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

MAY 18, 2022:

MAINE:

Most of Maine’s early executions were of women, Native Americans and enslaved people

In 1755, an enslaved Black man named Toney killed his owner’s daughter in Kittery. He then immediately turned himself over to the authorities, confessing the crime.

A year later, Toney was convicted of murder and hanged in York, the 7th person put to death by a government in Maine.

Between 1644, when the Maine’s 1st legal execution took place, and Toney’s death 110 years later, more than a dozen people here were charged with crimes carrying the death penalty. The overwhelming majority of defendants were white men, but most of those convicted and executed were not.

Out of the first 7 people put to death, only 2 were white men.

The rest were either women, enslaved persons or Native Americans. In fact, when Tobey met the hangman’s rope in 1756, no non-white person or woman had ever been acquitted at trail in a capital case in Maine.

It’s not hard to imagine why.

At the time, slavery was legal, Native American and Black people were considered less-than-fully human and white women could not vote. White men were a privileged class, in complete control of the government, church and judicial system.

Historic details of Toney’s life and crime are sparse. Most come from a 1-page trial summary kept in the Massachusetts State Archive and articles in Boston newspapers.

On the night of July 15, 1755, near the head of Spruce Creek, not far from where the Kittery Trading Post stands now, Toney threw 5-year-old Mary Johnson down a well. The child was the daughter of Samuel Johnson, Toney’s owner.

Toney then walked to the next town, York, and gave himself up to the sheriff.

“He gave a long, convoluted confession of his crime,” wrote Patricia Q. Wall in her book “Lives of Consequence: Blacks in Early Kittery and Berwick, “saying his master’s repeated beatings had driven him to murder as a way to get himself killed.”

Toney apparently saw murder and his own eventual execution as the only way out of a miserable existence.

Johnson, his master, had a well-known temper and was once taken to court for assaulting his neighbor, Mary King. On another occasion, Johnson was fined for public swearing and, when ordered to pay a bond to ensure proper behavior in the future, told the justice of the peace “he’d be damned if he did.”

6 years before the murder, Johnson advertised for the return of a runaway slave. No name was given, but it might have been Toney, and it’s not hard to imagine the rough treatment he may have suffered upon being returned.

In his confession, the only evidence at trial against him, Toney said he wanted to kill Johnson but couldn’t work up the nerve. Toney was also afraid Johnson was such a bad person he would not get into heaven if he died in a sudden manner without an opportunity to repent.

That’s why he chose to kill Johnson’s little girl, instead.

“The child had far fewer sins against her, reasoned Toney, and therefore she would obtain easy admittance into heaven,” wrote Daniel Allen Hearn in his book, “Legal Executions in New England.”

In the end, the enslaved man got his grim, desperate wish fulfilled. A year after the murder, on July 29, 1756, Toney was condemned by a court and hanged in York.

Toney was the second enslaved person executed in Maine up to that point. The other was the Native American woman Patience Boston. She also killed her master’s child as an escape from slavery, tossing the boy down a well 20 years earlier, in 1734.

The other two non-white men executed in Maine before Toney were George Necho and Joseph Quasson, both Native Americans. Goodwife Cornish, a white woman, was the first person put to death by a government in Maine. She was convicted of murdering her husband with mostly supernatural evidence.

The only white men executed in Maine prior to Tobey were Edmund Brown and John Seymour — even though at least 10 other white men had been put on trail in capital cases. Most were either acquitted, had their sentences and charges reduced or were pardoned.

One of those men was Nathaniel Keen of Kittery.

Keen was indicted for murder on New Year’s Day 1695 in the beating death of an enslaved woman named Rachel, who he legally owned. Prosecutors stated they had 11 witnesses ready to testify against him.

It was not Keen’s first experience in court.

He’d already been charged with going after his neighbor’s child with a stick, then attempting to strangle their mother. During another run in with the law, Keen and his wife threatened a town official with an ax.

Still, the murder case against him was not assured, even with so many witnesses.

“Though killing of a slave was rare in New England, colonial law at the time was murky regarding its criminality,” writes Wall.

That may be the reason why, by the time Keen’s trial came around in May, his charge had been reduced to “cruelty to his negro woman by cruel beating and hard usage.”

Convicted of the lesser crime, Keen was fined five pounds. He was then ordered to pay an additional five-pound court fee. But, as Wall points out in her book, the original fine was suspended and no record of Keen ever paying it exists.

Racial inequities in Maine capital cases did not end with Toney, either.

4 years later, in 1749, near Wiscasset, an Native American of the Canibas band was killed in a brawl. 2 more were seriously wounded. Afterward, 3 white men, Obadiah Albee Jr., Richard Holbrook and Benjamin Holbrook, were taken into custody and charged with murder at York.

Albee was aquitted. The court decided to try the Holbrooks in Middlesex County, Massachusetts but the trial never happened. No impartial jury could be found and the men went free.

“So strongly was the feeling of resentment against the Indians, that no white person, even in times of profound peace, could be convicted for killing one of them,” states a summary of Maine’s legal history, published by the Maine Historical Society in 1890.

After Toney, 16 more people were executed in non-federal death penalty cases in Maine before the punishment was outlawed in 1876. Of those, 11 were white men. 3 were Black men. 2 were Italian immigrants. None were Native Americans or women.

(source: Bangor Daily News)

GEORGIA:

Death penalty case has now reached 38 qualified jurors

38 prospective jurors from Glynn County have officially qualified as potential jurors in the upcoming double-murder trial of Ricky Dubose.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III, along with Chief Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin and 4 defense attorneys have spent more than two weeks trying to get the necessary 60 prospective jurors qualified for the process of jury selection.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills accompanied prosecutors to Brunswick to assist in the jury selection process. He will assist the district attorney’s office in the prosecution.

Some of that time has included half-days for the last 2 Saturdays in Glynn County Superior Court in Brunswick where jury selection is being held.

As of midday Tuesday, another 22 prospective jurors were still needed to reach the necessary 60.

Barksdale had indicated before jury selection began that it could take between 3 and 4 weeks to complete the jury selection process.

Once all the jurors, included alternates, have been selected, they will be bused from Glynn County to Putnam County where the Dubose trial is slated to begin Wednesday, June 1.

Jurors will be sequestered during the entire trial, as well as the penalty phase if they convict Dubose of the June 13, 2017, murders of Georgia Department of Corrections Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica.

The victims were shot to death on a state prison transport bus in Putnam County. The corrections officers worked out of Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville and were residents of Baldwin County.

The co-defendant in the case, Donnie Rowe, meanwhile, was convicted late last year. But since jurors could not reach a unanimous decision regarding the death penalty, the trial judge, Brenda H. Trammell, sentenced Rowe to life in prison without the possibility of parole for both murders.

(source: Union-Recorder)

FLORIDA:

Wade Wilson will stand trial in October, faces death penalty

Wade Wilson, accused of killing 2 Lee County women in 2019, will stand trial on October 18, according to the Lee County Clerk’s website.

According to reports, Wilson faces the death penalty for the suspected killings of Kristine Melton and Diane Ruiz in Cape Coral. Investigators found Melton’s body in her Cape Coral home and 4 days later found Ruiz dead in a field.

(source: WINK news)

TENNESSEE:

Fallout From Aborted Tennessee Execution: Prosecutors Misrepresented Facts in Federal Lawsuit, 2 Members of Execution Team Knew Drugs Had Not Been Tested

The fallout following Tennessee’s aborted attempt to execute Oscar Smith on April 21, 2022 continues to grow, as state prosecutors disclosed that their pleadings had misrepresented facts in a federal lethal injection lawsuit and public records revealed that at least two members of the execution team knew the day before Smith was to be executed that the drugs purchased to put Smith to death had not been properly tested.

Redacted records obtained by several media outlets on May 13, 2022 in response to public records requests document that at least two members of Tennessee’s execution team knew on April 20, 2022 that the state had failed to test the execution drugs for bacterial toxins, in violation of the requirements of its execution protocol. That failure led Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to issue a last-minute reprieve halting Smith’s execution “[d]ue to an oversight in preparation for lethal injection.” Smith had already eaten his last meal and was receiving communion when he learned a half hour before he was scheduled to die that his execution would not go forward.

In a news release on May 2, 2022, Lee subsequently announced that he was appointing former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton to “conduct an independent review” of the circumstances that led the failure to test the execution drugs for bacterial endotoxins, the clarity of the execution manual, and execution staffing issues. Lee put all executions in the state on hold “through the end of 2022 in order to allow for the review and corrective action to be put in place.” Four days later, state prosecutors told U.S. District Court Judge William L. Campbell, Jr., who is presiding over a lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol, “that they have learned there may be factual inaccuracies or misstatements in some of [the state’s] filings.” The lawyers promised to “correct any inaccuracies and misstatements once the truth has been ascertained.”

Saying that it is “clearly contemplated that the independent investigation will result in changes to the ways in which [the state] conducts lethal injection procedures, the ways in which those procedures are staffed, and the personnel responsible for implementing those procedures,” prosecutors asked the court to pause all proceedings in the case “until the investigation is complete.” The court granted the motion on May 10, 2022.

On the evening of April 20, Smith’s lawyers sent a routine request to the Department of Corrections asking for the results of the tests that the state is required to conduct to ensure the efficacy and sterility of the execution drugs. About half an hour later, around 8 pm, one execution team member texted another, asking, “Can you send me the lab reports on the Midazolam and KCL?” Midazolam is a sedative used as the first drug in the execution. KCL is an abbreviation for potassium chloride, the third execution drug, which stops the prisoner’s heart. “No endotoxin test,” a second team member responded. “Is the endotoxin requested? Sorry, I didn’t have it tested,” they added. The next day, the morning of the execution, the original texter asked, “Could they do an endotoxin test this morning/today?” The response: “Honestly doubt it.” The state redacted all names, phone numbers, and other identifying information from the records before releasing them, so it is unknown precisely who sent the messages.

Kelley Henry, an assistant federal defender who is representing Smith, said in a statement, “The failure to ensure that the lethal injection chemicals were produced in accordance with [legally required] standards is disturbing. Compounded high risk sterile injectables such as those used in the Tennessee lethal injection protocol are extremely risky. The records … suggest that at least some members of the lethal injection team were preparing to move forward with Mr. Smith’s execution even after discovering this breach in the protocol. The Governor’s decision to halt the execution and seek an independent review is wise. It is past time to end the secrecy that shrouds the lethal injection process in Tennessee. Without transparency, there can be no accountability.”

In a May 10 interview with Nashville’s News Channel 5, David Raybin, an attorney who participated in drafting Tennessee’s death penalty statute, criticized the vagueness of the state prosecutors’ notice of inaccuracies. Noting that it is unusual to tell a court that an earlier filing is inaccurate without also providing a correction, he speculated, “They haven’t figured out what the problems are, and they haven’t figured out how to correct them. I suggest there’s something profoundly wrong here, but we don’t know what it is.” He added, “This should not be hidden and kept under wraps, this does not give me confidence in the system. This is not a security issue, I think this is an embarrassment issue.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Lethal injections on hold and other facts from state's Death Row

Executions by lethal injection have been placed on hold in Tennessee while a special investigator probes the testing process of the drugs used in capital punishment.

There are currently 47 inmates on the state’s death row, with most from one of Tennessee’s 4 largest metropolitan counties.

Only 2 are from Northeast Tennessee: Howard Hawk Willis, who was sentenced in Washington County in 2010, and Nickolus Johnson, who was convicted in Sullivan County in 2007.

Gov. Bill Lee issued a temporary reprieve for Oscar Franklin Smith, who at 72 is the oldest inmate on death row, just hours before he was to be executed by lethal injection on April 21. In a statement, Lee said he had launched a third-party review of the testing oversight of the drugs to be used in the execution.

As a result of the investigation being led by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton, the governor has paused four other executions that have been scheduled for this year.

“I review each death penalty case and believe it is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes,” Lee noted in a statement released by his office last month. “However, the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and I expect the Tennessee Department of Correction to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.”

Officials with the governor’s office said both Lee and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene on the merits of Smith’s case, but questions surrounding lethal injection testing preparation for the April 21 execution resulted in the temporary reprieve.

The governor said the special investigation will concentrate on:

• Circumstances that led to testing the lethal injection chemicals for only potency and sterility but not endotoxins preparing for the April 21 execution;

• Clarity of the lethal injection process manual that was last updated in 2018 and adherence to testing policies since the update; and

• Tennessee Department of Correction staffing considerations.

State officials say that while lethal injection is the default execution method in Tennessee, inmates on death row can also choose to die by the electric chair. Four executions by the electric chair have been carried out since 2019.

Since 2000, Tennessee has put 13 inmates to death.

Other statistics from death row include:

• More than 1/2 of the inmates — 24 — are from Shelby County.

• Christa Pike, 46, who was convicted of murder in Knox County in 1996, is the only female inmate sentenced to death.

• 2 inmates — Larry McKay, 66, and Michael Sample, 65, both convicted in Shelby County in February 1983 — have spent the longest time on death row. • 24 inmates are African Americans and 1 is Asian.

• At 33, Urshawn Miller, who was convicted in Madison County in 2018, is the youngest inmate on death row.

(source: Johnson City Press)

GLOBAL:

DEATH PENALTY DEBATE: IS ABOLITION ON THE HORIZON?

The execution of a Malaysian drug trafficker with an intellectual disability in Singapore has rekindled the global debate around the death penalty and whether or not it should be regarded as an acceptable form of punishment in the 21st century.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, a 34-year-old Malaysian national who had been in custody in Singapore since 2010 after he was caught with roughly 42 grams of heroin on him, recently lost his final legal appeal and was executed on 27 April, 2022.

"It’s devastating to campaign for a person’s life and not succeed," Kirsten Han, a journalist and activist from Singapore, told FairPlanet. "But while we mourn the loss, we also turn this sadness and anger into an even greater resolve to end the death penalty."

"Nagen’s case garnered unprecedented support from Singaporeans," she added, “and has proved more people oppose the death penalty."

HOPE FOR OTHERS?

In Singapore, an island-state of 5.4 million people, capital punishment is applied mainly for murder and drug-related charges, as well as fire-arm related offenses.

Nagen had been on a death row for 12 years prior to his execution, and his disability and low socioeconomic background urged many to claim that capital punishment was inappropriate in his case. "Capital punishment is not a strong deterrent, as drug mules are always in abundance as there are countless exploitable people out there, desperate to risk," Brian Hoe, another activist, told FairPlanet, stressing that the punishment does not impact influential drug lords.

Others propose that rather than stigmatising and punishing individuals, society ought to establish systems that nullify the very inequalities which often cause people to resort to drug trafficking in the first place.

Nagen’s story triggered a broad outpouring of support in the last 6 months of his life. An online petition urging the President of Singapore to grant him clemency garnered over 100,000 signatures.

Nevertheless, "it is still difficult to elevate this to a national conversation because abolitionist perspectives are not given space in mainstream discourse, which tends to reproduce the government’s claims," Kirsten Han said.

International and Malaysian lawyers and Singaporean anti-death penalty activists tried to appeal, raising objections against Singapore for not conforming with the international norms ruling that any mentally unfit capital offenders should not be executed. In the US, the American Psychiatrist Association called his case a "flagrant breach" of human rights.

"As long as this cruel capital punishment regime exists, as long as there are prisoners on death row, we will not stop," Kirsten Han added.

ETHICAL CONCERNS

The abolitionist movement finds its roots in the writings of such philosophers such as Voltaire; yet it was Beccaria's 1767 essay that impacted the world most drastically when it comes to public opinion regarding capital punishment. According to Beccaria, there is no justification for the state's to take one's life.

Since then, the debate around this issue has resurfaced numerous times, particularly surrounding the most highly publicised cases.

Until today, both advocates and opponents of the death penalty evoke the moral justification for its usage. For some, taking the life of someone who has committed a crime does not constitute a punishment at all - but a pure vengeance. Others argue that allowing a murderer to sit in a climate-controlled cell, receive free meals, have access to healthcare, read books and make phone calls while their victim lies in a box under the ground is simply unjust.

The debate gets even more complex once one considers that in the United States, for instance, there are countless cases of people who maintain their innocence and end up on death row - many of whom had already been executed.

According to National Academy of Sciences, 4 % of death row inmates in the US are innocent. While some may argue that this percentage is negligible, others view it as proof that practically anyone could potentially land on death row and, after years of detention, be executed.

Overall, the number of executions int the US has been on the decline and more than half of the states have either abolished the death penalty or suspended it. Some have also called on President Biden to abolish the death penalty on the federal level.

With United States striving to reaffirm its role as an advocate of human rights on the global stage, many propose that it should have a coherent human rights strategy implemented both at home and abroad.

BETWEEN PUNISHMENT AND REPRESSION

In the global context, China, Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia account for the lion’s share of all known executions. The statistics, however, do not account for extrajudicial executions, which fall outside of the narrow definition of capital punishment but are nonetheless used - in many cases - by repressive regimes as a tool to crush dissent.

Capital punishment can also be viewed as a part of religious tradition and therefore be hard to abandon. Some even continue to interpret that the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) permits it in some cases.

In the Muslim faith, "Sharia Law only allows death penalty in very limited cases, mainly as a punishment for predetermined murder," said Fahad Ghuwaydi, a Saudi national living abroad.

The recently released report by his organization, SANAD, argues that the Saudi regime's violations are on the rise. "The Saudi regime extends the use of capital punishment to cover many other non-violent crimes such as drug dealing, political opposition, rape, treason, sorcery and anyone who is critical of the regime, king or ruling family," Ghuwaydi explained.

Today, Ghuwaydi defends human rights and informs about "unprecedented level of repression" in his homeland, after he found himself targeted by the authorities, which pushed him into exile.

According to Ghuwaydi, "the executions remain a thorny issue in Saudi Arabia as the regime exploits the subject politically as a method to deter violators. In 2021, even children who were accused of participating in demonstrations to defend rights, such as Mustafa Al-Darwish, faced this penalty, despite their age."

Under highly repressive regimes with no transparent legal systems it is very hard to debate on the limitations of capital punishment. "Media and people are afraid to discuss this in public," Ghuwaydi said, adding that while some people demand the abolishment of the death penalty, others want it to be ulitised only in cases of predetermined murder.

CHANGE IS POSSIBLE

In the global context, the abolitionist movement is far from being a united front, considering the various contexts in which it needs to operate. The advocacy for human rights activists and organisations greatly varies from country to country.

In the west, it seems, many leaders turn a blind eye to their trade partners' usage of capital punishment as an instrument of repression, thereby enabling further injustice.

Yet Ghuwaydi believes that "change is possible, especially thanks to the Internet and social media."

(source: Robert Bociaga; fairplalnet.org)

BELARUS:

'Attempted terrorism' to be punishable by death----Belarus has introduced the death penalty for attempted terrorist attacks. The move could affect opposition activists who are currently on trial.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenkohas signed amendments to the country's criminal code that would make attempted acts of terrorism punishable by death, according to reports on Wednesday from Russian news agencies Interfax und RIA Novosti.

The law would go into effect on May 29, 10 days after it was published.

Expanded death penalty has parliamentary backing

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and the only country in Europe that continues to carry out executions despite calls for a moratorium. Previously, the death penalty was reserved for acts of terrorism which resulted in death, brutal murders and multiple murders.

The Belarusian parliament backed expanding the use of the death penalty after activists tried to sabotage parts of the railway network to make it more difficult for Russia to send its troops into Ukraine.

Russia used Belarusian territory to launch its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Minsk denies involvement in the war but admits its territory was used for the invasion.

Allegations of terrorism against opposition activists

Following a crackdown on mass anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020, opposition activists have often been charged with terrorism for crimes that might once have been considered hooliganism.

A Belarusian court in the city of Grodno on Wednesday started a closed-door hearing in the case of 12 activists accused of "preparing acts of terrorism," a charge that could now result in the death penalty.

Activists are accused of setting fire to a policeman's house and car in October 2020, as well as burning another policeman's car in November 2020.

Mass protests erupted in Belarus over the controversial re-election of Lukashenko in August 2020. Activists believe that the real winner was his rival, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who now heads the Belarusian opposition in exile in Lithuania.

(source: Deutsche Welle)

MALAYSIA:

Medical Marijuana use should not carry death penalty, says Syed Saddiq

The government should recognise the use of cannabis for medical purposes, says Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) president said these medical patients were not people who distributed cannabis to make money.

“We need to handle these cases carefully so that patients who are forced to use cannabis for medical purposes are given due leeway.

“Hanging is an excessive punishment for these patients simply because their health problems require them to seek alternative medications such as cannabis and hemp.

“The actions of patients seeking this alternative should never be equated with the crime of murder, for example - when the death penalty is imposed,” he said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (May 18).

The Muar MP said it was time for Malaysia to follow in the footsteps of more than 40 countries around the world in recognising cannabis as a medical alternative.

“The steps taken in other countries should also be seen as an impetus for Malaysian health groups to offer this alternative medicine immediately.

“In fact, world health bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) also recognise the use of cannabis for these medical purposes as an alternative for patients,” he said.

Meanwhile, Syed Saddiq, who is also the Medical Marijuana Caucus chairman, said he met and had discussions with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

“Among the things I emphasised was to empower the Attorney General's Chambers to give greater consideration to the issue of cannabis use.

“Judges should also be given more power and flexibility in assessing cases related to the use of cannabis for medicine,” he said.

Syed Saddiq had earlier visited the Petaling Jaya court complex on Wednesday for the mention of the case against Nasyid singer and composer Muhammad Yasin Sulaiman, who was charged in separate courts with cultivating cannabis plants and trafficking 214g of the drug at a condominium in Kota Damansara.

Yasin, who became popular with the song Mimpi Laila, was charged with cultivating 17 cannabis plants in plastic pots at his residence at Kondominium Casa Indah, Persiaran Surian Damansara Indah Resort Home, PJU 3 Kota Damansara at 5.30pm on March 24.

The charge was framed under Section 6B (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries life imprisonment and at least six strokes of the rotan, upon conviction.

The former youth and sports minister also vowed to follow the development of Yasin's case from time to time.

“Yasin’s court case will definitely be a reference for MPs like me in an effort to review laws related to the use of cannabis and hemp for medicinal purposes,” he said.

(source: thestar.com.my)

INDIA:

Gang rape, murder: Gujarat govt seeks HC nod to hang 3

see: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/91627963.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

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Prisoner On Death Row Not A Lawyer, Studied Law In Jail ---- West Bengal: Death-row prisoner arguing own case studied law in jail

see: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/91627794.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

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Gujarat HC issues notices to four convicts on death row

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/91634627.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

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Perarivalan celebrates freedom, bats for scrapping death penalty----‘I clearly believe there is no need for capital punishment...Everybody is human,’ said Perarivalan amid jubilant members of his family and those of pro-Tamil outfits.

In his first reaction after the Supreme Court decision to release him, Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict, AG Perarivalan, said that he firmly believes there is no need for capital punishment, amid jubilant members of his family and those of pro-Tamil outfits at his home.

“I have just come out. It has been 31 years of legal battle. I have to breathe a bit. Give me some time,” he said, when reporters asked him about his future plans at Jolarpettai, his native village in Tirupattur district, 300 km from Chennai.

He also thanked everyone, including the “unknown” people, for helping him to get released from the jail even as his mother, Arputhammal, profusely thanked the media and others for their continuous support.

“I clearly believe there is no need for capital punishment. Not just for mercy...many justices including Supreme Court chief justices have said so and there are many examples. Everybody is human,” he said.

Perarivalan later played the ‘Parai’, an ancient Tamil percussion instrument, in an obvious sign of celebrating his freedom.

Just after the judgement was pronounced, relatives began arriving at his residence in Jolarpettai. Perarivalan offered sweets to Arputhammal and the mother-son duo thanked all those who stood by them. His sister and her family who hastened to meet and greet Perarivalan turned emotional and expressed great joy over his release. They hugged him and expressed their joy.

Peravialan’s father Kuildasan expressed great happiness over his son’s 30- year incarceration coming to an end. When asked about his future plans, including wedding, Kuildasan said such matters will be discussed by the family.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered Perarivalan’s release taking into account his good conduct in prison, medical condition, educational qualifications acquired in jail and the long pendency of his mercy plea since December 2015.

Perarivalan was among 7 persons convicted by a special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court for being part of the conspiracy to assassinate former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on 21 May 1991. His role was limited to supplying the battery used in the bomb that led to the tragic incident. His death sentence was commuted to life by the Supreme Court in February 2014.

(source: Hindustan Times)

BANGLADESH:

3 get death penalty for killing child in Chattogram

3 people have been awarded with death penalty for killing a 2- year-old child, Abdur Rahman Araf, in Bakalia Police Station area of Chattogram in 2020.

Judge Md Jasim Uddin of Third Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court pronounced the verdict in the presence of the accused on Wednesday noon.

The convicts are- Md Farid, Md Hasan and Nazma Begum.

According to the case statement, the accused killed the boy after dropping him into a tank of a house on June 6, 2020.

(source: risingbd.com)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

UAE court suspends death sentence for Israeli woman pending appeal----After Fida Kiwan's death ruling court allows new line of defense against charges; 'the appeal was filed, and there is a new strategy, we hope for better results' Kiwan's lawyer says

United Arab Emirates Court of Appeals in Abu Dhabi postponed on Tuesday the death sentence of an Israeli national following a verdict appeal.

Fida Kiwan's lawyer, Ahmad Sa'id al-Mazrawi, argued that she did not intend to deal in drugs, an offense she was sentenced to death for.

The next hearing is scheduled to take place in two weeks at the Abud Dhabi Court of Appeals, where Kiwan's lawyer will present his new line of defense against the charges.

Kiwan, a 43-year-old Haifa resident, was arrested on March 17 of 2021 with half a kilogram of cocaine. She claimed the illegal substance that was found, did not belong to her.

During a hearing held in the court via video, Kiwan was only asked if she admits to the charges. Her response was a denial.

Mordechai Tsibin, an attorney who was present in court with Kiwan's brother, said an appeal was filed. "There is a new strategy, he said.

He also thanked the Foreign Ministry for its assistance and said the family was hopeful that they would get a better result in the next hearing.

Kiwan, who owns a photography studio, traveled to the UAE for work after being invited by a Palestinian acquaintance settled in an apartment arranged for her in advance.

A week after her arrival, the UAE authorities conducted a search of the apartment, where a large quantity of drugs was discovered.

(source: ynetnews.com)

ISRAEL:

Far-right MK introduces bill to allow death penalty for terrorists----"Faced with the terror wave in our streets and our enemies in the Middle East and in Israel in particular, there is no other way to handle this issue," Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir says.

Otzma Yehudit party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir will introduce on Sunday legislation that would allow the death penalty for terrorists.

Although Ben-Gvir submitted the bill along with Likud MK May Golan, the legislation is expected to spark controversy both within the coalition and the opposition. Although some in Likud voiced support for the legislation, senior party officials told the Otzma Yehudit chairman other senior Likud officials would either oppose or refrain from supporting such a law.

Ben-Gvir clarified to senior Likud officials he expected them to support the law, which was expected to pose a challenge to some, including Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman. In the past, Lieberman demanded the death sentence for terrorists, and his Yisrael Beytenu party has submitted legislation on the subject in previous governments.

If passed by the Knesset, Ben-Gvir's bill would see terrorists who murder Israeli civilians out of racist motivations and in an effort to harm the State of Israel and the Jewish people's revival in Israel put to death via electric chair. The legislation further seeks to prevent the possibility of commuting a death sentence, with the goal of preventing such terrorists' inclusion in prisoner-exchange deals.

"After each terrorist incident, the heads of the security system promise that 'the long arm of the State of Israel will settle the score with the killers.' In general, all the killers secure improved conditions in prison, salaries from the Palestinian Authority, and in time, a majority of them are released in these kinds of deals," according to the bill's explanatory notes.

In a statement, Ben-Gvir called the death penalty for terrorists "the order of morality, reason, and the day. There is no reason in the world for these human scum who murder families and cut short lives to see the light of day or to be released in a terrorist-exchange deal. This punishment will not only decrease the motivation to carry out attacks but will also prevent dreams of kidnapping deals. In particular, in light of the all-inclusive policies in Israel's prison, it is fitting for such a punishment to be enacted in such a way that makes it easier to carry out in a military court.

"Faced with the terror wave in our streets and our enemies in the Middle East and in Israel in particular, there is no other way to handle this issue: What's good for the United States is good for us too," he said.

(source: israelhayom.com)

IRAN:

'Deeply Alarmed' UN Calls On Tehran To Halt Imminent Execution Of Iranian-Swedish Doctor

The United Nations says it is "deeply alarmed" by the imminent execution in Iran of Swedish-Iranian doctor and academic Ahmedreza Djalali, and called for an immediate halt to it.

Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on May 17 that the authorities in Tehran should revoke Djallali's death sentence immediately.

Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was arrested in Iran in 2016 during an academic visit. Jalali specializes in disaster relief and has taught at European universities. Rights groups have condemned his detention.

He was accused of providing information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior nuclear scientists.

Iran has threatened to execute him by May 21.

"Use of the death penalty for espionage offenses is incompatible with international human rights law. Countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the 'most serious crimes,' which is interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing," Throssell said in the statement.

Many Western groups say the threat to execute Djalali is tied to the current trial of an Iranian in Stockholm for his alleged role in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at an Iranian prison in the 1980s.

(source: rferl.org)

KENYA:

We Shall Hang Corrupt Individuals at Uhuru Park - Wajackoyah

George Wajackoyah, the Roots party presidential candidate has threatened to reintroduce the death penalty in the country to curb endemic graft if elected to the country's highest office.

Wajackoyah stated Tuesday during an interview with Capital FM News that all corrupt officials deserve to be hanged as punishment for their crimes, pointing out that their actions have had a negative effect on the lives of Kenyans.

The Presidential candidate said that the move will serve as a lesson to those fleecing Kenyans of public funds.

"We shall hang them after they have been given their legal rights, right to representation. If they are found guilty, we shall hang them. In the first one year we shall hang them in the public especially in City Park or Uhuru Park just as a lesson to thieves," he said.

He cited countries like China where corrupt individuals are hanged and other countries like Singapore and Japan where those found guilty of stealing public funds receive harsher punishment for their crimes.

Wajackoyah recalled the KEMSA scandal which he said those involved deserve to be severely punished.

He further stated that President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration had totally failed to address graft within the country pointing out that there was a need to account for every coin borrowed by the government.

The roots party presidential flag bearer further castigated President Kenyatta for what he termed as "Indecisiveness" in addressing corruption.

A lawyer by profession, Wajackoyah urged his supporters to come out in large numbers and elect him.

He called on Kenyans to reject the "pimping kind of cabinets" announced by his rivals while referencing the partial naming of Raila Odinga's cabinet on Monday when he unveiled his running mate.

"Raila appointed the same folks who go on Sunday to church, nothing wrong with that, the same folks who cannot change the mindset of Kenyans. I have not seen anyone who advocates for 'weed' being appointed by Raila or Ruto. They have appointed their comrades. That means a lot of Kenyans have no chance," he stated.

He exuded confidence in beating both Raila and UDA presidential candidate William Ruto.

(source: allafrica.com)

NIGERIA:

Inside Nigeria’s Terrorism Prohibition Act 2022 Which Prescribes Life Imprisonment, Death Penalty For Kidnappers, Financiers

The fight against insecurity in the country gained a boost, as Nigerian authorities approved life imprisonment or death sentence for anyone convicted of hostage-taking, kidnapping, or hijacking, in the Terrorism (Prohibition and Prevention) bill, 2022 signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The legislation passed by the National Assembly and seen by Nigerian Tribune seeks to “provide for an effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the detection, prevention, prohibition, prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, terrorism financing, proliferation and financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Nigeria; and for related matters.”

Section 24(1a-c) of the law provides that: “A person, who knowingly or intentionally – seizes, detains, or attempts to seize or detain a person, property, or facility in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing a lawful act; threatens to kill, injure or continue to detain a person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing a lawful act; or gives an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the person held hostage, or the property or facility detained, commits an offence.”

Section (2a-b) further provides that: “A person, who commits an offence under subsection (1) of this section, is liable on conviction –where death does not result from the act, to life imprisonment; or where death results from the act, to a death sentence.”

As encapsulated in Section 1(a-h) of the legislation, the objectives of the legal framework is to provide for: effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the detection, prevention, prohibition, prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, terrorism financing, proliferation and financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Nigeria, and other related matters.

It also provides for mechanisms for the implementation of financial measures arising from counter-proliferation Resolutions, in line with Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations; and measures under Nigerian law for the implementation and enforcement of Regional and International Counter-Terrorism Conventions, and Agreements for the combating of terrorism, terrorism financing and related offences.

It further seeks to provide for: “Procedures for the declaration of a person or entity as a terrorist or terrorist entity, or terrorism financier; extraterritorial jurisdiction of the courts in relation to acts of terrorism; measures to enable Nigeria to act effectively in the fight against the ?nancing of terrorism, including mechanisms regarding reporting of suspected incidents of ?nancial and other support for terrorist entities; measures for the detention, freezing, search and seizure, confiscation and forfeiture of terrorist property; and the compensation of victims of acts of terrorism.”

Section 2 which centres on ‘Prohibition of acts of terrorism’, provides that: “All acts of terrorism and the financing of terrorism are prohibited”, while Section 2(2a-h) provides that: “A person or body corporate, within or outside Nigeria, who knowingly, directly or indirectly – does, attempts or threatens to do any act of terrorism; commits an act preparatory to or in furtherance of an act of terrorism; commits to do anything that is reasonably necessary to prevent an act of terrorism; assists or facilitates, or funds the activities of persons engaged in an act of terrorism; participates, as an accomplice, in or contributes to the commission of an act of terrorism or offences; assists, facilitates, organizes, or directs the activities of persons or entities engaged in any act of terrorism or is an accessory to any offence; incites, induces any person by any means whatsoever or promises any person any reward to commit any act of terrorism or any of the offences; or recruits for terrorist groups for any purpose, including the commission of acts of terrorism, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to the prescribed punishment.”

As defined by the law, ‘act of terrorism’ means an act willfully performed with the intention of furthering an ideology, whether political, religious, racial, or ethnic, and which- may seriously harm or damage a country or an international organization; unduly compels a government or an international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act; seriously intimidates a population.

It also includes acts that seriously destabilizes or destroys the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization; influences a government or an international organization by intimidation or coercion; violates the provisions of any international treaty or resolution to which Nigeria is a party, subject to the provisions of section 12 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended); and involves, causes, or results in the – attack on a person’s life, in the form of grievous bodily harm or death, kidnapping of a person, destruction of Government or public facility, a transport system, an infrastructural facility, including national critical information infrastructure, a fixed platform located on the continental shelf, a public place or private property, which may likely endanger human life or result in major economic loss, the seizure of an aircraft, ship, or other means of public transport or conveying goods, or the diversion or use of such means of transportation, among others.

The legislation however provides that “An act, which disrupts a service but is committed in pursuance of a protest, demonstration or stoppage of work is not a terrorist act within the meaning of this definition, provided that the act is not intended to result in any harm referred to in subsection (3)(b), (c), (d), (e), (f) or (g), of this section.”

Section 11 of the law which stipulates the offences against internationally protected persons, provides that: “A person, who – kidnaps or commits an attack on an internationally protected person; murders an internationally protected person; carries out a violent attack on the official premises, private accommodation, or means of transport of an internationally protected person; or threatens to commit any such attack, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to not less than 25 years and up to a maximum of life imprisonment, where death does not result from the act referred to in paragraphs (a) and (c) of this section;

It further provides for the death penalty, where death results from the act in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) of this section; or in the case of the offence under paragraph (d) of this section, to a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years.

The legislative which prohibits terrorist meetings, stipulates that: “A person, who knowingly – arranges, manages, assists in arranging or managing, participates in a meeting or an activity, which in his knowledge is concerned or connected with an act of terrorism or terrorist group; collects, or provides logistics, equipment, information, articles or facilities for a meeting or an activity, which in his knowledge is concerned or connected with an act of terrorism or terrorist group; or attends a meeting, which in his knowledge is to support a proscribed entity or to further the objectives of a proscribed entity, commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than 20 years.

On the ‘Offences relating to civil aviation, safety of ships and fixed platforms, Section 34 provides that: “A person who, on board an aircraft in flight, seizes or exercises control of that aircraft by force, threat or any other form of intimidation, commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to life imprisonment.”

Section 35 provides that: “A person, who – commits an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight, if that act is likely to endanger the safety of that aircraft; destroys an aircraft in service, or causes damage to an aircraft which renders it incapable of flight or which is likely to endanger its safety in flight; places or causes to be placed on an aircraft in service, by any means whatsoever, a device or a substance which is likely to destroy that aircraft, or cause damage to it, which renders it incapable of flight, or cause damage which is likely to endanger its safety in flight.”

The legislation is also applicable to a person who “destroys or damages air navigation facilities or interfering with their operation, if the act is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft in flight; or communicates information, which the person knows to be false, thereby endangering the safety of the aircraft in flight, commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to – imprisonment for a term of not less than 20 years, or a death penalty, where death results from the commission of the act.”

Section 46 of the legislation which places embargo on arms, stipulates that: “A person, who supplies, sells, or transfers, directly or indirectly, to individuals placed on the Consolidated List, arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment, and their spare parts as well as technical advice, assistance, or training related to military activities, whether this conduct is carried out – within the territories of Nigeria; by nationals of Nigeria abroad; or by anyone using flag vessels or aircraft from Nigeria, commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than 20 years.

(source: tribuneonlineng.com)

TRINIDAD and TOBAGO:

Privy Council rules mandatory death penalty constitutional

The London-based Privy Council Monday ruled that the mandatory sentence of death for murder in Trinidad and Tobago is constitutional, and only Parliament can rewrite the law.

“The 1976 Constitution has allocated to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, as the democratic organ of government, the task of reforming and updating the law, including such laws. Those laws will continue to exist only so long as Parliament chooses to retain them,” it said.

The Privy Council, the country’s highest court “unanimously dismisses the appeal”, that had been filed by Jay Chandler, who was convicted in 2011 of the murder of Kirn Phillip in 2004 and was sentenced to death by hanging, which is the mandatory sentence for murder in Trinidad and Tobago as laid down in section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1925.

His conviction and sentence was upheld on appeal by the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago and by the Privy Council in a judgement of March 12, 2018. The appellant’s sentence has since been commuted to one of life imprisonment.

In this appeal, Chandler mounts a constitutional challenge to the mandatory death penalty and the principal issue raised is the relationship between sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1976 Constitution.

Section 4 of the 1976 Constitution recognises and declares fundamental rights, including the right of the individual not to be deprived of life, liberty and security except by due process of law. Section 5 prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment which, it is not disputed, includes the mandatory death penalty.

Section 6, the “savings clause”, provides that nothing in sections 4 or 5 shall invalidate an existing law, meaning a law that had effect as part of the law of Trinidad and Tobago immediately before the commencement of the Constitution. The mandatory death penalty is one such existing law.

In its ruling, the 9-member Privy Council ruled that it is not persuaded that it should depart from its earlier decision and that the principle of legal certainty dictates that there must be very strong reasons before it will depart from such a ruling.

“The principle of stare decisis, or standing by what has been decided, requires that the Board be satisfied that the decision was wrong and that it lacked a satisfactory foundation. It is not enough that the Board as presently constituted might take a different view if considering the matter for the 1st time”.

In its ruling, the Privy Council said that there are several reasons why that decision should not be overruled.

“First, the interpretation of the savings clause affects all existing laws, not just the mandatory death penalty. To accept the appellant’s interpretation would be to alter the basis upon which the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago have conducted their affairs since 1962 and to introduce considerable uncertainty into the law”

The Privy Council said it has “consistently adopted the approach to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the highest court for several Caribbean countries, to develop its own jurisprudence, and does not question the outcome of their decisions in two similar cases”.

“The Board turns to the appellant’s second argument that the mandatory death penalty is contrary to the doctrine of the separation of powers.”

It said in Trinidad and Tobago the separation of judicial power from legislative or executive power is found in the 1976 Constitution.

“The separation of powers is not a free-standing, legally enforceable principle that exists independently of and above a constitution. The Board holds there is nothing inconsistent with the separation of powers in the 1976 Constitution for the legislature to prescribe by legislation the penalty to be imposed for a particular offence.”

The Privy Council said that the appellant also argued that section 1 of the 1976 Constitution, declaring Trinidad and Tobago to be a “sovereign democratic State”, contains by implication a specific legal requirement that punishment should not be arbitrary and must fit the crime.

“The Board notes that this argument has not been considered by the courts of Trinidad and Tobago, and that it would be concerned to adopt what would be a radical development of the interpretation of the 1976 Constitution without the assistance of the views of those courts.

“In any event, the Board does not consider that the argument based on section 1 of the 1976 Constitution can add anything to the separation of powers argument which the appellant has advanced and which the Board has rejected.

“The Board concludes by noting that the policy questions posed by the savings clause are not limited to the mandatory death penalty but apply also to other preserved laws which are inconsistent with the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1976 Constitution.”

(source: nationnews.com)

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

Trinidad and Tobago: Campaigners disappointed after court upholds death sentence ruling

A man in Trinidad and Tobago who was sentenced to death by hanging in 2011, has lost an appeal for a reprieve. Jay Chandler, who is 40, was convicted of stabbing another prisoner, Kern Phillip, in October 2004. Trinidad and Tobago, with more than 30 people on death row, is the only English speaking Caribbean country that retains a mandatory death penalty for murder - a hangover from British colonial rule.

The Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) and the Catholic Commission for Social Justice have said they are "extremely disappointed in the judgment delivered on 16 May by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) to uphold that the mandatory death sentence for murder in Trinidad and Tobago (TT) is constitutional - because of the savings clause in TT's Constitution

The nine Law Lords at the JCPC opined that the savings clause extended beyond the mandatory death penalty and that allowing the appeal would introduce considerable uncertainty into the law. They were not persuaded by the reasoning of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in Nervais & McEwan that the case of 2005 Charles Matthew (Matthew v The Queen [2004] UKPC 33) was wrongly decided. And so, they did not overturn that decision.

In a case in 2018, when the CCJ ruled that the savings clause in Barbados' Constitution was unconstitutional, the then President of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron, stated, inter alia: "Laws should not be calcified to reflect Colonial times." GCL and CCSJ agree with this statement.

In 2017 Pope Francis approved a new revision of paragraph number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that makes it clear that the death penalty is inadmissible in all circumstances. The new text reads:

'Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person", and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.'

In the year 2022, we urge the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to reflect on these words and change the 1925 law. We note the statement by Lord Hodge, one of the most senior judges on the JCPC, that the decision to do so is not a question for judges on the JCPC, but for TT's Parliament. He said: "The 1976 Constitution saves existing laws, including the mandatory death penalty, from constitutional challenge."

We agree with Parvais Jabbar, Co-Executive Director of The Death Penalty Project, London, who said: "Whilst today's decision by the Privy Council is extremely disappointing, the case has once again brought this critical issue to the fore. We hope it will lead Trinidad and Tobago to re-examine the savings law clause which continues to protect old laws most modern democracies consider morally objectionable, including laws which discriminate on grounds of gender, religion, or sexuality...it is imperative that the government now take the necessary measures to ensure that a punishment, that they themselves accept to be cruel and inhuman, is removed."

GCL & CCSJ echo these sentiments. The words of the Law Lords on the Privy Council about the mandatory death sentence being recognised internationally as cruel and unusual punishment, and indeed is so recognised by Trinidad and Tobago, should spur us to action. They said: "In the Board's view, the 1976 Constitution saves existing laws, including the mandatory death penalty, from constitutional challenge. The consequence of that is that the state of Trinidad and Tobago has a statutory rule which mandates the imposition of a sentence, which will often be disproportionate and unjust. The sentence is recognised internationally as cruel and unusual punishment. The state does not dispute that characterisation…[96]"

Years ago, the late Lloyd Best stated that Trinidad and Tobago is in a state of pre-collapse. I know that he would hope that we would use our human ingenuity to meet the challenges that we face today. The JCPC rightly states that the decision to remove the savings clause should be left to politicians and not the courts. Therefore, we urge the Government Trinidad and Tobago to take appropriate action to remove it and to focus on human development and crime prevention rather than expend time and energy in doing what Sir Shridath Ramphal, a former Secretary-General of the British Commonwealth, refers to as "holding on to the tailcoats of our Colonial masters."

(source: GCL is an independent, not-for-profit civil society organization, incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. GCL was established on 2 October 2013 by activists and organizations from twelve Greater Caribbean countries following an International Conference held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. CCSJ is a Department of the Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago)----Leela Ramdeen is Chair, Trinidad & Tobago Catholic Commission for Social Justice & Archdiocese's Ministry for Migrants and Refugees----Independent Catholic News)

MAY 17, 2022:

TEXAS:

Death Penalty Sought in Texas for Man Who Admitted Killing 5----Prosecutors in Texas say they will seek the death penalty for a man who authorities have said confessed to killing 5 people, including 3 whose dismembered bodies were found in a burning dumpster last year.

Prosecutors in Texas said Monday that they will seek the death penalty for a man who authorities have said confessed to killing 5 people, including 3 whose dismembered bodies were found in a burning dumpster last year.

The Tarrant County district attorney's office said they've filed the paperwork to seek the death penalty for Jason Thornburg, 41. He was arrested in September on a charge of capital murder in the deaths of David Lueras, 42, Lauren Phillips, 34, and Maricruz Mathis, 33. Their bodies were found in a burning dumpster in Fort Worth.

During an interview with police, Thornburg confessed to killing those 3 as well as his roommate and girlfriend, according to his arrest warrant.

Thornburg also faces a charge of murder in the death of his roommate, 61-year-old Mark Jewell. He was found dead in a house fire last May.

Tanya Begay, a Navajo woman from Gallup, New Mexico, went missing after taking a trip to Arizona with Thornburg in 2017.

In March, Thornburg was indicted by a grand jury on charges of 1st-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder and assault resulting in serious bodily injury in the March 2017 slaying in the Navajo Nation of person listed as T.T.B., according to an indictment filed in U.S. district court for the district of Arizona.

Thornburg remained jailed in Fort Worth on over $1 million bond. His attorneys did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA----impending execution halted

Fulton judge grants injunction delaying killer’s execution----Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. has been in prison since Oct. 19, 1976.

A Fulton County judge late Monday granted an injunction halting the execution of a convicted child killer less than 24 hours before he was set to die by lethal injection.

Superior Court Judge Shermela Williams sided with attorneys for the Federal Defender Program, who argued the state’s decision to execute Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. violated an agreement with the attorney general’s office postponing most executions until after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is not a parking ticket case,” the judge said after granting an injunction from the bench that temporarily halted the execution. “This is a death penalty case.”

On Tuesday, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office notified attorneys it is appealing the judge’s ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Williams’ decision came at the end of a nine-hour emergency hearing and hours after the State Board of Pardons and Paroles announced Presnell’s clemency petition was denied.

Attorney General Chris Carr, who was named in last week’s lawsuit along with the state of Georgia, did not attend Monday’s emergency hearing.

Julie Jacobs, his deputy attorney general for commercial transactions and litigation, said she would quickly appeal the decision so Presnell’s execution could proceed as planned. A notice of appeal was filed Tuesday.

Presnell, 68, kidnapped 2 Cobb County girls as they walked home from Russell Elementary School in May 1976, raping a 10-year-old and then drowning her 8-year-old friend in a nearby creek when she tried to run. He was sentenced to death later that year, and again in 1999 after his first sentence was overturned.

In the clemency petition submitted to the parole board, Presnell’s attorney Monet Brewerton-Palmer asked that her client’s scheduled execution be delayed and later commuted to life in prison without parole.

The 51-page filing suggested Presnell has severe brain damage stemming from his mother’s heavy drinking while she was pregnant. Sexual abuse was “endemic” in Presnell’s family, his lawyer said, and he was raised in an abusive and unstable environment.

It also detailed his nearly five decades on death row, during which he was routinely raped and beaten at 2 state prisons.

“People can and will debate whether Mr. Presnell has served enough time, but nobody can dispute that he has served hard time,” Brewerton-Palmer wrote. “His crime was the worst of the worst — and so has his sentence been.”

The parole board held a daylong closed-door meeting at its downtown office, during which it heard from Presnell’s son and sister. The board announced shortly before 5:30 p.m. that the clemency petition had been denied, making the Fulton hearing his defense team’s last chance to spare his life.

Attorney Mike Caplan, who represents the Federal Defender Program, said Carr’s decision to resume executions blindsided Presnell’s lawyer and limited the amount of time she had to defend her client.

“Her clemency hearing was completely gutted,” Caplan said in Williams’ courtroom. “That work was so incomplete that Ms. Brewerton-Palmer could not present a single live witness.”

Her star witness, who planned to discuss Presnell’s diminished mental capacity, recently suffered a heart attack and couldn’t make it to the board meeting. In addition, none of Presnell’s relatives were there in person to ask that his life be spared, Caplan said. They spoke to the parole board by phone instead.

“Somebody will die if the state’s contract is not enforced,” Caplan told Williams. “Their job was to present an effective, adequate case for this prisoner and they were denied the opportunity to do that.”

The Fulton lawsuit contends last year’s agreement between death penalty attorneys and the AG’s office established three conditions that must be met before the resumption of executions: the expiration of the Georgia Supreme Court’s COVID-19 judicial emergency, the resumption of normal visitation at state prisons and a COVID vaccine that’s “readily available to all members of the public.”

While the first condition has been met, state prisons are not back to regular visitation schedules and the vaccine still isn’t available to children under 5, the lawsuit said.

Jonathan Loegel, an attorney for the the AG’s office pushed back on that argument. He said vaccines have been widely available for more than a year and that visitation has resumed at state prisons, albeit under modified conditions in what he called our “new normal.”

In the emailed agreement reached last year, the AG’s said the first person to be executed after the three conditions were met would be Billy Raulerson, who sits on death row for killing three Ware County residents in 1993, the suit said.

But because Raulerson’s attorney planned to be on vacation in Europe, the AG’s office decided to execute Presnell instead, Caplan told the judge. Presnell’s attorney was first notified of the state’s plans on April 25, limiting the amount of time she had to prepare.

“Contrary to the agreement, the Attorney General gave the Federal Defender just two days of notice that they intended to pursue Mr. Presnell’s execution warrant instead of the promised six months after the conditions had been met,” the filing reads. “These actions constitute a clear breach of the agreement.”

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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

Legal expert explains cost behind a death row sentence

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., was set to become the 1st person executed by Georgia in 2022 and the seventh nationwide until a judge temporarily halted the execution Monday night.

The Georgia man is convicted for the 1976 kidnapping and murder of an 8-year-old girl and the kidnapping and rape of a 10-year-old girl.

Presnell's execution was originally scheduled for Tuesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

The 68-year-old death sentence was overturned 30 years ago in 1992 but was later reinstated in March 1999. Presnell has spent 46 years on death row.

11Alive spoke to Attorney and Legal Editor for Interrogating Justice, Peter Tomasek to learn more about the cost of a death row prisoner in the U.S.

What is the cost of a death row prisoner?

"The most expensive type of prisoner to have is a death row prisoner," said Tomasek.

According to Interrogating Justice, the average federal prisoner costs about $37,500 per year compared to a death row prisoner, which would cost about $60,000 to $70,000 per year.

Independent nonprofit national research and policy organization, the Vera Institute shows Georgia's average annual cost per inmate in state prison as $19,977 in 2015.

Why do inmates tend to stay on death row for so long?

"The simple answer is that it's just the appeals process," said Tomasek.

The Death Penalty Information Center lists "that prisoners on death row in the U.S. typically spend more than a decade awaiting execution or court rulings overturning their death sentences."

According to the nonprofit, "more than half of all prisoners currently sentenced to death in the U.S. have been on death row for more than 18 years."

"With a lot of these death penalty cases, you're also usually looking for newly discovered evidence. So each time you maybe find something new, you can restart that process again. And so just going through that appeals process, it takes time," said Tomasek.

(source: 11alive.com)

TENNESSEE:

Text messages detail TDOC failure to test execution chemicals----Text message: 'Sorry I didn't have it tested.'

Death row inmate Oscar Smith was less than 90 minutes away from his lethal injection when Gov. Bill Lee stepped in, saying the Department of Correction failed to properly test the chemicals used during executions.

Lee has since paused all executions in Tennessee until an independent investigator can take a look at what went wrong. Tennessee Department of Correction officials said they can't offer more detail until that investigation takes place.

However, text messages and other documents obtained by NewsChannel 5, released by TDOC in response to a public records request, detail why Lee stopped the execution, providing more information on how the agency failed to test the lethal injection drugs for a contaminant.

The text messages take us behind the walls of Riverbend prison, a facility tightly controlled on execution days and protected by state secrecy laws that allow TDOC to keep information like the names of employees and pharmacies that deal with lethal injection drugs under wraps.

The state’s 104-page protocol, titled "Lethal Injection Execution Manual" says a pharmacist the prison works with must test the execution drugs for endotoxins — a type of contaminant that can cause surprise side effects if injected.

The night before the scheduled execution, April 20, Kelley Henry, a federal public defender and attorney for many inmates on Tennessee’s death row, sent TDOC an email asking for proof the drugs had been tested.

And 35 minutes later, according to a text message conversation between two people, whose names TDOC redacted, one person asked: "Can you send me the lab reports on the Midazolam and KCL?"

Midazolam is the 1st drug used in Tennessee's lethal injection process, a sedative that opponents argue does not keep death row inmates from experiencing unconstitutionally cruel pain from the other drugs. KCL is shorthand for Potassium Chloride, the final drug in the state's three-drug sequence, which stops the heart.

The other person then sent those reports in response, which TDOC also redacted from public view.

Then the first person replied, "Thank you… is there also an endotoxin text (sic) or is that the same as sterility?"

The second person responded: “No endotoxin test," and then added later, "Is the endotoxin requested? Sorry I didn’t have it tested.”

The next morning, at 8:50 a.m. on the day of the execution, the first person replied: "Could they do an endotoxin test this morning/today?"

Then came the reply: "Honestly doubt it."

But nearly four hours later, after at least someone at TDOC apparently knew the execution protocol had been breached, there were indications that plans for the execution were still going forward:

"Start getting things ready at 4:30" one text read.

"OK I will be there" came the reply.

"10-4," the first person said in response.

Also on the day of the scheduled execution, a text message shows one person saying to another:

"Just going over things and doing math and stuff in head ha."

Henry, in a press conference one week after the canceled execution — before the governor's office released details of what went wrong — said Department of Correction staff should not be the ones in charge of such important chemicals.

"We have the lowest-paid corrections officers in the country, and you’re asking them to carry out this task, you’re asking them to look at drugs and the labels and figure out whether or not they’ve been given the right label of drugs," Henry said.

The governor's office has said the independent investigation, to be handled by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton, based out of Memphis, will encompass why the lethal injection chemicals weren't tested for endotoxins, the clarity of the TDOC lethal injection execution manual and TDOC staffing considerations.

(source: WTVF news)

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

Fallout From Aborted Tennessee Execution: Prosecutors Misrepresented Facts in Federal Lawsuit, 2 Members of Execution Team Knew Drugs Had Not Been Tested

The fallout following Tennessee’s aborted attempt to execute Oscar Smith on April 21, 2022 continues to grow, as state prosecutors disclosed that their pleadings had misrepresented facts in a federal lethal injection lawsuit and public records revealed that at least 2 members of the execution team knew the day before Smith was to be executed that the drugs purchased to put Smith to death had not been properly tested.

Redacted records obtained by several media outlets on May 13, 2022 in response to public records requests document that at least two members of Tennessee’s execution team knew on April 20, 2022 that the state had failed to test the execution drugs for bacterial toxins, in violation of the requirements of its execution protocol. That failure led Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (pictured) to issue a last-minute reprieve halting Smith’s execution “[d]ue to an oversight in preparation for lethal injection.” Smith had already eaten his last meal and was receiving communion when he learned a half hour before he was scheduled to die that his execution would not go forward.

In a news release on May 2, 2022, Lee subsequently announced that he was appointing former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton to “conduct an independent review” of the circumstances that led the failure to test the execution drugs for bacterial endotoxins, the clarity of the execution manual, and execution staffing issues. Lee put all executions in the state on hold “through the end of 2022 in order to allow for the review and corrective action to be put in place.” Four days later, state prosecutors told U.S. District Court Judge William L. Campbell, Jr., who is presiding over a lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol, “that they have learned there may be factual inaccuracies or misstatements in some of [the state’s] filings.” The lawyers promised to “correct any inaccuracies and misstatements once the truth has been ascertained.”

Saying that it is “clearly contemplated that the independent investigation will result in changes to the ways in which [the state] conducts lethal injection procedures, the ways in which those procedures are staffed, and the personnel responsible for implementing those procedures,” prosecutors asked the court to pause all proceedings in the case “until the investigation is complete.” The court granted the motion on May 10, 2022.

On the evening of April 20, Smith’s lawyers sent a routine request to the Department of Corrections asking for the results of the tests that the state is required to conduct to ensure the efficacy and sterility of the execution drugs. About half an hour later, around 8 pm, one execution team member texted another, asking, “Can you send me the lab reports on the Midazolam and KCL?” Midazolam is a sedative used as the first drug in the execution. KCL is an abbreviation for potassium chloride, the third execution drug, which stops the prisoner’s heart. “No endotoxin test,” a second team member responded. “Is the endotoxin requested? Sorry, I didn’t have it tested,” they added. The next day, the morning of the execution, the original texter asked, “Could they do an endotoxin test this morning/today?” The response: “Honestly doubt it.” The state redacted all names, phone numbers, and other identifying information from the records before releasing them, so it is unknown precisely who sent the messages.

Kelley Henry, an assistant federal defender who is representing Smith, said in a statement, “The failure to ensure that the lethal injection chemicals were produced in accordance with [legally required] standards is disturbing. Compounded high risk sterile injectables such as those used in the Tennessee lethal injection protocol are extremely risky. The records … suggest that at least some members of the lethal injection team were preparing to move forward with Mr. Smith’s execution even after discovering this breach in the protocol. The Governor’s decision to halt the execution and seek an independent review is wise. It is past time to end the secrecy that shrouds the lethal injection process in Tennessee. Without transparency, there can be no accountability.”

In a May 10 interview with Nashville’s News Channel 5, David Raybin, an attorney who participated in drafting Tennessee’s death penalty statute, criticized the vagueness of the state prosecutors’ notice of inaccuracies. Noting that it is unusual to tell a court that an earlier filing is inaccurate without also providing a correction, he speculated, “They haven’t figured out what the problems are, and they haven’t figured out how to correct them. I suggest there’s something profoundly wrong here, but we don’t know what it is.” He added, “This should not be hidden and kept under wraps, this does not give me confidence in the system. This is not a security issue, I think this is an embarrassment issue.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

LOUISIANA:

Federal Appeals Court Rules that Louisiana Prosecutor and Police Officer Who Fabricated Evidence are Not Immune from Civil Rights Lawsuit by Former Death-Row Prisoner

A prosecutor and police officer who fabricated evidence to wrongfully convict a former Louisiana death-row prisoner are not entitled to immunity in a lawsuit alleging they “knowingly and deliberately fabricated” that testimony, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled.

Michael Wearry, a Louisiana prisoner whose conviction and death sentence were overturned by the U.S Supreme Court in 2016 because prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence, had filed suit in 2018 against Livingston Parish District Attorney Scott Perrilloux (pictured) and former Sheriff’s Deputy Marlon Kearney Foster, alleging that they manufactured testimony and coerced a vulnerable juvenile, Jeffery Ashton, “to falsely implicate Wearry in the homicide of Eric Walber.”

“Foster and Perrilloux detained and coerced Ashton into falsely testifying to a narrative that had no basis in any evidence gathered in the case, physical or testimonial,” wrote Judge James L. Dennis in his May 3, 2022 decision.

In response to Wearry’s 2018 lawsuit, Perrilloux and Foster had each filed motions claiming absolute prosecutorial immunity. Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana issued opinions denying Perrilloux’s motion in June 2019 and denying Foster’s motion one year later, writing that immunity was not available “for allegedly pulling a 14-year-old boy out of school on at least six occasions to intimidate him into offering false testimony at a murder trial – false testimony concocted wholesale by that detective and prosecutor and carefully rehearsed, the child’s compliance ensured with scare tactics like taking him to view the murder victim’s bloody car.”

The Fifth Circuit agreed with the district court’s assessment that “neither defendant [is] entitled to absolute immunity for fabricating evidence by intimidating and coercing a juvenile to adopt a false narrative the defendants had concocted out of whole cloth.”

For prosecutors to be entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity, Dennis wrote in the appeal panel’s majority opinion, they must be acting in only an advocatory, and not investigatory, capacity. Advocatory functions include “organizing, evaluating, and presenting evidence,” while investigatory functions include “gathering or acquiring evidence.”

“What is alleged here is not simply that Foster and Perrilloux elicited false testimony from Ashton through improper means, but rather that they invented a false narrative and then coerced a vulnerable juvenile to adopt and testify to it in court. Based on Wearry’s complaint, it does not even appear that Ashton was a witness in the State’s case against Wearry until the defendants decided to use the child to present their fabricated evidence,” Dennis wrote. “It is the fabrication of false evidence, and not merely the perjury elicited at trial, that is the misconduct at issue here.”

Wearry was not an initial suspect in the 1998 carjacking and murder of Eric Walber. No physical evidence linked him to the murder, and his alibi witnesses testified that he was at wedding reception 40 miles away in Baton Rouge at the time of the murder.

The panel opinion recounts how the prosecution manufactured evidence against Wearry. Two-and-a-half years after the murder, “Detective Foster pulled Jeffery Ashton out of school without his mother’s permission and detained him at District Attorney Perrilloux’s office. Ashton was barely a teenager at the time. Over the course of at least six separate meetings beginning three months before trial, Foster and Perrilloux intimidated the child, who was facing his own juvenile proceedings, into adopting a story they had invented that placed Wearry near the crime scene at the time of the murder. At one meeting, the District Attorney and Detective falsified the results of a photo array lineup, indicating that the child had identified Wearry as the person he had seen in the fabricated story. In truth Ashton had told the officials he did not recognize Wearry after they pointed him out in the photo array. … Before and after each of these meetings, Perrilloux and Foster met to confer upon their efforts to pressure Ashton into adopting and testifying to the story they fabricated.”

Judge James C. Ho issued a dubitante dissent, saying that the majority’s decision was contrary to U.S. Supreme Court caselaw, but arguing that the case precedent should be overturned. While “[t]here are good reasons to believe that the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity is wrong as an original matter,” Ho wrote, “governing precedent requires us to grant prosecutorial immunity in this case.”

Wearry’s case — and the actions of Perrilloux and Foster — reflect a pattern of official misconduct in Louisiana death penalty cases. All eleven death-row exonerations in the state since the 1970s have involved official misconduct, usually accompanied by perjury or false accusation. A controversial 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas reversed a $14 million federal jury verdict awarded to Louisiana death-row exoneree John Thompson, who wrongfully spent eighteen years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Thomas ruled that the prosecutors in Thompson’s case had immunity from liability — including a prosecutor who had confessed on his death bed that he intentionally withheld exculpatory blood evidence.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

OHIO:

Rhoden killings: Judge to hear arguments on evidence, death penalty charges against George Wagner IV

A judge did not rule Monday as to whether prosecutors can use certain evidence in the upcoming trial of George Wagner IV involving the death of a family in Pike County, though he said he will at a later date.

Pike County Common Pleas Judge Randy Deering said in court that he will hear arguments on June 21 on Wagner's motions to suppress audio recordings and his family's testimony, as well as to dismiss the death specifications filed against him.

George Wagner IV, his parents George "Billy" Wagner III and Angela Wagner, and their other son, Edward "Jake" Wagner are all charged in connection with the fatal shooting of Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Manley Rhoden, 37; their daughter, 19-year-old Hanna May Rhoden; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20; Frankie's fianceé, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Chris Sr.'s brother, Kenneth Rhoden, 44; and Gary Rhoden, 38, a cousin.

The 4 Wagners were arrested in November 2018. Officials called it the largest murder investigation in state history.

Jake Wagner pleaded guilty to all 23 charges filed against him in April 2021. In exchange for his confession and plea, prosecutors agreed to drop the death penalty option for all 4 Wagners. Angela Wagner pleaded guilty to lesser charges in September.

Legal analyst: 30-year sentence for conspirator in Pike County slayings 'fair'

Jake Wagner and Hanna May Rhoden had a child together, and investigators have said disputes over custody of the child prompted the violence. Jake Wagner has admitted to shooting 5 of the 8 Rhoden victims.

George Wagner III and George Wagner IV have asked the judge to drop the death penalty charges against them ahead of trial, but Deering has not done so because a condition of the agreement was that both Jake and Angela Wagner must testify at trial, so the death penalty option remains in place.

George Wagner IV's trial is tentatively set to begin Aug. 29.

(source: Cincinnati Enquirer)

ARIZONA:

Who is Frank Atwood? What to know about Arizona's next scheduled execution

The state's 2nd scheduled execution, for Frank Jarvis Atwood, is scheduled for June 8. Atwood's execution will take place less than a month after the May execution of Clarence Dixon by lethal injection.

Arizona has now executed 39 people since 1992, Atwood being the 40th in the state's history.

Here is a look at his story:

Who is Frank Atwood?

Atwood is a 66-year-old prisoner on death row at the Florence state prison. He was sentenced in 1987 for the kidnapping and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Pima County, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson.

Atwood, originally from Los Angeles, was 28 years old in 1984 when he was arrested in Kerrville, Texas, in connection with the kidnapping of Hoskinson. He was arrested three days after her disappearance.

Frank Jarvis Atwood had been convicted of lewd and lascivious acts and kidnapping an 8-year-old boy in California. In May 1984, he was paroled from the kidnapping sentence. Atwood came to Tucson in September 1984 in violation of his California parole. On Sept. 17, 8-year-old Vicky Lynn Hoskinson was riding her bicycle home after mailing a letter. Atwood kidnapped the girl and killed her. He left her body in the desert and fled to Texas, where he was apprehended. Vicky's body was not found until April 1985.

A month after Hoskinson's skeletal remains were found in what was then a remote desert area on Tucson's northwest side. Atwood was indicted for first-degree murder.

Previously, Atwood served 3 years of a 5-year sentence in California for sexually assaulting a 7-year-old boy. He was deemed a "mentally disabled sex offender" in 1975 after a different California case involving child molestation.

When was Frank Atwood put on death row?

Following his conviction in 1987, prosecutors sought the death penalty for Atwood.

Atwood claimed to be the victim of hysteria over the prominent case even after his conviction. The case caught the attention of the community in Tucson, so much so that finding a jury for the trial proved to be so difficult the trial was moved to Maricopa County.

Vicki Lynne Hoskinson played her final softball season in the summer of 1984.

In an interview given shortly after his sentence, Atwood continued to claim he was innocent.

"We're talking about whether a person took a life, a life of an innocent young child," he said. "That is probably the worst thing a person could do in this world. I'm not going to admit to anything I didn't do. I had no involvement in it whatsoever."

The judge presiding over the case, John Hawkins, ordered Atwood be put to death two months after he was found guilty in 1987.

In an interview with The Arizona Republic in 1987, a stunned Ron Hoskinson, father of the victim, said, "I thought it may be life because there wasn't an eyewitness. I wouldn't have been upset either way — life or death."

Why have Atwood (and others) been on death row for so long?

Arizona's pause on executions came after Joseph Wood was put to death in July 2014. Wood was given 15 doses of a 2-drug combination over 2 hours.

Witnesses to the execution say they saw Wood gasp for air for 2 hours.

This led to lawsuits from Wood's lawyers, suspending all executions and forcing the state to adopt a new lethal injection cocktail. The state suspended executions while it looked to revise execution protocols in compliance with court orders.

In an opinion piece with The Republic from 2019, the family of the victim have expressed their frustration with how long Atwood has remain on death row. The mother, Debbie Carlson, wrote, "His execution will not bring our precious daughter back, but it will fulfill what justice demands."

When is the execution of Frank Atwood scheduled?

The execution of Atwood is scheduled for June 8. Since he was convicted before 1992, Atwood has the option to choose between the gas chamber or lethal injection as his method of execution.

He will need to make his decision before May 19. If he does not choose, he will be put to death by lethal injection.

Atwood's attorney, Joseph Perkovich, claimed the state has not provided enough to say whether the new lethal injection is safe and effective. The objection was echoed by lawyers for Dixon, who was executed May 11.

(source: Arizona Republic)

CALIFORNIA:

Man Accused of Killing Teen at Stockton School Could Face Death Penalty----Alycia Reynaga was stabbed in front of her high school and died later at a hospital.

Anthony Gray, the 52-year-old man accused of fatally stabbing 15-year-old Stagg High School student Alycia Reynaga in Stockton last month could receive the death penalty if convicted, the judge in the case said.

Gray appeared Monday morning in a red jumpsuit for his 2nd court appearance and told the judge he wanted to plead guilty. But his attorney said she didn't concur with his plea.

Gray's attorney in court said he has a lengthy history of mental illness.

Gray said his attorney wanted him to see a doctor but he said he has no intention of seeing one.

"I will never, never see a doctor," Gray said.

Late last month Gray was arraigned on murder charges along with special circumstances of torture as well as the personal use of a non-firearm, corporal injury to a child, inflection of great bodily injury and bringing a weapon on school grounds.

He was denied bail at his first hearing.MP> The judge suspended the court proceedings Monday and ordered Gray to be interviewed by a court doctor.

The judge said if he is competent to stand trial the court will accept his guilty plea.

Stockton police officers were dispatched at 11:05 a.m. April 18 to Stagg High School on reports of a stabbing.

Police allege that Gray entered the school parking lot, got out of his vehicle, and began stabbing Reynaga with a knife. A Stockton Unified School District police officer detained Gray on the campus without any trouble.

The teen girl was taken to San Joaquin General Hospital where she died from her injuries.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said Gray was on parole prior to the stabbing and carries a rap sheet throughout the Bay Area.

Gray's next court hearing will be June 13 to review the doctor's report.

(source: nbcbayarea.com)

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

California church shooter was licensed armed security guard

The Las Vegas man accused of killing 1 person and wounding 5 others in a burst of gunfire at a Taiwanese-American church luncheon in California on Sunday was licensed to work as a security guard who carries a gun, state records in Nevada show.

David Chou appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday in Orange County to be charged with murder, attempted murder and use of a destructive device for allegedly killing a beloved local doctor and wounding five others.

He had worked for 3 different Las Vegas security firms since 2018, records seen by Reuters show, and was licensed to carry a gun in his work through October 2022.

Chou, who was being held at Orange County Central Jail, drove 300 miles (483 km) on Saturday from Las Vegas to Southern California, heavily armed with two semi-automatic weapons and four incendiary devices, police said.

He attended a church luncheon that a Taiwanese Presbyterian congregation was holding at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, a community of mostly retired people south of Los Angeles, before opening fire.

An official from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, the Taiwan government's office there, told Reuters that Chou had been born in Taiwan in 1953, still had an active Taiwanese passport, and had done military service for Taiwan.

But prosecutors say he hated Taiwan and had notes written in Mandarin in his car indicating that he was angry about current tensions between the island nation and the Chinese mainland.

Chinese government spokesman Liu Pengyu said his country condemned incidents of violence, but urged people not to speculate on Chou's motives until more was known.

"We express our condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured," he said. "We wish the injured an early recovery."

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he was strongly considering asking for the death penalty in the case, even though California has not executed a prisoner in more than a decade.

"That suspect was ready to kill everybody in that church," Spitzer said on CNN on Tuesday. "It's my belief that he was going to kill everybody and then blow up the church."

INVESTIGATION

The FBI said it was opening a hate-crimes investigation in the case. Spitzer said at a news briefing on Tuesday that he added an enhancement of lying in wait to the charges against Chou, and is considering also adding a hate crime enhancement.

In addition to one charge of murder and five charges of attempted murder, Chou was charged with four felonies related to four Molotov cocktails that he allegedly placed behind a curtain at the church, court documents show.

He was assigned a public defender but not granted bail, the documents show.

Up to 40 people, members of a Taiwanese Presbyterian congregation from nearby Irvine, California, were attending a luncheon honoring a former pastor when the shooting began, sheriff's officials said.

Dr. John Cheng, 52, who was killed in the incident, was shot when he tackled the gunman, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said, crediting Cheng's act of bravery with preventing more fatalities.

Cheng's action gave other congregants, including a pastor, the opportunity to overpower Chou and tie his legs with an electrical cord, detaining him until sheriff's deputies arrived.

Four men ranging in age from 66 to 92 and an 86-year-old woman were wounded, the sheriff's department said.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was deeply concerned about the incident and has instructed the island's foreign ministry to help the victims and their families, the ministry said on Tuesday.

(source: Reuters)

USA:

What’s next for Buffalo mass shooting suspect? ‘I would expect them to seek the death penalty,' says legal analyst

The suspect in the mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue is due in court Thursday for a felony hearing. But there are two things that may happen before then, absolving the need for the felony hearing.

"I expect that he'll be indicted, but I also expect that the Department of Justice and the Assistant United States Attorney General Trini Ross will bring federal charges, federal hate crime charges, against the suspect. It carries the death penalty," New York Attorney General Letita James said.

7 News Legal Expert Florina Altshiler said she expects the federal case and state case will move forward concurrently.

More than a grocery store: “I watched it build a community. We fought hard just to get that store there."

"Different charges, that's why they can happen concurrently. The federal case would be for federal hate crime charges. The reason for the federal case happening is the federal government can do things that the state government can not," Altshiler said.

In New York State, there is no death penalty. The highest level of punishment is life without the possibility of parole.

"However, in a federal case, if they chose to, they could go forward to see the death penalty," Altshiler said, "I think if we look at other cases to see what the federal government has done, for example the Boston Marathon bomber case, yes. I would expect them to seek the death penalty."

The defense withdrew its request for a competency evaluation, so the state case will proceed with the suspect considered competent to stand trial, if there is a trial. There's the possibility of a plea deal, but Altshiler said that's unlikely.

"In a case as egregious as this, I would not expect the District Attorney's Office to offer him any breaks at all," Altshiler said.

In addition to federal and state criminal proceedings, there will likely be numerous civil lawsuits.

"There's possibility for liability for the person and shop that sold the weapon. There's a possibility for liability of the medical center who potentially breached a duty of care and released this criminal defendant early," Altshiler said.

One of the guns that law enforcement discovered in the suspect's car was a gift from the his father. Altshiler said depending on the evidence, his parents could be held legally accountable as well.

"In this case, we don't know yet. I'm certain they're looking into the parents. They are investigating what if anything the parents knew," Altshiler said.

There is also potential liability for those who failed to follow New York's Red Flag Laws.

"If someone makes a murder suicide threat, as this individual did, the person would be red flagged and should not be able to purchase a weapon here. That didn't happen," Altshiler said.

Altshiler said the state's Red Flag Law could have prevented this mass shooting.

"This is where I say there's a lot of room for civil liability in this case. If people do what they're supposed to do, potentially this could have been prevented. But because people did not do what they were supposed to do, because people were negligent in allowing this to happen, it did happen," Altshiler said.

(source: WKBW news)

RUSSIA:

Russian lawmaker wants Ukraine’s Azovstal fighters to get death penalty----Ukrainian soldiers, some severely wounded, surrendered Monday after military chiefs asked them to save their lives.

A Russian legislator has said the country should consider death penalty for Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered Monday after long defending Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant.

After the surrender, legislator Leonid Slutsky told parliament that Russia should “think carefully” about capital punishment for the Azov fighters.

Slutsky said: “They do not deserve to live after the monstrous crimes against humanity that they have committed and that are committed continuously against our prisoners.”

Russia, at present, has a moratorium on the death penalty.

Over 250 Ukrainian soldiers surrendered Monday from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, which had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance under relentless Russian fire.

Over 50 among them were seriously wounded and are being treated in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region.

Ukraine’s military command said Monday that the “combat mission” in Mariupol had ended. The military chiefs ordered Azovstal commanders to save the lives of their personnel.

In his nightly address on Monday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it a “difficult” day.

“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive. This is our principle. I think that every reasonable person will understand these words,” Zelenskyy said.

Russian news agency TASS reported that an agreement had been reached Monday to extract wounded Ukrainian military personnel from the plant.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irena Vereshchuk said Tuesday that the country hoped to carry out a prisoner exchange for the Ukrainian wounded soldiers.

Vereshchuk said: “In the interests of saving lives, 52 of our severely wounded servicemen were evacuated yesterday. After their condition stabilises, we will exchange them for Russian prisoners of war. We are working on the next stages of the humanitarian operation.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine has suspended any attempt to negotiate with Russia on resolving the conflict.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia has failed to understand “processes in the world today and their negative role”.

He told Ukrainian television that since the two delegations met in Istanbul, there were no “significant changes, no progress”.

CNN quoted him as saying: “The resistance of Ukraine, the professional resistance just grows, that’s why there’s no way Russia achieves its goals.”

Podolyak also said Ukraine would not make any territorial concessions. “The war will not end if we give some of our territories there. This is not acceptable for Ukraine, and it will not be accepted by Ukrainian society.” (source: theprint.in)

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:

UK judges refuse to ban death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago

9 of the UK's most senior judges have refused to ban the mandatory death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago.

The law dates back to when the country was a British colony.

The judges expressed concerns but said the nation's constitution meant they could not intervene.

A death sentence is a mandatory punishment for every person convicted of murder under Trinidad and Tobago's Offences Against The Person Act 1925.

The new ruling comes from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) - UK Supreme Court justices who also rule on complicated legal questions from some former British colonies.

The JCPC is the final court of appeal for a number of Commonwealth nations and British overseas territories.

After Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962, its constitution stated that any existing law from the days of the British Empire would remain in force unless its parliament decided to remove or reform it.

In practice, this means that many of the country's laws, as with some other Commonwealth nations, are closely rooted in rules that were in place in the UK and across the Empire in the early 20th Century.

In a highly unusual case heard in London last November, lawyers for convicted murderer Jay Chandler argued that the mandatory death penalty he received under the 1925 law was unconstitutional.

They told the hearing in London that the wording of Trinidad and Tobago's constitution meant that a mandatory death penalty should be ruled to be a cruel and unusual punishment - and therefore banned.

In 2018, judges at the Caribbean Court of Justice, the senior court for many countries in the region, outlawed automatic death sentences in Barbados - adding pressure on Trinidad and Tobago to abandon the 1925 law.

But ruling today, Lord Hodge, one of the most senior judges on the JCPC and Supreme Court, said that it was not a question for judges in London - but for Trinidad and Tobago's parliament.

"The 1976 Constitution saves existing laws, including the mandatory death penalty, from constitutional challenge," said Lord Hodge.

"The consequence of that is that the state of Trinidad and Tobago has a statutory rule which mandates the position of a sentence, which will often be disproportionate and unjust.

"The sentence is recognised internationally as cruel and unusual punishment. The state does not dispute that characterisation."

He said that despite those concerns, the judges in London could not legitimately interfere as there was no constitutional law question for them to settle.

"It is striking that there remains on the statute book a provision which, as the government accepts, is a cruel and unusual punishment because it mandates the death penalty without regard to the degree of culpability," he said.

"Nonetheless, such a provision is not unconstitutional. The 1976 Constitution has allocated to parliament, as the democratic organ of government, the task of reforming and updating the law, including such laws."

The Death Penalty Project, a legal campaign group that represents Jay Chandler, said there were 45 people on death row in Trinidad and Tobago. It is not clear what their fate will now be. No-one has been sent to the gallows since 1999 amid huge delays to appeals.

Parvais Jabbar, the group's co-executive director, urged the country's parliament to re-examine the continued existence of historical laws that are out of step with the modern world.

He said: "Trinidad and Tobago remain the only country in the Commonwealth Caribbean to continue using a mandatory death penalty and it is imperative that the government now take the necessary measures to ensure that a punishment, that they themselves accept to be cruel and inhuman, is removed."

(source: rnz.co.nz)

CUBA:

Cuba's new penal code keeps death penalty as an option

Cuba's one-party legislature Sunday passed a new Penal Code, which was considered to be “modern” and adjusted to the country's socialist “reality,” it was announced in Havana.

Although the new legal instrument was designed in tune with international criteria on human rights according to local authorities, the death penalty was not entirely removed and may still be applied.

“The norm is of extraordinary relevance in the robustness of Cuba as a socialist state of law, a modern criminal law, adjusted to the socioeconomic realities and updated with the Constitution and other legal provisions,” Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the People's Supreme Court, told the National Assembly of People's Power, the national parliamentary body.

The new code provides for penalties that range from life imprisonment to 30-year prison sentences for the most serious crimes. It also maintains the death penalty for 23 extremely serious offenses, it was reported.

Offenders are accountable since the age of 16. “In studies carried out in the country, minors between 16 and 18 years of age have been found to have participated in murders, and they require an immediate response,” Remigio Ferro explained.

The new legislation will become effective 90 days after its publication in the Official Gazette, it was reported.

Among the crimes listed in the new code are “infractions and illicit acts that affect the radio-electric spectrum, the environment, and the natural patrimony.” According to media reports, “the illegal broadcasting of satellite, television and radio signals, telecommunication services or other similar ones” have been typified as criminal offenses, with a focus on “officials or workers who, within their position, have the possibility of administering networks and who violate their functions in that sense.”

“Gender and family violence, as well as acts against minors or in situations of disability” have also been included in the new text, including “femicide,” although it is not mentioned explicitly, but “there is awareness of the importance of punishing the intentional murder of a woman for the fact of being a woman,” Remigio Ferro noted.

“Although it does not reflect the definition of femicide or feminicide, it does make clear the penalties that apply to those who incur in crimes associated with gender violence and violence against women,” he added. For this crime, prison sentences range from 20 to 30 years and even death may be imposed “under certain circumstances.”

The new penal code also provides for the defense of the 2019 Constitution and the socialist regime established thereby. “Treason to the homeland is the gravest of crimes, whoever commits it is subject to the most severe sanctions.”

(source: mercopress.com)

IRAN----executions

Baluch Mohammad Bameri Executed After Failing to Pay €33k Blood Money

Mohammad Bameri, a Baluch man sentenced to qisas(retribution-in-kind) for murder, was executed in Iranshahr Prison after he was unable to pay the €33k diya (blood money).

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, a Baluch man was executed in Iranshahr Prison on the morning of May 14. His identity was reported as Mohammad Bameri from Bakhsh Daman in Iranshahr province. He was sentenced to qisas for murder.

The victim’s family had demanded 1 billion tomans (€33k) as diya (bloody money) instead of retribution but Mohammad Bameri’s family were unable to come up with that amount.

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

According to data gathered by Iran Human Rights, at least 183 people were executed on murder charges in 2021. Those charged with the umbrella term of “intentional murder” are sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) regardless of intent or circumstances due to a lack of grading in law. Once a defendant has been convicted, the victim’s family are required to choose between death as retribution, diya (blood money) or forgiveness.

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Ghobad Khodakarami Executed for Murder in Khorramabad

Ghobad Khodakarami, a retired teacher sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, was executed in Khorramabad Central Prison.

According to HRANA news agency, a man was executed in Khorramabad Central Prison on the morning of May 7. His identity has been reported as Ghobad Khodakarami who was sentenced to qisas for murder.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Ghobad Khodakarami was a retired teacher who was arrested three years ago for murder by the Khorramabad police and sentenced to qisas.”

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

According to data gathered by Iran Human Rights, at least 183 people were executed on murder charges in 2021. Those charged with the umbrella term of “intentional murder” are sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) regardless of intent or circumstances due to a lack of grading in law. Once a defendant has been convicted, the victim’s family are required to choose between death as retribution, diya (blood money) or forgiveness.

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3 Baluch Men Including a Possible Juvenile Offender Executed for Murder in Zahedan

Farshad Gamshadzehi, Esmail Jahantigh and Mansour Barahouyi, three Baluch men sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, were executed in Zahedan Central Prison. There is a possibility that Farshad Gamshadzehi may have been a juvenile offender.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, three Baluch men were executed in Zahedan Central Prison on the morning of May 14. Their identities have been established as Farshad Gamshadzehi, Esmail Jahantigh and Mansour Barahouyi, who were all sentenced to qisas for murder.

There is a possibility that Farshad Gamshadzehi may have been under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged offence. Iran Human Rights is continuing its investigation to establish whether he was a juvenile offender.

At the time of writing, none of their executions have been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to data gathered by Iran Human Rights, at least 183 people were executed on murder charges in 2021. Those charged with the umbrella term of “intentional murder” are sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) regardless of intent or circumstances due to a lack of grading in law. Once a defendant has been convicted, the victim’s family are required to choose between death as retribution, diya (blood money) or forgiveness.

Although there are no official figures for the population of Baluch minorities in Iran, different sources estimate the number to be between 1.5 and 4.8 million, accounting for 2 to 6% of Iran’s total population. Research and monitoring by Iran Human Rights show that in 2021, at least 70 Baluch prisoners were executed, accounting for 21% of all executions in Iran.

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Unidentified Man Executed for Murder in Mashhad

A man only named as Mostafa Kh was executed for murder in Mashhad Central Prison, official sources have reported.

According to Rokna, a man was executed in Mashhad Central Prison on the morning of May 11. Sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, he has only been named as 33-year-old Mostafa Kh.

The executed man is alleged to have killed the husband of a woman from his village with her collaboration. The woman was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

In 2021, 183 of the 333 executions recorded by Iran Human Rights were for murder charges. Those charged with the umbrella term of “intentional murder” are sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) regardless of intent or circumstances due to a lack of grading in law. Once a defendant has been convicted, the victim’s family are required to choose between death as retribution, diya (blood money) or forgiveness.

(source for all: iranhr.net)

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

Rights groups decry planned execution of Iranian-Swedish citizen----Diplomats and agencies have called the espionage charges against Ahmad Reza Jalali unfounded. Some experts speculate that his sentencing is in retribution for the trial in Sweden of former Iranian official Hamid Nouri.

Human rights organizations and relatives have denounced the recent announcement of the date for the execution of Iranian-Swedish citizen Ahmad Reza Jalali. Vida Mehrannia, Jalali's wife, is calling for his return to Sweden. Some experts have pointed to possible retribution for the trial in Sweden of former Iranian official Hamid Nouri.

"Ahmad Reza has not been allowed any direct telephone contact with us in Sweden since November 2020," Mehrannia told DW.

Mehrannia, like the representatives of several human rights agencies, believes her husband is innocent and that his trial was completely unfair.

Quoting "informed sources," Iranian Students' News Agency reported on May 4 that Jalali's death sentence would be carried out by May 21. Iran's government had sentenced the disaster medicine doctor to death on allegations of espionage for Israel.

Some experts believe the sentence was issued in retaliation for the trial taking place in Sweden of Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian official who has been implicated in the mass execution of dissidents. The death sentence was announced on the last day of Jalali's trial.

Swedish prosecutors have demanded life in prison for Nouri on charges of involvement in the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners, as well as for "committing war crimes and premeditated murder."

Maja Aberg, of Amnesty International Sweden, said she believed that the announcement of Jalali's execution was directly related to Nouri's case. "It indicates that [Iran] sees him as a kind of piece in the jigsaw puzzle, which is very worrying," she told Sweden's TT news agency.

Meanwhile, Iran has claimed that its actions against Jalali have nothing to do with Nouri's case.

"His lawyer went to the Evin Prison's Prosecutor's Office to see if the news was true — and it was," Mehrannia said.

She said Jalali's mental and physical condition had worsened after hearing the news of the execution and he had lost 30 kilograms (66 pounds) from his original weight of 81 kilograms.

Mehrannia said their family was also struggling to process the news, and that the couple's 10-year-old son was unaware of his father's death sentence and had only recently learned that his father is imprisoned in Iran.

"My children should not have experienced such days. My 19-year-old daughter has been informed of her father's death sentence and is worried and upset by this unjust sentence," she said.

Earlier this month, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde tweeted that the reports that Iran may carry out the death sentence were "very worrying."

"Sweden and the EU condemn the death penalty and demand that Jalali be released. We are in contact with Iran," she said.

Mehrannia said the Swedish government had not done enough for her husband.

Although she has met with Belgium's foreign minister and members of the Italian Parliament, she said she had not been able to meet with Swedish officials face-to-face over the past 6 years.

"How could the Swedish government not do anything for its citizens?" she asked. "My expectation from the Swedish government is to support its citizens and bring Ahmad Reza back to us."

In May, Mahmud Amiri Moghadam, of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights Organization, told Radio Farda that Jalali's sentencing shows that "the Islamic republic is using Jalali as a hostage" to pressure Sweden over the Nouri trial.

"We demand the international community and specifically European countries to clarify the ramifications of such an execution," he said, referring to the "hostage-taking" of Jalali as a punishable international crime.

Jalali was arrested when he was visiting Iran in April 2016, following an invitation from the University of Tehran and Shiraz University.

2 weeks later, he faced charges of espionage, treason and collaboration with Israel. Jalali, a researcher and Karolinska Institute alumnus, is accused of "assassinating 2 nuclear scientists" by providing "information about the Islamic Republic's nuclear program to Mossad."

On October 21, 2017, the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Jalali to death. According to reports, his lawyer was not allowed to be present in the court and he was denied access to the case files. Appeals for judicial review of the sentence have been rejected.

Prisoners protest with hunger strike

His death sentence has been widely protested by human rights organizations both inside and outside Iran. "Jalali's situation is truly horrific," UN human rights experts said in a statement in March. "He has been held in prolonged solitary confinement for over 100 days with the constant risk of his imminent execution laying over his head."

Additionally, Iranian political prisoners Houshang Rezaei and Farhad Meysami, have gone on a hunger strike in Evin and Rajaei-Shahr prisons to protest Jalali's verdict, saying they will continue to strike until the death sentence is overturned.

"We denounce the actions of the Iranian authorities in the strongest terms, as well as their complete inaction despite our constant calls for him to be immediately released," the UN statement said. "The allegations against him are completely baseless and he should be allowed to return to his family in Sweden as soon as possible."

(source: dw.com)

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Iran to consider postponing death sentence of academic convicted of aiding Israel----Ahmedreza Djalali was arrested during visit to Islamic Republic in 2016, with Tehran claiming he helped Mossad in assassination of 2 nuclear scientists

Iran could postpone the death sentence expected later this month against Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmedreza Djalali, the foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday.

ISNA news agency had reported earlier this month that Djalali would be executed by May 21, after he was sentenced to death in 2017 over espionage for Israel.

“Mr. Djalali’s sentence is definite, as the judiciary had announced,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.

Asked if Djalali and his lawyers had requested a review of the sentence, Khatibzadeh said: “They have requested that the execution be done at another time.”

“It is being considered… the judiciary will naturally follow up on the case,” he said.

UN envoy Enrique Mora has called for the release on “humanitarian grounds” of Djalali, during a visit last week to Iran to help revive the 2015 nuclear pact with Western powers.

“I want to underline that in Tehran I raised the need to stop execution of #AhmadrezaDjalali and asked for his release on humanitarian grounds,” Mora tweeted after the two-day visit which ended Friday.

Djalali, who was based in Stockholm and worked at Karolinska Medical Institute, was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016.

He was sentenced to death the following year after being found guilty of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel’s Mossad spy agency that had led to their assassinations.

Sweden granted Djalali citizenship while in detention in February 2018.

In March 2021, UN human rights experts called for his release, saying that he was “near death.”

(source: The Times of Israel)

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

Imminent execution in Iran

Iran urged to immediately release prisoners of conscience and dual and foreign nationals at risk of COVID-19

Statement by Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council

We are deeply alarmed by the imminent execution in the Islamic Republic of Iran of Swedish-Iranian doctor and academic Ahmedreza Djalali and urgently call on the Iranian authorities to halt the execution and revoke his death sentence.

Iranian authorities announced yesterday that while the execution currently scheduled to take place by 21 May maybe postponed following a request from Djalali’s lawyers, “the verdict is final, and the execution will be carried out.”

Djalali was arrested in April 2016 while on a visit to Iran to attend academic workshops on disaster medicine. He was charged with espionage and later convicted and sentenced based on a confession that was reportedly extracted under torture, and after a trial that failed to meet international standards. In the current circumstances, the execution would therefore constitute an arbitrary deprivation of life.

Use of the death penalty for espionage offences is incompatible with international human rights law. Countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the “most serious crimes”, which is interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing.

(source: ohchr.org)

IRAQ:

British geologist, 66, facing death penalty in Iraq for 'smuggling ancient pottery' arrives in court in a yellow prison suit as he insists he did 'not know about laws' when he took shards 'no larger than my fingernail'

A British geologist accused of smuggling ancient shards out of Iraq appeared in court yesterday as he attempted to avoid a potential death sentence.

Jim Fitton, 66, was escorted to the Baghdad courtroom in a stark yellow jumpsuit on Sunday where he implored judges to realise he had not acted with criminal intent and had no idea he may have broken local laws.

The father-of-2, who is on trial alongside a German man named Volker Waldmann, is grabbing international attention as his family petition the UK Parliament to intervene in the proceedings.

The court must determine whether the defendants had sought to profit by taking the 12 items, which were found in their possession as they attempted to fly out of Baghdad airport on March 20.

The 2 men, who did not know each other before they travelled to Iraq on an organised tour to Eridu, were arrested at the airport and promptly charged.

Their trial comes with the war-ravaged country, whose tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent, timidly opening to visitors.

The judge told the accused they were charged under a 2002 law which provides for sentences up to the death penalty for those guilty of 'intentionally taking or trying to take out of Iraq an antiquity'.

If found guilty, Fitton could face the death penalty according to Iraqi law - though legal experts have suggested this is unlikely

Fitton and Waldmann appeared in court in their yellow detainee outfits and were asked to explain their actions.

Waldmann said the 2 items found in his possession were not his and instead had been given to him by Fitton to carry.

'But did you put them in your bag?' asked head judge Jaber Abdel Jabir.

'Didn't you know these were Iraqi antiquities?'

Waldmann said he didn't pick up the items from the site, only agreed to carry them for Fitton.

In other remarks translated from German, he said he put the pieces in a 'transparent bag' and never tried to conceal them.

Fitton said he 'suspected' the items he collected were ancient fragments, but that 'at the time I didn't know about Iraqi laws', before adding he didn't know it was not permitted to take the shards.

The geologist said he was in the habit of collecting such fragments as a hobby and had no intention to sell them.

He said it was not clear to him at the time that picking them up from the site was a criminal offence.

'There were fences, no guards or signage' at the sites, he told the court.

'I am a retired geologist. My interests still lie in geology and ancient history and archeology.'

'These places, in name and by definition, are ancient sites,' Jabir responded.

'One doesn't have to say it is forbidden.'

When Fitton said some of the shards were 'no larger than my fingernail', Jabir said this was not relevant.

'Size doesn't matter,' the judge declared.

Based on the law both men could face the death penalty, an outcome that legal experts said was unlikely.

British and German embassy officials were present at the court but have not issued detailed public statements about the case in order not to jeopardize the proceedings, they said.

The defence plans to submit more evidence to clear the men, Fitton's defense lawyer Thair Soud told The Associated Press.

This includes testimony from government officials present at the site where the fragments were collected.

'(Their testimony) is pending approval from their official directorates,' he said.

The 3-judge panel in Baghdad's felony court scheduled the next hearing for May 22.

Meanwhile, Fitton's family is pressing on with a campaign to encourage the UK Government to intervene in his trial.

A petition launched on Change.org in late April calling for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to help in securing his release has received almost 300,000 signatures.

His family say that he has been accused of stealing fragments that were in the open at Eridu, an ancient ruin of a city that is found in Iraq, and was once in southern Mesopotamia

Mr Fitton's family described the response to the petition as 'unbelievable', adding in a statement: 'Jim really appreciates the support from old colleagues, good friends, kindred spirits, and complete strangers who have not allowed this to go unnoticed.

'We will continue to fight while we continue to have you at our backs.'

Fitton worked as a geologist for oil and gas companies during his career and lives in his adopted home of Malaysia with his wife, Sarijah.

The family said their lawyer has drafted a proposal under Iraqi law to have the case closed before trial but they need the Foreign Office to 'put their weight behind the plan and endorse it' so they can secure a high-level meeting with judicial officials in the country.

The proposal cites the 'clear lack of criminality, that Jim is a victim of poor guidance and circumstance, and also cites the huge investment that the UK has made in the Iraqi governmental and judicial framework through FCDO funding in the past few years'.

(source: dailymail.co.uk)

BANGLADESH:

Man gets death sentence for killing wife over dowry in Tangail

see: https://unb.com.bd/category/Bangladesh/man-gets-death-sentence-for-killing-wife-over-dowry-in-tangail/93004

INDIA:

Death sentence must be in cases where court feels there is no alternative: Supreme Court

Death penalty should be resorted to by courts only if the crime is an “uncommon” one, the Supreme Court has held.

No mitigating circumstances of the convict should should be able to overcome the aggravation or, for one, the brutality of the crime, the court explained. The crime should be of a nature that leaves the court with the opinion that life sentence would be inadequate.

“All murders are inhuman. For imposing capital sentence, the crime must be uncommon in nature, where even after taking into account the mitigating circumstances the Court must be of the opinion that the sentence of imprisonment for life is inadequate and there is no alternative but to impose death sentence,” a three-judge Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar observed in a recent judgment.

The case was the “heinous and brutal” rape and murder of an 8-year-old by her uncle. The court commuted the death penalty of the convict to life sentence with no remission for 30 years of the imprisonment.

Justice Ravikumar, who wrote the judgment, said the nature of commission of crime, the victim being a relative and the hapless situation of the girl and the “shocking” injuries found on the child were all aggravating circumstances.

But the mitigating circumstances also count.

“The undisputable fact that the appellant had no criminal antecedents, he hails from a poor socio-economic background and also his unblemished conduct inside the jail cannot go unnoticed. So also, it is a fact that at the time of commission of the offence the appellant was aged 25 years,” the court noted.

The court said it cannot rule out the possibility and the probability of reformation and rehabilitation of the appellant.

“The long and short of the discussion is that the present case cannot be considered as one falling in the category of ‘rarest of rare cases’ in which there is no alternative but to impose death sentence,” Justice Ravikumar reasoned.

(source: thehindu.com)

NIGERIA:

Blasphemy: Trouble with Nigeria is 2 opposing civilisations

Last month, while the world was marking Easter, the number one feast in Christendom, a Nigerian bank – Sterling Bank – with a Muslim, Abubakar Suleiman, as its CEO, ran an advert which said, “Like Agege Bread, He Rose,” in reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. It was not just an advert lacking in creativity and sensitivity, it was repugnant and despicable.

Many Christians expressed their outrage against the advert. The bank apologised and the issue was rested. The bank was not attacked. The staff of the bank were not attacked. There was not even a campaign to blacklist the bank.

Last week, there was an allegation that Deborah Yakubu, a female student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in the North-West state of Sokoto, had asked her classmates to focus on posting academic materials on their class WhatsApp group and stop posting religious materials. She was accused by her Muslim classmates that her comment contained blasphemy. Subsequently, a mob went in search of her, got her, stoned her to death and burnt her body.

While reactions were pouring in regarding the barbaric act, the next day mobs took over the streets of Sokoto and began destroying and burning churches and business premises of those perceived to be Christians, even though these people had no connection with Deborah. Deborah was an indigene of Niger State in the North-Central zone of Nigeria. In addition to the vandalism and arson by the mob, there were also calls by those who supported the lynching of Deborah that the 2 people arrested over her killing be released.

Though there have been strong claims that there is no part of the Kuran, which directs adherents to lynch a blasphemer, many Muslims on different social media platforms have continued to defend it outrightly or indirectly. The usual subtle endorsement used even by those who don’t want to endorse it directly is: “People should learn to respect other people’s religion.” The implication is that those who “don’t respect Islam” should be ready for whatever they receive.

In June 2016, a 74-year-old woman, Juliet Agbahiwe, was lynched in Kano for telling a Muslim neighbour, performing ablution in front of her shop, to give room for her customers to be able to access her shop. Part of the message retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari as President of Nigeria gave read, “Let us learn to respect each other’s faith so that we can know each other and live together in peace.” Many saw it as an insensitive comment by a president who is a Muslim in response to the incident of some Muslims from his zone lynching a Christian septuagenarian on the allegation of blasphemy. The meaning of that statement was that if Agbahiwe had respected other people’s faith, she would not have been killed.

The danger in the lynching of Deborah was that unlike in the case of Agbahiwe which happened in a market (where most of the perpetrators could have been uneducated), it happened in a higher institution where education is expected to make a difference in the people’s reaction to religion. In May 2015, an angry mob set the Kano venue of an Islamic sect ablaze for a comparison which was seen as blasphemous. Nine members of the sect were arrested and in June they were sentenced to death for blasphemy by a sharia court.

“There has been consensus among Muslims scholars that insulting the prophet carries a death sentence,” the head of Kano’s religious police, Aminu Ibrahim Daurawa, had told the BBC Hausa Service.

“We quickly put them on trial to avoid bloodshed because people were very angry and trying to take law into their hands,” he added.

The hashtag, #SaveKanoNine, was created on social media for their sake. In response to that hashtag, Bashir Ahmad, who was the Personal Assistant to President Buhari on New Media and Digital Communications, made a tweet that read, “I can’t pretend or keep silent. I support the death penalty for BLASPHEMY [emphasis his]. That’s my belief and I do not and will never support #SaveKanoNine.”

To the majority of Muslims of Northern Nigeria, the issue of death for blasphemy is a very passionate one that should not be compromised. Anybody speaking against it is seen as an accomplice that should be treated as an enemy. To the Christians in the South and North as well as many Muslims in the South, killing for blasphemy is barbaric. What this re-emphasises is that there are two civilisations in Nigeria, fiercely opposed to each other. Since the Southern and Northern Protectorates were merged in 1914 to form Nigeria, these two civilisations, or worldviews, rarely agree on any issue except that of gay marriage, even though statistics show that Nigeria ranks high in the viewership of gay pornography.

The primary reason why Nigeria has been retrogressing and filled with violence, conflict and bloodshed is that these 2 civilisations never agree on issues that aid growth and development. They do not agree on issues regarding education, democracy, religion, commerce, employment, marriage, procreation, human rights, female rights, child rights, life and death. The disagreement between these sides is not like that between the conservatives and liberals in most Western countries. It is a matter of life and death. There are no middle grounds.

And because of the way Nigeria is structured, Nigeria cannot make any progress unless the whole parts agree. In the event that the whole parts of Nigeria do not agree – which happens virtually all the time – the view of the most disadvantaged side or of the most conservative side or the side with the ability to dish out the most violence is adopted as the national view. That entails that Nigeria usually crawls when it should be running or flying.

Those who assume that Nigeria’s problem is that of leadership do not understand the depth and magnitude of the problem facing Nigeria. The existence of two civilisations that are centuries apart in ideology and are pulling in opposite directions is the fundamental problem of Nigeria. Good leadership cannot solve this.

The only part leadership can play in it is in helping to midwife a system, which will make Nigeria run a truly federal or confederal system, that gives freedom to the sections of Nigeria. However, because the two opposing civilisations in Nigeria never agree on anything, the chances of this are slim. The other option is to peacefully dissolve Nigeria like was done in former India, Malaysia, the USSR or Czechoslovakia, to end the perennial bloodshed and backwardness and allow the different parts to pursue their dreams and ways of life. Again, the two opposing civilisations in Nigeria will never agree to any peaceful dissolution of Nigeria.

Therefore, Nigeria is in a situation that creates apprehension. The rise in secessionist agitations and violence from different parts of Nigeria heightens that anxiety. Acts like the lynching of Deborah Yakubu over allegations of blasphemy merely widen the gulf between the two opposing civilisations in Nigeria. Nobody knows where this division will lead to. It is imperative, therefore, that Nigerians hold a national dialogue to create a system that will allow the sections to live the type of life they cherish without suppressing the desires of others. The more this is denied or delayed, the more danger it poses to Nigeria and Nigerians.

(source: punchng.com)

VIETNAM:

4 persons face death for trafficking heroin in Vietnam----Vietnamese law stipulates the death penalty for people convicted of smuggling over 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine.

Police of northern Vietnam’s Dien Bien province on Monday arrested four local men for trafficking 115 cakes of heroin from Laos.

The Vietnam News Agency reported that the four people, aged from 20 to 26, are all from Dien Bien province.

Local police started the investigation in mid-April and the heroin seized in the province’s Tuan Giao district weighs 40.2 kg, the news agency reported.

The traffickers admitted that the drug had been bought in Laos and was being transported to northern Vietnam’s Lao Cai province for sale.

Vietnamese law stipulates the death penalty for people convicted of smuggling over 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine.

(source: gazettengr.com)

GLOBAL:

11 countries where LGBTQ+ people still face death penalty urged to abolish it once and for all

A number of leading LGBTQ+ organisations have called on 11 countries to end the threat of the death penalty as a punishment for queer people.

ILGA Asia, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and 5 other organisations condemned the use of violence against LGBTQ+ people in a statement issued to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), which takes place on Tuesday (17 May).

In the statement, the LGBTQ+ organisations note that 70 countries around the world continue to criminalise same-sex sexual conduct, including 22 Asian countries.

ILGA Asia said 11 countries – Afghanistan, Brunei, Darussalam, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen – retain the death penalty for LGBTQ+ people. Eight of those countries are in Asia.

According to Human Dignity Trust, the death penalty is implemented in Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen, and remains a “legal possibility” in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar and UAE.

Imposing death penalty for LGBTQ+ people violates ‘right to life’

Anti-LGBTQ+ laws and capital punishment disproportionately affect ethnic or religious minorities and those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, the organisations said.

“The retention and imposition of the death penalty for consensual, same-sex sexual conduct is a violation of the right to life and of the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment,” said Daron Tan, associate international legal adviser at the ICJ.

Tan said such laws breach numerous human rights, and they may also cause people to be denied access to healthcare systems.

Ajita Banerjie, research officer at ILGA Asia, called for same-sex sexual conduct to be decriminalised across the world, and said the death penalty should be abolished in all circumstances.

“Further, we urge authorities in all the countries that continue to retain the death penalty to introduce a moratorium on its use, as a necessary first step towards the abolition of the death penalty.

“Lastly, we call on the authorities to ensure that all necessary safeguards are in place in order to ensure access to legal representation and fair trials for those currently facing the death penalty in connection with their real or purported engagement in consensual same-sex sexual conduct.”

The United Nations and other human rights organisations have repeatedly condemned the use of the death penalty in numerous countries around the world.

In December 2020, the UN general assembly called on states that still use the death penalty to ensure it’s not being applied “on the basis of discriminatory laws or as a result of discriminatory or arbitrary application of the law”.

2 gay men were executed in Iran earlier this year

Even in countries where the death penalty is not used against LGBTQ+ people, many continue to face arrest and conviction for having consensual sex.

Some countries maintain arbitrary “immorality” laws which target members of the LGBTQ+ community, including Kuwait, Lebanon, Myanmar and Oman.

There was widespread uproar in January when a human rights network said that 2 gay men had been executed in Iran after spending 6 years on death row.

The 2 men, who were named as Mehrdad Karimpour and Farid Mohammadi by the Human Rights Activists news agency, had been sentenced to death for “forced sexual intercourse between 2 men”.

Another 2 men were reportedly executed on similar charges in Iran in July 2021.

(source: pinknews.co.uk)

MAY 16, 2022:

NEW YORK:

Zeldin wants NY to reinstate death penalty after Buffalo shooting

In the aftermath of a racist mass shooting that killed 10 and injured 3 at a Buffalo supermarket, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin thinks it's time for New York to bring back the death penalty.

Zeldin released a statement on Sunday calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, and the state Legislature to reinstate the death penalty. He proposes making certain crimes eligible for the death penalty, including fatal hate crimes, killing police officers and other first responders, and homicides involving multiple victims.

"A simple Saturday afternoon at the local supermarket should never end in violence, tragedy and death," Zeldin said. "Across our state, streets, subways, businesses and homes have been turned over to criminals. Yesterday's Buffalo tragedy was a brutal reminder of the raw, violent hate on the rise in NY.

"Asian Americans have been killed in NYC with knives, hands, and hammers. 3 Jews were assaulted this past week in Brooklyn. Sikhs have been beaten up. None of it is welcome here, in any form, and those who commit fatal hate crimes, acts of terrorism, and other extreme violence should be brought to justice, and in some of these cases, the only fitting form of justice is the death penalty."

The Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, ruled in 1977 that the state's death penalty law was unconstititonal. But in 1995, then-Gov. George Pataki, the state's last Republican governor, signed a new death penalty law. At the time, there was bipartisan support for the law in the state Legislature.

Under the law signed by Pataki, death penalty-eligible crimes included serial murders, killing corrections officers, judges and police officers, and murders while committing other violent crimes, such as rape.

However, in 2004, the Court of Appeals ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Four years later, then-Gov. David Paterson disbanded the state's death row.

Even when the death penalty was reinstated, no incarcerated individuals were executed. The last execution was in 1963.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for legislation that remove the death penalty from state law. He proposed the bill after the Catholic Church announced it would push for the abolition of the death penalty. He also wanted to honor his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, who opposed the death penalty and vetoed bills that would've reinstated capital punishment in New York.

(source: auburnpub.com)

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

Republican candidates seek death penalty return after Buffalo shooting

2 Republican candidates for governor on Sunday called for a return to the death penalty in New York following a mass shooting in Buffalo that left at least 10 people dead and 3 injured.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin and former Trump administration aide Andrew Giuliani backed what would amount to a reinstatement of capital punishment in New York, which last executed a person in 1963. It's a potential revival of what has in the past been a galvanizing campaign issue for Republicans in New York, including the last successful unseating of a Democrat nearly 30 years ago.

Still, the push for the death penalty would come as states across the country have generally backed away from capital punishment given the unavailability of chemicals to perform lethal injections.

Zeldin, who is also competing against former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and businessman Harry Wilson for the Republican nomination for governor in next month's primary, said in a statement he would support the death penalty as a punishment in some of the cases that involve "fatal hate crimes, acts of terrorism, and other extreme violence."

“A simple Saturday afternoon at the local supermarket should never end in violence, tragedy and death," Zeldin said. "Across our state, streets, subways, businesses and homes have been turned over to criminals. Yesterday's Buffalo tragedy was a brutal reminder of the raw, violent hate on the rise in NY. Asian Americans have been killed in NYC with knives, hands, and hammers. 3 Jews were assaulted this past week in Brooklyn. Sikhs have been beaten up."

Giuliani on Twitter wrote the death penalty "should be on the table" if the alleged suspect in the shooting was found guilty. Law enforcement have pointed to a racist motivation behind the shooting, which took place in a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo.

"I will push to make sure that is an option for mass murderers and cop killers!" Giuliani said of the death penalty.

The issue proved to be a potent one in 1994 for Republican candidate George Pataki, who eventually unseated Democrat Mario Cuomo. During his time in office, Cuomo was staunchly opposed to the death penalty.

Voters in New York have not been polled about the death penalty in nearly a generation as the issue has largely faded from the public debate in Albany. A Siena College poll in 2005 found most voters at the time, 56% to 29%, supported life without parole over capital punishment.

(source: Spectrum News)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Man Convicted of Killing 2 Women Faces Death Sentence

A central Pennsylvania man is facing a death sentence following his conviction in the 2020 murders of 2 women with whom he had been romantically involved, one of whom was pregnant.

Jurors in Cumberland County announced Tuesday their decision that 27-year-old Davone Unique Anderson deserved capital punishment after he was convicted of 2 counts of first-degree murder and 1 count of 1st-degree murder of an unborn child as well as child endangerment, PennLive.com reported.

Authorities alleged that Anderson killed 23-year-old Sydney Parmelee in Carlisle on July 5, 2020, because he believed she was cheating on him. They allege he then killed 23-year-old Kaylee Lyons, who was 6 weeks pregnant, at the same home on July 30, 2020, because he feared she would tell police about the earlier slaying.

Jurors deliberated for almost 4 hours before deciding on a death sentence for Anderson in the slaying of Lyons. But they deadlocked on the death sentence in the killing of Parmelee, which resulted in the judge imposing a life term without parole on that charge. The judge will formally impose the sentence May 31.

Prosecutors said the defendant had been involved with both women and had fathered children with both of them. District Attorney Sean McCormack credited the efforts of jurors, telling WHTM-TV that he appreciated that “to return a verdict of death is no simple task.” Earlier, he hailed the convictions after the guilty verdict.

“It has been almost 2 years since these 2 young mothers were murdered leaving 3 very young children motherless," he said. “Their families are relieved that the man who killed them has been found guilty.”

Defense attorneys acknowledged that their client committed both slayings but cited the difficult life he led. Louise Luck, a mitigation specialist with Court Consultation Services, said he grew up at the mercy of abusive or absent family members.

“How we are raised affects how we raise our children,” Luck said on Monday. “This by no means attempts to excuse his behavior. It just explains his life story. He was suppressing everything.”

The state has executed 3 people since resuming the use of the death penalty in 1978. Gov. Tom Wolf, who leaves office in January, imposed a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in February 2015.

(source: Associated Press)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia board considers clemency for man who murdered 8-year-old and raped her 10-year-old friend in 1976

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. has a date to meet his maker, and it’s Tuesday, May 17. He even knows what time he’s supposed to take his last breath for the heinous crimes he committed against 2 little girls in 1976: 7 p.m.

But the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles has announced it is stepping in at the last minute to consider granting clemency to the man who murdered an 8-year-old girl and raped her 10-year-old friend.

The 5-member board is meeting at 9 a.m. Monday to “receive information in favor of commuting Presnell’s death sentence,” according to a news release from the board.

Former Cobb County District Attorney George “Buddy” Darden, who tried the case, had a succinct statement regarding Presnell:

“If there was ever a case that cried out for the death penalty, this was it.”

The Parole Board is set to review Presnell’s comprehensive case file and it said no public comment will be taken and no other business will be conducted at the special meeting.

Georgia’s Parole Board has the authority to grant clemency and commute or reduce a death sentence to the possibility of parole or life without parole. At the meeting, the board may commute Presnell’s sentence, issue a stay of execution up to 90 days, or deny him clemency.

46 years ago, Presnell, 68, was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Lori Ann Smith and kidnapping with bodily injury and raping Andrea Furlong. For this, he was given the death sentence in August 1976. The sentence was overturned in 1992 and reinstated in 1999.

Presnell abducted and attacked the two girls as they walked home from school May 4, 1976.

Lori Ann Smith would be a 54-year-old woman today, had Presnell not kidnapped and brutally killed her in 1976.

The girls did everything they could to fight off the grown man and save their lives. Lori Ann attempted to escape Presnell, who caught her and drowned her in a nearby river. Presnell sexually assaulted Andrea multiple times, then put her in the trunk of his car.

As he was driving, Presnell’s car had a flat tire. He decided to drop Andrea off in a wooded area, telling her that he would be back for her and not to leave. Presnell drove to the apartment he shared with his mother, where he would replace the flat tire.

While alone, Andrea heard people and noises coming from a nearby gas station and she ran from the woods. Andrea found the strength to tell strangers what had happened to her and her friend and the police were called.

She was able to give officers a description of Presnell and the car he was driving and a BOLO was issued for his arrest. A patrol officer spotted Presnell in the parking lot of the apartment complex, changing the tire on his car, a blue Plymouth Duster.

He initially denied any wrongdoing but eventually led police to the crime scene and to Lori Ann’s body. Her autopsy showed water, sand and plant matter in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she did not die immediately.

During a search of Presnell’s bedroom, authorities found child pornography.

The Superior Court of Cobb County has ordered Presnell’s execution, which the Georgia Department of Corrections scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

(source: ussanews.com)

FLORIDA:

Jury selection for Nikolas Cruz penalty phase resumes Monday

The jury selection process for the penalty phase for convicted Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is now in week 6 and is set to resume Monday after a 2-week delay.

Cruz gunned killed 17 people with an AR-15 assault rifle at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 20-18. 17 other people were injured in the mass shooting.

There have been several delays in the jury selection for the sentencing phase up to this point.

State Rep. Michael Gottlieb, a 30-year criminal defense attorney in Broward County, says the judge presiding over this case has already given the defense reasons to appeal if Cruz is eventually sentenced to death.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg for what is going to be a problematic, plagued trial,” said Gottlieb.

He says the moment Broward County Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer dismissed 11 prospective jurors in April without allowing both sides to speak with the group, an appeal following a possible death sentence verdict became inevitable. Scherer dismissed those prospective jurors after they said they could not “follow the law.”

Last week, when the dismissed prospective jurors were called back to the court, he says the defense was given another reason to appeal down the road.

"I don’t think you can walk that back and say, ‘We’re going to bring those jurors back,’ because once they’ve broken the sanctity of being on the venire, you don’t know who they’ve spoke to, what information they got, whether or not they surfed the internet,” said Gottlieb. "When you excuse them, those rules are waived so when those jurors went home, whether it’s for 12 hours, 24 hours, 36 hours or whatever length of time they were home, they could have violated any one of those admonitions from the court and that’s problematic because they’re then considering things they aren’t hearing in court and a juror should never decide the fate of the case on things they’ve heard outside the courtroom.

“Looking at it as a defense attorney, you always want to have a flawed process because you want to have the ability to file an appeal and say there was fundamental error.

"From a defendant’s perspective, you want to continue to make those mistrial motions claiming that there’s error or proving that there’s error, for the purposes of preserving your record on appeal."

The court proceedings have also been delayed another two weeks after Cruz’ attorney Melisa McNeill was absent from court for two days for an undisclosed reason.

These delays have caused Scherer to push back the timeline for this trial, as she now says she expects it to last through October.

Once those jurors are selected, they will have to decide if Cruz should be executed for the 2018 massacre or if he should serve life in prison without the possibility of parole. Cruz will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole if a possible death sentence verdict is not unanimous.

(source: WPBF news)

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

Florida death row inmates promised more humane treatment after lawsuit settlement----Some 300 condemned Florida prisoners live in for years “permanent solitary confinement.” An agreement with prison officials vows more humane conditions.

A recent settlement in a long-running federal lawsuit that challenged the often decadeslong isolation of Florida’s death row prisoners comes with a promise of more humane treatment for the state’s condemned.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard of Jacksonville in late April approved the settlement, in which the Florida Department of Corrections agreed to allow eligible death-sentenced prisoners to spend more time outside their cells, with some able to hold prison jobs within the death row housing unit. The agreement also guarantees access to mental health care, including psychiatric care, among other provisions.

The change represents a significant turn in Florida’s capital punishment history and an improvement to the safety and efficiency of the state’s prison system, say the lawyers who brought the lawsuit.

“It’s been a tenet of our legal system, really since its inception, that no matter what anyone has done or what they’ve been convicted of, they deserve humane, responsible confinement,” said Evan Shea, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C.-based Venable law firm, who was among the team that shepherded the lawsuit. “As we understand more about the effects of isolation on mental health, it’s very clear from the science that prolonged isolation is not a humane, just condition to place someone in.”

Florida Department of Corrections officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

For more than 40 years, people sentenced to death in Florida have ended up in what the lawsuit described as “permanent solitary confinement.” It is a limbo-like state that typically lasts decades and sometimes ends in execution, but often does not.

As the condemned await the outcome of their cases, they spend close to 24 hours a day in small, windowless cells at Union Correctional Institution, near the town of Raiford, between Jacksonville and Gainesville. The cells are equipped with a small TV, a bunk, a combination toilet and sink, a small writing table and little else.

The prisoners eat meals in their cells. They leave only for brief showers and three hours a week of recreation time in an outdoor yard. Interactions with other people are mostly limited to what the prisoners can hear from men in adjacent cells, and the occasional passing of a corrections officer.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2017, names as plaintiffs eight men who have lived on death row for periods ranging between four and 30 years. The complaint references research that has shown the adverse effects of long-term solitary confinement, which include heightened anxiety and nervousness, rumination, confused thoughts, chronic depression, mood swings, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and overall physical and mental deterioration.

The settlement aims to change things, starting with an agreement that eligible prisoners will be able to spend at least 15 hours, and up to 20 hours a week, in a newly constructed day room at the end of a cell block. There, they can congregate with others, watch TV and access multimedia kiosks. They will also have increased access to telephones to communicate with loved ones, and increased access to showers.

Prison officials also agreed to extend outdoor recreation time to six hours a week. They will also install a sun shade in the recreation area to mitigate the intense Florida heat, the settlement states.

Eligible prisoners can also have institutional jobs. Such jobs may include tasks like cleaning the death row housing area, Shea said.

A prison classification team will determine which prisoners are eligible to partake in the changes, based on administrative rules. Generally, the regulations exclude prisoners who have committed major violations of prison rules, such as assault, murder or an attempted escape, according to the settlement.

The agreement did not achieve everything the lawyers for the condemned had initially sought, most notably the addition of air conditioning. But the lawyers saw the compromise as a victory.

“This is going to lead to a smoother operation of the prison,” Shea said. “It’s not a good way to run a prison to have inmates that are subject to severe psychological strain. That leads to unhappy prisoners, inmates that are not stable and react in ways that place burdens on correctional officers and on the prison administration.”

A little more than 300 prisoners are confined on Florida’s death row. Most have been there longer than a decade. Many have been there multiple decades.

The longest tenure is that of Tommy Zeigler, who has been on death row since 1976 after a jury found him guilty in the murders of 4 people at his Winter Garden furniture store. Ziegler maintains his innocence and has amassed significant public support as he seeks new DNA testing in his case.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

OHIO:

7 things to know about Shawn Allen's capital murder trial in Summit County court

2 men – one of them pushing his daughter in stroller – got into an altercation outside an Akron restaurant in July 2020.

The man with the stroller walked away.

The other man jumped into an SUV and tracked him down, striking the man with the stroller and killing both him and his daughter.

That’s the chain of events that Summit County prosecutors say led to the deaths of Horace Lee, 43, and Azariah Tucker, his 22-month-old daughter.

Shawn Allen, 37, of Canton, is accused of being the hit-and-run driver and will go on trial Monday in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Susan Baker Ross’ courtroom.

Here are 7 things to know about Allen’s case in advance of the trial:

What is Shawn Allen charged with?----Allen faces 3 counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts of murder and gross abuse of a corpse, and 1 count each of tampering with evidence and failure to stop after an accident.

What penalty does Allen face?----Allen faces the death penalty.

If jurors were unwilling to go with this penalty, they could opt for a sentencing of life in prison without parole.

How long is the trial expected to last?----The trial is expected to take about 2 weeks.

Jurors will be sequestered during their deliberations.

If Allen is convicted, when will the sentencing phase be?----The sentencing phase will start June 13 and is expected to take a week.

The same jurors will handle both the testimony and sentencing phases of the trial.

How was Allen identified as a suspect?----Police say they zeroed in on Allen from surveillance footage and interviews. They released surveillance images to the public a few days after the slayings.

Where were the Akron father and daughter found?----Neighbors saw Lee and his daughter in a gravel driveway in the 400 block of Crouse Street. One of them called 911.

Is Horace Lee’s family hoping for the death penalty if Allen is convicted?----Some of Lee’s family members favor the death penalty, while others would prefer a life-in-prison penalty.

(source: Akron Beacon Journal)

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

Public should have a say in death penalty

Ohio Sen. Mike Rulli, R-Salem, is among legislators who are exploring elimination of Ohio’s death penalty.

Ohio Senate Bill 103, which effectively would end Ohio’s death penalty, is generating critically important debate and discourse.

The proposed end to capital punishment in Ohio comes at a time when our governor has instituted a moratorium on executions,

Like many other states in the union, Ohio continues to struggle in its efforts to locate drugs for use in lethal injections. That means that those sentenced to die in Ohio will remain on death row for now, and families of victims waiting for closure will be left with no end in sight.

Until a broader discussion on SB 103 can be held, we believe legislators in Columbus should debate and consider adding other means for execution in Ohio to comply with the law on the books.

Looking ahead, abolishing capital punishment is such a deep, moral issue that never should be entered into lightly, and that it should be debated and decided by the electorate at the polls rather than by those in Columbus.

(source: Editorial, Morning Journal)

KANSAS:

Death penalty must fall as Kansas reckons with violent racial past

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Gretchen Eick is an author, educator and publisher in Wichita.

Kansas has a violent racial history, and the death penalty just might stand as that history’s cruelest expression.

We should end this practice now and try to live up to our sunnier narrative as the “Free State.” The pending death penalty prosecution of Cornell McNeal in Wichita offers an opportunity for us to do just that.

In Kansas, as in other “death belt states,” the death penalty disproportionately targets Black men and is most frequently applied when the victims are white and female. These trends aren’t accidents. Racial bias is part of our history.

Despite Kansas’ “Free State” history, freedom-seeking enslaved people and later freed people fleeing the South’s white supremacist terrorism met violent opposition here.

Instances of racialized terror increased exponentially with the exodus of southern Blacks after the presidential election of 1876 secured the South for white supremacist Democrats. Kansans – both those who had wanted the state to allow slavery and those who had wanted Kansas to be a free-state – feared that newly arriving Black people would steal their jobs, infect them with diseases or increase crime.

Their response? Racial purges. The establishment of “sundown” policies. Racialized terror events – hanging, dismembering, burning, and shooting detained Black men, events that were advertised in newspapers and drew crowds. In the twenty-first century, scholars have identified 54 murders by mob (lynchings), while local authorities looked away.

In 1901 the brutal lynching of Fred Alexander entertained a crowd estimated between 8,000-12,000 citizens in Leavenworth. That group included children.

Not until this year did the U.S. Congress make lynching a federal crime.

In the 40 years after the Civil War, Black people constituted 90% of the prison population in Southern states. It wasn’t much different in Kansas, and the Ku Klux Klan found Kansas rich in potential members. By the end of 1922, the Klan had 40,000 Kansas members, 6,000 in Wichita alone.

By 1924, Kansas City became the site for the second annual national “Klonvocation.” The Klan elected 130 officeholders in Kansas City, including as mayor, Don C. McCombs, who stocked his political machine with Klansmen.

Black Kansans resisted, most famously as named plaintiffs in the historic Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision that struck down segregation and the Dockum Drug Store sit-in, the nation’s first, successful, student-led sit-in.

Racial disparities in the criminal legal system proved more formidable. According to the Sentencing Project: “About 1 in 60 Black residents are locked away, in comparison to 1 in 377 white residents” – making Kansas’ Black incarceration rates the 11th-highest in the nation.

Kansas’ Black population is only about 6%, but Black people make up 31% of those in the state’s prisons and jails. Black Kansans are also more likely to be killed by the police.

These disparities extend to the state’s administration of the death penalty.

But there’s hope.

Kansas, unlike death penalty states in the South, has been ambivalent about the death penalty. Our last execution took place in 1965. After the US Supreme Court invalidated capital punishment nationwide, Kansas did not join other the states reinstituting it until 1994.

Today Kansas imprisons nine men under sentence of death. Three of those men, exactly one third, are Black.

In recent years. Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, Colorado, and Virginia have abandoned the death penalty, citing race discrimination and arbitrary application as the primary reasons.

Kansas should join them.

Over the last 10 years, Kansas political leaders – from both parties – have called for restrictions or outright abolition of the death penalty. Notably, former governor and senator Sam Brownback surprised many when he raised serious concerns about the penalty.

In 2021, 34 Kansas legislators supported a bipartisan bill to end capital punishment citing exorbitant costs, religious beliefs about the sanctity of life, and social justice reform.

We can’t change our past, but we can learn from it and eliminate the death penalty before taking the life of another person.

(source: Opinion; Gretchen Eick, Kansas Reflector)

ARIZONA:

Time, the Execution Process, and the Botched Lethal Injection of Clarence Dixon

In the world of capital punishment, timing is everything.

Execution dates are set. Death warrants are pegged to specific days and times. Detailed logs are kept noting what happens, and when it happens, in the holding cells where condemned inmates await their execution. Stays of execution may be delivered at the eleventh hour. Meticulous attention is paid to not only how, but when particular steps in the execution process are supposed to occur.

The obsessive focus on time is part of the ritualization of execution.

But identifying the time when an execution begins is also legally and constitutionally significant. It determines the reach of both the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the constitutional prohibition of double jeopardy.

The importance of time in the execution process was very much in evidence in news reports and in a bizarre and chilling press event staged by the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry (ADCRR) in the immediate aftermath of the May 11 execution of Clarence Dixon. Dixon was put to death for the 1978 sexual assault and murder of Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin.

He maintained his innocence until the end.

During the ADCRR’s post-execution press event, which was conducted in front of a large, color photograph of Bowdoin, the first mention of time occurred at right the start. Frank Strada, the deputy Director of the ACRR, stepped to the podium and informed reporters that the condemned was “pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m.”

Following Strada, a media witness, Troy Hayden, went out of his way to make sure that his listeners understood not only what happened during the execution but when it happened. Unprompted, Hayden also told the assembled reporters that Dixon’s was the 4th execution he had witnessed.

He offered an almost minute-by-minute account of Dixon’s death.

“It took about 25 minutes to get all the IVs in,” Hayden said. The process took that long because the execution team had “trouble” finding a vein in which to insert the IVs .

“At 10:13,” Hayden continued, “the IVs were inserted and they were in. At 10:17 the death warrant was read by the warden….At 10:19 the drugs went in…At 10:22 his mouth fell open and he appeared to stop breathing. At 10:27 the doctor came in and checked him. At 10:28 the warden said the inmate was sedated. At 10:30 the warden said the execution is complete.”

Taylor Tasler, another media witness, started her account by noting that Dixon’s was the first execution she had witnessed. She said that the process was “pretty quick,” and “less than I expected.”

Tasler subsequently offered her own detailed timeline, which varied a bit from Hayden’s.

Among other things, she reported that at “9:38, the execution team started working on inserting an IV in Dixon’s left arm, but struggled to find a vein. He was wincing and shaking his head but never looked at the gallery.”

At 9:50 they started trying to insert an IV in Dixon’s groin. “The catheter insertion,” Taylor said, “took the most time. The medical team gave him a shot in the groin. Dixon was in visible pain when it happened.” It was “completed at 10:10.”

Both this first-time witness and the veteran of several executions gave startlingly unemotional accounts of what they saw when Dixon was put to death. In their view, his seemed to be just an “ordinary” execution.

Dixon’s execution attracted attention because it was the first time Arizona had put someone to death since the notoriously botched execution of Joseph Wood in 2014.

The Wood execution took more than two hours. During that time, Wood gasped for air more than 600 times. In its increasingly desperate effort to kill him, the execution team administered fifteen doses of midazolam, the first drug in what was then Arizona’s 2-drug protocol.

Wood’s execution provided a reference point for Hayden who acknowledged while that it did not go according to plan, Dixon’s had proceeded “exactly as DOC planned for it to do.”

But Hayden’s own account, like Taylor’s, suggests something different.

It is clear that the placement of the IVs did not go according to plan. The execution team, Hayden recalled, first tried to put an IV in at the bend of the elbow on the left side. When that didn’t work, they tried accessing a vein in the bicep of his left arm.

Again they failed.

Next they tried his right arm until they secured an IV placement there. And, using a painful, “cutdown” procedure, they exposed a vein in Dixon’s groin and inserted another IV.

As Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno told Phoenix’s FoxNews10 after Dixon was put to death, “‘Executions should take seven to 10 minutes from the beginning of the IV insertion process until the moment the prisoner is declared dead.”

“The time it took to execute Dixon was,” in Denno’s view, “a sign of desperation (on the part of the execution team), and it’s a sign of an unqualified executioner.”

And the state’s current execution protocol also contradicts Hayden’s assessment that things went exactly as planned. It only allows the use of “peripheral IV catheters or a central femoral line as determined by the Director acting upon the recommendation of the IV Team Leader.”

It does not permit insertion of an IV in the groin or the use of the cutdown procedure that made Dixon suffer.

In our book, Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution, my collaborators and I report that the kind of trouble securing an IV that occurred in Dixon’s case is not uncommon in lethal-injection executions. Since 2010, it has occurred in more than 8% of them.

Being poked and prodded as the people trying to end your life secure the lines through which the lethal drugs will flow was an extra-legal aspect of Dixon’s executions. And it is part of the grave indignity and inhumanity of execution by lethal injection.

The case of Romell Broom, executed in Ohio in 2009, offers another example of that indignity and inhumanity as well as of the importance of time in the execution process. Broom’s s execution was stopped when the execution team could not find a useable vein after 18 attempts.

Broom later filed suit, claiming that the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and of double jeopardy meant that, having failed once, the state could not try again to execute him.

The Ohio State Supreme Court disagreed.

It ruled that the insertion of IV lines was “merely a ‘preparatory’ step to the execution. Until the lethal drugs flow through the tubes…the state has not yet punished Broom….”

However, the court’s insistence on that distinction between the preparation for and the start of an execution severely and unduly narrows the reach of constitutional protections for those condemned to die. It affords the state unacceptably wide latitude to inflict excessive, or unnecessary, pain on those it seeks to execute or to act in a grossly negligent fashion.

Courts everywhere should reject the Ohio court’s approach and recognize that lethal injection executions begin when the execution team starts the work of inserting IV lines and intruding on the body of the condemned.

In Dixon’s case, this means that the repeated efforts to place the IVs were serious problems in the execution itself. It shows yet again that lethal injection is by no means a humane process.

Dixon’s execution is yet another reminder that, as Justice William O’Neill wrote in his dissent in the Broom case: “The term ‘lethal injection’ is merely a convenient euphemism used to aid in turning a blind eye to the real possibility that execution procedures can and do go wrong with predictable and horrendous results.”

(source: Austin Sarat; verdict.justia.com)

USA:

Could Death Penalty Shift Spare Man Charged in Bike Path Terror Attack?----Trump-era prosecutors demanded capital punishment for Sayfullo Saipov, accused of mowing down 8 people on a New York cycle path with his truck.

Shortly after Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, was arrested on suspicion of using a truck to kill eight people on a Manhattan bike path in 2017, President Donald J. Trump declared on Twitter, “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY.” Ultimately, Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, authorized federal prosecutors to seek capital punishment should Mr. Saipov be convicted.

But with Mr. Saipov’s trial looming this fall, his lawyers have asked Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, appointed by President Biden, to withdraw the death penalty authorization, which would mean life imprisonment for Mr. Saipov if he were found guilty.

Mr. Garland has not signaled how he might decide. But the request comes at a time when lawyers representing federal capital defendants appear to have reason for hope: Before he took office, Mr. Garland, without fanfare, publicly withdrew government death-penalty requests in cases involving 16 defendants from around the country, according to the Justice Department and federal court records.

And in his 14 months as attorney general, Mr. Garland has not authorized local U.S. attorneys to seek the death penalty in any new cases, the Justice Department said.

In July 2021, several months after Mr. Garland was sworn in, he announced a moratorium on federal executions pending a review of the department’s policies and procedures. That review is continuing, the department has said.

Mr. Garland noted at the time that in the previous two years, the Justice Department had changed its methods of carrying out executions, which are relatively infrequent in the federal system. There are currently just over 40 prisoners on federal death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. After a hiatus in federal executions that lasted nearly 2 decades, the Trump administration carried out 13 executions in its last six months, including three in the final days of his presidency.

Under Mr. Garland, the department has continued to defend the death penalty in some cases. For example, it fought the appeal of the death sentence that a jury had imposed on Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who in 2015 killed nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C. And it asked the Supreme Court last fall to reinstate the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who helped carry out the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three people and injured hundreds. In March, the court reinstated the sentence, which had been overturned on appeal.

Mr. Garland has not publicly detailed his reasons for de-authorizing the death penalty requests, decisions typically disclosed in brief court filings without elaboration. The New York Times initially reported in July that Mr. Garland had dropped the pursuit of capital punishment in cases involving seven defendants; The Houston Chronicle reported in December that the number had grown to 12.

With the total now at 16, court records show that in 14 instances, Mr. Garland reversed decisions made during the Trump administration. A 15th was made under former President Barack Obama.

The 16th case involved a man in Kentucky charged with the murder of his estranged wife, a soldier at the U.S. Army’s Fort Campbell. But the decision to seek capital punishment, made by Jeffrey A. Rosen as the acting attorney general during the Trump administration’s last month, was not filed in court until February 2021, before Mr. Garland had assumed his post.

“Rosen authorized and directed the United States attorney’s office for the Western District of Kentucky to seek the death penalty,” a government news release said at the time.

“It seemed like during the Trump administration, there was this push to kill as many people as possible,” said Lisa Peebles, the federal public defender in Syracuse, who represented a client facing a potential death penalty in the armed robbery of a restaurant and the murders of two employees there. The death penalty in her client’s case had been authorized by William P. Barr, then the attorney general under Mr. Trump.

Mr. Garland reversed that decision last June, a court filing shows.

“In the cases that are now being de-authorized,” Ms. Peebles said, “they’re probably taking a very close look at whether or not they should have been authorized in the first instance.”

She said in the case of her client, William D. Wood Jr., the defense and the local U.S. attorney’s office each conducted extensive testing and found he suffered from intellectual deficits, which she said disqualified him from being subject to capital punishment.

Ms. Peebles said the results of both investigations were submitted to the Justice Department, and she believes they influenced the decision. Mr. Wood eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

“Death is supposed to be reserved only for the absolute worst of the worst,” said Michael K. Bachrach, a lawyer who drafted a submission to the Justice Department seeking the withdrawal of the death penalty authorization against a Salvadoran immigrant who had been charged in a kidnapping and murder case in Virginia involving the MS-13 gang.

Last October, Mr. Garland directed the withdrawal of the death penalty request in that case, according to a court filing.

Mr. Bachrach said Mr. Garland’s de-authorizations indicate that “this administration is willing to take a broader look at things, and give more weight toward a defendant’s mitigation and whether or not death is, in fact, necessary in the individual case.”

Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra, noted that “under successive administrations, there has been an institutional process in the Justice Department that attempts to apply consistent standards over the long term.” He said Mr. Trump’s Justice Department appeared to undermine that process by announcing an intention to seek maximum punishments permitted by law.

Mr. Garland’s actions, he suggested, “may well represent an attempt to clean up the record of the prior administration, in order to preserve the long term viability of the federal death penalty against constitutional challenges for arbitrariness.”

Jacqueline K. Walsh, a Seattle lawyer who represented a defendant in Michigan whose death penalty was de-authorized last fall, said she did not “read too much” into the 16 de-authorization decisions.

“They don’t tell us why they de-authorize a case,” Ms. Walsh said.

“But the right thing is happening,” she added. “An administration is thoughtfully considering meaningful information as to why a person’s life should be spared.”

In Manhattan, federal prosecutors have accused Mr. Saipov of plowing a pickup truck down a bike path along the Hudson River on Halloween Day in 2017 — the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, the authorities have said.

Mr. Saipov, prosecutors have said, told the authorities he was inspired by Islamic State videos and had used the vehicle as a weapon to inflict maximum damage on civilians. He carried out the attack for the purpose of joining the Islamic State an indictment said. He has pleaded not guilty.

His federal defender, David E. Patton, has made it clear that if prosecutors withdrew the death penalty request, Mr. Saipov would plead guilty and accept a life sentence.

“President Biden ran on a campaign to end the federal death penalty,” Mr. Patton told Judge Vernon S. Broderick in a hearing about a year ago, adding, “If the government wants to bring closure to this case, it can do so tomorrow and assure that Mr. Saipov never, ever leaves a prison in his life.” A guilty plea would obviate the need for what could be 2 trials — the 1st to determine whether Mr. Saipov was guilty and, if he were convicted, a 2nd on whether he should be executed.

In court on May 4, Mr. Patton told the judge that the defense had submitted its de-authorization request in February but had heard nothing since.

Amanda L. Houle, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the submission was pending before the department’s capital case section.

“We can’t say definitively how many steps there will be,” she noted, saying the process could involve reviews by the capital case section, the office of Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco and then Mr. Garland.

“They are sensitive to the need for a decision,” Ms. Houle added, “given the upcoming trial date.”

(source: New York Times)

BANGLADESH:

Father wants death penalty after killing son

A man namely Nurul Islam now wants to face the death penalty after killing his son Ruhul Amin, 16, in Jashore. Ruhul Amin was allegedly suffocated to death over a family feud.

The incident took place on Sunday night at East Chadpara village of Fatepur union under Jashore sadar upazila.

Police has arrested the father on the charge of killing his son.

Police say Nurul Islam suffocated Ruhul Amin to death over a family feud when he was sleeping at his room.

The dead body has been sent to Jashore General Hospital for an autopsy.

Nurul Islam believes that he has spent Tk 41 lakh for family purposes after selling his land but now his wife and son torture him.

(source: risingbd.com)

INDIA:

MP CM's zero-tolerance on rape: Death penalty in 76 cases; accused's home to be bulldozed

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan – while addressing a rally in Sehore on May 15 – made it clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government has a zero-tolerance policy against heinous crimes like rape. The CM added that perpetrators of crimes against women in the state will be given capital punishment. Sharing the data, the leader avered that 76 persons in the state till now have received the death penalty. Other than sending them to jail, Chouhan also claimed that the accused's houses have also been bulldozed, leaving them financially 'ripped off.'

CM Shivraj Chouhan said, "There's zero-tolerance against rapes, crimes against women in the state. No other punishment than death. The death penalty is pronounced in 76 cases. Besides sending them to jails, their (culprits') houses are bulldozed, they're ripped off financially."

Rs 3000 crore+ property registries in name of women: MP CM

The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh also said during the same rally that the incumbent BJP government reduced the property registration duty for women to 1% whereas kept it the same at 5% for the men in the state. Stressing on the impact of his government's decision, Chouhan claimed that the decision led to registrations worth ?3000 in the name of women.

CM said, "We had decided that property bought in the name of women will have 1% duty while for men it will be 5%. In the last year, over ?3000 crore registries have been done in the name of women."

Bulldozer drive against criminals in Madhya Pradesh

Following the death of 3 police officers by blackbuck poachers in Madhya Pradesh's Guna district on Friday night, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's administration ordered the demolition of poachers' homes, and bulldozers were seen in operation at the Bhadauria hamlet in Guna district on Saturday. On Saturday, senior Guna administration officials and police personnel were on hand at the Bhadauria village demolition site. The police officers have identified about 5 poachers. Senior officers of the Guna administration have been deployed to apprehend all suspected individuals who fled from the village in the Guna district on Friday night.

(source: republicworld.com)

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SC asks Gujarat govt to decide on reducing sentence of accused in Bilkis Bano 2002 gang rape case

The SC directed the Gujarat govt to look into reducing the sentence of an accused in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The accused has already served more than 15 years in prison.

The Supreme Court on Sunday directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of sentence of an accused in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The accused has already served more than 15 years in prison. Remission seeks to reduce the period of a sentence without changing the character of the punishment.

The accused, Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah alias lala vakil, had filed his petition for pre­mature release from prison before the Gujarat High Court. Shah had already served more than 15 years and four months of custody. However, the Gujarat high court had dismissed his plea on July 17, 2019, on the premise that since the trial has been concluded in Maharashtra, the application for pre­mature release must be filed in Maharashtra and not in the state of Gujarat.

Shah had challenged this order of 2019 in the Supreme court and deliberating on that, the bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath observed that the crime was committed in the State of Gujarat, which is the appropriate government competent to examine the application filed for pre­mature release.

The bench added that this was also the reason for which the High Court of Bombay in Criminal Writ Petition filed at the instance of co- accused Ramesh Rupabhai under its order dated August 5, 2013 declined his request to consider the application for pre­mature release and left the application to be examined according to the policy applicable in the State of Gujarat by the concerned authorities.

The bench further said, "Once the crime was committed in the state of Gujarat, after the trial has been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be considered including remission or pre­mature release, as the case may be, in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State of Gujarat where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court."

With this, the court directed the Gujarat government to consider the application of Shah for pre­mature release in terms of its policy which is applicable on the date of conviction and may be decided within a period of two months. If any adverse order is passed, Shah is at liberty to seek remedy available to him under the law, said the bench.

Bilkis Bano 2002 gang-rape case

Bano was 19-years-old and 5 months pregnant when she was gang-raped during the 2002 Gujarat riots in Randhikpur village near Dahod on March 3. Many of her relatives were killed in the riots. The trial in the case had initially begun in Gujarat, but with the apprehensions being expressed by Bano, the Supreme Court had transferred the case to Mumbai in 2004.

The Mumbai court in January 2008 had convicted and sentenced 11 men to life imprisonment for raping Bano and murdering 7 of her family members. The trial court had acquitted 7.

While the sentenced 11 filed an appeal against the sentence, CBI filed an appeal seeking death penalty for 3 convicts including Radhesham Shah, who was charged with planning and executing the crime, including raping Bano.

Bombay high court had upheld the life sentences of 11 and even set aside the acquittal of 7 accused who had been accused of tampering with evidence.

(source: indiatoday.in)

IRAQ:

Briton, German on trial in Iraq over pottery shards----Civilisation in Iraq dates back thousands of years but the country's rich heritage has suffered from decades of looting and war

A Briton and a German allegedly found with ancient pottery shards in their luggage told the start of their trial Sunday in Iraq that they had no intention of breaking the law.

James Fitton, 66, a retired British geologist, and Volker Waldmann, 60, a Berlin psychologist, appeared dressed in the yellow uniform of detainees for the 2-hour hearing at a Baghdad criminal court.

The 2 men, who did not know each other before they travelled to Iraq on an organised tour, were arrested March 20 at Baghdad airport.

Their trial comes with the war-ravaged country, whose tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent, timidly opening to visitors.

Iraq has also been trying to recover antiquities that were looted over a period of decades from the country whose civilisation dates back thousands of years.

The judge told the accused they were charged under a 2002 law which provides for sentences up to the death penalty for those guilty of "intentionally taking or trying to take out of Iraq an antiquity".

According to statements from customs officers and witnesses, Fitton's baggage contained about a dozen stone fragments, pieces of pottery or ceramics.

Waldmann allegedly had 2 pieces, but denied they were his.

"I never possessed any of these items," Waldmann told the court in English. He said the items found in his luggage belonged to Fitton.

"We were visiting the ancient sites and he found them and gave them to me."

In other remarks translated from German, he said he put the pieces in a "transparent bag" and never tried to conceal them.

When the judge asked Fitton why he tried to take the artefacts out of Iraq, he cited his "hobby" and said he did not mean to do anything illegal.

"I didn't realise that taking them was against the law," he said, adding that some of the ancient sites were open and unguarded.

"I am a retired geologist. My interests still lie in geology and ancient history and archeology," said Fitton, who lives in Malaysia.

He added that "most of the pieces were really small".

Fitton's family has said the fragments came from the Eridu archaeological site in southern Iraq.

The trial is to continue on May 22.

(source: al-monitor.com)

IRAN:

Iran mullahs, the world’s chief executioner of women

It’s unbelievable but the bitter truth is that the misogynist mullahs’ regime ruling Iran is the world’s chief executioner of women. This is what we are going to discuss today and examine its unseen or untold causes.

The Iranian regime is the chief executioner of women in the world because there is no other country executing so many women every year.

Of course, in this podcast, we are focusing on the death sentences carried out for ordinary women charged with murder, drug trafficking, etc. But the mullahs executed tens of thousands of women in the 1980s, when they wanted to consolidate their rule and eliminate all opposition to the regime.

Those young women had committed no crime but selling opposition newspapers or participating in an opposition rally. The trend continued until 1988, when they carried out the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners within a few months in prisons across the country.

The existing evidence suggests that only a few prisoners survived of the women’s wards in all prisons. In some places, no woman survived at all.

These women were mostly supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran or the Mujahedin-e Khalq, MEK.

After the 1979 Revolution in Iran, this Muslim opposition movement attracted hundreds of thousands of women from all ages and all walks of life. It provided equal opportunities for women and so women found it an ideal place to fight for their rights and the rights of all the people. Today, the leadership of this opposition force is entirely made of women.

The NCRI Women’s Committee has published a pamphlet called, “Execution of women in Iran.” It contains a list of names and dates of these executions. Based on this data, which we have collected since September 2013, the Iranian regime executes an average of 15 women every year.

Last year in 2021, they executed 18 women. And at some point, the executions surged with 7 executions carried out in just one month from November 22 to December 21.

All that happening under the regime’s new “so-called” president, Ebrahim Raisi, who is a mass murderer and was on the death committees that carried out the 1988 massacre that I already told you about.

All the above reasons are why we say that Iran mullahs, the world’s chief executioner of women.

The women sentenced to death in Iran often come from the most deprived sectors of Iranian society. Many of them are victims of forced child marriages. Many are victims of poverty. Some commit murder in self-defense in the face of domestic violence and vicious battering by their husbands. There are also cases of self-defense against rape.

The point is that the Iranian Judiciary does not recognize any rights for women. They do not care about the motive behind murder, they just sentence them to death.

These women do not have access to defense attorney. Their own statements are not heard well in the court. In a word, these women are the most oppressed in society, and before the regime’s laws.

All the laws, the job market, the education system, the health system, everything is male-dominated. Look at the rising number of honor killings and femicides in Iran. This is a product of a patriarchal outlook promoted right from the top and institutionalized in the laws.

When looking at the clerical regime and the plight of women in Iran, we must bear in mind, that women are considered half-humans or sub-humans by this medieval regime.

The regime’s constitution views women only as mothers who have to raise their children to serve as the regime’s ideological slaves. The constitution considers women alongside men and not equal to men. They are not seen as human beings who must enjoy specific social, civil, and political rights and the Constitution does not even bother to mention that.

Therefore, women are deprived of all rights and protection in their family life. There is no government support for them when they are battered at home. They do not have the right to divorce, and when they are imprisoned, their testimonies are not heard, and they do not have access to a lawyer.

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

NIGERIA:

Azman Air Disowns Pilot Who Preached Death Penalty for Blasphemy

Azman Air, an airline operational in Nigeria, has distanced itself from Jamil Abubakar, a pilot who expressed support for the killing of Deborah Samuel, a 200-level student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto State.

In a tweet made on Sunday afternoon via @AzmanAir, its official Twitter handle, the airline said Abubakar last flew an Azman plane in December 2019.

It tweeted, “Capt. Jamil Abubakar is no longer a pilot @AzmanAir; his last flight with us was 22nd Dec, 2019.

“We refuse to take responsibility for a comment or view of a former staffer. The general public should kindly take note.”

The disclaimer came after social media users condemned Azman Air and pledged to not patronise it after its rumoured links with Abubakar.

Abubakar, in a now deleted tweet, had said, “In Islam, we respect the Injil, Taura, (and) Zabur. We were never taught to disrespect any of the books or any of the prophets from Adam to Muhammad SAW & the Quran.

“The punishment for blasphemy is DEATH in most religions, including Christianity,” he wrote.

Following this tweet, several social media users blacklisted Azman Air, and described Abubakar as a terrorist who may jeopardise their air travel.

(source: fij.ng)

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Terror Unleashed in the Name of Blasphemy

Following the recent killing of a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, identified as Deborah Samuel, Vanessa Obioha plumbs the impunity of religious fanatics and the consequences of their actions

When Deborah Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, posted a voice note on her class WhatsApp group, she had no idea that her action would be her death sentence. She was oblivious that her choice of words and tone would incense the Muslim faithfuls in the academic community such that her death would be the ultimate price.

Samuel was said to have allegedly blasphemed against Prophet Mohammed when she condemned the activities of the WhatsApp group which was created to share assignments and tests. The deceased, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in the recording used the ‘wrong’ words to caution her classmates to use the platform for its main purpose rather than to spread Islamic messages.

In the digital age of over-sharing, Samuel’s voice note travelled to every nook and cranny of the institution and settled in the ears of some religious extremists who believed her utterance was blasphemous. Thus, the search for Samuel began as she was declared wanted.

There is no concrete information on how long it took her killers to find her but when they did, they dragged and stoned her to death, and eventually set her body aflame. They jubilated as the body, once moulded as a woman, burned to ashes. Her body was laid to rest on Saturday.

Support of Blasphemy from Northern Elite

The video of her death likewise went viral and sparked mixed reactions on different social media platforms. While some condemned the act, others lauded it as the right punishment for those who blaspheme against the Holy Prophet of Islam.

Take, for instance, the son of a former Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, Jamil Abubakar expressed his support for the death penalty on his Facebook account.

He wrote: “In Islam, we respect the Injil, Taura, Zabur, we were never taught to disrespect any of the book or any of the prophets From Adam to Muhammad SAW & the Quran.

“The punishment for Blasphemy is DEATH! in most religions including Christianity.

Respect people’s religion. It’s simple!”

He added: “In Islam, the Sharia court handles these cases. Islam put rules and regulations to control people’s actions and motives, so the wrong ones are not cheated and justice is served the right way.”

Jamil who is also a pilot is married to one of Africa’s richest people, Aliko Dangote’s daughter.

Imam of the national mosque Ibrahim Maqari in reacting to the killing said: “It should be known to everyone that we the Muslims have some red lines beyond which must not be crossed. The dignity of the Prophet (PBUH) is at the forefront of the redlines. If our grievances are not properly addressed, then we should not be criticised for addressing them ourselves.”

A 2015 tweet by the former aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital and New Media Bashir Ahmad where he voiced his support for the death penalty given to 9 persons accused of blasphemy was dug up.

In the tweet, Ahmad wrote: “I can’t pretend or keep silent. I support the death penalty for BLASPHEMY. That’s my belief and I do not and will never support #SaveKanoNine.”,P> Condemnations

Former Minister of Education Oby Ezekwesili tweeted: “May God comfort the family of a young woman who went to be educated and paid with her life just because a bunch of murderers accused her of “religious blasphemy” in a “Democracy” in 2022. May God speak the word that can strengthen Deborah’s family in Jesus name!”

Prominent media personality Kadaria Ahmed in a tweet said: “We have totally lost our way and are in fact fast becoming a Godless people despite pretense to the contrary. I am angry.”

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in a Facebook post condemned the lynching of Samuel.

“I must say that the killing of Deborah Samuel is a deeply distressing thing, very disturbing – such an atrocious killing of the young lady by a mob who took the law into their own hands. It is very unfortunate.”

He added that “As the President said, there’s really no excuse for anyone to take the law into their own hands no matter the provocation, there are set processes for ensuring that we are able to redress whatever wrongs that are done against us.

“We must express our condolences to the family of the young lady Deborah Samuel. I can’t imagine how her parents, siblings and members of her family feel, not just about her death, but the very horrendous nature of its occurrence. It is very sad indeed, and I extend our sincere condolences to them. I ask that the Almighty will comfort them at this time.”

Kicking against the killing, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) through its President, Rev. Olasupo Ayokunle, in a letter addressed to all bloc leaders, urged Christians to hold peaceful protests within their church premises on Sunday, May 22, 2022.

Pilloried for Weighing In

There were, however, some who were pilloried for weighing in on the matter. A typical example was the former ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar who had to delete his comments on Facebook and Twitter after the religious extremists threatened to withdraw their support for his presidential ambition. The vice president had earlier tweeted:

“There cannot be a justification for such gruesome murder. Deborah Yakubu was murdered, and all those behind her death must be brought to justice. My condolences to her family and friends.”

Atiku later distanced himself from the tweet, saying he never directed his aide to make such comments.

Flip Side of the Coin

When this crisis began, many also dug out an old tweet in 2013 by current governor of Kaduna State, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, where he blasphemed Jesus and no riot broke out over it. He wrote: “If Jesus criticises Jonathan’s government, Maku/Abati/Okupe will say he slept with Mary Magdalene…LWKMD.”

What the Sharia Law States

To be sure, under the Sharia law — a set of religious rules that forms part of the Islamic tradition — blasphemy refers to any form of cursing, questioning or annoying God, Muhammad or anything considered sacred in Islam, including denying one of the Islamic prophets or scriptures, insulting an angel or refusing to accept a religious commandment.

Different punishments for blasphemy against Islam, by Muslims and non-Muslims, ranging from imprisonment or fines to the death penalty.

Like Kano, Sokoto is among the states which have instituted Sharia as the main body of civil and criminal law. Other states include Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Jigawa, Gombe, Kebbi, Yobe and Niger. Although controversies abound over the level of authority given to appeal courts of Sharia which was originally seen as customary law.

However, most punishments carried out on alleged offenders of blasphemy are meted out via jungle justice. Islam extremists often do not wait for the court decision before dealing with alleged offenders as is the case with Samuel, which adds to the growing list of individuals who have been sentenced to an untimely and cruel death for blaspheming against the Islamic Prophet Mohammed.

Timeline of Death by Blasphemy

Last year in Bauchi State, a water vendor popularly called Talle Mai Ruwa was beaten to death and burnt alive for alleged blasphemy against Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Ruwa had a misunderstanding with a lady customer who allegedly fetched his water without his knowledge. Despite the lady’s plea to him in the name of the prophet, the furious Ruwa had insulted her parents and the prophet. This led to his untimely death as a mob stormed the community police station where he was being detained, seized him and thereafter set him ablaze in front of the police station.

In 2016, 70-year-old Bridget Agbahime was gruesomely killed in Kano for alleged blasphemy. The woman who sold kitchen utensils was accused of blasphemy for asking a Muslim to move his Islam cleansing ritual away from the entrance of her shop. Before the matter could be settled amicably, Agbahime who hailed from Imo was assaulted by a mob. Her husband, Mike, a pastor of Deeper Life Church who tried to protect her had to flee as his wife was beaten and clubbed to death.

That same year, 4 people were killed in a riot in Niger over alleged blasphemy by a Christian trader against Prophet Mohammed.

The accused, a 24-year-old Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel, was said to have posted a blasphemous comment on Facebook. Although he went into hiding, he was fished out by an angry mob who killed him despite his parents’ revulsion over the comments. The riot also resulted in the looting of shops and burning of properties including a church.

On 19 June 2009, a Muslim mob in the town of Sara in Jigawa burned a police outpost and injured about twelve people over alleged blasphemy against the Islamic Prophet Mohammed. The mob complained that someone was distributing blasphemous pamphlets, and it demanded that the police give up a mad man who had sought safety at the police outpost.

In 2008, there were more than three deaths carried out by irate Muslim faithfuls. 2 happened in February. The 1st one which took place on February 4, saw a Muslim mob besiege a police station and set it on fire in the city of Yano in Bauchi.

The police station was the refuge of a Christian woman whom the mob accused of desecrating the Quran. One report said that the woman had spurned an offer of marriage from a Muslim man and that he and his companions had seized the opportunity to riot. In the ensuing violence, five churches were set alight by Muslims, Christian shops were torched, and policemen’s homes were attacked.

On February 9, a Muslim mob rioted in the town of Sumaila in Kano. The mob acted upon the alleged distribution of a leaflet that allegedly slandered Mohammed. The mob killed a Christian police inspector and two civilians and wounded twenty others. They also set fire to vehicles and destroyed the police station.

On April 20, Muslim rioters in the city of Kano burned the shops and vehicles of Christian merchants after one allegedly disparaged Mohammed.

A Muslim mob in Kano on August 9 of the same year, beat to death a 50-year-old Muslim man who blasphemed Mohammed.

On September 28, 2007, a Muslim mob rioted at Tudun Wada in Kano. The mob killed 9 Christians, burned several churches, and destroyed the homes and businesses of some non-Muslims. The Muslims complained that Christian students had drawn a picture of Mohammed. The Christians reported that the violence erupted after they had prevented one of their members from converting to Islam.

Also on March 21, 2007, a mob of Muslim students and neighbourhood extremists beat to death Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a mother of two and a teacher at Government Secondary School of Gandu in the city of Gombe. A student complained that Oluwasesin, a Christian, had touched a bag which allegedly contained a Quran, and had thereby defiled the Quran.

In February 2006, thousands of Muslim rioters went on rampages in different states. The rioters burned churches, torched Christian shops and homes, and killed Christians. The reason for the violence was ostensibly outrage at the publication in the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten of cartoons that some Muslims consider blasphemous.

That same month in Bauchi, Florence Chukwu, a Christian teacher, confiscated a copy of a Quran from a pupil who was reading it during an English lesson. The incident provoked rioting by Muslims. The riot killed more than twenty Christians and destroyed 2 churches.

On November 20, 2002, Muslim and Christian mobs rampaged in the cities of Kaduna and Abuja. The rampage began after an article in THISDAY suggested that Mohammed would have approved of a Miss World pageant that was taking place in Abuja.

Muslim mobs accused the newspaper of blasphemy and burned down its office building in Kaduna. Then the mobs attacked churches and properties owned by Christians. Christian mobs confronted the Muslim mobs. Soldiers and police intervened. About 250 people died.

On 14 July 1999, in the village of Randali in Kebbi, a Muslim mob beheaded Abdullahi Umaru. The mob accused Umaru of blasphemy against Mohammed.

There are also instances where the Sharia court issues sentences that many consider too harsh. A good example is a Sharia’s court sentence to a 22-year-old musician, Yahaya Aminu Sharif in 2020. The singer was found guilty of using derogatory expressions against the Prophet Mohammed in one of his songs and was sentenced to death by hanging. An angry mob also burned down his family’s house.

A 13-year-old Omar Farouq, in 2020, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for blasphemy. His lawyer however appealed, saying that his sentence violated the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of a Child and the Nigerian constitution. His sentence also drew the attention of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The body condemned and sought the immediate reversal of the sentence.

In October 2007, a Sharia court convicted Sani Kabili, a Christian and a father of 6, in the town of Kano, of blasphemy against Mohammed. The court sentenced Kabili to three years in prison. In February 2009, an appeal court overturned the conviction.

These killings led to the addition of Nigeria to a religious freedom blacklist by the United States.

Clash of Constitution with Sharia Law

Most critics have argued that the Sharia law contradicts the Nigerian constitution which allows religious freedom and tolerance. Section 38 of the constitution entitles every Nigerian to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and Section 39 gives every Nigerian the right to freedom of expression.

The worrisome and incessant killings by the religious extremists bring to the fore the dearth of powerful institutions to deal with such cases.

Many Nigerians are of the opinion that if perpetrators of such heinous acts have been brought to book, perhaps they will be deterred. But in instances where the culprits are later freed as seen in the case of Agbahime, such actions will be carried out with impunity.

Protest in Sokoto

Following the outcry over Samuel’s killing, Governor of the Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal condemned the act and promised to fish out the perpetrators. He also closed down the school to avoid unrest and imposed a curfew in the state.

“Following the sad incident that happened at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, on Thursday and sequel to development within the metropolis this morning, by the powers of section 176(2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and also section 15 of Sokoto state peace preservation law, I hereby declare, within the Sokoto metropolis, for the next 24 hours,” Tambuwal said. “I appeal to the citizens of Sokoto state to kindly continue to observe law and order.”

However, by Saturday, after the police announced that 2 suspects in connection with the killing were arrested, the streets of Sokoto were invaded by angry Muslim youths who demanded the release of the captives.

They carried placards that read: “Release our Muslim brothers”, “Muslims Are Not Terrorists”, and “Peaceful riot”. They proceeded to loot shops belonging to traders and also burnt and looted about three Catholic Churches before peace was restored.

With such actions, not a few Nigerians doubt that Samuel’s death may never get justice and are likely to just be another victim of irate religious extremists.

(source: thisdaylive.com)

ALGERIA:

Algeria: Ex-black box of ex-military boss sentenced to death

A former army officer and confidante of Ahmed Gaid Salah, a former powerful commander in the Algerian military, has been sentenced to death, especially for “revealing confidential information.”

Chief Warrant Officer Guermit Bounouira was arraigned Thursday in Blida Court of Appeals (50 km south of Algiers). Disclosure of confidential information, affecting the interests of the military and government, collecting and transmitting information to parties or third parties...According to this newspaper. He was also charged..Violation of confidential duty with the intent of undermining the interests of security and the state...According to the same source.

Died of a heart attack in December 2019 – Baunouira, former Secretary-General and former Private Secretary to the Minister of Defense Ahmed Gait Salah, was extradited by Algerian authorities to Turkey on July 30, 2020. Escaped.

According to El Watan, the Algerian judge is blaming him...Captured a number of classified documents about movements within the military and the internal activities of the latter, using them as bargaining chips for a secure position.

The death penalty, which is frequently pronounced by Algerian courts, has not been used under prohibition in Algeria since 1993.

In a similar case, a court-martial sentenced a former leader of the Gendermary, Khali Belksir, to life in prison.

It also imposed the same punishment, in its absence, on Larbi Jidout, one of the leaders of the Islamic movement Razat abroad, which has been classified as a terrorist organization by Algerian authorities since May 2021.

In the first case, the defendants received similar sentences last January.

Several Algerian officials have been prosecuted or recently convicted of corruption by a military judge.

These senior military officers operated under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who in April 2019 was forced to resign by the pro-democracy, anti-democratic movement. Poutfilica, who led Algeria for 20 years, died in September 2021.

(source: tumblerridgenews.com)

SOUTH AFRICA:

Murderers should get death penalty

One of the reasons that led to the government's decision to abolish the death penalty was that history has proved the world over that some people have been executed for crimes they did not commit.

So, our constitution abolished the death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment.

Since then, we have seen gruesome murders. Uyinene Mrwetyana went to the post office to be killed for no reason; Karabo Mokoena was killed and her body burnt beyond recognition by her boyfriend; and Reeva Steenkamp visited her boyfriend on Valentine's Day only to be murdered by him.

Leigh Matthews, a university student, was abducted, robbed and killed in broad daylight by Donovan Moodley – who is seeking parole; Palesa Madiba, a university student, visited a friend in Soweto and disappeared for years only to be found buried in a shallow grave; newly married bride Anni Dewani was brought to SA by her husband, supposedly on their honeymoon, to have her killed because he knew SA was the safest place where he could commit the gruesome crime and get away with it, and the hired murderer has just been released on parole.

Eight-month pregnant Tshegofatso Pule was not only murdered, but her pregnant body was disgracefully left hanging from a tree. And it turns out that the mastermind behind the murder was her boyfriend.

Nosicelo Tebeni, a Fort Hare University student, was murdered and dismembered by her boyfriend who stuffed some of her body parts in his freezer. A week ago, Hillary Gardee went to the shops with a three-year-old child who witnessed her abduction, and was found dead in the bushes with stab wounds and a bullet wound to the head and other signs which showed that she was cruelly tortured before being killed.

In all these cases, there was no possibility that the killers could have been mistakenly accused.

Under these circumstances, the return of the death penalty, in clear cases of planned murders, is warranted. Those who argue that the death penalty cannot be a deterrent must go and spend some time in Botswana or Saudi Arabia where there is no tolerance of such crimes.

Alternatively, life with no prospect of parole must be legally enforced.

Cometh Dube-Makholwa, Midrand

(source: Letter to the Editor, Sowetan Live)

DR CONGO:

Floribert Chebeya: DR Congo policeman sentenced to death for murder

A Congolese military court has sentenced a high-ranking policeman to death for his role in the 2010 murder of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya, which caused national outrage.

Commissioner of police Christian Ngoy Kenga Kenga was found guilty of murder, desertion and misappropriation of weapons and ammunition.

Mr Chebeya's body was found bound and gagged in his car in Kinshasa.

There is a moratorium on capital punishments in DR Congo.

However, the death penalty has not been abolished and military courts continue to hand down such sentences.

Another policeman, Jacques Migabo, was also sentenced to 12 years during the trial.

He admitted to having strangled Mr Chebeya and his driver, Fidèle Bazana.

Police commissioner Paul Mwilambwe, who had been a key witness in the trial, was acquitted, UN-sponsored Radio Okapi says.

Mr Mwilambwe, who had been a fugitive since the murder and was only repatriated last year, named ex-President Joseph Kabila and the former head of police General John Numbi, as having ordered the killing.

Neither Mr Kabila nor Gen Numbi have commented publicly, but a military court has charged the general with the murder of Mr Chebeya and his driver.

He has fled the country and his current whereabouts are not known.

Kenga, Migabo and Mr Mwilambwe were initially sentenced to death in 2011, with Kenga arrested in 2020 in the southern city of Lubumbashi before the case was re-opened last September.

Mr Chebeya led the Congolese charity Voice of the Voiceless, and as a prominent critic of the government received regular death threats during his career of more than 20 years.

He went to the police headquarters to meet the then head of the national police force, Gen Numbi, on the day he was killed.

His driver Mr Bazana also went missing that day with authorities later pronouncing him dead.

The killing of Mr Chebeya prompted widespread international condemnation.

(source: BBC News)

CUBA:

Cuban legislature approves new criminal code

Cuba’s unicameral legislature, the National Assembly of Popular Power (ANPP), on Sunday in an extraordinary session approved the communist island’s new Criminal Code which includes, among other things, sentences of up to three years in prison for anyone found guilty of insulting public officials and prohibits foreign financing of local media outlets.

Lawmakers approved the bill in a session attended by President Miguel Diaz-Canel and former President Raul Castro, who governed from 2008 to 2018.

Activists and members of the opposition say that the reform will suppress social protest and independent journalism.

The bill’s backers, on the other hand, call it a “rights-based” and modernizing code, given that the 1987 penal code that has prevailed up to now does not include any language governing environmental crimes, cyber-crimes or gender violence.

Originally, the bill was set to be voted on in the ANPP in April but due to assorted hold-ups in its passage through the legislature that final step was postponed until now.

The new legal code, which will go into effect within 90 days of being published in the Official Gazette of the Republic, includes 37 new crimes, including the crime of fomenting “public disorder” designed to penalize “disturbances of this kind produced in groups or individually.”

The president of the island’s supreme court, Ruben Remigio Ferro, said upon the presentation of the bill to the full parliament, that it strengthens the penalties linked to corruption.

Specifically, he said that it establishes a maximum sentence of life behind bars and maintains the possibility of applying the death penalty for 23 types of crimes.

Ferro noted that Cuba has not had the death penalty on the books since 2003 and in 2008 commuted all pending death sentences, although capital punishment may still be applied in extraordinary circumstances.

“Cuba will have a law that is modern, fair and adjusted to the country’s socio-economic reality,” he said.

The new code also sets forth punishment of up to 10 years in prison for anyone convicted of “supporting, fomenting, financing, supplying, receiving or having under their control funds, material or financial resources” of non-governmental organizations or international institutions that can be used to “aid activities against the state and the constitutional order.”

The new code has not been as widely discussed in the official media as the Family Code, a reform that is also currently making its way through the ANPP after three months of popular consultation during which the content of the text was explained to the public.

In contrast to the Family Code, the Criminal Code text will not be submitted to a referendum.

(source: laprensalatina.com)

MAY 15, 2022:

TEXAS:

Canton's Charles Keith helps Texas mother fight execution

Sometimes, you don't get to choose what you want to do with your life.

Sometimes, it chooses you.

Last month, Melissa Lucio of Brownsville, Texas, came within a hair's breadth of becoming the 1st Hispanic woman in Texas to be executed.

She had been convicted of killing her toddler daughter. Mounting evidence suggests that Lucio may indeed be innocent. It's caused 103 members from the Texas Legislature, and five jurors from her trial to call for stay of execution, which was granted late last month.

It is believed by her supporters that the little girl died as a result of an accidental fall down a set of steps the day before she died.

Among those offering support was Charles Keith of Canton who traveled to Brownsville to advise the family as a community liaison with the Death Penalty Action, a national anti-death penalty organization.

"The family had no idea what to do," Keith said. "We were preparing them how to engage with the media. We were able to get them going. They had great family support."

Educating the state Keith said he and Death Penalty Action founder Abe Borowitz traversed the state on Lucio's behalf.

"People were very receptive everywhere we went," he said. "We were educating the state."

For nearly 30 years, Keith has been fighting on behalf of his younger brother Kevin, who had his execution for a triple murder in Bucyrus in 1994 commuted to life in prison.

No physical evidence has linked Kevin Keith to the crime. He continues to maintain his innocence. To help his brother, Charles Keith put his own life on hold and managed to uncover enough evidence to convince former Gov. Ted Strickland to issue the commutation in 2010.

Kevin Keith's case was specifically cited by President Bill Clinton when he visited Bucyrus to tout the crime bill in 1994.

A new investigative piece in The Atlantic on investigations conducted by former Ohio Bureau of Criminal forensic scientist G. Michelle Yezzo cites Kevin Keith's case.

Charles Keith's 1-man crusade has resulted in documentaries about his brother's case, and has drawn the support and attention of former federal prosecutor Justin Herdman, former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher, former Ohio Secretary of State Jim Petro, and Kim Kardashian, who has take up the issue of prison reform while pursuing a law degree.

Last year, Charles Keith's devotion turned into a job.

Lucio, the mother of 14, remains in prison while her request for a new trial winds it way through the courts.

"It was definitely shown she didn't kill her baby; she fell down the steps," Charles Keith said. "If they had let her children testify, she wouldn't have been prosecuted. There was no physical evidence. She had a deformed foot. She had fallen down stairs while in foster care, hitting head on the floor. When they brought that baby home, they never told (Lucio) about the injuries. I actually discovered those documents. This was the first time we've gone in deep, not just rallying, but fighting."

There also are reports that police used an abusive interviewing tactic known as the "Reid Method" during Lucio's interrogation, coercing a confession.

'She's a beautiful person.'

Meanwhile, former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, who tried Lucio's case, has been accused of ignoring or botching 100 allegations of child abuse.

Critics accuse him of using Lucio's case during an election year to present himself as tough on crime. He currently is serving 13 years in federal prison on bribery and extortion charges.

"He cost the state millions of dollars," Charles Keith said. "Why is Melissa still in prison when there was no crime committed? She never got a chance to grieve. She wrote me a letter and touched my heart. She's a beautiful person."

He's motivated by his deep belief that the death penalty violates Christian principles.

"I'm fighting in the name of Jesus, in the name of the executed ones," he said. "The execution of anyone is wrong whether they're guilty or innocent. Jesus told a murderer 'This day you shall be in paradise.' The rest of us are trying to figure out how to get into heaven, and a murderer is already sitting there."

After Texas, Charles Keith traveled to Arizona to fight another scheduled execution.

"Julius Jones, Melissa, Kevin Keith, they're all innocent; that's the thing." he said. "I think they've all been victims of the 1994 crime bill. Things have changed but my brother is still incarcerated."

(source: Canton Repository)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Lawyer says Georgia man set for execution should be spared

The life of a Georgia man set to be executed Tuesday for killing an 8-year-old girl should be spared, his lawyer argues, explaining that her client has significant cognitive impairments that likely contributed to his crimes and has suffered horrific abuse in prison.

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., 68, killed the 8-year-old girl and raped her 10-year-old friend after abducting them as they walked home from school in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, on May 4, 1976. He was convicted in August 1976 on charges including malice murder, kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to death. His death sentence was overturned in 1992 but was reinstated in March 1999.

“Before society makes a man pay the ultimate price for a crime, it must determine if his culpability justifies the cost. In Virgil’s case, it simply does not. Virgil Presnell is profoundly disabled,” his attorney Monet Brewerton-Palmer wrote in a clemency application that was declassified Friday by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The application acknowledges the gravity of what Presnell did and says he is “deeply and profoundly sorry” to the 2 girls’ families. It asks the parole board to postpone his execution by 90 days so the board can review his application and then to commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

The 5-member parole board, which is the only authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence, has scheduled a closed-door clemency hearing Monday to consider his case.

Presnell’s mother drank large amounts of alcohol while she was pregnant with him, and a history of serious developmental disabilities is well-documented in his school records, Brewerton-Palmer wrote, adding that he grew up in an “abusive and unstable environment,” and sexual abuse was “endemic” in his family.

Even when he was arrested, his significant cognitive limitations were on display, the clemency application says. Under questioning by police, he confessed to every open crime against children in the county.

A letter from Adele Grubbs, Presnell’s trial lawyer who later became a superior court judge, is quoted in the application: “Virgil was always clear that he did not mean to harm either girl. The effect on them of being kidnapped was beyond his understanding. He thought that they would have an enjoyable time.”

The clemency application acknowledges that that seems unbelievable, but argues “that does not mean untruthful.”

“If it seems so unbelievable, then we must ask ourselves why anyone would believe it. And the answer is simple: Virgil is profoundly brain damaged,” Brewerton-Palmer wrote.

Presnell suffered prenatal brain damage and likely suffers from a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, but that wasn’t an available diagnosis at the time of his trial nearly 46 years ago, the clemency application says.

“We did not know better in 1976. But we know better today. A just society does not execute the developmentally disabled,” it says.

Over nearly half a century in prison, Presnell has served “hard time,” the clemency application says: “His crime was the worst of the worst — and so has his sentence been.”

Particularly during is early years on death row, Presnell was “routinely raped, beaten and deprived,” endured winters without heat or hot water, and sometimes went several years without setting foot outdoors, the clemency application says. But despite that hardship, he “has a spotless disciplinary history and has been a model prisoner.”

A juror from his 1999 resentencing trial is quoted in the clemency application as saying he believed at least six of the jurors, including himself, would have supported a sentence of life without parole if it had been an option.

Presnell abducted the 2 girls as they walked home along a wooded trail from a Cobb County elementary school on May 4, 1976. He drove them to a secluded wooded area, had them undress and raped the older girl, according to evidence at trial outlined in a Georgia Supreme Court ruling. The younger girl tried to run, but Presnell caught her and drowned her in a creek, the ruling says.

He locked the 10-year-old girl in the trunk of his car and then left her in a wooded area when he got a flat tire, saying he’d return. She ran to a nearby gas station and described Presnell and his car with a flat tire to police.

Officers found him changing his tire at his apartment complex. He denied everything at first but later led police to the 8-year-old girls body and confessed, the ruling says.

Presnell would be the 1st person executed by Georgia this year and the 7th nationwide.

(source: Associated Press)

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

If elected, Smith would be first female Superior Court judge in circuit

Catherine Mims Smith is running to become the 1st female Superior Court judge in the Southern Judicial Circuit.

A Thomasville native, Smith attended Wesleyan College for Women in Macon after graduating Thomas County Central High School. She studied law at the University of Georgia where she graduated in 1996.

“I decided that I wanted to return to my hometown, my community to raise my family,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I got hired at the Whitehurst Firm.”

There she did “a little bit of everything.” She participated in all areas of the law both criminal and civil.

“My 1st day I remember walking in and before I even really had a pen and a pad in hand, one of the attorneys said, ‘I need you to go cover a deposition for me.’ I was just like deer in the headlights because that’s not something they ever teach you in law school.”

Eventually Smith would open her own practice where she expanded to domestic relations, which include adoptions, divorce and child custody cases. She also served as co-counsel on two death penalty cases in the Southern Judicial Circuit.

By 2006, Smith had become the chief assistant public defender in the circuit trying felony cases before being named the assistant district attorney. Today she practices law as the senior assistant DA in the Thomasville office. She usually sees the inside of the courtroom at least once a week.

She said that her ambition to become a Superior Court judge comes from her history advocating for others both in and out of the courtroom. As a prosecutor Smith specialized in crimes against women and children. She especially prides herself on her work prosecuting sexual predators and protecting victims of domestic violence. Through the Georgia Gang Investigators Association she has also prosecuted a gang leader and his associates in a felony murder trial.

She was also involved in the creation of the Treehouse Child Advocacy Center in Thomas County with whom she was awarded the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce Women of the Year award in 2011.

“For 25 years I have actively advocated for somebody in the courtroom. I have been their voice when they needed somebody to speak for them. I would like to take that to the next level, to be a Superior Court judge that practices the patience and the temperament that I’ve seen from my judges in the past,” Smith said.

She said her training of courtroom advocacy for people of varying backgrounds, her work as a defense attorney and her time prosecuting violent crimes have enabled her to provide fair and impartial judgements to the cases she would hear, if she were elected.

“I think my training of advocating from all sides of the courtroom and dealing with people from all walks of life, gives me that ability to see things differently than someone who’s only done it from one side,” she said.

Smith’s campaign has been ongoing and throughout it she has been taking part in “old school politics.” She has been knocking on doors and trying to spread her name to the communities within the Southern Judicial Court. Most recently she held a campaign event Thursday evening at the Colquitt County Arts Center, and earlier this month she set up a booth to introduce herself at the Doerun May Day Festival May 7. She said she also attends county administration meetings here in Colquitt County to understand the goings-on of the county.

“I’m working hard to meet people,” she said. “I’ve been making sure I attend every city council and county commission so I can see what is going on in each county. I want to know what the important topics are in meeting leadership. I’ve also been attending community events to meet with the general public.”

If elected as the first female Superior Court judge in the circuit, Smith said she would have more eyes on her than most judges.

“I’m excited about the opportunity of being our first female Superior Court judge in circuit history… It puts a little bit more pressure on me. They want to see how I perform as a female on the bench. Judges have to be very careful out in public. People watch. They see how judges behave and conduct themselves and I can say that they will especially interested to see what a female will do.”

The campaign will come to a head on May 24 in the non-partisan race between Smith, Thomasville native Robert Moore and William Whitesell of Valdosta. Early voting is currently under way at the County Annex.

(source: The Moultrie Observer)

MISSISSIPPI:

Upgraded charges possible for mom who tried to kill infant

A 20-year-old woman is in custody accused of repeatedly throwing her 9-week-old daughter to the ground before running into the woods when officers arrived.

The woman is being held on charges of attempted murder and felony child abuse, but Rankin County and City of Pearl officials expect the charges to be upgraded to capital murder, news outlets reported.

Pearl Police Chief Dean Scott said the baby, as of Saturday, was still in critical condition at the Children’s Hospital of Mississippi, but her outlook was bleak.

“At this point, as small as she is, they’re trying to keep her comfortable and painless,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time, according to medical staff, at this point. Her injuries are too severe to attempt to treat.”

Scott said the baby is currently unresponsive and on a ventilator.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

2 people knew lethal injection drugs had not undergone required testing----The governor of Tennessee ordered the delay of Oscar Smith's execution one hour before he was scheduled to die.

At least 2 people connected to a Tennessee execution that was abruptly put on hold last month knew the night before that the lethal injection drugs the state planned to use hadn’t undergone some required testing, newly released records show.

Citing an “oversight,” Gov. Bill Lee had called off the execution of 72-year-old Oscar Smith barely an hour before the planned lethal injection April 21 for Smith’s conviction in the 1989 killings of his estranged wife and her two teenage sons. The governor’s office later disclosed that the drugs had not been tested for endotoxins.

The Republican governor’s administration declined to release much information, saying the issue was “technical.” Instead, Lee recently appointed a former U.S. attorney to lead an independent investigation and also paused 4 other executions scheduled this year.

On April 21, there were no signs the lethal injection would not take place until about an hour beforehand, when the governor’s office issued a news release calling it off. Just before learning of his reprieve, Smith had received communion from his spiritual adviser, who was going to be allowed in the execution chamber. He had eaten a last meal, and media witnesses and relatives of the families were gathered and waiting. The U.S. Supreme Court had also denied Smith’s last-hour bid for a stay.

On Friday, the Department of Correction released 20 pages of heavily redacted emails and text messages to The Associated Press through a public records request.

In them, experts say testing was not performed for so-called endotoxins, which usually come from bacteria. Such testing is considered vital because it could be an indication of problems with the manufacture of the drugs. However, the endotoxins themselves likely wouldn’t cause a problem in an execution setting because endotoxins typically are not immediately fatal, according to Frank Romanelli, professor of pharmacy at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.

The Department of Correction declined to respond to questions surrounding when the state knew the execution drugs had not been properly tested.

“As you know the governor has announced an independent review of these matters which we fully support. We are unable to offer further information until the review is complete,” said a spokesperson, Dorinda Carter, in a statement.

Tennessee’s execution protocols require any compounded drugs to be independently tested for potency, sterility and endotoxins. It wasn’t known from the records provided if the other testing had been conducted.

At last week’s news conference announcing the independent investigation, Lee said the testing problem was noticed shortly before the execution was to have been carried out. The records provided to AP imply that some people knew almost a day before.

Almost all names, email addresses, phone numbers and any other identifiable information was removed from the records. Even the name of the governor’s communication team, which is regularly distributed to media and the public, was stripped out. According to the correction agency’s general counsel, the state redacted the names of those who had been, or may in the future, be directly involved in the execution process.

Tennessee uses a 3-drug series to put inmates to death: midazolam, a sedative to render the inmate unconscious; vecuronium bromide, to paralyze the inmate; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart.

The records did contain a text exchange between two unidentified individuals whose names had been blacked out in the records, the night before Smith’s scheduled execution starting at around 8 p.m. with one person asking for the lab results on the midazolam and potassium chloride.

The Department of Correction redacted the response, but when that same person asked for the results of the endotoxin test, the response from a separate person stated that it “isn’t required” based on the amount they make.

“Sorry, I didn’t have it tested,” the text reads.

“It’s been done on prior ones,” the exchange states.

Later that morning, a separate text message asks if it would be possible to test for endotoxins on the day of the execution.

“Honestly doubt it,” the response states.

Tennessee and many other states have passed exemptions to open records laws in recent years, shrouding the identity of drug suppliers and other information about executions in secrecy.

“The failure to ensure that the lethal injection chemicals were produced in accordance with .. standards is disturbing,” said Smith’s attorney Kelley Henry in an emailed statement. “Compounded high risk sterile injectables such as those used in the Tennessee lethal injection protocol are extremely risky.”

Smith was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing and shooting estranged wife Judith Smith and her sons, Jason and Chad Burnett, at their Nashville home on Oct. 1, 1989. Tennessee had planned for 5 executions this year, including Smith’s. It had been seeking to resume its quick, pre-pandemic pace of putting inmates to death.

Smith has maintained he is innocent. He earlier declined to choose between the electric chair and lethal injection, Tennessee’s 2 execution means, so lethal injection became the default method. An initial June 2020 execution date for Smith was delayed because of the pandemic.

(source: thegrio.com)

OHIO:

Kareem Jackson Receives 4th Execution Reprieve in Ohio, Execution Date Re-Set for 2025

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has issued a reprieve to death-row prisoner Kareem Jackson, calling off his scheduled September 15, 2022 execution and setting a new December 10, 2025 execution date. In a news release, the governor’s office said that the reprieve had been issued “due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pursuant to DRC protocol, without endangering other Ohioans.”

Pharmaceutical companies have told DeWine that they will not sell their medicines to the state for use in executions and that if the state diverts drugs sold for therapeutic use to carry out executions, they may stop selling their medicines to the state. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that such an action could “endanger the ability of thousands of Ohioans — such as Medicaid recipients, state troopers, and prison inmates — to get drugs through state programs.”

Jackson was convicted of two murders and sentenced to death in 1997. This is the 4th time Governor DeWine has issued a reprieve of Jackson’s execution and the 8th reprieve of an Ohio execution scheduled for 2022. On March 7, 2019, DeWine halted Jackson’s execution, then scheduled for July 10, 2019, and rescheduled it for January 16, 2020. He issued a 2nd reprieve on October 30, 2019, rescheduling Jackson’s execution for September 16, 2020. That execution was halted on June 5, 2020 and rescheduled for September 15, 2022. had moved Kareem Jackson’s executions date from July 10, 2019, to Jan. 16, 2020. In October 2019, the governor moved the date to Sept. 16, 2020.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Death penalty should be abolished in Ohio

DEAR EDITOR:

In the May 1 editorial, the editorial board missed the mark by suggesting Ohio follow South Carolina in reinstating the firing squad and electrocution as execution methods because of Ohio’s inability to obtain lethal injection drugs.

To be clear, a South Carolina court already has issued a stay blocking the state’s attempt to carry out an execution by firing squad. Substituting inhumane execution methods subject to legal challenges would be a huge mistake.

The editorial board also suggests putting the issue to voters, while the state Legislature is actively debating death penalty repeal via House Bill 183 and Senate Bill 103. Contrary to the editorial board’s view of the issue being a “never-ending divide,” both bills have broad bipartisan support and support from across the ideological spectrum. HB 183 recently received its 5th committee hearing, more than any previous repeal bill.

Interrupting the legislative process now would be another mistake.

The editorial also asserts delayed executions deny closure for co-victims. Take it from folks like Jonathan Mann and Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr., both co-victims, who say executions would not help their families heal. Capital cases are lengthy and cost Ohio taxpayers as much as $16 million per case — that money could be used to fund services for victims’ families and crime-prevention programs.

Vitally, 11 Ohioans — 1 in every 5 sentenced to death — have been exonerated, and the state experienced 5 horribly botched executions from 2006 to 2017.

For all of these reasons, Ohio should join the 23 other states that have abolished capital punishment instead of pursuing other execution methods, as the editorial recommends.

SEAN McCANN

ACLU of Ohio

Columbus

(source: Letter to the Editor, Tribune Chronicle)

UTAH:

Is 'Under the Banner of Heaven' a True Story? A Closer Look at the Death of Brenda Lafferty----The FX show on Hulu has resurfaced a real-life 1984 case that once rocked Utah.

Drawn from Jon Krakauer’s 2003 true crime book Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, the FX miniseries of the same name takes a closer look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and the Lafferty family.

The show begins with Detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield), a character created for the series alone, trying to put the pieces together after Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is found dead in her home alongside her infant daughter, Erica. The attention immediately falls on her husband, Allen Lafferty (Billy Howle), who denies any wrongdoing. A fellow Mormon, he opens up to Jeb about how the LDS community impacted his family and why he thinks Brenda was targeted.

Is Under the Banner of Heaven based on a true story?

Yes, the show is based on real-life events involving the Lafferty family.

According to Deseret News, Brenda was found dead on July 24, 1984. The 24-year-old was discovered in their Utah home in the small town of American Fork with her throat slashed. Brenda and Allen’s 15-month-old daughter, Erica, was also killed with a knife. After an investigation, it was discovered that Allen’s older brothers Ron and Dan committed the murders after feeling like Brenda was separating them from their sibling.

Per reports, Brenda called out Ron and Dan going against Mormon teachings with their fundamentalist views. It was because of this reason that they were excommunicated from the Latter-day Saints Church in 1982. The brothers then joined the School of the Prophets movement, which practiced polygamy. But when Ron’s wife didn’t want to participate in it, she left him. Though Ron and Dan tried to convince Allen to join the group, Brenda stopped him and they believed it was her attempt to split up the family.

In March 1984, Ron claimed that he had received "the removal revelation," which called him to kill Brenda and Erica. He also claimed the revelation mentioned 2 other members from the LDS Church: one who supported Ron’s wife during the divorce and another who presided over his excommunication. Both Ron and Dan believed they were prophets and were following orders from God.

After killing Brenda and Erica, Ron and Dan couldn’t get ahold of the 2 other people. The brothers decided to leave Utah for Nevada, where they were later arrested in a casino buffet line. In 1985, Ron was sentenced to death for the capital murders. Although it was later overturned in 1992, he was convicted again, and he chose to be executed by a firing squad. After sitting on death row for 34 years, he died in prison from natural causes at the age of 78 in 2019. Today, Dan is still serving his 2 life sentences.

FX’s Under the Banner of Heaven tells three different storylines: Jeb investigating Brenda’s death, Brenda’s life within the Lafferty family and some of the origins of the LDS faith. Unlike the book, the series added in Jeb and his detective partner Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham). But series creator Dustin Lance Black, who was once a Mormon himself, drew from the 2003 book for Brenda’s life onscreen. According to Newsweek, he consulted Brenda’s family in order to portray her in the most accurate way.

"To tell these three stories that all take place in one man's mind that I hope recreates that very active experience for the viewer in the way that the reader experienced the book," he explained to the outlet.

The book's author, who wasn’t involved in the miniseries, noted that Dustin painted a real picture of what it was like to be part of the LDS community. Dustin left it decades ago. “That stuff is such a powerful part of the show, and it clearly comes from your personal experience,” Jon told Dustin in a New York Times interview. “I mean, it really informs it.”

(source: SELENA BARRIENTOS Associate Entertainment and News Editor for Good Housekeeping)

IDAHO----female may face death penalty

Attorneys say Lori Vallow may Need to Return to a Mental Health Facility

While murder defendant Lori Vallow-Daybell won’t waive her right to a speedy trial, she realizes delaying her trial by three months gives her attorneys greater latitude in preparing her case.

“If the court moves her trail from Oct. 11, 2022 to Jan. 9 2023, she understands that will give her defense team more time to get ready,” wrote Vallow-Daybell’s attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas in a Thursday court filing.

Archibald and Thomas submitted court documents following prosecutors' May 2 filing asking to continue her case from October to the originally set January 2023, trial in Boise. Initially, Vallow-Daybell was to be tried with her 5th husband and co-defendant Chad Daybell.

“If both cases are not set for trial at the same time, it will result in an improper severance,” wrote prosecutors in the court filing.

During an April 19 hearing where she pleaded "not guilty," Vallow-Daybell asserted her right to a “speedy trial."

Vallow-Daybell faces the death penalty after being indicted in the murders of her children Tylee Ryan, 16, and J.J. Vallow, 7. She’s been in custody since February 20, 2020 after refusing to turn the children over to authorities.

4 months later, and on June 9, 2020, law enforcement found the children’s remains buried in Chad Daybell's Salem property. He was arrested shortly after.

In May 2021, the Daybells were indicted in the murders of the 2 children. Chad Daybell was also charged in the murder of his first wife Tammy Daybell and was charged with insurance fraud after pocketing $430,000 in life insurance benefits following her death. He married Vallow-Daybell two weeks after Tammy Daybell died.

Chad Daybell has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Shortly after Vallow-Daybell was indicted, Seventh District Court Judge Steven Boyce ordered her to be sent to an Idaho mental health facility for treatment. Following her release from the facility last month, Vallow-Daybell was arraigned. The arraignment meant that public funds could be used to cover her legal fees. Vallow-Daybell has pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

“She has met several times with her defense team, currently consisting of lead counsel, co-counsel, mitigation specialist and an investigator,” wrote Vallow-Daybell's lawyers in their filing. “She understands that her defense team is spending a considerable amount of time going through the mountain of discovery in this case in order to get ready for trial.”

Attorneys associated with the case have frequently referred to that “mountain of discovery” as “voluminous.”

Archibald and Thomas, who are both death penalty qualified, wrote that Vallow-Daybell knows a possible conviction in her case carries with it the potential for capital punishment.

“She understands the heightened scrutiny in a potential death penalty case,” wrote the attorneys.

The men noted that Vallow-Daybell's mental health is still of great concern and could cause her to again be admitted into a mental health facility.

“None of the experts employed by the court and the State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare claim she is malingering or making up her mental illness,” wrote the attorneys. “She understands that she will undergo further mental health testing, as a neuropsychologist approved for the defense team will be meeting with her next month.”

Vallow-Daybell and her attorneys will meet before Boyce at 10 a.m., Thursday, at the Fremont County Courthouse. During the hearing, they will review a motion to “Find good cause to continue trial and prevent improper severance.”

(source: bigcountrynewsconnection.com)

USA----new book

STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS ---- Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution by AUSTIN SARAT

“This enormously readable book uncovers the troubled history and failed promise of lethal injection, and is sure to help change our national conversation about capital punishment.” —Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author

From the beginning of the Republic, this country has struggled to reconcile its use of capital punishment with the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel punishment. Death penalty proponents argue both that it is justifiable as a response to particularly heinous crimes, and that it serves to deter others from committing them in the future.

However, since the earliest executions, abolitionists have fought against this state-sanctioned killing, arguing, among other things, that the methods of execution have frequently been just as gruesome as the crimes meriting their use. Lethal injection was first introduced in order to quell such objections, but, as Austin Sarat shows in this brief history, its supporters’ commitment to painless and humane death has never been certain.

This book tells the story of lethal injection’s earliest iterations in the United States, starting with New York state’s rejection of that execution method almost a century and half ago. Sarat recounts lethal injection’s return in the late 1970s, and offers novel and insightful scrutiny of the new drug protocols that went into effect between 2010 and 2020.

Drawing on rare data, he makes the case that lethal injections during this time only became more unreliable, inefficient, and more frequently botched. Beyond his stirring narrative history, Sarat mounts a comprehensive condemnation of the state-level maneuvering in response to such mishaps, whereby death penalty states adopted secrecy statutes and adjusted their execution protocols to make it harder to identify and observe lethal injection’s flaws.

What was once touted as America’s most humane execution method is now its most unreliable one. What was once a model of efficiency in the grim business of state killing is now marked by mayhem. The book concludes by critically examining the place of lethal injection, and the death penalty writ large, today.

**JUNE 2022**

$14.00 paperback, 194 pages Available to order at www.sup.org

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Chair of Political Science at Amherst College. He is the author, most recently, of Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty (SUP 2014) and The Death Penalty on the Ballot (2019).

ENGLAND----new book

The Far Side of the Moon by Clive Stafford Smith review – a death row lawyer’s soul-searching memoir

By telling the life stories of his bipolar father and a convicted murderer he tried to save from the electric chair, Stafford Smith raises urgent moral questions about behaviour and justice

If you have ever wondered from where the death-row lawyer Clive Stafford Smith gets his intransigent, crusading spirit, this vivid, inquiring memoir provides much of the evidence. It is set up as a book not about its author but about the lives of two very different men who helped to define him. The first is Stafford Smith’s father, Dick, a wildly volatile man with bipolar disorder, who squandered the family fortune and blamed everyone but himself. The second is Larry Lonchar, an inmate in Georgia State Prison facing a capital sentence, one of the many men for whom Stafford Smith has acted as advocate and sometime saviour in the past 40 years. The lawyer’s examination of these two doomed lives, and his own role in them, expands into a compulsive personal investigation into the limits of empathy, and the proper balance of responsibility and retribution toward the destructive actions of men not in their best minds.

Dick Stafford Smith, whose death in 2007 first prompted this book, was in some ways the blueprint for all of the prisoners lost in the American justice system, for whom his son petitioned mercy: a man burdened with a temperamental makeup entirely unsuited to the circumstances of his adult life. Haunted by his failure to fathom his father, still less to help him, Stafford Smith explores how he went in search of the most extreme kinds of “save-able” surrogates elsewhere. Not for nothing did he call his charity Reprieve.

At 18, Stafford Smith fled to university in the US – and you don’t blame him for trying to escape home as soon as he could. His voyage around his father is a portrait drawn in impossible violent extremes. Dick Stafford Smith inherited the oldest horse-racing stud in England – Cheveley Park Stud – from his father (whose own inheritance, it emerges, derived from a clandestine gay relationship with Cheveley’s previous owner). With his alternating moods of black despair and insomniac megalomania, Dick Stafford Smith could hardly have fallen into a less suitable role. Staking everything on risky stallions, and ever more grandiose plans and schemes, his behaviour became increasingly erratic. Stafford Smith first realised the extent of it when, aged seven, his father called him into his study and thrust £200 into his hand – about “66 years worth of pocket money”, he later recalls calculating – before informing him that from now on he was on his own, and needed to look for a place to rent. Later, after he is dispatched to boarding school, he receives a letter from his father, one of many wild and whirling missives, in which he and his brother – in between catalogues of their failings as sons and human beings – are instructed to urgently find £30,000 (about £500,000 in today’s money) in order to buy out their aunt’s interest in the stud.

The thread that knits these stories is the author’s increasing anxiety about his own psychological makeup

Stafford Smith finds useful ways to parallel this kind of behaviour with the choices that have led, in far less privileged circumstances, to death row. Larry Lonchar was convicted of three murders in a botched extortion plot in 1987. In investigating his biography in search of mitigation for these crimes, Stafford Smith unearthed a catalogue of neglect and abuse in Lonchar’s childhood that led him to inescapable depression and gambling addiction, and a desire to seek certainty in incarceration for an escalating series of crimes. The logical conclusion of this journey, it becomes clear to Stafford Smith, was Lonchar’s determination to take responsibility for murders there was reason to believe he did not commit, in order for the state to take his life: suicide by electric chair. It is a measure of the lawyer’s messianic faith in the sanctity of life at all costs that he defers this outcome over 8 long years.

To begin with, the comparison between the life of his father and Lonchar may seem strained. Stafford Smith traces the progression of his father’s mania, after his estrangement from all of his family, in the cache of thousands of letters he left behind – sent to bishops and politicians as well as to his ex-wives and children. Despite his loneliness and paranoia, his cruelties and rudeness, Dick Stafford Smith’s “crimes” are of a different order of magnitude to Lonchar’s. As the book progresses, however, I found myself increasingly persuaded of the principles that Stafford Smith tries to establish: that forms of madness represent not deviations from “normality” but a spectrum on which we all live; that the more desperate a person’s material circumstances, the more likely it is that “antisocial personality disorders” will result in devastating outcomes. The question then becomes: how do we understand those actions and judge them?

There are biographical details that link his two subjects’ history of trauma – childhood accidents that leave them in comas, likely PTSD as a result of proximity to violence (Dick Stafford Smith served in the RAF in Italy as a navigator during the war; Lonchar witnessed almost daily acts of brutal domestic violence). The thread that knits these stories, however, is the author’s increasing anxiety about his own psychological makeup; those characteristics he routinely channels into 20-hour days, driving insanely between appeal courts and prisons in the pursuit of clemency, coming up with ever-crazier strategies to get stays of execution. His father calls him “Chip”, as in “off the old block”. He too is scarred by childhood. “I send you away to school,” his father tells him, “because I don’t have the courage to beat you myself.” One result is that “by the age of 12 I didn’t do emotion any more”.

In unpicking this history within himself, in what is a properly soul-searching book, Stafford Smith finds useful ways to ask the hardest of questions about crime and punishment. If we follow him in trying to face those questions, he argues, “We might even begin to treat people we don’t know in the same way we would treat those we love”.

The Far Side of the Moon: Trials of My Father by Clive Stafford Smith is published by Harvill Secker (£16.99).

(source: The Guardian)

NIGERIA:

Nigeria president condemns blasphemy killing

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday "strongly condemned" the murder a day earlier of a Christian student who was stoned to death over accusations of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

An angry mob of students stoned Deborah Samuel and burned her body on Thursday in the northwest city of Sokoto after she made a post on social media they deemed offensive towards the Prophet.

Police arrested 2 suspects in connection with the killing while a manhunt was ordered for others who appear in a video of the incident that circulated on social media.

"No person has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country. Violence has and never will solve any problem," said the president in a statement.

He spoke after Muhammadu Sa'ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, the highest spiritual figure among Nigerian Muslims, and the influential Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mathew Hassan Kukah, appealed for justice and calm Thursday after the killing.

"The Sultanate Council condemned the incident in its totality and has urged the security agencies to bring perpetrators of the unjustifiable incident to justice," Abubakar said in a statement.

The sultan, who also heads the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC) for interfaith harmony, called on "all to remain calm and ensure peaceful coexistence" in the country.

Catholic Bishop Kukah condemned the murder, describing it as a "tragedy" and a "deep shock".

"We... call on the authorities to investigate this tragedy and ensure that all the culprits are brought to book," he said.

Nigeria's 210 million population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians but religious tensions and deadly clashes are not uncommon, particularly in the north.

Blasphemy, especially against the Prophet Muhammad, attracts death penalty in a dozen northern Nigerian states where sharia law is enforced alongside common law.

2 Muslims were separately sentenced to death in 2015 and 2020 by sharia courts for blasphemy against the Prophet. Their cases are still being appealed.

At times, the accused are killed by mobs without going through the legal process.

Last year a mob in Darazo district in northeastern Bauchi state burnt a man accused of insulting the Prophet.

(source: rtl.lu)

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Deborah Yakubu killers are to be sentenced to death

“….The Islamic religion is not a primitive religion that allows its adherents to take the law into their own hands and to commit jungle justice. Instead, there is a judicial system in Islamic law that hears and determines cases including the trial of criminal offenses and anybody accused of committing an offense against the religion or against a fellow Muslim brother should be taken to the court (either a Sharia or a secular/common law court) for adjudication. It is only when a person is convicted and sentenced by a court of law that he will be liable to a punishment which will be carried out by an appropriate authority (i.e. the prison)”

~His Lordship I. T. Muhammad JSC (now CJN) in the case of SHALLA VS STATE (2007) LPELR-3034(SC).

In July 1999, in the Kardi village of Kebbi State, one Abdullah was accused of blasphemy; insulting the prophet Muhammad, he was reported to some Muslim faithful who formed a mob and decided to attack the accused, they dealt him blows with sticks, bottles and even machete, till they hacked him to death.

The mobsters (about 5 of them) were later arrested and charged to court for the offense of murder and culpable homicide of Abdullah in the Kebbi State High Court.

Their defense was that they have justification for the killing of Abdullah (religious justification), pointing to the sections of the Quran that demand that anybody who insults the prophet MUHAMMED should be killed.

They were convicted of murder and sentenced to die by hanging in the trial court. They appealed to the Appellate court and the appeal court upheld the judgment of the trial court and they further appealed to the Supreme Court.

The case went on from the lower courts till it got to the supreme in 2007 and the Supreme Court upheld the judgments of the lower courts. In one of the dictums of one of the justices, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, (who is now the Chief Justice of Nigeria); he states thus;

“In my view, it is the appellants rather than the deceased who committed an offense against Islamic or Sharia by their unjustified action which represents to the public that Sharia is an uncivilized and primitive system that allows or permits the killing of people without complying with the due process of law, the Islamic religion is not a primitive religion that allows its adherents to take the law into their own hands and to commit jungle justice. Instead, there is a judicial system in Islamic law that hears and determines cases including the trial of criminal offenses and anybody accused of committing an offense against the religion or against a fellow Muslim brother should be taken to the court (either a Sharia or a secular/common law court) for adjudication. It is only when a person is convicted and sentenced by a court of law that he will be liable to a punishment which will be carried out by an appropriate authority (i.e. the prison)”.

The Justices of the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the judgments of the lower courts stating that the accused persons committed the offense of murder and culpable homicide which carries the capital punishment of death sentence. They were all; every one of them that partook in the killing of Abdullah were sentenced to death.

On this note, those that are justifying the killing of Deborah Yakubu on the ground that the killers are carrying out what their religion requires them to do should educate themselves that everyone that is involved in the death of Deborah Yakubu has committed the offense of murder and culpable homicide and stating categorically from the judicial precedent in the case of SHALLA V State, they will all be sentenced to death and their religion will not come to their rescue.

(source: tekedia.com)

INDIA:

Probability of reformation cannot be ruled out: Supreme Court commutes death sentence of accused to life imprisonment for 30 years without remission----The judgment, authored by Justice C.T. Ravikumar, took into consideration that the accused did not have prior criminal antecedents, belonged to a poor socio-economic background and had unblemished conduct in the jail.

– – –

ON Friday, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices A.M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T Ravikumar in Veerendra versus State of Madhya Pradesh, commuted the death sentence of an accused to imprisonment for life and held, “It is true that all murders are inhuman. For imposing capital sentence, the crime must be uncommon in nature where even after taking into account the mitigating circumstances the Court must be of the opinion that the sentence of imprisonment for life is inadequate and there is no alternative but to impose death sentence.”

In the instant case, the appellant-accused raped and murdered an 8-years old victim. He was charged with various offences including murder under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code [IPC] along with Section 6 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence[POCSO] Act, 2012 by the trial court. He was awarded the death penalty for the offence under Section 302 and it was confirmed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Gwalior on July 14, 2016.

The Supreme Court agreed to consider the appeal of the accused primarily on the ground that the conviction for murder was based on circumstantial evidence. The settled position of this court in Rajendra Pralhadrao Wasnik versus State of Maharashtra(2019) reflects that rarely death penalty has been awarded in a case where the connection of the accused with the offence is fixed on circumstantial evidence.

Thus, this bench was faced 2 issues:

Whether the conviction for murder sustainable as the medical evidence suggests that the victim died due to the injuries on the private part?

Whether the intention to murder the victim can be attributed to the accused because her death occurred in the course of the commission of the alleged rape?

Determining the 2nd issue, the Supreme Court stated that the death of the victim as per the medical examination was because of ‘Asphyxia due to throttling’. This along with the grave injuries sustained by the victim on her private parts, resulted in the trial court and the high court concluding that the death of the victim was homicidal in nature and also that these injuries were sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. Reaffirming that, the bench held that the opinion of the trial court and the high court were evidently concluded which does not require any interference from this court and observed, “In short, we have no hesitation to hold that the concurrent finding that the death of the victim was homicidal in nature invites no interference.”

On whether the homicidal death of the victim amounted to murder or not, the court said, “The right approach in cases of culpable homicide is to first find out whether the offence falls under any of the 4 clauses viz., clauses firstly to fourthly under Section 300 IPC. If it is so found, then the Court has to see whether the case is covered by any one of the 5 exceptions to section 300 IPC, which would make a culpable homicide ‘not amounting to murder.”

Further, the Supreme Court bench in the instant case stated that intention is a subjective element and every sane person must be presumed to intend the result that his action normally produces. Thus, in the present case, the following observations were made on the 2nd issue:

Putting pressure on the neck of an 8 years old by fingers or palms by a young man aged 25 years, with such force to cause the injuries mentioned hereinbefore cannot be said to be without intention to take her life.

If the said act was subsequent to the commission of rape in the diabolic and gruesome manner revealed from the grave injuries sustained on her private parts, causing death alone can be inferred from the circumstances.

If the act of constricting the neck with such force resulting in the stated injuries preceded the offence of rape, then, the manner by which she was ravished should be taken only as an act done knowingly that it is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

Thus, the court held that in any probability, the homicidal death of the victim falls within clause (1) or (4) of Section 300.

Lastly, on the issue of sustainability of the death penalty, the Supreme Court reiterated that the conditions of the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ test must be fulfilled. The test states that the accused must have become a threat to the society at large and beyond reformation and his elimination is the only way to eradicate the threat. This test was applied with the ‘crime test’ (Aggravating circumstance) and ‘criminal test’ (Mitigating circumstance) by the Supreme Court in Shankar Kisanrao Khade versus State of Maharashtra(2013).

The crime test requires consideration of the following circumstances namely, the prior record of conviction and the possibility of re-offending to name a few. The criminal test considers the manner and circumstances in which the crime was committed, the age of the accused, and the probability of reformation and rehabilitation to name a few.

These 3 tests fulfill the statutory requirement under Section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which requires the judgment to give special reasons for awarding the death penalty.

Based on the above discussion, the Supreme Court ruled out this case to be within the category of the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ and held, “Hence, viewing the issue taking into account the aforesaid aspects, we do not find any reason to rule out the possibility and the probability of the reformation and rehabilitation of the appellant.”

By also taking into consideration that the accused did not have prior criminal antecedents, belonged to a poor socio-economic background and had unblemished conduct in the jail, the Supreme court awarded life imprisonment to him but without application of the provisions of premature release/remission for the initial 30 years of imprisonment.

(source: Gursimran Kaur Bakshi is a staff writer at The Leaflet)

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

SC commutes death sentence of rape-murder convict to life imprisonment

The Supreme Court has commuted the death sentence of a man accused of raping and murdering a minor into life imprisonment, observing the possibility and the probability of the reformation and rehabilitation of the man.

“We are of the considered view that the ‘crime test’ and the ‘criminal test’ require to be followed before awarding capital sentence, did not gather the required attention of the trial Court as also the High Court,” the top court said.

“At the same time, the principles enunciated by this Court in the matter of awarding of death sentence and in such circumstances, the undisputed and indisputable fact that the appellant had no criminal antecedents and he hails from a poor socio-economic background and also his unblemished conduct inside the jail cannot go unnoticed,” the top court said.

The court also observed that at the time of the commission of the offence the convict was aged 25 years and said, “Hence, viewing the issue taking into account the aforesaid aspects, we do not find any reason to rule out the possibility and the probability of the reformation and rehabilitation of the appellant.”

“The long and short of the discussion is that the present case cannot be considered as one falling in the category of ‘rarest of rare cases’ in which there is no alternative but to impose the death sentence,” the top court said.

The top court awarded life imprisonment to the convict, by providing for actual imprisonment for a period of 30 (thirty) years without application of the provisions of premature release/remission.

A bench of justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar upheld the Madhya Pradesh High Court order convicting the man for the offences punishable under Section 302 and 376(2)(i), IPC and for the offence punishable under Section 6 of POCSO Act.

However, the court noted that all murders are inhuman but for imposing a capital sentence, the crime must be uncommon in nature where even after taking into account the mitigating circumstances the Court must be of the opinion that the sentence of imprisonment for life is inadequate and there is no alternative but to impose the death sentence.

“The heinous and brutal nature of the commission of the crime, viz., brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl child who is none other than the daughter of his own cousin, that too in a hapless situation, is definitely an aggravating circumstance, ” the top court observed.

The top court was hearing a man’s plea challenging the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Gwalior order dated July 14 2016, which confirmed capital punishment awarded to the man by the trial court.

The man was convicted of killing and raping an 8-year-old girl in 2014 in Dabra in the district of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. The man was the uncle of the deceased victim.

(source: theprint.in)

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

Lucknow HC bench upholds death for man who killed wife, 4 daughters

A division bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Brij Raj Singh on May 9 observed: “Here is a case which can be said to be in the category of “rarest of rare” case and justify award of death punishment to convict/appellant.”

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court has upheld the death sentence that the trial court awarded to a man for killing his wife, who he suspected was characterless, and 4 daughters who tried to save their mother.

A division bench of Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Brij Raj Singh on May 9 observed: “Here is a case which can be said to be in the category of “rarest of rare” case and justify award of death punishment to convict/appellant.”

“We are also clearly of the view that convict/appellant is a menace to the society and there is no chance of his rehabilitation or reformation and no leniency in imposing punishment is called for,” the court said.

“Balancing mitigating and aggravating factors and looking to the fact that convict/appellant had committed crime in a really shocking manner showing depravity of mind,” the court observed.

“In our view, the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances by all canons of logic and punishment of life imprisonment would neither serve the ends of justice nor will be an appropriate punishment,” the court said.

Dismissing the convict’s appeal, the court added that the convict/ appellant was a menace to the society and if not awarded death sentence even members of the society may not be safe. “He slayed five lives to quench his thirst. The entire incident is extremely revolting and shocks the collective conscience of the community. Murders were committed in gruesome, merciless and brutal manner,” the court said.

Deen Dayal Tewari, a native of Pura Kalandar, Ayodhya (then Faizabad), had hacked to death his wife Siya Lalli and four minor daughters aged four, six, eight and 11 years when they tried to save their mother on the night of November 11/12, 2011.

On January 30, 2014, additional district and sessions judge, Ayodhya (then Faizabad), convicted Deen Dayal under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to be hanged till death. The convict then challenged the order in the high court.

(source: hindustantimes.com)

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

MP CM's Zero-tolerance On Rape: Death Penalty In 76 Cases; Accused's Home To Be Bulldozed----CM Shivraj Chouhan while addressing a rally in Sehore on May 15 made it clear that the BJP-led state government has a zero-tolerance policy against criminals.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan – while addressing a rally in Sehore on May 15 – made it clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government has a zero-tolerance policy against heinous crimes like rape. The CM added that perpetrators of crimes against women in the state will be given capital punishment. Sharing the data, the leader avered that 76 persons in the state till now have received the death penalty. Other than sending them to jail, Chouhan also claimed that the accused's houses have also been bulldozed, leaving them financially 'ripped off.'

CM Shivraj Chouhan said, "There's zero-tolerance against rapes, crimes against women in the state. No other punishment than death. The death penalty is pronounced in 76 cases. Besides sending them to jails, their (culprits') houses are bulldozed, they're ripped off financially."

(source: Republic World)

SINGAPORE:

The Death Penalty Makes Us Forget Our Humanity. Don’t Let It.

When fighting against the cold machinery of death, we must all the more cling on to empathy and care for one another.

The afternoon before Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam was put to death, I sat in the public gallery of Singapore’s apex court. In the main hall, public prosecutors and judges described the late-stage application filed by Nagen’s 60-year-old working class mother as “frivolous” and an “abuse of court process.” They questioned Mdm Panchalai, demanding to know who had helped her draft and file the documents. (It’s entirely legitimate for anyone to seek help and file applications directly to the court without legal counsel.) In their submissions, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, which acts as the state prosecutor, suggested that the legal application had not truly come from Mdm Panchalai, but had been orchestrated by others who wanted to abuse the court process while hiding their involvement, so as to evade potential penalties. They repeated this insinuation in a press release issued the morning Nagen was hanged. It was their only response to Nagen’s execution.

I’m sure there are many legal minds for whom the court’s pronouncements are significant for study and future application. But that afternoon, all I could think of was what it says about our humanity when we let the “efficiency” of court processes take precedence over a person’s life. When we look at a desperate mother — a woman who barely speaks English, who stood terrified before solemn judges in an entirely alien environment — fighting for her son the day before the state wants to put him to death, and assume a conspiracy aimed at undermining our authority and wasting our time.

Contrast this with the people who attended Nagen’s short wake in Singapore on the afternoon of April 27, before he was sent on his final journey to his home in Ipoh. Most of the people who showed up were strangers to Nagen and his family, but they came anyway, bringing flowers and money in white envelopes, cards with messages of support. Mourners stood over his casket and shed tears, or offered prayers. Later that weekend, when I visited Nagen’s family in their home, his sister told me that they’d received visitors and condolences from all over Malaysia; people who had driven across the country, or even all the way up from Singapore, just to pay their respects and hand collected donations for his mother. When up against a system that scorns compassion, the power of such acts of support and sympathy cannot be underestimated.

I’ve written about how administrative cruelty sits at the center of the capital punishment regime. It’s an entire system — involving an army of people from law enforcement through prosecution to prison staff, laden with paperwork and protocols — built with the ultimate aim of ending a person’s life. While loved ones send heartfelt pleas for mercy and presidential pardons, clemency rejections are delivered in short, curt sentences. “The sentence of death should stand.” Execution notices are similarly heartless: “Please be informed that the death sentence passed on your son, Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam, will be carried out on 27 April 2022 (Wednesday).” When family members show up for visits in the week before a planned hanging — during which they may still chat and joke and laugh with their loved one — they are also informed of the time they should show up to claim the body after execution, and given a form for an undertaker to fill for security clearance purposes.

It’s so much easier to kill a person when we’ve already stopped thinking of them as one. When capital cases are treated as nothing more than legal puzzles, we are distracted by the jargon and jurisprudence from acknowledging that the entire system is fundamentally about taking the life of the person sitting in the dock. When the media only reports on convictions and sentences before these “criminals” vanish from public view, Singaporeans can forget about the matter without facing up to what the state is doing in all our names. The death penalty is an inhuman punishment, and for it to work, we are pushed to forget our own humanity.

We cannot allow ourselves to forget.

There is no evidence that the death penalty actually deters crime, and public opinion on the death penalty in Singapore isn’t as overwhelmingly supportive as the government claims. Abolitionists have repeated these talking points ad nauseam alongside other arguments about incarceration, restorative justice, and drug policy, but academic surveys and research aren’t in themselves sufficient in pushing for the end of capital punishment. We need to also remind everyone, over and over and over again, that those suffering on death row are people, whose lives are so much more than the offense they’d been convicted of. Dry empirical data can be tuned out, but once the existence and story of a living, breathing person is acknowledged, it can be more difficult to turn away. People might not change their minds about the death penalty right away, but we must at least make them recognize the true cost of this punishment, in the hopes that this will inspire reconsideration of an issue that all too often appears abstract and of little consequence to many Singaporeans.

Demonstrations of humanity and compassion are also powerful in other ways. The strong turn-out at a vigil held for Nagen and Datchinamurthy — who was also scheduled to die in the same week, but received a stay of execution on the grounds that he’s still party to an ongoing civil case — provided comfort and strength to the families of both prisoners. The sight of our fellow Singaporeans turning up to demonstrate their opposition to the death penalty also energized activists, spurring us to keep up with our work. In a country where our perspectives are censored or sidelined, so that we often feel like we’re shouting in an abyss, seeing people show up gave us a renewed sense of hope and purpose. And when the worst happened to Nagen, the outpouring of collective grief and outrage helped us work through the horror of what we’d borne witness to, and to turn that grief into determination and a promise not to stop until we stop this barbaric practice once and for all.

When fighting against the cold machinery of death, we must all the more cling on to empathy and care for one another. In my years of anti-death penalty activism, I have seen and experienced the power of human connection: precious moments in court where a slot in a glass pane provides the only opportunity for a mother to touch her son. The resolve of a sister giving her all to a campaign for her brother so that, even if we fail, he will know that he was loved and fought for to the very last moment. The way a tight embrace and shared tears can provide comfort that transcends language. A relentless criminal punishment system teaches us to see these things as ‘sentimental’, to consider them unrealistic, impractical and useless when compared to the government’s self-proclaimed policy goals. But these are the things that make us human, and a regime that dismisses them as weak and irrelevant is a regime that would make brutes of us all.

I end with the words of Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, one of the prisoners currently on Singapore’s death row, written in a letter to thank everyone who showed up at the anti-death penalty protests we held in April: “The harshness and cruelty that some have claimed is just, is not. Two wrongs do not make a right. In the end, there is only a legacy of bloodshed that posterity may not even want on their hands anymore. Once more, please accept my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all the good the family is doing. I shall never forget this kindness and compassion that have been extended to me, for that, I remain humble.”

(source: Kirsten Han is a freelance journalist and curator of the We, The Citizens newsletter, covering Singapore politics, human rights, civil society, and social justice----The News Lens)

INDONESIA:

The chilling final wish of grandmother Lindsay Sandiford who is on death row in Bali----Lindsay Sandiford was sentenced to death almost a decade ago after being arrested for drug smuggling. She has been on death row ever since and has one final wish

A grandmother from Cheltenham living on death row in a Bali prison has one final chilling wish as she awaits execution by firing squad for drug smuggling. Lindsay Sandiford has been in Kerobokan Prison for almost a decade, having been arrested in 2013 for trying to smuggle £1.6 million worth of cocaine into Indonesia.

She was arrested as she arrived in Bali from Bangkok on May 19, 2012 after cocaine was found in her luggage. The former legal secretary, who had worked in management for many years at a law firm in Cheltenham, originally insisted she had been forced to carry the Class A drugs by a criminal gang who had threatened to hurt her family if she refused, reports the Mirror.

In Indonesia, the punishment for this crime is brutal and terrifying - death by firing squad. Prisoners can choose to sit or stand before armed soldiers take their shots, aiming for the heart. If a prisoner manages to survive, the commander then shoots them in the head.

After giving her original story about being forced to smuggle drugs, she then changed her story when she was told she would receive the death penalty if convicted of drug trafficking.

The 65-year-old gran is still waiting for her execution date, as Indonesia carries them out infrequently. Prisoners can be left waiting on death row for more than 10 years. Sandiford, who had separated from her husband, made the decision to move to India in 2012.

She told officers she had been asked to carry the drugs by Julian Ponder, a British antiques dealer. Sandiford agreed to take part in a police sting to catch Ponder, but she was still later charged with drug trafficking. She was sentenced to death on January 22, 2013.

During her time in prison, Sandiford knits various items which she sells to try and raise money for her legal fees. Whilst behind bars, she befriended killer Heather Mack. Mack served 10 years for the murder of her mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, who was then stuffed into a suitcase by her boyfriend.

Mack has revealed that Sandiford was becoming increasingly reclusive whilst in prison. She became difficult to speak to and would often snap for no reason. She said: "She spends all day pretty much alone in her cell and doesn’t mix so much with the other prisoners." The killer also revealed Sandiford has just one final wish.

She said: "She has said she wants to die."

Indeed, Sandiford herself said: "It won't be a hard thing for me to face anymore. It's not particularly a death I would choose but then again I wouldn't choose dying in agony from cancer either." She has also said she feels blessed to have been able to watch her 2 sons grow up and meet her grandchildren.

(source: gloucestershirelive.co.uk)

TAIWAN:

Human rights panel calls for abolition of death penalty

An international panel of human rights experts on Friday called on Taiwan to end the “cruel and degrading” practice of capital punishment.

In its Concluding Observations and Recommendations report, the nine-member group said it was “extremely disappointed” at the failure of the government to address the issue, despite persistent calls in Taiwan for the abolition of the death penalty.

The panel, which was commissioned by the government, conducted a review in Taipei from Monday to Friday of the nation’s implementation of two UN human rights-related covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng speaks at a news conference in Taipei on Friday to share the conclusions of a review of Taiwan’s implementation of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

While Taiwan has substantially improved its human rights record over the years, some long-standing issues, such as the continued use of the death penalty, remain inadequately addressed, Austrian human rights lawyer Manfred Nowak told a news conference in Taipei.

“Taiwan is already among a very, very small number of countries in the world that still retain the death penalty, and the arguments that are time and again repeated by the government are far from convincing,” said Nowak, who was the UN special rapporteur on torture from 2004 to 2010.

“We are strongly appealing to the Executive Yuan to immediately declare a moratorium on executions,” he said, adding that the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” punishment contravenes articles 6 and 7 of the ICCPR.

All death sentences should be commuted immediately and the minister of justice should no longer sign execution orders, he added.

Taiwan has the potential to become the Asian standard-bearer in recognizing and enforcing international human rights, but it will never achieve that so long as the death penalty remains an element of its criminal justice system, he said.

Cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng said that the government remained committed to gradually abolishing capital punishment, but there is a lack of public consensus on the matter.

The government has taken note of the suggestions made by the international human rights experts and would convene to discuss the feasibility of declaring a moratorium on executions, Lo said.

Taiwan most recently executed a prisoner in 2020.

The 38 people currently sentenced to death have brought the issue to the Constitutional Court, and have received a legally guaranteed stay of execution, he said.

The panel’s report also highlighted the absence of legislation to curb torture and discrimination in Taiwan.

“The information provided by the government clearly shows that there are many allegations of torture against law enforcement officials in Taiwan,” the report said, adding that those cases only led to disciplinary action instead of criminal prosecution.

The nation has yet to make incorporate torture — the crime of inflicting severe mental or physical pain or suffering on a powerless person for a particular purpose as defined in international law — into its Criminal Code, Nowak said.

Taiwan should adopt a “comprehensive anti-discrimination law that addresses the various types of discrimination,” which could be applied to the public and private sectors, he added.

Human rights groups in Taiwan echoed the panel’s call.

At a news conference outside the Ministry of Justice building in Taipei, Huang Yi-bee, who is chief executive of Covenants Watch — which was formed by a coalition of non-governmental organizations determination to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination law — said that the government commissioned academics to research the issue, but has not responded to local groups’ requests for consultations.

Although not a UN member, Taiwan ratified the ICCPR and ICESCR as a matter of domestic law in 2009.

Since 2013, the government has invited human rights experts to Taiwan every four years to review the country’s implementation of the covenants and interact with government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations before issuing their observations and recommendations.

(source: Taipei Times)

IRAN----executions

4 Men Executed for Drug Offences in Shiraz

4 men including an uncle and nephew, were executed on drug-related charges in Shiraz Central Prison last week.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 4 men were executed in Shiraz Central Prison (Adelabad) on the morning of May 8. Their identities have been established as Abbas Pajmordeh and his nephew Ali Pajmordeh who was transferred from the youth ward, Mohammad Gholamhosseini and Ali Hossein Pahan.

Speaking to Iran Human Rights, an informed source said: “Abbas Pajmordeh was Ali Pajmordeh’s uncle. They were sentenced to death on charges of carrying drugs and firearms 5 years ago. The other 2 prisoners were also co-defendants and had spent 4 years behind bars before being executed for carrying methamphetamine and heroine.”

At the time of writing, none of their executions have been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to reports compiled by Iran Human Rights, at least 126 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2021, a fivefold increase compared to drug executions in the previous 3 years. None of the 2021 drug-related executions were reported by official sources.

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

Hossein Fartash Executed for Murder in Isfahan

Hossein Fartash was executed for murder charges in Isfahan Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Isfahan Central Prison on the morning of May 12. His identity has been established as Hossein Fartash who was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Hossein Fartash was a welder before being detained. He was arrested for an honour killing around 4 years ago and sentenced to qisas.”

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

In 2021, at least 183 people were executed on murder charges. Those charged with the umbrella term of “intentional murder” are sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) regardless of intent or circumstances due to a lack of grading in law. Once a defendant has been convicted, the victim’s family are required to choose between death as retribution, diya (blood money) or forgiveness.

(source for both: iranhr.net)

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

NCRI’s Conference in Paris Reveals Names and Pictures of Officials and Henchmen in Iran Prisons Organization

On Friday, May 13, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held a press conference in Paris, making public for the 1st time the hitherto undisclosed names of over 33,000 officials, interrogators, torturers, and executioners in Iran’s Prisons Organization and over 22,000 of their pictures.

During Friday’s conference, Behzad Naziri, NCRI’s representative to international organizations, referred to the ongoing protests across Iran and the regime’s systematic crackdown on dissidents. He pointed to the recent demonstrations in dozens of Iranian cities over the country’s worsening economic situation and the nationwide protests by teachers. Naziri said that Iran’s ruling theocracy has arrested “hundreds of young people during the recent protests, as well as dozens of teachers.” He underlined that these arrests are part of the regime’s futile efforts to prevent protests from spreading across the country.

Naziri presented a video showing the names of more than 33,000 regime prison officials, including top authorities, interrogators, intelligence agents, executioners, guards, and mercenaries. He also presented the pictures obtained from inside Iran by the NCRI’s main constituent, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) of many of these same individuals.

He also revealed the names of the key staff members of the Prisons Organization. “In this part, the location of the different rooms and phone numbers are available,” he added while presenting the evidence.

“The Prisons Organization is one of the most horrific and criminal organs of the religious fascism ruling Iran to conduct repression, torture, and execution,” Mr. Naziri said.

He also referred to Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation since Ebrahim Raisi became the regime’s president. Raisi played a key role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in Iran.

Mr. Naziri emphasized that since Gholamhossain Mohseni Ejei became the regime’s Judiciary Chief, “the killing of prisoners under torture has continued. In many cases, the judicial authorities claimed that prisoners had committed suicide or had tried to present their death as a natural death.”

Mr. Naziri was joined by Ali Safavi from the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee. In his remarks, Safavi pointed out the dreadful situation in Iranian prisons. He presented over one hundred pictures of overcrowded cells in 23 out of 31 provinces across the country obtained by the MEK.

Safavi explained the dire conditions of prisoners, whom, he said, were being denied their fundamental rights. He presented documents that showed that on average the number of actual prisoners was three to four times greater than the officially announced capacity of each prison. “As you see in the pictures, they are forced to sleep like sardines and are deprived of their basic needs,” Safavi said.

NCRI’s conference on Friday and its damning revelation once again underlines the need to hold Iran’s genocidal regime accountable for its human rights abuses.

Reacting to the Iranian Resistance’s recent revelations of the torturers’ names, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s President-elect, said: “The shocking documents about prison conditions in Iran under the mullahs are a glimpse of the atrocities committed by a regime which has executed 120,000 political prisoners and murdered thousands more protesters in the past 4 decades.”

“The formation of a UN fact-finding mission to inspect Iran’s prisons is imperative. The dossier on the crimes of the ruling religious fascism must be referred to the UN Security Council. Its leaders, especially Khamenei and Raisi, must face justice,” Mrs. Rajavi added.

“Inaction vis-à-vis the crimes of a regime, which is a disgraceful stain on contemporary humanity, is tantamount to rejecting the values upon which the UN and the European Union have been founded and for which tens of millions of people have sacrificed their lives,” She emphasized.

(source: ncr-iran.org)

EGYPT:

Egypt begins trial of man accused of killing Coptic priest

A court in the Egyptian city of Alexandria began the trial Saturday of a man accused of stabbing to death a Coptic Christian priest, an attack that shocked the Arab world’s most populous country.

The case dates to early April when Arsanious Wadid, a 56-year-old priest, was killed at popular seaside promenade in the Mediterranean city.

Nehru Tawfiq appeared before judges at a packed courtroom Saturday in Alexandria, in the first session of his trial. He denied the accusations.

Defense lawyers, in their initial argument, said that the attack was not a “deliberate” one.

The court’s top judge, Wahid Sabry, also questioned witnesses about the attack. One witness said the suspect stabbed the priest “because he was a Christian,” and attempted to attack bystanders when they intervened.

When judges asked the witness to recognize the suspect, he walked over to the defendants cage where the suspect was being held and identified him, according to a livestreaming on Facebook.

Prosecutors demanded the maximum punishment for the suspect, which could be a death sentence if he's convicted.

Sectarian violence is not uncommon in Egypt. Islamic extremists have also targeted Christians in recent years, especially following the 2013 military ouster of an elected but divisive Islamist president.

In September 2017, an alleged Islamic State supporter stabbed to death an 82-year-old Christian doctor in Cairo. He was sentenced to death the following year.

Egypt’s Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, have repeatedly complained of discrimination. They account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s over 103 million people.

At the end of the hourslong court session, judges decided to adjourn the trial until May 18, when prosecutors and defense lawyers will continue their arguments.

(source: ABC News)

MAY 14, 2022:

GEORGIA----impending execution

Georgia Allegedly Violated Pandemic Agreement By Scheduling Execution of Virgil Presnell

Attorneys for Georgia death-row prisoner Virgil Presnell, Jr. have filed a lawsuit arguing that Attorney General Chris Carr violated a written agreement when his office set a May 17, 2022 execution date for their client.

Executions in Georgia have been on hold since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2021, Carr agreed not to set any execution dates until three conditions had been met: the expiration of the Georgia Supreme Court’s COVID-19 judicial emergency, the resumption of normal visitation at state prisons, and a COVID vaccine that’s “readily available to all members of the public.” In a lawsuit filed May 9 in Fulton County Superior Court, Presnell’s attorneys say that Carr violated that agreement in scheduling Presnell’s execution. Georgia prisons still have a modified visitation policy, and COVID vaccines are not available to children under 5.

The agreement also said that, once the criteria were met, the state first intended to seek an execution date for a different prisoner, Billy Raulerson. Raulerson’s execution was to be scheduled at least three months after the conditions were met, and the state said the next execution would be scheduled three months after that. Instead, Presnell’s execution was the first one scheduled, and his attorneys were given far less than the agreed-upon notice period. “Contrary to the agreement, the Attorney General gave the Federal Defender just two days of notice that they intended to pursue Mr. Presnell’s execution warrant instead of the promised six months after the conditions had been met,” the lawsuit says. “These actions constitute a clear breach of the Agreement and will lead to irreparable harm if not enjoined by this Court.”

Presnell’s attorneys argue that they were not given adequate time to prepare for his clemency hearing, which is scheduled for May 16. One expert witness they had planned to have testify at the hearing recently had emergency heart surgery and is unavailable. Other witnesses have “immovable conflicts because of the late notice.”

Presnell was first sentenced to death in 1976 for the murder of one girl and the rape and kidnapping of another. On appeal, statutory and constitutional deficiencies in the case led to a series of reversals. The Georgia Supreme Court vacated the death sentences for kidnapping and rape but affirmed the murder and rape sentences, and the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the death sentence for murder, remanding for further proceedings. On remand, the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated the death sentence for murder. In 1990, a federal district court vacated Presnell’s death sentence because of prosecutorial misconduct. The court found that the prosecutor’s closing argument was “so egregious that it rendered the proceeding fundamentally unfair.”

Presnell was resentenced to death in 1999. Following his resentencing, Presnell’s attorneys in federal habeas proceedings challenged his trial counsel’s failure to investigate and present evidence that Presnell’s mother drank bourbon to excess throughout her pregnancy and that, as a result, Presnell suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. In 2020, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that Presnell’s court-appointed trial counsel had not been ineffective. The court held that counsel’s failure to further explore the issue was not unreasonable once Presnell’s mother told his trial investigator that she “did not drink except socially” during the pregnancy.

In court filings, Presnell’s attorneys note that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder caused brain damage that prevents him “from ever developing into a functioning, responsible adult.” Presnell was also a victim of incest and severe physical abuse. The vast majority of prisoners executed in recent years have had serious mental illness, brain damage or intellectual disability, and/or chronic childhood trauma.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

29 jurors qualify as jury selection continues in Ricky Dubose death penalty trial----District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale says they've qualified 29 potential jurors.

Jury selection continued in the trial of Ricky Dubose Friday.

He's the 2nd inmate accused of killing 2 corrections officers back in 2017.

Now, District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale says they've qualified 29 potential jurors.

That doesn't mean they're picked for the jury, it just means they're eligible to serve and neither side objects.

Their goal is to qualify a pool of 60 people.

Then, lawyers on both sides will narrow that group down to 12 jurors and several alternates.

Court officials estimate testimony may not start until June.

(source: WMAZ news)

FLORIDA:

Man convicted of killing 2 Kissimmee police officers sentenced to death

On Friday, a judge formally sentenced the man convicted of killing 2 Kissimmee police officers to death.

A sob was heard in the courtroom as soon as the sentence was announced.

The hearing itself was very short — only lasting about 5 minutes.

During that time, the judge read each conviction aloud, ending with the 2 murder convictions of Kissimmee Police Officer Matthew Baxter and Sergeant Sam Howard, sentencing Everett Miller to death for their killings.

A jury had recommended the judge sentence Miller to death after they found him guilty of shooting and killing Officer Baxter and Sergeant Howard as they were checking on a group of people while on the job back in 2017.

After the hearing, we heard from Kissimmee's police chief as well as some of the officers' family members.

"We are extremely grateful that justice has been served. This has been a long and difficult process for everyone involved," Chief Jeffrey O'Dell of the Kissimmee Police Department said.

"2 lives were lost and they will never be here, so I'm just so grateful for those who dedicated their hearts into this case," Sadia Baxter, wife of Officer Baxter said.

Miller does have the right to appeal this sentencing.

That is something that if it happens will happen in the next month.

Prosecutors say they are always prepared for appeals in cases like this one.

Some of Miller's family was in the courthouse as well.

We tried to speak with them after the hearing but they declined.

Everett Miller has been awaiting his sentencing for years.

Back in 2019, a jury recommended the death penalty.

The judge had been thinking this over for 6 months. At the last hearing in November, Miller's defense said he suffered from PTSD after serving in Iraq.

Miller was found guilty almost 3 years ago for the murders of Kissimmee Police Officer Matthew Baxter and Sergeant Sam Howard in 2017.

Miller's attorney, in a court filing this year, say that he should be spared the death penalty for a number of reasons. Lawyers say his service in the marines and because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time at war should be reason to spare him.

Attorneys say Miller took part in killing thousands of people, including the enemy, and innocent civilians.

Prosecutors have questioned whether he really does suffer from PTSD, and even if he does, that it didn't play a role in the murders of Baxter and Howard.

They said his main motivator was a hatred of police.

Details of killings

Prosecutors say Baxter was conducting a routine check into 3 suspicious people in August 2017 when Miller drove up and started asking why the officer was bothering people. Howard responded to the scene, and Miller argued with the 2 officers.

Prosecutors said Miller shot Howard and Baxter in their heads and then repositioned both bodies before firing again at their faces.

Baxter, a 3-year veteran of the department, died in a hospital that night and Howard, a 10-year-veteran, of the department, died the next day.

Miller was arrested later that night at a bar.

(source: WESH news)

OHIO:

Problem With Lethal Injection Drugs Prompts Ohio Gov to Postpone Execution

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has delayed the execution of a death row inmate for the 2nd time as the state continues to struggle to find lethal injection drugs.

Lethal injection has been the preferred method of execution in states that have the death penalty, but as drug companies continue to block their drugs from being used in executions, states have faced difficulty obtaining drug alternatives.

Inmate Kareem Jackson was convicted of murdering two drug dealers execution-style following a 1997 robbery. On Friday, DeWine delayed Jackson's execution by more than 3 years.

Citing drug supply issues, the governor's office moved Jackson's September 15, 2022, execution date to December 10, 2025. This is the 3rd time in total that Jackson has been issued a reprieve, according to WKBN. Jackson was originally scheduled to be put to death on July 10, 2019.

Since Ohio's sole execution method is lethal injection, DeWine has granted several delays to inmates due to the shortage.

In February, the governor's office issued a statement saying the reprieves were issued in response to "ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs" for use in executions "without endangering other Ohioans."

In 2016, Pharmaceutical company Pfizer, manufacturer of an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine, released a statement saying it would block its drugs from being used in executions.

Due to a lethal injection drug shortage, Mike DeWine, governor of Ohio, has delayed an inmate's execution. Drug companies continue to block their products from being used in executions and states have faced hardships securing alternatives. Above, a death chamber for lethal injection in Texas is shown.

"Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve," Pfizer said in a 2016 statement. "Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment."

Before the ban, Pfizer was the last remaining federally approved manufacturer to supply its products for execution by lethal injection, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Following in Pfizer's footsteps, many other global pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to share their products for capital punishment.

Johnson & Johnson, Dash Pharmaceuticals and Sagent Pharmaceuticals are among those that have taken steps to prevent their drugs from being used in executions.

"Janssen discovers and develops medical innovations to save and enhance lives," Johnson & Johnson said in a 2017 statement. "We do not support the use of our medicines for indications that have not been approved by regulatory authorities, such as the US FDA. We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment."

Ohio's last carried-out execution was in July 2018, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Of the 68 execution dates scheduled from August 2018 through 2022, 45 have been rescheduled.

(source: Newsweek)

OKLAHOMA:

Tulsa County judge sentences David Ware to death

A judge upheld a jury's recommendation on giving a death sentence for David Ware on Friday.

This comes weeks after a jury found him guilty on all counts and recommended the death penalty for Ware.

Ware was on trial for shooting Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson and Officer Aurash Zarkeshan during a June 2020 traffic stop. Johnson died in the shooting and Zarkeshan went through several months of treatment and rehabilitation due to his injuries.

Ware will eventually go to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

(source: KJRH news)

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

Death penalty case eyed in woman's fatal beating after other co-defendant pleads guilty, prosecutors say

The male counterpart of a couple accused in a January crowbar killing pleaded guilty to his crimes on Thursday, leaving prosecutors eyeing the pursuit of the death penalty against his co-defendant.

Associate District Judge Clifford Smith found Nicholas Johnson — who, along with Brinlee Denison, stood accused in the Jan. 4 beating death of Sarah Maguire at Maguire's west Tulsa home — guilty of 1st-degree murder and larceny of an automobile.

The 29-year-old will face sentencing in late July, during which District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said the state will argue for life without parole. Denison, 25, still faces the same charges. She requested a jury trial after previously waiving her right to a preliminary hearing. Now preparing for such, Kunzweiler said prosecutors will be weighing whether the case could qualify as one warranting capital punishment.

Officers completing a welfare check on Maguire that evening found her dead from blunt force trauma to her head and face in the living room of her home in the 3900 block of South 28th West Avenue, according to a court affidavit.

Proposed local law would allow police to remove homeless people from sidewalks, other public rights of way

Along with other items of value and her credit cards, Maguire’s vehicle was missing, and police in Fayetteville, Arkansas, later found it with Johnson and Denison sleeping inside.

The 2 reportedly told police they beat Maguire with a crowbar, stole her car and funded their trip across state lines with her stolen credit cards.

Maguire, 29, had allowed the transient couple to shelter in a shed behind her home, police said.

An affidavit states Johnson alleged Denison was “also” in a relationship with Maguire. According to statements he made to police, Johnson’s jealousy of the women’s relationship spurred plans to take Maguire’s life.

Johnson alleged that Denison was part of the planning and the execution of the slaying, and he reportedly told detectives he and Denison had sex in Maguire's bed after the beating as he could hear Maguire "struggling to live" in the living room.

The 2 reportedly left the woman to die and fled the state in her car, throwing evidentiary clothing they were wearing at the scene out of the vehicle along the way.

Kunzweiler said he was pleased Johnson took responsibility for his role in the crimes, which he said came as a "relief" to the victim's family, and he emphasized that Denison is still presumed innocent.

Both remain in the Tulsa County jail awaiting their next court date. Denison is scheduled to appear in mid-June.

(source: Tulsa World)

INDIA:

Man convicted for murder of BTech student challenges death sentence

see: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/vijayawada/convictchallenges-death-sentence/articleshow/91552038.cms

PAKISTAN:

SHC upholds death sentence of 2 Qalandar shrine bombers

The Sindh High Court on Friday upheld the death penalty of 2 convicts handed down by a trial court in a case pertaining to the 2017 suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan.

The SHC observed that it had hardly ever come across a crime of such brutality as more than a hundred men, women and children had been killed or seriously injured and some of the wounded had been crippled for life.

It said that those who indulged in such inhuman act must be sent a loud and clear message that no leniency would be extended to them by courts if they were proved guilty and they must be dealt with iron hand and face deterrent sentence of death penalty in order to dissuade others from treading in their barbaric footsteps.

An antiterrorism court had sentenced Nadir Ali, alias Murshid and Furqan alias Farooq, linked to the militant Islamic State group, to death in May 2020 for helping suicide bomber Barar Brohi, who on Feb 16, 2017 had blown himself up at the packed-to-capacity courtyard of the shrine of the Sufi saint killing around 70 people and wounding over 65 others.

The convicts through their lawyers had challenged their conviction before the SHC and after hearing both sides and examining the record and proceedings of the case, the two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha dismissed the appeals.

The bench in its judgement said that the retracted judicial confessional statements of both the appellants were made voluntarily as there was no compelling material on record to indicate otherwise and there were hardly any procedural irregularity while recording the judicial confessions.

The five eyewitnesses have also supported the confessional statements of the appellants and their evidence was trustworthy and confidence inspiring as they had seen appellants with the suicide bomber at the crime scene just before the blast, it added.

The order further noted that in term of the correct identification by eyewitnesses about the presence of both appellants at the shrine and being facilitators of suicide bomber, the CCTV/USB/DVR footage obtained from the shrine just before the bomb blast was extremely significant piece of evidence and the same had corroborated the evidence of eyewitnesses regarding presence of both appellants with the suicide bomber just before the blast.

About the defence plea, the bench said that the defence case was one of non-presence at the scene, but in the presence of judicial confessions and other prosecution evidence linking them to the suicide bomber, the defence plea was an afterthought in order to save their skin. According to the prosecution, both appellants were affiliated with IS, Murshid, a resident of Kashmor, and Furqan, a resident of Quetta.

(source: Dawn)

MAY 13, 2022:

TEXAS:

‘Every Option Will Be on the Table’: Republican Leader of Texas House Justice Reform Caucus Says He Would Support Moratorium on Executions

Saying that recents events in Texas’ attempt to execute death-row prisoner Melissa Lucio had shaken his faith in the criminal legal system, an influential Republican state legislator has said that he would now support a moratorium on executions in the state.

In an April 29, 2022 interview on WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics with Jason Whitely, Representative Jeff Leach (pictured), co-chair of the Texas House of Representatives’ bi-partisan Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, said “every option [for death-penalty reform] will be on the table, every tool in the toolbox,” including potentially a moratorium on executions.

Leach, who was one of the founding members of the reform caucus, was the driving force behind a bipartisan legislative effort that resulted in majorities of both the Texas House and Senate signing letters calling for the commutation Lucio’s sentence. On April 25, 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Lucio’s scheduled April 27th execution and directed a Cameron County trial court to hear evidence on claims that she may be innocent of charges that she murdered her two-year-old daughter and that her conviction was the product of prosecutorial misconduct and false testimony. In the Inside Texas Politics interview, Rep. Leach said: “We’ve got to look at every part of our system, and Melissa’s case, where the system failed her at every turn, is a great example of that.”

A self-described “pro-life conservative,” Leach said that the near execution of Lucio without consideration of her strong claims of innocence “rocked” him and showed him that “it’s important going forward that we get this right for all other cases.”

One of the tools Leach said he intended to use would be legislative hearings at which “law enforcement and prosecutors and defense counsel and other legislators and experts” would be brought in to help the Texas legislature in “pursuing the right reforms.” He told WFAA reporter Jason Whitely that, after “going through what I just went through and seeing what I just saw” in Melissa Lucio’s case, he would support a moratorium on executions in Texas.

“I am, again, a supporter of the death penalty in the most heinous cases. But that is contingent upon the system working, the system being trustworthy, fair and reliable, us ensuring beyond a shadow of a doubt the guilt of the inmate,” Leach said. “And right now, I am unsure of that. My trust in the system is shaky.” Leach told Whitely that he believes several other conservative, pro-death penalty legislators also would support a moratorium on executions.

Leach has been vocally advocating reforms in the Texas capital punishment system since the scheduled execution of Jeffrey Wood in 2016. Wood was convicted and sentenced to death under Texas’ “law of parties,” which makes a defendant liable for the acts and intent of all other people involved in a felony. The undisputed evidence showed that Wood neither killed anyone nor intended for anyone to be killed and, his supporters say, was not even aware the robbery in which a codefendant killed a store clerk was going to occur. At the time of Wood’s death warrant, Leach said, “I simply do not believe that Mr. Wood is deserving of the death sentence. I can’t sit quietly by and not say anything.”

Wood’s case led Leach to sponsor a bill, which passed the House in 2021, that attempts to end death-penalty eligibility for felony accomplices who neither kill nor intended that a killing take place and were minor participants in the conduct that led to the death of the victim. That bill stalled in a Senate committee.

Leach also advocated to halt the scheduled execution of Rodney Reed in 2019. Pointing to Reed’s strong claims of innocence, Leach, along with the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus’ Democratic co-chair, Rep. Joe Moody and 24 other house members from both parties, drafted a legislative letter asking Texas Governor Greg Abbott to commute Reed’s sentence. In November 2019, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Reed’s execution and ordered an innocence hearing. After the Texas state courts denied Reed access to DNA testing of crime-scene evidence and the lower federal courts refused to review the issue on procedural grounds, the U.S. States Supreme Court on April 25, 2022 granted Reed’s petition for writ of certiorari to address the question of when the time clock begins to run on a state prisoner’s federal civil rights lawsuit seeking access to DNA testing.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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'Texas 7' death row inmate will get new hearing over claim judge was anti-Semitic----Randy Halprin was among the seven inmates who escaped prison committed numerous robberies, including one in which Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins was killed.

A death row inmate who was part of the "Texas 7" gang of escaped prisoners will get a new hearing over allegations that his trial judge made anti-Semitic comments toward him and frequently used racial slurs, according to a ruling from the State's top appeals court Wednesday. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a live evidentiary hearing needs to be held over Randy Halprin's claims that his judge was biased against him because he's Jewish.

"Accordingly, we remand this cause to the trial court for a live hearing so that the parties may present evidence regarding the aforementioned issue," the ruling said.

It's unknown how the outcome of the hearing over the claims against his judge will impact his original case.

In October, a Dallas County judge recommended that Halprin be granted a new trial after considering evidence whether the judge who presided over his trial harbored anti-Semitic beliefs.

According to an Oct. 11 signed order with the 283 Judicial District in Dallas County, Judge Lela Mays found that Halprin's application for relief should be granted.

However, the appeals court this week ruled that a live hearing was not held for Mays' ruling and that one should be held "so that the parties may present evidence" over the bias claims.

The appeals court ordered the trial court to have a hearing within 60 days, and then submit its findings and conclusions back to the appeals court.

Halprin alleged that ex-Dallas County Judge Vickers Cunningham referred to him with anti-Semitic language and frequently used racial slurs.

Halprin was among the seven inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison in 2000 and committed numerous robberies, including one in which Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins was fatally shot on Christmas Eve. After a nationwide manhunt, the infamous "Texas 7" were captured near Colorado Springs.

Halprin had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Oct. 10, 2019, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution just days before.

Halprin and Patrick Murphy are the last 2 of the "Texas 7" who have not been executed. Murphy also got a stay of execution in November 2019, after the state refused to provide Murphy a Buddhist chaplain in the hours before he was set to be put to death.

(source: WFAA News)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Letter to the editor: On death penalty, what about the innocent?

Letter-writer Jeanne Snyder (“Can killers be reformed, forgiven?” May 4, TribLIVE), responding to the letter “If we respect life, we must end death penalty” (April 23, TribLIVE), is correct in describing murder as barbaric. If there was any evidence that the death penalty would somehow solve this problem, that would be wishful thinking at best.

Maybe through all the statistical information we may have forgotten the hundreds of inmates on death row who have been exonerated because of DNA evidence. Remember, the evidence presented at trial was overwhelming and led to their convictions. Many were incarcerated for most of their adult lifetimes. Had they been executed and this DNA evidence been presented afterward, we can all take heart in the words that “we don’t have a perfect system.”

Many people believe in forgiveness, even with the loss of a loved one. But one thing that we all agree on is that we don’t teach our children that two wrongs don’t make a right.

Chris Hartig

Port Vue

(source: Letter to the Editor, triblive.com)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Parole board schedules meeting to consider clemency for Virgil Presnell Jr.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles has scheduled a meeting for Monday to receive information for or against clemency for Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. The 5-member Georgia Parole Board will begin its meeting with Presnell’s representatives at 9 a.m. to receive information in favor of commuting Presnell’s death sentence.

Presnell was convicted by a jury of four crimes committed in 1976 against 2 girls, ages 8 and 10 years old. He was convicted of kidnapping and murdering the younger child and kidnapping with bodily injury and raping the older child. The jury imposed the death sentence.

The Superior Court of Cobb County has ordered the execution of Presnell, which has been scheduled by the Georgia Department of Corrections for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson. The Parole Board will thoroughly review the comprehensive case file maintained on the offender prior to the scheduled meeting.

In Georgia, the Parole Board has the sole constitutional authority to grant clemency and commute or reduce a death sentence to life with the possibility of parole or to life without the possibility of parole. Following the meeting, the board may commute the sentence, issue a stay of up to 90-days, or deny clemency.

The meeting will take place at the Parole Board’s central office in the East Tower of the Floyd Veterans Memorial Building located at 2 Martin Luther King Jr., Drive, S.E. in Atlanta. It is anticipated that the meeting will be closed as authorized by O.C.G.A. § 50-14-3 (a)(2). No public comment will be taken at this meeting, and no other business will be conducted. Media will be afforded the opportunity to take photographs in the board hearing room prior to the meeting.

For more information, contact the Parole Board’s communications office at (404) 657-9450 or email steve.hayes@pap.ga.gov.

(source: Albany Herald)

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Time set for execution of Georgia man convicted of killing 8-year-old

Officials have scheduled the execution for a Georgia man next week for the killing an 8-year-old girl 46 years ago.

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., 68, is scheduled to die May 17 at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson by injection of the sedative pentobarbital. He killed the 8-year-old girl and raped her 10-year-old friend after abducting them as they walked home from school in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, on May 4, 1976.

He was convicted in August 1976 on charges including malice murder, kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to death. His death sentence was overturned in 1992 but was reinstated in March 1999.

Presnell abducted the two girls as they walked home along a wooded trail from a Cobb County elementary school on May 3, 1976. He drove them to a secluded wooded area, had them undress and raped the older girl, according to evidence at trial outlined in a Georgia Supreme Court ruling. The younger girl tried to run, but Presnell caught her and drowned her in a creek, the ruling says.

He locked the 10-year-old girl in the trunk of his car and then left her in a wooded area when he got a flat tire, saying he’d return. She ran to a nearby gas station and described Presnell and his car with a flat tire to police.

Officers found him changing his tire at his apartment complex. He denied everything at first but later led police to the 8-year-old girls body and confessed, the ruling says.

Attorneys for Presnell have said in court filings that Presnell was born to a teenage mother who drank and smoked heavily throughout her pregnancy. Presnell suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome that damaged his brain and kept him "from ever developing into a functioning, responsible adult," his lawyers argued.

If executed, the Georgia man will be the 54th inmate in the state put to death by lethal injection.

There are currently 37 men and 1 woman under death sentence in Georgia.

Lawyers try to delay Presnell's execution

Lawyers representing the Federal Defender Program, which represents Presnell, filed an emergency motion Monday in Fulton County Superior Court, arguing that the setting of his execution date violates a written agreement reached last April with the office of state Attorney General Chris Carr that temporarily put executions on hold during the coronavirus pandemic and established conditions under which they could resume.

The lawsuit says the agreement said that, with one named exception, executions wouldn’t resume until 6 months after 3 conditions had been met: the expiration of the state’s COVID-19 judicial emergency, the resumption of normal visitation at state prisons and the availability of a COVID vaccine "to all members of the public."

The judicial emergency ended in June, but prisons are still using a modified visitation policy and children under 5 still can’t access the vaccine, according to the lawsuit which names Carr and the state of Georgia as defendants.

A spokeswoman for Carr declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

(source: Fox News)

FLORIDA:

Man guilty of killing 2 Kissimmee police officers to be sentenced Friday, may receive death penalty----Everett Miller was convicted in 2019

A hearing Friday could result in a death sentence for the man accused of killing 2 Kissimmee police officers in 2017.

Everett Miller was convicted in 2019 for the murders of Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter. A jury at the time recommended the death penalty.

A motion filed by Miller’s attorneys tried to take the death penalty off the table but was denied.

A court hearing was held Friday morning to discuss new motions presented by Everett Miller’s attorneys after he was convicted of first-degree murder. Miller is a Marine veteran who worked as a private defense contractor in Afghanistan.

In 2017, witnesses said he started arguing with Officer Baxter. Baxter called Sgt. Howard to the scene. There was an argument, and later Miller ambushed the 2 officers and killed them.

Miller did not have a criminal history prior to his arrest for the murders of Baxter and Howard.

Sentencing is set for 2 p.m. Friday.

(source: clickorlando.com)

TENNESSEE:

Hope, resignation and an unexpected reprieve on death row----Do you know what happens to a body when the last gasp of hope slips out of it? You can see it. It’s the machinery of execution already at work in the body.

As you know, Oscar Franklin Smith was placed on death watch and moved to an isolated containment unit with 24-hour surveillance for the days leading up to an execution. He’s stripped and chained if he moves to the visitation room, and if the condemned person has chosen the electric chair then they’re shaved.

I visit him cell-side. He is eager to see someone. His shirt pocket, usually overflowing with pencils, is empty. We talk through the bars. He’s sleeping randomly, and when I come in he sits up on his bed, the two tufts of hair on either side of his head sticking straight up and out like wings. He sits cross-legged at the end of his cell bed like a kid at a sleepover. His wild beard spirals out and a random mustache hair swings down into his mouth while he talks, but he doesn’t mind.

His last meal arrives, the main entrée a burger, in a Styrofoam box; he handles it with awe. Oscar looks to everyone in the room and offers them a bite. They politely decline. He hasn’t stopped expressing generosity and gratitude for everyone around him, including the guards. He is already beginning the process of leave-taking.

His execution is hours away. At this moment, the most gruesome characteristic of the situation is the hope held over his head with each possible court appeal that’s slowly poisoned each time the appeal is denied. Oscar updates me each day; yesterday he said his odds were 50/50. (These are not the statistical odds. These are the odds of his own hope to not die.) “Today,” he says, “I’d say my odds are 80/20” as we await the last possible final appeal from the U.S. Supreme Court. He finds out that it’s been denied.

“That’s it,” he says. What he means by that is that there are no more odds, just zero, but he doesn’t say it. Do you know what happens to a body when the last gasp of hope slips out of it? You can see it. The body slumps just a little, the fire in the eyes dims slightly, you can sense the mind finally accepting what’s it fought so hard to reject. It’s the machinery of execution already at work in the body. Execution is not an event, it’s a process. Here at this moment, the needle is already at the vein.

All hope being lost, we celebrate Holy Eucharist, the Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper before Jesus was executed by the state. I pray the words, we share communion, me on one side of the cell bars and Oscar on the other, doomed to die, despair dripping into his heart and yet strangely buffeted in that tragic moment by some fugitive connection between a condemned man and a condemned God.

The prayer is finished. I help Oscar open the prepacked cups that contain the bread and grape juice. We eat quietly. There is silence. Oscar believes that the extraction team will be coming any minute. He looks to the back and sees the wardens enter. “Just in time! Would you like to join us?” Oscar gestures to the extra communion that’s left over. The moment could not have been more splendidly ironic. There was for a brief moment the possibility of communion between executed and executioner, the remembrance of an executed God.

But the wardens decline. And they come closer to the cell. “You’ve been granted a reprieve,” the warden says. We are stunned. Someone may have said, “Excuse me?” I don’t know. He repeats it word for word. There is no more information given and that is that. No one knows anything more. In the next instant, the room clears. Oscar grabs my hand through the prison bars and asks, “What just happened?” I reply blankly, “I don’t know, but something.” And we pray before I leave, like usual.

After I pray with Oscar, I walk through the many armored doors and step out into the open air, feeling glad and yet wanting to throw up, feeling hopeful and fearing it would choke me. Oscar goes back to his unit that evening to his empty cell. He has already cleared out his possessions, mailed away his 1970 radio, dispossessed himself, said his goodbyes and watched all his appeals drain away. He’d resigned himself to die as the needle was at his arm. And now, if everything goes to plan, he’ll have to do it all over again.

(source: Opinion; The Rev. Matthew Lewis of Christ Church Cathedral was the spiritual adviser for Oscar Smith----The Tennessean)

OHIO:

Death penalty upheld for man who killed couple during Cleveland car dealership robbery

The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence imposed on a man convicted of robbing, kidnapping and killing a Cleveland couple at the car lot they owned in 2017.

The justices unanimously held that there was overwhelming evidence that Joseph McAlpin killed Michael Kuznik and Trina Tomola inside Mr. Cars on East 185th Street. The justices also rejected McAlpin’s argument that he deserved a new trial because the attorneys appointed to help represent himself interfered with his trial strategy.

Justice Melody Stewart wrote the opinion that five of her colleagues joined. Justice Patrick Fischer wrote a concurring opinion in which he called for the court to overturn the court’s precedent barring so-called “hybrid representation,” where defendants represent themselves but share duties with defense attorneys.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said in a statement that his office is pleased with the ruling.

“Mr. McAlpin brutally executed a husband and wife, the owners of a beloved family owned car shop, along with their dog, for his own profit and gain,” O’Malley said. “Today was a significant step in upholding justice for the victims’ family and friends.”

McAlpin’s appeal will next move to federal court.

The slayings came April 14, 2017. It was Good Friday, and Kuznik and Tomola were closing up the dealership to head home to their children. They had Easter baskets in the backseat of their car, police said.

Andrew Keener testified at McAlpin’s 2019 trial that McAlpin and Jerome Diggs, who is McAlpin’s brother, recruited him to help them rob Mr. Cars in exchange for drugs and money. Keener said the brothers told him they planned to steal titles and cars from the dealership, then sell the cars for cash.

He said he and Diggs waited in their car for more than an hour while McAlpin went inside to steal the items. He and McAlpin then drove stolen cars -- McAlpin in a BMW and Keener in a Mercedes -- to a house on the city’s West Side.

Keener pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and grand theft and was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Diggs was charged with dozens of counts, including murder and aggravated robbery, but prosecutors dismissed the charges against him in January 2021.

Data from McAlpin’s cellphone showed that he called Mr. Cars at 4 p.m., then made several phone calls with Keener between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. before traveling across the city to West 48th Street.

Surveillance cameras from nearby businesses showed McAlpin walking into the dealership just before 5:30 p.m., then leaving about an hour later and putting items into the Mercedes. The video showed Keener walk onto the lot and get into the Mercedes, and the 2 drove off.

No one else came into the car lot after McAlpin.

The couple’s 19-year-old son walked from their home around the corner to the dealership to check on them when they didn’t come home that evening. He found his parents.

Kuznik was shot twice -- once in the cheek and once in the forehead. Both shots were fired from less than 3 feet away, a deputy medical examiner testified. Tomola was shot in the back of the head from about 3 feet. The couple’s dog, Axel, was also shot in the head.

Police found two cars were missing from the dealership, and computers housing the dealership’s surveillance system were also stolen.

A friend of the couple called the dealership a few minutes after McAlpin walked inside and testified that Tomola answered and spoke very quietly, which was out of character.

McAlpin’s DNA was found inside Kuznik’s pockets, on a computer inside the dealership’s office and inside the stolen BMW, police said.

McAlpin’s Google account also showed searches for guns, different calibers of ammunition and how to switch car titles without the owner’s permission in the days before the crime. The morning after the killings, McAlpin’s account also showed searches for 2008 BMW cars and news accounts of the robbery at Mr. Cars.

McAlpin chose to represent himself, and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Brian Corrigan appointed attorneys to act as stand-by counsel to advise him. The Ohio Supreme Court has previously held that defendants who choose to represent themselves can only rely on the attorneys to help them with procedural and technical issues. They may not act as co-counsel along with the defendant.

In his appeal, McAlpin argued that one of the attorneys interfered with his ability to hire an expert to challenge the accuracy of the DNA testing that linked him to the crime. He said the attorney, Kevin Cafferkey, told the expert not to prepare a report because it would only further prove McAlpin’s guilt and told her not to talk to McAlpin without Cafferkey present.

The court also found that the mitigation evidence McAlpin presented to try to convince jurors and Corrigan to spare his life “has weight.”

That included McAlpin’s mother’s boyfriends abusing him physically, mentally and sexually. McAlpin also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

The justices found, however, that the mitigation evidence “pales in comparison” to the aggravating circumstances prosecutors presented.

The court also rejected McAlpin’s claims that the judge was wrong to dismiss a potential juror who said his Catholic faith made him unsure about imposing the death penalty, and that prosecutors acted with prejudice by dismissing more women than men during jury selection.

The justices did find some comments that assistant prosecutors made during the course of the trial were improper, including accusing McAlpin of offering little respect to the couple’s family when he read from a statement. But the court found the errors did not affect the outcome of the trial.

Fischer, the justice who wrote a concurring opinion, said that McAlpin’s case highlights the complications that arise by the court’s prior rulings barring hybrid representation.

“It was nearly impossible in this case for stand-by counsel to act merely as procedural advisers in the courtroom,” he wrote. “We should not be placing defendants and their lawyers in these difficult positions without more guidance and flexibility.”

(source: cleveland.com)

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Akron NAACP to host panel with death row exoneree to speak out against capital punishment

The Akron chapter of the NAACP and Akron Interfaith Advocates will host a panel on abolishing Ohio's use of the death penalty at their next meeting on May 19.

The meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. at St. Ashworth Temple, 1086 Vernon Odom Blvd., will feature four guest speakers, including:

Kwame Ajamu, a death row exoneree who was proved innocent after serving 28 years in an Ohio prison. Ajamu was sentenced at age 17 with his brother and friend. He also is the board chair of Witness to Innocence, an organization that works to share stories of exonerated death row inmates.

LaShawn Ajamu, a Canton native whose family member was murdered. He also serves on the board of Ohioans to Stop Executions.

Linda Barr, a retired assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio

Jennifer Pryor, the director of organization and outreach for Ohioans to stop executions

The panel is free to attend and will also be available via Zoom---see: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81521446311#success

(source: Akron Beacon Journal)

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Ohio Supreme Court upholds death sentence for 'Mr. Cars' double murderer----Joseph McAlpin was found guilty in 2019 of robbing, shooting, and killing Mike and Trina Tomola Kuznik at the Cleveland car dealership.

The Supreme Court of Ohio on Thursday upheld the death sentence for the man convicted in the infamous "Mr. Cars" murders that took place 5 years ago.

In a unanimous decision, the court's seven justices ruled Joseph McAlpin's "substantial rights" were not violated during his trial in the spring of 2019. McAlpin had served as his own lead counsel during those proceedings, but had sought a new trial claiming attorneys assisting him at the time wrongfully interfered with his legal strategy.

Back in April of 2017, Mike and Trina Tomola Kuznik were both shot and killed inside the Mr. Cars dealership on East 185th Street in Cleveland, with their then-19-year-old son being the one who found their bodies. McAlpin and 2 others were subsequently arrested and charged with robbing and killing the husband and wife, with prosecutors noting the murders had been particularly gruesome in nature.

The trial 2 years later featured multiple tense moments, including McAlpin cross-examining the Kuzniks' son and offering "condolences" for his loss. Eventually, the jury found McAlpin guilty of aggravated murder, and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Brian Corrigan agreed with the recommendation of the death penalty. Corrigan also sentenced McAlpin to 63 years in prison for his other crimes, including the slaying of the Kuzniks' dog.

In his appeal of his conviction, McAlpin asserted errors were made at his trial when he did not know when to object to certain statements in court, specifically to DNA evidence presented by the county medical examiner. However, in the Ohio Supreme Court's opinion, Justice Melody Stewart wrote none of those possible errors had an impact on the verdict, and that even if an expert DNA report had been prepared by the defense, it would not have helped McAlpin in the slightest.

"This evidence more than sufficiently supports the jury's verdict that McAlpin committed the murders as the principal offender," Stewart added. "Thus, it is unnecessary to consider his claim that he did not commit the murders with prior calculation and design."

Justice Patrick F. Fischer wrote a concurring opinion, affirming McAlpin's guilty verdict but also brought up Ohio's "hybrid representation" guidelines allowing defendants to act as their own attorneys with the assistance of counsel. Fischer stated that officials "should not be placing defendants and their lawyers in these difficult positions without more guidance and flexibility."

Despite his current sentence, there remains a real possibility McAlpin will naturally die behind bars, as Ohio has not executed a prisoner on death row since 2018. State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed an openness to abolishing capital punishment, and Gov. Mike DeWine has previously stated lethal injection is "no longer an option."

Besides McAlpin, co-defendant Andrew Keener pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and grand theft and was sentenced to 6 years in prison. A 3rd suspect, Jerome Diggs Jr., had all charges against him dismissed last year.

(source: WKYC news)

UTAH:

What Happened to Ron and Dan Lafferty and Where Are They Now?

Under the Banner of Heaven examines the real-life murder of Brenda Wright Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter Erica in July 1984.

The 24-year-old and her infant child were killed by her brothers-in-law Ron and Dan Lafferty after Ron believed he had received a command from God to perform a ritual murder of them and two others, Chloe Low and Richard Stowe.

The FX true crime show stars Sam Worthington as Ron and Wyatt Russell as Dan, while Daisy Edgar-Jones portrays Wright Lafferty.

Here is everything you need to know about the Lafferty brothers and where they are now.

In July 24, 1984 Ron and Dan headed to his brother Allen and Wright Lafferty's home with 2 friends, Richard Knapp and Chip Carnes, to fulfil the removal revelation, Jon Krakauer explained in his book "Under the Banner of Heaven."

First, Ron stepped up to Wright Lafferty's door with a sawn-off shotgun and a butcher's knife hidden in his clothing, but she did not answer and he returned to the car where Dan, Knapp and Carnes were waiting for him.

The group started to leave but Dan decided to turn back after having a "feeling" he was the one God intended to do the killings, he would later claim at his trial.

When Dan went up to the house and knocked on the door, Wright Lafferty answered and he forced himself in when she tried to bar him entry, at which point he beat her and held her down.

Ron then made his way into the house and Wright Lafferty said, according to Dan, that she "knew it was going to come to this," and she begged them both not to harm her baby daughter.

After struggling against the 2 men and attempting to get away Wright Lafferty fainted, Dan then tied a cord from a vacuum cleaner around her neck so that he could kill Erica first.

At his trial, Dan said he closed his eyes when murdering Erica and he "didn't feel anything" as he cleaned her blood off the butcher's knife. He then killed Wright Lafferty using the same weapon.

The Lafferty brothers did not kill Low and Stowe as the former was not at her residence at the time, and Ron's friend Carnes managed to persuade him to wait to kill Stowe until another day.

On August 7, 1984 police arrested Ron and Dan while they were in line for a buffet at the Circus Circus casino in Reno, Nevada.

Dan represented himself at his trial where he spoke about Erica's murder with a "serene voice," per Krakauer, and after giving his testimony he told the jury not to be afraid to give him the death penalty for his crimes.

While the jury found him guilty of two counts of murder they did not come to an agreement of whether he should receive the death penalty, with the vote being split 10-2 in favor, and so his life was spared.

Dan is currently serving his life sentence in prison at the Utah State Prison in Point of the Mountain. Krakauer spoke to him for his book and the murderer described the maximum security unit he is in as his "monastery."

Ron was not tried alongside his brother because he had attempted to take his own life before going to court: he stopped breathing for approximately 15 minutes but paramedics successfully revived him and he had his trial four months later.

Unlike with Dan, the jury at Ron's trial were in agreement over the punishment he should receive and he was given the death penalty after being found guilty for the murders of Wright Lafferty and her daughter.

Ron chose to be executed by firing squad, but he died in prison of natural causes in 2019 at the age of 78.

Following his death, Wright Lafferty's sister Sharon Wright Weeks told the Daily Herald that her family felt Ron's death in prison meant they hadn't got justice, and she called for the death penalty to be overturned in Utah in favor of a sentence of life imprisonment, without parole.

Weeks said: "Finding out the death penalty isn't real, I would like to see the state provide justice. The death penalty is a lie."

She added: "It is important for families, but impossible to get justice. It is extremely disappointing and angering knowing our state can't provide what they pronounced. We will never have an execution in the state of Utah."

Wright Lafferty's father Jim told 2KUTV that he felt it was better Ron died in prison, and said: "From the very beginning, we as a family turned that over to the Lord and the law."

(source: Newsweek)

IDAHO----female faces death penalty

Lori Daybell's mental health is 'extremely complex and fragile,' attorneys say

Lori Vallow Daybell's mental health is "extremely complex and fragile" and if a judge decides to delay her trial, she understands it will give her attorneys more time to prepare her defense.

That's according to court documents filed by her legal team Thursday in response to a motion from prosecutors asking Judge Steven Boyce to move the trial from October to January to coincide with Chad Daybell's trial. The cases are currently conjoined but Lori Daybell did not waive her right to a speedy trial last month so it is scheduled for this fall.

Lori and Chad Daybell are each charged with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow, 16-year-old Tylee Ryan — 2 of Lori Daybell's kids — and Chad Daybell's 1st wife, Tammy Daybell.

In the response, defense attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas explain the state of Lori Daybell's current mental health and her understanding of the criminal case. They note Lori Daybell has reviewed a prior order from Boyce about having her trial joined with Chad Daybell's.

"She has reviewed with counsel the Court's order denying Chad Daybell's request for separate trials. She has instructed her attorneys not to file a request for separate trials," the attorneys wrote.

Lori Daybell has met several times with her defense team, which consists of her attorneys, an investigator and a mitigation specialist. A mitigation specialist "speaks for the dignity and value of those who have committed even the worst criminal acts," according to the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. In death penalty cases, a mitigation specialist tells the defendant's story to the jury to advocate for their life.

The attorneys say Lori Daybell understands the heightened scrutiny in a death penalty case and acknowledges her lawyers are putting in a lot of time "going through the mountain of discovery" along with identifying potential witnesses.

"Lori Vallow Daybell's mental health is extremely complex and fragile, and she has the potential to be hospitalized again in the near future," the attorneys say. "None of the experts employed by the Court and the State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare claim she is malingering or making up her mental illness. She understands that she will undergo further mental health testing, as a neuropsychologist approved for the defense team will be meeting with her next month."

Lori Daybell understands her right to a speedy trial and does not want to waive that right, according to her attorneys, but "if the Court moves her trial from Oct. 11, 2022, to Jan. 9, 2023, she understands that will give her defense team more time to get ready."

(source: ksl.com)

ARIZONA:

Experts: Arizona executioners took too long to insert IV in inmate Clarence Dixon----Death penalty experts said the estimated 25 minutes it took medical staff to insert an IV into Clarence Dixon’s body was too long.

The 1st execution in Arizona in nearly 8 years was carried out more smoothly than the state’s last use of the death penalty, when a condemned prisoner who was given 15 doses of a 2-drug combination gasped for air hundreds of times over nearly 2 hours.

The lethal-injection death of Clarence Dixon on Wednesday at the state prison in Florence for his murder conviction in the 1978 killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin appeared to follow the state’s execution protocol: After the drug was injected, Dixon’s mouth stayed open and his body did not move. He was declared dead about 10 minutes later.

But death penalty experts Thursday said the estimated 25 minutes it took medical staff to insert an IV into Dixon’s body was too long. The workers first tried and failed to insert an IV into his left arm before they were able to connect it in his right arm. They then opted to make an incision, known as a “cutdown,” in his groin area for another IV line.

Deborah Denno, a Fordham Law School professor who has studied executions for more than 25 years, said executions should take seven to 10 minutes from the beginning of the IV insertion process until the moment the prisoner is declared dead.

“It’s a sign of desperation (on the part of the execution team), and it’s a sign of an unqualified executioner,” Denno said.

Before Dixon was put to death, the last execution in Arizona took place in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a 2-drug combination over nearly 2 hours. Wood snorted repeatedly and gasped before he died. The process dragged on for so long that the Arizona Supreme Court convened an emergency hearing during the execution to decide whether to halt the procedure.

Since then, Arizona changed its execution protocols, agreeing to no longer use one of the drugs — midazolam — that was injected into Wood. Instead, Dixon was executed with an injection of pentobarbital.

The problems with Wood’s death, combined with the difficulty the state faced in finding sources to sell its lethal injection drugs, led to the nearly eight-year hiatus in executions in Arizona.

Similar problems have occurred previously with medical workers trying to insert IV lines in condemned prisoners.

Alabama prison officials tried to execute a prisoner by lethal injection in February 2017 but had to stop because medical workers couldn’t find a suitable vein to connect the intravenous line. The prisoner died of cancer almost 4 years later.

A November 2017 execution was called off in Ohio after members of the execution team told the state prisons director they couldn’t find a vein. The prisoner died of natural causes several months later.

And another lethal injection execution in Ohio was called off in September 2009 after two hours when technicians could not find a suitable vein for a condemned prisoner, who had cried in pain while receiving 18 needle sticks. He died in prison in late 2020 of possible complications of COVID-19.

Death penalty experts say the difficulty in finding IV lines could be attributed to a combination of the condemned prisoners’ physical conditions — such as past IV drug use, medical issues related to hydration or the effects of aging — and to untrained people trying to insert IV lines. It’s unknown whether the 66-year-old Dixon was ever an IV drug user.

Michael Radelet, a sociologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder who has researched the death penalty for 40 years, said the lingering element of Dixon’s death leads him to believe the execution was botched.

“I would classify it as a botch, recognizing that not everyone would agree with that. But things did not go right,” Radelet said.

In a statement Thursday, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said Dixon’s execution was carried out “flawlessly” and that it followed the state’s laws and execution protocols.

Rick Romley, who led the county prosecutor’s office in metro Phoenix that filed the murder charge against Dixon but left office before he was sentenced to death in January 2008, said the execution may have been more complicated than planned, but he didn't consider it flawed. He said the difficulty in finding veins to insert IV lines is common for people both inside and outside prison.

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Romley said.

Asked whether the difficulties in inserting IVs during executions violate protections against cruel and unusual punishment, Denno said there has been a history of botched executions in the U.S. since the advent of lethal injections.

“It (Dixon's execution) may be botched, but it’s not going to affect anyone’s Eighth Amendment rights” against cruel and unusual punishment, Denno said. "The courts haven’t been sympathetic to circumstances like this.”

Amanda Bass, one of Dixon’s attorneys, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

(source: 12news.com)

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Victim's sister pours out grief after Clarence Dixon's death----Leslie James stepped up to a podium at the Arizona state prison complex in Florence and tearfully told the world all that Clarence Dixon had taken

Shortly after the man who killed her sister 44 years ago was executed, Leslie James stepped up to a podium at the Arizona state prison complex in Florence and tearfully told the world all that Clarence Dixon had taken.

James, Deana Bowdoin’s older sister and lone sibling, spoke about the young woman who was poised to leave college for what was certain to be a bright future.

Dixon took that away, raping and strangling 21-year-old Deana Bowdoin on Jan. 7, 1978, in her apartment near Arizona State University's main campus in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. She was a semester away from graduating.

Dixon died Wednesday in Arizona's first execution in nearly eight years and the nation's sixth this year. At 66 and nearly blind, he had been in prison most of his adult life — first sentenced to life for a 1985 rape of a Northern Arizona University student and then sentenced to death when DNA evidence reexamined by cold case detectives in 2001 inextricably linked him to Bowdoin's rape and murder. He was convicted in 2008.

James noted it took jurors just 17 minutes to return the verdict.

It took “way, way, way too long” for justice to be done in the case, James said. But mainly she focused on her sister, whom she called kind and hardworking.

“She wrote amazing poetry,” James said. “Older people and dogs really seemed to take a liking to her and I think that has to say something about her character.”

As a little girl, Bowdoin had an illness that caused her to miss much of a school year. But James said she worked hard to catch up with help from their schoolteacher mother.

By college, she had blossomed into a bright, outgoing young woman. Bowdoin was multi-lingual, and studied abroad in Mexico and Spain. The summer before she was killed, the 2 sisters spent 3 months traveling by train across Europe, and she said Deana made friends all along the way.

James, 2 years older than Deana, said her sister was more personable and friendly than her, “the one who was supposed to have an exciting career, get married and produce grandkids for my mom. But it didn’t work out that way.

“We should have been able to grow old together,” she continued, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Dixon's lawyers argued he was too delusional to understand why he was being put to death. They said he been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and should not be executed. Courts repeatedly rejected the appeals.

As the lethal drugs flowed, he again denied killing Bowdoin and blamed the Arizona Supreme Court for not overturning his conviction.

James said that testing of DNA done at the request of Bowdoin's attorneys proved otherwise.

“There was never any doubt that this inmate murdered my sister.”

James also criticized reporters, saying she had seen a shift in recent years away from compassion and acknowledgement of victims' rights to advocacy for violent offenders and what she called political posturing.

"I wish you could have known her,” James told the reporters. “I have just one request of you. All my mom every wanted was for people to remember Deana. Please remember Deana Lynne Bowdoin.”

(source: independent.co.uk)

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Diné death-row inmate executed

He always mentioned frybread and mutton stew.

And he always asked what new progress the Navajo Tribe has made in the past 30-plus years, said Lenny Foster, a retired supervisor for the Navajo Nation Corrections Project.

Foster spoke of Clarence Wayne Dixon, the condemned 66-year-old Navajo man from Fort Defiance, with whom he had one of his last spiritual counseling conversations.

“He’s asking what’s some of the new progress have been made, the roads, any business development, or if the Navajo government has been progressing,” Foster said on Mother’s Day.

Foster said he’d been counseling Dixon, who was executed Wednesday morning for the 1978 rape and murder of Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin.

Longing for home

“I’ve been counseling him once a week since March for 45 minutes,” Foster said.

He said he would not be performing a sweat-lodge ceremony with Dixon, adding, “We’ll just do a prayer spiritual counseling over the phone.”

The chaplain at the Arizona Department of Corrections requested Foster to counsel Dixon.

Since being asked, Foster felt he had an obligation to provide Dixon with spiritual counseling in Navajo traditional beliefs. Foster became acquainted with Dixon in 1988 at the Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona, while performing a sweat-lodge ceremony.

Being incarcerated for more than 30 years, Foster said Dixon had some recollection of the Navajo Nation. He also taught himself to speak the Navajo language, but not fluently.

He wanted to know if the Navajo people still had no running water or electricity. He also wanted to learn more about Navajo teachings, he added.

“It’s thought-provoking questions he has,” Foster said.

Most of all, Dixon liked bringing up frybread and mutton during their conversations.

“He likes to bring that up,” Foster said. “That was always a delicacy for him. He misses frybread and mutton stew. He wanted to know if there were sales or shops.”

He said he told Dixon they are sold at flea markets and restaurants.

“He’s missed out on a lot,” Foster said. “He’s been in prison for like a good 30 years.”

Aside from their talks of home, Foster said Dixon didn’t really talk about his crime. But he never asked him of it either, he added.

Timeline of crimes

Dixon, a 1974 Chinle High graduate, began his crimes in 1977.

As an Arizona State University student, he was studying engineering when he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon after hitting a 15-year-old female over the head with a metal pipe.

Then Maricopa Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor found him not guilty because of insanity and dismissed the charges against him.

In 1978, Dixon was arrested for burglary and assault on a woman, after which he was subsequently sentenced to 5 years in prison.

In 1985, he was released from prison and moved to Flagstaff to live with his brother.

3 months after he was released, Dixon was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse, and four counts of sexual assault on a Northern Arizona University student.

According to court documents, he dragged the NAU student into the forest, where he forced her to engage in numerous sexual acts at knifepoint.

During his trial, Dixon fired his state-appointed attorneys and represented himself. He was found guilty and convicted and received a 7 consecutive, life term prison sentence in 1987.

8 years later, in 1995, Dixon was required to provide his DNA under the DNA Identification Act.

In 2001, the DNA collected from Dixon matched the DNA collected from Bowdoin’s body. He was indicted on 1 count of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of 1st-degree rape. In 2008, a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to die.

Death row inmate

Since becoming acquainted with Dixon, Foster said he had a “real sense of sadness, sorrow,” knowing Dixon would be executed.

“I sweated with Mr. Dixon when he was incarcerated,” said Foster of a sweat-lodge ceremony in which Dixon participated. “So, I know him that way.”

On Tuesday, Dixon’s attorney Eric Zuckerman, argued his client was incompetent to be executed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Zuckerman argued the court needed to look at Dixon’s ability to rationally understand the reasons for the state substitution of his mental illness when Appeals Judge Jay Bybee asked him if Dixon was no longer qualified to be executed because of his schizophrenia.

“I don’t see the evidence that he is delusional about the reasons for his execution,” Bybee responded to Zuckerman.

Jeff Sparks, appeals bureau chief at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said Dixon was competent to be executed because “he would bring the victim back if he was capable of it,” referencing Dr. Carlos Vega, the state’s expert witness.

“The statements that support the finding of competency by the state court include the fact that he wished he was in another state that doesn’t have the death penalty because he understands he wouldn’t be executed for murder if he was in a state that didn’t have a death penalty,” Sparks told the court.

Hours later, the court denied a stay of execution. The only option left for Dixon was to appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Monday, Dixon’s attorneys argued the lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, had expired. The state of Arizona agreed to use new lethal injection drugs for Dixon.

Heavy burden

Foster said he felt sadness and remorse for the families.

“Indian people should not be engaged in any behavior that harms other people,” said Foster, adding Dixon’s crime was not “self-defense.”

“It wasn’t protecting your family, wasn’t protecting your home, so his behavior violated the laws of the state of Arizona,” he said of Dixon.

“Jó éí bee nantxinígíí doo bil nijinéedah nihidi'níileh. Yíiyáh, báhádzid, ‘áadoo ínt'íní,’nihidi'níileh nd'e´e´',” Foster said of Navajo teachings with which he was raised.

He also said he wondered why the younger generations seemed not to follow traditional teachings.

“Éí shi´i´ nantxinígíí t'ahandiih hólo´o´ ndi, haaléit'áo díí nihitsélkéí ádaat'éhígíí doo yil danili´ dah?” he asked.

The former supervisor for the Corrections Project said “he sensed a sense of remorse” from Dixon.

“It’s a very sad situation for him,” he said.

Deputy director for the Arizona Department of Rehabilitation and Reentry, Frank Strada, said Dixon was executed by means of lethal injection.

“Maybe I’ll see you on the other side, Deana. I don’t know you and I don’t remember you,” Dixon said as his last words at 10:19 a.m., which was shared with the press at the State Prison Complex in Florence, Arizona.

Dixon died at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

(source: Navajo Times)

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

Execution ends Arizona 8-year hiatus with the death penalty

Arizona’s nearly 8-year hiatus in using the death penalty ended with the execution of Clarence Dixon for killing a college student 44 years ago, making him the 6th person to be put to death in the U.S. so far this year.

Dixon's death Wednesday for the 1978 killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin broke the lull in Arizona’s use of capital punishment caused by a 2014 execution that critics say was botched and the difficulty that state officials faced in sourcing lethal injection drugs.

Dixon's death appeared to track the state’s protocol, though the medical team had some difficulty finding a vein to administer the lethal drugs. They first tried his arms and then made an incision in his groin area. That process took about 25 minutes.

After the drugs were injected, Dixon’s mouth stayed open and his body did not move. The execution was declared completed about 10 minutes after he was injected.

Another Arizona death row prisoner, Frank Atwood, is scheduled to be executed on June 8 in the killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in 1984. Authorities have said Atwood kidnapped the girl.

The child’s remains was discovered in the desert northwest of Tucson nearly seven months after her disappearance. Experts could not determine the cause of death from the bones that were found, according to court records. Arizona now has 112 prisoners left on the state’s death row.

In the final weeks of Dixon’s life, his lawyers tried to postpone the execution, but judges rejected the argument that he was not mentally fit to be executed and did not have a rational understanding of why the state wanted to execute him. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute delay of Dixon’s execution less than an hour before the execution began.

Dixon earlier declined the option of being killed in Arizona’s gas chamber that was refurbished in 2020 — a method that has not been used in the U.S. in more than two decades. He had been on death row since his 2008 conviction.

Dixon’s death was announced late Wednesday morning by Frank Strada, a deputy director with Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

Strada said that shortly before he was executed with pentobarbital, Dixon declared: “The Arizona Supreme Court should follow the laws. They denied my appeals and petitions to change the outcome of this trial. I do and will always proclaim innocence. Now, let’s do this (expletive).”

And as prison medical staff put an IV line in Dixon’s thigh in preparation for the injection, he chided them, saying: “This is really funny — trying to be as thorough as possible while you are trying to kill me.”

Leslie James, Bowdoin’s older sister and a witness to the execution, told reporters after it was conducted that Deana Bowdoin had been poised to graduate from ASU and was planning a career in international marketing. James described her sister as a hard worker who loved to travel, spoke multiple languages and wrote poetry.

She characterized the execution as a relief but criticized how long it took to happen: “This process was way, way, way too long,” James said.

The last time Arizona executed a prisoner was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours in an execution that his lawyers said was botched. Wood snorted repeatedly and gasped more than 600 times before he died, and an execution that normally would take 10 minutes to complete lasted nearly two hours. The process dragged on for so long that the Arizona Supreme Court convened an emergency hearing during the execution to decide whether to halt the procedure.

States including Arizona have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

Authorities have said Bowdoin, who was found dead in her apartment in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, had been raped, stabbed and strangled with a belt.

Dixon, who lived across the street from Bowdoin, had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the rape charge was later dropped on statute-of-limitation grounds. He was convicted of murder in her killing.

In arguing that Dixon was mentally unfit, his lawyers said he erroneously believed he would be executed because police at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff wrongfully arrested him in another case — a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His attorneys conceded he was lawfully arrested by Flagstaff police.

Dixon was sentenced to life in prison in that case for sexual assault and other convictions. DNA samples taken while he was in prison later linked him to Bowdoin’s killing, which had been unsolved.

Prosecutors said there was nothing about Dixon’s beliefs that prevented him from understanding the reason for the execution and pointed to court filings that Dixon himself made over the years.

Defense lawyers said Dixon was repeatedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, regularly experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and was found “not guilty by reason of insanity” in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was delivered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly four years before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowdoin was killed 2 days after that verdict, according to court records.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

New DPIC Podcast: 35 Years After Controversial Supreme Court Decision, Prof. Alexis Hoag Discusses McCleskey v. Kemp’s Legacy

In the May 2022 episode of Discussions With DPIC, Professor Alexis Hoag (pictured) of Brooklyn Law School joined DPIC Deputy Director Ngozi Ndulue for a wide-ranging conversation marking the 35th anniversary of McCleskey v. Kemp, a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision that rejected a constitutional challenge to the death penalty that showed strong statistical evidence of racial disparities in capital prosecutions and death sentences. Professor Hoag, formerly an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”), describes the decision as “critically important to our understanding of the death penalty and the inherent anti-Black racism that runs throughout it.”

Hoag explained that McCleskey was one of a series of cases brought by LDF to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty. Warren McCleskey, a Black man, was accused of killing a white police officer in Atlanta, Georgia. LDF’s challenge was based on “the way that the state of Georgia was administering the death penalty because it was racially discriminatory against Black defendants, but most particularly because it targeted defendants of either race for killing white victims.” This argument was supported by a study conducted by social scientist David Baldus, who analyzed more than 2,000 Georgia murder cases and controlled for 230 factors as to why the state might seek the death penalty. Baldus “found overwhelming evidence that when you isolated all other factors, the state was relying most heavily on the victim’s white race,” said Hoag.

Still, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that McCleskey’s death sentence did not violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. “The majority of the Court said statistics aren’t enough,” Hoag said. “The majority seems to make an argument that if they were to hold the state of Georgia discriminated against Mr. McCleskey based on the statistics of … this racial disparity, that the Court would have to admit that there were racial disparities in the entire criminal adjudication system, and that if Mr. McCleskey prevailed that would call into question essentially, the way that we adjudicate all criminal matters.” The McCleskey dissent characterized this concern as the “fear of too much justice.”

Hoag described the immediate reaction to the decision, with scholars at the time comparing the case to Dred Scott, and how McCleskey continues to affect litigation. “The studies that have come out after McCleskey have really just solidified, corroborated everything that Baldus looked at.” But the U.S. Supreme Court remains focused on granting relief only in isolated cases of egregious racial discrimination in death penalty trials. According to Hoag, the Court does not “want to admit that there are larger structural systems that play, that we live in a society that is dictated by … anti-Black racism.”

In discussing McCleskey’s legacy, Hoag noted the regrets of Justice Lewis Powell, the author of the decision. “Justice Powell was asked to reflect on his time on the Court. I think he’d been on the Court for almost 2 decades and a biographer [asked] if there was any case that he would change his vote on. Without hesitation, he said, McCleskey v. Kemp,” Hoag explained.

Hoag and Ndulue also discussed Hoag’s Valuing Black Lives: A Case for Ending the Death Penalty, a 2020 law review article that argues that capital punishment is unconstitutional and should be abolished because statutes continue to systemically discriminate on the basis of the race of murder victims. “The Fourteenth Amendment was supposed to provide an equal protection of the laws to Black victims of crime, but also an equal protection of the laws to Black people charged with committing crimes,” Hoag said. “And you have now this still massive disparity in Black people who have been charged with murdering white victims and with Black victims of crime whose cases are not being sort of aggressively prosecuted.”

“And the remedy is not necessarily let’s seek the death penalty more to equal out — you know, make sure everyone who was charged with murdering a Black person is also sentenced to death. … [T]he solution is really to get rid of the death penalty,” she said.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

U.S. inmates condemned to die are spending more time on death row

After spending decades on Arizona's death row, Clarence Dixon was executed on Wednesday for the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin.

At 66 years old, Dixon is just the most recent example of the growing population of aging inmates on America's death row.

"We're seeing death sentences near record lows. We're seeing executions at near record lows," Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told NPR. "There are fewer and fewer people on death row overall and the ones who remain on death row have been there longer."

Dunham said the Death Penalty Information Center doesn't take a position for or against the death penalty, but the group is critical of the way in which it's administered.

The average time between sentencing and execution has increased by 2/3 in the past 20 years — from 11.4 years in 2000 to 18.9 years in 2020, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Experts who spoke to NPR said this trend is due, in part, to changed opinions on capital punishment in the U.S., and a lengthier appeals process that delay executions.

For victims' families and these inmates, waiting decades to see their cases resolved takes its toll. Some experts say 20 to 40 years on death row at the literal expense of the state raises questions of fair treatment of prisoners.

Who is on death row?

"Even in the states that execute regularly, the average age [of inmates] is eye popping," Elizabeth Rapaport, professor emerita at the University of New Mexico School of Law, told NPR.

Rapaport has researched the U.S. aging prison population. She's also led the UNM School of Law Clemency Project.

Dixon wasn't the oldest inmate to be put to death in the U.S., but he was older than the average inmate condemned to die.

As of 2020, the average age of death row inmates nationally was 52 years old, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than 56% were white, 41% were Black. Men made up the majority of those prisoners — about 98%.

In Arizona, where Dixon was imprisoned, 112 people are currently on death row. Approximately 20 of those inmates have exhausted all appeals, according to the attorney general's office.

"Many of their crimes go back to the 1970s and early 80s," Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office said in a press release.

Rapaport notes that naturally, states like California that have a moratorium on executions but hundreds of inmates still on death row, would push the average age of inmates up.

But even in states like Florida and Texas — which have the 2nd and 3rd largest death row populations behind California, respectively — the time from sentencing to execution for inmates is more than 16 years, according to her research. Decades on death row takes a toll

Rapaport said there are those who believe that a convicted prisoner spending more than 20 years on death row is more than deserved. There are others who spoke to NPR that said there's a cost to it all: for the state, the health of the inmate and to the families of the victims.

Patrick Head was a Cobb County, Ga., district attorney for years.

He prosecuted Virgil Presnell Jr., who is scheduled to be put to death in Georgia next week. Presnell killed an 8-year-old girl and raped a 10-year-old 46 years ago.

"That one has stuck with me. Crimes against children, at least for me, are the most heinous of the crimes," he said.

And having this case drag on for so long?

"That is difficult. It is difficult on the victims in this case and the families," he said.

Rapaport noted that death row inmates also deal with more restrictions than the general population in regards to visitation, interaction with other prisoner and access to the outdoors.

Research has found that some death row inmates suffer from "death row syndrome" which stem from the conditions of confinement. This can mean becoming psychotic or suicidal.

Beyond that, Rapaport said there are serious financial expenses of having hundreds of men and women on death row for years.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, the health care costs can vary widely. The annual cost of incarcerating someone 55 and older with a chronic or terminal illness can be two to three times higher than other inmates on average.

From a Department of Justice report: "Institutions with the highest percentages of aging individuals spent five times more per inmate on medical care ... and 14 times more per inmate on medication ... than those with the lowest percentages."

Executing these prisoners also come with a big price tag. Three states reportedly spent between more than $100,000 to $1.5 million to obtain lethal injection drugs, according to a 2021 report by The Guardian.

Public opinion has changed

As he tried cases in Georgia from 1998 to 2012, Head said he found it more difficult to get a jury to impose the death sentence — even in cases considered especially egregious.

"There are more people, not necessarily opposed to the death penalty, but not as adamant about it occurring in certain cases," he said.

In June 2021, Pew Research found that 60% of U.S. adults favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, including 27% who strongly favor it; 39% of U.S. adults oppose the death penalty, with 15% say they are strongly opposed, their research found.

Last year was also the seventh consecutive one with fewer than 30 executions and 50 new death sentences, the Death Penalty Information Center said.

Some states are also moving to end capital punishment.

Last year, Virginia became the 23rd state, and the 1st in the South, to end capital punishment. But, there are efforts to bring back death sentences in some cases.

A lengthy appeals process causes delays

"The appeals process is taking longer" and that causes the decades of delays before an execution takes place, Dunham said.

Dixon's defense attorneys filed multiple appeals over the years in an attempt to stop or postpone the execution.

Jennifer Moreno, one of Dixon's attorneys, told NPR that his team would be unable to comment on his case in the lead-up to his execution.

In court documents, his attorneys argued that Dixon suffered from schizophrenia that allegedly made him unable to understand why he was being executed. Dixon's defense also argued the lethal injection drugs to be used for his execution were expired.

Lethal injection is still the preferred, and primary, method of execution in states that have the death penalty. But in recent years, state officials have had difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs — also causing further delays.

"The defense attorney's goal is to keep their client alive as long as possible," Head said. So, they file as many appeals to raise as many issues as possible.

Judges often don't have a time limit to respond to appeals and can take years to do so, he said.

"At least if they require judges to respond in a certain amount of time, I think that would help the system a great deal," Head said.

Head believes there needs to be policy changes at the state legislature or federal level to move things along and bring these cases to a final resolution.

"There are certain ways to — without infringing on the rights of the accused or convicted — that we could move the system a little faster," he said.

(source: WLRN news)

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

OPINION----Student leader: America's incarceration problem demands policy solutions

The U.S. holds almost 1/4 of the world’s prison population.

How can a nation that only holds 5% of the world’s population incarcerate that many people?

The beginning of that story is the tragedy of slavery and the enslavement of over 2 million people. From the brutality of their masters to the codification of their suffering, slaves across the country lived as prisoners, working to the death a body that was not theirs.

Even as slavery as an institution ended, laws were instituted to keep formerly enslaved people under the hands of their former masters. From sharecropping to the codification of Black codes that inhibited certain legal rights to the advent and perpetuation of white supremacist groups, slaves were never really free. The ratification of the 13th amendment proved it.

A career-defining epiphany

I went to the Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson, GA, on a school trip. What was a regular field trip turned into an experience that gave me my career-defining epiphany.

I have always wanted to be an attorney. I wanted to command the courtroom. I wanted to help so many members of my community that were stuck between a rock and a hard place with the law.

I just did not know how I was going to help. Between being an immigrant myself and being a Black woman whose formative years were violently met with police brutality and racial injustice, I was tied to two different communities that equally needed good attorneys to join the fray. Yet this trip to Jackson was a wake-up call like no other.

The concrete floors of each wing of the prison were wet with unknown liquids. The air was putrid with sweat and urine. Armed guards at every turn yelled commands at the prisoners like they were animals.

And for good measure, we walked the hall of death row, seeing the notorious killers in their cages as we looked on. I could not help but feel disgusted at the end of the trip.

No matter what they did, what crimes they committed, as human beings they deserve to serve their time under humane conditions. Even then, what are a lot of them serving time for? What devious crimes are they committing? Will they ever get out?

More opinions on criminal justice:Is building more prisons the best way to keep Georgians safe?

An unforgiving system

The 13th amendment abolished slavery and servitude except for the punishment of the crime.

The hundreds of men I saw on that trip are considered slaves of the state. This is an amendment that has not been changed since its ratification in 1865 and continues to be upheld by public and private prisons across the country.

Legislative creations like mandatory minimums incarcerate millions for a standard amount of time for crimes like marijuana possession, based on the circumstances of the offense. Other laws prohibit felons from holding down certain jobs after their sentence or at the very least must note their conviction on job applications.

We live in a system where any crime is unforgivable, and laws are making it harder and harder to get out of prison. Another major assortment of problems is the racial disparity between Black and Hispanic incarcerated individuals in comparison to their white counterparts. There is a significantly larger Black and brown population in prisons. As many problems as there are in our prison system, all hope is not lost.

I hope one day to use my career as an attorney to fight for the wrongly incarcerated.

I will never forget the sullen look on one of the death row inmates' faces as we walked by. So much of his life was behind bars and the U.S. is known to wrongly convict Black people.

Beyond working against capital punishment, one way to solve our carceral problem is by eliminating mandatory minimums. From a strict policy perspective, we spend so much money on inmates yearly. By taking each case at face value and using its circumstances to bring a proportional, humane sentence, we will have a lot fewer folks in prison.

Ashrakat A. Hassan is a Judge Eugene H. Gadsden Scholar of the Savannah 100 Foundation, Inc. We must help our convicts matriculate back into society. We must fund their education, help them find jobs and get them the medical and psychological help they need should they require it.

Finally, amending the 13th amendment to no longer legalize slavery for the convicted is a good measure. We cannot expect our country to be the land of the free when we were never truly free.

(source: This is a column by Ashrakat A. Hassan, a rising senior and student body president at Oglethorpe University. She is a Judge Eugene H. Gadsden Scholar of the Savannah 100 Foundation, Inc., a local non-profit that aims to increase the pool of attorneys who envision a fair and just society for all ----savannahnow.com)

BOTSWANA:

Herder sentenced to death for woman's hacking

A 27-year-old man of Sefhophe village was on Tuesday sentenced to death for hacking the wife of his employer to death with an axe.

Mmoloki Pholo was sentenced to the gallows on his guilty plea for murdering Kemme Mercy Sebolao, 44, at Bonnonyane cattlepost near Sefhophe on January 14, 2018.

Sebolao met her fate after her husband sent her to the cattle post to take water to Pholo who they had hardly been employed for a month. The court heard that before murdering Sebolao, Pholo spent the day raping her before he murdered her and thereafter attempted to bury her body.

Passing the ultimate sentence of death, Justice Tshegofatso Mogomotsi said that Pholo was convicted of murder with no extenuating circumstances. “In sentencing the accused, I shall take into account the gravity of the offence he committed. The accused used an axe to chop the deceased not once, twice, but thrice on the head. When the deceased was being murdered, she was lying on a mattress that the accused had given to her.

"The deceased was exhausted after the accused tormented her for the whole day. I shall also take into account the cruelty that was meted out on the deceased when she met her fate. The accused also stabbed the deceased with a screwdriver, hit her with a log on the head and then tried to bury her,” Mogomotsi said.

Mogomotsi stated that when the deceased tried to escape, the accused followed her with her car and caught up with her then tormented her again. “The court shall also take into consideration that the accused pleaded guilty to the offence and did not waste the court’s time. This is a sign of remorse on his part. However, the accused cannot be said to be immature at the time he committed the offence considering the cruelty he subjected the deceased to. Sentences that are passed by the court should be proportional to the offences committed. Even though the deceased’s life will not be restored, the court should pass sentences that act as deterrents to would-be offenders,” Mogomotsi stated. The judge further said that issues of gender-ased violence in Botswana, especially against women for no apparent reason, are prevalent.

“This situation enjoins the courts to pass deterrent sentences. In this case, the accused is sentenced to death. He shall be hanged by the neck until he dies. He has the right to appeal his conviction, sentence or both at the Court of Appeal within 14 days from today (Tuesday),” Mogomotsi said.

(source: mmegi.bw)

NIGERIA:

Lagos technician docked for ‘murder’

A technician into generator repair services, Quadus Fatai, who allegedly murdered his neighbour with a broken bottle, was arraigned at the Lagos High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square.

Fatai, who appeared on Thursday before Justice Yetunde Adesanya is facing one count of murder preferred against him by the Lagos State Government.

The prosecution counsel, Olayemi Shofolu, told the court that the defendant committed the alleged offence on April 28, 2013, around 8.00p.m, at No.13, Itafaji St., Lagos Island.

Shofolu said that the defendant allegedly murdered one Amudalat Awesu by stabbing her with a broken bottle.

According to the prosecutor, the offence contravene Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.

The prosecutor asked the court for a trial date, saying “in the light of not guilty plea of the defendant, I apply for a trial date.”

However, the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge against him.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Section 221 provides death penalty for murder offence.

Justice Adesanya adjourned the case until June 27 for trial.

(source: today.ng)

DR CONGO:

DR Congo Policeman Gets Death Sentence For Activist’s Murder

A DR Congo court has sentenced a former senior police officer to death for the 2010 murder of rights activist Floribert Chebeya and his driver, Chebaya’s NGO said Thursday.

The body of Chebeya, who founded the Voice of the Voiceless rights group, was found in his car on the outskirts of the capital Kinshasa in June 2010.

Chebeya had been summoned to a police station in Kinshasa the day before his murder.

His driver Fidele Bazana, who drove him to the police station, went missing and is suspected to have also been killed.

On Wednesday, the Voice of the Voiceless said a military court had the same day sentenced 2 police officers over the murders. Both men had been on the run for over a decade.

Lieutenant-Colonel Christian Ngoy Kenga-Kenga got the death penalty, the rights group said, while Jacques Mugabo was handed a 12-year jail term.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has observed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since 2003, according to the United Nations, but courts continue to hand down death sentences.

A military prosecutor’s office recently investigated another suspect, former police chief John Numbi, and concluded that he was involved in the murders. He is still on the run.

(source: channelstv.com)

EGYPT:

Cairo sentences 25 to 15 years in prison, acquits 12 in Rabaa dispersal case

A Cairo criminal court has sentenced 25 people to 15 years in prison, 1 juvenile to 5 years, and acquitted 12 others in a retrial of the case known in media as “the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in case.”

The rulings are not final and can be appealed.

The defendants were charged with several crimes that took place in August 2013, including the premeditated murder of civilians as well as policemen who were tasked with dispersing a sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa square, which has been renamed Hisham Barakat Square.

The defendants were also charged with attempted murder, blocking roads, destroying public property, and possessing firearms and Molotov cocktails.

The case, which involves more than 700 defendants including fugitives, dates back to the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in that was held by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in August 2013.

The dispersal left hundreds dead and thousands arrested on a variety of charges. It also unleashed days of nationwide street clashes and attacks on security installations.

In June last year, Egypt’s Court of Cassation upheld the death penalty for 12 people in the case, Mohamed El-Beltagy, Safwat Hegazy, and Abdel-Rahman El-Bar, 3 key leading members of the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood.

The country's top appeals court also commuted in June the death penalty for 31 others in the same case to life imprisonment, but upheld prison sentences ranging from five to 25 years for 277 others.

The cassation court also upheld a 10-year prison sentence against Osama, the son of ousted President Morsi.

Criminal proceedings against another key Brotherhood figure, Essam El-Erian, were abated after his death in custody in August 2020. El-Erian had received a final death penalty in the case.

In 2018, a Cairo Criminal Court issued preliminary death sentences for 75 members of the Brotherhood in a mass trial in the case. Several defendants, including Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, were handed life imprisonment sentences in the case.

(source: english.ahram.org.eg)

IRAQ:

Iraqis Could Face Death Penalty for Promoting Israeli Normalization

Iraqis could face the death penalty or life imprisonment for promoting normalization with Israel according to a bill being discussed in parliament, The New Arab reports.

The Iraqi Council of Representatives on Wednesday held the first reading of the draft law banning normalization of ties with the Jewish state.

According to the bill’s text, all Iraqi officials are banned from establishing diplomatic relations with Israel or calling for normalization, including officials in the northern Kurdistan region.

In September, a conference advocating for Iraq to join the Abraham Accords was held in the Kurdistan region’s capital of Erbil that was attended by more than 300 Kurds, Sunnis and Shias.

Israel in 2020 established diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords peace initiative, with the later additions of Morocco and Sudan.

The anti-Israel bill was introduced by the bloc led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr which won the most seats in parliamentary elections last October.

Al-Sadr called for his members to introduce the bill in a tweet on April 23.

(source: algemeiner.com)

IRAN----executions

A Baluchi woman hanged in the Central Prison of Zahedan----The number of women executed in Iran since the summer of 2013 reaches 132

The authorities of the Central Prison of Zahedan hanged a Baluchi woman on the morning of May 7, 2022.

The Baluchi woman was executed along with 3 other men on drug-related charges. The news indicates that she shared the same case with 1 of the executed men. The woman has not been identified.

The political prisoners detained in ward 3 of the Central Prison of Zahedan have reported, “There are reliable reports that the death sentences for another 83 prisoners have been sent to the Bureau for Implementation of the Verdict of Zahedan Prison.”

The Baluchi woman had been transferred to solitary confinement to prepare her for the implementation of the death verdict. With the execution of this Baluchi woman, the number of women executed in Iran under the clerical regime since the summer of 2013 reaches 132.

A woman was hanged among 19 people executed between March 9 and 17, 2022, in the Central Prison of Shiraz, also known as Adelabad Prison. The woman’s identity has not been disclosed.

The world’s chief executioner of women

With this latest execution in Shiraz, the number of women executed in Iran since the summer of 2013, reaches 131.

Iran holds the world’s top executioner record, with the highest number of citizens executed per capita. It is also the world’s chief executioner of women. The executions are grossly unfair.

The actual number of executions, particularly the number of women executed, is much higher. The clerical regime carries out most executions in secret and out of the public eye. No witnesses are present at the time of execution but those who carry them out.

The Iranian regime open-handedly uses the death penalty as a form of punishment. In a discriminatory manner, this punishment is carried out against religious and ethnic minorities, political dissidents, and women.

Many of the women executed in Iran are themselves victims of domestic violence and have acted in self-defense.

According to Amnesty International, more than two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished or halted the death penalty. However, in Iran, the killing machine is taking up speed under Ebrahim Raisi, the notorious henchman of the 1988 massacre, and Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje’i, another notorious judge involved in the genocide.

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

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

Unnamed Man Executed for Murder in Sabzevar

An unnamed man sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, was executed in Sabzevar Prison.

According to the local Asre Sabzevar website, a man was executed in Sabzevar Prison on May 10. The unnamed man was arrested for murder charges on 22 September 2018 and subsequently sentenced to qisas.

Speaking about the details of the case, Sabzevar Prosecutor, Jafar Tayar Saberi said: “The scene was staged to look like the victim had been killed by the thieves in the course of an armed robbery. But investigations and the use of police tactics showed a different story. A young man had an illegitimate affair with the victim’s husband, the landlord, and decided to kill him.”

There are 2 other co-defendants in the case who have been sentenced to 13 years and 25 years imprisonment.

According to data gathered by Iran Human Rights, at least 183 people were executed on murder charges in 2021, including 12 women and two juvenile offenders. Those charged with the umbrella term of “intentional murder” are sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) regardless of intent or circumstances due to a lack of grading in law. Once a defendant has been convicted, the victim’s family are required to choose between death as retribution, diya (blood money) or forgiveness.

To read more about the law, practices and cases of executions in Iran, see: https://iranhr.net/media/files/Annual_Report_on_the_Death_Penalty_in_Iran_2021_BwW7LPR.pdf

(source: iranhr.net)

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Ahmadreza Djalali: Day of protest called for man on death row in Iran----The Swedish-Iranian citizen has been in prison for years after being convicted of spying

Campaigners have called for an international day of protest on Saturday to demand the release of researcher Ahmadreza Djalali, who could be executed this month after being convicted of spying in Iran.

Mr Djalali, 51, a Swedish-Iranian citizen, was arrested in 2016 and convicted of sending confidential details to Israeli intelligence service Mossad, allegations his supporters say are without merit.

His detention follows a pattern of hostage-taking by the Iranian regime who have released western and dual-citizen inmates held on trumped-up charges in return for payments and in prisoner swap deals.

The Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran called for protests on Saturday to put pressure on Tehran.

“On this day, we call on everyone to support Ahmadreza Djalali and his family by holding a protest rally anywhere around the world, and demand his unconditional release,” said the group, which was set up by former political prisoners.

It also called on the Swedish and other western governments to step up their efforts to halt Iran's planned execution of the disaster medicine researcher.

A statement from the campaign group said the Iranian regime "must come under international pressure and be isolated to stop the execution of Ahmadreza Djalali, and release him from prison”.

Mr Djalali’s lawyer has said he could be executed at any time. Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA said that the death sentence would be carried out by May 21.

The threat of imminent execution coincided with the end of a trial in Sweden of Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian regime official who is accused of involvement in state-backed killing of thousands of opposition activists in Iranian prisons in 1988. A verdict is expected in July.

Speculation has circulated that Iran is seeking a swap of the 2 prisoners, although Iran has publicly declared it is not seeking a deal.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde spoke to her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian last week, shortly after initial reports of Mr Djalali’s death sentence.

Mr Djalali was convicted after making confessions obtained under torture, the United Nations says. The organisation says he should be released and paid compensation.

Pictures of a gaunt Mr Djalali in prison highlighted how he has suffered with a series of health problems during his 6 years in prison, during which he has spent long periods in solitary confinement.

(source: the nationalnews.com)

TAIWAN:

Human rights experts urge Taiwan to abolish death penalty

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) An international panel of human rights experts on Friday called on Taiwan to end the "cruel and degrading" practice of capital punishment.

In its Concluding Observations and Recommendations issued Friday, the 9-member group said it was "extremely disappointed" at the failure of Taiwan's government to address the issue despite persistent calls for the abolition of the death penalty in the country.

Invited by Taiwan's government, the group conducted a five-day review from May 9-13 in Taipei of the country's implementation of two United Nations' human rights-related covenants, namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

While Taiwan has substantially improved its human rights record over the years, some long-standing issues, such as the continued use of the death penalty, remained inadequately addressed, Manfred Nowak, an Austrian human rights lawyer who previously served as the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture, said at a press conference Friday.

"Taiwan is already among a very, very small number of countries in the world that still retain the death penalty, and the arguments that are time and again, repeated by the government, are far from convincing," Nowak said.

"We are strongly appealing to the Executive Yuan to immediately declare a moratorium on executions," Nowak said, adding that the "cruel, inhuman and degrading" punishment was in violation of ICCPR's Article 6 and 7.

At the same time, all death sentences should be commuted immediately and Taiwan's Minister of Justice should no longer sign execution orders, Nowak said.

Taiwan has the potential to become the Asian standard-bearer in the recognition and enforcement of international human rights, but it will never achieve that so long as the death penalty remains an element of its criminal justice system, Nowak added.

In response to the comments made by the panel, Cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng stressed that gradually abolishing capital punishment remained the government's goal.

Lo, however, said at the press event that there was a lack of consensus over the matter in Taiwanese society, hinting that an overhaul of the current policy might not be made anytime soon.

The government has taken note of the suggestions made by the international human rights experts and will convene to discuss the feasibility of declaring a moratorium on executions, Lo said.

Taiwan last carried out a prisoner execution in 2020, and there are 38 prisoners currently on death row.

According to Lo, the 38 prisoners sentenced to death have brought their case to the constitutional court and have therefore received a legally guaranteed stay of execution.

Meanwhile, the panel's report also pointed out the absence of legislation to curb torture and discrimination in Taiwan.

"The information provided by the government clearly shows that there are many allegations of torture against law enforcement officials in Taiwan," the report said, adding that those cases only led to disciplinary action instead of criminal prosecution.

Taiwan has yet to make encode torture -- the crime of inflicting severe mental or physical pain or suffering on a powerless person for a particular purpose as defined in international law -- in its Criminal Code, Nowak said.

He added that Taiwan ought to adopt a "comprehensive anti-discrimination law that addresses the various types of discrimination," something that Nowak said could be applied to both the public and private sectors.

Human rights groups in Taiwan echoed the group's call.

At a press conference held outside the Ministry of Justice building, Huang Yi-bee, CEO of Covenants Watch, which was formed by a coalition of NGOs in Taiwan, criticized the government for a lack of action and determination to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.

The government has commissioned scholars to research the issue but has not responded to the NGOs' requests for consultations, according to Huang.

Despite not being a U.N. member, Taiwan ratified ICCPR and ICESCR as a matter of domestic law in 2009.

Since 2013, Taiwan's government has invited human rights experts to Taiwan every 4 years to review the country's implementation of the two covenants and interact with both government officials and NGO representatives before issuing their observations and recommendations.

(source: focustaiwan.tw)

SINGAPORE:

Apex court rejects drug trafficker's claim heroin was for own use, upholds death sentence

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday (May 11) upheld the death sentenced handed down to a 57-year-old man for heroin trafficking, rejecting his defence that the drugs were meant for his personal use.

In a written judgment, the 3-judge court said A. Steven Paul Raj had failed to provide credible evidence to support his claim that he was heavily consuming 16g to 24g of heroin a day.

The sheer number of weighing scales and empty resealable bags found in Steven's flat further undermined his consumption defence, said the court.

The court was also not convinced by Steven's explanation that he had purchased double his usual order of heroin because his drug supplier warned him of possible supply disruptions during the Deepavali festive period.

Steven, an odd-job labourer, was arrested on his way home in the wee hours of Oct 24, 2017 after collecting two packets of a powdery substance, weighing a total of 901.5g, from his drug supplier at Boon Keng MRT station.

The substance was analysed and found to contain at least 35.85g of pure heroin.

A large assortment of empty resealable bags and four digital weighing scales were among items found in his flat.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, anyone who is proved to be in possession of more than 2g of heroin is presumed to be trafficking the drug, and the burden is on the accused to rebut the presumption.

The law provides for the death penalty if the amount of heroin trafficked is more than 15g.

Steven contended that the drugs were for his personal consumption, and claimed to be a heavy user of heroin, smoking 2 to 3 packets of 8g per day.

Sometimes, he would give a packet to his friends as part of reciprocal arrangements to help each other, he said.

In August last year, after a trial that began in 2019, the High Court rejected this defence, convicted him of drug trafficking, and imposed the mandatory death penalty.

Steven appealed.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court's finding that Steven had failed to establish his claimed rate of heroin consumption.

In its judgment, the apex court noted that the key pillar of a consumption defence is the accused's rate of consumption.

Other factors, such as the accused's financial means to support his drug habit, how he came to be in possession of the drugs, and his possession of drug trafficking paraphernalia, are secondary.

"Thus, without credible and consistent evidence to establish his claimed rate of consumption on a balance of probabilities, an accused person who seeks to rely on the consumption defence will generally face insuperable difficulties," said the court.

The court said Steven's claimed consumption rate was undermined by the evidence given by the doctors who examined him at different points.

He told 2 doctors in October 2017 that he consumed 4g of heroin a day, but said in a statement that month that he smoked two to three 8g packets every day.

He told another doctor in November 2017 that he consumed one 8g packet of heroin daily.

(source: The Straits Times)

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

Drugs worth close to S$1 million seized at Braddell Hill block; 102 suspects arrested in islandwide operation

Officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) arrested 102 suspected drug offenders in a five-day islandwide drug bust, making a record seizure of cannabis this year.

The youngest person arrested was a 17-year-old girl who was nabbed for suspected drug abuse, said CNB on Friday (May 13).

During the operation from May 9 to May 13, spanning areas such as Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Batok and Yio Chu Kang, about S$$1,195,000 worth of controlled drugs was seized.

This includes about 6,227g of heroin, 724g of Ice, 20,438g of cannabis, 3g of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), one Ecstasy tablet, two bottles of liquid suspected to contain GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) and 16 methadone tablets - sufficient to feed about 2,960 heroin abusers, 410 Ice abusers and 2,910 cannabis abusers for a week, said CNB.

Drugs seized by Singapore's Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) during a five-day islandwide operation from May 9 to May 13, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Gaya Chandramohan) The 20kg of cannabis found is a record for 2022. Two comparable cannabis seizures took place in 2021, including a 24kg haul in April last year.

Investigations into the drug activities of all arrested suspects are ongoing.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it is an offence to traffic, or offer to traffic in, a controlled drug.

It is also an offence to do, or offer to do, any act preparatory to or for the purpose of trafficking in a controlled drug.

This includes those who do so on their own behalf, or on behalf of another person – regardless of whether the other person is in Singapore or not.

Anyone found guilty of trafficking more than 15g of pure heroin (diamorphine) or 500g of cannabis may face the mandatory death penalty.

3 SUSPECTED DRUG TRAFFICKERS ARRESTED

On May 11, CNB officers arrested a 57-year-old Singaporean man in the vicinity of Bendemeer Road and recovered a minute amount of heroin and cash amounting to S$3,200 from him.

That evening, a 65-year-old Singaporean man was also arrested in a residential unit in the same vicinity. A total of about 821g of heroin and 16 methadone tablets were seized from the unit.

A 24-year-old Malaysian man was arrested in a follow-up operation on the ground floor of an apartment block in the vicinity of Braddell Hill, with officers recovering about 952g of heroin and 4,093g of cannabis from him.

The man was brought to his hideout in the same block, where 7 bundles containing about 4,298g of heroin and 16 bundles containing about 16,306g of cannabis were found and seized.

The drugs seized in this case have an estimated street value of more than S$1,039,000, enough to feed the addiction of about 2,900 cannabis abusers and 2,900 heroin abusers for a week, said CNB.

Drugs seized by Singapore's Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) during a 5-day islandwide operation from May 9 to May 13, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Gaya Chandramohan) A 24-year-old Malaysian man was arrested in a follow-up operation on the ground floor of an apartment block in the vicinity of Braddell Hill, with officers recovering about 952g of heroin and 4,093g of cannabis from him.

The man was brought to his hideout in the same block, where seven bundles containing about 4,298g of heroin and 16 bundles containing about 16,306g of cannabis were found and seized.

The drugs seized in this case have an estimated street value of more than S$1,039,000, enough to feed the addiction of about 2,900 cannabis abusers and 2,900 heroin abusers for a week, said CNB.

MARINE CRESCENT RAID

In another raid on May 10, a 54-year-old Singaporean man was arrested for suspected drug trafficking activities in a residential unit in the vicinity of Marine Crescent.

CNB officers seized a total of about 642g of Ice and one Ecstasy tablet, along with various drug paraphernalia, from within the unit.

2 Singaporean men, aged 25 and 58, were subsequently arrested in the same vicinity for suspected drug offences later the same day. About 8g of Ice and drug paraphernalia were recovered from the 58-year-old man.

Preliminary investigations show that the 54-year-old man and 25-year-old man are father and son, said CNB.

The amount of Ice seized during the May 10 operation has an estimated street value of S$130,000, and is sufficient to feed 370 Ice abusers for a week.

“Singapore’s open economy and connectedness as a regional transport hub, and its proximity to major drug-producing regions, places it in constant danger of being overwhelmed by an influx of narcotics," said Assistant Commissioner (AC) Leon Chan, deputy director of CNB (Operations).

"While the drug situation in Singapore is relatively under control, we cannot take this for granted."

AC Chan said that tough laws and the public’s continued support are key to achieving a drug-free Singapore, adding that CNB has not let up on its enforcement efforts.

He said that CNB will continue to target drug supply and demand within the country, together with the rest of the Home Team.

"This latest haul of drugs has disrupted the syndicates, and CNB will continue to keep up the pressure on them. We are also controlling local demand with our dragnet operations targeting drug abusers," said AC Chan.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

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

UN experts urge immediate end to death penalty

UN-appointed independent human rights experts called on Thursday for Singapore to immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, saying the continued use of capital punishment for drug-related crimes runs contrary to international law.

States that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for “the most serious crimes,” the group of eleven experts said in a joint statement, adding that under international law, “only crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing” should be considered “most serious”.

“Drug offences clearly do not meet this threshold”, they argued.

The experts condemned Singapore’s execution of Malaysian nationals Abdul Kahar bin Othman and Nagaenthran Dharmalingam for drug-related offences in March and April, respectively.

Mr. Dharmalingam was executed despite claims that he had an intellectual disability, a deteriorating mental health condition and was a victim of human trafficking.

“Executions of persons with intellectual disabilities and for drug-related offences are a violation of the right to life and the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and amount to unlawful killings,” the experts underscored.

A life in the balance

They also urged the Government to halt any plan to execute another Malaysian man convicted for a similar offence and to immediately establish “an official moratorium on all executions with a view to fully abolishing the death penalty”.

Datchinamurthy Kataiah was arrested for trafficking 44.96 grams of diamorphine from Malaysia to Singapore, and sentenced to death in May 2015.

Although his execution was scheduled for 29 April 2022, a stay was granted until 20 May.

They called on the Singaporean authorities to instead commute his death sentence to prison terms, in accordance with international human rights law and standards.

Additionally, the UN experts raised concerns over the discriminatory treatment of individuals belonging to minorities, as in the case of Mr. Kataiah, and reports about reprisals against their legal representatives.

Abolish death row

The statement reiterated that the mandatory use of the death penalty constitutes “an arbitrary deprivation of life”, since it is imposed without any possibility of taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or that of the particular offence.

“As a first step, the Government of Singapore should review, without delay, the scope of the death penalty, particularly with regard to drug-related offences, in order to ensure that its imposition and implementation are strictly limited to cases involving intentional killing,” they concluded.

(source: news.un.org)

MALAYSIA:

3 men face death penalty for murder in Bukit Bintang hotel

3 friends are facing the death penalty for murdering a 49-year-old man in a hotel room near Bukit Bintang recently.

The accused, T. Muniswaran, 49; S. Katharavello, 52; and Mohd Zulbihar Ali Khan Kamaldin, 48, were charged with murdering S. Prabah in Hotel Capitol between 6.05pm and 6.40pm on May 3.

The trio nodded in understanding when the charge was read to them before magistrate Wong Chai Sia.

No pleas were recorded from the accused.

The trio were charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code read together with Section 34 of the same Code which carries a death sentence upon conviction.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Phulrani Kaur prosecuted while the accused were unrepresented.

The court fixed July 13 for mention.

It was reported that a local man was found dead at a hotel room in Bukit Bintang an hour after he checked in.

Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department chief SAC Habibi Majinji said the man was discovered with a gunshot wound to the forehead by a hotel employee who gained entry to the room and called the police.

Habibi said there was no apparent motive for the incident and the firearm used has not been found.

(source: nst.com.my)

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

Terengganu Teen Charged With Murdering Newborn Allowed Bail----The bail conditions only come into effect once she completes her psychiatric evaluation.

The Court of Appeal has allowed bail for a teenager charged with murdering her newborn son while the case is pending.

According to Malay Mail, the bail is set at RM20,000 with one surety with a local bailor.

A 3-member bench chaired by Yaacob Md Sam said there was merit in the application filed by the girl, who’s now 15 years and 2 months old.

She was present for the hearing with her 47-year-old mother, a hotel employee.

She was charged with murdering her newborn baby at a house in Seri Bandi, Kemaman in Terengganu on 8 February 2022.

Harian Metro reported that the bail conditions only come into effect after the girl completes her psychiatric evaluation in Hospital Permai, Tampoi in Johor.

The teen girl and the bailor must report to the Cukai police station by the 1st week of every month and be present for all court proceedings unless the court decides otherwise.

She’s also barred from going overseas unless she gets approval from the court where her case is being conducted.

Before the hearing of the bail application started, Justice Yaacob made an order that the girl’s identity should not be disclosed.

What happened before this?

Prior to this, her bail application was rejected by the magistrate and the High Court but she was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

When the case gained public attention, there were also criticisms regarding the detention conditions for the teen girl.

On 18 February, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said it wasn’t too late to review the murder charge against the girl under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries a death penalty if found guilty, based on new information.

Investigations revealed that the teenager could be a rape victim as well.

In the early proceedings, lawyer Ramkarpal Singh said bail should be allowed because the girl is a victim of statutory rape and needed to be protected.

The Malay Mail reported that he said there was no reasonable ground to believe that she committed murder.

At best, he said she committed infanticide under Section 309A of the Penal Code, which carries a maximum 20 years jail sentence.

Harian Metro reported that individuals under the age of 18 who are found guilty cannot be sentenced to death under Section 97(2) of the Children’s Act 2001.

The death penalty will be replaced with a jail term as decided by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan or Yang Dipertua Negeri.

(source: therakyatpost.com)

INDIA:

Suicidal tendencies among death row prisoners raise serious questions about the state’s responsibility, says the team from NLU-D’s Project 39A----The mental health condition of death row prisoners who have been languishing in prisons due to delay in processing of their mercy petitions, and other legal remedies in the appellate courts, has been a mystery. In this interview, the team from NLU-D’s Project 39A – which has collected the requisite data – sheds some light to unravel it.

In December 2021, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.V Nagarathna and B.R Gavai acquitted death row convicts (Momin, Jaikam and Sajid) in Jaikam Khan versus The State of Uttar Pradesh, after they had already spent 8 years in prison. The bench remarked that their conviction and death sentence imposed is totally unsustainable in law.

As per the empirical report ‘Deathworthy’ published by the National Law University, Delhi’s [NLU-D] Project 39A, it has been found that more than 60% of prisoners on death row suffer from some kind of mental illness.

As we commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, it has been realised that the present laws namely, Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 [MHCA], Prisons Act, 1894 and the Model Prison Manual, 2016 do not substantively address the mental health rights of prisoners.

The 1894 Act only gives a definition of a sick prisoner as someone who ‘appears out of health in mind or body’. Whereas, the MHCA does not have provisions to address the mental well-being of prisoners. It does have provisions, such as Section 113, that provide for a prisoner with mental illness to be shifted to the psychiatric ward of the medical wing of the prison. According to the Model Prison Manual, there is ‘one’ Psychologist/counsellor for every ‘500 prisoners’.

To get a closer understanding of the mental health conditions of prisoners, The Leaflet asked a few questions from the team of Project 39A based at the NLU-D. These questions have been answered by Dr. Anup Surendranath, Executive Director of Project 39A and an Assistant Professor of Law at the NLU-D; CP Shruthi, Mitigation Associate; and Medha Deo, Programme Director for Fair Trial Fellowship.

Project 39A aims to trigger new conversations on legal aid, torture, forensics, mental health in prisons, and the death penalty by using empirical research to re-examine practices and policies in the criminal justice system.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Project 39A published various empirical studies on the mental health of prisoners on death row. Please tell us about the findings of those reports. Also, what all categories of prisoners require mental healthcare facilities?

A: ‘Deathworthy’ is a first of its kind empirical and descriptive study to take a psychosocial approach to understanding the mental health of death row prisoners in India. It presents empirical data on mental illness and intellectual disability among death row prisoners in India and the psychological consequences of living on death row.

As a part of this study, we interviewed 88 death row prisoners and their families across five states (Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh).

We also found that an overwhelming majority of death row prisoners interviewed (62.2%) had a mental illness and 11% had an intellectual disability.

The report essentially charts out the life of these prisoners, the implication of poverty and other vulnerabilities that they are exposed to and what happens to them when they come to prison. We found that there were high instances of certain kinds of mental illnesses, what we also call the pains of death row.

We also found that an overwhelming majority of death row prisoners interviewed (62.2%) had a mental illness and 11% had an intellectual disability.

The proportion of persons with mental illness and intellectual disability on death row is overwhelmingly higher than the proportion in the community population.

I think all categories of prisoners require access to mental healthcare facilities. The prolonged period of incarceration and harsh conditions may exacerbate several other vulnerabilities, such as substance misuse problems, poor physical and mental health outcomes, learning difficulties, histories of trauma etc., among the prisoners. So the quality of care should encompass not only treatment but also therapy and care so as to minimize the chances of re-traumatizing individuals with a history of trauma.

Q: It’s said that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators of crime. There are two concepts here-the mental illness and the legal capacity (defence of insanity) to commit the crime.

Can you explain to us the difference between the two in terms of being a mitigating factor in the commutation of sentencing?

A: The defence of insanity is what Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 [IPC] deals with. It is the “act of a person of unsound mind.”

This is a purely legal concept that deals with the ‘mental state’ of the person at the time of the commission of the act and exempts the individual of any criminal responsibility for the act as there is a loss of reasoning power with reference to the offence in question.

The threshold for claiming the insanity defence is so high that one needs to show that the individual was unable to appreciate the nature of the act or wrongdoing or that it was contrary to the law as it completely exempts them from any criminal responsibility.

While abnormality of mind or partial delusion, irresistible impulse or compulsive behaviour of a psychopath are recognised as psychiatric conditions, it affords no protection under Section 84 IPC.

On the other hand, when a mental health concern is presented as a mitigating factor, it is not a justification or an excuse for the crime but it is a fact or circumstance that in fairness or mercy, may be considered for reducing the degree of the defendant’s culpability for a death sentence. So, it looks at a much broader spectrum of mental health issues and concerns and not just psychiatric illness.

It involves taking a psycho-social approach to understanding the multitude of factors like adverse childhood experiences that an individual may have been exposed to, traumatic events that they have witnessed, previous history of physical and mental health issues, and any mental illness developed during the period of incarceration(post-conviction) and other vulnerabilities.

Q: I want to draw your attention to two specific cases- first, the acquittal of Momin, Jaikam and Sajid who spent eight years in prison including 6 years on death row. Project 39A has also covered this case. Second, recently the Supreme Court set an accused free by accepting his claim of juvenility after he had spent 17 years in prison. These are just two horrendous cases out of the many where the criminal justice system has failed its people.

We often say that the aim of the criminal justice system should be rehabilitation but is that really possible? Is there any post acquittal mental healthcare facility given to such types of persons who have been a victim of the unfairness of the Indian criminal justice system?

A: Project 39A was involved in the preparation and arguments of Momin, Jaikam and Sajid’s appeal at the Supreme Court. The last 8 years have not been easy for these 3 men and their families. While they were pushed to the margins from multiple sites and it has had an impact on their financial, emotional, and mental well being, there is no specific institutional support that caters specifically to those wrongfully convicted or imprisoned.

The Model Prison Manual 2016 provides for steps to be taken to ensure the continuation of psychiatric treatment after release and provisions of social psychiatric after-care but it does not seem adequate to address issues such as re-adjustment and rehabilitation into the society after a long period of incarceration.

Providing mental healthcare for such prisoners would need a more holistic and trauma-informed approach that focuses not only on clinical recovery but social re-integration.

The threshold for claiming the insanity defence is so high that one needs to show that the individual was unable to appreciate the nature of the act or wrongdoing or that it was contrary to the law as it completely exempts them from any criminal responsibility.

Q: The suicide rate of prisoners is constantly rising. Many prisoners commit suicide because of the custodial settings we have. I want to refer to one of the convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape case who committed suicide before he was to be given the death penalty. How do you think the type of imprisonment impacts mental health, especially for those who are on death row or have suffered solitary confinement?

A: The death row population is precariously vulnerable to mental illness and to severe psychological harm in state custody. The long and harsh conditions of solitary confinement and lack of medical care further complicate their mental health condition. The findings of our report Deathworthy indicate that among the 88 prisoners interviewed during the course of the fieldwork, the main psychiatric illnesses found were Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Substance Use Disorder.

Prisoners also reported having psychotic episodes in prison – one of whom had a psychotic episode while in solitary confinement. Close to 50% of prisoners had thoughts of dying by suicide and eight attempted to die by suicide. This raises serious concerns about the responsibility of the State to provide for quality mental health care facilities to prevent and address the mental health crisis among the death row population.

Q: Lastly, I want you to address the current mental healthcare facilities provided to prison inmates as per the Model Prison Manual. Also, please tell us about the Supreme Court’s guidelines on the detention of mentally ill undertrial prisoners and how far those guidelines have been successful.

A: Prisoners with mental illness are kept in a separate ward according to the Model Prison Manual and there are psychiatrists checking up on them regularly but they are mostly prescribed general medicines which keep them feeling drowsy throughout the day so as to keep them from causing trouble.

Recent Supreme Court judgments have pushed for psychological evaluation of a prisoner but in the lower courts, there is still a substantial delay in getting that done despite the under trial prisoner showing overt symptoms of mental illness. In one case, the prisoner was diagnosed having schizophrenia and shifted to the regional mental hospital for some time but then brought back and declared fit for trial even when his mental health had not improved.

(source: Gursimran Kaur Bakshi is a staff writer at The Leaflet)

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How courts can stop judgments on death sentence from being challenged

In December 2012, India witnessed unprecedented protests following the gruesome gang-rape of a 23-year-old paramedic student (named Nirbhaya later) by five persons on a moving bus in New Delhi.

“Hang the monsters” placards were a common sight during the protest. The rage was intense, and the demand for the death penalty for the accused persons seemed non-negotiable. The trial court convicted the 5 accused persons of rape and murder and sentenced them to death.

The Delhi High Court confirmed the death sentence awarded by the trial court, and the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the high court.

The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Dipak Misra, R Banumathi and Ashok Bhushan gave a concurring decision upholding the death penalty for the convicts. Justice Dipak Misra called the case “a story from a different world where humanity has been treated with irreverence”.

Reading the judgment makes it clear that the court did not decide to uphold the death penalty under any sort of public pressure. In strict adherence to the law and the fact that aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances, the court gave its decision.

It is important to note that in the famous Bachan Singh case the apex court had urged that a balance sheet of “mitigating and aggravating circumstances” have to be drawn before sentencing a person to death. And, in the Nirbhaya case, the balance sheet tilted towards aggravating circumstances, evident from the unimaginable injuries caused to the victim.

The Nirbhaya case led to many changes in the penal law. One among them was regarding the trial of juveniles for heinous crimes. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill 2015, which was finally passed in 2016, allowed for juveniles between the age of 16 and 18 to be tried as adults in case of heinous crimes.

It was a case of a dastardly brutal rape that shocked the conscience of the country. One of the reasons the Nirbhaya case could get the required attention apart from the gruesome nature of the crime was the fact that it took place in the National Capital.

But what about the crime against those who live far from the media glare of big metropolitan cities, in some nondescript village. Does the rape of a two-and-a-half-year-old, who suffered indescribable injuries leading to her death, fall in the ambit of “rarest of rare”? Does the killing of a four-year-old, who was brutalised and dumped to die, warrant the death capital?

In a landmark case titled Machhi Singh versus the State of Punjab, the Supreme Court listed 5 categories of cases when the “collective conscience of the community” is so shocked that it will expect the “holders of judicial powers” to grant the death sentence to the guilty of the crime, “irrespective of their personal opinion as regards desirability or otherwise of retaining death penalty”.

On 19 April, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat, and Justice Bela M Trivedi commuted the death sentence granted to a person named Firoz. Firoz was held guilty of the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl and was awarded the death sentence by the trial court which was upheld by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Two of the five circumstances listed in Machhi Singh’s judgment were: (1) Manner of Commission of Murder: When the murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting, or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community;(2) Personality of a victim of murder: When the victim of murder is an innocent child who could not have or has not provided even an excuse, much less a provocation for murder.

Taking two facts of the Firoz case and placing them in the context of five guidelines enunciated in the Macchi Singh case and adding them can lead to a conclusion that the death sentence for Firoz should be upheld. To elaborate it, the personality of the victim was that of a four-year-old girl, by all means an “innocent child who could not have or has not provided even an excuse, much less a provocation for murder”; and manner of commission of the murder was by all means “brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting, or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community”.

So, how do we justify the commuting of the death penalty?

The decision attracted serious criticism from various quarters and led to the filing of the review petition. The petitioner, who is the mother of the deceased victim, has argued that while commuting the death sentence, the apex court considered the accused's rights and has completely ignored the victim’s rights.

As reported by Live Law, the petitioner has taken a plea that the court committed a “manifest error” by applying the ratio of Shatrughna Baban Meshram versus the State of Maharashtra as unlike that case, in the present case the accused consciously strangulated the victim with clear intention to extinguish the life of the girl.

In the Shatrughna Baban Meshram case, the Supreme Court bench consisting of justices Uday Umesh Lalit, Krishna Murari, and Indu Malhotra commuted the death sentence of a man named Shatrughna Baban Meshram who was found guilty of raping her two-and-a-half-year-old niece which led to her death.

The court commuted his death sentence as it held that the accused “did not consciously cause any injury with the intent to extinguish the life of the victim”. However, the post-mortem report mentioned 18 injuries that included bite marks on the private parts of the 2 1/2-year-old girl and assault by the hard and rough surfaces. The rape was of such intensity that there was a merging of vaginal and anal orifices of the victim.

The court in its judgment observed that considering the age of the victim in the present case, the accused must have known the consequence that his sexual assault on a child who was two-and-a-half-year-old would cause death or such bodily injury as was likely to cause her death hence held Shatrughna Baban Meshramguilty guilty of culpable homicide amounting to murder.

However, while commuting the death sentence, the court held that a “definite pointer in favour of the appellant is the fact that he did not consciously cause any injury with the intent to extinguish the life of the victim. Though all the injuries are attributable to him and it was injury No.17 (multiple lacerations over the vaginal and anal region) which was the cause of death, his conviction under Section 302 IPC is not under any of the first three clauses of Section 300 IPC. In matters where the conviction is recorded with the aid of clause fourthly under Section 300 of IPC, it is very rare that the death sentence is awarded”.

According to clause fourthly under Section 300 of the IPC, the offence may come under the category of culpable homicide amounting to murder “if the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid”.

Whereas the first three clauses of Section 300 IPC are: Except in the cases hereinafter excepted, culpable homicide is murder if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death; or — (secondly) —if it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused; or — (thirdly) — if it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

So, the court, while accepting the fact that the accused committed the crime, knew the gravity of the crime, and knew the consequences of the crime, commuted the death sentence because the conviction was not secured under any of the first three clauses of Section 300 of IPC.

Coming back to the case of the rape of the four-year-old, the court relied upon the same arguments but as stated by the petitioner challenging the judgment, in the current case of rape of the four-year-old girl, the death of the victim was caused by bronchopheumonia and cerebral hypoxia, which was caused by smothering the nose and mouth which makes it evident that the accused person did intend to cause death to the victim.

So, how the “fourthly” clause applies here is a question that might be deliberated upon during the hearing of the review petition.

Every time the death penalty is awarded by the court or is commuted under its appellate jurisdiction, the abolitionist and retentionist crusaders give this age-old debate a new lease of life. The fact remains that while the Supreme Court has tried time and again to codify and classify the cases which can attract the severest punishment of death, the discretion of the judges prevails.

In this context, the Law Commission report on the death penalty makes an important observation. It reads, “Despite the court’s optimism in Bachan Singh that its guidelines will minimise the risk of arbitrary imposition of the death penalty, there remain concerns that capital punishment is ‘arbitrarily or freakishly imposed’. In Santosh Kumar Satishbhushan Bariyar v. Maharashtra, the court held that ‘there is no uniformity of precedents, to say the least’. In most cases, the death penalty has been affirmed or refused to be affirmed by us, without laying down any legal principle.”

The law commission adds that such concerns have been reiterated on multiple occasions, where the Supreme Court has pointed out that the rarest of rare dictum propounded in the Bachan Singh case has been inconsistently applied.

Citing several cases like Aloke Nath Dutta versus State of West Bengal and Swamy Shraddhananda versus State of Karnataka, among others, the Law Commission report stated: “In these cases, the court has acknowledged that the subjective and arbitrary application of the death penalty has led ‘principled sentencing’ to become ‘judge-centric sentencing’, based on the ‘personal predilection’ of the judges constituting the Bench.”

The functioning of the modern State is defined by a set of enforceable laws, whose breach leads to punitive action by the State. For most of the offences and crimes committed, the punishments are imprisonment for varied time periods depending upon the gravity of the crime. The State is given free agency to decide the amount of penalty and duration of imprisonment it chooses to award to those found in conflict with the law. These punishments are seldom a point of debate as they are seen as reformative procedures to fix deviant minds.

The debate starts when the State decides to end the life of the one who has committed a crime of heinous nature.

Capital punishment is an idea that is laden with ambiguity. The debate surrounding it is guided by forceful arguments from both sides, the abolitionists and retentionists. The abolitionists argue that as the death penalty is irrevocable, any flaw in the trial leads to a complete miscarriage of justice. Retentionists argue that this cannot be the reason for the abolition of the death penalty, but an argument for reform of the judicial system and the sentencing procedure.

Starting from Dr BR Ambedkar who sought to abolish of death sentence in 1949 to current times when numerous reports suggest the futility of retaining capital punishment, India has seen forceful attempts for abolishing capital punishment.

But India chose to retain it.

There have been several genuine attempts by the Supreme Court to classify cases that can be seen fit for awarding the death penalty. But the issue of capital punishment is as moral a dilemma as it is a legal one, so the moral arguments cannot be ignored. And acknowledging them leads to the shifting of the entire debate into a subjective domain.

Given this scenario, the court judgments related to the death sentence will always be open to interpretation and challenge, more often from a moral side than from a legal angle. Of course, till we manage to codify watertight compartmentalisation of offences that by all means should be punished with a death sentence.

(source: Commentary; Shishir Tripathi is a journalist and researcher based in Delhi----firstpost.com)

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Surat: Fenil Goyani sentenced to death in Grishma Vekariya murder case----Less than 3 months after 20-year-old allegedly stabbed woman in front of family and neighbours, public prosecutor says court thought it was ‘rarest of rare’ case

The Surat sessions court Thursday awarded death sentence to Fenil Goyani (20) for the murder of 21-year-old college student Grishma Vekariya outside her house at Pasodara area of Surat in February.

Surat’s Principal Sessions and District Judge Vimal Kanaiyalal Vyas who termed the case as “rarest of the rare” said strict punishment was needed to deter people from committing such crimes against women.

The judge noted that like Ajmal Kasab, one of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in November 2008, Goyani exhibited cruelty and showed no remorse during the trial. The verdict also noted that the way Goyari slit Vekariya’s throat was akin to a butcher slaughtering animals. The crime took place on February 12 when Goyani slit the throat of Grishma on February 12 in front of her family members and neighbours after stabbing her twice over turning down his proposal.

In videos that went viral, he was also seen stabbing her brother and uncle when they tried to rescue her. Goyani allegedly murdered Grishma for refusing to be in a relationship with him.

Saying that in his 28 years’ career he never faced such a case, judge Vyas said Grishma’s fate was akin to that of the victim of the 2012 Delhi gangrape.

He also cited a verse from the Manusmriti, the ancient Hindu text on law and religion, which says that punishment should be commensurate with the seriousness of crime.

Public prosecutor Nayan Sukhadwala said the court relied on video footage of the incident, witness accounts and other circumstantial evidence to arrive at its decision and also took into account the grievous and serious nature of the crime as well as “lack of remorse” on part of the accused to declare the case as a “rarest of rare” case to pronounce the death sentence.

Addressing media persons following the pronouncement of the verdict, Sukhadwala said the court found Goyani guilty of IPC sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) for injuring two others apart from Grishma Vekariya and the remaining offences that Goyani was charged under.

“The court observed that the incident was pre-planned and created fear in the minds of the public in the way it was committed,” added Sukhadwala.

The court has also issued directions to provide for compensation under the Victim Compensation Scheme, he said.

Vekariya’s parents as well as Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi welcomed the verdict.

“The fear of the verdict will stay in the minds of anyone committing a crime, and they will shiver before committing one. The promise of speedy justice I had given to Grishma’s parents has now been fulfilled. The capital punishment awarded to Fenil is the fulfillment of this promise,” Sanghavi said.

Stating that the government was “working on a strategy to avert such incidents”, the minister added that he would meet Grishma’s parents on Friday.

Grishma’s father Nandlal Vekariya who was present in the courtroom during the verdict,said, “Nothing can fill the void created in my life due to my daughter’s untimely death. But I can say that justice has been done. To set an example and deter other such elements from harassing girls, he should be hanged at the earliest. The higher judiciary too must not show any mercy to him.”

He thanked Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi, former MLA Praful Pansuria and officials of Kamrej police station for supporting the family and ensuring a speedy delivery of justice.

Grishma’s younger brother Dhruv, who was injured during the incident, said, “We are satisfied with the verdict. It is as per our expectations. My family is thankful to the government for extending support to us throughout this difficult phase.”

Surat police arrested Goyani on February 16 for offences punishable under IPC Section 302 (murder), 307, 354 (d) (i) (stalking), 342 (wrongful confinement), 504 (provocation to break public peace) and 506 (2) (criminal intimidation). The police submitted a 2,500-page charge sheet at the Kathor court in Surat district within 5 days. The charge sheet had statements from over 190 witnesses, documentary evidence, scientific and medical evidence, and CCTV footage.

The case was committed to the Surat sessions court where a speedy trial was conducted, resulting in conviction and sentencing less than three months after the crime.

On March 9, Goyani had to be taken in an ambulance from the courtroom after he complained of vertigo. On inquiry from the court, it came to light that owing to day-long hearings, Goyani had not had lunch.

The court had then issued an order directing jail authorities to ensure that Goyani is presented before the court after his meals so as to not cause any physical distress.

(source: indianexpress.com)

PAKISTAN:

Sehwan blast 2017: SHC rejects bail plea of convicts on death row

The Sindh High Court on Friday rejected bail plea of 2 convicted terrorists – Nadir Ali alias Murshid and Furqan – in the Sehwan bomb blast case.

As many as 80 people were killed and over 120 injured inside the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine at the Sehwan in 2017.At least 21 children were believed to be among the dead.

The court maintained that Sindh prosecution presented solid evidences against the accused, adding that those involved in the killing of innocents do not deserve leniancy on any ground. The leading prosecutor Iqbal Awan presented evidences against convicts including CCTV footage.

The trial court in 2020 gave death sentence to the suspects – both associated with ISIS. Five suspects including Abdul Sattar, Ijaz Tanveer were declared proclaimed offender. The state counsel maintained that the convicts admitted their role in the suicide attack.

Reported to be a suicide blast, initial reports had suggested the attacker was dressed in burqa. However, later a CCTV footage showed a man managing to dodge his way in the shrine, without letting the policeman deployed on the point frisk him.

Nadir Jakhrani alias Murshid was arrested in Manghopir area of the metropolis. He informed that the planning of the Sehwan attack took place at Dera Murad Jamali — a city located in Nasirabad District in Balochistan.

All the people of the group involved in the attack have been identified by the police officials and are either dead or on the run. Daesh’s Sindh chief has been killed by the law enforcement agencies as well.

(source: bolnews.com)

CUBA:

Cuba will approve a new Penal Code: dissidence denounces that repression and censorship will increase

It punishes crimes on the internet and the external financing of certain activities: the new Cuban Penal Code, which must be approved by Parliament this Saturday, seeks to “protect” the socialist system at a time of strong tension after the historic protests of July 2021.

As explained by its own authors, the Code “protects the socialist political and state system from the set of actions and activities committed against the constitutional order and with the purpose of creating a climate of social instability and a state of ungovernability”.

It was only published as a draft on the Attorney General’s website in March, the text aroused rejection among the dissidents to the communist government.

“The new Penal Code is a new twist to the regime to intensify repression against citizens”René Gómez Manzano, president of the Corriente Agramontista, the oldest organization of Cuban opposition lawyers, told AFP.

This project is part of a series of laws, such as food sovereignty, the family code and personal data, intended to complement the new Constitution approved just in 2019.

The media in the spotlight

In the extraordinary meeting that Parliament will hold on Saturday, several of these bills will be presented to the plenary, including the Penal Code to be voted on by the deputies.

“It is striking that, unlike the Family Code, this new legal body is being cooked in a reserved way“, warns Gómez, a 77-year-old lawyer, former political prisoner and dissident activist.

The Family Code, which includes the legalization of gay marriage, the “solidarity” womb and the recognition of several parents, has been highly publicized and submitted to a wide popular consultation, to later be put to a referendum.

The penal code typifies 37 new crimess related to “telecommunications, information and communication technologies”, explain the authors, a multidisciplinary team specially designated for its development.

It is a way of respond to the arrival of mobile internet since the end of 2018, that has shaken Cuban civil society and generated other areas of possible crimes, including political ones.

This legislation also comes after the historic demonstrations of July 11 and 12 last in Cuba, the largest in 60 years, which left a balance of one dead, dozens of injured and more than 1,300 detainees, many of whom have been sentenced to sentences of up to 30 years.

“It is not the Penal Code that Cuba needs,” jurist Harold Bertot, until recently an academic at the University of Havana, now in Madrid, told AFP.

“Chronologically, its discussion and eventual implementation coincide at a time of political and social tension in Cuba,” he estimates.

The Code “commits to criminal expansionism, the hardening of sentencesand (is) designed to have a notable impact on Cuban political activism,” he adds.

In the text, to the crime of “public disorder” a figure is added that penalizes individual or group demonstrationswhile in acts “against the security of the State” another figure is inserted to punish the external financing of non-legal activities.

Opposition digital media outlets, activists and dissident groups are accused of “mercenaries” for receiving funding from US agencies and NGOs, for which they could now be prosecuted with sentences of four to ten years in prison.

“In a country where private media are illegal and journalists don’t have the possibility of obtaining local financing, prohibiting foreign financing is a death sentence for independent journalism,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reacted in February.

Thus the current crime of “enemy propaganda” becomes “propaganda against the constitutional order“, while crimes against public order will include the “dissemination of false news or malicious predictions with the purpose of causing alarm, discontent or disinformation”, point out the authors of the Code.

Bertot also considers that the law provides for “a not insignificant number of crimes of the death penalty as a sanctioneven when its ‘exceptional’ character is recognized, goes in the opposite direction to criminal tendencies in the American continent itself that have opted for its abolition”.

In the first decades of the revolution, “el paredón”, capital punishment by firing squad, was frequently applied as a deterrent. Since 2000, however, a de facto moratorium was applied, which was only broken in April 2003, with the execution of three hijackers of a boat with 50 passengers in the bay of Havana, trying to emigrate.

(source: zyri.net)

MAY 12, 2022:

FLORIDA:

Testimony underway in trial of man charged in 2016 shooting death of UNF employee----Jecorian McCray accused of ordering stepbrother to kill witness

Testimony was underway Wednesday in the long-delayed murder trial of a man accused of ordering his stepbrother to kill a witness from jail.

Jecorian McCray, 28, is charged with 1st-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and tampering in the 2016 shooting death of University of North Florida information technology engineer Joe Brenton.

McCray was initially arrested in a 2014 burglary at Brenton’s Oceanway home. According to prosecutors, McCray, from jail, ordered Brenton, 48, to be killed to prevent him from testifying in the burglary case.

McCray’s stepbrother Dakarai Maxwell, 22, is charged with 1st-degree murder as the accused shooter. He’ll be tried separately.

2 others were arrested as accomplices and have pleaded guilty. They’re expected to testify against McCray.

If convicted, McCray could get the death penalty.

(source: news4jax.com)

ARIZONA----execution

Dixon executed; 1st in Arizona since 2014

Clarence Dixon was executed shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Florence.

He was convicted in 2008 for the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old senior at Arizona State University, who was found dead inside her apartment with a belt around her neck.

The 66-year-old Dixon was the 1st person executed by Arizona since the botched execution of Joseph Wood in 2014.

Witness says Dixon gasped when drugs administered

Taylor Tasler, a media witness for KTAR said Dixon never made eye contact with anyone during the execution. Dixon gasped after the drugs were administered and then looked like he went to sleep, she said.

Dixon did appear to lose consciousness a few minutes after the injection, confirmed Troy Hayden, a media witness for Fox 10.

Hayden said Dixon made several comments to the doctors, insulted them by mocking their Hippocratic oath and said they "worshipped death."

Witnesses said there were issues inserting the IV. Dixon, who was 67, appeared to be in pain as the execution team tried to place the IV, eventually putting it in his groin.

"I did see what appeared to be some cutting into the groin, they did have to wipe up a fair amount of blood," said Paul Davenport, a media witness for the Associated Press.

Frank Strada, deputy director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, confirmed the execution by lethal injection of Dixon took place at 10:30 a.m. at the state prison in Florence. Dixon was the first man put to death by Arizona since the problematic execution of Wood in 2014.

Dixon chose to make a final statement: "I do and always will proclaim my innocence — now let's do this shit."

Troy Hayden, a media witness, said the execution took place slightly late — it was scheduled for 10 a.m. It took 25 minutes to put IVs in because execution team had trouble and ended up inserting an IV into an alternate location, Hayden said.

Dixon grimaced, Hayden said, and appeared to be in pain while the IVs were inserted.

Outside, a group of protesters started slowly dispersing when police began to leave, though some stayed back for official word of the execution.

One man was overheard saying, “I guess we just go back to life now, it’s weird.”

Navajo Nation opposes death penalty, execution of tribal member

Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul in a letter last year explaining the tribe's position on Clarence Dixon's case said it opposed the death penalty and execution of its tribal members.

Dixon is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, according to his attorney and McPaul's letter.

The letter dated June 6, 2021, came two months after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced the state's intent to seek warrants of execution against Dixon and fellow death-row prisoner Frank Atwood.

2 weeks after McPaul's letter, Brnovich asked to expedite the men's executions, but his request was ultimately denied by the Arizona Supreme Court.

"Navajo culture and religion holds every life sacred and instructs against the taking of human life for punishment," McPaul said. "Committing a crime not only disrupts the harmony between the victim/family and the perpetrator, but it also disrupts the harmony of the community.

"The death penalty removes the possibility of restoring harmony; whereas a life sentence holds the opportunity to reestablish harmony and find balance in our world," she continued. "For these reasons, the Navajo Nation submits its strong opposition to the execution of a Navajo tribal member by the State."

McPaul went on to invite Brnovich to meet to discuss the matter further. It is unclear if he accepted her offer.

The Navajo Nation has long opposed the death penalty and executions of tribal members. For years leading up to the 2020 federal execution of Lezmond Mitchell in Terre Haute, Indiana, tribal officials pleaded with the federal government to spare him. He was the 1st Native American the federal government executed in modern history.

Protesters outside prison

Protesters gathered outside the state prison in Florence.

Just before 9 a.m., people quietly gathered near Butte and Pinal Parkway avenues, with most carrying signs decrying the execution.

Two separate drivers traveling through the intersection shouted “Kill him” and obscenities as they passed the group of about 12 protesters outside the prison’s barbed fence. The protesters didn't appear to react to shouts.

The crowd was mostly quiet, talking with each other while holding signs.

Rod McLeod, secretary of Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona, said the death penalty was just wrong.

“It’s a bad policy, a bad law. We’d like to change the law eventually, that’s our ultimate goal,” McLeod said, adding that there was no evidence to show executions deter crime.

(source: azcentral.com)

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

Execution ends Arizona 8-year hiatus with the death penalty

Arizona’s nearly 8-year hiatus in using the death penalty ended with the execution of Clarence Davis for killing a college student 44 years ago, making him the 6th person to be put to death in the U.S. so far this year.

Dixon’s death Wednesday for the 1978 killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin broke the lull in Arizona’s use of capital punishment caused by a 2014 execution that critics say was botched and the difficulty that state officials faced in sourcing lethal injection drugs.

Dixon’s death appeared to track the state’s protocol, though the medical team had some difficulty finding a vein to administer the lethal drugs. They first tried his arms and then made an incision in his groin area. That process took about 25 minutes.

After the drugs were injected, Dixon’s mouth stayed open and his body did not move. The execution was declared completed about 10 minutes after he was injected.

Another Arizona death row prisoner, Frank Atwood, is scheduled to be executed on June 8 in the killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in 1984. Authorities have said Atwood kidnapped the girl.

The child’s remains was discovered in the desert northwest of Tucson nearly 7 months after her disappearance. Experts could not determine the cause of death from the bones that were found, according to court records. Arizona now has 112 prisoners left on the state’s death row.

In the final weeks of Dixon’s life, his lawyers tried to postpone the execution, but judges rejected the argument that he was not mentally fit to be executed and did not have a rational understanding of why the state wanted to execute him. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute delay of Dixon’s execution less than an hour before the execution began.

Dixon earlier declined the option of being killed in Arizona’s gas chamber that was refurbished in 2020 — a method that has not been used in the U.S. in more than 2 decades. He had been on death row since his 2008 conviction.

Dixon’s death was announced late Wednesday morning by Frank Strada, a deputy director with Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

Strada said that shortly before he was executed with pentobarbital, Dixon declared: “The Arizona Supreme Court should follow the laws. They denied my appeals and petitions to change the outcome of this trial. I do and will always proclaim innocence. Now, let’s do this (expletive).”

And as prison medical staff put an IV line in Dixon’s thigh in preparation for the injection, he chided them, saying: “This is really funny — trying to be as thorough as possible while you are trying to kill me.”

Leslie James, Bowdoin’s older sister and a witness to the execution, told reporters after it was conducted that Deana Bowdoin had been poised to graduate from ASU and was planning a career in international marketing. James described her sister as a hard worker who loved to travel, spoke multiple languages and wrote poetry.

She characterized the execution as a relief but criticized how long it took to happen: “This process was way, way, way too long,” James said.

The last time Arizona executed a prisoner was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours in an execution that his lawyers said was botched. Wood snorted repeatedly and gasped more than 600 times before he died, and an execution that normally would take 10 minutes to complete lasted nearly 2 hours. The process dragged on for so long that the Arizona Supreme Court convened an emergency hearing during the execution to decide whether to halt the procedure.

States including Arizona have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

Authorities have said Bowdoin, who was found dead in her apartment in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, had been raped, stabbed and strangled with a belt.

Dixon, who lived across the street from Bowdoin, had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the rape charge was later dropped on statute-of-limitation grounds. He was convicted of murder in her killing.

In arguing that Dixon was mentally unfit, his lawyers said he erroneously believed he would be executed because police at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff wrongfully arrested him in another case — a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His attorneys conceded he was lawfully arrested by Flagstaff police.

Dixon was sentenced to life in prison in that case for sexual assault and other convictions. DNA samples taken while he was in prison later linked him to Bowdoin’s killing, which had been unsolved.

Prosecutors said there was nothing about Dixon’s beliefs that prevented him from understanding the reason for the execution and pointed to court filings that Dixon himself made over the years.

Defense lawyers said Dixon was repeatedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, regularly experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and was found “not guilty by reason of insanity” in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was delivered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly 4 years before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowdoin was killed 2 days after that verdict, according to court records.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Clarence Dixon Executed in Arizona Despite Backlash Over His Mental Illness

Clarence Wayne Dixon, a 66-year-old inmate in an Arizona prison, was executed on Wednesday despite objections to the sentence due to his mental illness.

Dixon was sentenced to death in 2008 for the 1978 murder of Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. Dixon's attorney attempted to have the sentence repealed, arguing that Dixon's diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia rendered him mentally unfit for capital punishment. The Arizona Supreme Court struck down that attempt in April.

On May 11 at approximately 10 a.m. local time, Dixon was executed via a lethal injection of pentobarbital, a drug that has been used at both state and federal levels in recent years. Dixon was the first inmate to be executed in the state of Arizona since the botched execution of Joseph Wood in 2014.

Inmate Clarence Dixon was executed in Arizona on May 11 despite objections due to his mental health. Departamento Correccional de Arizona muestra a Clarence Dixon.

The execution struck a chord in many concerning the ethics of capital punishment in cases regarding mental health. USA Today reported that two advocacy groups held vigils for Dixon the night before.

Dixon's representatives argued that his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, as well as suffering from blindness and hallucinations, made him unfit for punishment. According to Slate, a doctor who previously evaluated Dixon stated that without the presence of mental illness, he most likely would not have committed the gruesome acts for which he was executed.

Prosecutors said that 21-year-old Bowdoin was raped, strangled and stabbed to death in her apartment in January 1978. Dixon lived across the street from Bowdoin in Tempe, Arizona, at the time of her killing.

However, it was not until 2001 that Dixon was linked to Bowdoin's murder. He was already serving life in prison for a 1986 sexual assault conviction and in 2001, a detective tested DNA from Bowdoin's case against a national database and found that it matched Dixon's profile. He was indicted for the murder in 2002 and sentenced to death in 2008.

According to a previous Newsweek report, then–Maricopa County Superior Court judge and later U.S. Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, ruled that Dixon was not guilty of a separate attack on a woman just days before Bowdoin's murder. He had been released from a state hospital without supervision or mental health resources.

Dixon's attorney, Dale Baich, argued that Dixon's death sentence had been the state's attempt to "skirt its own responsibility" for failing to protect Dixon "from the horrific abuse and neglect he suffered as a child," failing to conduct a thorough investigation and failing to supervise him after he was found to be "not guilty by reason of insanity."

(source: Newsweek)

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

Ducey says execution is justice served

Clarence Dixon was executed shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Florence.

He was convicted in 2008 for the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old senior at Arizona State University, who was found dead inside her apartment with a belt around her neck.

The 66-year-old Dixon was the 1st person executed by Arizona since the botched execution of Joseph Wood in 2014.<>P> Most of the group of protesters appeared to either be a part of or working in coalition with Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona, a grassroots organization that aims to raise awareness about issues with the death penalty and seeks to abolish it.

The organization’s state advocacy director Kat Jutras said her frustration with Dixon’s execution in particular was his history of mental illness.

“The last 44 years he hasn’t had any adequate treatment or access and he’s been incarcerated during that time,” she said about 15 mins before his scheduled execution. “He’s not a danger to society, he’s more of a danger to himself. He’s enclosed in a room completely blind and has no idea what’s going on or what’s happening and they’re going to execute him today.”

“That type of frustration I think is powerful to use to continue our work as advocates because Clarence is not the only one, unfortunately, he had to be the first,” she continued.

Jessica MacTurk protests the execution of Clarence Dixon outside the Arizona State Prison Complex on May 11, 2022, in Florence.

Jessica MacTurk, a volunteer with the ACLU, went on to explain to the group her opposition to the death penalty “in all forms, for all people.”

“I am morally, religiously, constitutionally, financially opposed to the death penalty,” she said to on the group while holding a sign stating, “don’t kill for me.”

“It’s shocking to me that in this day and age that we’re still executing people in our country and that our punishment for murder is murder,” MacTurk continued.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a statement following Dixon’s execution, calling it justice served.

“Today the family of Deana Bowdoin was provided the justice they've long been waiting for,” the governor’s statement reads. “The void left by Deana's murder 44 years ago will never be filled, but the sentence carried out this morning is a solemn reminder that we are a nation of laws and it is the responsibility of the state to enforce them.”

Dixon’s death was the 1st execution carried out during Ducey’s tenure, and occurred Wednesday while the Republican governor was in Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

The last execution in 2014 was during the final six months of former Gov. Jan Brewer’s leadership and preceded Ducey’s election by four months. Because of legal challenges over the state’s use of capital punishment, Ducey was largely not forced to address the controversial issue, at least not frequently. In 2019, he signed a bill into law limiting the circumstances under which the state could seek the death penalty.

Ducey typically framed capital punishment in legal terms, as a duty required by the laws of the state he leads. He echoed that belief in his Wednesday statement, and last week to a gathering of reporters at an unrelated event, adding that “in certain situations, the death penalty is justice.”

Attorney General Mark Brnovich also released a statement, echoing Ducey's statements about justice.

“Prosecutors have a solemn responsibility to speak on behalf of all victims, and especially for those who can no longer speak for themselves,” said Brnovich. “My focus was on securing justice for Deana Bowdoin, her family, and our communities, and that has been achieved today.”

(source: azcentral .com)

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

Death Penalty Prayer Vigil----Following is the prepared text for Bishop Olmsted’s remarks at the Prayer Vigil for Clarence Dixon and an end to the death penalty in Arizona.

May 10, 2022

As Jesus was dying on the Cross as a condemned criminal, the mother of Jesus was there. Luke describes it this way (Lk 23:33-43),

“They crucified Jesus with two criminals, one on His right and the other on His left…Now one of the criminals …reviled Jesus… The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, ‘Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal. Then, he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’.”

Before Jesus’ sacrificial death, Mary heard the prayerful appeal of the repentant criminal, and she heard her beloved Son respond with the promise of eternal life. All this Mary pondered in her heart, pierced by the sorrow of seeing the crucifixion of her innocent Son but also moved by witnessing His Holy Sacrifice which was already redeeming a repentant criminal.

Surely, Mary the Mother of Jesus is with us this evening and is close to the victims and families impacted by horrendous crimes such as the one of which Clarence Dixon was convicted. At the same time, Mary remembers the sincere repentance of the Good Thief and the abundant mercy with which Jesus looked upon him. At every moment of our lives, even in the last hour, the Lord offers us the freedom to be converted and live. For Jesus does not desire the death of the sinner but that he humbly turn back to the Father and be forgiven.

Durante una Misa en St. Louis, Missouri, en enero 1999, el Santo Padre Juan Pablo II dijo: “La nueva evangelización llama a seguidores de Cristo que sean incondicionalmente pro-vida: que anuncien, celebren y sirvan el Evangelio de la vida en cada situacion. Un signo de esperanza es el reconocimiento cada vez mayor de que la dignidad de la vida humana nunca debe ser arrebatada.”

Tristemente, mañana, nuestro estado de Arizona estará llevando a cabo una ejecución. Por eso, estamos reunidos esta noche para orar por las victimas de violencia y sus familias, por el alma de los que se encuentran sentenciados a muerte, y por los lideres cívicos de nuestro estado para que logren abolir la muerte innecesaria a través de la pena de muerte. Dice el Catecismo (#2267), “La pena de muerte es inadmisible, porque atenta contra la inviolabilidad y la dignidad de la persona.”

As Jesus was dying on the Cross, He cried out in anguish to His heavenly Father with the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? You are far from my plea and the cry of my distress. O my God, I call by day and you give no reply, I call by night and I find no peace.” Perhaps the same cry of anguish arose from the family of the victim of the man scheduled for execution tomorrow, or from the family of the man sentenced to die. These cries of anguish are not disregarded by those who argue against the use of the death penalty. But we who oppose the death penalty are convinced that even a terrible crime does not remove the human dignity of the criminal. Everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, and for every human person, even the greatest sinner, Jesus suffered and died on the Cross to redeem us from our sins.

When St. Pope John Paul II spoke against the use of the death penalty, he referred to God’s pardon of Cain and the protection that He provided him. Frequently, during his papacy, he called for an end to the death penalty. When, for example, he visited Saint Louis, Missouri, 27 January 1999, he said,

“A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern Society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.”

Catholic teaching on the death penalty does not stand in a vacuum. As a mother, the Church has the deepest compassion for those victimized by brutal crimes as well as their families. Accordingly, we need always to pray for the healing of all those affected by these crimes. Use of the death penalty in our nation today is not wrong because it is the equivalent of intrinsically evil killing such as abortion, assisted suicide or euthanasia. These actions involve the taking of innocent human life and are never justifiable in any situation whatsoever. Yet even though the death penalty is not considered intrinsically evil, the Catholic Church remains troubled by its use in contemporary society, and is convinced that it is not needed today. We believe all human life, each human person – from conception to death – is sacred. Recall the Lord’s words (Lev 20: 26), “To me you shall be sacred; for I, the Lord, am sacred.”

But does not the criminal convicted of a horrible crime lose his life’s sanctity? A better way to put the question might be this: is a convicted murderer no longer made in the image of God? Certainly, he ought to be punished in keeping with the gravity of the crime. Certainly, society must be protected against someone proven to be murderous. But even a murderer is not outside of the infinite mercy of God. The possibility for true repentance and salvation remains for every person as long as he is still alive. Furthermore, use of the death penalty, when other means are available to keep society safe, is problematic to the community at large because it actually contributes to a “culture of death.” Such a “solution” uses killing to solve a problem that has other viable solutions.

Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the abolishment of the death penalty. For example, he said (11 October 2017; CCL 2267) : “…the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” It contributes to a culture of death. We call for the abolition of the death penalty in every state in America and in every land. Tonight, in particular we pray for Clarence Dixon, that if the execution takes place, he may die with a repentant and contrite heart. In union with Mary, we pray, Lord, have mercy on us all.

(source: Diocese of Phoenix)

USA:

USA----impending/scheduled executions

With the execution of Clarence Dixon in Arizona on May 11, the USA has now executed 1,546 condemned individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision.

Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of further scheduled executions as the nation continues its shameful practice of state-sponsored killings.

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

1547----May 17----Virgil Presnell Jr.----Georgia

1548----June 8--------Frank Atwood-------Arizona

1549----July 13-------Ramiro Gonzalez----Texas

(source: Rick Halperin)

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U.S. inmates condemned to die are spending more time on death row

After spending decades on Arizona's death row, Clarence Dixon was executed on Wednesday for the 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin.

At 66 years old, Dixon is just the most recent example of the growing population of aging inmates on America's death row.

"We're seeing death sentences near record lows. We're seeing executions at near record lows," Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told NPR. "There are fewer and fewer people on death row overall and the ones who remain on death row have been there longer."

Dunham said the Death Penalty Information Center doesn't take a position for or against the death penalty, but the group is critical of the way in which it's administered.

The average time between sentencing and execution has increased by 2/3 in the past 20 years — from 11.4 years in 2000 to 18.9 years in 2020, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Experts who spoke to NPR said this trend is due, in part, to changed opinions on capital punishment in the U.S., and a lengthier appeals process that delay executions.

For victims' families and these inmates, waiting decades to see their cases resolved takes its toll. Some experts say 20 to 40 years on death row at the literal expense of the state raises questions of fair treatment of prisoners.

Who is on death row?

"Even in the states that execute regularly, the average age [of inmates] is eye popping," Elizabeth Rapaport, professor emerita at the University of New Mexico School of Law, told NPR.

Rapaport has researched the U.S. aging prison population. She's also led the UNM School of Law Clemency Project.

Dixon wasn't the oldest inmate to be put to death in the U.S., but he was older than the average inmate condemned to die.

As of 2020, the average age of death row inmates nationally was 52 years old, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than 56% were white, 41% were Black. Men made up the majority of those prisoners — about 98%.

In Arizona, where Dixon was imprisoned, 112 people are currently on death row. Approximately 20 of those inmates have exhausted all appeals, according to the attorney general's office.

"Many of their crimes go back to the 1970s and early 80s," Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office said in a press release.

Rapaport notes that naturally, states like California that have a moratorium on executions but hundreds of inmates still on death row, would push the average age of inmates up.

But even in states like Florida and Texas — which have the 2nd and 3rd largest death row populations behind California, respectively — the time from sentencing to execution for inmates is more than 16 years, according to her research.

Decades on death row takes a toll

Rapaport said there are those who believe that a convicted prisoner spending more than 20 years on death row is more than deserved. There are others who spoke to NPR that said there's a cost to it all: for the state, the health of the inmate, and to the families of the victims.

Patrick Head was a Cobb County, Ga., district attorney for years.

He prosecuted Virgil Presnell Jr., who is scheduled to be put to death in Georgia next week. Presnell killed an 8-year-old girl and raped a 10-year-old 46 years ago.

"That one has stuck with me. Crimes against children, at least for me, are the most heinous of the crimes," he said.

And having this case drag on for so long?

"That is difficult. It is difficult on the victims in this case and the families," he said.

Rapaport noted that death row inmates also deal with more restrictions than the general population in regards to visitation, interaction with other prisoners, and access to the outdoors.

Research has found that some death row inmates suffer from "death row syndrome" which stem from the conditions of confinement. This can mean becoming psychotic or suicidal.

Beyond that, Rapaport said there are serious financial expenses of having hundreds of men and women on death row for years.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, the healthcare costs can vary widely. The annual cost of incarcerating someone 55 and older with a chronic or terminal illness can be 2 to 3 times higher than other inmates on average.

From a Department of Justice report: "Institutions with the highest percentages of aging individuals spent 5 times more per inmate on medical care ... and 14 times more per inmate on medication ... than those with the lowest percentages."

Executing these prisoners also come with a big price tag. Three states reportedly spent between more than $100,000 to $1.5 million to obtain lethal injection drugs, according to a 2021 report by The Guardian.

Public opinion has changed

As he tried cases in Georgia from 1998 to 2012, Head said he found it more difficult to get a jury to impose the death sentence — even in cases considered especially egregious.

"There are more people, not necessarily opposed to the death penalty, but not as adamant about it occurring in certain cases," he said.

In June 2021, Pew Research found that 60% of U.S. adults favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, including 27% who strongly favor it; 39% of U.S. adults oppose the death penalty, with 15% say they are strongly opposed, their research found.

Last year was also the 7th consecutive one with fewer than 30 executions and 50 new death sentences, the Death Penalty Information Center said.

Some states are also moving to end capital punishment.

Last year, Virginia became the 23rd state, and the 1st in the South, to end capital punishment. But, there are efforts to bring back death sentences in some cases.

A lengthy appeals process causes delays

"The appeals process is taking longer" and that causes the decades of delays before an execution takes place, Dunham said.

Dixon's defense attorneys filed multiple appeals over the years in an attempt to stop or postpone the execution.

Jennifer Moreno, one of Dixon's attorneys, told NPR that his team would be unable to comment on his case in the lead-up to his execution.

In court documents, his attorneys argued that Dixon suffered from schizophrenia that allegedly made him unable to understand why he was being executed. Dixon's defense also argued the lethal injection drugs to be used for his execution were expired.

Lethal injection is still the preferred, and primary, method of execution in states that have the death penalty. But in recent years, state officials have had difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs — also causing further delays.

"The defense attorney's goal is to keep their client alive as long as possible," Head said. So, they file as many appeals to raise as many issues as possible.

Judges often don't have a time limit to respond to appeals and can take years to do so, he said.

"At least if they require judges to respond in a certain amount of time, I think that would help the system a great deal," Head said.

Head believes there needs to be policy changes at the state legislature or federal level to move things along and bring these cases to a final resolution.

"There are certain ways to — without infringing on the rights of the accused or convicted — that we could move the system a little faster," he said.

(source: npr.org)

IRAN:

Executions for Security-related Charges in 2021

Due to their vague definitions, the charges of moharebeh (enmity against god), efsad-fil-arz (corruption on earth) and baghy (armed rebellion) are used for a wide range of offences. Additionally, as they are within the Revolutionary Courts’ jurisdiction, there is considerable subjectivity in the judgements made in the cases.

Efsad-fil-arz has been used by Revolutionary Court judges, particularly in cases where a death sentence would otherwise be difficult to justify based on other charges and irrefutable evidence. The executions and death row cases in 2021 will paint a clearer picture of the charges’ application in practice.

In 2021, at least 13 people were executed on charges of moharebeh, efsad-fil-arz and baghy. In 2020, 15 people were executed on the charges and 9 in 2019.

Facts about the moharebeh, efsad-fil-arz and baghy executions in 2021:

13 people were executed on charges of moharebeh, efsad-fil-arz and baghy

3 executions were announced by official sources

5 people charged with armed robbery were executed

8 people charged with links to dissident groups were executed

9 people were ethnic minorities

As you will see from the cases below, of those executed in 2021 and those currently at risk of execution, the majority are ethnic minorities. Of the 13 people executed on security-related charges in 2021, 4 were Arabs, 4 Baluch and one Kurdish.

Executed on charges of moharebeh, efsad-fil-arz and baghy

Jassem Heidari, Ali Khosraji, Hossein Seilavi and Nasser Khafajian: Ahvazi Arab political prisoners tortured to force confessions

Jassem Heidari, Ali Khosraji, Hossein Seilavi and Nasser Khafajian were four Ahvazi Arab political prisoners who were all sentenced to baghy (armed rebellion) by the Revolutionary Court. According to IHRNGO sources, all four men were subjected to the most severe torture upon arrest which continued even after being transferred to prison. Their torture-tainted confessions were used as evidence in unfair trials that sentenced them to the death penalty. Jassem, Ali, Hossein and Nasser were all executed in Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz on 28 February 2021.

Heydar Ghorbani, 48, was a Kurdish political prisoner who was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to death on charges of baghy by the Revolutionary Court as the 5th defendant of a 5-person case. None of the other four defendants were arrested according to court documents witnessed by IHRNGO. Baghy also requires that the accused have been a member of an armed group and used a weapon against the state but according to his lawyer, “Heydar had not confessed to either, even under torture, and there was no evidence in the case other than claims made by intelligence agencies.” His lawyer filed two judicial review claims according to Article 477 of the CCP. Heydar Ghorbani was executed on 19 December 2021 without notice to his family and lawyer, and his body was secretly buried. His execution was carried out while his case was still under consideration at the Supreme Court according to Article 477 of the CCP. Heydar’s forced confessions were aired on national television the night prior to his execution. His execution was widely condemned, including by UN Human Rights experts. His cause of death was cited as “unknown” on the death certificate despite the Islamic Republic’s official media reporting his execution which they confirmed quoting judicial officials.

(source: iranhr.net)

MAY 11, 2022:

NEW JERSEY:

Time for NJ to adopt the death penalty for cop killers (Opinion)

The domestic terrorists who carried out the act have been the subject of continued controversy over the decades. Although one was shot dead at the scene, two were apprehended and tried for murder.

Both Joanne Chesimard and the man cops say pulled the trigger, Clark Edward Squire, were sentenced to life.

Chesimard escaped and is still a fugitive at large in Cuba.

Squire was denied parole in 2011 but an NJ superior court overruled the board in 2014.

Fast forward to 2022 and the NJ Supreme Court has ruled in favor of releasing the cop killer.

To say it's a miscarriage of justice is an understatement. This is a slap in the face of all the officers and families of law enforcement. Pat Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Policeman's Benevolent Association, tweeted his disappointment and disgust with the judiciary:

For his part, this decision was so wrong-headed that the governor actually tweeted his disappointment. BUT, before giving this governor any credit for his response, let's not forget it was Phil Murphy who marched in defiance of his own lockdown orders with anti-cop Black Lives Matter.

It was Phil Murphy who oversaw the defiance of federal detainer orders leading to the release of violent suspects. It was Murphy who directed the release of thousands of convicted criminals into your neighborhood in the name of "COVID safety."

Now he tweets his support of cops? Too little too late. Clearly a move to hold onto the cop union support that he'll seek when he runs for president.

The hypocrisy should not be tolerated. Hopefully, cops across New Jersey and America realize that given the policy decisions and the company that leading Democratic politicians keep, it's pretty obvious that the Democratic Party does not represent the best interests of our law enforcement heroes.

As I mentioned on the show, I do favor the death penalty for cop killers. That said, I explained to caller Harry who challenged me on whether cops who kill innocent people should face the same fate. My answer was clear, the narrative of reckless cops out there gunning people down is false.

As a matter of fact, most people killed by cops are armed and threatening. I did say to Harry that anyone who specifically targets and kills an innocent human whether they are a cop, teacher, firefighter, or average person should face the same justice.

The bottom line is that we need to protect our law enforcement so they can do the job of protecting our communities. It's time to get tough on those individuals and groups who target police and disparage the job they do every day. There is certainly a difference between targeting and killing a cop and a cop who dies in the line of duty resulting from mitigating circumstances like a car crash or out-of-control domestic violence situation or drug abuse.

Enough of the politicians being soft on crime and easy on known criminals. The governor's rhetoric is arguable the most offensive thing we've heard as it flies in the face of his ACTIONS over the past few years.

Time to sack all the politicians whose words and actions have jeopardized the lives and safety of Law Enforcement Officers.

Clark Squire should stay in prison and future domestic terrorists and cop killers should face the ultimate Earthly penalty.

Linden Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey weighed in with a story of a man who shot her police officer father being released from prison. Her story really struck a chord about families and communities living in the fear that cop killers will be released due to the politics and activism of our current judges in New Jersey.

(source: nj1015.com)

ARIZONA----execution

Arizona executes Clarence Dixon for 1978 murder of Deana Bowdoin

Arizona executed Clarence Dixon at the state prison in Florence on Wednesday for the 1978 murder of 21-year-old ASU student Deana Bowdoin.

Dixon was executed at 10:30 a.m., according to Deputy Corrections Director Frank Strada.

"I do and always will proclaim my innocence — now let's do this shit," Dixon said in his last statement, according to Strada.

Troy Hayden, a media witness from Fox News, said the execution team had trouble getting IVs into Dixon, who grimaced and appeared to be in pain while this was happening.

The officers took 25 minutes to put in the IVs, Hayden. said The execution team had to insert an IV into Dixon's groin.

He appeared to lose consciousness a few minutes after the drugs were injected, Hayden said.

Dixon was the 1st man put to death by Arizona since the botched execution of Joseph Wood in 2014.

Appeals for last-minute reprieve

Dixon's attorneys made several attempts to stop or postpone the execution, maintaining he was mentally incompetent to understand why he was being executed.

But multiple courts found that while Dixon may have harbored delusions about a judicial conspiracy to kill him, he was aware of his circumstances and constitutionally eligible to be put to death.

Legal challenges from Dixon's attorneys claiming the lethal injection drugs the state planned to use were expired prompted the Department of Corrections to order the creation of a new batch of compounded pentobarbital just two days before his execution.

The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency denied requests from Dixon's attorneys for a commutation or reprieve. His attorneys asked for mercy, saying Dixon was blind, frail and in poor health and didn't represent a danger to society or anyone in the prison system. But the board denied the requests, saying Dixon had failed to show any remorse for his crimes.

The 1st execution since 2014

Arizona has not carried out an execution since the botched execution of Wood, which took nearly 2 hours to complete.

The state claims it has refined its execution protocols and is planning to use a single drug, pentobarbital, for executions, instead of the combination of drugs that were used on Wood. Pentobarbital was used successfully by the federal government in a series of executions conducted in 2020.

Dixon’s execution marks a return to the death penalty for Arizona after a troubled history that includes the state attempting to acquire execution drugs illegally in 2015 and more recently failing to accurately determine the shelf life of the pentobarbital the state plans to use moving forward.

Because the crimes Dixon was convicted of occurred before 1992, he had the choice between death by lethal injection or the gas chamber.

The state's last gas chamber execution was Walter LaGrand in 1999, documented by witnesses as lasting 18 minutes and characterized as agonizing. LaGrand was a German national convicted in 1984 for his role in the death of Kenneth Hartsock.

Background on Deana Bowdoin

Deana Bowdoin grew up in the Valley and graduated with honors from Camelback High School.

She studied abroad while at Arizona State University and was considering a career in law, international marketing or diplomacy after taking the LSAT and the Foreign Service Officers tests.

How Dixon was identified: For 25 years, Deana Bowdoin's killer was a mystery.

But in the early morning on Jan. 7, 1978, she was found dead inside her apartment. Her murder remained unsolved for more than 20 years.

In 2001, DNA technology connected Clarence Dixon to Bowdoin's murder. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment hearing in January 2003, but was ultimately convicted a few years later.

Arizona's death row

According to the Arizona Attorney General's Office, there are more than 20 people on death row who have exhausted their appeals.

Frank Atwood, sentenced in Pima County in 1987 for the murder of an 8-year-old girl, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, is scheduled to be executed June 8.

Dixon becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Arizona and the 38th overall since Arizona resumed capital punishment in 1992.

Dixon becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1,546th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

(sources: Arizona Republic & Rick Halperin)

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Arizona puts inmate Clarence Dixon to death in state's first execution in 8 years----His lawyers failed to convince the courts that the 66-year-old was mentally unfit to be executed for the killing of college student Deana Bowdoin in 1978.

An Arizona man convicted in the slaying of a college student more than 40 years ago was put to death Wednesday in the state's 1st execution since 2014.

A bid to spare the life of Clarence Dixon, 66, failed in the courts as his defense lawyers argued that it would be unconstitutional to kill Dixon because he was mentally unfit and unable to understand. His lawyers said Dixon had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, suffered from hallucinations and was blind and in frail health.

But a federal judge in Phoenix on Tuesday sided with a state court's conclusion that Dixon was competent, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute request to halt his execution.

Dixon died by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence, the Arizona Department of Corrections confirmed.

In his last statement, Dixon condemned the Arizona Supreme Court for denying his appeals, said he would always proclaim his innocence and addressed the victim in his case, Deana Bowdoin.

"Maybe I'll see you on the other side Deana. I don't know you and I don't remember you," Dixon said in his final words, according to a media representative.

It took 11 minutes for the drugs to be administered, and he was pronounced dead at 10:30 a.m. local time. Another media representative said he had made a gasp upon the drugs being injected, but did not move otherwise.

In the days before Dixon's death, the method of lethal injection was questioned by his lawyers, who said that a batch of the sedative sodium pentobarbital mixed in February had expired and that its use would violate Arizona's execution rules.

State attorneys denied that the drug had gone bad, but offered to mix up a new batch and have it tested for potency.

Arizona halted its use of capital punishment in 2014 after the execution of Joseph Wood drew scrutiny when officials and witnesses said it took two hours for him to die, and he gasped and snorted for much of that period.

(source: NBC News)

USA:

50 Years Ago, the Supreme Court Tried to Reduce Racial Bias in the Death Penalty. Did It Work?

50 years ago, the United States Supreme Court brought a halt to capital punishment when it handed down its ruling in the landmark case of Furman v. Georgia. But rather than a full and final attack on the death penalty itself, the court only struck down the death penalty statutes that were in effect at that time. The rejected laws left the decision of whether someone convicted of a capital crime should receive a death sentence to the untrammeled discretion of judges or juries. The court focused on the procedures used in these decisions, and it put the issue of race and racial prejudice at the center of death penalty jurisprudence. The 5–4 majority found that those procedures violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantee of equal protection of the law.

3 justices, William Douglas, Thurgood Marshall, and William Brennan, said that they created an unacceptable risk of arbitrariness and discrimination. They emphasized that the mere possibility that race might play a role in capital sentencing was enough to render it constitutionally unacceptable.

Looking back a half-century later, Furman’s insistence that the nation confront the linkage of race and capital punishment seems both noble and naïve.

Its nobility lies in its commitment to ensuring that if America was to retain capital punishment, it would have to figure out ways of guaranteeing fairness in death sentencing and ridding it of the taint of racial prejudice.

Its naïveté lies in its belief that death sentencing could ever be purged of arbitrariness and discrimination.

50 years ago, America’s death penalty was haunted by what sociologist David Garland calls “the specter of lynching,” with its inexorable linkage of race and death. Little has happened since Furman to change that.

Despite numerous efforts to address racism in death sentencing, the problems that Furman identified continue to plague America’s death penalty. What has changed is the court itself: The current Supreme Court seems largely untroubled by that the risk of discrimination in death sentences and is much less willing to acknowledge and address it than it was when Furman was decided.

Today the death penalty, like lynching, remains a tool of populist justice, often targeting innocent people and applied disproportionately in cases involving the death of a white victim.

According to an NAACP report, “Lynching is the public killing of an individual who has not received any due process.” While its origins can be traced to the Revolutionary War era, and while not all of its victims were Black, lynching flourished in the aftermath of the Civil War as a tool of racial repression. In that period, lynching was extralegal, arbitrary, and racist.

“These executions,” the NAACP continues, “were often carried out by lawless mobs, though police officers did participate, under the pretext of justice. … A typical lynching involved a criminal accusation, an arrest, and the assembly of a mob, followed by seizure, physical torment, and murder of the victim.”

The NAACP estimates that from 1882 to 1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the U.S. Furman was a step toward acknowledging the legacy of lynching and initiating a process through which the Supreme Court tried, for a brief period of time, to rid capital punishment of the taint of racism.

As Garland notes, in Furman the Supreme Court agreed that the states’ death penalty process was “often summary, arbitrary, and perhaps even racist, but it insisted on drawing a distinction. Legal lynching was illegal, even unconstitutional, but its constitutional flaws went to procedure and not to substance.”

2 justices, Marshall and Brennan, declared the death penalty cruel and unusual under all circumstances. But the other justices in the majority held out hope of reform.

Many commentators and anti–death penalty activists expected that the death penalty would not be revived after Furman. But instead, in the wake of Furman, a dramatic backlash occurred. In the years immediately after the decision, 35 state legislatures reenacted death penalty laws designed to cure the problems identified by the Supreme Court. Some eliminated discretionary death sentences altogether, and others limited that discretion.

4 years after Furman, the Supreme Court struck down mandatory death sentencing statutes, but in Gregg v. Georgia, it approved laws that limited and “guided” sentencing discretion. In that case, Justice Potter Stewart confidently proclaimed that racial discrimination in death sentencing would be cured by such guided discretion laws. They ensured, he said, that “no longer can a jury wantonly and freakishly impose the death sentence.”

But neither guided discretion statutes nor Stewart’s confidence could change the reality on the ground. And in 1987, the Supreme Court was again confronted with a challenge to the legacy of lynching in America’s death penalty.

That case, McCleskey v. Kemp, was based on an extensive empirical analysis by David Baldus of death sentences imposed under Georgia’s guided discretion statutes. The Baldus study showed that people accused of murdering a white victim in the state of Georgia were more than 4.3 times as likely to get a death sentence as those whose victims were persons of color.

The court accepted the validity of the Baldus study, but surprisingly turned its back on the legacy of Furman. It held that proving that there was a risk of discrimination in death sentencing was not enough. Because the defendant “could not prove that purposeful discrimination” existed in his trial, there was no constitutional violation.

20 years after McCleskey, Anthony Amsterdam, a law professor at New York University, called it “the Dred Scott decision of our time.” “It is,” he said, “a declaration that African-American life has no value which white men are bound to respect.”

Since McCleskey, racism and the legacy of lynching have remained troublingly present in the death penalty system. Numerous studies have replicated Baldus’ conclusion in other jurisdictions, and new evidence has emerged that racial bias is present elsewhere in the system, including in decisions about which death row prisoners are actually executed. Despite Furman’s and Gregg’s efforts to purge race and racism from America’s death penalty, 42 % of those executed since 1977 have been persons of color. And 75 percent of the executions carried out since then have been for murders of white people.

A 2020 Death Penalty Information Center report found that since executions resumed, “295 Black defendants were executed for killing a white victim, but only 21 white defendants were executed for killing a Black victim even though Black people are disproportionately the victims of crime.” And today, 82 percent of those on this nation’s death rows were convicted in cases involving white victims.

These figures suggest that what Garland calls “the social dynamics and distribution” of America’s death penalty still resembles lynching. “The death penalty,” Garland notes, “continues to be concentrated in the South … continues to target blacks whose victims were white … (and) continues to produce false accusations and impose unwarranted punishments.”

It is the false accusations, the unwarranted punishments, and the hypersensitivity to cases where a white person has been harmed that make the death penalty system so uncannily replicate the logic of lynching.

As law professor Scott Phillips rightly observes, “It’s not necessarily that the death penalty has a race problem. It’s more that the United States has a race problem that happens to infect the death penalty.”

Only by going beyond Furman and ending the death penalty can this country reckon with lynching’s troubling legacy.

(source: slate.org)

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

How About Crucifixion? On the Recent Tribulations of Death Penalty Enthusiasts----If there were ever to be a Supreme Court that was going to rethink the whole hand-wringing 'cruel and unusual punishment' argument, wouldn’t this be the one?

The nation’s execution community experienced another setback recently when Tennessee’s governor called off an execution with only an hour to go, postponing it and 4 others until at least until 2023. Once again, an execution had to be halted due to the drug problem has dogged America’s executioners for some time. Like a lot of other unfortunates, they’re just having a helluva time getting their hands on the drugs they need to get the job done – or at least getting their hands on the drugs legally. We might well view this as something of a shot-in-the-arm for the capital punishment movement’s anti-drug faction, were it not for the judicial postponement of an April firing squad date – for a South Carolina prisoner who had chosen that option rather than the electric chair, after that state too experienced a drug problem.

In the Tennessee case, the issue was that a sedative that was to be the third-to-last drug administered to the about-to-be-executed had apparently not been tested for impurities. No doubt, your more fundamentalist death penalty advocates are troubled to see an execution delayed out of concern for the purity of something being administered to someone scheduled to be killed in a matter of minutes. This latest Tennessee misfire comes in the wake of a Guardian report of the state’s 2017-2020 “secretive expenditure” of $190,000 for three drugs used in two executions over that period. (And this in a state with a 99-page lethal injection manual.)

The difficulties for the shoot-em-or-shock-em side of the death penalty world began a few years back when, after a couple of guys caught fire in the electric chair, the courts started adopting the posture that while the death penalty constitutes license to terminate, it is not licence to torture. Death by the needle then became all the rage and the question of getting good drugs has come to the fore. Over the years, Tennessee’s “secretive” operations have proved to be no aberration. In fact, almost all death penalty states have passed secrecy laws regarding their execution processes and do not reveal the source of the drugs used in them.

Problems encountered include ethics committees that don’t believe the medical profession should have anything to do with executions, American pharmaceutical companies opting to cease production of drugs involved in the process, and member countries of the non-and-anti-death-penalty European Union blocking the use of drugs produced in its member states for American executions. This has led a number of the 14 currently active executer states – arguably the nation’s most aggressive law enforcers – to engage in drug acquisitions ranging from legally questionable to clearly illegal.

The state of Arizona, for instance, was forced to halt one execution after it was barred from using an execution protocol drug because it had obtained it illegally. States have purchased from pharmacies not licensed to operate in their states and from overseas operators selling them non-FDA-approved drugs, including a pharmaceutical company operating out of a London, England driving school storefront, and an Indian company known to have lied to a supplier as to the intended use of its drug in an execution proceeding. Missouri once sent an official to Oklahoma to buy drugs with $11,000 in cash, so as not to disclose the identity of the seller.

Meanwhile, the stuff the states do manage to get their hands on often produces pre-death symptoms as difficult for observers to watch as charred bodies in the electric chair. The result has been continual lawsuits over whether their these proceedings constitute cruel and unusual punishment. For instance the Tennessee drug in question had not been tested for endotoxins which medical authorities say could cause side effects like respiratory failure or other visibly distressing symptoms, and a federal judge is considering claims that this sedative, also administered in Oklahoma, is ineffective, even if pure, in its function of keeping prisoners from feeling pain as they die.

Meanwhile the executioner states can’t stay out of trouble even when they stay off the black market. A ketamine maker that had informed the state of Nevada of its refusal to sell it the drug for use as a sedative in execution purposes later found itself having to call on the state to desist from using its product after Nevada authorities had obtained it from a distributor without informing it of its intended use.

So what’s an executioner to do? Now, for sure, nobody asked me, since I’ll be a happy man the day the death penalty dies (in humane fashion, of course). But in the spirit of fair play I thought I’d offer some advice. I’m thinking maybe it’s time for a serious course correction on Death Row. Really, isn’t it but a matter of time before the renewable energy people decide that their sunshine or their wind are not going to be used in an execution? And there goes the electric chair. And when does the gun industry decide that a cheap way to assuage some of the nation’s anti-gun sentiment might just be to ban the use of its products in executions? And there goes the firing squad. So, with the pharmaceutical industries balking, the courts interfering, and even our NATO allies standing in our way, isn’t it time you began to start thinking outside the box?

Have you considered crucifixion? It’s low tech. No need to worry about any fretting ethics committees, unreliable allies, or even the state next door. I’m pretty sure we’re still producing nails in this country. And there’s really no question of whether the procedure works as intended.

And before you say, “Silly liberal, just how is crucifixion supposed to evade the whole obstacle course the liberal judges have created to halt the righteous course of executions?” Let me say to you that you need to look at things with a fresh eye. If there were ever to be a Supreme Court that was going to rethink the whole hand-wringing “cruel and unusual punishment” argument, wouldn’t this be the one?

(source: Tom Gallagher is a former Massachusetts State Representative----commondreams.org)

TEXAS:

Men accused in capital murder of Harris County sheriff's deputy denied bond

2 of the 3 men accused in the capital murder of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Almendarez have been denied bond.

On Tuesday, District Court Judge Robert Johnson ordered Joshua Stewart, 23, and Fredarius Clark, 19, to continue to remain in jail with no bond.

A 3rd defendant, 17-year-old Fredrick Tardy, is not eligible. A bond hearing for him was re-set for Wednesday morning.

All three are charged with capital murder. The Harris County District Attorney's Office announced they will seek the death penalty for Stewart and Clark. Tardy is too young.

During what's called a Proof Evident hearing on Tuesday, the state played a graphic surveillance video showing the deputy's death and called witnesses to establish why they believe Stewart and Clark should not be given a bond.

According to law, they had to show the court that they had the proof to secure a guilty verdict and a death sentence and that the defendants pose a future danger to society. They have been in jail since their arrests in early April.

Almendarez was shot to death on March 31. He was off-duty and shopping with his wife when, investigators say, he caught the three defendants in the act of stealing his truck's catalytic converter. There was an exchange of gunfire and Almendarez, a 23-year veteran of the department, was killed.

In court, prosecutors also showed surveillance video of a shooting two weeks before Almendarez's death that they say involved the same defendants doing the same thing. The victim in that case, who survived, testified and identified Stewart as the shooter.

And it was the 1st time, the deputy's relatives saw the surveillance video of his death. At times, they had to step out of the courtroom. His brother told ABC13, that the video was hard to watch, but he needed to see it.

"There were so many other stories going around as to how many times he was shot, what happened, who he was wrestling with," explained Steve Almendarez. "It was good to see for myself because now I know what really happened. If anything, he went down fighting and I've seen that. He did his job, all the way to his last breath. He took criminals off the street."

Before the ruling, Stewart's relatives were removed from the courtroom for reacting to testimony when they had been warned against it, authorities say.

Tardy will be back in court Wednesday morning.

(source: KTRK news)

PENNSYLVANIA----new death sentence

Cumberland County man sentenced to death penalty for 2020 murder

Davone Anderson, who was convicted of killing Carlisle 2 women and an unborn baby in 2020, has been sentenced to the death penalty.

According to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, the jury reached the death penalty verdict in the death of Kaylee Lyons, but was unable to reach a death penalty verdict for the murder of Sydney Parmelee.

Anderson will be sentenced to life without parole in Parmelee’s case.

“We appreciate the time and effort the jury put into their verdict,” said District Attorney Sean McCormack. “To return a verdict of death is no simple task.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf declared a moratorium on the commonwealth’s death penalty back in February 2015. According to the American Bar Association, Pennsylvania has only executed 3 people since 1976, the last one taking place in 1999.

Anderson was convicted Monday of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of 1st-degree murder of an unborn child, and 2 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, as his 13-month-old son was present for both murders.

Investigators say that Anderson, who had relationships with both victims, shot Parmelee at the beginning of July 2020 because he thought she was cheating on him and then shot Lyons later that month because he thought she would turn him in for Parmelee’s murder. Authorities determined that Lyons was about six weeks pregnant when she was killed.

“We were very pleased that the jury returned guilty verdicts today, said McCormack on Monday following the conviction. “It has been almost two years since these 2 young mothers were murdered leaving three very young children motherless. Their families are relieved that the man who killed them has been found guilty.”

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Pennsylvania’s method of execution is lethal injection. More than 100 people remain on death row in the commonwealth amid the moratorium.

(source: ABC News)

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

Carlisle man sentenced to die for murder of girlfriend

“Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict?” Cumberland County Judge Edward Guido asked.

“Yes,” the foreman said.

“And what is that verdict?”

“Death.”

A Cumberland County jury on Tuesday announced a death sentence for Davone Anderson in connection with the July 30, 2020 killing of his girlfriend Kaylee Lyons, 23, who was pregnant.

Anderson also killed another girlfriend, Sydney Parmelee, 23, on July 5 of that year in the same Carlisle apartment. However, the jury presented a deadlocked decision on how aggravated Parmelee’s death was. Guido subsequently announced Anderson would serve life in prison without parole for that conviction.

Anderson appeared unphased in the courtroom after the verdict. A woman was seen crying as she exited the courtroom.

There is currently a moratorium on the death penalty under Gov. Tom Wolf, but that could change under a new governor. The last execution in the state of Pennsylvania was July 6, 1999, when Gary Heidnik was put to death by lethal injection.

Jurors spent around 4 hours considering their options before settling on the sentence.

The jury on Monday convicted Anderson, 27, of Carlisle, with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of murder of an unborn child and 2 counts of endangering the welfare of children after about 3 hours of deliberation. The endangering charges stem from the fact his 13-month-old son was in the home during both fatal shootings.

Lawyers on Monday and Tuesday presented aggravating and mitigating circumstances to inform the jury of possible context behind the shootings of Parmelee and Lyons, the latter of whom was weeks pregnant with Davone Jr. Jurors began deliberations Tuesday morning on the sentence for Anderson.

Prosecutors brought the parents of both murdered women to the stand to show the impact the deaths had on their families. District Attorney Sean McCormack said the fact that Anderson killed Parmelee weeks before he killed Lyons should weigh against him in his sentence, as should former convictions of robbery and burglary.

Anderson also lied to police and Parmelee’s family by saying she died by suicide, then still went on and killed Lyons, with both shootings happening in the same home as a 13-month-old boy, all of which were aggravating factors, according to prosecutors. There was no evidence that either killing was in the heat of passion, McCormack said. Instead, he argued both were committed with the intent to kill.

Defense attorneys admitted that Anderson killed both women, but pointed out he has not had an easy life himself. His team showed a powerpoint slideshow with more than 100 pages that analyzed Anderson’s life. Louise Luck, a mitigation specialist with Court Consultation Services, dredged through three generations to identify circumstances that could have contributed to the murders.

“How we are raised affects how we raise our children,” Luck said on Monday. “This by no means attempts to excuse his behavior. It just explains his life story. He was suppressing everything.”

Luck started with Anderson’s grandmother, who grew up on a farm without electricity, which cascaded in a generational tale of abuse, familial dysfunction and mental illness.

Anderson grew up in an environment that pitted him at the mercy of abusive family members, an absent mother and the lack of a father, according to Luck’s report.

(source: pennlive.com)

OHIO----death row inmate dies Death row inmate with execution date dies of heart attack

The state says a condemned prisoner with a scheduled execution date for killing his 3-year-old son has died of a heart attack.

JoEllen Smith is a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Smith says death row inmate Michael Webb died May 2 at a Columbus hospital.

The 73-year-old Webb was sentenced to die for setting a 1990 fire at his southern Ohio house. Authorities said Webb meant to kill his wife and children and collect insurance money to be with his mistress.

Webb’s family escaped but his son died of smoke inhalation. Webb had a July 2023 execution date.

(source: Associated Press)

TENNESSEE:

State says death penalty lawsuit may contain 'factual inaccuracies'----Raybin: "There's something profoundly wrong here"

Just 4 days after Gov. Bill Lee announced an independent review looking into "operational failures" with the state's lethal injection protocol, the state's own attorneys told a federal court "there may be factual inaccuracies or misstatements" in some earlier claims they made while arguing to keep Tennessee's current lethal injection process in place.

Lee announced a halt to all scheduled executions in 2022 while a former U.S. Attorney looks into what went wrong in the hours before the scheduled execution of Oscar Smith. Lee said the investigation would look into why Tennessee Department of Correction officials didn't perform all the testing on the lethal injection chemicals and the clarity of the 99-page manual that outlines how Tennessee ends the life of death row inmates using lethal injection.

The investigation comes in the middle of a years-long lawsuit challenging the drugs the state uses in lethal injection. Death row inmates argue the drugs may subject them to unconstitutionally cruel pain.

On Friday, 4 days after the announcement of the independent investigation, state attorneys told a federal judge that some previous claims they've made in the lethal injection lawsuit may not be accurate.

"...[T]here may be factual inaccuracies or misstatements in some of Defendants' filings," state attorneys wrote to U.S. District Judge William L. Campbell, Jr.

State attorneys go on to say they will correct the misstatements "once the truth has been ascertained."

A spokesperson for the state Attorney General's office said they could not say more than what is in the court filings as the lethal injection investigation continues, but David Raybin, an attorney who helped draft some of Tennessee's death penalty laws says he can read between the lines.

"They haven't figured out what the problems are, and they haven't figured out how to correct them," Raybin said. "I suggest there's something profoundly wrong here, but we don't know what it is."

"As an attorney, if I find something I filed is inaccurate, I immediately file a correction with the court, saying, 'What I said before is inaccurate, and here are the true facts,'" Raybin said. "I don't just wave something around and say, 'Well, I was mistaken before and I'll let you know in the future what the truth is.' That's not very good. Lawyers don't normally do that."

The Governor's office has declined to release any records surrounding the scheduled execution that could shed light on the situation, turning down a public records request from the Associated Press for what it called "attorney-client privilege" and "deliberative process privilege."

"This should not be hidden and kept under wraps, this does not give me confidence in the system," Raybin said. "This is not a security issue, I think this is an embarrassment issue."

(source: WTVF news)

COLORADO:

Edward J. Bronson, Who Fought for Fairer Trials, Dies at 91----In cases like the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings, he favored a greater willingness to change trial venues to overcome bias and impact of publicity.

Edward J. Bronson, a political science professor whose research into potential bias was credited with improving the impartiality of criminal juries nationwide, died on April 25 at his home in Denver. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his son Jeremy.

Armed with specially commissioned surveys and studies of the predilections of potential jurors, Dr. Bronson, who taught at California State University, Chico, from 1969 to 2003, was often enlisted by defense lawyers for his advice and as an expert witness.

He was particularly sought after in capital punishment cases or cases in which the defendants carried added baggage because of their backgrounds or the barbarity of their crimes.

In 2 high-profile cases, he argued that the defendants in the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon terrorist bombings be tried out of town because the jury pool for their trials had been prejudiced by publicity. His findings were cited in judges’ decisions that potential jurors could not be excluded from capital cases solely because they were opposed to the death penalty.

“Ed was particularly focused on the rights of men and women who, because of the crime charged or their race, ethnicity or both, were most likely to be at risk of being tried by jurors who were predisposed to convict and sentence the defendant to death,” Prof. Elisabeth Semel, a director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, said in an email.

“Ed’s work,” she added, “more often took him to rural counties where anti-Native or anti-Black discrimination was entrenched, and where there was tremendous prosecutorial and judicial hostility to the notion that the accused could not be fairly tried where the crime occurred.”

Denise de La Rue, a jury and trial consultant, cited in an email Dr. Bronson’s “dedication to justice, especially for those marginalized or whose lives hung in the balance.”

His analysis of pretrial publicity was cited in the decision to move the trials of Timothy J. McVeigh and Terry L. Nichols in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people — the deadliest case of domestic terrorism until Sept. 11, 2001.

Their trial was shifted from Oklahoma City to Denver, where Mr. McVeigh received the death penalty but Mr. Nichols was spared execution. They were tried separately, which Dr. Bronson said demonstrated that in cases where there are multiple defendants, it’s less likely that they will all be sentenced to death.

“The severance motion very likely saved Nichols’s life,” Jeremy Bronson said.

He estimated that 40 % of the change-of-venue applications in which his father participated were successful.

However, Dr. Bronson was unsuccessful in his argument that the trial of Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, accused in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing — which killed 3 people and injured nearly 300 others — be moved out of Massachusetts because, as in the Oklahoma City case, the entire state could be considered a victim and therefore biased.

Dr. Bronson told the court that the word “terrorist” had been used 620 times in articles related to Mr. Tsarnaev in The Boston Globe alone. “Obviously a passing reference is not prejudicial, but does show the pervasive impact of the case,” he wrote.

The court declined the request for a change of venue. Mr. Tsarnaev was tried in Boston, convicted and sentenced to death. The death sentence was vacated on appeal in July 2020, but the United States Supreme Court reinstated it this year.

“I would not judge his success just by whether a trial judge granted a change of venue,” Stephen B. Bright, a visiting lecturer at Yale University who was director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta from 1982 to 2005, said in an email.

Edward Jerome Bronson was born on May 10, 1930, in Chicago to Louis Bronson, an executive of Armour & Company, the canned meat processor, and Helen (Steinberg) Bronson, a homemaker. After her husband’s death in 1945, she moved the family to Denver, where she ran a liquor store.

From 1948 to 1955, Dr. Bronson served in the Utah National Guard, the Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Denver in 1957, he graduated from the University of Denver law school in 1959. He earned a Master of Law degree from New York University in 1961 and a doctorate in political science from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1972. He was a Fulbright scholar at the Center for Judiciary Studies in Lisbon in 1992.

In 1962, he married Marion Dorothy Crystal, who survives him, along with their son and 4 grandchildren. Another son, Mark, died.

At Chico State, where he taught constitutional law and became professor emeritus, Dr. Bronson founded the public law, criminal justice and paralegal certificate programs; the Pre-Law Society; and the Student Law Union of Minorities. He also founded the university’s student-led Community Legal Information Center.

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill’s observation about democracy, Dr. Bronstein told The New York Times in 2010 that the jury system was “the worst possible system, except for all the others.”

If anything, he added, juries are better equipped to overcome personal prejudices than judges. “Those biases get worked out much better,” he said, “where there’s collective wisdom of people on both sides.”

On the other hand, Dr. Bronson told The Times: “The scary thing about it is, to find out what really juries are doing might question some of the basic assumptions of its legitimacy. To find out how stupid some of the decisions and opinions are, maybe that’s something we might not as soon want to find out.”

(source: New York Times)

ARIZONA----imminent execution What led up to Arizona’s first scheduled execution since 2014

It’s something Arizona hasn’t seen in nearly 8 years: the execution of a prisoner. Clarence Dixon is scheduled to be put to death on Wednesday morning at the state prison in Florence. Here’s how we got here:

His crime

On Jan. 7, 1978, Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old ASU student, was raped, strangled, and stabbed to death in her Tempe apartment. The case went cold until 20 years later when a Tempe detective re-opened Bowdoin’s case. Using DNA profiling, detectives were able to pinpoint Dixon as the suspect, who was already serving a life sentence for a 1986 sexual assault conviction. In 2002, Dixon was indicted for Bowdoin’s rape and murder, but the rape charge had to be dropped due to a statute of limitations. A jury found him guilty in 2008 of 1st-degree murder and he was sentenced to death.

Recent Arizona history of executions

Since 1992, there were regularly scheduled executions in the Grand Canyon State. 1992 is also when Arizona voters approved death by lethal injection for those on death row, not just by gas chamber. The last prisoner executed by lethal gas was Walter B. LaGrand on March 3, 1999, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry’s website. There was a pause between 2000 and 2007 when the U.S. Supreme Court rule a jury must decide on aggravating factors for the death penalty, instead of a judge making the decision. Because of the decision, 27 Arizona capital cases had to go back to prosecutors.

First execution in Arizona since 2014 scheduled for man who killed ASU student

The “botched” execution

So why haven’t there been any executions in Arizona since 2014? Because of what happened to Joseph Rudolph Wood III. He was convicted of shooting his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989. On July 23, 2014, he was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours. His lawyers said he started to breathe five minutes after the execution proceeding began and was still alive about 90 minutes in. One reporter who witnessed the execution said Wood gulped more than 600 times. Normally death by lethal injection should take between seven and 10 minutes. Wood’s lawyers said the execution was “botched” and he was convulsing for the last 25 minutes. It reignited the debate over the death penalty and sparked then-Gov. Jan Brewer to call for a review of the state’s execution procedures. A temporary banned ensued.

Reviving executions in Arizona

Lawsuits lasted for years over the state’s lethal injection protocol and drugs themselves. In 2015, Arizona tried to illegally import an anesthetic that has been used to carry out executions but is no longer manufactured by companies approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The state never obtained the shipment because federal agents stopped it at the Phoenix airport. Arizona struggled to buy execution drugs after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

Arizona faces controversy for plans to refurbish gas chamber at Florence Prison

In 2019, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey saying he wanted to resume executions after the federal government announced it would start executing federal prisoners. A year later, a lawsuit was settled over the state’s lethal injection procedures. Companies that supply the drugs remain confidential and microphones will remain on in the execution chamber during executions.

Arizona also found a pharmacist to prepare the lethal injections in October 2020 and in the spring of 2021, the state found obtained a shipment of pentobarbital. Also in 2020, Arizona refurbished its gas chamber for killing death row inmates using hydrogen cyanide, the same gas the Nazis used to murder millions of Jewish people. Dying by lethal gas is now an option for Arizona prisoners and it’s the only working gas chamber in the nation.

Arizona Supreme Court issues execution date for second death row inmate

In April 2021, Brnovich sought two execution warrants for Dixon and another death row inmate, Frank Atwood. The Arizona Supreme Court issued an execution warrant for Dixon on April 5 and issued an execution warrant for Atwood on May 3. Dixon declined to pick a method of execution so the default is by lethal injection. The execution proceedings for Dixon are set to start at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

(source: CBS News)

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Understanding the death penalty in Arizona----Executions were previously halted in the state, but are set to resume

Arizona is set to mark its 1st execution since 2014 when Clarence Dixon is put to death Wednesday morning.

Dixon is sentenced for the 1977 killing of an Arizona State University student.

This will be the first execution to happen in Arizona since 2014. There are currently more than 100 inmates on Arizona’s death row, and approximately 24 have exhausted all appeals, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

Frank Atwood is the next inmate scheduled to be put to death. He was convicted in 1987 for the 1984 murder of an 8-year-old Tucson girl. His execution is set for June 8th.

WOMEN ON DEATH ROW

Of the 113 inmates on death row, 3 of them are women.

Wendi Andriano is set to be put to death after being convicted in 2004 for killing her terminally ill husband in their Ahwatukee apartment.

Prosecutors argued she tried to poison him and then beat and stabbed him to death one Fall night.

Shawna Forde was convicted in 2011 for the murders of a 9-year-old girl and her father and the attempted murder of the girl’s mother.

Prosecutors argued she planned to rob the man who she thought was a drug dealer in a 2009 home invasion to fund her border watch group, Minutemen American Defense.

Samantha Uriarte Allen has been on death row since 2017 after she was convicted in the 2011 murder of her cousin, Ame Deal.

Investigators say Uriarte and her husband stuffed the 10-year-old girl in a locked box where she suffocated as punishment for stealing a ice pop.

DEATH ROW DEMOGRAPHICS

Clarence Dixon is set to be executed at Florence State Prison, which is 1 of 3 prisons housing Arizona’s death row inmates.

As for the racial and ethnic makeup of the 113 death row inmates, 62 are white, 23 are Mexican American, 18 are Black, 5 are classified as Native Indian, 3 are Asian, and 2 are classified as other, according to the Arizona Department of Corrections.

In the United States, there are about 2,500 men and women on death row.

According to NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Arizona ranks in the top 10 for states with the most death row inmates.

California - 692

Florida - 330

Texas - 199

Alabama - 170

North Carolina - 139

Ohio - 135

Pennsylvania - 129

Arizona - 113

Nevada - 65

Louisiana - 62

DEATH ROW PRISONER CHOICES

Clarence Dixon will be executed by lethal injection by default after not making a decision himself.

Death row inmates in Arizona have 2 choices, lethal injection or lethal gas.

Frank Atwood has until May 19 to make his decision on his possible execution method.

(source: ABC News)

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Arizona Gives Frank Atwood Execution of June 8, 2022

Arizona plans to execute Frank Jarvis Atwood on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, at the Central Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, Arizona. 65-year-old Frank is convicted of murdering 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson on September 17, 1984, in Tucson, Arizona. Frank has spent the last 35 years on death row in Arizona.

During his time at a private school, Frank Atwood, at the age of 13, was introduced to drugs by another student. He continued using drugs when he was not in prison. Frak had previously been convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a 14-year-old girl. In 1981, he was convicted of kidnapping an eight-year-old boy and received prison time. While serving time in prison in California, Frank wrote letters in which he confessed his sexual attraction to children.

On September 17, 1984, 8-year-old Vicki Hoskinson rode her bike to the nearby mailbox to send a birthday card. When Vicki did not return home, her mother sent another daughter to go look for her. The other daughter located the bike on which Vicki was riding but could not find Vicki. She immediately told her mother, who called the police.

Police began investigating. They talked to Sam Hall, a teacher at a school near where Mary’s bike was found. On the afternoon of September 17, he noticed a dark car in an alley and its driver. The driver unnerved Sam, prompting him to write down the license plate number. The car belonged to Frank Atwood and was registered in California.

Additionally, two teenage boys observed a dark car driving very slowly toward Mary, who was riding her bike in the opposite direction. The boys did not see Mary come into contact with the dark car.

Police discovered Atwood had previously been arrested in California for kidnapping an eight-year-old boy. He had been released on parole in May 1984, after serving three years in prison. Atwood had also previously been convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a 14-year-old girl.

Atwood officially resided in California, however, he often traveled, living out of his car. During his trip to Tucson, he made friends with the local transient population. On the morning of September 17, 1984, Atwood spent time at the park with others. He left in the afternoon and returned shortly before sunset. When he returned, several people noticed he had blood on his hands.

After obtaining an arrest warrant, Atwood was arrested in Kerrville, Texas, where he was having his car repaired on his way to New Orleans, Louisiana. Atwood agreed to have his vehicle searched. Pink paint, matching the paint on Vicki’s bike, was discovered on the car’s bumper.

He was also questioned by investigators. Atwood claimed that on the afternoon of September 17, he met with a drug dealer to discuss buying marijuana and that he visited the home of a friend. Both men denied seeing Atwood on that day.

On September 27, 1984, Atwood was charged with kidnapping. Nearly seven months later, on April 11, 1985, Vicki’s remains were found in the desert of northwest Tucson. Dental records were used to identify the remains. Her cause of death could not be determined. The charges against Atwood were increased to include murder.

He was convicted of kidnapping and murder and sentenced to death on May 8, 1987.

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Vicki Hoskinson. Pray for strength for the family of Frank Atwood. Pray that if Frank is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed on should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be provided before his execution. Please pray that Frank may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(source: thefogivenessfoundation.org)

USA:

Home/Voices for Justice/Restorative Justice Explored in New Podcast from Catholic Mobilizing Network

Editor’s Note: ISN recently spoke with Caitlin Morneau, director of restorative justice for Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), a national organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice. CMN recently launched Encounters with Dignity, a new podcast focused on the work of restorative justice.

ISN: Caitlin, thanks so much for talking with us. Can you tell us about yourself and your work?

Caitlin: You bet. My name is Caitlin Morneau and I get to serve as Catholic Mobilizing Network’s (CMN) director ofRestorative Justice Explored in New Podcast from Catholic Mobilizing Network restorative justice. Broadly, that means I oversee programming that invites Catholics to either learn about restorative justice in the light of their faith, or discern ways to engage with restorative practices in their areas of ministry. What this looks like in practice is developing resources and coordinating events that show how we can not only dismantle violent practices like the death penalty, but also build up reconciling approaches to justice through a culture of encounter.

At the heart of all this work is relationships—building relationships with victims of crime, with currently or formerly incarcerated persons, with curious and courageous ministry leaders, and with wise and experienced practitioners of restorative justice. My role is really one of bridge-building among people, resources, and opportunities to grow this movement and realize God’s vision for healing forms of justice.

ISN: Tell us a bit about how Encounters With Dignity came to be, in the context of the broader work of Catholic Mobilizing Network.

Caitlin: Back in 2020, CMN—like many organizations—was planning to host an in-person conference that turned virtual. This was a major pivot and learning opportunity that came with some incredible blessings, one of which was being able to record our incredible lineup of speakers during their presentations. After the conference, we recognized how impactful those keynote addresses were, and that they really begged to be shared further.

Encounters With Dignity amplifies these voices of restorative justice (RJ) leaders inside and outside of the Church. It brings their stories and wisdom into prayer and reflection with Catholic teaching, and helps unpack core elements of restorative practices that are applicable to our everyday lives.

The work of restorative justice has been growing in the life of the Church since well before that conference. For example, just look at CMN’s founding. Murder victims’ family members were key partners in establishing CMN, having experienced the ways that capital punishment—and the retributive criminal legal system as a whole—simply did not meet their needs for recovery. Their witness illuminated how, in order to truly transform the legal system, we need to transform the way we think about violence and harm. We need to build capacity for healing and processes of meaningful repair. Restorative justice offers an avenue for this kind of healing justice.

We hope that Encounters With Dignity helps expand and deepen awareness of restorative justice, and the multitude of ways it can take shape.

ISN: How does restorative justice relate to Catholic Social Teaching?

Caitlin: Oh, I love this question—how doesn’t it relate? The beauty is really in the breakdown. So let’s start with the basics…Catholic Social Teaching is about the pursuit of justice. And what is the original meaning of justice? “To be in right relationship with God, one another, and all of creation.”

In Encounters With Dignity, we aim to unpack how the particular principles of Catholic social teaching—solidarity, subsidiarity, participation, rights and responsibilities—really show up in restorative practices.

Take, for instance, one of the foremost CST principles: the life and dignity of the human person. Crime, and really harm in any form, violates the human dignity of those involved: the victim(s), the community, and the person(s) who perpetrated the harm. In contrast, restorative justice takes an instance of harm and upholds the life and dignity of all those impacted, including all these voices in the process. By attending to their needs and working to make amends, each person’s dignity is honored, and everyone has access to the process of healing, repair, and transformation.

I could go on, but… just listen to the podcast.

ISN: Who is Encounters With Dignity for—and more specifically, where can restorative justice be practiced, and how will the podcast address various manifestations of its use?

Caitlin: I think this podcast is for anyone who is trying to wrap their heads around what restorative justice might look like in their own lives and relationships, or in the context of the issues they care about. Many of the stories include examples from the criminal legal system, but they have learnings for our everyday lives including parishes, schools, workplaces, and families. In episode 2, for example, Sheryl Wilson talks about being a victim outreach specialist in a capital case, but how we all have the opportunity to hold space for suffering.

Each episode really deconstructs this notion that restorative justice is only about a meeting between a victim and offender. It is SO much bigger than this. When we begin to understand restorative justice as a philosophy and approach, it reshapes the way we imagine responding to harm and violence in our churches, ministries, schools, families, you name it. Really, the possibilities are endless.

ISN: Talk to us about your first and upcoming guests—give us a little snapshot of what to expect.

Caitlin: Oh, well kicking this off with Fr. David Kelly was really a no-brainer. His leadership and the community at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation is an example to all of us. Episode two features Christina Swarns, executive director of the Innocence Project, and Sheryl Wilson, executive director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resoultion, recounting their collaboration in restorative victim outreach in a death penalty case. Throughout this season, we will highlight more voices of individuals who have been directly impacted by crime and incarceration, minister with these communities, or offer profound theological insights about the Catholic call to this work. New episodes drop at the end of each month. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts—I hope you’ll tune in and share with others!

(source: Ignatian Solidarity Network)

IRAN----executions

3 Men and a Woman Executed for Drug Offences in Zahedan

3 men and a woman who were all Baluch minorities sentenced to death on drug-related charges, were executed in Zahedan Central Prison yesterday.

According to Hal Vash, three men and a woman were executed in Zahedan Central Prison on the morning of May 7. The 3 men who were all sentenced to death on drug-related charges have been established as Ghafour Hassanzehi, Hadi Sargazi and Mansour Shagezi. The identity of the executed woman has not been established but she is reported to have been a co-defendant in the same case as one of the executed men.

They were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions last Thursday.

Ghafour Hassanzehi was about 40 years old and was married with several children. He was arrested by the police on charges of carrying drugs around 4 years ago. His family have maintained his innocence and that he did not know anything about the drugs found in the car.

34-year-old Hadi Sargazi was married with two children and was arrested on drug-related charges around 3 years ago.

Mansour Shagezi was also married and was arrested for drug-related charges around eight years ago and sentenced to death.

At the time of writing, none of their executions have been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to reports compiled by Iran Human Rights, at least 126 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2021, a fivefold increase compared to drug executions in the previous 3 years. None of the 2021 drug-related executions were reported by official sources.

(source: iranhr.net)

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Iranian court upholds death sentence for Swedish ‘spy’----Iran believes Ahmadreza Djalali, 51, was working as a spy for Israel's Mossad

Iran has ruled out a prison swap deal for an Iranian official on trial in Sweden and upheld a death sentence for an Iranian-Swedish national accused of spying for Israel.

Ahmadreza Djalali, 51, a disaster medicine researcher arrested in 2016, is charged with transferring confidential information to the Israeli intelligence service, including details about Iranian nuclear scientists thought to have been killed by Mossad.

“This person is sentenced to death over multiple charges. The sentence is definite and is on the agenda of judicial officials to carry it out,” judiciary spokesman Zabihollah Khodaeian said.

Earlier reports suggested Djalali would be hanged by the end of this Iranian month, May 21. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Without giving an exact date for the execution, Mr Khodaeian repeated Iran’s suspicions that the decision to award him Swedish nationality was politically motivated.

Djalali, who had previously lived in Sweden, received citizenship while he was in jail.

The final verdict, issued after several failed appeals over the past four years, coincides with the end of the trial of Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian official, in Stockholm.

Nouri, on a personal visit to Sweden when seen by exiled members of the Iranian opposition, is accused by Swedish prosecutors of “intentionally killing, with other perpetrators, a large number of prisoners” during a mass execution of political prisoners at the end of the war with Iraq in 1988.

The verdict is due in July and, if found guilty, Nouri could face a life sentence.

Speculation has been rife in Tehran and western capitals that Iran could be seeking to swap the s prisoners.

But Mr Khodaeian said the two cases were not related. “Mr Djalali was arrested two years before [Nouri] … There is no discussion about a swap.”

The fact that Iran did not wait for the Swedish verdict on Nouri makes an exchange less likely, western diplomatic sources in Tehran said.

Helaleh Mousavian, Djalali’s lawyer, confirmed that the verdict was final but she said “considering his Swedish nationality, political and diplomatic relations between countries could still be effective”.

Djalali’s execution could happen at any time, she said.

“When I went to the court on Saturday, I was told the sentence could no longer be delayed. But it has not been officially notified to me, which can even happen only a few hours before the execution.”

It is rare for Iran to execute a western national. More than a dozen dual nationals are in jail on security charges in Tehran.

Iran has suggested that some jailed Iranian-American nationals could be swapped with Iranian prisoners in US jails.

Western diplomatic sources in Tehran confirmed that Iran also arrested a Swedish tourist this month, without giving any further details.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde called her Iranian peer Hossein Amirabdollahian last week shortly after initial reports about Djalali’s death sentence.

(source: thenationalnews.com)

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2021 Executions Based on Charges

From the 2021Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran:

While multiple offences are punishable by death, the charges leading to the most executions in recent years have been murder, drug-related offences, moharebeh, efsad-fil-arz, baghy and rape/sexual assault.

The important point to note is the systematic denial of legal due process, unfair trials, use of torture and duress, forced confessions and lack of a transparent and independent judiciary in Iran. The charges in each case therefore, are the official account and charges by Iranian authorities, and have not been confirmed by independent sources.

For the 5th year in a row, murder charges accounted for the majority of executions.

Murder charges accounted for the majority of all executions in 2021 with 55% of those executed having been sentenced to qisas, which is a decrease compared to 79% in 2020. 38% of executions were for drug-related charges, an increase from 9.4% in 2020. The security charges of moharebeh (enmity against God), efsad-fil-arz (corruption on earth) and baghy (armed rebellion) accounted for 4% of all executions, and 3% were for rape and sexual assault. There is no information about the charges against one of those confirmed to have been executed.

Of the charges leading to execution in 2021, murder and rape/sexual assault are heard before the Criminal Courts, while drug-related and the security charges of moharebeh, efsad-fil-arz and baghy fall within the Revolutionary Courts’ jurisdiction.

Read full report at: https://iranhr.net/media/files/Annual_Report_on_the_Death_Penalty_in_Iran_2021_BwW7LPR.pdf

2021 executions at a glance

At least 333 people were executed in 2021, a 25% increase compared to 267 in 2020

55 executions (16.5%) were announced by official sources compared to an average of 33% in 2018-2020

83.5% of all executions included in the 2021 report, i.e. 278 executions, were not announced by the authorities

At least 183 executions (55% of all executions) were for murder charges

At least 126 (38 %) were executed for drug-related charges compared to 25 (10%) in 2020

None of the drug-related executions were reported by official sources

For the first time in more than 15 years, no public executions were reported

At least 2 juvenile offenders were among those executed

At least 17 women were executed compared to 9 in 2020

At least 139 executions in 2021 and more than 3,758 executions since 2010 have been based on death sentences issued by the Revolutionary Courts

At least 705 prisoners sentenced to death for murder charges were forgiven by the families of the murder victims per qisas laws

(source: iranhr.net)

JORDAN:

Man’s death sentence upheld for father’s murder

The Court of Cassation has upheld a December Criminal Court ruling, sentencing a man to death after convicting him of murdering his father in Amman in December 2019.

The court declared the defendant guilty of premeditatedly murdering his father by beating him with a wrench and strangling him to death with his hands following “a heated argument” on 26 December.

Court documents said the defendant was a “troublemaker and would often abuse his father physically because he had a strong built”.

“The defendant lived with his father, who was separated from his mother in Zarqa, and would often physically abuse the victim,” court papers said.

As a result, court documents maintained, “the victim moved to Amman to escape the abuse inflicted on him by his son”.

On the day of the incident, the court said the defendant visited his father in Amman and the two ate dinner together.

“The victim tried to fix a gas heater with a wrench when an argument ensued between the two,” according to court papers.

The defendant overpowered his father, snatched the wrench and “beat his father repeatedly on his head with the heavy tool”.

“The defendant then choked his father by pressing on his neck until he made sure he was dead and then left,” the court added.

The following day, the court added, the victim’s sister contacted the defendant expressing her fear that something had happened to her brother because he was not answering her calls.

“The defendant pretended to be worried and went to look for his father,” court papers said.The defendant, through his lawyer, claimed that the prosecution failed to provide evidence that would connect the defendant to the murder.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Court’s attorney general had asked the higher court to uphold the death sentence ruling, stating that the court abided by the proper legal procedures when sentencing the defendant.

The Cassation Court ruled that the Criminal Court’s judgment fell within the law that the proceedings were proper and the sentence given was satisfactory.

The higher court stated that it relied on DNA and crime lab results that connected blood spatters found on the defendant to the victim.

The Cassation Court tribunal comprised judges Mohammad Ibrahim, Majid Azab, Fawzi Nahar, Ibrahim Abu Shamma and Hayel Amr. (sources: The Jordan Times)

MALAWI:

Malawi parliament moves to abolish death penalty

Malawi’s parliament has started public enquiries in the capital, Lilongwe, on a proposal to abolish the death penalty following last month’s adoption of a report recommending the move.

It comes after parliament mandated its Legal Affairs Committee to solicit views from the general public on the subject, before potentially changing any laws.

Malawi courts appeared to have abolished the death sentence in April last year after Supreme Court judge heard the petition of a convicted murderer, and ruled that the death penalty negates the right to life which is otherwise provided for under the Malawi’s constitution.

The judge then ordered the re-sentencing of all cases where the death penalty was handed down.

However 4 months later, the Supreme Court issued a statement saying the judge had expressed his personal opinion and the death penalty remained applicable.

There have been growing calls both locally and internationally for Malawi to abolish the death penalty, especially because the country is a signatory to the declaration of Universal Human Rights in which the punishment is not allowed.

Tuesday’s public hearing is the 1st of 3 such sessions with similar events planned for the northern city of Mzuzu and the southern city of Blantyre later this month.

Malawi currently has 25 people sentenced to death and awaiting execution, but none have been carried out since 1994.

(source: myjoyonline.com)

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Malawi parliament moves to abolish death penalty----There have been growing calls for Malawi to abolish the death penalty.

Malawi's parliament has started public enquiries in the capital, Lilongwe, on a proposal to abolish the death penalty following last month’s adoption of a report recommending the move.

It comes after parliament mandated its Legal Affairs Committee to solicit views from the general public on the subject, before potentially changing any laws.

Malawi courts appeared to have abolished the death sentence in April last year after Supreme Court judge heard the petition of a convicted murderer, and ruled that the death penalty negates the right to life which is otherwise provided for under the Malawi's constitution.

The judge then ordered the re-sentencing of all cases where the death penalty was handed down.

However 4 months later, the Supreme Court issued a statement saying the judge had expressed his personal opinion and the death penalty remained applicable.

There have been growing calls both locally and internationally for Malawi to abolish the death penalty, especially because the country is a signatory to the declaration of Universal Human Rights in which the punishment is not allowed.

Tuesday's public hearing is the 1st of 3 such sessions with similar events planned for the northern city of Mzuzu and the southern city of Blantyre later this month.

(source: thestar.co.ke)

INDIA:

Allahabad HC confirms death penalty of man who killed wife, 4 minor daughters

The Allahabad High Court has confirmed death penalty of a man who had killed his wife and 4 minor daughters in 2011, suspecting that she had developed illicit relations with someone of the village. Dismissing the appeal filed on behalf of the appellant, a Lucknow bench of justices Ramesh Sinha and B R Singh on Monday observed, “This court is of the view that the motive is proved by the prosecution; the prosecution witnesses had fully supported the prosecution case and proved their presence at the time of the incident on the place of occurrence; the medical evidence has also corroborated by the disclosure statement made by the appellant – Deen Dayal Tiwari – himself before the police; and the appellant was arrested on spot by the police with the weapons of assault.” Earlier, government advocate Vimal Srivastava assisted by Chandra Shekhar Pandey had argued that it was a case which could be said to be in the category of “rarest of rare” and justified award of death punishment to Tiwari.

Accepting the state counsel’s plea, the bench observed, “We are also clearly of the view that appellant is a menace to the society and there is no chance of his rehabilitation or reformation and no leniency in imposing punishment is called for.” Dinanath Tiwari had lodged an FIR on November 12, 2011 at Pura Kalandar police station in Ayodhya alleging his elder brother killed his wife Siyallali (36) and daughters Mani (11), Riya (8), Guddan (6) and Mahima (4).

Dinanath Tiwari claimed that when he and his wife reached his elder brother’s house on hearing screams, Deen Dayal Tiwari came out armed with a blood stained axe and confessed he killed all of them.

On raising an alarm, villagers also gathered there.

The Additional Sessions Judge of Ayodhya had convicted Deen Dayal Tiwari under section 302 of IPC and awarded death sentence on January 30, 2014.

Deen Dayal Tiwari moved the high court and pleaded not guilty saying that his brother eliminated his family in the greed of property and falsely implicated him.

Dismissing his appeal, the high court confirmed the sentence.

It, however, has said that the execution of death sentence shall stand postponed until the period allowed for preferring appeal to the Supreme Court has expired and if an appeal is preferred within that period, until such appeal is disposed of.

“It is also clarified that death punishment shall only be executed in accordance with law complying with all guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court time and again,” said the bench.

(source: theprint.in)

SINGAPORE:

YouTuber beats his fiancée to death over jealousy, faces the death penalty----They say it is a case of jealousy that brought the accused to beat the woman to death.

Last month, a Malaysian YouTuber was charged with the murder of a Malaysian woman who was his YouTube channel partner and fiancée. We previously reported on the arrest of four men, including the YouTube influencer, accused of murdering Nur Diyanah Haris, 21, in April at a house in Penang.

After conducting an investigation, the police brought the accused, Abdul Jamal Ahmad, 23, to court on April 15, where he appeared before Magistrate Nur Fadrina Zulkhairi. Abdul Jamal was dressed all in black, with the word “Police” written on his T-shirt, and he simply nodded to show that he understood the charge. He is accused of murdering the woman.

The media in Malaysia said the woman had died after she was beaten by the influencer. That is not confirmed though as the investigation is still ongoing. They say it is a case of jealousy that brought the accused to beat the woman.

“The police received a report from a doctor (at the local) Hospital at 10:39pm on Saturday (2nd April) about a 20-year-old woman who was taken to the hospital unconscious and in critical condition.

“The examination of the victim found bruises on her head and her whole body. She was then taken to Penang Hospital (HPP) for further treatment,” says a police report on the incident.

No further details are given on the real reason for the man’s attack on the young woman.

The charge was framed in accordance with Section 302 of the Penal Code, which mandates the death penalty upon conviction.

Nurul Atikah Asharaf Ali Deputy Public Prosecutor represented the prosecution team while the accused was unrepresented.

Nurul Atikah informed the court that no bail had been offered.

The judge told Abdul Jamal that under the law, no bail was offered for the charge under Section 302, which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

“However, you can appoint a lawyer and apply for bail at the High Court,” she said.

She then fixed July 13 for mention of the case pending the post-mortem report.

(source: theindependent.sg)

INDONESIA:

Lindsay Sandiford timeline: How British grandmother ended up on death row in Bali----The 65-year-old grandmother faces a firing squad for drug smuggling conviction

A British grandmother is waiting to be executed in a Bali jail after she was convicted of smuggling cocaine to the island.

Lindsay Sandiford is currently being held in Kerobokan prison, which holds around 1,000 inmates.

Here is a timeline of how she got there:

Early 2012 Lindsay Sandiford set up home in India, having moved from Gloucestershire, England.

17 May 2012 Sandiford allegedly met 2 members of a drug syndicate in Bangkok, Thailand and collected a suitcase packed with cocaine.

Lindsay Sandiford has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling

19 May 2012 Sandiford was arrested after cocaine was found in her luggage as she arrived into Bali from Bangkok. Police accuse her of being at the centre of a drugs rings involving three other Britons.

20 May 2012 Sandiford starts co-operating with police and gives them information about the drug syndicate. She insisted that she had been coerced into bringing cocaine to Bali.

22 January 2013 Sandiford is sentenced to death for smuggling 10.6lb of cocaine from Thailand. The prosecution had recommended 15 years imprisonment but a panel of judges sentenced her to death by firing squad.

29 January 2013 Julian Ponder is cleared of smuggling but convicted of possessing 23g of cocaine. He was 1 of the 3 Britons detained after Sandiford was arrested for smuggling cocaine.

31 January 2013 Sandiford loses her bid to get the UK government to fund a lawyer for her appeal against the death penalty.

15 February 2013 The British consulate in Bali submitted a statement to Sandiford’s appeal. A spokesperson for the FCDO said: “It continues to be the longstanding policy of the United Kingdom to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and we will do all we can to assist British nationals facing the death penalty.”

8 April 2013 Sandiford lost her 1st appeal against her death sentence. The appeal judges ruled that the original decision was “accurate and correct”.

30 August 2013 Sandiford loses her 2nd appeal in Indonesia’s highest court. “The decision is unanimous”, said chief judge Artidjo Alkostar.

22 February 2019 Sandiford gave an interview to MailOnline from prison and said that “in spite of everything, I feel blessed.”

“I have been blessed to live long enough to see my 2 sons grow up into fine young men and blessed to have been able to meet my two grandchildren. A lot of people don’t get that in their lifetime,” she said.

18 May 2019 Sandiford’s fellow inmate, Heather Mack, tells The Mirror that Lindsay “spends all day pretty much alone in her cell and doesn’t mix so much with the other prisoners.”

“She snaps at me for no reason but I still make an effort with her. She has said she wants to die,” Mack added.

Heather Mack was jailed in 2015 for helping her boyfriend murder her mother. The pair wrapped her mother’s body in tape, stuffed it in a suitcase and tried to flee.

(source: independent.co.uk)

MAY 10, 2022:

TEXAS:

ACLU Review of Quintin Jones Execution Documents Finds Texas “Woefully Unprepared to Carry Out an Execution”

Documents that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) withheld from public disclosure for months reveal that “confusion and lack of training” have left the state “woefully unprepared to carry out an execution,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

On June 4, 2021, the ACLU filed a request with TDCJ for records related to the state’s May 19, 2021 execution of Quintin Jones without allowing media witnesses into the chamber. The execution, which drew widespread criticism, was the 1st in the 571 executions carried out in Texas since capital punishment resumed in the 1970s carried out without media witnesses. TDCJ initially blamed the absence of media witnesses on a “miscommunication.” The Department’s internal investigation found that the mistakes made during the execution were “preventable and inexcusable” but not intentional. Unsatisfied with the state’s explanation, the ACLU filed a Texas Public Information Act request to independently review the documents.< P> TDCJ refused to provide the documents, claiming that the information in the documents — some of which the agency had referred to in news releases about the Jones execution — were confidential under 1 or more of 8 exemptions to the public records act and therefore “not subject to release.” The ACLU filed an appeal with the Texas Attorney General’s office alleging that TDCJ had engaged in “repeated attempts to obfuscate information critical to accountability.”

After what the ACLU called “6 months of stonewalling,” TDCJ released 43 pages of documents, including emails, text messages, media witness protocols, and statements from prison staff involved in Jones’ execution. “The documents describe interviews with staff who reported ‘a lot of unwritten procedures,’ confusion about whether there were any written guidelines or protocols about executions, a lack of a ‘clear understanding of [their] role,’ and staff who were ‘not trained,’” the ACLU reported. “An interview with one individual who appears to have participated in previous executions revealed that ‘to [his] knowledge, there are no written guidelines/protocols about the execution itself. He is aware of a document titled Execution Procedure-April 2021, however he stated he has not read it thoroughly.’ Multiple documents describe a picture of confusion as a result of ‘all the changes,’ including changes in the execution process. Taken together, these documents reveal a global lack of understanding about execution procedures generally.”

Following its internal investigation, the TDCJ announced that an undisclosed number of staff had been disciplined for their part in the execution. The Department also announced changes, including adding training, more clearly defining roles, and stationing an officer who is in contact with the execution team to the reporter waiting area.

TDCJ spokesperson Jeremy Desel asserted that no state laws had been broken during the execution. However, the ACLU charged that the TDCJ’s failure to allow reporters to witness the execution violated a federal court’s directive, the Texas Administrative Code, and the First Amendment.

“The documents, which TDCJ tried for months to withhold, make clear that the department is not prepared to carry out another execution in line with Texas policy or the Constitution,” the ACLU said.

Free speech groups and members of the Texas legislature criticized TDCJ’s failure to admit media witnesses to Jones’ executions. Rep. Jeff Leach (R – Plano), a co-chair of the Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, tweeted, “There needs to be an immediate investigation in to what happened, why it happened and who is responsible. It was ‘a mistake’ and/or ‘a miscommunication’ is not acceptable. This is an unfathomable, colossal screw-up and we need answers.”

In a letter to TDCJ, Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas executive director Kelley Shannon wrote: “Executions must be done publicly to maintain the integrity of the judicial process. Indeed, the public interest is at its highest when the government is using its power to extinguish the life of a person. The media are the public’s eyes — and if they are excluded, there is no public witness.”

Texas has executed three people since Jones. Media have been present at those 3 executions but, the ACLU noted, “[w]hile excluding media from an execution is easily noticeable, other errors may be less apparent. When the state makes a mistake in executing a person, those mistakes are unfixable and inexcusable. There is no room for error when the final moments of a person’s life are on the line.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Bluntson found competent in trial

A jury has determined that a man convicted of capital murder in 2016 and facing the death penalty was competent to stand trial, according to the Webb County District Attorney’s Office.

On May 2, a jury in the 49the District Court was selected for the retrospective competency trial of Demond Bluntson, the man who fatally shot his son and girlfriend’s son, and fired shots at Laredo police officers at the then Holiday Inn by Interstate 35 in 2012.

Attorneys for Bluntson, 47, alleged that he was incompetent to stand trial at his 2016 capital murder case. Psychological, expert and other evidence was presented to the jury throughout a 5-day trial. The case was given to the jury on Friday.

The jury returned a unanimous verdict on Monday finding that Bluntson was competent at the time of the trial in 2016. He was the county’s first person sentenced to death row in nearly 25 years.

The case was prosecuted by District Attorney Isidro R. Alaniz, Chief Assistant District Attorney Marisela Jacaman, and Assistant District Attorneys Amber Holmes and David Reuthinger.

Bluntson was arrested in 2012 in connection with the attack that left his 21-month-old son, Devian, and 6-year-old Jayden Thompson dead. The boys' mother, Brandy Cerny, 28, was later found shot to death in El Campo.

Bluntson was found barricaded in a following the incident with a mattress, box spring and 2 tables pushed against the door, according to a police report.

Officers busted in and detained Bluntson, and “In the process, officers located two unresponsive male children on the floor covered in blood, with visible gunshot wounds to the head,” the report states. They also recovered a semiautomatic handgun.

Court records show Bluntson’s criminal history begins at age 18, with arrests and convictions spanning more than a decade.

In May 1994, he was arrested on state felony cocaine possession. He pleaded guilty in February 1995 and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation. Two months later, he was arrested on a Class A misdemeanor assault charge.

He was arrested again in late 1997 on charges of cocaine possession. He was given 2 years’ probation in 1999.

A police investigation in early 2000 pinned Bluntson to drug dealings outside an El Campo park between January and February of that year. He was charged with 4 counts of delivery of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone.

He was convicted on two of the counts. Also, his probation for the 1994 and 1997 charges was revoked, and he was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

In November 2007, months after enrolling in the community college, he was arrested again on another drug-related charge. Documents state that he attempted to hide a bag containing marijuana. He pleaded guilty in June 2009 to tampering with evidence.

A relative said Cerny and Bluntson had been dating for the past few years.

Bluntson graduated from El Campo High School in 1994, according to his Facebook page.

He attended Wharton County Junior College from 2007 to 2011. Cerny was a student there, too, from 2001 to 2005.

(source: Laredo Morning Times)

PENNSYLVANIA:

Did trauma push killer of 2 Carlisle moms? Jury looks at his life in considering death penalty

The man convicted of 1st-degree murders in the deaths of his 2 girlfriends and unborn child now has his life on the line as a Carlisle jury weighs arguments for and against the death penalty.

A jury on Monday convicted Davone Anderson, 27, of Carlisle, with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, 1 count of murder of an unborn child and 2 counts of endangering the welfare of children after about 3 hours of deliberation.

Lawyers then immediately began presenting aggravating and mitigating circumstances to inform the jury of possible context behind the separate 2020 shootings of Sydney Parmelee and Kaylee Lyons, the latter of whom was weeks pregnant with Davone Jr. Jurors will begin deliberations Tuesday morning on the sentence for Anderson.

Prosecutors brought the parents of both murdered women to the stand to share the impact the deaths had on their families.

Jillene Parmelee described her daughter as a wonderful person and loving mother to her 2 children.

“[Her daughter] constantly asks where Mommy is. She doesn’t understand you can’t visit heaven,” Jillene Parmelee said.

Jillene Parmelee said she needed to rearrange her life and house to accommodate her two grandchildren, whom she alternates taking care of every other week with Taneka Anderson, the defendant’s mother.

“I was not ready for it, but I would do it for them,” Jillene Parmelee said.

Parmelee and her daughter disagreed about the relationship with Anderson, Jillene Parmelee testified. But her daughter was making moves in the right direction before her life was cut short.

“She went to nursing school. She wanted to better herself as a person,” Parmelee said. “I was really excited to see where it would go.”

Brittney Parmelee described her sister as her only friend.

“She was an aunt before she became a mother. I have to talk to my children about loss—they keep drawing pictures they can’t give her,” Parmelee said. “She dropped out of school, but gained her courage and went back. She wanted to be a nurse. She wanted to do good and help people.”

Temonia Thomas, father of Kaylee Lyons, lamented that he won’t be able to be like other grandparents and give his grandchildren sugar and candy before dropping them off at their parents’ house.

“There’s a void,” Thomas said. “There’s a void. There’s a void. There’s only a few people who can say they understand how I feel.”

Thomas said Lyons surviving son with Anderson, who is now two years old, eventually will have to piece together who are the people in all the pictures on the wall.

“Eventually, he’s going to ask the questions, ‘Who is mom? Who is dad?’”

Bettina Lyons, who testified during the trial, said she had very difficult communication with her daughter in the weeks leading up to her murder.

“Her hair was knotted. She looked like a mess. I thought, ‘Maybe I’m just being judgmental,’” Bettina Lyons said.

Lyons described her last memory with Kaylee.

“She picked [her son] up. He had crumbs on his shirt from chicken tenders. She just walked away,” Bettina Lyons said, explaining Kaylee did not say anything. “That’s the last time I ever saw her.”

Before prosecutors rested their case, they said the fact that Anderson killed Parmelee before he killed Lyons should weigh against him in his sentence, as should former convictions of robbery and burglary.

Yet, Anderson has not had an easy life himself, according to a powerpoint slideshow by his defense team showing more than 100 pages that analyzed Anderson’s life. Louise Luck, a mitigation specialist with Court Consultation Services, dredged through 3 generations to identify circumstances that could have contributed to the murders.

“How we are raised affects how we raise our children,” Luck said. “This by no means attempts to excuse his behavior. It just explains his life story. He was suppressing everything.”

Luck started with Anderson’s grandmother, who grew up on a farm without electricity, which cascaded in a generational tale of abuse, familial dysfunction and mental illness.

Anderson grew up in an environment that pitted him at the mercy of abusive family members, an absent mother and the lack of a father, according to Luck’s report.

“Davone wouldn’t cry when he got beat,” Asia McNeal, Anderson’s sister, said. “He held it all in.”

Anderson’s mother, according to Luck, was in-and-out of his life from the time he was born—when she was 15 years old. He and his sister were offered cigarettes and alcohol as early as the age of 7.

Anderson was repeatedly molested, and when it came out he was a victim, his family made him confess to the abuse in front of his whole family. Later in life, when his mother was not able to take care of him, Anderson had to live with his abuser, according to Luck. Anderson grew up around drug abuse and never had competent male role models in his life, according to Luck.

Luck explained Anderson eventually joined the military. During basic training, he had the best time of his life. There was one time, however, where Anderson was beaten by other servicemen and didn’t report it or fight back, Luck said.

After Anderson slipped back into using marijuana to self-medicate his depression, he was honorably discharged from the military. He became more involved in his younger brothers’ lives, and wanted to be a positive role model for them—the likes of which he never had.

He encouraged one younger brother to have 3 meals a day, to meditate and go on a 2-mile run every morning.

“Be yourself. Don’t try to fit in with nobody,” Anderson told his little brother.

Anderson eventually formed the “EVOLVE” brand, which loans letters from the words from love and evil. He sold t-shirts and baby onesies with the logo on it.

“We are born into a crazy world, into evil. We have to try to evolve into love,” Anderson is quoted as saying in the report.

Luck said Anderson managed to clean himself up enough. She quoted him saying he thought he was strong enough to have a positive impact on all three of his younger brothers and his mother—enough to bring them from Georgia to Pennsylvania to live with him and Parmelee.

“Instead of having a major positive influence on them, they had a major negative influence on me,” Anderson said in the report.

Resurfaced trauma, as well as newfound confusion around the identity of his father, pummeled Anderson back down, according to Luck. There were times he was suicidal, and while he managed to help his cousin get off heroin, further tragedy struck.

Anderson’s cousin, Paul Laney, was shot and killed by an unknown person July 2, 2020 — 3 days before Anderson killed Parmelee. Police believed Laney’s death was a targeted murder, and Luck said the effects were debilitating.

“Davone became paranoid someone was after him and his family,” Luck said.

“He started to think people were after him and his insurance money,” Alicia Murray, Anderson’s cousin, said.

“He kept telling me they’re coming for him,” Jasmyn Lloyd, Laney’s partner and a close friend of Anderson’s, said in the report. “I almost felt he wasn’t talking about people.”

Toward the end of Parmelee’s life, Anderson locked himself in the bathroom with a gun and threatened to kill himself, according to Luck. Parmelee beat down the door and comforted him, walking away feeling the 2 had grown closer together, according to an interview with Kalia Stallings, a friend of Parmelee.

On cross-examination, McCormack asked Luck about the omission of Anderson’s prior criminal record. She stated she did not use his prior record because she was trying to establish the circumstances around his life.

“He tried to turn his life around,” she said of the aftermath of the 2015 burglary and 2016 robbery charges.

(source: pennlive.com)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Etheridge to face death penalty for Dec. 2 triple-murder

Triple-homicide suspect Ricky L. Etheridge Jr. will face the death penalty when he goes on trial, a judge has ruled.

The judge’s decision quashed efforts by Etheridge’s defense counsel to prevent the state from seeking the death penalty.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett ruled Monday that the state could proceed with seeking the death penalty for Etheridge, who is facing 3 counts of 1st-degree murder in the Dec. 2, 2021 shooting deaths of Jaquan Tobias White, Takeyia De’Shay Berry and Berry’s 3-year-old daughter, Allura Pledger. The 3 were shot and killed near the intersection of Perry and Jordan streets a r o u n d 5 p.m. on Dec. 2, Elizabeth City police said.

Tillett’s decision concluded a “Rule 24” hearing held in Pasquotank Superior Court, Monday morning. The hearing was a procedural step in criminal cases in which the defendant has been charged with a crime punishable by the death penalty.

District Attorney Andrew Womble said in April that his office would not have asked for the hearing if it wasn’t seeking to try Etheridge as a capital murder defendant.

Etheridge was 34 at the time of his arrest in Norfolk, Virginia on Dec. 15, 2021. He was extradited to North Carolina on Jan. 14 and has remained confined at Albemarle District Jail since.Before reaching his decision Monday, Tillett heard arguments from Etheridge’s attorney Jeff Dobson and assistant District Attorney Kim Pellini.

Dobson argued that the death penalty should not apply to his client because of procedural missteps on the state’s part.

According to North Carolina’s “General Rules of Practice for the Superior and District Courts, Rule 24 states that within 10 days of a Superior Court taking jurisdiction of a case, the district attorney must request from the presiding judge a pretrial conference that must be attended by the prosecutor and defense attorney. The conference must be held within 45 days of the request.

In April, Dobson told The Daily Advance that Womble’s office should have made the request for the Rule 24 hearing as early as Jan. 3, the day Etheridge was indicted for the 3 murders by a Pasquotank grand jury. Dobson also said that 10-day mark should have started on Jan. 3, the day of Etheridge’s indictment. He presented similar arguments on Monday.

Pellini said the District Attorney’s office sent Dobson written notice of intent to seek the death penalty on March 18, almost a month before Etheridge’s 1st court appearance on Monday, April 3.

“We’d argue there is no prejudice to the defendant,” Pellini told the court.

Dobson also argued to have the cell phone in Etheridge’s custody at the time of his arrest returned to the defense. According to Dobson, the phone has exculpatory evidence his team would like to review.

Dobson said the state has not provided him a copy of the search warrant for Etheridge’s phone and thereby it should be returned.

Pellini said the phone is in the custody of a state crime lab and she did not have a copy of the warrant with her in court Monday.

Tillett ordered the state to provide Dobson a copy of the warrant within 5 days or return the phone.

Etheridge faces additional felony charges in connection with the Dec. 2 triple homicide. He’s also charged with 3 counts of discharging a weapon into occupied property, causing serious injury, and one count each of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, possession of a firearm by a felon and habitual felon, according to court documents.

A 2nd Elizabeth City man, Terence Tyrone Seymore, indicted in the Dec. 2 shootings was arrested in New Bern in January.

(source: Daily Advance)

GEORGIA----impending execution

Lawyers seek to delay Georgia execution set for next week

Lawyers for a Georgia man scheduled to be put to death next week for killing an 8-year-old girl 46 years ago are trying to delay the execution.

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., 68, is scheduled to die May 17 at the state prison in Jackson by injection of the sedative pentobarbital. He killed the 8-year-old girl and raped her 10-year-old friend after abducting them as they walked home from school in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, on May 4, 1976.

He was convicted in August 1976 on charges including malice murder, kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to death. His death sentence was overturned in 1992 but was reinstated in March 1999.

Lawyers representing the Federal Defender Program, which represents Presnell, filed the lawsuit and an emergency motion Monday in Fulton County Superior Court. They say the setting of his execution date violates a written agreement reached last April with the office of state Attorney General Chris Carr that temporarily put executions on hold during the coronavirus pandemic and established conditions under which they could resume.

The lawsuit says the agreement said that, with one named exception, executions wouldn't resume until 6 months after 3 conditions had been met: the expiration of the state’s COVID-19 judicial emergency, the resumption of normal visitation at state prisons and the availability of a COVID vaccine “to all members of the public.”

The judicial emergency ended in June, but prisons are still using a modified visitation policy and children under 5 still can’t access the vaccine, according to the lawsuit which names Carr and the state of Georgia as defendants. A spokeswoman for Carr declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

The agreement said that once the conditions were met, the state intended to seek an execution date for Billy Raulerson, who was sentenced to death for the May 1993 killings of 3 people in south Georgia, and that Raulerson's lawyers would be given at least 3 months notice after the conditions were met, the lawsuit says.

The attorney general's office said it wouldn't seek the execution of anyone else on death row until at least 6 months after the conditions were met, the suit says. In late April, the attorney general’s office informed Raulerson's attorney that the state intended to schedule Raulerson's execution for May 17, the lawsuit says.

After Raulerson's attorney reminded a state attorney that she had agreed not to schedule the execution during his previously scheduled vacation, the state attorney told him Raulerson's execution wouldnt be scheduled until August at the earliest. A few days later, on April 25, the state attorney notified Presnell's lawyers that the state intended to seek an execution warrant for him, the lawsuit says.

The warrant was issued April 27.

Contrary to the agreement, the attorney general gave Presnell's attorneys just two days of notice that they intended to set his execution date, the lawsuit says.

“These actions constitute a clear breach of the Agreement and will lead to irreparable harm if not enjoined by this Court,” the lawsuit says.

If the court doesn’t delay the execution, the lawsuit says, Presnell’s lawyers won’t have the time they were promised to prepare for his clemency hearing, which is scheduled for Monday. After getting notice of Presnell’s execution date, his lawyers learned that an expert witness they planned to use for the clemency hearing recently had emergency surgery for a cardiac illness.

Other witnesses they planned to call also have conflicts. The lawsuit asks that the state be prohibited from seeking an execution warrant for Presnell and any other people on death row who are subject to the agreement until 6 months after all the conditions have been met.

“Should this Court fail to intervene on an emergency basis to enjoin the State and Attorney General from prematurely carrying out executions in violation of the Agreement, the Federal Defender and its clients will suffer the most grave form of irreparable harm,” the emergency motion filed with the lawsuit says.

Presnell abducted the 2 girls as they walked home along a wooded trail from a Cobb County elementary school on May 3, 1976.

He drove them to a secluded wooded area, had them undress and raped the older girl, according to evidence at trial outlined in a Georgia Supreme Court ruling. The younger girl tried to run, but Presnell caught her and drowned her in a creek, the ruling says.

He locked the 10-year-old girl in the trunk of his car and then left her in a wooded area when he got a flat tire, saying he’d return. She ran to a nearby gas station and described Presnell and his car with a flat tire to police. Officers found him changing his tire at his apartment complex.

He denied everything at first but later led police to the 8-year-old girls body and confessed, the ruling says.

Attorneys for Presnell have said in court filings that Presnell was born to a teenage mother who drank and smoked heavily throughout her pregnancy.

Presnell suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome that damaged his brain and kept him “from ever developing into a functioning, responsible adult,” his lawyers argued.

(source: macon.com)

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

Retrial motions in 1985 death penalty case for James Randall Rogers begin Tuesday

Attorneys for a Floyd County man sentenced to death in 1985 are seeking a new trial based on the recantation of a forensic dentist whose bite-mark testimony led to the conviction of James Randall Rogers.

That testimony, among other forensic evidence used to convict Rogers, will be the topic of a motion for a new hearing in front of Floyd County Superior Court Judge Bryan Johnson on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On May 21, 1980, Rogers was accused of raping and murdering his 75-year-old neighbor Grace Perry. Rogers, who was 19 at that time, is now 61 years old.

This won’t be the 1st time his conviction has been challenged. Rogers was first convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for Perry’s murder. However, that conviction was overturned because the grand jury pool didn’t include enough women. In 1985, Rogers was retried and subsequently convicted and sentenced to death again.

Rogers’ attorneys argue that prosecutors in that 1985 trial leaned heavily on testimony by Dr. Richard Souviron, who stated that bite marks left on Rogers’ arm were definitively made by the victim.

To back up the linchpin assertion, the motion quotes former Floyd County District Attorney Steve Lanier in his closing arguments.

“(The victim’s) teeth do talk and she’s telling you right now she bit (Rogers),” Lanier told the jury in 1985. “That’s the only verdict you can give.”

“With no other physical evidence or witnesses directly implicating Mr. Rogers, District Attorney Steve Lanier relied overwhelmingly on the bite mark evidence during his closing argument,” the motion states.

In 2020, Souviron recanted that testimony, saying it was based on flawed science.

“My testimony in this case would be completely and qualitatively different today,” Souviron wrote in a statement submitted to the court. He continued, writing that under current standards set by the American Board of Forensic Odontology, his 1985 testimony would be inconclusive at best.

Prosecutors argue that Rogers’ attorneys haven’t checked all the boxes needed to get a retrial in the case. In addition, Rome Circuit Assistant District Attorney Natalee Staats wrote that Souviron’s change in testimony is merely a reflection of a change in ABFO policy.

“In that affidavit, Dr. Souviron does not recant his trial testimony as alleged (by the defendant). Instead, he states based on 2018 protocol propounded by American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) he is not allowed to testify as he did at trial,” Staats wrote in a response to the motion for a new trial.

Another earlier challenge to Rogers’ conviction for murder came in the form of a claim of intellectual disability. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of intellectually disabled criminals.

In 2007, the Supreme Court of Georgia upheld a Floyd County jury’s 2005 finding that Rogers did not have an intellectual disability, which the court referred to as “mentally retarded.”

One measure of defining an intellectual disability is consistently scoring less than 70 on IQ tests. Rogers took six tests, with his score falling below 70 only once.

A letter penned by Rogers, and sent to the judge in July 2021, asked that the issue of “mental retardation” not be brought up in any proceedings. In that letter, Rogers admitted to cheating on tests to get a low score and objected to the issue being raised.

That letter has not been considered by Judge Johnson. A notice returned to Rogers said the judge isn’t allowed to consider a letter because Rogers is already represented by an attorney.

If overturned, this would be the 2nd death penalty conviction prosecuted by Lanier that has come back to Floyd County Superior Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Timothy Tyrone Foster, who Lanier had prosecuted in 1987. The high court ruled that Lanier improperly struck Black jurors on the basis of their race.

Lanier served 3 terms as DA from 1985 through 1996. He passed away in July 2018. In 2016, Lanier denied to the Rome News-Tribune that he’d struck jurors on the basis of their race and said he was floored by the decision.

The pre-trial proceedings began anew in 2017. Foster pleaded guilty to the crime in March and was sentenced to life without parole.

(source: Rome News-Tribune)

FLORIDA:

Fla. Supreme Court rejects 3rd appeal for man on death row for brutal 1990 Mulberry murders

The Florida Supreme Court recently denied an appeal for a death row prisoner who was convicted in the 1990 death of three family members in a Mulberry home.

In 1991, David Joseph Pittman, 60, was convicted of the murders of murders of Clarence and Barbara Knowles and their daughter, Bonnie Knowles, the previous year. According to records, the Knowles family was related to Pittman's ex-wife. Pittman killed the 3 family members before setting their home on fire with them in it. He also set fire to Bonnie Knowles' car. He was sentenced to death for each and also charged with two counts of arson and grand theft.

With a 6-1 decision on April 28, the Florida Supreme Court denied David Joseph Pittman's 3rd appeal claiming that he's intellectually disabled.

In a 6-1 decision on April 28, the Supreme Court denied Pittman's claim that he's intellectually disabled as well as arguments that his death sentences are illegal because he hasn't received an evidentiary hearing on his disability claim.

Pittman's 1st appeal was in 2015, and the Supreme Court said Pittman did not appeal the denial of his first two appeals, successive motions, and his third, amended appeal was mistitled as his "second" appeal.

"We agree with the postconviction court that Pittman is not entitled to postconviction relief on his intellectual disability claim because that claim is untimely," the Supreme Court said in a news release.

The Supreme Court said he would have been required to raise his intellectual disability claim no later than 60 days after October 1, 2004, because the laws don't apply backward.

Pittman argued that his IQ score of 70 from 2015 is newly discovered evidence, so the Supreme Court deemed his motion untimely because it wasn't filed within one year of the date the claim was discoverable. The Supreme Court said records refute Pittman's claim that the IQ information could not have been discoverable before 2015.

(source: The Ledger)

ALABAMA:

Officer who helped inmate escape dies from self-inflicted gunshot wounds during arrest: authorities----Fugitives were caught in Evansville, Indiana after US Marshals pursued their vehicle and then crashed into it

Vicky White, the Alabama corrections officer accused of helping a murder suspect escape from jail, has died, the Vanderburgh County Coroners Office said.

She and escaped inmate Casey White were apprehended Monday in Indiana after more than a week on the run, law enforcement officials said.

The 2 fugitives were caught in Evansville, Indiana, when U.S. Marshals pursued their vehicle and then crashed into it, authorities said. Casey White, 38, surrendered and Vicky White, 56, suffered self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and was taken to a hospital, where she later died, authorities said.

White died at Deaconess Hospital and additional information will be available after the autopsy, which is scheduled for Tuesday, the coroner's office said, adding that the sheriff's office can provide investigative information as it becomes available.

The arrest of the pair, who are not related, ended a nationwide manhunt that began April 29 when Vicky White, the assistant director of corrections for the jail in Lauderdale County, allegedly helped engineer the escape of Casey White, who was awaiting trial in a capital murder case. Vicky White had told co-workers she was taking the inmate from the jail for a mental health evaluation at the courthouse, but the 2 instead fled the area.

"This has ended a very long and stressful and challenging week and a half. It ended the way that we knew it would. They are in custody," Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton of Alabama said.

The car they took off in was later found abandoned in Tennessee, but there was no trace of the pair until U.S. Marshals received a tip Sunday that surveillance photos from an Evansville car wash showed a man who closely resembled Casey White exiting a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck, the Marshals Service said. White stands 6 feet, 9 inches (2.06 meters) tall and weighs about 260 pounds (118 kilograms).

On Monday, officials learned that the pair was spotted near the sheriff's office, said Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding in Indiana. As officers arrived, the pair fled in a vehicle and led police on a pursuit, he said. U.S. Marshals collided with them "to try to end the pursuit," he said. Casey White was injured, not too seriously, in the crash and Vicky White then shot herself, causing "very serious" injuries, he said.

"We're lucky that no law enforcement was injured, no innocent civilians were injured, the pursuit was short in nature and we have both people in custody," Wedding said.

Casey White was serving a 75-year prison sentence for attempted murder and other charges at the time of his escape. He was awaiting trial in the stabbing of a 58-year-old woman during a burglary in 2015. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

"We got a dangerous man off the street today. He is never going to see the light of day again. That is a good thing, for not just our community. That's a good thing for our country," Singleton said.

Federal and local law enforcement officials have also learned Casey White threatened to kill his former girlfriend and his sister in 2015 and said "that he wanted police to kill him," the Marshals Service said.

A warrant was issued on May 2 for Vicky Sue White charging her with permitting or facilitating escape in the 1st degree.

Vicky White's family members and co-workers said they were stunned by her involvement. Singleton said she had been an exemplary employee but, in hindsight, it appeared the plan had been in the works for some time. Jail inmates said the two had a special relationship and she gave Casey White better treatment than other inmates.

In the past several months, she bought a rifle and a shotgun and also was known to have a handgun, U.S. Marshal Marty Keely said.

She sold her house for about half of market value and bought a 2007 orange Ford Edge that she stashed at a shopping center without license plates.

"This escape was obviously well-planned and calculated. A lot of preparation went into this. They had plenty of resources, had cash, had vehicles," Singleton said.

The escape happened on what Vicky White said was going to be her last day at work. She told co-workers that Casey White had a mental health evaluation at the courthouse, but none was scheduled. She did not have a 2nd officer accompany them, which was against jail policy.

Video showed the pair went from the jail to the shopping center, where they picked up the Ford and left, Singleton said. Their flight was not discovered for much of the day.

Investigators believe the pickup truck Casey White had at the car wash was stolen in Tennessee and then driven about 175 miles (280 kilometers) to Evansville, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

(source: Associated Press)

LOUISIANA:

Poll: Support for Death Penalty in Louisiana Falls By 7 Percentage Points in 4 Years

Support for capital punishment in Louisiana has fallen by seven percentage points in the last four years, according to the 2022 Louisiana Survey by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at Louisiana State University. “4 years ago supporters of the death penalty outnumbered opponents by 24 points, today that difference is only 13 points,” Mike Henderson, Associate Professor at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication and principal author of the report on the survey, said.

51% of respondents to the annual survey reported that they favor the death penalty, down from the 58% who expressed support for capital punishment the last time the Reilly Center asked the question in 2018. Opposition to the death penalty rose 4 % points, from 34% to 38% in that same period.

Although support for capital punishment dropped among Louisianans of all political affiliations, the decline was most pronounced among those identifying as Independents. 61% of Independents in 2018 said that they favored the death penalty. That fell to 50% in the 2022 survey, an 11 %-point decline. 42% of Independents said they oppose the death penalty, up 11 % points from the 31% who expressed opposition in 2018. 8 % of respondents in both year’s surveys were undecided or declined to answer.

54% of Louisiana Democrats said that they opposed the death penalty, as compared to 32% of Democratic respondents who favored it. While death-penalty support among Democrats fell by 11 percentage points from 43% in 2018, opposition rose by only 1 %-point from 53%. 14% of Democratic respondents said they were undecided on the issue or declined to answer, up from 4% in the 2018 survey.

Support for capital punishment also declined by 4 % points among Louisiana Republicans, falling from 74% in 2018 to 70% in the 2022 Louisiana Survey. Opposition to the death penalty increased marginally, from 19% to 20%, with the percentage of respondents undecided or declining to answer up by three percentage points, from 7% to 10%.

The 2022 Louisiana Survey polled 508 adult respondents interviewed via landline telephone, cellphone, or online questionnaire between February 21 and March 14, 2022. The Reilly Center reported that the poll has a margin of error of ± 5.8 % points.

Louisiana’s 13 % point difference between support for and opposition to capital punishment was slightly higher than the national margin of 11 % points reported in the October 2021 Gallup poll, which reported 54% of respondents supporting the death penalty and 43% opposing. The decline in support for the death penalty among all political affiliations is consistent with the results of all major national polls.

Louisiana’s declining support for the death penalty is also consistent with trends in neighboring states. Polling in Oklahoma in October 2021 found that support for capital punishment had declined by 10 % points since 2015. An April 2021 University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey found that support for the death penalty had fallen by 12 % points in the state since February 2015.

“I sort of think people have seen those high profile cases [of possible innocence] and have re-considered whether [the death penalty is] the best sentencing measure to handle these kinds of crimes,” Henderson said. “Perhaps we are seeing a small reflection of that trend in this state and if it continues, then the Legislature may reconsider that view in their policy a decade from now or perhaps sooner,” he said.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Arizona man set to be executed despite concerns over his mental health----Clarence Dixon, 66, is scheduled to be put to death at a state prison on Wednesday morning

The Arizona Supreme Court declined to overturn a lower court’s decision that found a 66-year-old blind man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia was competent to be put to death this week.

Clarence Dixon, set to be executed at a state prison in Florence on Wednesday, was convicted of murder in the death of 21-year-old Deana Bowdoin, a conviction that only arrived years after the 66-year-old was serving a life sentence for a separate 1985 attack of a college student. Bowdoin’s rape and murder had remained unsolved for many years until DNA testing was able to connect Dixon to her case.

The high court, without comment, declined to review the decision reached last week by a judge in Pinal County who rejected the arguments brought forward by the defence who claimed their client was unable to comprehend why he was being put to death and therefore, they contended, his execution should be stayed.

In the Arizona lower court case, the judge presiding determined that while it was evident that Dixon suffered from schizophrenia, in his legal opinion, the accused was rational enough to understand the proceedings of the court case and thus understood why he was being sentenced to death.

Dixon’s lawyers are now hurriedly working to file a request with a federal judge in Phoenix to have them consider whether his mental illness would mean an unconstitutional execution.

As of Monday night, The Telegraph and Argus reported, this request had not been filed.

Should the 10am Wednesday execution go ahead, it will be the first time that Arizona has used the death penalty on a person since July 2014, in an execution that lawyers later argued was botched.

Joseph Wood, the last person to be put to death in Arizona, laid on a gurney gasping and gurgling for air over the course of his two-hour execution which required more than a dozen doses – 15 times the amount required in the state’s execution protocol – of the lethal drugs used to put a prisoner to death.

Currently, there are 112 people on death row in Arizona, a state that has, like many across the US that still turn to the death penalty, struggled in recent years to procure the execution drugs required for the procedure as more and more pharmaceutical companies have blocked their products from being used.

For Dixon, the pentobarbital that had been prepared for his execution were obtained from an unidentified compounding pharmacy, the Associated Press reported.

The drugs being used in Dixon’s execution were part of a separate legal motion filed by his lawyers to US District Court Judge Diane Humetewa.

In that case, Dixon’s attorney Jennifer Moreno argued on behalf of her client that the sedative sodium pentobarbital that was compounded into a solution in February had expired.

Judge Humetewa, however, declined to halt the execution after documents provided by the attorney general’s office showed that the drugs in question did not, in fact, expire until August, a conclusion that Ms Moreno disagreed with and instead contested that the mixture had expired in mid-April.

In a late-night court session on Monday, Ms Moreno conceded that if a new batch was able to be mixed and tested before Wednesday’s scheduled execution, “that resolves the outstanding issues in this case”, she said, according to Bridport News.

Assistant Attorney General Jeff Sparks and Ms Moreno were called back into session by the district judge and agreed that mixing a new batch would settle the litigation.

The defence is still preparing to file a last-minute challenge with a federal court, based on the grounds that the blind 66-year-old in declining health is not mentally fit for the execution.

Though the US Supreme Court has stated that a defendant’s mental illness can make them less morally culpable, and should be taken into consideration in sentencing, “the court has not barred the death penalty for those with serious mental illness”, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Despite the Court’s position, both The American Psychiatric Association and the American Bar Association have come out in support of a ban on the death penalty for those with severe mental illness.

(source: The Independent)

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Arizona agrees to mix new batch of drugs for Clarence Dixon execution----The agreement to move forward with a new batch of drugs seemingly sets Dixon's fate after his mental competency claims failed.

The state of Arizona Monday agreed to use a new batch of lethal injection drugs to execute death row inmate Clarence Dixon, after his lawyers argued that the drugs the state had intended to use had expired.

The agreement came after a hearing in federal court Monday morning, where Dixon’s attorneys argued the batch of drugs set to be used to kill him was in violation of a 2017 settlement agreement. They claimed the state’s pentobarbital was expired, had failed certain tests and could possibly cause their client to experience severe pain during his execution, which is set for Wednesday.

In 2008, Dixon was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the 1978 killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. The case was dormant for 23 years before cold-case detective Tom Magazzeni investigated the matter and matched Dixon’s DNA to a national database.

Last week, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson declined to stay Dixon’s execution based on claims he was incompetent due to schizophrenia. In 1977, Dixon was arrested in Tempe for assaulting a 15-year-old with a metal pipe, causing a severe cut to the top of her head. Then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, who would later serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, found Dixon not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to commence civil commitment proceedings to admit Dixon to the Arizona State Hospital. There was a delay and two days later, Dixon raped and murdered Bowdoin.

The settlement agreement discussed in Monday’s hearing stems from a federal lawsuit filed in 2014 by death row inmates who claimed the state’s execution procedures violated their constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. One of the plaintiffs was convicted murderer Joseph Wood, whose execution in 2014 took almost two hours.

“What we do know is that the drugs shouldn’t even get to this point, they expired in mid-April,” said Jennifer Moreno, an attorney for Dixon. “So, without a proper test that extends it those drugs should have been disposed of.”

Jeffrey Sparks from the state’s attorney general office argued that language in the settlement agreement affords Arizona some concession based on its “un-use date,” which is different than drug expiration dates.

“The un-use date for the drugs intended to be used this week is in August of this year,” said Sparks “[The] Department of Corrections is fully in compliance with that settlement agreement.”

Moreno also claimed that pentobarbital failed benchmarks during drug stability testing.

The pH limit standard set forth by United States Pharmacopoeia, a nonprofit that recommends drug administration standards, is 10.5. Moreno said the pentobarbital tested above that threshold at 10.6, and she argued that means its possible the drug would cause severe pain.

Sparks didn’t see an issue with the drug exceeding the pH standard.

“I think in order to prove an Eighth Amendment claim here, which you know, for example, under Glossip, requires a substantial risk of severe pain,” Sparks said.

Sparks referenced the U.S. Supreme Court cases Baze v. Rees and Glossip v. Gross, often referred to as the Baze-Glossip test, which mandates a state to provide a method of execution that does not cause severe pain under the Eighth Amendment. The high court found some pain and risk of heightened pain is inherently involved in any execution.

“However, defendants don’t see any specific statement in either of those reports ever saying specifically that the pH result here, the 10.6, is likely to cause harm,” Sparks said about expert pharmacological reports submitted.

Presiding U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa reminded Moreno that the burden of proof was on her to show the 2017 settlement agreement created a right for her client.

“We’re simply asking that they comply with both what they have written down and what they have represented to courts that they are required to do,” Moreno said.

Moreno told the judge that if Arizona could provide proof that an alternative cocktail could pass the testing requirements, it would resolve their concerns in this case.

Later in the day, the court reconvened and announced an agreement by both parties mandating the use of new drug compounds during Dixon’s execution. The new agreement seemingly sets Dixon’s fate, as the Arizona Supreme Court Monday also denied a last-minute effort to stay his execution.

Leslie Bowdoin James, the sister of the victim, was in court one final time before the state will administer her justice.

In April, she remembered her sister before the state’s clemency board.

“What I’m most grateful for is that I had 3 months with her, in one of her last summers, and we rode the trains through Europe,” said James before the board.

Dixon will be the 1st prisoner executed in Arizona since 2014.

(source: courthousenews.com)

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

Arizona Plans to Execute a Blind, Disabled Man Previously Found Legally Insane

Arizona plans to execute Clarence Dixon, 66, on Wednesday, even though he is blind, physically frail, and has a documented history of severe mental illness. He is also a member of the Navajo Nation, which opposes the death penalty on cultural and religious grounds.

Mr. Dixon was sentenced to death in 2008 for a killing that happened 30 years earlier, while civil commitment proceedings were pending.

In 1977, Mr. Dixon was charged with assault for hitting a stranger with a metal pipe. He was diagnosed with severe depression and schizophrenia, adjudicated incompetent to stand trial, and sent to a state hospital for treatment, Slate reports. One of his doctors wrote, “I have a strong feeling that without presence of the mental disturbance, the act of violence would not have taken place.”

In January 1978, Mr. Dixon was found not guilty by reason of insanity by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, who ordered prosecutors to keep him in custody until civil commitment proceedings could begin within 10 days, DPIC reports. Instead, he was released without any supervision or treatment.

Two days later, a college student was raped and murdered. In 2001, DNA testing linked Mr. Dixon to the crime and he was charged with capital murder. Mr. Dixon was allowed to fire his court-appointed lawyers and represent himself at his trial in 2008. His defense was based on his delusional belief that a government conspiracy was behind the charges. He was convicted and sentenced to death, and DPIC reports, he has continued to file numerous lawsuits and motions arguing this conspiracy theory.

Mr. Dixon’s jury never learned that he was legally insane at the time of the crime or about his lifelong history of severe mental illness, which started with severe depression and suicidal ideations as a young child, his legal team said.

Jurors likewise did not know that Clarence Dixon “grew up on a reservation in a home rife with trauma, dominated by his painkiller-addicted father’s vicious physical and emotional abuse of Dixon, his 6 siblings, and their mother,” advocates reported. “As a child, he also suffered from chronic neglect in a setting where he ate dog food as nourishment, and, at age 12, was left to walk several miles alone to a local hospital in order to be flown to Phoenix for critical heart surgery to correct a congenital heart defect with which he still suffers.”

On April 8, Mr. Dixon’s lawyers filed a motion to stay his execution, arguing that he does not rationally understand the reason for his execution and therefore is incompetent to be executed under the Constitution. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich urged the court not to hold a competency hearing because it could delay Mr. Dixon’s scheduled execution.

The trial court held a hearing on May 3, where Mr. Dixon’s lawyers presented evidence of his schizophrenia and his documented history of delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, and paranoid ideation. As DPIC reports, an experienced psychiatrist who had interviewed Mr. Dixon in person multiple times over the last 11 years testified that Mr. Dixon has schizophrenia, is delusional and irrational, and believes he is being executed because of a government conspiracy.

Prosecutors presented testimony from a former clinical psychologist who had never evaluated a person’s competency to be executed, never diagnosed or treated someone with schizophrenia, and never met Mr. Dixon in person. After speaking with Mr. Dixon by video for 70 minutes, he testified that he had deluded beliefs but was not delusional or incompetent to be executed, DPIC reports.

The court issued its opinion the same day, finding that Mr. Dixon “has a mental disorder or mental illness of schizophrenia” but that his mental state was not “so distorted by this mental illness that he lacks a rational understanding of the State’s rationale for his execution.”

Mr. Dixon’s attorneys appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, which denied review on Monday.

Arizona’s last execution was nearly eight years ago, when it killed Joseph Wood using a secret experimental drug protocol that took more than 2 hours. Witnesses reported that Mr. Wood gasped and snorted more than 600 times after being injected with 15 doses of midazolam and hydromorphone.

A 2017 settlement over Arizona’s lethal injection protocol bars prison staff from using expired chemicals in an execution, the AP explained. On Saturday, a federal judge declined to stay Mr. Dixon’s execution after prosecutors said the compounded sodium pentobarbital they plan to use would not expire until August.

Mr. Dixon’s attorneys argued that the drug actually expired in April. The judge scheduled a hearing on Monday to consider those arguments, according to Fox10 Phoenix.

“The state has had nearly a year to demonstrate that it will not be carrying out executions with expired drugs but has failed to do so,” Mr. Dixon’s attorney, Jennifer Moreno, said. “Under these circumstances, the execution of Mr. Dixon—a severely mentally ill, visually disabled, and physically frail member of the Navajo Nation—is unconscionable.”

(source: eji.org)

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Arizona has seen 2 botched executions: Here's what to know about the state's history with capital punishment

As Arizona prepares to execute 2 death row inmates for crimes they committed decades ago, a spotlight of sorts is on the state's death penalty system, as well as the history behind it.

Here's what you should know about the state's history with capital punishment.

When did capital punishment begin in Arizona?

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, capital punishment in Arizona dates back to at least 1865, when Dolores Moore became the first person whose execution was recorded in an area we now know as the State of Arizona.

According to the DPIC, Moore was hung for murder.

What methods have the state used to execute inmates?

According to the website of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, Arizona has executed people by hanging, lethal gas, and lethal injection since 1910.

ADCRR's website states that Arizona executed death row inmates by hanging until 1931, and in 1934, the state began executing death row inmates via lethal gas. Lethal injection was approved by voters in the November 1992 election.

Execution by lethal gas?

According to ADCRR's website, Arizona first started executing death row inmates by lethal gas in 1934.

In AZDRR's list of executions, it was noted that the most recent inmate to have been executed by lethal gas was Walter Burnhart LaGrand.

According to a 2021 article on the state's refurbishment of its gas chambers, LaGrand, along with his brother, were executed for killing a bank manager in southern Arizona in 1982. LaGrand's brother, Karl, later chose to be executed via lethal injection.

Death row prisoners convicted before the year 1992 can choose between the gas chamber or lethal injection. However, the ACLU announced on Feb. 15, 2022 that they have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix to prevent ADCRR from performing executions via lethal gas.

"Under no circumstances should the same method of execution used to murder over one million people, including Jews, during the Holocaust be used in the execution of people on death row," said ACLU of Arizona senior staff attorney Jared Keenan, in the statement.

Where are Arizona's death rows located at?

Officials with the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry state that since 1910, executions have been carried at the Florence State Prison, and a male death row is located in the prison's central unit.

Besides Florence State Prison, another male death row is located at Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman, and a female death row is located at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville.

You said the state has had 2 botched executions…?

Besides the execution of Joseph Wood in 2014, which some claim was botched, the state also saw another botched execution in 1930, when a woman named Eva Dugan was executed.

What is a botched execution?

The Death Penalty Information Center, which describes itself as a ‘national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment,’ describes botched executions as 'a breakdown in, or departure from, the "protocol" for a particular method of execution,' citing a book written by a professor with Amherst College.

What happened with Arizona's botched executions?

According to a report by the Arizona Daily Star in 1930, Dugan was executed for murdering a rancher in the Tucson area. She is reportedly the only woman ever to be executed by the State of Arizona.

The description of Dugan's execution was graphic, but according to an Arizona Daily Star article, Dugan was completely decapitated during the execution.

"Four of the female witnesses to the hanging reportedly fainted on the spot," read a portion of the article.

In another article of the execution that was published by Globe-based Arizona Silver Belt, it was described that a prison physician declared Dugan dead almost immediately following the decapitation, and the gallows room was immediately cleared of witnesses.

Shortly after Dugan was executed, Arizona switched to lethal gas as its method of execution.

Lawyers for Joseph Wood claim his execution in 2014 was botched. According to ADCRR's website, Wood shot and killed a 55-year-old man and his 29-year-old ex-girlfriend in 1989.

Wood's lawyers claim his execution was botched. FOX 10's Troy Hayden, who witnessed Wood's execution, said Wood moved on the table and appeared to gulp for air for almost 2 hours.

"There’s always this focus on, oh, the defendants and whether they feel pain or suffering, and yet, no one talks about: what about the victims?" said Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in a report Hayden filed. "You mentioned the last execution, I mean, that defendant had brutally killed someone’s father right in front of her. There was no doubt as to his guilt or innocence. He was a degenerate killer. He didn’t give anyone a chance."

How many people are on Arizona's death row?

According to figures from ADCRR, 112 prisoners are on Arizona's death row.

Of the 112 prisoners, an overwhelming majority of them (109) are men, with only 3 women: Wendi Andriano, Shawna Forde, and Sammantha Uriarte.

Were there times when Arizona did not have the death penalty?

There were a number of times in history when Arizona either had no death penalty, or death penalty provisions that were declared to be unconstitutional.

According to the ADCRR, the state eliminated the death penalty as punishment for those convicted of first-degree murder in 1916, as a result of a referendum. However, the death penalty was restored in 1918.

ADCRR officials also state that no executions were performed in Arizona between 1962 and 1992, due to a number of court rulings regarding the death penalty, and other technical provisions within.

(source: fox10phoenix.com)

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ADVERTISEMENT Arizona Supreme Court won’t review competency in Clarence Dixon death case

The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday declined to overturn a lower court ruling that found a man set to be executed this week is competent to be put to death. The high court without comment declined to review last week’s decision from a judge in Pinal County that rejected arguments that mental illness made Clarence Dixon unable to understand why he was being put to death.

While the judge found Dixon does suffer from schizophrenia, he said Dixon is rational and understands the proceedings in his case well enough to show he is competent. Dixon’s lawyers are now expected to ask a federal judge in Phoenix to consider his competency as part of a flurry of last-minute court action they hope will prevent Wednesday’s scheduled execution.

Meanwhile, the state is offering to mix a new batch of the sedative sodium pentobarbital that it intends to use in the injection. That would get around arguments from Dixon’s lawyers that state testing showed the drug expired in April and is not good until late August, as the state contends.

U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa held a hearing Monday morning to consider Dixon’s expired drug claim. But she said she “struggled” to see how the argument raised a valid constitutional issue in light of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that said courts should not meddle in the details of state lethal injection decisions. “The question that I struggle with is, does that rise to a constitutional right?” she asked Dixon attorney Jennifer Moreno.

Moreno told the judge that a 2017 settlement agreement required Arizona to use non-expired drugs, and that helps build their claim that using expired pentobarbital would equate to cruel and unusual punishment. “Without a proper test, those drugs should have been disposed of and we shouldn’t even be talking about this,” Moreno said.

But she acknowledged that if the state is able to mix the new batch and get it tested before the scheduled 10 a.m. Wednesday execution “that resolves the outstanding issues in this case.” Humetewa plans to continue the hearing Monday afternoon, allowing the state time to confirm if the new drug batch can be mixed and testing is done in time.

On Saturday, Humetewa declined to halt the execution after the Arizona attorney general’s office provided documents showing test results that determined the drug would not expire until August, based on its February mix date.

Dixon attorney Jennifer Moreno disagreed with the state’s conclusions regarding the retention of the drug’s potency and said it actually expired in mid-April. Humetewa said that issue was not before her that day, forcing Dixon’s lawyers to file the challenge she plans to hear Monday.

Arizona and many other states have struggled to get execution drugs in recent years after drug-makers refused to sell their products for that use. Arizona obtained the pentobarbital it plans to use from an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

Dixon, now 66 and blind, is set to be the 1st person put to death in Arizona in nearly 8 years, mainly because of problems with the previous execution. The state had to give Joseph Wood 15 doses of a 2-drug combination over two hours before he died in July 2014 in an execution that his lawyers said was botched. The state now is using just one drug.

Dixon was convicted of murder in the killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. He was serving life sentences for a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old Northern Arizona University student when DNA testing linked him to Bowdoin’s unsolved rape and murder.

Dixon had was found “not guilty by reason of insanity” in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was delivered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly 4 years before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowdoin was killed on Jan. 7, 1978, 2 days after that verdict, according to court records.

Bowdoin was found dead in her apartment, and had been raped, stabbed and strangled. Dixon had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the charge was later dropped on statute-of-limitation grounds. He was convicted, though, in her death.

Defense lawyers said Dixon has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, has regularly experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and should not be executed.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a warrant for a second execution. Frank Atwood is set to die June 8 for killing an 8-year-old girl in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Jury selection underway in the death penalty case in Vallejo----Questioning of prospective jurors in the Lorenzo M. Cortez triple-murder case expected to continue Tuesday in Department 7 in the Justice Building

Jury selection is underway in the death penalty case against Lorenzo Mateo Cortez, 26, of Vallejo, charged with 3 murders, 2 in late 2014 and one in January 2015.

Attorneys and the judge in the pending jury trial in Vallejo return today at 9 a.m. in Department 7 to question more prospective jurors and to air “in limine” motions, requests by attorneys that certain testimony be excluded or included in a case.

On May 5, Senior Deputy District Attorney Julie Underwood who is leading the prosecution with Deputy District Attorney Mark Ornellas, questioned a panel of three prospective jurors about their attitudes, beliefs and feelings regarding capital punishment if the case reaches the penalty phase after convictions.

Underwood, standing at the lectern and facing the prospective jurors seated in the jury box in the Justice Building, said they would be making a moral judgment after hearing both “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors in the case and the factors’ “qualitative nature,” requiring them to weigh them “in the balance.”

She polled the jurors, asking them to raise their hands, if they could still the consider the death penalty when the evidence will show that Cortez, seated at the defense table in a dark suit, allegedly killed three men, she noted, “just before he turned 19.”

All three indicated they would not automatically reject the death penalty because of Cortez’s age at the time of the killings.

If and when the case is handed over to the jury and they enter the deliberation room to decide Cortez’s fate, could they still follow the law, as read by Judge Tim P. Kam, and render the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole, Underwood wondered.

One prospective juror, a man, said not every aggravating factor carries the same weight, but asserted he could make “a fair decision” about them after hearing all other aggravating factors.

A 2nd juror, a woman, told Underwood that the “ultimate decision” would be determined “by the evidence” heard in the courtroom.

As the prospective jurors and Underwood spoke, Cortez, sporting a mustache and a goatee, a neck tattoo visible on his left side, cast an occasional glance toward the jury box but showed no visible emotion or reaction.

At one point, Kam told the jurors that the law requires, in the penalty phase of a trial, to consider the defendant’s age.

Kam asked one juror if they “would follow the law as given, even if it conflicted with personal beliefs.”

Out of the presence of the jurors, Cortez’s lead attorney, Jon C. Weir of Martinez, told Kam he wanted to dismiss the female prospective juror for cause, saying he questioned the nature of her answers on the juror questionnaire when compared with her statements in open court.

But Underwood countered, noting that the woman “could consider” life without the possibility of parole, depending on the evidence seen and heard in court.

When the jurors returned for more questioning, Kam asked whether the jurors, if they found the murders to be “intentional and premeditated,” could vote for death.

“Does that change your thinking at all?” the judge asked.

Again, out of the presence of the prospective jurors, Weir was concerned the female prospective juror could reverse her decision about the death penalty.

Kam referred to her questionnaire and called her oral and written statements “thoughtful” and denied Weir’s challenge.

In previous proceedings, Kam ruled the case would unfold as a single trial rather than 3 trials on each murder charge, as desired by the other defense attorney in the case, Thomas Kensok of Napa.

Kam also granted a defense motion to review the personnel records in his chambers and, upon review, ordered the City of Vallejo turn disclose information and records to Kensok by April 1. The disclosures, however, are confidential and subject to protective order but the officers’ names are not. Public court records show that they include those of Sgt. Jared Kaksch, Sgt. Mat Mustard, Cpl. Richard Botello, Cpl. Sean Kenney, Lt. Fabio Rodriguez, Officer Scott Yates, and Officer Terry Schillinger.

At a previous hearing, Kensok argued that having the City Attorney of Vallejo provide police officer records, especially any showing disciplinary action for “moral turpitude,” may “become part of the defense” and be relevant.

So he filed the Pitchess motion requiring the prosecutor, in accord with the Brady v. Maryland case, a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, to turn over all evidence that might exonerate his client.

After listening to Assistant City Attorney Katelyn M. Knight cite “Brady protocols,” Kam authorized the District Attorney’s Office to release the personnel records of some Vallejo police officers involved in the case.

Of the case severance question, Ornellas, also at an earlier proceeding, did not see a valid legal reason to sever the charges into three separate trials.

Underwood added that evidence would show that Cortez believed one of his victims was “a snitch” and “was angry about it.”

Court records show that Cortez is charged with the Nov. 3, 2014, murder of Isaac Lopez-Reid, 18; the Dec. 20, 2014, murder of Luis Perez, 18; and the Jan. 10, 2015, murder of William Brown, 20. All were shot in Vallejo.

Vallejo police investigators, who arrested Cortez on March 2, 2015, while he was in Solano County Jail on unrelated felonies, believe Cortez shot the first victim because Lopez-Reid had accused him of being “a snitch.” Investigators also believe the fatal shootings of Perez and Brown were execution-style killings, with both victims robbed of money and their belongings. Cortez was within a few days of turning 19 when he is alleged to have committed the last of the crimes.

Underwood contended that Cortez, using another person, lured his victims to a place, then shot them and that separating the trials would mask “the context” of all three killings. If each charge is tried separately, “the court would hear three killings that are the same,” she added.

She said there is evidence that shows Cortez and Lopez-Reid were in contact with one another via social media.

Court plans are to issue summons and questionnaires to 300 prospective jurors, with jury selection, including determining if each seat juror is “death-penalty-qualified,” expected to last several weeks.

It is unclear when attorney opening statements are likely to begin, but the trial, once underway, is expected to last six months, Ornellas and Underwood said.

Cortez remains in custody without bail on the murder charges in the Stanton Correctional Facility in Fairfield.

(source: The Vacaville Reporter)

NIGERIA:

Double Murder: Lagos Court Shifts Dane, Peter Nielsen’s Judgement to May 20

A Lagos High Court sitting at the Tafawa Balewa Square Annex, has shifted judgement in the double murder trial of a Danish citizen, Peter Nielsen, accused of killing his Nigerian wife, Zainab, and daughter, Petra, to May 20, 2022. The 4-year old case is before Justice Bolanle Okikiolu-Ighile of the Lagos High Court.

Judgment was initially fixed for Friday, May 6, but on getting to the court, Journalists gathered that the decision was not ready and a new date had been given.

At the last sitting of the court on March 1, the trial Judge fixed May 6 to deliver her judgement, after the lead defence counsel, Olasupo Shasore, SAN, and the Lagos State Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Adebayo Haroun, adopted their final written addresses.

The 53-year old Dane was arraigned on June 13, 2018, on a two-count charge of murder, punishable under Section 223 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos, 2015, which prescribes the death penalty, if convicted. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mr Nielsen was said to have killed his wife, a musician also known as Alizee, and his daughter on April 5, 2018, at about 3.45 am at their Banana Island residence in the Ikoyi area of Lagos.

(source: thisdaylive.com)

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

FULL LIST of 24 convicts, 86 ex-convicts Buhari pardoned, besides Dariye, Nyame----PREMIUM TIMES reported how President Buhari approved the pardons of Messrs Dariye and Nyame, who had been convicted of stealing public funds when they served as governors.

The panel that recommended the pardons of 2 ex-governors, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, also recommended the pardons of 24 other convicts who were still serving their jail terms for various offences, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.

Another 86 people who had finished serving their jail terms were also recommended for pardons by the panel, headed by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami. One of the 86 people got a posthumous presidential pardon.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how President Buhari approved the pardons of Messrs Dariye and Nyame, who had been convicted of stealing public funds when they served as governors.

Both men were sentenced to 14 years each and had only served about 3 years of their jail terms, the presidential advisory committee on the prerogative of mercy said in its final report exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

According to the presidential committee, Mr Dariye, 63, who governed Plateau State from 1999 to 2007 was recommended for pardon “on grounds of life threatening ill health and age.”

Mr Nyame, 66, who governed Taraba from 1999 to 2007 was recommended for pardon “on grounds of ill health and age.”

Their pardon was condemned by many Nigerians and human rights groups who argued that such action only encourages corruption by public officeholders.

“Clearly, the Dariye/Nyame pardon dramatises the fact that regimes upbraid the venality of their predecessors, only for them to succumb to the same set of vices when in office,” PREMIUM TIMES wrote in an editorial condemning the version.

A rights group, SERAP, has since sued President Buhari and Mr Malami and asked that the pardon be reversed.

Apart from the total of 112 people recommended for pardon, the panel also recommended clemency for 27 people. It also recommended reduced sentences for 13 people who were still serving their jail terms. Another 10 people who were on death row were recommended for reduced punishment to life imprisonment.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that of the total 162 people for whom the panel recommended some form of pardon or sentence reduction, the council of state only rejected that of 3 people. One of the three was Francis Atuche, the former Bank PHB boss, who was sentenced to 120 years in prison for stealing bank funds.

Mr Atuche was “recommended for clemency on grounds of life threatening ill health” but the recommendation was rejected by the council and President Buhari, this newspaper learnt.

(source: premiumtimesng.com)

MALAWI:

Malawi Legislators in support of death penalty abolition

Malawian members of parliament have come out in support of the calls to abolish death sentence and many of them have since opted for life imprisonment instead.

This follows a report by parliamentary committee on legal affairs which says having heard presentations from stakeholders, the Committee observed that the issue of death penalty abolition touches on the Constitution and the general feelings of Malawians.

The committee said it wants to conduct a thorough investigation before making a final recommendation on the death penalty abolition calls.

“The Committee having considered issues presented before it, regarding abolition of the death sentence, wishes to conduct an inquiry on the matter by involving a large sector of the society which include members of the general public, faith based communities or religious groups, political parties, Non-Governmental organizations and the international community,” reads part of the report.

However, several legislators who commented on the issue in one of last week’s parliament sessions said the death penalty is contrary to traditional and religious systems attributing to the holy bible which gives no person the authority to kill a fellow human being.

For instance, Member of Parliament for Mwanza West constituency, Joyce Chitsulo, said there is need to abolish the death sentence, arguing that this may one day see an innocent person who fails to defend oneself in a court of law, being a victim of the law.

Her sentiments were echoed by Blantyre North legislator, Francis Phiso, who said having no single record of execution for the past 30 years, is a clear indication that Malawi doesn’t need the death sentence.

“You may agree with me that since the coming in of multiparty system in Malawi, no single president has ever assented to death sentence. This is as good as just allowing it go and replace it with life sentence,” commented Phiso.

In his reaction, leader of the house Richard Chimwendo Banda while curtailing debate on the matter, agreed with Phiso that there is no need of having a law which is not working and he further added that there is need to repeal such laws.

On the other hand, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo, described the death penalty as “an old and savage way of punishing somebody.” He, however, argued that there is really need for further consultation on the matter.

The August house adopted the report and it is expected that the legal affairs committee will soon launch an inquiry on the matter where of other activities include studying what other countries are doing regarding death penalty.

Commenting on issue, legal activist Alexious Kamangila who has been advocating for the abolition of the death sentence, described the recommendations by the parliamentarians as a great stride for true justice in Malawi.

Kamangila told Malawi24 that discussions on death penalty have been there in Malawi for decades and that it’s time to progress and he commended Minister Mvalo and Chimwendo Banda for their voices which he said gives hope for the abolition.

“The support given to the PLAC Report and recommendations on the death penalty by MPs is a great stride in the pursuit of true justice in Malawi. It gives a clear indicator that abolition is not a political suicide as at times presented. Malawi can soon become a leader in the region in the safeguard of the right to Life,” he said.

The legal activist further mentioned that his first expectation is to see the inquiry process as recommended by the legal affairs committee, being expedited.

Last year on April 28th, the Supreme Court of Appeal made a judgement in a case involving Charles Khoviwa v The Republic which saw judges declaring that capital punishment is unconstitutional in the country.

However, in a twist of events, the court made a U-turn on the matter saying it never abolished the death penalty and that High Court judges are free to sentence murder convicts to death claiming the issue was never brought before the court for consideration.

(source: malawi24.com)

IRAQ:

Family say UK government won't help dad detained in Iraq until he gets death sentence

The family of a Bath man who has been detained in Iraq for allegedly smuggling artefacts claim the UK government will not help him until he is sentenced to death.

Jim Fitton, 66, faces the prospect of execution after collecting stones and shards of pottery from an archaeological site.

His family say he was visiting a site in Eridu, in the country's south east region, during an organised geology and archaeology tour in March when he took the items.

He was later detained at the airport after the stones and pottery were judged to be artefacts under Iraqi law.

The charge since levelled at Mr Fitton states “whoever exported or intended to export, deliberately, an antiquity, from Iraq, shall be punishable with execution”.

Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain (GMB), Sam Tasker said his father-in-law asked if he could take the items at the time.

"A representative from the Iraqi tourism ministry was with them on the trip, and an Iraqi police officer [was] acting as security," said Mr Tasker.

"So there were plenty of people there to make sure that he was doing the right thing.

"Our fear is that Jim will become a victim of the political situation in Iraq."

The Foreign Office has said they will step in if he is handed the death penalty.

Mr Tasker said the UK government has provided practical support - such as English-speaking lawyers - but is yet to lobby the Iraqi government.

"What we've had from the Foreign Office is consular support - practical, on the ground support providing us with English speaking lawyers and they've been going to visit Jim weekly to make sure he's being fed and watered and looked after practically," Mr Tasker said.

"But from a political engagement perspective, there is no support until the point at which he is sentenced to death when they will lobby the Iraqi government.

"Despite everything we've been doing - press calls and all the rest of it - we've yet to speak to anyone with any decision making capabilities in the Foreign Office."

During his time being detained, Mr Fitton has missed his daughter's wedding celebration, leaving him "heartbroken".

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: "We are providing consular support to a British national in Iraq and we are in contact with local authorities. The British government's policy on the death penalty is clear, we oppose it in all circumstances as a matter of principle."

The Iraqi embassy did not respond to ITV's request for comment.

(source: itv.com)

ISRAEL:

The Elad terrorists should face the death penalty ---- If convicted after a trial and any judicial appeals, should 2 men who hacked 3 Israelis to death with axes, in an act of unparalleled barbarism, be permitted to live?

The Elad massacre of 3 Jews with axes on Israel’s Independence Day was sickening beyond description. If convicted in trial, the two suspects who were apprehended by the IDF on Sunday should face the death penalty, as should be the case with all those convicted in Israel of terrorism and mass murder.

No Jew, and indeed no decent person in whom there beats a human heart, could fail to be moved to tears by the release of Gilad Schalit – looking pale from years of being held in a cell and deprived of sunlight, and extremely shy due to years of being denied virtually all human contact – by the Hamas terrorists in October of 2011. To keep true to its promise that no soldier is ever forgotten or left behind, Israel welcomed home a hero for whom it had traded 1,000 murderers, terrorists and criminals committed to its destruction.

As a parent who just this week saw his 3rd child enlist as soldier in the IDF, that commitment is one I applaud with all my heart.

But as Israel celebrated the return of its soldier a decade ago, we also remember how Hamas and Palestinians who are dedicated to Israel’s destruction ululated and celebrated the return to their society of killers who had taken the lives of so many innocent men, women and children guilty of no other sin than going about their daily business. Israel cheered at the restoration of one of its sons who had been kidnapped while trying to protect these innocent lives.

The conflicting value systems of the 2 opposing camps – 1 dedicated to the life, and the other, tragically, having been overtaken for decades by a culture of death – could not have been drawn in starker terms, as we watched our Palestinian brothers and sisters welcoming terrorists home with parades, while Israel re-embraced a soldier whose first words to the world media, after having been treated like a caged animal for 5 years, were his hopes for lasting peace.

It also goes without saying that when Israel is prepared to trade a thousand predators for one lonely soldier, it demonstrates, in the starkest manner imaginable, Israel’s commitment to the infinite value of human life.

Still, the question remains whether the deal was worth it. Much comment has been made both pro and con. As a father of an active duty IDF soldier, I understand completely why prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the trade.

But I will here limit myself to a different angle of the story entirely, one that might obviate the need to trade killers for captured soldiers in the future.

IT IS high time that Israel finally instituted a death penalty for terrorists. In the United States Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 160 people in Oklahoma in April 1995, was dispatched after a fair trial and an appeal with no public outcry whatsoever. No terrorist who takes that many lives should be permitted to live. So why would Israel lock up the most rancid, heartless, and cold-blooded mass murderers in its jails just so that they can serve as a lure for Israelis to be kidnapped in order that these killers be paroled?

If convicted after a trial and any judicial appeals, should two men who hacked 3 Israelis to death with axes, in an act of unparalleled barbarism, be permitted to live? And if so, what is the deterrent to future monsters whose insidious hatred of the Jewish people might inspire them to the same?

A partial list of the terrorists released by Israel in 2011, and who were previously fed 3 warm meals a day in an Israeli prison for years, includes Ibrahim Jundiya, who was serving multiple life sentences for carrying out an attack that killed 12 people and wounded 50. There was Amina Mona, an accomplice to the murder of 16-year-old Ofir Rachum. She lured him over the Internet to a meeting where terrorists were waiting to kill him. Jihad Yaghmur and Yahya Sinwar were involved in the abduction and murder of Nachshon Wachsman, which also led to the murder of General Staff Reconnaissance Unit member Nir Poraz, head of the rescue mission sent to save him.

Also released then was Ahlam Tamimi, the 20-year-old student accomplice to the Sbarro restaurant bombing in 2001 that left 15 dead and 130 wounded; Aziz Salha, who was famously photographed displaying his bloodied hands for the mob below after beating an Israeli soldier to death; and Nasser Yataima, who planned the 2002 Passover massacre that killed 30 and wounded 140.

The question raised by this despicable list of murderers being released is this: Why were they still alive in the first place? Why were they not given fair and impartial trials and the right to appeal, and, if found guilty of murder, and especially mass murder, executed by the state?

Some will argue that this will only invite the Arab terrorist organizations to execute the Israeli prisoners they hold. It is therefore worth recalling that this is what the Palestinian terrorist organizations do overwhelmingly anyway, and that Schalit was the 1st living soldier to be returned to Israel in more than a quarter century. In July 2008, Israel arranged another prisoner exchange in order to obtain the release of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured 2 years earlier, sparking Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, only to tragically discover these heroes had been dead all along.

Others, especially Europeans, will argue that the death penalty is cruel and Israel is more humane for banning it. I disagree. While there is a robust debate here in the United States related to the death penalty over individual acts of murder, there should be no such debate whatsoever when it comes to premeditated mass murder and terrorism. The European powers such as Britain and France participated in the execution of Nazi leaders in the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1946, with no compunction whatsoever in mandating state-sponsored executions of mass murderers.

Indeed, I argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment of the families of Israel’s victims of terrorism to leave these terrorists alive in Israeli prisons, with the families not knowing whether they will even serve out their sentences, should another Israeli soldier, God forbid, fall into captive hands. The families deserve closure.

For those who argue that if Israel puts its imprisoned terrorists to death, there will be nothing left to bargain with should an Israeli soldier or citizen become captive, I respond that other deals can always be made, be it with money, international pressure, or the exchange of Arab prisoners who are not guilty of terrorism.

And I want to repeat, I completely understand why Netanyahu made the exchange and in so doing established the infinite value of every IDF soldier. But this is separate from the question of whether Israel should have a death penalty for terrorists.

And it’s not as if Israel has no precedent in taking the life of a mass murderer, having put to death one abominable soul, the architect of the Holocaust itself, Adolf Eichmann, at midnight in a Ramle prison on May 31, 1962. Eichmann’s body was then cremated, and his ashes polluted the Mediterranean a day later beyond Israel’s territorial waters. And the last words of one of the most wicked monsters of all time? “I die believing in God.” Let’s make sure that others like him, whose crimes make a mockery of God, meet the same end.

And if the terrorists who chopped Jews to death in Elad are not the very epitome of evil, then the word has no meaning.

(source: Opinion; Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post)

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Israel's latest terror wave sparks debate on death penalty----Recent security tensions, which have so far claimed the lives of 18 Israelis, have once again reignited the fiery discussion on the need for capital punishment, which in Israel has only been imposed twice, but thus far not against terrorists

The terror wave that has engulfed Israel in recent weeks has sparked another round of nationwide debate on whether the de-facto ban on the death penalty should be lifted as a way to deter potential terrorists.

While capital punishment is legal in Israel, it has so far only been handed out for crimes committed during World War II, being imposed twice, against a convicted Nazi official and a convicted Nazi soldier.

"Of course I think that [the] death penalty is the solution, because in the last few weeks, 18 Israelis were murdered,” said Hananya Naftali shortly after the capture of the 2 terrorists who went on a deadly axe rampage in the city of Elad.

“Let’s face it, we live next to radical neighbors that want to see our blood, not our smiles. They want to see our funerals, not our weddings.”

Joel Schalit, editor-in-chief of news startup The Battleground, disagreed with sentencing terrorists to death on the grounds that captured operatives are useful intelligence resources to prevent future attacks. “I think that captured terrorists are a lifelong intelligence opportunity for security services to exploit, and that provides more protection for Israelis."

Iranian writer Ramin Parham, meanwhile, explained that though Israel’s security establishment is effective when it comes to capturing terrorists, it has repeatedly failed to address the source of the issue, which he says stems from the regional absence of functioning states.

“Have you been able to root out the problem [of terrorism]? No. We have to look at where the root cause is,” Parham said.

(source: ynetnews.com)

MAY 9, 2022:

ALABAMA:

Alabama Appeals Court rules against high-profile death row prisoner----Decision comes despite growing support for Toforest Johnson’s innocence

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled against Toforest Johnson on a claim of prosecutorial misconduct, affirming a capital murder conviction questioned by an extraordinary array of leaders from Alabama’s legal community. The court emphasized repeatedly in its ruling released May 6 that the only issue it considered was a narrow one related to the $5000 reward payment the state paid its key witness in the 1998 trial. The reward payment was not disclosed to the defense until 2019.

The case is now one step closer to returning to Jefferson County Circuit Court, where District Attorney Danny Carr has requested a new trial for Johnson. Carr’s unusual request was based on a number of concerns about Johnson’s conviction, including that the trial prosecutors presented five different theories in five different court proceedings about who committed the crime. Carr spent almost nine months studying the case files, interviewing witnesses, and consulting with the family of Deputy Hardy.

Carr’s request for a new trial is joined not only by the lead prosecutor who convicted Johnson, but also former Republican Chief Justice Drayton Nabers, Jr., former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley, and many others.

Johnson’s legal team is optimistic despite the appellate court’s decision. “We remain hopeful that Mr. Johnson will receive a new trial in this case. All we are asking for is for the court to do what both the district attorney and the original trial prosecutor have requested, which is to grant us a new trial,” said Ty Alper, one of Johnson’s attorneys.

In 1998, Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death in Birmingham for the murder of Deputy Sherriff William G. Hardy, a crime he has always maintained he did not commit. At Johnson’s trial, prosecutors presented no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony. They relied solely on testimony from Violet Ellison, a woman who claimed she overheard someone who identified himself as “Toforest” talk about the murder on a t3-way phone call from jail. Ellison had never met Johnson and had never heard his voice. Alibi witnesses placed Johnson across town at the time of the shooting.

At issue before the appellate court was a narrow legal claim about the State’s payment of $5000 to Ellison in exchange for her testimony against Johnson, which prosecutors did not disclose to Johnson’s defense attorneys until almost 2 decades after the trial. In 2019, the Alabama Attorney General’s office finally told Johnson’s attorneys about the $5,000 payment and turned over a copy of the check that it claimed had been misfiled all these years.

Friday’s ruling agreed with Jefferson County Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam that Johnson had not established prosecutors committed misconduct in failing to disclose the witness’s financial motivation to testify. But the court said that for procedural reasons it could not consider District Attorney Carr’s position, or that of the Innocence Project, which also filed a brief in support of Johnson’s claim.

While the issue of the reward payment was pending in the appellate court, Johnson’s attorneys brought a new appeal in Jefferson County based on District Attorney Carr’s request for a new trial.

Johnson’s team argued that the court must give “great weight” to Carr’s position in the new claim, in light of his extensive investigation into the case. Carr filed a “friend of the court” brief in Judge Pulliam’s court in June 2020, writing that his “duty to seek justice requires intervention in this case.” Johnson has also been supported by an unprecedented eight “friend of the court” briefs, filed by some of Birmingham’s most prominent law firms, on behalf of former prosecutors, retired judges, faith leaders, defense attorneys, legal scholars, law students from all 5 Alabama schools. Three jurors who voted to convict Johnson have also called for the Jefferson County Circuit Court to throw out Johnson’s conviction.

Johnson must complete the appeals process on the claim related to the reward payment before Judge Pulliam can consider the new petition.

(source: Beth Shelburne is an Investigative Reporter for the Campaign for Smart Justice with the ACLU of Alabama. She is a former WBRC Anchor, Reporter and Investigator----WBRC news)

OKLAHOMA:

Letter: It's time to get rid of the death penalty

In these past few weeks, a Tulsa County jury returned a death sentence. While Oklahoma remains near the top in use of capital punishment, the future of the death penalty remains quite uncertain.

Currently, the death penalty is outlawed in 23 states, three have declared a moratorium, and over 140 countries have abolished it. Most religious denominations oppose it, and according to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, 4% of those who have been executed have been found to be innocent.

Since 1973, 186 people have been released from death row due to “actual innocence.” Since 1981, 7 Oklahomans were found to be innocent prior to execution. In addition, there have been 31 Oklahoma exonerations in non-capital cases since 1993, including 17 sentences from “life” or “life-without-parole” sentences.

There is also no statistical evidence the death penalty prevents crime. In fact, in states without capital punishment, the murder rate is lower. In addition, it is discriminatory. 42 % of death row inmates are black, despite making up 12% of the population. Collectively demonstrated, our justice system is indeed fallible.

Arguments for and against the death penalty have been forcefully made many times. America once thought slavery was acceptable and that neither women nor Native Americans should vote. Americans evolved.

Considering the issues on how executions are carried out, actual innocence and police misconduct, the continued use of the death penalty should give pause. It is time for Oklahomans to evolve once again.

Robert Gifford, Tulsa

(source: Letter to the Editor, Tulsa World)

NIGERIA:

42-year-old man to die by hanging for killing Ekiti monarch

An Ekiti State High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti has sentenced a 42-year-old Omoniyi Ademola, to death by hanging for killing a monarch.

The convict was arraigned on a count charge of murder, contrary to Section 316 and punishable under Section 319 of the Criminal Code, Cap C16, Laws of Ekiti State of Nigeria, 2012.

Stephen was said to have killed the monarch, Oba Gbadebo Ibitoye, the Onise of Odo-Oro Ekiti in Ikole Local Council of Ekiti State on August 20, 2018.

One of the Chiefs, who testified before the court said: ‘’We were at the palace on that day for Onise in Council meeting, at about 7:00 a.m., before the commencement of the meeting, Ademola entered the palace and sat on Kabiyesi’s seat, but the Chiefs frowned on his action and drove him away.

“After the meeting, the late Onise in the company of his male clerk were trekking back to the main palace, Ademola came out of his hiding and attacked Kabiyesi with a knife and stabbed him to death. Before that day he had been parading himself as the king of the town,” he said.

To prove his case, the state counsel, Adegboyega Morakinyo, called 5 witnesses and tendered a medical report, statement of the convict, knife and rope among others as exhibits, while the convict spoke through his counsel Tope Amr Salami and called no witnesses.

In his judgment, Justice Olukayode Ogundana dispelled the notion that the defendant is insane.

“Consequently, the defendant, Omoniyi Ademola Stephen is hereby sentenced to death and shall be hanged until he breathes his last. May the good Lord have mercy upon his soul,” the court ruled.

(source: guardian.ng)

MALAYSIA:

Court sets June 21 for remention of Eric Chang’s murder case

The Magistrates’ Court here today set June 21 for the remention of the case involving the 2 accused who were charged with murdering Eric Chang Wei Jie who was reported missing in March this year.

The Subordinate Court Assistant Registrar Dora Undau allowed the application by prosecuting officer Insp Merylene Lindan Andrew Mang, pending the DNA and forensics reports.

While waiting for the date, the 2 accused, Wendy Chai Xue Zhen, 36, and Ling Kok Liang, 51, have been ordered to be further detained at the Puncak Borneo Prison here.

Both were unrepresented by counsel.

On March 31, Chai and Ling, as Eric’s guardians, were charged before Magistrate Zaiton Anuar with committing murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same Code, which provides for the death penalty upon conviction.

No plea was taken from the couple then.

Based on the charge, they are accused of murdering Eric between 5pm on March 4 and 9.15pm on March 7, at a house in Taman Riverview, Jalan Daya, Bintawa here.

Eric was reported missing by his mother on March 7 after she failed to find him since 9am that day.

The search operation for the boy, carried out in Muara Tebas here, started on March 13 and was called off on March 19.

Earlier, Kuching police chief ACP Ahsmon Bajah told a press conference that the 2 accused had 5 arrest warrants under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

Also on March 31, Chai was convicted under Section 380 of the Penal Code for stealing a washing machine and a refrigerator, and sentenced to six months in jail and fine of RM2,000.

Ling, meanwhile, was convicted the same day on a charge of abusing drugs and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and two years of police supervision.

(source: thenorneopost.comO

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

Let them serve their time in Malaysia, families of death row convicts in Singapore plead

Pannir Selvam Pranthaman was convicted in Singapore for trafficking heroin in 2017. He failed in his application to initiate a challenge against his death sentence.

FAMILIES of Malaysians on death row in Singapore are hoping their loved ones could serve their sentences in Malaysia instead of being executed in the city-state.

They said it was costly to travel back and forth to visit their loved ones, and to initiate legal actions there.

(source: themalaysianinsight.com)

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

Is Malaysia ready to end the death penalty? Several protocols have been passed to ban the death penalty

AMNESTY International (AI) states that people are convicted and sentenced to death by the state as punishment for a variety of crimes — sometimes for acts that should not (in its opinion) be criminalised.

In some places, capital punishment is meant for drug-related offences. In others, it is reserved for offences related to murder and terrorism.

AI maintains that the death penalty breaches human rights, which are protected under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Several protocols have since been passed to ban the death penalty, including:

SECOND Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

PROTOCOLS No. 6 and No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights; and,

PROTOCOL to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Although international law allows the death penalty for the most serious crimes, it is never the answer.

Excluding China (the world's top executioner), 88 per cent of all reported executions took place in Iran, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Apart from beheading, the death penalty is carried out by hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

In the United States, 6 states carry out executions by lethal injection and one state (Tennessee) uses electrocution.

Advocates for the abolition of the death penalty gave the following reasons:

IT is irreversible and mistakes happen. Since 1973, more than 184 prisoners on death row in the US have been exonerated or released from death row on grounds of innocence;

IT does not deter crime. There is no concrete evidence to show that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than life imprisonment; IT is often used within skewed justice systems. In some countries, the death penalty is the mandatory punishment for certain offences, which means that trial judges are not able to take into account the circumstances of the crime or the defendant before imposing sentence; IT is discriminatory. The burden of the death penalty is disproportionally carried by those who have limited access to legal representation; and, IT is used as a political tool. In some countries, the death penalty is used against political opponents.

Defenders of the penalty argue that society has a moral obligation to protect the safety and welfare of citizens.

Since these criminals threaten public safety and welfare, only through the death penalty can society make sure that they do not go against the law again.

They also argue that justice demands that those convicted of heinous crimes like murder be sentenced to death.

Justice requires that sanctions corresponding to the harm they caused to innocent persons be imposed on these criminals.

By inflicting death on those who deliberately inflict death on others, the death penalty ensures justice for all. It is the familiar "an eye for an eye" retribution principle.

In 1976, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty. Since then, more than 1,480 people have been executed by lethal injection.

In February this year, AI called on the Malaysian government to seize the opportunity to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

According to official figures, up to November last year 1,359 people were on death row.

In January this year, Malaysia took a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The eyes of the world are now on us, examining our human rights record.

It is time to take that next step, following an earlier promise by Law Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to "review the findings" of the Special Committee to Review Alternative Sentences to the Mandatory Death Penalty.

Lest we forget, past experience teaches us that there is a tendency for "committee findings" to gather dust in somebody's shelf and be ultimately forgotten.

So, are we ready to take on the human rights leadership on this issue?

(source: Opinion; Salleh Buang, the writer, a former federal counsel at the Attorney-General's Chambers and visiting professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, is now a full-time consultant, trainer and author----nst.com.my)

INDONESIA:

British Gran On Death Row In Bali For 9 Years Awaits Firing Squad

A British grandmother who's 9 year1 in to her death row sentence for smuggling cocaine is waiting to be executed.

65-year-old Lindsay Sandiford was caught with a suitcase full of drugs worth £1.6 million and was subsequently jailed in 2013.

The former legal secretary was sentenced to death by a court in Indonesia after being found guilty of smuggling cocaine into Bali.

Sandiford, who's originally from Redcar in the North East, is currently being kept at the infamous Kerobokan prison, where the execution method is likely to be by firing squad, reports The Mirror.

If a prisoner manages to survive the firing squad, the commander is then obliged to shoot them in the head, the publication says.

Sandiford claimed she was pressured into carrying the drugs by a gang who had made threats against her children.

Her lawyers also argued she was suffering from mental health problems.

In a statement to the court, she expressed regret over her involvement: "I would like to begin by apologising to the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian people for my involvement. I would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them."

Her son also gave a statement to the court saying she was forced to carry the drugs because of a disagreement over rent money she had paid on his behalf.

A report by Dr. Jennifer Fleetwood, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent and expert on women in the international drugs trade, was also presented to the court, suggesting Sandiford was an ideal target for drug traffickers.

She said: "There is evidence to suggest that a trafficker would seek someone who was vulnerable.

"Having reviewed extracts from Lindsay's medical records I know that Lindsay has a history of mental health issues.

"This may have unfortunately made her an attractive target for threats, manipulation and coercion."

130 people at the prison are reportedly waiting to be executed, while the last death penalty was carried out in 2015.

At the time, in a statement to the House of Commons, Hugo Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign Office, expressed his concern about the decision.

He said: "We are aware that Lindsay Sandiford is facing the death penalty in Indonesia.

"We strongly object to the death penalty and continue to provide consular assistance to Lindsay and her family during this difficult time."

Sandiford appealed against the decision but she had no money left to pay for a legal team.

(source: ladbible.com)

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

Inside brutal Bali prison where Brit gran is waiting for execution on death row----If you survive the firing squad the commander must shoot the prisoner in the head this is the life of a death row inmate in the infamous Kerobokan prison

Knitting and waiting to die is all a British gran has left to do as she waits to be executed in a Bali prison for drug smuggling.

Lindsay Sandiford has been locked up in jail on the paradise island of Bali.

The 65-year-old has been there since 2013 when she was found with £1.6million of cocaine in her suitcase, which she was trying to smuggle into Indonesia.

Riots and violence from guards are a regular occurrence at the Bali prison which houses 1100 people more than it was built for.

The prison opened in 1979 and was built to hold 300 inmates as of 2017, the Kerobokan Prison contains over 1,400 male and female prisoners of various nationalities.

The punishment in Indonesia is brutal - most drug smugglers and dealers are sentenced to death and the execution method is terrifying - firing squad.

Prisoners at Kerobokan prison, Bali, are led to a grassy area where they can choose to sit or stand before armed soldiers who then take their shots, aiming for the heart

But if a prisoner survives the firing squad, the commander must then shoot them in the head. Indonesia carries out executions infrequently with most prisoners waiting on death row for more than 10 years.

Sandiford, a former legal secretary from Redcar in the North East, had worked in management for many years at a law firm in Cheltenham.

When she arrived in Bali from Bangkok in Thailand on May 19, 2012, she was arrested after a huge haul of cocaine was found in her luggage.

In December 2015, 2 inmates were killed because of a riot between rival gangs. As a result of this, police transferred more than one hundred inmates to other local prisons.

The last death penalties carried out in Indonesia took place in 2015 and 130 people, including Sandiford, are waiting to be executed.

Lindsay Sandiford sent a letter to her supporters thanking them for their support

After her arrest, Sandiford insisted she had been forced to carry the Class A drugs by a criminal gang, who had threatened to hurt her family if she refused.

However, the gran dramatically changed her story when she was told she would receive the death penalty if she was convicted of drug trafficking.

She broke down and told officers that she had been asked to carry the drugs by an antiques dealer, Julian Ponder, who was British and living in Bali, and his partner Rachel Dougall.

Sandiford even agreed to take part in a police sting to catch the pair, along with a 3rd person, Paul Beales.

Ponder's home was searched and both he and Sandiford were charged with drug trafficking. There was no evidence linking Dougall and Beales to the same crime and they were charged with lesser offences.>{? Sandiford's legal team argued that she had been pressured into carrying the drugs and had suffered from mental health problems.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears and she was convicted - although even the prosecution pleaded for her to be jailed for 15 years rather than sentenced to death.

Dougall was found guilty of failing to report a crime and jailed for a year, while Beales was convicted of possessing hashish and locked up for 4 years.

Ponder was cleared of drug smuggling but convicted of the possession of narcotics and sentenced to 6 years behind bars.

Despite the prosecution's pleas, on January 22, 2013, judges sentenced Sandiford to death.

She appealed against the decision but she had no money left to pay for a legal team. A fundraising campaign managed to raise enough to fly an Indonesian solicitor to Bali but her appeal was dismissed.

Sandiford was arrested, after disembarking from a flight from Bangkok, Thailand at Denpasar's Ngurah Rai International Airport for allegedly attempting to smuggle 4,7 kg of cocaine

Sandiford then appealed to the Indonesian Supreme Court, which was also rejected. Ever since the gran has been held in Kerobokan Prison, in Bali.

She now spends her time behind bars knitting items, which she then sells to raise funds to pay for her legal appeals. She has even been teaching other prisoners how to knit.

However, spending so long on death row is taking its toll on Sandiford, who befriended suitcase killer Heather Mack during her time in prison.

(source: mirror.co.uk)

KAZAKHSTAN:

Creation of death penalty free region in CA discussed in Geneva

Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations office and other international organizations in Geneva hosted the Permanent Representative-level regional meeting of countries of Central Asia and Mongolia with the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP), Kazinform cites the press service of the Kazakh MFA.

Representatives of Central Asian countries and Mongolia, ICDP Vice President and former president of the Swiss Confederation Ruth Dreifuss, and ICDP Commissioner and ex-president of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj discussed measures taken by the countries of the region to abolish capital punishment and discussed possible ways of the Central Asia to become a death penalty free zone.

In his statement Permanent Representative Yerlan Alimbayev informed the colleagues about Kazakhstan’s ratification in 2021 of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

Furthermore, Kazakh Ambassador briefed participants on the political reforms initiated by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev under the Second Republic agenda, and the Head of State’s Decree on a referendum on amendments to Constitution, which also includes the amendment prohibiting death penalty.

ICDP Vice President Ruth Dreifuss congratulated Kazakhstan on the progress achieved in abolishing death penalty and welcomed the President Tokayev’s reform agenda.

During the meeting, representatives of countries of Central Asia and Mongolia shared their experiences and vision for a way forward towards achieving a death penalty free region. ICDP is an independent organization working to free the world from the death penalty. Currently, more than 100 countries have abolished the death penalty at the legislative level.

(source: inform.kz)

SOUTH KOREA:

Kim Ji-ha, poet and democracy activist, dies at 81

Renowned poet Kim Ji-ha, a dissident figure who spoke out against the military dictatorship of the 1960s and ‘70s, died Sunday at the age of 81.

Kim had been suffering from an unspecified illness for the past year before he passed away at his home in Wonju, Gangwon Province, according to the Toji Cultural Foundation. The foundation, which supports Korean writers and scholars, was named after the novel “Toji” written by the late Park Kyong-ni, who was also Kim’s mother-in-law.

Kim, who was born Kim Yeong-il in 1941, is best known for his poem, “With a Burning Thirst,” which depicts the narrator’s aspiration for democracy. He was imprisoned multiple times in the 1960s and ‘70s while fighting the authoritarian regime of then-President Park Chung-hee.

He received a death sentence in 1974 in violation of the National Security Law, for supposedly instigating students to cooperate with North Korea in overthrowing the government. Kim was released 10 months later after international institutions rallied to alleviate his punishment.

A 2013 retrial by local court ruled that he was not guilty of the said charges, citing lack of evidence to prove the allegations.

Despite Kim’s outspoken calls for democracy, he remains a divisive figure.

He was embroiled in a nationwide controversy for a column he wrote in 1991 in which he condemned a spate of suicide deaths by young workers and students. The suicides were in protest of the violent police crackdown that resulted in a student’s death in 1987.

In 2012, the poet shocked the nation again when he announced his support for conservative presidential candidate Park Geun-hye -- the daughter of Park Chung-hee who eventually won the race -- while hitting out at rivals Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo.

(source: Korea Herald)

INDIA:

Bombay High Court Acquits Man On Death Row Convicted Of Double Murder Citing Fabrication Of Evidence

see: https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/bombay-high-court-justice-sadhana-s-jadhav-justice-milind-n-jadhav-guddu-krish-yadav-death-sentence-fabrication-of-evidence-double-murder-198611

BAHRAIN:

Tougher penalties in Bahrain for crimes involving chemical arms

Tougher punishments are on the way for crimes using chemical, biological and toxic weapons.Shura Council members yesterday unanimously voted in favour of government-drafted amendments to the 2009 Chemical Weapons Law.

It would see punishments imposed on Bahrainis committing crimes using chemical weapons abroad and foreigners indulging in similar violations in Bahrain.

The concerned panel will be renamed as the National Combat Committee for Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the list of weapons upgraded accordingly by the Cabinet to match the new scope.Another new government-drafted law on biological and toxic weapons was also unanimously approved by the Shura Council.

The punishment would be no less than 10 years in jail, a fine of between BD10,000 and BD20,000, or both for those committing crimes using biological weapons – whether Bahrainis abroad or foreigners in Bahrain, as well as inciters.

They could face life sentence or death penalty if serious harm is done to public health or the environment.Incitement that involves a failed attempt or doesn’t cause substantial harm would be met with up to 7 years in jail, a fine of between BD5,000 and BD10,000, or both.

Those who commit crimes under their name or that of their establishment or businesses will be fined between BD50,000 and BD200,000.MPs approved the legislations in March.

Meanwhile, Shura Council members unanimously approved a loan agreement between Bahrain and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development to partially cover the cost of a new control centre for monitoring and controlling the electricity and water networks with a value of 10 million Kuwaiti dinars.

The project aims to meet the growing need for electricity and water generation, transmission and distribution services.All have been referred to His Majesty King Hamad for ratification.

(source: zawya.com)

IRAN----executions

Yousef Naderi and Abolfazl Hassan Moradi Executed in Qom Central Prison

2 death row prisoners, Yousef Naderi and Abolfazl Hassan Moradi were executed in Qom Central Prison yesterday.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 2 men were executed in Qom Central Prison on the morning of May 7. Their identities have been established as 40-year-old Yousef Naderi and Abolfazl Hassan Moradi, around 50 years old. Yousef was sentenced to death on drug-related charges and Abolfazl was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

Speaking to Iran Human Rights, an informed source said: “They arrested Abolfazl Hassan Moradi on the road to Qom for carrying drugs in February 2018 and sentenced him to death.”

“Yousef Naderi was also arrested around 4 years ago on charges of murder. He was convicted of committing the murder during a fight over financial disputes,” the source added.

At the time of writing, neither of their executions have been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to reports compiled by Iran Human Rights, at least 126 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2021, a fivefold increase compared to drug executions in the previous three years. None of the 2021 drug-related executions were reported by official sources.

In 2021, at least 183 people were executed on murder charges. Those charged with the umbrella term of “intentional murder” are sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) regardless of intent or circumstances due to a lack of grading in law. Once a defendant has been convicted, the victim’s family are required to choose between death as retribution, diya (blood money) or forgiveness.

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

Scheduled Execution of Ahmadreza Djalali: Europe Must Make Consequences of Killing a Hostage Clear to the Islamic Republic

The international community, European countries with diplomatic relations with Iran in particular, must make the serious consequences of executing Ahmadreza Djalali clear to Islamic Republic officials.

In recent days, Iranian state media have reported that Iranian-Swedish death row prisoner, Dr Ahmadreza Djalali will be executed by May 21, in just over 10 days.

Reports say that the scheduled execution is in reaction to the trial of Hamid Noury , held in Sweden, for war crimes for his participation in mass-execution of political prisoners in 1988 in Iran.

Condemning the threat of execution, Iran Human Rights calls for an immediate and firm response from European governments to save the life of Ahmadreza Djalali.

Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “At this stage, a firm stance by Europe is the only way to save Ahmadreza Djalali. European governments must make it clear to Islamic Republic officials that executing Ahmadreza Djalali is considered an execution of a hostage which will have serious consequences.” He added: “Like ISIS, the Islamic Republic practises the policy of hostage-taking and threatening the West with their execution. The difference being that unlike ISIS, the Islamic Republic has a seat at the UN and diplomatic relations with other countries, including Europe. Severing diplomatic and trade relations and prosecuting the perpetrators of the murder of this hostage are actions that European governments can and should take in the event of Ahamdreza Djalali’s execution; this must be made clear to the Islamic Republic before the crime is carried out.”

An Iranian judicial official issued the threat as the trial of Hamid Noury was drawing to a close in Stockholm. Kazem Gharibabadi, the secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights and deputy chief of the Iranian Judiciary’s International Affairs threatened on May 2 that the sentences of individuals linked to Sweden would be carried out. On May 4, Iranian state media reported that his execution would be carried out within two weeks. Dr Djalali’s lawyer has also been notified of his client’s imminent execution.

Ahmadreza’s wife, Vida Mehrannia told Iran Human Rights: “On Saturday, Ahmadreza’s lawyer went to the Evin Prison court and spoke to judiciary officials who also said they’ll be carrying out the sentence.”

The scheduled execution in retaliation against the trial of Hamid Noury demonstrates once again that the Islamic Republic of Iran uses the death penalty as a political tool to achieve its goals. Iran Human Rights warns again of the serious and imminent risk to Ahmadreza Djalali’s life should the international community not take urgent action.

The policy of taking foreign nationals hostage with the aim of gaining political privileges or exchanging with prisoners affiliated with the Iranian government, has a long history and has been used continuously since the 1979 revolution. Many analysts believe that this policy will continue as long as Western governments comply with the hostage-taking demands of the Islamic Republic and they continue to not face any serious consequences over their actions.

Ahmadreza Djalali was living in Sweden since 2009 and is a dual Swedish-Iranian national who was a physician crisis management researcher working at the Karolinska Institutet, a medical university near Stockholm. He was also teaching at universities in Italy and Belgium.

Ahmadreza had travelled to Iran at the official invitation of the University of Tehran when he was arrested in April 2016. Initially charged with “collaborating with hostile States”, he was later sentenced to “efsad-fil-arz (corruption on earth) through espionage for Israel” after a grossly unfair trial by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran without due process. The charge was also upheld by the Supreme Court.

(source for both: iranhr.net)

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

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi’s Message to Iranians Rallying for 9 Months Outside the Court of a Henchman at His Final Hearing----Perseverance of the Heroes Who Stood Their Ground in 1988 Is the Iranian People’s National Honor and Judge of Values----Investigation Into 1988 Massacre Should Be Extended to All Prisons Across Iran, Beginning in 1981

At the end of Hamid Noury’s trial (a henchman of the 1988 massacre) in Sweden, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), sent a message to the freedom-loving Iranians and the relatives of the martyrs, gathered and demonstrated outside the court in all circumstances from the beginning of the trial on August 10, 2021, to the end, on May 4. She described the protesters as justice seekers on behalf of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI) and the fighters who were massacred for their steadfast position and ceaselessly demonstrated and marched in the past nine months to urge the world to prosecute the mass murderers ruling Iran, for their crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide, who also stood fast and did not allow the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence succeed in its plots to divert and seize control of the Call for Justice Movement.

Emphasizing that the perseverance of the heroes who stood their ground in 1988 is the Iranian people’s national honor and judge of values, Mrs. Rajavi, said: The slaughter of political prisoners in Gohardasht Prison was declared a war crime and a crime against humanity, demanding the most severe punishment for one of the perpetrators involved. The announcement is just one of your magnificent Call for Justice campaign stages. However, it is the historical product of the sacrifices made by the political prisoners who stood their ground and were massacred starting in August 1988.

Reminding that the Iranian Resistance revealed the ongoing slaughter, and particularly the contents of Khomeini’s fatwa beginning in late July and August of 1988, Mrs. Rajavi said: At the time, the MEK and its supporters held demonstrations and hunger strikes in many countries to inform and awaken international public opinion. Over the past 34 years, the Iranian Resistance has held hundreds and thousands of conferences, demonstrations, rallies, and symbolic tribunals, revealing documents, names of victims, and locations of unmarked graves and mass graves.

Mrs. Rajavi hailed everyone who sacrificed and endeavored in the Call for Justice Movement for the past 3 decades, including Prof. Kazem Rajavi (Massoud Rajavi’s older brother and Iran’s first ambassador to the United Nations after the 1979 revolution, who was assassinated by the regime in 1995 in Geneva) and all those who were arrested and tortured for collecting information on the massacre, filing a complaint, or protesting against the regime. She also hailed the MEK and Marxist prisoners for their accurate testimonies, who, with a deep sense of responsibility, have supplied the essential irrefutable details on the 1988 massacre for the Prosecutor’s indictment. Mrs. Rajavi, therefore, reiterated: The trial in Stockholm proved the validity of the PMOI prisoners’ testimonies. It also confirmed that the 34-year revelations of the PMOI and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) about the massacre were credible. This is a massive blow to the clerical regime, which kept denying the killings from the onset.

Referring to the conspiracies and gimmicks used by the regime to hide or trivialize the Justice Movement for the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, Mrs. Rajavi noted: The trial’s process and results until this point mean that the Iranian regime’s conspiracies against the Call for Justice Movement have largely failed. The murderers and mercenaries who harbor the illusion that they can hide or trivialize the massacre by destroying the victims’ tombs or by all kinds of lies are sorely mistaken. Those trying in vain to use the martyrdom of 30,000 political prisoners to conspire against the PMOI and their leader are seriously mistaken. The brilliance of this glorious epic of our times, the tremendous sacrifice of those steadfast heroes, and their historical status and dignity have turned into the Iranian people’s national honor and judge of values. The mullahs and their accomplices have not and will not be able to seize or deviate it.

The President-elect of the NCRI concluded her message to the freedom-loving Iranian rally by saying: The investigation into the genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1988 massacre of political prisoners should be extended to all prisons across Iran, not just Gohardasht Prison, beginning in 1981. Iran’s courageous children and we will confront the regime’s leaders, executioners, and mercenaries in the Iranian people’s court of justice.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)

MAY 8, 2022:

OHIO:

Inmate on death row wants his sentence vacated

Attorneys for a Trumbull County convicted murderer — who had been scheduled to die in 2021 before Ohio’s highest court stayed his execution — have now asked the Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to vacate his death sentence because the defendant claims he is intellectually disabled.

David Martin, 37, through his public defenders Adam Rusnak, Bridget Kennedy and Deborah Williams, filed the motion on March 31 in a 412-page document.

In 2021, the Ohio Supreme Court delayed Martin’s execution because federal public defenders had admitted his case had “slipped through the cracks of the legal system.” Martin had gone without a lawyer for more than a year, reports state, after the high court upheld his 2014 sentence. Martin subsequently missed deadlines to make appeals to federal courts.

Gov. Mike DeWine ruled in 2021 that lethal injection is no longer an option, and he has asked state lawmakers to identify a different method for putting the condemned to death. In the meantime, DeWine put a moratorium on executions in 2021 and 2022. The state last put someone to death in July 2018.

Martin, who is incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, was sentenced to death by Judge Andrew D. Logan after a jury found him guilty in September 2014 on charges of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Martin was charged with the Sept. 27, 2012, execution-style murder of Jeremy Cole, 21, during an attempted robbery at an Oak Circle SW, Warren home. He also was charged with wounding then 30-year-old Melissa Putnam, who recovered from her head wounds.

Later, Martin was charged with being 1 of 3 Trumbull County jail inmates responsible for taking a corrections officer hostage in April 2014 while he was awaiting trial.

In his petition, Martin wants Logan to vacate his death sentence because of court errors in the trial and sentencing.

Martin’s attorneys also claim at least 2 medical experts have determined the inmate is intellectually disabled.

Logan has not scheduled any hearings on the defense motion, and the judge has given county Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Sanders until Sept. 30 to file a response to Martin’s motion.

An earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling has forbidden the state to execute inmates who are intellectually disabled.

Fellow death row inmate Danny Lee Hill has staved off execution by using the same intellectually disabled argument.

CRITERIA MET

Martin’s petition states that psychologist Carol Armstrong, Ph.D, examined Martin in 2001 and determined his IQ to be 71 using the Welsher Adult Intelligence Scale. When adjusting that test norms become outdated, the attorneys argue that his IQ score should be 67, which is below the 70 line determining intellectual disability.

Another expert, a psychiatrist, states that Martin displays adaptive deficits in conceptual, social and practical functions. The findings of Dr. Robin Belcher-Timme rely on input by Martin’s father, brother and a grade-school teacher, about the inmate’s slow academic progress and speech problems.

While in elementary school, Martin had to repeat 4th grade and was placed in special education in 5th grade, the report states. During his teens, Martin maintained grades of D and F.

“Based on the many-sided evaluation, Mr. Martin meets the diagnostic criteria for Mild Intellectual Disability,” Dr. Belcher-Timme’s quotes are repeated in the court petition.

Also Armstrong noted in making her diagnosis for intellectual disability that Martin displayed “very significant neuropsychological impairment.”

FAMILY BACKGROUND

The defense motion uses more than a dozen pages to delve into Martin’s family background and early childhood.

It notes that mother Hilda “Theresa” Martin of Cleveland was so addicted to crack and alcohol that she was unable to stay sober while pregnant with David, according to information supplied to attorneys by Martin’s relatives.

When Martin was born on Sept. 14, 1984, trial excerpts state hospital professionals recognized that Martin’s mother had parenting problems because she discharged herself from the hospital early against medical advice. Social services became involved and a home visit was scheduled, but no follow ups were made, records show.

Both parents came from troubled homes with substance abuse and mental illness prevalent.

Martin’s father, Benjamin, was born into poverty in West Virginia with Martin’s grandfather, a violent alcoholic, being a coal miner and railroad worker, records show. All of Martin’s siblings experienced some kind of trauma, whether sexual, physical or emotional abuse, according to relatives.

During his early life, Martin’s mother continued to use drugs in front of him, smoking crack while he was an infant. Records show the mother would abandon her children for days at a time and sell her children’s toys and other belongings to buy drugs.

Records show the mother worked in the sex trade to support her drug habit, often bringing customers home when the children — including Martin — were there.

In April 1989, when Martin was 4, his mother was murdered, and defense attorneys claim the act was witnessed by Martin. Police investigation records do not confirm whether Martin was with his mother at the time of her death.

After the death, David and his brother moved in with their father, and life did not improve for the family, records show. He eventually succumbed to the negative influences in his Cleveland neighborhood and attorneys said he became an addict and “a follower.” The only bright spot was Martin’s experience with boxing, the record shows.

(source: Tribune Chronicle)

ARIZONA:

Judge won't halt Arizona execution — at least for now

A federal judge on Saturday refused to halt an Arizona execution planned for Wednesday after the state provided attorneys for convicted killer Clarence Dixon with documents outlining testing done on the drug it will use, but an additional flurry of last-minute court action could still lead to a delay.

That court action is almost certain to include Dixon's contention that the test results released late Friday showed that the sedative to be used has exceeded its expiration date. Arizona's lawyers contend it will not expire until August.

Dixon's attorneys also plan to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court a state judge's Tuesday ruling that while Dixon suffers from schizophrenia, he understands what is about to occur and is therefore competent to be executed. If the state high court refuses to overturn that, they plan to turn to federal court on that issue.

But time is running short, as U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa noted.

“I just do want to remind you that the window of opportunity here is closing,” Humetewa told Dixon's lawyers at the close of Saturday's hearing. “I do ask you to be mindful of that.”

Once that was provided by the state Friday night, Humetewa said she had nothing before her.

“So your request has been met," Humetewa said. "I think the argument over whether or not the compound has expired is a wholly different question.”

Dixon attorney Jennifer Moreno said an amended lawsuit seeking to explore that will be expedited.

Arizona and many other states have struggled to get execution drugs in recent years after drug-makers refused to sell their products for that use. Arizona obtained the pentobarbital they plan to use from an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

That pharmacist mixed a batch of the drug into a solution last September and sent it to a federally registered lab for testing, according to state documents. The testing showed it would last 180 days. The pharmacist then mixed a 2nd batch from the same powder in February for use in Dixon's execution, and the state contends it won't expire until this coming August.

But Moreno said the documents just provided by the state do not show what the state contends.

“The underlying data demonstrates that the drug tested did not pass the defendant’s own tests,” Moreno said. “These are the tests the (state) said needed to be done to extend the beyond-use date beyond 45 days.”

Since they failed, Moreno said, the drugs the state plans to use actually expired in mid-April.

Dixon, now 66 and blind, is set to be the first person put to death in Arizona since in nearly 8 years, mainly because of problems with the previous execution. The state had to give Joseph Wood 15 doses of a 2-drug combination over 2 hours before he died in July 2014 in an execution that his lawyers said was botched. The state now is using just 1 drug.

Dixon was convicted of murder in the killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. He was serving life sentences for a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old Northern Arizona University student when DNA testing linked him to Bowdoin's unsolved rape and murder.

Dixon had was found “not guilty by reason of insanity” in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was delivered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly 4 years before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowdoin was killed on Jan. 7, 1978, two days after that verdict, according to court records.

Bowdoin was found dead in her apartment, and had been raped, stabbed and strangled. Dixon had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the charge was later dropped on statute-of-limitation grounds. He was convicted, though, in her death.

Defense lawyers said Dixon has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, has regularly experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and should not be executed.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a warrant for a second execution. Frank Atwood is set to die June 8 for killing an 8-year-old girl in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.

(source: The Independent)

USA:

Executions by firing squad are beneath this country’s dignity

South Carolina’s plan to carry out executions by firing squad was put on hold April 20 by the state supreme court, which granted temporary reprieves to two men who had elected that method under a state law requiring that condemned inmates choose either the firing squad or electrocution.

Forcing such a choice adds a sadistic element to execution’s cruelty and inhumanity. Being required to select a method of being killed is ghoulish and horrible.

As bad as the fact of choice is, the inclusion of the firing squad makes this legal requirement even worse. Execution by firing squad is beneath the dignity of any civilized nation.

Perhaps that is why execution by firing squad is so rare in the United States. In the last half- century almost 1,500 people have been put to death. Only 3 of them have been executed in this manner: Gary Gilmore, John Albert Taylor, and Ronnie Lee Gardner, the last in 2010.

All of them were executed in the state of Utah. Its use of the firing squad is said to reflect the Mormon faith’s belief in “blood atonement.”

Despite recent speculation about the pain experienced by people put to death by the firing squad and whether it is preferable to other execution methods, each use of it is a spectacle of cold-blooded killing.

Each of them calls on the people who do the shooting to act as cogs in the state’s machinery of death. And each is a disturbing reenactment of the kind of gun violence that plagues this country and brings unimaginable grief to thousands of families every year.

To fully sense the horror of what South Carolina seeks to do, one has only to revisit the three most recent uses of the firing squad.

The 1st was the execution of Gary Gilmore in 1977, only a few months after the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of America’s death penalty. Gilmore was put to death for 2 murders committed while out on parole after being imprisoned for assault and armed robbery. Unlike most death row inmates, Gilmore waived all legal appeals and insisted that Utah carry out his death sentence. His case became a media sensation both because of his desire to die and because of the method that would be used to kill him.

Gilmore thought execution by firing squad was a more “dignified” way to die than hanging.

In an unusually detailed account published the day after the execution, the New York Times reported that Gilmore was hooded, strapped into a chair, and had a target pinned over his heart. None of those things makes death by firing squad a dignified way to die.

Following Utah’s execution protocol, the members of the firing squad were volunteers. They willingly served the state by shooting an unarmed man from a distance of 20 feet. All were law enforcement officers drawn from the county in which Gilmore’s murders occurred. 4 of their rifles were supposed to be loaded with live rounds. The 5th rifle should have had blank ammunition so that none of the shooters could know for certain whose shots actually would kill Gilmore.

Gilmore’s famous last words were “Let’s do it.”

After the execution, Gilmore’s brother Mikal said that he found 5, not 4, bullet holes in the shirt Gary wore to his execution. As he put it, “The state of Utah, apparently, had taken no chances on the morning that it put my brother to death.”

The Guardian reported that after the execution was completed “scores of journalists were given a tour of the site … (where they) … inspected the blood-stains (from) … the dead man.”

John Albert Taylor was next to be executed by firing squad in 1996. He was convicted and sentenced for committing rape and murder of a child.

If Gilmore thought of the firing squad as a dignified way to die, Taylor said he hoped that it would embarrass the state of Utah.

But the officers who participated in Taylor’s execution did not seem embarrassed at all. One “described it as an ‘assignment, nothing more than getting an order to do something like kicking in a door to serve a warrant.” Another said that Taylor’s execution was like “returning a defective product to the manufacturer.” A third admitted that he “had issues about shooting a guy strapped in a seat, helpless. But the state had ordered us to do this and we had a job to do.” He said that while he did not regret doing it, he “would never do it again.”

About 14 years after Taylor was shot to death, Utah did the same thing to Ronnie Lee Gardner. He had been sentenced for killing a man during an attempted escape from a courthouse in 1985.

In 2004, Utah lawmakers adopted lethal injection as its method of execution, but inmates like Gardner sentenced before then were given the choice of a firing squad. When a judge asked Gardner for his preference, he replied politely, “I would like the firing squad, please.”

Like Gilmore and Taylor, Gardner was strapped into a chair, hooded, and then shot by five volunteers. As ABC News described the execution, “The rifles exploded and four bullets perforated his heart and lungs. The straps held his head up. A metal tray beneath the chair collected his blood.” ABC quoted witnesses who said Gardner “fidgeted even after the barrage of gunfire.” One of them noted that “When he was shot, some of us weren’t sure if he had passed away because we could see movement. He had his fist clenched and we could see his elbow move up and down.” Another witness said she was troubled because Gardner did not seem to die quickly.

Executions by firing squad always mutilate the body and produce a bloody death.

Former Federal Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in 2014 that all executions “are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

Kozinski said that the firing squad had the virtue of not shielding “ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all.”

It is long past time that Americans faced that reality and stopped pretending that execution ever can be humane. If South Carolina carries out the first execution by firing squad in more than a decade it indeed will be “committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

(source: Opinion; Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College and the author of “Lethal Injection and the False Promise of Humane Execution.” ---- thehill.com)

JAMAICA:

Minister McKenzie wants child killers hanged----Protecting children from harm is the priority

see: https://jamaica.loopnews.com/content/minister-mckenzie-wants-child-killers-hanged

INDIA:

Forensic voice matching nailed gangster Bannanje Raja in 2013 killing of businessman in Karnataka----Bannanje Raja alias BR alias Rajendra Kumar was extradited from Morocco in 2015 for the December 2013 murder of the Karwar mining businessman R N Nayak.

The court said that it was convinced about the involvement of Bannanje Raja - who was based in Dubai - in the killing of Nayak.

A series of voice matches from extortion calls made to a Karnataka businessman and calls made to the media following the murder of the businessman proved to be crucial evidence in the sentencing to life imprisonment of notorious gangster Bannanje Raja (53), according to the 791-page judgment issued by a Belagavi trial court.

Bannanje Raja alias BR alias Rajendra Kumar, a gangster from coastal Karnataka who ran a mafia outfit called the B R Company, was involved in over 40 crimes in Karnataka and was extradited from Morocco in 2015 for the December 2013 murder of the Karwar mining businessman R N Nayak. He was sentenced to life in prison by a trial court last month for murder and organised crime under the Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act, 2000.

Although there was no condition imposed by Morocco at the time of the gangster’s extradition against imposing capital punishment, the trial court did not venture to consider the death penalty by stating that the Nayak murder was not the rarest of rare crimes.

“In regard to the submission by learned counsel for the accused No. 9 (Bannanje Raja) that this court cannot impose the death penalty…, it is to be noted that Sec.34C of the Extradition Act 1962 is applicable only if the capital punishment is not prescribed by the reciprocating country viz., Morocco,” the trial court observed.

While negating the prosecution’s demand for capital punishment and the defence arguments against the death penalty, the court ruled that “no such condition was imposed by the Kingdom of Morocco” against awarding a death sentence for Bannanje Raja in India.

“Therefore the submission has no merits and is to be rejected. Anyhow this court has come to the conclusion that capital punishment cannot be imposed as the case does not fall in the category of the rarest of the rare case,” the trial court ruled.

The court said that it was convinced about the involvement of Bannanje Raja – who was based in Dubai – in the killing of Nayak by his henchmen in Karnataka after being provided forensic evidence of matches between the voice of the gangster, threat calls made by him to the victim and members of his family, and the calls made to the media claiming the killing.

“This court is convinced by the voices heard by this court from accused No.9 (Bannanje Raja) also after listening to the records produced before this court. The confession statements of other accused are also relevant,” the trial court observed.

The voice matches and confession statements of several of the accused that they were working at the behest of the gangster proved that Bannanje Raja was the head of the mafia outfit involved in the Nayak murder, the court said.

The court said “…evidence on record indisputably connects accused No.9 to calls made to PW.18 and the deceased R.N. Nayak and also to the interview given to the TV channels. By this, the prosecution has proved that it was accused No.9, who was the kingpin behind the entire incident and he was running the organized crime syndicate called B.R. Company”.

The court has pointed out that soon after the murder Bannanje Raja called up television channels to claim the hit and revealed minute details of the crime like the death of one of his own men in firing by a bodyguard of the businessman during the public shootout.

The court said that “it is evident that the caller (to TV channels) knew that accused No.1 died. Under these circumstances, this court comes to the conclusion that accused No.9 is Bannanje Raja and he had made threatening calls to the deceased R.N. Nayak as well as PW.18”.

One of the key pieces of evidence that the Karnataka police unearthed during the investigation was the money trail involved in the financing of the murder including the supply of the guns used in the murder.

The police probe found that the family of a shooter involved in the murder was paid by a financier for the Bannanje Raja gang after the shooter died during the crime.

Raja and his gang were attempting to extort Rs three crore from the businessman who had ignored the threats of the gangster and sought police protection.

Hired gunmen carried out the killing in Ankola town on December 21, 2013. One of the Bannanje Raja gunmen involved in the shooting, Akash alias Vivek Upadhyay, 27, (accused number 1) was killed by Nayak’s bodyguard in a shootout with the assailant while a 2nd shooter Satish Patel was caught by members of the public while trying to escape.

The police probe found that the murder plot was hatched by an associate of Bannanje Raja who was lodged in a prison in the state at the time.

“There were many money transfers at the instance of accused No.9 (Raja) through accused No.10 (Jagadish Chandra). Money has been transferred to the account of accused No.1 (standing in his father’s name), accused No.7 (Mahesh Achangi), accused No.12 (Ankit Kumar), and accused No.3 (Ambaji) and 4 (Ganesh) through different people,” the court said.

The police provided technical evidence in the form of CCTV footage from banks, bakeries, and the crime scene, to indicate the movements of the accused during the plotting of the murder and its eventual execution.

“So far as execution of the decision of B.R. Company is concerned, it was planned by accused No.7. Accused No.1 had expertise in using firearms and under his leadership, accused Nos.2 to 4 joined together and planned and carried out the execution of the crime. The least experienced was accused No.2. Thus, accused Nos.1 & 3 did much of the planning of the execution and committed the crime,” the court observed in its judgment last month.

The trial court pronounced life imprisonment on April 4 for Satish Patel, 27 – one of the shooters, Abhi Ambaji Bandagar, 42, Ganesh Bajantri, 35, K M Ismail, 53, Bannanje Raja, 53, Mahesh Achhangi, 40 and Ankit Kumar, 33, for murder under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The accused have also been sentenced to life imprisonment for organised crime.

The R N Nayak murder case was one of the first in Karnataka where the special Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act, 2000 was invoked by the state police.

The KCOCA law was introduced in the year 2000 as a strong measure to control organised crime on account of clauses in the law on bail, evidence, and culpability which are beneficial to the police in bringing the accused in organised, violent crimes to book.

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

‘Police fabricated vital evidence’: Bombay HC acquits man who got death penalty for double murder

Rejecting the death confirmation plea filed by the state government against Yadav, the High Court observed that the trial was conducted in the "most casual manner" and the prosecution had "suppressed and fabricated vital evidence (dying declarations of victims)”.

The police relied on dying declarations of the couple and 2 other employees who were key eye witnesses to the incident.

Observing inconsistencies in the evidence produced by the police, the Bombay High Court on Friday acquitted a man who was sentenced to death by the Palghar sessions court in a 2015 double murder case. Guddu Krish Yadav had allegedly poured acid on his colleague and wife, killing them.

Rejecting the death confirmation plea filed by the state government against Yadav, the High Court observed that the trial was conducted in the “most casual manner” and the prosecution had “suppressed and fabricated vital evidence (dying declarations of victims)”.

As per police, on November 5, 2015, Yadav allegedly stole his colleague’s phone, resulting in the colleague complaining to their employer. The two worked at a chemicals and acid trading company in Boisar.

The police alleged that the employer pulled up Yadav and asked him to return the phone, leading Yadav to allegedly seek revenge. In the wee hours of November 6, 2015, Yadav allegedly went to the company’s quarters – where his colleague stayed with his wife – with a bucket of concentrated sulphuric acid and poured the same on them while they were asleep.

The couple was taken to the hospital, where the husband died 4 hours later and the wife the next day.

The police relied on dying declarations of the couple and 2 other employees who were key eye witnesses to the incident.

The Palghar sessions court, on May 9, 2019, convicted Yadav and sentenced him to death. It observed that the same was “a unique case beyond imagination and a crime of such a nature, which is undeserving of any sympathy or mercy”. Thereafter, the state government had moved HC seeking confirmation of Yadav’s death sentence.

Advocate Yug Mohit Chaudhry, appearing for Yadav, argued that as per material on record, there was major discrepancy and contradiction about the time of the deaths and thus, the dying declarations cannot be admitted as evidence.

Referring to the evidence given by the doctor and the nurse who first attended to the couple, the High Court said that the two victims “would not have been conscious to record their respective dying declarations”.

A division bench of Justice Sadhana S Jadhav and Justice Milind N Jadhav observed, “After having appreciated the entire evidence on record, the material discrepancies, lacunae and blatant illegalities, we would definitely indicate that the prosecution has utterly failed in connecting the dots and bringing home the guilt of the accused. Merely because the crime is heinous and brutal, it would not be just to get carried away sans any legal proof required to substantiate the charge of murder on the accused.”

“…The evidence led by the prosecution is fraught with major inconsistencies… The trial was conducted in the most casual manner and whether it was just and fair in a capital punishment case is a question remaining unanswered. The quality and credibility of the evidence adduced is not even up to the mark…”. “We have come to the unequivocal conclusion that the prosecution has not only suppressed vital evidence but deliberately fabricated the dying declaration of the deceased, which forms the basis of its case,” the bench noted.

Rejecting state’s plea, the High Court said, “There is absolutely no question of awarding death sentence to the accused, rather, it is the case in which the accused must be given the benefit of doubt, nay, it would be a travesty of justice.”

(source for both: indianexpress.com)

NIGERIA:

Lady sentenced to death over killing of husband with her pastor freed by Supreme Court

A woman, Enobong Isonguyo, who was sentenced to death for the 2013 gruesome murder of her husband, Victor Isonguyo, has been set free by the Supreme Court.

The lady was sentenced to death for allegedly killing her husband with their family Pastor, Udoka Ukachukwu, now on the run.

Isonguyo, a Senior Director with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, was killed around Sapele Road in Benin City, Edo State and burnt beyond recognition inside his Toyota Corolla car.

Isonguyo and Ukachukwu were arrested, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging by the initial trial court.

An appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision, confirming the death penalty for the duo.

However, Isonguyo’s defence counsel, Olayiwola Afolabi, proceeded to the Supreme Court, where the earlier judgements were overturned.

In a landmark judgement delivered by Justice Mary Odili, the Supreme Court resolved that the ruling from the lower court was based on speculation and imagination, which are not part of the criminal code.

The court described the death sentence as a miscarriage of justice and ordered the woman to be released unconditionally.

Ukachukwu, who was sentenced along with Isonguyo in 2013, escaped from prison custody during the 2020 EndSARS protest.

(source: theeagleonline.com.ng)

IRAN:

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee speaks out from prison against retribution law

In a letter from Amol Prison, political prisoner Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee has challenged the Iranian regime’s Judiciary for speeding up the execution of death penalties in recent years.

She protested in the letter the expedition of what she called state-sponsored murders based on a law passed in 2019 under Ebrahim Raisi, as the head of the Judiciary.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee condemned the regime’s handing down of “retribution” verdicts which sanction systematic murder of people “on any charge” and “under any pretext.”

As she said in her letter, Ms. Iraee is trying harder to stop the death penalty because she has lived with the victims of retribution and witnessed their pain in the final moments of their lives.

Excerpts of her letter from Amol Prison follow:

What is the intention behind the expedition of the execution of the retribution sentences? Is it to decrease the number of those imprisoned or to expedite state-sponsored murders? Is it improvement of the situation or getting rid of the problem?

In 2019, when Ebrahim Raisi still headed the Judiciary, he revived a law on prisoners with retribution sentences which expedited the execution of their death decrees.

By the end of the year, we witnessed many death sentences in prisons across the country.

Since winter 2020, many convicts have been hanged because of the expedition of their cases. However, in recent years, convicts did not have sufficient time to appeal their sentences.

In the past, the procedure for examining murder cases used to take several years.

The length of time helped the convicts to have time to contact the plaintiffs, and in some cases, they managed to receive their consent and escape death.

While Iranian laws sanction state-sponsored murders, we can see that the death sentences have not helped prevent the crime. Using ambiguous terms such as “corruption on the Earth,” these laws continue to take lives in a bid to clean the Earth from corruption.

It is inconceivable that the retribution law would be revised so long as religious despotism continues to rule. Therefore, its state-sponsored murder machine continues to operate perpetually.

In the meantime, the regime promotes violence through the state media and schools. It educates people to take revenge from childhood.

Iranian regime took many lives under various pretexts

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee accused the clerical regime of putting the burden of execution on the victim’s family and thereby hiding behind private plaintiffs. She went on to explain why she was raising this issue at this time:

By raising this issue in the present circumstances, we seek to launch a campaign to protest (the law), expediting the implementation of retribution verdicts. The suspension of this law could postpone deaths and occasionally lead to amnesty for the convicts.

The Islamic Republic launched its killing machine when it seized power in Iran from the outset. It murdered political opponents, armed robbers, drug traffickers, murder convicts, etc., executing many over the years by sending them before the firing squads or to the gallows.

One must condemn the systematic killing of people under any pretext and for whatever charge. It must be omitted from the laws. There have always been objections to the death penalty. Now, expediting the implementation of the death sentences and procedure of examining the cases of retribution and hasty carrying out of their death sentences takes away every hope and creates horrifying circumstances for the convict.

I have lived with women sentenced to retribution and witnessed their pain in the last moments before walking to their deaths. These experiences have made me try harder to eliminate the cause of their pain.

In conclusion, it is fitting to remember Farzad Kamangar, the teacher killed 12 years ago by the state killing machine and deprived us of enjoying his worthy existence.

We will stand like him until the overthrow of tyranny and eradication of all oppression and oppressors.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee

May 2022 – Amol Prison

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

**********

Activist On Hunger Strike To Protest Possible Execution Of Swedish Hostage

A jailed Iranian civil activist, Farhad Meysami, went on hunger strike Saturday to protest the possible execution of a Swedish Iranian doctor accused of Spying.

In a note published Friday on a Telegram channel run by his supporters, Meysami said he will not end his hunger strike, which he said he would begin Saturday morning, unless authorities stop the execution of Swedish-Iranian national Ahmadreza Djalali (Jalali). Meysami, who is a doctor, said he will refuse all food and only take a little water and a medication which if not taken will cause quick bleeding in his digestive system.

Quoting unnamed "informed sources," semi-official media in Iran reported this week that the 51-year-old Djalali's death sentence was impending.

This is not the first time Iran has threatened to execute Djalali. In November 2020, Djalali told his family he was being sent to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution which the authorities eventually did not carried out, without offering any explanation.

The Iranian state television at the time aired a video of Djalali confessing to spying for Israel but he subsequently released an audio message from prison saying he had been coerced into making the confession. The father of two has always denied any wrongdoing.

Djalali's wife, Vida Mehrannia, told Iran International at the time that he was being used as pawn by Iran in its relations with Europe. Mehrannia on Friday told Radio Farda, that this time authorities have not informed Djalali, his family, and his lawyer of their intention to carry out the death sentence.

Meysami, a doctor and teacher who has been serving a 5-year sentence for his anti-hijab activities, said in his message that he had met Djalali at Tehran's Evin prison over three years ago. "He had been on hunger strike in protest to repeated threats of his execution and the effects of which on his body and soul were clearly visible," he wrote.

"Imagine subjecting a human being to this repeatedly. Not once, not twice… Is there any torture worse than this?" Meysami said about repeated threats of execution made against Djalali.

"I don't want to just oppose Dr Djalali's execution, I want to draw attention to something much more important, to draw attention to the fact that they send a man to his death many times and bring him back," he wrote. "Regular and intentional torture like this is definitely crime against humanity."

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde in a tweet Wednesday expressed concern over Djalali.

“We’re aware of the egregious case of arbitrary detention of Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmadreza Djalali by Iranian authorities. We echo concerns from UN experts that Djalali’s case is ‘truly horrific,’ and urge his release,” a US State Department spokesperson said in response to a query by Iran International Friday.

Earlier this week the Swedish foreign ministry confirmed that Iran has recently arrested a Swedish tourist.

Tehran's relations with Stockholm have escalated further following Swedish prosecutors asking a sentence of life imprisonment for Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian judiciary official, for crimes against humanity committed during the prison purges of 1988 in Iran.

Calling Nouri's arrest and trial "unlawful and unfair", Secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Kazem Gharibabadi on Monday accused Sweden of violating Nouri's human rights.

(source: iranintl.com)

JORDAN:

Man’s death sentence upheld for father’s murder

The Court of Cassation has upheld a December Criminal Court ruling, sentencing a man to death after convicting him of murdering his father in Amman in December 2019.

The court declared the defendant guilty of premeditatedly murdering his father by beating him with a wrench and strangling him to death with his hands following “a heated argument” on December 26.

The defendant was handed the death penalty.

Court documents said the defendant was a “troublemaker and would often abuse his father physically because he had a strong built”.

“The defendant lived with his father, who was separated from his mother in Zarqa, and would often physically abuse the victim,” court papers said.

As a result, court documents maintained, “the victim moved to Amman to escape the abuse inflicted on him by his son”.

On the day of the incident, the court said the defendant visited his father in Amman and the two ate dinner together.

“The victim tried to fix a gas heater with a wrench when an argument ensued between the two,” according to court papers.

The defendant overpowered his father, snatched the wrench and “beat his father repeatedly on his head with the heavy tool”.

“The defendant then choked his father by pressing on his neck until he made sure he was dead and then left,” the court added.

The following day, the court added, the victim’s sister contacted the defendant expressing her fear that something had happened to her brother because he was not answering her calls.

“The defendant pretended to be worried and went to look for his father,” court papers said.

The defendant, through his lawyer, claimed that the prosecution failed to provide evidence that would connect the defendant to the murder.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Court’s attorney general had asked the higher court to uphold the death sentence ruling, stating that the court abided by the proper legal procedures when sentencing the defendant.

The Cassation Court ruled that the Criminal Court’s judgment fell within the law that the proceedings were proper and the sentence given was satisfactory.

The higher court stated that it relied on DNA and crime lab results that connected blood spatters found on the defendant to the victim.

The Cassation Court tribunal comprised judges Mohammad Ibrahim, Majid Azab, Fawzi Nahar, Ibrahim Abu Shamma and Hayel Amr.

(source: The Jordan Times)

MAY 7, 2022:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Bucks County DA could seek death penalty in fatal Buckingham fire that killed 81-year-old man

The Bucks County District Attorney's Office has served notice that it may pursue the death penalty against a man who authorities say intentionally set a fire at his girlfriend's parents' Buckingham home, killing her elderly stepfather in December.

Christopher Gillie, 61, was formally arraigned on the charges Friday, and the DA filed notice of aggravating circumstances in the murder case against the man from Dunmore, Lackawanna County.

Julius Drelick, 81, died in the Dec. 5, 2021 fire on Private Drive, when he could not escape the blaze from his 2nd-floor bedroom.

Gillie is charged with criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide, theft by unlawful taking, aggravated arson, criminal mischief, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, persons not to possess firearms, 2 counts each of burglary and criminal trespassing and three counts of arson endangering persons.

DA Matthew Weintraub said 3 aggravating factors, if Gillie is convicted, could ultimately warrant the death penalty in the case, including that Gillie allegedly committed the murder during the commission of a felony; that he knowingly created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the murder, and that he has a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to a person.

Gillie has 3 previous arson convictions, including one in Bucks County in 1992, and 2 in Lackawanna County, both of which happened in 2012. He was sentenced to 5 years, 9 months to 13 years and 4 months in state prison, followed by 5 years of probation, for the Lackawanna County cases. Prison records state he was released from prison in August 2018.

Drelick's wife was able to escape by fleeing the burning home.

The Drelicks used a chair lift to get up and down the stairs, but the fire knocked out electricity in the home, so Julius Drelick was unable to use the lift to get down, authorities said.

Phyllis Drelick, a grandmother of 3 and great grandmother to 4, stayed at the bottom of the stairs and called for her husband, who stopped responding shortly after, according to police.

The smoke then forced Phyllis Drelick outside. When police and fire crews arrived at the home, it was already well-involved.

"Even through the tree line, you could see the home was fully engulfed in flames from the rear," testified Buckingham Detective James Crusemire, who first responded to the scene, during a preliminary hearing last month.

The DA, in a news release Friday, said as part of the investigation, an accelerant detection K9 was brought to the scene and signaled three areas of the interior of a family room.

Hours after the December fire, Gillie was found in Drelick's stepdaughter's vehicle, in Dunmore, with a rifle that investigators believe was taken from Drelick's home before the arson, according to court documents.

The stepdaugther was Gillie's girlfriend. She would later testify about increasing tensions in her relationship over the care of the elderly couple.

Police said firefighters were called to the home about 3:15 a.m. Neighbors called after they were awoken by screams, police said.

A fire killed a man in his home in the 5700 block of Private Drive in Buckingham early Sunday morning. The Bucks County District Attorney's Office said Christopher Gillie, of Lackawanna County, drove 2 hours to set the fire that killed Julius Drelick.

Last month, District Judge Maggie Snow held the case over for trial. The preliminary hearing, attended by family members, in Buckingham was held just five days after Phyllis Drelick died.

Her death was unrelated to the arson fire in December, authorities said.

While Weintraub's office filed documents to reserve its rights to seek the death penalty, it is unlikely that Gillie would be put to death if convicted.

No one has been executed in Pennsylvania since 1999, according to the state Department of Corrections.

In 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf announced he would grant temporary reprieves for scheduled executions until he has received and reviewed a report from the Pennsylvania Task Force Advisory Commission on Capital Punishment, and there is an opportunity to address concerns satisfactorily, according to the DOC.

(source: buckscountycouriertimes.com)

OHIO----death row inmate dies

Man who killed his 3-year-old son dies on Ohio's death row----Michael Webb was convicted of killing his 3-year-old son in 1990.

A Goshen Township man convicted of killing his 3-year-old son more than 30 years ago has died in prison awaiting execution, officials said Friday.

Michael Webb set his own house on fire with his wife and 4 children inside the night before Thanksgiving in 1990, according to Clermont County Prosecutor Mark Tekulve.

Tekulve said Webb intended to kill his family, collect the insurance money and start a new life with his mistress.

Webb poured gasoline throughout his house and on the beds of his sleeping children before sparking the blaze with a match, Tekulve said.

His teenage daughters escaped the house on their own and his wife and infant child were rescued by firefighters, but the toddler Mikey did not survive.

Tekulve said Mikey's body was found under his bed where he was presumably hiding from the flames. He died due to smoke inhalation.

"Webb was the most evil person I have prosecuted, and most deserving of the death penalty, " said former assistant prosecutor Daniel Breyer. "He had no conscience."

Webb was scheduled to be executed in July 2023. He was held at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution until his death Monday. He was 73.

(source: Cincinnati Enquirer)

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

Man convicted in death of 3-year-old son in 1990 dies awaiting execution

A man convicted in the death of his 3-year-old son in 1990 has died while awaiting execution, according to Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney Mark J. Tekulve.

Tekulve announced Friday that Michael Webb, who was convicted in 1991 for the murder of his 3-year-old son Mikey, died Monday on death row awaiting execution.

He was scheduled to be executed on July 19, 2023.

Webb was convicted of 13 counts including aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, aggravated arson and aggravated theft.

On Nov. 21, 1990, Webb murdered his 3-year-old son, Mikey, at their home in Goshen Township, Tekulve said in the release.

Webb didn't dispute the 1990 blaze was arson, but denied starting it. Investigators say Webb set the fire to kill his family, collect the insurance and start a new life with his mistress.

"Webb poured gasoline throughout both stories of his house, including over the beds of his sleeping children. He used a match to start the fire inside of the house. Webb’s two teenage daughters were in the house but were able to escape the fire. Webb’s wife and infant son were rescued by firefighters. Mikey, the 3-year-old, tragically died of smoke inhalation. He was found under his bed, presumably hiding from the fire," Tekulve stated in the release.

His fingerprints were found on a plastic soda bottle that contained gasoline and on a matchbook.

Both were found at the scene.

“Webb was the most evil person I have prosecuted, and most deserving of the death penalty. He had no conscience," Daniel J. “Woody” Breyer, former Clermont County Assistant Prosecutor who prosecuted the death penalty case against Webb, said.

(source: WLWT news)

MISSOURI:

Documentarian witnesses healing, forgiveness in execution’s aftermath

Jeff Ferguson was ready.

Although still holding out hope for a commutation of his death sentence, he had long accepted that his time was coming, probably sooner than later.

“So every day, he would try to be more prepared than he was the day before,” said Lisa Boyd, who had visited Ferguson in prison and produced a short documentary film that touched on his radical conversion on death row.

Ferguson, who was Catholic, was executed March 26, 2014, for the Feb. 22, 1989, abduction, rape and murder of Kelli Hall in suburban St. Louis.

Deeply remorseful for what he had done, he spent nearly a quarter-century ministering to and mentoring his fellow residents, along with visitors and staff of the Potosi Correctional Center near Mineral Point.

“It’s been my mission through my friendship with Jeff and ultimately with Kelli’s father, Jim Hall, to understand the importance of being ready not just for whatever will happen today — but being ready to be the best person you can be in the present moment,” she said.

Her latest cinematic offering, a feature-length documentary that premiered Good Friday over online streaming services, focuses on the providential chain of events that led up to the fulfillment of Ferguson’s dying wish — that his victim’s family would forgive him.

“It’s about the healing power of transformation and forgiveness,” Boyd said of the production, “An American Tragedy.”

“I’ve been a Christian my whole life,” she noted. “But to witness such a transformation on all sides and see God’s work happening right in front of my eyes was simply amazing.”

Boyd, an independent filmmaker, and her husband — director, producer and cinematographer David Boyd — are based in Los Angeles, but Lisa grew up in southern Missouri.

She met Ferguson in 2012 while visiting the Potosi prison with her uncle and his Christian biker gang, the Sons of Thunder, to interview men on death row.

Ferguson was scheduled to be executed the following day, but this was delayed.

The interviews she did at the prison became part of her first short documentary film, the award-winning “Potosi: God in Death Row.”

Ferguson invited the couple back for another visit shortly before his execution date 2 years later.

The warden let them spend hours conversing.

“Jeffrey shared so much about his experience, his life, the crime, his daughters, the family, and how deeply sad he was that he had committed the crime,” Boyd recalled.

He spoke of his efforts to practice his faith and become the best man he could be in prison, in order to offset some of the harm he had caused.

“He shared with me how he helped his ‘cellies’ begin to forgive themselves for the crimes they had committed,” said Boyd.

“That was his mission in the prison,” Boyd noted. “To bring restoration and hope.”

Ferguson also revealed his desire that Kelli Hall’s family could find the grace to forgive him before he died.

Boyd contacted every source she could think of who might be able to help Ferguson get in touch with the Hall family to no avail.

In the meantime, Ferguson asked if she would consider attending his execution.

When she said it would be more than she could handle, he asked if she would attend his funeral.

That she could do.

Ferguson’s was to be Missouri’s 5th execution in 5 months.

As with all executions that came before, the Missouri Catholic Conference joined in filing a petition, asking the governor to commute Ferguson’s sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole. The request was denied.

The conference later commented on Ferguson’s execution noting how he had made reforms while in prison, helping to set up a hospice program for dying inmates and helping inmates with the prison ministry program.

Boyd flew into St. Louis the night before Ferguson’s funeral and received an email from Steven Hall, Kelli’s brother, who had found a reference to Boyd’s film while searching his sister’s name on the internet.

She met him the next morning and also visited with Kelli’s parents, Sue and Jim Hall and told them Ferguson’s wish that their family would forgive him.

Later that day, she returned to the home of Jim Hall, who had watched the copy of “Potosi” she had brought for his family.

“He broke down and said he wished he had seen this before the execution,” said Boyd, “because he now saw Jeffrey Ferguson as a human being, not as the monster who killed his daughter 26 years before — and that he would have fought to save Jeffrey’s life.”

That experience changed Boyd forever.

“I saw the world lift from his shoulders,” she said. “Seeing Jim go from having so much anger to literally, physically lighting up right in front of me — it just validated my faith in God, 2,000-fold.”

Boyd had promised Ferguson to share his story in any way she could.

The first part of that was the production of “An American Tragedy,” with its growing circle of participants.

Jim Hall had kept a collection of news clippings and TV segments he had recorded on VHS tapes throughout Ferguson’s trial which provided invaluable information for the new documentary.

Jim Hall died before the film’s release. Boyd is convinced that he, his daughter and the man who took her life, having hopefully been reconciled to God and each other in heaven, approve of the finished product.

Boyd has also befriended Jeffrey Ferguson’s daughter, Jennifer.

“She’s a very courageous woman to go through everything she went through as a child, as a teenager, as an adult and as a mom,” said Boyd, “and then to be interviewed for the film and say what she said — she’s a very dynamic and powerful woman.”

“An American Tragedy” recently landed top honors at the St. Louis International Film Festival and at other festivals. Boyd hopes the accolades will help spread the story.

“All of this has cemented my belief,” she said. “And I’m truly humbled. How can you not believe in God, when miracles are being revealed right in front of you?”

“I got to see the transformation of the Hall family,” she said. “I got to see the transformation of Jim Hall. I got to see Jeff’s last wish.”

Boyd’s next step is to produce a full-length feature film about the story for national distribution.

“There’s a lot of power in this story,” she said: “Redemption, forgiveness and resurrection.”

(source: The Catholic Sun)

OKLAHOMA:

Exonerated man in 'Dreams of Ada' case says U.S. Supreme Court shouldn't get involved

Lawyers for a man whose murder conviction in Oklahoma was overturned after he served more than 3 decades in prison urged the U.S. Supreme Court this week not to grant the state’s request to review the case.

The state of Oklahoma engaged in an “egregious, decades-long pattern of prosecutorial misconduct” to ensure that the facts of Karl Fontenot’s innocence never came to light, Fontenot’s legal team told the court.

“The courts exhaustively reviewed voluminous amounts of withheld exculpatory evidence and correctly concluded that this is the rare case in which a habeas petitioner has credibly demonstrated actual innocence,” the lawyers said.

Fontenot and Thomas Ward were convicted of killing Ada convenience store clerk Donna Denice Haraway in 1984. The case was the subject of the book, “The Dreams of Ada,” by Robert Mayer, and was also described in John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man,” which became a Netflix documentary series. Karl Fontenot released from prison in 2019

Fontenot, now 57, was tried twice and given the death penalty both times, though a retrial error led to a new sentence of life without parole.

Fontenot was released from prison after a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled in 2019 that the state committed numerous constitutional violations. The judge said newly discovered evidence about Fontenot’s alibi and other suspects in the murder provided “solid proof” of his probable innocence.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s ruling last year, saying that, “Almost no evidence connected him to the crime other than his own videotaped confession, a confession that rang false in almost every particular.”

The appeals court said Fontenot “has brought forth new evidence that is sufficient to unlock the actual innocence gateway and to allow his substantive claims to be heard on the merits. And Mr. Fontenot has also established that evidence suppressed by the State prior to his new trial in 1988 led to a violation of his constitutional right to due process.”

Oklahoma files Supreme Court petition

The state of Oklahoma filed a petition in the U.S. Supreme Court in January arguing that a federal law placing strict time limits on appeals should have barred the claims made in 2016 by Fontenot.

Evidence presented to exonerate Fontenot had been available since Fontenot’s trials in the 1980s, the state said, arguing that the high court should accept the case to clarify that “new” evidence means newly discovered or newly available evidence as opposed to newly presented evidence.

Fontenot’s lawyers at first waived the right to respond to the state, but the Supreme Court then requested a response.

Among Fontenot’s legal team is Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the U.S. solicitor general from 2011 to 2016.

The response filed by Fontenot’s lawyers this week said the “vast majority” of evidence that the state claims was available in the 1980s was actually being suppressed by the state.

“And the prosecutorial misconduct did not end with the trial: over the next 30 years, the State continued to withhold evidence, releasing it piecemeal only when compelled to do so by multiple court orders,” the lawyers told the court.

“The most recent exculpatory disclosure came in 2019, 31 years after Fontenot’s conviction.”

Justices should reject the state’s request to review the case “because the evidence in this case qualifies as ‘new’ evidence of actual innocence under any definition of new evidence,” Fontenot’s lawyers argued.

Justices may determine before the court’s term ends this summer whether to review the case.

(source: The Oklahoman)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Judge Rules That Arizona Death-Row Prisoner Who Had Been Previously Found Legally Insane Is Competent to Be Executed

On May 3, 2022, an Arizona Superior Court judge ruled that death-row prisoner Clarence Dixon, whose execution is scheduled for May 11, is competent to be executed. Dixon has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is visually impaired, and suffers from hallucinations and delusions. Shortly before the crime for which Dixon is scheduled to be executed, he stood trial for assault and was found “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity” by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor.

Dixon was found incompetent to stand trial in 1977, when he was accused of hitting a stranger on the head with a metal pipe. He was treated in a state hospital, and at his January 1978 trial, O’Connor found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Civil commitment proceedings were scheduled to start within 10 days, but instead Dixon was released. The murder for which Dixon faces execution was committed 2 days after his release.

Dixon was not connected to the murder for 2 decades, and at his 2002 capital trial, he fired his court-appointed attorneys and represented himself. Dixon presented a convoluted argument that the charges were fueled by a government conspiracy. Dixon has filed multiple lawsuits and motions related this conspiracy theory since the mid-1990s, including a petition for writ of certiorari that was denied earlier this year.

In its May 3rd ruling on Dixon’s incompetency to be executed claim, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Carter Olson applied Arizona’s statutory legal standard for determining competency, a standard that Dixon’s lawyers have claimed is unconstitutional. The court recognized that Dixon suffers from schizophrenia but noted expert disagreement about Dixon’s understanding of the rationale for his execution. The court also discussed Dixon’s intelligence and the absence of dementia as points supporting a finding of competence to be executed. Judge Olson ruled that Dixon has not shown that “his mental state is so distorted by a mental illness that he lacks a rational understanding of the State’s rationale for his execution.”

Eric Zuckerman, an attorney for Dixon, found it “deeply alarming” that the court relied upon “the discredited testimony of an unqualified expert who admitted to destroying the only recording of his interview with Mr. Dixon shortly before the hearing and to never asking Mr. Dixon why he believes he is being executed.” Dixon’s legal team is appealing the ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

At the competency hearing, Dixon’s attorneys presented evidence that Dixon is schizophrenic, has auditory and visual hallucinations, and has delusional thoughts. Dixon’s attorneys provided testimony from a psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience in diagnosing and treating psychotic disorders. The psychiatrist, Dr. Lauro Amezcua-Patino, visited and interviewed Dixon multiple times since 2011 and spent almost 40 hours reviewing documents. Dr. Amezcua-Patino confirmed Dixon’s earlier schizophrenia diagnosis and testified that he believed Dixon was delusional and irrational. Dr. Amezcua-Patino described Dixon’s long-held belief that he was being executed because of a government conspiracy. One of Dixon’s attorneys, Jennifer Moreno, summed up the argument in a statement saying, “[t]he execution of Mr. Dixon – a severely mentally ill, visually disabled, and physically frail member of the Navajo Nation – is unconscionable.”

The government rebutted this argument by presenting testimony from an expert witness who had never evaluated an individual’s competency to be executed before and who spoke to Dixon via video conference for 70 minutes. The State’s expert, Dr. Carlos Vega, is a former clinical psychologist who admitted he did “very little” research into how to perform a competency evaluation of this magnitude. Dr. Vega also admitted that he has never diagnosed or treated anyone with schizophrenia. Dr. Vega testified that he believed Dixon had deluded beliefs but was not delusional nor incompetent to be executed.

Before the hearing, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a motion arguing that the court should not hold a competency hearing because it may delay Dixon’s scheduled execution. In response, Zuckerman said that “[t]he state’s attempt to overturn the lower court’s proper decision to grant a competency hearing to Clarence Dixon, who has a history of schizophrenia and previous findings of legal incompetency, undermines the legal process that will determine whether executing him would violate the Constitution.”

Dixon was also denied clemency by the Arizona Board of Clemency on April 27, 2022. Dixon had previously filed a complaint against the board, arguing that because 3 out of 4 of its members are law enforcement officers, he would not receive a fair clemency hearing.

Dixon is a member of the Navajo Nation, which has historically opposed the death penalty. On June 6, 2021, the Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul asked Brnovich not to execute Dixon out of respect for Navajo traditions. McPaul wrote, “Navajo culture and religion holds every life sacred and instructs against the taking of human life for punishment,” McPaul went on to say that “[t]he death penalty removes the possibility of restoring harmony whereas a life sentence holds the opportunity to reestablish harmony and find balance in our world.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Arizona's path to 1st execution in 8 years reflects 'relentless search' for ways to put condemned inmates to death----44 years after ASU student's brutal murder, family waits for justice. Her killer is scheduled for execution Wednesday.

The family of Deana Bowdoin has waited 44 years for justice.

Next week, the man who brutally murdered the 21-year-old Arizona State University honors student in 1978 is scheduled to be executed at the state prison in Florence.

It's the 1st execution in Arizona in 8 years, and it casts a spotlight on what one critic has called the state's "relentless search" for ways to put condemned inmates to death.

Arizona is moving ahead with executions again, even as most states are backing off.

Over more than a decade, Arizona's search for new execution methods has skirted the law, seen the state refurbish a gas chamber, and operated largely behind a veil of secrecy.

A botched execution in 2014 proved to be a turning point that tested the state's commitment to enforcing the death penalty.

'Gasping and gulping'

One dose of a lethal injection was supposed to kill Joseph Wood in 10 minutes.

"It was a clear gasp. It sort of looked like a fish opening and closing his mouth," said Michael Kiefer, a journalist at the Arizona Republic who was an execution witness.

According to Kiefer and other witnesses, the double-murder convict writhed for almost two hours before he died. He had been injected with 15 doses of a 2-drug cocktail.

"He was gasping and gulping," said Dale Baich, a federal public defender who represented Wood. Baich worked on death penalty cases for 25 years.

"We were actually arguing in front of a federal judge to stop the execution as it was going forward."

The appeal failed.

'To hell with you guys'

"Prior to the execution, the state said, one dose will do it," Baich said in an interview. "They were wrong."

Wood had murdered his ex-girlfriend and her father. Their relatives saw the execution very differently.

"He smiled and laughed at us and then went to sleep," Richard Brown, a member of the victims' family, told reporters.

"All you people that think these drugs are bad. Well, to hell with you guys."

A scramble for suppliers

For several years leading up to the Wood fiasco, Arizona had scrambled to buy execution drugs, often in Europe.

"Lethal injection was first introduced in this country in 1977," said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University professor who is an expert on execution methods.

"From that time, up to about 2009, most states used the same 3-drug formula. Starting in 2009, that 1st drug no longer became available."

Drugs at a driving school

Arizona's search for drugs had embarrassing results.

A year after the execution of Jeffrey Landrigan in 2010. documents in the United Kingdom revealed that Arizona prison officials obtained the lethal injection drugs from a tiny pharmaceutical company, housed in the back of a London driving school.

But that didn't deter state prison officials.

"After a federal judge in 2012 issued an order prohibiting the importation of the drugs in 2015, Arizona tried the same thing," Baich said.

"But this time the drugs were stopped at the border. What we have learned over the years is that the states should be transparent."

No answers on Wood's execution

The Wood execution resulted in a moratorium on capital punishment, as well as lawsuits against the state.

But it was hard to get answers about what happened to Wood.

"What we don't know is why 14 additional doses were administered," Baich said. "We don't know where the state got the drugs, we don't know who was making the decision to proceed after a backup dose of drugs didn't work."

The state never had to disclose the information after it abruptly announced the drugs wouldn't be used again, Baich said.

'Ever study the Holocaust?'

With the difficulty of getting execution drugs, an old execution method became new again. Arizona refurbished a gas chamber last used decades ago.

"Did anybody that was associated with this process ever study the holocaust?" said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Condemned inmates can now be put to death with a lethal injection or with chemicals similar to the gas that killed millions in Nazi death camps. The inmate gets to choose.

"The gas chamber is the least effective method of execution. It's the most torturous," Denno said.

"I would go so far as to say every gas execution is per se torturous."

Executions plunge to a 20-year low

Arizona's 1st execution in 8 years comes as prosecutors nationwide are backing away from the death penalty.

Just 18 death sentences were imposed in 2021, down 94 % from the late 1990s peak, according to the Death Penalty Information Center

There were only 11 executions last year, down 89% from the peak.

Clarence Dixon, a 66-year-old Navajo man, is set to be executed with a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital.

The U.S. Justice Department quietly developed a network of pentobarbital suppliers before resuming federal executions two years ago, according to a Reuters investigation.

Arizona found its own supplier. An investigation by The Guardian revealed the state paid $1.5 million last year for 1,000 vials of pentobarbital sodium salt, shipped in "unmarked jars and boxes."

'The appropriate response'

Shortly after that disclosure, Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced he was putting executions on a fast track.

Brnovich, who is running for the U.S. Senate, tweeted at the time: Capital punishment... is the appropriate response to those who commit the most shocking and vile murders."

A 2nd execution is scheduled for next month

A repeat of Wood's execution?

Deborah Denno warns the Dixon execution could unfold much like Joseph Wood's 8 years ago.

"The 1st lethal injection execution occurred in 1982, and that injection was botched," she said. "That's always been a problematic method of execution. But it's only gotten worse over the past decade, because of this scramble and experimentation with drugs." "There's every reason to expect that the execution of Clarence Dixon, for example, is going to be very similar to the botched execution of Joseph Wood."

Dixon's attorneys have argued that he's schizophrenic and doesn't understand why he faces execution. So far, legal efforts have failed to block the scheduled execution.

Dixon was connected to Deana Bowdoin's murder almost 30 years after her death. A cold case detective with Tempe police used DNA evidence to track down Dixon.

'Traumatic for families'

In 2008, Dixon was sentenced to death for raping and killing Bowdoin in her Tempe apartment.

"It can be very challenging, very traumatic for families," Colleen Clase, a victims' rights attorney at Arizona Voice for Crime Victims.

"It can be traumatic to be in a courtroom where the offender is being made out to be the victim when they are the victims."

Clase's organization has helped people like Deana Bowdoin's surviving sister, Leslie Bowdoin James, seek justice by asserting their rights as crime victims.

Deana's sister at 42 hearings

"I would bet that I'm the only one in this room that attended every one of 42 hearings, every day of trial, and I followed and watched this inmate during every moment of those proceedings," James said at a recent commutation hearing for Dixon.

"Leslie has always been very active," Clase said.

James has issued this statement: "I will never stop thinking of Deana, but I look forward to the resolution of Dixon's criminal matter through the imposition of punishment."

I asked Clase how crime victims move on after an execution.

"Closure is not the right word," she said. "But there will be a close to the criminal proceedings. The emotional damage is always going to be there for any victim of any crime... the victimization itself is always going to be there."

(source: 12news.com)

********

Judge rules Jewish residents can't sue to block executions using cyanide gas

Jewish residents have no legal right to block the state from executing inmates using the same gas that Nazis used to kill millions of Jews.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joan Sinclair pointed out that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Phoenix is not contesting the constitutionality of the death penalty. In fact, she said, the lawsuit the group filed along with two of its members does not even challenge the use of lethal gas by the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

Instead, Sinclair said, the only issue is the use of cyanide gas, called Zyklon B. The judge said that's not for her to decide.

"The state constitution specifically allows for the use of lethal gas in death penalty cases," she wrote. And Sinclair said judges are required to give "deference" to state agencies in how to carry out the duties they are charged by state law with enforcing.

"Moreover, plaintiffs are essentially requesting a change in the law to exclude cyanide gas," Sinclair continued. "This is a policy decision better left to the legislature."

Attorneys for challengers argued this isn't just an academic debate.

First, they argued psychological injury, charging that Jewish resident and taxpayers would effectively be forced "to subsidize and relieve unnecessarily the same form of cruelty used in World War II atrocities."

"Many of these survivors are horrified at being taxed to implement the same machinery of cruelty that was used to murder their loved ones," the lawsuit states.

That, said Sinclair, is not sufficient grounds to sue.

"This is not a distinct and palpable injury to those plaintiffs outside of an allegation of generalized harm that is shared alike by a large class of citizens," the judge wrote.

Sinclair was no more impressed by the financial arguments.

The lawsuit cited documents, obtained through public records requests, showing the department purchased a potassium cyanide brick for $1,529 in December 2020 and sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid days later for $687. Dropping the cyanide into the acid creates the lethal gas.

The state also has been spending an undetermined amount of money to test and make repairs to the gas chamber as it prepared for the possibility that someone on death row might opt to choose that method of execution instead of lethal injection.

Sinclair acknowledged that taxpayers are entitled to sue to stop the illegal expenditure of public funds.

"But this is only true where the connection between the injury and the putatively illegal act is not too remote," she wrote.

"Here, the connection is quite remote." Sinclair said. And the judge said at least some of that is there appears to be no immediate chance that the gas chamber is going to be used in the immediate future.

She pointed out that Arizona voters abolished the use of lethal gas in 1992, replacing it with lethal injections. That followed gruesome reports of the execution of Don Harding, who took 11 minutes to die.

But that 1992 constitutional amendment, approved by a ratio of more than 3-to-1, preserved that right for those already on death row to choose either option.

There are 17 there now who qualify out of more than 100 who face death sentences. But Sinclair pointed out that hasn't happened.

One of those, Clarence Dixon, set to be executed this coming week for the murder of an Arizona State University student in 1978, failed to pick a method. That defaulted to lethal injection.

Frank Atwood, who is set to die June 8, has until May 19 to choose. He was convicted of the 1984 slaying of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, an 8-year-old Tucson girl who disappeared while riding her bicycle to mail a letter for her mother.

Sinclair also said the amount of money spent by the state so far on the chemicals is "nominal."

There was no immediate response from attorneys for the plaintiffs.

(source: fronterasdesk.org)

CALIFORNIA:

Arraignment set for pair charged with deadly 2016 Vallejo pawn shop robbery----After preliminary hearing, a judge orders Amonie A. A. Summerise, 27, of Vallejo, and Kashius T. Brazeal, 25, a prison inmate, to return to Department 2 for a held-to-answer arraignment at 10 a.m. May 18 in the Justice Building in Vallejo

After a preliminary hearing for 2 men accused in a deadly 2016 Vallejo pawn shop robbery that ended in the store owner’s gunshot slaying, the wounding of an employee and the death of the store’s dog, a judge has set a held-to-answer arraignment for the pair.

Amonie Azoun Andre Summerise, 27, of Vallejo, and Kashius Tait Brazeal, 25, a state prison inmate formerly of Vallejo, appeared Thursday in Department 2 in Vallejo for the hearing, a sort-of mini-trial, with the presentation of evidence and witness testimony.

Afterward Judge Daniel Healy determined there was enough evidence to hold the 2 men for the arraignment and set it for 10 a.m. May 18 in the Justice Building. At that time, the judge will hear a Pitchess motion, a request by the defense to examine the personnel records of police officers involved in the case, typically if an officer or officers are suspected of excessive use of force.

After the arraignment, a judge in a criminal case usually sets a trial date and dates for additional pretrial matters or motions.

During the past 26 months, amid the ongoing pandemic, Solano County courts officials reduced court operations and rescheduled proceedings, as necessary, in accord with county, state, and state Supreme Court public health directives, which may account for delays in the case.

As the case has wound its way through the courts, proceedings against a suspected 3rd person originally charged, Elijah Elliott Summerise, 24, brother of Amonie, were dismissed Sept. 11, 2019, court records indicate.

Brazeal and the elder Summerise remain in Solano County Jail without bail.

Deputy District Attorney Bruce Flynn has led the prosecution of the case, which falls under the special circumstances category because the killing was committed during a robbery, a crime caught on the store’s video surveillance camera. The 2 defendants face the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole, if convicted at trial. It is still unclear if Flynn will pursue the death penalty.

After proceedings in October 2019, the defense lawyers for the elder Summerise, Robert Boyle and Sean Swartz, deputy alternate public defenders, confirmed that “the death penalty is still on the table.” Because the charges make it a potential death penalty case, they were assigned to represent Summerise together.

Vallejo criminal defense attorney Dustin M. Gordon represents Brazeal, who has been transferred from Calipatria State Prison, where he is serving time for a prior felony conviction.

Summerise was arraigned earlier in Department 4 in Fairfield and pleaded not guilty to the charges and special allegations.

Despite Swartz’s claim about the status of the allegations against Amonie Summerise, court records indicate that, besides 1st-degree murder and attempted murder charges, his client faces three counts of second-degree robbery. The elder Summerise also is accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Besides murder and attempted murder counts, Brazeal is charged with 2nd-degree robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm, stemming from a prior conviction in Santa Clara County, and a charge of killing the store’s dog.

Vallejo police records indicate officers responded at about 3:10 p.m. Dec. 20, 2016, to reports of a possible robbery in progress at the Pawn Advantage Store on Springs Road.

Store owner Timothy Pult, 49, of San Anselmo, and shop employee Josh Poole, of Fairfax, were found inside, each suffering from gunshot wounds. Pult’s dog, Copper, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, was found shot to death near the store entrance.

Police originally released a surveillance video of the robbery in Jan. 2017 in an effort to identify the suspects. In July, they released 24 seconds of footage that showed 2 men enter the shop, their faces covered, guns in their hands.

The publicly available footage doesn’t show the shootings, but it shows the suspects quickly leaving the store, with one of them turning back and pointing his weapon at the dog before the video ends.

Pult was pronounced dead at the scene while Poole, who uses a wheelchair, was transported to a local trauma center. Poole, 45 at the time, survived but, for a time, continued to receive medical treatment for his wounds.

The Summerises were taken into custody in Vallejo on July 12, 2017. Brazeal was arrested July 16 at the Imperial County state prison, where he is currently serving a sentence for a Yolo County robbery.

Boyle previously said the death penalty may still apply in the case, even though Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019 issued an executive order suspending capital punishment in California.

(source: The Vacaville Reporter)

USA:

Habeas Ruling Shows Justices' Growing Hostility Toward Writ

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court took a toxic law and made it more potent. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, or AEDPA, has been an impediment to justice since its passage more than a quarter-century ago. In Brown v. Davenport,[1] the Supreme Court just expanded the reach of one of the AEDPA's more damaging provisions.

> Prioritizing finality over accuracy and efficiency over constitutionality, Section 104 of AEDPA, passed in 1996, requires federal courts to deny relief to a person convicted of a crime seeking habeas review — even when constitutional violations tainted the trial — so long as the state court that previously reviewed the case was not unreasonable in its application of federal or constitutional law.

Simply put, a state court does not have to be correct in its application of constitutional law, or even in its determination of the facts in the case; it just can't be so incorrect as to be unreasonable. Few would consider that justice.

That is precisely what happened in a case the Supreme Court decided last month, on April 21.

In Brown v. Davenport, Ervine Davenport was convicted of 1st-degree murder after a trial in which he was bound with handcuffs, waist chains and ankle shackles at the defense table in front of the jury that would decide his fate.

In 2005, 3 years before Davenport's conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in Deck v. Missouri that shackling a defendant in view of the jury was so prejudicial as to violate the defendant's 14th Amendment due process rights. No one in this case argues that this isn't true.

The Michigan Supreme Court acknowledged that the trial court judge was wrong to allow Davenport to be shackled in front of the jury.

At the direction of Michigan's highest court, the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court held a hearing and determined that Davenport's shackling was a "harmless error."

In essence, the court decided that the defendant's appearance — the evocative image of a manacled defendant, and what that suggested about his character and the risk to public safety that he might pose — did not affect the jury's ability to render a decision based on the facts presented at trial.

Davenport then sought habeas relief in federal court, and ultimately ran headlong into the AEDPA and its unreasonable "unreasonable" standard.

Before the case got to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that Michigan must either retry or release Davenport because of the egregious and obvious constitutional violation of shackling him in front of the jury.

In reaching that determination, the Sixth Circuit relied on a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brecht v. Abrahamson,[2] which held that to reverse a state's finding of harmless error, a federal court in habeas review must find the error had a "substantial and injurious effect or influence."

The court reasoned that the Brecht test is more onerous and therefore subsumes the AEDPA's unreasonable test, which the Supreme Court itself acknowledged in its 2007 decision in Fry v. Pliler.[3]

In finding a substantial and injurious effect, the Sixth Circuit quoted the Supreme Court's own observation that [v]isible shackling undermines the presumption of innocence and the related fairness of the factfinding process. It suggests to the jury that the justice system itself sees a "need to separate a defendant from the community at large."[4]

The majority of Supreme Court justices were not persuaded by this reliance on their previous statements and, in a 6-3 decision along ideological lines, overturned the Sixth Circuit.

In an opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court held that the AEDPA's unreasonable standard must be applied to a harmless-error review, and that applying it to Davenport's case resulted in a denial of his request for habeas relief.

Justice Gorsuch dismissed the Sixth Circuit's reliance on the Supreme Court's own statement that Brecht subsumes an AEDPA analysis, saying that previous analyses of harmless-error review were "curated snippets extracted from decisions."

Apparently, for the majority of this court, it is foolish for a party to take the court's previous statements as having meaning or import. What counts as a curated snippet and what counts as legitimate precedent may be anyone's guess.

More concerning than the court's easy dismissal of its own past statements — a trend we might expect to accelerate in the era of the conservative supermajority — is the fact that the court acknowledges that under Brecht, Davenport's claim might succeed, but under the AEDPA's unreasonable standard, it cannot.

Brecht itself is a very difficult test for a habeas petitioner to overcome, so the fact that the AEDPA's unreasonable standard might be more stringent reveals the ways in which modern habeas analysis is not — and cannot be — about achieving a constitutional result.

But perhaps much of this is beside the point. Perhaps this is just one more step in the conservative project to virtually eliminate habeas review.

In an analysis[5] of habeas cases after the first decade and a half since the AEDPA's passage in 1996, less than 1% of habeas claims that do not involve the death penalty resulted in any form of relief. The AEDPA may not have limited the number of habeas claims filed, but it has certainly limited the number of successful habeas claims.

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan accused Justice Gorsuch of "play[ing] amateur historian" and engaging in what she derisively called "law-chambers history" in order to deny the long-standing practice of using habeas to correct constitutional wrongs.

This play-acting as a historian led Justice Gorsuch to claim that it wasn't until 1953 that "constitutional error correction became the order of the day," despite cases dating back to the 19th century belying this claim.

It seems that some in the conservative supermajority of this court want to return to imaginary good old days when habeas was not available to correct constitutional errors.

Brown v. Davenport itself may make little difference in the success or failure of future habeas petitions, but it may serve as a warning of this court's hostility toward the writ. Future decisions may bring even more restrictive readings of habeas and the AEDPA, and move us further from our ideal of a just and constitutional criminal legal system, in order to achieve finality and administrative convenience.

(source: Christopher Wright Durocher is the vice president of policy and program at the American Constitution Society----law360.com)

US MILITARY:

Guantánamo Detainee Refuses to Testify for Accused U.S.S. Cole Bomber----Defense lawyers wanted a deposition from a Yemeni detainee who has been cleared for release, but the detainee said he feared his testimony would be used against him.

A Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo Bay who was cleared for release nearly a year ago scolded an Army judge on Friday and refused to testify in the U.S.S. Cole bombing case, fearing he would place himself in jeopardy after 20 years of U.S. detention.

“I am not here for you to take what you want from me, then throw me in the trash,” Abdulsalam al-Hela, who is in his 50s, said in his first appearance at the war court. “I have been waiting 20 years for justice.”

Mr. Hela was called as a would-be witness, not a defendant. He told the judge, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., that he was concerned that “there are some evil people here” who would use his testimony against him.

Defense lawyers for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi prisoner, sought Mr. Hela’s testimony to try to help exonerate their client. Mr. Nashiri is accused of orchestrating the Qaeda suicide bombing of the Cole off Yemen in October 2000, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Mr. Hela was captured in Cairo in September 2002 — in court he said he had been “kidnapped” — and was held by the C.I.A. in its secret overseas black site network for about 2 years. He was brought to Guantánamo in September 2004 but has never been charged with a crime.

He was called 2 days in a row to testify in a deposition that could someday be used at Mr. Nashiri’s death penalty trial.

On Thursday, Mr. Hela refused to leave his prison cell to come to the court compound at Guantánamo Bay, called Camp Justice. On Friday, he came to court but refused to swear that he would tell the truth.

“He is afraid his answers will be used against him,” said a military defense lawyer, Maj. Michael J. Lyness of the Army, who told the judge that the prisoner was in effect invoking a privilege to not testify for fear of self-incrimination.

The judge agreed with that interpretation of the prisoner’s lecture and defiance, and he released Mr. Hela from an obligation to testify.

Mr. Hela is also at the center of a federal appeals court case considering the due process rights of wartime prisoners at Guantánamo who are not charged with war crimes.

U.S. intelligence agencies in 2020 described him as a “prominent extremist facilitator” who had “unspecified ties to Osama bin Laden and may have played a role in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole.”

In June, however, the interagency Periodic Review Board noted that Mr. Hela “lacked a leadership role in extremist organizations” and approved his transfer to the custody of another country. He has had no immediate place to go because U.S. law prohibits repatriation of Guantánamo detainees to war-torn Yemen, and U.S. diplomats are still trying to find an ally willing to receive him and monitor his activities.

The board recommended that he be resettled in a country that would let his family join him. It also recommended that the receiving country give Mr. Hela “reintegration support” and provide the United States with security assurances, meaning he would probably be forbidden from traveling outside that country.<>P> The episode this week pointed to the frailties of the military commissions system. Before Mr. Hela agreed to come to court, the Army judge and lawyers in the case debated the judge’s authority to enforce a subpoena on the detainee because, although he is in the custody of the U.S. military, he is being held on foreign soil.

The crime. Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is accused of organizing the bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole by Al Qaeda on Oct. 12, 2000, in the port of Aden, Yemen, during a routine refueling stop. Seventeen American sailors were killed in the attack.

The use of torture. Mr. Nashiri was captured in October 2002 and spent four years in the custody of the C.I.A., including in black site prisons, where he was subjected to waterboarding, forced nudity, extreme isolation, sleep deprivation and other forms of abuse.

The trial. This death-penalty case at Guantánamo Bay, which has been in pretrial proceedings since Mr. Nashiri’s arraignment in November 2011, has been bogged down by long delays as the court tries to deal with the legacy of Mr. Nashiri’s torture.

The judge. Army Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr. is currently serving as the pretrial judge. In May 2021, he agreed to consider information obtained during Mr. Nashiri’s torture by C.I.A. interrogators to support an argument in pretrial proceedings.

The Justice Department. In January 2022, the Biden administration pledged to no longer use the statements by Mr. Nashiri that were obtained from torture, rejecting an interpretation by the retired chief prosecutor in the case that such evidence could be used in pretrial proceedings.

One of Mr. Nashiri’s defense lawyers, Katie Carmon, who sought the subpoena, said the war court was in “occupied territory.”

The lead prosecutor, Mark A. Miller, a Justice Department lawyer assigned to the Cole case, said: “We are leery of the notion that a subpoena can be issued by any court, American court, to a foreign national who is in a foreign country in a court that’s sitting in a foreign land. So I think the subpoena actually, for our purposes and to get this done, is kind of a waste of time.”

The office of the overseer of military commissions, known as the convening authority, refused to grant Mr. Hela immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

Ms. Carmon said the inability to get testimony from the Yemeni prisoner “robs both the defense and the American people of a public determination of where responsibility for the bombing of the Cole truly lies.”

In court, Mr. Hela spoke bitterly about his 20 years in U.S. custody, saying it was “like a life sentence.”

His lawyer, Beth D. Jacob, has said that he wants to be reunited with his wife and to be able to see his sole surviving child, a daughter he last saw when she was a toddler. His two sons were killed in an accident while he was held at Guantánamo, and the daughter, who is now married and expecting his first grandchild, is in Yemen studying to be a lawyer with a specialty in human rights.

The testimony capped two weeks of pretrial hearings that focused on the torture of Mr. Nashiri during his time in C.I.A. custody after his capture in Dubai in 2002 and of another Saudi prisoner who has admitted to being part of a Qaeda cadre that plotted attacks on seaborne vessels.

(source: New York Times)

MALAYSIA:

Tying the noose around the death penalty----Hanging the culprits, particularly the mules, has not stopped drug trafficking

It's time to abolish the death penalty.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Raya break.

While celebrating the festive season and enjoying the company of loved ones, relatives and friends, hopefully we can spare a thought for the grieving family of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who was executed in Singapore recently for having trafficked 43g of heroin into the island republic as a drug mule about a decade ago.

Despite desperate attempts by lawyers, activists, British billionaire Richard Branson, broadcaster Stephen Fry and, finally, his mother to save him from the noose, the authorities in the island republic were bent on not commuting the capital punishment to, say, life imprisonment.

The 11th-hour legal challenge mounted by his 60-year-old mother, Panchalai Supermaniam, was reportedly dismissed by the republic’s Court of Appeal as “frivolous”.

The fact that Nagaenthran was intellectually disabled was apparently not a factor to be considered for a lenient sentence. Nor did compassion play a part in the dispensation of justice for the man, who had an IQ of 69.

Many in Malaysia were appalled by the court decision, which resulted in the 34-year-old from Tanjung Rambutan being sent to the gallows. They were understandably indignant that a precious life had been snuffed out this way.

But this episode is significant: it has reignited the activists’ calls for the death penalty to be abolished as it has not served as an effective deterrent against drug trafficking.

Instead, many of those caught and hanged are often from the lower end of the ‘food chain’ – that is, the mules. Most of the drug kingpins seem to be still thriving beyond the reach of the law.

Lest Malaysians be likened to those living in glass houses who are inclined to throw stones, we should also question the death penalty for drug-related offences and other serious crimes on this side of the Causeway.

While it is comforting to know the Malaysian government has placed a moratorium on the mandatory death penalty, capital punishment remains in the statute books. This is concerning, as other Nagaeanthrans are still languishing on death row.

There must be political will to abolish the death penalty, which involves taking away someone else’s life, thus violating the sanctity of human life.

Advocates of the death penalty argue drug trafficking itself that takes its toll on human lives and inflicts pain on the loved ones of addicts.

But hanging the culprits, particularly the mules, has not effectively stopped drug trafficking. If anything, an eye for an eye may lead us down a blind alley.

As long as drug trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry, it will thrive, especially if it involves not just the drug lords but also people in high places with vested interests.

Some mules may be involved in the drug-pushing business due to extreme personal circumstances, such as abject poverty, which for them blurs the line between life and death.

This is not to say we condone drug pushing. Yet, the low-level mules, in particular, deserve a second chance in life – instead of having it snuffed out. Leniency in meting out a punitive sentence for drug trafficking does not mean endorsing trafficking or, worse, surrendering to the dictates of drug pushers. It just means invoking compassion.

In the same vein, we would not propose the imposition of the death sentence for those found guilty of embezzling public funds – even though such high-level corruption has emptied public coffers.

If these public funds hadn’t been siphoned away, they could have been used to raise the living standards of ordinary people, especially the poor and the marginalised.

Instead, widespread corruption has inflicted immense suffering – and sometimes even deaths – on the vulnerable, who are desperately in need of government aid.

Many public hospitals, for instance, are ill-equipped to treat patients effectively because of insufficient government funds to pay specialists, buy modern equipment and expand hospital capacity. Indeed, the lack of hospital beds has deprived some patients of immediate medical attention.

Some of the bottom 20% of the population may suffer from hunger or malnutrition because they don’t have enough funds for balanced, nutritious meals. Because corruption has depleted public coffers, the government is unable to provide them with enough financial aid.

Education, which could have provided an escape route out of the cycle of poverty, may become inaccessible to some poor students, because public funds that could have been used to finance scholarships and tuition fees have dried up.

We have heard that capital punishment is imposed for corruption in countries like China to show that they mean business.

We need not take that violent path. Imagine how many culpable Malaysians, irrespective of their station in life, would be hanged if we had the death penalty for corruption here!

Hopefully, life imprisonment or a long prison term would eventually make wrongdoers see the folly of their crimes and turn over a new leaf. A well-conceived rehabilitation programme would certainly help.

The abolition of the death penalty should be accompanied by a renewed emphasis on noble social values that could serve as a bulwark against greed, abuse of power and human exploitation.

(source: Mustafa Anuar, aliran.com)

SINGAPORE:

Nagaenthran case could be catalyst to abolish death penalty in Singapore

THE Nagaenthran Dharmalingam case has highlighted the cruelty and brutality of capital punishment – and the urgent need to consider more humane alternatives – as the long-drawn case of trials, appeals and clemency has cast a negative image of squeaky clean and prosperous Singapore.

The case has unearthed and revealed some vexing question about Singapore legal and judicial system.

It is now well known that the government pressures the legal fraternity to avoid representing cases concerning capital punishment for drug-related offences.

Lawyers are fearful of the subtle and other forms of threats that will risk their livelihood and professional progress.

Hence, getting top-notch competent lawyers, even if they want to take up these cases on humanitarian grounds, adds to the dilemma of cases similar to Nagaenthran’s.

This is a big handicap and disadvantage to the defendant from the very beginning itself.

This totalitarian attitude of the Singapore government ensures that the authorities always have the upper hand in terms of presenting evidence, cross-examination, witnesses and so on.

Senior and capable lawyers can make much difference in capital punishment cases.

It is not morally proper for Singapore to pressure and harass lawyers wanting to defend capital punishment cases.

In the minds of many, there can be a reasonable doubt whether a defendant like Nagaenthran got all he was entitled to in the legal process.

Denying access to quality lawyers of the defendant’s own choosing or simply preventing and harassing their lawyers does not indicate a proper legal process befitting a member of the Commonwealth.

In short, the entire system – both legal and administrative – is weighted against the defendant, and it is no wonder that 99% are found guilty and condemned to death.

The severity of the offence should make Singapore realise that for capital punishment cases every opportunity should be accorded to the defendant to go through the legal and judicial processes without hindrance, as this will absolve Singapore of any accusation of unfairness and bias.

In the case of Nagaenthran, there will always be a lingering doubt as to whether his low IQ of 69, if argued competently by capable lawyers in the initial stages could have cast a reasonable doubt in judicial minds and would have set him free or sentenced to a jail term.

Although Singapore may possibly deny harassing or pressuring lawyers, one just has to look at the way the government treated its own opposition politicians such as the late Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam in the past.

Short of cellophane-taping their mouths, opposition politicians have been subjected to all kinds of legal threats and political coercion.

Due to such intimidating circumstances, the opposition has remained weak and static, unlike their counterparts in a more vibrant democratic Malaysia.

Another cruelty has been the long period of incarceration between Nagaenthran’s conviction in 2009 and his execution on April 27.

For 13 years, the sword of Damocles, so to speak, had been hanging over his head!

It looks like he had served two sentences – a life sentence on death row and a capital punishment sentence that ended in his hanging. Is this not double cruelty? Not only Singapore but in numerous countries too this inhumane practice continues.

There have been cases of death row prisoners being executed after more than 20 years. This is nothing less than barbaric.

Amnesty International and others need to pressure governments to look into this double cruelty.

The death penalty should be automatically commuted to a prison sentence if the whole process of appeals and clemency cannot be completed within 5 years.

The pressure will be on the government to expedite capital punishment cases. There is no point dragging and delaying these cases when there is no new evidence, the laws are tight and clemency is almost impossible to get. Why should the defendants be made to hope against hope and languish in their lonely cells?

It was revealed a few days back that Nagaenthran, after a long time of incarceration and combined with his inherent mental disability, could not talk. He had forgotten how to speak!

Over the last few weeks, Nagaenthran’s case has dented much of the international glossy image of Singapore, especially when prominent personalities and celebrities, the European Union, civil society groups, Malaysian public and politicians pleaded for clemency on special grounds due to his low IQ of 69.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had also petitioned for clemency for Nagaenthran.

However, all these were to no avail against a heartless and defiant Singapore when Nagaenthran was executed in the early hours of April 27, leaving many grieving and heart-broken.

To paraphrase a relevant passage of ruthlessness from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (V.i.50-51): All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten the stained and murderous hands of the Singaporean government!

This execution will be a blot on Singapore’s administration, which has a high reputation worldwide.

The Nagaenthran episode has spotlighted the capital punishment in Singapore. Many executions are scheduled to take place in the weeks ahead.

There will be much pressure for Singapore to review these cruel laws in the near future.

Singapore opposition MPs from the Workers Party can also move a private member’s bill to abolish the death penalty and opt for lesser punishments such as a life sentence.

One needs to remember that the death penalty in Britain was abolished by way of a private member’s bill in 1965 due to the untiring efforts of Samuel Sydney Silverman.

Individual MPs can endeavour on this issue and over time, the situation may change.

The long reign of the Lee Kuan Yew dynasty, who are ardent supporters of capital punishment, is also coming to an end soon.

Lawrence Wong, touted as the new prime minister, may be more amenable for a review of capital punishment like what has happened in Malaysia, where there is a moratorium against the death penalty in effect since October 2018.

Malaysia, too, like Singapore had been hanging numerous persons for drug-related offences since the 1970s but when it was found that the problem was not abating and that there is a socio-economic dimension to it, many felt that a new perspective on the issue was needed, hence the moratorium.

The world over much pressure is mounting on governments to abolish the death penalty as this historic punishment has no place in the present-day world.

(source: V. Thomas; themalaysianinsight.com)

INDIA:

Double murder: Bombay HC acquits man on death row citing fabricated evidence----The court noted that after going through the evidence, it can “safely conclude that both Rajkumar and Geetadevi would not have been conscious to record their respective dying declarations”

Severely criticising the prosecution for not just shoddy investigation but also “fabricating evidence”, the Bombay High Court on Friday acquitted a man who was sentenced to death for allegedly killing his colleague and his wife by pouring acid on them while they were sleeping. The court observed that otherwise the same would be “travesty of justice”, and ordered the immediate release of Guddu Yadav from Yerawada Central prison in Pune.

A division bench of Justices Sadhana Jadhav and Milind Jadhav observed, “After having appreciated the entire evidence on record, the material discrepancies, lacunae and blatant illegalities as alluded to herein above, we would definitely indicate that the prosecution has utterly failed in connecting the dots and bringing home the guilt of the accused.”

The HC was hearing a death confirmation petition filed by the state government. A death sentence awarded by a sessions court has to be confirmed by the HC before it can be executed.

According to the prosecution, in November 2015, Yadav allegedly stole his colleague Rajkumar Ravidas’ mobile phone. Ravidas complained to their employer about it and the latter reprimanded Yadav and asked him to return the phone. After the incident, Yadav allegedly wanted to take revenge. On the night of November 6, 2015, at about 2.30 am, Yadav went to company’s quarters in Boisar where Ravidas used to live with his wife. The prosecution claimed that he went there with a bucket containing 10-litre concentrated sulphuric acid and poured it on the couple while they were asleep.

Further the prosecution claimed that the police had recorded multiple dying declarations of the couple after they were rushed to the hospital.

On May 9, 2019, the sessions court at Palghar found Yadav guilty of double murder and sentenced him to death observing that it was “a unique case beyond imagination and a crime of such a nature which is undeserving of any sympathy or mercy.”

Disagreeing, the HC said, “Merely because the crime is heinous and brutal, it would not be just to get carried away sans any legal proof required to substantiate the charge of murder. The standard of proof applied by the learned trial court is not in consonance with the evidence placed on record.” It can at the most be a case of “strong suspicion” and the same “cannot take the place of proof”, said the HC.

The court noted that after going through the evidence of the doctor and the nurse who first attended the couple, it can “safely conclude that both Rajkumar and Geetadevi would not have been conscious to record their respective dying declarations”.

Rejecting the government’s conformation petition, the HC said that the “investigating machinery has a responsibility to investigate in a fair and neutral manner without having regard to the ultimate result”.

(source: freepressjournal.in)

***********

ULFA-I announce death penalty for 2 of its members for spying

The Paresh Baruah faction of the insurgent group United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) has pronounced death sentence for 2 of its members for alleged spying.

In a statement issued to the media on Saturday, the outfit, which operates from the soil of Myanmar, said the duo – Dhanjit Das alias Roopak Asom and Sanjib Sarma alias Rishav Asom – were working at the behest of its enemies.

Dhanjit, who hails from the Barpeta district of Assam, had allegedly fled during a special operation of the extremist group at a mobile camp on April 24 until being captured by the fellow rebels the next day.

“During interrogation, he confessed he had provoked several others in the organisation to surrender. He also confessed that while he was joining the organisation, he had maintained his contact with some police officers to get our supporters/well-wishers arrested,” the statement said.

On Sanjib Sarma who hails from Assam’s Kamrup district, the ULFA-I said he had joined the outfit to act as a spy for money at the directions of the “Indian occupational forces” and a section of police officers.

“He confessed that he had joined the organisation to get our officers and members murdered by sharing inputs with the enemies after identifying our internal communication system and planting modern equipment,” the ULFA-I said.

In a video released earlier by the ULFA-I, Sanjib Sarma had stated: “I was trained by a police officer and an Army official. I was asked to gather inputs on the outfit’s camp and the route to it. The duo had promised Rs 1 crore to me.”

He also said that he had earlier received Rs 30,000 for his role in 2 missions.

It said the 2 were tried and based on their statements and the available evidence, the death sentence was pronounced.

Stating that spying is an old tactic of the enemies, the outfit said it would continue to maintain zero-tolerance against acts of treason.

(source: thenewindianexpress.com)

BANGLADESH:

Ahsanullah Master killing case----An 18-year wait for justice

18 years have passed since veteran freedom fighter and Awami League lawmaker Ahsanullah Master was brutally killed in a burst of fire at a rally near his house in Gazipur's Tongi.

But ultimate justice is yet to be ensured, because of the lengthy legal system.

Appeals in connection with the grisly murder have been pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for six years, depriving the deceased's family of solace.

But the apex court could not start hearing the appeals filed against the HC verdict in the related case, because regular judicial functions of the court remain disrupted due to the pandemic and long backlog of cases.

Advocate Khandker Mahbub Hossain, principal defence counsel of the case, told The Daily Star that the Appellate Division is now hearing and disposing of death references and appeals of 2016.

Appeals and death reference of Ahsanullah Master killing case were filed in 2016, and therefore, those might be heard and disposed of soon if they come up before the apex court, he said.

"We [defence lawyers] are ready for placing arguments on behalf of the convicted accused, as they have been suffering in jail for several years," Khandker added.

Contacted, Attorney General AM Amin Uddin told this correspondent that his office will place arguments on behalf of the state when the appeals will be heard by the SC.

On May 7, 2004, assailants killed Ahsanullah Master and student Omar Faruq Ratan, and wounded 17 at the rally of Swechchhasebak League, a pro-AL body, at Naogaon.

Ahsanullah's brother filed the case the next day against 19 people, including Nurul Islam Sarkar, a Jubo Dal leader.

On April 16 in 2005, a Dhaka court handed death sentence to 22 people and life-term to 6. A decade later, on June 15, 2016, the HC confirmed death penalty of 6 persons, including Nurul.

The HC, however, commuted capital punishment for 7 others to life imprisonment, upheld life term for 2 and acquitted 11 of charges.

Currently, 5 appeals challenging the HC verdict are pending with the apex court, including those by Ahsanullah's brother Motiur Rahman, the government and convicts, attorney general office sources said.

In some appeals, death penalty has been sought for all convicts, while convicts have sought for acquittal from all convictions and sentences in theirs.

(source: The Daily Star)

IRAN:

Juvenile Offender Sasan. M at Risk of Execution in Ahvaz

A juvenile offender only identified as Sasan. M who is alleged to have committed murder at 17, is at risk of execution due to being unable to pay the diya (blood money) in Sepidar Prison, Ahvaz.

According to Rokna, Sasan. M has been convicted of committing murder while playing football in Ahvaz when he was 17 years old.

In the initial interrogations following arrest, he said: “We were playing football in the park at 7pm when the victim entered the park in simple clothes and started swearing at us telling us to stop the football game or I’ll beat you. I swore at him too and ran away. The victim ran after me and slapped me across the face and pulled a knife out. He threw the knife at me, which I dodged and stabbed him with the knife I had in my pocket.”

Sasan spent a year in youth correctional facilities before being transferred to Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz almost 4 years ago.

The victim’s family are willing to accept the sum of 500 million tomans as diya (blood money) instead of retribution. Sasan cannot afford to pay the demanded sum so has asked the victim’s family to execute him as soon as possible.

Sasan’s mother said: “Everything started on that awful day. Sasan had gone to play football in the park near our house. A mass fight breaks out in the park and Amin. A was killed. Now I don’t know who stabbed him.”

“My son has a letter from the Legal Medical Organisation. In his legal medical report, it says he has personality disorder. There was a fight which they’re trying to blame my son for. When Sasan was born, he wasn’t fully mentally developed. My son called me yesterday and told me he had gone to the head of the sentencing implementations and told them that we don’t have the money for the diya, why isn’t the victim’s family carrying out my retribution?” she added.

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.” However, the new Islamic Penal Code adopted in 2013 explicitly defines the “age of criminal responsibility” for children as the age of maturity under Sharia law, meaning that girls over 9 lunar years of age and boys over 15 lunar years of age are eligible for execution if convicted of “crimes against God” (such as apostasy) or “retribution crimes” (such as murder).

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, 4 in 2019 and 2 in 2020.

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)

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

US Calls For Release Of Swedish-Iranian Doctor On Death Row In Iran

The US State Department has condemned the detention of a Swedish-Iranian doctor by the Islamic Republic and a threat to execute him, calling for his release.

In response to a query by Iran International, a State Department spokesperson said, “We’re aware of the egregious case of arbitrary detention of Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmadreza Djalali by Iranian authorities.We echo concerns from UN experts that Djalali’s case is ‘truly horrific,’ and urge his release.”

Djalali was arrested while visiting Iran on an invitation by a university in 2016 and consequently sentenced to death on unsubstantiated charges of espionage for Israel. Recently Iran threatened to carry out his execution in an apparent attempt to intimidate Sweden from convicting a former Iranian official on trial for his role in killing of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

“Iran has a long history of unjust imprisonment of foreign nationals for use as political leverage, and continues to engage in a range of human rights abuses, which include large-scale arbitrary or unlawful detention of individuals, some of whom have faced torture and execution after unfair trials.These practices are outrageous,” The US spokesperson added.

News emerged this week that Iran has detained a Swedish tourist, in another apparent attempt to take a hostage as a bargaining chip. The state department said, “Regarding the most recent arrest, we refer you to the Swedish government.”

(source: iranintle.com)

MALAWI:

Legal affairs committee of Parliament to conduct public inquiries on death penalty abolition

see: https://www.nyasatimes.com/legal-affairs-committee-of-parliament-to-conduct-public-inquiries-on-death-penalty-abolition/

(source: Nyasa Times)

MAY 6, 2022:

TEXAS:

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case of Texas Death Row Prisoner Rodney Reed

In a case legal experts say could redress a miscarriage of justice or institutionalize it, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review the Texas federal courts’ refusal to permit DNA testing of crime-scene evidence that could potentially exonerate death-row prisoner Rodney Reed.

On April 25, 2022, the Court granted Reed’s petition for writ of certiorari, which raises the question of when the time clock begins to run on a state prisoner’s federal civil rights lawsuit seeking access to DNA testing. Though the issue involves technical procedural issues, the way it is resolved will determine whether Reed and others seeking to prove their innocence have meaningful access to the federal courts to obtain DNA testing.

Reed has maintained his innocence of the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, with whom he says he had been having an affair that they kept secret because of local bigotry towards interracial relationships. Reed is Black and Stites was White. Reed’s lawyers argue that DNA testing of crime scene evidence, including the belt used as a ligature to strangle Stites, would implicate her finance, Jimmy Fennell, in the murder. Reed presented evidence from numerous witnesses in a state post-conviction hearing in 2021 pointing to Fennell as Stites’ killer. That evidence included testimony that Fennell, a police officer who was later jailed on charges of sexually assaulting a woman in his custody, had threatened to strangle Stites with a belt if he ever caught her cheating on him.

In 2014, Reed sought DNA testing in the Texas courts. Prosecutors fought the request, arguing that the evidence could have been contaminated as a result of state mishandling. The trial court issued a one-sentence order in November 2014 denying Reed’s request. Reed appealed, and in June 2016 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals returned the case to the trial court for additional findings. The appeals court ultimately upheld the trial court’s ruling in April 2017. Then, in October 2017, it denied Reed’s motion to reconsider its ruling.

Federal law granted Reed two years from the denial of his request to initiate a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that the Texas courts’ action had violated his constitutional rights. It is undisputed that he did so within two years of the appeals court’s decision. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the time clock on Reed’s federal lawsuit had begun to run the moment the trial court denied his request, even though his appeal of the ruling was still pending in the state courts. Under the court’s reasoning, the clock had expired before the state appeals court issued his decision, and Reed’s federal challenge to the constitutionality of that ruling was barred as untimely.

In a petition filed in September 2021 by the Innocence Project and a team of pro bono lawyers from the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Reed asked the Supreme Court to review the Fifth Circuit’s ruling. Reed argued that, as the neighboring U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has held, the statute of limitations on his claim begins to run only after all state court appeals on the issue have been exhausted. After being distributed for conference eight times, the Court on April 25, 2022 agreed to hear Reed’s case.

In a statement to media issued after the ruling, Reed’s lawyers said: “New evidence of innocence points to Stites’ white fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, as the perpetrator. But Texas and the Texas courts have refused to allow DNA testing of key crime-scene evidence, including the ligature handled by the perpetrator in the commission of the crime.

“When Mr. Reed sought access to DNA testing in federal court, the federal courts wrongly threw out his claims as untimely, reasoning that he could have started his federal action while the state-court proceedings were still pending,” the lawyers wrote. “We look forward to having the Supreme Court consider our arguments.”

“Mr. Reed has a strong claim of innocence and Texas sought to close the doors to federal court review,” American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project director Cassandra Stubbs said. “The stakes of this question are important for anyone with substantial claims of innocence seeking DNA testing,” she said, “but they are especially important to those like Mr. Reed on death row.”

Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham told The Hill that Reed’s case “will be a “bellwether as to whether the court is serious about providing innocent people access to meaningful federal review, or whether it is trying to shut down meaningful access to the federal courts.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

PENNSYLVANIA----female to face death penalty

Death penalty being sought for Rices Landing woman accused of killing man

The Greene County woman accused of killing a man whose body was found in a burned-out vehicle in East Finley Township last year could face the death penalty if she’s convicted.

District Attorney Jason Walsh said he plans to seek the death penalty against Star Dawn Lowery-Rutan during her formal arraignment April 25 in Washington County Court.

Lowery-Rutan is accused of killing 40-year-old Thomas Ringer on May 16 by torching a minivan with him inside that was found on state game lands in East Finley Township.

An autopsy revealed Ringer was likely alive when the vehicle was set on fire, and that he died of thermal injuries and smoke inhalation. Investigators said they found a used cigarette near the burned-out vehicle with DNA on it matching that of Lowery-Rutan.

Walsh said he was seeking the death penalty against Lowery-Rutan because of 2 aggravating factors in that Ringer’s death came during the commission of a felony and that his killing was committed as a means of torture.

Lowery-Rutan, 43, of 129 Bayard Ave., Rices Landing, was arrested at her home Dec. 16 following a standoff with state police. She was charged with homicide, arson, evidence tampering and abuse of a corpse. Lowery-Rutan is being held without bond at the Washington County jail.

During testimony at her Feb. 3 preliminary hearing, acquaintances of Lowery-Rutan said she threatened to kill Ringer 2 days before his badly burned skeletal remains were found in the back seat of the minivan. Investigators found surveillance video showing Ringer inside the minivan in the Waynesburg area in the early hours of May 16.

Additional surveillance video from outside convenience stores in Nineveh and Graysille later captured the minivan being followed by a pickup truck that was determined to be registered to Lowery-Rutan’s husband, Harry Rutan. An acquaintance testified at the preliminary hearing that Lowery-Rutan and her boyfriend, John “Cubby” Hewitt Jr., were known to drive the vehicle, although investigators were unable to determine who was driving either vehicle in the videos.

No one else has been charged in connection with Ringer’s killing. However, Hewitt Jr. is jailed without bond after allegedly leading Waynesburg police on a high-speed chase through northern Greene County when an officer tried to stop him for a traffic violation March 31.

Judge Valarie Costanzo presided over Lowery-Rutan’s formal arraignment and set a pre-trial conference for the homicide case on June 16.

(source: heraldstandard.com)

FLORIDA----death row inmate commits suicide

On Florida's death row for crimes that 'shocked the conscience of Clay County,' inmate dies by suicide

A 41-year-old sexual predator who killed a Middleburg woman in 2014, then abducted and raped her 10-year-old daughter, committed suicide in his cell on death row, Florida corrections officials confirmed.

Donald Hugh Davidson Jr., sentenced to execution in 35-year-old Roseann Kasama Welsh's murder, was found dead on Monday at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, according to a Florida Department of Corrections spokesperson.

The Medical Examiner's Office in Gainesville told The Florida Times-Union it was determined that Davidson used a bedsheet to hang himself.

At the time of his sentencing in 2019, State Attorney Melissa Nelson said the mother's homicide and daughter's rape "shocked the conscience of Clay County."

Who was Donald Davidson

Davidson was a registered sexual predator who had only been free from incarceration for 72 days before the heinous attack and had known Welsh's husband since childhood, the Clay County Sheriff's Office said.

He had been convicted in 2010 on 2 counts of lewd molestation and an aggravated battery, according to prison records.

On Dec. 1, 2014, Davidson walked into Welsh’s home on Mayflower Street and tried to rape the 35-year-old woman, but she broke away when she heard a school bus arrive. Davidson followed Welsh into a bathroom and strangled her with a shoelace, then stabbed her in the throat with a buck knife, the Sheriff's Office said.

Davidson then sexually assaulted the woman's daughter before forcing her into the family’s minivan and driving away. He sexually assaulted the girl again in the van before letting her out near the home, according to investigators. His probation ankle monitor was found cut off at the scene.

Clay County deputies spotted Welsh’s daughter running down a dirt road toward her home, learning from her that she was in the house when her mother was killed. Davidson was arrested several hours later after deputies spotted him on Blanding Boulevard in the family's stolen minivan.

In late May 2019, Davidson waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded guilty to charges of 1st-degree murder, attempted sexual battery of a victim older than 12 with force, plus 4 counts of sexual battery of a victim younger than 12, lewd and lascivious molestation, kidnapping and grand theft, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Suicides in Florida prisons

State Department of Corrections statistics report 539 inmate deaths in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, 474 of them from natural causes. Another 15 were accidental, with 13 killed by another inmate, 13 more listed as suicides and 24 still under investigation.

From 2016 to 2021 the state prison system had 88 suicides among its total 2,026 deaths.

At Union Correctional, state statistics show 73 inmate deaths since June 8, 2015. 6 of those are listed as suicides. The final 18 deaths from Dec. 29, 2020, until the latest on Jan. 25 remain under investigation, department statistics show.

(source: jacksonville.com)

TENNESSEE:

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee Refuses To Release Records On Execution Error For Granting Reprieve To Oscar Smith

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee cited attorney-client privilege and the disputed “deliberative process privilege" when he refused to release records related to Oscar Smith's execution.

The records could explain why he decided to abruptly halt the execution of the death row inmate last month, reported the Associated Press. Lee's office released emails containing his public statement issued on April 21. It granted Smith, who was sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, Judith, and her sons, Jason and Chad Burnett, in 1989, a reprieve.

A series of emails from journalists asking for more details about the problems that led Lee to halt the execution was also released by the governor’s office. The journalists were referred to the public statement, which said that there was an “oversight” in the drugs' preparation.

In a new statement on Monday, Lee elaborated saying that the drugs to be used in the 72-year-old's execution were tested for potency and sterility. They were not tested for endotoxins that are required by the state’s execution protocols.

According to TN Office of the Governor, Lee announced on Monday plans to launch a third-party review of a lethal injection testing oversight that resulted in a temporary reprieve for Smith. Lee said that he reviews each death penalty case and believes it is an "appropriate punishment for heinous crimes." But he noted that the death penalty is an extremely serious matter, and he expects the "Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) to leave no question that procedures are correctly followed.”

Lee shared that an investigation by a respected "third-party will ensure any operational failures at TDOC are thoroughly addressed."

A temporary moratorium on executions through the end of 2022 was placed by Lee. He appointed former US Attorney Ed Stanton to review circumstances that led to the failure.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Smith’s execution was to be the first of five scheduled this year. Since the pandemic halted executions in 2020, it was also to be Tennessee’s first execution. The rescheduled dates for the 2022 executions will be determined by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Inmates who are on death row can choose to be executed by electric chair rather than lethal injection. Lethal injection is the default execution method in Tennessee.

(source: latintimes.com)

LOUISIANA:

“Dead Man Walking” Subject Still Working for Change

“The death penalty is not what you think it is. It is not reserved for the worst of the worst crimes.”

Rose Vines, Communications and Special Projects Director for Ministry Against the Death Penalty, an organization working to put an end to capital punishment, spoke calmly about this highly emotional and controversial issue.

“These days it’s the race of the victim that determines the likelihood of being sentenced to death. It’s far more likely if the victim is white. The death penalty is racist in its implementation and has a very racist origin.”

Perhaps the most startling statistic related to the death penalty is that for every eight executions that are carried out, one death row inmate is exonerated – a ratio of greater than ten percent.

The Ministry was founded by Sister Helen Prejean in 2002. Prejean first received international attention when her book, “Dead Man Walking,” was made into an Oscar-winning film starring Susan Sarandon. When Prejean began her work in opposition to capital punishment, 80 % of the United States population supported it.

By 2019, a Gallup poll showed that, given the choice between the death penalty and life imprisonment, only 36 % supported execution, and government actions were trending the same way. By the end of last year, 23 states had abolished capital punishment, and 3 more had moratoria. There were only 18 new death sentences imposed, and only 11 executions were actually carried out – a 900 percent decline since 1999, and the seventh consecutive year with fewer than 30 executions nationwide.

Vines pointed out that support for eliminating the death penalty is increasingly bipartisan. “Conservatives are joining the cause due to the cost. It costs much more to impose the death penalty than life in prison, primarily because there is an extensive and expensive appeals process. Also, if you are against big government, you don’t want to give government the power to kill its citizens.”

All this comes in the context of the United States being a real outlier on the issue among so-called “western” nations. Within this category, only Japan also permits executions. Vines’ take was that “the death penalty is part of our culture of using violence to solve problems.”

Locally, the State of Louisiana has not carried out a death sentence since 2010, and that person gave up his appeal rights. Yet the higher costs of incarcerating the current 62 death row inmates continue, including greater security requirements, more supervisory staff and individual cells.

Each year, death penalty opponents in Louisiana introduce legislation to abolish it here. The bill in the state House of Representatives already failed in committee; the Senate version, SB 294, is presently scheduled to be heard in mid-May

Vines pointed out that with more than half the states currently not allowing capital punishment, “it is a fluke of geography as to whether you could face the death sentence.” Even within states that permit the death penalty, the power of individual prosecutors to seek it mean that some jurisdictions are far more likely than others to impose it.

This inequity is compounded by the data on death row inmates. The majority have diminished intellectual capacities if not being outright mentally disabled, and/or come from backgrounds of poverty and/or abuse. As Vines noted, “there aren’t any rich people on death row.”

While it isn’t possible to track precisely how much of the change in action and opinion is attributable to Prejean, her visibility and access have clearly been major factors. She has met with presidents and popes, appeared at thousands of public events, and published 2 more books.

“We’re really different from a lot of nonprofits because we’re built around one person,” Vines commented. “Sister Helen Prejean is known by millions of people.”

Given these circumstances, the organization centers its social media and even its website, sisterhelen.org, around Prejean. Now in her 80s, she remains highly engaged in everything from activism to counseling of death row inmates.

Capital punishment is unquestionably a difficult and emotional topic. Recognizing this, the Ministry goes out of its way not to attack people who disagree with them. Vines pointed out that the “Dead Man Walking” movie took a neutral stance, simply asking people on both sides to reflect on the issue.

Nonetheless, she asked, “What does the death penalty say about us? Because these executions are done in our names, saying that we want people to be killed for their crimes.”

(source: Biz New Orleans)

ARKANSAS:

5th Anniversary of Arkansas’s 2017 Execution Spree Is a Good Time to Confront Capital Punishment’s Troubling Flaws

This spring marks the 5th anniversary of one of the most troubling months in America’s recent death penalty history. In April 2017, the state of Arkansas, with its supply of lethal injection drugs about to expire and with 32 inmates still on its death row, announced a plan to carry out 8 executions, two a day, over an eleven-day period.

Though legal problems halted 1/2 of them, 4 went ahead as planned. They were all conducted with a cocktail of lethal drugs that Arkansas had never before employed. That cocktail started with the sedative midazolam, followed by 2 other drugs—vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

Looking back at Arkansas’s 2017 execution spree reveals a pattern of problems now all-too-familiar in America’s death penalty system, including judicial indifference to claims of innocence, racial discrimination, and botched lethal injections.

What happened in Arkansas, plus what has and has not happened in the intervening five years, is both a cautionary tale and a reminder of the death penalty’s increasingly precarious position in this country.

First, the cautionary tale.

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) catalogs the problems that plagued the Arkansas executions. It notes that the state carried the country’s “1st double execution in nearly 17 years, at least 2 of the executions were botched, and one of the people executed had serious claims of innocence that were never reviewed by Arkansas courts.”

Highlighting the role of race in the death penalty system, the DPIC reports that “1/2 of the executions were stayed. Three of four Black men were executed. 3 of 4 White men were at least temporarily spared.” That racial disparity, disturbing in its own right, is all too typical of outcomes in the criminal justice system.

Ledell Lee was the 1st of the Black men to be executed. He was put to death even though there were serious, unresolved questions about whether he committed the 1993 murder of Debra Reese in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

Lee had been tried twice for the Reese murder. During his first trial, several people testified in support of Lee’s alibi and that trial had ended in a hung jury. At his 2nd trial, however, the defense inexplicably called no alibi witnesses. This time, the jury found Lee guilty and sentenced him to death.

In both trials the prosecution presented no physical evidence linking Lee to the crime. As the DPIC notes, “No fingerprint evidence from the scene matched Lee and no DNA evidence was presented to the jury.”

In the run-up to his execution, Lee’s lawyers his lawyers requested more DNA testing using techniques not available three decades ago. But the courts denied their request.

Lee maintained his innocence from the day he was arrested to the day he died. And DNA found on the weapon used to murder Reese which was tested after Lee’s death did not match his. Instead, it came from an unidentified other man.

Lee’s April 20th execution began when the execution team started the flow of midazolam at 11:44 p.m. The coroner pronounced him dead 12 minutes after the execution began.

Emboldened by this apparent “success,” four days later, Arkansas went ahead with its plan to kill Jack Jones, the only white man of the four people Arkansas executed.

Jones’s execution, however, did not go smoothly.

The problems began with the execution team’s flailing attempts to place an IV in Jones’s veins. Although Arkansas officials claimed that it took 8 minutes to place Jones’s IV, others said it actually took 45 minutes to find a suitable vein. The autopsy report noted that medical examiners “found 5 needle marks on Jones’s neck and clavicle… area,” and that the needle marks had been covered up with makeup.

According to Jones’s lawyer, his client began to gasp and gulp for air 4 minutes into the execution—a sign that he was experiencing physical pain. He added that Jones’s mouth moved like a “fish… chomping on bait.”

Botched lethal injections, like Jones’s, are a continuing and problematic part of the story of capital punishment in the United States That reality was again brought home the same day Arkansas executed Jones when it also put Marcel Williams to death.

The Williams execution lasted 17 minutes, and he continued to move “up until 3 minutes before he was declared dead.” Jacob Rosenberg, one of the reporters at the Williams execution, described the body movements that occurred during the time before he was finally declared dead. “His eyes began to droop and eventually close… His breaths became deep and heavy. His back arched off the gurney [countless times] as he sucked in air.”

Both the Jones and Williams executions were deeply troubling. But an even more troubling execution took place 3 days later when Kenneth Williams was put to death in Arkansas’s 4th and final killing of the week. He became the 200th person, and the 140th Black man, executed in Arkansas since 1913.

Kenneth Williams’s execution by lethal injection was neither painless nor swift. It involved extensive physical agony and evidence of suffocation. About 3 minutes after receiving a dose of midazolam, Williams began to thrash about and convulse on the gurney. One reporter said that he “lurched forward 15 times, then another 5 times, more slowly” before gasping and taking labored breaths. Witnesses could hear him moaning and groaning.

An independent autopsy concluded that Williams “experienced pain” and likely felt “a sensation of air hunger, fear, shortness of breath, respiratory distress, and dizziness.

The story of what happened when Arkansas went ahead with this new drug cocktail tells, in condensed form, the story of lethal injection’s recent history in the United States. Once touted as a technological miracle that would ensure executions would be safe, reliable, and humane, lethal injection has had a history marked by problems, mishaps, and mayhem.

But the Arkansas story is not just a reminder of the death penalty’s intractable problems. It also points to the death penalty’s increasingly precarious position.

This is demonstrated by the fact that Arkansas has not executed anyone since 2017. According to the DPIC, that makes Arkansas one of the 39 states that have either “abolished the death penalty or not carried out an execution in five or more years.” Twenty-three of those states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment altogether. Three other states and the federal government currently have moratoria on executions.

Those developments reflect America’s deep doubts about capital punishment. They are signs of hope that, despite the horror of what Arkansas did 5 years ago to Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams, and Kenneth Williams, this country is moving inexorably, if not easily, toward ending what Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun once called its “cruel…death penalty experiment.”

(source; verdict.justia.com)

ARIZONA----impending execution

Arizona won't disclose expiration date of death penalty drugs, federal public defenders seek answers

The Arizona Department of Corrections is prohibited from using expired execution drugs, but attorneys for death row prisoner Clarence Dixon say the department has not given them an expiration date of the compounded pentobarbital intended for his execution next week.

"This is especially concerning because ADCRR’s compounding pharmacist has already made errors in calculating the expiration date of the execution drug," said Jen Moreno, an assistant public defender representing Dixon. He is scheduled to be executed May 11.

The Arizona Supreme Court threw out execution briefing schedules for Dixon as well as fellow death row prisoner Frank Atwood last summer, after the Department of Corrections disclosed that its compounding pharmacist revised the shelf-life of its execution drugs from 90 days to 45.

"ADCRR’s refusal to provide this very standard information raises red flags regarding whether the drugs will be expired at the time of Mr. Dixon’s execution," Moreno said. "We are asking the federal district court to require ADCRR to provide this information to Mr. Dixon or stop his execution until ADCRR provides basic information about the drug, including supporting testing data, and stops shrouding the state’s execution process in secrecy.”

Attorneys for Atwood have also complained of receiving limited information from the state about the drugs it intends to use in his execution.

Atwood attorney Joseph Perkovich said the state has so far provided similar documentation to his team as the Dixon attorneys have received. He said the information was heavily redacted and lacking in specifics.

Dixon's attorneys say the information they are requesting has been provided in the past by the Arizona Department of Corrections, and it's necessary for the state to provide it to them again before his execution.

In a complaint filed in federal court Tuesday, attorneys for Dixon requested more information about the beyond use date (BUD) of the drugs to be used in his execution.

"ADCRR has produced eight heavily-redacted pages of drug testing results from unidentified batches of compounded pentobarbital that purport to establish a BUD in excess of 90 days, although none of the documents identify either the date the drug was compounded or an assigned BUD," the attorneys write, saying the testing results are insufficient to determine when the pentobarbital will expire.

Dixon's attorneys argue the refusal to provide this information violates his constitutional rights, because "it prevents him from determining whether ADCRR is capable of carrying out his death sentence" in accordance with state and federal law.

Knowing the BUD date is important, they argue, because "even minor deviations from the complex procedures for compounding pentobarbital can impact the safety and efficacy of the drug including resulting in insufficient potency."

The complaint requests a preliminary and permanent injunction "preventing ADCRR from executing him until the department has demonstrated that the compounded pentobarbital has been assigned a BUD or expiration date beyond the date of his scheduled execution that is based on scientifically-valid specialized testing."

The attorneys also requested an order saying failure to do so would violate Dixon's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Dixon was sentenced to death in 2008 for the 1978 killing of Deana Bowdoin, a 21-year-old senior at Arizona State University. Atwood was sentenced in Pima County in 1987 for the murder of an 8-year-old girl, Vicki Lynne Hoskinson.

(source: Arizona Republic)

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

Mother of Tucson murder victim speaks out ahead of set execution of man who killed her daughter

The mother of a young Tucson girl who was murdered says their family is ready to see justice with their own eyes.

This comes as the man convicted for the killing awaits execution.

It’s been 37 years since Vicki Lynne Hoskinson was kidnapped from her home in Tucson and murdered. Her loved ones say faith and family have helped them, but they are now preparing for the biggest step to help them move on from the nightmare.

“I don’t think you really ever get closure,” says Vicki Lynne’s mother Debbie Carlson. “And I kind of don’t like that word because she’s never coming back, you know? But yet we will no longer have this cloud hanging over our head wondering...is the Attorney General’s office going to be calling? Did they file another motion...was something granted? Was something denied?”

It was a phone call Carlson had received too many times...being told the execution of her daughter’s killer would be delayed yet again.

Frank Atwood was convicted of killing 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in 1984.

This week, the Arizona Supreme Court signed a death warrant for Atwood, and he is set to be executed next month. It’s a moment Carlson says her family has been anxiously awaiting.

“Because of his poor choice, he’s suffering the consequences, and those consequences is the death penalty, because that’s the sentence he was given.”

She says the stress from the murder has impacted the family’s health and well being. And watching the family grow and experience things without Vicki Lynne is heartbreaking. But they vowed not to give her murderer the power to destroy what they had left. Carlson reflected on who her daughter would have been...

“She was a fierce ball player. Softball player. And she was pretty tall for her age. I could have seen her playing for the U of A. I really could have seen her being an all-around athlete...getting a full ride scholarship and just making some awesome changes in the world.”

Carlson says she Vicki Lynn would have been 46-years-old, and she sees her daughter in some of the kids in the family, from their features to their personalities.

As they prepare for the execution, Carlson says justice being served has been their goal all along, and they feel the time has finally come.

“It’ll just be a beginning of a different chapter. And it will not be with him there. No more. And we’re looking forward to it.”

The family says they plan to be there for Atwood’s execution scheduled for Wednesday, June 8th. Atwood would be the 2nd inmate killed since the state resumed executions.

(source: KOLD news) *******************

Death Row Prisoner Told To Choose Between Lethal Injection And Execution Gas Used By Nazis

A death row inmate in the US has until May 19 to decide whether to be executed via lethal injection or hydrogen cyanide, a gas used by the Nazis in mass killings during the Holocaust.

Frank Atwood, who is scheduled to be executed on June 8, if no last-minute appeals are successful, faces a choice between two agonizing deaths, according to his lawyers.

"On the one hand is lethal injection, for which the Department is unprepared to proceed and, due to Mr. Atwood’s severe spinal condition, would inflict maximum pain throughout the process. On the other hand is cyanide gas, used by Nazi Germany to exterminate millions in the Holocaust," Joseph Perkovich, one of Atwood's lawyers, said in a statement.

"By designating cyanide gas, the Department is cynically forcing Mr. Atwood to accept the torture of a lethal injection, playing out a version of the grim fate that befell the last person subjected to that method in Arizona, who was strapped to the execution table for over two hours, hopelessly gasping for air over 600 times."

In 2014, the last execution via lethal injection in Arizona saw death row inmate Joseph Wood injected with 15 times the dose called for by the state's execution protocols, over 15 separate injections, in order to end his life. Though the state claimed Wood was comatose, medical experts told The Guardian in 2014 that it was impossible to rule out that he was in pain during the 2-hour execution.

Despite this, Atwood's lawyers are urging him to opt for this method over hydrogen cyanide, known as Zyklon B, known for causing agonizing deaths, as it did during the Holocaust.

“Cyanide is as bad as everybody thinks it is – there’s a reason the Nazis used it: it’s a horrific way to die,” Perkovich told The Guardian. “We are now in the position of having to dissuade our client from opting to go into a cyanide gas chamber, and we have 15 days to do it.”

The move to bring back Zyklon B as an execution method – not used in over 20 years – caused a lot of controversy when it was announced in 2021 that Arizona planned to reintroduce it and had already spent $2,000 dollars procuring the ingredients for cyanide gas. The method had not been used since 1999, when Walter LaGrand was executed, taking 18 minutes of "agonizing choking and gagging" before his heart gave out. Similar accounts of agony are seen in other accounts of executions by the method.

"Don’s body started convulsing violently and his arms strained against the straps. His face and body turned a deep red and the veins in his temple and neck began to bulge until I thought they might explode," lawyer Jim Belanger, who witnessed the execution of an inmate via gas chamber in 1992, wrote of the death of Don Harding.

The gas took 10 minutes and 31 seconds to kill Harding. "I couldn’t believe that it was lasting so long," Belanger wrote. "My knees shook so badly I thought I might collapse."

Atwood's lawyers are now proposing that he should be offered the choice of firing squad, as a more humane alternative to the options of a painful death via lethal injection, and an even more painful death via a gas chosen for mass killings by the Nazis.

(source: iflscieince.com)

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

Judge: No blocking of cyanide gas for executions

Jewish residents have no legal right to block the state from executing inmates using the same gas that Nazis used to kill millions of Jews.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joan Sinclair pointed out that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Phoenix is not contesting the constitutionality of the death penalty. In fact, she said, the lawsuit the group filed along with two of it members does not even challenge the use of lethal gas by the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

Instead, Sinclair said, the only issue is the use of cyanide gas, called Zyklon B. The judge said that’s not for her to decide.

“The state constitution specifically allows for the use of lethal gas in death penalty cases,” she wrote.

And Sinclair said judges are required to give “deference” to state agencies in how to carry out the duties they are charged by state law with enforcing.

“Moreover, plaintiffs are essentially requesting a change in the law to exclude cyanide gas,” Sinclair continued. “This is a policy decision better left to the legislature.”

Attorneys for challengers argued this isn’t just an academic debate.

First, they argued psychological injury, charging that Jewish resident and taxpayers would effectively be forced “to subsidize and relieve unnecessarily the same form of cruelty used in World War II atrocities.”

“Many of these survivors are horrified at being taxed to implement the same machinery of cruelty that was used to murder their loved ones,” the lawsuit states.

That, said Sinclair, is not sufficient grounds to sue.

“This is not a distinct and palpable injury to those plaintiffs outside of an allegation of generalized harm that is shared alike by a large class of citizens,” the judge wrote.

Sinclair was no more impressed by the financial arguments.

The lawsuit cited documents, obtained through public records requests, showing the department purchased a potassium cyanide brick for $1,529 in December 2020 and sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid days later for $687. Dropping the cyanide into the acid creates the lethal gas.

The state also has been spending an undetermined amount of money to test and make repairs to the gas chamber as it prepared for the possibility that someone on death row might opt to choose that method of execution instead of lethal injection.

Sinclair acknowledged that taxpayers are entitled to sue to stop the illegal expenditure of public funds.

“But this is only true where the connection between the injury and the putatively illegal act is not too remote,” she wrote.

“Here, the connection is quite remote,” Sinclair said.

And the judge said at least some of that is there appears to be no immediate chance that the gas chamber is going to be used in the immediate future.

She pointed out that Arizona voters abolished the use of lethal gas in 1992, replacing it with lethal injections. That followed gruesome reports of the execution of Don Harding, who took 11 minutes to die.

But that 1992 constitutional amendment, approved by a ratio of more than 3-to-1, preserved that right for those already on death row to choose either option.

There are 17 there now who qualify out of more than 100 who face death sentences. But Sinclair pointed out that hasn’t happened.

One of those, Clarence Dixon, set to be executed this coming week for the murder of an Arizona State University student in 1978, failed to pick a method. That defaulted to lethal injection.

Frank Atwood, who is set to die June 8, has until May 19 to choose. He was convicted of the 1984 slaying of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, an 8-year-old Tucson girl who disappeared while riding her bicycle to mail a letter for her mother.

Sinclair also said the amount of money spent by the state so far on the chemicals is “nominal.”

There was no immediate response from attorneys for the plaintiffs.

(source: yourvalley.net)

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey says his pro-life stance applies to abortions, not the death penalty

Ducey said he believes in the death penalty in "certain rare situations."

The statements come as Arizona is set to conduct its 1st execution this coming week since 2014, before Ducey was elected. That, however, is contingent on whether the Arizona Supreme Court concludes Clarence Dixon is mentally fit to be executed.

A warrant has also been issued for a 2nd man, Frank Atwood, to be put to death on June 8.

"When I talk about pro-life, I talk about the innocence of life at birth," the governor told Capitol Media Services.

"What you are talking about is justice that is coming 40 years delayed to families that suffered enormous grief at the hands of murderers,'' he said. "And the state is going to see that justice is done."

The governor's comments on the scope of his pro-life beliefs come on the heels of a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court indicating that a majority of the justices are willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 ruling which concluded women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

That would return the decisions to each state. And Arizona still has its pre-Roe law on the books that outlaw all abortions except to save the life of the mother.

Ducey has suggested he believes a ban at 15 weeks he signed earlier this year would take precedence, a view that is contradicted by the plain language of that bill. When pushed for whether he wants an outright ban or the 15-week law to take effect, the governor said the courts will decide.

More immediate are the questions of the executions of Dixon and Atwood.

Strictly speaking, Ducey can't do anything on his own to halt either. That is because the legislature decades ago removed the unilateral power of governors to issue pardons or commute death sentences to life in prison. That can occur only on the recommendation of the Board of Executive Clemency, something that has not happened in either case.

Ducey said he is just doing his job.

"I took an oath to uphold the constitution and enforce the laws," he said.

But what does Ducey, who was raised Catholic, believe in his heart?

"I believe in certain situations, the death penalty is justice,'' he said. The governor said he has been briefed on both cases by Anni Foster, his legal counsel.

"Each of these crimes is egregious beyond the pale," Ducey continued. "This is the law and it will be completed."

There is still a possible reprieve for Dixon. His attorneys are arguing that he cannot understand why he is being executed because of he is mentally incompetent.

That was rejected by Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson. In a ruling released Wednesday, he said that Dixon is rational, a decision likely to be appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Dixon was convicted of the 1978 killing of Deana Bowdin, a student at Arizona State University. She was found murdered in her bed with a macrame belt around her neck and blood on her chest. While police found DNA they were unable to match it to anyone. The break came in 2001 when Tempe police matched it to Dixon who by that time was serving a life sentence in prison for a 1986 rape. Dixon had lived across the street from Bowdin at the time of the murder.

Atwood was convicted of the 1984 slaying of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson in Tucson. She disappeared while riding her pink bicycle on her mail to mail a letter for her mother.

Authorities eventually tracked Atwood to Texas where he was arrested on charges of kidnapping. Murder charges were added after Vicki's skull and some bone were found in the desert northwest of Tucson the following year.

Courts have so far rejected claims by defense attorneys that the state has not proven it has the lethal drugs necessary to conduct both executions in a safe fashion. The last execution was in 2014 when it took 15 doses of a 2-drug combination over nearly two hours to kill Joseph R. Wood.

(source: KJZZ news)

CALIFORNIA:

CA Arson Suspect Could Face Death Penalty

A Fresno man could face a potential death sentence or life in prison for allegedly setting a house fire that killed his infant niece and nephew.

The Fresno County District Attorney's office has charged Filimon Robert Hurtado with 2 counts of murder, attempted murder, and arson.

May 5—A Fresno man could face a potential death sentence or life in prison for allegedly setting a house fire that killed his infant niece and nephew and seriously burned their mother, prosecutors with the Fresno County District Attorney's Office say.

Filimon Robert Hurtado, 29, is charged with two counts of murder, attempted murder, and arson. The Fresno County District Attorney's office has also charged Hurtado with special circumstances for the multiple deaths and for murder by arson.

Prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine if the death penalty will be applied. If not, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole, if he is found guilty, according to a news release.

Hurtado is accused of using gasoline to torch the home on Robinson Avenue, near Dakota and Brawley avenues. Fire fighters were alerted to the fire at about 6:40 a.m. on Tuesday.

Inside the burned home, firefighters found the bodies of 5-month-old boy Calyx Hurtado and his 18-month-old sister Cataleya Hurtado. Their 32-year-old mother was also badly burned, police said.

Hurtado was arrested on Tuesday and remains at Community Regional Medical Center. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday in Department 34 of the Fresno County Superior Court.

(source: The Fresno Bee)

IRAQ/UNITED KINGDOM:

Ministers accused of abandoning UK geologist at risk of execution in Iraq----Family ‘baffled’ by Foreign Office after Jim Fitton arrested for taking pottery pieces from ancient site

The family of a British man who has been detained in Iraq for more than 6 weeks and faces execution for collecting fragments of pottery at an ancient site has accused British ministers of abandoning him, and expressed concern over the conditions he is being held in.

Jim Fitton, 66, who was on an organised geology and archaeology trip, was arrested at Baghdad airport as he tried to fly out. He was detained on suspicion of smuggling, after pieces of pottery he had been assured by guides were worthless were found in his luggage.

“We’re very fearful,” said Fitton’s son-in-law, Sam Tasker. “Iraqi law says if anyone is convicted of this crime, they are punishable by execution. Full stop. There’s no range or gradation of sentence, or any allowance for mitigating circumstances. By the letter of the law, if Jim is found guilty of what he is accused of, he will be executed.

“Jim is giving us a rose-tinted, stiff-upper-lip view of what he is going through. He doesn’t want us to worry about him. We understand from the embassy staff and our lawyer he is getting the basics, but nobody has elaborated on the conditions. We think that’s to spare us. He’s in a temporary holding cell at the airport and has been there for 6 weeks with another man.”

In occasional WhatsApp messages, Fitton has joked that he has learned how to clean toilets and is brushing up on his colloquial Arabic. “But it can’t be comfortable,” said Tasker.

Fitton, originally from Bath and now based in Malaysia, collected the fragments from a site in Eridu. His family insisted he was told they held no economic or cultural value, but he was arrested as he tried to leave and was expected to face trial within a few days.

Tasker said: “He’s got no criminal record. He’s a geologist jobbing around the world for 40 years. He’s a hugely experienced traveller, a wonderfully erudite man. He is the most multicultural, respectful man I’ve ever met. A crime involving devaluing the cultural history of another nation is the last thing Jim would want to do.”

Tasker and Fitton’s children, Leila and Joshua, have launched a petition calling on the British government to intervene which has been signed by more than 100,000 people.

The Foreign Office minister, Amanda Milling, has written to the Bath Liberal Democrat MP, Wera Hobhouse, who is championing Fitton’s case, saying the government recognises the urgency of the case and has raised concerns with Iraq over the possible imposition of the death penalty.

But Tasker said more had to be done. “We need the politicians to step up. We’ve had as much support as we can get from the consular chaps on the ground. They have been visiting Jim, providing him with books to read, they’ve been compassionate. But we still haven’t had any engagement whatsoever from anyone with a decision-making power in the Foreign Office. Neither [Foreign Office ministers] James Cleverly, Amanda Milling, nor the foreign secretary [Liz Truss] have been in touch.

“We’re asking for something quite minimal. Our lawyer in Iraq has put together a proposal he wants to put to the director of public prosecutions [DPP] in Iraq. The proposal says that because of mitigating circumstances, because there was no criminal intent here, it was an honest mistake and because of Britain’s relationship with Iraq, the case should be moved to the court of cassation in Iraq.

“We’ve had a crash course in Iraqi law. My understanding is that it allows for the case to be closed before it goes to sentencing and Jim would be released and allowed home. We’re asking for the Foreign Office to help us to arrange a meeting between our lawyer and the DPP in Iraq.”

Tasker said he was “baffled” at the lack of engagement from the Foreign Office. “One of the Foreign Office’s roles is to look after British citizens who get into trouble. It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Tasker and Leila Fitton are in Malaysia for celebrations to mark their marriage, which took place in Bath last summer.

Hobhouse said Jim Fitton should be there. “Instead he is awaiting trial in Iraq. It is an absolute travesty for Jim and his family that the Foreign Office has refused to get involved despite the family’s lawyer advising that an intervention would make a difference in this case. This is a life-or-death situation.”

The Foreign Office has been asked to comment.

(source: The Guaridan)

IRAN:

Iranian decision to execute Swedish dual national sparks backlash----Reports that the Islamic Republic is set to execute the scientist came as a Swedish court prepares to sentence a former Iranian official in connection to the killing of thousands of political prisoners in his country in 1988.

Iranians took to social media to draw the world's attention to the Islamic Republic's plans to send a Swedish-Iranian national to the gallows for espionage.

The reactions followed a report by the official ISNA news agency indicating that Iran would implement the death penalty for Ahmad-Reza Djalali by May 21.

A disaster medicine scientist, Djalali was arrested in Iran in 2016 while on a visit upon invitation by 2 state universities. Iran alleges that the doctor passed on intelligence that Israeli spy agencies used to assassinate 2 nuclear scientists.

Djalali denied the allegation but made a videotaped confession, based on which he was handed the death penalty. Days later, the scientist released an audio file of himself explaining how he had been "psychologically pressured" and lured into the confession in exchange for promised freedom.

UN rights experts and Amnesty International have questioned the legitimacy of the proceedings over lack of fairness combined with torture techniques during lengthy periods of solitary confinement.

Pictures comparing a significant weight loss during the time span before Djalali's arrest and his detention resurfaced on social media following the news of Djalali's imminent execution.

With hashtags trending in Persian and English, a wave of rage and criticism from ordinary Iranians and members the country's civil society continues to hit the government with calls for the execution to be suspended.

The timing is noteworthy. The news of the impending execution was released on the same day closing arguments were heard in a 30-month-long trial in Sweden of Hamid Nouri, a former official in Iran's judiciary. Swedish prosecutors have demanded that Nouri be sentenced to life over his links to the execution of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988, a case in which incumbent hard-line President Ibrahim Raisi, a former judge, is also accused of being closely involved.

Nouri has denied the murder and war crimes charges leveled against him and the Iranian government has dismissed his "show trial" and called for his immediate release.

"The threat to execute Ahmad-Reza Djalali right at the closure of Hamid Nouri's trial is yet more proof that the Islamic Republic leadership is taking dual nationals hostage," tweeted Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based nongovernmental organization Iran Human Rights, as he urged the international community to act urgently to stop the "crime."

Amid the debate, Iran was seen by critics as using the Djalali case as a pressure card against the Swedish government for a potential prisoner exchange. Yet Djalali's wife Vida Mehran-nia told the Prague-based Persian-language Radio Farda that even with the execution looming, she still would not favor seeing her husband swapped with the former Iranian official.

She also complained about "insufficient" Swedish government efforts to secure her husband's release, saying, "They were not of much help and merely promised to pursue the matter."

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde tweeted about the "extremely worrying" reports, saying she was in contact with the Iranian side.

(source: al-monitor.com)

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Rights group calls for halting imminent execution of Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali

Amnesty International called on the Iranian authorities to immediately stop any plans to execute Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali.

In a statement issued on Thursday, May 6, Amnesty International called for the immediate release of the political prisoner, citing the “arbitrary” detention of Ahmadreza Djalali in Ward 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence.

In a letter to the head of the regime’s head of the judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, the human rights group noted that the trial of the Iranian-Swedish researcher was ” grossly unfair ” and relied on torture-tainted “confessions,” that Ahmadreza Djalali says were obtained under torture and other ill-treatment while he was held in prolonged solitary confinement without access to a lawyer.

On Wednesday, the state-run ISNA news agency reported that it had “heard from informed sources” that Djalali would be executed “by the end of the [Persian] month of Ordibehesht [21 May] at the latest”.

The emergency medicine specialist was arrested during a business trip in 2016 and accused of spying for Israel.

A revolutionary court presided over by notorious judge Abolghasem Salavati sentenced Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali to death the following year on the charges of “corruption on earth” and “espionage”.

Amnesty International said that the offense of “corruption on earth” fails to meet the requirements for clarity and precision needed in criminal law and breaches the principle of legality and legal certainty.

Djalali said he had been forced to “confess” while being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including threats to kill or otherwise harm his children, who live in Sweden with his wife.

On December 9, 2018, his lawyers learned that Branch 1 of the Supreme Court had upheld his death sentence without granting them an opportunity to file their defense submissions on his behalf. The Supreme Court has rejected at least three requests for a judicial review of Ahmadreza Djalali’s case.

Amnesty International has always emphasized that the Iranian regime is increasingly using the death penalty as a weapon to suppress political dissent and has resorted to allegations of “corruption on earth”.

Foreign and dual nationals have been held hostage more-or-less constantly in Iran for many years. Some of them have been held under threat of execution and some have lost their lives, while others have successfully been swapped for Iranians detained as criminals in other countries, or for cash, or for some other material reward.

(source: iran-hrm.com)

TANZANIA:

Government to speed-up hearing of death cases, deputy minister says

see: https://www.ippmedia.com/en/news/government-speed-hearing-death-cases-deputy-minister-says

KENYA:

Experts of the Committee against Torture Commend Kenya’s Efforts to Implement the Law on Prevention of Torture, Ask about Prison Overcrowding and the Death Penalty

“No more hypocrisy, stop condemning torture committed by others while accepting its products” - UN expert

The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded its consideration of the third periodic review of Kenya, with Committee Experts commending Kenya’s efforts to implement the law on prevention of torture and asking about prison overcrowding and the death penalty.

Sebastien Touze, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kenya, said Kenya’s efforts to implement the law on the prevention of torture should be commended. The State party had made efforts to bring its legislation in line with the Convention. The definition of torture in the legislation, however, was more restrictive than in the Convention.

Mr. Touze said the Committee had asked the State party to provide information on measures taken to reduce prison overcrowding. What was the number of people detained in prisons? Over 50 % of detainees in 2018 were in temporary detention, and prison overcrowding was at 195 % overall. In some centres, there was over 400 % overcrowding. Such overcrowding threatened the health of detainees.

Another Committee Expert said that the Supreme Court had found that the mandatory use of the death penalty in murder cases was unconstitutional in 2016. This decision had attracted praise from many groups. What had been done to implement the decision? How many people were covered by the decision? How many people still needed to have their cases reviewed, and what kind of review would these people receive? There was a long-standing practice where death penalties were not carried out, but the sentence was still imposed. Had progress been made toward the abolition of the death penalty?

Cleopa Kilonzu Mailu, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said Kenya still faced the challenge of overcrowding in prisons. However, the Bail and Bond Policy Guidelines had been developed to streamline and address disparities in bail and bond decision-making. In addition, the Diversion Policy developed in 2019 allowed for cases to be settled out of court, on merit and through agreed structures. The Government was also deploying the use of community service orders for those sentenced to 3 years and below and those with a balance of 3 years and below left to serve. These efforts had seen the prison population decline by 60.7 %. The judiciary also reviewed cases for individuals sentenced to 6 months and below for release.

The mandatory death sentence had been declared unlawful for murder, but had not been eliminated, the delegation said. Data had been collected from prisons from all persons on death row who had not been executed by August 2018. The Superior Courts were undertaking the resentencing of convicted persons who had been sentenced to death previously. In a number of cases, for those who had served over 30 years, some had been released. The death sentence remained a legal sentence, but its abolition would be determined by the people of Kenya, most feasibly through a plebiscite.

Presenting the report, Mr. Mailu said Kenya shared the conviction that torture could never be justifiable and under the Kenyan Constitution, the right not to be tortured could not be limited under any circumstances.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Mailu said Kenya placed great importance on the respect of human rights and significant developments had been made in law as well as in practice. Kenya did not condone any acts of torture and attached great importance to the respect of human rights for all.

Claude Heller, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, said the openness in which the delegation spoke was appreciated, as were the organised and systematic responses - it was a constructive dialogue, not just protocolary speeches.

The delegation of Kenya consisted of representatives of the Office of the Attorney General and Department of Justice, the Kenya Prisons Service, the National Police Service, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Chief Registrar, the Judiciary, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, and the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The webcast of the Committee against Torture meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Committee against Torture’s 73rd session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. on Friday, 6 May, to conclude its consideration of the 4th periodic report of Uruguay (CAT/C/URU/4).

Report

The Committee has before it the third periodic report of Kenya (CAT/C/KEN/3).

Presentation of Report

CLEOPA KILONZO MAILU, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said that Kenya respected and supported the work of the Committee, which was a strong mechanism for combatting and preventing torture and other heinous crimes in the world. He commended the Committee for relentlessly encouraging States parties to take effective measures to prohibit and prevent acts of torture, and for offering protection and redress to victims. Kenya shared the conviction that torture could never be justifiable and under the Kenyan Constitution, the right not to be tortured could not be limited under any circumstances.

Kenya was fully committed to the realisation of the aspirations of the Convention. The State was working to set up the National Coroners Service to independently investigate the causes of suspicious reportable deaths. Kenya was dedicated to providing civil redress for all victims of torture and their families. To this end, in 2021, the State had prepared draft Victims Protection Regulations and a trust fund to provide for reparations and compensation to victims.

To mitigate and address challenges relating to sexual and gender-based violence, the State had introduced the “POLICARE Policy,” which established a multi-agency service provider for victims of sexual and gender-based violence; created training manuals for public officials on data collection, data analysis and reporting on sexual and gender-based violence; and launched a specialised sexual and gender-based violence court.

The Female Genital Mutilation Board was engaged in awareness campaigns to change mindsets about the practice within concerned communities, and the State had intensified cross-border cooperation to eliminate the practice.

The Kenyan Government had established community service orders for all petty offences. These had led to a decline in the number of detained persons and brought the State in line with international standards regarding detention.

The Government of Kenya strived to prevent, investigate and prosecute extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. ln June 2021, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutors had launched Standard Operating Procedures on the investigation and prosecution of serious human rights offences committed by police officers. The Civil Rights Division had also been established to enhance the promotion of human rights among law enforcers. Police were trained on human rights, ethics and accountability. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Internal Affairs Unit ensured that excessive use of force by law enforcement officers was addressed and those found culpable were prosecuted or dismissed from service.

Regarding the fight against terrorism, Constitutional and legal safeguards were in place to ensure that measures taken to fight terrorism did not lead to an infringement of a suspect’s rights. Suspects were detained for less than 24 hours, and further detention required sanction from the courts. Suspects were given the right to claim wrongful detention. A rapid reference guide and a draft charge sheet for terrorism offences listed in the Prevention of Torture Act had also been developed by the Director of Public Prosecutions to guide prosecutors and investigators.

Kenya recognised its intersex population in the 2019 census, and the Government was taking concrete legislative, institutional and administrative steps specifically aimed at protecting the rights of intersex persons.

Kenya maintained its responsibility to provide refuge to those fleeing persecution in all its forms. Kenya’s refugee and asylum seeker population stood at 547,884 as of 31 March 2022, an 8.5 % increase from 2020.

Draft Standard Operating Procedures on human trafficking had been prepared to protect victims and potential victims, and to bring those involved in trafficking to justice.

The National Multi-Agency Consultative Forum on Election Preparedness, chaired by the Chief Justice of Kenya, brought together various agencies to achieve credible and violence-free elections. The Forum trained investigators on international criminal law and response teams on resolving electoral disputes.

Kenya still faced the challenge of overcrowding in prisons. However, the Bail and Bond Policy Guidelines had been developed to streamline and address disparities in bail and bond decision-making. In addition, the Diversion Policy developed in 2019 allowed for cases to be settled out of court, on merit and through agreed structures. The Government was also deploying the use of community service orders for those sentenced to three years and below and those with a balance of 3 years and below left to serve. These efforts had seen the prison population decline by 60.7 per cent. The judiciary also reviewed cases for individuals sentenced to 6 months and below for release.

Questions by Committee Experts

SÉBASTIEN TOUZE, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that the timeframe since the last report was nine years, and welcomed the updates on the situation in Kenya from the head of delegation.

The law on the prevention of torture was implemented after the Committee’s recommendation to do so. The State party’s efforts to implement this law should be commended. The State party had made efforts to bring the legislation in line with the Convention. The definition of torture in the legislation, however, was more restrictive than in the Convention.

What were examples of cases where judges had handed down convictions under the law on the prevention of torture? Judges preferred to invoke common law offenses rather than the terrorism law. Why was it difficult for judges to apply this law?

Sentences for torture under the law included varying fines and imprisonment. What were these punishments based on? Fines were seemingly too low, and not consistent with those given for other serious crimes. What was the number of people detained on terrorism charges?

Provisions on torture in other laws were still used. Which laws had been repealed when the law on the prevention of torture was implemented? What punishments were given for the torture of children? Were they more severe than for torture of adults?

The Committee had recommended that Kenya regulate the use of firearms by the police, but there had been no such amendment to Kenyan law. There was a draft bill on the excessive use of force regarding Nairobi County Police, but national legislation on the use of force by police was already in place. Why had this draft law been prepared?

Mr. Touze commended the State party for implementing legislation on legal aid. Under the law, however, legal aid was only provided for persons in extreme poverty, without mentioning thresholds. Persons receiving legal aid were required to pay fees specified by the national legal aid service. Would the State party revise this legislation to make legal aid more accessible?

How many complaints had been filed related to domestic violence, and how many arrests had been made? Mr. Touze expressed regret that units providing protection for victims of domestic violence had only been established in certain areas. Had units been established in rural areas since 2017? The Committee welcomed that three call centres for child victims of domestic violence had been established. Was this hotline effective in protecting children against violence, and was it able to respond to all calls? What was the state of further mechanisms being established to raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence and protect potential victims?

Mr. Touze welcomed interventions to prevent arbitrary detention. How did these work, and how could detained persons file complaints? Were police officers transferred to other posts when accused of unlawful detention?

A Government report noted a lack of staff and resources in police stations.

What was the Government doing to improve the condition of detention facilities? The Committee welcomed that a digital detainee registry system had been established. However, only 20 % of police stations had a computer. Was the registry system practical, or was an alternative method of registration required?

Was the presence of an attorney necessary to grant bail? Most attorneys practiced in Nairobi, and there were very few in northern regions. Further, in 2017, there were 9 times more doctors in urban centres than in rural regions. Was the right to an attorney and health care guaranteed in northern regions?

Courts were mostly situated around the capital. Did this lead to a delay in being brought before a judge for people in rural areas? How long did it take for a person to be brought before a judge?

Only 11 % of police officers were women. How was the right to be searched by someone of the same gender guaranteed?

The Committee had asked the State party to provide information on measures taken to reduce prison overcrowding. What was the number of people detained in prisons? Over 50 per cent of detainees in 2018 were in temporary detention, and prison overcrowding was at 195 per cent overall. In some centres, there was over 400 per cent overcrowding. Such overcrowding threatened the health of detainees.

A 2015 report had highlighted that prison toilets were often located outside of facilities, and detainees could not use them when they needed to. Many did not have showers or access to drinking water onsite. No detention centres for minors had resident doctors or nurses, and many did not offer meat or fish on a regular basis, or menus that catered for different religious requirements. The National Human Rights Commission reported in 2019 that medical services sometimes refused to examine prisoners. Isolation cells were used for punishment, rather than for quarantining inmates with communicable diseases. What measures were in place to improve the conditions of prisons?

HIV-positive women and women with disabilities were allegedly forcibly sterilised. Could the State party respond to these allegations? The State had previously reported that “unconstitutional sterilisation” was illegal, but did this indicate that there was “constitutional sterilisation”? Why had one woman withdrawn her case against the State regarding her forced sterilisation?

Were there statistics on calls made to the domestic violence hotline? What other measures were in place to prevent violence against women? Mr. Touze commended the establishment of rehabilitation centres for victims of violence in hospitals. How many women used these centres, and what services did they provide?

Spousal rape was not made illegal under the Criminal Code, but it was prohibited under the Constitution. Were there any cases where a partner had been convicted of spousal rape under constitutional grounds?

How effective was the Council established to combat female genital mutilation in preventing the practice? What was the current number of inquiries related to female genital mutilation, as well as investigations and convictions? Over 600 cases of female genital mutilation had been reported up to 2018, but only 34 convictions had been handed down. Were the remaining 500 still being investigated? Why was the number of convictions so low?

ERDOGAN ISCAN, Committee Expert and Country Vice-Rapporteur, welcomed that all law enforcement officers suspected of committing extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and excessive use of force were promptly investigated and, if found culpable, charged and prosecuted for the offence. Mr. Iscan called for updated data on allegations, investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sentences.

Mr. Iscan asked for more information on investigations into excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings perpetrated during the 2007 and 2008 post-election violence; and any redress that had been provided to victims of torture and sexual violence.

He also called for information on the number of cases of the use of excessive force that the authorities had reported to the Independent Police Oversight Authority. What was the current status of the draft regulations related to complaints mechanisms for victims of torture and ill-treatment developed by the Independent Police Oversight Authority?

The Committee had received information that the military was not accessible for investigations of alleged violations of the Convention, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and excessive use of force. Could the State party respond to these allegations? Were military and medical personnel included in human rights training programmes? Did the State party receive assistance from competent regional and international organizations?

States parties were required to ensure that each victim of torture or ill-treatment had the right to fair and adequate compensation, including full rehabilitation. Were redress and compensation provided to victims by Kenya?

What measures had been taken to ensure compatibility between the Refugee Act and the Citizenship Act, and compliance with the Convention? There were reports of the incompatibility of these instruments. Did the State party ensure the right of refugees to have their cases examined individually, and not collectively? Were medical and other personnel dealing with migrants and asylum seekers provided with effective training? Could the State party indicate its policy and practice regarding “diplomatic assurance” in implementing the principle of non-refoulement?

Another Committee Expert said that the Supreme Court had found that the mandatory use of the death penalty in murder cases was unconstitutional in 2016. This decision had attracted praise from many groups. What had been done to implement the decision? How many people were covered by the decision? How many people still needed to have their cases reviewed, and what kind of review would these people receive? Why was the decision limited to murder cases? There was a long-standing practice where death penalties were not carried out, but the sentence was still imposed. Had progress been made toward the abolition of the death penalty?

Did the National Human Rights Commission receive appropriate resources? Programmatic expenses were paid for by foreign development partners. Could the State party provide information on budget requests made by the Commission and the actual budget that it had been provided with?

Non-governmental organizations had alleged that the Commission’s recommendations were not implemented. Could the State party provide information on responses to the Commission’s recommendations? There were also reports that the Commission had been denied access to military prisons. Did the current law allow the Commission to visit military prisons?

There had been allegations that Government officials had retaliated against human rights defenders carrying out protests. What measures were in place to protect human rights defenders? There were also cases of non-governmental organizations being stripped of their registration or being refused registration. When would draft legislation on non-governmental organizations be implemented?

What had prevented legislation protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons from being implemented? What progress had been made in repealing legislation prohibiting same-sex relations? What was the likelihood of the introduction of legislation allowing for transgender and intersex persons to change their names?

Another Committee Expert said that there was a very high number of pretrial detainees in Kenya. What impact had measures to reduce prison overcrowding had? There were many incompatibilities between the Prison Act and the Mandela Rules. What was being done to address this?

One Committee Expert said that a common form of incarceration in Kenya was placement in psychiatric facilities. What institution was monitoring psychiatric establishments? Was there a complaint mechanism within psychiatric institutions? What had the Kenyan Government done to provide training to medical staff in these institutions to prevent involuntary incarceration?

SÉBASTIEN TOUZE, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said that abortion was illegal in Kenya, and was not permitted unless the life or health of the mother was in danger. Could the right to abortion be recognised in the case of rape or incest? What was the scope of clandestine abortions? There were high rates of clandestine abortions amongst adolescents. Would the State party consider legalising abortions?

Another Committee Expert said that Kenya had signed the Convention on Enforced Disappearances but had not yet ratified it. Various sources attested to acts of enforced disappearance that had been committed. Would the State party consider ratifying the Convention on Enforced Disappearances?

Responses by the Delegation

Responding to these questions and comments, the delegation said that with regard to the Prevention of Torture Act 2017 and the definition of torture that did not conform to the definition provided by the United Nations Convention against Torture, the difference in the wording occurred towards the end of the definition, and the words “person acting on behalf of a public officer” meant “person acting in an official capacity”. A person who was not acting on behalf of a public officer would be addressed under the Penal Code and any other relevant legislation.

On the problems in the implementation of the Prevention of Torture Act, there were three challenges: evidence tampering at the point of investigation; intimidation of witnesses and victims; and general interference with investigations. These were the major problems experienced, and the Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions was working to address the implementation of the Prevention of Torture Act and all actions falling under violations by persons, police officers, and persons working in security. The Office had also developed tools to help in investigations and prosecutions. On the criteria applied in sentencing when it came to the offence of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, the judicial officers had in place a sentencing policy which helped them to assess the severity of the offence and match it to the appropriate sentence. Suspects could also be ordered by the court to compensate a victim for medical and rehabilitation expenses. Certain provisions or sections of laws had been deleted and/or inserted to the effect of covering torture and other forms of cruel, degrading or inhumane treatment in order to bring them into line with the Convention.

Any acts of domestic violence were addressed through the Sexual Offences Act and the Penal Code. On sexual- and gender-based violence, and the effectiveness of the helplines thereon, they were effective, and the indicator was that there was an increase in reporting. Because of the wide-spread access to the telecommunications network, the population had access to Government documents on a range of issues. The practice in criminal justice in the case of rape and rape trials was currently that treatment notes and medical reports were admissible in the courts, as long as they were administered by professional doctors.

On extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances, excessive use of force, and counter-terrorism efforts, whenever cases of excessive force and extra-judicial killings were reported, the National Police Service usually opened inquiry files, and officers involved were subjected to criminal proceedings before a court, and were either fined or imprisoned. The National Police Service had internal mechanisms for addressing such events, which prescribed punishments, including interdiction, dismissal, and reduction in rank. The establishment of an Internal Affairs Unit was a measure which promoted accountability, and the Unit investigated the Police, promoted universal standards of discipline, and kept records of the facts of the complaints and all investigations made. The law only allowed the police to use reasonable amounts of force in order to carry out an arrest.

The Government was making consistent efforts to combat terrorism, and had set up a centre in this regard. Other remarkable milestones had been achieved to this end. The National Prevention of Terrorism Act had been promulgated, and several amendments to it had been subsequently made. The Crime and Anti-Money-Laundering Act 2017 targeted money laundering, which was a critical means for financing terrorism. Apart from the general provisions allowing the police forces to combat crime, the Prevention of Terrorism Act criminalised a number of offences, including radicalisation and encouraging of ideologies supporting violence. Punitive sanctions were prescribed for terrorist crimes. The rights of individuals suspected of terrorist activities could be curtailed, including the right to property. Kenya had launched its National Strategy to Combat Violence and Extremism in 2016.

The Government had realised that the security landscape had rapidly changed over the years, making the demands of the 21st century outgrow the capacities of the National Police Service, which had in response developed a comprehensive training programme, addressing the security challenges and the current aspirations of the Kenyan population. The current training syllabus taught in the national police training locations included a number of units on counter-violence, terrorism, and organized crime, community policing, cross-cultural and diversity policing, communications skills and public relations, and on human rights, police ethics and accountability.

The regulations provided timelines in which a direct supervisor of a police officer, a head of station, or any other person operating in the police who oversaw someone suspected of having committed an offence, were required to submit a notification to the competent body. If an officer failed to notify the authority of any infractions, the regulations contained criminal sanctions which could be applied, including a fine and imprisonment.

The Kenyan Constitution included the freedom of association, and the country had a free and active system of non-governmental organizations, which sought to enhance the human rights framework and ensure oversight in Kenya. Civic space was governed by the National Coordination Body, established under the National Non-Governmental Associations Act. While the Constitution ensured the right to demonstrate, assemble, and picket, this must be done unarmed and peacefully.

The police were bound to enforce law and order, and if protestors were armed, then the police were allowed to use reasonable force. A Joint Advisory Technical Committee that had been developed to manage issues that could have a negative impact on elections. Investigators had been trained in investigating gross incidents of violence, including sexual violence, that could occur in the context of the election period. Staff members were nominated to monitor the police during the election period.

On conditions of detention, the Government was committed and guided by the Luanda Guidelines on access by doctors to detainees, and the police and prisons implemented these. On women prisoners being body searched, this occurred by female prison officers, in conditions of privacy.

The development of the Bail and Bond Policy allowed Kenya to address overcrowding in prisons. Judges reviewed cases, especially those of persons sentenced to 3 years and below, sending them to probation or using community service as a means to reduce overcrowding. On nutrition in prisons, adequate nutrition was a prisoner’s basic right, and food provided was sufficient, wholesome, and nutritious. The Government had employed nutritionists in this context. All health facilities attended to inmates with medical needs, and a hospital was being built for detainees, so as to not have them held in public hospitals. The Government provided access to water, soap, and hygiene items to all detainees.

On the issue of isolation cells, the Government, with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Kenyan Red Cross, had built isolation facilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenya took the recommendations of the Kenyan Commission for Human Rights seriously. The laws governing prisons in Kenya were currently being reviewed, seeking to align them with the Constitution and international instruments, in order to ensure that the prison systems were managed in a fair manner. The Act was currently still under review by stakeholders before review by the Senate and the National Assembly.

On abortion, the delegation said that the Constitution did not permit it, unless in the opinion of a trained health professional, the life and health of the mother were threatened. The Health Act 2017 defined health as a complete set of physical and emotional wellbeing. Pregnancies resulting from rape and defilement could be terminated under special exceptions provided for in the Constitution. Same-sex relationships and unions were provided for under national laws.

The Constitution stipulated that marriage could only take place between a man and a woman. The position of the courts was that if persons wished to engage in same-sex relationships, they could do so without being prosecuted. The courts did not condone any form of violence or abuse against any person, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons. In case of violations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons could access a fair trial as could any other persons. They could seek redress before the National Police Authority. All persons, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons, could access the services provided by the Government, including health.

The Ministry of Health was working towards protection against involuntary medical intervention, and ensured the protection of those affected, and this included forced sterilisation. The Children’s Justice Bill 2021 was currently before Parliament awaiting a second reading. Once enacted, it would provide for a number of issues, including the age of criminal liability for minor offenders and children in conflict with the law. Child protection units had been set up at some police stations to help deal with children in conflict with the law. Children were held separately from adults. The child protection units had been in operation since 2016 and had guided at least 100 children in that time. The Government sought to establish child protection units across the country.

The mandatory death sentence had been declared unlawful for murder, but had not been eliminated. Data had been collected from prisons from all persons on death row who had not been executed by August 2018. The Superior Courts were undertaking the resentencing of convicted persons who had been sentenced to death previously. In a number of cases, for those who had served over 30 years, some had been released. The death sentence remained a legal sentence, but its abolition would be determined by the people of Kenya, most feasibly through a plebiscite.

On the application of the Convention by the Kenyan courts, they had resolutely affirmed the provisions of the Convention. The Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Legislative Act, and the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, among other legal instruments, were being reviewed.

Questions by Committee Experts

ERDOGAN ISCAN, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for Kenya, thanked the delegation for responding to the majority of the questions posed previously. Further information was required with regard to the post-rape kits and forms, the extent to which the public was informed about them and their use in practice. Information on reports on arbitrary detentions by the police for the purpose of extortion was also required, as was information on the witness protection agency, and on allegations of inaccessibility to military installations to investigate violations of the Convention, which latter was a priority. Information on the implementation of obligations of implementation of article 14 of the Convention on the access to redress was also required, as was information on the implementation of obligations under article 3 on non-refoulement.

Committee Experts raised other issues, including on the definition of torture and whether Kenyan law authorised use of lethal force to protect property. Could more information be provided on the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission and whether there was a mechanism to assess how many recommendations were being implemented or at least responded to formally and whether the Government was doing anything to encourage more implementation. Did the rule against abortion apply if it was to protect the mother’s mental health? The rule against the mandatory death penalty for murder cases was striking; why did it only apply to murder cases and not to any other cases where the death penalty was applicable?

SEBASTIEN TOUZE, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Kenya, asked how community service was being implemented in practice. In some parts of the country, access to a lawyer was quite difficult, and he wished to know how this was remedied in practice. More information was required on legal aid. On domestic and inter-family violence, particularly marital rape, the discussion needed to be on how marital rape was apprehended, as it was not punishable under the Criminal Code, but the Constitution ensured equality and consent within marriage.

A Committee Expert noted that the prison legislation required further modification and asked what was the limit to pre-trial detention, if any, and if so, how was it observed. How were prison records related to pre-trial detention kept, in order to ensure that this limit was not exceeded? Another Expert asked whether persons were deported to countries which implemented the death penalty.

Responses by the Delegation

Concerning redress and compensation and the status of victim protection regulations and the witness protection agency, the delegation said that the periodic report provided information on the victim protection regulation act. Since its adoption, the Government had been developing the modalities for victim protection across the board. Even as the Government was putting in place the proper legislative framework for the compensation of victims of crimes, including torture, the courts were still providing redress, and the witness protection programme took action to protect the safety and welfare of witnesses through various means.

Kenya had not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, as the process required extensive stakeholder consultation, public participation, and Parliamentary approval, and this took a long time. On the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a committee had been set up to investigate what was required for its adoption and what the ramifications would be. The National Commission on Human Rights had a mandate to investigate violations, in particular with regard to torture.

On the issue of refugees and non-refoulement, the delegation said that there was a Department of Refugee Services, and the Refugee Act of 2021 was being implemented. Kenya maintained an open-door policy, and had no record of refugees being returned to their country of origin involuntarily. Most refugees were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda and Somalia, as well as other countries in the Horn of Africa.

Under the new Refugee Act, refugees were given safeguards to their rights, including the right to education, freedom of movement, and they could be issued with alien identity cards. The Government had signed mutual assistance agreements with various other national Governments. Kenya believed it complied with the principle of non-refoulement, and had never returned an asylum seeker to their country of origin involuntarily.

The Commission on Human Rights enjoyed a wide mandate in Kenya, as provided for under national law to promote and protect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all spheres of life. With regard to monitoring torture and allegations thereof, the Commission could call for information from any public and private body, and it could issue summons to investigate allegations.

The law on the prevention of torture mandated the Commission to make an annual report to the Assembly to examine the efforts made by the Government to combat torture or any cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. On recommendations from the Commission, most of the recommendations made by it had been implemented, including on issues of intersex persons. The Commission had an area of remedial measures it could offer to individuals or communities affected by human rights violations.

With regard to pre-trial detention, the maximum time that a person was held was usually 14 days. If a person was held over 24 hours, then it must be court-sanctioned, and strict conditions must be fulfilled. On access to justice, legal representation was always done by qualified lawyers who were contracted pro bono. An advocate was present from the time of plea.

On the death penalty for murder charges, the only other 2 offenses which were punishable by a death sentence were robbery with violence or attempted robbery with violence, and treason. They did not hold a mandatory death sentence. The Court could examine each situation and issue an appropriate sentence.

Conditions of imprisonment were a work in progress, but the construction of new facilities was improving the situation. Most prisons were self-sufficient in vegetables and maize. Prisoners were provided with free medicine, and any medical interventions were paid for by the Government. The review of prisoners’ cases was continuous - magistrates visited prisons and examined situations, often releasing prisoners immediately or to community service when their sentences were under 3 years.

Concluding Remarks

CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for traveling all the way to Geneva for the presentation of the review, and its composition from various branches and Ministries. The openness in which the delegation spoke was appreciated, as were the organised and systematic responses - it was a constructive dialogue, not just protocolary speeches. The Committee appreciated the dialogue, and hoped that what was done was useful to the State party. It was in that spirit that the Committee could support Kenya in its national efforts towards the challenges and pending tasks.

CLEOPA KILONZO MAILU, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for taking the time to review Kenya’s report and provide valuable recommendations. The expectations of Kenya’s delegation on having a substantive and open dialogue with the Committee had been met. The delegation had elaborated on the measures that the Government had taken to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment in Kenya, and had also highlighted challenges that were faced in this respect and the measures being put in place to overcome such challenges.

Kenya placed great importance on the respect of human rights and significant developments had been made in law as well as in practice. Kenya did not condone any acts of torture and attached great importance to the respect of human rights for all. Kenya wished to reassure all present that all remarks and recommendations expressed by the Committee members would be examined carefully and would be used to enhance and improve Kenya’s compliance with its commitments and obligations under the Convention against Torture.

(source: ohchr.org)

NIGERIA:

Warrant Execution: A Constitutionality For National Stability

Murder according to Merriam Webster Dictionary is the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malicious aforethought. In other words, it is a premeditated and intentional act of terminating another person’s life. Under the state criminal codes, murder is a capital offence or crime which could attract either life imprisonment or death by hanging. Every criminal offence must be punished. And when someone’s allegations have been proven under a competent court of jurisdiction with appropriate sentence served, the judgment must be binding.

A report showed that many of the democratically elected governors in Nigeria usually decline signing the death warrant, hiding under humanitarian shade. The act of leaving the condemned criminals to go unpunished has become the trending issue across the nation. Sincerely it is not contravening only the court verdicts but also their constitutional duties at promoting societal justice and fairness. This trend worsened since the nation transited to democracy in 1999, thereby arm-twisting the constitution at will.

According to the Nigerian Constitution, section 33(1), capital crimes such as murder, terrorism-related offences, rape, robbery, kidnapping, sodomy, homosexuality, among others attract capital punishment, which is majorly the death penalty. Similarly, the Holy Bible affirms how even God abhors act of malicious killing. This is established in the book of Deuteronomy 19 verse 11 to 13, stated that  “But if any man hate his neighbour (malice afterthought) and lie in wait for him (intentional) and rise up against him, and smite (murdered) him, mortally that he die, and flee into one of these cities (trying to escape judgment), then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence (arrest for prosecution) and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood (hangmen) that he may die.” Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, during an interview said: “There is a sociological angle to the issue of execution of death row inmates. Most prisons find it difficult to find hangmen. It is difficult to find a Nigerian who would be proud of an occupation of killing people,” adding that most civilian governors find it difficult to ratify the killing of other citizens even though they have been convicted.

Nevertheless, former president of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan during the 2013 International Fathers’ Day celebration called on state governors, enjoining them to summon up courage and take up their statutory responsibility by signing the pending death warrants of all condemned criminals for execution.

A retired senior correctional officer explained that “before a case could be established as homicide or capital offence, it must have been thoroughly investigated and facts affirmed by the Nigeria Police, through a competent Investigating Police Officer (IPO), which would be later referred to the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP), in the State Ministry of Justice for legal advice. Thereafter the case could be heard in a competent court, then, the presiding Judge who will give the verdict of capital punishment which might lead to the death by hanging if found guilty. The accused has the right to appeal within 3 months and if it does not favour him or her, the governor can sign the death warrant paper(s) for his or her execution not later than 6 months. But what do we have today? Reports show that in the last 18 years, none of the condemned criminals across the correctional centres in Nigeria have been executed because there is no one to sign the death warrant.”

The retired officer further noted the negative effects in keeping the condemned criminals for too long in prison, saying it has serious negative influence not only on other inmates but also in breeding more criminality. Reports of emergence of riot among inmates, cases of prison break, the ever increasing prison congestion among other nefarious acts in the correctional centres are motivated by non-execution of the condemned criminals.  Some experts pointed out that condemned criminals often become wild and uncontrollable by correctional officers since they believe they are already destined to die. The Comptroller General of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), Ahmed Ja’afaru stated that there are 2,745 inmates on the death row all over the country, as at 2018 who according to him have spent over 10 years awaiting execution.

Ever since the granting of pardon to some acclaimed repentant bandits, Boko Haram and ISWAP members , the security situation of the nation has grown worse with more destructive attacks. As part of new measures, government should make prosecution and execution of terrorists public so as to showcase Nigeria’s seriousness in handling terrorism.

It is imperative for government at all levels to know that carrying out their constitutional assignment is the core duty they were elected to perform. Nigerians have been exposed to various levels of psychological misdemeanors through failed government promises and responsibilities in the past. At least for once, let the people enjoy the dividends of democracy, not only in the area of provision of social amenities but in government’s sincerity of signing the necessary death warrants of all condemned criminals that have been long overdue. This is so as to decongest the prison, build public confidence as well as sustain economic stability in accordance with the constitution.

(source: tribuneonlineng.com)

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Court sentences man to death for killing Ekiti monarch----Facts before the court revealed that the convict stabbed the monarch in the chest after accusing him of occupying the stool which rightly belongs to him.

A High Court in Ekiti on Thursday sentenced to death by hanging Stephen Ominiyi, a contender for a traditional stool in Ekiti, for murder.

Mr Omoniyi, who is alleged to be insane, stabbed Gbadebo Olowoselu, the then monarch of Odo Oro Ekiti, in Ikole Local Government Area, in August 2018.

The judge, Kayode Ogundana, said the prosecuting counsels, led by Adegboyega Morakinyo, had proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Omoniyi murdered the late monarch.

“However, after listening to counsels and evidence before me, I am of the opinion that the accused person did commit the crime,” the judge said.

“I am also of that opinion that the prosecuting counsels had discharged their duties zealously by proving beyond reasonable doubt all the charges against the accused.

“He is hereby pronounced guilty and the capital punishment is for him to die by hanging.”

The judge also dispelled the notion that the convict was insane.

Mr Ogunsakin’s murder in 2018 had thrown the town into confusion and agony.

The incident resulted in massive protests by residents and admirers of the monarch.

The convict is of the same royal family as the late monarch. Before he attacked the monarch, he had been seen sitting on the palace throne shortly before a meeting of the council of chiefs.

Although he was chased away, he suddenly returned to the palace after the council meeting and stabbed My Ogunsakin in his chest.

The monarch gave up the ghost while he was being rushed to the hospital.

Mr Omoniyi initially fled into the bush after the act but was later arrested.

Mr Ogunsakin was crowned as the Onise of Odo Oro Ekiti in 1986.

(source: premiumtimes.ng)

THAILAND:

Man arrested after rampage at Bangkok airport

A man who allegedly went on an armed rampage at Thailand's biggest airport is now facing charges, one of which could be eligible for the death penalty.

The man, identified as 34-year-old Watchara Khambut, faces 5 charges over the incident at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Wednesday, May 3.

According to Suvanabhumi Airport's general manager, Kittipong Kitikachon, Khambut arrived at the airport on a motorbike at 11:50 a.m. and attempted to drive through a security checkpoint. When he was denied entry, he allegedly made a U-turn, entered the airport another way and pulled out a gun.

The accused is said to have climbed stairs into an airport building where security guards say they saw him trying to smash a glass door, which was the only thing between him and the passenger part of the airport, Kitikachon said.

Police Colonel Jirawat Piampinseth told a press conference on Thursday that Khambut, who is from Loei Province in northeast Thailand, was being charged with crimes including property damage, inciting panic and threatening to harm people.

According to Piampinseth, Khambut was carrying an ax but the gun was found to be fake. Police said Khambut was under the influence of drugs and that a pill known as Yaba -- a mix of methamphetamine and caffeine -- was on his person when he was arrested.

Thai police told CNN that one of the charges is based on Section 19 of Thailand's Act on Certain Offenses Against Air Navigation, which can carry capital punishment.

"The maximum sentence could be death penalty but there are still other judiciary steps to decide if the man should receive such sentence," Piampinseth told CNN.

The motivation behind the alleged incident isn't known, police said. "The accused said he didn't even how he ended up at the airport," Piampinseth added.

(source: CNN)

PAKISTAN:

‘I spent 8 years on death row after being falsely accused of blasphemy’

IN JULY 2013, SHAGUFTA AND SHAFQAT EMMANUEL, A CATHOLIC COUPLE IN MIAN CHANNU, a small town 155 miles south of Lahore, Pakistan, were arrested on false charges of blasphemy. After 8 years on death row, separated from each other and from their 4 children, they were finally released on June 3rd, 2021 by the Lahore High Court. Free at last, Shagufta shares her story with ACN, in her own words.

“I was born into a family with a strong Christian faith. I regularly attended Mass and received Communion, and I was always very eager to go the catechism and recite the rosary. My father and my mother taught me and my six brothers and sisters to be strong in our faith, and to be ready for all kinds of sacrifices or persecutions.

“Most families in our village were Muslim, but there was also a good number of Christians. We had very cordial relations with Muslims. I remember playing with Muslim girls and we visited each other’s homes and exchanged greetings and sweets during Christmas and Eid al-Fitr. My brothers also had very good Muslim friends. I do not remember any fight or dispute in the name of religion.

“A few years after marrying Shafqat Emmanuel we moved to Gojra, and my husband got a job there. Tragically he was paralyzed by a stray bullet, while trying to break up a fight, about 12 years ago. Life was hard after that, but we were fortunate to get jobs at St John’s High School, in Gojra. After school hours, my husband used to repair cell phones, to make some extra money to cover family expenses.

“Then, one day in July 2013, we were terrified to see several police vans pull up, with dozens of officers. They raided our house and arrested my husband and me on charges of blasphemy in the form of an offensive message about Mohammed, sent via our mobile SIM card. The phone was registered in my name and was used by my husband as well. The offending message was written in English, a language neither my husband nor I speak or read. We were kept in police custody for one night; the next day we were transferred to jail.

“In jail, we were tortured. The officers told my husband that if he did not confess, they would rape me in front of him, and so he confessed, even though we were both innocent.

Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta

“We were in jail for eight months before a judge found us guilty and sentenced us to death. Our lawyer was not allowed to complete his closing arguments, and neither of us were heard. I fainted when I heard this judgment of death. The sentencing was a great blow to us and to our family and shocked the whole Christian community in Pakistan and elsewhere.

“Shafqat was taken to the Faisalabad Jail, while I was taken to a cell on death row in Multan. We were on death row for eight long years. You can imagine how hard this was on my children, at that time my sons were 13, 10 and 7 years old and daughter was only 5 years old. They had to keep moving and spent their time hiding from Muslim fundamentalists who threatened to attack them, and only visited me every 5 or 6 months, for about 20 to 30 minutes. I cried every day for not being with my children. My life was terrifying, and I kept thinking that one day my husband and I would be hanged.

“Despite all these frightening nightmares, I never lost hope or my faith. I prayed daily, without fail. I read the Bible and sang Psalms and hymns in Urdu and Punjabi, and I took great comfort in that. I never lost faith and hope that since my husband and I were innocent, my ever-living Lord Jesus Christ – who defeated death and rose from the dead on the third day – would set us free and raise me up from death.

“Several times I was told that if I converted to Islam my death sentence would be turned into life in prison, and that eventually I would be released. I always said no. The Risen Lord Jesus Christ is my life and Savior. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for me though I am a sinner. I will never, ever change my religion and convert to Islam. I would rather be hanged than deny Jesus Christ.

“Meanwhile, divine intervention kicked in, and very strong voices were raised against our unfair trial and sentence in the European Parliament, by human rights organizations around the world, as well as by the Catholic Church, and Aid to the Church in Need. They prayed for our release and offered us moral and spiritual support. My husband and I will always be grateful to all our supporters. Thank you very much! God bless them all!

“For a while Asia Bibi, who was also sentenced to death on false charges of blasphemy, was my neighbor on death row in Multan. Whenever we met, we used to pray together, console each other and renew our firm faith in Jesus Christ. At Christmas time we would share cake with other Muslim and Christian prisoners.

“When I heard that Asia was set free, my heart was filled with joy, and I was convinced that one day I too would be released. Finally, it happened, and my husband and I were set free. But how unfortunate it is that, just like Asia Bibi, Shafqat and I could not stay in Pakistan with our family and had to get asylum and settle in another country, because fanatic and extremists Muslim were set on killing us if we stayed in Pakistan.

“However, we are very happy that a European country has given us asylum and now our family is reunited. We are safe here, and we are free to practice our religion.

“I hope and pray that these false accusations of blasphemy, which are often made to settle personal scores, will stop in Pakistan and that those who are found guilty of falsely accusing others will be punished.

“All praise and glory be to my living Lord Jesus Christ, and my merciful God, who is a God of Justice.” — Father James Channan, O.P.

(source: churchinneed)

INDIA:

'My daughter had a future too', mother of 4-year-old rape-murder victim asks SC to restore death penalty

----The top court had commuted the death sentence, saying it is essential to give an opportunity to the offender to repair the damage caused

see: https://www.deccanherald.com/national/my-daughter-had-a-future-too-mother-of-4-year-old-rape-murder-victim-asks-sc-to-restore-death-penalty-1106759.html

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Surat: Fenil Goyani sentenced to death in Grishma Vekariya murder case----Less than 3 months after 20-year-old allegedly stabbed woman in front of family and neighbours, public prosecutor says court thought it was ‘rarest of rare’ case

The Surat sessions court Thursday awarded death sentence to Fenil Goyani (20) for the murder of 21-year-old college student Grishma Vekariya outside her house at Pasodara area of Surat in February.

Surat’s Principal Sessions and District Judge Vimal Kanaiyalal Vyas who termed the case as “rarest of the rare” said strict punishment was needed to deter people from committing such crimes against women.

The judge noted that like Ajmal Kasab, one of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in November 2008, Goyani exhibited cruelty and showed no remorse during the trial. The verdict also noted that the way Goyari slit Vekariya’s throat was akin to a butcher slaughtering animals.

The crime took place on February 12 when Goyani slit the throat of Grishma on February 12 in front of her family members and neighbours after stabbing her twice over turning down his proposal.

In videos that went viral, he was also seen stabbing her brother and uncle when they tried to rescue her. Goyani allegedly murdered Grishma for refusing to be in a relationship with him.

Saying that in his 28 years’ career he never faced such a case, judge Vyas said Grishma’s fate was akin to that of the victim of the 2012 Delhi gangrape.

He also cited a verse from the Manusmriti, the ancient Hindu text on law and religion, which says that punishment should be commensurate with the seriousness of crime.

Public prosecutor Nayan Sukhadwala said the court relied on video footage of the incident, witness accounts and other circumstantial evidence to arrive at its decision and also took into account the grievous and serious nature of the crime as well as “lack of remorse” on part of the accused to declare the case as a “rarest of rare” case to pronounce the death sentence.

Addressing media persons following the pronouncement of the verdict, Sukhadwala said the court found Goyani guilty of IPC sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) for injuring two others apart from Grishma Vekariya and the remaining offences that Goyani was charged under.

“The court observed that the incident was pre-planned and created fear in the minds of the public in the way it was committed,” added Sukhadwala.

The court has also issued directions to provide for compensation under the Victim Compensation Scheme, he said.

Vekariya’s parents as well as Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi welcomed the verdict.

“The fear of the verdict will stay in the minds of anyone committing a crime, and they will shiver before committing one. The promise of speedy justice I had given to Grishma’s parents has now been fulfilled. The capital punishment awarded to Fenil is the fulfillment of this promise,” Sanghavi said.

Stating that the government was “working on a strategy to avert such incidents”, the minister added that he would meet Grishma’s parents on Friday.

Grishma’s father Nandlal Vekariya who was present in the courtroom during the verdict,said, “Nothing can fill the void created in my life due to my daughter’s untimely death. But I can say that justice has been done. To set an example and deter other such elements from harassing girls, he should be hanged at the earliest. The higher judiciary too must not show any mercy to him.”

He thanked Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi, former MLA Praful Pansuria and officials of Kamrej police station for supporting the family and ensuring a speedy delivery of justice.

Grishma’s younger brother Dhruv, who was injured during the incident, said, “We are satisfied with the verdict. It is as per our expectations. My family is thankful to the government for extending support to us throughout this difficult phase.”

Surat police arrested Goyani on February 16 for offences punishable under IPC Section 302 (murder), 307, 354 (d) (i) (stalking), 342 (wrongful confinement), 504 (provocation to break public peace) and 506 (2) (criminal intimidation). The police submitted a 2,500-page charge sheet at the Kathor court in Surat district within five days. The charge sheet had statements from over 190 witnesses, documentary evidence, scientific and medical evidence, and CCTV footage.

The case was committed to the Surat sessions court where a speedy trial was conducted, resulting in conviction and sentencing less than three months after the crime.

On March 9, Goyani had to be taken in an ambulance from the courtroom after he complained of vertigo. On inquiry from the court, it came to light that owing to day-long hearings, Goyani had not had lunch.

The court had then issued an order directing jail authorities to ensure that Goyani is presented before the court after his meals so as to not cause any physical distress.

(source: The Indian Express)

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

India Says Pardon Options Open For Nurse Facing Death Sentence In Yemen

The Centre is exploring all options including getting pardon to an Indian nurse facing capital punishment in Yemen for allegedly killing a Yemeni businessman in 2017, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said.

In his letter to Rajya Sabha member John Brittas who sought the Union government's intervention to release Keralite nurse Nimishapriya lodged in a Yemeni jail, Mr Jaishankar said "the possibility that tribal customs and traditions may offer relief is also being explored in cooperation with community organisations".

"I assure you that welfare of Indians abroad is of highest priority for the Government of India and Ms. Nimishapriaya's case will continue to receive our full attention", the minister said in the letter dated April 27.

Earlier, Mr Brittas had sent a letter to Mr Jaishankar seeking his intervention in the matter.

In his letter, the Kerala MP had requested the minister to "spearhead the actions" to facilitate a "constructive discussion" between "Save Nimishapriya International Action Council" and the family of the deceased so as to make them amenable to render pardon to Nimishapriya after accepting blood money.

He said the action council is learnt to be ready to pay the blood money, by making necessary interactions with the Government of Yemen and other influential persons in that region.

Nimishapriya went to Yemen in 2012 for employment and was arrested and prosecuted there in August 2017 for allegedly killing one Talal Al Odaini, a Yemeni businessman.

Subsequently, the trial court in Yemen pronounced the death sentence to her in August, 2020. The appeal filed with the Appellate Court in Yemen was rejected last month.

The Government of India had appointed a lawyer to defend Nimishapriya.

(source: ndtv.com)

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

Surat court awards death penalty to Grishma Vekariya murderer

see: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/surat/surat-court-awards-death-penalty-to-grishma-vekariya-murderer/articleshow/91360272.cms

VIETNAM:

Stepmother faces death penalty for murdering 8-year-old girl

A woman accused of torturing and murdering her 8-year-old stepdaughter has been charged with the crimes by the People's Procuracy of HCM City.

If convicted, Nguy?n Võ Qu?nh Trang, 27, from Gia Lai City, could be sentenced to death, the highest punishment available for murder in Vietnam.

The child's father, Nguy?n Kim Trung Thái, 37, has also been charged with torture and for covering up his partner's crimes.

According to the indictment issued on Wednesday, the girl is the daughter of Thái and his ex-wife Nguy?n Th? H.

In August 2020, the couple divorced and Thái was allowed to raise their daughter.

In September 2020, Thai started living with his girlfriend Trang at an apartment in Saigon Pearl apartment building, HCM City’s Bình Th?nh District. The daughter also lived with them.

During the daughter’s online class in October 2021, Thái asked Trang to take care of the girl. During the time, Trang repeatedly used her hands, feet, whips, and wooden and metal sticks to beat and torture her.

Trang did not allow the child to get dressed, beating her, forcing her to kneel and raise her hands high.

The child was even forced to stay in a kennel or kneel while learning. Trang cut the child’s hair, covered the child's head with a towel and repeatedly banged her head on a table.

Trang performed many forms of beating and torture and repeatedly cursed the child over a long period of time, leaving physical and emotional pain for the child.

Thái witnessed his daughter being beaten and tortured by Trang but did not intervene. He also scolded and beat the child. Thái was an accomplice with Trang in the crime of torturing others.

On Dec 22, 2021, Trang used a large round stick, her hands, and feet, and repeatedly brutally beat the child for four hours in a row, eventually causing her death.

According to the indictment, Trang knew that repeatedly attacking the child’s vagina could cause her death but intentionally continued in a cruel and merciless way. Trang's conduct constitutes murder.

Knowing Trang's criminal actions, Thái deleted all camera data of the apartment in order to conceal the crime, avoid detection and hinder the investigation. Thái's conduct constitutes a cover-up of the crime.

Regarding the motive of the crime, Trang stated that she beat and tortured the child because she did not study well.

However, the child’s teacher and her nanny verified that the girl was obedient, polite and a good student.

The camera data shows that Trang repeatedly beat the child outside of school time for unreasonable reasons.

In addition, the investigation results show that Thái did not want to have children with Trang, and his family did not accept her as a family member. Such reasons made Trang jealous of the child’s mother. Trang once went to see the mother and asked her not to visit the daughter.

Trang was arrested on Dec 23, 1 day after the child’s death, following a hospital report on the girl's unusual wounds and injuries. On December 28 she was prosecuted on charges of torturing others.

Thái was detained on December 31 on suspicion of the same crime.

Police in Bình Th?nh transferred the case to the municipal Department of Public Security for further investigation on Jan 1 due to its serious nature.

(source: thestar.com.my)

JAPAN:

Japanese mass murderer’s fresh death penalty appeal rekindles capital punishment debate----Satoshi Uematsu, 32, was sentenced to death in March 2020 for killing 19 people at a care home for the mentally disabled in 2016----Ahead of a judicial decision in the coming weeks on whether a retrial should be granted, Japan’s overwhelming public support for capital punishment is again in the spotlight

A Japanese man sentenced to death for murdering 19 people at a facility for the mentally disabled in 2016 has appealed his conviction, triggering renewed debate over the death penalty in a country where public support for capital punishment remains high.

Satoshi Uematsu, 32, was convicted in March 2020 of the murder of 19 residents at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en care centre in Sagamihara city outside Tokyo, and sentenced to death. Uematsu, a former caretaker at the facility, used knives to injure another 26 people, leaving 13 of them severely injured.

Immediately after the death sentence was meted out at the Yokohama District Court, Uematsu withdrew the automatic legal appeal to higher courts.

The request for a retrial was filed with the same court on April 1, with judges to rule on whether a retrial should be granted in the coming weeks.

The reason for the appeal is unclear, although Uematsu’s lawyers claimed in the original trial that he could not be held accountable for his actions due to mental incompetence, in part from his consumption of marijuana.

But court-appointed experts had deemed him mentally fit to stand trial.

Uematsu had previously delivered a letter to the speaker of Japan’s lower house of parliament in which he threatened to kill hundreds of disabled people and outlined a plan for attacks against Tsukui Yamayuri-en and another facility.

He also wrote that killing the disabled would be “for the sake of Japan and world peace”.

Victims outraged

Relatives of the dead have expressed their anger at the request for a retrial, with a parent of a murdered resident telling the Kanagawa Shimbun, “I am forced to turn back time to relive it. I am very disappointed at the request for a trial.”

Takeshi Ono, whose 49-year-old son Ichiya was severely injured in the attack, told the newspaper, “I am surprised. I have no words. I want to express my anger.”

There has been little sympathy for Uematsu among the Japanese public, with government statistics indicating that around 80 per cent of them support the death penalty.

“That was a terrible case, to me probably the worst I can remember in Japan,” said Makoto Hosomura, 68, a wine importer from Saitama prefecture in north Tokyo.

“I think most people were shocked that he managed to kill so many people, but also that he chose people who could not defend themselves.

“I think the original court ruling was correct,” he said. “He showed no pity towards those people or their families, and I have not seen any remorse in anything he said afterwards. Why should anyone have pity on him now?”

Nami Suzuki, a hospital administrator from Yokohama, said: “I do not think that he will change his beliefs and he should receive the strongest punishment possible.”

Online messages were similarly supportive, with one message on Japan Today that said: “This scum doesn’t deserve mercy for this mass killing of the disabled.”

Another read: “Please do not waste any more of our tax money on this loser”, while another suggested that the final outcome will be the same and that Uematsu is “just delaying the inevitable”.

Opponents of the death penalty continue their campaigns against Japan hanging inmates, with the Asahi newspaper calling for Tokyo to follow European nations and abolish capital punishment.

After the July 2018 hanging of the last 6 members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that carried out a fatal 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, an editorial described the executions as “shocking”.

Abolitionists press on

A 2016 campaign by Japan’s Federation of Bar Associations to end capital punishment by 2020 has made little headway. The movement proposed legal reforms to replace the death penalty for serious crimes with a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Director of Amnesty International Japan, Hideaki Nakagawa, said his organisation continues to determine reasons for Japan’s still-strong support for the death penalty.

“We frequently see that public calls for the death penalty rise after a heinous crime has been committed, and all the more so when the crime victim is a child,” he said.

“These calls, particularly at these emotional times, seem to be more of an expression of the anger that we all feel at the crime and frustration at the fact that such heinous acts could not be prevented.”

“But we should not confuse these reactions with an informed debate on what our response as a society to crime should be, to inform government policies on effective crime prevention should be,” he said.

“Studies have shown again and again that the death penalty does not have a unique deterrent effect, and that public opinion pools can be influenced by several factors.”

“Our calls for abolition of the death penalty should not be confused for calls for impunity for crime,” he emphasised. “The death penalty is not the solution and further brutalises us as a society – and there is much more that the government should do to prevent crime and protect human rights for all.”

Nakagawa points out the global trend towards abolishing the death penalty and that he “personally would like to be optimistic” that Japan might follow that trend, although he concedes that the Japanese government “appears to be determined” to retain the capital punishment.

(source: South China Morning Post)

SINGAPORE:

Singaporeans Hold Vigil For Malaysian In High-Profile Death Row Case

On Monday, over 300 people gathered in a Singapore park for a candlelight vigil to protest the impending hanging of a Malaysian convicted of drug smuggling who, according to activists, should be spared because he has an intellectual disability. Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, 34, has been sentenced to death for smuggling 43 grams of heroin into Singapore for more than a decade. Last month, he lost his final appeal against the execution. Dharmalingam and his mother have filed another motion with the Supreme Court, which will be heard on Tuesday. The motion’s specifics remained a mystery.

As US News has reported, Nagaenthran’s cousin, Thenmoli Sunniah said “I don’t want to give up hope until the day.” Thenmoli is referring to April 27th, the day of the planned execution. The lawyers working on Nagaenthran’s case as well as local activists have revealed that his IQ was 69, a level that is recognized for corresponding with an intellectual disability. A 26-year-old participant in the vigil, Jess Koh reported on the death sentence, “it’s unnecessary and outdated and doesn’t make us more safe, targets people in poverty and the minority.”

Nagaenthran’s case has sparked international interest, with a group of UN experts and British billionaire Richard Branson joining Malaysia’s prime minister and human rights advocates in calling for his death sentence to be revoked.

Both the United Nations and the European Union have chastised Singapore’s government for their use of the death sentence. Singapore’s use of the mandatory death sentence and high execution rates have alarmed the European Union. The Singapore government has maintained that the application of the death penalty is not a matter of human rights. It has vehemently defended its position that capital punishment is an effective deterrent to crime, particularly drug trafficking.

According to many studies, the death sentence is disproportionately applied to society’s poorest, least educated, and most vulnerable citizens. It takes the lives of individuals who might have been rehabilitated otherwise. Crime is frequently linked to other socio-economic issues such as poverty, drug misuse, unemployment, and family disintegration, issues that executions can not alleviate.

I believe that the death penalty should be abolished. Capital punishment violates the right to life which happens to be the most basic and fundamental of all human rights. Furthermore, it violates the right to not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. The death penalty undermines human dignity which is inherent to every human being.

(source: Alekhya Reddy is a correspondent intern at the Organization for World Peace---theowp.org)

MAY 5, 2022:

SOUTH CAROLINA:

A new era of capital punishment: Legal challenges to South Carolina's firing squad

South Carolina’s options for execution have caught the attention of anti-death penalty advocates across the country after the use of firing squad was signed into law.

“We’re playing God,” said Randy Gardner, the brother of the last person executed by firing squad in the U.S. “If you’re pro-life, everybody’s life matters. You don’t kill people to show killing is wrong.”

The firing squad was signed into law in South Carolina on May 14, 2021, after gaining bipartisan support (32-11), which was later signed off by Governor Henry McMaster.

“It still haunts me,” Gardner said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.”

In 2010, Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed in Utah, marking the last firing squad execution to take place.

“It was state sanctioned murder,” Gardner said. “It was by our own government.”

He recently told News 13 that the graphic photos of the 4 bullets lodged in his brother’s chest will be a sight he’ll never forget.

“The holes in his chest, it looked like a bowling ball with an extra hole in it,” he explained.

Ever since, Gardner has made it his mission to advocate against the death penalty across the country. He's been outspoken about 57-year-old Richard Moore’s case, a man from Greenville, South Carolina.

“I don’t understand why people are allowing it to happen,” Gardner said. “This is modern times, not the wild west age.”

"DECISIONS THAT GOD SHOULD BE MAKING" SC GROUP SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DEATH PENALTY

HOW SOUTH CAROLINA'S FIRING SQUAD CAME TO BE

For nearly 10 years, South Carolina has been at a standstill with executions, until last year when Democratic State Senator Dick Harpootlian and Republican State Senator Greg Hembree argued in favor of adding the firing squad as an option.

“Use of the electric chair is not my preferred method,” Sen. Hembree said. “It's not as humane as a firing squad, quite frankly. You want to use the most humane method available.”

Following the 2021 approval, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) spent $53,600 on supplies and materials to make changes to the execution chamber.

Overview of changes at the Capital Punishment Facility:

The chamber now includes a chair in which inmates will sit if they choose execution by firing squad.

The chair is in a corner of the room away from the current electric chair, which cannot be moved.

Bullet-resistant glass has been installed between the witness room and death chamber.

The firing squad chair is metal with restraints and is surrounded by protective equipment.

The chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening 15 feet away.

Overview of protocols for execution by firing squad:

3 firing squad members will be behind the wall, with rifles facing the inmate through the opening.

The rifles and open portal will not be visible from the witness room.

All three rifles will be loaded with live ammunition. The witnesses will see the right-side profile of the inmate.

The inmate will not face the witness room directly.

The electric chair faces the witnesses directly.

The inmate will wear a prison-issued uniform and be escorted into the chamber.

The inmate will be given the opportunity to make a last statement.

The inmate will be strapped into the chair, and a hood will be placed over his head.

A small aim point will be placed over his heart by a member of the execution team.

After the warden reads the execution order, the team will fire.

After the shots, a doctor will examine the inmate.

After the inmate is declared dead, the curtain will be drawn, and witnesses escorted out.

Members of the firing squad are volunteer SCDC employees.

They must meet certain qualifications.

HOW A FIRING SQUAD PROCESS WORKS

DEATH BY FIRING SQUAD IN THE U.S.

“What the firing squad kind of does to bodies is visibly gruesome,” said Ngozi Ndulue with the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington D.C. nonprofit organization.

As of May 4, 2022, firing squad executions have only been approved in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and most recently South Carolina – with three modern executions that all took place in Utah.

Inmates executed by firing squad in the modern era:

36-year-old Gary Gilmore – 1977 (Utah)

36-year-old John Taylor – 1996 (Utah)

49-year-old Ronnie Lee Gardner - 2010 (Utah)

KUTV, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, covered John Taylor’s execution in 1996. This is how reporter Michael Ross described the execution:

There was a single violent moment when bullets blew apart the white target over Taylor’s heart. But, if execution is set to be done, this seemed as efficient and painless method as any.

SEEKING ALTERNATIVES TO LETHAL INJECTION

The firing squad gained the attention of lawmakers in South Carolina after pharmaceutical companies essentially stopped selling states necessary drugs to create the lethal injection serum.

Representatives with Pfizer told News 13: “We strongly object to the use of any of our products in the lethal injection process for capital punishment.”

The state eventually hit a snag when their lethal injection supply expired in 2013.

Since 1985, lethal injection became the state’s primary method of execution, with electrocution as a secondary option, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

South Carolina execution history since 1985:

Lethal Injections - 36

Electrocutions - 7

A work-around for 14 states to obtain drugs for lethal injection has been to create a shield law, a spokesperson for SCDC said, essentially keeping the names of companies that supply the drugs private.

“Other states have passed shield laws; we have just not been able to do that,” Sen. Hembree stated.

A spokesperson for SCDC wrote in a statement the department has remained unsuccessful when trying to obtain lethal injection drugs:

Companies won’t sell execution drugs to South Carolina until our state law is changed to shield their identities from anti-death penalty activists, who have been very effective in chilling the sale of drugs to departments of corrections across the country.

“This has been attempted previously for quite a few years, “Sen. Hembree said.

Hembree explained legislation to institute a shield was blocked by what he believes were members of the general assembly who do not support the death penalty.

"It’s been an effective strategy,” he said. “It will no longer be effective.”

APRIL 29, 2022 EXECUTION HALTED; WHAT'S NEXT?

The firing squad was set to be unveiled as South Carolina’s newest method of execution on April 29, 2022, after Richard Moore, of Greenville, elected the method over the electric chair.

“It’s defiantly cruel and unusual punishment,” said Gardner, while discussing Moore’s case with News 13. “I think making them pick between firing squad and electric chair, how dare them. I think it’s very brutal and barbaric.”

“It's shocking,” said Kristin Collins with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a Durham, North Carolina-based nonprofit. “We are used to a death penalty that does appear more sanitized and appear more like a medical procedure.”

In a Hail Mary attempt, Moore and his legal team challenged the legality and constitutionality of the firing squad and electric chair in Richland County. Moore wrote in a statement:

I believe this election is forcing me to choose between 2 unconstitutional methods of execution, and I do not intend to waive any challenges to electrocution or firing squad by making an election.

Moore’s statement brings to light questions around the Eighth Amendment: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

“The Eighth Amendment is something that, it's sort of bigger than any individual case,” Collins said. “It's a very subjective thing, deciding what constitutes cruel and unusual. And that's something that also changes over time.”

On April 20, 2022 the South Carolina Supreme Court granted Moore a temporary stay on his execution.

“I do believe that the firing squad has been upheld as a constitutionally sound method of execution,” Sen. Hembree said. “I think it will be up, ultimately upheld in the courts”

It remains unclear why the temporary stay order was issued. The state Supreme Court wrote that they would release further information at a later date.

Moore’s legal team asked for a stay on his execution for 2 reasons:

To appeal his case to the Supreme Court of the United States, based on an opinion written by South Carolina Justice Kaye Hearn, who wrote Moore’s actions were not the “worst of the worst,” meaning the death penalty would be disproportionate in his case.

For the ongoing lawsuit in Richland County challenging the electric chair and firing squad.

(source: WLOS news)

FLORIDA----death row inmate dies

Death row inmate who killed Clay County woman, raped child dies in prison----‘Good riddance,’ says woman’s husband, girl’s father

A death row inmate who killed a Clay County woman and raped her daughter has died in prison.

Donald Davidson, 41, died while assigned to Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, according to a Florida Department of Corrections spokesperson.

Multiple sources told News4JAX that Davidson’s death is being investigated as a suicide, and the medical examiner in the Eighth Judicial Circuit later confirmed that the preliminary autopsy lists the manner of death as suicide.

“Under Florida law, the district Medical Examiner is required to determine the cause of death for any person who dies in a prison or penal institution. Autopsy results and cause and manner of death determinations are releasable only by the district Medical Examiner,” the FDOC spokesperson said Wednesday in a statement to News4JAX.

In 2014, Davidson, a convicted sex offender on probation, cut off his ankle monitor and then strangled and stabbed to death family friend Roseann Welsh, 37, in her Middleburg home. He kidnapped and sexually assaulted her 10-year-old daughter before she got away.

It was an unusual prosecution, in that Davidson pleaded guilty to the charges and opted for a non-jury penalty phase. The defense presented mitigating factors that included childhood abuse and neglect. The judge found that the aggravating circumstances, like the horrendous nature of the crimes, outweighed the mitigating factors and handed Davidson the death penalty in 2019.

Davidson’s lawyers appealed the death sentence, arguing the judge didn’t give the mitigating factors sufficient weight. The state Supreme Court denied the initial appeal last July.

Welsh’s husband and the girl’s father, Michael Scott, told News4JAX that Davidson’s death in custody does bring some relief, but his family has not gotten justice.

“Good riddance,” Scott said. “That’s all I can say. Am I supposed to feel some kind of heartfelt sympathy for the man? No, I don’t. And I won’t. Neither will my kids. My daughter doesn’t have to live in fear anymore. My daughter doesn’t have to sit there and think it’s going to get out because he gets to appeal his case in the state of Florida.”

He noted his daughter, now almost 18, lives with the trauma but is coping as best as she can. His son, now 21, discovered his mother’s body.

“My daughter is resilient. She is a very strong young woman,” Scott said, noting that she is about to graduate from high school and is planning to attend a technical school with hopes of helping law enforcement catch child predators.

Scott said his family’s tragedy was preventable. Davidson was convicted of molesting a child in 2010 and was released to house arrest in 2014, months before killing Welsh and abducting her daughter.

“What could’ve been done differently?” Scott asked. “They could’ve prosecuted him properly. By the laws are been put in place.”

Scott is calling on lawmakers to help make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

“I’m still here,” he said. “I’m still gonna kick. My kids are gonna live. And they’re gonna see that they had a father that was there for them the whole time through thick and thin just as much as they were there for me.”

(source: news4jax.com)

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

Jury Selection Chaos and Confusion Causes Further Delays in Parkland Shooting Capital Sentencing Trial

The capital sentencing trial of Nikolas Cruz in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (pictured) in Parkland, Florida has been delayed once again as jury selection in the high-profile case devolved into chaos and confusion.

The fourth week of jury selection in Cruz’s penalty trial was postponed after Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer granted a prosecution motion to restart jury selection based upon the improper removal of 11 jurors from the case, then later reversed her decision and ordered the jurors to be recalled for additional questioning. Separately, a panel of jurors had to be removed from the courthouse after one of them threatened the defendant.

When the court reconvened on May 2, 2022, jury questioning was put off for another week as a result of an apparent medical issue involving one of Cruz’s lawyers.

The Jury Selection in Cruz’s Case

Cruz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Parkland shooting. Prosecutors rejected a 2019 offer for Cruz to plead guilty and be sentenced to 34 consecutive life sentences, instead choosing to pursue a death sentence. After a lengthy delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process to select a jury to determine Cruz’s sentence began on April 4, 2022.

During the second day of jury selection, Judge Scherer struck 11 jurors from the case who said that they had beliefs about the death penalty that would prevent them from imposing the death penalty, without allowing lawyers for the prosecution or the defense to question them as to whether they could set aside those beliefs and follow the law. In what media reports described as “a tense exchange,” public defender Melisa McNeill requested 24 hours to decide whether to file a motion for a mistrial based on the ruling. “No, I will give you 5 or 10 minutes,” Scherer replied. “You are going to give me 5 or 10 minutes to make a decision about whether I want to file, ask for a mistrial in a 17 count capital murder case?,” McNeill asked.

Ultimately, Scherer recessed the proceedings for the day and when jury selection resumed, the defense said it would not be filing for a mistrial. However, fearing that the court’s ruling could constitute reversible error, the prosecution filed a motion seeking a retrial, saying that jury selection should “start fresh.” On April 25, Judge Scherer admitted that she had improperly removed the jurors and granted the prosecution’s motion, dismissing 243 prospective jurors who had already been found qualified to be part of a smaller pool of jurors from which the jury would be empaneled. However, two days later, on April 27, she reversed her decision after the defense argued that the mistrial ruling violated the double jeopardy protections of the U.S. constitution and required that Cruz be sentenced to life. Instead, Scherer reinstated the 243 prospective jurors and ordered that the 11 jurors she had initially excused be brought back to court for additional questioning.

While that issue was still being resolved, an entire panel of 70 potential jurors was dismissed on April 26 after several jurors appeared to have threatened Cruz. According to court personnel, the incident began when one male juror was seen “mouthing expletives” toward Cruz. Other jurors then began to be “belligerent,” bailiffs said. Officers assigned to provide security in the courtroom then overheard one juror threatening Cruz. When the first juror turned toward Cruz and appeared to be preparing to run toward him, the officers surrounded Cruz and moved him away from the jurors. After conferring with the lawyers for the prosecution and the defense, Judge Scherer dismissed the entire panel. Sheriff’s deputies escorted the jurors out of the courthouse to ensure they did not speak to other potential jurors who were waiting outside.

Further questioning of the 243 jurors was scheduled to resume on May 2, but McNeill and one prosecution lawyer were not present. The Palm Beach Post reported that Judge Scherer “was heard asking one of Cruz’s other attorneys if McNeill was being ‘tested,’” and court was recessed until May 9 amid the apparent health concerns.

Disruptions continue to further delay the sentencing trial, which — after a series of earlier delays — had been scheduled to begin in mid-June. Once the proceeding gets underway, the sentencing trial is expected to last four to 6 months.

When Cruz initially offered to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences, the father of one of the shooting victims wrote that pursuing the death penalty would case unnecessary pain to the community. In an op-ed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Michael Schulman, father of geography teacher and track coach Scott Beigel, wrote that he believes the shooter deserves the death penalty but “put[ting] the students and faculty through the trauma of reliving that horrible day is cruel and unnecessary.”

“‘Going for the death penalty,’” Schulman wrote, “will not bring our loved ones back to us. It will not make the physical scars of those wounded go away. In fact, what it will do is to continue the trauma and not allow the victims to heal and get closure.”

When he pleaded guilty to the shooting, Cruz told the victims’ families, “I am very sorry for what I did, and I have to live with it every day. If I were to get a second chance, I would do everything in my power to try to help others. I am doing this for you, and I do not care if you do not believe me. … I have to live with this every day, and it brings me nightmares and I can’t live with myself sometimes ….”

The Death Penalty in Broward County

At the end of 2012, Broward County had 23 people on death row or facing capital resentencing trials, making it among the 1% most populous county death rows in the nation. Broward judges have imposed three more death sentences since then. A Death Penalty Information Center review of death sentences nationwide has found that only 0.5% of U.S. counties imposed more death sentences during that period.

Currently, Broward County has five death penalty cases awaiting trials or sentencings. They include Cruz’s penalty-phase trial; the capital trial of Jamell Demons (known as the rapper, YNW Melly); the capital trials of co-defendants Richard Andres and Jonathan Gordon; and the retrial of Peter Avsenew, whose 2018 conviction and death sentence were overturned in January 2022 because of the improper presentation of remotely-recorded testimony. The cases, most have which had been delayed because of the pandemic, threaten to swamp the county’s court system.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

OHIO:

Gutierrez now faces Death Penalty

Crawford County Now has learned that Christian Gutierrez, 19, of Marion, will face the death penalty for the murder of Charles Feliciano, 27, of Marion.

As reported by Crawford County Now, Gutierrez was arraigned on Monday on 5 additional charges, including 3 counts of murder and 2 counts of felonious assault.

Marion County Assistant Prosecutor Jocelyn Stefancin told Marion County Common Pleas Court Judge W.T. Edwards that the prosecutor’s office believed that evidence from the ongoing police investigation justified the state seeking a death penalty specification.

Gutierrez, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, remains incarcerated at the Multi-County Correctional Facility in Marion.

After the superseding indictment with the death penalty specification was issued by the grand jury, attorney James D. Owen, who was representing Gutierrez, asked the judge to be removed from the case.

Owen told the court he could not devote the time necessary to prepare for a death penalty case.

Judge Edwards granted the motion and subsequently contacted the Office of the Ohio Public Defender requesting new counsel for Gutierrez.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for May 26th. A new trial date will be set in the near future.

(source:: crawfordcountynow)

MISSOURI:

Our view: Abolish Missouri's death penalty

On Tuesday, Missouri executed Carman Deck. He became the 92nd person to die since the state resumed executions in 1989. In all, nearly 400 people have been legally executed within our borders.

While there were questions raised about Deck’s trial and sentencing, and his death sentence was overturned 3 times because of procedural challenges, there seems little doubt that Deck, who confessed to the 1996 killings of a couple in Desoto, was guilty.

Still, guilt is not the issue; to our minds the issue is whether states can carry out executions fairly, without mistake.

History says they can’t.

Deck’s execution brings to the forefront an issue that is not getting much debate in Missouri, and we are compelled to object to its ongoing use once again.

Chief among our objections is the astounding number of times courts have been wrong. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, at least 187 people who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death have been exonerated — more than 100 of them Black. “These wrongful capital convictions have happened in 29 different states and in 118 different counties, showing that, in whatever part of the country they are tried, capital defendants face an inherent risk of wrongful conviction.”

Four of those cases were in Missouri since 1989.

The Death Penalty Information Center also says there are many more instances of people who were executed but who were possibly or likely innocent, including two such cases in Missouri since 1989.

Questions of race, mental illness and poverty and the role they play, the ongoing blunders of neighboring Oklahoma, the turning tide of public opinion, all raise further questions about the ability of states to carry this out and the direction states should go.

Opposing the death penalty should not be seen as being anti-justice or soft on crime. Locking up the worst criminals for life without parole is still a strong penalty — one that can be done much more expediently at much less cost to taxpayers with less of a toll on victims’ families.

For us, the question is whether the death penalty itself can be applied fairly, humanely and evenly; our conclusion is no.

Despite every safeguard we erect to prevent failures and the millions of dollars and the massive resources we make available to prevent abuse and protect the innocent, failures continue, and cases can drag on for decades, which in many ways continues to haunt the victims and cause them more suffering.

The time has come for Missouri to abolish the death penalty.

(source: Editorial, The Joplin GLobe)

IDAHO:

Prosecutors will seek death penalty for Lori Vallow if she is convicted

Prosecutors filed a motion this week to seek the death penalty for Lori Vallow if she is convicted of killing her children or her husband’s first wife.

Fremont County court records show attorneys filed the intent to seek death penalty Monday, May 2. According to the motion published by KUTV-TV, prosecutors wrote they will "seek the death penalty against Lori Norene Vallow, aka Lori Norene Daybell in the event of the Defendant’s conviction for any of the counts of First Degree Murder and/or any of the counts of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder as charged in the Indictment."

The charges against her include the murder of her daughter Tylee Ryan for remuneration, murder of her son Joshua "J.J." Vallow for remuneration, and murder of her husband Chad Daybell’s wife Tammy Daybell for remuneration. Prosecutors noted that the three deaths were "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity."

KUTV reports prosecutors already said they would seek the death penalty against Daybell.

Tylee, 17, and J.J., 7, were reported missing to Rexburg Police in December 2019. Police attempted to conduct a welfare check Nov. 26, 2019, because family members had not spoken to J.J. since September 2019 and "were concerned."

Rexburg Police Department investigators spoke with Vallow and Daybell at the time and they said J.J. was staying with a family friend in Arizona. Investigators learned, however, that J.J. was not in Arizona.

When investigators returned the next day to conduct a search warrant, investigators "determined that Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell had abruptly vacated their residence and left Rexburg."

Neither Tylee nor J.J. had been in school since September 2019.

About a month prior, in October 2019, Daybell’s wife Tammy Daybell was found dead in her home. Her death was determined to be "suspicious." About two weeks after she was found, Daybell and Vallow got married in Hawaii.

On June 9, 2020, investigators served a search warrant at Daybell’s home and found "what appeared to be two sets of unidentified human remains." They were confirmed as J.J.’s and Tylee’s.

According to the Idaho State Journal, J.J. was found with his hands and legs tied with duct tape and a plastic bag over his head. Tylee, however, had reportedly been burned and dismembered. Tammy Daybell was reportedly suffocated to death.

After initially being declared unfit for trial in 2021, a judge declared on April 11 she was "fit to proceed" for her trial, the Idaho State Journal reports. She had been in custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare since June.

Vallow’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 11.

(source: truecrimedaily.com)

ARIZONA----impending execution

URGENT ACTION: EXECUTION SET DESPITE MENTAL DISABILITY (USA: UA 34.22)----April 25, 2022

Clarence Dixon, a 66-year-old Native American man, is scheduled to be put to death in Arizona on May 11, 2022 for a murder committed in January 1978. He has a long history of serious mental disability, including paranoid schizophrenia, predating the 1978 crime, and impacting his 2007/8 trial. A recent psychiatric evaluation concludes that he does not have a rational understanding of the reason for or reality of his punishment, which would render his execution unconstitutional and in violation of international law. Amnesty International is urging the Governor to stop this execution and to commute Clarence Dixon’s death sentence.

TAKE ACTION:

Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on May 11, 2022.

Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to the government official listed below. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them. CONTACT INFORMATION

Governor Doug Ducey

1700 West Washington Street

Phoenix, AZ, 85007

USA

Email: https://azgovernor.gov/engage/form/contact-governor-ducey

Fax: +1 (602) 542-7601

Twitter: @DougDucey

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Governor,

The State of Arizona is planning to execute Clarence Dixon on May 11, 2022, for a murder committed in 1978.

Clarence Dixon, a member of the Navajo Nation, has a long history of mental disability, including multiple diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia. His mental disabilities predate the 1978 crime – indeed, at that time the state was under a court order to commence civil commitment proceedings for his in-patient treatment. Clarence Dixon’s 2007 trial and 2008 sentencing were impacted by his mental disability when his delusional belief system – which persists to this day – led him to fire his court-appointed attorneys and represent himself. He presented a single mitigation witness at the sentencing phase of the trial, which meant that the jury never heard any expert or other mitigation evidence about his mental disability before it voted to sentence him to death.

International law, binding on the USA, prohibits the execution of anyone who faces “special barriers in defending themselves on an equal basis with others, such as persons whose serious psychosocial… disabilities impede their effective defence”. In a recent evaluation, a psychiatrist again diagnosed Clarence Dixon with paranoid schizophrenia. In his opinion, his mental disability “significantly affects his ability to develop a rational understanding of the State’s reasons for his execution”, and his disconnection from reality is further aggravated by “visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations”.

US law prohibits the execution of anyone who does not have a rational understanding of their punishment. And, again, international law prohibits the execution of anyone who has “a diminished ability to understand the reasons for their sentence”.

I urge you to stop the execution of Clarence Dixon and to commute his death sentence.

Sincerely,

(add your name)

(source: Amnesty International USA)

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Arizona bishops lament upcoming executions, say death penalty is unneeded

With Arizona set to carry out its 1st executions in almost 8 years, the state’s Catholic bishops fear that once the practice resumes it will be hard to stop.

“Unfortunately, once these executions begin it is likely many more will come in relatively quick succession,” the Arizona Catholic Conference said in a May 3 statement, adding that they “remain steadfast in our continued opposition to the death penalty, especially in this modern era.”

Death row inmates Clarence Dixon and Frank Atwood are both scheduled for execution in the near future. Dixon’s execution is scheduled for next Wednesday, May 11. Atwood’s for June 8. The last execution in the Grand Canyon State was in 2014.

Dixon was convicted of murder in the 1978 killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. In a ruling released May 4, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson rejected an argument from Dixon’s defense lawyers that his mental state prohibits his ability to rationally understand the State’s rationale for the execution. Dixon’s lawyers have already said they will appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Dixon will be put to death by lethal injection, after he declined to choose between that method or the gas chamber when asked by officials. The possibility of the execution being carried out by way of the gas chamber was another point of controversy, as the practice hasn’t been used in the United States since 1999.

Atwood was convicted of murder in the 1984 killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson in Tucson, Arizona, in 1984. The Arizona Supreme Court earlier this week scheduled his execution for June 8. He, too, can choose to die by lethal injection or gas chamber.

The Arizona bishops – Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares of Phoenix, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Bishop James Wall of Gallup and Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson – said the resumption of capital punishment in Arizona “furthers a culture of death that is all too common in our society and is something we are called to reject,” and is a system “fraught” with problems.

At the top of their list of problems is the racial and socioeconomic makeup of the people that are executed.

“Across the nation, including Arizona, the use of the death penalty is troublesome because it is often influenced by factors such as geography and is disproportionately imposed on people of color and of limited economic means,” the bishops said.

The bishops are also concerned about the risk of executing an innocent person. They cite that more than 180 people in the United States have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death only to be later exonerated. There have also been 10 people in Arizona alone that have been released from death row after evidence was later found to exonerate them.

The bishops also noted that the “execution of prisoners can also be problematic in that it may deny them a final chance at redemption and salvation.”

“As Catholics, we believe that all of us, including even the worst sinner, has a chance at forgiveness and to reconcile themselves with God as long as they live,” said the Arizona Catholic Conference statement. “While some inmates on death row do seek forgiveness, the execution of others permanently closes this door.”

The use of the death penalty in Arizona was halted after the botched execution of Joseph Wood in 2014. Wood was sentenced to death for murdering his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1989. When it came time for his execution, Wood was injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs that left him gasping and snorting for more than 2 hours.

37 people have been executed in Arizona since capital punishment was reintroduced in the state in 1976. Today, Arizona has 113 prisoners on death row.

The state’s bishops argue the death penalty isn’t needed in modern society.

“We are fortunately living in a time where modern prisons create an environment that does not require the death penalty to keep us safe. Our society is able to achieve justice and protect its population from harm,” the bishop’s statement said. “As the Bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference, we, therefore, encourage all people of goodwill to join us in praying and advocating for an end to the death penalty.”

They added that when discussing the issue of capital punishment “it is first critical to never forget the horrible crimes committed and the terrible loss experienced by the families of victims” and that they “fervently pray for their healing and that their needs are never forgotten!” (source: cruxnow.com)

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

Arizona prisoner Clarence Dixon psychologically fit to be executed: judge

A judge has ruled that an Arizona prisoner convicted in the 1978 killing of a university student is mentally fit to be put to death next week, keeping on track what would be the first execution in the state in nearly 8 years.

In a ruling signed shortly before midnight Tuesday and released on May 4, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson rejected an argument from defense lawyers that Clarence Dixon’s psychological problems prevent him from rationally understanding why the state wants to end his life.

Dixon was convicted of murder in the killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin.

Lawyers for Dixon said they will appeal the ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Dixon’s lawyers argued Tuesday in a court in Florence, Arizona, that executing him would violate protections against executing people who are mentally unfit.

They said he erroneously believes he will be executed because police at Northern Arizona University wrongfully arrested him in a previous case — a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His attorneys concede he was in fact lawfully arrested at the time by Flagstaff police.

Dixon was sentenced to life sentences in that case for sexual assault and other convictions. DNA samples taken while he was in prison later linked him to Bowdoin’s killing, which at that point had been unsolved.

Prosecutors, who tried unsuccessfully to get the Arizona Supreme Court to call off the mental competency hearing, said there was nothing about Dixon’s beliefs that prevented him from understanding the reason for the execution and pointed to court filings that Dixon himself made over the years.

Defense lawyers said Dixon has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, has regularly experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and was found "not guilty by reason of insanity" in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was delivered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, nearly 4 years before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowdoin was killed 2 days after the verdict, according to court records.

Authorities have said Bowdoin, who was found dead in her apartment, had been raped, stabbed and strangled. Dixon had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the charge was later dropped on statute-of-limitation grounds. He was convicted, though, in her death.

In addition to contesting his mental fitness, Dixon’s lawyers made a new attempt on Tuesday to stop his execution.

They filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to hold off on putting Dixon to death until corrections officials show that the compounded pentobarbital to be used in the execution has been given an expiration date.

About a year ago, prosecutors took steps to seek the executions of Dixon and another death-row prisoner, but the litigation was put on hold by the state Supreme Court because of concerns over the expiration date of the drug to be used in the lethal injections.

In the new lawsuit, Dixon’s lawyers said corrections officials gave them heavily redacted records documenting the testing of the drug, but that they didn’t provide the assigned expiration date.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry declined to comment on the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court also issued a warrant setting a June 8 execution date for another death-row prisoner, Frank Atwood, in the killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.

The last time Arizona used the death penalty was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours in an execution that his lawyers said was botched.

States including Arizona have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

Arizona has 113 prisoners on death row.

(source: Fox News)

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

Judge's ruling clears way for Arizona inmate Clarence Dixon to be executed for 1978 murder of ASU student Deana Bowdoin

A judge has ruled that an Arizona prisoner convicted in the 1978 killing of a university student is mentally fit to be put to death next week, keeping on track what would be the first execution in the state in nearly 8 years.

In a ruling signed shortly before midnight Tuesday and released on Wednesday, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson said that that Clarence Dixon has not met his burden "to show that his mental state is so distorted by a mental illness that he lacks a rational understanding of the state's rationale for his execution."

Dixon was convicted of murder in the killing of 21-year-old Arizona State University student Deana Bowdoin. Dixon is scheduled to be executed on May 11.

Lawyers for Dixon said they will appeal the ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Dixon's lawyers argued Tuesday in a court in Florence, Arizona, that executing him would violate protections against executing people who are mentally unfit.

They said he erroneously believes he will be executed because police at Northern Arizona University wrongfully arrested him in a previous case - a 1985 attack on a 21-year-old student. His attorneys concede he was in fact lawfully arrested at the time by Flagstaff police.

Dixon was sentenced to life sentences in that case for sexual assault and other convictions. DNA samples taken while he was in prison later linked him to Bowdoin's killing, which at that point had been unsolved.

Prosecutors, who tried unsuccessfully to get the Arizona Supreme Court to call off the mental competency hearing, said there was nothing about Dixon's beliefs that prevented him from understanding the reason for the execution and pointed to court filings that Dixon himself made over the years.

Defense lawyers said Dixon has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on multiple occasions, has regularly experienced hallucinations over the past 30 years and was found "not guilty by reason of insanity" in a 1977 assault case in which the verdict was delivered by then-Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor, nearly 4 years before her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowdoin was killed 2 days after the verdict, according to court records.

Authorities have said Bowdoin, who was found dead in her apartment, had been raped, stabbed and strangled. Dixon had been charged with raping Bowdoin, but the charge was later dropped on statute-of-limitation grounds. He was convicted, though, in her death.

In addition to contesting his mental fitness, Dixon's lawyers made a new attempt on Tuesday to stop his execution.

They filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to hold off on putting Dixon to death until corrections officials show that the compounded pentobarbital to be used in the execution has been given an expiration date.

About a year ago, prosecutors took steps to seek the executions of Dixon and another death-row prisoner, but the litigation was put on hold by the state Supreme Court because of concerns over the expiration date of the drug to be used in the lethal injections.

In the new lawsuit, Dixon's lawyers said corrections officials gave them heavily redacted records documenting the testing of the drug, but that they didn't provide the assigned expiration date.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry declined to comment on the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court also issued a warrant setting a June 8 execution date for another death-row prisoner, Frank Atwood, in the killing of 8-year-old Vicki Lynn Hoskinson in 1984. Authorities say Atwood kidnapped the girl, whose body was found in the desert northwest of Tucson.

The last time Arizona used the death penalty was in July 2014, when Joseph Wood was given 15 doses of a 2-drug combination in an execution that his lawyers said was botched. His execution was supposed to take about 10 minutes. It took almost 2 hours -- the longest execution in U.S. history.

States including Arizona have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

Arizona has 113 prisoners on death row.

(source: CBS News)

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

Prosecutors will seek death penalty for suspect accused of killing MCSO deputy

Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against the defendant accused of killing Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Deputy Juan "Johnny" Ruiz last October.

Clinton Robert Hurley was indicted earlier this year for 16 felony counts related to an incident that ended up killing the deputy.

On Oct. 9, 2021, Ruiz was in the process of transporting Hurley into custody after Hurley was picked up on an outstanding felony warrant.

As Ruiz removed Hurley's handcuffs to place the suspect into a holding cell, Hurley allegedly attacked the deputy. Hurley then stole Ruiz's keys and drove off in the deputy's patrol car.

A manhunt ensued until Hurley was caught in Tonopah and taken into custody.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell announced Wednesday her office intends to seek the death penalty against Hurley if he's convicted of first-degree murder.

"On Oct. 9, 2021, Deputy Juan Ruiz was simply doing his job and he paid the ultimate price trying to keep our community safe. This office will seek justice for Deputy Ruiz and his family,” Mitchell said in a statement.

The "heinous" nature of the crime and Hurley's criminal history are reasons to justify seeking capital punishment, Mitchell's office said.

Death penalty cases in Arizona are broken up into 2 phases: the defendant must first be convicted of the charges, then the court has to separately determine whether capital punishment is justified.

(source: 12news.com)

USA:

Video Shows What Happens When Lethal Injection Goes Wrong

A group of campaigners have recorded 'a painstaking reconstruction' of a 'real-time execution' to raise awareness of the flaws of lethal injection. Warning: Contains scenes some viewers may find disturbing.

Death Penalty Fail is a campaign group which seeks to 'promote the facts, highlight the inefficiencies, and push for the repeal of the death penalty in the United States'.

The campaign group explains on its website how executions 'have been on the decline' in the US over 'the last few years,' and 'the death penalty system has been fraught with pragmatic, fiscal, and constitutional problems'.

It states: "More and more states are re-evaluating their use of the death penalty or abandoning it altogether: 19 states have repealed it (plus the District of Columbia!), four have a moratorium in place, and 8 more haven’t carried out an execution in more than 10 years.

"This fall voters in California and Nebraska will go to the polls with the chance to end the death penalty in their states.

"Even with all of this decline, the US is still one of the highest executing nations in the world."

Appealing to people whether or not they believe in the death penalty or not, the group says 'there can be no doubt that it is riddled with problems'.

It explains the group is committed to 'educating people around the social, emotional and financial burdens of the death penalty' whether it be using stories, visuals or film.

It concludes: "We look to intensify the social conversation and increase the number of active death penalty repeal supporters.

"Now is the time to think again about the death penalty."

In 2016, the group released footage of 'what your government doesn't want you to see' - a recreation of an execution by lethal injection.

It explains how 'more than 1,250 people have been executed in the USA since 1977,' with executions 'often monitored on video by the authorities'.

It states that the supply of lethal chemicals has been 'blocked' because of an international human rights embargo.

"As a result, some states have chosen to use non-FDA approved drugs," it claims.

In 2019, the Justice Department ruled that the FDA had no legal authority to regulate drugs used to carry out lethal injections.

The campaign group adds that at least 13 states 'now keep the source of their lethal chemicals a secret'.

The reconstruction video of a real-time execution claims the executioner is 'a volunteer prison officer who is not medically trained,' and paid '$300 [£240] cash' to do the job.

According to the Palm Beach Post, executioners in Florida can be paid as little as $150 (£120) per execution.

A microphone is attached to the inmate 'as a backup to the one above' him to pick up their 'last words to [their] family'.

"A 'licensed medic' must fit the syringes, insert the IV's and pronounce the prisoner's death," the caption reads.

However, the campaigners allege the medical staff involved are 'often inexperienced in this procedure'.

While medical staff are present, the video notes the person ultimately responsible for the injection - in where it is administered and what chemicals it contains - is the Director of Corrections.

However, the caption states: "He is not medically trained."

The video shows two IV lines being inserted into the prisoner's veins to which 'an accurate IV insertion is crucial for an anaesthetic to work'.

However, there appears to be an issue, with the medical assistant stating he has 'gone through the vein'.

The inmate appears to be in considerable distress, making sounds of discomfort and his face contorted.

A vein in the groin is tried instead and once the IV lines are successfully inserted the execution begins.

"Executions are routinely attended by members of the press and the family of the prisoner," the video states.

In order to conceal their identity, the 'licensed medic' is noted as covering their face.

After the inmate gives a statement, the lethal injection is then administered.

However, the caption explains it 'can take up to 2 hours before death is pronounced'.

The prisoner is anaesthetised with the sedative, Midazolam, which one of the medical team notes should take 'about 5 minutes' to kick in.

The inmate's heart rate is monitored 'going down' before he is checked and evaluated as 'unresponsive'.

"The 2nd chemical, Vecuronium Bromide paralyses the prisoner. The prisoner can still feel pain but is unable to move," the video states.

However, the team spot the prisoner's eyes open, causing extreme panic among the rest of the team.

The caption reads: "The final chemical, potassium chloride kills the prisoner by stopping the heart.

"If the prisoner is still conscious, this last chemical will cause an intense burning pain."

Medical staff can be heard swearing, with one exclaiming: "He should be unconscious."

The campaign video claims 'at least 75' having been 'botched' since 1977.

Death Penalty Fail concludes: "The lethal injection process is so problematic, only 6 states continue to execute people.

"The 8th amendment of the US constitution bans 'cruel and unusual punishment'.

"Is the lethal injection cruel and unusual?"

You can watch the full video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOwcyNTsaZ4

(source: ladbible.com)

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

USA----impending/scheduled executions

With the execution of Carman Deck in Missouri on May 3, the USA has now executed 1,545 condemned individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision.

Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of further scheduled executions as the nation continues its shameful practice of state-sponsored killings.

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

1546----May 11------Clarence Dixon------Arizona

1547----May 13------Brad Sigmon---------South Carolina

1548----May 17------Virgil Presnell Jr.----Georgia

1549----June 8--------Frank Atwood-------Arizona

1550----July 13-------Ramiro Gonzalez----Texas

(source: Rick Halperin)

INDIA:

Surat man who killed woman for rejecting his advances granted death penalty within 70 days

A court in Surat has awarded the death penalty to a man who killed a woman for rejecting his advances. The sentence was awarded within 70 days of the murder.

A Surat court has awarded the death penalty to Fenil Goyani, who had killed a 21-year-old woman by slashing her throat for refusing his advances. The cases triggered massive outrage, and questions were raised about the law and order situation in the state.

A 2500-page chargesheet was filed in the matter within 10 days, and the convict was given a death sentence in 70 days.

The murder took place on February 12 this year in Surat's Pasodara when Fenil slashed the throat of Grishma in front of her family. Grishma's brother and uncle were also attacked by Fenil when they tried to save her. He had hatched the plan to murder her after she refused his advances several times.

Opposition parties in the state raised the issue to highlight the law and order concerns.

In less than 10 days, police filed a chargesheet in the matter.

After murdering Grishma, Fenil tried to kill himself as well. He was hospitalised and was arrested after