, his wife, Ruth, said that Ethel had typed up the information David had given Julius to pass on to the Soviets. David quickly changed his story the week before the trial to corroborate his wife’s version, probably under pressure from Roy Cohn, the ambitious chief assistant prosecutor. This was the key evidence against Ethel, and the chief prosecutor, Irving Saypol, conjured up an image for the jury of Ethel at the typewriter, pounding the keys, striking “blow by blow, against her own country in the interest of the Soviets”. But even with that, Myles Lane, who had publicly laid the blame for the Korean war at Ethel’s feet, admitted privately in a closed-door meeting of the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy: “The case is not strong against Mrs Rosenberg. But for the purpose of acting as a deterrent, I think it is very important that she be convicted, too, and given a stiff sentence.” FBI director J Edgar Hoover agreed, writing “proceeding against the wife will serve as a lever” to make her husband talk.

At the trial, under Cohn’s questioning, David testified that in September 1945 he gave Julius a sketch and description of the atomic bomb, and that Ethel was deeply involved in the discussions between them. Because he had given names, David was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and ended up serving nine. Ruth was free to stay home and look after their children. The Rosenbergs, who insisted they were innocent, were found guilty. Judge Irving Kaufman carefully considered their sentence. Hoover, aware of the tenuousness of the case against Ethel, and how it would look if America executed a young mother, urged against the death sentence for her, but Cohn argued for it and won.

Michael and Robert never saw the Greenglasses again after the trial, and all Michael remembers of them is: “David looked like a nondescript schlub and Ruth was a cold fish. But is that true, or just a nephew who wants to expose the people who lied about my parents?” he asks. They constantly question their own memories of the past. Robert says that when he thinks of his family before his parents were arrested he has, “this feeling of a golden age, of a wonderful loving family before it was ripped apart. But is that just fantasy?”

Ethel has long been portrayed as a cold woman, one who, as Kaufman said in his sentencing, loved communism more than her children. In reality, as Sebba reveals in her book, she was a particularly devoted mother, with a progressive interest in child psychology. Before her arrest, she regularly saw a child therapist, Elizabeth Phillips, for help with Michael and to learn how to be a better mother. During her three years in prison, she faithfully kept up her subscription to Parents magazine. But when she was arrested, all the aspirations she had harboured for giving her boys the kind of happy childhood that had been denied to her imploded spectacularly. At first the boys lived with her mother, Tessie, who made no secret of her resentment of the situation. Things got even worse when they were put in a children’s home. Eventually, Julius’s mother, Sophie, took them in, but two little boys were too much for their frail grandmother to handle. None of their many aunts or uncles would take them, either because they sided with David and Ruth, or they were scared. So they were shipped around to various families. All Ethel could do was write letters to her lawyer, Manny Bloch, desperately laying out her parenting theories in the hope they would somehow be followed (“One cannot behave inconsistently with children… ”) For the sake of the boys, she always maintained a happy front when they visited.

“We always had a good time on the prison visits: singing, talking, enjoying ourselves,” says Michael. He even used to play hangman with his father, although he didn’t realise the irony until he was an adult.

The US government said that if Julius gave them names of other spies, and he and Ethel admitted their guilt, their lives would be spared. The Rosenbergs issued a public statement: “By asking us to repudiate the truth of our innocence, the government admits its own doubts concerning our guilt… we will not be coerced, even under pain of death, to bear false witness.” On 16 June 1953, the children were brought to Sing Sing prison in New York State to say goodbye to their parents. Ethel kept up her usual brave appearance, but on this occasion Michael – who was 10 and understood what was happening – was upset by her outward calm. Afterwards, Ethel wrote a letter to her children: “Maybe you thought that I didn’t feel like crying when we were hugging and kissing goodbye huh… Darlings, that would have been so easy, far too easy on myself… because I love you more than I love myself and because I knew you needed that love far more than I needed the relief of crying.” On 19 June, Ethel and Julius wrote their last letter to their children: “We wish we might have had the tremendous joy and gratification of living our lives out with you… Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience. We press you close and kiss you with all our strength. Lovingly, Daddy and Mommy.” Just after 8pm that day, the Rosenbergs were executed. They were buried on Long Island, in one of the few Jewish cemeteries that would accept their bodies.

With their extended family still unwilling to look after them (“People later said to me, ‘A Jewish family and no family members took in the kids?!’” says Michael wryly), the boys were eventually adopted by Abel and Anne Meeropol, an older leftwing couple. They could finally grow up in anonymity among loving people who told them their parents had been brave and admirable. Abel Meeropol was a songwriter whose biggest hit was Strange Fruit, so the boys were raised on the royalties from the most famous song of the civil rights era. “I never thought about our aunts and uncles not taking us in, because living with Abel and Anne, it felt like we won the lottery,” says Michael. But memories of their parents were always there. Robert developed a strong physical resemblance to Ethel. “It made me want to hug and kiss him all the time,” says Michael.

The boys enjoyed a happy, academic, leftwing upbringing as Meeropols. They told almost no one their real surname, and Robert, who was a toddler when his parents were imprisoned, never considered reverting to it. It was more complicated for Michael, who could remember playing ball games with his father in their apartment (“If it went in Robby’s playpen, it was a home run.”) Eventually, he decided as an adult that reverting to Rosenberg would be “artificial”. It soon didn’t matter, because in 1973 the local media unmasked them, ignoring their pleas to retain their anonymity. They decided to put the exposure to good use by campaigning for their parents. They wrote a memoir, We Are Your Sons, and sued the FBI and CIA under the Freedom of Information Act, obtaining more than 300,000 once secret documents which they believed proved their parents’ innocence. But the story had only started to unfold.

In 1995, the Venona papers were declassified. These were messages sent between Soviet intelligence agencies that had been intercepted and decrypted by US counterintelligence from 1943 to 1980. The Rosenbergs were named in them. Julius, it was now clear, had definitely been spying for the Soviets, so much so that he was given the codename “Antenna” and later “Liberal”. David and Ruth Greenglass were also sufficiently productive as spies to be given codenames – “Calibre” and “Wasp”. But there was little about Ethel. She didn’t have a codename. She was, one cable noted, “a devoted person” – ie a communist – but, the cables also stressed, “[she] does not work”, ie she was not a spy. But when describing the recruitment of Ruth, the cable said, “Liberal and his wife recommend her as an intelligent and clever girl.”

“At first, I hated that transcript, because it made Julius look guilty of something,” says Robert. “But then I realised this was as close to a smoking gun we would ever get, because it said that Julius and Ethel didn’t do the thing they were killed for. Ethel didn’t work and Julius wasn’t an atomic spy, he was a military-industrial spy,” he says, meaning that although Julius passed on details of weapons, he wasn’t passing on details about the atomic bomb.

When our father got involved with the Soviets, our mother stayed out of it so that if he got arrested, she could take care of us

Michael was more sceptical of the Venona papers and wondered if they were “CIA disinformation”. But in 2008 he finally accepted them when Morton Sobell – who had been convicted for espionage along with the Rosenbergs and served 18 years in Alcatraz – gave an interview to the New York Times. He said that he and Julius had been spies together, and confirmed that Julius had not helped the Russians build the bomb. “What he gave them was junk,” Sobell said of Julius, probably because he didn’t know anything about the bomb. Of Ethel, Sobell said, “She knew what he was doing, but what was she guilty of? Of being Julius’s wife.” This corroborated what Aleksandr Feklisov, a retired KGB agent, said in 1997 when he admitted that he had been Julius’s handler. Feklisov agreed that Julius had passed on military secrets but, “he didn’t understand anything about the atomic bomb, and he couldn’t help us”. Ethel, he said, “had nothing to do with this, she was completely innocent. I think she knew [what her husband was doing], but for that you don’t kill people.”

Michael has made peace with the revelation that his father was a spy. “As Robby’s daughter Jenny said to me, there is a positive to not thinking of our family as hapless victims. We want to be people who take charge of our lives,” he says. But he and Robert repeatedly emphasise that their uncle David’s claim that he gave Julius atomic information in September 1945 is extremely dubious. Recent research corroborates their argument: Soviet sources state that Julius stopped working for them in February 1945. “[The government] took a small-fry spy and framed him to be an atomic spy,” is Michael’s take on his father. Ethel, however, was a very different story.

In 1996, David Greenglass gave an interview in which he finally admitted he lied about his sister: “I told them the story and left her out of it, right? But my wife put her in it. So what am I gonna do, call my wife a liar? My wife is my wife. I mean, I don’t sleep with my sister, you know.” He added, “I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don’t remember.” It is possible that Ethel helped to recruit Ruth and David, but they needed little encouragement. Many Jews of their milieu were communists and the Greenglasses’ letters show they were even more enthusiastic about communism than the Rosenbergs. Ruth died in 2008, David in 2014.

Robert launched the campaign for Ethel’s exoneration in 2015 – not for a pardon, because that would suggest she had done something wrong, but a full exoneration. He is, he says, “more focused” on his mother than his father. “Perhaps my willingness to separate Ethel from Julius is a sign I don’t feel the same way about my parents,” he says.

I ask what he means.

“I wonder if there’s a little voice in the back of my head that’s saying, ‘You know, Julius, you really shouldn’t have done it, because you had kids,’” he says with some effort. I ask how he feels when he looks back at his father’s letters from prison, in which he insisted he was innocent. “I think he was spinning: he wasn’t an atomic spy, like they said, but he was a spy, so it wasn’t the whole truth. And I think he thought if he confessed to anything they would kill him, so denying everything was the best option. But yes, I have some ambivalences.”

Michael, who has clearer memories of his parents, sees his father’s behaviour differently: “Should a man not have children if he goes off to war? In those days, that wasn’t the thought process. For a Jew and a communist, this was about survival.”

Ethel’s innocence raises more questions than it settles. First, given that she was a true believer in communism, why didn’t she join her husband, brother and sister-in-law in spying?

“Robby and I think that when our father got involved in helping the Soviets, our mother stayed out of it so that if he got arrested, she could take care of us,” says Michael.

This sounds to me like a son hoping that their parents at least tried to protect their sons. But Julius and Ethel seemed to have little understanding of the danger they were putting the family in. After all, Greenglass was arrested a month before Julius, so they had plenty of time to flee the country, but didn’t. Sebba’s theory strikes me as more likely: “I think she just had other concerns: she was looking after her children and trying to be present for them. She gave up activism when her children were born. Her main identity was as a wife and a mother, and that’s what mattered to her,” she says.

So why didn’t Julius save Ethel? The FBI was right: he had recruited spies, so he could easily have given names and probably saved her life, and very possibly his own, too.

“Dad’s unwillingness to rat out his fellows wasn’t about him wanting to be a soldier of Stalin,” says Michael. “It was more personal. These were his friends! My father was not going to cooperate with the government, and that’s why they arrested my mother. So now he’s going to turn around and say, ‘OK, I’m going to save my wife by ratting out my friends?’ No! He had a naive belief that the American justice system was going to work because half the case against him was a pack of lies, so he thought he could deny everything and save them both.” Almost until the end, Julius believed that they wouldn’t go to the chair. The government and FBI hoped that, too. They never wanted to kill this young mother and father – they wanted names. After Ethel was killed, the then deputy attorney general William Rogers said, “She called our bluff.”

Then there’s the question that baffled officials at the time, and has become the defining mystery about her: why did Ethel choose to stay silent and die with Julius, over staying with her children? We know she was deeply in love with her husband, and her letters to him during their imprisonment are filled with her longing to “lift my willing lips to yours”. But they are also full of her anxiety about the boys. Yet she said nothing.

“Ethel absolutely did not want to be separated from Julius, and her letters show that she thought she was the one who had done him wrong by introducing him to her ghastly family,” says Sebba. “I believe that Ethel thought her life without Julius would have been valueless because her sons would never have respected her, because she would have had to make some kind of confession and name names.”

If Ethel did think this, she might have been right.

“As a child, it might have been easier if Julius had cooperated” says Robert. “He’d have been in prison and Ethel would have been released to take care of us – that’s the deal the government made with the Greenglasses. But as an adult I would much rather be the child of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg than the child of David and Ruth Greenglass.”

Michael and Robert’s campaign for their mother’s exoneration was struck a major blow with the election of Donald Trump, whose original mentor was none other than Roy Cohn. Like many on the left, the Meeropols were shocked by Trump’s victory. “We just didn’t believe people could be so conned [into voting for Trump], but of course they can: the Salem witch trials, the antisemitic blood libel, communists under the bed, all the crap people have believed through the ages,” says Michael. It felt, Robert says, as if Cohn had won again, and they knew there was no point in asking Trump, of all presidents, to exonerate their mother. But the Meeropols got their revenge: in 2019, Michael’s daughter, Ivy, made a documentary about Cohn, in which Michael features, called Bully Coward Victim, in which she made the connection between her grandparents’ execution and Trump. “I’m a very revenge-oriented person, but it’s never about beating people to a pulp. I like exposure,” grins Michael.

The campaign to exonerate Ethel is starting again, and the Meeropols are “optimistic” that President Biden will look at it favourably. They know their argument defies the confines of bite-size headlines, and so is a difficult one to sell to the public: Julius was guilty, although the extent of his guilt was exaggerated in an attempt to scare him into naming names; Ethel was possibly complicit, but not culpable. “There’s a very binary idea of the political world, in which people are guilty or innocent, right or wrong. But understanding nuance is essential to understanding how politics work and how society works,” says Robert.

Robert and Michael are ‘optimistic’ that President Biden will look favourably at their campaign to exonerate their mother, Ethel Rosenberg. Photograph: Webb Chappell/The Guardian

I ask why it matters so much to them what people understand. Their parents’ lives were destroyed by this case; instead of spending so much of their lives reliving it, why not leave it in the past? “It’s personal as well as political,” says Robert, emphasising both words. “That the US government invented evidence to obtain a conviction and an execution is a threat to every person in this country, and to not expose that is to become complicit in it. The personal stuff is obvious, but the political stuff is equally powerful.”

The biggest question about Ethel for me relates to her sons. After our initial interview, I end up speaking to them, together and separately, several times over the course of a month, mainly because I have so many questions, but also because they are so delightful to talk to: wildly intelligent, always interesting, completely admirable. How on earth did they triumph over such a traumatic childhood? Sebba tells me that she asked the same thing of Elizabeth Phillips, the child therapist Ethel used to consult, whom she interviewed before her death.

“She told me it was down to three things,” Sebba says. “She said, ‘One, they have an extraordinarily high level of intelligence. Second, they had amazing adoptive parents. But we now know how important those early years of life are, and Ethel must have given those two boys so much in those years that it lasted all their lives. Ethel must have been an extremely good mother.’”

(source: Ethel Rosenberg by Anne Sebba is published by Orion--order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply; The Guardian)

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Biden 'frustrating' liberals with death penalty inaction

President Joe Biden irked his left flank by moving slowly to alter Donald Trump's refugee cap, and he appears poised to again draw fire from liberals as he avoids issuing a federal moratorium on capital punishment.

Biden's dithering before raising Trump's record-low refugee cap, a campaign promise, left the president vulnerable to criticism from other Democrats. And the delay in taking action regarding federal executions, another campaign pledge, opens him up to similar scrutiny from activists who helped him win the White House last year.

Biden's inaction is "frustrating" liberal Democrats, according to Robert Dunham, the Death Penalty Information Center's executive director.

While DPIC is neutral and nonpartisan, Dunham told the Washington Examiner that Biden's problem is exacerbated by his party's slim majorities in Congress. That is because there are "practical consequences" to exercising presidential powers, he explained.

"One of the things that I think that he must have learned from his time as vice president was, if you have an informal policy of doing nothing so that you don't issue any execution notices and you don't carry out any executions, all that accomplishes is kicking the can down the road so that there are more people on death row for the next president to execute," Dunham said.

Arizona's decision to refurbish a 1940s-era gas chamber and procure ingredients for hydrogen cyanide, the agent used by Nazi Germany at the Auschwitz concentration camp, has thrust the death penalty back into the political spotlight before the state plans to execute its first prisoner since 2014 in the fall.

Arizona's move followed South Carolina last month voting to compensate the lethal injection drug shortage with firing squads, though a South Carolina court stepped in this week to block the killing of Brad Keith Sigmon on Friday and Freddie Owens on June 25 as the state finalizes its firing squad procedures. The executions would have been South Carolina's first since 2011.

The White House has been asked multiple times since inauguration when Biden is going to lean on Congress to pass death penalty reforms or act unilaterally by issuing a moratorium.

In a tense exchange with a reporter, White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted Biden is committed to ending the death penalty and that his dilly-dallying is not indicative of a policy shift.

"There's a legal process, and a Department of Justice process that would be standard in any scenario here," she said.

The reporter pushed: "When did he change his mind on the death penalty?"

"I did not convey he changed his mind," Psaki replied.

At the same time, Biden's Justice Department is seeking the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

The Trump administration lifted the 17-year moratorium on the death penalty for federal crimes in July 2020. The policy shift permitted the killing of eight individuals in 6 months, bringing the total up to 11 since 1976.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a member of the "Squad," and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin are spearheading the Democratic-led legislative effort to abolish capital punishment and resentence the roughly 50 inmates on death row to life without the possibility of parole instead, including Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. The House measure has almost 80 co-sponsors.

Pressley also circulated letters calling on Biden to commute the sentences of death row prisoners immediately and urging the president to roll back capital punishment permanently through executive order.

"I appreciate President Biden's stated opposition to the death penalty, but people's lives are in limbo right now," she told CNN in May.

Yet, Aggressive Progressive podcast host and former Democratic consultant Christopher Hahn is more patient.

"Biden, like most of his predecessors with one notable exception, acts deliberately and wants all issues studied before acting," he said. "He's five months into his presidency, and he's fulfilling his promises. I think that's quick by D.C. standards."

A Pew Research Center confirmed this month that the majority of the public supports the death penalty for murderers, though it is less popular compared to the results of the same poll fielded last August. But the study also found consensus over concerns regarding the risk of killing innocent people. (source: Denver Gazette)

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‘Political Cowardice’ Activists Berate Biden’s Lack Of Action On Eliminating The Death Penalty

Activists expected President Joe Biden to take immediate action against the death penalty as the first sitting president to oppose capital punishment, but he has been silent on the issue, the Associated Press reported.

Biden previously said he wanted to see the death penalty eliminated, in stark contrast to his predecessor, former President Donald Trump who executed 13 inmates from July 2020 to January 2021 before he left office. The executions began after the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Trump administration’s move to restart executions of inmates on death row.

Activists and lawmakers have pressured Biden to take a stance against capital punishment for the nearly 50 federal inmates currently sitting on death row, according to the Associated Press. But Biden has not taken a stance on new legislation to abolish the federal death penalty or reversed Trump policies that resumed federal executions, since becoming president.

“Biden’s lack of action is unconscionable,” said Ashley Kincaid Eve, a lawyer and activist who protested outside the Terre Haute, Indiana, prison where the federal inmates were executed, the AP reported. “This is the easiest campaign promise to keep, and the fact he refuses to keep it … is political cowardice.”

Department of Justice (DOJ) officials urged the Supreme Court Tuesday to reinstate the death penalty for the Boston Bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev. The DOJ has independence regarding such decisions,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates, Reuters reported, signaling that its actions are separate from the Biden administration.

Activists said they’ve spoken with officials and gotten assurance from the Biden administration that it plans to support legislation abolishing the federal death penalty, Abe Bonowitz, director of the anti-capital punishment group Death Penalty Action told the AP.

Inmates don’t think they will be executed with Biden as president, death row inmate Rejon Taylor told the AP. “I won’t say that skepticism has settled in, but I will say that most no longer feel that immediate action will happen,” Taylor said.

(source: Tampa Free Press)

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Death Penalty Left in Limbo Amid White House Silence

Despite expectations that President Joe Biden would take swift action against the death penalty as the 1st sitting president to oppose capital punishment, the White House has remained silent on the issue and even failed to rescind Trump-era protocols enabling federal executions to resume and allowing prisons to use firing squads that many thought the president would do on day one, reports the Associated Press. President Biden hasn’t said whether he’d back a bill introduced by fellow Democrats to strike the death penalty from U.S. statutes, and his administration also recently asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the Boston Marathon bomber’s original death sentence. The fact that the Biden administration chose to actively push for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s execution suggests the president’s opposition to the death penalty isn’t as all-inclusive as many activists believed. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in an email regarding the Tsarnaev decision that the Justice Department “has independence regarding such decisions.” Bates added that the president “believes the Department should return to its prior practice, and not carry out executions.”

The president could take the path of least resistance, politically speaking, by telling his Justice Department not to schedule federal executions during his term. But that would fall far short of fulfilling his campaign promise, and it would leave the door open for future presidents to restart executions. He could also use his executive powers to commute all federal death sentences to life in prison, but there’s no sign of that happening. Granting full clemency to everyone on death row could be politically problematic for Biden and other Democrats, who have a slim majority in both the House and the Senate. Biden didn’t make capital punishment a prominent feature of his presidential run, but he did say on his campaign website that he would work “to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.

(source: thecrimereport.org)

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DPIC Commemorates Juneteenth: Our Report, Enduring Injustice, Details the Persistence of Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Death Penalty

Today, the DPIC office is closed in observance of Juneteenth, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. As we commemorate this holiday, we remember the historical relationship between slavery, lynching, Jim Crow segregation, and the death penalty and their use as instruments of social control to maintain racial hierarchy. Our September 2020 report, Enduring Injustice, delves into the historical use of capital punishment, providing context for the racial disparities that persist in the modern death penalty system. The story below accompanied the release of that report. DPIC’s overview page on Race and the Death Penalty also provides valuable resources, including links to studies, data, and news on the issue.

The Death Penalty Information Center has released a major new report on race and the U.S. death penalty, providing an in-depth look at the historical role race has played in the death penalty and detailing the pervasive impact racial discrimination continues to have throughout every stage of a death penalty case today. Enduring Injustice: the Persistence of Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Death Penalty, released on September 15, 2020, also makes the case for why redressing discrimination in the American death penalty is essential if the United States is serious about creating a fair and just criminal legal system.

In early news coverage of the report, the Associated Press wrote: “The report from the Death Penalty Information Center is a history lesson in how lynchings and executions have been used in America and how discrimination bleeds into the entire criminal justice system. It traces a line from lynchings of old — killings outside the law — where Black people were killed in an effort to assert social control during slavery and Jim Crow, and how that eventually translated into state-ordered executions.”

“The death penalty is inextricably linked to our history of slavery, of lynching, and Jim Crow segregation, and we wanted to put what is happening today in its appropriate context,” DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham told Associated Press. “[W]hat the data tells us and what history tells us is that they’re all part of the same phenomenon.”

The Memphis Commercial Appeal noted that the report was released in an environment of social upheaval in which “[o]pponents of the death penalty are finding their arguments about the history of state-sanctioned executions fit into a wider discourse about racial injustice amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.”

Ngozi Ndulue, DPIC’s Senior Director of Research and Special Projects and the author of the report, agreed. “We have seen more explicit reference to the continued racial discrimination in the death penalty in the last few months,” she told the Commercial Appeal. “This is a moment that advocates are really looking for concrete changes and what we’re trying to do with this report — the bulk of it was written before the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd — ties really into the moment of reckoning of racial justice the country is having right now.”

The report documents the historic role the U.S. death penalty has played as an instrument of social control, tracing its use during slavery as a tool for controlling Black populations and curbing rebellions through the post-Civil War era in which lynchings and other extrajudicial violence rose in prominence and public officials promised legal executions as a means to discourage “vigilante justice.” As lynchings decreased in the early 20th century, the report says, executions began to take their place in some of the same circumstances that earlier would have ended in lynchings.

The report cites Virginia as an illustration of the racist deployment of capital punishment. “Before the Civil War, Virginia explicitly provided different penalties for white people and its enslaved population,” the report says. “By 1848, white people could be sentenced to death only for first-degree murder while enslaved Black people could be executed for a number of non-homicide offenses.” By the 20th century, the racial categorization of crimes was gone from the law books but was retained in practice. From 1900 through 1969, the report shows, 258 African Americans were executed, as compared to 46 whites. Forty-eight Black men were executed for rape, 20 for attempted rape, and 5 for armed robbery. No white person was executed for any crime that did not result in death. The same pattern prevailed across the South, with hundreds of African-American men condemned and executed for the alleged rape or attempted rape of white women or girls. No white man was ever executed for raping a Black woman or girl.

The report also explains that racial bias persists today, as evidenced by cases with white victims being more likely to be investigated and capitally charged; systemic exclusion of jurors of color from service in death-penalty trials; and disproportionate imposition of death sentences against defendants of color. “The death penalty has been used to enforce racial hierarchies throughout United States history, beginning with the colonial period and continuing to this day,” Ndulue said.

Among the evidence of continuing discrimination in the use of the death penalty, the report references:

•A 2015 meta-analysis of 30 studies showing that the killers of white people were more likely than the killers of Black people to face a capital prosecution.

•A study in North Carolina showing that qualified Black jurors were struck from juries at more than twice the rate of qualified white jurors. As of 2010, 20 percent of those on the state’s death row were sentenced to death by all-white juries.

•Data showing that since executions resumed in 1977, 295 African-American defendants have been executed for interracial murders of white victims, while only 21 white defendants have been executed for interracial murders of African Americans.

•A 2014 mock jury study of more than 500 Californians that found white jurors were more likely to sentence poor Latinx defendants to death than poor white defendants.

•Data showing that exonerations of African Americans for murder convictions are 22 % more likely to be linked to police misconduct.

“Racial disparities are present at every stage of a capital case and get magnified as a case moves through the legal process,” Dunham said. “If you don’t understand the history, … you won’t understand why. With the continuing police and white vigilante killings of Black citizens, it is even more important now to focus attention on the outsized role the death penalty plays as an agent and validator of racial discrimination. What is broken or intentionally discriminatory in the criminal legal system is visibly worse in death-penalty cases. Exposing how the system discriminates in capital cases can shine an important light on law enforcement and judicial practices in vital need of abolition, restructuring, or reform.”

The death penalty’s “discriminatory presence as the apex punishment in the American legal system legitimizes all other harsh and discriminatory punishments,” Ndulue said. “That is why the death penalty must be part of any discussion of police reform, prosecutorial accountability, reversing mass incarceration, and the criminal legal system as a whole.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

The 20 Best Lines From the Supreme Court Dissent Calling to End the Death Penalty----Enough is enough, says Justice Stephen Breyer.

The case before the Supreme Court concerned a specific question: Was a certain sort of capital punishment via lethal injection constitutional? In a decision issued Monday morning, the four conservative justices plus swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy said yes, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion for the court’s liberals taking the opposite position. But in a stinging dissent of his own, Justice Stephen Breyer, who was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, went much further: He called for abolishing the death penalty, contending that capital punishment, as it is currently practiced, violates the Constitution. His opinion was methodically argued and chockfull of research (on exonerations, various disparities in the application of the death sentence, and more). Breyer, who in 2008 sided with the court majority in upholding the use of lethal injections in Kentucky, noted that his own experience overseeing capital punishment cases has led him to a forceful and passionate position: The death penalty must go.

Here are the best passages from his opinion.

In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional in­firmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those con­stitutional problems. Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed. Today’s administration of the death penalty involves 3 fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.

I shall describe each of these considerations, emphasiz­ing changes that have occurred during the past 4 decades. For it is those changes, taken together with my own 20 years of experience on this Court, that lead me to believe that the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited “cruel and unusual punishmen[t].” U. S. Const., Amdt. 8.

* * *

[R]esearchers have found convincing evidence that, in the past three decades, innocent people have been executed.

* * *

[T]he evidence that the death penalty has been wrongly imposed (whether or not it was carried out), is striking. As of 2002, this Court used the word “disturbing” to describe the number of instances in which individ­uals had been sentenced to death but later exonerated. At that time, there was evidence of approximately 60 exonerations in capital cases….Since 2002, the number of exonerations in capital cases has risen to 115……Last year, in 2014, 6 death row inmates were exonerated based on actual innocence. All had been imprisoned for more than 30 years (and one for almost 40 years) at the time of their exonerations.

* * *

[T]he crimes at issue in capital cases are typically horrendous murders, and thus accompanied by intense community pressure on police, prosecutors, and jurors to secure a conviction. This pressure creates a greater likelihood of convicting the wrong person.

* * *

[R]esearchers estimate that about 4% of those sentenced to death are actually innocent.

* * *

[B]etween 1973 and 1995, courts identified prejudicial errors in 68% of the capital cases before them.

* * *

This research and these figures are likely controversial. Full briefing would allow us to scrutinize them with more care. But, at a minimum, they suggest a serious problem of reliability. They suggest that there are too many in­stances in which courts sentence defendants to death without complying with the necessary procedures; and they suggest that, in a significant number of cases, the death sentence is imposed on a person who did not commit the crime….Unlike 40 years ago, we now have plausible evidence of unreliability that (perhaps due to DNA evidence) is stronger than the evidence we had before. In sum, there is significantly more research-based evidence today indicating that courts sentence to death individuals who may well be actually innocent or whose convictions (in the law’s view) do not warrant the death penalty’s application.

* * *

Thus, whether one looks at research indicating that irrelevant or improper factors—such as race, gender, local geography, and resources—do significantly determine who receives the death penalty, or whether one looks at research indicating that proper factors—such as “egregious­ness”—do not determine who receives the death penalty, the legal conclusion must be the same: The research strongly suggests that the death penalty is imposed arbitrarily.

* * *

The studies bear out my own view, reached after consid­ering thousands of death penalty cases and last-minute petitions over the course of more than 20 years. I see discrepancies for which I can find no rational explanations… Why does one defendant who committed a single-victim murder receive the death penalty (due to aggravators of a prior felony conviction and an after-the-fact robbery), while another defendant does not, despite having kidnapped, raped, and murdered a young mother while leaving her infant baby to die at the scene of the crime…Why does one defendant who committed a single-victim murder receive the death penalty (due to aggravators of a prior felony conviction and acting recklessly with a gun), while another defendant does not, despite having committed a “triple murder” by killing a young man and his pregnant wife?… For that matter, why does one defendant who participated in a single-victim murder-for-hire scheme (plus an after-the­ fact robbery) receive the death penalty, while another defendant does not, despite having stabbed his wife 60 times and killed his 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son while they slept?… In each instance, the sentences compared were imposed in the same State at about the same time.

The question raised by these examples (and the many more I could give but do not), as well as by the research to which I have referred, is the same question Justice Stew­art, Justice Powell, and others raised over the course of several decades: The imposition and implementation of the death penalty seems capricious, random, indeed, arbitrary. From a defendant’s perspective, to receive that sentence, and certainly to find it implemented, is the equivalent of being struck by lightning. How then can we reconcile the death penalty with the demands of a Constitution that first and foremost insists upon a rule of law?

* * *

[N]early all death penalty States keep death row inmates in isolation for 22 or more hours per day….This occurs even though the ABA has suggested that death row inmates be housed in conditions similar to the general population, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a global ban on solitary confinement longer than 15 days… And it is well documented that such prolonged solitary confinement produces numerous deleterious harms. See, e.g., Haney, Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and “Supermax” Confinement, 49 Crime & Delinquency 124, 130 (2003) (cataloging studies finding that solitary confinement can cause prisoners to experience “anxiety, panic, rage, loss of control, paranoia, hallucinations, and self-mutilations,” among many other symptoms)

* * *

The dehumanizing effect of solitary confinement is aggravated by uncertainty as to whether a death sentence will in fact be carried out. In 1890, this Court recognized that, “when a prisoner sentenced by a court to death is confined in the penitentiary awaiting the execution of the sentence, one of the most horrible feelings to which he can be subjected during that time is the uncertainty during the whole of it.”… The Court was there describing a delay of a mere four weeks. In the past century and a quarter, little has changed in this respect— except for duration. Today we must describe delays measured, not in weeks, but in decades.

* * *

The 2nd constitutional difficulty resulting from lengthy delays is that those delays undermine the death penalty’s penological rationale, perhaps irreparably so. The rationale for capital punishment, as for any punishment, classically rests upon society’s need to secure deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, or rehabilitation. Capital punishment by definition does not rehabilitate. It does, of course, incapacitate the offender. But the major alternative to capital punishment—namely, life in prison without possibility of parole—also incapacitates.

* * *

Recently, the National Research Council (whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine) reviewed 30 years of empirical evidence and concluded that it was insufficient to establish a deterrent effect and thus should “not be used to inform” discussion about the deterrent value of the death penalty.

* * *

Sometimes the community believes that an execution could provide closure. Nevertheless, the delays and low probability of execution must play some role in any calculation that leads a community to insist on death as retribution. As I have already suggested, they may well attenuate the community’s interest in retribution to the point where it cannot by itself amount to a significant justification for the death penalty…. In any event, I believe that whatever interest in retribution might be served by the death penalty as currently administered, that interest can be served almost as well by a sentence of life in prison without parole (a sentence that every State now permits.

* * *

The upshot is that lengthy delays both aggravate the cruelty of the death penalty and undermine its jurisprudential rationale. And this Court has said that, if the death penalty does not fulfill the goals of deterrence or retribution, “it is nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering and hence an unconstitutional punishment.”

* * *

And that fact creates a dilemma: A death penalty system that seeks procedural fairness and reliability brings with it delays that severely aggravate the cruelty of capital punishment and significantly undermine the rationale for imposing a sentence of death in the first place…(one of the primary causes of the delay is the States’ “failure to apply constitutionally sufficient procedures at the time of initial [conviction or] sentencing”). But a death penalty system that minimizes delays would undermine the legal system’s efforts to secure reliability and procedural fairness.

In this world, or at least in this Nation, we can have a death penalty that at least arguably serves legitimate penological purposes or we can have a procedural system that at least arguably seeks reliability and fairness in the death penalty’s application. We cannot have both. And that simple fact, demonstrated convincingly over the past 40 years, strongly supports the claim that the death pen­alty violates the Eighth Amendment.

* * *

The Eighth Amendment forbids punishments that are cruel and unusual. Last year, in 2014, only seven States carried out an execution. Perhaps more importantly, in the last 2 decades, the imposition and implementation of the death penalty have increasingly become unusual. * * *

[I]f we look to States, in more than 60% there is effectively no death penalty, in an additional 18% an execution is rare and unusual, and 6%, i.e., 3 States, account for 80% of all executions. If we look to population, about 66% of the Nation lives in a State that has not carried out an execution in the last 3 years. And if we look to counties, in 86% there is effectively no death penalty. It seems fair to say that it is now unusual to find capital punishment in the United States, at least when we consider the Nation as a whole.

* * *

I recognize a strong counterargument that favors consti­tutionality. We are a court. Why should we not leave the matter up to the people acting democratically through legislatures? The Constitution foresees a country that will make most important decisions democratically. Most nations that have abandoned the death penalty have done so through legislation, not judicial decision. And legisla­tors, unlike judges, are free to take account of matters such as monetary costs, which I do not claim are relevant here….

The answer is that the matters I have discussed, such as lack of reliability, the arbitrary application of a serious and irreversible punishment, individual suffering caused by long delays, and lack of penological purpose are quin­tessentially judicial matters. They concern the infliction— indeed the unfair, cruel, and unusual infliction—of a serious punishment upon an individual.

* * *

I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question.

(source: David Corn & AJ Vincens, Mother Jones)

INDIA:

ARSU demands capital punishment for Abhayakhuti rape and murder accused

The All Rabha Students' Union (ARSU) has strongly condemned the brutal rape and murder of 2 Rabha community girls at Abhayakhuti in Kokrajhar district on June 11. Addressing a press conference at the office premises of Tamulpur Anchalik Rabha Students' Union on Friday, assistant secretary of the organization, Dipankar Rabha said, "We have learnt that the criminals have been arrested. Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta has declared that police will soon punish the culprits by putting up the case in a fast track court."

ARSU has demanded capital punishment for the culprits

ARSU has also demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh from the Assam Government to the families of each deceased. ARSU leaders also requested the BTC government and the Assam Government to set up a full-scale police station in the Abhayakhuti area in the interest of the safety of the indigenous people of the area. Tamulpur Anchalik Rabha Students' Union president Purna Singh Rabha urged the Assam government to ensure capital punishment for the culprits.

(source: sentinelassam.com)

EGYPT:

Commute Death Sentences for Rab’a Protestors----Leading Opposition Figures Convicted in Unfair Mass Trial

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should immediately commute the death sentences for 12 protestors, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders who had been convicted in a grossly unfair mass trial for participation in the 2013 Rab’a sit-in that ended with security forces killing at least 817 protestors, Human Rights Watch said today.

On June 14, 2021, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appellate court, upheld the death sentences for the 12 as well as long prison sentences for hundreds of other Rab’a case defendants. Egypt’s Criminal Procedure Code gives the president 14 days following the court ruling to pardon the defendants or commute the death sentences.

The death sentences were among 75 handed down by a Cairo terrorism court in September 2018 following a mass trial of 739 defendants that began in December 2015. The Cassation Court commuted 31 death sentences to life imprisonment (the others had been sentenced in absentia). Most of the defendants had been arrested in the dispersal of the Rab’a sit-in. Authorities should release anyone prosecuted solely for participating in largely peaceful protests and retry defendants charged with violent offenses before a court meeting international fair trial standards, Human Rights Watch said. President al-Sisi should direct his government to halt Egypt’s escalating use of the death penalty.

To date there has been no investigation of those responsible for carrying out the mass killings by security forces at Rab’a.

“The Rab’a trial was a mockery of justice, so it is outrageous that the highest court has upheld these 12 death sentences,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “President Sisi should seize this moment to void their execution and put an end to Egypt’s profligate use of the death penalty.”

Those whose death sentences the Cassation Court upheld include senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mohamed al-Beltagy, 58, Osama Yassine, 56, Ahmed Arif, 40, Abdelrahman al-Barr, 58, and a prominent Brotherhood supporter and Islamic preacher, Safwat Hegazi, 56. Al-Beltagy was a member of the 2012 parliament, and Yassine was a minister in the government of former President Mohamed Morsy, a senior Brotherhood leader who died in detention in 2019. The 12 men whose death sentences were confirmed could face execution imminently if President al-Sisi does not act.

The charges against the defendants in the mass trial ranged from involvement in violent protests to the murder and attempted murder of several police officers, soldiers, and members of the public during the six-week sit-in in July through August 2013.

The Cassation Court also upheld the prison sentences for hundreds of other Rab’a case defendants, including life sentences for the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, and lawyer Essam Soltan, deputy leader of the moderate al-Wasat Party, and a 10-year prison term for Osama Morsy, the late president's son.

The full court decision is yet to be released. The mass trial before the terrorism court was chaotic and marred with abuses at all stages. The trial was postponed several times for years because no courtroom could accommodate all the defendants. Like other mass trials, this one failed to establish individual criminal responsibility and was heavily based on unsubstantiated allegations by National Security Agency officers. Like in dozens of terrorism cases in recent years, the hearings took place inside an Interior Ministry facility. Defendants were often jammed inside a courtroom cell with sound-proof barriers that make it hard for observers to see or hear them and prevented them from properly interacting with judges. Many defendants were held in the notorious Scorpion Prison, where inmates are deprived for months or years at a time from seeing or communicating with their lawyers and family members, severely undermining the right to defense.

A relative of Mohamed al-Beltagy told Human Rights Watch that he has not received a single visit from his family or lawyers since March 2017. On August 13, 2020, Essam el-Erian, another senior Muslim Brotherhood leader in the case, died in Scorpion Prison in suspicious circumstances after purportedly suffering a heart attack. El-Erian, 66, had complained to judges in court sessions in 2017 and 2018 about prison conditions and said the Interior Ministry had prevented him from receiving treatment after he contracted hepatitis C in prison. Security forces forced his family to bury him almost secretly.

At least 22 of those handed down prison terms were children at time of arrest and were prosecuted alongside adults, in violation of international law.

The Egyptian army overthrew and arrested former President Morsy on June 30, 2013, on the heels of mass anti-Brotherhood protests. Morsy supporters then staged large protests throughout Egypt and gathered in two main squares in Cairo, Rab’a and al-Nahda. Human Rights Watch documented six incidents in which security forces unlawfully fired on masses of largely peaceful protestors between July 3 and August 16, 2013, killing at least 1,185 people. Human Rights Watch said these mass killings likely constituted crimes against humanity and required an international investigation.

Several official statements and reports acknowledged the police used excessive force in the dispersal. The prime minister who supervised the dispersal, Hazem al-Beblawy, said in response to the 2014 Human Rights Watch report that “anyone who committed a mistake … should be investigated.” No such investigations have taken place in the eight years since the massacre.

On March 6, 2014, Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) released a report on the Rab’a dispersal saying that some protestors had been armed but that there was a “disproportionate response” and “excessive use of force by security forces” and security forces failed to maintain a safe exit for protestors to leave or to provide medical aid for the wounded.

Earlier, in December 2013, interim President Adly Mansour established a fact-finding committee to collect “information and evidence” on the events that accompanied the June 30 protests. The committee released an executive summary in November 2014 in which it largely blamed protest leaders for the casualties in Rab’a but admitted that security forces failed to target only people who were armed. Immediately following the dispersal, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said that only 14 guns were seized among the protestors. The full report is yet to be made public.

Both the committee and the NCHR demanded that Rab’a victims who “did not participate in violence” be compensated. The NCHR also called for an independent judicial investigation.

In July 2018, al-Sisi approved Law No.161 of 2018 on the “treatment of the armed forces’ senior commanders,” which grants these officers “immunity” from prosecution or questioning for any event between July 3, 2013, and January 2016, unless the Supreme Council of Armed Forces gives permission.

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has become among the top three countries in numbers of executions and death sentences globally, according to Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances. In 2017, Human Rights Watch called on President al-Sisi to issue a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in view of the sharp rise in the number of death sentences. According to Amnesty International, Egyptian authorities have executed at least 51 men and women in the 1st half of 2021. In October 2020, Human Rights Watch documented the execution of 49 men and women by Egyptian authorities in just 10 days.

“Egypt should immediately halt any further executions, particularly of those convicted in grossly unfair trials,” Stork said. “To move forward, Egypt needs to address the crimes committed by security forces, including Rab’a and the mass killings of protestors.”

(source: Human Rights Watch)

IRAN:

Ebrahim Raisi must be investigated for crimes against humanity

Responding to today’s announcement declaring Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s next president, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said:

“That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran. In 2018, our organization documented how Ebrahim Raisi had been a member of the ‘death commission’ which forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret thousands of political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988. The circumstances surrounding the fate of the victims and the whereabouts of their bodies are, to this day, systematically concealed by the Iranian authorities, amounting to ongoing crimes against humanity.

‘As Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi has presided over a spiralling crackdown on human rights which has seen hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups arbitrarily detained. Under his watch, the judiciary has also granted blanket impunity to government officials and security forces responsible for unlawfully killing hundreds of men, women and children and subjecting thousands of protesters to mass arrests and at least hundreds to enforced disappearance, and torture and other ill-treatment during and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests of November 2019.

“Ebrahim Raisi’s rise to the presidency follows an electoral process that was conducted in a highly repressive environment and barred women, members of religious minorities and candidates with opposing views from running for office.

“We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction.

“It is now more urgent than ever for member states of the UN Human Rights Council to take concrete steps to address the crisis of systematic impunity in Iran including by establishing an impartial mechanism to collect and analyse evidence of the most serious crimes under international law committed in Iran to facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings.”

(source: Amnesty International)

JUNE 18, 2021:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Judge frees man from death row, points to withheld evidence in Charlotte murder trial

The last man condemned to death by a Mecklenburg County jury walked off death row on Wednesday a free man.

Michael Wayne Sherrill, convicted 12 years ago for the 1984 fatal stabbing and rape of Cynthia Dotson, climbed into a truck with his brother on Wednesday evening and drove off from Central Prison in Raleigh.

Earlier in the day, the 65-year-old pleaded guilty via a video link to lesser charges in Dotson’s death during a highly unusual court hearing.

Sherrill’s freedom hinged on the discovery in April that several pieces of evidence, which could have strengthened his defense, had not been shared with his attorneys before his 2009 trial.

Sherrill’s release after more than 16 years in custody angered and dismayed 2 members of Dotson’s family who were in Superior Court Judge Lou Trosch’s courtroom on Wednesday, according to courtroom observers.

Under an agreement between the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office and the defense team, Trosch set aside Sherrill’s death sentence for the murder and rape of Dotson, a 23-year-old Charlotte waitress.

Instead, Sherrill pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder, 2nd-degree rape and second-degree arson. He received a new 20-year sentence.

Under the state’s previous sentencing laws, which still applied to the case, Sherrill already had served more than his expected punishment.

In previous court appearances, Sherrill had said he did not kill Dotson — even though his DNA had been found at the scene.

Among the problems cited in the consent order was a missing fingerprint taken from the scene and the fact that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police had destroyed a rape kit in 1985 with material collected from Dotson’s body, calling the handling of DNA evidence into question, according to court filings.

Prosecutors with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday stressed that they still believe Sherrill killed Dotson, but they agreed to his release “in the interest of justice,” according to a written statement.

“After a thorough review of the available evidence surrounding the defendant’s allegations, the State was not in a position to confirm or disprove the defendant’s claims,” the statement from the prosecutors’ office said.

“The State remains completely convinced of the defendant’s guilt and is pleased the defendant has now accepted responsibility for his crimes by pleading guilty,” it also stated.

Defense attorney Jeremy Smith of Charlotte told the Observer that Sherrill’s case represents “an indictment of the death penalty as a whole.”

“The case has taken 16 years from when he was charged to get to this point. Because of mistakes and negligence on the part of his defense lawyers and destruction of evidence by the state — and specifically CMPD — this result happened.”

Trosch, according to an onlooker, told the two family members in court that he hoped they found some solace in the fact that Sherrill had finally admitted a role in Cindy Dotson’s death, 37 years after her murder. The woman, whose body was found in her partially burned trailer on Wilkinson Boulevard, had been raped and stabbed 13 times in the chest. And her throat was cut.

Dotson’s family could not be reached for comment Thursday. But following Sherrill’s trial in 2009, her loved ones said their 25-year wait for justice had ended.

“I had given up that my sister’s killing would ever be solved,” John Dotson told the Observer at that time.

Vacated death sentences

Sherrill becomes the 9th N.C. inmate within the last year whose death sentence has been vacated, according to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation. Those sentences were set aside for a variety of reasons, including racial discrimination, juror misconduct, ineffective assistance from counsel and prosecutors’ failure to turn over evidence.

Sherrill was arrested and indicted for the killing a quarter of a century after Dotson’s death when detectives, operating under the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s new cold-case unit, said they found his DNA on a fingernail retrieved from Dotson’s body in 1984.

Sherrill in 2005 was also charged with the murders of three people killed in Charlotte eight months after Dotson died. Linda Taylor, Jackson Bostic and his 14-year-old daughter, Amy, were found beaten to death in their partially burned home off Old Pineville Road.

Sherrill’s trial judge allowed evidence from the 3 killings to be presented at Sherrill’s trial for the killing of Cindy Dotson. Years later, the 2nd set of murder charges were dropped.

Mishandled evidence

Up until Wednesday, Sherrill had been one of 136 people awaiting execution at Central Prison as he appealed his conviction. His departure leaves four Mecklenburg defendants on death row.

Sherrill’s status suddenly changed in April during a hearing in Trosch’s courtroom. Sherrill’s appeal was built primarily on claims that his trial attorneys — Deke Falls and Bill Causey — had not effectively represented him. Falls and Causey could not be reached for comment Thursday.

During questioning by Sherrill’s current lawyers about his handling of the case, Falls testified that he never received the potentially exculpatory fingerprint taken from the murder scene, observers said. Now a federal public defender in San Diego, Falls also said he did not know during the trial that rape kit evidence had been destroyed by police a year after Dotson’s death, according to observers and court filings.

Under the so-called Brady Rule, prosecutors are required to turn over several categories of evidence to the defense, including anything that points responsibility for the crime toward another suspect or casts doubt on the credibility of police.

After hearing what Falls said about the missing evidence, Trosch immediately halted the hearing, according to people in the courtroom. The defense team then told the judge they would amend their appeal to add constitutional violations of Sherrill’s due-process rights. Prosecutors said they would investigate to determine whether any Brady violations had occurred.

In the weeks that followed, attorneys from both sides agreed to a compromise: Sherrill would be freed. But he had to plead guilty to killing Dotson first.

Smith, a former prosecutor, called it a “horribly sad” situation for the Dotson family.

“This doesn’t make their pain any less real,” Smith said. “It doesn’t change the fact that they lost a family member. But ultimately justice has to be done according to the Constitution and the laws we have.”

Sherrill leaves prison as a very sick man, his lawyer said. He is being treated for advanced liver cancer.

“He’s taking life one day at a time now,” Smith said.

(source: Charlotte Observer)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

As SC halts executions until a firing squad is ready, here’s how it works in other states

Executions in South Carolina have been halted until the state can offer a firing squad as a choice for death row inmates.

But in a state like South Carolina, which has never offered the firing squad as an official method of execution, its unclear what such an execution would look like.

South Carolina will be 1 of only 4 states to offer the firing squad to inmates on death row. It’s joined by Utah, Mississippi and Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Proponents of the firing squad say it is more humane and less error-prone than the electric chair.

From 1890 to 2010, 84 executions in the electric chair were botched, while zero executions by firing squad failed, according to data in the 2014 book “Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty” by Amherst College professor Austin Sarat.

But even in other states that have had a firing squad for years, how the execution would be carried out isn’t exactly clear.

Utah is the only state to have carried out an execution by firing squad since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Utah carried out its first firing squad execution the next year, executing Gary Gilmore in January 1977 and executed John Albert Taylor in January 1996.

In Oklahoma, the firing squad is the last resort method of execution. Under state law, it is to be used if nitrogen hypoxia, the lethal injection, and electrocution are all found to be unconstitutional. Mississippi’s execution law has an identical clause.

What are other states doing?

While 3 other states offer the firing squad as a method of execution, an inmate selecting to die that way is exceedingly rare.

Utah voted to bring back the firing squad in 2015 for similar reasons as South Carolina: The state couldn’t obtain the necessary drugs to administer a lethal injection.

Prior to that, the state’s last firing squad execution was in 2010, when convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death.

Gardner was strapped to the execution chair and a black hood was slipped over his head, according to media reports. A target was attached to his shirt over the location of his heart.

The chair is situated amid sandbags so the bullets don’t ricochet.

Five anonymous marksmen with .30-caliber rifles stood 25 feet away behind a wall with a gun port. The shooters are volunteers from the Department of Corrections or law enforcement. One of the shooters was given a rifle with a blank round so no one would know who fired the shot to kill Gardner.

Gardner was then shot in the heart and the lungs by the group of executioners.

During debate over the execution bill, South Carolina lawmakers often described their vision of how an execution by firing squad would be carried out. Their descriptions mirrored the process used by Utah.

S.C. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain said the department is still working on developing procedures to carry out an execution by firing squad. That work can be complicated, Shain said, because “creating a new method of execution is multi-faceted and demands deliberate and intentional work to ensure the policies, procedures and infrastructure are proper.”

There are several challenges Corrections officials will have to consider. For example, will the department need to construct a new facility where it’s safe to carry out an execution by firing squad? Shain said department officials currently don’t believe they will, but “we are assessing that now as part of the planning process.”

Some details are already clear, though: Shain said the team carrying out executions by firing squad will consist of a volunteer group of Department of Corrections employees.

Corrections currently does not have a timeline for when they may be able to start offering the firing squad as a method of execution, Shain said.

Why is SC offering the firing squad?

The Palmetto State established the firing squad as one of its methods of execution in May as lawmakers scrambled for a way to resume executions. Capitol punishment had ground to a halt in the state after drug companies refused to sell the drugs necessary for the lethal injection to prison bureaus across the country.

For South Carolina, which at the time had lethal injection as the default method of execution, that meant executions could no longer be carried out. While the state’s electric chair was still legal and in working order, under old state law, they could not force an inmate to be executed in the electric chair unless they specifically chose to do so.

So in May, lawmakers passed a bill that made the electric chair the default method of execution so they could resume carrying out executions after a nearly 10-year hiatus.

During debate over the bill, S.C. Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, championed an amendment to add the firing squad as a method of execution. Harpootlian, a former solicitor who tried several death penalty cases, maintained that method was far more humane than the electric chair, which he called a “horrible, horrible thing to do to another human being.”

“They’re dead instantly,” Harpootlian said of the firing squad on the Senate floor during debate over the bill. “The actual pain and suffering of death, it’s actually the least painful and the least suffering of any manner of death.”

The amendment was ultimately added to the bill and remained there when the bill was signed into law. That meant that under the new state law, inmates would be offered the option of death by electric chair, firing squad or lethal injection, but could only choose from methods that were available.

Shortly after the bill became law, the clerk of the state Supreme Court began issuing execution notices. In late May, the court scheduled inmate Brad Sigmon’s execution for June 18, and in early June, it scheduled inmate Freddie Owens’ for June 25.

At the time, the state could only offer the electric chair as a method of execution, S.C. Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling wrote in a letter to the state Supreme Court on May 21. Corrections was still working to create the proper procedures and policies for carrying out an execution by firing squad.

Attorneys for Sigmon and Owens quickly filed stays of execution. When Sigmon was given a form to chose the method he wanted to die by two weeks before his scheduled execution, Sigmon wrote by hand “I elect lethal injection” on the form that stated that electrocution was the only available method of execution. Owens did the same.

The court didn’t act until Wednesday, just two days before Sigmon was scheduled to die. In a late afternoon order, the justices vacated both Owens and Sigmon’s execution notices and ordered the clerk of the court not to reissue one until Corrections could offer the firing squad as an alternate method of execution. In their decision, the justices wrote that the inmates had a statutory right to elect their manner of execution.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Corrections spokeswoman Shain said the department was still working to develop firing squad procedures, adding that it was looking to other states for guidance.

“We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions,” she said.

(source: The State)

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Victims ‘need justice,’ McMaster says in denouncing court’s decision to stay executions

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster decried the state Supreme Court’s decision to stay all upcoming executions until the state’s Department of Corrections could offer a firing squad as a method of execution.

The Republican governor told reporters Thursday morning that he disagreed with the decision, which was issued by the state’s highest court Wednesday, 2 days before South Carolina’s first execution in a decade was schedule to be carried out.

“I think the law has been passed and it is sound,” McMaster said. “I know the families involved here, the victims, need justice and closure. We intended for this law to accomplish that.”

McMaster was referring to the state’s newly updated execution law, which lawmakers passed in May in order to grant the state Department of Corrections the ability to carry out an execution.

Under the old state law, South Carolina’s default method of execution was lethal injection. The state could also offer the electric chair as a method of execution, but unless an inmate specifically selected to die in the electric chair, the state could not force them to do so.

In recent years ago, drug companies cracked down on how their products were being used and stopped selling the necessary drugs for the lethal injection to prison bureaus across the country.

As a result, South Carolina has been able to purchase the drugs and therefore could not carry out executions by lethal injection. Three inmates received stays of execution because the state did not have the means to put them to death.

Lawmakers changed the execution law to make the electric chair the default method of execution, but added a provision to state law to allow inmates to chose the firing squad or the lethal injection if those methods are available.

After the bill was passed into law, two inmates — Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens — were scheduled to be executed by the end of June. At the time, the electric chair was the only method of execution the Department of Corrections had available.

The state Supreme Court ordered that the execution notices for Owens and Sigmon be vacated. The court said the inmates had a statutory right to choose their method of execution, and ordered the court’s clerk not to issue new execution notices until the state could offer the firing squad.

The Department of Corrections is currently in the process of setting procedures to carry out an execution by firing squad, Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain said in a statement Wednesday.

“The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” Shain said. “We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”

Sigmon, who was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Friday, was convicted in 2002 of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents, David and Gladys Larke. He beat the pair to death with a baseball bat in their Greenville County home, according to authorities. Sigmon also attempted to kidnap his ex-girlfriend, but she managed to escape, though she was shot in the foot.

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SC court stays inmates’ executions until prison system can offer death by firing squad

2 days before a South Carolina death row inmate was scheduled to die in the electric chair, the state Supreme Court granted him a stay.

It would have been the state’s 1st execution in nearly a decade.

Brad Sigmon, 63, was initially scheduled to be executed Friday, but was granted a stay by the state’s highest court Wednesday afternoon.

In the order, court justices vacated Sigmon’s execution notice and said it would not issue a new one until the state Department of Corrections could carry out an execution using the firing squad. Then, Sigmon would be allowed to choose between death by firing squad or electrocution — options that were solidified under a newly passed South Carolina law.

The court also vacated the execution notice of Freddie Owens, who was scheduled to be put to death June 25, staying his execution until the firing squad is available as an option as well.

State lawmakers changed the execution law in May due to the Department of Corrections’ inability to carry out an execution by lethal injection. Under the state’s old execution law, the lethal injection was the default method of execution, unless an inmate specifically chose to die in the electric chair, and the state could not force them to do so.

In the 2000s, drug companies began to crack down on how their products were being used. They stopped selling the drugs necessary for the lethal injections to states that sought to use them in executions, including South Carolina.

Unable to purchase the drugs for the lethal injection, and unable to force inmates to die in the electric chair, the only other approved method, South Carolina was suddenly unable to carry out executions, and three inmates on death row — Sigmon, Owens and Richard Moore — all received stays of executions.

Lawmakers set out to change state law so executions could resume. They made the electric chair the default method, but allowed inmates to choose lethal injection or the firing squad if those methods were available.

Currently, the electric chair is the only method of execution the S.C. Department of Corrections can offer. The state has never used the firing squad as an official method of execution, so Corrections’ officials are still trying to develop procedures and protocols for carrying out an execution by firing squad.

The justices wrote in their decision that death row inmates had a statutory right to elect their manner of execution. They directed the courts’ clerk, who issues execution notices, not to issue one until the Department of Corrections finishes developing their protocols for the firing squad.

S.C. state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D-Richland, said he was “encouraged to see the Supreme Court give effect to the law we passed.”

Harpootlian, a former solicitor who has tried death penalty cases, pushed for the addition of the firing squad as a method of execution in the state’s new execution law. He maintained during debate over the law that the electric chair was a horrible way to die and that the firing squad is much more humane.

Harpootlian was upset after the executions were scheduled with the electric chair as the only available method of execution. He questioned then why another option couldn’t be offered.

“While the taking of a human life is disastrous, horrible and repugnant under any circumstances ... it should be as painless as possible,” Harpootlian said. “The electric chair is not that.”

Harpootlian said the state should quickly be able to offer the firing squad as a method of execution.

“It should not be a complicated process,” Harpootlian said.

In a statement Wednesday, Corrections department spokeswoman Chrysti Shain reiterated that the department is in the process of setting procedures to carry out an execution by firing squad.

“The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” Shain said. “We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”

Frank Knaack, the executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, celebrated the courts decision.

“We’re obviously pleased that the executions are, at least as of now, postponed,” Knaack said.

However, Knaack called the death penalty “racist, arbitrary and error prone,” and called for it to be abolished. He pointed out that who gets sentenced to death heavily depends on the stance of their local solicitor, and factors such as race can heavily affect the decision to impose a death sentence.

“This is positive news, but it’s positive news within a very horrible system that should not exist,” Knaack said.

Who is Brad Sigmon? Sigmon was convicted in 2002 of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents, David and Gladys Larke. He beat the pair to death with a baseball bat in their Greenville County home, according to a Spartanburg Herald Journal story written about Sigmon’s arrest. Sigmon also attempted to kidnap his ex-girlfriend, but she managed to escape, though she was shot in the foot.

Tensions between Sigmon and the Larkes were high after his girlfriend ended their relationship. Sigmon and the girlfriend lived together in a trailer next door to her parents, and her parents served Sigmon with eviction papers after the break up, according to court documents.

After the murders, Sigmon fled the state, leading police on an 11-day man hunt across the Southeast. He was located and captured at a campground in Tennessee.

When he was arrested, Sigmon confessed to Tennessee officers and Greenville County detectives, according to court documents. He admitted his guilt again at trial and has not disputed his guilt during any recent hearings over his execution.

Sigmon was granted a stay of execution on Feb. 4, 2021, due to the state’s inability to purchase lethal injection drugs. Once the state was able to resume executions, however, the state Supreme Court issued a new date for Sigmon’s execution on May 27.

Other pending legal actions

Before the state Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Sigmon and Owens, the pair were involved in two other legal actions, one in a federal appellate court and one in circuit court, in addition to the state Supreme Court.

Last Monday, Sigmon and Owens’ attorneys appeared in circuit court to argue that South Carolina’s new execution law is unconstitutional. Specifically, the attorneys argued that it was unfair that the law apply retroactively to inmates who are already on death row because, under the new law, the inmates will be forced to die by what is considered a more painful method.

They also questioned why the state Department of Corrections isn’t able to offer other legal methods of execution like lethal injection.

Corrections officials have testified for years that they could not purchase the drugs for a lethal injection because drug companies have refused to sell to them. Other states, however, have been able to purchase the drugs because they have shield laws — which protect the name of drug companies selling the lethal injection drugs from the public. South Carolina lawmakers have been unable to pass a shield law.

Attorneys for the governor and Department of Corrections argued that inmates were sentenced to death, not a particular method of execution.

A Richland County judge ultimately turned down Owens and Sigmon’s attorneys’ request for an injunction, which would have stopped the new law from taking affect.

Death row inmate Freddie Owens received an execution notice on June 1.

Last Thursday, Owens’ and Sigmon’s attorneys filed an appeal in that case and requested that the state Supreme Court take it up quickly.

Owens and Sigmon’s other outstanding case was in a federal appellate court, where his attorneys are arguing that the electric chair may be a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects from cruel and unusual punishment.

The attorneys initially appeared in federal court in Florence to argue the case last Wednesday. There, the attorneys acknowledged that the Supreme Court has stood by the use of the electric chair in the past, but said the issue is “ripe to revisit at this point.” The attorneys asked for a preliminary injunction to stall Sigmon’s upcoming execution.

Attorneys for the governor and corrections department argued that the Supreme Court’s stance on the electric chair is clear and the inmate’s lawyers were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their argument. Therefore, they said, the injunction should not be granted.

Ultimately, a federal judge denied the injunction.

Owens’ and Sigmon’s attorneys Monday appealed the case to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. On Tuesday, they requested an emergency injunction.

A 3rd inmate, Richard Moore, had earlier received a stay of execution, but the state Supreme Court has not yet rescheduled his execution.

Moore was sentenced to death in the 1999 fatal shooting of James Mahoney, a convenience store clerk in Spartanburg County, S.C.

While Moore has exhausted his regular appeals, Moore has an appeal pending with the state Supreme Court that has yet to be resolved.

(source: The State)

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Spartanburg's Richard Moore still awaiting SC Supreme Court ruling on death sentence

Richard Moore of Spartanburg is still waiting to see whether the S.C. Supreme Court will vacate his death sentence for killing a convenience store clerk in 1999.

"There has not been a decision from the S.C. Supreme Court, so nothing has changed," Moore's attorney Lindsey Vann said Thursday.

Moore had been scheduled to be executed Dec. 4, 2020, but the state Supreme Court delayed it because the S.C. Department of Corrections doesn't have the drugs for lethal injection.

South Carolina has not had the drugs for lethal injection since 2013 because it is not one of the 14 states with shield laws protecting the drug companies from lawsuits if the drugs are used in an execution, according to Chrysti Shain, spokeswoman for S.C. Department of Corrections.

Since Moore's execution was delayed, Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill adding a firing squad to the electric chair as the other means of execution.

Also since Moore's execution was delayed, his case was sent to the state Supreme Court for review to determine whether his death sentence was disproportionate to the crime.

Vann said Moore, who is Black, is the last person on South Carolina's death row who was tried without anyone of his own race on the jury.

She said there is no deadline on when the state Supreme Court will issue its opinion on Moore's request to vacate his death sentence.

If the court vacates his sentence, he would be removed from death row, Vann said.

"If not, then basically the only thing that would remain is executive clemency that we could ask the governor for," she told the Herald-Journal last month.

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday halted the executions of two Greenville County men, who were scheduled to die by electric chair June 18 and June 25.

The court ruled the men's executions must not be rescheduled until South Carolina has a firing squad in place as an option for execution.

Chrysti Shain, a spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections, said the agency is "moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad."

It was unclear Thursday whether that ruling would affect Moore's case if the state Supreme Court declines to vacate his death sentence.

Moore is among 37 death penalty inmates in South Carolina.

Moore received the death penalty on Oct. 22, 2001, after a jury convicted him of murder for fatally shooting 42-year-old James Mahoney after 3 a.m. Sept. 16, 1999, at Nikki's Speedy Mart in Spartanburg's Whitney Community. Mahoney was working as the store's clerk that day.

(source: upstate.com)

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South Carolina Supreme Court Halts Executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens

The South Carolina Supreme Court has vacated death warrants for 2 death-row prisoners scheduled to be executed this month, staying their executions until the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDOC) complies with a newly enacted state law requiring that it offer condemned prisoners the option of being executed by firing squad.

In separate orders issued on June 16, 2021 in the cases of Brad Sigmon, who faced a June 18 execution, and Freddie Owens, who was scheduled to be executed June 25, 2021, the court ruled that attempting to execute the men by electrocution without offering them the alternative of lethal injection or firing squad violated the “statutory right of inmates to elect the manner of their execution.” Both orders also directed the court’s clerk “not to issue another execution notice until the State notifies the Court that the Department of Corrections, in addition to maintaining the availability of electrocution, has developed and implemented appropriate protocols and policies to carry out executions by firing squad.”

The stays marked the second time this year the court had halted Sigmon’s and Owens’s executions because of the state’s inability to lawfully carry them out. On February 4, the court vacated an execution notice scheduling Sigmon’s execution for February 12, finding that “the execution is currently impossible” because South Carolina had no lethal injection drugs on hand. It then directed the clerk “not to issue another execution notice in this case until the State notifies this Court that the Department of Corrections has the ability to carry out the execution by lethal injection, that the petitioner has made an election to be electrocuted, or that there has been some change in the law which will allow the execution to take place.” On May 4, the court stayed Owens’s scheduled May 14 execution on similar grounds.

The new law enacted in May in response to the SCDOC’s inability to obtain execution drugs, changed South Carolina’s default method of execution from lethal injection to the electric chair and directed death-row prisoners to choose electrocution, firing squad, or lethal drugs, if available, as the means of their death. If the prisoner did not make a selection, the law mandated execution by electric chair.

If the executions had been permitted to proceed, they would have been the 1st in South Carolina in more than a decade and the state’s first forced execution by electrocution in more than 20 years.

Shortly after the new law passed, South Carolina notified the Court that the law had changed and the executions could move forward. However, after Sigmon filed the motion to stay his execution, SCDOC submitted an affidavit to the court “certifying that, as of June 3, 2021, the only statutorily approved method of execution available in South Carolina is electrocution.” It submitted a similar certification in response to Owens’s stay motion, as of June 11.

In response to questions from the clerk, the SCDOC director responded that lethal injection was “unavailable due to circumstances outside of the control of the Department of Corrections, and firing squad is currently unavailable due to the Department of Corrections having yet to complete its development and implementation of necessary protocols and policies.”

Lawyers for Sigmon and Owens also asked a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop their executions. In a complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, the prisoners argued that execution by electric chair violates the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Death by electrocution, they wrote, would cause “a substantial risk of excruciating pain, terror and certain bodily mutilation that contravenes evolving standards of decency, [and] offends basic principles of human dignity.”

On June 11, 2021, Chief Judge R. Bryan Harwell rejected those arguments, writing: “The stories detailing the horrors of executions, regardless of the method, underscore one important Eighth Amendment principle — the Eighth Amendment does not guarantee a painless death.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

TENNESSEE:

Death penalty still on the table for man accused of killing Dickson County sergeant

The man facing 1st degree murder charges in the shooting death of Dickson County Sgt. Daniel Baker may face the death penalty.

Attorneys for Steven Wiggins fought Thursday to get the death penalty dropped and District Attorney General Ray Crouch removed from the case, pointing to a conflict of interest.

Wiggins appeared via Zoom before the court as Sgt. Daniel Baker’s widow Lisa and his mother Melissa sat in the Dickson County courtroom.

The attorneys showed Judge David Wolfe Facebook posts and photos from DA Crouch, saying they show bias toward the Baker family and law enforcement.

However, Judge Wolfe swiftly denied the motions, making the call in less than an hour.

“I don’t believe that anything that has been demonstrated to this court demonstrates that there has been an adequate bias on the part of the District Attorney General that would require this court to disqualify him,” Judge Wolfe told the courtroom. “The decision to seek the death penalty and the indictment for the crimes against Mr. Wiggins was made prior to any evidence of any sort of relationship between Mr. Crouch and Mrs. Baker. Based upon these findings, the court is of the opinion that the motion to disqualify, the motion to strike the notice of death, and the motion to dismiss the indictment should be and are hereby denied.”

Wiggins is accused of shooting Sergeant Baker in May of 2018. Now more than three years later, his day in court and fate are coming.

The trial has been pushed back for a number of reasons, including COVID-19, all of which has been trying for Sergeant Baker’s family.

Lisa said before, “victim rights are a joke.” On Thursday in court, she talked about their little girl Meredith who is nearly 5 years old now.

Wiggins’ trial is set to begin on July 26, but we will be back in court later this month for some additional pre-trial motion hearings.

(source: WKRN news)

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Lawyers seek to disqualify prosecutor in Steven Wiggins case

A new filing in the case seeks to disqualify District Attorney General Ray Crouch from prosecuting the case.

On the heels of a guilty verdict in the Joseph Daniels murder trial, another big Dickson County trial is scheduled to start next month.

It’s the murder trial of Steven Wiggins – the man accused of killing a Dickson County Sheriff’s Deputy -- Sergeant Daniel Baker, back in 2018.

But a new filing in the case seeks to disqualify District Attorney General Ray Crouch from prosecuting the case.

Crouch had earlier announced that he would be seeking the death penalty in the case -- but a new legal filing asks a judge to throw out that request for the death penalty, and find an entirely new prosecutor, saying:

"District Attorney General Crouch and his office must be disqualified from further participation in the prosecution of Mr. Wiggins," saying Crouch has "strong personal interest in, and bias in favor of, Sgt. Baker, his family, and law enforcement."

The legal filing cites Crouch's several appearances with members of the Dickson County Sheriff's Office and Lisa Baker, Sgt. Daniel Baker's widow. Specifically, the filing attached pictures of Crouch with Baker at the signing of the Sgt. Daniel Baker Act, which aims to reduce the amount of time between a death penalty conviction and the carrying out of the sentence.

The motion also points to Crouch's prosecution of a man who posted on Facebook an image of 2 people urinating on what was photoshopped to look like Sgt. Baker's grave.

While a judge threw out that case, a federal lawsuit in response to that prosecution continues.

Crouch has not yet filed a response to the request that he be removed from the case.

(source: WTVF news)

USA:

After Campaigning Against Death Penalty, Biden Admin Seeks Execution of Boston Marathon Bomber----Advocates say the president could eliminate the use of the death penalty by commuting all federal death row sentences.

Capital punishment opponents called on President Joe Biden to take executive action to eliminate the use of the federal death penalty after his Justice Department said the penalty should be reinstated in the case of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Biden's election last November offered relief to anti-death penalty campaigners amid the Trump administration's "execution spree" in which the U.S. government put 10 people to death last year, but death penalty opponents now say the president's failure to provide an official administration policy on the matter has left an opening for the DOJ to continue seeking capital punishment despite Biden's stated opposition.

"What is the administration's policy with respect to the federal death penalty? The administration has not answered that yet." —Robert Dunham, Death Penalty Information Center.

In a brief filed Monday, DOJ officials said the penalty should be reinstated in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted in 2015 of killing three people and injuring hundreds when he bombed the finish line of the Boston Marathon two years earlier.

Tsarnaev originally was sentenced to death, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled last year that the sentence should be vacated because the trial court had not screened jurors for possible bias and had not considered evidence that Tsarnaev had been influenced by his brother, who was allegedly involved in a murder prior to carrying out the bombing.

On Monday, the DOJ told the U.S. Supreme Court that the "determination by 12 conscientious jurors [in favor of the death penalty] deserves respect and reinstatement by this Court."

Lawyers for the Biden administration also argued last month in favor of the death penalty for Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at an historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

Daniel Nichanian of The Appeal noted the distance between Biden's rhetoric on the campaign trail last year, when he called to eliminate the death penalty, and the recent actions of the administration.

"This move from the DOJ contravenes the president's vow to work with Congress to abolish the federal death penalty," Kristina Roth, a senior advocate in Amnesty International USA's criminal justice program, told The Hill.

A full repeal of the federal death penalty would require legislation passed by Congress, without which the decision to seek capital punishment ultimately lies with the Justice Department.

But a clear statement from Biden regarding his administration's policy on the death penalty could ensure his Justice Department lives up to his campaign promises, said critics.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Intercept that the president should commute all sentences on federal death row and call on Attorney General Merrick Garland to direct federal prosecutors not to seek capital punishment.

"He can do that today, he can do that tomorrow,” Dunham told The Intercept. "But the longer that he does nothing about it, particularly if the Department of Justice continues to defend existing death sentences with classically pro-death penalty rhetoric, the more his campaign promises look like empty words."

"What is the administration's policy with respect to the federal death penalty?" Dunham added. "The administration has not answered that yet."

At his confirmation hearing in February, Garland told senators he has "great pause" regarding capital punishment and that he expected Biden to "be giving direction in this area," likely resulting in a "return to the previous [moratorium] policy."

"Disappointingly, to date there has been no such guidance despite President Biden's campaign promise to work to end the federal death penalty," Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU's capital punishment project, told The Hill.

(source: commondreams.org)

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Biden’s silence on executions adds to death penalty disarray

Activists widely expected Joe Biden to take swift action against the death penalty as the 1st sitting president to oppose capital punishment, especially since an unprecedented spate of executions by his predecessor ended just days before Biden took office.

Instead, the White House has been mostly silent.

Biden hasn't said whether he'd back a bill introduced by fellow Democrats to strike the death penalty from U.S. statutes. He also hasn’t rescinded Trump-era protocols enabling federal executions to resume and allowing prisons to use firing squads if necessary, something many thought he’d do on day one.

And this week, his administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the Boston Marathon bomber’s original death sentence.

The hands-off approach in Washington is adding to disarray around the death penalty nationwide as pressure increases in some conservative states to find ways to continue executions amid shortages of the lethal-injection drugs. Worse, some longtime death penalty observers say, is that Biden's silence risks sending a message that he's OK with states adopting alternative execution methods.

“Biden’s lack of action is unconscionable,” said Ashley Kincaid Eve, a lawyer and activist who protested outside the Terre Haute, Indiana, prison where the federal inmates were executed. “This is the easiest campaign promise to keep, and the fact he refuses to keep it ... is political cowardice.”

His cautious approach demonstrates the practical and political difficulties of ending or truncating capital punishment after it’s been integral to the criminal justice system for centuries, even as popular support for the death penalty among both Democrats and Republicans wanes.

Sup?port for the death penalty among Americans is at near-historic lows after peaking in the mid-1990s and steadily declining since, with most recent polls indicating support now hovers around 55%, according to the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Biden didn’t make capital punishment a prominent feature of his presidential run, but he did say on his campaign website that he would work “to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.”

That simple-sounding promise was historic because it wasn't just about the federal death penalty, which, before former President Donald Trump, had been carried out just three times in the previous 5 decades. Then, 13 federal prisoners were executed during Trump's last six months in office during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden's promise also took direct aim at states, which, combined, have executed some 1,500 inmates since the 1970s; 27 states still have death penalty laws.

But the fact that the Biden administration chose to actively push for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s execution suggests the president's opposition to the death penalty isn’t as all-inclusive as many activists believed.

Justice Department lawyers said in court filings Monday that a lower court was wrong to toss the 27-year-old’s death sentence over concerns about the jury selection process, saying the Supreme Court should “put this case back on track toward a just conclusion.”

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in an email regarding the Tsarnaev decision that the Justice Department “has independence regarding such decisions.” Bates added that the president “believes the Department should return to its prior practice, and not carry out executions.”

Meanwhile, states have resorted to other means as drugs used in lethal injections have become increasingly hard to procure. Pharmaceutical companies in the 2000s began banning the use of their products for executions, saying they were meant to save lives, not take them. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has declined to explain how it obtained pentobarbital for the lethal injections under Trump.

Some states have refurbished electric chairs as standbys for when lethal drugs are unavailable. On Wednesday, South Carolina halted two executions until the state could pull together firing squads.

To the disbelief of many, Arizona went so far as to acquire materials to make cyanide hydrogen — the poisonous gas deployed by Nazis to kill 865,000 Jews at Auschwitz — for possible use in the state’s death chamber.

"Execution processes are becoming more and more out of touch with core American values,” Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said about Arizona's purchase. “It provides a very clear picture of what the death penalty has become in the United States.”

Protocols put in place under Trump and not rescinded by Biden allow the U.S. government to employ execution methods sanctioned in states where a federal defendant was sentenced, Dunham said. That means, in theory, federal executioners could also use hydrogen cyanide.

Dunham said death by hydrogen cyanide stands out as uniquely brutal, invariably leading to an “extended, torturous death."

Even if there's virtually no chance the U.S. government would ever embrace an execution method favored by Nazis, Dunham said the very idea that it's theoretically possible should horrify Biden administration officials and spur them to act with an even greater sense of urgency.

“This creates another opportunity for the Biden administration to take action,” he said. “Doing nothing puts the U.S. on the books as authorizing these cyanide executions in some instances.”

A federal prosecutor, arguing in litigation over the government’s execution protocols last month, insisted to a judge that the Justice Department would allow some death row inmates to choose their method of execution if they were sentenced in a state where the law would allow that.

Abe Bonowitz, director of the anti-capital punishment group Death Penalty Action, said he and other activists have spoken with administration officials and received some behind-the-scenes assurances that Biden will eventually support legislation to abolish the federal death penalty.

“We know this is not the biggest fish they have to fry right now. But we are hearing they will get to it,” said Bonowitz, who has been critical of Biden's silence.

The president could take the path of least resistance, politically speaking, by telling his Justice Department not to schedule federal executions during his term. But that would fall far short of fulfilling his campaign promise, and it would leave the door open for future presidents to restart executions.

He could also use his executive powers to commute all federal death sentences to life in prison, but there's no sign of that happening. Granting full clemency to everyone on death row could be politically problematic for Biden and other Democrats, who have a slim majority in both the House and the Senate. Among those whose lives would be spared by such a Biden order would be Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black church members during a Bible study session in South Carolina and was the first person sentenced to death for a federal hate crime.

After Biden's inauguration, the question of whether the president would act fast to end capital punishment was a popular topic on federal death row in Terre Haute, where discussions were often conducted through interconnected air vents. It's not discussed much these days, death row inmate Rejon Taylor told The Associated Press recently through a prison email system.

“I won’t say that skepticism has settled in, but I will say that most no longer feel that immediate action will happen,” said Taylor, who was sentenced in 2008 for killing an Atlanta restaurant owner.

But most inmates, he said, don't believe they'll be executed while Biden is president.

(source: centredaily.com)

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Longtime leader in legal ethics and professional responsibility will receive ABA Medal

Lawrence Fox helped draft the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, first adopted in 1983. Photo courtesy of the ABA.

Through a legal career that spans more than 5 decades, Lawrence Fox has become nationally recognized for his leadership in professional responsibility and legal ethics and his commitment to pro bono work.

The ABA highlighted Fox’s service to both the legal profession and the association Tuesday, announcing he will receive this year’s ABA Medal. It is the ABA’s highest honor and, according to the association, “recognizes exceptionally distinguished service by a lawyer or lawyers to the cause of American jurisprudence.”

“I have been the beneficiary of lots of opportunities, and I have been fortunate in that many of them came to fruition,” says Fox, now a partner at Schoeman Updike Kaufman & Gerber in New York City and a senior research scholar at Yale Law School. “I could never have predicted any of it at all, but this award has caused me to go back and look at what’s in the cupboard. I’m very proud of it.”

Fox graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1968 and joined Drinker Biddle & Reath. He began working with partner Lewis H. Van Dusen Jr., who was then chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Van Dusen helped encourage his interest in the ethical obligations of the legal profession.

In one of his first projects with the ABA, Fox helped draft the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which were adopted by the House of Delegates in 1983 and now serve as the model for ethics rules of most jurisdictions. He later became chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility and a member of the Commission on the Evaluation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which was tasked with reviewing the model rules in 1997.

In addition to serving as chair of the Section of Litigation and as a member of the House of Delegates, Fox helped lead and develop the Death Penalty Representation Project. Even now, he says he continues to provide legal services to individuals on death row.

“The connection for me is that the bulk of the cases, particularly the ones that are successful in challenging the death penalty, are usually ones where there was a significant ethical lapse in the representation,” Fox says. “In some ways, it all ties together.”

In commending Fox and his career, ABA President Patricia Lee Refo said he “distinguished himself as one of the giants of the legal profession.”

In a news release, Refo said, “In addition to his decades of service to the American Bar Association, Larry has been a leading voice on legal ethics and professional responsibility, has taught and mentored countless law students, and consistently done impactful pro bono work, particularly in the area of death penalty representation.”

Fox started teaching lawyers and law students about ethics and professional responsibility after Robert Mundheim, his former corporate law professor who then became dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, asked him to help write a continuing legal education and ethics curriculum.

He went on to teach law at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as Yale University, Cornell University and Harvard University, and has lectured on legal ethics at more than 35 law schools. He has participated in hundreds of CLE programs and written or co-written eight books on professional responsibility.

Fox served as managing partner of Drinker Biddle & Reath and left the firm after 45 years. He was also a special adviser to the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers and is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Bar Foundation.

He will receive the ABA Medal at the virtual General Assembly on Aug. 4 during the ABA’s 2021 Hybrid Annual Meeting.

Its past recipients include U.S. Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Felix Frankfurter, Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan Jr. and Sandra Day O’Connor; World Justice Project founder and former ABA President William Neukom; social justice activist Bryan Stevenson; Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski; and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“If you get involved in organizations like the ABA, and actually give them some effort, some time and work with other people, you can accomplish an enormous amount,” Fox says. “I believe in the ABA, and I believe that the ABA ought to be supported.

“A lot of the things I have done have been directed at making the ABA more effective and to help provide guidance to our fellow lawyers so that we provide the services that clients need and protect what’s special about being a lawyer. That’s the key to a lot of what I’ve done.”

(source: ABA Journal)

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Attorneys appointed for murder-for-hire defendants

2 people accused of taking part in what authorities describe as a murder for hire in Franklin have each been appointed a second attorney to join their respective defense teams.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Greg Stivers entered an order Wednesday granting the motion to appoint additional attorneys for Freddy Manuel Gonzalez and Xavior Caine Posey, who are both charged in federal court with murder for hire in the Dec. 30 shooting death of Brian Russell at his home in Franklin.

Stivers appointed attorney Brian Butler to represent Gonzalez alongside Patrick Bouldin, his previously appointed federal public defender.

Attorney Patrick Nash was appointed as a second lawyer for Posey, representing him with attorney Kyle Bumgarner.

Bouldin and Bumgarner had previously filed motions on behalf of their clients for what is termed “learned counsel,” or attorneys with knowledge and experience that can be applied to capital criminal cases.

Butler is a Louisville-based attorney who has defended clients in previous capital cases, including the 2017 La Placita robbery and murder in Bowling Green, and Nash is based in Lexington and has many years of experience representing high-profile defendants in complex criminal cases.

As a federal offense, murder for hire is punishable by either the death penalty or life in prison.

The decision to pursue the death penalty would be made by the U.S. attorney general.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky alleges that Gonzalez and Posey discussed a plot over text messages to kill Russell on Dec. 29-30, and Gonzalez offered to pay Posey to commit the slaying.

A criminal complaint filed in April said Gonzalez had dated Russell’s ex-wife, Miranda Russell, on and off during 2020.

The complaint said that Miranda Russell ended the relationship with Gonzalez on Dec. 15 and became involved again with Brian Russell.

“In the weeks leading up to the murder, Brian told multiple co-workers that Gonzalez threatened to kill him,” said the complaint, filed by Special Agent Bradley Brown of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “One such incident involved Gonzalez threatening Brian in person with a gun.”

The complaint said that Posey and Gonzalez worked together at Kentucky Downs in the cafe, and that Posey sent Gonzalez an invitation Dec. 21 to join the mobile payment service CashApp.

The night before the shooting, Gonzalez and Posey exchanged a series of text messages that federal prosecutors allege included a discussion of the shooting.

Surveillance video footage from a neighbor of Brian Russell’s shows a truck dropping off a person at Greenlawn Cemetery, which leads up to Brian Russell’s back yard, at 5:27 a.m. Dec. 30.

The truck picks up the person at 5:48 a.m., turns toward Brian Russell’s house and speeds away a short time later, according to the complaint.

Analysis of cell tower data revealed that Posey’s phone was in the Franklin coverage area from 5:07 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Dec. 30, the criminal complaint said.

The Franklin Police Department responded to a shots fired call and found Brian Russell lying on the floor with three gunshot wounds. Police recovered three spent .380-caliber shell casings and a .380-caliber bullet from the scene, records show.

Gonzalez spoke with FPD detectives Dec. 31, during which he acknowledged knowing Brian Russell and having previously dated Miranda Russell.

“Gonzalez stated that he and Brian did not like each other,” Brown said in the complaint. “Gonzalez acknowledged that he knew where Brian lived and had been there once, but he denied having anything to do with the murder.”

On Jan. 4, police found a tracking device on Miranda Russell’s vehicle, and Gonzalez provided a statement to police the next day in which he claimed to have placed the device on her car to see if she was being faithful in their relationship, according to the complaint.

Gonzalez was arrested the next day on a charge of first-degree stalking related to the tracking device. A grand jury in Simpson County later indicted him on the stalking charge, and that case remains pending in Simpson Circuit Court.

According to the federal criminal complaint, Gonzalez made a recorded phone call Jan. 6 from Simpson County Detention Center to someone who he instructed to get a message to Posey to say “all they talked about was cleaning the cafe.”

Posey was arrested Jan. 9 on unrelated warrants. Questioned about Russell’s death, Posey said he was in Bowling Green on the night of the shooting, the complaint said.

(source: Bowling Green (KY) Daily News)

EGYPT:

9 human rights groups condemn Egypt death sentences

9 human rights organisations have signed a letter condemning the death sentences upheld by Egypt's Court of Cassation on Monday.

The death sentences were against 12 men who took part in the anti-coup protests in 2013 and include several senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are also four men who were arrested at a checkpoint as they left the Rabaa sit-in 1 month before the massacre. They were detained after soldiers discovered that two brothers were related to a senior Brotherhood member.

The 4 men were previously sentenced to three years in prison but added to the 'Rabaa Dispersal' case after they had completed two years of their sentence.

The organisations which signed the letter, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Freedom Initiative, are demanding a moratorium on capital punishment in Egypt, including a halt on the implementation of the death sentences issued in the 'Rabaa Disperal' case.

"In light of the unjust mass trial from which the verdict stemmed, the sentences must be reviewed and revised," says the statement.

"There must be a credible and independent investigation into the mass killing of protesters during the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in, with the aim of holding the perpetrators of egregious violations accountable."

Instead of holding perpetrators to account for the mass murder of protests on the day of the Rabaa massacre, when roughly 1,000 people died, Egyptian authorities have subjected survivors to punitive measures such as handing them lengthy prison terms for "violence against authorities" and similar charges, and as in this case, sentencing them to death.

According to Amnesty International, there has been a 300 % rise in executions in Egypt and in 2020 Egypt was the third most frequent executioner worldwide.

On Tuesday, Egypt's opposition campaign Batel criticised the "unjust death sentences against national symbols and statesmen."

"The recent death sentences by the regime are nothing but an order to the Egyptian people to kneel down to the ruler of tyranny, and forget about the dream of change, freedom and justice," the group said in a statement.

(source: middleeastmonitor.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Advocate calls out Saudi Arabia for 'false promise' on executions after young man put to death----Country pledged to halt practice of executing people for crimes committed as a minor

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia executed a 26-year-old man for taking part in protests as a teenager.

Mustafa bin Hashim bin Isa al-Darwish was charged with forming a terror cell and trying to carry out an armed revolt. In court, he said he was tortured into confessing to the crimes.

Rights groups have criticized his trial as deeply flawed, saying that he committed the offences as a minor — something the government disputes, saying he was over the age of 19.

Last year, the kingdom pledged to halt its practice of executing people for crimes committed as a minor.

Maya Foa is the director of the NGO Reprieve, which had been advocating for al-Darwish.

She spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about how his family is doing now, and what they hope to accomplish by calling attention to his case. Here is part of their conversation.

Maya, did Mustafa al-Darwish's family have any warnings that this was going to happen?

Tragically, they did not. The mother of the young man found out about her son's execution through reading about it in public reporting, as is typical in Saudi Arabia, but absolutely devastating, of course, for the family who had been living in fear up to that point.

And do you have any idea how they're coping with this news?

They are absolutely devastated. They've been in contact with my team. They are still, I believe, awaiting transfer of his body so that they can undergo funeral rites. And this is another one of the cruelties of the system. You have no warning. And then in many of the cases that we've worked on, bodies haven't been returned.

Maya Foa says al-Darwish was threatened and tortured until he confessed to a series of crimes.

So families are unable to grieve. So that's the position they're in now. They are in shock. They are desperate for this not to happen to other people. And they want attention on the travesty and on the injustice of what's happened here in Saudi Arabia with their son.

Can you tell us a bit about how he came to be arrested in 2015?

He and other young people were involved in these protests, which were not violent pro-democracy protests. And he and others were arrested when he was still a child, 17 years old. Why was he arrested? We can only surmise that this is part of a wider political crackdown by the Saudi Arabian regime.

And they wanted to, in a show of force, arrest the protesters, I assume, to try to deter further protests. And obviously, what happened next was tragic and a real injustice. This particular young man was tortured brutally and placed in solitary confinement and, as you know, subsequently sentenced to death. •UN and other rights groups condemn Saudi execution of 37 prisoners.

What did he confess to, under that duress?

He was in solitary for for a long time, denied any access to family lawyers, as is sadly typical, and tortured so badly that he lost consciousness several times. As you mentioned, he was threatened and forced to confess. In terms of the confession, we understand from what the Saudi government has said, that he confessed to the charges against him to make the torture stop, of course. So those charges included attending protests that were non-violent, non-lethal when he was a child, and that's on his charge sheet.

But there's also a single image on his phone was brought in as evidence. Can you tell us about that?

My understanding is that they used it as evidence to indicate his presence at this protest and then to allege that he had committed the crimes on the charge sheet.

What kind of reaction has the Saudi government received to this this execution of this young man?

There's been a big public reaction, there's been a decent amount of media, and that's really important because what it has done is held up the false promise that Saudi Arabia made about abolishing the death penalty for children against the reality, which is the continued use of the death penalty against people who were children at the time of their alleged offences.

And so the criticism that has rightly been levelled from the EU, from politicians in many, many countries at the Saudi Arabian authorities for this execution has resulted in a strong reaction from the the PR machine of the Saudi government, the main focus of which has been to say, well, he was older anyway. And what is so clear here is that he was 17 at the time of the protest offences for which he was sentenced to death. And we know that because it's listed on the charge sheet.

The Saudi government maintains al-Darwish was convicted and executed for crimes committed above the age of 19, though no specific dates for his alleged crimes have been given.

Mustafa's family issued a statement. They said, "how can they execute a boy because of a photograph on his phone? Since his arrest, we have known nothing but pain. It is a living death for the whole family." What do they want to to accomplish by going so public?

I think they would like to have some form of accountability for the tragic loss. I think they would like to see Saudi Arabia also held to account for false promises about abolishing the death penalty for children. It is not the case that they and others didn't raise Mustafa's case in the weeks ahead of this execution. They did, and we all tried to stop it. And it's devastating for everyone that it went ahead.

And I think the family don't want to see anyone else go through that. I am sure that they would want, if nothing else, for the same thing not to happen to others as happened to him. They are calling on the international community to raise this case, and to call on Saudi Arabia to uphold their promises.

(source: Written by Kate McGillivray with files from the Associated Press---cbc.ca)

THAILAND/CANADA:

Delays in getting death-penalty assurances from Thailand don't justify discharge in extradition case: Judge ---- A man wanted for murder in Thailand has lost a bid to be discharged from his extradition proceedings over delays.

A man who is being sought for extradition to Thailand on murder charges has lost a bid to be discharged because of delays in getting assurances he won’t face the death penalty in the Asian country.

Prince Michael Obi, also known as Mzwakhe Memela, is being accused in the murder of Susama Ruenrit, a 35-year-old jewelry dealer, in her hotel room in Bangkok on March 24, 2019.

An autopsy determined that Ruenrit had a wound to the back of her head but that she had died of asphyxiation from neck compression.

CCTV footage placed Obi at the scene and a friend of the victim told police that on the night before the murder Ruenrit had told her that Obi was leaving Thailand so she would like to “take him for a treat” before he left. He was arrested when he arrived in Canada later that month.

After a hearing in July last year, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather MacNaughton ordered Obi committed for extradition to Thailand.

The next step was for the federal justice minister to decide whether to surrender him to Thai authorities. Soon after the judge’s order was made, Canadian officials contacted Thai officials in order to get assurances that Obi would not face the death penalty should he be convicted in a Thai court.

On Sept. 30, Thai authorities provided assurances that Obi would not be subject to the death penalty but the minister decided that the assurances were insufficient and did not meet constitutional protections.

On Oct. 16, the minister ordered that Obi be conditionally surrendered to Thailand if proper death-penalty assurances could be obtained. At the same time, under Canadian extradition law, the minister had 45 days to make a final decision unless sufficient cause for the delay could be established.

On April 9 of this year, Thai authorities provided further assurances and, to date, the minister has not made a final decision.

Meanwhile, Obi applied to be discharged on grounds that there were undue delays in the proceedings.

But in a ruling released Thursday, MacNaughton declined to grant him the discharge. The judge said the minister might require “substantial time” to obtain satisfactory assurances that allow the constitutional obligations to be met and obtaining assurances that would benefit Obi.

“There has been no delay on the part of the minister. Although Thailand did not respond as quickly as it might have, it has now done so,” MacNaughton said.

Outside court, Andrew Bonfield, a lawyer for Obi, said that he and his client might want to consider an appeal since if the appeal is successful, Obi should be discharged.

(source: Vancouver Sun)

PAKISTAN:

2 clerics sentenced to death for kidnapping and murdering student

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Monday sentenced 2 clerics to death after finding them guilty of kidnapping a 15-year-old student for ransom and later murdering him.

According to the prosecution, Qari Abdul Majeed and Qari Ahsan Ali had kidnapped Abdul Moiz on June 26, 2016, just after his parents allowed him to sit in Aitkaaf at the Ghousia Qadriya Masjid in Khudadad Colony.

The boy was kept hostage for 4 days in a house in Usmania Colony and after the payment of Rs400,000 in ransom by his family, he was killed by the accused who dismembered his body into parts, the prosecution added.

The ATC-XX judge ordered that the convicts be hanged by neck till their death. The judge also ordered the convicts to pay a fine of Rs1 million to the family of the victim or else they would spend 5 years more in prison.

Moiz’s father Mohammad Arif had lodged a complaint with the Brigade police station stating that his son had brought an application form for Aitkaaf and after taking his signatures on the form, he went to submit it to the mosque but he never reached there nor returned home.

The father said that the next day, he received a text message from his son’s number telling him to arrange a ransom of Rs700,000 to get his son freed. The kidnappers used the captive’s mobile phone and number to contact the family.

The family agreed to pay Rs400,000 to the kidnappers for the release of Moiz. The money was dropped in a mini-truck parked near the Askari Amusement Park on University Road, after which the kidnappers told the family that the boy would return home soon but he never did.

Following the clues given by the family, the local police and Anti-Violent Crime Cell launched an investigation into the case and through the call data record of Moiz, found that he had been in touch with his teacher Majeed for some days and also at the time he went missing.

A hunt to trace the teacher began after that and with the help of a tip-off four months later, police managed to arrest Majeed’s accomplice, Ali, near the National Medical Centre on Korangi Road.

During the interrogation, Ali confessed that he and Majeed brought Moiz on a motorcycle to a place in Usmania Colony and kept him captive there. He said that as the family knew Majeed, he made the ransom calls.

One month later, on November 20, 2016, a spy informed police that Majeed was present at the VIP Gate of the Mazar-e-Quaid, following which he was arrested. He later led police for the recovery of a knife and dagger with which he killed his student.

According to the investigation officer, Majeed dismembered Moiz’s body into parts and with the help of his accomplice, threw some of them in the sea from the Native Jetty Bridge and some of them in a nullah in Kharadar.

The investigators conducted a DNA test of blood found on the knife and dagger, and blood of the victim’s mother from the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences in Jamshoro and found that the blood on the knife and dagger was of Moiz.

The police also recovered the mobile phone of the victim which Majeed sold to his friend in Jehlum for Rs10,000.

The court heard 16 witnesses against the accused. In the light of the evidence, the judge observed that the prosecution had successfully established its case against the accused beyond any shadow of doubt.

The judge awarded the accused 2 counts of capital punishment under the Anti-Terrorism Act and remarked that their offence reeked of inhumanity and they did not deserve any leniency.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

BANGLADESH:

Execution on rise in Bangladesh for decades: study----101 people executed since 1991

Execution of people has been increasing for decades in Bangladesh, revealed a joint study report released on Thursday.

1/3 of the interviewees in the study alleged that prisoners were tortured in custody, according to the study report released in a webinar.

Dhaka University law department in collaboration with the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust and The Death Penalty Project conducted the study in 2019-20 to investigate socio-economic characteristics and experiences of death row prisoners in Bangladesh.

The study revealed that at least 101 people had been executed since 1991 and the number of executions had increased significantly since the start of this century.

It stated that 11 executions took place between 1991 and 2000 compared with that of 57 between 2001 and 2010 and at least 33 since 2011.

About 95 % of the prisoners were sentenced for homicide and 5 % were sentenced on charges of terrorism, the study revealed.

In the study, most respondents said that they were not satisfied with the investigation process and 33 % of the interviewees alleged that prisoners were tortured in custody.

60 % of the respondents said that they were not satisfied with the trial process, with some claiming that courts had failed to properly appreciate the evidence.

On average it took over 10 years for cases to be disposed of by the High Court Division, where death sentences are confirmed, the study found.

The study, however, said that 66 % of the interviewees were satisfied with their legal representation while 33 per cent were critical.

Dhaka University law professor Mahbubur Rahman led the study which recorded 39 case files of death-row prisoners and interviews with their families.

The total number of death-row convicts was 1,650 during the time of the study.

The study excluded cases before the International Crimes Tribunal, the ones related to the BDR carnage and international crimes.

The study found that there are 33 crimes punishable by death in Bangladesh and the punishment for 9 of the offences were introduced during colonial rule by Britain, 1 during the Pakistan period between 1947 and 1971 and rest 23 after independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

Professor Mahbubur in the webinar said that 25 of the death penalty offences were non-lethal and arguably, did not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ under the international law.

As the chief guest of webinar, Dhaka University pro-vice-chancellor ASM Maksud Kamal launched the study report, saying that the study was the first of its kind in Bangladesh.

He said that there was a need of such empirical research on death penalty in the country.

Rahmat Ullah, another Dhaka University law professor, observed that the number of executions had been increasing gradually over the years.

Thomas Baumgartner, the head of political, economic and cultural affairs at Switzerland embassy in Dhaka, said that they were campaigning for abolishing of death penalty.

Nijamul Haque Nasim, a retired justice at the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, said that it was told that death penalty could reduce crime and corruption, but practically it had not happened.

Asif Nazrul, chairman of the law department at Dhaka University, Carolyn Hoyle, director at the Death Penalty Research Unit at Oxford University, and Sara Hossain, a Supreme Court lawyer, among others, attended the virtual programme.

(source: newagebd.net)

INDONESIA:

Man caught in Kuching condo parking lot with 1.5kg of powdered ecstasy

Police arrested a 35-year-old man in the parking lot of a condominium here around 6pm yesterday (June 17) for drug-related activities.

In a statement today, Kuching police chief ACP Ahsmon Bajah said checks on the suspect’s car found packets of powdered ecstasy weighing 1.5kg.

“The ecstasy is estimated to be worth RM24,500,” said Ahsmon adding that police also seized RM1,116 from the suspect.

The arrest was made by the district’s Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department following a tipoff.

The case is being investigated under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for drug trafficking.

The Section provides for the death penalty or life imprisonment with at least 15 strokes of the rotan.

(source: Borneo Post)

MALAYSIA:

New mum, hubby and youth charged with trafficking over 100kg drugs

A new mum, her husband and a 21-year-old youth were charged in the magistrates’ court here today with trafficking 6.8kg of nimetazepam at a house in Cheras 2 weeks ago. Gan Pei Hong, 21, who gave birth just 2 months ago, her husband Cha Wee Sang, 31, and Yap Yau Yang were alleged to have committed the offence at Taman Segar on June 5.

Yap also faced another charge of trafficking 98.4kg of heroin-based drugs at Taman Bukit Hijau, also in Cheras, on the same day.

No plea was recorded before magistrate Aina Azahra Arifin as the drug trafficking charge, which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment of up to 30 years, is only triable in a High Court.

All 3 were represented by T Harpal Singh. Aina Azahra set the case for mention on Aug 18.

The magistrate also rejected an oral application by Harpal to offer bail to Gan as she had medical problems during remand and that she had just given birth to a baby boy.

However, according to Harpal, Aina Azahra ordered Kajang prison authorities to send Gan to the hospital for a medical check-up.

Cha and Yap will remain in Sungai Buloh prison.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Azmi Abu Kassim was reported on June 11 as saying that the trio were active in drug distribution around the Klang Valley following the seizure of drugs worth RM9.3 million.

5 vehicles were also seized during the raids.

(source: freemalaysiatoday.com)

JUNE 17, 2021:

TEXAS:

Mentally Ill and Sentenced to Death----After 45 years, Texas’ longest-serving death row inmate was resentenced last week due to a long history of severe mental illness. But state lawmakers this session again declined to ban the death penalty for people like him.

This article was produced through the NPR NextGen/Texas Observer Print Scholars program, a new collaboration designed to offer mentorship and hands-on training to student journalists and recent graduates interested in a career in investigative journalism.

Jennifer Toon is used to sharing intimate glimpses of difficult experiences with Texas lawmakers. A fellow at the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Toon frequently visits the Legislature to support bills that address intersections between mental health and criminal justice. But rising to speak about House Bill 140, which deals with capital punishment and people with mental illness, was different. “Boy, I think testifying on HB 140 was the most nervous I was out of all the bills I testified on,” she says, recounting her experience this spring. “It’s difficult—because of that stigma and that cultural understanding of mental health—to go up there and say: I am a person with a mental health problem.”

HB 140 was the third bill of its kind to make it through the House committee in four years. It would exempt an individual with documented schizophrenia, a bipolar disorder, or a schizoaffective disorder from the death penalty if they were in the midst of a crisis when they committed their offense. In short: it would prevent Texas from executing severely mentally ill defendants convicted of a capital crime. While the measure passed the state House this session, it did not receive a Senate committee hearing.

Toon, who has borderline personality disorder, was incarcerated on two separate instances for a total of 19 years as a result of offenses committed while enduring mental health crises. Since she was released in 2018, she says she feels a need to share her lived experience and to humanize dialogue within the legislative process. Despite her nerves, she rose from her chair at the Capitol in April, brushed a hand over the back of her dress shirt to ensure the gray fabric was still tucked into her brown leather belt and blue jeans, and approached the stand.

“I felt really personal about it,” she says of her testimony. “I know what it’s like to be out of my mind. … I may not be on death row and that wasn’t part of my criminal justice experience, but, you know, who’s to say it wouldn’t have been if my crises weren’t worse?”

Texas has executed 33 people since 2017—more than any other state—and has a long history of sentencing people with severe mental illnesses to death. Advocates and organizations fighting for criminal justice reform say legislative gaps make it more likely that a defendants’ mental illness will not be fully considered in a jury’s deliberations.

The American Bar Association condemns executing defendants who were mentally ill at the time of their offense. The U.S. Supreme Court has argued that defendants should not be executed if they do not understand the context behind their death, and in 2002 prohibited the execution of people who had an “intellectual disability” at the time of their offense. But the Supreme Court did not clearly define what constitutes a reasonable understanding or an intellectual disability, and states—like Texas, Indiana, and Tennessee—continue to send mentally ill defendants to death row. Bills similar to HB 140 have been introduced in Kentucky, Idaho, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, and South Dakota, but only Ohio has adopted a ban.

*

Scott Panetti began showing symptoms of mental illness in his late teens. “His family was quite concerned about him,” says Jim Marcus, a lawyer well versed in capital cases and a former colleague of one of Panetti’s attorneys. Over the course of 13 years prior to his arrest for capital murder, Panetti cycled in and out of mental health hospitals in Texas and Wisconsin. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and a schizoaffective disorder. His symptoms included developing a military alter ego named Sergeant Ranahan. ”It was in the person of Sergeant Ranahan that, you know, he committed the crime,” Marcus says. “It’s a product of his mental illness.”

Panetti’s story is an oft-cited illustration of Texas’ repeated failure to recognize the presence of severe mental illness in criminal cases, made vivid by the Kerr County court’s decision to allow Panetti to represent himself at trial, and his subsequent arrival in a cowboy hat. Despite Panetti’s diagnosis and attempts to subpoena the Pope and John F. Kennedy during his trial, the court declared him competent to stand trial and sentenced him to death. The state’s repeated attempts to execute him have led to multiple stays and, to this day, he remains on death row despite his belief that his execution is a product of a conspiracy.

As is the case with many defendants with a severe mental illness, Panetti’s lawyers later were unable to prove an insanity defense because he appeared to have moments of clarity, and the prosecutors argued that he was faking his illness. An insanity defense, which questions whether the defendant understands the difference between right and wrong, relies on a defendant’s intellectual capacity rather than their mental state. Since individuals whose crime occurred as a result of a severe mental crisis often acknowledge the specifics of the crime they committed after their psychosis settles, an insanity defense rarely succeeds.

“You can intellectually understand that something is against the law and still not have the capacity to control that or to control your thinking,” Toon explains. “It’s kind of like telling a person with diabetes while they’re going into insulin shock, ‘Well, you know, control it.’ Well, yeah, it doesn’t work like that.”

HB 140 would have created a statute recognizing “diminished capacity” at the sentencing phase; a defendant would, if found guilty of a capital offense, be sentenced to life without parole. “What HB 140 recognizes is that there are the Scott Panettis of the world who are seriously mentally ill,” Marcus said.

Without legislation, the inclusion of an individual’s mental illness in court deliberations is on a case-by-case basis. Coincidently, testimony for HB 140 occurred less than a week after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided to change the sentence for Raymond Riles from death to life in prison because of Riles’ schizophrenia. Marcus is one of the attorneys for Riles, who had lingered on death row for more than 45 years. He was first convicted in 1976, two years before the Supreme Court ruled that juries should consider mitigating evidence—such as severe mental illness—in their deliberations. During his trial, Riles’ defense attorneys argued for an insanity defense, but the prosecution insisted that he was faking his symptoms. His case subsequently entered a lengthy appeal process that stranded him in death row’s solitary cells for decades.

On June 9, just days after the legislative session ended with HB 140 still stalled in the Senate, Riles was resentenced to life in prison.

If a bill like HB 140 had been law when Riles was first sentenced, Marcus says, Riles would likely have been sentenced to life without parole in the initial trial. “In theory, not every murder is a capital murder,” Marcus says. “It’s completely discretionary.” A prosecutor must determine whether they want to charge a murder as aggravated assault, murder, or capital murder—the latter opens a door to the death penalty, which is also generally more expensive. “The prosecutor has to decide it’s really worth it. It’s worth it to spend an extra million dollars on this case to give this guy a lethal injection as opposed to put him in prison for the rest of his natural life.”

But Texas has historically been “tough on crime” and changing the narrative around punishment, Toon says, is easier said than done. Greg Hansch, executive director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Texas, has gathered a coalition of criminal justice, mental health, and faith-based advocates to support HB 140 and similar measures. He says these bills have been stymied in large part because “there’s a sentiment in our Legislature—a strong sentiment—that policy makers and others should back the blue.” Those registered in opposition to HB 140 this session are primarily law enforcement entities: the Smith County District Attorney’s Office, the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney, the Dallas Police Association, the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU), the Texas Municipal Police Association, and the Game Warden Peace Officers Association.

Asked for comment, the Tarrant County DA’s office stated that their opposition derives from a sentiment that capital cases already consider diminished capacity in trials, and that HB 140 would have created an undue defense. Ray Hunt, from the HPOU, stated that he respects juries and trusts the current system. Yet Marcus says juries assigned to death penalty cases—which are required to undergo additional screening—tend to be skeptical of mental illness as a mitigating factor when considering the crime.

Hansch says he is optimistic that a bill like HB 140 will pass eventually. The intention behind the death penalty, Toon notes, is to create a sense of justice to the victim and to bring the person who committed the crime to a reckoning. “People with severe mental illness,” she says, “may die never knowing what happened, what they did. So where is the justice in that? I don’t believe that’s justice.”

(source: Texas Observer)

NORTH CAROLINA:

North Carolina governor grants pardon to ex-death row inmate

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper granted a pardon Wednesday to a man who was once on death row for a shopkeeper’s slaying and spent more than 40 years in prison before he was released.

Cooper’s office announced the action in a news release on behalf of Charles Ray Finch.

“Mr. Finch and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged,” Cooper said in a news release.

The governor’s action makes Finch eligible to file a claim under state law which allows compensation to people wrongly convicted of felonies.

Finch was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Holloman, who was shot inside his country store on Feb. 13, 1976, in an attempted robbery. Finch was sentenced to die, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, but the N.C. Supreme Court reduced his sentence to life in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state’s death penalty law was unconstitutional.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in January 2019 that it was unlikely that jurors would have convicted Finch if they had known about flaws in a police lineup and questions about key witness testimony. WNCN-TV reported at the time that a person had said the killer was wearing a 3/4 length jacket. Finch said a detective had him wear a coat in the police lineup — and Finch was the only one wearing a coat in that lineup.

The three-judge panel returned the case to federal district court for a fresh look at innocence claims that the lower court previously dismissed because of technical reasons including timeliness. The unanimous opinion said Finch succeeded in “demonstrating that the totality of the evidence, both old and new, would likely fail to convince any reasonable juror of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Finch’s conviction was overturned and prosecutors chose not to retry him. He was released from prison in May 2019.

(source: Federal News Network)

SOUTH CAROLINA----stay of impending executions

2 South Carolina executions halted until firing squad formed

The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked the planned executions of 2 inmates by electrocution, saying they cannot be put to death until they truly have the choice of a firing squad option set out in the state's newly revised capital punishment law.

The high court halted this month's scheduled executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens, writing that corrections officials need to put together a firing squad so that inmates can really choose between that or the electric chair. The state's plans, the court wrote in an unanimous order, are on hold “due to the statutory right of inmates to elect the manner of their execution.”

The executions were scheduled less than a month after the passage of a new law compelling the condemned to choose between electrocution or a firing squad if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. The statute is aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause that the state attributes to an inability to procure the drugs.

Prisons officials previously said they still can’t get hold of lethal injection drugs and have yet to put together a firing squad, leaving the 109-year-old electric chair as the only option.

“The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad,” Chrysti Shain, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said in a statement Wednesday. “We are looking to other states for guidance through this process. We will notify the court when a firing squad becomes an option for executions.”

State prison officials have not indicated when a firing squad would be up and running.

Attorneys for the 2 men have argued in legal filings that death by electrocution is cruel and unusual, saying the new law moves the state toward less humane execution methods. They have also said the men have the right to die by lethal injection — the method both of them chose — and that the state hasn’t exhausted all methods to procure lethal injection drugs.

Lawyers for the state have maintained that prison officials are simply carrying out the law, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has never found electrocution to be unconstitutional.

State prisons officials had planned on Friday to electrocute Sigmon, a 63-year-old inmate who has spent nearly 2 decades on death row after he was convicted in 2002 of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat. The state Supreme Court also had previously scheduled the June 25 execution of Owens, a 43-year-old man who has been on and off death row since 1999 for the slaying of a convenience store clerk.

Both Sigmon and Owens have run out of traditional appeals in recent months, leaving the state Supreme Court to set and then stay their executions earlier this year after the corrections agency said it still didn’t have lethal injection drugs — and before the passage of the new law.

South Carolina is 1 of 8 states to still use the electric chair and 4 to allow a firing squad, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

South Carolina’s last execution took place in 2011, and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired 2 years later. There are 37 men on the state's death row.

An attorney for the 2 inmates had no comment on Wednesday's order.

Earlier Wednesday, death penalty opponents called for the state to toss out its capital punishment statute altogether, with a group of faith leaders, academics, organizers and others delivering a letter to Gov. Henry McMaster and the state General Assembly.

Abraham Bonowitz, director of national group Death Penalty Action and a participant in that event, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press late Wednesday that he was grateful the execution plans were blocked. But he felt greater change was still needed.

“It’s always good news when executions are put on hold, but if the conversation is only about how we kill our prisoners, rather than if the state should have this power, something is very, very wrong,” he said. “All of this is unnecessary and a costly waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better supporting the needs of all victims of violent crime.”

At Wednesday's rally, participants noted that the day marked the anniversary of the electrocution of 14-year-old George Stinney, the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. Stinney was 14 when he was sent to South Carolina’s electric chair after a 1-day trial in 1944 in connection with the killings of 2 white girls.

A judge threw out the Black teenager’s conviction in 2014.

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

Anti-death penalty group protests South Carolina executions

As South Carolina nears its 1st execution in a decade, death penalty opponents are renewing calls for the state to toss out its capital punishment statute.

A group of faith leaders, academics, organizers and others delivered a letter Wednesday to Gov. Henry McMaster and the state General Assembly calling for a halt to two upcoming executions and the repeal of the state's death penalty law.

Group members acknowledge it's unlikely for the politicians who ushered in a new law aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause will now turn around and repeal that law. Their group, South Carolinians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, was formed in light of 2 upcoming executions this month.

“We don't expect that we're going to stop an execution," said Abraham Bonowitz, director of Death Penalty Action, a national anti-death penalty group that helps local organizations oppose capital punishment. "What we do expect is that we're going to create the organization that's going to abolish the death penalty in this state. It might take 2 years, it might take 10 years, but that's what this organization is designed to do.”

State prisons officials are planning on Friday to electrocute Brad Sigmon, a 63-year-old inmate who has spent nearly 2 decades on death row after he was convicted in 2002 of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat.

The state Supreme Court also scheduled the June 25 execution of Freddie Owens, a 43-year-old who has been on and off death row since 1999 for the slaying of a convenience store clerk. The execution dates were ordered after state lawmakers passed legislation retooling the state's capital punishment statute to force inmates to choose between the electric chair or a firing squad when lethal injection isn't an option.

Sigmon and Owens are fighting the execution plans through last-minute legal filings.

Prison officials have said they can’t obtain lethal injection drugs and have yet to put together a firing squad, meaning Sigmon and Owens would die in the state’s 109-year-old electric chair.

South Carolina’s last execution took place in 2011, and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired two years later. There are 37 prisoners awaiting death in South Carolina, all of them men.

The state's new anti-capital punishment group noted that Wednesday marked the anniversary of the electrocution of 14-year-old George Stinney, the youngest person executed in the U.S. in the 20th century. He was 14 when he was sent to South Carolina’s electric chair after a 1-day trial in 1944 in connection with the killings of 2 white girls. A judge threw out the Black teenager’s conviction in 2014.

“There's a litany of problems with the death chamber,” said Ron Kaz of Amnesty International USA. “It's racist, it's classist, it's arbitrary and capricious. It's expensive and brutalizes society.”

The group pointed to the waning appeal of death sentences across the United States. Some 23 states no longer have the death penalty, with Virginia being the most recent — and first Southern state — to abolish capital punishment.

But South Carolina is now at a crossroads, said Bonowitz of Death Penalty Action. He noted that states such as Arizona and Alabama are veering in the other direction by trying to use gas chambers to carry out executions.

(source for both: Associated Press)

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

US inmates need firing squad option: court

A US state court has blocked the planned executions of 2 inmates by electrocution, saying they cannot be put to death until they truly have the choice of the firing squad option set out in the state's newly revised capital punishment law.

The South Carolina Supreme Court halted this month's scheduled executions of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens, writing that corrections officials need to put together a firing squad so inmates can really choose between that or the electric chair.

The executions were scheduled less than a month after the passage of a new law compelling the condemned to choose between electrocution or a firing squad if lethal injection drugs are not available.

The statute is aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause that the state attributes to an inability to procure the drugs.

Prisons officials previously said they still cannot get hold of lethal injection drugs and have yet to put together a firing squad, leaving the 109-year-old electric chair as the only option.

"The department is moving ahead with creating policies and procedures for a firing squad," Chrysti Shain, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said in a statement.

Lawyers for the 2 men have argued in legal filings that death by electrocution is cruel and unusual, saying the new law moves the state toward less humane execution methods.

They have also said the men have the right to die by lethal injection and the state has not exhausted all methods to procure lethal injection drugs.

(source: Australian Associated Press)

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

Death penalty opponents call on governor to end capital punishment

A sizable group gathered at the State House Wednesday to make a last effort plea to Governor Henry McMaster to delay state executions set in place this month, one of which was Brad Sigmon’s execution, originally scheduled for Friday.

“No amount of killing will bring back our loved ones,” said Blake Hart, who serves as part of the executive committee for the South Carolina Christian Council.

He was one of more than a dozen church leaders, civil rights activists and pro-life supporters to announce their creation of the group ‘South Carolinians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty’.

“We know we can be safe from people who have done great harm. We can hold them accountable without executions,” said Hart. “That is what we do in the majority of cases in our state. And that is what we should do now in all cases in our state.”

Tiffany James, who is the president of the National Action Network’s Columbia chapter, and a Justice 360 board member, also showed face.

“If our lives mattered then our governor and general assembly would pass laws that will increase quality of life for all people, such as expanding Medicaid,” said James.

While defending the rights of inmates, group members told WACH FOX News they are also working on behalf of victims’ families.

“We ask [state officials] to take the money that we’re wasting on the death penalty, and instead put it to better services for victims’ families,” said Death Penalty Action Director Abraham Bonowitz.

The group delivered a letter to Governor McMaster Wednesday – requesting a stay of execution and an end to capital punishment. It is something that representative RJ May doesn’t believe is likely in South Carolina.

“These families know the verdict. They know these perpetrators are supposed to be put to death,” said May.

May voted in favor of the death penalty bill that was signed into law last month, allowing the state to proceed with electrocutions. He defends his decision to vote for death penalty proceedings to continue.

“I do think in a lot of circumstances that it will bring closure to the families, but one thing we can’t forget is that these are also crimes against society,” May added.

Another inmate, Freddie Owens, was originally scheduled to be executed June 25th.

WACH FOX News reached out to the death row inmates’ defense attorneys for comment and have not heard back.

(source: WACH news)

FLORIDA:

Man Yells At Jurors While Serving As Own Attorney in Death Penalty Trial

A Florida man facing the death penalty, for allegedly killing his girlfriend and their daughter, yelled at jurors as he delivered the opening statement in his own murder trial Monday.

Ronnie Oneal III is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of attempted murder.

He is accused of killing Kenyatta Barron, the 33-year-old mother of his children, and their 9-year-old daughter Ron'Niveya Oneal. Oneal also allegedly seriously injured their son and set their house in Riverview, near Tampa, on fire on March 18, 2018.

Oneal claims he acted in self-defense, according to court documents. He decided to act as his own defense attorney, after his lawyers told him that Florida's "stand your ground" defense did not apply to his case, WFLA reported.

As his trial got underway on Monday, he delivered an opening statement while his public defenders sat nearby.

Video from the courtroom showed Oneal angrily yelled parts of his statement at the jury as he maintained that the case against him had been fabricated.

"By the time it's all said and done, you will see who is the mass murderers... in Tampa Bay," he said.

Oneal later claimed that 911 calls from his girlfriend were fake, which were played to the jury as part of the prosecution's opening remarks.

"The evidence is going to show that law enforcement tampered with evidence to meet their high burden of proof because originally it wasn't enough so [they] had to tamper with evidence," Oneal also yelled, according to Fox13.

Oneal's statement came after the prosecutor told jurors that Oneal shot Barron with a shotgun, then beat her to death with the weapon when he ran out of shells.

Responding deputies found the woman on the lawn, and she was later pronounced dead, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said at the time.

In the state's opening statement, Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon said after Oneal beat his girlfriend to death, he ran back inside the house and killed his daughter using a hatchet.

Ronnie Oneal yelled parts of his opening statement to jurors as he acted as his own attorney during his murder trial.

The girl had cerebral palsy and autism and wasn't able to speak, run or defend herself, Harmon told jurors.

Harmon said Oneal then turned to his 8-year-old son, Ronnie IV. Oneal allegedly stabbed the boy and set him, and the house, on fire. The boy survived and the first thing he told deputies was that he saw his father kill his mother, prosecutors say.

They "will tell you that the words that came out of this boy's mouth were not a cry for help, they were not a, 'help me,' or a painful cry," Harmon said. "They will you the first words that came out of this brave boy's mouth: 'My daddy killed my mommy.'"

The boy, who is now 11, is expected to testify, according to Fox13.

Oneal's trial is expected to last at least 2 weeks.

(source: Newsweek)

OHIO:

Death penalty ban supporters make pitch to Ohio state senators

Ohio hasn’t carried out an execution since Gov. Mike DeWine took office and there are none on the calendar this year. Still, the death penalty is legal in the state, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers hope there is enough support this year to make Ohio the 24th state to ban the punishment.

“The death penalty is the most inefficient government program in existence in Ohio today,” said Ohio Public Defender Tim Young.

He was among those who testified in support of SB 103 Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He cited a laundry list of statistics backing up his claims that the death penalty is outdated and inefficient. Many are also found in a report issued by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost earlier this year that spells out the issues with the state’s system.

“The death penalty is not about justice anymore,” Young said. “It’s about vengeance - state-sponsored vengeance. I know it was never intended that way, but that’s where we’ve come to in terms of how we carry it out.”

The average time someone spends on death row in Ohio is 17 years. In the last 40 years, Ohio has issued 340 death sentences, yet just one out of every six has been executed. 21 had their sentences commuted to something less than the death penalty.

“In short, Ohio imposes death sentences on perpetrators of brutal and revolting murders, then spends years debating, reviewing, appealing and failing to act on those decisions,” the Executive Summary of the report says.

Those who spoke against the death penalty Wednesday also included Ohio faith leaders.

“We look forward to the day when the death penalty is only remembered as a part of Ohio’s history,” said Jim Tobin, the associate director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio.

Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., the executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches, said family members of murder victims are justified to have feelings of “rage and anger” over the killing of their loved ones.

He also falls into that category. But, he said the death penalty is not the answer.

“Executions only exacerbate the cycle of death as they inflict reputational damage onto the state and erode its moral credibility and sense of integrity,” Sullivan said. “For it is a hollow instrument of death that offers no justice, no healing, no wholeness, and no redemption.

Jonathan Mann, the vice-chair of Ohioans to Stop Executions, also testified Wednesday and shared his personal experience with the death penalty process.

His dad was murdered in 2017. He struggled to help pay for his funeral and was faced with challenges over the next two years to cope with his death.

“And then the legal system offered up a fresh version of hell,” Mann said.

He said the prosecutor in the case pursued the death penalty, but Mann believed he was only doing so to look “tough on crime, bolster his political career, and generate a steam of good press.”

“The pain of having to wade through the death penalty case was high,” Mann said. “No one explains how there are people who have been on death row for decades awaiting execution. They don’t talk about the pain we face with years of appeals, reliving the horror over and over. We’re still left with the void that someone that we cared about is gone.

“While the person that caused our pain may eventually go away too, it doesn’t fill the hole in our hearts.”

(source: WTVG news)

OKLAHOMA:

34 Oklahoma lawmakers call for review of death row case

34 Oklahoma lawmakers, including 28 Republicans, called Wednesday for reopening the investigation that led to the conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip.

Republican Rep. Kevin McDugle, a death penalty supporter, said new evidence found by Glossip’s attorney, Don Knight, should prompt another investigation into the 1997 beating death of motel owner Barry Van Treese in Oklahoma City in what prosecutors called a murder-for-hire.

Justin Sneed, the man who admitted beating Van Treese to death, was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in return for his testimony that he killed Van Treese after Glossip promised to pay him $10,000.

In a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, the lawmakers said new evidence that Sneed framed Glossip to avoid a death penalty could show Glossip is innocent.

A spokesperson for Stitt said the letter has not been received.

Oklahoma has executed no one since 2015 when 3 consecutive executions were flawed. Glossip was hours away from execution that year when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug.

Separately, lawyers for Glossip and several other death row inmates are challenging the state’s lethal injection protocols in a case in federal court in Oklahoma City.

(source: Associated Press)

USA----impending executions

June:

18----Brad Sigmon----South Carolina

25----Freddie Owens--South Carolina

30----John Hummel----Texas

July:

26----Zane Floyd-----Nevada

September:

8-----John Ramirez--Texas

15----John Stumpf---Tennessee

28----Rick Rhoades--Texas

October:

27----Ruben Gutierrez----Texas

November:

17----Ramiro Gonzalez---Texas

(source: Rick Halperin)

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

Biden frustrates death penalty opponents with Supreme Court request

Opponents of capital punishment are expressing frustration with the Biden administration’s request this week that the Supreme Court reinstate the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Critics see the Department of Justice (DOJ) move as inconsistent with President Biden’s calls on the campaign trail to eliminate capital punishment.

Outright repeal of the federal death penalty would require legislation, which is unlikely to clear the current Congress given the deep partisan divide. But advocates say Biden could take steps on his own to curtail executions carried out by the federal government and are renewing calls for him to do just that.

“This move from the DOJ contravenes the president’s vow to work with Congress to abolish the federal death penalty,” said Kristina Roth, a senior advocate in Amnesty International USA’s criminal justice program. “Regardless of the Supreme Court's decision in this case, President Biden can, and should, commute all federal death sentences.”

Tsarnaev received the death penalty in 2015, 2 years after he and his since-deceased older brother used pressure cooker bombs to kill three people and injure 260 in an attack near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. After a six-week federal trial, Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 charges, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction.

But last year a federal appeals court vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentence. The Boston-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled that the trial court had failed to adequately screen jurors for possible bias, and erred in excluding evidence that Tsarnaev had been influenced by his older brother.

Tsarnaev, 27, will serve out multiple life sentences in federal prison if he is ultimately spared a death sentence.

Former President Trump asked the Supreme Court in October to reverse the appeals court decision and reimpose the death penalty for Tsarnaev, and the justices agreed in March to take up the government’s appeal.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden was sharply critical of Trump over his decision to resume federal executions in July 2019 after a 17-year moratorium.

“Since 1973, over 160 individuals in this country have been sentenced to death and were later exonerated,” Biden tweeted after the Trump administration said it would resume capital punishment. “Because we can’t ensure that we get these cases right every time, we must eliminate the death penalty.”

Under Trump, the U.S. government carried out 13 executions at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., including 10 last year. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, last year marked the first time the federal government conducted more executions than all states combined, though the group noted that some of the disparity was from delayed court proceedings due to the pandemic.

States are free to set their own death penalty policies so long as they comply with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and other federal limits. To date, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have abolished capital punishment, and governors in three other states have imposed moratoriums, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Tsarnaev case was seen as early test of whether the Biden administration would break with Trump and deliver on the president’s stated opposition to the death penalty, a position which made Biden the first U.S. president to publicly oppose the practice.

Death penalty opponents were encouraged when Merrick Garland, during his confirmation hearings this year for attorney general, expressed misgivings about the death penalty and its disparate impact on people of color.

“I have had a great pause about the death penalty,” Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. “I expect that the president will be giving direction in this area and, if so, I expect it not at all unlikely that we will return to the previous policy.”

But some repeal advocates said that this week’s request to the Supreme Court highlighted the growing disconnect between Biden’s rhetoric and his administration’s actions.

Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) capital punishment project, expressed frustration that the White House has not imposed a moratorium on capital prosecutions.

“When Merrick Garland was being questioned regarding a moratorium on the death penalty at his confirmation hearing, he forecast guidance from the White House on a moratorium policy regarding death penalty cases,” she said. “Disappointingly, to date there has been no such guidance despite President Biden’s campaign promise to work to end the federal death penalty.”

In the DOJ’s brief to the Supreme Court on Monday, the department made clear that Biden would maintain his predecessor’s support for reinstating capital punishment against Tsarnaev.

“The jury carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted — setting down a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a child and a promising young student, and consigning several others to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering,” the DOJ’s 48-page brief reads.

“That determination by 12 conscientious jurors deserves respect and reinstatement by this Court,” it adds.

A spokesman for the White House told The Hill that “the president believes the Department should return to its prior practice, and not carry out executions.” However, the spokesman also added that the DOJ “has independence regarding such decisions.”

The DOJ declined to comment.

The administration’s current posture has left some death penalty opponents feeling disappointed.

“While the decision ultimately is in the hands of the Justice Department, the president’s influence carries a lot of weight in helping the department make the right decision,” said Sakira Cook, senior director of the justice reform program at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“President Biden can do more to end this cruel, ineffective, and irreversible punishment once and for all,” she said. “The President has the power to effectuate his campaign promises and progressive policy changes in this area through executive action.”

Some death penalty policy experts said they believe the issue remains a priority of the Biden administration, but one that’s taking a back seat to bigger concerns like the coronavirus pandemic and stewardship of the economic recovery.

Altering the U.S. approach to the death penalty could also carry political consequences for Biden.

After Trump eroded the traditional firewall between the White House and DOJ, Biden’s administration has sought to restore it, including by giving the DOJ the independence to take legal positions that are unpopular with some Democrats.

It also would be “politically hazardous” for Biden to single out a high-profile defendant like Tsarnaev or Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to make his stand against the death penalty, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Yet at the same, the United States could demonstrate moral leadership and reaffirm its dedication to human rights by putting Biden's repudiation of the death penalty into practice, he added.

“President Biden seems very interested in assuring U.S. allies that America is back. … Our European allies universally regard capital punishment as a human rights violation,” Dunham said. “So fulfilling the president’s campaign promise would be a significant step towards assuring U.S. allies around the world that America is in fact back.”

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments next term in the case, U.S. v. Tsarnaev, No. 20-443.

(source: thehill.com)

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

Death penalty for Tsarnaev not for pols to decide

The death penalty is a polarizing issue, a schism separates those who find execution morally repugnant and call for the death penalty’s demise, and those who consider death a fitting punishment for the most heinous of crimes.

Then there are people like President Joe Biden, who has publicly opposed capital punishment, but under whose aegis could see that sentence reinstated in a particularly horrific case.

The Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

As the Herald reported, the Department of Justice urged the court to reverse a federal appeals court decision that voided the death penalty for the 27-year-old killer.

“The jury carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted — setting down a shrapnel bomb in a crowd and detonating it, killing a child and a promising young student, and consigning several others to a lifetime of unimaginable suffering,” the 48-page DOJ brief says.

It adds the “determination by 12 conscientious jurors deserves respect and reinstatement by this Court.”

Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police and then run over as his brother fled, killed three people and injured 260 others when they set off two bombs in 2013 near the marathon finish line in downtown Boston.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit last year voided Tsarnaev’s death sentence, ruling that the trial court had failed to assess his brother’s influence and potential jury bias.

As with any move in the Biden administration, progressive politicians have been quick to complain that this isn’t up to the standards of their agenda.

According to Politico, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the squad member from Massachusetts, said even though the Marathon bombing was “devastating,” “no nation should be in the business of executing people.”

President Joe Biden “has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the death penalty and has the historic opportunity to finally bring an end to this inhumane, racist and flawed practice,” Pressley said in a statement.

The congresswoman has thrown her support behind the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 — introduced with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin in 2019 and reintroduced in January — which calls for abolishing the death penalty and resentencing those on death row to life without parole.

Other bill sponsors include Reps. Katherine Clark, Lori Trahan and Jim McGovern, and Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren.

Capital punishment is not meted out lightly — no one is sentenced to death for singing too loud in church.

Those on the list of federal death-row prisoners include men convicted of kidnapping and killing a child, murdering a family, including children, and carjackings that ended in murder. Dylann Roof is on the list, for fatally shooting nine parishioners in a South Carolina church.

A Pew Research Center survey released earlier this month found that 60% of U.S. adults favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, including 27% who strongly favor it. About four in 10 (39%) oppose the death penalty, with 15% strongly opposed.

The Supreme Court is the one to make the call on Tsarnaev. They don’t, thankfully, have to bend to the pressures of politicians.

Whether Biden follows suit remains to be seen.

(source: Editorial, Boston Herald)

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

White House Reasserts Opposition to Death Penalty, Stresses Independence of Justice Department as DOJ Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Death Sentence in Boston Marathon Bombing

As the Department of Justice filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking reinstatement of the death sentence imposed on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombing, the White House press office issued a statement stressing the independence of the Department over the cases it is pursuing and asserting that President Joe Biden has not backed away from his campaign promise to work to end the federal death penalty.

On June 14, 2021, Department of Justice lawyers filed the government’s initial merits brief in the Supreme Court asking the court to reverse a 2020 federal appeals court decision that had overturned Tsarnaev’s death sentence. In a pleading that incorporated language nearly verbatim from briefs previously filed by the Trump Department of Justice, federal prosecutors wrote that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had “improperly vacated the capital sentences recommended by the jury in one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our Nation’s history” and that undoing the appeals court’s decision would “put this case back on track toward a just conclusion.”

One day later, a White House spokesman disassociated the President from the prosecutors’ actions, citing the Justice Department’s “independence regarding such decisions.” In a email to reporters on June 15, Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates wrote, “President Biden has made clear that he has deep concerns about whether capital punishment is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness. … The President believes the Department should return to its prior practice, and not carry out executions.”

The DOJ brief provoked a range of disconsonant responses. A number of liberal publications interpreted the filing as representing the official policy of the Biden administration and a retreat from the President’s campaign promise. “Biden broke his promise and failed his first death penalty test in a very big way,” Professor Austin Sarat wrote in a Slate commentary. HuffPost reported: “The new DOJ filing to the Supreme Court undermines what Biden has publicly said about ending the death penalty.” Fox News on the other hand viewed the filing and White House response as suggesting internal discord, describing the press office’s statement as “the latest in a recent string of instances where the White House has pointed to the DOJ’s independence while openly criticizing them.”

Death Penalty Information Center director Robert Dunham described the incongruity between the DOJ action and the White House response as fulfilling one campaign promise — to restore the integrity and independence of the Justice Department — while failing to take action on another. “There’s less to this than meets the eye,” Dunham told The Intercept. During his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Merrick Garland indicated that if the White House set a policy on the death penalty, the Department of Justice would follow it. “What is the administration’s policy with respect to the federal death penalty?” Dunham asked. “The administration has not answered that yet.”

As a result, the DOJ continues to respond to death penalty prosecutions on a case-by-case basis. It has appeared in a federal appeals court to defend the death sentence imposed on Charlestown church shooter Dylann Roof and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision in Tsarnaev’s case. But it also has asked a federal appeals court to return an important habeas corpus case to the DOJ so the Department can reconsider Trump administration rulemaking that would sharply curtail Arizona death-row prisoners’ access to federal review of their convictions and death sentences and has rescinded death-penalty authorization in a half-dozen cases in which the Trump administration was pursuing capital punishment.

Simply not carrying out executions does not fulfill the campaign promise to end the federal death penalty, Dunham said. “It sets the table for the next president to carry out more executions.” Part of ending the death penalty, veteran capital defense lawyer David Bruck told HuffPost in January, would be to direct the Justice Department to stop seeking and defending death sentences in federal cases. Another essential part, death penalty opponents say, is to commute the sentences of everyone of the federal death row.

“He can do that today, he can do that tomorrow,” Dunham said. “But the longer that he does nothing about it, … the more his campaign promises look like empty words.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

White evangelicals are more likely to support death penalty than atheists, study finds----Pew Research Center poll finds that while most American adults favor the death penalty, those who believe in God are more supportive of capital punishment

Most Americans approve of the death penalty as punishment for heinous crimes like murder, but adults who identify as religiously affiliated are much more likely to support capital punishment than atheists and agnostics, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.

Pew’s research found that on average, 60% of U.S. adults generally favor the death penalty.

•That support of government sanctioned capital punishment was most prevalent in white evangelicals and white non-evangelical Protestants who supported capital punishment at 75% and 73%.

•Generally, a smaller majority, 55%, of nonreligious-affiliated Americans supported the death penalty.

Atheists are against capital punishment

But atheist and agnostics are strongly opposed to capital punishment at a much higher margins than their God-believing brethren, Pew reported.

•“Atheists and agnostics are the only religious groups in this analysis that are more likely to oppose the death penalty than to support it,” according to Pew.

•Of atheists, 34% “strongly oppose” the death penalty, as did 24% of agnostics. Only 35% of atheists and 43% of agnostics generally favored capital punishment.

•A small minority, 9%, of white evangelicals are strongly opposed the death penalty.

Roughly 1/2 of atheists (51%) and agnostics (47%) say the death penalty is morally wrong, even for people who commit crimes like murder. Fewer than half as many White Protestants (22%) – evangelical and not evangelical – feel the same way. https://t.co/zyfQjwV44p pic.twitter.com/jWjOzREtPa — Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) June 15, 2021

Catholics and Black Protestants narrowly divided on death penalty

The poll found that American Catholics and Black Protestants are more closely aligned with nonreligious Americans than evangelicals in their views of the death penalty.

• Catholics are generally supportive of the death penalty, 58%, but not to the extremes. Only 27% “strongly favor” capital punishment and 14% responded that they strongly oppose the death penalty.

•“Black Protestants are divided in their views on the death penalty, with 50% in favor and 47% opposed, mirroring a broader trend of lower support for the death penalty among Black Americans overall,” Pew reported.

Where the religious and nonreligious affiliated appear to agree is that the death penalty is not a criminal deterrent and there is a chance the government could kill a person who has been wrongly convicted, according to Pew’s research.

A majority of American adults believe “the death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crime,” with 59% of religious affiliated and 72% on religiously unaffiliated believing as such.

•“White evangelicals are the only group with a majority saying that the death penalty deters people from committing serious crimes,” said Stephanie Kramer on Twitter, the author of Pew’s report.

Large majorities of Americans agree there is “some risk that an innocent person will be put to death,” with 76% of religious affiliated and 82% of religious unaffiliated believing so.

•“However, White evangelical Protestants are more likely than any other group analyzed to say there are adequate safeguards in place to ensure that no innocent person will be put to death, with three-in-ten taking this position,” reported Pew.

(source: Deseret News)

MALAWI:

Malawi abolishes death penalty: what it means for southern Africa

The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal abolished the death penalty in April, the most notable decision against capital punishment since the South African Constitutional Court found the penalty unconstitutional in 1995. The Malawian decision is significant because Malawi’s constitution specifically provides for the death penalty (in Article 16), unlike the unqualified right to life in the South African constitution.

The Malawian decision ended years of confusion over the status of the remaining 37 prisoners on death row. Nearly 15 years ago, the Malawi High Court abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder. It had found that an automatic death sentence did not sufficiently individualise sentencing and, therefore, was cruel and degrading punishment.

But, the ruling was not clearly retroactive. Many defendants were still appealing their mandatory death sentences or had them commuted to life imprisonment without ever having a sentencing hearing. This “grey area” led to the latest court challenge brought by Charles Khoviwa, a death row inmate and client of Reprieve, a legal action non-profit organisation, and the Malawi Legal Aid Bureau, that resulted in the abolishment.

Malawi’s constitution

Although the Khoviwa decision was particular to Malawi’s progressive constitution, the case has implications for other Southern African countries, most of which keep the death penalty on the books but do not use it in practice.

Malawi’s constitution came out of a public consultative process, initiated after a 1-party dictatorship that ended in 1994. As a result, this newer constitution has some progressive elements. They include that Malawi must consider international law obligations and may look to foreign case law in deciding constitutional disputes.

This is important because international human rights law disfavours the death penalty, and has placed increasingly strict standards on its use. Ever fewer countries carry out executions in practice , which in turn has strengthened the human rights case against the death penalty.

Because Malawi’s constitution is a living document that evolves, the Supreme Court of Appeal considered the global decline of capital punishment.

In the Khoviwa case, the court considered Article 16 of the Malawian constitution. The court explained that the wording of this provision created two separate rights: the right to life and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life. This is clear in the text:

Every person has the right to life and no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life.

But, the wording of the 2nd sentence of Article 16 was unusual compared to other Commonwealth and African constitutions. This said, in the relevant part: the execution of the death sentence … shall not be regarded as arbitrary deprivation of his or her right to life.

The second sentence only stated that the death penalty could not be an arbitrary deprivation of life; it did not state that the death penalty could not violate the right to life (the other right contained in Article 16) or the right to be free from cruel and degrading punishment at Article 19. This gave the court an opening to find the death penalty unconstitutional even though Article 16 specifically provided for the death penalty.

Wider implications

The wording of Malawi’s constitution is peculiar. The constitutions of its southern African neighbours; Botswana, eSwatini, and Zambia have a right to life provision that specifically provides for the death penalty. This, without setting out a separate right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life. As a result, the reasoning of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in the Khoviwa case is not precisely applicable.

Of course, the constitutions of South Africa, Mozambique, and Namibia have an unqualified right to life with no provision for the death penalty, which is why these countries are abolitionist. The Lesotho and Tanzania constitutions also have unqualified right to life provisions with no exclusion for the death penalty. However, the senior courts in these countries have not yet found the death penalty to violate the right to life.

Kenya and Zimbabwe have more complex constitutional “right to life” provisions. Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution provides for the death penalty in an extremely narrow class of cases - adult men between the ages of 21 and 70 and only for the crime of aggravated murder.

In terms of Article 26 of Kenya’s constitution, [one] shall not be deprived of life intentionally, except to the extent authorised by this Constitution or other written law".

But the constitution provides no authorisation except for abortion.

The Malawi court’s decision in Khoviwa could be especially useful in future human rights litigation in countries without clear constitutional support for the death penalty. This is so for 2 reasons.

First, the Malawian Supreme Court of Appeal validated the emerging global consensus that the death penalty violates the right to life, even where the constitution specifically authorises it.

Second, and even more importantly, the Malawian court used a more progressive interpretive method: if 2 interpretations of a constitutional provision are possible, the interpretation that expands human rights protections is preferred over an interpretation that restricts or limits human rights.

This is a roadmap for future challenges to the death penalty in other southern African countries.

(source: theconversation.com)

GUYANA:

Court of Appeal hearing jurisdiction arguments over death penalty against former coastguards

The Guyana Court of Appeal has commenced hearing arguments on its disputed jurisdiction over the appeal filed by former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) coastguards Sherwyn Hart, Deon Greenidge and Devon Gordon who are challenging the death penalty imposed against them for the 2009 murder of Bartica gold dealer Dweive Kant Ramdass.

During arguments yesterday afternoon, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes who represents the appellants along with attorneys Nigel Hughes, Latchmie Rahamat and a battery of other lawyers, argued that the court does have jurisdiction to hear the case.

Contrary to what Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack is likely to advance when arguments continue this afternoon, Mendes said that the appellate court’s jurisdiction to hear the appeal stands in accordance with Section 12 of the Court of Appeal Act.

(source: Stabroek News)

SOMALIA:

Puntland Sentences 17 Al-Shabab Fighters to Death

A military court in the semi-autonomous Somali regional state of Puntland has on Monday sentenced 17 Al-Shabab Islamist militants to death.

The court said the militant were convicted of involvement in the killings of nearly 300 people in Puntland over the past 13 years.

The court also sentenced 18-year-old Abdirizak Ahmed Burale to life imprisonment.

The men were previously sentenced to death by the Puntland Military Court but hired a lawyer to defend them.

This is the 2nd biggest number of Al-Shabaab members in history sentenced to death at one time after 17 militants. 43 l-Shabaab fighters were sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad in Puntland state in 2016.

Meanwhile, Somali National Army (SNA) killed 16 Alshabaab fighters in an operation conducted in West of Kismayo.

Somali military has intensified the fight agaisnt the militant group Al-Shabaab in the country ahead of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in the Horn of African Nation.

Al-Shabab’s fighters aim to drive out African Union peacekeepers, topple Somalia’s Western-backed government, and impose its strict version of Islam on the Horn of Africa state.

(source: radiodalsan.com)

JAPAN:

Prosecutors seek death penalty for man over murder of 6 in Ibaraki

Prosecutors demanded the death penalty on June 17 for a man suspected of brutally killing his wife and 5 children.

Hirobumi Komatsu, 36, “took away lives in an extremely cruel way,” prosecutors said in front of lay judges at the Mito District Court.

According to the document of charges, Komatsu stabbed his wife and 5 children between the ages of 3 and 11 in their backs and chests with a knife on Oct. 6, 2017, at his home in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture.

He then doused gasoline on the door and over other areas of the residence, and killed them.

Prosecutors said Komatsu’s wife, 33, had broached the subject of divorce.

Komatsu killed them “for the selfish reason that he did not want to lose her to another man,” prosecutors said.

Komatsu has been accused of murder and arson, among other charges.

Defense lawyers said Komatsu was too “mentally incompetent to bear responsibility.”

They said Komatsu lost a lot of sleep and could barely eat before the incident.

Komatsu’s cognitive process was impaired due to his suffering from depression and extreme tension, they argued.

The defense is seeking either a not-guilty verdict or a commutation.

In November 2018, Komatsu temporarily suffered cardiopulmonary arrest from heart failure.

Komatsu said during the trial that he lost memories as an aftereffect and repeatedly said, “I have no recollection.”

During the 1st hearing, defense lawyers asked the trial to be suspended because Komatsu is mentally incompetent.

But the court said Komatsu is capable of communicating “with proper assistance from lawyers and supervisory support from the court,” and continued the trial.

Based on the testimony of a psychiatrist and others, prosecutors argued it is “obvious that (Komatsu) did not have a psychotic disorder at the time of the incident.”

The sentence will be handed down on June 30.

(source: The Asahi Shimbun)

MALAYSIA:

Malaysian Princess Struggles To Free Cancer Survivor Dr. Ganja Who Faces Possible Death Sentence Over Medical Cannabis

Life has a way of creating stranger-than-fiction scenarios like this one: first, you get cancer. Then you become strong enough to fight it off and survive. Then, after all that, you decide to be noble and humane and share the medical insights you gained while struggling with your health issues and you end up facing a death sentence…this time not from cancer, but a firing squad.

Talk about irony.

This is the story of Amiruddin Nadarajan Abdullah, 62, better known as Dr. Ganja or Dr.G.

After being diagnosed with a painful spinal cord tumor that caused him to lose a kidney, Dr. Ganja, who was struggling with chronic pain and chemo-related fatigue, decided to seek out alternative treatments that eventually led him to medical cannabis in the form of hemp seed oil. It worked wonders for him until he was arrested and charged for distributing chocolates and brownies made with hemp seed oil. Dr. Ganja is actually not an MD. He earned that nickname because of his habit of inviting people suffering from cancer and other ailments into his home and sharing his hemp oil medicine with them.

Despite a United Nations decision last year to recognize the medicinal properties of cannabis, many advocates hoped countries around the world would catch up with evolving attitudes towards the plant. Some did. Malayasia was not one of them. The southeast Asian country continues to have the harshest cannabis laws in the world, including the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers.

Dr. G, who served in the Malaysian army for 22 years, was arrested in 2017 and charged with 36 offenses under Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act.

“He isn’t a drug dealer or some drug lord,” his daughter Siti told VICE World News.

Malaysian Princess And The Last Prisoner Project Join Forces To Help Dr. Ganja

The Malaysian Princess Tengku Chanela Jamidah is collaborating with the Last Prisoner Project (LPP ) to support Dr. Ganja's appeal, reported Forbes. Together they have launched an event to raise funds for his cause.

The fundraiser is the LPP's first international cannabis project, but they're all in.

“Last Prisoner Project holds a vision of freedom for every last cannabis prisoner around the globe,” said Mary Bailey, managing director of LPP, a non-profit involved in criminal justice reform.

Princess Jamidah said Malaysia should allow cannabis as an inherent human right. As a well-known figure in the fashion, beauty and entertainment sectors, she has used her broad platform for the last two years to promote cannabis legalization. She is also the official patron of the Malaysian cannabis advocacy group MASA.

‘I Will Not Stop Until He Is Free’

In an interview with Forbes, the Princess explained that Malaysians should be reminded that cannabis and hemp have been used by their ancestors for hundreds of years.

“I am aware that there are many within the family and outside of the family who oppose what I do. This is not what I fear. I fear living a life that is not in honor of my authenticity and truth, I believe the plant is extremely intelligent and she is our teacher and I would rather live my life in acknowledgment of that truth than live a life deprived of my soul’s path and mission,” Jamidah said.

The princess emphasized the larger picture and the many patients in need of medical marijuana.

“We must consider the epileptic child, the cancer patient, Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s patients that are faced with pain, suffering and risk their lives every day deprived of this medicine that has been proven to heal. What are my risks compared to their courage and survival?”

The princess is as adamant about freeing Dr. G as she is about the cannabis plant.

“Let my voice and activism be a vessel for Dr. G as we believe in the same truths, I will not stop until he is free,” the Princess said.

Those who wish may contribute to Dr. G’s Crowdfunding campaign. All proceeds will be used to support his death sentence appeal and, hopefully, his release.

(source: benzinga.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Don’t execute Abdullah al Howaiti

Saudi Arabia is executing child defendants. And Abdullah al Howaiti could be next. He was only 14 years old when he was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2017. He was tortured until he ‘confessed’ to crimes he could not have committed.

He has several alibis - he was at the seafront playing football with his friends at the time of the alleged ‘crime’. The courts know this. And yet Abdullah is facing execution.

The Saudi Arabian authorities say that they ended the death penalty against child defendants in April 2020. But this is clearly a lie.

Another child defendant in Saudi Arabia, Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish, was recently executed without warning. Thousands of us in the Reprieve community asked UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to take up Mustafa’s case with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when they recently met. Raab refused to confirm whether or not he raised Mustafa’s case. A week later, Mustafa was killed.

We cannot let the same happen to Abdullah.

That’s why right now, we’re building a huge swell of public attention demanding that Dominic Raab steps in to protect Abdullah al Howaiti.

(source: secure.reprieve.org)

GAZA:

EU slams Hamas for death sentences----Death penalty sentences have skyrocketed in Gaza since Hamas took control in 2007.

The European Union’s (EU) Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah condemned the Hamas terror organization on Tuesday for 2 death sentences it issued in the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

These 2 latest death sentences are the 5th and 6th handed down by a Hamas court in the Gaza Strip in 2021.

“The EU Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah recall their firm opposition under all circumstances to the use of capital punishment,” the EU’s statement said. “The EU considers that abolition of the death penalty contributes to the protection of human dignity and progressive development of human rights. It considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhuman, that it fails to provide deterrence to criminal behaviour, and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”

The statement said authorities in Gaza need to forgo carrying out executions of prisoners and comply with the moratorium on executions put in place by the Palestinian Authority.

Death penalty sentences have skyrocketed in Gaza since Hamas took control in 2007.

Last year, Hamas judges issued 16 death sentences in Gaza, and 7 of them were tried in absentia. Since 2007, Hamas courts have passed down 128 death sentences and the Hamas government has executed 25 persons.

In 2018, the PA signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, established to bring an end to the death penalty to enhance human dignity and progressive development of human rights.

Over 70% of the world has abolished capital punishment in their countries.

(source: worldisraelnews.com)

IRAN:

Record of Ebrahim Raisi in the Oppression of Women

Ebrahim Raisi, the current Judiciary Chief and subservient disciple to Ruhollah Khomeini, is the only serious contender among 592 registered candidates qualified to run by the Guardian Council.

The Iranian people know Raisi as the “Henchman of the 1988 massacre” and a “mass murderer.” As Ali Khamenei’s primary candidate for the 2021 elections in Iran, he has met solid and broad opposition, particularly among women and youth.

He was a key perpetrator of the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988. Moreover, he has no academic or religious credentials even within the murderous theocracy. In short, Raisi earned his credentials in the regime as a stone-hearted killer who rose the ranks of ignorant thugs, with a proven 40-year track record for execution and repression.

Ali Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi to head the Iranian regime’s Judiciary on Thursday, February 26, 2019.During his tenure, Iranian women and girls have experienced specific instances of violations of their fundamental rights, more restrictions on their social activities, as well as arrests, imprisonment, and torture.

The following report summarizes documents, news, and other data that found their way to the press and media and were collected by the NCRI Women’s Committee. Hopefully, it will provide a picture of Khamenei’s favorite candidate to consolidate his regime of terror and repression.

Ebrahim Raisi’s role in the repression and killing of women

During the last four decades of the mullahs’ rule in Iran, Ebrahim Raisi has played a central role in the repression, torture, and killing of regime opponents, particularly women and young intellectuals, and freedom fighters.

Raisi’s background and positions over the past four decades include serving as an interrogator in Masjed Soleiman Court; Prosecuting Attorney in Karaj; Prosecutor of Karaj; Prosecutor of Hamadan; Deputy Attorney General of Tehran; and a member of the “Death Commission” in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.

After the massacre of prisoners in the summer of 1988, Raisi served as Tehran’s Revolutionary Prosecutor, Head of the National Inspectorate, First Deputy of the Judiciary, Special Prosecutor for the Clergy, Chairman of the State Television Supervisory Council, Attorney General, Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, and Head of the Judiciary.

Raisi participated in the repression and killing of more than 1,500 demonstrators, including 400 women, in November 2019. In addition, he was responsible for the imprisonment, torture, and repression of 12,000 demonstrators. He issued so many prison sentences and ordered executions by torture after forced confessions. The US put him on the country’s sanctions list for his flagrant violations of human rights in November 2019.

Death and flogging sentences for Iranian women and girls

Death sentences and floggings for Iranian women and girls during Raisi’s tenure as head of the Judiciary:

Execution of at least 30 women.

At least 24 women received 1,620 lash sentences. These women were from a broad social spectrum: from labor and student activists to athletes, journalists, lawyers, and street protesters.

Salbi Marandi, 80, received 70 lashes in the Judiciary Enforcement Office in Khoy for following up on her imprisoned child’s status. After suffering lashes that left her paralyzed, she was transferred to Khoy Prison to serve 8 months.

In another case of extreme brutality, a female prisoner in Lakan Prison of Rasht was flogged 100 times before being released. She had previously spent 15 years in prison.

Torture and forced confession in detention

During Raisi’s tenure as head of the Judiciary, few shocking reports surfaced despite the atmosphere of censorship and repression, pointing to tremendous suffering in dreaded prisons and torture chambers. According to these reports:

At least 36 women prisoners were tortured and harassed.

At least 6 women, including environmental activists, civil society activists, cultural activists, and detainees from the November 2019 uprising, have been pressured to make forced confessions.

An example of a forced confession:

Elaheh Darvishi, 19, was pregnant at the time of her arrest. She was arrested because of her husband’s political activities and gave birth in prison. Before the child was born, prison authorities threatened Elaheh Darvishi, saying if she did not write what they wanted, they would kill her and the child she was carrying.

Examples of torture:

Lamya Hemadi was subjected to severe torture during her detention. First, officers burned her with electric prods. Then, after lengthy torture, she was transferred to Tehran Intelligence, where she endured six months of torture and interrogation before being transferred to Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz.

Sakineh Segour, 35, was pregnant. She was taken to the hospital to give birth after a long period of torture. Her body was bloodied, she was in handcuffs, and her ankles were chained.

Arrest and detention of protesters

During Raisi’s tenure as head of the Judiciary, thousands of women activists have been arrested during street protests, detained, and subjected to all forms of pressure. Relatives of martyrs and prisoners after these protests have not been spared from these pressures.

The families of at least 3 martyrs from the November 2019 uprising (Shabnam Dayani, Azadeh Zarbi, and Farzad Ansarifar) have been threatened and warned to remain silent in the face of the killing of their loved ones. Instead, they were instructed to say that the cause of their loved ones’ deaths was an accident or a natural disaster.

Fatemeh Davand, one of the protesters arrested in Bukan in November 2019, was transferred to Urmia Central Prison. Bukan City Court sentenced her to 5 years and five months in prison, as well as 30 lashes. Fatemeh Davand, 42, is the mother of 3 children.

In another example, agents from the Ahvaz Department of Intelligence arrested Mrs. Badrieh Hamidavi on May 16, 2021. Mrs. Hamidavi was the mother of a young man, Ali Tamimi, killed by security forces in November 2019.

Family members of the victims of the Ukrainian flight have also been under pressure since the mullahs’ regime downed the aircraft in January 2020. According to Human Rights Watch, several families said officials, often in plain clothes, attended public and private memorial services for their loved ones. The families also said that the authorities did not allow them to see their loved ones’ bodies.

“I still do not know if I really buried my son,” said the mother of one of the victims.

Imprisonment during the Coronavirus outbreak

During Raisi’s tenure as head of the Judiciary, prisoners were denied leave during the Coronavirus outbreak in prisons. They were thus subjected to a silent massacre:

At least 76 women in the country’s prisons contracted the Coronavirus and were denied the necessary care.

The situation of women prisoners was reported to be critical in at least five prisons across the country, Qarchak of Varamin, Sepidar of Ahvaz, Tabriz Prison, Urmia Central Prison, and Zanjan Prison.

In Ahvaz’s Sepidar Prison alone, more than 50 women became infected with the Coronavirus.

Following the death of Fatemeh Alizadeh in Urmia Prison, at least 200 women prisoners went on a hunger strike.

Testimony of a tortured female prisoner

Farideh Goudarzi is a witness. She was tortured directly supervised by Ebrahim Raisi.

She describes the scene as follows:

“In 1983, I was arrested in the city of Hamadan for supporting the PMOI. I was 9 months pregnant, only a week away from giving birth. I was taken to a torture chamber in that condition and tortured with a cable. One of the people present at the scene was Ebrahim Raisi. I did not know him at that time, but my cellmates said that he was the prosecutor of Hamadan.”

In 1983, Raisi was not more than 21 years old. He was not particularly well-educated and certainly not very literate in terms of theology. However, he was the prosecutor of Karaj and Hamadan. Many political prisoners, most of them PMOI sympathizers, were sentenced to death on orders signed by Ebrahim Raisi.

Farideh Goudarzi’s husband was hanged at the time in the courtyard of Hamadan Prison. Her younger sister, Fariba, and her brother, Parviz, were executed during the 1988 massacre after the death commissions, issued their death decrees with Ebrahim Raisi as a member. They were buried in mass graves without informing their family of their execution among 30,000 political prisoners.

Destruction of mass graves

In the past 2 years, as Ebrahim Raisi headed the mullahs’ Judiciary, many of the mass graves, including the ones in Tehran’s Khavaran Cemetery, were destroyed, an effort by the regime’s officials to eliminate all traces left of that great crime against humanity in summer of 1988.

These crimes against humanity continue to this date. Their perpetrators, including Khamenei and Raisi, have held on to power with impunity.

But the people of Iran say no to the regime’s sham elections and demand justice for the criminals who massacred Iran’s best children, especially in 1988 and 2019.

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

JUNE 16, 2021:

TEXAS:

Suspect in 2015 double homicide charged with capital murder

A 59-year-old Lubbock County man facing two murder charges in the 2015 killings of his girlfriend and the man she was also dating is now facing an enhanced charge.

A Lubbock County grand jury on Tuesday returned an indictment against Mark Anthony Bethel, charging him with capital murder in connection with the October 2015 shooting deaths of Jessica Payton and Shawn Summers.

Capital murder carries a punishment of the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Bethel, who has been held at the Lubbock County Detention Center since Nov. 4, 2015, was initially charged with two separate counts of murder. However, the new indictment states he is charged with killing Payton and Summers as part of "the same scheme or course of conduct, but during different criminal transactions."

Bethel and his cousin, David Bethel, were both arrested in connection with the homicide investigation that began Oct. 31, 2015 when deputies responding to a vehicle on fire near CR 6700 and CR 2800 found Summer's body inside the vehicle. Deputies found Payton’s body a day later in a creek near the intersection of east county roads 7300 and 3600. Her body was wrapped in a comforter and weighed down with a chain and cinder blocks. The comforter matched bedding found in Mark Bethel’s residence at Buffalo Springs Lake.

Payton was Mark Bethel’s girlfriend, according to an warrant.

However, text messages indicated Summers and Payton were also in a relationship, and that Payton was pregnant with his child, the warrant states. However, an autopsy later determined Payton was not actually pregnant.

Lubbock County sheriff’s investigators believe David Bethel lured Summers to a house in the 100 block of East 86th Street where he shot and killed him, according to an arrest warrant. Bethel then drove Summers’ body to East County Road 6700 between county roads 2800 and 2900 where it was abandoned in a vehicle that was set on fire.

Mark Bethel was arrested Nov. 4, 2015, in connection with both homicides. David Bethel was arrested a week later in Arizona.

In March 2019, David Bethel was sentenced to 40 years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to a count of murder in connection with Summer's killing.

Mark Bethel remains held at the Lubbock County Detention Center. His bond is set at $200,000.

(source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

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South Texas prosecutors will pursue death penalty in NH couple's killing

Prosecutors said they intend to pursue the death penalty for at least 1 of the 2 people charged with capital murder in the deaths of a New Hampshire couple found buried at a South Texas beach in 2019.

Adam C. Williams, 35, appeared before 105th District Judge Jack Pulcher over Zoom Tuesday for a status meeting held at the Kleberg County Courthouse. Prosecutors said during the hearing they would seek the death penalty against Williams, if he is convicted at trial.

The hearing was held almost 2 years after James and Michelle Butler's bodies were found in a shallow grave on South Padre Island.

Williams, along with Amanda Noverr, was indicted in October 2020 by a Kleberg County grand jury with intentionally and knowingly fatally shooting the New Hampshire couple during a “criminal transaction.”

Noverr, 34, also appeared before Pulcher for a status meeting on Tuesday, over Zoom.

It was unclear immediately if prosecutors were also considering pursuing the death penalty against her.

Pulcher, citing the slow progress of crime lab testing of evidence due to COVID-19, delayed both William and Noverr's criminal jury trials, which had been set to begin July 12.

Instead, another set of status hearings will be held sometime in early August.

Adam Curtis Williams, 33, was booked into the Kleberg County jail in connection with the bodies of missing New Hampshire couple James Butler, 48, and Michelle Butler, 45, buried at a Texas beach.

Williams and Noverr were initially accused of stealing James and Michelle Butler's pickup truck. They were later indicted for tampering with evidence, felony theft and unlawful possession of a firearm, records show.

On Oct. 22, a Kleberg County Grand Jury indicted Noverr and Williams for capital murder.

A gag order has been issued in the case.

(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)

VERMONT:

Jim Kenyon: ‘Dead Man Walking’ author bringing passion for justice to Hartford Dismas House

Just before her best-seller Dead Man Walking came out in 1993, Sister Helen Prejean was asked about why she put her time and energy into helping death row inmates whose horrific crimes often made them less-than-sympathetic characters.

“People are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their lives,” Prejean told The New York Times Magazine.

Prejean, one of the country’s best-known death penalty opponents and “maybe its most famous nun” the Times wrote in 2019, has made a lot of powerful statements over the years about abolishing capital punishment.

“The death penalty is a poor person’s issue,” she tweeted in 2018. “In the end, it is the poor who are selected to die in this country. You’ll never find a rich person on death row.”

On Sunday, Prejean will be the featured speaker at a virtual event to benefit Hartford Dismas House, the nonprofit that offers men and women just out of prison an affordable and supportive place to live while they piece their lives back together.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. Ticket information can be found at dismasofvt.org/hartford-dismas. Registration closes Saturday at noon.

With ticket prices starting at $25, I’m confident that people will get their money’s worth. When I talked with her by phone last week, Prejean told me that she’ll be reaching into her “bags of stories” on Sunday.

Prejean, who turned 82 in April, doesn’t rely on notes in her addresses. She just says what’s on her mind. “There’s nothing like telling people a good story,” she said.

Her life story is an attention-grabber to begin with. At 18, Prejean — the daughter of a lawyer and a nurse in Baton Rouge, La. — joined the Sisters of St. Joseph, a Catholic congregation of women that dates back to 17th-century France.

In 1982, after studying in Canada and teaching high school students, she moved into a New Orleans housing project to live and work with the poor. At the request of someone who worked at a prisoner rights organization, she began writing to Patrick Sonnier, who had been sentenced to death for the killing of 2 Louisiana teenagers.

Prejean became Sonnier’s spiritual adviser and closest friend, frequently driving 2½ hours to visit him on death row. She fought to get Sonnier’s sentence reduced to life in prison.

“I realize that I cannot stand by silently as my government executes its citizens,” she once said. “If I do not speak out and resist, I am an accomplice.” In 1984, Prejean watched from the witness room of the death chamber at the Louisiana State Prison as Sonnier was strapped to the state’s electric chair.

After befriending another death row inmate and witnessing his execution, Prejean wrote Dead Man Walking, in which she argued the government “can’t be trusted to control its own bureaucrats or collect taxes equitably or fill a pothole, much less decide which of its citizens to kill.”

In 1995, the book was made into a movie, starring Susan Sarandon, whose portrayal of Prejean earned her an Oscar for best actress.

In some respects, Prejean’s work in criminal justice reform was just beginning at that point. She lobbied — if you can call it that — two popes to get the Catholic Church to formally oppose capital punishment, which finally happened in 2018.

“I changed from being a nun who only prayed for the suffering world to a woman with my sleeves rolled up, living my prayer,” Prejean said on the website for the organization she runs called Ministry Against the Death Penalty. (www.sisterhelen.org)

Prejean is not afraid to take unpopular stances. In 2015, she testified on behalf of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted bomber of the Boston Marathon, after meeting with him five times at his lawyers’ request. “I presented him as a human being,” she said afterward.

(Attorneys for Tsarnaev, now 27, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court that he be allowed to spend the rest of his life in federal prison, but the Biden administration still wants his death by legal injection sentence imposed.)

How Prejean ended up helping out Dismas House is a story in itself. In 1983, Rita McCaffrey, of Rutland, and her husband, Francis, a Vermont judge, visited the first Dismas House in Nashville, Tenn. (Francis McCaffrey died in 2018 at age 82.)

In 1986, Dismas of Vermont was established with its first so-called transitional house for recently released offenders opening in Burlington. Since then, three more houses have opened, including the 10-bed Hartford Dismas in Hartford Village.

Along the way, Rita McCaffrey, now 84, and Prejean crossed paths. I think it’s fair to say that they became quick friends and admirers of each other’s work on behalf of people whom much of society has written off.

“We have so few things in this country set up to help people coming out of prison,” Prejean said during our phone conversation. “Dismas is one of those organizations that believes in helping them.”

Along with offering people leaving prison a place to live (room and board is $85 a week) and help with finding jobs, Dismas gives its residents a sense of community, Prejean said. “They can sit down at a table and share a meal,” she said. “That’s not an experience (common) in prison.”

Prejean was scheduled to be the featured speaker at Hartford Dismas House’s 2020 fundraiser before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed traveling. (Previously, she had raised money for Dismas homes in Burlington and Rutland.)

The pandemic hasn’t slowed her down much. Since March 2020, Prejean has done about 150 virtual conversations from her living room in New Orleans.

A while back, McCaffrey asked Prejean if she’d be available to do a virtual session to benefit Hartford Dismas. “Rita calls and I give it top priority,” Prejean told me. “Her heart is in helping people who have been demonized by society.”

(source: vnews.com)

CONNECTICUT:

Connecticut has closed Northern Correctional Institution in Somers

Connecticut closed its Northern Correctional Institution in Somers on June 11, roughly 3 weeks ahead of schedule. The closure will save the state approximately $11.75 million in annual operating costs, according to a news release.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced in February that Northern would close July 1.

Built in 1995, the maximum-security Northern Correctional Institution housed Connecticut’s death row until the state abolished capital punishment in 2012.

Inmates sued the state in February, asking that no prisoners with psychiatric conditions be transported there as the loneliness of the “supermax” facility exacerbated their symptoms, according to CTmirror.com.

At the time of Lamont’s February announcement, Northern was being staffed by 175. There were no layoffs, the state said. The employees were all deployed to nearby facilities.

Connecticut closed the Enfield Correctional Institution in 2018. Robinson Correctional Institution and Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution remain nearby.

The Nutmeg state’s prison population is down to 9,000 from an all-time high of 19,894 in 2008.

Over the last year, the Northern Correctional Institution population has not exceeded 100 individuals. Its all-time high population was 510 in January 2003.

“New prison admissions in Connecticut have declined significantly over the last decade and the incarcerated population is currently at a 32-year low,” Lamont said in a news release. “This is even as violent, high-risk inmates are serving more of their original sentences than ever before. Spending millions of dollars annually to operate facilities for a population that continues to get smaller and smaller is not a good use of resources, especially as we work to reduce the cost structure of state government. I applaud the ongoing work of all the correctional professionals at the Department of Correction, who keep our facilities safe and secure.”

(source: masslive.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA----impending execution(s)

Emergency appeal filed to halt executions of 2 Greenville men

Lawyers of Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens, 2 Greenville men set to be executed under South Carolina's new law mandating electrocution as the default mode, filed an emergency motion in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday.

Sigmon, set to be executed this week Friday and Owens, on June 25, will "suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction," read the court filings.

What the state will suffer from the delay in execution pales in comparison to the "torturous death" the 2 men will suffer, the court filings said.

Just last week on June 11, a federal judge denied the attempt Sigmon and Owens made to halt their executions.

U.S. District Judge R. Bryan Harwell ordered a temporary restraining order be denied based on South Carolina's good faith effort to use lethal injection drugs if available and that if not, electrocution was still a constitutional means of execution, the order states.

On June 9, attorneys representing the Greenville County men argued before a federal judge to block the upcoming executions, saying that an execution by an electric chair violated their Eighth Amendment.

The state had counter-argued that there was no evidence that lethal injections were not as painful as the electrocution.

The current appeal, as per the court filings, contests Harwell's decision. While the Sigmon and Owens have presented medical evidence of what the electric chair can do to the human body, the state has not presented a comparative argument, they argued.

"At a bare minimum, the public has an interest in knowing the answer to the question the Movants have raised—whether a state may carry out executions in the electric chair, against the will of the condemned," the court filing said.

Sigmon, 63, was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend's parents, David and Gladys Larke. According to court documents, he went into their home on April 27, 2001, and beat them with a baseball bat. Owens was convicted of killing convenience store clerk Irene Graves while he was part of a robbery spree on Halloween 1997, according to court documents and newspaper archives.

Meanwhile, Richard Moore of Spartanburg is awaiting word from the S.C. Supreme Court on a request to vacate his death sentence.

Moore, 56, received the death penalty in 2001 after his conviction for killing a convenience store clerk in 1999.

He was scheduled to be executed Dec. 4, 2020, but the S.C. Supreme Court delayed the execution.

The S.C. Department of Corrections did not have the drugs for lethal injection.

Since the stay, his case was sent to the state Supreme Court for review to determine whether his death sentence was disproportionate to the crime.

(source: Spartanburg Herald Journal)

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South Carolina inmate to be executed Friday, met with rising opposition

The State of South Carolina is moving forward with plans to execute 2 death row inmates this month. One of those executions is scheduled for this Friday.

It is for 63-year-old Brad Sigmon, who is slated to die by electric chair, coming after his defense attorneys exhausted all appeals with the circuit court. It will be the state’s first execution in a decade. Sigmon was convicted of killing David and Gladys Larke in Greenville County in 2002.

Department of Corrections staff told WACH FOX News Tuesday that a team of volunteers trains year-round to prepare for executions and the electric chair is tested and maintained for the process. Alli Sullivan with Death Penalty Action has talked with Sigmon several times and is up in arms.

“From our conversations that we had, [Sigmon] was extremely respectful and courteous and kind. You can tell that he is sorry for what he did,” said Sullivan.

Governor McMaster signed the state’s new death penalty bill into law last month, tweeting that it would provide victims’ families closure.

When asked about it Tuesday – McMaster told WACH FOX News that “the wheels of justice continue to turn.”

However, opposition to the measure is growing. A petition from The Action Network has gained more than 4,800 signatures, calling on the governor to stop the execution.

“It doesn’t allow them to change, it doesn’t allow them to redeem themselves,” Sullivan said.

Tiffany James, who serves as president of the National Action Network of Columbia also spoke out against the death penalty.

“We believe that the state does not have the right to commit murder,” said James. “If we do not come together to discuss alternative solutions, then the only alternative the state will feel like they have is the death penalty.”

It’s something some lawmakers are even jumping behind.

“This is an unjust law that most of my colleagues voted for. It feels like we’re moving backwards in a state that has so much promise for forward moving,” said SC state representative JA Moore. “It’s a miscarriage of justice is kind of how I feel about it.”

A 2nd inmate – Freddie Owens is scheduled to be executed on June 25th. Opponents say they now plan to meet at the State House to rally for alternatives for death row inmates, including life in prison without parole.

(source: WPDE news)

FLORIDA:

Florida man acting as own attorney screams at jurors in opening of his death penalty case

Florida man facing the death penalty for allegedly killing his girlfriend and their daughter screamed at jurors during the opening statement of his trial Monday as he served as his own defense attorney.

Ronnie Oneal III faces 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of attempted murder over crimes that happened in March 2018. He’s accused of killing his girlfriend, 33-year-old Kenyatta Barron, and daughter, 9-year-old Ron’Niveya Oneal.

Oneal is facing the death penalty but is representing himself in court as his public defenders sit nearby. He claims he acted in self-defense and dropped his attorneys when they said Florida’s “stand your ground” defense did not apply to his case.

He began his day with a series of motions, arguing that his rights to a speedy trial had been violated and that the state attorney’s office violated rules of discovery that have not allowed him to adequately prepare his defense.

The state began its case by telling jurors that Oneal shot Barron with a shotgun, then beat her to death with the weapon when he ran out of shotgun shells, hitting her in the head repeatedly with the weapon.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon told jurors that after he beat Barron to death, Oneal ran back to his home and used a hatchet to kill his daughter. Harmon says Oneal’s daughter was autistic and had cerebral palsy. Harmon said she was unable to speak and not able to run away or defend herself.

Harmon said after he killed the girl, Oneal then stabbed his son and set him on fire with gasoline. The boy survived and told deputies he saw his father kill his mother, according to prosecutors.

After opening statements from prosecutors wrapped up, Oneal then had a chance to address the jury. As he is acting as his own attorney, the court allowed him to make an opening statement about the evidence he believes will be presented during the trial.

Oneal screamed at jurors during his opening, sounding angry as he did. Oneal told jurors the entire case against him had been fabricated.

“By the time this is all said and done, you will see who is the mass murderers in Tampa Bay,” he said.

He went on to claim that the 911 calls from his girlfriend are not real. Jurors heard the 911 call that was made by Barron as she begged for her life.

“Law enforcement tampered with evidence to meet their such high burden of proof,” Oneal claimed.

Jurors also heard on Monday from a neighbor who told the jury Barron had banged on his front door before she was beaten to death. James Gray told the jury he walked out to see a horrific scene.

“There was blood everywhere,” Gray said.

Gray told jurors Oneal’s clothes and the wall of his home were covered in blood.

Oneal questioned Gray, claiming that he had changed part of his story from the night of the crime. Gray calmly responded to each of Oneal’s questions, telling the jury he was trying to de-escalate the situation as Oneal stood over the body of his girlfriend.

Oneal’s trial is expected to last 2 more weeks.

(source: WFLA news)

ALABAMA:

Ghoulish pall is cast over America by Alabama's plan to gas humans to death

Instead of working to resolve constant correctional crises around the state — including a steady spate of prison killings, suicides, sexual abuse, and other in-custody violence; overcrowding; smuggled contraband; a perennially poor-performing parole board; and a paucity of rehabilitative programming and alternatives to incarceration — the always beleaguered (and always under federal scrutiny) Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), together with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, are advancing Alabamians, and all Americans, down a path of historical shame.

They’re planning to asphyxiate condemned prisoners to death in a gas chamber, or more likely with some dreadful gas mask.

In November 2019, I wrote in the Alabama Political Reporter how AG Marshall’s contract with Tennessee company “FDR Safety” to develop a protocol to gas humans to death with nitrogen hypoxia — an untested and experimental method — is sick and shrouded in secrecy. The Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights referred to my column that year in its year-end “situation report” on the abolition of the death penalty.

Fast-forward to recent news in the Advertiser concerning federal court filings about the near-completion of Alabama’s nitrogen hypoxia protocol. The reporting evidences that the veil of clandestine concealment concerning the development and particulars of Alabama’s nitrogen hypoxia protocol remains ironclad.

This is so despite the fact it’s critically important for Alabamians — and all Americans — to know exactly how the killing of death row prisoners occurs.

In 2018, I wrote in the Church of England Newspaper that Alabama’s nitrogen hypoxia plan is an abomination, and no different than the gassing of Jews like my great-grandmother by Hitler. I quoted author Colin Dickey for the proposition that, “The work of American torture has always been two-fold: not just the violence itself, but the complex legal and rhetorical strategies that obfuscate it away to maintain a myth of America as a civilized place without cruel and unusual punishment.”

But no matter how much the ADOC and AG Marshall duck, dodge, and dissemble about the details of the depravity they’re cooking up with this despicable gas mask/gas chamber business, their ghastly plan has cast a ghoulish pall on Alabama.

Make no mistake about it, this evil is not limited to Alabama. It blankets and sullies the rest of America too, especially when we and our leaders, as Americans, assert ourselves on the world stage as good moral actors — model defenders of humanity and human rights.

A few years ago in these pages I wrote how, when advocating for death penalty abolition, a great deal can be learned from writer James Baldwin’s singular insight about America and his dizzying, divine command of the English language. The more I study Baldwin’s words, the more I’ve become convinced there is a curious, spot-on applicability of Baldwin’s writing to Alabama’s death penalty regime.

For example, in his essay “What Price Freedom,” Baldwin postulated: “I still believe when a country has lost all human feeling, you can do anything to anybody and justify it, and we do know in this country we have done just that.”

Borrowing from Baldwin further, and speaking directly to Alabama’s AG and the ADOC, Baldwin concluded, in yet another one of his piercing essays “The Uses of the Blues,” that “[i]n evading [death row prisoners’s] humanity, you have done something to your own humanity.”

Remarkably, appraising where things stand today on the death penalty in Alabama — and in America — Baldwin’s blistering bare-knuckled truth is again white-hot and prescient. In his landmark essay collection Nobody Knows My Name (1961), Baldwin declared: “A country is only as good — I don’t care now about the Constitution and the laws, at the moment let us leave these things aside — a country is only as strong as the people who make it up and the country turns into what the people want it to become.”

In a column for al.com titled “The 3 best things about my 3 years in Montgomery,” I wrote that the best thing about my 3-year sojourn working in Alabama as an assistant federal defender was, without a doubt, the people.

I observed then — and continue to observe now — that Alabama abounds in social justice activists; it has strong people and organizations of integrity determined, despite the very visible missteps of a few government officials, to make the state better for all, not just some.

However, with the state-sanctioned gassing of flesh-and-blood human beings on the horizon, some potentially former clients of mine — and no real viable impediments in sight to stop it — it must be said that the good, moral people of Alabama, of which there are many, are losing their fight against those hell-bent on profaning the system.

But while it may be depressing to think about it, if you truly internalize Baldwin’s words, they could just as easily be inspiring, and, more importantly, galvanizing: “a country is only as strong as the people who make it up and the country turns into what the people want it to become.”

(source: Opinion; 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----Montgomery Advertiser)

USA:

Unlike other U.S. religious groups, most atheists and agnostics oppose the death penalty

A majority of adults in the United States favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. However, views about the death penalty vary by religion – with atheists and agnostics opposing this form of punishment at about the same rate as Americans overall support it.

Atheists oppose the death penalty about as strongly as Protestants favor it

Roughly 2/3 of atheists (65%) and 6-in-10 agnostics (57%) either “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose the death penalty for people convicted of murder. Atheists and agnostics are small religious groups, representing less than 10% of the adult population, but their share has grown in recent years.

Meanwhile, 60% of U.S. adults overall favor the death penalty, including 75% of White evangelical Protestants and 73% of White non-evangelical Protestants, according to the survey, which was conducted in early April. White Protestants account for about 29% of the U.S. population, a share that has shrunk in recent years.

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis, using data from a survey of 5,109 U.S. adults fielded April 5 to 11, 2021, to better understand how Americans’ views about the death penalty vary by religion. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Atheists and agnostics are the only religious groups in this analysis that are more likely to oppose the death penalty than to support it. Groups with majorities in favor of executing convicted murderers include Hispanic Catholics (61%) and people who describe themselves, religiously, as “nothing in particular” (63%). Black Protestants are divided in their views on the death penalty, with 50% in favor and 47% opposed, mirroring a broader trend of lower support for the death penalty among Black Americans overall.

Due to sample size limitations, this analysis does not include some smaller religious groups, including Jewish and Muslim Americans.

Views of the death penalty also differ by political orientation, race and age – characteristics that tend to vary between religious groups. For example, atheists are younger and more politically liberal than White evangelicals on average. Still, while these differences account for some of the variation across religious groups, religious differences in support for the death penalty remain even after accounting for these other traits.

In addition to exploring levels of support for the death penalty, the survey asked respondents whether they feel this form of punishment is morally justified, whether it acts as a deterrent, whether there are adequate safeguards to ensure that no innocent person is put to death, and whether sentencing for the same crime varies by race.

Again, on several of these questions, atheists and agnostics fall on one end of the spectrum and White Protestants on the other. Roughly half of atheists (51%) and agnostics (47%) say the death penalty is morally wrong, even for people who commit crimes like murder. Fewer than 1/2 as many White Protestants (22%) – evangelical and not evangelical – feel the same way, with more than 3/4 in these groups saying the death penalty is morally justified when someone commits a crime like murder.

3/4 of White Protestants say the death penalty is morally justified

White evangelical Protestants are also the only religious group in which a plurality (51%) say the death penalty deters people from committing serious crimes. By comparison, about half as many Black Protestants (27%) believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent. Generally speaking, people with any religious affiliation are more likely than those without one to say that the threat of the death penalty deters serious crimes: 39% of affiliated adults say this, compared with 26% of the unaffiliated.

Large majorities in every religious group say there is some risk that an innocent person will be put to death. However, White evangelical Protestants are more likely than any other group analyzed to say there are adequate safeguards in place to ensure that no innocent person will be put to death, with three-in-ten taking this position. Among religiously unaffiliated Americans, only about 1-in-10 atheists and agnostics say adequate safeguards are in place to prevent innocent people from being executed. Unaffiliated people who say their religion is “nothing in particular” are twice as likely to say the same (20%).

There also are wide differences over whether the death penalty is applied equally by race. About 9-in-10 Black Protestants (88%) say Black people are more likely than White people to be sentenced to death for committing similar crimes, while nearly 7-in-10 White evangelicals (68%) say that White and Black people are equally likely to be sentenced to death. Roughly half of White non-evangelicals (53%) and Catholics (47%) believe the death penalty is applied equally between these 2 races.

(source: pewresearch.org)

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Joe Biden’s Craven Death Penalty Reversal in the Boston Bomber Case

When Joe Biden took the oath of office as the 46th president of the United States, opponents of America’s death penalty, including me, celebrated. We took heart from his stated opposition to capital punishment and his campaign promise to end the federal death penalty. It seemed as if the United States had its first abolitionist president.

During his campaign, Biden pledged that he would stop federal executions, propose legislation to abolish the death penalty at the federal level, and provide incentives for states to follow suit. He recognized that America’s death penalty system is rife with error and unfairness. “Because we can’t ensure that we get these cases right every time,” candidate Biden tweeted, “we must eliminate the death penalty.”

Death penalty opponents, heartened by such promises, called on the new president to take bold, dramatic action on Day One of his administration. One month before Biden took office, 45 members of Congress, led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, wrote to the president-elect, asking him to act on Jan. 20 “to clearly demonstrate your commitment to eliminating the death penalty.”

But that day came and went without any action to turn Biden’s campaign promise into policy.

During his first 100 days, he signed scores of executive orders and acted to reverse many of the Trump administration’s policies. But, over the first five months of its term, the Biden administration remained silent about the death penalty.

As the months passed, Biden’s silence and inaction began to arouse concerns in the abolitionist community. Anti–death penalty activists and organizations worried that ending capital punishment was slipping as a Biden priority, getting buried as he turned his attention to other parts of his agenda.

But on Tuesday, the silence and inaction ended in a stunning reversal of position.

Instead of announcing the end to federal capital prosecutions, a moratorium on federal executions, steps to dismantle the federal execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, or support for congressional legislation to end the death penalty, Biden’s first decision about capital punishment was to endorse it.

He broke his promise and failed his first death penalty test in a very big way when his administration filed a brief with the United States Supreme Court asking it to reinstate the death sentence of Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The brief defended the death penalty as an appropriate response to what it called “one of the worst” acts of terrorism on U.S. soil since Sept. 11.

Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for the 2013 bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three and wounded more than 260 others, and he is by no means a sympathetic character. He is one of 46 people now on the federal death row. His death sentence was overturned on July 31 by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the trial judge had not protected the defendant from potential bias during the jury selection process and had erred by excluding mitigating evidence.

The Trump administration brought the case to the Supreme Court last fall, seeking reinstatement of the death sentence. And ironically the Biden Justice Department’s position in the Tsarnaev case, which it calls “one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our Nation’s history,” turns out to be exactly the same as the position articulated by William Barr, Donald Trump’s attorney general.

The depths of the administration’s hypocrisy are revealed when we recall what the president’s press secretary said in March, when the Supreme Court announced that it would take up the Tsarnaev case.

“President Biden,” Jen Psaki said at the time, “made clear, as he did on the campaign trail, that he has grave concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness.”

Those concerns seem to have evaporated when they were put to a stern test.

The brief submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday does not read like it issues from an anti–death penalty administration. Instead, it deploys the classic images and arguments of death penalty supporters: a horrible crime, an unrepentant defendant, a trial court bending over backward to protect his rights.

The brief takes pains to rehearse in excruciating detail the genuine horrors of what Tsarnaev did. Sounding like a zealous prosecutor with an ardently pro–death penalty constituency, it says that, “The bombs caused devastating injuries that left the street with ‘a ravaged, combat-zone look.’ … ‘Blood and body parts were everywhere,’ littered among ‘BBs, nails, metal scraps, and glass fragments. The smell of smoke and burnt flesh filled the air, and screams of panic and pain echoed throughout the site.’”

Far from being unsettled by the devastation of the crime, Tsaranev, the brief points out, returned to the dorm at the college he was attending and later worked out at the gym with a friend. It notes that he tweeted, “I’m a stress free kind of guy.”

It argues that the trial was scrupulously fair. “The jury,” it contends, “carefully considered each of respondent’s crimes and determined that capital punishment was warranted for the horrors that he personally inflicted.”

The brief accuses the appellate court that overturned Tsarnaev’s sentence, in language that exactly parallels words used in the Trump administration’s original Supreme Court brief, of relying on what it labels a “novel, inflexible, and unsupported … rule to invalidate respondent’s capital sentences.”

And it calls Tsarnaev a “’[r]adical jihadist […] bent on killing Americans.’” It concludes that the defendant “deserved the ultimate punishment for his horrific crimes.”

Opposing the execution of Tsarnaev, no doubt, would have imposed a political cost that the Biden administration was unwilling to pay. It might even have drawn the administration into the vortex of culture wars that it has seemed so intent on avoiding.

The brief filed on Tuesday also reprises the position that Attorney General Merrick Garland took in an earlier domestic terrorism case, the federal death penalty prosecution of Timothy McVeigh for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Whatever its political motives and potential explanations, the Biden administration should have recognized that the state killing any citizen—even one who has committed a crime as horrific as Tsarnaev’s—always compromises the “values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness,” as Biden put it.

As former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter once noted, “A shocking crime puts law to its severest test.” In its first foray into the death penalty, the Biden administration failed that test.

(source: Austin Sarat, slate.com)

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How the Death Penalty Discriminates----States are reflecting on the racist history of capital punishment, but most lawmakers have done nothing about it.

In early March, the state of Mississippi agreed to pay Curtis Flowers a total of $500,000 for nearly 23 years of wrongful imprisonment.

Flowers was accused of murdering 4 people in a furniture store in the central Mississippi town of Winona. He was tried 6 times, 4 of which resulted in guilty verdicts and death sentences. The other 2 resulted in hung juries. Between January 1997 and December 2019, Flowers spent most of his time on death row at Mississippi’s infamous Parchman Prison.

“The problem is that prosecutors have proven themselves to be bad at self-policing. Capital punishment sentencing still varies based on a prosecutor’s biases.”

In November 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review Flowers’s case. It later found that District Attorney Doug Evans had violated Flowers’s constitutional rights by not seating any Black people on Flowers’s jury nearly a decade prior.

A year later, Evans recused himself from the case—one which he worked for most of his career—and handed it over to the state Attorney General’s office, which dismissed all charges against Flowers. He was promptly released.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the national nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, tells The Progressive that Flowers’s case is a prime example of how capital punishment is still applied in arbitrary ways.

“Whatever reforms the Supreme Court imagined could be made nearly 50 years ago either have not been made or have not made a difference,” he says.

In 1972, the Supreme Court took a case known as Furman v. Georgia. The defendant, William Henry Furman, stood accused of murder. He openly admitted in court that he tripped over a wire which caused his gun to accidentally misfire while he was robbing someone’s home.

According to the per curiam opinion, the jury knew only that Furman was Black and that he was employed before his admission of guilt. Still, the jury took just 1 hour and 35 minutes to return a guilty verdict and a death sentence.

After the case was argued before the Supreme Court, the Justices each wrote separate opinions. In nearly 200 pages of opinions, the Supreme Court found that the death penalty was being used in an arbitrary and racially discriminatory manner against Furman, and thus constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

“In a Nation committed to equal protection of the laws there is no permissible ‘caste’ aspect of law enforcement,” Justice William J. Brennan wrote in his concurring opinion. “Yet we know that the discretion of judges and juries in imposing the death penalty enables the penalty to be selectively applied.”

The Furman ruling ushered in a new era of criminal punishment. The number of people sentenced to capital punishment declined for the nineteenth consecutive year in 2019, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’s (BJS) annual report on capital punishment.

Year over year, the number of people on death row has steadily declined. But there are still about 2,750 U.S. prisoners facing the ultimate penalty, up from less than 500 in the 1960s, according to BJS data. The number of persons executed under civil authority also fell to a 20-year low in 2019. A total of 22 people were executed, an 86 % reduction from 1930, when the federal government began collecting data on such killings.

State legislatures are telling the same story. Two states—New Hampshire and New Mexico—have stopped enforcing the death penalty altogether in 2019. That same year, New Hampshire repealed its state statute while the New Mexico Supreme Court declared its state statute to be unconstitutional.

But Dunham argues that such gains paint a misleading picture of the state of the death penalty in the United States today. He says political efforts to reform state death penalty statutes have led to few, if any, real reforms.

“The death penalty is disappearing one state at a time, but reform is a matter that won’t be solved overnight,” he says.

According to Death Penalty Information Center’s report “Enduring Injustice” from September 2020, people of color are still overrepresented in capital punishment cases. The number of people of color on death row, it says, grew from 45.6 percent of the total prison population in 1980 to nearly 60 percent by 2019.

The report also suggests that implicit biases in prosecutors, judges, and jury members may play a role in the unequal distribution of capital punishment. Personal biases certainly exist in some legal circles, but the report says biases can also exist geographically.

For example, former Confederate states executed Black people for a much wider range of offenses than northern states, the report says. Of the nearly 5,000 civil executions noted in the report, only a handful were committed in states outside of the former Confederacy before 1972.

Southern states currently hold more prisoners on death row than any other geographical region, according to statistics published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. States including Mississippi, Missouri, and North Carolina all have more Black inmates on death row than white inmates.

“The numbers show that there is a consistent pattern over time,” Dunham says. “The problem is that prosecutors have proven themselves to be bad at self-policing. Capital punishment sentencing still varies based on a prosecutor’s biases.”

One issue is that local district Attorneys have complete discretion whether to seek the death penalty. Because an overwhelming majority of local DAs across the country are white males, Dunham argues that this has resulted in Black defendants receiving more severe punishments than white criminals receive for the same crimes.

But not many state lawmakers seem eager to amend or remove their state’s death penalty statutes. Even though New Mexico’s Supreme Court in 1988 ruled that the state’s capital punishment statute is unconstitutional, state lawmakers have yet to change it.

Some states that have bipartisan support for prohibiting capital punishment are also hitting bureaucratic roadblocks. For example, Nevada’s legislature passed a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty statute during the 2021 session.

However, the bill was pulled by Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, Democrat of Las Vegas, who is also a prosecutor in Clark County, before Governor Steve Sisolak could sign it into law. Cannizzaro said that the legislature was unable to come to a consensus as Republicans sought to pull the bill back from full abolition.

Other states are moving in the opposite direction. Lawmakers in Arizona are taking steps to use hydrogen cyanide, a gas that was used at Nazi concentration camps in World War II, to kill inmates on death row. A report by The Guardian suggests the new gas chamber could be operational later this year.

For Dunham, real change will only come when criminal defense and civil rights lawyers are seated on the nation’s highest courts. Currently, the nine Supreme Court justices are all former corporate lawyers and academics.

“We need people who really understand these issues to be deciding these cases,” he says.

(source: Robert Davis, progressive.org)

GHANA:

Lawyer Francis-Xavier Sosu: Decision not to execute prisoners on death row has rather lowered crime rate

Great exercise for God and Country. Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Alfred Tuah-Yeboah’s views on the death penalty was an anti-climax for me.

Though I respect his right to his opinion and would not use that as a basis for rejection of his nomination, I consider his view on death penalty as very retrogressive and inconsistent with the direction of the state. Since 1992, no President has signed a death warrant to execute any of our brothers and sister on death roll.

On page 58 of the 2020 Amnesty International Global Report on Death Sentences and Executions, Ghana together with some 27 countries were described as Abolitionists in Practice.

This is so because there had not been any execution during the last 10 years and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions.

As at the close of 2020, 160 persons comprising of 155 men and 5 women are serving death sentences. With each passing day, they are traumatized and are emotionally and mentally tortured with the sense of waiting to be killed.

The 2010 Constitutional Review Commission’s recommendations that were accepted by the Government of Ghana over 9 years ago shows clearly that Ghana’s position on the death penalty is to abolish it.

Contrary to the Deputy AG’s assertions that abolishing death penalty will lead to increased murders, countries that have abolished death penalty have rather recorded low crime rates including low murder cases.

It is time to take death penalty from our statute books even if it will take the introduction of Private Member’s Bill (PMB).

I hope my Private Member’s Bill on this subject gets the necessary support to settle this matter.

(source: Opinion; The writer, Francis-Xavier Sosu is a private legal practitioner, human rights lawyer, MP for Madina Constituency, Member of Appointments Committee and Deputy Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament----myjoyonline.com)

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We’ll advocate scrapping of death penalty despite Deputy A-G designate’s contrasting stance – Amnesty International

Amnesty International Ghana says even though it is disappointed with the Deputy Attorney-General designate’s position to disapprove scrapping of the death penalty from the country’s law books, it will ride on the support of the President to get the law removed.

The death sentence has not been executed for about 3 decades now prompting calls for its removal.

At least, 12 African countries including Togo, Cote D’Ivoire, Rwanda, Chad, Madagascar have all amended their laws.

But, Alfred Tuah Yeboah insists the state should carry out executions of people who have been sentenced to death, so it serves as a deterrence to murders.

“I think as we have in the USA if this House and other stakeholders may want we should venture into grading murders. Some of them I subscribe to the full execution of their sentences, if it happens that they have to be killed, they must be killed,” he told the Appointments Committee on Tuesday.

But National Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International, Samuel Abotse says with support from the President and the Attorney General, the stance of the deputy attorney general won’t be a problem.

According to Mr Abotse, “Minus one voice as far as the campaign is concerned its not something that expected let alone will lead from deputy Attorney General would have loved that he’s with us, but then we are not disturbed at all.”

“In any case, we’ve gone past the view expressed by Deputy Attorney General, because we have met the president, already. And then, the President has bought into our proposal that is to amend Criminal Offences Act 29, Section 46 and related offences out the death penalty, out of our criminal books.”

(source: myjoyonline.com)

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see: https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/If-we-have-to-kill-murderers-let-s-kill-them-Dep-AG-nominee-supports-death-penalty-1287067

(source: ghanaweb.com)

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Tuah-Yeboah opposes death penalty abolition

A Deputy Attorney General designate, Mr Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, has registered his opposition to calls for the country to abolish the death penalty.

He subscribed to the execution of persons sentenced to death by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Responding to questions during his vetting before the Appointments Committee of Parliament yesterday, the nominee said anyone who killed unjustifiably also deserved to be killed in accordance with the laws of the land.

“If the person is a murderer, and they have to be killed, they must be killed,” he stated.

Opposition

Some human rights institutions and activists have made a case for the country to abolish the death penalty, explaining that it violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

One of such organisations, Amnesty International (AI), has described the death penalty as “the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

AI opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the sentenced individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

Although, death sentence remains on the country’s statute books, there has not been an execution in the country since 1993.

In its report of December 2011, the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) recommended that the death penalty be abolished under the new Constitution and replaced with life imprisonment without parole, and that such a move should be approved by a national referendum.

In 2012, the government accepted the CRC’s recommendations but implementation had not taken place.

Deterrence

Mr Tuah-Yeboah, who is a private legal practitioner based in Sunyani, said the execution of persons on death roll would serve as a deterrence to others.

Life precious but..

The lawyer, who also described himself as a human rights activist, said life was precious and any one who decided to take someone’s life without any justification must suffer the death penalty.

“I’m a realist and positivist. If we look at some of the murder cases that we’ve seen, especially when it comes to robbery with murder and the callous nature that some of them carry out those actions, I think we need to hold on [with the scrapping of the death penalty] at this stage.

“I think as we have in the USA, if this House and other stakeholders may want ,we should venture into grading murders. Some of them I subscribe to the full execution of their sentences, if it happens that they have to be killed, they must be killed,” he stated.

Mr Tuah Yeboah said at times the death penalty served as signals to others that it did not pay to kill.

“But as we have it now, people are sentenced to death, they are imprisoned at Nsawam, some of them, you may want to sympathise with them, but there are others that I think if we were to scrap the death sentence, we may have more murders,” he said.

Profile

Mr Tuah-Yeboah is a 2002 alumnus of the Ghana School of Law.

He had earlier graduated from the University of Ghana with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting and Law.

He holds a Diploma in Business Management from ICS, Glasgow, Scotland.

In 2017, he enrolled at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College where he graduated with an MSc, Defence, and International Politics.

He is a 2002 Ghana School of Law Kenneth D. Laryea Best Student in Law of Evidence.

Mr Tuah-Yeboah combines professional service and community service seamlessly.

(source: graphic.com.gh)

INDONESIA:

Indian national caught during wild party in Batu Kawah could face death penalty for drug trafficking

An Indian national could face the death penalty or life imprisonment after he was arrested for allegedly trafficking nearly 1kg of ecstasy.

The man was caught during a raid by the police on a premises in Batu Kawah on Monday (June 14) where a wild party was being held in a room.

“The total value of drugs seized from the suspect was RM13,554, involving the seizure of ‘juice powder’ suspected to be ecstasy (766.68 grammes) and a number of ecstasy pills (53),” said Padawan deputy police chief DSP Lim Jaw Shyong.

“He was thus detained under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and remanded for 7 days to complete the investigation.”

Lim said if convicted, the foreigner, who is understood to be an employee at the premises, could be sentenced to death by hanging or face life imprisonment as well as at least 15 strokes of the rotan.

9 other individuals were caught during the raid by the Padawan Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department.

Urine tests found 4 of them positive for drug abuse and they were detained under Section 15 (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

All of those caught were also issued compounds totalling RM36,000 for flouting Movement Control Order standard operating procedures.

(source: Borneo Post)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan court postpones Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case till October 5

A Pakistan court has postponed the trial of a government’s appeal to delegate a lawyer for Indian death-row convict Kulbhushan Jadhav on the application of the country’s top law officer, according to a media report.

Jadhav, the 50-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was condemned to death by a Pakistani militant court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

India addressed the International Court of Justice upon Pakistan for refusal of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death penalty.

The Hague-based ICJ ruled in July 2019 that Pakistan must offer an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and further to give consular access to India without further pause.

On Tuesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) postponed the hearing of the government’s plea to appoint counsel for Jadhav till October 5 at the request of the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Javed Khan, The Express Tribune listed.

The court also announced a notice to the counsel of the Indian High Commission to appear before the court on the next date of hearing.

The Pakistan government last week hastened through the National Assembly a bill to grant the right of appeal to Jadhav, amidst ruckus and boycott by the Opposition. The bill is directed at allowing Jadhav to have consular entrance in line with the ICJ verdict.

(source: pragnews.com)

INDIA:

Sentencing in Kotkhai case deferred, CBI seeks death penalty

At the hearing in pronouncement of quantum of sentence in the July 2017 Kotkhai rape and murder case, held in the court of special judge here on Tuesday, the CBI demanded death penalty for the convict while the defence counsel sought concession in the sentence. The defense counsel was present in the court room while the CBI counsel was connected virtually.

The court hearing lasted for about two hours before the matter was posted for June 18. Earlier, due to Covid-19 curfew in the state, case hearing was deferred 5 times. On April 28, the court of special judge of Shimla had convicted accused Anil Kumar alias Neelu Charani after holding him guilty of the crime on all 4 charges. The court was first to pronounce the quantum of sentence on May 11, but the hearing was deferred by a week due to the imposition Covid curfew in the state, then to May 28, June 3 and then June 8. When the convict was presented before the court on June 8, the court posted the matter to June 15.

The defence counsel argued against death penalty to the convict, saying his mother was dependent on him. However, the CBI counsel argued that the convict had 2 more brothers and they could take care of his mother.

A minor girl had gone missing in Kotkhai on July 4, 2017, and her body was found from the forests 2 days later. The post-mortem report had confirmed rape and murder and a case was registered. The incident had led to massive public outcry and massive protest demonstrations were held across the state.

(source: The Times of India)

SAUDI ARABIA----execution

Saudi Arabia executes 26-year-old man for protesting against the government when he was a teen, human rights groups say

Saudi Arabia has executed a young man over his reported involvement in anti-government protests when he was a teenager, human rights groups said Tuesday.

The Saudi Ministry of the Interior announced that Mustafa al-Darwish, 26, had been executed, according to Reprieve.

Al-Darwish's family received no advance notice of his death and only learned that he had been executed by reading the news online, the UK-based non-profit organization said.

Al-Darwish was arrested in May 2015 and charged with offenses related to his participation in protests - many of which occurred when he was 17 years old, according to Reprieve.

According to Reprieve, al-Darwish was placed in solitary confinement and "beaten so badly that he lost consciousness several times."

"To make the torture stop, he confessed to the charges against him," Reprieve said.

Amnesty International, which had called for the execution to be halted last week, said al-Darwish was "the latest victim of Saudi Arabia's deeply flawed justice system which regularly sees people sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials based on confessions extracted through torture."

Al-Darwish recanted his confession at his trial, explaining to the court that he had been tortured, but he was still sentenced to death, Reprieve said.

Al-Darwish's family called his arrest and execution a "living death" for relatives.

"How can they execute a boy because of a photograph on his phone?" the family said in a statement through Reprieve. "Since his arrest, we have known nothing but pain."

The man's family said al-Darwish was arrested with two friends in Tarout six years ago. He was released without charge, but police kept his phone, the family said.

"We later found out that there was a photograph on the phone that offended them," the family added. "Later they called us and told Mustafa to come and collect his phone, but instead of giving it back they detained him and our suffering began."

Ali al-Dubaisy, the director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, said the sudden execution for crimes as a teen exposed Saudi leader Mohammed Bin Salman's "endless empty promises of reform."

"Once again the Saudi authorities have shown that their claims to abolished the death penalty for children are worthless," al-Dubaisy added.

(source: Yahoo News)

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Rights groups decry Saudi execution of man accused of ‘rebellion’----Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish was arrested in May 2015 and charged with protest-related offences.

Saudi Arabia has executed a man for offences rights groups say he allegedly committed while under the age of 18.

Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish was arrested in May 2015 and charged with protest-related offences, many of which occurred when he was 17. He was executed on Tuesday in Dammam, a statement from the Ministry of Interior said.

“The execution of Mustafa al-Darwish once again shows that the Kingdom’s claim to have eliminated capital punishment for childhood crimes is not true,” anti-death penalty and human rights group Reprieve said in a statement.

Saudi authorities said last year that they would stop sentencing to death people who committed crimes while minors, who would instead serve up to 10 years in juvenile detention, and would apply this retroactively.

However, the March 2020 royal decree was never reported by state media nor published in the official gazette as would be normal practice. The state-backed Human Rights Commission told Reuters in February that the ban only applied to a lesser category of offence under Islamic law known as “ta’zeer.”

Darwish was convicted for “ta’zeer” offences.

In his charge sheet, a copy of which was seen by Reuters news agency, Darwish was accused of “participating in armed rebellion”, “seeking to disturb security by rioting” and “sowing discord”, among others.

The evidence cited included a picture “offensive to the security forces”, a signed confession and his participation in more than 10 “riot” gatherings in 2011 and 2012.

But the documents do not specify the exact months of the alleged offences, and rights groups say Darwish was 17 at the time of his alleged participation in many of the protests. His case should have been reviewed under the reformed law, they say.

Reprieve and Amnesty International said his confession was obtained under duress and that he recanted his confession, which he said was obtained through torture, in court.

The Saudi Arabian government media office did not immediately reply to a request for comment by Reuters.

‘Know nothing but pain’

Reprieve said Darwish’s family received no advance notice and only found out he had been executed by reading the news online.

“How can they execute a boy because of a photograph on his phone?” his family said in a press release.

“Since his arrest, we have known nothing but pain. It is a living death for the whole family.”

Human rights groups and Western legislators have repeatedly raised concerns about the implementation of the reforms.

Earlier this month, a group of British MPs urged Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to ask for a commutation of Darwish’s sentence on a visit to Riyadh, in a letter seen by Reuters.

In a statement following Raab’s visit and meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the UK foreign office said Raab had raised human rights concerns “notably around justice reform”.

Reprieve Director Maya Foa said it was not enough for Saudi partners to simply “raise human rights issues”, in reference to Raab’s visit to the kingdom.

“They need to raise specific cases, and make clear that executions for childhood crimes will not be tolerated.”

In 2019, Saudi Arabia executed 37 citizens, of which 34 were identified as Shia, in a mass execution for alleged “terrorism”-related crimes. In 2016, the kingdom executed 47 people in one day also for “terrorism”-related crimes.

Among those executed was prominent Shia scholar Nimr al-Nimr, whose death sparked protests from Pakistan to Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Iran ties have not recovered and the embassy remains shuttered.

The kingdom has carried out 26 executions so far this year, according to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights.

(source: aljazeera.com)

IRAN:

Death Row Juvenile Offender Ali Arjangi in Solitary Confinement After Suicide Hospitalisation

Death row juvenile offender Ali Arjangi who was hospitalised with 45 stitches after trying to commit suicide in Ardabil Central Prison on June 12, has been returned to prison before recovery and is in solitary confinement.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, Ali Arjangi, 21, who was hospitalised after attempting to commit suicide by slitting his throat on Saturday, June 12, has been transferred to solitary confinement in Ardabil Central Prison.

Speaking to IHR, a source close to him said: "[Ali Arjangi] wasn’t even allowed to contact his family which has worried them even more.”

“Ali was in critical condition but they didn’t even allow him time to complete his treatment and he was hastily returned to prison and transferred to solitary confinement,” the source added.

Ali Arjangi who was sentenced to death for a murder he is accused of committing at 17, had been given until May 21 to come up with the diya (blood money) amount set by the victim’s family. The deadline was extended to the end of July after his family failed to raise the amount set by the victim’s family.

According to Article 91 of the new Islamic Penal Code, passed in 2013, “In the cases of offences punishable by hadd or qisas, if mature people under eighteen years do not realise the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age, they shall be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter.” The note to the Article gives judges the power to determine the defendant's mental capacity: “The court may ask the opinion of forensic medicine or resort to any other method that it sees appropriate in order to establish the full mental development.”

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the Islamic Republic is a signatory to, prohibits the issuance and implementation of the death penalty for crimes committed by an individual below 18 years of age.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Islamic Republic is also a signatory to, explicitly states that “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”

Yet, according to data collected by IHR and international human rights organisations, the Islamic Republic is responsible for more than 70% of all executions of juvenile offenders in the last 30 years. IHR’s statistics also show that at least 63 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran over the past 10 years, with at least six being executed in 2018 and 4 in 2019.

Given the security state and repression of civil society activists and the limited contact with prisoners, it is likely that the number of juvenile executions is much higher than recorded.

(source: iranhr.net)

JUNE 15, 2021:

TEXAS:

‘The Phantom’: A Documentary About the Wrongful Execution of Carlos DeLuna Premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival

A new documentary about the case of Carlos DeLuna, a likely innocent man who was executed in Texas in 1989, premieres June 14, 2021 at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Phantom, based on an investigation by Columbia Law School Professor James Liebman and his students that culminated in the book, The Wrong Carlos, tells the story of the flawed investigation into the 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a single mother who was killed during a robbery of the convenience store where she worked. DeLuna not only maintained his innocence in Lopez’s murder, but told authorities he knew the real perpetrator — Carlos Hernandez, a man with a history of violent crime who looked so much like DeLuna that their own families mistook them for one another.

Prosecutors called Hernandez “a phantom,” claiming that DeLuna had made him up to escape blame. In fact, they knew Carlos Hernandez was real and were aware both of his history of robbing convenience stores and his use of a knife similar to the one used to murder Lopez.

DeLuna’s trial and execution present a case study in official misconduct, mistaken witness identification, and racial bias — systemic problems that pervade the administration of the death penalty across the United States and, the film argues, contribute to wrongful convictions and risk wrongful executions.

After the killing, police spent half an hour pursuing a man whose clothes matched the description of what Hernandez was wearing before arresting DeLuna instead. They withheld an audio tape of that chase at DeLuna’s trial. No forensic evidence linked DeLuna to the crime, and police ignored a bloody footprint at the scene that did not match DeLuna’s unbloodied shoes. Hernandez reportedly admitted to at least five friends and family members that he had killed Lopez. “He said he was the one that did it, but that they got somebody else — his stupid tocayo (namesake) — for that one,” said Dina Ybanez, Hernandez’s former landlady who appears in The Phantom.

The movie also shows how racial bias contributed to the shoddy investigation of Lopez’s murder. Rene Rodriguez, the lawyer for Lopez’s family, said officials in Corpus Christi, where the crime took place, didn’t care about crimes against Latinx people. “If it involves somebody of color, they don’t give a sh—,” Rodriguez said. “That’s one less Mexican. That’s the way it was back then.”

Patrick Forbes, the director of The Phantom, agreed. “Corpus was then a very violent, very dangerous town, and it had within it, a strata of poor Hispanic families who the cops were just not going to exert themselves over whether you were the victim, or indeed the perpetrator,” Forbes said. “And all three people caught up in this horrible story had the misfortune of being poor and Hispanic.”

In 2003, Liebman and his students began investigating DeLuna’s case. Their investigation prompted a series of award-winning investigative reports in the Chicago Tribune in 2006. Following additional investigation, The Wrong Carlos was published in 2012.

The movie’s theatrical and on-demand release date of July 2 is timed to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gregg v. Georgia, which allowed executions to resume in the United States. In conjunction with the release of the movie, a coalition of criminal legal reform advocates have started a petition urging President Biden to commute the death sentences of everyone on federal death row.

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A Bexar County judge has resentenced former Texas death-row prisoner Noah Espada to life imprisonment, nearly 6 years after a Texas appeals court overturned his death sentence because of perjured testimony by a prosecution witness in the penalty phase of Espada’s trial.

Espada was sentenced to death in 2005 based in large part on the testimony of a former sheriff’s deputy, Christopher Nieto, that Espada would pose a future danger in prisoner if sentenced to life. Nieto lied to the jury about the reasons he had left his job in the sheriff’s office, falsely claimed that Espada had drugs in his cell, and falsely told the jury that Espada had, without provocation, attacked another prisoner. In a post-conviction hearing in 2012, Espada presented evidence that, less than a month before writing up Espada for alleged disciplinary offenses, Nieto had been suspended for leaving his post and threatening Espada, that Nieto had been under investigation for smuggling drugs into the prison, and that Nieto had resigned from the sheriff’s office rather than take a polygraph test about his drug activities. Espada also presented evidence that he had not attacked anyone, but that Nieto had actually arranged for another prisoner to attack Espada.

On July 1, 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Espada’s death sentence based upon Nieto’s perjured testimony. After several years of unsuccessful litigation by Espada to bar prosecutors from arguing that he would pose a risk of future dangerousness, the parties agreed to a deal in which Espada could become eligible for parole at age 71 in 2055.

(source for both: Death Penalty Information Center)

PENNSYLVANIA:

In the shadow of death: Murder victims challenge us to do better----Sylvester and Vicki Schieber remain staunchly opposed to the death penalty, even after the murder of their 23-year-old daughter.

2 days after a serial rapist murdered his 23-year-old daughter, a doctoral student in Philadelphia, Sylvester Schieber attended Saturday night Mass with his wife, Vicki, at their home parish in Maryland.

Practically paralyzed by grief and a bottomless void that will never completely close, Schieber, now 75, began to recite the Lord’s Prayer. It’s a prayer the lifelong Catholic had said thousands of times. But that night, as he reached the words “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against,” he was struck dumb.

“Suddenly that prayer had meaning I had never fully grasped before,” Schieber told me.

In an abstract way, the Schiebers had always opposed the death penalty. In what many might see as an irony, however, the death of their daughter, Shannon, transformed vague, anti-death penalty notions into deep-seated convictions that fueled action and advocacy.

“When our daughter died, a part of us died,” said Schieber, a retirement and health policy consultant.

“Nothing would bring her back. But the circumstances of her death led us to a new perspective on our Catholic faith.”

Their response — forgiveness instead of retribution — angered some, including Catholics who supported the death penalty.

Shannon’s brutal death surely tested the couple’s new commitment, almost to the breaking point.

Keeping the faith

On May 7, 1998, Shannon was up late, studying for an exam at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. She planned to meet her brother, Sean, for lunch the next day, and then head to Maryland to be with her parents on Mother’s Day.

At about 2 a.m., she decided to draw a bath to relax.

That’s when her killer, 29-year-old Air Force airman Troy Graves, Aka the Center City rapist, swung onto her second-floor patio and pried open the screen. He grabbed Shannon, sexually assaulted and strangled her, possibly to keep police officers from hearing her screams. By all accounts, Shannon put up one hell of a fight, thumping her attacker with everything she had.

Could the 2 Philadelphia police officers, responding to the initial 911call, have saved Shannon, if they had broken into her apartment? We’ll probably never know.

Despite Shannon’s brutal murder, the Schiebers believed their Catholic faith, unequivocally, demanded forgiveness, and that anger and hate only destroyed the vessel that contained them. During our conversation, Vicki Schieber recalled the biblical story of Jesus halting an execution by asking any man without sin to cast the first stone.

The couple had another reason for avoiding the death penalty. Typically, an execution is carried out — if at all — 15 or 20 years after the conviction. Having to wait on the post-conviction appeals, reliving the crime again and again, as the process wore on, would have unhinged them.

“This way, we were done in five months, instead of sitting and stewing about it, year after year,” Sylvester Schieber said. “The last thing Shannon would have wanted is for us to have our lives consumed by this.”

Four years after Shannon’s murder, in 2002, Graves was arrested in Colorado, where he had assaulted several other women. The Schiebers publicly opposed the death penalty, which bugged the police and Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham. Abraham eventually struck a plea deal for a mandatory life sentence. Graves received another life sentence in Fort Collins, Colo., for attacking 7 women there.

“He isn’t living a pleasant life,” Schieber said.

Later, Vicki Schieber had an emotional telephone conversation with Graves’ mother. She also exchanged letters with Graves in a maximum-security prison in which he expressed remorse, she said.

Over the last two decades, the Schiebers have spoken to scores of grassroots advocacy groups, met with legislators nationwide, testified before legislative committees, and written opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines.

Vicki Schieber, 77, served on a governor-appointed death penalty commission in Maryland and a death penalty task force, commissioned by Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.

In 2011, she was named “Abolitionist of the Year” by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Challenging us to do better

A month after Shannon Schieber was murdered, 3 white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, murdered James Byrd Jr. by dragging him three miles behind a pickup truck.

Despite this horrific hate crime, Byrd’s children and wife opposed the death penalty for the killers. “You can’t fight murder with murder,” Ross Byrd said.

Despite Byrd’s opposition, two of his father’s killers, Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King, were executed in Huntsville, Texas.

Faith played a big role in the Schiebers’ and Byrds’ path to forgiveness, but other victims came to the same conclusions without it.

Megan Smith, 41, a Pennsylvania native and middle school teacher in North Carolina, told me nothing could bring back her father. He and Megan’s stepmother were tortured and killed in their Lancaster County home in September 2001. One of those involved in the crime, Landon May, is on Pennsylvania’s death row.

Killing another person was unhelpful, she said, a waste of money the government could use to fund services to crime victims. Even the idea revolted her.

“It was unnecessary and ridiculous,” she said. “People assumed that (the death penalty) is what I wanted and needed.”

Death penalty advocates often cite the brutality of certain crimes. At issue, however, is not whether someone deserves to die. Only God could answer that. The relevant question is whether the government has the right to execute someone who, with a mandatory life sentence, no longer endangers society.

Many people would answer that question differently than have Ross Byrd, Megan Smith, or Vicki and Sylvester Schieber. Still, I hope the courage and compassion they, and scores of others like them, have shown will drive the death penalty debate in Pennsylvania.

By walking in the shadow of death and still choosing life, they have challenged us all to do better.

(source: Jeff Gerritt is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of the New Castle News and The (Sharon) Herald----New Castle News)

SOUTH CAROLINA----impending executions

South Carolina inmates to appeals court: Halt electrocutions

The 2 South Carolina inmates scheduled to die this month under the state's recently reconfigured capital punishment statute are asking an appellate court to halt their deaths by electrocution.

On Monday, Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens filed a notice of appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The condemned men are seeking to overturn an order by U.S. District Judge Bryan Harwell, who on Friday declined to halt their upcoming executions. Attorneys for Sigmon and Owens had argued that South Carolina hasn’t tried hard enough to get lethal injection drugs or compound them itself, as some other states have done, and that executing them by electrocution subjects the men to excruciating pain and violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Sigmon's execution is set for Friday in South Carolina's 109-year-old electric chair. Owens is scheduled to die a week later.

Their deaths were scheduled less than a month after the passage of a new law compelling the condemned to choose between electrocution or a firing squad in the event lethal injection drugs aren’t available. The statute is aimed at restarting executions after an involuntary 10-year pause that the state attributes to an inability to procure the drugs.

Sigmon and Owens sued as the measure became law, saying they can’t be electrocuted or shot since they were sentenced under a prior law making lethal injection the default method. Prisons officials say they still can’t acquire lethal injection drugs and have yet to assemble a firing squad — meaning that both men would die in the electric chair.

In his Friday order, Harwell wrote that Sigmon and Owens have failed to clearly show that electrocution violates the Eighth Amendment, citing more than a century’s worth of federal court precedent.

Harwell’s refusal marks a second blow against the inmates in their legal attempts to secure a reprieve. A state judge evaluating a lawsuit over the new death penalty law also declined to halt the executions earlier this week. The prisoners are also seeking respite from the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Both Sigmon and Owens have run out of traditional appeals in the last few months, leaving the state Supreme Court to set and then stay their executions after the corrections agency said it still didn’t have lethal injection drugs.

Sigmon, 63, was convicted in 2002 of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat in Greenville County. Owens, 43, was first sentenced to death in 1999 for the shooting murder two years earlier of a convenience store clerk during an armed robbery, also in Greenville County.

South Carolina is 1 of 8 states to still use the electric chair and four to allow a firing squad, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Prison officials have not indicated a timeline for when the firing squad will be available though they have said they are researching how other states operate their squads.

South Carolina’s last execution took place in 2011, and its batch of lethal injection drugs expired two years later. There are 37 men awaiting death in the state.

(source: Associated Press)

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

What we know: History of the electric chair used for the death penalty in South Carolina

South Carolina's electric chair could be used for the first time since 2008 if the scheduled execution of Brad Sigmon takes place on June 18.

Its 2nd use could follow 1 week later on June 25 if the execution of Freddie Eugene Owens happens.

The original chair was purchased in the early 1900s and still has some original components.

The chair was purchased on May 8, 1912, from Adams Electric Company in Newark, New Jersey, according to newspaper records. It cost the state $2,800 at the time — the equivalent of approximately $77,000 today, according to inflation calculators.

Its first use was August 6, 1912. Its most recent use was June 20, 2008.

It is regularly maintained and has been "recently tested," said Chrysti Shain, spokeswoman for South Carolina Department of Corrections. Methods of maintenance and testing are restricted information and not available to the public, she said.

The youngest person to be sentenced to death in the electric chair was 14 when he died in 1944. The oldest person who died in the chair was a 66, according to SCDC.

The chair has been used 248 times, according to SCDC records.

From 1931 to 1940, there were 68 executions using the chair — the most of any decade.

Attorneys for Sigmon and Owens believe the helmet apparatus is the same equipment purchased from Fred Leuchter in 1983 for $800, according to court filings.

The chair is located at the capital punishment facility inside Broad River Correctional Institute in Columbia. This facility was built in 1988 to replace the facility at Central Correctional Institution, according to SCDC.

South Carolina is among 8 states where the electric chair can be used as a method of execution, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

(source: Greenville News)

FLORIDA:

Drama, horror in Tampa courtroom as murder trial opens

Ronnie Oneal III stood before a jury, gazed at the courtroom floor then closed his eyes and rubbed his palms. He was silent for a beat, then raised his head and began to cry out.

“The evidence is going show,” he yelled, “that we are under some of the most vicious, lying, fabricating, fictitious government you ever seen! By the time it’s all said and done, you will see who is the mass murderers in Tampa Bay!”

Oneal shouted throughout an impassioned opening statement Monday morning as he continued to represent himself in his murder trial. He paced the courtroom floor. He gestured rapidly with his hands. At times, he directed his words to the crowded courtroom gallery. At times, he leveled his gaze at prosecutors.

“I look alone!” he yelled. “But I am backed by a mighty God!”

In a half-hour oration, Oneal promised to demonstrate that law enforcement and government officials tampered with and distorted evidence in his case to make him look guilty. He suggested that it was his girlfriend, Kenyatta Barron, who attacked their children the night of March 18, 2018, in their Riverview home, and that he killed her in self-defense.

Oneal, 32, is accused of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the killings of Barron and their 9-year-old daughter, Ron’Niveya Oneal. He is also accused of attempting to kill his then-8-year-old son.

If the jury finds him guilty, prosecutors will ask them to recommend a death sentence. The trial is set to last through next week.

Oneal’s declamation came moments after Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon guided the jury through a night of horror. They heard it through the dead woman’s voice, recorded on a 911 call. She made the call from inside a closet, Harmon said.

“I’m shot,” she whispers in the recording. “Help me, I’m shot, help me, please.”

As she speaks, Oneal is heard in the background.

“Allahu Akbar!” he yells. “Get in here and kill this b----, right now!”

Barron’s voice becomes hysterical before she begins to scream.

“Okay, Ronnie, I’m sorry,” Barron said in the recording. “I’m so sorry. Help me. ... I can’t move my arm. My arm is shot up, Ronnie. Please.”

A thumping noise punctuated the screams. Jurors grimaced.

Later in the call came the male voice again.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “She killed me.”

A next-door neighbor, James Gray, testified Monday afternoon that he heard the commotion, looked out his front door, and saw the elder Oneal standing in an entryway over Barron’s battered body, beating her. After a few brief words, Oneal dashed back toward his own home. Gray told his girlfriend to call 911.

Back inside, Harmon said, Oneal retrieved a hatchet and attacked his daughter.

Born premature, Ron’Niveya Oneal had cerebral palsy. She could not speak and was diagnosed with autism. In the courtroom, the prosecutor showed the jury a series of graphic photos depicting chop wounds and other injuries to her head, neck and body.

“She unlike her mother, couldn’t flee,” Harmon said, looking at the defendant. “And she couldn’t make assertions of love for her father. She couldn’t beg for her life. Ron’Niveya was unable to say stop, please, daddy, please stop. ... The evidence will show she was totally helpless.”

On a TV screen, Harmon showed a photo of Barron’s pink cell phone. On it, was a snapshot of her son, Ronnie Oneal IV. The boy, who survived the attack, was later adopted by one of the homicide detectives who assisted in the case. He is expected to testify in the trial.

Oneal then turned to his 3rd victim, Harmon said. Using a knife, Oneal stabbed and slashed his son repeatedly. Oneal then took a red can and splashed gasoline throughout the house, concentrating on the areas where Barron hid in the closet and in the area near his daughter’s body. He also doused his son with gasoline, the prosecutor said.

When Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies arrived, they first tended to Barron, whose body lay in the neighbor’s yard. They soon noticed smoke seeping out of the Oneal home. The garage door opened. The boy, smoke drifting off his clothes, trotted out. His internal organs were exposed.

“They will tell you,” Harmon said, “The 1st words that came out of this little brave boy’s mouth— ‘my daddy killed my mommy.’”

The elder Oneal followed soon thereafter. When deputies told him to get on the ground, he complied, but then stood up and walked down the driveway, Harmon said. The deputies subdued him with Tasers.

Deputies will testify that Oneal reeked of gasoline, Harmon said. His shirt and shoes were stained with his family’s blood.

In his opening statement, Oneal said he will prove that the boy may have been coached about what to say.

“The evidence is going to show,” Oneal told the jury, “that I love my children. ... The evidence will not show you that my son witnessed me beat his mom to death, nor did he witness me shoot his mom. In fact, he didn’t witness much at all.”

Oneal said he will prove that the government altered the 911 recording and records of the call itself. Likewise, he said, he will show that they tampered with video of his arrest and other evidence.

“The evidence is going to show that your representatives in law enforcement wanted to make it to seem like I’m some kind of menace to society,” he said.

He told the jury he would not take his case to trial if he was guilty.

“I guarantee you I wouldn’t waste your time,” he said. “I would have already taken a plea deal of some kind if I knew I did something like this.”

Several family members of the victims watched the opening statements from the courtroom gallery’s back row.

As the prosecutor described the mayhem, a man stood and began to shout at Oneal.

“They’re going to burn your f------ ass!” he said. Sheriff’s deputies hustled him out of the courtroom.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

ALABAMA:

1st day of capital murder trial for man charged with killing 5 in New Market

Jury selection involving 130 prospective jurors got underway Monday in the capital murder trial of Christopher Henderson.

Henderson, 46, is facing a possible death sentence for the killings of 5 people, including his 9-months pregnant wife.

Madison County Circuit Judge Chris Comer last week spelled out how the jury selection process will work. The jury pool was asked to report in 4 shifts Monday to receive an initial briefing and fill out a 40-page detailed questionnaire.

The prosecution and defense will review the questionnaires on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then beginning Thursday and running until June 22, jurors will be questioned by the attorneys in the case. Opening statements are set to take place on June 23.

Henderson faces multiple capital murder counts in the August 2015 killings and house fire that shocked the New Market community.

The victims were Henderson’s estranged wife Kristen Smallwood Henderson, who was 9 months pregnant; her unborn child; her mother, Carol Jean Smallwood; her 8-year-old son, Clayton Chambers; and her 1-year-old nephew, Eli Sokolowski. The indictment refers to the child Kristen Henderson was carrying as a “full-term female child,” who surviving family members refer to as “Loryn Brooke Smallwood.”

Kristen Henderson filed for a protection order against her husband on July 29, asking that he be barred from coming within 500 feet of the New Market home where she was staying with her parents. The judge granted the protection order.

She and her family members were killed 6 days later.

The couple was going through a divorce. On July 31 Kristen Henderson petitioned the court to dismiss the divorce claim, arguing she and Christopher Henderson were not legally married. In the court filing she said Christopher Henderson had married Rhonda Carlson in February 2013, more than a year before she married Henderson — in September 2014.

Henderson is charged with the killings along with Carlson, who is facing a separate case and is expected to testify in Henderson’s trial.

The 15-count indictment against Henderson was part of his arraignment Thursday. Each count is related to capital murder, including killing someone under 14, the murder of someone who filed a protection order, killing someone in the course of an arson, killing someone in the course of killing two or more people and killing someone in the course of a burglary.

When Judge Comer finished reading the charges Thursday, the judge asked Henderson how he pled.

“Innocent,” Henderson answered. His attorney Bruce Gardner then told the court Henderson was pleading “not guilty.”

Gardner, who is representing Henderson along with attorney Robin Wolfe, said both the defense and prosecution favored a longer selection process, including the detailed questionnaire.

“Because the consequences of the case are so high,” Gardner said. “There’s an entire section related to their views on the ultimate punishment of death, and also several subcategories therein, that might reflect further on that. So, it’s the nature of the penalty sought that’s driving the train on that.”

Madison County District Attorney’s Office Chief Trial Attorney Tim Gann and Assistant District Attorney Shauna Barnett are prosecuting Henderson. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the case.

(source: WHNT news)

TENNESSEE:

Why Tennessee should follow Virginia's footsteps in Abolishing the death penalty----Virgina, the first southern state to abolish capital punishment, should serve as a lesson for Tennessee.

Recently the Governor of Virginia signed legislation approved by the Virginia Legislature that abolished the death penalty in Virginia.

That event caused me to reflect on his experience with the death penalty.

In 2011, Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic Nun, visited Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville for a weekend. As a result of her presentations, I read her two books, “Dead Man Walking” and “The Death of Innocence,” began research relating to first degree murder and the death penalty and began visiting death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

This article addresses only adults who have been convicted of 1st-Degree Murder since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977.

I have identified more than 3,000 people who have been convicted of 1st degree murder in Tennessee. 2,836 are Adults. 193 People have received death sentences. Only 87 people have had their Death Sentences sustained.

There are 3 categories of people with sustained death sentences:

1.13 Men have been Executed.

2.27 Men have died while awaiting execution.

3.Currently, there are 47 People who are subject to being executed.

Thus, 2,751 Adults who have been convicted of 1st-degree murder have not been sentenced to death.

There are 95 counties in Tennessee. 67 counties have not had a sustained death sentence. 18 counties have had only one sustained death sentence. In the last 29 Years 12 of those 18 counties have not had crimes committed that resulted in Sustained Death Sentences. Only 10 counties have had offenses committed that resulted in more than one sustained death sentence.

For offenses that have been committed since February 22, 1992 sustained death sentences have been issued in only 14 counties. Those counties represent half of the Tennessee population. The other 81 counties represent half of the Tennessee population.

The Murders committed by the People with Sustained Death Sentences occurred in the following time frames: 4 in 1977, 1978 or 1979; 40 in the 1980s; 27 in the 1990s; 13 in 2000 through 2019; and 3 in 2010 through 2019. No defendants have committed murders since 2015 that resulted in sustained death sentences.

372 Defendants who have been convicted of murdering Multiple Victims (2 to 6) have been identified. 340 of the 372 have not received sustained Death Sentences. Of the 87 defendants who have received sustained death sentences for 1st degree murder, 55 defendants were convicted of murdering a single victim.

The number of murderers of multiple victims who have been sentenced to Less than Death is more than six times greater than the number of murderers of one victim who have been sentenced to death.

The foregoing demonstrates arbitrariness, disproportionality in the first-degree murder sentencing system, that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder, an evolving standard of decency and that the death penalty has become a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Thus, Tennessee should follow the leadership of Virginia.

(source: Opinion; Ed Miller is an attorney in Brentwood----The Tennessean)

NEBRASKA:

A panel of 3 judges has sentenced Aubrey Trail to death for the 2017 killing of Sydney Loofe. In a statement to the court before the panel pronounced sentence, Trail admitted to the killing but said that his co-defendant, Bailey Boswell, who faces capital sentencing hearing later this month, was not involved in the killing. Trail is the 12th person on Nebraska’s death row.

Trail’s death sentence continues a trend in which new death sentences are disproportionally imposed in non-jury proceedings or in cases in which defendants are permitted to waive key trial rights or have asked to be executed. 3 of the 18 people sentenced to death in 2020 waived their rights to a jury trial and a 4th represented himself from arrest through trial. In 2019, 3 of the 22 defendants sentenced to death waived their rights to jury sentencing, 2 others were sentenced to death by Alabama judges after non-unanimous votes by sentencing juries, and 4 more waived their rights to counsel and/or to present mitigating evidence.

Of the 4 death sentences DPIC has verified so far in 2021, Trail had no penalty jury, Michael Powell was sentenced to death by an Alabama judge after a non-unanimous jury vote at sentencing and William Wells pleaded guilty in Florida and has repeatedly said that he wants to die.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

MONTANA----female faces death penalty

Attorneys plan to challenge death penalty in West Yellowstone murder case

Attorneys for a West Yellowstone woman facing the death penalty on charges related to the death of her grandson plan to challenge the constitutionality of capital punishment in coming months.

Patricia Batts appeared with defense attorneys Craig Shannon and Greg Jackson before Gallatin County District Court Judge John Brown on Friday for a status conference regarding legal proceedings leading up to a trial scheduled to begin in 2022.

Batts is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of partner or family member, all felonies, related to the death of her 12-year-old grandson, James Alex Hurley.

Defense attorneys plan to file motions by the end of October challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty in the case, although lawyers did not go into detail on Friday about their arguments.

Montana is 1 of 24 states that allow capital punishment — 23 states have abolished the death penalty and 3 others have a governor imposed moratorium on death as punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last execution in Montana happened in 2006 and two people are now on death row in the state, according to DPIC.

Defense attorneys also shared with prosecutor Bjorn Boyer copies of four motions challenging law enforcement searches related to their client.

Law enforcement say investigators found videos on a cellphone belonging to Patricia Batts and her teenage son, James Sasser III, of the family torturing Hurley.

The lawyers also discussed Batts’ contact with Sasser III, which isn’t allowed in the criminal case related to Hurley’s death but is allowed in a separate, noncriminal matter related to her fitness as a parent.

Batts’ contact with Sasser III in the noncriminal matter has been in a courtroom, virtual and is allowed “in the sprit of reunifying the family,” Jackson told Brown at Friday’s status conference.

Boyer argued that Batts not be allowed to speak with her son — who has pleaded guilty to felony deliberate homicide in connection to Hurley’s death and is in the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections — or any other witness, as ordered by the court in the criminal case against her.

“Any contact would be a violation,” Boyer said to Brown. “The order is clear there is no contact (allowed).”

Brown suggested defense attorneys seek bail modification to allow Batts to contact Sasser III, which would then offer prosecutors an opportunity to respond in writing.

Attorneys also agreed to move the start date for Batts trial from May 31, 2022, to June 1, 2022. Defense attorneys plan to file 14 other motions, including challenges to the constitutionality of capital punishment in the case, before the trail is scheduled to start.

Brown cautioned defense attorneys that the trial start date may not be moved to accommodate more time to file motions.

“Never say never, but we’re going to trial June 1,” Brown said.

Prosecutors allege Batts beat and punished her grandson and taught her children to do the same. Hurley was found dead in February 2020.

James Sasser Jr., Batts' husband, is also charged with deliberate homicide related to Hurley’s death.

(source: Idaho State Journal)

ARIZONA:

'Nothing short of horrified': Jewish groups alarmed by Arizona's potential gas executions

Janice Friebaum can trace family members who were murdered at the Nazi death camp of Treblinka — two grandparents, three great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and countless cousins — among the millions of Jews killed in gas chambers during the Holocaust.

The politicization of the Holocaust amid the coronavirus pandemic has only undermined the barbarity inflicted on the victims of genocide, she said, adding that Americans may become "desensitized by false analogies" like equating mass murder with mask-wearing mandates.

But when she learned her home state of Arizona reportedly refurbished its gas chamber for executions, a method of death last used there more than 2 decades ago, she decided it warranted speaking out.

"Uniformly, Holocaust survivors and their descendants are nothing short of horrified of this form of execution being utilized," said Friebaum, vice president of the Phoenix Holocaust Association, a nonprofit that documents experiences of survivors and educates about genocide.

The gas chambers were a "Nazi innovation, and it was positively inhumane," she said. "To think our 'civilized society' today in the state of Arizona would utilize this Nazi innovation, I believe, is tantamount to giving posthumous approval to the evils conducted by the Nazis. We're basically saying what the Nazis did was OK."

The gas chamber's upgrade at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, southeast of Phoenix, has struck a nerve with Jewish organizations that have grown increasingly vocal in their opposition to what they describe as a particularly macabre method of execution.

The American Jewish Committee, one of the nation's oldest Jewish advocacy groups, said it was especially troubled by the state's purchase of materials to make hydrogen cyanide gas, which was part of a pesticide known as Zyklon B that the Nazis used in Auschwitz. Details about the state's plan were first reported by the Guardian newspaper in May.

"Arizona's decision to employ Zyklon B gas as a means of execution defies belief," the committee said in a statement last week. "Whether or not one supports the death penalty as a general matter, there is general agreement in American society that a gas devised as a pesticide, and used to eliminate Jews, has no place in the administration of criminal justice."

It's unclear why the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry has appeared to revive the gas chamber option for executions. In a statement to NBC News, the department said it and the state attorney general's office are "prepared to fulfill its constitutional obligation, carry out legally imposed court orders, and deliver justice to the victims' families."

But corrections officials note that under the law, only death row inmates who committed their crimes before Nov. 23, 1992, have the option of selecting gas inhalation for their execution or the state's default method of lethal injection. Since 1976, gas chamber executions have been used 11 times by various states, including California and Mississippi, according to the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center.

Arizona's gas chamber was built in 1949 and has been used twice: once in 1992 for the execution of Don Harding, who was convicted of murder, and in 1999 for the execution of Walter LaGrand, also convicted of murder. The use of cyanide gas on LaGrand, a German citizen, stoked outrage in his home country, which has no death penalty. His brother, who was convicted of the same crime and also sentenced to death, opted for lethal injection.

Related:

Arizona has not executed an inmate since 2014, when a lethal injection procedure described by some as a "botched" operation ended after the prisoner gasped for 2 hours.

State Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, notified the state Supreme Court in April that he will seek execution warrants in 2 cases, both of which involve murders that took place before 1992. While Brnovich announced last week he will run next year for a U.S. Senate seat, he previously said he wants to "ensure" that the 21 people on Arizona's death row whose appeals have been exhausted are executed before his term ends in 2023.

"Capital punishment is the law in Arizona and the appropriate response to those who commit the most shocking and vile murders," he said in a statement. "This is about the administration of justice and ensuring the last word still belongs to the innocent victims who can no longer speak for themselves."

A spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, told The Associated Press that he is "following the law as it's spelled out in Arizona's Constitution. Victims have been waiting a long time for justice in many of these cases."

The Arizona Supreme Court last month set timetables for the two executions that Brnovich is currently seeking, and has given dates in August and September to acquire responses from defense attorneys and related replies.

While the 2 dozen states that have death penalty laws largely held off on executions during the pandemic, Texas in May became the first state in 10 months to resume capital punishment activities.

In recent years, state executions have remained at record lows amid a shortage of lethal injection drugs and waning public support for capital punishment. But some states are reviving other methods.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, signed legislation in May that adds death by firing squad as an alternative to the electric chair because of a lack of lethal injection drugs.

Last week, Alabama corrections officials told a federal judge that the agency is close to finishing construction of a system that would deploy nitrogen gas for executions, a method that proponents believe is more humane but remains untested.

Arizona has struggled carrying out the death penalty in recent years because of the lack of lethal injection drugs, but said in March it had obtained a shipment of pentobarbital, a sedative that slows the activity of the brain and the nervous system, the AP reported.

In the case of lethal gas executions, accounts from witnesses have described how levers are used to drop a sodium cyanide mixture into a pot of sulfuric acid below the inmate, who's strapped into a chair.

Tempe lawyer Jim Belanger, who witnessed the execution of his client, Harding, in 1992, said white fumes rose from the metal box on the floor and Harding's face turned red and contorted as he gulped and gasped. He said Harding writhed in pain for the majority of the 10 ½ minutes he was alive.

Belanger said Friday that he remains against capital punishment, but states "should find a humane way of administering" executions.

"Our country has called out others that violate international law and human rights when they use gas or murder millions like in the Holocaust," he added. "In my mind, we have committed our own atrocities with gas."

(source: Yahoo News)

CALIFORNIA:

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has vacated its prior decision granting a new trial to California death-row prisoner Keith Ford and has upheld his convictions and death sentence.

During the closing arguments of the trial, the prosecutor unconstitutionally stated to the jury that Ford was no longer entitled to a presumption of innocence. Over a defense objection, the prosecution stated: “This idea of this presumption of innocence is over. Mr. Ford had a fair trial. We were here for 3 weeks where … he gets to cross-examine witnesses; also an opportunity to present evidence information through his lawyer. … This system is not perfect, but he had a fair opportunity and a fair trial. He’s not presumed innocent anymore.”

After 3 days of deliberations, the jury reported itself hopelessly deadlocked. Several days later, it returned a guilty verdict on the murder charge but deadlock on the lesser charges. In September 2020, a divided panel ruled 2-1 that the prosecution’s argument violated Ford’s right to due process. “Although the prosecutor did not ‘misstate[] the evidence,’ he misstated the law,” the majority wrote. “He did so three times, in the space of a few moments” in what the court called a “thin, circumstantial case.”

In reconsidering its prior ruling, the panel continued to insist that the prosecution’s argument violated clearly established Supreme Court law concerning the presumption of innocence. However, given what it described as “substantial evidence of guilt” and the requirement under the habeas corpus statute to defer to state court rulings unless they unreasonably misapplied clearly established law, the court held that “a reasonable jurist could have concluded that there was no reasonable probability that, in the absence of the prosecutor’s statements that the presumption of innocence was ‘over,’ the jury would have reached a different conclusion.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

WASHINGTON:

Exhibit at Bellevue Art Museum questions capital punishment through the tradition of last meals

At the Bellevue Art Museum, an exhibit called “The Last Supper” is a collection of 800 plates hand-painted by Oregon State University art professor Julie Green.

“They’re blue and white, cobalt blue paint on white ceramics, mostly porcelain, and they’re kiln fired,” Green said. “From a distance, it looks quite homey and beautiful, like something you might pull out of your grandmother’s china cabinet. Then you get closer and you find out the context of the piece.”

On each plate, Green has painted the last meal of an inmate executed in the United States, along with the date and the state.

“Oregon. September 6, 1996,” Green reads from one of the plates. “‘5 eggs, sunny side up, bacon strips, crisp. Stack of pancakes with syrup. Hot coffee, milk. Cold orange juice.’ The handwritten note from the inmate that I received by fax from the Oregon Department of Corrections ended with the writing, ‘I would appreciate the eggs served hot.’ And I thought, who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t want those eggs served hot?”

Green started the project in 1998.

“I read about last meals in the morning paper in Oklahoma in 1998. Oklahoma actually has the highest executions per capita, even higher than Texas,” Green said. “So it would say what execution had happened the night before, what the inmate was wearing, what were the facial expressions of the inmate as they were killed, and for the last meal they had 6 tacos, 6 glazed doughnuts, and 6 Cherry Cokes. So what inspired me was a question: Why do we have this tradition? Why is this in the paper? Why, why, why?”

Green grew up in a conservative, Republican family that supported capital punishment.

“But when I went to college and learned more about the legal system, I became concerned of margin of error,” Green said. “Black individuals are seven times more likely to receive a wrongful conviction of murder than whites. So that statistic alone keeps me painting the plates. I have an activist bend. I’m now opposed to capital punishment, as you might have gathered.”

You can learn a lot about a person based on what they choose for their last meal.

“Several asked for crackers and grape juice so they had communion. A number of the plates tell a story, like the inmate who had never had a birthday cake, so the prison inmates made a birthday cake for them for their last meal. That’s a huge story to me,” Green said. “It’s really sad and it speaks to the broader problem. This is an inmate who didn’t have a good chance or much support growing up; never had a birthday cake.”

Green started The Last Supper project over 20 years ago, and they dedicate 1/2 of each year to painting new blue and white plates. Green has painted 896 plates so far, but there have been 1,521 executions in the United States to date.

“I hope that it will spark conversation, research, and education about our legal system,” Green said about the project. “Most people do have an opinion about capital punishment. In fact, it’s interesting and encouraging to me that in 2019, for the first time, according to a Gallup Poll, the majority of Americans prefer life without parole to capital punishment. But I hope that people will look at the plates and have a conversation, and then think about it later and have an informed decision about capital punishment, whatever it is.”

Green says the project started as a meditation, a personal outlet to try and make sense of the tradition of last meals and why the public has such a morbid curiosity about them.

“I wish that I could say I have an answer, but I have no more answer than I did when I started. I’m still wondering why.”

The Last Supper exhibit will be at the Bellevue Art Museum through October. The museum is currently accepting visitors by appointment.

(source: mynorthwest.com)

USA:

Biden administration urges Supreme Court to reinstate death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber

The Biden administration is urging the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty against the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Last summer, a Boston-based federal appeals court vacated the sentence, ruling the trial court failed to adequately screen jurors for potential biases. Months later, former President Trump appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

It is a break with the president’s known opposition to capital punishment.

Tsanarev was convicted on 30 charges. The appeals court upheld all but a few of them.

The 27-year-old remains in a super-max prison in Colorado where he will serve out multiple life sentences if his death sentence is not reinstated.

The justices are expected to hear arguments in the case next term.

(source: WHDH news)

******************************----impending executions

June:

18----Brad Sigmon----South Carolina

25----Freddie Owens--South Carolina

30----John Hummel----Texas

July:

26----Zane Floyd-----Nevada

September:

8-----John Ramirez--Texas

15----John Stumpf---Tennessee

28----Rick Rhoades--Texas

October:

27----Ruben Gutierrez----Texas

November:

17----Ramiro Gonzalez---Texas

INDIA:

10 get death penalty in 2018 murder case in Ara

A court Monday sentenced 10 persons to death for the murder of a local businessman for extortion in 2018.

The court of additional district judge Manoj Kumar also fined each of the convicts ?2.60 lakh, additional public prosecutor Nagendra Prasad Singh said.

On December 6, 2018, businessman Imran Khan was shot dead and his brother Akil Ahmad injured in a shooting in Shobha market area in Ara town. A BSNL employee also sustained injuries. Imran had allegedly refused to pay ?10 lakh in extortion allegedly demanded by the accused.

Those sentenced to death are Khurshid Quraishi, his brother Abdullah Quraishi, Babli Miyan, Tausif Alam, Furchan Miyan, Ahmad Miyan, Anwar Quraishi, Guddu Miyan, Raju Khan and Shamsher Miyan.

(source: Hindustan Times)

EGYPT:

Death sentences upheld for 12 defendants after shameful mass trial

Egypt’s highest appeals court, the Court of Cassation, today upheld death sentences for 12 people, including a number of senior Muslim Brotherhood figures, following a mass trial of 739 people over their participation in mass anti-government sit-ins in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square in July and August 2013. Responding to the news, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“These ruthless death sentences, which were handed down in 2018 after a grossly unfair mass trial, are a stain on the reputation of Egypt’s highest appeals court and cast a dark shadow over the country’s entire justice system.

“These ruthless death sentences, which were handed down in 2018 after a grossly unfair mass trial, are a stain on the reputation of Egypt’s highest appeals court and cast a dark shadow over the country’s entire justice system ”----Philip Luther, Amnesty International

“The news comes following a sharp spike in the number of executions carried out in Egypt in 2020 making it the world’s 3rd most frequent executioner. At least 51 men and women have been executed in 2021 so far.

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Instead of continuing to escalate their use of the death penalty by upholding death sentences following convictions in grossly unfair mass trials Egyptian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions.

“Those protesters convicted of committing violent crimes should be retried in fair and impartial trials without recourse to the death penalty.

“Shockingly, Egyptian security forces continue to evade justice for the deadly violence they unleashed against protesters in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares in August 2013 killing at least 900 people and injuring thousands.

“The Egyptian authorities have to date taken no measures to hold the perpetrators of this massacre to account. They must do so without further delay.”

In September 2018, a Cairo criminal court handed down death sentences against 75 people who participated in the sit-ins in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square in July and August 2013 after convicting them of charges related to participating in unauthorized protests and committing violence against security force personnel and others. Amnesty International considered the trial to have been grossly unfair.

The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court, today upheld the sentences of 12 out of the 75 individuals sentenced to death. It did not examine the cases of the remaining 30 as they had been sentenced in their absence and, under Egyptian law, therefore need to be retried when they can be brought to trial in person before any review by the Court of Cassation.

(source: Amnesty International)

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

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members----Court decision marks end of a trial linked to a mass killing by security forces at a sit-in in Cairo in 2013.

Egypt’s highest civilian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members, concluding a trial linked to a 2013 mass killing by security forces at a sit-in, according to judicial sources.

The ruling, which cannot be appealed against, means the 12 men could face execution pending approval by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. They include Abdul Rahman Al-Bar, commonly described as the group’s mufti or top religious scholar, Mohamed El-Beltagi, a former member of parliament, and Osama Yassin, a former minister.

Many Muslim Brotherhood figures have been sentenced to death in other cases related to the unrest that followed the military’s removal of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, but the Court of Cassation ordered retrials.

Following Morsi’s removal in July 2013 amid mass protests against his rule, his Muslim Brotherhood supporters staged a huge sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square in eastern Cairo to demand his return.

The following month, security forces raided the square and killed some 800 people in a single day.

Authorities said at the time that protesters were armed and the forced dispersal was a vital “counterterrorism” measure.

It marked the start of a long crackdown against opposition in Egypt.

Those condemned to death on Monday were convicted of “arming criminal gangs which attacked residents and resisted policemen as well as possessing firearms … ammunition… and bomb-making material”, the court of cassation said in its ruling.

Other charges include “killing policemen… resisting authorities… and occupation and destruction of public property”, it added.

The court also reduced sentences for 31 other Brotherhood members, an official told AFP news agency.

In 2018, an Egyptian court sentenced 75 defendants in the trial to death and the rest to varying jail sentences, including 10 years for Morsi’s son Osama.

Civilians condemned to death in Egypt are executed by hanging.

‘One of largest killings’

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, calls for Islam to be at the heart of public life.

It established itself as the main opposition movement in Egypt despite decades of repression, and has inspired spinoff movements and political parties across the Muslim world.

But it remains banned in several countries including Egypt for its alleged links to “terrorism”.

Morsi was elected following Egypt’s 2011 mass protests and removal of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, but was toppled by the army led by now-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Sisi’s government outlawed the Brotherhood in late 2013 and has overseen a wide-ranging crackdown, jailing thousands of its supporters.

Morsi, who had been sentenced to death for his role in jailbreaks during the uprising against Mubarak, died in June 2019 after fainting in court.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the death sentences “cast a shadow over the country’s entire justice system”.

“These ruthless death sentences, which were handed down in 2018 after a grossly unfair mass trial, are a stain on the reputation of Egypt’s highest appeals court and cast a dark shadow over the country’s entire justice system,” he said in a statement.

Egypt has become the world’s third most frequent executioner, Luther said, adding that at least 51 men and women have been executed in 2021 so far.

He said Egyptian authorities must establish an official “moratorium on executions”.

“Those protesters convicted of committing violent crimes should be retried in fair and impartial trials without recourse to the death penalty,” Luther added.

Khalil al-Anani, a political science professor at the Doha Institute who wrote a book on the Brotherhood, said on Twitter the verdict was part of the government’s “continued political revenge … against its political opponents”.

Human Rights Watch has labelled the violent dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in a “massacre” and one of “the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history”.

No Egyptian official has been tried over the killings.

In April, Egypt executed at least nine people over the 2013 storming of a police station in which 13 policemen were killed.

Amnesty International has lambasted a “significant spike” in recorded executions in Egypt, from 32 in 2019 to 107 last year.

“Egyptian authorities have displayed a ruthless determination to persist with their escalating use of the death penalty,” the rights group said in April.

(source: aljazeera.com)

IRAQ----new death sentence

Iraq sentences al-Qaeda member to death

An Iraqi criminal court handed down 2 death sentences to a senior al-Qaeda religious leader member, the Supreme Judicial Council announced on Monday.

The unnamed person was the Sharia Mufti of al-Qaeda in Salahddin province, the Supreme Judicial Council stated. He confessed to working as a religious mufti in the terror group and to being a founding member of al-Qaeda in Shirqat, 250 kilometres north of Baghdad. He had several meetings with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda’s former leader in Iraq who was killed in a US airstrike in 2006.

"The terrorist admitted to issuing fatwas for killing members of the army and police, in addition to his participation in several kidnappings and murders, and his targeting of Peshmerga forces," the judicial council stated.

He also worked with the Islamic State group (ISIS) as head of the information department in southern Mosul, and he purchased weapons and distributed salaries to ISIS members.

After the US occupation of Iraq in 2003, extremist groups emerged in the country, including al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for kidnappings and killings of civilians, and foreign and Iraqi soldiers.

A 2005 Iraq law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of terrorism, which can include membership in an extremist group even if they are not accused of specific acts. In January, Iraq approved death sentences for more than 340 people with charged with terrorism and other criminal offenses.

International observers have expressed concern about the trials and detention conditions of people held on terror charges, including the use of the death penalty for both Iraqi and foreign nationals convicted of involvement with ISIS, the use of violence and torture in prisons, and overcrowding in facilities holding ISIS suspects and their families.

(source: rudaw.net)

IRAN:

The Fallen for Freedom ---- Parvin Behdarvand

Parvin Behdarvand, a nurse from the southern city of Masjed Soleiman, is among the thousands of Iranian women who sacrificed their lives for freedom in the 1980s. Parvin was born in 1957 to a poor family. Witnessing poverty across society firsthand made her particularly familiar with the deprivation and the reality of the Iranian people’s problems.

Parvin helped her family earn a living by teaching neighborhood children in the summer. She was eager to study medicine, but her family’s dire financial situation did not permit her to pursue her dreams. As a result, she studied nursing. Parvin completed her education at the Oil Company Nursing School and started working at the hospital.

Meanwhile, she became politically active, participating in the anti-Shah demonstrations and becoming familiar with the MEK. Parvin continued her activism after the 1979 anti-monarchic revolution in Iran.

During the first years of Khomeini’s rule, a number of IRGC agents at the hospital targeted Parvin, and she was eventually fired. With the start of the Iran-Iraq war, Parvin was once again allowed to work due to the critical need for medical services. However, she was transferred to Gachsaran because the regime’s repressive forces were wary of her anti-regime activism.

In Gachsaran Hospital, Parvin Behdarvand continued to speak out, an act that led to her arrest and torture in prison.

According to witnesses, Parvin’s courage influenced everyone, even the religious judge (Vaezi) and Khomeini’s representative in the Oil Company.

She was eventually sentenced to death; the verdict was carried out on January 14, 1981, in Gachsaran. Parvin was chanting slogans against the mullahs’ regime until she drew her last breath.

After killing Parvin, state agents patrolled the city, using loudspeakers to announce the news of her execution in Gachsaran. That day, local merchants and vendors expressed their sorrow, closing their shops in protest.

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

NIGERIA:

Amaechi and death penalty for rail vandals

The federal government, according to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi is mulling capital punishment for rail track vandals in the country. During a Town Hall meeting on “Protecting Public Infrastructure” which held in Abuja on Monday, June 7, Amaechi opined: “rail track vandalism is a capital offence and its consequences should be treated as such”.

Rail track vandalism, cannot just be seen as base acts of stealing for profit but must be seen – due to the hydra-headed resultant dire consequences – as economic sabotage/terrorism and in applicable cases acts of sabotage – translating into acts of war.

Vandalized rail tracks translates not only to sabotaging the economy i.e. in needless expenditure to fix looted rail tracks but more poignant and consequential – vandalized rail tracks translates to derailed trains – which translates to dead commuters.

As concerning as the activities of thieving rail track saboteurs are, and as laudable as the intentions of the federal government to seek the stiffest penalty to stem the tide – the remedy and it’s conceptualization, unfortunately is in keeping with the prescribed methodology of our public office holders – in forever, falling over themselves to deal with the symptoms, instead of the disease – a “disease” of which they are the “host”.

By the way, whatever is wrong in the consideration of “life imprisonment” as a fitting and proper sanction! What is the continuing fascination with the imposition of “direst consequences” by the ruling class upon “subject” people – “sanctions” that they(elites) are averse to when mooted in any legislation that may affect them!

What is the distinction between a rail track thief and a public office holder thief who steals money meant for roads, healthcare, pipe-borne water, pensions, military equipment, to mention but a few. Are there really any consequential differences as a result of the action of the rail track thief and thieves who steal from the public till, negating infrastructural development and provision of amenities etc?

The consequential results of public office stealing are so odious, numerous and laced with such dire reckoning that indeed the death penalty as a sanction will be most deserving. Just like Amaechi could see the consequential results of rail track bandits so clearly as to say “I am not quantifying the material cost; what I am quantifying is the lives that will be lost” – so also are the results of official corruption so empirically and clearly manifest.

When Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi goes to the National Assembly, he should go with a “Bill” which not only to seek the death penalty for rail track vandals but for other crimes that fall within the ambit of “economic terrorism”. At the very top and chief amongst crimes of economic terrorism must be government/official stealing that dwarfs all others in its consequences.

(source: thenationonlineng.net)

JUNE 14, 2021:

LOUISIANA----female faces death penalty

Mom faces additional charge in burning of baby in Natchitoches

The woman accused of killing her baby boy back in 2018 now faces a new charge.

According to the Natchitoches Parish Journal, a judge charged Hanna Barker with conspiracy to commit murder. The website says the charge adds $60,000 to her bail that now tops $1 million.

Prosecutors say Barker asked her girlfriend, Felicia Smith, to kill 6 month old Levi Cole Ellerbe, then wait a few hours before saying he had been kidnapped.

Barker's next hearing is next month. Her trial is set to start in September in St. Landry Parish.

The district attorney is seeking the death penalty.

Smith's trial is set to start in January.

(source: KPVI news)

TENNESSEE:

Tennessee woman facing death penalty asks for life in prison

The only woman on death row in Tennessee is fighting to have her sentenced changed to life in prison.

Attorneys for Christa Gail Pike have asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to send Governor Bill Lee a recommendation for a life sentence. They said Pike was 18-years-old when she stabbed Colleen Slemmer to death at the University of Tennessee Agriculture campus in Knoxville.

She was convicted a year later becoming the youngest person on death row in the country.

Years later, Pike was convicted of trying to kill another inmate by choking that individual with a shoe string.

Pike’s legal team has argued that she suffers from mental illness after surviving abuse neglect and rape as a child.

If executed Pike would become the 1st Tennessee woman to face the death penalty in over 200 years.

(source: WREG news)

EGYPT:

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

An Egyptian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members, including 2 senior leaders of the outlawed Islamist movement, judicial sources said.

The court of cassation also reduced sentences for 31 others to life in prison, the sources told AFP, adding that the rulings were final and cannot be appealed.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood held power briefly for a year before their military ouster in 2013.

(source: Arab News)

JAPAN:

Woman who plunged to death from airport bridge was daughter of curry-poisoner Masumi Hayashi

When the Supreme Court in 2009 handed Masumi Hayashi the death penalty for murdering 4 persons at a festival with arsenic-laced curry, many might have thought that the ugly incident had been safely jettisoned into the past.

That hasn’t been the case.

On June 9, a 37-year-old woman plunged from the Sky Gate Bridge R, which provides access to the Kansai Airport.

The woman and her 4-year-old daughter, who was in her arms at the time of the fall, were both confirmed dead after they were found by emergency personnel in the water below the bridge.

Since then, news site AERA dot. has learned that the woman was the eldest daughter of Hayashi. Sadly, that was only part of what transpired that day.

Just hours before, the woman’s eldest daughter was confirmed dead after she was found beaten inside her residence in Wakayama City. Later that day, her husband was found at the side of a road after an apparent suicide attempt.

The source of the information is Kenji Hayashi, who is the husband of Mayumi.

“I talked to the head the investigation,” said Kenji Hayashi, “but with [the matter] still under investigation that was a lot that is not clear. After talking for almost an hour, there seems to be no doubt that it was my eldest daughter who committed suicide and [her 4-year-old girl] died with her.”

“My daughter spit up blood”

The saga began at around 2:20 p.m. on June 9, when the 37-year-old woman is believed to have telephoned emergency services from her residence in Wakayama City.

“My daughter spit up what appears to be blood,” the woman said about her eldest daughter. “She is collapsed and unconscious.”

The girl, 16-year-old Kokoro Tsurusaki, was later confirmed dead at a hospital. An examination of her body revealed bruising throughout, including to her abdomen.

The cause of death was shock due to external trauma, police said.

The woman is believed to have then driven to the Kansai Airport in Izumisano City, Osaka Prefecture —- a distance of about 40 kilometers —- with her 4-year-old daughter.

“Abused by her parents”

In addition to the woman and the 2 girls, her husband lives at the residence. According to Jiji Press (June 11), the man, who is Kokoro’s father, rode inside the ambulance with her to the hospital.

However, he was found squatting on the side of a road in the Minato area of Wakayama City. “I tried to hang myself but failed,” he reportedly told emergency personnel on the way to a hospital, according to Tokyo Sports (June 14). Police believe he attempted to take his life.

After the emergence of the chain events, police said that they were planning to question the man over suspected ill treatment of Kokoro.

A child consultation center reported in 2013 that she “was being abused by her parents.” Over the next year, the matter was investigated and the family received support.

Wakayama curry poisoning

At a festival in Wakayama City in July 1998, Masumi Hayashi, then 37, laced curry served to participants with arsenic, killing 4 of them and sickening 64 others.

In 2009, the Supreme Court, handed down the ruling based only on circumstantial evidence, with the court finding that Hayashi was the only person who could have laced the curry with arsenic.

Hayashi, today 59, has maintained her innocence. She is now on death row at the Osaka Detention Center. Since the ruling was handed down, her legal team has sought a re-trial 3 times.

Last year, the Osaka High Court rejected the request, saying that there was no room for reasonable doubt that she was the killer. Her request was also rejected at the Wakayama District Court two years before that.

The 3rd petition was filed last week — also on June 9. That day, Teruo Ikuta, a lawyer for Hayashi, filed a new motion for retrial at the Wakayama District Court. (source: Tokyo Reporter)

INDIA:

Residual Doubt Theory: An Encouraging Addition To Indian Capital Sentencing Jurisprudence

(see: https://www.livelaw.in/columns/residual-doubt-theory-indian-capital-sentencing-175677?infinitescroll=1)

ETHIOPIA----execution

Boy Publicly Executed in Oromia; Hold Abusive Officials, Security Forces Accountable

Ethiopian government forces summarily executed a 17-year-old boy in Ethiopia’s Oromia region in broad daylight, Human Rights Watch said today. The public execution of Amanuel Wondimu Kebede underscores the lack of accountability for security force abuses in the country.

On May 11, 2021, government forces apprehended and beat Amanuel in Dembi Dollo, a town in the Kellem Wellega zone of western Oromia. A video posted on social media by the town’s administration shows security forces taunting a bloodied Amanuel with a handgun tied around his neck. He was executed in public that day. In the ensuing weeks, the authorities intimidated and arbitrarily arrested other Dembi Dollo residents, including Amanuel’s family members.

“The Ethiopian authorities’ summary execution of a teenage boy shows astounding disregard for human life,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The callous way that security forces and local officials filmed and then publicized this horrific event demonstrates that these authorities believe they can act above the law without fear of consequences.”

Western Oromia has been the site of a three-year-long conflict between federal and regional government forces and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed group that broke from the political opposition party, the Oromo Liberation Front(OLF), in 2019. Afederal command post in western Oromia coordinates federal and regional security forces in the area, including Ethiopian Defense Forces, Oromia special police, Oromia regular police forces, and administrative militia forces. On May 1, Ethiopia’s parliament proscribed “Shene” – a government term for the OLA– as a terrorist organization.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 11 Dembi Dollo residents and reviewed several videos and photographs posted on social media, media articles, and statements by government officials relating to Amanuel’s killing.

Witnesses said that at about 8 a.m. on May 11, Oromia regional special forces, known as Liyu Hail, arrested Amanuel near his home in Dembi Dollo’s Kebele 07 neighborhood. Media accounts said that local authorities alleged that Amanuel had shot and injured a contractor, Gemechu Mengesha, in the town. Relatives said that Amanuel was 17-years-old and was still in school. Residents in Dembi Dollo were surprised that the authorities apprehended Amanuel, and described him as a grade 10 student, who worked at a church, and had always lived in the Kebele 07 neighborhood.

2 residents saw the Oromia special forces beating, punching, and kicking Amanuel. “They were using all means to beat him, with their boots, hands, with the stick and butt of the gun,” one witness said. “He was even beaten on his head. He fell to the ground. It was very shocking to see.” Residents later saw Amanuel trying to escape in the Kebele 05 neighborhood, but the soldiers shot him in the leg.

A 2nd video that Human Rights Watch reviewed shows Amanuel being paraded down a street, visibly limping on his right side, and surrounded by security forces, including Oromia special forces and local police. Amanuel is forced to repeat: “I am a member of Abba Torbee [an armed group in Oromia and with unclear links to the OLA]. Don’t do what I did. Learn from me.”

Witnesses said a mixture of command post forces, including Oromia special forces, Oromia police, local militia, and Ethiopian defense forces then ordered vehicles to stop and rounded up residents from the local bus stop. Nearby business owners were also forced to close up shop and watch the events. Other residents joined the crowd on their own. One man watching the scene said: “They brought everyone to the center of the town and told the people if anyone tries to attack the security forces in the town, he or she would face a similar fate.”

Video corresponding with Dembi Dollo’s communication affairs Facebook post, which showed Amanuel with visible signs of beatings to the head, blood on his t-shirt, clothes torn apart, and his hands apparently tied behind his back at the town’s roundabout with a handgun hung around his neck. Blood appears visible next to Amanuel on the roundabout and the road. The video shows at least 3 Oromia special forces soldiers standing near him, two of whom are carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. In the video, he is told to confirm his name and where he was born.

4 witnesses described how the authorities ordered Amanuel to turn his head and then shot him at least two times in full sight of residents. A photo posted on social media appears to show Amanuel lying down with his hands still tied behind his back, slumped over at the town’s roundabout.

After security forces executed Amanuel, they prevented residents from approaching the body. Security force personnel brought Amanuel’s parents, whom they had detained at a local police station that morning, to the roundabout. His mother started screaming when she saw her son’s body and Oromia special forces and local police started to beat her and Amanuel’s father in response. One witness said:

His mother was crying, shouting, requesting to be able to bury her son. She was extending her hands saying: “Maalo, maalo” [Afaan Oromo for “please, please”]. They beat her with sticks. [His] father also asked to pick up the body. He also extended his hands, trying to persuade them. The mother was beaten, she fell to the ground.

Community elders eventually negotiated with the security official in Kellem Wellega zone, who finally allowed them to retrieve Amanuel’s body for burial.

Journalists asked Tesema Wariyo, the Kellem Wellega security head, why Amanuel was not taken before a court. He replied: “Amanuel was not a suspect, but clearly an enemy, an OLF-Shene member who came from the bush.” Human Rights Watch reached out by phone to the Oromia regional police commission and the Kellem Wellega security zone head but received no response.

Since Amanuel’s killing, government authorities have intimidated and harassed Dembi Dollo residents, including Amanuel’s family members and friends. Oromia security forces arrested over a dozen people, including Amanuel’s father, who were gathered at the family home mourning Amanuel’s death. Other residents were warned not to visit the house anymore. While many of those arrested have since been released, Amanuel’s father remains in detention. “The case of Amanuel and his family is not unique,” one resident said. “We are getting used to these killings.”

Human rights groups and the media have reported numerous abuses by government security forces, including extrajudicial killings, summary executions of detainees, arbitrary arrests, and repeated communications’ shutdowns in western Oromia. Armed groups in the area have allegedly also abducted or killed minority community members, police officers, and government officials, and attacked aid workers and their vehicles.

International human rights and humanitarian law prohibits summary, extrajudicial, or arbitrary executions, and torture and other ill-treatment of people in custody. Ethiopia is a party to international and regional treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Conventions, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, that contain special protections for children.

The government’s continued failure to properly investigate security force abuses or hold those responsible to account in Oromia and elsewhere in Ethiopia has helped perpetuate a climate that facilitates such crimes, Human Rights Watch said. The Ethiopian authorities should publicly denounce extrajudicial killings and other serious abuses by Ethiopian security forces, and undertake a system-wide, structural reform of the security sector at both the regional and federal levels.

“Ethiopian authorities have shown nothing but contempt in the face of alleged atrocities instead of investigating these abhorrent acts,” Bader said. “The authorities should demonstrate they are serious about ending the abuses that have wreaked havoc on Oromia residents like Amanuel, and ensure that all those responsible, whatever their rank, face justice.”

(source: Human Rights Watch)

IRAQ:

Missing persons committee investigating fate of 220 inmates from Badush prison

The deputy head of the International Committee on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Iraq has said that the committee is still investigating the fate of 220 inmates said to have been executed by the Islamic State (ISIS) at Badush prison in 2014.

Fawaz Abdul Abbas told the al-Sabah official newspaper on Sunday that out of 600 prisoners executed by ISIS at the prison west of Mosul, remains of only some of the inmates have been found, with the rest – 220 – still classed as missing.

The committee, in coordination with the Department of Affairs and Protection of Mass Graves and the Forensic Medicine Department in the Ministry of Health, is collecting information and blood samples from the victims’ families to try and identify those still missing.

“The campaign aims to include victims in the Victims of Terrorism Law No. 57 of 2015 to give them all the benefits included in the law,” Abbas said.

The committee carried out similar campaign in Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Wasit last year, during which it collected data on more than 95 percent of the number of missing persons in these governorates.

Under Iraqi law, victims of terrorism are given financial aid and land from the government.

The deputy confirmed that the mass graves department is conducting a search and excavation campaign at a site near the prison to verify the presence of the remains of some of the missing, despite the lack of government support.

On Wednesday, AFP reported that dozens of Iraqis gave blood samples in Baghdad for the campaign to identify victims.

In June 2014, ISIS fighters attacked the prison, freeing Sunnis and loading 600 other prisoners, mainly Shiite inmates, onto trucks, before driving them to a ravine and shooting them. A mass grave was discovered after Iraqi forces retook control of the area in March 2017.

(source: rudaw.net)

IRAN----execution

Man Executed in Rajai Shahr Prison

A prisoner who was most likely sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, was executed in the early hours of Wednesday, June 9 in Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed at 3:30 am on Wednesday, June 9 in Rajai Shahr Prison. At the time of writing, his identity has not been established.

Speaking to IHR, an informed source said: “The prisoner was transferred from Ward 2 (Dar ol-Quran) to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution, and was most likely sentenced to death on murder charges.”

At the time of writing, the prisoner’s execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for "premeditated murder."

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

(source: iranhr.net)

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

Iran presidential hopeful personally executed many – The election is a joke, an Iranian dissident says from Tehran

With no religious or academic qualifications, Ebrahim Raisi has risen through the ranks of thugs with a 40-year track record of executions and repression, the Scottish National newspaper wrote on Iran elections on Sunday, June 13, 2021.

Iran elections has been described as “fixed” and a “sham” since the 12-strong Guardian Council whittled down almost 600 candidates to just 7 hardliners in favor of the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s favorite candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, to assume presidency, the National added.

The National introduced Raisi as the “henchman of the 1988 massacre” – the murder of more than 30,000 political prisoners, most of them PMOI activists or supporters – in which he played a leading role in the killings. Raisi was a member of the Death Commission in Evin and Gohardasht prisons in 1988, playing the part of prosecutor,” the Scottish paper wrote.

But really, who is Ebrahim Raisi?

To find out more, the Scottish National interviewed two Iranian dissidents. Hamid, 58 and an academic, from Tehran, and Farideh Goudarzi, a former political prisoner detained 6 years for her ties to the Iranian Opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

Hamid told the National the election this coming Friday was a joke. “We see repression, arrest, execution, censorship and dictatorship,” said Hamid.

Farideh Goodarzi, a witness to the crimes of Ebrahim Raisi in prison, tells the National about her torture in prison.

Farideh Goudarzi was arrested in 1983 on charges of supporting the PMOI, and spent almost 6 years in Hamedan and Nahavand prisons –when Raisi was only 21 and already appointed as a prosecutor.

“When I was arrested in the summer of 1983 in Hamedan, I was nine months pregnant and was to give birth within few days,” she said.

“From the very first hour of my arrest, despite not feeling too good physically, I was taken to a torture chamber like all other prisoners.

It was a room with a bed in the middle and a number of power cables of various diameters on the floor and blood spilled on its floor, indicating that some prisoner had been tortured there.

“When I was flogged by cable, there were 7 or 8 people in the room. One of them was this criminal Raisi. Of course, I did not know who he was for a while … I found out that this person was the prosecutor of the Hamedan court.”

Referring to the record of Ibrahim Raisi, Goodarzi says, “From 1982 to 1985 he was directly involved in the imprisonment, torture and execution of many political prisoners, especially supporters of the Mojahedin, and I must emphasize that he personally executed many and was present at the scene to implement the verdicts.”

She read a list of names of girls, some as young as 16, who were raped before being executed in the prisons.

Goudarzi then relived the torture inflicted on her month-old son in prison, when the Iranian revolutionary guards came into her cell at 1am: “When they entered my cell, they picked up my son, while he was asleep and threw him on the ground in a cruel and ruthless manner, and, ignoring his cries, they took off his clothes.

They said they were looking for documents and evidence [against me]. The next day, from 8am to 2pm, I was taken to court with my son and interrogated.

More than 10 torturers were present in the interrogation room, one of whom was Ibrahim Raisi, now a presidential candidate.

“During 6 hours of interrogation, one of them took my son by the hand and while his crying could not be stopped because he was hungry, he slapped him on the back in front of my eyes and the others laughed.

Raisi was also watching this scene.”

She said she also recalled the memory of her mother who went to visit her son in Evin prison, where he had been incarcerated for six years.

“I can still hear my mother crying and wailing, a mother who went to visit her son in that bloody summer and they handed her the blood drenched clothing of my brother, Parviz Goudarzi, who was martyred in Hamedan prison during the massacre. “We will not stand idly by until the day that all the perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Iran are brought to justice, and that day is not too far” Goudarzi reiterated.

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

JUNE 13, 2021:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Where is John Eichinger Now?

An unsolved murder from 1999 and a gruesome triple homicide in 2005 had many similarities, from the nature of the crime to the friends that the victims had. As it would turn out, the person who committed these murders was someone they spent time with often. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Homicide City: Deadly Circle of Friends’ brings to the viewers the crimes of John Eichinger, a serial killer whose murders were motivated by jealousy and obsession. He was apprehended and convicted after admitting to the crimes in 2005. So, are you curious to know where he is now? We’ve got you covered.

Who is John Eichinger?

John C. Eichinger was born on February 18, 1972, and was one of four brothers in the family. At the time, he was employed at New Jersey Acme Food Market. John was friends with 27-year-old Heather Greaves and was attracted to her. On the morning of March 23, 2005, John went to meet Heather at her home in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, to talk about his feelings for her. But sometime later when Heather’s father George came home, he discovered a brutal crime scene. Heather, her 3-year-old daughter Avery Johnson, and her 23-year-old sister Lisa Greaves were stabbed to death multiple times.

The investigators quickly had a suspect in custody because a neighbor had seen a bleeding John Eichinger leaving the house on that morning. Police noticed that his hand was bandaged and when they asked him about it, he said that his dog bit and scratched him. After initially telling them he was not at Heather’s house that morning, persistent questioning led to a confession. John told the police that he went to talk to Heather about his feelings for her, and decided that he was going to kill her if she did not call it quits with her partner at the time. John carried a knife and rubber gloves with him, hidden under his jacket.

The 2 of them argued and at some point, John took out the knife and started to stab her in the stomach. Heather’s 3-year-old daughter Avery was in the room and John slashed her neck. As she collapsed, he came upon Lisa, who had been in the bathroom. John attacked Lisa as well, stabbing her in the stomach. Then, John stated that he went back to the kitchen, stabbed Avery once again before stabbing Heather in the diaphragm and slashing her throat. John realized that his hand was bleeding when he went to the sink to wash up. He used the rubber gloves to hold back the blood and cut open Lisa’s shirt in an effort to confuse the authorities. He killed Lisa and Avery because they were witnesses to the crime and he feared they would identify him.

John had more to say, though. He told the police that he used the same knife in another murder that took place in July 1999. John stabbed 20-year-old Jennifer Still 15 times and also slashed her throat. She was found dead on the bedroom floor in her home in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. John killed her because she rejected his romantic advances. At the time, the murder was unsolved. Now, blood that was found in the bathroom sink at Jennifer’s home matched John’s DNA. It was also revealed that Jennifer, John, and Heather were part of the same friend group that played Dungeons & Dragons together. John also told the police that he saved the clothes he wore when he murdered Jennifer and would carry around the knife during Halloween while wearing a Scream mask.

Where is John Eichinger Now?

In October 2005, John opted for a bench trial to decide his guilt. Apart from his confession, the police also garnered more details of the crime from some letters he wrote to one of his brothers while in prison and a journal that he maintained. John offered no defense at his trial. A judge found him guilty of 1st-degree murder in connection to all four slayings. Not too long after, a jury returned the death penalty for the murders of Heather, Lisa, and Avery.

John was sentenced to 3 consecutive death sentences for the triple homicide and 1 life sentence without the possibility of parole for Jennifer’s murder. The court also convicted him of possessing an instrument of crime and unsworn falsification. Over the years, John has tried to appeal his death sentence but both his conviction and sentence have been upheld. As per prison records, he remains incarcerated at State Correctional Institution – Phoenix in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

(source: thecinemaholic.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA----impending executions

Urgent Action: TWO MEN FACE EXECUTION IN SOUTH CAROLINA (USA: 68.21) June 10, 2021

2 executions by electric chair in South Carolina have been set over 7 days, starting on June 18, 2021. The scheduling of these executions follows the enactment of a law on May 14, 2021 that changes South Carolina’s death penalty, allowing for execution by electric chair or firing squad. These executions, if carried out, will end a 10-year hiatus in executions in South Carolina, and set the state against the US and global trends away from the death penalty. We demand for the Governor to call off the scheduled executions.

TAKE ACTION:

Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet CONTACT INFORMATION

The Honourable Henry McMaster

Governor of South Carolina

State House

1100 Gervais Street

Columbia, South Carolina 29201

Email: webform

(For international action-takers using the webform,

you can use AI USA’s address: Amnesty International USA

311 West. 43rd St. 7th Floor, New York, NY 10036 USA)

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Governor Henry McMaster,

I am writing to ask for your urgent intervention to halt the two scheduled executions in South Carolina, the first in a decade.

The USA death penalty is marked with arbitrariness, racial bias, and flawed legal representation – which are some of the common factors that have contributed to unreliable judicial decisions on life or death, including for people with severe mental and intellectual disabilities.

Following the recent achievement in Virginia, 23 states have now abolished the death penalty, with South Carolina being one of an additional 13 without any executions in 10 or more years. The resumption of executions in South Carolina would set the state against this progress.

Rather than focusing on the pursuit of a cruel punishment, I encourage you to do everything in your power to call off these executions, end the cycle of violence and implement much needed reforms that would address the root causes of crime.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

(source: Amnesty International USA)

ARIZONA:

Don Harding killed my husband. His execution in an Arizona gas chamber was a relief----Opinion: Don Harding killed my husband and others. Executing him didn't erase the pain, but it brought me some peace. Victims' families deserve that, at least.

I understand Arizona is considering execution by lethal gas again and that it’ll stir the passion of activists seeking to end capital punishment. I wish I could be sympathetic to their cause.

I’m not.

My husband, Marty Concannon, was murdered by a depraved sociopath in 1980. As was his business partner, Bob Wise. They were hogtied, gagged and beaten in their motel room in Tucson before being shot in the head and chest. The killer robbed a 3rd man, Allan Gage, in similar fashion and choked him to death.

Don Harding deserved the death penalty. It took 12 years to see justice served.

I was relieved the day Harding was put to death. I remain so now.

The smell of smoke in Marty's car haunted me

For a long time after his arrest, I suffered from nightmares and paranoia.

I learned that he had my name and that of Bob Wise’s wife circled in red when he was arrested. I had no idea what he intended but I feared the worst.

He was caught driving my husband’s car and when it was returned, it had the stench of cigar. Marty didn’t smoke. The smell itself was an assault on my psyche. Some time later, I found out he had planned an escape from prison with the help of a sympathetic guard who played cards with him.

I read this week his attorney’s op-ed about witnessing Harding’s death in the gas chamber and his objection to putting a man to death that way. I don’t think he gets what the families of victims go through.

I don’t think most people get it because, frankly, they haven’t experienced the anguish we experienced.

We'd been married a year when he was murdered

Marty and I met in 1977 in Green Valley, a retirement community near Tucson where we both worked. He was 6-foot-5, 200 pounds and was a Green Beret who had seen combat action in Vietnam.

For all that, he was a sensitive soul and very easygoing, and kids and old folks alike loved him. I fell for him immediately.

We had been married for only a year when I got that call in January 1980. It was devastating.

I often wonder that had only a circumstance changed here or there, things would have turned out different. Harding tied up and robbed an older couple and instructed them to stay put while he fled. They took some time in contacting police, but he was long gone by then.

It was their gun he used to kill Marty and Bob. Had they called the authorities earlier, Marty would still be here. Maybe.

In some cases, the death penalty is necessary

I left Phoenix for my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, after Marty’s death. When the execution was finally scheduled in April 1992, I had thoughts of going, but I didn’t want the memory of watching him die.

A friend of mine in Arizona held up a telephone to the local news coverage after the execution. I felt an immediate sense of relief.

I am now 66. I never remarried. I never met anyone else like Marty. Sometimes I see older couples out together and it’s very sad for me, to see others have that longevity of a relationship.

I became a nurse practitioner and have been for close to 3 decades. It’s a profession of helping people, doing the best for people, and it may seem in conflict with the concept of capital punishment.

It may be hard to understand. It comes across as such a cruel thing to do, but in some cases, the death penalty is so warranted and necessary. Even in a civilized society. The way I saw it, the man was never going to be soft. He was going to finagle his way out.

I cannot imagine living today thinking he was still in prison and that escape was a possibility.

The pain's not gone, but I feel some relief

Until this week, I hadn’t talked much about the past. The funny thing is, Marty’s been on my mind a lot lately.

Maybe it’s because I lost my mom and Marty’s only brother has passed, too. So has his cousin. I’m getting older; it just seems a lot of people I love are no longer around.

Yet, he’s in my life very much still. I talk about him with the one sister of mine who lives in town and on occasion I play an audiotape of Marty being interviewed by a high school student about his Green Beret experience because I love hearing his voice. It’s a precious thing, that little cassette tape.

I was quoted in the media shortly after the execution, “I was worried that I was going to feel bad. I don't. I felt like I had been holding my breath all these years. And today, I was able to take a deep breath.”

29 years later, I still feel that way.

(source: Op-Ed; As told to Arizona Republic editor Abe Kwok, who covered Don Harding's appeals and execution in 1992. Pam Concannon, a nurse practitioner, lives in Youngstown, Ohio----azcentral.com)

NIGERIA:

2,956 Inmates On Death Row As Federal Govt Considers Commuting Death Sentence To Life Jail

Following concerns over increase in the number of condemned inmates in Nigerian correctional centres, the federal government is planning a process of commuting the sentences of inmates who have been on death row for over 10 years to life imprisonment.

This is even as LEADERSHIP Sunday findings showed that Nigeria now has 2,956 inmates on death row, a shift from the 2,742 recorded in 2019.

Findings by our correspondent also showed that of the 2,956 on death row, the number of condemned male inmates is put at 2,903 while females make up the remaining 53.

While the number which initially stood at 1,606 in 2017 rose drastically to 2,742 in 2019, further findings revealed that the last execution of condemned criminals in the country was carried out in late December 2016, when three prisoners were executed in Edo State.

It would be recalled that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), had at a recent press briefing on the achievements of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion, asked the 36 state governors to act in line with Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution on the number of inmates sentenced to death as a means of decongesting prisons.

The death penalty as authorised by Section 33 of the Constitution of Nigeria defines capital crimes to include murder, terrorism-related offenses, rape, robbery, kidnapping, sodomy, homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery, incest, assisting the suicide of a person legally unable to consent, perjury in a capital case causing wrongful execution, treason, some military offences like mutiny and practice of indigenous beliefs in states applying Shariah law.

Malami stated, “Also, to be revisited is the issue of condemned convicts on death row for over 10 years with a view to getting relevant authorities to commute the sentences to life imprisonment.

“This is based on the provisions of Section 12 (2) (c) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019. A review of cases of inmates awaiting trial for upwards of 5 years will also be considered.”

Controller General of the Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, said almost 3,000 inmates who have spent 10 years on death row still live under the suspense and mental torture of death.

“Out of the number, a greater percentage of them may have finished appeals and are still waiting for the determination of the approving authority to either approve their execution or commit them to life imprisonment,” he said.

He said the implication of delayed execution after court pronouncement is that death row inmates are usually not amenable to corrections.

Nababa, who spoke through his agency’s image maker, Francis Enobore, said, “We can understand that some governors dither in signing death warrants on humanitarian, political, religious, emotional and ethnic grounds. But whatever may be the mitigating sentiment, the delay in carrying out this executive function is breeding congestion that has impacted significantly on the administration of justice. That is aside the helplessness endured in the roller coaster of emotions for these condemned inmates who have practically been reduced to the status of the living dead.

“Statutorily, governors are not bound to sign the warrants for the execution of people on death row. They can exercise their prerogative to commute such sentences to lifetime in jail or reduced jail terms. They can also grant such convicts state pardon, therefore putting a closure to the matter. But it is unacceptable for them to leave inmates perpetually on death row.”

He added that the obligation on the governors is specifically enshrined in Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution as well as Section 221 of the Penal Code and Section 319 of the Criminal Code. All these prescribe capital punishment for murder while Sections 37 and 38 of the Criminal Code prescribe the same punishment for treasonable felony. There is of course a global campaign against capital punishment, but it is still applicable in Nigeria. Majority of these death row inmates are in solitary confinement, having been convicted for such offences as murder, treason, and armed robbery. Some states in the country have also enacted capital punishment for those convicted of kidnapping.

Describing the act as an inherent violation of their rights and dignity to keep people interminably on death row, especially for cases that have been concluded by the Supreme Court, he said such practice is antithetical and capable of inflicting traumatic shock on the condemned inmates awaiting an imaginary death in solitary confinement. To put in context, prisoners on death row are condemned to a kind of existential limbo, existing as entities in cold storage rather than living as human beings.

“We therefore imagine the harrowing spell condemned prisoners go through daily in solitary cells, humbled by the force of an impending death that seems to be an eternity,” he added.

However, the NCoS chief said there were options for those charged with the responsibility of signing death warrants of condemned inmates.

“They can convert the death penalty to life imprisonment and after sometime, reduce it to termed imprisonment. If they are converted to life or termed imprisonment we will take them to areas where they can be productive. They will learn trade. Some can be sent to our camps, where they engage in farming activities and they will help boost the economy and even support themselves and their families,” he said.

A human rights lawyer and activist, Barrister Destiny Imong Ayang, said, “Whatever may be the justification, prolonged solitude is a punishment that is detrimental to the psychology of death row inmates. It kills the victims incessantly and unmercifully. We welcome Section 12 (2c) of the new NCS Act which provides that where an inmate on death sentence had exhausted legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years had elapsed without execution of the sentence, the chief judge may commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. It is the right thing to do.”

An Abuja-based activist and national coordinator of Peace and Anti-Corruption Advocacy, Comrade James Okoronkwo, blamed the delay on poor judicial system in the country, adding that justice delayed is justice denied.

“Keeping condemned inmates perpetually in custody has a lot of implications. One is the security implication. You know, these are people that have come to the last bus stop. They are usually very difficult to control and are usually very restive,” he said.

A Delta State-based judge, Marshal Umukoro, has reportedly called on governors in the country to sign warrants for persons on death row.

LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that Umukoro said doing so would help decongest the correctional centres. He also said doing so would deter people from committing crimes that would land them in such punishment.

His position is in sharp contrast to that of international right groups like Amnesty International (AI) which have repeatedly called for a stop to the death penalty.

(source: leadershipo.ng)

MALAYSIA:

Madpet appalled by death sentence

Does possession of more than 50gm of Methamphetamine justify death? Madpet (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) posed this question in speaking out against the death sentence passed on an individual in April.

Madpet is appalled that yet another person is sentenced to death for drug trafficking despite the perception that Malaysia has amended the law on drug trafficking abolishing death penalty especially for minor offenders or drug mules, other than the kingpins of drug trafficking, its spokseman Charles Hector said today.

In April 2021, Shahfary Sabri, a widower was sentenced to death by the High Court here after he was found guilty of trafficking 149.5 grams of methamphetamine 3 years ago.

“In Malaysia, if one is found in possession of 50gm or more in weight of Methamphetamine, he will be presumed under section 37 DDA to be a drug trafficker, under the contrary is proved. If less, he would not be presumed to be a drug trafficker,” Hector said in a statement.

“Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017, which provided the new possibility of a sentence other than death for drug trafficking was gazetted in December 2017, and came into force on March 15, 2018. There is no justification for the 3 months delay in coming into force, as all those who committed the offence before that date will still be subject to the mandatory death penalty.” Shafary was charged with trafficking the drugs in a hotel room here on Oct 19, 2018, which means that now, there was the possibility of him not being sentenced to death.

“Sadly, media reports did not mention whether the alternative sentence to death was even considered by the courts,” Hector said.

Hundreds in death row despite changed position for minor drug traffickers, he pointed out.

“Sadly, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, as amended today, still does not deal with the hundreds still languishing on death row. There must be an Act of Parliament that will commute the death sentences to imprisonment, or even provide for a re-sentencing of those on death row.

“The amended law will also not apply for those who allegedly committed the offence before March 15, 2018, as all of them will still be subject to mandatory death penalty.”

(source: thesundaily.my)

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

Mandatory' death penalty still being meted out for drug offences

The Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled that yet another person has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking despite the perception that Malaysia has amended the law on drug trafficking by abolishing the death penalty especially for minor offenders or ‘drug mules’, other than the kingpins of drug trafficking.

In April, Shahfary Sabri, a widower was sentenced to death by the High Court after he was found guilty of trafficking 149.5g of methamphetamine three years ago.

Does mere possession of over 50g of methamphetamine justify death?

In Malaysia, if one is found in possession of 50g or more in weight of methamphetamine, he will be presumed under Section 37 of the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) to be a drug trafficker, until the contrary is proved. If less, he would not be presumed to be a drug trafficker.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017, which provided the new possibility of a sentence other than death for drug trafficking was gazetted in December 2017, and came into force on March 15, 2018. There was no justification for the 3-month delay in having it come into force, as all those who committed the offence before that date will still be subjected to the mandatory death penalty.

In this case, Shafary was charged with trafficking the drugs in a hotel room on October 19, 2018, which means that now, there was the possibility of him not being sentenced to death. Sadly, media reports did not mention whether an alternative sentence to death was even considered.

To satisfy conditions for an alternative sentence means abandonment of right to a fair trial.

Section 39B(2A) of the amended DDA, now states that "the court in imposing the sentence of imprisonment for life and whipping of not less than 15 strokes, may have regard only to the following circumstances: (a) there was no evidence of buying and selling of a dangerous drug at the time when the person convicted was arrested; (b) there was no involvement of agent provocateur; or (c) the involvement of the person convicted is restricted to transporting, carrying, sending or delivering a dangerous drug; and (d) that the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia."

The amended law is unjust as it undermines the right to a fair trial, as one of the rights of any accused person is the right to remain silent – being the right not to take the stand and deliver evidence themselves, which, if he or she does so, that accused shall be subject to cross examination by the prosecution.

In most criminal trials, the best advice is for the accused not to personally take the stand as a witness, and to call other defence witnesses. Remember that even in PKR president Anwar Ibrahim's trial, he elected not to take the stand as a witness – but elected to just make a statement, whereby in such a situation, there will be no cross-examination by the prosecution. However, in this case, Shahfary took the stand as the only defence witness.

It also undermines the right to a fair trial, because after conviction and sentencing at the court of first instance, one has the right to appeal – two rights of appeal. If the court of first instance is the High Court, which is the case when one is charged with a capital offence (death penalty), the right to appeal lies to the Court of Appeal, and thereafter to the Federal Court.

It will be unjust for the convicted, to prejudice this rights of appeal simply to ‘admit’ and assist enforcement agencies to save himself from the death penalty, and hope that he will be sentenced to imprisonment.

At the end of the day, the amendments may have brought about the possibility of an alternative sentence to the death sentence, being imprisonment for life with whipping of not less than 15 strokes.

Madpet advocates different sentences depending on the amount of drugs involved, or even what exactly was done. Possession only may attract a lighter sentence, compared to selling, distributing or smuggling into Malaysia the drugs.

Given the conditions imposed, the mandatory death sentence may be abolished, but practically it can be said that we still have the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.

Judges' sentencing powers must not be inhibited by Parliament

Section 39B(2A) is also wrong, because it prevents judges from considering any or all mitigation and aggravation factors before deciding on a just sentence for each case.

Worse is the apparently mandatory requirement of "the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia". Note an actually innocent person certainly cannot satisfy this condition.

Abolish presumptions, restore onus on DPP to prove all elements of crime

Section 37 presumptions remain an affront to justice and a fair trial, especially for death penalty offences.

In normal criminal cases, it is the duty of the prosecution to prove every element of the crime.

With these presumptions in the DDA, the finding of a person with drugs in their possession presumes that he/she is a drug trafficker or an offender, and the accused person has the duty to prove that the drugs were not his/hers, and he did not commit the offence which is a very onerous duty, for which the lay person, especially the poor, does not have the needed skills, capacity or resources.

For death penalty cases especially, the burden of proof of all elements of the crime must always rest with the prosecution.

Note that besides the weightage presumptions, there are many other presumptions like ‘"if any dangerous drug is found to be concealed in any premises, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that the said drug is so concealed with the knowledge of the occupier of the premises." How exactly can you prove that someone else may have hidden the drugs, possibly without your knowledge, in your room, house or car?

Lawyers generally may also lack the skills and capacity of conducting investigations needed to secure evidence and additional witnesses to rebut presumptions. Many criminal practitioners also do not even visit the site the alleged offences is said to have been committed.

The requirement for pre-trial disclosure by the prosecution is also much lacking, in terms of the needed material that need to be provided to the accused, and the time that it has to be provided.

Hundreds on death row despite changed position for minor drug traffickers

Sadly, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, as amended today, still does not deal with the hundreds still languishing on death row. There must be an act of Parliament that will commute the death sentences to imprisonment, or even provide for a re-sentencing of those on death row.

The amended law will also not apply for those who allegedly committed the offence before March 15, 2018, as all of them will still be subjected to the mandatory death penalty.

In August 2020, de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan said that, as of Aug 11 that year, a total of 918 prisoners were sentenced to death under Section 39B of which 472 are Malaysians and 446 are non-citizens.

Make special review committee's report public

The special committee to review alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty, made up of former Federal Court judges, former Attorney-General’s Chambers officers, former Prisons Department senior officers, the Bar Council, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, academics, criminologists and civil society organisations submitted their report to the government on July 17, 2020 but sadly to date the report is still not made available to the public.

Failure in amending law to abolish death penalty

The previous BN government and the Pakatan Harapan Plus government were already on the way towards the abolition of the death penalty, starting with the mandatory death penalty. The Perikatan Nasional (PN)-BN Plus government is also of like mind.

With reference to the report of the special committee on alternative sentences, the de facto law minister also said that: “The findings are expected to answer the debate on whether the government will propose amending the punishment for drug trafficking to a minimum jail sentence so that punishments will be given based on the facts of each case.”

Madpet hopes that the government will not confine itself to drug trafficking, but will do the needed for all death penalty offences.

Despite Malaysia’s representation for the abolition of the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty, little has been done to amend necessary laws. The death penalty still even exists for offences where there are no victims who suffered bodily harm or death during the commission of the offence.

The possibility of miscarriage of justice, where an innocent person may be wrongly sentenced to death or even hanged is very real – noting that human beings are not infallible. Mistakes can happen on the part of the police, enforcement officers, prosecutors, lawyers and even judges. Once dead, nothing can be done to correct such mistakes justly.

Madpet calls for the following:

1.The removal of the restriction in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 on factors that can be considered by judges before the imposition of a just sentence;

2.The abolition of legal presumption in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, and place on the prosecutors the burden of proving all elements of the crime, as is the norm in most criminal cases;

3.Enactment of law that will enable the commutation of death sentence, or the provision of the ability for courts to review death sentence of drug traffickers as even the amended law, does not address offences committed before March 15, 2018 or the many hundreds that are still languishing on death row;

4.The government to immediately disclose the findings and report of the Special Committee to Review Alternative Sentences to the Mandatory Death Penalty for we also ought to be given the right to know or even make further inputs;

5.For a review of the offence of drug trafficking, and the introduction of different alternative, more just sentences depending on the facts of each case, emphasising also on the principle of rehabilitation and second chances;

6.For the abolition of the death penalty, and the imposition of a moratorium on executions pending abolitions; and

7.For Malaysia to respect the right to a fair trial, and remove provisions in law that unjustly compels one to abandon one’s fair trial rights simply to avoid the death penalty.

(souce: CHARLES HECTOR represents Malaysians Against Death Penalty & Torture (Madpet)----malaysiakini.com)

IRAN:

Iran’s hardliners associated with the mass death penalty, which is likely to become the next president as the administration eliminates enemies

The Iranian theocracy paves the way for hardliners involved in the mass death penalty and human rights abuses to become the country’s next president. Opposition groups have argued against what they consider to be fraudulent elections and are calling for a large number of boycotts.

Iran’s Attorney General, Ebrahim Raisi, who lost the 2017 contest with incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, is considered a favorite to win the June 19 vote.

Raisi was one of many officials licensed by the US government for human rights abuses in 2019. The Treasury cited a US report under Raisi that the judiciary had granted executions for child offenders and arrested lawyers for defending political prisoners and human rights advocates.

Raisi previously served as Tehran’s Prosecutor-General from 1989 to 1994 and was the first Deputy Secretary of Justice from 2004 to 2014. 2009 election.

The dissidents focused on his role in the “Death Penalty Commission,” which ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Iranian political prisoners were asked to identify themselves, and those who answered “Mujahideen” were sent to their death. According to a 1990 Amnesty International report, their willingness to “clean up minefields for the Islamic Republic’s army.” Estimates for the number of people killed range from 5,000 to 30,000.

Robert Paradino, then Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department, when Raisi was appointed Chief Justice in 2019 Called movement “shame”.

“Ebrahim Reishi, who was involved in the mass executions of political prisoners, was chosen to lead the #Iranian judiciary. What a shame!” He tweeted. “The administration ridicules legal proceedings by allowing unfair trials and inhumane prison conditions. Iranians are of better value!”

In a statement, President Mariam Rajabi of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) described Raishi as “a minion of the 1988 massacre” and “one of the worst criminals against humanity in the last 50 years.” It was.

Like most elections in Iran, the contest has been plagued by accusations that it has been tampered with to benefit Ayatollah’s supporters. In this case, it’s Raishi. Khamenei’s Guardian Council has disqualified many candidates who may compete with Laisi, including many moderate and reformist candidates. The NCRI called on the Iranians to boycott the election in protest.

In response to a request for comment from Fox News, the State Department said on Saturday that Iranians “should be allowed to exercise their right to choose their own leaders in free and fair elections.”

“As Iranian officials themselves have pointed out, the disqualification of qualified candidates by the Guardian Council is a threat to political competition and voter participation,” a spokesman said.

Rajabi explained it as a sign that the administration is in the final stages, as it faces pressure from domestic resistance and international pressure from the outside.

“Khamenei has taken steps to strengthen the administration and maximize the crackdown by expelling presidential candidates who have participated in all the crimes of the administration in the last 40 years. It’s a clear sign of the final stages of religious terrorists. The dictatorship. “

Netanyahu denounces Iran’s potential nuclear deal and tries to risk “friction” with the United States

Raisi focuses his campaign on a strong anti-corruption campaign and promises that corruption will be “depleted” if he is elected.

Raishi also benefits from protests against human rights abuses, the unsuccessful treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic, and public dissatisfaction with Rouhani, who has been plagued by the “maximum pressure” campaign from, at least as relatively moderate by administration standards. Have received. The Trump administration, which has undermined Iran’s economy, is now set to expire under the Biden administration.

If Laisi is elected president, negotiations with Iran in the United States and Europe could be more difficult. The Biden administration has sought to end the “maximum pressure” campaign and rejoin Iran’s nuclear deal in 2015.

In Vienna, negotiations are underway to bring both the United States and Iran back into negotiations. However, NCRI activists warned Laisi to continue its crackdown policy domestically and to use agents to exert its influence in the region and warn countries not to engage in Laisi-led regimes. did.

“Any interaction and cooperation with the clergy regime will serve the oppression and slaughter of the Iranians, and their nuclear weapons ambitions, and fuel war in the region,” Rajabi said.

(source: Texas News Today)

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

Death Row Juvenile Offender Ali Arjangi Hospitalised After Suicide Attempt

Death row juvenile offender Ali Arjangi has been transferred to Fatemi Hospital after trying to commit suicide in Ardabil Central Prison.

“Ali Arjangi’s suicide attempt may be his last effort to make his voice be heard by the international community. A voice that says, I want to live. I hope the media and international community hear Ali’s voice and do what they can to save his life,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Iran Human Rights.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, Ali Arjangi, a juvenile offender on death row, attempted to commit suicide this morning, June 12, at Ardabil Central Prison.

Ali Arjangi who was sentenced to death for a murder he is accused of committing at 17, had been given until May 21 to come up with the diya (blood money) amount set by the victim’s family. The deadline was extended to the end of July after his family failed to raise the amount set by the victim’s family.

An informed source told IHR: “Ali Arjangi tried to end his own life by cutting his neck and veins before his execution is carried out. Prison officials transferred him to Fatemi Hospital in Ardabil, where he is in now in critical condition and has 45 stitches.”

Ali Arjangi Fardqujeh Biglou is a child criminal who was arrested four years ago and is still on death row in the youth prison of Ardabil Central Prison.

Ali Arjangi was arrested 4 years ago and has been on death row in the juvenile ward of Ardabil Prison. IHR previously published his voice message from prison where he pleaded for help as his disabled mother was unable to come up with the 1 billion Tomans diya set by the victim’s family.

Informed sources had previously told IHR that Ali and his lawyer had pleaded self-defence in his defence in court and believe that he is innocent. According to the sources, Ali was found to be mentally fully mature by the forensic medical examiner and sentenced to death by Branch Three of the Criminal Court, the child and youth court, which was upheld by the Supreme Court.

According to Article 91 of the new Islamic Penal Code, passed in 2013, “In the cases of offences punishable by hadd or qisas, if mature people under eighteen years do not realise the nature of the crime committed or its prohibition, or if there is uncertainty about their full mental development, according to their age, they shall be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter.” The note to the Article gives judges the power to determine the defendant's mental capacity: “The court may ask the opinion of forensic medicine or resort to any other method that it sees appropriate in order to establish the full mental development.”

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the Islamic Republic is a signatory to, prohibits the issuance and implementation of the death penalty for crimes committed by an individual below 18 years of age.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Islamic Republic is also a signatory to, explicitly states that “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age.”

Yet, according to data collected by IHR and international human rights organisations, the Islamic Republic is responsible for more than 70% of all executions of juvenile offenders in the last 30 years. IHR’s statistics also show that at least 63 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran over the past 10 years, with at least 6 being executed in 2018 and 4 in 2019.

Given the security state and repression of civil society activists and the limited contact with prisoners, it is likely that the number of juvenile executions is much higher than recorded.

(source: iranhr.net)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Urgent Action: HALT THE IMMINENT EXECUTION OF YOUNG SAUDI (Saudi Arabia: UA 65.21)

June 7, 2021

Mustafa al-Darwish, a young Saudi Arabian man, is at high risk of being executed imminently after his case was referred to the Presidency of State Security and his death sentence upheld by the Supreme Court. Mustafa Al-Darwish was arrested in 2015 for allegedly participating in anti-government riots in the Shi’a majority Eastern Province. According to court documents, he was subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention, torture and grossly unfair trial. Amnesty International urges King Salman not to ratify the death sentence and order the relevant judicial bodies to quash his conviction and re-try him in line with international fair trial standards.

TAKE ACTION:

Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them. CONTACT INFORMATION

His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud

Office of His Majesty the King

Royal Court, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: +966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)

Twitter: @KingSalman

Ambassador Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

601 New Hampshire Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20037

Phone: 202 342 3800

Contact Form: https://www.saudiembassy.net/node/2306

Twitter: @SaudiEmbassyUSA ; @rbalsaud

Salutation: Your Royal Highness

SAMPLE LETTER

Your Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud,

In the last week of May 2021, Mustafa al-Darwish’s case was referred to the Presidency of State Security. In the absence of transparent information around judicial processes, it is Amnesty International’s assessment that this referral could signal his imminent execution as soon as Your Majesty ratifies the death sentence. On May 25, 2015, Mustafa al-Darwish (born in 1994), was arrested by security forces and detained for 2 years in al-Mabahith prison in Dammam, the capital city of the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia, before he was brought to trial. During his detention, he was placed in solitary confinement and incommunicado for the first six months of his detention, with no access to legal counsel until the beginning of his trial – all serious violations of his procedural rights and right to a fair trial, which have marred his trial leading to a death sentence.

On March 28, 2018, the Specialized Criminal Court sentenced Mustafa al-Darwish to death over charges relating to his participation in protests, including “participation in armed rebellion against the rulers, blocking roads and sowing discord” and “seeking to disrupt national cohesion through his participation in more than 10 riots”. According to court documents, the aforementioned charges against Mustafa al-Darwish were based on his “confessions” or signed statement that he had participated in over 10 riots between 2011 and 2012, photos of him shooting at security patrols and a technical report of his phone which allegedly contained photos offensive to security officials. However, given that the official charge sheet doesn’t specify the exact months of the alleged crimes, Mustafa al-Darwish could have been 17 or 18 at the time of his alleged participation in riots – therefore making it unclear as to whether Mustafa al-Darwish’s case should be revised under the new juvenile law. Moreover, the “evidence” on which the death sentence is based had resulted from a seriously flawed due process which involved subjecting Mustafa al-Darwish to prolonged pre-trial detention for over two years, and according to his testimony to the judge, obtaining confessions from him under torture.

I urge you not to ratify the execution of Mustafa al-Darwish, and to quash his conviction, given the grave concerns about the fairness of his trial, and order a re-trial in line with international fair trial standards, without recourse to the death penalty. Furthermore, I call on you to order a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation into the allegations of torture and ill treatment and to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

(source: Amnesty International USA)

KAZAKHSTAN:

Kazakh President signs decree supporting human rights and democracy

The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has signed a decree "On further measures of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the field of human rights".

The Decree instructs the government to approve the Plan of Priority Measures in the Field of Human Rights (Action Plan), which envisages the implementation of the following key tasks: adoption of the 9th June Decree further formalises human rights as one of the basic priorities of state policy, implementation of its provisions will further promote the protection of human rights in Kazakhstan and contribute towards building a just and progressive state.

The Decree is in line with the concept of a "listening state", put forward by President Tokayev. It envisages a government that listens to the comments and criticisms of the society. As part of this concept, the government is implementing substantial political reforms that cover 3 broad areas – democratisation of the country’s political system, more power to the people, and strengthened human rights.

In the field of the protection of human rights, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights is being strengthened, including by taking measures to open its regional offices. Kazakhstan has also joined the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, thus formally abolishing the death penalty.

In addition, measures to support persons with disabilities and children left without parental care have been strengthened, punishment was increased for violence against children and sexual violence, paedophilia, kidnapping and illegal imprisonment, and domestic violence.

Furthermore, comprehensive work is underway to implement the instructions outlined in the State-of-the-Nation Address of President Tokayev in September 2020, in particular, improving the national legislation against torture to bring it in line with the United Nations Convention against Torture, and joining the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure.

(source: Emirates News Agency)

JUNE 12, 2021:

TEXAS:

The last words of Shaka Sankofa

Shaka Sankofa was lynched by the state of Texas June 22, 2000. These were his last words:

I would like to say that I did not kill Bobby Lambert. That I’m an innocent Black man who is being murdered. This is a lynching happening in America tonight.

There’s overwhelming and compelling evidence of my innocence that has never been heard in any court of America. What is happening here is an outrage for any civilized country, to anybody anywhere, to look at what’s happening here. It is wrong. I thank all of the people who have rallied to my cause. They’ve been standing in support of me and have finished with me.

I say to Mr. Lambert’s family, I did not kill Bobby Lambert. You are pursuing the execution of an innocent man.

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of you. We must continue to move forward and do everything we can to outlaw legal lynching in America. We must continue to stay strong all around the world, and people must come together to stop the systematic killing of poor and innocent Black people. We must continue to stand together in unity and to demand a moratorium on all executions.

We must not let this murder/lynching be forgotten tonight. We must take it to the nation. We must keep our faith. We must go forward. We recognize that many leaders have died: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and others who stood up for what was right. They stood up for what was just. We must, you must, carry on that tradition. We may lose this battle, but we will win the war. This death, this lynching will be avenged.

So, you all stay strong, continue to move forward. Know that I love all of you. I love the people, I love all of you for your strength, for your courage, for your dignity, the way you have come here tonight and the way you have protested and kept this nation together. Keep moving forward. Slavery couldn’t stop us. The lynchings couldn’t stop us in the South. This lynching will not stop us tonight. We will go forward. Our destiny in this country is freedom and liberation. We will gain our freedom and liberation by any means necessary. By any means necessary, we keep marching forward.

Bianca [Jagger], make sure that the state does not get my body. Make sure that we get my name as Shaka Sankofa. My name is not Gary Graham. Make sure that it is properly presented on my grave: Shaka Sankofa.

We must move forward. Minister Robert Muhammed. Ashanti Chimurenga, I love you for standing with me, my sister. You are a strong warrior queen. You will continue to be strong in everything that you do. Reverend Al Sharpton, I love you, my brother. Bianca Jagger. I love all of you. Reverend Jesse Jackson, know that this murder, this lynching will not be forgotten. I love you, too, my brother. This is genocide in America.

You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot stop the revolution. The revolution will go on. You are the people that must carry that revolution on in order to liberate our children from genocide.

To my sons, to my daughters, I love all of you. You have been wonderful. Keep your heads up. Keep moving forward. We will gain our freedom and liberation in this country, and we will do it by any means necessary. We will keep marching. March on, Black people. Keep your heads high. March on.

We’re going to end the death penalty in this country. This is nothing more than state-sanctioned murder, state-sanctioned lynching, right here in America, and right here tonight.

They know I’m innocent. They’ve got the facts to prove it. But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would be to publicly admit their guilt. This is something these racist people will never do.

You must stay strong. You must continue to hold your heads up and to be there. I love all of you who are standing with me in solidarity. We will prevail. We will keep marching. Keep marching, Black people, Black power. They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight.

(source: Workers World)

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

As Bexar County Courts Reopen, Case Backlog Includes High-Profile Cases

Bexar County courts are dealing with a backlog of 35-thousand criminal cases due to the pandemic shutdowns. One high-profile case involves D'Lanny Chairez, the 20-year-old mother charged with evidence tampering in the case of her missing baby. The child has since been found dead. Chairez's hearing is set for June 16th. The capital murder trial of Otis McKane starts July 12th. McKane is accused of the 2016 murder of SAPD detective Benjamin Marconi. It's the county's 1st death penalty case in 5-years.

(source: WOAI Radio News)

CONNECTICUT:

Prison that housed Connecticut death row is closes early

Connecticut has closed the maximum security prison that once housed the state's death row.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday that the Northern Correctional Institution, the state's highest security prison, was taken out of service 3 weeks ahead of the state's target date of July 1. The decision to close the prison was announced in February.

Northern is the 1st of 3 prisons the Correction Department plans to shutter amid lower crime rates and an inmate population that has declined during the pandemic. The state has yet to name the other 2.

The state's inmate population has been hovering around 9,000 in recent weeks, a drop of about 3,400 people over the last 15 months.

Northern, which was designed in pods to keep high-security inmates isolated, once housed more than 500 prisoners, but has not had more than 100 in over a year.

In February, a lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners alleged the use of prolonged isolation and in-cell shackling was violating the rights of mentally ill inmates. This week the General Assembly passed legislation banning the use of solitary confinement in most cases and the use of certain restraints.

The last of Northern's inmates was transferred to other high-security settings on Monday, Lamont's office said.

“Spending millions of dollars annually to operate facilities for a population that continues to get smaller and smaller is not a good use of resources, especially as we work to reduce the cost structure of state government,” Lamont said.

There were no layoffs associated with the closure and the 175 workers who staffed Northern have been transferred to nearby prisons, Lamont's office said.

Northern opened in 1995 and the state’s death row was moved there the same year. The state abolished its death penalty in 2015 after having executed only 1 person — serial killer Michael Ross in 2005 — since 1960.

(source" The Edwardsville Intelligencer)

PENNSYLVANIA:

CRIME OF PUNISHMENT: Death penalty a moral outlier in modern world

Gov. Tom Wolf’s tenure — and, with it, his pause on executions — is waning, leaving Pennsylvania open to a revival of executions in 2023, similar to the one launched by the federal government in the twilight of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Nationwide, capital punishment is losing ground. Since 2019, Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire have abolished it. For many reasons, Pennsylvania should join them.

Aside from the question of morality, the debate over capital punishment is effectively over. Facts have refuted every policy argument supporting capital punishment. Wolf, rightly, called it “ineffective, unjust, and expensive.”

Since 1976, Pennsylvania has sentenced more than 400 prisoners to death. Only three, however, were executed. Others were re-sentenced to life-without-parole, had convictions overturned, or died on death row. 10 death row prisoners were exonerated — more than 3 times as many as were executed.

Even so, Pennsylvania’s death penalty statute cost taxpayers an estimated $800 million in trial, pre-trial, and post-sentence legal expenses — more than $250 million for each execution. Capital cases are up to 12 times as expensive as non-capital cases, a bi-partisan death penalty task force reported in 2018.

No credible evidence shows capital punishment deters crime. The only remotely relevant fact — death penalty states have higher rates of violence than non-death penalty states — suggests the opposite.

Worst of all, capital punishment carries the chilling possibility of executing the innocent. Since 1973, more than 180 U.S. prisoners who had been sentenced to death have been exonerated, the Death Penalty Information Center reports. Racial disparities on Pennsylvania’s death row are among the nation’s worst.

“Taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a system that does nothing for Pennsylvanians,” Kathleen Lucas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty,” told a Herald editor. “We’ve exonerated 10 men after sentencing them to death. What are we going to say when we kill an innocent person — ‘oops.’"

The state could use money it saved by abolishing the death penalty to fund direct services to crime victims.

The moral question

Capital punishment applies to 1st-degree murder — typically, the most brutal cases. The avalanche of facts refuting the death penalty doesn’t address an underlying moral question: Are some crimes so egregious they, on principle, call for an execution?

A bi-partisan report, released in 2018, found systemic flaws in Pennsylvania’s death penalty statute but avoided the moral question. Victims like Sylvester and Vicki Schieber, however, could not.

In 1998, a serial rapist murdered the Schiebers’ 23-year-old daughter, Shannon, a doctoral student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Despite their devastation and grief, the Schiebers courageously, and successfully, opposed efforts in 2002 to impose the death penalty for Shannon’s killer. Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham eventually struck a deal for a mandatory life sentence.

“We told them we weren’t going to be a party to a killing,” Sylvester Schieber, now 75, told a Herald editor. “Nothing would bring back our daughter.”

Schieber also said a death penalty conviction would have taken decades to wind through a protracted appeals process, forcing he and his wife to repeatedly relive the details of their daughter’s death.

At the core of the debate on morality is a broader question: What kind of society do we want to become? Executing someone who no longer threatens the community is a state-sponsored killing, carried out in the name of the people.

A thirst for retribution and vengeance — an eye for an eye — has driven the death penalty for nearly 4,000 years, starting with Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi in 1750 BC. The ancient code of 282 laws also prescribed removing tongues, breasts, eyes, or ears for certain crimes. These macabre penalties fell within the prevailing values of ancient Babylon.

Since then, ethics, political philosophy, and laws have evolved considerably.

Today, society can’t assume a proportional response to a heinous crime, a punishment of moral symmetry, achieves a greater good. In truth, such an act only degrades the actor: The government and people who, in its name, commit it.

If Wolf seeks a legacy, pushing legislators to abolish Pennsylvania’s death penalty statute, as Gov. Ralph Northam did in Virginia, would make a promising one.

Capital punishment has made the United States a moral outlier. Pennsylvania should join 23 other states in relegating it to the ash heap of history.

(source: Sharon Herald)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Judge denies SC inmates’ challenge to electric chair, attempt to stall executions

A federal judge denied 2 South Carolina death row inmates’ request for an injunction, which would delay their upcoming executions. In his order issued Friday, Judge Robert Bryan Harwell said the inmates failed to prove that their claims that the electric chair violates the Eighth Amendment — which protects against cruel and unusual punishment — are unlikely to succeed in court, and therefore, he could not give them an injunction.

“Legal precedent and the weight of legal authority are against them,” Harwell wrote. “The United States Supreme Court has never held that a State’s chosen method of execution qualifies as cruel and unusual.”

Harwell’s decision comes just days before the 1st of the 2 inmates, Brad Sigmon, is scheduled to be executed. Sigmon, who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend’s parents with a baseball bat, was scheduled to be executed in the electric chair June 18.

The other inmate, Freddie Owens, is scheduled to be executed in the electric chair the following week on June 25. Owens was convicted of murdering a convenience store clerk and confessed to another murder of a fellow detainee at the Greenville County Detention Center.

In federal court Wednesday in Florence, attorneys for Owens and Sigmon argued that the electric chair, the only method of execution available to the inmates, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, which protects from cruel and unusual punishment. While the Supreme Court has said in years past that the electric chair is a permissible method of execution, lawyers argued that they have not done so recently and the issue is “ripe to revisit at this point.”

The attorneys argued there are more humane methods available to the inmates, despite the S.C. Department of Corrections’ insistence that it is unable to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out an execution by lethal injection. The lawyers pointed to other states that have been able to purchase the drugs in recent years.

Attorneys for the corrections department and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster maintained in court that, despite the department’s best efforts, officials were unable to obtain either the 3 drug cocktail South Carolina traditionally uses for the lethal injection or the single drug option, pentobarbitol, used by the federal government and some other states.

They added that the inmates’ lawyers were unlikely to get the Supreme Court to rule against itself when it comes to the legality of the electric chair.

South Carolina’s employment of the death penalty came under the spotlight as lawmakers pushed to change the state’s existing execution law this year.

Under the states old laws, the lethal injection was the default method of execution, and unless an inmate specifically chose to die in the electric chair, the state could not force them to do so. After drug companies decided to crack down on how their products were being used, South Carolina officials struggled to purchase the necessary drugs for a lethal injection, they said, meaning inmates could not be put to death.

As a result, three inmates received stays of execution because the state did not have the means to put them to death.

In May, state lawmakers changed the execution laws so South Carolina could resume putting inmates to death. Under the new law, the electric chair is the default method of execution, but if the state has the ability to carry out an execution by firing squad or lethal injection, the death row inmate can choose one of those options.

Currently, the state Department of Corrections can only offer death by electrocution. The state is still developing protocols for carrying out a death by firing squad, an option only recently added to state law by legislators.

Sigmon and Owens’ earlier efforts to delay their execution have failed. The pair asked a circuit court judge in Richland County to block the new law from taking affect, arguing that it’s unconstitutional.

Late Tuesday afternoon, circuit court judge Jocelyn Newman did not grant an injunction to the inmates, saying their claims had “little likelihood of success.”

The inmates have appealed their case to the state Supreme Court.

(source: The State)

GEORGIA:

Georgia Supreme Court Upholds ‘Uniquely High and Onerous’ Burden of Proving Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty Cases

The Georgia Supreme Court has denied a constitutional challenge to the state’s statutory requirement that a capital defendant must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is intellectually disabled before being declared ineligible for the death penalty.

In an 8-1 ruling issued on June 1, 2021, the Georgia high court affirmed the conviction and death sentence imposed on Rodney Young. Young had argued that requiring a capital defendant to meet the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard — the harshest in the country — created an unacceptable risk that Georgia would execute individuals whose intellectual disability should protect them from capital punishment.

Three justices issued a concurring opinion disassociating themselves from the reasoning of the lead opinion but agreeing with the outcome. One justice concurred only in the result. Justice Charles J. Bethel dissented.

Young’s lawyer, Brian Stull, from the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, called the Georgia court’s ruling “devastating.”

In an email to the Associated Press, Stull said that “Georgia’s uniquely high and onerous burden means that people with intellectual disability will be executed.” Stull indicated that Young intended to seek review of the case in the U.S. Supreme Court to “ask it to correct the injustices coming out of Georgia once and for all.”

Since Georgia adopted its high burden of proof in 1988, only one of 379 capitally charged defendants tried before a jury has ever been found to be guilty but intellectually disabled. No Georgia jury has ever found a defendant charged with an intentional killing to be intellectually disabled.

The U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the death penalty for individuals with intellectual disability. Subsequently, in Hall v. Florida and Moore v. Texas, the Court struck down state laws that defined intellectual disability in a manner that deviated from accepted clinical definitions of the disorder and created an unacceptable risk that persons who clinically would be considered intellectually disabled would nevertheless be executed.

However, the Supreme Court has declined in several cases to review Georgia prisoners’ challenges raising this issue. In 2015, the Court permitted the execution of Warren Hill to proceed, despite the unanimous agreement of expert witness that Hill met the clinical criteria for intellectual disability to a reasonable degree of medical certainty and a determination by a Georgia court that he had proven intellectual disability by a preponderance of the evidence.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s Ruling in Young’s Case

In separate opinions, a 4-justice plurality of the court and a three-justice concurring opinion set forth their reasons for rejecting Young’s intellectual disability claim.

The plurality opinion by Chief Justice Harold Melton, joined by Justices John J. Ellington, Carla Wong McMillian, and Shawn Ellen Lagrua, distinguished Young’s Eighth Amendment challenge to his death eligibility from those presented in Hall and Moore, which the plurality characterized as dealing solely with the substantive definition of intellectual disability. Georgia’s burden of proof did not affect the elements of what constitutes intellectual disability, the plurality said, only the burden of proving whether the disorder was present.

Treating the burden of proof as a procedural issue that implicated due process concerns, the plurality likened intellectual disability to an affirmative defense to criminal liability. The plurality viewed asserting a claim of death ineligibility because of intellectual disability to raising an insanity defense, for which the Supreme Court has allowed states to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The plurality opinion did not address whether the Georgia statute created an unacceptable risk that individuals with intellectual disability would be executed.

Justice David Nahmias, joined by Justices Michael P. Boggs and Nels S.D. Peterson, concurred in the result, specifically addressing Young’s intellectual disability challenge. Justice Nahmias noted that state courts are bound only by the holdings of U.S. Supreme Court cases, not by its reasoning. While “some of the reasoning of [Hall and Moore], particularly their disapproval of state measures that ‘creat[e] an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed,’ certainly casts doubt on this State’s uniquely high standard of proof,” Nahmias wrote, “[t]he holdings of those two cases do not address what standard of proof may be used to evaluate an intellectual disability claim.” As a result, he said, “they plainly do not affect Georgia’s law.”

Nahmias further wrote that he believed, “if the United States Supreme Court, as currently comprised, is called on to decide whether Georgia’s beyond-a-reasonable-doubt-standard for proof of intellectual disability violates the Eighth Amendment, a majority of the Justices would not extend the holdings of Hall and Moore to strike down our State’s statute, notwithstanding the reasoning of the majority opinions in those 2 cases.”

In dissent, Justice Bethel argued that the constitutional concern that animated the Supreme Court’s rulings in Hall and Moore compelled striking down Georgia’s approach to addressing intellectual disability. Just as with statutes that required intellectually disabled defendants to prove facts that deviated from contemporary diagnostic criteria, Georgia’s use of “the highest burden of proof known to our judicial system is also unreasonable because it fails to protect intellectually disabled persons who are unable to prove that fact beyond a reasonable doubt.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

MONTANA:

Attorneys plan to challenge death penalty in West Yellowstone murder case

Attorneys for a West Yellowstone woman facing the death penalty on charges related to the death of her grandson plan to challenge the constitutionality of capital punishment in coming months.

Patricia Batts appeared with defense attorneys Craig Shannon and Greg Jackson before Gallatin County District Court Judge John Brown on Friday for a status conference regarding legal proceedings leading up to a trial scheduled to begin in 2022.

Batts is charged with deliberate homicide, aggravated kidnapping, criminal child endangerment and strangulation of partner or family member, all felonies, related to the death of her 12-year-old grandson, James Alex Hurley.

Defense attorneys plan to file motions by the end of October challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty in the case, although lawyers did not go into detail on Friday about their arguments.

Montana is 1 of 24 states that allow capital punishment — 23 states have abolished the death penalty and 3 others have a governor imposed moratorium on death as punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last execution in Montana happened in 2006 and two people are now on death row in the state, according to DPIC.

Defense attorneys also shared with prosecutor Bjorn Boyer copies of four motions challenging law enforcement searches related to their client.

Law enforcement say investigators found videos on a cell phone belonging to Patricia Batts and her teenage son, James Sasser III, of the family torturing Hurley.

The lawyers also discussed Batts’ contact with Sasser III, which isn’t allowed in the criminal case related to Hurley’s death but is allowed in a separate, noncriminal matter related to her fitness as a parent.

Batts’ contact with Sasser III in the noncriminal matter has been in a courtroom, virtual and is allowed “in the sprit of reunifying the family,” Jackson told Brown at Friday’s status conference.

Boyer argued that Batts not be allowed to speak with her son — who has pleaded guilty to felony deliberate homicide in connection to Hurley’s death and is in the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections — or any other witness, as ordered by the court in the criminal case against her.

“Any contact would be a violation,” Boyer said to Brown. “The order is clear there is no contact (allowed).”

Brown suggested defense attorneys seek bail modification to allow Batts to contact Sasser III, which would then offer prosecutors an opportunity to respond in writing.

Attorneys also agreed to move the start date for Batts trial from May 31, 2022, to June 1, 2022. Defense attorneys plan to file 14 other motions, including challenges to the constitutionality of capital punishment in the case, before the trail is scheduled to start.

Brown cautioned defense attorneys that the trial start date may not be moved to accommodate more time to file motions.

“Never say never, but we’re going to trial June 1,” Brown said.

Prosecutors allege Batts beat and punished her grandson and taught her children to do the same. Hurley was found dead in February 2020.

James Sasser Jr., Batts husband, is also charged with deliberate homicide related to Hurley’s death.

(source: Bozewman Daily Chronicle)

ARIZONA:

Arizona plans to use cyanide on death row. Nazis killed millions with the same gas

High school history class taught me — and almost certainly you — that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews and other persecuted individuals during the Holocaust between 1941 and 1945. At extermination camps like Auschwitz, victims were stripped naked and herded into gas chambers disguised as crude bathhouses, supposedly to take showers before entering camp. Instead, they were poisoned to death by the lethal gas Zyklon B.

When I think of the horrors of the Holocaust, it’s details like those that disturb me the most. And when I learned that Arizona is preparing to use the same lethal gas to execute prisoners on death row, it’s details like those that rush into my head.

The Guardian first reported that the Arizona Department of Corrections has procured ingredients for hydrogen cyanide, the deadly gas trademarked as Zyklon B during World War II. According to documents obtained by the Guardian, corrections officials have also refurbished an old gas chamber at a prison in Florence, Ariz., and conducted a series of tests to ensure the chamber’s functionality.

The use of hydrogen cyanide to execute prisoners is neither new nor unique to Arizona. Lethal gas was first used as an execution method in Nevada in 1924. It was most recently used in 1999 to execute Walter LaGrand in Pima County, Ariz.

LaGrand’s execution did not go smoothly. It took him an excruciating 18 minutes to die after the gas was administered, during which he was twitching, choking and in visible pain, according to witnesses.

Poisonous gas is still authorized for use in 6 other states, all of which employ lethal injection as a primary execution method. Gas has been used for only 11 executions in the past 50 years because it’s considered by many to be cruel and unusual punishment.

Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno, who has done extensive research on the death penalty, considers gas particularly barbaric. “Of all the methods that we’ve ever used in this country, lethal gas in the way that Arizona plans to use it is the worst of them,” she said. “Every single time you use it, there’s no question that it’s going to be inhumane.”

That’s why a federal judge in California barred the state from using gas as an execution method in 1994, a decision that never spread to the rest of the country.

“It was overwhelmingly likely that lethal gas was going to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “It is overtly and obviously torturous.”

But the high court never made that ruling, and now Arizona appears ready to use the method again as it prepares to resume executions. The state had paused executions in 2014 after a horribly botched lethal injection forced a reevaluation of death penalty procedures.

Somehow, that reevaluation could lead to the first lethal gas use on death row since 1999. The decision-makers in Arizona’s Department of Corrections evidently did not prioritize humane execution methods, nor did they consider the trauma inflicted on Jewish communities by reintroducing a tool the Nazis used for genocide.

Capital punishment is wrong for so many reasons, but a particularly insidious offense is the way the death penalty has desensitized us to cruelty. Only utterly, helplessly desensitized corrections officials would think it was acceptable to bring back Zyklon B. Only a law as primitive and regressive as capital punishment would trigger a regression back to Holocaust-era techniques.

“Even without the history, it’s an awful and painful way to kill somebody,” Dunham said. “It’s also the same way the Nazis murdered more than a million people. If Arizona didn’t know that, then they’re completely incompetent. And if they did know that, it’s even worse.”

The closer you look at what’s going on in Arizona, the scarier it gets. Wendy Lower, chair of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, sees various parallels between present-day Arizona and prewar Germany, including alarming efforts by state lawmakers to undermine democracy. These include attempts to reverse the vote in last year's presidential election and to make it harder to vote in the future.

“The echoes of history are very strong,” Lower said. “As a scholar of the Holocaust, this is especially disturbing because of the context in which it’s unfolding.”

The death penalty is the mechanism that makes these parallels possible. It’s the vehicle that allows states to put time and effort into determining the best way to take a life. No vehicle like that should exist anywhere.

For Holocaust survivors, Arizona’s actions must strike a chord the rest of us can’t understand. For the broader Jewish community, of which I am a part, this news brings disgust and fear. In the midst of rising antisemitic incidents and rhetoric across the country, a callback to genocide compounds the pain we already feel.

“It’s really chilling and alarming just to see the term Zyklon B being used again,” Lower said. “It is a complete insult to Holocaust survivors and their family members and their legacy.”

If the Nazis did it, we should probably avoid it, right? Although I’d consider that an obvious, easy-to-spot moral line, Arizona has no problem crossing it. I think that centuries of capital punishment in this country have blurred some boundaries.

(source: Caroline Petrow-Cohen, Yahoo News)

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

Gas chamber restoration in Arizona sparks new debate over executions

Secret refurbishment of Arizona gas chamber sparks debate----The gas chamber was last used in 1999, and was reportedly refurbished in a bit to restart execution of prisoners. News of the refurbishment has sparked debates over the method of execution. FOX 10's Brian Webb reports.

Reports that Arizona has restored its gas chamber is sparking new debate about executions.

The chamber is housed at the state prison in Florence, and hasn’t been used in more than 2 decades, But that could change in the coming months.

On June 10, the Associated Press reported that the state has purchased materials to make hydrogen cyanide gas, which was used in some past U.S. executions and which the Nazis used to kill 865,000 Jews at the Auschwitz concentration camp alone.

Gas chamber last used in 1999

According to the Associated Press, Walter LaGrand, the second of two German brothers sentenced to death for killing a bank manager in Southern Arizona in 1982, was the last person in America to be put to death in a gas chamber.

Witness reportedly said it took more than 10 minutes of gasping and convulsing before LaGrand died.

According to the Associated Press, Walter and his brother, Karl, both chose the gas chamber in hopes that courts would find the method unconstitutional. While Karl accepted the state’s last-minute offer of lethal injection, Walter rejected it, saying he would prefer a more painful execution to protest the death penalty.

The case drew widespread criticism in Germany, which has no death penalty, and prompted repeated diplomatic protests.

Gas chamber refurbishment done in secret

Technically, the gas chamber never went away, and the refurbishment of the chamber took place in secret in 2020. The chamber now has new rubber seals, windows and an exhaust fan. The air tightness was tested with a smoke bomb and candle.

The gas chamber's secret refurbishment was part of Arizona's push to resume executions. The state's Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, talked about the death penalty in May 2021.

"The rule of law needs to mean something, and ultimately, that means that people who commit the worst crimes deserve the ultimate punishment," said Attorney General Brnovich at the time. He declined to speak with us about the gas chamber on June 11.

Some believe gas chamber needs to go

17 death row prisoners convicted before the year 1992 can choose between the gas chamber or lethal injection. Attorney Dale Baich, who represents several dozens of them, believes the gas option, especially, needs to go.

"So that we don’t stand out in the United States or in the world community as using this barbaric method to execute people," said Baich.

Death penalty opponents, meanwhile, call the gas chamber political, expensive and immoral.

"That the State of Arizona is ready to move forward with an unprecedented killing spree, with the same gas used in the Holocaust is a stark example of the harsh nature of the death penalty itself," said Keith Heade.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Arizona officials should have recognized the implications that gas chambers carry, given the Nazis’ use of Zyklon B, a pesticide that had as its lethal component hydrogen cyanide gas.

Ducey spokesperson speaks out

When asked by the Associated Press to comment on the criticism, Gov. Ducey spokesperson C.J. Karamargin said, "Gov. Ducey is following the law as it’s spelled out in Arizona’s constitution. Victims have been waiting a long time for justice in many of these cases."

Executions could take place in coming months<

The state signaled it would pursue two executions in the coming months. Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon would in theory get to choose between the gas chamber and lethal injection. That could happen by late September.

(source: Fox News)

CALIFORNIA:

State Supreme Court hears L.A. killer’s appeal in case that could lead to death penalty reversals

A lawyer appealing the conviction of a double murderer in Los Angeles said Wednesday in front of the California Supreme Court that the state’s death penalty was uneven and unconstitutional, perhaps the way to withdraw hundreds of death sentences. Insisted that it could open.

The judge received the death penalty in a 2004 shooting of rival gang member George Brooks (33) in a drug war and Annette Anderson (52) who witnessed the killing in a housing project at Nickerson Gardens. Watts heard Donte Lamont McDaniel’s automatic appeal against the decision. Co-defendant Kai Harris has filed another pending appeal.

Several strong political allies, including Governor Gavin Newsom and progressive prosecutors in the state, support efforts to revoke McDaniel’s death sentence.

Newsom: “Infected with Racism”

Newsom submitted a 177-page Amikas Brief in October 2020, and the decision against 41-year-old McDaniel, a black man who has been on death row since 2009, is due to jury deliberations and racial prejudice in the decision. He insisted that it should be overturned. The incumbent governor submitted a brief statement to a friend in the court to note that Newsom stated that he was “applying an unfair and uneven death row.” Is the first in the history of California.

Newsam, who suspended executions in California, argued that the death penalty should require unanimous judgment by a jury and evidence that goes beyond the prima facie prima facie of controversial weighted evidence.

“California’s death penalty has been and has been infected with racism,” Brief said. “Today’s inequity in the death penalty is the result of a history of state and state racial terrorism and oppression.”

California voters confirmed in 1978, 2012, and 2016 polls that they supported the death penalty. Currently, 703 prisoners are in prison as death row prisoners, and in 2006 they were the last to be executed.

Prosecution supports appeal

A court argument brief, alleging that the death penalty is voluntarily imposed, was submitted by 5 district attorneys in support of McDaniel’s appeal. Diana Bectin in Contra Costa County. San Francisco County Chesa Boudin. George Gascon, Los Angeles County. Jeffery Rosen, Santa Clara County. Tori Barber Salazar in San Joaquin County. Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garsetti also signed the briefing.

“The death penalty does not make us safer, there is a serious risk of executing innocent people, and it costs about $ 300 million per execution,” Gascon said in a statement last year. “Since 2012, 22 of the 23 people sentenced to death in Los Angeles are of color, so the court said the death penalty was County-intentional.” You don’t have to look beyond LA County to prove that it applies to. Such a heterogeneous application is characteristic of an unfair legal system, and I told the California Supreme Court that the death penalty was arbitrary. arbitrary arbitrary I plead for the end of the voluntary application."

Boudin, whose parents are Weather Underground activists sentenced to imprisonment in the 1980s, said he had long opposed the “undeniably cruel and unjust practice” of the death penalty.

“The application of the death penalty in California violates the protection and principles of the Constitution,” he added. “The death penalty in California is not only inconsistent with humanitarian social values, but also executed in a racially biased manner, disproportionately if the victim is white or the accused is black or Latin. I am imposing the death penalty."

Instructions of a jury with reasonable doubt

At a hearing on Wednesday, Supreme Court Deputy Judge Goodwin Liu made a reversible error in California after failing to direct the jury to prima facie suspicion to Elias Bachelder, senior deputy secretary of state trial defense. We asked if there were many outbreaks in the state. Considering whether to put it to death.

“There was no revocation of the ruling based on the idea that no reasonable suspicion was given,” Baccarder replied. “I have never seen that imposing a high burden of proof to protect the accused hinders the jury’s powers.”

Deputy Director Dana Muhammad Ali unanimously agreed that the Supreme Court would unanimously agree that the State Constitution and criminal law would exacerbate the issues already decided during the trial, either under the burden of proof to the jury. He said the Supreme Court had never ruled that he was obliged to do so at the punishment stage. Guilt phase.

“The type of fact evaluation that takes place at the penalty stage is a really basic fact,” she said. “The jury unanimously found that these basic facts were true or that they were true or proven before convicting the defendant in the final offense. We are not even at the guilty stage where we need to unanimously agree."

McDaniel’s hearing will take place shortly after Newsom’s Executive Order was issued on Friday, May 28. Independent investigation of Kevin Cooper caseIs a black convict on death row convicted in 1983 of the murder of three Chino Hills family members and one of his friends.

Like McDaniel, Cooper remains innocent.

No impact yet seen

If McDaniel’s decision is revoked, there is still no potential impact on other death sentences, said Kent Scheideger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Foundation, which supports the death penalty.

“The court will respect more than a century of precedent and will re-dismiss the bizarre allegations that it has dismissed dozens of times,” Scheideger said in an email. “If the court says If you go wrong in this case, it is up to the court to decide which case to apply retroactively.

“California’s law on retroactiveness is far less structured than federal law, and there is no reliable way to predict outcomes,” he continued. “A false decision may apply retroactively to all proceedings, only to the proceedings pending in the first proceeding, or only to the current proceedings. We wait. I have to see the situation."

The Supreme Court will rule McDaniel’s appeal within 90 days.

(source: California News Times)

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

Saunders: Convicted murderer’s claims work onlly on gullible----A California man on death row insisted DNA testing would clear him, until it put him at the crime scene.

Kevin Cooper used to tell reporters that he wanted DNA testing, which didn’t exist when he went to trial, to prove that he was not guilty of the four 1983 murders that put him on California’s death row. If the tests implicated him, he said, he would drop his appeals.

In 2000, Cooper got those tests; and they nailed him.

DNA tests placed Cooper in the Chino Hills home of chiropractors Doug and Peggy Ryen, who were found dead with their daughter Jessica, 10, and houseguest Christopher Hughes, 11. The Ryens’ 8-year-old son Josh somehow survived after he was left for dead with a slit throat. At trial, Cooper had denied entering the Ryen home.

Cooper, who had escaped the California Institution for Men and was hiding out at an unoccupied house near the Ryen home, testified he didn’t drive the Ryen station wagon as he fled the scene of the crime; but DNA testing of cigarette butts established he had been in the family car.

Unphased, Cooper and his team of corporate lawyers came up with a new story; that the positive DNA test proved Cooper had been framed. How else could his DNA have been there?

And since it’s California, gullible politicians have gone along with this bogus version of events.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order directing the law firm of Morrison and Foerster to conduct “an independent investigation” into Cooper’s case because prosecutors and defense hold “starkly different views regarding how the results should be interpreted.” Overwhelming evidence couldn’t compete with the NAACP and movie stars proclaiming Cooper’s innocence and blaming the conviction on racism, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation head Michael Rushford offered.

In 2004, when I worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, a group of high-profile lawyers sat with the editorial board and laid out an intriguing case about how an innocent man, Kevin Cooper, had been framed.

I looked into it. In short order, I talked to 2 men who had worked for Cooper’s defense team; only to reject his claim of innocence.

That never happens.

Investigator and former cop Paul Ingels had supported Cooper’s quest for DNA tests because he believed in following evidence where it leads. Later, when DNA tests put Cooper at the scene of the crime, Ingels told me in 2004, “It proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Kevin Cooper was involved in the murders.” As for the defense team’s claim that Cooper was framed: “They’re just making this stuff up.”

Forensics ace Dr. Edward T. Blake, who boasted involvement in “more post-conviction exonerations than anybody in the world,” told me he resented how Cooper’s claim of being framed cast doubt on “a legitimate process that’s out there to save people who are actually innocent.”

2 guys who worked on the defense essentially say Cooper’s guilty; that’s something you won’t read in Nick Kristof’s Cooper-friendly New York Times columns.

Kristof writes that he cannot know for sure if Cooper is innocent, but he’s more than happy to repeat the defense smear against those who put Cooper away, presumably because he is Black and they are racists.

Kristof wrote that authorities disregarded 3 white suspects once they saw a mug shot of “a black man with a huge Afro who fit their narrative of an incorrigible criminal” with an arrest record going back to when he was 7.

Wrong, San Bernardino District Attorney Jason Anderson responded. Authorities interviewed 3 other suspects, including a one-time convicted killer whom Kristof identifies by his first name, Lee, but all three had alibis that checked out.

Defense attorneys won’t recognize the damning evidence. That’s to be expected.

What Californians should not accept is a governor who won’t stand up for victims, a jury verdict and the conclusion of post-conviction evidentiary hearings.

It’s been “38 years since our son was killed, and we still don’t have justice,” Christopher’s mother, Mary Ann Hughes, told me over the phone. Her husband, Bill, still has flashbacks of the moment he found his son’s lifeless body in the bloodied Ryen home.

“If it’s just going to be what the governor wants,” she added, “we might as well get rid of courts and trials.”

It’s clear Cooper won’t be executed, even though a jury sentenced him to death in 1985. To no one’s surprise, Newsom suspended California’s death penalty in 2019, and voters aren’t likely to elect a governor who will use it.

By letting this charade continue unchecked, Newsom has signaled that he doesn’t care if Cooper is guilty and he can’t be bothered to sort it out.

(source: Columnist Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership----The Daily Item)

USA:

Timothy McVeigh had ice cream and gazed at the moon just before execution in Terre Haute

"McVeigh meets fate," the front page of the Indianapolis Star read on June 11, 2001.

Timothy McVeigh, convicted in the Oklahoma City Bombing, was executed by lethal injection at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute 20 years ago on this day.

He "wrote letters, ate (mint chocolate chip) ice cream and was in 'good spirits' before the scheduled execution," the newspaper reported.

The execution itself, the first federal death penalty in the U.S. since 1963, also spurred strong emotions and debates around the country. Another Indianapolis Star front page story called the legal case a "collision of good and evil," "right and wrong" and "all or nothing" for many people.

Terre Haute was consumed by the controversy. Nearly 100 protesters marched to the prison to oppose the execution. East of the penitentiary, where the execution took place, a field became known as "Camp McVeigh" for the media tents and satellite trucks to cover the execution.

Some spent time praying for the Oklahoma City bombing victims and their families — and McVeigh himself. One priest said he believed the convicted bomber would go to heaven, saying he didn't deserve to be demonized. Another said he was "on his way to hell" because of his unrepentance.

More than 300 bombing survivors and relatives of victims watched a closed-circuit telecast of the execution at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

"I need to see it to get the reality," said Rudy Guzman, who lost his older brother in the bombing.

The execution was scheduled for 7 a.m., with McVeigh dressed in a shirt, khaki pants and slip-on shoes. He was strapped to a gurney before being taken to the death chamber, where he received two IV injections of a lethal cocktail of chemicals. McVeigh was permitted to make a "reasonably brief" statement, but he declined.

Instead, McVeigh left a final message through a hand-copied poem, with his signature at the bottom. “Invictus” by William Ernst Henley ends with the following lines:

“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

IndyStar’s Diana Penner, one of 10 media members who watched the execution, wrote in an eyewitness account for the newspaper the next day: “Ultimately, however, McVeigh was stripped of the most fundamental control: The judicial system and society decided he would die and there was nothing he could do about it.”

A lawyer for McVeigh, Robert Nigh, spoke of one of his client's final moments, looking up into the nighttime sky for the first — and last time — in years.

"He was able to look up in the sky... and see the moon directly," Nigh said. "And that was valuable to him."

McVeigh, a former U.S. Army soldier, was convicted of 11 counts of murder, conspiracy and using a weapon of mass destruction after detonating a fertilizer bomb in front of a downtown Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. The attack killed 168 people, including 19 children, making it the most deadly domestic assault in U.S. history.

He was tried and found guilty by a jury in Denver in June 1997.

(source: indystar.com)

NORTH KOREA:

Distribution of K-pop now carries the death penalty

Thuggy North Korea totalitarian dictator Kim Jung Un is not a fun guy. He enjoys things like forced labour camps, executing rivals with anti-aircraft guns, and engaging in all kinds of nuclear and cybercrimes. He also hates K-pop.

Given that North Korea is right next door to South Korea, home of BTS and dozens of other massively popular groups, this is a problem. So much of this music being smuggled into the North, ol’ Kim believes is a “vicious cancer” contributing the destruction of North Korean culture.

Kim has ordered his minions to stamp out any examples of South Korean pop culture, which obviously includes music from the South. Anyone caught watching or listening to any sort of South Korean entertainment will be sent to a labor camp. Those who are found mimicking the style of South Korean speaking will get 2 years of hard labour. And those caught distributing entertainment from the South–which includes anything from BTS, one of the most popular groups in the world–will get the death penalty.

This could get very tricky for a lot of Kim’s poor subjects as there’s already plenty of South Korean material in the country. And there are well-established networks that smuggle K-pop north.

According to a report in the New York Times: “Young North Koreans think they owe nothing to Kim Jong-un. He must reassert his ideological control on the young if he doesn’t want to lose the foundation for the future of his family’s dynastic rule.”

Hey, soft power is very, well, powerful. Kim doesn’t want his people to realize that the rest of the world has it better and is a more fun place to be.

(source: ajournalofmusicalthings.com)

BOTSWANA----execution

Botswana executes man over 2011 murders of his girlfriend and child----34-year-old Phemelo Botogeleng lost his appeal against his sentence earlier this year

Botswana on Friday carried out the execution of a man who murdered his girlfriend and young son in 2011.

Phemelo Botogeleng, 34, was executed by hanging, the Botswana Prison Service said in a statement.

The last executions were carried out in February this year when 33-year-old Wedu Mosalagae and 29-year-old Kutlo Setima faced the gallows at Gaborone Central Prison. They had both been sentenced to death in 2019 for murder.

“The Botswana Prison Service wishes to inform the public that the execution of the death penalty passed on Mr Phemelo Botogeleng of Matshotha Ward in Lesenepole was carried out today, Friday 11th June 2021 at Gaborone Central Prison,” a statement by Senior Superintendent Oagile Kojane said.

Botogeleng was convicted of the 2011 double murder of his girlfriend Annah Simon and his son Atang Simon at the Francistown High Court in July last year.

The Court of Appeal threw out his appeal against the sentence in February this year.

Botswana is one of a few countries in the world that still carries out capital punishment.

Following the February executions, Amnesty International’s Deprose Muchena said: “The continued use of the death penalty in Botswana and the sharp rise in executions under President Mokgweetsi Masisi is a chilling reminder of the contempt with which Botswana authorities view the right to life.

“The death penalty is cruel and inhuman, and there is no credible evidence that it has a greater deterrent effect on crime than imprisonment.”

(source: zimlive.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Is Saudi Arabia planning another mass execution?

The execution of a Saudi Arabian protester, charged with crimes allegedly committed as a minor, could happen soon, right groups have said. They fear his death could be part of a larger upcoming mass execution.

Mustafa al-Darwish, a 26-year-old man on death row in Saudi Arabia, could be killed at any moment for crimes he allegedly committed as a teenager. He exhausted his final appeals at the end of May and his death sentence only requires the king's signature.

Al-Darwish's case was recently transferred from Saudi Arabia's highest court to the presidency of state security after a series of appeals.

"That means there are no longer any legal steps that can be taken," Duaa Dhainy, a researcher for the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, or ESOHR, told DW. "His family is inside Saudi Arabia and they are so upset and so afraid."

Royal signature needed

Picture of Mustafa al-Darwish, who is currently on death row in Saudi Arabia for crimes he committed when he was a child. Mustafa al-Darwish

"Implementation of the sentence is now only dependent on the king's signature," added Taha al-Hajji, an ESOHR legal adviser who has represented defendants in death row cases in Saudi Arabia but now lives in exile in Germany. The royal signing of the final death warrant takes place behind closed doors and there is no schedule for when it could happen, al-Hajji added.

Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UK-based legal rights organization Reprieve, have called Al-Darwish's case particularly concerning.

Al-Darwish was arrested in 2015 for taking part in anti-government protests in 2011 and 2012 when he was aged 17 to 18. Charges against him included participation in armed rebellion against the rulers, forming an armed terrorist network and seeking to disrupt national cohesion through his participation in more than 10 riots.

Capital punishment to quell dissent

He said he confessed to various crimes under torture. His family said he has not had adequate legal representation and that they were not able to find out what is happening to their son.

Al-Darwish is a member of Saudi Arabia's Shiite Muslim minority. Rights organizations say that the sect is marginalized and persecuted by the Sunni Muslim majority and that the death penalty is used to quell dissent among Shiite Muslims in the country.

Shiite Muslims sit in a mourning tent during a commemoration of the Shiite Muslim religious holiday of Ashura in the eastern Saudi city of Qatif. Saudi Arabia's Shiite Muslim minority makes up between 10% and 15% of the country's population

In March 2020, Saudi King Salman issued a decree declaring that crimes committed by people under the age of 18 would no longer be punishable by the death penalty and that sentences would instead be limited to 10 years in prison. The country's state-backed Human Rights Commission reiterated his decree.

In March 2021, several such men's sentences were changed accordingly. They were all members of the Shiite Muslim minority. Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoun and Abdullah al-Zaher were between the ages of 15 and 17 when they were first arrested. All had been on death row but could now be released by 2022, given time served.

Broken promises

However, last year's promise does not appear to apply to all of the younger prisoners on death row. This includes al-Darwish and another man, Abdullah al-Huwaiti, who was convicted of murder and armed robbery in 2017, when he was 14 years old. Al-Huwaiti, now aged 18, claims he is innocent and that he confessed after torture.

"These promises by Saudi authorities not to kill minors were welcome, but even as they made them, we were already worried about how they might be circumvented," ESOHR legal adviser al-Hajji said.

Since 2018, Saudi Arabia has had a law on the books preventing the death penalty for crimes committed by juveniles but, in practice, it is open to interpretation and can be circumvented.

A Bahraini anti-government protester holds a banner in Arabic that reads, damn you during a demonstration against Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shiite cleric.

After a high profile execution, an anti-Saudi-government protester holds a sign that says "damn you"

According to Human Rights Watch, some of the underage offenders were accused of "seeking to destabilize the social fabric by participating in protests and funeral processions” and "chanting slogans hostile to the regime." Prosecutors classified these crimes as extremely serious under Islamic law and requested the death penalty.

Changing charges

"Saudi spin doctors are marketing judicial reforms as progress while prosecutors appear to blatantly ignore them and carry on as usual," Human Rights Watch's deputy Middle East director, Michael Page, said in a statement. "If Saudi Arabia is serious about reforming its criminal justice system, it should start by banning the death penalty against alleged child offenders in all cases."

Lack of transparency in the Saudi legal system means that the conditions of the arrest can also change, according to activists at the ESOHR.

"[Authorities] play around with terms and conditions," ESOHR researcher Dhainy said. "For instance, they'll keep the person in jail for years, then they may add something to the charge sheet and say that person was an adult when he committed this crime."

Exterior of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is pictured in Berlin, Germany.

The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin did not respond to DW's requests for comment

Mass executions on the horizon?

In addition to worrying developments in cases of capital punishment for crimes committed by minors, activists at the ESOHR have said they are also concerned about signs coming from Saudi Arabia regarding a possible mass execution of people on death row.

In April 2019, 37 men were killed at once in Saudi Arabia, including two who were children at the time of their offenses. In January 2016, 47 men were killed during a mass execution.

Saudi Arabia is known as a world leader in capital punishment. Executions in Saudia Arabia were below average in 2020, with the country's own Human Rights Commission reporting 27 people were put to death last year. But that came after a record-breaking year for executions in 2019, when 184 were killed.

The decrease in 2020 can be attributed to a number of factors, said Jeed Basyouni, who leads the Middle East-focused team at Reprieve. Mostly these had to do with the pandemic but also because of an "apparent unofficial moratorium on executions for non-violent drug offenses."

Worrying signs

ESOHR activists fear that the number of executions is about to rise again. Many of the 27 executions in 2020 took place at the end of the year, they noted. "There are a number of other cases also approaching their last legal options in the next two months," Dhainy said.

There are 53 people currently on death row in Saudi Arabia, according to ESOHR statistics from last March. 16 of these are going through a final appeals process and three death sentences, including al-Darwish's, have been finalized. Of the 53 prisoners, 5 committed crimes when they were under 18. Almost all of those on death row come from the Qatif region, home to the country's Shiite minority.

Lebanese students carry portraits of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent opposition Saudi Shiite cleric who was executed by Saudi Arabia eleven days ago.

The 2016 execution of Saudi Arabian Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr caused protests around the region

"All these steps being taken now will have consequences and we feel that something is being prepared," Dhainy said.

"The problem is that there has consistently been a gap between what the Saudi authorities say about criminal justice reform and what they do," Reprieve's Basyouni stated. "And in the past, talk of ending the death penalty for children has been followed by mass executions. When we say Mustafa al-Darwish and scores of others are at risk of execution, it is because it could happen at a stroke of a pen."

The Saudi Embassy in Berlin did not respond to DW's request to comment for this article.

(source: Deutsche Welle)

IRAN:

Draft Bill Targeting Citizen Journalists Passed in Iran Parliament

Yesterday, a draft bill was passed in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament), which if approved, can result in the death penalty for citizen journalists reporting on the death penalty.

Iran Human Rights condemns the draft bill which is in breach of international human rights standards. IHR director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “Instead of adopting repressive measures against citizen journalists, the Islamic Republic’s Parliament should be discussing the abolition of inhuman punishments such as the death penalty, particularly public executions. This draft bill is targeting individuals who are informing public opinion about cruel and inhuman punishments carried out in Iran.”

According to the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency, the “Intensifying Punishments for Collaborators with Actions of Hostile States Against National Security and Interests Bill” has been passed in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament).

Article 1 of the Bill sets out charges of efsad-fil-arz (corruption on earth), which carries the death penalty, for “espionage or collaboration with hostile states.” According to the Note to the Article, “collaboration with cover organisations or agencies affiliated with United States intelligence agencies is also a criminal instance of the crime under this Article.”

Given that Iranian judicial and security officials refer to some American human rights organisations as “cover institutions affiliated with United States intelligence agencies,” there is concern that it will target citizen journalists and human rights activists if passed into law.

Article 7 of the proposed Bill specifically targets human rights activists and citizen journalists: “Any filming or photographing of crime scenes leading to death, life imprisonment or crimes punishable by amputations or intentional crimes against bodily integrity and or incidents and accidents resulting in death or bodily harm or terrorist acts, except where sanctioned by law, including Article 131 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, is a crime and the perpetrators shall be sentenced to fifth degree imprisonment. Furthermore, publishing or republishing the abovementioned videos or photos that have been taken unlawfully, or have been legally taken by CCTV and or any legal means will also be subject to the aforementioned punishment. In cases of such videos and images being sent to hostile or foreign networks, the perpetrators will be sentenced to the maximum punishment.”

Fifth degree imprisonment terms range from more than two years and up to 5 years.

The Bill was introduced to parliament by 78 hardliner representatives on 28 November 2020. On June 5, a day after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s attack on the internet during Friday sermon, news leaked of the Bill’s proposal and it was approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament) on Tuesday, June 8.

Following the growth of the internet and social media in Iran, citizens have been filming and sharing images of human rights abuses, including public executions, floggings, amputations online, exposing the dire human rights abuses taking place. Known as citizen journalists, they play a significant role in reporting human rights violations.

(source: iranhr.net)

JUNE 11, 2021:

TEXAS:

Will Darriynn Brown be sentenced to death? Man charged with capital murder in Cash Gernon case----Darriynn Brown, arrested on charges of kidnapping Cash Gernon and burglary, was charged with murder after new lab evidence came to light

4 weeks after Cash Gernon was found murdered in the middle of a Dallas street, kidnapping suspect Darriynn Ronnell Brown has been charged with capital murder too. Police had initially arrested Brown after the baby monitor camera footage from the four-year-old Gernon's bedroom allegedly showed the 18-year-old kidnapping him. Brown had been charged with kidnapping and murder, with police awaiting complete forensic results to determine who killed the Texas toddler. He was slammed with murder charges after new lab evidence came to light, announced the Dallas Police Department.

While the exact evidence wasn't revealed in the Dallas Police's statement, they said: "Evidence submitted to the lab has been returned linking Darriynn Brown to Cash Gernon at the time of his death,' the Dallas Police Department said on Wednesday, June 9, in a short statement on its website giving an update on the case. Therefore he is also being charged with Capital Murder." Capital punishment in Texas carries an automatic life sentence and even the death penalty. Prosecutors will determine the desired punishment before the trial begins.

Gernon was found dead by a passing jogger in the early hours of May 15. The boy was lying in a pool of blood without any shirt or shoes in the middle of a street. Police had revealed that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds. At the scene of his kidnapping, a knife and some tissues were also found by investigators. Monica Sherrod, identified as the woman Gernon was living with, identified Brown from the baby monitor footage. But both Brown and his attorney claim he is not the man seen taking Gernon from his cot shared by him and his twin brother at Sherrod's home.

Brown's attorney Heath Harris told Dallas Morning News that while the additional charges are frustrating, they can finally gain access to evidence and prepare a defense for him. "It's almost a month after this tragedy and I'm still waiting to prepare this kid's defense," he said. "We can't do that till we have all the evidence." He further mentioned his concerns about the prejudices surrounding the case, saying: "'This is not an open and shut case. Even if you believe that’s [Brown] on the video, it doesn’t mean he killed the kid. The world is basically prejudicing this whole community by saying, "That’s him."'

Simultaneously, Brown's lawyer is also awaiting the mental health evaluation of his client to check if he's competent to stand trial. Harris also alleged that the speculation surrounding the case is preventing Brown from getting a fair trial. Police, meanwhile, have been saying for weeks that they were expecting to file murder charges once the forensic results came in. "There is no doubt who took him, and as soon as I get the lab report back there will be no doubt who killed him," Lt Carrie Wise had claimed in late May at a community meeting.

Brown, who was revealed to be an acquaintance of Sherrod's son, is the only suspect in the case. The baby monitor footage shows a man matching Brown's description taking Gernon from Sherrod's home, before returning just two hours later to presumably kidnap the other twin, Carter Gernon. The second time around, something or someone spooks the man and he bolts immediately. It has been since reported that Brown had broken into Sherrod's home while everybody was asleep. Sherrod, who lives in the house with her own children, had been caring for the twins since their father Trevor Gernon dumped them in her care and vanished due to trouble with the law.

(source: meaww.com)

PENNSYLVANIA:

DA: Snydertown triple murder suspect may face death penalty

A dispute over a vehicle purchase caused Matthew J. Reed to “snap” when he shot and killed 3 people inside a Snydertown home Wednesday, according to arrest papers.

Reed confessed to murdering Susan Williams, 58, James Dicken, 59, and an unidentified 17-year-old male at 3425 Snydertown Road, Trooper Josiah Reiner, state police at Stonington, wrote in a criminal affidavit.

Northumberland County District Judge John Gembic denied Reed's request for bail at his arraignment on Thursday. The maximum sentence for his crimes would be the death penalty or life in prison, according to Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz.

Reiner wrote in arrest papers that Reed said he “‘snapped’ and started shooting and when he was done all three victims were deceased. Reed said that he was terrified and just took the vehicle and left the scene.”

Reed faces 3 counts of homicide and one count each of robbery, illegal possession of a firearm and tampering with evidence. He is being held at Northumberland County Jail, Coal Township. A past out-of-state conviction for aggravated assault led to the illegal firearm possession charge.

According to arrest papers, Reed planned to steal a 1997 Toyota Camry from the victims and brought a gun to kill them if he needed to. Reed told police that he was working to purchase the vehicle but a dispute ensued and the victims intended to sell the vehicle to someone else, arrest papers state.

A witness said she saw Reed outside the victims’ home as they looked over the car about noon Wednesday, according to court documents. The vehicle was gone by 3 p.m. and later recovered at the Sunbury boat launch off South Front Street. Reed was apprehended about 8:15 p.m. nearby at Haven Ministry Center, a homeless shelter where he was living.

The murder scene and the shelter are separated by about 8 miles.

Investigators spoke with an acquaintance of Reed’s, according to court documents, who told police that Reed confessed to the murders. The acquaintance told police that Reed asked them to tell police they were together all day, court documents said. The individual also told police that Reed asked them to hide his gun, which they declined, according to court documents.

Reed is scheduled to appear before Gembic for his preliminary hearing June 22.

(source: The Daily Item)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Death Row Inmate Files Grievance After Being Denied Access to College Education

A North Carolina death row inmate has filed a grievance with the state Department of Public Safety after he was denied the opportunity to finish a privately funded bachelor’s degree program.

Lyle May filed the 10-page handwritten letter last month after staffers at Central Prison in Raleigh abruptly told him that he would no longer have access to the correspondence courses, which he had paid for with private funds and scholarships.

Public safety spokesman John Bull told the INDY this week that the policy forbidding death row inmates from enrolling in any type of educational program went into effect more than 20 years ago.

“This has not been recently discontinued,” Bull wrote in an email to the INDY, adding that correspondence courses for such inmates “was phased out beginning in 1997 and entirely eliminated in 2000.”

The ban was implemented under former state director of prisons James French.

“This prohibition applies to all correspondence courses,” French stated in a March 2000 letter concerning the ban, “regardless if the correspondence course is paid by the Division of Prisons, the inmate, a third party, or for courses provided at no cost.”

Bull elaborated on the policy in his email to the INDY.

“Prisons have limited educational resources, and educational staff, and they are focused on helping offenders prepare themselves through educational opportunities to succeed when they complete their sentences and return to their communities,” Bull wrote. “This is not something anticipated for offenders who have been sentenced to death by the judicial system.”

All may not be lost for people on death row like May, who want to expand their world beyond the walls of death row.

Bull said public safety officials are working on “a plan to implement something like this for offenders on death row. We are not prepared at this point to make any changes, but it is under active review.”

Gretchen Engel, executive director of The Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, told the INDY she had not read May’s grievance but that she was familiar with the case. She called it “concerning” and “sad.”

“For one thing, everybody is obviously more than the worst thing they’ve ever done,” Engel said. “The idea that people on death row can't redeem themselves and change is false. I’ve seen them grow, change, take responsibility and help other people. It’s offensive to the idea of human dignity.”

A petition on May’s behalf—“Stop North Carolina from Depriving People on Death Row of Their Educations”—was created Monday on Change.org.

The petition notes that in addition to being denied access to higher education, death row prisoners are also banned from pursuing GEDs and rehabilitative programs.

The petition calls on Todd Ishee, the state’s commissioner of prisons, and Tim Moose, the department’s chief deputy secretary, to immediately reinstate educational opportunities for all people on death row and to put a policy in place that ensures their access to higher learning is not blocked in the future.

“It is fundamentally unjust to deny a certain class of people their access to education based on the severity of the sentence,” states the petition, which had been signed by more than 100 people as of Thursday morning.

May, 43, was sentenced to death in 1999 at the age of 21 for the beating and stabbing of a 24-year-old woman and her four-year-old son in Buncombe County. His life on death row was chronicled last year in the INDY.

May was enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program at Ohio University prior to his access being terminated. He also earned his associate’s degree from a Ohio University correspondence program in 2013, according to the petition.

May has also become a prolific journalist while behind bars, where he has managed to have stories and articles published by Scalawag Magazine, Inside Higher Education, and The Marshall Project.

It’s unclear why a policy prohibiting educational access for people on death row has been largely unenforced until recently. Ishee, the commissioner, and Moose, the deputy chief, were both appointed in June 2019, however.

In his letter, May said that over the past 17 years “with one exception, every warden and associate warden of programs supported death row prisoners pursuing higher education.”

He notes that “numerous program staff have indeed facilitated these correspondence courses by signing course registration forms, receiving and delivering course materials, and proctoring exams for 2 people 3 to 4 times a year for a few hours. These are the only tasks ever asked of program staff, who otherwise provide nothing for death row.”

Engel thinks it may be a case of a new warden setting new rules.

“I would hope that officials at the department of public safety and those at the cabinet level would see the value,” she said.

(source: indyweek.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

What we know: Death penalty case of Greenville County's Brad Sigmon

Federal arguments opened in the South Carolina Supreme Court on June 9, as lawyers seek to stall the executions of 2 Greenville County men who have been on death row for nearly 2 decades.

Brad Sigmon, 63, was convicted of two counts of murder in 2002. He is scheduled to be executed on June 18. His lawsuits coincide with those of Freddie Eugene Owens, 43, whose execution is set for June 25.

Here's the latest on Brad Sigmon's case

On June 9, attorneys representing Sigmon and Owens argued that execution by electrocution violates the Eighth Amendment and is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

On June 8, a state court in Richmond County denied the preliminary injunction that said the two men shouldn't be electrocuted since their chosen method of execution was lethal injection.

The court found that Sigmon and Owens "have little likelihood of success on the merits of their claim; therefore, injunctive relief cannot be granted," the order reads. A more detailed order is coming soon, per the Tuesday afternoon ruling.

The state hearing began Monday, June 7, and this week's appeals mark Sigmon's 4th attempt in 3 weeks at stopping his execution, according to lawsuit filings.

Sigmon has previously argued he had ineffective counsel during sentencing and, more recently, the constitutionality of South Carolina's new law requiring death row inmates to choose either death by firing squad or electrocution.

Sigmon and Owens filed their 1st suit May 17, after the law, which makes the default execution method electrocution with an option of firing squad, went into effect May 14.

Sigmon's execution was originally set for Feb. 12 after he exhausted his "ordinary appeals" options. The S.C. Supreme Court postponed that date when the South Carolina Department of Corrections notified the Supreme Court its executions could not be carried out via lethal injection.

Why Brad Sigmon received the death penalty

Sigmon was charged with killing both of his girlfriend's parents in 2001. He was placed on death row in July 2002, according to the South Carolina Department of Corrections' death row list. Sigmon and Owens are two of 37 people on South Carolina's death row list.

Sigmon has been at his current facility, Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, in July 2019.

He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for burglary and to death for murder on July 20, 2002, in the April 2001 killings of David and Gladys Larke.

(source: Caitlin Herrington, Greenville News)

FLORIDA:

Attorney general, state attorney at odds over DNA testing in Zeigler case----State Attorney Monique Worrell gave the green light for new DNA testing in the Tommy Zeigler case, but the attorney general’s office is not on board.

A couple of weeks ago, State Attorney Monique Worrell backed a request for DNA testing in Tommy Zeigler’s death-penalty case.

However, the office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is pushing back and states the agreement didn’t comply with state procedural rules.

Worrell’s office filed a joint motion with Zeigler’s attorneys May 20 requesting the release of any evidence requested to a laboratory for the purpose of DNA testing.

“I was just delighted that Ms. Worrell was wiling to cooperate and work with us to seek the truth,” said Ralph Hadley, Zeigler’s attorney. “It really bothered me that the prior state attorneys and attorney general were so much more interested in getting an execution done than seeking the truth.”

Zeigler, 75, has spent more than four decades on death row after being convicted in the Christmas Eve 1975 murder of his wife, Eunice; her parents, Perry and Virginia Edwards; and a customer, Charles Mays; at the family’s furniture store in Winter Garden.

Then 30, Zeigler was charged while in the hospital days after the quadruple murder. Prosecutors believe his motive was two life-insurance policies of $500,000 total, which he took out on his wife prior to the murders. They maintain he shot himself in the abdomen in an attempt to frame Mays and two other men.

Zeigler has maintained his innocence, saying he was shot by the burglars and left to die. Zeigler also has said the increase in the amount of his wife’s life-insurance policy was pursuant to advice on an estate plan, according to court records.

Hadley said new DNA testing would prove Ziegler’s innocence.

In the June 1 notice from Moody’s office, though, Assistant Attorney General Patrick Bobek wrote that rules for post-conviction DNA testing in Florida require a defendant must testify under oath about the evidence to be tested, as well as their innocence and how new testing would exonerate them.

It’s not the 1st time DNA testing has been done in Zeigler’s case. In 2005, DNA tests failed to conclude Mays was the perpetrator. Zeigler’s case has been denied DNA analyses in 2013, 2016 and 2017.

“Previous DNA testing has failed to exonerate Zeigler, and he has been unable to show how any further testing could contradict the testimony of the several witnesses who make his version of events impossible and unbelievable,” Bobek wrote.

Post-conviction DNA testing also requires prosecutors to be notified — in this case, Moody.

Kylie Mason, deputy communications director for Moody’s office, said its Capital Appeals Division notified the court of obligations regarding certain findings and testing required pursuant to Florida rules of criminal procedure.

“Normally, as co-counsel for the state of Florida, the division and local prosecutors work together to reach an agreement on case strategy then jointly file any document seeking proposed relief from the court,” Mason said. “In this matter, a stipulation was filed on behalf of the state of Florida unbeknownst to the division, as a co-counsel in the case, and without complying with Florida law, which compelled our office to notify the court.”

Hadley said the agreement was an application by the state attorney’s office joined by the defense.

“It’s a win-win for the state,” he said. “If the evidence does what I think it will do — and that is prove him innocent — then they’re not going to execute an innocent man. That’s a win. If, on the other hand, I’m wrong ... and it proves him guilty, then they can go to bed at night knowing they did their job. ... Why would they not be willing to seek the truth?”

According to court records, no hearings in Zeigler’s case have been scheduled.

(source: Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer)

TENNESSEE:

How young is too young for a death sentence? Christa Pike fights move to set execution date

Convicted Job Corps killer Christa Gail Pike returned to a Knox County courtroom Friday for a 2nd chance at appealing her conviction -- a legal maneuver she once rejected. Her mother, Carissa Hansen of Texas, was the first of seven witnesses scheduled to testify today before Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz. Pike listens to her mother detail Pike's difficult childhood, including her premature birth, marijuana and cocaine use and abortion.

Colleen Slemmer, a 19-year-old Job Corps student lured to a secluded spot near the University of Tennessee agriculture campus on Jan. 12, 1995, was murdered by Christa Gail Pike with help from two fellow Job Corps classmates.

What's the difference between being 17 years old and being 18? In Christa Gail Pike's case, her lawyers say, the difference is a death sentence.

The state wants to set an execution date for Pike, now 45 and the only woman on Tennessee's death row. She was 18 years old when she and 2 other participants in a Knoxville job program for troubled teens killed Colleen Slemmer in a remote spot on the University of Tennessee's agriculture campus.

Pike, her boyfriend Tadaryl Shipp and fellow Job Corps student Shadolla Peterson lured Slemmer, 19, to campus the night of Jan. 12, 1995. Once the three had Slemmer in an isolated spot, they physically assaulted her before bludgeoning her to death with a rock. Investigators said a love triangle between Pike, Shipp and Slemmer was the motive for the crime.

Only Pike received a death sentence for her role in the killing. Peterson cooperated with investigators and walked away with probation. Shipp was 17 — too young to be put to death. He's serving a life sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2028.

Pike's legal team cites that difference in a new court filing asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to delay her execution — or recommend it be stopped altogether.

"Mr. Shipp was 17 years old at the time of Ms. Slemmer’s death. Christa Pike was 18. That is the difference between a death sentence and parole eligibility in 2028," reads the filing signed by defense attorneys Stephen Ferrell and Kelly Gleason. "That difference cannot be equated with increased maturity or brain development. Christa was not more mature or more responsible than Mr. Shipp."

Drawing the line

The Tennessee Attorney General's Office is asking the high court to set an execution date for Pike, contending she has exhausted her appeals. But Pike's defense team says it's still too soon. They've lodged several arguments, including one centered on her mental illness and youth at the time of the crime.

A jury condemned Pike in March 1996. Nine years later, the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the juvenile death penalty in the landmark case Roper v. Simmons. The court held that executing people who committed murder before they turned 18 violates the Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment because they "cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders."

The court cited three main differences between juveniles and adults: Juveniles lack maturity and responsibility; they are more vulnerable to negative influences; and their character is not fully formed.

The court drew the line at 18, but Pike's attorneys argue its logic should extend beyond that. They point to scientific research that the brain isn't fully developed until after age 20 and that there's no way to differentiate between the brains of young people.

"There is thus no justification for a drastic differentiation in punishment between a 17-year-old offender and an 18-year-old offender," the filing reads. "And the question is an important one, for Christa Pike was eligible for the death penalty in this case and her co-defendant, Tadaryl Shipp, was not."

The lawyers paint Shipp — not Pike — as the ringleader of the group. Shipp was violent and controlling, they write, while Pike was suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder and brain damage after a childhood filled with sexual and physical abuse. Her mother drank while she was in the womb, and she was twice raped as a child.

"It is also significant that, in addition to her youth, Christa Pike was also brain damaged and severely mentally ill at the time of her offense," the filing reads. "Thus, practical effects of the immaturity that would be inherent in the brain of any eighteen-year-old were magnified by other problems that adversely affected Christa’s developing brain."

'A clear story'

Courts have shot down similar arguments in Pike's case before. In 2011, defense lawyers argued that "immature, mentally ill, brain-damaged" 18-year-olds should be exempted from the death penalty. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, reasoning that juries already are allowed to consider a killer's youth and mental health in deciding whether to impose death.

Pike's lawyers contend the jury in her case didn't consider those factors because her attorneys at trial failed to present sufficient evidence. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in 2019, writing that "the jury heard a clear story: Pike's childhood and upbringing were very difficult and, in some ways, explained how she became a person capable of such a brutal murder."

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case last year.

Pike's attorneys now are asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to recommend that Gov. Bill Lee commute Pike's sentence to life with or without the possibility of parole. At the very least, they're asking for more time so a psychologist can examine Pike in prison and so the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights can finish investigating whether Pike's human rights have been violated.

Lee could grant Pike clemency but has not done so for any other death-row inmate since he was inaugurated in January 2019. The state has executed 4 men since then, including Nicholas Sutton, a Morristown man who killed 4 people and turned his life around on death row.

Pike has had additional legal troubles while in prison. In 2004, she was convicted of attempted murder for nearly strangling a fellow inmate with a shoestring.

Pike would be the 1st woman Tennessee has executed in over 200 years, her attorneys say, and the 1st person it's put to death "in the modern era" who was a teenager at the time of the crime.

(source: Knoxville News Sentinel)

ARKANSAS:

January trial date set for suspect in SAU murder case

A jury trial date has been set for January 10-21 for Quincy Lewis, 1 of 4 men charged in murdering Southern Arkansas student Joshua Keshun Smith, 21, of Sparkman. Lewis was in court with his lawyer last week with his attorney, Jeff Harrelson of TexARKana.

13th District Court Judge David Talley asked Harrelson if Lewis would like to enter a plea offer.

“We are obviously open if the state wants to make an offer,” Harrelson said. “We obviously would entertain that.”

John Pickett of TEXarkana has been named co-counsel for Lewis.

Harrelson said the reason for this is because any case that is a death penalty case the defendant is entitled to two lawyers, a mitigation specialist and a fact investigator.

“These are nationwide American Bar Association guidelines for capital cases,” he said.

In May, another man charged in the August murder, Odies Wilson, appeared in court and a jury trial was set. Wilson’s trial will take place before Lewis’ trial.

In other court business last Thursday, the jury trial for Charles Wayne Jones was set for July 19-20. Jones plead guilty to driving while intoxicated and having a wreck in Magnolia on December 22, 2019, which ejected his 3-year-old daughter from the vehicle and killed her.

Talley wanted Jones to understand what allowing a jury to sentence him of negligent homicide meant.

“You do understand the sentence of the jury could be worse than what the state offered?” Talley said.

Jones indicated he did understand.

Jones’ blood alcohol after the accident was .10 and he also had marijuana in the car.

In another case, Harlen Parker’s probation was stripped of his probation and sentenced to 3 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections and given suspended imposition of Sentencing for 3 years.

“I’m sorry your honor, I let you down,” Parker said.

Parker put his head down his hands briefly while the verdict was read. He apologized to Talley about not completing rehab at Bar-J Ranch in El Dorado.

“I don’t really know what else I can do,” Talley said before sentencing Parker, 29. “When the drug rehab didn’t work you didn’t go back to jail.”

Parker was last taken into custody May 27 in the Magnolia Walmart parking lot in relation to an incident that occurred that morning, as well as previous incidents in Union County and El Dorado.

Also Thursday, Laniah Anderson, charged with criminal mischief, was ordered to pay over $4,000 in restitution for keying a vehicle on September 23, 2020.

(source: Magnolia Reporter)

NEVADA----impending execution

Nevada plans to use 3 or 4 drugs for late-July execution

Nevada prison officials disclosed Thursday that they want to use a never-before-tried combination of drugs for the state’s 1st lethal injection in 15 years, including the powerful opioid fentanyl, the sedative ketamine and a heart-stopping salt, potassium chloride.

Deputy federal public defenders representing convicted murderer Zane Michael Floyd promised courtroom challenges of the plan.

A just-completed execution manual provided to a federal judge said a similar-acting drug, alfentanil, might substitute for fentanyl and potassium acetate might substitute for potassium chloride.

In an alternate 4-drug procedure, the muscle paralytic cisatracurium would also be used to stop the condemned man’s ability to breathe before he receives the heart-stopping agent.

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II said he may issue a stay of execution ahead of a possible late-July death date to allow time to review the choice of drugs and the 65-page execution manual.

A state judge in Las Vegas on Monday gave the go-ahead for prosecutors and prison officials to plan Floyd’s execution for the week of July 26.

An exact date would be set after a death warrant is issued July 9.

Floyd, 45, does not want to die. But he lost state and federal appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear claims including that his mother’s use of alcohol while she was pregnant left him with a diminished mental capacity.

His defense attorneys, David Anthony and Brad Levenson, have promised to appeal again to the Nevada Supreme Court.

A court fight about the choice of drugs also could push back an execution date.

In 2017 and 2018, battles over the effects of 3-drug procedure that the state Department of Corrections picked — including fentanyl and cisatracurium — promoted judges to call off the scheduled execution of twice-convicted murderer Scott Dozier.

Dozier had volunteered to be the 1st person put to death in Nevada since Daryl Mack in 2006. Mack was convicted of a 1988 rape and murder in Reno and asked for his sentence to be carried out.

Dozier killed himself in prison in January 2019, after expressing frustration with delays.

In his case, pharmaceutical companies fought to block the use of their products in an execution.

Randall Gilmer, the state attorney representing the Nevada Department of Corrections and prisons chief Charles Daniels, told Boulware on Thursday that Nevada does not intend to make public the source of drugs to be used in Floyd’s lethal injection.

Floyd also is seeking clemency Sept. 21 from the state Board of Pardons, made up of the governor, 7 state Supreme Court justices and state attorney general.

(source: Associated Press)

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

ACLU condemns state’s proposed lethal injection plan for Zane Floyd

The Nevada Department of Corrections’ plan to use a never-before-tried combination of drugs to kill Zane Floyd, in what would be the state’s 1st execution in 15 years, was blasted by the ACLU of Nevada on Friday.

In a statement, Jen Shomshor, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, said the “vagaries about which drugs may or may not be used make it impossible for Nevadans to verify whether the planned execution will be lawful.”

The proposed combination of drugs to be used during lethal injection includes fentanyl, ketamine and potassium chloride, according to an execution manual released by the state Thursday.

“It’s completely unacceptable that we’re talking about using a human being as a guinea pig just because we have a district attorney that’s eager to kill someone and a governor who refuses to take action to end our state’s broken capital punishment system,” Shomshor said. “Taking a person’s life is the most extreme form of punishment our government can impose, and it’s not a time to be cagey about the details. The community has the right to know precise details about the state’s plans to kill one of its citizens.”

The execution is slated for late July, pending legal intervention.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson started pushing for the execution of Floyd around the same time lawmakers were discussing Assembly Bill 395, which would have abolished the death penalty. Floyd was convicted for killing 4 people at a Las Vegas supermarket in 1999.

Organizers and civil rights attorneys have called the timing suspicious and some argued it was an attempt by Wolfson to stifle further discussion. Wolfson has said the timing was coincidental.

After passing out of the Assembly on a partyline vote — the furthest efforts to abolish capital punishment have advanced in Nevada — the bill stalled in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro’s job as a prosecutor at the Clark County District Attorney’s office left many activists and legal groups wondering how her full-time job might have influenced the bill’s fate.

Senate Judiciary Chair Melanie Scheible, also a prosecutor in the Clark County District Attorney’s office, didn’t give a hearing despite expressing support to end the death penalty months earlier.

A day before a committee deadline, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced via press release there was “no path forward.”

(source: Nevada Current)

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

Teens charged with killing girl’s dad may not understand consequences: therapist

A teenage girl and her boyfriend who were seen on video laughing about “murdering someone” after allegedly killing her father may be unaware of the consequences of their alleged actions, a therapist said.

Jacent Wamala, a licensed family and marriage counselor from Las Vegas, said she noticed a troubling sign in the footage made public Wednesday, showing Aaron Guerrero, 18, and his 16-year-old girlfriend, Sierra Halseth, playfully recalling how they killed someone and then “had a lot of sex” while on the run from authorities.

“There was a lot that showed dynamics in the relationship and a little bit of power relationally,” Wamala told KTNV.

The disturbing footage shows Guerrero repeatedly slapping Halseth’s face lightly and then putting his hands around her throat, prompting the teen — whose mom is a former Nevada state senator — to choke and gasp for air.

Teen couple charged with murdering girl’s father in Las Vegas

“Welcome back to our YouTube channel … Day 3 after murdering somebody,” Guerrero said on the clip filmed in April, 6 days after they allegedly stabbed Sierra’s 45-year-old father, Daniel Halseth, stuffed his body in a sleeping bag and set his home on fire.

“Whoa! Don’t put that on camera,” a giggling Sierra replied before divulging the couple’s torrid love connection. “And we had sex a lot today.”

Wamala said she wasn’t surprised to see the young accused killers speaking so plainly about murder, saying those who grew up inundated with technology and social media generally put up few barriers.

“They just do what they know how to do without the separation of the consequences and repercussions of those actions,” Wamala said.

In the video, Aaron Guerrero claimed it was “Day 3 after murdering somebody,” prompting Sierra Halseth to exclaim, “Whoa! Don’t put that on camera.”

The therapist said exposure to outside influences can affect the behavior of teens and young adults, but acknowledged she couldn’t comment directly on what may have allegedly motivated Guerrero and Halseth to kill.

“What are they watching?” Wamala asked. “What are they learning and what are they not learning, right? What are they not learning in school? What are they not learning in society?”

Prior trauma or a major shift in a young person’s living situation could be among the “compounding factors that build up to create a perfect storm,” according to Wamala, who called on parents to communicate more with their children.

“Parents and families and communities can begin to wrap around each other and have honest conversations about what’s going on,” the therapist continued. “I think it can reduce a lot of high-risk behavior or criminal activity.”

Court documents show Sierra Halseth and Guerrero dated from June through December, but were told by their parents they could no longer be together, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Aaron Guerrero repeatedly put his hands around Sierra Halseth’s neck in the video and lightly smacked her face.

Daniel Halseth and his ex-wife, former Nevada state senator Elizabeth Helgelien, had reportedly told daughter Sierra that she could not date Aaron.

Guerrero can potentially face the death penalty if convicted. He and Sierra are both facing charges of murder, arson, robbery and fraudulent use of a credit card, but the 16-year-old girl cannot face capital punishment in Nevada due to state law.

Guerrero’s attorney told KLAS Wednesday that the case will be reviewed by the district attorney’s office next week.

Sierra’s mother, Elizabeth Halseth, is a former GOP state senator who was elected as the youngest person to the Nevada Senate in 2010, the Review-Journal has reported.

Elizabeth Halseth — now Elizabeth Helgelien after remarrying — has not spoken publicly on the allegations facing her daughter.

(source: New York Post)

CALIFORNIA:

Gov. Newsom orders independent investigation into death row inmate's murder conviction

A decades-old case involving a man on death row is getting a new independent investigation after Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently acquired DNA results were inconclusive.

Kevin Cooper was convicted in 1985 of the gruesome murders of 4 people - including 2 children - in a Chino Hills home 2 years prior. A 5th victim's throat was slashed, but he survived. Cooper is facing the death penalty, but has maintained his innocence throughout the years.

So far, every appeal he's made has been denied.

"As you know I have very strong opinions about death, and the death penalty," Newsom said during a recent news conference. "I want to make sure it's done fairly and judiciously without any determination of bias."

The bodies of the murder victims were discovered on June 5, 1983 by a neighbor. Bill Hughes arrived at the home in Chino Hills where his 11-year-old son Chris had spent the night. In addition to finding his son dead, he found the bodies of Doug and Peggy Ryen, and their 10-year-old daughter Jessica. The Ryens' 8-year-old son Josh survived the attack.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing new DNA tests for an inmate on death row who has been in prison for nearly 40 years.

Kevin Cooper was considered a suspect early in the case. He had recently escaped from the California Institute for Men in Chino, and was staying in the vacant house next door to the Ryens' home. Authorities later collected evidence that included a green button with blood on it, a blood-stained rope in the closet, and a bloody T-shirt found alongside the road not far from the murder scene.

Although DNA testing wasn't available at the time of the trial, when tested nearly 20 years later, DNA evidence indicated a match to Kevin Cooper.

"You have a blood drop that was found in the hallway where the victims were murdered; that's Kevin Cooper's blood," said San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson, who said he's spent considerable time reviewing trial documents.

"You have a T-shirt that was introduced by the defense at trial, that was... tested in the 2000s. That turned out to be Kevin Cooper's blood and Doug Ryen's blood."

But Cooper's advocates have said abnormalities with the results indicate evidence may have been planted. U.S. District Court Judge William Fletcher, who dissented in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to deny Cooper's appeal in 2009, said he believed Cooper was framed.

Newsom said recent DNA results were also inconclusive in his eyes, which is why he's ordered an independent investigation.

"(Regarding) prosecutorial misconduct, I'm not suggesting any of that is at play," said Newsom. "I am suggesting that based upon the DNA evidence that came in after I authorized additional DNA evidence to be collected, it was inconclusive so much so that we made this determination for an independent investigation."

But D.A. Anderson said scientific evidence shows that it's undeniable that Kevin Cooper's blood was found in several places. And he said Cooper's advocates haven't shown a shred of evidence indicating evidence was planted.

"It sounds like a neat little theory when someone says 'he was framed,' but given the opportunity to explain it, as has been done over the last 30 years, you find out there's nothing to this," Anderson said.

Furthermore, Anderson said even the theory that evidence was planted doesn't make sense.

"(To say) the prosecution planted Doug Ryen's blood and Kevin Cooper's blood on a T-shirt that they didn't introduce as an exhibit at trial, and were prescient enough to figure out in 20 years it would be tested by the defense, and then blood would show up and it would be a gotcha moment- that's absurd," he said.

It's unclear where the case goes from here, nor how long an independent investigation will take. But both sides are expected to be sitting down with an independent law firm that is reviewing the case.

(source: KABC News)

USA:

Trump Went on an Execution Spree. Biden Can Make Sure That Doesn’t Happen Again.----He “could do that tomorrow with the stroke of the pen.”

The white supremacist who murdered 9 Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 is in the news again. Dylann Roof, who was sentenced to death by the federal government in 2017, has filed an appeal. His lawyers have argued that the judge in his trial should not have permitted Roof to represent himself because he is mentally incompetent, and therefore his sentence should be overturned. His appeals were to be expected—but they highlight urgent questions about the federal death penalty and President Joe Biden’s pledge to end the practice.

Biden has made history as the 1st president to expressly oppose the death penalty during his campaign, which was a radical reversal from his position during his 36-year tenure as the senator from Delaware and as Barack Obama’s vice president. In its criminal justice platform, the Biden campaign pledged to abolish the death penalty at the federal level and incentivize states to follow suit. In the past, candidates avoided taking this stance on capital punishment out of fear of appearing weak on crime and soft on criminals. His death penalty stance during the waning days of the Trump administration marked yet another difference between him and the incumbent president who had always been a fierce proponent of capital punishment.

President Donald Trump was a historic figure in criminal justice for many reasons, but especially for the fact that he was responsible for the first federal executions in 17 years. In the final 6 months of his only term in office, he put 13 federal inmates to death, including 3 after he’d lost the 2020 election. Because it was so unprecedented, the execution spree garnered a lot of media attention for an issue that hasn’t always been a top concern for the wider public. Biden’s campaign promise to end capital punishment was only one item in a long list of Trump-created messes that the new president promised to fix.

But nearly 5 months into the new administration, there’s been little follow-through on the commitment. Granted, the current administration has no plans to schedule executions for the 46 men on the US government’s death row. As Abraham Bonowitz, the executive director of Death Penalty Action, a nonprofit dedicated to abolishing the death penalty, notes, “The people on death row are safe—for the moment.” But there’s a real risk in not going further than simply not scheduling executions.

The tasks ahead for Biden—addressing climate change, rampant economic inequality, crumbling infrastructure, and the ongoing pandemic—are all monumental. And perhaps the federal death penalty just doesn’t feel as urgent because the president has already promised that his administration would not be executing any inmates. But all it will take to resume federal executions is one determined GOP president.

While the states have executed more than 1,500 people since the US Supreme Court reinstated the practice in 1976, the federal government had only put three to death since 1988—until last year. In 2014, former President Barack Obama ordered a policy review on federal death penalty, while the US government investigated lethal injection protocols. The move came after a highly publicized botched execution in Oklahoma, but, as Trump vividly demonstrated, an unofficial moratorium is hardly enough to stop a determined president. Obama’s failure to make a meaningful impact on capital punishment at the federal level left the door open for an execution-loving president to fire up the death machine.

If the states with the death penalty foreshadow what a future GOP president might do on the execution front, it’s not a good sign for abolitionists. Death sentences and actually following through on them may have been on the decline for more than a decade, and the United States remains one of the few countries that still uses this as a punishment. But now that lethal injection drugs are not readily available—manufacturers are refusing to allow states to use their products for these actions—states still carrying out the punishments are going to great lengths to insure state-sanctioned killings continue. After a 10-year hiatus in South Carolina, due to the difficulty in acquiring the drugs, lawmakers recently passed a law that would make the firing squad an alternative method. Arizona is refurbishing its gas chamber, and so is Alabama. Following Trump’s example yet again, many Republican-led states want to reenergize their execution chambers. Should a Republican succeed Biden, it seems inevitable that this will take place on the federal level as well.

“It’s on us as abolitionists to build a coalition to get him a bill to sign.”

So, what are Biden’s options? One is legislation. In July 2019, when the Trump administration announced its intention to execute death row inmates, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced a bill that would abolish the practice and resentence every person on death row. Nearly 2 years later, the bill has support from 90 members of Congress and 18 co-sponsors. This is what advocates like Bonowitz are focused on right now. “It’s on us as abolitionists to build a coalition to get him a bill to sign,” he explains. But time is of the essence. It’s clear that the only way legislation like this would pass both chambers is with the Democrats in the majority. If the Republicans win back the House next year, the chances of abolishing the federal death penalty become infinitesimal.

There is another option that would make it much harder for any future president to carry out executions. The president has the power to commute all of the sentences of the people on death row himself, without congressional approval. “Joe Biden could do that tomorrow,” Bonowitz says “with the stroke of the pen.”

Of course, at a time when violent crime is rising across the country and conservatives are falsely blaming it on anti–police brutality activists and movements to defund police departments, it’s easy to see why Biden would hedge on removing dozens of people from death row. I can already hear the bad-faith attacks describing Biden and the Democrats as being supporters of Roof and his racist crimes. Yet this president has also tried to make racial justice the cornerstone of his administration, and, like seemingly everything else in our criminal legal system, capital punishment is arbitrary and racist. Studies have shown that Black people are more likely to be sentenced to death and of the 46 people currently on federal death row, nearly 40 percent of them are Black.

The Trump presidency featured a lot of firsts and historic moments—usually horrific ones—and his excesses with the death penalty were no exception. The overarching message of Biden’s campaign was that he would fix what Trump had broken. But it’s not enough to simply put a Band-Aid on whatever horrors Trump created or exploited—our whole democracy must be shielded against the next such leader. And that’s why there is inherent danger in cautious incrementalism on the death penalty. If the Biden administration leaves the system in place, the next Trump will almost certainly come along and abuse it once again.

(source: Mother Jones)

********************* ---- book review

What death row looks like when you’re on it

What is the worst thing you ever did? What drove you to do it? What would your life be like if you were defined only by that one thing?

Those are some of the questions that came to mind as I read “Right Here, Right Now: Life Stories from America’s Death Row,” a collection of powerful and often wrenching first-person stories of more than 100 men sentenced to death. It’s an emotionally difficult read, but it’s more than worth the investment of time and heart. The storytellers in this book are among the 3,000 incarcerated adults facing execution in this country. The volume’s editor, Lynden Harris, began collecting the tales in 2013. As she writes in the book’s introduction, “Our core values are simple: All lives have meaning. All stories matter.” By that, she includes those who have been dehumanized and devalued, even those whom we might think got what they deserve. Even those whose worst things are terrible, indeed.

The collection is organized by life stage, including “The Part That Was Innocent” (early childhood), “From Bad to Worse” (age 14 to arrest), before coming around to “Worst of the Worst” (entering death row and solitary), and then concluding with “Every Day’s Worth Celebrating” (facing execution).

It becomes clear very quickly that those who do the worst things have, all too often, been victimized themselves. There are stories of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. In one story, we meet a boy whose “very first memory ever is a gun” (he was 2 years old at the time); the nickel-plated .38 belonged to his grandmother, who had shot her boyfriend. Grandma Rose did everything she could to hide the pistol. The takeaway to the young boy: “It was a lesson I never forgot: ‘Don’t get caught!’”

Another story opens with the words, “I was four when my father started trying to kill me,” and goes on to describe how the storyteller’s father wrapped his head in a towel and then dunked him under the hot water of the tub. “The attacks got more and more intense. He wouldn’t be satisfied until I’d sucked in enough water to piss and soil myself and pass out.” His lesson? “I learned to survive. But what does that even mean?” Finally, one night he feared his father “could drown me for real.” To save himself — to survive — the young boy did the only thing he could think of: he torched the house. The lesson to us: don’t judge a man solely on his actions. The story teller of “Car Ride” explains that when he was 5 or 6, his mother told him to put their 2 dogs in the car, which he did, and then she drove deep into the woods, and demanded that he let them out. He did as he was told and then got back in the car, at which point she sped off. He continues with the story, “ ‘Momma, please stop!’ I cried over and over again, but she wouldn’t. . . . I can’t recall ever crying and screaming like that again in my life. Tears, snot, slobber, and sweat covered both me and the back seat.” Finally, he asks, “I couldn’t help but wonder, if I were really bad, would she do me the same way?”

What these stories have in common is that the young people in them had no safety net, no opportunity to recover from their victimization. Henderson Hill, an attorney with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, asks in the foreword, "Who and what are the individuals, the institutions, the teachings, and the safe places that gave you and me opportunities to repair from similar insults?" And he poses the question: "What if one or more of those safety valves had been available to the then child-victim, now death row inmate?"

What if, indeed? Reading these stories, during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer subsequently convicted in the murder of George Floyd, I was struck repeatedly by how poverty, domestic violence, illness and, of course, racism, disproportionately impact Black Americans, who often don’t have access to the safety valves Hill references. Across the country, Black people are overrepresented on death row — 42 % vs. just 13 % of the general population, according to a 2020 report from the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. The report’s editor and the center’s executive director, Robert Dunham, explained, “Racial disparities are present at every stage of a capital case and get magnified as a case moves through the legal process.”

But “Right Here, Right Now” is not about public policies per se; instead, it aspires “to break the stereotype of who lives on death row” by humanizing a group of men commonly thought to be beyond rehabilitation. Touching on this theme, one contributor tells us, “Tough guys [like I’m supposed to be] are soft guys too, tenderhearted and caring. We love animals and children very much and cry sometimes when we see images of their suffering.” There are many dimensions to these men, which — whether we acknowledge it or not — makes them as multifaceted as we are in our own reckoning.

Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and the author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” has written: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” My own “worst thing” — an incident shaped by childhood trauma — did not come to define me, thanks in large part to my race and class privilege. The men in “Right Here, Right Now,” by contrast, are indelibly defined by their worst thing (or, at least, the thing for which they were convicted), even as they show remarkable courage, kindness and empathy in their lives. No matter how heinous their crimes, it’s hard to leave these stories without a greater understanding of our collective humanity — that we are all broken, albeit unequally so. As Stevenson reminds us: “We have all hurt someone and have been hurt.” Most of us, however, don’t end up on death row.

Right Here, Right Now: Life Stories from America’s Death Row

Edited by Lynden Harris

Duke. 250 pp. $22.95

(source: Steven Petrow is a journalist and author; Washington Post)

BELARUS:

Another death sentence might have been carried out in Belarus – human rights defenders

Death row inmate Viktar Paulau was ‘most likely executed’, the convict’s sister Raisa told Andrey Paluda, coordinator of the campaign ‘Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus’.

The execution has not yet been officially confirmed, but the staff of pre-trial prison No. 1 in Minsk, which houses the country’s only death row, told the Paulau’s lawyer that the convict was no longer staying at the facility, human rights centre Viasna reports.

The death convict’s sister says that she has not received any letters from Viktar for 6 weeks. Moreover, a few days ago, she was not allowed to visit the prison to see her brother. All these things suggest that Paulau was executed, the human rights defenders stressed.

In July 2019, Vitsebsk region court found Viktar Paulau guilty of murdering 2 elderly women and sentenced him to death.

The murder was committed on 30 December 2018 in the village of Prysushyna, Vitsebsk region. The 50 years old Viktar Paulau came to the house of his sister pensioners and beat them severely. The intruder stole money and several bottles of wine. The bodies of the women were not discovered until a few days later.

In turn, Paulau’s lawyer tried to convinced the judicial board that the murder was a result of friction and had been provoked by one of the women who allegedly insulted the accused, as she had was unhappy with the quality of the shed he had built. According to the defence counsel, the defendant had no purpose to kill the women – he simply came to buy the wine that the women were selling.

In the last word, the defendant expressed regret for what he had done and asked the court not to apply the exceptional measure to him.

(source: belsat.eu)

PAKISTAN:

Acquittal of couple on death row for sending ‘blasphemous’ texts delivers long-awaited justice

Responding to the Lahore High Court’s decision to acquit Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel, a Christian couple who were sentenced to death in 2014 for ‘sending blasphemous texts’, Amnesty International’s South Asia Deputy Director Dinushika Dissanayake said:

"Today’s decision puts an end to the seven-year long ordeal of a couple who should not have been convicted nor faced a death sentence in the first place. ‘Blasphemy’ cases are often premised on flimsy evidence in environments that make fair trials impossible, underscoring the significance of this verdict. The authorities must now immediately provide Shafqat, Shagufta, their family and their lawyer Saiful Malook with adequate security.

“This case is sadly emblematic of the harassment, intimidation and attacks that those accused of ‘blasphemy’ routinely face and highlights the urgent need to repeal the law. We hope that the next step will be to swiftly repeal the country's blasphemy laws that for too long have been used to target Pakistan's already beleaguered minorities.”

Background

Shagufta and Shafqat were convicted in 2014 after ‘blasphemous’ texts were allegedly sent from a phone registered to the former’s name. They have spent the last 7 years in jail waiting to appeal their convictions and death sentences, which are mandatory under Pakistan's laws.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are overbroad, vague and coercive, enable abuse and violate Pakistan’s international legal obligations to respect and protect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief and of opinion and expression. They have been used to target religious minorities, pursue personal vendettas and carry out vigilante violence. On the basis of little or no credible evidence, the accused struggle to establish their innocence while angry and violent groups of people seek to intimidate the police, witnesses, prosecutors, lawyers and judges.

(source: Amnesty Internationa)

GAZA:

MAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR MURDER

The Khan Younis Court of First Instance issued a death sentence against the citizen (A.M.) for the charge of premeditated murder, Human Rights and Democracy Media Center “SHAMS” reported on 8 June 2021.

The issuance of the sentence coincided with a brief statement issued by the Higher Judicial Council in the Gaza Strip, which stated that, “murder crimes are amongst the crimes which the judiciary seeks with seriousness and interest to completely end and remove from the active court records. This is done within the judiciary’s policy which purports to shorten litigation periods, achieve civil and social peace, and accomplish public deterrence to reach a safe society that is free from crime.”

This reflects a dangerous policy from which “SHAMS” Center has warned in the past. The policy prioritizes a quick closure of cases, which constitutes an infringement upon guarantees of a fair trial and identification with a culture of vendetta and vengeance.

Simultaneously, this statement reflects an erroneous understanding of the philosophy of deterrence that is rooted in physical punishment rather than one which sets rehabilitation and reform as its ultimate objective.

Therefore, “SHAMS” Center calls upon all effective actors in the justice system in the Gaza Strip to fully respect the right to life, to not violate Palestine’s legal commitments as per the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its second optional protocol that calls for an end to the death penalty, align the national legislations with the Covenant and its protocol, publish them in the official Gazette, immediately stop the systemic violations of constitutional guarantees of the right to life, and intensify civil work against the death penalty in order to eventually abolish it completely.

(source: Human Rights and Democracy Media Center)

EGYPT:

Man gets death sentence for raping mentally ill girl----Convict lured the victim into his house and sexually assaulted her

An Egyptian court had sentenced a man to death by hanging after convicting him of raping a mentally challenged girl in his house, local media reported.

The ruling, which can be appealed, was delivered by a criminal court in the southern city of Qena.

The case dates back to August last year when the convict, a 42-year-old worker had lured the victim, aged 29 years, into his house and raped her.

Initially, the woman could not reveal the identity of the rapist due to a speech disability.

However, police investigations managed to identify the culprit, who was found to be a neighbor of the victim.

After arrest, he admitted to having lured the woman from outside her house into his apartment and raped her.

(source: Gulf News)

TANZANIA:

Bageni’s attempt to appeal against death sentence hits a brick wall

A 2nd attempt by former Kinondoni District Investigation Officer (OC-CID), Christopher Bageni to challenge a death penalty which was handed after he was convicted of killing 3 miners and a taxi driver has stalled at the Court of Appeal.

The country's highest court has dismissed a petition filed by Bageni, seeking a reversal of the conviction.

The court stated that his reasons for requesting that the sentence be reversed were baseless, as Bageni filed another application for referral requesting the same thing.

Judges Gerald Ndika, Mwanaisha Kwariko and Barke Sehel, who heard the application, were satisfied with the Republic’s argument that the application was opened out of time.

Bageni and 12 other police officers, including the former Dar es Salaam Regional Criminal (RCO), Abdallah Zombe, were indicted in 2006 for the murder of 3 miners from Mahenge, Morogoro.

This is the 2nd attempt by Bageni to seek freedom, after his first application was rejected by the court in September 2019 for lack of legal grounds.

(source: The Citizen)

MALAWI:

Group trained on death penalty ruling

Members of community of Sant’ Egidio, a catholic layman association in the country has been trained on the recent Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment on the death penalty.

According to one of the organizers of the training lawyer Alexious Kamangila who volunteers for the community of Sant’ Egidio, there is a knowledge gap on the recent pronouncement of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on the death penalty hence the training.

On 28th April 2021, in a decision of 8-1, the Supreme Court declared that the death penalty is unconstitutional and that every section of the law that provides for the punishment of death, should be read as to mean life imprisonment.

In that landmark case, the Court indicated that the right to life is the mother of all rights, and so that the penal code which is subjective to a constitutional test, cannot abrogate the right to life which is safeguarded under Section 16.

Following the ruling, the Community of Sant Egidio invited all coordinators and those that are responsible to lead the Community’s work in prison, to a full day training to unpack the Khoviwa’s decision on death penalty.

Kamangila said the aim of the training was to train trainers, who will conduct trainings in different districts of their abode which he said is an essential aspect of awareness campaigns, which will be conducted at a more targeted audience, while the ruling remains alien.

He added that the Sant Egidio believes that a dialogue approach to those that oppose the decision, might be handy as everyone can change and he emphasized that the unconstitutionality of the death penalty is clearly explained by this judgment.

The renowned lawyer added that no one can dispute that the right to life is the mother of all rights and further said, there is no debate that the right to life is non-derogable and that the punishment of death is not provided for in the Constitution.

He continued to say the ‘controversial’ aims to define arbitrary deprivation which over the years was being used to justify the constitutionality of the death penalty, before the Khoviwa ruling.

Kamangila, who has been an outspoken advocate for the abolition of the death penalty for more than a decade, emphasized that the question of per incurium or obiter dictum does not arise.

“The issue before the Court was the death sentence of Khoviwa, and that being imposed without being given a chance to outline mitigating factors, was unconstitutional as per Kafantayeni decision and a violation of the right to life.

“The right to life is provided for under the constitution and so to argue that the constitutionality of the death penalty was not before the Court, is absolute lies upon stilts. Further, the submissions of the Applicant, challenged the Constitutionality of the death penalty, in detail,” said Kamangila.

Taking her turn, Chikondi Chijozi of Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) equipped the trainees on advocacy which he said requires that the advocate should have a message, a purpose and a strategy of getting to the goal.

Senior Legal Aid Advocate Humphrey Panyanja, after giving the status of death penalty in Malawi and the steps being taken to effect the judgment, narrated that before giving a through thought to the issue of the death penalty, he was in support.

“It is was as simple as a conviction that the law provides for it for a reason hence it should remain there to serve the intended purpose. It was after attending a training, just like you, that I developed interest to investigate the question of the death penalty in Malawi and well, I converted to advocate against death penalty,” Panyanja told the trainees.

He then told the group never to be ashamed or frustrated for defending life, claiming it is the greatest service to humanity and that as a legal aid lawyer, he have seen a lot and death penalty has never been just and no circumstance makes it just.

Through Cities for Life on every 30th November, Community of Saint’ Egidio has revealed the evils of death penalty for years in Malawi and in the past, the group engaged chiefs to denounce death penalty, in an effort to change the mentality of the common Malawian.

It is believed that trainings of this kind, can provide an opportunity to bring the conversation of the Khoviwa decision, to the common Malawian.

(source: malawi24.com)

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