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

SEPTEMBER 24, 2022:

TEXAS----impending execution

Stay of execution denied for John Henry Ramirez

According to an official notice from the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, John Henry Ramirez's execution date for Oct. 5 will stand.

There was no further information available as to why the motion for a stay of execution was denied.

Back in June, 94th District Court Judge Bobby Galvan ruled against Nueces County District Attorney Mark A. Gonzalez's motion to withdraw the Oct. 5 execution date, to which Gonzalez said he would appeal.

Ramirez was convicted of killing convenience store clerk Pablo Castro in 2004.

The court denied the motion for a stay of execution without a written order.

(source: KRIS tv news)

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Bearing Witness at Texas’s First Execution by Lethal Injection----In 1982, Dick J. Reavis chronicled the first government-led lethal injection in world history—and the last moments of Charlie Brooks’s life.

The 1st time I met Dick J. Reavis I mistook him for a homeless man. It was November 2015 and I’d recently become editor in chief of the Texas Observer, which then had its offices in a shambolic building in downtown Austin with an unlocked front door that opened onto Seventh Street, allowing anyone to wander in off the street. So when a scruffy-looking man in grubby clothes presented himself in the newsroom one day, I figured he was someone in need of a bathroom or money. “I’m Dick Reavis,” the man said.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Reavis, now 77, is a master of blending in, a famously crusty practitioner of immersion reporting—the somewhat controversial art of directly experiencing the lives of your subjects, rather than just observing from a distance. He’d taken the Greyhound down from Dallas, where he lives, to discuss an article about the challenges of growing old in prison. Later, for the Observer, he would spend six weeks undercover in a Dallas homeless encampment called Tent City as authorities prepared to evict its tenants. He blended in just fine.

In the decades prior, Reavis had made a name for himself as a chronicler of marginal Americans, of hard-to-penetrate subcultures. For Texas Monthly, he bought a Harley and embedded with the Bandidos motorcycle gang, producing “Never Love a Bandido” in 1979. For “Town Without Pity,” he hung out with the sex workers and johns in Nuevo Laredo’s now long-gone Boys’ Town. And in 1982, he witnessed the execution of Charlie Brooks Jr., a forty-year-old Black man. It was the first time Texas had administered the death penalty since 1964. The resulting story, “Charlie Brooks’ Last Words,” is a disconcerting, unflinching profile of a man’s life and death, and a close-up look at the ugly machinery of Texas’s death penalty policy at an inflection point. Brooks’s execution represented the first time any government in the world had used lethal injection as a method of capital punishment.

Reavis’s story is suffused with moral ambivalence. Along with another man, Woodie Loudres, Brooks had been sentenced to die in conjunction with the murder of David Gregory, a Fort Worth auto repairman. But neither Brooks nor Loudres would say who pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Gregory, and Loudres later had his conviction overturned on appeal. But in a death row interview, Reavis seems to come close to getting Brooks to admit to being the triggerman. Reavis is gimlet-eyed about his subject, writing that “Charlie’s past was proof that there is nothing exotic or even exciting about crime or criminals,” but he also finds that prison had transformed Brooks from a “pool hall rooster” to a “meek and friendly” middle-aged man with “the movements of a dog that is used to being whipped.” The blithe cruelty of the state’s death row system doesn’t go unnoticed either, nor does the fear on Brooks’s face as he waits for the IV to deliver his chemical death while Reavis and others look on.

After the article was published, Reavis accepted the praise from death penalty opponents who saw in him a fellow traveler. But in fact, Reavis hadn’t made up his mind about the issue, then or now. “I did not write [“Charlie Brooks’ Last Words”] with any polemic in mind,” he said. “I wanted to write the story of what a man goes through. A particular man. Charlie Brooks. And, how do you say . . . his demise.”

(source: Forrest Wilder, Texas Monthly)

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Love, From Death Row: A Day of Art and Film

A screening of two films about the death penalty and the families that are affected by it, plus an exhibit of incredible artwork created by people currently on death row. Sponsored in partnership by Motion Media Arts Center, the Texas Moratorium Network, the Death Row Angels, Austin Abolitionists, the Texas Abolition Movement, and the Jude Filler Foundation. Sat., Sept. 24, 5pm. Free, but RSVP.

This free & open to the public event will feature a screening of two films about death penalty and the families that are affected by it. There will also be an exhibition featured of incredible artwork created by people currently on death row which is entitled "Love, From Death Row". FILMS FEATURED:

The Road to Livingston —a story that follows Delia P. Meyer as she visits her innocent brother on Texas' Death Row

The Death Row Angels —a film exploring women from the U. S. and Europe who have loving relationships with some of the men on Texas' Death Row.

(source: Ausatin Chronicle)

NORTH CAROLINA:

North Carolina ACLU Challenges Death Qualification of Jurors as Racially and Sexually Discriminatory

Lawyers for a North Carolina capital defendant have filed a sweeping challenge to the method by which death-penalty jurors are empaneled, arguing that the combination of a process known as “death qualification” and discretionary jury strikes produces a jury so racially and sexually unrepresentative that it violates a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Death qualification refers to the process of removing potential jurors from service in a capital case because of their expressed opposition to the death penalty. On August 16, 2022, the ACLU of North Carolina filed a motion on behalf of Brandon Xavier Hill, who faces the death penalty for a double murder in Wake County, North Carolina, to bar that practice. In support of that motion, Hill’s lawyers presented 2 days of evidence on August 29 and September 1, 2022 to Judge Paul Ridgeway, including the results of a Michigan State University study of jury selection in 10 Wake County capital trials between 2008 and 2019 that documented significant racial and gender disparities caused by the death-qualification process.

The study, conducted by law professors Catherine M. Grosso and Barbara O’Brien, involved more than 1,200 prospective jurors. The researchers found statistically significant evidence of racial disparities in death qualification, with Black potential jurors removed “at 2.27 times the rate of their white counterparts.”

Collectively, the combination of death qualification and discretionary strikes produced 2 cases with no Black jurors and 4 with only 1 Black juror.

Grosso and O’Brien also found that women were deemed death unqualified at a rate that was 1.54 times greater than men were. “This disparity was driven largely by the disparate removal of Black women, who were removed under death qualification at 2.2 times the rate of other potential jurors,” they wrote in an expert report submitted to the court.

The use of discretionary peremptory strikes further diluted Black representation on death penalty juries. Grosso and O’Brien found that prosecutors “struck Black potential jurors at 2.16 times the rate it struck white venire members” with Black women excluded at 2.1 times the rate of all other jurors. “The cumulative effect of the death qualification process and the state’s exercise of peremptory strikes meant that Black potential jurors were removed at almost twice the rate of their representation in the population of potential jurors,” the researchers found. By contrast, “white potential jurors were removed at 0.8 times their rate.”

Mona Lynch, a criminology professor at University of California, Irvine, testified about the impact of death qualification on individual defendants as documented in numerous studies nationwide. “The research is very strong that Black defendants are going to suffer as a result of having disproportionate exclusion,” she told the court.

Existing case law has upheld the constitutionality of the death-qualification process and it is considered unlikely that Judge Ridgeway will rule it unconstitutional. However, the evidentiary record produced in the hearing will allow North Carolina’s appeal courts to reconsider the permissibility of the practice under the state constitution.

‘Death Qualification’ and the Distortion of Capital Sentencing Juries

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that death-sentencing practices must reflect the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society. As part of that inquiry, decisions of capital sentencing juries are supposed to express the conscience of the community. Hill argues that death qualification so distorts the composition of the venire that the resulting juries are incapable of performing that constitutional function.

Grosso and O’Brien found that that the use of jury strikes in Wake County capital trials was disproportionate based on race and gender. Black jurors, they found, were excluded via death qualification at a significantly higher rate than white jurors. Death qualification removed 25% of Black jurors, while only 11% of white jurors were removed. 17% of women — and 31% of Black women — were excluded, while only 11% of men were removed.

The study also found statistically significant evidence that prosecutors exercised their peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory manner. According to the researchers, prosecutors exercised their discretionary strikes to remove 54% of eligible Black jurors compared to 25% of eligible white jurors.

Grosso and O’Brien found that the combined impact of death qualification and peremptory significantly distorted the racial composition of the venire. Although Black jurors constituted 18% of the initial jury pool, they accounted for 31% of all removals. By contrast, white jurors constituted 82% of the initial venire and 67% of all removals.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

FLORIDA:

Florida Senators Calling For Death Penalty On Fentanyl Dealers In Overdose Cases

Florida’s senators are pushing for tougher sentences for those who cause fentanyl overdoses, including the death penalty if a supplier is convicted of 1st-degree murder.

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are among the 14 GOP sponsors of the “Felony Murder for Deadly Fentanyl Distribution Act.”

The bill, if enacted, would make fentanyl distribution a felony murder punishable by either death or life in prison, if that leads to a person’s death.

Rubio is the lead sponsor of the bill, which mirrors a Florida state law Scott signed in 2017 when he was governor.

In recent weeks, prosecutors seem to have shown more willingness to invoke the law in combating fentanyl-related crimes.

Since July 1, prosecutors in Leon, Marion, Palm Beach, and Pinellas counties have filed murder charges against suspects who allegedly supplied fentanyl to fatal overdose victims.

The Republicans’ pursuit of this bill seems to be a response to President Joe Biden’s unwillingness to police the border.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among adults 18 to 45.

The CDC reported in May that almost 108,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2021, and roughly 80 percent of those were due to abuse of opioids, including fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is killing Americans at a record high,” Rubio said recently in a prepared statement.

“This deadly drug is widespread throughout our country and has left no community untouched. This bill would make drug dealers pay the price for selling deadly fentanyl.”

In his own statement, Scott added, “People who knowingly distribute lethal fentanyl deserve the strictest sentence possible. For too long, people have suffered addiction and death because of this evil drug that is pouring across [President] Joe Biden’s open southern border.”

“Fentanyl has skyrocketed to the number one killer of young people, and to put an end to this crisis, strong actions must be taken,”Scott added. “I am proud to join Senator Rubio in standing up for victims of this crisis, and urge the immediate passage of this critically important bill.”

Besides Rubio and Scott, the other sponsors include GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, John Cornyn of Texas, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mike Braun of Indiana, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Steve Daines of Montana, and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.

(source: Tampa Free Press)

ALABAMA:

Alabama abandons execution of Alan Miller after issue accessing veins

The State of Alabama abandoned an attempt Thursday night to execute Alan Eugene Miller for the 1999 murders of Christopher Yancy, Lee Holdbrooks and Terry Jarvis.

The decision to end efforts to execute Miller came around 11:30 p.m. after prison staff had difficulties accessing Miller’s veins, according to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm.

“Due to the time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined that the condemned’s veins could not be accessed according to our protocol,” Hamm said.

Earlier Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for the execution, lifting a lower court order that had put the lethal injection on hold.

Still, Alabama officials were not able to carry out Miller’s execution before his death warrant expired at midnight, but Commissioner Hamm confirmed that staff did begin the process of trying to access Miller’s veins before the execution was abandoned. He said that “to my knowledge” the state did not perform a “cut down” on Miller. An independent autopsy confirmed that the state had performed the outdated procedure on Joe Nathan James ahead of his execution earlier this year.

After the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday night, media witnesses were transported by prison van to just outside the gates of Holman Correctional Facility around 10:40. Around an hour later, the witnesses were transferred to another van and transported to just outside death row. After a few minutes, a prison spokesperson said the van would head back to the media center. The spokesperson would not answer initially answer questions about the execution, including whether Miller is alive or dead.

The Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the execution to move forward came after 2 federal courts ruled that the condemned inmate was “substantially likely” to have opted into death by nitrogen hypoxia, an untested method of execution allowed under Alabama law. Executing Miller by lethal injection, they ruled, may violate his constitutional rights.

In the end, in a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court chose to lift the court order preventing Miller’s execution. The court did not provide a written explanation of its decision.

In the 24 hours before his scheduled execution, prison officials said Miller had been visited by family members and an attorney.

Miller is now back in his cell, Hamm said.

(source: WIAT news)

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Attorneys claim inmate suffered injuries during attempted execution

Alabama officials called off the Thursday lethal injection of Alan Eugene Miller because of time concerns and trouble accessing the inmate’s veins, according to the Associated Press.

A judge has now granted a request from Miller's lawyers to allow them to photograph Miller's "injuries" they claim exist and were caused by the attempted execution. Attorneys are expected to meet with Miller and get those pictures this weekend.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state stopped the scheduled execution of Miller at 11:30 p.m. after they determined they could not get the lethal injection underway before the midnight deadline. That decision came almost three hours after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to begin.

“Due to time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned inmate’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the death warrant,” Hamm said.

Hamm said “accessing the veins was taking a little bit longer than we anticipated.” He did not know exactly how long the team tried to establish a connection, but noted there are a number of procedures to be done before the team begins trying to connect the IV line.

Miller, 57, was sentenced to death after being convicted of a 1999 workplace rampage in which he killed Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement early Friday morning.

In Alabama, we are committed to law and order and upholding justice. Despite the circumstances that led to the cancellation of this execution, nothing will change the fact that a jury heard the evidence of this case and made a decision. It does not change the fact that Mr. Miller never disputed his crimes. And it does not change the fact that 3 families still grieve. We all know full well that Michael Holdbrooks, Terry Lee Jarvis and Christopher Scott Yancey did not choose to die by bullets to the chest. Tonight, my prayers are with the victims’ families and loved ones as they are forced to continue reliving the pain of their loss.

“It is hard to see how they can persist with this broken method of execution that keeps going catastrophically wrong, again and again. In its desperation to execute, Alabama is experimenting on prisoners behind closed doors — surely the definition of cruel and unusual punishment,” Maya Foa, director of Reprieve US Forensic Justice Initiative, a human rights group opposed to the death penalty, said in a statement to the AP.

The appeal made by Miller’s attorneys said the state lost the paperwork requesting his execution be carried out using nitrogen hypoxia, a method legally available to him but never before used in the country. An injunction was granted but the state appealed that decision in an attempt to carry out the execution by Thursday's deadline.

The U.S. Supreme Court was split in its decision to allow the state to move forward with the execution, handing down its ruling to lift the injunction just before 9 p.m. Thursday.

However, the execution was called off and Miller was returned to his regular cell at a south Alabama prison.

(source: ABC News)

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Judge tells state to ‘locate and preserve evidence’ in failed execution of Alan Eugene Miller

A federal judge will allow attorneys for an Alabama death row inmate, who the state failed to execute on Thursday night, to preserve evidence and have the inmate examined for injuries.

Alan Eugene Miller was set to be executed Thursday night by the state of Alabama for his August 5, 1999 shooting spree that left three men dead in Shelby County. But it was called off at approximately 11:30 p.m. because Miller’s veins couldn’t be accessed before the death warrant expired at midnight, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said.

Miller’s attorneys asked in a filing made Friday morning in the Middle District of Alabama that one of Miller’s “attorneys and/or one of their agents be given access to meet with Mr. Miller in person today at Holman Correctional Facility with equipment necessary to preserve evidence of his injuries from last night’s attempted execution.”

“(The state has) publicly admitted they had difficulty accessing his veins during the process, and the execution was called off,” the motion said. “Mr. Miller has injuries from the attempted execution that can and should be photographed and/or filmed. For the reasons stated above, (Miller) respectfully moves this court to enter an order granting his motion for access to preserve evidence and directing (the state) to permit the access requested above.”.

District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. ruled that Miller’s attorneys can have access to him between certain hours Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and are allowed to bring in their cell phones. The attorneys are also allowed to take photos and videos.

The state “shall make immediate efforts to locate and preserve evidence concerning the attempted execution, including but not limited to notes, emails, texts, and used medical supplies such as syringes, swabs, scalpels, and IV-lines,” the judge ordered.

He also ordered that Hamm, Warden Terry Raybon, “and any and all ADOC officials involved in the execution shall preserve all notes, emails, and texts concerning the execution, including those made and/or exchanged before (starting at 6 pm, September 22, 2022), during, and after the attempted execution; and ADOC shall preserve any records related to any medical observation, inspection, charting, and/or treatment of the Plaintiff both before and after the attempted execution.”

Around 12:30 a.m. when announcing the failed execution attempt, Hamm told reporters: “Due to the time constraints resulting in the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the death warrant.”

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling just after 9 p.m., giving the state nearly three hours to conduct the execution before the death warrant expired.

Hamm said the execution team did start trying to access Miller’s veins to insert the intravenous lines for the 3-drug lethal injection cocktail, but he isn’t sure how long the team worked to try to access a vein. “I’m not sure... I wasn’t looking at that. We were more focused on the time that the court, the Supreme Court, sent their order. Before we start accessing veins, we have other things we have to do that take time.”

When asked what was being done during that nearly 3-hour period, Hamm would not elaborate. “Like I said, there are several things that we have to do before we even start accessing the veins. And that was taking a little bit longer than we anticipated.”

Huffaker issued an order Monday, ruling that Miller should not be executed using lethal injection but rather using nitrogen hypoxia. That ruling was upheld by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Miller’s case has centered around claims that in June 2018, he completed a form distributed to death row inmates at William C. Holman Correctional Facility electing to die by the nitrogen hypoxia instead of the default method of lethal injection.

The AG’s Office argued there is no record of that form being submitted. Executions using nitrogen hypoxia have not yet begun, and the state has said they are not yet ready to implement the method.

Huffaker set a status conference by phone on Friday morning with lawyers from both Miller and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to discuss the motion.

(source: al.com)

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'Veins could not be accessed': Alabama halts man's execution for time, medical concerns

Before the clock struck midnight on Thursday, Alabama officials halted the lethal injection of a man convicted of a fatal workplace shooting in 1999 due to time concerns and problems accessing the inmate’s veins.

At about 11:30 p.m., state officials called off the scheduled execution of Alan Eugene Miller after authorities determined they could not complete the execution before a midnight deadline, Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said.

Early Friday morning, Hamm told the USA TODAY Network that prison staff could not establish intravenous access to deliver Miller's lethal injection, so the execution was postponed.

Miller's death sentence was scheduled to take place at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in southwest Alabama near Altmore, some 50 miles from Mobile.

After it was halted, Miller was returned to his cell, Hamm said. He did not provide further details as to Miller's condition.

"Due to the time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned's veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the deadline," said Hamm.

The 57-year-old death row inmate was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing three people in a 1999 workplace rampage.

A last minute reprieve

The last-minute reprieve came nearly 3 hours after a divided U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to begin.

In a 5-4 decision, justices lifted an injunction issued by a federal judge and left in place by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that blocked Miller’s execution from going forward.

Miller's defense attorneys said the state lost the paperwork requesting his execution be carried out using nitrogen hypoxia, a method legally available to him but never before used in the United States.

Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2018.

At that time, state law gave inmates a brief window to designate it as their execution method. Miller testified that he turned in paperwork four years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method, putting the documents in a slot in his cell door at the Holman Correctional Facility for a prison worker to collect.

Miller was sentenced to death for killing 3 men in 2 workplace shootings in Shelby County just south of Birmingham.

An employee entering Ferguson Enterprises in Pelham saw Miller exit the building on Aug. 5, 1999, before finding Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy dead inside.

Miller then drove to nearby Post Airgas, where he previously worked, and killed employee Terry Jarvis. The jury deliberated for 20 minutes before finding Miller guilty and recommended the death penalty, which a judge approved.

(source: USA Today)

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PHARMACEUTICALS----New Execution Method Touted as More ‘Humane,’ but Evidence Is Lacking----A legal battle over nitrogen hypoxia, a new potential method of execution, raises ethical questions

Alan Eugene Miller, who killed 3 men in workplace shootings in 1999, was scheduled to be the 1st person executed by nitrogen hypoxia—a new method never before used for the death penalty—on September 22. But a week before his execution, the state of Alabama admitted it was not prepared to go forward with the procedure and would use lethal injection instead.

On September 19 the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a preliminary injunction barring the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia, essentially amounting to a stay of execution until the state was ready to administer the new method. Earlier this month three academics filed a human rights complaint with the United Nations on Miller’s behalf regarding Alabama’s use of lethal injection, which has been criticized as inhumane for causing excessive suffering.

Less than 3 hours before Miller’s death warrant expired at midnight, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Alabama’s appeal to the injunction and ruled that the execution could proceed. But in the early hours of September 23, the state announced that it had called off the execution, saying it was unable to access Miller’s veins in time. The execution is expected to be rescheduled.

The case raises numerous questions: What is nitrogen hypoxia? What is required to administer it? Why is a new form of execution necessary? And what’s wrong with lethal injection?

Scientific American spoke with experts in anesthesiology, law and capital punishment to find out.

What is nitrogen hypoxia?

Nitrogen hypoxia is a method of suffocating a person by forcing them to breathe pure nitrogen, starving them of oxygen until they die. Despite its scientific-sounding name, “nitrogen hypoxia” is not a real medical term, says Joel Zivot, an associate professor of anesthesiology at Emory University, who co-authored the human rights complaint.

“There is nitrogen gas—that’s a real thing. There’s hypoxia—that means low oxygen,” Zivot says. “But ‘nitrogen hypoxia’ is a made-up two-word expression meant to sound like you’re on the bridge of the starship Enterprise,” he says, referring to the spaceship of Star Trek fame. Instead Zivot recommends calling the procedure “nitrogen gas execution.”

Nitrogen is an inert gas that makes up 78 percent of the air we breathe, passing in and out of the body harmlessly with every breath. A person can breathe pure nitrogen and not immediately realize there is a problem, but their cells and organs are slowly being deprived of the oxygen needed to function and will rapidly start to break down. Someone deprived of oxygen will pass out in minutes and die soon after when the heart stops beating, according to Zivot.

Where did the idea for nitrogen hypoxia come from?

Then representative Mike Christian of Oklahoma first proposed using nitrogen gas as a potential form of execution in 2014, after the state came under fire for multiple botched execution attempts using lethal injection. The idea partly came from Michael Copeland, then an assistant professor of criminal justice at East Central University in Ada, Okla., who co-authored a white paper on the subject with 2 of his colleagues at the university.

“The entire proposal for nitrogen gas was the product of a 14-page report made by a criminal justice professor,” says Corinna Barrett Lain, a law professor at the University of Richmond, who’s writing a book on lethal injection. “He’s not a doctor. He doesn’t have any medical training. He’s not a scientist. But he knew one of the legislators.”

At the hearings where the method was introduced, legislators heard stories of pilots and scuba divers dying when they accidentally breathed pure nitrogen instead of the proper mix of nitrogen and oxygen. No scientific evidence was presented because there is little medical research on death by nitrogen gas. It is not clear exactly how long the process would take or how much the person would suffer.

“There is a claim, that I think is baseless, that nitrogen gas inhalation would cause a death that would be peaceful and not cruel,” Zivot says. “There’s no evidence for any of that.”

There is no requirement for a state to demonstrate that a method of execution is not “cruel and unusual punishment,” as defined by the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Lain says. Instead “the burden is on the condemned inmate to show that it is torturous rather than the burden being on the state to show that it’s not,” she says. “So the state can make up anything it wants.”

Why has there been a holdup in Alabama’s use of this new method?

The Alabama execution has not been held up by the question of whether nitrogen hypoxia would be cruel and unusual. Instead there is most likely a problem with logistics.

“Alabama doesn’t have a protocol [for the new execution method] yet. Alabama doesn’t say how it will be carried out. Alabama certainly hasn’t trained its personnel ... in how to conduct a nitrogen hypoxia execution,” says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit that provides information and analysis on death penalty issues. “And as far as anyone can tell, no one has considered the potentially lethal danger to execution personnel if [they] don’t carry it out properly.”

There are 2 ways to administer a gas execution. The state can build a gas chamber, such as those used in executions with hydrogen cyanide (the method by which the last gas execution in the U.S. was conducted in Arizona in 1999), or it could use a specialized gas mask. If a mask is used, it must have an airtight seal so that the inmate cannot breathe any oxygen and prolong their death and so that the execution team and witnesses are not exposed to potentially deadly levels of the gas.

“Nitrogen is colorless, and it is odorless, and the same thing that led the Oklahoma legislature to think that this would be swift and painless—the fact that people were unaware that they were being poisoned at depth or at altitude—those very same factors could make it potentially lethal if gas leaks into areas where the execution team was,” Dunham says.

What’s wrong with using lethal injection?

The reason nitrogen hypoxia—which, despite these concerns, is now authorized in Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi—was initially proposed is because numerous problems have arisen with lethal injection over the past decade.

Lethal injection has been the standard method of execution in the U.S. since the 1990s. The original three-drug protocol was developed by an Oklahoma state medical examiner and included the anesthetic sodium thiopental, a paralytic drug called pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, which is supposed to stop the heart within minutes. Dunham described the latter as “chemical fire.”

Doctors and drug manufacturers have protested lethal injection since its inception, not wanting their products and techniques to be used for killing rather than healing. In 2011 the sole U.S. manufacturer of sodium thiopental stopped producing it. The following year a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia essentially declared that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could no longer allow the drug to be imported from overseas for the purpose of execution.

These changes left states scrambling for another method of execution. Some switched to using a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, which is a sedative and anticonvulsant often used before surgeries or to treat epilepsy. It’s also commonly used in both veterinary and human euthanasia. Other states replaced sodium thiopental with the benzodiazepine midazolam, which is also used as a sedative before medical procedures. Neither pentobarbital nor midazolam function as an anesthetic or pain reliever.

With these changes, problems during lethal injections started to arise more frequently. In the case of John Marion Grant in Oklahoma, the drugs caused vomiting and full-body convulsions over the course of 15 minutes. In an even more horrifying event, in Arizona, Joseph Wood III gasped and snorted for nearly two hours before dying. Most recently, the people carrying out the executions for Joe Nathan James, Jr. and Doyle Lee Hamm in Alabama were unable to insert the IV lines to administer the drugs. This resulted in numerous puncture wounds and incisions in James’s and Hamm’s skin, delaying the former’s execution for hours and halting the latter’s altogether.

“The lethal-injection process, in many respects, created a myth that what you had was a simple medical procedure in which the prisoner was put to sleep,” Dunham says. “That created a false distance between the reality of capital punishment and the public perception of capital punishment.”

Experts now believe that the paralytic used in the original three-drug protocol masked the torture inmates were experiencing. Zivot and others have performed more than 200 autopsies on people killed by lethal injection using thiopental, pentobarbital or midazolam. An NPR investigation of these autopsies found that most inmates’ lungs showed evidence of pulmonary edema, the buildup of fluid that produces a feeling of drowning.

“Instead of falling off to sleep and dying, they were drowning in their own secretions and suffocating to death, sometimes masked by a paralytic,” Zivot says. “That’s, in fact, how they were dying.”

There have been court cases in several states brought by prisoners claiming that lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment. In the highest-profile case, 4 Oklahoma prisoners contended that using midazolam constituted cruel and unusual punishment because it “fails to render a person insensate to pain.” But in a 2015 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 against the inmates, in part because, the justices said, they had failed to identify a less painful option.

What other execution methods are available?

The heightened scrutiny on lethal injection has led states to consider other methods of execution, including electrocution, firing squad and gas (either hydrogen cyanide or pure nitrogen). With the exception of Tennessee, where there have been five executions by electrocution since 2018, no other methods have been used for nearly a decade. Given the problems that arose during Miller’s case, it doesn’t appear that will change any time soon.

When asked what the most humane way to execute someone would be, Lain’s answer is the firing squad. “Death by firing squad is nearly instantaneous,” she says. “That’s certainly better than being electrocuted for 5 or 6 minutes or being gassed to death for 6 to 10 minutes or being slowly suffocated under a veneer of peacefulness for 10 to 20 minutes.”

(source: Dana Smith is a freelance science writer specializing in brains and bodies. She has written for Scientific American, the Atlantic, the Guardian, NPR, Discover, and Fast Company, among other outlets. In a previous life, she earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Cambridge----Scientific American)

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Supreme Court Says Alabama Can Kill Prisoner With Method He Fears----Prison officials tried to insert an I.V. line for Alan Eugene Miller’s execution, but had to halt before his death warrant expired at midnight. The state said the execution would be rescheduled.

Following a botched lethal injection in 2018, Alabama passed a law that gave death row prisoners a brief window in which they could choose to be killed by a method never before tried: nitrogen hypoxia, in which a person is fatally deprived of oxygen.

To Alan Eugene Miller, who was convicted of murdering 3 men in 1999, the untried method of suffocation sounded better than lethal injection because, after a bad experience getting blood drawn, he had come to fear needles. He said that he signed and returned a form in which he chose the new method, but that prison officials had apparently lost the form.

The state suggested he had never made the request and, saying it was not ready to carry out an execution by hypoxia in any case, sought to move forward with a lethal injection. A federal judge this week sided with Mr. Miller, ruling it was quite likely that Mr. Miller had made the request.

The judge temporarily blocked the execution, but late on Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled him and said, in a 5-4 order without explanation, that the execution could go ahead. Prison officials began trying to insert an intravenous line into Mr. Miller’s veins, but he was spared when they were unable to do so before midnight, when his death warrant expired.

The tumultuous night, in which Mr. Miller was condemned to die and then spared again — by a clock instead of a judge — ended with Mr. Miller back in his prison cell. It was not immediately clear when the state would try to execute him again, though Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama said she expected that the execution would be rescheduled “at the earliest opportunity.”

On Friday, a judge granted an emergency request by Mr. Miller’s lawyers to meet with Mr. Miller so they could photograph any wounds he might have suffered during the attempt to insert the intravenous line.

The insertion of such a line was central to the controversy surrounding the execution of another prisoner in Alabama this summer: Joe Nathan James Jr., who was executed in July for murdering his former girlfriend. A private autopsy suggested that whoever carried out the execution had cut into one of Mr. James’s arms to access his veins — a procedure known as a “cutdown” — which had possibly caused him pain.

Shortly after the aborted execution of Mr. Miller, a reporter asked the Alabama prisons chief, John Q. Hamm, whether a cutdown had been performed on Mr. Miller. “No, sir, not that I’m aware of,” Mr. Hamm responded.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett of the Supreme Court, who was appointed by former President Donald J. Trump, joined the court’s 3 liberal members in dissenting to the court’s order allowing the execution to go ahead.

Mr. Miller, 57, was convicted of killing 3 men on Aug. 5, 1999, at two Alabama businesses where he had worked, a plumbing company and a warehouse selling oxygen canisters.

Ms. Ivey said that she was praying for the families of the 3 victims, Lee Michael Holdbrooks, Christopher S. Yancey and Terry Lee Jarvis, and that the postponement of the execution did not erase his guilt.

“It does not change the fact that Mr. Miller never disputed his crimes,” Ms. Ivey said. “And it does not change the fact that three families still grieve.” She added that the victims “did not choose to die by bullets to the chest.”

Alabama is not alone in authorizing executions by nitrogen hypoxia, though no state has actually carried one out. Oklahoma and Mississippi have also legalized the method, in response to concerns about botched executions and the difficulty of obtaining lethal injection drugs as a result of pressure on pharmaceutical companies from doctors and anti-death-penalty activists.

The 2018 law in Alabama gives death row prisoners a 30-day window in which they can choose to be killed by nitrogen hypoxia, in which a prisoner is supplied with air containing only nitrogen, depriving the brain and other organs of essential oxygen. Several prisoners besides Mr. Miller have opted for the alternative method, but none of them have been given execution dates.

Mr. Miller’s lawyer said that Mr. Miller had opted for nitrogen hypoxia, but that the prison’s system of recording prisoners’ requests was so chaotic that the administrators must have lost his form. The state suggested that Mr. Miller had not made the request, and used as evidence a transcript of a telephone call Mr. Miller made to his brother, in which he said that other prisoners had requested the method but did not mention doing so himself. The judge overseeing the case said the audio of that call was not clear enough to understand.

The Alabama prisons chief, Mr. Hamm, told the court that the state was not prepared to execute Mr. Miller by hypoxia on Thursday, the day specified in his death warrant. He did not specify what was needed to undertake such an execution or when Alabama might be ready to try the method for the 1st time.

R. Austin Huffaker Jr., the U.S. District Court judge in Montgomery who has overseen the case, found on Monday that it was “substantially likely” that Mr. Miller had requested to be killed by hypoxia. Judge Huffaker, who was appointed by Mr. Trump and joined the bench in 2019, barred the state from executing Mr. Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia, pending any final ruling. His order was upheld by an appellate court on Thursday but quickly overturned by the Supreme Court.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit group that collects data on executions, said the Supreme Court had eroded its credibility by saying the execution could take place.

“Today is another clear example that, when it comes to executions, it’s the outcome that matters to this court, whether or not it’s legal,” Mr. Dunham said. “That’s not what a neutral arbiter of the law does. That’s not what a legitimate court does.”

State officials have not disputed that prisoners who asked to be killed by nitrogen hypoxia would be entitled to that method. They said it was reasonable to proceed with lethal injection in Mr. Miller’s case because there was no record of his having made such a request.

Despite the difficulty states have faced in getting lethal injection drugs, the method has remained the most common way to kill death row prisoners in recent years, although Tennessee executed 6 men by electrocution between 2013 and 2020.

South Carolina had planned to kill a prisoner by firing squad until a judge ruled this month that the method was unconstitutional. Only one person has been killed by firing squad since 1996. In Oklahoma, which authorized nitrogen hypoxia after a series of botched lethal injections, all five prisoners killed since last year were executed by lethal injection.

(source: New York Times)

OHIO:

Voices of Faith: Forgiveness and peace better path than death penalty

In the name of God, most merciful, most benevolent. Today I am thinking about a wonderful group of interfaith people I met a few years ago in the greater Akron-Kent area who are diligently working to end capital punishment here in Ohio.

As a professor of sociology, nearly every semester over the last 20 years, I received at least one student paper on capital punishment or the death penalty. The death penalty debate is one of those topics that has been a mainstay because we are all taught that life is precious and should be protected, and yet we still have the death penalty in this country and in the state of Ohio. Yes, terrible crimes have been committed that seem to warrant the death penalty; however, the gruesomeness of taking a life is ever present in capital punishment. (I once read a student paper that described different cases where the execution was botched, and the person suffered horrendously.)

The issue of humanity, human rights, human dignity, and the protection of humanity is not an easy debate. As a religious person of the Islamic faith, I have embedded in my heart the commandment, do not kill the soul. Growing up, I remember this as one of the 10 Commandments, “Thou shall not kill.” The religions of the books, Judaism (the Torah), Christianity (the Bible), and Islam (the Quran), all acknowledge that killing a person is wrong but allowed for legal punishment. Most of us are familiar with the permission of “an eye for an eye.” However, just because something is allowable does not mean it is good or the right thing to do. In my memory, I can still hear my youth director saying that an eye for an eye leaves us all blind.

The UN has been working to abolish capital punishment since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many countries have abolished or at least limited capital punishment. What can we do here in Ohio? Is the option of prison without parole a better option than taking a person's life?

Once we, the people of Ohio, take a soul, we cannot get it back. Making a mistake cannot be corrected regarding the death penalty. I’m thinking of the case of Isaiah Andrews who was wrongfully imprisoned for 45 years before he was exonerated and released at the age of 84. He is not alone; there are so many people wrongfully convicted that there is a national registry of exonerations. That weighs heavy on my mind.

Thinking about those who are wrongfully convicted makes me think that even though our religions may give us the right to capital punishment, we can and should take a different path – forgiveness. Islam is a religion of peace, love, and forgiveness. The holy Quran teaches us that it is our right to have justice, but forgiveness, together with peace, is a better path.

Forgiving someone for a crime and abolishing the death penalty does not mean that we give up on justice and having a safe society. For those who commit crimes, there can be healing in paying for their sins in this world. As a Muslim, I believe that paying for your crime in this world with something like life without parole might give you a chance for God to have mercy on your soul in the next life. Our criminal justice system has many problems – we all know it—racial inequality, economic injustices, educational inequality, all structural inequalities that impact our criminal justice system. Let’s abolish the death penalty and work for a better solution that is more humane and just for all. I pray my interfaith friends working to abolish the death penalty in Ohio.

(source: Lydia Rose, PhD, is director of Public Relations, Islamic Society of Akron and Kent----Akron Beacon Journal)

OKLAHOMA:

Why Oklahoma should not execute Benjamin Cole

Over the last several years, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Oklahomans have become increasingly aware of our growing mental health crisis. This reality has generated calls to remedy longstanding systemic failures in identifying, diagnosing, treating and supporting those with mental health challenges. Despite this crisis, on Oct. 20, Oklahoma plans to execute Benjamin Cole, a person with severe mental illness.

Cole is a man who is so debilitated by paranoid schizophrenia and brain damage that he barely speaks or moves, crawls on his cell floor or drags himself into and out of a wheelchair, and cannot care for his most basic hygiene. It should shock our collective conscience that an execution of a person in this state would be carried out in our names.

Cole’s mental health journey is one we observe all too frequently as we work to identify public policy solutions to this mental health crisis, which plays a key role in our growing problem of homelessness. Cole’s family experienced generations of mental illness, which went mostly undiagnosed. Both of his parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol, and his mother abused those substances while pregnant with Cole. He was born into an environment of poverty, neglect and abuse, surrounded by adults battling their own mental illness and addiction. He and his siblings were abused physically, psychologically and sexually throughout their childhood, and his own family members introduced him to alcohol when he was just a child.

Compounding this unimaginable childhood adversity, when Cole’s schizophrenia began to manifest in his late teens and early 20s, he received no support or intervention. Like many in similar circumstances, Cole slipped into homelessness and addiction. Tragically, in 2002, he killed his infant daughter.

After Cole’s arrest, his attorneys and the judge recognized that his mental health was seriously compromised. Even after he was deemed competent to stand trial at that time, the prosecutors offered to let him plead guilty in exchange for a life without parole sentence. Cole had confessed to the crime and expressed deep remorse, but because of his persistent mental delusions, he rejected this deal.

For nearly 2 decades in the extreme solitary confinement on death row, Cole’s mental and physical condition have deteriorated significantly. He was finally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2008. In addition, a large and growing lesion was found in his brain in an area associated with schizophrenia. Today, he is a 57-year-old man who has trouble walking and also exhibits other Parkinsonian symptoms, but will not allow himself to be evaluated. He stays in his darkened cell, barely moving, sometimes with a towel or T-shirt wrapped over his head and eyes. Prison staff and medical personnel describe him as catatonic; he often goes weeks or months without speaking to anyone, and he will not leave his cell voluntarily for any reason. His attorneys have been unable to have a meaningful conversation with him about his case - or anything else - for years.

The U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma law forbid the execution of someone who lacks any rational understanding of why the state is taking his life. This determination must be made at the time of a scheduled execution, but the warden of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary has refused to initiate competency proceedings for Cole. On Sept. 30, a Pittsburg County district court is expected to decide whether a competency trial should be ordered. It is difficult to imagine how the court could deny Cole’s request for such a proceeding, given his present condition and the extensive evidence documenting his severe mental illness.

Cole's attorneys also have filed a clemency petition, asking the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute his death sentence to life without parole. His clemency petition details that because of his deteriorated state, he poses no threat to anyone. The petition also notes that any rational defendant would have taken the plea deal offered in 2004.

It is too late to provide Benjamin Cole the kind of interventions that might have averted his crime in the first place. But we can still acknowledge his inherent humanity - and the reality of his devastating mental illness - by allowing him to live out what remains of his life with hope that he finally receives the mental health care he should have been afforded decades ago. The board and the governor should grant Cole’s clemency request.

(source: Guest Columnist; Brett Farley is the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma and serves as the state coordinator for Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty----The Oklahoman)

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OKLAHOMA LAWMAKER CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF PROSECUTORS WHO CONVICTED RICHARD GLOSSIP----Richard Glossip faces a December execution date as Oklahoma lawmakers call attention to new evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in his case.

ON THE DAY Don Knight was supposed to witness his client’s execution at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, he instead stood in the press room at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. “Today is the day that Richard Glossip was set to be killed by the state of Oklahoma,” he reminded reporters on Thursday afternoon. “An innocent man was set to be killed for the 4th time.”

Glossip’s life had been spared by Gov. Kevin Stitt, who paused the September 22 execution date amid explosive new evidence in the case. The stay of execution followed a petition filed by Knight to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, asking for a hearing to consider new evidence that cast further doubt on Glossip’s guilt. With a new execution date set for December 8, even more disturbing revelations had come to light: including evidence of prosecutorial misconduct so alarming that state Rep. Justin Humphrey called for an investigation into the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office.

“I was very reluctant, as a law enforcement officer, to look at this case,” Humphrey said at the press conference. But the investigative failures in Glossip’s case shook him to the core. Today Humphrey is convinced that not only should Glossip never have been sentenced to die, he also never should have been sent to prison. “Now I’m at the point we’re investigating the wrong people,” he said, calling the government’s conduct in Glossip’s case “extremely unethical.”

Humphrey is one of more than 60 state lawmakers who have raised alarm over Glossip’s case. The press conference came on the heels of a third report in as many months by the law firm Reed Smith LLP, which is conducting an independent investigation into the case at the lawmakers’ behest. Like the previous reports, the newest revelations expose how Oklahoma City prosecutors twice convicted Glossip despite clear indications that he was an innocent man.

Glossip was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese at the Best Budget Inn, a rundown motel owned by Van Treese. No physical evidence connected Glossip to the crime. Instead, the case against Glossip was almost entirely based on the testimony of Justin Sneed, then 19, who admitted to bludgeoning Van Treese to death with a baseball bat inside Room 102. Sneed implicated Glossip as the mastermind behind the crime, but only after a highly coercive interrogation by Oklahoma City police detectives who repeatedly emphasized their belief that Glossip was involved.

From the beginning, Sneed offered wildly shifting accounts — starting with his confession to police and continuing through each of Glossip’s trials, where he was the star witness for the prosecution. In recent years, Sneed has continued to contradict himself, while a slew of new witnesses have come forward to say that he’d boasted about falsely implicating Glossip in order to save his own skin.

After failing to convince Stitt or the Oklahoma attorney general to investigate Glossip’s case, the Oklahoma lawmakers turned to Reed Smith in February 2022, and the firm took on the work pro bono. Thirty attorneys, three investigators, and two paralegals have reviewed over 12,000 documents and interviewed more than 36 witnesses. The firm’s first report was released in June. Since then they have released two additional reports, the most recent on September 20. In all, the reports contain bombshell revelations that paint the clearest picture to date of Glossip’s wrongful conviction.

Among the most compelling pieces of new evidence are handwritten letters from Sneed that reveal how close he came to taking back his story about Glossip. In 2003, a year before Glossip’s retrial, Sneed wrote to his public defender, asking, “Do I have the choice of re-canting my testimony at any time during my life, or anything like that.” In 2007, he sent the lawyer another letter: “There are a lot of things right now that are eating at me,” he wrote. Things he needed “to clean up.” Although he didn’t specifically mention recanting, he suggested that he’d made a “mistake.” The lawyer, Gina Walker, who has since died, discouraged him from coming forward.

The most recent report digs deeper into Sneed’s conflicting statements, his efforts to recant, and prosecutors’ efforts to keep him in line. Investigators with Reed Smith interviewed Sneed in prison three times over the last month, for a total of more than eight hours. Portions of the interviews contained in the report show that Sneed’s account remains a mess of shifting narratives — save for his parroting of the key element of the prosecution’s theory of the case: that he was an impressionable young man lured into a murder plot. “It is disconcerting that the only details he appears to state consistently are that he killed Barry Van Treese, and that Glossip is to blame for it,” the report says.

The letters from Sneed to his attorney are not the first indication that Sneed sought to take back his story. In October 2014, O’Ryan Justine Sneed — Justin Sneed’s grown daughter — sent a letter to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board saying that she “strongly believe[s]” that Richard Glossip is an innocent man. “For a couple of years now, my father has been talking to me about recanting his original testimony,” she wrote. “I feel his conscious [sic] is getting to him.”

In his interviews with Reed Smith, Sneed confirmed for the first time that he had spoken to his daughter about a desire to break his plea deal and to recant. But he also insisted that by “recant,” he didn’t mean he necessarily wanted to change his story. During an interview on August 26, Sneed told Reed Smith that “it was more about silencing my testimony in the way of me not having to be there,” he said, and “taking back the plea agreement.”

In all, Sneed has spent 11 years discussing recanting “with various individuals that he trusts,” Reed Smith noted. “When these admitted statements from Sneed made to his family in 2014 are combined with the recently obtained letters written by Sneed from 2003 and 2007, all discussing ‘recanting’ or needing to ‘clean things up’ it is deeply troubling.”

Bad Faith

Perhaps one of the most stunning new revelations is that the prosecutors who retried Glossip in 2004 were aware that Sneed had considered recanting — and took extraordinary steps to keep that from happening. “In his August 25, 2022 interview, Sneed confirmed that he met with representatives of the District Attorney’s Office along with his attorney, Gina Walker, before Glossip’s retrial where his plea agreement and his not wanting to testify were discussed,” the report says.

Notes found in the prosecutors’ file document a series of meetings with Assistant District Attorney Connie Smothermon, Sneed, and Walker regarding Sneed’s reluctance to testify — information that, by law, should have been turned over to the defense. Smothermon’s trial partner Gary Ackley told Reed Smith he didn’t know anything about this, and that it was cause for concern. “Any prosecutor would be concerned about any cooperating witness in any big case regarding the uncertainty of the waffling back and forth and the disingenuous bad faith nature of such actions,” Ackley said.

Not only was this information never disclosed to the defense, Smothermon also apparently worked with Sneed’s attorney as Glossip’s 2nd trial was underway to keep Sneed in line. In a May 2004 memo to Walker, Smothermon laid out 6 detailed questions for Sneed based on the testimony already delivered by other witnesses at the retrial. The apparent goal was to try to square Sneed’s testimony with what others had said: a maneuver that would violate rules designed to insulate witness testimony from being contaminated by outside information or from the testimony of another witness.

The most egregious example involves testimony from Dr. Chai Choi, the medical examiner who conducted Van Treese’s autopsy. At the retrial, Choi testified that Van Treese had puncture wounds, “a stabbing-type injury,” to his chest. Although there was a knife found at the scene, Sneed had previously said that he did not use the knife — an inconsistency that Smothermon sought to fix before Sneed took the stand.

“Our biggest problem is still the knife,” Smothermon wrote in the memo to Walker. “Justin tells the police that the knife fell out of his pocket and that he didn’t stab the victim with it.” But when Sneed took the stand at the retrial, he testified for the first time that he had in fact stabbed Van Treese. “This reversal of his statement given to police does not appear to be a coincidence,” Reed Smith wrote. “Rather, it appears to be manufactured in response to ADA [Smothermon’s] communication during trial to Sneed’s attorney explicitly about what had been testified to by other witnesses about the knife.”

Ackley told Reed Smith that the change in Sneed’s testimony was “night and day,” and that if it was prompted by Smothermon’s memo, it would be a problem.

At the press conference, Knight, Glossip’s attorney, again emphasized the need for an evidentiary hearing. “It becomes ever more apparent with each passing day that not only did the prosecution destroy evidence, they manufactured evidence. They changed people’s testimony. They broke the rules. All to try to get a conviction against Rich Glossip on a death penalty case that should never have been brought at all,” he said. “The thing that I think everybody needs to take away from this: Rich Glossip is a nobody. He’s not some powerful person. He’s just like all the rest of us. This is what the government can do when they’re allowed to run amok.”

(source: theintercept.com)

GLOBAL:

Structural injustice and the pope's call to end the death penalty

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken out strongly against the death penalty. In 2018, he called for a change in the Catechism to reflect the idea that capital punishment is inadmissible in the modern world, due to more effective means of detention and “an increasing awareness” of human dignity.

Most countries in the world have already eliminated capital punishment, but about 1 in 4 still continue the practice.

This month, the pope has dedicated his monthly prayer intention to the cause, inviting Catholics to pray “that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country.”

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, works to encourage Catholics to both work and pray to end capital punishment. The Catholic Mobilizing Network is calling on Catholics to join in the pope’s prayer intention this month.

Charles Camosy spoke this week with Vaillancourt Murphy about how the United States compares to other nations in its use of the death penalty, and how the practice of the death penalty is connected to racial injustice and structural inequalities.

First, can you situate the death penalty in the United States in terms of numbers? I think many might be surprised to learn the rise in the number of people killed by the death penalty - particularly in states like Oklahoma - as well as the numbers of inmates who are currently on death row. Even in so-called progressive states like California.

The death penalty is still on the books in 27 states in the U.S., three of which are currently under governor-imposed moratorium: California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

While California was the latest state to announce its moratorium, it still holds the largest death row population, accounting for 692 of the 2,474 people on death row nationally (based on a 2021 report).

Among these states still dealing out death sentences, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas execute the most people per year. To date in 2022, we have seen 10 executions in 5 states, and there are more scheduled to come. On October 5, Texas intends to kill John Ramirez.

Although public support of the death penalty is declining, and death sentences as well as executions have decreased throughout the country, several states still cling to this archaic and dehumanizing model of “justice” that is rooted in revenge. One such state is Oklahoma, which recently initiated a spree of 25 executions scheduled to take place over the next 2 years. This unprecedented spree of executions is an example of state-sanctioned bloodlust, not a victim-oriented justice system. The individuals slated to be executed include individuals with mental illness, histories of trauma and abuse, and significant claims of innocence.

While the use of the death penalty is dying a death in the U.S., there are still some states and particular counties that refuse to let go of this extremely punitive and broken system — states that resist implementing restorative approaches to crime and violence. No doubt, we have work to do to get death penalty abolition over the finish line in the U.S.

Can you say something about the demographics of the typical person who makes it to death row? What does it say about structural injustice in the United States?

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Capital punishment is the tip of the iceberg on the broken criminal legal system. Its origins are located in slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow segregation, and the practice has historically been used as an instrument of racial control, particularly among Black populations. We can trace a direct line from the horror of lynching to today's use of the death penalty. The handful of states that are still executing people are the same set of states with the highest number of lynchings.

The death penalty disproportionately affects Black and brown Americans, and evidence shows that the chances of receiving a death sentence significantly increase when the victim is white.

Institutionalized racism and discrimination are rampant in the U.S. criminal legal system, which has resulted in the over-incarceration of Black and brown people — particularly on death row. Misuse and abuse of power perpetuate racial injustice and deny human beings of their God-given dignity.

The tragic myth of the death penalty is that it kills the “worst of the worst,” but the truth is it actually targets society’s most vulnerable people: those with mental illness, those with inadequate legal representation, and people living in poverty or marginalized populations.

As a community of believers, we are called to engage in racial justice work by dismantling broken systems — including that of capital punishment in the U.S. — and building up approaches to justice that are equitable, restorative, and life-affirming.

How often are people on death row exonerated? What is typically involved in such a horrific mistake? How likely is it that innocent people have been executed in the United States?

We know that innocent people have been executed in the U.S. Since 1973, 190 wrongly convicted individuals have been exonerated and freed from death row with evidence of their innocence. The reasons for these grave mistakes include prosecutorial misconduct, forced confessions, false testimony, and more. For every 8 people executed, one person on death row has been exonerated.

As long as human beings are in charge, the system will always be fallible. This is a pretty risky business when the taking of a life cannot be “corrected.”

States have, on many occasions, executed individuals despite serious questions surrounding their guilt. Given the preponderance of exonerations throughout the country, which includes high concentration in a handful of states, it is very likely that we have executed innocent individuals who never should have been on death row in the first place.

Catholics and other people of goodwill cannot tolerate the risk of killing an innocent life.

Pro-lifers often rightly compare US abortion law to other countries to show how extreme we are. How does that work with the death penalty? With what other countries do we share the death penalty?

About 3/4 of the world have abolished the death penalty, with only 55 countries retaining this practice of state-sanctioned violence. Among them include China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt — and the United States.

What we have learned is that the death penalty is not a necessary means to protecting society from those who have committed grave harms. Evidence shows that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime. And, it costs significantly more money to execute someone that it does to support them through a life-in-prison sentence. The U.S. could learn from other countries that have decoupled their vision of “justice” from the notion of revenge and vengeance.

How has Pope Francis continued the papal tradition of calling out the death penalty? And what is being done to help achieve that vision?

The Catholic Church has been led through the papacy to work for death penalty abolition for more than 20 years. Historically, the Church allowed for capital punishment, but only in cases of grave harm when there was no better way to protect society.

In 1995, Saint Pope John Paul II challenged this historic stance in his encyclical Evangelium vitae saying: “such cases are very rare if not practically nonexistent.”

Of course, in 1999 Saint John Paul II visited St. Louis. He asked to save the life of a Missouri man named Darrell J. Mease, who was awaiting execution. Thanks be to God, the Missouri governor at the time, commuted Mease’s sentence. Saint John Paul II also made his strongest condemnation against the death penalty at that time, calling it “cruel and unnecessary” and pleading for the elimination of the practice.

Pope Benedict sustained the Church’s position throughout his papacy, calling on “society’s leaders [to] make every effort to eliminate the death penalty.”

And in 2018, Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith solidified the Church’s teaching through a historic Catechism revision, officially stating that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person (2267).”

Pope Francis punctuated this position in his papal encyclical, Fratelli tutti, calling us to work for the end of the death penalty and to prioritize reconciliation over revenge.

Pope Francis designated his September 2022 prayer intention for the global abolition of the death penalty, yet again reiterating the Church’s dedication to this important life issue. Pope Francis' prayer intention reminds us that capital punishment continues cycles of harm and violence and perpetuates a throwaway culture.

Ending the death penalty is within reach, and it’s one clear way we can build a culture of life. Every person, no matter the harm they may have caused or suffered, has God-given dignity and deserves an opportunity for restoration. May we, the Body of Christ, answer the Holy Father’s call to unite ourselves in prayer and prophetic action — not only for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide, but for the advancement of forms of justice that enable healing and transformation.

(source: The Pillar)

INDIA:

Kolkata prison inmate attempts suicide, critical

An inmate of Presidency Central Correctional Home in south Kolkata, who has been awarded capital punishment, is critical after attempting suicide in his cell, sources said here on Saturday. Rais Qureshi (50) has been admitted to the trauma care unit in state-run SSKM Medical College & Hospital, where his condition is stated to be critical.

On Friday night, Qureshi stabbed himself more than once in his cell. The matter came to the notice of the warden and security guards of the correctional home. The guards quickly entered the cell, snatched away the sharp weapons, rescued him and shifted him to the hospital. Qureshi was awarded death sentence on charges of murder of 4 persons.

Following this development, certain questions are being raised, the first being on how a sharp weapon of that nature reached the cell of capital punishment awarded prisoner, who is supposed to kept under maximum security. The second question is obviously on the reasons that prompted Qureshi to take such a drastic step. However, the state correction services department officials so far have refused to pass any comment on the development. The cops of the local Hastings Police Station have started a probe in the matter.

On September 21, 7 undertrials attempted mass suicide by drinking phenyl and detergent liquid in Vadodara Central Correctional Home in Gujarat. Although the local police said that the reason behind the development is yet to be ascertained, one of the correction home inmates, Harsh Limbachiya alleged that the jail authorities had stopped their tiffin services and were demanding bribes to restore it. He also alleged that they were not allowed to go out of the barracks and food is not served to jail inmates on time.

(source: daijiworld.com)

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FoH demands death penalty or lifer to drug dealers

Federation of Haomee (FoH) has demanded the government to award death penalty or life sentence to drug dealers.

In a release, FoH publicity secretary Dr Khomdom Lisam said that drugs have been killing people every day but those involved in drug business are released on bail after being arrested.

Release of drug traders without harsh punishment seems to encourage them, he opined.

Pointing out that a murderer is imprisoned for life, he continued that the law which free those involved in drug business, killing numerous people, should be strengthened and the government should not remain a mute spectator.

Surprised over the sit-in protest staged by a particular community of the area for firing at a drug dealer on his leg on September 16 at K Orphanage village, Khomdom observed that people know the meaning of it.

Manipur police was there during the incident and BJYM simply helped in ensuring the law and order.

The allegation that the gun was fired by BJYM should be clarified by the police, he said, while stating that CSOs will be reluctant to help in fighting against drug menace if authorities could not find out the truth.

He also stressed the need to arm volunteers for fighting war on drugs and recalled the recent Hatta incident where several rounds were fired against those who helped in seizing drugs.

(source: e-pao.net)

SINGAPORE:

S'pore police arrest 71 suspected drug offenders, seize drugs worth S$26,000----Batons, samurai swords and knives were recovered from a shophouse unit.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) arrested 71 suspected drug offenders in Singapore during an island-wide drug operation between Sep. 19 to Sep. 23, 2022.

During the operation, controlled drugs of about 158g of heroin, 77g of "Ice", 90g of cannabis, 1g of new psychoactive substances (NPS), 28 Erimin-5 tablets and 15 bottles of liquid suspected to contain GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) were seized.

These drugs have an estimated street value of about S$26,000.

The enforcement action took place in Bedok, Kallang and Tampines, according to CNB's news release

Man and woman arrested near Geylang Road

A 36-year-old male Singaporean and a 38-year-old female permanent resident were arrested in the vicinity of Geylang Road.

CNB officers had conducted an anti-drug operation at a residential unit in the vicinity of Geylang Road on Sep. 20.

Despite repeated warnings by officers, the 2 suspects refused to open the door.

Officers observing the unit then spotted them climbing out of the unit’s window onto the rooftop to evade arrest.

The 36-year-old man then climbed into another unit and was later arrested, while the 38-year-old woman was arrested by officers on the rooftop.

The duo were escorted back to their residential unit, where 12g of "Ice" and various drug paraphernalia were seized.

Offensive weapons, including batons, samurai swords and knives, were also recovered from within.

CNB said the residential unit was a shophouse.

Investigations into all arrested suspects are ongoing.

Penalties----If a person is found guilty of trafficking more than 250g of methamphetamine or 500g of cannabis, he or she may face the mandatory death penalty.

(source: mothership.sg)

CHINA:

Former Chinese deputy police minister sentenced to death for graft

A former Chinese deputy police minister who was accused of leading a criminal gang of government officials was given a death sentence with a 2-year reprieve Friday on charges of manipulating the stock market, taking bribes and other offenses, in a case that involved at least 2 former Cabinet officials, Chinese state TV reported.

Sun Lijun’s conviction and sentencing add to a string of punishments of senior officials in a purportedly anti-graft campaign that was launched after President Xi Jinping took power in late 2012 and that some see as politically motivated.

The latest penalty comes ahead of a meeting of the ruling Communist Party next month at which Xi is expected to try to break with tradition and award himself a 3rd 5-year term as leader.

A former justice minister and a former ruling party official who were accused of colluding with Sun received similar penalties Thursday.

Sun was convicted by a court in the northeastern city of Changchun of collecting $91 million in bribes, China Central TV reported on its website.

Sun was charged with using his official position in 2018 to manipulate stock trading to help a trader avoid losses. He also was accused of selling official jobs and abandoning his post during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sun was sentenced to death with a 2-year reprieve. Such penalties can be commuted to a prison term if the convict is deemed to have reformed. CCTV said that if Sun’s death sentence is commuted, he would be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The former justice minister, Fu Zhenghua, pleaded guilty to taking bribes to help hide criminal activity. Earlier news reports accused him of joining “Sun Lijun’s political gang.”

A party official, Wang Like, was charged with taking $62 million in bribes to help with business deals or in securing loans and jobs. He was accused of offering $14 million in bribes to Sun and other officials.

The Beijing government’s anti-corruption agency accused Sun last year of having “extremely inflated political ambition.” It said he engaged in unspecified “superstitious activities.”

Earlier, Sun was named in a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department against Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to compel Wynn to register as a foreign agent because of lobbying work it says he performed for the Chinese government.

The lawsuit says senior Chinese officials, including Sun, wanted Wynn’s help in trying to have a Chinese citizen’s visa application denied, according to the complaint. Beijing wanted the man, who was charged with corruption and asked for political asylum, returned to China.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Even more dangerous than King Jong Un, ‘dictator’ Xi Jinping, giving death sentence to protesting ministers, officials

2 former ministers were sentenced to death and 4 top officials sentenced to life in China this week. All of them were part of a ‘political faction’ allegedly involved in corruption and abuse of power. President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign is underway ahead of the 20th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China. In China, these officials and former ministers have been punished for going against Jinping. It shows the dictatorial attitude of the Chinese President who may get his 3rd term as President in the upcoming Congress.

Former Chinese public security minister Sun Lijun was sentenced to death on Friday for bribery, stock market manipulation and illegal possession of weapons, reports said. Lijun was accused of leading a ‘political faction’ and of opposing Jinping. According to China’s state-run news agency, Sun was stripped of his political rights for life and his personal property confiscated.

Local media said 5 former police chiefs were jailed this week on corruption charges before Sun’s sentencing. There will be a 2-year moratorium on the execution of Sun Lijun’s death sentence. On Friday, the court said it has been proved that Sun took advantage of his various positions from 2001 to April 2020, receiving a total of more than $92.30 million in money and valuables.

Officers sentenced to death

Earlier in China, 2 senior officials were punished by a court for corruption and abuse of office. On Thursday, the same court sentenced 2 senior security officials, including a powerful former justice minister Fu Zhenghua, to death. However, there will be a 2-year moratorium on its implementation. Hours later, the court handed down a similar sentence to Jiangsu official Wang Laik, reported the state-run People’s Daily Online. He is a former member of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee Communist Party of China (CPC).

(source: newsdayexpress.com)

JAPAN:

Rare recording captures final hours of a death row inmate

A rare audio recording of an exchange between a death row inmate, his sister and prison staff two days before the man was hanged will be presented as evidence in a lawsuit filed by 2 condemned prisoners contesting the constitutionality of informing convicts of their executions just hours before they take place.

The reel-to-reel recording at the Osaka Detention House in 1955 was made at the behest of Sakuro Tamai, the prison warden.

The inmate was handed the death sentence for fatally shooting a police officer during the course of a robbery.

He was informed of the time of his execution 2 days beforehand. The recording lasts around 100 minutes.

A member of staff is heard telling the inmate to make sure he gets everything off his chest.

The sister visited over 2 days and told her brother how his family was holding up. The inmate chats about his childhood and his thoughts for his aged mother.

He ends the conversation by thanking his sister for all that she had done.

“Please give my best regards to Mom. I hope you will look after the children and my wife,” the inmate said.

The sister begins sobbing, so the inmate tells her, “Stop crying, Sis. Let us laugh and part ways.”

A prison staff tells the sister, “This will be the last time you see him so hold his hands tightly.”

At the start of the recording, Tamai is heard informing the inmate that the execution would take place in 2 days.

The prison chaplain is heard speaking with the inmate. The recording also captures the sounds of small ceremonies held with other death row inmates, including the reading of last haiku by those who had joined a haiku club in the detention house.

On the day of the execution, staff and Tamai ask the inmate if he has any last words. He expresses remorse for his crime.

The recording also captures the sound of the trapdoor springing open while a Buddhist priest chants a sutra.

The recording ends with a doctor pronouncing the inmate dead 14 minutes and 2 seconds later.

The recording was kept by Tamai’s granddaughter and passed on to the lawyers of the 2 death row inmates who filed the civil lawsuit in November.

On Dec. 21, 2021, then Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa held a news conference after 3 death row inmates were hanged that morning.

He was asked about the timing of informing inmates when they would be hanged.

“We inform the inmates on the day of the execution,” Furukawa said. “We are concerned that any earlier notification could lead to significant psychological damage to the individual.”

There are no legal provisions for when inmates should be informed of their executions. In past Diet questioning, officials have said the notification is usually made an hour or 2 prior to the event.

The lawsuit submitted in November claimed the practice violates Article 31 of the Constitution which states that no “criminal penalty be imposed, except according to procedure established by law.”

The plaintiffs argue that the lack of time to prepare before an execution is carried out deprives them of the opportunity to call their lawyers to file a last-minute appeal. They also contend it deprives them of the chance to meet with family members and make final arrangements prior to their deaths.

Government officials argue that informing death row inmates of the time of the execution other than on the morning it is carried out carries the risk of the condemned becoming psychologically unstable, committing suicide or assaulting prison staff and other inmates.

Tamai’s granddaughter lived with him until she graduated from senior high school. She surmised that he bore a heavy burden throughout life because he oversaw 46 executions during the 6 years he was in charge of Osaka Detention House.

She also felt that her grandfather made the recording because he wanted future generations to hear it and ponder the nature of the death penalty system.

The woman said she wanted the tape to be widely shared and approached universities and libraries about storing the recording, but she was turned down on grounds it was not a book. She ended up passing on the recording to a lawyer through an acquaintance. The lawyer in turn passed it on to colleagues handling the lawsuit for the death row inmates.

(source: The Asahi Shimbun)

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

Japan to Suspend Myanmar Military Training Program----Decision Opens Door for Targeted Sanctions Against Junta

On Tuesday, September 20, Japan’s Defense Ministry announced that as of 2023 it would no longer accept new military personnel from the Myanmar military for training in Japan. The ministry cited the junta’s execution of 4 pro-democracy activists in July as a major factor in its decision.

“We decided it’s not appropriate to continue the military cooperation and exchange in its current form,” said Takeshi Aoki, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry. However, 2 officers and 9 cadets who are currently receiving training at Japan’s National Defense Academy and Japan Self-Defense Forces facilities will remain until their programs finish.

Since 2015, Japan has accepted cadets and officers from Myanmar under article 100-2 of the Self-Defense Forces Act, which permits training and educating foreign nationals in Defense Ministry facilities with the defense minister’s approval. Following Myanmar military’s coup in February 2021, Japan accepted 2 officers and 2 cadets in 2021 and another 2 officers and 2 cadets in 2022.

In May, Human Rights Watch and Justice For Myanmar located Myanmar Air Force Lt. Col. Hlwan Moe, who received training at Japan’s Air Command and Staff College from August 2016 to March 2017, at Magway Air Base in Myanmar’s central Magway Region. Military units deployed at the air base have been implicated in serious abuses, including possible indiscriminate airstrikes in Magway. In August, Human Rights Watch found that Myanmar Army Brig. Gen. Tin Soe, who received training at Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force Staff College from August 2016 to March 2017, was based at Eastern Command headquarters from August 2021 to July 2022. Eastern Command oversees operations in southern Shan and Karenni (Kayah) States and its forces were responsible for a massacre of civilians and other atrocities.

The Defense Ministry’s decision to suspend the training program is critical to ensuring that Japan does not risk becoming complicit in Myanmar military abuses. It is a small and long overdue step, but one that should embolden the Japanese government to join with other democracies that are taking stronger action against the junta. Japan should publicly voice its support for the draft Myanmar resolution that Britain circulated at the United Nations Security Council. That resolution reportedly calls for a global arms embargo on Myanmar that would prohibit all military training and imposes sanctions on the junta.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

PAKISTAN:

Man handed down death penalty for son’s murder

Additional District and Sessions Judge Syed Kaleem Raza has awarded death penalty and Rs200,000 fine to Haq Nawaz who killed his young son for meeting his maternal relatives against his wishes.

According to an FIR lodged with the Bhowana police under section 302 of PPC, Malik Khan Jappah, maternal uncle of deceased, said he visited Haq Nawaz’s house and found him hitting his son Amanat Ali with an axe. He said Nawaz fled when Ali succumbed to injuries. The incident took place on Nov 24, 2020.

The reason behind killing was that Nawaz forbade his son from meeting his maternal relatives but he refused and joined a Mehfil-i-Milad held at his maternal uncle Malik Khan’s house a day ago. Malik Khan thanked the district police for swift investigation and prosecution.

He said Nawaz had killed his wife Kausar Bibi on March 29, 2008. He was arrested and sentenced to 25 years jail by court. However, deceased Kausar Bibi’s mother forgave him and he was released by the Lahore High Court in 2011.

(source: dawn.com)

ZIMBABWE:

Zimbabwe banishes death penalty

IT'S been 6 273 days since Zimbabwe hanged a condemned person.

For the gruesome murder of Themba Nkiwane, the High Court sentenced Never Masina Mandlenkosi to death in 2002 and he was executed on July 22, 2005.

Since then no other prisoner has been executed.

With President Mnangagwa being outspoken about the death penalty, it is not surprising that the country is a de facto abolitionist, even though it retains capital punishment in its criminal law.

The country doesn't even have a hangman.

"Zimbabwe has no hangman," Mrs Virginia Mabhiza, Judiciary Services Commission (JSC) secretary told our Bulawayo Bureau.

No hangman and executions in the last 17 years for Zimbabwe but the courts keep on passing death sentences as enshrined in the 2013 Constitution that was adopted following a referendum after a constitutional review process.

Currently there are 62 prisoners on death row in Zimbabwe as the country looks set to continue with its moratorium on executions.

In 2013, as Justice Minister then, President Mnangagwa publicly declared his disdain for capital punishment of prisoners.

"As someone who has been on death row myself and only saved by an ‘age technicality', I believe that our justice delivery system must rid itself of this odious and obnoxious provision," President Mnangagwa was quoted saying at the Harare Gardens on October 10 of that year.

In a report at the ongoing 51st regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the question of the death penalty, the human rights committee states that article 6 (6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reaffirms the position that States parties that are not yet totally abolitionist should be on an irrevocable path towards complete eradication of the death penalty, de facto and de jure, in the foreseeable future. The death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life, and abolition of the death penalty is both desirable and necessary for the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.

"Some 170 States have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice, or have suspended executions for more than 10 years. In 2020, the General Assembly adopted resolution 75/183, in which it called upon States to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty. In their submissions for the present report, several States described their process of and support for abolition," reads the human rights committee report.

According to a paper by Professor of Criminology Carolyn Doyle on Lets Abolish Death Penalty in Zimbabwe by The Death Penalty Project in partnership with a Zimbabwe based Non-Governmental Organisation, Veritas, the United Nations considers Zimbabwe as a de facto abolitionist, having not executed anyone since July 2005.

While a new Constitution in 2013 failed to abolish the death penalty, it narrowed its scope and imposed restrictions on its use. Article 48 abolished the mandatory death penalty and the new discretionary death sentence can be imposed only for murder where there are aggravating circumstances. The new Constitution also abolished the death penalty for young people up to and including the age of 21 (at the time of the crime),1 for people aged 70 and over, and for all women.

The Death Penalty Project considers views of opinion leaders of 42 influential persons who could be considered opinion formers or key influencers, including those who work in positions of responsibility within the criminal justice process. Interviewees included politicians, legal practitioners, religious leaders, leading members of civil society or academia, senior public servants, leading members of trades unions, those with a background in defence, including war veterans, and influential members of the media.

"Interviewees were asked about their views on: the retention and administration of the death penalty; the likelihood of abolition and how that could be achieved; the possible benefits and demerits of the death penalty; the implications of retention or abolition in respect to Zimbabwe's place in the wider Southern African region, as well as the international community; and other, more effective, measures to tackle violent crime," reads the report.

Of the interviewed opinion leaders, 90 percent supported the abolition of the death penalty, 64 percent believe the retention of the death penalty has damaged the country's international reputation and 69 percent believe the death penalty does not deter violent crime.

"Most Zimbabweans know that the death penalty is a subject on which I feel deeply. As I have said in the past, I believe it to be a flagrant violation of the right to life and dignity.

"I welcome this report, which shows that almost all Zimbabwean opinion formers are of the same mind, in that they wish to see the death penalty abolished. This report, and the research on which it is based, follows upon a wider survey, conducted in 2017, which revealed that only a small majority of our citizens are in favour of keeping the death penalty, and that out of those who favour it, 80 per cent will be prepared to go along with abolition if the Government so decides.

"There has not been an execution in Zimbabwe since 2005. For nearly 15 years, therefore, we have had a de facto moratorium on the death penalty. It is my sincere hope that, in the near future, Zimbabwe will formally abolish the penalty by removing it from our statute books," wrote President Mnangagwa on the foreword of the report in 2020.

Early this week, Equatorial Guinea became the 25th African State to abolish the death penalty.

Now, the question is: Is Zimbabwe ready and willing to abolish the death penalty?

Mrs Mabhiza said the Ministry of Justice fully supports abolition of the death penalty but says their hands were tied as the issue is a matter of public opinion.

"We believe that the decision to abolish the death penalty should come from the general public, one which we should not impose on them as Government. The reason I state this is due to how it was engraved in our Constitution.

"The current position in the Constitution reflects a compromise agreement between the parties to the Constitution making process, which has largely been viewed as a tremendous starting point towards the total abolition of the death penalty.

"As you may be aware that the process of coming up with the Constitution also as an activity included public consultations and a referendum were an overwhelming majority of people voted for retaining the death penalty," said Mrs Mabhiza.

As a resultant, section 48 (2) of the Constitution permits the sentencing of men between the ages of 21 and 70 years if they are convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.

Mrs Mabhiza said the same sentence cannot be carried out on women and male persons who are under the age of 21 and over the age of 70 years. "We, as Ministry believe that the 2013 Constitution ushered in an era in Zimbabwe which has helped highlight the question of the death penalty and has encouraged to sway public perception to move toward the inevitable abolishment of the death penalty in law and practice," she said.

President Mnangagwa has reiterated that Zimbabwe should abolish the death penalty and the Ministry of Justice is in full support of that position, she added.

Victoria Falls-based lawyer, Mr Matshobana Ncube of Ncube Attorneys, supports the abolition of the death penalty, describing it as cruel and inhumane.

"The whole world is moving away from the death penalty, it is cruel and inhumane, it's the most brutal kind of punishment, it's judicial sanctioned murder, it has not been proven to reduce crime.

"If it is later found that the wrong person has been hanged, there is no recourse. In the US, we have seen people who have been in jail for over 40 years being exonerated? What would have happened if the person had been hanged," said Mr Ncube.

Mrs Mabhiza said the death penalty in Zimbabwe could only be abolished through an amendment of the Constitution following a referendum with the motion to amend Section 48 (2) being triggered by a representative of the people in the National Assembly.

"Therefore, a petition from the general public to the National Assembly might be sufficient to trigger the process," she said.

It is the Government's view that when the Constitution was enshrined, the majority that were in favour of the death penalty were ignorant of the fact that section 48 (2) of the Constitution was contrary to section 48 (1) and other provisions of the Constitution that guarantee the right to life for all, said Mrs Mabhiza.

"The right to life is complemented by other rights which include but not limited to the right to human dignity, and the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, section 56 guarantees that all persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Furthermore, that both women and men have right to equal treatment and equal protection from discrimination on the basis of age and sex.

"Having identified these inconsistencies, the Government is cognisant of its duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and freedoms in the Bill of Rights that also includes the right to life. Moreover, criminological researches have revealed that the death penalty does not deter the commission of crimes but rather compounds it.

The possibility of the sentence being meted out on innocent persons cannot be ruled out and once executed, by its nature, the sentence is unfortunately irrevocable," she said.

Mrs Mabhiza said the executive, legislature and judiciary as well as all agencies of Government are bound by the Bill of rights, thus must endeavour to balance conflicting interests and this is the main reason why the Justice and Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ministry has endeavoured to save prisoners on death row from execution by petitioning Cabinet to consider granting clemency so that the death penalty is commuted to life imprisonment.

In 2017, the late President Mugabe called for the restoration of the death penalty in what he said was due to an increase in murder cases in the country.

"I think let's restore the death penalty. If you hear people are being executed, know Mugabe's thinking has prevailed," the former President said during the burial of national hero Cde Don Kwaedza at the National Heroes Acre.

His remarks were triggered by the chilling murder of a Catholic nun Plaxedes Kamundiya while she was praying at a shrine in Mutoko.

The late President was Catholic.

(source: bulawayo24.com)

SEPTEMBER 23, 2022:

TEXAS:

Texas Prosecutor Loses Attempt to Spare a Murderer From Execution----The state criminal appeals court shut down a district attorney’s argument that John Henry Ramirez should not be executed because the death penalty was “unethical.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday denied a motion to postpone the execution of a prisoner scheduled to be killed next month for the murder of a convenience store worker.

The rejection was the latest twist in the tumultuous case of John Henry Ramirez, who won notoriety when he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court — not to spare his life, but to allow his pastor to lay hands on him and pray in the execution chamber. Mr. Ramirez won that appeal, and his execution date was set for Oct. 5.

But then came a reversal unrelated to Mr. Ramirez’s religious freedom case: The district attorney of Nueces County, Mark Gonzalez, filed a motion withdrawing his office’s request for a death warrant, citing his “firm belief that the death penalty is unethical.”

The withdrawal would most likely have postponed Mr. Ramirez’s execution until at least 2024, when Mr. Gonzalez’s term expires.

Mr. Gonzalez’s motion landed on the desk of Judge Bobby Galvan, who presided over Mr. Ramirez’s original trial and set his execution date. At a hearing in June, Judge Galvan denied Mr. Gonzalez’s request to withdraw the execution warrant, saying he did not believe he had that authority as a judge. Thursday’s decision from the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Judge Galvan’s ruling. Mr. Gonzalez did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday evening.

Mr. Ramirez was convicted in 2008 of repeatedly stabbing a convenience store worker named Pablo Castro in the course of a robbery. Mr. Ramirez and two friends were driving around Corpus Christi looking for someone to rob for drug money when they encountered Mr. Castro, a father of nine. Prosecutors say the robbery netted them $1.25.

Mr. Ramirez’s guilt is not in question. He admitted to the murder at his trial.

Asked to submit any mitigating circumstances at his sentencing, he offered a Bible verse, Psalm 51:3: “For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.”

Four of Mr. Castro’s children filed a brief this year asking the court to retain the October execution date and end “an ordeal that has denied peace and closure” to them for almost 2 decades.

In an interview in April, Fernando Castro, one of Mr. Castro’s sons, called the district attorney’s withdrawal “outrageous,” adding that frequent postponements and reversals had been painful for his family. “This isn’t something I want to keep thinking about,” he said.

Mr. Ramirez developed a relationship in prison with a Baptist pastor named Dana Moore and asked that Mr. Moore be allowed to pray out loud with him and touch him in the execution chamber. The state denied his request, citing security concerns. The case made it to the Supreme Court, which ruled, 8-1, in Mr. Ramirez’s favor in March.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that “there is a rich history of clerical prayer at the time of a prisoner’s execution, dating back well before the founding of our nation.”

Mr. Ramirez’s last option for avoiding execution is if the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles grants him clemency. Mr. Ramirez’s lawyer, Seth Kretzer, said on Thursday that “the chances are not exactly good,” and that he was now preparing for Mr. Ramirez to receive a “constitutionally appropriate execution” that included his pastor next month.

(source: New York Times)

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

Texas death row exoneree asks state justices to OK his federal lawsuit----Alfred Brown's attorney argued he can pursue federal civil rights claims against the prosecutor and police who sent him to death row, even if Texas has compensated him for his imprisonment.

Alfred Brown spent a decade on Texas death row because a prosecutor framed him for the murder of a Houston policeman. For that injustice, the state is paying him $2 million. But his attorney argued Thursday that should not preclude him pursuing a federal civil rights lawsuit over his wrongful incarceration.

Brown, then 21, had what he thought was an airtight alibi when police arrested him and 2 of his friends in April 2003 after a 3-man robbery crew shot to death Alfredia Jones, a clerk at a check-cashing store, and Houston policeman Charles Clark, the officer who had rushed to the scene.

Brown, now 40, told police he was at his girlfriend Ericka Dockery’s home at the time of the murders. In fact, he had called her at work from her landline phone to tell her about the shootings after he saw live TV news coverage of them.

But Brown’s friends pinned Officer Clark’s murder on him.

Dockery told a grand jury Brown could not have been involved because of the phone call. But she agreed to cooperate with Harris County prosecutor Daniel Rizzo after she was charged with felony perjury for insisting Brown was innocent and locked up for months in the county jail in downtown Houston, with Rizzo threatening she would go to prison and lose custody of her 3 daughters if she did not change her story.

With Dockery as his star witness, Rizzo convinced jurors to convict Brown of capital murder and sentence him to death in October 2005.

The truth started to emerge in 2013, when Houston police detective Breck McDaniel found the phone records corroborating Brown’s alibi while cleaning his garage, leading the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate Brown’s conviction and sentence and remand to the trial court.

Brown remained in prison while prosecutors decided whether to retry him. But they moved to dismiss his case for insufficient evidence on June 8, 2015, and later that day Brown was released from custody.

Brown turned his attention to getting compensation from Texas for his imprisonment under the Tim Cole Act. But he had a problem: To qualify, a defendant must secure a finding they are “actually innocent.”

So in June 2017, Brown filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against three Houston police detectives who investigated his case, and prosecutor Rizzo – who by then had retired – alleging they had withheld exculpatory evidence and influenced trial witnesses, resulting his murder conviction. He also claimed Harris County and the city of Houston had unconstitutional policies that led to his conviction.

With Rizzo denying he knew about the exculpatory phone records during Brown’s trial, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal dismissed him from the federal case after deciding he was protected by prosecutorial immunity.

Nonetheless, Rizzo’s story unraveled during discovery in Brown’s lawsuit. An email surfaced showing Rizzo had received the phone records in May 2003.

Prosecutors then launched an investigation culminating in a determination Brown was in fact actually innocent.

Brown once again applied for wrongful imprisonment compensation from Texas. But state Comptroller Glenn Hegar denied his application and a subsequent one he filed.

Stonewalled by Hegar, Brown asked for relief the Texas Supreme Court, which granted his mandamus petition, ordering Texas to compensate him pursuant to the Tim Cole Act.

Texas agreed to pay Brown around $2 million. 2 days before Christmas 2020, Brown received a $980,000 check from the state. It agreed to give him the rest in annuity payments over the rest of his life.

Judge Rosenthal sided with the defendants and dismissed Brown’s case. She found that because Brown had received Tim Cole Act compensation, he was barred from additional recovery through his lawsuit.

Brown appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which asked the Texas Supreme Court to weigh in.

The New Orleans-based appellate court tasked the state justices with answering a certified question: Does the Tim Cole Act bar “maintenance of a lawsuit involving the same subject matter against any governmental units or employees that was filed before the claimant received compensation under that statute?”

Brown’s attorney, Charles Biles of the Dallas firm Steptoe Johnson, told the Texas Supreme Court on Thursday the case is clear-cut: “Despite the amount of briefing in this case, at the end of the day, it hinges on the meaning of five words, ‘may not bring any action.’”

Biles argued it is evident by placing that phrase in the statute, the Texas Legislature only meant to stop people who get Tim Cole Act compensation from then suing local governments and officials they believe are responsible for their incarceration.

Houston city attorney Christy Martin countered the Legislature’s intended meaning is much more expansive. She said it meant to foreclose any related lawsuit, whether filed before or after the claimant received Tim Cole Act funds.

“Bring can mean to put forward. And it’s bring any action. … An action can mean more than just a lawsuit, action can mean causes of action, a claim. If you are bringing any action, you are presenting any claim to any court,” she said.

Justice Evan Young asked Biles why he thinks the Legislature did not just make a mistake by not clarifying it meant to stop wrongfully incarcerated people from double dipping through litigation and the Tim Cole Act.

Biles distinguished Brown’s case from other convictions that stem from honest mistakes, such as prosecutors believing they had the right person until DNA evidence proved their innocence.

“But if a prosecutor has intentionally prosecuted somebody unlawfully, intentionally, the only way for Mr. Brown or any other … person to figure that out is to file a lawsuit,” Biles said.

“How are they going to get the deposition? How else are they going to get the email? It’s the litigation," he added. "So I think it’s very rational to say, ‘Listen what we’re concerned about here is people who take the money and then turn around and sue. We don’t like it.’ But in this case, they’re not so much worried about people who need to sue to get there in the first place.”

Seth Hopkins, a special assistant Harris County attorney, argued Brown had waived his civil rights claims when he cashed the state’s $980,000 check.

But Justice Jimmy Blacklock questioned if the Tim Cole Act violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution – which stipulates the Constitution and federal laws take priority over conflicting state laws – by barring pursuit of federal claims.

Hopkins said he preferred to let the Fifth Circuit deal with the supremacy clause and focus on the controversy over the statute’s phrasing. “But if you want to go further we’re certainly happy to brief the issue,” he said.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office filed an amicus brief supporting Houston and Harris County and made arguments for them Thursday.

The 9 justices did not say when they would issue a ruling.

(source: Courthouse News)

ALABAMA:

Alabama halts execution because of time, IV access concerns

Alabama officials called off the Thursday lethal injection of a man convicted in a 1999 workplace shooting because of time concerns and trouble accessing the inmate’s veins.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said the state halted the scheduled execution of Alan Miller after they determined they could not get the lethal injection underway before a midnight deadline. Prison officials made the decision at about 11:30 p.m. The last-minute reprieve came nearly three hours after a divided U.S. Supreme Court had cleared the way for the execution to begin.

“Due to time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned inmate’s veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the death warrant,” Hamm said.

Hamm said “accessing the veins was taking a little bit longer than we anticipated.” He did not know how long the team tried to establish a connection, but noted there are a number of procedures to be done before the team begins trying to connect the IV line.

Miller was returned to his regular cell at a south Alabama prison.

The aborted execution came after the state’s July execution of Joe Nathan James took more than 3 hours to get underway after the state had difficulties establishing an intravenous line, leading to accusations that the execution was botched.

Miller, 57, was sentenced to death after being convicted of a 1999 workplace rampage in which he killed Terry Jarvis, Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy. “Despite the circumstances that led to the cancellation of this execution, nothing will change the fact that a jury heard the evidence of this case and made a decision,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. She added that three families are still grieving.

“We all know full well that Michael Holdbrooks, Terry Lee Jarvis and Christopher Scott Yancey did not choose to die by bullets to the chest. Tonight, my prayers are with the victims’ families and loved ones as they are forced to continue reliving the pain of their loss,” Ivey said.

An anti-death penalty group said the situation with Miller’s attempted lethal injection sounded similar to other “botched” executions.

“It is hard to see how they can persist with this broken method of execution that keeps going catastrophically wrong, again and again. In its desperation to execute, Alabama is experimenting on prisoners behind closed doors — surely the definition of cruel and unusual punishment,” Maya Foa, director of Reprieve US Forensic Justice Initiative, a human rights group opposed to the death penalty, said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Miller, a delivery truck driver, killed co-workers Holdbrooks and Yancy at a business in suburban Birmingham and then drove off to shoot former supervisor Jarvis at a business where Miller had previously worked. Each man was shot multiple times and Miller was captured after a highway chase.

Trial testimony indicated Miller believed the men were spreading rumors about him, including that he was gay. A psychiatrist hired by the defense found Miller suffered from severe mental illness and delusions but also said Miller’s condition wasn’t bad enough to use as a basis for an insanity defense under state law.

Justices in a 5-4 decision lifted an injunction — issued by a federal judge and left in place by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — that had blocked Miller’s execution from going forward. Miller’s attorneys said the state lost the paperwork requesting his execution be carried out using nitrogen hypoxia, a method legally available to him but never before used in the U.S.

When Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method in 2018, state law gave inmates a brief window to designate it as their execution method. Miller testified that he turned in paperwork 4 years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method, putting the documents in a slot in his cell door at the Holman Correctional Facility for a prison worker to collect.

U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday blocking the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia after finding it was “substantially likely” that Miller “submitted a timely election form even though the State says that it does not have any physical record of a form.”

Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. Nitrogen hypoxia is authorized for executions in 3 states but none have attempted to put an inmate to death using the method. Alabama officials told the judge they are working to finalize the protocol.

Many states 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. That has led some to seek alternate methods.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Legal challenges, difficulty establishing an IV complicated hours before Miller's death warrant expired

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday night cleared Alabama to execute Alan Eugene Miller by lethal injection, days after a lower court said the state could execute him only by nitrogen hypoxia.

At 9:20 p.m., prison officials said they'd been given the go-ahead by the state Attorney General's Office to begin proceedings. Media, family members who were off-site, and attorneys were expected to be brought to the death chamber of Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, to witness the execution.

But the state ran out of time.

ADOC Commissioner John Hamm early Friday morning said prison staff could not establish intravenous access to deliver a lethal injection. As the time drew closer to midnight, Miller's execution was called off, Hamm said.

At 12:31 a.m., Hamm said Miller was alive and back in his prison cell. He did not provide further details as to Miller's condition.

"Due to the time constraints resulting from the lateness of the court proceedings, the execution was called off once it was determined the condemned's veins could not be accessed in accordance with our protocol before the expiration of the deadline," Hamm said.

From a preliminary injunction on Monday that stayed Miller's execution, to the moment media witnesses learned that prison officials themselves had called off the execution, here's a timeline of key events in the Alan Eugene Miller case:

Miller sentenced to death for killing three men in 1999

Miller was sentenced to death for the killing of 3 men in 2 workplace shootings in Shelby County in 1999. Prosecutors said an employee entering Ferguson Enterprises in Pelham saw Miller exit the building on Aug. 5, 1999, before finding Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy dead inside.

Miller then drove to nearby Post Airgas, where he had previously worked, and killed employee Terry Jarvis, prosecutors say. The jury deliberated for 20 Miller seeks a preliminary injunction over nitrogen hypoxia election form

Miller, 57, in August filed suit against Hamm, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Holman Correctional Facility Warden Terry Raybon, seeking an injunction to stop his execution by lethal injection.

He maintained that he chose to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia in 2018 because he is afraid of needles and had prior experience working with chemicals. He accused state officials, who say they have no record of his election, of losing a form he says he submitted to prison staff in which he chose death by nitrogen hypoxia.

In a hearing on Sept. 12, state Deputy Attorney General James Houts said the state was “very likely” to be prepared to execute Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on his scheduled Sept. 22 execution date. Prison officials backed away from that claim after U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. demanded that the state say with certainty whether it would be able to use nitrogen hypoxia by that date.

On Sept. 19, Huffaker issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from executing Miller “by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia” until further court order.

State appeals ruling that effectively postpones Milller's execution

Marshall filed an appeal with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a reply brief, Miller’s attorneys called the state’s attempt to overturn the preliminary injunction “last minute” and said that any delay in Miller’s execution is “entirely a consequence of Appellant’s failures.” They argued that the district court’s judgment shouldn’t be reversed as 11th Circuit precedent reserves such decisions for cases of “clear abuse of discretion” by the district judge.

The Alabama AG's office accused Miller of "inexcusable delay" and argued that Miller's allegations that the Department of Corrections lost his form to opt into nitrogen hypoxia — which they did not concede — should not factor into the court's decision.

"Miller tries to run from his pleadings, but they leave no doubt that he alleges nothing more than a species of common-law negligence," the filing said. "And because 'injuries inflicted by governmental negligence are not addressed by the United States Constitution,' ... Miller’s claim cannot succeed."

The AG's office also argued that there was no evidence Miller submitted a form. 11th Circuit Judges Adalberto Jordan and Robin Rosenbaum, both appointed by President Barack Obama, wrote that there was also no evidence he did not.

"The officials at Holman chose not to keep a list or log of those inmates who submitted election forms, and the State cannot now blame Mr. Miller for that institutional decision," they wrote. "What the state is asking for is blind acceptance of its position that Mr. Miller did not submit a timely election form because he had no corroborating evidence that satisfied the state."

The three-judge panel on Thursday afternoon upheld Huffaker's order, ruling that the Alabama AG's office had not shown that the lower court abused its discretion in blocking the execution.

11th Circuit Judge Robert Luck, appointed by President Donald Trump, dissented, arguing the state had records from at least 50 death row inmates who chose execution by nitrogen hypoxia.

Nitrogen hypoxia:In 2018, Alabama approved death by nitrogen for executions. When did it inform its inmates?

"It may be, as the district court found, that Miller did, in fact, timely elect nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution. But without an election form or contemporaneous documents showing an election — like the state had for every other death row inmate that elected nitrogen hypoxia—the state had a rational reason to treat Miller differently," Luck wrote.

Federal courts have been largely unsympathetic to arguments from inmates that the process was flawed. Last October, Alabama executed Willie B. Smith for the 1991 murder of Sharma Ruth Johnson after the U.S. Supreme Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from Smith's attorneys that the inmate's intellectual disabilities meant he did not understand he could choose death by nitrogen hypoxia.

In January, attorneys for death row inmate Matthew Reeves, convicted of the 1996 murder of Willie Johnson, also argued that Reeves' intellectual disabilities prevented him from understanding his choice. The 11th Circuit initially stayed Reeves' execution but was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court. Reeves was executed by lethal injection on Jan. 21.

State makes final appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Late Thursday afternoon, the Alabama AG’s office filed an application to the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the stay of Miller's execution, requesting a ruling from the court by 7 p.m., CDT, on Thursday.

In the 43-page appeal, the AG's office argued that Miller should have sought legal recourse earlier and that his request for an injunction was a way to delay his death sentence. "Because nitrogen hypoxia is not currently available as a method of execution in Alabama, the injunction is an effective commutation of Miller’s death sentence," Marshall wrote.

The AG's office said the district court that issued the injunction prohibiting his execution by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia "badly abused" its discretion. It also argued that Miller's claims of the state's negligence, by failing to properly keep a record of those who elected nitrogen hypoxia, did not amount to a constitutional deprivation.

"Miller has therefore alleged, at most, that ADOC was insufficiently careful with handling his method-of-execution form. But '[t]he guarantee of due process has never been understood to mean that the State must guarantee duecare on the part of its officials,'" the AG's office wrote.

3 1/2 hours after the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Miller's attorneys filed a response.

His attorneys noted that the state had shifted its strategy, focusing not on the court's factual findings of whether Miller timely elected nitrogen hypoxia in writing — the district judge thinks it is likely he did — but on the fact that the state does not have his form and feels the evidence provided was not sufficient.

"The State’s new, Kafkaesque argument in favor of forcing an illegal execution tonight is that the truth of whether Mr. Miller timely submitted his nitrogen hypoxia election form does not matter," the attorneys wrote.

Miller's attorneys also noted that the state's request to the Supreme Court — to vacate the preliminary injunction — was different than its earlier request to the 11th Circuit to stay the injunction. However, a stay or vacatur of a preliminary injunction would have the same effect, practically: Miller's execution by lethal injection.

"Mr. Miller will be executed, and there is every reason to believe he will be executed soon. All he asks is that the State respect the choice the legislature gave him: to die by nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection," Miller's attorneys wrote.

Supreme Court votes 5-4 to allows execution to proceed

Just after 9 p.m. Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared Alabama to execute Miller by lethal injection. By 9:20 p.m., an ADOC spokesperson told reporters that the Alabama AG's office had given prison officials the OK to proceed. "It's a go," she said she was told.

(source: Montgomery Advertiser)

LOUISIANA:

LOUISIANA WANTS TO JAIL KIDS AT ANGOLA PRISON’S OLD DEATH ROW----An upcoming court ruling could decide the fate of a plan to detain “problematic youth” at a facility that previously housed prisoners awaiting execution.

A federal judge is expected to rule this week on Louisiana’s widely condemned plan to transfer youth detained in juvenile facilities to a unit that once served as the state’s death row.

In July, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, announced a proposal to move approximately 2 dozen young people from the Bridge City Center for Youth, located outside New Orleans, to a building on the grounds of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola.

The facility slated to detain youth previously housed the state’s male death row prisoners until 2006, when they were moved to another building at Angola, which is also the site of the state’s execution chamber. More recently, the unit held incarcerated women who had been displaced by flooding at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.

The governor’s announcement came just days after several young people escaped the Bridge City facility. The transfers, Edwards said, would begin as soon as possible.

Since then, the state has said the plan would allow for the transfer of any “problematic youth” held at the state’s secure juvenile facilities, which can detain children as young as 10 years old. The state says they’re establishing a temporary “Transitional Treatment Unit” at Angola to detain young people who need a “more restrictive housing environment,” while they work to develop a permanent housing site.

Youth sent to Angola, the state’s oldest and only maximum security prison, would remain under the authority of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) and be held in a separate building from adult prisoners.

In August, several law firms filed a class action suit, challenging the proposed transfers as unconstitutional and in violation of a federal law mandating complete separation between incarcerated adults and youth. In a response to the suit, the OJJ said it had purchased “blackout” fabric that can be wrapped around the fenceline of the youth housing facility to create the required separation. The court has barred all transfers pending the judge’s decision, which is expected this week.

“This is not simply a location change,” said Nancy Rosenbloom, a Senior Litigation Advisor in the ACLU National Prison Project, which has joined the suit. The transfers will send a message to youth “that they will be going into the grounds of a maximum security prison, one of the most notorious in the country, and that this is how they will be treated.”

Community members say the plan is emblematic of Louisiana’s profoundly broken juvenile justice system, which violates its mandate to rehabilitate young people in its care.

In March, The Marshall Project, ProPublica, and NBC News, published an investigation into a Louisiana juvenile detention facility where teenagers were physically assaulted by staff, held in solitary confinement for weeks, and denied court-ordered services. Last month, the Louisiana Illuminator reported that job applicants flagged as high-risk for sexually abusing youth would still be considered for employment in OJJ’s secure care facilities.

As both sides await the judge’s ruling, children in OJJ custody are fearful of being transferred to Angola, said Kristen Rome, co-executive director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit law office that represents youth in the justice system. Rome said it’s unconscionable that Angola, once a plantation for enslaved Africans, is now poised to incarcerate children, especially considering the majority of children held in OJJ secure care facilities are Black.

Youth could be sent to Angola for a variety of behaviors, including committing certain acts of violence against a staff member or possessing marijuana, according to a policy approved by the OJJ deputy secretary in August. The policy would allow for the transfer of up to four youth classified as seriously mentally ill and states that youth with significant developmental disabilities should be referred to the unit on a case-by-case basis.

“For our clients, they’re terrified. They are calling us all the time. Asking a lot of questions,” Rome told The Appeal. “It’s clear that no one’s communicating with them.”

Some staff inside the juvenile facilities have attempted to reassure children that they won’t be moved, because they’re “one of the good ones,” said Rome.

The class action suit was filed on behalf of detained youth, including Alex A., a 17-year-old at Bridge City who the state has recommended for transfer to Angola because of alleged disciplinary issues. Alex has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and takes medication “related to the nightmares he has from trauma,” his mother told the court in a statement. He will be released from custody no later than 2024.

“The fear and uncertainty around the move to Angola has caused Alex to tear out his hair and to not be able to sleep,” Alex’s mother said.

In a hand-written statement to the court, Alex wrote that he attends school at Bridge City, where he receives accommodations for a learning disability. Math is his favorite subject and he checks out books from the school library, he wrote. He has weekly group and individual counseling sessions, and meets with a social worker every two weeks. Alex speaks to his mother every day by phone for 15 minutes.

“It is the part of the day I look forward to the most,” he wrote. “She is the only one that really listens to me.”

Alex wrote that he and others at the facility are “terrified” of being transferred, and that “youth break down and shed tears because of the prospect of being moved to Angola.”

Young people transferred to Angola will be held in windowless cells with floor to ceiling metal bars, according to the court filing submitted by the ACLU and others. The facility “is going to scream ‘prison’ to young people,” Vincent Schiraldi, an expert for the plaintiffs and the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, testified in early September. During a tour of the unit before the hearing, Schiraldi photographed fire exit plans posted on the walls that stated, “Reception Center – Death Row.”

An OJJ spokesperson told The Appeal in an email that the facility has been renovated to accommodate young people’s needs, including the creation of spaces for education, visitation, and mental health services. The facility is more than a mile away from the nearest adult housing unit and youth “will not see nor hear adult inmates,” the spokesperson wrote. However, in the case of a life-threatening medical emergency, children would be treated at the hospital on the prison grounds, according to the spokesperson.

“As OJJ has said many times, this is not an ideal solution, but it is the best temporary solution we have available to us to keep our youth safe, to keep our staff safe, and to keep our communities safe after recent incidents,” the OJJ spokesperson wrote.

Opposition to the Angola transfer has been widespread. In July, an official with the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to the head of Louisiana’s juvenile justice agency, writing that the plan was “problematic” and could potentially violate federal law. Last month, advocates with Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children held a rally at the state capitol opposing the transfers. The state’s plan is “moving us backwards,” the group’s executive director and co-founder Gina Womack told The Appeal.

“They continue to perpetuate a damaging narrative about Black and brown youth to justify the ways in which they are mistreated and harmed,” she said.

In a letter to the governor and other state officials dated Sept. 20, leaders of Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice, a group of current and former youth correctional administrators, wrote that they condemn the plan “in the strongest possible terms.”

Young detainees engaging in “problematic behavior” do not yet have fully developed brains, and need education, support, and to “believe in their potential,” they wrote. This approach would lead to safer communities and lower recidivism rates; transferring young people to Angola, they warned, “will do the opposite.”

“Angola is perhaps the most infamous prison in the country, and exists in our national conscience as a quintessential harsh, merciless, and dangerous place for adults who may never be free again,” the letter’s authors wrote. “This lore is not lost on the children that Louisiana is now planning to send there.”

(source: theappeal.org)

OHIO:

Ohio executions still on hold as state struggles to get drugs needed

We’re investigating the status of Ohio’s death penalty, since it’s been 4 years since the state’s last execution.

We found Ohio’s “unofficial” death penalty moratorium is continuing.

Execution dates for death row inmates continue to be pushed back and rescheduled again.

19 Investigates found there are no executions set for this year anymore, after the governor made some postponements.

Governor Mike DeWine points to the state’s continued struggle to get the drugs needed for lethal injection from pharmaceutical companies as part of the problem.

It’s an issue many other states are facing.

Quisi Bryan was set to be executed next month.

He shot and killed Cleveland police officer Wayne Leon back in 2000.

Bryan is now set to be executed in 4 years, in 2026.

19 Investigates found 129 Ohio inmates are on death row, including 1 woman.

9 executions are set for next year, 8 are scheduled for 2024, 10 executions are set for 2025 and 5 are on the list for 2026.

That’s 42 total executions scheduled so far.

We learned the 1st execution in 2023 is set for March.

Charles Lorraine was convicted of stabbing an elderly couple in Warren to death in 1986.

The execution of Melvin Bonnell is also set for next year.

Bonnell was convicted for the 1987 murder of Robert E. Bunner in Ohio City.

The latest execution date was just set this Wednesday for a convicted child killer.

The Ohio Supreme Court announced Danny Lee Hill will be put to death July 2026.

Investigators say Hill raped and murdered a 12-year-old boy in Trumbull County back in 1985.

He’s been on death row since 1986 and continues to appeal his conviction.

We discovered the average time an inmate spends on death row in Ohio has increased to about 20 years.

But only 1 of every 6 death penalties issued since 1981 have been carried out.

State officials are well aware of issues with the system, calling it “increasingly time consuming, costly and lethargic” in the 2021 Capital Crimes Annual Report.

The Death Penalty Information Center analyzed more than 400 Ohio death sentences and found the most likely outcome isn’t death.

Instead, the death sentence is often overturned and the defendant is resentenced to life or exonerated.

In 2020, DeWine urged lawmakers to find a different method for state executions.

From 1981 to 2021, 336 people received the death penalty in Ohio.

Here is the full statement we received from Governor DeWine’s Office:

Under current Ohio Law, capital punishment is still an allowable punishment for certain crimes, and lethal injection is the only permissible method of capital punishment. However, Governor DeWine has issued several reprieves to individuals with upcoming execution dates 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 for executions, without endangering other Ohioans who rely on the State to provide them with prescription drugs from those same suppliers.

(source: WOIO news)

KENTUCKY:

Prosecutor urges death penalty for man convicted of killing Louisville father, 3-year-old----Kevon Lawless could be sentenced to death for killing a 3-year-old girl and her father.

A prosecutor asked a jury to impose the death penalty for a man convicted of killing a young father and his 3-year-old daughter in August 2020.

Late Thursday afternoon, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Ryane Conroy asked the jury to recommend the death penalty in the case of Kevon Lawless, who was found guilty of double murder and burglary just before 9:40 p.m. Wednesday. Those charges are in connection with the killings of Brandon Waddles and his 3-year-old daughter, Trinity Randolph. The shootings took place shortly after 1 p.m. that day in the 3700 block of Kahlert Avenue, near Strader Avenue.

The jury had to deliberate twice after one juror was dismissed and an alternate was brought in.

"I also am going to ask you to impose the death penalty here and I take that seriously," Conroy said. "I think that's a big deal to even make that ask."

The comments came as Conroy addressed the jurors before they met to discuss Lawless' possible sentence. He faces penalties ranging from 20 years in prison to the death penalty.

At the time of this writing, Lawless' defense attorney is scheduled to address the jurors before they deliberate.

Lawless' sentencing hearing was briefly delayed earlier in the day after the judge smelled marijuana in the courtroom.

Judge McKay Chauvin admonished the people in the courtroom as the hearing was about to start, saying the smell of marijuana was overpowering.

"I'm just going to say it out loud: The whole room stinks of marijuana," Chauvin said. "It just stinks."

He then had a group of about a dozen people removed. The hearing re-convened less than an hour later.

Chauvin said the smell of marijuana showed disrespect for the court and he wondered out loud if violence would follow the court's decision.

"Here's what we're afraid of: As soon as this is over, you guys are just going to start shooting each other," he said. "I'll just say it out loud. That's what we're afraid of. That's how we got here. Has anybody learned anything from the time we spent together? Has there been any awareness of just how stupid this whole thing is?"

Several family members testified on behalf of Lawless during Thursday's proceedings. Prosecutors wanted to show body camera footage of Trinity being rushed to the hospital by LMPD officers, but Chauvin ruled the only videos that could be played were those already submitted into evidence.

Prosecutors tried to prove that Lawless was responsible for killing Waddles and Trinity. Earlier this week, they presented text messages, video surveillance from a neighbor and an Instagram Live video that shows Waddles and Lawless arguing.

Defense attorneys questioned the evidence from the beginning, calling it circumstantial and not enough to convict Lawless.

Lawless' bond was set at $1 million in August 2020, but a judge lowered it to $300,000 full cash days after his arraignment and ordered him to be on home incarceration if the bond was paid. New York record producer Nigel Talley posted the $300,000 on July 10, 2021.

Family said they were left blindsided at the time. Just weeks later, on July 21, 2021, Lawless was back behind bars on a parole violation. (source: WDRB news)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution(s)

Lawyers for Mentally Ill Oklahoma Death-Row Prisoner Seek Clemency, Competency Trial

Lawyers for Oklahoma death-row prisoner Benjamin Cole have filed a petition with the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Parole asking the Board to recommend to Governor Kevin Stitt that Cole’s sentence be commuted to life without parole.

The petition, submitted to the board on September 16, 2022, states that “Benjamin Cole today is a frail, 57-year-old man with a damaged and deteriorating brain, suffering from progressive and severe mental illness who poses no threat to anyone in any way.” Cole, who faces an October 20, 2022 execution date, is the third of 25 death-row prisoners Oklahoma has scheduled to put death between August 2022 and December 2024, in an execution spree without parallel in the state’s history.

Cole, whom the petition describes as “wheelchair bound” and “catatonic,” suffers from a combination of brain damage resulting from multiple childhood and early adulthood head traumas and a family history of mental illness exacerbated by repeated physical and sexual abuse as a child that also led to persistent alcohol and drug abuse. Medical imaging, the petition says, shows that Cole has “a sizable, observable … lesion” in an area of the brain associated with paranoid schizophrenia, and also exhibits symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

Thomas Hird, one of the federal defenders representing Cole, said in a statement accompanying the clemency filing that Cole’s severe mental illness and brain damage “leave him with no rational understanding of why the State seeks to execute him.” Cole’s mental health “has deteriorated dramatically over his years in solitary confinement, and he is now so physically compromised that he can barely move,” Hird said. “He is not a threat to anyone, and his execution would be both unconstitutional and unconscionable.”

Cole’s lawyers also have filed a petition in a Pittsburg County court — where Oklahoma’s death row is located — seeking a jury trial on his competency to be executed. The court is expected to issue a ruling on that petition on September 30. Cole’s clemency hearing is scheduled for September 27.

In an interview with Fox Oklahoma City affiliate KOKH, Brett Farley, chair of Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said “When you have death row inmates that have serious mental competency questions at any point in the process, … it behooves us to take a step back and question what we’re doing here.” “We cannot be a state that…values the sanctity of life, and, at the same time, think that we can have a system of justice that resorts to death,” Farley, the former director of communications for the Oklahoma Republican Party, said.

Cole was convicted and sentenced to death in Rogers County, Oklahoma for killing his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna, in December 2002. He admitted to police that he was responsible for her death. Prosecutors repeatedly offered him a plea deal for a life sentence, which he each time declined based upon what his lawyers describe as religious delusions. Going to trial, Cole reportedly told them, “was God’s will” and “would allow God to touch hearts.”

Cole’s trial judge ordered mental health competency evaluations in 2003 and 2004, but after a jury trial in September 2004 under Oklahoma’s unique competency-determination procedures, Cole was ruled competent to be tried. He was sentenced to death later that year.

The clemency petition details Cole’s upbringing by a family with a multi-generational history of mental illness and in a household replete with drug and alcohol addiction and physical and sexual abuse. It provides evidence that Cole began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia in his early 20s and was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008. Several affidavits by psychologist Dr. David George Hough, who first examined Cole in 2016, provide details of a serious “closed head injury” Cole suffered at age 20 when he was hit with a hammer while drinking at a bar and describe Cole’s deteriorating mental condition. His 2016 report said that Cole “presents as a classic example of a severely regressed chronic schizophrenic patient (with catatonic features), whose condition is likely further compromised by the previously detected brain disorder captured by neuroimaging studies.” Hough concluded that Cole did not understand or appreciate that he may be executed or the reasons for his pending execution and was incompetent to be executed.

In an April 2022 report, after seeing Cole in his death-row cell, Hough said that he saw nothing “rational or coherent” in Cole’s conduct. He again offered the opinion that Cole’s “current clinical presentation is consistent with his diagnosis of severe and chronic schizophrenia with catatonia, as well as MRI-documented organic brain damage” and that Cole was incompetent to be executed.

The clemency petition also presented a competency report from neuroradiologist, Dr. Travis Snyder, who evaluated Cole in spring 2022. Dr. Snyder said that an MRI administered in 2022 revealed “markedly abnormal” detail and “demonstrates multiple pathologic findings,” including that Cole’s brain lesion “may be exacerbating” his schizophrenia. Snyder, too, offered an opinion that Cole is “not competent to understand his legal proceedings.”

A majority of the board of pardons must recommend clemency before the governor may commute a death-row prisoner’s death sentence. In August 2022, Governor Stitt denied clemency to James Coddington, the first of the scheduled executions, after a favorable recommendation from the board. Coddington was executed on August 25, 2022. Stitt issued a temporary reprieve to Richard Glossip, postponing his scheduled September 22, 2022 execution date until December to provide the Oklahoma courts time to determine whether they would grant Glossip a hearing on his innocence claim.

A University of North Carolina study of executions from 2000 to 2015 found that “21st-century executions disproportionately involve prisoners diagnosed with mental illness and who have experienced traumatic child abuse.” A Death Penalty Information Center review of the 98 U.S. executions carried out from 2017 through 2021 corroborated those results, finding that nearly 85% of those executed had evidence of one or more of: serious mental illness; brain injury, developmental brain damage, or an IQ in the intellectually disabled range; and chronic serious childhood trauma, neglect, and/or abuse. Information supplied by counsel for the prisoners currently slated for execution by Oklahoma also suggest that, like Cole, they are disproportionally individuals with serious mental health issues.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Glossip attorney, state lawmaker call for new trial----Don Knight, attorney for death row inmate Richard Glossip, says new evidence in the case should be enough for a new trial.

An Oklahoma lawmaker and the defense attorney for death row inmate Richard Glossip called for a new trial on the day he was scheduled to be put to death.

Richard Glossip was scheduled to be executed Thursday before Gov. Kevin Stitt issued a 60-day stay of execution last month. But Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, and Glossip’s defense attorney Don Knight called for a new trial and investigations based on new evidence they announced in a Thursday press conference.

“I am a strong proponent of the death penalty but we should always make sure that we are 100% sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have the right person,” Humphrey said.

Glossip was convicted twice of 1st-degree murder in a 1997 murder-for-hire plot that accused him of hiring Justin Sneed to kill his boss, motel owner Barry Van Treese.

Sneed admitted to killing Van Treese and told investigators it was under Glossip's direction. Sneed received a sentence of life imprisonment and is a key witness against Glossip.

But Glossip’s case gained attention before an ad hoc committee comprised of 34 Oklahoma state lawmakers, including 28 Republicans, called for an independent review conducted by Houston-based law firm Reed Smith. State Rep. Kevin McDugle led the committee and said at a previous press conference he would fight to end the death penalty in Oklahoma if Glossip is executed.

Reed Smith released a 3rd supplement to the investigation this week — which Knight said led attorneys to file a new petition for post-conviction relief based on 2 key findings.

Knight said the 1st finding was that Sneed “apparently, all along wanted to recant his testimony.”

Sneed asked his attorney in a 2003 letter if he would have the option to recant his testimony. A 2007 letter Sneed wrote his attorney’s office implying he wanted to recant his testimony and that he was willing to contact Glossip’s attorneys to do so.

Sneed’s daughter wrote a 2014 letter stating her father wanted to recant his testimony and believed it would exonerate Glossip. Knight said the letter from Sneed’s daughter confirms he felt bad about his testimony.

Knight said the 2nd key finding was evidence that the lead district attorney on the case fed information to Sneed and had his testimony changed in the middle of the trial.

He said a memo written in the middle of the trial states some of Sneed’s testimony needed to be “cleaned up” because some of it didn’t align with testimony from the medical examiner.

“This is what the government can do when they’re allowed to run amok,” Knight said.

“We need to call for a new trial,” Humphrey said. “I think we need to investigate the district attorney’s office. It appears they have not only destroyed evidence, but they created evidence.”

62 Oklahoma state legislators, including 46 Republicans, signed a letter requesting an evidentiary hearing based on the committee investigation results.

Glossip's initial execution in 2015 was nearly conducted before then-Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued a stay and a moratorium on executions.

Oklahoma ended the nearly 7-year moratorium on executions last October, when John Marion Grant convulsed nearly 2 dozen times and vomited on himself before he died by lethal injection, according to witnesses.

Attorneys for several Oklahoma death row inmates challenged Oklahoma’s 3-drug cocktail used in executions, with the U.S. Supreme court ruling the state could move forward with executions.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set 25 execution dates in 5 phases through December 2024.

(source: McAlester News-Capital)

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Uncovered evidence in Oklahoma death row case prompts calls for new hearing

Attorneys for an Oklahoma death row inmate whose halted execution in 2015 led to a state moratorium on the death penalty requested a new hearing Thursday, alleging that prosecutors had failed to disclose key evidence that could have resulted in a different outcome at his trial or in his petition for a new one.

A report initiated at the request of Oklahoma state legislators in the capital murder case against Richard Glossip contends that the state's primary witness, Justin Sneed, confirmed to investigators in interviews this summer that he has had discussions with multiple family members about "recanting" his testimony.

In addition, the report said, investigators found that the district attorney's case file included documentation describing how the state provided Sneed information "so he could conform his testimony to match the evidence" from other witnesses.

Glossip, a motel manager in Oklahoma City, was convicted in the 1997 killing of his boss, Barry Van Treese. Sneed, a motel handyman, admitted at trial that he killed Van Treese, but said that it was at Glossip's direction and that he had been promised $10,000. In exchange for testifying against Glossip, Sneed received a life sentence while Glossip was given the death penalty.

Prosecutors alleged Glossip orchestrated the plot because he was embezzling from the motel and feared being fired. Glossip, now 59, has long maintained his innocence.

"This newly obtained evidence establishes not only a pattern of Sneed discussing 'recanting' to individuals he trusts at various times spanning a period of over a decade, but also conduct by the State before and during Glossip's retrial that reveal its concerns over Sneed's reliability and credibility," according to the report, which was prepared by the Pittsburgh-based law firm Reed Smith LLP. The firm released an initial report in June.

As a result of the latest report, Glossip's lawyers said Thursday they filed a so-called Brady motion, intended to compel prosecutors to turn over any evidence they may have that could help the defense. Failure to do so could result in a conviction being reversed.

Lawyers are seeking the new evidentiary hearing from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming that prosecutors in the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office also destroyed evidence.

"Rich Glossip is a nobody. He's not some powerful person. He's just like all the rest of us," Don Knight, an attorney for Glossip, said at a news conference. "This is what the government can do when they're allowed to run amok."

Most recently, in a high-profile case against Adnan Syed, whose arrest and conviction in the 1999 murder of a former high school girlfriend was chronicled in the hit podcast "Serial," prosecutors in Baltimore cited Brady violations made by prosecutors at his trial among the reasons he deserved to be freed. A judge on Monday found the evidence compelling enough to vacate Syed's murder conviction.

Glossip was set to be executed Thursday, but in August was granted a 60-day reprieve by Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, while an appeals court reviews his case based on the report's initial findings. A clemency hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9.

A review of the case against Glossip has received bipartisan support in Oklahoma.

In August, more than 5 dozen Democratic and Republican state lawmakers signed a letter urging state Attorney General John O'Connor, a Republican, to agree to an evidentiary hearing.

O'Connor responded that it is up to the courts, but reiterated that "multiple courts have reviewed this evidence and determined that the jury that convicted Glossip and sentenced him to death did so in full accordance with the law." Glossip's original conviction was overturned on appeal, but a second jury found him guilty in 2004.

O'Connor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday about the investigatory report's findings. In a statement provided to NBC affiliate KFOR in Oklahoma City, O'Connor said that he believes Sneed used the word "recant" in reference to "his hope to negotiate a shorter prison term in exchange for his testimony at Glossip's second trial — but that never happened."

Reed Smith investigators have released other information discovered in the case in recent months, including a letter written by Sneed in 2007 to his lawyer in which he says he has "somethings I need to clean up" and "it was a mistake reliving this."

O'Connor said he remains unconvinced.

"Glossip and those who advocate on his behalf are largely unrestrained in terms of what they can present to the public," he said in his statement. "Each time they promise new evidence of innocence but fail to present new evidence."

Glossip has escaped the death chamber multiple times as he appealed his case, including in September 2015, when then-Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, stayed his execution at the last minute after prison officials tried to go forward with the wrong lethal injection drugs.

The stunning admission was among a wave of botched and bungled executions in Oklahoma in 2014 and 2015, prompting a statewide moratorium on capital punishment that lasted until October 2021.

In June, O'Connor asked the state's highest appeals court to set execution dates for 25 death row inmates, including Glossip. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 20.

Glossip's case won support from notable names such as actress Susan Sarandon, Pope Francis and Barry Switzer, the popular former football coach at the University of Oklahoma.

State Rep. Kevin McDugle, a Republican, has said that he is so disturbed by the circumstances surrounding Glossip's case that executing him would change his mind on capital punishment.

"If we put Richard Glossip to death, I will fight in this state to abolish the death penalty, simply because the process is not pure," McDugle told reporters in June.

Van Treese's family could not be reached for comment Thursday. His widow, Donna Van Treese, previously told KFOR that she was ready to see Glossip put to death.

"Would I wish a cruel death on anyone? No," she said. "I'm hoping that it is quick."

(source: Yahoo News)

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Lawyers for Mentally Ill Oklahoma Death-Row Prisoner Seek Clemency, Competency Trial

Lawyers for Oklahoma death-row prisoner Benjamin Cole have filed a petition with the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Parole asking the Board to recommend to Governor Kevin Stitt that Cole’s sentence be commuted to life without parole.

The petition, submitted to the board on September 16, 2022, states that “Benjamin Cole today is a frail, 57-year-old man with a damaged and deteriorating brain, suffering from progressive and severe mental illness who poses no threat to anyone in any way.” Cole, who faces an October 20, 2022 execution date, is the 3rd of 25 death-row prisoners Oklahoma has scheduled to put death between August 2022 and December 2024, in an execution spree without parallel in the state’s history.

Cole, whom the petition describes as “wheelchair bound” and “catatonic,” suffers from a combination of brain damage resulting from multiple childhood and early adulthood head traumas and a family history of mental illness exacerbated by repeated physical and sexual abuse as a child that also led to persistent alcohol and drug abuse. Medical imaging, the petition says, shows that Cole has “a sizable, observable … lesion” in an area of the brain associated with paranoid schizophrenia, and also exhibits symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

Thomas Hird, one of the federal defenders representing Cole, said in a statement accompanying the clemency filing that Cole’s severe mental illness and brain damage “leave him with no rational understanding of why the State seeks to execute him.” Cole’s mental health “has deteriorated dramatically over his years in solitary confinement, and he is now so physically compromised that he can barely move,” Hird said. “He is not a threat to anyone, and his execution would be both unconstitutional and unconscionable.”

Cole’s lawyers also have filed a petition in a Pittsburg County court — where Oklahoma’s death row is located — seeking a jury trial on his competency to be executed. The court is expected to issue a ruling on that petition on September 30. Cole’s clemency hearing is scheduled for September 27.

In an interview with Fox Oklahoma City affiliate KOKH, Brett Farley, chair of Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, said “When you have death row inmates that have serious mental competency questions at any point in the process, … it behooves us to take a step back and question what we’re doing here.” “We cannot be a state that…values the sanctity of life, and, at the same time, think that we can have a system of justice that resorts to death,” Farley, the former director of communications for the Oklahoma Republican Party, said.

Cole was convicted and sentenced to death in Rogers County, Oklahoma for killing his 9-month-old daughter, Brianna, in December 2022. He admitted to police that he was responsible for her death. Prosecutors repeatedly offered him a plea deal for a life sentence, which he each time declined based upon what his lawyers describe as religious delusions. Going to trial, Cole reportedly told them, “was God’s will” and “would allow God to touch hearts.”

Cole’s trial judge ordered mental health competency evaluations in 2003 and 2004, but after a jury trial in September 2004 under Oklahoma’s unique competency-determination procedures, Cole was ruled competent to be tried. He was sentenced to death later that year.

The clemency petition details Cole’s upbringing by a family with a multi-generational history of mental illness and in a household replete with drug and alcohol addiction and physical and sexual abuse. It provides evidence that Cole began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia in his early twenties and was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008. Several affidavits by psychologist Dr. David George Hough, who first examined Cole in 2016, provide details of a serious “closed head injury” Cole suffered at age 20 when he was hit with a hammer while drinking at a bar and describe Cole’s deteriorating mental condition. His 2016 report said that Cole “presents as a classic example of a severely regressed chronic schizophrenic patient (with catatonic features), whose condition is likely further compromised by the previously detected brain disorder captured by neuroimaging studies.” Hough concluded that Cole did not understand or appreciate that he may be executed or the reasons for his pending execution and was incompetent to be executed.

In an April 2022 report, after seeing Cole in his death-row cell, Hough said that he saw nothing “rational or coherent” in Cole’s conduct. He again offered the opinion that Cole’s “current clinical presentation is consistent with his diagnosis of severe and chronic schizophrenia with catatonia, as well as MRI-documented organic brain damage” and that Cole was incompetent to be executed.

The clemency petition also presented a competency report from neuroradiologist, Dr. Travis Snyder, who evaluated Cole in spring 2022. Dr. Snyder said that an MRI administered in 2022 revealed “markedly abnormal” detail and “demonstrates multiple pathologic findings,” including that Cole’s brain lesion “may be exacerbating” his schizophrenia. Snyder, too, offered an opinion that Cole is “not competent to understand his legal proceedings.”

A majority of the board of pardons must recommend clemency before the governor may commute a death-row prisoner’s death sentence. In August 2022, Governor Stitt denied clemency to James Coddington, the 1st of the scheduled executions, after a favorable recommendation from the board. Coddington was executed on August 25, 2022. Stitt issued a temporary reprieve to Richard Glossip, postponing his scheduled September 22, 2022 execution date until December to provide the Oklahoma courts time to determine whether they would grant Glossip a hearing on his innocence claim.

A University of North Carolina study of executions from 2000 to 2015 found that “21st-century executions disproportionately involve prisoners diagnosed with mental illness and who have experienced traumatic child abuse.” A Death Penalty Information Center review of the 98 U.S. executions carried out from 2017 through 2021 corroborated those results, finding that nearly 85% of those executed had evidence of one or more of: serious mental illness; brain injury, developmental brain damage, or an IQ in the intellectually disabled range; and chronic serious childhood trauma, neglect, and/or abuse. Information supplied by counsel for the prisoners currently slated for execution by Oklahoma also suggest that, like Cole, they are disproportionally individuals with serious mental health issues.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

OREGON:

Oregon governor candidates weigh in on death penalty

In the race to be Oregon’s next governor, the Democratic candidate says she’ll continue Oregon’s moratorium on capital punishment, while the Republican and unaffiliated candidates indicate they will revoke it, which could allow the state to resume executions.

For more than a decade, Oregon governors have placed a moratorium on capital punishment, despite a long-standing, voter-approved constitutional amendment that allows the state to kill people convicted of the most serious crimes.

Oregon’s next governor has the power to decide whether to maintain the moratorium of their predecessors, or revoke it, opening up the possibility of the state carrying out death sentences once more.

“As long as the death penalty remains a possibility, there’s always the possibility of an execution,” said Jeff Ellis, director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center, which assists attorneys representing people sentenced to death.

CANDIDATES' STANCES

OPB asked all 3 gubernatorial candidates: If elected governor, would you continue or repeal the current moratorium on the death penalty? Why?

The 3 candidates responded in writing. Their complete, unedited answers are below.

Former Oregon House minority leader Christine Drazan, the Republican candidate for governor, indicated she would lift the moratorium, but not approve every execution:

“I am personally opposed to the death penalty, but the death penalty was put in place by Oregon voters. I will follow the law by reviewing cases on a case-by-case basis, which is my duty as governor. Rather than setting aside the law I will act based on the facts and fulfill my duty within the confines of my conscience.”

Former speaker of the Oregon House, Tina Kotek, who is running as a Democrat for governor, said she would keep the moratorium in place:

“Oregon has not followed through on the death penalty in over 25 years, and as Governor, I would continue the current moratorium. I am personally opposed to the death penalty because of my religious beliefs.”

Former Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate, said she would allow the state to carry out executions:

“As governor, I will enforce Oregon’s death penalty in cases where a judge or jury deems it appropriate for a heinous crime. Oregonians have twice voted on and affirmed our death penalty. It’s time for liberal politicians to stop trying to overturn it or subvert it by letting dangerous criminals out of prison.”

(source: KLCC news)

USA:

Best definition of justice is one without death penalty

The 2nd-most prolific serial murderer in the United States had claimed a total of 93 victims between 1970 to 2005 before his capture.

As shocking as that number is, it does not compare to America’s most prolific serial killer, which has claimed a total of 1,548 lives since 1973.

And that number will only grow, despite the murders committed in front of witnesses, many of whom wish to see these horrific murders continue.

The most prolific serial killer in the United States is the American justice system, which uses capital punishment to invoke a death that most would consider cruel and unusual. Electrocutions, firing squads, hangings and poison cocktails are just some of the ways the state and/or federal governments have served out what they deem as “justice.”

What’s worse is that statistics reveal not all those who are killed at the hands of the state were guilty of the crimes of which they were sentenced. But that’s only a minor consequence to the proponents of the death penalty, who describe it as a punishment that is right and just.

Not the Catholic Church, however, which has been a staunch opponent of the death penalty for decades. To reemphasize that fact, Pope Francis declared September 2022 to be a month of prayer for the global abolition of the death penalty. He, along with many of his fellow Catholics, seek an end to the death penalty around the world, which would bring about a restoration of human dignity.

Catholic Church response

“I am so glad to have (Pope Francis’s) voice out in the public square like that around the world,” said Sister Helen Prejean, one of America’s most prominent death penalty opponents, and author of “Dead Man Walking,” “River of Fire,” and “The Death of Innocents.” “We’re made in the image and likeness of God. And that image of God in us is the capacity of human beings always to change.”

Perhaps the biggest reason why Catholics, including Sister Prejean, oppose the death penalty is simple: it’s murder. One of the most fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church is that God gave us a soul replicated in his image, which gives us inviolable dignity. This means that a part of God exists in all of us, and by taking away someone’s life, regardless of who they are or why you’re doing so, you are, by extension, killing a part of God.

That leads into another problem Catholics have with the death penalty for criminals: it inhibits the person from changing. Jesus understood the complex nature of human morality, and that humans have the capacity to learn from their mistakes, grow out of them, and develop into better people. He forgave his own executioners, the two criminals crucified next to him, and even his traitor. Forgiveness is paramount to the faith, and is especially deemed a grace when someone shows signs of growth and rehabilitation.

“We’re made for mercy and not for endless punishment,” Sister Prejean said. “Really, when you think of it, it’s so arrogant that human beings think, ‘Well, God’s finished with you; this is the most you’re ever going to develop. We’re going to end your life.’”

Injustice in the Judical system

But this cruel system of punishment is also scarily inaccurate. Sister Prejean stated that one in every eight capital punishment sentences are given to innocent people, whether that be to faulty technology, a rushed case, or simply a corrupt prosecution. And the death penalty is inherently plagued by racism and economic injustice.

“All the people chosen for death are poor, overwhelmingly as people who killed white people,” Sister Prejean said. “And often when they’re poor, they don’t get a good defense so that there’s a true adversarial system during trial of coming to truth where defense can get expert witnesses and can come up against what the prosecution is claiming.”

But race and class discrimination are not the only political issues that surround the death penalty. Most of the legislators and leaders who institute the death penalty identify as “pro-life.” But despite how lax and ambiguous that phrase seems to be to politicians, the Catholic Church has a very clear definition.

“Pro-life is not just about innocent life, but it’s also about guilty life,” Sister Prejean said. “Inviolable dignity, as Pope John Paul (II) said, is not just about the innocent people, (it includes) even those among us who have done terrible crimes.”

Florida and the death penalty

Today, the federal government and 27 states, including Florida, still utilize the death penalty. A staggering 99 people have been executed in Florida since 1979. With 307 Floridians currently awaiting their execution, Florida has the 2nd largest death row population, behind California. But it also has the most death row exonerations than any other state, which is why the number of death row inmates at any given time is so volatile.

So, what does that mean? As Maria DeLiberato, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, puts it, “We sentence more folks to death than most, and we get it wrong more than most.”

But despite how bleak that statement sounds, DeLiberato, who spent much of her career in the Florida law system and still works closely with prosecutors and defense attorneys throughout the state, remains optimistic that the death penalty itself will one day be executed in Florida. One stride made against capital punishment was when Florida voters passed a law stating juries must make a unanimous judgment before recommending the death penalty.

“I do think the death penalty is going away, including in Florida, we are moving away from it,” DeLiberato said. “What we’re seeing is juries are …voting for the death penalty less and less, especially since we went to unanimity. … So, I think that the general consensus is that the death penalty is on its way out, even in a state like Florida.”

Florida’s last execution was that of Gary Ray Bowles Aug. 22, 2019. While the death chamber in Florida has not been used in three years, other states are trending in the opposite direction. Oklahoma recently decided to perform 25 executions within two years — an execution a month through 2024 — and began with the execution of James Coddington Aug. 25, 2022.

“Oklahoma’s rush to execute 25 individuals over the course of two years is incredibly concerning,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network. “This unprecedented spree of executions is an example of state-sanctioned bloodlust, not a victim-oriented justice system.”

“It’s just cruel,” DeLiberato added. “(The death penalty) is really the definition of cruel and unusual punishment as far as I’m concerned.”

Why use the death penalty?

Why do states, and sometimes the federal government, decide to deliver such a cruel and unusual punishment? Because they can, and it is used as by politicians to make political gains with supporters by appearing “tough on crime.” And it is not just done on the state level, but also the federal level. Sister Prejean compared what the governor of Oklahoma is doing to what President Donald Trump did in his last 6 months of office when he signed death warrants for 13 federal prisoners despite not having a federal execution in 17 years.

Supporters of the capital punishment will try and defend the practice by claiming that its victims deserve it, but according to the Catholic faith, no one deserves to be murdered. And the bottom line is that the death penalty is not necessary. Even if it is legal, there is no obligation to use the death penalty.

“(Political leaders) never, ever, ever have to seek death,” Sister Prejean said. “They always have the possibility of doing a plea and settling for a life sentence. Always. So, whenever these decisions are made, again, it’s because this individual human made a decision that certain people ought to be killed…unwieldy power over life and death in an individual’s hands (is) often driven by political power.”

There are many misconceptions with the death penalty, including the false claim that it deters crime. Sister Prejean said advocates should look at states that practice the death penalty and compare violent crime statistics there against states that abolished it. According to World Population Review, every one of the 10 most dangerous states in the United States still carry out the death penalty.

“There’s no reason to have a death penalty,” DeLiberato added. “It doesn’t make us safer. It doesn’t reduce crime. It doesn’t do anything but prolong these cases, it prolongs the suffering of victims. It increases even more damage to other folks, to other family members. And it just doesn’t make us safer and it costs an exorbitant amount of money.”

An "eye for an eye" justification

One principal justification for capital punishment can be summed up in the phrase, “An eye for an eye.” But Sister Prejean is quick to state that quote is taken from Hammurabi’s Code, an outdated set of laws that no society practices today. And since these laws were established by a pagan leader thousands of years before the birth of Christ, it doesn’t have any biblical significance.

“Jesus never said, ‘Oh yes, fine, somebody hurt you, go hurt them back,’” Sister Prejean said. “Deep in our soul, we know when we hear (an eye for an eye) that this is not the teaching of Jesus. And that we can do better as people.”

Murphy added, if anything, the New Testament actually negates the “eye for an eye” belief system, insinuating that life and humanity is more complex than such a simple phrase.

“Jesus flipped the script on “an eye for an eye” when he died for us on the cross,” said Murphy of the Catholic Mobilizing Network. “Jesus does not repay evil for evil, but rather breaks open the path for reconciliation and redemption — for all of us.”

Crimes — even the most horrific ones — don’t make the criminal less human. The death penalty defines a person solely by their crimes, and not for the complex soul that they are. Opponents of the death penalty are not celebrating crimes that were committed; they are preserving the dignity for life and allowing a venue for forgiveness.

“Forgiving an enemy doesn’t mean that we condone what they do,” Sister Prejean said, “but it means we don’t let hatred for them take over our lives.”

“As Catholics we are called to promote the dignity of life, regardless of the harm we have suffered or caused,” Murphy added. “When Jesus encountered the woman caught in adultery he did not judge her on what she had been accused of; what he did was show her love and mercy.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church

In 2018 when the Catechism of the Catholic Church was revised, it stated that all instances of capital punishment are “inadmissable.” Pope Francis’s declaration to establish September as a month for prayer for the global abolition of the death penalty, only doubles down on this stance, much to the delight of opponents of capital punishment.

“Catholic Mobilizing Network is overjoyed that the Holy Father has designated his September intention for the global abolition of the death penalty,” Murphy said. “The death penalty is often ignored or overlooked when it comes to what are considered life issues. Yet Pope Francis, throughout his papacy, has consistently said that we are called to protect all human life – and this must include those on death row. His special prayer reminds us that no one is excluded from God’s love.”

But even though it is an important step, prayer is only the beginning. Pope Francis reminds us that true change starts with each Catholic to work to abolish the death penalty.

“Not only does he invite us to join together in universal prayer, but the Holy Father also challenges each of us to ‘mobilize’ for an end to the death penalty,” Murphy said. “He is basically telling us that we have a role to play in making abolition of the death penalty a reality. This is certainly the case here in the United States.”

(source: The Florida Catholic)

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Archbishop Cordileone: It is past time to strike down the death penalty

When Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray this September for an end to the death penalty, I in turn asked my flock to join him, stating: “It is well past time that the death penalty be stricken from the books.”

Such a prayer request is particularly called for in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which includes within its boundaries San Quentin State Prison, the regrettable home of California’s death row for male inmates. Although recently Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered it to be dismantled and the condemned sent to other prisons, the irony is not lost: The death row at San Quentin has consistently been one of the largest in the United States (which had, as of earlier this year, over 700 men awaiting execution), even though the vast majority of us here in the Bay Area are opposed to capital punishment.

As we learn more about the death penalty in its practical operation, we should ask ourselves a key question: Is it necessary to kill in order to protect society?

While the citizens of deep-blue California have twice voted to keep the death penalty on the books, no one in California has been executed since 2006. And the practice is now officially on hold after Governor Newsom issued a moratorium on its use. However, a moratorium is only a temporary solution; the legal struggle over the death penalty will continue since a moratorium can easily be lifted later by a future governor (or even by the same governor, for that matter).

The pope and his predecessors, along with his brother bishops throughout the world, hold the strong view that the death penalty should be abolished not because it is an intrinsic evil, such as murder or abortion (which involve the killing of innocent human life). It is not; that is, it is not always and everywhere wrong. But as we learn more about the death penalty in its practical operation, we should ask ourselves a key question: Is it necessary to kill in order to protect society? We can once again take our cue from Pope Francis, who revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018, declaring that the death penalty “is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and stating that the church works “for its abolition worldwide.”

Death penalty advocates argue that executing murderers will deter future murders. The evidence for this claim is very difficult to establish. In fact, countries that abolish the death penalty tend to see declines in murder rates. So it is with the different states within our country: Those with the death penalty typically have more murders than states without it.

Most social science evidence both here and abroad suggests that the deterrent effect from the death penalty, if any, is vanishingly small. For example, a 2020 study of the death penalty in Japan, published in the journal Supreme Court Economic Review (published by the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University), concluded that “neither the death sentence rate nor the execution rate has a statistically significant effect on the homicide and robbery-homicide rates, whereas the life sentence rate has a significant negative effect on the robbery-homicide rate.”

Capital punishment also carries within it the grave possibility of wrongly executing an innocent man or woman. Since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 190 former death-row inmates have been exonerated of all charges related to the wrongful convictions that had put them on death row.

Those of us who follow Jesus Christ must also consider this: Our Lord—who from the cross where he was wrongly executed called out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” —teaches us that we must be concerned with the soul of the guilty. The death penalty abruptly ends the possibility of conversion and mercy.

Recently I had the privilege to watch via Zoom a new play by Ruth Pe Palileo, “Sons of Columbus” (commissioned by the Benedict XVI Institute), which centered on Blessed Father Michael McGivney’s patient ministry to Chip Smith, a young man on death row for killing the local chief of police. Even in 1880, to my surprise, voices in society were raised against the death penalty for this young man.

We must be concerned with the soul of the guilty. The death penalty abruptly ends the possibility of conversion and mercy.

5 days before Chip Smith’s execution, Father McGivney said a High Mass for him at the jail. “I am requested by Mr. Smith to ask pardon for all faults he may have had and all offenses he may have committed, and at his request I ask for the prayers of all of you, that when next Friday comes he may die a holy death,” Father McGivney said at the end of the Mass.

He asked for prayers for everyone taking part in the execution, including himself: “To me this duty comes with an almost crushing weight. If I could consistently with my duty be far away from here next Friday, I should escape perhaps the most trying ordeal of my life, but this sad duty is placed in my way by Providence and must be fulfilled.”

A holy death, reconciled to God, is what we should wish for every prisoner on death row, and while there is life, there is hope for repentance and reconciliation.

The good news is that support for capital punishment has declined markedly from its peak in 1994, when Americans told Gallup they were in favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers by a margin of 80 percent to 16 percent. By 2021, just 54 % of Americans favored the death penalty.

Yes, we need effective policing and enforcement measures to protect the innocent. We need good police officers to put their lives on the line. We need district attorneys willing to enforce the laws. We also need restorative justice ministries to bring healing to victims and to encourage reform of the penitent.

Criminal justice is also social justice. When crime rates soar, it is the least among us, the poor and minorities, who pay the highest price.

But today we no longer need capital punishment to protect the common good. If it is not necessary to kill to defend innocent life, then it is time for us to claim the higher moral ground and abolish the death penalty once for all. It is a reminder to us that the inherent dignity of every human being calls for us Americans to do better.

(source: America Magazine)

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The death penalty is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inhumane punishment

The importance of pursuing rehabilitative justice over punitive justice has long been a talking point of left-wing groups and individuals in the United States political sphere. For good reason, too – according to the 13th World Prison Population List, the U.S. still has an incarceration rate unmatched by comparable nations. Clocking in at 629 prisoners per 100,000 people, it outranks its neighbors (Canada at 104, Mexico at 169), its allies (Germany at 70, Portugal at 113, Israel at 234 and Saudi Arabia at 207, to name a few) and even nations that lack stable democracy or democracy at all (Libya at 139, Iran at 228). Clearly, as a country of near-unmatched incarceration, it's no wonder the type of justice we pursue is such a hot-button issue.

Perhaps one of the easiest examples of a figurehead for this discussion in recent times has been the death penalty's role in dealing with criminals. The answer is obvious and resounding disapproval for those in favor of rehabilitative justice: It's impossible to rehabilitate someone that the state has killed.

Beyond that, inhumane police actions, such as the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the conditions of prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lasting impacts of the drug war – especially as they pertain to the often-intersectional incarceration of people of color and those below the poverty line – have shed light on the issues that advocates of rehabilitative justice protest.

With such overwhelming evidence of critiques to make of the U.S. justice system, it can be easy to let some of the more obscured and less-mentioned damage go unnoticed. For instance, it's simple to point to figureheads like the death penalty while failing to put the conditions of those who live through the greatest depths of our prison system in the limelight.

At no place do these horrific conditions come to bear on inmates so harshly as the single remaining supermax prison in the U.S. federal prison system, ADX Florence. Copious security measures, surveillance systems and anti-suicide measures are present in every step of prisoners' lives at ADX Florence. The cells, a mere 10-by-12-foot usable space, as described by an inmate, are made nearly entirely of solid steel and concrete. The only sight of the outside world prisoners have is a 4-inch-by-4-foot window designed to keep inmates from knowing their location within the building. On top of that, inmates are rarely provided with human interaction and spend at least 22 hours a day within their cells.

These conditions are kept despite large amounts of data from the Prison Policy Initiative showing an array of negative side effects resulting from solitary confinement ranging from increased risk of overdose or suicide, to shortened lifespans, to the development of disorders, to permanent brain damage and more.

Off the bat, these prisoners are easy to dismiss – among the individuals held at ADX Florence are those who murdered correctional officers or other inmates in lower prisons or performed terrorist acts. Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, is one of the prison's inmates. Despite the violent crimes committed by these individuals, however, it's important to call these conditions what they are: inhumane, even for people of that caliber.

What may be even more disturbing, however, is the fact that solitary confinement isn't limited to people of the caliber of supermax prisons. Data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, updated Sept. 16, 2022, tells us that a much more frightening number: 10,412 federal prisoners are held within "special housing units" alone. This holding method entails at least some form of social isolation or solitary confinement.

Although there are clearly other fights to be fought on the front of rehabilitative justice, there should be no question that solitary confinement is unacceptable and must be on the chopping block if we ever hope to achieve a truly rehabilitative system.

(source: Ian Siegert has been with The News Record since 2022 as an opinion contributor and now opinion editor)

GLOBAL:

Effective and good practices from Member states”: “pathways to moratorium on use of death penalty

Allow me to begin by thanking the organizers of this high-level side event to mark the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the first General Assembly resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

At the time of General Assembly resolution 62/149 of 18 December 2007, which proclaimed the 1st ever global moratorium on the death penalty, 141 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice while 56 countries and territories retained and practised it. Since then, some 170 States have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice, or have suspended executions for more than 10 years.

Abolition is possible, and moratoriums constitute a first effective step towards it. They can be triggered by States commitments under the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council. The UPR has made over 1,270 recommendations to establish moratoriums with a view to abolition. More recently, Liberia, Nauru, the Niger and Samoa accepted such UPR recommendations.

Ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, has also been instrumental in paving the way for the adoption of moratoriums. Since the first GA resolution, 25 States representing different legal systems, traditions, cultures and religious backgrounds have ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol. Armenia and Kazakhstan are the most recent examples.

Country experiences have highlighted the positive impact of some specific factors in setting out the path towards moratoriums and ultimately, full abolition.

Strong political leadership is critical. We have seen it recently in Equatorial Guinea with the adoption of a new penal code abolishing the death penalty as well as in Zambia, where in May, the President pledged to abolish the death penalty and work with parliament towards this end.

Increased transparency, including by providing full, accurate and disaggregated data on the use of the death penalty facilitates public engagement in informed and evidence-based discussions on its impact on human rights, and possible alternatives to capital punishment. Communication and education are also key to address misperceptions, including on its alleged deterrent effect.

Support to abolitionist movements is vital, especially support to civil society organizations and human rights defenders. We have seen it recently in Chad, the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone. A safe and enabling environment that empowers and protects leaders of abolitionist campaigns is key.

Strengthening the involvement of political, religious, cultural and youth leaders at the local level is also necessary to address issues such as cultural beliefs, public engagement and the need for comprehensive reforms. I commend the focus on youth of the upcoming Eighth World Congress against the Death Penalty, to be held in Berlin from 15 to 18 November.

Support from the international community is important to move forward abolitionist initiatives at the national and regional levels. Support for the resolution across geographic regions has increased steadily over the years but we still need to convince more Member States to join the call for a global moratorium 1.

Moratoriums should be followed by abolition in law, that is, tangible legal reforms, including amendments of penal codes, criminal procedure codes, military codes and reforms of constitutions to remove capital provisions and explicitly prohibit the death penalty. Moratoriums should be accompanied by broader criminal justice reforms to find alternative dissuasive punishments, assuage fears of rising crime rates and reduce public opposition to abolition. International human rights mechanisms such as the Human Rights Committee and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights have consistently called on States to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment, and to ensure the right to seek pardon.

The abolition of the death penalty is a matter of priority for the Secretary-General and it is at the heart of the work of my Office. With this purpose, our priorities include undertaking strategic advocacy and developing partnerships, and, pending its abolition, to promote moratoriums on executions and increased adherence to international human rights law.

The progress of the global abolitionist movement seems irreversible. However, some countries, abolitionists in law or in practice, are now threatening to return to the death penalty and resume executions.

Events such as this one are important to showcase that the road to abolition is feasible. I am hopeful we can reaffirm, including through today’s discussion, our joint global commitment towards abolition in order to guarantee the right to life.

Thank you.

1The first GA resolution on a moratorium was adopted with 104 votes, 54 against and 29 abstentions. In 2020, 19 additional States voted in favour, 38 against and 24 abstained.

(source: miragenews.com)

JAMAICA:

Death penalty removed, October 20 sentencing for Cocoa Piece killer Rushane Barnett

In Jamaica, the sentencing of Cocoa Piece mass murderer Rushane Barnett has been set for October 20 in the Home Circuit Court, following the removal of his death penalty by Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn.

Justice Leighton Pusey, the presiding judge, said he needs time to consider the sentence that will be imposed.

Barnett has been further remanded.

The DPP’s office had served notice that it would seek the death penalty during Barnett’s 1st court appearance, for the murder of his cousin Kemesha Wright, and her 4 children- Kimanda Smith, 15, Sharalee Smith, 12, Rafaella Smith, 5, and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry Jr.

On June 21, the victims were discovered with chop wounds and slashed throats inside their home in Cocoa Piece, Clarendon.

At the sentencing hearing earlier, Llewellyn argued that Barnett should get life in prison and serve 55 years before being eligible for parole.

She explained: “The Crown is obliged to remove the death penalty as an option.”

“This is a matter of law. Everyone who pleads guilty is entitled to some amount of credit,” she added.

Llewellyn proposed that the presiding judge, Justice Leighton Pusey, go beyond the standard sentence range of 15 years to life in prison.

She stated that Barnett’s sentence should begin with life in prison for each count of murder and not be eligible for parole until after serving 60 years and 9 months.

The DPP further said the crime is one of the worst her office has seen in Jamaica.

In response, Barnett’s lawyer, Tamika Harris, requested that the judge give him a 33 1/3 % discount on the sentence.

“He has saved the court’s time and resources,” Harris said, adding that Rushane Barnett’s guilty plea shows sign of remorse.

(source: caribbeannationalweekly.com)

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No death penalty for Cocoa Piece killer

> He pleaded guilty to the killing of his cousins Kemesha Wright, Kimanda Smith, 15, Sharalee Smith, 12, Rafaella Smith, 5, and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry Jr. Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn has removed the death penalty as a sentencing option for mass killer Rushane Barnett.

A sentencing hearing is now under way in the Home Circuit Court for Barnett who was convicted in July of 5 counts of murder.

He pleaded guilty to the killing of his cousins Kemesha Wright, Kimanda Smith, 15, Sharalee Smith, 12, Rafaella Smith, 5, and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry Jr.

The victims were discovered inside their Cocoa Piece home in Clarendon with chop wounds and their throats slashed on June 21.

During Barnett's 1st court appearance, the DPP's office had served notice that it would seek the death penalty.

But, today Llewellyn said the matter is off the table.

"The Crown is obliged to remove the death penalty as an option,” Llewellyn explained.

"This is a matter of law. Everyone who pleads guilty is entitled to some amount of credit," she added.

She suggested that presiding judge Justice Leighton Pusey goes outside the normal sentence range of 15 years to life in prison.

Llewellyn said the starting point for Barnett's sentence should be life in prison and that he should serve 55 years before being eligible for parole.

(source: Jamaica Gleaner)

SINGAPORE:

Man accused of killing 79-year-old partner says he wants death sentence but disputes facts

An 85-year-old man accused of hacking his 79-year-old partner to death with a chopper was unable to have his guilty plea for culpable homicide go through on Friday (Sep 23), after he made numerous objections to the statement of facts.

Pak Kian Huat was originally charged with the murder of Madam Lim Soi Moy, 79, in a flat at Block 191, Lorong 4 Toa Payoh in September 2019.

A hearing was convened on Friday for Pak to plead guilty to the reduced charge of culpable homicide.

According to the statement of facts read out in court, Pak had four children with Mdm Lim after meeting her when they were both teenagers. However, they never officially married.

He is accused of hacking Mdm Lim to death with a chopper after a dispute with her over which rooms they stayed in in the flat.

Pak made numerous loud objections while the Mandarin interpreter was reading out the statement of facts to him.

He first disputed that it was not true that there was a lot of blood.

Later, when the interpreter read out the bit in the statement of facts that said 54 wounds were found on the deceased, Pak exclaimed: "I don't admit. There aren't so many. There weren't so many wounds."

At this, Justice Aedit Abdullah told him: "This is the medical officer counting the wounds. Are you saying you counted the wounds after you stabbed your 'wife'?"

Pak replied: "How will I go and count them, but I reckon I'm not that capable."

When asked how he knew the number of wounds inflicted was not 54, Pak laughed. "I can't possibly have killed her so skilfully. I stopped when I saw her stop breathing," he said.

The judge then told Pak, whose lawyers discharged themselves earlier that same morning, that if he did not admit the facts, he could not accept the guilty plea.

He would then have to go to trial for the original charge of murder, which is punishable with death.

Pak replied: "Fine, death penalty."

When he objected again at another section of the statement of facts, Justice Abdullah told him in a raised voice: "I have been very patient with you. You will behave in court. You are not in a coffee shop, you are not in any other place, you are in a courtroom, you will behave with proper decorum, you understand?"

He adjourned the hearing for a decision to be made on whether the original murder charge will be restored, or if a Newton hearing has to be convened to settle the disputed information in the current plea offer.

A Newton hearing is done to settle certain issues that both defence and prosecution are unable to agree on.

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CNA Explains: Why a person may not get a death sentence even if convicted of murder----Why are some murderers sentenced to life imprisonment while others are sentenced to death? CNA uncovers the different scenarios, the prosecution's role and if life imprisonment is really for life.

In mid-September, a 22-year-old man was sentenced to life imprisonment and caning for stabbing a stranger to death while they were both jogging in Punggol.

Surajsrikan Diwakar Mani Tripathi was charged with murder under Section 300(c), which is punishable either by death or life imprisonment with caning.

In the aftermath, several readers asked what made the difference - why was Surajsrikan spared the death penalty? CNA spoke to lawyers to find out what goes into deciding if an offender gets sentenced to death or to life imprisonment.

Are there different "degrees" of murder?

The death sentence used to be mandatory until January 2013, when the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act 32 of 2012) came into operation, said Ms A Meenakshi, an associate at IRB Law.

The amendment allowed the court to have the discretion to sentence a person to life imprisonment with caning instead of death for certain murder offences.

The first factor that determines whether an accused person receives the death penalty or life imprisonment is the selection of the charge against him or her, said Mr Johannes Hadi, partner at Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.

"The Penal Code sets out a hierarchical rubric for the categorisation of homicide offences," he explained.

At the top of this hierarchy is Section 300(a) – murder with the intention to cause death. This is the most serious and carries the mandatory death penalty, said Mr Hadi.

"This means that if one is convicted of a Section 300(a) charge, the only possible sentence is death."

There are three other types of murder offences: Section 300(b), (c) and (d). Section 300(b) is where the act is done with the intention of causing a bodily injury that the offender knows is likely to cause death.

Section 300(c) is if the act is done with the intention to cause bodily injury to a person, and the injury intended is sufficient to cause death. Section 300(d) is where the person committing the act knows it is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or an injury likely to cause death, and commits such an act without any excuse for incurring the risk of death.

Anyone convicted of these 3 offences can be sentenced either to death or to life imprisonment and caning.

Even for Section 300(a), there are two exceptions to the mandatory death penalty, said Ms Tania Chin, litigation partner at Withers KhattarWong.

These are: Where the offender was under the age of 18 at the time of the murder, or where the offender was pregnant at the time of sentencing.

The first case in Singapore where the Court of Appeal dealt with the issue of when a court can and should impose the death penalty for murder was the case of Kho Jabing, said IRB Law's Ms Meenakshi.

In that case, he was sentenced first to life imprisonment for murder. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court's decision and sentenced Kho to death. He has since been executed.

The Court of Appeal held that the death penalty is warranted where the actions of the offender outrage the feelings of the community, and where there is viciousness or a blatant disregard for human life, said Ms Meenakshi.

Several factors go towards deciding on blatant disregard, lawyers said. These include the mental state of the offender at the time of the attack, his role or participation in the attack, and his age and intelligence.

Who decides which murder charge an accused person receives?

The prosecution has the discretion to decide which charge to bring against an accused.

"The prosecution could well prefer a charge with discretionary death sentence, even if the mandatory death penalty charge under Section 300(a) can be made out," said Ms Chin.

The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, she added.

"Due to the high degree of culpability required, and the high threshold of proving an intention to kill under Section 300(a), the prosecution may in certain situations choose to proceed with Section 300(b), (c) or (d) instead."

Ms Chin gave an example of where a person stabs a victim twice in the thigh and the victim dies. In such a situation, the prosecution is more likely to allege an intention to cause bodily injury that is likely to cause death – under Section 300(b) – or the intention to cause bodily injury sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death – Section 300(c). This is because it is easier to prove than an intention to kill, even if the victim did die as a result.

The prosecutor would primarily be guided by the evidence in a case when deciding whether to prefer a Section 300(a) charge against an accused person, said Mr Hadi of Eugene Thuraisingam LLP.

Other than considering whether the person intended specifically to cause the victim's death, another important consideration would be the assessment of the public interest demands of the case, he said.

Even if the prosecution selects a charge without the mandatory death penalty, it can still submit that the appropriate sentence should be death, said Mr Hadi. The court will ultimately make the decision.

Commenting on the case of the Punggol jogger murder, he said it appears that the offender's multiple mental disorders, intellectual limitations, lack of previous offending and relatively young age may have been relevant considerations.

Ms Meenakshi pointed to the case of Daryati, who murdered her employer. The former maid was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of death.

In sentencing her, the High Court judge noted: "The specific nature of the incident did not reflect a cold and calculated killing, but rather, intense panic and distress in executing her plan to return home. I therefore exercised my discretion to impose a term of life imprisonment.”

Is life imprisonment really for life?

A sentence of life imprisonment in Singapore means the offender will be imprisoned for the duration of his or her natural life, said Withers KhattarWong's Ms Chin.

However, the Prisons Act 1993 provides that after such an offender serves 20 years in jail, the Minister of Home Affairs must review the case. The minister may then direct the Commissioner to make a remission order.

If a life sentence is remitted, various conditions will be imposed on the offender. The life sentence will be suspended, said Ms Meenakshi, and cancelled when the offender dies.

If the offender is found unsuitable for a remission order, the Prisons Act mandates that the minister must review the decision periodically, at least once a year, said Ms Chin.

However, in reality, there's no guarantee of release, said lawyer Josephus Tan.

Asked if he knew of cases where an offender linked to a murder was released on remission, he pointed to the Anthony Ler case. A teenager who murdered Ler's wife on Ler's instructions was granted clemency in 2018, after serving 17 years in jail.

However, this was under the old legal regime, where the offender was detained at the President's pleasure. This has since been repealed and substituted with life imprisonment for offenders who committed murder below the age of 18 at the material time, said Mr Tan.

"For post-1997 cases, I've not personally seen a release after 20 years," said Mr Tan.

(source for both: channelnewsasia.com)

MALAYSIA:

Federal Court dismisses trio's bid for leave to review death sentences----They had sought to set aside their death sentences on grounds that the mandatory death penalty provided under the law is unlawful.

3 individuals on death row have failed in their legal bids to set aside the death sentences imposed on them for murder and drug trafficking offences on grounds that the mandatory death penalty provided under the law is unlawful.

A 5-man Federal Court panel led by Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf, in a unanimous decision, dismissed the application of the trio who sought leave to review the Federal Court's earlier decisions affirming their death sentences.

The other judges were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges Zabariah Mohd Yusof, Mary Lim Thiam Suan and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal.

Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, representing G Theenesh, M Thurkeswaran and Ooi Chun Huat, submitted that the mandatory death sentence imposed on his clients was unconstitutional and unlawful as it violated their right to life or personal liberty under Article 5 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

He said the mandatory punishment by death violated any right to be heard on sentence, breaching an accused's right to a fair trial.

Sri Ram said the power to determine guilt or innocence and the power to sentence including the power to determine the measure of punishment was a judicial power, adding that it must be exercised by the judiciary and not by Parliament.

He said the mandatory death sentence under those two sections was not in accordance with the fundamental rights enshrined under the Federal Constitution.

On May 19 last year, the Federal Court affirmed the death sentence imposed on Theenesh and Thurkeswaran for the murder of an unemployed man, B Muniandy, while Ooi's death sentence for trafficking in 6104.4g of methamphetamine was upheld by the Federal Court on Sept 1, 2016.

A murder offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code and a drug trafficking offence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952 mandate the death sentence for those convicted.

Deputy public prosecutor How May Ling argued that the cases before the court were not fit and proper cases to be given leave to review as they involved the interpretation of the law which is a matter of opinion and does not fall under the limited and strict requirement of Rule 137 of the Federal Court Rules 1995.

"The mandatory death penalty against them is the correct sentence prescribed by law. The sentence was imposed after a full trial where the conviction and sentence by the High Court judge were affirmed by the Court of Appeal and by the Federal Court."

(source: malaysianow.com)

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

Court rejects bid by 3 to set aside death sentences----Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram said the mandatory death sentence imposed on his clients was unconstitutional and unlawful.

3 individuals on death row have failed in their bids to set aside the death sentence imposed on them for murder and drug trafficking.

They had claimed that the mandatory death penalty provided under the law was unlawful.

In a unanimous decision, the Federal Court five-member panel led by Court of Appeal president Rohana Yusuf, dismissed the trio’s application seeking leave for a review of the Federal Court’s earlier decisions in affirming their death sentences.

The other judges were Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim and Federal Court judges Zabariah Mohd Yusof, Mary Lim and Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal.

Lawyer Gopal Sri Ram, representing G Theenesh, M Thurkeswaran and Ooi Chun Huat, submitted that the mandatory death sentence imposed on his clients was unconstitutional and unlawful as it violated their right to life or personal liberty under Article 5 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

He said the mandatory punishment with death violated any right to be heard on the sentence, violating an accused’s right to a fair trial.

Sri Ram said the power to determine guilt or innocence and the power to sentence, including the power to determine the measure of punishment, was a judicial power and it should be exercised by the judiciary and not by Parliament.

He said the mandatory death sentence under those two sections was not in accordance with the fundamental rights enshrined under the Federal Constitution.

On May 19, last year, the Federal Court affirmed the death sentence imposed on Theenesh and Thurkeswaran for the murder of an unemployed man, B Muniandy, while Ooi’s death sentence for trafficking in 6,104.4gm of methamphetamine was upheld by the Federal Court on Sept 1, 2016.

A murder offence under Section 302 of the Penal Code and a drug trafficking offence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 mandate a death sentence to be imposed on the convicted person.

Deputy public prosecutor How May Ling, however, argued that the cases before the court were not fit and proper cases to be given leave for review as they involved interpretation of the law which was a matter of opinion and did not fall under the limited and strict requirement of Rule 137 of the Federal Court Rules 1995.

“The mandatory death penalty against them is a correct sentence prescribed by law. The sentence was imposed after a full trial where conviction and sentence by the High Court judge were affirmed by the Court of Appeal and by the Federal Court.

(source: freemalaysiatoday.com)

JAPAN/MYANMAR:

Japan to stop Myanmar military training over executions

The Defense Ministry said Thursday it will halt training for members of Myanmar’s military from next year over the junta’s executions of pro-democracy activists.

In July, Myanmar’s junta executed 4 prisoners, including a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party and a prominent activist, in the country’s 1st use of capital punishment in decades.

(source: japantimes.co.jp)

CHINA:

Death penalty commuted to life for China’s ex-security chief----Former deputy security minister Sun Lijun received 646 million yuan ($91m) in bribes between 2001 and 2020.

China’s former vice minister of public security Sun Lijun has been given a suspended death sentence after being found guilty of taking tens of millions in bribes, manipulating the stock market, and possessing weapons illegally.

The sentencing and severe penalty for the former deputy minister comes ahead of a meeting of the ruling Communist Party of China next month at which President Xi Jinping is expected to try to break with tradition and award himself a 3rd 5-year term as leader.

Sun, 53, had been expelled from the Communist Party in 2021 for “grave violations” of party discipline and the law.

A court in Jilin province, in China’s northeast, handed Sun the death sentence on Friday with a two-year reprieve period, after which he will face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, Chinese state media reported.

The former deputy security minister received 646 million yuan ($91m) in bribes between 2001 and 2020, and he manipulated people in 2018 to rig stock market deals, which had saved losses of more than 145 million yan ($20m) for certain individuals. He also had two illegal firearms, China’s Global Times reported.

As part of his punishment, all of Sun’s personal property was confiscated.

“Sun had never stayed true to the Party’s ideals and faith, displayed ‘extremely inflated political ambition and very poor political integrity,’ issued groundless criticisms of the Party’s policies, and spread political rumours,” State news agency Xinhua said following Sun’s arrest last year.

Other officials whom state broadcaster CCTV had said were members of Sun’s “political clique” also received long jail sentences this week.

They included former justice minister Fu Zhenghua, former party official Wang Like, and three former police chiefs of Shanghai, Chongqing and Shanxi provinces.

Fu pleaded guilty to taking bribes to help hide criminal activity.

(source: Al Jazeera)

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Student Murder; Death Penalty Upheld, Father Denies Profiteering

Those in favour of the death penalty in China will be feeling satisfied these days that an appeal in one of the county’s most-followed murder cases has been rejected, while there are also others claiming the victim’s father has capitalised on becoming an internet celebrity.

It’s justice of a sort for female Nanjing college student, Li Qianyue, and her parents. On 20 September, the Yunnan Provincial High Court publicly pronounced that the first-instance verdict had been upheld.

The Court threw out the appeal by the convicted’s families to uphold its original judgment; 3 rounds of the death penalty.

In a video report released by The Paper, Li Sheng, the victim’s father, gives a long interview. Li said, “Encountering the devil is a child’s misfortune. The only real thing is that she is unlucky”.

But then Li turns to the accusations that he used the murder of his 21-year-old daughter to make money.

“They put salt on our wounds and thought I was guilty. I don’t know how this logic came about. Such turbulence, such suffering. [It’s] not the life we want”, said Li.

While Li decided in the end to waive any compensation for the murder, he concedes that he has been approached by those wishing to sponsor his broadcasts.

Li said, “We are also grateful, and we acknowledge that. But we can’t say we make money”. Liin fact pointed out that he and his wife are the ones who have paid a lot.

The 1st round of judgment in the then-2-year-long case came from the Intermediate People’s Court of Xishuangbanna Prefecture of Yunnan Province on 7 July, when it publicly sentenced the 3 defendants.

Hong Qiao, who the victim thought to be her boyfriend, together with Zhang Chenguang and Cao Zeqing were all sentenced to the death penalty.

Their victim had been lured to Yunnan from Nanjing under false pretenses by Hong, together with the other two male friends. Once there, Hong instructed the others to kill Li. As The Nanjinger reported last year, it is believed to be an emotional dispute which led to the murder.

(source: thenanjinger.com)

INDIA:

Legal Eagle: No death for the death sentence----When trial courts sentence criminals to death, the Constitutional courts commute their sentences until the convicts approach the President for pardon on grounds of delay. And if the President does not accede, the Governor may do so as evidenced by the 11 who were feted after they were freed in the Bilkis Bano case

Criminals who rape or hack to death innocents must face the gallows. The state has rewarded 488 such criminals with free food and lodging in jail paid by 5.83 crore tax-payers without their consent. Some sections in the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the amended Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act prescribe the death penalty, while the Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows soldiers to kill citizens using the ploy of national security to negate accountability.

Now, the dos and don’ts while awarding the death penalty, to be framed by a 5-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, will be telecast live on news channels so we can learn how judges deliberate while arriving at a life-and-death decision. Till now, these deliberations were denied to Indian citizens who can exercise their franchise wisely only when they know how those whom they elect spend their taxes.

What is needed is a law to protect the rights of those who have been brutally slain. Hindutva protagonists blindly accept the British doctrine of proving “beyond reasonable doubt” when, in ancient India, the Code of Manu and the dharmashastras allowed the king to amputate the limbs of convicts or hanged them for heinous crimes. But today, it is the reverse.

Between 1950 and 1996, the Supreme Court gradually expanded the right to life and liberty under Article 21 to include the convicts’ right to medical aid in jail, and the right against solitary confinement and handcuffing. If that was not enough, in 2014, the judges introduced the concept of “residual doubt” sandwiched between “proving beyond reasonable doubt” and “absolute certainty” that the convict was guilty. In 99.9 % cases, this lingering residual doubt will remain to ensure rapists and murderers never get the death sentence but exercise their fundamental rights in jail.

This concept of “residual doubt” will plague judges with a sensitive conscience like Supreme Court Justice R Banumathi who fainted in the courtroom after ordering the death of the Nirbhaya rapists in 2020. She was part of a 3-judge bench and had to be revived by doctors. Never mind the agony of Asha Devi, the mother of the brutalised rape victim, who has flayed the justification for freeing Bilkis Bano’s 11 rapists.

When trial courts sentence criminals to death, the Constitutional courts commute their sentences until the convicts approach the President for pardon on grounds of delay. And if the President does not accede, the Governor may do so as evidenced by the 11 who were feted after they were freed in the Bilkis Bano case. In 2021, there were 144 death sentences awarded as against 78 in 2020 with 33 of 488 convicts on death row till December 30, 2021, being acquitted on appeal. The 25 high courts confirmed just 6 death sentences, commuted 25 to life in jail and acquitted 29 — perhaps as a sequel to the doctrine of “residual doubt”.

Since 1976, Portugal, France, Luxembourg, Denmark, Cape Verde and Nicaragua have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. But these are affluent countries which India cannot emulate. This is why the vagaries of judicial interpretation must be ended because the Supreme Court has said the number of judges on the bench overrides the view of concurring judges who strike down a law.

There will always be uncertainty in interpreting the law enacted by Parliament because a larger bench can overrule a smaller bench. But there is finality in the noose, which is why it makes news. Those who justify rape and murder using caste and religion as justification are as cancerous to society as those who burn with zeal to become martyrs for a cause .

The Supreme Court created the “rarest of rare” doctrine in 1980 to justify the hanging of Bachchan Singh who had murdered his relatives. The judges declared that a set of aggravating and mitigating facts must guide the trial judge who pronounced the death sentence. Delhi National Law University’s Project 39A showed that between 2000 and 2015 in Delhi, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, the trial courts were largely guided by aggravating circumstances while in 51% of the cases, mitigating circumstances were ignored.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ensured that a “real and meaningful” hearing was given to a person who was to be hanged because of the confusion created by 3-judge benches of the Supreme Court which mandated that mitigating circumstances were to be brought on record before the death sentence was pronounced. Trial courts often pronounce the guilty verdict and the death sentence on the same day, letting rapists, murderers and terrorists thwart the noose in successive appeals which makes news.

The 5-judge bench will have to lay down norms to see if same-day sentencing which is the norm in India gives sufficient time to bring on record the mitigating circumstances of the killer to obviate this being produced before the appeal courts. Trial courts do not require reports from jail officials, reform panels and psychiatrists before sentencing. The entire focus is on the prosecution to prove the killings beyond reasonable doubt, and the holes punched into the narrative by the defence. Everything else is ignored.

Prosecutors in Madhya Pradesh were incentivised to push for the death penalty, ignoring mitigating circumstances such as abysmal poverty which leads to brainwashing by some radical organisation. These criminals are not given a fair trial because their defence does not bring on record their poverty and credulousness that leads to the crime. The defence must focus only on punching holes in the prosecution case.

There is little doubt that the deliberations of the Supreme Court will ensure a further fall in death sentences so that those who rape, murder and terrorise us will continue as guests of the state until they are freed after 20 years. For being good in jail.

(source: Olav Albuquerque holds a PhD in law and is a senior journalist cum advocate at the Bombay High Court----freepressjournal.in)

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Fine balance: Editorial on Supreme Court's humane approach to reduce death penalties

see: https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/fine-balance-editorial-on-supreme-courts-humane-approach-to-reduce-death-penalties/cid/1888277

KUWAIT:

Court sentences military man to ‘death’ for killing young bedoun in Julaia desert

The Criminal Court, headed by Counselor Abdullah Al-Othman, has sentenced a military man working for the Ministry of Interior to capital punishment after finding him guilty of suffocating to death a young man (bedoun) in the desert in Julaia and ordered the referral of the civil case to the competent court, reports Al-Rai daily.

The daily added, this is the 1st murder recorded in 2022, and summed up that the suspect was released from the Central Prison weeks before he committed the murder. He was reportedly sentenced to 15 years in prison and was released on pardon after serving 10 years. The man was caught after the operations room of the Ministry of Interior received information about the dead body in early hours of the morning following which security personnel rushed to the spot and found the corpse of the victim born in 1987. There were clear traces of suffocation and blood. After the suspect was arrested, he confessed to committing the crime.

(source: arabtimesonline.com)

SEPTEMBER 22, 2022:

TEXAS:

John Creuzot hasn’t sought death penalty as Dallas County DA. His opponent says she will

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot hasn’t sought the death penalty since taking office. But his Republican opponent said Tuesday she would seek death sentences in capital cases if elected.

Republican Faith Johnson accused Creuzot, a Democrat, of failing to uphold the full letter of the law during The Dallas Morning News’ editorial board interview Tuesday and in The Dallas Examiner’s Monday Night Politics, a candidate forum streamed on the publication’s website and Facebook.

“The people of Dallas County would love the idea they finally have a DA that will uphold her oath,” Johnson said Tuesday.

Creuzot has not sought the death penalty in any capital murder case since he took office in 2019. Johnson, who was Dallas DA from 2016 to 2018, sent Kristopher Love to death row while she was DA. Johnson criticized Creuzot’s decision not to pursue capital punishment for Billy Chemirmir, who has been indicted for the killings of 22 elderly woman and men in Dallas and Collin counties.

Chemirmir has stood trial for one murder, that of Lu Thi Harris who was killed in March 2018. Creuzot joined the team of prosecutors that secured a capital murder conviction this year. Chemirmir was sentenced to life in prison and is not eligible for parole.

Creuzot has vowed to take Chemirmir to trial for one more victim, Mary Brooks, before Collin County prosecutors will decide how to handle their cases against him. Relatives of some victims have called on Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis to seek a death sentence for Chemirmir since Creuzot did not.

Creuzot said he is not against the death penalty and pointed out he persuaded a jury in 1989 to sentence then 18-year-old Emerson Rudd to death. Rudd was the “youngest person ever prosecuted and convicted in Dallas County for capital murder,” Creuzot said at the time, according to The News’ coverage of the case. Rudd was executed in 2001.

Creuzot’s office said he was also on the prosecution team that obtained the death penalty for Bernard Amos, who was convicted in 1988 and executed in 1995.

Creuzot said he considers how long it takes to execute someone and costs spent on appeals when deciding whether to seek the death penalty.

“Let’s be honest, these cases jump from Austin … to Washington and back and forth and back and forth,” Creuzot said. Chemirmir is “going to die in the penitentiary,” he said.

Creuzot also pointed to a requirement in state law that juries find a person convicted of a capital crime still poses a danger to society behind bars. In most cases, a person is compliant with rules of incarceration, he said.

Prosecuting other crimes

Creuzot, who is seeking his 2nd term, has stood out for his policies prohibiting prosecutions of certain crimes he says disproportionately impact people of color. Creuzot has touted his philosophies as “evidence-based” approaches and said they’ve cut back on recidivism rates.

Johnson said she will roll back 2 of his hallmark policies if she is elected. She said the office under her regime prosecuted crimes without disparate outcomes.

Creuzot upset law-enforcement groups and conservative politicians when he announced his office would not prosecute misdemeanor theft of personal items worth less than $750 without evidence the crime was for financial gain. He has said the policy aims to avoid saddling people struggling with poverty with a criminal record for stealing necessities such as food, diapers and baby formula.

Johnson said Creuzot failed to clear up confusion surrounding the theft policy. She said store owners complained to her that people are stealing expensive items like cars and TVs under the belief they won’t be prosecuted. She said officers told her they “would love” to file more theft cases but they believe those cases won’t be prosecuted.

Creuzot has sought to clarify his policy. In January, Creuzot published a 1-page explainer for the public about his policy.

The explainer also included statistics generated by his office that he said shows reports of misdemeanor thefts were on the decline for the fourth straight year and Class B misdemeanor thefts specifically were at a 6-year low.

The number of cases law enforcement filed steadily decreased from 2,428 in 2017, when Johnson was district attorney, to 1,314 in 2021, he said. The office has accepted 98 or 99 % of cases police filed since 2016, according to his data.

Johnson said she would not have a blanket policy against prosecution of any type of crime. That includes marijuana cases, which Creuzot also relaxed.

Creuzot did away with prosecuting first-time misdemeanor marijuana offenses. He earned praise from researchers who published a report from SMU’s Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center. Researchers found Black people in Dallas County were grossly overrepresented among those arrested for low-level drug offenses.

The center determined Creuzot’s campaign promise and policy influenced sharp decreases in arrests for marijuana possession. Some North Texas police departments also ended arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Johnson said when she was DA, she had a program that allowed people to avoid convictions for those offenses if they completed classes about the effects of marijuana.

“So we still got the same effect but we’re still making people accountable,” Johnson said. “We’re still upholding the law. We don’t want to be a lawless society.”

Creuzot pushed back and said one of his last clients as a defense attorney, before he became DA, participated and only needed to donate canned food to the North Texas Food Bank to get his case dismissed.

“That’s not anything that’s rehabilitative,” Creuzot said. “That’s just make-busy nonsense.”

Despite their differences, they also share similarities. Both were former longtime state district judges and served as prosecutors in the Dallas County district attorney’s office. Johnson’s administration obtained a grand jury indictment for Amber Guyger and Creuzot’s administration secured a murder conviction. Guyger is a former Dallas police officer who murdered Botham Jean while off duty but still in uniform in his own apartment in 2018. She told jurors she mistook his apartment for her own and thought he was an intruder.

Johnson served as district attorney after Gov. Greg Abbott appointed her to the job in 2016. But she lost the 2018 election to Creuzot, who won 60 percent of the vote.

Her predecessor, Susan Hawk, was the last Republican district attorney to win a county-wide election in Dallas County, defeating embattled Democrat Craig Watkins in 2014 Her resignation for health reasons led to the appointment of Johnson — the county’s first Black female district attorney.

(source: Dallas Morning News)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Voices from Death Row to be heard in Greensboro

Michael J. Braxton, Lyle C. May, Terry Robinson, and George T. Wilkerson will not be allowed to own a copy of Inside: Voices from Death Row, the 2nd book they wrote with Tessie Castillo.

The 4 men are inmates on North Carolina’s death row. When interviewed last week, Durham-based journalist Castillo said that her co-authors all received contributor’s copies of Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row, the award-nominated 2020 collection of essays they wrote with her after she taught them in Central Prison in Raleigh.

“The men had it for a few days before correctional officers came around and seized their copies. The book was banned throughout the North Carolina prison system.”

As was all material in it, including notes and document files.

“When we were writing the second book, and I was sending the essays back to them for editing and corrections, I had to have volunteers send those documents without titles so that prison officials and officers wouldn’t be able to tell that these were chapters in the next book.”

That new book is published by Scuppernong Editions, the publishing imprint of Greensboro’s Scuppernong Books. On Friday, September 23, at 6 p.m., it will debut at the bookstore at 304 South Elm Street as the opening event of Carceral Country, an ambitious 9-part series examining incarceration in America. This event is hybrid and can be attended in person or by Zoom. Castillo’s co-authors will be joining by phone.

Castillo said that Inside and its predecessor happened because of a psychologist she met at a 2013 Super Bowl party.

“He worked specifically with people on death row, and had been advocating for a long time to bring in volunteers into death row to teach classes on art, writing and other things. He finally succeeded, and was looking for volunteers. To my knowledge, nobody has previously been allowed to visit death row except for chaplains.”

She immediately volunteered, but it took a year for the project to be approved.

“At the time, I was a lobbyist working with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition and the state legislature on reforms to criminal law and the death penalty. As part of criminal justice work, I was also a journalist and had been publishing articles for many years.”

Castillo said books aren’t the only thing censored on death row.

“Letters routinely are. After they switched to tablets last October, text messages and emails were and are closely monitored, and things are routinely redacted. I’ve sent stuff to them that was blocked, or delayed for a long time while somebody went over it.”

There have been other forms of pushback.

“One of our co-authors was thrown into solitary confinement for 37 days without being given a reason. After his solitary ended, he was told it wasn’t specifically because of the book, but the music he’s writing, which appears in the book. The guys will sometimes get reminders from guards that they are being watched, phone calls are being monitored, and letters are being read. My name is on a watch list, so I often have to send things to them via someone else.”

In the foreword to the new book, Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, quoted co-author Lyle May:

“Prison is a place, an experience, a period of time, in which to continue to grow, to develop, to age, to die. It is a very different place than any other, but still just a place where people continue to be people.”

Castillo agreed.

“I think it’s really important that, if we’re going to have a system that actually kills people, we should understand how it works. So, I would encourage people to learn more. Until you know a person on death row, it’s really easy to kill someone who’s there. It’s a lot harder when you do.”

That’s why she and her co-authors offer book clubs where people can call in and speak with Braxton, May, Robinson and Wilkerson over Zoom. “They can ask any questions they want. We also do speaking engagements where the guys call in from prison, so there are a lot of opportunities that we offer for folks to get to know these guys.”

Despite this, said Castillo, most of the 135 inmates on Central Prison’s death row remain completely silenced.

“They don’t have any money. These guys pay for text messages that they send, they pay per minute to write the text messages, they pay per minute for phone calls, for movies they watch, and for games. Their only source of money is friends and family. They’re not allowed to be paid for their work, and my co-authors don’t earn anything from the book. All the money goes to the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network.”

Castillo sent YES! Weekly the following statements from each of her co-authors.

Michael J. Braxton, also known as Alim, is the only rapper to release music from death row, where he has been since 1993. His debut album Mercy on My Soul is available through NU Revolution Entertainment.

Braxton wrote:

Here are 2 things I’d like your readers to know. First, I love to learn. I chose my Muslim name, Alim, because it means “One who has knowledge.” I read constantly. I’ve read biology, chemistry, and physics textbooks, a science and technology encyclopedia, a geographical dictionary. I’ve read tons of books on Black history and race in America. I am a student of Islamic law, and I’ve read the Qur’an many times. If there’s something I’ve heard about but don’t understand, I’ll study it until I do. If I weren’t in prison, I might be a professor or a scholar. The second thing I want your readers to know is that I am a rapper on a mission. I’ve been rapping since I was 13, but only started releasing recordings in the last few years. I am passionate about making music, but I see hip hop as my ticket to greater and more important things. My ultimate goal is to make amends for the crimes I have committed and to help innocent people on Death Row win their release — in particular, my friends Stacey Tyler and Elrico Fowler. Allah says in the Qur’an that to kill a person is like killing all of mankind, and to save one life is like saving all of mankind. Inshallah, I will use my music to literally save a man’s life on Death Row.

Lyle C. May is a prison journalist, abolitionist, Ohio University alum, and member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society. He has been on Death Row since 1999.

May wrote:

It’s important to remember that incarcerated people are thinking, feeling, and oftentimes evolving human beings. We have families, loves, anxieties, regrets, and struggle to make a semblance of a life in confinement. This, unfortunately, juxtaposes the politics of crime and punishment that anyone convicted of a crime is “less than.” This narrative justifies inhumane treatment, injustice, and death. By reducing me to something less than ordinary citizens, it makes fighting against systemic wrongs like the death penalty and life without parole, or better conditions of confinement a matter of survival. The public has been conditioned to believe draconian punishment is morally acceptable. I push back against that belief with what my and others’ experience demonstrates, and what academics have struggled to explain for decades: harsher punishments cause more violent crime; the death penalty and Life Without Parole are an extension of racial oppression and political power; prisons fail society because they have been allowed to deteriorate under the guise of being “tough.” These are examples of why I write and pursue justice. That will to resist is central to my identity and desire for freedom.

Terry L. Robinson, also known as Chanton, has been on Death Row since 1998. He is currently working on two books, the urban fantasy novel Born to the Devil and the memoir Tales from the Hood: A Road Map to Death Row. He maintains his innocence and continues to fight what he calls his wrongful conviction.

Robinson wrote:

I would like readers to know that throughout my life’s journey I have discovered that I am a product of my hidden flaws evolved into the undeniable truth. My past mistakes were not the result of my having no moral conviction, but the willingness to be accepted I didn’t know my poor decisions back then, my shameless behavior, was my drafting the résumé for my life; that I would be categorized and looped into a statistic and thought to be unworthy of humanity. I didn’t understand that somewhere in my quest for the validation of others, I’d surrendered my self-approval. And with no way to undo the wrongs of my past, I was beyond redemption.

Today, I realize the way to redemption is not gifted by the naysayers but gained through accountability, growth, and positive change. Today I am no longer tethered to the validation of others; I am defined by my ownership. My writing is the tool by which I have carved out my redemption by laying my truths bare. It’s self-affirmation and a reminder that I’m entitled to be flawed.

George T. Wilkerson is a three-time winner of the PEN America literary award. He edited the anthology You’ll Be Smarter Than Us and is editor of Compassion, a national newsletter by and for Death Row prisoners. Bone Orchard, his collaborative collection from BleakHouse Publishing, examines the differences between doing time with a release date and having a death sentence. He has been on death row since 2006.

Wilkerson wrote:

I would want readers to know that I am a work-in-progress in both respects; and that as I grow as a person, it enriches my writing, which in turn helps me grow as a person. It’s an upward-spiraling feedback loop of growth.

To me, writing poetry and personal essays is about mining our humanity and sharing what I find. the premise is that despite our superficial, circumstantial differences, underneath it all — or rather, ABOVE it all? — we are all fundamentally the same. Writing helps me to discover the raw material for empathy, those golden veins of emotion we all share.

Thus, the more I write, the more HUMAN I feel, the more connected and whole.

(source: yesweekly.com)

GEORGIA:

Justices grill state attorney over broken agreement in death case----Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., who sits on Georgia's death row, has been in prison since Oct. 19, 1976

In April 2021, deputy state attorney general Beth Burton emailed lawyers representing people on death row about how the state was going to handle executions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This email serves as the agreement,” Burton wrote, although the Attorney General’s Office would later renege on the pact.

On Tuesday, a lawyer representing the AG’s office told skeptical Georgia Supreme Court justices that Burton’s “agreement” was not enforceable. And she took pointed observations from one jurist who expressed dissatisfaction that the AG’s office had gone back on its word.

“Despite the unique underlying facts of this case and a preliminary injunction that essentially acts as a stay on all executions in the state of Georgia, this is a case about contract law,” said state attorney Brooke Chaplain, opening her arguments before the court. She called Burton’s email a “position statement,” not an agreement, and contended it did not meet the conditions to be a written contract under state law.

Justice Charles Bethel made it clear he did not like the state’s position.

“It is very frustrating, as a citizen, to listen to my government tell me I’m not as good as my word if I found a technicality around it,” Bethel said. “It is hard for me to imagine why the state of Georgia would insist that something is not a contract when it’s clearly what it agreed to do. That is very difficult for me to process.”

“Yes, your honor, I understand,” was Chaplain’s only reply.

In the agreement, the state agreed to halt executions until after 3 conditions were met: the statewide judicial emergency in place at the time had to be lifted, normal visitation was resumed at state prisons and the COVID-19 vaccine would be readily available to all members of the public.

It said the 1st person to be put to death when executions resumed would be Billy Raulerson, who killed three Ware County residents in 1993. And the state said it would not seek new execution warrants for any other person on death row “before a total of 6 months after the time the above-3 conditions are met.”

But this past April, before all 3 conditions had been met (normal prison visitation had yet to resume), the AG’s office backed out of the agreement. It informed Virgil Presnell’s lawyers 2 days – not 6 months – before a warrant was signed for his execution, which was then set less than 1 month away on May 17.

“You worked together,” Bethel said. “You came up with an agreement. Then you didn’t follow it.”

Because Presnell’s lawyers did not have fair warning about the execution warrant, they were unable to fully prepare for his clemency hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, said Atlanta lawyer Ronan Doherty, who argued on behalf of Presnell’s legal team.

The agreement had been reached after the state judiciary’s COVID-19 task force tried to find ways on numerous fronts for the courts to deal with the pandemic. After the agreement was reached between Burton and lawyers representing people on death row, it was made known to the judicial task force.

After the execution warrant was obtained, federal public defenders representing Presnell filed a lawsuit and obtained the injunction from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shermela Williams. The state is appealing her ruling.

Presnell sits on death row for kidnapping 2 girls as they walked home on May 4, 1976, from Russell Elementary School in Smyrna. He raped 1 girl, a 10-year-old, and then killed 8-year-old Lori Ann Smith when she tried to run away, drowning her face-down in nearby Nickajack Creek.

On Tuesday, Justices Verda Colvin and Carla Wong McMillian both indicated they didn’t buy Chaplain’s argument that the emailed agreement from Burton was a position statement and not a contract.

“She didn’t say position statement, she said this is our agreement,” Colvin said.

“We have an email that says this is an agreement between the parties that is in lieu of a formal memorandum of understanding,” McMillian said. “That’s as close as you can get to a written contract, if it is a written contract.”

McMillian also asked: “What is the point of this email? Is it to try to get them to stop doing what they were trying to do? Or to lead them astray to stop them working on their death penalty cases?”

Chaplain also argued that Burton, as deputy AG, did not have the authority to bind local district attorneys and even her office from adhering to the agreement.

But McMillian noted that Burton had made representations about the agreement to all the parties, including the judicial task force. Then McMillian asked her most pointed question yet: “Are her misrepresentations to the parties in this case and the COVID task force actionable in a disciplinary proceeding?”

“Your honor, no, I do not believe they would be actionable,” Chaplain replied, saying Burton was trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court is expected to issue its decision in the coming months.

(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

FLORIDA:

Jacksonville man convicted in 1996 murder avoids death penalty 2nd time around

James Belcher was resentenced for the rape and murder of Jennifer Embry because the original death verdict wasn’t unanimous.

(source: First Coast News)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama Asks Appeals Court to Let Execution Go Forward

The State of Alabama is asking a federal appeals court to let it proceed with a lethal injection this week, arguing there is no evidence to corroborate the prisoner’s claim that he selected another execution method.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Tuesday asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift an injunction blocking the execution of Alan Miller. Miller was sentenced to die after being convicted of killing 3 people in a 1999 workplace shooting in Shelby County.

The lethal injection was scheduled for Thursday until it was blocked by a judge.

Miller testified that in 2018 he turned in paperwork selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method, and his lawyers maintain the state lost the form. U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state from by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia.

The state argued in the court filing that there is no reliable evidence that Miller elected nitrogen hypoxia. “Miller offers no evidence aside from a self-serving affidavit,” lawyers for the state wrote.

Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. Nitrogen hypoxia has been authorized as an execution method in Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi, but no state has attempted to put an inmate to death by the untested method.

When Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative execution method in 2018, state law gave inmates a brief window to designate it as their execution method.

Miller, a delivery truck driver, was convicted in the 1999 workplace shootings that killed Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis. Miller shot Holdbrooks and Yancy at one business and then drove to another location to shoot Jarvis, evidence showed.

Trial testimony indicated that Miller believed the men were spreading rumors about him, including that he was gay. A defense psychiatrist hired found that Miller suffered from delusions and severe mental illness, according to court documents, but he also said Miller’s condition wasn’t bad enough to use as a basis for an insanity defense under state law.

(saource: Associated Press)

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

Alabama Federal Court Issues Injunction Halting Execution of Alan Miller

A federal district court has issued an order that, if upheld on appeal, would halt the scheduled September 22, 2022 execution of Alabama death-row prisoner Alan Miller.

In a 61-page ruling on September 19, Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (pictured), granted Miller’s request for a preliminary injunction barring the state from executing him “by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia.” Because the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) told the court on September 15 that it is not prepared to carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia, the order effectively amounts to a stay of Miller’s execution.

The Alabama Attorney General’s office appealed Judge Huffaker’s order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on September 20.

When Alabama authorized nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, it gave prisoners a 30-day window in which to designate it, rather than lethal injection, as their method of execution. Miller says he did so, and even requested a copy of the form, but the state says it has no record of him submitting the form. State prosecutors then began seeking death warrants against prisoners who had not designated nitrogen hypoxia, scheduling them to be executed by lethal injection. It did not seek warrants against anyone who designated nitrogen hypoxia and withdrew a request for an execution date for death-row prisoner Jarrod Taylor after he produced evidence that ADOC has lost his designation form.

“Miller has presented consistent, credible, and uncontroverted direct evidence that he submitted an election form in the manner he says was announced to him by the [ADOC],” Judge Huffaker wrote, along with “circumstantial evidence” that ADOC lost or misplaced his form.

Miller is not seeking to declare Alabama’s method of execution unconstitutional. Rather, he is asking the court to prohibit Alabama from executing him in violation of its own law by denying his statutory right to designate a method of execution authorized by the state. “Miller will likely suffer irreparable injury if an injunction does not issue because he will be deprived of the ability to die by the method he chose and instead will be forced to die by a method he sought to avoid and which he asserts will be painful,” Judge Huffaker wrote. The injury will be, “the loss of his ‘final dignity’—to choose how he will die.”

ADOC and state prosecutors have appealed the injunction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The appeals court has ordered Miller’s lawyers to file his response by 9:00 a.m. September 22, the morning of the scheduled execution. Prosecutors have until 1:00 p.m. on the 22nd to file their reply. After the circuit court reaches its decision, the case can then be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, virtually assuring that the scheduled execution will be delayed.

Alabama’s execution personnel have botched 2 recent executions, failing to set an execution line for more than two hours in each case. On February 22, 2018, the execution team unsuccessfully attempted more than 10 times to insert intravenous execution needles into Doyle Lee Hamm’s feet, legs, and right groin, causing bleeding in his groin, and likely puncturing his bladder, causing blood in his urine. As the midnight deadline to put Hamm to death approached, ADOC Commissioner Jeffrey Dunn called off the execution and held a news conference in which he said, “I wouldn’t characterize what we had tonight as a problem.” Dunn repeatedly asserted that the state had followed its execution protocol.

One month later, in response to a motion filed in a civil rights lawsuit by Doyle Hamm’s lawyer, the Alabama Attorney General blamed the U.S. Supreme Court for the state’s failure to execute Hamm. Prosecutors wrote: “because the Supreme Court prevented Defendants [ADOC] from beginning preparations until a mere three hours before the execution warrant was set to expire, time ran out for Defendants and necessitated aborting the execution.”

On July 28, 2022, in the longest recorded botched lethal injection in U.S. history, ADOC personnel took an estimated three hours to execute Joe Nathan James, Jr. ADOC has refused to provide details of what occurred during the 3 hours before media were permitted into the witness room and the curtains in the execution chamber were opened, but asserted that “ADOC’s execution team strictly followed the established protocol.” ADOC issued a statement saying “The protocol states that if the veins are such that intravenous access cannot be provided, the team will perform a central line procedure. Fortunately, this was not necessary and with adequate time, intravenous access was established.”

A privately funded autopsy subsequently revealed that the execution team had failed multiple times to set an intravenous execution line. James suffered seven puncture wounds and unexplained incisions in the vicinity of his veins that appeared to be related to efforts to set the execution line. He also had puncture wounds in his arm muscles that appeared to be unrelated to insert the IV, which the doctors at the autopsy believed were attempts to sedate James. James also experienced bleeding and bruising around his wrists where he was strapped to the gurney. Dr. Zivot, who participated in the autopsy, said it also revealed “evidence of pulmonary edema fluid [fluid in the lungs] indicating that [James] had experienced the traumatic sensation of suffocation.”

Based on Alabama’s conduct in executing James, Dr. Zivot, and two legal experts, Jon Yorke, Professor of Human Rights and the Director of the Centre for Human Rights at the Birmingham City University School of Law, and Deborah Denno, law professor and the Director of the Neuroscience and Law Center at Fordham University Law School, filed a human rights complaint with the United Nations on September 12, 2022 on Miller’s behalf. The complaint, submitted to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dr. Alice Jill Edwards, and UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Morris Tidball-Binz, argued that “there is an intolerable risk that Mr. Alan Eugene Miller will receive torture and an inhuman form of punishment during his execution scheduled for 22 September 2022.”

The complaint called for U.N. intervention with the State of Alabama and the U.S. Secretary of State, saying “[i]t would be appropriate under international human rights law for the execution of Mr. Alan Eugene Miller to be suspended until Alabama is able to adequately review its execution protocol.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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

Alabama groups call for transparency in executions, oppose nitrogen hypoxia----The groups are calling for transparency in response to the delayed execution of Joe James Jr. in July, in which witnesses were kept outside for 2 hours.

Acoalition of numerous Alabama groups will deliver 3 petitions to the governor’s office this morning calling for transparency during executions and protesting the use of nitrogen hypoxia.

The “Pull Back The Curtains” petition demands greater transparency in Alabama executions. The groups have launched the petition renewing the demand that media and other public witnesses observe the proceedings “from the moment a prisoner walks him or herself into the death chamber until they are declared dead.” It has just over 3,000 signatures so far.

The state’s execution of Joe James Jr. on July 28 has been shrouded in controversy as witnesses including media were kept in vans for two hours, and when they were finally brought in, James was already sedated and unresponsive.

An autopsy showed that he had been subjected to many and varied attempts to establish intravenous access with which to administer the execution drugs.

“The protocol states that if the veins are such that intravenous access cannot be provided, the team will perform a central line procedure. Fortunately, this was not necessary and with adequate time, intravenous access was established.” the Alabama Department of Corrections wrote in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.

A second petition with nearly 4,000 signatures urges the state to grant clemency to Alan Miller, convicted of killing three people in a 1999 workplace incident in Shelby County. A judge Monday issued a stay in Miller’s execution after the defense claimed the state lost paperwork showing Miller’s request to be executed using nitrogen hypoxia.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases,” said Esther Brown, a spokesperson for Alabama’s Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty. “But no matter what you think about the death penalty, everyone wants our government to be capable and accountable. Alan Miller just won a stay of execution because the state lost the form in which he chose the gas chamber rather than lethal injection. The Alabama Department of Corrections seems more concerned about whether reporters are wearing underwear or proper shoes than if we have a competent execution team. It’s ridiculous.”

The 3rd and final petition challenges the use of nitrogen hypoxia in executions, something Alabama has never used to execute an inmate. It has over 10,000 signatures.

“Alabama’s new gas chamber has never been tested and no protocol for carrying out an execution using nitrogen hypoxia is known to be in existence,” the petition states.

Once the petitions are delivered, the groups will convene briefly at Dexter Ave. King Memorial Baptist Church.

An evening program featuring “Voices of Experience on the Death Penalty” will follow at the Kress Building at 39 Dexter Ave. starting at 7p.m. and is free and open to the public. Speakers include murder victim family members opposed to executions and exonerated death row survivor Radall Padgett, who spent 5 years in prison (3 on Alabama’s death row) for a crime he did not commit.

(source: alreporter.com)

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

Death penalty opponents deliver petitions ‘to pull back curtain’ on Alabama executions

Opponents of the death penalty delivered petitions to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office this morning calling for more transparency in how the state conducts executions and for a hold on capital punishment until the process can be reviewed.

Among other points, the advocates called for the state to “pull back the curtain” on executions so that witnesses and the media can see the full procedure. That request is in response to the state’s last execution, which was delayed about three hours because of problems carrying out the lethal injection.

In Alabama, the viewing window for witnesses and the media begins after the inmate is strapped into the gurney with the IV connections established.

Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty in Alabama calls the state’s lethal injection method secretive and undocumented. The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Alabama Arise, Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, the Civil Rights Memorial of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Death Penalty Action were among the other groups that participated in this morning’s event.

After speaking on the Capitol steps, the groups delivered three petitions to Ivey’s office in the Capitol. Pam Bye, Ivey’s director of constituent services, accepted the petitions and said she would give them to the governor. Bye spoke with members of the group who explained why they were there and the organizations they represented. Bye said Ivey was not in her office.

The petition campaign comes amid new questions about how Alabama carries out capital punishment and on the eve of another scheduled execution, although that is on hold for now.

On Thursday, the state was scheduled to execute Alan Eugene Miller by lethal injection. Miller was convicted of killing 3 men in a Shelby County workplace shooting spree in August 1999. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction Monday putting Miller’s execution on hold. Miller claims he requested execution by nitrogen hypoxia when condemned inmates were allowed to make that choice in 2018. The state says there is no evidence of that, but the judge found Miller’s claim credible.

The Legislature authorized execution by nitrogen hypoxia in 2018 because of lawsuits challenging lethal injection and difficulty in obtaining the drugs used in the procedure. Alabama is 1 of at least 3 states to approve nitrogen hypoxia executions but none have been carried out and Alabama has not disclosed how it would work. The idea is that the inmate breathes only nitrogen and dies from oxygen deprivation.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm said in an affidavit last week that the ADOC was not ready to use nitrogen hypoxia.

The state’s most recent execution was delayed by about three hours because of problems starting an intravenous line.

Joe Nathan James Jr. was executed July 28 for the 1994 slaying of his ex-girlfriend, Faith Hall. James’ eyes were closed and he appeared unresponsive during the portion of the execution viewed by witnesses and the media, which came after the delay at Holman prison in Atmore. The delay and reports on why it happened have led to criticism of the state’s competency in carrying out executions.

Abraham Bonowitz of the organization Death Penalty Action said today the “pull back the curtain” petition came in response to the execution of James.

“From the time the prisoner enters that death chamber, until they are killed, witnesses must witness all of that,” Bonowitz said. “Because otherwise, how do we know what the government is doing behind closed curtains? So we’re saying pull back the curtains.”

State autopsy records that could shed light on the execution of James will not be available to the public because they will be presented first to a grand jury, a procedure officials say is used for all executions.

Alabama’s execution of Doyle Lee Hamm was halted in 2018 after prison staff took hours trying to establish an IV line. Hamm later died in prison from cancer.

(source: al.com)

OHIO:

Danny Lee Hill, on death row for 37 years, has execution date set in 4 years----Hill was sentenced to death in 37 years ago after he murdered 12-year-old Raymond Fife.

In spite of objections from the NAACP and the Federal Public Defender's Office, the Ohio Supreme Court has set an execution for Danny Lee Hill nearly four years from now.

Hill, sentenced to death in 37 years ago for the murder of 12-year-old Warren Boy Scout Raymond Fife, is now scheduled to be executed on July 22, 2026.

The Justices granted a motion from Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins.

The court's order did not address Watkins' suggestion that since drugs used in lethal injections are not currently available in Ohio, the state considers execution other methods such as a firing squad or electrocution, as well as newer methods like nitrogen hypoxia.

Background – Caution: Some readers may find some details of the following court record account disturbing.

According to court records, on September 10, 1985, at approximately 5:15 p.m., Raymond Fife left home on his bicycle to visit a friend, Billy Simmons.

After learning that the 12-year-old had not arrived at his friend's home by 5:50 p.m., Fife's family began searching for him.

Raymond Fife's father found his son more than 4 hours later in a wooded field behind the Valu-King supermarket on Palmyra road.

The child was naked and appeared to have been severely beaten and his face was burned. Raymond's underwear was found tied around his neck and appeared to have been lit on fire.

Raymond died in the hospital 2 days later.

The coroner, who ruled Raymond's death a homicide, testified during the trial that the victim had been choked and had a hemorrhage in his brain. The coroner also said that Fife sustained several burns, damage to his rectal-bladder area, and bite marks on his penis.

Through testimony from 3 Warren Western Reserve High School Students, the jury learned that Danny Lee Hill and Timothy Combs were in the area of the Valu-King and the bike trails on the evening Raymond Fife was assaulted. One of the students had also seen Fife riding his bike in the store parking lot.

A student who said he saw Combs on the trail also said he heard a child's scream. Another student says he saw Combs pulling up the zipper of his blue jeans.

2 days after Fife was found, Danny Lee Hill, who was 18 years old at the time, went to the Warren Police Station to inquire about a $5,000 reward that was being offered for information concerning the murder.

According to Police Sergeant Thomas Stewart, Hill told him that he had just seen some he knew riding Fife's bike. When Stewart asked Hill how he knew the bike belonged to Fife, Hill replied, "I know it is."

Sergeant Stewart testified that during their conversation, it became apparent that Hill knew a lot about the bike and the underwear that was found around Fife's neck.

On the following Monday, September 16, Hill went to the police station accompanied by his uncle, Warren Police Detective Morris Hill.

Police say after waiving his Miranda rights, Danny Lee Hill admitted on audio and video tape that he was present during the beating and sexual assault of Raymond Fife, but that Timothy Combs did everything to the victim.

Combs was eventually convicted of felonious sexual penetration, arson, rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder.

Since Combs was 17 years old at the time of the crime, he was not eligible for the death penalty and is serving a life sentence. Combs died in prison in 2018.

Hill was convicted on the same charges, but since he was 18-years-old at the time Fife was assaulted, he was sentenced to death.

Hill has filed several unsuccessful appeals, the most notable of which was a claim that he is mentally retarded and should not be subject to the death penalty.

(source: WFMJ news)

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

Ohio Supreme Court sets execution date for Trumbull County murderer

The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday set July 22, 2026, as the execution date for Danny Lee Hill, a Trumbull County man convicted of murdering a 12-year-old boy in 1985.

However, it’s unclear whether Hill will be put to death on that date – or at all – given Ohio’s years-long difficulties with obtaining lethal-injection drugs. Gov. Mike DeWine has repeatedly pushed back execution dates for several death-row inmates while in office.

Hill, 55, was convicted of aggravated murder, rape, kidnapping, and arson in 1986 for beating, sexually assaulting, strangling and burning Raymond Fife of Warren.

His death sentence follows years of appeals to state and federal courts. A 3-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court panel ruled in 2020 that Hill’s execution would be unconstitutional, referring to accounts that he struggles with basic daily responsibilities such as remembering to take a shower or brush his teeth. However, the full 6th Circuit voted 9-7 to uphold Hill’s death sentence, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Hill will get a clemency hearing about a month before his execution, meaning the date of the execution could still be pushed back.

Trumbull County prosecutors asked the Supreme Court to ensure that Hill’s execution is actually carried out, stating in a legal brief that it’s “difficult to fathom that the great State of Ohio is unable to procure execution drugs.” The prosecutors called on the court to launch an investigation into why executions haven’t been held in Ohio since 2018 and how they can resume.

In 2015, state lawmakers briefly considered reviving execution methods that were previously shunned, including the electric chair and firing squads. But such ideas have gained no traction until now in the GOP-dominated legislature.

(source: cleveland.com)

INDIANA:

Prosecutor asks court to deny change of venue request for suspect in Elwood officer's killing----Instead of changing the venue, prosecutors propose selecting a jury in another county and conducting the trial in Madison County.

The Madison County Prosecutor's Office is asking the courts to deny a request made by Carl Roy Webb Boards II, the man accused of killing 24-year-old Elwood Officer Noah Shahnavaz.

Boards requested to move the venue for his trial outside of Madison County, where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The Madison County prosecutor’s office is asking Madison Circuit Court Division 3 Judge Andrew Hopper to deny the motion and has presented an alternative.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Hanna has filed a motion to deny the change of venue request and proposed selecting a jury in another county and conducting the trial in Madison County, according to our newspaper partners at the Herald Bulletin.

The Herald Bulletin obtained the change of venue motion filed by Boards’ attorney Joe Duepner through a Freedom of Information request.

The motion argues Boards can't receive a fair trial in Madison County because of:

Public hostility against the accused

Public outrage over the offense

Prejudicial news reporting or editorializing

Speculative opinions as to the personality and character of Boards

Disclosure of inadmissible evidence or prior criminal records

In a response, Hanna wrote that the change of venue motion doesn’t comply with court rules because it fails to allege any “fact” but merely makes statements without supporting facts or documents.

Hanna said the seating of a jury can be accomplished during questioning to determine if a verdict can be reached based on the facts of the case.

Boards is accused of fatally shooting Elwood officer Noah Shahnavaz on July 31. He is charged with murder, two counts of resisting law enforcement, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, firearm enhancement, habitual offender, life without parole and the death penalty.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 30 and his trial is set for Jan. 9.

(source: WTOR news)

ARKANSAS:

State to seek death penalty against accused murderer in Marion County

The state has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing a Flippin couple and stealing their truck.

64-year-old Dale Mark Stikeleather, who lists an address along Mallard Lane in Flippin, is charged with 2 counts of capital murder, aggravated residential burglary, theft of property and committing a felony with a firearm.

He is currently an inmate in the Marion County jail. No bond has been set for Stikeleather on the murder charges.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Jeffery and Kimberly Watson were found dead on May 11 in their residence along Mallard Terrace in Flippin.

A number of spent 9-millimeter cartridges were located at the murder scene.

A 2013 Ford pickup truck was missing from the residence. Investigators questioned a number of people living in close proximity to the home in which the victims were found.

Stikeleather, who was reported to live only about 1/10 of a mile from the scene of the murder, was not questioned because he was not at home.

TRUCK TRACED TO HOUSTON

The missing truck was electronically traced to several locations in the Houston, Texas area. Investigators said information on Stikeleather’s Facebook page indicated that he lived in the Houston area at one time.

One of Stikeleather’s relatives said she had not seen him recently, but did provide investigators with a phone number for him.

The suspect’s cellphone was “pinged” and it was also located in the Houston, Texas area and “in close proximity of the last known location of the stolen truck.”

Other evidence also pointed to Stikeleather being in the Houston area. He was located and arrested in the Houston suburb of Sugarland on May 16, according to the probable cause affidavit.

DECISION NOT TO SELL COST 2 LIVES

Stikeleather told investigators he went to the neighbors’ home to ask if he could buy the truck.

When Jeffery Watson told him he did not want to sell the vehicle, Stikeleather is alleged to have pulled a 9-millimeter pistol he was carrying and shot the man.

He said he then went to the back deck and shot Kimberly Watson. Stikeleather is alleged to have also admitted that he grabbed a knife and stabbed the woman.

When Stikeleather was apprehended, he was in possession of the murder victims’ truck and there was a 9-millimeter pistol in the vehicle that the suspect claimed was his.

BAXTER COUNTY CASE

Stikeleather has an open criminal case in Baxter County as well. His charges include theft of property.

In August, Stikeleather is reported to have gone to a Gassville car lot and said he wanted to drive a truck he was interested in to his bank so he could arrange financing.

When he did not return at the agreed time, car lot personnel went to work locating the missing truck.

When found, it was described as being “stuck in an area not intended for vehicle traffic.” Stikeleather was alleged to be intoxicated.

Investigators said Stikeleather “had no intention” of taking the truck to a bank as part of obtaining a loan to purchase the vehicle.

DWI CHARGES

In addition, Stikeleather has picked up a number of driving while intoxicated charges across several counties, including Baxter and Marion.

In early March 2021, Stikeleather turned up at the Marion County District Court Clerk’s office demanding to file an appeal in 2 of his DWI cases.

He was reported to have been "loud belligerent and combative."

When he left the office, staff noticed he was driving a vehicle. It was known that Stikeleather had no insurance, his driver’s license was suspended and was, most likely, intoxicated.

Law enforcement was contacted and Stikeleather was stopped by a Marion County sheriff’s deputy shortly after leaving the District Court Clerk’s office.

Stikeleather was not stopped for long. He took off, but was pursued and captured before he got far. The deputy reported Stikeleather showed signs of impairment, including bloodshot eyes and difficulty maintaining his balance.

The strong odor of intoxicants could be detected on Stikeleather’s breath, according to the deputy’s report.

(source: KTLO news)

IDAHO:

Death penalty attorneys appointed to defend Mark Bent

2 attorneys who regularly handle death penalty cases have been appointed to defend a man who admitted to shooting and killing an acquaintance.

Mark Bent, 41, will be represented by James Archibald and John Thomas in his 1st-degree murder case for reportedly shooting and killing 23-year-old Nikolas Bird.

Archibald and Thomas have worked together on several high-profile murder cases, particularly those in which defendants faced the possibility of receiving the death penalty.

The appointment of the attorneys does not indicate whether Bent will face the death penalty. Under Idaho law, the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office has 60 days to declare whether it intends to pursue a death sentence.

Bonneville County Prosecutor Randy Neal said his office would wait for the court process to proceed before deciding whether to seek the death penalty. “We have a process for determining whether to seek the death penalty, but that will not begin until after he is arraigned in district court,” he said.

Idaho Code Section 19-2515 lays out the aggravating circumstances for prosecutors to consider whether a murder may warrant a death sentence.

Bent was arrested on Sept. 3. He reportedly called police to tell them he had shot Bird and that he wanted to turn himself in.

Bent also reportedly made a post on Facebook that has since been removed admitting to the shooting.

“I am saddened to say that I have committed some serious crimes today that will put me in jail for the rest of my life or lead to death,” Bent wrote.

Bent goes on to write that he wanted to kill Bird because he believed Bird was responsible for the loss of his job. The post claims Bent had a falling out with a group of car enthusiasts called the Castaways Car Club and that Bird told them where Bent worked.

Neither the Facebook post or court records indicate why Bent lost his job or how Bird may have been responsible for his job loss.

On Sept. 8 several people held a vigil for Bird hosted by the car club, releasing balloons into the air in his memory.

A preliminary hearing was delayed to 9 a.m. Nov. 18 in Bonneville County Court. 1st-degree murder is punishable with a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to a life sentence, or the death penalty.

(source: postregister.com)

USA:

‘No one is safer’ because of capital punishment

Capital punishment has proved to be so ineffective at preventing crime that all its supporters have left is the thirst for revenge, a panel of anti-death penalty leaders agreed during a Sept. 21 webinar hosted by the EJUSA Evangelical Network.

“Punishment is all there is to it. Retribution and punishment. There is no gain. No one is safer. No one is healthier. And it is very arbitrary,” said Stacy Rector, executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The Death Penalty Information Center reports states that execute prisoners experienced homicide rates 25% higher in 2019 than those that do not — a figure that spiked as high as 47% in 2007.

“We know the death penalty does not deter crime, that it is racially discriminatory, expensive and done in a tortuous manner,” webinar moderator and network manager Sam Heath said.

He added that while 27 U.S. states still have the death penalty, “only a handful of counties really use it. It’s very few places.”

And the criteria those jurisdictions use to convict in capital cases is highly arbitrary, said Kat Jutras, state advocacy director of Death Penalty Alternatives for Arizona.

Jutras said she was incarcerated more than a decade ago in a facility separated by a fence from Arizona’s death row for women. At the time, all she heard about the condemned were rumors and assumptions about the severity of their crimes.

“Later on, you find out plenty of people who have committed violent crimes — murder — who are not on that side. And you start thinking, why is it so arbitrary who goes there and who doesn’t?” she said. “There are all these different inequities in the system.”

Factors that can increase the likelihood of a death sentence include age, race, mental health, sexual abuse and even geography, Jutras said. “Depending on where you are convicted, you have a higher chance of being on death row in Maricopa County than you do in Yavapai (County) for the same crime. To me, this isn’t justice.”

And there are economic factors, she added. “If you have money, if you have representation, you could be spared. But if you don’t, you really are at the mercy of the court.”

From any angle, capital punishment is an absolute policy failure, said Branden Cunningham, director of public engagement for the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

In addition to the failure to lower or eliminate murder rates, the death penalty drags victims’ families through years of agonizing appeals, often without the promised closure, is a burden on taxpayers and presents the constant risk of executing innocent persons.

“We have almost 40 years of data showing that it doesn’t work,” Cunningham said.

The inconsistent use of the death penalty within states also describes its use nationwide. Nevada has 64 people on death row but is currently under a “de facto moratorium” in place since 2006, Cunningham said.

Yet there is a lack of political will and public interest in abolishing the law. “It’s easier to keep the status quo and talk about abolition than deal with the perceived electoral fallout,” he said. “Why do we keep it? Cultural inertia — this is what we have always done.”

The situation is much different in neighboring Arizona, where the state executed a blind, disabled and mentally ill prisoner in May after an eight-year hiatus on executions, Jutras said. “That’s how we started our executions here. Our attorney general is adamant about moving quickly” on more executions before leaving office at the end of the year, she said.

And that is possible because up to 20 of 111 Arizona death row inmates have exhausted their appeals, she said. “Unfortunately, more executions are going to happen here until we have a turnover in representation.”

Tennessee is in the midst of a pause on executions imposed in April by Republican Gov. Bill Lee. He took the step when “concerning issues” surfaced around the state’s lethal injection drugs and procedures, Rector said.

The state has executed 13 prisoners since resuming use of the death penalty in 2000, and 47 remain on death row.

“We are hopeful with this lethal injection issue that the state will take the investigation seriously, slow things down and make sure everything gets answered,” she said.

Rector, who is a Presbyterian minister, said her organization is appealing to conservatives and religious groups to help push for abolition: “We are constantly appealing to faith communities. Their impact is critically important.”

(source: Baptist News Global)

RUSSIA:

Russia Releases Morocco's Brahim Saadoun After Riyadh Mediation----Saadoun received a death sentence in June.

Russian authorities released today 10 foreign prisoners, including Morocco's Ibrahim Saadoun. The decision came following a mediation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that a plane carrying the prisoners landed in Saudi Arabia.

"The relevant Saudi authorities received and transferred them from Russia to the kingdom and are facilitating procedures for their respective countries," the statement said.

Russian authorities arrested Saadoun in April while fighting with the Ukrainian forces. Footage of his interrogation instantly became viral once shared online. Subsequently, The Donetsk court sentenced him to death in June. The court argued that the death penalty was the appropriate punishment for him, describing him as a member of foreign mercenaries in Ukraine.

In a recent interview with Russian media RT, Saadoun addressed a message to all people who would like to join the Ukrainian forces and said: “For those willing to come to Ukraine and join the army for their extremism, this place is not for you. If you join, you will harm your own country too.”

Saadoun was enrolled at the Faculty of Aerodynamic and Space Technologies at the Kiev Polytechnic Institute (KPI). The student, however, dropped out in 2021 to join the Ukrainian army.

(source: Morocco World News)

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

British soldiers who were facing death penalty in Russian-occupied Ukraine RELEASED

British soldiers who were facing the death penalty in Russian-occupied Ukraine have been released months later, as reported on Thursday, September 22.

Video footage of the released British soldiers who have escaped the death penalty in Russian-occupied Ukraine, was shared on Twitter by BBC News Correspondent Emma Vardy:

“NEW: Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner & John Harding’s first video on their way home to the UK, as 5 British captives are freed ??”

“We just want everyone to know we’re out of the danger zone and on our way home to our families…thanks to everyone who’s been supporting us” – Aiden”

Shaun Pinner says the men got out “by the skin of our teeth”< P> British soldiers, 28-year-old Aiden Aslin and 48-year-old Shaun Pinner, were arrested in April, before their appearance in court in the Donetsk People’ Republic.

The Donetsk People’s Republic is a Ukrainian breakaway state that was formed on April, 7, 2014 by pro-Russian separatists after the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity took place.

Russia previously commented that as the soldiers were mercenaries, laws on prisoners of war did not apply.

The head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, previously spoke on the execution of the British soldiers and other foreign mercenaries, stating:

“All foreigners have filed an appeal, we are waiting for the court hearing. If the court finds that the punishment is appropriate, then the cases will be transferred to the executive service for the implementation of the sentence. It is envisaged to be carried out through firing squad.”

He added that there is “no exact date for the execution.” With the decision reportedly to be made “non-publicly.”

(source: Euro Weekly News)

MYANMAR:

Junta threatens prison, execution for supporting Myanmar opposition

Anyone in Myanmar found to have provided as little as one kyat in financial support to anti-junta groups or engaged with anti-junta content on social media now faces anywhere from 2 years in prison to execution, according to a spokesman for the military regime.

Deputy Minister of Information Major General Zaw Min Tun told reporters at a press conference in the capital Naypyidaw on Tuesday that donating to or supporting Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), ousted lawmakers of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), or the anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitary group is punishable under Myanmar’s anti-terrorism law.

Purchasing treasury bonds or lottery tickets for the groups is also subject to punishment, he said, adding that “donating just a single kyat” – approximately one-five-hundredth of a U.S. cent – could earn the offender a minimum of a decade behind bars.

“Whether you ‘like’ or ‘share’ [an anti-junta social media post], you are violating Section 124 (b) of the Penal Code [for incitement to destroy the state]. You can be sentenced anywhere from 3 years to 10 years in prison and you can also be charged a fine,” Zaw Min Tun said.

“The reason you are subject to a 10-year prison sentence or a death sentence for donating just one kyat is because it is in violation of [the Anti-Terrorism Act]. You need to understand that. Even if you don't understand the law, the law will not forgive you.”

In addition to violating Myanmar’s anti-terrorism law and inciting the public against the state, Zaw Min Tun also said such actions are in breach of the country’s Electronic Communications Law. A conviction under the charges is punishable by a minimum sentence of two years in prison and a maximum sentence of death.

A resident of the commercial capital Yangon, who declined to be named for security reasons, told RFA Burmese that the junta is trying to deter support for the opposition through threats.

“These tyrants will do anything in their power to stop people from supporting the opposition, but the people will do whatever they can to support them,” she said.

“The more they make life difficult for us, the closer we will be to victory [against the regime]. It might be a bit challenging now [to support the opposition], but we will make sure that we can help them.”

A veteran high court lawyer told RFA on condition of anonymity that while providing support to anti-junta movements can be subject to prosecution, Myanmar’s law says nothing about jailing people for simply liking posts on social media.

“Giving ‘Likes’ [online] is our right. It’s already mentioned in the provisions of civil rights and the basic rights of citizens under the [military-drafted] 2008 Constitution,” he said.

“Based on what [Zaw Min Tun] said, action can be taken against someone for the content of their comment or even the way the text is written.”

‘Facing a crisis’

A spokesman from the Dawei Ashaytaw PDF group in Tanintharyi region said the junta is threatening people with legal provisions because its leadership is afraid that the wider public will take up arms to challenge its rule.

“We have witnessed the rising number of deaths of military soldiers in Sagaing and Magwe regions,” he said.

“We believe that there is a lack of unity within the army. And so, they are making threats to raise morale within the army as well as a deterrent to the people."

The spokesman warned that such threats could lead to a drop in domestic contributions to the armed opposition.

Political analyst Than Soe Naing called the junta's statements “illegal and excessive.”

"They are talking too much about the law. But as usual, the law is whatever they say it is,” he said.

“So if those laws are used as the basis for action, we must say that democracy in Myanmar has completely fallen into darkness.”

Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the office of NUG President Duwa Lashi La, told RFA that the junta is becoming increasingly desperate in its actions.

“All they can do now is threaten and terrorize the public. And that is what they are doing,” he said.

“Saying that people will be arrested and charged for donating a single kyat … is because they are facing a crisis. They are afraid because they are in their last hour. They know they are going to lose and they know what is coming.”

According to Thai NGO Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), junta authorities have arrested nearly 15,600 civilians since the military seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021 coup, nearly 12,500 of whom have been sentenced or remain in detention. The group says authorities have killed more than 2,300 civilians over the last 20 months, mostly during peaceful anti-junta protests.

(source: rfa.org)

INDIA:

RPF pledges capital punishment

The proscribed RPF has announced that it would award capital punishment to Khangembam Sanjoy Singh alias Athoi alias Pambei (28) of Kumbi Setapur Maning Leikai and Leishangthem Khomei (53) of Haraorok Mayai Leikai for outraging the modesty of a minor girl at Takhel Sanjenbam on September 12.

In a statement issued to the press today, the outfit said that Sanjoy was on probation to see if he could be recruited into the outfit. During the probation period he was handed a 9 mm pistol for safe keeping as it was not possible to carry the said gun amid the tight security, said RPF. The gun was purportedly used to defile the young girl.

Sharing the grief and pain of the defiled child and the hurt family members, RPF said that capital punishment for any rapist is its belief and added that capital punishment would be awarded to the rapists. Another accused, Leishangthem Khomei is not connected with the outfit in any manner, said RPF and added that he had served time in 2018 for outraging the modesty of the same girl. Stating that outfit has taken serious note of the case, RPF said that it will award the capital punishment to the 2 rapists.

(source: thesangaiexpress.com)

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

Fixed Term Sentences Exceeding 14 Years Can Be An Alternative To Death Sentence In Certain Cases : Supreme Court

see: https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-fixed-term-sentences-14-years-victim-convict-rehabilitative-justice-state-of-haryana-vs-anand-kindoo-2022-livelaw-sc-780-209983)

CHINA:

Former Justice Minister Given Suspended Death Sentence

Former justice minister Fu Zhenghua has been handed a suspended death sentence on Thursday for accepting bribes and bending the law for personal gains, state media reported. Fu was given the death penalty with a 2-year reprieve which will see the 67-year-old serve a lifetime jail sentence if he does not commit a crime during the initial 2-year period. Authorities emphasized that even after the 2 years, Fu will not be able commute the sentence or seek parole.

An intermediate court in Changchun in the northeastern province of Jilin convicted Fu for accepting more than 117 million yuan ($16.5 million) in bribes directly or through relatives between 2005 and 2021. In exchange, Fu abused his power to create favorable conditions in business operations, job placements and case handling, during his past positions as public security deputy minister.

(source: Caixin Global)

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

Man who arranged girlfriend's murder sentenced to death

A man in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, who lured his girlfriend to faraway Yunnan province and then asked two accomplices to kill her, was sentenced to death in Kunming, Yunnan on Tuesday.

The man, Hong Qiao, killed Li Qianyue, in July 2020 over a dispute that arose during their dating. He then colluded with two of his friends and made specific plans to kill her, the Yunnan Higher People's Court said.

The court said that Hong tricked the 21-year-old college student to fly to Jinghong, Yunnan, which was about 2,000 kilometers away, on July 9, 2020. She was then lured to a suburban park, where she was killed by the two accomplices, who had already dug a hole to bury the body.

The court confirmed that Hong provided money and some of the tools for the murder. The three also practiced the killing method many times.

Hong appealed after he was sentenced to death by the Intermediate People's Court of Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture in July this year, claiming that he had mental disorders. He pleaded not guilty.

The higher court rejected his claim of mental disorders and said he had showed no remorse for his actions.

The 2 accomplices were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

(source: chinadaily.com.cn)

PHILIPPINES:

Rising crime, anti-EJK advocates and the death penalty

There cannot be any other way to react but with incredulity when people who were hardcore critics of former president Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs are now criticizing President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his alleged softness on crime as the driver for the spate of criminal activities. Alleged kidnappings, albeit unreported, among Chinese are reportedly on the rise.

It does not help that the president's stance on the death penalty is more nuanced than many right-wing advocates who dominate his political base would tolerate. It can safely be said that the vast majority of the 31 million who voted for him are firm believers in the hard approach to crime and the reinstatement of capital punishment.

Actually, President Marcos' discomfort with the death penalty was never a secret. He already made his position known before, and it stems from the fact that studies have shown that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to crime. In the United States, states that execute criminals have a higher crime rate than those where the death penalty is banned. In addition, death is an irreversible penalty once imposed, and in the face of an imperfect justice system where many people, usually the poor, have very little access to quality legal defense, then the specter of executing a wrongly and unjustly convicted person becomes very real. But considering that elections in the Philippines are won not on issues but on the basis of narratives and optics, the stance of the President on the reinstatement of the death penalty did not figure in the calculations of many of those who voted for him.

There is no empirical evidence to show any causality between President Marcos' ascension to office and the alleged rise in crime. Police authorities are even claiming that crime rates are not actually increasing. There is also the possibility that crime rates may not have actually increased but that media coverage has amplified the social media chatter that peddles allegations of kidnappings and white vans roaming around to abduct young women and girls. There is no systematic data as to the sources of these allegations. Some may actually be legitimate, while others are only conjured and shared by people so used to spreading fake news. Others may even have motives, and here there may be two kinds. There are those who would amplify the rise of criminality to pressure the Marcos government to adopt the strong-arm policy of the previous Duterte administration. Included in this cohort are those who push for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

And then there are those who would amplify the perception of rising criminality and count this as an opportunity to attack and criticize President Marcos. Included here are those who cannot help but remind those who voted for him as being hoodwinked in choosing a weak president. Others would even maliciously suggest that criminal groups are emboldened by the Marcos presidency which they consider to be providing an enabling environment.

(source: Opinion, Antonio Contreras; Manila Times)

TAIWAN:

Flaws in the death penalty debate

The alleged killing of 2 police officers by Lin Hsin-wu has triggered the recurring election season conversation about the death penalty. Most Taiwanese look to the media to guide their sense of ethics of the legal system in the absence of a legal expert.

Every time this conversation is embarked on, it always seems to lack a sense of perspective and appears to be held in a miseducated echo chamber. The dominant narrative created by media talk shows includes disputable hot-button words such as “deterrence” and “restitution” to impose a reaction.

The Taiwanese media’s discussion about capital punishment often overlooks that abolition is a global trend. Across the world, countries have recognized that “an eye for an eye” is a dated approach, rethinking what constitutes justice.

International studies about the death penalty are continuously ignored by the media. It has been found that the practice of sentencing someone to death does not prevent future crimes from being committed, rather it creates a brutalization of society.

Capital punishment is interwoven into the fabric of countries with a history of colonialism, imperialism and authoritarianism. As countries face their identity as democratic and humanitarian entities, there is less space for the death penalty in that system.

Taiwan’s use of capital punishment is a product of its colonial rule by Japan and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) 1-party dictatorship. As Taiwan continues to proclaim its democratic success, it cannot shake off its archaic sentencing of capital punishment.

Taiwanese have avoided conversations about the death penalty due to a disinterest in an outsider’s agenda that seeks to expand human rights in Taiwan. Many point to the US as reason enough as to why retaining the death penalty is justified.

However, in the US, only a handful of states maintain the death penalty. This form of sentencing is diminishing each year. As of this year, there are only 20 US states using the death penalty.

One of the more recent states to abolish it, in 2019, was New Hampshire. The movement toward abolition in the state started in 1985. In 2008, the last case to receive a death sentence was the killing of a police officer that occurred in a similar manner to that of the Lin case. In that case, Michael Addison resisted arrest by police officer Michael Briggs, and while being chased down, Addison fatally shot Briggs.

The parallels between the cases are striking: Addison and Lin come from lower socioeconomic classes; both had a record prior to arrest and both committed the alleged murders when police attempted to apprehend them. Both are people who the public does not want to support. They are the kind of people who we identify as the most horrendous of murderers: We had given up on them even before a crime was committed. Then, once a crime was committed, we refused to think about what led to that act.

The death sentence for Addison shaped the debate about the death penalty. Despite the trauma of the killing, the people of New Hampshire still eventually abolished the death penalty. Perhaps the most compelling statement was offered by John Breckenridge, a New Hampshire police officer and partner of Briggs who was present when Briggs was shot.

“As a Catholic I could not justify the very premeditated act of executing someone who — for all the evil of his crime and all the permanent hurt he caused others — still lives ... in the possibility of spiritual redemption,” Breckenridge said.

When the death penalty was repealed by the state legislature, then-New Hampshire senator Melanie Levesque, a Democrat, said that capital punishment is “archaic, costly, discriminatory and final.”

Despite what has been made to be believed, the death penalty does not protect the law enforcement community, it does not deliver the justice that crime victims and their families are looking for, and it is prone to mistakes.

The state legislators voted to repeal in the recognition that allowing the state the power to take a life is impermissible.

“This is called an issue of conscience, because it supersedes any consideration of politics,” said New Hampshire Senator Bob Guida, a Republican.

Legislators and their constituents bent toward their moral values rather than sensational news, recognizing that the death penalty was being used as an emotional response to crime.

When New Hampshire abolished the death penalty, it was because of the belief that the death penalty was not serving the community in ways that were once believed to be true.

Most importantly, it was because people, after becoming better educated, were able to change their minds. The people of New Hampshire learned to distinguish between what is equitable and what is emotional, and emerged with the understanding that state-administered death does not have a place in a democratic government.

Under Article 57 of Taiwan’s Criminal Code, judges are responsible for choosing which crime is more severe than the other. In the judicial system, when a case is identified as the most heinous, an attempt is then made to apply the death sentence.

However, murderers do not consistently receive the same sentencing. Time and again, it is the people whom we have given up on who we consider to be the most monstrous of criminals.

Capital punishment is the continuous act of picking and choosing whose life is more valuable. The argument that one life is more important is a difficult judgement to make, although we entrust that decision to the judicial system, which is also filled with imperfect humans having biases.

When we justify the taking of one life because of the loss of another, we are taking a stance made through emotion rather than rationality.

For the past decade, with the trend toward global abolition of the death penalty, Taiwanese media and politicians have prevented constructive conversations about abolishing capital punishment. Time and again, they point to justice for the victims and their families.

Of course, grief is not something that can easily be diminished or overlooked, but the justice system is meant to be just for all: not just the people we pick and choose it to work for, but for all of society.

(source: Maria Wilkinson was born in New Hampshire and currently resides in Taiwan----Taipei Times)

IRAN:

America shouldn’t allow the Iranian killer of my husband and 30,000 others to address the UN this week----The United Nations should not allow Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to speak during the meeting, Zahra Afshari Amin writes.

America shouldn’t allow the Iranian killer of my husband and 30,000 others to address the UN this week. The present article was published in the New York Post on September 18, 2022. It is written by Zahra Afshari Amin, who spent 4 years in prison in Iran, and is a social worker in Cardiff, United Kingdom.

34 years ago, the Iranian regime systematically executed my husband and many of my dearest friends, burying them in secret mass graves. On Wednesday, the person arguably most responsible for those killings, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, is slated to speak at the UN General Assembly. Washington has given no indication it opposes the New York visit.

The mass murderer’s presence will be a terrible affront to the UN charter, whitewashing Raisi’s involvement in what may have been the late-20th century’s worst crime against humanity.

My husband, Ghasem Seifan, was one of a staggering 30,000 political prisoners massacred over the course of just 3 months. Roughly 90% of them were condemned to execution for supporting the leading pro-democracy opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI).

Like the others, Ghasem was not initially sentenced to death. In 1982, he and I were arrested, in the presence of our 18-month-old daughter, following a midnight raid on our home by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. I served 4 years; Ghasem was given a 10-year sentence.

His execution came abruptly, 7 years into that sentence after then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa declaring all MEK supporters were guilty of “enmity against God,” which carries the death penalty.

For more than three decades, I have heard stories from survivors and eyewitnesses of the 1988 massacre, which have given me a fairly clear understanding of what my husband likely faced in his final days.

He was taken before a “death commission,” perhaps several times, to answer questions about his political beliefs and affiliations — and probably nothing else. He was sent to be hanged when it became clear he stood by those beliefs and was resolved to uphold his devotion to the MEK. I am certain my friends were similarly steadfast, knowing it might cost them their lives.

Survivors’ testimony has also led me to understand Ebrahim Raisi was most likely one of the last people who saw my husband alive: Ghasem spent his last months in Gohardasht Prison, one of two major facilities under Raisi’s jurisdiction. As Tehran’s deputy prosecutor at the time of the massacre, Raisi became 1 of 4 officials to serve on the capital city’s death commission.

Countless reports agree he was uniquely dedicated to that role and helped guarantee that very few political detainees at either Gohardasht or Evin Prison survived the implementation of Khomeini’s fatwa.

The United Nations and its leading member states must understand that by granting Raisi a platform, they’ll effectively be overlooking these killings and legitimizing the position held by a man known to countless Iranians as the “Butcher of Tehran.”

Raisi continued his crimes after 1988, most significantly as head of the regime’s judiciary from 2017 until his presidential appointment last year. He oversaw key aspects of the crackdown on a November 2019 nationwide uprising. Authorities killed more than 1,500 peaceful protesters, and Raisi’s judiciary followed up with a months-long campaign of torture against those arrested.

The regime’s brutality has persisted since Raisi became president. Last week, the so-called “morality police” beat to death Mahsa Amini, 22, for disobeying the regime’s discriminatory forced-veiling laws.

Such acts of brutality stand out as vivid symbols of the Iranian regime’s impunity, which was reinforced by more than 3 decades of relative international silence on the 1988 massacre. To the credit of Swedish authorities, that impunity faced its first major challenge in 2019 with the arrest of Hamid Noury, a former Gohardasht Prison official, and Raisi collaborator. A Stockholm court sentenced him to life imprisonment for mass murder.

The United Kingdom, the United States, and their mutual allies should all be willing to investigate Raisi and other known perpetrators of crimes against humanity and subject them to criminal prosecution in their own jurisdictions or at the International Criminal Court.

I and several other victims of the 1988 massacre have filed a lawsuit against Raisi in New York. If the US State Department does not see fit to block Raisi’s attendance at the UN General Assembly, then at least prosecutors can present Raisi with the civil complaint and help make sure his past crimes are not simply swept under the rug while he walks freely through New York and speaks openly to the international community. There is much more that should be done in the future, for the sake of my late husband, his 30,000 fellow victims, and the many, many thousands of families, friends and compatriots who are still crying out every day for justice.

(source> women.ncr-iran.org)

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

Death sentence against 2 women for speaking out in support of LGBTQI+ rights

An Iranian court sentenced to death 2 women defending LGBTQI+ rights on charges of promoting homosexuality. The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) and the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) strongly condemn these death sentences and urge the Iranian authorities to overturn them.

On August 10, 2022, the Islamic Revolution Court of Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province, tried LGBTQI+ rights defender Ms. Zahra (aka Sareh) Sedighi Hamedani and Ms. Elham Chubdar, another woman active on LGBTQI+ matters online and associated with Ms. Sedighi Hamedani. The 2 were found guilty of "spreading corruption on earth" (Article 286 of the Islamic Penal Code) through "being members of gangs smuggling young women and girls, promoting homosexuality, proselytising Christianity, and contacts with opposition media". They were sentenced to death, following a grossly unfair trial. While the date of their conviction is unknown, the 2 women learned of their sentences on September 1, 2022, in the women’s wing of Urmia jail, where they have been arbitrarily detained since late 2021. Their sentences have been appealed to the Supreme Court, which will examine their cases in the coming months.

Zahra Sedighi Hamedani is an Iranian LGBTQI+ activist. She operated a Telegram channel for LBGTQI+ people, was active on Instagram, and gave interviews on abuses against sexual minorities.

Ms. Sedighi Hamedani was arrested by the Iranian security forces on October 27, 2021, while she attempted to cross the Iran-Turkey border to seek asylum in Turkey. The charges against her stemmed from her public defence of the human rights of the LGBTQI+ community on social media and an appearance in a BBC documentary aired in May 2021 about the abuses that members of this community suffer in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq (KRG), where she had lived for some time. Ms. Sedighi Hamedani returned to Iran after she was arbitrarily detained in solitary confinement for 21 days and tortured by Iraqi Kurdistan's security and intelligence agents in October 2021, because of her appearance in the above-mentioned BBC documentary. Following her arrest, Ms. Sedighi Hamedani was held in solitary confinement for 53 days, during which she was subjected to abusive interrogations, homophobic insults, threats of losing custody of her children and death threats made by the Revolution Guards. Ms. Elham Chubdar was arrested about a month after Ms. Sedighi Hamedani.

Homosexuality is still illegal under domestic law in Iran. The Islamic Penal Code explicitly criminalises same-sex relationships for both men and women, which leads to the persecution of members of the LGBTQI+ community and those defending their rights. The vague accusation of “spreading corruption on earth” is frequently used in Iran to prosecute people accused of a broad range of offences.

The Observatory and the LDDHI are appalled by this decision and urge the Iranian authorities to quash these convictions and death sentences and to immediately and unconditionally release Zahra Sedighi Hamedani and Elham Chubdar. The Observatory and the LDDHI express their utmost concern over the above-mentioned allegations of ill-treatment against Ms. Sedighi Hamedani and urge the Iranian authorities to carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into these acts, in order to hold those responsible accountable.

The Observatory and the LDDHI further call on the Iranian authorities to guarantee that all human rights defenders in the country, including LGBTQI+ rights defenders, can express themselves freely and carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals.

---

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

The League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) was founded in Paris in March 1983, following the forced closure of the “Iranian Association for the Defence of Human Rights and Liberties” (established in 1977) in 1981, and the departure of its leaders into exile. Since its establishment, LDDHI has consistently reported and campaigned against human rights violations in Iran, concentrating on the abolition of the death penalty in Iran, women’s rights, freedom of political prisoners, rights of religious and ethnic minorities, freedoms of expression, assembly and association among others. LDDHI has been a member of FIDH since 1986.

(source: omct.org)

NORTHERN IRELAND:

Last death sentence inmate Liam Holden laid to rest as congregation told of his fond memories of Long Kesh

The north’s last death penalty inmate recalled "with great fondness" the many years he spent in prison following the commutation of his sentence to life behind bars, his funeral service heard today.

Liam Holden, who died last Thursday aged 68, spent 17 years in prison after his wrongful conviction for the killing of a British Army private, shot dead 50 years ago this week.

The father-of-2, one of 12 siblings born to Martha and Samuel Holden, grew up in the Westrock bungalows in the Whiterock area of west Belfast.

He left school at 15 and began working as a trainee chef at Chimney Corner. His great love of cooking remained with him for the rest of his life and he had real ambitions to be a top chef, Fr John Downey told the large congregation gathered at St John’s on the Falls Road.

These ambitions were “cruelly interrupted when at the age of 18 he was sentenced to death, later commuted to life."

Mr Holden was arrested approximately a month after the killing of Private Frank Bell, who died on September 20 1972, 3 days after he was shot by a sniper while on patrol in Ballymurphy.

Mr Holden was tortured by members of the Parachute Regiment and forced into making a confession. He was convicted the following year but this was overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2012.

“He spent the next 17 years in Long Kesh. A lot of people would find this quite daunting but he spoke of this part of his life with great fondness, loved the sense of camaraderie, togetherness, empathy, the sharing of a common cause,” Fr Downey said.

The celebrant recalled that Mr Holden began working as a taxi driver on his release, a job that allowed him to talk with lots of different people.

“This was right up his street,” Fr Downey said. “He was a quiet man but loved nothing more than making people laughing, he lived for it.”

The congregation heard how “anyone who came across him was guaranteed to come away full of laughter”.

It was a great gift but he also was “always there for anyone needing assistance”.

“But he had a little flaw some in the congregation may know about. He loved football but he had a very poor taste in teams. He loved Arsenal. It does reflect Liam’s great sense of humour,” Fr Downey said.

Along with joy and laughter, there was sadness, including losing his “beloved Pauline”, his dear parents and many of his siblings.

When he finally lost the battle against illness, he was surrounded by members of his family, including children, Samuel and Bronagh.

Following Requiem Mass, his remains were brought to the City Cemetery for burial.

Mourners included former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Private Bell was also 18 when he was fatally shot by the sniper in the Ballymurphy area. From Cheshire, he had joined 2nd Para six weeks earlier, was due for a month’s leave before redeployment to Malaya.

Engaged to be married, his grandfather at the time told the local newspaper his grandson joined the army because he was unemployed.

(source: irishnews.com)

SEPTEMBER 21, 2022:

TEXAS----impending execution

Texas death row inmate files for stay of execution

Texas death row inmate John Henry Ramirez filed a stay of execution last week following action by the Nueces County District Attorney, who opposes the death penalty.

Ramirez is schedule to be killed Oct. 5 for the 2004 robbery-murder of a convenience store clerk in Corpus Christi.

Ramirez was previously scheduled for execution last year when the U.S. Supreme Court hit pause at the last minute in order to hear oral arguments in his religious rights claims.

At that time, Ramirez’s attorney claimed that his religious rights were violated when the TDCJ did not allow his spiritual adviser to pray aloud and lay hands on him during his execution. Ultimately, SCOUTS ruled in Ramirez’s favor, allowing his execution to be rescheduled.

A death warrant was issued by a Nueces County sheriff, but days later, Gonzalez filed a motion to withdraw the warrant, taking Ramirez off death row completely, citing that the warrant was issued without his permission and that he is ultimately against capital punishment.

"(I have) the firm belief that the death penalty is unethical and should not be imposed on Mr. Ramirez or any other person while (I occupy this) office," Gonzalez previously said.

Even so, a trial court denied Gonzalez’s request and the Oct. 5 date remained in place.

Now, Ramirez’s attorneys are hoping to overturn that court ruling, stating that “no execution case in Texas history has seen a state district judge overrule a joint motion to withdraw an execution date.”

“The elected District Attorney of Nueces County does not want this execution to proceed. In Texas, the D.A. is the chief law enforcement officer of the district,” Ramirez’s attorney Seth Kretzer told CNHI News. “The Court of Criminal Appeals should grant mandamus and send this back for consideration in the correct legal paradigm.”

Prosecutors said Ramirez, 38, stabbed Pablo Castro 29 times while on a robbery spree in search of drug money. He then left for Mexico for three years before he was arrested. Ramirez was sentenced to death in 2008. If completed, he will be executed at the Huntsville Unit by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

4 of Castro's children filed a motion asking that Ramirez's execution be left as is "ending an ordeal that has denied peace and closure to Pablo Castro's children for nearly 20 years."

(source: Huntsville Item)

FLORIDA:

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Florida Man Charged with ‘Especially Heinous’ Murder of 14-Year-Old Girl

Prosecutors in Florida are seeking the death penalty against a 44-year-old man accused of fatally shooting a 14-year-old girl and abandoning her body in a vacant field earlier this year. Prosecutors with the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office on Friday filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty against Ronny Tremel Walker, also known as “Ronnie,” for the cold-blooded murder of young Nilexia B. Alexander, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime show.

Walker was arrested and charged in July with 1 count of 1st-degree premeditated murder with a firearm in Nilexia’s death. He was previously convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting 45-year-old Elaine Caldwell in 2003.

According to a copy of the notice filed in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit for Hillsborough County, prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office assert that they can prove three aggravating factors that would make Walker eligible to be put to death by the state if convicted.

“The capital felony was committed by a person previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person,” the filing states.

Additionally, prosecutors asserted that the crime was “especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel” and “committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”

As previously reported by Law&Crime, Nilexia was found dead by the road near the 100 block of Floribraska Avenue in the early morning of May 6, police said. The person who called 911 reported hearing gunfire, went outside, and found a young girl lying motionless on the ground, Deputy Police Chief Calvin Johnson told reporters. Officers responded to the scene at approximately 3:58 a.m. and found Nilexia dead from what appeared to be gunshot wounds.

Nilexia had run away from the Temple Terrace home where she lived with her mother, Ashley Alexander, 10 days prior to being found dead, according to police.

Chief Johnson previously explained that investigators were able to connect Walker to the murder by showing that his vehicle was in the area where Nilexia’s body was discovered at the time of her death. Location data from the victim’s cell phone also placed Nilexia inside of Walker’s vehicle at the time of the slaying.

Investigators subsequently obtained and executed a search warrant on Walker’s vehicle and reportedly found blood spatter on the front and rear passenger doors. DNA samples were taken and turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for analysis.

The DNA samples obtained from the vehicle came back as positive matches for Nilexia’s DNA, according to police. The defendant was subsequently taken into custody by police and agents with the U.S. Marshals Service.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Monday, Nilexia’s mother said that prosecutors had come to her several weeks prior and asked her what she hoped would happen to Walker if he was guilty of Nilexia’s murder.

“I did tell them I was pushing death,” she reportedly told the newspaper. “If he can take someone’s life like there’s nothing to it, he doesn’t deserve his own,” she said.

During a July press conference, State Attorney Andrew Warren acknowledged Walker’s prior homicide conviction. Records show he was previously in prison for manslaughter by culpable negligence.

Prosecutors said he was the armed man who stormed a home on Oct. 23, 2003, fatally shooting Caldwell after she saw his gun and did not stop screaming. Walker was originally charged in 2009 with 1st-degree murder, but that trial ended in a hung jury, according to a ruling from the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. The state tried him again for 2nd-degree murder, and jurors this time convicted Walker of manslaughter.

That lesser conviction was overturned when the Florida Second District Court of Appeal determined that most of the evidence connecting Walker to the crime was flimsy.

The opinion noted, for example, that Caldwell’s boyfriend, who witnessed the shooting, named Walker as the suspect based on identifying information from an unknown third party, which prosecutors referenced multiple times throughout the trial. The appellate court ruled that this was inadmissible hearsay.

The judges also noted other weaknesses in the state’s case against Walker at the time.

“[T]he evidence against Walker was tenuous because there was no physical evidence connecting Walker with the crimes and his identification was significantly impeached,” then-Chief Judge Morris Silberman wrote. “Furthermore, some of the evidence was actually inconsistent with Walker’s being the perpetrator. The perpetrator had told the nine-year-old victim that he had 2 daughters at home, but Walker has sons. And while Walker’s fingerprints were not found at the scene, a palm print of an unidentified third party was found.”

Walker’s conviction was overturned and the judges ordered a new trial. Walker ultimately pleaded guilty, state authorities told Law&Crime.

“After the manslaughter conviction was overturned, Walker pled guilty to manslaughter with a firearm, burglary of a dwelling and robbery with a firearm and was sentenced to 8 years in prison followed by 7 years of probation,” Warren’s Policy Advisor Jordan Teuber said in an email.

Walker ended up serving four more years behind bars for violating the terms of his probation by drinking alcohol, Warren also said.

A 2nd suspect, 45-year-old Robert Quincy Creed Jr., is also facing one count of accessory after the fact to 1st-degree murder in Nilexia’s slaying.

Walker is currently being held without bond at the Hillsborough County Jail and is scheduled to appear for a virtual competency hearing on Oct. 10.

(source: lawandcrime.com)

ALABAMA:

Judge blocks Thursday's execution by lethal injection of Alabama death row inmate who says he requested to die by nitrogen hypoxia

A federal judge has granted an order prohibiting Alabama from executing a death row inmate by lethal injection this week after he asserted he chose to die by nitrogen hypoxia -- an untested and unproven execution method Alabama officials say they're not ready to use.

Without the injunction, the inmate, Alan Eugene Miller, would "likely suffer irreparable injury," US District Judge Austin Huffaker Jr. wrote in his order, "because he will be deprived of the ability to die by the method he chose and instead will be forced to die by a method he sought to avoid and which he asserts will be painful."

As a result, the state cannot execute Miller "by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia until further order from the court."

The case has put a spotlight on nitrogen hypoxia, which experts and critics say has yet to be proven humane or effective and could never be ethically tested, despite proponents' claims it could be simpler, easier and safer than lethal injection. Inmates like Miller, however, are making an "uninformed choice," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, because the method has never been used.

The judge's order Monday comes after Miller -- sentenced to death for a 1999 triple killing -- sued the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, the state attorney general and his warden, alleging corrections officials were moving to execute him by lethal injection after losing paperwork in which he claimed to have chosen to die by breathing nitrogen gas.

The failure to honor his request, Miller's complaint said, violated his constitutional rights.

State officials suggested Miller made no such choice and said they had no record of his preference, court filings show.

The case attracted widespread attention after an attorney for the Corrections Department last week said it was "very likely" the state could carry out Miller's execution by nitrogen hypoxia, which in theory involves replacing the critical oxygen in the air with nitrogen until the inmate is breathing 100% nitrogen.

The declaration was notable -- albeit "vague and imprecise," per the judge -- coming more than four years after Alabama authorized the method as an alternative to lethal injection, which remains the primary execution method for the US federal government and the 27 states that still have capital punishment.

Only 2 other states -- Oklahoma and Mississippi -- have approved use of nitrogen hypoxia to carry out death sentences, but none has ever actually used it.

Days after Alabama made the claim, though, its corrections chief walked it back. The state "cannot carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia," Commissioner John Hamm wrote in a court filing, but remained "ready to carry out Plaintiff's sentence by lethal injection on September 22, 2022."

That led to the judge's order Monday, which appears to force the state to iron out its nitrogen hypoxia execution protocol before moving forward with Miller's execution. It's unclear when that might be ready.

"Suffice it to say," the judge wrote, "the readiness of the protocol and of the (Corrections Department) to conduct executions by nitrogen hypoxia has been a moving target."

The department had "completed many of the preparations necessary for conducting executions by nitrogen hypoxia," but its protocol was "not yet complete," it told CNN last week in a statement. "Once the nitrogen hypoxia protocol is complete, (department) personnel will need sufficient time to be thoroughly trained before an execution can be conducted using this method."

Death by nitrogen gas

The claims of those who back executions by nitrogen gas might sound appealing, considering states' continued problems obtaining the drugs for lethal injections and with recent executions deemed botched, either because an inmate suffered inordinately or because the process deviated from officials' prescribed protocol.

But critics and experts reject those arguments, saying there is no proof executions by nitrogen hypoxia would adhere to inmates' constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment because it has never been used and could never be ethically tested.

"There could be no legitimate research. There's no way you could design a research project that would be ethical ... There will never be a human study. It has no medical reason to be conducted and would never pass any kind of ethical oversight that would permit such a thing to take place," said Dr. Joel Zivot, an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University.

"This is all just fake, guess. It's all unknown," he told CNN. "They can't test it ethically. They're just going to try it ... and then afterward they're going to decide whether or not they think they've killed someone and whether it's cruel or not."

And yet, inmates like Miller are opting for the unproven method due to concerns over the level of pain they might suffer during lethal injection, Dunham, of the Death Penalty Information Center, told CNN: "They are opting for a method that they hope will not be tortuous over a method that they are certain will be torturous."

None of the 3 states that's approved nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method has yet to publicly release a protocol outlining how it would work. In addition to oxygen, about 78% of Earth's air is made up of nitrogen; in theory, an execution by nitrogen gas would involve replacing the oxygen in the air with nitrogen until the inmate suffocates in what advocates describe as a painless death.

The gas could be delivered in a chamber or through a mask, said Dunham, whose organization describes itself as one that does not take a stance on capital punishment but has been critical of the way it is administered.

The Alabama state lawmaker who sponsored the 2018 bill to authorize nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method believed it would be more humane than lethal injection, he told AL.com at the time. Oklahoma officials made similar statements that same year when they announced their intent to move forward with executions by nitrogen hypoxia or inert gas inhalation.

The week before the announcement, Alabama had aborted the execution of Doyle Hamm after he was punctured 11 times in a failed effort to set an intravenous line. That, then-director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Joe Allbaugh said, was "inhumane."

With the new methods, "after a couple of breaths, the individual loses consciousness, doesn't feel anything," he claimed.

But that is speculation, Zivot said.

While there are known cases of people dying by breathing too much nitrogen -- Zivot pointed to accidental deaths in industrial settings and suicides -- an execution is different, he said. It's impossible to know how it feels to die by breathing nitrogen gas, and it's not clear what such a death might look like or whether it would comport with the Eighth Amendment protection from "cruel and unusual punishments."

"Can nitrogen gas kill people? Yes," he said. "So can a big boulder ... I understand the chemistry of how nitrogen gas can kill people. But whether nitrogen gas can kill people and comport with the Constitution, that is not known."

'An uninformed choice'

Even without a full, official picture of what a nitrogen hypoxia execution should look like, Alabama inmates like Miller might choose it because of the apparent risks associated with lethal injection, Dunham said.

"The odds of being tortured to death by lethal injection are pretty substantial. The odds of a botch with nitrogen hypoxia are uncertain," Dunham told CNN. "I think it's a choice to avoid a sure bad thing, as opposed to an affirmative embrace of nitrogen hypoxia."

In his complaint, Miller and his attorneys pointed to 2 such Alabama cases: The 1st was Hamm's, and the 2nd was the July execution of Joe Nathan James, which has been widely criticized, particularly after a report in The Atlantic said a private autopsy showed James' "suffered a long death."

The execution team "strictly followed the established protocol" for James' death, which was preceded by a 3-hour delay, a spokesperson for the Corrections Department previously told the Montgomery Advertiser: "The protocol states that if the veins are such that intravenous access cannot be provided, the team will perform a central line procedure. Fortunately, this was not necessary and with adequate time, intravenous access was established."

Zivot, who told CNN he witnessed James' private autopsy, said the state "tortured him for 3 hours," cutting into his skin to try to find a vein to set an intravenous line -- which is not part of Alabama's lethal injection protocol.

It's executions like these death row inmates hope to avoid by choosing nitrogen hypoxia, Dunham said. Indeed, claims states have made about nitrogen hypoxia being fast, effective and "relatively painless," he said, echo the arguments states offered about the electric chair and lethal injection, which was first used by Texas in 1982.

L "They believe it," Dunham said of nitrogen hypoxia's supporters. "There's no question about that. And they might be right. But they might also be wrong, and we won't know the answer until if and when executions by nitrogen suffocation take place."

(source: CNN)

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

ADVOCACY GROUPS CALL FOR HALT TO, TRANSPARENCY IN, ALABAMA EXECUTIONS

Despite the tenuous stay in the scheduled execution of Alan Miller on Sept. 22, a growing coalition of Alabama organizations will gather on the steps of the State Capitol Building in Montgomery to deliver thousands of signatures on three separate petitions to Governor Kay Ivey at 10am on Wednesday, Sept 21, 2022.

Immediately following the petition delivery the groups will gather briefly at Dexter Ave. King Memorial Baptist Church.

An eveniing program featuring "Voices of Experience on the Death Penalty" is free and open to the public at the Kress Building at 39 Dexter Ave. starting at 7pm on Wednesday, September 22. Speakers include murder victim family members opposed to executions and exonerated death row survivor Radall Padgett, who spent 5 years in prison (three on Alabama's death row) for a crime he did not commit.

Participating organizations include

: • ACLU of Alabama

• Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice

• Alabama Arise

• Alabama CURE

• Alabama New South Coalition

• Alabama Poor People’s Campaign

• Alabama State Conference of the NAACP

• BEC2BAMA

• Civil Rights Memorial Center - Southern Poverty Law Center

• Death Penalty Action

• Episcopal Peace Fellowship

• Faith in Action Alabama

• Greater Birmingham Ministries

• Green County Democrat

• Joe James, et al --PRESENTE!

• Justice and Mercy for All, Birmingham

• M.A.A.V.I.S.

• Mary's House Catholic Worker, Birmingham

• North Alabama Peace Network

• Patch Adams, MD - The Gesundheit! Institute

• Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty

• Red Letter Christians

• Restorative Solutions

• Restorative Strategies, LLC

• Vine and Fig Tree Community

The "Pull Back The Curtains" petition demands greater transparency in Alabama executions. In light of the horrific torture of Joe James, Jr. in the most recent Alabama execution, the groups have launched the petition renewing the demand that media and other public witnesses observe the proceedings "from the moment a prisoner walks him or herself into the death chamber until they are declared dead."

Witnesses were kept in vans for more than two hours while awaiting the execution of Joe James, Jr. on July 28, 2022. When they were finally brought to the witness room and the curtains were opened, James was already sedated and unresponsive. An autopsy showed that he had been subjected to many and varied attempts to establish intravenous access with which to administer the execution drugs. Many questions remain unanswered about all that transpired prior to witnesses being able to observe what executioners were doing.

"We oppose the death penalty in all cases," said Esther Brown, a spokesperson for Alabama's Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty. "But no matter what you think about the death penalty, everyoe wants our government to be capable and accountable. Alan Miller just won a stay of execution because the state lost the form in which he chose the gas chamber rather than lethal injection. The Alabama Department of Corrections seems more concerned about whether reporters are wearing underwear or proper shoes than if we have a competent execution team. It's ridiculous."

The petition is at bit.ly/PullBackTheCurtains. The groups will also deliver petitions urging clemency for Alan Miller and a halt to efforts to use the gas chamber as a method of executions in Alabama.

(source: Death Penalty Action)

OHIO:

Defense fights death penalty in Rowan Sweeney murder case

Attorneys for Kimonie Bryant, who is charged with aggravated murder and other offenses in the Sept. 21, 2020, killing of Rowan Sweeney, 4, in a home on Perry Street in Struthers, continue to argue that Ohio’s death penalty is unconstitutional.

At a pretrial hearing Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, defense attorney Lynn Maro made oral arguments asking that all charges against Bryant be dismissed or that the death penalty be removed as a possibility in Bryant’s case.

Bryant, 26, could get the death penalty if convicted of certain offenses in the case, but Maro told Judge Anthony D’Apolito on Tuesday that because pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell the drugs used to execute individuals sentenced to death in the state, defendants are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, which is barred by the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

She said the state has continually set execution dates for death row inmates but has had to cancel those execution dates because they do not have a the drugs used to carry out executions, resulting in extra, unnecessary anxiety for defendants as they get execution dates and then new execution dates.

Maro said that in the Bryant case, threatening to kill him in a state that has no reasonable expectation that it will carry out the execution is improper.

Jennifer McLaughlin, assistant county prosecutor, countered that litigation involving the death penalty is “a slow process” and there is “no legal basis to grant this motion.”

She said there are no court rulings to laws that say “in Ohio, if the State of Ohio cannot execute Kimonie Bryant today, you cannot allow a case to proceed as a (death penalty) case.”

McLaughlin said the last execution carried out in Ohio was in 2018.

The judge said he will take the matter under advisement and rule on it later.

McLaughlin also told the judge that Bode Technology, the Virginia private lab that is carrying out DNA analysis on evidence in the case, says it will deliver the results of the analysis to prosecutors Nov. 7.

McLaughlin has said prosecutors believe the DNA results will tell prosecutors whether Bryant was the triggerman in the case or whether co-defendant Brandon Crump Jr., 19, was, and that will determine which of the 2 defendants will be tried first.

(source: The Vindicator)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Oklahoma Gives Benjamin Cole Execution Date of October 20, 2022

Oklahoma plans to execute Benjamin R. Cole on Thursday, October 20, 2022, inside the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. 57-year-old Benjamin is convicted of murdering his 9-month-old daughter Brianna, on December 20, 2002, in Rogers County, Oklahoma. Benjamin has been on death row in Oklahoma for the past 17 years.

Benjamin had a difficult childhood. He began huffing gasoline as a child. Allegedly, Benjamin was sexually molested during his childhood and his parents did not believe him when he spoke about it. As an adult, Benjamin regularly drank alcohol. In 1987, Benjamin was convicted of abusing his infant son in California. Injuries sustained by his son included a cigarette burn to the eyelid, bruises on the head, arms, torso, and genitals, and a broken ankle.

On December 20, 2002, Benjamin Cole was at home playing video games while his nine-month-old daughter, Brianna, napped. When Brianna began crying during her nap, Cole paused the game and went to her crib. He bent Brianna’s legs backward, breaking her spine and tearing her aorta. Cole then went back to playing video games.

Brianna’s mother, Susan, eventually noticed that something was wrong with her. Cole denied there being a problem until Brianna turned blue. Brianna was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead a short time later.

After an autopsy was performed, Brianna’s cause of death was determined and police began investigating. Cole confessed to the murder shortly after learning the death was classified as a homicide.

This is not Benjamin Cole’s first execution. Most recently, his executions were halted due to concerns around Oklahoma’s execution drug protocol. The lawsuit in which Benjamin was a part that was challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s execution protocol has since been resolved.

Benjamin’s attorneys are attempting to halt his execution, arguing that his physical and mental condition has greatly deteriorated while in prison.

Pray for peace for the family of Brianna. Pray for strength for the family of Benjamin Cole. Please pray that if Benjamin is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be provided before his execution. Pray that Benjamin may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

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

Commentary: a killing spree in Oklahoma

The state of Oklahoma is making execution history. It is poised to become a serial killer. On July 1, an Oklahoma court set execution dates for 25 men on its death row who have exhausted their appeals. Executions will take place each month for 25 months.

The first, James Coddington’s execution, was carried out Aug. 25, after Governor Kevin Stitt rejected the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation of clemency.

Richard Glossip, a man who has strong claims of innocence, had been scheduled for Sept. 22 but was reset for Dec. 8. The next Oklahoma execution is set for Benjamin Cole, Oct. 20.

Executions in Oklahoma had been held off for several years, after several executions were horrifically botched. However, courts finally approved a series of drugs to be used, and the court set these 25 dates. There are 43 people on death row in Oklahoma, so over half those on the row are scheduled for execution.

Botched executions

On April 29, 2014, the execution team had trouble finding a vein in the arm of Clayton Lockett. They decided to insert an IV in his groin, but they used a wrong-sized needle. Finally, after 45 minutes, Oklahoma officials decided to halt the execution. Lockett then died of a heart attack while lying in the execution chamber.

Oklahoma officials did not follow execution protocol Jan. 15, 2014, and used a wrong drug as they were murdering Charles Warner. His final words were, “My body is on fire!” He was supposed to be unconscious! They were supposed to use a drug called potassium chloride but instead used potassium acetate, which was wrongfully delivered to the state and went unnoticed by those carrying out the execution.

Last October, Oklahoma carried out its first execution since those that were botched in 2014 and 2015. John Marion Grant was put to death Oct. 28, 2021, and he had around two dozen convulsions and vomited as the drugs were given. At one point a doctor went in to wipe the vomit off Grant’s face and neck. The prison director said there would be no changes made. So apparently, this was just killing as usual. (tinyurl.com/yc2yy7u7)

If you can tolerate reading about torture, there is a list of botched executions in the U.S. that prove that legal lynchings are experiments taking place on live human beings, without a predictable outcome. Those on death row are human guinea pigs for states trying to figure out how to kill a person. (tinyurl.com/28aujna4)

The use of the death penalty, like many issues, is reflected in statistics, many stories, trends, important dates, public events, press coverage and history. Texas has made much history in what is called “the modern era” by using executions so often that no state will ever catch up with its total of 575 executions. Stories of the 186 innocent people who actually survived death row in the U.S., since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and were exonerated are stories that should be turned into movies.

Former President Donald Trump’s execution spree was historic. Between July 2020 and January 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was raging in prisons, the federal government executed 13 people. There had not been a federal execution in 17 years. And 9 members of the execution team at the federal prison in Terra Haute, Indiana, contracted COVID-19, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Oklahoma’s planned spree of legal lynching gives more credence to abolitionists — who demand no more executions. Period. There is no way, no manner, no plan to humanely lynch people. Capital punishment must go into the dustbin of history. It is one more racist and anti-worker attack on our class.

(source: Commentary, Gloria Rubac; Workers World)

NEBRASKA:

Frakes discusses his time as Nebraska corrections director

The head of Nebraska’s prison system, Scott Frakes, is leaving next month, after nearly 8 years on the job. Fred Knapp of Nebraska Public Media News sat down with him recently to ask about some of the problems – and progress – Frakes has seen in the prison system. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

When Scott Frakes came to Nebraska in 2015, Nebraska’s prisons were in turmoil. The system was overcrowded, and prisoners had been released earlier than their sentences allowed. Staff morale was low, turnover was high. During Frakes first 7 years, the inspector general for corrections says, the total full time employees in the Department of Correctional Services dropped more than 15 %.

In a special legislative hearing last year, prison staff testified about the dangers of understaffing. Among them was Jeff Seeley, a lieutenant at the state prison in Tecumseh.

“It's dangerous. It's scary. And I routinely put people into positions where they end up being assaulted…I worry I’m going to post somebody to a position and that might be their last day. Time and time again throughout history, increases in overcrowding and decreases in staff have always led to violence. Have always led to death. And we have to do something about it,” Seeley said.

After years of tension on the issue, there was a breakthrough. Last July, the state and the union representing prison security workers signed a new contract containing significant pay increases. In our interview in his office, I asked Frakes about that.

Fred Knapp: On staffing, you had these big pay raises up to 40% this past year. And that appears to have made big inroads into your problems. Is that right?

Scott Frakes: Yes. Incredible progress. With over we've hired over 600 staff since January, and the protective services numbers are. I don't want to give a wrong number. So we've, we were at roughly 440 custody or protective services vacancies at December 1 of last year. And today we're sitting at about 130.

Knapp: But that was such a long standing problem. Why not do that 4 or 5 years earlier?

Frakes: Well, it's complicated. First of all, it's expensive. And all the competing demands for dollars. We tried a lot of strategies. And then as we saw that great resignation, that's when things really went sideways, so quickly. So from March 2021, through September of 2021, we saw the highest turnover that we'd ever seen in this agency. And that really elevated things to a point of where we knew something drastic had to happen.

Knapp: So I've seen a chart of turnover, and it looks like it's way down this calendar year. But is that temporary? Is that a sugar high from the pay increase? And has the culture changed significantly? I mean, there were there was that hearing where people described all sorts of horror stories.

Frakes: Well, you can never rest on your laurels, that's for sure. So compensation and bringing people in the door is certainly part of the solution, but not the long term solution. It's always about been about what do we do different to retain staff, we knew that mandatory overtime was always a contributing problem. And mandatory overtime has almost been eliminated.

Another thing that happened during Frakes’ time in Nebraska was the 2018 execution of convicted murderer Carey Dean Moore. It was Nebraska’s 1st execution in more than 20 years, and the first by lethal injection. When I asked Frakes about the death penalty, he expanded on the question:

Knapp: What are your thoughts about the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent?

Frakes: Fred, I'm trying to think of anybody's asked me that specific question. Let's be realistic about crime and punishment in general. If criminal sanctions are an effective deterrent, no matter what they are, we should have a whole lot less people in our jails and prisons. But unfortunately, there's a disconnect between the cause and effect. Are the people that believe they can get away with it. They're the people that in the heat of the moment believe it doesn't matter. It's worth it. And then, of course, there are the people that fill our jails and prisons and then realize, oops, that probably wasn't a good decision. So I'm not sure that any of the sanctions that we use have significant – they help keep honest people honest, I’ve said that for a long time, that's the same thing about locks on doors. They keep honest people honest.”

I asked Frakes about disappointments – things he would have done differently. He said he works really hard not to have regrets. But he did mention one thing.

Frakes: I would have been even more satisfied with the overall ending results if I'd have been able to get the new penitentiary in motion to a greater degree. I feel like the project is in motion. So I'm not unhappy. Just I would love to be knowing that we were breaking ground here in a couple months instead of probably a year from now things go as I hope.”

The Legislature has set aside money for a 1,500-bed new prison Frakes proposed. But it hasn’t given final approval to building it.

I asked Frakes, who’s 64, about his personal future now that he’s heading back to his native Washington state.

Frakes: Well, after I get done, sitting in a lawn chair in the ocean and throwing rocks into it, because that's what I've told my wife for six years, that was the first thing I was going to do, so I have to go do it. And that may last she says, 15 minutes, I might make it 30. Because I don't think I'm going to run out of rocks or fill up the ocean.”

After that, he’s got a list including visiting friends and family, travel, and working in his shop.

Frakes: And then, you know…I need to figure out what will feed my soul at the point that I've done all the list of things, you know, because I do plan to live for a while.

(source: nebraskapublicmedia.org)

UTAH:

‘The Letter’: A death sentence waiting to happen

Editor’s note: This is the 4th in a series highlighting a KSL podcast series titled “The Letter.” It explores the many aspects of grief, the realities of reclaiming lives shattered by violence and the possibilities of forgiveness stemming from a 1996 Utah murder that veteran police detectives said was unlike any other they had ever investigated.

Sy Snarr tried to focus on her husband’s face and what he was trying to tell her as she fought her way out of a sleepy haze.

“I had actually been up for so long,” Snarr said trying to recall the hours after her son was murdered in 1996. “They tell me I was standing there and all of a sudden, I just passed out on the floor. They had put me in bed, and then my husband came in and said, ‘They got him. They got him.'”

As the pain yanked her back into the reality of her son being shot by a stranger while on a date with a long-time friend, she realized what he was saying.

“I was, like, coming to,” she recalled, “and I’m like, ‘What?’ And then it hit me. … They got him!”

A short time later, prosecutor Bob Stott arrived at their Salt Lake home to meet with the family and try to answer some of their questions about the arrest of 19-year-old Jorge Benvenuto, who had confessed to shooting their son Zachary Snarr and Yvette Rodier, both 18.

“I just looked at him and said, ‘Kill him,'” she said. “I actually said that. Because I thought, ‘He deserves to die.’ I wanted him to die.”

Snarr wasn’t alone.

Almost everyone involved felt like if there was ever a case that cried out for the death penalty, it was this one — the unprovoked, random attack of two teenagers who were just enjoying a summer night taking pictures of the moon at Little Dell Reservoir.

“It was just a very bad fact situation,” said prosecutor Roger Blaylock, who worked the case with Stott. “And by bad I don’t mean for a prosecutor. It’s a good situation (for prosecutors), because it’s so terrible. Here are two young people up at the reservoir, just kind of taking pictures of the moon and somebody comes up and shoots them both. … What is there about the defendant that is socially redeeming?”

Inevitable death sentence?

Benvenuto couldn’t afford his own attorney, so the case was assigned to the Salt Lake Legal Defender’s Office. Mark Moffat was one of the attorneys assigned to the case, and right from the start, he said they felt like the deck was stacked against them.

“I just remember when … the shooting occurred,” he said, “it shook the community. We had 2 young kids that were up there doing an innocent thing … in the mountains, where everybody in the community went from time to time, everybody goes up in the mountains to hike or, you know, get away. And there was just something about that case that freaked the community out.”

Add to the circumstances that Rodier had survived to offer a terrifyingly detailed account of what happened. And their client had confessed.

The crime also occurred at the height of the “tough on crime” stance a lot of communities embraced in the 1990s. There was a long list of legislation passed, both locally and at the federal level, aimed at creating tougher penalties for violent crimes. From gun and gang enhancements to laws that sent juvenile offenders straight into the adult criminal justice system, the attitude of everyone was to protect society by punishing offenders as severely as possible.

Moffat also worried that a jury made up of typical Utahns wouldn’t relate to the struggles of an immigrant from Uruguay.

“One of the things that we thought was (a) positive for us was Jorge’s age,” Moffat recalled. “But given everything else that was going on, with who he was and what he had done, we just felt it was going to be a death sentence.”

When Benvenuto was charged with aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and two counts of robbery, both families supported the initial effort of prosecutors seeking the death penalty.

It wasn’t until Snarr heard the medical examiner testify that she realized she might not be able to listen to the details about how her son died if the case went to trial.

“The day the medical examiner testified, I think, was the worst day of my life,” she said. “Because she did show a drawing of Zach and talked about where he shot him and … after he’d shot him twice, he actually held the gun point-blank to his head. And I had not known that. And that really affected me. It did. And I had driven myself down there, and I literally had to pull over; I could not drive home because I was wailing, sobbing. It really — it just killed me that that had happened to that beautiful boy of mine, you know, that his life ended that way. It was hard.”

Then she was watching a news report of a killing in Kearns, and she realized this was going to be much more difficult than she understood.

“They were showing drawings of this person’s body showing where she had been stabbed over and over,” she said of the news report. “And I thought, ‘I cannot watch this on TV about Zach, I can’t do it.'”

A friend of the family, who was also a state senator, worked with prosecutors and corrections officials to arrange a tour of the Utah State Prison for the Snarrs. After the tour, they agreed to a deal that would spare Benvenuto’s life but would keep him in prison for the rest of his life. The deal took advantage of a law passed in 1992 that gave prosecutors another option in capital murder cases — life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Zach’s older sister, Sydney, was out of state when the family toured the prison, but her family told her what they’d seen afterward.

“My older brother Trent said that it gave him nightmares,” Sydney Snarr Davis said. “It was so awful, and I remember him telling me that I think I would rather die than live the rest of my life in that hellhole. And at that point, I was like, ‘Well then, good. Do it.’ You know, let’s forget about him. He can go in there and rot.”

Rodier, who got married about 10 months after the shooting, said she didn’t think Benvenuto’s punishment was her decision to make, although she acknowledges her family hoped he’d get the death penalty.

“I don’t recall thinking about it at that time,” she said. “I definitely knew I was afraid of him. And so if there was something that would keep him away from me, I was all for it. But I, I don’t think I ever wished death upon him.”

Moffat said Benvenuto vacillated about whether he wanted take the deal, or take his chances with a jury, until moments before he entered a guilty plea in October of 1997.

“Keep in mind, when you do death penalty work, there are people that you come to know, as we call them, volunteers, who basically say, I’m not going to fight. … And Jorge was, on certain days, a volunteer. Other days, not. I mean, he vacillated and it made these discussions really hard. … And, they continued right up until the moments before the plea.”

After Benvenuto entered a guilty plea, he fired his defense attorneys and his family hired two private lawyers. Those men appeared with Benvenuto for the sentencing in January 1998. The hearing was a formality, but the change in legal representation indicated there might be a change in legal strategy.

Still, the judge had accepted the guilty plea and then Rodier and members of the Snarr family spoke before Benvenuto was sentenced without offering a word of apology, explanation or defense of himself.

‘I was alone that night’

“I need to know that the murderer will never walk free,” Sy Snarr told the judge. “He made a terrible choice. Now he must pay the consequences for that choice. We need some closure. Our family needs to get on with our lives. Yvette needs to get on with her life. But we cannot do that until we know that we and everyone else are safe.”

Yvette’s mother, Linda Rodier, who died in 2018, said Benvenuto’s actions didn’t just end one life.

“I think it’s important that the court know — and that everyone here know — that on Aug. 28, 1996, Mr. Benvenuto killed two people,” she said. “We miss a part of Yvette that will never be here. She cannot be alone. There is a part of her that is dead, and I don’t know that it will ever be returned to us.”

And then Yvette Rodier stood and read a statement that she wrote. It is the first time she offered insight into the complicated nature of her recovery. Until this moment, she’d been answering reporters’ questions or offering police details of a crime. At 19, she stood and told the world what she had faced — and it was a powerful moment.

“On Aug. 28 1996, the word that describes that night the most is alone,” she said. “I was with my dearest closest friend and he was murdered right next to me. It’s hard to describe the feelings that go through your mind when you know that someone that you love dearly is lying dead beside you. I was shot many times, I don’t know how many. I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I was alone that night, after a person who had just murdered my friend rummaged through my clothing, and I could feel his hands on my body.

“I was alone.”

She described the painful gunshot wounds, the ringing in her ears, the fog in her brain.

“I guess you really don’t know what happens until after, but I remember it all,” she said. “There is nothing that I have forgotten. And I don’t know if I will ever forget. Since that night, my body has basically been ripped apart again. I’ve had five operations, one more to come. Most of them on my head, opening my head, taking pieces out, putting them back in.”

She talked about chronic pain, about the surgeries and the impact on her family.

“It’s the psychological pain that I think has hurt the most,” she said. “I know what depression is. I know because I have suffered in many days. I think a lot of it has to come from survivor’s guilt. I know that’s a clinical term but I feel guilty that Zack died. And I don’t know if the person who has done this does. I sure hope so. But I didn’t try CPR. I know CPR. Why didn’t I do it? I didn’t try to hold his wounds or hold him tight. I couldn’t remember his family’s phone number in the operating room … I call that phone number almost every day and I couldn’t remember it.

“I hate dealing with the guilt. It’s so unfair. I hate that feeling. A lot of my psychological pain is fear. I’m afraid to cross the street. I’m afraid someone is attacking me. I’m afraid someone is stalking me. I’m afraid of nighttime. I’m afraid of gunshots on the television. My whole family’s had to alter their life so I wouldn’t have to be alone by myself. I’m too afraid of my fears.

“I don’t sleep. I have horrible nightmares that I die or the people I love die. I think part of a lot of the psychological stuff is that I know that when he stopped that shooting and reloaded, that he was aiming right at me.”

And then she continued: “Zach and I are not the only victims here. Our families and friends, our communities are, too. It’s not just us we need to have justice for. It’s for all of us around us. I just, I know that I have a family who loves me and protects me and takes care of me. And I’m thankful for that. Because I don’t think I would be strong enough to stand today and say how much this has hurt me. But out of all this, I can deal with it. I’m alive. I can wake up tomorrow. I’m lucky. But Zach never will.”

‘I was so naive’

Judge Anne Stirba, who passed away in 2001, was deeply moved by the outpouring of love for Zach Snarr and for Yvette Rodier’s moving plea for justice.

She told Benvenuto he would never really understand what he’d done because he’d never be a parent.

“I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child,” Stirba said. “You will never know what it is to have a child or to lose a child. Mr Benvenuto, I don’t think you will ever know the pain, the full extent, the full measure of pain which you have caused.”

The judge expressed admiration for Rodier.

“What Yvette is today, she is because of her own incredible courage, and her strength and her will to heal, despite what you took from her,” she said.

And then Stirba sentenced Benvenuto to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. She took the extraordinary step of adding that she would write a letter to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole recommending that he never leave prison.

“I felt so safe when he got life in prison without parole,” Rodier said. “To me, it just made the world a safe place for me again. And I wasn’t afraid, necessarily, that he was getting out, but to have the judge say that … it definitely felt so good, and it continues to feel really good.”

After the sentencing, the Snarrs expressed their relief, even if it was tinged with rage.

“I never have to see him again,” Sy Snarr said at the time. “I think that’s what makes me the happiest because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is sit there in that courtroom with him — it’s hard.”

Now, more than 2 decades later, Snarr laughs at the idea that it all could have ended at sentencing.

“Oh, I did (think it was over),” she said of her contact with her son’s killer. “I was so naive.”

(source: ksltv.com)

USA:

Letters From Death Row Offer Pen Pals a Leap of Faith Into the Unknown

The story is without a happy ending for most prisoners sitting on death row in the United States. But the fact remains that most of the 2,450 men and women awaiting execution committed brutal crimes.

Some feel remorse, while others do not. The victims’ families demand closure, but the gears of justice grind slowly. The months drag on into years and even decades before all appeals are exhausted.

Until then, life continues on death row, though the condemned men and women facing capital punishment yearn for human contact.

“There is a human need to have friendships and feel close to the outside,” said a prisoner nicknamed Dog. He’s been on Arizona’s death row for the past 19 years.

While he’s spent almost a decade in Supermax, a high-security area, he has an intense desire to talk to people—regular people outside of the cold prison walls.

“I only had 9 others to talk to for years and never face to face,” Dog told The Epoch Times in a letter.

“So there was a need to have friends. Plus, my desire to minister and even help youth avoid the deceptions I fell for—all play into decisions.”

Crime and Punishment

By the substance and tone of Dog’s letter, he is an intelligent and thoughtful man. He’s also conservative and Republican and believes in the death penalty in many cases, but not so much the criminal justice system that sent him here.

Many will agree that it takes a hard heart—even a broken heart—to commit murder.

Some might argue that death row inmates don’t deserve contact with the outside world. They are there to suffer consequences.

But can any of us deny the dark potential in us all as we pass judgment on their humanity?

Between darkness and light, there are moral questions many letter writers in Ines Aubert’s death-row correspondence program must answer for themselves.

Aubert started Connectdeathrow (ConnectDeathRow.com) seven years ago as a largely solo project to connect everyday people with death row inmates through letter writing.

They become friends and pen pals in every sense of the word.

Her project has provided opportunities for about 300 people to correspond, though death-row inmates know it’s short term. Both parties remain anonymous as letters go back and forth through the program.

“This makes the project safe and among other [things] has led to whole classes of juveniles each writing an inmate through Connectdeathrow,” Aubert said.

“The students all express how much it means to them and that they will never forget the experience.”

One young letter writer asked a death row inmate: “Do you think a book needs a happy end?”

“I’m not sure whether he was aware of the philosophical meaning of the question,” Aubert said.

Through her involvement in Connectdeathrow and a Swiss organization, Lifespark.org, Aubert has corresponded with 14 inmates for the past 21 years.

The state executed 1 inmate, while several died of other reasons, and 1 or 2 stopped writing.

Windows to the World

“All of them express over and over what it means to them to have a constant and reliable outside contact and often describe it as ‘the window to the world,'” Aubert said.

“Loneliness and the feeling of being forgotten by the world is a common topic. Not all my penfriends want to talk about forgiveness or remorse, but some do.

I think the topic is too difficult for some, and they are too ashamed to face their crime.”

Aubert said one of her death row penfriends, Casper, voiced his desire to reach out to his many surviving rape victims. He died of cancer many years ago.

“All of my penfriends often talk about their everyday life and the bad living conditions, which remind me of torture sometimes, especially when they suffer from the heat in summer or cold in winter,” Aubert said.

“The medical care is very bad, and many die of health issues” that could have been avoided.

How do the inmates feel about their execution?

Some ignore the topic; others are “ready to live life until then the best they can,” Aubert said.

“Some talk about their inner world [being] much richer now that they are on death row. Some even look forward to their execution because it will ‘set them free,’ as they call it.”

Dog writes, “While I have stress and sometimes bad days, for the most part, the situation is better than what others have, and I have a hope that nobody can take away from me.”

Bucky, another death row inmate in Aubert’s program, told The Epoch Times in a letter his greatest fear of death row is losing his parents, “simply because tomorrow is never promised.”

Heavy Loads to Bear

For most death row inmates, letter writing is a form of catharsis and not having to face their day of execution alone. However, many death sentences eventually get overturned or commuted to life sentences. There were 11 executions in the United States in 2021, all by lethal injection.

“I want to humanize the men here and show that we are more than a number or the crime that brought us here,” Dog said.

“As a death row inmate, I have very few ways to impact society in a positive way.”

Oak is another prisoner on death row and a participant in Aubert’s program. He said letter writing comforts him, knowing some people on the outside care despite his crime.

“Their well-being becomes very important to me,” Oak told The Epoch Times, though he’s not concerned about a legacy in his writing.

Instead, he views letters as a way to “touch the lives of the people I write.”

At first, it was more about feeling lonely and isolated. Writing letters only made him realize that life is more than himself.

“One of the greatest lessons anyone can learn no matter what station or walk in life they travel is life is not about me,” Oak said.

In 2014, French nationals Sigrid and Elodie began corresponding with death row inmates in the United States. Later, they co-founded an inmate pen pal program called Wire of Hope (WireOfHope.com).

“Our personal lives led us to move to the United States about the same time [Elodie in Nevada and Sigrid in Florida], and while we were still writing people in prison and becoming more and more involved with prison-related matters, we came to the idea of creating our own prison pen pal program,” Elodie said.

A Burden Shared

Elodie has written to many death row inmates over the years, one that lasted 4 years.

Another death row pen pal had his sentence commuted to life without parole.

“If I was hesitant to write someone with a death sentence initially,” Elodie said, “it’s because no matter how close you become in the end, the minute you start exchanging letters with someone on death row, you see the human in them.”

Elodie said she feared how she would handle one pen pal’s execution.

“At the time, my friend was still on death row; he would share quite often about his past with me. He never once ran away from accountability and always expressed remorse, but what he also shared with me was his will to live,” Elodie told The Epoch Times.

Sigrid said she has witnessed first-hand the power of pen pal friendships since both sides gain something valuable from the experience.

“I have written to 4 death row inmates. Because they are on death row and have appeals until the very last minute, they are not eager to talk about their case,” she said.

“However, those who admit their guilt have expressed deep regrets. They have a deep [need] for people to see them as the person they are and not who they used to be. Most of them separate very clearly from their past.”

One death row inmate wrote: “I used to wish I had someone to vent to, and now that I do, I no longer want to complain about anything.”

While most people who write death row inmates oppose capital punishment, Sigrid said, others see it as a looking glass into humanity.

“They want to bring support to people in a very dark situation, and that most of the world denies any shadow of humanity,” Sigrid said.

Aubert said it’s also important to remember the families of murder victims, which pen pals sometimes overlook.

“Many pen pals of death row inmates focus solely on the welfare of the inmate and don’t even think of the victim’s family,” she said.

“When there is an article in the media about pen pal [friendships] with death row inmates, there’s often an outcry of people who condemn us for being on the wrong side [and] not caring about the victims.”

“In my case, this is not true at all; neither is it [true] for many others who write inmates,” Aubert said.

If nothing else, she said writing a death row inmate requires compassion and a leap of faith into the unknown.

(source: The Epoch Times)

GLOBAL

Joining Pope Francis as We Abolish the Death Penalty

Pope Francis has designated the month of September to address the death penalty and call for its abolition worldwide. In his newest appeal, the Pope invites us to pray “that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country.”

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in collaboration with Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) has released this 2-minute video of Pope Francis. Check it out below.

At the heart of Pope Francis’ message is a call to mercy. Pope Francis uses the analogy of a “window of hope” which no person should ever be denied. It is a core belief of the Church that each person is offered the opportunity to seek forgiveness and redemption; yet the death penalty takes this away.

In response to Pope Francis’ call, Catholic Mobilizing Network, close friends and partners of Red Letter Christians, has launched the Mobilize Mercy Campaign, to spread this call to mercy far and wide.

“Pope Francis’ prayer intention reminds us that capital punishment continues cycles of harm and violence and perpetuates a throwaway culture. The tragic myth of the death penalty is that it kills the “worst of the worst,” but the truth is it actually targets society’s most vulnerable people: those with mental illness, those with inadequate legal representation, and people living in poverty or marginalized populations,” says Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network.

“Ending the death penalty is within reach, and it’s one clear way we can build a culture of life. Every person, no matter the harm they may have caused or suffered, has God-given dignity and deserves an opportunity for restoration,” Murphy adds. “This month, may we, the Body of Christ, answer the Holy Father’s call to unite ourselves in prayer and prophetic action — not only for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide, but for the advancement of forms of justice that enable healing and transformation.”

We want to invite everyone to sign the Pledge to Pray with Pope Francis throughout the month of September. Together, let us answer the call to uphold the dignity of all, regardless of the harm they have suffered or caused.

Advocates can also engage in amplifying the Pope’s message and advocating for death penalty abolition throughout September and beyond by utilizing CMN’s Mobilize Mercy Toolkit. Resources include backgrounders, infographics, and a social media toolkit, which includes an outline of potential posts with recommended graphics, captions, hashtags, and more. These resources are intended to make sharing this campaign to mobilize mercy easy and accessible to all.

Pope Francis’ call to action comes at a providential time here in the U.S. As Oklahoma begins its execution spree of 25 individuals, and states like Alabama and Texas continue to deal out death sentences, our prayer and action is needed.

(source: redletterchristians.org)

NIGERIA:

The death penalty and condemned prisoners

Ostensibly raising an alarm over the congestion of the correctional centres in Lagos State, the Lagos State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCOs) recently observed that no fewer than 353 inmates are currently on death row at the Kirikiri Correctional Centre.

As disturbing as it is, the remark has once again thrown up the lingering jurisprudential issues on the constitutionality, propriety, philosophical underpinning or otherwise of the death penalty or prolonged incarceration in dehumanising conditions of prisoners on death row and the rights of prisoners to humane treatment.

Paradoxically, since the then Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, signed a death warrant sanctioning the execution of two condemned prisoners in 2012, state governors in Nigeria have been reluctant in signing death warrants.

Last year, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola requested state governors to comply with their constitutional duty of signing death warrants for death row inmates; but the request died down unheeded.

Many senior lawyers and human rights institutions faulted the minister’s proposition. One senior lawyer drew the attention of the minister to the fact that he did not sign any death warrant throughout his eight-year reign as Osun State governor. Also faulting the minister’s proposal, the human rights group, Access to Justice, stated that many convicts on death row in Nigeria have pending appeals against their convictions and therefore, the minister’s proposal would put them at the risk of execution before the determination of their appeals in court.

The reluctance of state governors to sign death warrants is not unconnected with the pervading cultural, moral, religious and philosophical convictions regarding the sanctity and inviolability of human life rooted in the fact that God created human life and no man can take away human life except God the Creator. All world religions and cultures respect the sanctity of human life.

Coming back home, the death penalty is contrary to the Yoruba idiomatic expression that cutting off the head is not the cure for a nagging headache. Recall that while in power, former President Olusegun Obasanjo issued a presidential order to the effect that anyone on death row for over 10 years should have his or her death sentence commuted to life imprisonment, while those on death row for over 20 years should be released from prison.

For condemned prisoners awaiting the hangman’s noose indefinitely in a correctional centre, it is double jeopardy: imprisonment for an unending term plus the terrible anxiety and anguish of indefinitely awaiting the hangman’s noose.

When an accused person is sentenced to death and thereafter not executed by reason that his or her death warrant has not been signed by the state governor, he or she begins to serve a separate penalty, which is imprisonment for a term uncertain. Thus, for the 353 inmates on death row in Lagos State plus others across the country, they die day by day as they await a hangman who may never come.

As a result, their fundamental human rights to dignity of the human person and personal liberty under sections 34 and 35 respectively of the 1999 Constitution and Article 4 of the African Charter on Peoples and Human rights domesticated by Nigeria, are violated.

In Peter Nemi V Attorney-General of Lagos State, the Supreme Court held that the right to life is available even to condemned prisoners or prisoners on death row until their execution is carried out according to the law. Therefore, to deny them their fundamental rights merely on the basis of a death sentence passed on them cannot stand the test of civilised conduct, as it debases their intrinsic worth as human beings.

The court also held in the aforesaid case that to starve a condemned prisoner to death or allow him to die systematically and by instalment in prison is a great violation of his right to life and personal dignity.

On this matter of the death penalty, this newspaper paper maintains its long-held position that human life is inviolable and should not be deliberately and intentionally taken away by a human being, but only by God the Creator.

The law: “thou shall not kill” is written on everyone’s heart, be he a Christian, a Muslim or a Pagan or a Hindu or a nihilist or a traditional religious worshipper. Human life is the first and greatest gift, most eloquently conveyed in the Latin maxim: vivre viventibus est esse (to living things life is existence).

In this regard, the fate of those on death row should not be hanging in the balance simply because state governors are undecided whether or not to sign the death warrants. Therefore, state governors who are refusing to sign death warrants should at least commute the death sentences to life imprisonment.

To keep prisoners on death row in indefinite incarceration amid the whims and caprices or the procrastination of state governors, is, to say the least, a monumental injustice that cries to the high heavens for remedy.

More importantly, considering that the death penalty is not a deterrent to capital crime coupled with the fact that some condemned prisoners are victims of a miscarriage of justice, our lawmakers at all levels should consider abolishing the death penalty totally by quashing the death penalty provisions in the country’s statutes as most countries are now doing.

Equatorial Guinea, regarded as one of the world’s most authoritarian countries, is about the latest to totally abolish the death penalty, according to a new law signed by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

In the alternative, Nigerian lawmakers should promulgate new laws to the effect that those sentenced to death should have their sentences automatically commuted to life imprisonment without the necessity of state governors ratifying the commutation.

The provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2015, must be deployed to address this issue, particularly Section 470 (1) (c ) of the Act which empowers the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee to ensure that the correctional centres are decongested to the barest minimum.

Overall, the case for the abolition of the death penalty is overwhelming enough to warrant its abrogation in all statutes in Nigeria.

Given that any life mistakenly or prematurely taken is impossible of being restored, emphasis should be on all governments in the country to respect the sanctity of life; bestow good governance on the people and thus prevent the commission of many crimes that attract the death penalty.

(source: Editorial Board, The Guardian)

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

UN Council Urges Nigeria, Other Countries To Stop Death Penalty

The United Nations Human Rights Council has urged the Nigerian government and other countries of the world to abolish the death penalty to enhance the dignity of human race.

This was disclosed in the Council’s annual report on the ‘Question of the death penalty’, covering the period July 2020–June 2022, obtained by our correspondent.

The report stated that about 170 countries have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice.

It added that “as at 15 June 2022, 90 States(countries) had deposited their instruments of ratification or accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, the key international treaty prohibiting the use of the death penalty.”

Reporting on Nigeria and other affected countries, the council said its human right treaty bodies observed the reintroduction of the use of the death penalty and resumption of executions across some states.

“Human rights treaty bodies encouraged States to consider ratifying or acceding to the Second Optional Protocol, including with regard to Cambodia, Cameroon, Iraq, Kenya, Nigeria, Qatar and Senegal. Treaty bodies also invited States, including Cuba, Kenya, Nigeria and Singapore, to consider declaring a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its abolition.

“In India and Nigeria, various states extended the scope of the death penalty, including for sexual offences and for kidnapping and cattle rustling,” the report stated.

The council advised that countries that retain the death penalty should only limit it to the most serious crimes, “which has been consistently interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing, and refrain from using it for crimes not involving intentional killing, such as drug-related offences or overly broad terrorism-related crimes.”

The UN Human Rights Council is the leading United Nations entity in the field of human rights that promotes and protects all human rights for all people.

(source: thewhistler.ng)

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

Stop Death Penalty – UN Tells Nigeria, Others

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has urged Nigeria and other countries to abolish the death penalty, to enhance the dignity of the human race.

The UNHRC is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system, whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.

In its annual report on the ‘Question of the Death penalty’, covering the period July 2020–June 2022, the Council said about 170 countries have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice.

It added that “as of 15 June 2022, 90 States(countries) had deposited their instruments of ratification or accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, the key international treaty prohibiting the death penalty.”

Reporting on Nigeria and other affected countries, the council said its human right treaty bodies observed the reintroduction of the use of the death penalty and resumption of executions across some states.

“Human rights treaty bodies encouraged States to consider ratifying or acceding to the Second Optional Protocol, including with regard to Cambodia, Cameroon, Iraq, Kenya, Nigeria, Qatar, and Senegal. Treaty bodies also invited States, including Cuba, Kenya, Nigeria, and Singapore, to consider declaring a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its abolition.

“In India and Nigeria, various states extended the scope of the death penalty, including for sexual offences and for kidnapping and cattle rustling”, the report said.

The Council advised that countries that retain the death penalty should only limit it to the most serious crimes, “which has been consistently interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing, and refrain from using it for crimes not involving intentional killing, such as drug-related offences or overly broad terrorism-related crimes.”

(source: thewillnigeria.co9m)

LIBYA:

Christian Sentenced to Death for Apostasy

Last week, the Court of Appeal of Misrata, in Libya, sentenced to death for apostasy a Christian who had converted from Islam. The decision was reported by Middle East Concern (MEC), and confirmed by other Christian NGOs with a presence in Libya.

MEC reported that the man, who converted 4 years ago, was arrested by militias, was not granted legal representation, and was also sentenced to pay the expenses for the publication of the decision through a local newspaper and a radio station.

But is apostasy really punished with the death penalty in Libya? Yes, according to the interpretation of the Sharia, the Islamic law, prevailing in Libya, where local scholars maintain that not only male (as the laws mandate in other Muslim states) but also female apostates should be executed.

The situation is, however, less clear as far as civil law is concerned. The General National Congress, i.e., the legislative authority of Libya from 2012 to 2014, did enact a law mandating that apostates who refuse to repent should be executed. However, as the Libyan civil war continued, the General National Congress, pursuant a United-Nations-supported agreement between various parties, agreed to dissolve itself. The new Parliament declared that all the laws passed by the General National Congress were automatically cancelled.

However, this was the Parliament sitting in Tobruk. In Tripoli, there is a Libyan Supreme Court that for years claimed to represent all the factions in the civil war and to be the custodian of national legal unity, although recently it has also been somewhat involved in the conflict. The Supreme Court declared the decision of the Tobruk Parliament to cancel the laws passed by the General National Congress between 2012 and 2014 invalid, with the consequence that the anti-apostasy law should be still in force.

So concluded the Court of Appeal of Misrata that sentenced the Christian to death. However, the administration of justice in Libya is highly irregular and influenced by pressures from the various militias. We can only hope that international intervention would save the Christian from being executed and persuade the key players in the Libyan conflict that laws calling for executing the apostates should have no place in civilized countries.

(source: anglican.innk)

EQUATORIAL GUINEA:

Amnesty hails scrapping of death penalty in Equatorial Guinea----Global rights organization encourages African retentionist states to abolish death penalty

International rights organization Amnesty International on Tuesday welcomed the abolition of the death penalty in Equatorial Guinea.

The Central African country abolished the death penalty after President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo signed into law a new legislation totally abolishing capital punishment in Equatorial Guinea’s penal code, state television reported on Monday.

“We welcome the abolition of the death penalty in the Equatorial Guinean penal code. We hope this will pave the way for other measures to fight against human rights violations. We encourage African retentionist states to abolish the death penalty,” Amnesty International said on Twitter.

The new penal law, officially published over the weekend, will come into force 90 days after publication.

It comes roughly 3 years after Obiang pledged in 2019 to propose a law to end capital punishment.

According to Amnesty International, the Central African country carried out its last executions in 2014.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, Equatorial Guinea’s vice president and the president’s son, was quoted as dubbing the decision “historical and memorable.”

Amnesty International is opposed to the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

According to German data provider Statista, capital punishment remains legal in more than 30 African countries, but over 20 of them have not carried out executions for at least 10 years.

(source: aa.com.tr)

KENYA:

Why has Kenya not abolished the death penalty? Habit and inertia

In recent months 2 African states have announced their intentions to abolish the death penalty – Zambia and the Central African Republic.

In all, 22 member countries of the African Union (AU) have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and one for ordinary crimes. In 2021, only 4 countries in the AU carried out executions: Botswana, Egypt, Somalia and South Sudan.

17 African countries are considered “de facto abolitionist” states, meaning that they have not carried out an execution in 10 years. These include Kenya, which retains the death penalty by hanging – a British colonial relic. This sentence can be handed down for the crimes of murder, other offences resulting in death, robbery not resulting in death and treason. Kenya hasn’t carried out an execution since 1987, when Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu were executed for their role in the failed attempt to overthrow President Daniel arap Moi in 1982.

After 35 years of no executions, why hasn’t the law been abolished? Based on our research and legal expertise, we believe that Kenya retains the death penalty out of habit, convenience and simple inertia rather than any evidence-based consideration of its effectiveness or popularity.

Analysis of the world, from experts

Our recent study found that Kenyans’ knowledge of the death penalty is relatively limited. Just 66% of the public are aware that the country retains the death penalty. Only 21% know that no executions have taken place in 35 years. Most years, more than 100 people are sentenced to death, mostly for murder or robbery with violence.

Another factor that may contribute to the government’s inertia is that the death row population is managed by regular mass commutations. Death sentences of 4,000 prisoners were commuted in 2009 under President Mwai Kibaki. And in 2016 another 2,747 under President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But executions could resume as long as the law remains on the books. It is therefore our expert view that it is important to press for abolition. This would provide psychological relief for those living in the shadow of death. Indeed, international jurisprudence suggests that that long periods on death row – referred to as “death row phenomenon” – constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

Latest research conducted by The Death Penalty Project, the University of Oxford and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights suggests that Kenyan opinion shapers are in favour of abolition, and public opinion is no impediment. So alongside legal or legislative reform, there should be civil society engagement and action from the community at a local level, bringing the public on the journey.

The Kenyan death penalty explained

Efforts have been made to restrict the scope and application of capital punishment. In 2017, Kenya’s Supreme Court declared the mandatory death penalty for murder unconstitutional. This introduced judicial discretion as to whether the death sentence should be imposed. Execution was set as the maximum penalty, but not the only one.

The courts do still hand down death sentences. By the end of 2021 there were 601 people on death row and 14 death sentences had been passed that year.

Governments that continue to apply the death penalty commonly argue that their citizens are in favour of it. Kenya’s leaders are no exception. In 2007 and 2015 the Kenyan parliament voted against abolition of the death penalty (when bills were initiated by individual lawmakers, but rejected by parliament). The justification cited was public support for retention. Kenyan delegates told a UN committee in 2013 that abolition was “not supported by the will of the Kenyan people”.

Our rigorous research suggests that this is not the case.

Public opinion is no barrier to abolition

Our public opinion study surveyed a representative sample of 1,672 Kenyans. We found that a small majority (51%) supported retention of the death penalty. Just under a third were strongly in favour of retention.

This is a lower level of support than other African abolitionist de facto countries. In Zimbabwe, for example, our study found 61% of the public was in favour of retention.

Our research also showed that in Kenya support for the death penalty in specific (realistic) scenario cases was lower than support in the abstract. For example, it dropped to 32% for robbery resulting in death and 27% for murder.

We also interviewed 42 opinion formers, including people who have jurisdiction over the criminal justice system or can be considered to influence public opinion, and found very high levels of support for abolition (90%), with the vast majority strongly in favour.

This represents the highest level of support for abolition across all studies of opinion formers conducted by The Death Penalty Project. In Kenya, opinion formers cited concerns about wrongful convictions as a reason for favouring abolition but also believed that the death penalty was an abuse of human rights.

Routes to abolition

The majority of those in the public who were initially in favour of retention stated they would accept abolition if it were to become Kenyan government policy. Likewise, almost all the opinion formers said they would actively support an act of parliament to abolish the death penalty.

Historically, there have been different routes to abolition in Africa. In Rwanda the death penalty was removed following the end of a repressive regime. In Sierra Leone, the president led a campaign which resulted in a vote in parliament. In South Africa, the country’s post-apartheid constitution paved the way for the court to outlaw the death penalty. It recognised the right not to be “subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

The preferred strategy for Kenyan opinion formers was through an amendment of the criminal law. But it was also suggested that it would be necessary to apply several strategies simultaneously. The local approach would include actions from the courts, the churches and the president. Another path would involve lobbying Kenya to sign the international protocol on abolition of the death penalty.

Regardless of the route Kenya takes, our research suggests that opinion formers will actively encourage and even help facilitate abolition. And the public will not stand in the way of abolishing a punishment that has clearly died out in practice.

(source: Carolyn Hoyle, Director of the University of Oxford Death Penalty Research Unit, Centre for Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford--

Lucy Harry, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Death Penalty Research Unit (DPRU), University of Oxford--Parvais Jabbar, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the Death Penalty Project, University of Oxford----The Conversation)

QATAR:

Gay men challenge Qatar death penalty for homosexuality

Gay men are blowing the whistle now, 2 months before the World Cup, demanding the host nation of Qatar change its anti-LGBTQ ways.

The Middle Eastern country where Islam is the state religion will welcome soccer players, coaches and fans from all around the planet, beginning Nov. 20, for matches that will pit nation against nation.

Qatar has promised to welcome LGBTQ foreigners, even as its own people are tortured and put to death for being who they are.

On Monday, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany got an earful from one of those men at a human rights conference in Frankfurt, hosted by the German Football Association, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Fan representative Dario Minden spoke in English directly to Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, about who he is and who he loves, Minden told him to “abolish the death penalty” for homosexuality.

“I’m a man and I love men. I do — please don’t be shocked — have sex with other men. This is normal,” Minden told Al Thani. “So, please get used to it, or stay out of football. Because the most important rule in football is, football is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, if you’re gay. It’s for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between.

“So, abolish the death penalty. Abolish all of the penalties regarding sexual and gender identity,” he said.

Although organizers promised Al Thani an opportunity to respond, the Associated Press reports that portion of the conference was closed to the public and the news media and was not televised.

Earlier, Al Thani reportedly complained to those assembled that the issue of human rights was a distraction from the World Cup, even though the event was titled, “Sport and Human Rights.”

“We all care about human rights,” said Al Thani. “But I would have enjoyed (it) more if I saw some concentration not only on just one subject, but the enjoyment of football and the football effect on people around the world.”

More than 5,000 miles away in San Francisco, a gay Qatari physician has organized a petition to tell the land of his birth: Love Is Not A Crime.

Doctor Nasser Mohamed decided to come out in 2010 following a visit to the U.S., and spent his residency in Connecticut before moving to California in 2015.

Mohamed wrote in an op-ed published by Outsports last month that he has spent the last decade caring for the LGBTQ community in outpatient settings and growing as an activist.

“Being an LGBT person is a criminal offense in the legal system in Qatarm as is sex between two men. There are state-sponsored conversion-therapy practices, and LGBT-affirming psychotherapy is not offered.” He wrote how law enforcement uses media and chat rooms to find, jail and punish people for being LGBTQ.

“Visibility of the local LGBT community in Qatar, and the exposure of their treatment, are absolutely essential,” Mohamed wrote. “I am doing my part by speaking up.”

(source: Washington Blade)

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

Gay football fan pleads with Qatar ambassador to abolish death penalty ahead of World Cup

Qatar’s ambassador to Germany has been confronted with an urgent plea to abolish his country’s death penalty for homosexuality.

The plea was made at a human rights congress hosted by the German soccer federation on Monday (19 September).

It comes 2 months prior to Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Under the country’s penal code it continues to punish same-sex relations with up to 7 years imprisonment, while queer Muslim men, under Sharia law, can be punished with the death penalty.

Fan representative, Dario Minden, directly addressed the Qatari ambassador, Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, at the congress in Frankfurt.

He said: “I’m a man and I love men.

“I do – please don’t be shocked – have sex with other men. This is normal. So please get used to it, or stay out of football.

“Because the most important rule in football is football is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, if you’re gay. It’s for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between.”

Minden went on to ask Al Thani to “abolish the death penalty” and “all of the penalties regarding sexual and gender identity”.

He added: “The rule that football is for everyone is so important. We cannot allow you to break it, no matter how rich you are. You are more than welcome to join the international football community and also, of course, to host a big tournament.”

Al Thani was given the chance to respond later, though his comments were to remain off-the-record, Blue Mountains Gazette reported.

The stars who went gay for pay

Only the opening 90 minutes of the federation’s congress were broadcast to the public, and no journalists were allowed to enter the event.

Federation spokesman Steffan Simon explained it was not the organisation’s decision to hold the majority of the congress off camera.

Before Minden spoke, Al Thani apparently complained that the issue of human rights was diverting attention from the tournament.

He said: “We all care about human rights. But I would have enjoyed (it) more if I saw some concentration not only on just one subject, but the enjoyment of football and the football effect on people around the world.

“Yes, we are not perfect. We are not claiming we are perfect, but it’s a journey that we will write.”

FIFA’s decision to allow Qatar to host the World Cup was met with widespread backlash over its human rights record.

(source: pinknews.co.uk)

IRAN:

TAKE ACTION:

• Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on November 10, 2022.

• Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Head of judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei

c/o Embassy of Iran to the European Union

Avenue Franklin Roosevelt No. 15

1050 Bruxelles, Belgium

H.E. Majid Takht Ravanchi

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran

622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Phone: 212 687-2020 // Fax: 212 867 7086

Email: iran@un.int , Majidravanchi@mfa.gov.ir

Twitter: @Iran_UN , @TakhtRavanchi

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Mr. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei,

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights defender Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani, 31, known as Sareh, and another woman, Elham Choubdar, 24, were sentenced to death after the Revolutionary Court in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province, tried them in early August 2022 and subsequently convicted them of “corruption on earth.” Official statements, state media reports, and statements made by prosecution officials to Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani since her arrest in October 2021 indicate that she was targeted for discriminatory reasons tied to her real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity, as well as her peaceful LGBTI rights activism, including on social media, and her association with LGBTI asylum seekers in Iraq. On July 18, 2022, state media affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards aired a homophobic video portraying Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani as a “criminal” for publishing online content which “promoted homosexuality” and “challenged the stigma around religiously forbidden [namashrou] sexual relations”. The propaganda video linked Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani’s peaceful online LGBTI rights activism to unfounded accusations of “gambling” and “smuggling women and girls from Iran to Erbil [Iraq]” in a bid to vilify her. Court documents and other information reviewed by Amnesty International indicate that Elham Choubdar was similarly targeted for discriminatory reasons related to her real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity, LGBTI supportive activities on social media, and association with Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani.

The proceedings leading to the women’s convictions and sentences were grossly unfair. Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani was forcibly disappeared for 53 days following arrest. During this time, she was subjected to abusive interrogations without access to a lawyer, prolonged solitary confinement, homophobic insults, death threats and threats to take away the custody of her children, which violate fair trial rights and the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International understands that Elham Choubdar was pressured to make “confessions”. Moreover, the offence of “corruption on earth” fails to meet requirements for clarity and precision needed in criminal law and breaches the principle of legality and legal certainty. Officials told the two women of their sentences on September 1, 2022 in Urumieh prison, where both are held. Their cases have been appealed to the Supreme Court.

I ask you to immediately quash the convictions and death sentences of Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Choubdar, and immediately release both as they are targeted based on discriminatory reasons related to their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity and peaceful activities in defence of the human rights of LGBTI people. Pending their release, ensure they are given regular access to lawyers of their choosing and family. I further urge the Iranian authorities to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and adopt legislation to protect LGBTI people from discrimination, violence and other human rights violations.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

(source: Amnesty International)

PAKISTAN:

Death sentence of man commuted to life term in wife’s murder case

The Sindh High Court on Tuesday commuted the death penalty of a man into life imprisonment in a case pertaining to the murder of his wife.

An additional district and sessions court had sentenced Ghulam Rasool to death in November 2021 for murdering his 28-year-old wife, Mumtaz Begum, at their house in Mohammadi Colony within the remit of the Docks police station in November 2018.

The convict, through his lawyer, challenged the capital punishment before the high court and after hearing both sides and examining the record and proceedings, a 2-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha dismissed the appeal, but reduced the sentence from death to life term.

The bench in its judgement observed that the judicial confession of the appellant had been made voluntarily and the circumstantial evidence in terms of the last seen evidence was also trustworthy and supported by medical evidence.

It further said that as per his confessional statement, he had contracted second marriage with the victim woman, who was also a divorcee and had three children from her 1st husband.

The bench further noted that the appellant’s judicial confession was not retracted as in his statement before the trial court he simply said that he confessed on the instruction of police.

All the procedural safeguards were followed by the judicial magistrate while recording confession and the same could not be dictated to him by police as it was too long and detailed and covered some aspects which the police did not even know about, it added.

It further said that the confession was in line with the case of prosecution especially as the appellant’s matrimonial difficulties/disputes had been corroborated by other evidence.

The judgement stated that the landlord of appellant and his wife were the last seen witnesses and they had no reasons to falsely implicate the accused and gave their evidence in a straightforward manner and were not dented during cross-examination, it added.

“With regard to sentencing it appears that there was no premeditation in the murder and since the case is based on circumstantial evidence we would veer on the side of caution and reduce the death sentence imposed on the appellant to life imprisonment and to pay compensation of Rs100,000 to the legal heirs of the deceased,” it concluded.

(source: dawn.com)

INDIA:

2 awarded death penalty for murder

A court has sentenced 2 persons to death for killing a man in Janjgir-Champa district in Chhattisgarh, a government lawyer said on Tuesday.

Public Prosecutor Rajesh Pandey said that First Additional District and Sessions Judge Suresh Joon on Monday found Sohit Kewat (28) and Sunil Kewat (23) guilty of killing Bhagwat Sahu, a gram panchayat member in Tumsa village.

On November 20, 2021, the 2 stabbed Sahu with a sharp-edged weapon over a land deal. They also circulated a video on social media claiming the murder.

(source: dailypioneer.com)

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Approach to death penalty: Why Supreme Court has decided to settle differences among judgments----Should there be a separate hearing for sentencing after a court has passed a conviction order on a capital offence? Where have courts and the law differed on this question?

The Supreme Court on September 19 referred to a larger Bench issues relating to procedural norms for imposing the death sentence. The intervention is seen as a major step in plugging gaps in the way in which trial courts award the death sentence.

What has the court said?

A 3-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) U U Lalit and Justices Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia said that there are conflicting judgments on when and how the sentencing hearing must take place, and referred the issue to a 5-judge Constitution Bench.

“This order is necessitated due to a difference of opinion and approach amongst various judgments, on the question of whether, after recording conviction for a capital offence, under law, the court is obligated to conduct a separate hearing on the issue of sentence,” the order said.

What is the difference of opinion?

Section 235 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) requires a judge to hear the accused after conviction on the question of sentence, and then pass sentence on him according to law.

In 1980, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of capital punishment in ‘Bachan Singh v State of Punjab’ on the condition that the punishment will be awarded in the “rarest of the rare” cases. Crucially, the ruling also stressed that a separate sentencing hearing would be held, where a judge would be persuaded on why the death sentence need not be awarded.

This position was reiterated in several subsequent rulings of the court, including in ‘Mithu v State of Punjab’, a 1982 ruling by a 5-judge Bench that struck down mandatory death sentence as it falls foul of the right of an accused to be heard before sentencing.

However, there are conflicting rulings on when that separate hearing is supposed to take place.

At least three smaller Bench rulings have held that while a separate sentencing hearing is inviolable, they can be allowed on the same day as the conviction. Other more recent three-judge decisions have ruled that same-day sentencing in capital offences violate the principles of natural justice.

A 2020 study by Project 39A, a criminal reforms advocacy group in the National Law University, Delhi, found that in 44 % of cases it studied in Delhi, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, sentencing hearings took place on the same day as the pronouncement of guilt.

In ‘Dattaraya v State of Maharashtra’, a 2020 ruling, a 3-judge Bench of the Supreme Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds that an adequate sentencing hearing was not held.

“For effective hearing under Section 235(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the suggestion that the court intends to impose death penalty should specifically be made to the accused, to enable the accused to make an effective representation against death sentence, by placing mitigating circumstances before the Court. This has not been done. The trial court made no attempt to elicit relevant facts, nor did the trial court give any opportunity to the petitioner to file an affidavit placing on record mitigating factors. As such the petitioner has been denied an effective hearing,” the Court had said.

What is an adequate sentencing hearing like?

The catena of judgments on sentencing hearings talks about a “meaningful, real and effective hearing” for the accused before awarding the death sentence, wherein the accused can have an “opportunity to adduce material relevant for the question of sentencing.”

This cannot happen on the same day as that of the conviction. Here, the judge is required to consider not just factors that necessitate awarding the highest sentence, but also the mitigating circumstances.

In the same suo motu petition, the court is also looking at framing a uniform policy in the form of guidelines for sentencing. The court had indicated in its previous orders “the necessity of working out the modalities of psychological evaluation, the stage of adducing evidence in order to highlight mitigating circumstances, and the need to build institutional capacity in this regard”.

What are mitigating circumstances?

In May, in ‘Manoj & others v. State of Madhya Pradesh’, the Supreme Court addressed the lack of a legal framework or institutional capacity to handle death penalty sentencing. The ruling, by a 3-judge Bench comprising Justices Lalit (before he took over as CJI) and Bhat, acknowledged the arbitrariness and subjective patterns in awarding the death sentence. Studies also show that largely underprivileged, minorities, and scheduled castes and tribes are awarded the death sentence.

Death penalty sentence is largely driven by the crime in question and not the circumstances of the accused. For example, the Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling in ‘Machhi Singh And Others vs State of Punjab’ introduced “collective conscience” into the capital sentencing framework and laid down 5 categories, wherein the community would “expect the holders of judicial power to impose death sentence, because collective conscience was sufficiently outraged”.

The 2020 study by Project 39A found that 72% of all cases in which Delhi trial courts awarded the death penalty from 2000 to 2015 cited “collective conscience of the society” as an influencing factor. The study also found that of the 112 cases in which collective conscience was a factor impacting the decisions of courts, absolutely no other mitigating factor was considered in 63 cases.

The SC order referring the issue to a larger bench lists social milieu, the age, educational levels, whether the convict had faced trauma earlier in life, family circumstances, psychological evaluation of a convict and post-conviction conduct, as relevant circumstances that should be accounted for at the sentencing hearing.

What happens next?

The case will now be listed before the CJI on the administrative side for orders on listing. A five-judge Constitution Bench will have to be set up to settle the differences in law among several three-judge Bench verdicts.

The hearings will effectively settle the debate on whether the fast-tracked hearings by trial courts awarding death sentences — in a matter of days in some cases — is legally tenable. The ruling could also be a crucial step in raising the bar further in awarding the death sentence.

(source: The Indian Express)

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Life and death: The Supreme Court’s initiative to raise the bar on capital punishment is welcome----This is a crucial opportunity to bring consistency in practice and, thus, ensure that those facing capital punishment get a hearing that's fair, humane — and just. For, it's about life and death

The death row debate in India cannot ignore the reality of the structural discrimination against those from a certain caste, class, and religion.

The Supreme Court’s decision to frame uniform norms for trial courts in awarding the death sentence is a welcome intervention. This is a case that a 3-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India U U Lalit had taken up on its own and has now referred to a larger Constitution bench of 5 judges. In making the reference, the Court acknowledged that the current practice “places the convict at a hopeless disadvantage, tilting the scales heavily against him”. A scrutiny of the “fairness” of the procedure to impose death penalty comes 42 years after a 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Bachan Singh v State of Punjab upheld the death penalty and introduced the “rarest of the rare” safeguard. The 2015 Law Commission Report on Death Penalty recommended abolition of death sentence except in terror-related cases. The report noted the global trend to be a continuous drop in “active retentionist” countries — over 144 countries have either in law or practice abolished the death sentence. In India, at a time when legislation imposing death sentences are increasing, raising the procedural bar in imposing capital punishment is a crucial balance between total abolition and active advocacy of the death sentence.

The death row debate in India cannot ignore the reality of the structural discrimination against those from a certain caste, class, and religion. In a 2016 study analysing profiles of 385 death row prisoners, Project 39A, a criminal reforms advocacy group, found that 76 % of such prisoners belonged to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, other backward classes or religious minorities and over 3/4 were from economically vulnerable and over 62 % did not complete secondary school. While these prejudices are a common thread in the criminal justice system, capital punishment extends them to an irrevocable, final state of punishment. Another 2020 Project 39A study of trial court judgments showed that in Delhi, of the 80 death sentences handed by trial courts between 2000 and 2013, over 60 % later resulted in acquittals or where sentences were commuted by the high court. The same study also showed that 72 % of all cases in which Delhi trial courts awarded the death penalty from 2000 to 2015 cited “collective conscience of the society” as an influencing factor. The data points towards a flag-waving approach of trial courts in awarding capital punishment.

The Supreme Court in its reference stressed that a trial court must take into account “the social milieu, the age, educational levels, whether the convict had faced trauma earlier in life, family circumstances, psychological evaluation of a convict and post-conviction conduct, were relevant factors at the time of considering whether the death penalty ought to be imposed upon the accused”. The case is a crucial opportunity to bring consistency in practice and, thus, ensure that those facing capital punishment get a hearing that’s fair, humane — and just. For, it’s about life and death.

(source: Editorial, The Indian Express)

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

‘Reformation, not retribution, should be central idea’: Editorials on the formation of constitutional bench for death penalty----Editorials took note of the fact that most convicts tend to be from marginalised communities.

The death penalty has been one of the most contentious issues in the country. On Monday the Supreme Court constituted a 5 judge constitution bench to frame norms and guidelines for trial courts in awarding the death sentence.

Editorials across English papers lauded the court’s decision.

An editorial in Indian Express called it a “welcome intervention”, pointing out that the death row debate in India “cannot ignore the reality of the structural discrimination against those from a certain caste, class, and religion”.

“In India, at a time when legislation imposing death sentences are increasing, raising the procedural bar in imposing capital punishment is a crucial balance between total abolition and active advocacy of the death sentence,” it said. It called the case a “crucial opportunity to bring consistency in practice and, thus, ensure that those facing capital punishment get a hearing that’s fair, humane – and just”.

Times of India said given the “many worrying tendencies of lower courts”, a “court of procedural dos and don’ts will really help”. While India “seldom executes death row prisoners”, the editorial said, “trial courts hand out dozens of death penalties every year”.

On discrimination in the system, it said, “Poorer convicts often don’t receive quality legal assistance and a capital punishment for an innocent is an irretrievable miscarriage of justice.”

Hindustan Times took the same line, noting that trial courts “largely relied on aggravating circumstances to fix sentencing, and in 51 % of cases, mitigating circumstances were not considered”. It called the Supreme Court’s move an “important step towards correcting this problem”.

It hoped the court would also provide clarity on issues including whether a “broader change in mindset can be affected, especially of prosecuting agencies that seek the maximum punishment”. Hindustan Times noted how most death row convicts come from marginalised backgrounds.

Deccan Herald also had an editorial on Tuesday, saying the court had “done well to take a close look at an important aspect of the death penalty which has not received adequate attention till now”.

The editorial drew a difference between sentencing and convictions: “In the present scheme and practice of judicial decision-making, sentencing does not get as much importance as a conviction. Once the court decides that the accused is guilty, sentencing tends to become quick and easy.”In this regard, it notes how convicts do not get enough time to present mitigating circumstances to lighten their sentence.

The editorial concluded: “Capital punishment is itself wrong and will become irrelevant if the idea of reformation of the convict, not retribution, becomes the central idea of the criminal justice system.”

Newslaundry had previously reported on the findings of the Death Penalty Project report of 2016 – how death row prisoners are largely poor, uneducated, and from SC, ST, OBC categories or religious minorities. Torture is rampant and there are flagrant procedural lapses when prisoners are in pretrial custody.

(source: newslaundry.com)

BANGLADESH:

Hoshi Kunio murder: HC upholds death penalty for 4

The High Court (HC) has upheld the death penalty of 4 members of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and acquitted another in the case lodged over the murder of Japanese citizen Hoshio Kunio in Rangpur in 2015.

An HC division bench comprising Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman and Justice S M Masud Hossain Dolon passed the order on Wednesday.

The convicts are JMB’s regional commander Masud Rana alias Mamun, 21, members Liton Mia alias Rafiq, 23, Ahsan Ullah Ansari alias Biplob, 24 and Shakhawat Hossain, 32.

Of them, Ahsan Ullah, who was a student of Begum Rokeya University, is on the run.

The convict who got acquittal is JMB member Eshahak Ali.

Earlier on Monday, the HC set September 21 for passing its judgment on death reference and appeals of four among the five convicts sentenced to death in the case.

Additional Attorney General Sheikh Mohammed Morshed took part in the hearing for the state while Assistant Attorney Generals A Manna, Jakir Hossain Masud and Nirmol Kumar Das assisted him. On the other hand, Advocate Ahsan Ullah argued for the convicts.

The High Court on September 4 started hearing the death reference and appeals in the case.

Rangpur Special Judge Court on February 28, 2017, sentenced 5 members of JMB to death in the case.

Hoshi Kunio was shot dead at Alutari village of Kaunia upazila in Rangpur on October 3 in 2015.

(soruce: jagonews24.com)

MALAYSIA:

Law minister: MPs, representatives from political parties attend engagement session on abolishment of death penalty

An engagement session with members of the Dewan Rakyat and representatives from Barisan Nasional (BN), Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) regarding the abolition of the mandatory death penalty was held at the Parliament building yesterday.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the engagement session discussed on alternative sentences for 11 offences that carry the mandatory death penalty, as well as 23 offences carrying the death penalty but with the discretion of the court.

“Part of the input and views from the MPs and the representatives will be implemented in the further research which includes issues related to life imprisonment and whipping,” he said in a statement today.

The moratorium status on execution of 1,337 inmates currently on death row was also discussed during the session, he added.

In general, Wan Junaidi said those who attended the session were appreciative of the government’s commitment to abolishing the death penalty.

Wan Junaidi said the engagement session, which was also attended by senior officers from the Home Ministry, Attorney General’s Chambers and Prisons Department, was a good start towards ensuring smooth presentation of all the amendments to the relevant acts in the coming Parliament sitting.

“This action is seen as a positive and progressive step towards implementing major changes for the sentencing policy in this country and ensuring the improvement of Malaysia’s legal and justice system,” he said.

On June 8, the government agreed in principle to abolish the mandatory death penalty and to substitute it with other sentences which are subject to the discretion of the court.

(source: malaymail.com)

SEPTEMBER 20, 2022:

TEXAS:

Texas Prosecutors Drop Death Penalty Against African American Man Held 8 Years Without Trial in Death of White Police Officer During Botched No-Knock Raid

Bell County prosecutors have dropped their efforts to impose the death penalty on Marvin Guy, an African American man who has been held 8 years without trial in connection with the death of a white police officer during a botched no-knock raid in Killeen, Texas in May 2014.

In the pre-dawn hours of May 9, 2022, a SWAT team from the Killeen Police Department ignited a flash grenade and broke a window attempting, unannounced, to enter Guy’s residence to serve a warrant to search for cocaine. Guy fired out the window at what he told the Washington Post podcast Broken Doors he believed were intruders attempting to rob or kill him. Police returned a hail of gunfire, and during the shooting, four police officers were struck by bullets. Two days later, Killeen police Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie died from his wounds.

Prosecutors charged Guy with capital murder and sought the death penalty. He is imprisoned pre-trial on $4 million bond. Guy maintains that police accidentally shot Dinwiddie during the raid. No drugs were found in the search of Guy’s house.

“This no-knock raid should’ve never happened, and Marvin should not have been arrested,” PJ Martinez, Texas Campaigns Director of the Grassroots Law Project said.

While Guy no longer faces the death penalty, prosecutors continue to seek a capital murder conviction and life sentence against him.

Less than 6 months before the botched raid on Guy’s house, central Texas police in Burleson County threw a flash grenade and tried to kick in the door to enter the residence of Henry “Hank” Magee during another drug-related no-knock raid. Magee grabbed his semi-automatic rifle and fired it towards the door, killing SWAT office Sergeant Adam Sowders. Police found drugs in Magee’s residence. Prosecutors charged him with capital murder, but a grand jury refused to indict, effectively determining that Magee had acted in self-defense.

In an October 2014 article in Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer wrote the cases raised “troubling questions about race and ‘no-knock’ police raids.” “The cases are remarkably similar, except for one thing,” Bauer observed: “Guy is black, Magee white.”

Killeen City officials banned no-knock raids in 2021, 2 years after Killeen police shot James Reed to death and then tried to cover up their role in the killing. Officer Anthony Custance lied to investigators about his role in the shooting before ultimately pleading guilty to charges of tampering with evidence to try to make it appear he had not shot at Reed.

Guy has languished in jail for more than 8 years after firing the public defenders office and two other teams of court appointed lawyers whom his supporters say were not aggressively defending his case. In April 2021, the Innocence Project of Texas entered its appearance on behalf of Guy, with its Executive Director Mike Ware serving as lead counsel. Dallas criminal defense lawyer Justin A. Moore is serving as second chair counsel. Trial in the case also has been delayed by the pandemic.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

ALABAMA----stay of impending execution

Alabama inmate Alan Eugene Miller granted stay of execution

A federal judge has ordered Alabama cannot execute Alan Eugene Miller, convicted of a triple homicide more than 20 years ago, by lethal injection this week, after Miller argued that he formally elected to die using another method in 2018.

“Miller has shown, based on the evidence presented, a substantial likelihood of success on the merits... and that the balance of harms weighs in his favor. Therefore, Miller has established his entitlement to a preliminary injunction that prevents the State from executing him by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia,” U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. wrote in his Monday order.

The judge said in his order, “Miller has presented consistent, credible, and uncontroverted direct evidence that he submitted an election form in the manner he says was announced to him by the (Alabama Department of Corrections),” along with “circumstantial evidence” that the ADOC lost or misplaced his form after he turned it in.

He added, “it is substantially likely that Miller timely elected nitrogen hypoxia” and said several of the state’s arguments “miss the mark.”

Not dying by his choice of method would be “the loss of his ‘final dignity’—to choose how he will die,” the judge added.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office could appeal the order to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. If a higher court doesn’t overturn Huffaker’s ruling, the execution cannot go forward because the state is only prepared to use lethal injection.

Miller, 57, was set to die by lethal injection on Thursday at 6 p.m. at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. His current lawsuit stems from claims he made saying he turned in a form electing to die by nitrogen hypoxia after the method was approved in June 2018. The AG’s Office said there’s no evidence Miller ever completed or submitted a form making that choice.

“Having listened to Miller’s live testimony and observed his demeanor, and having compared Miller’s live testimony with his deposition and affidavit, and with no direct contradicting evidence... the Court finds substantially credible Miller’s testimony that he timely submitted a nitrogen hypoxia election form,” the judge wrote.

No state in the nation has used nitrogen hypoxia for an execution, although several states have laws allowing it. Alabama is currently not ready to carry out such an execution, ADOC Commissioner John Hamm said in an affidavit. The admission comes days after Deputy Alabama Attorney General James Houts said that it was “very likely” the state could execute Miller this week using nitrogen hypoxia if the court deemed the change of method necessary.

The judge said the AG’s Office made “vague and imprecise statements regarding the readiness and intent to move forward with an execution,” and ordered the state to take a definite stance on their readiness. After his order, Hamm’s affidavit was filed.

Huffaker wrote in his Monday order that the state has been “inconsistent” with its claims. “Suffice it to say, the readiness of the protocol and of the ADOC to conduct executions by nitrogen hypoxia has been a moving target,” he wrote.

“In this case specifically, the Court has received inconsistent information along the way from the State... The Court notes that while nitrogen hypoxia may not be available on September 22, 2022, the State has not said when it expects the protocol to be ready. From all that appears, the State intends to announce its readiness to conduct executions by nitrogen hypoxia in the upcoming weeks.”

Hamm said in his affidavit, “The ADOC cannot carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, 2022,” adding the department “remains ready to carry out (Miller’s) sentence by lethal injection.”

After the state approved nitrogen hypoxia in 2018, and the law allowed inmates already sitting on Alabama Death Row—most of whom are behind bars at Holman—a 30 day-window in June 2018 to change the way they would be killed from the default method of lethal injection to nitrogen hypoxia.

“This case presents another occasion for the Court to consider the downstream effects of an Alabama Department of Corrections official’s decision to distribute to death row inmates a form by which inmates could elect their execution by nitrogen hypoxia,” the judge wrote.

Huffaker said there is ”no evidence of a standardized policy or procedure for ADOC officials to collect and transmit completed forms... for logging and retention, nor is there evidence of a chain of custody from the time forms were collected.”

The judge mentioned 2 other death row inmates who have also alleged issues with the state’s collecting of their forms. In those cases, the state eventually said one man’s form was submitted in a timely fashion but either not received or properly stored by the prison; the other centered around an issue with a guard delivering the form to the prison warden. “This evidence suggests that what Miller claims the ADOC did— or failed to do—after he turned in his form was not unique to him.”

The state’s arguments are based on “weak circumstantial evidence... misrepresentations about Miller’s testimony, and—at bottom—the State’s subjective belief that Miller did not timely elect because he has a motive to try to delay his execution,” the judge ruled.

According to a deposition provided in court records, Miller elected to die by nitrogen hypoxia so he “wouldn’t have to be stabbed with needles.”

Miller was convicted of killing 3 men in a Shelby County workplace shooting spree in August 5, 1999. Those men were Lee Holdbrooks, 32; Christopher Scott Yancy, 28; and Terry Jarvis, 39. Ferguson Enterprises. Holdbrooks and Yancy were employees of Ferguson, while Jarvis worked for Post Airgas in Pelham.

Miller was a former employee of Post Airgas, and at the time of the slayings worked at Ferguson.

Miller, who did not testify at his trial, took the stand last week during an evidentiary hearing in his current lawsuit. “He testified unequivocally that he does not like needles. He explained that, prior to June 2018, someone at the ADOC who tried to insert a needle into his arm to draw blood had trouble finding a vein,” the judge wrote. “According to Miller, they ‘poke’ the needle around, move it around, ‘sometimes they’ll nick a nerve, or they’ll pull it out and go after the hands or the other arm.’.. His testimony on this subject was uncontroverted.”

Miller said in a deposition, “You know, it’s my life. And I know I didn’t want to be stabbed with needles and everything like that.”

In his Monday order, Huffaker said Miller’s choice to die by nitrogen hypoxia was a “fairly straightforward decision-making process” that was “primarily animated by a desire to avoid being stabbed with needles, as opposed to a complex or thoughtful decision or desire to affirmatively elect nitrogen hypoxia as his method of execution.”

The nitrogen hypoxia execution process will center around a prisoner inhaling nitrogen, without any source of oxygen, causing death by asphyxiation. Inhalation of only one or two breaths of pure nitrogen will cause sudden loss of consciousness and, if no oxygen is provided, death.

The AG’s Office asked Miller during a deposition if, “as a planning precaution,” he could be fitted with a gas mask in the case they could execute him using nitrogen hypoxia. The AG’s Office used that topic to argue before Huffaker that the lawsuit was a tactic to delay Miller’s execution-- an argument Huffaker said “misrepresented Miller’s testimony.”

“Miller said he would be upset because no one else who elected nitrogen hypoxia is being subjected to mask-fitting. Moreover, the Court agrees with Miller’s counsel that it is a natural human reaction to be upset about the prospect of being fitted with the means of one’s own execution.” He wrote that the comments “have no bearing on the veracity of his testimony that he made a timely election in June 2018.”

“The State and the public also have an interest in the State following its own law generally and in the State honoring an inmate’s valid election of nitrogen hypoxia more specifically—an election afforded to inmates by the Alabama Legislature,” Huffaker wrote.

“An execution is final; there are no do-overs or give-backs.”

(source: al.com)

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Judge blocks upcoming lethal injection in Alabama

A federal judge on Monday blocked Alabama from executing an inmate who says the state lost his paperwork requesting an alternative to lethal injection. U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. issued a preliminary injunction to block the state from executing Alan Miller on Thursday by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia, an untested method Miller says he requested but Alabama is not ready to use. Miller was sentenced to die after being convicted of killing 3 people in a 1999 workplace shooting.

“Miller will likely suffer irreparable injury if an injunction does not issue because he will be deprived of the ability to die by the method he chose and instead will be forced to die by a method he sought to avoid and which he asserts will be painful,” Huffaker wrote. The injury will be, “the loss of his ‘final dignity’—to choose how he will die,” the judge added.

The ruling blocks Alabama from carrying out the lethal injection that had been set for Thursday. However, the Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall will appeal the decision, Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Marshall, wrote in an email.

Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. Nitrogen hypoxia has been authorized by Alabama and two other states for executions but no state has attempted to put an inmate to death by the untested method.

When Alabama approved nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative execution method in 2018, state law gave inmates a brief window to designate it as their execution method.

Miller testified last week that he returned a state form selecting nitrogen on the same day it was distributed to inmates by a prison worker. He said he left it in the slot of his cell door for a prison worker to collect, but did not see who picked it up. Miller described how he disliked needles because of painful attempts at drawing blood. He said the nitrogen method reminded him of the nitrous oxide gas used at dentist offices, and that seemed better than lethal injection.

“I did not want to be stabbed with a needle,” Miller said.

Alabama prison officials say they have no record of Miller returning the form, and argued that Miller is just trying to delay his execution.

Huffaker wrote that he can’t rule out the possibility that Miller is lying about selecting nitrogen in order to delay his looming execution, but said his testimony was credible. “It is substantially likely that Miller timely elected nitrogen hypoxia,” the judge wrote.

The judge noted the possibility that Alabama might soon be able to use nitrogen. “From all that appears, the State intends to announce its readiness to conduct executions by nitrogen hypoxia in the upcoming weeks,” the judge wrote.

The Alabama Department of Corrections told the judge last week that Alabama “has completed many of the preparations necessary for conducting executions by nitrogen hypoxia” but is not ready to implement it.

Miller, a delivery truck driver, was convicted in the 1999 workplace shootings that killed Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis in suburban Birmingham. Miller shot Holdbrooks and Yancy at one business and then drove to another location to shoot Jarvis, evidence showed.

A defense psychiatrist said Miller was delusional and suffered from severe mental illness but his condition wasn’t bad enough to use as a basis for an insanity defense under state law.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Ahmed to represent himself in hearing to set death sentence aside

Nawaz Ahmed likely will represent himself from death row in an upcoming hearing.

After listening to arguments from Ahmed, his defense attorney Adele Shank, and Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan, Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato ruled Ahmed’s defense attorney’s appointment has expired.

Ahmed would decide if he wants to proceed with the argument that he was mentally ill during his crime.

In 2001, Ahmed was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of his estranged wife and her family. The bodies of Dr. Lubaina Bhatti, 39, her father Abdul Majid Bhatti, 78, her sister Ruhie Ahmed, 35, and her niece, Nasira Ahmed, 2, were found in Ahmed’s St. Clairsville home, and Ahmed was stopped before he could board on a flight for Pakistan.

Monday’s hearing was a contentious one, with Ahmed objecting to his attorney soon after he appeared via video from death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institute.

Adele Shank, Ahmed’s defense attorney, had filed a motion on his behalf, saying he was seriously mentally ill during the killings and not eligible for the death penalty under 2953.21 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Shank said new provisions had been made to allow for individuals who had a serious mental illness can have their death sentence set aside and receive an automatic life sentence.

“I am Mr. Ahmed’s defense attorney,” Shank said as she introduced herself at the beginning of proceedings.

“Not according to him,” Fregiato said.

Shank had been appointed to the case by Fregiato and said she had represented Ahmed for a number of years. Shank said the Seventh District Court of Appeals found Ahmed’s notice of appeal was invalid since it was not the final appealable order.

“There have been several additional notices of appeal, and the court of appeals had dismissed them all,” Shank said. “Really this is the initial status conference of the case.”

“The defendant did not seek out the assistance of counsel. The defendant does not want the assistance of counsel, in fact did not want to avail himself of whatever remedy this particular statute would allow,” Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said, adding that the court should determine if Ahmed wants counsel or if the matter should be dismissed. Flanagan added Ahmed would have to give up his innocent plea should this statute be pursued.

During proceedings, Shank reiterated that Ahmed had been diagnosed with a delusional disorder at the time of the trial. She also objected that she believed Ahmed was not competent and could not waive counsel without being determined to be competent.

“His delusional disorder has been manifest throughout the many years that I’ve represented him,” she said.

Ahmed said at the beginning of September he had filed for a motion to stay and abeyance of the proceedings, and for indefinite continuances until the federal court has made a decision.

Flanagan said Ahmed’s filings demonstrate a grasp of the proceedings. Shank said the delusion impacts specific areas of Ahmed’s mental state and he is functional in others. She asked that the issue of Ahmed’s competency be ruled on at the Monday hearing.

“It’s is a 1-time opportunity for those already on death row. He will never get a chance again to save his own life through the use of this statute,” Shank said.

“Mr. Flanagan, you find yourself in the unusual situation where you’re agreeing with the defendant himself,” Fregiato said.

“The defendant has the right to determine whether or not he wants to move forward with his appellate process relative to claims of innocence,” Flanagan said.

“Ma’am, aren’t you cutting off is rights?” Fregiato asked Shank.

She said she was not, on the grounds of lack of competency.

“The idea that this is a legitimate claim of innocence to be heard by another court is not supported procedurally,” Shank said. “There are a number of other courts that have said ‘we’ve reached a conclusion on these claims,’ and they have not granted him any relief.”

Ahmed said Shank was making false claims and false allegations and said she had not filed matters on his behalf as he instructed. He attempted to interject when Shank responded that she was required to act in the best interest of a client with diminished capacity.

Fregiato ruled Ahmed was not incompetent and could proceed on his own. Shank asked that a competency evaluation be considered. Flanagan said he did not believe the statute called for it, but would provide case information to Fregiato. Shank asked should this decision be reversed, the filing would date back to the initial filing date so Ahmed did not lose the opportunity to pursue this option.

A further status conference will be set.

“We have always maintained, and courts of appeal have upheld, all the decisions of the trial court. Any mental illness that he may have had did not contribute to him killing his wife, his sister-in-law, his father-in-law and his … niece. All of those issues were fully explored in the trial,” Flanagan said afterward.

“We do anticipate that Nawaz Ahmed will now withdraw this particular motion and he will continue to appeal his sentence as he has done previously, however he has failed at every stage and we anticipate that he will continue to fail,” Flanagan said.

“If we felt that he had some mental illness that caused him to commit these crimes, we would absolutely not take the position that we’ve taken,” Flanagan said. “Courts of appeal over the last decade have found him competent.

“In this particular case we had four innocent people that were bludgeoned and stabbed to death. The jury’s decision in both finding him guilty and the sentence were appropriate in this case,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan said there is no date set for Ahmed’s execution at this time.

(source: timesleaderonline.com)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Attorneys file clemency petition for Oklahoma death row inmate

Attorneys for an Oklahoma death row inmate filed a clemency petition while a competency case continues.

Benjamin Cole, 59, was sentenced to death in the 2002 killing of his 9-month-old daughter in Rogers County and is scheduled to be executed Oct. 20.

Public defenders await a Pittsburg County judge's order Sept. 30 on whether to set a competency trial — but a clemency hearing is also set for 9 a.m. Sept. 27.

Cole was playing a video game in December 2002 when his infant daughter started crying before he paused the game, pulled her feet backward to the point of breaking her spine, then started his game again, according to court records.

Case files state the child turned blue and foamed at the mouth, leading her mother to ask what was wrong and Cole denying any problem. The child died at the hospital.

Attorneys request the board and Gov. Kevin Stitt grant Cole clemency — with court filings showing many similar competency challenges brought in Cole's case in 2015 before Oklahoma's moratorium on executions.

Oklahoma's parole board previously voted 3-2 to deny him clemency in August 2015 after attorneys and a doctor described Cole's mental state as declining and saying he could barely communicate.

Court records show Cole would crawl on the floor and refuse to talk with attorneys or doctors during visits. An assistant attorney general argued those were choices Cole made and not a sign of insanity.

Prosecutors argued the warden and staff members at OSP stated Cole acknowledged his execution date and signed paperwork.

Cole declined to appear for the 2015 clemency hearing — but he appeared in a competency hearing later that month and answered few questions. Cole told a judge he was being executed to "Go home to be with Jesus," according to reports at the time, before a jury found him competent to proceed.

Attorneys maintain Cole is not a threat to anyone if his sentence were commuted to life in prison without parole — describing him as a frail man "with a damaged and deteriorating brain, suffering from progressive and severe mental illness who poses no threat to anyone in any way.”

An evidentiary hearing is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 30 in the competency case with petitioners to call two witnesses: Cole and OSP Warden Jim Farris. Hogan ordered other witnesses to be submitted by reports.

His attorneys describe Cole's mental capacity to consult with his counsel and participate in his defense as "nonexistent and challenged since the inception of this case." They wrote Cole exhibited detached and incongruent behavior, an MRI showed a lesion on his brain, doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia, and more.

A clemency hearing for Cole before the state's parole board is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 27.

Oklahoma law requires clemency hearings for death row inmates to be scheduled 21 calendar days before the scheduled execution date.

Each inmate is allowed 20 minutes to speak to the board. The victims' families also receive 20 minutes to speak.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys then each get 40 minutes to address the board with the option to reserve time for rebuttals.

Board members will then vote. If the board votes in favor of clemency, the decision will go to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who can then either accept or deny the decision made by the board.

(source: McAlester News)

ARIZONA:

Debra Milke, previously sentenced to death row for her son's murder, tells her side of the story

1 of only 4 women to sit on Arizona's death row, Debra Milke, is telling her story decades later in this 2-part report.

She was at the center of one of the most heinous crimes in Arizona history.

In 1989, weeks before Christmas, her 4-year-old son Christopher was told he was going to the mall to meet Santa Claus. Instead, he was taken to the desert and shot three times in the back of the head.

His mother, 25-year-old Debra Milke, was sentenced to death for arranging the murder. One of her roommates, a would-be-suiter, and his friend were convicted of carrying out the murder.

They are both on death row, and Milke always maintained her innocence.

She spent 23 years behind bars before a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that she was wrongly convicted.

The detective who claimed she confessed to the murder, didn't record it, there were no witnesses to the confession, and he had a history of misconduct and lying.

Milke was set free in 2013, and nearly ten years later, she's still trying to make sense of it all.

"Every single day I think of Christopher," Milke said. "The hardest thing I'm dealing with now is when I see people his age."

Christopher would have been 37 in 2022.

"When I see young men that are in his age group, it really … it's hard to deal with," she said.

According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, the three female death row inmates are Wendi Andriano, Shawna Forde, and Sammantha Uriarte.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that describes itself as a "national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment," there are, as of Jan. 1, 2022, 50 women on death rows across the U.S.

The number is based on reports by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and it should be noted that one of the women listed was sentenced to death as a male, and transitioned to female while on California's death row.

The state with the most number of women on death row is California, with 22.

(source: Fox News)

USA:

U.S. to seek death penalty against accused New York bike path killer

The U.S. government said it plans to seek the death penalty for the man charged with using a truck to kill 8 people on a Manhattan bike path on Halloween in 2017.

In a letter filed late Friday in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors said Attorney General Merrick Garland "decided to continue to seek the death penalty" against Sayfullo Saipov, and that they notified the defendant's lawyers and victims.

David Patton, a federal public defender representing Saipov, declined to comment.

The decision followed Garland's July 2021 moratorium on federal executions while the Department of Justice reviews its use of the death penalty. Executions had resumed in 2020 under Garland's predecessor William Barr, following a 17-year hiatus.

Saipov, 34, an Uzbek national, has pleaded not guilty to a 28-count indictment, including for murder and for providing material support to Islamic State, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Prosecutors said Saipov intentionally used a Home Depot rental truck to mow down people along the West Side Highway on Oct. 31, 2017, hoping to gain membership in Islamic State.

According to prosecutors, Saipov chose Halloween because he thought more people would be on the streets, and also planned to strike the Brooklyn Bridge.

Those killed included 5 Argentinian tourists and one Belgian tourist. More than one dozen other people were severely injured.

Saipov has been jailed since his arrest, and is now housed in Brooklyn. If found guilty, he could also be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Hundreds of prospective jurors received questionnaires last month to assess their knowledge of the case and potential bias.

Formal jury selection could begin around Oct. 11 and last a few weeks, and a trial could stretch into January 2023.

The Justice Department under Garland has defended the death penalty in some cases.

They include Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 2013 Boston Marathon bomber, and Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine Black people at a South Carolina church in 2015.

The case is U.S. v. Saipov, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-cr-00722.

(source: Reuters)

GAZA:

New Death Sentence in Gaza: PCHR Demands Immediate End for Death Sentences in Gaza

On Sunday, 18 September 2022, the Higher Crime Committee in the Gaza Strip issued a death sentence against (S.B.) a resident of Deir Al-Balah after he was convicted of murder of (A.B.) in a family dispute that took place on 26 August 2021.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reaffirms its condemnation of all murder crimes and its total support with the families of victims and their right to remedy. In the meantime, PCHR reiterates that death penalty is not the only mean to achieve justice or deter such crimes and highlights the fact that Palestine is a State Party to the 1989 Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

Accordingly, the death sentences issued in 2022 in Gaza rise to 18, including 3 issued by military courts and 5 sentences issued in affirmation of former death sentences by Appeal Court. The total number of death sentences issued in the Palestinian territory since 1994 reached 271; 30 in the West Bank and 241 in the Gaza Strip. Among those issued in the Gaza Strip, 181 sentences were issued after the 2007 Palestinian political division.

Since the establishment of the PA in 1994, 46 death sentences were executed: 44 in the Gaza Strip, and two in the West Bank. Of those executed in the Gaza Strip, 33 were conducted without the ratification of the Palestinian President in violation of Palestinian law. In this context, PCHR stresses the need to refrain from ratifying death sentences in a prelude to abolishing this punishment from the Palestinian legislations.

PCHR stresses that the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is biding to Palestine, including the Gaza Strip. Therefore, PCHR calls on the authorities in the Gaza Strip not to use the death penalty and replace it with a life sentence with hard labor.

PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian President to issue a law by decree to suspend the use of legal articles related to the death penalty in the Palestinian that conflict with Palestine’s obligations under the ICCPR Protocol aiming at abolishing the death penalty.

(source: pchrgaza.org)

EGYPT----female gets death sentence

Mother, lover sentenced to death in Upper Egypt over killing children

Nagaa Hammadi Criminal Court, Upper Egypt on Saturday sentenced a housewife and her lover to death by hanging – after receiving the permission of the Grand Mufti – on charges of killing her 3 children and attempted murder of her husband

. The crime dates back to July 2021, when the Qena Security Directorate received a report that Raafat Galal, 35, had been poisoned, and his children, Amira, 8, Amir, 7, and Adam, 9, had died of food poisoning. Investigations revealed that there was a suspected criminal act behind the death of the 3 children and the poisoning of their father after they drank canned juice.

Upon examination, it was found that the mother of the children, 26, was behind the incident in participation with her lover, a driver, 28.

Investigations found that there had been a relationship between the mother and the driver for 3 years, and they decided to get rid of the husband and the children so that they would be free.

On the day of the incident, the lover took advantage of the parents’ visit to a pediatric clinic to have a medical checkup for one of the kids.

The mother told her lover with the date, so he bought four cans of juice, and put a toxic substance inside them.

The defendant took advantage of the husband’s exit from the clinic, and gave the mother the juice, then she gave it to her children and her husband after he returned to them again inside the clinic.

The children and the husband suffered from food poisoning. The 3 children died while the husband lost consciousness and was transferred to the intensive care unit at a nearby hospital.

The defendants were arrested and presented to the Public Prosecution, which investigated them, then referred them to the Criminal Court, which sentenced them to death after obtaining the permission of the Grand Mufti.

(source: egyptindependent.com)

LIBYA:

Christian Sentenced to Death for Apostasy----It is unclear whether the anti-apostasy statute is still in force. To be on the safer side, judges enforce it anyway.

Last week, the Court of Appeal of Misrata, in Libya, sentenced to death for apostasy a Christian who had converted from Islam. The decision was reported by Middle East Concern (MEC), and confirmed by other Christian NGOs with a presence in Libya.

MEC reported that the man, who converted 4 years ago, was arrested by militias, was not granted legal representation, and was also sentenced to pay the expenses for the publication of the decision through a local newspaper and a radio station.

But is apostasy really punished with the death penalty in Libya? Yes, according to the interpretation of the Sharia, the Islamic law, prevailing in Libya, where local scholars maintain that not only male (as the laws mandate in other Muslim states) but also female apostates should be executed.

The situation is, however, less clear as far as civil law is concerned. The General National Congress, i.e., the legislative authority of Libya from 2012 to 2014, did enact a law mandating that apostates who refuse to repent should be executed. However, as the Libyan civil war continued, the General National Congress, pursuant a United-Nations-supported agreement between various parties, agreed to dissolve itself. The new Parliament declared that all the laws passed by the General National Congress were automatically cancelled.

However, this was the Parliament sitting in Tobruk. In Tripoli, there is a Libyan Supreme Court that for years claimed to represent all the factions in the civil war and to be the custodian of national legal unity, although recently it has also been somewhat involved in the conflict. The Supreme Court declared the decision of the Tobruk Parliament to cancel the laws passed by the General National Congress between 2012 and 2014 invalid, with the consequence that the anti-apostasy law should be still in force.

So concluded the Court of Appeal of Misrata that sentenced the Christian to death. However, the administration of justice in Libya is highly irregular and influenced by pressures from the various militias. We can only hope that international intervention would save the Christian from being executed and persuade the key players in the Libyan conflict that laws calling for executing the apostates should have no place in civilized countries.

(source: bitterwinter.org)

GHANA:

Assin Fosu: Court sentences man found guilty of murder to death

(see: https://www.modernghana.com/news/1184063/assin-fosu-court-sentences-man-found-guilty-of.html)

EQUATORIAL GUINEA:

Equatorial Guinea abolishes death penalty, state television reports----President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo signs new penal code for central African country

Equatorial Guinea, one of the world’s most authoritarian countries, has abolished the death penalty, according to state television, which cited a new law signed by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Capital punishment was “totally abolished” in the oil-rich central African country after the president signed a new penal code, the vice-president tweeted on Monday.

The last official execution in the small country was carried out in 2014, according to Amnesty International, but international NGOs and the UN regularly accuse the regime of forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture.

“I am writing in capitals to seal this unique moment: ‘EQUATORIAL GUINEA HAS ABOLISHED THE DEATH PENALTY’,” tweeted vice-president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, one of the head of state’s sons and viewed as his likely successor.

A journalist on state television called the event “historic for our country” in a brief announcement at the end of a news programme.

The measure will come into force within 90 days after its publication in the official state journal and was approved by parliament in advance.

(source: The Guardian.com)

SINGAPORE:

Death penalty for drugs: International pressure overstated, says Shanmugam

There is strong support for the death penalty in Singapore and international criticism of it is overstated, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has said in an interview.

In fact, a survey conducted in the region indicates that capital punishment has been a strong deterrent for would-be traffickers, showing that the country's tough stance against narcotics saves lives, he added.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking about the country's drug laws and Section 377A of the Penal Code, among other things, in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald. The Ministry of Home Affairs released the transcript of the interview on Monday.

The recent executions of several drug traffickers in Singapore have drawn criticisms from death penalty activists as well as the UN special rapporteurs and the European Union.

Asked about this, Mr Shanmugam said: "4 or 5 newspaper articles quoting the same 3 or 4 activists does not amount to international pressure."

He added: "Internationally, there are some statements issued by UN special rapporteurs, and you have some articles, nothing beyond that. The European Union has an ideological focus on the death penalty, but I would like to ask them if they have a better solution."

He noted that the Netherlands has been described as a narco state by the chief of the largest police union in the country, and in Sweden, drug-related gang violence has become a major election issue.

"Nobody talks about this. What about the victims of the crime? So, when the European Union is able to tell us there is a better solution, we will listen," he added.

"We are very tough on traffickers, simply because we consider it as cynical crime, and we want the message out very clearly, that we don't want to become like Western Europe. We don't want to become like most of the Western cities. We certainly don't want to become like many cities in South-east Asia."

A case that had brought attention to the death penalty had been that of Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam. Some had criticised Singapore for hanging him on April 27 for smuggling 42.72g of heroin into the country, arguing that his IQ of 69 makes him intellectually disabled.

Mr Shanmugam said while Nagaenthran's IQ was lower than the average person's, psychiatrists who saw him did not assess him to be intellectually disabled.

He added that the law looks at whether an offender knew what he was doing, and the courts found that Nagaenthran had known and was creating excuses and finding new ways of trying to explain away his conduct.

Mr Shanmugam also suggested that Singapore was being held to a higher standard, noting that the US had not been asked similar questions about the execution of two men with IQs in the range of 70 to 90 in October 2021.

"Has anyone raised an eyebrow when the US executed at the same time last year in October, 2 others with the same IQ, and the US courts dismissed the same arguments because the fact that you have a low IQ by itself is not the main point in law," he said.

He added that multiple domestic surveys have also shown that more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans agree with the hanging of drug traffickers.

And a survey commissioned in the region found that those outside Singapore are deterred by it.

Those polled were primarily in areas from which drug traffickers to Singapore come from, and 83 % said the death penalty is very effective and 69 % said it is more effective than life imprisonment.

About 80 % said it would make them not want to commit serious crimes in Singapore.

"The awareness of our death penalty is very high. The awareness that the likelihood of being caught is very high. As a result of which, many don't want to traffic into Singapore," he added.

"If we removed it, many more will traffic. There is no doubt about that."

On the criticism that Singapore was nabbing only the low-level drug mules and not the big-time kingpins, Mr Shanmugam said that was because the "big guys won't come to Singapore for good reasons".

He added that Singapore cannot just exclude traffickers or any special categories of people from the law, as this would encourage the kingpins to recruit such people as mules to send into the country.

"If I say I don't catch traffickers and I wait for the kingpins, basically my drug policy will be out of the window," he said.

Singapore also makes a distinction in its drug policy between drug abusers and traffickers, he said.

While drug abuse is a crime, abusers are not treated merely as criminals and a lot more emphasis is put on rehabilitation and helping them, he added.

"They are treated as people who need medical help, the family, the community, religious organisations are brought in," he said.

(source: The Straits Times)

INDIA:

Death Penalty: 5-judge SC bench to consider framing guidelines on mitigating circumstances

The Supreme Court Monday referred to a 5-judge Constitution bench a suo motu case concerning the framing of uniform guidelines for the trial courts on granting "real and meaningful opportunity" on the issue of the sentence to the convicts held guilty for offences entailing capital punishment. The top court said that this order is necessitated due to a difference of opinion and approach amongst various judgements, on the question of whether, after recording a conviction for a capital offence, under law, the court is obligated to conduct a separate hearing on the issue of sentence.

A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia referred to various verdicts on the issue passed by different benches of the apex court including in a 1983 judgement of Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab, where the top court, in its majority judgment, upheld the constitutional validity of the death sentence, on the condition that it could be imposed only in the "rarest of rare" cases.

The bench said this court in Bachan Singh (1983 verdict) had taken into consideration the fairness afforded to a convict by a separate hearing, as an important safeguard to uphold the imposition of the death sentence in the rarest of rare cases, by relying upon the recommendations of the 48th Law Commission Report.

"Consequently, this court is of the view that a reference to a larger bench of 5 Judges is necessary for this purpose. Let this matter be placed before the Chief Justice of India for appropriate orders in this regard", it said.

The bench said that in the 1983 verdict the court was conscious of the safeguard of a separate hearing, on the question of sentence, and articulated such a safeguard as a valuable right, which ensures to a convict, to urge why in the circumstances of his or her case, the extreme penalty of death ought not to be imposed.

The bench noted that it is also a fact that in all cases where the imposition of capital punishment is a choice of the sentence, aggravating circumstances would always be on the record, and would be part of the prosecution's evidence, leading to conviction, whereas the accused can scarcely be expected to place mitigating circumstances on the record, for the reason that the stage for doing so is after conviction.

"This places the convict at a hopeless disadvantage, tilting the scales heavily against him. This court is of the opinion that it is necessary to have clarity in the matter to ensure a uniform approach on the question of granting real and meaningful opportunity, as opposed to a formal hearing, to the accused/convict, on the issue of the sentence", the bench said.

It added that the question of what constitutes 'sufficient time' at the trial court stage, in this manner appears not to have been addressed in the light of the express holding in Bachan Singh. "This, in the court's considered opinion, requires consideration and clarity", the bench said.

It added that a common thread that runs through all these decisions (referred verdicts of the apex court) is the express acknowledgment that a meaningful, real and effective hearing must be afforded to the accused, with the opportunity to adduce material relevant for the question of sentencing but what is conspicuously absent, is consideration and contemplation about the time this may require.

The bench said that in cases where it was felt that a real and effective hearing may not have been given (on account of the same-day sentencing), this court was satisfied that the flaw had been remedied at the appellate (or review stage), by affording the accused a chance to adduce material, and thus fulfilling the mandate of Section 235(2).

It noted that this court's decision in Manoj Pratap Singh versus State of Rajasthan (2022) is an example, where 'sufficient time' for compliance with Section 235(2) CrPC was considered; it was concluded that the trial court had "scrupulously carried out its duty in terms of Section 235(2)" since the sentence was awarded 3 days after the conviction, after considering both the aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

The bench said that after hearing the parties on the question of conviction in Manoj and others versus State of Madhya Pradesh (2022), this court had adjourned the matter for submissions on sentencing, with directions eliciting reports from the probation officer, jail authorities, a trained psychiatrist and psychologist, etc., to assist the accused in presenting mitigating circumstances.

"Noticing the lack of a uniform framework in this regard, the present Suo Motu... was initiated wherein this court has indicated by its orders the necessity of working out the modalities of psychological evaluation, the stage of adducing evidence in order to highlight mitigating circumstances, and the need to build institutional capacity in this regard," the bench said.

It added that the apprehensions relating to the absence of such a framework were also recorded in the final judgement of Manoj and others versus the State of Madhya Pradesh, wherein the importance of a separate hearing and the necessity of background analysis of the accused, were highlighted.

"It was suggested that the social milieu, the age, educational levels, whether the convict had faced trauma earlier in life, family circumstances, psychological evaluation of a convict, and post-conviction conduct, were relevant factors at the time of considering whether the death penalty ought to be imposed upon the accused", the top court said.

https://www.news9live.com/india/death-penalty-5-judge-sc-bench-to-consider-framing-guidelines-on-mitigating-circumstances-196978?infinitescroll=1 ******************

Knowing the killer: On SC referring death penalty issues to Constitution Bench----The Supreme Court of India has done well to seek norms to present mitigating factors for awarding death

Sentencing after conviction is a knotty problem in cases relating to capital offences. Trial judges are called upon to make a decision on whether only a death sentence will meet the ends of justice, or a life term will be enough. As a salutary norm, the Supreme Court has laid down that the death penalty can be imposed only in the “rarest of rare” cases. Subsequent judgments have sought to buttress this principle by holding that the gruesome nature of the offence may not be the sole criterion to decide what brings it under the ‘rarest of rare’ category. The offender, his socio-economic background and his state of mind are also key factors in this regard. In practice, the sentencing part of the trial takes place after the court records a conviction. It is often done on the same day as the verdict, with only some limited arguments being heard on ‘mitigating circumstances’ from the convict’s side and on the ‘aggravating circumstances’ from the prosecution. The latest order of a 3-judge Bench, referring to a Constitution Bench the issue of granting a meaningful opportunity to convicts on the question of sentence, is a big stride in humanising the sentencing process.

Same-day sentencing has been upheld by several judgments, with the Supreme Court often saying where a meaningful opportunity has been given to the convict to present mitigating factors, the mere fact that death was awarded on the same day would not vitiate the sentence. Some High Courts have given a chance to convicts to present mitigating factors so that the inadequacy of the sentencing process in the trial court does not matter. Present thinking, however, is veering towards the view that courts must elicit reports from the jail authorities, probation officers and even trained psychologists to assess the mitigating factors in favour of not imposing the death penalty. In its referral order, the Bench has also raised the question as to the stage at which mitigating factors are to be presented. It has noted that the scales are tilted against the convicts now, as it is only after conviction that they are able to speak about mitigating circumstances. The prosecution, on the other hand, presents its case from the beginning on how heinous the crime was, and how much the accused deserved maximum punishment. The Constitution Bench may come up with new guidelines under which the trial courts themselves can hold a comprehensive investigation into factors related to the upbringing, education and socio-economic conditions of an offender before deciding the punishment. The legal and moral dilemma of sending someone to the gallows, of course, will subsist only as long as the death penalty remains on the statute book.

(source: Editorial, The Hindu)

**********

DNA Explainer: Is death penalty allowed in India? Know all about country's capital punishment laws----The Supreme Court has been conducting hearings regarding the guidelines for granting the death sentence to convicts in rare cases.

The death penalty and capital punishment have been one of the most debated issues in the country, with a large population standing against the rule of granting death punishments in India, despite the punishment being granted in the rarest of rare cases.

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to constitute a 5-judge bench which would be designing guidelines for the mitigation of death penalties to convicts in certain heinous cases so that the discrepancies regarding a death sentence are cleared out across the country.

The order issued regarding the granting of death sentences to convicts has been necessitated due to a difference of opinion and approach amongst various judgements, on the question of whether, after recording a conviction for a capital offence, under law, the court is obligated to conduct a separate hearing on the issue of sentence.

Is the death penalty legal in India?

The death penalty and capital punishment are legal in India and are given to convicts for very rare crimes. The death sentences in India are given for “rarest of the rare” crimes under the country's main substantive penal legislation, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and executions are done by hanging.

Though the death sentence is awarded to several prisoners in India, the process leading up to the execution is tedious. Currently, there are 488 convicts in India that are on death row, with the most recent executions in the country taking place in 2020, of the four convicts of the 2021 Delhi gang rape and murder case.

What is the capital punishment law in India?

According to the current laws in India, the death penalty is awarded in very rare and exceptional cases, where the crime is particularly heinous. According to Section 354(5) of the Criminal Code of Procedure, 1973, the method of execution is hanging by the neck until death.

Some of the crimes for which the death sentence can be awarded in India are treason, murder, abetment to suicide of a child, rape or injury which causes death or leaves women in a persistent vegetative state, and dacoity with murder, among other offences.

(source: dnaindia.com)

THAILAND----female gets death penalty

Woman sentenced to death for poisoning her own children

Thailand’s Criminal Court sentenced a woman to death yesterday after finding her guilty of poisoning her own 2-year-old son and 4-year-old adopted daughter with an abrasive substance, to make them sick so she could appeal to the public for donations on social media to help the sick children.

The adopted daughter died due to the poisoning.

The 29-year-old single mother, identified as Nittha, aka “Mae Pook”, was charged with attempted murder, human trafficking, assault causing serious injury, assault causing the death of another person, defrauding the public and violations of the Computer Crime Act.

The case dates back 4 years, when the woman took her 4-year-old daughter to Thammasat University Hospital for medical treatment after she developed acute stomach ache and began vomiting blood.

According to doctors at the hospital, the female patient was treated 7 times over a period of about 8 months, being discharged each time after recovery, until she died on August 12th, 2019 due to complications from internal haemorrhaging.

The 2-year-old boy, who was confirmed to be the woman’s biological son using DNA tests, was also treated at the hospital for similar symptoms from January to May 2020. Doctors became suspicious that the boy’s condition might have been intentionally induced.

Doctors said that, as the condition of the child improved, he was transferred from the intensive care unit to a special ward, but his condition subsequently deteriorated again and this pattern was repeated.

Doctors then forbade the mother from bringing food to the hospital to feed the patient and restricted her visits. Medical staff would remain with her during the visits as an investigation was carried out, until they were convinced that the boy’s sickness was caused by an abrasive substance.

According to the prosecutor’s charge sheet, the woman posted the image of her sick children on her Facebook page and asked for public donations while offering products for sale online, purportedly to cover her medical expenses.

The court found her guilty on all charges and sentenced her to death without commuting the penalty, despite her confession.

(source: thaipbsworld.com)

BANGLADESH:

5 JMB militants were sentenced to death for gunning down the Japanese national in Rangpur 7 years ago

The High Court will rule on an appeal by 5 militants of the outlawed Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, or JMB, against their death sentences for the 2015 murder of a Japanese national on Sept 21.

The panel of Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman and Justice SM Masud Hossain Dolon fixed the date on Monday after hearing the concluding arguments on the death reference and appeal plea from the opposing counsels.

A Rangpur trial court in in 2017 handed down the death penalty to the 5 convicts - Masud Rana, Abu Sayeed, Ishaq Ali Sakhawan Hossain alias Rahul and Liton Mia - for actively participating in the killing of Kunio Hoshi, a sexagenarian Japanese man who had made Bangladesh his home for decades.

According to the case dossier, Kunio was shot dead by a group of masked JMB militants riding motorcycles as he was heading to his farm in a remote village of Rangpur.

The killing was similar to that of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella in Dhaka a week earlier and the attacks on foreigners in Bangladesh made international headlines.

Syria-based terrorist group Islamic State had reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government rebuffed it, saying the radical group had no presence in Bangladesh.

Police later pressed charges against 6 JMB operatives, one of whom is still absconding.

The death reference and appeals came before the High Court on Mar 7, 2017, and it began hearing the matter on Sept 4 this year.

(source: bdnews24.com)

UKRAINE:

No public executions for prisoners of war says head of the Donetsk People’s Republic

The head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, who recently faced reports that he had resigned as DPR leader and fled the region, said that there would be no public executions for ‘foreign mercenaries sentenced to death’.

Speaking on the Solovyov Live TV channel on Tuesday, September 20, the Donetsk People’s Republic head said “there would be no public executions of foreign mercenaries.”

“Executions and the absence of any information on requests from relatives, this is all stipulated by the legislation of the Donetsk People’s Republic concerning capital punishment,” said the head of the republic.

His announcement followed reports the DPR Supreme Court had allowed the father of the Moroccan mercenary Saadoun Brahim to act as his defence counsel at the trial.

Pushilin also stated that 5 other mercenaries from Croatia, Sweden and the UK might face the death penalty, as reported by the Russian media outlet Gazeta.

On Wednesday, June 29, Morrocan-born Brahim Saadoun, who has been sentenced to death alongside two British soldiers, was diagnosed as ‘psychotic’, according to Russian media outlets at the time.

21-year-old Brahim Saadoun, who is believed to have received Ukrainian citizenship in 2020 while studying in Kyiv, underwent a psychiatric examination that revealed he was ‘psychotic’.

“An examination revealed psychopathy in him, but the diagnosis made by experts to Saadoun does not apply to diseases. This is a feature of his character,” a report in Russia’s state-owned media outlet TASS revealed at the time.

(source: Euro Weekly News)

NORTHERN IRELAND:

Funeral to take place for last man in north to receive death sentence

A funera; service for the last person to be sentenced to death in the north will take place tomorrow in his native west Belfast.

Liam Holden, who died last Thursday at the age of 68, will be laid to rest following a service at St John's Church at Falls Road.

A victim of torture by members of the Parachute Regiment, Mr Holden was forced into confessing to the killing of paratrooper Private Frank Bell, who was shot dead in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in 1972. A month after the killing, which was the result of a single sniper's bullet, Mr Holden was arrested at his Whiterock home by British army members under the Special Powers Act.

Then aged just 18 and working as a chef, Mr Holden was tortured into making a confession after being taken to a military post and subjected to interrogation techniques including waterboarding. He was also threatened with being dumped in a loyalist area of north Belfast and left at the mercy of paramilitaries, and had a gun held to his head.

Upon confessing under duress, he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death by hanging, but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison and he spent 17 years behind bars before being released in 1989 on licence.

His quest to clear his name was completed in 2012 when his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal. His case was examined in an ITV documentary in 2015 on the repeal of the death penalty in the UK.

At the beginning of this year, Mr Holden launched a civil case at Belfast High Court against the Ministry of Defence over the waterboarding used in his 1972 interrogation.

A funeral notice described him as "father of Samuel and Bronagh, husband of Pauline" and the son of the late Martha and Samuel.

Following tomorrow's funeral service, a burial will take place at Belfast City Cemetery.

(source: irishnews.com)

SEPTEMBER 19, 2022:

NORTH CAROLINA:

A North Carolina trial could change jury selection in death penalty trials

NPR's Michel Martin speaks with Henderson Hill, senior counsel at the ACLU, about his motion against the use of "death qualification" to disqualify opponents of capital punishment.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For decades, courts have automatically disqualified opponents of capital punishment from serving on juries in death penalty trials. This has been accepted law and practice. But the outcome of an upcoming murder trial in North Carolina could change that. Ahead of jury selection in the case, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union have argued that removing jurors based on their unwillingness to impose the death penalty is racist and prevents defendants from having access to a fair trial. They'll make the same argument this fall in a sentencing hearing in a Florida case. We're joined now by ACLU senior counsel Henderson Hill, who is working on both cases, to tell us more about this. Mr. Hill, welcome. Thank you so much for being with us.

HENDERSON HILL: Thank you, Michel. I'm glad to be with you. I think this is an important conversation.

MARTIN: You and your co-counsel have argued that this process is racist. What about it is specifically racist? I mean that there are Black people who support the death penalty - we know this - but there are white people, or non-Black people, who oppose it. Why is it specifically racist as opposed to, say, discriminatory on religious grounds or something of that sort?

HILL: Jurors are excluded if it is determined that they cannot support the death penalty, that their views towards police or prosecutors is skeptical. It is clear - every social science study shows that there's greater skepticism in the African American community towards police, prosecuting authorities and courts. That skepticism grows out of a history of discrimination. And that's why exclusions of African Americans are two or three times as high as that of their white neighbors.

MARTIN: Do you have some data or research that indicates this?

HILL: There have been scores of studies by peer-reviewed social scientists that show both the impact on the conviction - the 1st stage - creating conviction-prone jurors, jurors who do not deliberate as candidly. If you have a diverse jury, you actually consider the evidence more carefully. You consider the viewpoints of the other jurors. This is borne out by literally scores of studies. If you exclude those people with scruples against the death penalty, what's left are people who are, in fact, in Thurgood Marshall's words, organized to return a death sentence, and, in fact, organized to return a conviction because the process of death qualification leads to the selection of jurors who are death-prone. So it's a twofer. It both creates a jury that is prone to convict, and it also creates a jury that is really organized to return a death sentence in response.

MARTIN: Is it your contention also that Black potential jurors are - I don't know how to describe this - but in some ways discriminated against, regardless of their views on the death penalty? They're more likely to be struck from juries because of a presumption of opposition to the death penalty, whether it's true or not, that they're more likely to be struck than white jurors. Is that part of your contention as well?

HILL: That is a consistent theme - study after study, across states, across times. It shows. In fact, there's a study in non-capital cases that show that same theme. But, yes, and what we've presented is the justification that African Americans are distrustful of police, of government, of authorities. That sort of grows out of the notion that the history of discrimination leads to skepticism in the Black community. That skepticism leads to disqualification to sit in the jury box. And so what you have is this vicious circle of the history of discrimination leading to greater skepticism in the Black community. That skepticism leads to disqualification for jury service. It's a vicious circle that we have not been able to get out of.

MARTIN: But what would you say to those who would argue that, A, there are Black potential jurors who do support the death penalty, therefore they are death qualified - No. 1 - and No. 2, that it's - forgive me for using this terminology because - when human life is at stake - but it's common sense that if one of the options is to impose a certain penalty, if you are automatically opposed to it, then you cannot really serve fairly? How would you answer that?

HILL: Well, on two points. On the first point, yes, obviously, the African American community is not monolithic. And of course there are Black citizens that approve of the death penalty, are supporters of the death penalty. That's unquestioned. What we're talking about is the incidents in which African Americans are excluded. Black women are excluded, in Wake County, 31% of the time compared to 12% of everybody else. That rate of exclusion silences a particular viewpoint, a particular voice that needs to be part of this sort of important community discussion.

MARTIN: So your motion comes before 2 trials, one of them in the case of Brandon Hill, who's been charged in the killing of two people - a pregnant woman and her boyfriend. What drew you to this case?

HILL: Well, frankly, the fact that North Carolina's largest county, Wake County, is one of the few counties in the state that is still vigorously prosecuting capital cases. That brought our attention. The fact that in 10 out of 11 cases, the death sentence is rejected in favor of life. Why not give it to the community and let a fair cross-section of Wake County decide this important matter of civic policy?

MARTIN: What's the outcome you're working toward? Like, what would it look like?

HILL: What you need is to have the full viewpoint of the community expressed. You know, we had the testimony of a Catholic deacon who spoke on behalf of the tens of thousands of Catholics in Wake County and the state of North Carolina. And to think that their viewpoint is disvalued, their ability to share their views in a jury room is not valued, that hurts them to the quick, in much the same way that African Americans who have been excluded from the jury box for over 150 years feel shunned. And, you know, it's that practice of letting the state have an undue hand, undue authority in selecting the citizen judges. That's what we're trying to change.

MARTIN: That was Henderson Hill, senior counsel at the ACLU. Henderson Hill, thanks so much for joining us to talk about this.

HILL: Thank you, Michel. So important this conversation. Appreciate it.

(source: npr.org)

INDIA:

SC refers to 5-judge bench on 'mitigating circumstances' in Death Penalty

Supreme Court referred to a 5-judge Constitution bench a suo motu plea on framing of guidelines on how and when potential mitigating circumstances be considered in death penalty cases

The Supreme Court on Monday referred to a five-judge Constitution bench a suo motu plea on framing of guidelines on how and when potential mitigating circumstances be considered by courts during trial in cases which entail the death penalty as the maximum punishment.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said it was of the opinion that this matter required a hearing by a larger bench to have clarity and uniform approach as to when an accused, facing death penalty as maximum sentence, is required to be heard with regard to mitigating circumstances.

Let matter be placed before the CJI for orders in this regard, Justice S Ravindra Bhat said while pronouncing the verdict.

A death sentence is irreversible and every opportunity should be given to the accused for consideration of mitigating circumstances so that the court concludes that capital punishment is not warranted, the bench had observed while reserving its verdict on August 17.

The top court had taken note of the issue, saying there was an urgent need to ensure that mitigating circumstances for conviction of offences that carry the possibility of a death sentence are considered at the trial stage.

The case was titled as Framing Guidelines Regarding Potential Mitigating Circumstances to be Considered While Imposing Death Sentences.

(source: Business Standard)

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

Death Penalty: SC Verdict Monday On Case Related To Framing Guidelines On Mitigating Circumstances

The Supreme Court is scheduled to deliver on Monday its verdict on a suo motu plea on framing of guidelines on how and when potential mitigating circumstances be considered by courts during trial in cases which entail the death penalty as the maximum punishment.

A death sentence is irreversible and every opportunity should be given to the accused for consideration of mitigating circumstances so that the court concludes that capital punishment is not warranted, a bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit had observed while reserving its verdict on August 17.

The top court, on its own, had taken note of the issue saying that there was an urgent need to ensure that the mitigating circumstances for conviction of offences that carry the possibility of a death sentence are considered at the trial stage.

The case was titled as “Framing Guidelines Regarding Potential Mitigating Circumstances to be Considered While Imposing Death Sentences”.

It had said for an offence carrying capital punishment, the state must, at an appropriate stage, produce material that is preferably collected beforehand, before the Sessions Court disclosing the psychiatric and psychological evaluation of the accused.

The bench had said currently, the crime and its nature, whether it falls under the rarest of rare category, are discussed and the criminal and the mitigating circumstances favouring him are only dealt with at the time of sentencing.<>P> In criminal law, mitigating circumstances are factors that help lessen the guilt of an offender and encourage the judge to be more lenient with the sentencing.

Senior advocate Siddhartha Dave, assisting the bench as an amicus curiae (friend of court), had submitted that mitigating circumstances are to be framed as per the earlier orders of the apex court.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, who was also assisting the bench, said that the task to consider mitigating circumstances against the award of death penalty can be left to the high courts which, in any case, have to approve the capital punishment.

The bench said that it would deprive the lower court judge an opportunity to have a look at the mitigating circumstances favouring the accused.

The suo motu case has been registered to examine and institutionalise the process involved in collection of data and information to decide award of death penalty.

The matter had arisen from a plea of a man named Irfan challenging the death penalty imposed on him by the trial court and confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The bench, earlier, had decided to examine how courts dealing with a death sentence case can procure a comprehensive analysis about the accused and the crime, especially the mitigating circumstances so that the judicial officer concerned can decide whether the death sentence needs to be awarded.

Prior to this, an application was filed by 'Project 39A of the National Law University, Delhi, an anti-death penalty body, seeking the nod for an investigator who would collect mitigating information in favour of the accused to argue on the sentencing.

(source: republicworld.com)

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

50 death sentences in 8 months: Most since Gujarat was formed

Trial courts in Gujarat have sentenced to death 50 persons in 11 cases over 8 months this year, the highest for any year since the formation of the state in 1960.

Court documents show that this large number is made up mainly of the record 38 convicts ordered to be hanged by a special court in February over the 2008 serial blasts case. The rest involve rape and murder. The victims were minor girls. The tally of death sentences this year in Gujarat equals the total number handed down by the state’s courts over the previous 15 years. Till 2022, the highest number of these sentences was 13 in 2011, when most convicts of the 2002 Godhra train carnage case got the capital punishment.

Of the 50 persons condemned to death by trial courts between 2006 and 2021 for the rarest of rare crimes, the HC has upheld the maximum punishment in the cases of 4.

In December 2019, the HC confirmed the capital punishment for Anil Yadav from Surat for the rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl. In 2010, the HC upheld the death penalty for Adam Ajmeri, Mufri Abdul Kayum Mansuri, and Shanmiya alias Chand Khan in the Akshardham temple attack case of 2002. However, all 3 were acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2014.

On whether the high number of death sentences in such a short period can provide any insight into society, a former principal sessions judge of Ahmedabad, Jyotsna Yagnik, said: “This is an individual perspective of a particular judge. If judges come to the conclusion that the offence is ghastly and society should get a message, they will give the death penalty.”

(source: The Times of India)

MALAYSIA:

Decision to abolish mandatory death penalty a step towards justice — Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (Adpan) welcomes the announcement by the Malaysian Minister of Law Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi that the Malaysian government has finalised its policy decision on alternative sentences for the mandatory death penalty. The Minister of Law also suggested that the bill will be tabled in Parliament for the first reading on 4th October 2022 and aim to pass it by 22nd November 2022.

Malaysia has made significant steps towards the abolition of the mandatory death penalty since the idea was agreed upon by the government in 2013. In the past decade, Malaysia has amended the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 in 2017 and introduced an official moratorium against all execution implemented by the cabinet in 2018. Malaysia has also successively supported the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Moratorium on the Use of the Death penalty since 2018.

The mandatory death penalty is considered an arbitrary deprivation of life and violates the right to a fair trial. Mandatory sentencing deprives judges of the possibility to consider the circumstances of the offence and the individual involved in the determination of his sentence. Such practice will inevitably result in absurd situations where individuals with substantial mitigating circumstances are sent to the gallows.

The abolition of the mandatory death penalty will bring Malaysia closer in line with the global trend towards abolition and provide greater opportunities for Malaysia to further improve its criminal justice system. As such, the abolition of the mandatory death penalty must come with substantial reform to the criminal justice system, prioritizing rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders back into society whenever prudent. Those on death row for non-violent offences must be given an opportunity and consideration for rehabilitation and release at the soonest.

To this end, Adpan calls on the Malaysian government to support the initiatives toward the abolition of the mandatory death penalty is passed in the upcoming Parliament seating and for a bi-partisan committee to oversee the effective implementation of the abolition of the mandatory death penalty. Malaysia's policy should also be reflected in its international engagement through the continued support of the UNGA Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty.

(source: malaymail.com)

SINGAPORE:

‘Tell us a better solution, we will listen’: Singapore defends spate of executions

Singapore’s minister for law and home affairs has defended a series of hangings that have drawn international outcry this year, rejecting suggestions that the city-state’s reputation has been damaged by its resumption of executions.

The south-east Asian financial hub is known for its hardline stance on drugs, which it credits for its standing as one of the safest places in the world.

But after not carrying out a death sentence since 2019, a spate of 10 executions of drug trafficking offenders within four months has put Singapore’s deployment of capital punishment back into the spotlight this year.

Most notably was the hanging at Changi prison in April of Malaysian man Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who had brought 42 grams of heroin across the border in 2009 but whose lawyers argued should be spared under international convention because of an intellectual impairment.

The frequency of the executions between March and August alarmed United Nations human rights experts and organisations such as the European Union, which have called on Singapore to abolish death sentences for drugs crimes.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, however, Singapore Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam issued a staunch defence of the country’s execution of drug traffickers.

“Survey after survey shows that more than 80 % of Singaporeans support the death penalty. So, domestically, there is overwhelming support,” he said.

“Internationally, there are some statements issued by UN special rapporteurs. The European Union has an ideological focus on the death penalty. But I would like to ask them if they have a better solution. The chief of the largest police union in [the] Netherlands says that [the] Netherlands is effectively a narco state. What about the people who die of drugs? The gang violence in Sweden is such that it’s become a major election issue. Nobody talks about this. So, when the European Union is able to tell us there is a better solution, we will listen.”

The reaffirming of Singapore’s stance comes as nearby Malaysia shifts towards removing mandatory death sentences for drug trafficking and 22 other offences and as Thailand liberalises the consumption of cannabis.

Thailand’s decision to become the first country in Asia to decriminalise marijuana has not come without significant complications, with politicians expressing mounting concern about it being used recreationally rather than for medical reasons, as the government in Bangkok intended.

Singapore says its tough stance on drugs has made it one of the safest cities in the world.

It is certainly a path Singapore won’t be following. Instead, it is doubling down on an approach it says is keeping its streets secure, and for which it makes no apologies.

“We want the message out very clearly that we don’t want to become like western Europe. We don’t want to become like most of the Western cities, we certainly don’t want to become like many cities in South-East Asia,” said Shanmugam, a former foreign minister.

“Singapore is clean, crime-free effectively, safe. And the only way it can remain that way is that we are tough on traffickers.”

Anti-death penalty advocates stress there is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent against drug trafficking and that the punishment ensnares only vulnerable low-level mules, not the kingpins who send them.

The most high profile of the campaigners, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, even warned this year that Singapore’s use of the death penalty may instead be a “deterrent to those seeking to invest and trade in the future”.

Shanmugam, however, disputes that Singapore’s appeal as a global financial hub has been dented at all.

“Singapore’s reputation has actually been enhanced in the two years, not because of the death penalty, but because of the way we handled the pandemic and the calmness in which we went through the whole thing. So, I would say our reputation has never been higher,” he said.

He also takes aim at questions about deterrence, quoting a survey by Singapore in neighbouring countries in which, he said, about 80 % of respondents replied that the threat of capital punishment made them not want to commit serious crimes in the island nation.

Shanmugam said Singapore had no power to catch drug lords, who capitalised on the flood of illicit substances pouring out of the Golden Triangle region on the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar but were unlikely to dare venturing to the city-state themselves.

“So what are we supposed to do about that? Now, if I say I don’t catch traffickers and wait for the kingpins, basically my drug policy will be out of the window,” he said.

“Are we only catching the small guys and not the big guys? It’s a non-question because, you know, the big guys don’t come into Singapore for good reasons. Imagine if they were in Singapore, Singapore would be a very different place. That’s why they don’t come in.”

On Nagaenthran, whose ultimately unsuccessful last-minute appeal this year garnered international headlines, Shanmugam has pointed to the decision of judges in Singapore, who determined that he did not have an intellectual disability despite an IQ of 69.

“I would accept that his IQ was lower than the average person. But in law, that is not the main point,” he said. “Has anyone raised an eyebrow when the US executed at the same time last year in October, two others with the same IQ? And the US courts dismissed the same arguments. Because the fact that you have a low IQ by itself is not the main point in law. The question is, did you know what you’re doing? And he knew what he was doing. In fact, he was creating excuses and finding new ways of trying to explain away his conduct.”

Beyond culpability for the crime, lawyers for Nagaenthran also claimed his mental capacity had declined in his 12 years on death row and that he should not be hanged under the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which forbids execution of the intellectually disabled.

Two psychologists, from Australia and Britain, made submissions to his last-ditch bid to have his sentence commuted to life in prison, describing deterioration in his neurocognitive function that was “clear and significant”.

But Shanmugam said they were irrelevant because neither had seen the prisoner but had only reviewed the reports of other experts.

“I think our prime minister with your different prime ministers have had a very good relationship [and] see eye to eye. And so, the economic relationship, the political relationship, is good. With the other countries in South-East Asia I would say Australia has been leaning forward. It’s a question of whether different countries have had their own priorities. Some have leaned forward, some haven’t. So, I think that’s where I see some gaps. And I think this [Australian] government is keen to close those gaps, and rightly so.”

Tension between the US and China and staying neutral

“We are very concerned about it. We are all subject to the vagaries of the tensions. So obviously, we want the tensions to cool down, and if we take sides, that is highly disruptive, either for our security or our economy or many other aspects. Maybe at some point we will be forced to make a choice, but Singapore’s position is we will not make a choice.”

“I think the pandemic has burnished our reputation because of the way the healthcare was handled. Our fatality rate is 300 [deaths] per million. [Singapore’s] position has never been stronger. We stand out as a place to go to if you want to do business in this region.”

(source: The Sydney Morning Herald)

KENYA:

Origin and history of death penalty in Kenya

The death penalty goes back many decades. The practice that was first introduced in Kenya in 1893 was, however, not widespread in the pre-colonial era.

The high number of successful appeals against the death sentence provides evidence that a number of people may have been wrongly convicted and even possibly executed due to a flawed justice system or lack of fair trial. Pre-colonial Kenyan societies were not eager to take away the life of another person even in the situation where murder was involved.

Punishment among the Abanyore clan of the Luhya ethnic group could involve banishment or ostracism for crimes of witchcraft and sorcery. The Luhya community typically tried offenders. Suspects were acquitted, given a life sentence or executed.

The Kisii practised beating or execution of witches. A Maasai man could only be found guilty of murder if he killed someone from the Maasai ethnic group. The penalty was compensation in terms of cattle. The Turkana reserved execution for the serious crimes of witchcraft or incest.

The Kikuyu reserved capital punishment for habitual murderers and major sexual offenders who were bound and left to die of exposure. Among the Luo, there was compensation for murder in the form of the killer marrying the wife of the victim.

"Blood price" among the Kamba ensured that a murder, manslaughter or accidental death was solved through payment of between 11 and 14 cows, one or two bulls and a goat.

British concepts

But with the advent of the white man, these traditions eventually fizzled out. With colonisation, the country adopted British concepts of crime and punishment. In came the Penal Code that resulted in the abolishing of customary and common-law offences.

By the late 19th century, Great Britain had instituted the death penalty in Kenya for the crimes of murder, treason and other violent felonies. In the mid-1920s, the so-called "black peril" laws were introduced as a capital offence. This was punishment on a black man who raped a white woman. The trials were carried out haphazardly. The relatively high rate of mercy resulted in only 459 people executed, excluding Mau Mau-related crimes, in 48 years - between 1908 and 1956.

Although during the 20th century, the colonial government sparingly employed the death penalty for political crimes, that was not the case in Kenya where between 1952 and 1958, during the Mau Mau Emergency, over 1,090 freedom fighters out of 2,509 tried on capital charges were executed.

The country inherited the death penalty, a relic of 19th century Britain, on independence. Since 1963, Kenyan courts have committed thousands of men and women to die but almost never sent all of them to the gallows. The last execution was in 1987; that of the infamous 1982 abortive coup plotters.

(source: The Standard)

SEPTEMBER 18, 2022:

OHIO:

Tyrone Noling's case would benefit from a justice system that recognizes it makes mistakes

Since 1989, Ohio has seen 85 exonerations, prisoners found wrongly convicted of crimes. That number comes from the National Registry of Exonerations. It is one of many helpful figures and insights contained in a 162-page report issued last month by the Task Force on Conviction Integrity and Postconviction Review, initiated by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The task force reflects the efforts of Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to elevate the performance of the justice system, from the handling of bail to the conduct of the death penalty. Justice Michael Donnelly, a task force member, long has advocated improvements to protect against wrongful convictions.

The report cites a statistical analysis indicating 4% of death penalty cases likely end in such an error. That translates to five prisoners today who likely do not belong on death row. One surely is Tyrone Noling, convicted nearly 3 decades ago of killing Cora and Bearnhardt Hartig in Atwater Township.

Noling and his attorneys, led by the Ohio Innocence Project, have been pursuing avenues to get the justice system to recognize its colossal mistake. The recommendations of the task force would make the system more receptive.

For now, Noling waits as Judge Becky Doherty of the Portage County Common Pleas Court weighs an order from the 11th District Ohio Court of Appeals to grant Noling’s attorneys access to the prosecution case file. There is a real concern that prosecutors, going way back to the trial, failed to share evidence favorable to Noling’s defense, including information about alternative suspects.

The appeals court first ordered the trial court to allow access in 2014. Other matters, including a lengthy tussle over DNA testing, intervened. When the Noling team returned to the file in early 2019, Doherty quickly approved funding for an expert examiner.

Noling then officially sought access, and, curiously, Doherty denied the request. Funding OK, yet actual access a step too far?

Dohery held this posture, as Noling pressed for reconsideration. At one point, the judge put off ruling for nearly 18 months. Eventually, the Noling attorneys returned to the appeals court for help.

In March, yes, of this year, the appeals court released a scorcher of a ruling, the three judges speaking unanimously. The judges were emphatic in finding that Doherty directly contradicted their order. They were especially critical of the judge’s failure to adequately explain why she approved the funds but then blocked access.

They describe Doherty’s decision-making as “underanalyzed,” “without substantive justification,” “both strange and unintelligible.”

Victor Vigluicci, the Portage prosecutor, insists that Noling and his attorneys are engaged in nothing but a delay game. He argues the access question already was decided. The appeals court shreds this claim, noting that it cannot permit a trial court simply to ignore its order and to do so “without clear justification or rationale.”

That would be “fundamentally wrong and unjust,” it declares.

Recall, again, how the case against Noling has evaporated. His co-defendants recanted their confessions, which were elicited through faulty and corrupt means. No physical evidence links Noling to the scene, though this supposedly was a botched robbery. Noling possessed a .25 caliber handgun, but it wasn’t the murder weapon. He passed a polygraph test at the time.

What Noling deserves is an assessment of the complete record, as it now stands, truth prevailing over procedure.

To its credit, the recommendations of the task force on wrongful convictions would enhance the prospects for avoiding the grievous errors of imprisoning the wrong person and seeing the real perpetrator at large. For example, they include expanding access to the courts when new evidence surfaces after a conviction. Today, those on death row may pursue new evidence. That postconviction discovery would be extended to other defendants.

The state would collect more data to assist in addressing the problem.

The task force asks more of prosecutors, and appropriately so. Prosecutors are most powerful, notably, with the authority to deprive people of their liberty. They have a “special duty” to the justice system. Thus, the task force would require, among other things, that “a prosecutor who knows of clear and convincing evidence of innocence to seek to remedy a conviction.”

Finally, the task force calls for Ohio to join North Carolina in establishing an Innocence Inquiry Commission. The commission must be “independent, neutral, investigatory in nature and properly funded.” Cases would be decided by 3-judge panels of sitting appellate judges.

True, the chances of the current legislature embracing such a commission are dim. It is telling the state association for prosecuting attorneys balked at participating in the task force. Yet the need for discussion and action is plain, and most evident in the Noling case. The public interest demands the state do all it can to prevent wrongful convictions.

(source: Canton Repository)

USA:

Trump calls for death penalty for drug dealers

During the latest rally in Ohio, former President Donald Trump called for a death penalty for drug dealers and human traffickers, saying it will significantly reduce crime in the country.

Trump compared the situation in the US with the one in China and mentioned his conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to the former US president, Xi said Beijing organizes a ''quick trial'' to determine if somebody is doing some harm to the people, and if so, the country orders a death penalty, which is why China does not have problem with drugs, the Republican stressed.

Furthermore, Trump paid attention to different aspects that, in his opinion, contribute to security issues inside the US, such as stabbing, raping, etc., while also touching upon the border situation with Mexico. ''We no longer have a border. Our country is being invaded. It’s an invasion by millions of illegal aliens," he conluded.

(source: teletrader.com)

PAKISTAN:

PTA warns internet users of death punishment for blasphemy

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Sunday warned internet users of harsh penalty of death for blasphemy.

The authority said that the Section 295 C of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) clearly prescribed death or imprisonment for life and fine for derogatory remarks against Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and Holy Prophets.

PTA said that uploading, sharing and propagating sacrilegious / blasphemous contents on internet / social media / instant messaging applications etc. is prohibited / offence under the last of Pakistan and attract harsh penalties, including up to 10 years imprisonment or fine or both under Section 295A of PCC to outrage religious feelings. The Section 295B of the PPC describes the penalty of imprisonment for life for defiling of Holy Quran.

Furthermore, the Sections 298, 298A & 298B prescribe punishment up to three years imprisonment or fine or both in order to intent to harm religious feelings and derogatory remarks against Holy Personalities.

The PTA said that for blocking / removal of unlawful online contents as prescribed under Section 37 of Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), social media / internet users are encouraged to report the same to respective social media platforms or to PTA.

(source: pkrevenue.com)

IRAN:

Prisoner at risk of torture and ill-treatment at Agahi detention center

Farhad Ghahremani who has been arrested for demanding a halt to executions in Iran was taken to the Investigation Unit of Iran’s police (Agahi) where he remains at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Iranian security forces have arrested Farhad Ghahremani, a 22-year-old man who was attending a protest rally against the death penalty before the Parliament on September 11.

Farhad Gharamhani was charged with “assembly and collusion through the leadership of gatherings” and was interrogated in Ward 209 of Evin Prison, which is controlled by MOIS.

According to informed sources, Farhad Gharamani was transferred from Evin prison to the Agahi detention center on September 15.

Before being detained Farhad Gharamani delivered a fiery speech during the gathering of families of death row prisoners against the regime’s use of executions.

He said: “We are victims of poverty. Our loved ones have been drawn to this way due to poverty, we demand the right to life for them. Their death sentences should be revoked. No one should die. We do not want any of our loved ones to be killed again. We have been wearing black clothes for years. We don’t want anyone else to die. No human being deserves to be executed.”

Farhad’s father, political prisoner Mohammad Taghi Ghahremani, was executed in 2011, and his brother and cousin have been imprisoned for taking part in 2019 protests.

Several families of prisoners who have been handed death sentences protested for several days in Tehran last week.

(source: iran-hrm.com)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2022:

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Are the firing squad, electrocution constitutional? SC high court to hear issue in January

The S.C. Supreme Court will take up an appeal in January from Gov. Henry McMaster and Corrections Director Bryan Stirling of a state judge’s ruling earlier this month that both the electric chair and the firing squad execution methods are unconstitutional.

The high court said it would hear the case Jan. 12 in Conway at Coastal Carolina University in Conway.

The court schedules terms of court around the state “so that local students and citizens may learn about the judicial system by experiencing it in person,” a spokeswoman said.

The Sept. 6 ruling by circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman striking down 2 execution methods was unusual in its sweeping nature.

Although numerous death penalty sentences and verdicts have been overturned through the years in South Carolina, those cases were largely decided on errors committed by prosecutors, judges or defense attorneys. Newman, however, was the 1st state judge to rule 2 of the 3 methods approved by the Legislature to execute condemned killers are actually unconstitutional under the state’s constitution, which bans cruel, unusual or corporal punishment.

Because the state is not able to buy the drugs needed for the 3rd approved manner of execution — lethal injection — Newman’s order effectively froze executions in the state.

Plaintiffs in the case are Freddie Owens, Brad Sigmon, Gary Terry and Richard Moore, all convicted of murder and who are sitting on the state’s death row.

(source: thestate.com)

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

Hearing date set to discuss constitutionality of firing squad, electric chair in South Carolina----The hearing will take place on Jan. 12 in Conway, South Carolina.

The South Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of the firing squad and electric chair as methods of capital punishment next year.

The hearing will take place on Jan. 12 in Conway, South Carolina.

Richland County Judge Jocelyn Newman ruled last week that the firing squad and electric chair are unconstitutional methods of capital punishment.

In part, she ruled, "the General Assembly ignored advances in scientific research and evolving standards of humanity and decency."

Gov. Henry McMaster's office said it will appeal a ruling.

Justice 360, the group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of 4 death row inmates, said it was very pleased with the result and expected an appeal from South Carolina Department of Corrections and McMaster.

His office told WYFF 4 this week that the office plans to file an appeal but did not give a timeline. An appeal would go to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

(source: wyff4.com)

GEORGIA:

Possible death penalty debated during pre-trial motion hearing for Crocker Sr.

Almost 4 years ago, Mary and Elwyn Crocker Jr. were found dead in their backyard in Effingham County.

Their father, a defendant in the case, was in court Friday as a judge heard pre-trial motions. The court addressed more than a dozen pre-trial motions by the defense in the case against Elwyn Crocker Sr.

During the pre-trial hearing, Elwyn Crocker senior’s defense attorneys said their were 16 search warrants filed in this investigation.

We’re also learning there were about 7 or 8 devices, like phones and tablets, taken from the home the siblings lived at with their family.

One of Crocker’s defense attorneys Samuel Wood argued that some evidence presented in pre-trial hearings should be closed to the public. He says because if potential jurors see content like what’s on those devices mentioned or disturbing photographs before jury selections for trial begin, their opinion could be swayed.

“There are going to be photographs of the body of the victims in this case. These particular victims are children and that tends, when it is published, when it is disseminated to the public, to be sensationalized because they are children.”

Lead prosecutor Matt Breedon denied the motion.

“Those photographs will be displayed to this court in a manner to where they will not be able to be video recorded by the crews in the court room, either they will be handed to the court or they will be displayed on a screen that will angled towards the court.”

As Crocker Sr.’s attorneys defended several motions, one topic kept coming up...the state’s wish to pursue the death penalty.

The defense claims studies show jurors in death penalty cases are often tainted by the severe punishment being on the table.

Crocker’s defense attorney Jerilyn Bell motioned to have a pre-trial hearing with an expert witness to support these studies.

“One of the highest factors for a case that would result in a likely death sentence is one that involves children by almost 40 % higher and the impact of potential constitutional errors could not be greater than a case that involves children,” Bell said.

State prosecution attorney Matt Breedon also denied that motion.

“I don’t think this is a hearing that is necessary in this case especially not at this point. What the defense has done is cited various studies that may be testified to by an individual that did not conduct those studies which would be an issue for the state,” Breedon said.

The motions discussed at this pre-trial hearing have not been ruled on by Chief Judge F. Gate Peed yet. He has until trial begins to make a decision.

As for what’s next, Judge Peed says Elwyn Crocker Senior, Kim Wright and Mark Wright will be in pre-trial hearings together at the end of October.

When trials begin, the 3 defendants will be tried separately. Judge Peed says the 1st person in trial will be Elwyn Crocker Senior.

(source: WTOC news)

FLORIDA:

Catholics in Florida should follow Pope Francis’ lead on death penalty

As a Catholic lay minister serving men on Florida’s death row for the past four years, I was deeply moved by Pope Francis’ announcement late last month that his September prayer intention would be for the “global abolition of the death penalty.”

Week in and week out, I minister to men who have been condemned to die. I bring them communion. I pray with them. I witness their deep and abiding commitment to their faith.

Nearly 25 years ago in 1999, Pope John Paul II declared the death penalty to be “cruel and unnecessary.” I am incredibly proud of the church’s leadership on this issue. I am glad to see my fellow Catholics speaking out against executions and speaking up in support of legislation to abolish the death penalty.

From my experience, the death penalty targets the most vulnerable in our society — the poor, the abused and the severely mentally ill. These men are not monsters, even though they may have committed monstrous acts.

I do not seek to minimize the pain and devastation that their actions have caused to innocent victims and their loved ones. Yet, our faith teaches us that mercy and forgiveness are gifts we bestow upon ourselves, even as we extend them to others.

As Pope Francis explained, “Society can effectively repress crime without definitively depriving offenders of the opportunity to redeem themselves. Always, in every legal sentence, there must be a window of hope." 

The men I serve are indeed worthy of redemption. They are capable of change. They can and will be a positive influence on fellow inmates if their death sentences are converted to life in prison without parole.

I urge my fellow Florida Catholics to honor Pope Francis’ prayer intention. Educate yourself and your parish. Ask your legislators to support legislation in 2023 that will protect those with serious mental illness from the death penalty. Together we will bring Florida one step closer to the goal of protecting human life through the abolition of the death penalty.

(source: Guest Column; Ernest P. Bono, Sr., Ponte Vedra ---- Florida Times-Union)

ALABAMA----impending execution

Convicted killer won’t be killed with nitrogen hypoxia, court records show

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office says that convicted killer Alan Miller will not be executed by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, according to an affidavit filed on Thursday.

In the court document, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm stated that the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) “cannot” use the untested method of execution next week, but said the department “remains ready to carry out (Miller’s) sentence by lethal injection.”

57-year-old Miller was convicted of killing 3 men in Shelby County during a workplace shooting spree on August 5, 1999. Lee Michael Holdbrooks, Terry Lee Jarvis and Christopher Scott Yancy were killed.

Nitrogen hypoxia, which is supposed to cause death by replacing oxygen with nitrogen, was signed into law in 2018 as an allowable option for inmates waiting to be executed. In June 2018, inmates on Death Row were given a 30-day window to choose to be executed by the never-been-used hypoxia method.

Miller filed a lawsuit recently that claims a correctional officer didn’t turn in his form requesting the change to his execution method 4 years ago. In AL.com’s article, Miller claims in a court affidavit that he signed the form requesting the change, and gave it back to the correctional officer – but was denied a copy of the form or the chance to have it notarized.

In the affidavit filed Thursday, attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office said, “(The state does) not concede that the ADOC’s ability to carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia is relevant to the question of whether (Miller) is likely to prove his claim that he elected nitrogen hypoxia within the statutorily set election period.”

According to AL.com, a deposition shows that Miller wanted to die by nitrogen hypoxia so that he “wouldn’t have to be stabbed with needles.”

“I thought it would be simpler,” said Miller in the filing. “I wouldn’t be stabbed like that or have allergic reactions to the chemicals that they said was in the lethal injection.”

During his testimony in court earlier this week, Miller stated that he didn’t like needles, adding that he felt “like a pin cushion” when giving blood in the past.

“You know, it’s my life,” Miller said in the deposition. “And I know I didn’t want to be stabbed with needles and everything like that. And then at the time, I would have thought it would have been a more humane thing because I sort of did it myself as it could be like you go to the dentist, even though I have never been under gas at a dentist. But I’ve heard other people say that you just go under, and you come back out. But this one you ain’t going to come back out of.”

Another statement from Miller in the court filing said, “I don’t want to die. I just want to be treated fairly.”

An ADOC representative sent out a statement following the affidavit, saying the department would need thorough training before nitrogen hypoxia could be used in an execution:

“The Alabama Department of Corrections has completed many of the preparations necessary for conducting executions by nitrogen hypoxia. The protocol for carrying out executions by this method is not yet complete. Once the nitrogen hypoxia protocol is complete, ADOC personnel will need sufficient time to be thoroughly trained before an execution can be conducted using this method.”

Execution by nitrogen hypoxia has been authorized by Alabama and two other states for executions but as of September 2022, has never been used by a state.

(source: WRBL news)

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

Death Row Prisoner Scheduled for Execution on Thursday

The State of Alabama plans to execute Alan Miller by lethal injection on Thursday. Mr. Miller has challenged the State’s authority to execute him because he elected nitrogen hypoxia, and as the State told a federal court, it is unprepared to carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia.

In June 2018, the State of Alabama enacted a law that added nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative execution method to lethal injection. The law provided a 30-day window in which people sentenced to death were forced to choose between 2 different methods of execution—nitrogen hypoxia and lethal injection.

The use of nitrogen gas as a method of execution is untested and has never been used in the U.S.

Many people sentenced to death refused to cooperate in their own executions by choosing a method and others were unable to select nitrogen hypoxia because, without help, they could not adequately understand how to elect a new method of execution.

Those who did not affirmatively select nitrogen hypoxia before the deadline are now being prioritized for execution. The last 9 men executed in Alabama were targeted for an execution date because they did not participate in their own executions by choosing an execution method.

The State has disputed that Mr. Miller filled out a form opting for nitrogen hypoxia because state officials are unable to find his form.

But the State’s failure to establish procedures for submitting a form to elect nitrogen hypoxia raises questions about the reliability of the State’s assertions. There are no published rules, for example, that explain how people on death row are supposed to select a method of execution.

And there are no internal operating procedures that courts or the public can review that would provide confidence about the determination of who gets an execution date and who does not.

The State has gotten this wrong before. On July 29, 2019, the State requested an execution date for Jarrod Taylor, stating in a motion that Mr. Taylor had not timely elected nitrogen hypoxia.

But Mr. Taylor had, in fact, “made a timely election of nitrogen hypoxia,” which caused the State to withdraw its request for an execution date for Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Miller’s case is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

(source: eji.org)

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

Alabama imam banned from execution chamber loses appeal to reinstate lawsuit----Yusef Maisonet, an imam who voluntarily leads Muslim services at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, has been seeking permission to spiritually advise death row inmates at the time of their executions.

An Alabama imam who was banned from attending the executions of 2 death row inmates he counseled lost his appeal Friday to reverse the dismissal of his federal lawsuit against the state.

Yusef Maisonet, an imam to Muslim death row inmates Dominique Ray and Nathaniel Wood, alleged that Alabama violated his rights by barring him from attending the inmates’ executions and and advising them before their deaths in the execution chamber.

Maisonet, a volunteer chaplain at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, which houses Alabama’s death row inmates, was denied from attending Ray’s execution in 2019 because of a policy stating that only the official prison chaplain could offer religious advice shortly before the execution.

After Ray’s execution, Alabama’s policy changed to prevent any religious advisors from being in the execution chamber, and Maisonet was barred from attending Wood’s execution in 2020.

The lawsuit filed on Maisonet’s behalf sought to have the Alabama Department of Corrections establish a policy of allowing chaplains, including imams, into the execution chamber.

It also sought monetary damages for Maisonet.

A federal judge in Mobile said the lawsuit could not go forward because Maisonet lacked standing, a decision upheld by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday.

“Maisonet has not alleged any ongoing or certainly impending future injury. And he cannot demonstrate that his past injuries violated clearly established law,” the 3-judge panel ruled. “The district court thus correctly determined that this lawsuit cannot move forward.

(source: al.com)

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

Witnessing an Alabama execution? Wear a strong set of underwear, ladies

If you plan on watching the death penalty play out in Alabama, you better pack a strong set of underwear. Alabama Department of Corrections wants witnesses to feel good all under when watching botched executions.

In related news, the state of Alabama is not ready to be the 1st in the nation to try out an unproven method of execution using nitrogen hypoxia, declared the Alabama Attorney General’s Office in a court filing Thursday.

So, as it stands now, Alan Eugene Miller, the 57-year-old inmate at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore is set for execution by lethal injection on Thursday, September 22. Good luck with that.

My colleague Ivana Hrynkiw reports that females are often asked to show their bra and underwear when entering a prison to show guards they were complying with the rule about a “complete set of undergarments.” None said that male colleagues had ever been asked to show their underwear.

Excerpts from Ivana Hrynkiw’s Al.com story:

In the courtroom

Lisa Borden has practiced law since the late 1980s. She said particularly in the early days of her career, she and her colleagues would “grit our teeth and put up with it.” She mentioned a judge who was known to fondle female lawyers — every woman in the courthouse knew, but none of the women lodged complaints for fear “it would be taken out on our clients.”

“In the world today, you could say something. Back then? No,” she said.

Behind bars

While different expectations of dress for men and women are often implicit in courtrooms, the gap at times can become explicit, especially when lawyers visit prisons. There is a written dress code at most correctional facilities, including the Alabama Department of Corrections, for attorneys visiting their clients.

Women must wear, as detailed in the ADOC’s 2012 policy, “dresses, skirts, and pants ... below the knee,” and shirts must cover the “waist and chest area.” It also states visitors must wear a “complete set of undergarments.”

“It really isn’t about what reaction you might incite,” said Borden. “It’s about intimidation.”

Borden detailed an incident where she was visiting a client at William Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer wearing a dress that was “a good three inches below (her) knee,” when a guard told her she couldn’t enter because she was not wearing a slip.

“A slip! Who has owned a slip since the 70s?,” Borden said.

(source: Opinion, J.D. Crowe----al.com)

OKLAHOMA----impending execution

Lawyers for Oklahoma death row inmate Benjamin Cole file petition for clemency

Lawyers for Oklahoma death row inmate Benjamin Cole filed a petition for clemency on Friday.

The petition asks the Pardon and Parole Board and Gov. Kevin Stitt to grant Cole clemency and commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

The clemency petition describes Cole as “a frail, 57-year-old man with a damaged and deteriorating brain, suffering from progressive and severe mental illness who poses no threat to anyone in any way.”

Cole's legal team said he has a growing lesion on his brain in an area associated with paranoid schizophrenia and also manifests symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

“Benjamin Cole suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and brain damage that leave him with no rational understanding of why the State seeks to execute him,” said Tom Hird, an attorney for Cole. “His mental health has deteriorated dramatically over his years in solitary confinement, and he is now so physically compromised that he can barely move. He is not a threat to anyone, and his execution would be both unconstitutional and unconscionable.”

Cole was sentenced to death for the 2002 murder of his infant daughter in Rogers County.

Cole has a clemency hearing scheduled for September 27. A Pittsburg County judge is expected to rule on Sept. 30 if Cole will get a competency trial.

According to Emma Rolls, first assistant public defender with the Western District of Oklahoma, Cole's legal team is pursuing the competency trial as a separate strategy from the clemency petition, but the move to go to trial has the same goal.

Brett Farley, chairman of Oklahoma Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, argued that, "When you have death row inmates that have serious mental competency questions at any point in the process, then we need to hit the, it behooves us to take a step back and question what we're doing here."

The anti-death penalty group formed in August as the state plans to execute 24 more inmates through Dec. 2024.

Farley added that, "We cannot be a state that... values the sanctity of life, and, at the same time, think that we can have a system of justice that resorts to death."

Cole is slated to be executed on Oct. 20.

(source: KTUL news)

USA:

Selling Fentanyl Could Mean the Death Penalty Under New Rubio Bill----As per usual, politicians' response to negative effects of the drug war is…more drug war.

New legislation from Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) would make selling fentanyl used in a fatal overdose a federal crime punishable by the death penalty. Rubio's bill is backed by a dozen other Republican senators, including Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Joni Ernst (Iowa), and Josh Hawley (Mo.).

The bill (S.4876) would define selling fentanyl that leads to a fatal overdose as a form of first-degree murder under federal law. A first-degree murder conviction means life in prison at minimum, and possibly the death penalty.

Rubio and co. want people to think we have a fentanyl problem because our laws aren't tough enough. But not only does selling fentanyl come with heavy penalties on its own, federal law already criminalizes the "distribution of fentanyl causing death" specifically, too.

Under current law, distributing fentanyl that causes death comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment (with no possibility of parole, since there is no parole in federal prison).

And yet plenty of people still sell fentanyl. It seems at some point, we have to admit that the threat of punishment—no matter how harsh—isn't going to stop people from selling drugs, nor get America out of the mess we've gotten into with opioids.

Alas, as per usual, politicians' response to the results of the drug war is…more drug war.

Rubio notes, correctly, that the synthetic opioid "fentanyl is killing Americans at a record high. This deadly drug is widespread throughout our country."

But he leaves out the fact that fentanyl took off after the government cracked down on prescription painkillers, making legal—and much less deadly—opioids harder to get. He also omits the fact that a lot of fentanyl deaths come from people not knowing the heroin or other drugs they're taking have been cut with fentanyl, or not knowing how to dose correctly with fentanyl versus heroin (the former can be much stronger). And the fact that part of the reason fentanyl is popular with drug dealers is because it's more potent, which means they can smuggle more in the same volume container as other substances.

("Alcohol prohibition shifted consumption from beer and wine toward distilled spirits. Drug prohibition gave us heroin instead of opium, fentanyl instead of heroin, and sometimes even-more-potent fentanyl analogs instead of fentanyl," as my colleague Jacob Sullum puts it.)

A lot of fentanyl problems could be mitigated by decriminalizing drugs, or at least pulling back on prohibitionist tactics. If more drug users were able to buy from known sources, test their drugs for fentanyl, use at safe-injection sites, or take other harm-reduction steps, we might not wind up with so many overdose deaths. If people in pain could turn to prescription pills, we might not wind up with so many heroin and fentanyl users in the first place.

Instead, Senate Republicans want to simply say an eye for an eye—or an eye for a plea deal, more likely.

The idea of executing drug dealers as first-degree murderers even when they had no intention of killing anyone is draconian, yes. (So, too, the idea of putting them in prison for life.) The punishment isn't proportionate to the crime, it sends a terrible message about criminal justice in America, and it's ridiculous waste of state resources. It also seems unlikely that a judge would actually sentence someone to death for selling fentanyl.

The real benefit, for prosecutors, will be in being able to hang this draconian possibility over someone's head in order to coerce them into taking a plea deal. It's much easier to get someone to plead guilty and accept a few decades in prison if the alternative is life in prison or state-ordered execution.

The losers in this scenario aren't just drug dealers but also drug users. Research suggests treating fatal overdoses as homicides makes people less likely to seek medical attention for those who overdose.

State laws treating drug sales that lead to fatal overdoses as murder have been on the books since the 1980s, but their use seems to have increased over the past decade, according to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance.

"Although legislators and prosecutors may portray such cases as a way to punish callous, death-dealing drug traffickers, the defendant is usually someone close to the decedent," notes Sullum. "The upshot is that a defendant's role in 'distributing' a drug may be limited to buying it for someone else, arranging a purchase, or sharing a stash. When money changes hands, the dealers are often selling just enough to finance their own habits."

(source: reason.com)

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

Walmart case: Feds set deadline for death penalty decision, DA indicates she’s seeking help from Texas AG

U.S. Attorneys and attorneys representing Patrick Crusius have agreed on January 17, 2023, as the date by which they will decide whether the feds would seek the death penalty against the alleged Walmart shooter.

The federal case against Crusisus is already scheduled for jury selection on January 8, 2024, in Federal Judge David Guaderrama’s court.

In addition to Friday’s filing, court documents entered in federal court and sent to Governor Greg Abbott, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, and others earlier this week by El Paso District Attorney Yvonne Rosales indicate she is considering the assistance of the Attorney General of Texas in the prosecution of the State’s case against Crusius.

In August, Rosales fired lead attorney John Briggs, and Special Prosecutor Monica Barron-Auger, who was hired just 1 month prior under a $3 million grant from Governor Greg Abbott, submitted her resignation.

In the same federal filing, Rosales accuses defense attorney Joe Spencer of an “inappropriate effort to pit the state case against the federal case in an attempt to delay both cases.”

This is the 1st time Rosales has mentioned Spencer in the alleged conspiracy to remove her from office– in filings in State court, she has accused local attorneys Omar Carmona and Justin Underwood, along with Judge Sam Medrano and journalist Bob Moore from El Paso Matters as being involved in a conspiracy to oust her from office.

Rosales also filed a motion to recuse Judge Sam Medrano in the State’s case against Crusius. The motion was filed just days before a hearing was set to discuss a set of mysterious e-mails sent to the media purportedly by the son of Gerhard Hoffmann, one of the Walmart victims.

As KTSM previously reported, Hoffmann’s daughter indicated she did not believe her brother could author such e-mails. The trio of e-mails was sent approximately one month after Judge Medrano issued a gag order in the case, which would prevent attorneys or potential witnesses from speaking publicly.

It’s unclear if Rosales’ filing in the federal case against Crusius would be considered a violation of the State’s gag order.

Earlier this week, Judge Sid Harle from Bexar County was assigned to hear the recusal motion. Judge Harle set the hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Monday via Zoom. It will also be broadcast on YouTube.

(source: KTSM news)

US MILITARY:

Guantánamo Prosecutor Who Advocated Use of Torture Testimony Removed from U.S.S. Cole Bombing Case

A 2nd military commissions prosecutor who had advocated using testimony obtained by torture against defendants in the death penalty trial of the Guantánamo detainees charged with the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in waters off the coast of Yemen has been removed from the case.

Mark A. Miller, the lead prosecutor in the Cole case, was not present at a scheduled status conference on September 14, 2022 and defense lawyers for the 5 men charged in the bombing said they had been informed that Navy Rear Adm. Aaron C. Rugh, the Military Commissions’ chief prosecutor had taken him off the case.

International human rights treaties prohibit the use of evidence derived from torture and the Biden administration has said it would not use statements obtained from a defendant by torture in that defendant’s trial. In a brief filed January 31, 2022 in the prosecution of accused Cole mastermind Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the Department of Justice reversed prior Guantánamo policy and said, “The government recognizes that torture is abhorrent and unlawful, and unequivocally adheres to humane treatment standards for all detainees. … [T]he government will not seek admission, at any stage of the proceedings, of any of petitioner’s statements while he was in CIA custody.”

Nonetheless, in May 2022, Miller sought to use statements against Nashiri that had been obtained from another detainee, Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi, after U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, as reported by the New York Times, had kept him “hooded and nude, deprived of sleep, [and] used as an ashtray,” and made him clean up “a fetid spill of human waste and diesel fuel with his bare hands.” Miller said that the interrogation tactics were “unpleasant” and “shouldn’t have been done” but didn’t constitute torture. He also argued that even if the evidence had been obtained through torture, it was legally admissible nevertheless because its use against Nashiri didn’t amount to self-incrimination.

Citing military command orders, Rugh, who was named chief prosecutor in June 2022, declined to answer questions from the New York Times concerning his decision.

Miller is the second high ranking commissions prosecutor whose departure has been tied to support for presenting evidence obtained by torture. After clashing with Biden administration officials over the propriety of using statements obtained through torture from Guantánamo detainees, Army Brigadier General Mark S. Martins, the former chief prosecutor in the Guantánamo Military Commissions trials, abruptly submitted papers on July 7, 2021 providing notice of his early retirement.

Nashiri has presented hundreds of pages of documentation that CIA agents subjected him to years of “physical, psychological and sexual torture” during interrogations at so-call “black sites.” The evidence includes that Nashiri was subjected to waterboarding, forcible sodomy, starvation, rectal force-feeding, sleep deprivation, being placed in a coffin-sized box for a total of 11 days and a box the size of an office safe for 29 hours, and being threatened with a racked gun and a revved power drill while being suspended, naked and shackled, from the ceiling of a cell in a black site one CIA agent described as “the closest thing he has seen to a dungeon.”

17 American sailors aboard the Cole were killed and dozens more were injured in the bombing. Nashiri was arraigned in November 2011 but the case has languished in pretrial proceedings for than a decade, including litigation over the government’s failure to disclosure information about the interrogations in the black sites. The case has also been slowed by changes in court personnel.

In September 2018, Air Force Colonel Shelley Schools announced her retirement, just 1 month after being assigned as the third judge to preside over the case. In April 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated more than 2 years of pretrial decisions, including more than 450 written orders in the case because of an undisclosed conflict of interest by the prior military commission judge, Air Force Colonel Vance Spath. Spath had retired after months of frustration over developments in Nashiri’s case following the resignation of Nashiri’s entire civilian defense team in October 2017 in protest of the government’s illegal eavesdropping on their legal meetings.

The proceedings also were halted for nearly a year-and-a-half because of the pandemic.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

BELARUS:

U.S. Condemns Belarusian Move To Introduce Death Penalty For 'Terrorists'

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's move to introduce the death penalty for those convicted of "terrorism," a charge his regime often uses against its critics and dissidents.

Belarusian state-controlled media reported that Lukashenka on May 18 signed a controversial law amending the Criminal Code that allows for the usage of capital punishment for "attempted terrorist acts."

Blinken said in a statement issued hours later that the move targeted pro-democracy activists and opponents of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

"The regime has levied politically motivated charges of 'extremism' and 'terrorism' against many of the more than 1,100 political prisoners and used such labels to detain tens of thousands more," Blinken said in the statement.

"These actions are those of an authoritarian leader desperate to cling to power through fear and intimidation," he added.

Belarus, which allowed Russia to use its territory to stage its attack on Ukraine, is the only country in Europe that still uses the death penalty.

Blinken said that ahead of the May 21 commemoration of the Day of Political Prisoners in Belarus, Washington was reiterating its call for the "unconditional release of all political prisoners, an end to the regime's violence against its own citizens, and a national dialogue inclusive of civil society and the democratic movement, leading to free and fair elections under international observation."

For years, the UN and the European Union have urged Belarus to join other countries in declaring a moratorium on capital punishment.

According to rights organizations, more than 400 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since it gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

(source: rferl.org)

NORTHERN IRELAND:

West Belfast man who was last person handed death penalty has died----Holden was sentenced to hang for the killing of a British soldier in west Belfast in 1972

A WEST Belfast man who was the last person to be handed the death penalty in Northern Ireland has died.

Liam Holden, who was aged in his late 60s, passed away on Thursday. No funeral arrangements had been published last night for the father-of-2.

Mr Holden was sentenced to hang for the killing of a British soldier in west Belfast in 1972.

The death penalty was commuted to life in prison before a 40-year fight to clear his name resulted in the murder conviction being quashed in June 2012.

His death comes just months after he launched a civil case at Belfast's High Court against the Ministry of Defence for alleged torture and misconduct in public office.

As an 18-year-old in 1972, he was convicted of the murder of Private Frank Bell, also 18, a member of the Parachute Regiment.

Holden was sentenced to hang for the killing of a British soldier in west Belfast in 1972

Private Bell was hit by a single bullet fired by a sniper on Belfast's Springfield Road and died three days later in hospital.

The following month, Mr Holden was arrested at his home in the Whiterock area by the British army acting in the absence of the RUC.

A teenage chef at the time, he was brought to a military post at Blackmountain school where members of the Parachute Regiment allegedly deployed banned interrogation techniques.

Soldiers pinned him to the floor and poured freezing water through a towel place over his face, he claims. According to his account the repeated torture methods left him fearing that he was drowning.

He was then allegedly hooded and taken to the Glencairn estate, notorious at the time as an area where loyalist paramilitaries dumped murdered Catholics.

A gun was put to his head as the soldiers warned he would be shot if he didn't confess to killing Private Bell, Mr Holden said. He said he then agreed to a "cock and bull story" about carrying out the shooting.

Mr Holden spent 4 weeks awaiting execution in 1973 before his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He subsequently spent 17 years in prison and a further 23 on licence. He was the last person to be sentenced to death in the UK.

The murder conviction was quashed by the Northern Ireland appeal court in June 2012 in what was deemed at the time a landmark ruling.

Following news of his death, the Whiterock Westrock Historical and Cultural Society said Mr Holden would be "sadly missed by his many friends".

"We have lost a great friend and neighbour," it wrote on social media.

"Thoughts and prayers are with all the Holden family at this sad time."

Another post said: "Liam is a perfect example why we must keep fighting for justice", while another added: "An interesting, intelligent and witty man you were despite what life through at him".

(source: irishnews.com)

PAKISTAN:

Death sentence upheld in UTP’s killing case

The Sindh High Court on Friday upheld the death sentence handed down to a man by the trial court for murdering an undertrial prisoner.

An antiterrorism court had sentenced Kifayatullah to death in August 2021 after finding him guilty of killing UTP Khushdil Khan, who was facing a murder trial, on the premises of district courts in Malir in December 2020.

The convict, through his counsel, challenged the trial court’s order before the SHC and after hearing arguments from both sides and examining the record and proceedings of the case, the bench comprising Justice K. K. Agha and Justice Zulfiqar Ali Sangi dismissed the appeal.

The bench in its judgement said that 2 policemen, who brought the UTP to court, and a UTP, who was handcuffed with deceased, were the eyewitnesses and they fully supported the case of prosecution.

It said the appellant was also arrested on the spot and an unlicensed pistol along with live bullets was recovered from his custody.

“In the case in hand, the motive for committing the offence is that the deceased Khushdil Khan was facing trial in the murder case of the son of the appellant and in order to take revenge for the murder of his son, the appellant had attacked upon deceased Khushdil Khan resulting in his death,” it added.

(source: dawn.com)

INDIA:

2 get death penalty for killing father, son to grab their shop in Lucknow

A court here on Friday awarded death penalty to two people for killing a man and his son in an attempt to grab their shop in the Hazratganj area 17 years ago.

Additional District Judge Foolchandra Kushwaha also imposed a fine of Rs five lakh on each of the convicts – Vijai Prakash Sharma and his son Dheeraj Sharma.

He ordered that of the fined amount, Rs 8 lakh will be paid to the dependents of the deceased – Krishna Kumar Gupta and his son Kapil Gupta – as compensation.

Pronouncing the verdict, the judge said, “The incident falls in the rarest of rare category as it also affected adversely the family of the deceased and the society as a whole.” In an FIR lodged at Hazratganj Police Station on April 16, 2005, it was stated that Vijai Prakash Sharma and his son arrived at the shop of Krishna Kumar Gupta and his son Kapil Gupt and demanded its immediate possession.

This led to an argument during which Dheeraj handed over a gun to his father and egged him on to shoot Krishna Kumar Gupta. At this, Vijai Prakash Sharma fired upon Krishna Kumar. When Kapil dashed toward his father to save him, Vijai shot him too.

(source: theprint.in)

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

Lakhimpur Kheri rape case | Dalit family mourns daughters, demands death penalty----Family has lost everything, say locals in Tamoli Purwa village of Lakhimpur Kheri

Lakhimpur Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh is once again making national headlines for the wrong reasons after the bodies of 2 teenage Dalit sisters were found hanging from a tree under the Nighasan police station area on Wednesday. The victims’ family has now demanded capital punishment for the accused of raping the girls before killing them.

The brutal killing sparked wide-scale outrage and a war of words with all the Opposition parties in the State targeting the BJP-led government for failure on the law-and-order front.

6 persons, including a local villager, Chotu Gautam, and 5 others from neighbouring Lalpur village named Suhail, Hafizul Rehman, Junaid, Karimuddin, and Arif have been arrested on charges of rape and murder. The postmortem, conducted late on September 14 at the Lakhimpur Kheri District Hospital, revealed the girls had faced sexual violence before being murdered.

The Hindu visited the victims’ village Tamoli Purwa to get insights into the gruesome incident. “Give death sentence to the culprits,” said Maya Devi, the mother of the girls. The mother had filed the complaint on which the FIR was registered by the police at the Nighasan police station on Wednesday.

The content of the FIR accessed by The Hindu reads, “Three unknown boys came with Chotu (son of Chetram), from our village to my house and started manhandling my daughters. When I opposed (them) one of them kicked me and forcefully took my daughters on the bike and fled. After searching for many hours, the bodies of my daughters were found hanging from a tree on a farm of Ajay Singh. The petitioner fully believes that the 2 teenage girls were raped before being murdered.” The FIR has been registered under sections 302 (murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (criminal house trespass), 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, and sections 3 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The last rites of the girls aged 15 and 17 were performed in a field near their home, after the District Administration gave assurance to their family members about all kinds of support and financial compensation from the U.P. government. The victims’ family was earlier reluctant to perform the last rites before their demands got fulfilled. Later on Thursday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath instructed officials to provide compensation of ?25 lakh, a house, and farming land to the victims’ family.

Speaking with The Hindu, Uttam Kumar, elder brother of the girls, said, “We want death sentence for the six persons at the earliest and bulldozer to ruin their houses.” The younger girl was studying at the nearby Z.P. Inter College. When asked how the girls were helping the family, Uttam, 20, who works at a private factory in the Anand Vihar area of Delhi, replied, “Since my mother’s Uterus operation, both of them were taking care of the family and helping in whatever way possible,”.

Uttam has been working in New Delhi for 3 years to help the family financially as the only earning member before him has been their father, Rampal, who works as a labourer and does farming in the one bigha field inherent by the family. The Dalit family lives in a two-room house that is not fully constructed and is connected by a raw village road to the State highway. After the incident, a few police personnel have been deployed by the District Administration outside the house to maintain law and order.

Locals angered over the incident

There is a lot of anger among the local villagers after the incident. “What has happened is very disturbing, the culprits must be hanged. The victims’ family has lost everything,” said one local, Ramesh.

The house of the accused, Chotu, who, according to the police, had introduced the girls to 3 other accused, is hardly 50 meters from the victim’s place. “My husband is innocent and has been falsely implicated in the case. He was at a function organised by our relative around the time incident happened,” Sarojni, the wife of Chotu, told The Hindu. When asked if they had any conflict with the victim family, she replied, “I don’t know why my husband has been framed in the case, we don’t have any animosity with anyone.” Sarojni married Chotu 6 years ago.

Opposition continues to slam Yogi Adityanath government over women’s safety

A number of political leaders visited the victim family on Friday, including a Congress delegation led by its leader in the State Assembly and MLA from Rampur Khas, Aradhna Mishra, who demanded strict action against the culprits and requested the U.P. government to raise the financial compensation to ?1 crore. Local BJP legislator Shashank Verma also visited the grief-stricken family.

Other top Opposition leaders in the State have taken potshots at the Yogi Adityanath-led dispensation, alleging that the gruesome incident showcases the State government’s failure. Former U.P. CM and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav said, “Under the BJP rule, caste oppression is forcing Dalit families to migrate. The truth is that the lives of innocents are completely unsafe under the BJP government and criminal elements are fearless. People are suffering from this situation. The BJP’s claim that Uttar Pradesh has become crime-free is absolutely hollow when the truth is exactly the opposite. The reality is that anarchy is rampant in Uttar Pradesh under the BJP rule,”.

Lakhimpur Kheri district, located roughly 140 kilometres from the State capital Lucknow, has been in news in the past few years due to many cases of crime against women. In August 2020, a case of rape and murder of minor girls aged below 4 years was reported from the district.

(source: The Hindu)

MALAYSIA:

Disclose proposed alternative sentences when mandatory death penalty is abolished

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is pleased with the recent announcement that mandatory death and mandatory whipping sentences would be abolished through amendments that will be tabled in Parliament in October.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar also said Malaysia would no longer have the mandatory death penalty in 2023.

It must be noted that the Malaysian governments have been promising the abolition of the death penalty and later only the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for some time now. Hence, the concern by many is that this again may be simply a false promise, and Malaysians may be once again disappointed with yet another U-turn or maybe a long delay.

It is best that the prime minister speaks up to assure Malaysians this will happen before Parliament is dissolved and a new government comes into being following the coming general election.

The abolition of the mandatory death sentences for 11 offences is not enough as Malaysia must abolish totally the death penalty. Note also that Malaysia, since 2018 and again in 2020, has taken the stand to have a moratorium on executions pending the abolition of the death penalty when they voted in favour in UN General Assembly resolutions.

Do not make the same mistake

It is also hoped that Malaysia will not repeat the mistake made when it abolished the mandatory death penalty for the offence of drug trafficking which came into force on 15 March 2018: the alternative sentence of life imprisonment was only available when certain rigid conditions were fulfilled, including that one mandatory condition: “(d) that the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.”

This was an affront to the right to a fair trial, which includes the right to two appeals. It is not right for the convicted who may have pleaded not guilty, to now be forced to assist enforcement simply to avoid the death sentence. Further, an innocent person wrongly convicted will never be able to assist in any way, and so he or she still will be sentenced to death.

That drug trafficking law amendment that abolished the mandatory death penalty never gave our judges full discretion in sentencing. Parliament wrongly restricted on what matters the judge could consider, when judges should be free to consider all mitigating or aggravating factors. This can be said to be a case of the legislative arm of government encroaching on what should be the duties and responsibilities of the judicial arm of government.

Disclose special committee report

The special committee to review alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty, made up of former Federal Court judges, former Attorney General’s Chambers officers, former Prisons Department senior officers, the Bar Council, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, academics, criminologists and civil society organisations submitted their report to the government on 17 July 2020.

But sadly, to date the report is still not made available to the public. How then can Malaysians instruct their elected representatives in Parliament? We wonder whether the recommendations of the special committee have even been adopted or ignored.

MPs represent their constituents in a democracy and are not ‘feudalistic’ political masters. Hence, there must be transparency so the people can also discuss with their respective MPs. To think that MPs after they have been elected can do as they please is absurd if Malaysia is truly a democracy.

Hence, transparency requires the immediate disclosure of that special committee’s report.

The minister also just said that the mandatory death penalty would be abolished, but he failed to disclose what the alternative sentences would be.

Full sentencing discretion to judges

Madpet would oppose it if there is just one alternative sentence of life imprisonment. It must be noted that many of the offences that now carry the mandatory death penalty are crimes where no one ends up dead or suffering grievous injury when the crime is committed.

If a group of 5 went to premises to rob, and suddenly one of them takes out a gun and fires, should all five be sentenced to death or to the same sentence? To say that a different sentence [would be give] only if the others could prove they had “taken all reasonable steps to prevent the discharge” of the firearm is absurd.

Now, Section 3A (Penalty for accomplices in case of discharge of firearm) of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971 states:

Where, with intent to cause death or hurt to any person, a firearm is discharged by any person at the time of his committing or attempting to commit or abetting the commission of a scheduled offence, each of his accomplices in respect of the offence present at the scene of the commission or attempted commission or abetment thereof who may reasonably be presumed to have known that such person was carrying or had in his possession or under his custody or control the firearm shall, notwithstanding that no hurt is caused by the discharge thereof, be punished with death, unless he proves that he had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the discharge.

In criminal trials, judges when exercising their discretion in sentencing will take all matters into consideration for each and every person convicted including age, role played, whether first-time offender, etc. So the different convicts involved in the same crime may receive different sentences, and the one who actually discharged the firearm would receive the highest sentence. If someone was hurt, then a higher sentence [would be given]. If someone was killed, then maybe even a higher sentence [would be meted out].

Parliament and all in Malaysia should trust our judges, who are appointed by the King, to hand down a just sentence.

Therefore, Madpet calls for alternative sentences, not just life imprisonment, and Parliament should set a maximum prison sentence so that judges will have full discretion to impose the most just sentence to each person who has committed offences that now carry the mandatory death penalty. There must be no restrictions or conditions imposed on judges that limit their discretion.

It is sad to note that there are still 1,342 convicts on death row as of June 2022.

Madpet also demands the immediate full disclosure of the report and recommendations of the special committee to review alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty.

Madpet also calls on the government and/or the Minister to inform Malaysians about the alternative sentences that the government intends to propose to Parliament.

Madpet, while being pleased with the abolition of the mandatory whipping sentence, calls for the total abolition of the sentence of whipping, which is an inhumane corporal punishment.

Madpet reiterates its call for the total abolition of the death penalty. Malaysia must continue to impose the moratorium on executions pending the abolition.

(source: Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture----aliran.com)

PHILIPPINES:

CHR lauds Marcos’ stance on death penalty: If gov’t kills, it loses moral ascendancy to stop killings

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) lauded the stand of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on death penalty after the Chief Executive’s remarks appeared to be leaning towards not reinstating capital punishment in the country. In a statement on Friday, CHR Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia said that Marcos is right to raise moral concerns about death penalty, after he asked in an interview with actress Toni Gonzaga whether the state has the right to kill its own people.

De Guia noted that if a government engages in killing as punishment for convicted criminals of heinous crimes, it would no longer have the moral ascendancy to stop killings.

“The [CHR] welcomes the remarks and insights of the President that reflect his primary considerations concerning calls to revive the death penalty. In a recent Youtube interview, President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. said that there are practical and moral issues surrounding capital punishment,” de Guia said.

“On moral grounds, a government that employs a policy of killing loses the moral ascendancy to stop killings. As we have numerously stressed, committing a crime to deter a crime can only breed more harm and may perpetuate a cycle of violence because the children and family of the executed person are left to suffer the sorrow of loss and stigma from the society,” she added.

Furthermore, the current CHR caretaker said that implementing the death penalty in the country may have a negative effect on the Philippines’ bid to remove Filipino inmates in other countries which are on the death row.

“In our firm stance against the death penalty, the CHR has similarly stressed the aforementioned concerns, notwithstanding our legal obligations to uphold the right to life as mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and our obligation to uphold the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which completely and perpetually banned the imposition of the death penalty in the country,” de Guia said.

“We have also repeatedly said that such policy will lead to the weakening of our moral ground to plead for the lives of our overseas Filipino workers in death row. To ensure our legitimacy in asking for clemency from foreign governments, we must not be conflicted in our stand against the death penalty,” she added.

During the interview aired on the occasion of his 65th birthday last Tuesday, Marcos said that the death penalty is a tough issue to discuss because, aside from the moral questions surrounding it, there are also concerns about whether it would really be effective to deter heinous crimes.

This is not the first time that Marcos has expressed doubts about reinstating the death penalty in the Philippines. Last March 19 — when he was still campaigning for the presidential elections, Marcos said he thinks the death penalty is not effective in curbing crime in the country, particularly heinous ones.

CHR agreed that there is no “credible evidence that can prove that the death penalty can curb crime”.

“It is also a sad reality, as proven by studies, that those facing execution are mostly from the poor, with no access to competent lawyers nor to decent education that empower them about their rights,” de Guia said.

“No less than the Supreme Court has recognized through People v. Mateo that the error rate in imposing the death sentence is 71.77%. This shows that such policy is disproportionately disadvantageous to the poor,” she added.

The question of whether the country needs to reinstate death penalty has been a hot debate over the years, with several anti-crime advocates believing that such a measure would deter people from engaging in criminal activities.

However, pro-life activists have questioned whether this claim is true, stressing that there is the danger of imposing death penalty on innocent people.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

IRAN:

URGENT ACTION UPDATE: IRANIAN LGBTI DEFENDER SENTENCED TO DEATH (IRAN: UA 5.22)

September 15, 2022

Iranian LGBTI rights defender Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and another woman, Elham Choubdar, were sentenced to death for “corruption on earth”. The women were targeted due to their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity and their social media activities in support of LGBTI communities.

TAKE ACTION:

Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on November 10, 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

Head of judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei

c/o Embassy of Iran to the European Union

Avenue Franklin Roosevelt No. 15, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium

H.E. Majid Takht Ravanchi

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran

622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10017

Phone: 212 687-2020 I Fax: 212 867 7086

Email: iran@un.int , Majidravanchi@mfa.gov.ir

Twitter: @Iran_UN , @TakhtRavanchi

Salutation: Dear Ambassador

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Mr. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei,

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights defender Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani, 31, known as Sareh, and another woman, Elham Choubdar, 24, were sentenced to death after the Revolutionary Court in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province, tried them in early August 2022 and subsequently convicted them of “corruption on earth.” Official statements, state media reports, and statements made by prosecution officials to Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani since her arrest in October 2021 indicate that she was targeted for discriminatory reasons tied to her real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity, as well as her peaceful LGBTI rights activism, including on social media, and her association with LGBTI asylum seekers in Iraq. On July 18, 2022, state media affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards aired a homophobic video portraying Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani as a “criminal” for publishing online content which “promoted homosexuality” and “challenged the stigma around religiously forbidden [namashrou] sexual relations”. The propaganda video linked Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani’s peaceful online LGBTI rights activism to unfounded accusations of “gambling” and “smuggling women and girls from Iran to Erbil [Iraq]” in a bid to vilify her. Court documents and other information reviewed by Amnesty International indicate that Elham Choubdar was similarly targeted for discriminatory reasons related to her real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity, LGBTI supportive activities on social media, and association with Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani.

The proceedings leading to the women’s convictions and sentences were grossly unfair. Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani was forcibly disappeared for 53 days following arrest. During this time, she was subjected to abusive interrogations without access to a lawyer, prolonged solitary confinement, homophobic insults, death threats and threats to take away the custody of her children, which violate fair trial rights and the absolute prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International understands that Elham Choubdar was pressured to make “confessions”. Moreover, the offence of “corruption on earth” fails to meet requirements for clarity and precision needed in criminal law and breaches the principle of legality and legal certainty. Officials told the two women of their sentences on September 1, 2022 in Urumieh prison, where both are held. Their cases have been appealed to the Supreme Court.

I ask you to immediately quash the convictions and death sentences of Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Choubdar, and immediately release both as they are targeted based on discriminatory reasons related to their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity and peaceful activities in defence of the human rights of LGBTI people. Pending their release, ensure they are given regular access to lawyers of their choosing and family. I further urge the Iranian authorities to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and adopt legislation to protect LGBTI people from discrimination, violence and other human rights violations.

Sincerely,

(source: Amnesty International)

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

UN Embrace of Raisi Whitewashes Terrorism, Mass Murder

It is astonishing, to say the least, that this month the Iranian regime’s mass-murderer President, Ebrahim Raisi, is scheduled to attend the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. As the reputable international human rights organization Amnesty International declared when Raisi was announced as the regime’s president last year, “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”

The UN’s decision to host Raisi and Washington’s plan to grant him a visa will almost certainly bolster that sense of impunity in Tehran.

In 1988, Raisi served on the death commission as Tehran’s deputy prosecutor. The panel was given jurisdiction over Evin and Gohardasht Prisons and began interrogating political prisoners, focusing primarily on those they believed to be affiliated with the main opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Anyone who either refused to disavow the organization or failed to demonstrate their loyalty to the theocratic dictatorship was summarily executed. At least 30,000 political prisoners were executed over the course of about 3 months.

The 1988 massacre has been described as the worst crime against humanity since World War II. Despite this, no one has ever been held responsible for it, save for one low-level prison official named Hamid Noury, whom a Swedish court sentenced to life in prison earlier this year on the basis of “universal jurisdiction” over crimes against humanity.

Clearly, as long as Tehran’s rogue behavior persists, it is counterproductive and potentially dangerous for Western policymakers or the UN to legitimize the regime or its representatives. It is even more dangerous for them to take any action which might give Iranian authorities the further impression that they will not be held accountable for malign activities.

If Raisi speaks at the UN without being held appropriately accountable for his crimes, the US government will own a significant share of the culpability for reinforcing Tehran’s impunity, as it has the sole power to prevent Raisi’s attendance by denying him a visa. It should do exactly that, both for the sake of international peace and security as well as upholding the shared human rights principles that are a major underpinning of the United Nations charter.

Of course, the regime has always been willing to harm Western nationals and the organized opposition. This was plainly confirmed in 2018 when Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council signed off on plans to bomb the Free Iran World Summit near Paris in June 2018, which was also attended by hundreds of American and European lawmakers, scholars, and foreign affairs experts.

The plot in question thankfully failed in the wake of intervention by multiple European law enforcement bodies, and a high-ranking Tehran diplomat was identified as its mastermind, arrested, and later sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court.

The international community must revise its policies to both anticipate the further acceleration of malign activities by the regime and to address past crimes which have gone unanswered.

These two issues are directly related, and Raisi’s presidential appointment was itself a clear expression of the impunity that Tehran has come to enjoy in the wake of years of inaction and conciliation by leading world powers.

The international community should now send a clear message by simply refusing to give Raisi a voice at the General Assembly. When it becomes clear just how enthusiastically the Iranian people embrace that message, the international community will finally see fit to help them attain the justice they have been demanding for so long, and to implement proper punishment for the “Butcher of Tehran.”

(source: ncr-iran.org)

BAHRAIN:

Bahrain ignoring death row inmate's pleas for medical care, says wife----Mohamed Ramadan has been in 'severe pain' for two months and asking Jau Prison authorities for help, but has been met with silence, his wife tells MEE

The wife of a Bahraini death row inmate who has long maintained his innocence says he has been in "severe pain" for 2 months, but authorities have ignored his requests to be examined as his condition worsens.

Zainab Ibrahim says her husband, Mohamed Ramadan, has had a lump in his neck for 2 months which has been causing pain, numbness and swelling, and is impacting the entire left side of his face.

Ramadan has asked authorities in Jau Prison for help on a daily basis and has seen other inmates taken for medical treatment by bus, but has yet to receive an assessment, Ibrahim told Middle East Eye on Friday.

"It's been difficult to sleep these nights," she said. "I ask myself, 'Why must he suffer?'"

Ramadan, 39, was sentenced to death in 2014 after he and a second man, Husain Moosa, 36, were charged with targeting police officers with a bomb and killing one of them.

Ramadan, the father of 3 children, had been employed by Bahrain's interior ministry as a police officer at the kingdom's international airport and was his family's sole breadwinner.

He had previously attended peaceful rallies, including one marking the 3rd anniversary of Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising in February 2014, which drew tens of thousands to the streets just days before his arrests.

Their sentences were overturned by Bahrain's Court of Cassation in 2018, when an internal review found evidence that they may have been tortured into confessions, something the 2 men had repeatedly claimed.

But in 2020, the same court - the kingdom's court of last resort - reinstated the sentences.

UN experts have since called on Bahraini authorities to release the men and investigate whether their rights were violated and, earlier this year, their cases were raised by Lord Ahmad, the UK's minister responsible for human rights, with senior Bahraini officials and human rights bodies.

Middle East Eye understands that the UK's foreign office is monitoring Ramadan's case and has raised its concerns with the Bahraini government.

Rights groups have previously documented medical neglect across Bahrain's prisons.

Earlier this year, an officer in Jau Prison laughed when inmates pleaded that a fellow political prisoner with tuberculosis (TB) be transferred for care while 2 others who suspected they had TB struggled to receive timely care.

Sayed Nizar Alwadaei, one of the prisoners who feared he had TB, has since tested negative, but has had ongoing severe neck pain and eczema that has remained untreated, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, his brother-in-law and director of advocacy at the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, told MEE.

The prisoner was taken earlier this month to a local hospital to have his eyes checked, but Bahraini prison authorities have not allowed his family to deliver the medicine prescribed by the hospital's doctor.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said he finds Ramadan's case, however, particularly concerning and a sign that Bahraini authorities are acting with impunity.

Ibrahim has been tweeting in Arabic and English about her husband's condition since Monday and, on Wednesday, Alwadaei raised the case with Bahraini officials. Meanwhile, he pointed out, the UN Human Rights Council is currently meeting.

"This is what we are dealing with now," Alwadaei said.

MEE did not receive an immediate comment on Friday from the Bahraini Embassy in the UK.

(source: middleeasteye.net)

SEPTEMBER 16, 2022:

ALABAMA----impending execution

Alabama says it’s not ready to execute by nitrogen hypoxia

Alabama’s prison commissioner said the state is not ready to carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia. Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Q. Hamm said in a Thursday court filing that the state cannot execute an inmate next week by nitrogen hypoxia.

A federal judge had ordered the state to clarify if the state was ready to implement the new execution method.

Alan Miller is scheduled to be put to death on Sept. 22 for killing 3 men in a 1999 workplace shooting. Miller is seeking to block his lethal injection, claiming prison staff lost paperwork he returned in 2018 choosing nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method.

(source: Associated Press)

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Alabama Prosecutors Float, Then Retreat From, Plan to Execute Alan Miller Using Untested Nitrogen Suffocation Procedure

Alabama prosecutors have told a federal judge that the state will not execute death-row prisoner Alan Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, 2022, 3 days after suggesting there was a “very good chance” it would be ready to attempt the 1st-ever execution by that method.

In a sworn affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on September 15, 2022, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Q. Hamm contradicted that assertion, stating “The ADOC cannot carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, 2022.” The affidavit did not say when the Department, which has been criticized for the 2½-hour botched attempted execution of Doyle Hamm and the more than 3-hour botched execution of Joe Nathan James, both by lethal injection, would finalize its long-promised nitrogen hypoxia protocol.

Hamm’s affidavit said that ADOC “remains ready to carry out [Miller’s] execution by lethal injection on September 22, 2022.”

The tumult over Alabama’s preparedness to conduct a nitrogen-suffocation execution came in a lawsuit brought by Miller seeking to bar his execution by lethal injection. During a September 12, 2022 hearing, Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. asked lawyers for the state whether Alabama would be able to execute Miller by nitrogen hypoxia. Deputy attorney general James Houts responded that there was a “very good chance” ADOC could do so but refused to provide a firm answer saying the decision would be up to Commissioner Hamm.

Citing what he called Houts’ “vague and imprecise statements regarding the readiness and intent to move forward with an execution,” Judge Huffaker issued an order on September 13 directing an “appropriate official with personal knowledge” to provide an answer by 5 p.m. on September 15 “definitively setting forth whether or not [ADOC] can execute [Miller] by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, 2022.”

Alabama’s waffling on its preparedness for Miller’s execution has drawn sharp criticism. In a September 14, 2022 editorial, The Dothan Eagle wrote: “That state officials find themselves hobbling together a plan in the 11th hour to meet an arbitrary execution date is a testament to incompetence.”

In 2018, responding to drug companies’ unwillingness to sell drugs for use in executions, the Alabama legislature adopted nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative to lethal injection if execution drugs were unavailable or the state’s execution-drug protocol was declared unconstitutional. The new law granted death-row prisoners 30 days to opt in to the new method. Miller alleged that he had exercised that right, but that ADOC had lost the paperwork. Alabama prosecutors assert that he had never submitted any form designating a method of execution and had waited too long before raising his legal challenge. In the prosecutors’ September 15 filing, Marshall wrote that Alabama does “not concede that the ADOC’s ability to carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia is relevant … [to whether Miller] elected nitrogen hypoxia within the statutorily set election period.”

Judge Huffaker has not yet ruled on Miller’s claim.

Legal and medical experts raised concerns about Alabama’s last-minute assertion that it might, with barely a week’s notice, attempt to employ an execution method that no one had ever used before, without a finalized or court-reviewed execution protocol, and without any training of corrections’ personnel in how to carry it out.

Emory University anesthesiologist Joel Zivot told the Death Penalty Information Center in an email that nitrogen gas “is colorless and odorless” and “is dangerous to anyone in the vicinity.” While it is “hard to accidentally inject” an execution team member with a lethal injection drug, he said “it is possible to poison with Nitrogen anyone standing nearby.”

In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser, Zivot challenged the assertion by hypoxia proponents that nitrogen suffocation would be swift and produce a sense of euphoria. “It’s not going to be euphoric,” he said. “You know, it may be bloodless, but it won’t be simple.”

DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham told Fox 6 news in Birmingham that the potential danger to execution personnel and Alabama’s historic problems in setting IV lines and properly administering lethal injection drugs counsel against untrained staff attempting an execution method that has never been used before. “All of it suggests that this is not a time to rush into it. There is no valid state interest in rushing to carry out this execution next week using nitrogen hypoxia before there’s a chance to examine the protocol, check the safety of it, and ensure that the state is able to carry it out in a competent way,” Dunham said.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Alabama not ready to execute by nitrogen hypoxia, which would have forced inmate to breathe only nitrogen----Alan Miller, convicted of killing 3 men in 1999, had requested the method for his Sept. 22 execution. Officials said they are ready to use lethal injection,instead.

Alabama cannot carry out an execution next week by nitrogen hypoxia, the state prison commissioner disclosed Thursday in response to a federal judge’s directive to clarify the status of the untested execution method.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner John Q. Hamm said in a brief affidavit that the state “cannot carry out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22.” He did not elaborate on where the state stood in developing the new execution method. Hamm said the state is ready to use lethal injection to put an inmate to death next week.

U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. ordered Alabama to clarify the status after a state lawyer dangled the possibility of the state being the first to attempt to execute an inmate by nitrogen hypoxia. James Houts, a deputy state attorney general, told Huffaker during a Monday court hearing that it is “very likely” the method could be available for next week’s execution, but Hamm has the final decision.

Alan Miller, who was convicted of killing 3 men in a 1999 workplace shooting, is scheduled to be put to death on Sept. 22. Miller is seeking to block his scheduled execution by lethal injection, claiming prison staff lost paperwork he returned in 2018 choosing nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method.

Huffaker has not yet ruled on Miller’s request. The judge wanted to know if the state could proceed with nitrogen executions if the use of lethal injection was blocked.

Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. It’s authorized as an execution method in three states — Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi — but has never been used to carry out a death sentence.

(source: NBC News)

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Casey White’s attorneys argue death penalty is ‘unconstitutional’

Casey White’s attorneys have filed a motion to bar the death penalty in his upcoming capital murder trial.

The filing argues that a death sentence would infringe on White’s Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Current Alabama law states the jury makes the final decision on a death sentence. However, the 2015 killing of Connie Ridgeway, which White is charged with, happened before the law ending the so-called “judicial override” went into effect in 2017. Under the former system, a jury’s vote on whether a defendant should get the death penalty was only considered a recommendation, the judge would get the final decision. Because of the date of the Ridgeway killing White’s case is take place under the former law, with the judge determining the sentence.

According to court records filed Thursday, White’s attorneys asked the court to bar the death penalty in White’s case or delay his trial until the Alabama legislature “enacts a statute that conforms to constitutional requirements.”

The filing argues the U.S. Supreme Court has found that all fact-finding about a death sentence must be determined by a jury, not a judge.

A hearing is set for October 11, 2022, at 9 a.m. at the Lauderdale County Courthouse to hear the motion.

(source: WHNT news)

OHIO:

3 years after West Chester family killed, murder trial set for Oct. 3

Gurpreet Singh was back in court Wednesday for what appears to be the last hearing before the start of his death penalty trial for allegedly shooting 4 family members to death in 2019 in a West Chester Township.

Singh, 40, is charged with 4 counts of aggravated murder for the April 28, 2019, homicides. With specifications of using a firearm and killing 2 or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty if convicted.

Singh is accused of killing his wife, Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt by marriage, Amarjit Kaur, 58, at their residence on Wyndtree Drive.

After the legal process slowed down due to COVID-19 pandemic safety issues and legal maneuvering, it appears Singh will finally get his day in court when his trial begins on Oct. 3. His attorneys maintain Singh is innocent.

The family members were all shot and dead when West Chester Police arrived at the Wyndtree Drive after Singh called 911.

Singh was outside in the stairwell covered in blood crying that his family bleeding. He was questioned for hours by police, but released.

He was indicted in August 2019 and arrested in Connecticut.

The father of three young children who was a self-employed truck driver running his own company before his arrest, Singh is being held without bond in the Butler County Jail. He is a native of India but has been a United States citizen since 2009.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the defense also asked for approval of $6,000 to bring Singh’s parents and religious Guru from India to Ohio for the mitigation phase of the trial that happens if Singh is convicted.

In the request, the defense pointed out Singh, who they say is now indigent, is not a native of the United States, needs the witnesses who know him best and will able to “attest to his life, culture and upbringing.”

The prosecution expressed concern that there may be difficulties getting visas for the family members and other requirements, such as COVID-19 vaccination status, that could slow down the travel process. The prosecution suggested testimony via video might an option.

Howard, who before taking the bench, defended 25 death penalty cases, said as an attorney he would want mitigation witnesses to testify in person in the courtroom. But he made it clear the trial would not be continued for the witness logistics.

“If we get to the mitigation phase, if their visas aren’t ready and they aren’t here we are not continuing the case,” Howard said. If that happened other arrangements could be made for testimony via video, the judge said. He approved the travel expenses.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard has ordered 150 prospective jurors for the first day of selection and another 150 for the second day if necessary.

The trial will be on the 4th floor of the Butler County court wing in a newly completed super courtroom that will accommodate more observers and is equipped with updated technology for presentation to the jury. The trial is expected to last 3 weeks.

Subpoena issuing began last month and includes police officers, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents, keepers of records from banks, United Airlines, cell phone companies, and local, Indiana and Kentucky residents.

Hotel rooms have been booked and security arranged if the jury should require sequestration. By law, in a death penalty case, the jury must be sequestered during deliberations. If the defendant is convicted they are also required to the sequestered while deliberating a penalty recommendation following the mitigation phase.

If the defendant is convicted, the jury will consider recommendation of 1 of 5 penalties, including death, life in prison without parole, 20 years to life, 25 years to life or 30 years to life. It is up to the judge to decide whether or not to follow the jury’s recommendation and ultimately impose the sentence.

(source: WCPO news)

CALIFORNIA:

Death Row Resident Reveals Poignant Childhood Trauma – Compassion Prison Project Interviews author Jarvis Jay Masters

Compassion Prison Project Founder and Compassion in Action podcast host, Fritzi Horstman, has released a riveting, in-depth interview with San Quentin death row resident and author, Jarvis Jay Masters. Masters, author of “That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row” and “Finding Freedom: Writings From Death Row,” is also a well-known Buddhist practitioner and Covid survivor. Oprah Winfrey has recently selected “That Bird Has My Wings” as her latest pick for Oprah’s Book Club.

In this compelling conversation, Horstman and Masters discuss, amongst many absorbing topics, evidence of strikingly similar childhood trauma endured by nearly all death row residents. They reflect on the day Masters stepped in to prevent a gay prison resident from being beaten and discuss his youth, where Masters recalls frequent visits to a local college campus, wondering why he couldn’t experience life as a real student.

At once heartbreaking, wise and hopeful, Masters never shies away from the diligent questions posed by Horstman. Masters has steadfastly maintained his innocence for the crime in which he was sentenced to death and is currently awaiting a decision on his case by the federal courts. As part of CPP’s innovative trauma-informed outreach, Horstman recently had the unique opportunity to work with several other men living on death row as well.

“It was a great privilege to speak with Jarvis Jay Masters. Not only did he overcome a childhood filled with trauma, neglect and violence, he took every possibility to transform himself, revealing the extraordinary person that he truly is today,” said Fritzi Horstman – Founder Compassion Prison Project.

“With over 2,400 people living on death row, there are over 2,400 extraordinary human beings we can rehabilitate and support to find ways to make amends to their victims and give back to society. Gandhi said: ‘An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.’ If we take another look and realize there are better ways to deal with crime and State-sanctioned murder, we have a chance to see clearly again.”

(source: send2press.com)

USA----new book

BOOKS: “Geometrical Justice: The Death Penalty in America”

The outcome of a capital prosecution can be predicted based upon the relative social status of the victim, the defendant, and the jurors, applying a sociology concept known as the geometrical theory of law, according to the authors of a new book, Geometrical Justice: The Death Penalty in America.

In their new book, released in the Summer of 2022, University of Denver criminology and sociology professor Scott Phillips and University of Georgia sociologist Mark Cooney apply the concept of “social geometry,” developed in the 1970s by sociologist Donald Black, to analyze outcomes of capital cases. After reviewing extensive data collected in connection with the landmark Baldus Study of capital sentencing in Georgia and from the national Capital Jury Project, they conclude that the sentencing outcomes in the cases in those databases support key principles of Black’s theory: the higher the social status of the victim and the lower the social status of the defendant, the more likely a death sentence will be imposed.

Black first introduced the concept of a “geometrical theory of law” in his 1976 book, The Behavior of Law (1976). The theory, Phillips and Cooney explain, posits that the “outcome of a case depends on its social geometry — the location, direction, and the distance of the case in social space.” Social space, put simply, is that “realm of reality humans create through interacting with one another,” and consists of five dimensions: (1) “vertical status” (i.e., wealth); (2) “radial status” (i.e., the degree of involvement in social institutions, such as family, work, religious institutions, politics); (3) “cultural status” (i.e., conventional versus unconventional social traits); (4) “normative status” (i.e., perceived respectability); and (5) “organizational status” (i.e., capacity for collective action).

The authors obtained data from 2 premier studies of capital punishment to perform their research. Their first dataset was an updated (2020) version of the data from the late University of Iowa law professor and social scientist David Baldus and his colleagues’ study on race and the death penalty, which formed the basis of the constitutional challenge to Georgia’s racially disproportionate application of capital punishment case in McCleskey v. Kemp in 1987. Second, they analyzed data from the National Science Foundation-funded Capital Jury Project, to examine the impact of a juror’s social status on capital sentencing decisions.

Using data from the updated Baldus study data, Phillips and Cooney coded values for defendants and victims along all five social dimensions, producing an overall status score. They found that those with the highest social status scores were “professionals (e.g. doctor, accountant), a parent supporting a child, White, had a clean criminal record, or were state officials.”

Phillips and Cooney then sought to test three key propositions of Black’s theory. First, “downward law is greater than upward law” — that is, individuals with cumulatively higher social status scores will tend to receive more favorable treatment under the law against individuals of cumulatively lower social status than low status individuals will receive against higher status individuals. Second, “law varies directly with social status” — the higher the social status the greater likelihood of favorable treatment under the law. Third, “law increases with social distance,” which means that incidents involving strangers will receive a greater “quantity of law” than incidents involving non-strangers. Applied in the context of capital punishment, Phillips and Cooney explain, a greater “quantity of law” — read as a harsher punishment — would mean a death sentence as opposed to life in prison.

Phillips’ and Cooney’s analysis of the death penalty sentencing data produced statistically significant support for the three key propositions of Black’s “geometric justice” theory. Their comparison of the relative social statuses of victims and defendants revealed that 11% of cases involving victims of higher social status than the defendant resulted in death sentences, as compared to only one percent cases in which the victim was of lower social status. That, they said, showed that downward cases are more likely to receive a death sentence than upward cases.

In situations in which the parties were of approximately equal status, they found that death sentences involving higher status victims were more likely to result in death sentences (7% of cases) than cases involving lower status victims (1% of cases). Those results, they said, validated Black’s suggestion that “law varies directly with social status.” Acknowledging the original findings of the Baldus study, which after a regression analysis that controlled for hundreds of factors found that “the probability of a death sentence was greater in White victim cases,” the authors repeated their analysis, removing race from the measure of status. They found that without the explicit consideration of race, the “underlying pattern is the same,” that the “social status of the parties helps to predict who gets sentenced to death.” While supporting Black’s theory, the analysis did not take into consideration the impact of race in influencing each of the 5 dimensions of social status that went into the overall assessment of an individual’s social status.

Supporting Black’s proposition that “law increases with social distance,” Phillips and Cooney found that defendants were more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a stranger (17% of cases) than for homicides in which the victim and defendant knew one another (3% of cases).

The authors also calculated the likelihood of a death sentence based on the social status scores of the empaneled juries, using data from the Capital Jury Project. Coding 9 variables to calculate each juror’s social status, they found that high status jurors were more likely to vote for death than lower status jurors.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Groups Call for Abolition of DBI in US; File Human Rights Complaint with UN----Groups argue “Death by Incarceration” is torture and violates ban on racial discrimination

Since the 1970s, the reliance on sentences of death by incarceration (DBI) or otherwise known as Life Without Parole (LWOP) have “increased exponentially since the 1970s and has played a major role in driving mass incarceration,” according to a complaint filed on Thursday with the United Nations.

A national coalition of advocacy and legal groups Thursday submitted a complaint to the United Nations saying the United States is committing torture and other gross human rights violations by condemning people to “Death by Incarceration.”

The coalition is urging the U.N. to call for the abolition of life imprisonment, which, like mass incarceration, occurs in the U.S. more often than in any other country in the world.

“In 2020, 15 % of the total prison population, or 203,865 people, were serving life or virtual life sentences,” the complaint noted. “This increase in the DBI-sentenced population is further compounded by a decrease in clemency and the uncertainty of parole.”

The complaint added, “The exponential rise in DBI sentences results in an increasing number of people—and a disproportionate number of racial and ethnic minorities—who are condemned to conditions inside of prison that lead to a premature death.”

Emerging from a growing movement led by incarcerated people and their families, the complaint includes testimony from some of the more than 200,000 people imprisoned in the United States under DBI sentences, which include life without parole (LWOP), life with parole, and “virtual life” sentences: sentences that exceed life expectancy.

It comes just days before a hearing in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Derek Lee, a criminal appeal in the Pennsylvania Superior Court challenging LWOP sentences for felony murder, the term for when a death occurs during the commission of a felony even if the person sentenced either did not kill or did not intend to kill anyone.

The complaint also comes days before a rally organized by the Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, demanding that legislators support bills that would allow people serving DBI sentences the opportunity to come home from prison.

“DBI is literally a term of confinement that condemns men, women, and children to die in prison,” said Robert Labar, Vernon Robinson, Charles Bassett, and Terrell Carter in a letter included in the complaint. They are members of the Right 2 Redemption Committee, formed by people sentenced to LWOP in Pennsylvania. “In doing this, the state is making the argument that it has the moral right to strip a human being of all hope and dignity until they die.”

Terrell Carter just came home from prison after 30 years of incarceration. He was sentenced to life without parole, but had his sentence commuted.

“While I was in prison, I was part of a committee called Right the Redemption,” he told the Vanguard in a recent Zoom interview. Their purpose was to “come up with a different way of looking at condemnation of life without parole or death by incarceration.”

Carter described his experience with life without parole as “feeling I was always walking on the edge of an abyss.”

But he said, “I always believed I would eventually go home. I couldn’t see it all the time, and that belief was under constant assault because there was this other thought in the back that I had to fight every conscious moment that I was in prison—there was this thought that said to me, Terrell, what are you fighting for—you’re going to die in prison.”

He explained it as a 30-year struggle “to hold on and cling to the hope versus giving up and falling into that abyss.”

For him, the key was, “People can transform. People can become better people. People aren’t the worst expression of themselves for the remainder of their lives. There exist possibilities in humans and there exists possibilities for human beings to become better.”

Caroline Hansen is a RAPP Campaign Community Leader whose husband is serving an LWOP sentence in New York State prison for Capital Murder.

She described his tough upbringing, growing up in a trailer park, getting into drugs and selling drugs, getting kicked out of his home and going down a path that led to the horrible crime he committed.

“My husband takes full responsibility for his victim,” Hansen explained. He faced the death penalty at the time, because he was implicated in an attack on a second cab driver. He admitted to shooting a guy in the head, but denied being involved in beating a cab driver. “They took the death penalty off the table, my husband was then facing life without parole.”

By taking away the death penalty, ironically, “all the lawyers that had been there, there with him throughout, everything was taken away because the death penalty was off the table.”

He pled to LWOP.

“I met my husband while he was incarcerated, so I wasn’t there throughout the beginning of his incarceration,” she said. At the same time, “the day they charged him (with) the death penalty was the day he got his GED in county jail.”

“So really from day one that he was arrested, he stated bettering himself,” she said. “He’s obtained his associate’s degree. He just graduated with his bachelor’s and he is waiting to get into the master’s program.”

At the same time, “he always has been so remorseful for what his part was in the crime.”

She described it as “the most horrible act you can do to another human, it was 5 minutes of his life and it changed the victim’s family, it changed his family, it changed his girlfriend’s family. It was horrible, but it was 5 minutes.”

“I believe that an individual needs to be held accountable for the crime they committed and they need to be able to take responsibility for what they’ve done. But now my husband’s been incarcerated for 26 years and he’s not the same person he was in 1996,” she explained.

According to the release, the complaint aims to draw international attention to the United States’ inhumane life sentencing practices. Responses by the U.N. to previous complaints have influenced U.S. policy.

In 2011, for example, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture called for a prohibition on solitary confinement beyond 15 days. Since then, lawmakers in various states have pushed for limits on solitary confinement, including a 15-day cap passed in New York State.

“Death by Incarceration is a structural and ideological pillar of the racist criminal punishment system in this country,” said Bret Grote, legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center. “With today’s submission, we are sending a defiant and determined message that Death by Incarceration is a crime of the state and there is a growing movement that intends to bring about its abolition.”

“Death by Incarceration violates a range of interrelated human rights, the complaint argues. To deny people hope of life after prison is to inflict suffering so cruel it amounts to torture. DBI sentences also violate the prohibition on racial discrimination, as more than 2/3 of those serving them in the United States are people of color. And while in 2020 only 12.4 % of the US population was Black, 46 % of all of those serving life sentences nationwide were Black,” the group said.

As the U.N. Committee against the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination acknowledged in its review of U.S. compliance this summer, people “belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, including women, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system… and subjected to harsher sentences, including life imprisonment without parole….”

The U.N. has called for abolition of other policies, such as the death penalty and juvenile LWOP, that disproportionately subject racial and ethnic minorities to the worst consequences of the criminal legal system.

Because DBI sentences cause premature death, they also violate the right to life, and because they do not serve any legitimate purpose, they are an illegally arbitrary deprivation of liberty, the complaint argues.

“Life without the possibility of parole is a death sentence,” said Joanne Scheer of the DROP LWOP Coalition. “It is a concrete box with death as the only exit. California currently has over 5,100 individuals surviving this death sentence. Every year, 135 human beings are added to this tortured population, most of whom are youth under the age of 25. Add the tens of thousands of family members and loved ones who are enduring without hope alongside them and entire communities are devastated.”

The United States’ reliance on DBI sentences is a key driver of mass incarceration. The number of DBI sentences began to increase sharply when, after the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972, states enacted or stiffened DBI-sentence laws. The trend continued even after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, and intensified in the 1980s with the dawn of the “tough on crime” era. Since 1984, the growth of the life-sentenced population has outpaced the growth of the overall prison population.

Caroline Hansen told the Vanguard, “Sometimes he just loses the will to get up and get dressed and brush his teeth, because he knows that he may never come home.”

She described that “we have all of these programs that he’s completed and, you know, he’s completed every program that he doesn’t have to complete, but he utilized all of those programs to better himself. Not because he had to, but because he wants to,”

She said, “the nature of his crime will never change, we can’t change what happened, but we can change who we are now and, and what we do going forward.”

Hansen concluded, “These living death sentences are torture. There’s no other way to describe it. Some days my husband loses the will to live, knowing that the state has already decided on the circumstances of his death, even if the date is uncertain.”

(source: Davis Vanguard)

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Human Rights Groups Urge UN to Call for Abolition of “Death by Incarceration”

Several human rights organizations submitted a 31-page complaint to United Nations experts today, alleging that the United States is committing torture and violating the prohibition against racial discrimination by condemning people to death by incarceration through extreme sentences including life and life without possibility of parole (LWOP). The groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Drop LWOP Coalition and the Abolitionist Law Center, are urging the UN to call for the abolition of all death by incarceration sentences.

“Death by incarceration is the devastating consequence of a cruel and racially discriminatory criminal legal system that is designed not to address harm, violence, and its root causes, but to satisfy the political pressure to be tough on crime,” the complaint states.

The United States, a global outlier in its imposition of death by incarceration, condemns one out of every seven prisoners — or more than 200,000 people — to die in prison. Over two-thirds are people of color. Under international law, this amounts to torture and racial discrimination.

Extensive testimonials from people who are incarcerated or recently released from prison under extreme sentences are attached to the complaint. “At the time of my arrest in 1995, I had no idea this country was at the height of a highly politicized and racist tough-on-crime movement that was swallowing up poor people of color by the thousands and decimating entire communities,” wrote Felix Rosado, who served 27 years of his LWOP sentence before Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf commuted his sentence to lifetime parole in July.

“Death by incarceration is a statement of condemnation against even the possibility that one can transcend their worst moment and be worthy of life outside a cage. It’s a complete negation of one’s inherent right to redemption,” Rosado told Truthout in an email. “As a hospice volunteer on the inside, I witnessed too many men take the last breaths of their death by incarceration sentences. I can think of few acts more barbaric than forcing a human being to die a slow, agonizing death in a cage.”

Sheena King is serving a sentence of LWOP for a crime she committed when she was 18 years old. She has been incarcerated at SCI Muncy in Pennsylvania since 1992. “These sentences of death by incarceration are disproportionately handed down to people of color, of limited education, with fewer resources and they have failed to make communities safer. Death by incarceration sentences have not reduced crime so they serve no real purpose and they create prison environments of hopelessness which is a danger in and of itself,” King wrote in an email to Truthout. “Without death by incarceration sentences, parole consideration would be a possibility for the corrigible. The recidivism rate of those who were paroled from death by incarceration sentences is lower than any other group of offenders.”

“Death by incarceration sentences, including life without parole, are inhumane and highlight the ineffectiveness of the United States’ criminal punishment system,” Samah Sisay, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Truthout. “The U.S. should abolish death by incarceration sentences and ensure that the disproportionately Black and aging individuals serving these sentences are afforded the right to dignity, hope and redemption.”

Black and Latinx people are disproportionately sentenced to death by incarceration nationwide, the complaint notes, finding “significant racial disparities” in rates of release and parole. It also cites “considerable racial disparities” at the charging and trial stages, which in turn impact sentencing.

The United States … condemns one out of every seven prisoners — or more than 200,000 people — to die in prison. Over two-thirds are people of color. The complaint references the Committee Against Torture’s repeated recommendations that states abolish irreducible life sentences, including LWOP. The Committee Against Torture is the official body that administers the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States has ratified. When the U.S. ratifies a treaty, its mandates become part of domestic law under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

Both the Committee Against Torture and the UN special rapporteur on torture have recommended the abolition of LWOP for juveniles. The United States is the only country that allows the sentencing of youth to life without parole. In April 2021, the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court made it easier to sentence children to LWOP. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in her dissent to Jones v. Mississippi that 70 percent of all youth who are sentenced to LWOP were children of color.

Systemic Racism Permeates the Criminal Legal System

After the public torture and execution of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States (for which I served as a rapporteur) issued a 188-page report. It documented racial profiling at every stage of the criminal legal system, which leads to violence and torture against Black people in the U.S.

The commission found that pretextual traffic stops are a common precursor to police killings and uses of excessive force against people of African descent. Race-based street stops, also called “stop-and-frisk,” often trigger the use of deadly force by police against Black people. The commission concluded that Fourth Amendment violations lead to the use of excessive force and police killings of Black people. In addition, police routinely use excessive and lethal restraints against people of African descent. They include Tasers, chokeholds, compression asphyxia, rough rides and the use of vehicles as deadly weapons.

On August 30, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination documented several violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the United States, which is a party to that treaty. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination cited racial profiling by law enforcement and the paucity of legislation explicitly prohibiting the practice.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was “concerned at the brutality and use of excessive or deadly force by law enforcement officials against members of racial and ethnic minorities, including against unarmed individuals, which has a disparate impact on people of African descent, Indigenous Peoples, persons of Hispanic/Latino origin and Asian descent, and undocumented migrants.”

Moreover, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that racial and ethnic minorities are “overrepresented in the criminal justice system.” The Committee cited their disproportionate arrest, incarceration, solitary confinement and harsher sentences including life without parole and the death penalty.

Torture and Cruel Treatment in U.S. Jails and Prisons

In the United States, people of color are charged with the death penalty, sentenced to death and executed in disproportionate numbers compared to white people. The methods of putting people to death amount to torture. A judge in South Carolina recently found that death by electric chair is like “being burned alive” and death by firing squad is tantamount to “torture.”

“Brutal physical torture was used almost exclusively against Black suspects in Chicago during the 20-year reign of terror beginning in 1972, under police commander Jon Burge,” attorney Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office in Chicago wrote in an email to Truthout. “This state terror was sanctioned at the highest levels of the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County State’s Attorneys’ Office, and the Office of Mayor Richard M. Daley.”

Taylor, who has been involved in the fight against police torture for 35 years, said, “Some of the torture techniques applied in Chicago jails included electric shock, dry submarino (hanged upside down with the head inside a container full of water, feces, urine, etc.) with typewriter covers and plastic bags, mock executions, and all manner of beatings with nightsticks and rubber hoses focused on the genitals.”

The United States is the only country that allows the sentencing of youth to life without parole.

“In response, lawyers, torture survivors and their family members, investigative journalists and an intergenerational and interracial movement of activists and community members have fought a 40-year battle to expose and combat this reign of terror,” Taylor explained. They took the issue to the Committee Against Torture, which responded by linking Chicago police torture to torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo in its 2015 report.

The activists won “a remarkable package of reparations for 60 torture survivors — the first of its kind — from the City of Chicago,” Taylor noted. “However, the fight for those torture survivors who remain behind bars due to coerced confessions, as well as many other predominately persons of color who have been, and continue to be, subjected to all forms of physical and psychological torture continues to this day in Chicago and throughout the U.S.”

In 2011, the UN special rapporteur on torture called for a prohibition on solitary confinement beyond 15 days. Solitary confinement, which could amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, violates the Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the U.S. has also ratified.

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky famously wrote in House of the Dead. The systemic racism and torture that permeates the U.S. criminal legal system exemplifies how cruel the United States really is.

Fortunately, activists and human rights organizations around the country, including the anti-death by incarceration coalition, anti-torture activists in Chicago, the Black Lives Matter movement and abolitionists, are organizing to stop these racist and harmful practices.

(source: truthout.org)

US MILITARY:

At Millions Per Detainee, Guantánamo Prison Stuck in a Cycle of Costly Delays----The mission has relied on short-term fixes for things like housing and medical care for 2 decades. With 36 detainees left, the prison will soon receive its 21st commander.

Fungus was growing in a new $10 million tiny-house village being assembled at Camp Justice, the military court compound at Guantánamo Bay that has been troubled by mold for years. So plans to house lawyers assigned to the Sept. 11 case there have been postponed until late next year.

Elsewhere on the base, an M.R.I. device suffered a “catastrophic failure” from neglect during the pandemic, according to court testimony. The military now intends to lease one through a process that could drag on for months.

At a third site, construction of a $115 million dormitory is a year behind schedule. It is meant to house soldiers assigned to the prison, an operation that employs 41 guards and civilians for each detainee.

More than 20 years have passed since the George W. Bush administration brought the first detainees to this remote outpost in southeast Cuba four months after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was a makeshift, temporary mission, and it is still being run that way — “expeditionary style,” as the military calls it.

When a brigadier general from the Michigan National Guard becomes the 21st commander of the detention mission later this year, he will inherit many of the same challenges as those who commanded before him: moldy, unsafe buildings; an outsize prison staff; and ailing, aging detainees, some still suffering the consequences of torture in C.I.A. prisons 2 decades ago.

“At Guantánamo, they continually put Band-Aids on instead of coming up with realistic solutions,” said retired Brig. Gen. John G. Baker, who as a Marine lawyer oversaw military defense teams at Guantánamo Bay for 7 years.

He said detainee operations suffer “in some respects from some of the same problems we had in Iraq and Afghanistan, where planning was too often the length of a deployment cycle. There’s continually a temporary mind-set to what has become a permanent problem.”

Over the years, the mission has cost $7 billion and has housed 780 detainees and tens of thousands of troops on mostly yearlong or shorter tours of duty. Even now, with just 36 detainees at the prison, each costing $13 million a year, there is no way of knowing when the mission might end.

The high costs are attributable in part to the enormous rotating work force — the prison calls staff members “war fighters” — at Guantánamo, which has 6,000 residents, hotels, bars, a K-12 school, suburban-style neighborhoods and a community hospital. Problems have also arisen because of the stop-and-go nature of planning for a detention operation that one president vowed to close and another pledged to grow, neither reaching his goal.

The Bush administration brought in all 780 detainees, then reduced the prison population to about 240. President Barack Obama’s team found places for about 200, but Congress thwarted his administration’s plan to transfer the last 41 prisoners to the United States.

Today, there are 36 detainees, including the only prisoner serving a life sentence, a Yemeni man. The youngest is in his late 30s. Lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and 4 other men accused of being his accomplices are in secret talks to resolve the case by allowing them to plead guilty in exchange for life sentences.

21 of the detainees have been approved for transfer with security assurances. If U.S. diplomats find places to send them, that would leave 15 men at the prison.

The troubled construction was years in the making, as planning failed to keep pace with the reality on the ground.

The $115 million barracks project offers an illustration.

The building was first proposed in 2013 by Gen. John F. Kelly, the Marine commander who had oversight of the prison and was championing quality-of-life improvements for the 1,900 prison staff members. Back then, Guantánamo held 166 detainees, for a ratio of 11 troops and civilians for every prisoner.

The Obama administration, which wanted to wind down prison operations, did not support the investment. Congress agreed to fund it in 2017 only after Donald J. Trump became president and vowed to refill the prison, an ambition he never realized.

Construction began 3 years later, in the midst of the pandemic.

It will accommodate 848 soldiers on 9-month deployments in suites, 2 “war fighters” sharing a bathroom. But it will not be ready before October 2023. A Navy spokeswoman blamed the delay, vaguely, on “unforeseen conditions” involving underground banks of ducts for base electricity and communications, “which have been addressed.”

Some projects were completed during the pandemic, mostly those that benefit the base, not the detainee mission. Contractors built a new section of road past the outdoor cinema and McDonald’s and finished a new $65 million school for sailors’ children. The base just dedicated a new post office inside an older building that took $3 million and 18 months to renovate.

But projects related to detainee operations were not as successful. Consider the case of the M.R.I. machine, which the military purchased for $1.65 million in 2012 as part of a long-term strategy to care for aging detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

It arrived 5 years later, after a military judge ordered an M.R.I. study of the brain of the defendant in the U.S.S. Cole bombing case. Brain damage, regardless of whether it is explicitly linked to torture in C.I.A. detention, may mean the difference between a life or death sentence for a convicted defendant.

The U.S. Southern Command had diverted the machine to an Army hospital in Georgia.

At Guantánamo, the 5-year-old device was troubled from the start, frequently out of service before it broke beyond repair during the pandemic.

“It was well known to be a problem,” Dr. Corry Jeb Kucik, a Navy captain serving as chief medical officer at the base, testified in June. “It was avoidable but not necessarily predictable.”

The military will now lease another machine, along with maintenance and delivery — another expeditionary solution to a long-term problem.

Doctors on the base have been overusing CT scans for years, Captain Kucik testified, by his calculation exposing prisoners to higher than the lifetime recommended amounts of radiation and increasing their risks of developing cancer.

“Because it is the imaging modality that is kind of the default, there is a risk that, you know, you could see cancers developing because of overuse or, you know, use in lieu of some other modality that would be equally effective, possibly superior, and less risky to the patient,” he said.

Captain Kucik was testifying in the case of a disabled prisoner, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, in his 60s, who has had 5 surgeries on his back at Guantánamo Bay and needs an imaging study before he gets a sixth operation. The United States is obliged under the Geneva Conventions to meet the medical needs of its war prisoners, and a military judge recently asked when a new M.R.I. machine would arrive.

The military has long addressed Guantánamo detention operations as a problem to be solved episodically, starting in the beginning, when Navy engineer built new cells at Camp X-Ray just days ahead of airlifts bringing new detainees from Afghanistan.

The idea of building today’s troubled tiny-house village emerged during the Trump administration, before prosecutors invited lawyers in the Sept. 11 case to engage in plea talks. The tiny houses were meant to accommodate legal teams and a jury if a military judge could wade through a decade of pretrial complications in the case and begin a death-penalty trial that was predicted to last a year.

Months into the pandemic, planners in the Office of Military Commissions decided to purchase about 150 single-occupancy, 375-square-foot “Casitas,” tiny houses from a Las Vegas firm named Boxabl that was in its earliest days.

“We didn’t even have a factory or anything,” said Galiano Tiramani, who established the business with his father. “It was just me and my dad.”

The Tiramanis acquired a warehouse and hired 100 workers to build, compact and truck the 30-by-20-foot shrink-wrapped containers to Jacksonville, Fla., for the military to ship by barge to Guantánamo Bay. Cost to taxpayers: about $65,000 each, excluding site and infrastructure preparation, which is still underway.

Each container held a folded-up tiny house with finished flooring, a bathroom, kitchen and cabinetry. Assembly, according to the company, could be done in an hour.

At Guantánamo, it has taken months to install the first 50 atop a cracked old airstrip. For reasons that spokesmen at the war court are unwilling to explain, something went wrong during assembly, and during heavy rains water sloshed inside. By the time reporters were permitted a visit in July, workers had hammered plastic sheeting onto the roofs of the first 50 or so units while awaiting supplies for more substantial fixes.

Inside, reporters saw rusty hinges, mold and fungus spreading across cabinetry. Ron Flesvig, a spokesman for the war court, declined to say how much the repairs would cost and how many houses would require renovating.

“No one will be assigned billeting in any unit until all safety and habitability standards are met,” he said.

(source: New York Times)

TURKEY:

Turkish state threatens those who oppose it in Afrin with death penalty

The Turkish state is threatening those who oppose it in Afrin with the death penalty.

The Turkish state, which has brought the death penalty to the agenda even though it is prohibited, is trying to perpetuate its occupation in Afrin in this way.

Using the silence of the international community, the Turkish invading state and its mercenaries are committing crimes against the people in the occupied Afrin canton.

The Turkish state has vowed to implement the death penalty in the territories it occupies, although it cannot do it in its own land.

Death sentences handed out

The "military court" in Ezaz, occupied by Turkish mercenaries, sentenced a citizen from Shiye to the death penalty and his family to prison. This happened a year after the kidnapping.

The names of the kidnapped and convicted persons are as follows: Hisên Yusif (22) was sentenced to death, his brother Izedin Yusif Hisên (20) was sentenced to 13 years in prison, their father Yusif Mistefa Hisên was sentenced to 3 years, and their cousin Mistefa Mihemed Hisên (24) was sentenced to 13 years. Zeynep Mihemed Olasli (29) was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Ehmed Hisên, the uncle of Hisên, Izedîn and Mistefa Hisên, and brother of Yusif Hisên, told ANHA: “The invading Turkish state and its mercenaries are attacking the citizens of occupied Afrin. They commit the most brutal acts. They are kidnapping Kurds in Afrin and demanding ransom for their release. They want to force people out of the city.”

Hisên pointed out that Turkish occupation mercenaries violate international law and agreements every day, killing dozens of Afrin people in prisons, and kidnapping hundreds.

Kurds are murdered

Hisên continued: "My brother, his children and his spouse were abducted in Afrin between 7 and 28 2021, and on July 27 of this year, a year after their abduction, the military court in the city of Ezaz convicted them."

Ehmed Hisên said: "Kurds are being murdered in the courts set up by the illegal occupation. The invading Turkish state and its mercenaries call Afrin Kurds terrorists. They invaded and destroyed Afrin, they killed its people."

Ehmed Hisên called on the international community to act and hold the Turkish state accountable.

(source: anfenglish.com)

MYANMAR:

Death Sentence for Captain Who Fled Army to Join Rebels----Saw Ye Htet fled the Tatmadaw in 2010 but was captured near the Thai border late last year.

A court martial has given the death sentence to a former military captain who fled the Tatmadaw and joined an insurgent group after he was charged with desertion and providing “intelligence to the enemy”.

Saw Ye Htet ran away from the army in 2010 while he was receiving treatment for back injuries after being beaten by a senior student during training in Pyin Oo Lwin, according to his wife.

He later joined the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) after living in Thailand for 2 years.

He was also sentenced for desertion, the Tatmadaw confirmed late last month, but has been transferred to a civilian prison. No death row inmates have been executed in Myanmar since the 1980s.

Colonel Maung Maung Latt, the spokesperson for Eastern Regional Military Command, told Myanmar Now that Saw Ye Htet was sentenced under section 32d and section 37 of the Defence Services Act.

The former forbids providing intelligence to an “enemy” and carries the death sentence. The latter punishes desertion while not on active service with up to seven years jail time, and gives the death sentence for desertion while on active service.

It is unclear if he was sentenced to death under just one of the sections or both.

Colonel Maung Maung Latt said both sections “are punishable by death” but did not elaborate on the details of his sentence, instead referring Myanmar Now to prison authorities.

Linn Bo Naung, the state head of the Mon State Prisons Department, said Saw Ye Htet has been transferred to Mawlamyine prison but declined to share further details about his sentence.

Htwe Htwe Khine, Saw Ye Htet’s wife, said he was given the death penalty and will appeal the sentence.

Saw Ye Htet hails from the Shan-ni ethnic minority in Myitkyina, Kachin State. He graduated from the Defence Services Academy’s 50th batch.

He worked with the DKBA until it split in 2014, and then went to work as a personal assistant to Colonel Saw San Aung, she said.

Last September she and Saw Ye Htet were travelling by motorcycle near Myawaddy when a group of men wearing civilian clothes captured him.

She visited him in Mawlamyine prison on March 23 and he was in good health, she said. She has been struggling to raise a 2-year-old child and finds it difficult to visit her husband in prison, she added.

(source: myanmar-now.org)

THAILAND----female gets death sentence

Woman gets death penalty for poisoning kids

A Thai woman was handed the death sentence after being found guilty of poisoning her 2 children and garnering donations by posting their sickness on social media. Nattiwan Rakkunjet, 29 years old, was charged with 1 count of murder with prosecutors recommending the death penalty.

Nattiwan adopted 1 of her 2 children at the age of 4 in 2015. But, she then proceeded to abuse the girl, named Nong Om Yim, by feeding her food that was laced with “mildly corrosive liquid.” The young girl’s gastrointestinal tract became damaged over time, causing her to eventually vomit blood.

According to the criminal court, the girl was admitted often to the hospital throughout the abuse, and succumbed to her illness on August 12, 2019. The adopted child’s biological mother, Mae Aim, implicated Nattiwan in her daughter’s death.

The woman also was found to have given poisoned food to her son starting when he was 2 years old. She then proceeded to post photos of her two sick children on Facebook to solicit donations. Her move was successful as she received large donations for her “ill” children.

Nattiwan was arrested on May 18, 2020, in Bangkok’s Don Mueang area, after investigators found her to be guilty of human trafficking by using her children to solicit donations. Further charges included attempted murder, and putting fraudulent information into a computer system.

Nattiwan eventually confessed after overwhelming evidence made it clear she was caught. Normally, in Thai court cases, if a guilty person confesses, they receive a reduced sentence. But, due to confessing only after it was obvious that she was guilty, the Court did not consider her confession when handing down her sentence.

The Court also ordered her to return donations that she received in the amount of 42,000 baht. The mobile phones that she allegedly bought with the donation money were also confiscated.

(source: Bangkok Post)

BANGLADESH:

SC upholds death sentence of Rajshahi University professor

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday published a 68-page verdict upholding the death sentence of a Rajshahi University (RU) professor and another person for killing Dr S Taher Ahmed, a fellow faculty member, in 2006.

The verdict has been published after being signed by Chief Justice Hasan Foez Siddique and 6 judges of the Appellate Division, reports BSS.

In its observation, the Appellate Division said that the convict Mia Mohammad Mohiuddin feared that he would not be able to become a professor if Taher remains alive, and therefore killed him out of professional jealousy.

Segufta Tabassum Ahmed, an advocate of the Supreme Court and also the daughter of Professor Taher, said to BSS, “We’ve received the certified copy of the verdict. We expect that the death penalties will be implemented soon.”

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on April 5 upheld the original verdict handed down by the Speedy Trial Tribunal awarding death penalty to Rajshahi University Professor Dr Mia Mohammad Mohiuddin and caretaker of teachers housing area Jahangir Alam, for murdering Dr Ahmed.

The Appellate Division simultaneously upheld the life term of 2 others - Alam's brother Nazmul Alam and his brother-in-law Abdus Salam.

The trial court originally handed down death penalty to 4 people but a High Court division bench later acquitted two, upholding the capital punishment of Mohiuddin and Alam.

Dr Ahmed was a professor of Geology and Mining Department while convict Mohiuddin was an associate professor in the same department. Dr Ahemd went missing from his university quarter on February 1 in 2006. His body was found the next day in the septic tank.

On March 17, 2007, police filed charge sheet against 6. On May 22, 2008, the Rajshahi Speedy Trial Tribunal sentenced 4 people to death and acquitted two others. The acquitted were- former RU Chhatrashibir president Mahbubul Alam Salehi and Azimuddin Munshi.

On April 21, 2013, the High Court upheld the death sentence of Dr Mia Mohammad Mohiuddin and Md Jahangir Alamin and commuted the death sentences of Nazmul Alam, brother of Mohammad Jahangir Alam and Abdus Salam to life imprisonment.

As the death sentence convicts appealed against the High Court verdict, the appeal hearing began on February 22 this year.

(source: thefinancialexpress.com.bd)

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

Al Badr man gets death penalty for crimes in 1971

The International Crimes Tribunal yesterday sentenced absconding war criminal Khalilur Rahman to death for his crimes against humanity during the Liberation War of 1971.

A 3-member tribunal led by Justice Shahinur Islam pronounced the death sentence for Khalilur who is from Netrokona.

Prosecutors Rana Dasgupta and Rezia Sultana represented the state during the hearing while state appointed lawyer Gazi MH Tamim appeared for the accused.

Rezia said 3 of the 4 accused in the case died during the trial.

Khalilur was a commander of Al Badr in Chandigarh Union Parishad, she added.

Charges of illegal detention, torture, abduction, looting, arson, vandalism, attempted rape, rape, murder and genocide in 1971 were brought against the accused.

(source: The Daily Star)

VIETNAM:

Vietnamese death row inmate Dang Van Hien gets reduced sentence----Hien was convicted for a 2016 shooting in which he killed three people and injured 13 others.

Vietnamese President Nguy?n Xuân Phúc has commuted the death sentence of Dang Van Hien and reduced it to life in prison, Hien’s wife, Mai Thi Khuyen, told RFA on Thursday.

Hien was sentenced to death by the Dak Nong People’s Court in January 2018 for shooting employees of the Long Son Company who had come to confiscate his home and land in October 2016. 3 people were killed in the incident and 13 injured.

“[I am] extremely happy and moved. Everyone in our family cheered, relatives from both sides [her and his relatives] and friends, all are sending us their congratulations,” Khuyen told RFA. She said that since her husband’s arrest, her family has encountered significant financial difficulties. She has had to work as a farmer to support her family and pay compensation to the victims of the incident.

Hien’s sentence was widely controversial in Vietnam, where authorities regularly authorize private companies to appropriate land for large-scale projects, often at the expense of individual landowners. The Ho Chi Minh City’s High-Level People’s Court upheld Hien’s sentence at an appeal trial six months after his conviction.

Del. Luu Binh Nhuong, who serves as the deputy head of the National Assembly's Committee on People’s Aspirations, said in October 2019 that he had forwarded a petition from Hien’s lawyers asking for leniency to his committee to Nguyen Phu Trong, who at the time was president of Vietnam, state media reported.

The petition described Hein as a hard-working farmer without a prior criminal record and argued that the shooting was the result of emotional stress, anger and pressure that employees from the Long Son Company, including the victims, had put on Hien at his residence. The petition said that the employees carried out an unlawful eviction despite Hien’s protests.

In July 2018, then Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang publicly requested the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People's Procuracy and the Ministry of Public Security investigate Dang Van Hien’s case.

The reassessed sentence, which moves Hien off death row and into life imprisonment, appears to end a years-long process that caught the attention of Vietnamese citizens from across the country, many of whom expressed frustration at the government’s land appropriation policies.>{? (source: rfa.org)

AFGHANISTAN:

Taliban torture and execute Hazaras in targeted attack – new investigation----6 people killed during a night raid on a family home in Ghor province, including a 12-year-old girl; Ongoing Taliban killings indicate a pattern of attacks on ethnic minorities and members of the former security forces

Taliban fighters killed 6 Hazara people in a deliberate attack on the ethnic minority group in Afghanistan’s Ghor province, Amnesty International said today following a new investigation.

On 26 June 2022, the Taliban detained and unlawfully executed 4 men during a night raid operation in search of a former security official. The body of at least 1 of those executed showed signs of torture. A woman and a 12-year-old girl were also killed during the raid.

The attack is part of a wider pattern of unlawful targeted killings of people whom the Taliban perceives as adversaries, in this case being both members of the Hazara community and those who were associated with the former Afghan government.

“The Taliban must immediately end this cruel pattern of targeted killings and, as the de facto authorities, ensure the protection of all Afghans,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“The Taliban must investigate these killings and ensure that those responsible are prosecuted in accordance with international human rights obligations and standards. If the de facto authorities cannot provide justice, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should immediately open full investigations into all cases of extrajudicial executions. In addition, along with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation in Afghanistan, Amnesty International calls for an independent accountability mechanism in and for Afghanistan.”

Amnesty International documented similar extrajudicial executions of Hazara people in Ghazni province in July 2021, and Daykundi province in August 2021. Despite publicly promising not to target former government officials, the Taliban have still not investigated or prosecuted anyone for the killings.

Amnesty International conducted eight remote interviews, including with witnesses to the June 2022 attack, analyzed 38 photos and three videos that were taken in the aftermath of the attack, consulted a forensic pathologist to review the images of the bodies, and reviewed satellite imagery of the area to confirm the location of one of the killings. Several of the photos analyzed were published online by Taliban media, including the Ghor Province Governor Media Office, which deleted the post soon after publication.

Family members killed

On the night of 26 June 2022, Taliban forces raided the home of Mohamad Muradi, a Hazara man and security official under the former government who had also previously led a People’s Uprising Program force – a local militia – against the Taliban in 2020 and 2021.

Muradi had recently returned to his home in Chahar Asyab, in the Lal wa Sarjangal district in Ghor province, after failing in an attempt to flee to Iran, and then hiding in other cities around the country. Like many who had been involved in Taliban opposition, Muradi had not taken up the offer of a personalized ‘amnesty letter’ – often issued to former security and government officials, offering permission to return home in exchange for a promise to lay down arms – due to the fear of reprisal attacks by the Taliban.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that, on the night of the attack, Taliban forces fired rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at Muradi’s home, killing Taj Gul Muradi, his 22-year-old daughter, who had studied medicine and had been providing health care in the community. The attack wounded Muradi and two of Muradi’s other children, a son and his 12-year-old daughter. The girl suffered severe stomach injuries and died the next day.

Muradi’s left leg was injured, and he surrendered to Taliban forces through the intervention of local elders. However, the Taliban then dragged him outside of the house and shot him dead. An analysis of photos of Muradi’s body shows damage to the front of his shirt, indicating a likely chest wound, and an exit wound in his forehead.

Amnesty International reviewed photos and videos that show damage to Muradi’s home consistent with witness testimony. The images were also geolocated by analyzing visible features – including vegetation, nearby pavements and the buildings’ layout – and satellite imagery.

Tortured and extrajudicially executed

Three other men who had been staying at Muradi’s home were detained and then extrajudicially executed. 2 of them, like Muradi, had previously been members of the People’s Uprising Program force, though none had taken part in fighting with the militia for some time.

Ghulam Haider Mohammadi, Muradi’s nephew, had been visiting relatives. Photos of Mohammadi’s body indicate that he was executed with at least one gunshot to head, while kneeling and with his hands bound behind him. Locals found his body approximately 50 meters from Muradi’s home, left between some rocks in a tree-covered area.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that the other two victims – named Asif Rezayee and Arif Sangaree – were put in a vehicle and driven away to be killed in a separate location. The bodies of the two men were later discovered in an uninhabited part of Takeghal, more than 30 minutes’ drive from where they were initially detained.

Asif Rezayee had been living in Kabul but had returned to his home village a few days prior to visit family members. Rezayee was executed by gunfire while his hands were cuffed behind his back. Photos and a video of his body show 4 distinct gunshot wounds, to the head, chest, right thigh, and left hand. Based upon the nature of the wounds, apparent bullet trajectory, and gun powder stains, the wounds to the leg and hand were done at close range prior to execution. Such intentional infliction of pain on a bound detainee constitutes torture, a crime under international law.

Photos indicate that Arif Sangaree was also executed while bound and detained, with at least one close range shot to the head. One of the photos posted by the Taliban to Facebook, claiming credit for the successful operation, shows Sangaree with a significant facial wound surrounded by fresh bright red arterial blood, indicating the Taliban took the photo immediately after his death. In contrast, photos provided by people who discovered the body show Sangaree with the identical wound, but the blood dark and dried, meaning time had passed.

The Taliban news sources that posted the image of Arif Sangeree’s body described the night raid as a “targeted operation” that culminated in a fight between “rebels” and “Mujahideen”, or the Taliban. The account claimed seven rebels had been killed, detained and wounded, and that one Taliban member was killed, with 2 others wounded.

To justify the deaths, the statement went on to say that the raid had occurred after fighters associated with Mawlavi Mahadi, the Hazara leader of a Taliban defector group, had attacked the Taliban in Balkhab district of Sar-e-Pul province, and then fled and established themselves in the village of Chahar Asyab. This Taliban statement is incorrect. While this fighting has been documented by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation in Afghanistan in his 6 September 2022 report, which includes cases of Taliban executions of fighters hors de combat, Muradi and his family members were not members of Mahadi’s group or taking part in this round of attacks. Rather, Amnesty International believes the Taliban justification is a pretext for targeting ethnic minorities and soldiers associated with the former government.

Background

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan following the collapse of the government in mid-August 2021. Amnesty International has called for the protection of thousands of Afghans at serious risk of Taliban reprisals. There have been numerous cases of raids and extrajudicial executions targeting those the Taliban perceives as adversaries – those affiliated with the former government particularly Hazaras/Shias or those fighting with the National Resistance Front (NRF).

(source: Amnesty International)

INDIA:

Tripura HC Revokes Death-Sentence Of 2 Rape-Murder Convicts; Instead Sentenced With Rigorous Life Imprisonment

A division bench of the Tripura High Court has revoked the death sentence of 2 rape-murder convicts and sentenced them with rigorous life imprisonment.

The bench comprising of Justice T. Amarnath Gour and Justice Arindam Lodh held several rounds of hearing on the review petition, filed against the February 2020 judgement of District and Session Judge of Gomati District – A.K. Nath; who had awarded the death sentence to these convicts.

Its worthy to note that the convicts – Kashtarai Tripura (31) and Bhanjay Tripura (29) were apprehended for sexually abusing and murdering an innocent tribal teenager girl in the interior areas of Gabordi in Gomati district on 2019.

However, in a fast-tracked trial, both the accused were awarded with death sentence alongside fine on 2020.

The 2 convicts had filed an appeal against the sentence through their lawyers – Samrat Kar Bhowmik and Subrata Sarkar. After prolonged hearing, the division bench of high court commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment.

(source: northeasttoday.in)

SRI LANKA:

Drug trafficker ‘Wele Suda’ brought to court amid heavy security

The Colombo High Court Thursday ordered that the money laundering case filed against 3 defendants, Gampola Vithanage Samantha Kumara alias ‘Wele Suda’, a notorious drug trafficker on death row, will be called on December 05.

Colombo High Court Judge Aditya Patabendige fixed the date for the trial.

Wele Suda, who is accused of acquiring assets and money worth more than Rs. 180 million through drug trafficking, was presented to the court amid tight security arrangements.

The wife of Wele Suda, who is named as another defendant in the case, also appeared in the court.

Wele Suda has been convicted of drug trafficking and is currently on death row.

The Attorney General has filed this case against Wele Suda, his wife and a cousin, accusing them of committing an offense under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act by acquiring houses and properties in Dehiwala, Rajagiriya, Madivela and other areas of Colombo with money earned from drug trafficking.

(source: colombopage.com)

PHILIPPINES:

Senate to clarify Marcos’ stance on death penalty

The Senate will clarify the stand of President Marcos on the possibility of imposing death penalty on high-level drug trafficking, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said.

During an interview Wednesday night with One News’ “The Chiefs” aired over Cignal/TV5, Dela Rosa said that through the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), the Senate would inquire about the stand of the President.

“Granting he really doesn’t want the death penalty, then it will have a huge impact on the Senate,” Dela Rosa said. “Chances are we might not be interested in pursuing the measure if that is his stand. What’s the use of trying to craft a bill and belaboring ourselves up to third reading and at the end, Malacañang will just veto it? We will clarify that.”

Dela Rosa said that in 2016 there was information that the President was reportedly supportive of the imposition of death penalty for high-level drug trafficking, but not for heinous crimes.

“We respect everyone’s stand, I have my own stand. As far as crafting the law is concerned, the legislature is crafting the law. But while the proposed measure can pass Congress, it needs to be submitted to the President to sign into law. He can veto or sign it into law,” he said.

Dela Rosa said there is a need for a clarification to avoid waste of money and efforts in crafting laws from debates and amendments, which will only be vetoed by the President.

(source: philstar.com)

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

CHR lauds PBBM’s death penalty remarks

If the Philippines revives death penalty, it will lose its moral ground to plead for the lives of overseas Filipino workers who may and are now in death row abroad, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Friday, Sept. 16.

With its stand, the CHR supported the remarks made by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who said: “The death penalty is a tough one because there is a practical issue and a moral issue involved. And the question is, does society have the right to kill its own people? And that’s a tough one to get around.”

It said that President Marcos even cited data that showed that the death penalty did not really deter crimes.

CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said President Marcos’ statements are correct since there is no credible evidence that would prove the death penalty can help curb crimes.

“It is also a sad reality, as proven by studies, that those facing execution are mostly from the poor, with no access to competent lawyers nor to decent education that empower them about their rights,” De Guia said.

She even cited a Supreme Court (SC) decision which states that the error rate in imposing the death sentence is 71.77 per cent. “This shows that such policy is disproportionately disadvantageous to the poor,” said added.

At the same time De Guia stressed that “a government that employs a policy of killing loses the moral ascendancy to stop killings.”

“As we have numerously stressed, committing a crime to deter a crime can only breed more harm and may perpetuate a cycle of violence because the children and family of the executed person are left to suffer the sorrow of loss and stigma from society,” she said.

She pointed out that seven out of 10 Filipinos will not choose the death penalty when presented with facts and its impact. This was the finding of the CHR in its 2020 study on factors affecting Filipino opinion about the death penalty, she said.

She added: “CHR believes that all crimes must be punished through an efficient and incorrupt justice system. But death penalty must not exist in a society that values human life. Instead, we must continually endeavor to address the complex and deeper problems that result to crimes to truly eliminate violence and promote a peaceful, humane society.”

(source: Manila Bulletin)

MALAYSIA:

Malaysia confirms pledge to end death penalty----Southeast Asian nation to impose ‘alternative punishments,’ put a moratorium on 1,337 death-row inmates

Malaysia will abolish the mandatory death penalty and replace it with other types of punishment for several offences, a government minister said.

Minister of Law, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the decision was made after a series of meetings held on Sept 6 and 13, Channel News Asia reported on Sept. 14.

The meetings of the Substitute Sentences for the Mandatory Death Penalty Task Force Technical Committee were led by Minister Jaafar and key members of government agencies who agreed in principle to a proposal to substitute the sentences for 11 offences that carry the mandatory death penalty.

The minister also announced a moratorium for 1,337 death-convict inmates in Malaysia.

He also reiterated his stand on abolishing the death penalty and bringing in punishments that match the gravity of the offence.

“I remain committed to fighting for fairer and compassionate laws on the issue of whipping and the death penalty,” the minister stated in a Facebook post.

"A welcome step in the right direction"

The recommendations of the Technical Committee will be submitted to a cabinet meeting and then presented in parliament this month.

Representatives of the Malaysian Prison Department, Ministry of Home Affairs, Royal Malaysia Police, and representatives from various agencies attended the meeting.

In June, the Malaysian government initiated the process to abolish the mandatory death penalty, which was a long-standing demand from activists. The move was hailed across the globe.

Amnesty International Malaysia's executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv hailed the move as "a welcome step in the right direction, and we urge [the government] to go further and work towards full abolition of this cruel punishment,” AFP news agency reported in June.

In Malaysia crimes punishable by death include drug trafficking, terrorism, murder, rape resulting in death, kidnapping, and the possession of firearms wherein the judge does not have the option to give any alternate or lesser punishments.

The Catholic Church in Malaysia has been vehemently opposing capital punishment and is vocal in supporting its removal from the justice system.

“Waiting for the day when we can celebrate the abolition of the death penalty"

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) is an abolitionist campaign supported by people from all levels of society including Christians.

In Oct. 2018, Charles Hector, a member of MADPET voiced his support for the then government's move to end capital punishment.

Hector said that they were “waiting for the day when we can celebrate the abolition of the death penalty, and death row will disappear in Malaysia,” the Vatican’s Fides news agency reported.

Malaysia carried out its last execution in 2018 and then imposed a moratorium.

In contrast to Malaysia, Singapore has drawn the ire of the international community for the recent executions of 10 prisoners for the crime of drug trafficking.

(source: ucanews.com)

LIBYA:

Libyan Christian Convert From Islam Sentenced to Death for Apostasy

A Christian convert from Islam has been sentenced to death by the Court of Appeal in Misrata, north-west Libya.

The man became a Christian around 4 years ago, and has been arrested several times since then by Libyan militias who act as law enforcement in the disordered country.

The death sentence for apostasy was applied as a result of his refusal to return to Islam.

Libya’s General National Congress (the GNC, which sat from 2012 to 2014) passed a law stating that apostates from Islam who refuse to recant will be sentenced to death.

All laws passed by the GNC were subsequently abolished by its replacement, the Libyan House of Representatives.

However, the Libyan Supreme Court in Tripoli has ruled that the House of Representatives is illegal, allowing courts to continue to apply laws passed by the GNC, including the death penalty for apostasy.

The death penalty for sane adult males who renounce Islam is compulsory in all schools of sharia (Islamic law). The Maliki school – which is dominant in Libya – also makes mandatory the death penalty for sane female apostates from Islam.

Like other Sunni schools, the Maliki school allows the apostate 3 days in which to repent before applying the death penalty. The Maliki interpretation of sharia requires that the apostate must previously have been a practicing Muslim to deserve the death penalty.

Only a handful of countries have this aspect of Islamic law in their national laws. Even those who have it rarely sentence anyone to death and of those who are sentenced very few have actually been executed.

(source: barnabasfund.org)

EGYPT:

Egyptian dies of heart attack in court after hearing death penalty verdict----Man was convicted of killing his father-in-law with help of his fiancée, her mother

A young Egyptian died of heart attack immediately after hearing the judge pronouncing death penalty for him for killing the father of his fiancée, local media reported.

The man was convicted of premeditated murder along with his fiancée and her mother. He suffered a heart attack in the court when he heard the death penalty pronounced by the judge who referred his papers to the Mufti for approving his execution.

The court issued its ruling after the man was found guilty of murdering his father-in-law after his fiancée told him that her father used to sexually harass her. The body of the victim was found dumped on the side of an empty street.

(source: Gulf News)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia among 3 countries responsible for 88 % of executions

The annual report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the death penalty confirmed that Saudi Arabia, along with other countries, has resumed executions in light of widespread violations of international law.

The report was issued in the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, covers the period from July 2020 to June 2022 and is based on reports and interventions by states, international and regional United Nations bodies, and non-governmental organizations.

In the introduction to his report, Secretary-General António Guterres made it clear that the states that have not yet completely abolished the death penalty should be on an irreversible path towards its complete abolition, de facto and de jure. The death penalty cannot be reconciled with full respect for the right to life. The report indicated that 170 countries have abolished or suspended the death penalty, but contrary to the global trend, a minority of countries continued to use it.

Re-introduction or extension of the death penalty or the resumption of executions

Measures taken in the context of the coronavirus disease pandemic have had an impact on the imposition and application of the death penalty. In 2020 was reported a decrease in the number of death sentences handed down and executed in several countries, including Saudi Arabia. Due to the measures adopted to tackle the epidemic. However, with the easing of pandemic restrictions in 2021 and 2022, executions resumed or increased in many countries, and three countries including Saudi Arabia accounted for 88 of all known executions that year.

Safeguards guarantee the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty

Limiting the use of the death penalty to the “most serious crimes”

Many countries continued to impose and apply the death penalty for terrorism-related crimes. The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council have expressed concerns about the use of counter-terrorism laws in countries, including Saudi Arabia, against foreign nationals and persons belonging to minorities. According to reports, the sentences were handed down despite judicial procedures that reportedly failed to achieve a fair trial and allegations of arbitrary arrest, torture, ill-treatment, and enforced disappearance.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the mass executions in Saudi Arabia on terrorism-related charges, including against people belonging to minorities who participated in anti-government protests.

Fair trial guarantees

Some death sentences were handed down after arbitrary arrests, a lack of due process and fair trial guarantees, and allegations of torture, including in the context of implementing counter-terrorism laws in countries including Saudi Arabia.

It was reported that many people on death row were unable to obtain personal legal representation, and some defence attorneys reported that they were unable to carry out their investigative work effectively. Concerns have also mounted that they are discouraging lawyers from taking on death penalty cases and making it difficult to find legal representation for people on death row.

Execution of minors

Death sentences for crimes committed by people under the age of 18 are still legal in some countries. It is believed that perpetrators under 18 at the time of the crime are on death row in countries including Saudi Arabia.

Special procedures mandate holders expressed grave concern about the death sentences handed down against juveniles in Saudi Arabia, despite the sentences handed down after trials that reportedly failed to meet fair trial guarantees and allegations of arbitrary detention and torture. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had called on Saudi Arabia to immediately release a person who was arrested when he was 14 years old and sentenced to death after a trial involving irregularities, including an admission of guilt that was said to have been extracted under torture.

The Working Group and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions urged Saudi Arabia to adopt without delay the necessary legislative measures to abolish the imposition of the death penalty on children for all crimes, including those punishable by Qisas and Hadd punishments.

The Secretary-General ended his report with some conclusions and recommendations, including:

He notes with concern that, after suspensions due partly to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the imposition and application of the death penalty has resumed or increased in many countries.

The Secretary-General recalls that all States should fully respect their obligations under international human rights law. The Retentionist States should impose the death penalty only for the “most serious crimes”, which has been consistently interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing.

States should abolish the mandatory death penalty. Further, a process that takes into account the personal circumstances of the offender and the particular circumstances of the offence.

Pending abolition, States should also ensure that legal guarantees and safeguards are effectively put in place and implemented, including the right to seek pardon and commutation through procedures that offer certain essential guarantees.

ESOHR explains that in light of the intimidation of society, the intimidation of families and the lack of transparency, it is difficult to access documents and real numbers about the individuals who are currently on death row. However, according to the documentation of the European Saudi Organization, at least 34 people are still facing the death penalty, including 8 minors.

(source: scottishlegal.com)

IRAN:

Statement of international solidarity with the families of people sentenced to death in Iran-----STATEMENT By The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, on 15 September 2022

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty express its solidarity with the families and relatives of people who are sentenced to death in Iran and with the civil society organizations supporting them.

The World Coalition strongly condemn the repression they are facing since 6 September 2022, when families of people sentenced to death in Iran started gathering outside the Iranian Judiciary offices and the Revolutionary Courts where they stood peacefully to say “don’t execute”. On 11 September several of the families have been arrested or beaten by the police.

They have good reasons to demonstrate as according to Iran Human Rights more than 413 executions have been recorded so far in 2022 in Iran for the 1st time since 2017. In the first 2 weeks of September alone, at least 44 people have been executed. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and preventing worried families from gathering to express their grief and concerns when their loved ones are at imminent risk of executions goes beyond understanding.

The World Coalition call on the United Nations and its Member States, to take concrete measures to prevent further executions, including by making public outcry about the repression faced by the families of people sentenced to death.

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty is an alliance of more than 160 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities and unions. The aim of the World Coalition is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty. Its objective is to obtain the universal abolition of the death penalty.

For more information read: https://iranhr.net/en/articles/5476/

BE INFORMED ABOUT THE SITUATION BY FOLLOWING THE WORLD COALITION’S IRANIAN MEMBERS: Abdorrahman Boroumand Center: https://twitter.com/IranRights_org/

Human Rights Activists in Iran (in Farsi only): https://twitter.com/hra_news

Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO): https://twitter.com/IHRights/

(source: worldcoalition.org)

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

World Coalition Against Death Penalty Expresses Solidarity With Protesting Death Row Families and Calls for Concrete International Action

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) today expressed solidarity with protests by death row families, and called on the United Nations and its Member States, to take concrete measures to prevent further executions, including a public outcry about the repression faced by the families of people sentenced to death.

The statement published today, 15 September 2022 states: "The World Coalition strongly condemns the repression they are facing since 6 September 2022, when families of people sentenced to death in Iran started gathering outside the Iranian Judiciary offices and the Revolutionary Courts where they stood peacefully to say “don’t execute”. On 11 September several of the families were arrested or beaten by the police.

They have good reasons to demonstrate as according to Iran Human Rights, more than 413 executions have been recorded so far in 2022 in Iran for the first time since 2017. In the first two weeks of September alone, at least 44 people have been executed. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and preventing worried families from gathering to express their grief and concerns when their loved ones are at imminent risk of executions goes beyond understanding.

The World Coalition calls on the United Nations and its Member States, to take concrete measures to prevent further executions, including by making a public outcry about the repression faced by the families of people sentenced to death.

The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty is an alliance of more than 160 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities, and unions. The aim of the World Coalition is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the death penalty. Its objective is to obtain the universal abolition of the death penalty.

For more information read: https://iranhr.net/en/articles/5476/

Iran Human Rights is a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and since 2011 an elected member of the World Coalition's Steering Committee

(source: iranhr.net)

SEPTEMBER 15, 2022:

TEXAS:

Woman accused of murdering pregnant pal for her baby faces death penalty----Reagan Simmons-Hancock's three-year-old daughter watched her mother die, police say

A Texas mom desperate for another baby is on trial for allegedly murdering a pregnant pal and cutting the fetus from the woman’s womb.

If convicted, Taylor Parker, 29, could face a date with the executioner.

Parker is accused of killing Reagan Simmons-Hancock, 21, who was 34 weeks pregnant, and her unborn baby daughter Braxlynn Sage in New Boston, Texas in October 2020.

Cops and prosecutors have charged that Parker wove a tapestry of half-truths and outright lies as she constructed her own twisted pregnancy story.

She has pleaded not guilty to capital murder and kidnapping, as well as non-capital murder in connection with the death of the premature baby.

Detectives theorized that Parker — a mother of two who already had a hysterectomy — lived in fear of losing her boyfriend, Wade Griffin, and faked a pregnancy for nearly 10 months. She was unable to have any more kids.

Investigators unravelled an elaborate fraud that they say culminated in murder.

Parker faked ultrasounds, threw a gender reveal party and constantly posted on social media with breathless updates about her pregnancy.

And cops say she was searching for a victim and found it in Simmons-Hancock. She stabbed the young mother multiple times with a scalpel before crushing her skull with a hammer and cutting out the baby.

Simmons-Hancock’s 3-year-old daughter watched her mother die.

Bowie County District Attorney Kelley Crisp called Parker an “actress of the highest order.”

“The lies and fraud go on and on — the layers of fraud are staggering. You are going to have to understand the fraud to understand what happened on Oct. 9,” Crisp told jurors.

“This started months and months ahead of time until it passed the point of no return, and it ended up in homicide.”

After allegedly killing the young mother, Parker drove alone with the baby in her lap. She even placed the placenta down her pants to look as though she had just given birth.

She was later pulled over by the Texas Highway Patrol as she tried to perform CPR on the dying child.

Detectives say Parker later admitted she had not given birth and had battered Simmons-Hancock before stealing the baby.

Her befuddled beau thought Parker was going to be induced to have their baby later that day. Witnesses testified that Parker offered $100,000 for a surrogate mother after she lied to her boyfriend about being pregnant.

She has pleaded not guilty and her lawyers asked jurors to keep an open mind as her trial began Monday.

(source: torontosun)

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

US Woman Stabs Acquaintance, Cuts Off Her Foetus "To Make Boyfriend Stay"

A woman went on trial this week in Texas for allegedly killing a pregnant acquaintance and cutting the fetus out of her to present as her own child.

Taylor Parker, 29, could face the death penalty for the October 2020 attack in New Boston in northeast Texas against 21-year-old Reagan Simmons-Hancock. The baby did not survive.

Parker has pleaded not guilty to charges of capital murder.

Prosecutors say Parker disguised herself for months to look pregnant to her boyfriend and posted on social media about her bogus physical state while searching for a potential victim.

Parker could not have kids of her own, having undergone a hysterectomy.

Prosecutors say Parker staged the ruse to make her boyfriend think she was carrying his child, as she feared losing the man.

The prosecution says that on October 9, 2020 Parker went to the home of Simmons-Hancock, a friend of hers who was in the late stage of her pregnancy, and stabbed her more than 100 times.

Parker allegedly carved the fetus out of her, left the woman's 3-year-old child sleeping in another room, and fled the crime scene.

Parker was driving with the baby in her lap when police stopped her not long after. She said she had just given birth.

The baby was rushed to a hospital but died.

The trial is expected to last at least a month.

On Tuesday, the court heard that weeks before the killing, Parker started to scope out pregnant women in baby clothing stores or maternity wards, KTAL television reported.

Shortly before the attack, she watched videos of women giving birth and undergoing C-sections, the prosecution alleged.

(source: ndtv.com)

FLORIDA:

Defense team unexpectedly rests its case in death penalty trial of Parkland school shooter

The defense team in the trial of Parkland, Florida, school shooter Nikolas Cruz abruptly rested its case Wednesday, leading the judge to admonish his attorneys for what she described as a “level of unprofessionalism” she had never before experienced.

The defense team planned to call 80 witnesses, lead defense attorney Melisa McNeill said in opening the case, but by Wednesday it had called just 26. So, its move appeared to come as a shock to the judge and prosecutors, who’d arrived in court expecting Cruz’s defense team to call its first witness of the day.

Prosecutors in the case, which spawns from the Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that reignited calls nationwide for stricter gun laws, then told the judge they were not ready to proceed with their rebuttal.

“We were waiting for 40 more witnesses,” lead prosecutor Mike Satz said Wednesday, throwing up his hands.

Without jurors present, state Judge Elizabeth Scherer went on to criticize the defense for “another day wasted” in a trial that has seen numerous delays and postponements.

“Even if you didn’t make your decision until this morning, to have 22 people, plus all of the staff and every attorney, march into court and be waiting as if it’s some kind of game – now I have to send them home,” she said. “The state’s not ready, they’re not going to have a witness ready. We have another day wasted.”

“I honestly, I have never experienced (this) level of unprofessionalism in my career,” Scherer said. “It’s unbelievable.”

McNeil started to respond: “You’re insulting me on the record in front of my client, and I believe that I should be able to defend myself,” the attorney said.

But the judge stopped her, saying, “You’ve been insulting me the entire trial, blatantly. Taking your headphones off, arguing with me, storming out, coming late intentionally if you don’t like my rulings. So, quite frankly, this has been long overdue.”

Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg who was killed in the shooting, tweeted his response to the defense resting its case.

“I am in complete shock. That is all I will say about the trial at this time. Once the jury renders its verdict, I will have much to say,” his tweet read.

Cruz pleaded guilty last October to 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Parkland spree shooting. That triggered the current phase of his trial, which is meant to determine his sentence.

Prosecutors have asked a jury to recommend he be sentenced to death, while Cruz’s defense has asked for a sentence of life in prison without parole. To recommend a death sentence, jurors must be unanimous. If they do so, the judge could choose to follow their recommendation or sentence Cruz to life instead.

The rebuttal by state prosecutors could happen as soon as September 27. Closing arguments could take place as early as October 10, the judge said Wednesday.

Scherer on Wednesday questioned Cruz about the defense decision to rest its case, making sure the defendant had an opportunity to discuss it with his lawyers and understood it meant no more witnesses would take the stand in his defense.

“Are you comfortable with the decision?” Scherer asked.

“Yes,” Cruz replied.

The names of witnesses who had yet to be called were read in court, and Cruz was asked if he wanted anyone on the list to testify, including his brother. Cruz said no.

Court deputies exit vans that transported jurors to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, to view the "1200 building," the crime scene where the 2018 shootings took place. This during the penalty phase in the trial of confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz who previously plead guilty to all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. Cruz waived his right to be present at the viewing.

Defense attorneys in laying out their case in the penalty phase aimed to present the jury with mitigating factors – reasons Cruz should not be put to death. They detailed a lifetime of struggles at home and in school, including being born to a woman McNeill described as a drug and alcohol abuser who worked as a prostitute while pregnant with Cruz.

Cruz also exhibited developmental and educational difficulties throughout his life that his lawyers argued were not appropriately addressed.

“His brain is broken; he’s a damaged human being,” McNeill said in the defense’s opening statement.

Prosecutors have argued Cruz’s decision to carry out the massacre, in which he killed 14 students and three school staff members, was not based on a whim but premeditated and calculated. They presented the jury with Cruz’s online search history in the months leading up to the shooting, along with social media comments expressing a desire to kill people.

Their case was followed by impact statements from the families of the victims, including many parents who spent days offering emotional testimony about how the shooter robbed them not only of their children but those victims’ futures – and the graduations, first jobs, weddings and grandchildren that will never be celebrated.

Jurors also toured the site of the shooting – the high school’s 1200 building – which had been sealed to preserve it for the trial. Inside, they found a scene riddled with bullet holes, bloodstains, Valentine’s Day gifts and cards and other things students and teachers left behind as they fled gunfire.

(source: CNN)

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

A Look at Florida's Death Penalty History as Parkland School Shooter Trial Nears End----As a jury decides the fate of the confessed Parkland killer, here's a look back at the history of the death penalty in the state of Florida

A South Florida jury is currently tasked with deciding the fate of the 23-year-old gunman who opened fire in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on in 2018, killing 17 people and injuring 17 others.

The sentencing trial for the confessed Parkland shooter, now 23-year-old Nikolas Cruz, has become one of the most notable death penalty trials in the state's history.

As the gunman prepares to be faced with either a death sentence or life in prison without parole, here's a look back at the history of the death penalty in the state of Florida:

History of the death penalty in Florida

Aside from the federal government, Florida is 1 of 27 states with the death penalty as an option for adults who commit 1st-degree murder, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The state’s history of capital punishment dates back nearly two centuries. According to the DPIC, Florida's 1st known execution was carried out in 1827 when Benjamin Donica was hanged for murder.

At the time of Donica's death, executions were being carried out by the county, rather than the state. Nearly a century later in 1923, Florida placed executions under state control, according to the DPIC.

That same year, the state also changed its execution method from hanging to electrocution, or “the electric chair.”

Florida's most notorious death row inmate to die on the electric chair was Ted Bundy. The serial killer died in 1989 — 10 years after he was sentenced to death for murdering 2 sorority girls at Florida State University.

Throughout the 1990s, the state of Florida botched the electric chair executions of several inmates like Jesse Tafero, Pedro Medina, and Allen Lee Davis. The state subsequently changed the standard method to lethal injection, although inmates are still able to opt for the electric chair.

Known by the media as the “1st female serial killer,” Aileen Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in 2002 for the murder of an electronics store owner in Clearwater named Richard Mallory. Though Wuornos suffered from severe mental illness, the state of Florida found her competent for execution, according to the DPIC.

In 2016, Florida abolished judicial override — the process by which trial judges were permitted to impose death sentences — despite an advisory jury’s recommendation for life, the DPIC says.

The decision came after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 2016 case of Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of using a box cutter to kill a coworker at a Pensacola fast-food restaurant in 1998. A judge imposed the death penalty after a 7-5 jury recommendation.

SCOTUS ruled the sentence was unconstitutional because the judge had too much weight in the decision. Executions were halted for months while the state sorted out the issue.

In 2017, the law was changed to require a unanimous decision by the jury in order for the trial judge to impose a death sentence.

As a result of this statute, the Florida jury tasked with deciding the fate of the confessed Parkland shooter must be unanimous in its decision for the killer to be sentenced to death.

Death row in Florida, by the numbers

As of Sep. 13, 2022, there are currently 307 inmates on death row in the state of Florida, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Of the 307 inmates currently on the roster, only 3 are women. These women are housed at Lowell Annex in Lowell, FL. The men on death row are housed at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional Institution, both in Raiford, FL.

The youngest person currently on Florida's death row roster is 29-year-old Christian Cruz, who was sentenced to death on Dec. 18, 2019, for first-degree murder in Volusia County.

If the 23-year-old confessed Parkland killer is sentenced to death, he will become the youngest inmate on Florida's death row.

Inmates on death row live in a cell that measures 6 x 9 x 9.5 feet high, according to the FDC. They are served 3 meals a day (breakfast at 5 a.m., lunch at 10:30 a.m. and dinner at 4 p.m.) and are allowed to shower every other day.

The death row inmates are counted hourly and must wear handcuffs everywhere — except in their cells, the exercise yard and the shower. They are to remain in their cells at all times except for medical reasons, exercise, social or legal visits or media interviews, according to the FDC.

According to the FDC, the average age of a Florida death row inmate at the time of execution is 44.9 years old, while the average age at the time of the offense is 27.4. This means that the average time from offense to execution is approximately 17.5 years.

How many death row inmates have been exonerated in Florida?

However, not every inmate sentenced to death is executed. In the last half-century, Florida has had 30 exonerations from death row — more than any other state.

Among these wrongly convicted inmates, is a man named Herman Lindsey.

Lindsey was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of a Broward pawnshop employee before the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2009 that he never should have been convicted in the first place.

Now 48 and married, Lindsey is an activist against the death penalty, who does not believe the confessed Parkland shooter should be put to death.

I sympathize to all the family, but to that I would just say, the family don't understand. That's not going to bring them closure, to see that young man executed.----Herman Lindsey

Ultimately, the community wants just that: closure.

"It’s been 4 1/2 years of waiting," said Tom Hoyer, whose 15-year-old son Luke was among the 14 students killed in the shooting. "It’s time to move this to a conclusion, whatever that may be."

And for many of the victims' family members, closure comes in the form of a death penalty outcome.

The person who murdered my daughter is behind bars. In fact, I want him to get the death penalty.--Fred Guttenberg, father of Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg, on Twitter.

(source: nbcmiami.com)

ALABAMA:

We could learn soon if untried execution method will be used on AL death row inmate

We could find out on September 15 if nitrogen hypoxia will be used to put Alan Eugene Miller to death. A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections tells WBRC, they’ll have a statement out Thursday. As it stands now, the state plans to execute Miller by lethal injection on September 22.

The state may become the first in the country to use nitrogen hypoxia, an untried method to carry out Miller’s execution.

We’re told nitrogen hypoxia is supposed to cause death by replacing oxygen with nitrogen. It’s been authorized by Alabama and two other states but never used.

We spoke with Robert Dunham with the Death Penalty Information Center. He’s also a lawyer and teaches death penalty law. Dunham has logistical concerns with using nitrogen hypoxia. He says no state has released protocols on how the process works. Dunham tells us it may or may not work.

“All of it suggests that this is not a time to rush into it. There is no valid state interest in rushing to carry out this execution next week using nitrogen hypoxia before there’s a chance to examine the protocol, check the safety of it and ensure that the state is able to carry it out in a competent way,” Dunham said.

Dunham says there could be safety concerns especially if the nitrogen which is colorless and odorless leaks out of a mask that could be used on Miller. It could put the execution team at risk according to Dunham.

Miller is being put to the death for the 1999 workplace shooting that killed Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis.

The Death Penalty Information Center is a national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.

(source: WBRC news)

IRAN----executions

Ali Hemat Estaki and Unidentified Man Executed for Murder in Daran

Ali Hemat Estaki and an unidentified man were executed for murder charges in Daran Prison, Isfahan province.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 2 men were executed in Daran Prison on September 13. One of the men has been identified as 35-year-old Ali Hemat Estaki but the identity of the 2nd man has not been established at the time of writing. They were both sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Ali Hemat Estaki was arrested for the murder of his friend around 5 years ago and sentenced to death. Ali and his friend were arguing over financial issues and the murder was unintentional.”

At the time of writing, their executions have 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.

At least 251 including 6 women and 67 Baluch minorities were executed in the first 6 months of 2022. This is double the number of executions in the same period in 2021 when 117 people were executed.

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

Mehran Nour Mohammadi Executed for Armed Robbery in Isfahan

Mehran Nour Mohammadi was executed for charges of moharebeh (enmity against god) for an armed robbery, in Isfahan Central Prison. IHRNGO reported the execution of Hassan Agha Mohammadi at the prison on the same day.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Isfahan Central Prison on September 11. His identity has been established as 27-year-old Mehran Nour Mohammadi. He was sentenced to death for charges of moharebeh.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights that Mehran was arrested during an armed robbery around 5 years ago and sentenced to moharebeh by the Revolutionary Court.

Iran Human Rights previously reported the execution of Hassan Agha Mohammadi for murder charges at the prison that day.

At the time of writing, neither of their executions have been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

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.

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.

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

Ahmad Panahi-Khanghah Executed for Murder in Ardabil

Ahmad Panahi-Khanghah has been executed for murder charges in Ardabil Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Ardabil Central Prison on September 12. His identity has been established as 40-year-old Ahmad Panahi-Khanghah. He was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

Ahmad was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution on September 10. He had managed to escape the gallows last month by obtaining a 1-month extension.

Informed sources previously told Iran Human Rights that Ahmad had been arrested for an honour killing around 4 years ago.

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.

At least 251 including 6 women and 67 Baluch minorities were executed in the first 6 months of 2022. This is double the number of executions in the same period in 2021 when 117 people were executed.

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

Baluch Mansour Barahouyi Executed for Drug Offences in Birjand

Mansour Barahouyi, a Baluch man sentenced to death for drug-related offences, was executed in Birjand Central Prison. According to the Hal Vash, a Baluch man was executed in Birjand Central Prison on September 10. His identity has been reported as Mansour Barahouyi, a 26-year-old father of 2.

Mansour Barahouyi was arrested for drug-related offences and sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court.

His execution took place on the same day as 5 other Baluch prisoners at the prison, including an unidentified woman.

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. This trend has continued into 2022, with 91 executions recorded in the first 6 months of 2022, double the number for the same period in 2021 when 40 people were executed.

At least 251 including 6 women and 67 Baluch minorities were executed in the first 6 months of 2022. This is double the number of executions in the same period in 2021 when 117 people were executed.

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

Mehdi Aghoush Executed for Murder in Zanjan

Mehdi Aghoush has been executed for murder charges in Zanjan Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Zanjan Central Prison on September 11. His identity has been established as 30-year-old Mehdi Aghoush. He was sentenced to qisas(retribution-in-kind) for murder.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Mehdi Aghoush was a hairdresser. He was arrested on charges of murder during a mass fight four years ago and had been in prison since. He had gone to gallows twice before but had managed to obtain extensions from the victim’s family.”

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.

At least 251 including 6 women and 67 Baluch minorities were executed in the first 6 months of 2022. This is double the number of executions in the same period in 2021 when 117 people were executed.

(source for all: iranhr.net)

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Navid Afkari Was Hanged in 2018. His Killer Is About To Speak at UNGA

September 12 marked the 2nd anniversary of Navid Afkari’s execution. Navid, a wrestling champion, was arrested after major Iran protests in 2018, falsely accused of murder, and hanged despite international outcry.

On Tuesday, Navid’s mother, his sister Elham, and his brother Habib were violently arrested by security forces while trying to visit Navid’s grave. Harassment and cracking down on the martyrs’ families haven’t been unprecedented in Iran, and the regime systematically deprives its victim’s family members, mainly slain political prisoners, of holding funerals and paying tribute to their loved ones.

Prior to his execution, Navid recorded an audio tape in prison, saying the regime has been “seeking neck for their noose.” In simple words, the fallen national champion described the Iranian regime’s killing spree, which began soon after the mullahs hijacked the 1979 revolution.

The mullahs’ inhumane actions and their rampage didn’t spare anyone. From ethnic and religious minorities to medical professionals, university students, academics, and sports champions, all have fallen victim to the regime’s strategy to “preserve” its rule at any cost.

All officials have been involved in state-organized crimes in a bid to save the regime vis-à-vis the explosive and vibrant society which has incessantly yearned for change.

But the regime’s current president, Ebrahim Raisi, who ordered Navid’s execution as then-Judiciary chief, truly represents the inhumane essence of Iran’s ruling theocracy. With his 4-decade career in the judiciary, Raisi has sent tens of thousands to the gallows, including several sports champions.

In the summer of 1988, Raisi sat on Tehran’s “Death Commission,” sealing the fate of tens of thousands of Iranian political prisoners, mostly supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization (PMOI/MEK). Among the victims, there were some sports champions.

Fourouzan Abadi was a member of the women’s national volleyball team who perished during the 1988 genocide.

Mahshid Razaghi, a member of Iran’s national soccer team, along with his brother, was executed in 1988 in Tehran.

Dr. Farzin Nosraty, a wrestling champion, also met the firing squad by Raisi’s order in 1988.

Raisi’s dark human rights record was not a concealed fact, and his presidential candidacy and the consequent selection in 2021 faced domestic and international outrage. When he was selected as the regime’s president, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General, Agnes Callamard, quickly reacted.

“That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”

In December 2020, seven UN experts also condemned the crisis of impunity in Iran, emphasizing that the international community’s inaction vis-à-vis the 1988 genocide has left a “devastating impact” on the victims’ family members and the “general human rights situation in Iran.”

This sense of impunity has emboldened an unscrupulous mass murderer like Raisi to prepare himself to deliver his hate speech at the UN General Assembly in the upcoming days. Navid’s mother was beaten and arrested once trying to visit her son’s grave, but Raisi enjoys impunity for his crimes in light of the Western governments’ inactions.

When Neda Aqa-Sultan was killed during the 2009 uprisings in Iran, late Senator John McCain said: “Neda died with open eyes; shame on us who lived with closed eyes.” Years later, Navid was hanged with a clear conscience, but how would the world democracies tolerate Raisi at the UN General Assembly?

Ebrahim Raisi does not represent the Iranian people. He has executed thousands of Iran’s brightest minds and eliminated numerous brave souls and talents like Navid Afkari. Letting Ebrahim Raisi speak at the UN General Assembly, who embodies enmity with the people of Iran brings nothing but shame and will be remembered throughout the nation’s history.

(source: ncr-iran.org)

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

The Farda Briefing: Families Of Prisoners On Death Row Stage Protests Amid Soaring Executions

For the past week, the families of prisoners on death row have been staging protests to demand that authorities halt their pending executions.

Dozens of protesters have rallied in front of Iran's judiciary headquarters in Tehran and outside the Islamic Revolutionary Court in the city of Karaj.

Amateur videos and images from the protests have shown protesters holding signs that read “Don’t execute” and “No to executions.”

On September 12, which was to be the sixth consecutive day of the protests, law enforcement and security officers dispersed the demonstrators and arrested several of them.

The protests came amid a significant rise in the number of executions carried out in Iran under hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi and judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, a former intelligence minister.

Amnesty International and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran warned in July that Iranian authorities have embarked on an execution spree, killing at least 251 people between January 1 and June 30.

The rights groups said that, if executions continue at the current pace, they will soon surpass the total of 314 executions recorded for the whole of 2021.

Why It Matters: Public protests by the families of prisoners on death row are rare in the Islamic republic, which has one of the highest rates of executions in the world.

Desperation appears to have forced the families of those sentenced to death to rally, with the demonstrators hoping to pressure the authorities to drop the sentences.

The protests prompted Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard to call for Iran to end the death penalty.

What's Next: The protests could raise public awareness about Iran’s use of the death penalty, which has been abolished in 144 countries around the world.

Criticism of the executions has increased in recent years.

In 2020, Iranians participated in an unprecedented social media campaign using the hashtag #don’t_execute, which resulted in the overturning of the death sentences of 3 young men arrested during nationwide 2019 anti-government protests. Last week, the lawyer of the three men suggested that they could be released “conditionally.”

(source: rferl.org)

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

2 More LGBT+ Iranians Sentenced to Death

2 more LGBT+ people have been sentenced to death in Iran for "corruption on earth", according to the judiciary's official news agency Mizan.

The agency published a new article on Wednesday about the case of Zahra Sedighi-Hamedani, known as Sareh, who has been on death row since early September together with another woman named Elham Chudar.

Sareh, a mother-of-2 and aspiring singer who had spoken to BBC Persian and others about the experience of growing up queer in the region, was arrested last October on the Turkish border.

The IRGC later accused Sareh and supposed accomplices, without evidence, of running a trafficking gang. You can read her story so far in our exclusive report published earlier today.

According to Mizan, two more defendants, named Soheila Mortezaie and Alireza Farjad-Kia, have now also been handed the death penalty in connection with the same csae. The report claimed they had "deceived and then trafficked young women to a country in the region".

Mortezaei was also accused of supporting the "organized corrupt gang" under cover of working in a women's beauty shop. Like the other defendants, little information about who she really is or the basis of the case against her is available so far.

(source: iranwire.com)

VIETNAM:

Death row prisoners’ families worry after an inmate dies following his release----They are concerned severe prison conditions contributed to Huynh Van Nen’s death.

A former Vietnamese death row inmate has died 6 years after his name was cleared and he was released. Huynh Van Nen, 60, died of hepatitis and pneumonia at Vung Tau City Hospital on Sept. 13. His death raised concern among the families of other convicted prisoners because their health is being threatened by the severe living conditions in Vietnam’s prisons.

News of Nen’s death was posted on Facebook by Nguyen Than, a former Chairman of the People's Committee of Tan Minh Commune in the Ham Tan District of Binh Thuan Province.

He worked alongside Nen’s father for 20 years to seek justice.

Huynh Van Nen is known as the "prisoner of the century" because he was convicted in two consecutive murder cases: the death of neighbor Nguyen Thi Bong in Binh Thuan province and the murder of Duong Thi My, in 1993 for which Nen and nine of his relatives were convicted. He was imprisoned in 2008 and was only released in 2016 after serving more than 17 years.

The Binh Thuan judicial agency publicly acknowledged the wrongdoing and apologized to Nen and his family. He received VND 12 billion (U.S.$ 500,000) in compensation for the time he was unjustly imprisoned.

Information about Nen's death after only a few years of freedom made Nguyen Truong Chinh's family extremely worried.

Chinh is the father of death row prisoner Nguyen Van Chuong, who protested his innocence after being found guilty of being the main culprit in the murder of a police major in Hai Phong city in 2007.

“Through Mr. Huynh Van Nen's example we see how severe the Vietnamese communist prisons are,” he told RFA. “It is so severe that as long as my son is in prison, we are still extremely worried. Death row inmates waiting for execution like my son have one leg chained up day and night, so their physical and mental health suffers a lot.”

On the morning of Sept. 14, 2022, Chinh and his wife went to government agencies, the National Assembly and the Party Central Committee to complain about the injustice their son was facing but were held by the police who took them away and released them later.

In the case Chuong was convicted of, Major Nguyen Van Sinh of the Dong Hai ward police station, in Hai Phong city’s Hai An district was killed while on patrol. Chuong and 4 others were charged with his murder. He was sentenced to death while the other four were given between 12 months and life imprisonment.

The death row prisoner and his family have made many petitions, asking all levels of the administration to reconsider the sentence. Chuong alleges he was beaten and coerced by the investigator while the testimonies of the other suspects contradicted each other. The make of weapon described and the marks on the victim's body were inconsistent in their statements.

Lawyer Le Van Hoa was the Head of Inspection of Unfair Sentences of the Central Committee of Internal Affairs from 2013 to 2014 and was tasked with reviewing many unjust cases, including the case of Nguyen Van Chuong.

Mr. Hoa said that after studying Chuong’s case file, his team realized that the death sentence against Nguyen Van Chuong was full of holes.

"There is not enough basis to accuse Nguyen Van Chuong of being the mastermind as well as the perpetrator in causing the death of police major Nguyen Van Sinh,” he said. “Our judgment was made based on the testimonies of the accused and the results of the scene examination.”

“For that reason, in order to ensure the right person [is sentenced] for the right crime and the truth is objective, we had proposed the Central Committee of Internal Affairs consult with the National Assembly Standing Committee to direct and re-examine this case."

For unknown reasons, the Central Committee for Internal Affairs stopped looking into the case and the death penalty remains in place, he added.

Nen was one of many people who sat they were unjustly convicted in serious cases such as murder, robbery and rape. Those who were exonerated include Han Duc Long and Nguyen Thanh Chan.

In addition to death row inmate Nguyen Van Chuong, who pleaded not guilty, there were others such as Ho Duy Hai and Le Van Manh who also asserted that they did not kill people even though they were convicted.

Ho Duy Hai was convicted by 3 courts, including the Council of Judges of the Supreme People's Court, as the man who killed two female postal workers, Nguyen Thi Anh Hong and Nguyen Thi Thu Van, at Cau Voi Post Office in Nhi Thanh Commune, Thu Thua District, Long An Province on the evening of January 13, 2008.

Hai, born in 1985, was sentenced to death for murder.

The investigation violated the law in many instances such as destroying evidence, changing exhibits, omitting forensic evidence such as fingerprints and blood stains at the scene, withdrawing the evidence file that was in favor of the accused and ignoring claims by the accused that he was not guilty.

During the cassation court session in May 2020, the Judicial Council of the Supreme People's Court rejected the Procurator General's petition about annulling the first-instance conviction and appeal judgments for reinvestigation and overturning the death sentence for Hai.

(source: rfa.org)

BANGLADESH:

2 to die for killing college principal in Tangail

A District Special Judge Court in Tangail on Wednesday sentenced 2 people to the death penalty in a case for killing a college principal at Sakhipur upazila in Tangail.

The court also fined them Tk 50,000 each.

The court acquitted 3 accused in the case as their guilt was not proved.

Judge Begum Shahana Haque Siddiqua handed down the verdict in the afternoon.

The convicted are — Minhajur Rahman Mintu, son of late Hasan Ali, of Goborchaka village of Shakhipur upazila, and Abdul Malek Shukur, son of Surjo Ali, of the same area. Abdul Malek Shukur was not at the dock as he was absconding. The acquitted are — Shamser Ali, Mohammed Masud, and Mohammed Nannu Miah.

Public prosecutor Md Mohsin Sikder said that according to the case statement, Minhajur Rahman, along with his associates, hacked dead principal Jamal Hossen Thandu, of Palashtali College at Sakhipur upazila, in Boillarpur area, when he was returning home from the college at noon on October 20, 2011.

Parveen Begum, wife of Jamal Hossen, filed a murder case with the Sakhipur police station on the day.

On December 26, 2012, investigation officer of the case sub-inspector Ayub Ali submitted charge sheet against the 5 people.

(source: newagebd.net)

MYANMAR:

Jailed Myanmar Protest Leader Faces Possible Death Sentence

Myanmar’s junta added a charge that carries a death sentence against jailed protest leader Ko Wai Moe Naing for his role in the protest movement against military rule.

The 27-year-old pro-democracy activist has been held in Monywa Prison, Sagaing Region, since his arrest in April last year during an anti-regime rally. He has already faced several charges and was given a 10-year sentence in 5 incitement cases last month.

On August 26 the junta filed a fresh case against him under Article 122 of the Penal Code for leading protests in Monywa and for affiliating with the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw of deposed lawmakers, which the junta has declared an unlawful organization, his mother told The Irrawaddy.

Article 122 enforces a death sentence or life in prison for high treason.

Ko Wai Moe Naing defended himself in court as neither of his lawyers was able to attend court. One lawyer was detained and the other has been in hiding for over a month after the junta issued an arrest warrant.

He also faces charges of murder, wrongful confinement, defamation and under the Natural Disaster Management Law.

A hearing for the latest charge is scheduled for September 22.

The regime, which has killed at least 2,273 people since the February 2021 coup, has used the death penalty to intimidate opponents as it struggles to control the country.

It carried out Myanmar’s first execution in nearly four decades in July by hanging four detainees, including veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former National League for Democracy lawmaker, who were sentenced to death in January.

The other 2 victims were Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw, who were accused of murdering a woman they believed to be a junta informant.

Many other political prisoners now face death sentences issued by junta courts.

(source: irrawaddy.com)

SINGAPORE:

S'pore's drug policy not determined by external parties, but the interest of its citizens: Shanmugam

Singapore's drug policy and penalties for drug abuse are determined by what the Republic considers to be the best interests of Singaporeans, and are not made in Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Wednesday.

Neither are they dictated by anti-death penalty activists, or three or four international newspapers, he said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Mr Shanmugam was asked by Bloomberg Television's Haslinda Amin about the effect evolving stances in regional countries on the use of controlled drugs, such as cannabis, had on Singapore.

The greater availability of drugs creates more challenges but a vast majority of Singaporeans understand they are bad for society, he said.

Thailand legalised the consumption of cannabis in June, while Malaysian officials have reportedly been considering its medical use recently.

Mr Shanmugam said: "There is a small group that thinks it ought to be legalised. And because of the portrayal in popular media, younger people - not the majority - tend to have a slightly different view of cannabis, and these are all challenges we have to deal with.

"But you know, (Singapore) government policy doesn't get made in Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. Nor does it get dictated to by 400 people, or three or four international newspapers."

He cited negative effects observed in other countries, such as a rise in bombings by drug-linked gangs in Sweden and the opioid crisis in the United States, where deaths from drug overdose spiked in the last decade.

"You look at all of this, and you tell me that Thailand has allowed cannabis a couple of months ago, and Malaysia is talking about it. Let's look at the facts," said the minister.

Earlier in the interview, Mr Shanmugam was asked what it would take for Singapore to change its stance on the death penalty.

Ms Haslinda cited human rights groups and British tycoon Richard Branson, who earlier this year urged clemency in the high-profile case of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, a Malaysian who was executed in April for trafficking heroin to Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam replied that there is an assumption that significant discourse and public support against the death penalty exist here.

"When activists who are against (the) death penalty organised a protest, they claimed that 400 people turned up," he said in apparent reference to one such gathering at Hong Lim Park in April.

But more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans polled by the Ministry of Home Affairs last year supported the death penalty, he said.

The Government's task is to do right by Singaporeans and what is in the best interest of society, he said, adding that it believes the death penalty saves thousands of lives because of its deterrent effect.

"If 400 people plus three newspaper articles could change government policy, or if Mr Richard Branson could change government policy, then Singapore would not be where it is today," he said.

(source: The Straits Times)

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

Government must 'do right' by Singaporeans by keeping death penalty: Shanmugam----In an interview with Bloomberg, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam was asked about what it would take for Singapore to review its stance on the death penalty.

The Government has to act in the best interest of society by keeping the death penalty, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Wednesday (Sep 14), reiterating that its deterrent effect against drug trafficking saves thousands of lives.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking in an interview with Bloomberg and was asked what it would take for Singapore to review its stance on the death penalty.

The minister replied that more than 65 % of Singaporeans support the mandatory death penalty as of last year.

"But … what's the task of the Government? It is to do right by Singaporeans, what's in the best interest of society. If we believe, and we do, that the death penalty, in fact, saves thousands of lives, because of its deterrent effect," he said.

"And I can show you examples from all the other countries which don't have the death penalty, and lacks enforcement on drug policy, thousands more people die."

According to Amnesty International, Singapore has executed five people so far this year for drug trafficking, with the courts in recent months dismissing 11th-hour appeals from death row inmates.

In June, Mr Shanmugam told the BBC he had no doubts the death penalty is the right policy for drug trafficking, again pointing to "'clear evidence" of a serious deterrent for would-be traffickers.

Addressing talk about a "groundswell" against Singapore's death penalty, through activists, news reports and prominent people like British entrepreneur Richard Branson, Mr Shanmugam pointed to an anti-death penalty protest at Hong Lim Park in April.

Organisers said more than 400 people turned up, but Mr Shanmugam believes these numbers are usually "exaggerated".

"Now, therefore, if we believe that it is the best interest of society, Singapore, and if the vast majority of Singaporeans support it, as they do, then do you want us to change policy because 4 newspapers write about it, talking to the same 3 activists and quoting the same 3 activists?" he asked.

"And I'm not saying these are precise numbers, but I'm giving you the picture. So, the government policy, if 400 people plus 3 newspaper articles can change government policy, or if Mr Richard Branson can change government policy, then Singapore would not be where it is today."

Mr Shanmugam also touched on Thailand's legalisation of cannabis and similar plans by Malaysia for medical marijuana, saying the increased availability of drugs will create more challenges for Singapore.

"But by and large, a vast majority of Singaporeans understand that drugs are bad, drugs are bad for society," he said on Wednesday.

"There is a small group that thinks that it ought to be legalised. And because of the portrayal in popular media, younger people, not the majority, they tend to have a slightly different view of cannabis and these are all challenges we have to deal with."

When asked if this means authorities will look into tighter regulations and "closer surveillance" of those coming in from countries like Thailand and Malaysia, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore's regulations are "adequate".

"But the laws, the amount, the kind of evidence that is needed, the assumptions or presumptions that apply, the inferences the courts can draw, these are technical matters, and they are constantly reviewed," he said.

"And, you know, we have amended the law a number of times and we will amend it as we see necessary."

(source: Channel News Asia)

NIGERIA:

Court sentences cleric to death for using 7-year-old for ritual----The prosecution said the cleric and his accomplice cut off the child’s head and buried it under a `church’ altar and threw the body into a canal.

An Ikeja Special Offences Court on Tuesday sentenced one Pastor Erinmole Adetokunbo and one Adedoyin Oyekanmi to death for killing a 7-year-old boy for ritual purposes.

Oluwatoyin Taiwo, the judge, sentenced the duo who changed their pleas from not guilty to guilty on Monday.

The convicts were charged with conspiracy to commit murder and murder.

According to the Lagos State government, the convicts committed the offences on 7 June 2017, at No. 6, Oke Oniburokun St., Odokekere, Ikorodu, Lagos.

The government said the duo cut off the child’s head and buried it under a `church’ altar and threw the body into a canal.

The judge held that the case was pathetic, saying that the duo conspired and murdered the child.

“The defendants have committed a heinous crime and deserve no mercy.

“They have cruelly and intentionally killed a 7-year-old boy. This deprived him and his family of a bright destiny.

“Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State imposes the death penalty for premeditated murder, and I have no hesitation in imposing the said punishment.

"I hereby sentence Adedoyin Oyekanmi and Erinwole Adetokunbo to death for killing Kazeem Rafiu. May God have mercy on your souls,” she said

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that convicts were arraigned on 30 October 2017, on a 2-count charge.

They had pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, prosecution counsel, O. A. Bajulaiye, told the court that the defendants were ready to change their pleas.

The defence counsel, Anthonia Otsokwa, did not object to that.

Consequently, the convicts pleaded guilty to the charges.

The court thereafter reviewed the facts of the case, and the prosecution counsel urged the court to convict them accordingly.

However, Ms Otsokwa prayed the court to temper justice with mercy, saying that her clients had realised their mistakes and were remorseful.

“We plead with the court to consider a sentence with terms of imprisonment,” she had prayed, but the judge imposed the maximum sentence for murder – death by handing – saying that the duo committed heinous crimes.

NAN reports that the trial started in the case in 2021, with the prosecution calling several witnesses. The convicts pleaded guilty midway.

(source: premiumtimesng.com)

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Death row inmates win trophy at friendly football match

Inmates on Death Row, (IDR), at the Nigerian Correctional Service, Enugu command, have emerged winner of a friendly football competition organised by the center as part of recreational activities for inmates at the facility.

A statement from the Public Relations Officer, (PRO), Enugu Command, Ugwu Dympunahe, said that the match was organized to further promote the reformation of inmates and allow them to experience some of the games they love playing despite being behind bars.

Controller of the command, Nicolas Obiakor, who was represented by his assistant, Nwigwe Leonard, pointed out that sporting activities not only keep the inmates fit but also sane and is part of their reformatory process.

The Officer in charge of the Enugu custodial centre, Usifo Joseph, stressed the “need for offenders to engage in recreational activities as it will help to improve them physically and mentally.

(source: guardian.ng)

SEPTEMBER 14, 2022:

PENNSYLVANIA:

Federal judge: Philly DA Larry Krasner’s office misled court while trying to free a man from death row----U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg said Krasner’s office didn't sufficiently review a case it asked him to overturn, and misled him about its contact with the victims' relatives.

A federal judge has found that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office provided incomplete and misleading information as it sought to overturn the death sentence of a man who killed an East Mount Airy couple inside their home in 1984, then shut off the heat and left their infant daughter inside to die.

In a blunt opinion issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg said top prosecutor Larry Krasner’s administration had failed to conduct a careful review of Robert Wharton’s case before asking Goldberg to vacate the death penalty and order Wharton to serve a life sentence instead. Goldberg said the review by prosecutors was “patently deficient” for failing to mention that Wharton had previously been convicted of violently trying to escape from a City Hall courtroom.

In addition, Goldberg found that Krasner’s office had provided a “false” account of its interactions with the victims’ relatives, including their daughter, Lisa Hart-Newman, who survived the attack. Goldberg said prosecutors filed documents suggesting that the family of Ferne and Bradley Hart had consented to a request to vacate Wharton’s death sentence, which the judge said was “not true.”

As a result, Goldberg admonished 2 top supervisors in Krasner’s office, Nancy Winkelman and Paul George, who were involved in seeking to overturn Wharton’s death sentence, saying they violated federal rules of procedure in a manner that was “egregious” and “exceptional.”

And though he declined to impose specific penalties against them — or levy financial penalties on the District Attorney’s Office, which he also said violated court rules — he ordered that Krasner personally write apology letters to 4 of the Harts’ relatives, including their daughter.

Prosecutors “directed representations to the Court that the Office had ‘carefully reviewed the facts’ when in fact that did not occur,” Goldberg wrote, adding: “If the District Attorney’s Office files [documents] on a misleading presentation of the facts, it attempts to misuse the Court’s power.”

Jane Roh, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors “strongly disagree with Judge Goldberg’s ruling and are currently evaluating our options.”

“District Attorney Krasner and the District Attorney’s Office fully support ADA Nancy Winkelman and ADA Paul George’s official conduct and professional ethics, including in their handling of this case,” she added.

The opinion was the latest chapter in a yearslong appeals process in Wharton’s case.

Wharton, now 59, was convicted along with a coconspirator in the 1984 strangulation and drowning deaths of the Harts inside their East Mount Airy home. The DA’s Office had consistently opposed Wharton’s attempts to have his death sentence overturned, but changed course in 2019 after Krasner — an opponent of capital punishment — took office.

Goldberg at the time said the DA’s Office had not provided an adequate explanation for its change in stance, and he asked the Attorney General’s Office to provide materials he said the DA’s Office wasn’t sharing as it asked Goldberg to order Wharton removed from death row.

Among the materials the Attorney General’s Office found were documents detailing Wharton’s past escape attempts — which prosecutors, including Winkelman and George, later told Goldberg they were unaware of. In his opinion this week, Goldberg called it “unreasonable” for the DA’s Office to say it had conducted a careful review of Wharton’s case without knowing about that history.

“Wharton’s escape attempt resulted in a conviction that appears on his criminal history, which can be found simply by typing Wharton’s name into Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System Web Portal to reveal a conviction for ‘ESCAPE,’” Goldberg wrote. “Yet two supervisors on the committee that recommended conceding Wharton’s [appeal] testified that they were unaware of the escape attempt at the time and did not know whether the District Attorney, who approved the concession, was aware of it.”

Goldberg went on to criticize prosecutors for what he called their “numerous and wide-ranging explanations” about the office’s conduct in the appeal. He also said prosecutors hadn’t considered that failing to provide him all the relevant facts could imperil his ability to make a fully informed decision about Wharton’s fate.

And he said prosecutors misled him by filing documents suggesting their new position in Wharton’s case had been communicated to — and supported by — the Harts’ relatives. The decision was only communicated to one family member, Goldberg said, and others — including Hart-Newman, who survived the attack — were “vehemently opposed” to it.

“[T]he Court finds that the District Attorney’s Office’s statement regarding its communication with the victims’ family was false and yet another representation to the Court made after an inquiry that was not reasonable under the circumstances,” Goldberg wrote.

The judge said Krasner must send his apology letter to the Harts’ relatives — and file them in court — within 30 days. And he said any future proceedings before him “must be accompanied by a full, balanced explanation of facts.”

(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Death penalty trial opens in 2017 fire that that killed 3

A death penalty trial has begun for a man accused of having set a house fire that killed a young child and 2 women in Pittsburgh 4 1/2 years ago.

Martell Smith, 45, faces 3 counts of homicide as well as aggravated arson and other charges in the early morning December 2017 blaze in the Homewood neighborhood, which Allegheny County prosecutors say he set after getting into a bar fight with another man.

Police say surveillance images show him buying a gas can and filling it at a gas station, and they say he then drove to the home, doused the 3-story brick structure with the gasoline, lit it and drove away. Killed were 21-year-old Shamira Staten, her 4-year-old daughter, Ch’yenne Manning, and 58-year-old Sandra Carter Douglas.

Defense attorney Randall McKinney told jurors Monday the fight was brief and his client had no motive, but police did not look for another suspect, the Tribune-Review reported. He said gasoline was found on his client's clothing because he filled a gas can at a gas station to take back to his own car, which was low on fuel.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Catanzarite, however, said the fight left Smith with a bloodied face, torn shirt and broken necklace. After the fire, he said, witnesses reported seeing the defendant pacing up and down the street, bragging about what he had done.

Prosecutors said capital punishment would be warranted if Smith is convicted of 1st-degree murder, citing the fact that the slayings occurred during commission of another felony, that the victims included a child and because of the defendant’s criminal record.

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium against carrying out any death sentences shortly after taking office in 2015. 3 people have been executed since the state reinstituted capital punishment 4 decades ago, the most recent in 1999, but all three had voluntarily given up on appealing their sentences.

(source: Associated Press)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

What's next for death penalty in South Carolina?----Firing squad, electric chair ruled unconstitutional

Gov. Henry McMaster's office said it will appeal a ruling by a South Carolina judge that the firing squad and electric chair are unconstitutional methods of capital punishment.

The ruling came last week from Richland County Judge Jocelyn Newman.

In part, she ruled, "the General Assembly ignored advances in scientific research and evolving standards of humanity and decency."

Justice 360, the group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of 4 death row inmates, said it was very pleased with the result and expected an appeal from SCDC and McMaster.

His office told WYFF 4 today that the office plans to file an appeal, but did not give a timeline. An appeal would go to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Greenville Sen. Karl Allen sits on the Senate's corrections and penology committee.

He said he'd like to see the state find a way to get lethal injection drugs.

"Lethal injection, being a more humane way of implementing the death penalty, is something that we should put a higher priority on and not take the easiest way out to say that a bullet doesn't cost much," he said.

But the Department of Corrections has said companies won't sell lethal injection drugs to the state because it doesn't have a Shield Law, which would offer privacy to those companies.

That's also what Horry County Sen. Greg Hembree told WYFF 4 back in April.

"Many of the companies that produce those substances about ten years ago, sort of unilaterally said look, you know, you don't have a Shield Law? We're not gonna sell these things to you," Hembree said.

Other states that use Shield Laws still use the drugs, including Arizona, which used lethal injection for an execution in June.

Hembree said he plans to file legislation for a shield law in the upcoming legislative session.

(source: WYFF news)

FLORIDA:

Florida Supreme Court affirms death penalty sentence of Santa Rosa inmate who murdered cellmate

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the decision to send a Blackwater Corrections prisoner to death row after he confessed to strangling his cellmate to death in 2018.

Thomas H. Fletcher, a Blackwater Corrections inmate serving life in prison for murdering a man in 1994, received the death penalty in 2019 after he strangled his fellow inmate Kenneth Davis, according to a press release from the State Attorney's Office on Tuesday.

"On July 7, 2022, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion affirming the conviction and death sentence of Thomas H. Fletcher," the press release said. "Fletcher, who confessed to killing Davis to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent and in letters he wrote to the trial court, was indicted for First-Degree Premeditated Murder in March 2019."

In a sentencing order, Circuit Court Judge Scott Duncan noted that Fletcher had been looking for an inmate to kill when he encountered Davis.

In the penalty phase of his case, when it was being decided whether or not Fletcher would face the death penalty, he requested that his attorney not present evidence arguing against the death penalty. However, "in compliance with the law, the court did appoint special counsel to present mitigation on Fletcher's behalf," the news release said.

At the final hearing, the state presented the testimony of several witnesses and introduced several exhibits in support of the death penalty, among them that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.

(source: Pensacola News Journal))

ALABAMA:

Alabama Court Upholds 5th Non-Unanimous Death Sentence Imposed on Intellectually Impaired Man Over the Course of 6 Penalty Trials for the Same Crime

An Alabama appeals court has upheld a 5th non-unanimous death sentence imposed on a death-row prisoner who has faced 6 capital sentencing trials for the same offense and was once found to be ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability.

On September 2, 2022, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) affirmed the death sentence imposed on Jerry Jerome Smith by a Houston County trial judge in 2018 following a 10-2 jury sentencing recommendation for death. It was the 6th time Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska had sought the death penalty against Smith, despite evidence that multiple experts had diagnosed him with intellectual disability, his IQ of 67 falls well within the range of intellectual disability, he cannot read or write, and he was placed in special education classes in school. Smith was first tried and sentenced to death in 1988. Each of his first 4 death sentences was overturned for constitutional violations unrelated to the non-unanimous jury votes. The court declared a mistrial in his 5th sentencing trial after 5 jurors voted for a life sentence. In 4 of the 5 trials in which his judge imposed a death sentence, his juries did not unanimously vote for death sentence — a practice allowed only in Alabama. Houston County is a significant outlier in its use of the death penalty, and has faced a civil rights lawsuit over racial discrimination in jury selection.

Houston County has imposed 33 death sentences since 1972, more than any other county with a population of 125,000 or less. Nearly3/4 of those death sentences have been imposed on Black defendants. It has the nation’s highest per capita death-sentencing rate of any county between 75,000 and 150,000 in size (30.96/100,000 population), more than 10% higher than any similarly sized county. Its 18-person death row as of January 1, 2021 was double that of any similarly sized county in the country, and its death row of 16.89 prisoners per 100,000 population was 1.5 times larger than the per capita population of any similarly sized county’s death row.

1/4 of Houston County’s 106,000 residents are Black. Smith, who is Black, was tried at least once by an all-white jury, after Valeska removed every qualified Black juror. In 2011, the Equal Justice Initiative filed a civil rights lawsuit against Valeska, arguing that he had repeatedly and illegally excluded Black citizens from serving on juries in Houston and neighboring Henry County.

In Smith’s 1st trial, his jury voted 11-1 to recommend that he be sentenced to death. In 2003, the Alabama Supreme Court vacated that death sentence because the trial court had improperly limited the mitigating evidence he was permitted to present. At Smith’s 2nd sentencing trial in 2005, the jury voted 10-2 to recommend death. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed his death sentence, concluding that Smith was ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability. However, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned that ruling and directed the trial court to conduct a hearing concerning Smith’s intellectual disability. The same judge who had twice sentenced Smith to die then found that Smith was not intellectually disabled. The Alabama Supreme Court subsequently reversed the death sentence on a separate claim that victims’ family members had improper contact with jurors.

Smith’s 3rd death sentence, in 2012, was the one trial in which the jury reached a unanimous sentencing recommendation. However, that recommendation was reached in part because the trial court improperly permitted the prosecution to present and the jury to considered an aggravating circumstance that did not exist at the time of Smith’s offense. The ACCA again reversed Smith’s death sentence, finding that the invalid aggravating evidence placed an improper weight on scales of death in his case.

In the 4th capital sentencing proceeding in 2014, the trial court violated Smith’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial by excluding the media and members of the public from the courtroom during jury selection. The trial court then imposed a death sentence based on a non-unanimous 10-2 jury recommendation. in favor of a death sentence. After the ACCA reversed that death sentence, the case returned to the trial court for a 5th penalty trial in 2016. At that trial, just 8 members of the jury voted for death. A provision of Alabama law allowed the trial court to declare a penalty-phase mistrial if fewer than 10 jurors recommended death and fewer than a majority recommended life. With the jury split at 8-4 in favor of death, the trial court declared a mistrial and ordered the 6th penalty trial.

Smith then sought a pretrial evidentiary hearing on his claim that he was ineligible for the death penalty, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling in Moore v. Texas established that the Alabama Supreme Court had relied on unconstitutional factors when it previously rejected his intellectual disability claim. The trial court declined to conduct that hearing. In its September 2 decision, the ACCA refused to revisit the state supreme court’s ruling, saying it was “the law of the case.” The court also rejected Smith’s challenges to the constitutionality of non-unanimous death sentences, the trial court’s exclusion of evidence that a victim’s family member opposed the death penalty for Smith, and that prosecutors had improperly struck African Americans from the jury.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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OPINION----Nitrogen gas execution: An abomination in Alabama

Editor's note: The following column by Stephen Cooper, published by The Church of England Newspaper in 2018, deals with Alabama's intention to introduce nitrogen gas as a means of executing death row prisoners. The use of the new method may begin on Sept. 22, 2022, with Alabama's scheduled execution of Alan Eugene Miller.

Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015.

When, in October 2016, I wrote “death row inmates in Alabama are human guinea pigs” because the state’s capital punishment regime — specifically its barbaric, often bungled lethal injection protocol — is already so dark, so depraved, so outrageously cloaked in lies and officious secrecy, I never could have predicted the situation could get worse.

But it has. In glaring contrast to the heavily circulated, smiling picture of exonerated former Alabama death row inmate Anthony Ray Hinton, ebullient after voting for the first time in a midterm election since being freed in 2015, after a hellacious 30 years on Alabama’s death row, it’s important to understand: the death penalty in Alabama has gotten far worse since Mr Hinton’s release — not better.

First, because of the cynically named “Fair Justice Act,” convoluted legislation hacksawing fundamental constitutional rights of (overwhelmingly indigent) death-sentenced defendants, signed into law last year — over the varied, vociferous, published objections of the ACLU, a highly respected Harvard Law School professor, defence attorneys in the state, myself, and even Mr Hinton — it is far easier under current Alabama law, for an innocent person like Mr Hinton, to be convicted and sentenced to death.

Second, despite a fairly recent slew of patently botched lethal injections, including that of Ronald Bert Smith, Torrey McNabb, and Christopher Brooks — as well as the bloody, horrific, and failed execution attempt of Doyle Hamm, during which, among other atrocities, state executioners repeatedly (and futilely) jabbed multiple needles into Hamm’s groin and pelvis — Alabama has coldly, inhumanely, and, as I wrote elsewhere in June, steadfastly continued “its odious tradition of ducking and dodging transparency and accountability in how the state puts its prisoners to death.”

I’d presaged this discomfiting conclusion several months earlier, in October 2017, in a piece for USA Today, after McNabb’s shameful, gruesome torture; in it, I dubbed the Commissioner of Alabama’s Department of Corrections (ADOC) “‘Baghdad Bob’ of Alabama’s death row.”

Pouring accelerant on this already demoralising and distasteful dumpster fire, a just released report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), “Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States,” observes: “Alabama has one of the most restrictive secrecy policies in the nation, consistently maintaining that all documents associated with an execution are confidential.” (While he wasn’t focusing on the modern death penalty, in reviewing W Fitzhugh Brundage’s new book Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition for the LA Times, author Colin Dickey recently and insightfully wrote: “The work of American torture has always been twofold: not just the violence itself, but the complex legal and rhetorical strategies that obfuscate it away to maintain a myth of America as a civilized place without cruel and unusual punishment.”)

And now, as if this wasn’t all ghastly enough — this undeniable fact Alabama has been torturing poor people for a long time, and that it shows no sign of stopping — the Montgomery Advertiser’s Bryan Lyman wrote on 23 November that the state is planning to augment the barbarism involved in its executions to even greater and more unseemly dimensions; Lyman reports that plans are now underway for Alabama to develop a protocol to execute death row prisoners with nitrogen gas.

But, Lyman notes, because “nitrogen asphyxiation has never been used in capital punishment before,” Alabama “finds itself inventing a method of execution.” Soberly and pointedly, Lyman observes: “The American Medical Association authorises the use of the method in animal euthanasia, though only for birds and small animals.”

Relatedly, in March, Robert Dunham, Executive Director of DPIC, tweeted: “The World Society for the Protection of Animals lists nitrogen inhalation as ‘not acceptable’ for animal euthanasia because loss of consciousness is not instantaneous, and dogs euthanised by nitrogen gas have been observed convulsing and yelping after ‘falling unconscious’.”

Also in March, following Alabama’s vengeful killing of an 83-year-old man, I urged that during such dreary, desolate days for death penalty abolitionists, unusually sage insight, and perhaps also, the solace of understanding, can be gleaned from the words of writer James Baldwin.

The same is true today as more and more developments emerge about the prospective state-sanctioned killing of human beings with nitrogen gas in Alabama — and even more depressingly, in other states like Oklahoma and Mississippi (which have approved the procedure), too.

In his essay “What Price Freedom?” Baldwin postulated: “I still believe when a country has lost all human feeling, you can do anything to anybody and justify it, and we do know in this country we have done just that.” Borrowing from Baldwin further, and speaking directly to Alabama’s Attorney General’s Office and the ADOC, Baldwin concluded, in yet another one of his piercing essays “The Uses of the Blues,” that “in evading [death row prisoners’] humanity, you have done something to your own humanity.”

But, last time when I wrote how James Baldwin’s writing helps us to understand the continued dastardly use of the death penalty, I also wrote about Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., and, I let Baldwin get the last word; this time, it’s with the power of Dr King that I’ll close.

Because it was Dr. King who, from his humble pulpit on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, Alabama, began a nonviolent movement in this country — a movement for justice, for equality, for humanity, a movement for the betterment of all mankind — a movement that continues to this day. In his book Why We Can’t Wait, Dr King wrote these hallowed words, words that all Alabamians, and indeed all Americans, still have not fully internalised, accepted, and allowed to become part of our baseline morality:

“Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached a day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.”

With the prolonged picking and poking of condemned prisoners with needles, the “choice” of electrocution, and now, perhaps, also nitrogen gassing, we’re not there yet. Not even close.

Stephen Cooper is a former DC public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015----Montgomery Advertiser)

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Nitrogen hypoxia to execute a human: 'Bloodless, but it won't be simple'

The Alabama Department of Corrections indicated this week that there’s a “very good chance” it could carry out an execution by an untried method as early next week. Nitrogen hypoxia was approved for use as an alternative method of execution by the Alabama legislature in 2018 but has never been used to execute a human being.

When Alabama and 2 other states authorized nitrogen hypoxia, supporters said it was a more humane method of execution. Others, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have said there isn’t yet sufficient evidence to back up that claim.

Because no person has ever been executed by inhaling pure nitrogen — there is seemingly no way to humanely test its use — exactly how the state will carry out a nitrogen hypoxia execution is unclear. An ADOC attorney said the department has developed a protocol for it, but added that it has not been finalized. The state also has not released details of that protocol to the public or even, as of Tuesday, the man who could be executed with it in just days.

Here’s what we do know

Nitrogen hypoxia — elsewhere referred to as nitrogen suffocation or nitrogen asphyxiation — is the term the state uses for the proposed execution method that would cause a person’s death by forcing him or her to inhale pure nitrogen, or nitrogen in much higher concentrations than are present in the atmosphere.

Joel Zivot, an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University, said “nitrogen hypoxia” is an invented term not used in the medical community, to his knowledge.

Death that results from nitrogen-induced hypoxia is not caused by what’s in the gas, but what isn’t — oxygen.

Nitrogen makes up about 80% of the air we breathe, and as an inert gas, is not utilized by the body, Zivot said. Nitrogen gas also has no odor or color, making it impossible to detect with the senses.

When nitrogen — or another inert gas — is inhaled, and carbon dioxide is exhaled, bodily tissues become starved of oxygen. The body then quickly uses up the remaining oxygen within it before shutting down.

Zivot compared inhaling an inert gas without oxygen to placing a jar on top of a candle. Cells shut down similar to how a flame is snuffed out as it burns off remaining oxygen.

“When you put that bell jar overtop of the burning candle, the candle will burn off the oxygen that’s contained in the bell jar,” Zivot said. “And then at some point, when the oxygen is all utilized, the candle will extinguish because we need oxygen to fuel combustion. And the same thing is at the cellular level. When oxygen levels fall, the organ systems will start to fail.”

How long it would take for a person to die depends on several factors, Zivot said. A study out of East Central University done at the request of Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Christian, who helped push a bill similar to Alabama’s through the Oklahoma legislature, claims death would occur after 4-5 minutes based on anecdotal evidence from a Florida “right-to-die” organization.

Although it isn't certain, the gas would likely be delivered through a mask during a nitrogen hypoxia execution. An attorney representing ADOC said at a court hearing on Monday that it had asked Alan Eugene Miller, a death row inmate scheduled to be executed on Sept. 22, if he would be fitted with a gas mask, but the attorney did not specifically say whether the state will deliver the gas through a mask or gas chamber.

Whether gas mask or chamber, several logistical questions need to be addressed to ensure those nearby — like prison staff and spiritual advisors — aren't unknowingly breathing nitrogen, Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

"How is it going to fit? Are there different masks different masks sizes for different people? Or is it just a question of adjusting the straps? Is it the type of mask that is used to deliver oxygen, but here it's just being attached to to a killing poison instead? That's not to say that it is a wrong way of administering the nitrogen. It's just to say that they need to be transparent," Dunham said.

Some maintain that death from breathing pure nitrogen is preferable to lethal injection. Former Sen. Tripp Pittman, R-Montrose, who introduced the bill to authorize nitrogen hypoxia in executions in 2018, called it a “more humane method.”

"It’s about giving the prisoners the option for an alternative to what is currently being used, in terms of lethal injection,” Pittman said at the time. “This is a more humane method. One that is less invasive, and one that I think needs to be an option for the condemned."

Others have cited evidence from divers and pilots who reported feeling euphoric breathing high levels of nitrogen. Zivot said that evidence is not applicable, though, as the feelings of euphoria associated with nitrogen narcosis won’t be recreated at normal pressures.

“It's not humane,” Zivot said. “It's not going to be euphoric. You know, it may be bloodless, but it won't be simple.”

The Supreme Court has also said that the evidence doesn't indicate that nitrogen hypoxia would be painless. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in 2019 that the evidence presented to the court indicated nitrogen hypoxia could cause more pain than lethal injection, depending on how it is administered.

"Finally, the record evidence even allows the possibility that nitrogen could increase the risk of pain," Gorsuch wrote.

Dunham said that similar promises about how humane or painless a proposed execution method is have been made each time one is introduced. Some deaths appear to observers to be painful while others do not, but we can't know for certain.

"Whether or not it's a positive experience, a euphoric experience, a painless experience — all of that is unknowable," Zivot said.

(source: Gadsden Times)

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Can nitrogen be used at next execution? Judge wants state's definitive answer

A federal judge has ordered Alabama officials to answer definitively by Thursday evening whether it could execute a man via an untested method, nitrogen hypoxia, in time for his scheduled execution on Sept. 22.

An attorney representing the Alabama Department of Corrections and Attorney General Steve Marshall indicated during a hearing on Monday that there was a “very good chance” that the state would be ready to execute Alan Eugene Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on Sept. 22. Miller has asked the court to stop the state from using lethal injection to execute him, accusing officials of losing a form he submitted to prison staff in 2018 electing nitrogen hypoxia as his preferred method of execution.

The attorney would not answer firmly on Monday whether the state would be ready, maintaining that it was ADOC Commissioner John Hamm’s decision.

A human being has never been executed by nitrogen hypoxia, wherein a person would be forced to breathe nitrogen gas, depriving the body of oxygen until the person dies.

R. Austin Huffaker Jr., U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama, ordered Hamm, Marshall or another “appropriate official with personal knowledge” to file an answer in court by 5 p.m. Thursday “definitively setting forth whether or not the Defendants can execute the Plaintiff by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, 2022.”

Gov. Kay Ivey in 2018 authorized nitrogen hypoxia for use in executions. Mississippi and Oklahoma are the only other states that have authorized nitrogen hypoxia as a method of execution, although neither have used it or, as far as the public knows, come up with a way to use it, leaving Alabama to create a method of execution.

At the hearing, James Houts, attorney for the defendants, said that ADOC had developed a protocol for carrying out an execution by nitrogen hypoxia but had not finalized it or incorporated it into the existing lethal injection and electrocution protocol. No protocol has been filed in court or been made public.

(source: Tuscaloosa News)

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Alan Eugene Miller: Alabama death row inmate who hates needles likely to be 1st person to be executed with nitrogen gas

Alabama could use a new method to carry out a death sentence later in September, a state attorney told a federal judge. The method, called nitrogen hypoxia, will be used for the first time to carry out an execution. James Houts, a deputy state attorney general, told US District Judge R Austin Huffaker Jr, that is it "very likely" that Alan Eugene Miller will be executed using this method. His execution is currently set for September 22 by lethal injection.

Houts said that the final decision on whether or not the method will be used will be made by Corrections Commissioner John Hamm. He also claimed that litigation is likely. Miller was a delivery truck driver, and was convicted in the workplace shootings that killed Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis in 1999. According to prosecutors, Miller murdered Holdbrooks and Yancy at one business. He then drove to another location to shoot Jarvis dead. Each victim was shot several times.

Jurors convicted Miller after 20 minutes of deliberation. They eventually recommended a death sentence, which was imposed by a judge. Testimony suggested Miller was delusional. He believed the victims were spreading rumors about him, such as he was gay. A defense psychiatrist found that Miller suffered from severe mental illness. However, he concluded that Miller's condition was not bad enough to use as a basis for an insanity defense, the Daily Mail reported.

Alabama's primary execution method is lethal injection. However, in 2018, the state approved the untried method called nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative. Inmates were given some time in which to designate hypoxia as their preferred method of execution. Miller said in the court how he disliked needles and that nitrogen gas seemed better than lethal injection. "I did not want to be stabbed with a needle," Miller said, CBS news reported.

What is nitrogen hypoxia?

In a nitrogen hypoxia execution, the prisoner would breathe pure nitrogen, which would deprive their body of oxygen and cause asphyxiation. Proponents argue that this method is a more humane method of executing a person.

“In a very real sense, execution by nitrogen hypoxia is experimental,” DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham had told Newsweek in the past. “It has never been done before and no one has any idea whether it is going to work the way its proponents say it will. And there is no way to test it because it is completely unethical to experimentally kill someone against their will.”

Alabama has yet to develop a system for using nitrogen to carry out executions. Therefore, the state is not setting execution dates for inmates who choose this method. Miller had to sign a sworn statement saying he had given the form to a corrections officer. "I gave my signed form to the correctional officer who was collecting the forms," the affidavit stated. Miller is reportedly trying to block his execution at Holman Prison.

(source: meaww.com)

**********

New Execution Method Sparks Debate On Death Penalty In US

The debate over the death penalty has returned to the US scene today amid controversy over the use of a nitrogen hypoxia method that could be used for the 1st time in Alabama.

He may be ready to use still-unproven modalities to execute Alan Miller, convicted of triple murder in the Southeastern Region 1999 and whose original sentence was next set for September 22 by lethal injection, in which case Deputy Attorney General James Houtes disclosed.

The revelation about the possibility of using the new method came during a court hearing on Miller’s claim that prison staff had lost documentation several years earlier for requesting nitrogen as a method of execution instead of lethal injection. .

According to the prisoner’s attorney, Mara Klebner, the prisoner’s legal team needs more information about the nitrogen process and will not blindly accept its use.

Miller’s lawyers do not want the defendant, an inmate at Holman Prison in the city of Atmore, to be a trial case for an unproven method of death, he said.

Prosecutor Houts said the final decision on his employment rests with Corrections Commissioner Jon Hamm.

Nitrogen hypoxia, which has been known to cause death by supplying nitrogen instead of oxygen, is legal for hanging in Alabama and Oklahoma, but has never been used.

A study released last year by the Death Penalty Information Center showed that of all the death sentences awarded since 1973, more than 9,600, 185 prisoners were acquitted after being unjustly imprisoned.

According to the source, there were 1,532 executions in the United States since 1976, as of the previous year.

(source: World Nation News)

NIGERIA:

Popular Nigerian traditional wrestler to die by hanging after pounding wife to death

After 4 years, a high court sitting in Adamawa state has convicted and sentenced popular traditional wrestler, Thankyou Grim, to death by hanging for using pestle to kill his wife in Adamawa State.

Grim, who hails from Sili village in the Guyuk Local Government Area of the State, admitted hitting his wife, Kwalla Grim, repeatedly with a pestle until she died for demanding divorce.

The Adamawa State Chief Judge, Justice Nathan Musa, sentenced the famous wrestler to death after he was tried and found guilty of killing his wife.

He was convicted on a one-count charge of culpable homicide punishable with death contrary to section 192(b) of the Adamawa State Penal Code Law 2018.

While delivering his verdict on Tuesday, Justice Musa held that the prosecution had proved with cogent evidence that the convict actually killed the deceased.

He was said to have fled the scene immediately, but later reported himself to the police after 3 days.

(source: blueprint.ng----from Aug. 18)

PAKISTAN:

SHC commutes death sentence to life term----A sessions court later convicted the three men and handed them death penalty and a fine of Rs100,000 each

The Sindh High Court (SHC), while partially rejecting the appeal of three murder convicts on Tuesday, commuted their death sentence into life-imprisonment.

A 2-judge bench, headed by Justice KK Agha, gave its verdict on the appeal of the convicts sentenced to death by a sessions court for stabbing a citizen to death. The bench partially rejected the appeal of Nadir Ali alias Babar, Ali Muhammad, and Zaman, against their death sentence, while commuting it to life in jail.

According to police, the convicts had fatally stabbed a man, identified as Zohaib in FIR, with knives. However before dying, the victim had identified the 3 men named in the FIR as the killers. The case was registered on January 9, 2020 at Memon Goth police station.

A sessions court later convicted the 3 men and handed them death penalty and a fine of Rs100,000 each.

(source: tribune.com.pk)

PHILIPPINES:

DOJ chief Remulla mum on death penalty; wants a debate, put issue to vote

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla on Wednesday said that the country’s policymakers should “properly” debate and vote on restoring the death penalty.

“It is up to the democratic country like ours to vote on this issue. I believe that policymakers should debate it properly and vote for it as representatives of the people,” said Remulla during the CA committee hearing on his appointment as Justice Secretary.

“But it can be debated, and we should learn from the debates before we decide on the issue of death penalty,” he added.

Although he didn’t say explicitly whether he was for or against reimposing capital punishment, he explained it could either be a “payment for [sins]” or “to deter crimes.”

“As a matter of deterrence, I believe it could only be done if there is the certainty of punishment; if the justice system is efficient, we can deter the commission of a crime,” said Remulla.

“But for the philosophical underpinnings of punishment and as a payment for the commission of a sin that is still one that will divide society forever, the body of life will always be important to all of us,” he added.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier said that he is still undecided about whether the death penalty should be reimposed, saying that there are practical and moral concerns surrounding the said policy.

(source: newsinfo.inquirer.net)

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

Marcos says he’s still ‘conflicted’ on reimposing death penalty

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. seemed not to have made up his mind yet about the death penalty, saying it remains a sensitive topic that involves both practical and moral issues.

(source: Manila Bulletin)

BANGLADESH:

2 sentenced to death for murdering college principal in Tangail----3 other suspects in the 2011 murder were acquitted

A court has handed down the death penalty to 2 people for the murder of Jamal Hossain Thandu, a college principal, in Tangail's Shakhipur Upazila in 2011.

Tangail's Special Court Judge Begum Shahana Haque Siddika delivered the verdict on Wednesday, according to Inspector Tanvir Ahmed of court police.

The capital punishment recipients are Minhajur Rahman Mintu and Abdul Malek Shukur, a fugitive. They have also been fined Tk 50,000 each.

A group of assailants, led by Mintu, hacked Thandu to death while he was on his way home from Palashtali Mohabidyalaya, a private college in Shakhipur, over a lingering dispute on Oct 20, 2011, said Public Prosecutor Mohammad Mohsin Sikder, citing the case dossier.

Thandu’s wife Parveen Begum filed a case with Shakhipur Police Station later that day. The case's investigation officer, Sub-Inspector Aiyub Ali, pressed charges against 5 suspects in 2012.

3 other suspects in the case were acquitted, Sikder added.

(source: bdnews24.com)

MALAYSIA:

Malaysia government to introduce alternatives to death penalty

The Malaysian government has decided to replace the death penalty with other types of punishment for a number of offences, said the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar on Wednesday (Sep 14).

Dr Wan Junaidi said in a statement that the decision was made after 2 series of meetings on Sep 6 and Tuesday.

The meetings were held by a task force that he had chaired, referred to as the Substitute Sentences for the Mandatory Death Penalty Task Force Technical Committee.

According to the Bernama news agency, the government has agreed in principle to a proposal to substitute the sentences for 11 offences that carry the mandatory death penalty.

This includes one under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act, as well as 22 other offences that carry a potential death sentence at the court's discretion, said Dr Wan Junaidi.

Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act pertains to drug trafficking.

Dr Wan Junaidi also announced a moratorium for 1,337 inmates who had previously been sentenced to death.

The decision will be submitted to the Cabinet to be tabled at a meeting for approval. The 1st reading of the Bill is expected on Oct 4 and the second reading is expected on Nov 22.

In June, Dr Wan Junaidi said that the Malaysian government had agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty, and that it would be replaced by other types of punishment at the court's discretion.

This decision was reached following the presentation of a report on the study of alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty during a Cabinet meeting on Jun 8.

According to Amnesty International, the death penalty is currently mandatory or a sentencing option for 33 offences in Malaysia.

Crimes punishable by death in the country include murder, drug trafficking, terrorism, kidnapping and the possession of firearms.

(source: channelnewsasia.com)

KUWAIT:

‘Appeals’ upholds death penalty against person for killing Kuwaiti

The Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of the Criminal Court, which imposed death penalty on a person whose nationality is unknown for stabbing to death a citizen in Kabd in April due to a dispute between them, reports Al- Seyassah daily. Case files indicate that security authorities took the body of the victim from his vehicle that was parked behind Kabd Cooperative Society.

It was confirmed that he died after being stabbed in the chest. The perpetrator, who surrendered, gave the murder weapon to the authorities. He and his father went to the police station in the area, where he revealed his motive for killing the citizen.

(source: arabtimesonline.com)

EUROPEAN UNION/IRAN:

EU condemns death sentences for 2 women in Iran

The European Union on Tuesday condemned the death sentences imposed by Iran on 2 women, Elham Chubdar and Zahra Sedighi Hamedani, who advocates and human rights groups say are LGBT activists and innocent of any crime.

"The EU is – as a principle – fundamentally opposed to the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances, and aims at its universal abolition," Peter Stano, the spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said.

"The EU is also firmly opposed to all forms of criminalisation of sexual orientation and gender identity," he added.

Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Sept. 5 that 2 women had been sentenced to death on charges of "corruption on earth" and human trafficking.

"Corruption on earth" is a term Iranian authorities use to refer to a broad range of offences, including those related to Islamic morals.

In March, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described homosexuality as part of a "moral deprivation" widespread in Western civilisation.

Stano said the EU would continue to push for human rights to be upheld in the Islamic Republic.

"As part of our bilateral engagement with Iran, we will continue to urge the Iranian authorities to guarantee the full range of fundamental rights for their citizens irrespective of their religion, belief, sexual orientation or any other status," he noted.

Western rights groups have often criticised Iran for its treatment of LGBT issues. Under Iran's legal system, homosexual acts can be punished by the death penalty.

(source: Reuters)

SEPTEMBER 13, 2022:

TEXAS:

As the Lone Star State Conducts 400th White-Victim Execution, Study Shows Black Lives Matter Less in Texas Capital Cases

A new study of the Texas death penalty, released as the state was conducting its 400th modern-era execution in a case involving a white victim, has documented overwhelming racial disparities in the Lone Star state’s capital punishment system.

Reviewing more than 15,000 capital murder convictions in Texas from 1973 to 2018, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Dean Jelani Jefferson Exum and University of Cincinnati School of Public and International Affairs Associate Professor Dr. David Niven, found “a stark disparity” in whose lives mattered in Texas capital cases based on the race of the victim and the race of the defendant. “The Texas death penalty data shows how pervasive race is in death penalty outcomes,” Exum and Niven write in their Summer 2022 article, Where Black Lives Matter Less: Understanding the Impact of Black Victims on Sentencing Outcomes in Texas Capital Murder Cases from 1973 to 2018, in the St. Louis University Law Journal.

“Race,” they say, “is everywhere.”

Exum and Niven found that a death sentence was more than three times as likely to be imposed in Texas in a case involving a white victim than in a case with a Black victim. While 5.2% of Texas 15,394 capital murder convictions resulted in death sentences, death was imposed in 8.5% of white-victim cases compared with 2.7% of Black-victim cases.

“Taken in sum,” they wrote, “we see: a race of victim disparity in death sentences overall; a race of victim disparity in death sentences sorted by race of defendant; a race of victim disparity in death sentences sorted by weapon used; a race of victim disparity in cases with a single victim; and a race of victim disparity in multiple victim cases. … In every single comparison, the racial disparity was statistically significant. In every single comparison, harsher punishment was associated with white victims than with African American victims, who clearly mattered less.”

Exum and Niven conducted an analysis to determine the probability that the persistently large race-of-victim disparities they found could have been the product of a race neutral process. That possibility, they discovered, was astronomically remote — 1 in 180 septen-decillion (numerically represented as 180,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). By comparison, they noted, “the odds of winning the Powerball lottery … are quite literally trillions of times better than seeing this disparity in race of victim sentencing in Texas happen by chance.”

The white-victim preference in capital convictions “is so prevalent that we even see a race of victim disparity in non-death sentence cases,” they wrote. In the 11,139 capital murder cases in Texas in which a death sentence was not imposed, those convicted of killing white victims were sentenced to an average of 51.3 years in prison, nearly 4 years longer than the average of 47.5 years imposed on those convicted of killing Black victims.

A Death Penalty Information Center analysis found similar race-of-victim disparities in Texas execution data. On August 17, 2022, Texas executed Kosoul Chanthakoummane, the state’s 575th execution since the 1970s. He was the 400th person to be put to death for a homicide involving at least one white victim. 69.6% of all Texas executions over that time have involved at least 1 white victim, and 67.3% (387 executions) involved only white victims. During that same time, 79 people were put to death in Texas for homicides that involved any Black victims (13.7% of executions). 74 of those cases involved only Black victims (12.9%). That meant that a Texas execution was 5.1 times more likely to have involved at least one white victim than any Black victim and 5.2 times more likely to have involved only white victims than only Black victims.

The Texas executions also demonstrated huge race of defendant disparities. While 238 of the 254 white death-sentenced prisoners executed in Texas (93.7%) have been put to death for homicides involving white victims, only 70 of the 207 Black death-sentenced prisoners executed in the state (33.8%) were put to death for murders involving Black victims. 114 Black death-sentenced prisoners were executed for homicides of white victims (55.1%), 110 of which (53.1%) involved only white victims. Just 2.4% of the white executed prisoners (6 cases) were put to death for killing any Black victims.

“As the Texas example provides, the devaluing effect of Blackness is apparent,” Exum and Niven write. “This is not simply a failure to recognize the value of Black lives—as the Black Lives Matter movement exposes—but a reflection of the societal view that Blackness actually reduces the value and importance of all things—from property to community spaces to ultimate humanity. In life, Black people are vastly under-protected by the law, and the same is true for Black people even in a system designed to exact retribution for death.”

“History shows us that Blackness has been devalued since the founding of America,” Exum and Niven note. “The truth, of course, is that Black victims matter as much as any, even if the legal system and society have not recognized their value.”

Their proposed response: “We must make the radical choice to uproot systems, like the death penalty, that allow the anti-Black biases in our national consciousness to not only thrive, but to be just. To do otherwise is to perpetuate a system where Black lives matter less.”

“When we accept the fact that the death penalty reveals that Black deaths do not matter,” they conclude, “then it becomes apparent that there is not an antiracist fix for the death penalty other than its abolition.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

ALABAMA----impending execution

State: Alabama Nearly Ready with Untried Execution Method for Alan Eugene Miller

Alabama could be ready to use a new, untried execution method called nitrogen hypoxia to carry out a death sentence later this month, a state attorney told a federal judge Monday.

James Houts, a deputy state attorney general, told U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. that it is “very likely” the method will be available for the execution of Alan Eugene Miller, currently set for Sept. 22 by lethal injection.

The final decision on whether to use the new method is up to Corrections Commissioner John Hamm, he said, and litigation is likely.

Nitrogen hypoxia, which is supposed to cause death by replacing oxygen with nitrogen, has been authorized by Alabama and two other states for executions but never used.

Convicted in a triple killing in Shelby County in 1999, Miller is trying to block his execution at Holman Prison. The disclosure about the possibility of using the new method came during a court hearing on Miller’s claim that prison staff several years ago lost his paperwork. In it, he requested nitrogen as his execution method rather than lethal injection.

Houts told the judge the state had gone as far as to see if Miller would agree to be fitted with a mask for use of nitrogen, but the inmate declined.

Miller’s lawyer, Mara Klebaner, said the inmate’s legal team needed more information about the nitrogen process and wouldn’t agree blindly to its use. Miller’s lawyers don’t want him to be the test case for an untried execution method, she said.

Miller, who was in court for the evidentiary hearing, was expected to testify.

Miller, a delivery truck driver, was convicted in workplace shootings that killed Lee Holdbrooks, Scott Yancy and Terry Jarvis in suburban Birmingham. Miller shot Holdbrooks and Yancy at one business and then drove to another location to shoot Jarvis, evidence showed.

Miller was delusional and believed the men were spreading rumors about him, including that he was gay, testimony showed. A defense psychiatrist said Miller suffered from severe mental illness but his condition wasn’t bad enough to use as a basis for an insanity defense under state law.

(source: Associated Press)

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

Alabama could use nitrogen hypoxia for executions in death sentences. What is it?

Alabama is readying an untried method of execution to carry out its death sentences – nitrogen hypoxia.

The state approved the method in 2018, but it has not yet been used or tested.

The man awaiting a Sep. 22 execution, Alan Eugene Miller, was convicted of killing 3 men in a workplace shooting in 1999. He said he opted for nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection due to a fear of needles, but corrections officers lost his paperwork.

While the Alabama attorney general's office found no evidence of that, Miller could receive death by nitrogen hypoxia if a judge blocks the use of lethal injection.

What is nitrogen hypoxia?

Hypoxia is when there is not a sufficient amount of oxygen in the tissues for the body to perform its regular functions. It is different from hypoxemia, which occurs when there is low oxygen in the blood.

Nitrogen hypoxia is a form of inert gas asphyxiation. Nitrogen is safe to breathe – it makes up 78% of what we inhale – but only when mixed with suitable amounts of oxygen.

Inert gas asphyxiation uses gasses that are not typically poisonous, such as nitrogen, methane or helium, as a diluting agent for atmospheric gasses. This then reduces oxygen concentration to fatally low amounts, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

Once oxygen levels fall below 16%, breathing becomes difficult. At 4% to 6%, a person can enter a coma in as little as 40 seconds.

There are concerns about the method

Oklahoma and Mississippi are the 2 other states that have authorized the method. Russell Bucklew, a man incarcerated in Missouri tried to get approved for nitrogen hypoxia, but was denied in a lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bucklew was initially scheduled for execution in 2014, but sued the director of the Missouri Department of Corrections asking for the use of nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection due to a medical condition he had.

In the opinion of the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch denied the request, saying that nitrogen hypoxia had been untested and Missouri could not properly prepare it.

Bucklew's proposal should have included how the nitrogen gas should be administered, in what amounts, how long it would take to work and how to keep the execution team safe, he said.

The Court also ruled there was no evidence to support Bucklew's claim that hypoxia would be less painful. He was executed in 2019 by lethal injection.

(source: npr.org)

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

Alabama 'very likely' ready to execute by nitrogen hypoxia by Sept. 22, ADOC attorney says

The Alabama Department of Corrections has prepared but not finalized a protocol for executing inmates by nitrogen hypoxia, an attorney for the department said during a Monday morning hearing in the case of Alan Eugene Miller, the next person scheduled to be executed by the state of Alabama.

Such a protocol would be the first of its kind. To date, no human has been executed by nitrogen hypoxia and no state has approved a protocol for its use.

James Houts, attorney for ADOC, said it’s “very likely” that the state would be able to execute Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on his scheduled Sept. 22 execution date if the court moves them to, although Houts maintained that it is ADOC Commissioner John Hamm’s decision.

ADOC has gone as far as asking Miller to be fitted for a mask in preparation for executing him by nitrogen hypoxia, although Miller did not allow this, Houts said.

The supposed protocol has not been finalized or submitted in court records, and Miller’s attorneys were not aware that the state had developed a protocol for death by nitrogen hypoxia sufficient for use by Millers’ execution date later this month. ADOC hasn’t finalized the protocol because it must be “nested” into existing language for carrying out executions by lethal injection and electrocution.

“The protocol is there, but I won’t say it’s final,” Houts said.

Parts of the protocol will be “public facing,” although other aspects will remain confidential, Houts said. He did not specify which parts of the protocol will be public record.

Mara Klebaner, Millers’ lead attorney, said his counsel has not received information about the supposed protocol and were worried that the state would be “rushing” the process if it were to execute Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on Sept. 22.

“We believe it is very inappropriate to rush that process,” Klebaner said. “…We have no visibility on this side of things.”

Houts said he offered Miller’s attorneys a chance to discuss what concerns they had with execution by nitrogen hypoxia on Sept. 2 and Sept. 7 but no one reached out to him. Klebaner said they need more information before raising any concerns with the supposed protocol.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law approving nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative means of execution in 2018. The state has not executed anyone via nitrogen hypoxia to date as it had not developed a protocol for its use.

Miller launched a lawsuit in August against Hamm, Holman Correctional Facility’s Terry Raybon and Attorney General Steve Marshall alleging that the state lost his form by which he elected nitrogen hypoxia. The state set a date for his execution in April, which it originally planned to carry out by lethal injection.

Miller requested the court enjoin the state from executing him by lethal injection.

(source: Gadsden Times)

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

ADVOCACY GROUPS CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY IN EXECUTIONS

As the next person scheduled to be executed in Alabama continues litigation on the question of how he will be killed, Project Hope ...To Abolish the Death Penalty and Death Penalty Action, a national advocacy organization, announced the launch of the "Pull Back The Curtains" campaign to demand greater transparency in Alabama executons. In light of the horrific torture of Joe James, Jr. in the most recent Alabama execution, the groups have launched a petition renewing the demand that media and other public witnesses observe the proceedings "from the moment a prisoner walks him or herself into the death chamber until they are declared dead."

Witnesses were kept in vans for more than 2 hours while awaiting the execution of Joe James, Jr. on July 28, 2022. When they were finally brought to the witness room and the curtains were opened, James was already sedated and unresponsive. An autopsy showed that he had been subjected to many and varied attempts to establish intravenous access with which to administer the execution drugs. Many questions remain unanswered about all that transpired prior to witnesses being able to observe what executioners were doing.

"We oppose the death penalty in all cases," said Esther Brown, a spokesperson for Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty. "But this is about accountability in government. Right now Alan Miller is challenging his execution date next week because the state lost the form in which he chose the gas chamber rather than lethal injection. The Alabama Department of Corrections seems more concerned about whether reporters are wearing underwear or proper shoes than if we have a competent execution team. It's ridiculous."

Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty is working with Death Penalty Action and have invited other Alabama organizations to join them in highlighting these issues. They have launched a petition which is found at bit.ly/PullBackTheCurtains and they plan to deliver the petition to the Alabama Department of Corrections and Governor Kay Ivey with a public rally on September 21, 2022 (details TBA). Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, A Death Penalty Action Advisory Board Member who has accompanied 12 men to their execution in Texas, spelled out the issues on this blog post.

"We care about safety and accountability, but that should include government." said Abraham Bonowitz, executive Director of Death Penalty Action. "The question should not be how we kill our prisoners, but whether government can be trusted with the power to kill. As long as Alabama continues to execute its citizens, then we must be transparent about it, and we must get it right."

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

ALABAMA COULD USE GAS CHAMBER NEXT WEEK

In a hearing Monday morning challenging the execution date set in Alabama next week, an attorney for the state suggested that Alabama could begin using its newly constructed gas chamber to carry out what would be the 1st-ever execution using nitrogen hypoxia.

"Alabama's intentions of testing out its new gas chamber on American soil is a slap in the face of all of us who are scions of Holocaust victims, myself included," said Cantor Mike Zoosman, a Jewish clergyman who co-founded the organization L'Chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty. "Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel spoke for all the members of "L'chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty" when he said this: 'With every cell of my being and with every fiber of my memory I oppose the death penalty in all forms. I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don’t think it’s human to become an agent of the angel of death.' Indeed, the idea of an American gas chamber is an abomination, an affront to us all, and cannot stand!"

(source for both: Death Penalty Action)

OHIO:

Ohio prosecutor: Family spent months planning slayings of 8----A prosecutor says a custody dispute between two families that ended with the massacre of 8 people in Ohio started with a plan to kill just 1 of them

A custody dispute between 2 families that erupted into the massacre of 8 people in rural southern Ohio started with a plan to kill just one of them, a young mother refusing to give up her daughter, a prosecutor said Monday.

But just months before the killings in 2016, the family behind the plot decided to kill everyone who could point the finger at them, the prosecutor said during opening statements of the first trial in the slayings.

Now 6 years later, George Wagner IV faces the death penalty if he’s convicted in the slayings of the Rhoden family near Piketon.

His younger brother, Jake Wagner, last year pleaded guilty to shooting 5 of the victims, and is expected to testify against his brother as part of a deal with prosecutors that spared him from being sentenced to death.

Their mother, Angela Wagner, also pleaded guilty to helping plan the slayings, and is also expected to testify. Jake and George’s father, George “Billy” Wagner III, has pleaded not guilty. He likely won’t go on trial until next year.

Special prosecutor Angela Canepa did not accuse George Wagner, 30, of shooting anyone in April 2016, but she said he took part in planning, carrying out and covering up “one of the most heinous crimes in Ohio history.”

He was with his brother and father when they drove to 3 separate locations where all 8 were killed, went inside with the pair and helped his brother move 2 of the bodies, Canepa said.

Some of the victims were treated as “collateral damage” by the Wagners, Canepa said.

“They knew that there might be other people there and agreed they would need to be killed too,” she said. “People they had no issue with, they were willing to kill them indiscriminately.”

Defense attorney Richard Nash said George Wagner is not like the rest of his family and had nothing to do with the killings.

“There are certain things in this life we can’t control. One of those is your family name,” Nash said. “George cannot help he’s a Wagner. That does not make him a murderer.”

He said Jake Wagner will testify that his brother didn’t take part in the planning, didn’t destroy evidence and didn’t shoot anyone. “Everyone had a motive in this case except George,” Nash said.

Authorities say the shootings of seven adults and a teenage boy stemmed from a dispute over a young girl that Jake Wagner had with one of the victims, 19-year-old Hannah Rhoden.

The 2 families had been close for years, but Canepa described the Wagners as being obsessed with gaining control over the girl.

The family had pressured Hannah Rhoden to sign away custody, but she vowed in a Facebook message sent 4 months before the massacre that “they will have to kill me first,” Canepa said.

Jake Wagner told investigators he first pushed back against his parents when they talked about killing Hannah Rhoden but later relented, the special prosecutor said. They eventually settled on killing four of the family members because they believed the girl was being raised around people who were dangerous, Canepa said.

The Wagners spent 3 months planning the massacre, buying masks, ammunition and a device to jam phone signals, Canepa said. The 2 brothers even dyed their hair in the week leading up to the killings, she said.

Several discoveries, Canepa said, led investigators to the Wagners including a shell casing found outside the Wagner’s home that matched one from a gun that killed 5 of the victims.

Those killed also were 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their 3 children, 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and Hanna; Clarence Rhoden’s fiancee, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden.

Jake Wagner told investigators he fired the 1st shot the night of the killings, but it was his father who killed the 1st of the 8, Chris Rhoden Sr., according to Canepa.

The special prosecutor said that Jake Wagner told investigators that his father then cried out “I just shot my best friend.”

(source: Associated Press)

US MILITARY:

Some 9/11 families "outraged" over potential plea deals for 5 defendants held at Guantanamo Bay

CBS News has confirmed military prosecutors and defense attorneys are negotiating potential plea deals that could take the death penalty off the table for 5 defendants charged in connection with the 9/11 attack – and some families of victims are upset by the news, reports CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge.

The 5 defendants (including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of 9/11) are all held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and were formally charged in 2008 with helping to plan the attack. But their cases have stalled over access to CIA evidence and, recently, over COVID delays.

Sunday marked 21 years since the terror plot that killed nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil.

Among the victims was pilot Charles Burlingame. On 9/11, al Qaeda terrorists took over Burlingame's American Airlines Flight 77, slamming it into the Pentagon.

"He was living his dream," Burlingame's sister, Debra, told Herridge.

Burlingame was more than a war hero to his family, who affectionately called him Chic. "He was really our touchstone," said Debra. "He still is."

Before this year's anniversary, Debra shared his story at New York's 9/11 Memorial. "We didn't have remains for weeks. We were constantly saying to each other, 'What would Chic want? What would Chic do?'"

But her grief has turned to anger, after learning a potential plea deal is under discussion.

"I was outraged," she said.

Herridge asked, "You're in touch with other 9/11 families. Do they feel the same way?"

"The families are outraged. They don't want closure; they want justice."

But another group, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, believes a plea deal could deliver "some measure of judicial finality."

Lawyer James Connell, whose team represents 9/11 defendant Ammar al-Baluchi, said, "All 5 defendants and the government are all engaged in good faith negotiations with the idea of bringing this trial, which has become a forever trial, to an end.

"[Al-Baluchi] is willing to plead guilty to a substantial sentence at Guantanamo in exchange for a guarantee of medical care and dropping the death penalty," Connell said.

Before their transfer to Guantanamo Bay in 2006, the 5 9/11 defendants were held by the CIA and interrogated. Critics call the extreme tactics torture.

Alka Pradhan, a human rights attorney on the 9/11 defense team, described one interrogation tactic, referred to as "walling," which she said has had the most lasting physical impact: "He had told us that his head was bashed against a wall repeatedly until he saw sparks and fainted."

"Nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11," said Herridge. "Is it right to take the death penalty off the table?"

"The United States government failed all of us after September 11th in their decisions to use illegal techniques and illegal programs," Pradhan replied. "In doing so, [they] irrevocably corrupted any legal process that could have taken place."

A spokesman for the military trials did not answer CBS News' questions, but confirmed "the parties are currently engaged in preliminary plea negotiations," citing recent court records.

If a plea deal goes ahead, and the 9/11 defendants get lengthy sentences, there's a law in place that prevents their transfer to U.S. soil and federal custody. That means the Guantanamo prison could remain open indefinitely.

Debra Burlingame, whose brother was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, said, "I will not have closure as long as there is any possibility for some future president to commute their sentences or trade them away.

"I do believe that forgiveness is more powerful than love," she said. "But it's earned. They never will have that."

(source: CBS News)

GLOBAL:

Mid-terms: A 1st half of 2022 rich in abolitions

The 1st 6 months of 2022 have been rich for the abolitionist community with 2 new abolitionist countries and a new ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. However, some countries continue to use the death penalty and there have been significant increases in executions.

THE YEAR 2022 IS OFF TO A FLYING START

The first month of 2022 set the tone for the abolitionist community with the announcement of the abolition of the death penalty in Papua New Guinea on January 20, 2022. The Central African Republicfollowed a few months later, enacting a law abolishing the death penalty in legislation on June 27. It officially became the 24th African state to abolish the death penalty.

Other states seem inclined to abolish the death penalty in the coming months. The President of the Republic of Zambia affirmed his commitment to the abolition of the death penalty on May 24 by commuting 30 death sentences and submitting a death penalty abolition bill to Parliament. He said at the time:

We believe in showing strength through our compassion and we believe in rights for all citizens, including the right to life

In Malaysia, the government cabinet announced on June 10, 2022, an agreement to abolish the mandatory death penalty in national law and to submit a bill to Parliament to allow for alternative sentencing where the offence carries the mandatory death penalty. A similar statement was made by the previous prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, but the bill was ultimately not considered by parliament due to the collapse of the coalition government in February 2020.

Finally, after enacting a law abolishing the death penalty in early 2022, Kazakhstan ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, which it had already committed to ratify 3 years earlier.

While these many announcements promise a successful year for the abolitionist community, there are still a few concerning points to mention.

WORRYING DEVELOPMENTS IN THE COUNTRIES THAT APPLY THE DEATH PENALTY THE MOST

The death penalty continues to be widely used in the United States, and there are several grey areas. While some states, such as Ohio and Tennessee, have temporarily halted executions, the state of Oklahoma has resumed executions after a 6-year hiatus following several botched executions. There have been 8 executions to date in the United States, and several of those executed had intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, and 9 executions are still scheduled for the 2nd half of 2022: 4 in Oklahoma, 4 in Texas, and 1 in Alabama.

The number of executions in Iran has risen alarmingly. While 117 executions were recorded in the first half of 2021, this year more than double that number was recorded in the same period, with 251 people executed. 137 executions took place after the start of the national protests on May 7, 2022. Mahmoud Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Iran Human Rights NGO said:

Undoubtedly, the widespread executions are used by the authorities to instil fear in society to prevent further anti-government protests. Raising the political cost of the executions through popular campaigns and added international pressure can stop this wave of executions.

See the statement (at: https://worldcoalition.org/2022/08/11/joint-statement-to-condemn-the-public-executions-and-the-surge-of-executions-in-2022-in-iran/) shared by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty about the increase in executions in Iran.

Executions have also increased alarmingly in Saudi Arabia. In 6 months, the country has already almost doubled the number of executions recorded for the whole of 2021, with 110 executions as of 6 July 2022, compared to 67 in 2021. On March 12, no fewer than 81 people were executed, often on the basis of confessions obtained under torture and following trials that did not meet the standards set by international law. Forty-one of them were members of the Shiite Muslim minority. This mass execution, the largest in years, was condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who said the executions were violations of human rights and humanitarian law and could even be a war crime. Among the 110 executions recorded there are several minors. The country continues to sentence to death and execute people who were minors at the time of the crime, in violation of international law.

In Singapore, the government ordered the execution of Abdul Kahar bin Othman on March 30 after he was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences, after a two-year hiatus. A total of 10 people has been executed in Singapore in four months. Among them was Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who was executed on 27 April after being diagnosed with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. This practice is prohibited by international law, as is the mandatory death penalty and the death penalty for ordinary crimes, three practices that are nevertheless in force in Singapore.

The 2nd half of 2022 promises to be just as rich. The Republic of Zambia could become the 3rd country to abolish the death penalty in 2022, and Malaysia could take another step towards abolition by abolishing the mandatory death penalty in the country. The situation in Singapore, however, needs to be closely monitored, as much as for the other top executing countries.

(source: worldcoalition.org)

RUSSIA:

Russia state-media host calls for generals to be executed for allowing retreat from huge swathes of Ukraine

A Russia state-media host has called for the country's generals to be "shot" for having allowed troops to retreat from huge swathes of Ukraine — part of a wider meltdown among President Vladimir Putin's cheerleaders.

Ukrainian forces have successfully regained around 1,250 (2,000 square kilometers) of territory in the country's Kharkiv region over the past few days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his Saturday night address.

Russia's Ministry of Defense has confirmed that its forces were retreating from some areas in the Kharkiv region, the BBC reported.

The speed of the counteroffensive has seen Russian soldiers fleeing the region in any way they can, including disguising themselves as locals. Ukrainian forces have taken more territory in 5 days than Russia did in 5 months, according to New Statesman.

On Monday Russian state-media host Volodymyr Solovyov savaged the Kremlin's military leaders.

"I do not justify anyone, especially do not argue with the fact that many bosses in uniform (I can not call them commanders) deserve to be dismissed in disgrace, and some of them should be shot, and I can even name a few names to decision makers," he wrote on his Telegram channel.

Solovyov is a television presenter, writer, and propagandist who has previously supported Putin's attack on Ukraine. Shortly after Russia's invasion was launched in February, Solovyov announced that he had been placed on a list of international sanctions.

Other state-media, who have until now been optimistic about the war in Ukraine, also expressed dismay at Russia's struggles in the Kharkiv region.

Anton Anisimov, the host of Russia's sports channel Match TV's political talk show, said on Friday that "everyone who is a believer should pray for our guys," a clip reviewed by Insider showed. "We should pray that our men who are there hold out."

The military blogger Yuri Podolyaka told Russia's "Time Will Tell" show that Russian troops had "given [Ukraine] quite significant territories."

The Kremlin's official spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Monday that Russia's "military operation continues" and "it will continue until the goals that were originally set are achieved," according to The Guardian.

(source: Yahoo News)

MALAYSIA:

4 men escape gallows over murder conviction

After the Court of Appeal upheld their appeals against convictions for the murder of a man 9 years ago, 4 men – including 2 brothers – were spared the death penalty.

The appeal has validity, according to a 3-member bench led by Hanipah Farikullah, who said there was merit in their case and that the trial judge had made legal and factual mistakes.

In Malaysia, the mandatory death penalty is used in a number of offences, including murder and “terrorism”. However, in June, the government agreed in principle to abolish the law and leave it up to judges to decide the appropriate punishment.

Hanipah said there were discrepancies in the testimony of the two witnesses who claimed to have witnessed the murder.

“Therefore, the convictions are not safe and the High Court ruling is set aside. The appellants are acquitted,” said Hanipah, who sat with M Gunalan and Nordin Hassan.

2 years ago, P Narendrapathy, 35, his brother Sethupathi, 34, P Namasivayam, 32 and Aiman Mazlan, 33, were all sentenced to death.

On May 4, 2013, at around 10 p.m., the 4 men and 4 other males were accused of attacking R Sivan in front of a home in Taman Bertam Jaya, Melaka.

The 2nd set of accused were all acquitted, 2 at the close of the prosecution’s case and another 2 after their defence was called.

Sethupathi and Aiman were also given a 10-year prison term by the High Court for grievously injuring murdered brothers R Muniandy and Garnesan with a parang at a traffic light in Cheng, Melaka, at around 11.30 p.m. on May 4, 2013.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the prosecution’s appeal to enhance their jail term up to 20 years, with judge Gunalan noting that the pair have been in prison for a long period, which commenced when they were quite young.

Sethupathi and Aiman will be released after accounting for the 1/3 reduction offered by the jail administration for good behaviour, according to their lawyer, Paul Krishnaraja.

Lawyers Goh Chee Kian and Amy Chong assisted Krishnaraja while deputy public prosecutor Leo Anak Saga prosecuted.

(source: coconuts.co)

**********

Alternative sentences to death penalty finalised, to be presented to Cabinet, says Wan Junaidi

The government has finalised its policy decision on alternative sentences to the mandatory death sentence for 11 offences and will present it to the Cabinet soon.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that the government had also finalised the policy decision on alternative sentences for 22 offences where the death penalty is at the discretion of the court as well as the moratorium on the execution of the 1,337 inmates on death row.

"The decision was reached in 2 series of meetings of the Technical Committee on Alternative Sentence to Mandatory Death Sentence.

"The government has in agreed in policy to the proposal of alternative sentences for 11 offences with mandatory death sentence, with one offence under Section 39B Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 and 22 offences with death by court discretion and the moratorium on the execution of 1,337 inmates on death row," said Wan Junaidi in a statement on Tuesday (Sept 13).

He said the decision would be presented to the Cabinet for consideration and approval before the amendment is tabled at the next Parliament meeting.

"The 1st reading for this Act is expected to be on Oct 4 and the 2nd reading on Nov 22, depending on the schedule," said Wan Junaidi.

(source: thestar.com.my)

TAIWAN:

Support for death penalty high: poll----DETERRENT: About 88 % of respondents said capital punishment helps prevent serious crimes, while nearly 89 % were dissatisfied with the pace of executions

A majority of Taiwanese oppose the abolition of the death penalty, the results of a survey released yesterday by the Foundation for the People showed.

The poll found that 86.9 % of respondents opposed the abolition of capital punishment in Taiwan, while 12.4 % were in favor.

While Taiwan has not abolished capital punishment, 79.9 % of respondents believed the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen has essentially ceased the practice.

The survey found that 88.8 % were dissatisfied that the Tsai administration carried out only 2 executions over the past 6 years.

According to the poll, 90.3 % believe that the nation’s 38 death-row inmates should be executed soon.

Only 10.4 % of respondents agreed with Tsai’s statement that “abolition of the death penalty is a universal goal.”

Asked whether they think capital punishment helps prevent serious crimes, 88.1 % of respondents said yes.

The poll also showed that 73.6 % are dissatisfied with public safety in Taiwan, while 25.5 % are satisfied.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang, chairman of the foundation, said that a cross-analysis of survey results showed that opposition to the abolition of the death penalty crossed age groups and party affiliations.

The poll, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday by sending out questionnaires on Facebook, collected 1,050 valid responses from people aged 18 or older. It has a confidence level of 95 % and a margin of error of 3.02 percentage points.

The poll was conducted shortly after the killing of two police officers in Tainan last month.

The Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday said prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 46-year-old suspect, Lin Hsin-wu, who has been charged with aggregate larceny, murder, robbery and illegal use of firearms and a knife.

Prosecutors said Lin did not show sympathy for the officers, 36-year-old Tu Ming-cheng and 27-year-old Tsao Rui-jie, as he stole a handgun and two magazines containing 18 bullets from one of them and abandoned the two injured officers as they lay dying on the ground on Aug. 23.

What Lin committed was a felony, investigators said.

Minister of Justice Tsai Ching- hsiang has voiced support for prosecutors seeking the death penalty for Lin.

During interrogation, Lin was aware that he had killed 2 police officers, and expressed hope that the trial would be concluded quickly and his sentence would be handed down as soon as possible, prosecutors’ office spokesman Hsu Chia-lung said.

(source: Taipei Times)

PHILIPPINES:

Marcos on death penalty: Does the society have the right to kill its own people?

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is still not keen on reimposing the death penalty in the Philippines.

“Death penalty is tough one because there is a practical issue and a moral issue involved. And the question is, does society have the right to kill its own people?” Marcos Jr. told actress-host Toni Gonzaga in an interview.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 1987, but it was reinstated during the Ramos administration, only to be repealed again in 2006.

The President was also unsure whether the death sentence deters people from committing crimes.

“And as a practical matter, does the death penalty, actually, does it discourage people from committing heinous crimes? And I think the data, not only from the Philippines but from other countries, shows that we have to be very stringent about applying the law,” said Marcos Jr.

(source: politics.com.ph)

SRI LANKA:

Death sentence for rape, murder suspect

A man who was found guilty for rape and killing his sister-in-law was on Wednesday (10) sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court.

Considering the evidence transpired during the lengthy trial the High Court Judge observed that the prosecution has proved the charges beyond the reasonable doubts.

Accordingly, the accused was sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court.

The case was taken up before Colombo High court Judge Mahesh Weeraman. Accused Selvanayagam Mudis Kamal (30) was a resident of Kalmunai area.

The Attorney General was filed an indictment in the High Court against the accused for raping and killing his sister-in-law in 2011, under section 296 of the Penal code. State Counsel Lishan Rathnayake and his Junior Counsel Rasangi Thilakarathne appeared for the prosecution. Police Constable Madushan Premalal (92550) appeared for Wellampitiya Police.

(source: Daily News)

INDIA:

22 Sikh prisoners, 6 of them convicts in Beant assassination case, are behind bars

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have intensified their campaign for the release of 22 Sikh prisoners, who, they claim, are languishing in jails despite having served their sentences.

Their tirade, viewed by many as a desperate bid by the Akalis to resurrect their diminished standing in the Sikh constituency, has the potential to be a law and order flashpoint in Punjab.

Lodged in prisons of different states, they were convicted in terror cases. 8 of them have been in jail for 20 years or more. In its recent communication to the Centre, the SGPC attached a list of 9 such prisoners, including 6 convicted for the assassination of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.

Though the Union government issued notification for the release of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar and Gurdeep Singh Khera on the eve of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak last year, the governments of Delhi and Karnataka are yet to clear their files. HT looks at the prominent Sikh prisoners:

Gurdeep Singh Khera

A resident of Jallupur Khera village in Amritsar district, Gurdeep Singh Khera has been serving a life sentence for the last 32 years in a case registered under Sections 302, 307, 427, and 120-B of IPC and Sections of the TADA Act and 3 of Explosive Act, at Bidar (Karnataka). He was arrested in 1990 and was given a life term by a TADA Court, Karnataka, in 1991. He was in Karnataka’s Gulbarga jail from 1990 to June 2015 and then he was shifted to the Amritsar jail. He has been granted parole since 2016. The Union government issued notification for Khera’s release on the eve of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar

A resident of Dialpura Bhai Ka village in Bathinda district, Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar was a chemical engineering professor at Guru Nanak Engineering College, Ludhiana, before being convicted by a TADA court in the case of the killing of nine people and injuring 31, including Congress leader MS Bitta, in a bomb blast in 1993 in New Delhi. He was awarded the death sentence in 2001. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court on March 31, 2014. He has been in jail for the last 28 years and is currently in the Central Jail, Amritsar. Earlier, he was in the Tihar Jail, Delhi. The Union government issued a notification for his release on the eve of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. The writ petition for his release is pending before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Balwant Singh Rajoana

A resident of Rajoana Kalan village, Ludhiana district, Balwant Singh Rajoana is a death row convict in the 1995 case of the assassination of former Punjab CM Beant Singh. A cop-turned-militant, he has been serving in jail for the last 27 years and is currently lodged in the Central Jail, Patiala. His death sentence was stayed by the Union home ministry by an order dated March 28, 2012. The Union government issued notification for converting his death sentence into life imprisonment on the eve of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. A writ petition for commuting the death sentence to a life sentence is pending in the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court in May 2022 directed the Centre to decide within 2 months Rajoana’s plea that his death penalty be commuted to life imprisonment on the ground of his long incarceration. However, the Centre has not decided yet.

Jagtar Singh Hawara

A resident of Hawara village in Fatehgarh Sahib district, Jagtar Singh Hawara has been a militant of the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). In connection with the Beant Singh assassination case, he has been serving life imprisonment in the Tihar Jail, Delhi, for the last 27 years. In 2010, the Punjab and Haryana High Court commuted the death sentence awarded to Hawara, one of the prime accused in the assassination case, to life imprisonment. He along with the other two accused fled from the Burail Jail, Chandigarh, in 2004 and was re-arrested in 2005. Appeal pending in Supreme Court of India. Cases are also pending against him in Mohali and Chandigarh court

Lakhwinder Singh Lakha

A resident of Guru Nanak Nagar, Patiala, Lakhwinder Singh Lakha has been serving life imprisonment since 1995 in the Beant Singh assassination case and is lodged in the Model Jail, Burail, Chandigarh. He was part of the conspiracy of the assassination that was executed by suicide bomber Dilawar Singh. Lakha was a driver in the Punjab Police and was posted at the Civil Secretariat, Chandigarh, when the assassination took place. Under the plan of eliminating the CM, he was assigned to do a recce of the Civil Secretariat. This role helped execute the conspiracy. He has been granted parole many times.

Gurmeet Singh

A resident of Guru Nagar, Patiala, Gurmeet Singh is an engineer by profession. He has been serving life imprisonment for the last 27 years in the Beant Singh assassination case and is lodged in the Model Jail, Burail, Chandigarh. Being an engineer, he helped other convicts make a bomb that was used for killing the then CM. He came out of jail many times on parole. Writ petition for premature release is pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Shamsher Singh

A resident of Ukasi Jattan village in Patiala district, Shamsher Singh has been serving life imprisonment in the Beant Singh assassination case for the last 27 years. He is currently lodged in the Model Jail, Burail, Chandigarh. He has also been granted parole many times. He was a truck driver by profession before the assassination and he along with the prime accused, Jagtar Singh Hawara, transported RDX from the India-Pakistan border in the Ajnala area of Amritsar district to Patiala and Ropar where it was kept for making the bomb.

Paramjit Singh Bheora

A resident of Bheora village in Ropar district, Paramjit Singh Bheora is another key convict in the Beant Singh assassination case. He was a member of the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and an aide of prime convict Jagtar Singh Hawara. He has served 25 years in jail under a life sentence and is currently lodged in the Model Jail, Burail, Chandigarh. He remained in jail from 1997 to 2004 till a Burail jailbreak and he was re-arrested in 2006.

Jagtar Singh Tara

A resident of Dekwala village in Ropar, Jagtar Singh Tara has served 17 years in jail in the case Beant Singh assassination case and is currently lodged in the Model Jail, Burail, Chandigarh. After being arrested in 1995, he remained behind bars till 2004 when he along with other accused Jagtar Singh Hawara and Paramjit Singh Bheora fled from the Burail Jail. He was re-arrested after more than 10 years from Thailand and extradited to India. In December 2017, he confessed the crime in the District Court of Chandigarh and On March 17, 2018, he was awarded life imprisonment in the assassination case. One case at Patiala and 2 cases in Jalandhar are pending.

Daya Singh Lahoria

Former militant Daya Singh Lahoria is a resident of Kasba Bharal of Sangrur district. In a kidnapping case, he has been serving a jail term since 1995 under a life sentence. He has spent 27 years in jail. He was awarded life imprisonment by a Jaipur court in 2004 for abducting Rajendra Mirdha, the son of senior Rajasthan Congress leader Ram Niwas Mirdha. Lahoria and 2 others had allegedly abducted him with a view to pressurising the then Narasimha Rao government for releasing the 1993 Delhi blast accused Devendra Pal Singh Bhullar in 1994. He had fled to the United States. On March 20, 2009, Daya Singh Lahoria was extradited from the US. He is presently released on permanent parole since December 13, 2021. One case of 1987 is pending in Ludhiana. He is on bail in this case.

Harnek Singh Bhap

A resident Butahri in Ludhiana district, Harnek Singh Bhap is in jail since 2004. He spent 18 years in jail. Since 2021, he is being granted parole. He is a former militant of the Khalistan Liberation Force. He along with others abducted home minister Ram Niwas Mirdha’s son Rajinder Mirdha on February 17, 1995, for the release of the 1993 Delhi blast accused Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar.

(source: Surjit Singh is a correspondent. He covers politics and agriculture, besides religious affairs and Indo-Pak border in Amritsar and Tarn Taran----Hindustan Times)

PAKISTAN:

SHC sets aside man’s death sentence in triple murder case

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday set aside the death sentence of a banned militant outfit’s activist in a triple murder case observing that the prosecution had failed to prove charges against him.

Ishaque, alias Bobby, was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) for murdering Syed Zakir Hussain, Mohammad Nawaz and Muhammad Younus at Dargah Nazar Ali Shah in Korangi on August 23, 2014.

According to the prosecution, Bobby along with an absconding accomplice had fired at the victims and a 12- to 13-year-old boy who remained unhurt and ran away from the scene. The suspect had been on the run until his arrest in November 2016.

A counsel for the appellant submitted that the prosecution had failed to prove charges against him and there was no sufficient evidence to convict the appellant in the triple murder case. He submitted that the identification parade of the appellant could not be relied upon as there was contradiction in the statement of a witness.

An additional prosecutor general supported the trial court’s judgment and sought dismissal of the appeal. A division bench of the high court headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha after hearing the arguments and perusal of the evidence observed that the prosecution had failed to prove charges against the appellant as the identification parade for the appellant had not been conducted in accordance with the law.

The SHC set aside the death sentence of the appellant and ordered his release if not required in other cases.

Plea for autopsy

The SHC also dismissed a petition seeking the exhumation of the late Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain’s body for an autopsy.

The petitioner, Abdul Ahad, had submitted in the application that Hussain was a renowned person and his cause of death should be ascertained.

A counsel for Hussain’s children opposed the petition submitting that he had no locus standi to file the petition. He argued that Hussain had died on June 9 and his legal heirs were allowed to bury him after obtaining permission from a judicial magistrate. He submitted that the legal heirs of the deceased did not want an autopsy of their father and requested the high court to dismiss the petition.

A single bench of the high court headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar after hearing the arguments of the counsels dismissed the petition.

(source: thenews.com.pk)

BANGLADESH:

Crimes against humanity: Khalilur awarded death penalty

A tribunal sentenced Al-Badr leader Mohammad Khalilur Rahman of Durgapur, Netrakona to death for his crimes against humanity including murder and genocide during the Liberation War in 1971.

A 3-member judicial panel, led by International Crimes Tribunal chairman Justice Md Shahinur Islam, pronounced the verdict on Tuesday (September 13) morning.

Rana Dasgupta and Rezia Sultana Chaman were present as prosecutors in the hearing against the convict where state-appointed lawyer Gazi MH Tamim stood for the convict.

The tribunal on July 18, 2022, kept the trial on CAV, curia advisory vault (a Latin legal term, meaning court awaits judgment) as both the prosecution and defence concluded their arguments on that day.

Initially, there were five accused in the case and they are Mohammad Khalilur Rahman, Md Azizur Rahman, Ashok Ali, Md Shahnewaj and Ramjan Ali. Of the 5, all but Khalilur, were arrested by the police. Ramjan died in police custody on September 30, 2016, while the investigation into the case was underway.

The tribunal on March 12, 2018, framed charges against the 4 accused. But the 3 arrested accused died of old age in custody at hearing stage, leaving Khalilur as the sole accused in the case.

According to the prosecution, they were accused of illegal detention, torture, kidnapping, looting, destruction by fire, rape, rape attempt, murder and genocide in Durgapur and Kalmakanda areas of Netrokona district in 1971.

The complaint mentions 22 killing, 1 rape, 1 rape attempt, torture in camp, looting of 14-15 houses and setting fire to 7 houses.

Khalilur, who was a member of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, in 1971, joined in the locally formed Razakar Bahini.

Subsequently, he became the commander of the local Al-Badr Bahini and committed crimes against humanity in the locality, according to the prosecution.

(source: risingbd.com)

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

War crimes: Al-Badr leader Khalilur gets death penalty

The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-1 has sentenced Al-Badr commander Khalilur Rahman of Durgapur Upazilla in Netrokona to death in a case filed for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971.

Justice Md Shahinur Islam, Chairman of the 3-judge panel of the ICT-1, passed the order on Tuesday morning.

Earlier on September 11, the ICT-1 set September 13 for pronouncing judgment in the case.

The tribunal on July 18, 2022, kept the trial on CAV, curia advisory vault (a Latin legal term, meaning court awaits judgment) as both the prosecution and defence concluded their legal arguments in the case on that day.

There were initially five accused in the case, Khalilur Rahman, Md Azizur Rahman, Ashok Ali, Md Shahnewaj and Ramjan Ali. Of the five, all but Khalilur, were arrested by the police. Ramjan died in police custody on September 30, 2016, while the case was on investigation stage.

The tribunal on March 12, 2018, framed 5 charges against the 4 accused. But the 3 arrested accused died of old age in custody at hearing stage, leaving Khalilur as the sole accused in the case.

Khalilur, who was a member of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, in 1971, joined in the locally formed Razakar Bahini. Subsequently, he became the commander of the local Al-Badr Bahini and committed heinous crimes against humanity in the locality.

(source: jagonews24.com)

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3 get death for murder in Brahmanbaria----Another suspect has been jailed for life in the murder of Sharif Khan in Akhaura 7 years ago

A Brahmanbaria court has sentenced 3 people to death and jailed another for life over the murder of Sharif Khan, a native of Akhaura's Chanpur village, in 2015.

District and Sessions Judge Sharmin Nigar passed the verdict on Monday.

The capital punishment recipients are the victim's neighbour Zakir Khan, Mahbub Khan and Gazi Khan. But all three convicts are absconding.

Amanat Khan, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, was in court for the verdict.

Referring to the case dossier, prosecutor Azad Rakib Ahmed Turan said Sharif was killed on Aug 6, 2015, following a dispute over the boundary of his house.

His wife Majeda Begum subsequently started a murder case against 5 people.

After an investigation, police pressed charges against Zakir, Mahbub, Gazi, Amanat and Amir Khan, who has since died.

Shahparan Chowdhury, the lawyer for the defendants, said he will appeal the verdict as the accused were "deprived of justice".

(source: bdnews24.com)

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Absconding death-row convict arrested 19 years after rape in Feni----Feni Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal pronounced death sentences for 3 of the accused

A 45-year-old absconding death row convict in a case filed over raping a teenager in front of her mother was arrested Sunday in Feni, 19-years after the incident.

The convict is Jahangir Alam, son of Abul Kalam from Nawabpur union in Sonagazi upazila, said Md Khaled Hossain, officer-in-charge of Sonagazi model police station.

Jahangir Alam was sent to jail after being produced before a court on Monday, said the OC.

Moreover, police arrested Jahangir from Mizan Road area of Feni sadar around 8:30pm on Sunday as he was returning from his legal counsel’s chamber.

On May 13, 2003, Jahangir and his gang abducted the victim and her mother, who were Hindus, from Sultanpur village in Nawabpur union. They gang raped the girl in front of the local health complex centre.

Next day, a case was filed against 4 people at Sonagazi police station following a complaint received from the victim's mother.

On July 14 this year, Feni Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal pronounced death sentences for three of the accused in their absence and acquitted another from charges. Along with that each of the convicts were fined Tk2 lakh.

The death row convicts are Abul Kashem, Md Latu and Jahangir Alam, all residents of Nawabpur union who remained absconding since the incident.

(source: dhakatribune.com)

MYANMAR:

UN investigator says Myanmar post-coup abuses a ‘major focus’----The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar says scale and scope of military’s abuses have expanded.

The head of a United Nations team investigating human rights abuses in Myanmar has said that the scope and scale of alleged international crimes taking place in Myanmar “broadened dramatically” during the past year, as the military sought to assert its control in the wake of the February 2021 coup.

The UN established the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) in 2018 to investigate the military crackdown in northwestern Rakhine State that sent hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh and is now the subject of a genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The IIMM aims to gather evidence and build case files for proceedings in national, regional or international courts.

Its head Nicholas Koumjian told the UN’s Human Rights Council that incidents following the coup were now also a “major focus” of its investigations.

Myanmar was plunged into crisis by the coup, which prompted a mass protest movement that has developed into armed rebellion. Some 2,273 people have been killed and more than 15,000 arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been monitoring the situation.

“These events have been prioritized for investigation on the basis of a preliminary assessment of the gravity of the crimes concerned, including their scale, nature, manner of commission and impact on victims and the likelihood of a court or tribunal taking jurisdiction over the crime(s) in question,” Koumjian said in the IIMM’s latest update (PDF) on the situation in Myanmar, which covers the year until the end of June 2022.

Referring to earlier findings in the IIMM’s annual report, he said there was ample indication that since the military takeover, crimes had been committed “on a scale and in a manner that constitutes a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population” and that the “geographic scope” of the suspected crimes and “nature of the criminality” had expanded.

Death penalty revived

In June, the generals executed 4 anti-coup politicians and activists in the 1st use of the death penalty in some 30 years.

The IIMM report noted that none of the trial proceedings — carried out in a military court — had taken place in public, and that the judgments were not publicly accessible. In such circumstances, the imposition of the death penalty “could constitute the crime of murder, openly carried out by an organ of government,” it said.

The mechanism had benefitted from an “exponential increase” since the coup of evidence submitted by individuals and organisations, and now holds nearly three million items, including interview statements, documentation, videos, photographs, geospatial imagery and social media material in its repository.

Over the past year, “the quantity and, more importantly, the probative value of the information received, namely the extent to which the information helps prove that serious international crimes were committed or helps identify persons responsible for such crimes, increased significantly,” the report said.

Social media platform Facebook also handed over items from “accounts controlled by the Myanmar military that were taken down because they misrepresented their identity,” Koumjian told the council.

Even before the 2017 crackdown, Rohingya endured years of discrimination and abuse, with Facebook accused of allowing hate speech to proliferate on its platform.

The company has said it is working to stop hate speech and told the Reuters news agency that it supported international efforts for accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.

“(We) have made voluntary, lawful disclosures to the U.N.’s investigative mechanism as well as disclosures of public information to The Gambia”, which has filed the ICJ genocide case, Miranda Sissons, director of human rights policy at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said in an email.

Rohingya refugees walk to the shore with his belongings after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Teknaf Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters] Myanmar, which refuses to use the word Rohingya, has denied genocide against the group, saying its “clearance operations” were a necessary response to attacks on police posts by a Rohingya armed group.

Since the coup, the situation in Rakhine has deteriorated with rising tension between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, another armed group fighting for self-determination for ethnic minorities in the State, that has left the Rohingya caught between the 2.

Last November, there were reports of mass arrests of Rohingya who had tried to leave Rakhine, with the military handing out more severe sentences against those convicted.

The generals have also dismissed allegations of abuse in its post-coup crackdown, claiming it is fighting against “terrorists”, a label it has attached to anyone opposed to the regime, including the government set up by elected politicians who were removed from office by the military.

(source: Al Jazeera)

SUDAN:

Human Rights Entity Lauds Dismissal of Apostasy Case against Christian Converts in Sudan

The UK-based human rights foundation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), has welcomed the dismissal of a case against 4 men who were accused of apostasy in Sudan.

In a report published September 9, CSW indicated that the General Prosecutor in Central Darfur, Sudan, found no grounds to punish Badar Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Mohamed Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Tariq Aref Abdallah, and Mortada Ismael Yousef who were accused of converting to Christianity.

The case of the 4 Christian men had been transferred to the criminal court, with the 1st hearing having been scheduled to take place on August 30. They attended the hearing, where the judge informed them that the file had been recalled by the prosecutor and indicated that the charges were likely to be dismissed as apostasy is no longer a criminal offense.

In the September 9 report, CSW’s Founder President, Mervyn Thomas, lauded the dismissal and found it regrettable that the four had been tormented for a non-existent crime.

“We welcome the dismissal of the criminal case against Badar Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Mohamed Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Tariq Aref Abdallah and Mortada Ismael Yousef,” Mr. Mervyn said.

He added, in reference to the Christian converts, “It is regrettable that they have been subjected to this trying legal ordeal when the crime they were accused of committing is no longer on the statute books. We continue to call for an investigation into the decisions made by the state officials who detained and charged the men, and for further investigations into allegations that they were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The 4 men were initially arrested, questioned, and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment on June 24 in Zalingei, Central Darfur.

On June 28, they were arrested again and held at the main prison in Zalingei.

CSW reported that on July 3, the men were brought before the prosecutor, who told them they would face the death penalty if they did not renounce their Christian faith and agree not to pray, share their faith or participate in any activities that would identify them as Christians. The men reportedly refused and were charged with apostasy.

During the civilian-led transitional period, which began in July 2019 and was ended by a military coup in October 2021, the former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok-led government removed apostasy from the criminal statute books. It went on to pass legislation that made it a criminal offense to accuse any person of apostasy.

In the September 9 report, CSW indicates that following the dismissal of the charges, the men are no longer required to comply with bail conditions, adding, “The prosecutor has ordered the return of the belongings which were confiscated from the men during their arrest. The church they had formed, which was authorized by the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments during the transitional period, has decided to remain closed due to the threats and attacks they have received from extremists in their community.”

According to the human rights foundation, 3 other churches have closed in Zalingei this year due to an increase in threats and violence.

Following the military coup on 25 October 2021, sources informed CSW that church leaders living in camps for internally displaced persons were threatened by officials who told them they would face apostasy charges if they continued to meet to pray.

Mr. Mervyn said that the Christian human rights foundation is concerned by the deteriorating security and human rights situation in Sudan.

“Reports from the church in Central Darfur that it is not safe for them to reopen, plus reports of other churches that have closed in the last year, are a stark illustration that freedom of religion or belief is under serious threat,” he said, and added, “We call on the international community to raise these cases directly with Sudan’s military leaders as a matter of urgency.”

(source: Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.)

IRAN----executions

10 Executed in Zahedan, Isfahan, Shiraz, Zanjan and Birjand

On Sunday, September 11, 2022, the Iranian regime hanged 2 prisoners Hassan Agha Mohammadi in Dastgerd prison in Isfahan and Mehdi Aghush in Zanjan prison. On September 10, 5 Baluch prisoners, including a woman, were hanged in Zahedan’s Central Prison and 1 Baluch prisoner in Birjand Central Prison. On September 7, 2 prisoners were hanged in Shiraz Prison. As such, the number of recorded executions from August 23 to September 11 stands at 57.

In another criminal and medieval act, the regime’s judiciary amputated 4 fingers of 2 prisoners, Mohammad Hosseini and Morteza Jalili, in Evin and Gohardasht prisons last week. According to branch 9 of the Central Province Justice department, Hosseini was sentenced to “amputation of his right-hand fingers for stealing 10.8 million rials (about 60 dollars) on July 25. Only his thumb and palm were not cut off.”. This is while the regime’s judiciary is trying to cover up the embezzlement of several billion dollars in the steel industry.

The state-run Hamdeli website wrote on August 23, 2017: “Corruption in Mobarekeh Steel factory is 920 trillion rials; Reza Khavari’s 30 trillion rial embezzlement broke the record of money laundering, but the violation of Steel Company is an embezzlement 30 times larger. In this case, a 1.9 trillion rial document was fabricated for buying suits for those who set the economic policy.

Families of death-row prisoners protested for the 5th day running outside the regime’s judiciary in Tehran on September 11 chanting and holding placards of “Do not execute” and “No to execution”. One of the protesters said: “We are victims of poverty. Our loved ones have been dragged to this path because of poverty. We demand the right to life for them. We don’t want anyone else to die. Execution is no right for anybody.” the repressive forces attacked the gathering of families and beat elderly mothers and arrested a number of youths. The mothers of prisoners protested the arrests.

This criminal regime must be shunned by the world community. The dossier of brutal violations of human rights in Iran should be referred to the United Nations Security Council, and the leaders of this regime should be brought to justice for 4 decades of crimes against humanity and genocide.

(source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) )

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

Relatives Of Prisoners Facing Death Penalty Protest In Front Of Iran's Judiciary

Several families of prisoners who have been handed death sentences have protested in front of the Islamic Republic Judiciary building, in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

In videos posted on social media, police officers can be seen trying to disperse the protesters, identified as relatives of those on death row, arresting some of them.

The demonstration on September 11 is the 5th day since the beginning of protests by the families of those sentenced to death in Iran's prisons, which began on September 6 in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Karaj, near Tehran.

According to the Iran Human Rights Society, at least 18 prisoners sentenced to death have been transferred to solitary confinement from the Karaj, Minab, and Gohardasht central prisons to different parts of Iran.

Many protest rallies have been held in Iran in recent years, but a rally to oppose the death sentence is a rare act of defiance.

As of September 12, at least 410 executions had been recorded in Iran this year, according to the Iran Human Rights Organization.

Some human rights sources, including the Human Rights Activists News Agency, say that more than 85 % of executions in Iran are carried out "in secret and without official and public information."

The rise in the number of executions began in September 2021 after Ebrahim Raisi, a former head of the judiciary, became president and former Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei took over the judiciary.

Activists say that Iran is in the throes of a major crackdown as protests continue over living conditions in a severe economic crisis.

(source: rferl.org)

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

Walls erected around graves of massacre victims show urgent need for international investigation

States engaging at the UN Human Rights Council must call on the Iranian authorities to stop concealing the mass graves of victims of the 1988 “prison massacres” and immediately open an international investigation into the extrajudicial execution and enforced disappearance of thousands of dissidents amounting to ongoing crimes against humanity, Amnesty International said today.

In recent months, Iranian authorities have erected fresh 2-metre-high concrete walls months around the Khavaran mass graves outside Tehran where the remains of several hundred political dissidents executed in secret in 1988 are believed to be buried. The construction has sparked serious concerns that the authorities can more easily destroy or tamper with the mass grave site away from public view as the site is no longer visible from the outside and its entrance is guarded by security agents who only permit relatives to enter on certain days.

“The Iranian authorities cannot simply build a wall around a crime scene and think that all their crimes will be erased and forgotten. For 34 years, the authorities have systematically and deliberately concealed and destroyed key evidence that could be used to establish the truth about the scale of the extrajudicial executions carried out in 1988 and obtain justice and reparations for the victims and their families,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“It should shock the conscience of humanity that thousands of political dissidents remain forcibly disappeared in Iran, while those who should be investigated for serious crimes under international law have risen to top executive and judicial positions where they continue to inflict suffering on relatives. This abomination must end once and for all, and the UN Human Rights Council must urgently establish an independent investigative mechanism to uncover the truth and as a step towards bringing those suspected of responsibility to justice.”

Five security cameras have also been erected both inside the Khavaran mass grave site and in the street outside to intimidate mourning families and deter members of the public from visiting the site to pay their respects.

The Khavaran mass graves lie in a grave site outside Iran that also contains several individual graves belonging to political dissidents executed in the early 1980s and Golestan Javid cemetery where the persecuted Baha’i minority bury their loved ones.

Amnesty International has reviewed photographs and video footage of the new walls and security cameras to corroborate the accounts of family members who have visited the Khavaran mass grave site since late May 2022.

The Iranian authorities cannot simply build a wall around a crime scene and think that all their crimes will be erased and forgotten.----Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International

For over 3 decades, the Iranian authorities have tried to cover up evidence of the prison massacres by repeatedly bulldozing over confirmed or suspected mass grave sites and destroying ad hoc grave markings and trees planted by families.

Relatives, survivors and human rights defenders have been consistently forbidden from gathering at mass grave sites to commemorate the victims and prevented from erecting memorials or laying flowers. Some have been prosecuted and jailed in reprisal for seeking truth and justice.

Some mass grave sites have even been turned into rubbish dumps. In April 2021, the Iranian authorities also pressured members of the persecuted Baha’i minority to bury their loved ones at the Khavaran mass grave site.

To further conceal the fate and whereabouts of the victims, the authorities have also refused to issue death certificates and removed victims’ names from burial records.

UN Human Rights Council must heed expert calls for an international investigation

In September 2020, a group of UN experts including the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), warned that past and ongoing violations related to the prison massacres in Iran in 1988 “may amount to crimes against humanity” and that they will call for an international investigation if these violations persist.

In August 2021, WGEID reiterated its concerns about the ongoing concealment of burial sites, recalled that the crime of enforced disappearance continues until the fate and whereabouts of the individuals concerned are established, and called for an international investigation.

“States engaging at the UN Human Rights Council have a moral obligation to stand with families, victims, and survivors of atrocities in Iran including the 1988 prison massacres and heed the calls of UN experts for the establishment of an international investigative mechanism. Members of the international community, including those involved in nuclear talks with Iran, must not shy away from speaking up for political gains. They should take concrete measures to tackle the ongoing crisis of systemic impunity in a country which has seen the rise to presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, who must be investigated for crimes against humanity,” said Diana Eltahawy.

Background

Not a single official has been brought to justice in Iran for the past and ongoing crimes against humanity linked to the 1988 “prison massacres”; and some of those involved hold or have held high positions of power in Iran. Iran’s current president and former head of the judiciary Ebrahim Raisi was a member of the “death commission” which carried out the enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution of several thousand political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran between late July and early September 1988.

Other members of the so-called “death commissions” who must be investigated for crimes against humanity include Alireza Avaei, who was the minister of justice from 2017 to 2021; Hossein Ali Nayyeri, who is the head of the Supreme Disciplinary Court for Judges; Mohammad Hossein Ahmadi, who is a current member of a key constitutional body; and Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, who was the minister of justice between 2013 and 2017 and is currently a senior advisor to the head of the judiciary.

(source: Amnesty International)

SEPTEMBER 12, 2022:

NORTH CAROLINA:

Should NC jurors against the death penalty be allowed to consider death penalty cases?

A North Carolina civil rights group is weighing in on a Wake County death penalty case, arguing that a standard method of selecting jurors will exclude Black people, women and Catholics from considering the case.

Jury selection for Brandon Xavier Hill’s capital murder trial is set to start this week Hill is 1 of 2 men who could face the death penalty for the 2016 slaying of a pregnant April Holland and Dwayne Garvey at the former America’s Best Value Inn near Crabtree Valley Mall.

In 2019, a Wake County jury found Seaga Gillard guilty of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the killings and sentenced him to death. The jury found Gillard guilty of the double homicide after a trial in which prosecutors showed jurors the shooting, which was captured on video.

Prosecutors said the men sought out Holland’s prostitution services, but ended up killing her and her boyfriend, who had 3 children together. Holland was 4 months pregnant.

Jurors sentenced Gillard to death after hearing multiple victims say they encountered Gillard and Hill after advertising prostitution services on dating websites and apps, The News & Observer reported.

The women expected a single customer, but two men came to their door, tied them up, robbed and sexually assaulted them, they testified.

HOW IT CURRENTLY WORKS

In Gillard’s and other capital cases in North Carolina, prosecutors strike prospective jurors whose opposition to the death penalty prevents them from being able to sentence someone to death.

A general opposition to the death penalty isn’t enough, according to North Carolina Superior Court Judges’ Bench Book, a resource for judges put together by the UNC School of Government staff. However, when jurors’ beliefs would substantially limit their ability to follow a judge’s instructions during a capital sentencing hearing or prevent them from fairly considering the imposition of a death sentence, “the juror must be excused,” the book states.

The N.C. Supreme Court in 1992 rejected the argument that juries selected under the current standard are more inclined to convict than a jury that has not been death qualified, the book states.

In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court held the practice, known as death qualification, doesn’t violate a defendant’s right to an impartial jury.

ACLU ARGUMENTS

Over a 2-day hearing on Aug. 29 and Sept. 1, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina attorneys Henderson Hill and Brian Stull presented evidence on Hill’s behalf to argue the current practice is discriminatory and violates Hill’s rights to a fair trial, as well as some community members’ right to serve on Hill’s jury. The hearing is likely to resume Monday or Tuesday, depending on when the parties decide to start jury selection, as well as fit in other pretrial hearings.

It’s unlikely that Judge Paul Ridgeway would rule against existing law and precedent, but the hearing does create the opportunity for ACLU attorneys to get their anti-death penalty arguments before the Supreme Court if Brandon Hill is convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

The jury selection process is expected to take weeks, and testimony is expected to start in mid to late October. The witnesses in the ongoing pretrial hearing included national experts who discussed the history of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and related traumatization of Black people following lynchings and disparate death penalty outcomes.

The experts also discussed how polling shows a general decline in support for the death penalty for people convicted of murder, from 79% in 1988 to 54% in 2021.

Some of the evidence included a 2022 study of jury selection for 10 capital trials in Wake County from 2008 to 2019. The study found the death qualification process disproportionately excluded Black potential jurors, who were removed at 2.27 times the rate of white potential jurors.

It also found that women and religious people were excluded at a higher rate. The study, which focused on Black and white potential jurors, showed that in the 10 cases, there were 1,027 jurors of those races considered.

Of the 979 white people, 111 or 11% were removed due to their stance on the death penalty, the study found. Of the 211 Black jurors, 52 or 25% were removed.

In those 10 cases, 2 of the juries had no Black people and 4 had 1 Black person.

Mona Lynch, a criminology professor at University of California, Irvine, testified about mock jury studies that compared juries whose members all said they could sentence someone to death to juries that included individuals with mixed views on the death penalty. The study found mixed juries were more skeptical, spent more time considering the evidence and had better recall of the case facts, Lynch testified.

Another study found that if at least 1 Black man was on an actual jury, it was less likely to sentence someone to death.

“The research is very strong that Black defendants are going to suffer as a result of having disproportionate exclusion,” she said.

DEATH PENALTY IN WAKE

In general, North Carolina death sentences have dropped significantly since the 1990s, when juries sentenced between 20 and 34 people to death annually, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Since 2007, from zero to fewer than 5 people have been sentenced to death each year.

The last North Carolina execution occurred in 2006, as litigation over the state’s method of lethal injection and other issues halted state killings.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has been criticized by criminal justice reform advocates for continuing to seek the death penalty in a system they say is flawed and disproportionately affects the poor and Black people.

Freeman won’t pledge to not seek the death penalty, she has said, because she wants to be able to discuss that option with families whose loves ones have been murdered. Freeman declined to comment Friday as the judge is considering the motion.

Earlier this year, the ACLU of North Carolina launched a campaign to educate voters on issues, including Freeman’s use of the death penalty, before the May Democratic primary for Wake district attorney.

Freeman won 59% of the vote against challenger Damon Chetson, a defense attorney who pledged not to seek the death penalty.

Freeman faces Republican challenger Jeff Dobson in the Nov. 8 general election.

(source: newsobserver.com)

ALABAMA:

Alabama makes us all sadistic torturers

Alan Eugene Miller, the next man to be executed in Alabama — on Sept. 22 — doesn’t want to be tortured to death. But there’s every reason to believe that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Killing another human being, even when done by the state, is hardly an exact science. This demoralizing fact was too much on display during Alabama’s desecration of the body of Joe Nathan James Jr. James was the last death row prisoner executed in Alabama — tortured to death — less than 2 months ago.

Regular readers of these pages will recall I previewed James’s torture — and how utterly depraved and racist it was — in a column I called: “Alabama’s summer 2022 legal lynching.” Then, too, I wrote a post-mortem — so to speak — about what happened: “Fascism, racism, sexism and torture: Alabama’s last execution had it all.”

Refreshing the memory of anyone who may have forgotten: “Following a multi-hour delay — shielded in surreptitious secrecy — including a wardrobe change into fisherman’s waders and sneakers for one female reporter, and, that putrid, behind-closed-doors process whereby executioners pricked, prodded, and poked James, seeking intravenous access, finally, Alabama’s filthy toxins-of-death began their flow.”

The observations of digital investigative reporter Lee Hedgepeth showed James was not “insensate” at the time he was lethally injected; as a result, James experienced excruciating pain while chemically being suffocated and burned to death — an almost too disgusting and deplorable development to discuss. However, such devilry in Alabama is hardly unprecedented — and it must be discussed — as I pointed out long ago, in these pages, in May 2017, in “Is Alabama hiding that it tortured its citizens?” (concerning past botched Alabama executions using the same dark, damnable, no different than using a rusty dagger-like protocol).

In a blog post on its website on August 16, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) noted: “A private autopsy of Alabama death-row prisoner Joe Nathan James, Jr. suggests that unqualified corrections personnel subjected him to a torturous, hours long execution process in a botched execution that experts say was the longest since the advent of lethal injection 40 years ago.”

Following James’s torturous execution, but before evidence from James’s private autopsy was published, when I voiced dismay that more news seemed to have been made by the dress code foisted on female reporters than the torturous pain James was subjected to at the hands of the state, the Executive Director of DPIC, Robert Dunham, already privy to some of the autopsy report’s findings, told me soon “there will be a lot to talk about.”

Well, I hate to say it, but I don’t think so. I don’t think there is a whole lot to talk about — or, people talking, period, about what matters.

Except for a pocket of passionate lawyers and activists, I don’t think politicians, faith leaders, the national and local press, people in Alabama — or, people generally in America for that matter — are talking even a little, much less a lot, about how Alabama extinguished James like how one might poison a rat, but, worse: vilely stabbing at his veins, for hours, like inept vampires. And cue the vultures: Alan Eugene Miller is next.

Internationally, admittedly, there has been greater expression of outrage over James’s torture. And while this is welcome indeed, European and other countries cannot supply Americans — especially, Alabamians — with the necessary backbone and moral courage to act, by at the very least demanding investigations, accountability, and full, unfettered public disclosure of Alabama’s death penalty protocols.

Auschwitz survivor, professor, activist, and writer Elie Wiesel said, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere… Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

There is much Alabamians, Americans, and all people can learn from Wiesel. His experience and thinking, which he detailed in over fifty books and other writings, is preternaturally wise. But, in the lead up to Alan Eugene Miller’s execution, there is one meaningful passage in Wiesel’s novel “Dawn” — about the struggle of Elisha, a Holocaust survivor like Wiesel, who has joined a paramilitary group and is told he must execute a British officer, John Dawson, at dawn — that I want to highlight.

In “Dawn,” described as “an eloquent meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings,” there is a chilling chapter in which virtually the whole community suddenly shows up, stuffing the already stuffy quarters where the execution is to take place. Elisha demands to know, “What has brought all these people here tonight?” No one will answer until finally a small boy tells him: “You are the sum total of all that we have been. In a way we are the ones to execute John Dawson. Because you can’t do it without us.”

“Beginning to understand,” Elisha reflects that: “An act so absolute as that of killing involves not only the killer, but, as well, those who have formed him. In murdering a man I was making them murderers.”

When — and if — Alabama tortures Alan Eugene Miller to death, we all, every single one of us, will not only be murderers, we’ll be torturers, too.

(source: OLpinion; Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015----Montgomery Advertiser)

OHIO:

Opening arguments set for death penalty case in slaying of 8

Opening statements were planned Monday for the 1st trial in the case of 8 members of a single Ohio family shot to death more than 6 years ago.

Defendant George Wagner IV was charged in Pike County Court in the 2016 slayings of the Rhoden family near Piketon in southern Ohio. Wagner, 30, faces the death penalty if convicted. A 12-person jury with 6 alternates was selected last week in county court in Waverly, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of Columbus.

Authorities say the shootings of 7 adults and a teenage boy stemmed from a dispute over custody of a child that George Wagner’s brother, Jake Wagner, had with Hanna Rhoden, one of the victims. George Wagner’s parents and brother were also charged. The Wagners spent months planning the killings motivated by the custody dispute, prosecutors say.

Jake Wagner pleaded guilty last year in the shootings, admitting to killing five of the victims. His plea was part of a deal with prosecutors that spared him from being sentenced to death. Wagner’s mother, Angela Wagner, also pleaded guilty to helping plan the slayings. Jake and George’s father, George “Billy” Wagner III, has pleaded not guilty.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSOURI:

No more Missouri executions, Mike Parson. Everyone from the pope down sees it’s wrong

Little evidence suggests Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will spare the life of convicted cop killer Kevin Johnson, a Missouri death row inmate scheduled to be put to death this fall. Just last year, Parson ignored a plea from Pope Francis to stay the execution of an intellectually disabled man. We oppose Johnson’s pending execution, despite our revulsion at the gravity of his crime, and call on Parson to grant Johnson, of suburban St. Louis, clemency and end government-sanctioned violence. But it’s not simply the Johnson case that’s the problem. The death penalty is cruel and inhumane. Its application is fraught with risk of error. And study after study has shown the death penalty doesn’t deter violent crime.

Capital punishment is already outlawed in 23 states. Missouri isn’t among them and it shows. Since the turn of the century, 51 men have been executed in the state, according to anti-death penalty advocacy group Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Only 4 other states have executed more.

In addition to Johnson, 17 others are on death row in Missouri. Despite their crimes, being put to death by the government is an injustice that implicates all the people in whose name the state spills blood.

Racial and economic disparities exist at nearly every stage of the capital punishment process, studies have consistently shown. There’s also increased cost concerns associated with capital punishment. Death penalty cases are extraordinarily expensive and drawn out. For example, in neighboring Kansas, where the death penalty exists but where no one has been executed since 1965, cases without the death penalty cost $740,000, while death penalty cases cost $1.26 million, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which cited a 2014 study on the issue — a figure backed up earlier this year by a bipartisan group of prosecutors opposing the death penalty.

And too often, the system gets it wrong. Since 1973, at least 190 people who have been wrongly convicted and awaiting execution on death row have been exonerated. And a 2014 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that approximately 4.1% of those currently on death row could be innocent.

That shouldn’t surprise us. Any human system is bound to be imperfect. That’s the strongest reason why we shouldn’t dole out punishments that can never be adjusted once carried out.

In Jackson County, the death penalty has thankfully been used sparingly. In the last 2 decades, only 5 people have been executed for crimes — and none since 2015, according to Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The governor is clearly pro-death penalty. He has yet to meet a death row inmate he’s deemed worthy of mercy. Since Parson took office in 2018, Missouri has executed four convicted killers — Russell Bucklew, Walter Barton, Ernest Johnson and Carman Deck. Not once has Parson, a former Polk County sheriff, spared the life of the condemned.

It’s true that Johnson’s case does not elicit much sympathy. In 2005, he was 19 when he shot Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee. His first murder trial ended with a hung jury. He was later convicted by a 2nd jury of 1st- degree murder and sentenced to death.

Last month, the Missouri Supreme Court set Johnson’s execution date for Nov. 29 despite the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney office’s attempt to review the case.

Anti-death penalty advocates point out that Johnson, a teenager when he killed McEntee, was abused as a child and grieving the unrelated death of a younger brother earlier that day. As a low-income Black person, Johnson had little chance to escape the death penalty, his supporters argued.

McEntee, the slain Kirkwood Police sergeant, was white, as was the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney at the time who sought the death penalty. After a number of potential Blacks jurors were excluded, Johnson was convicted of murder by a predominantly white jury.

But none of that is grounds by itself to single him out for mercy. Unless those were factors hidden from the jury when it imposed its sentence, the question isn’t one of Johnson’s culpability. He was convicted of a grotesque act of violence — McEntee was shot 7 times in the head and torso. The fatal bullet was fired at close range. Instead, the question is one of justice, and whether given all the flaws in our very human criminal justice system it can ever be just to execute someone in the name of the state.

Johnson should be remanded to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

We urge Missouri to join the 23 states that have already abolished capital punishment altogether.

(An additional 3 states — California, Oregon and Pennsylvania — have moratoriums in place that have stopped executions.)

The death penalty is a deeply flawed and inhumane practice, unequally and arbitrarily applied. It needs to stop.

(source: Kansas City Star Editorial Board)

USA:

Pull Back The Curtains on Executions!!!

On July 28, 2022 at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama Department of Corrections officials strapped Joe James, Jr. to a gurney and prepared him to be executed. Normally this should take minutes. For over 3 hours beyond his scheduled execution time, gathered reporters, witnesses and other interested parties waited and waited and waited.

2 states over, I was sitting in my office in Arkansas, helping lead an online execution vigil attended by opponents of the death penalty from across the United States and beyond. Yet another outgrowth of the COVID19 pandemic, these Zoom vigils have become a powerful convening of people who oppose executions for myriad reasons, gathering together to prayerfully protest and witness against each execution. Sometimes the execution goes as expected, and our vigil ends within an hour of the scheduled execution time. But often, especially in Alabama, nothing is predictable. That was certainly the case the night they killed Joe James, Jr.

Like others in leadership on that Zoom, I am familiar with typical execution processes. None of us could figure out what was going on, but we soon understood something was wrong. Because executions take place inside of prisons, we watch the play-by-play reports by the media, usually via Twitter. Reporters will declare, “We’re being taken to the witness room now,” and say they have to leave electronic devices behind. This usually happens a short time before the scheduled execution. When reporters’ departure is delayed, it is often while waiting for a court to deny or accept pending legal challenges. When the reporters are escorted out of their holding area, it’s a fair bet that the execution is imminent.

In the case of Joe James, Jr., what would normally be a matter of minutes dragged into several hours. Of course, there was silence from prison and government officials. Finally, we heard the execution was going forward. It turned out that reporters had been held in the prison van until just before the execution was about to take place. Once reporters were assembled in the witness room, the curtains were opened, and Joe James, Jr. was asked for a final statement. He made none. According to reports, his eyes were closed and he was unresponsive. This is highly unusual. Even when a prisoner declines to make a final statement, witnesses can hear a “no” or see him shake his head “no.” Fellow prisoners reported talking with James about what he had planned to say, so we know something was amiss.

The Alabama Department of Corrections assured everyone that “nothing out of the ordinary” had taken place. Because the Department of Corrections refused to be transparent about what happened, independent pathologists hired by Reprieve, an international human rights organization, performed an autopsy. Elizabeth Bruenig, a reporter with the Atlantic who witnessed the exam, published what she saw:

“The state seems to have attempted to insert IV catheters into each of his hands just above the knuckles, resulting in broad smears of violet bruising. Then it looked as though the execution team had tried again, forcing needles into each of his wrists, with the same bleeding beneath the skin and the same indigo mottling around the puncture wounds. On the inside of James’s left arm, another puncture site, another pool of deep bruising, and then, a scant distance above, a strange, jagged incision, at James’s inner elbow. The laceration met another cut at an obtuse angle. That longer, narrower slice was part of a parallel pair, which matched a fainter, shallower set of parallel cuts. Underneath the mutilated portion of James’s arm was what appeared to be yet another puncture—a noticeable crimson pinprick in the center of a radiating blue-green bruise. Other, less clear marks littered his arm as well.”

To put it mildly, Joe James Jr. was tortured by executioners who clearly had no idea of what they were doing. They poked and prodded and prodded and poked. Nobody witnessed all of this incompetence because the Department of Corrections did not pull back the curtains in the execution chamber until Joe James Jr. was already unconscious. Alabama officials refuse to disclose what happened, or precisely when Joe James, Jr. had been sedated.

Given the shocking evidence of difficulty to establish an intravenous flow in which to pump the execution drugs, one would hope that the executioners sedated him before they started cutting and poking more deeply. It seems more likely that they sedated him only after they were ready, but before they brought the witnesses in to watch the proceedings. This would have prevented James from complaining out loud about the torture he had just endured. When they sedated him remains a secret until a whistleblower comes forward, but Joe James, Jr’s injuries shout it loud and clear: Alabama botched another execution, and they did it in secret.

Whether or not you favor the death penalty, and even if you support torturing prisoners before we kill them, the execution of Joe James, Jr. should bring fundamental questions to the forefront.

Should our government be torturing people?

Does government have a responsibility to be as transparent as possible?

What can be done to ensure full transparency?

Should we continue to allow such secrecy in the conduct of executions?

Shouldn’t our government acknowledge its’ mistakes?

Our answers to these questions speak to the core of who we are as a society. Those prison walls and the curtains in the execution chamber separate us from witnessing the full process of executions. One of the deepest moral beliefs we have in this country is a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. We say we believe in freedom of information and informed participation in government. If that is true, the tragic lack of transparency that occurred at the execution of Joe James, Jr. must not be allowed to happen again.

We’ll never return to the era of public executions, but when we legally kill prisoners behind prison walls, the public must be represented by independent witnesses to the entire process, starting from the moment a prisoner walks him or herself into the death chamber until they are declared dead.

Those curtains run contrary to a democratic society. Public witnesses should know what’s going on in the execution chamber from start to finish. This is not only our right, it is our obligation. That is why we demand, “PULL BACK THE CURTAINS!”

SIGN THE PETITION: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/pull-back-the-curtains/

(source: Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood has served as a spiritual advisor on various death rows for just over 12 years and has accompanied a number of prisoners before their execution. He serves on the Board of Advisors of Death Penalty Action----patheos.com)

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The War on Terror’s Detention and Torture Practices Have Not Gone Away

The so-called “war on terror,” initiated by the U.S. and its global allies in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, did not so much change the rules of warfare as throw them out of the window.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war was virtually abandoned when the U.S. and its allies detained hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, mainly civilians. The use of torture and indefinite arbitrary detention became defining features of the war on terror.

Intelligence yielded from the use of torture was not particularly effective, and experimentation on human subjects was an element of the process. Guantánamo Bay, which currently holds 36 prisoners, is viewed by many human rights defenders as a final remnant of the policy of mass arbitrary detention.

The little light shed on these practices has largely been the result of hard and persistent work by international and civil society organizations, as well as lawyers who continue to sue states and other parties involved on behalf of victims and their families, some of whom are still detained.

A report presented earlier this year by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, following up on a 2010 U.N. report on secret detention, found that the “failure to address secret detention” has allowed similar practices to flourish in North-East Syria and Xinjiang Province in China.

North-East Syria

How to deal with arbitrarily detained alleged ISIS (also known as Daesh) militia supporters and fighters in Syria and Iraq is an issue that goes back to the Obama era, but gained traction in 2018-2019, when ISIS lost its last major stronghold and significant territory, leading existing detention camps, like Al-Hawl, to swell in size. Al-Hawl was set up as an Iraqi refugee camp by the U.N. in 1991 with capacity for around 15,000 people. In 2018, it held around 10,000 Iraqi refugees. The majority of the 73,000-plus residents of this camp since 2019 are women and children, around 11,000 of whom are nationals of countries other than Syria or Iraq, living in poor shelter, hygiene and medical conditions.

All are detained by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and the Syrian Defense Force (SDF), which are not state entities. Their efforts to investigate and prosecute possible ISIS fighters are still at the early stages, lack formal and widespread recognition and do not look at potential war crimes. With some prisoners detained for over six years, without charge, trial or formal identification, the situation is pretty much as it was in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to Ní Aoláin, “No legal process of any kind has been established to justify the detention of these individuals. No public information exists on who precisely is being held in these camps, contrary to the requirements of the Geneva Conventions stipulating that detention records be kept that identify both the nationality of detainees and the legal basis of detention.”

She further states that, “These camps epitomize the normalization and expansion of secret detention practices in the two decades since the establishment of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The egregious nature of secret, incommunicado, harsh, degrading and unacceptable detention is now practised with impunity and the acquiescence of multiple States.”

In addition, around 10,000 men and 750 boys (of whom 2,000 and 150 are respectively not from Syria or Iraq) are held in some 14 detention centers in North-East Syria, accused of association with ISIS: “No judicial process has determined the legality or appropriateness of their detention. There are also reports of incommunicado detention.”

Efforts have been made, with varying success, to repatriate and release Iraqi refugees and Syrians internally displaced by the regional conflict: Around 2400 Iraqis have been repatriated over the past year or so.

European and other Western states were initially reluctant to repatriate their nationals — with former President Trump threatening to force them to — and some, such as the U.K., introducing measures to strip them of citizenship to prevent that. More recent efforts by European states have taken on a gendered approach, aimed at repatriating women and children in the camps. This approach, however, ignores the practice of the SDF to separate boys as young as 9 from their families and detain them, as a security risk, with men in prisons. Concern was only expressed during a prison break in early 2022 when it was feared these children would fall into ISIS’s hands, as though they were somehow safe with their original captors.

Missing the Point

The gendered approach to repatriation of detainees plays into long-standing orientalist and imperialist views, framing Western powers as saviors of these women and children, whereas the men and boys left behind remain “ISIS fighters” without investigation and substantiation of this status.

In spite of the recent U.S. conviction of two former British ISIS fighters for their role in the kidnapping and deaths of Western hostages, the value of such a detention policy must be questioned. As in Afghanistan and Iraq, arbitrary detention and cruel punishment of hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes in conditions worse than those they are associated with, is unjustifiable.

Ní Aoláin’s report also found that no war on terror detainees have “received a complete and adequate legal remedy,” and the lack of due process has resulted in the continuing stigmatization and persecution of prisoners upon release from Guantánamo.

Two decades on, the absence of justice at Guantánamo remains a recurring theme. Prosecutors are now seeking a plea deal settlement with defense lawyers in the 9/11 case that would avoid trial — and thus torture revelations — and the death penalty, as the case continues to drag over a decade on.

The farce of “justice” is also amply demonstrated by the failure to release Majid Khan, who, following a plea bargain and several years of torture in secret CIA prisons, completed his sentence on March 1; the military jurors at his sentencing hearing decried the torture he faced and petitioned for clemency for him. However, he remains at Guantánamo as it is too unsafe for him to return to Pakistan and the U.S. has found no safe country for relocation. After being sued to take action, the U.S. Department of Justice has responded by opposing his habeas plea and claiming that he is still not subject to the Geneva Conventions.

What Justice?

The outcome of 2 decades of secret and arbitrary detention has been to deny justice to the victims of war crimes and terrorist acts, and create new victims — detainees and their families — who are also denied justice.

After two decades, the failure to close Guantánamo and end such secret and arbitrary detention and the secrecy that continues to surround them (such as the refusal to disclose the full 2014 Senate CIA torture report) are not errors or oversight but deliberate policy. It affords impunity for states and state-backed actors while tarring detainees with the “terrorist” label for the rest of their lives without due process, effectively leaving them in permanent legal limbo in many areas of everyday life.

A year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, justice still evades the Afghan people. With the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking to restart its investigation, but excluding the U.S. and its Afghan allies from its scope, effectively granting them impunity while focusing on the Taliban, “the ICC has so far come to represent selective and delayed justice to many victims of war in Afghanistan,” according to Shaharzad Akbar, former chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. In addition, “a year after the withdrawal of international forces and many ‘lessons learned’ exercises, key troop contributing countries such as the United States, the U.K., and others in NATO are yet to reflect on the legacy of impunity they left behind.”

Not Going Anywhere

Addressing her report to the U.N. in April, Ní Aoláin stated, “It is precisely the lack of access, transparency, accountability and remedy that has enabled and sustained a permissive environment for contemporary large-scale detention and harm to individuals.”

Ní Aoláin expresses concerns in her report over the “lack of a globally agreed definition of terrorism and (violent) extremism, and […] the widespread failure to define acts of terrorism in concrete and precise ways in national legislation.” The vague definition has meant that any form of dissent and resistance against the state can effectively be labelled terrorist activity.

The focus on Guantánamo and mass detention of alleged terrorism suspects has drawn the attention away from the carceral practices of states. Torture, lengthy solitary confinement, rape, and other prisoner abuses in federal jails has not prompted the same criticism or action. The focus on ISIS prisoners also draws away attention from the mass detention and abuse of those incarcerated in Syrian prisons.

At the same time, mass arbitrary and secret detention of alleged terrorists has helped to justify the expansion of the prison-industrial complex, with the involvement of private contractors. Over the past two decades, the use of torture has grown worldwide. Perhaps most worrying has been the boom in the mass arbitrary detention and abuse of men, women and children worldwide without due process and few legal rights known as immigration detention, with the reframing of migration and asylum as a security issue over the past 2 decades.

That such reports and monitoring of the situation continue at the highest level and by civil society organizations means that the prisoners have not been obscured and forgotten or their situation normalized as much as the states involved would like them to be. The need for justice for all victims is on the path to any kind of peace, and thus it remains essential to keep pressing and supporting Ní Aoláin’s call for “access, transparency, accountability and remedy.”

(source: truthout.org)

UNITED KINGDOM:

A miscarriage of justice? Crime author delves into case of young Teessider hanged for murder and rape----"I always feel that there is no way that I can get any true justice for men who appear to have been wrongly hanged, but at least if I write their stories I can try and put the record straight which is better than nothing."

A true crime writer has penned a book about a young Teesside man who was hanged for a horrendous rape and murder in what she believes was a 'terrible' miscarriage of justice.

Robert Hoolhouse, from Haverton Hill was just 21 when he was sentenced to death after a jury at Leeds Assizes Court found him guilty of killing Wolviston farmer's wife Margaret Dobson. The 67-year-old mum-of-3 was found with severe head injuries on a cart track leading to her home at High Grange Farm in January 1938, she had been raped, her face battered and she had been stabbed twice.

Robert, a labourer, who lived in Pickering Street ,was arrested and charged with the crime. At the time of his arrest, police noted marks on his face which he blamed on "a spill he had with his bicycle" and blood on the cuffs of his shirt which he blamed on a shaving cut. A knife was also found in his waistcoat - which could have been the murder weapon, the court heard at the time.

But there was also contradictory evidence. A plaster cast of a print found near the body did not match Robert's footwear, the description of a man seen at the farm at about 5pm on the night of the murder was also at odds with Hoolhouse's appearance and the clothes he had been wearing that day. A neighbour who lived next to the Hoolhouses had also seen Robert standing outside his house at the time Margaret was killed.

The young man was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to death. An appeal was launched after his conviction and a petition of 14,000 signatures presented to back it but it was rejected. Robert died protesting his innocence to his last breath.

His fate caused outrage as many believed he did not receive a fair trial and over the years, historians investigating the evidence have also concluded his conviction was dubious. The latest to add her voice to those claims is Yorkshire true crime author Jeanette Hensby, who has penned a book about the case.

Called Victim of British Justice: The Robert Hoolhouse Case, Jeanette believes the evidence proves Robert did not commit the murder and she has written about the case in a bid to set the record straight for him. "This was certainly a miscarriage of justice because the judge himself said that the evidence was equally consistent with Robert's innocence as with his guilt," said Jeanette.

"I would take it further than that because I think that the evidence proves that he did not commit the crime and should not have been found guilty and subsequently hanged. Robert's case is certainly a strong argument against the death penalty."

Jeanette, 73, who is married with two grown up children and one grandson, took up true crime writing after her retirement. She comes from Rotherham and spent her career working in social services and the NHS. She became a true crime writer by accident in 2014, she says.

When she was nine, her grandma told her about a murder case involving a 16-year-old girl and all those years later Jeanette found an account of the crime in a book and was horrified to discover the man hanged for the murder was not the man her grandma had named. She started to research the case and became convinced there had been a miscarriage of justice, writing her 1st book, The Rotherham Trunk Murder.

She's since penned 6 more true crime books mainly about alleged miscarriages of justice. Her interest in Teessider Robert's case began after a reader got in touch to ask whether she had ever heard of his story. "I hadn't, but when I looked into it I felt that there was no doubt that this was a terrible miscarriage of justice and that I would write about it," said Jeanette.

"I always feel that there is no way that I can get any true justice for men who appear to have been wrongly hanged, but at least if I write their stories I can try and put the record straight which is better than nothing."

The Gazette reported on the murder inquiry at the time. Margaret was last seen by her husband Henry on the day of her death, January 18, 1938, at about 3pm when they shared a tea of beef sandwiches. She had then left the house to visit her sister in Hartlepool and was expected to return home at about 8pm. She regularly visited relatives in Hartlepool and Newcastle and, to catch her bus, would have walked along a cart track through the fields to the main road.

She was known to wear old boots on the muddy track and then change into a smarter pair of shoes but so far as was known, she never made it to the main road. Mr Dobson became alarmed when she didn't return, he waited by the bus stop until the last one arrived at 11pm and then walked home.

"In the morning the animals had to be fed and work had to be done," reported the North Eastern Gazette. "He started his work at about 5am. Somewhere between 7am and 8am men arrived to thrash his corn. At about 10am, after completing his work, he set out to make inquiries. He took a short cut to Wolviston through some fields. Something prompted him to look back. He saw something on the ground he could not understand and found the body of his wife lying on her back with head towards the farm and her feet toward the main road."

The evidence had pointed to the mum-of-3 dying within an hour and a half of eating her tea. Police released a statement saying said they were anxious to speak to a man aged about 30 with the appearance of a farm worker with a local accent who had been seen on a bike in the area. The next day, Robert was arrested and charged with Mrs Dobson's murder.

Hoolhouse and his father knew the Dobsons. 3 years earlier, they had been working on the farm and lived in a cottage on the land but following an argument, the Hoolhouses were sacked and warned never to return. Describing his movements over January 18 and 19, Hoolhouse told police he had been in the Blue Bell Inn in Newton Bewley from 1.15 to 3pm and then visited a friend at the Red Lion in Wolviston. He then claimed he cycled home via Cowpen Bewley, arriving back at Haverton Hill at about 4pm. He said he stayed there until 6pm, when he caught the bus into Wolviston.

A man named John Lax and his sister, Dolly, were also at the house. Robert and Dolly had caught a bus for Billingham, where they went to the pictures. But Hoolhouse's timings did not tally with other accounts and police found this sufficient to charge him with the crime.

A witness had travelled on the same bus as Hoolhouse on January 18. She told police they had a conversation during which she noticed no scratches on his face. The other witness was Doris Teale, who lived next to the Hoolhouses. She had seen Robert standing outside his house at the time he was supposed to be murdering Margaret Dobson.

Jeanette's book says the murderer left a footprint at the scene. The police confirmed that it could not be Robert’s and the police superintendent responsible for the case told the court that Robert was “of perfectly good character and a very reserved disposition. He is classed as a good worker by his former employers.”

The judge ended his summing up for the jury by saying that “the evidence is quite consistent with this man having committed the murder but it is consistent with him not having committed it.” Despite that, the jury found him guilty and sentenced to hang. Soon afterwards the world was at war, Robert’s story was all but forgotten but it needs to be told, says Jeanette in her book.

(source: gazetteliv.co.uk)

BANGLADESH:

Chandan Roy, death-row convict who masterminded MP Liton murder, is arrested----RAB says the arrestee planned the attack on the Gaibandha-1 MP on the evening of Dec 31, 2016

The Rapid Action Battalion, or RAB, has arrested Chandan Kumar Roy, who is a death-row convict in the murder case of Gaibandha MP Manjurul Islam Liton.

RAB in a statement on Sunday night said Chandan masterminded the attack on Liton. “He was arrested in Satkhira’s Bhomra area around 9pm on Sunday,” it added.

On the evening of Dec 31, 2016, unidentified assailants shot the ruling party MP from Gaibandha-1 (Sundarganj) constituency. He died an hour later at a hospital in Rangpur.

Police filed a case accusing former Jatiya Party MP Abdul Kader Khan as the chief suspect. In November 2019, the court served death penalties to seven of the accused.

Retired Col Kader was an MP of the constituency before Liton. The others named in the case were closely involved with him.

The others accused in the case are Kader’s aide Shamsuzzoha, chauffer Abdul Hannan, Mehedi Hasan, Shaheen Mia and Anwarul Islam Rana.

Chandan had been in hiding since then while another suspect named in the chargesheet Subal Chandra Roy died in prison during trial.

Interpol issued a red notice against Chandan, RAB added.

(source: bdnews24.com)

IRAN----executions

Ramezan Jafarzadeh and Mohammad Mohammadi-Ghaed Executed in Shiraz

Ramezan Jafarzadeh and Mohammad Mohammadi-Ghaed were executed for drug and murder charges in Shiraz Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 2 men were executed in Shiraz Central Prison on September 7. Their identities have been established as Ramezan Jafarzadeh and Mohammad Mohammadi-Ghaed who were both arrested around 2 years ago.

Ramezan Jafarzadeh was sentenced to death for drug-related charges by the Revolutionary Court and Mohammad Mohammadi-Ghaed was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

At the time of writing, neither of their executions have been reported by domestic media or official sources in Iran.

At least 251 including 6 women and 67 Baluch minorities were executed in the first 6 months of 2022. This is double the number of executions in the same period in 2021 when 117 people were executed. On September 10, Iran Human Rights recorded over 400 executions for the 1st time in 5 years.

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Hassan Agha Mohammadi Executed for Murder in Isfahan

Hassan Agha Mohammadi, a 27-year-old man, was executed in Isfahan Central Prison today.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Isfahan Central Prison on September 11. His identity has been established as 27-year-old Hassan Agha Mohammadi from Minadasht who was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

According to informed sources, he was arrested around 3 years ago.

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or official sources 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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Ahmad Panahi Transferred for Murder Execution in Ardabil Central Prison

Ahmad Panahi, a man sentenced to qisas(retribution-in-kind) for murder, was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution in Ardabil Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution in Aradabil Central Prison on September 10. His identity has been established as Ahmad Panahi who is around 40 years old and has been sentenced to qisas for murder.

Ahmad Pahani was taken to the gallows last month but had managed to obtain a 1-month extension from the victim’s family. Informed sources told Iran Human Rights that Ahmad was arrested for an honour killing around 4 years ago.

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.

At least 251 including 6 women and 67 Baluch minorities were executed in the first six months of 2022. This is double the number of executions in the same period in 2021 when 117 people were executed.

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Iran Human Rights Condemns Violent Crackdown of Anti-Death Penalty Protests/Calls for Domestic and International Support

For the 6th day in a row, families of death row prisoners and civil rights activists gathered outside the Judiciary building in protest against the hike in executions. Protesters were beaten and arrested in violent crackdowns at 2 locations today.

Calling for an immediate halt to the executions and the unconditional release of protesters, Iran Human Rights urges the international community and domestic civil society to support the families in stopping the current wave of executions.

Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “Hundreds of prisoners are at imminent risk of execution and the government response to their families’ concerns is to beat and arrest them. Today, it’s more critical than ever to defend the right to life of death row prisoners and support their families.” He added: “We can increase the political cost of the executions for the Islamic Republic and stop the continuation of this tragedy by people and civil society joining the families in their peaceful protest and the international community and global anti-death penalty movement supporting their demands.”

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, families of mainly drug death row prisoners have been protesting against the rise since September 6. In violent crackdowns, security forces beat and arrested at least 20 of the protesters gathered outside the Judiciary and Parliament on September 11, the sixth day of the protests.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Protesters gathered outside parliament at 8 o’clock when security forces violently attacked and dispersed them. Most of them were women and children. So, families and protesters gathered in front of the judiciary’s building and their numbers were quite high, but security forces cracked down again. They arrested around 20 people who still haven’t been released.”

The protests were started by families of drug death row inmates on September 6. On September 10, executions exceeded 400 for the first time in five years. At least 38 executions have been recorded by Iran Human Rights in September.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, there are currently at least 1500 prisoners on death row for drug-related charges in Ghezelhesar Prison and 80 at Karaj Penitentiary. They are all at risk of execution.

If executions continue at the current rate, Iran Human Rights predicts that they will surpass 1000 by the end of the year.

(source for all: iranhr.net)

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IRGC intelligence tortures Baluch juvenile detainee threatens him with death

The Intelligence Department of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Intelligence Ministry have tortured Maziar Shah Bakhsh, a Baluch juvenile detainee, and threatened to execute him.

Maziar Shah Bakhsh was transferred from the Correctional and Rehabilitation Center of Zahedan to the detention center of the IRGC Intelligence on August 30, 2022. He was tortured under interrogation to extract false confessions from him.

The IRGC Intelligence agents told Maziar Shah Bakhsh to call his family and “tell them to prepare enough money to buy your noose.” They said they would send him to his father and uncle in another world.”

Maziar Shah Bakhsh has been interrogated by the IRGC Intelligence every month.

An informed source said that even the security forces admit that Maziar is innocent and has not committed any crime. He has been arrested and tortured in the past 6 months because his father was Malek Mohammad Shah Bakhsh and his uncle was Gholam Shah Bakhsh.

Malek Mohammad Shah Bakhsh died in a clash with the forces of Abuzar Garrison in Kerman after hours of fighting. Gholam Shah Bakhsh was killed on January 1, 2022, when the IRGC attacked Corin County.

The IRGC Intelligence and the Intelligence Ministry have been torturing Maziar Shah Bakhsh. Torture scars are evident all over his body, and his health is alarming. His family’s inquiries about him have not led anywhere.

The IRGC arrested Maziar Shah Bakhsh in Zahedan on September 9, 2022. He was born in 2004 when he was less than 18 years old.

(source: iran-hrm.com)

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Police Attack Relatives Of Death Row Prisoners Protesting Hangings

Iranian security forces attacked Sunday a gathering of families of convicts sentenced to death in front of the building of the Judiciary and made several arrests.

According to videos posted on social media police tried to disperse the protesters, who were insisting on keeping the continuing their vigil.

The protesters were carrying placards with the slogans "Don't execute" and "No to execution."

There is no confirmed report of the number of detainees yet, but social media photos and videos show that there were children among the arrested people.

The families of prisoners sentenced to death have been holding demonstrations in front of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Karaj and the judiciary in Tehran for the past week, demanding a halt to the execution of their family members and relatives.

Regular protest rallies with various demands have been held in Iran in recent years, but the gathering of families of prisoners sentenced to death is a rare event.

Late in July, 2 human rights organizations said Iran has embarked on an execution spree at a “horrifying pace” with at least 251 hangings between January 1 and June 30, 2022.

Amnesty International and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran said in a report that the actual number is likely higher, as authorities keep secret figures on death sentences passed and executed.

On June 16, UN Secretary General António Guterres released a report on the situation of human rights in Iran, decrying “the high number of death penalty sentences and executions.” The UN chief said that the number of executions in Iran increased from at least 260 cases in 2020 to 310 individuals in 2021, and the number continued to rise into 2022.

(source: iranintl.com)

EGYPT:

Egypt's court hands death sentence to husband for murder of TV presenter Shaimaa Gamal

Both the husband Ayman Haggag and the second defendant Hussein El-Gharably were referred in July to the criminal court after the Egyptian Public Prosecution charged them with premeditated murder, which is punishable by the death penalty in Egypt.

Sunday's ruling can be appealed within 60 days before the Court of Cassation.

In mid-August, the court referred of the case to the grand mufti to inquire about the religious ruling.

Referral to the grand mufti is a necessary procedure before issuing a death sentence, according to Egyptian law, though the religious opinion of the mufti is non-binding.

Sheikh Shawky Allam is head of the Dar El-Ifta, which is Egypt’s official body responsible for issuing religious edicts for Sunni Muslims.

The crime initially came to light when the accomplice reported the murder to the prosecution and said that Haggag killed Gamal over “disputes,” according to a statement by the prosecution in June.

Haggag had initially reported that his wife had gone missing from a commercial complex in 6 October City in Giza.

However, the 2nd defendant led the prosecution to the victim’s burial site after reporting the crime.

The prosecution charged Haggag after hearing the testimonies of 10 people and the confessions of the 2 defendants, according to a statement released on 7 July.

Haggag plotted to kill Gamal after she blackmailed him by demanding money in exchange for not revealing “secrets”, the prosecution said in the statement, without elaborating on the nature of these secrets.

On the day of the crime, the husband lured Gamal to a remote farm in Giza, where he struck her with the butt of a pistol and strangled her to death with a piece of cloth as El-Gharably held her.

They then put Gamal's body in a makeshift grave and doused her body with a corrosive liquid to make her unrecognisable, according to the prosecution's findings.

Forensic examination confirmed that the cause of death was strangulation, the prosecution said, adding that the DNA of the defendants was found on the cloth used to murder the victim.

Investigations also revealed that the mobile phones of both the victim and the defendants were in proximity of the same cell tower near the aforementioned farm.

However, during the first hearing in the case on 20 July, Haggag claimed that he killed Gamal in self-defence after she attacked him with a knife.

But, the prosecution dismissed Haggag’s claims in its charging document, which was published by Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper after the hearing.

The prosecution said that no knife was found at the crime scene and that Haggag made no claims of self-defence during his confession.

The prosecution added that El-Gharably's statement contradicts Haggag’s self-defence claim.

In late July, the Cairo Court of Appeals issued a media gag order on the case.

Gamal was known for her programme El-Moshagheba (The Troublemaker) on LTC TV satellite channel. She also worked for Al-Hadath Al-Youm satellite channel.

(source: english.ahram.org.eg)

SEPTEMBER 11, 2022:

TEXAS:

Dallas police: Man wanted for capital murder for June killings

A Dallas man charged with capital murder is wanted with his whereabouts unknown, authorities said.

Infant Johnson is accused of killing two individuals during a disturbance in the 6000 block of Ridgecrest Road on June 26, said police.

Police ask the public for help locating Johnson.

Johnson is a 23-year-old black male and stands at 5 feet 11 inches. He is approximately 150 pounds, police said. He has black hair and brown eyes.

Police said to consider Johnson armed and dangerous.

The relationship between Johnson and the 2 victims was not disclosed.

If convicted of capital murder, Johnson could potentially face the death penalty in Texas.

(source: KXXV news)

MISSOURI:

Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty For Phelps

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for James Phelps.

A filling by Prosecutor Attorney Jonathan David Barker stated the notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the case against James Phelps.

The Public Defender representing Phelps has filed for a change of venue in the case.

Phelps, and co-defendant Timothy Norton, are charged with the murder, kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse in the death of Cassidy Rainwater.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Both will be back in court in January.

(source: KWTO news)

UTAH:

WHY GARY GILMORE CHOSE TO BE EXECUTED BY FIRING SQUAD

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the primary method of execution for inmates on death row is lethal injection. However, three states, including Utah, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, have the option of death by firing squad (via Vice). Time reports that in 1976, Utah inmate Gary Gilmore chose to die in this manner. Britannica writes that Gilmore, born in 1940, was a brilliant individual with a knack for art. Crime & Investigation UK explains that despite his bright mind, his childhood was complicated and tumultuous. In his youth, he was abused by his father. Gilmore then went on to commit a number of petty and violent crimes.

Per The Guardian, Gilmore only lived to be 36 but was jailed for 18 of those years. In 1976, his life seemed to change for the better when he was released from prison and sent to live with family in Utah (via Biography). Gilmore had been locked up for years for an armed robbery charge (per A&E). His path to redemption, however, did not last. Shortly after his release, Gilmore walked into a gas station and killed 24-year-old employee Max Jensen. The next night, he killed Bennie Bushnell, a manager at a motel. Both of his victims were students at Brigham Young University, and although they complied with Gilmore's demands, he shot them in the head. He later said he had no motive for the killings.

Biography explains that during Bushnell's murder, Gilmore accidentally shot himself in the hand. Per Crime & Investigation UK, a mechanic working on Gilmore's truck saw the injury, thought it was suspicious, and then called the police. Gilmore called a family member to help him with his injury but instead, they turned him in. Their efforts led to Gilmore's swift arrest and he quickly admitted to the murders. According to A&E, Gilmore did not originally want a trial and intended to plead guilty. Nonetheless, a trial ensued and in 1976, Gilmore was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He was given the option to die by hanging or firing squad.

Gilmore chose the latter because he believed it was a "dignified" way to go (via A&E). Forensic psychologist Joni Johnston also notes that having the opportunity to choose his means of execution provided Gilmore with a sense of "control." ABC4 Utah reports that Gilmore was set on dying. At a pardons hearing, he stated, "I've simply accepted the sentence that was given to me." Gilmore added, "I've accepted sentences all of my life." Even so, his mother did not want him to die. His lawyers also attempted to appeal this decision.

However, Gilmore reportedly hated prison and attempted to kill himself multiple times (via Time). He and his girlfriend, Nicole Baker Barrett, took an overdose of sleeping pills. Both survived (per UPI). Britannica states that Gilmore also attempted to starve himself, to no avail.

On January 17, 1977, 36-year-old Gary Gilmore was executed at Utah State Prison (per Time). According to ABC4 Utah, the ACLU made a futile attempt to prevent his death. Nevertheless, the execution went on as planned. The Guardian reports that Gilmore was hooded and a target was placed over his heart. Previously, he had asked to not be hooded but his request was denied. Gilmore was then strapped to a chair and five riflemen proceeded to shoot him four times in the heart — one of the rifles was loaded with a blank cartridge, so that the executioners wouldn't know for certain which one had contributed to Gilmore's death. His last words were "Let's do it." With this, Gilmore became the first person to be executed in the U.S since 1968 (via Constitutional Rights Foundation).

History explains that in 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty violates the 8th Amendment of the Constitution. But by 1976, the death penalty was reinstated when it was discovered that a majority of Americans supported capital punishment. This makes Gilmore's execution significant in more ways than one; his willingness to die only added to the appeal of his story (via Time). 

Crime & Investigation UK writes that Gilmore was cremated and his ashes were scattered across Utah. He requested to donate his corneas and other organs for use as transplants. One of Gilmore's final visitors was his uncle Vern Damico. Damico, per ABC4 Utah, stated, "It was very upsetting to me but he got his wish." He added, "But he did die and he died in dignity."

(source: grunge.com)

FRANCE:

The Last Person to be Executed by Guillotine----8 years after humanity first set foot on the moon the guillotine would be used for the last time.

When we think of the guillotine, images of the revolutionary years of France come to our minds. A device mainly used to kill the nobility at its conception, the guillotine became widely used after the early revolutionary period of France in the late 18th century. As the years passed, new methods of capital punishment were invented. During the 20th century, methods such as the electric chair and lethal injection have been widely used as a form of capital punishment for those who committed crimes deemed to be too despicable to be punished by prison time.

As such many would think the guillotine would find no use in the 20th century as a method of execution, especially 8 years after humanity would first set foot on the moon, but this turns out to be false.

Hamida Djandoubi was a Tunisian agricultural worker who moved to Marseille, France, in 1968. During his stay in France, Djandoubi would work in a variety of jobs, starting off as a clerk in a grocery store then moving on to working in landscaping. During his landscaping work, he would be involved in an accident which resulted in the loss of most of his right leg.

Recreation of the night when Djandoubi killed Élisabeth Bousquet, the shed he hid her body in can be seen in the background. Source: Jeremy Mercer In 1971 while in hospital, Djandoubi would meet Élisabeth Bousquet, who would become his partner until she broke off relations and filed a complaint to the local police in 1973, where she stated that Djandoubi tried to force her into prostitution. This complaint would lead to the arrest of Djandoubi in early 1973, but he would be shortly released in the spring of the same year.

Shortly after his release Djandoubi lured two young girls into prostitution. To teach them a lesson about disobedience, on 3 July 1974, he kidnapped his ex-girlfriend Élisabeth Bousquet. When he arrived home with her, he proceeded to torture her in front of the 2 young girls. Djandoubi would then take the barely alive Élisabeth to the outskirts of the town and strangle her to death, hiding her body in a shed.

Djandoubi warned the young girls that if they ever disobeyed him or told anyone about what they just saw they would face the same fate. Even so, the body would be discovered by a young boy only 4 days after the murder. A month later a girl who was kidnapped by Djandoubi would escape and report Djandoubi to the local police, connecting him to the body found a month before.

11 August 1974

On 11 August 1974, Djandoubi was caught by the local authorities. This would mark the start of 4 long years of battle by his lawyer to try to prove Djandoubi’s innocence.

Djandoubi’s main defense was that the amputation of his leg turned Djandoubi into a different man as he was driven to alcohol abuse and sudden outbursts of violence, turning him into a different man than he was before. This would mean that Djandoubi could’ve been sentenced to a mental institution rather than to execution.

This defense was swatted down by the judge, and on 25 February 1977, Djandoubi was sentenced to death by guillotine. Djandoubi’s lawyer tried to appeal the decision on 9 June of the same year, but the appeal was rejected. On 10 September 1977 at 4:40 am, twelve days before his 28th birthday, Djandoubi was executed by guillotine at Baumettes Prison in Marseille.

Capital Punishment

The death of Djandoubi would mark the last time that the guillotine would be used in capital punishment. Capital punishment would be outright banned in France in 1981 after François Mitterrand was elected as president of France, thus leading to the pardon of all those who were sentenced to death at the time of the ban.

For such an old method of execution, the guillotine has stood the test of time as a relatively humane way to end the life of someone. Lacking the uncertainty of the old types of execution, it has allowed this machinery to be used even after humanity reached the moon.

Fortunately, we have now evolved in some aspects such that most countries now do not focus on punishment but rather rehabilitation when it comes to how they handle criminals. As a result, such methods of execution have mostly been phased out in the western world except for America, which continues to use lethal injections for executions.

(source: historyofyesterday.com)

IRAN----executions

A woman hanged in Zahedan – Stop the death penalty----142nd woman to be executed in 9 years; more than 400 death penalties carried out in 2022

The clerical regime in Iran is continuing its execution spree throughout the country. A woman and 4 men were hanged in the Central Prison of Zahedan on Saturday, September 10, 2022.

The woman’s identity is still unknown. The Iranian state media have not acknowledged her execution as this news is being published.

The woman hanged in Zahedan is the 142nd woman whose execution has been recorded since August 2013.

The number of executions in Iran has increased since Ebrahim Raisi took office last August.

On average, 15 women are executed in Iran every year. However, under Ebrahim Raisi, 22 women were executed in just 1 year. The unidentified woman in Zahedan is the 23rd woman executed under Ebrahim Raisi.

At the same time, a record 521 executions have been registered during Raisi’s 1-year tenure from August 3, 2021, until August 3, 2022.

Another 115 people have been hanged since August 3.

More than 400 have been hanged in less than 9 months (until September 10) in 2022. Compare this to 366 executions during the entire 2021.

Most women executed in Iran are victims of domestic violence

The Iranian regime is the world’s top record holder of the executions of women. The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran has compiled the names of these women in a list called “List of Women Executed Under Rouhani and Raisi.”

The Iranian Resistance collects data on the executions of women in Iran from material published by the Iranian state-run press. It also compiles information from human rights activists and private sources in touch with the Iranian Resistance.

The actual figures are higher, as the Iranian regime carries out most executions secretly without anyone knowing except those who carry them out.

The NCRI Women’s Committee has previously announced that many of the women executed by the mullahs’ regime are victims of domestic violence against women and have acted in self-defense.

The Iranian regime open-handedly uses the death penalty in Iran as a form of punishment.

In many cases, religious and ethnic minorities, political dissidents, and women are targets of the death penalty in a discriminatory manner.

183 women on death row in Iran

According to documents from the mullahs’ regime, the Iranian Resistance declared in mid-May 2022 that 183 women in the regime’s prisons were on death row or sentenced to death by retribution (Qesas).

Death by retribution is carried out on persons convicted of murder, regardless of their motives.

During a series of major revelations, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) published extensive information from the clerical regime’s judicial system, including the Prisons Organization.

According to the statistics registered by the office of the Prisons Organization, 5,197 people are on death row or sentenced to Qesas (retribution in kind).

Of these, 1,366 are sentenced to death, including 39 women. Another 3,831 prisoners, including 144 women, have a sentence of Qesas or retribution.

Sixty death row prisoners were under 18 at the time of the alleged offense in 2020.

The documents also list the names of 51 persons, including 23 women, sentenced to death by stoning and 107 prisoners sentenced to amputation.

(source: women.ncr-iran.org)

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400+ Executions Recorded for First Time in 5 Years; 4 Baluch Men and Woman Executed in Zahedan

4 Baluch men and a Baluch woman were executed for murder in Zahedan Central Prison. More than 400 executions have been recorded in Iran for the 1st time in 5 years.

According to Hal Vash, 4 Baluch men and a Baluch woman were executed in Zahedan Central Prison on September 10. The 4 men’s identities have been reported as 38-year-old Khaled Raisi, 27-year-old Amrollah Basij, 42-year-old Abdolnasir Shehbakhsh and 37-year-old Houshang Kord.

The identity of the woman who was from Zahedan has not been established at the time of writing. All 5 prisoners were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder in separate cases.

Khaled Raisi who was a father to 4 children had been arrested in Chabahar on 23 March 2019. Amrollah Basij was a father of 2. Abdolnasir Shehbakhsh was arrested around 3 years ago and also had children. Houshang Kord was from Khash province.

Another man was taken to the gallows along with the 5 executed prisoners but was returned to his cell after his victim’s family changed their mind.

At the time of writing, none of their executions have been reported by domestic media or official sources 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.

At least 251 including 6 women and 67 Baluch minorities were executed in the first 6 months of 2022. This is double the number of executions in the same period in 2021 when 117 people were executed.

(source: iranhr.net)

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